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What is an “image”?

August 23, 2015

I’m thinking that as it goes about imagining life in human form, the soul uses three archetypal (from the human point of view) methods that are especially important in psychotherapy (i.e. our conscious attending to the health of the soul) and to literature: image, story, and conversation.

Poetry features the image, fiction features story-telling, and drama features conversation. They can be used in combination, e.g. a poem, rich in imagery (perhaps as metaphor or symbol), can take a narrative form and even include some dialogue; fiction often includes dialogue; a play can feature visual as well as verbal images, and present a story.

In this episode I want to think out loud about the nature of image, and it’s use in the present narrative.

My thinking about image comes from a lot of reading, some writing of poetry, and some experience of therapy. Probably 99% of these ideas aren’t of my origination. I got them from my reading of Jung and a lot of Jungians, especially the archetypal psychologist, James Hillman. I have found Hillman’s The Dream and the Underworld especially informative and thought-provoking (I first heard of Hillman, and specifically that book, from the poet Robert Bly).

I’ll try to give just some essentials, applicable to the present novel.

I take it that the key is the role of the imagination in the life of the soul, and of humanity collectively, and of each person.

Hillman gets at that by thinking of “psychology” as the logic of psyche, the soul. Manifest in human form, it’s about the soul’s logos: simultaneously its way of thinking, the content of its thought, and the medium of its thought. The way it thinks is by imagining, and it imagines by creating images.

Everything human is psychological. It’s all, fundamentally, what we imagine it to be, within the soul’s imagining. Imagining is an act of mind, meaning mostly the brain, but without separating it from the rest of the body’s functioning (the entire brain and the entire physical person is activated and participates); and most of that imagining, that creation of images, takes place subconsciously.

Another way of thinking about it is via Coleridge’s application of Kant to his aesthetic, seeing the imagination as uniting and leading sensation, reason, emotions, and intuition, in creative actions in which we are most like the Supreme Creator, and thus most alive.

[And now here’s an interesting corollary to that. It isn’t just the shadow that knows, The Soul knows; the soul knows all about life; that’s its excellent imagination, and its pathology, its suffering of life, to know and be moved by, everything, good, bad, and ugly.]

[A later page on nature of image.]

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