The Anima Mundi in Matter

In my last post, I quoted a paragraph from Jung commenting on Gerhard Dorn’s alchemical philosophy. In it, he uses a very curious phrase. Here is the relevant section:

…the caelum also signifies man’s likeness to God (imago Dei), the anima mundi in matter, and the truth itself (Jung 539).

According to Jung, the caelum is the Philosopher’s Stone, but it is also the anima mundi in matter.

Caelum is the blue sky above us, the vault of heaven, and also includes the Zodiac. It is the metaphorical realm of the gods. It can carry the connotation of “universe,” as well, which we know is infinite. What interests me here is why Jung would say it can mean “the anima mundi in matter.”

All matter in the universe is sprinkled with a sampling of the World Soul. It is hidden. Most do not know or realize it. The consensus of our culture is that matter is cold and dead. A literal mindset, one dominated by logic and the scientific method, cannot understand the idea of soul within matter. The literal mind would explain the azure sky-vault over our heads as being composed of various gases, but a gifted poet could bring tears to our eyes by describing it in language filled with soulful images. James Hillman says that the curse of Western consciousness is the manner in which we speak about matter, but that

Our speech itself can redeem matter if, on the one hand, it de-literalizes (de-substantiates) our concepts, distinguishing between words and things, and if, on the other hand, it re-materializes our concepts, giving them body, sense, and weight (Hillman ch. 1).

The practice of alchemy is so powerful as an esoteric practice because its images cannot be taken literally without plunging our minds into an abyss of total nonsense.

I know I am not composed of sulfur and salt, buried in horse dung, putrefying or congealing, turning white or green or yellow, encircled by a tail-biting serpent, rising on wings. And yet I am! I cannot take any of this literally, even if it is all accurate, descriptively true. Even while the words are concrete, material, physical, it is a patent mistake to take them literally (ibid.).

Metaphorical thinking is forced upon us when we read alchemical writings. Hillman claims this is an example of “the materialization of the psyche and the psychization of matter” (ibid.). Our hermeneutical skills are stretched to their limits, allowing soul and matter to meld into one. Hermeneutics are, of course, named after Hermes. He is the messenger of the gods. He brings to our minds the interpretations we need from the holy places. He travels between our world and the Underworld, bringing knowledge from our deep unconscious.


Works Cited

Hillman, James. Alchemical Psychology (Uniform Edition of the Writings of James Hillman). Spring Publications, Inc. Kindle Edition.

Jung, C.G. Mysterium Coniunctionis: An Inquiry Into the Separation and Synthesis of Psychic Opposites in Alchemy. trans, R.F.C. Hull. The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Vol. 14. Princeton: Princeton, 1963

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Gerhard Dorn and the The Caelum


Aurum nostrum non est aurum vulgi. -Gerhard Dorn

Gerhard Dorn was a Belgian alchemist who lived in the sixteenth century. Detailed facts concerning his life have been lost. We know he lived in Mechelen, in the province of Antwerp, from about 1530 until the 1580’s. He began publishing books around 1565 when he wrote his Chymisticum artificium. Working with Adam von Bodenstein, with whom he studied, Dorn was instrumental in the recovery, translation into Latin, and publishing of Paracelsus’ writings. He died in Frankfurt in the early 1580s, when he was in his mid-fifties.

His philosophy was adamantly opposed to the teachings of Aristotle, which had been popularized by Scholasticism, with its emphasis on the material world. Dorn was an alchemist who believed man could discover the lapis philosophorum within. His alchemy was centered in the belief that alchemical processes involved the human mind, and not so much the physical quest to turn base metals into gold. It was his opinion that God needs redemption and that the way for humans to bring it about is to engage in alchemy.

The alchemical work has, as its general goal, the creation of the lapis philosophorum, the Philosopher’s Stone. Theoretically, this completes the second stage of the opus. Dorn, however, believed there was yet a third stage to be worked. This third stage is the union of humans with the Unus Mundus. It is the conscious realization that human being is one with the world at large, and thus one with the Anima Mundi.

Carl Jung wrote an amazing commentary on Dorn’s alchemy in his book, Mysterium Coniunctionis. In my article, Animaterialism and the Unus Mundus, I examined some of Jung’s statements on the third stage of Dorn’s alchemical processes.  Dorn refers to the union at the third stage as the caelum, which author Colin Wilson interprets Jung as saying it is “man’s deepest inner truth–a form of the Philosopher’s Stone” (Wilson 7344). Jung goes on to describe the manner in which he understand Dorn’s third stage of completion:

So if Dorn sees the third and highest degree of conjunction  in a union or relationship of the adept, who has produced the caelum with the unus mundus this would consist, psychologi­cally, in a synthesis of the conscious with the unconscious. The result of this conjunction or equation is theoretically incon­ceivable, since a known quantity is combined with an unknown one; but in practice as many far-reaching changes of conscious­ness result from it as atomic physics has produced in classical physics. The nature of the changes which Dorn expects from the third stage of the coniunctio can be established only indirectly from the symbolism used by the adepts. What he called caelum is, as we have seen, a symbolic prefiguration of the self. We can conclude from this that the desired realization of the whole man was conceived as a healing of organic and psychic ills, since the caelum was described as a universal medicine (the panacea, alexipharmic, medicina catholicaJ etc.). It was regarded also as the balsam and elixir of life, as a life-prolonging, strengthening, and rejuvenating magical potion (Jung 539).

Another crucial point to consider is that Jung claims “the caelum also signifies man’s likeness to God (imago Dei), the anima mundi in matter, and the truth itself” (ibid.). He continues on to say the caelum can only compared to “the ineffable mystery of the unio mystica, or tao, or the concept of samadhi, or the experience of satori in Zen”(Jung 540). So, the fusion of the caelum with the unus mundus is a mystical union of an individual with the world, the amazing idea that “everything divided and different belongs to one and the same world” (Jung 538). This is why I write about animaterialism.

Friends, as we become more conscious of this truth of who we really are, what our potential is, nothing can stand in the way of making life on this planet better in every conceivable way. I believe future humans will continue to expand their consciousness and evolve into what God intends us to be. I pray that a sufficient number of us discover this before it is too late. Instead of destroying our world, we should be creating new ones.


Works Cited

Jung, C.G. Mysterium Coniunctionis: An Inquiry Into the Separation and Synthesis of Psychic Opposites in Alchemy. trans, R.F.C. Hull. The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Vol. 14. Princeton: Princeton, 1963

Wilson, Colin. Mysteries: An Investigation Into the Occult, the Paranormal, and the Supernatural (Kindle Location 7344). Diversion Books. Kindle Edition.


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Completing the Work of Creation

Reflection, by Odilon Redon

Author, Gary Lachman, writes:

I believe that nature, the world, the cosmos, separated us off from itself in order for it to become conscious of itself through us (Lachman, Caretakers 302)

This idea deeply resonates with me. Because I wholeheartedly agree with James Hillman’s teaching of the pathologization of the soul,  it is really the only answer to the question as to why human consciousness has drifted so far away from Nature. As I wrote back in February in an article called The Pathologizing of the World Soul,

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?

I think so, but it is up to us.

Most of the thinkers I’ve written about on Soul Spelunker over the years tend to have a Hermetic motif running through their work. I began this blog in 2006, writing commentaries on Goethe’s Faust. It is a very Hermetic tale, wrought in the belly of the unconscious. Goethe was a man who was in tune with Nature. The Hermetic thread runs through his poetry and his science. Carl Jung, James Hillman, the Romantics, Giordano Bruno, Marsilio Ficino, all of these people give a nod of approval to the Hermetic doctrine. There are many others I haven’t even touched upon yet. They all lived close to Nature, and many of them believed mankind must assist the Anima Mundi in her quest for wholeness. In my recent readings of Gary Lachman’s work, I have discovered yet another like-minded soul who sees the need for us to adopt a Hermetic worldview and carry on the magnum opus. I tip my hat to Gary.

The Hermetic doctrine teaches “as above, so below,” the correspondence of the macrocosm and microcosm. Our inner lives are infinite universes, just as the physical universe is infinite and expanding constantly. It is no coincidence that some of the secrets of Nature were revealed to the discoverers of quantum physics in the twentieth century, and in other important fields of study. Such monumental knowledge is given for a reason. Mankind is moving closer and closer to what Jean Gebser calls the “integral structure of consciousness,” or what Jesus meant when He said, “Ye are gods.” It may not look like it on the surface now, but it will come. Imagine what the Neanderthals must have thought about being surmounted and overcome by Homo sapiens. Did they suffer from angst, or feelings of meaninglessness? Maybe not, but they certainly suffered in some ways.

Yes, our world is in turmoil, but that’s how the Soul grows in its chrysalis. The World Soul, through us, is becoming more conscious of herself all the time. It is a rough, circuitous road that all of us are on.

In his book, The Quest for Hermes Trismegistus, Lachman tells what the poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, decided when he saw the outer world filled with meaninglessness:

In response to what he saw as the ‘emptying’ of the world of significance through the rise of the rationalistic reductive view, Rilke, like many other late-Romantic souls, turned inward. The old symbols of meaning — whether religious or classical — were no longer viable; as I’ve remarked elsewhere, ‘like exhausted batteries, they could no longer hold a charge’. So Rilke recognized that his task — the task of the poet — was to save the visible, outer world from complete meaninglessness, by taking it into his own soul. The microcosm would save the macrocosm, by sheltering it within itself (Lachman, Hermes 3967-3972).

In our day, we must all do this, shelter the world within all of our hearts, as Noah did when a deluge destroyed the world of his day. He gathered all that he loved from the outer world into the shelter of the ark, which I interpret as our inner selves, the microcosm, the mundus imaginalis. There, we can protect all that we love and cherish, and all that is good in the world from the ravages of greed, materialism, scientism, evil politicians, capitalists, and adherents of scientism. These are the evils that compose the deluge of our day. We can, however, sail above these destructive forces by gathering the world unto our inner selves. Enter the world of the imaginal, for it is the way we can bring completion to the work of Creation.


Works Cited

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

Lachman, Gary. Caretakers of the Cosmos: Living Responsibly in an Unfinished World. Floris Books, 2013. Kindle Edition.

Lachman, Gary (2011-06-09). The Quest For Hermes Trismegistus. Floris Books. Kindle Edition.

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The Soul of the Genius

How does the so-called genius receives inspiration? Take the case of Michelangelo, who was very familiar with Marsilio Ficino’s philosophy, which is Soul-centric. Although Michelangelo  kept his carving technique a well-guarded secret, he did make several statements that hint at his methodology.

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.

Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.

The marble not yet carved can hold the form of every thought the greatest artist has.

This idea is called l’immagine del cuor, the image of the heart. Michelangelo attended Ficino’s Florentine Academy, so he was quite familiar with Neoplatonic and Hermetic teachings. The great artist could see the figure in the marble via the imagination. He was seeing into the imaginal realm, the mundus imaginalis, as Henry Corbin calls it.

I believe that Albert Einstein did the same thing when engaging in his thought experiments. Where else could you ride on a beam of light if not in the imaginal realm?

All of us have access to it. We’ve simply forgotten how to enter it.

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Communication with the Unconscious

In my last post, I left off with these questions: Does communication with the unconscious mind come via the right hemisphere of the brain, which is then re-presented to the conscious mind by the left hemisphere?

One of the most successful periods in human history, at least in terms of the right hemisphere of the brain operating in its proper role as “master,” as McGilchrist calls it, was the period of Western history we know as the Renaissance. During this time, from roughly the 15th to the 17th century, what seemed to be the primary mode of Western consciousness was right-brain dominant. As we learned in the last post, the two hemispheres always work together, but one or the other will dominate. The period from the end of the Renaissance until the 20th century was ruled by left-brain consciousness. During the Renaissance, a flowering of art and culture occurred that had not been seen since ancient Greece. All forms of learning flourished. This most certainly indicates communication was occurring between the unconscious mind and the right brain, since the imagination (the imaginal world) was obviously being explored to great depths. What brought this on? What were the artists, poets, and scholars doing that was different than, say during the Dark Ages? How were they tapping the deep well of Soul in gaining inspiration for the exquisite work they were bringing forth?

One man that was very influential in bringing about this state of affairs was Marsilio Ficino. Many of the artists and thinkers of the day were heavily influenced by Ficino’s translations and commentaries of Plato, Plotinus, and some Neoplatonic thinkers, as well as his translation of the Corpus Hermeticum. With the work he accomplished through his writings and lectures, Ficino unleashed a watershed of creativity.  Ficino made Soul central to his philosophy. I believe this is why the Italian Renaissance occurred. I may be giving him too much credit, but it makes sense to me that making the soul primary would bring about such a flood of innovation. Paul Oskar Kristeller, one of the foremost authorities on the Renaissance in the 20th century called Ficino, “the first philosopher of the Italian Renaissance” (Kristeller 13). To be fair, there were many scholars who contributed.

The understanding that Soul is central to life and thought is not characteristic of a left-brain dominant worldview. During the Renaissance, Europe, especially Italy,  experienced what Jung and Gebser would call an “irruption” from the collective unconscious. In my estimation, it came from the Anima Mundi. Truth emanates from The One to the World Soul, then on into the minds of individuals who are listening to the voice of their daimon.  Ficino was obviously one of these. Perhaps the right brain receives a messages from one’s  daimon, which have been passed to him/her from the World Soul. Now, if a person is dominated by the left hemisphere of their brain, they will discount these, thinking they are irrational. Maybe when the hemispheres are operating in unison, the right brain receives a message, and the left brain will re-present it to the conscious mind, free of left brain prejudices, such as the belief that “all things must be totally rational to be real.” However, the message must still be weighed in the balance by the two hemispheres working together holistically. Unfortunately, we live in a time when the left brain thinks it is the boss. Still, the right brain has been gaining in ascendancy since the early 20th century. Maybe the most important development was the discovery of quantum physics. This really threw a monkey-wrench into the Newtonian worldview. Also, we have been fortunate to have had several influential thinkers, such as Carl Jung, who sought to revive the inner experience.

I think the stilling of left brain dominant thinking is key to hearing the voice of the divine. This is why we see such success with meditation, as well as art, music, and poetry therapy. The act of contemplation opens up the infinity of the  inner universe. The knowledge to save mankind and our world is there, ready to be procured. May we listen closely.

Works Cited

Kristeller, Paul Oskar.. The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino. Translated by Virginia Conant. New York. Columbia UP, 1943.

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