Soul Spelunker

Exploring the caverns and grottoes of Soul.

Monthly Archives : August 31, 2010

The So-Called Meaning Of Life

archetypal / August 31, 2010 / No Comments

Have we, as Westerners, placed too much emphasis on the idea of meaning? We’re always asking, What is the meaning of life? Perhaps this is not really the correct question to be asking. Inquiring into the meaning of life seems, in this day and time, to be an exercise in futility. I question whether this practice was ever a fruitful endeavor. Meaning in life infers that there is a goal to be attained. You start out your life here, and, if you do the “correct” things, such as go to school, go to church, marry someone you supposedly love, get a great career going, have a few kids, and then …..

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Hades, Ruler of the Underworld

Uncategorized / August 30, 2010 / No Comments

Hades, as we all know, is the god of the Underworld. At his birth, he was devoured by his father, Kronos, along with his four siblings. Later, his brother, Zeus, forced the Titan god to vomit forth his children. This led to a great war on the Titan gods, whereby they were vanquished to the dark pit of Tartaros. The victorious gods then drew lots for their portion of the cosmos. Hades, of course, ended up drawing the shortest straw and was allotted the realm of the dead as his portion. From our modern, Herculean, hero-worshiping, egocentric point of view, I suppose you could say Hades was a loser; he …..

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The Logical Western Box

archetypal / August 29, 2010 / No Comments

The attitude that says we must force meaning from myths and dreams is an attempt to place them into our own little logical Western box. It is reductionist in that we try to limit them to a particular interpretation. The same holds true for the interpretation of dreams. These images are so multifaceted and so complex that they cannot be circumscribed within our analytical minds. They comprise a vast, limitless landscape of imaginality where reason cannot tread. For example, a dream of being in a deep, dark forest doesn’t necessarily mean that the forest is the unconscious. It may be, but it also may have different meanings. One must take …..

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Thrownness

archetypal / August 29, 2010 / No Comments

Humans are hard-wired to suffer. To be truly human, suffering is necessary. I think we miss the point, however, when we think there is some Omega Point to it all, some teleological reason to explain it. Life is as it is. We are thrown into the world, to borrow from Heidegger, and it is how we deal with this thrownness that is important. At this point in my life, I suppose my purpose, or reason to get up every morning, is to remember who I really am. I feel like a man who has awakened to find he has no real memory, an amnesiac. Here and there, I get fleeting …..

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Active Imagination: The Bridge to the Unconscious

archetypal / August 29, 2010 / 5 Comments

Photo by Someone35 Between the universe that can be apprehended by pure intellectual perception and the universe perceptible to the senses, there is an intermediate world, the world of Idea-Images, of archetypal figures, of subtle substances, of “immaterial matter”. This world is as real and objective, as consistent and subsistent as the intelligible and sensible worlds; it is an intermediate universe ‘where the spiritual takes body and the body becomes spiritual,’ a world consisting of real matter and real extension, though by comparison to sensible, corruptible matter these are subtle and immaterial. The organ of this universe is the active Imagination; it is the place of theophanic visions, the scene …..

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Imagination

archetypal / August 27, 2010 / No Comments

Imaginatio is the Star in Man, the Celestial or Supercelestial Body (A Lexicon of Alchemy, by Martin Rulandus). We don’t realize what is available to us. We go through our daily lives, often extremely depressing, usually focused on material things. We forget that all we need do is close our eyes and enter another world. The Imaginal is a vast landscape, an immense cosmos where nothing is impossible. It is not limited by physical laws, the constraints of logic, or space-time constructs we are accustomed to. One of the most significant characteristics of this realm is that within it the things that one encounters—and they are very specific things indeed, …..

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Microcosmos

Uncategorized / August 27, 2010 / 2 Comments

[Man] can be understood only as an image of the macrocosm, of the Great Creature. Only then does it become manifest what is in him. For what is outside is also inside; and what is not outside man is not inside. The outer and the inner are one thing, one constellation, one influence, one concordance, one duration, one fruit. (From Paracelsus, Selected Writings, ed. Jolande Jacobi, trans. Norbert Guterman.New York: pantheon, 1951, p. 21.) Know that you are another world in miniature and have in you Sol and Luna and even the stars [Origen, Homiliae in Leviticum, 5, 2.]. With those who accept the doctrine of Microcosm/Macrocosm, there is the …..

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New World Order?

Uncategorized / August 26, 2010 / No Comments

For some time, there has been speculation that a shadowy cabal exists in our world that has conspired to lead us down the road to a one-world government. Some call this the Illuminati, or the New World Order. Some claim the Freemasons are behind it, or the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, or the Council On Foreign Relations. It is truly a fascinating mythology of the most complex twists and turns. There is some evidence, I suppose, that it’s all true. What if, however, we don’t look at this “conspiracy theory” so literally? What if we look at it as a story emanating from the collective unconscious? Perhaps the claims …..

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The Source Of Dreams

Uncategorized / August 26, 2010 / 2 Comments

Hypnos, by Wilhelm Baron von Gloeden There is a deeply cut cave, a hollow mountain, near the Cimmerian country, the house and sanctuary of drowsy Sleep. Phoebus can never reach it with his dawn, mid-day or sunset rays. Clouds mixed with fog, and shadows of the half-light, are exhaled from the ground. No waking cockerel summons Aurora with his crowing: no dog disturbs the silence with its anxious barking, or goose, cackling, more alert than a dog. No beasts, or cattle, or branches in the breeze, no clamour of human tongues. There still silence dwells. But out of the stony depths flows Lethe’s stream, whose waves, sliding over the loose …..

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Life Is As It Is

Uncategorized / August 25, 2010 / No Comments

What exactly does it mean “to become?” It is change, of course, activity, movement from one state to another. It is a flower closed that turns and opens to the rays of the sun. It is the metamorphosis of a moth into a brilliant butterfly. We can’t help but become. We are constantly changing. We don’t need to strive; it is automatic. If the saying, Tat Tvam Asi (Thou Art That), written in the Upanishads is at once true, then what is it I need to become? It seems that becoming is just an illusion created by our enculturation. The whole idea of striving toward an endpoint, ala Teilhard De …..

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Black Bile and the Soul

archetypal / August 23, 2010 / 2 Comments

In his De Vita, Marsilio Ficino writes, “Of all scholars, those devoted to the study of philosophy are most bothered by black bile, because their minds get separated from their bodies and from bodily things.” (Ficino 7). Ficino, of course, is using the framework of Hippocrates’ theory of the four humors to explain the melancholic temperament in scholars. Aristotle also dealt with this problem, as did Plato. According to Ficino, philosophers have a preponderance of black bile. My approach to this very odd-sounding statement will be one of openness. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt without immediately rejecting this seemingly absurd proposition. I want to know …..

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Where Are The Birds?

Uncategorized / August 22, 2010 / No Comments

Once in awhile, on the eve of some tremendous cataclysm, birds will sing a most distinctive tune. I have witnessed this. One misty morning, I was walking beside a great lake in Switzerland (I would rather not name it), when I noticed that the birds were humming a most curious song. Taken aback, I cocked my ear to get a better hint at what they were saying. The fog had rolled across the lake and encircled the shoreline, making visual perception very difficult. To compensate, ears perked up to the song-sounds emanating from these remarkable creatures. In an instant, just when I thought I was beginning to comprehend the message, …..

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Two Eyes Of The Daimon

Uncategorized / August 21, 2010 / No Comments

In the midst of thunder, there are two eyes: one for time and one for eternity. In tandem, they see the ubiquitous depths of man’s affliction. Once I saw, as you see, a great dearth in the land. Asphyxiating gas held me in its sway, and the Sun swallowed the sky. I looked and beheld, within the deluge, the dross of ignorance slowly abating. Fire overwhelmed the green stars. From charred remains, I saw blue slivers of night fall upon the ground. Suspend, The waters above my head, Lest they wash over me. I descend, Into the formless deep. I stood at the edge of the universe and watched as …..

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Three Images Of The Unbound

Uncategorized / August 21, 2010 / No Comments

In the days of Heraclitus, Greek philosophy was still in its infancy. But even at this early juncture, Greece had already experienced the profound intellects of such luminaries as Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes. Of course, there were others, but these are the ones I wish to discuss, leading up to Heraclitus and his idea of boundless depth. This period in history is within the era Karl Jaspers called the Axial Age (Ger. Achsenzeit, “axistime”). Jaspers, and other scholars of spiritual and philosophical history, believed that a great awakening of consciousness began around 800-1000 BC (Hick 113). During this time, the archetypes of Western religious and philosophical thought were established. The …..

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On The Wings Of A Dream

Uncategorized / August 21, 2010 / No Comments

Lament For Icarus (1898) by Herbert James Draper The myth of Daedalus and Icarus has been on my mind recently. You can read a brief account of it here. Daedalus was a skilled artificer. One of his creations was the Labyrinth to house the Minotaur. He was said to be the originator of images. After the Minotaur was slain by Theseus, King Minos imprisoned Daedalus and Icarus in the Labyrinth. Daedalus, of course, knew his way out, so it was not a problem. Getting off the island of Crete was, however. So, he fashioned wings from feathers and wax for him and his son. They would fly to freedom. Daedalus …..

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Ficino’s Idea Of Soul

Uncategorized / August 20, 2010 / No Comments

The theme of Soul is the thread that weaves together the tapestry of Ficino’s thinking. I would like to focus on a passage from Ficino’s commentary on Plato’s Phaedrus: You must understand that in approaching the task of depicting the idea of the soul. . . (Marsilio Ficino and the Phaedrian Charioteer, Michael J.B. Allen, page 96). He goes on to describe six conceptions of the soul, which I may deal with in later essays. For now, however, my aim is to dissect what Ficino means by an idea of the soul. Years ago, when I was taught about the soul as a Christian, the language used suggested an objective …..

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Jung’s Coniunctio: The Chymical Wedding and Heraclitus

archetypal / August 20, 2010 / No Comments

In the workings of alchemy, the reconciliation of Sol and Luna is often referred to as The Chymical Wedding. Carl Jung’s theory of the conjunction of polarities in the psyche borrows heavily from this teaching. The ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, tells us that “the way up and the way down are one and the same” (qtd. in Wheelwright 78). The idea that opposites complement each other and are actually the same is still alive today in Jungian psychology. As we will see, Jung relied heavily on the interrelatedness of opposites to explain his entire psychological theory. This article will attempt to show the Heraclitan influence in Jungian thought. The philosophy …..

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Zen Consciousness

Uncategorized / August 18, 2010 / No Comments

Recently, while going over some of Heidegger’s ideas on thinking, it suddenly occurred to me how similar these sound to some notions I studied in a course on Zen Buddhism. In the course, we explored the teachings of a Zen scholar by the name of Katsuki Sekida. Sekida is a lay teacher of Zen who has been associated with Diamond Sangha in Hawaii. In his book, Zen Training, Sekida’s focus is on thought-impulses, or, as they are called in Japanese, nen. According to Sekida, the mind operates in a particular way. The way the mind operates is only one nen at a time. You cannot really do two things at …..

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Dreams and Literalism

Uncategorized / August 17, 2010 / No Comments

Taking images literally, with the same kind of realism as the ego uses in the daylight world–this is the heroic error, a mistake of Herculean proportion, given further Judeo-Christian blessing through warnings against demons, dreams, ikons, and all forms of the soul’s imaginings (Dream And The Underword, by James Hillman, page 116). The literal mindset has wreaked incredible havoc in Western civilization. The tendency to literalize images has been a problem in human history ever since the advent of ego in the dark, misty past. When ratiocination became firmly entrenched in the human psyche, literalism was intensified. Much damage has been inflicted by religion on the manner in which we …..

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An Imaginal Look at Trees

Uncategorized / August 16, 2010 / No Comments

Albert Einstein said, Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. I am of the opinion that we can learn all we need to know from Nature. The Hermetic maxim, As above, so below. implies this in the sense that Nature as Macrocosm mirrors man as Microcosm. We can learn more about the Microcosm, ourselves, by observing and pondering the images we see in Nature. With that in mind, I would like to focus on the tree, a very common image that most of us see everyday. The tree has long been used in religious and mystical teachings to represent life, its proliferation, abundance, growth, and regeneracy. …..

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The Philosophy of Water

Uncategorized / August 15, 2010 / 1 Comment

For souls, it is death to become water, and for water death to become earth. Water comes into existence out of earth, and soul out of water. –Heraclitus The first thought that comes to mind upon reading this passage is that Soul, for Heraclitus, is capable of becoming. It can change from a state of being dry to that of being wet. There would seem to be a dichotomy of Soul here, but there really isn’t. Heraclitus believes that Soul can pass back and forth between the two states, yet remain one. This signifies its opposition, and thus its harmony. It is in line with his ideas of constant flux …..

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Heidegger And Hendrix

archetypal / August 15, 2010 / No Comments

 I have in mind the Heideggerian concepts of ready-to-hand and present-at-hand, as well as the music of Jimi Hendrix. These musings have convinced me that Hendrix demonstrated the kind of thinking Heidegger talked about. I have listened to the music of Jimi Hendrix since I was fifteen. Even then, I sensed something magical in his lyrics and in his guitar work. I suppose I could say that certain of his songs touched me (whatever that may mean) at the very center of my being. I liked the psychedelic stuff, but it was the gentle, poetic songs which made me think there was more to him than being just another rock star. …..

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Mnemosyne

Uncategorized / August 15, 2010 / No Comments

Mnemosyne was the daughter of Gaia and Uranus in Hesiod’s Theogony, one of the Twelve Titans. In Greek myth, she is the personification of memory. Zeus lay with Mnemosyne nine nights and bore the Nine Muses. She is also said to be the inventor of words. Mnemosyne is also the name of one of the five rivers flowing through Hades. After their deaths, initiates of the Greek mystery religions were encouraged to drink from the Mnemosyne instead of the Lethe (forgetfulness), probably so that, after they were reincarnated, they would remember their past lives. Plato taught that the world of Ideas is the true reality, and that appearances and particulars …..

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The Dreams Of Tantalus

Uncategorized / August 15, 2010 / No Comments

We are all like Tantalus. We are all thirsty for the true goods, but we all drink dreams. While we absorb the deadly waves of the river of Lethe through our open throats, we scarcely lick with our lips a shadowlike bit of nectar and ambrosia. Therefore, a troublesome thirst continually burns us, oh we poor Tantali (qtd. in Kristeller, 210). This wonderful quote, which I found in Paul Kristeller’s work on Marsilio Ficino, is in the context of Ficino’s musings on melancholia, especially the melancholy of scholars. Ficino uses the Greek myth of Tantalus to illustrate how we come so very close to truth at times, only to have …..

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The Inferno of the Soul

archetypal / August 14, 2010 / No Comments

Marsilio Ficino writes in his Opera Omnia: The ardor of the mind is never extinguished, whether it looks at human or at divine things. If it desires human things, what mass of wealth, what fullness of empire ends that ardor? If it desires divine things, it is not satisfied with any knowledge of finite or created things. Like the fervor of an inferno, the mind, for Ficino, is never at rest. It is never content with its discoveries or its accomplishments. There is a fiery grief that underlies human existence that can grip the mind like a vise. One is sometimes thrown into a pit of despair where the beasts …..

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