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blog - Shannon Simonelli

The Imaginal, The Body & The Butterfly

Let's first define the Imaginal: Henry Corbin post dated Carl Jung, and coined the term Imaginal from his work as an interpreter of Islamic thought and poetry. Corbin describes the Imaginal Realm (mundus imaginalis) as holding images, stories, dream figures, embodied imagery and movements that come to us from some dimension beyond our rational intellectual perspective. (1)

Client art used with permission.

Our psyche or Soul has an active voice in the Imaginal Realm. Inviting our unique life through the images and movements born from our inner life and the Imaginal Realm. As we practice opening to the direct experience of Imaginal figures, a new life begins to breath within us, we are revived, restored, made more whole and healed. We are awakened to a more integrated, whole and holy experience of being IN Self, Soul, the Sacred and the World.

The direct experience of the Imaginal is a cornerstone in Jung’s work, he considered image the language of Soul and a deep voice or force within us to bring the unconscious more conscious and embodied.

“When an individual has been swept up into the world of symbolic mysteries, nothing comes of it; nothing can come of it, unless it has been associated with the earth, unless it has occurred when that individual was in the body.... Only if you first return to your body, to your earth, can individuation take place; only then does the thing become true.” - C.G Jung (2)

The body is central to not only experiencing the symbolic images of our inner life, but to finding our way to meaning making. When we link an embodiment practice like dance, authentic movement or moving awareness to symbolic image work we are inviting deep transformation. Working from an Imaginal perspective treats movement impulses coming through the body as Imaginal image in form.

Now the butterfly: consider the transformation of the caterpillar into the butterfly. Butterflies are made from Imaginal Cells, which lie quietly inside the caterpillar, completely unknown within the furry, chubby host. I love that there are such things as ‘Imaginal Cells’ and that they show up in the single most amazing physical transformation of any living being in the animal kingdom that I know of.

Client art used with permission.

Imagine, maybe acknowledge, that you have your own version of Imaginal Cells. They are lying quietly within you, waiting for the right time to call forth something more than you are right now. These Imaginal Cells hold the vibrational frequency and holographic image of every delicate, specific, unique and beautiful aspect of the soon to be revealed you. They know this exactly.

What if…in order for activation of your Imaginal calling to be awakened, a surrender or mini-death is required? Death and rebirth… pushing through the darkness and into the light we are each reborn a bit as we move through our own life cycles of endings and beginnings again and again in these bodies. I invite you to notice where you are in this process now. What is tugging at you, asking you to let go, die to something old or wake up and pay attention to what is wanting to come into form? Perhaps it is your own Imaginal nature inviting you more and more into the center of your own truest expression and life. What if…without knowing what would happen, without bracing against the call, or avoiding it at all costs, you just allowed?

How silly we humans are… we can spend years stuck, bracing against the pulse of our own unique life longing to meet itself.

I understand that taking the journey towards our own authentic life can push us way beyond our comfort zone.  I imagine caterpillars feel they are dying…melting away, with no conscious understanding that they are just changing. They, however, have their beautiful, primal, natural rhythm to follow. There is no second guessing of themselves involved! They just follow their nature. I believe, that when we are supported to hear, trust and follow our own inner, primal, natural rhythm, the pull towards our unique nature, we are like the caterpillar becoming a butterfly.

Hearing and following the call to our own lit-from-within life is a personal journey and one that is also the Archetypal journey of our Soul.

I believe this is also a collective journey, one that has an equally strong pull on a Meta scale. Imagine, maybe acknowledge, that our evolution has it’s own version of Imaginal Cells activating the vibrational frequency and holographic image of our collective becoming. In these challenging and sometimes scary times I choose to believe, although it may seem that so many things we love and value are dying, in fact we are reforming. Melting away, in the muck of our own decomposing goo, it can be easy to loose perspective. It can be easy to loose sight of the invitation to become more than what we are right now. To remember and know that there is a code within us as a people, that holds the holographic image of our winged rebirth.

We just have to listen, to surrender to the call we feel within us. To respond…and to join with fellow travelers so we are reminded we are not alone.

~Shannon Simonelli Ph.D., ATR

Shannon has her doctorate in Imaginal Psychology and Creative Arts Therapy, she is the co-founder of the NeuroImaginal Institute and founder of the Luminous Life Maps system. Shannon brings 25 years of depth work to private practice and to the dance floor, embodied creative transformation is her joy and true gift. Her unique Luminous Life Maps system brings 7 research-based modalities to work with 4 parts of self, navigating 5 landscapes for a deep transformational journey. All Shannon’s work is anchored in a deep trust of the body, the human spirit and the mystery that holds us all. http://www.ShannonSimonelli.com

Please reach out if you would like to get in touch: ShannonSimonelli@gmail.com


This blog is reworked from it’s original publication: Simonelli, S. (2017) https://luminouslifemaps.com/imaginal-cells/

Works Cited

  1. Corbin, H. (1972). “Mundus Imaginalis: Or The Imaginary and The Imaginal,” Spring. Dallas: Spring Publications
  2. C.G. Jung, Visions Seminar 1313-14 as sourced in Monet, C. (2015). Corpus Anima: Reflections from The Unity of Body and Soul. Ashville, North Carolina: Chiron Publications


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