Tuesday, January 14, 2020

On conversations with God

If I tell you that I have conversations with God, is what I am describing just my imagination?

Well, first let us consider the difference between the imaginary and the imagination. The imaginary exists only within the imagination. But the imagination is not restricted to the imaginary. The imagination is the faculty by which we also experience those things which we can only experience indirectly. Democracy would be an example, as would love, and God. None of these things exist, if our understanding of existing is restricted to that which can be seen, touched, measured by direct means — though all of these things are made manifest in and impact upon the material world.

Then, let us also note that the imagination is not simply my unruly id breaking out against, or my super-ego berating, my ego. The imagination is made up of past, present, and possible futures; and shaped communally. It concerns personhood — that we only exist, and only experience, in relation to others — and is the faculty by which we are able to relate to those who are not directly present with us but with whom we participate in a web of relationship: whether my daughter, who has returned to university; my grandparents, who are no longer alive; or God, with whom I sit and converse. My relationship with God, made possible by means of the imagination, is shaped by a particular history of a community; and changes over time, through unfolding episodes of continuity and change, as does any relationship between persons.

And so my conversations with God are neither ‘just’ my imagination, nor just ‘my’ imagination. But they are, indeed, of the imagination. Wonderful gift that it is.

You can, of course, still believe that God is my imaginary friend; mine and that of billions of others. But the fact that something can only be experienced indirectly, through the imagination, does not inevitably mean that it is imaginary. At least have the imagination to see that.

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