I’ve been looking into old faery lore lately. Not the sanitised Victorian version of miniature winged beauties, but at the old tales of strange encounters, customs that go back beyond memory, time lost in the faery realm and the darker aspects of the hidden folk. At the instigation of my writing partner, I watched a documentary and, amongst a few other ideas, one in particular got me thinking. The suggestion was that if faeries do not have a concrete and objective reality of their own in our world, but do exist for us in the realms of imagination, perhaps imagination itself is a state of being we do not fully understand, bridging the gap between our usual vision of reality and unreality in a way that has a validity of its own. As a concept, and after years of working with magical systems, that works for me.
In esoteric terms, the realm of imagination is a realm of causation…the place where abstract ideas take on the substance of proto-reality, one step removed from concrete materialisation. You could consider a can opener. A need arises for some method of opening a can, need fuels that abstract thought, but that won’t get the beans on the toast. Imagination is what creates the design for the tool that will. You see it as a reality, a working gadget, in your own mind, long before it becomes a prototype or opens a can. You could call imagination the matrix of reality and that would not be very far away from some of the recent postulations of scientific thought.
I couldn’t help thinking about the Disney version of Pinocchio and how much he wanted to be a real boy. The wooden puppet and his externalised ‘conscience’ sought the help of a faery and it was she who would eventually be the catalyst for his transformation from wood to flesh. Only the catalyst, not the cause… the puppet’s own actions make him real. I was wondering how closely that applies to people. Many of us are Ugly Ducklings, Cinderellas or Sleeping Beauties for much of our lives.
Ugly Ducklings feel sidelined, shunned by the ‘in’ crowd, left out in the cold because we are not ‘like them’. It is untrue… but it may as well be, because that is what we feel and we become self-fulfilling prophecies of our own isolation. We may withdraw…or we may become the victim of our own desire to please and to ‘fit’… unless, by some leap of inner vision, we can finally see ourselves for the Swans we have always been.
The Cinderellas are not so different. We are not good enough… we are lesser, unworthy in our own eyes and will do anything to feel ‘good enough’. It takes a catalyst, the ‘fairy godmother’ or a critical loss perhaps, to reveal our true being. Sometimes it just needs someone to see beyond our dark imaginings and hold up the magic mirror of their own being in which we can see, like Snow White, that we are ‘fairest of them all’. And always were.
Sleeping Beauties wait for life to wake us, never reaching true maturity until someone or something gives us that ‘kiss of true love’ that shows us we were always valued and able to love.
The archetypes portrayed by our fairy tales may have happy endings… at least according to their modern versions; many of the older tales have darker endings but they all reflect aspects of the human condition. I am fairly certain we could all find one where the essence of the tale fits our outlook, from the child lost in the wood, to the imprisoned beauty or the princess who kisses a frog. We are living in fairytales… and many of them are dark.
It is very easy to see how imagination is at the root of reality when you look at the human mind. Every emotion is rooted in imagination and we create our reality according to our emotions. We read a book and, if it engages our imagination, laugh and cry with its characters. We fear the dentist because we anticipate pain, imagining the sound of the drill and the sharpness of the needle. We finally meet a pair of eyes and smile… we may even say hello… but before we do so we have already imagined that first touch and the shiver of romance… and then we are notoriously insecure in those first throes of romance because we imagine the ‘what ifs’ and potential loss.
What we imagine is real for us within its own realm. That applies equally to the ‘Christmas morning’ moments that are as delightful as any Victorian faery and to those moments where our inner vision leads us down a darker path.
We tend to think of imagination as part of a creative process, assuming that some, like writers, artists and musicians, are more gifted in that area than others. That is a false concept; they may have a particular facility for expressing that process as tangible creations, but the imagination itself is shared and accessed by all of us. Every time we think, we are engaging in a creative process… and how often are we not thinking? In the Silent Eye, the active imagination plays a large part in the work we do, drawing upon its depth and potential in order to create change. We are not alone in recognising the power of imagination… there are countless self-help systems out there on varying methods of positive thinking, and what is that except engaging the creative imagination to shape reality by choosing to believe in something not yet real in order to make it real?
Some things have to be believed
Before they can be seen…
In the documentary, it was suggested that faeries cannot be seen with the eyes, but only with the heart. That is true of people too… and equally true of ourselves. Unless we believe in ourselves, we will never become ourselves. Imagination may be the matrix of reality, but I wonder if it is also an expression of the feeling mind and the thinking heart. A heart that cannot think falls into sentimentality, a mind that cannot feel risks being frozen by its own logic. Imagination may belong to a different level of our being and, properly embraced, may open the doors to a treasure-house, where, if we can believe in the possibilities we find there, we can balance all the aspects of our selves and find the way to that fabled happily-ever-after.