Clearly, if we wish to have an intimate relationship with God, then we must not place artificial limits on how he may approach us. God created us – body, soul, mind, emotions, will, and spirit. Our imagination and creativity were given to us by him, just as much as our intellect. The same goes for our language and behaviour. Things which would be considered shocking in public may be perfectly normal between husband and wife in private. It is not always about what is right and what is wrong, but about what is appropriate in given circumstances.
Understanding this, then, how do we begin this journey to intimacy?
Just as it is improper for certain sexual activity to take place between anyone except a man and a woman within a marriage covenant, so too, if we wish to be intimate with God, we need to ‘marry’ him. By this I mean we must enter into the covenant of salvation through Jesus. This might seem self evident, but many try to avoid this step.
Of course, if a man and woman marry, and from then on they ignore each other or take one another for granted, the marriage fails. The marriage ceremony begins the relationship, but it is what happens from then on that either makes or breaks the marriage – that builds the relationship. With God, first comes justification, which sets our mind at rest regarding our eternal destiny. Next comes the process of sanctification, which continues for all of life. Sanctification is the transforming of the believer into a fully functioning spiritual being, able to take his or her full place in the Kingdom of Jesus.
With our modern emphasis on service, discipleship, and achieving God’s ‘purposes’ for us, such as witnessing and evangelism, we have missed the point. The purpose of our life as believers is not primarily service, but friendship and partnership with God. If God wanted servants he would have stopped at the creation of the angels. No, he wants lovers, not workers. The work is for our benefit, not his.
If we have so often got this wrong, then should we be surprised if the true way to intimacy is also not what we are used to?
A general definition of imagination is “the innate ability and process to invent partial or complete personal realms within the mind from elements derived from sense perceptions of the shared world.” (Wikipedia) A psychologist would use it more technically for the process of reviving in the mind percepts of objects formerly given in sense perception, alternatively called ‘imaging’ or ‘imagery’ Imagined images are seen with the ‘mind’s eye’.
It is important to be able to form in the mind new images which have not been previously experienced, or at least only partially or in different combinations. For example, the ability to imagine one’s self in another person’s place is very important to social relations and understanding. Also, progress in scientific research is due largely to provisional explanations which are constructed by imagination, but such hypotheses must be framed in relation to previously ascertained facts and in accordance with the principles of the particular science.
Imagination is different from belief because what is personally invented by the mind does not necessarily impact the course of action taken in the shared world, while beliefs are part of what one holds as truths about both the shared and personal worlds. For example one can imagine oneself a millionaire without having any money, but you won’t go out and buy a yacht unless you also believe you are rich. The distinction between imagination and belief depends on religion, tradition, and culture.
Our experience of the world is an interpretation of data apparently arriving from the senses, so it is perceived as more real than most thoughts and imaginings, but this difference is only one of degree. It can be altered by changes to brain chemistry, hypnosis, meditation, hallucinogenic drugs, and electricity applied directly to the brain.
The difference between imagined and perceived real can be imperceptible, as in some psychoses. One can imagination, and then feel, pleasure and pain. A vivid imagination taking an imagined painful future too seriously can produce crippling fear, and even produce symptoms of real illness.
Philosophers speak of two existing perceptions combining within the mind to produce a resultant third perception, its synthesis. Sometimes a fourth perception, called the antithesis, which at that point only exists as part of the imagination, can often become the inspiration for a new invention or technique. This is an example of imagination preceding reality.
Why are imagination, belief and reality so closely related? Let’s look at a definition of imagery.
Imagery is any literary reference to the five senses (sight, touch, smell, hearing, and taste). Essentially, imagery is any words that create a picture in your head. Such images can be created by using figures of speech such as similes, metaphors, personification, and assonance. Imagery helps the reader picture what is going on.
Imagery is also the term used to refer to the creation (or re-creation) of any experience in the mind – auditory, visual, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, kinesthetic, organic. … When thinking about a previous or upcoming event, people commonly use imagery. For example, one may ask, “What color are your living room walls?” The answer to this question is commonly retrieved by using imagery (i.e., by a person mentally “seeing” one’s living room walls). (Wikipedia)
Imagery does not have a unified biological basis in the brain, but is a collection of different functions situated in various parts of the cerebral hemispheres. Imagery can be based on what has not been experienced, in which case it ‘fills in the gaps’ in one’s mind. For example, a child in a dark room can imagine a monster coming out of nowhere to attack them, resulting in a nightmare. Novelists use imagery to help the reader become absorbed in the story by ‘seeing’ what is in the author’s mind.
Imagery is used equally to ‘see’ things that do not exist and to recall things that do. The mechanisms used are the same. Surely, the reason for this is that God intended us to be able to see and experience more than just the physical world around us. If we are to connect with the spiritual world, and in particular with God, then imagery is the way it will happen.
“Let us now go back to our question of the nature of the faculty the human mind would need to support spirit to spirit communication and to provide a spirit/mind/brain interface. From the perspective of a person receiving such a communication, the “message” would simply appear in the mind as a thought, picture, memory or emotion, or by the impression of a sound, smell or physical sensation as the body responds to the information.”
“Similarly, transmission would occur by simply thinking, visualizing, feeling, etcetera, the content to be communicated. Interestingly, visualization has become a popular technique among some New Age and humanist groups in the attempt to try to change reality. Such use and abuse of visualization is something else I will write more about later, but suffice it to say that even in its misuse the principles remain the same, only the motive or the intended recipient has changed.”
“So, the human imagination provides all of the faculties that are needed for spirit to spirit communication, and I am convinced that this is an important function of the imagination, perhaps even its primary purpose. Yes, it is the faculty by which we create original ideas, but that is not surprising if creativity is actually a function of the human spirit, not the mind alone.”
“If humans are created in the image of God, who is infinitely creative (in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth with a word), and given that God, by definition, is a Spirit, then it surely follows that spirits create!”
“In one sense, spirit to spirit communication could be considered as a creative process, whereby one spiritual being creates a “message” directly in the imagination of another spiritual being.”
“Those of us who believe we have heard God’s voice, who have prophesied, seen a vision or ‘picture’, or received words of knowledge or wisdom, know that it just appears in the mind out of nowhere, and it takes experience to discern that we did not just imagine it or ‘make it up’.”
“So, when someone says, ‘You didn’t really hear God (or see an angel or demon, or have a vision), you just imagined it,’ then they are partly right. You did imagine it, but that does not mean it didn’t really happen. It is extremely difficult for someone steeped in a tradition of intellectualism to grasp the possibility that the mind is not supreme.”
“Given all of the above, we can see how important it is to develop and nurture our imaginative and creative abilities. Is it any wonder that children, until they become burdened with the knowledge and responsibilities of adult life, are so much more spiritually in tune with God and creation. This is especially so if they have not yet been told that they should put aside their childish fantasies and ‘grow up’.”