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Inspiration is the phenomenon of some quality, skill or power being "in-breathed" or "breathed-into" someone from outside, related to the action of spiration or breathing, from Latin spiritus breath, spirit, from spirare to breathe. The original biblical reference to inspiration is in the Book of Genesis, chapter 2, verse 7:

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
Other biblical references to the action of inspiration, guidance and influence include expressions such as "the hand of the LORD was upon me". (See 2 Kings 3:15, 1 Chronicles 28:19, Ezra 7:28 and 8:22, Ezekiel 1:3; see also Luke 1:35 and 41-42, Acts 2:1-4 and 15:22-32, 1 Corinthians 12.)

Ancient pagan peoples believed that all extraordinary powers of body and mind, both admirable and reprehensible, were bestowed (breathed into men) by invisible spirits and the gods, or were the effect of being possessed by them; some of physical strength and athletic prowess; some of mental excellence (the nine Muses); some of the passions, such as pride, lust, greed, shrewdness, cunning, hatred, vengeance and bloodshed; some of the civic virtues, such as the national or ethnic cultural identity of a whole people, patriotism, governmental authority and power, political influence, law, ethics; and some others such as friendship and loyalty, family and home, gardening and agriculture. The original meaning of a "genius" referred to a spirit-being: the genius of the nation; the genius of the emperor or king; the genius of the intellect, of philosophers, writers, artists, dramatists, musicians and craftsmen. Sacrifices were made, and sometimes prayers offered and incense burned to these spirits, in honor of their gifts, some good, some evil. For example, Roman Mercury and Greek Hermes, the Roman and Greek patrons of commerce, eloquence, and skill, of travelers, merchants and thieves.

The inspiration of the Holy Spirit guided Christian leaders as shepherds of the flock (Acts 20:28-32, Romans 13:1-2, Hebrews 13:7, 17, 1 Peter 5:1-3), giving them divine authority and ability to discern and then officially recognize those sacred "writings", those holy "scriptures", which were directly inspired by Himself, and to collect them as the Bible. See Biblical Canon. The Bible is inspired by God, and the whole Bible is the Holy Bible.

In general usage, "inspiration" is the term given to a sudden, unconscious increase in creative output, and can be thought of as the physical manifestation of creativity, bridging the gap between the unconscious and conscious mind.[1] Creative ideas come before inspiration does, inspiration can be thought of as a translation process that allows creativity to be expressed coherently and economically. In modern psychology, inspiration cannot be studied, as it is an internal phenomenon, and by definition, cannot be controlled. Thus, there is no scientifically valid means of observing it objectively.

James Hilton said that inspiration is "too often something nonexistent that a writer waits for when he is lazy."[2]

See Genius.


  1. Thrash, T. M., Maruskin, L. A., Cassidy, S. E., Fryer, J. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2010). Mediating Between the Muse and the Masses: Inspiration and the Actualization of Creative Ideas. Journal Of Personality & Social Psychology, 98(3), 469-487.
  2. Preface to Goodbye, Mr. Chips