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Alternate Perceptions Magazine, June 2024


IMAGINALIA, FOLK WISDOM, AND THE ECLIPSE OF THE LITERAL


by: Peter M. Rojcewicz, PhD




IMAGINALIA, FOLK WISDOM, AND THE ECLIPSE OF THE LITERAL
May 7, 2023
Peter M. Rojcewicz, PhD

In his impactful book, “The Grammar of Science,” philosopher Karl Pearson celebrated the objective basis of valid knowledge and the scientific mind divorced from personal feelings, declaring, “The scientific man has above all things to strive at self-elimination in his judgements.” The objectivism at the core of the sciences rejects the credibility of the spontaneous life of our pre-objective and pre-conceptual lived experiences. Ways of thinking and knowing self and the world that involves human subjectivity are considered false and invalid.

Objectivism is a reduction of the wholeness of reality, separating distinct things and, as such, constitutes what is referred to as ontic knowledge. Depth psychology, arts, humanities, folklore, myths, visions, and dreams, on the other hand, offer, as antidotes to the reductionist mind, various forms of noetic learning that do not break the unity of subjects from objects, or perceivers from what is perceived. Noetic literacy celebrates all encompassing ways of thinking and knowing and leads to intellectual holism and epistemological pluralism. By avoiding naive reductionism, noetic literacy constitutes a cognitive freedom to access multiple realities – physical, spiritual, aesthetic, psychological, imaginal, and eco-sentient.

William James spoke on behalf of cognitive freedom when he challenged the solidity and stability of a totally objective reality by asserting, “The world is … a pluralism of which the unity is not fully experienced as yet. But as fast as verification comes, trains of experience, once separate, run into one another; and this is why … the unity of the world is on the whole undergoing increase.” There is much difficulty, if not outright reluctance, in naming new realities. So much depends upon reality, as we know it. Acknowledging new aspects of the real can cause the breakdown of old thought patterns, emotional constructs, and social attitudes. Transcending the constraints of vernacular objective reality requires use of different thoughts and words.

The novelist Dostoevsky insisted, “Reality is not limited to the familiar, the commonplace, for it consists in huge part of a latent, as yet unspoken future word.” Some folklore, anthropology, and integral scholars have recently referred to extraordinary and supra-personal experiences, that may one day graft themselves to the older mass of our consensus reality, as “deep weird,” high strangeness,” and “exo-studies.” Depth psychologists and folklorists have for some time now referred to uncanny phenomena that carry both mundane and extramundane features and thereby constitute a kind of phenomenological oxymoron, as “imaginalia.”

Islamic scholar Henri Corbin defined the “imaginal” as an intermediate state of reality between the concrete and abstract. For Corbin, the imaginal world is perfectly real and more coherent than the empirical world. Contents of the imaginal realm are multiple-presence phenomena that carry ontological legitimacy across various cultural frames of reference. Encounters with ETs, fairies, angels, demons, Tibetan tulpas (i.e., materialized thought-forms) and yidyams (i.e., meditation-based deities) ghosts, Men in Black, and apparitions are imaginal, para-physical manifestations of the varieties of existence. They stand between fact and fiction. David Abram points to the shamans of traditional tribal and indigenous cultures who traffic in this intermediate reality between human and more-than-human worlds, serving as “the primary strategist and negotiator in any dealings with the Others.”

The discarnate beings of our imaginal cosmologies are autonomous archetypal phenomena, the fundamental ground of mind and nature. C.G. Jung pointed out that although archetypes originate in the mind, they occasionally transgress the psychic realm and appear in the physical world as “psychoid.” The psychoid archetype is a portal to the psychophysical background of existence. Our every idea, perception, and bodily sensation is an imaginal event existing first as an image and incarnating as an action, work product, art piece, relationship, or event in the world.

All realities are inferred from psychic images. Images make up the fundamental stuff of mind and reality. When we say that incorporate beings and worlds recorded in folklore and religious systems, such as Tantra or Vajrayana Buddhism, are archetypal aspects of the psyche, we don’t mean they are aspects of the conventional dualistic mind, or the conventional ego structure. We mean, instead, they are intimately related to something considerably vaster, what Buddhist practitioners call the “awakened mind.”

The paradoxical nature of imaginal phenomena is amply described in folk and religious wisdom traditions and widely known among artists, writers, and poets as the stuff of their creative work. Archetypal images are at the same time immanent and transcendent of us. We can never be sure if we invent them according to patterns they set, or if they invent us. The poet W.H. Auden aptly wrote, “We are lived by powers we pretend to understand.” Any definition of imaginal realities is an approximation at best, a metaphor existing in a realm of “as-if.” Extraordinary encounters with nonmaterial entities, as found in folklore, world religions, and dreams nudge our awareness toward the archetypal image of the One World (i.e., Unus Mundus) that is the ground-zero of the unfathomable soul.

The imaginal content of our dreaming and waking lives can help us recover the vocabulary of the spiritual imagination, the picture language of soul. When we “speak” to the self-originating images of the psyche through the method of active imagination, or when we “see” beneath the surface of images toward realities beyond the literal, we expand soul through extended sentience and aesthetic reason. Such forms of noetic understanding make important contributions to knowledge generation based on principles other than strictly scientific.

It is as if the ego must undergo disarming encounters with unseen but viable beings, or experience “abductions” to other worlds of the unfathomable soul, where we ourselves are images, in order to behold those images as true realities and creative powers. The imaginal content we “create” in turn creates us. As such, our encounters with imaginal figures of the psychic depths point to the warp and woof of a larger whole. C.G. Jung stated, “The psychic depths are nature and nature is creative life.” Paradoxically, the mysterious figures of our depths are also intimations of “death.”

We die to the illusion of ourselves as a literalism of biology and society when we realize we are multiple personifications of images within us. We die to the mirage of a soulless planet “out there,” disconnected from ourselves. Soul, as described by Robert Sardello, is an expanded self in conjunction with an objective sense of the inner quality of the outer world. By engaging our imaginal source and legitimizing noetic ways of knowing psychic images, we experience the greater portion of soul as outside the body, shattering the illusion of the world as without psychic life, adding increase to the pluralism of realities we live.


Sunday, July 14, 2024