In both archetypal cosmology and traditional astrology, the term planet, reflecting its etymological roots in ancient Greek, has a wider connotation than its usual astronomical definition. As Richard Tarnas explains, "The ancient Greek root for the word 'planet' meant 'wanderer' and signified not only Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn but also the Sun and Moon, i.e., all the visible celestial bodies that, unlike the fixed stars, moved through the skies in ways that differed from the simple motion and eternal regularity of the diurnal westward movement of the entire heavens. Though a distinction is often made between planets and luminaries, the astrological tradition has generally retained the original more encompassing meaning, referring to the Sun and Moon as planets" (Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche
As a matter of both tradition and convenience, in the Archai
journal the terms planet
or planetary archetype
will refer to the Sun
and the Moon
, and Saturn
as well as the three modern planets, Uranus
, and Pluto
See also Dwarf Planets
, and Pluto's Status as a Dwarf Planet
The concept of planetary archetypes is highly complex. Briefly stated, however, a planetary archetype may be thought of as a universal principle with a defined range of general thematic meanings and qualities. Each principle is associated with a specific planet. Planetary archetypes are conceived as dynamic, creative, ordering principles that appear to give an a priori
form and thematic content to human experience. For more in-depth discussions of the meaning of planetary archetypes and their archetypal formative function, see one of the following:
- Richard Tarnas, "Archetypal Principles," Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, vol. 1:1 (2009).
- ———, "The Planets," Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, vol. 1:1 (2009).
- ———, Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View (New York: Viking Press, 2006), 71-101.
See Planetary Archetypes
for detailed descriptions of the archetypal themes associated with each planet.
In archetypal astrology, the term archetypal
refers primarily to the set of qualities, themes, characteristics, impulses, and phenomena that relate to one or more of the planetary archetypes. Within this context, to describe something as archetypal or in archetypal terms is to refer to the universal underlying themes evident within concrete particulars.
When two planets move into alignment to form one of the major aspects or are in alignment in a natal chart, the planetary archetypes associated with these planets are said to form an archetypal complex, which reflects themes associated with both archetypes. Thus, if the planets Saturn and Neptune are in alignment, the resultant Saturn-Neptune complex reflects themes associated with the dynamic interaction of the Saturn principle and the Neptune principle.
Discussing planetary alignments during specific historical periods, O'Neal writes: "phenomena observed during such periods demonstrate characteristics of both archetypes in such a way that the two archetypes associated with those planets may be thought to create an archetypal complex. . . . In a sense, the two archetypes seem to activate each other with one archetype inflecting the other in characteristic ways and vice versa" (O'Neal, "Seasons of Agony and Grace," 51).
Tarnas describes an archetypal complex as "a coherent field of archetypally connected meanings, experiences, and psychological tendenciesexpressed in perceptions, emotions, images, attitudes, beliefs, fantasies, and memories, as well as in synchronistic external events and historical and cultural phenomenaall of which appear to be informed by a dominant archetypal principle or combination of such principles. An archetypal complex can be conceived of as the experiential equivalent of a force field or a magnetic field in physics, producing an integrated pattern or gestalt out of many diverse particulars. Any given archetypal complex always contains problematic and pathological shadow tendencies intertwined with more salutary, fruitful, and creative ones, all of which inhere in potentia
in each complex" (Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche
The study of the correlations between planetary alignments and archetypal themes in human experience. Archetypal astrology combines an understanding of archetypal principles drawn from the depth psychology of C. G. Jung, James Hillman, and Stanislav Grof with techniques and interpretive methodologies drawn from astrology, in both its ancient and modern forms. For more on archetypal astrology, see Le Grice, "The Birth of a New Discipline
," Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology
, vol. 1:1 (2009).
A multidisciplinary subject drawing on scholarship from many areas such as astrology, depth psychology, history, philosophy, cosmology, religious studies, cultural studies, the arts, and the new sciences. It is a field of inquiry that includes the analysis of astrological correlations (archetypal astrology), but that goes beyond this to address the theoretical basis of these correlations and their implications for the wider world view.
The application of the techniques, methodology, and interpretive guidelines of archetypal astrology to the analysis of trends, cycles, and patterns of history. Archetypal historiography as a methodology combines two primary modes of inquiry: detailed historical research and the study of planetary correlations in relation to the archetypal analysis of history. In an expanding and deepening hermeneutic circle, the study of the historical and cultural phenomena illuminates the archetypal complexes associated with the planetary alignments, and the archetypal analysis illuminates the historical data.
For more on archetypal historiography, see O'Neal, "Archetypal Historiography: A New Historical Approach
," Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology
, vol. 1:1 (2009).
Archetypal Multivalence and Multidimensionality
Within the context of archetypal astrology and archetypal cosmology, the term multivalence
refers to the multitude of ways in which an archetype expresses itself within individual human experiences, the events of world history, works of art, cultural movements, or historical epochs, while remaining consistent with a central core of meaning. "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" (Cosmos and Psyche
, 87). In other words, the concept of archetypal multivalence reflects the inherently irreducible nature of archetypal expression, which renders futile all attempts to understand them as univocal or singular manifestations.
In addition to the essential multivalence of archetypal expression, the term multidimensional
refers to the potential appearance of these expressions in multiple dimensions of human experiencesubjective or objective, physical or psychological, immanent or transcendent, mythic or metaphysical, and so forth. The concept of archetypal multidimensionality reflects an understanding of the nature of archetypes as autonomous principles and essences that cannot be localized in a particular dimension of being, and in this sense, archetypes may be understood as simultaneously Homeric, Platonic, and Jungian. As Tarnas describes this aspect of archetypal expression,
For conceptual clarity, then, when we consider the meaning and character of each planetary archetype . . . 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 are distinguished here only to suggest the inherent complexity 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. (Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, 86-87)
Synchronic and Diachronic Patterning
(Based on Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche
Richard Tarnas's research in Cosmos and Psyche
identified two types of archetypal patterns evident in historical events and cultural phenomena: synchronic patterns and diachronic patterns.
These are related patterns of events occurring contemporaneously during a particular world transit, often in widely separate locations. "The synchronic
patterns involved those cases where many events of the same archetypal character took place simultaneously in different cultures and individual lives in coincidence with the same alignment, such as simultaneous revolutions or simultaneous scientific breakthroughs occurring independently in separate countries and continents" (Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche
These are archetypally related patterns of phenomena occurring in coincidence with an unfolding sequence of alignments formed by two planets over time. "The diachronic
patterns involved cases where events taking place during one alignment had a close archetypal and often historical association with events occurring during preceding and subsequent alignments of the same planets, in such a way as to suggest a distinct unfolding cycle" (Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche
By way of example, Tarnas discusses diachronic patterning of events in coincidence with the quadrature alignments of the Uranus-Pluto cycle. "The periods of these alignments of Uranus and Pluto," Tarnas explains, "were thus related not only in terms of the general archetypal character that they had in common but also by their sequential dynamism. Relevant historical trends and cultural movements seemed to undergo a sharply intensified development during each of these specific periods in what appeared to be a continuously unfolding but cyclically 'punctuated' evolution. Such diachronic patterns were clearly evident in correlation with the Uranus-Pluto alignments of the past several centuries in a number of areas of modern cultural history, such as feminism and the women's movement, the abolitionist and civil rights movements, and philosophies of political revolution and radical social change, among others" (Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche
Three Forms of Correspondence
(Based on Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche
As the astrological tradition developed, the observed correspondence between planetary movements and the archetypal patterns of human affairs took a number of forms, of which three are now considered most essential:
The Natal Chart
A birth chart or natal chart (horoscope) is a geometrical portrait of the heavens from the perspective of the Earth at the moment of an individual's birth. The Sun, Moon, and the planets are positioned around the chart to reflect their positions around the Earth when the person was born. The principal difference between a natal chart and the astronomical reality it portrays is that the natal chart has two dimensions rather than three and does not reflect the varying distances of the Sun, Moon, and planets from the Earth. In natal chart analysis, the positions of the planets relative to the time and place of an individual's birth are regarded as bearing a significant correspondence to that person's life as a whole, reflecting the specific archetypal dynamics and relationships expressed in his or her specific psychological tendencies and biography.
Personal transits are the "alignments formed between the current positions of the orbiting planets and the positions of the planets at an individual's birth" (Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche
, 64). The positions of the planets at any given time, in relation to their positions at an individual's birth, are regarded as bearing a significant correspondence to the specific experiences of that person at that time, reflecting a dynamic activation of the archetypal potential symbolized in the natal chart. Personal transits to the birth chart can be depicted by placing outside the circle of the chart the celestial positions of the transiting planets in the sky at any given time, so as to clarify their current geometrical alignments with natal planetary positions shown inside the circle.
World transits, like a birth chart, represent the planetary positions with respect to the Earth at a given moment. The positions of the planets relative to the Earth at any given time are regarded as bearing a significant correspondence to the prevailing state of the world, reflecting the state of collective archetypal dynamics visible in the specific historical and cultural conditions and events of that time The most significant correlations in this category involve long-term cyclical alignments of the outer planets coinciding with distinct archetypal patterns in collective historical and cultural phenomena, with a duration of many months or years at a time.