“I was delighted to receive this wonderfully creative exploration of imaginal reality by my student Josh Tysinger. Aside from simply his completely singular and wondrous mind itself, Josh’s claim to fame around our Wisdom network is that he was the one who stepped forward to journey closely with Beatrice Bruteau during her last few years of her life and the one who expedited getting her archive safely delivered to Emory University. Josh is her direct lineage bearer, and you will hear a bit of her voice and sparkle speaking through this mind-bending (to say the least) imaginal rhapsody.” ~ Cynthia
Over the past months, our teacher Cynthia Bourgeault has articulated her pioneering and breath-taking research into perspectives on the imaginal realm. Invigorated by her beautiful meditations on this most sacred of spaces, I broach this subject with only the most humble of intentions of initiating dialogue onto how it plays out in daily life. These are my personal beliefs inspired by her musings on the imaginal – ones I hope are in step with Cynthia’s own views on the matter. ~ Joshua
To begin, I perceive the imaginal as connected with an intermediary flow-through area existing between the unconscious and more transcendent realms of Reality. When I say that Someone is communicating to you through this liminal space “between” realms, the experience may be akin to a sense of personal thou-ness radiating itself to you through a veil of the unknown. What I mean is that this persuasive Someone coming to-you from beyond the unconscious mind intends to take you deeper into Christ’s heart – a luminous web of Mercy that playfully creates and re-creates you through a radical all-encompassing love. Imaginal space may lend to you it trans-rational impressions – they are “messages” filtered through the semi-permeable boundaries of the unconscious as animate symbolic images. Synchronicity, de-ja-vu, precognition, and the sensation of being engaged by spiritual forces generally make Christ’s presence known in these meeting quarters. At all times, the Spirit re-directs you to a heightened awareness of Christ’s underlying unity that intimately pulsates through the kinescopes of your lived-in experience.
Self-diffusing energies in imaginal space are not only constantly available, they are eternally replenishing. Without your efforts, these energies perpetually pour over into your field of perception. As you become more in-tune with a naturally rhythmic form of interconnectedness that coinheres with your zone of receptivity, conscious experiences with these phenomena emerge. We each have an “antennae-unto-God” that receives such cosmically self-giving phenomena, if only we make ourselves (as the mystics say) “passive” to them. Whenever we battle against the Source or make it our intention to impose our agendas on the face of reality, this imaginal frequency wanes as we lapse into unconsciousness. We once again find ourselves out of synch with its organizing effects upon our consciousness.
The more you deepen consciousness in imaginal space, the more that higher realms self-communicate their knowledge through you. This interaction with the imaginal affects a proximal transcendent center of interior selfhood, penetrating beyond and deeper into the cave of the heart. If you hone your sensitivities toward the imaginal through steadfast attentiveness, over time, that Someone coming to you gradually incarnates as your very person! As a space, this realized form of liminality exists between the automata of ordinary consciousness and higher realms of universal presence. As a dynamic source of creative in between-ness, imaginal space is where the multiplicity of formed subjects unites with the radically formless subject of all existence. The 19th century Indian saint Sri. Ramakrishna affirmed that this non-dual mode of perceiving could be integrated into individuals after having experienced the impermanent effects of Samadhi consciousness. In Vedic terms, Samadhi consciousness refers to the total dissipation of interior phenomena via absorption into absolute formlessness. In Christian contemplative circles, one aspect of formlessness is sought during centering-prayer in what is known as objectless-awareness. Since true Samadhi manifests itself as a pervasive unmediated state of union with radical formlessness, the individual is no longer dependent on materiality for practical sustenance. In fact, all dualities seem to disappear!
Here, Samadhi consciousness exists as the peak form of non-dual attainment. That being said, it administers a very serious ultimatum. If one does not come down from absorption into the formless, then an inability to function in the causal world may result. Due to the notorious hardships of Samadhi subjects who endure this precarious experience, Ramakrishna believed that the subsequent “fall from grace” back into phenomenal reality could beneficially actualize an intermediary consciousness. Surmising that sustained encounters with objectless-awareness are in fact meaningfully relevant to ongoing transformation, he suggested Samadhi’s function, after having been summoned back to ordinary consciousness, was to gradually integrate the experience into Bhavamukha. This zone of liminal reception allows for a transformed multiplicity to join in with absolute One-ness, resulting in a sophisticated mode of non-dual perceiving. Through bhavamukha, personhood remains in-tune with the phenomenal world, as Ramakrishna himself, their life spared from complete absorption into One-ness for the continuing enlightenment of all beings.
If the imaginal can be compared to bhavamukha as Christic mediator, then we as contemplative Christians can devote our intentions to cultivating its essence. Ironically, it is only when we passively receive our nourishment from the imaginal – and its different frequency-channels – that we become dependent on that Someone coming to us, their direction for our activities, and are (actual) active agents in worldly creation. When we are the actors, we are not free. Only when “let go” into non-striving, for whatever ends we seek, does the actor die and all of our potentials are unleashed. One can only “transmit” from this self-transcendent channel of divine communication when they become so passive, that (In Paul’s language), “It is I no longer who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” The more you seemingly follow the non-linear, asymmetrical pathways of the imaginal – it will look asymmetrical to some, but who cares? – the more Christ works through you to become the living light that you are and have always been! Most realized mystics, sages, and self-actualized luminaries have had to push through what the world perceives as “disorder,” in order to break through into full imaginal coherence.
Think Jesus of Nazareth, St Francis of Assisi, Carl Jung, Ramakrishna, etc.; those for whom the Spirit led. Really, what the world thinks is order is actually ruining the world, while what the world perceives as disorder, it cannot comprehend through a binary-lens, may actually be playing out in realms of the unseen. Food for thought! In the future, I hope that we might follow Cynthia on her journey into the imaginal – that through our collective journey, we might wage a larger discussion on its effects on our contemplative practices.
A bit about the author
A grateful long-time student of Rev. Cynthia’s Bourgeault, Joshua underwent a radically transformative process of deepening consciousness that began in 2011 while working with the homeless in Asheville, NC. After a two-year discernment with mentors in the Episcopal Church, Joshua voluntarily enrolled at Wake Forest School of Divinity for continuing education. Although at the time still uncertain of his vocational direction, Rev. Bourgeault’s synchronous introduction of Joshua to renowned mathematician and philosopher Dr. Beatrice Bruteau in Winston Salem, NC ignited a fire in him for embodied contemplative teaching. The beneficiary of a year long lineage transmission with Bruteau, Joshua later discovered (after Bruteau’s death) that he inherited the sum of her unpublished works. The vital content of her life’s literary legacy to this world was transferred to Emory University’s Pitts Library for safekeeping. Continuing guidance under Rev. Bourgeault, Joshua recently humbly accepted an invitation to “upgrade” the formal learning instruction of his transmission, more fully actualizing his contributions to Wisdom as Bruteau’s lineage-bearer. Joshua is now happily situated in Raleigh, NC, where he plans on crystallizing this blessing-imperative into formal spiritual teaching.
In case you missed Cynthia’s “Imaginal” postings, here are the links:
It is now closing in on the 2nd anniversary of my transfer of private documents into the Beatrice Bruteau archive at Emory University’s Pitts Library. My prior article for Northeast Wisdom titled Beatrice Bruteau Archive to Reside at Emory University published October 27, 2016 articulated the unexpectedly complicated yet highly rewarding process of procuring Beatrice’s works for the preservation of her legacy. Since her ideas have once more gained traction through the immeasurable inspirations of luminaries as Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault and Sr. Ilia Delio, it may once again be of some value (no matter how limited) in calling attention to how priceless this collection is.
As her most immediate disciple and unofficial caretaker over the last year of her life, I absorbed a great deal from Beatrice about the unadulterated power of intentionally channeled presence. Our lineage-transmission process was anchored in a non-hierarchal indwelling of radically subjective love. It was one in which I was instructed to unbind discursive reason and an over-reliance on cognition, in order to make the dynamic boundary crossing over into who she was and what she experienced. This quantum leap into the beginnings of an “I-I” relationship were only first made possible by Beatrice acting as the first cause and initiator of the indwelling relationship itself! What poured over into me during these spontaneous, pulsating transfers of information and energy were the most precious self-offerings she could have given to me.
Although at the beginning of our relationship, obtaining her uncirculated works for the purpose of safe archiving was the most crucial aspect of what I felt I had to offer, she made it abundantly clear, time and time and again, that that preservation mission was to come second. Her intention for our time together was less about scholarly discussions, book studies, or attaining project-outcomes. She taught me that there was nowhere to go and nothing to concede my power to, but to the intimate Ground of groundless Truth between us. In fact, whatever I have retained from my illumined Teacher places the necessity of knowledge alongside what might be described as heartful-ness to encompass all crisp currents flowing from my lineage-transmission system. After all, according to her premise on the Hindu phenomenon of “satcitananda,” any contact with the divine God-source within our Reality must synthesize the immediate experience of existence, bliss and knowledge in order to penetrate Truth. Realized truth is a type of purity, something that can be apprehended through the connective ultimacy that reveals itself in the penetrable depths of love.
As renowned paleontologist and Jesuit theologian of evolutionary consciousness Pierre Teilhard de Chardin describes it, “Purity does not lie in separation from, but in deeper penetration into the Universe. It is to be found in the love of that unique boundless Essence which penetrates the inmost depths of all things… Purity lies in a chaste contact with that which is ‘the same in all.’” Anything that lacks this deep love, this ineffable contact with that interior essence which is all in All, is but a noisy gong.
Whatever ulterior motives I had in obtaining her citadel of unpublished works toppled over against what I knew to be the road less traveled. In one traumatizing situation while discussing the potential transfer of documents between libraries, Beatrice accused me of trying to seize her property. What transpired after is fully documented in the following article. This “hard-teaching” led to the fruits of a non-transactional relationship that I could scarcely have imagined. The ongoing subtle gong sound in the back of our relationship suddenly stopped reverberating. I relinquished my “unconscious ownership” over the documents and allowed life to intervene. And intervene it did!
Since her husband Jim Somerville’s death in 2016, I have had the honor of not only inheriting Beatrice’s works, but I have commenced a journey to making them accessible through Emory University’s Pitts Library in Atlanta, GA. Just very recently, the library has begun transferring digitized boxes of her earlier material to me. I take this to be sign that their website will very soon contain the very literary fruits that were Beatrice Bruteau’s lifelong labor of love. While the knowledge that she gave me never denied the necessity of content through literary absorption, what it asked me to do, at the very heart of her insistence, was to go behind the words and into the experiential Reality beyond it. I had the great pleasure of doing this in “real-time” with an authentic, living master. My hope is that her words permeate from screen or paper into your consciousness as well, that you may encounter a personal transformation as a new creation and become whatever the spaces between the words of whisper to you as you experience this brilliant collection.
– Joshua Teague Tysinger
 Kathleen Duffy, Teilhard’s Mysticism: Seeing the Inner Face of Evolution, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2014), 80.