Friday, February 19, 2010

Planets and Archetypes 5

For conceptual clarity, then, when we consider the meaning and character of each planetary archetype in the following chapters, it will be useful to understand these principles in three different senses: in the Homeric sense as a primordial deity and mythic figure, in the Platonic sense as a cosmic and metaphysical principle, and in the Jungian sense as a psychological principle (with its Kantian and Freudian background), with all of these associated with a specific planet. For example, the archetype of Venus can be approached on the Homeric level as the Greek mythic figure of Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love, the Mesopotamian Ishtar, the Roman Venus. On the Platonic level Venus can be understood in terms of the metaphysical principle of Eros and the Beautiful. And on the Jungian level Venus can be viewed as the psychological tendency to perceive, desire, create, or in some other way experience beauty and love, to attract and be attracted, to seek harmony and aesthetic or sensuous pleasure, to engage in artistic activity and in romantic and social relations. These different levels or senses, however, are distinguished here only to suggest the inherent complexity and ambiguity of archetypes, which must be formulated not as literal concretely definable entities, but rather as dynamic potentialities and essences of meaning that cannot be localized or restricted to a specific dimension.

Finally, alongside this essential multidimensionality of archetypes is their equally essential multivalence . The Saturn archetype can express itself as judgment but also as old age, as tradition but also as oppression, as time but also as mortality, as depression but also as discipline, as gravity in the sense of heaviness and weight but also as gravity in the sense of seriousness and dignity. Thus Jung:

The ground principles, the archai, of the unconscious are indescribable because of their wealth of reference, although in themselves recognizable. The discriminating intellect naturally keeps on trying to establish their singleness of meaning and thus misses the essential point; for what we can above all establish as the one thing consistent with their nature is their manifold meaning, their almost limitless wealth of reference, which makes any unilateral formulation impossible.

This discussion is directly relevant to the results of our earlier consideration of free will and determinism in astrology. If I may summarize that complex but crucial thesis in a single statement: It seems to be specifically the multivalent potentiality that is intrinsic to the planetary archetypes ”their dynamic indeterminacy ”that opens up ontological space for the human being's full co-creative participation in the unfolding of individual life, history, and the cosmic process. It is just this combination of archetypal multivalence and an autonomous participatory self that engenders the possibility of a genuinely open universe. The resulting cosmological metastructure is still Pythagorean-Platonic in essential ways, but the relationship of the human self and the cosmic principles has undergone a metamorphosis that fully reflects and integrates the enormous modern and postmodern developments.

Our philosophical understanding of archetypes, our scientific understanding of the cosmos, and our psychological understanding of the self ”as well as our experience of all these ”have all radically shifted and evolved in the course of our history, and have done so in complexly interconnected ways at each stage in this evolution.

There are ten planetary archetypes. Seven of these were recognized in the classical astrological tradition and correspond to the seven celestial bodies of the solar system visible to the unaided eye (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn), while the other three correspond to those planets discovered by telescope in the modern era (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto).6 The astrological tradition has long held that when astronomy was originally united with astrology, the ancients named the visible planets according to each one's intrinsic archetypal character, that is, according to the ruling mythic deity of which the planet was the visible manifestation. The earliest surviving Greek text that named all the known planets is the Platonist dialogue the Epinomis , which explicitly postulated a cosmic association between the planets and specific gods.7 Written in the fourth century BC as an appendix to Plato's last work the Laws (and composed either by Plato himself or a close disciple), the Epinomis, like the Laws, affirmed the divinity of the planets, and then went on to introduce the specific Greek name for each planet according to the deity which that planet was understood to be sacred to ”Hermes, Aphrodite, Ares, Zeus, Kronos. These Greek gods were cited as corresponding to the equivalent Mesopotamian deities whose names had long been associated with the planets by the then already-ancient astrological tradition inherited from Babylonia. In turn, in later centuries these planets became known in Europe and the modern West by the names of their equivalent Roman incarnations, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.


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