The Library of the Mind: imaginal photography and your thinking function

The Library of the Mind: imaginal photography and your thinking function



Salle de recherche bibliographique, dite Salle ovaleLogos, reason, (directed) thinking, animus, intellect, imaginal photography

C. G. Jung divides the mind into four distinct psychological functions: thinking, feeling (or evaluation), intuition, and sensation.[1]  The function we are going to consider in this post, thinking,

is the psychological function which, following its own laws, brings the contents of ideation [ideas] into conceptual connection with one another. It is an apperceptive activity, and as such may be dived into active and passive thinking.  Active thinking is an act of will, passive thinking is a mere occurrence. In the former case, I submit the contents of idea[s] to a voluntary act of judgement; in the latter, conceptual connections establish themselves of their own accord, and judgments are formed that may even contradict my intention. They are not consonant with my aim and therefore, for me, lack any sense of direction […]. Active thinking, accordingly, would correspond to my concept of directed thinking. Passive thinking […] I would call intuitive thinking. […] The capacity for directed thinking I call intellect; the capacity for undirected thinking I call intellectual intuition. Further I call directed thinking a rational function, because it arranges the contents of idea[s] under concepts in accord with a rational norm of which I am conscious. Undirected thinking is in my view an irrational function. [2]

I think this classification of directed versus passive thinking may also have application to Jung’s concept of the animus (which is equivalent to logos or intellect). The functional healthy animus is a directed tool used by the ego consciousness, and passive thinking is thinking typically inhabited by unreflective prejudice that imposes itself upon the conscious subject or ego.[3]

The animus produces opinions; […that] rest on unconscious prior assumptions. Animus opinions very often have the character of solid convictions that are not lightly shaken, or of principles whose validity is seemingly unassailable. […] in reality these opinions are not thought out at all; they exist readymade, and are held so positively and with so much conviction that [the subject] never has a shadow of doubt about them.[4]

This thinking function, the Logos or intellect is surely amongst our most prized faculties, our culture and civilisation being its most obviously valuable products.  In The Republic Socrates suggests that the soul is composed of three parts, the logical of thinking soul; the high-spirited soul or simply the will, and the appetites, feelings or non-rational soul.[5] The thinking or rational soul is concerned with what Freud termed the “reality principle”; it functions ideally in a logical, critical and structured fashion, it is sensitive to evidence and is concerned with objective truth, it discriminates, judges, and provides insight. It is of course amongst our most powerful tools.

Developing an imaginal photo of your rational mind

Although the rational mind is the domain of abstract, or naked, thought that is the essence of ideas stripped of their imaginal form, I am going to give you a technique to develop an image of this function which is richly and imaginatively filled out. Or to put this in Jungian parlance we are going to look at the animus (logos) through the lens of the anima (soul).

This exercise proceeds in a similar way as an exercise we shared a few months ago called the coffee shop. The coffee shop exercise was a method for developing an image for your persona. Before we get to the specifics of the exercise let me say something briefly about what we are doing when we do an exercise like this.

These exercises are done in the realm of the imagination or the “imaginal”[6]. The realm of the imagination is central to psychoanalysis and Jungian psychology in particular. It is through the faculty of the imagination that we can access unconscious content, attitudes, ideologies and orientations that are typically hidden from consciousness. Beyond the obvious psychoanalytic value, the (directed) imagination is the royal road to creativity. We must differentiate between directed or “primary” imagination and mere fantasy. In an exercise such as this it is a focused application of directed imagination.

The power to imagine things that have not actually been experienced has, on the one hand, commonly been regarded as a key aspect of creative and intelligent thought. On the other hand, this power of imagination has equally commonly been regarded as a rather passive and mechanical capacity to arrange and order the images of thought arising out of the memory [7] […] such a distinction between extreme forms of imagination, Coleridge gave the name “primary imagination” to the one extreme, and the name “fancy” [from the word fantasy] to the other.[8]

Although all aspects of the imagination directed, or primary, associative, and reverie or fantasy are important in depth psychology, we are here concerned with the directed or in Jungian terms “active imagination”.

The Bookshop (or library) of your mind

With that contextualisation in place let us get on with the actual exercise. I want you to conceive/imagine/visualise your rational thinking function (your logos or intellect) as a bookshop, or library if you wish, although I believe a bookshop will provide a more personal and revealing image. Simply put you are being called on to imagine a bookshop (presumably your bookshop) as a symbolic image of your intellect. Remember that we are concerned here principally with your thinking rather than feeling function. That does not mean the image must necessarily (it may of course) be devoid of feeling, only that our focus here is your rational or thinking function.[9]

The questions I want you to ask once you have the image or in forming the image are:

Where is the shop located?

What does the interior of the shop look like, size, shape, colours, lighting, shop fitting –furniture etc.

What is the ambiance and atmosphere of the shop?

What type of books does the shop specialise in or focus on?

Are there any books conspicuous by their absence?

Who are the patrons?

What is the store manager like – describe in as much detail as possible?


Do the exercise before reading on.


Analysing the content of the symbol

I think the implications and inferences one can draw from what come up are largely self explanatory. However I will give you some guidelines in this analytical process. Consider the following:

What ideology is being advanced by the store? What are its social, cultural and spiritual values, what values does it subscribe to?

Who does the store cater for? This provides some decent insight into who your “customers” are or should be. The old saying “don’t cast pearls before swine” comes to mind here.

The distribution of books is, I guess, self- explanatory and doesn’t require any elaboration, but worth making a note of.

In what era is the stores soul if you will, does it hearken back to an earlier time or is it contemporary or even futuristic? This is a window on where historically your rational functioning is at.

The proprietor or manger of the store is in Jungian language the archetypal root (transpersonal) of your thinking function which itself is personal (i.e. a personal complex). You can imagine that unable to find what you are looking for in the store you may well turn to the store manager for help. And I actually encourage you to do just that the next time you hit a roadblock in your thinking.

That is that and with that I bid you farewell, and wish you happy reading and more importantly clear thinking. Just for fun though, once you have done the application and if you enjoyed it and want to take it further, beyond driving all your friends crazy by interrogating their bookshops, you might consider what the bookshops of famous historical people would have looked like.  As an example, I imagine that the greatest polymath of them all (Goethe maybe, or Leibniz, or da Vinci)’s “bookshop” would be something akin to the Ancient Library of Alexandria.



[1] Thinking and feeling are classified as rational functions, and intuition and sensation as irrational. To this he also adds two psychological orientations: introverted (inwardly directed) or extroverted (directed towards the world) (Jung. C. G. Collected Works, vol. 6, Psychological Types).

[2] Ibid, pp. 481 – 482

[3] Although to be completely accurate it must be noted here that Jung seems to be using passive thinking as the intuitive tool rather than the way I have framed it as unconscious animus; possibly the two functions are not mutually exclusive.

[4] Jung, C. G. Collected Works, vol. 7, Two Essays on analytical Psychology, pp. 206 – 207.

[6] Term coined by Henry Corbin (1903 – 1978) to describe the contents of the “mundus imaginalis” or imaginal world, whose contents, whilst accessed through the lens of the imagination or image forming faculty, are not unreal in the way we typically consider imaginary content to be. The mundus imaginalis is the world frequented and spoken of by the Sufi mystics.

[7] In psychoanalysis we may add to these two the category of pure fantasy or reverie which is neither directed imagination nor memory association.

[8][8] Bohm, D. On Creativity, pp. 51 – 52

[9] Jung classifies feeling as a rational function in his typology because like thinking (an unlike intuition and sensation) it is (ideally) a reflective function. I differentiate between thinking as rational and feeling as non-rational, mirroring Plato’s model of the tripartite soul. For the purposes of this exercise the distinction is immaterial.

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