The Soul's Flying Lessons
In 1926 C.G. Jung advised Christiana Morgan, an artist suffering from depression, to produce a book for her visions. He regarded the visions as only the beginning, the surface of what is captured by the retina of the eye. Instead of trying to express those images by forcefully capturing them, she began to look in, to hold them and see how they change. She then entered the pictures, placed herself in the landscape of the vision, and the figures that appear began to talk to her like they did to Jung in his Liber Novus’ visions. Like an actor playing in an unfolding drama, the one who goes in search of visions is moved by the rhythms of the unconscious. The aim of such a risky venture, as the visions could be equally beautiful or terrifying, is to learn to act in the internal drama as well as in the drama of the outer life so that nothing can hurt you.
Communication with the visions must be a conscious process and not a mere passive immersion in fantasies. You must be a critical self, imposing your own judgments and criticisms on the figures and the happenings that manifest in the visions.
Jung advised to artistically express the visions in a beautifully bound book. Making images out of the visions may transform them into banal depictions but the process will set them free. You should never try to make the visions come again. Think of your visions in your imagination and try to paint them. Then when these things are in your precious book you can go to the book, turn over the pages. As for you, the book of visions “will be your church—your cathedral—the silent places of your spirit where you will find renewal. If anyone tells you that it is morbid or neurotic and you listen to them—then you will lose your soul—for in that book is your soul.” In his masterpiece Liber Novus, Jung laid the foundation to the practice of Active Imagination which can be utilised for therapeutic, artistic and Self-actualisation purposes. It is also one of the most profound demonstrations of the imaginal realm as part of modern, creative and Self-individualisation or Self-repair processes.
The term Active Imagination perhaps does not capture the entire scope of such creative activity that engages with incomprehensible intuitions and phantasy fragments that rise from the unconscious, and for which there is almost no suitable language. Yet, it is particularly useful when suffering is caused by the loss of soul. Through the work with the book, the seekers can rediscover the symbolic expression of their mythology, and decipher the imaginal hieroglyphs of their wandering soul, calling her back home to the Self.
Jung’s technique in working with visions recalls a technique which was applied by initiates of the Order of the Golden Dawn and which was taught and written about by Moina Mathers (1865-1928), who co-led the order in London and Paris with her husband MacGregor Mathers. The following text is an excerpt from my published essay on Moina Mathers (2021) and based on her instructional text
The Water World of Moina Mathers by Lila Moore
entitled: “On Skrying and Travelling in the Spirit Vision” (Flying Roll XXXVI) from the 1890s. “Skrying and astral projection are complementary and can be studied together. Moina Mathers divides the process into stages and interrelated techniques that could be practised separately or in combination. Skrying begins with a meditation on a symbol. (For example, I chose to meditate on a seashell.) The meditation triggers ideas and visions. The symbol assumes translucent quality and mirrors images and scenes that surface in the skryer’s mind’s eye. These visual manifestations similar to augmented reality overlap the physical reality like additional layers. At this stage, the skryer remains in the physical body and reality though her consciousness perceives multi-dimensional scenery. In the next stage, termed as astral projection, the skryer passes through the symbol by projecting her awareness into the revealed scenes, probing them in detail from within. Although her body remains in the physical reality, her consciousness ventures deeper into the visionary realm.
In the following, advanced stage, termed as travelling in the spirit vision, the skryer is passing through the symbol that functions as a portal, entering the reflections in 3D, not as a flat picture, but as a world which she can inspect from all perspectives. It appears similar to virtual reality but without the need for a headset. The skryer is a traveller in the spirit vision and can act and even make changes in that alternate reality that the symbol opened for her.
According to Moina, the purpose of skrying, including astral projection and travel in the spirit vision, is to retrieve knowledge from the Sephiroth of the Tree of Life and form various symbols, divine beings, elemental entities, and astral domains. These practices begin with intuitive thought-pictures that are impressed upon the brain as inspiration. However, the skryer has to apply both intuition and reason to generate the visions and interpret their meanings. Moreover, she compares the techniques of skrying, which involve building an image on the basis of an imaginative thought vision, to the work of an artist:
Imagination (eidolon) means the faculty of building an Image. The imagination of the artist must lie in the power, which he possesses more or less in proportion to his sincerity, and his intuition, of perceiving forces in the Macrocosm, and allying or attuning himself thereto, his talents naturally and his artificial training permitting him to formulate images which shall express those forces (M. Mathers Flying Roll XXXVI).”
Moore, L. “Magic(k)al Visions of the Ultra-Modern Woman: Reconsidering the Feminine Aesthetics of Moina Mathers and Maya Deren”, in Making Magic Happen: Selected Essays from the Inaugural Magickal Women Conference,London: Magic(k)al Women& Company Publications, 2021.
There are a number of methodologies which are regarded as “soul-making” and which could have a balancing effect by bridging the inner and physical realities of life. By aligning the inner and outer life of the soul, synchronicities may arise, making magick happen.
In my forthcoming course Spirituality and the Imaginal we explore the imaginal through Jung’s Red Book and the practice of Active Imagination in the procedures of individuation and self -integration. James Hillman’s Archetypal Psychology and Imaginal Method is complemented by Marion Woodman’s feminist psychology and other feminine/feminist movement-based and embodied approaches to the imaginal inspired by women's spirituality, womanism and shamanism.
Key activities are:
• Imaginal meditations: accessing the Inner Imaginal realm
• Imaginal journaling and dialogues
• Embodying the imaginal and exploring the metaphoric body through light movement, ritual, myth, image-making, sound, and text.
• Active Imagination exercises based on Jung's Red Book.
• Exploring film/cinema as an imaginal space: Imaginal and active imagination practice with films utilising a Jungian methodology.
The course is full and only a few slots are available to Open Learners. Registration deadline is on 3 February. Open learners become part of the Alef Trust community and are welcome to participate in our faculty’s online sessions with invited guests and various activities until the end of the course in June, 2023.
For more information and registration to the course click on the link below