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Everything is full of gods
Pansychism and the World Soul
“Soul is mingled with everything in the whole universe”
“We in our human way, share in the subhuman emotional life of cells; they in their subhuman way share in our emotional life.”
— Charles Hartshorne
Panpsychism is the idea that everything is conscious. It’s a concept you’ll hear in some scientific circles today, and also in spiritual contexts. You can follow a line of philosophical thought that stretches back to Plato and Anima mundi, and you can follow a spiritual-religious line much further back than that, in the form of Animism.
Anima mundi means “world spirit” and refers to a life force running through the cosmos, through all things. Here’s Plato:
“Thus, then, in accordance with the likely account, we must declare that this Cosmos has verily come into existence as a Living Creature endowed with soul and reason [...] a Living Creature, one and visible, containing within itself all the living creatures which are by nature akin to itself.”
And then there’s Animism. Animism is in some sense perhaps the oldest universal religion. It’s the very ancient tendency to believe that this life force, or world soul, endows everything, living or otherwise, with actual sentience, consciousness, or life force.
A variant of these is the philosophical concept of Hylozoism.
In the esoteric sense, Anima Mundi has a strong Hermetic thread, too. You’ll see it in alchemy, in the Kybalion, in the Kabbalah.
“Geomancy was a natural art, drawing on the inborn powers of the human soul to glean information from the larger soul of the world.”
Robert Fludd, in The Art and Practice of Geomancy
Madame Blavatsky (The Secret Doctrine) wrote of the World Soul in that ‘every human soul was born by detaching itself from the Anima Mundi,’ according to Theosophy Wiki.
Of course, the World Soul found its way into Esotericism partly via the East, too.
Take Hinduism, for example:
This must be balanced, however, with differing interpretations of Hindu cosmology about the nature of matter and consciousness.
“Based on the observed behavior of the entities that surround us, from electrons to atoms to molecules, to bacteria to mice, bats, rats, and on, we suggest that all things may be viewed as at least a little conscious. This sounds strange at first blush, but ‘panpsychism’ – the view that all matter has some associated consciousness – is an increasingly accepted position with respect to the nature of consciousness.”
Tam Hunt, UC Santa Barbara's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Panpsychism is having a bit of a renaissance now. Philosophers are once again pondering the concept as the mysteries of mind continue to challenge us.
And in neuroscience, some theories are bumping up against panpsychism. The integrated information theory and the resonance theory are two examples.
“There is in all matter an animate or vibrant quality, even if we can discern no obvious message in the vibrations.”
Benjamin Winterhalter, JSTOR
Or as Thales said, “Everything is full of gods.”
Your pansychism reading list:
Aeon (INCLUDES AUDIO)
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