Imagination as the Path of the Spirit

The late and brilliant John O’Donohue, a former priest and great poet, gave this talk on imagination as both a source of the divine and path to connecting to the divine. Whatever your religion, his words inspire us to unleash our creativity and follow our imaginations.

Science shows that adults need play, imagination and creativity just as much as children. And if you think you haven’t got any imagination, read John’s arguments for why and how we all have one:

“I think everyone has an imagination. And there’s two arguments I’d use in support of it. The first argument is that we’re all, no matter how respectable and serious humans look, everyone is an ex-baby. Right? You wouldn’t think it looking at some people that they started off like that, but actually we all did. So, when you were a child you lived in an imaginary world. When your mother or father said to you, ‘Don’t go over that wall because there’s a monster or something there,’ you’d people the whole thing with a plantation full of monsterial possibility…Each of us lived in that imaginative world…The second reason we’re all imaginative is that each night while you sleep, you dream. And even the most respectable, serious, solemn, severe, scrupulous humans are up to incredible things, often unspeakable things in their dreams. Sometimes after where they’ve been it’s quite an achievement to turn up for breakfast. So, a dream is a sophisticated, imaginative text that you send to yourself each night. And one of the interesting ways, if you don’t want to go therapying yourself, one of the interesting ways to begin to do a bit of work on yourself is to pay attention to your dreams. And the trick is this. I learned this from somebody. When you dream, when you wake in the morning, when the clock goes off or whatever, don’t open your eyes first. Keep your eyes closed, and try and just get the tail end of the dream. And if you just get two fingers on it you’ll pull and get most of the things back. And then just note it down. The Talmud says that a dream that is not interpreted is like a letter that has not been opened. And you know that if you’re sending yourself these letters every night it’s kind of only courtesy to call around some time and kind of pick them up. Because you will, if you keep an account of your dreams, get a great sense of who you are and what’s happening. And like in folk traditions, especially the Indian tradition in America, they really charted their future according to the symbols that came in the dreams. So your dreams are very wise about who you are because they come from your subconscious not from your controlled surface mind. So, if you feel that you’re not that interesting and that you might be a little touch boring and that nothing of major significance has happened to you for a long time and you get a little bit anxious, shift from your day life to your night life, and have a look there. And you’ll find immense sophistication and passion happening in your dream life. So, if you can dream, if you’re a former baby, then you can imagine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *