What is the Imaginal Realm?

May 27, 2014

As a first definition of the imaginal realm, I’ll borrow from Iranologist and scholar Henry Corbin (1997) who said that the imaginal realm is a subtle world, which exists in a field between matter and mind. Additionally, psychiatrist Carl Jung and archetypal psychologist James Hillman, as well as other trailblazer-scholars, have made significant contributions to this emerging field of imaginal psychology, allowing me to draw from their work.   In the words that follow, I offer some examples of how the imaginal world (also known as the mundus imaginalis) manifests in daily life, and the part it can play in psycho-spiritual development and healing.

 

Central to any conversation about the imaginal realm are the figures that dwell in that large and mysterious region, not a literal world with defined geographic co-ordinates, but a place better described as a dynamic and real place of experience, a locus inhabited by multivocal, multivalent beings.  I refer to these beings throughout this blog as interior figures, images, unbidden angels, or subtle bodies, meaning, figures that are neither fully matter nor fully spirit.   Jung (1961/1989) spoke of imaginal figures as both personifications of internal (and often unconscious) dynamics and also as autonomous realities, as for instance in his descriptions of his guide, Philemon (p. 183).   Jungian analyst Jeffrey Raff (2000) takes Jung’s thought further by introducing the notion of psychoidal figures that exist outside of one’s psyche. In my exploration of imagination I consider the many ways in which image has informed my own experience, which brings me to question the different levels of reality and the many ways in which the imaginal manifests.

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