[Generally, peering into the unconscious doesn’t occur accidentally. Usually I have to make an effort to get past the black curtain. This is a good thing because it keeps out the flood of archetypal content that could overwhelm the ego and enables our awareness to produce the dream that we call the waking state, reality. Rodolfo R. Llinas [i of the vortex, From Neurons to Self, pp. 2-3] has a theory that we are always dreaming, even while awake but that while awake, our awareness hooks us up with the five senses (tyranny of the senses, as he puts it) and that then causes our mind to dream reality. In the dream state we unhook from the five senses, and then we are a free-floating spirit, untethered from reality and can focus our dreaming awareness on archetypal content in the far recesses of the mind.]
04:45. I just woke from a dream. I was in a restaurant, a large dining room. One of the waitresses, tall, thin, nice looking, kept coming by my table. I knew her. I’d been in there before. She smiled at me. A little later, I was working at a computer in the corner of the dining room, and she came over and leaned across me to get something. I raised up a little and kissed her on the neck. She leaned into me, and I kissed her below the ear. She moaned, and then she turned toward me and kissed me, two or three times. And then I woke.
I’ve mentioned before that I have for a long time dreamed a lot about women. This dream was a little more affectionate than usual, but we always have an affinity for each other. Sometimes, it’s love, total, unconditional love. At others it’s first-love, a time when we first come to know and love each other. It’s always pure and un-conflicted. They are whole human beings, seemingly without flaws though they are very different from each other: some blond, some brunet some orient or black, some from India. Always we are comfortable in each other’s presence. We have no purpose other than being in each other’s company. We like each other. We have a purity to our friendship, or possibly love, that makes it so comfortable to be together. Each woman is distinct, and I don’t believe any of them has ever come back for a repeat performance. It’s always someone new. We’re never in conflict. I’ve often wondered, Who are these women? I’ve thought that perhaps they are all the same personage from the Collective Unconscious who simply takes on different guises. I’ve thought that they might possibly be angels sent to console me since I’ve been single for so long and without a girlfriend, twenty years actually. The commonality between dreams seems to be the way we feel about each other: warm, comfortable, un-conflicted.
I suppose I should use Active Imagination to go to this woman I just met in this dream and find out who she is, perhaps who are all these women.
To do this, I don’t open the Iris of Time, I merely use the memory of her to conjure her again. There she is still serving tables in the restaurant.
“Come back and talk to me,” I say to her.
She smiles and returns to stand beside my chair. She sits on the edge of my computer desk, looks down at me and smiles.
“Who are you?” I ask.
“I’m a waitress at this Holliday Inn.”
“Yes, I know that.” She’s being coy. “But who are you really to be populating my dream? Where did o you come from?”
“You really don’t know do you?”
“No. I don’t. Explain it to me, please.”
“I’m someone who loves you.”
“But where do you come from?”
“Someone who cares.”
“Yes, I can tell. And I care about you too.”
Now that we’re closer together, I can see her face better. She’s pretty. Older than me. I’m young, perhaps thirty. She’s perhaps forty.
“I’ve been sent here by someone you know, or someone who knows you.”
“So you didn’t come here of your own free will?”
“Oh, yes I did. I knew immediately the first time I saw you.”
“But where did you come from?”
“That really isn’t a question that can be answered. I just am. We don’t have places, like the Holiday Inn, where we live.”
“But you do have a home, don’t you.”
“Not in the sense you mean. I’m always home, in the sense that I’m where I belong and where I’m cared about. That’s all I can think of that you’d understand.”
“But why a Holiday Inn?”
“It suits you. You’re on the road. You called me here. You’re always traveling now. You don’t have a home, do you? Not really.”
“Well, I stay with my son, but yes, you’re right. I’ve not had a home since my wife left me. At least, no place that felt like home to me.”
“You’re on a journey, a long extended journey that will encompass the rest of your life. A journey of the soul. You didn’t really call me. You encountered me. By your travels, you’ve invaded my space. I didn’t really come to you. You came to me. Love so frequently happens on the road, on a journey. That’s why we are so un-conflicted. You’re on a journey of the heart. We only share who we are in the spiritual sense, none of the sticky human frailty and neediness.”
“Well, meeting you was such a pleasure.”
“And a real treat for me too. Take care of yourself.”
And then she walks away and goes back to work as a waitress here at the Holiday Inn out in the middle nowhere, somewhere on the road of wife.
The Active Imagination session ends.
Now that the session is over, I want to evaluate it for what Murray Stein called “fidelity”: the degree to which the personage was autonomous and free from the influence of my own ego thoughts. Some of the things I attributed to this woman, I knew before I started the session. But some of the content, is new to me. This bit about me being on a journey, a spiritual journey is not something I knew but now makes total sense to me. It’s actually a profound revelation. And the explanation she offered of these women being personages that I run into on this journey also makes total sense. I’ve met women before while traveling, women for whom I’ve had an immediate affinity. Once such woman was Sarah whom I met while at Ephesus. She was from Australia. We spent the evening together talking while with a group of people: Americans, Aussies, and Kiwis. We went to dinner and to a Turkish wedding. We met on the Greek isle of Samos before boarding the small ferry for Kusadasi on the Turkish coast. We talked all the while we were in the van traveling from Kusadasi to Seljuck. She was absolutely delightful. I describe all this in Oedipus on a Pale Horse.
Perhaps these Active Imagination sessions are helpful, at least for explaining things that happen to me in the psychic world, the world of the Unconscious. But here’s the thing. Some of her words contained ideas that definitely came from me. But some of it didn’t come from me. I’ve not yet learned to separate myself fully from the psychic entities, the personages, I meet in the Unconscious. We’re still all intermingled. Jung speaks about this and so does Murray Stein. But practicing Active Imagination is not something that comes to you immediately. It is a process, a learned skill. And in this way, it is very much like writing fiction because authors have no end of trouble separating out whom says what in dialogue. You have to keep your characters separate or they will meld together.
Learning this process, this ability to maintain the fidelity of the input from Unconscious psychic entities for Active Imagination, should be of benefit for writing fiction. I came into Active Imagination with the expectation of improving my fiction, but the really profound part of this experiment, this excursion into the Collective Unconscious, is the impact Active Imagination is having on my psychic development. It’s what I’m doing for myself on a personal level. The curious and perhaps equally important thing to notice here is that writing fiction can definitely be therapeutic because it involves the same psychic processes as Active Imagination, which is a process, Jung’s process, of Individuation, of becoming a whole human being.