The HPedia: Imagination

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The imagination plays an important role in Contemporary Pagan discourse and practices, including visualization.

From Merriam-Webster:

Imagination: an act or process of forming a conscious idea or mental image of something never before wholly perceived in reality by the one forming the images (as through a synthesis of remembered elements of previous sensory experiences or ideas as modified by unconscious defense mechanisms); also : the ability or gift of forming such conscious ideas or mental images especially for the purposes of artistic or intellectual creation

The ontological status of imagined content may be a key area of contention between naturalistic and hard polytheistic interpretations.  Sensations of divine presence or communications often happen in the “mind’s eye”, which may or may not be identical with the imagination.

Naturalists and hard polytheists are likely to differ on whether imagined content is “real”, as well as on what constitutes “reality” in the first place.  The following provides one possible naturalistic interpretation.

From a naturalistic point of view, things that are imaginary are real as such.  It is only when the imagined content is reified into an objective reality beyond imagination that unreality begins.

Compare the difference between dreaming and lucid dreaming.  Both are real as such, but non-lucid dreaming also involves an unreal aspect introduced by tacitly mistaking the dream content for objective world content.  Becoming lucid, i.e. realizing it is a dream while still in the dream, rectifies the situation by recognizing the content for what it really is.

Similarly, interacting with figures of myth via the imagination can only involve unreality if those figures are taken as objective realities.  Interaction that is consciously aware of its imaginative character, on the other hand, is a pure experience of reality.

Brian Swimme envisions human imagination as that of the earth, which is pulled in a certain direction by an attractor state yet to emerge.  See Earth’s Imagination.

Some interesting research by French scholars distinguishes the imagination from the imaginaire and the imaginal (see Braga).

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