empty canvas : wondering mind | book four

outside-in and inside-out


1  secret senses
2  crossing the threshold
3  playing in inner space
4  the dreamtime
5  beyond space and time
6  references


(pdf 436 KB)

Imagination is the reaching out of the mind,
the capacity to see dreams and visions,

to consider diverse possibilities,
to endure the tension in holding these possibilities to attention.
– Rollo May

Excerpt from secret senses

In the world of inner space our information seems to bubble up from a source deep within our own bodies. Whether we are at work in the science laboratory, the artist’s studio, or within human relationships, creative insight and response occurs in relation to a form of inner vision that is unfettered by the limitations of memory or habitual thought. That inner vision is the product of what I call the secret senses.

The secret senses seem to have their own unique and universal ways of perceiving and operating – ways that are closer to poetry and the language of metaphor. In some people that language might be expressed figuratively, portraying images that resemble objects in the ‘outer’ world. But for others that language is best expressed by using the elements of visual language themselves – lines, shapes, forms, colors, tones, patterns and textures – without making any intentional reference to the world of familiar objects. The American painter Georgia O’Keeffe said, “I found that I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say on any other way – things that I had no words for.” Other artists find that they can express things through the actual processes of painting, or assembling, or printing, or stitching.

The secret senses include the imagination, but there is much, much more. In Amy Tan’s novel, The Hundred Secret Senses, the mother happily acknowledges at least a hundred secret senses, and they include the ability to move across time and space – even through and across dimensions. The important thing to remember is that in this domain we are utterly free from all the limitations of everyday ‘reality’ – and we’ll experiment with the wildly liberating possibilities of that, too. The words, ‘intuition’ and ‘insight’ are part of this domain as well, but we will avoid getting ourselves too bound up in semantic definitions – let us simply call everything that seems to emerge from a level of the mind that is not ordinarily accessible the work of the secret senses.

When we dream, we see images and events happening on something like an internal video screen. We say we “see” them. But how? With our eyes? But they are closed! We don’t see with our physical eyes – we see with eyes that have been created by our brain’s inner image-making process. That process creates the imagery in the dream as well as an inner eye to watch the show. As Bob Thurman says, that makes our imagination rather like a virtual reality awareness. We refer to the virtual eye as ‘I’ – and for the most part forget that it is a figment of our incredible imagination! This hardly diminishes the wonder of the sense of self – it simply moves it from centre-field to the edge of the ballpark. When this happens naturally during the process of creative play, the space vacated by the self is suddenly full of bubbling joy. […]

– miriam louisa simons

The dream world, the true freedom of the imagination,
does not open to conscious manipulation.
– Sister Wendy Beckett

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