The following are sample writings by Cedrus N. Monte.
Synchronistic Images of the Soul
Chapter One: The Imaginal Realm
The phenomenon of imaginal or psychoid reality presents itself in the writings of Western alchemy which inspired much of Jung's later formulations on the nature of the psyche. Jung says that the term imaginatio held particular importance in the work of the alchemists who believed that 'the work' must be accomplished with 'true imagination.' Jung felt that the fantasy process in alchemy was of special significance. "We have to conceive of these processes not as immaterial phantoms we readily take fantasy-pictures to be, but as something corporeal, a 'subtle body,' semi-spiritual in nature." (CW 12, par. 394)
In the alchemical works exhumed by Jung there are repeated references to the use of imagination when properly performing 'the opus' of the alchemists. For example, in the 'Novum Lumen,' we find the following:
During the practical work certain phenomena of a visionary or hallucinatory nature appeared in the retort, visions that presented themselves in the chemical composition that was underway. For example, alchemist Raymond Lilly writes:
Jung considers these images projections of unconscious contents, but he explains that these phenomena were "half spiritual, half physical; a concretization such as we frequently encounter in the psychology of primitives…The alchemist related himself not only to the unconscious but directly to the very substance which he hoped to transform through the power of imagination." (ibid par.394) Jung says it is always an obscure point whether the alchemists were referring to something physical or psychic, but that in the end there was no 'either-or' for that age. There was rather "an intermediate realm between mind and matter, i.e., a psychic realm of subtle bodies whose characteristic is to manifest themselves in a mental as well as material form." (ibid) (In the second chapter the nature of the subtle body will be discussed in more detail.)
In Fritjof Capra's book, The Tao of Physics, he compares the field of quantum physics to the Taoist concept of ch'i, or subtle body, saying that both the field and the subtle body are conceived as a "tenuous and non-perceptible form of matter which is present throughout space and can condense into solid material objects." (Capra 1975, p.224) He goes on to quote Joseph Needham's description of the Chinese view of physical reality: "The Chinese physical universe was perfectly continuous…Ch'i condensed in palpable matter was not particulate in an important sense, but individual objects acted and reacted with all other objects in the world…in a wave-like or vibratory manner dependent, in the last resort, on the rhythmic alternation at all levels of the two fundamental forces, the yin and the yang. Individual objects thus had their intrinsic rhythms. And these were integrated…into the general pattern of the harmony of the world." (ibid p.225)
We spoke earlier about the particular capacity of the imaginal realm, and therefore the subtle-body, for engendering the experience of regeneration and renewal in creation myths, the work of the alchemists, and in Figen's paintings. The same applies to particle physics. It is both a curious and awe-inspiring discovery that in the 'field' of quantum physics (that subtle-body 'flux' of spirit and matter) elements or particles spontaneously and apparently appear out of thin air:
As described above, field theories of modern physics have forced physicists to abandon the classical distinction between material particles and 'empty space.' This distinction finally had to be abandoned when it became evident that particles came into being spontaneously out of nowhere, or out of the 'void,' and then vanished again back into the 'void.' Below is a diagram, followed by Capra's explanation.
"Here is a 'vacuum diagram' for such a process: three particles - a proton (p), an antiproton (-p) and a pion (r) - are formed out of nothing and disappear again into the vacuum. According to field theory, events of that kind happen all the time. The vacuum is far from empty. On the contrary, it contains an unlimited number of particles which come into being and vanish without end." (ibid p.222)
This event has an ancient parallel, found in the Eastern traditions. Capra uses the term 'void' and 'vacuum' synonomously. He has borrowed the term 'void' from Eastern texts which refer to the Absolute as the 'Void' or 'Emptiness.' This is a concept which has been mistakenly perceived by Westerners as a total absence of life or energy. But the 'Void' of Eastern mysticism, like the 'physical vacuum' in field theory, is not a state of mere nothingness. It contains, rather, the potentiality of all forms." The 'vacuum' is truly a 'living Void' pulsating in endless rhythms of creation and destruction." (ibid p.223) This discovery of the dynamic quality of the vacuum is considered one of the most important in particle physics and does truly seem to reflect the words of the Chinese sage, Chang Tsai when he says:
It is also a curious fact that not only do particles materialize and dematerialize from the 'void,' but they 'communicate' to each other through the 'field,' thus providing another instance of the infusion of spirit in matter, or rather of their inseparability. Jean Charon, a French physicist of spiritual and metaphysical proportions, explains this in his work, The Unknown Spirit. He spotlights the electron and its probable patterns and properties to illustrate this point. He describes how electrons, examples in particle physics of the 'building blocks' of life, are able to exchange information with each other in the ever continuous flow of life's evolution. The electron is a veritable micro-universe. In this micro-universe, phenomena take place with increasing negative entropy, i.e. the electrons continually increase their informational content. This is how he describes it:
"As time flows, Spirit increases its order within each electron. It has no choice in this: it consists of a space in which order cannot decrease, a non-decreasing negative entropy space…The electron does not consider this constant negative entropy increase as an aim in itself, in other words the object of evolution, but as a means of discovering the objective of evolution…Each electron is like ourselves: as it increases its memorised information, it begins to perceive a new objective and to mould its actions accordingly…That is why we can speak of the spiritual 'adventure' of the universe, since Spirit is choosing to exist through constantly increasing awareness." (Charon 1977, p.167)
The electron structures its memory according to a process that Charon refers to as matrixism, which works something like this:
"We shall represent symbolically the 'blank' level of the electron space, the level at which it has not yet recognized anything, by a numbered chart.
This chart is a matrix. Each box represents a point of electron space at a given time. "A sign from beyond electron space…is expressed by a photon, being memorised by the electron when this photon has an action…with the electron…" (ibid p.169) This changes the informational content then so that the new state of the matrix looks, symbolically, like this:
There is now somewhere a 2 instead of a 1. 2 should not be interpreted as only 2 but as conveying both 2 and 1. "Mathematical analysis…describes perfectly the important aspect that:…state 2 contains…state 1; it does not mean that 2 takes the place of 1, but that…2 adds itself to…1." (ibid p.170) This goes on into infinity…"as a means of discovering the objective of evolution," as Charon states earlier. "In short, the electron contains the space-time of Spirit within itself, in 'communication' with that of other electrons." (Charon 1977, p.64)
He believes that the electron and its properties could be the explanation for telepathic phenomena. All life, including humans, are made up of electrons, speculating this as the reason for some people's recognition of their ability to communicate with all of nature, both animate and inanimate. It is the electron that provides the wordless link and language between all creation. "An electron feels the electrostatic influence of another electron whatever the distance between them…Similarly, spiritual [informational] interaction between two electrons will be possible whatever the distance." (ibid p.64) The electron's journey is our journey and physicist Charon believes that the journey goes out into infinity. We usually call this principle of infinity or eternity God. "So for the electron populating the universe, and also for us, the spiritual adventure of the universe is a search for God." (ibid p.168)
I would now like to look at the realm of the imaginal from the perspective of concrete images manifested in the three-dimensional plane. It is not enough for us, beings of spirit, soul and matter, that the imaginal is left undifferentiated in the domain of the material world. The subtle, soul-body, or as Mindell refers to it, the dreambody, more often than not demands corporeality. These materialized bodies are not simply symbols representing the imaginal. Like mythical images, they are often seen as visitations or objectifications of the spirit or 'god' itself, in counterdistinction to being personifications or representations. Avens refers to Cassirer's view to explain this phenomenon: "the idea of projection or animation of a dead matter…is based on the theological prejudice that 'person' is the only carrier of soul and that what we call subjectivity, interiority or inner life, is exclusively and literally possessed by our ego personality." (Avens 1982, p.70) The spirits of myth and the concretized images of these spirits are not necessarily "projections or personifications, but objectifications of instantaneous, fleeting, intense impressions…" (ibid) Not all meaning is located in a human individual's consciousness…roses, too, imagine.
According to Jung, this magic or mystic participation (Lévy-Bruhl) endowing nature and the inanimate world with qualities of feeling and emotion comes from a projection of the unconscious. In the world of the 'primitive', "everywhere his unconscious jumps out at him, alive and real." (CW 10, par.44) Jung was not by any means, however, unsympathetic to the non-Western, mythical experience of reality. He does in fact propose that instead of the mythical figures arising from our psychic conditions, we must also see our psychic conditions arising from these figures. He also suggests that the psyche seems to have a purpose and intuition of its own when he says, "life and psyche existed for me before I could say 'I', and when this 'I' disappears, as in sleep or unconsciousness, life and psyche still go on…" (CW 8 par. 671) He continues along this line when he asks, "does the psyche in general - that is, the spirit, or the unconscious - arise in us; or is the psyche, in the early stages of consciousness, actually outside in the form of arbitrary powers with intentions of their own, and does it gradually come to take its place within the course of psychic development? Were the dissociated psychic contents (complexes) ever parts of the psyche of individuals, or were they rather from the beginning psychic entities existing in themselves according to the primitive view as ghosts, ancestral spirits and the like?" (quoted in Avens; 1982 p.74). Jung was reluctant to commit to the belief in real spirits, but he did leave the question open, waiting for sufficient proof of their existence.
On the other hand, Hillman seems to demand a more radical commitment, at least in the imaginal way of seeing. He wants us to give back to the world of images, both subtle and concrete, the soul we claim is only ours. Perhaps he is taking one step past Jung, believing in real spirits ensouling the animate and inanimate world. Jung, the scientist, expresses caution. Hillman, the poet, expresses radicality and zeal:
"We have tried hitherto in depth psychology to regain the psyche of the world by subjectivist interpretations. The stalled car and blocked driveway became my energy problems; the gaping red construction site became the new operatio going on in my Adamic body. We could give subjectivity to the world of objects only by taking them into our interior subject, as if they were expressing our complaint. But that stalled car, whether in my dream or in my driveway, is still a thing unable to fulfill its intention, it remains there, stuck, disordered, claiming attention for itself. The great wound in the red earth, whether in my dream or in my neighborhood, is still a site of wrenching upheaval, appealing for an aesthetic as much as a hermeneutic response. To interpret the world's things as if they were our dream deprives the world of its dream, its complaint. Although this move may have been a step toward recognizing the interiority of things, it finally fails because of the identification of interiority with only human subjective experience. (Moore, ed. 1989 p.101).
I will now conclude with a brief discussion of an Eastern spiritual discipline that exemplifies perhaps the most highly developed and sophisticated system in practice today of the interrelationship between spirit and matter: Tantric Buddhism, especially as expressed in the Buddhism of Tibet, known as Vajrayana Buddhism (vajra meaning diamond or thunderbolt or sceptre). Vajrayana was developed in India by great tantric sages and then migrated to Tibet. Tantra, one must note, influences everything Tibetan, including both their medical and spiritual practices. From the Eastern medical standpoint, tantric Buddhism, therefore, is the 'well-spring of Tibet's healing waters.' (Clifford 1984 p.19) Tantra itself is not a belief or faith but a way of living and acting. No one knows how old Tantra is. There are references to it in India's oldest literature. The earliest surviving texts are Buddhist and date to about AD 600. Tantra contains archaic elements, some as ancient as the paleolithic caves of Europe in which painted triangular shapes are found like those seen in the various tantric yantras, or images, for meditation. In The Art of Tantra, Rawson provides us with a brief summary of this tradition:
"Tantra has mapped the mechanism of currents of energy through which the creative impulse is distributed at once through man's body and the world's. The universe of phenomena which results has, therefore, for the Tantrika a kind of subtle four-dimensional skeleton of channels, the knots and crossings of which are occupied by devata-figures. The Tantra texts and art contain maps of the system, together with detailed instructions for working the mechanism. The Tantrika does this by sadhana, i.e. psychosomatic effort [repeated rituals and carefully designed meditative activities], assimilating his own body to higher and higher levels of cosmic body-pattern. In the end he may become identical with the original double-sexed deity, which is involved, without beginning or end, in blissful intercourse with itself. The incentive to his continual effort is an occasional vision, as if one were to glimpse the fire of a raging furnace through a crack in its wall, of the cosmic bliss which is an all-embracing love, sexual, maternal, filial, social and destructive, all at once." (Rawson 1973 p.14)
The goal of Vajrayana is to transform one's own physical, psycho-mental and spiritual energies to the state of enlightenment or awakening through tantric practice. This is the goal of tantric religion, as well as tantric medicine as is seen in the Tibetan medical and psychiatric system. Terry Clifford, in her exceptional work entitled, Tibetan Buddhist Medicine and Psychiatry, explains. "In the Vajrayana the ideal is to attain Buddhahood in this very lifetime, as opposed to the gradual path of the Mahayana. The transformation from delusion to enlightenment, Buddahood, is achieved through the practice of tantra and the direct recognition of Buddha-nature. In tantra practice, the dualistic forces and manifestations are united in a way of being that transcends duality or conceptualization." (Clifford 1984 p.29)
Tantric medicine is considered the 'in-between' level of medicine, positioned between the spiritual medicine of religion and its direct perception of absolute truth, and physical medicine which is the medicine of the somatic body in the material world. These three levels of medicine are distinct but inseparable. (It is a basic tenet of the Tibetan system that religion and medicine are not considered separate and it is for this reason that one finds, upon in-depth investigation, such an all-encompassing definition of health which includes the concepts of past lives and reincarnation.) "Tantric medicine deals with the vital psycho-physical energies of the internalized universe as a means of transforming it and the outer universe. The subtle psycho-physical energies generate the physical body much in the same way that they themselves have been generated by the formless process of the mind. This energetic-essence is called the subtle body, rather a suitable form since it embraces the invisible yet underlying forces of life. Tantric practice aims at purifying the components of the subtle body as a means of realizing the three-fold Buddha body." (ibid p.66) The three-fold Buddha body is the mind, speech, and the physical body and corresponds respectively to meditation or visualization, mantras, and mudras. These are the forms used in tantric Buddhism for transformation into Buddahood and will be explained below.
In Vajrayana, the practice is to transform ourselves, as well as the world around us, into Buddha nature (the fully Awakened state) or into the body, speech and mind of the Buddha. (ibid p.31) This is the aim of accomplishment in the spiritual practice of religion as well as in the practice of tantric medicine which, again, are not really separate. Clifford describes the tantric process for the medical practitioner, which includes both doctor and patient: "Through the esoteric tantric rituals the practitioner creates and simultaneously identifies with a particular form of the deity. This is accomplished through visualization, mantras (special formulas of syllables that use the spiritual power of sound vibration), mudras (symbolic gestures that awaken spiritual receptivity and awareness), and through formless meditation." (ibid ) These subtle body tantric rituals give one an outer structure on which to project inner strength. This strength is identified or equated with the deity. As one meditates on the deity one is purified. Through the activating power of these forms, this strength, that is the deity, is reabsorbed and finally identified with. In the healing rituals one "becomes the deity. The aspects of the subtle body thus identified with the cosmic powers of Buddahood are put to work healing the illness." (ibid p.84)
Eliade has called the tantric ritual "a gnostic system and an internalized liturgy." (ibid p.79) He is referring to the mantras that are used in the rituals which are considered central to Tantra. The mantras are the vibrational expression of manifest Buddha-nature. "By practicing recitation of mantras, one can readjust the vibrational harmony of the subtle body and realize it as the Buddha-body. Mantras are thus particularly used in the healing of mental disorders since they can readjust the vibrations of consciousness." (ibid)
In the temple of Barabudur, the architectonic body of the Buddha is the Buddha. In the present example, the vibrational (mantra), imaginal (visualization), and kinetic (mudra) are the subtle-body aspects of the Buddha and it is through the communion with these forms that we become the Buddha, the fully Awakened. In both instances we go through form, through matter, to get to the essence or spiritual nature, which is both form and formlessness...
In the last two examples arising from the East, what emerges out of the interface between the apparently divergent worlds of spirit and matter, this 'in-between' ground, is our renewal and re-creation as that spiritual power or Essence. I believe that this is where psychology as we have known it until only very recently and Eastern spiritual beliefs part ways. While the events or phenomena transpiring in the Eastern meditation practices described in the example of Barabudur and Tibetan Buddhism can and do need to be discussed in psychological terms, the discussion needs happen not only in the terms which Jung, for example, dealt with them. Odajnyk, in Gathering the Light, offers his comments. In reflecting on meditation and on the alchemical opus, Odajnyk says that "Jung chose to discuss the coniunctio imagery only in an analytical psychological manner. Perhaps his concern about being labeled a 'mystic' made him shy away from the conclusion that the coniunctio imagery was also a depiction of psychological processes that occur during meditation. The other possibility is that he considered the experiences that take place during meditation similar to the visionary experiences of the alchemists and felt that both consisted of projections that had to be interpreted and understood in psychological terms…Perhaps his interpretation applies to the practice of active imagination and to other forms of meditation, but it is incomplete or inapplicable when applied to practices, such as Zen meditation, that from the beginning aims exclusively at the experience of the archetype of the Self in its primordial form." (italics mine) (Odajnyk 1993 pp.158-59)
The word 'experience' here is somewhat abstract. I feel that the discussions of Barabudur and Tibetan tantric practices more clearly delineate what the experience is (in these traditions). They are projections… and more. The Buddha, (or as Odajnyk writes, the Self) is projected onto the forms presented and then identified with, absorbed, through magical and ritualistic forms, through the physical and subtle forms of sound, vision and gesture…through the imaginal.
Although Jung perhaps did not, could not, embrace the Eastern perspective as far as some of us would have liked him to, he did do more than any other scientist or psychologist of his particular time to open the path of in-depth communication between the two cultural views, East and West, considerably changing the course of Western psychological history. And he returned to the West the treasure of the imaginal. I feel that the imaginal, subtle-body realm holds a key to understanding more fully, if only in one respect, where and how these two worlds of East and West interface and merge: Like the traditions of Eastern spirituality, imaginal thinking and perceiving is a spiritually vivifying apporach to life, encouraging us to honor all life as ensouled. Imaginal thinking also encourges us to see the two worlds of spirit and matter, psyche and body as one fabric, one realm inextricably interwoven with the other, as the Eastern spiritual traditions have been describing and teaching for centuries.
Cedrus Monte, Ph.D. Dipl., is a Jungian analyst trained at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland.
© Cedrus Monte, all rights reserved up to and including the present date