Working With the Imaginal: A Way Out of Our Heads

20160326_171541All or most of us reading this page have had experiences with the imaginal realm—powerful dreams, visitations from ancestral figures, inexplicably meaningful “coincidences,” and the like. We recognize their importance, and long to understand the meaning in them. But how do we approach them? The mainstream culture gives us little guidance, and the “New Age” folks often seem way too far out on the fringes. And yet….

One of the main things I want to offer in my courses and study groups is a way “out of our heads.” Many of us are accustomed to looking for meaning in the events in our lives, but the connections are not necessarily logical or rational. We can’t approach the search for meaning rationally, but we lack tools for getting beyond a kind of gut feeling.

When I did my dissertation at Pacifica Graduate Institute, I worked with Robert Romanyshyn and Veronica Goodchild, who formulated a consistent set of tools (and a research method called Alchemical Hermeneutics) to explore and to relate to the imaginal world. These techniques are easy to learn and don’t require formal academic training.

The advantage to using these tools and techniques is that they give us a consistent approach to this work, and that very consistency helps to get past the feeling that “Oh, I’m just making this up.” In the “Brian Is Real” series (especially the “So Now What?” piece) I talk about the necessity of balancing ourselves between “imaginal space” and “reality.” It’s SO important! And using specific, consistent techniques with awareness is part of that balancing act.

A major reason why working like this is so useful as a way of finding meaning  in our lives is that we can deliberately (and this is key!) become open to information and “opinions” that do not belong to our conscious mind. We can engage in dialogue with consciousnesses that exist in the imaginal world whose experiences and understandings are very different and often much broader than our own, and find meaning and wisdom that we otherwise could not have obtained.

These tools represent the key to what I’m trying to accomplish in my groups: to help us all develop ways of deliberately becoming open to information that doesn’t belong to our conscious mind, but rather to the beings/entities/whatever-they-are who dwell in the imaginal realm, and to information whose source is non-rational. Imaginal space is just a catch-all term that I and others use for that realm between mind/spirit and matter.

So let’s explore together, and learn to use some tools and techniques consciously in order to ask questions and receive “answers” or clarifications—or maybe more questions!—that will lead us in the direction of greater understanding of this mystery called life.