There is a possible flaw inherent in fourth way teaching. The fourth way correctly emphasizes that we are asleep and that we need to awaken to be fully human. The key is impartial observation of self. Why is this important? Because it exposes sleep. It exposes the fact that much of the time we live in a fantasy world of habitual, unresolved fears and desires. In this work, fantasy is the enemy. But the result of this kind of thinking may be a kind of judgment which does not allow the emergence of one of humanity’s greatest talents, imagination.
The problem begins with a blanket condemnation of sleep. On the one hand, not all the conditioning of sleep is ‘bad’. We can be sensitive to one another without waking up. We can be well mannered and considerate. Furthermore, any of us can have moments of spontaneous wakefulness, when higher qualities are called for and realized, even if sleep is the norm. On the other hand, it is deadly to start assuming that your behavior is not the behavior of sleep or that you are somehow different or special. Can you discern without judging?
How is imagination different from fantasy?
Fantasy is self-serving. Imagination is not. Fantasy indulges passively in like/dislike, what we want and do not want. Fantasy is closed off…it begins and ends with sense of self and thought of self. Fantasy is most often about the future or the past but imagination is a present activity. Imagination actively summons the capacities of sensing, thinking and feeling to give birth to something. Imagination is the key to invocation and contemplation. It opens communication and facilitates movement between states of being. It’s an engagement that gives life to what is imagined for its own sake.
I can use all these words to try to draw the lines between them but the differences can be sensed and felt much more easily than spoken, because they are energetically very different states. Imagination is alive and energizing, solar rather than lunar. It is the fertile soil in which possibilities can evolve.
Is Imagination only in the mind?
No. It may begin there but if it remains only in the mind, it is only thought. It may begin with an idea, a word or image, but ideas have texture and shape, they can be sensed, giving form and substance to the idea. Some ideas also have feeling behind them and it is feeling that contains the essential meaning. In my view, the sensing and feeling of thought is the work of the creative imagination. It can use previous experience, bring it into the present, engage all our faculties and construct an inner display of meaning.
Imagination is the key to invocation?
Ordinary reality is a tight weave of habitual self-sensing and habitual self-talk. Not much comes in. I am isolated and alone. To move out into a larger world, perception must be freed. The identity supported by sensing and thinking must become more plasmic, less fixed. Releasing habitual tensions begins the process. Breathing then changes. Thinking shifts when habitual tensions are released. Perception is enhanced.
Now you can invoke. What does it mean to invoke? Does it mean to simply repeat some verbal formula? To invoke is to call. You could imagine what it is to call. If you wish to call someone, would you not use the right name? Would you not use a sweet voice? Include a welcoming gesture? Arouse your heart to attract and greet the one you call? Perhaps you could begin by imagining their presence? How do you know if this preparation is correct? You imagine it and see if it works to connect you to meaning. All of this is using active, creative imagination.
It can happen at any time. As I become plasmic, I see that the room I am in, the quality of its light, the sound of footsteps echoing on the floor, has an expansive, joyous quality (perceived first, named later). I am moved to speak with a rising tone and an upward gesture of the hand. I see that in response your eyes are dancing. Feeling is communicated, shared.
In prayer I can perhaps go deeper. Do I know the name of my Lord today? It is not the same every day. Can I listen without interfering? If I listen, He will tell me. On the breath, I repeat it in the heart. I attend to the sensations that arise, the feelings that follow. Each adds knowing and increases intimacy. I attend to nothing else but this experience. It is a mutual regarding, is it not?
Where does this occur? In the space of the Imaginarium, I would say. Sufis call it hurqalya. It is as real as any place, although differently, and its experiences are as real as any experiences, although not the same. There is sensing, feeling and thought. There is meeting, engagement and relationship. There is knowing and learning. In it, I can be a whale. I can be an eagle on the arm of a King. This is what shamen do.
Perhaps this will seem entirely subjective to you. But then, can you explain how an invocation can be shared by the work group? And can you replace imagination with more everyday reality and not feel the loss?
Do not let the concepts of sleep and fantasy be the enemy of imagination.