More Notes on Carl Jung’s Active Imagination Method

It is neither necessary nor desirable for everyone […] to reach the depth of connection to the unconscious at which Active Imagination is required. These pages should not be used as a “how-to-do-it” course, for deep involvement with the unconscious requires guidance from an analyst.

From a certain perspective, everything I write here will be completely incorrect. That is because anyone who reads it too rigidly, without taking into account that the opposite of any statement is always also true, will do violence to the individuality of the psyche.

— Janet Dallet, “Active Imagination in Practice” from Jungian Analysis, edited by Murray and Stein (1982)

[Faemon’s Note: the abovequoted paper is “openheaded spiritworker pagan friendly” on the surface, but has a modern sensibility of not bothering with as well as discouraging thoughts about metaphysical work. Contrast that with early Jungians such as Barbara Hannah and Marie Louise von Franz. Respectively, authors of “Encounters with the Soul” and “Shadow and Evil in Fairytales” the former I quote enough to demonstrate the difference, the latter which has nothing to do with Active Imagination but the author keeps bringing it up anyway! So that readers don’t accidentally do witchcraft. Because That Would Be Bad.]

Jungian psychology held that, in many of the emotional and mental disorders that kept a patient from functioning in society or enjoying life, the way to recover from the “soul injury” that caused such trouble was unique to each individual—and both patient and therapist could find it, if they paid attention to the themes and symbols in the patient’s dreams.

Most of us forget our dreams when we wake up, but that same imaginative psychic (as in pertaining to the psyche) stuff can come up in other ways…or so believed Jung and the Jungians, in the infancy of modern Western psychotherapy. Word association tests, for instance, would be used to catch the thought patterns of a patient; or ink blot tests. These relied on the patient declining to think logically and consciously, for an allotted time so that the underlying subconscious patterns could emerge and be interpreted.

But all of these would be obscure or passive (and not used much anymore.) Jung pioneered a method that worked with both the conscious and subconscious state of mind, that I personally still do undertake and have found helpful both psychologically and spiritually.

The rest of this post quotes extensively from“Encounters With the Soul” by Barbara Hannah, to describe this method.

[Carl Jung] discovered a technique called “active imagination,” which is the subject of this book. I say, very carefully, discovered, not invented, for active imagination is a form […] used, at least from the dawn of history, if not earlier, as a way of learning to know […] God or gods. In other words, it is a method for exploring the unknown, whether we think of the unknown as an outside god—as an immeasurable infinite—or whether we know that we can meet it by contemplating our unknown selves in an entirely inner experience.

As Marie-Louise von Franz comments in the foreword of the same book: “This gives us the satisfaction of knowing that we are dealing here not with a weird innovation, but with a human experience which has been lived through before.” The case studies included mention of Alchemy traditions that use imaginatio ver et non phantastica, an ancient Egyptian document known as “the Dispute between a Man and his Ba”, and a text by 12th century Christian monk Hugh de St. Victor’s Der Arrha Animae subtitled “Conversation Concerning the Dowry of the Soul” and “Dialogue Between and Man and His Soul”…all as though there were ever anything necessarily unsatisfying about the weird and innovative.

I disagree this modern way of expressing an experience ever needs the validation of the old, but I agree to my current method of “questing” being a common human experience really. I was doing it before I thoroughly read up on Jung, but from now on I’ll be more inclined to say that anyone who wants to do this thing “my” way…should really just read Jung, instead. (Faemon’s Note: No wait don’t! I tried to read Jung’s writings, as compiled by Joan Chodorow in the book Jung on Active Imagination…umm, Barbara Hannah is a better writer, so I will keep to quoting Hannah.)

Another main point of Hannah’s is how little it matters “whether we think of the unknown as an outside god (…) or whether we know that we can meet it (…) in an entirely inner experience.” I do agree except that Hannah counters this very point by this passage:

When [Carl Jung] first [turned away from the familiar affairs of our conscious world to face this unknown, unconscious/subconscious] he was horrified to note that the visions which he saw and heard were very similar to the fantasies he had seen overcome many of his patients at the Burghölzli Mental Hospital. At first, he feared that they might overcome him also, and he lived for many months with the fear of madness hanging over his head. This was caused by a repeated vision of great portions of Europe being bathed in a sea of blood. It was only in August 1914, on the outbreak of war [which involved all the countries he had seen submerged in blood] that he realized that his visions of 1913 had been a forewarning of the First World War and did not refer to his own psychology. Thus freed from the terrible nightmare of possible madness, he was able to turn quietly and objectively to the contents of his visions.
Carl Jung was relieved that these morbid and violent fantasies weren’t a sign of mental instability, but precognition…as though precognition of whole countries submerged in a deluge of blood is better than one deeply troubled individual kept more or less to a building with other deeply troubled individu—actually, you know what, I take back my snarkiness and fully agree to this too, precognition is the better way to frame it. So, it can matter. By my cosmology, though, it usually doesn’t matter because I’m an incorrigible earthling: shared understanding, culture and communication makes things fuzzy at the edges, but if my mind is the primary medium by which I have these questing experiences, and isn’t shared (or difficult to share without resorting to some other avenue of transmitting information) because of the nature of the mind world as opposed to the nature of the physical world, then I may as well present it to the physical and societal world as something in my mind. Which, oddly enough, it is. If I’m wrong and it’s an entity crossing over from another dimension, with autonomy and interiority and all that, well, the dissociated positioning I experience would be the same (that it’s my mind, but I can’t fully relate to this person in my mind so it isn’t conscious-ego-me but because this is in my mind this person must —theoretically—be me,) as well as the way I treated the incorporeal other because of it: as having an interiority of their own separate from me, because that’s the experience even if it’s not the theory that gels best with everything else I experience and/or have been taught to interpret.

The personal inner work remains key, as this passage before the how-to explains:

…if we are still indulging ourselves with illusions about who and what we are, we have no chance whatsoever of being real enough to see the images of the unconscious or hear its voice. We need a very unbiased mind, which has learned to value the truth above everything, in order to register and value what we see and hear [during Active Imagination.]
And then to the how-to, or:

A Short Description of the Actual Techniques That Can Be Used in Active Imagination

  • The first thing is to be alone, and as free as possible from being disturbed
  • Then one must sit down and concentrate on seeing or hearing (Faemon’s Note: or feeling, or abstractly thinking) whatever comes up from the unconscious.
  • When this is accomplished,  and often it is far from easy, the image must be prevented from sinking back again into the unconscious, by drawing, painting, or writing down whatever has been seen or heard. Sometimes it is possible to express it best by movement or dancing. Some people cannot get into touch with the unconscious directly.

An indirect approach that often reveals the unconscious particularly well, is to write stories, apparently about other people. Such stories invariably reveal the parts of the storyteller’s own psyche of which he or she is completely unconscious. In every case, the goal is to get into touch with the unconscious, and that entails giving it an opportunity to express itself in some way or other. No one who is convinced that the unconscious has no life of its own should even attempt the method.The technique for both the visual and the auditory method consists first of all in being able to let things happen […] But images must not be allowed to change like a kaleidoscope. If the first image is a bird, for instance, left to itself it may turn with lightning rapidity into a lion, a ship on the sea, a scene from a battle, or whatnot. The technique consists of keeping one’s attention on the first image and not letting the bird escape until it has explained why it appeared to us, what message it brings us from the unconscious, or what it wants to know from us.

Even in the very different practical context I do this thing, I can’t lay out the steps in this process much better than that. That said, by Jungian standards I have been awful: letting the these play out however they will. Sometimes I’ll post a record because I could write it out into something that makes sense, but other times I’ll post a record of it precisely because it doesn’t make very much sense at all even to me…and sometimes I don’t catch it on any record because I don’t feel like writing.

So, here too is an important relationship between experiencing the imaginative, and recording or expressing it.

I believe it works the other way around too: many of us may not have encounters with the incorporeal others had a traveler in these “otherworlds” not gotten some idea of them from an artistic work encountered in waking life or the “mundane” life first. I also categorize in this the experience of an incorporeal person interfacing the corporeal world; as opposed to not dreaming so much as feeling or thinking various sorts of…internal voices that feel as though they originate externally, matching concepts or feelings to words and writing those down; and meaningful coincidences or synchronistic events.

These would all be works and experiences of Active Imagination, the case studies of which have been a fascinating read to me (from Hannah’s book.) Apart from an analysis of the historic documents mentioned above, they also include the cases of patients, their family histories where relevant, their disorders, and how they met who in the otherworlds through Active Imagination—and how that brought them better functionality and happiness in life.

Lately I have been getting the sense that mental illness or neurodiversity, and mysticism mixing together are broadly unfashionable (even incendiarily controversial), even among mentally ill or neurodiverse practitioners of liminality such as myself. Personally, though, it’s been in specific exceptional instances that I have felt moved to assert that they are separate and should be kept so very separate (an episode I had as a child with hallucinating cooked shrimp talking to me was probably not demons, more recent online discussions wherein the first suggestion or several lobbed at someone with admitted multiple psychotic mental illnesses is “maybe demons/gods/curse” and ‘but maybe mental—’ is met with hostility, and I ought to rethink my use of coffee as entheogen now that I switched to a brand that I metabolize as abysmally uninsightful liquid terror.) Generally though I default to liminal work being mental, denotatively and connotatively, at first because profoundly numinous and liminal experiences have been so pathologized (in my unfortunate experience), and lately because this old school of psychotherapy I’m really into studying the system of gets really very metaphysical about it.


Stars come down in you and love, you can’t give it away

The following entry may contain triggering material.

My corporeal roommate Cecil recently asked me how I’d planned to kill myself. I’d made numerous attempts, all emotionally serious of course, in the unutterably bleakest mindset—but, not serious in the sense that I’m alive today because I’d been transported unconscious to some hospital; that hadn’t happened. So, from the outside, I was just making up exaggerated stories so that my whinging would get more serious attention, and my melancholy laziness excused (though my birth family would have held that same attitude otherwise, I’m certain.) From the inside, I had tidied away every trace of my history, spent the wee hours of each morning in the bathtub with a kitchen knife to my neck and failing to lean into it enough to break skin; considered bleach, oven gas, what to overdose on, starvation; on the morning of my 18th birthday I’d tried to jump off the balcony of the 22nd floor—planned for it, left everything that had been mine in the stairwell garbage, so there was nothing for me to go back to—and was most abjectly terrified that I couldn’t follow through with it, though every fibre of my being remained in far too much pain, (intractable pain, every waking moment, seemingly only from living,) to endure any alternative.

Because of that, I can’t help but suspect that most apparent suicides are secretly accidents in at least the final conscious half-second.

I’ve finished reading Marie-Louise von Franz’s Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales, and it is dated. Jungians remain stodgy about gender binary, of course, but common terms in this text include “primitive”, “crippled”…and Franz openly admits to a childhood imaginary monster being human. Because Franz grew up in a neighborhood that very much lacked racial diversity, it seems.

Many other ideas contained in this text, I considered very intriguing and helpful. One of these being how the dead become evil.

…there is a certain amount of life energy in them which has not been exhausted but has been unnaturally blocked before the proper time. The clock’s spring has broken instead of running down, and that unexhausted life energy turns hostile (…) Therefore even people who during their lifetime were really good people and not possessed by evil, can, out of resentment at having been robbed of life, turn into such a thing if they are killed before their time.

That is why late antique invocations of [curse] magic always begin: “Oh, you gods of the Netherworld, Hades, Proserpina, and you the nameless enormous army of those who killed themselves, or who were murdered, or died before their time.” That is a classical late Greek invocation to be found in most of the magical papyri of antiquity.

I’d also told Cecil of my attempt to hang myself from the closet and a twisted-up bedsheet. There’d been a mirror on the inside of the door, and a wide enough gap around the door that the blue evening light could seep in, and I could watch me hang myself.

To Cecil, I’d joked that maybe a mirror does catch at some shade or fade of people, and maybe a future tenant would wake up in the wee hours of the morning, and move to the closet to get a cookie they’d left in the pocket of their trousers that they’d thrown in there, and when they’d open the door, I’d still be hanging there in the mirror, and they would see me hanging there…and reaching out and screaming, in uncanny harmonics, “My cookie!”

…Cecil didn’t think it was funny, either.

It wasn’t true, anyway; I hadn’t really wondered, until now, what sort of ghost I would have been.

To parse this phenomenon on a level of personality and egoism, the evil dead are jealous. To understand it on a level of egoless power dynamic, the evil dead are embodiments of an unlived life, the subtle psychic energy from that which was meant to be lived out and was not. They embody consequence, without interiority.

Almost a decade after the attempt in the closet, I feel fine. I feel happy! No invisible vice tightening around my skull. My ribs don’t feel like a knife rack. I’m not even wracked with anxieties as I was when I was a very small child up to my mid to late teens.

I did get around to proper Mirror Work, recently: looked into a compact that the Dierne Pallis held out to me and I found, at last—palpable venom and poisonous fumes, a ceaseless scream of raw pain in what sounded like my voice (but from the outside, so…not my voice like I know it), and an undertow of sorrow so forceful as to be inescapable.

To which I said, well, yes, obviously, I hope obviously—that’s me in that mirror, for sure. But there’s a bit more to me now.

I’ve lived out all that—or, a comparative lot of that…unlived (oppressed), unspoken (silenced) life.

No more hallucinated planets made of vacuum, or smoke serpents, or insect clockwork dragon…Okay, there’s a flint arrowhead welded to my fetch’s left hand that’s awfully opinionated for an imaginary inanimate object—but that’s just life.

My ghost would have had all the fury of all this unresolved.

I’m in love. This love is requited. I almost wasn’t alive for this. (She almost wasn’t, either, but declined to develop a concept of an afterlife as a consequence, so I wouldn’t presume to speak over that. She’s reading this right now. I love you, Bartie!) In Franz’s interpretation, my ghost would have carried this corrupted potential too: fears never soothed into strength and courage, a world of insecurities never steadied, joys never lived, discoveries never shared.

But when I used to hear such things from recoverees, about how great they’d noticed life could be with an attitude adjusted to “happier than suicidal” I could only take it as condescending glibness. The only response I could muster would be, “oh how nice for you.” Automated, not even lively enough to have a sarcastic grudge behind it.

So…maybe I can’t claim that we need ghost lore and fairytales about the dead, to express something much bigger than a mind can carry—let alone generate.

At this point I’d shoehorn other tidbits about ghosts that I’d picked up before reading Shadow and Evil in Fairytales. The Tiv people don’t appear to have ghost lore, as Laura Bohannan discovered in the attempt to retell Hamlet to her host family in “Shakespeare in the Bush”. Stephen Greenblatt’s “A Touch of the Real” was more about the culture, and especially the literature (nonfiction and fiction), surrounding ghost encounters in medieval Europe. That’s where I read it outright stated that ghost lore and Christian lore fuses divisively (against all my own intuitions of conceptual geometry): Catholic dogma allowed for the belief that spirits of the deceased wandered the earth and interacted with the living; Protestant dogma held that such apparitions could only be evil spirits in the guise of deceased loved ones. As tensions rose between Catholicism and Protestantism, someone could fall under the suspicion of being Catholic just by making a casual mention about ghosts as though they weren’t evil spirits, and that accusation would also come with not a small amount of political baggage.

…It used to be good enough for me that my family calculated every moment of my life as monetary debt—can’t kill yourself yet because you haven’t turned your education into a career, can’t cut your losses because therapy and psychiatry is expensive and we’re coughing up more than you deserve already okay?!

It was a revelation when I entered a discussion about negative reactions to suicide, and I voiced the standpoint I’d come to in the paragraph immediately above. A respondent turned it around with this idea: If I killed myself, even the threat of it in a mention of planning to suicide…it would cause the people with that attitude to question whether the calculated value of their own lives truly held a meaningful measure. To remove compassion from the approach to suicide (or confuse compassion with condescension) was a way to resist bearing witness to their own weakness. (Protective projection, maybe, on the part of us discussing this. I still doubt that threat of existential angst would endanger anyone who wasn’t, say, predisposed genetically to depression. Projection it may be, but it still saved me from internalizing an idea that wouldn’t ultimately have been helpful. I had made a foothold of it because it was unfeeling, at a time that my feelings threatened to fatally overwhelm me.)

Ghost lore could still factor as a thrill. Some Jungians I’d eavesdropped on lately mentioned an adolescent tendency towards fun fictional violence—as adolescence is a frequent breaking point of societal accommodations, leading to Shadow-possessed rebellion, or a fascination with unsavory ideas that an adolescent had not been allowed to explore—death, for one example, externalized as a ghost in a fictional way that could be mastered.

More mature attraction to ghost lore might have more to do with a grieving process. This isn’t to say the “adolescent” (not necessarily the category, but I haven’t figured out yet what would be) use of ghost lore is the wrong way to hold it, only that the same cultural phenomenon can have different significance depending on the developmental phase in an individual person’s life…or, indeed, depending on the culture.

With Franz’s interpretation…It’s weighing on me, the way it hadn’t before, the cosmically colossal loss that a suicide—even of a nobody like me, then and now, no cyclopes-badgering in between—truly is…when the (Jungian) Soul has an instinct for so much more to be lived out or lived down than the ego can own, especially in a mind of such singularity as a suicidal person’s. Stories provide—or, maybe at least to narrative psychologists, stories have provided—an intermediary for this sobering revelation (in my opinion, anyway—immensely sobering.)

For that, I can almost forgive the negligence of Franz’s Shadow & Evil in withholding judgment on this circumstance described: that it’s traditionally (not only commonly, but ingrained in lore as a trope) oppressed and abused people who suicide, having a communal Shadow laid on them in life, having to go through more of the same after death.

(…) there are many types of ghosts, but the worst are those of people who hang themselves. Generally these are the ghosts of women of poor peasant families who, if ill-treated by their mothers-in-law, or if hungry, or over-worked, get discontented. If they quarrel with their sisters-in-law, or are scolded by their husbands, if they don’t see any way out of their trouble, often in despair they will put an end to their lives. They take poison, or jump into a well, but most hang themselves, and such people make those awful ghosts. Our grandfathers say that the ghost of a woman who has committed suicide always tries to seduce other women, for only thus can it go to the Beyond and be reborn (…) and return to life. Until they have found a substitute they have to wander

This post from last year on Gods & Radicals, “Thinking About the Dead” has a more advanced commentary on this, that I like.

The Rainmaker, by Carl Jung

The following entry may contain triggering material.

I’ve only recently encountered this story that Jung and Jungian protégés made a cornerstone of the philosophy. As I’ve read, no lecture, no compilation of info even, should ever go without this story if it would be Jungian (or, Jungian active imagination, the sources being most insistent on it.)

It also relies on culture clash. While I was celebrating not being fictionkin of an unspecified stereotype of an indigenous American character written by a Scotsman, (inhale) but more likely lived the archetype of this tractably Inuit mythic figure as interpreted by a Latina woman—the telling of Clarissa Pinkola-Estés’ “Skeleton Woman” hadn’t much to ground it (in anywhere but Estés’ voice), and for that, I don’t find an uprooting (insofar as it’s up to me to find or not find.) The shared understanding of culture becomes appropriative with the willfully ignorant misunderstanding/misrepresentation of specific names and symbols in demographic power imbalance. I suspect that every human being has a skeleton, and most have figured out that there’s good eatin’ on a fish.

This, in contrast…

There was a great drought where the missionary Richard Wilhelm lived in China. There had not been a drop of rain and the situation became catastrophic. The Catholics made processions, the Protestants made prayers, and the Chinese burned joss sticks and shot off guns to frighten away the demons of the drought, but with no result.

Finally the Chinese said: We will fetch the rain maker. And from another province, a dried up old man appeared. The only thing he asked for was a quiet little house somewhere, and there he locked himself in for three days.

On the fourth day, clouds gathered and there was a great snowstorm at the time of the year when no snow was expected, an unusual amount, and the town was so full of rumors about the wonderful rain maker that Wilhelm went to ask the man how he did it.

In true European fashion [Wilhelm] said: “They call you the rain maker, will you tell me how you made the snow?”

And the little Chinaman said: “I did not make the snow, I am not responsible.”

“But what have you done these three days?”

“Oh, I can explain that. I come from another country where things are in order. Here they are out of order, they are not as they should be by the ordnance of heaven. Therefore the whole country is not in Tao, and I am also not in the natural order of things because I am in a disordered country. So I had to wait three days until I was back in Tao, and then naturally the rain came.”

I think it’s a good idea often enacted in bad ways. I grew up having an awful lot of awful events handwaved away as part of some Grand Cosmic Plan that would ultimately show to be Benevolent. It begged a redefinition of benevolence, and in retrospect the result would be the obedience and passivity of whoever was subject to that suggestion. Those who’d held to that because New Thought style philosophy worked so well for them, I couldn’t help but notice often came from wealthy and well-connected families—the results attributed more easily to spirituality than privilege—and at least one I’d met I would describe as very politely transphobic and affably homophobic. Gender binary cis-heteronomativity was a very obviously integral part of the Correct And Proper Order Of The Universe, to them.

So, I find what I call Sidereal workings (in Maven’s Way) almost incompatible with this, Haven’s Way approach in which there’s nothing to work. Coincidental ego-level external benefits come from inner work alone—literally alone, self-locked in a room for three days at least. Obviously I’m not There (Yet), so I’m awfully cynical. Even when I disagree, though, I can’t help incorporating some part of it theoretically. Frances Hodgson Burnett described a similar metaphysical system in A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, which I’d taken interest in examining before. I can’t claim to reject New Thought completely, especially when the gist of it comes at me from so many different sources. At least I can complain whenever it comes up. I’m sick of striving to serenity in what silence and solitude I can manage. That’s only been a trap.

Symbols: the Labyrinth

So it took some explaining for me to appreciate the labyrinth. Mazes, I could understand the appeal, as those “require acute attention to choices at intersecting paths and a high degree of critical awareness to remember detours and dead ends. Mazes do not grace those who enter; they taunt, tease, and challenge.”

Cretan Labyrinth

Cretan Labyrinth (pg. 81) “Exploring the Labyrinth” by Melissa Gayle West, Broadway Books NY 2000. ‘It is the oldest (…) form of the labyrinth, dating back at least 3,500 years.’

Labyrinths, in Melissa Gayle West’s case studies, do grace those who work with them. They provide a time and shape-of-space set out for liminality, for psychic (as in, pertaining to the psyche) development—yet, the structure is open enough that anyone can travel in them at their own pace, in their own way, with any approach they have. I find two common processes in the cases included in Exploring the Labyrinth: The first is those who have been harmed and hardened (into “small selves” as West describes it; having created a complex or intense focus around a specific issue) travel a labyrinth and gain a bigger perspective through that walking meditation; that intensity, or that defensiveness that precludes healing, tends to soften and release. The second are labyrinth-travelers who enter too lofty, too cerebral, and find the travel grounding—the labyrinth has an opposite effect of focus and integration.

Mentioned often, too, is the benefit of Second Thinking. If a traveler can catch how they approach the labyrinth, they can examine how they approach life. I’d considered labyrinths pretty but pointless. From entrance to center and out again, it’s too easy to be worth working with. It took more explaining before I could appreciate it.

Three labyrinths featured in the book included the organic, off-center Cretan labyrinth above, drawn from an equal-armed cross axis. West presented the Chartres labyrinth below as an innovation in labyrinth design that diverged from labyrinths throughout world history, but I can’t help but expect more than a surface scratching of art or architectural history would show the lineages and influences of it.


Chatres Labyrinth (pg. 96) “Exploring the Labyrinth” by Melissa Gayle West, Broadway Books NY 2000. ‘Named after the permanent stone labyrinth set into the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France during the thirteenth century…It is a distinctly Christian pattern, an equal-armed cross visible in its elegant layout.’

The third labyrinthine pattern, a simple spiral, made a brief mention.


My one’s more like a spiral, really, as the path doesn’t ebb to the periphery before flowing towards the center again. It just zigzags towards the center.
While the full-sized labyrinths are meant for walking meditations, I very much like the idea now of having a hand-held labyrinth to work with. The meditative mind state can be done while the labyrinth-traveler traces the path with their fingertips. Made out of pottery clay or salt dough, that would provide a tactile component, and of course the same time and symbolic shape-of-space that labyrinths make, to invite or facilitate that meditative mindset.

348. Let’s Locate Our Power and Use it (Kelly Maddox)

Original video by TheFourQueens. Official website: here, YouTube account: here. The following text in this entry is a transcript.

When the world is a little bit topsy-turvy, I like to begin with a good cup of tea. Don’t you? (Whispers.) I do. (Holds up a mug of tea and sips.) Mmm!

Hey there, kittens. I’m not really sure what this video is going to be. But I do feel compelled to make it. So, I’m just basically going to let my instincts take control. I’m going to flow into it and just see what comes out, what comes along, and spend a bit of time with you guys, you know? ‘Cause it’s been…a crazy few days, and I think–I think that’s fair to say! I think that’s fair, yeah? It’s a fair comment.

I knew that whatever the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election, I was not going to be over the moon in any way. I accurately predicted that with the outcome being Donald Trump, I would definitely feel (laughs) a lot more panicked and, umm, that my response would have probably somewhat of a nihilistic flavor to it, like, well, hey! If Donald Trump’s the President of the U.S.A. then why don’t we all just do what the fuck we like? (Laughs.) Right? Why do we have any rules? Why do we have any laws? Like…Everything is just on its head, you know. And that was definitely my initial reaction. I did feel like I was in the fucking Twilight Zone. A hundred percent.

But I want to be clear: There’s no bone in my body that’s pro-Hillary. I think that part of the reason that Trump is now heading to the White House is that the liberal agenda was to present Hillary as the sane, sensible choice. And actually, there is a hell of a lot wrong with her, too. You know? There’s a hell of a lot wrong with Obama. There’s like, it’s kind of, it was set up like that and I think that was dangerous. I think Hillary was seen as more of the same, and I think Donald Trump was then seen by a lot of people who are…scared, or feel disenfranchised, or don’t know any better…umm…as the only option for change. The only way to shake things up. And I have a lot of opinions. A lot of opinions about that. And about like, you know, Hillary being selected as the candidate over Bernie Sanders, and how things could’ve gone down differently, and I like to look at things [00:02:00 subjunctively].

That’s not what this video is going to be about, but let me just be clear, you know, had Hillary Clinton have gotten into the White House, I definitely wouldn’t have been over the moon, either. I read a comment on Facebook the other day that said something like, ‘I don’t know how to tell my children when they sit down for breakfast in the morning that hatred now holds the highest office in the world.’ And that was a lot of what I felt, you know. A lot of what Donald Trump symbolizes, a lot of his rhetoric, a lot of his comments…umm, they’re insidious. They’re clearly fucking odious. And there may be a very small minority of people who watch my channel regularly who did vote for Trump or are supporters of Trump, and obviously this video is not necessarily designed to cater for you. But I think there’s probably an even smaller minority of people who watch my videos on a regular basis, who would be surprised to learn that, like, I’m not pro-Trump and never was. (Laughs.) You know? So I don’t think this video’s going to come as a surprise to anybody.

There is so much confusion, and bewilderment, and anger, and apathy, and frustration, and alienation in the psycho-spiritual community right now. And it’s been interesting for me to feel the dust settle inside my own psyche and figure out where the [00:02:16 land lies now] you know? And what it is what I really want to do, how I want to choose my response to this. I’m going to start by reading the status update that I put on Facebook about this the other day, which, for a lot of people that read my Facebook page regularly, did seem to be some comfort during a really difficult time. So I’m going to start by reading that.

I know that lots of people out there in the psycho-spiritual community are feeling disjointed, disempowered, confused and overwhelmed at the moment. I know that we’re all going through our own individual ups and downs, and perhaps can’t always be the beacons of strength and empathy to each other that we would like to be, as we grapple with things in our own ways. I know that some people don’t know where to turn, who it’s safe to reach out to or what to say to comfort those who are feeling afraid. I just want to hold a hand out now to anyone who might happen upon this status and chance to read it during an uncertain moment.

The truth is that your response to this outcome is an autonomous zone. No one else gets to vote on what you choose to do next. Your response to this is your sovereignty in action. You CAN and you MUST locate the sources of power within yourself and bring them into consciousness, into beingness, into the light. If you are jarred, scared, confused or angered, it means that you have deeply held ethics, intentions and beliefs. Find them now, and ask them to lead you forward. If you believe in love, freedom, equality, compassion, acceptance and empathy, then those beliefs are now your sacred fuel. No one can stop you from being in the seat of your own power.

What can you do to spread love? What can you do to create positive change? What will you do to stand in solidarity with those who truly need to feel that their place in this world is valid? How will you put your spiritual ideas into action? How will you begin by just doing your seemingly small but incredibly significant part?

I know it’s so hard to feel powerful right now. But you ARE. You can create a ripple in this dark water, and so can I, and so can anyone who is prepared to take the scary, holy step out of their confines of apathy and into the fire of their deepest vision for this planet.

Let this be a rallying cry from the cosmos.

I know where I’ve been slacking. I know where I could be more present. I know where my love is more needed. I know that I want to be a piece of positive change in this place. I am slowly beginning to raise my head and decide that I’m going to let these events drive me out of my hibernation and further into the good that I can do when I set my mind and soul to it.

Let this pain inspire you…

I’ll leave the link to that Facebook post down below if you want to read it again at any point, or share it, you can do.

I was watching an interview, that a guy from Huff posted, with Gabby Bernstein. It was kind of like a 45-minute, you know, the dust has settled let’s really feel our feelings and anchor into our purpose kind of talk about the election results. In that interview, Gabby Bernstein said that her response to the result of the election…was not a spiritual response. It was not. You know, she didn’t instantly go to Love, and instantly go to Inspired Action, and think about, you know, where she’s better needed and what she can do and how she can be of service and…She was rage-filled. She was fucking angry. As a woman, as a survivor of sexual violence, as somebody who believes in compassion and equality, as somebody who believes in spiritual and religious freedom, umm, you know? She was fucking pissed off.

And to me, that was the most helpful thing that she said, actually. Was that she didn’t have a spiritual response. And that it was a loss, and it’s okay. It’s okay to recognize it as a loss. And like I said, you know, at the beginning of this video — I’m under no illusion about the two-party system in America. I’m under no illusion about what Democrats have been doing overseas, their foreign policy, the things that they’re lying about, the money that they’re embezzling, the corruption that they’re neck-deep in…I’m not under any illusion about that. I do not think Hillary is a paragon of liberal virtue. Not at all!

But when a guy that openly says racist and misogynistic and hateful things, and clearly has no background in politics, no true understanding of how the political system works, is near totally fucking ignorant of things that even I have a decent working knowledge of…when that guy wins over Hillary? You know, it’s…Your instant response is not really going to be a spiritual one! And I think that that’s the first thing that I’d like to say, is that it’s okay for us to hold space for ourselves and each other, to have a response that may not, when you look at it objectively, be described accurately as ‘useful’. You know? The initial response, I guess it’s ‘useful’ to externalize the rage and the bewilderment and the anguish. Long-term, it’s not going to be useful, it’s not going to be useful to ‘drop anchor’ there. But I think it’s really important to recognize that those responses tend to come first, before the dust settles and we think about what it is we can do — and how we can allow ourselves to feel that inner call to action.

For me (sigh) I would say…it probably took me about 48 hours to get my head together enough to think about what I wanted to do next. What was the thing that I wanted to do? How could I really kind of channel — channel the energy, channel the bewilderment?

I’m very fortunate, because I have like a platform online that I’ve built, which is a lot to do with reaching out to people and having dialogue with people, and sharing ideas, and providing comfort, and providing inspiration. And so, for me, that was a big part of what I considered to be my coping strategy, was just thinking…how can I be there for my ‘tribe’: for the people I hang out with online, my audience, my clients? And I did receive e-mails, I have had clients either scheduling extra sessions or rescheduling sessions that they had set in wake of the election results, just dealing with the response that they’re having to the election results…I’ve had people messaging me, asking me to make a video or wondering what my thoughts are. And I’ve definitely experienced, as I’ve been scrolling through Facebook and stuff, and looking at some of the spiritual peeps that I follow, just a lot of bewilderment, and a lot of discussion, a lot of dialogue, about our emotions and what’s happening within us as a result of this. For me, it was definitely nice to have that feeling of, like, I can do something for people. I can put something out into the world that will be useful. So I started to think about that, and that was a big part of where my sense of center came from. It was just basically, how can I be of service to people who are feeling bewildered and overwhelmed, and are kind of looking for things to inspire them or calm them down?

The other thing that I allowed myself to think about quite a lot, that I do tend to encourage myself to think about in times like this, and I did it as well during the whole Brexit situation, and a lot of the very hateful behavior that came up during that time…was I thought about my personal ethics, my beliefs, you know? And the way that I want to walk out into the world every single day. [00:10:00] The vibe that I want to bring to it, the things that I really want to share with people, and the energy, the vibration that I want to hold. And I thought about the fact that that’s where my agency is.

I think a lot of us are just feeling really, really fucking disempowered, like supremely powerless. Powerless to change what is happening, strapped into this rollercoaster of…inexcusable weirdness, at times, I felt. And powerless. And actually, that is an illusion. We all have agency. We all have the power to create a ripple in this dark water. And I just started thinking about that. I started thinking about how I could be of service, you know? I started by texting my friends and making sure they were okay, making sure that I was creating a vibe of openness and availability in my friendship group.

Giving to the food bank. Thinking about organizations that I could get involved with or join or learn more about. Reading articles, and reading think pieces, and opening up my mind up to different things, you know? Taking the time to really sit with myself and nurture myself and care for myself in the process of all of this. And get my brain oiled in a different way.

I’ve tried to look for the positive things. I’ve thought about how many cultural commentators and writers and things like that I’ve either overlooked or never discovered before, and as a result of being very interested in this election, and now reeling from the result, I’ve actually engaged with a lot of people’s work, and got a few new books on my book list and that’s been cool just from a personal perspective.

And just really thinking about how I can carry the energy of helpfulness and acceptance and my belief in equality. Just making people feel comfortable, making people feel included — in any way I can possibly can. And just trying to be kinder, you know? Even just while I’m out in the street, just making sure that I engage with people, and I give them eye contact, and I just make everybody feel seen and heard and loved. And just try and put that energy out into the world. And all of this has come as a direct result of me sitting down and thinking, what is my little piece of agency in this world right now? Where’s my power? Where’s my power at?

(Laughs.) I need to focus on that! You know? And I’ve been focusing on that, and my hope is that more and more of you, as the days are going on, are being able to focus on that as well, to focus on what you can do for your community, what kind of energy you want to carry with you out into the world, and how you’re not going to allow some of the incredibly potent fear that is clearly infiltrating all different areas of society right now…turn you into somebody who’s fearful, into somebody who rejects others, into somebody who is suspicious of others, and insecure about others, and wanting to snatch power and civil liberties from others.

It’s about knowing where your center is, and where you’re coming from, and not letting those things influence you to be other than what you know you are to be in your soul. There’s so much work to do now, and that’s something that can actually help you bring your A-game to every new day. And another thing that I was thinking about in the last sort of like 48 hours or so, is Shadow Work, and self-love as a daily practice, and digging deep and really anchoring in to self-discovery and self-awareness and self-mastery.

These things that we do, that we talk about with each other, you know, the courses that we pay for, the videos and the audio files that we listen to, the books that we read, these concepts that we have dialogue about…all of that isn’t for nothing. All of that isn’t for vanity! It’s not a fucking caprice! You do that…as training…for this bullshit! (Laughs.) This is what you’ve been training for, you know? And I know some of you watching this video have been training for a hell of a lot longer than me, you know? I know people watch me that have been meditating for upwards of 30 years. I know people watch me that have done upwards of 30 Ayuhuasca ceremonies deep in the jungle with a really experienced shaman. I know people have done all kinds of incredible things, you know, people have been forging their own paths, weaving their own practices, learning so much about themselves and about transpersonal experience and how to plug themselves in and how to turn this shit up! Now! On planet! In this lifetime! I know activists watch me, people that literally have thrown their bodies over Mother Nature in the service of Her greatness.

I know that there’s amazing people out there that watch me, people that have overcome all kinds of mental health difficulties, and triumphed over dark, dark nights of the fucking soul. You’ve done your work! You’re doing your work! You’re coming to your work. And this. Is what. It’s for. This is where the training wheels come off.

Because really, we’re looking at Shadow. We’re looking at Shadow unfolding now. That’s what I truly believe, you know? I truly believe that. The way that Jung was watching the rise of Hitler, and being like (side-eye) “Yeah, ahem, guys? We need to look within!” ‘Cause what we don’t want to see within ourselves is manifesting outwardly…and it’s not great! (Squeezes eyes shut.) It’s not good!

Umm. (Laughs.) That’s how I feel right now. And I feel like that’s the perfect time, then. That’s the perfect time to come at this with everything that I’ve tried to learn. (Nods.) All the strength that I’ve tried to develop. Now’s the time for you to show yourself what you can do. Show your loved ones what you can do. This is the challenge. This is the challenge almost that you’ve been training for, that you’ve been preparing for…If you feel bewildered, if you feel uncertain, if you feel like you don’t know where to start? Start with that realization.

You know, I really feel like…obviously, I run a YouTube channel. It’s not an invite-only situation. Anybody can show up and watch my videos, and there are lots of different kinds of people that do watch my videos. I’m really grateful for that, but I feel like the vast majority of people that watch my videos are people who’ve been doing some fucking work on themselves, you know? For some length of time or another. And if you’re watching this and you know you’ve been doing that work, and you’ve been showing up, you’ve been trying to love yourself more and really just dive into your darkness and bring it into integration, if you have been reading about how to live life on a deeper level, how to experience things with more meaning, how to let go of your fear, how to overcome depression…If you’ve been doing any of that shit, if you’ve been meditating, if you’ve been learning tarot, if you’ve been in the process of learning any spiritual discipline, just know that you’ve been training, you know? You’ve been preparing for this. You’ve been getting in shape for this. And that’s a really good starting point, I think. That’s somewhere that I was happy to start, and something that I’ve thought about a lot. And you know, that initial reaction, like Gabby Bernstein said, you know, we’ve got to have room for that shit, of course. You’ve got to have a meltdown. You’ve got to go and hit a punching bag. You’ve got to get that extra session with a therapist. You’ve got to let it go! You’ve got to let it out. But, I really feel like after that, come home to this sense that you’ve got this. You’ve got this.

Your agency is somewhere, it’s somewhere within your grasp, it’s somewhere within your reach. You do not have the agency to turn this around and go back, but you do have the agency to make a difference now that it’s happening. You do have that agency. You do have that power. You can make somebody feel better. You can switch up the vibration in a room. You can teach somebody a chant or a mantra or a prayer that you use that helps you. You can pass one of your loved ones a crystal, and say, “You know what? I know you don’t believe in this shit, but I want you to have this. It’s a master communication stone, and it will help you to express what you want to express or, you know, it’s a stone for creativity and I think it wants to belong to you.” You can take someone a coffee. You can ask if somebody if they want to go for a walk. You can deliver some warm clothes to a homeless shelter. You can offer to walk someone’s dog if they’re feeling a bit frail or sad or under the weather.

Figure out where you can put a bit of your time, where you can give a bit of your money, figure out what’s going on that you agree with that you think is good and positive that you want to get involved in. Think about those things that you were planning on doing for ages that you thought would be a really good idea that you kind of wanted to do but you always convinced yourself you didn’t have time or you weren’t good enough or there’d be a better moment to do it. I’d say the moment is now, wouldn’t you? Because after being slapped on one cheek with Brexit and now being slapped on the other one with this, I’d say the time is definitely fucking now, you know? Anything, anything you want to do to bring that positivity and make that change? Do it now.

The beautiful thing is that that is such a good use of our energy. (Sighs.) We have to have that ungraceful, unmanageable reaction where we do feel rage, and we do feel bewilderment, and we do feel frustration. But that incredible ball of holy electric life force, you know, that comes out of us in that display of rage or that externalization of fear and anguish? That is raw! That is key! That is off the fucking chain! We can do something with that! We can take that. We can harness it. We can redirect it into an avenue where it actually will do something. It will be planted like a seed, and it will grow. It will make other things happen. It will be a catalyst. It will be a part of the alchemy that we need to celebrate and bring into beingness now. So, hold space for your anger. Hold space for your raw terror. And then know that that stuff is power, and you can shape that power according to your beliefs and according to the needs of your self and those around you.

So for me, it was like saying, okay, this is my time to break down, this is my time to flip out…and believe me, okay, it was 6 o’ clock in the morning, umm, and I was going through Facebook, and I realized things were going the way they were going, and I shit you not, I had a panic attack for the first time in years. [00:20:00] I’m just going to be honest. I did. I had a panic attack. I started to hyperventilate. (Breathes.) Umm, it was, it was, it was…shit got real, you know? It was legit, that’s all I’m going to say. And it was difficult. It was a difficult moment for me. And I let that happen. I rode that out. But there’s a lot of power in that, that raw reaction comes from a place of deep belief, and deep intention, and deep love, and that is some pure, real, potent, grade-A uncut shit. That is beautiful. We need to learn how to use it. We need to channel it, we need to harness it.

And when we harness it, and take it away from screaming judgments and obscenities and feeling resentful, and feeling alienated from our fellow human beings and feeling rageful and shutting down and crying and sobbing and doing things we know that are bad for us because we don’t know what else to do…When we take that power away from that cycle, and we put it into what is the next right action? Who can I help? Where can I put this energy? Who needs me? Where are people mobilizing? What can I do to show somebody that I care that they are heard? That their life is fucking valid, that their life has meaning?

That is Alchemy. That’s spiritual Alchemy! And you can do that! You have the power to do that! Every single moment of the day is another moment to choose Alchemy, to choose to be the master of that change.

I think I’ll come back and do another video later because this is my brand new video camera, and it’s not telling me how long I’ve been filming for, because I didn’t remember to kind of go into the settings and put that capability on.

[caption: I’ve actually had it on the wrong light setting and I messed the audio up a little by keeping autofocus on. But hey ho – you live, you learn!]

So I’m not sure how long I’ve been filming for, I’m not sure how long I’ve got left on the camera, I definitely want to pull some cards, I definitely want to do a Tea and Tarot episode pertaining to using our power, finding our sense of personal agency. So I’ll be back! I’ll be back, I have a lot to say, I want to sit with you guys for a lot longer. I want to feel your presence so much. I want to read your comments so much. And I’m sending so much love to you.

Come and hang out with me on Facebook if you want to. Come and hang out with me on Twitter. If you are looking for journal prompts, if you are big on writing to externalize the emotions that you’re going through, I have just literally published 50 journal prompts which were specifically designed as a response to this complete clusterfuck. And maybe you want to use some of them to help you to explore your feelings and, you know, deal with your fears and come to a point of inspired action, so I’ll leave the link for the 50 journal prompts below, please check that out.

If you want to book a spiritual counseling session with me, if you want to have a chat with me, if you want to have a cup of tea with me, I’m available to clients as always, go to and click on the Work With Me tab. I’ll leave the link below for the spiritual counseling sessions specifically. If you’ve never spoken to me before, never worked with me before, and you think now might be a good time? I’m ready. I do hour-long sessons and 90-minute long sessons, so come and see me if that’s something that you want to do, if that’s something you would like o invest in, then I’m here.

I’m going to sing you out with a chant. It’s my fucking favorite. If you don’t chant, and you’re feeling stressed, you should chant. It’s a very good use of time. Very good use of time and energy.

Okay, let’s raise this motherfucker up to the roof. (Chimes.)

Ong na mo
Guru dev na mo
Ong na mo
Guru dev na mo

That means: ‘I bow to the teacher that lives inside me.’ And we have to do that now. That’s the fucking plan, okay? So we’ll reconvene here, sooner rather than later, I’ll be back, you know where to find me if you need me. Much, much love, pickles. And blessed be.

Dream and Tarot Interpretation

The following entry may contain triggering material.

The dream, logged the morning of 19 September 2016.

I was trapped in a hotel with what looked like young Winston Churchill. He had Kilgrave’s mind-control powers. Officer Daisy from “Anansi Boys” (in my dream played by Naomie Harris) led me stealthily to the basement and out some secret stairs to safety. The next scene felt more like news footage I was watching: Daisy led riot police against not-Kilgrave’s mind-controlled minions. Some overcast morning after Daisy won, and everyone stayed indoors as though embarrassed that civil unrest had temporarily happened, I wandered around the empty city streets. Then I realized that I was feeling lighthearted enough to fly, which was a superpower I thought I’d lost after getting Kilgraved. Then I woke up.

My therapist mentioned that dreams which fall into three acts can be interpreted thusly: Act I symbolically describes the issue. Act II, the environment that exacerbates the issue. Act III, a suggestion from the wise subconscious.

This is why I get so annoyed by symbolism: the issue presented in the dream could be intimate violence, or how I hold onto my middle class privilege like a hot potato, or my fear and loathing at having reasoning so manipulated. That last one goes back to grade school shunning because I was born out of wedlock, which I can’t exactly make amends for or stop doing because I was literally actually born that way—but it was so, so easy for everyone to get herded about by the word of one person who just decided I was Satan. And I have not noticed this tendency disappearing in older people. I’d linked a conspiracy theorist to a CIA officer’s lecture about the unsustainable nature of the world order, appreciating the paraphrasing of Heinlein’s razor: (“Faced with a choice between conspiracy and incompetence, I’d go with incompetence.”) Whether this theorist would consider the points of that lecture apparently hinged on one question: This is one of the good guys, right? I’d wanted to reach through both our computer screens, grab their collar and scream, “I am not the one to sort out for you who is good and who is bad in this world!” They had their own damn mind, they used it to study the conspiracy of a flat earth, but! They had their own moral compass, at least! Didn’t they? Didn’t they?? I have to believe in that. But I also wanted to tell them that I was a shapeshifting reptile alien conspirator, or possibly that I was Satan, if that lie would get across for even a moment that they mustn’t invite me to do their thinking for them just because I learned the jargon.

…Considering what a nerve that struck, it’s probably that third one.

Act II, the news reports, suggests a detachment to this. I can witness heroic victories as Daisy’s, and maybe a fluffy fantasy of the Right And Good Thing for once, just once, also being the Smart Thing That Wins. I can’t lead or embody this, because that’s just not a combination that happens. Gaiman’s Daisy is a digital law enforcer, rather than a more classic action heroine.

Act III suggests some alone time outside of my comfort zone? I don’t know. What do the cards say?


Deck: Shadowscapes
Spread: Red King’s Crown

1. (Center) Signifies the Querent. The Chariot.
2. (Crossing) The crux of the issue. Eight of Cups.
3. (Top) Themes to consider. Seven of Pentacles.
4. (Upper left) Symbols from the dream. Four of Wands.
5. (Upper right) Symbols from reality. Ten of Pentacles.
6. (Lower left) Why the dream doesn’t wake up. Ace of Pentacles.
7. (Lower right) Why reality doesn’t sleep and dream. Judgment.
8. (Bottom) Future, culmination. Knight of Pentacles.

These feel like random cards. The prominence of pentacles and the absence of swords would suggest the exact opposite of my original interpretation: this dream is not about something as abstract as ideology, but more grounded in maybe sexuality or finances. (But that’s never any fun.)

I’d take the first two to mean that I’m on some sort of war path (Chariot) but I keep it all inside (Eight of Cups.) I do not! I take action, I-I…blog… Anyway, the Seven of Pentacles suggest a shared theme of delay or frustration. That doesn’t connect to the dream, though, because there was always something happening, then resolved, then setting in motion the next thing happening.

Daisy is one major symbol in the dream that fits the Four of Wands. Yes, the card shows a herd, and I’ve ranted about herd mentality, and in the dream I followed along. Because I was in a bad place with somebody bad, and she cared, and she knew better than I did about what to do. Sometimes that’s just what happens.

Symbols of reality…We don’t question everything, even though we should according to those inclined to complain about sheeple (which I thought was a portmanteau of “sheep” and “temple”) (in this case should it be guyselle? i think the animals in the wands card are gazelle.) Some adages pass as fact because they’ve become popular, or they’ve been popular far too long for anyone to notice that “popular” is a better descriptor than “true”. That doesn’t mean that whatever force sustains its presence or value is going to change. In a way, it becomes its own baseline of reality, its own inevitability.

The dream won’t wake up precisely because it’s seeded by waking life; waking life won’t fall asleep because I keep trying to look beyond or deep within or otherwise transcend it—not a causal because, more like a reminder that reasoning/hope isn’t impact.

The knight of pentacles represents some more purpose-driven and concrete journey already. That’s good.

Jung On Active Imagination

When it comes to Jungian psychology, I tend to just like the ideas because they applied well, and they felt like they fit with…whatever I was going through, or dealing with, that I’d get all Jungian about. I’d take it as a given that Jung was a child of the times, being a Swiss dude who worked between the 1910s to 1960s. I considered Active Imagination an inevitable outcome of his research into dream symbolism and the relation thereof to the mental state of his patients. I also picked up somewhere that Freudian psychology and Jungian psychology branched off when their respective founders disagreed; and just a cursory look at Freudian psychology revealed some reductive, harmful ideas disguised as intellectual rigor. Jungian psychology still has its problems, but started off with a pluralistic enough view of the human condition to…remain relevant.

So, I thought of it coldly, in terms of “irreconcilable philosophical difference.” It made sense that they would split.

Joan Chodorow’s compilation and commentary of Jung’s writings on the Active Imagination method of therapy gave the context I lacked. By the read of it, the ‘breakup’ with Freud had outright traumatized Jung. He found himself subject to fatigue and terrors, and unable to write. So, now technically without peers in his field, he turned to the theories he developed about his own mind. There had to be some way that he could heal the psychological damage from within.

Several years later, Jung could be caught walking in the garden, having lively conversations with an invisible man named like a Pokémon. That’s what it sometimes looks like when this therapy is working well. Jung’s first essay on this topic was entitled “The Transcendental Function”, begun in 1916 and finally published in 1958. Now that’s a bad case of writer’s block.

A fantasy is more or less your own invention, and remains on the surface of personal things and conscious expectations. But active imagination, as the term denotes, means that the images have a life of their own and that the symbolic events develop according to their own logic – that is, of course, if your conscious reason does not interfere. You begin by concentrating on a starting point (…) when you concentrate on a mental picture, it begins to stir, the image becomes enriched by details, it moves and develops. Each time, naturally, you mistrust it and have the idea that you have just made it up, that it is merely your own invention. But you have to overcome that doubt, because it is not true.

We can really produce precious little by our conscious mind. All the time we are dependent upon the things that literally fall into our consciousness; therefore in German we call them Einfälle. For instance, if my unconscious should prefer not to give me ideas, I could not proceed with my lecture, because I could not invent the next step.

You all know the experience when you want to mention a name or a word which you know quite well, and it simply does not present itself; but some time later it drops into your memory. We depend entirely upon the benevolent cooperation of our unconscious. If it does not cooperate, we are completely lost. Therefore I am convinced that we cannot do much in the way of conscious invention; we over-estimate the power of intention and the will. And so when we concentrate on an inner picture and when we are careful not to interrupt the natural flow of events, our unconscious will produce a series of images which will make a complete story.

I have tried that method with many patients and for many years, and possess a large collection of such ‘opera.’

Joan Chodorow comments:

In the spontaneous dramatic play of childhood, upsetting life situations are enacted symbolically, but this time the child is in control.


The major danger of the method [of active imagination] involves being overwhelmed by the powerful effects, impulses and images of the unconscious. It should be attempted only by psychologically mature individuals who are capable of withstanding a powerful confrontation with the unconscious. A well developed ego standpoint is needed so that conscious and unconscious may encounter each other as equals.

Those are some conflicting messages, whether to set out on active imaginings with a mature and controlling attitude, or more immersive playful symbolism. Jung’s writings of his own meditative journeys in The Red Book were almost never purely descriptive. Everything had to mean something in this system of symbols and archetypes. This was, Jung maintained early on in Chodorow’s compilation, the difference between art therapy (enactments of this active imagination) and artistry (which produced the same things, not exactly the same things, but still through the mind). Artists who were Jung’s contemporaries might have what I call a sidereal intention, but didn’t have the skills to psychoanalyze themselves—according to Jung. Considering that Jung was codifying those very skills, though, that was an uncharacteristically dickweedish thing to say.