In my first book, Riding the Dragon, I considered this concept, why it might have arisen, and what might remedy it. Of course, these issues have been the matter of philosophical consideration for centuries and millennia.
It has seemed to me that since the Cartesian model, despite what it might (also) have brought in terms of further understanding, we have lost touch, collectively, in our industrialised societies, with the imaginal life, and somehow that has become annexed to the margins, the 'inconsequential' concerns of artists and poets. We have also lost touch with a felt sense of ourselves within the 'family of things'; as part of the web of life.
Without imagination, we cannot invest life with vitality. Without imagination, the world becomes, as James Hillman has observed, populated with inanimate disconnected objects which we push around at our will.
Without imagination the earth becomes resource, ours to exploit. Without imagination the species with whom we share this planet cannot but continue to decline at the current, or an even more accelerated, rate. Without imagination, we also cannot halt what it is that is taking us ourselves to the edge.
'Where there is no vision the people perish,' says the biblical book of Job (I think it is).
'Without imagination, compassion is not possible,' says one of my favourite people, the novelist Lindsay Clarke.
I am preoccupied too with how we can restore imagination to our own individual lives, in order to live more fully and more wholly, in order to have a well on which to draw. In restoring our own wholeness we are also adding to the collective sum of inspiration and wisdom, I believe.
Many years ago, having long before read Clarke's wonderful The Chymical Wedding, an erudite and inspiring novel about restoring meaning and the feeling function through the alchemy of the imagination, I attended a course given by him at Dartington which, I believe, was titled 'The Shaping Spirit of the Imagination'. I approached him to lead a workshop and give a reading at a small literary festival I directed on Dartmoor. Both occasions were hugely inspiring events.
Later again, I interviewed Lindsay for a magazine. Among the many things he spoke of, the simplicity and, once I'd heard it, obviousness of his statement above smacked me to a standstill. I think of these few words often; and I think how very much we need to consider them.
A different event at Dartington had Clarke and John Moat, poet and painter, together leading a workshop. Moat I know less well, although we have coincided occasionally: we both wrote poems for the buses in Plymouth as part of a Theatre Royal project; we have a friend in common (Michael Fairfax with whom I collaborate creatively at times – he of the Branscombe day); and Michael's father, John Fairfax, the poet, with John Moat was the founder of the Arvon Foundation, the biggest and best-loved writing organisation in the UK, and one which I know well as a student, tutor and occasional stand-in centre director. Moat has a Blakeian sensibility, and 'vision' would describe his work as well.
For me, my own work focuses on the need for restoration of poetry and myth (both the above would also of course agree that it's central) to our felt experience of being alive; and that we need fairly urgently to address our relationship to the planet and its other species (ditto). One of the things we need, I believe, is a direct experience of interconnectedness; and to further this much of my own work takes place outdoors. I also draw on transpersonal psychology, with its use of archetype, dream and metaphysical awareness, as will both Clarke and Moat.
I am telling you all this because I'm deeply privileged to have been invited to give an afternoon's workshop on Dartmoor in June on a course Clarke and Moat are offering at Schumacher College, the holistic teaching centre at Dartington in the UK set up by Satish Kumar.
The course covers all that I have mentioned and a great deal more. It should be a truly inspiring and uplifting experience.
Here's the course blurb:
The Springs of Creativity
What do we mean by Creativity and what is the nature of Imagination? How do they relate to the generative processes of the natural world, and are there fresh ways in which we can activate their energy in our life and work?
Course DetailBy exploring these questions and working imaginatively with them, this course will seek to illuminate the deep ground of our creativity in the personal, collective and ecological layers of the unconscious mind. While drawing on recent findings in neurological research, it will tend to work more with images than with concepts, recruiting all four psychological functions – intuition, sensation and feeling as well as thought – to the task in hand.
Through reflections on the poetics of experience, on the archetypal wisdom of dreams, the roles of muses, daimons, traditional incubation rituals, oracular insights, and the visionary power of alchemical imagery, the course will seek to open transrational perspectives on our creative processes. Participants will be encouraged to explore untried and previously unfamiliar areas of themselves. They may also take the opportunity to submit a creative problem currently engaging them to consideration by groups of people who may be unfamiliar with their context and their customary terms of reference.
Through presentations, group discussions and imaginative exercises, participants will enlarge and strengthen their vision and practice. People from diverse fields of activity – professional, scientific, administrative, therapeutic, educational and artistic – will share their experiences in ways which will relate individual creative enterprise to wider, perhaps universal, orders of meaning and value.
One afternoon will be spent on Dartmoor with Roselle Angwin, exploring the Ground of Being: re-imagining the world. She says: 'Relationship is our natural state, and yet so many of us feel alienated – from each other, from the natural world, even from ourselves, our Self. This afternoon will be spent out in the sacred megalithic landscape of Merrivale, on Dartmoor, and, using imagination, mindfulness, poetry, silence, gentle walking, writing and our six senses participants will explore ways of making connection.'
This is the URL, and perhaps I might see some of you there?