Back to All Events

Imaginal: Dying and Rising in Story and Song

  • Green Hills Library 3701 Benham Avenue Nashville, TN, 37215 United States (map)

Imaginal: Dying and Rising in Story and Song 

Sheri D. Kling, PhD

From the stories of Jonah in the belly of the whale or Persephone in the Underworld to Star Wars, The Matrix and Lord of the Rings, the journey to individuation and wholeness always includes a stop in wilderness places we'd rather not visit. But sometimes we don’t have a choice. And whether it's divorce, illness, or any of life's darkest challenges, sometimes the events in our lives place us firmly on that path through the dark woods.

But what if that path is one we might welcome? Once we walk it, we learn that it's like the journey of the chrysalis as it makes its way from caterpillar to butterfly, which, surprisingly involves something called “imaginal” cells. As it nears its time for rebirth, the caterpillar first eats everything it can, until immobilized by its weight, and then it attaches itself to a tree branch. There, in complete stillness, its interior cells turn to a kind of “soup” made up of once-dormant cells called “imaginal cells.” These cells – like the seeds of our own new ideas – are first attacked by the caterpillar’s immune system, but then as their numbers increase, they begin to gather together and form the frequencies of the future butterfly.

This music-driven presentation uses the ancient Sumerian wisdom story of the Descent of Inanna as the backdrop for a personal journey through the wilderness. Drawing on Jungian wisdom woven with uplifting music and personal experience, Kling shows us that the story never ends in the darkness. And just like the caterpillar, if we are willing to see the process through the murky “soup” of those “imaginal cells,” we will emerge as a beautiful butterfly, reborn into new life.

In addition to being Associate Dean of the School of Theology and Executive Director of the Beecken Center of the University of the South, Sheri D. Kling is a theologian who works in the interdisciplinary space where worldviews, beliefs, and practices can create either dis-ease and suffering or psycho-spiritual wholeness and common flourishing. Drawing from process philosophy/theology, Jungian psychology, and mystical spirituality, Sheri focuses on communicating theological ideas and practices that positively impact humans’ relationships with God, self, and world, especially the use of dream work as a spiritual practice for divine encounter, personal integration, and widening our relationship to creation. She holds a PhD from Claremont School of Theology and earned a master of theological studies at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. She is a faculty member of the Haden Institute, a visiting lecturer with Palacky University (Czech Republic) in Social and Spiritual Determinants of Health, and a singer, songwriter, guitarist and essayist.  Her website is

Earlier Event: December 2
“The Complexity of Complexes”
Later Event: January 27
Map of the Soul Book Discussion Part 2