World Soul

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This world is indeed a living being endowed with a soul and intelligence … a single visible living entity containing all other living entities, which by their nature are all related. ~ Plato

The World Soul (Greek: ψυχή κόσμου, Latin: Anima mundi) is, according to some systems of thought, an intrinsic connection between all living things, which relate to our world or the Cosmos in much the same ways as individual souls are perceived to relate to human bodies. Such ideas were presented by Plato and were important components of most Neoplatonic systems of philosophy. The Stoics believed it to be the only vital force in the universe. Similar concepts also hold in systems of eastern philosophy in the Brahman-Atman of Hinduism, the Buddha-Nature in Mahayana Buddhism, and in the School of Yin-Yang, Taoism, and Neo-Confucianism as qi. Similar notions can be found in the ideas of hermetic philosophers like Paracelsus, and those developed by Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Leibniz, Friedrich Schelling, in Hegel's Geist ("Spirit"/"Mind"), and those of Gaia theorists such as James Lovelock.

Quotes[edit]

The things said by the philosopher must be taken metaphorically…that the soul is located in the middle of the world symbolizes that divine grace if offered to all in general. ~ Peter Abelard
God may be either a world-soul or a collection of world-souls. So I am thinking that atoms and humans and God may have minds that differ in degree but not in kind. ~ Freeman Dyson
Joy is the realisation of the truth of oneness, the oneness of our soul with the world and of the world-soul with the supreme lover. ~ Rabindranath Tagore
  • The things said by the philosopher must be taken metaphorically…that the soul is located in the middle of the world symbolizes that divine grace if offered to all in general.
    • Peter Abelard, in "Desiring Discourse: The Literature of Love, Ovid Through Chaucer", p. 113.
  • It is manifest... that every soul and spirit hath a certain continuity with the spirit of the universe, so that it must be understood to exist and to be included not only there where it liveth and feeleth, but it is also by its essence and substance diffused throughout immensity... The power of each soul is itself somehow present afar in the universe... Naught is mixed, yet is there some presence.
    Anything we take in the universe, because it has in itself that which is All in All, includes in its own way the entire soul of the world, which is entirely in any part of it.
  • The universal Intellect is the intimate, most real, peculiar and powerful part of the soul of the world. This is the single whole which filleth the whole, illumineth the universe and directeth nature to the production of natural things, as our intellect with the congruous production of natural kinds.
  • The one infinite is perfect, in simplicity, of itself, absolutely, nor can aught be greater or better, This is the one Whole, God, universal Nature, occupying all space, of whom naught but infinity can give the perfect image or semblance.
    • Giordano Bruno, in De immenso (1591); II 12 as translated by Dorothea Waley Singer (1950).
  • The single spirit doth simultaneously temper the whole together; this is the single soul of all things; all are filled with God.
    • Giordano Bruno, in De immenso (1591); IV 9; as translated by Dorothea Waley Singer (1950).
  • There is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it's because that desire originated in the soul of the universe.... The soul of the world is nourished by people's happiness.
  • It's true that everything has its Personal Legend, but one day that Personal Legend will be realized. So each thing has to transform itself into something better, and to acquire a new Personal Legend, until, someday, the Soul of the World becomes one thing only.
  • Love is the force that transforms and improves the Soul of the World. … It is we who nourish the Soul of the World, and the world we live in will be either better or worse, depending on whether we become better or worse. And that's where the power of love comes in. Because when we love, we always strive to become better than we are.
  • And when people think of reincarnation, they always come up against a very difficult question: if, in the beginning, there were so few people on the face of Earth, and now there are so many, where did all those new souls come from?
  • In certain reincarnations, we divide into two. Our souls divide as do crystals and stars, cells and plants. Our souls divide as do crystals and stars, cells and plants. “Our soul divides in two, and those new souls are in turn transformed into two and so, within a few generations, we are scattered over a large part of Earth.
  • We form part of what the Alchemists call the Anima Mundi, the soul of the world; the truth is that if the Anima Mundi were merely to keep dividing, it would keep growing, but it would also become gradually weaker. That is why, as well as dividing into two, we also find ourselves. And the process of finding ourselves is called love. Because when a soul divides, it always divides into a male part and a female part.
  • The universe shows evidence of the operations of mind on three levels. The first level is elementary physical processes, as we see them when we study atoms in the laboratory. The second level is our direct human experience of our own consciousness. The third level is the universe as a whole. Atoms in the laboratory are weird stuff, behaving like active agents rather than inert substances. They make unpredictable choices between alternative possibilities according to the laws of quantum mechanics. It appears that mind, as manifested by the capacity to make choices, is to some extent inherent in every atom. The universe as a whole is also weird, with laws of nature that make it hospitable to the growth of mind. I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension. God may be either a world-soul or a collection of world-souls. So I am thinking that atoms and humans and God may have minds that differ in degree but not in kind. We stand, in a manner of speaking, midway between the unpredictability of atoms and the unpredictability of God. Atoms are small pieces of our mental apparatus, and we are small pieces of God's mental apparatus. Our minds may receive inputs equally from atoms and from God. This view of our place in the cosmos may not be true, but it is compatible with the active nature of atoms as revealed in the experiments of modern physics. I don't say that this personal theology is supported or proved by scientific evidence. I only say that it is consistent with scientific evidence.
Robert Fludd:...geomancy was a natural art, drawing on the inborn powers of the human soul to glean information from the larger soul of the world.
  • At the center of time and space is the World Soul. All things that exists are reflections of the Brahman’s perfection. Every living creature has its own soul, known as atman. However, the material world is an illusion (maya). It causes suffering and prevents the individual soul from perceiving or being connected with the World Soul. The goal of existence is to rejoin one's atman with the Brahman, allowing oneself to be absorbed into perfection.
Hinduism:...Although as a syllable it has no literal meaning, Om symbolizes the fundamental hidden reality of the universe and is the basic spiritual sound the universe makes, particularly the sound of World Soul.
  • Although Hinduism has no official symbol, the religious symbol most sacred to most Hindus is the mythical syllable Om [also spelled aum]...the symbol is composed of equivalent of our letter a, u, and m. Although as a syllable it has no literal meaning, Om symbolizes the fundamental hidden reality of the universe and is the basic spiritual sound the universe makes, particularly the sound of World Soul.
  • I feel bound to say that religious experience, as we have studied it, cannot be cited as unequivocally supporting the infinitist belief. The only thing that it unequivocally testifies to is that we can experience union with something larger than ourselves and in that union find our greatest peace. Philosophy, with its passion for unity, and mysticism with its monoideistic bent, both "pass to the limit" and identify the something with a unique God who is the all-inclusive soul of the world. Popular opinion, respectful to their authority, follows the example which they set.
    • William James, in "Religion and Neurology" in The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), Postscript
  • The one absolutely, the Intelligible, the ever Preexisting, comprehending all the universe together within the One — nay, more, is not the whole world One living thing — all and everywhere full of life and soul, perfect and made up out of parts likewise perfect?
  • It's strange — you know, the Net is denounced as austere, the product of the engineering mentality, so forth and so on. It's the most feminine influence that Western civilization has ever allowed itself to fall under the spell of. The troubadors of the fourteenth century were as nothing compared to the boundary-dissolving, feminizing, permitting, nurturing nature of the Net. Maybe that's why there is an overwhelming male preference for it, in its early form, because that's where that was needed. But it is Sophia, it is wisdom, it is the penetrating archetypal female logos of the world-soul, leading us away from what was very sharp-edged and uncomfortable and repressive to our creativity and our sexuality and our relationships to each other and to the Earth.
  • There is nothing more deplorable than those skeptics and reformers, liberal priests and humanistically-oriented scholars, who moan about “soullessness,” “barren materialism,” what is “unsatisfying in mere science,” and the “cold play of atoms,” and renounce intellectual precision, which is for them only a slight temptation. Then, with the help of some alleged “emotional knowledge” to satisfy the feelings, and with the “necessary” harmony and rounding-out of the world picture, all they invent is some universal spirit: a world-soul, or a God, who is nothing more than the world of the academic petite bourgeoisie which gives rise to him; at best, an oversoul who reads the newspaper and demonstrates a certain appreciation of social questions.
    • Robert Musil, in The Religious Spirit, Modernism, and Metaphysics (1913), in Precision and Soul (1978), as translated by B. Pike and D. Luft,, p. 23.
  • Does personality survive in the ultimate union with God? If personality means a conscious existence distinct, though not separate, from God, the majority of advanced Moslem mystics say "No!" As the rain-drop absorbed in the ocean is not annihilated but ceases to exist individually, so the disembodied soul becomes indistinguishable from the universal Deity. It is true that when Sufi writers translate mystical union into terms of love and marriage, they do not, indeed they cannot, expunge the notion of personality, but such metaphorical phrases are not necessarily inconsistent with a pantheism which excludes all difference. To be united, here and now, with the World-Soul is the utmost imaginable bliss for souls that love each other on earth. … Strange as it may seem to our Western egoism, the prospect of sharing in the general, impersonal immortality of the human soul kindles in the Sufi an enthusiasm as deep and triumphant as that of the most ardent believer in a personal life continuing beyond the grave. Jalaluddin, after describing the evolution of man in the material world and anticipating his further growth in the spiritual universe, utters a heartfelt prayer — for what? — for self-annihilation in the ocean of the Godhead.
  • Compulsion is not indeed the final appeal to man, but joy is. And joy is everywhere; it is in the earth's green covering of grass; in the blue serenity of the sky; in the reckless exuberance of spring; in the severe abstinence of grey winter; in the living flesh that animates our bodily frame; in the perfect poise of the human figure, noble and upright; in living; in the exercise of all our powers; in the acquisition of knowledge; in fighting evils; in dying for gains we never can share. Joy is there everywhere; it is superfluous, unnecessary; nay, it very often contradicts the most peremptory behests of necessity. It exists to show that the bonds of law can only be explained by love; they are like body and soul. Joy is the realisation of the truth of oneness, the oneness of our soul with the world and of the world-soul with the supreme lover.
  • I hold that God is of all things the cause immanent, as the phrase is, not transient. I say that all things are in God and move in God, thus agreeing with Paul, and, perhaps, with all the ancient philosophers, though the phraseology may be different; I will even venture to affirm that I agree with all the ancient Hebrews, in so far as one may judge from their traditions, though these are in many ways corrupted. The supposition of some, that I endeavour to prove in the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus the unity of God and Nature (meaning by the latter a certain mass or corporeal matter), is wholly erroneous.
    As regards miracles, I am of opinion that the revelation of God can only be established by the wisdom of the doctrine, not by miracles, or in other words by ignorance.
  • By ‘strong world soul theory’, we designate that identifies god with the world soul. Finally when we say ‘classic world soul theory’, we refer to a theory in which the entire world is considered (on the analogy of human being) as a cosmic living being, the soul of which is the world soul and the body of which is Nature.
    • Miklós Vassányi, in "Anima Mundi: The Rise of the World Soul Theory in Modern German Philosophy ...", p. 9.

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