Just as a sick person, weakened by illness, cannot perform advanced yoga or meditation, neither can the person with a fractured personality achieve enlightenment. Integration of the whole person is required. Georg Feuerstein says this in another way, “enlightenment is no substitution for integration of the personality.” The history of yoga is full of highly advanced gurus who mastered many esoteric practices but did not heal their own psychic schisms. Their deep imperfections caused great pain and suffering to their disciples and followers.

Individuation is possible only when consciousness heeds the unconscious. The opposites within us must meet in order to complement each other. Isn’t this exactly what we mean when we name our yoga “Ha” and “Tha” yoga? The opposites of sun and moon, the opposites of yin and yang, the opposites of light and darkness need to come together, to be unified or yoked.

Radmila Moacanin tells us, in her book The Essence of Jung’s Psychology and Tibetan Buddhism:

Jung postulates that on a psychological level the union of opposites cannot be achieved by the conscious ego alone – by reason, analysis – which separates and divides; nor even by the unconscious alone – which unites; it needs a third element, the transcendent function.

With this observation, Jung denies the claims of the Samhkya yogis: viveka is not sufficient for achieving liberation. We must go beyond reason or understanding. We must go way beyond dualism and follow the teaching of the Tantras. We seek wholeness.

In 1916 Jung wrote a book on this topic, which he called The Transcendent Function. The function, the task, is transcendent because we need to go beyond both the rational and the irrational. We need to bring them both together and this can be done only from outside both.

Jung used two main methods to help his patients:

  1. dream interpretation and
  2. active imaging.

Interpreting dreams is an ancient practice. The Bible praised Joseph’s skills when he interpreted his Pharaoh’s many dreams. It is also a modern practice, employed by Freud as well as many others before and after Jung. Dream Yoga has also been popular in the last century. Swami Sivananda Radha wrote a book on this topic called Realities of the Dreaming Mind: The Practice of Dream Yoga. In Jung’s hands, dreams were deconstructed into the archetypes of the personal and collective unconscious. He brought their stories to light. [1] But this is only viveka; this is understanding the message. More than understanding is needed. To truly change, action is needed.

Active imagination is one of Jung’s original and unique contributions to Western psychotherapy. He uses the alchemist’s approach to transform the psyche, to reconcile the opposites deep within us. He begins the process with calming the mind. Moacanin describes the task as being very similar to basic meditation.

” to induce a calm state of mind, free from thoughts, and merely to observe in a neutral way, without judgment, just to behold the spontaneous emergence and unfoldment of unconscious content, fragments of fantasy” [2]

This is no different than what we have been asked to do in our Yin Yoga practice during the periods of meditative holding of the poses. This is the teaching of the Buddha, to simply watch what is arising without judgment. Jung suggests we record in some way the symbols that arise during this meditation: record them in writing or by drawing them or by dancing them. Give them a life of their own.

Now that suggestion is new.

This next stage of active imagination brings the conscious mind to the activity: let it join the dance. Both the unconscious and conscious become active together. If the therapy, if the practice is successful, the patient, the student, is now able to live her life consciously. No longer is she subjected to the confusing, hidden urges of the unconscious mind that drives her actions without her conscious awareness or cooperation.

Active imagination has many similarities to the practices of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which we will look at more closely later. In all these practices, the objective is the same: to use the mind to program the mind. We use our conscious mind to affect the unconscious mind and change the patterns of our behavior, our deep samskaras.

  1. — See his collection of writings in the book Dreams, translated by R.F.C. Hull.
  2. The Essence of Jung’s Psychology and Tibetan Buddhism by Radmila Moacanin