Encounters with the Soul: Active Imagination as Developed by C.G. Jung


There is a passage in Jacob Bohme in which he speaks of God having a “subtle body,” but that Lucifer lost this body when he fell from heaven. Jung once said of the passage that one can take this idea of a body symbolically as meaning an individual shape or form. According to Bohme, the devil has renounced his individual form; that is, he will not submit to the process of individuation. Therefore, in our text it would be fatal if the soul followed the devil’s example and renounced this gift of the bridegroom, this ”beautifully formed existence”; in other words, it would be fatal if she refused the process of individuation. ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 123

The intimacy of the relationship between God and the soul excludes every depreciation of the latter from the outset. It would perhaps be going too far to speak of a kinship, but in any case the soul must have a  means of relating (in other words, something which corresponds to the Divine Being) in itself, or a connection could never take place. Formulated psychologically, the corresponding factor is the archetype of the image of God ~Carl Jung, Encounters with the Soul, Page 123-124

Jung used to say that the overwhelming power of the anima or animus only came when she or he was able to stand between the Self and the human being. ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 41

When we face the unconscious for the first time, one of the most bewildering things is the contamination between shadow, animus or anima, and the Self. In fact, the animus or anima really owes its autonomous power entirely to the fact that it is able to stand between our consciousness and the Self. ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 104

The fact that our civilization is patriarchal obviously makes it more difficult for women. We speak a masculine language and are so accustomed to saying, ”I think,” that it is very difficult to objectify the animus and to realize that often we should be much nearer the mark if we said, ‘ ‘He thinks in me. ” ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 111

As autonomous daimons [Anima/Animus], they keep their power largely by producing inflation and inferiority; they use these weapons ruthlessly and in a way that is difficult to detect. ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 119

In the case of this patient, these two, animus and shadow, had long ago ‘ ‘gotten married” in the unconscious and were now inseparable. They committed all sorts of sins against the patient, who at that time was unable to reach a true insight into her own problems. ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 147

In this early stage, her analysis seemed successful, but somehow she never profited by it. Her animus was in the habit of running away with every favorable result before the patient had integrated it. And he always impressed her with his opinions. He was too powerful a figure to be resisted. ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 147

He [Her Animus] told her to accept her fate, her suffering and her neurosis willingly, even to get sexual satisfaction out of her religious readiness to bear what she might call “God’s cruel coitus” with her! Here her analyst interfered, explaining the difference between obedience to God and obedience to the animus. ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 153

It seems remarkable that the fusion, or confusion, of Satan and animus is disentangled at the very moment in which the Great Mother alludes to it. At this moment, Satan frees· himself from his imprisonment in a human soul and can fly upward. And the patient’s animus, released from his daemonic inflation, feels that he has lost face and takes to his heels. ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 157

Instead of this, the animus made himself master of the contents of the Annunciation. That the animus had the power to do this was due to the fact that he and the shadow played together against the patient. ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 165

The Great Mother, of course, had her own idea about how to deal with animus veils. She began to teach the patient humility and ego sacrifice, thus preparing the way presumably for a great plunge into the unconscious, from which her pupil would have to fish up what was now necessary for further individuation. ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 171

Hidden behind the personal. animus is a larger animus, behind him a larger one still, and so on. In this way a positive animus leads up to the most positive side of God, whereas a negative animus leads down even to Satan! ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 191

She [Ana Marjula] saw that this shadow was giving all her blood (and indeed the blood of the patient herself) to the fatal conglomeration of animus, father’s shadow and devil. ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 195

When she was [Anna Marjula] confronted by masculinity-be it in its human aspect, in the animus realm, or in a spiritual sphere-then her panic was, at bottom, fear of becoming overwhelmed, swept away by her own sensations, emotions and instincts. ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 201

The Great Spirit explains that although she has [Anna Marjula] sometimes realized that she was possessed by the negative animus, whom she has always regarded as something outside of her, she must now realize that he is within her. ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 226

We have already seen that the shadow can represent the whole unconscious while there are personal factors unknown to us, which then become contaminated with the archetypal shadow.

But the next nearest figure to us, the animus or anima, only has a personal aspect and is mainly a figure of the collective unconscious.

This is the reason that we can interpret the gods and goddesses in the Odyssey as animus and anima figures.

The conscious figures, such as Odysseus, Telemachus and Menelaus, had a much more ambivalent conception than we have of humanity, and indeed, of their gods, who were both positive and negative in about equal degrees.

It was with the coming of Christianity that the white opposite alone was accepted, while the dark became more and more repressed and eventually was identified with the devil.

It was a necessary development at the time, but it led to the repression of ~he personal shadow and to our present necessity of rediscovering it.

Active imagination can be of great use in getting to know the personal shadow and separating it from the collective shadow with which its unknown parts are contaminated.

With the help of the dreams, it is usually quite possible to get to know the personal shadow because it is material that, although painful, is not difficult to realize.

We all know both the positive and negative qualities of the human being which belong in the personal sphere.

We can also recognize the opinions of the animus and the moods and other feminine traits which are produced by the anima without too much difficulty, though again it may be very disagreeable.

But when it comes to an Auseinandersetzung with the animus or anima, we enter the unknown and then the real difficulty begins. Jung even said that anyone who had succeeded in the task could write “master” after his name.  ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 27

The Great Spirit explains that although she has sometimes realized that she was possessed by the negative animus, whom she has always regarded as something outside of her, she must now realize that he is within her. ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 226

It is very interesting, but not surprising, that all the girls, whom the animus had imprisoned for so long, should find interest in fields where the father cannot follow them, as indeed Sylvia herself had done when she took up painting.

Evidently, the feminine nature has been preserved intact and is now in the hands of the Self. All the arts, the garden, and the household are far from the interests of the father, and all these fields of endeavor are shown as possibilities for Sylvia.

It is also very significant that it is the statue, which reveals itself later as clearly being the god Eros, which is the one place that draws all their interest.

Eros, relationship, is the principle of women, so this is really the most favorable circumstance in the whole fantasy.

Jung used to say that women who had found their own principle, could do everything for love of a man, whereas women who could do much for love of a thing are rare.

In fact, one could say that the unconscious produced this fantasy for the purpose of showing Sylvia her own principle, which had been barred to her by her unsatisfactory parents. ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 56-57

Beatrice had a very positive animus who guided her in her active imagination; in addition, the image of a flower in a deep wood was becoming more and more important to her.

This was roughly the starting point of our material.

She addresses this flower:

You, marvelous gold and silver flower, are like a shining center in me, out of which I am learning to live.

I can no longer live out of myself, but must live from this other center where my divine spirit man also lives.

The mystery of the flower unites me with timelessness, even with eternity.

It is clear that this flower is Beatrice’s symbol for the Self.

It is the center that is drawing her to it. ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 67

Like many of us, Beatrice was very anxious about world events.

She decided to talk to her positive animus, to her spirit man, about this.

She says:

Great Spirit Man: Help mankind that we do not destroy each other and that we do not founder.

Help us against the dark demons that are threatening us. Help us against the evil god that would destroy us and that thinks out more evil than we are up to. ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 68

Jung often said to me that people rarely integrate what is told them by anyone else, not even by an analyst to whom they may have a strong transference.

“It is the things given them by their own unconscious that make a lasting impression,” Jung said.

Anna Marjula taught me the truth of this statement more vividly than anyone or anything else.

In the early years of her analysis, nothing made any lasting impression at all.

Even if there was apparent progress over a considerable period of time, sooner or later the animus was able to destroy it, as she describes very clearly herself.

And the transference was a very unreliable factor as she also says-because, however warmly Anna might have felt toward her analyst, the animus held all the trump cards for many years, and played them at every critical moment, transforming trust into distrust and love into hate.

It was with Toni Wolff, her first Jungian analyst, that Anna Marjula drew the strange pictures which appear in Part Two of her booklet.

They were already a precursor of her active imagination, in which the contents that poured out from the unconscious were faithfully recorded in words.

Jung always taught us to be very sparing in our interpretations of active imagination because it is so easy to stop the flow or to influence elements that should take their own courses.

This series of paintings shows the wisdom of this attitude particularly clearly.

As Anna herself now sees, interpretation would have been no help at that time; moreover, considering the explosive material that Anna herself found so much later in the pictures, it might well have triggered a disaster.

Furthermore, the effort to understand the pictures-which she undertook nearly fifteen years later-would have been hopelessly prejudiced by any outside interpretation.

Such ideas could only be accepted if they came from her own unconscious.

A few months after she left Toni Wolff, Anna came to me and was with me-with long pauses while she was in her own country or while

she was ill-until 1952, when I went to America for some months.

This was very fortunate for Anna, for she then went to Emma Jung, to whom the full credit belongs for having turned the corner in this case.

Coming to it fresh, Emma Jung immediately saw that the animus was governing Anna through her ‘ ‘great vision” and spiked his guns by depreciating it as just “a staggering animus opinion.”

Before he had had time to recover, she sidestepped him with her suggestion to cease any more direct conversations with the animus for the present (as Anna had been attempting with me), and to apply active imagination directly to ”some positive female archetype, such as the Great Mother,” instead.

It was unlikely that I would have thought of this approach, for although female archetypal figures had been very helpful to me in my own active imagination, until that time they had always done so silently; only the masculine figures or the personal shadow had been willing to talk.

I mention this because it shows that one can never take an analysand any further in active imagination than one has gone oneself.

It is rather unusual in my experience for such a superior feminine figure as the Great Mother in Anna Marjula’s material to be willing to carry on such long conversations. (I have met only one other such case, where there was also an unusually strong animus.)

It almost seemed to me as if the Great Mother, an aspect clearly of the Self, got sick of our fumbling efforts and decided to take the matter into her own hands.

Be this as it may, when Anna returned to me after Emma Jung’s death, the analysis was definitely in the hands of the Great Mother.  ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 137-138

It was enormously difficult to get at the genuine data, because the inner figure which had kept the patient going more or less during all

those terribly difficult years was in fact the animus.

This animus was able to exert such an influence on the patient because of the possibilities which he opened for her in her musical work.

As long as a woman is unconscious of this animus figure in her psyche, he is too powerful a master, able to fascinate her even so far as to gain complete possession of her. ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 146

Hugh goes on to ask her what it is that she loves most. He knows that she cannot live without love, but what has she chosen as the most worthy   object of love?

He goes through a long list of all the beautiful things of the world, such as gold, jewels, colors, and so on. Does she love any one thing above everything else?

Or has she put such things behind her, in which case she must love something else, and if so, what? This opening speech seems to show that Hugh is on much firmer ground than most of us would be when we speak to our anima or animus, for he has not only realized his soul as a vis-a-vis, but also that her field is eros, relationship and love, and that his own is logos, discrimination and knowledge.

He speaks as a man would speak to a woman. He knows that she must attach herself to something, that she must love, and that she will remain in a complete participation mystique with the outer world unless he does something about it.

It would be rare, I think, to find a man today who had objectified his eros side and personified her to this extent, and who could set out to use his mind to differentiate his feeling by beginning such a conversation with his anima!

It would be rare to find such a man, and almost impossible to find a woman who could achieve this differentiation between her own field and that of her animus. The fact that our civilization is patriarchal obviously makes it more difficult for women.

We speak a  masculine language and are so accustomed to saying, ”I think,” that it is very difficult to objectify the animus and to realize that often we should be much nearer the mark if we said, ‘ ‘He thinks in me. ” It is not difficult to know this theoretically, but it is very hard to put it into practice.

If we can do so, however, we are for the first time in a position to consider whether we really say “Yes” or “No” to our own thoughts and words. Jung recommended this as an actual technique for women who were trying to know their animus.

He told me to think over any important conversation at a later time, trying to remember exactly what I had said, and then to consider if I would say the same again. If not, I should determine what had made me give an opinion, or say this or that, which was not what I really had thought.

Further, I should try to catch the thoughts that passed through my mind and apply the same procedure to them. I do not know whether he recommended the same technique to men with regard to their feeling.

Men probably say, ”I feel,” much less often than women say, “I think,” but they certainly also identify with their feeling exactly as women do with their thought.

Therefore it is striking that Hugh marks such a clear line between the realm of his thought and the realm of his anima, and sticks to this firm piece of ground throughout the text. We can learn a great deal from him which could be of the greatest use in our own active imagination.

The soul replies that she cannot love what she does not see; she has never been able to exclude anything which she can see from her love, but she has not yet found anything to love above everything else.

Then she complains that she has already learned that the love of this world is disappointing; either she loses what she loves through its decay, or something she likes better comes in between and she feels bound to change.

Thus, her desire still vacillates-she can neither live without love nor find the true love. It was clear from Hugh’s first question that his mind had already learned to see the eternal ideas behind the visible object.

Remember, he taught that the world was God’s book and that the human being is illiterate when he cannot read this book.

It is clear from her answer that his own soul belongs to the illiterate and that she is caught in the concupiscentia-she has, as yet, no individual qualities, constancy or discrimination. Naturally, Hugh’s feeling life would lack the differentiation of his mind.

This reply reveals a man whose anima would project herself indiscriminately, from one woman to the next. If he had not been a monk with a fixed program and, above all, if he had not made this amazing effort to objectify his anima,

Hugh would obviously have been possessed by her and would have followed her peregrinations in a completely unconscious way. Presumably, this tendency was one of the reasons that drove him into this conversation.

She is, however, not quite identical with this condition; she is rather an old soul, so to speak, and has already learned something from disillusionment.

Jung always said that there was not enough scientific proof of reincarnation for us to be sure there was any such thing. It was certainly a fact, however, that people’s souls were of very different ages.

Many people had to spend their whole lives learning things that were self-evident to others. Hugh’s soul already knows that the love of temporal things is disappointing, which is something that many souls do not seem to know at all. In these materialistic days,

I am afraid one could say that it is something the vast majority does not know, either in the conscious mind, where Hugh had evidently known it for years, or in the unconscious soul. ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul, Page 111-113