Active Imagination & Hypnagogia
"the royal road to
on Active Imagination
Barbara Hannah was born
in England but went to Zurich in 1920 to study with
Carl Jung. She lived in Switzerland the rest of her
life and was a practicing psychotherapist and teacher
at the C. G. Jung Institute. She was the author of Encounters
with the Soul: Active Imagination. Many of her major
observations about Active Imagination recorded in that
book are listed below:
Hannah gives credit to
Jung for discoverying, not inventing Active Imagination
"for active imagination is a form of meditation
which man has used, at least from the dawn of history,
if not earlier, as a way of learning to know his God
or gods. (p.3)"
Jung Finds Dreams
An Inadequate Method
"It was only when
he was confronted with so many of his own dreams which
he could not understand that he learned how completely
inadequate the method really was (dream analysis), and
was therefore obliged to search further. (p.4)"
is Hard Work
"Above all, we must
realize that active imagination is hard work...we undertake
it in order to open negotiations with everything that
is unknown in our own psyche...our whole peace of mind
depends on these negotiations; otherwise, we are forever
a house divided against itself, distressed without knowing
why and very insecure because something unknown in us
is constanstly opposing us. As Jung writes in Psychology
and Alchemy: "We know that the mask of the unconscious
is not rigid---it reflects the face we turn towards
it. Hostility lends it a threatening aspect, friendliness
softens its features. (p.6)"
Don't Take The
Figures Of Living Persons Into The Process
"...one should never
take the figures of living people into one's fantasies.
As soon as there is any temptation to do this, we should
stop and very carefully inquire again into our motives...it
is likely we trying to use the unconscious for our own
personal ends...Here, we come to the great fundamental
difference between using active imagination in the right
or wrong way. The question is: Are we doing it honestly
to try to reach and discover our own wholeness, or are
we dishonestly using it as an attempt to get our own
way? The latter use may apparently be very successful
for a time, but sooner or later it always leads to disaster.
Jung Never Interfered
With Active Imagination
"The analyst should
interfere with active imagination as little as possible.
When I was being analyzed by Jung, he always wanted
to hear if I had done any active imagination, but after
listening carefully to any that I had done, he never
analyzed it or commented on it at, all...Following that,
he always asked for dreams and analyzed them with the
greatest care. This was to avoid influencing the active
imagination, which should always be allowed to develop
in its own way. (p.13)"
When The Time
"...I seldom encourage
people who are working with me to do active imagination
in their early analysis; rather, I do my best to focus
their attention on the reality of the unconscious until
I feel that they really know from experience that they
are dealing with something which is just as real as
the outside world. (p.13)."
How To Do Active
1. Be alone and free of
2. Sit down and concentrate
on seeing or hearing whatever comes up from the unconscious.
This means learning how to let the images to gain in
intensity (over our usual thoughts) and to be expressed
freely. "Jung once told me that he thought the
dream was always going on in the unconscious, but that
it usually needs sleep and the complete cessation of
attention to outer things for it to register in consciousness
at all. There is one very important rule that should
always be retained in every technique of active imagination...we
must give our full, conscious attention to what we say
or do, just as much---or even more---that we would in
an important outer situation. This will prevent it from
remaining passive fantasy."
3. When this is accomplished,
"the image must be prevented from sinking back
again into the unconscious, by drawing, painting or
writing down whatever has been seen or heard...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. "
4. "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."
5. Another technique in
dealing with the unconscious is through conversations
with contents of the unconscious that appear personified.
"Jung used to say that, as a rule, this was a later
stage in active imagination..."