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Illustration of the correspondences between all parts of the created cosmos, with its soul depicted as a woman, from Robert Fludd's Utriusque Cosmi Maioris Scilicet et Minoris Metaphysica, Physica atque Technica Historia

The anima mundi (Latin), world soul (Greek: ψυχὴ κόσμου, psychḕ kósmou), or soul of the world (ψυχὴ τοῦ κόσμου, psychḕ toû kósmou) is an intrinsic connection between all living beings according to several systems of thought, which hold that it relates to the world in much the same way as the animating force or immortal soul is connected to the human body. (Both the Greek psychḕ and Latin anima are ambiguous between the two meanings.)

Although the concept of a world soul originated in classical antiquity, similar ideas can be found in the thoughts of later European philosophers such as those of Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Leibniz, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Schelling, and Georg W.F. Hegel (particularly in his concept of Weltgeist).



Further information: Neoplatonism § The world-soul, and Timaeus (dialogue)

Plato adhered to this idea,[1] identifying the universe as a living being:

Thus, then, in accordance with the likely account, we must declare that this Cosmos has verily come into existence as a Living Creature endowed with soul and reason [...] a Living Creature, one and visible, containing within itself all the living creatures which are by nature akin to itself.

— Plato, Timaeus 30b–d, translated by W.R.M. Lamb[2]

Plato's Timaeus describes this living cosmos as being built by the demiurge[3] constructed as to be self-identical and intelligible to reason,[4] according to a rational pattern expressed in mathematical principles and Pythagorean ratios describing the structure of the cosmos, and particularly the motions of the seven classical planets.[5] The living universe is also a god titled Ouranos and Kosmos,[6] which shows, as scholars have argued, that Plato mediates between the poetic and presocratic traditions.[7]

Following Plato, the world soul became an important component in Neoplatonic cosmology, often including its close relationship to the demiurge and the seven planets.


Further information: Stoic physics § Soul, and Pneuma (Stoic)

The Stoics believed it to be the only vital force in the universe.


Further information: Sophia (Gnosticism) § As world-soul

The world soul was borrowed from Platonist philosophy into several Gnostic sects.


In Manichaeism, the world soul was also called the Light Soul and the Living Soul (Middle Persian: grīw zīndag), contrasting it with matter, which was associated with lifelessness and death and within which the world soul was imprisoned.[8] The world soul was personified as the Suffering Jesus (Jesus patibilis) who, like the historical Jesus, was depicted as being crucified in the world.[9][10] This mystica cruxificio was present in all parts of the world, including the skies, soil, and trees, as expressed in the Coptic Manichaean psalms.[11]


Further information: Mana (Mandaeism)

In Mandaeism, the world soul has various parallels with mana.[citation needed][original research?]


During the 12th-Century Renaissance of the High Middle Ages, the analysis of Plato's Timaeus by members of the School of Chartres like William of Conches and Bernardus Silvestris led them to interpret the world soul as possibly or certainly the same as the Christian Holy Spirit under the covering (integumentum) of another name.[12] As or immediately after Peter Abelard was condemned by Bernard of Clairvaux and the 1141 Council of Sens for doctrines similarly close to pantheism, William condemned his own writings on the subject and revised his De Philosophia Mundi to avoid its discussion.


The concept of the world soul is present in the works of hermetic philosophers like Paracelsus and Robert Fludd.


See also: Adam Kadmon

In Jewish mysticism, a parallel concept is that of Chokmah Ila'ah, which is the all-encompassing Supernal Wisdom that transcends, orders, and vitalises all of creation. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov states that this sublime wisdom may be apprehended by a perfect tzaddik (righteous man).[13] Thus, the tzaddik attains cosmic consciousness and thus is empowered to mitigate all division and conflict within creation.

Parallels in eastern philosophy

Similar concepts in eastern philosophy include the brahman, purusha, and paramatman of Hinduism, and qi in the Chinese School of Naturalists, Taoism, and Neo-Confucianism.

See also



  1. ^ Plato (1925), Timaeus 30b–d, 33b.
  2. ^ Plato (1925), Timaeus 30b–d.
  3. ^ Plato (1925), Timaeus 30a.
  4. ^ Plato (1925), Timaeus 29a.
  5. ^ Plato (1925), Timaeus 34c–36e.
  6. ^ Plato (1925), Timaeus 28b2–7.
  7. ^ Bartninkas, Vilius (2023). Traditional and Cosmic Gods in Later Plato and the Early Academy. Cambridge University Press. pp. 37–43. doi:10.1017/9781009322638. ISBN 9781009322638.
  8. ^ Sundermann (2011).
  9. ^ Sundermann (2009).
  10. ^ Lieu (1992), p. 20.
  11. ^ Lieu (1992), p. 127.
  12. ^ Adamson (2019), pp. 96–97.
  13. ^ Ben Simcha (1808), Likutei Moharan I, 61.


Further reading