There is a distinction to be made between consensus reality and imaginal reality. As one can imagine, consensus reality refers to what presents itself to our senses and upon which we can collectively agree, more or less. For example, under the principle of consensus reality I present as a large bodied African American woman in her 60’s. I am a relatively self-sufficient professional person with advanced college degrees. I fill many roles in consensus culture, including mother, grandmother, spouse, teacher and more. Under the idea of imaginal reality, I am a neglected and unwanted child who I sometimes refer to as “Orphy”. I am the grown woman who in my meditations takes her sad and angry single mother (who in the visualization is an infant) into her arms and carries her into an ocean of love wherein each is held in the healing waters of the Divine Mother. I am the rageful woman, enslaved and untamable, storming at racism and the insistence of too many white folks who cling stubbornly to pseudo innocence. I am the Goddess who gathers all the white folks into her arms to reassure them of their goodness until they can believe it for themselves. I am the ant crawling along my counter’s edge, oblivious that death is imminent. I am the sweet, sticky juice from a Fuji apple, running down my own chin. An imaginal orientation allows for all this variance. It respects multiplicity and multidimensionality. In imaginal reality my people were never enslaved, or if they were, they signed up for it as part of some messianic mission to save the souls of white folks. Surplus/imaginal reality dares us to flip the script on any story we no longer want to live by.
The imaginal is embedded in African-American culture by way of African-derived cosmology, philosophy and spirituality. A few of the qualities of this cultural continuity are: personalism, dynamism, spontaneity, soul force and communal consciousness. These spiritual principles helped enslaved folk to endure the horrors of slavery, and indeed to create culture with such force that the imprints have made their mark in nearly every corner of the globe. People of the African Diaspora retained elements of these imaginal practices for hundreds of years despite the fact that they were the object of derision and mockery. Over time many of us have lost touch with these Africanisms in favor of and sometimes in defeat against cultural values of rationality, objectivity, formality and predictability. Scientism has come to replace indigenous ways of knowing. As conceptual thinking gains ascendency, imagination is relegated to child’s play and art. We starve ourselves of its life-giving qualities. Our commitment to homogeneity, individualism and soullessness undermine our inherent connection to the imaginal. Where we insist upon polarized ways of thinking, the imaginal offers us a means of getting free from the weight of dualistic participation in life.