Living the Symbol Life: The Archetype of Wholeness
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)
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.