The other night I attended one of the Red Book Dialogues at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, California. The Dialogues are a series of discussions between a celebrity (that night was Helen Hunt) and a psychoanalyst or Jungian scholar (that night was James Hillman) around The Red Book, Carl Jung’s personal journey into the mind.
At one point in the dialogue, Hillman and Hunt were pondering how ‘meditation’ may be similar or different to Jung’s process in the creation of the Red Book… Hillman felt meditation was beyond his scope of knowledge and at a loss for words to compare the two…
… I’ve heard that Carl Jung put himself into a transcendental state as he wrote his Red Book over the many years it took to do so. How he entered his meditative state is unclear (as far as I know) but he learned to explore his mind with in its process, and in that way, his exploration is not unlike an exploration of the mind that might arise using mindfulness meditation. (more)
It is a bit surprising to me that Hillman was allegedly not that familiar with meditation; it is so prevalent in the culture and so important to so many spiritual practices.
Dr. Smalley also does not mention “Active Imagination”, Jung’s way of encountering the Unconscious through dialogue:
Active Imagination is a meditation technique wherein the contents of one’s unconscious are translated into images, narrative or personified as separate entities. It can serve as a bridge between the conscious ‘ego’ and the unconscious and includes working with dreams and the creative self via imagination or fantasy. Jung linked Active Imagination with the processes of alchemy in that both strive for oneness and inter-relatedness from a set of fragmented and dissociated parts.
Active imagination is such an important part of Jung’s way of working psychologically that it certainly deserves mention when one is talking about meditation techniques; the Red Book is the best example of how absolutely powerful it can be.
Image: Philemon, from the Red Book