Tag Archives: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The 5th house: Dancing amongst the Muses

At some point in your childhood someone gave you a box of crayons.

If you were really lucky, you got the big box of 64 colors, which allowed you to expand your creativity and grand designs. Your trees could be realistic shades of green, your coloring books filled with detail impossible to attain from the mere 12 crayon box. Without thinking too much about it, you (and I) simply colored to our heart’s content. It was fun. When you got older, you started worrying about coloring inside the lines. Then it wasn’t simple anymore; it was a challenge, but that’s fun too, in a different way.

Although it represents a small moment in our lives, the way you feel when you’re coloring unselfconsciously, making each swift moment-by-moment decision—marine blue here, maroon there, fuchsia on this flower’s petal, white and grey and silver for snowflakes… each decision represents the essence of creativity. When we are at our most creative, we are most alive. The equation is so simple, and yet, for those who live to create, it’s a lifetime of fleeting moments, most as elusive as catching individual raindrops in a monsoon. Or, worse, dowsing for water in the desert.

Creativity usually means ‘individuality.’ If asked to “be creative,” you want to express yourself, your own personal take on something. Creativity encompasses a time when you are most you. This is what happens in the 5th house: we create, and we have fun doing so, because we are experiencing, at our optimum expression of self-creativity, ‘flow,’ a concept introduced by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi:

Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity . . . [t]he positive psychology concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields. According to Csíkszentmihályi, flow is completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. In flow the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand. To be caught in the ennui of depression or the agitation of anxiety is to be barred from flow. The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task.

So easy to write; so hard to do.

Once you begin to really understand how difficult it is to create when we are no longer children, and have learned judgement, discrimination, how and when to edit, and, most limiting of all, what others think, you begin to get at the core of what makes the 5th house experience so rough for most 5th house people. No 5th house person, who has planets posited in this house, has an easy relationship with creativity or anything that goes with it. Depending on the sign on the cusp of the house, the person might be able to suspend judgement and ‘simply’ create—or they might be their own worst enemy, judging everything they say or do as less worthy than that which they compare themselves to.

In other words, ego struggles over self-worth live in this house, and it’s the rare creative person who feels entirely comfortable expressing themselves, even with a highly-supported 5th house (look to the sign on the cusp of the 5th and see how its planet is aspected to see how this might play out). There are too many outside influences we have no control over that determine how we feel about our creations; these voices, and how we interpret them, interfere with easy self-acceptance. Perhaps this is part of what lead A. H. Maslow to give up his “stereotyped belief” that “health, genius, talent and productivity were synonymous.” Noting that “some of the greatest talents of mankind were certainly not psychologically healthy people,” Maslow went on to study creativity in ordinary people, determining that a broader definition of creativeness is necessary; that those who write, theorise, invent, paint, and compose, are not the only people deserving of the adjective ‘creative.’

Maslow’s ability to think outside the box of how society defines creativity lead future researchers and psychologists to begin to examine what we thought we knew about a lot of things to do with human psychology, including the fascinating subject of how we are inspired, which brings us back, interestingly enough, to childhood, since in childhood, creative inspiration seems to flow like sparks out of our busy little fingers. The Greeks were also fascinated by the moment of inspiration, the ability for which they credited to the Muses who give humankind the desire and ability to create literature and the arts.

One of the reasons you’ll never see me getting all romantic and googly-eyed about the 5th house, by the way, is because people like Richard Milhous Nixon were born with Sun in the 5th. This either means astrology has no validity (always possible), or that the meaning it does have is complex and worthy of further study, since every now and then, you get these curve balls thrown at you that ostensibly make no sense, yet are true. It makes subjective ‘sense’ that Amadeus Mozart’s sun falls in the 5th, but Nixon’s? No. Not if we adhere, like Maslow once did, to stereotypes, which serve only to control our thinking about a subject.


What stereotypes do we have about Nixon’s creativity?

The houses serve as ‘containers’ of a sort for our solar energy, our prima materia. When I’m done with this litany of house essays, I plan on discussing houses in general, why we have them, what they’re for, why some people prefer to ignore them, etc.  The houses did not always exist; this fact is important, historically. There’s a reason they became important for astrologers and astrology, as we shall see.