IMAGINAL CELLS AND THE BODY POLITIC
A Story for Our Times
When a caterpillar nears its transformation time, it begins to eat ravenously, consuming everything in sight. (It is interesting to note that individuals are often called “consumers” and one of the largest manufacturers of heavy construction machinery is called “Caterpillar,” Inc.) The caterpillar body then becomes heavy, outgrowing its own skin many times, until it is too bloated to move. Attaching to a branch (upside down, we might add, where everything is turned on its head) it forms a chrysalis—an enclosing shell that limits the caterpillar’s freedom for the duration of the transformation.
Within the chrysalis a miracle occurs. Tiny cells, that biologists actually call “imaginal cells,” begin to appear. These cells are wholly different from caterpillar cells, carrying different information, vibrating to a different frequency–the frequency of the emerging butterfly. At first, the caterpillar’s immune system perceives these new cells as enemies, and attacks them, much as new ideas in science, medicine, politics, and social behavior are viciously denounced by the powers now considered mainstream. But the imaginal cells are not deterred. They continue to appear, in even greater numbers, recognizing each other, bonding together, until the new cells are numerous enough to organize into clumps. When enough cells have formed to make structures along the new organizational lines, the caterpillar’s immune system is overwhelmed. The caterpillar body then become a nutritious soup for the growth of the butterfly.
When the butterfly is ready to hatch, the chrysalis becomes transparent (much as the Internet is making many hidden actions transparent). The need for restriction has been outgrown. Yet the struggle toward freedom has an organic timing. Were the chrysalis opened too soon, the butterfly would die. As the butterfly emerges, it opens its “right wing” and its “left wing,” and then flies away to dance among the flowers.
The awakening of the global heart results from transforming the body politic from the unconscious, over-consuming bloat of the caterpillar into a creature of exquisite beauty, grace, and freedom. This coming of age process takes us to a new mythic reality, a larger story, ripe with meaning and direction. It takes us from the naïve egocentricity of childhood into a larger reality of interdependent reciprocity. It is not a passage that ends in the gray grimness of adult responsibility, denying the colorful spirituality of childhood innocence. Rather, it is a reclaiming of wholeness that denies little, and embraces all.