The imaginal approach and the symbol-imaginal practices (how to live an inspired life).
Everything that comes upon us in life, and everything that we can make experience of is image. Nothing can happen in this world if it hasn’t been imagined before.
The action of images and the history that they trace depends on the way we interpret them. We usually perceive them as something produced automatically and unconsciously.
Evoking images and being open to shifting their interpretations leads to possibilities which are potentially unlimited.
Since Anima Mundi was born in Switzerland in 2003, thousands of people in Europe have benefitted from symbol-imaginal practices. Several Swiss and Italian businessmen have been guided towards the achievement of personal and working success. Several artists have found inspiration and success. Several people have been able to transform their suffering and heal their pain and problems. Several therapists have learnt the techniques of the symbol-imaginal method and are now teaching them to others.
The symbol-imaginal method could be defined an Eudaimonic process, as happiness is considered the principle and the foundation of all our thoughts and actions. Eudaimonism is indeed a moral vision that pursues happiness as the aim of human life. Eudaimonism can’t de intended as Hedonism, because the goal of the latter is immediate pleasure and lack of suffering. The term Eudaimonic comes from the Greek εὐδαιμονισμός (eudaimonismòs), from εὐδαιμονία (eudaimonìa), a combination of good (εὖ, eu) and daimon (δαίμων). Daimon has not to be understood as a negative demon or devilish presence, but as a genius, a spiritual guide, an inner voice. In a broader sense, eudaimonic means “to be in the company of our good demon/daimon”.
The symbol-imaginal method founded by Selene Calloni Williams and developed by …..logo of the school… belongs to the so-called imaginal movement which saw its dawn in the West with the analitycal psichology of C. G. Jung and which emerges into the archetypal psychology of J. Hillman.
In the imaginal vision, body and world (micro and macrocosm) are inside the psyche.
The symbol-imaginal movement draws from Western and Eastern imaginal psychologies and traditions. The strength of the imaginal symbol paradigm lies in its ability to favour an “active perception” of the events. We are the masters of things, not the victims of the events. By applying an imaginal vision, it is possible to repossess reality, experiencing it as an interpretative vision and finding the energies to act on this emanation in a proactive way.
Said that, the imaginal approach is at the base of the processes of communication and of personal and professional growth. The symbol-imaginal practices – namely the tools that we use for the soul-making – alleviate unconscious fears which are known to inhibit decision-making processes and to be the harshest emotional objection to personal success and accomplishment in life.
The symbol-imaginal method is aimed at strenghtening our faith. Faith in the body, faith in nature, in ideas, in projects and in all the symbols that we come accross: people, places, events…
It is the most powerful form of coaching that we know.
In order to explain what the imaginal practices are, first of all we need to consider the nature of the so-called “imaginal vision”. The imaginal vision originates from the perception of things as non-objective realities, as if all that we can experience in life was a dream, an image, a projection. We live in a universe which is not substantial, namely not objective, but symbolic. This idea is very similar to the Buddhist concept of the Samsara wheel, also known as the wheel of becoming or wheel of illusion (generated by chitta (consciousness) maya – (deceit))
A similar concept can be found in Hindu traditions. According to ancient Hindu texts, Shiva, also called Nataraja (Lord of the Dance) generates life through his dancing, and by dancing he transforms the matter into pulsing waves, thus manifesting the rhythmic process of life, with the incessant act of creation, conservation, death and rebirth. By creating and dissolving images, Shiva reminds us that the manifold shapes/expressions of reality are maya, namely illusions.
For the Hindu cosmology, the universe has no substance. Matter, life and thought are but energetic relations, rhythm, movement and mutual attraction. The pulsing waves that Shiva originates with his dance, should remind us of the quantum physic laws, where matter is described as pulsating waves in an empty space.
The fundamental characteristic of matter is its impermanence. Matter can be compared to the light of a thunder; it appears and immediately disappears. It does not remain, it is without substance. As a consequence, our mind must be playing tricks on us when it makes us believe that matter is enduring and substantial.
This deceit is , in truth, a cage in which the person risks to suffocate and to suffer. As a matter of fact, if the events are considered permanent and objective, they can’t be moulded by our ability to imagine. As a consequence, man is led to become a victim of the events rather than master or demiurge.
The imaginal vision allows – let us use an expression that was very dear to the American psychoanalyst and philosopher James Hillman – the “soul-making”, namely the possibility to reabsorb the events and to withdraw projections; every event, object, place, person is brought back to its real origin, which is dream, image, projection.
Everything is impermanent in nature, because everything in nature flows. Images have a tendency to disappear. Every natural element disappears, dies, is dissolved in order to be able to generate beyond itself. Nature is the symbol par excellance of the incessant ability to give and offer oneself, and it becomes particularly evident in all the forms of beauty that nature acquires. Nature is beauty because it is able to offer itself. To offer oneself in order to generate beyond oneself is the most beautiful act that we can think of, and nature is totally pervaded by that.
Beauty means offering, and the act of offering is an act of love. Since love is the real substance of every single thing, all things become evanescent in their incessant act of offering themselves, they are waves that pulsate in an empty space, impermanent or imaginal realities.
The imaginal reality is therefore derived from Love, and can be apprehended through an aesthetic and ecstatic experience of whole identification.
The real knowledge is both an aesthetic and ecstatic experience which allows the flowing into the flux of the universal love. Our pain and suffering represent the call of the soul to that aesthetic and ecstatic experience whose tools can be acquired only through a journey into the underworld, the realm of the shadows. The soul calls to a chthonic journey into the darkness and the profundities, and asks for a confrontation with the shadows (represented by our ancestors in particular), aiming of achieving real knowledge.
Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine, performed rituals every time he healed sick people in his sanctuary in Epidaurus. When these people fell asleep, he used to whisper to each one of them healing remedies, or he used to perform active rituals in order to favour a quick recovery.
Sleeping is like journeying into the underworld, it is a sacrum facere, it is a constant act of offering oneself to the mistery, to the invisible, to the unknown.
Coaching, counselling and, broadly speaking, all personal growth processes, can be defined as ritualistic if they possess the key which opens the door to a new, different dimension – namely that of the mysterious and the sacred – and if they are able to transit from the vertical axis of moral judgement (where there is a neat separation between good and evil, health and illness, true and false) to the horizontal axis of the aesthetic experience (the giving, the offering, love). If they can’t do that, most of the times they are just sterile processes or practices. On the contrary, if they overcome fear and anxiety and instil faith and compassion, then they can truly lead to a new healing, to the conquering of one’s own objectives, to the success of one’s own business. They need to be intended as actions aimed at re-establishing a primeval order, a universal balance between the individual and nature, between the human and the divine, between visible and invisible.
The imaginal ritual is extremely powerful. When the scientist accepts and trusts that magic and ritual dimension, then and only then real knowledge comes to him, allowing him to describe in his own terms – namely scientifically- intuitions that had been revealed in a primeval time, at the time of the origins. By confiding in the ritual that he performs, he becomes capable of finding the way towards bountiful. In the same way, an artist will be able to meet his own masterpiece.
The imaginal ritual is performed in a time which goes beyond time, outside time itself. All the ancestors are simultaneously summoned, as they represent the multiple shapes and moods through which the performer of the ritual can entrust himself to the eternal, to the universe, to the infinite. Every method or practice of personal growth can be experienced as an “ego” process or as an imaginal vision. In the first case the result is the strenghtening of the ego consciousness, in the second case the effect is the dematerialization and depersonalization of reality, with the aim to achieve freedom from the cage of the illusions. The latter is a ritual process.
As far as helping professions and personal growth paths are concerned, the imaginal vision can be intended as a tool wich is applicable without any restrictions. The imaginal feeling represents a call to move from a profane dimension – where the soul is filtered through diagnostic categories and the alleged help comes from the exterior – to a ritual one – where the person complies in an affermative way with the call of the soul and is available to discover illimited resources and treasures. When someone says yes to the soul, it will be possible to realise that the external procedures are not affected at all; what changes is the intimate substance which opens up the way towards health and wellbeing – mental parameters – and, more wholly, to the liberation and the state of bliss and happiness, which are parameters or states that the mind cannot grasp, as they trascend the mind itself.
If the imaginal vision is applied to every technique or method of the helping profession and personal growth, with the term “symbol-imaginal practices” we refer to those methods which can open the inward eye, allowing to see what is usually regarded as invisible and cannot be seen by the outward gaze of the two physical eyes – the ancestors who left this world (Saint Augustine used to say that “they are not absent, they are just invisible”), our dreams, memories, past lives, missed occasions, everything that could have been but did not happen, faults, the inner body, the internal organs, the skeleton in its living condition, the breath, ideas and emotions (which are eidola, namely gods and goddesses, spirits and daimons).
The symbol-imaginal practices are processes of meditation that invite to the contemplation of the body from within, to the contemplation of emotions, desires, passions, thoughts. Symbol-imaginal practices are also all those shamanic techniques which lead to the underworld, the chthonic world populated by the spirits, following the trajectories and the dimensions in which the shaman travels during the performance of his rituals. Furthermore, symbol-imaginal practices are also the psycho-physical techniques which have to do with our ancestors, dreams and past lives. The symbol-imaginal systems that we have developed so far are the Imaginal Counselling, Shamanic Yoga, Imaginal Mindfulness, Imaginal Evocative regressions and progressions, Constellations and Psychogenealogy with Imaginal approach.