Taking images literally, with the same kind of realism as the ego uses in the daylight world–this is the heroic error, a mistake of Herculean proportion, given further Judeo-Christian blessing through warnings against demons, dreams, ikons, and all forms of the soul’s imaginings (Dream And The Underword, by James Hillman, page 116).
The literal mindset has wreaked incredible havoc in Western civilization. The tendency to literalize images has been a problem in human history ever since the advent of ego in the dark, misty past. When ratiocination became firmly entrenched in the human psyche, literalism was intensified.
Much damage has been inflicted by religion on the manner in which we view images. Warnings have been issued by church leaders concerning dreams, visions, icons, demons, etc. Why the fear of images? Are they afraid we may learn something about reality they don’t want us to know? Was this another method to keep the masses in their place? It has been a disaster for Soul. Literalistic religion is poisonous. It’s not just Christianity; all religions suffer from fringe sects that promote literalistic interpretations. True religion knows better.
We have been taught that real is the same as corporeal. This is yet another lie to provoke attack upon images. It’s a well-known fact that people can imagine themselves to be ill until they actually become physically ill. That’s a real phenomenon.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy (From Hamlet).
Logic breaks down when it tries to examine the imaginal. It simply cannot deal with it. Logic is the work of the ego, the hero who would bravely slay the dragon of irrationality.
Ego cannot deal with images, such as dreams. Because it can’t find clear meaning, it guesses, assigning all sorts of interpretations to the image.
Each morning we repeat our Western history, slaying our brother, the dream, by killing its images with interpretative concepts that explain the dream to the ego” (Hillman, 116).
A dream-image is what it is, nothing more, nothing less. In order to derive anything from it, it must be examined phenomenologically, not logically. The use of hermeneutics, as in the close reading of a religious text, brings forth truth; in this way it is epiphanously revealed, as in the Sufi idea of ta’wil. Jung’s use of active imagination is a powerful technique that can be used for this purpose.
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