Anima, Soul, Psyche

Being that has soul is living being. Soul is the living thing in man, that which lives of itself and causes life…. With her cunning  play of illusions the soul lures into life the inertness of matter that does not want to live. She makes us believe incredible things, that life may be lived. She is full of snares, and traps, in order that man should fall, should reach the earth, entangle himself there, and stay caught….  CW 9, i, 56


The contentless asexual description of the anima archetype as “life,” analogous with Maya, Shakti, Sophia, and the p’o soul, points to a specific kind of life, life which projects out of itself consciousness. In other words, the life which Jung attributes to the anima archetype is psychic life: “The anima…. is a ‘factor’ in the proper sense of the word. Man cannot make it; on the contrary, it is always the a priori element in his moods, reactions, impulses, and whatever else is spontaneous in psychic life. It is something that lives of itself, that makes us live; it is a life behind consciousness that cannot be completely integrated with it, but from which, on the contrary, consciousness arises. James Hillman

Perhaps anima, understood here as that quality of soul which eludes our awareness, while at the same time lures us into life itself, could be seen as a quality feminine in nature, especially compared to the more willful masculine aspects of our conscious awareness. Hillman, in his book Anima, An Anatomy of a Personified Notion, slowly brings the discussion around to Jung’s own deeper understanding of the nature of anima as archetype, and especially, as the archetype of life itself.

Anima here is not a projection but is the projector. And our consciousness is the result of her prior psychic life. Anima thus becomes the primordial carrier of psyche, or the archetype of psyche itself.

She projects herself into consciousness through expression; expression is her art, whether in the extraordinary artfulness of symptom formation and clinical ‘picture’ or the artifices of anima bewitchments. And the wisdom that Sophia imparts is seeing sophically into these expressions, seeing the art in the symptoms. James Hillman

Hillman quotes Jung’s own distinction between the ideas of anima, soul, psyche – three words frequently used interchangeably, reflecting a lack of consensus regarding their meanings.

Anima means soul and should designate something very wonderful and immortal. Yet this was not always so. We should not forget that this kind of soul is a dogmatic conception whose purpose it is to pin down and capture something uncannily alive and active. CW 9, i, 55

Jung’s distinction of soul as an archetypal power contrasts notions dogmatically held by religious and philosophical concepts. Jung’s emphasis on the soul as ‘alive and active’ is worth pondering further, as this important distinction may indeed point us to an underlying current in modern consciousness often referred to as ‘patriarchal society.’ Perhaps the soul, as the primary psychic reality that supports all thought, fantasy, imagination and expression, through literal fixations, remains driven by an incessant need to pin down and capture the living, breathing flow that is the very definition of life itself. The fall into anima, or life, through a practice or work, alchemical in nature, or Hillman’s ‘soul-making,’ is necessary for expanding our awareness at the deepest level of consciousness.

Image-François_Pascal_Simon_Gérard_006Amid the confusion (is this inherent in the anima archetype herself?) between our ideas of anima, soul and psyche, Hillman has tried elsewhere (See The Myth of Analysis) to show an archetypal background to soul’s movement in Apuleius’ tale of Psyche (From Wiki):

Transformed into a donkey by magic gone wrong, Lucius undergoes various trials and adventures, and finally regains human form by eating roses sacred to Isis. Psyche’s story has some similarities, including the theme of dangerous curiosity, punishments and tests, and redemption through divine favor.[6]

About this he says:

My point there was to show phenomenologically that what starts out as mere anima moods and fantasies becomes psychological ambiguity, that is, receptivity, containment and imagination, so that the way to psychological understanding is through anima. My point here is to show conceptually that the process of anima becoming psyche can be deduced from Jung’s notion of anima itself. James Hillman

He defends this idea by showing that, although Jung associated feminine figures with the anima, the mother, or maternal element is consistently lacking from any association to anima and for good reason.

The anima makes possible a ‘purely human relationship independent of the maternal element of procreation.’ (CW 10, 76)…. The movement from mother to anima represents this shift in perspective from naturalistic to psychological understanding. In alchemy the relationship corresponding with the psychological perspective was exemplified in the adept’s relationship with the anima-soror. James Hillman

Moving us ever further away from the literal association of anima to female (as compared to feminine), Jung also associated anima with Mercurius. This association broadens the anima archetype even further and is the bridge itself from anima to anima mundi.

Very much more material is the definition of Mercurius as a ‘life-giving power like a glue, holding the world together and standing in the middle between body and spirit.’ This concept corresponds to … Mercurius as the anima media natura. From here is but a step to the identification of Mercurius with the anima mundi… CW 13, 262-63

This movement between anima and anima mundi is quintessential for bringing soul into relationship with the universals, and fosters an understanding of ourselves as living both within and through archetypal reality, meaning, we can no longer see soul, or any notion of ourselves and others with clear boundaries, or as either inside or outside of us – but that we are within soul and partake of archetypal reality – something much bigger, broader, ultimately unfathomable, forever flowing through us as the source of life herself.

This sort of extended notion of soul appears in alchemy, e.g., the soul described by Richard White which, Jung points out, differs extremely from the idea of psyche in ‘biological and personalistic psychology.’ This soul is at once the personified anima figured in a female form and the reflective psychological principle. As Jung notes, she joins in one the distinction between the wider notion of soul (anima mundi) and the narrower one (anima vagula). This distinction between soul and the soul or my soul did not bother the alchemists, and it was a distinction upon which Neo-platonism refused to insist, for Plotinus was able to discuss psychology on both levels at once: what takes place in psyche of course takes place in man’s soul. Jung sometimes concurs, saying for instance  “it often seems advisable to speak less of my anima or my animus and more of the anima and the animus. As archetypes, these figures are semi-collective and impersonal quantities…(CW 16, 469) James Hillman

I want to suggest that the ideas presented lastly here, of misplaced ownership, as they present themselves not only in our actions, but within our thoughts, shaping our conscious awareness itself, have yet to be given full recognition, especially as they relate to the troubles in our modern world. It’s no surprise then that even with the gifts of Jung and Hillman’s writings which brought these ideas into the cultural conversation, psychology, as well as much of the human community at large, still suffers from an ontologically mistaken identity and sense of ownership.

Except where noted, all quotes from James Hillman, Anima, An Anatomy of a Personified Notion, Spring Publications.

11 thoughts on “Anima, Soul, Psyche

  1. theburningheart

    The Soul or Anima its seen on different light by different Cultures, and Religions, like the Buddhists consider it like an aggregated.
    samâIn Buddhism, the term anattā (Pali) or anātman (Sanskrit) refers to the doctrine of “non-self”, that there is no unchanging, permanent self, soul or essence in living beings.It is one of the seven beneficial perceptions in Buddhism,and along with dukkha (suffering) and anicca (impermanence), it is one of three Right Understandings about the three marks of existence.

    The Buddhist concept of anatta or anatman is one of the fundamental differences between Buddhism and Hinduism, with the latter asserting that atman (self, soul) exists

    In Buddhism-related English literature, Anattā is rendered as “not-Self”, but this translation expresses an incomplete meaning, states Peter Harvey; a more complete rendering is “non-Self” because from its earliest days, Anattā doctrine denies that there is anything called a ‘Self’ in any person or anything else, and that a belief in ‘Self’ is a source of Dukkha (suffering, pain, unsatisfactoriness) It is also incorrect to translate Anattā simply as “ego-less”, according to Peter Harvey, because the Indian concept of ātman and attā is different from the Freudian concept of ego.

    Anatta or Anatta-vada is also referred to as the “no-soul or no-self doctrine” of Buddhism.

    Meanwhile in Islam the Sufis.
    The Quran affords much importance to the nafs of an individual, highlighting the agency of free will and intelligence, without which neither responsibility nor accountability can exist. The Quran does not attribute to the nafs any inherent properties of good or evil, but instead conveys the idea that it is something which has to be nurtured and self-regulated, so that it can progress into becoming ‘good’ through its thoughts and actions. The Quranic conception of the nafs therefore has an extremely modernistic undertone.

    There are three principal stages of nafs in Sufistic Wisdom, also mentioned in different verses of the Quran. The Sufis call them “stages” in the process of development, refinement and mastery of the nafs.

    The inciting nafs (an-nafs al-ʾammārah)
    In its primitive stage the nafs incites us to commit evil: this is the nafs as the lower self, the base instincts. In the eponymous Sura of the Quran, Yusuf says “Yet I claim not that my nafs was innocent: Verily the nafs incites to evil.”[Quran 12:53] Islam emphasizes the importance of fighting the inciting nafs in Quran as well as in hadith.

    The self-accusing nafs (an-nafs al-luwwāmah)
    In Sura al-Qiyama the Quran mentions “the self-accusing nafs”.[Quran 75:2] This is the stage where “the conscience is awakened and the self accuses one for listening to one’s ego. One repents and asks for forgiveness.”Here the nafs is inspired by your heart, sees the results of your actions, agrees with your brain, sees your weaknesses, and aspires to perfection.

    The nafs at peace (an-nafs al-muṭmaʾinnah)
    In Sura al-Fajr the Quran mentions “the nafs at peace”.[Quran 89:27] This is the ideal stage of ego for Muslims. On this level one is firm in one’s faith and leaves bad manners behind. The soul becomes tranquil, at peace.At this stage, followers of Sufism have relieved themselves of all materialism and worldly problems and are satisfied with the will of God.

    However they add four additional stages.

    The inciting nafs (an-nafs al-ʾammārah)
    The self-accusing nafs (an-nafs al-luwwāmah)
    The inspired nafs (an-nafs al-mulhamah)
    The nafs at peace (an-nafs al-muṭmaʾinnah)
    The pleased nafs (an-nafs ar-raḍīyyah)
    The pleasing nafs (an-nafs al-marḍīyyah)
    The pure nafs (an-nafs aṣ-ṣāfīyyah)
    Dervishes from the Jerrahi school of Sufism are encouraged to study a text describing these stages of nafs as a nested series of cities.

    Characteristics of nafs
    In its primitive state the nafs has seven characteristics that must be overcome:

    Pride (Takabbur)
    Greed (Hirs)
    Jealousy (Hasad)
    Lust (Shahwah)
    Backbiting (Gheebah)
    Stinginess (Bokhl)
    Malice (Keena)

    In Hinduism specifically in Yoga
    Shakti (Devanagari: Śakti; lit. “power, ability, strength, effort, energy, capability is the primordial cosmic energy and represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe in Hinduism, and especially the major tradition of Hinduism, Shaktism.

    Shakti is the concept or personification of divine feminine creative power, sometimes referred to as “The Great Divine Mother” in Hinduism. As a mother, she is known as “Adi Shakti” or “Adi Parashakti”. On the earthly plane, Shakti most actively manifests herself through female embodiment and creativity/fertility, though it is also present in males in its potential, unmanifest form. Hindus believe that Shakti is both responsible for creation and the agent of all change. Shakti is cosmic existence as well as liberation, its most significant form being the Kundalini Shakti, a mysterious psychospiritual force.

    When you surrender to Shakti, its energy will guide you upwards waking up all the chakras, specially the heart chakra, and it will join on th Shahasrara with his counterpart the masculine Shiva.
    To become one,
    Represented on Hindu Iconography
    as the sexual Union between Shiva and Shakti.
    Its said that Shiva its Shakti in her Feminine form on the manifested or Earthly Realm.

    Some may say each its different, my personal opinion, its just different ways to reach the same goal. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the cross-cultural comparison to these notions of soul. It makes sense to me that there is a bit of common ground between cultures. Oftentimes it seems that language can get in the way, or become a stumbling block and I appreciate that you make not of that in your last thought.

      Somewhere before the purer forms of thought reach language as a way to express thought, lies something that we might agree is the common ground of being. But, we’re humans, and as the bird sings, we use language to express the unexpressible. This used to bug me, or at least suggest that we need not bother, but rather might let it be. And although that letting it be has its place and time, so does the attempt to articulate reality, or sing our song.

      Perhaps the recognition of an underlying, prelingual basis to reality can allow us the freedom to keep on trying to express the ineffable, without fooling ourselves into believing that language can ever fully express reality. But it still remains a way to tease out the nuances of experience and also serves as one vehicle among many to bridge the gaps between the seeming separateness that seems evident when language fails to conjoin.

      James Hillman suggests that soul is not a thing, but a perspective that serves as a mediator in which we move back and forth, up and down, inside and out, never sticking to any static notion, but developing an abiding fluidity that animates our thoughts, ideas, language, and so, our experience. Perhaps the idea of fluidity itself is invaluable in understanding the human experience, yes? …and it is language that tempts us to mistake what is alive and moving, animated, as static, still, dead and objective.

      So yes, the same goal, the same tree, many roots, many branches!

      More on this topic here:

      Liked by 1 person

      1. theburningheart

        On my comment to the post you sent me a link for it, already expressed some of my views on the matter.

        Actually what I sent above its part of one of my oncoming posts, that will publish soon.

        Again I thank you Debra for the problem of writing me, with your insightful views, I enjoy them, and we appreciate them. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. David

    Hillman also mentions that “In Roman Latin, anima connotes a breath soul, a generative force in the head associated with one’s individual genius (or personal daimon in Greek sense). ” I take this to mean it does not have a gender per se…


    1. I would not see anima as having a gender in any literal way. Even though linguistically “anima” takes on a feminine quality and in greek mythology, psyche is personified in female form, as a quality of living beings, anima transcends any notion of gender as it is currently used in modern times. At root, gender refers more to origins of a type than to strictly male or female, and belongs more to one’s overall sense of roots, lineage, heritage.
      Thank you for the note David.


  3. hmm… this leave me contemplating what it must mean to women who have been denied even having anima, for being female we have only animus. Does that mean we have been denied a certain connection with soul, thereby placing us lesser to men not only in stature but also in being? I need to think about the implications of this more…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Amy,

      Your question is part of what spurred me on to reread Hillman’s analysis of Jung’s take on anima. I think in Jung’s time, the recognition that men had dominated the public world for a very long time in the West, was finally being challenged. My sense of Jung is that he had a theory that worked for himself, based on his experience as a man, and he tried to invert it for women, and at the time many found it convincing, perhaps because of the cultural paradigm. But I suspect that Jung saw the trap in his theory and he hinted at it in his writings that Hillman brings to the fore in his book on anima.

      Would love to hear your thoughts on this…

      Liked by 1 person

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