ear Miracles: One of the most common complaints I hear from students is that meditations and visualizations (guided and otherwise) don’t work for them. For those unfamiliar with the idea, a guided meditation is a scene or series of scenes that is narrated to the participant by a guide or leader.
Guided meditations (also known as guided visualizations or guided journeys) can be incredibly useful in both sacro-magical and therapeutic contexts. Sacred artists have been working with different kinds of spirit journeys for thousands of years to foster and deepen their relationship to the other world, the worlds beyond time and space.
However, the truth is that for a many people they don’t work and the reason why is pretty simple: most forms of meditation begin with the observation that we are too connected to our thoughts and our feelings; that our mental, emotional, and psychic contents are so intense and present that it is very difficult to see where we end and they begin. This is not necessarily a problem and is often a true observation — we have all had the experience of feeling something so deeply that it takes us over completely, so that we are literally “out of our minds” with anger or lust, for instance.
But when it comes to sacro-magical work, meditation is used traditionally to bring us to a “zero point” — a place where we can look at even the most intense personal experiences with objectivity and learn what is really true about them.
When we work to engage with the Other Worlds we are doing something very different. We are not trying to go beyond ourselves; we are working to both broaden and deepen our daily habits of perception. Because we are working with expanding our envelope of perception it is a good idea to begin from a “zero” state, a state of nil, or of stillness and silence. Meditation can help us achieve that. But meditation is not going to take us into the Other World. To do that we must go down and deep…into our memories, our ancestral knowing, and our imaginations. This is not a process of meditation and it is not a process that any one can narrate for you, it is instead, quite literally, Active Imagination.
Active Imagination is the act of turning and attuning to the realm(s) we might best name time beyond time and space beyond space. A great “mystery” is that these realms exist both within us and also outside of us. The term itself comes to us by way of an earlier term, imaginative cognition, literally meaning to “come to knowing with/through the imagination”, which may be found in medieval contemplative prayer practices, the alchemical traditions of Europe and the Middle East, and Islamic and Jewish traditions as well. Imaginative Cognition came into the 19th and 20th centuries through the writings of Rudolph Steiner and was further developed into the concept of Active Imagination most notably by Carl Jung.
So what is active imagination? The imagination is the faculty within us that is able to produce images and ideas, the part of us that is able to make connections and offer up insights that are new, fresh, and original as well as universal and ancestral in memory. In other words, the imagination is not the recycling up images we are already familiar with but rather the place where new (or at least new to us) ideas and images spring forth. To work with our imaginations actively then is to build, create, and participate in a specific kind of image making. In sacro-magical work we understand these images, and all that they open out onto, to exist both within us and also independently outside of us.
So the next time you sit down to experience a guided meditation remember to do some soul searching and get really clear on what is actually happening: are you emptying yourself out and returning to an objective “zero” point? Or are you searching to fill your deep well with waters of imagination, memory, and other world alliance? Answer that question one way or the other, and your road will become much more open.