I was writing yesterday about images, those spontaneous irruptions from the deep psyche, and what I feel I have learned about them thus far. I was concentrating on their linguistic attributes and how they convey meaning. Then, I thought about how they are symbolic—they relay hidden messages by functioning as portals between conscious and unconscious spheres. Just as I was considering this, an image from a sort of Red Book of my own that I made back in 1998 popped into my head (see attached). And that instantly caused me to write that images “know something we don’t” which is why they insist, urge, and demand. Jung explained that psychological experience cannot be separated from images. In his own words, “everything of which we are conscious is an image. Image is psyche” (Jung, 1929/1967, p. 54, CW13 para. 75). Images are thus vehicles for conscious action, as the example above demonstrates. They come on to us like flirtatious lovers or else haunt and bedevil us until we take notice. Even when we don’t take notice, they still lead the way.
I am learning how this imaginal realm works in writing and research. I can now see that a multitude of energetic and powerful creative forces are working alongside me to produce mundane things like sentence structure and prophetic and cosmic and transcendental things like archetypal order and the union of opposites. I am starting to recognize that depth psychological inquiry involves an exquisite network of ideas, thoughts, and emotions (images) that fuse together in a collaborative dance of creation, and that this is how new knowledge is formed and birthed into the world. This sort of research and writing is creative and soulful, it honors the depths and the inevitable paradoxes and ambiguities. An imaginal approach to inquiry, research, and knowledge is, therefore, more yielding and less authoritatively reasonable or logical for the images cannot abide in logic. They are inherently erotic. It is up to the researcher to translate them into a language which brings cohesive fusion to eros and logos dynamics in writing.
Jung believed in a teleological psyche—a soul with a goal—the goal of individuation. He called individuation an “indispensable” ideal and wrote that “the idea at the bottom of this ideal is that right action comes from right thinking, and that there is no cure and no improving of the world that does not begin with the individual himself” (Jung, 1928/1966, p. 226, CW7 para. 373). The road to individuation goes through the imaginal realm where images morph into lived experience, what Wilhelm Dilthey called Erlebnis, an experience that “is not so much a matter of content as an act of consciousness” (Palmer, quoted in Coppin, 2017, p. 70). Here, again, is the notion that the image is the enactor of consciousness itself so that lived experience is necessarily a psychological phenomenon. For me, this idea is of paramount importance because my interest lies in uncovering the truth of reality. Since there can be no felt or lived experience without images, then things outside of me have no reality, not unless I live and experience them through my images first. We can only experience life—lived experience—by imagining ourselves into it. In this way, life, research, knowledge, love, hate—all of it is mythical, it is all a story told by the imaginative, myth-making psyche. I think a tragedy is this mythical (imaginal) life lived literally, without any consciousness of the power and autonomy of the images, their role in the creation of consciousness, and our dependence upon them for meaning and comprehension.
Writing and research are thus deeply rooted in the imaginal dimension of lived experience. I think that comprehension of research methodologies, APA formatting, sentence structure, and dissertation writing all depend upon a healthy recognition of this fact. All aspects of scholarship are enhanced by a researcher’s strong existential foundation in the imaginal realm.
Jung, C. G. (1967). Commentary on The secret of the golden flower (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (Vol. 13). Retrieved from http://www.proquest.com(Original work published 1929)
Jung, C. G. (1966). The relations between the ego and the unconscious (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (Vol. 7, 2nd ed., pp. 121–241). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1928)
Nelson, E. & Coppin, J. (2017). The art of inquiry. A depth psychological perspective. Thompson, CT: Spring Publications.