Jungian Active Imagination & Hypnagogia

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

Marie-Louise von Franz on Active Imagination

Marie-Louise von Franz met C.G. Jung in 1933 and worked with him until his death in 1961. A founder of the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, she published widely on subjects ranging from alchemy to fairy tales. Many of her major observations about Active Imagination were recorded in two chapters of her Psychotherapy (pp. 146-176).

Notes from "Active Imagination In The Psychology of C.G. Jung"

Can Acclerate Development

Von Franz says while dreams can be helpful in inner development, Active Imagination can intensify and accelerate development because it brings the conscious mind along in its work. "...a beneficial effect arises from attempting to objectivize (carefully observe) contents of the unconscious in the awake state and relate with them consciously. This can be done through painting or sculpting---or, more rarely, through dancing---but principally through writing down inwardly observed phenomena. Conversations with inner figures play an especially prominent role here. (p.146)"

What Active Imagination Is Not

Active Imagination can be easily confused for passive imagination by those without proper training. Active Imagination is not:

1. "Internal cinema" most people see when the close their eyes;

2. "Talking to oneself" most people do at one time or another;

3. Contemplation;

4. When images that are not honored and taken as real;

5. When the person appears as some fictive personality;

6. Guided imagery;

7. "When the imagination comes off very easily, this is often suspicious, since real active imagination is a considerable endeavor that in the beginning can rarely be kept up longer than ten or fifteen minutes." (p.147-148)

The Difficulties

1. A kind of "cramp of consciousness" makes it so that nothing comes to one's mind.

2. A sureness that "This whole thing is not real, it's just being made up."

3. For those with major psychological problems: "It can, as Jung stressed, bring latent psychoses to the point of outbreak." (pp. 148-149)

Length of Time Needed to Do Active Imagination

10 to 15 minutes

Notes from "On Active Imagination"

The Steps

1. Empty ego consciousness, get free of the flow of thoughts.

2. Let image arise in mind, follow it through. Don't let change too rapidly into other images and don't hold too tightly so that nothing happens.

3. Give the image form by writing it down, painting it, sculpting it, writing it as music, or dancing it. Don't over do this by trying to be too artful, but don't be sloppy either.

4. Apply what one has learned in daily life.

"Now we know that for the ego complex to get in touch with the unconscious has a vivifying and inspiring effect, and that is really the basis of all our therapeutic efforts."(1)
Source: von Franz, Marie-Louise. Psychotherapy, (Boston: Shambhala, 1993).
(1) von Franz, Marie-Louise. On Divination and Synchronicity: The Psychology of Meaningful Chance, (Toronto: Inner City Books, 1980).


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