The Imaginal Within The Cosmos: Natural Jesus (1): The Imaginal Realm
Though this study is ostensibly about the "Historical Jesus," it readily can be viewed more universally as a study of the relationship between the Numinous and Everyman via the Imaginal Realm.
To begin, I must note that I have spent years evolving my own general spirituality mainly via "natural theology," which in nutshell language means for me: a sacramental approach that interprets the natural world as the primary symbolic disclosure of God. So being a creature of habit, there's no doubt I'll be delving into natural theology--but surely in a new way, connecting such with exploratory approaches towards viewing the Historical Jesus from a new perspective.
There are few original thinkers in the world, and I'm not one of them. I'm a research scholar, basically drawing upon the thinking of those who have come before me. Upon their work and my own considerations, I draw my conclusions. Now one such thinker I highly regard is David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk and Zen Master.
Br. David considers the Historical Jesus to have been a "mystic." He believes that "Jesus had a particularly intimate, in some respect new experience of communion with Ultimate Reality." And by his life and teaching, Jesus conveyed this "mystic closeness to God." [Fritjof Capra & David Steindl-Rast, BELONGING TO THE UNIVERSE, Harper, 1991, p. 56.]
Steindl-Rast ponders, too, about Jesus' talk of the "Kingdom, in that the "Kingdom of God is our belonging to this great cosmic reality." [Ibid, p. 58.]
Most often we interpret this as building the City of God here on this earth, just as the Stoics earlier talked of building the City of Zeus. It's an ideal, an aspiration that seems almost wired into the human mind. And, yes, Jesus does talk of the Kingdom of God being among us:
°"You cannot tell by observations when the kingdom of God comes. There will be no saying, 'Look, here it is!' or 'there it is!'; for in fact the kingdom of God is among you." [Luke 17: 20-21]
But, also, in the Gospels Jesus expressly says that his Kingdom is *not* of this world. This is suggestive of a "source" Kingdom to which Jesus associated. To quote:
°Perhaps he will kill himself: is that what he means when he says, "Where I am going you cannot come."? So Jesus continued, "You belong to this world below, I to the world above. Your home is in this world, mine is not." [John 8: 22-23]
°Said Pilate. "Your own nation and their chief priests have brought you before me. What have you done?" Jesus replied, "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If it did, my followers would be fighting to save me from arrest by the Jews. My kingly authority comes from elsewhere." [John 18: 35-37]
°Full authority in heaven and on earth has been committed to me. [Matthew 28: 18]
°So after talking with them the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven, and he took his seat at the right hand of God... [Mark 16: 19]
Now wherever might this Kingdom be? Ancient Christians called it "Heaven." And there have ever since been arguments as to whether Heaven exists. Well, coming out of odd corners--such as from the psychological and physical sciences--there's some slowly accruing thinking about this Kingdom. These scientists don't call it such, and they surely don't call it Heaven--rather they refer to this special "source" place as the *Imaginal Realm.*
Psychologists, mythologists, and religious scholars have long studied a third world--a kingdom that seems "dependent neither on sensory perception nor on ordinary cognition (including fantasy)." This special third world, some psychologists believe, can be "apprehended in what we would today call certain altered states of consciousness that destabilize ordinary perceptual modalities and cognitive systems." [Kenneth Ring, "Shamanic Initiation, Imaginal Worlds, and Light after Death," WHAT SURVIVES? (Gary Doore, ed.), Tarcher, Inc., 1990, p. 210.]
Psychologists have studied these special experiential revelations ranging from prayer and the Big Dreamer, to Shamanic traveling, to peak experiences, to that level which is called "cosmic consciousness." Beyond this, these scientists have examined LSD experiments, special art representations, schizophrenic episodes, and near-death experiences within the context of the Imaginal Realm.
In the past, these special experiential revelations were simply passed off as "imaginary" and most often ignored. But today there are now scientific and scholarly voices re-considering these mystical accounts of a special realm, a special kingdom. Modern thinkers are beginning to ponder the "third realm--the realm of the imagination sui generis, not as something unreal, but as something [possibly] self-existent, the cumulative product product of imaginative thought itself." [Ibid, p. 209.]
In 1972 Henri Corbin coined this potentially real special "somewhere" as the Imaginal Realm as a way to describe it. Corbin, a noted Islamic scholar, one who studied mystical and especially visionary experience, wrote his *opinion*:
"It must be understood that the world into which these [visionaries] probed is perfectly *real.* Its reality is more irrefutable and more coherent than that of the empirical world, where *reality* is perceived by the senses...This world is hidden behind the very act of sense perception and has to be sought underneath its apparent objective certainty...[This is] a world possessing extension and dimension, figures and colors; but these features cannot be perceived by the senses in the same manner as if they were properties of physical bodies. No, these dimensions, figures, and colors are the object of imaginative perception, or of the 'psychospiritual senses." [Ibid, p. 210.]
For the remainder of this study I would like to examine how the Historical Jesus might have communed with Ultimate Reality via this special subjective world that Frontier (or Discovery) scientists call the Imaginal Realm.
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