Active imagination is a mental practice developed by the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung between 1913 and 1916. It involves opening oneself to the unconscious and giving free rein to fantasy, while at the same time maintaining an active, attentive, conscious point of view. The process leads to a synthesis that contains both perspectives, but in a new and surprising way.
Different versions of this technique have been around for hundreds of years. Avicenna and the Sufis took it as a gateway to the realm of the divine. It’s a cousin to Blake’s Divine Imagination and the Aboriginal Dreamtime.
active imagination vs. day dreaming
Active imagination and day dreaming both use images from the unconscious but the issues that come up in day dreaming don’t get resolved. Day dreams just repeat themselves over and over again on the edges of our minds but there is no evolution because the ego never confronts the fantasy situation. Day dreaming doesn’t require any effort or concentration. Active imagination on the other hand is a skill that requires practice and dedication.