Through a Jungian Lens

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Active Imagination and the Transcendent Function

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Normally, I don’t save photos that aren’t well defined with good colour and texture.  Somehow, this photo made me hesitate.  In the original, before I stripped out the colour, the flowers were bright, bright orange.  I took this photo as quite a distance using the full 15X optical telephoto feature.  I obviously needed a longer telephoto if I am to ever get this shot right for bird identification purposes.  That said, there is something powerful about the image for me, something deeper than the recording of factual reality.

The task in active imagination is to wrestle with the symbol until its meaning and purpose become clear to consciousness. (Sharp, Jung Uncorked:  Book One, 2008, p.96)

There are element in the image that are clear, well-defined.  The bird is the least clear, the least grasped aspect of the image.  In a way, it is not much different than trying to get a clear image of myself.  As I’ve learned and continue to learn, who and what I am is a mystery even to me.  So many filters are in place that it is next to impossible to get a real look at my “self.”  Of course, I can find snapshots aplenty which clearly document one persona or another, but to see the self?  No such photo exists.

So then, how can I approach the self in hopes of getting some personal clarity?  How can I transcend the current state of limited ego in order to see more?  Jung suggests the use of active imagination as the best tool for producing the transcendent funtion.

In order, therefore, to gain possession of the energy that is in the wrong place, he must make the emotional state the basis or starting point of the procedure.  He must make himself as conscious as possible of the mood he is in, sinking himself in it without reserve and noting down on paper all the fantasies and other associations that come up.  Fantasy must be allowed the freest possible play . . . The whole procedure is a kind of enrichment and clarification of the affect, whereby the affect and its contents are brought nearer to consciousness, becoming at the same time more impressive and more understandable . . . This is the beginning of the transcendent function, i.e., of the collaboration of conscious and unconscious data. (Jung, CW 8, pars 166; cited in Sharp, op cit, p. 97)

As you, the reader can tell, this is the prime reason for the existence of this blog site, to use photos in the work of active imagination so that, bit by bit, I can tease out unconscious data in the hopes of learning more about my “self.”


7 Responses

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  1. La fonction transcendante voilà un sujet qui me passionne mais que je n’ai pas encore osé aborder sur mon blog car mes lecteurs sont souvent assez paresseux intellectuellement ! amitiés.


    January 27, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    • J’aurai plus de dire de la fonction transcendante. C’est une idée difficile de comprendre. J’ose aborder ce sujet malgré mes lecteurs. N’oublie pas que j’écrit premièrement pour moi-même

      Robert G. Longpré

      January 28, 2010 at 7:43 pm

  2. The thing is, readers often have a better understanding than you’d imagine…And hard ideas can spark thought and creative progress.
    I’d rather read soemthing that makes me think about it, even if I don’t understand all of it, than read something easy and trite.


    January 29, 2010 at 3:43 am

    • I agree with you, Viv, that readers often understand more than one would expect. That said, I think it would be presumptuous to expect that readers understand all that one has to say. Even I as the author don’t know everything that I am saying. Often it is simply a matter of letting words out in the process of active imagination hoping that what emerges might trigger and “ah-ha” moment. As I mentioned to Ariaga, I write for myself, my work. In sharing it here, I hope that the connection to “others” will add to the process. I know, it is all selfish.

      Robert G. Longpré

      January 29, 2010 at 7:22 am

  3. If your writing is, as you say, “all selfish”, then I’m grateful for your selfish nature:) Your post was exactly what I needed. It sparked in me the idea to use images, short video clips, music, my own writing, and Windows MovieMaker to give expression to my own confusing and troubling affect. Thank you Robert.


    January 21, 2011 at 1:26 am

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