Active Imagination

Active Imagination: An Introduction

With speaker Murray Stein

Recorded Friday 17 July 2020

Active imagination is one of the pillars of Jungian psychoanalysis. Along with the developmental concept of individuation, the activation of transference in the therapeutic relationship, and the interpretation of dreams, active imagination is a key component that constitutes the essence of Jungian clinical work. Paradoxically, however, active imagination has been neglected as a method by many Jungian psychoanalysts since Jung’s death in 1961.




Murray Stein,


What is Active Imagination?
The opening session will be focused on defining what active imagination is and is not, and on how it is practiced. Jung’s The Red Book will be used as an example of the method in action. Instructions for how to begin practicing active imagination will be given with space and time for a series of exercises, to gain experience with this method.

When to Use Active Imagination in a Clinical Setting
This session will be devoted to further experience and investigation of the method of active imagination for exploring the unconscious. There will also be consideration of clinical applications of the method. There are important considerations regarding when and when not to use this method in psychotherapy. Various adaptations of active imagination to specific clinical problems will also be considered, such as working in the transference, deepening the experience of dreams, the related methods of active imagination such as sand-play, psychodrama, drawing and painting, authentic movement. Clinical examples will be discussed. Participants will be encouraged to share case material for consideration, with respect of course for confidentiality.

Pauli’s The Piano Lesson
In this session we will discuss Wolfgang Pauli’s active imagination, “The Piano Lesson.” The text provided will be the basis for this discussion. The famous mathematician and nuclear physicist produced this active imagination in 1952 and dedicated it to his analyst, Marie-Louise von Franz. The text raises a number of fascinating issues about the nature of active imagination and its various uses.

Zen Meditation and Active Imagination
Zen Buddhism’s well-known “Ten Ox-Herding Pictures” offer an opportunity to consider comparisons between the method of Active Imagination as a type of meditation practice and Zen meditation. Are their final goals similar in any way? Is the process comparable? Jungian psychology asks the question of meaning of symbols. What do the symbols of active imagination teach us? This session will be a lecture comparing Jung’s The Red Book and the series of drawings known as the Ten Ox-Herding Pictures, followed by discussion and reflection, drawing on personal experience.



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What is Active Imagination?

When to Use Active Imagination in a Clinical Setting

Pauli’s The Piano Lesson

Zen Meditation and Active Imagination