I am imagination.
I can see what the eyes cannot see.
I can hear what the ears cannot hear.
I can feel what the heart cannot feel.
Peter Nivio Zarlenga
There is a mysterious faculty that creates everything in our observable universe, and everything in our virtual, thought-created realms, personal and collective. That process is called Imagination. The ideas of Expanding Universe, the worlds of Relativistic Physics, Quantum and String Theory, etc. were experienced through Imagination and exist there along with all the mythology and religious ideas that we humans have created. These imaginal products develop and change in a non-material but perhaps a more powerful way than the “hard reality” that we think is outside us. I’m not talking about memory, which is an essential tool for Imagination.
The homespun humorist of my early days, Will Rogers, liked to say
“All I know, is what I read in the papers.”
I can paraphrase this as “all I know, is what I read in my imagination”. Of all the mysteries in my life, I am puzzled most by imagination.
Literally, “imagination” means the facility or process of creating images. The nerve endings, (rods and cones), on the retinas of my eyes are activated by various frequencies and intensities of light falling on them. These receptors then send electro/chemical signals through the nerves to the optic nerve, and then to the optical center in the rear of my brain. Similarly, information from the other senses flows to my brain. Presumably, my brain processes this information, matches it with information in memory, and interprets it according to what it knows about the things and events in the “outside world”. Somehow, Imagination comes in and presents to “me” an audio-visual-feeling show that seems to accurately represent what is going on in the “outside” world. This is a simplified account; a great deal of information is constantly gathered from all the senses, and much is filtered out, so that only the most relevant information gets to imagination, then to consciousness.
A digital scanner can identify colors, certain frequencies of light, and a computer can name these colors, describe them in terms of their value, hue, chroma, etc. and send digital information to a printer which can reproduce the colors on media. I can’t believe that the digital equipment can actually experience red light as red, green light as green, as I can. The results of my personal perception and information-processing systems are presented by imagination to me as very realistic representations of “outside reality”; so realistic, that I usually feel I am directly experiencing reality itself, as it is. But this person I think I am is only a mental entity created by imagination, based on the information processed by the brain. The brain is a cellular organ, locked in a lightless, soundless box, a brain without receptors of its own, so it has no feeling, and knows no sound or light. All it knows is what it reads in the stream of information coming into it from the rest of the nervous system. Can the brain experience the products of Imagination without a secondary set of eyes, ears, and feelings of its own? And, how can that which exists in a lightless, soundless, state recognize light and color and sound without having known them in the past?
For around thirty years, I have had singing sounds going continuously in my head. When I pay full attention to them, I am aware that there are many sounds with different pitches that start and stop at different times. The effect is very similar to the sound of cicadas (erroneously called locusts). In Indiana, we called them “katydids”, and I enjoyed hearing them singing on a warm summer night. Once in a while, a louder tone starts abruptly, and then slowly fades into the background. These are clear sine-wave vibrations, and I can pick out notes on the piano to identify them.
This phenomenon is called ”tinnitus” by the medical profession, and thought to be the result of damage to the auditory nerves. An ancient Chinese book on the ten stages to enlightenment says that at one of the later stages, the sound of cicadas is heard. I have no problem with this phenomenon; I am able to ignore it most of the time, and, surprisingly, I can hear outside sounds of similar frequencies that are much fainter!
Sometimes, when a loud tone pops up, I pretend that I am receiving telemetry, which is radio frequency coded information, such as the signals to and from unmanned spacecraft. I say, out loud, (just for fun), “yes? What do you want? I’m listening.” Perhaps I am a biological robot, being controlled by some intelligence “out of this world”. Hmmmm!
But, let’s look closely at the way we see… An unmanned robot is exploring the surface of Mars. Periodically, it beams coded information back to Earth that contains data for images of the red planet. The telemetry transmission is received by large radio telescopes, and fed into computers. The computers analyze the data, and convert the information into a form that is displayed on monitor screens. Then, an image forms on the monitor that represents what the cameras on the robot took in. A picture of Mars’ landscape. Not so fast! Looking closely at the monitor screen, we see tiny dots of luminous color; red, green, and blue. Not even white dots! The picture we see is created by our imagination. The robot’s camera didn’t see the landscape. Neither did the computer, or the monitor. Actually, there was no picture. Only data. Information.
The light from the monitor screen falls on the retinas of the eyes. The rods and cones on the retinas send coded information through the nerves to the brain, which processes the information. There is no picture, until a human consciousness receives the phenomena through the mysterious facility called imagination. Our eyes cannot see the image. Our brain cannot see. Our human body works very much like a robot machine that sends and receives information to an intelligence that is “out of this world”.
What the world outside our bodies actually is, is a matrix of vibrating force fields which our nervous systems read as information. In-form-ation; our imagination creates the forms we experience. Without consciousness and its imagination, the universe is totally dark and soundless. No forms, no things. Light and sound are experiences of consciousness.
“And the earth was without form, and void: and darkness was upon the face of the waters…” Genesis, I:2 King James edition, Old Testament.