A “Visionary Geography”

THUS, IN SOPHIANIC mystical philosophy, the Earth is both a vision and geography, indeed, a visionary geography.

To perceive the soul of the earth is to perceive one’s own soul. As Corbin states:

“We can therefore say this: the Imago Terrae, while it is the organ of perception itself, also signifies those aspects and figures of the Earth that are perceived, no longer simply by the senses nor as sensory empirical data, but by the archetype-Image, the Image a priori of the soul itself. The Earth is then a vision, and geography a visionary geography. Hence it is the Image of itself and its own Image that the soul rediscovers and meets.”[i]

In other words and to reiterate, the:

“[P]erception of the Sophianic mystery of the Earth, of geosophy, obviously cannot take place in the framework of positive geography. It presupposes a visionary geography, what has been rightly called a “landscape of Xvarnah”… [This landscape] is not spread over profane, previously determined space, but is concentrated or concentrates a sacred space… and this space does not need to be situated, since it is of itself situative.”[ii]

The psyche and the landscape have become one.

“Geographical features, mountains for instance, are here no longer merely physical features; they have a significance for the soul; they are psycho-cosmic aspects. The events that take place there consist in the very seeing of these aspects; they are psychic events.”[iii]

In a visionary geography plants, water, mountains are transmuted into symbols. The mountain tops of the Earth are the mountain tops of the soul. “The mountain tops of the Earth of visions are the mountain tops of the soul. The two archetypal Images, the Imago Terrae and the Imago Animae, correspond to one another: the mountain of visions is the psycho-cosmic mountain.”[iv]

The hierophanies of visionary geography offers an example of a case of psycho-geography unlike any other.[v] Corbin points out that visionary geography creates a mental iconography that offers Spenta Armaiti, the Sophia and Feminine Angel of the Earth support for meditation on what we previously called geosophy – the Earth in its spiritual form, – and is inseparable from eschatology (theology concerned with the end of the world) because its function is “essentially to prepare the birth of the earthly human being to his celestial “I,” which is Daena, the daughter of Spenta Armaiti-Sophia”.[vi]

To recognise oneself as a son or daughter of the Spiritual Earth (or Angel of the Earth) is to have one’s soul awakened to consciousness of a celestial kinship. It is to undertake in one’s own being Sophianity, Sophia. By assuming this nature the human being is in a true sense the child of the Earth Angel and is so able to have a mental vision of her.[vii]

One is no longer a person “imprisoned between the boundaries of terrestrial birth and death, but a human being in his totality, including the past of his pre-existence and the future of his superexistence”.[viii]

Corbin maintains that “the active Imagination of the celestial Earth, is not a “fantasy”; it is a power capable of “substantiating” and “vivifying”.[ix]

As we have seen, many explorers of the natural world and the psyche, postmodern ecologists, mountaineers and lovers of the natural Earth would agree, that contact with the Earth does have a substantiating and vivifying effect and that the Earth does seem to have a ‘soul’ with which we can become attuned ‘in soul’.

For example John Bierman, in his biography of Laszlo Almasy, writes of Almasy’s consuming passion for the desert where “Almasy believed, one could escape the tensions and temptations of modern living and find one’s real self. There, body and soul were cleansed and man felt ‘nearer to the Creator’… ‘The desert is terrible and it is merciless,’ he would write, ‘but to the desert all who once have known it must return’ ”.[x]

Opening up of Soul

DEVOTION TO THE SPIRITUAL EARTH tends to cause the opening up of the anima, the secret presence of the Eternal feminine in man – Sophianic Wisdom.[xi] Sophia is associated with both the Anima and the Soul – the opening up of consciousness and hence Wisdom. Sophia as Soul and Anima, preceding male and female differentiation, is the imaginative consciousness in the form of an archetypal feminine being:

“[E]ternally Feminine, preceding even terrestrial woman because preceding the differentiation of male and female in the terrestrial world, just as the supracelestial Earth rules over all the Earths, celestial and terrestrial, and exists before them. Fatima-Sophia is in fact the Soul: the Soul of creation, the Soul of each creature, that is, the constitutive part of the human being that appears essentially to the imaginative consciousness in the form of a feminine being, Anima. She is the eternally feminine in man, and that is why she is the archetype of the heavenly Earth; she is both paradise and intuition into it…”[xii]

A “Psychological Geography”

IN 1953, HENRY CORBIN argued for a psychological geography, a new line of study in which the “intention is to discover the psychological factors that come into play in the conformation given to a landscape”. Thus:

“Out of geographical studies, a new line of study, described as psychological geography, has developed in our day: The intention is to discover the psychological factors that come to play in the conformation given to a landscape. The phenomenological presupposition implicit in research of this kind is that the essential functions of the soul, the psyche, include the projection of a nature, a physis; conversely, each physical structure discloses the mode of psycho-spiritual activity that brings it into operation. In this sense, the categories of the sacredness “which possess the soul” can be recognized in the landscape with which it surrounds itself and in which it shapes its habitat, whether by projecting the vision on an ideal iconography, or by attempting to inscribe and reproduce a model of the vision on the actual earthly ground.”[xiii]

Corbin concludes: “This is why each of the hierophanies of our visionary geography offers an example of a case of psycho-geography unlike any other”.[xiv]

We are defined by our landscapes. The categories of sacredness “which possess the soul” can be recognized in the archetypal landscape(s) with which it surrounds itself. This is the essence of the inner Sophianic Wisdom Archetype – within the Postmodern Ecological Landscape.

Perhaps no other postmodernist ecological writer, explorer of the psyche and lover of the natural world, gives a better lyrical working illustration of the Sophia Wisdom Archetype (Anima Mundi/World Soul and Mundus Imaginalis) – the inner landscape perception within the Postmodern Ecological Landscape in our time, than does Barry Lopez in this passage from Arctic Dreams:

“I bowed. I bowed to what knows no deliberating legislature or parliament, no religion, no competing theories of economics, an expression of allegiance with the mystery of life. I looked out over the Bering Sea and brought my hands folded to the breast of my parka and bowed from the waist deeply toward the north, that great strait filled with life, the ice and the water. I held the bow to the pale sulphur sky at the northern rim of the earth. I held the bow until my back ached, and my mind was emptied of its categories and designs, its plans and speculations. I bowed before the simple evidence of the moment in my life in a tangible place on the earth that was beautiful. When I stood I thought I glimpsed my own desire. The landscape and the animals were like something found at the end of a dream. The edges of the real landscape became one with the edges of something I had dreamed. But what I had dreamed was only a pattern, some beautiful pattern of light. The continuous work of the imagination, I thought, to bring what is actual together with what is dreamed is an expression of human evolution.”[xv]

[i] Ibid, 29-30.
[ii] Ibid, 16.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Ibid, 35.
[v] Ibid, 30. Note: Hierophany and hierophanies is from the Greek root ‘hieros’ meaning “sacred” or “ holy” sign; “to reveal” or “ to bring to light”; signifies a manifestation of the sacred.
[vi] Ibid, 36.
[vii] Ibid, 37.
[viii] Ibid, 36.
[ix] Ibid, 40.
[x] John Bierman, The Secret Life of Laszlo Almasy – The Real English Patient (London: Viking, 2004) 38.
[xi] Corbin (1989) Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth, 40.
[xii] Ibid, 66.
[xiii] Ibid, 30.
[xiv] Ibid.
[xv] Lopez (1988) Arctic Dreams, 414.

Man is the New Trickster God

MAN IS THE NEW TRICKSTER GOD and he plays at the edges of mind and matter, super-nature and the supernatural. Davis argues:

“The powerful aura that today’s advanced technologies cast does not derive solely from their novelty or their mystifying complexity; it also derives from their literal realization of the virtual projects willed by the wizards and alchemists of an earlier age. Magic is technology’s unconscious, its own arational spell. Our modern technological world is not nature, but augmented nature, super-nature, and the more intensely we probe its mutant edge of mind and matter, the more our disenchanted productions will find themselves wrestling with the rhetoric of the supernatural.”[i]

Old phantasms and metaphysical longings have not simply disappeared. The New Jerusalem, the futuristic image of heaven on earth is the myth of progress – hence via reason, science and technology we can perfect ourselves and society. This is the “secular offspring of Christianity’s millennialist drive”.[ii] As Davis notes “Technology is neither a devil nor an angel. But neither is it simply a ‘tool’, a neutral extension of some rock-solid human nature. Technology is a trickster”.[iii]

Thus is man the sorcerer, techno-wizard, magus and string-pulling master behind technology – with its images of soul, redemption, the demonic, the magical, the transcendent, the hypnotic and the alive. This is the new Trickster God.

Supramorality and Amorality

THE NEW ‘MORALITY’ in the Technological/Materialist Landscape is embodied by the Trickster Archetype. The moral law of the Heavenly God-Father Archetype in the Anthropocentric Landscape is superseded by a supramorality and an amorality. As Anthony Stevens has pointed out, traditional patriarchal values of law and order, discipline, self-control, responsibility, courage, patriotism, loyalty, obligation, authority and command are now seen as inimical to freedom and creativity.[iv]

In this new landscape agonies are seldom felt for – obedience to the God-Father’s law, perfectionism, sin, shame, guilt, divine and/or final judgment, entrance to heaven or hell.

In fact many would light-heartedly profess to prefer hell as more interesting than the traditional view of heaven. The conventional morality of monotheistic religion and the Heavenly God-Father’s Church, Synagogue or Mosque is no longer unquestioned.

THE MATURE CORPORATE CULTURE exemplifies the pervasive Trickster Archetype, within the Technological/Materialist Landscape and the Trickster amorality and ‘religion’. This is despite tricky public relations which would have us believe that corporations behave morally. The corporate executive is often frank, playful and sometimes gleeful, showing a full cognisance of his duplicity and Tricksterish amorality. Joel Bakan illustrates Trickster amorality and ‘religion’:

“I’m sucking on Satan’s pecker” is how Chris Hooper, a highly successful television ad director and voice-over artist, describes his work for the likes of McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and other major corporations. Hooper says his job is to create “images that are trying to sell products to people that they don’t really need” which “encourage very sophomoric behavior, irresponsible, hedonistic, egotistical, narcissistic behavior.”[v]

Steve Kline, a communications expert who specializes in children’s culture states: “We are ‘producing kids as consumers’ … and becoming less good at creating ‘competent citizens…good, moral and virtuous human beings’.”[vi] And Marc Barry, who has worked for a quarter of the Fortune 500 companies and is a corporate competitive intelligence expert, self-described as “Essentially I am a spy” – comments that “There’s so much trickery and deception in my job that I don’t really want it in my private life”:

At work, Barry says, he is a predator engaged in morally dubious tasks. Corporations hire him to get information from other corporations: trade secrets, marketing plans, or whatever else might be useful to them. In his work, he lies, deceives, exploits, and cheats… For Barry, a regular day at the office is filled with venal actions and moral turpitude.[vii]

Anita roddick, the late founder of the Body Shop, shares the view that the corporate world is amoral and a “religion of maximizing profits. However, Roddick fought it and regretted it:

Roddick blames the “religion of maximizing profits” for business’s amorality, for forcing otherwise decent people to do indecent things: “Because it has to maximize its profits… everything is legitimate in the pursuit of that goal, everything… So using child labor or sweatshop labor or despoiling the environment… is legitimate in the maximizing of profit.[viii]

Robert Hare points out that executives acting as corporate operatives display many attitudes and actions which can be characterized as psychopathic.[ix] It goes without saying that the psychopathic characteristics of the corporation and its executives are also the worst, amoral characteristics of the Trickster.

A pragmatic, human-based morality, rather than a purportedly ‘divinely’ inspired law, guides man and woman in the Technological/Materialist Landscape. Where individuals do operate on a principled, altruistic, selfless level of moral development, it is because they choose this level of operation, not because they are compelled to by an external religious authority decreeing it.

Thus is ‘man’ finally superman and his/her morality, for better or worse, is often a supramorality and an amorality founded on individual freedom and creativity.

Personas and Masks – “We are what we Consume”

SEEMING-OVER-BEING; personas, masks, play, simulation, stimulation, entertainment, consumption, sensation, power, manipulation, trickery and the World of I-It are all features of the Trickster Archetype and the Technological/Materialist Landscape and characterise a supramorality and an amorality.

As a case in point ‘Seeming over being’ is found in the phenomenon of marketing over talent. Marketing, advertising and consumption are characteristic of the corporate Technological/Materialist Landscape. They affect the individual’s sense of self – and one could argue morality and spirituality – which becomes Trickster-like and fluid according to the products consumed. As Robert Sack notes:

“We consumers, and the commodities and places we consume, are major forces shaping modern landscape”.”[x]

Furthermore, as “places become ‘consumed’, they lose much of their former uniqueness. Commercialization makes them appear like other places”.[xi]

Sense of self is appealed to more and more through advertising, marketing and acts of consumption. People are presented with the power of the product to help them distinguish themselves from others. Advertisements segment the sense of self: “A multitude of products can represent the entire self or even its tiniest part”.[xii]

Advertising enables the individual, through their consumption of products, to create personas and masks: We are what we consume. Sack argues that consumption, as a symbolic system, is most like old fashioned magic and ritual. “Both advertising and magic/ritual impute powers to objects. Both claim these powers can be tapped by individuals if they are undertaking prescribed actions”.[xiii] Magic and power is the realm of the Trickster, thus:

“Consumption undoes contexts to create contexts, undoes social relations to create social relations, and undoes meaning to create meaning. The segmentation of context and the isolation of self makes the complex and personal experiences and meanings of modern life difficult to share.”[xiv]

The consumer becomes the consumed. The self is manipulated by the products consumed for stimulation, simulation, sensation and entertainment. Personas, masks, play, ‘seeming over being’ may be fun for a while but can lead to skepticism and are often curiously unsatisfying in the end. Superficiality, alienation and fragmentation of self are the downside.

Corporations use “branding” or personas “to create unique and attractive personalities for themselves”.[xv] They may even claim to have a ‘soul’. Again, there is evidence with corporate life of ‘magic’, transformation, seeming, personifications or personas, artificial bonding and the scope for sleight of hand, manipulation of consumers, employees and regulators. These are all characteristics of the Trickster. As for advertising, Sack argues:

“Its rhetoric of indirection, its capacity for change, its brevity, its ability to make a pattern when absolutely none existed before, all help to make advertising applicable to anything, even to things such as conservation and gay liberation, that are not strictly items of the market place. But once it embraces these issues, advertising’s structure transforms their meanings. They too become like commodities; they too become segmented and abstracted from context. As advertising works, it creates its own skepticism. Many know that the claims of ads are not really true.”[xvi]

This underside crisis of meaning and loss of identity is not just a characteristic of the world of consumption, marketing and advertising, in short the materialist landscape; it is also a characteristic of the technological landscape. Michael Heim notes sadly:

“We begin as voyeurs and end by abandoning our identity to the fascinating systems we tend. The tasks beckoning us to the network make us forget our elemental loss in the process… So entrancing are these symbols that we forget ourselves, forget where we are. We forget ourselves as we evolve into our fabricated worlds.”[xvii]

[i] Davis (1999) Techgnosis, 38.
[ii] Ibid, 22.
[iii] Ibid, 9.
[iv] Stevens (1982) Archetype, 121.
[v] Joel Bakan (2004) The Corporation, 125-126.
[vi] Ibid, 127.
[vii] Ibid, 53-54.
[viii] Ibid, 35.
[ix] Ibid, 56-57 Note: a definition of “psychopathic” is an antisocial personality characterised by the failure to develop any sense of moral responsibility and the capability of performing violent or antisocial acts.
[x] Robert D. Sack, ‘The Consumer’s World: Place as Context’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, vol.78 (1988), 659.
[xi] Ibid, 661.
[xii] Ibid, 657.
[xiii] Ibid, 659.
[xiv] Ibid, 658.
[xv] Bakan (2004) The Corporation, 26.
[xvi] Sack (1988) ‘The Consumer’s World’, 659.
[xvii] Michael Heim, The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality (Oxford University Press, 1993), 79-80.

Sophia and Quantum Physics

THE ANCIENT DESCRIPTIONS which point to Sophia as Anima Mundi/World Soul – hence “wisdom that lies hidden or bound within matter”; “the reconciliation of nature and spirit”; “the pre-terrestrial vision of the celestial world” – have strong similarities with the descriptions made by quantum physicists about the quantum realities behind and within matter, the world and the universe.

Quantum physicists describe symmetries and archetypes beyond matter and enfolded in the material world. They speak of wholeness of matter and mind at the quantum level and nonlocal space-time. They describe consciousness within matter; active information directing matter. They talk of archetypes, acausal orderedness, as a basis for science, and quantums of information applicable to both mind and matter.

Some quantum physicists have explicitly acknowledged a return to the concept of Anima Mundi/World Soul with the discovery in science of quantum phenomena.

Shortly before his death Werner Heisenberg argued that what is fundamental in nature is not particles but the symmetries which lie beyond them. These symmetries can be thought of as the archetypes of all matter and the ground of material existence.[i]

Bohr’s theoretical physics emphasis on wholeness and the nonlocal nature of spacetime is compatible with Sophianic Anima Mundi/World Soul. This deeper nonlocal order has been found to be essential to thought processes. Here mind and matter appear to have something in common. “Indeed this leads to the general proposal that mind and matter are not separate and distinct substances but that like light and radio waves they are orders that lie within a common spectrum”.[ii]

Bohm’s theory that quantum processes could be interpreted as having what could almost be called a “mental” side – is also in accord with Sophianic Anima Mundi/World Soul – whereby active information has a directing effect on quantum processes, playing a formative role in unfolding the elementary particles out of their grounding quantum field.[iii]

Carl Friedrich Von Weizsacker is one who argued for the re-emergence of the World Soul motif on the basis that, indeed, quantum theory is to be understood as a theory of information – a holism that encompasses all that exists in both the realms of mind and matter:

“In his recent discussion of implications of his theory of ur-alternatives, von Weizsacker has drawn attention to the possibility for the re-emergence of the World Soul: he has argued that if quantum theory may be understood to be a theory of information, then it applies to information about mental events as well as physical events. According to the ur theory, res cognitans and res extensa must then enter into appearance together, and thus Cartesian dualism is theoretically strictly refuted. The consequence of this is a holism that encompasses all that exists in both the realms of mind and of matter that brings forth the question of the possibility of a World Soul.”[iv]

Sophia World Soul – Celestial Light 

JUNG WAS EXPLORING along similar lines to the quantum physicists when he introduced the idea of a psychoid archetype (unus mundus) which he said contains both mind and matter and yet goes beyond them both. Jung coined the term ‘psychoid unconscious’ to account for the unitary nature of psyche and world.[v] It is rooted in the unconscious, rather than being unified by an external metaphysical being or reality.

More precisely, “the ‘psychoid unconscious’ can be considered a further gradation of the unconscious where self and world meet, and where all opposites are reconciled”.[vi] The Anima Mundi/World Soul is very similar to the psychoid archetype or unus mundus.

The physicist Wolfgang Pauli took up Jung’s psychoid archetype because he saw it as a major contribution to understanding the ‘laws’ of nature:

“For Pauli, the psychoid archetype represented a sort of ‘missing link’ between the world which is the legitimate study of science, and the mind of the scientist who studies it. Jung’s postulate was not just ‘the bridge to matter in general’ but to ‘a cosmic order independent of our choice and distinct from the world of phenomena’.”[vii]

Sophianic Wisdom and individuation, as we have seen, are closely identified, if not identical. Individuation, to embrace the whole, both the known and the unknown in oneself, is also associated with Anima Mundi/World Soul and Jung’s psychoid archetype, or unus mundus.

In alchemy Sophia is associated with the evolution of one’s conscious. This transformation process is individuation.Sophia is here associated with symbols which express the depths of the self, psyche and soul in the world, where body becomes spirit and spirit becomes body.

One of these symbols is of Sophia as a Tree, another is of Sophia as Salt.[viii] Light, lightning, illumination, shining, gold, ‘incarnated light’, are also associated with Sophianic Wisdom and individuation; where body becomes spirit and spirit body, where heaven and earth are connected in the depths of self, psyche and soul in the World, World Soul.[ix]

Henry Corbin describes Sophianity from Mazdean to Shi’ite Iran, as “for the human being to accede here and now to the Celestial Earth, to the world of Hurqalya, world of ‘celestial corporeity’, which is that of the subtle bodies of Light”.[x]

In a strikingly similar description, scientist Darryl Reanney also writes of light and consciousness. Reanney points out that those rare moments when consciousness breaks free of ego are described as “moments of illumination”; the “inbreaking of light” and “the metaphor of consciousness as a light-bringing agent is widespread in all mystical literature”.[xi]

Individuation is a breaking free of ego consciousness into a realisation of Anima Mundi/World Soul: “Individuation does not shut one out from the world, but gathers the world to one’s self”.[xii] Individuation here is self-realisation which involves the psychoid archetype – unus mundus – in other words, Anima Mundi/World Soul.

The enfolded and implicate in Anima Mundi/World Soul becomes unfolded and explicit. Individuation becomes the self-realisation of the psychoid archetype. Whitmont describes it this way:

“The new Aquarian view, ushered in by twentieth-century physics, no longer thinks in terms of discrete objects; rather it conceives of a continuous flux of process, vibrational fields, quantum pulses of an undefinable, nonmaterial substratum. This is a universal consciousness, perhaps, yet prior to what we call consciousness. Prior to energy and matter, it results in both. It is a self-directed flow that gives form. The dynamics of our world, in the view of the modern myth, do not flow from a maker or director outside of it, who manipulates it like an object. The world is inner or self-directed, an immanense groping for self-realization in the three dimensions of space, and in the fourth dimension of time as well. Consciousness and conscience now discover self-direction. They find themselves in relation to the newly emerging Feminine – the Yin – as inner-directed awareness, with its growing transformative aspect – time.”[xiii]

This is a description of the new, yet at the same time ancient, Sophia Anima Mundi/World Soul Archetype.

Archetypal Philosopher James Hillman maintains that we need “an aesthetic response to the world. This response ties the individual soul immediately with the world soul”; indeed they are inseparable as “(a)ny alteration in the human psyche resonates with a change in the psyche of the world”.[xiv] The return of the Anima Mundi/World Soul should therefore be a therapeutic goal both for the individual and the world.

Geographer Peter Bishop influenced by archetypal psychology, maintains that the study of a country or a place and its people should be a task that contributes “towards the return of soul to the world, to an anima mundi psychology”.[xv]While there has been a long tradition of locating the psyche somehow within both the individual and the world, this has been lost in recent centuries. However, as Hillman warns, “the more we concentrate on literalizing interiority within my person the more we lose the sense of soul as a psychic reality… within all things”.[xvi]

In his study of Tibet, for example, Bishop found that the place had a logic and coherence of its own, its genius loci: it was not a ‘silent other’ but alive, substantial and compelling. “It was part of the world calling attention to itself, deepening our soulful appreciation of mountains, of deserts and rivers, of light and colour, of time and space, of myriad peoples and their cultures, of fauna and flora, of the plurality of imaginative possibilities”.[xvii]  

This is an instance of a return of perception of Anima Mundi/World Soul; and a return of the Sophianic Wisdom Archetype. In short, spirituality is to be sought in individuation, the opening up to the unus mundus; or in other words the Sophianic Anima Mundi, World Soul. This deep realisation of Self lies at the heart of all religious intimations of the essential oneness of life.

[i] F. David Peat, Synchronicity — The Bridge between Matter and Mind (N.Y & London: Bantam Books, 1988), 94.
[ii] Ibid, 185-186.
[iii] Ibid, 186-187.
[iv] Charles R. Card, ‘The Emergence of Archetypes in Present-Day Science and its Significance for Contemporary Philosophy of Nature’, Dynamical Psychology (1996), 26-27.
[v] C.G. Jung, ‘Mysterium Conjunctions’ in: The Collected Works, vol.14, para. 552.
[vi] Curtis D. Smith, ‘Psychological Ultimacy: Jung and the Human Basis of Religious Meaning’, Religious Humanism, vol.25: 4 (1991), 177.
[vii] Stevens (1982) Archetype, 74.
[viii] Damiani (1998) Sophia: Exile and Return, 76-77.
[ix] See Titus Burckhardt, Alchemy: Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul. (London: Stuart & Watkins, 1967), 82-83.
[x] Henry Corbin (1981) ‘Towards a Chart of the Imaginal’, 32-33.
[xi] Darryl Reanney(1991) The Death of Forever – A New Future for Human Consciousness, 220.
[xii] C.G. Jung, ‘The Structures and Dynamics of the Psyche’ in: The Collected Works, vol. 8, para, 226.
[xiii] Whitmont (1982) The Return of the Goddess, 221.
[xiv] Hillman, ‘Anima Mundi – The Return of the Soul to the World’ , Spring: An Annual of Archetypal Psychology and Jungian Thought ( 1982),79.
[xv] Peter Bishop, The Myth of Shangri-La – Tibet, Travel Writing and the Western Creation of Sacred Landscape (University of California Press, 1989), 251.
[xvi] Ibid.
[xvii] Ibid.

Techno-Wizardary – the Tricksters’ Playground

IRONICALLY, WHILE THE IMAGE of technology is secular, it rests on Christian myths, as Davis points out:

“[T]his secular image was framed all along by Christian myths: the biblical call to conquer nature, the Protestant work ethic, and, in particular, the millennialist vision of a New Jerusalem, the earthly paradise that the Book of Revelation claims will crown the course of history. Despite a century of Hiroshimas, Bhopals, and Chernobyls, this myth of an engineered utopia still propels the ideology of technological progress, with its perennial promises of freedom, prosperity, and release from disease and want.”[i]

The old image of technology for well over a century was industrial. Lewis Mumford called it the “myth of the Machine” and, as Davis points out, it rested on “the authority of technical and scientific elites, and in the intrinsic value of efficiency, control, unrestrained technological development, and economic expansion”.[ii]

The new image of technology is less mechanised and described in the mythology of information, electronic minds cloud computing, infinite databases, computerized forecasting, hypertext libraries, virtual realities, micro-chip engineering, artificial intelligence, bio-engineering, and global internet and telecommunication networking.   Hence:

“Boundaries dissolve, and we drift into the no-man’s zones between synthetic and organic life, between actual and virtual environments, between local communities and global flows of goods, information, labour, and capital. With pills modifying personality, machines modifying bodies, and synthetic pleasures and net-worked minds engineering a more fluid and invented sense of self, the boundaries of our identities are mutating as well. The horizon melts into a limitless question mark, and like the cartographers of old, we glimpse yawning monstrosities and mind-forged utopias beyond the edges of our paltry and provisional maps.”[iii]

The playground of the Trickster is new technology. Erik Davis argues:

“Of all the godforms that haunt the Greek mind, Hermes is the one who would feel most at home in our wired world. Indeed, with his mischievous combination of speed, trickery, and profitable mediation, he can almost be seen as the archaic mascot of the information age… He flies “as fleet as thought”, an image of the daylight mind, with its plans and synaptic leaps, its chatter and overload. Hermes shows that these minds are not islands, but nodes in an immense electric tangle of words, images, songs, and signals. Hermes rules the transtemporal world of information exchange.”[iv]

“A Host of Guises”

TRICKSTER IS MASTER of the persona and masks. His ego is fluid. He is both hero and anti-hero. Davis states:

“More than mere delivery boy, Hermes wears a host of guises; con artist, herald, inventor, merchant, magus, thief… Lord of the lucky find, Hermes crafts opportunity like those brash start-up companies that fill a market niche by creating it in the first place.”[v]

The Greeks were quite clear about it – Hermes is a thief. However the Trickster’s banditry is not based on raw power. He is no mugger or thug. Hermes is the hacker, the spy and the mastermind. He is executor of the slickest legal contracts.[vi]

[i] Erik Davis (1999) Techgnosis, 3.
[ii] Ibid, 3.
[iii] Ibid, 1.
[iv] Ibid, 14.
[v] Ibid, 14-15.
[vi] Ibid, 15.

The Celestial Earth – “subtle bodies of Light”

CORBIN DESCRIBES SOPHIA, the divine presence of wisdom for our world in an intermediate imaginal world – the Celestial Earth, as follows:

“Between the intellectual and the sensible… [is] a ‘spiritual corporeity’ which represents the Dwelling, the Divine Presence, for our world. This Dwelling is Wisdom itself, Sophia.”[i]

Sophia is “the imaginal place of the Divine Presence in our world”. Sophia as the Celestial Earth is typified in the Shi’ite gnosis by Fatima, “the Sophia of the Shi’ite theosophy and cosmology”.[ii] Thus Sophianity is for the human being to accede here and now to the Celestial Earth, to the world of Hurqalya, world of ‘celestial corporeity’, which is that of the subtle bodies of Light.[iii]

[i] Henry Corbin, ‘Towards a Chart of the Imaginal’, Temenos 1 (1981), 30.

[ii] Ibid, 31.

[iii] Ibid, 32-33.

“How do people imagine the landscapes?”

IMAGINATION IN THE Postmodern Ecological Landscape is the key to the relations and interactions between the natural world and human beings. Barry Lopez asks:

“How do people imagine the landscapes they find themselves in? How does the land shape the imaginations of the people who dwell in it? How does desire itself, the desire to comprehend, shape knowledge? These questions seemed to me to go deeper than the topical issues, to underlie any consideration of them.”[i]

These are Sophianic epistemological questions. They predominate in the Postmodern Ecological Landscape and the I-Thou relation with the land and the landscape. Descriptors of this relationship are mystical, emotional, lyrical and reverential. These are also descriptors inherent to Sophianic Wisdom, morality, perception and spirituality. For example, Lynn Ross-Bryant maintains that Lopez is an exemplar of postmodern ecological writers who offer a holistic view of humans, nature and spirit.

The mysterious otherness of nature is allowed to present itself and in the process the sacred is revealed. Thus,

“Lopez joins postmodern thought in general and neopragmatism in particular in discounting the Cartesian project of knowing the world objectively, in itself. Humans have no privileged position from which they can observe the world”.[ii]

[i] Lopez (1988) Arctic Dreams, xxvii.

[ii] Ross-Bryant (1991) ‘Of Nature and Texts’, 40.

Sophia Geography

Sophia rules the eighth clime, the archetypal world of images, the world in which the forms of our thoughts and desires, of our presentiments and of our behavior and all works accomplished on earth subsist.

– C.G. Jung

[U]ltimately what we call physics and physical is but a reflection of the world of the Soul; there is no pure physics, but always the physics of some definite psychic activity.

The earth is then a vision, and geography a visionary geography… the categories of the sacredness “which possesses the soul” can be recognised in the landscape with which it surrounds itself and in which it shapes its habitat, whether by projecting the vision on an ideal iconography, or by attempting to inscribe and reproduce a model of the vision on the actual earthly ground.

– Henry Corbin

A Hymn to Sophia

IN THIS CHAPTER I explore, however tentatively and inadequately, the Sophianic inner landscape – the Imaginal, the Mundus Imaginalis, Sophianic harmonic perception or Ta’wil, and the Sophianic visionary geography of the soul.[i] In the Postmodern Ecological Landscape and under the Sophia Wisdom Archetype we become more aware of the imagination in creating landscape. The inner landscape becomes as important as the outer landscape. As Lopez observes,

“to inquire into the intricacies of a distant landscape … is to provoke thoughts about one’s own interior landscape, and the familiar landscapes of memory. The land urges us to come around to an understanding of ourselves”.[ii]

Lynn Ross-Bryant argues that

“For Lopez the landscape we imagine is also that other that exists beyond and outside of human language and that shapes human language and experience…” [iii]

Postmodern ecological writers indicate, often implicitly rather than explicitly, that there is a vital interaction between inner landscapes, imagination and outer landscapes.

In many cases it is the outer landscape which stimulates our imagination and creates the realisation of a deeper inner wisdom and inner Being. In other cases, it would seem that it is the inner landscapes of the psyche, from which the imagination springs that creates the outer landscapes of our Being-in-the-world.

 


[i] Note: It is impossible here to do justice to the concepts of the Imaginal, Mundus Imaginalis and Ta’wil as is evidenced by the complexity and life-time’s work on translations and interpretation by Henry Corbin. At most, it is possible here only to give a very superficial indication and generalised view of some of the main themes, without differentiating them and sourcing them in detail to their particular mystical strands and esoteric historical originations.

[ii] Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams – Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape (London: The Harville Press, 1998), 247.

[iii] Lynn Ross-Bryant, ‘Of Nature and Texts: Nature and Religion in American Ecological Literature’, Anglican Theological Review, v.73, no.1 (1991), 40.