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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The Emergent Awareness of Soul

Procession of Carpenters, Fresco from the Bottega del Profumiere (Perfumer's Workshop) (VI, 7, 8), Pompeii.
Procession of Carpenters, Fresco from the Bottega del Profumiere (Perfumer’s Workshop) (VI, 7, 8), Pompeii.

…the essential characteristic of the mythical structure is the emergent awareness of soul (Gebser 61).

In the schema of Jean Gebser, the mythical structure is the mode of awareness that appears prior to the mental-rational structure of consciousness. It is characterized by a two-dimensional, unperspectival level of awareness. There is no real awareness of space, and only a natural awareness of time. This means an awareness of the movements of time through natural events, such as the changing of seasons, the moon cycles, the movement of planets, etc. This all occurs in a world without spatial awareness. The cyclical movement of nature is the predominant human point of view at this time. It is cyclical, so there is no movement forward in space. It is only circular movement from pole to pole; it doesn’t go anywhere. It is an endless circularity. The shifting between poles seems to create a unique energy that initiates the emergence of a new consciousness.  Thus, from this experience mankind creates symbols and myths. The emerging of imaginative thinking signals the emergence of the individual soul.

Such is the world of humans around 40,000 years ago, the era of late Cro-Magnon man, or “European early modern humans” (EEMH), as scientists now call the humans of that age, and his descendants. They begin to form a symbolic and mythological worldview, bringing about the emergence of the soul, and begin to distinguish themselves as individuals. The Ego, at this point, is certainly not yet developed, but it is starting to form. This is the advent of the road to self-consciousness.

Prior to the mythical structure, the soul is not regarded as being that important. In the fully mature mythical mode of consciousness, however, soul becomes very crucial, indeed, to the human experience. Gebser explains that

Myth is the closing of mouth and eyes; since it is a silent, inward-directed contemplation, it renders the soul visible so that it may be visualized, represented, heard, and made audible (Gebser 67).


what is viewed inwardly, as in a dream, has its conscious emergence and polar complement in poetically shaped utterance (ibid.).

This is the advent of imagination. Prior to the mythical structure, “vital connections reach awareness and are manifested in emotional forms” (ibid.), whereas the mythical has “an imaginatory consciousness, reflected in the imagistic nature of myth and responsive to the soul and sky of the ancient cosmos” (ibid.).

Some very important archetypal motifs become evident in mythology in the period from about 20,000 B.C.E to the point when consciousness mutates to the mental structure around 500 B.C.E: stories about the cosmos, especially the Sun and Moon; the genesis of the earth and of mankind; myths of sea voyages, such as that of Odysseus; all other Greek myths, especially those of Hades, Narcissus, and Athena. This is not to mention the comparative myths of humans around the world. Joseph Campbell aptly demonstrates the importance of these.

On the importance to us today of this form, and all other forms, of consciousness that have emerged, or are emerging, Gebser sums up succinctly in this statement:

Everyone who is intent upon surviving–not only the earth but also life–with worth and dignity, and living rather than passively accepting life, must sooner or later pass through the agonies of emergent consciousness (Gebser 73).

This agrees with James Hillman’s position that the nature of the soul is to pathologize.


Works Cited

Gebser, Jean. The Ever-Present Origin. Trans. by Noel Barstad and Algis Mickunas. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985.

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Refugee Children, by Majsiej Sliapian

We have been hearing much in the news recently concerning thousands of refugees fleeing   from their homes in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan only to be met with closed borders. The Hungarian borders have even been lined with razor wire, along with many police and military personnel. They attempt to deter the refugees with teargas, pepper spray, and water cannons. This is the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War. What we are seeing everyday in the headlines is the gradual disintegration of the predominant consciousness structure, which Jean Gebser called the mental-rational, in its deficient mode. The people want peace. They crave true freedom and safety from crazed psychopaths who want to murder them and their families. The people are crying out for what integration and world individuation will bring.

The daily news is replete with evidence for the ongoing fragmentation of this so-called rational society. The more of this we see, the closer we come to the Integral, the next mutation of consciousness, which will encompass all other modes and will transform us from a three-dimensional paradigm to a four-dimensional paradigm. I look at this as individuation on a cosmic scale, the individuation of the World Soul.

It is said that it is darkest before the dawn; we may see more darkness, more totalitarianism, more fascism before we fully experience the world as it is meant to be. Remember what James Hillman taught us: pathologization is the nature of the soul, even on a world scale. In that day when the World Soul overcomes herself, as Nietzsche would say, there will be no nation-states, and no borders to close; as a matter of fact, there will be no borders! Humans will move freely where they choose. It is the current deficient mode of human consciousness that brings about situations where human freedom is impaired. Hierarchical authorities, with apparently no regard for human lives, attempt to rule with economics as their prime directive.  I know it sounds Utopian to think that there will come a day when there will be no nation-states, no wars, no borders, but I choose to imagine it will come to pass. To choose otherwise is total nihilism.

The perspective of Late Modernity, which Wikipedia describes as being “marked by the global capitalist economies with their increasing privatisation of services,” along with the continuation of extreme rationality, to the exclusion of all other modes of thought that might offer succor to the suffering masses, is the driving force behind our current society. The global capitalist market is paramount in the minds of those who have brought us to this state of affairs. Things are melting down. We have seen war upon war, especially in the last twenty-five years. There is a crisis occurring, a turning point. As Gebser puts it,

…weapons and nuclear fission are not the only realities to be dealt with; spiritual reality in its intensified form is also becoming effectual and real. The new spiritual reality is without question our only security that the threat of material destruction can be averted. Its realization alone seems able to guarantee man’s continuing existence in the face of the powers of technology, rationality, and chaotic emotion. If our consciousness, that is, the individual person’s awareness, vigilance, and clarity of vision, cannot master the new reality and make possible its realization, then the prophets of doom will have been correct. Our alternatives are an illusion; consequently, great demands are placed on us, and each one of us have been given a grave responsibility, not merely to survey but to actually traverse the path opening before us (Gebser 5).

God help us choose the right path.


Works Cited

Gebser, Jean. The Ever-Present Origin. Trans. by Noel Barstad and Algis Mickunas. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985

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The Concept of the Unconscious Revisited

Tidings of the Eagle, by Nicholas Roerich (1927)

There is a deceptive idea that many followers of depth psychology seem to adhere to. It is the perception that what depth psychologists call “the unconscious” is some sort of objective reality, or compartment of the mind that stores the thoughts, ideas, images we repress, things we forget, etc. Basically, anything we are not consciously aware of is supposedly “stored” in the unconscious. This is inaccurate. The word simply means, “not aware.” We treat “the unconscious,” as a place or thing when, in reality, there is much we are simply unaware of. Not very hard to understand, but lots of people who are interested in the human mind, and especially Freudian, Jungian and post-Jungian psychology, make this mistake. In fact, some seem to speak of the unconscious as a divine entity, even capitalizing the word and attributing all sorts of powers to it. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of this, myself.

Again, unconsciousness is simply a lack of awareness. For example, I am trying to remember the name of someone I went to school with when I was a child. I can see her face clearly in the imagination, but I am unconscious of what her name is. I don’t remember her name. But, if I think of her face for awhile, the name usually comes to me. Does this mean that lost memories are stored in a compartment of the mind called the unconscious? No, it simply means I was momentarily unaware of the name.

Jung proposed a model, a revision of Freud’s picture of the mind, that divided the unconscious into two layers, “personal unconscious,” and “collective unconscious,” the latter being the “storehouse” of what Freud had previously called “archaic remnants.” In retrospect, we see this dichotomizing as being a product of the extreme adherence to Cartesian dualism. Both men were still in the grip of, what Jean Gebser calls, the decaying mental-rational mode of consciousness. It is true that Jung’s view evolved over the years to an understanding closer to Gebser’s, but many of his followers still hold to this bifurcated idea. Yes, there is a collective and a personal aspect to the mind, but they are not compartmentalized. They work in unison.

Furthermore, consciousness and unconsciousness are not oppositional areas of the mind. In everyday experience, they walk hand-in-hand. In reality, they are one. In his classic work, The Ever-Present Origin, Gebser declares

There is no so-called unconscious. There are only various modalities (or intensities) of consciousness: a one-dimensional magical, a two-dimensional mythical, a three-dimensional mental consciousness. And there will also be an integral four-dimensional consciousness of the whole (Gebser 204).

Gebser does make allowance for using the term to describe lesser intensifications of consciousness. In our day, we would speak of the archaic, the magical, and the mythical modes of consciousness as less intense, since we are currently dominated by the mental-rational modality. Unconsciousness would also relate to the respective dimensionality of the less intense modes (archaic, magical, and mythical) than what we currently experience. The archaic has zero dimensionality, the magical is one-dimensional, the mythical is two-dimensional, and of course, the mental-rational has access to three dimensions. According to Gebser, there will be a four-dimensional consciousness. This is known as the integral mode. It will amalgamate all previous modes.

James Hillman makes some very pertinent and interesting observations concerning “the unconscious” in his work, The Myth of Analysis:

How does this term help us now? Already in Jung’s usage the term was becoming inadequate. He had to speak of a consciousness in the unconscious, and he ascribed to the unconscious a superior, guiding intentionality–which is more fitting to divinities than to subliminal mental processes.

By questioning the term, we do not doubt the existence of unwilled and unreasonable psychic states, of dreaming and of subliminal creative activities, or of any of the disturbances that are called the psychopathology of everyday life, nor do we question their “inferiority” as “sub” forms of consciousness, as we now conceive consciousness… (Hillman 174).

And also,

The term, “unconscious” is suitable for describing states where consciousness is not present–coma, for instance; but to use the word for the imaginal region, for morally inferior or culturally ignorant behavior, for instinctual release reactions, and for a causal agent who “sends” dreams and to which one can turn to ask an opinion, is an erosion of categories. To personify it and regard it as one’s inhibitory daimonic voice, or totem animal, or familiaris is not merely superstitious. Such habits are sacrilegious, because they deprive the Gods of their due. The unconscious is a concept, not a metaphor, even if what it represents is indeed the metaphorical and the source of metaphors. Thus we seem unable to avoid speaking in this peculiar, superstitious manner. But it is not good psychology to make a theology of the psyche or to psychologize the divine (Hillman 175).

Language in our current mode of consciousness does not sufficiently deal with the difficult realities of the human mind. I think, however, that both Gebser and Hillman are are on the right track.

Hillman, in another place in The Myth of Analysis, likens the term, unconscious, to what the ancients called memoria. I find this quite fascinating. The human ability to memorize vast amounts of information is a fascinating topic. Hillman thinks it is closely connected to the soul and what Henry Corbin called the mundus imaginalis, the imaginal world.

Regarding Gebser, I think he might say that memoria is the modality of consciousness holding all four modes of consciousness, preserving all of mankind’s experiences with consciousness throughout the history of the human race. The soul is timeless. Because of that, the four modes are presently accessible to us. Our origin, as living creatures, is “ever-originating,” an eternal presence. We have forgotten this. Our true selves have been disconnected from eternity. We have wandered far from our origin. Our task here is to re-member, to re-collect that which has disintegrated. It’s not a remembering in the sense of memory, but a re-integration of what has been torn asunder. It is difficult to say what the origin is, but it seems similar to what Hermetists calls The All. It is certainly non-spatial and non-temporal. All the various modes of consciousness emerge from the origin. In fact, I would go so far as to say that all things in the universe share in this ever-present reality. It is not an external reality. The very roots of our being lie within us, connected rhizomally to the origin, and, in turn, to each other.

Works Cited

Gebser, Jean. The Ever-Present Origin. Trans. by Noel Barstad and Algis Mickunas. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985.

Hillman, James. The Myth of Analysis: Three Essays in Archetypal Psychology. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1972.


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Polytheism in Archetypal Psychology

Creation of the World, by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, Public Domain

Archetypal psychology is not interested in the integration of the multiple psychic persons to a unified Self, as in Jungian theory. The soul is polytheistic, according to this view. To allow each autonomous Being to have its own place, no attempt should be made to gather them into a central self. The Anima Mundi is diffused throughout Nature, where all animatter is specked with fiery sparks of divinity. As fiery, orange scintillae spark upward from a campfire into a night sky, so do the light-filled blazings of Soul permeate throughout the psyche, symbolized by the innumerable stars that dot the heavens. These are the Archetypal Powers worshiped by ancient civilizations. They do not desire to be centralized. It is contra naturam. Rather, it is better to discover which god is owed its due by dealing with the fragmented messages that arise from the unconscious, alerting us to their presence. These messages come in dreams, symptoms, complexes, illnesses, fantasies, etc.

James Hillman, founder of archetypal psychology, writes that archetypal psychology would

…accept the multiplicity of voices, the Babel of the anima and animus, without insisting upon unifying them into one figure, and accept too the dissolution process into diversity as equal in value to the coagulation process into unity. The pagan gods and goddesses would be restored to their psychological domain (Hillman 39).

Each god and goddess have their particular qualities and characteristics. Forcing them into an abstract unity diminishes their valuable idiosyncrasies. These Beings are Images. Images have a multiplicity of meanings, so shoving them into one personality called the Self devalues their place in the scheme of Nature. As an example, Hillman gives us a brief account of how a bout of depression would be dealt with:

Depression, say, may be led into meaning on the model of Christ and his suffering and resurrection; it may through Saturn gain the depth of melancholy and inspiration, or through Apollo server to release the blackbird of prophetic insight. From the perspective of Demeter depression may yield awareness of the mother-daughter mystery, or, through Dionysus, we may find depression a refuge from the excessive demands of the ruling will (Hillman 40).

You see how rich and valuable the insight is if this method is used. In this way, consciousness “circulate(s) among a field of powers. Each god has his due as each complex deserves its respect in its own right” (ibid.).

Our Western notion of upward progress through hierarchical phases, inspired by monotheistic theology, brought about the idea that there is a target to aim for, i.e. integration into a Self. The problem is, though, this is not the way Nature works.

Hillman might look at the thousands of divisions of Christianity, for example, and probably say it was therapeutic. He might say that the many complexes must be cared for, hence the many, many schisms. In order to care for the soul, the many must be recognized and nurtured.

In Jungian theory, to integrate the various complexes, one must withdraw the projections. But, even Jung himself admitted,

The individual ego is much too small, its brain much too feeble, to incorporate all the projections withdrawn from the world. Ego and brain burst asunder in the effort; the psychiatrist calls it schizophrenia (qtd. by Hillman 41).

When dealing with psychological breakdown, Jungians might say mandalas, as images of unity, could compensate the many complexes by bringing about order from chaos. Archetypal psychology would counter with its idea of reversion, which I will discuss in the next article.

Works Cited

Hillman, James. A Blue Fire. Ed. Thomas Moore. New York: Harper, 1989.


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