The Imagination, a Precious Gift from the Lord
There are two worlds in which we live, the world of matter and the world of spirit. The former we know because we, too, are matter. The latter we do not know per se, since all our knowledge as human beings in some way comes through our senses. That which we cannot sense, feel, touch, taste, see or hear we do not know. Consequently, it is only possible for us to know God and the world of spirits if they, in some way, materialize before us. The faculty or power that gives them and us this ability to materialize the spirit world and to relate to it is the imagination.
Because of the imagination human beings have progressed in their way of living. Cars, airplanes, beautiful buildings, computers, rockets, etc., are all the result of something spiritual that materialized in the imagination. After becoming known then it was able to be actualized in matter.
All things have a name, and each name contains the attributes and characteristics of that for which it was named. For example, when Jesus revealed to us that God was Father, we immediately were able to imagine and know Him as “father.” The name “father” materialized an image of “father” along with all its characteristics and attributes, which we then attributed to the Father.
A materialized image becomes an archetype of either the material or the spiritual being. As a result, the archetype of “father” becomes the real experienced presence of our Heavenly Father when He dwells within it directly. In other words, it is no longer an archetype that unites us with “father” in general, but rather with a specific father, our Heavenly Father.
If we are to know the spiritual beings existing in the spiritual world, of which the most important is God, then these spirits must materialize, must manifest themselves to us, and must effect a transformation whereby they take on a material form in some way. Likewise, if we human beings wish to unite or relate ourselves with the spirit world, then we must be able in someway to transform material existence into a spiritual one. The imagination is the faculty for this transformation.
Even though the images of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit can be experienced by our imagination without it being united to or informed by the actual Person of God, eventually we must experience Them as objective beings in themselves if we are going to know and experience Them as They are.
Also, even though it doesn’t matter whether this experience begins from our activity or from that of the Person of God, knowing the archetype and being familiar with the characteristics of the name is important for our true relationship with the actual materialized image of the Person of God. In other words, the more one knows and experiences the image of a certain “name” in one’s material life, the more he/she will be able to relate personally to the actual materialized image of that “name.”
The wonderful gift that Jesus gave us was the revelation that in God there are three Persons whom He named the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. By means of this revelation and through the imagination we are able to experience a true, personal and intimate relationship with each of the persons. We can know them face-to-face. We can sense them, hug them, see them, hear them and touch them. Through the faculty of the imagination our God truly becomes real to us.
Jesus told us in the gospels that They wanted to dwell within us, and that He, Jesus, wanted to present us to the Father and give us His Holy Spirit. These desires become an experienced reality through the imagination. Without the experience, his words are meaningless.
A similar experience is also available to those of other religions because all have their names and images of God that allow God to be present, to materialize in their imagination in some way. The Jews often called God, Father, and all religions have their prophets and spiritual leaders.
It is easy to have a relationship through the imagination with God the Father and the Son, but when it comes to the Holy Spirit, the relationship changes. Tradition has the Holy Spirit materializing in us as a dove, a tongue of fire or a breeze. Since these are not archetypal images that we can relate to person to person, the Holy Spirit has expressed down through the centuries the desire to be known by the name Sophia. By means of this name She has an archetypal materialized image similar to the Father and Son, and at the same time She reveals Herself as the divine feminine of the Godhead.
So, it is through the imagination that our relationship with God becomes personal and real to us as human beings, that our religious practices become acts of love. Without this faculty, our religious activity, Sunday worship, the sacraments, rosaries, etc., tend to be mere rituals, external actions lacking the heart experience of a loving relationship between persons.
The imagination is also critical to understanding and experiencing personal growth as an integrated human being. By means of the imagination we can be healed of our past traumas and fears, the things that push us into relating to others in unloving ways. By means of the imagination we can relive these bad experiences, as painful as they may be. We can face them, accept them and with love be freed of their control.
By means of the imagination we can relive our hurting child within us, or even an abuse by someone who is deceased. Time is no longer an obstacle. The spirit of the one who hurt us can materialize in our imagination, and the presence of such a one will bring forth immediately all the fears, hurts, anger, hatred and revenge that is associated with this person through their materialized image. This experienced presence gives us the ability to relive the event, but this time, to relive it correctly. The imagination is, therefore, critical to our growth as a human being.
It is also critical to our growth as a religious and spiritual human being. We cannot relate personally with the materialized image of Jesus or Sophia on a continual basis without our inner spirit being healed of its fears and anxieties. Such a relationship will always bring us, with time, to a greater integration of our material and spiritual self, with our conscious and subconscious self, with our body soul and spirit. Jesus came to redeem us. His work is done. Since then it has been the work of Sophia to share with us the blessings of His redemption through Her baptism in the Spirit and the daily living and using of the Gifts that She gives us.
It makes no difference with which person of the Trinity we begin this personal relationship because it is the desire of all of Them that we grow in our ability to love. Consequently, we can be sure that they will lead us into situations in our imagination where we will be confronted with our defects, our lack of loving, our fears and traumas, so that we can face them, accept them, and love them to healing. They will never allow our relationship with their materialized image to be a wishy-washy one because they are truly interested in our growth and are most desirous to share all They have with us so that we can become a more integrated loving human being.
We mentioned above how on the psychological level one can acquire healing of their past traumas through the imagination, but when one relates to the materialized image of one of the Persons of the Trinity the healing that comes will be far greater and deeper. Psychologically, when we relived a past hurt or trauma we may not have been able to forgive and love the offender from the depth of our heart, but with Jesus or Sophia standing visibly beside us, with their arm around us, we will always find within our heart the ability and the power to forgive, forget and to love. Their presence of experienced love gives us a fundamental feeling of security.
Living with the gift of the imagination is essential to our life as children of God. Without it, we will find that it is very difficult to grow in our personal relationship with our God. Neither will we find it easy to grow as a person. A religion true to its source allows its faithful to dwell within themselves, allows the faithful to know and experience each Person of the Trinity within themselves.
The mission of La Ermita is to help anyone, who is ready, to open these doors in order to know our God personally and intimately. This is nothing new. St Ignatius and St Theresa of Avila taught it. It is the path to true holiness, to true wholeness.
There is only one concern. We must be aware of the difference between a false imagination (fantasy) and a true one. Fantasy serves the purpose of the ego, our pride and vanity. It dwells on power, beauty, and pleasure. These superficial things are not the concern of the imagination. It is neither selfish nor evil oriented. Therefore, the best and true way of knowing the difference is simply asking the materialized image present to kneel with us and pray to our Heavenly Father. A false image, a fantasy, will never pray! Instead, it will give all kinds of excuses why that can be done later. It will never kneel and pray now. The true image will always reply yes to the request and will pray.
One final note. When one is relating to one of the Persons of the Trinity by means of the imagination, this activity is also called contemplative prayer. Contemplative prayer is an activity that resides in and flows from the heart of the person. Meditation is an activity of the mind. The mind ponders, thinks and reasons in order to arrive at another conclusion. Both activities are good. However, the contemplative activity is superior because it always flows from the heart and leads to inner healing through loving relationships with other persons.
(During the last 35 years the author of this article has lived, experienced and taught what he has written above. But, after reading The Wedding of Sophia by Dr. Jeffrey Raff, Ph.D., he has arrived at a deeper, clearer and simpler understanding of this wonderful divine gift of the imagination. He is deeply indebted and most grateful to Dr. Jeffrey Raff.)