Living the Symbol Life: The Archetype of Wholeness
Living the symbolic life means that we inhabit an image to find its meaning. Since meaning is rarely valued in patriarchy, we have to re-learn how to use our imaginations to do this. So one of the first images we can meditate on is the image of Earth in the photograph called 'Earthrise'.
Even after seeing the amazing images of our universe taken by the Hubble space telescope, it is no surprise that the picture of Earthrise is still a powerful image after almost 50 years (the crew of Apollo 8 took the photo on Christmas Eve Day, 1968). Our universe is vast, mysterious, a bit scary as well as breath-taking, but there's something hopeful about that image of our beautiful Earth shining in the darkness of space that touches my heart and soul. Do you feel that way too?
I've been drawn to that photo since the first time I saw it back in 1968. I put it on the front page of our college year-book the next year; it's on the cover of my book of seasonal fairy tales, Stories of the Earth, and for me at least, it is connected with my vision of Lady Wisdom as the ‘Woman clothed with the Sun’. Our Mother Earth is indeed ‘clothed with the Sun’ in this iconic photograph.
This image of our Earth evokes what the Ancients called the Anima Mundi or World Soul, the idea that there is an intrinsic connection between all living things on the planet, which relates to our world in much the same way as the soul is connected to the human body. (Also see Lynn Margulis and James Lovelock's Gaia theory.) When we look at this picture of our home planet, we can sense the truth of that belief. There's only one world shining out in space.
The Western idea originated with Plato in the Timaeus. Therefore, we may consequently state that: this world is indeed a living being endowed with a soul and intelligence ... a single visible living entity containing all other living entities, which by their nature are all related. (Timaeus:29/30)
An Eastern image of this connection is called Indra’s Net. ‘When Indra fashioned the world, he made it as a web, and at every knot in the web he tied a pearl. Everything that exists, or has ever existed, every idea that can be thought about, every dharma and destiny that is true, is a pearl in Indra's net. Not only is every pearl tied to every other pearl by virtue of the web on which they hang, but on the surface of every pearl is reflected every other jewel on the net. Everything that exists in Indra's web implies all else that exists.’
"Imagine a multidimensional spider's web in the early morning covered with dew drops. And every dew drop contains the reflection of all the other dew drops. And, in each reflected dew drop, the reflections of all the other dew drops in that reflection. And so ad infinitum. That is the Buddhist conception of the universe in an image." –Alan Watts
Carl Jung called the archetype of wholeness in a person the Self. The Anima Mundi is the archetype of wholeness for our planet. This Feminine principle manifests within us as the collective unconscious, which contains all the images and feelings and experiences of humanity throughout the ages. Is it any wonder that this image of Earthrise speaks to us of the Wisdom that creates worlds and galaxies and conscious beings?
Joseph Campbell felt that the image of Earthrise was a symbol of new myths arising in the future. I believe it, because the image has worked upon my unconscious to open me to the mystery of Lady Wisdom. There is an image of the returning Divine Feminine that shares this image of Earthrise.
And a portent appeared in the heavens: A woman, clothed with the Sun, standing on the Moon, crowned with Stars, in labor...giving birth to the Savior.
The Cosmic Story is calling us back to re-work the soil and tend the plants that were seeded in the 60s. As Uranus and Pluto square (90*) each other seven times, we find ourselves at a crossroads. Will we let the powers of repression and domination continue to shape us?
'If myth is a storied way to feel out our place in the world, then we can grasp the significance of ‘Earthrise’ by considering what it rode in on. The Environmental Movement, Ecopsychology, Systems Theory, the Internet that joins us across the globe, global structures of finance, the Goddess movement, the push toward sustainability, organic agriculture, Brian Swimme's inspiring cosmological reveries: these and other worldly-circling matters grew up in the light of Earthrise. This image did not "cause" these movements so much as announce them as they swarmed into collective consciousness.' (Craig Chalquist, Ph.D. Earthrise: A Mythic Image for Our Times.)
Images are not owned by any one religion or corporation. Symbols are universal and they come to us pure in our dreams and through synchronicities in our waking life, and through true myths, music, art and stories. Of course, patriarchy is very aware of how to use images to capture our attention, but they use it to lie, manipulate and control. When we look at an image and let it speak to us—just as we can let this image of Earthrise or that of the Woman clothed with the Sun speak to us—we really can arrive at the wise answer to any question.
If we want to evolve, we all have to undertake a Heroine's Journey. It is an inner journey that can free us from the patriarchal corsets and straightjackets we've been shaped by. And the gift we receive and the treasure we bring back will be the Wisdom of the World Soul—the wisdom to find solutions to the personal and collective crisis which face the world.
Some of those solutions involve the archetype of community. In patriarchy, community was usually centered around the tribe, the nation, the race, the gender, the religion, the army, the family. Usually it involved being separate from others, being special in some way, being chosen.
When we look at this image of Mother Earth and see that we are one world, opportunities for community expands. Our new communities are connected via the Internet—much like Indra’s Net—where we connect with like-minded individuals around the world. These communities are based on common ideals, interests and beliefs and make no distinction between races, religious beliefs or genders.
There are other communities being formed, much like the communes of the 60s. Family now consists of close friends as well as blood relatives. People feel they are citizens of the world rather than just one country. Patriarchal religions are losing ground to spiritual communities comprised of Christians, Moslems, Jews, Pagans, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. Sports teams honor the player, not his or her race. In this new idea of community, no one needs to be the leader, because each of us can lead when our expertise is needed. This re-birthed archetype of community is all about equality.
Community gardens, business co-ops, and charter schools are just a few ways to be in community. People with common skills form guilds or unions. People with common ideals gather to stand up for what they believe in, such as the Occupy Movement. We still have spiritual communities, although these are different from the patriarchal monastery or convent. There is a common bond between the members of the armed forces just as there was with the ancient Irish warband called the Fianna; and of course, we have the image of the Knights of the Round Table.
When we look at this image of our one world, we can imagine a multitude of new ways to be in community.
We are living in a time of choice. The Cosmic Story is supporting transformation and rebirth. Will we stand with the Earth, with the Anima Mundi and with our souls? Will we find new ways to be in community?
Perhaps we need to meditate on this picture of our Mother, the Earth and remember that we are indeed all connected.
Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again!