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Gods Within


Even with all this discussion on archetypes and imagination, you may still find yourself at a loss how you can recognize and contact these internal forces. The answer is practice, and taking the time to notice what forces are at play, interweaving with your life and your goals. What is fostering you, nourishing you, your ally? What opposes you, thwarts your will, sabotages your dreams for the future?

Two techniques are immediately accessible. One, from Jungian Psychology is known as ACTIVE IMAGINATION. The second, from the Hermetic Qabalah, is known as PATHWORKING. Both build a thorough understanding of the nature of imagination. They are experiential journeys, waking dreams with symbolic interaction with the subconscious that have consequences in real time. Both methods culminate in a spontaneous internal dialogue with personified archetypes, who become guides of the soul.

Soulful exploration of this undiscovered country is possible through imagination -- through consciousness journeys. In fact, soul or PSYCHE IS IMAGINATION. It is both a realm of experience and a human faculty. The mythic layers of the psyche are welded to our thoughts, emotions and behaviors, even our spiritual ideals. Emotions are unlearned reactions to external or internal events, while feelings are thoughts about those reactions. The realm of soul lies between, and joins together those of matter and spirit. In other words, the realm of imagination lies between the physical world and perceptions and the spiritual level of conceptualization and direct epiphany.

We needn't go to sleep to experience this rich inner world. In fact, we frequently get glimpses of it in our daydreams. But daydreams are something our ego makes up to serve its own desires. We make things up in daydreams to be the way we want them. Deeper levels of the imagination simply "happen to us." The scenario doesn't serve the ego, but the higher Self, our wholeness. So compensating factors may be at work and reveal their dynamics. At this level, imagination is autonomous, and we simply immerse ourselves in that stream of consciousness.

Therapeutic process work provides a way and place for applying watchful or sustained attention to our inner imagery. A process helps us penetrate even deeper into the levels of the imagination, or universal consciousness field. The imagination forms a middle ground where life and meaning merge, and are revealed as emergent images.

Imagination is the realm of sacred psychology which approaches the gods through imagining and personifying, rather than through ritual, prayer, and sacrifice with a religious orientation. Imagination is a primary reality with a non-verbal, non-linear logic of its own. Archetypes function like the "strange attractors" of deterministic chaos, ordering the jumbled contents of the psyche. We can learn to orient ourselves to internal and external reality by noticing and responding to the images, sensations and emotions we experience in imaginal encounters. We can make friends with these inner figures, or at least form relationships.

Comprehensive theories of the imagination distinguish three types of imaginative experience: 1) everyday conscious imagining; 2) Jung's active imagination and other process work; 3) archetypal or visionary imagination that is spontaneous. Therefore, active imagination gives anyone entree to the world of imagination. One you learn this technique, you might try the "visionary" mode, simply by emptying and opening yourself. You can do it either with extreme arousal, such as dancing to exhaustion, or with relaxation techniques. Both will produce vivid experiences. They can be entered as dialogues of ego and Self, I and Not-I, or through direct identification.

The imaginal world is the result of an overlapping of our emotional and higher mental faculties. In metaphysical terms, it consists partly of the Astral and Causal levels of experience. These terms are antiquated, implying a causal relationship. Archetypes are deterministic. Unpredictable at any given moment, they operate in distinguishable parameters and patterns. This is characteristic of a "chaotic system," one that is complex, dynamic, and subject to turbulence. The imaginal world reflects this chaotic, bizarre pattern. It is paradoxical, neither perceptual nor conceptual, but intermediate -- and visceral, as well.

The three modes of interaction of the conscious and subconscious forces in imaginal encounters may be summarized as follows:

1). EVERYDAY CONSCIOUS IMAGINING is where the ego is under the illusion that it is controlling the content of the vision. The ego feels proud of its "fantasy of control" over the fabric of the imagination. But the subconscious has its own surprise in store for the ego, and may respond sooner or later with a wake-up call that shatters the illusion. A powerful eruption of images and emotions can arise that is totally beyond the ego's control or ability to contain them. The ego is swept helplessly into the stream of consciousness.

At this point the ego's image of itself dissolves, fragments or is torn apart. This is known as ago-death. The shattering of the old form of the fragile ego makes way for rebirth in a new form. First, personality is profoundly disrupted. There may be images of dismemberment, apocalypse, near death, etc. The opposing power of the subconscious drives are now brought to the surface in daily life, demanding some form of reconciliation. When we are in crisis, we can no longer cope through our ordinary means of "keeping it together."

2). ACTIVE IMAGINATION is a means of addressing this problem. We gain self-knowledge rather than being merely overwhelmed and impotent to face the challenges life is offering us. Our stunned ego can eventually develop a means of coping with these inner forces; in fact, it is an imperative. When we actively engage the imagination, symbols of the Self appear spontaneously to reintegrate the fragmented personality. This is the cyclic process of rebirth or resurrection. Jung noticed the Self appeared often in mandala forms. We see them in dreams, art, visions, and religious iconography.

Active imagination also involves controlling the direction the imaginal journey takes, but not for the benefit of the ego. It means deepening the process. It ensures the progressive unfolding of an imaginative sequence. Ego works with the tendencies of the psyche, seeking guidance from inner figures to achieve movement into a new situation or level of being. This results n an increased awareness of your internal processes. Active imagination works through visualization and multi-sensory images (kinesthetic, visceral, audial, olfactory). Sometimes the senses meld and appear in non-ordinary ways, such as tasting music.

The practice of active imagination requires six steps:

STEP 1: The preliminary phase requires focusing on your immediate life problems or aspirations. You establish the intent or goal of the operation. If there is a problem or issue, it should be identified. The excursion into imagination should have a well-defined purpose.

STEP 2: Next, empty your mind, dropping into a reverie, or natural trance. Become physically and mentally relaxed. Assume a position where you are comfortable but will not fall asleep. Empty the mind of ego's train of thought. If thoughts crop up, just watch them come and go, dismissing them if they deal with your outer life.

STEP 3: This is the phase of letting go to your unconscious stream of images and letting that absorb your attention. If you are pathworking, visualize the corresponding Tarot Trump at this point, and enter into its virtual scenery. Focus on this image, but not enough to arrest the activity taking place spontaneously. Don't make a frozen picture of it, but don't let it change too rapidly, either, or you will become overwhelmed. If that happens flow with the dizzying whirlpool and let it take you deeper and deeper, and find what is there. The point is to participate fully in the drama, rather than watching yourself like a movie. You must be there with your own values, intentions, wounds, and will.

STEP 4: Active imagination requires an ethical confrontation with the archetypal forces to be truly transforming. You must enter the inner drama with your true personality, not as your ideal. Leave your images of heroism and grandiosity behind. Be the unique person you are in inner, as well as outer life. Once the imaginal experience begins, the ego is engaged and compelled to participate. Take advantage of the opportunity to ask these forces just what they are seeking from you as a mortal being. See if the god-form has any gifts or treasures for you to take back into the day-world.

STEP 5: The gifts of these forces take many forms, some of which are physically and emotionally healing. The idea of this stage is to apply what you have learned in the encounter and make it practical. The god-form may have ordered or asked for certain behavior on the part of the ego. If this does not contradict cultural, moral or ethical laws, you may experiment with these inner directions. Mostly they seek attention. In any event, the contact is established and you know where and to whom to return if there is further need of "discussion."

STEP 6: If you have an intriguing inner journey, and meet the godform in imagination by directing the unfolding of the fantasy, give it some form of expression in your external life. For example, write it down in your journal of inner events or dreambook, paint what you saw, sculpt it, dance it, or play the music you heard there.

NOTE OF CAUTION: There is the chance of repressed unconscious forces breaking through into daily life, overwhelming the ego. If you feel emotionally unstable, seek a therapist to function as a guide on your inner journeys. There is a great deal of energy locked up, or stuck in past traumas, which needs to be released. Active imagination is a means of facing up to and dealing with these shadowy problems.

Active imagination may bring unusual manifestations in its wake, including psychosomatic changes in blood pressure or heartbeat. These are from strong emotions and can be worked through by consciously relaxing yourself, or being physically expressive. Or, you might experience a strong sense of euphoria as the ego identifies with the archetypal forces during the event. There might be a reactionary let-down, but it won't last long.

Synchronistic events, or seemingly magical, meaningful coincidences may appear. Don't let your judgment be blurred by excitement. This is a normal occurrence when working on the inner levels and provides additional insight on the dynamics at work.

GUIDELINES FOR PRACTICE include the following:

1). Maintain a critical distinction between wish fulfillment and the experience of true imagination.
2). There is no rush to experience every god-form or Tarot Path via imagination. Take it slowly, learning and assimilating each new experience thoroughly before going farther.

3). Insure your freedom from interruption during your imaginal excursion.

4). Establish a time limit. It is a good idea to have a trusted friend nearby to monitor you.

5). Record results in your journal of self-discovery, including physical reactions and synchronicities.

6). Never do an active imagination which concerns living people. This especially includes intentional sexual visualizations. This is unethical from the magician's point of view, as it is an encroachment on their True Will. It is a misapplication of the technique.

7). Ground exercises in active imagination by applying the experiences gained in pathworking to daily life.

8). Try to establish contact with your personal "inner guide" who will always offer protection if requested and allowed to do so.


Pathworking, using the qabalistic diagram the Tree of Life has much in common with active imagination. It means taking an imaginal journey to the 'location" of an archetypal form or dynamic group of symbols. Once you recognize imagination is the realm of the soul, you can develop a method for exploring the soul through imagination. The paths of the Tree of Life function as metaphorical "in-roads." Their correspondences (mindscapes, colors, animals, plants, symbols, etc) produce a gestalt awareness of soul through its own system of metaphorical language.

There are three primary modes of pathworking:

1) a trance-like state where the ego is overwhelmed (possibly through drug use) and incapacitated by the forces of the unconscious,
2). "active," and

3). "passive" pathworking.

The first is a regression of consciousness, producing hallucinatory rather than imaginal experiences. Active pathworking is analogous to active imagination. The major purpose of a pathworking is to produce a conscious contact with the archetypal powers connected with the particular path. There are active and passive forms of pathworking, but do not let this glib terminology lead you astray. "Passive" in this sense does not imply the ineffective attitude of type-1 experience. Both active and passive styles are desirable to develop. Passive pathworkng is analogous to visionary imagination, not ego-driven.
Active pathworking is an exercise of the creative imagination. It is an excursion or consciousness journey into the astral plane using clairvoyance. It is a combination of ego, will, and imagination. Pathworking produces a dynamic imagery experience. It surpasses sensory information processing, but precedes conceptual lucidity. This is not a trance state where the images transform freely from one to another, but a disciplined artform, such as music, painting or dance.

Clairvoyance means seeing the inner world with increasing clarity. This clarity comes through the ego's conscious participation. The main use of active pathworking is for introspection.

In pathworking, the will forces the image to maintain certain parameters. They are determined by the qabalistic correspondence system (for the classic attributions, see Aleister Crowley's 777, or The Qabalah of Aleister Crowley").. The "will," in turn, is brought into direct non-verbal contact with the non-rational, with mystery. In other words, the communication is visual or multi-sensory rather than verbal, much like an RPG game.

Pathworking is a dynamic process which requires us to react to situations immediately through our feelings or instincts. It is similar to (but more profound than) some of the X-games which reflect the mythic theme of The Quest. The difference is, in pathworking the Will maintains a sense of responsibility for the ego's behavior on the inner planes. You are more your self, not playing another. All of your faculties are kept alert. Thinking and emotions are immersed in the situation. The ego's forceful elaboration helps ensure unfolding of a particular imaginative sequence.

An active pathworking traces the routes described in Qabalah as the transition stages between spheres. Consciousness moves along them from one state of consciousness to another, following a thread or path of imagery. A pathworking begins in one sphere, and culminates in the sphere immediately higher on the Tree of Life. For example, the path Art leads from Yesod to Tiphareth, from the lower emotions to the spiritual heart. Some of its correspondences include the moon, color blue, Sagittarius, the centaur, and the goddess Artemis. So, a sample pathworking might consist of a moon-lit journey into a magical forest in the depth of winter, finding a centaur as an ally, and culminating in a conversation with the goddess.

Anytime two particular terminals are used, the traveler establishes a contact with both the "place" and the "entities" who inhabit that psychological "area." With repetition, the imaginal reality of the place is confirmed through personal experience. You can evoke this experience from your own imagination if you try, and become a regular visitor to these spiritual regions.

Always remember, in pathworking return to your point of origin. This is one main reason the ego must be able to maintain concentration and follow-through. If you use a Tarot Trump as the gateway to your experience, definitely pass through it on your way "out." Visualize all you saw on your approach fleeting by on your "return." Ground your pathworking by returning consciousness to its normal condition.

3). VISIONARY IMAGINATION (or archetypal imagination) is analogous to passive pathworking. All images are archetypal, in that they carry enfolded information about primal realities. This form of imaginal journey is termed passive since ego-consciousness is present, though it does not interfere with the emergence and unfolding of psychic imagery.

True vision is a non-directive process. This passive pathworking is actually more advanced because the traveler must employ his creativity or ability to synthesize information. The practitioner requires an ability to deal with the opening of the lower, as well as higher mind. We want to penetrate to super-celestial regions, not suffer an invasion from the primitive unconscious.

This form of pathworking uses a doorway of some type to initiate the experience. This might again be a Tarot card, god-form visualization, or an I Ching hexagram, last night's dream image, etc. The difference is that instead of following procedural instructions on where to go and what to visualize, you allow the pathworking itself to present images spontaneously.

What are describing is revealed in the world's great art. Leonardo daVinci, Michaelangelo, William Blake, etc. were all visionary artists. Whenever they lived, they exemplified the Renaissance-type of spirit, which lives close to soul and the world of myth and personified archetypal forces. These show on the canvas as demons, angels, gods and goddesses - now in modern forms.

This passive pathworking may be likened in some respects to what is termed "archetypal imagination" in leading-edge Jungian psychology. It is an authentic visionary mode of experience, which produces keen insight through psychological perception.

We need to examine the meaning of "archetypal" if our purpose in pathworking is contacting archetypal powers which embody its dynamic process. Archetypal theory has four general premises:

1). Archetypes are located in the imaginal world of the soul, and are called gods and goddesses since ancient times.
2). Psychopathology, or the negative manifestation which leads to human problems is emphasized. The shadow is confronted in its physical, behavioral, and psychophysical manifestations..

3). Archetypes are extremely important to human behavior and seem to carry a quality of "unkownness" and holiness or divinity.

4). The ego comes to realize it is only one psychological perspective and understands its relative lack of control over the psyche and physical organism.

Archetypal imagination transcends active imagination by offering a method where we can learn to redeem some dignity through our suffering. In archetypal psychology, pathologies (archetypal afflictions) are recognized as an essential component of the human soul. Jung said, "The gods have become diseases."
Therefore, psychologists have explored the divine by insight into the light and dark aspects of the gods. Greek myth is full of different versions of divine images of darkness, death, and perversion, reflecting the world of mental illness and personality disorders. Who could imagine sending Ares for anger management classes? These divine forces are so powerful the ego cannot really "do" anything to them.

Like the Qabalah, archetypal psychology recognizes many varieties of consciousness reflecting the plurality and freedom of styles within the structure of myth. Since there are no procedural constraints in this passive pathworking, what can we expect to experience in this awakened visionary mode? This is the realm of true inner plane contact with the deities revealed through folk tales, classical myths, and in psychology through dreams. Any attempt to engage in the inner life brings a deeper relationship with the unconscious.

To experience a luminous visionary imagination we must become acquainted with the archetypes through personifying their potent forces. An archetypal topography, or psychic road map is of inestimable value here. Qabalah is a generic road map of the psyche. It provides the possibility of interaction of an individual with the divine, immortal forms.

There is a long tradition throughout history which regards personifying as a necessary mode of comprehending the world and our personal existence. It is a way of ensouling psychic powers and getting to know them intimately. Personifying allows us to discriminate among, and love or cherish these forces which make up our very being.

Personification is a path with heart, since it allows us to imagine both through and beyond what our eyes see into the primordial dimension of celestial beings. Living is a special way of "knowing" which arises from personification. The strong feelings aroused by subjective experiences of the soul speak volumes to the heart.

We can develop a passionate engagement with the mythic dimension, gaining access to our creative imagination. Through getting to know the gods within, we learn to see visions and hear voices. We may talk with them and they may talk with each other without us losing our grip on ordinary reality.

We can speak directly to these archetypal forces within. When we do, the basic transformative formula is always the same. In terms of self-analysis there are three distinct steps.

1). IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM. Name the neurotic pattern to loosen its grip on your identity and seek the help of inner spiritual guiding principles. This means you will have to suffer consciousness of your condition. No more "ignorance is bliss." When we recognize our bad habits they seem to amplify. Actually we are much as we have always been, but we have never turned our attention in this direction before. We may suffer a terrible, proud ego (Zeus), or a tendency to dishonesty with ourselves and others (Hermes), or an irresistible urge for an affair (Aphrodite), etc. But our plight will no longer be unconscious once we have named it.

2). Accept that suffering and find meaning in it. Don't be a passive victim; face up to the shadow of outgrown behavior patterns and power-trips. Confront the negative forces of the psyche by mustering inner strength. Once you name a neurotic pattern, you claim it as a part of yourself; to deny this fact is to deny one's wholeness. When you consciously relate to its source, the 'problem' is automatically transformed. It is crying out for attention.

3). Try to accept and manifest the potential strength of the inner self once it is called up. In other words, once you have an imaginal contact with the archetype, try to contact its potential for positive transformation. Experience the more exalted qualities of the archetype as well as its instinctual, compulsive side. For example, the courage and loyalty of Mars, not just the bravado and violence. Don't give up, because to passively withdraw means to stay stuck in neurotic patterns.

Confront inner and outer crises with the reserves of strength accessible through creative imagination.

What's New with My Subject?


by Iona Miller, 1983

CREATIVE MYTHOLOGY is another application of awareness of the gods within, or archetypes, in personal mythology. It is the result of combining creative imagination with a mythical perspective on life. When we see through to the mythic patterns enacted in our lives on an on-going basis, we are living mythically as a lifestyle. Our personal history becomes a metaphorical analog of ancient, divine patterns, weaving an eternal tapestry -- Penelope's suitors, Sisyphus' endless toil, the Fisher King's never-healing wound, star-crossed lovers, wunderkind, homebody, philanthropist, etc. Our personal mythology can be revealed by our favorite fairy tale or movie, since we identify with the figures in these dramas and tend to act them out.

Our personal mythic enactments can provide a focal point for our meditation concerning the nature of our existence. We can catch ourselves in the act of being larger than the personal self. When we get caught up in the crises of our archetypal complexes, we are again and again faced with the basic questions of life: "Who am I, where do I come from, and where am I going?" When we consciously seek an answer, we are looking for the meaning of existence. We seek to unfold our awareness of totality, and we begin to see the gods everywhere.

Myth supports all the levels of our human civilization which includes spiritual, social, and individual (or psychological). We seek a return to the mythic dimension to find out how we personally relate to the cosmic order. In the modern search for meaning, we are thrown back on our own resources. For a time, the social limits no longer apply, since they don't provide an adequate model for our experiences.

During this period we gain a vivid relationship to the symbols and dynamics of the subconscious, and reestablish this vital connection. In this rebirth or renewal, symbols take on the highest personal value. What seemed a lifeless concept, takes on depth and life. Development of our latent subconscious powers becomes possible, balancing out the personality.

Myth represents a paradoxical world with exquisite differentiation. For example, the Greeks had different specific names for the gods in their various facets. Thus Hermes could be simultaneously the god of writers, merchants, and magicians besides that of thieves, liars, and opportunists. In each of these aspects he would have a different appellation, or modifier to his name to identify the specific aspect of Hermes in action. Most of the gods also have an infernal or chthonic aspect. It embodies their negative or shadowy nature.

Don't look at myths as prescriptions for living when you find yourself caught in a particular one, or oscillate, or cycle among several. They do not provide solutions to our personal problems if we can but read ahead a few pages; they have their own agendas with our lives -- embodying these natural forces. They won't tell us what step to take next, or right from wrong. Even if we view their manifestations as 'signs from God", they aren't reliable signs as we tend to read them in a biased way, the way we would like things to be.

We obtain their value from participation in mythical consciousness, finding the gods as mythic metaphors living through our daily lives -- our connection with the eternal, the primal, the great cycle. We participate with them in a sort of dance when we recognize their mythic enactments in us in progress, and notice and pay attention to that. Noticing is a form of worship, based on where we place our value and attention.

Mythical living provides us with a background which starts us imagining, penetrating deeper into ourselves, gaining in self-awareness, psychological sophistication. It is a mode of reflection, of direct perception. Myths do not show us the center of ourselves; they reveal that there are several centers, all interrelated with one another in dynamic relationships. We contain the whole pantheon, in a sense.

Personification is also a key for mythical living. It is the mode of viewing these archetypal processes from a psychological perspective, rather than literally or as mere metaphor. We can see them as divine forces, gods and goddesses with which we can have a relationship, a conscious dialogue. This method helps us to love the gods and focus our attention on them, as part of our personal mythology. Man has a symbiotic relationship with the gods. Their names give us the ability to call upon them for their boons.

This process of devotion takes place in the imaginal realm of the heart, and has the power to transmute our outer fate into our inner destiny. It allows our true individuality to emerge. To achieve this, we must turn toward the archetypal realm and actively seek admittance, identify underlying mythic conflict, find the roots of that conflict in the past, and learn to recognize when a guiding myth is no longer an ally and get in touch with mythic renewal -- your new emerging myth.