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Reply To: The Quest of Creative-Being Itself, with Mythologist Norland Tellez:


Hi James, and thank you for your kind response to my response. I really like that you brought up the quotes of Jung’s and about him and Philemon, and including Hillman in it. This is such a vast topic–I left out a bunch of Jung’s quotes I initially wanted to include and discuss more.

Philemon appeared to Jung first in a dream. Jung then did a painting of him and often engaged in dialogue with him as an imaginal figure. While Jung saw dreams as keys opening the doors to the unconscious and felt they gave vitality to one’s path of individuation, he yet felt that engaging in what he termed “active imagination” was even more effective than dreaming in understanding the unconscious. His reasoning for this was that while most people dream they are not conscious (though I do think there are exceptions, such as in lucid dreaming), but in the process of active imagination (such as consciously engaging in dialouge with a dream figure/imaginal figure) one can be conscious and aware of what is going on and actively participate with the figures and in events that occur. It is like daydreaming, or fantasy. However, Jung did not dismiss imaginal figures as mere fantasy the way most people define fantasy—there is the difference between the imaginary and the imaginal. Jung did believe that imaginal figures can take on a life of their own. He believed there are various strata of the psyche and that some figures in some strata can emerge from what he considered the autonomous psyche (the autonomous ‘layer’ or area of psyche). The autonomous image or figure has an independence of his/her/its (I include it as it can be an animal or a stone, i.e., also, and not only human) own and the figure can become what is called the living image.

Jung felt that Philemon, as a living image, deserved his respect; in interacting with the figure, we have to let go of our ego in wanting to control it or the events we experience with the living image. When we do let go, we can be open to the experience and hear what it has to say and see what it has to show us. Jung advised to not try to interpret the experience at the time of the experience. We can do that later, and while in dialogue with the figure, we can ask it questions. That is one way you can find things out about the figure or why it showed up and what it can tell you; however, in my experience and of others I know, the imaginal figure as you mention above within the quote you provided, James, does often say and do things you do or would not expect, or sometimes show up when you do not expect it! Dreams and imaginal figures in AI (active imagination) often surprise people!

In consideration of all the above (and I did try to be brief), if we tend to follow this mindset, the autonomy of the imaginal figure could very well be an autonomy of the muse—when indeed it is a muse. Depth psychologist Marion Woodman stated, “There is no sense talking about ‘being true to yourself’ until you are sure what voice you are being true to. It takes hard work to differentiate the voices of the unconscious.” (I do not have the source handy at this moment.)

It is interesting to think about from where an experience of creative inspiration comes. Sometimes it seems to come from outside, and sometimes it seems to come from inside oneself. I can usually differentiate this, answer this question, by paying attention to which side of my eardrum the notes are struck (in the case of a piece of music coming to me or a song). If it strikes my eardrum from outside myself, I am often likely to regard it as a muse. If it strikes my eardrum from within as if striking my eardrum from the inside out, then I am less likely to think of the source as the muse. It is then that I am more likely to think of it as something within my own psychic strata such as an inner figure or some other inner psychic source, even an ancestor, which might even be me in a past life, and thus an ancient memory. Usually if I hear a voice (which can be a poem, or a couple words to begin a poem) from within, my psyche provides an echo to go with it. Sometimes if a song comes to me from within rather than from without, it also has an echo. Sometimes when a song comes from without, it has a faraway sound. There is most always a sense of place with this (for me), just as is usual for a poem or story. But then I do have to add here that any or all of this at any given time can come from my own psyche and/or the collective psyche as in collective unconscious and here, made conscious since I can hear it and write it down and play it–so long as I do not forget it.

And yes, I do think that Jung and Hillman are much alike on their ideas and thank you for bringing this up. Jung with his concept of inner imaginal figure and Hillman with his concept of the daimon. Hillman seems to explain one’s daimon or guide (or genius of one’s genii) as if being inside the person, like an inner guide, or a soul as an entity with its own source of intelligence—as you so aptly describe it in your other responses as a “spiritual companion.” The daimon seems autonomous also, yet like an imaginal figure that is a living image, being in relationship with us it is yet in our sphere/atmosphere (as I like to think of it) on some ‘level’ of psychic (psyche’s) strata. For Hillman, what is within usually gives the sensation of “down:” he explains and compares the roots of trees that grow down to the idea that we all need to grow down (and recognize in our content we have roots and seeds) as well as grow up, and compares our unconscious and imaginal realms such as dreams to come from down in the underworld (in a Greek sense rather than the hell of some myths). Hillman’s sense of things seems to be mainly that the images come from within, and that that is the unconscious underworld. Yet it seems he also speaks of the underworld as a place–at least in psychic strata. (See Dreams and the Underworld by Hillman as well as The Soul’s Code.)

I am not so sure Hillman would appreciate my saying that I find him and Jung comparable! That is another story!

–Mary Ann