Frances Gaffney Independent Artist
A DEEPER APPROACH TO ENVIRONMENTAL CONSCIOUSNESS
Imagination is our most valuable tool. We use this powerful tool all the time whether we are aware of it or not. The aim of this essay is to ask the reader to actively participate in using his or her imagination in a more conscious way when relating to the environment. I will explore the truth of philosopher Henry Corbin’s claim that the mundus imaginalis (imaginal world) is a real world of experience. I will investigate whether it is “a cognitive power in its own right” over which we can have dominion (Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ’Arabi xiv).
I will explore the idea that the mundus imaginalis is the quantum field in physics. This field can be described as being a region in which waves transfer information. The concept of a wave accurately depicts the action of the imagination within this quantum field. I argue that quantum mechanics can be used to understand the mechanism behind the imaginative state. I wish to claim that within this imaginative state communication is possible between ourselves and our environment. When we understand that we are not separate from our environment we consciously direct our imagination in the right way and have a positive impact.
Henry Corbin invented the term mundus imaginalis to describe the imaginative state and
for this phrase I am very grateful. Whenever I read the words mundus imaginalis I get a special feeling of sweetness, like one gets while looking at a postcard from a distant place. Corbin described the mundus imaginalis as being real, not fantasy (Corbin, Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth 40). Our connection with the mundus imaginalis is through what Corbin described as the angels. The angels are personal and can be understood however a person sees fit. Paradoxically, the mundus imaginalis is not a place, although it is where these angels abide. It is clearer to say that not only is it where the angels abide; it is the angels, and the prayers. They do not occupy the same space as we think of space but they are together. The mundus imaginalis is truly another dimension.
2. What is meant by Imagination?
The New Thought movement of the late 19th century promoted the idea that man’s power is
within his imagination. Neville Goddard was a New Thought pioneer. Goddard declared, “Imagination is the creative power which can cause that which was not, to be! It can also cause that which is, not to be (Lecture on William Blake: Fourfold Vision).” In this essay the word imagination will be used as Goddard taught in the form of prayer and intention. These three words are interchangeable - imagination, prayer and intention. I hesitate to use the word “intention” as I also hesitate to use the word “prayer”. The first may seem trite or trendy while the latter is a loaded word and brings to mind concepts related to religion and dogma. To say a prayer and have faith that your appeal will be heard by God is very dissatisfying. It is hope and the feeling of hope puts our desires in the category of what will be, maybe, hopefully. True praying is knowing. To know is a very different state.
My belief about prayer used to be that my supplications disappeared like a puff of smoke. I have begun to rethink this thought process because, after all, the puff of smoke does not just vanish into thin air, but dissipates and dissolves. The molecules of smoke go somewhere. They are dispersed and combine with other molecules to become other elements. My prayer, my little puff of smoke, dissolves and co-mingles with other people’s prayers to collectively create our environment. Imagine that instead of a puff of smoke, which is made up of particles, your prayer behaves like a wave. When a sound is produced, the waves created will sound like whatever produced that wave. The roar of a flame coming to life will not sound like the gong of a bell. The waves we send out from our hearts will only be experienced by others as the feeling we set forth. If I love you and enjoy being in your presence you will not receive waves that emanate hate.
How this wave travels from our hearts I do not know. I can imagine it, but I can never know for sure. Perhaps there is another vehicle, other than particles and waves, that my prayer travels on; some mechanism that science has yet to discover. For now, our current scientific theories must suffice.
“Things that have interacted are forever one.” - Shantena Augusto Sabbadini
I strongly desire that ‘prayer as knowing’ be true, however, wanting it to be so does not make it so. Proof is required and for some people scientific facts must be present in order to be true. I have a great deal of respect for science and its methods but I am not a scientist and my understanding of physics is impoverished. I can only provide the reader with intuitive, unverifiable results. This means breaking the rules of science. If a scientist breaks the rules, remedies may be ineffective and that is dangerous. On the other hand, if I am wrong in my exploration, nothing will blow up and no one will get hurt. As Jung stated, ”The scientific credo of our time has developed a superstitious phobia about fantasy. (Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 7: Two Essays in Analytical Psychology 353).” Creativity powers science. Scientists must be allowed the freedom to entertain new ideas and to discuss reality across disciplines. “New Age thinking, thinking about aliens and flying saucers - these are all way-out ideas, but at least they've admitted the beginning of some larger conceptualization of the invisible (Hillman. Random House interview with Sean Abbott).”
In 2015, scientists at the University of Vienna published results of their entanglement experiments (Herbst et al. Teleportation of entanglement over 143 km.) . Entanglement is a weird state where two particles remain intimately connected, even when separated, no matter how great the distance. Physicists theorize that entanglement takes place within the quantum field which is non-local. Space and time are irrelevant in the non-local environment. Particles act in harmony with no delay. Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance”. Mystics have always understood that there is nothing “spooky” about it. The mystical intuition of interrelatedness, or unity of all things, is being confirmed by science. These experiments prove that non-locality exists and that it is natural, not supernatural.
I am not breaking new ground. Thousands of years ago people who we call mystics or prophets went through the meditative, contemplative path to get to where science is now. Zoroastrians wrote about dimensions. Corbin sums up their theology thus, “If a modern mathematical philosophy has taught us to conceive of time as a fourth dimension added to the three dimensions of space, we may say that the myth of Mazdean cosmogony reveals to us something in the nature of still another dimension (Cyclical Time and Ismaili Gnosis 2).” The Buddha and Christ both taught about entering different states or dimensions. To some of my
readers this will seem obvious. For others, it will be a reminder. And for some, it may be the first time they have thought about this.
Today it may be said that half the world is unconscious about the effects that humans have had on the planet. For some people the environment has only to do with an abstract oil spill a continent away. They believe themselves to be separate from it. The good news, however, is that half the world is not unconscious. Half the people on earth care deeply about their environment and are willing to take right action. Some of that right action includes cleaning up our inner houses. It is a logical first step. Here is a simple example: On the drive to work every morning you see garbage along the highway. It makes you angry to have to look at it every day. You have a choice whether to continue to deride the lazy slobs who dump the garbage and justify your anger at them or you can choose to imagine how much better the highway would look if the garbage was cleaned up. You start to imagine wildflowers along the guardrail and how much happier your daily commute would make you feel. Soon more ideas come to mind and you begin to plan. Maybe you will pull over and pick up some of the trash. You put a garbage bag in your car before your next commute to work. You wonder if perhaps local Boy Scouts would be willing to help. To your surprise your boss tells you his son’s Boy Scout troop is looking for a community activity in order to earn an environmental badge. Your favorable ideas gain momentum.
We must recognize any negative feelings or associations we hold when we think about trouble spots in our experience and imagine better outcomes. If we are focused on anger and fear we are not making room for ideas and insights. We are incapable of imagining better solutions and outcomes. I am not suggesting we turn our backs on the problems. They certainly are part of our reality and we must engage them. Perhaps in the past if we left the environment alone it would have cleaned itself up by its very nature, but now I believe we are too deep into management.
Imagination can drive the action one desires within his or her personal environment. In the following paragraph I offer an example, my own experience, of actively using one’s imagination.
4. An Experiment
There is an aspect to the mundus imaginalis which seems neutral; that does not judge our
feelings as being either good or bad. Starting from this view, I did an experiment with my son, Jack. He was lamenting about his lack of a partner. I suggested that he was sending out strong signals of that lack of a partner and was bringing more lack upon himself. “Imagine”, I told him, “that you have a personal assistant. Whether you like it or not this assistant is always with you. He has been assigned specifically to you. As he follows you around all day, every day, he jots down your every command. He is recording everything you think and say and especially everything you feel. He brings to you what you have in that way commanded. For instance, if you feel you have abundance, he will supply you with abundance. If you believe you are lacking, he will supply lack.” I suggested to Jack that he change his thoughts and his feelings. Instead of wandering around feeling the experience of loneliness and longing, he should imagine how he would feel if he had a partner. How differently would he behave? Imagine how it would feel to know your partner was waiting on the stoop outside your apartment at the end of the day. Be very specific, I instructed him. It didn’t take long for Jack to conjure a partner. I believe this is what Jung had in mind when he wrote about engaging the “active imagination” (The Red Book 217).
Angels have been associated with fiction and perhaps another word would better describe them. Are they the ‘assistants’ I referred to in my story about Jack? Perhaps we are not alone in this universal matrix and the angels are our non-local connection. According to Henry Corbin, everyone has an angel. “Every physical or mortal entity, every complete being or group of beings belonging to the world of light... has its Fravashi. What they announce to earthly beings is, therefore, an essentially dual structure that gives to each one a heavenly archetype or angel whose earthly counterpart he is (Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth 9). “
In my search for descriptions of angels I found the poems by Ibn ‘Arabi, the most soothing writing I have ever come across. What follows is not a poem, but part of a chapter from the Kitab al-Tajalliyat. It was translated in the form of a poem by Henry Corbin (Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ’Arabi 174):
Listen, O dearly beloved!
I am the reality of the world, the centre of the circumference,
I am the parts and the whole.
I am the will established between Heaven and Earth,
I have created perception in you only in order to be the object of my perception. If then you perceive me, you perceive yourself.
But you cannot perceive me through yourself,
It is through my eyes that you see me and see yourself,
Through your eyes you cannot see me.
I have called you so often and you have not heard me.
I have shown myself to you so often and you have not seen me.
I have made myself fragrance so often, and you have not smelled me.
Savorous food, and you have not tasted me.
Why can you not reach me through the object you touch
Or breathe me through sweet perfumes?
Why do you not see me? Why do you not hear me? Why? Why? Why?
There are many examples throughout history of people working toward a worthy cause, from a standpoint of desiring to help a situation, but who fell back into the problem; politically, or environmentally because they had not first put their own houses in order. The Standing Rock pipeline protest represents what could be a turning point in our future. It gives an example of peacefully putting one’s house in order despite unpeaceful attempts from outside forces to impede that act. (Garcia, Raul. “We’re Missing 90 Percent of the Dakota Access Pipeline Story” Earthjustice.org, 22 November 2016.)
I believe the Sioux at Standing Rock are praying for something, rather than against it. I do not know exactly how they pray. Consider the following example, from Gregg Braden's book Secrets of the Lost Mode of Prayer: “I said that I would pray rain. If I had prayed for rain it would never happen. The key is that when we ask for something to happen, we give power to what we do not have. Prayers for healing empower the sickness. Prayers for rain empower the drought. Continuing to ask for these things only gives more power to the things that we would like to change (Secrets of the Lost Mode of Prayer 12).” Gregg Braden is a New Age author who writes about science and spirituality. He has traveled extensively to research how different cultures pray. Braden witnessed the above prayer for rain with a Native American.
Perhaps the Standing Rock Sioux are praying for clean water and peaceful land rather than wishing that the Dakota Access Pipeline would vanish and the Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. would go away. Neither of those things will happen. But perhaps they will at least slow down midstream enough to ask “is this course unwise?” This project does not have so much momentum that it is irreversible.
The financial investment in this pipeline has been enormous and we are being led to believe that this investment must get a return for the next forty years. It is not obvious to everyone that we need water more than we need oil. Just as people drive too fast when they are too comfortable with their cars, we have become too comfortable with how we consume energy.
I burn wood to heat my home. It’s an affordable, renewable resource that I gather on my own property. I also burn oil to supplement the wood burning stove because there are times when I do not feel well enough to feed the fire. If solar panels were within my budget I would gladly have them installed. This technology is becoming more efficient for people like me who live in northern places with little winter sunlight. Why haven’t we (as a nation) been able to persuade investors to put their resources toward solar research and production? It is because this fossil fuel industry is so in place that it will not budge. Do we believe it can’t budge? It’s a standoff. I do not believe I change my purse today but I can change my mind about how I’ll think about this issue in the future. What would this prayer or intention look like? Begin by being grateful to live in a world where this kind of research is possible. Appreciate the men and women who are doing this fine work, who have studied and are committed to focusing on innovations. Imagine Sunoco retooling their trucks to deliver solar panels. Really, picture it. The tank trucks are now outfitted with glass racks. I can see it - right down to the Sunoco logo on the side of the truck now appearing as a big yellow sun with a silly smiling face. Doesn’t that feel better than fighting against?
Environmental lawyer Dr. James Gustave Speth often brings up the importance of engaging our faith communities (America the Possible: A Manifesto, Part II). In the following passage Dr. Speth presents us with a picture of the future that is everything we could ever hope for:
"By 2050, America the Possible will have marshaled the economic and political resources to successfully address the long list of challenges, including basic social justice, real global security, environmental sustainability, true popular sovereignty, and economic democracy. As a result, family incomes in America will be far more equal, similar to the situation in the Nordic countries and Japan today. Large-scale poverty and income insecurity will be things of the past. Good jobs will be guaranteed to all those who want to work. Our health-care and educational systems will be among the best in the world, as will our standing in child welfare and equality of women. Racial and ethnic disparities will be largely eliminated. Social bonds will be strong. The overlapping webs of encounter and participation that were once hallmarks of America, “a nation of joiners,” will have been rebuilt, community life will be vibrant, and community development efforts plentiful. Trust in each other, and even in government, will be high."
Imagine the above passage as a prayer. Instead of the words “will have” and “will be” insert “has” and “are”. Imagine these things as existing now. Don’t send them out into the future. The following are Dr. Speth’s words in the form of a prayer; an imaginal practice:
We marshal the economic and political resources successfully.
Social justice, global security and environmental sustainability reign. Family income is equal.
Good jobs are guaranteed to all those who want to work.
Our health-care and educational systems are among the best in the world, Our standing in child welfare and equality of women is best in the world. Racial and ethnic disparities are eliminated.
Social bonds are strong.
Community life is vibrant, and community development efforts plentiful.
We trust in each other and in government.
Compare the above offering with the following Zuni Prayer for rain:
Your massed up clouds, replete with living waters, You will send forth to stay with us. They will come out standing on all sides. With your fine rain caressing the earth, With your weapons, the lightning, With your rumbling thunder, Your great crashes of thunder, With your fine rain caressing the earth, Your heavy rain caressing the earth, With your great pile of waters here at Itiwana, With these You will pass us on our roads. In order that you may come to us thus I have given you plume wands. My fathers, When you have taken your plume wands, With your waters, Your seeds, Your riches, Your power, Your strong spirit, With all your good fortune whereof you are possessed, Me you will bless.
The above Zuni Prayer creates powerful imagery with phrases such as “rain caressing the earth” and “great piles of water” (Bunzel, Zuni Ritual Poetry). I can easily feel more rain than I have ever before experienced. I wonder, however, if perhaps the original wording of this prayer did not put the rain in the future with sentences such as “You will send forth” but rather were phrased “You send forth” meaning that the rain is happening now, not in the future.
Your state of consciousness creates the world. There’s a strong correlation between your predominant state of consciousness and how you experience reality. You can only change the world by changing the state of human consciousness. The Cartesian method is very useful for science because it helps us to measure things but let us not get stuck in this world view. And praying does not mean to do nothing. Action is still required, research must continue, but it should spring from a place of peace, not conflict.
We are entering a new era where the focus can no longer be about tearing things down. It’s time to start celebrating our successes and bring forth our highest qualities. What I propose is the use of the power of our own imagination.
The mundus imaginalis is immeasurable and cannot be experienced with our senses, but it is observable. Music, storytelling and scientific inventions arise from here. Further, this creative state is infinite. Isn’t it exciting to know that what can be observed is infinite? This means that new music will be created forever. Writers will never run out of stories. Scientists will always discover new solutions to clean up and prevent future pollution. I challenge the reader to investigate for themselves. Don’t believe or have faith but search for proof.
Dare to imagine.
List of Works Cited
Braden, Gregg. Secrets of the Lost Mode of Prayer. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc., 2006.
Bunzel, Ruth. Zuni Ritual Poetry, from the Forty-seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. Washington, DC: The Smithsonian Institution, 1929 - 1930.
Corbin, Henry. Cyclical Time and Ismaili Gnosis. New York, NY: Routledge, 1983.
Corbin, Henry. Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth from Mazdean Iran to Sh’ite Iran by Henry Corbin. Bollingen Series XC1:2. Trans. Nancy Pearson. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Corbin, Henry. Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ’Arabi. Princeton, NJ: Princeton/Bollingen, , 1998.
Garcia, Raul. “We’re Missing 90 Percent of the Dakota Access Pipeline Story” Earthjustice.org, 22 November 2016. <earthjustice.org/blog/2016-november/we-re-missing-90-percent-of-the-
Goddard, Neville. Lecture on William Blake: Fourfold Vision. 26 January, 1968. <realneville.com/txt/four_fold_vision.htmhttp://realneville.com/txt/four_fold_vision.htm
Hensen, B., et al. “Loophole-free Bell inequality violation using electron spins separated by 1.3 kilometres.” Nature 21 October, 2015. <www.nature.com/nature/journal/v526/n7575/full/nature15759.html
Herbst, Thomas, et al. “Teleportation of entanglement over 143 km.” Physical Sciences - Physics 2 November, 2015 <www.pnas.org/content/112/46/14202.abstract
Hillman, J. Random House interview with Sean Abbott, 1996. <www.scribd.com/doc/19126803/James-Hillman-the-Soul-Code
Jung, Carl. Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 7: Two Essays in Analytical Psychology. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014.
Jung, Carl. The Red Book. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2009.
Speth, James Gustave. “America the Possible: A Manifesto, Part II.” Orion Magazine, May/June 2012, <orionmagazine.org/article/america-the-possible-a-manifesto-part-ii/