As I prepare for the week-long series of lectures on creative imagination I have been wondering about dreams. We have had an introduction into dreams this week. Where do we get our ideas from? Can symbols carry us beyond our ordinary mind? Is there a deeper wisdom beneath the mind? Can the unconscious mind speak in symbols? Perhaps our ordinary thinking can be linked to our ego? I sense there are more questions than answers with this material.
There is a basic transpersonal map:
Consciousness is multi-dimensional and can be seen as a spectrum from the dense physical state of manifestation through the subtle realms of the creative imagination to the very subtle plains beyond form and ultimately to non-dual unity.
Unity/Eternal Oneness Consciousness exists in its pure undivided original state of oneness, beyond duality, formless, pure spirit transcending yet inclusive of all other levels of consciousness. Spirit descends into form through the subtle planes becoming manifest as symbols
– this is the manner by which the Divine reveals itself in a form that we can comprehend.
The Subtle Plane of Creative Imagination The plain of symbolism or creative imagination is the intermediary plane between spirit and the manifest, physical world. Spirit descends into subtle form materializing as symbols. The manifest forms of the physical world ascend to become the templates for symbols. This is the realm of the creative imagination and dreams. The meeting ground of spirit and matter is in the heart chakra. “Very few people understand the heart. In truth, your heart is one of the masterpieces of creation. It is a phenomenal instrument. It has the potential to create vibrations and harmonies that are far beyond the beauty of pianos, strings and flutes…. Your heart is an instrument of extremely subtle energy that few people come to appreciate” (Singer 2007, p.49).
Himma is the Sufi term used to describe the creative power of the heart to imagine, to know intuitively and spontaneously, by-passing the rational mind to create immediate understanding. It is a vital, purposeful force or energy that awakens one from limitation. The soul uses the vehicle of the body and its senses to experience life on the physical plane but flowing through is himma, the subtle capacity of penetrating life deeply, reading the signs and the secrets hidden in all things (Corbin, 1969). Via the creative imagination, we can bypass the rational mind and enter into the transpersonal depths bringing direct experience. “In this direct encounter, the thick, heavy fixated quality of experience falls away, revealing a deeper, living intelligence contained within it” (Welwood, in Hart et al (eds) 2000, p.99).
The Manifest Plane The plane of physical forms (Dense/Gross matter). This level equates with our body and instincts. Our ego divides the world into subject and object and our thinking tends to be more concrete and rational. The Sanskrit term for this is vijnana meaning divided. Through the creative imagination, the forms of the physical world are ‘spiritualized’ – they become symbols in the subtle realms. This is an ascending movement.
Corbin, H. (1969). The creative imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi. Bollingen SeriesXCI:Princeton University Press, New Jersey.
Hart, T., Nelson, P. & Puhakka, A. (Eds.) (2000). Transpersonal knowing. Suny: New York.
Singer, M.A. (2007). The untethered soul. Noetic Books, Institute for Noetic Sciences: New Harbinger Publications.
Basic General Principles
The basic function of dreams is to express the psyche.
The images that appear in dreams are symbols of parts of us and can reveal the dynamics of our inner life. Dreams show us in symbolic form all the different personalities that interact within us and make up our total self.
Every aspect of the dream ultimately has something to tell us.
Re-entering into the dream using the waking dream technique allows for direct experience and connection with the dream material.
From a transpersonal perspective it is important that the dreamer finds their own guidance and meaning through working with the dream rather than the psychotherapist making interpretations. The therapist can share their thoughts on the dream after the client has had an opportunity to experience it directly.
The subtle creative imagination in the intermediary realm, the world beyond the material, communicates to us. We as therapists are not here to interpret the symbols for the client. What is the spirit world? Our own part? The transpersonal perspective believes in a form of something beyond the mortal body. For some this can be essence, God, spirit, light, deeper sources of wisdom. For each student, their journey is an individual one. You can’t force the unconscious but you can train yourself to dream.
Basic skills and their application to image and dream work
Creating a safe container for the work. Negotiating with the client –
making a “mini contract” and getting the clients’ co-operation for the exercise.
Making sure that you the therapist are in a balanced, grounded, calm and receptive state taking time to breathe and connect with your inner presence.
Management of time allowing for beginnings, middles and endings.
Dream and image work often moves us into “timeless” realms and clients can go very deeply into an internal space. You are responsible for managing the time effectively.
Awareness of body language, breath and voice tone – this can become more and more refined and subtle.
Accurate summarizing of the image or dream symbol descriptions.
Reflecting back the core statements that arise.
Sensitive and discriminating questioning to clarify the images, feelings and content of the dream. Using questioning to open up the dream.
Think of your approach like carrying a basic toolkit. Your heart is a receptor that picks up subtle energies.
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