Jul 31, 2012

The Power of Soul

Homage to the Ocean, by Arthur Bowen Davies (1862–1928) 
The shaman, Jimi Hendrix, once channeled these enlightening lyrics through his human form:
With the power of soul,
anything is possible,
With the power of you,
Anything you wanna do.
When I was fifteen, listening to this song, Power To Love, I had no idea that, someday, I would connect these lyrics to the philosophy of a sixteenth century lover of freedom named Giordano Bruno. Hendrix and Bruno have undoubtedly met on a higher plane of consciousness and exchanged ideas concerning the power of Soul. 

In Bruno's estimation, the power of Soul is the Universal Intellect. The Universal Intellect is fused with the World Soul. They are related by the fact that the Universal Intellect is the creative potential inherent in the World Soul. In Aristotelian terms, the Universal Intellect is the efficient cause of all things. It is the innate creative power that brings about all possible forms. Bruno called it the artefice interno, the Internal Artificer:
...from insidethe trunk drives out the branches, from inside the branches the formed twigs, from inside these unfolds the buds; from the inside it forms, shapes, weaves, like nerves,  the foliage, the flowers, the fruits, and it is from the inside that, at certain times, it calls back its sap from the leaves and the fruits to the twigs, from the twigs to the branches, from the branch to the trunk, from the trunk to the root.  (De la Causa)...
The fusion of the Anima Mundi and the Universal Intellect is what is meant by the Cosmic Mind. The emerging forms we have discussed earlier, which originate in the womb of matter, the Mater-Materia, are brought into manifestation by the Universal Intellect. In my view, the World Soul provides the vast storehouse of images; the Universal Intellect is the powerhouse that corporealizes them. It is the principle of individuation within the Cosmic Mind.

The Universe we experience is the corporealization of the Cosmic Mind. We need not posit a transcendent power that brought our Universe into being, since the Cosmic Mind is inherent in all things. There need be no separate realm where God and angels dwell, or where Satan and demons inflict suffering upon unruly sinners. Our amazing Universe is the manifestation of The All, the Cosmic Mind, The Universal Soul.

The unfolding and emerging of all things from the fecund abundance of the Cosmic Mind requires an infinite universe in which to proliferate. Infinite space-time and infinite mass/energy are the resources used by the Cosmic Mind to generate infinite forms. It is not in any way extrinsic to these forms, but totally innate to each.
The universal intellect is the innermost, most real and most proper faculty or potential part of the world soul. It is that one and the same thing that fills everything, illuminates the universe and directs nature to produce her various species suitably. It is to the production of natural things what our intellect is to the production of the representations of things. The Pythagoreans call it the ‘mover’ and ‘agitator of the universe’. As the poet [Virgil] has expressed:

totamque infusa per artus,
mens agitat molem, et toto se corpore miscet (ibid.)


[pervading its members, mind stirs the whole mass and
mingles with the whole body]
The Cosmic Mind is the most exquisite example of Nicholas of Cusa's idea of the coincidentia oppisitorum, the coincidence of opposites, since it is totally paradoxical. It is unchanging, yet all is in constant flux; it is not visible to the naked eye, yet it is constantly seeking to become visible; it is perfect, but it always strives to reveal itself in an infinity of forms, as if it suffered from vanity.

Jul 30, 2012

Bruno and the Cosmic Mind

Blick auf den Genfer See, 1852, August Ludwig Erhard Boll (1805–1875)
We cannot discuss Giordano Bruno's theory of matter without including how it is related to his idea of a cosmic mind. Inundated by the overwhelming complexity of emerging patterns in Nature, Bruno refused to adopt the position that all was brought about by chance. In this, he would have agreed with Albert Einstein, who rejected the argument of Niels Bohr and the probabilistic theories of quantum mechanics.

Bruno rejected the theological doctrine of creatio ex nihilo, creation of a perfect universe out of nothing. However, Bruno did accept that the Universe had been brought about by unparalleled Intelligence, a cosmic or universal Mind. Bruno may have taken his idea of matter as the Mater-Materia from Anaximander's Apeiron, but his idea of a cosmic Mind was strongly influenced by Anaxagoras' assertion that, in the beginning, everything is in everything:
So when something appears to come from nothing what is really happening is that hitherto imperceptible "seeds" of something are coming together to become perceptible. It follows that becoming can only occur if there are quantities of everything in everything or else everything would simply stay the same (http://www.crandallu.ca/courses/grphil/Anaxagoras.htm#Anax323).
For Anaxagoras, in the beginning of the cosmos, there was not one but two principles all infinite and everlasting in nature: (1) Mind (Nous) and (2) the Primeval Mixture (Migma). In the beginning ‘everything was in everything’. The revolutionary formation of the cosmos started when the infinite ‘seeds’ (spermata) within the primeval mixture separated from the mixture by the motive power of Mind. Mind initiated the rotation of the ‘seeds’ resulting in the predominantly heavy parts coming to the center of the vortex and the subtler parts to the outer part encircling them (http://www.philosophy.gr/presocratics/anaxagoras.htm).
Anaxagoras called this principle of separation Nous, or as we translate it, Mind.

Bruno accomplished something quite revolutionary. He fused Anaximander's Apeiron and Anaxagoras' Nous together, along with ideas from Heraclitus about eternal becoming (You can never step into the same river twice), and added the atomism of the Stoics, Epicurus and Lucretius. He packaged these into a neat monistic ontology that may have united the peoples of the world, if the Roman Inquisition had not stolen his life from him. This Creative Power is totally immanent, boundless, organic, and ever-growing. This fecund internal principle, the source of all cosmic order and complexity, Bruno called the Soul of the Universe.

The cornerstone of Bruno's monism is the assertion that matter is intelligent and that all intelligence is material. This Intelligence is immanent in all things and brings about all order and complexity in the Universe.

Jul 28, 2012

O Death, Where is Thy Sting?

Beard, William Holbrook ~ Phantom Crane, 1891, oil on canvas
This spirit, being persistent along with matter and these being the one and the other indissoluble, it is impossible that anything should in any respect see corruption or come to death, in its substance, although in certain accidents everything changes face, and passes now into one composition, now into another, through now one disposition, now another, leaving off or taking up now this now that existence. Aristotelians, Platonists, and other sophists have not understood what the substance of things is. In natural things that which they call substance, apart from matter, is pure accident. When we know what form really is, we know what is life and what is death ; and, the vain and puerile fear of the latter passing from us, we experience some of that blessedness which our philosophy brings with it, inasmuch as it lifts the dark veil of foolish sentiment concerning Orcus and the insatiable Charon, that wrests from us or empoisons all that is sweetest in our lives (Giordano Bruno, qtd. in Giordano Bruno, by J. Lewis McIntyre, p. 160).
This is an example of how Bruno viewed reality, although I suspect this translation does not do justice to Soul. McIntyre translates Soul as "spirit," which is obviously wrong. I can't find the original Latin text or I would try to translate it myself. Nevertheless, If we replace Soul where he mentions "spirit," our understanding is illuminated.

In Bruno's view, matter and Soul are indissoluble. Nothing ceases to be "in its substance," since it would be impossible for Soul/Matter to perish. What actually happens is that Soul/Matter transforms from one form to another. Think of the Law of the Conservation of Energy, since that's what Soul/Matter is: 
For an isolated system, this law means that energy can change its location within the system, and that it can change form within the system, for instance chemical energy can become kinetic energy, but that energy can be neither created nor destroyed (Wikipedia).
"Death" is merely a transference of Energy (Soul/Matter) from one form to another. Nothing ceases to be. The various forms have different accidentals and dispositions, but the One Substance always remains.

One of Bruno's greatest wishes was that he could banish the fear of death from humanity. He saw this as a childish fear brought about by the lack of understanding of substance and form. The common fear of death was fostered by the Roman Catholic Church throughout history with their doctrine of Hell and its tortures. The masses were indoctrinated so they could be controlled. But now, we have thrown off ignorance and understand that there is only one substance with many forms, all emerging from the Mater Materia, which we could also call The Womb of the World Soul. Death just a change of "face," as Bruno says.

What a truly liberating philosophy! Bruno desired more than anything to spread this message around the globe, uniting all religions, all the Earth's inhabitants. But, at that time in history, it was not to be. It was not the appointed time. Perhaps the fact that Bruno is becoming more popular lately implies that the time is ripe for such a teaching. I have great hope.

Jul 27, 2012

Musings On Consciousness

Singularity Utopia
What is consciousness? It is the state of being aware. For example, we are conscious of ourselves as Ego. Many times, we are unconscious (unaware) that we are also Shadow, Mother, Father, Wise Old Man, Child, and many others. These are archetypes of the unconscious. Most humans are not aware of themselves as being these Persons (and They are Persons).

What is the origin of consciousness? How do we become aware of unconscious things? First of all, we must not reify consciousness. It is a state, not a Being in and of itself. It is a quality of Being. Many times, we tend to talk about "the unconscious" and "consciousness" as if we were referring to Beings. They are not. Rather, they are qualities of Beings. The avoidance of anthropomorphism is the best route to take when thinking along these lines. On the other hand, the unconscious is populated with living Persons who should be taken very seriously.

Max Velmans and Susan Schneider said in The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness:
Anything that we are aware of at a given moment forms part of our consciousness, making conscious experience at once the most familiar and most mysterious aspect of our lives.
Consciousness emerges from intercourse with the unconscious. Our experiences inform our consciousness. As we experience the Universe, our consciousness is constructed of innumerable monads of Gnosis, which we call images. Little by little, as we progress and regress through life, our house of consciousness is being built entirely of images. Consciousness is also composed of images which emerge, sometimes spontaneously, from the collective unconscious. These are images we share with collective humanity.

Consciousness and unconsciousness are two sides of the same reality, i.e. Soul. Our experience is always a blending and intertwining of both; each bears the Other's seed. As chaos and order intermingle, so do consciousness and unconsciousness. Soul is a seething cauldron, constantly cooking and bubbling, the alchemical retort par excellence! Our daily ascent and descent to and from consciousness paints an image of how these interact.

This infers a waxing and waning consciousness. There are many levels of consciousness and unconsciousness, which constantly pull and tug against the Other like rising and falling ocean tides. Instead of visualizing consciousness as an ever-ascending linear climb, it is really more like a sine wave that has the potential to gradually increase in magnitude, after many ascents and descents. If we attain higher consciousness, it is a roller-coaster ride.

To accompany my newfound philosophy of immanence, I propose a horizontal movement of consciousness in rhizomal fashion. Transcendent consciousness is fine, but horizontal consciousness is better because we grow toward each other instead of trying to rise above each other. Westerners have been inculcated with the desire to progress vertically, but that paradigm is dying. Our future will be one of horizontal consciousness and empathic connections with each other.

Jul 26, 2012

The Unus Mundus

When he created the concept of synchronicity, Jung laid a foundation which might lead us to see the complementary realms of psyche and matter as one reality. ... Synchronistic events ... seem to point towards a unitary aspect of existence which transcends our conscious grasp and which Jung has called the unus mundus (Psyche and Matter, by Marie Louise von Franz).
Jung's idea of synchronicity involves an acausal interconnectedness that is meaningful between matter and Soul.  This idea of the unus mundus, one world, is exactly what I've been discussing concerning Giordano Bruno's theory of matter, how Soul permeates every iota of the atomic structure of our Universe.

Jung may have created the idea of synchronicity, but he most certainly did not lay "the foundation which might lead us to see the complementary realms of psyche and matter as one reality." Giordano Bruno, having been influenced by Hermetic teachings,  accomplished this feat in the late sixteenth century, around the time of the birth of the man who would cleave reality in two for centuries to come (Descartes).
...the spirituality of all causation; the eternity of matter; its divinity as the potentiality of all life; its realization in the universe as a "formed" thing; the infinite whole and the innumerable parts, as different aspects of the same: ... diversity and difference as aspects of one and the same substance (Giordano Bruno, Cause, Principle, and Unity, McIntyre translation)...
The Unus Mundus is a Hermetic principle that sees all things as one world, all interconnected, all an organic whole. According to the Kybalion,
The great Second Hermetic Principle embodies the truth that there is a harmony, agreement, and correspondence between the several planes of Manifestation, Life and Being. This truth is a truth because all that is included in the Universe emanates from the same source, and the same laws, principles, and characteristics apply to each unit, or combination of units of activity, as each manifests its own phenomena upon its own plane.
Matter and Soul are one reality. They may be viewed as two sides of the same coin, but, in essence, they are one, the Unus Mundus. This complementarity corresponds to Niehls Bohr's Principle of Complementarity in quantum mechanics. Bruno and the Hermeticists foresaw many of these discoveries over 300 years beforehand.

Jul 24, 2012

The Importance of an Optimistic View of Matter

Big Reichenbach, by JMW Turner
In my article, Two Kinds of Gnosticism, I distinguish between a pessimistic Gnosticism and an optimistic Gnosticism. We are most familiar with the pessimist type, the kind that portrays matter as a prison for the Soul. In this view, matter, including the human body, is tainted with evil. It is sinful and in need of redemption. This view is to be rejected.

Matter, including the human body, is divine. God permeates every fiber of our being and that of the material world. The word "matter" has its origins in the Latin word, mater, which means "mother." Matter is the Mother of all corporeality, the womb from which all forms emerge.

We think of "materialism" as something negative because it is based on the Cartesian worldview where mind and matter are dichotomized. We need to adopt a materialism based on a monistic view, where all of Nature is alive with the resplendence that illuminates our world. We need to recognize the wonder of the Divine that is our universe, and then to protect it from harm.

Our view of matter will determine our basic philosophy of life. If it is disparaged, then we will think of ourselves as corrupt, sinful beings being punished by a spiteful god. This has been the result of over two thousand years of Plato's view of matter. Basically, he saw it as a cheap imitation of the Forms, which he believed existed in an otherworldly realm. If we possess a viewpoint that holds the Universe as divine and sacred, it changes our entire outlook on life! In Descartes' pessimistic view, everything in the Universe is a mere cog in a huge machine, even humans and animals.This idea must be stamped out permanently, for it damages us and our world.

Giordano Bruno sees the Universe as composed of homogenous atomic matter, which has its own internal principle of motion and energy. For Bruno, the font of activity for his atoms was none other than Soul. Every atom in the Universe is brimming over with dynamic Soul. Every atom is divine and has purpose.

Bruno influenced many thinkers, and  was even a precursor to Marx's and Engel's dialectical materialism. Bruno had an enormous influence on Hegel. After his death, The Hegelian Left made the primacy of matter a foundational stone for their political philosophy. In the end, however, these men did not see the amazing potential of Bruno's view of matter, for to them it remained dead and lifeless, since they removed the Divine from the equation.

We are now ready to explore and tap the power of a Brunian-like theory of matter. Our world is finally coming to terms with the latent energy in Nature. Atomic energy is just a metaphor for what really is innate to every bit of matter in our Universe. This is a mere representation of the power of Soul, for it burns brighter than any atomic explosion. If we all saw ourselves as being permeated with this Soul energy, just think what we could do!


Jul 22, 2012

Bruno's Theory of Matter

Terrasse sur le lac Majeur, by Théodore Caruelle d'Aligny
This will be the first of several articles on Bruno's theory of matter and the cosmic mind. They are more my personal notes than formal essays. 

Giordano Bruno formulated the most impressive theory of matter of any European philosopher, perhaps to this day. Using only his powers of speculation, Bruno formulated an amazingly powerful ontological theory that rejected Platonic dualism in favor of a strict monistic view of the universe. Of course, as any good philosopher, Bruno stood on the shoulders of the giants who preceded him. He synthesized ideas from the Presocratics, Stoics, Nicholas of Cusa, and others to create an entirely new idea concerning the stuff of the universe we call "matter."

Plato's dualistic position of two separate worlds, one of the Forms (mental world), and one of physical matter has its roots in Pythagoras' discovery that our world is connected to numbers. Pythagoras probably did not conceive of these two realities as being separate. Plato, however, made them distinct by recognizing there are no perfect examples of mathematical forms, such as the triangle, anywhere in our material world. Because of this, he believed that all material objects are flawed. This drove a wedge between mind and matter that is still with us to this day. Prior to Plato, the Presocratics had held to a monistic view of things. The Stoics also, afterwards, were monists in their cosmology, as were the Neoplatonists.

Plato's student, Aristotle, disagreed with his teacher concerning this radical dualism. He retained the idea of the necessity of the forms and matter, but he claimed they were inseparable, thus making him a metaphysical monist. He did, however, believe that the realm of planets and stars was without flaw or imperfection. Aristotle remained a physical dualist, since he distinguished between an imperfect world of matter (sublunar) and a perfect world of stars and planets (supralunar).

By the time of Bruno's arrest, the Roman Catholic Church had adopted the Aristotelian form of hylomorphism. In this theory, substances are envisioned as composites of form and matter. Matter is seen as entirely passive and dependent on the corresponding form to give it dynamism and quality.

Aristotle's position would come to dominate the thinking of the Roman Catholic Church for hundreds of years. The synthesis of Aristotelianism and Christian theology was accomplished in the twelfth century by St. Thomas Aquinas, who was of the opinion that there was no conflict between secular philosophy and Christian theology.

Giordano Bruno was revolutionary in that he realized that a proper view of atomism (which he adopted from Leucippus and his student Democritus) did not require that matter have an external cause, nor some separate internal principle in order for it to proliferate. Bruno's philosophy of matter is rigidly monistic: intrinsically, matter possesses within itself the animating power of its own emergence. This, Bruno called "soul." In this view, all matter is sacred and dynamic.

Bruno rejected the views of Aristotle, as well as Democritus, Epicurus, and Lucretius in regards to matter because they portrayed it as devoid of any qualitative or quantitative value. His idea is that form and matter are factual, but not distinct:
In strict monism, the Aristotelian notion of the indissoluble interconnectedness of matter and form is paramount; matter and form are not two different and separate entities as they were in Platonic dualism, but two aspects or modes of the same physical reality (The Acentric Labyrinth, by Ramon G. Mendoza, Ph.D).
So, form and matter are two different "modes" of one physical reality. The idea of modes is vastly different than positing two distinct substances. Descartes would, later, take the notion of distinct substances to its extreme in his mechanistic dualism of mind of matter. According to Descartes, matter is dead and lifeless.

Bruno offered a theory of matter that vanquished the dualistic ideas of Plato and Aristotle. He called his idea mater-materia, or "matter-mattering." Here, matter possesses intelligence; it is the origin of all Forms. This idea could be termed "materialistic," but it would be accompanied by the qualifiers, "intelligent and animized materialism," since matter intrinsically possesses intelligence and consciousness. Bruno's idea, here, bears similarity with Anaximander's Apeiron. Also, this means that God is intimately connected with His creation. Mind is not separate from matter; mind is within matter. The phrase "mater-materia" connotes the womb of the Mother. Matter exists as an agent of "mattering;" matter is the matrix of all material forms.

I believe the Anima Mundi is returning us to this vision. More than anytime in our history we need a sacralized and animized view of matter. We have neglected Mother Earth long enough. It is time we give Her the respect She deserves.

Jul 20, 2012

Aurora, A Tragedy of Soul

Old Man Grieving, by Vincent Van Gogh
When I think of Aurora, I always think of the Roman goddess of dawn. After today, that beautiful image will be forever marred in the Psyche. The same kind of thing occurred with the wonderful image of the Columbine (from Latin columba "dove"), that indescribably lovely flower that flourishes at higher altitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. After April 20, 1999, the image metamorphosed into two insane monsters with guns.

Today, something occurred in Aurora, Colorado, that should have never occurred. Yet again, a crazed gunman robbed the precious lives of innocent people and wounded dozens more at a movie theater.

Every time something like this happens, the cause-and-effect people come out of the woodwork. Some say it's because of violent video games; some say it is due to violence in movies; and some claim all we need to do is ban the sale of firearms. I think it goes much deeper than any of these, much deeper than anything rational. There is no direct cause for something this heinous in the human experience. Such acts result from a very long process of deanimization of our culture. By the term, "deanimization," I mean the removal of Soul from the human experience.

The following quote from Jung, which I used in my article, The Loss of Myth, applies to this situation:
. . .the individual who wishes to have an answer to the problem of evil, as it is posed today, has need, first and foremost of self-knowledge, that is, the utmost possible knowledge of his own wholeness. He must know relentlessly how much good he can do, and what crimes he is capable of, and must beware of regarding the one as real and the other as illusion. Both are elements within his nature, and both are bound to come to light in him, should he wish — as he ought — to live without self deception or self-delusion (C.G. Jung, MDR, pg 330). 
These shootings we have seen for a number of years are not effects of direct causes. They are, rather, pathological symptoms of our culture. 

I proposed in the aforementioned article that those who have not erected sufficiently protective mythical and symbolic barriers  are more prone to allowing the tsunami of unconscious forces, which include some very evil phenomena, to wash over us. This is what religion once accomplished for Western culture, but no longer does so, since it has adopted most of the thought-patterns of those who attempt to banish symbols and myths from the minds of all of us. I am referring here to fundamentalists of all religions, who hold the world's most powerful and cathartic symbologies and mythologies in utter contempt. I am also referring to those adherents of scientism, who see no worth in things of the Soul at all. These have made a Faustian deal, where Soul has been given in exchange for scientific and materialistic knowledge.

Notice I used the word, "allowing" in the above paragraph. There is a choice involved here. One can very consciously give oneself over to the left-hand path. One decides to be a follower of evil. Once open to these forces, one's actions are not one's own. Evil is not simply the Augustinian privatio boni, the privation of good; evil is a very real phenomenon. The adherents of scientism will never explain it rationally.

I don't know the circumstances of James Holmes' life. He is obviously insane. But how many insane people became that way because of a privation of Soul? How many became that way because they chose to follow evil?

Our system of child-rearing in America has failed. Our educational system has failed miserably. We must realize, and soon, what we're doing and correct it. We must restore the things of Soul to our society. We must, once again, emphasize the importance of what we once called a "classical education," where Classics studies and the Humanities were primary. We once studied the myths of our culture and had them ingrained into us. Now, we are inculcated with math and science so that corporations can make more profit from us.

I think things are beginning to turn. There is a movement of Soul that has begun. It will not be stopped because the Anima Mundi is driving it. This movement is compensatory in nature and will return us to a greater reverence for Soul than the world has ever seen. May it swiftly come to pass!

This evening, my prayers and thoughts are with the families of the victims of this most heinous act. May your hearts be filled with the peace that passes all understanding.

Psychological Ideas

As a precursor to this article, it is suggested you read my articles, Ficino's Idea of Soul and More on Ficino's Idea of Soul.

Just as a hammer "hammers" or a shovel "shovels," a Soul "souls." In other words, Psyche psychologizes. Soul is inextricably linked to its ideas, or its ideation. There is no separation between the action and the ideation of Soul. We have been conditioned to think that action and ideation are two distinct phenomena, but this is just a product of our old nemesis, Descartes, and his mind/body dualism.

Soul has its own distinct kind of ideas, i.e. the kind that enhance and further Soul's self-reflection, thus enabling its own edification. Examples of these would be the unconscious, archetypes, mythopoesis, projection, repression, etc. This kind of ideation has been occurring a long time. I am thinking of the Presocratics and their various theories of the arche. Even before that, the Egyptians and Mesopotamians conceived very complex ideas concerning Soul, its structure, function, and purpose. By these psychological ideas, Soul can examine itself, as in a mirror.

James Hillman writes,
...soul-making takes places as much through ideation as in personal relationships or meditation (Re-Visioning Psychology, p. 115).
The word, idea, comes from the Greek word, eidos, which means "that which one sees--an appearance or shape in a concrete sense--and that by means of which one sees" (ibid.). These are not like ideas in the mind, such as the tautological statement, "A is not non-A," or the mathematical statement, "1 + 1 = 2."  Ideas of Soul have to do with images, which are the true irreducible elements. We see these images via the eye of Soul, imagination. These images enable us to possess better knowledge of Soul.

As the scriptures tell us, "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18). If we are barren of the ideas of Soul, we become a sick, anemic culture composed of sick, anemic individuals. We have seen this occur the past four hundred years with the advent of Cartesian dualism and scientific positivism. Thankfully, the ideas of Soul we have been exposed to the past one hundred years or so have reinvigorated our culture and brought new vision to our imagination. As I have said many times before, we are living in The Epoch of Soul. This is because ideation of Soul has become very powerful since Dr. Freud formulated his "talking cure" and Dr. Jung rediscovered the collective unconscious and its archetypes.

A habit I have become accustomed to, to generate such ideas, is to examine something psychologically in Nature, say a mountain or a tree, and begin to think of it mythopoetically. If I think imaginally of a large tree with roots sinking deep down into the earth, and I allow this image to speak to me in a mythological manner, I can gain knowledge of the benefits of sinking my roots into the depths of Soul so that I may be nourished. I learn that, not only am I a vertical phenomenon, I am also a horizontal one, as well; my shady boughs provide a cool place for my neighbors to sit and enjoy a gentle breeze. The imagery and value of ideas is endless!

Having said that, the ideas/images of Soul are not always growth-oriented, and not always pleasurable. Many times, Soul will pathologize. Then, the images will be dark and foreboding.  Just as in Nature, there is both light and dark, good and evil. Soul is always the metaxical Agent, however, where it is ontologically perched between humanity and the gods. In this way, matter is spiritualized and spirit is materialized. There is no dichotomy because Soul is a Bridge; the polarities are transcended.

Writers, write! Painters, paint! Sculptors, sculpt! Whatever idea/image you have, manifest it! Our ideas, moving together and interconnecting into one powerful flux will change the world. The Epoch of Soul has commenced. Be part of it.

Jul 16, 2012

Success and the Acorn

We hear so much about success! So many of us are striving for it, dressing up for it, climbing it's ladder, hoping to attain it, aspiring for it, and a host of other upwardly mobile metaphors. On the web, there are personal development resources, life coaches, entrepreneurial tool kits, resources galore! And who doesn't want to be successful in life, have "things," be affluent, be respected. Success is certainly a worthy goal. But is wealth, fame, and honor what makes a person a success?

As one approach, we could take the Jesus route and talk about how difficult it is for a rich person to go through the eye of a needle, and how we should give all that we have to the poor and follow him, and so on, but that would be preachy and annoying, wouldn't it?

What does it mean to be successful?  I can only tell you what it means to me. First, I don't look at success as having anything to do with money, fame, or honor. That is totally secondary to any success you may find in your life. To me, success is discovering what part you are to play in this grand drama we call life. As Shakespeare said through his character, Jaques, in As You Like It:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages
Your primary role in life is your mission to carry out, whether you be a sewer worker or an investment banker;  If you find what it is you love and do it well, you are successful. You may not attract wealth, fame, and honor, but it doesn't matter. We are placed here for a reason. When we discover it and pursue it with all our strength, we will succeed. I always like to quote Joseph Cambell's wonderful statement, "Follow your bliss." That which makes you feel alive, that which makes you feel euphoric about being a human being, follow it because that is your ticket to success.

This may bring much suffering, and usually does. No one ever promised us an easy life. Even the very rich have many problems and much suffering. If they do not find their niche, they suffer just like anyone else, sometimes more. 

James Hillman's so-called "acorn theory" is another one of my favorite life philosophies:
This theory states that all people already hold the potential for the unique possibilities inside themselves, much as an acorn holds the pattern for an oak tree. The book [Soul's Code] describes how a unique, individual energy of the soul is contained within each human being, displayed throughout their lifetime and shown in their calling and life's work when it is fully actualized.
Hillman argues against the "nature and nurture" explanations of individual growth, suggesting a third kind of energy, the individual soul which is responsible for much of individual character, aspiration and achievement. He also argues against other environmental and external factors as being the sole determinants of individual growth, including the parental fallacy, dominant in psychoanalysis, whereby our parents are seen as crucial in determining who we are by supplying us with genetic material, conditioning, and behavioral patterns. While acknowledging the importance of external factors in the blossoming of the seed, he argues against attributing all of human individuality, character and achievement to these factors. The book suggests reconnection with the third, superior factor, in discovering our individual nature and in determining who we are and our life's calling (Wikipedia article on James Hillman, brackets mine).
If Hillman is correct, what about the evil, vicious killer or the crooked and greedy banker? Have these also sought and found their true role in the scheme of things? Hillman analyzes the question of Hitler's life and if he exhibited signs of his calling early in childhood. It is a fascinating chapter that simply must be read in its entirety. Briefly, however, Hillman seems to conclude that there is a "demonic call," just as one's daimon calls one to fulfill a certain role in life. If the call of the demonic is heeded, one turns oneself over to the forces of evil. There is a choice in these matters.

 In a letter to H.G. Wells in 1906, American psychologist, William James, said this:
. . . the moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess Success. That—with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word success—is our national disease. 
This wonderful statement is very applicable today, after what we have witnessed in the world of finance these last five years. I could not agree more.

Jul 15, 2012

Two Kinds Of Gnosticism


Author Peter J. French writes, 
The texts themselves actually outline two opposing ways of achieving gnosis. 'Optimist' gnosticism accepts the universe as divine; God reveals himself in everything, and through his intellect, man can become like God in order to comprehend him. By a religious approach to the universe and by inscribing a representation of the universe within his own mens, man can ascend and unite with god. 'Pessimist' gnosticism, on the other hand, rejects the world as evil, and the material aspects of man and the universe are regarded as being a form of divine punishment" (Peter French, Dr John Dee. 'The World of an Elizabethan Magus', RKP, London 1972.).
 According to French Neoplatonic scholar, André-Jean Festugière, there are two predominant kinds of Gnosticism:

1) Pessimist Gnosticism

The Gnosticism we hear most about is the pessimist type. This view believes the world of matter is evil, a prison for the Soul; something to escape from. This view is Apollonian in nature and ruled by Logos. It requires an ascetic manner of life to put the flesh in subjection to the spirit. It is repressive, frigid, and desireless. It sees the world as fragmented and broken. The dualism in Gnosticism we hear so much about derives from this view. Celibacy is born of this position, as is self-flagellation, and various other so-called "self-redemptive sufferings." This type claims that one must escape matter and ascend back to God from whence one came.

2) Optimist Gnosticism

Another kind of Gnosis says that all of Nature is divine and is to be identified with God. This view is Dionysian in nature and ruled by Eros. It believes in expression instead of repression, a holistic world view as opposed to the fragmentation of the pessimists. The entire Universe is a divine organism. Each part is interconnected with all others to the point where the whole cannot function without all the individual elements. Salvation comes from contemplating the divine with the mind via active intelligence.

Even though Gnosticism died out by the sixth century or so, many pessimist Gnostic ideas were retained by the Church, such as the concept of sin, asceticism, denial of the flesh, punishment, and so on; in other words, those things we dislike most about Christianity were inherited from pessimist Gnosticism.

British scholar, Frances Yates writes,
For the pessimist (or dualist) Gnostic, the material world heavily impregnated with the fatal influence of the stars is in itself evil; it must be escaped form by an ascetic way of life …ascends, to its true home in the immaterial divine world. For the optimist gnostic, matter is impregnated with the divine, the earth lives, moves, with a divine life, the stars are living divine animals, the sun burns with a divine power, there is no part of Nature which is not good for all are parts of God. (Yates, Frances. Giordano Bruno: and the Hermetic Tradition. Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, 1964.).
Obviously, the ideas of pantheism and panentheism are derived from the optimist Gnosis. This is the model I have adopted to work from in my own writing.

Jul 14, 2012

The Epoch of Soul

We are living in a remarkable time. After having seen the rise of materialism and scientism since the seventeenth century, the pendulum of the world has swung back in the opposite direction. Our culture, even though it is still very materialistic and egocentric, has still managed to begin to think more holistically and soulfully. The experience  and knowledge of Soul has become more widespread. People understand much more now about Soul than ever before in human history. Also, we have made great strides in the advancement of ethical treatment of those who were always considered throwaways in former days. These are signs that we have, indeed, entered what I call The Epoch of Soul.

Think, for a moment, how that only forty years ago, some of the most deplorable actions ever taken in the name of science and progress were still occurring in the state of North Carolina, i.e. sterilizations in the name of the eugenics movement.There were other states that did this too. Typically, if a person tested at an IQ of 70 or lower, they were, by state law, sterilized. This law was passed in 1933, in the heyday of eugenics, and not repealed until 1977. Our society has more Soul today than they did in the days of forced sterilizations. This is but one example.

I realize our current situation has its problems too. We must remember that Soul pathologizes. I'm just saying that we have made great strides toward a better society in which to live. I realize that corporations control our politicians to where the masses are not properly represented. That is all true and it has been this way for a very long time. I realize that plutocrats control the lives of most of the populous. That may never change. I hope it does, but, nevertheless, the movement of this Epoch of Soul is circumnavigating these problems. It may be that the Anima Mundi has brought these problems to light so they can be dealt with. Regardless, Soul is permeating the planet. Nothing can stop it. All the plutocratic money combined will not stop it. The genie is out of the bottle.

The world is ripe for Soul to return to its place of predominance in human thought. Our time is now. As John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ, for the past one hundred years many artists, writers, musicians, philosophers, poets, and even scientists have prepared the way for the World Soul. Soul is now energized and moving throughout the planet. We have seen the Age of Spirit. Now, we have entered the Age of Soul.

The many political revolutions we have seen these one hundred years have not brought a humane and hospitable world. Politics is not the answer and never will be. It is a pipe-dream to think that politicians will ever lead us into the world we desire to live in.

It must be the World Soul that transforms the Earth. By this, I mean the actual personality that is the collective Soul of the human race. The same self-organizing force that maintains our natural world is the same power that has begun to bring this about in the psyches of all of us, whether we consciously recognize it or not. The Epoch of Soul has arrived.

The Internet has played, and is playing, a huge role in this phenomenon. The heretofore untapped potential of creativity latent in the human race has awoken and is driving this wondrous event. Never before in history has this occurred because no other period was able to communicate on a global scale, as we do now. Those who prepared the way for this movement by developing this technology, did so unconsciously, not knowing the World Soul was providing them with the knowledge to do so. Now, the stage is set. The Epoch of Soul has commenced.

Take this as a clarion call. Now that you know what is occurring, it's time to create. Soul works through imagination and creativity. So, those ideas that have been floating around in your head about a new way to do things, or a new story or poem you want to write, do it! Don't say, "I'm not talented enough," or "I would be my own worst critic." You are Soul. This awesome power permeates the very fiber of your Being. Create!

Finally, communicate with others. Share your work. Don't isolate yourself from the World Soul. We need you. Your world needs you.

Jul 12, 2012

The Paracelsan Slip

Alchemy may have greatly influenced Descartes when he drove a wedge between matter and psyche with his formulation of cogito ergo sum. Carl Jung believed that when the alchemists equated Christ with the lapis philosophorum, it "had the effect of channeling the religious numen into physical nature and ultimately into matter itself..." (Psychology and Alchemy, p. 227). By projecting the numinous reality into physika, matter became something to be understood at all cost. Thus, the seed of modern science was planted and would soon flourish in the coming centuries. 

Matter was viewed by the alchemists as containing the lumen naturae, the Light of Nature, or, as the Bible calls him, the Light of the World, which is, of course, Christ. By distinguishing the lumen naturae from the lumen revelatio, the light of revelation, which came via the Holy Spirit, the alchemists clearly split off matter from spirit. By putting such an emphasis on the light in matter, they unwittingly influenced others after them to view reality in this dichotomous fashion. A division between knowledge and faith still influences the debates of our day.

Jung claimed the alchemists "put their art on the level of divine revelation and regarded it as at least an essential complement to the work of redemption" (CW 14, 344). They thought they were redeeming Nature by freeing the light trapped within matter, thus saving the Soul of the World.

Paracelsus was one of Jung's favorite philosophers, but he, too, made statements to the effect of bringing about the so-called mind/body problem:
There are ... two kinds of knowledge in this world: an eternal and a temporal.The eternal springs directly from the light of the Holy Spirit, but the other directly from the light of Nature (Jung's CW 13, 149).
The following statements from Jung paint a fascinating picture of how a brilliant mind, in this case that of Paracelsus, can be unwittingly led down the wrong path:
The authenticity of one's own experience of nature against the authority of tradition is a basic theme of Paracelsan think­ing. On this principle he based his attack on the medical schools, and his pupils carried the revolution even further by attack­ing Aristotelian philosophy. It was an attitude that opened the way for the scientific investigation of nature and helped to emancipate natural science from the authority of tradition. Though this liberating act had the most fruitful consequences, it also led to that conflict between knowledge and faith which poisoned the spiritual atmosphere of the nineteenth century in particular. Paracelsus naturally had no inkling of the possibility of these late repercussions. As a medieval Christian, he still lived in a unitary world and did not feel the two sources of knowl­edge, the divine and the natural, as the conflict it later turned out to be (ibid).

Jung traced the this line of demarcation from the alchemists to Paracelsus to Faust to Nietzsche, and down to our day when science and technology rule the world and have slain the Divine.
Medieval alchemy prepared the way for the greatest intervention in the divine world order that man has ever attempted: alchemy was the dawn of the scientific age, when the daemon of the scientific spirit compelled the forces of nature to serve man to an extent that had never been known before. It was from the spirit of alchemy that Goethe wrought the figure of the "superman" Faust, and this superman led Nietzsche's Zarathustra to declare that God was dead and to proclaim the will to give birth to the superman, to "create a god for yourself out of your seven devils." Here we find the true roots, the preparatory processes deep in the psyche, which unleashed the forces at work in the world today. Science and technology have indeed conquered the world, but whether the psyche has gained anything is another matter (CW 13, 163).

Jul 10, 2012

Are Dreams Shadows? Part II


James Hillman writes,
According to Plato (Sophist 266c), dream images are comparable with shadows, "when dark patches interrupt the light," leading us to see a kind of "reflection," "the reverse of the ordinary direct view." This useful analogy presents dreams as dark spots, the lacunae or ab-senses of the dayworld, where the dayworld reverses itself or converts its sense to metaphorical significance. This is not merely the dayworld repeated in a thinner silhouette of two dimensions. Like any visual shadow, these images shade in life, giving it depth and twi-light, duplicity, metaphor. The scene in a dream (the root of the word scene is akin to skia, "shadow") is a metaphorical version of that scene and those players of yesterday who have now deepened and entered my soul (The Dream and the Underworld, page 54).
Just as we have a dayworld method of perception, we also have a nightworld method of perception.  By this, we perceive the dream world as an actual location that we travel through every night. Dreams are a strange and bizarre reflection of our dayworld. Dreams are "dark spots," something that we consciously missed, perhaps, in our everyday world. The nightworld is the shadow of the dayworld, where dayworld encounters become metaphorized in the nightworld as dreams. During sleep, the unconscious is busy churning out metaphorical images of our dayworld experiences.

Parenthetically,  one wonders how "dark matter" would fit into these ideas? This idea must be circumnavigated.

Hillman says "these images shade in life." The shades are inhabitants of Hades, spirits of the dead, black figures that move swiftly, here, and then gone again. Dream images are shadows (skias), fleeting phantoms in the night that one can never quite make out. These images are not two-dimensional. Rather, they provide depth and duplicity, deepening our experience so that we can become conscious of something we need to become conscious of. The actors in this dream theater are dark reflections of people we come in contact with in the dayworld. The dream world is the underworld, Hades in Greek mythology. Every night, we pay the ferryman and cross the River Styx, where we enter the land of shades.

Hillman says "we perceive images with the imagination" (ibid. page 55). So, this nightworld sense is not the typical door of perception. The nightworld method of perception is imagination, which Hillman calls "our instrument for undistorted listening" (ibid.). He says,
Dreams call from the imagination to the imagination and can be answered only by the imagination" (ibid.).
Once again, we see that the imagination is the sine qua non of the entire Soul experience. Blessed be the imagination!

Jul 8, 2012

Are Dreams Shadows? Part I


File:Adam Elsheimer - Jacob's Dream - WGA7493.jpg

I came across some interesting notes I had scribbled down some years ago. I had misplaced the notebook and just came across it. I think some daimonic reality wanted me to think about it. The notes concerned a particular section of Plato's dialogue, The Sophist. Theaetetus and a Stranger are discussing, basically, a theory of art which distinguished between  so-called "real things" and images or "image-making."

Here is the particular section my notes pertained to:
Stranger
We know that we and all the other animals, and fire, water, and their kindred elements, out of which natural objects are formed, are one and all the very offspring and creations of God, do we not?
Theaetetus
Yes.
Stranger
And corresponding to each and all of these there are images, not the things themselves, which are also made by superhuman skill.
Theaetetus
What are they?
Stranger
The appearances in dreams, and those that arise by day and are said to be spontaneous—a shadow when a dark object interrupts the firelight, or when twofold light, from the objects themselves and from outside, meets on smooth and bright surfaces and causes upon our senses an effect the reverse of our ordinary sight, thus producing an image.
Theaetetus
Yes, these are two works of divine creation, the thing itself and the corresponding image in each case. (266b,c)
My scribbles had to do with something I'd been reading by Robert Avens, who, discussing this section of The Sophist,  as referring to "shadows, dark patches interrupting the light and leading us to see a kind of reflection." To this, I asked myself, "Are dream images shadows?"

The predominant theory of art in classical Greece was called mimesis, which means "to imitate." The interlocutors were discussing this very theory. Göran Sörbom, professor emeritus in Aesthetics at Uppsala University in Sweden, comments:
The theory of mimesis is now generally regarded as the oldest theory of art. But the theory of mimesis as we find it in ancient texts is not a theory of art in a modern sense; it is rather a theory of pictorial apprehension and representation.
The  basic  distinction  for  the  ancient  theory  of mimesis was  that  between mimemata and real things. For example, a house is a real thing whereas a painting or a sculpture representing a house is a mimema, a thing which looks like a house but is not a house. And a piece of music which sounds like sorrow is not a real or genuine (expression of) sorrow but just gives the impression of sorrow. The mimema as a thing is a sort of vehicle for ‘man-madedreams produced for those who are awake’, as Plato suggestively formulates it (Sophist 266C). Neither the dream nor the mimema is a real thing. (The Classical Concept of Mimesis).
I'm skeptical about this, saying that dreams and other images are not "real things." I like my idea that dreams and images are indeed real, they're just real on a different vibratory level. But the claim that dreams are shadows is fascinating. If this is true, what are they shadows of?

Jung talked about the Shadow archetype, which we know is very real indeed. Saying that dreams are not real is akin to saying that evil is simply the absence of light (privatio boni). Evil is very real and so are dreams, in my humble experience.

I had also jotted down that James Hillman had commented on this section in The Dream and the Underworld, page 54. In Part II,  I will continue with that discussion.

Unconscious Knowledge

Throwing off the shackles of traditional thinking has its tradeoffs. One must accept the awesome responsibility of the uncertainty one faces when left adrift in a sea of inexactitude. How am I certain I am on the right road? How am I certain, for instance, that Love is the true path? And how do I know that peace among nations is the best policy? Is it simply because that is what appears to be the most desirable state of affairs? I don't think so.

I am certain that the way of Love and Peace is the way of Truth. The question is epistemological: how do I know this?

First, I must state what my mode of apprehension is not:

1) It is not a product of emotions

2) It is not a product of inference

3) It is not due to my assent to some objective truth

4) It is not knowledge that has been received from some authority figure

5) It does not originate in the intellect

6) It is not something definable in human language

So, after all this scrutinizing, what am I to conclude? I think there is a mode of apprehension that is beyond the rational intellect. I see it as a mythopoeic, imaginal function that is innate to humans. In everyday vernacular, we say "I know that I know that I know" to indicate our certainty of something. This does not originate in the intellect or simple emotions. This comes from an epistemological source that is non-empirical. The closest word that works here is intuition.

Here, Jung is writing about the human intuition of being immortal:
The intuition of immortality which makes itself felt during the transformation [individuation] is connected with the peculiar nature of the unconscious. It is, in a sense, non-spatial and non-temporal. The empirical proof of this is the occurrence of so-called tele­pathic phenomena, which are still denied by hypersceptical critics, although in reality they are much more common than is generally supposed (The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, p. 142, brackets mine). 
In another place in the same book, he make it more clear:
...I have defined intuition as "perception via the un­conscious" (ibid. p. 283).
 I believe this is accurate. It is the answer to my inquiry.

A Communion of Images

...when I watch a performer, I don't know what image he or she is perceiving. But, the fascinating thing is, as long as I perceive that person perceiving, I will fill in my own image. My imagination will take hold of my perceiving that person perceive and do it's own thing, seeing around to the hidden side of that performer's psyche. My own psyche meets that person's psyche and fills in the image. We create a communion of images, which need not be identical. That's the fun part - I fill in my own images and make the experience personal (which takes me back to anima, the archetype of personal, felt experience. Anima itself is paradox because it is the general, universal archetype of personal, individual felt experience (Images Are Everything, by Jared Dorotiak).
This statement reminds me why Jung's collective unconscious is such a profound reality. We actually share the collective images of humanity and can access them at any time, as long as we are open and receptive. Dorotiak calls this a "communion of images." This is quite appropriate, for human image-making (which is equivalent to Soul-making) is a sacred thing and should be viewed as a communal ritual.

Furthermore, it's not that the collective unconscious has simply been filled with images by God from the foundations of the world; these have accumulated as we have created them, beginning with the first humans to experience consciousness. The CU is a collective accumulation of images going back to the very first sentient humans.

Images of the CU are not an inner reality. There are no inner and outer realities. We are human, that's just who we are. We are Being, we are Soul, we are consciousness, we are holistic. The storehouse of images we refer to as the CU is just a metaphor, it's not literal. These images are in our flesh and bones and brain and blood; so is consciousness. As the Bible says, The life of the soul is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11). Now, this is not to say we are not divine beings; we certainly are, for the Divine is innate to every atom in our bodies. The Divine is ubiquitous in the Universe.

Soul is not something we own like a shoe. We are within Soul, Soul is not within us. For that matter, we are within the Universe, as well. The reason we think we possess things within ourselves is because we are still living in a fractured world where Thought and Being have been cloven asunder. But, I digress.

The point I wanted to make in all of this is that we have the ability to insert images into situations like the one described above by Dorotiak, even though we are not perceiving with our physical sense what the other person is perceiving, because we have a communal link to the collective unconscious. It is a sacred, ritualistic experience that we should cherish.

Jul 7, 2012

The Irreducibility of Images

Remember Democritus' theory of the atom? The Greek word, atomos, means "indivisible." Democritus stated correctly that matter is composed of these units we call atoms, but they are certainly not indivisible, as we have seen in nuclear physics research.

I have this idea I've been ruminating on. I think that an image in the imagination is a better example of something that is indivisible and irreducible.  Indivisibility will only occur if we see atoms as images, since the image of an atom is what is truly indivisible.

Is this dualistic? Not if we assert that everything is image. Since everything is image, everything is, in this regard, indivisible, but only because we can divide it no further than the image.

I see an image of a lake. I can see the beautiful, green, tree-lined shore very clearly. I see a small rowboat with a long-haired girl inside rowing gently across the lake. I see a swan gliding slowly over the surface of the water. Does the dissection of this image into its elemental parts make it divisible in the same way an atom is divisible into subatomic particles? I don't think so. An image in the imagination is a gestalt, a form which cannot be derived from its constituent components. Such an image is a unified whole and is indivisible.

The entire Universe is image. The Universe qua universe, cannot be imagined any other way but as a holistic phenomenon. There are certainly constituent parts to the Universe, but no single part can be the Universe.
Therefore, with that being said, I believe it is in order to claim that images belonging to the realm of the mundus imaginalis are, indeed, indivisible and irreducible. They are not only indivisible and  irreducible, but they are the sine qua non of all human experience. All that we think and all that we do in this life must be preceded by an image.

The Democratization of Imagination

We must descend fully into the real, messy world, and not stop short of the real individuals who make it up. We get so constricted! So many are afraid to think about the world because only Scientists can do that. So many are afraid of their innate creativity because that is the realm of Artists. But anyone can experience the thrill that accompanies the new ways of seeing that lie at the heart of scientific discovery, anyone can write, or paint, or make music. And yet we mostly don't. Because, "I'm too busy . . . I'm not smart enough, I'm not good enough, I can't really dance, or sing, or write poetry or make pots ... I'd be too embarrassed." We are haunted by the Canon, by the experts, by the professionals. We are afraid of our selves, afraid that we won't measure up. When great thought, art, and literature become an impediment to human life and action rather than an inspiration, then something is seriously wrong. The democratization of imagination is essential for the full descent into the world of all the virtual beings crying out in their sadness to be revealed (Tom Cheetham, Green Man, Earth Angel, p. 27).
Tom Cheetham is very profound. His phrase, "the democratization of imagination" is exactly what we are experiencing, and what I have been recently writing about. Imagining the Anima Mundi causes one to think along these lines. Western culture has been ascending for a very long time, but now we are beginning to see a Descent occurring. This downswing means several things.

First of all, Westerners are beginning to realize that a constant climb up the so-called ladder of success, to the exclusion of anything else in life, is really the quickest path to failure. For example, a college student who takes only technology and mathematics courses may find a great, high-paying job, but what will their lives be like? If they spend no time descending to the people around them, to the messy entanglements of life, to meeting those human needs for art, music, and culture, and most of all love, they will be technological zombies armed with computers. These people will be without Soul.

Secondly, the descent of the West means an upsurge in creativity and imagination. Cheetham refers to those who are fearful to think about the world, a reluctance to unleash their innate creativity because they are afraid they're not good enough, or they don't have the time, or for whatever reason. But, more and more people everyday are writing, painting, and making music, and posting it online. There is a flood of creativity on the Internet today and it's on the rise. The Great Descent into Soul has commenced. 

The Anima Mundi is bringing about all these wonderful things. It is high time that we no longer trust what Cheetham calls the "Canon," those we were always taught to heed because they supposedly possess the best ways for us to live. Humanity needs imagination and inspiration, not preaching! We need great art and literature, not more widgets to make corporations richer.

The democratization of imagination means we all have access to that vast storehouse of images, the collective unconscious. The greatest boons for humanity have always originated there. Certainly, we also need intellect. But unless we temper the ascent of intellect with a descent into the depths, we will be vapid, one-sided, and ineffectual.

A Critique of the Spiritual Ascent

Photo by Melburnian
Spiritual discussion is tightly bound to the idea of an ascent. In Christianity, especially, we have resurrection and eternal life, an upward movement toward God, who sits in his heaven, far above us sinful mortals. We must offer supplication to the Almighty, prayers which glide gently upward like smoke from a fire. This is what a priest's censer symbolizes during Mass. The fragrance of the incense rises to the anthropomorphic nostrils of God as an offering.

Western life is a panoply of ascensions. We strive for success, to be the top dog, top of the heap, climb the corporate ladder, be the big man on campus, rise from the ashes, and ascend to the height of stardom. We have constructed skyscrapers in a manner similar to the builders of the fabled Tower of Babel. We have scaled the lofty heights of Everest. We have traveled to the moon in phallical ships. What does all this upwardness mean?

Spirit is behind all of it. The constant need for ascent and transcendence is the classic archetypal motif of spirit. Spirit soars into the very upper regions of the atmosphere. It is most at home in very high places, where the air is thin and light, where one can sit atop and apart from the world and be superior to it. Spirit is cold, since the higher one ascends, the lower the temperature and the thinner the air. There is a snowy whiteness about spirit that makes it chilly and vapid, if taken to extremes. When you hear someone refer to "spiritual detachment," you'll know that the archetype of spirit is present.

Western culture has been obsessed with spirit for a long, long time. Spirit is ubiquitous in our society. It is the driving force behind many Western standbys, like capitalism, technology, industry, religion, and even some mysticism and new age teachings. Anytime you hear someone talking about transcendence, you can bet spirit is close by. Spirit is overemphasized at the expense of Soul. Many have forgotten about Soul, since it is much messier and less glamorous. We would rather soar in the heavens than slog through the morasses and quagmires of Soul. Actually, we should be having both experiences.

When asked by an interviewer about the differences between soul and spirit, author Thomas Moore gave this reply:
The words themselves aren’t that important, but it is important to know the difference. In my mind, “spirit” is a state of divine perfection that exists beyond the human plane of existence. It is something we all strive to realize in this life whether it be through religion or the highest reaches of human potential, whereas, the “soul” is what we are given to work with in our life on earth. The soul delights in the messy conditions of life’s entanglements, and relationship is the place where the soul works out its destiny. Simultaneously, religion recognizes pain and failure as important in the soul’s deepening and sophistication. That’s where soul and spirit merge. (Thomas Moore: Food for the Soul, by Virginia Lee).
It is not just Western culture that has concentrated on spirit. Hinduism and Buddhism are also religions of transcendence. Nirvana is the transcendent experience par excellence. Spirit is always accompanied by the light of awareness. One is said to become "enlightened," when the mind arrives at a place of perfect stillness, and is thereby illuminated.

Spirit is a valid, necessary human experience. A problem arises, however, when it is pursued to the exclusion of Soul. Spirit is height, but Soul is depth. What would we be like without depth? We would be cold, inanimate automatons, going around making positive affirmations, bathing in the light and rejecting the darkness. Spirit seeks intelligence, while Soul seeks imagination. We need both, of course, but we must never overemphasize one over the other. So many problems in culture have been caused by just this. James Hillman says,
Where spirit lifts, aiming for detachment and transcendence, concern with soul immerses us in immanence...(The Myth of Analysis, p. 27).
 Soul prefers to descend into dark, scary, messy entanglements. Soul loves trekking through the swampy bogs of human experience, where the sticky mud sloshes with each gooey step. 

After over 2000 years of emphasizing spirit at the expense of soul, we are finally beginning to transform ourselves. Soul has reemerged to lead humanity, along with Spirit,  toward its greatest moment.

Jul 4, 2012

The Internet is a Projection of Soul

image by John Clark
There are those who claim there can be no change in consciousness without a corresponding change in technology. The rise of the Internet has shown this to be true yet once again in the saga of humankind. Similar in scope to the invention of the printing press around 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg, the Internet has literally transformed the way we live, work, and play. The printing press contributed greatly to the democratization of human knowledge on a worldwide scale. The Internet has taken this to a new level never before imagined.

One of the most influential occurrences in human history has been the development of so-called social media. Tools such as Twitter have already, in their young life, influenced revolutions around the world. Political realignments are just the tip of the iceberg.

Our technology is transforming us, but it's not simply because flash mobs can be quickly and easily assembled. For perhaps the first time in human history, masses of people, from all walks of life, are interacting with their peers on a global scale. We are exchanging ideas about everything. The most important aspect of this is that we are finding mutual agreements concerning the most crucial life topics, such as religion, politics, science, education, economics, etc. For so long, the plutocrats have controlled what we read, watched on television, and what we were taught in the public schools. That is all changing quickly.

The Internet is a projection of Anima Mundi. It is a metaphor of the collective consciousness and unconsciousness of humanity. The Internet contains things good and bad, productive and counter-productive, just like Soul. The Internet can be a very dangerous place; so can Soul. The Internet can be a profound blessing in the lives of billions of people; so can Soul.

The landscapes of the Internet are similar to the landscapes of Corbin's Mundus Imaginalis. Use of this medium brings about an exercising of human imagination, which had previously laid dormant for so long in the lives of the masses. Now, those billions of people are using their powers of imagination as never before. Just the fact that collective humanity is imagining on a grand scale is contributing to an evolution in consciousness. This is not to say that surfing the web is a good substitute for the practice of active imagination, but it is, nevertheless, beneficial to the World Soul.

The World Soul is gradually melding us together. This has been occurring over millions of years. There are times in human history when humanity is not unified, is not collectively conscious (e.g. The Dark Ages). The journey of Soul is cyclical, not linear. We are not headed for Utopia. But, on the other hand, the process of evolution occasionally brings about leaps in human consciousness. This is where we are headed. Discussion of ideas like Soul and Being (Dasein) have gone viral on the Internet, which means these ideas have gone viral in the collective consciousness.

The days of  emphasis on individual enlightenment are waning quickly. Yes, it is still important, but as part of the path to raising the consciousness of humanity. We must work together to bring it about.

Imaginal Metaphysics

Eternity by Ismael Nery (1900-1934)
I've been doing some reading today of eighteenth century Italian philosopher, Giambattista Vico. His magnum opus, Scienza Nuova, or New Science, was published in 1725. The primary reason why I am looking into Vico is because of an idea he talks about in New Science that can change our world. He writes,
...as rational metaphysics teaches that man becomes all things by understanding them (homo intelligendo fit omnia), this imaginative metaphysics shows that man becomes all things by not understanding them (homo non intelligendo fit omnia) and perhaps the latter proposition is truer than the former, for when man understands he extends his mind and takes in the things, but when he does not understand he makes the things out of himself and becomes them by transforming himself into them  (pages 116-117).
By "rational metaphysics," Vico is here referring to the dualistic view of Descartes, where mind and matter are dichotomous, and where we come to understand the world by using reason alone to form "clear and distinct ideas" about things that we experience empirically. After Descartes, there was no longer a need for imagination. Reason would solve all human problems, or so they thought.

Vico was attempting to combat that line of thinking because he knew that it would be the death of imagination. If we follow Descartes' viewpoint, yes, we will gather knowledge from outside ourselves (since the world is now inner and outer) and come to understand these external realities in a clear and distinct fashion. A rational metaphysics wants to know facts about external objects. Thus, we can extend our minds by importing these facts into our brains so that we can be better computers. In other words, reason, according to Descartes and his defenders,  does not require any assistance from imagination, or any participation from us except that of the rational mind. Vico's idea was that, instead of understanding things, it is better to not understand them, and then use the imagination to experience the world, as did its first inhabitants. This method fully utilizes the human capacity for imagining one's experience, not in an imaginary, but in a very imaginal way. For the difference here, read Henry Corbin's essay, Mundus Imaginalis.

The people who "made things out of themselves" were those ancient humans who knew nothing about rationality. They poured their own Souls into the world they experienced and it transformed them to where they were synonymous with the world. By seeing the world as a very imaginative place, Soul was kept paramount in their lives and they were one with Nature.
It is the mythic experience, the mythic imagination that opens, reveals depth and mystery, which places the human in the context of the nonhuman, and so, forces retreat, humility, and awe, in the presence of spaces beyond our will (Green Man, Earth Angel, by Tom Cheetham).
Rationalists envisioned a world where all mysteries had been solved and all future problems could be eradicated through reason. They soon discovered that it wasn't that simple. The irrationality of important world events, such as the French Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution, and World Wars I and II, proved that rationality was only one archetype in the Anima Mundi. Reason failed to recognize its Shadow.

We are currently in the midst of a revival of Imaginal Metaphysics. We who are advocates for depth and imagination in human discourse are the New Metaphysicians. In this philosophy, the mythopoeic nature of Soul is at the forefront. Like the ancients, we are beginning to thrust our very being into our world. This is transforming us, individuating us, and propelling us toward a coming evolutionary leap of consciousness. No longer are we simply reasoning automatons. Now, we recognize that we are imaginal creatures living in a Universe where everything is made of images and everything is Soul.

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