DIY Magic : Active Imagination

Active Imagination

Towards a Jungian model of the paranormal, part 2

Many poets and all mystics and occult writers, in all ages and countries, have declared that behind the visible are chains and chains of conscious beings who are not of heaven but are of earth, who have no inherent form, but change according to their whim, or the mind that sees them.

– W.B. Yeats

The examples of UFO’s, ghosts, and whatnot that have been seen by the officials and authority figures is much too large to list here in this essay. In fact, cops and air force pilots seem to be UFO’s’ favorite targets! Jimmy Carter, the freaking president, saw a UFO. So what! It just illustrates that neither Authority nor a massive number of witnesses are not enough to convince the world at large.

Likewise, it does not matter how many people see the UFO or the blood-weeping Mary, or the Missing Link. It doesn’t matter if it is hundreds of folks day after day, or even thousands. It will be swallowed by time. (Perhaps this is simply because these experiences are always ephemeral – mysticism and the supernatural cannot readily be harnessed by capitalism to turn a profit; therefore it is unimportant to the point that it does not exist.) For example: In 1917 thousands of people witnessed UFO activity; at one point 70,000 people gathered to wait and watch at one location in Portugal after three children reported the Virgin Mary appearing there. The huge crowd, and indeed everyone within a 30 mile radius, reported seeing a swirling UFO appear.  As one eyewitness described :

“It was seen by seventy thousand persons, among whom were pious individuals and atheists, clergymen and reporters from a socialist newspaper. As promised, it happened on October 13 at noon. Among the crowd was Professor Almeida Garrett, of Coimbra University, a scientist, who described the phenomena in the following terms: ‘It was raining hard, and the rain trickled down everyone’s clothes. Suddenly, the sun shone through the dense cloud which covered it: everybody looked in its direction. It looked like a disc, of a very definite contour. It was not dazzling. I don’t think that it could be compared to a dull silver disk, as someone said later in Fatima. No. It rather possessed a clear, changing brightness, which one could compare to a pearl. It looked like a polished wheel. This is not poetry. My eyes have seen it. This clear-shaped disk suddenly began turning. It rotated with increasing speed. Suddenly, the crowd began crying with anguish. The sun, revolving all the time, began falling toward the earth, reddish and bloody, threatening to crush everyone underneath.”

The website where I found the above description argues that this purportedly religious experience was, in fact, definitely a UFO. It goes on to argue that another similar case where children saw angels: “he appeared to be about nine years old, was dressed in a long, seamless blue robe, had a small face with black eyes, and fine hands and short fingernails,” was obviously not an angel but an alien.

How beside the point!

They are on the right path in realizing that the alien and the angel are perhaps the same thing, but to think that it must be only one or the other is as blind and foolish as the men in our earlier parable of the elephant.

What would be plenty of evidence to be considered in a court of law – the opinion of the president, or a lot of cops and military, or the eye witness accounts of thousands – is scoffed at when it comes to the paranormal. It is a case of the established mindset being, “What you say cannot be true in any way . . . simply because it cannot be true.”

It is foolish to think that at some point a preponderance of evidence could be reached that could convince the doubting Thomases, that a trustworthy enough witness could ever be found to satisfy the skeptic. It is therefore high time that students of the arcane give up on trying to convince anyone of anything, and knowing what we know leave the doubters behind and carefully, indeed skeptically, go forth from what we do know and develop forward-thinking theories to be tried and tested.

With all of this in mind, I suggest we turn to Jung’s concept of Active Imagination as a route to explore this phenomena. Wikipedia informs us that: Active Imagination is a concept developed by Carl Jung between 1913 and 1916. It is a meditation technique wherein the contents of one’s unconscious are translated into images, narrative or personified as separate entities. It can serve as a bridge between the conscious ‘ego’ and the unconscious and includes working with dreams and the creative self via imagination or fantasy. Jung linked Active Imagination with the processes of alchemy in that both strive for oneness and inter-relatedness from a set of fragmented and dissociated parts.”

We know from his biography that leading up to the realization of this technique, Jung spent a great deal of time simply playing make believe in his backyard. He made a sort of sandbox on his property and played with rocks, making patterns and sand castle-like structures, constructing model buildings, being guided by his subconscious, and generally behaving like an 8 year old!  The genius of Jung is that he thought to do this as an old man. It was directly after he began this work that he was flooded with the archetypal imagery that was the wellspring of his life’s work (Jung’s Red Book). This was not easy at all for Jung to do, who said, “For it was a painfully humiliating experience to realize that there was nothing to be done but play childish games.”

Of course, Jung is not the only pioneer to reach a breakthrough by allowing himself to daydream and make-believe. Many have come before with the gift of communing with the other world, and many will come after, but the simplicity of how this is done seems to be lost on the materialistic age. Swedenborg was similarly a well-respected scientist of his day and age before a series of visions led him to discover his true calling as a seer. He eventually became one of the most prolific psychonauts to ever wield a pen and gives us the dictum “the individual is in touch with the heavens as far as his more inward reaches are concerned.” In other words, if you go deep enough into the imaginative mind, you find yourself in a realm of the actual, the spirit world.

One of Swedenborg’s most valuable assets in his inner explorations was a remarkable ability to remain for several hours in that curious threshold between waking and sleeping known as the hypnagogic state. Like C.G. Jung, Swedenborg discovered that in this liminal state the mind remains alert and can watch inner processes at work, can even enter into conversations with them. Jung called this process “active imagination”; Swedenborg thought of it as speaking with angels and spirits.

– from The Inner West by Jay Kinney

It is interesting that in both Jung and Swedenborg, we have two guys who were kinda on their way to just being stodgy old men, who didn’t really want to get enmeshed in the world of visions and angels and so on; you could even say that they had a certain amount of resistance to stuff that might be perceived as wishy-washy like that, and yet these are the people who end up having some of the most lucid and incredible visions since the guy who wrote Revelations. The very prescient writer on the occult, Patrick Harpur, has pointed out that, oddly enough, in close encounters of the third kind, the people who often are contacted by little green men tend to be folks who seem to lack imagination. They are generally people who are out of touch with their feelings & usually exactly the very last ones who anybody would suspect of making up a tall tale just for fun. This raises the possibility that more artistic and fanciful types are less likely to ever have a run in with the paranormal – sorry guys, but that basically means if you want to spontaneously see a UFO, it’s unlikely. Unimaginative people are more likely to build up tension between themselves and the subconscious/other world, until the veil between the worlds is ruptured. One might liken it to ionic tension that builds up between the clouds and the ground to cause lightning strikes.

For the rest of us, regular practice of the technique of Active Imagination can generate the same “electricity” that powers the paranormal. There are no laid-in-stone steps for this exercise. Simply pretend you are a child and play make-believe, be guided only by your imagination. For Jung this meant playing with rocks. For Swedenborg it was accessible through a Hypnagogic state. For another person it may be found in drawing, music or dance. The main key is to strike a balance between the imagination and the ego.

As one researcher, Harold Cahn, put it, we can view “the UFO experience as the product of an interaction between the anticipation of the percipient and the nature of what is perceived.”

Join us next time as we review my favorite UFO & Bigfoot encounters and then examine how they fit into the Jungian framework.

Categories: DIY Magic by Anthony Alvarado | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.

4 thoughts on “DIY Magic : Active Imagination

  1. Portugal is not Spain!!! It has been an Independent state for hundreds of years. The Virgin Mary sightings in Fátima are known around the world. Fátima is in Portugal, and so is Coimbra. More rigor in you’re research is advised.

  2. childish games.
    def gonna have to give that a go.

    for some reason reading this entry made me think of ‘satan’s brew’ the film by fassbinder…


  3. The accumulated subconscious tension that gives one an unexpected confrontation with the paranormal reminds me of hermetism in the first days of Christianity.
    The ‘temptations’ of the saints occurred in a hallucinatory state precisely because the physical channels had been deliberately blocked.

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