This post is formatted to reflect an original journal entry.
I am engaged in the process of creating my own symbols. I’ve recognized it, albeit dimly, for awhile now, but the magnitude of such a revelation didn’t hit me squarely until just this morning. This goes beyond the creation of a personal myth. White apples, purple peacocks, blue elephants, wolves, owls, magic skulls, caves, and psychedelic trains. Each of these—now that I have brought them to life in my imagination and assigned them meaning—has become, somehow, necessary to me. This is why I’ve been feeling that my creative work has taken on a spiritual significance as of late.
An observation: it is the creative process that lends them such personal significance. The inner journey that is so powerful. That imbues those images with so much life. For me to engage in the poetic process (with regard to the narrative, symbolic poems) has become a spiritual activity—if not the spiritual activity. As I described it to T. Blake in an e-mail this afternoon: “My surroundings rarely faze me, although it is always preferable that I write from the floor cushion in my writing room. I light a candle, turn on some music, and, well, ‘tune in and drop out,’ as they say.” These experiences are revelatory for me. The dynamic inner world my imagination allows me to enter. The colors, movements, and dimensions. The profound impact of those scenes. The heightened energy and clarity of thought. And the essential feeling that, in those moments, I am channeling something beyond myself, that I am a co-creator. I always keep something of that experience with me. It is the soul of every image. And what ties me to it.
What we call a symbol is a term, a name, or even a picture that may be familiar in daily life, yet that possesses specific connotations in addition to its conventional and obvious meaning. – C. G. Jung
Symbol formation is a necessary outlet for psychic energy. A way to balance the spiritual and instinctual. The traditional function of religion but, for some, an individual pursuit. Then, it is at once the development of a personal religion and a means of becoming oneself. An act, too, of defining oneself in relation to a shifting culture when collective beliefs are no longer viable. I didn’t see it right away. Through my art, I am crafting the elements of a personal religion. Am I right about this? No shit. I spent so much time thinking of the “religious” dimension of my life in terms of personal rituals that I didn’t notice immediately what I was doing as I defined symbols through analogy-building, through poetry. Made them magical, imbued them with life and infused them with the aesthetics of my inward journeys:
In abstract form, symbols are religious ideas; in the form of action, they are rites or ceremonies. – C. G. Jung
This is what I have been working toward. I can’t believe it. And it’s all got me viewing my imagination differently. Imagination and perception. Always expecting that there exists a purer, truer insight than that of which I am capable. The kind that’s reserved for prophets and mystics and shamans. And maybe that’s true. But what if it’s also true that my exercises in imagination—active imagination (which I am having a very hard time, at this point, distinguishing from regular imagination)—and the insights they produce are sufficient for me to flourish? Imagination is the language of the spirit. It just speaks differently in each of us.
But thinking in these terms also answers my previous questions about “religious forms of perception.” Jung says it himself:
Every advance in culture is, psychologically, an extension of consciousness, a coming to consciousness that can take place only through discrimination. Therefore an advance always begins with individuation, that is to say with the individual, conscious of his isolation, cutting a new path through hitherto untrodden territory. To do this he must first return to the fundamental facts of his own being, irrespective of all authority and tradition, and allow himself to become conscious of his distinctiveness. – C. G. Jung
This is exactly the kind of perception Maslow describes as non-rubricized. Defining the world according to the fundamental experiences of our being. Not the other way around. What I set out do from the outset with femininity—speak in terms of subjective experience alone. And what Huxley defines in The Divine Within as immediate apprehension—regaining the intuitive power that we lose as we grow up in favor of more “factual and utilitarian” forms of knowledge. Perhaps that’s it. Magic really does hide in the backs of the eyes. But, wait, isn’t this the same lesson the owl already taught me? Nothing is as unreal as it seems.
Another great big thank you to T. Blake for an incredible painting of Sandman Express (Part I). I am now fully inspired to tackle Part II!