Embodiment and creative imagination – part 2

Continuing with quotes from R. Bosnak, Embodiment: Creative Imagination in Medicine, Art and Travel. Bold emphasis is mine.

On flashback and trauma, or how to change the past:

Flashback-type memory is completely different from the discursive, narrative memory of ordinary waking consciousness . . . [I]t presents itself as revelation . . . The Greek word for revelation is apokalupsis (apocalypse). A traumatic flashback is an apocalyptic experience in the most literal meaning of the word . . . Each apocalyptic moment of our past has its own future either fixed or plastic. Research into PTSD has shown that the vast majority of potentially traumatizing experiences have plasticity, and are capable of being woven back into the network which has gone through substantial qualitative change necessary for a reattachment. Endless, stereotyped, fixed repetition is the exception, and such trauma will not reattach to the Renaissance patchwork of states, but will remain a body drifting in space.

In flashbacks our past is a presence. The change of one single element in this present past changes our future. In this most basic way, the blanket statement “You cannot change the past,” is a lie. A flashback is like a time machine in a science fiction movie. If the hero uncovers a minor change in the past, he [sic] returns to a vastly altered present. Much of our past is potential presence, constantly ready for embodiment, open to change. p 46

Distance and affinity

[E]mbodied imagination displays a variety of simultaneous subjectivities in a state of interaction or dissociation . . . According to some visionary traditions (as mentioned by Corbin, who focuses on medieval Sufi visionaries), affinity embodies in imagination as closeness in space. The closer embodied presences are imagined to be, the more affinity they have. In this way I see dissociation as the life of a subjectivity which has been exiled to the far cold reaches of outer space, out of radio contact with the network back home. p 65

A vision based on a network of simultaneous subjectivities points beyond self-centered psychologies to a network of selves, like cellular clusters constantly shifting shapes, associating and disassociating in the magma of embodiment. Such a psychology does not originate in a paradigm of a single self that fractures, but in the metaphor of a more or less cohesive community of subjectivities in various states of interaction, communing with one another, with other humans around, and with the physical world. pp 65-66

Embodied vs confabulated imagination

The hallmark of substantive embodied imagination is a direct phenomenal experience of a spontaneous self-presentation. The characteristics of confabulation are an indirect, diembodied feeling of distance, and a controlling, grasping attitude of habitual consciousness trying to figure things out or make them up. Whereas embodied imagination facilitates a meeting with substantive alien presences through mutual intelligence, confabulation belongs to the endless reconfirmation of pre-existing notions of self, holding otherness at bay. Confabulation is akin to allegory, an image which stands for a thought, described by Corbin [yes, that’s Henry Corbin] as “a rational operation, implying no transition either to a new plane of being or to a new depth of consciousness.” They are mortal enemies: where confabulation holds sway, embodiment disappears, causing a loss of substance and erecting a wall against the fresh. It is of the utmost importance in work on embodies imagination to guard against confabulation. p 67

Intention, location, ephiphany

Patton maintains that dream incubation the world over has three elements in common: intention, location and epiphany. The intention to encounter an image-presence must be strong, supported by ritual activity, such as cleansing, eating certain food . . . fasting, sacrifice, and travel to the incubation site. Any activity that may enhance and focus our intention towards such an encounter is useful in the incubation period.

The location where incubation is to take place has to be inhabited by a strong spirit of place . . . There one would absorb the ambience and receive dreams specific to the place.

An incubation leads to a visitation by a dream. In this way, we do not have dreams, we are visited by them so they may infuse us with their intelligence.

The word epiphany, a Greek word combining epi-, to, and phainein, show, implies a relationship. The image-presence shows him-or herself to someone. The visitation by the god is initiatory, meaning that the encounter and the infusion with the alien knowledge changes one’s being. It is not so much that the god only prescribes the medication; his presence is the medicine. pp 86-87

Art and embodiment

In embodied imagination we practice careful empathic observation and mimicry, so the alien presence may come to spontaneously inhabit our body, take possession of us, and engender a “great and strange correction.”

When working on a piece of art, such as a theatre performance, we can dream by proxy for the work of art. In this context – dreaming as a proxy for the art we are working – we take the dream as dreamed by a character in a play, a painting on canvas, a sculpture emerging from a stone, a storyline in a novel, or a creative challenge in scientific research . . . the dream that visits us is not for us, it is for the work which uses us to birth itself . . . This notion stems from an era before the days when genius became personal – as in: Einstein is a genius – from a time when genius employed our craft to manifest itself, and it was understood that Faust wrote Goethe as much as vice versa. pp 88-89

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