Stop the world

stop the world

‘If you can connect to the addictive quality, the urge to do something…. Patience is all about connecting to the addictive quality of anger, or whatever your addiction is. Connecting to the urge to do something. It is all about connecting with the addictive quality and sitting with that restless, painful energy. And not letting the momentum pull you under like an undertow, and cause you to do the same thing over and over, ruining your life and the life of those close to you. ‘That addictive quality…. For example, to criticise, to overeat, to abuse substances, to erupt in anger, to aggression, to jealousy, […]

The art of restraint


‘Where the moods of one’s own heart are concerned, one should never ignore the possibility of inhibition, for this is the basis of human freedom.’ – From the I Ching or Book of Changes, by Richard Wilhelm What does it mean to be truly free? We encounter so many paradoxes when we dwell deeply on this question. Entering the many-mirrored realms of paradox is a sign that we’re making progress. Which in itself is a paradox. But a paradox at the heart of the difference between a psychology that aims to cultivate imagination, and one aiming at productivity, health or even self-realisation. For if we […]



James Hillman says that ultimately there is only one sin, which he calls ‘literalisation’. Sin taken in its original meaning of ‘to miss the mark’. There are many layers and meanings to the notion of literalisation. One example is when we are open only to the literal meanings of events, ideas, myths or stories. Or fixate on their functional implications and applications, always turning them into allegories. Literalisation is a failure to grasp or acknowledge how poetic language more precisely captures inner experience than scientific formulation. Not grasping how metaphor has the power ‘to transfer us’ from one experiential reality to another. Ultimately, literalisation points […]

The magic theatre

‘Why have his letters been playing on this old wall in the darkest alley of the Old Town on a wet night with not a soul passing by, and why were they so fleeting, so fitful and illegible? But wait, at last I succeeded in catching several words on end. They were: MAGIC THEATRE – ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY’ – Hermann Hesse, from his novel, Steppenwolf Hermann Hesse used the image of ‘the magic theatre’ in his novel Steppenwolf. Published in 1927, the story is of a man, Harry Haller, who undergoes what consensus culture would call a ‘nervous breakdown’ or ‘mid-life crisis’. But which […]

All these names …


The imaginal. The unconscious. Nagual. The primordial mirror. Drala. Tao. Underworld. Overworld. Even though it is implied that these names point to the same place, it is important to acknowledge that their differences are not merely arbitrary. Also, not any one of them is ‘right’ while the rest are somehow ‘wrong’. Each of the great minds who perceived the realities to which these names refer, deliberately chose a particular phrase to point to the reality they perceived. There are certain implications inherent to the names chosen. Each name is truly ‘a metaphor’ – a bridge that transfers us, opens us, to ‘another world’. If soul […]

The unconscious


Because ‘the unconscious’ is vast and inexhaustible, Carl Jung himself says that any one description of it will be limited. Still, to provide one example: in his book On the Nature of the Psyche (par. 382) he says: ‘So defined, the unconscious depicts an extremely fluid state of affairs: everything of which I know, but of which I am not at the moment thinking; everything of which I was once conscious but have now forgotten; everything perceived by my senses, but not noted by my conscious mind; everything which, involuntarily and without paying attention to it, I feel, think, remember, want, and do; all the […]

The imaginal


In his paradigm-shattering book, Re-Visioning Psychology James Hillman says, ‘The term “imaginal” for the realm of images, which is also the realm of the soul, comes from Henry Corbin.’ Perhaps this passage from the same book gives us a taste of what he means with ‘the imaginal’: ‘Today we are so unconscious of these persons that we call their realm the unconscious. Once they were the people of the imagination, as the unconscious was once the imaginal realm of memoria. But now we cannot distinguish between fancy and fantasy, between imaginary, imaginative, and imaginal. And we struggle in vain with the conceptual semantics of allegory, […]