What is the Imaginal?

The imaginal world “is neither literal nor abstract and yet is utterly real, with its own laws and purposes” (Hillman, 1991, 6).

Jeff Kripal writes in Authors of the Impossible:

‘Myers became convinced that in certain contexts, the imagination can take on genuinely transcendental capacities, that is, that it can make contact with what appears to be a real spiritual world, or, at the very least, an entirely different order of mind and consciousness. The imaginal is the imagination on steroids. The imaginary is Clark Kent, the normal. The imaginal is Superman, the supernormal. Same guy, different suits. The Human as Two.’ (83)

Imaginal perception is understood “as engendering a kind of knowledge which arises from the confluence of inner recognition with ‘external’ reality” (Voss, 2009, 37–38).


Henry Corbin: “Between [the empirical world and the world of the abstract intellect] there is a world that is both intermediary and intermediate, described by our authors as the world of the image, the mundus imaginalis: a world that is ontologically as real as the world of the senses and that of the intellect. This world requires its own faculty of perception, namely, imaginative power, a faculty with a cognitive function, a noetic value which is as real as that of sense perception or intellectual intuition. We must be careful not to confuse it with the imagination identified by so-called modern man with “fantasy”, and which, according to him, is nothing but an outpour of “imaginings”. 

“Spiritual reality envelops, surrounds, contains so-called material reality. Spiritual reality can therefore not be found “in the where”. The “where” is in it. In other words, spiritual reality itself is the “where” of all things.”

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