HEALING the RIFT: Anima Mundi in a Disenchanted World

Jul 6, 2023



Is it possible that all objects are alive? Are the winds, the oceans, the mountains ensouled, and if so, does humanity participate? Jung sensed the truth in this and embraced the concept of Anima Mundi, or world soul.

We can trace this idea back to ancient philosophies. In the sixth century BC, Greek pre-Socratic philosopher Thales of Miletus saw the world as a unified whole and believed that everything in the universe was interconnected and influenced by one another. He supposed that everything was full of gods and all objects contained a soul that was the cause of all motion, permeating and animating the cosmos. Building on this, Plato advanced the idea, positing the World Soul in his dialogue ‘Timaeus.’ Here, the Demiurge created the Anima Mundi from a mixture of necessity and intellect. This soul was meant to be the intermediary between the realm of ideal forms and the physical world. Through centuries and countless cultures, philosophers were drawn to find the all-encompassing theory that explained the structures and principles of the physical world. Finally, in the 19th century, rationalism replaced intuitive inner impressions.

Jung and the Anima Mundi

Born in 1875 to a pastor father and a spiritualist mother, Jung was raised in a world of spiritual forces and religious concepts. When he graduated with his medical degree in 1902, his doctoral dissertation, ‘On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena,’ strove to find the intersection of science, psychology, and esoteric beliefs. This interest accompanied Jung throughout his life. Over time he came to feel the over-development of intellect had deprived humanity of fundamental meaning.

“Man himself has ceased to be the microcosm and eidolon of the cosmos, and his “anima” is no longer the consubstantial scintilla, spark of the Anima Mundi, World Soul.”

CG Jung, CW 11, para 759

While he acknowledged that the modern psyche would not likely accept ancient religious beliefs and practices, he knew the human imagination produced dreams and fantasies that could reanimate modern people’s inner and outer worlds. He came to call this reviving spirit the Anima Mundi.

To bridge ancient beliefs to modern personalities, Jung moved the Gods from Mount Olympus to the inner imagination and called them archetypes. Referred to as archaic images, they lived in an inner field – the collective unconscious. Jung traced the loss of conscious contact with the mythic word to a host of personal and societal ills. He writes,

“We think we can congratulate ourselves on having already reached such a pinnacle of clarity, imagining that we have left all these phantasmal gods far behind. But what we have left behind are only verbal spectres, not the psychic facts that were responsible for the birth of the gods. We are still as much possessed by autonomous psychic contents as if they were Olympians. Today they are called phobias, obsessions, and so forth; in a word, neurotic symptoms. The gods have become diseases; Zeus no longer rules Olympus but rather the solar plexus, and produces curious specimens for the doctor’s consulting room, or disorders the brains of politicians and journalists who unwittingly let loose psychic epidemics on the world.”

CG Jung, CW 13, Para 55

Soul in matter

The search to discover the soul in matter fueled the alchemist’s imagination and experiments. For Paracelsus, it was “the spirit of the quintessence that sets everything in motion, and that is the secret hidden from the beginning of time.” Jung internalized the alchemical processes and understood that when the ego marries the imaginal spirit, or anima/us, and we accept and live in both the material world and our mythic imagination, a new kind of personality is created. The alchemists called it the Lapis. In modern neuroscience, psychiatrist and author Ian McGilchrist calls it “the unity of the hemispheres” in his book ‘The Master and His Emissary.’

Reenchanting the world

When we think of enchantment, we imagine love spells in Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ or the fairy tale ‘Briar Rose,’ where an entire cursed kingdom falls into a deep sleep for a hundred years. But there is a deeper meaning in such things.

Enchant comes from the Latin word in (into) and cantare (to sing), incantare: to sing into a thing. To enchant someone or something is to sing into it or to influence it through imagination and intent. This magical audacity is founded on the attitude that all life and objects abide in a unified field connecting them with all points in space. Thales of Miletus called it Water and said the earth rests upon it.

To reimagine that we are part of a responsive web of life, is to resist the mechanistic worldview that treats nature as a lifeless object to be controlled and exploited. It reawakens a parallel universe where our material actions simultaneously appear in our inner world, not as photographs of our acts but as symbols that reveal the secret relationship between ourselves and those we influence.

To sense our behaviors do indeed ‘sing into’ the objects we act upon, and they, in turn, sing into us, removes barriers of objectivity, and restores feeling. It took thousands of years to wring feeling out of our relationship with nature. The void of feeling between ‘I and thou’ has not been filled with evil or violence or even malice. It has been claimed by the dull gray fog of indifference.

It is indifference that leaves us without feeling for the suffering of others. It is indifference that replaces the ache in our hearts when we call for the industrial development of national parks. It is indifference that permits us to rise up and reign down righteous blows upon others who will not accommodate our demands.

The soul of the world is not something to believe in. It is a natural condition of autonomous inner response that has been interfered with. It is not suddenly calling to us; it has always been speaking. It makes no demands; it does not seek to control; it is not a risk to prosperity or flourishing. It is simply, and always, the inner correlate of our outer life filled with uncanny images and swells of feeling that naturally give us pause before we act because every action we take abides in us even as it changes those we act upon.

~ Joseph R. Lee


“My husband was offered work by his older brother and agreed against my judgment and advice. They had a contract to refurbish the tour bus of an esteemed opera singer. She was glamorous and bohemian but haughty. The bus was dilapidated and strangely decorated. There was a sense that much debauchery had happened there. It even smelled of sex. The job finished without issue, and my husband was told by his brother to call later regarding payment. When my husband called, somebody told him that his brother was not home and he was working late, an obvious lie as both finished work early. I was frustrated at my husband, but he remained hopeful that his brother would pay up.”


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  1. Mamie Allegretti

    Hello Joseph, Lisa and Deb,
    My husband and I just watched the film Lars and the Real Girl. This film had us talking for days and we still are thinking of Jungian interpretations for it. I think it would make a great podcast. It fits in nicely with this episode regarding your discussion of the enchantment of material objects. And even more interesting is the enchantment in this film of an object which is considered tawdry and outside the range of social convention – namely a sex doll. But actually what Lars does in the film is make her a numinous being and the community does so as well. Lots to discuss with this film. I hope you will consider it. Thanks again for your work.

  2. marie

    Responding to the above commenter Mamie– I watched that movie when it first came out! It likewise left a huge impression on me and my partner. Just reading your comment makes me want to watch it again.

    • Sam

      Great movie – thanks for the tip.

  3. Karen Nimmo

    This episode brought to mind the David Whyte poem, everything is waiting for you.

    Your great mistake is to act the drama
    as if you were alone. As if life
    were a progressive and cunning crime
    with no witness to the tiny hidden
    transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
    the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
    even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
    the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
    out your solo voice. You must note
    the way the soap dish enables you,
    or the window latch grants you freedom.
    Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
    The stairs are your mentor of things
    to come, the doors have always been there
    to frighten you and invite you,
    and the tiny speaker in the phone
    is your dream-ladder to divinity.

    Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
    conversation. The kettle is singing
    even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
    have left their arrogant aloofness and
    seen the good in you at last. All the birds
    and creatures of the world are unutterably
    themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

  4. Gwen Murphy

    I feel highly validated! I don’t think I’m crazy, but if I am, I’ve found the right ward to hang out in! I have always felt the aliveness in everything, including my car and washing machine.

  5. Gary Goldberg

    These ideas are entirely consistent with principles that derive from Kabbalah (for example, in the distinction between the ‘Hashgachah Pratit’ (ie. the ‘Hidden Relational Reality’ ) and the ‘Hashgachah Klalit’ (ie. the ‘Manifest Material Actuality’ ) ), from the philosophical system of ‘Synechism’ proposed by Charles Sanders Peirce in the 19th century along with his process metaphysics and concept of ‘Evolutionary Love’ ( see: http://www.commens.org/encyclopedia/article/esposito-joseph-synechism-keystone-peirce’s-metaphysics ) as an alternative to the dominant philosophical foundation of ‘Nominalism,’ from the ideas derived from Quantum Physics proposed by Timothy Eastman in his wonderful book ‘Untying the Gordian Knot. Process, Reality and Context’ (see: https://www.openhorizons.org/deep-listening-science-and-spirit-timothy-eastmans-untying-the-gordian-knot-as-a-resource-for-poets-and-artists.html ) as well as in the Relativistic Transactional Interpretation of Quantum Physics proposed by Ruth E Kastner in her book ‘Transactional Interpretation. A Relativistic Interpretation’ ( see:https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/abs/transactional-interpretation-of-quantum-mechanics/transactional-interpretation-of-quantum-mechanics/DE1659CD4E0F5D338A3E522A631EF29E ) which is the second edition of her book on this general topic. This can also be related in very significant ways to the Incompleteness Theorems of Kurt Gödel which argue against the computability that is assumed to apply to naturally occurring living organisms–which it certainly does not(!), and to the ideas from the ‘relational biology’ of theoretical biologist and mathematician Robert Rosen as laid out in his last two books, ‘Life Itself’ ( see: https://cup.columbia.edu/book/life-itself/9780231075640 ) and ‘Essays on Life Itself’ ( see: https://cup.columbia.edu/book/essays-on-life-itself/9780231105118 ). When so many different sources from so many different areas of human thought are found to converge on very similar principles and worldview, it is time to sit up and take notice! Ultimately, I would argue that this is consistent with a distinction with two different forms of time: 1. Chronos, which is physical, synchronic time that we use to set our watches and synchronize our schedules and which is based on a physical, quantitative reference involving the counting of cycles (‘ticks’) of a physical oscillator which makes it a discontinuous sequence of separated ‘moments’, and 2. ‘Kairos’, which corresponds to Henri Bergson’s form of subjective temporality (ie. La Durée) which is relational, diachronic, qualitative, flowing time that operates intersubjectively and can be viewed as ‘propitious time’ for something (like a voluntary act) to happen. This second ‘Kairotic’ form of time is a continuous flow and links to the underlying realm of relational Reality which is the realm of ‘Possibility’ or ‘Potentiality’ out of which spacetime itself, along with separable ‘things’, and actual events materialize.

  6. Gary Goldberg

    The other connection to all of this that is more directly relevant to Jungian ‘Depth Psychology’ is the writing of Roderick Main, especially as summarized in his most recent book, ‘Breaking the Spell of Disenchantment. Mystery, Meaning and Metaphysics in the Work of CG Jung’ ( See: https://chironpublications.com/shop/breaking-the-spell-of-disenchantment-mystery-meaning-and-metaphysics-in-the-work-of-c-g-jung-zls-edition/ )
    which includes the connection of ‘reenchantment’ to the theological stance of ‘panentheism’, ( see: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/zygo.12365 ) which, in terms of the connection to ‘panentheism’, connects back to Kabbalistic principles given that Kabbalah is deeply connected to a panentheistic belief system, as developed in the work of Hyman Schipper on linking Kabbalistic principles to ‘Panpsychism’ and to consciousness science, as well as to the phenomenon of ‘Synchronicity’ and ‘Synchronic Events’ in which the realm of physical actuality that we experience directly, and the relational realm of meaning that we experience indirectly, coincide.

    ( See: https://www.google.com/books/edition/Kabbalistic_Panpsychism/oEWVzgEACAAJ?hl=en as well as a very recently published article by Hyman Schipper in the most recent issue of ‘Pari Perspectives’ on the general overall issue topic of ‘Anomalous Experiences’, ( published by Pari Publishing, a publishing interest connected to the Pari Center http://www.paricenter.com/ ) His article in this issue that explores the connection between the experience of synchronicity and Kabbalistic principles written by Dr. Schipper, who is also a contributing author to the Essentia Foundation ( https://www.essentiafoundation.org/author/?user_id=20 ) , is titled… ‘Synchronicity. A Kabbalistic Perspective’ )


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