The following doesn’t concern Jung’s Active Imagination, at least not directly. However, it does fit within the larger context of Jungian psychology.
On December 14, 2007 in the early morning hours, a dream startled me awake. I immediately picked up my notebook, and this is what I wrote:
[14 Dec 07: I just had the strangest dream of my life. I was in a house with several rooms standing before a mirror shaving or combing my hair, I believe. Quite without warning something took hold of my head as if a large hand had seized it from above with its fingers and turned it around for me to see something. I walked from room to room turning in circles but saw nothing when suddenly a man came from an adjoining room, smiling. He was my age and build, same gray thinning hair. He was me. He walked up to me, put his arms around me and kissed me on the forehead. “What’s happening?” I asked. “You’ll see in just a few…” he said, and then the dream faded.]
I concentrated so hard on his last few words, trying to find out when this ominous event was to take place, that I woke myself just before they were spoken. The feeling of that hand grabbing my head from above and turning me around was the most real sensation of being touched that I’ve ever felt in a dream. The sensation of being hugged and kissed was as real as it would be at any time during my waking day. The dream was not really a dream, and I had realized that fact from the very beginning. It was not imaginary but a real event that occurred during the dream state. It was terrifying, and I knew something life-changing would happen soon. I cushioned myself for the blow that was surely to come.
I had known immediately that the other person in my dream was me. And yet, how could it be? I was both astounded and puzzled. Yet, I was there and saw myself, saw “him,” coming toward me through my own eyes. And what, who, was this “hand from above” that turned my head around and around? That was a third presence in the dream. Whose hand was it? I tried to interpret the dream, but no scenario seemed to fully explain it. I noted that the “me” of my dream specifically didn’t tell me that everything would be okay. I worried that this may have been a warning of my own impending death. During the next few days, I was careful not to get into risky situations. At night, I was more careful about locking the doors. My pulse had become irregular, and I wondered if I was about to have a heart attack.
On December 22nd, I drove from central California where I was then living northern of the Bay Area to visit my son, Richard, and his wife, Marilyn, over Christmas. Before I left, I checked my tires and inflated them to precisely the proper pressure. I was ultra-careful on the freeways as I passed through the outskirts of the Bay Area, reducing my speed and avoiding congested traffic. But nothing out of the ordinary happened.
I told no one of my dream.
On the 24th of December, we received a telephone call that precipitated events in quick succession where we found out that my kids’ mother, my ex-wife, had just died in Phoenix, Arizona, on Christmas Eve. Those were the most devastating words I’ve ever heard. “Oh, dear Lord in heaven,” I said. I fell to my knees and leaned forward against the sofa. “Oh, dear God, no.” Although we had been divorced for twenty-seven years, she had been my one true love. It took me several months before I began to come out the other side of the grieving process. It was more of a shock to me because I had been removed from her and not seen her for years, whereas they had both been in contact with her almost daily and realized how fragile she was.
The dream seemed to have the purpose of cushioning me for the devastating event to follow ten days later. In the six years since, even with my years of practicing Active Imagination, I have never experienced anything to compare with this. It was a singular event, or pair of events, in my life. The dream touched me at the spiritual level before the tragic event, and when we learned of her passing, it reinforced the spiritual validity of the dream.
One thing it reinforced was the idea that something really strange is going on in the psychic world. These events occurred before I knew anything about Jung’s Active Imagination. Now that I’ve become familiar with Active Imagination and The Red Book, I do have somewhat of a better grasp of what was involved, but I still have so many questions that remain unanswered.
I believe I can safely say that something or someone, two someones actually, within my psyche were concerned enough about me and my reaction to the forthcoming event to contact me, both to warn and comfort me prior to the fact. That realization is extraordinary. However, this wasn’t the first time I had a dream bringing help from the psychic world. Here’s a poem I wrote back in the spring of 1993 describing two such dreams:
The night before my grandmother died,
she came to me in a dream.
We walked out back of their home
where I used to play in the dirt as a kid and
we talked of our short time together here on Earth.
She had come to say farewell.
Last night I said a short prayer before sleep,
a silent prayer,
prompted by unemployment,
loneliness and the guilt of past mistakes.
It summoned my grandfather to populate another
of my dreams, this one some
seventeen years following his death.
He had once
reneged on a promise to pay me
a certain wage for work I did as a kid.
He unzipped the cocoon of death he now inhabits
and told me not to worry.
That old farmer was dressed in a new suit
and tie, had a fresh
haircut. Before I kicked him
out the door, I asked him to hug me. I
wasn’t going to pass up this one last chance. Besides,
he owed me.
What was so different about these two dreams and the one I had fourteen years later is that the first  was just a simple but profound goodbye. I wasn’t aware that she was close to death, so the dream came as a surprise when I learned of her passing the following day. Also, I wasn’t able to attend her funeral, and this dream seemed to be a consolation. The purpose of the second dream seemed to be to let me know that everything was going to be all right and to tell me that I shouldn’t worry. On the other hand, my dream of December 14, 2007, which really wasn’t a dream at all, contained the unspoken warning that something devastating was going to happen, which it surly did. Someone came to cushion the impact and to console me.
Jung speaks of these types of events, i.e., one occurring in a dream, the other in the real world, as examples of synchronicity. He expresses his thoughts on the subject in a little volume titled Synchronicity, An Acausal Connecting Principle. Jung grouped these synchronicity phenomena into three categories, the third of which is:
The coincidence of a psychic state with a corresponding, not yet existent future event that is distant in time and can likewise only be verified afterward. [page 110]
My dream experience certainly seems to fit in this category. Somewhere deep within my psyche was the realization that my ex-wife would die at some later but relatively near date. Not only was there a time differential but also a separation distance from Central California to Phoenix, Arizona. Yet somehow something within me knew and also realized the impact it would have on me and wished to warn and console me, cushion me for the impact of the future occurrence.
I’m not sure what to make of all this, but to say that this is a really weird world we live in, and that everything we normally think of as human existence is just the tip of the iceberg. Of course, there are all manner of religious explanations for this, none of which do I wish to get involved in. The experiences themselves didn’t come from within a religious context, and I prefer to think of them relative to the state of existence within which they occurred rather than within a faith discipline in which everything is construed to fit a certain belief system.
I go back to these dreams from time to time to see if I can gain insight into them from what I’ve learned from my continuing life experience and investigation of Jungian psychology.
It’s quite a journey.