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Imagination

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Quotes about Imagination

A More Basic Imagination that is the Embodiment of the Logos’s Imagination in the Soul

Ibn ‘Arabi was one of the most well-known Sufis to popularize the idea that God possesses a universal imagination through which He creates the universe, as we see in the following passage from Corbin:

“We encounter the idea that the Godhead possesses the power of Imagination, and that by imagining the universe God created it; that he drew this universe from within Himself, from the eternal virtualities and potencies of His own being; that there exists between the universe of pure spirit and the sensible world an intermediate world which is the idea of ‘Idea Images’ as the Sufis put it, the world of ‘supersensory sensibility,’ of the subtile magical body, ‘the world in which spirits are materialized and bodies spiritualized.’”(Henry Corbin, Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi, p. 182.)

Such cosmic imagination has its counterpart in the individual soul, as the creative imagination of the soul. We must caution the reader that by imagination we do not mean the ordinary imagination, which is under the sway of the desires and ignorance of the ego-self. We mean a more basic imagination that is the embodiment of the logos’s imagination in the soul. However, we can also observe that our ordinary imagination is a reflection of the basic imagination of the soul, a personalization of the power of the logos to create through imagining. In the basic and creative imagination of the soul, given to it by the logos, each name or word possesses a quality, color, feeling, and image. Words, feelings, and images are interchangeable in this realm, which we experience more as a faculty of the heart than the mind. We recognize in this capacity of creative and basic imagination one of the higher faculties of the soul. The soul possesses many higher faculties, with their corresponding lower or ordinary ones. We have discussed that of knowing, thinking, reason, imagination, and will discuss further in this chapter the faculties of speaking and expressing in general. All these higher faculties are important for spiritual practice, and eventually for the realized life. In practicing, however, we always have to begin with the normal and lower faculty, and by integrating it with presence, or immediacy of experience, it connects us to the higher faculty.

Figments of Your Imagination and of the Collective Imagination of the Human Race

Living your life from the perspective of being an individual who has a sense of identity is the primary source of all personality problems and issues and misunderstandings, because these two things just do not exist. They are figments of your imagination, and of the collective imagination of the human race. If you are always having to protect and operate from that center of self, that personality, that identity, that is what is called self-centered or selfish. You are concerned only for yourself. If the individuality is defined by your boundaries, then the concern is about how big your territory is, what it includes, what it excludes? It is not easy to understand the structure of one’s personality. It takes a lot of work to expose the various constituents, delusions, and structures. The process requires a lot of inquiry, taking you through successive experiences, different kinds of experiences on different levels, exposing the reality of the situation. The experiences in your process tend to reveal over and over that the components of your ego structure do not actually exist, and at the same time tend to reveal to you what is real, what is actually there, rather than only personality structures created by mind. These experiences can transform your life.

If One Looks Within, and is Genuinely Interested in the Truth, One Finds Treasures Beyond Imagination

All this substantiates our understanding of the importance of the Nourishment aspect for the development of the Personal Essence, the true individuation. If it were not for the fact that Nourishment exists on the Being level, and hence its presence is independent of age, the development of the Personal Essence would be impossible for people who were inadequately nourished in childhood. Being is a magnificent reality. It has all that a human being needs to grow and develop. It does not matter what one missed in childhood. If one looks within, and is genuinely interested in the truth, one finds treasures beyond imagination. Only purely physical needs cannot be fulfilled with Essence. Any need that is emotional, mental, spiritual or moral, can be completely fulfilled by the richness of Being. The aspect of Nourishment is a kind of love; a gentle, delicate and lightly sweet presence. It has a warm sense of nurturance, and a unique quality of stilling inner hunger. It is closely allied to the process of metabolism, important for the realization and development of the Personal Essence. It is the food absorbed from personal experience. When this aspect is present it becomes easy to see what is of real value in any experience or activity of life. One can discern what will lead to growth and development, and what must be discarded. It also means that one can absorb the nutrient in any personal experience; in other words, the realization of this aspect implies that the individual can now absorb true Nourishment. When there are conflicts about this aspect then it becomes difficult to absorb the truth in experience; for one has difficulty in taking in true Nourishment.

Operation of an Inner Eye, a Certain Organ of Perception that Can See Inner Experience

Here we move from the realm of visions to the realm of seeing. A person can develop an ability to see the essence directly, as it is. The imagination is not involved here. What is involved is the operation of an inner eye, a certain organ of perception that can see inner experience. The pictures are then clear. They have a definite meaning and significance and completely correspond with the direct experience of the presence of essence. This kind of experience is calm and steady, without the excitement and emotionality of visions. The person can look at essence and investigate it, as if he is using a telescope or a microscope. This is the “seeing” that Don Juan talks about in Carlos Castaneda's books. The individual is now a seer, not a visionary. The old sages of India were called seers because they had this essential faculty of seeing. The more the individual is grounded in the embodied experience of essence, the more accurate his perception and the less it is influenced by the subjective mentality of his personality. The seeing, just like the presence of essence, can become a permanent presence, not an isolated happening. Whenever the person wants to see, he just looks. There are other classes of mental experience that are customarily regarded as the experience of essence when in fact they are not, such as the experiences of insight and intuition. In psychotherapy, for instance, one might have an insight about oneself, about others, or about the nature of reality. It often occurs as a flash of illumination and is accompanied by a sense of expansion and certainty. Such insights can provide valuable information and affective satisfaction. Still, the experience of insight is not itself essence, not yet. An insight is an event, and essence is a presence. An insight is an experience of understanding a specific truth, whereas essence is an embodied presence, an ontological actuality. 

Recognizing the Process of Manifestation as Imagination

A subtler form of this experience is one that combines the logos with pure nonconceptual awareness. We perceive the flow of prenoetic forms in the process of creation as a flow of colorful images. In other words, the forms do not have knowingness, only the differentiations that compose them. In effect, we recognize the process of manifestation as imagination. All the manifest universe, and all experience, appears as the content of imagination. It is not our personal imagination, but universal imagination. We can say that the logos imagines the world into existence.15 The sense of imagination reflects the fact that in this experience we perceive the forms as images devoid of substance or solidity. The dominant impression, however, is the unity of manifestation, which appears as one image. Everything is purely image, purely an imagined form, but we are part of what is imagined by the logos. 

The Way that Essential Substance Moves Us and Teaches Us is Beyond the Wildest Dreams and Imaginations of Humanity

Essential substance is so beautiful and magnificent that no imagination can conceive of its beauty, and no poetry can convey its magnificence. The way it moves us and teaches us is beyond the wildest dreams and imaginations of humanity. Its potentialities are staggering, its creativity is boundless, its depth is endless, and its intelligence is limitless. It is a wonder—a wonder beyond all miracles. It is our true nature, our most intimate identity. This wonder is not just for stories or poetry. It is not just to dream about or long for. It is not just to give us flashes of its magnificence, or fleeting tastes of its significance. It is actually our human essence. It is who we are: our very beingness. We are to be this essence, to exist and live as essence. It is our potential to be our essence, not just in occasional experiences but always and permanently. It is our essence that can and should be what lives, and what should be the center of our life. It can and should be inseparable from us. The work of inner development is not aimed only at having an experience of essence. It is aimed at the complete realization of essence and the permanent existence of us as essence. It is aimed at the eradication of our separation from essence. To be free is simply to be. And to be is simply to live as essence. In fact, when we are not consciously essence, we are not existing. The life of the personality is nonexistence, a wasted and useless life. There is life only when there is existence, and existence is essence. 

When the Amount of Knowledge, Understanding and Experience is Beyond Imagination

The realization within each dimension is like going through the whole process of essential realization all over again, but from a different and more profound level. Each brings new ego issues, or rather the same issues now understood in deeper and subtler ways. It would take us too far afield to discuss these dimensions of experience in any depth, so we only note here that the process of personalization of Essence involves the realization of these dimensions. Seeing that realization proceeds through each of these dimensions points to the magnitude of the task, but also to the magical richness of Essence. Realizing the objective dimensions amounts to the shifting of identity from ego to Being. It also means a much more comprehensive and objective understanding of ego, on all of its levels, and in all of its structures. Ego, both in terms of self and individuality, becomes known and understood, inside out. Its relation to consciousness, Essence and Being is also understood, which leads to its gradual absorption. The amount of knowledge, understanding and experience that results is beyond imagination. It makes one realize in what a small realm of experience ego exists. The process of personalization of Essence is also the process of development of the Personal Essence. Two particular issues, among myriad others, stand out in this process. The first is one we have already discussed, the rapprochement conflict. The second is related: the issue of ego deficiency or inadequacy. 

When You Get Deeper and Deeper into Your Essence, You Enter into the Universal Levels of Essential Reality where the Beauty, Fulfillment and Possibility are Beyond Human Imagination

Most people don’t understand this. They think they can achieve contentment, love, and happiness by getting this or that. They want the right kind of body, the right kind of lover, the right house. When you see what you can experience in the realm of Essence, you see that these things are peanuts. Absolutely nothing. It’s a degradation of human life to prefer these things over what is possible for Essence. When you align yourself with the truth, then beauty, majesty, nobility, fullness, pleasure, joy, and love are all available to you. The more you see your essence, the more you see that what you wanted before was nothing. When you get deeper and deeper into your essence, you enter into the universal levels of essential reality where the beauty, fulfillment, and possibility are beyond human imagination. There is no way for the mind to grasp it. As you actualize your Personal Essence, you can bring that fullness into your life. Then everything in your life—your work, your job, your relationship with your lover, children, friends—can become filled with Essence rather than substituting for Essence. The point is to realize Essence in your life; that’s why we’re here. We’re not here to suffer. We’re not here just to work or raise children. We’re here to completely fulfill our potential. We are here to learn what it’s like to be really human. It is very rare to know what it’s like to be a complete, mature human being. Fulfilling desires that arise from the unconscious is not the same fulfillment as we experience in essential life. The unconscious believes that fulfillment has to do with what others give us, think of us, or feel toward us. The unconscious is rarely focused on being itself. It is focused on the mind’s desires, expectations, projections, and memories.  

You are Being Imagined All the Time

Almaas: This is generally true for human beings, but the delusion of separateness is universal. Concern for survival also indicates that you believe you are a separate individual with your own separate life.

Student: Yes, I definitely have that belief.

Almaas: Right. So survival of the individual becomes very important. But the fact is that you are not that individual. You have never been that individual. It is a figment of your imagination. Without this delusion, survival will mean something different, and will involve less effort.

Student: Who’s in this chair?

Almaas: The imagination of the universal mind. It is not your own imagination. You are being imagined all the time, so is the chair and everything else, just like being a figure in a dream, and the figure in the dream believes he or she is real. Imagine you have a dream where you see people and one of those people believes that they are really real while they are being dreamed by you. Your situation is exactly like that. Exactly. This is what is referred to as the universal mind, or the Divine Mind. 

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