Monday, May 11, 2009

Visionary Experiences

Our twenty-first century has a tremendous collective prejudice against the imagination
--Robert Johnson

No one in fact, "makes up" anything in the imagination. The material that appears in the imagination has to originate from somewhere; that is the unconscious, asserts Robert Johnson.
Writing, "the prejudice against imagination... is reflected in things people say like, "You're only imagining it," or "that's a fantasy, not reality," yet imagination more properly understood, is a channel through which unconscious material flows to the conscious mind. Johnson writes, "to be even more accurate, imagination is a transformer that converts the original material into images the conscious mind can perceive."

The prejudice against imagination is so strong in modern society that experiences understood almost intuitively by our ancestors have become swamped in a sea of rational, scientific thought. Modern thinkers have need to rediscover what the ancients knew: the mind is conceived with a power to convert the "invisible" realm to conscious, visible, forms that can be detected and contemplated. As the Catholic Christian creed records, "we believe in the seen, and the unseen..." The ancients thought of it too, as the place of the gods, the region of pure spirit. It was, and is, a place of power to make images, enabling us to see.

In ancient Greece, the place of fantasy, or place of producing poetic, abstract and religious imagery, was nearly unquestioned. This inner world was thought of as a place of ideal forms, of the expression of the gods; they gained meaning from imagination and dreams, both in the spiritual and aesthetic realms. "These meanings could then be held in memory and made the basis of thought and reasoning."

"In religion, the imaginative faculty was the legitimate path of religious inspiration, revelation, and experience." The simple fact that information comes to one through the unconscious mind, or imagination, in no way discredits it as a form or a reality. Experiences of poetic imagining are not mere whimsy; rather they express in symbols the real happenings of a human life experience.
"Humans depend on the imagination's image-making power, and its image-symbols for creative endeavors such as poetry, visual arts, literature, sculpture, and essentially all philosophical and religious functioning." Without imagination, Albert Einstein, for one, would not have deduced the intricacies of the natural world; indeed he states that many of his most important ideas came to him through imaginative intuition. This imagination, then can serve as a great contribution to both individuals and society.

In Carl Jung's positing, he came to the thought that humans are endowed from the eons with archetypes, powerful symbols that spring from deep within the universal, collective, human nature. In all "cultures and religions since the beginning of history, the idea of a soul has sprung up spontaneously... human kind has always intuited the existence... that was invisible, yet active." The soul has often been referred to as feminine, present in poetic, and religious symbolism. Sometimes the soul is seen as an inner woman, regardless of one's exterior gender. Muses have often inspired great thoughts of religion or arts. And not only does the soul function as an inner reality, but it generates a set of symbols, universal to all.

These symbols are, in part, what makes us human-- universal, yet unique individuals. Carl Jung deduced that the psyche manifests itself as androgyny, neither male nor female, but both, one and the same. Within our collective conscious there exists the seed of both the male and female, the anima and the animus.

Thus the inner self is a plurality, like the Chinese idea of pairs, such as yin and yang. While they may appear to us as opposites, the great challenge in the spiritual life is the reconciliation of this paradox. Because in fact, the two are one; they are two parts of one stream of energy.

The end product of this evolution, writes Johnson, "is something that we can sense, feel and describe intuitively--even though we have not obtained it, a sense of wholeness, of completeness. This wholeness is the totality of our being," our Oneness. Totality can be expressed symbolically in ways such as mandala or divine geometry.
Failing this, "the self may well lapse into a place of mental disorder, of compulsions and neurosis."

Often we refuse the awakenings of conscious, repressing the best parts of ourselves, both the light and the dark; we come to view large swaths as negative. In viewing the offerings of unconsciousness negatively, as good and bad rather than in degrees of integration, in oneness, our richest parts bear no good fruit for us in our lives. We reject them, relegating their energies to some dark place where we just will not look.

"Even the voice of God, can be and is rejected." The soul is then left to "stealing or appropriating" what it needs-- our time, our energies, falling into dark corners "where incomprehensible and odd behaviors arise, in unprotected places the ego lets down, and the part of us that would otherwise accept, and believe this is gold, is left without a place to turn.

"Curiously people usually resist their own good qualities even more emphatically than they resist facing their negatives." Yet to achieve a balance, both must be regarded evenly. A practice of writing out your imaginings, dreams and musings will help to balance oneself, bringing clarity and peace to a life. Most importantly, actions make initial imaginings concrete, into a form that can be seen clearly. The use of rituals, both in symbol and in religion, are also quite valuable and lend a concrete avenue for modern man to attend to his own unique, spirits and longings.

What part of it do you believe?
~Robert Johnson, Inner work

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