The archetypes of the Zodiac are multivalent primordial forms meaning they live within a vast spectrum of expressions from the abstract to the specific, and can be interpreted from a number of different angles. They are both personal, relating to individual personality traits, and universal having to do with the general faculties of consciousness each of us have. They are also universal in the cosmic sense having to do with epochs of human history, astrophysical bodies, laws of nature and features of anatomy. They are both embodied in the macrocosm and in the microcosm, having both interior and exterior manifestations. To add an even more granular frame in which to view them, they have a time based component and an atemporal or non-time based component.
Some esoterically minded researchers of astrology will recognize also that the archetypes of the Zodiac are synonymous with the stages of alchemical transformation, as well as being representative of the process of the cosmological manifestation of the life power through its phases of involution and evolution. This pattern of cyclic activity we might call astrotheogony or the archetypal form building process of divine Creation. The larger and more broad sweeping frame of esoteric astrology provides us insights into the universal template which represents a scale free pattern of manifestation, so that whether we are viewing things from the mineral, plant, animal or human domains, we can see corresponding archetypal attributes in some phase of their expression.
For some this might seem too complex a series of frames at first. The inner vision required to see the spectrum of relevant attributes is something that must be developed through practice. We can however simplify the exorbitant complexity of the archetypal view by reaching into and behind their many outer forms of expression to the abstract or general principle they represent. By focusing on the most general and irreducible level of meaning they contain, we are able to learn something of their essential nature and in so doing understand the characteristics they manifest at any scale or domain.
In other words, as we gain a deeper understanding of the general principle they represent, it becomes easier to apply that understanding to the specific instances of their expression. Our emphasis in this series centers primarily on the transpersonal or the esoteric level of the Archetypes. Though we will draw occasionally on insights from the tarot, alchemy, Greek mythology and depth psychology, we are always discussing the same essential 12 primordial patterns. 12 things is a manageable size. If we think of them as category containers like buckets, we can put the entire universe of complexity into them and have a relatively tidy situation on our hands. And, although these types of esoteric examinations can seem to riff in lofty rumination, we will finally arrive at a practical use of the ideas through the practice of meditation.
Let There Be Light
Aries, being the first sign of the Zodiac represents initiative and the motive power that is the basis of all action. Corresponding to the faculty of inner vision and the element fire, Aries can be associated archetypally to the light of consciousness by which reason and therefore authority or authorship is established. The ability to be the author of one’s own life and circumstances comes first in the sequence of the unfolding of the Zodiac because without it there would be no story to tell. For there to be a story there must first be an author. Aries, as a first principal of the manifestation of the universe is that force which brings creation into being through the formation of images.
It is that primordial director which in seeing the goal of creation is able to fashion its constituent parts into the laws and processes that will inevitably lead to the fulfillment of the divine plan.
Etymologically the word author is connected to the notion of authority, from the latin auctor “one who creates, a promoter, producer, father, or progenitor” and the french acteor “originator, creator, instigator”. The prefix auto means “self” Illustrating that the autonomous entity which wears the sense of sovereignty or personal will connects to the symbolism of ruler-ship like a King or an Emperor – also called an autocrat.
In the mythology of Aries then we are given a story of Jason and the Argonaughts and the means by which he re-establishes his authority as King by retrieving the Golden Fleece. Although he is considered the rightful King by blood, he must prove his fitness to rule and recover his authority through accomplishing an impossible deed. More on his story later.
The archetype of Aries is an expression of the capacity of consciousness which enables us to rule our lives and ourselves as we choose.
Living in a democratic society we know that monarchies are an outmoded, archaic form of governance that are fraught with the many abuses of power. Top down autocratic forms of governance have ruled humanity for the larger portion of its history and have proven themselves problematic due to the corruptibility of individuals. Governance has evolved to more egalitarian forms, yet the principle behind monarchies still exist within the world and within each of us individually in an archetypal sense. We are each Kings and Queens of our own lives essentially, because we are the authors of ourselves. We are each the sovereign rulers, responsible for managing the kingdom of our personal domain – which is first and foremost our consciousness.
Ruler-ship is the same essential function as organizing or coordinating resources, planning and executing those plans. The organizing faculty of consciousness which makes possible the coordination of a spectrum of resources and activities, is an executor. For there to be any action there must be a coordination of an array of specialized functions. The executive function of the brain for example or what we might think of as its ruler, coordinates the various regions and functions of the brain’s activity. It is the prefrontal cortex (PFC), the outer brain which is responsible for planning, focusing attention, sequencing, coordinating language, decision making, impulse control, working memory and a number of other things that are organized and put to work toward the fulfillment of a particular goal.
Similarly, societies have their own PFC – governments. In societies there are large numbers of resources which must be coordinated in order to accomplish social stability and economic progress. Food security, civil defense, infrastructure and so on, must be established through the coordination of the resources of the land and its people. And, in order to coordinate the spectrum of resources, the executive function must first see what and where they are. Before there is any ability to deploy those resources toward the accomplishment of a goal, they must be surveyed, measured and accounted for. Once they are accounted for properly, the executive function goes to work formulating a vision for the future and sets the resources in motion toward an ultimate goal.
The Emperor then corresponding to the archetype of Aries rules inner Vision, reason and the tabulation, and categorization of things. It constructs an image that represents the outcome it seeks and then mobilizes its powers to the fulfillment of those aims.
In spiritual psychology, Aries is the part of us that orders and encodes experiences into their relevant categories giving meaning to the perceptions and experiences we have. Anytime we are working to clarify our goals, improve our ability to make sense of things and up level our cognitive capabilities, interpretive faculties and organize our lives we are employing this archetype. On a more esoteric level however the faculty of Vision it represents is sensitized to the formation of images at the subconscious level. It is our ability to imagine outcomes of a sequence of processes, which in the early stages of human evolution gave us the ability to make tools, develop strategies for hunting, building, coordinating numbers of people organizing tribes and eventually making war.
According to the mystery teachings, thought, which becomes an ordered process of logic, begins at the level of the fluidic mind stuff – the part of the mind that preexists the concrete forms of ideation. At the level of mind that is below conscious thought there is a process of the formulation of images out of the raw material of conceptualization. Like unfashioned clay, the fluidic mind stuff is the substance from which images are formed. We can think of this substance as the raw material resource the mind uses to construct its contents.
Images are first in the sequence of manifestation and ideation. Through the formation of images in subconsciousness we construct our conceptualization of everything. Our concept of the self and the world, our desires, plans and intentions that become the specific goals we pursue, are generated first in images. Our personality, behaviors and capacities are designed through the subconscious mind’s formation of images. We have an image or set of images for our body, our personality and the narrative arc of our lives. These images are a kind of template or blueprint that serves as the building plans used to construct ourselves. The images we hold in subconsciousness determine what will ultimately become our physical experience.
The sequence of thought originating in images can be seen in the history of writing. The earliest form of writing was pictographic. Pictures representing objects, overtime developed into phonemes that were then represented by letter characters. Phonetic language gave us the ability to sort out objects from subjects so more complex ideas could be shared. The word “deer” could then be accompanied by, “the deer are over there”, and finally “we go hunt deer over there”. This level of specificity gave us the ability to plan and strategize in a way that differentiated us from the rest of the animal kingdom. And though we’ve come a long way from the original use of pictorial thought, the image making process is still very much a part of how we think.
Advanced meditators have reported observing the level of mind below verbal thought as consisting of imagery. It is out of images that we still formulate sequences of words. Imagery is primary to all mental processes, but since our image making faculty lives in the domain of subconsciousness we are mostly unaware of its activity, except in the case of dreams and fantasies. Yet image making, like the underside of an ice berg is the largest portion of our process of thinking. In the storehouse of images are the vast libraries of ancestral knowledge, passed down from the very beginnings of life. All that we have learned both technologically and biologically through the long journey of evolution is passed down through the generations in the form of images stored within the genetic memory of our physical vehicles.
We might consider this level of our being to be the true storehouse of resources over which we must learn to exercise our dominion.
If we want to transform some aspect of ourselves, to re-create ourselves or some aspect of our world, we have a powerful tool in the process of image making – right behind our eyes. To engage in the conscious construction of imagery is to exercise authority over the primary resource of consciousness, taking a radical step toward the cultivation of true sovereignty. If we apply ourselves to the development of the capacity of image making, applying reason’s executive functions to the pattern building process of subconsciousness we will gradually gain dominion over ourselves.
A magician or magi is one who the self authoring rulership of the PFC has dominion over imagination. He/she is one who through the intelligent application of will has measured and understood those resources of consciousness and set them into motion toward a definite goal.
With creative visualization we are working to develop our capacity to influence our subconscious mind’s pattern building activity. But, those who have attempted to manifest things know its not always as simple as making images in the mind a few times and presto – all your desires are realized. There is often a great deal of inertia present, resulting from previous image patterns that have existed within us our entire lives, if not longer. It takes a degree of skill and consistent repetition to replace the images that we have been using with better ones. Moreover, the replacement of images must also be accompanied by intelligent action, which, in its own way, serves as the verification for subconsciousness that our aim is not merely a whim of some fleeting desire, but an earnest and uncompromising intention that we will not be distracted from, under any circumstances.
In the myth of Jason and the Argonaughts this lesson is highlighted in detail. Through many test and trials he and his crew are faced with obstacles that would have dissuaded them from their goal had Jason’s intention been fickle. Along the way to retrieve the golden fleece they faced numerous creatures like Sirens, Harpies a giant sea monster and even a giant metallic robot in some versions. And, once they got to the land where the fleece would be recovered Jason had to accomplish three impossible feats, the final one being to defeat a huge dragon that guarded the prize.
Whenever we see serpents or dragons in mythology we are being shown a symbol for the desire nature. That part of our own primal motive power which is animalistic and destructive until it is defeated or sublimated by our better angels. This story is too lengthy to go into in detail here, but readers will find that reading this story through the archetypal frame, like the one I am pointing out here will yield profound insights as to the type of heroism needed to accomplish the task of becoming the sovereign rulers of our deeper nature and return the King to his thrown. Even though we are each the rightful heir to the thrown of our lives, we must vanquish those forces within us that seek to take us away from our power leaving us to languish as mere serfs to an authority over which we have no control.
The Golden Fleece we seek as adventurers on the path of return is a mystery we must court through our own ernest investigation. It is a power of great majesty lying at the heart of our very nature, and no simple formula exists to get us there. We can however begin the journey of taking careful measurements of the resources we have available to us, putting together the crew of Argonaughts – the allies and assets of our inner nature. To see into what we are and the innate forces that make up our very beingness is the first step to learning how to direct those forces with our conscious will.
In the Meditations Beyond the Zodiac we are exploring the native resources of consciousness and deploying our powers of concentration, imagination and intuition to bit by bit harness those forces for the accomplishment of the one aim of the life process. To evolve ourselves into conscious channels of the One Life. In the Aries meditation on the Vision of perfection we begin the practice of consciously constructing images to address a particular aspect of our lives. During this meditation we will enter a trance state entering the level of consciousness where images are formed refashioning them to the likeness of what we wish to become.