Animaterialism Modified

Animaterialism Modified

I would like to modify, somewhat, what I have written concerning animaterialism. After reading a passage from Jung, and examining the situation alchemically, I began to rethink my position on the subject. Here is what Jungs says:

it always remains an obscure point whether the ultimate transformations in the alchemical process ought to be sought more in the material or more in the spiritual realm. Actually, however, the question is wrongly put: there was no “either-or” for that age, but there did exist an intermediate realm between mind and matter, i.e., a psychic realm of subtle bodies whose characteristic it is to manifest themselves in mental as well as material form. This is the only view that makes sense of alchemical ways of thought, which must otherwise appear nonsensical (Jung 278-279).

I think he is correct in this regard. The name I gave to reality, animaterialism, leans too much to the side of soul and matter, when soul is actually a third between spirit and matter. The conjunction of spirit and matter is soul. If soul is removed, one ends up with the world as viewed by Descartes, a mind-matter duality. Soul is an “imperceptible smoke,” (ibid.: 278n ) that is neither matter nor spirit. According to Robert Romanyshyn, the Cartesian split created an

eclipse of the imaginal as a third between matter and mind, with a de-animation of the flesh which transforms the vital, gestural body into a mechanism, and with a broken connection between the ensouled sensuous body and the sense-able world (Romanyshyn 35).

I like the term animaterialism, but I wonder if it is still feasible, seeing there is no idea of spirit in the mix? Have I been caught in a dualistic trap by overemphasizing soul and matter at the expense of spirit? I was trying to unify my views in one monistic reality. My vision was to view reality as essentially one “substance,” i.e. animatter. After checking the etymology of the word, anima, I believe there is an element of spirit included therein. The root of the word includes the idea of air, wind, and breath, which definitely corresponds to the idea of spirit. So, the word may be appropriate after all, just not in the sense I was using it before.

Romanyshyn states that the “central issue for alchemy” is “the tension of spirit and matter” (Romanyshyn 33).

Alchemy…is a kind of consciousness which holds this tension and in holding it the subtle body of the third, the soul, the realm of the imaginal, which is neither that of spirit, consciousness, mind, nor matter, nature, body is born (ibid.).

So, I may use the term, animaterialism, at times, but it will be in this sense: that for it to be meaningful and true, my thesis must include the tension between mind and matter, that, in turn, gives birth to the “middle third,” soul. This is an alchemically true definition of the word.

Jung, C.G. Psychology and Alchemy. Trans. by R.F.C. Hull. London: Routledge, 1953.

Romanyshyn, Robert. Alchemy and the Subtle Body of Metaphor. Pathways into the Jungian World
          Phenomenology and Analytical Psychology. Ed. Roger Brooke. New York: Routledge, 2000.

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2 thoughts on “Animaterialism Modified

  1. I think you're raising a really important point in this post; one that concerns me too. I liked the way you untangled the threads, and of course I agree with the etymology of anima as (also) incorporating notions of wind/air/spirit etc (albeit that they might more naturally be identified with 'animus'); yet still animaterialism does seem to weigh heavily towards matter: that which is 'animated', arguably, by soul. To this extent, the term is perhaps tautological?

    And I understand why you might not want to use the term 'animism', which has accrued specific usage, but it seems to me that this is closer to what you want to convey, etymologically, as anima is, as you say, the 'third thing' that both resolves the tension between matter and spirit and is also the result of the alchemical process – and that which animates by the conjunction of matter and spirit. Ad circulum. (I'm not sure that term exists?!)

    I'm not sure we yet have the term you're searching for – or at least one that is not a clumsy compound or has not been 'hijacked' to mean something other than what you want.

    I'd be interested in hearing more from yourself and others/discussing this further.

    And thanks for the other ref in the biblio – Romanyshyn – don't know that writer.

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