For many spiritual people, the universe is divided into the realms of natural physics and of metaphysics, which contains intangibles like love, beauty, soul, angels, salvation and the various gods.
This clearly suggests two separate kinds and realms of existence. Sometimes we break them into spirit and flesh, earthly and heavenly, divine and human, etc.
So when we call things physics and non-things metaphysics, we are identifying what appear to be two different realities based on our limited sensory perceptions. The human brain only discovers reality, it does not invent it any more than a TV monitor invents the various shows that play on it.
IS THERE A real AND A MORE REAL?
For metaphysicians, the realm of metaphysics is seen as more Real, even though they may tell you it is all One. Many metaphysicians teach that physical reality contains less real or less important stuff like disease, war and death, while metaphysical Reality contains more Real and more important stuff like health, peace and life. For the metaphysician, the goal in life is to move from the less real into the more Real, to become enlightened and spiritual by moving from matter to spirit. The lesser physical realm is dark and material, ruled by sin or ego while the higher spiritual Realm is light and love, ruled by God(s). There is always a contrast between the fleshly illusion and the spiritual real thing. Ironically, many metaphysicians then turn around and say, "It's all One."
This tendency to distinguish between physics and metaphysics is becoming more and more problematic for me. If there is just one kind of reality, then what we call 'the two realms' are necessarily organically related and of equal significance. There can be no physics and metaphysics - rather, there is what is.
ARISTOTLE AND PLATO
Westerners have been distinguishing between these two kinds of realities since Aristotle wrote his works on physics (nature) and meta-physics (beyond nature) over 2,000 years ago. His teacher, Plato, did not make this distinction since Plato saw reality as a continuum graduating from the lower shadow forms and moving all the way up to the Absolute Eternal Forms. He called this continuum the 'Divided Line'.
The Divided Line sees reality as a sort of stairway into the heavens. One begins at the bottom with the shadowy substances and moves along the line upward, graduating to more substantial forms like sensory objects, then to mathematical universals, then archetypal Ideas and finally into the enigmatic Good or One from which all else emanates, and to which all ultimately returns. For Plato there was The One reality manifesting in various ways.
SHALL WE JUST GET RID OF METAPHYSICS?
Many modern folks have tried to solve this separation by getting rid of metaphysics. Modern science recognizes only observed phenomena and/or rational explanations. Even conservative Christians have acquiesced and made the Christian religion literal, defending a physical virgin birth, bodily resurrection and corporeal second coming; the Bible is to be taken literally, teaching a scientific and historical faith that can be verified evidentially.
Nineteenth Christian Science attempted to rationalize faith as well, turning spirituality into a set of laws with demonstrable results. Myth and imagination was played down or eliminated altogether. Religious folks became ashamed of a faith that couldn't explain spiritual phenomena in literal, demonstrable scientific terms. The realm of imagination was ignored.
ADD A SIXTH SENSE ORGAN: IMAGINATION
The solution is not to defend physics or metaphysics, but to recognize the lost sense organ of imagination. The Hindu Bhagavad Gita recognizes six senses. Hindus often place a dot between their physical eyes to denote this sixth sense or other way of perceiving very real aspects of existence. It is the sense organ of imagination.
Imagination is not metaphysics. It is not set against the other more natural or physical sense organs. Imagination is every bit as much a legitimate sensing organ as smelling, touching, seeing or tasting. The imaginal sense detects a realm every bit as real as what the other senses behold. It is simply another sense organ peering into another integral aspect of reality. It sees gods, goddesses, soul, destiny, meaning, immortality and infinite possibilities undetectable by the other five senses.
Just as the ear cannot perceive in the same way that the eye beholds, or the nose cannot sense in the same way as the finger tips, so imagination exposes us to a realm, or realms, as real as the realms of the other senses. This realm is called mystery, myth and fantasy because it cannot be quantified like potatoes or crucifixes. Just because the various senses can't always perceive what another sense detects does not disqualify the perceptions.
Paul and subsequent Christian theologians were all in agreement that humans could discover a way of seeing that was neither physics nor metaphysics. The Nicean doctrine of Christ's nature taught that he was 100% human (physical) and 100% divine (metaphysical). In other words, he was both and neither. It was a semantic symbol recognizing the discovery of reality that involved all six senses - the marriage of material images and non-material imagination.
Sadly, the interpretation came to be called Orthodoxy and the realm of imagination was lost. What once inspired great visions and amazing artistry became frozen in old images and fixed in rationalistic doctrines. Many Eastern Orthodox churches retain something of this mystery by calling the doctrine of Christ's nature a meditation technique or symbol to crack open the imagination. The goal is to plunge one into the depths.
The very early Christian movement knew what modern Christianity does not - that there is a way of seeing into a realm that is different than what the traditional five senses can see, and that that realm is every bit as real, and is always moving into fresh images from the realms of infinity. When Jesus said, 'let him who has hearing ears, hear', he was speaking of the sixth sense of imagination. When Paul spoke of 'seeing with spiritual eyes', he was speaking of the sixth sense of imagination. The realm of Spirit is not some 'other' realm, it is a realm as 'objective' as what we experience with the other five senses. Sadly, we have lost or neglected this sixth sense and have become ignorant to the world of dreams, fantasies and visions. Modern Christianity has nothing to do with the original inspiration of Spirit. What was a provisional symbol pointing to the infinite realm of imagination has become a fixed dogma blocking the door it once opened.
PSYCHO-SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF TWO REALITIES
When I begin to break existence into physics and metaphysics, I falsely create two ways of seeing reality and hence two ways of existing. Well adjusted people live in the world of physics, while children, mystics and crackpots toddle off into the realm of metaphysical imagination. The well-adjusted folks can function in normal society. All of the others are dysfunctional, abnormal and belong in some form of institution - daycare, church or asylums. We invent syndromes and disorders, exacerbating the troubling but necessary excursions into the creative depths of imagination, calling them abnormal depressions, addictions and anxieties. The deep journeys are hard enough, but when we attach social stigmas and prescribe pills to ‘snap them out of it’, the journeys become nearly unbearable.
On the other hand, we tolerate some of the dreamers and artists, especially if they entertain us and make money. Our consumeristic culture loves imagination for its money-earning capabilities more than it's capacity to give us a view into Infinity. Besides, everyone needs a freak or eccentric around to provide a chuckle or two.
AMERICAN IDOLS: IMAGES ARE NOT 'IMAGINATION'
This culture falsely equates imagination with images. We are so inundated by images in the media that we assume we understand imagination. That may not be the case. Imagination is not the plethora of images bombarding us via billboards, magazines, television, video games, computers and movies. Those are from the imaginations of others. They are frozen idols, American Idols, paraded before us as second hand imagination. They are fine images and often entertaining, but they are not perceived by your sense organ of imagination. They are the re-cycled dreams and fantasies of others.
Idolatry is bowing down to the images created by others instead of peering into the imaginal realm for yourself. Both Roger Waters of Pink Floyd and The Door's Jim Morrison recognized this when they were on stage. Both musicians began to despise their fans that lived vicariously through the images of the artists. Roger Waters speaks of his meltdown in a concert in Vancouver, Canada. He said an adoring fan came crashing onto the stage, and Water's spit in his face. He couldn't stand to be the priest serving the new imaginal Mass to 15,000 fans each night. Morrison quit The Doors because of this. At first he fancied the role of the Lizard King, the Dionysian Shaman transporting adoring followers into the imaginal realms. But as time went on, Morrison was sickened by the blind devotees who rode into eternity on his back. He could barley sustain himself.
Each of us must learn to use and trust our imaginal sense organ just as we learn to trust the other sense organs. You must see and know (gnosis) for yourself. "Taste and see if the LORD is good," said the Pslamist. The imaginal sense of tasting invites a gourmet experience that has moved poets, painters and philosophers to feast on the food of eternity. Jesus called it living water and heavenly bread, encouraging his followers to seek this daily imaginal bread in what is called The Lord's Prayer.