A key and ongoing theme this year on Aeon Byte has been achieving better models for human existence via re-integrating the mind. That includes tapping into the power of imagination by embracing ancient mystic systems – which leads to a more holistic form of reasoning that results in individual wholeness and better solutions for today’s issues.
I mean, let’s face it: we live times where thinking has become fragmented, shallow, and just plain uninspired. What’s more, society increasingly relies on outdated solutions or failed modalities. We do need a return to imaginal/magical thinking.
I won’t delve too deeply into our dire situation or how imaginal/magical thinking can transform your psyche – within the arcane traditions of the Gnostics, Neoplatonists, or Alchemists – but I would suggest you listen to recent interviews with such guests as Gary Lachman, Eric G. Wilson, and Jason Reza Jorjani.
What I want to argue is that imaginal/magical thinking works when viewing some of the impactful figures of the not-too-long-ago past. These instances are provided by another august past guest, Jeff Kripal, who also proposes new ways of thinking to renew the human spirit.
The examples come from Kripal’s latest book, Secret Body, focusing on the pioneers of quantum physics and how their minds were activated by Esoteric systems for that imaginal/magic thinking:
Werner Heisenberg (1901-1975)
- A passionate reader of Plato’s dialogues.
- Nurtured a lifelong interest in India, so much that he was nicknamed “the Buddha.”
Niels Bohr (1885-1962)
- Put the yin-yang symbol of Daoism on his coat of arms, in most readings as an expression of the paradoxical wave-particle behavior of quantum reality.
Erwin Schrodinger (1887-1961)
- An avid reader of Schopenhauer’s idealist philosophy.
- Great interest in the scholarly literature of the time on Buddhism, Hinduism, and Advanta Vedanta.
- Contended there was only one mind in the universe, with the implication that our minds participate or plug into it— a pure expression of the filter thesis.
Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958)
- Helped CG Jung come to his idea of synchronicity or acasual These same ideas were in turn heavily refracted through Pauli’s paranormal experiences, primarily of telekinetic or poltergeist nature.
As Kripal states, these are all well-known biographical facts from individuals that not only changed the course of history but how we experience reality itself. One can argue well that these figures were extremely bright, data-driven scientists; but one can easily argue that their interest in the Esoterica brought those game-changing results. This stance is a far cry from the dry, logical, and ultimately lifeless vibe of Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, Lawrence Krauss, and other modern scientific exemplars (and #metoo violators). And then we wonder why culture is decaying.
As Bohr once said in response to those who made purely formal or mathematical arguments:
No, no, you are not thinking, you are just being logical.
Logical thinking is just not enough for human evolution. It’s too palpable and functional. As Alfred North Whitehead said:
It takes an extraordinary intelligence to contemplate the obvious.
Embracing that imaginal/magical thinking optimizes our brains (and hearts), and it can make any of us have the extraordinary intelligence to solve the obvious problems of today. Just ask Plato, Giordano Bruno, Hypatia of Alexandria, or Isaac Newton, individuals who were as much shamanistic magicians as they were masters of reason. They creatively drew from imagination and myth as much as the scientists I mentioned earlier.
Or just ask Albert Einstein, who said:
Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.
When we think mechanistically, we get a mechanistic reality…efficient and stagnant and ultimately soul-killing.
I should bring in Lachman again, as his book The Lost Knowledge of the Imagination deals with all of these ideas of imaginal/magical thinking (or really whatever you want to call the suppressed part of our brains disconnected us from the deeper gifts of the cosmos).
As a blogger on Colin Wilson wrote about the book:
Lachman, much like Wilson, sees our future evolution as being a result of cooperation between two fundamental modes of perception, and each with its own unique and complimentary type of knowledge. And while imagination ‘can be used for fantasy, illusion, make-believe, and escapism’ its most more important role is, Lachman argues, ‘to make contact with the strange world in which we live’ presenting us with the ‘possible, potential realities that it is our job to actualize.’ The imagination becomes our means, if consciously and effectively employed, to search out the possible direction of our own inner and outer evolution; it offers, in its visionary glimpses, a foretaste of our future; metaphors, in this side of the mind, become malleable essences which can be transmuted into the very thing that they once merely referred to, and vice-versa.
I’ve written a short and sweet article for thee, but if you want more check out the interviews I mentioned earlier, as well as the one I conducted with Kripal.
In the meantime, here are some more quotes as you imagine better worlds and futures and possibilities for your life:
All the works of men have their origin in creative fantasy. What right have we to then depreciate imagination.
Whatever we build in the imagination will accomplish itself in the circumstances of our lives.
Imagination should be, not to escape reality, but to create it.
Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.
Cherise Cat in Alice in Wonderland
You need to believe in things that aren’t true. How else can they become?
Terry Pratchett, Hogfather
And some memes and shit for ya:
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