In 2012-2013, I published a series of articles on this blog describing my thoughts on the nature of matter, or as I deemed it, animatter. I chose this word to denote the interconnectedness of all things. I call this animaterialism. In my view, soul and matter are two sides of the same coin (animus + mater from the Latin). I realized after all these years that I never really thought about the dark side of animatter. In this article, I intend to do just that. If you would like to read these previous posts, just do a search on this website for the word, “animatter.” They will definitely aid in understanding what I’m trying to share.
The psychologist, Carl Jung, had a fascination with the Gnostics. In their philosophy, he saw much in common with the depth psychology of the twentieth century. in In his book, Aion, Jung relates several important statements by, first of all, Christian theologian, Clement of Alexandria (150 c-215 c):
Clement of Alexandria says in the Paedagogus (III, i): “Therefore, as it seems, it is the greatest of all disciplines to know oneself; for when a man knows himself, he knows God.”1
Then from Arab Gnostic, Monoimos, Jung relates this passage:
. . . Seek him from out thyself, and learn who it is that taketh possession of everything in thee, saying: my god, my spirit, my understanding, my soul, my body; and learn whence is sorrow and joy, and love and hate, and waking though one would not, and sleeping though one would not, and getting angry though one would not, and falling in love though one would not. And if thou shouldst closely investigate these things, thou wilt find Him in thyself, the One and the Many, like to that little point [cepaia] for in thyself thou wilt find the starting-point of thy transition and of thy deliverance.2
Jung is of course, introducing us to the archetype of the Self, the overarching idea of wholeness. The Self, in Jung’s psychology, regulates the psyche, gathering together all the disparate elements into a unified whole, but it is more than that. Jung writes, “The self is not only the centre, but also the whole circumference which embraces both conscious and unconscious; it is the centre of this totality, just as the ego is the centre of consciousness.”3 He also compares the idea of the Self to Brahman and atman:
Yajfiyavalkya defines it in indirect form in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: “He who dwells in all beings, yet is apart from all beings, whom no beings know, whose body is all beings, who controls all beings from within, he is your Self, the inner controller, the immortal. . . There is no other seer but he, no other hearer but he, no other perceiver but he, no other knower but he. He is your Self, the inner controller, the immortal. All else is of sorrow.4
I perceive, here, an analogous relationship between the idea of the archetype of the Self and the idea of animaterialism. The quote from Monoimos is especially illustrative: “. . . my god, my spirit, my understanding, my soul, my body . . .” Could there be a transcendent aspect in the idea of animatter? There is certainly this notion in the archetype of the Self. In the Upanishads, Brahman is both transcendent and immanent: “He who dwells in all beings, yet is apart from all beings, whom no beings know, whose body is all beings, who controls all beings from within, he is your Self, the inner controller, the immortal.” Jung plainly states,
Like all archetypes, the self has a paradoxical, antinomial character. It is male and female, old man and child, powerful and helpless, large and small. The self is a true “complexio oppositorum,” though this does not mean that it is anything like as contradictory in itself.5
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, a striving, 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.
The kinship between animatter and the archetype of the Self lies in the fact that they are both paradoxical and antinomial in character. They are both all-encompassing in that they “contain,” all positives and negatives, including good and evil. One might assume animaterialism is just another form of pantheism, but this is not the case, since the latter does not include the idea of transcendence at all. Animaterialism, and Jung’s archetype of the Self, are both transcendent and immanent. Jung calls this “a true complexio oppositorum,” a true unity of opposites. This is a hearkening back to the pre-Socratics: Anaximander, with his notions about the apeiron, and, of course, Heraclitus, in his idea that “out of discord comes the fairest harmony.” 6 This harmony is brought about in accordance with the logos.
The Gnostics got themselves into much trouble with the early Church because of these kinds of ideas. Jung cites Justin the Gnostic as one example, with his identification of the “Good God” with Priapus, a minor Greek fertility god. Also, the equating of “Anthropos with the ithyphallic Hermes.”7 But it was Basilides who thoroughly examined the question of evil. He was one of the earliest Gospel commentators. All of his commentaries, sadly, have been lost. Of him, Jung writes,
It was, moreover, the Gnostics e.g., Basilides who exhaustively discussed the problem of evil . . . The serpentine form of the Nous and the Agathodaimon does not mean that the serpent has only a good aspect. Just as the Apophis-serpent was the traditional enemy of the Egyptian sungod, so the devil, “that ancient serpent,” is the enemy of Christ, the “novus Sol.” The good, perfect, spiritual God was opposed by an imperfect, vain, ignorant, and incompetent demiurge. There were archontic Powers that gave to mankind a corrupt “chirographum” (handwriting) from which Christ had to redeem them.8
While orthodox Christianity ignored the dark side of God and reality, the Gnostics fully embraced its equivalence with the good. This was carried over into alchemy in the second millennium. Alchemy became the hiding place of teachings deemed heretical by the Church. The integrated pairs of opposites as equals were banished from the Church, for the most part, while alchemy fully embraced them. The following statement by Jung is quite poignant:
It is significant that Gnostic philosophy found its continuation in alchemy. “Mater Alchimia” is one of the mothers of modern science, and modern science has given us an unparalleled knowledge of the “dark” side of matter. It has also penetrated into the secrets of physiology and evolution, and made the very roots of life itself an object of investigation. In this way the human mind has sunk deep into the sublunary world of matter, thus repeating the Gnostic myth of the Nous, who, beholding his reflection in the depths below, plunged down and was swallowed in the embrace of Physis. The climax of this development was marked in the eighteenth century by the French Revolution, in the nineteenth century by scientific materialism, and in the twentieth century by political and social “realism” which has turned the wheel of history back a full two thousand years and seen the recrudescence of the despotism, the lack of individual rights, the cruelty, indignity, and slavery of the pre-Christian world, whose “labour problem” was solved by the “ergastulum” (convict-camp). The “total reversal of all values” is being enacted before our eyes.9
The dark side of animatter is materialism, the view that reality consists of matter only, and that matter is cold and dead. Materialism even filters down to the social level and eliminates soulful discourse. In this view, our consciousness, if it is even believed to exist, is composed of various chemical reactions in the brain. A literal mindset, one dominated by scientism, cannot understand the idea of soul and matter as being the same reality. 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. Even though science has enabled us to plumb some of the depths of the dark side of animatter, it still views it as simply cold, dead matter.
In the symbolism of the “greater, more comprehensive Man,”10 the Anthropos, lies the entire story of animatter. The early Gnostics referred to what they called Anthropos as the primeval man, or Adamas. This is very like the Kabbalistic idea of Adam Kadmon, and the the pre-existent Logos in Christianity. In Jungian theory, it is the Cosmic Man, an archetypal person that shows up in creation myths. Anthropos should not be understood as a strictly masculine symbol. This figure has traditionally been viewed as androgynous:
The yearning to return to an original condition of life has as presupposition the belief that man descends from a divine hermaphrodite thought to have been the progenitor and paradigm of all creation. In the first treatise of the Corpus Hermeticum (“The Poimandres”), a collection of sacred documents attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, the reputed father of the alchemical art, the archetypal androgyne appears as the macrocosmic Primal Man “commensurate with . . . physical creation.” — the archetype of the human race who is at the same time the true or essential humanity resident in the human soul.11
In Jung’s psychology, the idea of the Anthropos is the same as his archetype of the Self:
The “thousand names” of the lapis philosophorum correspond to the innumerable Gnostic designations for the Anthropos, which make it quite obvious what is meant: the greater, more comprehensive Man, that indescribable whole consisting of the sum of conscious and unconscious processes. This objective whole, the antithesis of the subjective ego-psyche, is what I have called the self, and this corresponds exactly to the idea of the Anthropos.12
The lapis philosophorum is the Self. So, the archetype of the Self is the union of soul and matter, which Jung called the Unus Mundus.
Animatter = The Self
Animatter = Anthropos.
Animatter = The Christ, the Second Adam
This is also evident in the alchemical symbolism of Mercurius. Jung writes, “Mercurius is not only the lapis, as prima materia, but the lapis as ultima materia, the goal of the opus.”13 The ultimate goal of the alchemical opus is to move beyond the lapis to the Unus Mundus (the Animaterial state). This is where our salvation truly lies. In reality, the labor of the alchemist produces a “materialization of the spirit,” according to Jung, elevating “the body into proximity with the spirit while at the same time drawing the spirit down into matter. By sublimating matter he [the alchemist] concretized spirit” 14. This melding of spirit and matter is brought about by a third element, which is the synthesis of conscious with unconscious, and is something totally arational.
The dark side of animatter is the soulless view of matter. All creation groans and travails for soul to be rejoined to matter in order to complete the creation. Redemption, then, will be finished.
Jung, C.G. Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self. Translated by R.F.C. Hull. Bollingen: New York, 1959.
Jung, C.G. Collected Works XII. Translated by R.F.C. Hull. Bollingen: New York, 1953.
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.
Wheelwright, Philip. The Presocratics. Indianapolis: ITT, 1966.
Woodman, Leonora. Stanza my Stone: Wallace Stevens and the Hermetic Tradition. Purdue University Press: West Lafayette, 1983.
- Jung, p. 242 ↩
- qtd. in Jung, p. 242 ↩
- Jung, CW 12, p. 41 ↩
- Jung, Aion, p. 242 ↩
- Jung, Aion, p. 245 ↩
- qtd. in Wheelwright, p. 77 ↩
- Jung, Aion, p. 230 ↩
- ibid. ↩
- Jung, Aion, p. 232-233 ↩
- Jung, Aion, p. 189 ↩
- Woodman, p. 50 ↩
- Jung, Aion, p. 189 ↩
- Jung, Mysterium, p. 501 ↩
- Jung, Mysterium, p. 536, brackets mine ↩
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