Jungian Active Imagination & Hypnagogia

"the royal road to the unconscious"
-C.G. Jung

Pre-Active Imagination Practice

Pre-Active Imagination Practice is the altered state of consciousness one moves into to get to the place where Active Imagination can occur. It is setting the stage for all that follows. How much practice and what method needs to be employed to achieve quality Active Imagination various from person to person. Some people have a natural resistance to moving into this space. Their fear, largely unfounded, is the fear of being overwhelmed by inner forces. This fear usually comes out of a neglectfulness many of us are guilty of when it comes to exploring the emotions stirred by everyday living. Some event happens that stirrs up memories of an earlier time and, although we promise to ourselves that we will explore these feelings, we never get around to it. In a sense, these unexplored experiences stack up, building taller and taller. One day we become interested in Active Imagination. As we study it we realize that we need to turn inward. We start to look inward a bit. Suddenly, we we come face to face with the broken promises. We push away from the experience, telling ourselves that we will try Active Imagination again, "later."

Another common barrier to Active Imagination is living without enough poetry, beauty, art, music, and emotionality. While we may go to movies, art museums, and read novels from time to time, we aren't really giving enough of ourselves to them. We may be able to comment extensively about these experiences and we may be able to say firmly what we like and dislike about them, but we haven't felt these encounters enough. To develop a high quality Active Imagination practice it is important that we learn how to "go into" these experiences with the arts (formal and informal). Letting our feelings/imagination/intuition roam into these creations on a frequent basis builds the foundation for more focused work later. Impatience with the process commonly blocks other people from going deeper. The expectation is that the process should be swift and highly energetic. Of course, it can be with a great deal of practice, but people compare their first experiences with novel experiences in their daily lives. Early experience with Active Imagination more closely resembles beginning a friendship than your first encounter with skydiving. Just as trying to develop a friendship requires cautious first moves, uncertainty, and receptiveness, Active Imagination demands slow and patient movement.

The Steps
1. Find the means to slow down your inner world towards the slowness found in daydreaming and dreaming. Use whatever process is best for grounding yourself, relaxing, focusing inward, and letting the dreamy state come up. You can turn to the extensive supply of tapes/CDs of relaxing music or use inner image as a walk on a beach. If these don't appeal to you, you can turn to tapes and books created by Dialogue House specifically created for Pre-Active Imagination (available in the bookstore). These materials use simple poetic statements to guide a user's imagination towards a motif of depth (i.e. a well, a cathedral, a monk). With each statement one is led deeper into relaxation and deeper into the image of inner depth. (If these materials appeal to you some items can be ordered from the bookstore, with a wider selection available directly from Dialogue House.)

Note: It is best not to use traditional meditative techniques commonly found in Buddhism and Hinduism. Not that they are unsafe, but these techniques tend to over clear the mind and develop an "emptiness" of consciousness. Good for what they are aimed to do (a type of Spirit discipline) such clearing of consciousness is not fruitful for Active Imagination. Remember in Active Imagination we wish to have consciousness filled. Filled with images and feelings and insights from our encounter with the unconscious. Active Imagination can only work if there is content and if there is engagement of our feelings, memories, thoughts, and intuitions.

2. Find a process that takes you inward and stick with it. Work with it consistently and see how your depth and ease of use deepens over time.

3. Once this process is reasonably mastered go deeper by turning to the steps outlined in Instructions For More Advanced Practice.


  • Go to Learning Resources for a list of books outlining this technique.
  • There are two books, not specifically on Active Imagination, that convey the general tone of this sort of work. See:
    • Listening to the Oracle: The Ancient Art of Finding Guidance in the Signs and Symbols All Around Us - Dianne Skafte.
    • Solved By Sunset: The Right Brain Way To Resolve Whatever's Bothering You in One Day Or Less - Carol Orsborn (Available in the bookstore.)

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