I’m now reading Jungian analyst Robert A. Johnson’s Inner Work, Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth. This is an excellent book for learning how to interpret dreams and practice Active Imagination on your own. It is more specific about how to go about accomplishing this inner work, while also providing cautions concerning what might get you into trouble if you are working on your own. It was originally published in 1986 but seems up to date and really helpful. The one thing I don’t like about it is that it doesn’t have an index. Still, it is a highly structured book, so that this omission is minimized.
I would also like to add that it is much more than a how-to book, although it is certainly that. It contains deep philosophical truths revealed through discussing and extending Jung’s techniques of dream interpretation and Active Imagination.
However, as always, I do have a quibble. At the bottom of page 139, Johnson states that: “In dreams, the events happen completely at the unconscious level.” This isn’t always true. Everyone knows about and has what are known as “lucid dreams,” wherein the dreamer realizes that s/he is dreaming. Lucid dreaming has been studied extensively by Dr. Stephen LaBerge at Stanford University. The dreamer can then, with practice, enter actively into the dream and affect its outcome. As I’ve mentioned before, I learned about this technique from reading Carlos Castaneda, and whatever the shortcomings of his writing (and there are many, including the mounting evidence that they are fiction), his dream-engagement technique is real, effective, and something anyone can practice. I do believe that what I’ve been missing out on while practicing active involvement in my lucid dreams is that I’ve been belligerent toward the personages I encounter there instead of trying to resolve the issues being contested. However, this may not be as destructive as it sounds because I do believe that you first have to back-off some of the personages to get their attention. They had been beating up on me for a long time. I’ve also faced some of my worst fears in lucid dreams, and that seemed to constitute a turning point in my therapy.
I also believe that lucid dreaming offers an opportunity that normal dreaming does not. Active Imagination ordinarily occurs with the person situated on the consciousness side of the gap between his Conscious and Unconscious. In lucid dream, the person is situated just on the Unconscious side of the gap. This offers a more intensive field in which to engage those elements of the Unconscious. As a matter of fact, I believe I’ve been practicing a form of Active Imagination within this lucid dreaming landscape for probably three decades. This is really encouraging. I will try to merge these activities, proceeding cautiously, of course.