Hierophany and Panpsychism

Hierophany is a term for manifestation of the divine. It is a broader term than the more familiar term, theophany, because it allows non-personal forms of the divine to become manifest. The term was popularized by the noted scholar of comparative religion, Mircea Eliade (1907–1986). https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-0-387-71802-6_300

In Eliade’s (1978) hierophany the objects in the natural world exist also as manifestations of the sacred/divine world while always remaining profane. Equally, what is sacred remains divine even when limited by its manifestation in the perceivable realm. He says of Nature, “It is not only ‘alive’, it is also ‘divine’,” going on to add that the divinity is perhaps an aspect or feature (p. 171). This creates a paradox through which human consciousness may endeavor to create union, in the self as well as between the self and nature. Von Franz (2014) gives an example when she discusses the “Egyptian techno-magic” of preparing the dead (p.165). When the priests are handling the god-making materials, the materials hold the sacred which is in turn being held by them. Carl Jung (1970-1955) said of this dialectic, “the alchemistical philosophers made the opposites and their union one of the chief objects of their work” (p. 15) and patterned his theories about individuation around the same move. For Jung the work remains in the inner world primarily. Although, he encourages engagement in the natural and creative realms as catalysts for the inner alchemical transformations.

     Hierophany is a kind of precursor to panpsychism/panprotopsychism. In the former, the understanding is that “fundamental entities” are conscious and in the latter that entities have “precursors to consciousness” (Chalmers, 2013, p. 1-2). These protoconscious entities can collectively be conscious as a mass/group. Chalmers (2013) promotes panpsychism as the synthesis of materialism, all consciousness is a result of the physical, and dualism, some things are physical and others are mental and conscious. It is reminiscent of hierophanic thought, things are profane (physical) and things are divine (mental) and each limit the other while existing simultaneously. Panpsychism doesn’t go as far as hierophany but has an alchemical undercurrent I didn’t notice before this week’s readings.

Chalmers, D. (2013). Panpsychism and panprotopsychism. Paper presented at the Amherst Lecture in Philosophy, Amherst, MA. 1-32. Retrieved from http://consc.net/papers/panpsychism.pdf

Eliade, M. (1978). The forge and the crucible. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Jung, C. G. (1970). The collected works of C. G. Jung: Vol. 14. Mysterium coniunctionis (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.) (H. Read et al., Eds.). Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1955-56) https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400850853

von Franz, M. L. (2014). Psyche and matter. Boston: Shambala Publications, Inc.

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