Imagination: The Gateway to the Sacred
In today's world, we have lost the connection to essential aspects of ourselves and the cosmic reality, but here's one exercise to begin awakening your intuitive senses.
The modern West prides itself in the pragmatism of science and rationalism. While we need the tools and knowledge that this realm produces, we have lost the knowledge, skills, and even the awareness of dimensions that we need even more. It is true that knowledge has at times been stifled in the past to serve religious belief and parameters, but the over-application of scientific knowledge has become as stifling as the edicts of any church or tribal superstition. If we believe that only what can be proven by science is real or true, we have returned the world to a flat, two-dimensional place, defined only quantitatively by various rulers and scales. But what about those soulful aspects of life that we crave, and many people experience, beyond the realm of material existence.
Despite mainstream (Newtonian) science's tendencies to disregard or disqualify the mysteries and vagaries of life, quantum studies have begun to suggest or even validate certain concepts taught through perennial philosophy and mysticism. For example, auras have been described for millennia in mythological writing and art, called the rainbow body, light body, subtle body, halos, and more. The West is beginning to wake up to the realization that there is more than can be explained in the world, as Shakespeare's Hamlet said to his friend, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
We will never penetrate all of the mysteries of creation, but we can develop the intuitive senses that we have lost through the intuitive censorship consequential to the agnostic posture of rationalism. Two concepts were universal to the pre-science mythologies: 1. There are three worlds--dimensions of reality (Upper, Lower, Middle) and 2. Humans have access to all of those domains. The mystics and shamans throughout time have spoken of a center channel by which we can move between the dimensions of reality. These worlds and the central channel, the axis mundi,have been represented by various images, such as a mountain, tree, poles, ladders, crosses, medicine wheels, holes in ceilings or floors, and more. Cosmic mandalas, such as Native American medicine wheels and the South American Chakana, symbolize various aspects of the cosmos, including the three worlds and the axis mundi by which we can access them.
The axis mundi is understood to be the central axis of the universe, but it exists inside each of us. We access this channel within ourselves--by way of our imagination--not necessarily fantasy. There are many traditions and techniques for gaining access to this gateway, meditation, trance work including breathwork and drumming circles, shamanic techniques including plant medicines, and more. But the critical element is letting the conscious mind quiet and opening to the intuitive sense--opening from a stance of belief, not disbelief.
Visualization exercise: Perhaps the best place to begin is to explore is by practicing visualization. Imagine you are floating down a river that sweep you underground into a magnificent inner world. This inner world has grassy banks beside the river on which you float. On one of the banks you see a temple. Walk over to the temple, find an entrance, and walk in. Look for someone in the temple, and when you find him/her/them, ask a question. Once you have communicated, lay back down to float on the river and feel the current reverse and sweep you back up to your ordinary world. Write about your experience in your journal.
At first, you may need to just practice feeling yourself in the river. However, try not to get caught up in actually "seeing" or "feeling" the place as if you were there, at first. Allow a vague sense of it to be enough at first if that is what comes. Sometimes we know things from the back of our head rather than with our eyes or the front of our head. That vague knowledge is valid truth too. As you write about your visions, they will usually become a bit more vivid, and believable. Also allow for whatever you see or experience to be true and good for you, even if it is unexpected.
While psychologists would argue that these places that our mystical imagination can take us are merely mental constructs, I would argue that they are dimensional realities that we can access. Mystics from across the globe and in various times have described many similar "places" and "spirits" that have been encountered during their journey work. There are too many similarities to believe we are each making up the same kinds of experiences despite different ages and cultures. Your temple will be both unique and universal. Our imaginal experiences are filtered through our uniqueness, but we will encounter archetypal energies that are transpersonal--beyond the mere imaginings of our minds. Yet, it is the imagination that opens us to our center connection to the mystical cosmos.