“Active imagination is a certain way of meditating imaginatively, by which one may deliberately enter into contact with the unconscious and make a conscious connection with psychic phenomena.”
-ML Von Franz
Active imagination, as described by Carl Jung (not by the negative connotation), may be described as a deliberate form of conscious dreaming. It is a meditation technique wherein the contents of one’s unconscious are translated into images, narrative or personified as separate entities.
It is a technique for unearthing unconscious repressions and elucidating what they are and how they can be best assimilated into ones consciousness awareness. The end result is to accept and integrate all parts of the self to express as the authentic creative self.
Active Imagination serves as a bridge between the conscious ‘ego’ and the unconscious and includes working with dreams and the creative self via imagination or fantasy. It is a more proximate and self-led modality for an individual to self-realize unconscious manifestations that are lessening their overall life expression and experience.
Jung linked active imagination with the processes of alchemy in that, both strive for oneness and inter-relatedness from a set of fragmented and dissociated parts. *Integration or Assimilation into the whole self.
Key to the process of active imagination is the goal of exerting as little influence as possible on mental images as they unfold.
”Flowing”, not Striving as the false-self does, but “Seeing, accepting and integrating the self truthfully.
Jung’s approach would ask the practitioner would be to;
• observe the scene,
• watch for changes,
• and report them, rather than to consciously fill the scene with one’s desired changes.
This minimizes the influence of the false-self interfering with truth hidden in the unconscious.
The steps following Imagination: Inspiration and Intuition.
A meditant clears away all personal content, including even the consciously chosen content of a symbolic form, while maintaining the activity of imagination itself, and thus becomes able to perceive the imaginal realm from which this activity itself stems.
The meditant leverages the connection to the imaginal realm established via the cognitive imagination, while releasing the images mediated via this connection.
By ceasing the activity of imaginative consciousness while allowing one’s awareness to remain in contact with the archetypal, or unconscious realm, the possibility opens up for an awareness deeper than the imaginal to be conveyed to the open soul by the mediating agents of this realm.
Jung was insistent that the participant deliberately engage in active imagination practice:
“You yourself must enter into the process with your personal reactions.. as if the drama being enacted before your eyes were real.”
Jung’s first personal experience with Active Imagination
“I was sitting at my desk once more, thinking over my fears. Then I let myself drop. Suddenly it was as though the ground literally gave way beneath my feet, and I plunged into the dark depths.”
The active imagination spawns from the desires of the unconscious mind, which ultimately wants to become conscious. But once they are realized by the individual, Dreams may become “weaker and less frequent” whereas they may have been quite vivid and recurring beforehand. With effective active imagination, the need for the unconscious to communicate with us through our dreams, is lessened.
Active imagination is a method for visualizing unconscious issues by letting them act themselves out. It can be done by visualization, by automatic writing, or by artistic activities such as dance, music, painting, sculpting, ceramics, crafts, etc.
“The patient can make himself creatively independent through this method… by painting himself he gives shape to himself’.
The practice of active imagination, as practiced by so many creative peope, permits the thoughtforms of the unconscious, or the inner ‘self’, and of the totality of the psyche, to act out whatever messages they are trying to communicate to the conscious mind.
Active imagination, expresses realities of an imaginal realm transcending any personal existence, and “fancy”, or fantasy, which expresses the creativity of the artistic soul. It is the imagination which transcends fantasy, it is driven by the authentic-self, but can be interfered with by the false-self so an intentional aware effort is required.
Recently, Samuel Mateus has suggested a close link between imaginary, society and publicity.
The “Public Imaginal”
was named after the dynamic, symbolic and complex set of diverse and heterogeneous Imaginaries that permeate societies. This is in line with Nietzsche, Goethe, Einstein, Jung and many others, and I describe it as a “Fictional Composite”, or an externalized societal persona, through which we all tacitly agree to communicate with and treat one another.
“The active imagination serves as an “organ of the soul”, thanks to which humanity can establish a cognitive and visionary relationship with an intermediate world”