Thanks to Richard Spees.
Last night I posted this image onto my Facebook wall with the following comment: Sometimes I sit in one place long enough to become part of the landscape. This prompted a comment from my friend Richard Spees: Jim, Isn’t it amazing when that happens? To which I responded: Yes. And sometimes it happens when we are moving, like walking in the imaginal.
This exchange got me to thinking. My last blog post was titled: The Potentials of Soul. I had written how personal soul is connected to exterior circumstance through connections that appear to me to be like neurons in the brain, connections I also call threads. I had wanted to include, but did not do so for sake of brevity, that our personal soul is also connected to the natural world – or any aspect of our world that we share intimately. I call this the field of our soul. Because it is not quite the same thing as our personal soul, those characteristics and experiences that we accumulate and crystallize, I thought it best to leave this aspect of soul out of the discussion. This aspect of soul seems like an intermediary between ourselves and the world, and yet feels at times to be very much a part of us. When I wrote my response to Richard: like walking in the imaginal, experiences in the field of our soul came to mind.
Serendipitously, I then picked up a book I’ve been reading which referenced James Hillman. Here’s what I read (taken from Embrace of the Daimon by Sandra Lee Dennis):
Hillman describes the subtle body as: a fantasy system of complexes, symptoms, tastes, influences and relations, the songs of delight, pathologized images, trapped insights….”; and he speaks of body and soul losing their borders to each other, both metaphoric and literal at the same time. He describes the subtle body as “both immaterial spirit and physical reality.”
The subtle body was corresponding to what I call the field of soul.
I’ve not previously read Hillman, mostly because, as a shamanic practitioner, I felt his explanations overly intellectual. I now believe that I may have been premature in my assumptions. Hillman was trying to name experience. In doing so he is attempting to expand on the potential of experience, as well as to expand the views of others. Hillman wrote about the aspect of soul that extends into nature. He was naming my experience. Naming is important. Carl Jung understood the importance of naming, for when a thing is named correctly it comes alive. When it is named incorrectly it stagnates or acts out as a repressed complex. Carl Jung struggled with naming the subtle body, and eventually concluded he was not up to the task. He was fearful that he would mislabel Mystery, and ended up using the distant voices of medieval alchemists. When we misname a thing it has the potential to become something it is not. Take the word daimon. The word was Greek for “intermediary with the gods” and included both spirit helpers and mischievous aspects of the unconscious that acted chaotically. The word was, literally, demonized. Daimon became demon (over time). As demon, the word now represents only the chaotic aspects of the unconscious, and the best parts of daimon became a thing to be split off or exorcised from experience. Hillman was trying to reintegrate the word, resurrect the potential vitality gained through accepting and integrating the twilight experience.
Sometimes I take a mindful a shamanic walk in nature, which I call a shaman’s walk. I expect the possibility that nature will speak to my soul, provide omens, or reach like the roots of a tree into my being. Sometimes experience in the field of soul feels like a wordless intuition, sometimes empathic, sometimes like direct participation, and sometimes engages what might be called synchronicities of connection.
I wrote the following poem after one such experience in which I was deeply immersed in the field of soul. The world in which I was walking came alive to the extent that I seemed to become a part of Nature’s Soul. As such, the state of my consensus reality existence became subliminal. I was certain I had disappeared from the everyday world. Not literally, but in the sense that my attention had been removed from everyday participants. There would be no one whose eyes would have been drawn to my physical existence in those moments. Their attention would be in other places, not intersecting with my experience of immersion in the field of soul.
Walking from Day into Imaginal
Alone and walking by the Mississippi River in spring,
there is so much life with the breathing.
A hawk soars past an island of trees on the far bank.
Wind skitters across the flowing water,
alive in patterns of living prints.
A choir of birds sing to my attention.
Clouds float through the deep blue sky
like mythic constellations of the Earth’s moisture.
Trees and Tree become one Soul, unified in their subtle body.
I become completely aware of all these things simultaneously.
Some inner self is alive and in full observation.
Then something happens that surprises me completely.
The river, the bluffs, the wind, the clouds, the trees—
all this connected ambience has suddenly become aware of me.
They are watching me, as if I had been invisible
but have now been recognized within their separate awareness.
The world is different now, observing me as I observe it.
With so much Nature peering from Beyond,
no human thoughts look in my direction.
Houses on the far bluffs momentarily cease to exist.
And the field to my back has become devoid of people.
I feel as if I walked from daylight straight into the imaginal.