Originally coined by Henry Corbin, the term imaginal pertains to the subtle experiences of the inner world.
Similar, but not identical to the Greek onar (the world of dream, as opposed to the hypar, the material world), we engage the imaginal by use of the faculty of imagination. The imaginal is distinguished from the imaginary (a word often used dismissively for things that are unreal).
Use of the term implies a strong belief in the reality of phenomena in the psyche — though it may also include larger subtle, phenomenal fields, as well.
The work at Imaginalia encompasses two broad areas: research about the imaginal and imaginal research. Let’s consider each, in turn.
Research about the imaginal
Research about the imaginal examines the territories and processes of the unconscious psyche, including those we can access deliberately — through techniques like active imagination — and those that come upon us less voluntarily — like dreaming. Among our special interests are the figures of the inner world, the practice of active imagination, and the ethical issues raised by imaginal practice.
Ultimately, we intend that our explorations will expand our understanding of:
- The nature and capabilities of the imagination
- The meaning of ‘reality’ in the context of the imaginal psyche
- The ‘places’ we find in lucid dreaming, shamanic-type journeying, and active imagination
- Normative multiplicity, the idea that the psyche is plural in its natural, healthy state
- The role of the imaginal in the healing of individuals and cultures
Imaginal research, on the other hand, uses imaginal tools to study a wide variety of phenomena, ranging from mental health to physical illness, literature to music, religion to commerce. At its essence, such research establishes the imaginal as a legitimate means of creating or discovering knowledge.
There are many sources of imaginal knowing, methods by which researchers can access the subtle knowledge of psyche. Each of these modes can be both topics of research — as described above — as well means of conducting research. For instance, one might study the history and techniques of shamanic journeying, or one might use shamanic-type journeying to research the nature of the trickster archetype.
Sources of imaginal knowing include:
A technique that has likely been with humans since we first began imagining, Carl Jung’s re-discovery of active imagination gives us tools to explore the inner world and dialogue with the figures in our psyche.
Psychological and physical symptoms — their qualities and their timing — can serve as a metaphor for events taking place in the psyche and the outer world.
Dreams & Reverie
Nighttime dreams, as well as daydreams and reveries, open us to subtle information including deep narratives, archetypal images, and communications from subpersonalities.
Sometimes described as meaningful coincidence, synchronistic phenomena reveal a profound interconnectedness between what happens inside of us and what takes place in the world.
(visual art, literature, music, etc.)
Visions & Shamanic-type Journeys
Since time immemorial, humans have understood that wisdom from and visions of ‘the otherworld’ offer important forms of knowledge.
Researchers like Stanislav Grof have crossed the thresholds of these territories and returned with profound insights.
Intuitions & Subtle Impressions
Whether they have their root in the mind or the quantum field, our often-elusive intuitions, hunches, and even psychic experiences are part of the human experience.