Chapter 5. The biology of inspiration

A great poet is a man who, in his waking state, is able to do what the rest of us do in our dreams.

Schopenhauer

It's a shame there is no EEG record of Jesus's brain activity while he was composing the Sermon on the Mount. Colin Martindale and his studies into the cortical activity of creative people's brains suggest that it would make interesting reading.

Until Osborn and his disciples arbitrarily decided that all people were creatively equal, the rest of us had a pretty strong gut feeling that creative people were somehow different. The first scientific attempts to define exactly how and why they were different got going only in the 19th century. Someone called Morel formulated what came to be known as the 'degeneration' theory which hypothesized that creative people (as we always suspected) were weak in the brain.

What he meant was that the higher, inhibitory brain centres, those areas of the brain that act as the policeman on the streets of our imagination, were not as alert in creative people as they might have been, allowing all manner of primitive thoughts to run rampant. Since Morel and other researchers at the time, like Lombroso and Nordau, did not have access to sophisticated modern equipment, they were obliged to speculate about how this actually happened. They put it down to environmental factors like diet, climate and toxins. They also thought that this degenerative condition was passed down through the generations.

If they turned ...

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