Archive for the ‘fantasy’ tag
I am again digging into the archives for a photo for today’s post, one from my last winter’s stay in Vietnam. As I turn to active imagination, sometimes I am tempted to believe I might know the stories of these two men, or of any man or woman. I jump into the scene and allow intuition and feeling, my dominant functions build the story. With any luck, an improved ability in using my inferior functions, thinking and sensing will help fill in the gaps. But in the end, all that my fantasies, this journey of active imagination can tell me is a story about my self.
“The vast majority of people are quite incapable of putting themselves individually into the mind of another. This is indeed a singularly rare art, and truth to tell, it does not take us very far. Even the man whom we think we know best and who assures us himself that we understand him through and through is at bottom a stranger to us. He is different.The most we can do, and the best, is to have at least some inkling of his otherness, to respect it, and to guard against the outrageous stupidity of wishing to interpret it. (Jung, C.W. Volume 7, paragraph 363)
It makes one think about what one expects and why one enters into an activity of active imagination. At times I use my images to wonder about the person in the image and to create some sort of understanding of that person. I should know better for my words don’t really paint an honest picture of that other person, rather the words speak of myself.
How well do I know myself? Well, it seems that I am still figuring this out.
Yesterday evening I went out for the purpose of meeting with new students at the university, the Freshmen classes who were taking part in a combination “Welcome to University” and “Mid-Autumn Festival” celebration. As I walked to the university campus I saw the full moon in the sky, not an unusual site as it happens once every four weeks; but this full moon was special in terms of China as it is this particular moon which is celebrated for the Mid-Autumn Festival. I ended up taking a fair amount of photos of the moon but this one is the only one that jumped out begging for my attention when it came to writing today’s blog post after my last set of teaching classes was done for the day.
The moon is framed by a fair-sized high-voltage power pole structure. The moon seems to be trapped within the steel bars, imprisoned and contained. But of course, this is all illusion as one knows that the moon is not really contained within the crossbars, it just looks that way. It is all about perspective.
Perspective – what does the inner voices tell us about an image? What does the ego tell us about an image? What fantasies are evoked? By listening with active imagination in which we safely participate in the fantasies that come out of the engagement with the images, we can come to begin to hear our own inner self speaking to us. Perhaps it is the soul, anima talking to us through the image of the moon. Does the soul, like the moon feel trapped and unable to find release? We do this to our soul when we deny the soul, when we put boundaries to bind the soul to darkness and silence.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, in order to grow we need to engage in active imagination activity with those images that pull at us, those that catch the attention of some part of us. Listen to what Jung tells us:
“Continual conscious realization of unconscious fantasies, together with active participation in the fantastic events, has, as I have witnessed in a very large number of cases, the effect firstly of extending the conscious horizon by the inclusion of numerous unconscious contents; secondly of gradually diminishing the dominant influence of the unconscious; and thirdly of bringing about a change in personality.” (Jung, C.W. Volume 7, paragraph 358)
When we continue to ignore the faint voices of the unconscious that seek our attention so as to be included in the larger sense of self, of identity, we risk acting out unconsciously. We all know of those who do and say things that they appear to be unaware they have said or done to the point of thinking that we are telling lies about them. We have heard of those who somehow slip into and out of alter personalities like some Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, situations where the ego is banished for some time while the unconscious takes over and runs wild. The process of engaging in active imagination allows us to carefully unmask the shadow removing the necessity for the unconscious to burst out of its prison running rampant over the ego.
Remember, it is all about perspective. Once we change our perspective, we change everything.
I took this photo on one of the many walks I take when not teaching. I was entranced by the twin silver balls on the railing that separated a small park from a canal. I liked the colours and the contrast. Little did I know that when I took the photo that my image would be caught in the silver balls.
Do we believe in fantasies, of living a secret life of fantasy? In my opinion, I think we do. Living fantasies through the characters we come across in a novel or in a movie is a typical way in which we live a fantasy existence. We become more than our prosaic daily self that meets the world. By day we are teachers, clerks, laborers, cops, medics or any number of ordinary people. When in the midst of a novel, a comic, a computer game or a film, we become heroes and villains engaged in all sorts of adventures we would never dare enter as our normal real (to our own minds) version of ourselves. Yet not all of our fantasies are experienced vicariously. A sales clerk in a store during the daytime becomes a Wiccan at night or during special festivals; a waitress transforms into a dominatrix; a carpenter transforms into a high-ranking and mysterious masonic grandee – these are just a few of dual existences that allow some to engage actively in concretized active imagination, fantasy.
“. . . the scientific credo of our time has developed a superstitious phobia about fantasy. But the real is what works. And the fantasies of the unconscious work, there can be no doubt about that. Even the cleverest philosopher can be victim of a thoroughly idiotic agoraphobia. Our famous scientific reality does not afford us the slightest protection against the so-called irreality of the unconscious. Something works behind the veil of fantastic images, whether we give this something a good name or a bad. It is something real, and for this reason its manifestations must be taken seriously.” (Jung, C.W. Volume 7, paragraph 353)
As I use active imagination I learn to give respect and weight to what emerges. As fantastic as the contents might seem, there is within this alternate world being perceived that has its own reality and a power that can act upon my self in ways that are beyond my control. Acknowledging the presence and weight of this alternate reality, I bring the energy (libido) out of the unconscious and bring it into the realm of my consciousness and the ego’s control of that measure of consciousness. And in the process, I cease being a victim of the unconscious.
With evening rains becoming a normal occurrence in the semi-arid region, I find myself taking a larger number of “puddle” photos as the images found within those puddles become a living alter world that draw one into a participation in the fantasy of those alter worlds. How is it that in “looking down” into a watery underworld, I see the sky, clouds and trees? In looking down, I am also looking up. There is something “deep” in this awareness, something that I need to think about for a while. While I am thinking, I want to share a few words about fantasy with you, words from Kahlil Gibran’s book, A Tear And A Smile:
“Life carries us hither and thither and destiny moves us from one place to another. We see not save the obstacle set in our path; neither do we hear save a voice that makes us to fear.
Beauty appears before us seated on her thrown of glory and we draw nigh. An in the name of longing do we defile her garment’s hem and wrest from her the crown of purity.
Love passes us by clothed in a robe of gentleness, and we are afraid and hide us in dark caves, or follow her and do evil things in her name.
. . .
Wisdom stands on the street corner and calls to us above the multitude, but we deem her a thing without worth and despise them that follow her.
. . .We are near to earth, yet the gods are our kin. We pass by the bread of life, and hunger feeds off our strength.
How sweet to us is life, and how fare we are from life!” (Gibran, “Fantasy and Truth,” A Tear And A Smile, pp 61-62)
I could have written more of these words here, but it is time for my words. I bought this little book in 1971, about two years after buying and reading Gibran’s book, The Prophet. After choosing today’s photo, for some reason I reached for A Tear And A Smile which has been sitting on my bookshelf untouched for almost forty years, and almost immediately found this passage. For me, it was a pulling together of quite a few of my thoughts posted here that have been following the innate spirituality of humanity and the presence of the Divine within.
I would imagine that few passing by the puddle posted above, would be drawn into its depths and find there life, beauty, love and wisdom. Looking at the photo, one might get confused by the wall of asphalt that borders the sky, and likely deny its presence as it doesn’t “fit” preconceived notions. Or else, what this puddle offers us in fantasy is rejected and dismissed as simply being a fuzzy reflection of reality found in an ordinary puddle. When one walks through life blind to the numinous on the edges of almost all that is seen, felt, heard, touched and scented, one is barren. One is left holding onto false truths, not even half-truths about who he or she is, about the purpose and meaning of life. And in anger for not finding a purpose and meaning for life, one denies, dissembles and destroys.
I know for myself, truth about who I am is found when I enter into the realms of fantasy. And there I find so much more than truth. Thank you, Kahlil Gibran for helping me to remember.
Yes, those are stockings hung on the mantle of our fireplace. When our children were little, these stockings would end up filled with all kinds of Christmas treasures. Now, they are symbolic of a childhood that has since been replaced by parenthood for my children. I have often thought about these Christmas treasures and tales that we tell children. So many now feel that telling children anything but simple scientific fact or strict religious belief is something that harms children. There is a mistaken belief that anything less than these two approaches encourages children to believe in lies.
But, as you know, since you have been reading here, myths, tales and fantasy are often the most direct routes to a more holistic understanding of what it is to be a human, and one’s relationship to other including the ONE which embraces all that is and all that isn’t.