Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Realm of the Imaginal

 Imagination is one of the most powerful forces in spiritual work.

Because of this, Ibn Arabi said, in his classic Futuhat-a-Mikkayya, that it manifests the divine name "the Strong."

And indeed, if we understand his hierarchical analysis of the three levels of known things, we may see that it fits on to the enneagram, exactly where it should—on the material side of the diagram. Imagination occupies the position of power, or strength, and — because it can bridge the divide between the sensory and the rational, that is, between material and thought — imagination is the force that forms and completes the triad on the right-hand side of the enneagram, without which any approach to Being is impossible.

 Society often invokes the power of imagination in trying to understand the importance of creative action and the outer world. The force remains underappreciated, perhaps, in its action on the inner world, where it is widely more important. Imagination turned outwardly can produce an endless series of impressive effects in the material world, but the energy it carries cannot act on the inner life of a man unless it is conserved and used with discrimination.

Because of this, the outward expenditure of imagination may, despite its apparently great effects, cost a man or woman much more than they think. The paradigm of the creative genius who pours themself outwardly into their life's work, leaving a huge material legacy behind them, is all too familiar to us. Yet the greatest geniuses, like Leonardo da Vinci, were circumspect and highly discriminating in how much outward effort they made. Da Vinci, who lived a relatively long life for his age, was parsimonious in the amount of outer work that he left behind him; yet all of it was a recognizably extraordinary quality. He reserved his outward effort for that which really mattered.

How to balance this has to be up to the individual man or woman. However, given the very temporary nature of life on earth, one ought to ask just how much of one's imagination ought to be turned outwardly, and just how one may use that imagination inwardly, in a quite different way.

 The imagination that we speak of here may not be a visual one; it is a tactile imagination of experience and the vibration of an inner life, not necessarily one that can be painted, drawn, recorded, or written in words. If there is a Tantric practice within a human being — the development of a fabric, woven on a loom that creates the soul — there must be a weaver, and the weaver must have an imagination in order to put the warp and the weft of their threads together. That warp is the inner life; the weft is the outer life that weaves its threads through the foundation of an inner Being. And it is the imaginal, the attention of the practitioner, that confers the power and the intelligence on the action.

 May your soul be filled with light.

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