#286 – Understanding Jungian Active Imagination with Monika Wikman, PhD

Monika Wikman, Ph.D. was my guest on episode #235 – Using Alchemical Archetypes in Jungian Analysis. She is a Jungian Analyst and author of Pregnant Darkness: Alchemy and the Rebirth of Consciousness (2005) and various articles in Jungian psychology journals. Monika obtained her BA from UC San Diego and her doctorate from the California School of Professional Psychology in San Diego, where her research took her deep into the study of dreams of people with terminal cancer. After teaching graduate students at California State University, Los Angeles, she graduated as a diplomat from the Jung-Von Franz Center for Depth Psychology in Zurich. She lectures internationally on mythology and symbolism, dreams and wellness, alchemy and creativity. In private practice as a Jungian Analyst and astrologer, she lives along a creek and under starry skies in Tesuque, New Mexico with horses, dogs, and friends.


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A psychology podcast by David Van Nuys, Ph.D.



  1. John Knight
    Posted November 15, 2011 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    Cool episode, nice to hear about a topic not so often touched upon. I should mention, Dr. Dave, that as I child I often had the experience of hearing my name said (which I thought was said by a boy up the street I didn’t know), but finding no one had said it.

    Active Imagination is probably my primary form of psychonautics, but sometimes I get very frustrated with my fellow Jungians, where I feel we should examine the language we’re using, particularly when interfacing with the outside world.

    Where Jung would speak of alchemical and mythological material, it would be in the framework of showing patterns – archetypal – and relating it back to psychology, histories of patients, working theories, and so on; taking great care to explain this to the reader. However, I find modern Jungians are often speaking in what sound more like literal terms, which to the uninitiated listener would sound something like, “…the patient needs to channel the spirit of Hercules” (to use some silly hyperbole on my part).

    There’s also good reason why Memories, Dreams, Reflections and the Red Book were published after Jung’s death, with them being autobiographical in nature, and not presented as psychological text. However, sometimes it seems modern day Jungians treat these two books and his psychological literature as one and the same (I’m not saying Patricia Damery does), and I can’t help but feel that Jung would likely be worried by the way some of us treat his material in the modern day.

    For the sake of balance, I should say I’m in no way ashamed of Jung’s parapsychological experiences as many are (it takes great honesty to record them), but I still feel we of the Jungian persuasion should examine our language and theory a little more closely, in relation to how we present it to the outside world. Many people would see Jungian study on the surface as something not really psychological at all, but simply shamanic and probably nothing more (and many religious people such as myself would be barred from actual shamanic experiences). With Jung’s psychology work, I have no qualms, but with many “Jungians”, particularly in the modern day, I’m really not so sure…

    My eventual goal is to undertake Jungian training in Zurich, but would it be expected of me to actually engage in something genuinely shamanic (rather than just Active Imagination and so on) to go through the course? I’d have assumed not, but nowadays, I’m not sure.

  2. John Knight
    Posted November 15, 2011 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Apologies, that should be Monika Wikman, I used the name of the last interviewee (avoid posts late at night!).

  3. Alana
    Posted November 18, 2011 at 3:31 am | Permalink

    After 3 \’listenings\’ this is the best yet … and I\’ve been podcasting SRR since your first with Dr David Sowerby on intuition. I loved Dr Wikman\’s explanation of Jung and his profound ideas without jargon or hyperbole. Her words felt true to the human he was. Dr Dave, you have indeed improved over time and your questioning, as Dr Wikman continually pointed out, is always astute to a fault, if a little self deprecating at times. I loved the reference to Coleridge and also her subtle mention of Jungian typology in her explanation of alchemy, the idea of light in Jung and her beautifully articulate synthesis of the Redbook (my treasured artifact). Thankyou too for reference to S Grof and Barbara Hannah … now, I need to find a copy of Encounters with the Soul.

    I am working on a collaborative exhibition of underwater, night images of mangroves for an immersive video installation work (yes, all symbols of the unconscious) so the discussion of Jung\’s water works … his and your fascination with water play … was particularly poignant. My linked childhood memory was of night spearfishing by underwater light with my father … and this has fueled my creative ideas of late. There was so much in this that was food for my soul. Thankyou from the deepest places in me.

    I found Dr Wikman\’s conclusion re the Redbook very interesting – \’the arrival as the Womb\’ makes me wonder … did June Singer explore the parallel female journey to wholeness. Women may come to wholeness from the opposite direction … knowing the connection to the world/earth/being, we are receptive, and have to learn how to be IN the world, how to express and to speak authentically in the outside – to the Other. I would love to hear this explored in deep conversation.

    Thankyou again – subtle, perceptive, giving You … and brilliant, open, articulate Dr Wikman.
    I love that you keep ego out of SRR

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