The Imaginal

If we would recover the imaginal we must first recover its organ, the heart, and its kind of philosophy. — James Hillman, The Thought of the Heart

The Imaginal is, for me, a wonderful explanation of something I’d sensed for many years but had no idea how to express or explain. Stephen Buhner’s work does a great job of making this odd and  complex material accessible and relevant. I had long been a fan of Jungian psychologist James Hillman, who writes of the imaginal, but it wasn’t until I found Buhner that I could properly comprehend how important is this way of knowing.

The Imaginal is the alive and evolving space between the human and the more-than-human other. It is another place, a place within this world — not visible, but real. It is deep on the inside of things. It can only be perceived by the sense organ that is the heart. It is a powerful and strange place for those of us unused to this kind of perception, but in many times and places it is far far better understood.

The following quotes are tastes. Read Buhner, and Hillman, and Cheetham, if this whets your appetite. See the references page for details.

This between-two takes place in the opening of the difference between the one and the other, but it is in no way proper to the one or to the other—it arises from the two. Perhaps it is the sole place where existence becomes a substance of another kind… Luce Irigaray

Himma is a term from Sufism meaning intense spiritual resolve. Himma creates as ‘real’ the figures of the imagination… Himma is that mode by which the images, which we believe we make up, are actually presented to us as not of our making, as genuinely created, as authentic creatures.

I do not know what this kind of loving is, but it is not reducible to other more familiar forms…  Let us call it imaginal love, a love based wholly on relationship with images and through images, a love showing in the imaginative response to the imagination in the dreams… This love does not reach only toward unifying, as we have all been so tediously taught. When we love, we want to explore, to discriminate more and more widely, to extend the intricacy that intensifies intimacy.

– Hillman, James. The Dream and the Underworld, 196-7.

Philosophy…must arise in the heart in order to mediate the world truly, since… it is that subtle organ which perceives the correspondences between the subtleties of consciousness and the levels of being. This intelligence takes place by means of images which are a third possibility between mind and world. Each image coordinates within itself qualities of consciousness and qualities of world, speaking in one and the same image of the interpenetration of consciousness and world. This imaginal intelligence resides in the heart: “intelligence of the heart” connotes a simultaneous knowing and loving by means of imagining.

– Hillman, The Thought of the Heart

The above essay by Hillman is available online here. It’s dense, but fascinating.

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