Psychological dictionaries and schools of all orientations agree that reality is of two kinds. First, the word means the totality of existing material objects or the sum of conditions of the external world. Reality is public, objective, social, and usually physical. Second, there is a psychic reality, not extended in space, the realm of private experience that is interior, wishful, imaginational. Having divided psychic reality from hard or external reality, psychology elaborates various theories to connect the two orders together, since the division is worrisome, indeed. It means that psychic reality is conceived to be neither public, objective, nor physical, while external reality, the sum of existing material objects and conditions, is conceived to be utterly devoid of soul. As the soul is without world, so the world is without soul.1
In the cultural milieu in which we dwell, the notion of reality does not contain what we understand as imaginal reality. We know it is real. We live it daily, and we daily witness the results of its denial. Many times in the past twenty years or so, we hear reports of mass shootings; someone with a gun is spraying bullets inside a school, a theater, a Navy facility, a university, etc. Some of these institutions form the very bedrock of our society. Sadly, these are usually some of the very institutions that have denied reality to any sort of inner life. The perpetrator is usually a product of said institution, has spent time there learning, working, being entertained, or what have you. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying the institution had it coming because they wronged the perpetrator in some way. No, the victims by no means deserved to die. I am saying that our culture is suffering because of our denial of the reality of the soul.
Many of our so-called experts and leaders assert that the world is composed only of matter and that its secrets must bow before the altar of Reason. I suspect much of this has to do with money, as most things do in our world. Scientists, especially, are pressured to conform to prevalent views, which support the capitalistic structure upon which society is built. Famed physicist, Stephen Hawking, in reply to a questioning onlooker concerning his view of God and the afterlife, makes this statement:
It’s theoretically possible to copy a brain on to a computer to provide a form of life after death. However, this is way beyond our present capabilities. I think the afterlife is a fairy tale for people who are afraid of the dark (Working With Stephen Hawking Is Never Dull, The Guardian, September 19, 2013).
I suppose when one reaches the pinnacle of the scientific world, one is therefore qualified to, first, assume that a mythological account, labeled by Hawking in the derogatory form, “fairy tale,” is devoid of any value or truth, and, second, to cross disciplines to make a theological pronouncement concerning God and the afterlife. The hubris is astounding! It is amazing how so-called intelligent people in our culture can, so casually and flippantly, deny imaginal reality. Hawking’s assertion about being afraid of the dark says much, I think, about his own spiritual predicament. I dare ask, has this man ever experienced his own soul?
Here is a man who has accepted materialism, lock, stock, and barrel. It is a perfect example of someone who has decided that the world consists of hard, cold matter and nothing else. Thus, our world is enslaved by the disciples of scientism. I attribute many of the problems in our society, especially in America and the UK, to this kind of mindset.
I wonder what William Blake would have said about Hawking’s opinions? The famed scientist, until 2009, sat as Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, England, the position once held by Isaac Newton. Newton was a closet alchemist, unbeknownst to Blake. The poet had strong opinions about Newton, summed up in the following famous quote,
May God us keep
From Single vision & Newton’s sleep!
Rather, may God keep us from lack of vision & Hawking’s sleep (apologies to Blake)! Hawking’s single-vision, as well as that of most of the scientific world, is just as damaging in our age. Science is one thing, scientism another. Science is wonderful. It has given mankind remarkable abilities and knowledge. But that does not qualify it to make pronouncements on something it cannot ascertain using the scientific method. Let it stick to making billions of dollars for corporations, which is what it is best at.
So, how do we, as the defenders of soul and its beauties, convince people like Hawking that there is more to life than cold logic and rationality? It seems the easiest thing in the world, to me, to recognize the soul behind a beautiful piece of music, poetry, or anything else that requires imaginal thinking. But for someone who has spent decades being hardened by soulless experimentation and metallic reasoning without witnessing the beautiful Soul of the World it will be difficult, if not impossible, to change their minds.
We need to find a way back to a worldview that recognizes the reality of the mundus imaginalis. Our culture will continue to decline into chaos and violence until we do. We don’t need to become religious fanatics to accept the beautiful vision of the existence of the inner world. It’s as close as a dream in the imagination, or a vision of one’s infinite, ever-expanding inner universe.
I don’t have all the answers. I must simply follow my daimonic urges to write what I feel is important for our day, and to live my life with the highest appreciation for the soul-stirrings that reverberate through me.
Hillman, James. The Thought of the Heart and the Soul of the World. Putnam, CT: Spring, 1992.
- Hillman, 95 ↩
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