Skip to content

Psychomagic and the Power of Imagination

4 min read
Psychomagic and the Power of Imagination
Film still from La Montaña Sagrada (Jodorowsky, 1973)

The Holy Mountain is a cult classic film from the 70’s with surrealist scenarios and stark imagery that looks as if they could be tarot cards. It turns out creator of the film, Alejandro Jodorowsky is also a Taroist and helps people to examine their family tree to create symbolic magic acts that help rewrite experiences which have left a mark and affects behavoir or an unwanted sense of self in the present.

At first when I started to read about how he came up with this rather unorthodox way of dealing with Trauma, I thought one should be rather well versed in psychoanalysis and know extensively about guiding people but what i witnessed and also recognized in the 2019 documentary Psychomagic: A Healing Art, is the almighty power of imagination.

When you were young, did adult problems seem rather silly to you? To me, the answers to their puzzling problems seemed so simple -  if there wasn't enough money for everyone, then why not just make more?

I was an extremely optimistic child who experienced the ecstatic regularly, dreamt of flying daily, and saw visions of creating a rainbow - one day - where everyone everywhere would look up, just for a moment, at the same time and see this gorgeous rainbow i had somehow magically created and be in awe. That was my actual goal in life for awhile as a kid.  

My imagination carried me high and far and was unlimited. Even while what was running in the background was a harsher reality of violence and strife. A baseline in which my equilibrium could have easily wavered and thrown my center out of whack, but with such a rich imagination I was resilient and to this day, I stand by the power of imagination as the ultimate bridge to health.

You don't like your mood?  Imagine how you would rather feel and then start to follow the blueprint of that imagining. Trace what you can imagine with your being and carve the life you want. I know it's easier said then done. It does take some effort and we'll do some practice at the end of this piece.

With our imaginations, we do also have the power to affect the wider spaces (physical and mental) that we share. Take for instance the streets where we live. The cumulative unconscious barrage of messaging happening byway of billboards are full of manipulative messaging involving sex, money, power. Taken at face value, it's a one way conversation meant to lure your attention and seduce the money from your pockets.

I feel relieved when I catch a glimpse of some altered ad donning googly eyes or sharpie mustaches. The absurdity takes the edge off and with it comes the reminder that this is a shared reality in which we do have the power to alter and critique, (even if ever so slightly).  This is why i love graffiti artists, comedians and pranksters so much. They tend to rethink, remix and and retake ownership by imagining another way (usually in an overly exaggerated way) and then mirroring it back to us. And it's in these remixed scenarios that i'm reminded of how small actions speak loud.


Anyone is capable to imagine something and because of the feeling they get from that imagining, they can start to rewire and fire neural pathways to become that thing imagined.  Athletes do it all the time to visualize themselves at peak performance. Dancers do it to rehearse the steps in their mind. The exact same neurons are firing as if they are actually doing it. So the magic is in the imagining itself.

Let’s do an exercise. Take a moment to look at the picture below.

Although this portrait has a completely different story of its own, my mind projected upon it a perfect potential psychomagic act:

a portrait by Zanele Muholi at Gropius Bau 2022

Close your eyes and imagine a version of yourself that you would like to be. It could be you what you wear, how your hair is cut, the expression you’d like to feel on your face, the color of the clothing or a symbol of what you would like to project into the world as yourself. This is the version of yourself is the one holding the candle. Place yourself there in the portrait.

Now imagine some part or version of you that you would like to put away. Do the same steps where you really describe the expression on the face, in the body language, the state of the clothes and things around you. Maybe even what or who is in the background. This is the version of yourself on the card being held by the version of yourself that you want to be.

The larger you is holding and morning the loss of the you you want to put away. Say all the things you will miss about them and say goodbye.

Ask yourself or another what is difficult at this time.  Tune into the issue. And take it and yourself for a walk.  After stewing with it for sometime, create an act, a magical act which can address the issue and attempt to resolve it.  Be that child who finds solutions without being too complicated.

Here’s an example.
I made this magical act for a friend who was having a hard time to quit smoking. I had two small pieces of paper. On one I titled "Lists of Habits I would like to do (instead)", on which he could make his own list and on the other, I  wrote this series of instructions:

  1. Make a list of 12 people that come to mind who you love for whatever reason
  2. Bake a dozen cookies (one for each of them). Put all of your love for them into the baking.
  3. Let the cookies cool down
  4. Take a cookie for yourself and think of the first person on your list telling you their reason why they love you. Then eat that cookie and give that intention back to yourself.
  5. Over the next days, when you have cravings, repeat step four.

Then I gently rolled the papers into a scroll and pushed it into a little glass bottle. The scroll itself could be used to draw cool breaths in (a yogic breath meant for helping with addiction).

With the intention to both really consider the other and to put a lot of meaning and thought into the act, the magic is in the weaving of the tale, the care in the crafting, and the transformation is a matter of a will behind the imagined.


little bio