Friday, May 31, 2019

Anima Mundi: Awakening the Soul of the World Part 1


Anima Mundi: Awakening the Soul of the World
Published in Sufi Journal, Issue 67, Autumn 2005

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee


God redeems humanity,
but nature needs to be redeemed by human alchemists,
who are able to induce the process of transformation,
which alone is capable of liberating the light imprisoned in physical creation.


— STEPHAN HOELLER(1)

The world is a living spiritual being. This was understood by the ancient philosophers and the alchemists who referred to the spiritual essence of the world as the anima mundi, the “Soul of the World.” They regarded the World Soul as a pure ethereal spirit diffused throughout all nature, the divine essence that embraces and energizes all life in the universe.

Throughout history our understanding of the world as a living being with a spiritual essence has dramatically changed. Plato understood that “the cosmos is a single Living Creature which contains all living creatures within it.”(2)While this tradition was carried on by the Gnostics and later the alchemists, the Church fathers imaged a world that was neither divine nor sacred. A transcendent divinity was the source of all creation, and humanity lived in exile from heaven in a state of sin. This doctrine created a split between matter and spirit, causing the world to be seen as separate from its creator.

The understanding of the world as sacred resurfaced from time to time over the next centuries. In the Gothic revival of the twelfth century, and later in the Renaissance, the created world was briefly seen through the image of the World Soul. In their cathedrals the Gothic architects reflected their vision of a sacred order within creation that belongs to this feminine divine principle. The World Soul animated and formed nature according to divine proportions, which the architects, masons, sculptors, and stained glass artists imaged in their creations.(3)

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