Nobody should be expected to believe anything that is not based on their own direct experience. Experience is the ultimate and perhaps only source of Truth. Books do not tell the truth, experience does.
But what about our imagination? Is our imagination the same as “real experience”? As we’ll discuss in this article, imagination may be the gateway to some of the most powerful and important aspects of the human experience.
In our study of imagination, we can examine two people who are entirely famous for their approach to imagination, Carl Jung and J.R.R. Tolkien. Jung was among the founders of modern psychology and Tolkien is the world’s best selling author. While it is easy for us to discount the imaginary ramblings of a child or a mental patient, it is not so easy to discount the works of two of the most influential figures of the 20th century.
What is interesting about these two men is that they both wrote about their direct “alternate” experiences, experiences that would be considered “imaginary” by most. Tolkien, for example, was believed to have had direct contact with the world and characters in his books. When asked if Tolkien believed in Elves, Tolkien famously replied “No, I know elves”.
Jung also had direct experiences that presaged the first world war and other clear visions that offered him the insights that made his philosophies world renowned.
It is hard to use the term “imaginary” to describe what Jung and Tolkien experienced, since our idea of imaginary often means non-existent. However, both Jung and Tolkien had experiences that brought their imaginary world into the reality of their waking lives.
And this is really where the rubber meets the road, as many spiritual experiences are dismissed as imaginary by those relying on cold hard evidence. However, this does not mean we can’t have experiences that are beyond the confines of our eyes – experiences that would defy the general consensus of what is possible and what is not.
Especially for those of us who are either naturally gifted or exceptionally hard working at unlocking our extra perceptual abilities, having other worldly experiences is not only possible, it is part of who we really are. All too often, those people who are considered brilliant and who make radical “breakthroughs”, do so because of their ability to magnify their imagination to the point of direct experience and trust the knowledge gained from that experience.
Who Cares About Imagination?
The point here is that if we are seekers of truth, if we want to know who we are as a human being, if we want to know God, if we want to delve into the area of magic and miracles, we have to expand our consciousness. We have to open doors to parts of reality that are normally closed. One of those doors is our imagination.
Extraordinary experiences are not sought by the vast majority of people. The vast majority of people have been taught to close down their imaginative capacity at an early age in favor of logic and reason. This is one of the reasons why children have outstanding creative and imaginative ability relative to adults.
Mainstream society has convinced us to dismiss our imagination as an undesirable aberration or chemical imbalance in our brain. But what if they are wrong? What if we ought to be constantly improving our imaginative skills in order to optimize our human experience?
It is no secret that Olympic athletes use visualization (imagination) to improve their performance. So why is imagination stigmatized as unhealthy and unreal?
Indeed, the engagement of our imaginary capacity is critical to gaining spiritual knowledge through experience. There is no other way. As Tolkien and Jung proved, an overactive imagination is what gives us the experience to know who we are in relation to our reality and to know that we are the creator of our own reality. Once we have this knowledge, from experience, we can propel our reality into a world guided by divinity, rather than one shaped by fear-based media and rationalist scientific programming. This is the task at hand, to stimulate, embody, and dwell in our imagination, not figuratively but literally.
How Do We Dwell In Our Imagination?
We’ve written a lot about creating our own reality, imagination, experiencing God, and unity consciousness. The question that normally follows is HOW? HOW do we have these spiritual experiences? HOW can we know? HOW can we bring the light into our bodies and radiate it into the world?
To answer this question, many teachers might complicate the conversation by referencing dozens of books on meditation, yoga, tantra, alchemy, prayer, qi gong, tai chi, ecstatic dance, and a variety of other related practices. One thing is for sure – spiritual experience does require practice – real, physical practice.
First, Do No Harm
One exceedingly simple way to work with our imagination is the removal of harmful practice. When we remove harmful practice, what is left is our very pure spiritual form. All human beings, by our nature, are capable of having spiritual experience because we ARE spiritual beings. Unfortunately for many of us, we are conditioned to think and act in ways that are not conducive to spiritual experience. We are conditioned to block our spiritual experience at every turn.
Spirit – our Higher Self – is always there, we just have to get out of its way. We just have to stop doing and thinking things that push it away. Once we have mastered the art of getting out of Spirit’s way, we can start to actively engage deeper practices like Tantra, Yoga, Meditation, etc. to bring our spiritual selves more deeply into our waking experience. When it comes to activating your spiritual life, the old Hippocratic oath comes to mind and that is “first do no harm”.
Imagination And The Houses Of Ego
Previously we wrote about the Houses of Ego. When we dwell in the houses of ego, we are blocking or disrupting our ability to have spiritual experience. When we watch TV, when we compete, when we think in terms of selfish needs, make judgments, overeat, not exercise, feed addictions – almost everything we do in life is a movement away from spiritual experience. This is why the most powerful spiritual practices involve meditations – the art of doing nothing! Again society teaches us that doing nothing is worth nothing, but this is another false truth.
Of course, performing meditation or using our imagination is not the same as “doing nothing”, but it is as close to nothing as we might find. The reason meditation is the most common path for new spiritual seekers is because our connection with divinity begins to open when we eliminate all of the mental distractions that hold our attention in the Houses of Ego. In order to see the divine, to know it, we first have to stop doing everything else. After some practice, we can start to bring this level of awareness into our daily waking lives – while doing the dishes, walking the dog, talking on the phone, taking out the garbage, etc.
Breathing and Imagination
A good first step to bring spirit into our waking life is to first work on deeper breathing. We can use deep breathing and mind clearing techniques while we go about our normal day. When thoughts, judgments, and desires enter your mind, send them away with your next exhale.
Entire books have been written on meditation. Sit this way, hold your hands that way, hold your breath for this many seconds, then exhale, etc. Personally, I think most of us need something simpler yet more sustainable – something we can use any time of the day to find our inner peace.
During my first few meditations, I realized that the main idea is to breathe as slowly and deeply as I can while still maintaining awareness (ie. not gasping for air or falling asleep). The key difference I noticed was related to the exhale, not the inhale.
If we look at our breathing on a spectrum, at one end of the spectrum we have our maximum inhale when our lungs are absolutely full and at the other end we have the absolute exhale, when our lungs are absolutely empty. Most of us spend most of our breaths somewhere in between the max and min – we make short breaths without ever inhaling or exhaling to our maximum. What I found was that if I want to start breathing more deeply, the first step is to slowly exhale until all of the air is out of my lungs, then breathe deeply until my lungs are entirely full. I found that if I make a full exhale, it will feel more natural to make a full inhale.
A full exhale is when we are literally pushing the last bit of oxygen out of the bottom of our lungs (not just when the natural pressure of our lungs runs out of force. We actually have to use muscles to push the rest of the air out. Then we can slowly let air back in until our lungs are totally full. This will make each breath several times longer and deeper than our normal breathing. If we just learn this one thing, we will start to feel our mind clearing up and we are on the way to learning how to meditate. This practice is something we can do any time of day as often as possible and still find many benefits.
Creativity and imagination are inextricably linked. When we are kids, we are encouraged to use our imagination – we build with Lego, we play with dolls, we make up games. We are all naturally creative. As we get older, we start tuning out our imagination and tuning in to someone else’s imagination by watching TV or browsing social media. We must bring our creative selves back into the forefront of our waking life. Instead of watching the game on TV, go for a walk in nature. Instead of doing Facebook, paint, build, create, sing – do anything that requires your own inner creativity.
Videos About Imagination
Dr. Lance Owens, a physician who regularly sees psychotic and delusional patients, attempts to explore the difference between psychosis or delusion and imagination. Dr. Lance Owens examines the writings of both Jung Tolkien to shed light on the meaning of imagination and its role in our lives. A video of Owens’ lecture is embedded at the end of this page.