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Reply To: The New Old Age” with Monica Martinez, Ph.D.”



Stephen, in fact there is no book by Jung on active imagination. Rather there is a canon of more important texts where he recorded the matter. In English, the one who did a very good review was Joan Chodorow, in Jung on Active Imagination. And now I’m in the editing phase of my book, which also includes books and articles in Portuguese on the subject.

Incidentally, I didn’t even have plans to delve into this subject of active imagination, but Murray Stein’s 2022 book, Four Pillars of Jungian Psychoanalysis,  acted as a trigger. He suggests that there are four fundamental pillars of Jungian psychoanalysis (see that he lists analytical psychology among psychoanalysis, which makes sense to me but causes a lot of noise among scholars). The individuation process, the analytical encounter, work with dreams and active imagination. We can question whether the first two are in fact pillars, since the individuation process takes place with or without the analyst’s intervention (although more consciously, of course, with analysis); the encounter between the professional and the analysand, in different measures, also occurs in other schools of psychoteraphy; as for the dream, we use different techniques, but the Freudians also use it in consulting rooms and so for; but the active imagination… For me it became clear that it is the great Jungian legacy and still very little studied. And since I like calls to adventure…

To be short, it seems the triad Geschehenlassen (letting go); Betrachten (considering, impregnating) and, finally, Sich auseinanderstzen (confronting oneself with) is the pillars of it, so to speak.

So, once in the process, it is essential to open up to it, letting it happen without trying to interfere or lead the active imagination (Geschehenlassen). We can use something as a starting point, like an image from a dream, but without the intention of directing the narrative. Next, it is vital to take into account what the unconscious is trying to convey (Betrachten), remembering that as it is the symbolic world, the message will never be understood in its entirety – and that’s okay. In this way, the translation of letting oneself be impregnated by the content is more reliable than trying to interpret it. Finally, the time comes for the struggle, that is, for the confrontation of the conscious with the unconscious itself (Sich auseinanderstzen). Which means that it is not necessary to accept everything piously, but that the act of reflecting and pondering, sometimes in a decisive way, can be the indicated path. As Jung did, and is recorded in the Black books and Red book.

But, like everything else in the Jungian method, it is the individual experience that must be observed and welcomed, without too many conceptual straitjackets.

And yes, Jung is an author quite complex to read and try to understand. By the way, one of my favorite excerts of all the literature I have reviewed is in Chodorow book, when she refers to Tina Keller. There it goes:

“It is not a simple thing to present Jung´s ideas on active imagination. In his writings it is almost as if he invites different inner voices to speak. As the scientist, he presents his ideas in a clear understandable way. But then he turns to explore another perspective that may seem to contradict the first. Sometimes he is the poet, weaving words of haunting beauty. Other times, ancient prophets and mystics seem to speak through him. When the Trickster appears, his writings may seem deliberately ambiguous, even vague. Just when you want to hear more, he says something like: I must content myself with these hints. The reader may be left in a state of questioning and wondering, turned back to his or her own imagination. Dr. Tina Keller, a member of Jung´s early circle in the years 1915-29 wrote a wonderful memoir that describes the beginnings of active imagination. Here she sheds light on Jung´s multi-faceted approach to important ideas:

‘I feel privileged that I met C. G. Jung in the times where he was searching and had no definite formulations. I remember how I said: ‘But what you say today is just the contrary of what you said last week,’ and he answered: ‘That may be so, but this is true, and the other was also true; life is paradox.’ It was a most stimulating experience.’ (Keller, 1982, p. 282). (CHODOROW, 1997, p. 3).

It seems that definite formulations doesn´t go along very well with active imagination for the images seem to have a life of their own.


Monica Martinez