[Note: My book, Native Soul, first published by Unity House, went out of print some time ago so I’m in the process of republishing it. As I read the chapter on Your Creative Imagination, I thought it would make a good post. It’s a bit long so I included subject headings so you can easily return to your stopping points. JDB]
The aim of meditation is to gain understanding of your spiritual source through direct exposure to your core being. Because God as the Creative Life Force is not physically observable, you must learn to experience God through nonphysical means. “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:24). Jesus rightfully compared the Divine Presence to the wind that blows where it chooses. You hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes (Jn. 3:8). The Creative Life Force, though invisible to the eye, is just as real as the wind that sighs through the leaves or pushes the sailboat across the sea.
When you think of the faculty that enables you to perceive God, you may, like most, think of intuition rather than imagination. After all, intuitive knowledge is defined as that which is directly perceived without the use of the senses. The imagination, on the other hand, is generally depicted as the creative, image-generating and objectifying faculty of mind. The faculty of imagination actually performs both functions. In its intuitive function, it is the inlet, a direct pipeline to the pure essence of Being. In its image-generating function, it converts the pure energy of Spirit into the vision that becomes the basis for the life you project in the material world. Charles Fillmore explained it this way:
In the communication of God with man, the imagining power of the mind plays an important part. It receives divine ideas and reflects their character to the consciousness.
The receiving aspect of your imagination is your intuitive ability, a portal capable of opening directly to the universal forces of the spiritual dimension. All living things possess this intuitive aspect of the imagination. In Nature we see the essential characteristics of Being—life, power, intelligence and love— manifested as a balanced, perfectly integrated symphony orchestra with every section, while playing different parts, complementing the whole. What is absent or at least greatly restricted in the natural world is the visioning aspect of the imagination. Possession of this ability to visualize sets the human species apart from all others. This visioning aspect, which is an important part of the intellect, allows us to develop a personal rather than a generic vision of ourselves and our life, an ability that has placed our species in a very unique position in Nature.
We have, to a great extent, shut down the portal of intuition and drawn our guiding information from the wide open gates of sensory input. The imagination has fallen under the direction of the senses-driven intellect that insists the facts presented by external appearances represent ultimate reality. We are elated or traumatized according to this steady input that has little in common with the unchanging reality that can only be perceived intuitively. It is as if we are riding in a glass bottom boat gliding over warm waters rich in aquatic wonders, but a carpet covers the glass. We are essentially cut off from the stabilizing serenity and beauty that exists beneath our ever-changing surface life.
The Digital Camera
To understand how these intuitive and reflective aspects of the imagination are intended to work as a single creative function, we can turn to the digital camera for an illustration. The beauty of digital cameras, particularly the point-and-shoot models, is their simplicity. Point the camera at your subject—a person, a landscape or a flower—and press the shutter button. The camera, automatically sensing light conditions, presents you with an impressive replica of the image you see in the camera’s viewfinder.
Simplicity at the user end does not mean there is anything simple about the camera’s process. The instant you snap the shutter, a series of small miracles of science occurs. Light reflected from your subject passes through the lens to the camera’s image sensor. The light is first converted into an electrical signal that is then translated into digital information through the camera’s processor. Once the image becomes digitized, you can email it around the world, project it onto a screen or print it to paper as a photograph. The camera plays the dual role of receiving the universal energy of light and combining it with a personal choice of imagery.
Most digital cameras are equipped with a small liquid crystal display (LCD) that allows you to see (compose) your image before you actually snap the shot. Think of this viewfinder as equivalent to the mental screen of your imagination. To capture the image that you see on your viewfinder, you introduce a burst of light onto the image sensor by snapping the shutter button. With this simple act, you combine the universal energy of light with your personal choice of imagery. Your camera’s computer then translates this combination of energy and imagery into the digital information that you share with the world as a photograph. Here you have a perfect illustration of how universal energy (light) is combined with personal choice (the image in your viewfinder) to create a specific condition (your photograph).
Now think of the intuitive side of your imagination as your camera’s shutter. Through the intuition flows the universal energy of life, power, love and intelligence. This energy combines with the picture-forming aspect of your imagination (your mental viewfinder) to produce a state of consciousness (equivalent to the digital platform) that serves as the basis for your material conditions. These states of consciousness comprise the unique photo gallery that you call your life. It is within the imagination that the personal and the universal are brought together to form the unique basis of your external life conditions. Rather than generating digital information that a computer understands, you generate states of consciousness that serve as the basis for your unique material conditions.
For many, this blending of the universal and the personal is a random and unconscious process, like snapping photos all day long at nothing in particular. At the end of the day they review these photos and discover they have no meaning. They are not getting what they want from life because of their haphazard employment of their imagination.
To further the analogy, consider the difference in image quality taken in artificial and natural light. The average flash photo is often harsh and washed out while natural sunlight, at the right time of the day, is soft and warm. Professional photographers love those 20-minute windows of light that occur just after dawn and again just before dusk. In this natural light even an amateur photographer can obtain impressive results. Fact-based, intellectual knowledge is harsh and washed out in comparison to the warmth of light that rises through the intuitive portal of the soul.
The evolution of the visioning, personalizing aspect of the imagination has placed the human family in a unique position in nature. Unlike the plant and animal kingdoms, there appears to be no natural limits to the effects we can produce through the creative application of our imagination. Its usage is a subject that warrants careful consideration.
Thomas Troward, English author and lecturer who had a significant impact on the early development of mental science, made the profoundly simple observation that the human being is the only creature capable of producing ideas that do not occur spontaneously in nature. Place a lump of iron in water, he noted, and the iron sinks, an effect governed by natural law, or, as Troward called it, generic law. Fabricate that same iron into the hull of a ship and the iron will float. The iron hull, like countless other examples we could name, is a product of the human imagination, a unique combination of universal energy and personal imagery.
Though plants and animals display varying levels of intelligence and personality, they are restricted by a natural barrier in their creative ability. Troward attributed this to the animal’s inability to express anything more than generic law. Think of generic law as the expression of the Creative Life Force without any elaboration of human imagination. The lump of iron, governed by generic law, sinks in water. Introduce the influence of human imagination and the iron is able to float. Nature as a whole is an example of generic law in expression.
People often ask whether animals have souls. Using Troward’s model, the answer would be yes, but it is a generic soul, an archetypal set of parameters that limit the expression of intelligence and, therefore, the creative capacity of a given species. The key limiting element in the generic soul of all living things (though it is present in nearly all species in limited degrees) is the visualizing aspect of imagination.
For survival and reproductive purposes, animals depend on a preprogrammed set of responses we know as instinct. Yes, there are cases where chimpanzees fish termites from their mounds with sticks and certain birds break open ostrich eggs by bombarding them with stones. These, however, can hardly be thought of as anything more than examples of intelligence still bridled by a rudimentary imagination.
If you own a dog, you know it as an intelligent animal with a unique personality. Personable and intelligent as your dog may be, however, you can safely assume it will never be credited with a medical breakthrough, never send other dogs to Mars or develop a faster, more efficient Internet. The intelligence level of the brightest dog on the planet (yours no doubt) is primitive in comparison to that of even a below-average human. This may seem unflattering to those who insist on elevating their dogs to near-human status, but experts in canine behavior know the key to successful interaction between dog and human is to get the human to start thinking like a dog. The dog, they know, can never think like the human. The dog simply does not possess the imaginative capacity of the human.
The Generic Cap
This concept of a generic soul can explain why, in contrast to the sometimes chaotic experience we see at the human level, the natural world exists in such balance and harmony. Nature has no choice. It is a material representation of the Creative Life Force capped by a generic imagination. Plants and animals get creative when it comes to snaring food, reproducing and even shelter-building. But if you observe a herd of 100,000 wildebeests, you see that each one leads a very similar life. Their choices of food, habitat and behavior are nearly identical throughout the herd. Roll back the clock a million years and you are likely to see the same basic wildebeest behavior.
By contrast, visit any town of 100,000 people and you will see countless economic, cultural, political, religious and lifestyle distinctions. The evolution of the faculty of imagination, the ability to combine universal energy with personal imagery, has lifted the human species beyond the creative restrictions of basic instinct. The Lascaux cave paintings in southern France, dating back 16,000 years, clearly illustrate the emerging artistic tendency in our race. In Utah, I visited a site containing ancient rock art of a scene depicting a shaman assisting in hunting success. This scene contains all the elements you find in a modern vision board and illustrates that people have long understood the role and importance of the visualizing aspect of imagination.
Our modern cultures have invented an entirely new world full of houses with beautifully landscaped yards, glistening high-rise cities, bustling shopping malls, countless educational opportunities, grocery stores with foods from around the world, sophisticated transportation systems, instant global communications, trade and manufacturing that has literally altered the landscape of the planet. Roll back the clock a million years and, unlike the wildebeest, you will see a humanity that scarcely resembles the modern version.
Like animals, we, too, have a generic soul, but our turbocharged faculty of imagination has allowed us to take giant creative leaps far beyond the circumscribed boundaries that inhibit the creativity of other species. Your dog loves you unconditionally, and you would like to think it is because he lives on a higher level of awareness. In truth, he is forgiving because he simply cannot read anything into the fact that you forgot to feed him yesterday. He takes the food you give him today as if you are the most wonderful, thoughtful provider on earth. He cannot curse you for the discomfort you may have caused, nor can he attribute your forgetfulness to one of your unresolved childhood issues. He wags his tail in loving gratitude that he is finally eating again. He is hardwired to love and trust you, his pack leader, and he cannot engage in behavior that is inconsistent with his generic soul.
It may seem that animal vitality and the ability to be fully present can be attributed to the animal having attained a superior level of awareness. This ability, however, is better explained as the animal’s inability to conceive of the abstract concepts of future or past. Nearly all their faculties are programmed to address their present needs. They function from a model of success that is limited to the threefold aim of filling their bellies, finding shelter and reproducing offspring. Animals may be content with this basic agenda, but the spiritually awakening human, who has no apparent inventive restrictions, is not.
From Simplicity to Complexity
Your life feels incomplete when you project from the perception that you are separated from your spiritual foundation, your soul. Your soul is a concentration of life, love, power and intelligence inherent in the Creative Life Force. Your faculty of imagination allows you to personalize these elements to produce all the various aspects of your life. As I pointed out with the camera illustration, you do this by first establishing centers of thought that become states of consciousness, and these, in turn, serve as centers from which specific things and conditions evolve.
It may seem an oversimplification to say that our life, as it is expressed, is derived from varying combinations of four basic elements. Consider that, from a computer standpoint, each letter in our English alphabet is created from binary code. Letters are a unique combination of two digits, 0 and 1, put together in a string of eight. For example, you see the capital letter “L,” but the computer sees 01001100. You see the word love (in lower case), and the computer sees 1101100010011110111011001100101. When you consider the range of ideas that are communicated by varying combinations of these two digits, you see how complexity can grow out of simplicity. Depending on the human imagination to which they are subjected, two digits can convey everything from the obscene to the divine. Complicating the code by adding a third or fourth digit would not change the nature of ideas individuals wish to convey. Two digits are sufficient to convey any idea that can be put into language.
From this perspective, you can see that asking God to give you something that will make you feel more complete is asking the impossible. All of God’s attributes, like a spiritual binary code, are present and are being perpetually imparted to every person and to every living thing. Your feeling of incompleteness is based on the illusion that your soul is undeveloped, separate from its source or lacking crucial information. As you awaken to your unity with the Infinite, you begin to understand that your very existence is an activity of the Creative Life Force, and that your desire for a fuller, more expanded life is nothing less than the inner stirring of your complete soul. When you start with the awareness that all creative forces are concentrated within you and are therefore available for your use, you begin to apprehend and project from your wholeness into your external affairs and you begin to get what you want from life.
The Example of Three Artists
Imagine three artists being given identical palettes containing six colors of paint each—violet, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. At this stage these unused colors are in a universal state or, using Troward’s term, generic state. The paints, equally available to all three artists, have not been combined into any specific image. The artists begin mixing their colors and applying brush strokes according to their individual preferences and understanding. Though they have drawn from the same universal set of colors, the final work produced by each is as unique in color combination and form as the personalities of the artists themselves. They transform these colors into something truly their own. Their results are profoundly different.
In the same way the full range of colors is available to each artist, so the full range of divine attributes is available to every person. How you combine and express these attributes is completely up to you. You might be tempted to think that getting what you want from life requires you to ask God, “What picture do you want me to paint?” God can no more answer this question than can the palette of paint tell the artist what kind of picture he or she should create. God supplies you with the palette and the faculty of imagination and says, “The picture you paint is up to you.” The combination of your understanding, your vision and your skill as a painter determines the nature and quality of your results.
You, like the painter, are accessing and utilizing divine qualities in the way that is translating into your material life. You are drawing from the universal palette of color, and you are painting your life based on the beliefs you hold. If you are unhappy with what you see on your canvas, it is useless to ask God to guide you to a different palette of colors or to expect God to fix your painting. There is no other palette and the Creative Life Force cannot magically change your circumstances. Outside of you, this divine force can only act generically. It cannot act creatively, at least not in the specific ways you need or desire. The specifics of how it is expressed in your life depend on how you employ your executive faculties, specifically the visioning aspect of your imagination.
You Are Directing God
In a very real sense, and this may come as a surprise, your life is the result of the directives you are giving to God. To return again to our earlier example, you are composing images in your viewfinder and bringing in universal energy to create the photo album that is your life. Be assured, you have a very willing partner who has given you unconditional support in bringing forth the exact world you envision. God does not say, “Are you sure you want this or that picture?” Without you the Creative Life Force performs generically, producing beautiful and endless combinations of life, love, intelligence and power, but with no ability to deviate from the inherent constraints of each expression’s generic parameters. With you in the picture, the same creative process is at work but without constraints. You add to the creative process the expanded influence of your executive faculties that you employ in accordance to your understanding. The life you know and live is the result.
Though there are times when it may appear to do so, the Creative Life Force does not impart specific solutions to your needs, at least not in the way you may think. It imparts its full range of characteristics always. Scripture tells us that “God is light” (1 Jn. 1:5), and indeed light provides yet another excellent way to illustrate this point. Place a prism anywhere there is a beam of sunlight and you will, without exception, see the entire visible spectrum of color. If you said to a beam of sunlight, “I need more blue,” it would not give you blue only; it would give you the entire spectrum. It cannot do otherwise. You can use a filter that allows only the blue frequency to pass, but the full spectrum is still always present.
In the same way the full spectrum of colors is present in the beam of sunlight, so all the qualities that constitute the Creative Life Force are present everyplace equally at once. Most important, they are always present in and as you. So how do you find solutions to specific problems? Consider how a single sunset can inspire countless expressions of music, poetry, photography, paintings and other forms of artistic expression. Peering directly into the Creative Life Force charges the visual aspect of your imagination with endless ideas that can be combined into an infinite range of states of consciousness that are as unique as you, the individual projecting them. Solutions to specific problems unfold with this influx of pure inspiration. New life sparks enthusiasm. Divine power stirs unbounded strength to move forward. Intelligence kindles the flame of wisdom, and love deepens and opens the understanding. As the author of Job so eloquently put it:
It is the spirit in a mortal, the breath of the Almighty, that makes for understanding. (Job 32:8)
As your mind expands with new inspiration, you compose in the viewfinder of your imagination ideas and actions that are natural to you and address constructively and precisely the issues involved with your particular situation. Your soul is as unique as your fingerprint. Given the chance, it will present you with an equally unique opportunity to transform your seeming problem into a creatively exciting endeavor.