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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Learning to Think Anew

Die Schnecke hat Gesicht – Raimund Joachim Höltich

If we are interested in redefining our world, we must change the manner in which we think. We must learn to think anew. In essence, we must unlearn thinking. Calculative thinking is fine, in the proper context, but it is not the only kind of thinking we humans need to utilize. When we read a poem for instance, we most certainly do not use calculative thinking. As Martin Heidegger said, “…we can learn thinking only if we radically unlearn what thinking has been traditionally” (What Calls For Thinking?).

Our thoughts and ideas come in the form of images. Is the brain the source of these? Yes, but there is more to it. I am of the opinion that every part of the body thinks. We are provided with thoughts and ideas through imaginally communing with the World Soul. Since soul permeates every atom of the animaterial body, thoughts and ideas can have their origin in any bodily element. It’s more likely that the body/soul is a Gestalt. Remember, when I mention “soul,” or “body,” I mean the intertwined soul-body. I call it the animaterial human. This is similar to what Heidegger called Dasein, but with an emphasis on the ensouled nature of Being. It is akin to what Jung called psychoid reality, or his idea of the unus mundus.

Thoughts are not just “in the head.” The animaterial human is a continuum for thought. The brain is obviously a processing center for the body, but that doesn’t mean that thinking is necessarily a product of the brain. In our age, we view the brain as a computer, a calculative thinking machine. Thinking is not necessarily calculative. Western culture has overemphasized many things, especially analytical thinking. We have limited our definition of thinking to one type. Yes, this has brought our civilization many wonderful advancements, but at what expense? We have also unleashed many evils on the world. Most of all, we have forgotten the more essential type of thinking, which I call metaphorics.

Metaphorics is the type of thinking that occurs in art, dreams, mysticism, poetry, and mythologizing. Knowledge, in the form of images, ascends from the Cosmic Mind, the World Soul. As we commune with the Cosmic Mind through meditation, rumination, active imagination, and dreams, certain images enter our conscious minds. These form metaphors, symbols that help us comprehend this knowledge. The aim of the World Soul is to impart gnosis to us through these metaphors and symbols. A good example of this is a dream that Carl Jung had not too long before the schism with Freud:

I was in a house I did not know, which had two stories. It was “my house.” I found myself in the upper story, where there was a kind of salon furnished with fine old pieces in rococo style. On the walls hung a number of precious old paintings. I wondered that this should be my house, and thought, “Not bad.” But then it occurred to me that I did not know what the lower floor looked like. Descending the stairs, I reached the ground floor. There everything was much older, and I realized that this part of the house must date from about the fifteenth or sixteenth century. The furnishings were medieval; the floors were of red brick. Everywhere it was rather dark. I went from one room to another, thinking, “Now I really must explore the whole house.” I came upon a heavy door, and opened it. Beyond it, I discovered a stone stairway that led down into the cellar. Descending again, I found myself in a beautifully vaulted room which looked exceedingly ancient. Examining the walls, I discovered layers of brick among the ordinary stone blocks, and chips of brick in the mortar. As soon as I saw this I knew that the walls dated from Roman times. My interest by now was intense. I looked more closely at the floor. It was of stone slabs, and in one of these I discovered a ring. When I pulled it, the stone slab lifted, and again I saw a stairway of narrow stone steps leading down into the depths. These, too, I descended, and entered a low cave cut into the rock. Thick dust lay on the floor, and in the dust were scattered bones and broken pottery, like remains of a primitive culture. I discovered two human skulls, obviously very old and half disintegrated. Then I awoke (Jung 158-159).

An amazing dream, indeed! These images ascended into Jung’s consciousness while he was sleeping, leading him to make some of his most important discoveries, including the theory of the collective unconscious. Obviously, Jung had been communing with the World Soul. He said, “Certain questions had been much on my mind during the days preceding the dream” (Jung 161). He had been seriously meditating on these questions, which is exactly what one would expect just prior to such a revelation. Jung said, “the dream became for me a guiding image” (ibid.).

Hermes, the World Daimon, plays a part in this exchange of knowledge too. Hermes, as Guide of Souls, charges our personal daimones to facilitate the gnostic experience, to carry the knowledge we need at a particular time, from the Cosmic Mind and whisper it to our conscious minds.


Works Cited

Jung, C.G. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. trans. Richard and Clara Winston. New York: Vintage, 1961.

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The Changing Face of the Daimon

Guardian Spirit of the Waters, 1878, by
Odilon Redon

For this article,  I am assuming James Hillman’s thesis to be true, that everyone has a personal daimon that accompanies one throughout one’s life. Hillman’s book, Soul’s Code concerns this issue. I also take the words of Marsilio Ficino to be true when he said,

Whoever . . . scrutinizes his mind . . . will find his own natural work, and will find likewise his own star and daemon, and following their beginnings he will thrive and live happily. Otherwise, he will find fortune to be adverse, and he will feel that heaven hates him (Ficino 169).

For background information on this, read Hillman’s Soul’s Code, if you haven’t already.

Hillman also wrote of the so-called “acorn theory,” where a person’s potentiality, their entelechy, is contained in the soul.  Like the potentiality of an acorn to become an oak, so we possess potentiality in the soul, which can grow into what we are destined to become. One’s daimon, a kind of inner mentor, attempts to guide us to our destiny. In my opinion, the daimon is not a supernatural being, as in Christianity’s belief in a so-called “guardian angel.” The daimon is the same principle that guides a seed, say, a mustard seed, (since Jesus discussed this metaphor) to grow into a tree, wherein the birds of the air seek lodging. It is the entelechy of the entity, the pattern that entities already possess when they come into being. Entelechy was discussed by Aristotle, and I have written about it in an article entitled, The Entelechy of Animatter. On Aristotle’s use of the word, translator Joe Sachs says this:

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).

What I’d like discuss in this article is how the inner mentors, the daimones, change through history, and how this relates to the World Soul and her daimon. Since I follow the Hermetic principle, As above, So below, I take it that the World Soul also has a daimon that guides and cajoles her to her destiny, whatever that may be.

The World Soul is a being-at-work, just as all entities are, and will continue to be a being-at-work until there is a state of completion of earth’s destiny. This earthly telos may be viewed in many different ways. None of us know what the future holds for our world. There is one thing we may be sure of, however. The World Daimon has a changing face.

I have felt the influence of many modes or faces of my daimon. Inspirations, ideas, imaginings, illnesses, problems, all the things that compose my personality. Just as one’s personal daimon, if heeded, guides an individual’s destiny, so the World Daimon (henceforth capitalized) guides the destiny of the Anima Mundi. The World Soul, in turn, metamorphoses to heed the call of her Guide, just as we metamorphose in heeding the call of our daimon. This has been occurring since the moment of the Big Bang, when all animatter exploded into existence. Of course, we have no way of knowing what occurred prior to that moment. We can only speculate.

I see reality as being eternal. We are involved in eternity right now. Eternity doesn’t begin when we die. The Big Bang was probably just one of an infinite number of revitalizations that have occurred throughout eternity. Prior to each Big Bang, there is probably a Big Crunch, where the last universe collapses into itself, and then the cycle begins again. This is the nature of Soul. It is not linear, with a firm beginning and an end. It is cyclical, as is the universe. That is why we see the spiral shape  everywhere in Nature. The spiral is painted across the heavens, as if the universe were an infinite gallery of spiral art.

Let’s look at a few examples of how the World Daimon has changed faces during the course of history. We have good reasons to believe that the Big Bang was the starting point for this present universe. This amazing manifestation of energy was the first face of the World Daimon, or at least the one we are related to in our universe. It is the face of creation, or rather re-creation. Henceforward, the making of the Anima Mundi begins in painful birth-pangs, as this world, according to Keats, is the vale of soul-making. The early earth was a hot, violent place. It was almost all molten due to extreme volcanism and violent collisions with other bodies. After vast amounts of time, the earth eventually became a matrix of life, producing the natural beauty we experience today. Even with worlds, world-souls are led through states of adversity and suffering before achieving greater states of consciousness. The earth has been undergoing profound metamorphosis for billions of years. The Daimon changes faces every time further change is needed, as when the earth had cooled sufficiently to allow water to form, and when the first forms of life appeared around 3.5 billion years ago. Each time a new life form evolved, the Daimon was there, all along, nudging the Anima Mundi toward her destiny.

This is a mythical method of discussing very real and powerful forces in our universe. They are not transcendent; they are very much a part of this cosmos. The Anima Mundi and her Daimon are archetypal powers that our world desperately needs to recognize. In my next article, I will offer what I think is the name of the World Daimon.

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