in the western culture
“The soul is all things together… And since it is the center of all things, it has the forces of all. Hence it passes into all things. And since it is the true connection of all things, it goes to the one without leaving the others. …Therefore it may rightly be called the center of nature, the middle term of all things, the face of all, the bond and juncture of the universe”
The idea of the World being permeated with Soul is as old and untraceable as the source of various religious scriptures from all the corners of our cultural world. The notions of the psychic as a vital condition of the Universe is found in all known and well-established religions of the world: Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism. The symbolic narrative chosen by each doctrine differs, mirroring the cultural cradle from which each tradition has sprouted and its further unfolding.
At the early ages of Christianity, the ethereal force, whose all-pervasive nature binds all the living creatures together, has been equated with the Holy Spirit. This – often forgotten by many followers of Christian religion – approach flourished thanks to the Greek Church-Fathers. Their perspective, influenced by Plato’s philosophy, was actually the corner stone of the new developing faith.
Despite further official rejection of the en-souled world by St. Augustine in his theology -which has formed the present outcome of the Christian doctrine- the seed planted in our western consciousness by Greek philosophy has found the fertile ground to establish its permanent roots.
During the Middle Ages, the concept of the World as a Spiritual Being disappeared from the official theological discourse due to the essential split in the way of understanding the reality. The Divinity was not connected with matter anymore. Despite God still being enthroned as the Creator, He became alienated from His creation. Consequently, the man -as a one of the results of God’s creativity- suddenly became devoid of the Divine Spark within himself. His connection with the Greater Whole, and thus Nature around became broken.
As we all know too well, it got even worse: the man was supposed to feel ashamed by the way he has been shaped by his beloved creator. The body became the antonym of the divine; the matter has been placed in contradiction to the sacred.
However, in all this medieval affirmation of man being devoid of God, the concept of Anima Mundi, the notion of the Sacredness of Nature saturated with Divine Spirit, has not disappeared. It went only into ambush withdrawing from the sight. Yet, its essence became kept deep in the Heart and was cultivated by many in the form of various art work, symbolic rituals and occult literature. Alchemy -for example- nowadays is rather known as an old field of study focused on purification of metals in an attempt to reach -by yielding gold- certain perfection.
That was at least what the surface of alchemy was aimed at. Yet, the depths of this process had way deeper meaning and purpose. Vaughan-Lee in his essay “Anima Mundi: Awakening the Soul of the World” wrote:
“While the Church looked for the light in heavens, the alchemists sought the light hidden in matter”.
The Gold-purifiers have intuitively known that the matter is a result of the transcendent and Divine light-permeated fabric which binds all the physical manifestations of natural world together. Through an occult and symbolic approach, which was a method of their work, they aimed to release the essential Light, the numinous fabric of the Cosmic Soul.
We do not have to be philosophically or religiously inclined to notice that all existence, basic natural phenomena and -as one of them- our own bodily constitution are based on constant oscillation: breath in – breath out, sunrise – sunset, and thus (applying the transmigration of souls’ model) birth – death.
The very same wave-structure is strikingly visible when we look at the history of the man’s encounter with the concept of an all-penetrating Spirit. There is certain dialectic ruling over this process.
In our western tradition, after succumbing into the dark abyss of ignorance, during the few centuries of Middle Ages, the neoplatonic concept of The Soul of the World that preceded the medieval fall, could finally come to rise again in the Renaissance-consciousness. The Nature once again became fully alive being endowed with Divinity, and thus the place of Man within it also was flipped back to its natural position. His essence became again strongly tied up with Nature’s sacred undercurrents, which only could be reached through the Heart, trained by intuitive approach. All the living creatures were again put on stage in the universal theater of life, where the Anima Mundi re-gained Her role as a Primal Director.
The flourishing of art based on admiration of nature and its sacred geometric patterns, acted as a perfect libretto written to enhance the numinous sound of Divinity that has been vibrating in the minds and hearts of the renaissance artists.
“This world is indeed a living being endowed with a soul and intelligence … a single visible living entity containing all other living entities, which by their nature are all related.”
Wrote Plato in his Timaeus, and as the platonic thought experienced a certain resurrection during the XV-XVI centuries, the philosophy of that time placed the harmony and unity of Creation, as the main root of growing admiration for the natural world. Suddenly, all the answers and inspirations started to arise from the world being re-animated, re-veiled with living divine substance and measured with use of sacred proportions found in nature itself.
Phenomenologically, the outer universe became equated with the inner one. The outer material Sun found its correspondence with the Divine Spark illuminating the inner cosmos of one’s Soul. To reclaim that Light was precisely the goal of the art of alchemy.
The echo from the medieval decay came into action once again, pushing the Anima Mundi upholders into the hidden cellar. The Church orthodoxies re-emerged upon the surface of the Man’s consciousness bringing the great split between Matter and Spirit back into the predominating narratives on that times.
The suppression of the divine as an essential equalizer of the material world became so widely spread, that those who were advanced Light-seekers (and thus Light-givers) had no other option than to go into hiding again. Consequently, various secret societies like the Rosicrucian Order, or early staged freemasonry were flourishing in the undercover. At the same time, the newly born scientific method was starting to turn the world – and thus Man himself – into the rigid physical machine devoid of any transcendent meaning. Particularly, he became depleted of sacred connections and correspondences with the equally-sacred Universe.
Nowadays, it might be hard to imagine that the discoveries of Copernicus or Kepler regarding the Man’s position within the Universe was of extremely sacred value for the late-renaissance mind. The consciousness of that time was impregnated with the quest of understanding the divine order that the man was an essential part of.
The consciousness of that time was impregnated with the quest of understanding the divine order that the man was an essential part of.
So when finally, the knowledge successfully stretched out to the – before unattainable – stars, the suddenly realized potential of human intellect outgrew the mystical connection of the Heart.
“A new universe had dawned, and the sun, whose luminous centrality Copernicus and Kepler perceived as the very image of the Godhead, seemed to shine on the world a new light of divine intelligibility”
This particular impression of understanding of the Godhead pathways by the rather intellectual than intuitive approach, which Richard Tarnas exposed in detail in his magnificent work “Cosmos and Psyche”, was -on the larger scale- one of the major thorns in the mystical flesh of Anima Mundi. It announced the brand new science -based vision that was about to dominate the human psyche during the next centuries.
Especially during the last decades, our current scientific method became overused in forcing explanations to the inexplainable, originating from the assumption of Gods accessibility by modern Man’s intellectual inquire. Despite that the period initiated by the birth of our current cosmology was named as an “Age of Enlightenment”, the humanity still has a lot of work to do to really may become illuminated. Richard Tarnas in his “Cosmos and Psyche” continues:
“With the full ascension of the modern mind, the world is no longer informed by numinous powers, gods, and goddesses, archetypal Ideas or sacred ends. (…) It has been voided of any spiritual, symbolic, or expressive dimension that provides a cosmic order in which human existence finds its ground of meaning and purpose. Instead, the world is viewed entirely in terms of neutral facts, the detached rational understanding of which will give the human being an unprecedented capacity to calculate, control, and manipulate that world.”
Due to this victory of the mind over heart, the concept of Soul once again was pushed into the darkness of oblivion. However, following our oscillation- model, one can clearly expect further reappearance of the Sacred. And indeed, the artistic wave of romanticism that originated in the late 18th century, briefly managed to awaken the hidden mysticism on a larger scale. It brought back its relevant place within the human consciousness, in form of high quality poetry, art and literature which gradually became a stage for emergence of mystical, bathed in meaning landscapes of human psyche.
Like any form of duality, when one element gradually increases its proportion, the essential counterpart loses its weight. This state of imbalance, due to its abnormal condition, will always try to compensate the missing weight in order to keep the equilibrium untouched.
The allegory of the winter dark days and summer white nights experienced by the inhabitants of the Northern part of our globe, beautifully shows the need of keeping the balance in check.
Consequently, not a single building brick of this human condition can be removed without the whole structure turning into pieces. The instinctive impression of being imbued with the transcendent force which – like a glue – fastens all living beings together, cannot just be cleared out by any means from our essence. It can only be moved to a storage room, that is widely known as Unconsciousness.
The whole process, the consequences of this shift and the results of the further re-integration of what has been repressed, has a special place in the history of he XX century psychology gradually starting with Freudian analysis, reaching its climax with Jungian archetypal approach, and beautifully culminating with James Hillman’s revised deep-psychology.
The whole Carl Jung’s legacy seems to be focused on the process of digging out the spiritual needs of Man barren under the heavy weight of overindulgence in the rationality, inflexibility and objectivity of the scientific approach.
The old alchemical internal gold-mine gained a new term: “The Individuation Process”, coined by Jung to describe the merging of one’s conscious personality with the Inner Light emerging from the depths of unconsciousness.
In his late years, while delving into the psychic structure of synchronicities trying to connect those with the all-encompassing energetic fabric of collective unconsciousness, Jung together with his co-worker, the physician, Wolfgang Pauli, came to resurrect the Anima Mundi concept, giving it a new name: Unus Mundus, the One World, The Wholeness. In one of his letters to Pauli, Jung writes:
“I think you are correct in assuming that synchronicity, though in practice a relatively rare phenomenon, is an all-pervading factor or principle in the universe, i.e., in the Unus Mundus, where there is no incommensurability between so-called matter and so-called psyche.”
The Jungian approach toward archetypes as psychic structures, which are the actual main forces shaping our perception, could not be valid without any larger metaphysical Whole, the nature of which is all-embracing and collective. The Unus Mundus theory stresses the role of archetypes as a building blocks of the energy field that we are all subject of. We all are drifting through the archetypal waves of Anima Mundi. In Astrology those archetypes are called zodiac.
However, the biggest recognition in the Western psychology in the field of bringing the Soul back to its rightful place goes to James Hillman. His attempts to ignite the Soul-making process as a necessary modality of healing for the modern – devoid of meaning – Man, restored the renaissance intuitive imagination, and thus re-established Man’s connection with Nature. In his “Re-visioning Psychology” Hillman writes:
“By Soul I mean the imaginative possibility in our natures, the experiencing through reflective speculation, dream, image and fantasy; that mode that recognizes all realities as primarily symbolic or metaphorical, that unknown component, which makes meaning possible, turns events into experiences, is communicated in love, has religious concern (…)”
The nuances about Hillman’s purely metaphorical approach instead of firm belief in the Greater Divine spark, that inhabits our being, are actually not so important here. Imagination is the real cure that simply enriches one’s life by giving meaning to it. Actually, it does not matter, on what terms we will dare to invite the vision of the Ensouled World to our lives: if it will appear as a spiritual belief, factual intuitive recognition of Sacred presence within us, or as a mythological and fully metaphorical concept that can ease our daily struggles. We are the ones who endow our lives with quality crafted to our expectations.
One does not have to dive into deep esoteric teachings, practice any of the yogic tradition, or be the first coming to the church every Sunday, to may awaken Anima Mundi within one’s heart by framing one’s own live in deeper bigger perspective. The curiosity and imagination are the pathways.
“I reenter the Platonic cosmos, which always recognizes that the Soul of the individual can never advance beyond the Soul of the World, because they are inseparable, the one always implicating the other. Any alteration in the human psyche resonates with a change in the psyche of the world”
Through therapeutic use of Astrology, I attempt to attune this individual psychic reality with its greater counterpart – Anima Mundi. Through connecting one’s life with the larger natural psychic forces – archetypes – , I try to bring the necessary balance to human Heart. My goal is to give a voice to the emotional being, which have been silence by the overuse of intellect.