Beyond Reason: Imaginal Ways of Knowing by Hilary Buckwalter Kesti
Contrary to popular belief, there are more ways to "know" something than just through our intellect. Depth Psychology posits that the imaginal realms of the unconscious hold hidden jewels and treasures that lie beyond the reach of the rational mind, and if we want to move towards wholeness, we must tap into these inner resources in the spirit of cultivating psychic balance.
These imaginal ways of knowing can be felt somatically through the body and breath, through dream images, and through conscious work in dream tending and active imagination practice. In Jung on Active Imagination, author Joan Chodorow said, “The raw material of the unconscious is mainly emotions, impulses, and images.” This is the stuff of imaginal knowing, giving form to images, visualizing moods, or choosing images from dreams or fantasies. These are all ways we can get to know ourselves more intimately, ways we can “know” beyond rational thought and intelligence.
Dreams in particular offer us an opportunity to connect to the unconscious on a regular basis, as we sleep and dream most nights of our lives. Professor Safron Rossi calls dreams, "The weather of our psychic eco-systems." Isn't that a beautiful image? I love the idea that we can tune into our inner worlds in this way and detect our own psychic weather, whether it be a storm or a beautiful sunny day.
Carl Jung held that dreams can be messages (in the forms of figures, motifs, images, and themes) from the unconscious that prompt us to question the value and direction of our current modes of thinking, feeling, and living. These images and figures may be asking something of us, may be drawing our attention to certain areas of our lives where we are “asleep,” or may be drawing us towards the imaginal and liminal realms (especially if we are someone who spends a lot of time in their head being reasonable and intellectual).
In my own life I have found that leaning into the imaginal realms of the unconscious can be surprising, uplifting, and even heartwarming, as I have discovered new places and persons within myself that are calling out for attention and recognition. Acknowledging these figures and imaginal realms can have cathartic and surprising effects in waking conscious life, as can stepping into the idea that we are all capable of living in both realms: the imaginal and the rational. They do in fact complement each other.
I am feeling very excited about our spring Sun Moon Dream Tending Retreat at Camp Janette Pollay in June. This will be a great opportunity to spend time in nature, to connect to the sustaining forces of life, and to dive into the imaginal realms through dream tending in community. I hope you can join us!