Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Considering the “Imaginosphere”

Originally posted on December 23, 2009

I use this term to name the category not of ordinary thought, problem-solving, or linear communication, but rather of those types of thinking, intuition, imagination (including aspects of music and other senses) that transcend the kind of thinking that is required for most mundane tasks. This realm is far vaster, including myths, stories, poetry, nonsense, play with words and images, and so forth.

The my20th century mystic Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (known mainly by the last three words, his name I think being correctly pronounced “tey-yard duh shardun”) was first a Jesuit Roman Catholic priest-scholar when, on an archelological-paleontological trip in China in the 1920s, was illuminated with an answer to a prevalent problem in the Church at the time: How can the scriptures be aligned with the emerging discoveries of science—and most pointedly, evolution? (It was around this time that the famous “Scopes Trial” was being held in Tennessee.)

Teilhard realized a solution, a synthesis in the dialectic between the two seemingly opposed principles: Evolution has been the way that God’s creativity worked in the world! From this, and through his many writings, he described a theory that had the world passing through four levels of complexity: The mineral world or “geosphere”—which involves all atomic and molecular reactions that lead to stars, planets, mountains, oceans and gemstones—gives rise to the “biosphere”—which includes all forms of life. Soon thereafter, the phenomenon of communications among life forms emerges and expands in complexity, and this process of rudimentary consciousness expands as what Teilhard called the “noosphere,” and when sufficient complexity emerged, as in humans, consciousness began to contemplate the larger world and its implications, which led to intuitive glimpses of the underlying forces and wholeness that encompasses the cosmos—i.e., the “theosphere.”  There is much more to this schema, but for the point to be made today, I want to note that there is a kind of consciousness that facilitates the bridge from noosphere to theosphere—i.e., the aforementioned “imaginosphere.”

In the imaginosphere we realize that all truth transcends mere logic or objectivity. For example, subjective truth, “my truth,” (e.g., my own sense of what is beautiful), also happens, as well as romance, myth-making, poetry, art, and so forth. The implications and value of naming this category is of course to encourage it, for such encouragement is needed in a world that too often values mere fact and discounts the poetic or spiritual sense of meaning that may derive from or be associated with fact.

The imaginosphere, operating in the continuum between noosphere and theosphere, brings ordinary sentience into a realm that’s far more multi-faceted and complex. Recognizing the realm of imagination complements and balances the tendency to think that stark mundane consciousness expresses the totality of reality. Imagination also includes history—which is to some significant degree interpretation, which is to some significant degree story-telling. History reflects individual vision, creativity, and sub-cultural world-view—often reflecting the dominant culture, and often challenging it.

To say again, imagination transcends the realm of mundane consciousness, the type of knowledge and skill that involves attending to tasks, dealing with reality. It makes use of the parts of the intuitive mind that draws from and attends to what may well extend beyond this mundane world. Imagination makes up stories about the impossible and the unseen. We project consciousness onto animals and trees and other objects. We discern spirits and gods and fairies, and explain phenomena as being manifestation of the will of unseen forces. The mind expands and—key to note here—“plays” with possibilities, generates abstractions, principles, imagined mechanisms for how things happen. Why is there sickness of so many kind? What leads to death, and what is death about? Why are others so cruel? When does that word, cruelty, apply (or not apply) when it comes to children, infants, the unborn, animals, plants, and so forth?

When should our circle of caring expand to include those who seem to be our enemies? What was Jesus thinking when he admonished us to love our enemies!? Such questions stretch the mind and the emotions. Such spiritual or philosophical conundrums don’t follow ordinary logic. (Mere cleverness and rationality without spirit or compassion can be used with great efficiency in the service of great evil, and this happened in the genocide of the Holocaust.)

Again, the point of all this is to note the importance of valuing more those forms of education and activity that value the imagination, that help to empower more people to discover and use their imagination. At present, imagination has become a commodity. Schools operate mainly on the kinds of fact-instillation that can be tested, and the arts are increasingly neglected. Meanwhile, the popular arts have been commercialized in many ways so that ordinary individuals need not exercise their own capacities, discover their own potentials. It’s all packaged and sold from the outside, which subtly implies: Why imagine? We can do it better, more efficiently, with greater intensity, tighter story-lines, more satisfying to your aesthetic sensibility. What’s missing is the tiny voice who, if it could, would cry out, “But I want to do it myself! I want to discover that I can be my own creative source.” Actually, it goes deeper: It should be, “I want to discover that I can access and energize the channel of the creative sources that lie beyond my personal ego!” We should not underestimate this source of what the ancients called “genius.”

By restoring imagination as a recognized component of wisdom and lively engagement in life, we counter those cultural factors that tend to make of life a factory, an industrial process that satisfies needs instead of cultivates souls.

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