Manage episode 358440469 series 2634748
The Re-Enchantment of Life: https://thewonderpodcast.podbean.com/e/re-enchantment-of-life/
The Inner Critic: https://thewonderpodcast.podbean.com/e/the-inner-critic-1612153312/
Remember, we welcome comments, questions, and suggested topics at thewonderpodcastQs@gmail.com.
Mark: Welcome back to the Wonder Science-based Paganism. I'm your host, mark,
Yucca: and I'm Yucca,
Mark: and today we are going to talk about paganism and imagination.
Yucca: right? And this is a, this is a really important and key topic in a lot of different ways and it gets approached From many different directions in, again, different ways, but we don't always, we don't always talk about what it it really is, and that that's what we're doing.
Mark: Yeah. And particularly in kind of mainstream pagan circles, we. Because what is imagined and what is more likely to be true based on evidence often gets all jumbled together. We, we don't actually acknowledge that we're working with the imagination
Yucca: And there's a negative connotation to it too. Like, oh, you're just imagining
Yucca: right? Like if you suggest that, that, that's almost, that's an insult, right? Oh, that's just your imagination.
Mark: right? Yeah. We say it's just your imagination, right? But when you think about it, why just imagination is amazing. Imagination is arguably the thing that makes humans different than any other creatures that we're aware of. Our, our ability to. Envision the abstract
Mark: to to have ideation that that innovates, you know, that comes up with novel stories, novel inventions, novel concepts, novel philosophies, all of those things.
That's all imaginations.
Yucca: Right, and even though things might be imagination, they can still be very, very meaningful to us. , think about your favorite movie or book that you knew that those characters didn't exist. Those things never happened, and yet it's really meaningful and impactful to you, and it had a, as a, a very real response in your body and your mind.
Mark: Oh yeah. Yeah. I mean, there have been a couple of times in my life when I have actually fallen in love with a movie character.
Mark: And it's been painful for, you know, two, three days until it wears off. Because I really wanted to know that person. I wanted to see that person, and they don't exist. So, and, and you know, this was when I was younger mostly, but now that I'm old and cynical, it doesn't happen so much.
, but You know, that's the same physiological response that happens in response to a real person.
Mark: And that, I think, goes to this question of why we can confuse the imaginary with the real because our, our minds are not very good at distinguishing. Between what's imaginary and what's real. We, we react in exactly the same ways our brains fire in exactly the same ways in response to stories or ideas that they do in response to real world events.
Yucca: Right. And we rewrite memories,
Yucca: And each person's interpretation of the same event can be very different,
Mark: and it will get more different over time as they reinforce their take over and over again. Every time they recall that memory, they rewrite it and it get e evolves a little bit.
Yucca: It's telephone, but that, did you ever play that game as a kid? Right. You one person whispers and then it whispers to the next person and next person and see how it changes by the time it gets to the last person. And sometimes they're close, and sometimes, well, sometimes one of the kids will purposely put something fake in there, but sometimes it transforms, right?
Yucca: And our, our minds do that. Our imagination does that.
Mark: They certainly do. Yeah. So, one of the things that we do, especially as adults to try to distinguish these things is that we, we identify the times when we are doing what's called suspension of disbelief,
Mark: right? So we go into a movie, we suspend our disbelief for a couple of hours, and we submerge ourselves into the story that's happening on the.
And our awareness leaves the fact that we're sitting in a cushion chair in a dark room, looking at a screen and listening to soundtrack it, immerses in the events of the movie as if they're happening to us and. Then when the movie's over, then we stop suspending our disbelief and we leave. And our experience of the movie, in terms of its quality is often a function of how deeply we were affected by that suspension of disbelief.
Right? And this is something that is really an issue for those of us who are atheopagan or other non feist pagans. Naturalistic pagans, right? Because for folks that are entering our community from the atheistic side, all this imaginary stuff can be very uncomfortable.
Mark: You know, the we're looking for evidence, right?
We're, we're looking for proof that whatever it is that we're talking about actually exists or it's not worth talking about is the, the culture.
Mark: Many, many atheistic circles, and I'm here to say, first of all, it is worth talking about because it's core to the nature of humanity that we are these imagining creatures and there's a lot of value that we can have out of our.
Experiences and, and in our lives by cultivating imagination and using it appropriately to have experiences like in rituals.
Yucca: Right. so there's, it really is something that we can very consciously use, right? And it could be in a ritual, but it can also be there's, we, you know, we did an episode a few years back about bringing the magic into everyday.
Mark: Yeah. Enchanting the world.
Yucca: exactly. There we go. We'll, I'll put a link to that in the show notes.
Because that's definitely one of the ways that we can use imagination that really serves us right. When we're careful, when we're not careful. Sometimes our imagination can be harmful to us. Right? We imagine something that, you know, that that person is mad at us and they, they were just tired. Right? Or we imagine.
That the shadow, you know, when we're little, that those shadows are actually monsters that are gonna come and get us. But then we can also use it for okay, ritual. We can use it to bring a little bit of enchantment to our life. We can really enrich ourselves.
Mark: Yes. Yes. And so for those of us that are naturalistic pagans, a lot of what we're doing is walking this careful line. Where we're not falling over the edge into worlds of imagination and fantasy and thinking that they're real. And I know that there are gonna be people that are gonna be mad at me about saying that, but you know, the evidence at least would suggest that God's an instrumental magic and ghosts and spirits and stuff like that aren't
Yucca: realm of ferry or.
Mark: Yeah. That they aren't really. They're wonderful stories. And they're tremendous flights of imagination that we can work with, we can do cool things with. But they don't exist in the same sense that rock exists. And so here we are as naturalistic pagans, carefully walking that edge where we say, all right, we value evidence.
Right. We value what's provable. That said, we are the storytelling ape homos, right? Some wonderful anthropologist, I don't remember the name. Called us The Storytelling Ape
Yucca: I like that better than Sapien sap.
Mark: yeah, me too.
Mark: Yeah, we're super wise, wise, twice.
Yucca: Yes. We're wise, wise, we're so wise. Really believe us. Seriously.
Mark: Judging by our works, maybe not so much. But we are definitely storytelling creatures and it is essential to the culture making of every society that we tell stories and that we have narratives that inform our values and our worldviews. So
Yucca: Well, and we even do that in science, right? That's how we understand. That's and it's just what, where are we getting the information for the story? But we're still telling it all the same and we're still putting in We're still putting in metaphor and poetry and things to help us understand and try and imagine what happened 13.8 billion years ago or something like that.
Mark: Right. Right. And we use. We often have used the cultural narratives that dominate our societies, especially in the past. You know, the Newtonian physics, for example. The kind of clockwork universe of everything, you know, working in, you know, neatly meshing little systems that all follow these laws. And a lot of that was true and useful.
But it turns out it was a little more complicated than.
Yucca: And we do that today when we talk about how our brains are wired, right? We talk about them as, and we talk about long-term short-term memory. You know, we talk about things as if they're computers now. So, and we're just taking those that. Narrative and, and applying it in a way that is useful. But as you're saying, it may not be completely accurate, but it serves the purpose.
And we do that with you wanna describe the motion of a ball through the air? Well, you're never gonna be able to actually perfectly describe it, but you can get close enough and that still serves a purpose,
Mark: right. A model is a story. Ultimately, a model is a, a narration of. Activity over time, which is what a story is. And so, you know, we, when, when we're talking about what we believe to be true, we use stories that are supported by evidence. But when we're talking about expressing our inner realities, our inner self, our personalities, When we're talking about developing culture or artistic expression, or working with our psychology to transform ourselves in some way, whether it's to transform our emotions or to heal our wounds, or to, you know, do any of those powerful things, the world of imagination and storytelling becomes this powerful.
Built-in system that is encoded into the way our human organisms are constructed that we can use to powerful effect.
Mark: And that's what we believe as naturalistic pagans right now. It's a little bit different in the mainstream pagan community where all that stuff may be tossed together and you have people that believe that they're elves.
There's a lot of wishful think. In the mainstream pagan community, people who believe in things because they really want them to be true, which isn't a criterion that naturalistic pagans use for determining what we believe to be true.
Mark: and I mean, there's pros and cons to that. I mean, there's, there can certainly be a lot of wonder and magic and enchantment and.
You know, fascination about believing in, you know, that kind of fantasy stuff. But I've also seen people really get on the wrong side of it with a lot of fear and paranoia about, you know, hexes and psychic attacks and stuff like that, that they need to do wards against. And, you know, it creates anxiety at the least.
And I've seen that actually cross over into real paranoia. You know, kind of textbook paranoia, including the the delusions of grandeur of thinking that somebody, that you're so important that somebody's gonna go to the trouble to try to hex you . But you know, if that's the world people wanna live in and that's, that's the way they decide that they want to navigate their life, then great.
More power to. It's just not the way we do it.
Yucca: Sounds exhausting to me. Person.
Mark: Yeah, so much. So much uncertainty. So much. Always, you know, there, there could always be something mysterious out there that's about to get ya. I, I wouldn't wanna live that way myself. So talking about imagination and we, we implement imagination in our rituals. Many of our rituals are, are keyed to stories, right? Like a healing ritual. Okay? This thing happened to me. I'm wounded by it. Or it embedded something in me. Right. You know, faith healers do that whole thing about removing things from the body.
Or traditional indigenous practitioners sometimes will remove darts or other sort of spirit things from the body in order to take the harm away from the patient. Right.
Yucca: Right. We can I share real quick an example of one that we did last night? We so we have a wood stove and we still chilly enough that we're using it. And so we took the log that was gonna go in and spat on it. So there was a particular emotion that we were trying to like release, and so we spat on it.
So it was something physically, visually coming from our body, and then we wrote on the wood what it was and put it into the fire. So that we could transform that into the heat that was going to support the family and take care of us during the winter. Right. And that was our story of we're taking this thing out of our body, putting it in and using it and transforming it into something else,
Mark: Sure, and and I would imagine that that felt great that it worked,
Yucca: At least for my part, I feel pretty good about it. ? Yeah.
Mark: Whereas if you are like, you know, an atheist coming brand new into our community, you might look at that and go, wow, that's super weird.
Yucca: Oh yeah. Go spit on some firewood. What are you doing
Mark: What are you doing? But the answer is what you're doing is you're working with your consciousness, you know, and.
You know, our consciousness works very well with metaphors and similes. It works very well with the concept of correspondences where, okay, I am going to establish a connection between myself and this piece of firewood by expelling something from myself that is inherent, that is of my body onto this firewood, which means that now we're connected, right?
And I'm gonna write a purpose, a goal, an outcome on the firewood. We're gonna put it in the fire to undergo a transformational process, which will radiate energy that I can feel, and that's going to cause a transformation in my psychology. That is actually a pretty logical story. It doesn't have evidential support in the way.
You know, the story of general Relativity has evidential support, but it has a coherence which can totally work with our, with, with the human mind. That makes a lot of sense to me.
Yucca: Yeah, you just accept your certain premises and then it all logically makes sense from.
Mark: mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. , and that's what we, oh, go ahead.
Yucca: what we do. Like when we watch a movie you were talking about earlier, we sit down to watch that movie. We go, okay, this is a movie in which there are dragons and magic, and there's the like, and we accept that there are dragons and therefore if there are dragons, oh well it would make sense that people would ride on their backs or whatever happens, right?
We just, it all makes sense based on those starting assumptions. But we're gonna make up some, we're gonna. In that case, I decided to imagine that there was a connection between me and that wood. Right. And I, there was a conscious choice to imagine that, but it still worked to imagine it. It still had the impact.
Right. Even though, okay. Yeah. Literal there. I'm not literally putting an emotion. An emotion isn't a thing that you can put on a piece of wood.
Mark: No, an emotion is, but an emotion is a psychological process. And psychological processes are real. They aren't real the way rocks are real, but they're real within the, the ongoing network of activity that's happening in our brains. Right.
Mark: And. You know, this may be a whole other episode about what do we mean when we talk about what's real, right?
Because the imagined has a reality to it. It's just not, it, it's a, it's a belief reality rather than a factual reality that's there, there's a difference there. You know what I say to folks that are new to the podcast or new to our communities who are coming from atheistic scientific backgrounds you know, rational evidence-based perspectives on the world.
This is, this is the tricky, well, there are two things. There's, there are two, there are two tricky parts to get your mind around. The first one. That the use of these imagination tools can have real world impacts for yourself and your life. The second is getting comfortable with using them, because typically what happens is there's a critic voice in your head, which begins to yammer about how stupid it all is, and it really undermines.
Mark: Your your confidence in using these tools at first, but that voice can be worked with. We, we did an episode a while back on the critic voice that I really encourage people to go listen to.
Yucca: We'll link that in the notes as well.
Mark: Great, great. And over time and with experience, you will find that that voice fades and you become. Much more confident as a practitioner, as a magician, as a, whatever you want to call it.
As someone who uses these psychological tools to benefit themselves and to benefit others.
Yucca: Yeah. Frankly, I think that's pretty inspiring. I think that's a pretty kind of hopeful way of approaching.
Mark: Yeah. Yeah, I think so. I mean, as when I, when I stepped away from the Pagan community, after I had some really bad experiences it wasn't very long before I started realizing how impoverished my life had become because it lost all that inspiring stuff. It all of that, all of those practices, all of those rituals, all of those.
School witchy things, all of those psychological helps to myself had been removed and they, and they'd not only been removed from me, but they'd been removed from people that I used to do stuff with as well. So, it was good to realize that, that none of that was necessary. It was just a matter of kind of figuring out what your terms are.
Yucca: When you say none of that, you're referring to the
Mark: to the departure.
Mark: Yeah, the, none of, none of that. Leaving it all behind was necessary. I had, I had thrown the baby out with the bathwater and what I needed to do was to go and recover the baby and, you know, dry off the bathwater,
Mark: So, do we want to give some more examples of kind of differences between the, the imaginal and the
Yucca: Yeah. Well, I think, I mean when we talk about ritual, that's what we're doing. We're imagining,
Yucca: right? But what about, are there some places outside of ritual that you think that is helpful in.
Mark: I think there are lots of little techniques that people use that are kind of like mini rituals. You know, they may not go through a set of formal steps, but certainly affirmations, you know, those just, just simple messaging to yourself in encouraging ways. You know, whether it's before, like I have a job interview next week, I have two job interviews next week, in fact, and, you know, I will kind of psych myself up you know, before those meetings.
You know, I'm competent. I know what I'm doing, I'm likable, I'm happy. I'm you know, those things that will make me appealing as a job prospect. As a job candidate. I think there are lots of things that people do that are small that give them benefit. In my initial essay, I write about athletes with Lucky Jerseys or.
Yucca: TED bands or whatever.
Mark: Shoes or you know, a lucky way to tie their shoe laces or, you know, whatever those things are. And you can look at that, you know, from a strictly dry scientific standpoint and say, well that doesn't make any sense. You know, the way you tie your shoes is gonna make you run any faster. But studies, numerous studies have shown, actually it. Because it increases your level of confidence in your capacity
Mark: and confidence is such a huge arbiter of success or failure.
Mark: when you're talking about fractions of a second in speed, making the difference between somebody qualifying for the Olympics or not, every little bit matters.
Yucca: Yeah. Every fraction of a second. Cause that adds up. Mm.
Mark: So, yeah, I, I think there's lots of things that people do and they don't even really realize. Many of them don't even really realize that what they're doing is a, a use of imagination in order to give themselves a boost.
Yucca: Hmm. There's another one that I thought of while you were talking about that, and that's daydreaming. That's something that I think most of us do.
Yucca: Some more to other than others, but that, that we're imagining, we're telling stories in our head, and I know for me that the, what narratives I'm telling when I'm daydreaming have a big impact on how I feel throughout the day. Right. If I do a day, if I'm daydreaming and I'm, you know, kind of doing it, something that's like an argument or a conflict or daydreaming about, you know, how am I gonna handle some disaster or something, I don't. Feel the same as when I'm daydreaming about something that feels a little bit more empowering or in which I'm behaving in my daydream in a, in a the way that I want to be.
And so there is a lot of influence we have in directing those daydreams to influence what it just feels like to be us as we're going through our day.
Mark: For sure. That's a great example. And actually, regular dreams, while sleeping can be very similar. I mean, how many times do we wake up feeling sad or anxious or happy or, you know, just depending on what the,
Yucca: What the dream
Mark: what the dream was. Yeah.
Yucca: That's a topic we should do soon. I don't think we've ever done a
Mark: When I'm dreaming. No, we haven't. We
Yucca: really do that.
Mark: We should. Yeah. Yeah, let's, let's write that down somewhere.
Yucca: Yeah. I think I could just cut you off there. What were you saying?
Mark: oh, I, I don't know. Nothing important. The,
I think that this topic right here, About differentiating between the imaginal and the literal and being able to walk the line that incorporates both so that your feet are on the ground in a realistic manner, and you're not spinning off into fantasies about stuff that may not exist, but at the same time plunging ourselves into the imaginal within.
Within a container that we choose to make changes and improve the quality of our lives. This is really the central operating principle of naturalistic paganism more, more than anything else, I think. Even reverence for the earth. I mean, reverence for the Earth is what makes us pagan as opposed to say Buddhist, you know, working with our psychology.
Mark: But what differentiates us from mainstream paganism is this, I would say,
Yucca: Yeah. I see. It's a lot to think about
Mark: It is, it is. I, I was talking about this before we started recording. I wrote a blog post about cursing in hexes this last month, which you can find at atheopagan dot org.
Yucca: Mm-hmm. , we talked a little bit about it last episode too.
Mark: We did. Yeah. I, I think that's what inspired me to write the blog post. But this, this whole question of the imaginary versus the literal and factual comes up again and again and again. And it's definitely the friction point between, you know, literal theists and naturalists. And I think that some of that may have to do with some degree of misunderstanding about what the naturalistic position really is.
It's not that we're discounting all of those experiences. Those experiences are really valuable. It's just that we're not, we're not populating our cosmology with these. Figures that appear to arise from the imagination.
Yucca: Right. We're, we're framing our understanding of it in a very different way.
Mark: So I encourage our listeners to kind of kick this around in your own heads and, you know, where, where does imagination play a role in your practice, in your. Kind of day-to-day operations. And where, where does a more evidence-based approach figure? The, because I think coming to be comfortable with this idea of kind of code switching between, between, you know, the world of imagination and fantasy and storytelling and.
Metaphor and symbol and myth, all of that incredibly rich, multiple worlds of amazing stuff, and yet remaining tethered to the ground in a, in a factual and evidentiary based way.
It. That's really kind of the core of the art in the naturalistic world, I think.
Yucca: Yeah. Well this has been a really interesting one. Thanks, mark.
Mark: Yeah. Thank you, Yucca. I think it's interesting too, and the, the more I think about it, the more interesting it gets . I, I love talking about this kind of thing, so thank you.
Yucca: Yeah, and we really appreciate all of you being here with us, and look forward to seeing you next week.
Mark: Yeah. Remember, you can always reach us at The Wonder Podcast Qs or the Wonder Podcast queues short for firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yucca: Okay, see you next
Mark: you next week.