The song Imagine by John Lennon has been hitting me in the face an awful lot lately. Every time I turn around, it's there looking at me with a mad dog stare and daring me to do something about it.
It is a very popular song with its ethereal melody and lyrics which suggest that if we all use our creative, collective imagination we might just be able to envision a more perfect world, a world imbued with perfect amounts of love, peace, and justice. I would think that it is this vision that everybody loves about the song.
Problem is, they're wrong. Right from opening lyric, the song tells us to imagine a world without purpose or meaning. The very first line states explicitly that it is about existentialism, a creed that says essentially that there is no real reason for humans to exist on this planet. Yet, we do.
"Imagine there's no heaven,
it's easy if you try
no hell below us
above us only sky"
I do not see a visionary when I read this; I see an immature, narcissistic person who suffered major trauma. I see a kid who never grew up, a materialist who was so conflicted with his own mother issues he was willing to confine the entire human race to a world devoid of meaning.
The big problem is the misunderstanding of the concept of heaven.
Atheists who deny meaning to life often use arguments that are based on the actions or mental constructs of other men. The idea of heaven as a place with white picket fences and golden streets is such a creation.
If you think of living in a physical place that is perfect and unblemished for an eternity, you would probably be bored out your mind in less than an hour and perfectly justified in writing insipid lyrics about the place. This is not anywhere close to what the Bible or Jesus says about heaven, so people who attack the idea of this fairy-tale version of heaven, are attacking their own ignorance.
The Garden of Eden was another place of perfection, yet it also contained the elements of randomness that got us evicted from the place. Finding heaven is all about a return to the Garden after having faced the pain and suffering of mortal life and learning how to reconcile our need to leave with our need to return.
Heaven is found at the end of most novels and usually stationed right after the moment of transformation that ensures the success of the conflicted hero so that he can return to his community and serve as a role model. It is a state of being achieved by aligning our active participation in the material world with the divine nature of our subconscious motivations.
It requires a middle ground in order to find it. The Greeks called the middle state Metaxy, a word that refers to the "in between" nature of a human race that occupies a space between the infinity above and the infinity below, or the place between the material world and the subconscious.
The political philosopher Erick Voegelin correctly states that only art that references the importance of this middle position and its relationship to the heavens will stand up against the ravishes of time. Lennon's opening lyric does refer to the middle, but also deprives the setting of the two polarities that would place it in proper context. In Lennon's vision there is no heaven, there is no hell; there's only the middle ground, and it is a place that represents nothingness.
It's clear that Lennon, like a great many people, had absolutely no clue in the true meaning of the concept of heaven and hell. Heaven being the reconciled existence of the human capability of inhabiting the material plane while also being at peace with residence in an infinite universe, finding the perfect balance between the sacred and the profane.
Hell is an absence of such awareness or failure to acknowledge the spiritual dimension of human life. Lennon's perfect world of harmony and peace is actually a world of hellish traits, something he might have recognized had he adopted regular eyewear over the rose colored glasses he preferred.
It is also much like the world we inhabit today. Secular humanism is not a heavenly state; it has quite mistakenly removed the idea of a spiritual dimension to being and has placed man at the top of a mountain looking down on all of his achievements in the material world, yet lacking the upward glance toward heaven that would place them in their proper perspective.
While the argument about gun control rages on after one mass shooting after another, the idea of living in a culture lacking a spiritual grounding is usually rudely dismissed by those pundits who think (too strong of a verb?) that the sins of man untethered are also the sins of God. Existentialism, on the other hand, which is being taught in public schools under the macabre guise of freedom of religion, offers no substantial reason whatsoever for mankind to commit to or engage in moral behavior.
Sophocles equated the focus on the material world without a compensatory acknowledgement of the necessity of an inward search with blight, destruction, and drought.
Thousands of years later, psychologist Ian McGilchrist writes in a study of the relationship of the two hemispheres of the human brain that left brain dominated thinking will inevitably lead to a drying up of man's creative vision to the point that it will result in the restoration of both the big picture right brain to its rightful place and the proper functioning of the corpus callosum (middle ground?) as the place that makes both hemispheres work together for the benefit of the whole.
The missing middle in American politics is more than what it seems. It is a cultural reflection of our inability to recognize the true purpose of human life. If you want to prevent mass shootings, quit lamenting and commenting about the lack of the middle ground and restore it. We need a spiritual guidance here not another know-it-all without knowing anything whining politician.
"Imagine all the people
Living for today"
This lyric is childish to the extreme. Children before they become adults, have no concept of delayed gratification. It is one of mankind's greatest gifts, the ability to plan and to sacrifice for greater benefit in the future.
This lyric smacks of the influence of Aliester Crowley's famous dictum, "Do What Thy Wilt" which was engraved on Led Zeppelin records. Crowley's message actually referred to finding out what you are supposed to do and then doing it which actually kind of makes sense. However, it was usually understood, or misunderstood, to reference following hedonistic impulses. Lennon's reference to living for today seems to indicate that he was talking about the second definition.
"You may say that I'm a dreamer
but I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
and the world will be as one"
Yes, Mr. Lennon you were a dreamer, and not a particularly good one at that. The idea of the world being as one is one of the most dangerous ideas of the last century and is gaining greater traction even as we speak. If we were meant to be one thing, we would not be created with differences. This is common sense and is where the dishonest thinking of existentialists loses its bearings. They want the world to be as one, yet there is nothing in human history that remotely suggests that A) we are capable of doing it B) that it is even a necessity C) that it would be beneficial to human existence.
I realize that a proper sense of community can be a good thing and can produce positive outcomes. However, the insistence that we all think, act, speak or even imagine things the same way could also produce the entropy that freezes our forward progress without any hope of the renewal that was represented in the Garden by the elements of randomness contained therein.
Carl Jung noted the following after contemplating the misery and suffering of World War II when he became aware that there is a direct linkage between what took place in the individual and in society at large.
"The only solution to the seemingly catastrophic
developments in the world lay in turning in and
resolving the individual aspects of the collective
conflict. The spirit of the depths wants this struggle
to be understood as a conflict in every man's own
And he is not the only one who believes this. Many of the greatest thinkers of history have written about the importance of the development of the individual. Sophocles wrote about it in Oedipus Rex, Tolkien includes the idea in The Hobbit. It is the essence of Nietzsche's philosophy.
Christ's message to the world is essentially about how to acquire psychic wholeness via right action, belief and thought. It is also the hidden secret contained in the great works of literature which are in reality mythological works cleverly disguised to escape the ignorance and wrath of the judges of empiricism. Lennon's failure to acknowledge this truth indicates that he probably was not only not a part of the club, but also reveals that his writing lacked both depth and wisdom.
It is impossible to individuate as member of a group. The human race might as well become a hive of worker bees or a gigantic ant colony. Nature created us all differently, our DNA explicitly states this, and maybe, just maybe there's a good reason for that. Our DNA is hardwired for us to be the best that we can be. Instead of promoting collective reasoning that would cut us off from true knowledge of our authentic self, it would seem we would be better off trying to solve the riddle of why many of us fall short of being the best that we can be, and that answer lies on the inside of us all and not in the political arena where rage and frustration more often rules the day.
If nature needed humans to act in total concert and be as one, there is a pretty damn good chance that we would already be as one. God, or if you prefer Nature, has created a world of contradiction and conflict. Maybe we should assume that there is a reason for this.
In literature, overcoming conflict is an absolute necessity for the development of the hero. If we are all as one, and there is no longer any conflict to overcome, who's going to save us from that frozen nightmare, who's going to be the savior? And don't even tell me that we won't need one.