If you really unhingeyour imagination, where will it lead? Will your path take you back to where Cain struck down Able, but discover it’s not quite what you expected, for brother Able was a Neanderthal? And do you go further back through those garden gates where your attention no longer fuses to thought, but only to sensation like the startled gazelle you flushed out of the brush.
Perhaps though, you’ll continue right on past the dreaded tree and continue to wander to the far side of the garden, only to discover it has no opposing wall. No, instead it opens out into a different scale, where the beasts and angels are colossal, and they do violent battle against one another, or is it a type of sport? Hard to tell.
Then, alone, off to the side, you see a woman seated on a rock. She seems to gaze to some distant place. When at last she catches a glimpse of you she waves and calls out, “Yes, I’m here. I’ve been imagining your entire journey.”
I’ve always enjoyed the experience of finding a random place in my travels and then with the use of my camera, progress from the image my ego wishes to capture to discover the image the soul wishes to reveal. Let’s call it an extroverted version of active imagination.
“When the soul wishes to experience something she throws an image of the experience out before her and enters into her own image.”
Now, standing next to a piece of sidewalk scaffolding on the upper west side I initially took the image above. But by remaining in that place and opening myself to the promptings of the soul, the images that followed revealed a radically different story.
Many questions arise from these soul images that were allowed to be seen. What might the soul be trying to say? Does the ego know that it’s been closed minded and well defended? How does the ego handle such criticism from the soul?
The process of having a dialogue with the autonomous aspects of the psyche was called active imagination by Carl Jung. In his recently published Red Book, Jung’s fascinating process has been exposed. The challenge is finding a practice that works to open up similar encounters.
As a matter of approach, it’s helpful to consider The Red Book as an account of an extended active imagination, that technique that Jung at times hints at, at times elucidates, whereby the conscious mind loosens it’s grip enough to allow the unfolding of a waken dream.
“Although previously he had made some attempts to fathom his own unconscious processes it was on December 12, 1913, that Jung began in earnest to undertake this task in a systematic way. As he actively stimulated the upsurge of imagery by writing down his dreams every morning and by telling stories to himself, he found that he began to converse with ‘sub-personalities.’ In Jung’s terms, the complexes can ‘personate,’ i.e. they can be encountered as if they are people in a dialectic akin to a personal relationship.” R. Hobson, Imagination and amplification in psychotherapy, JAP, 16:1, pg.90.
As Jung continues to introduce his task in the Red Book, he questions his soul asking where it has been? Who it is? How can he attain the knowledge of the heart?
The spirit of the depths even taught me to consider my action and my decision as dependent on dreams. Dreams pave the way for life, and they determine you without you understanding their language. One would like to learn this language, but who can teach and learn it? Scholarliness alone is not enough; there is a knowledge of the heart that gives deeper insight. the knowledge of the heart is in no book and is not to be found in the mouth of any teacher, but grows out of you like the green seed from the dark earth.” Carl Jung, The Red Book, pg. 233.
All that unfolds across the many pages of the Red Book is in some way the answer framed in these simple questions.