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By Dr Lila Moore

This featured image which is divided into two images, was generated by AI, a machine that I fed with the opening paragraph that describes my forthcoming course entitled Spirituality and the Imaginal. I didn’t train the machine in advance, I didn't supply her with my visual ideas, I just let her create what she fancied. In a few seconds, during which I waited with anticipation, she gave birth to this double vision of sky and place which made me ponder not just about her interpretative skills and resources but about our relationship with the Imaginal.

I relate to the AI machine in feminine terms as in machina in Latin and treat her as a feminine entity. I view her as an advanced tool that interacts with my consciousness, and although we often disagree on her choices, she also surprises me and pokes my boundaries or aesthetic taste as an artist, scholar and explorer. All she knew, or was informed of (technically speaking), is that the course that I teach "explores the imaginal as an evolving phenomenon that has shaped the human spiritual experience: from Paleolithic cave art, altered states, and mythic rituals to the intersection of modern esoteric and spiritual movements, the creative arts and healing arts".

Can a machine know or grasp the imaginal? Can she recognise the difference between fantastical imagination and the Imaginal?

More important, the greater transpersonal question that is relevant to us humans is: how does the imaginal capacity of the psyche evolve human culture and consciousness through creative and spiritual expression?

Mundus Imaginalis or the Imaginal

To illustrate the difference between imagination and the imaginal, I shall return to the AI image. Is it purely imaginative or does it carry a deeper or more complex meaning?

In what way does the image relate to the imaginal?

The vision begins with an expanse of sky and clouds that often metaphorically denotes the vast unlimited terrain of our potential, an unbound space in which we are free to become who we are and evolve. Interestingly, the image of the bluish-purplish sky recalls the altered state of the Overview Effect, of seeing the Earth from space, of getting the full picture of our life as individuals and as a collective; whilst fluffy clouds are associated with daydreams, alpha brain waves, and tuning in with our capacity for creativity and innovation. Everything seems possible in a lucid and real way. Dream transforms into a reality. The imaginal, unlike the imagination, is spiritually and traditionally perceived as a reality.

The second image of a place conjures a few elements that seem both real and unreal. The clouds drift from one vision to another. We have entered an uncharted, unique realm. A terrain with objects that may remind the observer of bushes, trees, grass and structures made of stone, wood or other exotic materials. Although this vision of a realm was generated by a machine which consumed my words, it recalls an essential feature of an imaginal realm.

Henry Corbin, scholar, Sufi mystic and associate of C.G. Jung, who coined the term the Imaginal, explained that the imaginal is a placeless place. It is known as an intermediate universe that forms a bridge between our Newtonian material existence and the abstract, noetic realm of profound thoughts and concepts.

The Imaginal’s Framework

What are these imaginal placeless places for? Mystics have gone on pilgrimages to imaginal cities and sacred places for many centuries. For the mystics, a pilgrimage to an imaginal destination is a spiritual path through which they gain enlightenment of the most profound divine secrets and ecstatic love. In the modern world, the imaginal was chiefly explored and applied analytically by C.G. Jung. Jung demonstrated the workings of the imaginal in his Red Book as psycho-spiritual processes of Individuation.

Thus, in a contemporary context the imaginal brings together the field of Jungian- informed psychology, Transpersonal Psychology, and the field of Contemporary Spirituality that draws on Western and Eastern mystical, shamanic and occult traditions. The psycho-spiritual framework is where the imaginal can be found and situated as well as explored and applied through analytical, traditional and innovative methodologies.

Furthermore, the imaginal has a major role in the intersection of the arts, advanced technologies and the exploration of consciousness.

The Benefits of Applying the Imaginal to Personal, Vocational and

Collective Evolution

Once we are familiar with the psycho-spiritual framework of the imaginal, we naturally want to know: how can we utilise the imaginal and the archetypal contents of our dreams, meditations, artworks, and altered states in psycho-spiritual processes of individuation and Self-integration? On a personal level, you may also want to know how to access your unique imaginal inner-space and discover how to work with the archetypes that propel your personal journey, Self-realisation and vocation.

The Imaginal Laboratory

As part of the Spirituality and the Imaginal course, MSc students and open learners are invited to practically explore the imaginal realm in our online Imaginal Laboratory. The Lab is where I am offering methodologies and experiential tools to experiment with active imagination, imaginal meditations, journaling, and dialogues through which to access, analyse and interpret our imaginal experiences, and look at how embodied imaginal practice may prompt synchronicities and assist in the integration of the inner (spiritual) and external (physical) reality. The experiential practice is playful and creative allowing the participants time to go within alone, write or create in any medium, and time for sharing the experience and communicating with others in a supportive environment.

The Imaginal in the Age of Learning Machines

Looking at the featured images which are 21st century machine visualisations of spirituality and the imaginal, I am reminded of the fact that it is created in humanity’s image and likeness. The imaginal is the expression of our human spiritual impulse, perhaps it is unique to our species or an archetypal pattern that descended to Earth from the stars. Advanced machines as tools can work in harmony with humans. It is an opportunity to teach them our best humane qualities and find out what we can learn and create together. For now the learning machines are just fractured mirrors of our individual and collective consciousness. Whilst, the imaginal is the authentic mirror of our psyche and soul, calling us to know ourselves more deeply, and in the timeless words of Joseph Campbel, follow our bliss.

Spirituality and the Imaginal online course starts in mid February. Join us for an empowering academic and experiential journey, click on the link below to join and learn more. You may also contact me directly about this course.

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