When the alchemists speak of “meditatio” and “imaginatio” (meditation and imagination), they mean, as Jung explains,
“…an inner dialogue and hence a living relationship to the answering voice of the ‘other’ in ourselves, i.e., of the unconscious.”
Jung called this dialogue with the other within ourselves, between the conscious and the unconscious, “active imagination.”
The psychological process of active imagination is the equivalent of the symbolic operations of alchemy. Instead of passively watching the manifestations of the unconscious, in active imagination we fully engage with and actively participate in a conscious relationship with our unconscious. In active imagination we find ourselves being asked to creatively respond and come to terms with the voice of the “other” within ourselves.
When an unconscious content is about to become conscious, it first becomes partially conscious, like something that is translucent - simultaneously visible and invisible. In active imagination, we enter into a creative dialogue with these unconscious contents, facilitating their passage from an unconscious, potential state to a conscious, actual one.
Active imagination is the most powerful technique Jung ever encountered for bridging this gap and metabolizing, digesting and assimilating the contents of the unconscious and hence, becoming conscious.
When we are unconsciously identified with the contents of our unconscious, we cannot see these contents, as being identical with them, we have not separated ourselves from these contents so as to be able to see them as objects. These unconscious contents are still too much a part of our frame of reference through which we interpret our experience for us to examine them with any objectivity.
Before we can integrate a content of the unconscious, we must distinguish ourselves from it.
In active imagination, we “objectify” the contents of our unconscious by creatively giving them shape and form, thereby making them into an object that we, as subject, are separate from, and with whom we have an interactive relationship and dialogue.
“The essential thing is to differentiate oneself from these unconscious contents by personifying them, and at the same time to bring them into relationship with consciousness. That is the technique for stripping them of their power.”