Returning to the practice of Active Imagination: We either stop the experience, or allow it to reach a natural stopping point. And there begins the next phase of the exercise. We have to reflect on it to the point of new realizations. Active Imagination is a daytime, waking, dream. A daydream of the highest order. And requires that we approach it as though it were a nightdream-- understanding it to be our psyche's way of getting our attention and showing us things about ourselves that we need to assimilate/integrate/embrace/incorporate in our way with life. Our psyche is always showing us how things are with us and asking what we are going to do about it. Inviting us to grow up some more again, and make the changes that are necessary for us to live in accord with the life that needs us to live it. The Taoist symbol of Yin/Yang is asking to be worked out in our life. How much of this? How much of that? Where is the balance point? What needs to happen for harmony to come forth as blessing and grace? Our place is to be quiet and take stock. To assess our current life situation and see what is happening and what is being called for. To know what needs to be done and do it. We feel our way forward by way of reflection and realization, awareness and "Aha!" Integrating opposites (Yin/Yang) and creating wholeness by way of our response to the situations and circumstances of our life. The trick here is to have nothing at stake in the matter. What needs to be done in light of the true good of the whole? In light of what? Whose good is served by the good we call good? How good is the good we call good? If the baby's diaper needs changing change the baby's diaper. If the dog needs to go for a walk, take the dog for a walk. Like that. Throughout our life. It doesn't matter what we want, or what we don't what, or what we feel like, or what we are in the mood for... What is being asked of us here and now? What is called for? What are we going to do about it? We don't just decide. We wait. We wait for the mud to settle and for the water to clear. We wait for the necessary action to act itself through us. Without doing anything more than waiting to see, to hear, to know what's what and what is called for. And BOOM! Like that, the right action is obvious. Of course!
Joseph Campbell talks about Carl Jung's idea of "Active Imagination" in Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor, and says," One way to activate the imagination is to propose to it a mythic image for contemplation and free development. Mythic images...speak to very deep centers of the psyche... without strict game rules defining the sort of thoughts you must (think), letting your own psyche enjoy and develop (the image), you may find yourself running into imageries, experiences, and amplifications that do not fit exactly into the patterns (you expect or are comfortable with). What are you going to do? Are you going to let yourself go, following your own activated imagination? Or are you going to cut the run short at some critical point? ...The world of life speaks within us when we let the active imagination function." We can engage our Active Imagination with any image, or any situation, or any idea, letting our psyche take over and wander where it will. For instance, you could imagine yourself standing on a beach, looking out to sea, and just stand there, watching, waiting to see what will happen, that you don't intentionally will into being. Just look out to sea and see what happens next... At some point, when your psyche takes over, you may get to a thought or an image that so shocks you, you have to take control and get yourself out of there now. If you have ever frightened yourself with some of the things that come to mind over the course of a life, and quickly assumed control of your thoughts and changed the subject, you know what Campbell is talking about. Do we risk seeing what we have to show ourselves? Say to ourselves? Or will we dutifully follow the course laid out for us by society and the culture and the expectations and duties that shape, form, limit and restrict the kind of path we can allow our life to take-- to the point of not even allowing ourselves to think thoughts that are prohibited by and anathema to the time and place of our living? What are we afraid of? "That which you seek is found far back in the darkest corner of the cave you most don't want to enter" (Joseph Campbell). What do we do?
Transforming our relationship with ourselves is our life-long task. The Hero's Journey. The Spiritual Quest. Our Opus. Our Great Work. We are seeking ourselves along every path we take. And, are running from ourselves at the same time. So comes to bear upon us the words of Carl Jung: "We meet our destiny on the road we take to escape it." And the words of Joseph Campbell: “We find what we seek far back in the darkest corner of the cave we most don’t want to enter.” Damn if we don't! So why make it hard on ourselves? Why not just cut to the chase? And save ourselves the trouble of getting all the way to the end of our rope? "Okay!" Why don't we just stop and say, "Okay! I know where this is going! I understand inevitability when I can no longer deny it! What do you want with me? What will it take to make you happy?"? I can tell you The Four Things Required, but it is up to you to put them in play, and you are on your own from this point. The First Thing is Sincerity. How long has it been? No contrivance. No games. No seeking your own advantage. No looking for what's in it for you. No feigning interest when you couldn't care less. No duplicity. Your heart has to be in it all the way. No! Your heart has to be leading the way all the way! If your heart isn't in it, you are wasting your time. Liege Loyalty. Filial Devotion. Go and learn what these things are. Require. It is called "Sincerity." That's The First Thing. The Second Thing is like unto it: Good Faith. No bullshit. No chasing after something better when something better comes along. No quitting when things get hard. No changing your mind. No waffling. No demurring. No trying to re-negotiate The Deal. You are owned by your Word. You are bound by your Word. Jesus said, "No one who puts their hand to the plow looks back." Or to the left. Or to the right. Or up or down. A Good Faith commitment to the task at hand is The Second Thing. The Third Thing is a Spirit of Play. Playing is serious business. Playing is getting yourself out of the way. Playing unfolds according to its own direction. Its own inclination. Its own spur-of-the-moment urgency. No one plays by the rules! The Rules kill play! And suddenly you are back at work. Keeping the rules. "All games have their rules!" Okay, then. The rule of this game is "No Rules!" We play by playing, and that means Getting Out Of The Way. No winning. No losing. No keeping score. No concern for how well we are doing. No worrying about "Are we there yet?" We are just lost in the game, playing our way along the way. That's The Third Thing: A Spirit of Play. The Forth Thing is The Third Thing. The Forth Thing is not The Third Thing. The Spirit of Play is the Third Thing. The Forth Thing is a different Third Thing. Play along here. The Third Thing is a thing, anything, that is oblique to the Journey. The Task. The Quest. The Third Thing has nothing to do with what we are doing. The other two things are You and What You Are Doing (Seeking to transform your life by transforming your relationship with yourself). The Third Thing has nothing to do with that. The Third Thing could be anything. Oatmeal cookies. Sit down with actual oatmeal cookies, or with the idea of oatmeal cookies, and see where it goes. See what you do with oatmeal cookies. Let oatmeal cookies take over your life. Write an essay on oatmeal cookies. Write a letter to oatmeal cookies. Bake oatmeal cookies. Experiment with the recipe. Make the best oatmeal cookies that have ever been made. Play with oatmeal cookies. See where they take you. Watch how oatmeal cookies open doors you never expected oatmeal cookies to open. Doors you never knew existed. Leading to places you would have never ever gone on your own. Oatmeal Cookies become your Guide. Follow the leader. The old alchemists had a slogan: "One book opens another." Oatmeal cookies are that way. The Third Thing carries you away like that. To what, and what else, and where that will go, you will discover in good time. Oatmeal cookies don't have to be your Third Thing. Sit quietly and wait for your Third Thing to appear in a compelling kind of way, as if to say, "Let's play." Whoowhoo! Hang on for the ride!