Tag Archives: active imagination

A prematurely Jungian archeologist at Glastonbury Abbey

Frederick Bligh Bond

Frederick Bligh Bond

A team led by Roberta Gilchrist, a professor of archeology at Reading University and a trustee of the Glastonbury Abbey, have completed a multi-year project to collect, reinterpret and publish records of 36 seasons of excavations from 1904 through 1979 (online and with a 500-page book). Glastonbury’s press release quotes Professor Gilchrist,

This project has rewritten the history of Glastonbury Abbey. Although several major excavations were undertaken during the 20th century, dig directors were led heavily [by] Glastonbury’s legends and the occult. Using 21st century technology we took a step back from the myth and legend to expose the true history of the Abbey.

Colorful legends of Apostles and Arthur have likely wrong-footed many scholars. As Professor Gilchrist put it, “Research revealed that some of the best known archaeological ‘facts’ about Glastonbury are themselves myths perpetuated by the Abbey’s excavators.” But one dig director stands out as having been led by the “occult.”

Frederick Bligh Bond (1864-1945) was an architect with extensive technical knowledge about old church buildings. He served at Glastonbury from 1908, when the Church of England bought the property, until 1921. His productive digs satisfied his superiors. Then in 1918, Bond published The Gate of Remembrance (here) and its sequel in 1919, Hill of Vision. Bond explained candidly how he had so efficiently and effectively rescued long-lost buildings from oblivion.

His career fell apart.

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Practical magic on Main Street, Hallowe’en 1914

Gibson Hallowe'en card

Click images to enlarge

One hundred years ago, while William Butler Yeats conjured in magician’s robes and Carl Jung began to transcribe visions into his Red Book, ordinary middle-class Americans, too, dabbled in magic, or as some prefer to say, explored depth psychology.

One night a year, standing alone before mirrors in dimly lit rooms, our grandparents and great-grandparents, some in jest and some on a dare, pretended to pierce the veil that keeps the waking world apart from the shadow realm. Many of them watched in awe as the veil dissolved before their eyes. Continue reading

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Yeats’ “Magic” is Jung’s science

Mage and spirits

Illustration by Moina Bergson Mathers

Early Carl Jung bookplate

Early Carl Jung bookplate

Carl Jung (1875-1961) was a pioneer in psychology, trained in medicine, who firmly grounded his scientific work in empirical and clinical observation. Yet Jung’s ideas about synchronicity, the collective nature of much of the unconscious, his technique of “active imagination,” his investigations of spiritualist seances, the I Ching, astrology, alchemy … in a few words, his lifelong fascination with the occult and integration of occult-friendly concepts into his scientific work, mark him as an unusual scientist. In contrast, William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), the Irish writer and Nobel laureate in literature, immersed himself in the occult, unconstrained by scientific aspiration or self-identification.

This posting introduces a brief 7500-word essay, entitled “Magic,” that Yeats wrote in 1901, while Jung was still working at his first job as a psychiatrist. The full essay, reformatted and annotated, may be downloaded from the blog’s Unlinks page. Yeats anticipates several of the then as yet unknown Jung’s later ideas and methods.

 “Magic” offers a study in the synchronicity (“the coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events which have the same meaning,” as Jung would define his term) that surrounded the substantially independent emergence of parallel insights in two great thinkers of the last century. Continue reading


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A classic anthropological adventure in Voodoo

Maya Deren Hallowe'en invitation art

A vever drawn by Maya Deren

In an earlier post, we met Stanford anthropologist Tanya Marie Luhrmann, who immersed herself in the spiritual practices of modern witches and evangelical Christians to learn more about the psychology of religious experiences. She was not the first scholar to use herself as a guinea pig in this way. Maya Deren, a filmmaker and dancer, went to Haiti to document Voodoo rituals in the 1940’s and 50’s, and ended up being initiated into the religion.

Although Deren was not an anthropologist, she worked with those who were when she abandoned her film project to write Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti. Her book climaxes with Deren’s first-hand account of being possessed by the Voodoo goddess Erzulie.

Deren tells us what happened before and after she was overcome by the loa, the goddess, but she cannot describe the experience itself, because she wasn’t there. Erzulie was there instead. Continue reading

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Tulpas – The latest thinking about thought forms from Stanford

Anthropologist Tanya Marie Luhrmann gave a  preview of soon-to-appear psychological research in an interview with Jill Wolfson, which is featured in the current issue of Stanford University’s alumni magazine,


Based on her guarded description, Professor Lurhmann’s experimental work contributes to a venerable series of investigations into what may be a  shared basis for vivid religious, paranormal and psychological depth experiences. Continue reading


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