Imagination’s Function

Foucault, power and Asia (again)
Statement: “Imagination exists as a function of colonial power”.

The Tailorite Complex responds

Quite so, quite so: the term contains within it a whole trace that is inextricably Logocentric (which is basically the Eurocentric powerhouse if you are postcolonial, or the Phallocentric regime if you’re a feminist).

But of course — so are the terms “function”, “existence” and “power” — these are also functions of that powerhouse, functions whose operation is a means to power, weaponry of suppression, of oppression.

Now, the general post-structural response is to unpack these terms, query them, deconstruct and de-center them, expose their situation, contextualized within the historical ebb and flow (fields) of power. The postcolonial response is identical, but to expose the whiteness of the power at play (and the browness of what is being supressed).

For example, we could unpack the term “imagination” and trace its usage back to the European enlightenment — in which “imagination” privileges a kind of private, secular space of thought that ultimately is used to enslave the black man. Those who do not imagine as we do are the barbarians: all kinds of ways of saying this — we teach them what creativity/art/culture is — or they do not “imagine”, they “feel” — or perhaps they only “imagine”, they do not have a cultural demarcation between imagination and science/rationality, they are wild imaginers, they are imagination. The list’s endless (even includes government and privately funded “Islamic arts” movements in modern times, in western cities like London). And in all these senses it is a means to control, to define caste systems, to enslave.

Observe also that post-structural feminism proceeeds along an identical Foucaultian response –but the emphasis is on how the power play runs to castrate women. For example, creativity/imagination always end up in objectification of woman, never of subjecthood — imagination has always been a tool of violent pornography, since the beginnings of European culture.

The Tailorite response acknowledges the Foucaultian gambit. But it goes deeper, it has to, because there’s something deeper going on.

The Tailor Complex believed and followed that all that poststructural stuff for exactly 7 years, studied it, lived it, breathed it, recited it daily. Until the end of 2002, when we had an encounter with an entity known to the Muslims as “Allah”.

The repercussion of this (a small repercussion within a much wider personal impact) was that we realised Foucault is mere defense, an evasive maneuver that is only completed by Tailorism. There’s an intrinsic materialist slavery involved in his analysis.

Know that Foucault himself is the creation of Asia. And, solving the feminist’s problems as well as the postcolonial, an Asian Woman created Foucault — using her Imagination. She has many names — one of which is Hajar. Her Imagination occurs in the Gnostic Scriptures as “Eve’s Shadow”.

Know that attack (of the Mind) is better than defense (of matter).

Foucault received his revelations (that continue to rock the academy) after chemical adventures in the desert of the academy. We received ours after a Hajaric flight into a deeper, underlying desert: one in which we saw that Hajar engendered Foucault by means of her shadow.

Foucault exists as a function of Hajaric power.

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13 thoughts on “Imagination’s Function

  1. For example, we could unpack the term “imagination” and trace its usage back to the European enlightenment — in which “imagination” privileges a kind of private, secular space of thought that ultimately is used to enslave the black man.

    Or – perhaps better – we could trace it back to Romanticism, which was to some degree a ‘counter Enlightenment’, and a check on the imperialist tendencies of a society gradually becoming more secular in its outlook. For Blake, for example, ‘Imagination’ was Spiritual Revelation, the first principle of existence, the highest human faculty.

    “Imagination is the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow.”

    Ditto for Coleridge, who gave it a less visionary and more philosophical slant:

    “The primary IMAGINATION I hold to be the living Power and prime Agent of all human Perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM.”

    Coleridge would have described this Foucaultian ‘imagination’ instead as fancy.

    ‘Fancy is the lowest form of imagination because it “has no other counters to play with but fixities and definites”. With fancy there is no creation involved; it is simply a reconfiguration of existing ideas.’ As Shawn Rider puts it, quoting the Poet.

    In this sense, Foucault’s analysis is correct: ‘Fancy’ is what happens when the imagination is subjected to self-reflection; pressed into the service of reifying a sense of a separate, objectified self. Because we can’t objectify others unless we have already objectified ourselves. There is no ‘male gaze’ unless the subject has already severed himself from his object.

    Severance is the function of the intellect – it is the organ of ἀνάλυσις, cutting apart, specialised for distinction. To subjugate the Imagination (what the Sufis call qalb, ‘heart’), which is the organ of synthesis, to the intellect, as the organ of analysis, can only result in ‘Fancy’ – the objectified imagination.

    If, as Blake and Coleridge (and, of course, Wordsworth) so clearly understood, Imagination is dethroned as the sovereign power of the human constitution, there will be an inversion of the rightful order of that constitution, and a usurpation of power by the ego. This is Blake’s Urizen: ‘the representation of abstractions and an abstraction of the human self’.

    Lo, a shadow of horror is risen
    In Eternity! Unknown, unprolific,
    Self-clos’d, all-repelling: what demon
    Hath form’d this abominable void,
    This soul-shudd’ring vacuum? Some said
    “It is Urizen.” But unknown, abstracted,
    Brooding, secret, the dark power hid.

    1. Very good points, James, thanks for representing the Romantic front/alternative genealogy here. Definitely a way out of fancy.

      I’ve been pushing the idea that Hajar’s sa’ee is both a 7fold passage through the modes of the nafs and a movement through four aspects of the soul (nafs to qalb to ruh to sirr).

      Reversing that circuit we end up where Hajar begins, in a space where qalb becomes “fancified” across a dessert of potent historical traces (illusion intermixed with “scattered” fragments of Gods true language).

      So I’m completely in agreement here when I say that Hajar’s imagination gives birth to Foucaultian space (by virtue of the reversed circuit) 🙂

    1. @Fugstar: not sure what you are asking. I guess “implications”?

      I think there aren’t any for the ummah: this is just an intimately personal, eccentric form of bidah. It’s personal because I associate Foucault (and associated philosophical understanding of power) with the old me and this revised, Kabbalistic view of Foucalt as the new me. It’s bidah because I believe that Hajar’s circuit is the perfect meditation device to read Western writing like Foucault’s and my Western form — and to take that Western (alien) discourse/background and make it sanctified and “Islamic”. But I mean this in my own personal sense of Islam and Hajar, not the embodied practiced version that has the true claim to validity over mine. I concede completely that I misuse Islamic terminology here as a metaphor to promote something alien to that embodied culture.

      I used to believe that if the ummah got with this program, they’d have less hang ups, feel freer, take their method of reading lifes problems based on Hajar’s circuit, give (re)birth to religion and, in a nutshell, blissfully create their way out of life’s problems throughh art, science, poetry … A renaissance of the body’s true science (when you realize youve imagined the west, you take responsibility for that creation and move on to create rather than be at the mercy of your phantasm).

      But that belief was my own creation … I imagined an ummah (that i really didnt understand in a sensitive, p roper sense) and ultimately was just talking about my own self and frame of reference.

      1. I just wanted to pick up something I found interesting in your reply, Musa. Twice you use the word ‘alien’ here: “…I believe that Hajar’s circuit is the perfect meditation device to read Western writing like Foucault’s and my Western form — and to take that Western (alien) discourse/background and make it sanctified and “Islamic”” and “I concede completely that I misuse Islamic terminology here as a metaphor to promote something alien to that embodied culture.”

        Two centuries before Christ Terrence famously said: Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto, “I am a human being and nothing human is alien to me”. And this is a theme that the Sufis develop to its most inclusive degree – Ibn al-‘Arabi’s “My heart is capable of every form…”

        A focus on ‘alienation’ invariably focuses on irreconcilable differences. The ‘Western discourse/background’ is irreconcilable with the ‘Islamic’ unless i is transformed – in you case through Hajaric meditation. But in what sense is it really alien? Both are, in Terrence’s terms, human discourses – and thus reconcilable through our common humanity. And in Ibn al-‘Arabi’s terms (which I would suggest is profoundly, quintessentially “Islamic” ) both are reconcilable through the fundamentally synthetic nature of the heart.

        In any case, there is nothing fixed about a culture – to see culture in this way is to fall into the trap of essentialism. Culture is a continuous process of negotiation, exchange and evolution – all culture is united in these basic characteristics, united through their humanness which, in turn, is a reflection of the Divine nature of perpetual change: kulla yawmin huwa fi shanin, “Every day He is in a new configuration”.

        1. Slm James,

          Very astute observations, as always.

          I won’t dispute anything you are saying, definitely hearing you.

          But I append the following addenda to my recent rant in an attempt to clarify:

          1) whenever I use “western” and “eastern” in this blog, particularly in this piece, I am doing the standard idries shah double entendre, where a) the “west” stands for the plane of (feminine) receptivity (a plane of language and perception and cultural situation and context we are all thrown into, genetically brown or white) and b) the east stands for prophetic, muhammedean inception (or potential to transmit). Shah and I might mean the “real” thing too, but that’s where I am ironic and he is playful (sight, different times, more difficult times). Furthermore, he is the stronger poet (and a proper teacher) because he never “gives the game away” in his east/west observations with this kind of addendum – it spoils the show. Like the difference between proper kosher in Torah and it’s metaphorization in Pauline Christianity: that’s the gulf between Shah and me on east and west. I guess the one thing I have on Paul though is my ironic self-reflexive phrasing of addenda (perhaps by writing this I might well be teeing it up for a hole in “1” on the cosmic gulf game of spiritual discourse).

          2) sure, alien-ness is illusion. But so’s a lot else: you have been appropriately trained up – but for the guy off the street to say alien-ness is an illusion, it won’t do him any good. He needs to move through the PROCESS of alienation and subsequent disillusion into unity. This is Hajar’s sa’ee – she is alien, alienated and, by the circuit I keep banging on about, bounced back and forth in vibration until she ascends to the level of the sirr, the secret of unity in her process. Thus aliennation leads to tawhid.

          The Shema is the Tawhid of the Jews and the Kabbalistic commentary on it is very good.

          “hear Israel, YHWH elohenu” (Elohim being a pluralistic plane of god images, the multiplicitous feminine plane of receptivity, multiplicity necessarily giving aliens in bifurcatory generation) “YHWH ehad” (god is one – the Elohim of god images drawn up, back, illusion dissolved in PROCESS to unity )

          But it is the process of reciting Shema, the process of the hajaric ascent that is the point of the kind of unity you are talking about. And it must begin with an alien in the space of Elohim to get to the ehad, if you see what I mean.

          3) surprised to hear you fight for the name of Islam, I was partly inspired by your comment a while back regarding “use-by-dates” to concede the religion to the realm of cultural embodiment. Rendering my attachment to the tropes of that religion absolutely ironic (my sort of Shylock moment).

        2. Maybe one comment on your comment, James: reconciliation is possible but it begins with an irony of illusory, literary exile and alien-nation. God loves us anyhow, Abraham loves Hajar – the gesture to give her the boot is just that – a gesture that mirrors the ironic exile of all of us into western cues, western discourses.

          But yes, of course, if there is a way, a straight path – that is reconciliation.

          In terms of real, genuine impact – if everyone took the term to grasp all of this, really take it in – there’d be no wars, and the middle east (for example) would have complete peace with not a drop of blood spilt.

  2. The Shema is the Tawhid of the Jews and the Kabbalistic commentary on it is very good.

    “hear Israel, YHWH elohenu” (Elohim being a pluralistic plane of god images, the multiplicitous feminine plane of receptivity, multiplicity necessarily giving aliens in bifurcatory generation) “YHWH ehad” (god is one – the Elohim of god images drawn up, back, illusion dissolved in PROCESS to unity )

    This parallels the (Classical) Sufi assertion that “Allah” represents the totality of the Divine Names. Of course Elohim and Allah are related linguistically, deriving from the same Semitic root – the Hebrew plural has disappeared with the passing of time, just as the concept of the Godhead has evolved from a multiplicity of ‘gods’ to a multiplicity-in-Unity of Divine Names.

    This harps back to an earlier conversation about the Sufis preference for the word ‘hu’ (or ‘huwa’) to indicate the Divine ‘himselfness’ (huwiyyah) – the Being that is pointed towards by all the Names, yet remains unconditioned by any.

    Thus one can talk about ‘alienation’ at the level of the expression of the Divine Names: the expression of Wrath is ‘alien’ to the expression of Mercy, and so forth. But from the perspective of the absolute Unity of huwiyyah there can be no alienation: there can be nothing other (‘alien’ from L. alius, ‘other’) than He.

    surprised to hear you fight for the name of Islam, I was partly inspired by your comment a while back regarding “use-by-dates” to concede the religion to the realm of cultural embodiment.

    Yes, but I use the word Islam only in its original meaning of ‘submission’ – a meaning that can never be exhausted – and not to denote a set of socially and culturally conditioned practices (even though, in the best case, these are a perfect expression of submission).

    The Sufi Way is – and will always be – ‘Islamic’ because at its heart lies the gesture of submission. So, when I suggested that Ibn al-‘Arabi’s famous poem in the Tarjuman is ‘is profoundly, quintessentially “Islamic”’, what I meant was that it depends on a vision that submits to the Divine ‘himselfness’ manifested in every form.

    1. [em] the Hebrew plural has disappeared with the passing of time, just as the concept of the Godhead has evolved from a multiplicity of ‘gods’ to a multiplicity-in-Unity of Divine Names. [/em]

      Understood … the Kabbalistic commentary is that the shema prayer is exactly this process of evolution and disappearance — but all sped up and replayed microcosmically within the reciter.

      Okay, if we’re using Islam in the sense of “submission”, then I’d say that the process of shema (and prayer is always operative, a performance act, not a logical statement) is you/Israel begin at the historical point of alienation/exile and end up a Muslim by the last part. The future is brought to you “now” over the process of reading two lines.

      Again, regarding implications, we’d have a lot of happy and peaceful people in the world if they all got with such a programme of understanding.

  3. I take it that, by imagination, you do not mean the “khayyal” of, say, Ibn Arabi or Suhrawardi – which is also often translated as “imagination”.

    Having established the scope of the use of the word “imagination”, yes, I agree with your post. Quite, quite. And more, Foucault and those under his spell even use imagination to colonise Consciousness, or the “entity known to the Muslims as ‘Allah’ “.

    1. Agreed re use of English here (with khyayyal acknowledged as closer to the Romantic use of “Imagination” and my use here closer to fancy).

      While I’m clarifying my glossary, in the past on this blog I have said either Imaginal or Symbolic to refer to the ibn Arabi kind of kyayyal-orientation. When opposing Symbolic to Imaginary, I’m just adopting Lacanian terminology (a buried subtext in the blog from a year and half ago was “sanctifying” Lacan through mapping his Symbolic to the Imaginal concept).

      Like your way of putting it regarding Consciousness, a lot 🙂

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