Are imaginal experiences real? What is the nature of the beings that live in that space between matters of the natural world, and ideas of the reasonable mind? How do they help us live a life imbued with wonder and mystery? These questions compelled me to begin exploring what French philosopher Henry Corbin called the imaginal realm, the mundus imaginalis. Corbin coined the term “imaginal” to distinguish between that which is “made up” – a flight of fantasy – and that reality residing on the border between waking experience, and a more generative kind of knowing and being.
For me, an exploration of imagination—and the imaginal figures that live in its domain—flows from two creative streams. The first is personal story. My own life experience with dream figures, intuitive presences, and visionary beings have been powerful and healing, beginning when, as a 13-year-old girl, my mother suddenly died, leaving me in a lost and frightening state of grief. As I share in Imaginal Figures in Everyday Life: Stories from the World of Matter and Mind, a figure came to me then, offering what she could to allow me to survive that sad time, and later to thrive.
The second creative source of inspiration is a transpersonal “other,” a central dynamic that analytical psychology calls the Self. We might understand the Self as a guiding principle (an impulse), directing us always, toward growth and transformation.
As I write, I often find myself, a participant, in a world in which memoir and the Self co-create an interactive field. Within this field, imaginal figures inform, inquire, and sometimes shake me from rigid ego positions.
Each of us can choose to answer “yes” or “no” to the creative call of the Self. One’s expressive medium may be writing, as it is for me; for others it may be dance, sculpting, play or drama. With an affirmative response to the Self one finds life – renewal, transformation, ascent, growth, rebirth. In declining the call, one risks death – stagnation, coagulation, depression, fear, and depletion of soulful animation. (Originally posted as a guest blog for Chiron Publications)