Unfallen Angels: Starving for benevolence in a world of dreams turned solid

angelI ONCE ASKED A BUDDHIST friend what she thought was the core cause of human suffering. “Believing this place is solid,” she quipped. It reminded me of how embarrassingly heady and separation-affirming the astrological subdivisions of personality become when divorced from a here/now experience of The Friend. What is the One Taste equally distributed throughout these 12 slices of personality pie? Never mind. Just keep dishing out the astro-insights. There is meditative homework that comes along with becoming archetypally literate and sincere students of astrology need to keep up their studies. I call it “astro-self-inquiry.”

What is an archetype?

Astro-savvy egos (my own included) don’t like the smell of this question. Why? Because it’s close cousins with another question: “Who am I?” that quickly dashes all hopes of applying an impressively accurate, psychological laminate over the morphing mystery of each face. What is an archetype? Who wants to know? Never mind.

Etymologically, the word “archetype” derives from a Greek compound of “arche” and “tupos.”  Arche or ‘first principle’ points to the creative source, which cannot be represented or seen directly. Tupos, or ‘impression’ refers to any one of the numerous manifestations of the ‘first principle.’* In an Astrodharmic context, then, “arche-tupos” translates into  “Source-impression,”  and every bouncy bundle of personality traits is, dare we behold it, a living fingerprint of the divine mind. 

For the purposes of this article, let’s define archetype this way:

A transcendent aspect of the divine mind that has specific, cross-cultural human expressions in the form of inner values, impulses and images and outer body types, personalities and events. 

If this sounds a tad abstract, it’s because archetypes operate more like verbs than nouns. They’re spontaneously divined, not abstractly defined. Whenever we intuitively recognize an individual’s body type, behavior and personality as part of a larger divinely-ordained consciousness template we are “archetyping.” In this sense, “archetyping” is a kind of revelation – the awakening of awe for the Absolute in the pettiness of ego. However unconscious and automated an individual ego’s behavior appears, once it is recognized as part of a grand and noble style of stumbling homeward, compassion returns.

But why, you may ask, must one impute positive intention to the definition of archetype? Is not “Divinity” an added conceptual overlay onto simple pattern recognition? Only direct, ongoing engagement with the archetypes will reveal this as a truth rather than a belief. Years of experience as a full-time astrologer has brought me to the following conclusions:

1) Honest self-inquiry reveals that we are all already downloaded with unconscious archetypal biases that keep us reactive to certain kinds of personalities. Until we learn to perceptually dismantle our prejudice and see all 12 archetypes as equally valid, useful and well-intended styles of awakening, we are not truly “archetyping-” we are dancing with our own mental projections.

2) Immediate, on-the-spot attunement to archetype (vs. conceptual understanding) reveals a larger presence that supersedes the many piecemeal egos it shines through. If, through the archetypal lens, we do not behold an ego-transcendent Being that is palpably felt as kind, then the larger pattern of the universe is not kind and astrology quickly devolves into a collection of psychologically entertaining proofs of nihilism.

3) All archetypes contain elements of destiny and freewill. They are the river banks within which each soul is free to navigate.

To summarize this discussion of archetype, let me say this: In the course of studying archetypes, personality becomes less and less personal. Our proudly copyrighted wounds, gifts and market-tested me-stories are exposed as generic imprints from a cosmic stamp – a collage of consciousness templates distributed to the entire human race. Where once stood a solid somebody now stands a collection of identity clouds drifting through a sky of flesh. Yikes. This makes students of archetype vulnerable to a unique kind of personality-dissolving disorientation that demands that they learn how to meditatively rest in the ground of being: the larger field of sentience from which all personalities rise and fall. Only from this firm foundation in the Absolute can the increasingly surreal and superficial differences between people be tenderly accepted and realistically attended to. Is there a second option? Yes: spiral headward into the buzzy knowings of the astro-ego.

In short, the 12 archetypes, Aries through Pisces, are moment-to-moment realizations – mercurial knacks that must be meditatively earned and re-earned each moment. Okay, okay, you say, but there are keywords and conceptual prompts that can help us excavate the mystery in our own and other’s eyes, right? Maybe.

Ego wants us to become archetypally literate to keep us riveted on the psychological layer of people – to shrewdly attune to and “help” imaginary others and thereby, to secretly affirm its own hard edges. Vexed by a haunting sense of its true ephemerality, mind turns to archetype in order to more shrewdly navigate the mean-spirited minefield of separate somebodys prowling all around us. In a world chopped up into terminally separate psyches, reasons ego, why not make the best of it by using archetypal insight to seduce ego-affirming psyches closer and push ego-humbling ones further away?

How do budding students of astrology counteract this temptation to put archetype in the service of duality and separation? To answer, we first need an operational definition of “soul.”

It’s hard to have a love affair with pure awareness – to dance with that selfsame light streaming from every eye. Hard, too, to swoon about a collection of automated, unwitnessed archetypes spouting so many dogmatically believed-in me-stories and doing their damnedest to eclipse that selfsame light. What then, is it in people that has the power to steadily captivate our hearts? Thank God for that provisional patch of real estate called the human soul – the closest we ever get to having a genuine, uncontrived “me.” Soul is the etherial-yet-embodied part of the Divine that knows how to straddle Spirit and matter with astrological style and pizazz. The purpose of astrology is to help us feel into our own and other’s particular style of straddling ego and essence. Wanna help them straddle a little more elegantly and effectively? Archetypal insight alone won’t cut it. You’re gonna have to straddle stylishly right there alongside of them. I call this, “perceptual flickering.”

Perceptual Flickering

Perceptual Flickering is the art of beholding the One Being looking us up and down through another’s eyes, then pivoting into a delicious appreciation of that body/mind’s stylish somebodyness: the hurtable human heart dancing the funky chicken for our pure samsaric pleasure. Could this ability to flicker our attention between unspeakable appreciation of Divine presence and “nice shoes!” be what makes us distinctly human? How simultaneously appreciative can we be of folks’ universal Aquarian consciousness and their magnificent Leonine apparel? Takes a bit of zooming in and out, right? Now you know the very good reason why Aquarius is so reticent to make any one person too special for too long.

You also know the practice that puts archetype in the service of oneness. Take the Aries archetype, for example. If True Nature is ultimately unsullied by the mind’s lower octave Aries pushiness  – but you have a habit of getting riveted on this archetype’s unacceptably confrontive, fiery psychology – you, my friend, have fallen for the trait bait. You’ve become numb to the Ram’s positively-intended, bumpy road to awakening. Sadly, you are not present enough to this world-straddling soul to adequately address its archetypal predicament and your gestures of support will be tainted with a subtle air of judgment and rejection. Forget about mentoring them; these fiery folks are your teachers and you have homework to do. (Ready to stop falling for the trait bait? Check out The Styles of Awakening Training).

In short, the psychological study of archetypes is not enough; we must become contemplative connoisseurs of our archetypal biases and reactivities and, through a practice of compassionate, on-the-spot self-witnessing, learn how to pivot quickly into a full-bodied “yes” to the messy perfection of each zigzag style of awakening at play in front of us.
What kind of world does the Styles of Awakening approach to archetype deliver us into? The real one: a world populated with unfallen angels, exuding the benevolence we’ve been starving for every day of our lives.

*Joseph Henderson, from ARAS Vol.1: Archetypal Symbolism p.viii).

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