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The Organ of Imagination

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    Why wouldn’t the universe within reflect the universe without — and vice versa?

    When we encounter an object in the external world, we don’t observe the actual “thing in itself” (Kant’s “dinge an sich”), but an image formed by our senses. The rose I see is perceived differently by a dog, or a butterfly, or an amoeba encountering that same rose.

    Our senses, in conjunction with the mind (considered a sixth sense in Hindu/Buddhist metaphysics), in effect construct the universe out of metaphors — the subjective sensory images we perceive. – which means, in one sense (pun unintended), that we are all artists, co-creating reality.

    Archetypal psychologist James Hillman offers imagination as the organ through which we perceive and engage “reality” — which could be described as a projection of the interior world onto the external universe. Myth, then, becomes both the womb, and the substance, of experienced reality.

    We can expand this theme and approach mundane reality as we would a dream (or a poem), where everything we experience, everything we encounter, has a symbolic value that deepens and enriches life.

    Life as a waking dream is a perspective adopted by the many cultures (and individuals) that value oracles. Hence, everything bears significance: the appearance of a rainbow or an abrupt shift in the flight of a bird speaks volumes to an African pygmy or Australian aborigine, as does an I Ching spread to a Taoist adept. “All that exists is but a metaphor,” to paraphrase Joseph Campbell’s favorite quote from Goethe (“Alles Vergänglich ist nur ein Gleichnis.”). We can interpret, analyze, and engage the stuff of life just as we can the stuff of dream, if we view life with a mythic eye.

    Does embracing the metaphor that consensus reality is as illusory and transitory as dream somehow negate the searing pain I feel when I touch a hot stove?


    On one plane, I can recognize that I “am One with everything, ” including a brick wall — but it doesn’t follow that I’ll decide to physically become one with that wall while zipping along the freeway at ninety miles an hour. That would be taking the metaphor a mite literal!

    The mythical perspective is in addition to that of waking consciousness – not intended to replace rational thought and ego consciousness, but to deepen and enhance our experience.

    And so we sail into the mythic …

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