I’m currently re-reading The Way We Think, which explores conceptual blending and how we are able visualize and do other amazing things with our mind that are much harder to replicate with computers. The reason is that a while a computer can do rational analysis, what it can’t easily do is imagine. The power of the imagination allows us to experience the world from a multitude of perspectives and find novel solutions to problems that fall outside of rational analysis.
Kat and I are reading The Miracle Tree by R. J. Stewart. There is a chapter in it, which he devotes to the topic of imagination. I like his definition of imagination, in part because its similar to my own, and acknowledges that imagination is a very real element of magic. I think of imagination as the composite super consciousness of all living beings linked together. He calls that the imagination of the universe which works for me. I think that when a person accesses imagination, s/he is accessing this superconsciousness. I suppose the best evidence of that is found where a person will invent something and someone else who s/he doesn't know will also invent it as well. The imagination works through people to bring forth new visions of reality.
And when a person works with his/her imagination s/he is accessing all the creativity that is available, but also the limitations of what people can conceptualize. At the same time the imagination could also be that place where we meet the spirits, a middle ground that they use to present a face to us, and that we use to discover more about them. I think of the astral plane as a good example of that latter idea. It's an experience which is based in the imagination, imo, and we shape it they way you can shape your imagination, but it's also more than that. Maybe the astral plane is one of the more "physical" representations of imagination.
Whatever you think about imagination, the truth is we use it a lot in magic. Visualization, for instance, is an application of imagination. When you visualize that piece of fruit, smell, taste, touch, and hear it, you are imagining it, which doesn't mean its a fantasy...It's a vivid experience that you have.
Still you might wonder what the difference is between fantasy and imagination. Fantasy is another form of imagination, albeit one usually caught up in specific desires. I think of fantasy as non-applied imagination. It's something you day dream about, but it's not the application of imagination to reality, so much as a desire to escape reality. People flee to fantasy to get away from something or to lose themselves in an experience. Applied imagination, on the other hand, always has some level of practical application involved. If you are writing a business plan for example you are using your imagination to help you visualize what the business will be and then you taking action, which starts the process of manifesting imagination into reality.
Imagination is possibility and what a person does is filter all those possibilities into something concrete and then s/he starts the process of applying it to reality. Imagination is the zero, entropic in a way because until action is taken its just endless possibility, but no reality. But imagination is essential to magical work and life in general because it provides us the forum in which we can visualize a different reality. If you had no imagination, you'd have no incentive or creativity to make change happen.
Here's a link to my latest radio interview from Pagan Propensities.
One of the messages I consistently offer to other magicians and people in general is the importance of cultivating imagination and wonder as resources for living life and inspiring your spiritual practice and overall success in life. I can't emphasize enough the importance of these resources or why it can make such a difference in your life to cultivate them, but I think that whats make them so important is how they can enrich your life.
Your ability to wonder and imagine is a great gift that will take you on adventures if you are willing to let it inspire what you do. Simply allow yourself to be open and ask questions that seem silly or self-evident, but then explore those questions from a place of great curiosity. What don't you know as opposed to what do you know? Use what you don't know to inspire you to discover, leaving all assumptions aside...whatever you discover won't necessarily be true, but at least it'll be something you didn't know, prompting you on to discover angle upon angle upon angle...
A cultivated sense of wonder always inspires the person to discover more and question what s/he already seems to know. There is no satisfaction in what is known, but rather a recognition that there is more to discover and what is discovered is seen as a gift in itself, and an opportunity to continue learning. There is an insatiable voracity for learning that is found in wonder...and the imagination feeds that sense of wonder by allowing a person to access the possibilities of what might be.
Your imagination provides you access to possibilities. It shows you what might be and its only limitation is your belief or lack thereof in the possibilities presented to you. Imagination is wonderful because it also gives you a space to examine a given possibility from as many angles as you can think of. Your imagination is where the cooking starts and there's no limitation on how you can experiment with what's presented to you.
Cultivate your wonder and imagination by learning and applying what you learn to your life, while asking questions. Cultivate these resources by never being satisfied with the answers. Let these resources move you to discover, explore and experiment...they'll also show you how to turn your reality into something wonderful.
Kat and I recently had an interesting discussion about how what you watch on TV or play on a video game can vividly imprint itself on your psyche. I certainly agree that this can occur. I've been playing Assassin's Creed Brotherhood since I got it last week and there were nights I went to sleep and dreamed the game. My attention was focused on the game so much that it was what was prevalent to my consciousness. One of the choices I made in my early twenties was to no longer get Cable TV, because I didn't want to clog my psyche with irrelevant advertisements and TV shows, and as my example of the video game shows, it is easy to imprint on your psyche external memes. While I definitely enjoy the game, I can say that having such vivid dreams about it did impress upon me once again why I'm so careful about what I expose myself to.
For the magician, the ability to focus and empty the mind is key for fully immersing him/herself in the magical work s/he is doing. And in my opinion, being able to have control over your imagination, and thus using it as a tool is also key to fully exercising it in your magical work. The imagination is the key to the door of magic. So while it is good to play a game or watch a show, it's also worthwhile to spend some time away from modern media, so that you use it sparingly and not let it consume your life.
I enjoy games a lot, but I've made it a point to also play board games and the like, because there is some imagination involved and it gets me to use it instead of just letting it be hijacked by the TV or videogame console. I think its important to exercise your imagination regularly and recognize it as a magical tool that you want to respect. So remember to take a break from the TV, computer, or videogame, or mobile phone sometimes. That break will help you get some perspective and focus for your magical work.
This year my partner decided to surprise me with a Halloween/birthday party that was also a murder mystery dinner. Needless to say all of us had fun, but a critical component of having fun involved everyone being willing to engage in an exercise of make believe in order to become the character they were supposed to represent. In fact it was somewhat like invocation... When I invoke an entity there's a process at work which involves as a key component my willingness to believe in the entity and believe that I can open myself to allow it to enter my body. I don't consider it make believe per se, but I recognize that imagination is a a fundamental component that helps to make invocation effective. Imagination is a path that allows you to become something else.
At the party,I played the party of an ancient mummy. We even wrapped me up in some toilet paper, which kinda worked. When I spoke, I made sure I spoke in a wheezing voice. I shuffled around and in short allowed myself to become that character. It wasn't the same as invocation, but I still had to use my imagination to get into character.
I think imagination is one of the more powerful tools a magician has, and its important to cultivate that tool whenever you can. One of the reasons I read a lot and play games is to exercise my imagination. I've found that my imagination has helped me look at the world in unusual ways that has benefited me on numerous occasions.
What about you? How is imagination important to your magical work?