There is a famous quote by Mark Twain:
“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations”.
All new ideas come from old ideas. The idea of everything that exists came by taking ideas that had been experienced and then putting them together to create something new. This process never stops. We continually layer new ideas upon new ideas to create even newer things. This is because human beings have a propensity to find faults with existing things and as we are always making improvements to make things better, existing ideas evolve and new combinations emerge.
We as a species don’t have a settling point. We are pre-programmed to strive constantly to resolve our dissatisfactions. This natural drive to create new things made way for all the world’s discoveries that benefit us today. The creative members of our species cannot indulge in a straightforward routine in the areas where we execute our best selves. For creative people, every aspect of their lives is full of ingenuity and that quest for novelty and ingenuity moves us towards doing innovative things, resulting in a flight from the repetitive routines that power that hefty adaptation. This hefty adaptation or a massive change is what distinguishes our one generation from the next, one decade from the next, and even a year from its preceding year. The drive to create the new is part of our biological mandate. We surround ourselves with things that have never existed before, and no other species can replicate.
So, human beings consistently move this process of discovery forward and it happens in a sequence of connections, in a correspondence that we refer to as The Law of Correspondence. With the law of correspondence as below, so as above. As above, so as below, as below, so as above basically states if you start with nothing and add nothing, you get nothing.
For anything that is created, it is created by adding two or more things to create something new. It’s a principle of reality. The fact is everything we think of comes from a frame of reference – an experience we have already had. As below – Everything comes from something that exists. So as above – all of the things can be used to create new things. It is not possible to think of something – anything- without referencing an experience. Old things transform into new things, and this happens gradually.
And this is not the case with only our ideas. This principle is applicable to literally everything in this world from the societal systems we follow to the philosophies we live by, to the art we make, to the solar system we live in, and even to the first creation of bacteria 4 billion years ago (which resulted in more complex bacteria being created 1 second later). There is nothing that could not be linked back to something previously existing, because everything that exists, necessarily has a previous version. Macromism comes from micromism and vice versa. In other words, solar systems, societies, and life on earth follow this principle. A palace came from a castle, came from a fort, came from a home, came from a smaller home, came from a shack, came a lean, which came from a cave.
Similarly, the evolution of species follows this same principle. From homo-habilis to homo-erectus to homo neanderthalensis to homo-sapiens, each species of man emerged from the same mitochondrial mother, gradual changes spread over millions of years resulted in the different branches of evolution that are sub-similar to the original (as above, so as below). We know humans and all other mammals are because of one key thing (there are others as well): All mammals have the same basic pattern of bones in their forelimbs. One bone (the Humerus), 2 bones (Radius & Ulna), and a series of smaller bones (Carpals, Metacarpals, Phalanges). This is because all mammals evolved from the same animal originally (As below, so as above.
A Greek philosopher Democritus in 460 B.C. raised the question: If you divide a piece of matter in half and then in half again, how many breaks will you have to make until you can break it no further? This was an idea that was ignored at that time, it was John Dalton who in the 19th century concluded that everything and everyone is made up of atoms. The only difference between the composition of those infinite numbers of species and things is the difference in the way by which these atoms are combined together. From a tiny mouse to a giant elephant, from small sea squirts to sharks or whales, and primates from chimpanzees to humans, we all share the same atomic composition, the diversity in size, weight, color, body structure, actions, and behaviors. This is because of those microscopic differences inside their DNA that provided different blueprints to the atoms on how they should be constructed. The discussion here, however, is not about chemistry or evolution but the notion that everything comes from something that would not have existed if its component parts were missing. In the case of humans and other objects of the world, those component parts are atoms. When you consider again the law of correspondence, species evolved layer upon layer. At the bottom of the layer there is the one-celled animal (as below, so as above) and at the top, there are humans with complex mind and body structures (As above, so as below).
Another great example of the law of correspondence is the evolution of language, which started most likely with some form of sign language, gestures, and vocalizations. Then with the evolution of species, ancient humans started vocalizing everything, this was the beginning of human language. And then humans moved gradually towards a written language for the purpose of record-keeping. At that time, there were only three languages (Middle East, China & Meso-America) actually comprising just 13 characters with most languages stemming from two of those three languages. And now there are approximately 3,866 written languages with a number of characters and radicals each. You see how our linguistic system grew over the history of mankind and will continually evolve as the 3,866 are reduced year by year to again, something sub-similar. That’s also an aspect of the principle of correspondence: everything starts off very simple (as is below) and becomes more and more complex (so as above) but as complex it is, it will still be sub-similar to what it was with the aggregate becoming more simple with each change.
So, it’s important to understand that nothing comes all of a sudden, and everything new is made from something old and so are our thoughts that come from memories of past events i.e. experiences. We can’t think of anything without recalling the parts of our thoughts.
So, if you have nothing, you can create nothing. You have to have a base from which anything can be built. Scientists turn to science fiction writers to envision new possibilities when they need assistance in imagining the possibilities. The reason for this is that ideas cannot come without a base. Scientists, with the help of science fiction, envision what can be possible through a process of benchmarking – looking at other disconnected areas for insights. For example, it is difficult for astrophysicists to extrapolate the possibilities of the universe, so they turn to science fiction because science writers are not tied to reality. They go where they can build a possibility. So, they are the scientists who very often use those visions to go into that direction and that is how new discoveries are made – because they are able to capture a theory of possibility and make it possible. In other words, scientists like to take a ride on the imagination of fiction writers just to come up with new ideas. This is why most of the incredible things that we have today were unintentional and accidental – these came up as a surprise because the wild imagination of human beings takes us where it wants to. And this is what the Kybalion declares: the alchemy of transmutation – the changing of parameters that determine what is possible.
Most of us wait for the Eureka moments when some innovative idea will suddenly come to our mind, and this never happens because creative ideas evolve from existing memories and impressions and experiences. Some new ideas are nothing more than an addition to our old ideas and some are just new combinations of old ideas just connected or organized differently but they might prove to be transformational ones.
Ideas may come to your mind no matter wherever you are, whether in the bathroom while resting in bed, or sitting in a bus. For most of our lives, we generalize our surroundings. It’s the creative mind that takes note and wonders about the a-symmetric in the experience. Just like an antelope or deer in an open field, the environment it experiences is completely typical of what it knows. The movement of grass as wind blows by. The scent of anything that could pose it harm and the absence of any apparent visual threats across its line of sight. Everything is a generalization of what it knows to be safe which is exactly why hunters wear camouflage. A hunter with experience, however, about how older bulks with years of experience surviving in the environment, will operate differently within the area of the hunt. It will be more tentative and observant. It will search more for something being out of place before it advances forward – a smell, a sight, a sound, a pattern that’s broken in some way.
While the elk may approach an environmental experience with caution for safety, the creative mind searches its environment in a similar way and will lean into the series of senses that constitute their best gifts but instead of searching for threats, the creative mind searches for the meaning of the differences, the causes of the a-symmetric patterns that caught their attention. Next, they leverage what famed 19th-century author Rudyard Kipling suggests is their 6 honest servants to question what is being observed. In a poem entitled :
I Keep Six Honest Serving Men
I KEEP six honest serving-men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who. I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west; But after they have worked for me, I give them all a rest.
I let them rest from nine till five, For I am busy then, As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea, for they are hungry men. But different folk have different views; I know a person small— She keeps ten million serving-men, Who get no rest at all! She sends me abroad on her own affairs. From the second she opens her eyes— One million Hows, two million Wheres, And seven million Whys!
I refer to them more affectionately as “Flight Attendants” because they support the journey of discovery but these are the questions that start the explorative process of understanding and they too are supported by the teachings within the Kybalion.
The way we think, the way we connect with others, the way we connect with the world around us, all play a role in generating new ideas. Ideas are not time-bound. For many, they come accidentally, not necessarily when we want them to. So, to come up with better ideas, those typical brainstorming sessions are not enough. You need to recognize that you constantly experience. The person who has the tendency to obsess and fixate is the one who can mine the environment for insights. Whenever you observe something that makes you ponder in greater detail, you should capture your understanding of the experience, when it happens and support it later through additional contemplation – extension. In Latin, the word “attention” means to stretch out or extend. It means to provide mental energy in the direction of what is being considered. The process of giving mental attention itself can be an alchemical process of combining – melding thoughts to create greater thoughts.
When you make new connections, your ideas are not just summed up, they are multiplied, ideas are like synergies i.e. the new whole is usually far greater than its parts. This multiplication is even more effective if you share ideas with others. You may share ideas with your peers, you may share ideas with people from other fields of knowledge. So, it’s also about collaboration to come up with a revolutionary idea, obviously, the ideas that come from different minds may not come from the mind of a single individual. When you get an idea of how someone else is handling a situation, you have more tools of possibilities.
So, the key takeaway is that all new & creative ideas evolve from existing memories and impressions and experiences. This is why whenever you observe something that makes you ponder in greater detail, you should capture your understanding of that experience in the moment that you may extend later to bring about something new & innovative.
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