Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dan Merkur on Active Imagination in Paracelsus

For Paracelsus, what Jung called active imagination was a technique by which to visit and converse with the spirits of the astrological bodies (sun, moon, 5 visible planets, Zodiacal constellations, etc.) and, through conversation with them on the sidereal plane, arrive at diagnoses of patients' ailments and prescriptions for their alchemical medications. This magic was considered natural on 2 counts: it involved the spirits of natural, astrological bodies; and it involved their spirits, as distinct from souls. Souls existed for Paracelsus as the level of abstract conceptualization, rather than mental imaging; and the Ideas were firmly fixed by God, could not be monkeyed with. To manipulate souls would have involved the power of creatio ex nihilo, hence supernatural magic; whereas merely conversing with celestial spirits was entirely natural, like talking with fellow human beings.