why it matters:

discover truly creative solutions

What happens in the unconscious mind is at least as important as what occurs in our conventional consciousness — it is the origin of our art and literature, of our frightening impulses, and our loveliest aspirations.

Are we out of good ideas? Considering the chaos of our era, the ratcheting tensions of the culture wars, and the frightening changes in our hurting planet, it does seem that our imaginations are failing us.

But what if the opposite is true, and it is we who are failing our imaginations? Failing to listen inward, avoiding the important messages of our dreams, neglecting the many voices within? We search desperately for answers outside of ourselves — grasping for substances, scapegoats, relationships, careers — anything to quell the speaking wounds within us. And a new job or a pharmaceutical may offer some answers. But the deepest answers — including the answer to the question, What are we really looking for? — still await us inside.

the idea of the imaginal

If we take a thoughtful look around, we find we’re surrounded by the products of our best thinking, the sorts of outcomes that arise from the will- and power-based efforts of our striving, egoic selves. As a result, we’re trapped in our own projections about people and events, often unable to see past our rigidly held fears, beliefs and prejudices. The irony is, by insisting that our consciousness is the only credible, knowledgable part of ourselves, we find ourselves with less knowledge, and seeing things with greater inaccuracy. By denying the subtler side of our psyche, we spend our days, as poet W.H. Auden wrote, Lived by powers we pretend to understand. [2]

The idea of the imaginal starts with a simple premise: that what happens in the unconscious mind is at least as important as what occurs in our conventional consciousness. And the place that is formed by our unconscious psyches — or that our unconscious psyches partake in — has a reality of its own. This imaginal realm is host to our dreams, yes, but also encompasses the most ancient wisdom of our species. It is the origin of our art and literature, of our frightening impulses and our loveliest aspirations.

Though we often ignore or suppress it, this part of ourselves has not gone silent. It is speaking now: in our symptoms, in our tendencies to self-sabotage, in our compulsions and outbursts and prejudices and wishes. The imaginal infuses our persons and our world, and we have developed the unfortunate habit of neglecting it — at least, until its speaking becomes unbearable.

Imaginal research endows the subtle world with a spirit of renewed trust, a sense that what we find there has its own credibility and wisdom. It believes in the capacity of the imaginal psyche to create new knowledge, to solve problems, and to shape the world. Such research studies imaginal phenomenasynchronicities, symptoms, dreams — and uses those same phenomena as tools to study the world. In this way, our researchers open doors to unconventional sources of truth and deeper ways of knowing. At the same time, we hope develop the tools to confront our nightmares — the ones we dream, and the ones we create.

As individuals, and as a planet, we are wounded, but we are not alone. There are partners within us and worlds that suffuse us. And when we stop insisting on the idea that we have to ‘figure everything out’ ourselves, we can begin to open doors on truly creative solutions.

Perhaps you will share my interest in imaginal work, expressing this same sort of curiosity and trust in your own corner of the imaginal world. It can begin simply. It can begin today, by turning attention toward your inward spaces and saying, Hello. I’m sorry you’ve been pushed away. I’m interested to know you better. You are welcome.

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