Imaginal Psychology: A Distinct Orientation
The Imagination is not a State: it is the Human Existence itself.
– William Blake
Imaginal Psychology is a distinct orientation to the discipline of psychology. This orientation reclaims soul as psychology’s primary concern. The soul expresses itself in images. Care of the soul asks that we pay close attention to the images we inhabit. This orientation to psychology has its roots in the transformative practices that are at the core of many spiritual traditions and creative arts.
In the last one hundred years modern depth psychology has rediscovered these sacred potentials. Imaginal Psychology traces this vein of gold through its ancient and modern manifestations in ways relevant to our contemporary lives, enabling a distinctly postmodern psychology to emerge.
Meridian’s curriculum draws on the following knowledge domains:
- spiritual traditions
- somatic practices
- creative arts
- indigenous wisdom
- literary and poetic imagination
- deep ecology
- mystical philosophy
- cultural history
- social critique
A person without ritual cannot live; an undertaking without ritual cannot come to completion; and a state without ritual cannot attain peace.
– Hsun Tzu
The world's spiritual traditions offer wisdom and transformative practices which have been seasoned by centuries of lived experience. This mindfully gathered knowledge can be of great value in enabling psychology to have an emancipatory impact on our social institutions.
Available in the local knowledge of many cultures, modern medicine has marginalized these great resources for healing and pleasure. In the last 30 years, however, there has been a watershed in the restoration and development of somatic practices. If psychology is to come to its senses, we must reconnect with the sensory foundations of experience.
The practices of writing, drawing, movement, vocalizing, and drama offer ways to cultivate the senses, memory, and imagination. A psychology that embraces these practices is able to explore those depths of human experience which are the sources of cultural leadership and change.
We have lost our immediate feeling for the great realities of the spirit - and to this world all true mythology belongs - lost it precisely because of our all-too-willing, helpful, and efficient science.
– Carl Kerenyi
These ancient stories offer a cornucopia of images which continue to shape contemporary culture. With myth as background, we gain fresh perspective and insight into the discipline and profession of psychology.
From the moment we enter school or church, education chops us into pieces; it teaches us to divorce soul from body, and mind from heart. The fishermen of the Colombian coast must be learned doctors of ethics and morality, for they invented the word sentipensante, feeling-thinking, to define language that speaks the truth.
– Eduardo Galleano
By looking to the cultures of indigenous peoples, psychology can draw on wisdom forgotten in the wake of modernity. Values essential to our future such as conviviality, sustainability, and justice, are well understood by indigenous cultures.
What is the source of our first suffering? It lies in the fact that we hesitated to speak. It was born in the moment when we accumulated silent things within us.
– Gaston Bachelard
The enduring literature of diverse cultures is a repository of deep imaginative guidance. Poets, playwrights, novelists, and storytellers imaginatively evoke the most challenging dimensions of life in the unique ways that they are experienced and responded to within a specific culture.
Lifting a brush, a burin, a pen or a stylus is like releasing a bite or lifting a claw.
– Gary Snyder
The development of a sustainable postmodern culture requires that we understand the ways in which soul is not limited either to the personal or to the human. This deeper appreciation of the essential heterogeneity of life offers psychology a complex and evolutionary context for its future.
A deep river of psychological wisdom that has permeated the ancient Mediterranean cultures of Egypt, Greece, and Italy is accessible to us through the resources of mystical philosophy.
As a web of habits, culture embodies a specific understanding of the soul's nature at a particular time and place. Cultural history excavates this knowledge, through the study of ancient texts and artifacts, conveying the co-evolution of culture and consciousness.
In order to change what is, we need to give speech to what has been, to imagine what might be.
- Adrienne Rich
Modern social theory elaborates a critique of modernity essential to understanding contemporary Western societies and psychology's place within them. An understanding of politics, mass culture, and oppression is vital for the socially engaged psychological practitioner. Those who would offer cultural leadership find in social critique a historical understanding of contemporary culture.