Breaking Up, Breaking Down and a Total Mutual Embrace

Let me give you some context first:

Exactly 6 weeks ago I traveled to Basel and my girl-friend (we were a couple for 7 years) had made me some slices of bread for on the road. When I opened the bread box in the train there, on top, was a letter that said, “Read only when in the train.” After reading the first paragraph or two my heart crumbled and broke: she finished our relationship. Sitting in first class I couldn’t really do what I felt like: cry, moan, freak out… (I would have suppressed moaning, crying and freaking out in a second class carriage as well.)

Pain, sadness and devastation

In the following days – I was in Basel and in London on business – we exchanged emails, and said we’ll be talking when I come back to Berlin. And we did talk. We arrived at a sense of real peace and that the end of our relationship was basically the right thing to do. That very evening she went to a party and hooked up again with a lover she was having some time back in our relationship (I wrote about it here), a person that expressed how much he despised me on more occasions than one. A week later, when I figured this out accidentally and she spent the night with him, I felt betrayed, to say the least. Devastated. (She said that, since we were now separated, it was none of my business.)

I was hurt by the way she broke up with me, I felt very deeply wounded by her betrayal, but what is hardest of all is how my mind and feelings time and again totally spin out of control.

What I’m writing about here is still under the stress of a ‘failed life-relationship’ and the demands that finding and moving to a new apartment make on me. Failed life-relationship is, of course, the title of a story that I am telling, both to myself and to others (her version obviously would be different). I could, if that were true to me, reframe it as “the end of being under a lid for a long time”, as a good friend of mine does, or as “the wonderful beginning of a new era in my life”, and so on. But reframing the story like that doesn’t sound true to me…. yet. Guess, I simply have to live with the fact, that I’ve suffered a heavy blow to my system that is quite painful, stressful and taxing. And allow the whole ecology of me to regain strength over time.

Contemplating these last few days on what all this means, on what I now want to take forward, what I want to focus on, I was reminded of what we sketched out a bit a while back in a conversation with my dear friend Helen, and which she blogged about here. In this conversation we focussed also on God’s longing and evolution, and what that entails.
Here I want to first talk about where God’s and human evolution takes place and then how this might help me, now that I’ve been battered and broken, and am loosing a partner that I’ve shared so much with these last 7 years. I also want to speak about the “where” first because much more than in the question, “Who am I?” I’ve been interested in “Where am I?”

Is this real?

I’ve come to the conviction that God and man, the entirety of nature and artifice, all beings and entities essentially have their being in the “Imaginal”, in the sense that James Hillman and Henry Corbin use that word (Note 1). The “Real” in this understanding is the outside, the skin, the surface of the Imaginal. A surface that has been studied in an increasingly sophisticated manner since a few hundred years, studies that have greatly improved our health, governance, wealth, to be sure. But surface it is, because, as we shall see, everything of true value resides in the Imaginal. (Note 2)

What we call physical reality, the Real, is not ‘independent’ and ‘out there’ but very much a co-creation between the ‘mystery out there’ (Note 3) and the ‘mystery in here’. The Real is surface because it is simply an implementation of this co-creation which, of course, is happening within the Imaginal. I surely agree that objects in the physical world really, really exist. They can, with all clarity be called “hard facts”.  They truly exist. But there is an even harder fact: everything that really matters about the physical reality and how we are aware of it – symbols, images, visions, concepts, the mind, and so endless on – have their being in the Imaginal.

What’s more: in the Imaginal what we call spiritual, including non-physical entities and beings, what we call soul and what we call matter meet. The Imaginal is the meeting-place of being. In the realm of the Real things and people and plants and animals and so on exist, and their existence is, for instance, what science studies. Yet in the Imaginal all of these plus what’s spiritual, what is soulful and archetypal and all images and imaginations have their being which is what art celebrates, religion contemplates and meditates, psychology usually fails to understand and you and me intuit all the time. The Imaginal is where we are, the Real is where we exist.

Just as the Laws of Nature order and guide the existences and forces within the Real so there are ‘laws’ that guide the interaction between the beings and energies in the Imaginal. For now I would term these ‘laws’ Patterns of Being which I imagine to revolve around synchrony, attraction (self), awareness, memory, beauty, thrivability, embrace, spontaneity and others I can’t think of now. What is obvious to this flow of view (it’s definitely not a point of view!) is that everything of true value resides in the Imaginal, including the happiness that is the birthright of every being.

So what does all that have to do with breaking up, and breaking down and having suffered a blow to my system?


Recently in a conversation with Jean Russell we were talking about the nature of relationship and as I started to grope for what I truly want, given my recent catastrophe and all the other relation-ships that got grounded in my life, I could name what feels truly good to me: A Total Embrace of who I am, how I am, where I am, what I am – an embrace of my very being down to its very core. Such an embrace brings out the best in me. And likewise, when I totally embrace an other, the being I’m with locally or non-locally , it feels really very, very good. But to top both these goodnesses: there is a Total Mutual Embrace of each other’s being. (Note 4)

Obviously, to expect to be able to totally embrace someone all of the time would be a bit over the top. Sure, in meditation or similar non-personal ways we can do that most of the time, given a certain personal development. But a total embrace of a particular living being, a living and breathing other, will most likely be reserved for certain periods – maybe even daily periods – of life. What these periods of total embrace can eventually lead to, though, is a shift of identification from the individuality to the We that comes into being in any Total Mutual Embrace that is somewhat sustained. If then one allows oneself to be informed by this We, a new kind of relationship starts…

This, I’ve decided, is the basis of ‘my’ relationship(s) to be.

And I now realise that the Imaginal is already totally embracing you and me, any and all of us! This is probably why totally embracing someone’s being feels so good: it’s synced with one of the most basic patterns of the Imaginal: Its total embrace!

And now to totally embracing the Imaginal…

Note 1:  The Imaginal is much, much more than the imagination – matter of fact we could regard our individual imagination as a persons interface and interaction-space to the Imaginal. Our imagination is co-creatively participating in the Imaginal all the time.

Note 2: If you’re versed in Ken Wilber’s 4 Quadrants than I challenge you to not regard the Imaginal as the left quadrants and the Real as the right quadrants in that system, as you might be tempted to do. In this view the whole AQAL-view of reality is within the Imaginal, as is every other perspective as well.

Note 3: We cannot know anything about independent things and matters because the very instrument which we use to know, awareness, already doesn’t belong to it, the thing in itself, the independent thing, but to the aware one, the person knowing it or trying to know it; the Kantian “Ding an sich” cannot be known and will therefor remain a mystery.

Note 4: I know this state very well. Whenever this occurs I experience a ‘silver energy’ all around the edges of the experience. There is a deep sense of inspiration, as if a divine breeze blows and ruffles our angels’ feathers. I’ve called it ‘we-fullness’ for some time now.

The Imaginary and the Imaginal

Beyond the wallA wonderful way to start the new year – providing a very inspiring and interesting text by Henry Corbin (below a quote, further below a longer text). It has been dawning on me that regarding imagination as a reality opens up a whole new perspective to look at the Living Field, Soul and Spirit…

If you don’t want to read the whole treatise in the window below (in another translation from French also to be found here), the following excerpted paragraphs sum up some of the essential thoughts in it (my highlights):

…alam al-mithal, the world of the Image, mundus imaginalis: a world as ontologically real as the world of the senses and the world of the intellect, a world that requires a faculty of perception belonging to it, a faculty that is a cognitive function, a noetic value, as fully real as the faculties of sensory perception, or intellectual intuition. This faculty is the imaginative power, the one we must avoid confusing with the imagination that modern man identifies with “fantasy” and that, according to him, produces only the “imaginary.”

I have proposed the Latin term mundus imaginalis for it, because we are obliged to avoid any confusion between what is here the object of imaginative or imaginal perception and what we ordinarily call the imaginary. This is so because the current attitude is to oppose the real to the imaginary as though to the unreal, the utopian, as it is to confused symbol with allegory, to confuse the exegesis of the spiritual sense with an allegorical interpretation.

…the appearance of an Image having the quality of a symbol is a primary phenomenon (Urphänomen), unconditional and irreducible, the appearance of something that cannot manifest itself otherwise to the world where we are.

If we do not have available a cosmology whose schema can include, as does the one that belongs to our traditional philosophers, the plurality of universes in ascensional order, our Imagination will remain unbalanced, its recurrent conjunctions with the will to power will be an endless source of horrors. We will be continually searching for a new discipline of the Imagination, and we will have great difficulty in finding it as long as we persist in seeing in it only a certain way of keeping our distance with regard to what we call the real, and in order to exert an influence on that real.

For instead of the image being elevated to the level of a world that would be proper to it, instead of it appearing invested with a symbolic function,leading to an internal sense, there is above all a reduction of the image to the level of sensory perception pure and simple, and thus a definitive degradation of the image. Should it not be said, therefore, that the more successful this reduction is, the more the sense of the imaginal is lost, and the more we are condemned to producing only the imaginary?

…is it not precisely this postulate of the objectivity of the imaginal world that is suggested to us, or imposed on us, by certain forms or certain symbolic emblems (hermetic, kabbalistic; or mandalas) that have the quality of effecting a magic display of mental images, such that they assume an objective reality?

I’m working at my next blog entry and it will, among other things, take Corbin’s perspective a bit further…



Visioning means imagining. At first generally, and then, with increasing specificity, what you really want. That is what you really want. Not what someone else has taught you to want and not what you have learned to settle for. Visioning means taking off all of the constraints of assumed feasibility, of disbelief and past disappointments and letting your mind dwell upon its most noble, treasured, uplifting dreams. Some people, especially young people, engage in visioning with enthusiasm and ease. Some people find the exercise of visioning painful because a glowing picture of what could be makes what is all the more intolerable. Some people would never admit to their visions for fear of being thought impractical or unrealistic. They would find this paragraph uncomfortable to read, if they were willing to read it at all. And some people have been so crushed by their experience of the world that they can only stand to explain why any vision is impossible. Thats fine, they are needed too. Vision does need to be balanced with skepticism. We should say immediately, for the sake of the skeptics, that we do not believe that it is possible for the world to envision its way to a sustainable future. Vision without action is useless, but action without vision does not know where to go or how to go there. Vision is absolutely necessary to guide and motivate action. More than that, vision when widely shared and firmly kept in sight brings into being new systems. We mean that literally. Within the physical limits of space, time, material and energy, visionary human intentions can bring forth not only new information, new behaviour, new knowledge and new technology, but eventually new social institutions, new physical structures and new powers within human beings. A sustainable world can never come into being if it cannot be envisioned. The vision must be built up from the contribution of many people before it is complete and compelling.

Meadows, Donnella H., Dennis L. Meadows and Jrgen Randers

as quoted here