Spirit & Psyche Articles
The pesky pixies and naughty numens just won’t go away. They have been with us for millennia and they will remain with us, one assumes, for millennia. Ghostly stick beings and therianthropes adorn our ancestors’ cave walls. St Paul admonished the Corinthians to reject demons and pagan idolatry, and Christianity has since then had troubled relationship with sprites and spirits, fairies, elves and goblins. Why elves – why now?
For millennia, images and form in art and architecture have carried meaning, inspired people to accomplish enormous feats and been the medium through which hidden realities could be realised.
Today it may seem an odd concept to move beyond just looking at art to perceiving it as a means with which we can wake up, transform consciousness and be informed with a sense of purpose.
Works of art often only scratch the surface of our thoughts as we fit past them in galleries and museums.
I will begin on a personal note. Monteverdi’s music has been a catalyst in my life, awakening me to a ‘spiritual eros’, as the Platonists would describe the intimation of, and yearning for, an experience of union with an ineffable, and undefinable, ‘other’.I have also been an astrologer for nearly forty years, and a central focus of my academic life has been the challenge of addressing the revelatory function of the symbolic in a world which no longer values poetic metaphor as a primary mode of knowledge. Instead, such knowing is assumed to be ‘merely subjective’, incompatible with the sharp scalpel of the rational mind.
In September 1462, aged almost twenty-nine, Marsilio Ficino wrote to Cosimo de’ Medici in gratitude for his generous patronage:
A few days ago I was celebrating [the hymn to the Cosmos] in an Orphic ritual, when my father brought me some letters, in which the wise Cosimo de’ Medici, most health-giving doctor of my life, said he would reflect on my studies, kindly provide for me, generously favour me, and hospitably and piously welcome me into his sacred dwelling. So it happened that not only your magnificence, but also the ancient prophecy of Orpheus evoked in me the most immense wonder. For he seemed to be directing to you the hymn that he consecrated to the Cosmos,..
The theme of this chapter arose through a strange coincidence and a dream, which I shall briefly relate. Some time ago a friend introduced me to the work of Michael Newton, and I spent a session with my MA students discussing the question of regression therapy and spiritual encounter in relation to Hermetic texts and the mundus imaginalis of Henry Corbin. Shortly after this, I received an email, quite out of the blue, from Michael Newton himself. He was looking for a university department where he could develop his client work into a doctoral thesis, and this initiated a flow of personal communication on the subject of life between lives (LBL) therapy.
It is encouraging to see the current academic interest in therapeutic properties and usages of psychedelics and psycho-active plants. Sociological methods of quantitative data analysis and scientific investigation into the physiology of altered states of consciousness (ASC) are challenging negative and prohibitive attitudes and contributing to a general re-evaluation of legal constraints regarding their use.
Scrying has been variously defined as “the faculty of seeing visions in a smooth surface or clear deep, or both”;“an occult method for obtaining oracular visions in water, glass or crystal;” and “the deliberate act of perceiving events that lie beyond the range of the physical senses by using the agents of the unconscious mind”
Prophecy (from the Greek prophemi meaning “to say beforehand, foretell”) can be defined as the ability to foretell future events or conditions through an innate supernatural or paranormal ability to speak from a viewpoint of divine authority. Prophecy is therefore similar to mediumship or channeling in its purported ability to receive emanations from a divine being or higher intelligence, and convey these revelations to others.
‘It is as if we can study everything about religion, except what makes it fiercely religious’ observes Rice University religious studies professor Jeffrey Kripal. Well, what does make religion fiercely religious? Should this highly-charged, sensual, devotional, or emotive impulse indeed find a place in academic studies?
in his Disputatio contra iudicium astrologorum of 1477, Ficino appears to proclaim his firm opposition to astrological practices. It is as if, adopting an Aristotelian model of rational argument and writing in clear, exegetical prose, he wishes to sweep away all the deadwood of fatalism with a common-sense critique of rigid and arbitrary astrological systems.
How do we interpret the word ‘erotic’ in our contemporary society? It usually conveys a sexual allure, a physical attraction, a suggestion of passion and exoticisim. But do we connect it with spirituality, or a sense of divinity? Not usually. In our secular world the sacred is not accessible through sex. We have separated human sexuality from religious experience, yet surely everyone can testify to the tremendous emotional power of the “longing for the beloved” and probably most have sensed what feels like an
immeasurable distance between the ideal of love, the perfect beauty, and the person sitting next to them at breakfast.
In his work on Sufi mystics, Henry Corbin uses the term mundus imaginalis to designate the psychic space in which the “super-sensible”reality of dreams, theophanies and spiritual beings are manifested, in a visionary sense, to the individual. T
In this contribution to Daniela Boccassini’s wonderful journal, I talk about my ‘moments of awakening’ through music, and also the author Fred Gettings’ similar experiences in the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte in Florence.
In this chapter, I explore the phenomena of visual apparitions of daimons and spirits, and how in the neoplatonic traditions they have always been seen as lights.
Becoming an Angel: the mundis imaginalis of Henry Corbin and the Platonic path of self-knowledge – Angela Voss
The profoundly alchemical implications of Corbin’s imaginal hermeneutics, in a spiritual sense, are illustrated by his interest in the hieratic art of statue animation, which he describes as:
neither a simple dramaturgy of the unconscious or psychological allegory, nor a simple manipulation of materials practiced in the manner of a mere chemist or pharmacist (droguiste). It is an operation at once material and spiritual, the juncture between the two aspects remaining the hidden secret underneath the symbols of the “Philosophers” (as the alchemists designate themselves).
Alchemy for Corbin is essentially the inner, spiritual work of attaining union between the human soul and its heavenly counterpart