For several years now, i have been studying Daniel’s spirituality as a model for relationship with God through the imaginative realm. I think most people focus on the specific prophecies, but I think Daniel’s spirituality itself is a model or symbol for something desperately needed in our time, especially in the church. This model was one of meeting God through dream, vision, and symbolic actions and study. In short, Daniel’s “way”, modeled healing of the imagination by allowing it to be one aspect of our relationship with God.
Daniel’s conversations with God included the imagination, and so should ours. In our day, we have a serious poverty of the imagination in the church, and I think Daniel’s way is one key to a way out of this depravity. If we want to dialogue with the whole person or city or nation, we must know who God is in the area of His Imagination. Perhaps, the prophetic movement in the church was the beginning of a restoration of her imagination; but there is so far to go in knowing God the way Daniel did. Prayer, I think forces us to encounter God through images, sounds, textures. So the many global prayer movements are also part of a restoration of the church’s imagination. But we are not whole yet in this area!
We also must individually seek to know who God is in His Creativity. I think Genesis is a good place to start in terms of studying the patterns of His Imagination, but I think we must also come to enter a symbolic conversation with God, both to know Him in that area, and for the healing of our personal imaginations! For God is one, so His imagination is part of knowing and loving Him.
Daniel’s spirituality was about meeting God through his imagination, and how God was dialoguing with and interpreting history. God’s conversation with him often occurred through symbolic language. If we think of the symbolic both as a metaphysical realm, and an aspect of communication–ie as part of what Reality is, as well as part of how God communicates; then we are comfortable with a God who wants to reveal Himself on every level of Reality, and in every aspect or level of communication. The symbolic realm is a part of how God represented Himself in Reality, and in us, for it is a part of who He is-and by extension what He created! And because of this, it is one of the “planes” in which He communicates Himself to us. If spirituality is indeed a relationship with a Living God, it is clear this is one aspect or dimension of this relationship.
This is why I think we need to look at Daniel’s way as a model. For the church has largely lost contact with The God of the Imagination. In not being able to meet God in the symbolic, the imagination of the church has become impoverished, where it is no longer able to truly dialogue into culture in a dynamic way; no longer able to represent God in that conversation. As priests, the church is missing a huge part of her task, by ignoring or sublimating the imagination to the task of evangelism or decoration. The imagination of the church should be one of the most vibrant aspects of her communication out into the earth, and the heavens (if we believe Colossians, that part of her task is to bear witness into heaven!). Instead, she is most often silent or not manifesting God in the realm of symbolic communications.
One reason for this is the lack of integration of the imagination into her leader’s spirituality or relationship with God. The intimacy with God of many leaders in the church is most often doctrinal or in the area of truth, and often also in genuine service to society; but what is missing is part of the way, and the life of Christ-the ministry from the imagination of God into the imaginations of people, cities and nations.
For creativity is His Life pouring in with fresh and dynamic ways of seeing, beholding and hence perceiving accurately people, cities and nations. We are each meant to know this dimension of The Father. It is part of what we were given access to through the actions of Jesus on the cross. When that veil tore, it was to give us access to more of His Father, including His Imagination! And He did not die for a partial view. He wanted us to go further and know all the fullness! The cross gives us permission to know The Father’s perception of things. And to not know how God sees is to miss a huge dimension of who He is!
The Bible itself could be said to be a symbolic communication from God. And then, even within this book, there are huge sections where the symbolic is foregrounded or highlighted-including the Psalms and of course the final book of the new testament. We are not without record of God’s symbolic communications into space and time. Still, so often the church does not truly value this aspect of who God is. God is symbolic, creative, and wants to be known and loved in this area of His Own being.
In our day, i believe God is restoring His Own imagination in the church and onto the earth, as a preparation for His Kingdom fully incarnating. And as the church, we are becoming a living temple for His whole Presence (for He is undivided), and by nature a temple is symbolic; therefore many are coming to know Him, to encounter Him through the imagination.
The church has tended to make the arts subservient to the gospel message-as if they were separate. But the arts are part of the gospel message, because God is one, and His Son is one, which means that His creativity is part of who He is, and so part of humankind meeting Him.
There is a great delusion in the church around the arts. Often because it has borrowed the world’s understanding of the arts. For, in the world, art and science; imagination and mind are often separated and in opposition. But not so in God Himself. He is One, integrated-so His creativity informs and works in conjunction with His Thoughts and Mind. We are now without excuse as we live in and are called to bring the Kingdom into a global culture; we are without excuse to ignore this aspect of God’s Identity. And by extension to miss out on this part of our own!
How can we obey Christ in His command to disciple the nations, if we ignore their arts and culture. It is not as if God suddenly stops His Own Being when He approaches the symbolic dimension of humanity! He is One, and He wants to dialogue with the whole of His Creation, and to bring it into proper alignment with Himself through His Son. God does not draw back some part of Himself in this pursuit of knowing and being known, So neither should we draw back when it comes to dialoguing with the cultural dimension of our cities and nations. For we are called to disciple the whole of each person, city, or nation, not just one aspect. To do this, we must know Him with the whole of ourselves.
The sublimation of the imagination in our relationships with God is actually a form of heresy. For it implies that God is not One. That He is somehow divided, and His Own Creativity is not an aspect of His Being. But, in addition, it divides or disintegrates our own image as well. For if we do not meet Him in and through our own creativity, then that whole dimension becomes dead or occupied by another force.
For, because we are created in His Image, to not know Him in this aspect of who we are, leaves us prey to either atrophy in this area, or occupation or possession by rebellious forces or spirits. Here is why, so many in the church will need deliverance in the area of their imaginations. For either they are still babes in this area, or they are possessed by alien influences in this area. The whole person is to be in dialogue and relationship with God. In short, it is very dangerous to only have the truth, and not the way and life of Christ in us!
Daniel represents a way out of a poverty of the imagination. He met God in and through his imagination. He knew God in His Symbolic Nature. So, He was able to interpret and communicate symbolically. Hence, his book, is an amazing mixture of history and symbol. The church still stumbles over it, for it has not fully understood over half of Daniel’s spirituality. Let us press on, so that we know God as Daniel did–as the uninterrupted Most High!