Theologian and sociologist Gregory Baum has written that classical theology “supposed that faith resides in the intelligence. It may be more realistic and ultimately more profound to say that faith resides in the imagination.” If this is so, then spiritual education should nurture the imagination.
M. C. Richards, who along with many other artists, taught art as meditation in our creation spirituality programs for years, would agree with Baum. She testifies:
I would place the development of imagination among the primary goals of education. Imagination is the ability to picture in the mind what is not present to the sense.
In creativity, we do not always have in mind exactly what the future can bring.
Imagination in the craftsperson works in various ways. There is much to ponder on here. She does not always build toward a prior vision. Often images come in the process of working. The material, his hands—together they beget.
Imagination and problem solving often come in the process of bringing differences of ideas and people together. That is one reason why diversity is so important.
Richards links imagination with prophetic consciousness and action when she talks of “Moral Imagination:”
We are not always able to feel the love we would like to feel. But we may behave imaginatively—envisioning and eventually creating what is not yet present. This is what I call Moral Imagination.
Moral imagination begins the process of birthing the justice that does not yet exist. It can move us from injustice to justice by imagining a new future. Imagination is the special gift of the prophet—compassion and imagination go together.
From the child’s ability to imagine, grows as well the adult’s capacity for compassion: the ability to picture the sufferings of others, to identify. In one’s citizenship, or the art of politics, it is part of one’s skill to imagine other ways of living than one’s own.
Imagination presumes union with, not flight from, matter and sensuality. It is the transformation, in their metaphysical vibrancy, and in the life they lead through the senses . . . the long course of the fire, expectations fulfilled and the surprises, imagination already stirring toward the next form, the broken shards, the ground-up slabs. *
Surprises abound. Surprises are possible.
Imagination is to the artist what wind is to sailing a boat. A necessary ingredient whereby spirit works. Injustice gets recycled. Justice and compassion can happen. Imagination says so.
- * From M. C. Richards, Centering: In Pottery, Poetry, and the Person, pp.14f., 92, 115, 143.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Wrestling with the Prophets, pp. 232-238.
See also Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet.
And Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE
Banner Image: Examples of hand positions used during wheel-throwing. The images were extracted from a video recording of an Indian Multani potter throwing a 2.25 kg sphere. Photos by nora Gandon, Reinoud J. Bootsma, John A. Endler, Leore Grosman. Wikimedia Commons.
Queries for Contemplation
Do you agree that imagining other ways of living than one’s own, is integral to compassion and justice and bringing about a future that works for all?
Wrestling with the Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life
In one of his foundational works, Fox engages with some of history’s greatest mystics, philosophers, and prophets in profound and hard-hitting essays on such varied topics as Eco-Spirituality, AIDS, homosexuality, spiritual feminism, environmental revolution, Native American spirituality, Christian mysticism, Art and Spirituality, Art as Meditation, Interfaith or Deep Ecumenism and more.
Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet
Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow. Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Living in Sin
A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice
In A Spirituality Named Compassion, Matthew Fox delivers a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of compassion. Establishing a spirituality for the future that promises personal, social, and global healing, Fox marries mysticism with social justice, leading the way toward a gentler and more ecological spirituality and an acceptance of our interdependence which is the substratum of all compassionate activity.
“Well worth our deepest consideration…Puts compassion into its proper focus after centuries of neglect.” –The Catholic Register