Introduction to Animaterialism

Khan Altai, by Grigory Gurkin

These are a set of revised statements that have appeared in previous articles. They reflect my evolving views. -MD

We are…left dangling in the paradox of corpsed matter and incorporeal mind – the first dead, insentient and without the possibility of meaning or creativity, the second a ghost, a mere figment or phantasm “squirted out” by chance arrangements of the first. Yet it was precisely this subjective “fiction” that had somehow managed to construct the objective world picture in the first place (de Quincey 37).

The source of all dualistic concepts is our Western tendency to project onto Nature two distinct substances from what I call animateria (ensouled matter). In reality, animateria means that all things of the universe are soulful, undivided and holistic. The concept of “inanimate objects” is an oxymoron. The word, “inanimate,” should be banished from our language in the epoch of soul. Any religion or philosophy that continues to accept the dualistic mindset is anathema to me. Why am I so adamant? Because dualism has done such great damage to our planet, human nature, and the universe. We should no longer accept the assertion that we dwell in a schizophrenic world, where matter and mind are split off from each other, where an unbridgeable chasm exists between them. We should rail against a worldview that believes it has dominion over this planet to the point of raping and pillaging it for profit. It is unnatural.

Physicist David Bohm said,

Man’s general way of thinking of the totality, i.e. his general world view, is crucial for overall order of the human mind itself. If he thinks of the totality as constituted of independent fragments, then that is how his mind will tend to operate, but if he can include everything coherently and harmoniously in an overall whole that is undivided, unbroken and without border (for every border is a division or break) then his mind will tend to move in a similar way, and from this will flow an orderly action within the whole (Bohm ix).

One’s view of matter directly influences one’s ethics. If you believe you are not connected to the earth, that you are its master instead of on equal footing with it, then you will have no qualms about blowing off the tops of mountains for coal, or incinerating thousands of acres of rain forest, or dumping millions of gallons of crude oil into our oceans, or for that matter, allowing your fellow humans to starve to death just because you want wealth and success. When dualism is banished from the earth, only then will we begin to live as we were meant to live.

Bohm’s contention is that a fragmented view of the totality of reality will lead to a disorderly way of thinking. The earth has experienced the result of such thought for hundreds of years. It is because mankind has eliminated soul from human Being. But now, we are beginning to see the truth. Because of mass communication via the Internet, millions and millions are coming to the realization that reality is one, that all things are closely interconnected. The naysayers will eventually fade away. Our world is currently undergoing a tremendous transformation toward wholeness. We have great hope for the future.

The philosophy of mind  known as “eliminative materialism” asserts that realities like soul, imagination, belief, or just a common sense view of the mind (folk psychology) are false and will eventually be explained as products of biology. Since matter is dead, so they claim, without meaning or value, proponents of this philosophy assume that such “metaphysical” realities are just misunderstandings on the part of uneducated, unsophisticated people.

I am quite surprised that such educated paladins of reason would make such a glaring mistake in their argument. The very reality they utilize to form their theory is what they deny existence to! Think about this for a moment. Use the reality that does not exist, that we “folk psychologists” call a mind, to muse on the absurdity of their position. If you are anywhere near the folk psychologist you should be, it won’t take long for you to understand the paper tiger they have unleashed upon us.

This type of nonsensical thinking is the direct result of Descartes’ mind-body dualism, except that eliminative materialism goes further, denying even the mind of Descartes, which he simply took for granted. How can a belief in dead, insentient matter lead anywhere but to this kind of absurdity? We certainly are minds, souls, spirits, have beliefs, visions, dreams, etc. We are not inanimate, as some would have us believe.Granted, this is extreme materialism, but I provide this as being illustrative of the ways of scientism. I personally don’t understand why there seems to be a need to rid the world of all mythopoeic beauty and nature. What these scientists don’t seem to realize is that their theories are just as mythical as what we folk psychologists claim.

In my quest to promote an ensouled world, matter that is teeming with soul and spirit, I’ve decided to call my philosophy Animaterialism. This word, of course, combines soul (anima) with matter (materia). My viewpoint begins with a view of matter that is opposed to spirit and is mediated by soul. Soul is the metaxy, the middle ground between spirit and matter. In his use of the Greek word, metaxy, in several important dialogues, Plato gave to psychology and philosophy the notion that there is an in-between state that is neither mortal nor divine, neither matter nor spirit, neither light nor darkness. This is what we refer to as soul. In Plato’s Symposium, Socrates argues that Eros is a daimon who is in-between gods and mortals. Indeed, according to Socrates, the whole of the daimonic is between [metaxy] god and mortal” (202d11-e1). This view of matter influences how we treat our planet and each other. Our view of matter directly affects our ethics. Furthermore, our view of matter affects our entire ontology and epistemology. Indeed, it touches every aspect of our lives.

Once again, quoting David Bohm:

It is proposed that the widespread and pervasive distinctions between people (race, nation, family, profession, etc., etc.) which are now preventing mankind from working together for the common good, and indeed, even for survival, have one of the key factors of their origin in a kind of thought that treats things as inherently divided, disconnected, and “broken up” into yet smaller constituent parts. Each part is considered to be essentially independent and self-existent. (Bohm xi)

We citizens of planet Earth should be daily striving to bridge the chasms that separate us. The way we begin is to bridge the chasm between mind and matter. The so-called mind-body problem is so ingrained in our culture that it will be difficult to overcome. Do not doubt that it will come to pass. Do not lose hope. Truth inevitably rules the day. It may not seem so now, in this current era of corrupt politics, war, and greed. But there will come a day when mind and matter will, again, be seen as one reality and this will change the course of humanity forever. The bridge across this divide is soul.

Works Cited

Christian de Quincey. Radical Nature. Montpelier: Invisible Cities, 2002.

Bohm, David. Wholeness and the Implicate Order. New York: Routledge, 1980.

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Alchemy: The Vessel

Without a proper vessel, none of the processes of of alchemy can be accomplished. There must be a container in order to differentiate the various substances from the massa confusa, of which Thomas Moore writes, “It takes a special frame of mind, a particular archetypal viewpoint…to enter the alchemical massa confusa…” The unconscious is this chaos, the prima materia of the Great Work. The need for a vessel begins the alchemical stage called separatio.

The alchemical vessel is a space that performs the function of transformation. It is both an imaginal space and a physical space. What is in the earth composes the animaterial vessel, whether it be glass, metal, stone, or body. As there can be no light without darkness, so there can be no conjunction without separation. The separated substance has form, even though it may be the same substance. 
According to alchemist, Adam McLean, all alchemical vessels can be reduced to three basic archetypal forms: the crucible, the retort, and the still (McLean). A crucible is some sort of an open container, such as a cauldron or mortar. A substance is usually heated in the crucible to draw off any impurities. For example, an ore may be heated to purify it, thus revealing the pure metal therein. This is an act of purification and revelation. It is revelation because it reveals that which was hidden. It is not always heat that is used in the process. Sometimes various acids can be used to dissipate unwanted gases. Sometimes, the goal may be the crystallization or precipitation of solids from liquids. Primarily, this is an open process, where air plays a major role. McLean comments on the inner aspects of this type of vessel:

When we internalize the crucible in our souls we picture a vessel within our being which is open, allowing impurities or unwanted facets of the work to pass out or to dissipate away, as well as substances and forces to enter in from the universal spiritual. In this sense the crucible in our souls is a chalice, the lower part of which contains and holds a substance or constellation of forces while its upper part is open to universal spiritual influences. Unwanted energies can be allowed to safely flow out of our crucible and dissolve in the universal flow, and in the other direction energies can be gathered from the spiritual and allowed to descend to the bottom of our interior vessel (McLean).

Keep in mind as we progress that to the alchemist, the Four Elements, air, water, earth, and fire, are vastly important. In this case, air contributes to the Great Work as spirit. As the Emerald Tablet says, “the wind nourished it [Truth] in her belly” (From the translation by Jabir ibn Hayyan, brackets mine).

One should not assume that the alchemical processes on a symbolic level pertain only to the interiority of a person. This “belly” can be the interiority of many things. The interiority of a garden, for example, most definitely exhibits alchemical processes that bring forth the fruit of the earth. Another good example is how the beauty of mountains are formed over millions of years of underground tectonic shifts. This is alchemy, as well, on a macroscopic scale. As above, so below.

The second type of vessel that McLean discusses is the retort. The retort is a sealed container, such as a glass flask. Glass is made from earth and fire. It must be made thick and strong to prevent the inner processes from shattering it. It is transparent so that the alchemist can view the opus. James Hillman calls glass “the material of distancing” (Hillman 592) because it separates the observed from the observer.

McLean likens the retort to “a womb or matrix in which the process of gestation or new birth arising out of primal components, can safely take place in us.” The retort is said to be “hermetically sealed,” an homage to Hermes, the guide of souls to the Underworld and patron and teacher of alchemy. The energies are sealed away so as to provide a state of isolation from outside influences. This place of isolation within the retort is an imaginal space where the naturals laws of the universe can be carried out unimpeded.  The qualities of the glass retort can be compared to the psyche:

The psyche too is invisible; we grasp it only in reflection or we identify it with its contents – this dream, that feeling or memory. Psyche appears to be only what it contains. Glass, like psyche, is the medium by which we see into, see through. Glass: the physical embodiment of insight. The illusion of glass makes content and container seem to be the same, and because we see the content before we recognize that it is held by glass, we do not at first see its shape, its density, its flaws since our focus is fixed on the contents. Glass as subtle body requires a subtlety of noticing. The sophistication of the material needs sophistication of insight (Hillman 608).

Finally, the third type of alchemical vessel is the still. We are most familiar with the still through its use in the distilling of alcoholic beverages, such as gin and whiskey. The use of stills can be traced back to Greek alchemists of the first century C.E. in Alexandria. Basically, the distillation process consists of separating mixtures by boiling. For instance, in the distilling of water, impurities are removed so that the final product can be used for medical uses, or where pure water is a necessity. It is not a chemical reaction, but a physical process of separation. This is yet another method used in the separatio. There are qualities within us and within the earth that must be wrested free from impurities in order to bring forth the hidden creative potential in us. I leave you with this passage from Dr. Nanci Shandera:

Distillation brings the creative out of us. It encourages all that we are to manifest in balanced and serenely powerful ways. It heralds the entry of the influence of the higher forces and the balancing of those forces with the lower ones, which provide our “groundedness,” so crucial to wholeness.

Works Cited

Hillman, James. Uniform Edition of the Writings of James Hillman.Volume 5: Alchemical Psychology, Kindle edition. Dallas: Spring, 2013.

McLean, Adam. The Alchemical Vessel as Symbol of the Soul. ,>.

Moore, Thomas. The Garbage of our Lives. 10 Jan. 2013.

Shandera, Nanci. The Alchemy in Spiritual Progress: Part 7 Distillation. Alchemy Journal, Vol. 3, No. 1. Jan./Feb. 2002. .

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