Meeting Robert Bosnak

About five years ago, a therapist who knew of my great interest in dreams told me of a speaker, who was coming to the CGJung Society of Seattle meeting, whom she thought I’d find interesting.  His name was Robert Bosnak, and his reputation was that he had developed a remarkable way to approach dreams.  In my own analytic work with my dreams, I had worked diligently to remember, record, and muse about my dreams, yet I had often felt that I often barely touched—drifted over—the actual profundity that I sensed the dream held.  I was open to a new approach…I NEEDED a new approach.

In that workshop, I listened to Bosnak speak about the Imaginal, and about how the Images that appear to us are REAL—if not actual—and carry a wildness and truth of their very own.  I lit up inside to hear him. This is in fact what I had experienced, over and over, as an artist, though no one ever spoke about this: images for sculptures would simply arrive on the “landing field” of my mind, from “somewhere else,” and I would know I had my marching orders: Make this sculpture.  Here was someone who knew about this phenomenon! He had actual WORDS for it: imaginal presences! I drew closer and vowed on my heart to access his teaching somehow, somewhere.

This was easier said than done!

It was a full two years before I was able to connect with the rich initiatory dream experiences—the weeklong Dream Incubation—organized by Bosnak and his colleague Jill Fischer in Malinalco, Mexico.  I knew that Bosnak was a protégé of the archetypal psychologist James Hillman, that he was knowledgeable about alchemy, that he was brilliant.  I knew that I needed to be there. I mentally “parked my left brain” in Seattle and vowed to be present in Mexico with as open a right brain as I could access, to take in the teaching on Dream Incubation and Embodiment that was to be offered there over several days.

Yet as I stepped across the threshold, I had no idea what I was in for.

Through some great good fortune in the “assigning dream worker” process, I was paired with Bosnak to work my dreams, which we were to do every morning. [There would be additional periods of teaching, dancing, bodywork and movement, and artmaking.]  

We sat down together, face to face, at our first meeting.  When he asked some version of the question “What brought you here?”  I decided it was time to go all in, no psychological language, no temporizing.  Taking a breath, I told this total stranger and eminent scholar one of my deepest darkest secrets:  that, as a girl, I had played alone among trees and bushes in my native Georgia—and there, from time to time, I had been visited by a Presence.  I’d experienced the Presence as totally supportive, attuned to me, and loving, even though it was invisible.   Experiencing this Presence was probably the richest and most “true” experience in my young life…and yet I knew, instinctively, that I could not share it with anyone in my rational and judgmental household, for fear of being ridiculed.  And then I told Robbie a second truth: that my heart’s desire now, for the final quarter of my life, was to re-own, to re-embody, what that little girl knew, and to live onward grounded in that.

He took all this in with ease.  For the rest of the session,  I shared a few more details about my life, and then some recent dreams, with him, and then he said this to me as the session drew to a close:

“You know, Kat, there is a lineage that you might not be aware of, but that you might belong to…”

                                Ever so slightly, my heart began to lean forward…

                                                “It’s called the Golden Chain.”

With that conversation, I was plunged into an initiatory experience from which I am only now—and only for a little while, I sense—surfacing.  In addition to my personal work that week in Mexico on my dreams, and the three -year period of study just completed in Dream Embodiment,  I have read widely and deeply about the Lineage of the Golden Chain, moving from history to poetry to philosophy to long-forgotten wisdom sources, weaving them all through my own ongoing dream and art life. I have been companioned in my exploration by dream colleagues like Marina and Pamela on this blog, as well as the other students in the Dream Embodiment training. In addition, I have met new colleagues with a lot to say about relating to the Imaginal, who have been dead for 800 years! In this blog, I hope to share some of what I have learned and plenty about resources I have found about living a daimonic life, connected to the Imaginal.  That’s all out ahead of us and I’m excited to get on with it.  So just for this moment, I may be leaving you with many questions.

For myself four years ago, as I left Robbie’s office that day in Mexico, I had three things: 

One was the name of a book Robbie suggested I pick up and read, by a man named Patrick Harpur, called THE PHILOSOPHER’S SECRET FIRE; 

The Second was a completely dazed look on my face;

and the Third was a question, ringing in my mind like a bell:


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