Imagination is Real

February 5, 2016

 

 

It is surprising to many people that imagination in Jung's analytical psychology is a real experience and not something one "makes up."  The adjective which describes experiences in which this kind of imagination is discussed is imaginal, not to be confused with the term imaginary, a word synonymous with a flight of fancy.  

 

In my own exploration of imagination, I am informed by French philosopher and scholar Henry Corbin who writes of a field between matter and mind, a domain he calls the imaginal realm (or the mundus imaginalis). I describe this field as an expanded quality of consciousness, a deeper way of knowing. 

 

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 early investigations.

 

The imaginal realm, the place where imagination is most alive, is a large and mysterious region, not a literal world with defined geographic coordinates, but a place better described as a dynamic and real place of experience, a locus inhabited by multivocal, multivalent beings. To read about these beings, see my new book titled,  Imaginal Figures in Everyday Life: Stories from the World between Matter and Mind , published by Chiron Publications.

 

For most of us, imagination lives on the cusp of unconscious life, often breaking through conscious awareness, and manifesting in symbolic images, creative insights, visionary encounters, and experiences of reverie, dreams, myths and fairy tales. When imagination of this sort breaks through, we are asked to pay attention with our organ of the heart, another name for the imaginative capacity.  This kind of listening requires that we value our intuitive intelligence as mightily as we value our intellectual intelligence.

 

In the prevalent cultural way of "knowing what is real," valuing intuition and depth, and therefore, valuing imagination can be a challenge.  It may surprise some to know that quantum physics is one of several fields offering lively arguments for revisiting cultural ideas about material reality.  Notions of space and time and what we "know" about worlds that are not governed by Newtonian laws are not as simple as we once thought. For example, the writings of physicist Fred Alan Wolf PhD, explain these relatively new ideas from a scientific perspective.  For sure, after reading Wolf's well written narratives, we are less sure that only solid-bodied beings move through space and time, and more open to the subtle-bodied reality of imaginal figures in a realm between worlds. 

 

 

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