Reflection 4 Imagination – More important than knowledge
(These reflections are offered to encourage you, God’s people, full of the Holy Spirit, to ‘do theology’ with your ‘sensus fidelium’ – that is with your own innate and graced wisdom. They focus on some theological intuitions and spiritual explorations to help you form a truer foundation for falling in love with God all over again. And to prepare us for the shape of tomorrow’s faith. In the light of a healing theology of nature and grace, and as scientific revelations bless the earth each day, this exercise of exploring and speculating will have huge and illuminating implications for the future heart of our Church, our faith, our children and ourselves. Daniel O’Leary 2018)
We need to imagine things before we can reach them. We need to imagine the future before we can fully inhabit it. Without imagination we die, something that is happening to the people and the clerical systems that are meant to be the living presence and teachers of that divine attribute. Once we can imagine something we desire, possess a passion for the possible, seek a new way of being and seeing with the mind of Christ, even vaguely, then we are on the way to becoming that very reality. ‘The only grace we can have,’ Judy Cannato believed, ‘is the grace we can imagine. If we cannot see it, we cannot engage it, become it, manifest it; we cannot be co-creators’. (Judy Cannato)
Openness, receptivity, readiness are true marks of the authentic heart. We are made for God and ‘bigness’ is a divine quality. St Thomas Aquinas called it ‘magnanimity’. He suggested that deliberate closed-ness, stinginess, meanness are not of God. These negative attitudes block us off from grace. ‘Above all else’, Martha Graham advised her dance-students, ‘keep the channels open!’ At the core of life there is an unstoppable movement forward. The earth thrusts and groans in the effort of evolving to its fullness. So does the human heart. Each Pentecost Sunday we pray for an expansion of our mind and hearts so as to reach new horizons. In Planetary Prayers we read;
I am too young to be dead,
To be stagnant in spirit.
Inspire me to speak original and life-giving words
And to creatively give shape to the new.
Come and teach me how to
Dance with delight
Whenever you send a new
Melody my way.
When Albert Einstein holds that ‘imagination is more important than knowledge’, and when George Bernard Shaw equates the language of the heart with imagination, perhaps it is the notion of creativity, openness and beauty that they are trying to protect and promote. Beauty and imagination are too often obscured by the high walls of logic. Necessary formulations and doctrines will never do justice to mystery. Faith is more than the sum of its beliefs. It is a way of experiencing our divine/human world. Incarnation reveals that the line between the sacred and the secular has been transcended forever. Nature is always graced. Life is always holy. Being is always blessed. The incarnate God is approached through the imagination. ‘You may not consider it blasphemy, I hope,’ wrote the philosopher Friedrich Schleiermacher, ‘that belief in God depends on the direction of the imagination. You will know that the imagination is the highest and most original element in us’.