Imagination, Ideation, Aphantasia

Open my eyes so that I can see the miracles in your teachings (torah).

Psalms 119:18

When I imagine something, I don’t see any images before my mind’s eye. When I remember a place I once visited, there are no scenes in my head. If I want to design or draw something, I have no mental pictorial template from which I work.

Science calls this aphantasia. To translate it as unimaginative would be wrong, just as it is not true that I have no ideation. I just lack the figurative.

Aphantasia has been known as a phenomenon for several decades, but little research has been done so far. Therefore, I can only rely on my own experience here. These do not have to line up with the experiences of others at all, because we are complex beings who keep trying to explain the most varied phenomena in simple ways.

Ideation is my greatest strength according to the CliftonStrengths Assessment. Intuition is part of my personality according to the MBTI. Even without pictures.

Aphantasia is probably not a problem for many people. Extraverted people can probably live with it without even realizing it. But I myself am introverted, draw my strength from being alone. I spend a lot of time in my thoughts.

The world in me is much richer, more colorful, more exciting, more interesting, more alive than the world out there. Without colors, without pictures, without smells, without taste. How’s that?

I explained how I think some time ago. I have created a detailed picture of a library with repeating niches, with desks and reading corners, with books and associations between these books represented by ribbons.

I have hundreds of conversations in this library at the same time. A few of them are always present to me, one is in the foreground, and when I move through the library, I can be part of the various conversations. It is easy for me to switch back and forth between the conversations because I always speak to myself.

But how can I imagine this library if I don’t see a picture of it? How did I even develop the idea to describe my mind as a library?

I hear stories. These stories get more refined over time. And suddenly they make sense for me. The development of the story then does not stop, even though I may be writing it down or publishing it at that time.

Details are added, connections are created, the larger picture emerges. But even more, this story will eventually come to life.

This happens in various ways. Sometimes I can tell one of my stories to someone and they understand intuitively. Sometimes I can apply the principles of history to new situations. Sometimes I just feel up to a situation because it reminds me of one of the stories.

The history of the library seems like a meta story to me. All other stories are woven into it, originate from the books in the library and are written in new volumes that are linked, connected and interwoven with all the other stories in the library and placed alongside with them.

Because I do not create any pictures of those stories, neither the stories nor the things and actions they tell about have to exist or make sense. On the other hand, they exist because I told the story and will make sense at the right moment. So I trust.

Some of the stories I told myself as a child are beginning to make sense today, and are even manifesting. Others seem to be utopias that can never be implemented. And some give my being a deep meaning, and I do not necessarily know why.

Who has never experienced this before: an experience, a film, a story, an encounter that makes sense on a deep level, which we cannot explain. Something we accept without knowing why. That is faith for me.

Because I don’t create images, I’m not afraid either. I can go anywhere in my mind. I am afraid in the real world because I see pictures there. Obviously, because I’m not blind.

Because I’m not afraid, I was in places in my thoughts that I would never dare to go if I saw them visually in my imagination.

I was in hell. I was in the abyss of my soul, in the shadow, in the subconscious. I was like Orpheus in the underworld. I was in heaven.

Because I do not generate any images in these moments, my amygdalae do not react with fight, flight, or freeze.

And because I don’t generate images, I have no problem believing a story, seeing it as true, even if it never happened.

Why am I telling all of this?

For me, the Bible is such a library. The stories of the Bible have emerged over generations, were refined, have gained depth and symbolism. They are archetypal in the sense of the word, basic exemplary stories for the deepest principles of human nature and action.

I cannot understand the question whether there has ever been a flood. I don’t know why this should be important. The story of the flood is true, whether Noah lived or whether he represents the person who is calm in the face of the catastrophe (Noah means calm) because he is prepared and trusts God.

I cannot understand the question of whether the earth was created in six days.

I see the story of paradise as recounting how humans developed consciousness, and an invitation to face our own shadow.

These stories are told so that everyone can benefit, from the child to the wise. The child loves God because he saved Noah and all the animals in a boat. Hopefully the wise man goes deeper and doesn’t care if the boat ever existed.

This is how good fairy tales, children’s stories, children’s films work. Made so that children love them and learn from them, they address us adults on completely different levels.

Unfortunately, there are many people who seek the remains of Noah’s ark to prove the truth of the Bible, but never see the deeper truth.

I see, perhaps precisely because my inner eye does not see in the classic sense. Perhaps that was why Paul had to be blind for three days to see.