World Alchemy

Fantasy, by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz – 1921-1922

 

…a mood of world destruction and world renewal…has set its mark on our age. This mood makes itself felt everywhere, politically, socially, and philosophically. We are living in what the Greeks called the Kairos,–the right time–for a “metamorphosis of the gods,” i.e., of the fundamental principles and symbols. This peculiarity of our time, which is certainly not of our conscious choosing, is the expression of the unconscious man within us who is changing. Coming generations will have to take account of this momen­tous transformation if humanity is not to destroy itself through the might of its own technology and science. (Jung 123).

There is a great transmutation occurring in our world. We are living in what Karl Jaspers called an Axial period of history. In this era the World Soul is engulfed in alchemical fire in the Hermetic vessel. The image of this sealed furnace is analogous to my image from 2012 of Soul’s Maelstrom. The alchemical vessel was usually shaped round to draw the influences of our spiral cosmos. But instead of water, she is now being purged by a roaring conflagration, where the process of Calcinatio will, hopefully, purge away the dross of the former age. This will take an indeterminate number of years to accomplish.

I am not of the opinion that our current human species will be able to bring about the sort of change our world needs. I believe a new human species will take our place, just as we replaced Neanderthals. The new species may already exist and may already be interbreeding with homo sapiens sapiens. It is too soon to say. I see this new species as possessing a more expanded consciousness. They will have the ability to solve the social, political, and economic problems that we could not.

Even though our species may not be the one to bring about peace on earth, we should not abandon our quest for greater consciousness, for it is this striving on our part which will provide the impetus for a brighter future for humanity.

 

Works Cited

Jung, C. G., The Undiscovered Self. tr. R.F.C. Hull. Mentor: New York, 1957.

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The Revelatory Power of the World Soul

Delphic Oracle, by Heinrich Leutemann

 

In his amazing essay, Anima Mundi: The Return of the Soul to the World, James Hillman reminds us that the World Soul is “that particular soul-spark, that seminal image, which offers itself through each thing in its visible form” (Thought 101). Because of our tendency toward anthropomorphism, we think of the World Soul as some sort of super-entity “above the world encircling it as a divine and remote emanation of spirit, a world of powers, archetypes, and principles transcendent to things” (ibid.), but this is not the case at all. The World Soul presents herself through every animaterial entity as “animated possibility,” her “sensuous presentation as a face bespeaking its interior image” (ibid.). In this manner, the World Soul presents herself  to the imagination, her “presence as psychic reality” (ibid.). Everything we experience empirically is filled with soul. “Not only animals and plants ensouled as in the Romantic vision, but soul is given with each thing, God-given things of nature and man-made things of the street” (ibid.).

This is phenomenology on a grand scale, a cosmic “display of self-presenting forms” (Thought 102). But this is beyond phenomenology. This is what Hillman calls “archetypal psychologizing” (Re-visioning 138).

All things show faces, the world not only a coded signature to be read for meaning, but a physiognomy to be faced. As expressive forms, things speak; they show the shape they are in. They announce themselves, bear witness to their presence: “Look, here we are.” They regard us beyond what we may regard them, our perspectives, what we intend with them, and how we dispose of them. This imaginative claim on attention bespeaks a world ensouled. More–our imaginative recognition, the childlike act of imagining the world, animates the world and returns it to soul (Thought 102).

This method of inquiry, archetypal psychologizing, concentrates on the question of “what”, while philosophy would ask “why.” Of course, the scientific method would focus on the question of “how.” Even though the “what” has been asked by thinkers from Aristotle to Husserl, archetypal psychologizing is different in that it goes much further, plumbing the depths of the thing. Hillman says “phenomenology stops short in its examination of consciousness, failing to realize that the essence of consciousness is fantasy images” (Re-Visioning 138).  Archetypal psychologizing transposes “the entire operation of phenomenology,” changing it “into the irrational, personified, and psychopathological domain,” taking the question “from the logical to the imaginal” (Re-Visioning 138-139).

In my essay, Images are Prior to Experience, I make the case that “our consciousness is totally dependent upon this vast storehouse of images we call Soul.” Instead of beginning with sensory experience, we should start our search for the elusive “what,” the quiddity of a thing, by allowing the imaginal element of the thing to manifest its chosen image via the World Soul. Initially, there is nothing conceptual about this. Seeing into things is quite different than dissecting them logically. The Anima Mundi, if allowed, will animate the thing with an imaginal presence that can be examined archetypally, eventually resulting in, according to Hillman, the question of “who” (Re-Visioning 139).

By dissolving what into who, we follow one of the main styles of questioning used with the oracles at Delphi and Dodona…Once we know at whose altar the question belongs, then we know better the manner of proceeding (Re-Visioning 139).

This is what Hillman calls “archetypal reversion.” Reversion “connects an event to its image, a psychic process to its myth, a suffering of the soul to the imaginal mystery expressed therein” (Dream 4). This is a phenomenological process where one asks the image to reveal its archetypal foundations, to which god or goddess it belongs. One need not necessarily be an expert in Greek mythology. The archetypes arise in most world mythologies, as Joseph Campbell so aptly demonstrated. As a prerequisite, one should, however, be schooled in the manner in which the archetypes manifest themselves, be it in Greek mythology, Norse mythology, or any other foundational mythology. It just so happens that Greek mythology is very well suited to our Western mindset, since it is the substructural mythology of all Western culture (see my article, Archetypal Psychology and Reversion).

 

Works Cited

Hillman, James. Dream and the Underworld. New York: Harper, 1979.

—. Re-Visioning Psychology. New York: Harper Collins, 1975.

—. The Thought of the Heart and the Soul of the World. Putnam: Spring, 1992.

 

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The Pathologizing of the World Soul

Sick Maria, Joaquín Sorolla, 1907

 

The world, because of its breakdown, is entering a new moment of consciousness: by drawing attention to itself by means of its symptoms, it is becoming aware of itself as a psychic reality (Hillman, Thought, 97).

Does this statement  resonate with you? Do you feel that sense of assent deep within that Hillman is absolutely right? Even though he penned these words in the early Eighties, he is right on the money. He saw it happening even then.

The world is in trouble, just as an individual in Jung’s heyday might have been plagued with symptoms of schizophrenia. And Jung, in his wisdom, would have pointed that person back to health with his amazing therapeutic ideas. In his day, the world was considered isolated from our concerns, something to be ruled over and dominated. In our day, however, the world is no longer separate from us, cold, dead, and material. It is just as much part of us as our organs or senses. But the world is breaking down. Although it has been occurring for some time, last year, 2016, brought us the stark realization that we may be living in the last days. Or, are we?

James Hillman has made the pathologization of the soul one of the main tenets of his archetypal psychology. The evil and ugliness we see in our world are psychopathologizations of the Anima Mundi, symptoms that provide clues as to her psychic state of affairs. According to Hillman, pathologization is “the psyche’s autonomous ability to create illness, morbidity, disorder, abnormality, and suffering in any aspect of its behavior and to experience and imagine life through this deformed and afflicted perspective” (Hillman, Revisioning, 57). If the Soul of the World desires to engage in metamorphosis, and we know she does, then, according to Hillman, she will autonomously create abnormal and disordered situations that will ultimately further her transformation. Isn’t that what we’ve been witnessing for many years now? These scenarios seem to be accelerating in their frequency, as well. Does this mean the World Soul is drawing closer to departing from the cosmic chrysalis?

Considering all of this, are the afflictions of the World Soul necessary for her individuation? Again, referring to Hillman, “without psychopathology, there is no wholeness; in fact, psychopathology is a differentiation of that wholeness” (Hillman, Revisioning 108). I think it is safe to say, then, without pathologization, there is no soul-making.

So, all the turmoil we are seeing, especially in the United States, today, will lead to the further metamorphosis of the Anima Mundi, something we are in desperate need of. At some point in the history of the world this may lead to an evolutionary leap in consciousness. That, in turn, may provide the means for establishing Utopia, which American progressives so eagerly crave, although I very much doubt whether that will ever be accomplished. As long the World Soul has a need for individuation, there will be a need for pathologization.

Works Cited
Hillman, James. Re-Visioning Psychology. New York: Harper Collins, 1975.

Hillman, James. The Thought of the Heart and the Soul of the World. Putnam: Spring, 1992.

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