“The earth is the LORD’S, and the fullness thereof: the world and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.” (Psalm 24)
Our conscious presence in a cosmic context has been more vividly and visually brought to our awareness, as well as recalled to remembrance, by pictures of the vast cosmos made with the Hubble Telescope and shared with the world by our tenaciously adventurous astronomers who keep peering deeper and deeper into the “dark space” around us.
What they have brought to us is virtually overwhelming, certainly unfathomable. The greater wonder of it all, however, is our ability to take it all into our consciousness through our very tiny eyes and our very tiny brains. This speaks to the largeness of our Being and our shared Consciousness. We are truly Gods in the midst of Creation enjoying what We have co-created with the Great Spirit Creator, the Lord God and heavenly King, whose Earth it is, “and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein.”
ARCHETYPES, GODS AND PLANETS
With that inspirational preface, I will continue from where I left off in my previous post with a consideration of the nature of archetypes and their planetary associations as explored by cultural historian and philosopher Richard Tarnas in his epic work COSMOS AND PSYCHE.
[A graduate of Harvard University and Saybrook Institute, Tarnas is also author of The Passion Of The Western Mind, currently holding professorship of philosophy and cultural history at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, where he founded the graduate program in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness, and at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara.]
As we were considering, archetypes in Greek mythology were gods and goddesses who were enshrined by heavenly bodies, such as planets and constellations. As the Greek mind evolved out of “myth to reason,” archetypes lost their divinity with Plato’s philosophical mentality: (Emphasis mine)
Plato gave to the archetypal perspective its classic metaphysical formulation. In the Platonic view, archetypes–the Ideas or Forms–are absolute essences that transcend the empirical world yet give the world its form and meaning. They are timeless universals that serve as the fundamental reality informing every concrete particular. Something is beautiful precisely to the extent that the archetype of Beauty is present in it. Or, described from a different viewpoint, something is beautiful precisely to the extent that it participates in the archetype of Beauty. For Plato, direct knowledge of these Forms or Ideas is regarded as the spiritual goal of the philosopher and the intellectual passion of the scientist.
In turn, Plato’s student and successor Aristotle brought to the concept of universal forms a more empiricist approach, one supported by a rationalism whose spirit of logical analysis was secular rather than spiritual and epiphanic. In the Aristotelian perspective, the forms lost their numinosity but gained a new recognition of their dynamic and teleological character as concretely embodied in the empirical world and processes of life. For Aristotle, the universal forms primarily exist in things, not above or beyond them. Moreover, they not only give form and essential qualities to concrete particulars but also dynamically transmute them from within, from potentiality to actuality and maturity, as the acorn gradually metamorphoses into the oak tree, the embryo into the mature organism, a young girl into a woman. The organism is drawn forward by the form to a realization of its inherent potential, just as a work of art is actualized by the artist guided by the form in the artist’s mind. Matter is an intrinsic susceptibility to form, an unqualified openness to being configured and dynamically realized through form….
The Aristotelian form thus serves both as an indwelling impulse that orders and moves development and as the intelligible structure of a thing, its inner nature, that which makes it what it is, its essence. For Aristotle as for Plato, form is the principle by which something can be known, its essence recognized, its universal character distinguished within its particular embodiment.
The idea of archetypal or universal forms then underwent a number of important developments in the later classical, medieval and Renaissance periods.” It became the focus of one of the central and most sustained debates of Scholastic philosophy, “the problem of universals,” a controversy that both reflected and mediated the evolution of Western thought as the focus of intelligible reality gradually shifted from the transcendent to the immanent, from the universal to the particular, and ultimately from the divinely given archetypal Form (eidos) to the humanly constructed general name (nomina) after a final efflorescence in the philosophy and art of the High Renaissance. The concept of archetypes gradually retreated and then virtually disappeared with the modern rise of nominalist philosophy and empiricist science. The archetypal perspective remained vital principally in the arts, in classical and mythological studies, and in Romanticism, as a kind of archaic afterglow. Confined to the subjective realm of interior meaning by the dominant Enlightenment world view, it continued in this form latent in the modern sensibility. The radiant ascent and dominance of modern reason coincided precisely with the eclipse of the archetypal vision.
The concept of archetypes evolved further over the decades, which Tarnas details further. I will conclude with his summary of its evolutionary journey:
It was not until the turn of the twentieth century that the concept of archetypes, foreshadowed by Nietzsche’s vision of the Dionysian and Apollonian principles shaping human culture, underwent an unexpected renascence. The immediate matrix of its rebirth was the empirical discoveries of depth psychology, first with Freud’s formulations of the Oedipus complex, Eros and Thanatos, ego, id, and superego (a “powerful mythology,” as Wittgenstein called psychoanalysis), then in an expanded, fully articulated form with the work of Jung and archetypal psychology. Jung, as we have seen, drawing on Kant’s critical epistemology and Freud’s instinct theory yet going beyond both, described archetypes as autonomous primordial forms in the psyche that structure and impel all human experience and behavior. In his last formulations influenced by his research on synchronicities, Jung came to regard archetypes as expressions not only of a collective unconscious shared by all human beings but also of a larger matrix of being and meaning that informs and encompasses both the physical world and the human psyche….
Finally, further developments of the archetypal perspective emerged in the postmodern period, not only in post-Jungian psychology but in other fields such as anthropology; mythology, religious studies, philosophy of science, linguistic analysis, phenomenology, process philosophy, and feminist scholarship. Advances in understanding the role of paradigms, symbols, and metaphors in shaping human experience and cognition brought new dimensions to the archetypal understanding. In the crucible of postmodern thought, the concept of archetypes was elaborated and critiqued, refined through the deconstruction of rigidly essentialist “false universals” and cultural stereotypes, and enriched through an increased awareness of archetypes’ fluid, evolving, multivalent, and participatory nature. Reflecting many of the above influences, James Hillman sums up the archetypal perspective in depth psychology:
Let us then imagine archetypes as the deepest patterns of psychic functioning, the roots of the soul governing the perspectives we have of ourselves and the world. They are the axiomatic, self-evident images to which psychic life and our theories about it ever return …. There are many other metaphors for describing them: immaterial potentials of structure, like invisible crystals in solution or forms in plants that suddenly show forth under certain conditions; patterns of instinctual behavior like those in animals that direct actions along unswerving paths; the genres and topoi in literature; the recurring typicalities in history; the basic syndromes in psychiatry; the paradigmatic thought models in science; the worldwide figures, rituals, and relationships in anthropology.
But one thing is absolutely essential to the notion of archetypes: their emotional possessive effect, their bedazzlement of consciousness so that it becomes blind to its own stance. By setting up a universe which tends to hold everything we do, see, and say in the sway of its cosmos, an archetype is best comparable with a God. And Gods, religions sometimes say, are less accessible to the senses and to the intellect than they are to the imaginative vision and emotion of the soul. They are cosmic perspectives in which the soul participates. They are the lords of its realms of being, the patterns for its mimesis. The soul cannot be, except in one of their patterns. All psychic reality is governed by one or another archetypal fantasy, given sanction by a God. I cannot but be in them.
There is no place without Gods and no activity that does not enact them. Every fantasy, every experience has its archetypal reason. There is nothing that does not belong to one God or another.
Archetypes thus can be understood and described in many ways, and much of the history of Western thought has evolved and revolved around this very issue. For our present purposes, we can define an archetype as a universal principle or force that affects–impels, structures, permeates–the human psyche and the world of human experience on many levels. One can think of them in mythic terms as gods and goddesses (or what Blake called “the Immortals”), in Platonic terms as transcendent first principles and numinous Ideas, or in Aristotelian terms as immanent universals and dynamic indwelling forms. One can approach them in a Kantian mode as a priori categories of perception and cognition, in Schopenhauerian terms as the universal essences of life embodied in great works of art, or in the Nietzschean manner as primordial principles symbolizing basic cultural tendencies and modes of being. In the twentieth-century context, one can conceive of them in Husserlian terms as essential structures of human experience, in Wittgensteinian terms as linguistic family resemblances linking disparate but overlapping particulars, in Whiteheadian terms as eternal objects and pure potentialities whose ingression informs the unfolding process of reality, or in Kuhnian terms as underlying paradigmatic structures that shape scientific understanding and research. Finally, with depth psychology, one can approach them in the Freudian mode as primordial instincts impelling and structuring biological and psychological processes, or in the Jungian manner as fundamental formal principles of the human psyche, universal expressions of a collective unconscious and, ultimately, of the unus mundus.
The Evolution of Human Consciousness
I bring this consideration of archetypes and the evolution of their meaning to the human experience of life on planet Earth forward for the overview it provides of the evolution of human consciousness and how we human beings viewed the larger cosmic context in which we live and have our being. For one thing, how we have desperately sought out God and our origins in the external world, hoping to find both “lo here or lo there.”
Finally, after all these decades, our consciousness has evolved sufficiently to bring to our awareness the awakening realization that the “image and likeness of God” is within us and is who and what we are. The Archetype of all archetypes is the Light from which all things are made. I love this passage from The Gospel of Thomas:
Jesus said: “The images are revealed to people. The light within them is hidden in the image of the Father’s light. He will be revealed. His image is hidden in the light. . . . You are pleased when you see your own likeness. When you see your images that came into being before you did, immortal, invisible images, how much can you bear?”
The Archetype of Man is God, is Spirit, and is hidden in the Light of Love. Our Sun is the origin of the light that encompasses Earth and all the planets. In that light is the essence, the Truth, that makes all things created what they are, what their purpose is in the larger Design, and how they function as integral and essential parts in the One Whole. As the current planetary alignment draws to a close in six day on February 20th, let us let Love be the Archetypal Spirit that moves us forward as we co-create the New Earth.
I will conclude this series with my next post. Until then,
Be Love. Be loved.
Happy Valentine’s Day !