Living in a World of Our Own Imagining

Because we are made in the image of God, we have great internal powers, and here we want to focus on our power of imagination. None of us live in an “objective” world where we can, by our senses and reason, comprehend our surroundings and make absolute sense out of it. In fact, we live very subjectively in a world of our own choosing. There are many factors that go into the construction of our world view, not the least of which are external influences, but the most basic may be our own imagination and how it processes information. We all live, to one degree or other, in a world of our own imagining.

Beginning with Descartes and his famous cogito ergo sum, western humanity came to think that human reason was the most real thing about our humanity, and to doubt everything else. Out of this came the rationalism of the late Renaissance and the 18th century Enlightenment that conceived of the notion that the cosmos was a colossal cosmic machine that worked perfectly like a clock. Intoxicated with this image, the western world became optimistic with the faith that human reason and scientific method could unlock all of intricate secrets of its mechanisms. There are those to this day that still live with such a mechanistic world view; this image is enduring and persists.

However, there were those who could not live with such a soulless world as a machine, and rebelled. These were the 19th century romantics that wanted to get back to nature and revel in its deep, ultimately unexplainable mysteries. They did not want to explain nature, but to become one with it. For them, the ancient pagans had it right; nature was god, and they longed to live close to the gods like they envisioned primitive humanity lived. However, this idyllic vision gave way to Darwin and his merciless doctrine of the survival of the fittest. The new image for western humanity shifted from a well constructed machine to a terrifying jungle. This came to its ultimate expression with the great world wars of the 20th century. So, along with the machine image we have a parallel alternative image of the world as a jungle, and it is “every man for himself.”

However, a nuance entered into the psyche of man in this so-called “postmodern” day brought about by the atomic bomb. With the capability of destroying life completely from the face of the earth, the old pagan idea that nature was divine and lives on forever is no longer viable. The world now seems to western culture a machine grinding to a halt, or a very fragile jungle indeed. It seems to me that a third image has emerged out of an attitude “let us eat, drink, and be merry,” for there may very well not be a tomorrow, or the tomorrow we face is too terrifying to contemplate. We imagine that the world is a circus, and rush to the gates to be entertained so that we can forget ourselves and our fears. The clowns that at first amuse turn out to be devils behind the masks.

Given the failure of these ways of imaging the world, I ask, why not go back to the original Judeo-Christian image of the cosmos as Temple, and humanity, made in the image of God, as priests to God? Why not live in the Psalms where praise is sung to God, where, although there is deep sorrow, it nevertheless gives way to joy before a God who is bigger than all human ills? Is this sneered upon as mere fantasy? What makes it any less viable than the machine, the jungle, or the circus? Which image speaks to the depths of the human soul? Which rings truest to the highest of human ideals? The western world, with all of its sophistication and knowledge, has not come up with a cosmology more magnificent and profound than what Genesis 1-3 paints for us. Let us embrace our world as Temple, our role as priests, and worship as our great purpose in life!

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