I just finished listening to an interview with Dr. Becca Tarnas on the blog Rune Soup. She and George, the moderator, have a most interesting conversation on the topic of the “Imaginal Realm.” If you have an hour or so to spare, have a listen. In the interview Dr. Tarnas focuses on Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and Carl Jung’s “Red Book” as examples of authors who cross over into the “imaginal realm” from which they tell stories that convey messages for our time and civilization. I would like to delve into this topic a bit in this blog post.
In her evocative and controversial book The Meaning of Mary Magdalene – The Woman at the Heart of Christianity, author and Episcopal prelate Cynthia Bourgeault makes a distinction between the “imaginal realm” and imagination which I feel deserves in-depth consideration. The context of this consideration is the vision Mary Magdalene has of Jesus just after his resurrection when she reportedly mistakes him for the gardener. In her gospel, Mary Magdalene tells the apostles of Jesus’ resurrection and goes on to describe her remarkable experience with him.
I saw the Master in a vision and I said to him, “Lord I see you now in a vision.” And he answered me, “You are blessed, Mary, since the sight of me does not disturb you. For where is the nous [the heart] lies the treasure.” Then I said to him: “Lord, when someone meets you in a Moment of vision, is it through the soul [psyche] that they see, or is it through the Spirit [Pneuma] ?”
The Teacher answered: “It is neither through the soul nor the spirit , but the nous between the two that sees the vision….”
The “nous” is the heart, or the “eye of the heart.” It’s our capacity to discern spiritual or vibrational essences. It’s the space between the infinite and the finite, between pure spirit and gross matter – and it is said to belong to Spirit, generated as it is by Spirit for communicating with the physical world and for conveying “images” for the manifestation of “analogues”– the manifest forms.
From Cynthia’s book:
Most of us, reared in the scientific objectivism of our times, tend to think of visions as “subjective.” They belong to the realm of the personal and interior and, while perhaps illuminating the workings of an individual psyche, do not conform to anything in external reality. These, in fact, were precisely the criticisms that began to be raised during the third and fourth centuries, when visionary revelation was rejected as an authentic mode of knowing within the church. But in the original wisdom anthropologies . . . visionary knowledge is not an “experience,” let alone a private or subjective one; it is “of an ontological reality entirely superior to mere possibility” It emanates from an actual realm, a realm that is in fact more subtle and endowed with real Being than our own. In fact, in the reversal of our usual sense of things, it is the place of origin from which what we usually refer to as “reality” is merely the shadow projected into space and time.
Many centuries later, when this implicit anthropology came to maturity in the work of some remarkable Near Eastern Islamic mystics, this realm would be given the title “the imaginal realm.” Imaginal does not mean “imaginary”—that is, fictitious or subjective. It means the realm in which the images—the eternal prototypes—reveal themselves in their full authenticity. Remember how, in dialogue I, Jesus introduced the notion of “image” as a kind of primordial template? The imaginal is the realm from which these images emanate. . . . “that in-between zone where spirits become embodied and bodies become spiritualized.”
The word “pneumaplasm” was coined by Lloyd Meeker (Uranda) eighty some years ago to represent this substance through which Spirit communicates with the material world. Uranda was the founder of the Attunement service now being offered by attunement practitioners the world over. I have incorporated sacred sound in my personal attunement service and have written a book about this sacred technology. I would like to share an excerpt from my book, Attunnement With Sacred Sound, from the section “Cellular Replication in a Musical Matrix of Light.”
“Image” and “Analogue” — “As Above so Below”
“From a mystical and metaphysical perspective, the Hermetic teaching ‘as above so below’ is restated by the great mystic Jesus who left a profound teaching himself with his disciples in a stream of dialogue that was recorded in both the Gospel of Mary Magdalene and the Gospel of Thomas, manuscripts that were discovered as early as 1896 (the Magdalene text) and as late as the mid twentieth century  when Nag Hammadi material was discovered. In both of these Gospels, Jesus speaks about an ‘Image.’
“In her powerfully compelling and provocative book, The Meaning of MARY MAGADALENE—Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity, Episcopal priest and author Cynthia Bourgeault shares teachings of the Master Jesus from The Gospel of Mary Magdalene that transgress lines of traditional orthodoxy. I will excerpt several passages from the fourth chapter of her book that are pertinent to this discussion, starting with a dialogue around ‘image’ and ‘analogue.’
Within the particular metaphysical stream that Jesus seems to be working in, image corresponds to that primordial template mentioned earlier—“the origin” of each created form. Very cautiously, you might label it an archetype. At first glance you may be tempted to transpose this teaching into Platonic categories and assume that Jesus is talking about the “ideal form” of a thing. But be cautious in doing so, for there is a distinctly different dynamism at work here. For Jesus, the “image” is not merely a static blueprint, a preexistent prototype that its earthly analogue mechanically reflects. Between image and analogue there is a dynamic reciprocity as they simultaneously articulate the same reality in two different realms. Image and analogue are in continuously creative tension receiving and fulfilling each other, and it is in the energy exchange that their indivisible wholeness is made manifest.
Images do not arise in this realm, however (their origin is several cosmoses more subtle), and trouble begins when this fundamental cosmic law is forgotten. . . .
“I like her use of the word ‘analogue’ here, which means similar in function but not in origin and structure, as it represents accurately the relationship between Man and his Creator, in whose image and likeness we are made in order to function as creators ourselves. In our energy and attunement work you might say that we seek to facilitate a clarifying, balancing and intensification of this ‘energy exchange’ between image and analogue with the intention that the oneness between them may be made manifest in the person’s experience of life, as well as in our own. . . .
“In ‘Dialogue One,’ a disciple asks Jesus about matter and whether it will ‘survive.'”[This inquisitiveness on the part of the disciple, taking place as this dialogue does in the wake of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, makes perfect sense. “Are you really here in the flesh or simply in a vision?” Or, more to the point, “Did the matter of your body live on after death?” the student asks.]
“Jesus answered: ‘All of nature with its forms and creatures exist together and are interwoven with each other. They will be resolved back, however, to their own proper origin, for the compositions of matter return to the original roots of their nature. Those who have ears, let them hear this.’
“Cynthia Bourgeault expands on this:
But by this . . . he does not mean they dissolve into their component atoms, quarks and/or humors. Instead, they return to an original template—or ‘image’— whose place of arising is in another realm.
“The dialogue suddenly turns into an inquiry about sin and its origin, into which Jesus offers a remarkably clarifying perspective.
Sin as such does not exist. You only bring it into manifestation when you act in ways that are adulterous in nature. It is for this reason that the Good has come among you pursuing its own essence within nature in order to reunite everything to its origin. This is also the reason for sickness and death, because you embrace what deceives you. Consider these matters, then, with your spiritual intellect. Attachment to matter gives birth to passion without an Image of itself because it is drawn from that which is contrary to its higher nature. The result is that confusion and disturbance resonates throughout one’s whole being. It is for this reason that I told you to find contentment at the level of the heart, and if you are discouraged, take heart in the presence of the Image of your true nature. Those with ears, let them hear this.
“A ‘Vertical Axis’
“Cynthia Bourgeault offers that ‘within his particular frame of reference, acting in ways that are ‘adulterous in nature’ will prove to have very specific meaning. It signifies a failure to stay aligned with origin; with that mysterious ‘root’ (or template) of one’s nature he has already alluded to, which, while arising beyond this realm, seeks its full expression here.” . . . [Jesus] quickly assures his students that this world is valuable and precious; indeed, this is the very reason the Good has come among them in the first place—“pursuing its own essence within nature . . . in order to reunite everything to its origin.’ There is important integrative work to be done here. But it all depends upon keeping a right alignment along what wisdom tradition typically refers to as the ‘vertical axis’: the invisible spiritual continuum that joins the realms together. Nearly sixteen centuries later, the German mystic Jacob Boehme would express this cosmological insight with poetic precision and beauty:
‘For you must realize that earth unfolds its properties and powers in union with Heaven aloft above us, and there is one Heart, one Being, one Will, one God, all in all.’
“The author then offers these words of truth and wisdom derived from Jesus’ teaching:
When the realms are in spontaneous resonance—’One Heart, one Being, one Will, one God, all in all’—the music of the spheres bursts forth. When they are not, disease and disharmony inevitably ensue. As he quickly points out (again, with a contemporary feeling to the teaching), ‘Confusion and disturbance resonate throughout one’s whole being,’ and sickness and death are the inevitable result.
“The heart realm is the ‘secret place’ in which we commune with God; the capacity for spiritual discernment and understanding. It is precisely this ‘vertical axis’ around which we must wrap our hearts in order to attune to the vibration of the Lord of Love, from whence all power to heal and uplift derives. I bring these excerpts into this writing for the profoundly clear light they shine on the core essence and purpose of attunement and energy work, as well as for the perspective and insight they offer into the dynamism at work between inner Reality and outer form—continually giving to and receiving from each other the spiritual energies that generate the pneumaplasmic substance that connects spirit with form and makes possible their manifest wholeness and oneness. I was deeply moved when I first read this chapter, as I was profoundly uplifted—and continue to be—reading and re-reading Cynthia’s book.”
The imaginal realm is precisely the realm that we, as healers and co-creators, must become intimate with in bringing down into the earth the true patterns of life which alone can restore order and harmony to our world. As we make visible the invisible Reality imaged for us in this heaven, our Earth is restored.
I will leave this consideration at that and continue the discussion in my next post, in which I will open up a consideration of the masculine and feminine energies at work in our human capacities and throughout the “creating universe,” as Walter Russell describes the world in which we live and have our being. Until then,
Be love. Be loved.
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