The Imagination is more important than knowledge
I dwell in possibility
Medicine of the Imagination is a book I had not planned to write – but the spirits insisted I start writing it, on the day that I submitted book number two (Sacred Art) to the publisher.
Writing this book has been a great adventure and I have learned much along the way. The basic premise is that we are all born with the gift of the human imagination, but most of us do not harness this gift. The default setting for many people is to use the muscle that is their imagination in a rather mindless way.
Jack D. Forbes, author of Columbus and Other Cannibals, wrote: “It is always very difficult to live in this life so as not to be a damaged person or one who damages others”. This is one of Life’s greatest ontological dilemmas (the other one is that “other life forms must die If I am to eat”). Without harnessing and honing our imagination, we stand little chance of not living as a damaged person who damages others.
The human imagination gives rise to the most beautiful man-made structures and creations on Earth: architecture, literature, theatre, music, art, humanitarian initiatives, moon landings and space exploration, mythology, science – they all require a large dose of imagination. We are all surrounded by the results of the imagination of our peers and ancestors.
Without imagination there is no compassion, no moral compass and no progress. Without imagination there are no fear of Death and no magic (either “black” or “white”) but no premeditated murders or terrorist attacks either; all rely on the human ability to imagine, to call up images and test-drive possible scenarios in the human mind. Once we get out the magnifying glass, we discover that the imagination is a double-edged sword indeed.
The human imagination can both ignite and misfire! The Holocaust started as a concept in people’s imagination before it became an irreversible reality.
All of us together, humanity as a collective, are creating very confused and mixed outcomes: world peace remains elusive, wars rage and children starve. Division (Us and Them thinking) and projection (making others carry our disowned shadow material for us) remain the norm. Addictions and pollution proliferate.
Wetiko (Windigo in Objibway) is a Cree term for a mindset that cannibalises other people and earth’s resources for ever greater gain and ego-inflation. The human desire for excess drives military expansion, imperialism, colonialism and any kind of advancement or again at the expense of other people and beings: more-more-more, me-me-me. Whales choking on plastic show us where this mindset leads. We can choose to heal our addictions and the larger human field becomes healthier for every person who commits to recovery. The whole cosmos exists within ourselves – any healing we do for ourselves benefits the whole Web of Life.
The development of morality in human beings owes a lot to the imagination. The same thing is true for key qualities such as empathy and compassion. To fully understand those, this book takes a close look at their opposites: narcissism, psychopathy (and in a very different category: autism).
We can all learn a lot from studying minds that are not wired the “neurotypical” way. At times we even need a homeopathic dose of “psychopathic medicine”!
C. G Jung wrote that “We do not become enlightened by “imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Humankind has a long way to go in making darkness conscious! Here is the bottom line: we cannot create what we cannot imagine - and we cannot eliminate things by pretending that they don’t exist. The shadow of human existence will not go away if we ignore it. It is deeply wired into the human psyche (and human condition) and it will unfailingly return through the backdoor wearing a new outfit. Therefore, it is our moral duty to find safe and acceptable expressions for our shadow selves and shadow material.
I will go one step further and suggest that it is equally so our moral duty to engage our imagination in service to other people, especially vulnerable people – if we are to transcend religious wars, homophobia and medical “cures” worse than the diseases we face. This book also looks at dreams, personal and collective karma and the balancing of opposing forces in a balanced human psyche.
Every chapter in this book ends with an activity that allows people to engage personally and directly with the material presented.
Summed up in just one line this book is a passionate plea for the right use of the human imagination!
I dwell in possibility
-Title of poem by Emily Dickinson