Back in the Studio

August 2017

Schoolwork got in the way of writing for pleasure, hence the long break, but now its finished and I’ve returned to life in Vancouver. It is interesting to see how my degree is bubbling through my work as an artist, as well as my magical/meditative practice(s).

One of the constants has been the liontaur from the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral. Among the instructions for inviting the image to speak was the admonition to be faithful to one’s image – to return for regular visits and conversation. (The full guidelines are below incase you want to try this at home (and I’d encourage you to do so).) In communicating with him while I was there I came to know him not only as a being bearing blessings, but as a charming and playful being. I think of him often.

Then last spring at a shamanic workshop to find our spirit animals, he came bounding across the clouds, crashed into my chest and entered my heart. Needless to say, this was startling and quite took my breath away. He has asked for a small carving to be made of him from some shed moose antler I had around the studio, so the work has begun.


Invite an image to teach following the guidelines of Angelo (2004) and Elkins (2004).

“Seeing is metamorphosis.” (Elkins 1997 p12)


James Elkins in his book, Pictures and Tears, has a list of suggestions for approaching an image, making space within yourself for it, and allowing it to penetrate you. In this exercise, the most important tasks are to allow yourself time, fully engage, and clear one’s mental chatter for listening to the image with attention. (Elkins 2004 p210-12) “Allow yourself the most intimate and naïve encounter, and then dissect it into knowledge of historical value.” (Elkins 2004 p213)

When we invite the image to teach, Marie Angelo suggests that we approach it as a “living presence,” “a great teacher,” (Angelo 2005 p17) or even as an ambassador from “far lands [with a] long ancestry, fabulous costumes, and an intricate, sophisticated culture” and that we participate in “its mythos and cosmos (narrative time and ordered space).” (Angelo 2005 p13 italics in original) She ties this to the Jungian idea of “active imagination.” (ibid) She states:

[I]mage is the substance of our most direct, immediate perceptions, and the characteristic moves of academic thinking; keeping a distance, interrogating, translating or interpreting, need to be recognized as only one style of rhetoric. (Angelo 2005 p15)

This is an active engagement using one’s “psycho-spiritual senses,” (Corbin 1972 p6) and opening to “intuitive revelation,” in order to hear the messages of the mundus imaginalis. (ibid) Thus entering this place and using “active imagination” we can discover that “the images have a life of their own and that the symbolic events develop according to their own logic.” (Cheetham 2012 (quoting Jung) p161)

In working with an image this way we open ourselves to the poetic nature of our consciousness. (Avens 1980 p186) Images may be approached and entered into much as a dream image might be “understood poetically.” (ibid) These images are not to be rationalised or “deciphered” or used as a tool to bolster one’s ego consciousness. “[T]hey are complete in themselves and must be allowed to speak for themselves.” (Avens 1980 p186)

While I struggle with the desire to figure out the meaning and solve the problem or puzzle of the image, I am also aware that I cannot fully enter into the image unless I “wish to serve a mystery rather than to solve and interpret it.” (Angelo 2005 p32) When this happens, Angelo advises us to “…stick to the image,” (Angelo (quoting Hillman) 2005 p21) and Voss urges us to allow a “magical response,” to let space between the observer and the observed be filled with the animating power of the holy and the numinous pointing to a hidden reality permeating the whole cosmos. (Voss 2006 p2) The image can work as both doorway and key to awaken my mind to the subtleties of understanding the “different registers” that lie “between the intuitive imagination and the rational mind.” (Voss 2006 p4) This permission is quite liberating.

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