The Power of Imagination

Denys Blacker. Madremanya, 2006

In Aesops tale, "The Wolf and the Dog", a hungry wolf, discouraged after an unsuccessful day of hunting, comes upon a well-fed mastiff. The wolf asks the dog what he had to do to earn his food.
"Very little" the dog replied, "Just protect my master's house and family and be obedient to his demands."
The wolf pondered this quite carefully, for he had to risk his own life almost daily to earn his food, and then with little assurance of success. The wolf, who was tempted to adopt the dog's mode of living, then happened to notice that the hair was rubbed bare about the dog's neck. The wolf asked what caused this affliction, the dog replied that it was of no significance, "It's just the place where my collar and chain rub". The wolf abruptly stopped and exclaimed, "Your chain, you mean you are not free to come and go as you please?"
"No" responded the dog, "but what does that matter?"
"A great deal", replied the wolf as he trotted away into the forest, "A great deal".
In our era it is Hallucination that has become our collar and chain.
Because of our over exposure to the media we no longer decide who we are nor how we live. Advertisements that surround us in all public spaces and in our homes through the ubiquitous television tell us what to eat, what to wear and how to think. At the same time we are inundated with facts, images, figures and assaulted daily by scenes of human tragedy, natural disasters and political turmoil; other people's suffering is too close for comfort yet too far away to be real in our lives. Already unable to deal with our own pain we can only watch and empathise as impotent witnesses. The Hallucinatory world in which we dwell is further enhanced by the computer games, the pleasure drugs and other paraphernalia of a way of life that deprives us of awareness and critical selection, that fosters passive acceptance of material values and keeps us cut off, shut off, asleep. We take the viagra and the prozac, we get drunk and stoned, anything to avoid the rawness of living and to stay "out of it". It is like a demonic possession over which we have no control.

In this climate many merely despair. But perhaps the remedy is right here within all of us. It is the extraordinary capacity within each human being that has been sacrificed in the technological age in which we live. The Imagination, Bede Griffiths, a Christian philosopher wrote, "... is the link between the mind and the heart, between intellect and sense, between thought and feeling. Modern man has broken this link; he has created a world of science and reason, whose language is prose, and has cut himself off from the sources of life in the imagination, which is the language of heart".

To live without any contact with our own imagination and our subconscious is to deny a contact with the Spiritual, with our own feelings, with our heart, so that it is easy to become slaves to Hallucination. If we exist only in the material world and deny the mystery of the unknown, it is impossible to feel connected and compassionate towards Nature, or indeed to other living beings. Everywhere around us we see evidence of this imbalance and one of the consequences is the lack of respect for the Feminine . In fact all over the world the Feminine is under attack. In a very literal way countless women and children are daily the victims of men's violence towards them. In repressing the creative instinct, we see too a neglect of many other qualities related to it, tolerance, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, women's and children's rights, respect for human rights, etc.
In a wider sense, The Earth and Mother Nature are under threat because Man's greed to exploit and control them leads to the contamination and destruction of the very things we need to survive. Motivated by material gain and deaf to common sense, the intolerant Hallucination is careering out of control towards almost certain disaster and suicidal mass destruction.

We know about the fragility of world's ecosystems and the threat to them by global warming and climate change. We know too that war is an ineffective and expensive way of resolving conflicts yet unilateral disarmament and the dismantling of our unsustainable energy industries is far from a reality. The world is filled to the brim, East and West with weapons capable of destroying the planet many times over. It seems that we cannot rely upon the people in power to make the decisions that could change the course of history. They lack imagination and are too ready to submit their power to the sustaining of Hallucination.
Neither can we rely on the religious cultures that we have known. The structures of our "faiths" lie in ruins at our feet. We try desperately to build something for ourselves with the rubble, not sure, but still believing that something is better than nothing. And we have turned to freedom of expression. But while this has liberated us from the confines of tradition, it has also deprived us of the roots that hold us still while refining our ability to concentrate with attention and care. We float around in a sea of contradiction and self-obsession.
What can we do?
If indeed we are all connected by the "Morphic Resonance" that Rupert Sheldrake writes of, or by Jung's "Collective Unconscious", then all our actions and thoughts are of vital importance in placating and redirecting destructive and negative forces and averting disaster.

We need to go into the dark forest of Imagination in able to be free and creative as human beings. Living by reason alone will chain us and enslave us to the material life.
It is inevitable, living as we do with our inner space over crowded with images and our silence drowned by the constant din that confuses and distracts us, that our collective Imagination has suffered. To resuscitate it we need silence, awareness, contemplation and prayer. These are the vital ingredients of Imagination which will enable us to make the seemingly small choices about how we live that can truly change the world we live in.

If we can live in the least violent way possible, in the least aggressive way possible then there will be more respect and less war. All wars will cease as soon as all people refuse to fight. These are not new ideas, yet with so much around us to convince us otherwise, they are the most difficult to implement and they are often also the most threatening to the political powers.
Petra Kelly, a founding member of the German Green Party wrote, "In a world struggling in violence and dishonesty, the further development of non-violence not only as a philosophy but as a way of life, as a force on the streets, in the market squares, outside the missile bases, inside the chemical plants and inside the war industry, becomes one of the most urgent priorities".
With Imagination we have a choice to accept inhuman values or to question them and create alternatives.
Now more than ever the artist needs to be motivated by greater ideals than those sold to us by this materialistic society that we live in. As a powerful way to weaken and defeat the Hallucinatory life that we have been sold, the artist's work can reconnect us to the Subconscious and the Imagination, and can encourages us to experience something of our own nature and feelings. At this moment in history, the artist is the guardian of Imagination and is maintaining the flame of creativity alive for humanity. Without this flame we would really be living in a dark age.
There is no more time to play at being creative while remaining obsessed by the trivialities of our small lives. There is no more room for cynicism and morbid fascination with our own perversions and sicknesses. There is too much real suffering in the world for artists to play at suffering in order to shock and repel. There are too many real children clamouring for our attention and calling for help.
If we are moved by a work of art to feel something of our own emotions, if we can be moved in mind, body and spirit to question and imagine, if we can be reminded of our dreams, our needs, our beliefs and ideals, be touched in our hearts, then the artist will have succeeded in making the world less violent. But even if we never see these works of art, they will still be there in our collective unconscious and will heal us, nourish us and reconnect us to our rich and meaningful dreams. Without the artist, without the work of creative people, the flame of Imagination will die and the light will go out and our world will be plunged into the darkest of all ages.
Then we will truly be afraid.

Denys Blacker.
2008

 

 

 

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