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Ralph J. Hallman’s Conditions of Creativity Applied to EHEs
Rhea A. White
[Psychologist Hallman wrote an article on "The Necessary and Sufficient Conditions of Creativity" in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology (1963, 3, 14-27). It served as the basis of this 1997 flyer. His criteria for organizing the five components of creativity can also be applied to the EHE process in which an anomalous (exceptional) experience becomes an exceptional human experience. This flyer outlines the relationship.
Psychologist Ralph J. Hallman (1963), after steeping himself thoroughly in the psychological literature of creativity, including autobiographies and biographies, describes five criteria for organizing the components of creativity: connectedness, originality, nonrationality, self-actualization, and openness. He proposed that when all five are present creativity must necessarily result. His criteria, it appears, could also apply to the process by which an exceptional (anomalous) experience (EE) becomes an exceptional human experience (EHE).
Certainly an anomaly is nonrational. The fact that by definition it does not fit with what the current worldview says can happen is the starting point of the whole process. Openness is also required to even entertain the possibility that the anomaly is meaningful and not a product of a deranged mind, something one ate, an illusion, hallucination, delusion, hoax, or "mere" coincidence. The EHE process demands originality, for responding to an exceptional experience involves finding one’s own path, although, as in the creative process, serendipities and synchronicities help the process along at key stages.
Self-actualization is necessarily present, as the experiencer’s own self serves as the "living laboratory" or "proving ground" for the process in which an EE becomes an EHE, and in the course of which the experiencer realizes who he or she is. From the very beginning, the EE seems to single the person out in a personal way, which means he/she is unable to simply shrug it off or forget it. This "idea of reference" can sidetrack experiencers if they allow themselves to become inflated rather than undergo the arduous process of self-change that the process demands. Responding to an EE is not simply a private act, but it has profound social implications. A person who takes an anomaly seriously can, by that very act, appear a bit "odd" to friends and family. There are many pitfalls along this way, and it is indeed a process, not simply an event. But if the person responds as if the EE were a call to self-actualization, then he or she will be on the right track. And indeed, as Hallman says in his discussion of the criterion of openness, it "points to the need of the creative personality to have a sense of personal destiny and worth which will allow him to accept himself as the source of values. It is obvious that anyone who tolerates uncertainties and conflicts for long must enjoy an anchorage within some value system apart from the conventional order, and this would need to be himself" (p. 27).
Here the model of the EHE process goes further. The value system drawn upon by experiencers is the Experiential Paradigm, or the More proposed by William James (1902), which is both inside the self and outside it, or Whitehead’s "The word is in us and we are in the word" (1938, p. 43). The potential EHEer is at first sporadically and then increasingly in touch with the "wisdom and knowledge, knowings and strengths" of the ages, of the universal self, which provides the motivation, guidance, and endurance to continue pursuing what indeed sometimes can seem to be a will o the wisp, a chimera.
In closing, Hallman describes what it is like to experience the creative process, and it is exactly what many EHEers experience. "The forward-pointing search for possibilities which characterizes the creative process implies an acceptance of self as a source of judgment. The new creations exist at first ... as possibilities. Since the creative person must speculate, test, modify, postpone completion of his work, he needs to rely upon his own sensitivity for guidance" (p. 27). In the same fashion, EHE experiencers cannot accept any easy explanation for their exceptional experience. There is a long process of education stretching ahead—a path to follow as the process unfolds—in which much learning (as well as sharing and in later stages, teaching) that must occur before definite understanding of what has happened and its full implications dawns. But once again, it is not simply one’s separate ego self that one draws on, but the self of All.
We have emphasized the role spontaneity plays in exceptional human experience, not only initially but also at key stages along the way. In between there is much that can be done by using rationality, determination, resolve, and willpower, but what feeds the process is spontaneous, as well as the recollection of special moments that first occurred spontaneously. Hallman’s description of the creative process echoes what EHEers say about the EHE process. He says the spontaneity of the creative process "gives the creative act the feeling of being free, autonomous, undetermined. It allows creative behavior to be unbound and uncoupled from previous causal connections. It produces the response of wonder and awe. It is responsible for the quality of freshness, of being born anew every day, of childlike naiveté, of naturalness and simplicity" (p. 27).
It appears that an exceptional human experience is a creative product. It involves changes in one's self, life, and worldview impossible to conceive when the original EE occurred. One’s identity and life is the laboratory in which the process unfolds, is observed, and is tested. It is also the creative product itself. We are all experi-menters—variations of the greatest experiment of all—Life. In order to know that in every fiber of one’s body/mind/being, one has to undergo the EHE process. That is where the data point, according to this EHEer. I am grateful to Hallman for his observations about the creative process. Creativity, itself, after all, is a major form of exceptional human experience in itself, as well as a prototype for the EHE process.
Hallman, R.J. (1963). The necessary and sufficient conditions of creativity. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 3(1), 14-27.
James, W. (1902). The Varieties of Religious Experience. New York: Random House.
Whitehead, A. N. (1938). Modes of Thought. New York: Free Press.
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