What is the imaginal?

Pierre Cordier

And what on earth is the process of RESONATING with the IMAGINAL?

And: why is this whole thing meaningful enough for anybody to write about it?

We hope, through this website, and through our various blog entries, interviews, and shared experiences, to point to some answers to these questions. Each of us will speak from her own voice, her own life experience, her own questions.

But we can say, pretty quickly, what the Imaginal is NOT: it is not the “imagination” as that term is currently used in modern Western society.  When we hear “imagination” spoken of today, it often means “full of great ideas”—Creative people, it is said, are “full of imagination.” The ideas or problem solutions just pour out of their heads!

Other ways that we use “imagination” are a bit less…enthusiastic.  We refer, with a knowing wink, to a child’s “Imaginary friend,” the companion who is obviously not real—not THERE—and whose existence is tolerated, for a while, by an indulgent adult.  Or we speak of our flamboyant friend—NOT in his or her presence—as “iMAGinative!!”, as we roll our eyes and flap our hands in some impersonation of “woo woo”…

No, the way we will be speaking of the Imagination will be quite different on this website.  This Imaginal Realm of which we speak has, in reality, nothing to do with “making things up”, with fabricating new ideas, with zooming out into woo woo land.  Quite the opposite, in fact.

Imagination as we speak of it here—or “the Imaginal”, or “Deep Imagination” as others call it–is a realm of aliveness which underlies, and permeates, all of our everyday existence and creaturely life.  It arrives into our lives in the presence of images, and of “second sight” experiences that can transform, in a flash, our way of seeing the world. It arrives in its own time, and it departs thus also. Imagination offers the presence of its Images to us all the time…and cultivating the capacity to receive and—yes—resonate with those images when they arise opens our existence to a liveliness, a depth of vision, and a level of rooted inspiration surpassing much of what our daily existence, on its own, can offer.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Here’s a bottom line: We are all hard-wired to experience the Imaginal.  The capacity is simply there, IN us.  Experiencing a greeting from the Imaginal Realm doesn’t happen only to “good” people, or to artists, or to really “holy” people, or, even to “crazy” people.*   As you will see in future blogs, the Imaginal Realm presents itself to children, physicians, botanists, gardeners, etc., and has likely done so since the beginnings of human experience.  I cannot overstate what an amazing capacity this is, in humans.

The sorrow, and the difficulty, for those of us living in THIS era—in what my friend Lori Talbott has called the “long shadow of the Enlightenment”—is that we are currently embedded in a cultural milieu in the West which denies that experiences of the Imaginal, and even the Imaginal itself, can even exist.  In my blog, I hope to explore this conundrum—and its psychic and soul cost to us—in further detail.

In spite of the nihilism in our current world regarding Imagination, if you return to read more of our shared stories, and reflections, and history, and dreams on this website,  it just may be that you will recognize that you are, in fact, already deeply familiar—and here I mean deep below words, in your deepest self that might have an imaginary friend if you could—with everything we are talking about.  You may recall a memory from your childhood about something very sacred that you experienced once as you sat beneath a tree that, forever after that, was a Very Special Tree…or something that you saw, once, that couldn’t have possibly been there, really, could it?–so you didn’t tell anybody about it and haven’t really thought much about it again, until maybe now…or an image, if you are an artist, that appeared on the landing field of your mind and seemed to carry within it an insistence  that you respond to it as an artist and paint it or sculpt it or somehow find words for it…

You might feel this deep, unspoken familiarity because we are, in fact, hardwired to be greeted by the Images from the Deep Imagination.

Because that is the true reality in which we live.

(*Iain McGilchrist, author of THE MASTER AND HIS APPRENTICE, offers a rich explanation of how our brains are wired for this.)  

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