The world is an illusion; it has no real existence. And this is what is meant by ‘imagination’ (khayāl). For you just imagine that it (i.e., the world) is an autonomous reality quite different from and independent of the Absolute Reality, while in truth it is nothing of the sort’…. Know that you yourself are an imagination. And everything that you perceive and say to yourself, ‘this is not me’, is also an imagination. So that the whole world of existence is imagination within imagination.
I like to point out to anyone who may want to listen, that the world we live in, and we consider an indisputable fact of existence, it’s not so, contrary from what most of us think, we do not live in the World, the World lives into our subjective consciousness.
When we go to sleep the world we know, disappear totally, and if we dream ( We all do, some of us just do not recall the dreams, or are easily forgotten.) a new reality emerge during our dreams, were images, colors, ideas, emotions, and actions acquire a confusing atmosphere, of incomprehensible, or unintelligible gibberish, completely meaningless, sometimes with flashes of profound intuitive insights, that are totally mysterious in nature, but appear as some sort of connection, or an ethereal link to our particular everyday reality.
There is nothing new to this fact, except our ignorance about the subject.
Mind Bending Movies
Artist, like novelist, movie directors, aware of this fact had produced all kind of films were our basic principles about reality are questioned like The Matrix, Dark City, What Dreams May Come, The thirteen Floor, and others.
The Matrix draws from and makes reference to numerous cinematic and literary works, and concepts from mythology, religion and philosophy.The Matrix also makes reference to the ideas of Buddhism, Christianity, Gnosticism dualism, Hinduism, and Judaism. The Matrix‘s premise resembles the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Andrew Godoski from Screened.com observed Neo’s “virgin birth”, his doubt in himself, the prophecy of his coming, along with many Christianity references. In The Matrix, a copy of Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation is visible on-screen as the book used to conceal disks, and Morpheus quotes its phrase “desert of the real”. The book was required reading for the actors prior to filming. Baudrillard himself said that The Matrix misunderstands and distorts his work. Check my post MANICHAEISM, AN ONTOLOGICAL, DUALISTIC VIEW ON THE NATURE OF EXISTENCE March 2017
Baudrillard’s published work emerged as part of a generation of French thinkers including Gilles Deleuze, Jean-François Lyotard, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Jacques Lacan who all shared an interest in semiotics, and he is often seen as a part of the post-structuralist philosophical school. In common with many post-structuralists, his arguments consistently draw upon the notion that signification and meaning are both only understandable in terms of how particular words or “signs” interrelate. Baudrillard thought, as do many post-structuralists, that meaning is brought about through systems of signs working together. See my posts:
DELEUZE, WESTERN PHILOSOPHY AND THE ENDLESS REVERSING OF THE SOCK. April 2013)
LANGUAGE AND CONSCIOUSNESS February 2013
One can make a connection between the premise of The Matrix and Plato’s Allegory of the Cave; once one accepts that The Matrix is an illusion, then the allegory of the cave becomes clear. The allegory is related to Plato’s theory of Forms, (Archetypes) which holds that the true essence of an object is not what we perceive with our senses, but rather its quality, and that most people perceive only the shadow of the object and are thus limited to false perception. See my post:
THE WORLD WITHOUT DUST, GEOGRAPHICAL ARCHETYPES OF THE SOUL March 2012
Morpheus of the matrix paraphrases the Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi when he asks Neo, “Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you weren’t able to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference from the real world and the dream world?”
I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.
In the movie Inception (2010) the character Dom Cobb says: ‘Well dreams, they feel real while we’re in them, right? It’s only when we wake up that we realize that something was actually strange.’
Khayāl-The World of Creative Imagination
“Now in a dream, our mind continuously does this, we create and perceive our world simultaneously and our mind does this so well that we don’t even know it’s happening.” –Cobb
One of the most important concepts in Ibn ‘Arabi’s writing, which Inception illustrates beautifully, is a term called khayāl, which scholars translate as “imagination” or “imaginal faculty” to separate it from the illusory or derogatory connotations of the word “imaginary.” The world of khayāl is imaginary in that it the same stuff which dreams are made of, but this stuff is real, at least partially so. For example, most of us spend our lives in this imaginal world, not only during dreams, but also during our ordinary, everyday lives. When we see a color, or smell perfume, or feel an itch, our minds/souls are actually creating these sensations out of physical stimuli. We don’t see electromagnetic radiation with a 700 nm wavelength, we see red. Our minds “imagine” the sensory reality in which we live, simultaneously creating and perceiving these experiences, much like how Cobb described the process of dreaming to Ariadne during her first shared dream. In fact, Ibn ‘Arabi writes that one of the purposes of dreams is to alert us to this aspect of our existence, writing that “The only reason God placed sleep in the animate world was so that everyone might witness the Presence of Imagination and know that there is another world similar to the [everyday] sensory world.” For Ibn ‘Arabi, this imaginal world encompasses all human experience, and the imaginal faculty of ours gives form not only to physical but also metaphysical realities or archetypes. If you’ve ever written a melody or a poem, or drawn a picture, you’re already familiar with the magical process of imagination, the process of giving tangible forms to intangible ideas, concepts, and emotions. This is the function of the imaginal faculty, to bring together “pure ideas” and meanings and clothe them in sensible forms. But what of the reality of these things behind their imaginal forms, and what of reality itself? Most of us take these sensory, imaginal forms to be our reality, and are happy living out our days in this seemingly solid world. But Ibn ‘Arabi takes a different stance. Quoting the famous Prophetic tradition, “People are asleep, when they die, they awaken,”
It doesn’t matter if the top is spinning or not Before I continue, a quick aside about the much-debated end of the film is in order. I take the position that the film’s end is meant to be ambiguous and ambivalent, and I am completely uninterested in the director’s intentions or if, at the end, Cobb is “really” in a dream or back to reality. Part of the point is that the film is a dream, a phantom, a story, an illusion, so there is no “what really happens” on that level of reality. Dreams, like good movies and literature, are ambiguous and resist being pinned down to simple, literal descriptions, and this is simply the nature of all imaginal reality (more on this later). For the purposes this essay, I will take the perspective that whether or not the top stopped spinning, the film ends with Cobb still in a dream state, and in fact, Cobb has been in a dream state throughout the entire film. The entire action of the film takes place in a dream, the impossible dream technology with all of its logic-bending features, all the characters, everything, is part of a dream. In short, even if the top falls, he’s still dreaming because the top we see only ever existed in a dream.
Imagination and the limits of reason One of the most interesting and challenging aspects of Ibn ‘Arabi’s work for modern readers is his critique of reason. As Ibn ‘Arabi is fond of pointing out, one of the Arabic words for “reason,” ‘aql, 64 comes from the verb ‘aqala which means to “bind” or “fetter.” In this sense, reason is useful in that it allows us to get a handle on things and deal with them conceptually. However, in doing so, reason necessarily distorts reality by trying to delimit, define, and “bind” it in its rational schemas. Reason cannot deal with paradoxes and seeks to resolve ambiguities into “either/or” relations, while the worlds of imagination are characterized by the relations of “neither/nor” and “both/and.” But for Ibn ‘Arabi, reason and imagination are not opposed to each other; rather, they are complementary. Reason is critical and analytic, while imagination is creative and synthetic. A balance of both is needed to achieve the correct view of things, which Ibn ‘Arabi calls “seeing with two eyes.” The eye of reason distinguishes the real from the unreal, and the eye of imagination sees the images, reflections, and dreams that make up our world as simultaneously real and unreal. This formulation is particularly apt, because you need two eyes in order perceive the third dimension correctly, just as you need both reason and imagination to understand the metaphysical dimension of the world. With the eye of reason, we can discriminate things from each other and see the multiplicity of the world, and with the eye of imagination, we can see the many things as one. Ibn ‘Arabi argues that in order to understand things properly, we have to see both ways at once.
In Inception, Eames represents the pole of imagination, while Arthur represents that of reason. Eames calls Arthur a “stick in the mud,” and during a gunfight, tells him, “you mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger darling,” before mysteriously producing a grenade launcher. Their friendly rivalry in the planning stages of the mission, in which Arthur demands “specificity,” while Eames calls inception a “subtle art,” teases Arthur for his condescension, and declares, “to perform Inception, you need imagination,” wonderfully illustrates the creative tension between imagination and reason. The ensuing fantastical fight scenes and Arthur’s ingenious (and wonderfully shot), gravity-free “kick” vividly depict the process of “seeing with both eyes,” of thinking simultaneously inside and beyond a given dream level. The team’s ability to think both vertically and horizontally, to “see with both eyes,” is what allows them to navigate the labyrinth of dream worlds. Similarly, for Ibn ‘Arabi, “seeing with both eyes” is what allows people to navigate the labyrinth of the imaginal worlds that make up our existence both before and after death. Unaware of the various levels of reality, the unimaginative projections are bound to one level of reality and its rules, while with the aid of imagination, Cobb and his team jump from level to level, bending and breaking the local laws of logic as they go. Reason is a tool and like most tools, works best in conjunction with others. In fact, pure reason has to be coupled with imagination and insight in order to work at all.65 This fact, and the limitations of reason, can be somewhat difficult for us to grasp today, because we live in a world that undervalues insight and imagination, and is simultaneously irrational and corroded by over-rationalization. Turned against imagination and insight, instead of working in conjunction with them, modern reason has tried, and then given up on addressing issues it can’t handle on its own, such as metaphysics, ethics, and teleology. For this reason, fundamental questions such as “What is real?”, “What is right?”, and “What are we here for?” are often better engaged by artists (such as filmmakers) than by scientists and academic philosophers.
What Dreams may come
The title comes from a line in Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be…” soliloquy, namely, “For in that sleep of death what dreams may come / When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, / Must give us pause.” The plot outline in the novel contains several allegorical references to Dante Alighieri’s epic poem The Divine Comedy (1308–1321).
The prologue is narrated by a man telling of his visit from a psychic woman, who gives him a manuscript she claims was dictated to her by his deceased brother Chris. Most of the novel consists of this manuscript.
Chris, a middle-aged man, is injured in an auto accident and dies in the hospital. He remains as a ghost, at first thinking he’s having a bad dream. Amid a failed séance that ends up reinforcing his wife’s belief that he didn’t survive death, an unidentified man keeps approaching Chris, telling him to concentrate on what’s beyond. Chris disregards this advice for a long time, unable to leave his wife Ann. After following the man’s advice, and focusing on pleasant memories, he feels himself being elevated.
He awakens in a beautiful glade, which he recognizes as a place where he and Ann traveled. Understanding now that he has died, he is surprised that he looks and feels alive, with apparently a physical body and sensations. After exploring the place for a while, he finds Albert, his cousin, who reveals himself as the unidentified man he had been seeing.
Albert explains that the place they occupy is called Summerland. Being a state of mind rather than a physical location, Summerland is practically endless and takes the form of the inhabitants’ wishes and desires. There is no pain or death, but people maintain occupations of sorts and perform leisure activities. The book depicts Summerland at length, through Chris’s eyes.
Divine “Imagination” and the Intermediate World: Ibn ‘Arabî on the Barzakh.
For centuries after the time of the Andalusian mystic Ibn ‘Arabî, his remarkable discussions and conceptions of the “Imagination” (al-khayâl) were elaborated by Islamic philosophers, poets, artists and critics in order to explain, interpret and justify the full range of artistic and creative activities carried on within later Islamic cultures, as far away as India and Indonesia.1 Modern western students of Ibn ‘Arabî writing on such themes have tended to focus on the development of those ideas in his celebrated Fusûs al-Hikam (“The Bezels of Wisdom”) and its long line of traditional philosophic commentaries.2 But another major source of those classical Islamic understandings of the Imagination was in the Shaykh’s many discussions of the eschatological “Barzakh” or “intermediate world” of the divine Imagination–as well as his accounts of his own striking experiences and decisive spiritual encounters there–which are scattered throughout his magnum opus, al-Futûhât al-Makkîya (“The Meccan Illuminations”). One of his most extensive and widely influential discussions of the Imagination/Barzakh, in all its humanly relevant dimensions, was in the set of five eschatological chapters (61-65) within the long opening section of the Futûhât–chapters first brought to the attention of a wider Western audience in the famous studies by Asin-Palacios of Islamic themes in Dante’s Divine Comedy.
See my post:
EROS SUBLIMATED , THE MUNDUS IMAGINALIS April 2013
Now there are some people who perceive this imaged-object (al-mutakhayyal) with the eye of the (physical) sensation, and there are others who perceive it with the eye of imagination. Of course I’m referring here to (our perceptions) in the waking state, since during sleep (everyone) definitely perceives with the eye of imagination. So if a person wishes to distinguish between (those two modes of perception) in their waking state, whether in this world or at the Day of Resurrection, they can determine (which sort of perception it is) by looking at the imaged-object. Thus if [a] the states of what one is looking at continue to change as it changes its shape and characteristics, even though you can’t deny that it is still the same thing, and [b] the fact of observing it does not stop it from changing its shape and formation–as when a chameleon, when you observe it, stops changing its colors–then that is undoubtedly (being seen) with the eye of imagination, not with the eye of the senses. For you perceive what-is-imagined (al-khayâl) with the eye of imagination, not with the eye of (physical) sensation.
Indeed few of those who lay claim to the unveiled vision of spirits, whether of fire (i.e., jinn) or of light (angels), really understand how this is. When (those spirits) take on the image of perceptible forms, (most people) don’t know whether they are perceiving them with the eye of the imagination or with the eye of (physical) sensation–since both sorts of perception involve the sensing activity of the eye. That (inner sensing activity) is what presents the perception through both the eye of imagination and the eye of (physical) sensation. So this is a subtle form of knowledge: I mean the knowledge of the distinction between the two “eyes,” and between the sensing activity of the eye and the eye of (physical) sensation. One can know that (what one perceives) is indeed sensible, not imaginal, and that one has perceived it with the eye of sensation, not the eye of imagination (by the following conditions): [a] when the eye perceives the imaged-object and, without being distracted, sees that its shape and characteristics don’t change; [b] when it doesn’t see that imaged-object in different places at the same time, assuming it is definitely a single reality; and [c] that imaged-object doesn’t become changed or transformed into different states.
This is how you should understand how a human being can perceive their Lord–may He be exalted!–in a dream, even though He transcends any form or image, as well as how that perception of Him takes place and its limitations. And through this you may understand what has come down in the sound report (of the famous hadith) concerning the Creator’s “manifesting Himself (to souls at the Resurrection) in the most unlikely of forms among those in which they saw Him,” and concerning His “transformation into a form which they knew (before then),” after they had been denying Him and taking refuge from Him (in more agreeable forms of His manifestation).
So you should know with which eye you are seeing Him! For I have already let you know that (the divine) Imagination is perceived either through itself–I mean through the eye of imagination–or through the (physical) vision. And which of those two is the sound one on which we should rely?! Regarding that we (wrote these verses): When my Beloved appears to me, with which eye do I see Him? With His eye, not with mine: for none sees Him but Him! (This is only) in accordance with the transcendence of His Station and confirming His Words, since He says: “The gazes do not perceive Him, [but He perceives the gazes…]” (6:103), and He did not specify any particular Abode (of this world or the next), but sent it as an Verse unrestricted (in its applicability) and as a definite, confirmed matter. For none other than Him perceives Him, so it is with His eye–may He be praised!–that I see Him, as in (the famous divine saying in) the sound hadith-report: “…I (God) was his gaze through which he sees.” So wake up, you who are asleep and heedless of all this, and pay attention! I have opened up for you a door to forms of awareness and inner knowing that thoughts can never reach, though intellects can come to accept them, either through special divine Providence or by “polishing hearts with dhikr and recitation (of the Qur’an).” Then the intellect accepts what the divine Self- manifestation (tajalli) gives it and knows that that (imaginal revelation) is beyond its own power with respect to its thinking, indeed that its thinking could never give it that. Therefore (that person) gives thanks to God–may He be exalted!–Who created their constitution (nash’a) so that it could receive things like that: this being the constitution of the (divine) Messengers and prophets and those among the saints who are the recipients of special divine Providence. This is so that (such a person) may know that their receptivity (to what is bestowed by God) is higher and more noble than their own thinking. So realize, o my brother, from now on Who it is that is manifesting Himself to you from behind this door (of the imagination)! For this is a prodigious matter, where even the innermost hearts become bewildered.
In a world of darkness, controlled by time, images and roles shift and change in an ongoing nightmare as if part of a mad experiment. Everyone seems under the spell of sleep and forgetfulness, just vaguely remembering a distant memory of light and home, but unable to remember how to get back there. When the plan of darkness, attack thoughts and projection is finally uncovered and exposed, the upside-down world is turned right-side-up and bathed in the light of innocence—the present moment. There is no memory of a past. The games of fear and guilt are ended in the light of true love. In the light, Christ is recognized anew, as if for the very first time with no memory of the past.
John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) awakens alone in a strange hotel to find that he is wanted for a series of brutal murders. The problem is that he can’t remember whether he committed the murders or not. For one brief moment, he is convinced that he has gone completely mad. Murdoch seeks to unravel the twisted riddle of his identity. As he edges closer to solving the mystery, he stumbles upon a fiendish underworld controlled by a group of ominous beings collectively known as the Strangers.
The Strangers bring Murdoch to their home beneath the city and force Dr. Schreber to imprint Murdoch with their collective memory, believing Murdoch to be the final result of their experiments. Schreber betrays them by inserting false memories in Murdoch which artificially reestablish his childhood as years spent training and honing his psychokinetic skills and learning about the Strangers and their machines. Murdoch awakens, fully realizing his skills, frees himself and battles with the Strangers, defeating their leader Mr. Book in a psychokinetic fight high above the city.
After learning from Dr. Schreber that Emma’s personality is gone and cannot be restored, Murdoch exercises his new-found powers, amplified by the Strangers’ machine, to create an actual Shell Beach by flooding the area within the force field with water and forming mountains and beaches. On his way to Shell Beach, Murdoch encounters Mr. Hand and informs him that the Strangers have been searching in the wrong place—the mind—to understand humanity. Murdoch turns the habitat toward the star it had been turned away from, and the city experiences sunlight for the first time.
He opens the door leading out of the city, and steps out to view the sunrise. Beyond him is a pier, where he finds the woman he knew as Emma, now with new memories and a new identity as Anna. Murdoch reintroduces himself as they walk to Shell Beach, beginning their relationship anew.
Ibn Arabi The Horn of Light
Hence the imagination (as indicated in many familiar hadith) sees knowledge in the form of milk, or honey and wine and pearls; and it sees Islâm in the form a dome and pillars; and it sees the Qur’an in the form of butter and honey; and it sees Religion in the form of a bond; and it sees God (al-Haqq) in the form a human being and in the form of light…. As for this “horn” (of the Barzakh/Imagination) being made of “light” (according to the hadith mentioned above), that is because light is the immediate cause for (things) becoming unveiled and clearly appearing, since without light, vision would perceive nothing at all. So God made this Imagination as a “light” through which could be perceived the Bringing-into-form (taswîr) of every thing, whatever that might be, as we’ve already mentioned. His Light passes through the absolute nothingness so that He might shape it into the forms of being. Hence the Imagination is more deserving of the (divine) Name “the Light” (al-Nûr) than all the created things ordinarily described as “luminous,” since Its Light does not resemble the (created) lights and through It the divine Self-manifestations are perceived.
And It (or ‘He’) is the Light of the eye of imagination, not the light of the eye of sensation. So understand this! For if you understand how (the divine) Imagination is Light, and you know in what way it is (always) correct, then you will have an advantage over those who don’t know that–the sort of person who says: “that is only a false imagination!” That is because such people have failed to understand the perception of the light of imagination which has been given them by God. This is just like their saying that our senses are also “mistaken” in some of their perceptions, when in fact their sense-perceptions are sound, while the judgment (regarding the meaning of those perceptions) belongs to something else, not to the senses themselves. It is the judgment that is false, not the sensation. Likewise the imagination perceives with its light whatever it perceives, without passing judgment. The judgment only belongs to something else, which is the intellect, so the error can’t be attributed to the imagination. Thus there never is any “false imagination” at all–indeed all of it is correct!
The deepest aspect of your being resides in the inseparable, formless dimension of Eternal Presence.
Inception and Ibn Arabi by
Divine “Imagination” and the Intermediate World: Ibn ‘Arabî on the Barzakh.
James W Morris