Motion of Soul

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The following quotes are taken from a lecture by Robert Hand at the 2014 NORWAC Astrology Conference.  On the final night of the conference, 25 May 2014, Robert Hand presented his talk “Toward a Post-Modern Astrology.”  I was particularly struck by the following excerpts as the philosophy he presented deeply resonated with my own feelings toward life and astrology. I was comforted by the fact that he has spent years of deep philosophical research and exploration, and that his summary and synthesis of his findings validated my own feelings that lack the intellectual rigor of research in support.  One of his central ideas was introduced through a description of a dream he had:

In the dream, I was giving an astrological workshop, obviously of a philosophical bent, in a bookstore somewhere here on the West coast, at least thats what it felt like at least . . . and I was talking about the three levels of Soul that are described in Aristotle’s work on the Soul, “De Anima” [“On the Soul”] . . . basically they are the vegetable soul, the animal soul, and the intellectual soul.  The vegetable soul is the level of soul one finds in plants, the animal soul is the level one finds in animals, and the intellectual or intellective soul is what you find in human beings.  This is Aristotle talking, not me, I would make the division a little differently . . . So after talking about the vegetable soul, the animal soul, and the intellective soul, I then said something in the dream, “And of course, you also have to understand there is a mineral soul.”  And, shortly after that I woke up and said, “Wow.”  Because I understood exactly what I was saying in the dream.  And that is, that there is nothing that is not composed of soul. It is simply that the lowest manifestation, appears to be inert. I would not use the term mineral soul anymore, and even at the time I recognized it as a placeholder name.  This is very important as I think I will show you . . .

As you probably know . . . Einstein figured out that matter was a form of highly concentrated energy . . . and thus established that matter and energy were two different forms of basically the same substance.  Now, what do I mean by substance.  Substance does not mean matter. Substance means that which stands under everything else . . . substantia in classical Latin . . . and anything that can become that out of which other things are made is a substantia . . . So matter and energy became in 20th Century physics the substancia of all existence . . .

What is life?  That is to say, what makes things alive?  A very older view is that an immaterial entity known as a spirit comes in and inhabits the body and animates it. In fact, that’s what animate means, it means ensouled.  The word animate, meaning to move, and the word anima, meaning soul, are all one piece. Motion and Soul are universally linked in ancient philosophy.  So, science has a problem determining where living beings come from as living beings  . . .

What my dream told me . . . is that Soul is the third substance, or more accurately, it’s the first substance . . . Ultimately we will find I believe that energy is made up out of soul just as much as matter, as we conceive matter to be, is made up out of energy. Now, obviously this is not soul as we normally conceive of it, “soul stuff” might be a better way of putting it, but the point is, there is no discontinuity because nothing is truly inanimate. And last night, Bernadette [Bernadette Brady on the previous night presented a talk concerning Astrology and Fate] added a really interesting ingredient to this by pointing out that the reason we can’t tell that a rock or a hill or a landscape are alive is because their life encompasses such a long period of time that we can’t see it . . . we can only infer it from geological examination . . . all we know is that their wavelength is very long . . .

So my proposition here is that matter and energy are actually composed of the stuff that is the foundation of soul, so the universe is actually filled with life energy.  Energy is the wrong word, but life stuff . . . I prefer stuff because it doesn’t make any assumptions . . .

The last major movement in ancient philosophy is usually referred to by modern scholars as Neoplatonism . . . In Neoplatonism there are said to be four levels of something or other . . . The most primal level is simply referred to as the One. It basically is everything that is . . . that also pertains to could be, will be, or was. Whatever the totality is, that’s it, and thats about all you can say about it.  In turn, it generates true being. The One in a rigorous philosophical sense cannot be said “to be,” because “to exist” you have to be within something else and there is no something else.  So it in turns generates being.  And one of the forms it takes is the recognition of a Self and an Other.  So this is where the boundary between a Self and Other is born . . .

Soul is the third level, or psyche . . . The level of soul is that in which the entire physical universe exists. In other words, the physical universe does not generate life, life generates the physical universe . . .  Now, what is a peculiar characteristic of soul? Well, of course it involves movement as in anima/animate, but that is not the one I am going to grab on to tonight.  Soul is atemporal and nonlocal . . . time occurs within it, it is not time. It does not experience time, time occurs within it. And it is nonlocal because it is everywhere, at all levels . . .

Soul stuff drives the cosmos toward manifesting entities that clearly do exhibit to our eyes the characteristics of living entities.  This is caused by complexity . . . not any old complexity . . . The substantial soul is soul as a basic substance of all being . . . We are all sitting in an infinite sea of soul, we are the infinite sea of soul.  Hinduism would actually not have much of a problem with this . . . Hinduism at its higher levels regards each individual human as the entire universe experienced from a particular point of view. Which fits beautifully- and by the way, every human being in his or her essence, fills the entire cosmos . . . So all apparently nonliving matter operates within a continuous field of the substantial soul.  This is the master field, if you will.  It is the source of the laws of nature.  So the laws of nature are the laws of soul . . .

The totality of all soul stuff at all levels constitutes the Anima Mundi or World Soul.  So we are all part of it.  We are not just in it, we are part of it.  That indwelling sense of Spirit is the direct action of the Anima Mundi. Known in Christianity as the Holy Ghost, although they are not quite happy with the idea that it might be female, or at least appear female.  In Kabbala, and Judaism in general, it is the Shekhinah, which is the female presence of God in this world. And it’s also Sophia . . .

robert-hand-01

Robert Hand

I was deeply engrossed in his talk when something fantastic occurred in my mind.  As Robert Hand began to speak the following quotation from Plotinus, I perceived an emanation of white light coming out from his head, not unlike an aura.  This is not a usual perception that I have, and I am still amazed at it’s occurrence, especially considering the following words that simultaneously came out through his voice that moved me deeply:

They (the inhabitants) see themselves in others.  For all things are transparent, and there is nothing dark or resisting, but every one is manifest to every one internally, and all things are manifest.  For light is manifest to light.  For every one has all things in himself and again sees in another all things.  So that all things are everywhere.  And all is all, and each is all.  And the splendor is infinite.  For each of them is great, since the small is also great.  And the Sun there is all stars.  And again, each and all are the Sun.  In each thing, that one thing is pre-eminent above the rest, but it also shows forth all.

Plotinos

Plotinus

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11 thoughts on “Motion of Soul

  1. Reblogged this on Painted arrow path and commented:
    Astrology is a part of milieu that i am not, however was intrigued by, a few times ago. It is always interesting to hear a bit of cosmological (not so much philosophical, at least in my humble opinion…) talk on astrology. For those that are not into astrology – it is not about believing in it, it is about understanding that this line of thought was at one time a major thread that shaped civilisation, not just the western one.

  2. Reblogged this on Painted arrow path and commented:
    Astrology is a part of milieu that i am not, however was intrigued by, a few times ago. It is always interesting to hear a bit of cosmological (not so much philosophical, at least in my humble opinion…) talk on astrology. For those that are not into astrology – it is not about believing in it, it is about understanding that this line of thought was at one time a major thread that shaped civilisation, not just the western one.

  3. Gray, this is amazingly beautiful. I was especially moved by your mystical vision.

    The dove as the luminous symbol of the Holy Spirit comes to mind; the same dove that is Sophia – emanation of divine wisdom. Also the Pleiades are often shown as doves – and the Pleiades can be likened to the seven rays of creation.

    Also I thought about the alchemical concept proposed by Jung – that of unus mundus (Latin “one world”), which speaks of an underlying unified reality from which everything emerges and to which everything returns – i.e. the Substance, Plotinus’ One, that which stands under everything else.

    Thank you for sharing this with us – finally! I have been waiting for it.

    In Gratitude,

    Monika

    • Dear Monika,

      Thank you for sharing your illuminating vision of the dove of Sophia emanating as seven rays of creation through the Pleiades, it is a beautiful thought. I have not read Carl Jung regarding the unus mundus but I remember you telling me how Jung was able to read a lot of the old Hermetic and Neoplatonist text through his diverse linguistic skills. I would like to learn more about his perspective toward all of this, as I have been enjoying looking into how later figures interpreted these ideas, such as how we were recently discussing William Blake.
      all my best,
      Gray

    • This was a mesmerizing talk by Robert Hand. I have a recording of it and transcribed some of the parts that connected to the longer passage from Plotinus I shared at the end. Robert Hand talked about a lot more than what I included here in his lecture. Apparently some people found his talk difficult at times to follow, as it ranged over so many topics. Afterwards I was speaking with the astrologer Chris Brennan, who told me I should tell Rob how much I admired his talk because some people he heard had found it difficult to follow in the sense of a clear thesis and development. I was happy to tell him as a Hellenistic astrology expert that my Pisces Mercury (in detriment and fall in that system) does not care about that. I really loved the talk- I did not thank him in person but did later send him an email of appreciation. He tied a lot of ideas I had been thinking about together in his lecture.
      Thanks again for your support Judie,
      Gray

  4. Beautiful piece Gray. The idea’s of Plotinus and the neo-platonists deeply resonate with me. Although my knowledge of astrology is so small, I can barely call myself a “student,” I love the idea of seeing astrological ideas through the perspective of Soul, in all of its particular manifestations that we comprehend along with the Unus Mundis that is much more difficult to perceive as the embodied soul experience that we have.

    Thanks so much for sharing Robert Hand with us here and your experience with him here!
    Debra

    • You are welcome Debra. I agree with you about soul and astrology- they make so much sense to me in combination. There was a lot more to Robert Hand’s talk than I transcribed here, but I found these concepts involving Plotinus to be illuminating.
      best,
      Gray

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