Swimming In Two Worlds

Swimming In Two Worlds

Even as a great fish swims along the two banks of a river, first along the eastern bank and then the western bank, in the same way the spirit of man moves along beside his two dwellings: this waking world and the land of sleep and dreams (“Supreme Teaching” in The Upanishads).

What would happen to us if we did not visit the Underworld via sleep on a regular basis? There are all sorts of maladies brought on by sleep deprivation that you can read about here at the Wikipedia site. I grow weary of asking why something occurs as it does because this usually ends up at an impasse. The scientific method does not work well on the deep mysteries of human existence. You can only go so far.

But, phenomenologically, we know without a doubt that we alternate between two very different worlds because we experience them both daily. The Nightworld and the Dayworld have distinct rules which govern them. You can, undoubtedly, think of many differences. The point is simply this: we do sleep and wake, and we do experience reality on two different levels on a daily basis.

When we sleep, we perceive the Nightworld through our dreams. There we encounter people, places, colors, things, landscapes, etc., just as in our Dayworld experiences. Because we are citizens of two distinct worlds, we should pay homage to each. But what do we do? We have been conditioned to act as though our Dayworld existence is the only reality and that our dreams are useless, probably caused by something we ate. This is primarily driven by the ego and its endless demands for attention, to the exclusion of everything else.

When we visit the Underworld nightly, something happens to us. There is a benevolent process in the psyche that does something beyond our rational understanding. Perhaps it prepares us for the final journey to the Underworld. It is a mystery. But we know something occurs. There is definitely an intermingling of consciousness and unconsciousness occurring, as if small fissures open from below and vapors emanate upward into our conscious minds. We do retain memory of our dreams occasionally.

So, if an intermingling takes places during the night, does it also occur during the day? Do the inhabitants of the Underworld hear noises cascading downward from above? Does a glimpse of the Dayworld appear to them on a regular basis? And can we interact with that world in the daytime? I think so. We can imagine, visualize, reminisce, meditate.

When we imagine, we come into contact with images from the Nightworld, especially if we meditate on our dreams. Jung called this active imagination.

I really prefer the term [active] ‘imagination’ to ‘fantasy’, because there is a difference between the two which the old doctors had in mind when they said that ‘opus nostrum’, our work, ought to be done ‘per veram imaginationem et non phantastica’ – by true imagination and not by a fantastical one. In other words, if you take the correct meaning of this definition, fantasy is mere nonsense, a phantasm, a fleeting impression; but imagination is active, purposeful creation. And this is exactly the distinction I make too. A fantasy is more or less your own invention, and remains on the surface of personal things and conscious expectations. But active imagination, as the term denotes, means that the images have a life of their own and that the symbolic events develop according to their own logic – that is, of course, if your conscious reason does not interfere (C.G. Jung, Analytical Psychology : its Theory and Practice
The Tavistock Lectures (1935).

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