The World Is A Flower in Psyche

Will Franks
Phoenix Collective
Published in
10 min readFeb 10


Mural by Salvador Herrera (Mexico)

Today I would like to share an invitation with you. It is an invitation to overturn some of our most basic assumptions about what the world is, where it came from, and why it is all happening — and to step into a far vaster and more incredible conception of reality than we have previously been familiar with.

In its essence, it is the invitation to practice and play with the view that the causality (the roots, the origins) of all phenomena lies in the imaginal realm.

I’d like to thank teacher Yahel Avigur for introducing me to this notion during a recent meditation retreat. This article reflects my personal exploration of its consequences.

A quick recap on the nature of the “imaginal realm” may be helpful.

Scholar Henri Corbin designated the imaginal realm as an intermediate realm between the material realm and the divine realm of pure intelligences.

The imaginal realm permeates and partakes of both (the material and the pure divine realm), allowing communication and conversation to occur between them. The imaginal realm, and the beings/gods/angels/daemons who dwell there, reveal themselves to human beings through images.

As Angela Voss writes, “the imagination is the angelic mode of perception, for being immaterial they do not possess the sense-perception of human beings.”.

She further explains that “In this dynamic cosmos, the angelic hierarchies are not things, but events. Angel, soul and world are not separate entities ‘out there’, but modes of perception: the world is perceived through sense, soul through imagination and angel through intellect (which is intellect in the Platonic sense of the pre-conceptual knowing described earlier by Iamblichus). As the imagination then conveys divine thoughts through images, the very act of imagining becomes a divine act of reconnection.”

In this imaginal mode of seeing and sensing, the material reality we take to be real is understood to be totally enveloped, embraced by, and emergent from an immaterial spiritual reality which determines it.

A spiritual reality — or divine creative imagination — which has imagined and manifested the entirety of material reality — and in fact is continually (re-)imagining it.

We experience this ongoing imagining as the material unfolding of the cosmos, known and experienced through our embodied human senses.

Conventionally we have this view that “the psyche is within the human being”, or perhaps even “within the human brain”.

Conversely, meditation teacher Rob Burbea invited us to entertain the view that “the human is embedded within (the) psyche”. He invited us to see all perception (and thus all reality) as generated and mediated by image, as inseparable from the angelic imaginal realm which caused it.

In a similar inversion of views, might we overturn our basic assumption that “the psyche is embedded in the material world”, and open to the possibility of viewing the material world as embedded in the psyche?

This is a radical overhaul of our materialist metaphysics. Can it stand?

Another way to put this proposal is that the causes of events and experiences in the “ordinary / profane / everyday world” originate in divine imaginal realm(s). That’s imaginal causality, as Avigur calls it.

This in turn implies that the effects of all worldly events and actions are felt in the divine realms – because they’re not at all separate. We don’t even need a rigorous conception of what these realms are to feel the effects of this view, as the images / imaginal figures that we enter into relationship with demonstrate their power and potency as healing, energising and liberating the latent energies of the imaginal realm. These energies are then allowed to express themselves within the material realm, in and through our human hearts, minds and bodies.

I want to explore the application of this view to the largest of historical events, namely the unfolding of global history and the unprecedented circumstances in which we find ourselves (or rather, that we have collectively manifested or “dreamed up”).

For a long time, I have operated within the constricted view that the imaginal world has its origins in the material world. But now I am opening to entertain the opposite view: that the material world has its roots in the imaginal world.

Increasingly, I see that it is possible to sense that the imaginal realm is the “groundless ground” (or boundless open sky) from which the entire cosmos emerges. This includes the full extent of human history, past, current and future, and our personal journeys within that immense historic unfolding, over many lifetimes.

This is a view that liberates our perceptions of self, other and world from the limiting conceptions that they are “real”, “material” and “inherently existing, independent of the way of looking”.

Another way to say this is that to fully see the imaginality of phenomena is practically equivalent to seeing and recognising their emptiness. That is, their lack of inherent existence.

Such an insight will release our compulsive clinging to such phenomena, in relation to a fixed and independent self. And not only that — it will also liberate the entire play of perception from its imprisonment in the conceptual duality of “reality” and “unreality”. This unbinding allows the imaginal flow of divine eros (or loving desire) to continue entertaining perceptions of self, other, and world for the sake of soulfulness, beauty and meaningfulness. It thus unbinds both ourselves and the world in parallel, revealing the “two” as inseparably linked and mutually dependent.

An expanding sense of possibility dawns, a sense of limitlessness and boundlessness. An infinite openness which not only holds all perceptions, but mystically expresses itself in and through all perceptions. A sense of boundless love, and a boundless imagination in (and as) which this entire world arises, and within it our human experiences… all dreamed, conjured and woven by the divine creative intelligence(s) of the angels, the ancestors, the daemons, the Gods.

This entails a transformed and exploded sense of “who I am”, “what the world is”, “who we are”, “where it all comes from” and, not least, “where all this is going”.

This is the deep liberative magic of the imaginal middle way, the path of soulmaking dharma that Rob, his students and fellow teachers invite us to follow.

To see and sense the archetypal dimensions of worldly events: their roots in psyche, or soul. And not only their roots: the recognition that the surface-level world of everyday appearances, even the chaotic and apocalyptic, is also expressions of the world soul. This is to see that the unfolding of history is no other than the “progressive incarnation of the deity”, as Jung put it. It is to see the world as a flower in the psyche, as an imaginal mandala that is utterly inseparable from the mind that beholds it.

The world is a flower in psyche. Psyche is a world in flower.

This isn’t just metaphysical trickery – it holds immense pragmatic promise for enriching our lives.

The view of imaginal causality may be especially helpful and liberating in relation to trauma. That is, both in relation to our view of traumatic events and to the manifold complexes and neuroses than can arise following them. So often, when such complexes and challenging psychic material arises, we take this “effect” and trace it back to the “cause”: the traumatic experience that overwhelmed us, presented us with truths we couldn’t process or handle at the time, and sent our nervous system into a contracted survival mode which remains until the traumatic experience is “processed” or “integrated”.

No doubt this is a very useful model and map for very many psychotherapeutic processes. But a newfound liberation and opening of view may come if we entertain associating our psychological challenges, struggles and habit-patterns as having their causes in the imaginal, in the divine, in the transpersonal archetypal psyche or world soul. Then the traumatic event is no longer primary, it can then be viewed as the mechanism for the deliverance of a hitherto unseen dimension of the psyche: an initiation into fuller awareness of divine wholeness. These dimensions of psyche may well include the demonic, and entering into balanced conscious compassionate relation with them may take years or even lifetimes to do. But, once welcomed into the open expanse of the awakened heart, these powerful psychic energies, now allowed to freely enter and exit consciousness, can be transmuted into profound creative powers for the benefit of the whole. This is the transmutation of the demonic into the daemonic.

No longer imprisoned in the netherworlds of half-consciousness, in the dimly-lit underworld of all that has ben repressed and denied, the demonic figures of the shadow psyche reveal their true nature as thoroughly empty, thoroughly imaginal, divine and unfathomable. Restored to their intrinsic imaginality and liberated from the limited views of materialism, realism and literalism, our relations with such dark and evil figures can regain senses of divinity, meaningfulness, and soulfulness.

All of this has profound implications for our everyday relating to the rampant evil that is currently playing out on the world stage. It frees us from the prison of reactivity and invites us to relate to worldly evil as archetypal and imaginal — neither real nor unreal. It is not to condone or befriend evil, but to “see through it” to its imaginal roots, its origins in image and imaginal motifs, and thereby enter into a conscious and compassionate relation with evil. It is this very mode of all-embracing relationship, pervaded by unconditional love and a heartfelt compassionate resonance with the profound suffering that is inherent in all evil, that has the potential to liberate the trapped energies of collective evil into profoundly powerful creative currents that will naturally and spontaneously benefit all living beings.

Salvador Herrera

We may find that, increasingly, we are able to sense into the imaginal and archetypal dimensions of our personal lives, and of our shared life as boundless imaginal selves embedded in a living mystery of unfathomable proportions and benevolent intent, which is propelling itself into ever-richer and more profound self-revelations via the universally animating force of inexpressible and all-inclusive love, the same love that has manifested all beings and holds them eternally in its knowing, caring, nourishing light…

The ability to entertain the imaginal causes of phenomena opens us to the ability to ascribe to all phenomena an origin in, and unbreakable connection to, divine love, and the capacity to receive all perceptions as gift, as grace, even if our limited and limiting minds cannot yet grasp or conceive what this means. To assume the grace in all suffering, even the most horrendous, is to have the highest and most liberating faith in the divine. It is the liberation of the heart that never closes or hides itself, even in the face of abject abuse, torture and violence… the heart that knows only compassion, only forgiveness, only this burning longing to free others from suffering, and thus sets in motion the energetic realignment of the cosmic mandala, seeking ever-more subtle and all-inclusive harmony between all its imaginal elements (in other words, all beings). This energetic unfolding is an infinitely deep journey into beauty and soulfulness in which we all participate.

Such a deep and vivid meaningfulness dawns when we remember our decision to incarnate here, in this body, at this time in history, as a chance to participate creatively in the life of the cosmos, and in the life of the human species as we undergo our collective dark night of the soul, the apocalyptic initiation into a life of unprecedented global harmony, unity and freedom.

Invitation: for a wide range of everyday experiences, play and practice with the view that “this has its origins in divine love”; “this has its causes in the imaginal realm and is working for the benefit of all beings, including me”. See what happens when you tell yourself, “All this is held in the embrace of divine creative love, is driven the passionate love of the divine creative intelligence that is intent on creating a planetary heaven of unspeakable beauty and freedom. I align myself with this universally benevolent intention and devote my energies to the accomplishment of this most noble and holy of tasks, holding myself against none of my brothers and sisters but respecting and forgiving all of them as my beloved companions, my soul family who have incarnated with me, such that the vision of globally integrated society might come to fruition, and all the learning necessary for such an achievement might occur. May this vision and commitment to all humanity hold me in a stable and natural openness of heart, such that I might weather the coming apocalypse with unwavering goodwill and compassion, always offering to help others and to point the way to the coming global awakening”.

If we can sense that all oppression, all corporate madness and exploitative evil actually has its origins in the heart, and in the longing of an immaterial divine consciousness to incarnate into innumerable materially embodied personas, then our reactivity and condemnation of these phenomena relaxes, and we open to the boundless and unfathomable divine creative intelligence that is vitally alive in all beings, even the most depraved and selfish of humans, trusting that in all their actions there is a wisdom and a passionate love that is leading us to a more profound and holy beauty than we can currently conceive. She who lives in all, as all, and through all, is learning, through us and as us, through countless lifetimes of trial and error, to live as humanity in both a personal and collective. We can get angry with her, sure, but only for a time — before long, the heart melts and bows in awe, and a burning compassion dawns for the one who has given us life and woven the unspeakable beauty of the material world, the divine jewel of earth which is our home and sanctuary. To She, our beloved, the vibrant core of our being, infinite spirit of life, we are devoted, and to her we offer our most profound reverence and respect, our most joyous and ecstatic gratitude, in our prayers, our songs, our art, our dance, our lives as human souls.

This “divine creative imagination” —call her Psyche, if you like — I’m not really saying she exists. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t exist, either. She’s imaginal. Neither real nor not real. Completely and thoroughly empty. Unfathomable. Boundless.

Just like us.



Will Franks
Phoenix Collective

freedom artist. magical realist. metamodern beat.