A Day in a Life: Recapitulation & Active Imagination

As Chuck and I write about and work with people who are in the process of recapitulation, many wonder if they are indeed recapitulating, if they are doing it right. Many also wonder simply how to start. In our experience, once the journey begins, everything that follows is part of the process, including our dreams and visions, our incessant thoughts and feelings, and the challenges we are presented with each day. The recapitulation journey continues as one becomes aware of and allows for deeper exploration of the synchronicities in life, the calls of the body to remember, the calls of the psyche to pay attention to certain things, and the experiences in our inner worlds and outer worlds that will not let us rest.

So, when does the recapitulation journey really start? The following quote from The Active Side of Infinity, highlights the moment when you know what it really means, when there is no doubt that you have begun your recapitulation journey.

Sorcerers believe,” don Juan went on, “that as we recapitulate our lives, all the debris, as I told you, comes to the surface. We realize our inconsistencies, our repetitions, but something in us puts up a tremendous resistance to recapitulating. Sorcerers say that the road is free only after a gigantic upheaval, after the appearance on our screen of the memory of an event that shakes our foundations with its terrifying clarity of detail. It’s the event that drags us to the actual moment when we lived it. Sorcerers call that event the usher, because from then on every event we touch on is relived, not merely remembered.” (p. 148-149)

I clearly remember the day when Chuck said to me: “This is the usher, come to take you on your journey.” At the time I had no idea what he meant, but at the same time I knew exactly what he meant because I literally felt that I was being swept into another world, ushered through a door into familiar and yet totally unfamiliar territory. There was no doubt, when my body took over and began reliving a long suppressed event, while I writhed in pain on the floor, gagging and gasping for air, that I was indeed recapitulating. That first recapitulation did not last more than a few moments, but it opened wide my awareness that something inside me needed to live, or relive, or I would not survive in this world. At that moment, I knew, without a doubt, that I was going on a new kind of journey and that I could not stop it. I also knew that I had been preparing my whole life for it and that I was ready for it.

Something will lead you to remember the event that will serve you as your usher,” don Juan says to Carlos after taking him on a long walk, because, as he explained to Carlos: “The sorcerers of ancient Mexico believed that everything we live we store as a sensation on the backs of the legs. They consider the backs of the legs to be the warehouse of man’s personal history.” (The Active Side of Infinity p. 149) Instructing Carlos to “do your best” he leaves him alone to experience his own moment of the usher. Within a few moments Carlos falls headlong into a vivid forgotten event from his childhood.

Each person’s experience of the usher will be different, but it will be strikingly apparent that a shift has taken place, a shift that will not let you rest or revert to an old way of perceiving reality or yourself in reality. Carl Jung, in The Red Book recounts his own experiences of encountering the usher. In the section entitled Refinding the Soul he speaks of a vision that would not let him rest.

The vision of the flood seized me and I felt the spirit of the depths, but I did not understand him. Yet he drove me on with unbearable inner longing and I said:

My soul, where are you? Do you hear me? I speak, I call you—are you there? I have returned, I am here again. I have shaken the dust of all the lands from my feet and I have come to you. I am with you. After long years of wandering, I have come to you again. Should I tell you everything I have seen, experienced, and drunk in? Or do you want to hear about all the noise of life and the world? But one thing you must know: the one thing I have learned is that one must live this life.

This life is the way, the long sought-after way to the unfathomable, which we call divine. There is no other way, all other ways are false paths. I found the right way, it led me to you, to my soul.” (pp. 231-232)

By using what he termed active imagination Jung probed deeply into his inner world, confronting his soul, his “I”, all of his inner demons, his projections, his anima, actually doing a thorough recapitulation as the sorcerers of ancient Mexico define it.

These two overlapping worlds, that of the sorcerers of ancient Mexico and the psychological world as explored and practiced by Jung, give us sound guidelines and processes by which to do our inner work. Undertaking the recapitulation journey, in whatever way we are ushered into it, supported by allowing ourselves to do active imagination enables us to fully experience this life. As don Juan explains to Carlos:

To recount events is magical for sorcerers,” he said. “It isn’t just telling stories. It is seeing the underlying fabric of events. This is the reason recounting is so important and vast.” (The Active Side of Infinity p. 158)

By “seeing the underlying fabric of events” in our lives we begin to understand that, as Jung notes, this life is what we seek, for inside of us is contained everything we need. As we go deeper into our recapitulation, as we return to and explore our soul, everything about us changes. We not only perceive the world differently, but we become different in how we act and think, how we treat ourselves and others, how we engage in life, both our outer life and our inner life. As we gain clarity on who we personally are, as we dare to confront ourselves with the challenges of this life, we offer ourselves the opportunity to experience the magic that don Juan speaks of and the divine that Jung writes about.

May you greet your usher with open arms and may you discover the means of dialogue with your soul, even though your fear may overwhelm you and your body resist. May you allow yourself to go into recapitulation and active imagination, even though it may mean confronting the unimaginable and experiencing the unfathomable. May you allow yourself to take the only journey that matters, into the self, even though you may have to face both the trivial self and the inflated self and all the angels and demons that roam in your inner world.

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Sending you all love and good wishes,

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