I chose this photo because it holds the image of the lotus blossom and the shadow image of the lotus blossom. I purposely want this duality in an image so as to address something that needs to be addressed when working with active imagination – the separation of fact from fantasy. I have been talking about active imagination as something vital the transformational process of individuation without setting any guidelines. Rather than make too much a mess of trying to set guidelines, I will bring Jung’s words here on this topic:
“The way of the transcendent function is an individual destiny. But on no account should one imagine that this way is equivalent to the life of a psychic anchorite, to alienation from the world. Quite the contrary, for such a way is possible and profitable only when the specific worldly tasks which individuals set for themselves are carried out in reality. Fantasies are no substitute for living; they are fruits of the spirit which fall to him who pays tribute to life.” (Jung, C.W. Volume 7, paragraph 369)
The words are quite clear – one doesn’t engage in active imagination to escape unpleasant realities. One uses active imagination when most of the work of the outer world has been accomplished – parenting, career, care-taking, etc. – or nearing completion. With the engagement with midlife there is often a sense of “is this all that life is about?” that begins to haunt one who has succeeded in the work of the outer world. There is a sense of “there must be more than this!” that needs to be addressed. Active imagination is just one method to help find that which seems to be missing. I use the word seems with deliberate purpose for what is missing is not really missing but rather located in the unconscious which is dissociated from the conscious contents of the ego.
“Finally, the normal man will never be burdened . . . for he is everlastingly content with the little that lies within his reach.” (ibid)
There is a danger in treading the world of the unconscious when one is not ready, when one has not finished the work of the outer world, when one is not called to wander in an inner world in search of answers to questions that an outer world can’t answer. It is a matter more akin to not having much choice if one is to remain sane that it is about curiosity – hence the feeling that one is forced into an alter journey in an alter universe.