A bright, still December day – ‘sitting’ on the frosty lawn, a few feet from the granite-trough fountain. Momentarily I make it: back home, mindless, listening. For a moment I am the listening – have become in the brilliant light my listening to “His voice as the sound of many waters”. And then mind is back, needing to dissect the sound: the cold gravel of the surf on the shore a mile down the valley; the streams either side of the garden, charged and a-chatter on last night’s heavy rain, hurrying and unhurried, back to the sea; and a few feet away the fountain, a medley, a sparkle of sound: perpetual invention.
Mind’s take-over is complete, binds me to a re-examination of my enduring in-house metaphor. So: the ocean, alpha and omega, emptiness whose centre is everywhere, the hold-all of whatever might be, and to which everything returns; then the streams: the sea come by the sky’s grace to earth, the ocean’s incarnate adventure, each its own story with a shared conclusion; and the fountain: a little branch-line, something made, an artifact. But this morning it is the sound itself mind fixes on – the mere fact of it. It is overall, it includes every sound, it is everywhere, it touches everything, it tells the story, each story…to anyone ‘with ears to hear’. It communicates. Snap! Within the metaphor it is active as… the Imagination.
Now, as happens too often in my meditation, when mind takes over it gets above itself. It’s asking, so does the metaphor not stipulate that sound is the third person in this Trinity, this Three in One, and One in Three – where first the One, as the abiding inclusive principle, is entirely the unbegotten ocean within which anything is conceivable; and second is incarnate within the streams and fountain; and third exists in sound as the live signal, the contact everywhere, and in and between everything? Which leads to mind’s next question, to asking pointedly whether within and beyond the metaphor this third person – and now it is referring back specifically to the assumption that it could be the Imagination – does not exactly coincide with this other formulation of a Third Person: the Holy Spirit (Comforter, Paraclete or Advocator, Intercessor and Guide of Souls) in the Trinity employed by Christianity to express the mystery of inspired existence. The Imagination as Holy Ghost. And if that were so, why… why not…
The truth is that at my age the line between simplicity and idiocy becomes pretty blurred. Yes, demonstrably. But it is beyond my mind’s grasp how we have come to view our existence as apart from the sacred. Isn’t what is, in accordance with life’s first fiat, and in spite of its damnable co-emergent shadow… isn’t it sacred? Isn’t that self-evident? Then I can only think we have switched off, or switched ourselves off to, the frequency that would keep us informed of the fact. Without live contact with this Third Person we are divided from the sacred reality of the Whole – we have lost contact with the contact. Well, have we, or haven’t we?
We in the so-called West are proud to claim that we live in a secular democracy and would like the whole world to follow our example. Presumably a secular society is careful not to have it’s ‘value system’ informed by the sacred and so needs to disregard or trivialise or at best marginalise any interference from the Imagination. It may indeed be that secular democracy sees its constitution as security from the global threat of fundamentalist religion – which equally may be an incensed reaction to the profane life-style of secular democracy. But isn’t it an irony that fundamentalist religion, being exclusive, is actually just as divided from the Sacred, and so needs to be even more careful to proscribe the Imagination – because if there’s one thing the Sacred cannot accommodate, and which the inclusive Imagination entirely ridicules it is any form of fundamentalism, standardisation or prescribed monoculture.
Deny the Sacred, deny the Imagination, or in other words deny the Sacred’s capacity to be in touch with everything, and there can be no real value system because then values cease to be informed by the abiding reality. In which case Life becomes ‘nasty, brutish and short’, Nature ‘red in tooth and claw’, the Arts merely diversion, education merely schooling, healthcare merely enablement to go on spending; success is measured by profit; we contribute to society by being consumers; we no longer ‘make love’ but ‘have sex’; compassion is become self-interest, and beauty a matter of ‘I know what I like’. Are we there yet?
Still, it will take more than a white paper or a fatwa to silence the Imagination. In its universal child’s-play, it will continue to express the Sacred’s unfolding “artifice of eternity”. And if the child, diminished into serious adulthood, tries to evaluate and regulate the game, Imagination’s sequestered voice will, like Merlin’s broadcast from his exile in the shadowed forest, continue to subvert the best laid spread-sheets of the men– well, aren’t they always men – who think they’re in charge?
That’s what I call a hell of a meditation.
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