breakthroughs in thought which transform or change the histories of
science, philosophy, art, and religion are often given the descriptor
The Eureka Experience. Eureka! is attributed to Archimedes after having
suddenly discovering a method of finding out how much the gold of King
Hiero's crown had been alloyed. Today, it describes that “bolt from the
blue” that seems to confer the answer to a problem often after attempts
to find it had been abandoned. In Marghanita Laski’s book, Ecstacy: A
Study of Some Secular and Religious Experiences, she outlined the six
step process behind the Eureka Experience, recounted in The Biology of
Transcendence, by Joseph Chilton Pearce:
Asking the question. A suggestion, idea, or intuitive hunch,
something we long to find out about and want to experience ourselves,
an enigma we want to solve – whatever it might be, a quest must become
not just the focus of our life, but such a passionate intensity that we
are seized by it and feel we live only to serve it. Often we get an
idea that we think will win us a place in the sun and serve our
interests in the world. Until we are seized in the pursuit of our
notion by that which we have seized, the level of passion will not be
sufficient to ignite our movement towards Eureka!
Searching for the answer. We must explore all avenues that might
be useful in our search; find all the pieces of the puzzle; pursue
every discipline; read every text; follow every directive whether the
search is scientific, spiritual, philosophical, or artistic. Laski
points out that we must leave no stone unturned in gathering the
materials for our answer. The early stages of this pursuit are
generally exciting, colored as they are by the conviction that the
answer is always just around the corner.
Hitting the plateau period. A time of stagnation inevitably
arrives when no more materials can be found, no more related paths can
be explored, no more disciplines can be harnessed, no more sacrifices
can be made. We have done as much as we can with no avail, which brings
us frustration, despair, even bitterness and disillusionment – dark
night indeed. Yet this is a time of gestation, that part of creation
that lies beyond our doing and can’t be engineered. We might go through
several such plateaus before the answer forms and breaks through to us.
And, of course, the breakthrough may never come at all.
Giving up all hope. No dawn follows the dark; all possibilities
are exhausted; we have tried everything but no answer is found. We feel
we have wasted our life to no avail – and we quit. Really. Period!
Breaking through. Real quitting clears the circuitry of mind,
brain, and body and makes room for the answer to appear. It has access
to us – at which point the answer arrives, full blown and complete,
when least expected, out of the blue, and in a single instant’s insight.
Translating the answer into the common domain. This is the
critical step, the one in which far more revelations perish than
survive to see the light of day. Our instant, breakthrough insight
can’t be communicated as given – it must be translated into language
that allows it to be shared with others of a like mind. Until this is
done, it hangs in limbo, halfway between creation and created until it
is properly birthed into the world.
Examples of this process in
history include Irish mathematician, William Hamilton who produced
quaternion function, a cornerstone in modern mathematics; August
Kekule, a Belgian chemist who discovered the theory of the benzene
ring, a cornerstone of modern chemistry; and Gordon Gould, a physicist
who won the Nobel Prize for his theory of laser light.