Thursday, June 21, 2012
Imagination is More Important Than Knowledge
Imagination Is More Important Than Knowledge
So what is the imagination and how it is more important than knowledge? The first thing you need to know about imagination is that you need to use it to understand it – a very concrete, feminine way of learning! Then you have to understand how humans have related to it through the ages.
When was the last time you sat around a campfire in the woods, listening to a breeze moving through the leaves overhead, and then looking up, been amazed by the brilliant stars playing hide and seek beyond the treetops? The night, the fire, the stars and the breeze in the trees all evoke a response in you, a response of joy and wonder. Before long, you might find yourself telling stories, to others if they are with you, or to yourself if you are alone. Your imagination is awake, and you find yourself meeting the Universe face to face. This is how children feel. This is also how our ancestors felt in the face of the majesty of Life, before our modern rationality and our modern conveniences blinded us. It seems that only at night or in nature are we able to come close to this ancient mystery once again.
The Native Americans lived close to this mystery day and night as did the Celts and other aboriginal peoples. They lived with hearts opened to the mysteries of the Earth and they were able to penetrate the veils between the worlds. The Aborigines of Australia can still walk in the Dreamtime; Celts might vanish into the Hollow Hills where the Fairy Folk still dance. Is our modern life so full of joy that we dare banish these other realms forever as 'just so' stories? I think not, since joy is one of the things that is singularly lacking in most people's lives today.
We once had joy. Not so very long ago, we Westerners still believed in a cosmos that was friendly and awesome and full of mystery. Nature was alive with spirit and we humans were part of nature. We had a sense of place; we belonged here. Then in the sixteenth century at the beginning of our modern era with its new scientific worldview, we lost our inheritance – we no longer saw ourselves as a part of Nature. Unlike such scientists as Galileo, Newton and Kepler, who combined a deep reverence for the Cosmos as God’s creation and a need to understand and prove how that creation worked, this new scientific philosophy viewed matter as dead. The Earth is only dead matter, animals have no feelings and plants have no consciousness. This belief itself sprang from a religious viewpoint that believed that the Earth was inherently evil. Science slowly gave us a new view of ourselves and suddenly we don’t fit into this picture of a dead world that has to be conquered at all costs. We lost our true home when we stopped honoring this beautiful Earth as our Mother and Sustainer and instead rushed to own, rape and abuse Her.
Corporations, fictional entities that now have the same rights as human beings, and governments have used this philosophic ‘carte blanche’ to conquer nature and turn it into commodities that keep the global economic machinery running. This philosophy of life not only alienates us from our environment, but ultimately, from ourselves. This philosophy says the world is a machine, there is no God; therefore there is no meaning in life. If the laws of the universe are just mechanical, then goodness and justice and mercy play no part in life. This has developed into a philosophy of greed that is pervasive in companies that destroy the environment as well as in people’s lives in their pursuit of the 'almighty dollar'. This worldview says that since there is no ultimate meaning in life, why be responsible for my life? Is it any wonder that there is so little joy in our modern world since we are taught that these are the rules of the game?
The riddle we are faced with is: how do we bring new life into this death-in-life that most modern people are living? Modern life demands that we work more, consume more, and are in more debt than ever before. There is a ‘too muchness’ about modern Western culture that speaks of a hidden dissatisfaction with the glories of the capitalist system. Wanting so many things means that nothing is satisfying. We are like little children on the day after Christmas who discard their new toys before they ever become beloved.
The Swiss psychologist Carl G. Jung once described a psychoneurosis as "the suffering of a soul which has not discovered its meaning." Jung saw this suffering as the symptom of spiritual stagnation and believed it to be the major symptom of Western culture. And look at how these symptoms have spread around the world, giving rise to rampant consumerism as well as religious fanaticism. We have created a world out of balance, over-valuing a dead-end masculine perspective at the expense of a feminine perspective that understands the cycles of life and death. We won’t be able to relieve the immense suffering of poor and outcast peoples from the dangers of war, disease and hunger until we reconnect to our spiritual nature and honor such basic human values as truth, love, sacrifice and honor.
And in America we have to look at the violence that is so prevalent in a society that prides itself on goodness and freedom and ask how we’ve helped to create it. According to a Senate Judiciary Report, "The United States is the most violent and self-destructive nation on Earth." The U.S. leads the world in violent crimes, most especially in violent crimes against women. There is more violence, more homelessness, more sickness, more toxic pollution, more addiction and more useless consumption and waste than in any other society that we know of. These symptoms surely suggest that something about the way we live is hurtful and destructive. If we have nothing that feeds our souls, we languish and die. And so we create death all around us.