Illustration: Anima Mundi was invariably depicted as a naked goddess.
Stephen Contrado, B.A., Th.M.
From the earliest times and throughout the world people hve had an intimate relationship with the Earth. They have recognized a vital force linking the whole material universe. They sensed Earth was a living creature animated by a soul, and they develped rituals to express their beliefs. They sought to influence the elements of Earth by prayer and offering sacrifices. This is the source of sympathetic magic.
Enlightened persons have acknowledged man's intimate relationship with everything in existence. Veneration of the Earth spirit was man's first spirituality. Man, animals, trees, plants, lakes, mountains, winds, oceans, rivers, storms, stones, fire, and every object, phenomenon, and element was in harmony being a manifestation of the one universal soul or mind.
Plato is considered the originator of the idea in Western philosophy. He used a cosmological myth to explain the world soul and its relation to man. The creator god made the universe in the shape of a rotating sphere of soul (ethereal stuff) out of the harmonious union of earth, water, air, and fire. After all was created, the god the remaining soul to form human souls. Plato's myth has inspired the Stoics, neo-Platonist philosophers, alchemists, astrologers, magicians, and occultists in their works.
Plato wrote, "Therefore, we may censequently state that: 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 (Timaeus, 29/30).
In the 20th century, the psychologist Carl Jung theorized that the world soul affected the human psyche. He explained spiritual growth as a process that allows the creative force animating the universe to become conscious of itself through the human mind -- the archetypes and symbols revealed in dreams and myths were part of the collective consciousness. Correspondences between nature and mind inform our subconscious mind of life's purpose. Mystics have also expressed the idea that they were one with the world and God or the gods.
Modern thinkers (Leibnitz, Schelling, Schopenhauer, Josiah Royce, James Lovelock, Gaia theorists, environmentalists, et al.) have also suggested that one soul animates all matter. For those who want to pursue related theories, you may search under the category "panpsychism," that all matter has consciousness.
The Anima Mundi (Soul of the World) was invaiably depicted as a female. (See illustration above.) In the medieval period her image was restricted to drawings in magical and alchemical books because the male-dominated church opposed a goddes who might challenge the male image of its supreme deity. Occultists knew Anima Mundi as a development of the Goddess, Isis among others, described in the works of Plutarch. She was shown as a naked goddess with a halo of stars, one foot on land and the other in water to show her dominion on land and sea. Her left breast was a moon, which was repeated on her pubis. Her right breast was a star or sun pouring forth blessings on the world.