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Emotional Creativity: Toward “Spiritualizing the Passions”

Abstract and Keywords

Emotional states are typically viewed negatively: Our fears, angers, and sorrows seem to outweigh our joys and pleasures. Yet, it is hard to imagine life without ostensibly negative emotions. The solution, Nietzsche suggested, is to spiritualize the passions, the negative as well as the positive. And what might that entail? Whatever else, spiritualizing the passions requires creativity. In this chapter, we explore how standard criteria for creativity (novelty, effectiveness, and authenticity) apply to emotional as well as to intellectual and artistic responses. In a similar vein, we show how characteristics commonly associated with spiritual experiences (meaning, vitality, and connectedness) apply to emotionally creative responses. Finally, data are presented that relate individual differences in emotional creativity to a spiritualization of the passions, at the high end of the creativity continuum; and to its opposite, a despiritualization of the passions (neurosis), at the low end.

Keywords: alexithymia, creativity, emotion, neurosis spirituality

The relation between emotions and creativity is charged with ambivalence. In schools we encourage creativity, and in the arts and sciences, we praise its achievement. A person, it seems, cannot be too creative. By contrast, a person who is too prone to emotion risks being labeled as immature, uncouth, boorish, or worse. Even our language seems to disparage emotions: Most nonemotional words have a positive connotation; the opposite is true of emotional words, where the negative outnumber the positive by roughly 2 to 1 (Averill, 1980a).

The way creativity and emotions are evaluated in everyday affairs is reflected in our scientific theories. For example, creativity is regarded as a late evolutionary development, whereas the emotions are typically treated as holdovers from our infrahuman past; correspondingly, creativity is seated in the neocortex, whereas emotions are relegated to paleocortical and subcortical regions of the brain; and, from a cognitive perspective, creativity is classed among the “higher” thought processes, whereas emotions often are treated as noncognitive—a psychological euphemism for “lower” thought processes.

Nevertheless, our everyday and scientific conceptions of emotion and creativity can be misleading. The primary purpose of this chapter is to illustrate how emotions are compatible with creativity—indeed, can themselves be creative products. A secondary purpose is reflected in the subtitle to the chapter, “spiritualizing the passions,” which I adopt from Nietzsche (1889/2003). I will not speculate about Nietzsche's meaning of this phrase.1 Suffice (p. 250) it to say that, as used in this chapter, spiritualization has no necessary ontological implications—a belief, for example, in a nonmaterial mode of existence. Acts of creation—or re-creation, as in aesthetic experiences (Averill, Stanat, & More, 1998; Richards, 1998)—provide the reference point for spiritualizing the passions as here conceived.

In addition to presenting a model of emotion in which emotional creativity makes theoretical sense, I review briefly some empirical research on individual difference in emotional creativity, with special reference to alexithymia and mystic-like experiences—two conditions that represent low and high points along the continuum of emotional creativity. I also explore how neurotic syndromes can be interpreted as emotional creativity gone awry—a despiritualization of the passions, so to speak.

Historical Background in Brief

The idea of emotional creativity is a straightforward extension of a social-constructionist view of emotion (Averill, 1980b, 1984, 2004). It is not, however, limited to any one theoretical perspective, as the following examples illustrate. Otto Rank (1932), a student of the arts and onetime disciple of Freud, believed that many neurotic syndromes reflect creative impulses that are expressed in ways detrimental to the individual—a point that will be discussed in more detail subsequently. Starting from a different perspective, and ending up at the other end of the neurotic—healthy spectrum, Abraham Maslow (1971) defined “primary” creativity as the ability to be inspired, to become totally immersed in the matter at hand, and to experience those “peak” moments that are “a diluted, more secular, more frequent version of the mystical experience” (p. 62). I would only add that emotional creativity is not limited to a few extreme (peak or mystical) experiences but can encompass a wide variety of emotions experienced in everyday life.

In his Varieties of Religious Experience, William James (1902/1961) observed that “When a person has an inborn genius for certain emotions, his life differs strangely from that of ordinary people, for none of their usual deterrents check him” (p. 215). Again, I would add a caveat: Creativity in the emotional domain is not limited to a few persons of “inborn genius” any more than is creativity in the intellectual and artistic domains so limited (Richards, 2007).

In contemporary theory and research, a number of concepts bear a family resemblance to emotional creativity, for example, emotional intelligence (chap. 22), emotional competence (Saarni, 1999), intra- and interpersonal intelligences (Gardner, 1993), and constructive thinking (Epstein, 1998). There are important differences in the theoretical underpinnings to these concepts (for comparisons, see Averill, 2004, 2007). What these concepts have in common is an emphasis on the functional or adaptive aspects of emotional behavior.

Emotions as Syndromes

The model of emotion on which the present analysis is based has been presented in detail elsewhere (e.g., Averill, 2005; Averill & Nunley, 1992; Averill & Thomas-Knowles, 1991). Only a brief summary is provided here. By emotions, I mean those states of affairs recognized in ordinary language by such terms as “anger”, “grief”, and “love”. These are syndromes, that is, coordinated sets of responses to situations appraised as beneficial or harmful to the person. The operative term here is “coordinated.” Research attests that the way the elements that constitute an emotional syndrome are organized is not “hardwired” into the nervous system and hence invariant; on the contrary, they are only loosely related and vary from one situation and person to another. This is true not only of instrumental acts (hitting, running, etc.) and expressive reactions (smiling, frowning, etc.), but also of peripheral and central neural mechanisms that mediate emotions (Barrett, 2006). That being the case, the question arises: What provides meaning and coherence to an emotional syndrome on any given occasion?

The way a person appraises the situation is an important factor in determining the nature and course of an emotional episode. However, as Dewey (1895) pointed out long ago in a much neglected analysis, appraisals are part of the emotion, not external or antecedent to it (see, also, Solomon, 1993). Thus, we are still left with making sense of the entire syndrome—the appraisal as well as the coordinated responses.

In order to lend substance to an otherwise abstract analysis, it might be helpful at this point to introduce a concrete example. LaBarre (1947) described the following episode of grief manifested by a Kiowa woman at her brother's funeral: “She wept in a frenzy, tore her hair, scratched her cheeks, and even tried to jump into the grave …” (p. 55). Within most modern, industrialized societies, this would appear to be a histrionic reaction, even for the loss of a dear brother. According to LaBarre, however, the deceased brother was not dear to the woman; yet, neither was her reaction histrionic. (p. 251) “I happened to know,” he writes, “that [the woman] had not seen her brother for some time, and there was no particular love lost between them: she was merely carrying on the way a decent woman should among the Kiowa. Away from the grave, she was immediately chatting vivaciously about some other topic. Weeping is used differently among the Kiowas” (p. 55).

Was the Kiowa woman merely playing the role of a grief-stricken sister? Not if we interpret her performance as feigned. There is no reason to believe the woman was insincere in her grief. From a social perspective, grief is a role that societies create in order to facilitate transition following bereavement, and that people may enact with greater or lesser involvement (Averill & Nunley, 1993). This is not to gainsay the importance of biology—grievous hurt at the loss of a loved one is part of what keeps us together as members of a social species. However, biology only sets the stage; it does not write the script. In the final analysis, emotional syndromes are lent coherence by culturally specific beliefs and rules.

When emotional beliefs and rules are internalized by individuals during socialization, and linked with deeply held values or current concerns, we may speak of emotional (“hot” cognitive) schemas. An emotional episode occurs when relevant schemas are activated by situational cues (facilitated, on occasion, by internal conditions, such as physiological arousal from extraneous sources). In oft-recurring situations, emotional schemas may exist preformed in the mind (or brain) of the individual. When the situation is unusual and the episode complex, however, emotional schemas may be constructed “on-line,” as an episode develops. In constructing a schema on-line, a person has recourse to a large database of experience stored in memory, as well as the beliefs and rules about the proper course of the emotion. Depending on the circumstances and the person's goals, only a subset of this stored information may be accessed in a given episode. A good deal of improvisation is thus possible, even inevitable, as an episode progresses.

Emotions as Creative Products

Nothing in the above analysis precludes emotions from creative change. The criteria for judging an emotional response as creative are the same as those for judging an artistic or intellectual response creative, namely, “novelty,” “effectiveness,” and “authenticity.”

The criterion of novelty implies something new or different. However, a novel response may simply be bizarre. To be considered creative, the response must also be effective—for example, aesthetically (as in art), practically (as in technology), or interpersonally (as in leadership). But adding effectiveness to novelty is still not sufficient. The creative response should also be an authentic expression of the person's own beliefs and values, and not a mere copy of another's expectations.

The criterion of authenticity has been particularly emphasized by Arnheim (1966, p. 298) for works of art; to make a complex issue short, authenticity is what distinguishes an original painting, say, from an imitation, no matter how novel or aesthetically pleasing the latter might be. Emotions, too, can be more or less authentic (Salmela, 2005). An emotion that does not reflect a person's own beliefs and values cannot be considered fully creative, no matter how novel or effective.

Individual Differences in Emotional Creativity

Not everyone is equally creative in the emotional domain any more than in the intellectual or artistic domains. Years of preparation typically are required before creativity is achieved within the arts and sciences (Hayes, 1981; Weisberg, 1986). There is no reason to believe the situation to be different in the domain of emotion. Some people think about and try to understand their emotions; and they are sensitive to the emotions of others. Such people, we may presume, are on average better prepared emotionally than are their more indifferent—but not necessarily less reactive—counterparts.

To explore individual differences in the ability to be emotionally creative, a 30-item Emotional Creativity Inventory (ECI) has been constructed (Averill, 1999a). Seven of the items refer to emotional preparedness. The remaining items address the three criteria for creativity discussed previously. Specifically, 14 items refer to the novelty of emotional experiences; 5 to effectiveness; and 4 to authenticity. Factor analysis indicates that the ECI can be broken down into three facets. The first facet comprises the “preparedness” items; the second facet, the “novelty” items; and the third facet, a combination of the “effectiveness and authenticity” items. Sample items from the three facets are presented in Table 23.1.

Scores on the ECI have been related to a variety of behavioral and personality variables, including peer ratings of emotional creativity (study 2, (p. 252) Averill, 1999a), the creative expression of emotions in words and pictures (Gutbezahl & Averill, 1996; Ivcevic, Brackett, & Mayer, 2007), and the productive use of solitude (Long, Seburn, Averill, & More, 2003). I will limit the present discussion to two variables of particular relevance to this chapter, namely alexithymia and mysticism. The relevant data are presented in Table 23.2.

Table 23.1. Sample items from the three facets of the Emotional Creativity Inventory

Preparation (2 of 7 items)

When I have strong emotional reactions, I search for reasons for my feelings.

I pay attention to other people's emotions so that I can better understand my own.

Novelty (4 of 14 items)

My emotional reactions are different and unique.

I have felt combinations of emotions that other people probably have never experienced.

I sometimes experience feelings and emotions that cannot be easily described in ordinary language.

I like to imagine situations that call for unusual, uncommon, or unconventional emotional reactions.

Effectiveness/Authenticity (3 of 9 items)

My emotions help me achieve my goals in life.

The way I experience and express my emotions helps me in my relationships with others.

My outward emotional reactions accurately reflect my inner feelings.

Table 23.2. Correlations of the Emotional Creativity Inventory with Alexithymia and Mysticism scales

Emotional Creativity Inventory






Alexithymia (n = 89)

F1: Difficulty identifying





F2: Difficulty describing





F3: Externally oriented





Mysticism (n = 91)

F1: General





F2: Religious





(*) p <.05,

(**) p <.01,

(***) p <.001, two-tailed tests.

Alexithymia and the Language of Emotion

Persons with alexithymia suffer from an impoverished fantasy life, a reduced ability to experience positive emotions, and poorly differentiated negative affect (Taylor, 1994). The Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) is commonly used to measure the condition (Bagby, Parker, & Taylor, 1994). This scale consists of three factors: Factor 1 assesses a person's “difficulty identifying feelings” as distinct, say, from bodily sensations; Factor 2 reflects “difficulty describing feelings” or communicating feelings to others; and Factor 3 indicates a preference for “externally oriented thinking,” that is, a focus on situational details as opposed to one's own thoughts and feelings. The top half of Table 23.2 presents the correlations between the three facets of the ECI (Preparedness, Novelty, and Effectiveness/Authenticity), as well as the Total score, and the three dimensions of the TAS-20, based on a sample of 89 university students (see study 5, Averill, 1999a, for details).

People who are emotionally creative as well as those with alexithymia have difficulty identifying and describing their emotional experiences, as indicated by the positive association between the Novelty subscale of the ECI and the F1 and F2 factors of the TAS-20 (r =.39 and .18, respectively). However, the source of the difficulty is different for the two conditions. For people with alexithymia, the difficulty stems from an impoverished inner life; for emotionally creative persons, it stems from the complexity and originality of their experiences. As one of the items in the ECI reads, “I would have to be a poet or novelist to describe the kinds of emotions I sometimes feel, they are so unique.”

(p. 253) When describing events that “lack” emotional content, people with alexithymia can be quite fluent, even poetic. This sometimes makes it difficult to distinguish alexithymia from emotional creativity. Consider the following stanzas from the poem No Platonique Love by William Cartwright, a seventeenth-century Oxford don:

  • Tell me no more of minds embracing minds,
  • And hearts exchang'd for hearts;
  • That Spirits Spirits meet, as Winds do Winds
  • And mix their subtlest parts;
  • That two unbodi'd Essences may kiss,
  • And then like Angels, twist and feel one bliss.
  • I was that silly thing that once was wrought
  • To practice this thin Love;
  • I climb'd from Sex to Soul, from Soul to Thought;
  • But thinking there to move,
  • Headlong I roll'd from Thought to Soul, and then
  • From Soul I lighted at the Sex agen.2

Perèz-Rincòn (1997) has used this poem to illustrate alexithymia, presumably on the basis of the poet's stated inability to appreciate love abstractly, in Thought, but only concretely, in Sex. Based on the poem alone, that is not a reasonable interpretation. From the little we know of Cartwright's life, however, he was not at a loss for words in describing his emotional experiences, as the following observation by a contemporary illustrates: “Those wild beasts (the Passions) being tuned and composed to tameness and order, by his sweet and harmonious language” (Lloyd, 1668, cited by Goffin, 1918, p. xvii). Cartwright's poem is like a reversible figure. When viewed from a different perspective, the image it presents changes from a picture of alexithymia to a picture of emotional creativity.

Love—even the thick, sexual love touted by Cartwright—does not just happen. It requires thought (preparation), and the quality of thought makes a difference in the novelty, effectiveness, and authenticity of subsequent behavior. Having “climb'd from Sex to Soul, from Soul to Thought” could Cartwright return to Sex again, unchanged? Only if he were suffering a complete disjunction between thought and feeling, a condition more akin to psychopathy than alexithymia. More likely, Sex was transformed by Cartwright's Thought into something more than mere copulation; and, conversely, his Thought was transformed by Sex into something more than abstract contemplation.

Poetry is not the only means by which novel emotions may be given effective and authentic expression, but words possess a special power in determining the realities as well as our ideas of emotion. Like a tree, language sends its roots deep into the soil from which it draws sustenance, and the soil may be transformed in the process. Yet even at their poetic best, words are often insufficient to express some of our most profound and creative emotional insights, including those that we might label mystical.

Spirituality: The Mysticism of Everyday Life

 Emotional Creativity: Toward “Spiritualizing the Passions”Click to view larger

Fig. 23.1 Three characteristics of spiritual experiences, as viewed from secular and religious perspectives.

Full-blown mystical experiences are as rare as they are difficult to describe. In more mild degree, however, mystic-like experiences are surprisingly common (Greeley, 1974; Laski, 1968). The bottom half of Table 23.2 presents the correlations, based on a sample of 91 university students, between the ECI and a measure of self-reported mystical experiences (Hood, 1975). Hood's scale comprises two dimensions: Factor 1, “General Mysticism,” emphasizes the unity of experience, the transcendence of space and time, the loss of ego boundaries, and a sense that all things are alive; and F2, “Religious Interpretation,” emphasizes the holiness or sacredness of experience, as well as feelings of peace and joy. As Table 23.2 indicates, the ECI total score was associated with the General Mysticism subscale (r =.39) and with the Religious Interpretation subscale (r =.46). All three (p. 254) facets of the ECI contributed to these relations, but particularly Preparedness and Novelty.3

To place these results in a broader context, let us return to Nietzsche's call for a “spiritualization of the passions.” From a psychological perspective, there are two ways of looking at spirituality. The first is as an emotional state per se, represented in extreme form by mystical experiences.4 The second is as an attribute of other emotional states, to the extent that they share features in common with mystical experiences. Emotional creativity, I suggest, is associated not only with the tendency toward mystical experiences, as the data in Table 23.2 suggest, but also with the tendency to imbue other, more mundane emotions with mystic-like qualities.

Three features are characteristic of mystical states and hence are relevant to spiritualizing the passions. These are a sense of vitality, connectedness, and meaningfulness (Averill, 1999b). Each of these features can be approached from either a secular or religious perspective, as illustrated in Figure 23.1.


In one of its most common usages, spirituality implies a sense of aliveness, as when a person is described as “high-spirited.” Reified in animistic religions, spirits may dwell in any object—a volcano, say, or a tree—from whence they venture forth, creating mischief in human affairs, for good of ill.

However, we need not reify spiritual feelings into spiritual beings. From a secular perspective, the important point is that spirituality (in the sense of vitality) involves more than simply being alive—that could be said of an amoeba. Vitality also implies the ability to be creative.


One of the most common features of spiritual experiences is a feeling of union or harmony with another. Sexual love and the love of a parent for a child are common metaphors as well as triggers for such feelings. However, the “other” with which one identifies need not be a person; it may be conceived broadly as humanity, nature, or even the ground of all being, as in the Hindu concept of Brahman.


Spiritual experiences are rich in significance. However, like an encrypted message, the meaning of the experience may not be immediately apparent, which fact only adds to the sense of profundity. From a religious perspective, revelation and scripture typically are used to help decipher the meaning of spiritual experiences. From a secular perspective, science, art, and literature serve similar functions.

None of the above criteria is inconsistent with the way everyday emotions are—or at their best, can be—experienced. An event that does not touch on a person's concerns in a “meaningful” way will not elicit an emotional response, and the person who does not respond emotionally to such an event is lacking “vitality.” The criterion of “connectedness” is more ambiguous when applied to everyday emotional experiences. Emotional outbursts are often disruptive of interpersonal relationships. That is one reason why, as noted in the introduction to this chapter, emotions frequently have been depicted as the animal in human nature, to be subdued by “higher” thought processes.

“Spiritualizing the passions” was Nietzsche's way of calling not for subduing the emotions, but for their elevation; not “a going-back but a going-up—up into a high, free, even frightful nature and naturalness” (see Footnote 1). Nietzsche's phrasing may seem unduly flamboyant. Therefore, let us consider a more familiar, even hackneyed expression: “Getting in touch with your true feelings.” What in the course of events makes a feeling seem “true”? And do true feelings already exist in the mind/brain of the individual, simply waiting to be revealed (“touched”)? Or are they newly created as an episode unfolds?

(p. 255) Such questions provided grist for a study by Morgan and Averill (1992). Participants were asked to describe an episode of “true feelings” and to contrast it with an episode of similar length and intensity, but one they would not classify in the same manner. Most participants had no difficulty recalling relevant incidents. Generalizing from their descriptions, emotions that are considered “true” typically occur during periods of challenge or transition, such as the establishment or breakup of a love relationship, taking a new job, or otherwise having one's core beliefs and values contested. More than other intense emotional experiences (e.g., fear of injury during an approaching automobile accident), “true” feelings are powerfully felt struggles to modify, restore, or enhance a sense of self. The initial stage of a true-feeling episode may be marked by confusion, depression, and anxiety. The true feelings emerge from this emotional fog as resolution is achieved.

In short, “spiritualizing the passions” requires that one's emotions be rendered “true”, that is, integrated with the beliefs and values hat help constitute a person's sense of self, both as an individual and in relation to others. It is an emotionally creative process in service of the self.5


If self-realization and expansion involve a spiritualization of the passions, neuroses of many types—not just alexithymia—might be characterized as a form of despiritualization. Not only are neurotic syndromes deficient in the features described above for spiritualization (vitality, connectedness, and meaningfulness), they also are contrary to the three criteria for emotional creativity discussed previously (novelty, effectiveness, and authenticity). Neurotic behavior—for example, a hysterical conversion reaction—may be unique (abnormal) in that it violates conventional norms; however, it is hardly novel from the individual's perspective as it becomes oft-repeated, uncontrollable, and unyielding to change. Neurotic behavior also is ineffective, at least in the long term, and is not a true or authentic reflection of the individual's core beliefs and values (Averill & Nunley, 1992, chap. 13).

The above considerations suggest that some of the techniques used to foster creativity in other settings (see, for example, Nickerson, 1999) might be fruitfully incorporated into psychotherapy. These techniques fall into four broad categories: (a) preparedness—gaining knowledge and expertise within a domain; (b) motivation—cultivating a desire to innovate on what is known, and a willingness to take risks; (c) imagination—learning to envision new approaches and realities; and (d) self-monitoring—guiding and assessing one's own efforts for effectiveness. But more than new techniques, emotional creativity suggests a different way of looking at the emotions and their disorders. Most therapies still treat the emotions (at least so-called “basic” emotions) as primitive reactions that may be regulated, but not fundamentally altered. That belief can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The applications of emotional creativity are not limited to psychotherapy. To a certain extent, we are all emotional Luddites—we find it difficult to adjust to change. To illustrate, conduct the following thought experiment. What emotional adjustments would be necessary if you and others were to live to be 150–200 years old? Could you remain faithfully married to the same person for over 100 years, “until death do you part”? How long might you remain in a career before you were burnt out, or sought other challenges? Questions such as these could easily be multiplied. The point is simply that major accommodations would be required on the individual as well as social levels.

The above thought experiment is not mere fancy. Advances in genetic engineering and medicine eventually may double the human life span; much of the scientific knowledge is in place, and its feasibility has been demonstrated in lower (invertebrate) organisms. The extension to mammals and ultimately humans seems more a matter of when, not if. Referring to that eventuality, John Harris (2000), who holds the Sir David Alliance Chair of Bioethics at the University of Manchester, has advised that “we should start thinking now about how we can live decently and creatively with the prospect of such lives” (p. 59).

(p. 256) Increased life expectancy is a goal of modern medicine—if Ponce de LeÓn were alive today, he would better be a physician than an explorer searching for the fountain of youth. Needless to say, most of the challenges that we face as individuals, nations, and a global community are not so avidly sought as longevity. Political oppression, poverty, ethnic and religious strife, overpopulation, and degradation of the environment are but a few of the more obvious threats to human well-being. None of these will yield to technological fixes alone. Their solution also depends on a willingness to adapt emotionally. Emotional innovation, however, does not come easy. The reason is not that emotions are hardwired into our nervous system and hence impervious to change. If the arguments and data presented in this chapter have any validity, the difficulty lies elsewhere.

Concluding Observations

Emotions embody the values of society. This is true even of those emotions considered most basic, the list of which varies from one culture and historical epoch to another. In contemporary Western societies, if you strip all connotations of right and wrong, good and bad, from concepts such as love, anger, grief, and fear, you also strip them of much of their meaning and significance. It follows that if you change an emotion in fundamental ways you call into question the values embodied by the emotion. Not surprisingly, then, attempts at emotional innovation typically meet with skepticism, even condemnation. The resistance is not entirely without warrant: Many emotional innovations, like genetic mutations, may prove more harmful than beneficial; moreover, like biological evolution, social advances follow an uncertain path. Thus, there is no guarantee that emotional innovations will meet with success, or even what success might mean. But if the task is difficult, and the outcome uncertain, that is no reason for disheartenment. Positive psychology promises challenge more than comfort; emotional creativity is part of that challenge.


  1. 1. What foreseeable environmental and social changes will require corresponding changes in the emotional life of people?

  2. 2. How can creativity be nurtured in the emotional as well as in the intellectual and artistic domains?

  3. 3. What selective (“weeding out”) mechanisms may be needed to control for possible unintended consequences (e.g., disruptive side effects) of emotional creativity?


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                                                                                              (1) Nietzsche (1889/2003) recognized that the passions often “drag down their victim by the weight of their folly” (“Morality as Anti-nature,” p. 1). The solution, he believed, is not to extirpate the passions, which would be inimical to life, but to spiritualize (vergeistigen) them. In one sense, this involves a “return to nature,” but not in the sense envisioned by Rousseau, whose romanticism Nietzsche disparaged. Nietzsche's (1889/2003) vision was not “a going-back but a going-up—up into a high, free, even frightful nature and naturalness, such as plays with great tasks, is permitted to play with them” (“Expeditions of an Untimely Man,” p. 48, italics in original).

                                                                                              (2) From Goffin (1918), reprinted with the permission of Cambridge University Press.

                                                                                              (3) Some of the items in Hood's original scale overlap in content with items from the Novelty subscale of ECI. A reanalysis suggested that these items could be eliminated without destroying the integrity or meaning of the F1 and F2 subscales. The data presented in Table 23.2 are for the emended subscales (see Averill, 1999a, Study 4, for details). The correlation between the “total” score on the ECI and the “total” score on the original mysticism scale was (r =.46, p <.01). In effect, elimination of overlapping items had little influence on the relation between the two scales.

                                                                                              (4) According to the model described previously, emotional states are determined, in part, by the cultural beliefs and rules (implicit theories) that help shape emotional syndromes and their cognitive representations (schemata). The model does not fit all emotions equally. In particular, states of acute depression, anxiety, and mysticism lie at its periphery. I will discuss depression further on (see Footnote 5). With regard to mysticism, Rothberg (1990) points to the lengthy and rigorous training that typically precedes the attainment of a full mystical experience; we should entertain the possibility, he suggests, that such training is occasionally successful in transcending all cultural categories, including those that help define the self as an independent entity. Katz (1992), on the other hand, argues that a careful reading of mystical reports reveals a subtle but uneliminable influence of cultural beliefs and rules. This dispute pertains to the most extreme forms of mystical experience, where a dismantling of cognitive schemas at least approaches completion. Such occurrences are rare, if ever, and for the uninitiated are more likely to produce direful anxiety than mystical bliss.

                                                                                              (5) Of all emotional states, episodes of endogenous depression might seem the least amenable to spiritualization in the sense described here. And that is generally the case. The depressed person feels empty, tends to withdraw from human contact, and experiences life as pointless. For want of a better explanation, in many cultures the condition is attributed to “soul loss” (Shweder, 1985). Even so, some people, especially those of unusual creative potential, can turn even depression into a vital and meaningful experience. Jamison (1993) provides many examples in her book on manic-depressive illness. The following observation by Herman Melville is representative: “The intensest light of reason and revelation combined, can not shed such blazonings upon the deeper truths in man, as will sometimes proceed from his own profoundest gloom. Utter darkness is then his light…. Wherefore is it, that not to know Gloom and Grief is not to know aught that an heroic man should learn” (quoted by Jamison, 1993, p. 216).