I like the quote about the Jungian analyst and follower of Eastern religion Toni Sussman who was known to say: ‘Go home and meditate on the difference between the Important and the Essential’. Clearly reason is important but I think imagination is essential.
It seems that most of the current funding and interest is in counselling and therapy that focuses only on reason – take CBT as an example. This seems the perfect therapy for our current age of superficiality, economic utilitarianism and materialism. What could be better than one to a maximum of six sessions to get you back to work – out of your depression – blocking all those irrational anxieties and functioning once again in what is called reality. Obviously people find it helpful and it certainly works (up to a point) and I’m certainly not romanticising mental distress in any way, however, often (even after CBT) the imagination in terms of inner fantasies can still overpower reason. The way to disentangle what is going on in the imagination which is fuelled by the unconscious usually needs more than six sessions and a simple reworking of conscious thought.
Because of course the imagination can help us or hinder us. Often the anticipation of something is much more worrying than when it is actually happening. Much of our fear is derived from early experiences laid down in impressionable times that may be inaccessible to our conscious mind until recovered in therapy. Then our imagination can be tempered by reason and logic as we talk it through, in other words there can be a balance. Sometimes the overly reasonable means that life is purely one-dimensional and the imagination is banished as silly, irrational or childlike. For it is through our imagination as a creative force that we can move out of the restricted limited view of the world and open ourselves to a world of faith:
And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man.
William Wordsworth from ‘Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey.’
This is where depth psychotherapy can help by opening us up to our irrationality and what lies below the surface and again to allow our imagination to roam freely through our experiences. To believe in God we need to allow our imagination to be free and to include what may frighten us as well as what may bring us joy because it is through imagination and allowing a sense of presence that we can establish our faith and relationship with God.
I very much like the section of the Upanishad quoted by Shirley du Boulay at the start of her biography of Bede Griffiths Beyond the Darkness. It was apparently a favourite scripture of Father Bede:
I know that Great Person
of the brightness of the Sun
beyond the darkness.
Only by knowing him
one goes beyond death.
There is no other way to go.