Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Imagination, An Ability of the Heart

"I love you with all my heart." --by the many, the millions who have said and felt so.  And J. Hillman, author of the Force of Character

Reading the book, The Force of Character by James Hillman carefully, one stumbles upon many great and grand insights. It may take a few reads to grasp its themes. "Character used to be spoken of in terms of 'the of heart courage,' or the 'heart of generosity and loyalty.' " It is this heart which Hillman wants to address. He says this is also the heart that consoles the weary, that cooks a meal and shares its comforts with others, and delights in laughter. But there is a second heart, he says, that is even more familiar. It is the romantic heart of flowers and sweets; we 'give our heart away,'  'we are broken-hearted.'

And  Hillman writes of still another, a third heart. This heart is the one observed and practiced by early "great Christian writers, especially  Saint Augustine." This third heart is the one of inmost feeling, of true character. It is the me-mine, the closet of intimacy, an inward dwelling place." Because this heart is so deep and so private, "Augustine often refers to it as an abyss." Writers over time have elaborated upon this heart, calling it also 'the sacred heart.' Many practice devotions to realize and awaken this deepest heart. "The Sacred Heart is the heart of compassionate mysticism; it sets out a discipline of love parallel with the path" of Bhakti yoga, a part of Hindu tradition; it sets its path likewise with Jewish mystic tradition, the Kabbalah, Binah a mothering, discriminating intelligence-heart, leading one into an expanding character with regard to charity, compassion and mercy.

The "oldest heart of all, is the Egyptian Ptah, who created the world from the imagination of his heart! While the more recent Christian bible dares to state that the world was created by the Logos, the word which was with God, Ptah states "the same idea, except that for ancient Egypt, the words start out from the heart and express its imaginative power. The world was first imagined, then declared." Imagination, the 'ability to see things as images, is an ability of the heart, according to Arabic philosopher, Ibn Arabi." The images that we carry about in our reverie, in our dreams, in our deepest waking hearts become vividly real to the aware, awake heart. "Otherwise we assume them to be inventions, projections, and fantasies," Hillman writes.

This "imagining heart converts such indefinables as soul, depth, dignity, love and beauty-- as well as character and the idea of 'heart' itself into felt actualities, the very essence of life." Without it we only have a bio-mechanical pump to keep us going. And many of us do, when the occasion warrants, write to another, "I love you with all my heart."

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