The imagination is the pioneer of the soul.
When all is said and done, the soul asks us to make everything new. To do this, we take one step at a time, be it giant step or baby step, towards an expanded consciousness for ourselves and others. This cis the consciousness that enables us to see the bigger picture and to operate in its light.
The imagination is the soul’s instrument here. It goes where we haven’t dared to go, shows us what we haven’t dared to see, builds bridges where there were only walls.
But the imagination can be enslaved or it can be free. When it is enslaved, it is caged inside our culture, our collective history, and our personal history. There is an old story, which may be apocryphal, of the elephant who had been caged for so long, that when let out of the cage, it will take only four steps in each direction.
Our imagination can be like that. It can show us only four steps in each direction and call that new.
I am reminded of Tolstoy’s novella, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, which starts off with a high court judge in 19th century Russia furnishing his apartment. Each item was chosen with exquisite taste and with special care and he felt rightly proud.
But, it turned out, it also looked exactly like every other apartment in town. When I read this as a young woman, it created a shock wave of recognition through me.
It was only when he discovered that he was dying that he went through a process that ended with his realisation that he had not lived the good life he thought he had lived. He had lived an artificial life, which masked the meaning of life and led to fear of death. He yearned for the authentic life now, a different way of living entirely.
This artificial life proceeds from the surface of our imagination, the four steps in each direction level. But there is another imagination, the one I call the genius imagination, the imagination that Einstein talked of, that writers, artists, scientists go to. At this level of the imagination, we don’t have second hand thoughts stuck in a groove, but truly new thoughts. This is the level from which Ivan Ilyich’s authentic life can flow.
And the miraculous thing is that if we use this level of the imagination to pioneer our life, then it will show us what is in our true best interest, and therefore also in the true best interest of everyone else. It will point us to what really is the good life–for ourselves and for others.
If we yearn to see our part, and play our part, in the bigger picture, freeing the imagination is the first step. Then we need only walk in its light.