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The Soul of the World

In his book "On obtaining Life from the Heavens", Marcilio Ficino of Florence teaches the Hermetic understanding of the World Soul, and the nature of soul in general. He makes reference both to the soul as a plastic entity that conjoins the Intelligence and the Body and to the Soul as a spiritual force that joins all things together, including the Heavens and the Earth. This understanding is particularly enlightening for the modern Magician and student of the Western Mystery Traditions in that it becomes clear that a proper understanding of the Alchemical Texts--known to be incredibly difficult to understand, but full of our culture's Hidden Wisdom--requires understanding of the Traditional world view. I personally struggled for years to penetrate the alchemical emblems and texts, and the hard-won success I attained (what there has been of it) was enabled by changes in my own world view that brought it closer to the world view of our Western forebears.  In the aforementioned text, Mr.Ficino states:

"If there were only these two things in the universe -on one side the Intellect, on the other the Body- but no Soul, then neither would the Intellect be attracted to the Body (for Intellect is absolutely motionless, without affect, which is the principle of motion, and very far away from the Body), nor would the Body be drawn to the Intellect (for Body is in itself powerless, unsuited for motion, and far removed from the Intellect). 
But if a Soul which conforms to both were placed between them, an attraction will easily occur to each one on either side. In the first place, Soul is led most easily of all, since she is the Primum Mobile and movable of herself, of her own accord. Moreover, since, as I have said, she is the mean of things, in her own fashion she contains all things and is proportionally [Intellect: Soul: : Soul: Body] near to both.
Therefore she is equally connected with everything, even with those things which are at a distance from one other, because they are not at a distance from her . For besides the fact that on the one side she conforms to the divine and on the other side to the transient, and even turns to each by desire, at the same time she is wholly and simultaneously everywhere." 
"On obtaining Life from the Heavens", Marcilio Ficino of Florence, Chapter I

Mr.Marcilio is at once describing the Soul of the World, and it's mirror in the Microcosm, the Soul of Man; an understanding of the Soul as described by the good Mr.Marcilio makes the leap to understanding that the Alchemical Mercury is the Soul (as traditionally described) much simpler.Examine the following segment from Philalethes' Three Treatises, "Metamorphisis of the Metals", and replace the word "Mercury" with "Soul":

"It is a fact that the Mercury which is generated in the bowels of the earth, is the common substance of all metals -- since this Mercury will enter into combination with every kind of metal -- which could not be the case if it were not naturally akin to them all. Mercury is a water that will mix with nothing that is not of the same nature. By Art, the handmaid of Nature, Mercury can be so successively concocted with all metals, that one and the same under the same colour and flux, may subalternately shew and express the true temperature and properties of them all. Moreover, all metals are capable of being resolved into running Mercury -- and surely this could not be if it were not their common substance. Again, the Mercury of lead may become that of iron, the Mercury of iron that of copper; while the Mercury of tin may even be transmuted into that of silver and gold -- a fact which triumphantly demonstrates the substantial affinity of all the metals. From antimony, too, a good Mercury is obtained, which some of our Artists are able to change into metallic mercury. It is also a well-established fact that the Mercury gained from any metallic or mineral body possesses the properties of assimilating common Mercury to its own nature; thus common Mercury may become that of all metals in turn. Do not these arguments clearly shew that there is one Mercury, and that in the various metals it is only differentiated according to their different degrees of digestion or purity?"Philalethes, "Metamorphosis of Metals".

 Much of the struggling non-initiates experience when studying the ancient alchemical texts and emblems is the result of differing language. Without having the Traditional world view as the basis of understanding, even texts written in English become obfuscated. It isn't enough to have Qabalistic understanding, or even to be adept at symbol-analysis in the way Adam Mclean is; understanding Alchemy requires understanding the World in the same way that the ancient writers did. Hermetic magic of any sort should be rooted in this understanding, and Astrological Magic as a Hermetic discipline requires this same Traditional (pre-"enlightenment" era) world-view. 

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