Today, I read a piece this morning titled “Philip Pullman: why we believe in magic”, written by Pullman, the author of “His Dark Materials”.
In this piece, he weaves together the worlds of both reason and imagination in a stunning dance of clarity and poetic imagery, drawing from others’ work I enjoy. Here, he clearly opens us to the imagination as a viable and important part of our human existence.
For too long, I’ve muted my own voice on this topic. The culture in which I live does so much to deny the validity of imagination. My own voice of ‘reason’ has fought against when I see and experience and know in my bones. I carry both voices within me — the one that knows and the one that wants to deny it so strongly — making it hard for me to speak and write on what I know and experience because that same destructive voice of judgment exists within my own head. When we hold a corresponding judgment within ourselves, we fear the one ‘out there’.
Reason is vital to our lives and yet, reason and logic can be used dysfunctionally and destructively to ‘cut out’ deep swaths of the layers of reality in which we live, a reality we cannot see but experience all the time.
“My attitude to magical things is very much like that attributed to the great physicist Niels Bohr. Asked about the horseshoe that used to hang over the door to his laboratory, he’s claimed to have said that he didn’t believe it worked but he’d been told that it worked whether he believed in it or not. When it comes to belief in lucky charms, or rings engraved with the names of angels, or talismans with magic squares, it’s impossible to defend it and absurd to attack it on rational grounds because it’s not the kind of material on which reason operates. Reason is the wrong tool. Trying to understand superstition rationally is like trying to pick up something made of wood by using a magnet.”
The rational mind cannot grasp the world of deep imagination. One can neither defend nor attack the imaginal realm — what Pullman calls ‘magical things’ — with reason and logic because they are not of this rich, fecund realm that sustains the world of form, that gives us a richness of human experience that logic and reason cannot and does not offer. If you are sensitive to this, when you enter into a very mental space (where people are day-in and day-out thinking, thinking, thinking), you can feel a kind of metallic feeling that is devoid of a gentleness of the heart and a lushness of soul. It’s not that we don’t have heart or lushness of soul when we are hyper-mental but the mind tends to exclude these out of habit and fear.
Two Worlds or One?
While it might feel as if there are two worlds — the one we see and the one we intuit, sense, and ‘see’ in our imagination — one is born of the other and sometimes, if we are lucky, this realm of the unseen reveals itself to us through form, shining clearly the light that is of all things. Oh, the dry lives we lead when we presume to believe the truth of matter and science as the ultimate language of our existence.
I know. I’ve tried to put imagination away for most of my life, trying so hard to exist in a world gone mad from denying this rich, succulent realm that nourishes and sustains our souls. Thank goodness I’ve been shaken awake on so many levels.
“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour” — William Blake
I have seen a Heaven in a Wild Flower. It happened at the Fort Mason Community Garden about ten years ago. The of a flower, graced with the most beautiful indigo, blue, greeds, blinded my mind for an eternity in three or so minutes, blinded my mind as Light poured through this brilliant indigo/blue/green magic into this world. It silenced my voice and caused tears to stream. I’ve never been the same, or perhaps, instead, I came to remember this realm.
“We are led to Believe a Lie
When we see not Thro the Eye” — William Blake
See not with the eye but through the eye, through the eye with the full Light of awareness that streams into, through, and from the Heart of a human.
I’ve not known how to bridge these worlds, but now I see that I was trying to logically reason how to bridge them. That doesn’t work.
I exist in the whole and see now that I simply do my work out of the whole of what I know and see and sense. The rest is not of my concern. I share it here in case this speaks to you. I know there are many of us who see and know this and do not know how to live it in such a ‘tight and dry’ too-mental culture. We live it with heart and love and our deep knowing and trust in the depths from which life is truly born.
It is a constant practice to bring ourselves back to the depth of heart and the seat of the soul as we live our day-to-day lives. As we wish to bring more heart and soul into our work and into work worlds, it is an important practice to — well — practice.
If you want to be creative, this is an important practice. Let yourself acknowledge what you know to be true on a deeper level. Let yourself feel it. Get curious about it.
The source of your creativity isn’t reason.