To what extent is our imaginal world a house of mirrors reflecting our own fragmented self, and to what extent does it tap into the wellspring of Creation, the anima mundi, the Source of our very existence?
Peer to peer is also an ethical stance, born from a desire to treat others as equals, and to recognize their equipotential right to participation to construct our common world. It is, in essence, a refusal of the dominator stance.
An associated question is: how do we ‘peer’ with the non-human world, say with animals, or even with the world of machines? How do me match autonomy, co-decision, and responsibility for others?
My good friend John Heron, for example, in his remarkable work into relational and participative spirituality, has always insisted on our relations with the ‘subtle beings’, but I must admit that such experiences are mostly alien to me (though of course, I had some, as most humans do).
Reality Sandwich then, has a remarkable article about the relational spirituality concerning fairies. I’ll respect the peace of mind of our rationalist friends, by only quoting the less provocative or controversial parts of the article, as it says a number of very wise things about spirituality and the ‘imagination’. Even if you don’t ‘believe’ in fairies, you may find this a remarkable and important article.
The author, M.T. Xen, offers a double definition of the imagination, then formulates a choice.
“The more positive way defines the imagination as the ability of the mind to be creative and resourceful, the function of a spiritual faculty (as in,“Use your imagination”). The more negative one defines it as the part of the mind that subjectively distorts and fantasizes things, the function of an immature ego (as in, “You are imagining things”). ”
The question then becomes: To what extent is our imaginal world a house of mirrors reflecting our own fragmented self, and to what extent does it tap into the wellspring of Creation, the anima mundi, the Source of our very existence?
The path then, is the following:
“For those of us drawn to the prospect that there must be something better, we would do well to look for answers long exiled from our world, to such forgotten or suppressed things as fairies and gnomes – and plants that are in many ways smarter than us.
For this, we need a more holistic worldview. We must see through the cracks of the 3-D empire and surface the deeper, more inclusive layers of consciousness, where all beings exist and all is interconnected. This, to me, is the ultimate purpose of the human imagination. It is to give expression to the creative matrix of Nature, to allow the whole to become more conscious of itself. As cosmologist Richard Tarnas puts it, “The human imagination is itself part of the world’s intrinsic truth; without it the world is in some sense incomplete.”
What we need to follow this path, is to develop “imaginal hygiene”:
“Imaginal hygiene is the inner art of self-managing the imagination, to defend it from forces that compromise, pollute, colonize, shrink, and sterilize it, and to cultivate those that illuminate, expand, and nourish it. I feel knowledge of this and its application is essential to the story of human survival into the 21st century. Its practice is necessary for us to cultivate the visionary clarity and strength needed to achieve the great personal and planetary transformations that increasing numbers of us are being called to perform, for the capacity to transform is in direct proportion to the capacity to imagine.”
More in detail, here are some recommendations:
“As most of us have grown up with the TV, and similar influences, it is helpful to re-pattern ourselves by spending quality time in untrammeled natural environments. This is where we can recover communication with the normally unheard voices, where we can refine our senses and learn to use them in a more balanced ratio to one another. We live in a society dominated by visual (books and moving screens) and, to a lesser extent, audio information. Touch, smell, and taste are largely undeveloped or, more usually, numbed. With all five senses up and running in interactive relationship, we are restored to a full-spectrum ecology of knowledge and gain a much truer perception of the world. For instance, we are not fooled by things that look or sound good, but don’t feel good. We thereby become more immune to the seductive wares of reality sharks, of the glamour spells cast by the Las Vegas effect.
Working with systems of correspondences (like astrology, the I Ching, or the Tarot) educates the imagination in the language of the transpersonal layers of the psyche. Becoming fluent, or at least conversant, in the soul glyphs of the numinous realms, the apriori realities, allows us to make much greater sense of their expression in the life we see around us in the 3-D world. This helps us to read the world, to become literate in its symbology.
As Nature imparts guidance to humans most directly through visionary experience, it is wise to familiarize oneself with the proper management of altered (or more correctly, restored) states of consciousness. The occasional rite of passage, of death and rebirth, provides us with opportunity to clear away the fixations that keep our imagination anchored to an outworn sense of self. Traditionally, this is done by creating a fluid state of being, not unlike the living soup found in a chrysalis. The human being in this vulnerable state must be held and protected in some kind of safe container. However, in a fear-based culture there is no trust; if no trust, there is no letting go; if no letting go, there is no death to the old self, habits, and ways – which means that there is no rebirth. Without ego surrender, the Source waters of spirit cannot easily flow through us, cannot refresh our souls and renew our lives.”
A relational approach is essential:
“In contrast, a healthy imagination is fed by considering what things do have in common – by making connections, and finding similarities. Such an imagination comes to life and breathes with parables, analogies, poetry, songs, and metaphors. When we fertilize our language in this way, we synergize the world. Much like Nature brings emerging properties into being – such as the wetness that comes of combining hydrogen and oxygen, lichen from algae and fungus, and humanity from the biosphere – we, too, can synergize zeitgeists from history, grooves from jamming musicians, and great love through communion with others. These emerge as verbs, processes and relationships, transformations and motion. If we choose to speak more in verbs and surrender to their flow, we will invariably run into the rocky outcrops of nouns so prevalent in the English language ”
The result of such a practice would a rebirth of organismic cosmologies:
“This leads us into the great work of the rebirth of organismic cosmologies, the true home of the spiritually evolving, heart-opening imagination. Also known as eco-cosmologies, cosmologies of resonance, “as above so below” – in these all manner of atom, molecule, element, cell, plant, animal, ancestor, and deity appear less as “others,” and more as participants in the metabolisms of nested “bodies,” not only our own, but regional ecosystems, the earth, the solar system, and beyond. These nested patterns of resonance all work by the same principles, a kind of dharma of the universe that is expounded in all the world’s great scriptures. These scriptures can as well be “read” at their source, in the living world, if one has the imaginal cognition to do so.”
And doing this, we recreate the possibilities of an Imaginal Commons:
“The imaginal commons is a place of origin stories, tales of never-ending events. These arise through the Gaian mind as paths of creation that vision, architect, and speak the surface world into existence. The mythic is the actual world behind the real world, the “actuality” that generates “reality.” The stability of the turtle may offer itself as an island; the mercurial intelligence of foxes or river dolphins can teach us to laugh and play tricks; the carrion-eating life of condors gives lessons in recycling; the mind-expansion qualities of peyote reveals itself as a sage; and the flow to a river may connect to the streaming tears of a forlorn woman, carrying away her sorrow. The mythical dimensions of these plants, animals, and elements carry the virtues, the power, the “medicine” of their physical form.
By knowing this internal topology of the world, all manner of divination, healing, sorcery, spiritual illumination, and shapeshifting, can be effected. This is done by linking an imaginative act to the spiritual power of a thing, and then directing it with an intention. This is essentially magic, a science of similarities.”
The commons is calling to us, the fairies from the garden are banging on our heads, and though so many of us have lost the imaginal capacity to hear, we are all feeling it at some level. Wiccan earth-activist Starhawk tells of feeling overwhelmed by the escalating crises of the world, of helplessness at the prospect of time running out. And then, in deep meditation a voice came to her, saying, “You’re a witch. Part the curtains of time and plant the seeds of change in that timeless place where change has already happened.” We, too, need to do our activating from that timeless place, from the commons.