Sandra M. Levy-Achtemeier, Ph.D.

Imagination and the Journey of Faith

Imagination and the Journey of Faith

(Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008)

Imagination and the Journey of Faith was a labor of love, reflecting my long-standing interest – both as a psychologist and as a theologian – in the imagination as our power to create new meaning and as the opening through which we can encounter the Divine. In the first section of this book, I examine various categories of the imagination's expression – through ritual, poetry, music, visual art, and narrative, including stories of scripture. In the second section of the book, I focus on various home and community practices which "exercise" our imaginative capacity, and in turn, open us up to encounters with God.

Here's a description of my book ...

Drawing on a wide literature from fields of psychology, literature, anthropology, art history, and philosophy, Levy – trained as both a psychologist and theologian – makes the case that our imaginative power, our creative imagination with which all humans are hard-wired, lies at the heart of our potential encounter with some transcendent Reality. She makes the case that all of us, to a greater or lesser degree, possess a creative, imaginative faculty or power which allows us not only to organize and make sense of the world around us, but also to remember, hope, and project an as-yet unrealized world of meaning, based on our experience but going beyond it.

All of us can form images, more or less, of what we’re not experiencing at the moment but what we might experience next week or next year or in the next life. Furthermore, much of our imagining has an emotional component to it – a satisfying, joyful, or sometimes fearful component – an aesthetic dimension – a kind of emotional intelligence. And like the rest of our human intelligence, this imaginative aspect of our mind – across the life span, from early childhood to the end of life – needs educating, shaping, nourishing and enriching. Thus, if we conceive of the imagination as a power we all possess at least in nascent form, then analogous to a virtue such as patience, it becomes strengthened through practice.  

In this book, Levy first makes the case for the importance of the imagination in our meeting with God or Transcendence, and then turns to major categories of imaginative products – ritual, song, poetry, art, and story – through which Transcendence can be met. The second section considers practices based on each of these categories, both in the home and community and in the worship place ... exercises that can strengthen and enhance that imaginative capacity which each of us inherits by virtue of being human.

In this substantial and inspiring book, Levy has something to offer to those who are “starting from zero” outside of any religious tradition from birth, as well as those within a particular faith community who wish to deepen their spiritual lives. In today’s troubled, harried, and consumer-driven culture, this readable text offers hope to those who hunger for glimmers of Transcendence in their everyday world.

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