Divine Matter and the Lumen Naturae

River Gorge, by Cornelius Krieghoff, 1854

There is a story in the Bible, in the Book of Exodus, of a time during the journey of the children of Israel from Egypt, when the people became very thirsty. God said this to Moses:

Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel (Exodus 17:6, KJV).

As with so much of the Bible, this story is steeped in symbolism of Soul, which speaks resoundingly to us as spelunkers of this vast landscape. All symbols of the collective unconscious can hold a multitude of meanings. This particular passage is quite a valuable nugget, if you examine it with alchemical eyes.

Remember, many of the alchemists were still living in a world steeped in the religious tradition of the Roman Catholic Church. They attempted to to fuse Christianity, in some ways, with their art. While the Church supposedly taught the way of the salvation of humanity, alchemy taught the salvation of Nature and matter. For matter to be redeemed, the alchemists believed the Soul must be extracted from it. The story of Moses and the smiting of the Rock was the perfect metaphor.

Origen wrote of it as “the river of our savior” (In Numeros homiliae, 17, 4 (Migne, P.G., vol. 12, col. 707). According to Jung, the alchemists used this image “to denote the extraction of the aqua permanens or of the soul from the lapis…” (CW 14). The aqua permanens is the River of Soul, the Mercurial Water, the transformative elixir that brings about the gushing out of Soul from the lapis, the rock. Jung calls this water

the arcane substance par excellence, in the right perspective. For the alchemists it was wisdom and knowl­edge, truth and spirit, and its source was in the inner man, though its symbol was common water or sea-water. What they evidently had in mind was a ubiquitous and all-pervading es­sence, an anima mundi and the “greatest treasure,” the inner­most and most secret numinosum of man. There is probably no more suitable psychological concept for this than the collective unconscious, whose nucleus and ordering “principle” is the self (the “monad” of the alchemists and Gnostics) (ibid.)

The Divine is in matter, in Nature. It pervades it, permeating every atomic and subatomic particle in our vast Universe. This is what Giordano Bruno tried to proclaim to humanity in the sixteenth century. This is the same idea I have been writing about for some time, i.e. animaterialism.

The alchemists also say this water is the Lumen Naturae, the Light of Matter, of which I have written about elsewhere. The “greatest treasure”, the Anima Mundi, is contained therein; not trapped there as some say, but simply abiding there until it is called forth to flow throughout the Earth and the entire Cosmos. Matter is not evil, as Plato believed. There is an essence of divinity in matter. It is not a prison for the fallen soul. Rather, matter is divine and filled with light, but it is up to us to extract it. The Anima Mundi is diffused throughout Nature, where all matter is specked with fiery sparks of divinity. As fiery scintillae spark upward from a campfire into a night sky, so do the light-filled scintillae of Soul permeate throughout the Universe, symbolized by the innumerable stars that dot the heavens.

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The Archetype of Spirit

Bald-headed Old Man, by Rembrandt

What we colloquially call the human “spirit,” is among the archetypes of the unconscious. Jung says the spirit archetype usually appears in dreams as a “wise old man,” who gives “decisive convictions, prohibitions, and wise counsels.” Sometimes, it appears simply as “an authoritative voice which passes final judgments.” It can appear as a ghost of a deceased one, or even as a “grotesque gnomelike figure or talking animal” (Jung 215). These spirit-figures are not always morally good. Jung says they often show “signs of duplicity” (ibid.).

Spirit has been associated, in human myths and fairy tales, with light, reason, intellect, moral rectitude, and good advice. The idea of a mentor has its origin in Greek mythology. Mentor was the son of Heracles and Asopis. When Mentor was an old man, Odysseus, his friend, placed him in charge of his son, Telemachus. Odysseus was leaving for the Trojan War. He needed the wise old man to watch over, offer sound advice, and be a father figure to Telemachus in his absence. Athena disguised herself as Mentor to offer her own divine counsel to the boy. In The Odyssey, Athena, appearing as Mentor, convinced Telemachus to stand up to his mother’s suitors, and go abroad in search of his father. Thus, we use the word, mentor, today to designate someone who offers wise counsel in trying times. This is a major characteristic of spirit. 

There are many sides to the image of the archetype of spirit; this is but one. Spirit is itself an aspect of Soul. My idea of Soul encompasses consciousness, unconsciousness, and body. The above characterization is a glimpse at the beneficence of spirit.

The archetype of spirit in the shape of a man, hob­goblin, or animal always appears in a situation where insight, understanding, good advice, determination, planning, etc., are needed but cannot be mustered on one’s own resources. The archetype compensates this state of spiritual deficiency by con­tents designed to fill the gap (Jung 216).

There is a negative side of spirit that seeks to eclipse earthly life for an otherworldly Utopia. Western culture is primarily a spirit-seeking society, even though many would deny this. We have been obsessed with spirit for a long time. Spirit is ubiquitous in our culture. It is the driving force behind many Western standbys, like capitalism, technology, industry, religion, and even many mystical and new age teachings. Anytime you hear someone talking about “transcendence”, you can bet spirit is nearby. Spirit is overemphasized at the expense of Soul. Many have forgotten about Soul, since it is much messier and less glamorous. We would rather soar in the heavens than slog through the morasses and quagmires of Soul. This is what occurs when one archetype is emphasized over all others. An aggrandized archetype can take control of one’s entire life, possessing one and causing one to obsess over that particular archetypal motif. This has occurred with the overinflated Ego, the same as with the overemphasized spirit. We need spirit, of a surety, but not at the expense of other aspects of Soul.

Jung, C.G. The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (Collected Works 9,1). New York: Princeton, 1958.

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Thoughts On Heidegger’s Being And Time

Heidegger begins his classic work with a quote from Plato’s Sophist 244a:

For manifestly you have long been aware of what you mean when you use the expression “being.” We, however, who used to think we understood it, have now become perplexed.

Not since the days of Plato and Aristotle had there been such an intense scrutinizing of the meaning of Being. With this quote from Plato, Heidegger announces his intention to revive the importance of the investigation into the meaning of Being. Socrates said, The unexamined life is not worth living; Heidegger does not believe a philosopher is worthy of the title without examining this most basic of all life’s questions, What is the meaning of Being?

Heidegger claims that the question of the meaning of Being has been forgotten. He also claims that a dogma has arisen among philosophers sanctioning the neglect and superfluous nature of questioning the meaning of Being.

The meaning of being must…already be available to us in a certain way. We intimated that we are always already involved in an understanding of being. From this grows the explicit question of the meaning of being and the tendency toward its concept.  We do not know what “being” means. But already when we ask, “What is being?” we stand in an understanding of the “is” without being able to determine conceptually what the “is” means. We do not even know the horizon upon which we are supposed to grasp and pin down the meaning. This average and vague understanding of being is a fact (Heidegger, Being And Time).

Being And Time is a hard nut to crack. I’ve learned from reading Kant and other philosophers that one must read the introductions in order to start out on the right foot. This is especially true with Heidegger. There are two chapters to this introduction. It is mandatory reading.

We set out, with Heidegger, to uncover the meaning of the question of being. According to the above passage, we already have an inkling of what that meaning might be. Some meaning is always already available to us. We are already “involved” in the grasping of the meaning, albeit in a very vague way, We see through a glass, darkly.

I am aware of my own existence. That is a fact. I know of a certainty I exist, but I know only in a very obscure way. Nevertheless, this dim bit of knowledge has meaning. What is obscure to me, and what will be the end result of my inquiry, is the explicit meaning of the being of beings, of which I am one. This being will be interrogated as to its meaning.

The being of beings “is” itself not a being (ibid.).

Being is not an object. It is not an entity. When my inquiry asks, “What does it mean to be?” I am not asking about a thing.

 The question of Being is the most basic question of all philosophical inquiry. It is what Heidegger calls, “philosophically primary” (ibid. p. 10). All investigations by all sciences have their foundation in the question of the meaning of Being. Before a scientist can study something, there are certain a priori assumptions that must be made. Now, scientists need not concern themselves with these questions prior to their studies, but a philosopher must.

For a philosopher, the underlying question, “How is knowledge even possible?” must be answered. Immanuel Kant, for instance, showed that an inquiring mind can discover certain categories and principles that underlie all human questioning (Critique Of Pure Reason). The manner in which the human mind organizes our experience through these categories (e.g. space, time) have to do with how a human “is.” In other words, “to be” human means to posses these innate mental structures, such as space and time. These a priori conditions make science possible.

To further elucidate, in front of me is a computer monitor. I am experiencing it. Space and time are like lenses through which I experience the monitor. They are innate and prior to my experience. I perceive the monitor in space and time. I am able to think of space and time devoid of the monitor, but I cannot think of the monitor devoid of space and time. This example demonstrates a manner in which I exist, a mode of existence, if you will. The question of the manner in which I exist is prior to all my experiences and inquiries, therefore the question of Being is the primary question of all inquiry.

Through this analysis, I have discovered that “being me” entails the possession of these innate conditions through which I experience the world. This brings me closer to understanding Being.

Most of the time, philosophical assertions, especially regarding metaphysics, possess the air of certainty. We think we have it all figured out. This is also a problem with religious zealots. If any of us think we have arrived at absolute truth, we are severely deluding ourselves. Dogma does not equate truth.

Heidegger announces early on what has transpired throughout the history of philosophy, since Plato, regarding the question of the meaning of being. A dogmatic attitude had developed that, basically, emptied being of all meaning.

On the foundation of the Greek point of departure for the interpretation of being a dogma has taken shape which not only declares that the question of the meaning of being is superfluous, but sanctions its neglect. It is said that “being” is the most universal and the emptiest concept (ibid.).

Anyone who questioned the meaning of being was said to be in error, supposedly because being resisted every attempt at explication and elucidation.

Dogma can stifle intellectual investigation and critical thinking. A dogmatic mindset has its root in narrow-minded worldviews that are closed to imagination and creativity. The word, dogma, originates with the Greek word dogmatos. Literally, it means, “that which one thinks is true.” Dogma is an opinion. Dogma declares something is truth, but does it arrive at this declaration via critical thinking?

For two thousand years, the question of the meaning of being went unasked. Only with Hegel did philosophers, once again, begin to ask the question concerning the meaning of being.

Heidegger takes Being not to be about particular things but about the general characterization of a particular view of the world. For Heidegger, Plato and Aristotle understood the Greek concept of Being as what has come to be called “substance/attribute” metaphysics. Along with what can be called “subject/object” metaphysics, these metaphysical theories dominated Western philosophy from Aristotle to Kant. Hegel was the first major philosopher to think of Being in developmental, organic imagery that undermined both types of metaphysics (John Tietz, Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time).

Today, these dogmas persist. The subject/object and substance/attribute theories may have served some usefulness for science, but they are perplexing when applied to metaphysical thought. Perhaps the natural unfolding of things deemed it necessary that the West develop alongside these concepts, but how useful are they at the nadir of our civilization?

In Dasein itself and therewith in its own understanding of being, as we shall show, the way the world is understood, is ontologically reflected back upon the interpretation of Dasein (ibid. p. 16).

This phrase, “the way the world is understood,” is quite important, I think. The world can be understood in many different ways by Dasein. The world is understood in a specific way by each Dasein. The world is not understood the same way by Daseins, but in many different ways.

The word, “way,” literally means “road, path, or course of travel.” Life is a road, a path, a course of travel. From the cradle to the grave, we are on a path, partly set in motion by the environment we are born into, partly by our personal choices, characteristics, and talents. Our uniqueness causes us to interpret differently the world in which we are traveling. Understanding the world changes as we travel this road, experiencing life as we go.

We come into this life, devoid of any understanding as to why we’re here. We are on a path through a dark forest. Every now and then, the path passes through a clearing, where beams of sunlight shine through and fall at our feet.

Experience. Understanding. Abiding. Being-Here. World.
 
If we are to gain an understanding of the meaning of being, we must come to grips with the manner in which we are intertwined with the world. Forget the subject/object separation; it is a mistake. I hate to quote pop songs, but We are the world.

None of us are better or worse off than each other when it comes to our potential to understand the meaning of being. We’re all in the same boat. We each interpret being differently because we each have a different interpretation of the world. Being requires a world in which to be. 

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Soul’s Maelstrom Revisited

Last summer, I presented two articles on this blog, The Involution Of Consciousness and Soul’s Maelstrom, that contained an image of the World Soul as a swirling maelstrom. In this article, I would like to revisit that discussion with some new ideas.

I said,

The metaphor of increasing consciousness is changing to one that
increases inwardly, as our individual Souls spiral into each other.
These are merging together as we whirl inward…We are swirling within Soul’s Maelstrom. Round and round we go in this
world, and ever downward. But, as we move deeper into the Vortex of
Life, we move, simultaneously, inward and closer together. The lower we
go into the Maelstrom, the quicker consciousness increases.  Let this
image burn within your mind.

There is no substance. All is process, including Soul. The image of an infinite maelstrom presents a beautiful idea of constant dynamism. The maelstrom is not something in which things ascend in a hierarchical fashion; rather, it pulls things ever downward into the depths. We are becoming deepened by the processes of the World Soul, thus enlarging our individual Soul experiences. And just as a vortex swirls faster the deeper one goes, so the process of deepening that is occurring now becomes more intense. There is also an intense movement to bring everything in the flow to a point of oneness. I believe such a movement is ongoing in the universe, a rhizomal movement toward infinity; the depths of this maelstrom are fathomless.

In a moving or evolving vortex the streamlines and pathlines are usually spirals (Wikipedia).

The spiral is the oldest religious symbol on the planet. What better symbol to use for Soul, the deepest of human experiences?

The circle and the spiral are found everywhere in nature. The circle
is seen in the daily round of the rising and setting sun, as well as in
the greater annual cycle as the seasons turn through the year. The
spiral occurs in shells, in whirlpools, in the microcosm of our DNA and
in the macrocosm of the spiral galaxies of deep space. As a symbol of
growth and evolution, the spiral is used as a metaphor for the enfolding
of spirit into matter and the unfolding of matter returning to spirit.
The synthesis of the spiral path and the central “heart” combines to
create the Labyrinth, a symbol holding both movement along the spiral
path and the potential of stillness at the centre (Journey Of The Soul).

Joseph Campbell, with Jung’s help, basically discovered the discipline of comparative mythology. World mythologies are the global faces of Soul. Jung, from the similarity of myths, theorized the collective unconscious. From one perspective, I see the image of the maelstrom as all of human mythologies spinning in the vortex, and thus moving toward a sort of Teilhardian Omega Point, where, someday, we shall have one basic framework of mythology, but with all individuality retained. This is the way of Nature, i.e. the One and the Many.

Furthermore, in the above quotation, the author states that a “synthesis of the spiral path and the central ‘heart’ combines to
create the Labyrinth, a symbol holding both movement along the spiral
path and the potential of stillness at the centre.” The maelstrom and the labyrinth are different images for the same Soul reality. There are no deeper, more archetypal symbols for Soul in human experience than the spiral; the maelstrom and the labyrinth are two very sophisticated examples of this timeless image.

We are all linked together in a Soul-mesh by common instinctual
motifs, “mental forms whose presence cannot be explained by anything in an individual’s own life and which seem to be aboriginal, innate, and
inherited shapes of the human mind” (C.G. Jung). The claim that these motifs exist among all cultures has been much
heralded by Campbell. He presents strong inductive evidence for the existence of the
archetypes. As one example, the figure of a mother
goddess exists in the mythology of many diverse cultures, even those
separated by vast oceans.

The collective unconscious is a powerful rhizomal presence in human
experience. It is an infinite, subterranean root system that snakes and
intertwines all humans in the tangle and convolution of Soul. This
collective entanglement will one day decentralize the self-aggrandizing
and narcissistic tendencies of human ego. The rhizomal Soul will one day
replace the Me Generation with the We Generation. No, it will not be
perfect; Utopia will never totally manifest on earth, but we are a world
of strivers, even though our goal may not always take us in a
particularly linear evolutionary path. We may whirl n the maelstrom for a thousand years or more, but, eventually, the transition to deeper consciousness will come. The more we allow the rhizomal
root structure of Soul to grow, the quicker we will get there. It is up
to us to care for Soul and nurture it.

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Nature Loves To Hide

Woodland, by Ivan Shishkin (1831-1898)

To arrive at the basic structure of things we must go into their darkness. Again, why? Because, says Heraclitus (frg. 123) ‘The real constitution of each thing is accustomed to hide itself, which has also been translated, ‘Nature loves to hide’” (Hillman 26).

Does this mean that real understanding lies in something Immanuel Kant said we cannot know, i.e. the thing-in-itself, the ding an sich? The archetypes of the unconscious are akin to this idea. We can certainly gain indirect  knowledge of them, even though such knowledge will always be partial and limited.

…since only what is hidden is true nature of all things, including nature itself, then only the way of soul can lead to true insight (ibid.).

I feel that Kant made a mistake by setting up the false dichotomy of phenomena and noumena, the latter of which has been interpreted as being synonymous with the ding an sich. Kant, in his zeal to save science, declared we could not really know the things of Nature, but could only have facile sensory experiences of them. In doing this, Kant ruled out any true insight whatsoever into God, Soul, the unconscious, archetypes, etc. Today, we know this is false. We certainly can have contact with Soul via dreams, meditation, prayer, art, music, and many other ways. Even a simple cup of hot coffee in the morning, at times, is an experience of Soul. Life is filled with soulful experiences, if we would simply be aware and take notice of them. I’ve always felt the Zen experience to be such an awareness. 

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 once because you cannot be conscious of two things at once.

Nen actions make their appearance before we are aware of them. A thought impulse occurs without our being aware of it. If you are going to become aware of a nen action, it takes a separate nen action to become aware of the first nen action.

First-nen occurs, for example, when one has an experience of a beautiful sunset. Before the awareness of “just how beautiful it is” dawns on you, you are momentarily held spellbound in the grasp of the experience. Then, immediately, there follows second-nen, which reflects on first-nen. According to Sekida,

The first and second nen come and go momentarily, and when a serial process of thought is occurring the second nen will frequently arise to illuminate the preceding nen, and the two will intermix as if they were entangled with each other (Sekida 109).

In second nen, one is aware of first nen. Second nen allows us to analyze and evaluate first nen. Although we can think of these as being two separate operations, they appear to us as being intertwined, as Sekida points out. Third-nen is thinking on the thought of “how beautiful the sunset is.” Third-nen bonds with first and second nen to give the illusion of the continuity of the ego. Being deluded, we believe that the ego is some sort of permanent entity. In Buddhism, any kind of permanent sub-strata is rejected as being illusory. There are only discrete nen-actions.

Through zazen, or meditation, an experience known as one-eon nen can occur. One-eon nen is where second nen never emerge. The experience consists of first nen impulses, one right after another. A good example of this can be seen in a story about Ryokan, a famous Japanese Zen Master. Bosai, an eminent scholar, had gone to visit Ryokan to discuss poetry, philosophy, and literature. Ryokan suggested they have some sake‘. He told Bosai that he would have to go borrow some at a farmhouse not far away. After waiting and waiting for Ryokan to return, Bosai set out to look for him. After searching for awhile, He found him sitting under a tree, gazing at the moon. Ryokan had been engaged in one-eon nen while experiencing the sight of the beautiful moon; the first-nen impulse was repeating itself over and over (Stevens 133).

The more primordial kind of thinking which Heidegger discusses seems to be very similar to first-nen. Heidegger’s study of Parmenides illuminates the original connection between thinking and being. Thinking, to Heidegger, belongs to being. In this belonging-together of being and thinking, thinking thinks on being. It does not evaluate and analyze a thing–it experiences it as “that which emerges out of hiding.” In this, it is similar to first-nen. The initial impulse of the essence of a thing, as in the example of the sunset, carries with it no logical analysis of the thing. The thing emerges, and is grasped in its essence. One-eon nen would be a looping of this first-nen impulse, or the logic-free thought of the being of the sunset, being experienced over and over.

So, you see, we are able, at times, to experience true insights into Nature. There are so many aspects of Soul, so many states of consciousness and unconsciousness that we are just beginning to learn about. We are, after all, living in the Epoch of Soul. It’s a great time to be alive! 

Hillman, James. The Dream And The Underworld. New York: Harper & Row, 1979.

Sekida, Katsuki. Zen Training. New York: Weatherhill, 1975.

Stevens, John. Three Zen Masters. New York: Kodansha, 1993.

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The Process of Soul

Ad Parnassum, by Paul Klee

Process philosophy has much to offer the Soul spelunker. One thing I have always felt was lacking in both analytical and archetypal psychology is a sound metaphysical foundation. In my spelunking, I believe I have stumbled across the missing link, at least in my mind. Although I studied the process philosophers, such as Alfred North Whitehead, in college, I did not spend sufficient time with them to make the connection between process philosophy and what I was gleaning then from C.G. Jung and James Hillman. Now, I have had an epiphany, albeit not an original insight, but an epiphany for me personally, nevertheless.

James Hillman saw the connection before I. In 1983, Hillman gave the keynote address at the Claremont Graduate School, where Jungian and archetypal analysts gathered together with process philosophers for dialogue. Hillman stated that David Bohm had seen the problem even earlier:

Bohm admitted frankly and sadly that physics had released the world
into its perishing, and that physicists had neither learning nor ability
to think the world out of its peril…we saw that our plight was way
beyond the discipline of the men who had advanced this plight…The
physical threat of the end of the world results from a metaphysical
catastrophe (Archetypal Process: Self and Divine in Whitehead, Jung, and Hillman, p. 215).

David Bohm should know. He was one of the physicists that changed our world forever. Hillman’s goal was to find a metaphysical basis for the process of Soul, or what Keats called, “soul-making.” The metaphysics of Alfred North Whitehead, from what I’ve read so far, is suited for just such a task. I also believe the philosophy of Giordano Bruno, who I am certain influenced Whitehead, will eventually play a large role in anchoring archetypal and analytical psychology in the bedrock of truth.

Why is process philosophy so appropriate for a metaphysics of Soul? The primary reason lies in the seminal thought of the Father of Process Philosophy, Heraclitus. Many of us are familiar with the famous statement attributed to the “weeping philosopher”, “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” This statement epitomizes the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. According to Hillman, Heraclitus may have been the first depth psychologist (The Dream And The Underworld, p. 25). The reason being that Heraclitus made Soul the starting-point for his thinking.

An archetypal metaphysics would need to recognize the imaginal as foundational, the validity and power of myth, and the return of Soul to its place of prominence in human endeavor. The world is ripe for the return of Soul to the mainstream.

I am just getting into process philosophy, so let us see what may come out of it. I am anxious to examine my image of the Maelstrom of Soul, and my animaterialism in light of what I am learning from Whitehead. Stay tuned.

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What Is A Soul?

The Japanese Footbridge, by Calude Monet

Here is another example of amateur spelunking from the early nineties, just when I was becoming curious about such matters:

What is a soul? All my life I have been told that humans consist of soul and body. Some say, “I have a soul and I live in a body,” as if a soul is a possession one purchases at Wal-Mart.

Once when I was a child, I went to a “revival,” where the preacher was talking about the soul burning in hell. I wondered what that could mean.

The teachings of the Pythagoreans point to the soul as being immortal, imperishable, uncreated, and unlimited. They say it is air, wind, or breath (pneuma), and that it comes from the Upper Air, which steers the kosmos. This Upper Air is pure and very rarefied. It is always in motion, and it is that which moves the gods (planets). The soul is in exile from this upper region. It is imprisoned in the body, which is like a tomb. By purifying itself after many reincarnations, the soul can break free of the Lower Air and return to the Upper Air, where it then becomes god-like.

Obviously, this is mythical language. The soul is not just air or breath or wind in a literal sense. So, how does this language help me to understand what a soul is? Perhaps the question itself is flawed to begin with. Can we even say what a soul is? Doesn’t the copula, “is,” infer that the soul is an object just as a chair is an object? If so, then the question. “What is a soul,” is worthless because the soul cannot be an object. Objects are empirically experienced. I cannot empirically experience a soul, at least not in the way I experience the chair I am now sitting in.

I am wondering whether soul is similar to Heidegger’s idea of Dasein. Could these be connected? It seems a promising path to follow, since I am having so much difficulty viewing the soul as an object.

I recall my paper last quarter on Heidegger’s idea of ready-to-handedness and the musicianship of Jimi Hendrix. The relation between the musician and his or her instrument, when the two fuse and perform as one, seems akin to what Heidegger meant by ready-to-handedness. Could this be the relation, the mode of being which is characteristic of soul? Is this the Being-energy which Pythagoras claims is immortal, and that passes from one body to another until it finds release in the Upper Air, where it becomes divine? Is Dasein the same as soul? Could the Upper Air be a metaphor for authenticity?

Aristotle wrote that the Pythagoreans claim “the soul is a sort of attunement (harmonia); for attunement is a synthesis and blending of opposites” (De Anima 407b 28). . . Is Dasein like this? Perhaps it is, for Dasein is not set over against the world of objects as in the subject/object dichotomy. Rather, the dichotomy is transcended, where Dasein is not “in the world,” in a spatial sense, but is the world. As Heidegger says, “The world is not a way of characterizing those entities which Dasein essentially is not; it is rather a characteristic of Dasein itself” (qtd. in Stumpf 465). This is demonstrated in the previously mentioned example of a musician and his or her instrument fusing and becoming one, i.e., ready-to-handedness.
Perhaps this harmony, this transcendence is what the Pythagoreans meant by soul.

I’m uncertain about this. Pythagoras would want to include animals and plants in his teaching on the soul, whereas Heidegger is referring to humans only, as far as I can tell.

Bibliography

Stumpf, Samuel Enoch. Socrates to Sartre. New York: McGraw-Hill,

1982.

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A Comparative Study Of David Hume And Thomas Aquinas

This is an old article that I just unearthed from the crypt. I wrote it in 1992, when I was quite enamored with philosophical theology. I offer it to those readers who may be interested in such things.

In this article I will attempt to compare the thought of Thomas Aquinas and David Hume concerning the existence of God. I will focus primarily on Thomas’ attempt to prove the existence of God, and what Hume may have said in response to it.

These two great intellects came from very different backgrounds. Thomas Aquinas, the son of well-to-do parents, was groomed for ecclesiastical service from an early age. David Hume’s family wanted him to pursue a career in law. Both had rebellious streaks, however. Thomas joined the ranks of the mendicant Dominicans while studying at the University of Naples, while Hume decided to go against the wishes of his parents by devoting his life to learning and philosophy. Aquinas became a Roman Catholic theologian, while Hume became a respected writer and thinker.

One thing that stands out very clearly is their common gift of intellectual prowess. These two are among the most influential minds in Western civilization. Even though their conclusions are very different, there is much truth to be gleaned from both of them.

The major divergence in their thought would, of course, be in religious matters. Thomas was very much a believer in the God of Christianity. Hume was, according to some, an atheist. His writings reveal that he was probably an agnostic. He was, however, very interested in religion and wrote much on the subject.

Aquinas attempted to prove the existence of God in his classic work, Summa Theologica. He presented five very persuasive arguments which he called the “Five Ways.” A primary motif of his arguments was God as “First Cause.”

A few of the arguments depend heavily upon cause and effect, and a connection between them. His position on demonstrating the existence of God rests on this statement:

…from every effect the existence of its proper cause can be demonstrated, so long as its effects are better known to us; because, since every effect depends upon its cause, if the effect exists, the cause must preexist (Summa Theologica, Part I, Question Two, Second Article; emphasis mine). 

Thomas seems to be saying in this passage that there is a necessary connection between cause and effect because of the dependence of the effect upon a preexistent cause. I understand that the causal chain for Thomas is not an infinite series, but is rather a hierarchy of causal activity in which a subordinate cause is dependent upon a higher cause. Nevertheless, I still think he is claiming a necessary connection.

This is the very thing that Hume attacked so vehemently in his philosophical writings. He tells us that a necessary connection cannot be observed. In his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, he says,

When we look about us towards external objects, and consider the operation of causes, we are never able, in a single instance, to discover any power or necessary connection; any quality, which binds the effect to the cause, and renders the one an infallible consequence of the other” (Section VII). 

If this be true, the arguments presented from causality by Aquinas are highly questionable. Since there is no necessary nexus between cause and effect, there can be no chain leading back to a First Cause.

I don’t think Hume would have had a problem with Aquinas saying he “believed” there was some connection between cause and effect. Hume taught that “belief” is a strong feeling “which distinguishes the ideas of the judgment from the fictions of the imagination” (ibid.). Belief, in this case, is based on past experience, or “custom,” as Hume calls it. We “believe” that when a billiard ball strikes another billiard ball the latter will move. We do so because it has always happened like that in the past. But Aquinas is not stating a belief in this manner. He has taken for granted that a necessary connection exists between cause and effect, and is making a logical inference, from effects, that a First Cause must exist. He has done this without establishing first that a necessary connection truly exists.

But what would Thomas say to Hume in response to the problem of a necessary connection? He might agree with Hume that one cannot observe a necessary connection. He might say that humans are still aware of a causal relation, nevertheless.

F.C. Copleston discusses this in his book, “Aquinas.” He says:

A remark on the word ’cause’ is here in place. What precisely Aquinas would have said to the David Humes either of the fourteenth century or of the modern era it is obviously impossible to say. But it is clear that he believes in real causal efficacy and real causal relations. He was aware, of course, that causal efficacy is not the object of vision in the sense in which patches of colours are objects of vision; but the human being, he considered, is aware of real causal relations and if we understand ‘perception’ as involving the cooperation of sense and intellect, we can be said to ‘perceive’ causality (page 123).

When Copleston says Thomas was aware that “causal efficacy is not the object….,” he seems to be saying that Aquinas was aware that a necessary connection could not be observed, but that we could, nevertheless, “perceive” such a connection.

Hume, in Part IX of the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, goes on to further criticize the idea of a First Cause. He says the idea “seems absurd,” and that the act of uniting causes and effects into a whole, which may seem to demand a cause, is merely an “arbitrary act of the mind, and has no influence on the nature of things.”

Aquinas’ third way asserts that God is a necessarily existing Being. He arrives at this conclusion by asserting that God cannot not-be, therefore He exists necessarily.

Hume, in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, answers this argument through the mouth of Cleanthes:

Nothing is demonstrable unless the contrary implies a contradiction. Nothing that is distinctly conceivable implies a contradiction. Whatever we conceive as existent, we can also conceive as non-existent. There is no being, therefore, whose non-existence implies a contradiction. Consequently, there is no being whose existence is demonstrable (Part IX). 

Since the mind can conceive of God as not existing, His/Her existence cannot be demonstrated.

Thomas would probably argue along the lines of necessity. I think he would say that Hume’s argument would apply only to beings that come into existence or pass away. Hume may not have understood the way theologians like Aquinas and Anselm used the term “necessary being.” Aquinas did not mean that God was a logically necessary being, but that God’s necessity is factual, or equivalent to the self-existence (aseity) of God. God’s necessary being should not be thought of as equivalent to saying the proposition “God exists” is a logically necessary truth.

It seems that both men have interesting things to say. As philosophers, we can learn much from their writings. We need not be religious to learn from Thomas, and we need not be a skeptic to glean from Hume. They both exhibit astounding intellects, and have both helped to shape the course of our present world.

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The Soul Is Not Supernatural

Sunset, by Arkady Rylov, 1917

In the sense that the word, “supernatural,” means “something that transcends nature,” Soul is not supernatural. The word, “nature,” literally is derived from “born,” natus. It also carries the meaning of “the universe.” It is the “course of things.” Enigmatic as Soul is, and whose depths are fathomless, it is still intertwined with our natural universe. The idea that Soul originates in some otherworldly place is a product of our Christian tradition, its penchant for dualism, and its inclination for taking truths about reality literally. In mainstream Christian thought, God and nature are totally separate. According to this view, our world represents something fallen, due to sin, from a paradisaical state. I reject all of this in favor of a supremely wonderful universe, which has room in it for dreams, imagination, epiphanies, love, and beauty. 

The claim that the Soul is purely a natural reality is not reductionist. I am not attempting to relegate the function of Soul to brain chemistry, physics, etc. I propose that the experiences we know to be soulful, such as those we have when enjoying an excellent meal with people we care for, or that feeling we get when gazing at a lazy sunset, or when we are moved by a play, a song, a book, are perfectly natural for humans to have. They are deep, meaningful, even epiphanous, at times. These are part of what we call Soul and Soul is ubiquitous, if we are open to the experiences. We can experience Soul in a painting, in a work of architectural genius, or simply gazing across a picturesque body of water at daybreak when the fog rolls gently across its surface. The experiences of Soul are myriad and they all occur in this universe.

Author, Paul Levy, says,

According to the alchemists, the products of our imagination are not
immaterial, vaporous phantoms, but are something corporeal, having a
“subtle body” all their own. The alchemists were realizing that the
philosophers’ stone was a subtle energy body, a super-celestial body,
the “star” in humanity, which is the interface between mind and matter (God the Imagination, by Paul Levy, emphasis mine).

And  Carl Jung tells us,

Somewhere our unconscious becomes material, because the body is the living unit, and our conscious and our unconscious are embedded in it: they contact the body. Somewhere there is a place where the two ends meet and become interlocked. And that is the [subtle body] where one cannot say whether it is matter, or what one calls “psyche.” (Nietzsche’s Zarathustra: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1934-1939, Volume 2, vol. 1, p. 441).

Perhaps there are many modes of being in the universe, Soul being one; perhaps it is the primary mode of being. We do not possess all knowledge, so it is impossible at this time to say how deeper experiences of human life come about. We simply know for a fact they exist. Who knows what other dimensions there are to this wondrous universe of ours? It is arrogant and pompous for us to assume we have sufficient knowledge to proclaim that nature is composed of dead, inert matter and nothing more. It is a deus ex machina to posit a supernatural Soul. Marvelous, yes! But still part of our marvelous cosmos.

Take a dream, for instance. We all know that a dream is a very real experience. Are we to conclude that this experience, which really doesn’t fall into the category of consciousness, is not real because it is not empirically observed? Of course not. Common sense tells us it is a very real experience. Certainly, it is not literal, but there are many realities that are not literal. And again, they are all part of our natural universe. One need not posit a shadowy, otherworldly locale from whence these experiences emanate. The universe is the body of the Anima Mundi.

That brings us to unconsciousness, and the irruptions into consciousness that C.G Jung wrote so much about. These, too, are part of our natural cosmic order. All the forgotten experiences of our species, and perhaps of all entities, lie there in the depths of Soul. This, too, even though we don’t have much knowledge of the unconsciousness of humans, is part of the natural order of things. There is no need to posit a supernatural order.

Many assume that Soul is supernatural. This article was written to initiate thought processes that might lead one away from transcendental ideas, and perhaps nudge one to realize the amazing universe we are all part of.

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The Naming Of Reality

 
 

 

Winter Moon Night, by Edward Ludwig Kirchner, 1919

 

Philosophers have had much trouble naming what we think is real. Some believe that only matter is real and can be studied, and thus we have various forms of materialism. Some claim there are non-material entities and that these are just as real as material entities. Of course, there are many views that attempt to fuse these into a coherent schema. What I’ve been trying to do on this blog is develop my own naming convention for reality, borrowing heavily from many others. My animaterialist ramblings are an attempt to include Soul in my own view of reality. One would think, upon first glance, that Soul would be a non-material entity, and that my view would fall into a dualist framework. That is undoubtedly caused by the fact that the word, Soul, carries a lot of historical baggage, as does the word “matter.” Soul is usually said to be an invisible inhabitant of the body. That is not the way I view Soul at all.

I have probably contradicted myself many times in my writings. This is due to the evolution of my thought. I am always learning new things and this occasionally changes my views. This is an issue for all thinkers.

My understanding of Soul is evolving. I believe it is due to my evolving view of matter, which none of us really understands very well at all. Matter is one of the most enigmatic puzzles in all the universe. We are accustomed to thinking of matter as Descartes viewed it,

So, extension in length, breadth, and depth, constitutes the nature of bodily substance; and thought constitutes the nature of thinking substance. And everything else attributable to body presupposes extension, and is only a mode of extended (The Principles of Human Knowledge”. Principles of Philosophy I. p. 53).

That’s it. According to Descartes, matter is only extension: length, breadth, and depth. Nothing else. I don’t believe this is all there is to matter. I also don’t believe that mind and consciousness are separate from matter. I don’t use Soul in the usual Jungian sense of anima or animus (he distinguished between psyche and soul in his writings). In my opinion, what we know as Soul is the same as Matter. Reality is indistinguishable, whether we call it Matter or Soul. Our human experience is of this universe and it is, what I call, animaterial. It includes all things in our experience, including consciousness, unconsciousness, dreams, God, archetypes, as well as what we empirically know. Our experience, both conscious and unconscious, is of one reality: animatter. Yes, this is a monistic view.

Recently, I’ve found a common thread in the work of philosopher, Galen Strawson. In his paper, Realistic Monism, Dr. Strawson frames similar claims as what he calls “real physicalism.”

Full recognition of the reality of experience, then, is the obligatory starting point for any remotely realistic version of physicalism. This is because it is the obligatory starting point for any remotely realistic (indeed any non-self-defeating) theory of what there is. It is the obligatory starting point for any theory that can legitimately claim to be ‘naturalistic’ because experience is itself the fundamental given natural fact; it is a very old point that there is nothing more certain than the existence of experience (Realistic Monism: Why Physicalism Entails Panpsychism).

In regard to what he means by “physicalism”, he seems to be returning to the ancient Greek view of physis:

I take physicalism to be the view that every real, concrete phenomenon in the universe is … physical. It is a view about the actual universe, and I am going to assume that it is true. For the purposes of this paper I will equate ‘concrete’ with ‘spatio-temporally (or at least temporally) located’, and I will use ‘phenomenon’ as a completely general word for any sort of existent. Plainly all mental goings on are concrete phenomena (ibid.).

He distinguishes his brand of physicalism from the sort that believes everything can be explained by physics, which he calls, physicSalism:

It follows that real physicalism can have nothing to do with physicSalism, the view — the faith — that the nature or essence of all concrete reality can in principle be fully captured in the terms of physics (ibid.).

Of this, animaterialism is in agreement. I’m not sure yet how Dr. Strawson would feel about experiences that we usually attribute to Soul, such as our dreams, but I think we are on the right track here. Animaterialism would say that our experiences of the archetypes, which we also call the Gods, would be physical, in the Strawsonian sense of real physicalism. To avoid the confusion of the definition of physicalism, I prefer to use the word, animaterialism.

The naming of reality has always been, more or less, a subjective issue, due to personal preference, I suppose. I’m certain there will be more names cropping up in the future for our evolving views of reality.

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Are Mind And Brain The Same?

I recently read an article by a blogger who began by saying very plainly that dualism is not a correct view of reality, that it leads to fragmentation in all aspects of life. With this proposition, I agree wholeheartedly. Then, in attempt to discount the reductionist materialist view, they began to explain why they believe the brain is different from the mind. With this, I must disagree, but not with the usual objections we hear from materialists. In my perspective, the mind and brain should not be dichotomized. When they are said to be fundamentally different, this amounts to falling headlong back into the dualist tiger-trap. Viewing the brain as “simply flesh” and the mind as “consciousness” is dualism. This view degrades matter in an attempt to elevate mind to a higher position in the scheme of reality. It is the classic exemplification of the so-called mind-body problem.

I am of the opinion that the brain and the mind are of the same “substance” (Not substance in the usual sense; I have explained my use of this word elsewhere). The brain and the mind need not be different because all matter is intertwined with Soul, which acts as the entelechy of the entity. The brain is no different. Soul is homogeneous with flesh, thus making it one reality, the animaterial brain. If this is the first time you have heard the word, animaterial, I invite you to search this blog and read all the pertinent articles concerning this topic.

To affirm the homogeneity of matter and Soul is not to say the brain will not age and become, at times, impaired by disease and various other maladies. The animaterial entity is not immune from pathologization. In fact, this is one of the hallmarks of Soul. It is one of the primary means for the expansion of Soul, as in Hillmanian “soul-making.” The entirety of Nature suffers, at times. John Keats referred to this world as the “vale of soul-making,” a place where animaterial entities encounter hardship and trouble in abundance, but that, without it, they cannot become what they are truly meant to be. Even the scriptures tell us, In your patience possess ye your souls (Luke 21:19). If one can endure with patience the troubles of this world, the Soul grows strong, forged in the fire of suffering. But, I digress.

The entire issue with thinking the brain and the mind are separate is due to a misunderstanding concerning the nature of matter. This question is paramount for the understanding of animaterialism. We know we possess a mind; we use it daily, at least most of us do. The direct experience of thinking thoughts and being conscious of everything around us points to the reality of a mind and consciousness. What we don’t understand so well is matter. We have been led to believe that it is dead, inert, possessing no animative qualities whatsoever. To the Greeks, Nature consisted of physis, or “natural things.” At some point in the history of philosophy, the word, “physical,” took on a totally new meaning that left us with a view of matter that was devoid of mind, Soul, consciousness, etc. This was a mistake that is in process of being corrected by philosophers such as Galen Strawson and David Chalmers. These thinkers propose a physicalism that includes consciousness, which is what I am saying, as well. I go further, however, and say that all entities are animaterial because all entities in the universe are synonymous with Soul. Matter and consciousness alone do not make up all of reality. We must account for all natural things, as the Greeks did. This would include unconsciousness, as well. We know that Soul is both consciousness and unconsciousness, not just consciousness alone. The archetypes of the collective unconscious are unconscious realities that, in my opinion, should be accounted for in any theory of reality.

So, physicalism, stripped of reductionist materialism, is a theory that should include all these natural things in the universe. This is what I call animaterialism. This is why the mind and the brain are one reality.

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David Bohm On The Dangers Of Fragmentation

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Head Of A Martyr, by Odilon Redon, 1877

David Bohm, referring to the prevalent dualistic paradigm, says that mankind

begins to see and experience himself and his world as actually made up of components. Being guided by this view, man then acts in such a way as to try to break himself and the world up, so that all seems to correspond to his way of thinking. He thus obtains an apparent proof of the correctness of his fragmentary self-world view, not noticing that it is he himself, acting according to his mode of thought, who has brought about the fragmentation that now seems to have an autonomous existence, independent of his will and of his desire.

Fragmentation is thus an attitude which disposes the mind to regard divisions between things as absolute and final, rather than as ways of thinking that have only some relative and limited range of validity and usefulness. It leads to a general tendency to break things up in an irrelevant and inappropriate way, and so, it is evidently inherently destructive. For example, though all parts of mankind are now actually fundamentally interdependent and inter-related, the primary and overriding kind of significance generally given to the widespread and pervasive distinctions between people (family, profession, nation, race, ideology, etc.) is preventing human beings from working together for the common good, and indeed, even for survival. When man thinks of himself in this fragmentary way, he will inevitably tend to put his own separate Ego first, or else his own group. He cannot seriously think of himself as internally related to the whole of mankind and therefore to all other people. Even if he does try to put mankind first, he will tend to think of nature as something separate, to be exploited to satisfy whatever desires people may happen to have at the moment. Similarly, he will think body and mind are independent actualities, and he will go on in his thinking to divide these further into various parts and functions, each to be treated separately. Physically, this is not conducive to over-all health (whose root meaning is “wholeness”). And mentally, it is not conducive to sanity (which has basically a very similar meaning), as is indeed shown by an ever-growing tendency to the break-up of the psyche, as neurosis, psychosis, etc.

To sum up then, fragmentary thinking is giving rise to a reality that is constantly breaking up into disorderly, disharmonious, and destructive partial activities. It seems reasonable then seriously to explore the suggestion that a mode of thinking that starts instead from the most encompassing possible whole, and goes down to parts (sub-wholes) in a way appropriate to the actual nature of things, would tend to bring about a different reality, one that was orderly, harmonious, and creative. But for this actually to happen, it is not enough that we explore this notion only intellectually. It must also enter deeply into our intentions, actions, and indeed, into our whole being. That is to say, we have to mean it, with all that we think, feel, and do. To bring this about requires an action going far beyond what we have discussed here (David Bohm, The Implicate Order: a New Approach to the Nature of Reality).

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Practical Applications Of Animaterialism

 
 

I feel that, of late, I’ve been putting out much theory to the exclusion of praxis. Therefore, this article will attempt to show some practical applications of the animaterialist worldview. 

If we believe the universe is a living organic reality, and all things are interconnected, the way we treat all creatures will be affected. Our current milieu, being based on a dualistic materialistic capitalism, acts toward all things with one thing in mind: profit. Its most vocal proponents pay lip service to the Jesus of the Gospels. But the Jesus of the Gospels wanted nothing to do with those who greedily manipulated the people. He spoke out against it time and time again. We should too. If we are related to each other and to all things, as we are, animaterialism necessarily infers we treat all things with lovingkindness, respect, empathy, and magnanimity. This is the primary practical effect of accepting the animaterialist worldview.

There are many areas of life where we can apply this ideal. For one, let’s stop thinking we have dominion over our planet, and that we can treat it in a manner in which we must squeeze the most profit from it. In reality, we are the earth and the earth is us. When we harm our planet, we harm ourselves. I speak only of the earth at this time, but there will come a day when mankind will acquire the knowledge to colonize other parts of the cosmos. These ideas do not apply only to this planet, but to the entire universe. If profiteers believe they can exploit other parts of the universe, they will undoubtedly attempt it. The animaterialist will understand that we are the universe and the universe is us. When we do disservice to the universe, we do disservice to ourselves.

Most of the harm currently being done to our world is because of greed. As the scriptures tell us, “Love of money is the root of all evil.” Well, the root of all evil has greatly damaged our world. It will be up to those who adopt the principles of animaterialism to put a halt to the rape of the planet, and then to repair what has been done, if that is even possible at this point. How do we go about this? Currently, I am not sure. I am certain that violence is not the way. Violence only breeds more violence. I am a great believer in the fact that things change very gradually, over many years, if we continue to sow the seeds of oneness, unity, and love, mighty trees will someday soar into the heavens.

Capitalism is based on a deeply fragmented worldview, where the haves rule over the have-nots. There is a yawning abyss between the two. It is hierarchical, and thus anti-immanence. It is mostly patriarchal, where women are paid much less than men. The upper class rules the lower class and what’s left of the middle class. Capitalists see Nature as something to be exploited for profit, therefore it is perfectly fine to drill for oil anywhere and everywhere; it is perfectly fine to pollute our oceans; it is perfectly fine to pump toxins into the atmosphere, as long as the corporations continue to make a profit. It is wrong, plain and simple. The animaterialist will not accept these things, but will work to change them by either implementing an ethical capitalism (I believe this is possible), or abolishing it altogether in favor of a more equitable system.

I don’t know yet what an animaterialist politics would be like. Socialism has failed so far to make any progress in the battle for ethical treatment of Nature and its creatures. I don’t really think the answer lies in politics, but in a particular mode of consciousness. A majority of people must come to a certain awareness concerning the universe and how it should be treated. This will come with the next evolutionary leap of awareness.

Typically, we think that humans will be the only creatures that will enjoy such a leap of consciousness. I think all things will increase their modes of consciousness. If all things are interconnected, why should everything but humans be omitted from such blessing?

The animaterialist viewpoint sees all entities as possessing value. We are laterally interconnected; we grow toward each other. We respect each other. We do not seek to take advantage of each other, and we certainly do not seek to profit financially from each other.We can begin by simply being kind to others, basically to carry out the Golden Rule, i.e. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is still a revolutionary notion. This principle alone can change the world.

Now, I don’t like labels, so I am not advocating that anyone start referring to themselves as animaterialists. Labels don’t work and they create confusion. It is enough to apply the principles. Think through the ramifications for yourselves. If all things are interconnected, what harm you bring to other entities of the universe, you bring to yourselves. This is nothing new. Sages, mystics, and philosophers have taught this for thousands of years. If enough of us do this, we will truly change the world and the universe.

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Light And Animatter

Claude Monet: Soleil Levant, 1872

What physicists have discovered concerning the nature of light is that it behaves as both wave and particle. This profound and paradoxical characteristic makes light a very attractive metaphorical image in explaining the true nature of reality, if one may be so bold as to attempt such a difficult task. I have said that our universe is filled with “animatter,” or ensouled matter. There is no dichotomy at all in animatter. Our language brings differentiation between the abstractions we call matter and Soul. We also hear much of the so-called “mind-body problem” (which is not a problem at all, if you reject dualism).  These are mere mental constructs. Animatter is a monistic reality, where all entities in the universe share the same Soul. This is what we refer to as the World Soul, or the Anima Mundi.

Soul is not a substance, but a perspective. It is a way of seeing, of
hearing, of experiencing the universe as it actually is. Soul is an
experience of the divine animaterial universe. It mediates our experiences,
leading us down into the depths of reality, of true animaterial
existence. Soul is the experience of the depth in life.

Light has always been a powerful image in religion and spirituality all over the world. We have only scratched the surface in our knowledge of the nature of light. At least we do know that its behavior is contrary to rational thought. I contend that all reality, at its root, is also contrary to rational thought; it is paradoxical. 

Looking at light as a metaphor, it exists in both visible and invisible forms. Humans, typically, cannot see the entire electromagnetic spectrum. In the same way, animatter has both visible and invisible forms. Typically, with our bodily senses we experience only the explicate manifestation of animatter. I borrow the term “explicate” from David Bohm. There is also an implicate form of animatter, which I will call Soul.

Animatter is like a scroll in that, when rolled up, it contains, in potentia, what the entity is and shall become. This mode of being is associated with its Soul. When the scroll is unrolled, its truth is fully manifested. The word, “explicate,” derives from the Latin word, explicare, which means to unfold or unravel. The word, “implicate,” comes from the Latin word, implicare, meaning to entwine, wreath, or roll up. The enfolding and unfolding of animatter is infinite in our universe. It has always occurred and always will. Animatter exists both potentially and actually. It is continuously bringing forth new forms from the womb of all things, the Mater Materia, as Bruno called it.  I call it Mater Animateria, or “Mother Animatter.”

Light helps us to understand these kinds of truths. It has always served humanity as an exemplary symbol of the nature of reality. It provides illumination and warmth when in its explicated form; in its implicated form, it is a womb of potential, a matrix of creativity that is to come. There is light in animatter, but there is also darkness. The darkness is not necessarily evil, as we have been taught through our Judea-Christian tradition. Darkness can symbolize the unconscious, for instance, which is dark because its contents have not yet arisen into consciousness. It is the same principle as a child enfolded in the darkness of its mother’s womb. The birth of the child is its unfolding.

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The Entelechy Of Animatter

 

Without Title, by Hugo Ohne (1854)

 

We might think of the daimon as the ego of one’s entelechy, the personification within one’s psyche of the higher presence (Jean Houston, A Mythic Life, page 130). . .

We know that matter is not dead and inactive. There is a power innate to matter that we call Soul. There is no distinction between these two ideas. Soul acts as the entelechy (Greek word entelecheia) of matter, the telos inside matter that compels it to become what it truly is, to strive and emerge into its own manner of Being. We have named all such entities (which, of course, includes all things) animatter. The entelechy of all animatter is Soul.

Joe Sachs, translator of Aristotle (the inventor of the word), says this concerning entelechy:

Entelecheia, as can be seen by its derivation, is a kind of completeness, whereas “the end and completion of any genuine being is its being-at-work” (energeia). The entelecheia is a continuous being-at-work (energeia) when something is doing its complete “work”. For this reason, the meanings of the two words converge, and they both depend upon the idea that every thing’s “thinghood” is a kind of work, or in other words a specific way of being in motion. All things which exist now, and not just potentially, are beings-at-work, and all of them have a tendency towards being-at-work in a particular way which would be their proper and “complete” way (Sachs, Joe (1995), Aristotle’s physics: a guided study).

The telos of an entelechy is not to be understood as a static endpoint. The notion here is that the entelechy is a “continuous being-at-work.” An animaterial entity does not suddenly arrive at full completion and then remains static. The process is endless.

Soul in-forms an animaterial entity, thus transforming it into that which it was destined to become. This does not just occur in humans. All animaterial entities have Soul as their entelechy. They are in continuous and endless motion.

Christian de Quincey, in his essay Stories Matter, Matter Stories, writes

In this new (and very ancient) view, mind is neither outside nor inside matter, but is part of the very essence of matter—interior to its being. Mind, consciousness, or soul is that which is responsible for matter’s ability to become what it is—what Aristotle called entelechy.

We know that Soul is image. The unconscious images we know as archetypes form the Soul and give us a glimpse of the driving force of the entelechy. We cannot perceive how the process of the entelechy compels other animaterial entities to evolve and emerge, but we can experience it within ourselves. By knowing ourselves, we can know the processes behind all things, for we are all interconnected. As above, so below.

This is very similar to the acorn theory, presented by James Hillman in his book, Soul’s Code. Hillman is speaking primarily of human beings, but I am of the opinion that all animaterial entities possess such a power of actualization that compels them to fruition.

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Matter And Soul Are Interchangeable

Alexanderschlacht, by
Albrecht Altdorfer (1480–1538)

What I call animaterialism is really very similar to hylozoism. In animaterialism, there are not two distinct substances that compose our universe; there is one. I call it “animatter.” It is not a “substance” in the sense that a substance possesses mass and takes up space. Animatter is not only the material stuff we experience with our physical senses; it also includes all the animative power of Soul. Animation is used in the original sense of the root of the word, anima. This is the Latin word for “soul.” Actually, neither matter nor anima are substances, if we take the meaning of substance to be, “something which exists in such a way as to stand in need of nothing beyond itself” (Descartes). Nothing exists in isolation, therefore, in this sense, substance is devoid of meaning. All animaterial entities need one another for their existence.

If we redefine substance to mean something like, “that which exists in organic unity with all other existents,” then I believe we are closer to the truth of the substance of animatter. There is never a sense of dichotomy in animatter. There is variety, but these are the many faces of the same entity. Just as our Souls have many faces and personalities, so do the Souls of animaterial entities.

Animatter is a potentiality. It has the capability to evolve, arise, emerge into being. It is never a static actuality because change is the nature of all entities in the universe. “Emerging into being” does not mean stasis. It is a nisus, but it never arrives at an endpoint. When we discuss matter, we must also discuss Soul, for they are interconnected and interpenetrate one another. An image I frequently use for this idea is the vortex, or “Soul’s Maelstrom.” The vortex is Giordano Bruno’s Mater-Materia, i.e. “matter mattering.” This is the womb from which all forms arise. Matter and Soul interpenetrating one another and emerging into the animaterial, organic universe.

Animatter is a process that is ongoing and infinite. Nothing exists that is not animaterial. The phrase, “inanimate object” is an oxymoron, since there are no inanimate objects. All entities in our universe are animative, i.e. they are soulful entities. This is akin to the saying of Thales, “All things are full of gods.” We should take no entity lightly; all are important and play a crucial role in the theater of the universe.


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