Mark Vernon & Jonathan Rowson
Nov 2nd, 2020
Einstein famously said that imagination is more important than knowledge, but how well do we really understand imagination? This conversation explores Mark Vernon’s recent essay in Aeon magazine that deepens that inquiry.
The poet and artist William Blake believed that imagination had distinctive forms, characterised as Ulro: single-pointed vision (what cannot be quantified does not exist). Generation: two-pointed vision (repetition abounds). Beulah: three-pointed (an ethical sensibility blighted by ‘selfhood’). Eternity: four-pointed (multivalent perception that opens on to infinite life). ‘Eternity includes and makes sense of the best of the other states: the discernment of Ulro, the expansiveness of Generation, and the feeling of Beulah, which is why artists and visionaries trust it.
When Vincent van Gogh painted starry nights, the enchanted cosmos became visible once again. When Albert Einstein envisaged travelling on a light beam, which was the imaginative exercise that fostered the special theory of relativity, physics uncovered new worlds. The geniuses of science and the arts work hand-in-hand in Eternity, illuminating each other’.
There are noteworthy overlaps between Ulro and a data-driven society, between Generation and consumerism, between Beulah and the challenges facing Human Rights and Eternity as the kind of ‘aperspectival’ (Gebser) or ‘supramental’ (Sri Aurobindo) vision that many believe will be necessary for humanity to survive (and perhaps thrive) in the 21st century.
Jonathan Rowson is co-founder and Director of Perspectiva. He was previously Director of the Social Brain Centre at the RSA, and is an applied philosopher with degrees from Oxford, Harvard and Bristol Universities. In a former life he was a chess Grandmaster and British Champion. His book, The Moves that Matter – A Grandmaster on the Game of Life was published by Bloomsbury in 2019. You can find Jonathan on Twitter.
Mark Vernon is a writer, psychotherapist and associate of Perspectiva. He is the author of several books, including his latest, out this year: A Secret History of Christianity: Jesus, the Last Inkling and the Evolution of Consciousness. You can find Mark on Twitter.
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