Life is Short. Archetypes are Forever.
If, as an astrologer, I can not communicate with my client without employing archetypes, then I have removed us both from the experience of engaging in an inquiry that is compelling and alive.
“Change and growth take place when a person has risked himself and dares to become involved with experimenting with his own life.” —Herbert Otto
“We are stardust, we are golden.” —Joni Mitchell
YOUR WIFE JUST GAVE BIRTH to a baby boy. You are ordained as a father now. And all of the life experience that accompanies fatherhood awaits you.
You are a woman who just turned 72, and with this chronological phase, a new array of feelings and sensations arise. Your wisdom continues to develop, but you pause now to consider your options: To share your knowledge with others or live a quieter, less active life.
Viewed from the archetypal realm, the new dad will soon be channeling the archetype of The Father. And the older woman is now ready to embody the archetype of The Crone or The Wise Old Woman.
But what does any of this mean?
As I’m typing this right now, I don’t feel the archetype of The Writer possessing my fingers on the keyboard. It’s just me, enjoying the process of sleuthing syntax and feeling a dull ache in the low of my back.
Can the two individuals mentioned above have their own unique life experiences without the depersonalizing intervention of an archetype?
Yes, they can. And they do. And archetypes need not be involved.
Archetypes are not literal structures that, once evoked, descend and encapsulate us within Platonic bell jars. But this is the conjecture that spurs everything that’s been written about, expounded upon, and woven into the world of modern astrology.
What the hell are they?
Within the psychological schools, archetypes started out humbly. Freud extrapolated volumes of writing on human instincts. And then his student, Jung, took those baseline universals (the instincts) and wove them into the Platonic realm of prototypes or archetypes.
Suddenly something as simplistic as the survival or sexual instinct morphed into a plethora of representations. These protean templates, over time, became the de facto way of explaining the origin of this or that behavior within depth psychology.
But then Jung wrote:
“…the archetype represents the authentic element of spirit but a spirit which is not to be identified with the human intellect…”
Not to be identified with the human…O.K.
Some years back, I attended an astrology convention and during the few days I was there I asked various attendees to define the word archetype. The answers were vague and occasionally Syliva Browne-like kookie.
“Condensed energy patterns,” or “universal energetic symbols,” or “channels of psychic energy.” Always lots of energy was ping-ponging amidst the explanation and often the description was steeped in other forms of psychological jargon.
No one was able to definitively explain archetypes (in other words Liz Greene wasn’t in attendance). Although mention was made of different schools that employ archetypes and several people asked me if I’d read Richard Tarnas’ book which—if I recall correctly—used the word archetype about 6 million times throughout its text until finally the word itself had crystallized into—you guessed it—an archetype.
Why are we hypnotized by archetypes?
My theory goes like this: In an attempt to explain the human predicament—the big questions about ‘who we are,’ ‘what we are about,’ and ‘where we are heading’—we’ve split ourselves in two and crawled up into our heads: The conceptual realm of the archetypes.
Human bodies (and lives) have a short run. Archetypes are forever.
What do those archetypal dimensions have to do with the you that is sitting there, right now, reading this sentence? The you that is a unique phenomenon. The only you that will ever exist within this particular moment of time and space.
If you abandon the archetypal scaffolding (and as student astrologers, many of us have been cornered into this conceptual framework for decades), you’re left to fend for yourself. And that’s a good thing.
That means that the freshness of your being-ness becomes the ‘lens’ through which you view your life and the ground that supports you.
What if your style of being a father is completely revolutionary?
What if you bring to the father-child relationship a way of self-expression that has never been documented? You’re a one-of-a-kind mold-breaker!
Today I saw a headline that read: “Mother and son are now father and daughter.” Both family members had transitioned during the long downtime that was COVID lockdown. And archetypes everywhere imploded.
Why must we be severed from our ‘is-ness’ and have our experience circulated through a concept? This makes no sense.
If, as an astrologer, I can not communicate with my client without employing archetypes, then I have removed us both from the experience of engaging in an inquiry that is present-based and alive.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: The planet Mars actually exists. Its contribution to the cosmic weather does not filter through an archetype before registering within my client’s experience.
The planet is phenomenologically real, it is a life form unto itself. So when I am working with a client discussing the themes related to the planet Mars, I want to understand how she experiences this aspect of her nature that is in direct communion with Mars.
What is her relationship to the qualities that, heretofore, astrologers have assigned to the planet Mars? Not the Martian archetype, but the planet—the being or cosmic entity—that is Mars as the planet exists within the field of present-time reality.
If I have no vital relationship with Mars in my life, how can I discuss the Martian experience with my client?
Within the field of phenomenology—a philosophical study of the structures of consciousness—the term ‘first-personal givenness’ is used to describe each individual’s unique perception and experience of the world.
What is fascinating about first-personal givenness is that no other person experiences it similarly. You could be sitting in a therapeutic session, feeling profound grief over this or that, while your therapist sitting across from you is privately contemplating the latest episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Each of those experiences is germane to their ‘owner’—unique to their first-personal givenness.
If during an astrological session, the conversation with my client is based on how she manifests her life via the realm of the archetypes, what does this say about her distinct sensations, feelings, and reactions that are part and parcel of her first-personal givenness?
No one else on the planet will ever share her exact perceptions. This very uniqueness is what astrology tells us we celebrate when we honor the confluence of cosmic forces that comprise the birth chart.
“There’s no there there.”
Archetypes have infiltrated every area of modern life. There is the Child Archetype, the Trickster Archetype, The Whore Archetype, The Shaman Archetype, The Grieving Husband archetype, and The Guy Who Stole Your Bicycle archetype.
Worse, in Jungian psychology, we’re told that archetypes can ‘nest’ within each other like Russian dolls. So we might have the Harlot archetype lying in wait within the Maiden archetype.
G.I. Gurdjieff had a phrase that he employed to criticize the byproducts of philosophy and philosophers, those folks who—goddess love them—concoct the myriad of propositions that attempt to explain what is good and true—what life is ‘all about.’
Gurdjieff called all of the mental extrapolating, philosophizing, and brain buzzing a “pouring-from-the-empty-into-the-void.”
In other words, as Gertrude Stein once noted about Oakland, California: “There’s no there there.”
In their devotion to the hypnotic turning of the mind’s many gears, philosophers often forgo the reality of the body—the organism that fosters a direct perception of being. It is through sensation that insights initially arise.
Thus, with the body removed from the equation, there is simply pouring from the empty-into-the-void. It’s akin to printing out a picture of a strawberry and then chewing up the photograph in hopes that you’ll taste a strawberry.
A Capricorn, Gurdjieff understood the complex nuts and bolts of living. His central mission was to reawaken his students’ relationship to their bodies. He understood that direct perception of life’s ‘meaning’ required the wisdom of the body, which is an extension of the Earth’s body and Earth’s wisdom.
The Earth, too, older than all of us, is a living being. We are each Earthlings.
You can test all of this for yourself. It doesn’t need a lot of highfalutin intellectualizing. All you need do is sense yourself, your am-ness, your first-personal givenness, and there you are, archetype-free.
Is your mind extremely active today? You’re most likely jibing with Mercury. Are your dreams from last night following you around throughout the day? The Moon and you have been in deep communion.