Some Contemporary Waking Encounters with Imaginal Presences

                In my last blog entry, we explored two historical encounters with the Imaginal, recorded in history and legend.  Throughout the hundreds of generations of human experience, probably millions of such experiences have occurred, some written about, others told, still others simply “pondered in the heart,” as it is said the Virgin Mary did after her amazing imaginal encounter.  Today, to establish an awareness of the Imaginal in our current daily life, we will take a look at three contemporary imaginal encounters in a waking state.

  • A man in his forties takes a break from the conference he’s attending in a rural New Mexico retreat center. He strolls alongside a fenced pasture, and then leans comfortably against the wooden fence rails, enjoying the sun-warmed air.  For some reason, he looks to his right, to the path that extends further down the fence line.  About ten feet away stands a column of pink, cloudlike mist, the height of a person but with no bodily form.  The man feels totally stilled, and stands quietly, taking in what he sees, and he senses something of an attentive presence in the misty column.  Time seems to stop.  Man and mist behold each other.  Sounds seem muffled. For some reason, the man looks away briefly.  When he looks to the right again, the column of mist is gone.
  • A man in suburban Toronto is sitting at a small table in his backyard garden, which has several large trees.  His partner is inside preparing dinner while he enjoys the lushness of the garden.  At some point, he raises his eyes to the tree branches. To his surprise, he sees, resting among the branches, a green orb, somewhat larger than a basketball, softly glowing as though lit from within.  Its texture seems to shift and move.  Astounded, the man calls softly to his partner to come out, and the partner comes out and sees the orb as well.  Quietly, they both sit at the table, observing and wondering, for several minutes.  At some point, they realize they need to get their dinner from the kitchen, and they begin to move.  When they return, the orb has disappeared.
  • A young woman traveling in Madrid stops at a café for pizza on a sunny day.  As she sits outside under the awning, a bustling street life passes before her eyes—students and families strolling, deliverymen arriving at shops.  A policeman on a horse wends his way gently through the throng and comes to a stop in front of the café where the woman awaits her pizza.  Her eyes rest for a moment on the horse.  As she gazes, the horse seems to begin to glow with an inner golden light.  Fascinated, she can’t take her eyes off of it. The light builds; and soon, the horse no longer seems to have a rider but now stands, resplendent and shining, golden and iconic against a background of suffused light. Sounds are muted. Time seems to have stopped. She is stilled by awe.  Someone touches her shoulder: “Your pizza, senora.”  When she looks out onto the street again, the horse, and the policeman, have continued strolling toward the plaza.

In ways that echo the experiences shared in my last blog entry, these contemporary experiences exemplify some of the characteristics—and pose some crucial questions—common to experiences of the Imaginal in waking life.  Here’s how it looks to me:

  1. While remaining within the realm of time and space, our “normal” reality,
  2. A person experiences the presence of an “other,” or a form of transcendent reality, which cannot have possibly come from our own “normal” realm.  This is experience is REAL—it carries a strong feeling of TRUTH—though it is not ACTUAL [i.e., the angel left no footprints, the pink mist leaves no residue on the fencepost, the golden horse drops no gold dust and is once again “only a horse”.]
  3. The receiver of the experience is transfixed by AWE. Then—and this will prove to be crucially important:
  4. The person’s sense of reality is profoundly impacted. Ordinary, habitual life has been touched by something decidedly NONordinary.

After such an experience, what happens next tells the tale.  

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