Is imagination capable of providing a meaningful ritual and narrative for each and every human life?—or, on the other hand, does every serious, thinking individual eventually evaluate imagination as fantasy and superstition? The former is imagination as myth and ritual fundamental to a society; the latter is imagination as folly, often dangerous folly.
Do we not “mentally perceive” the objective events of our lives with a continuing set of evolving mental representations? The mental representations of objective phenomena, though often imprecise, are automatically classified by the mind as physical reality. This reality is found to obey physical laws, as if—in a metaphorical sense—actual physical phenomena were constrained to exist upon a “physical surface” where science and its measurements and its mathematics reign supreme, unhindered and unchallenged by metaphysics which has been consigned by science to other dimensions—dimensions where subjective and spiritual concepts are allowed. Imagination, using this metaphor, may exist away from the “physical surface” of objective reality; that is, imagination is not constrained to the “physical surface” but free to exist and to play in other dimensions of mental activity. If freedom exists for us at all, does it not exist first and foremost in the human imagination?
Of course, our human subconscious already has filtered and conditioned the output of our senses before we are consciously aware of them. Do you believe that each of us has a double, as the ancients believed their shadow to be?—Another self, on the other side of the mirror of the mind with which we contemplate ourselves. Somehow, deep within us, complex sets of excited neurons and brain chemistry orders our initial perceptions before they are presented to the conscious self. These become mental representations that impact us at the threshold of our conscious mind with intuitive conceptions of space and time. Then, out of a driving and instinctual curiosity, our conscious intellect operates on these mental representations, continuously seeking causes and effects, subjects and objects. Our conscious intellect then relates these mental representations to stored memory in a continuously updated fashion that we conventionally label “thinking.” Again we may ask: What has imagination, if anything, to do with this?—That is, if imagination is associated with the uniquely human faculty of being able to free our mental selves from the metaphorical surface of objective reality, of what use is it in a real life that takes place only on that physical surface?
Is this not the fundamental problem of modern life?—To find meaning in a life now confined to objective reality?—To find meaning in a life haunted by guaranteed annihilation? Can Imagination Alone Provide a Compelling Reason to Live?