He who is born in imagination discovers the latent forces of Nature. . . . Besides the stars that are established, there is yet another — Imagination — that begets a new star and a new heaven (Paracelsus)
Gazing into the starry night sky is a peek into the infinite depths of Soul. The myriad stars and planets are but reflective metaphors for the living beings who populate the world of Soul. Without magnification, we can only see so far. We possess a tool that is far more valuable than the Hubble or Spitzer space telescopes. It is Imagination.
The world of active imagination is called by the Sufis alam al-mithal.
Alam al-Mithal roughly translates from arabic as “the world of similitudes”, also called Alam al-Khayal, “the world of the imagination.” This world, which is an intermediate between God and the manifest world, and is considered by certain veins of Islamic philosophers to be as phenomenologically real as the world we inhabit through our five physical senses.
This world is the world of of the subtle bodies, and provides a connection between God and It’s creations. It is thus, in this sense, that it is the “mystical world where all physical limitations are removed.” In this world, there are no set boundaries of time and space; this world, is perceived by its own related organs. In the same way that the physical world is perceived by the five physical senses, so is alam al-mithal perceived by its related organs, of which the Creative Imagination is the organ par excellence.
It is in this mystical world where communion and direction revelation and prophecy are given by God to his messangers and prophets (Dune Wiki).
It is this world that Henry Corbin was fascinated with in his writings; he called it the mundus imaginalis. He wanted to distinguish “imaginal” from things “imaginary.”
Our physical world is filled with a plenitude of metaphors that, if seen with active imagination, can bring us wisdom and understanding about the many worlds of Soul. By allowing these images to speak to us, we can learn more about our world than the more traditional scientific method. This is the method used by Goethe, the scientist, in his quest to understand Nature.
In its time, Goethe’s way of science was highly unusual because it moved away from a quantitative, materialist approach to things in nature and emphasized, instead, an intimate, firsthand encounter between student and thing studied. Direct experiential contact became the basis for scientific generalization and understanding. Goethe’s contemporaries and several following generations, however, largely ignored his writings on nature. These works were seen either as subjective artistic descriptions written by a scientific dilettante or as a form of philosophical idealism that arbitrarily imposed intellectual constructs on the things of nature. Only in the twentieth century, with the philosophical articulation of phenomenology, do we have a conceptual language able to describe Goethe’s way of science accurately. Though there are many styles of phenomenology, its central aim, in the words of phenomenological founder Edmund Husserl, is “to the things themselves”‑-in other words, how would the thing studied describe itself if it had the ability to speak (Goethe, Nature, and Phenomenology, by David Seamon).
Phenomenology had much to do with Hillman’s articulation of Archetypal Psychology in the twentieth century.
Hillman’s approach is phenomenological rather than analytic (which breaks the dream down into its constituent parts) and interpretive/hermeneutic (which may make a dream image “something other” than what it appears to be in the dream). His famous dictum with regard to dream content and process is “Stick with the image” (Wikipedia).
Hillman can credit Henry Corbin with bringing the phenomenological approach to the study of Soul. It was he who took Heidegger’s ideas of Dasein and applied them to ideas about the intermediary regions of the mundus imaginalis.
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