On the one hand, I had some flower shots left over from the Draper ride the other day. On the other hand, I took a road ride today up near Jones and saw some more, plus a few scenery shots. Again, there will be some chatter to go along with it.
What separates your own fantasies from a subtle impression from the Holy Spirit? Why, it’s the humility and wonder, of course. Visions of truth coming down into our minds from the heart will activate the same part of the brain as your imagination. The difficulty is your mind has a bunch of crap that tends to filter such impressions and limit what you can make of such visions. Once you get used to it, you’ll be more free to see what the Spirit wanted you to see.
We can take a cue from Islam in referring to this as the “imaginal realm” (approximate translation from Arabic). It’s as good a term as any, especially since it activates the same part of the brain as more common imagination. Nobody can do this for you, but you can pray about it and ask God to guide you so that you can recognize the difference between your self-willed wishful thinking and a moral revelation.
We borrow this from the Muslims because Western Civilization is so hostile to mysticism in the first place. We’ve allowed ourselves to be robbed of biblical mysticism, so we take our cues where we can find them. The problem, of course, is filtering out the legacy of nonsense that attaches to the term. In a desperate search for any good answer at all, previous scholars who studied the concept of mysticism and the imaginal realm often lacked a solid biblical foundation for discerning how God actually does business with His children.
Take a cue from the alfalfa image here on the left. It is grown from tiny seeds that, when spread, tend to drift on the wind. They’ll take root anywhere along the road where mowing is infrequent, where this sample was found. Mysticism itself can sprout all over the place, but there’s not much use for it growing where you can’t get a good harvest. Our covenant here at Radix Fidem starts from Scripture, but it’s Scripture as written by Hebrew mystical people, or those who learned it from them. Our mysticism is not as everyone else’s mysticism.
Once you get used to how it works, you may start seeing visions at the oddest times and places. You’ll have to learn to make sense of what it is supposed to tell you, in the sense that you’ll have to unlearn the wild self-centered imagination stuff.
It comes easier to some than to others. The problem is that our society offers few opportunities to handle it with the seriousness it deserves. This is why we wind up with so much wasted energy in chasing mere self-indulgent fantasy entertainment. It’s also why so many people are treated as nutty because they choose to be familiar with the imaginal realm. A great deal of what passes for mental illness is just folks who aren’t allowed to use their gifts, and the urgency of it all drives them nuts, so to speak. I take the line of Dr. Thomas Szasz: There is no such thing as “mental illness,” only maladaptive moral choices. Some of those choices are forced upon us a by a hostile society.
That kind of frustration results in all sorts of maladaptive behavior. It’s the society that is sick more than the other way around. People shouldn’t be pressured to adapt to a broken society. After all, it’s the Bible that insists humans are fallen by default, and in need of redemption from slavery to the Devil. People are labeled “crazy” because they have all this bubbling sense of drive to escape the chains everyone else takes for granted. So the victims are tormented by demons who capitalize on the confusion it causes. A great deal of demon “possession” comes from that very conflict.
In less tortured souls, it shows up as maladaptive reflexes. Some part of you knows a particular habit or reflex is inappropriate, but you keep doing it without thinking. You lack the power to manage it because you live in a broken and neurotic world. It’s not because you are messed up inherently, but in a messed up environment. It won’t excuse you from being lazy about it, but if you really do want to get it right and simply can’t, try some contemplative prayer. Take the time to just sit in a calm place where Creation speaks to you more loudly and hear the non-condemning celebration of life. That heals all kinds of things.
Learn to laugh at yourself when there is no apparent way to change something. Don’t take yourself too seriously; don’t get distraught because there are things you can’t control. If God made you a thistle, then blossom and be sharp, like those on the right. You aren’t supposed to control everything, so stop condemning yourself. Some elements of life in this broke world are supposed to suck. Learn and adapt to the collection of things God hasn’t placed in your hands.
Get the focus off yourself in that sense. It’s okay to focus on your need for penitence and humility. That’s a symptom of the Holy Spirit’s presence. But focus on God’s glory and His divine moral character in Creation, and that includes you. We are a part of Creation, and we need to embrace that.