Wisdom in the desert regenerates the imagination, inspiring radical transforming vision, renewing the language and imagery of vision for an age that has lost vision. Desert wisdom retells old myths and stories in new, liberating ways, to awaken hearts in times that have lost faith in wisdom. Desert prophecy was always radically counter-cultural, inspiring imagery that regenerates degenerated imagination, imagination conditioned by reigning ideologies and ruling powers, purging the imagination of its habitual addiction to self-centred materialism, consumerism, ethnic nationalism and all the prevailing addictive God-substitutes that usurp God-centred glorification of God. True prophecy bears witness to the liberating glory of God’s Kingdom, whereas false prophecy serves reigning self-interests, spinning out the empty spin they spawn. Idolatrous confusion corrupts the imagination whereas God-centred wisdom regenerates it.
The monastic witness of the desert first arose as a powerful movement in Egypt and Palestine when the Church became the religion of the Roman empire, replacing a pagan imperial priesthood with its own imperial power structures, often but not always serving the reigning powers of oppression and control. Christian prophecy in the desert was heir to the whole prophetic tradition of Biblical right-glorification, inspired by its living witness to the Kingdom of God, fearlessly confronting the antagonism of the powers and rulers of this world. Prophetic circles in the desert were heirs to ancient desert prophecy that bore costly witness to the Kingdom of God, using inspired, subversive imagery in profoundly radical ways. The regeneration of the imagination was always an integral ingredient of desert wisdom because satanic degeneration of the imagination had always been the determining precondition of seductive worldly ideologies and reigning powers.
Witness to the Holy Name lay at the heart of radical Christian prophecy, which bore witness to the Name’s power to free hearts from addictive self-obsession. The desert prayed the Lord’s Prayer as Name-hallowing vision of God’s reigning glory, unseating every usurping God-substitute, restoring God-centred glorification of God. The purification of the imagination in the uncreated fires of deifying grace consumed self-centred confusion and dissolved self-obsessive delusion. A regenerated imagination freed the heart from worldly addictions, liberating sacred images by purging them of satanic degeneration. Christian prophecy was heir to Old Testament prophetic traditions of God-centred glorification of God, renewing prophetic purification of the imagination so that images could once again participate in deifying glorification. Desert prophecy restored myth as well as history to their rightful functions, supporting wholesome glorification of God, liberating them from subservience to idolatrous, demonic confusion. Sacred images are not mental abstractions but hallowing crystallisations of God-bearing energy, symbols that transmit the deifying mysteries they symbolise. Theocentric vision cures egocentric and ethnocentric degenerations which deprive wisdom of her dwelling place in awakened hearts. Wisdom turns idols back into God-centred icons, regenerating the imagination together with wholeness of heart and mind, so that God-centred glorification of God in Holy Trinity is freed to welcome the coming Kingdom of God in glory.
The desert sustains radical imaginal prophecy to awaken transformative imageless prayer of the Holy Spirit in the awakened heart. Imageless prayer purifies the creative imagination which in turn supports pure prayer. Imageless vision is never a desecration of the imagination, but its regeneration. Without imaginal regeneration, prophecy degenerates into false prophecy that slavishly serves the powers that be, leading to a stifling tightening of their worldly grip over imaginatively impoverished souls, extinguishing imageless wisdom in hardened hearts. Prophetic imagery has often been misinterpreted in the interests of reigning powers, forced to serve the interests of fake gods such as mammon, money, power and greed. So desert prophecy has always been obliged to cleanse prophetic imagery of worldly self-obsessions, turning degenerative images right round through hallowing regeneration, glorifying God in icons of his saving Name.
The Name still unseats every parody of God, every idolatrous image that reduces icons to external glitter or shallow celebrity, every addictive God-substitute which hardens the blindness of closed hearts. Desert prophecy still transmits God-centred glorification of God, through God, wisdom’s deifying life in Holy Trinity, which cleanses the heart with wholesome openness. Such openness is not relativistic narcissism, but God-centred wholeness that heals every kind of narcissism. Healthy, God-centred openness is the glory of hallowing completeness that cures the imagination of every degenerating addiction. It is crucial when old addictions begin to break open that wisdom comes to fill the void, not a plethora of fresh addictions that stifle wholesome growth. The Name is the Alpha and the Omega of sound healing, the beginning as well as the end of hallowing glorification, the first as well as the last remedy of desert theopathy. The Kingdom’s coming glory empowers every mystery of glory, regenerating every prophetic image with the renewing inspiration of the uncreated, creative imagination. Coming glory is the radiance of Christ glorified who is who he is, even now, as he always was, whose Christophanic regenerative power flows from the Spirit in God’s coming Kingdom, healing in order to free hearts for Christophanic vision and theophanic glorification of God.