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The following article was published in Orpheus:Voices in Contemporary Astrology
Edited by Suzi Harvey
Consider, 2000

The Mutable Cross & the Postmodern Ethos

by Gerry Goddard

As late 20th century astrologers, we practice our art in a "postmodern" age which is increasingly becoming characterized by a general condition of uncertainty, skepticism, relativism, and even cynical nihilism, yet an age which at the same time is unprecedentedly rich with cultural, intellectual, and spiritual opportunity. While the philosophical underpinnings of western 'modernist' culture crumble under the impact of 'deconstructionist' demolitionists, such a pluralistic cultural and intellectual smorgasbord bestows upon us mixed blessings. Our appetites stimulated, our senses bombarded, ideas abound while certainty fades. Choices multiply while volition jams in the face of overwhelming possibilities. Feminists, multiculturalists, neo-Marxists, social critics and deep ecologists may welcome this diversity and multiplicity, hailing the ending of patriarchal, centralist, racist, sexist and classist attitudes and institutions, but new walls are being erected that imprison us within our historical and linguistic perspectives. While the ending of patriarchal dominance and its narrow absolutisms is welcome, an attitude of increasing skepticism overshadows spiritual openness and increasingly undercuts the drive for greater Truth and Value, that possibility of wisdom and transcendence which is our finest legacy.

Astrology flowers in a rich compost of 'new age' culture imported mystical practices from the East and re-discovered pagan, wiccan, hermetic, alchemical, and Neoplatonic world views from the West while avant-garde academics chant 'hermeneutic' critiques of the 'meta-narratives' of Eurocentric and logocentric tradition declaring an end, not only to scientistic reductionisms, but as well to the grand metaphysical quest for underlying essences or universal truths. At the same time, reborn new paradigm scientists run hither and thither seeking to fuse new science and old mysticism while some less scientifically enamoured, proclaim the perennialist path through this relativistic wasteland on to the promised land beyond.

The astrological perspective mapping postmodernism

Is astrology just another dish to choose from the endless buffet of competing delights, just another Wittgensteinian language game, another social 'form of life,' or is it truly an ancient parchment that charts a way through this particularly difficult though fascinating terrain? In one sense, astrology is quintessentially postmodern in that it is entirely constructed of symbols reflecting and referring to other symbols within a multidimensional hologram or Indra's net amenable to seemingly endless patterns of interpretation that richly resonate to the soul yet appear to lack any clearly identifiable concrete referents. As such, like other postmodern disciplines, it generally resists the attempts of science to connect specific symbols with specific facts, yet at the same time the astrological language appears to open and reveal soul dimensions that are more than the 'mere' play of socially constructed imaginations projected upon an unknowable objective world.

In this sense, astrology avoids the most radical postmodern conclusion that words, concepts, and texts refer endlessly to other words and texts lacking any ultimate reference to objective facts, universal truths, or the 'way things really are.' I would like to suggest that astrology is indeed, as Richard Tarnas has described it, the 'philosopher's stone,' a metaphysical or metapsychological map completely friendly to postmodern ideas yet charting them within a larger and 'perennial' perspective (a la Schumacher, Smith, Wilber), one that embraces the premodern, modern, postmodern, and transpersonal dimensions, pointing beyond both the old absolutisms and the current radical relativism to a higher resolution. The astrological perspective, as well as the now general perspective of postmodernism, reveals the cultural and historical relativity of these paradigms or beliefs, although astrology identifies and maps the whole process in a way that transcends the particular linguistic cul-de-sac of contemporary critical thought by revealing a more inclusive and holistic archetypal structure.

Upon the basis of the generally agreed-on meanings of the four mutable principles and their archetypal correspondence to the essential features of the postmodern mind, a case can be made which not only deepens our understanding of the principles but, through astrology's capacity to map postmodernism (in relation to other historical stages and consciousness structures) within a larger historical and developmental perspective, may establish the astrological mandala as an effective key to understanding the greater evolution and structure of consciousness.

The postmodern period and its prevailing though transitional zeitgeist is symbolically captured by the mutable cross; centrally by the 6/12 (Virgo/Pisces) axis in direct dynamic tension with the 3/9 axis primarily. The archetypal correspondence thus charted can be placed within a larger context, an evolutionary overview where the 6/12 axis actually symbolizes one of twelve deep stage/structures of the development of consciousness. This transpersonal astrological model has been outlined elsewhere,1 but the coherence and plausibility of the present thesis, if viewed somewhat independently of the larger claims, might, in characteristically circular hermeneutic fashion, lend force to the larger case.

The explication of these principles in terms of cultural philosophy is, of course, conceived in the spirit of astrology's peculiar 'symbolic logic' which reveals the multidimensional adequacy, or polyvalence, rather than the precise content, of a particular principle. In this sense, a particular concept, say the Enlightenment, Romanticism, freedom, or the ego, neither belongs to, nor can it be properly fitted into, a particular principle. Rather, the astrological archetype demonstrates its adequacy as an orienting framework providing a particular positional perspective for coherently articulating the whole. The frameworks and the contexts constantly shift, but not randomly. For example, where the third principle is 'word', then the ninth is 'sentence', but where the third is now 'sentence', then the ninth is 'paragraph' or 'essay'. Similarly, where, developmentally speaking, the tenth principle is seen as the unifying institutional structure of the medieval period, namely the Church, the Renaissance is to be seen as a transition to the eleventh, though harking back to the ninth principle as an awakened reconnection with classical sources, in their more pristine pre-Christian form. The eleventh principle then clearly denotes the anti-institutional and individualizing reformation and later, the complex dimensions of the Enlightenment culture and its world view. Following that, and growing out of the dialectic between Enlightenment rationalism and anti-Enlightenment Romanticism, there occurs, beyond the attempts of the idealists Schelling and Hegel to accomplish an integration of these opposing views, a gradual transition to the 12th principle. It is the twelfth which, in terms of the socio-cultural fabric and prevailing world view, most aptly symbolizes the range of post-Nietzschean developments in depth psychology, existentialism, postmodern criticism, and post-mechanistic empirical science. Yet in this historical astrological framework, the complex dynamics of say, Enlightenment rational-empiricism and Romanticism can be adequately analyzed and mapped only though a plausible interweaving of other relevant principles in relation to the central astrological reference axis which we are explicating here. In this essay, we are concerned primarily with demonstrating the archetypal resonance of contemporary cultural concepts and experiential realities with the generally agreed-on astrological symbolic meanings of the mutable cross.

The mutability symbol

In general terms, mutability symbolizes a necessary transmutation of existing fixed phase structures whether seen in terms of the natural cycles taking place moment to moment through immediate experience or as larger overarching life cycles of individuals and cultures. Like all astrological symbols, mutability carries the double edge of developmental growth and pathological regression. As mutability symbolizes a new sort of learning, a creative explosion of possibilities beyond the hitherto 'known', bringing about further differentiations, complexifications and a healthy expansion of consciousness or knowledge, it aptly reflects the best of the current rich social and cultural transforms. And as mutability symbolizes a scattering of energy, confusion, fragmentation rather than differentiation, a collapse of old structures, a loss of orienting frameworks, an absence of direction or coherence, a state of dissolution, or indulgence in a meaningless pastiche of shallow activities, it pictures the only too predominant mass-regressive forms of postmodernity.

In this way, the astrological concept of mutability may be the philosophical lens through which we can discern the subtle archetypal networks which reveal the deeper meaning and direction underlying the more disturbing and pathological characteristics of our age in their complex interrelations with the more profound and developmentally healthy concepts, values, practices and visions which inspire and enlighten us on our evolutionary journey.

The nature of postmodernism

In our time, we have clearly gone beyond the Cartesian/Newtonian 'modernist' notion that the human mind and human perception, by means of systematic scientific induction and logical methodology applied in all fields of investigation, can more or less accurately discern and reflect a truly objective order of things that exists 'out there.' This naive 'correspondence theory of truth' which fueled the scientific enterprise until this century and the accompanying paradigm of the subject/object distinction is, by general agreement, no longer tenable. The nature and form of the object has a lot to do with the nature of the subject which profoundly effects how the subject perceives the object. For Kant, the late Enlightenment philosopher who, as Richard Tarnas points out, is the pivotal figure between modern and postmodern paradigms, the 'world' is an epistemological construction. The only foundational knowledge of which we are capable is the study of the formative principles or universal cognitive frameworks which, as the categories of perception, have shaped the world which we perceive. Beyond that lies the world as it is 'in itself', the forever unknowable 'noumenon' that lies on the other side of the phenomenon. Since then, operating unconsciously within this Kantian paradigm, science has persisted in its quest to mathematically know the noumenon only to unearth ever more microcosmic and macrocosmic veils of phenomena. In the realm of the human sciences, the noumenon has increasingly dropped out, like the God of the deists, as an unnecessary hypothesis and the old Newtonian categories have been replaced by the less substantial constitutional and epistemological factors of language, culture and history.

Rather than history and culture being a human product and language a tool (often an imprecise tool) to communicate about the 'real world', language and the cultural narratives and metanarratives which inform it are precisely that which makes us who we are and conditions what we perceive and believe the 'world' to be. Hence, we are trapped in 'linguistic culture wholes' none of which can be said to be ultimately truer or of more value than any other, where all new ideas, all new texts are but a 'recontextualization of one's predecessors.' If this were just the death of a narrow materialistic scientism or rationalist metaphysical dogmatics it would be welcome, but any attempt to attain the bird's eye view or grasp the big picture is increasingly held to be impossible and meaningless.

The postmodern mind has been aptly characterized by a string of by now familiar adjectives: "...deconstruction, decentering, disappearance, dissemination, demystification, discontinuity, difference, dispersion, etc." which express "an epistemological obsession with fragments or fractures and a corresponding ideological commitment to minorities in politics, sex and language. To think well, to feel well, to act well, to read to refuse the tyranny of wholes; totalization in any human endeavour is potentially totalitarian."2 But despite a relative social and political emancipation which brings a new intellectual and creative freedom, such a radical perspectivalism threatens a nihilistic leveling of all truth and value (in Huston Smith's or Ken Wilber's terms, a collapse of the great hierarchy of being) without any possibility of judging the relative truth or value of diverse viewpoints or world views.

Postmodernity manifests both as a necessary clearing of the old as the precondition for creative renewal and a collapse of the old allowing both intellectual nihilism (or radical pragmatism) and an unfortunately rejuvenated economic and religious 'fundamentalism'. Just as we have made significant gains in human rights, we are in danger of losing the intellectual and ethical authority for those rights the best of our Enlightenment heritage in a world increasingly ruled by unbridled capitalism and a radical leveling of all quality and greater meaning in an orgy of globalized and vulgarized diversity. Yet just as in the Renaissance, where a cultural, intellectual, and spiritual rebirth occurred in the most dire social and political circumstances, this kaleidoscope of intersecting multiple realities forms a rich and open ground for a rebirth of larger meaning freed from old oppressive strictures. In the words of Richard Tarnas, is evident that the most significant characteristics of the larger postmodern intellectual situation its pluralism, complexity, and ambiguity are precisely the characteristics necessary for the potential emergence of a fundamentally new form of intellectual vision, one that might both preserve and transcend the current state of extraordinary differentiation. 3

Indeed there is a way through. Voices such as Huston Smith, Charles Taylor, Richard Tarnas, and Ken Wilber challenge the relativistic stand that there can be no ultimately true or meaningful world view. Huston Smith writes,

Perspectivalism becomes absurd when the obvious fact that we look at the world from different places, hence different angles, is transformed into the dogma that we therefore cannot know things as they actually are...What dogmatic perspectivalism ...overlooks is that to recognize that perspectives are such requires knowing to some extent the wholes that demote them to the status of parts. Without this recognition each 'take'... would be accepted as the thing in itself......they overlook the fact that truth is fallibilism's prerequisite, not its alternative.4

And again,

Relativism sets out to reduce every kind of absoluteness to a relativity while making an illogical exception to its own case. In effect, it declares to be true that there is no such thing as truth: that it is absolutely true that only the relatively true exists...Its absurdity lies in its claim to be unique in escaping...from a relativity that is declared alone to be possible. Relativism holds that one can never escape human subjectivity. If that were true, the statement would have no objective value......human beings are quite capable of breaking out of subjectivity; were we unable to do so we would not know what subjectivity is. 5

So the contemporary discovery of radical contextualism does not have to imply radical relativism if it is conceived within a more integral vision. In a similar vein to Smith and with his usually incisive spirit, Ken Wilber writes,

Since truth is context-dependent, the argument goes, then it is completely relative to changing contexts. All truth is therefore culturally constructed...and because all truth is socially constructed, there are and can be no universal truths. Unfortunately that view itself is claiming to be universally true...This view thus claims that there is no universal truth at all except for its own, which is universal and superior in a world where nothing is supposed to be universal or superior at all....But contextualism, on which these symptomatic theories are all based, means neither arbitrary nor relativistic. It means determined by contexts that constrain the meaning. In other words, 'context' means 'constraints' not chaos. These contexts are neither arbitrary, subjective, idiosyncratic, merely constructed, or radically relative, contrary to the abuse to which these theories have been subjected by extreme postmodernists.6

Our postmodern attitude is well exemplified in, say, the multicultural movement where, as Wilber notes, those claiming to be free of 'logocentric, rational-centric, Eurocentric' dominance and hegemony actually misidentify their own moral stand, namely, that pluralistic tolerance is better than narrow minded intolerance and are unaware, and even in denial, of the space of universal rationality within which they take their stand. Thus, they regress from

'no stand is ultimate' to 'every stance is equally acceptable,' thus burying (and denying) their own otherwise accurate judgment that lesser stances and smaller perspectives are unacceptable. They correctly glimpse aperspectival space, but then get thoroughly disoriented in the dizzifyingly holonic nature of ever-sliding contexts, failing to notice that sliding contexts do not in any way prevent some contexts from still being relatively better than less encompassing contexts...The system is relative and sliding, for sure, but it slides in stable ways, and this stability-in-relativity allows the types of correct judgments that the multiculturalists do in fact make...even though their own theory cannot account for their actual stance (even though their own theory, in fact, denies their actual stance).7

Engaged in this process of contextual unmasking, rather than lumbering into nihilistic quick sand, we discover, according to Wilber, ever deeper contexts through which "our relative autonomy actually increases, because in identifying with a deeper perception, we have found a wider freedom."8 Hence,

Much of the fun...of postmodern poststructuralist games consists in the upsetting of established autonomies by pointing to larger contexts which actually 'determine' the supposed 'autonomy' of the isolated unit, whereupon the isolated unit is promptly declared 'dead' (death of the writer, death of the subject, death of the patriarchy, death of the mythic god, death of the ego, death of rationality, death of logocentrism, etc.), with the 'autonomy' or systemic structure of the larger context being in turn merely a part of... But the 'decentering' of previously 'autonomous' units is indeed part of the important truths of postmodern critiques...The autonomous ego of the Enlightenment is not that autonomous because it is actually set in the context of its own organic drives (the psychoanalytic critique of the Enlightenment), and these previously unconscious drives must be integrated for true autonomy to emerge. But even the entire integrated and autonomous person of psychoanalysis is not really autonomous, because the individual is actually set in contexts of linguistic structures...But linguistic structures...exist only in the context of pre-articulate world views...worldviews themselves are merely a small component of massive networks and contexts of social practices...In every one of those cases, the theorist tells us something important about the meaning of our existence by situating our existence in a larger context...And each successive theorist gives a deeper or bigger or wider meaning to existence by finding previously hidden contexts that suddenly shift the autonomy in which we live and breathe and have our being. 9

Contradicting the skeptics, relativists and pragmatists, it is clear then that not all these currents are at the same level of truth and value. The exemplary mysticism of clearly enlightened teachers, the discoveries of transpersonal psychology and its expansion of our epistemological perspectives, as well as the best of feminism and deep ecology are evolution's 'leading edge,' already pointing forward to deeply transformational, trans-egoic and transpersonal levels of being. (Symbolized in my larger astrological model as stage/levels 7/1, 8/2 and beyond see ref 1) What are disclosed here are ever larger and deeper unfolding contexts beyond certain falsely relativizing attitudes.

Rather than being passively conditioned by history, culture and language in a postmodern cultural linguistic prison, we are actually co-creators in a grand process a 'participatory epistemology' which unfolds ever 'higher' levels of reality within a culturally universal world view called the perennial philosophy, a view that embraces human existence and all of history in a process of divine unfolding from deepest unconsciousness to the highest levels of cosmic consciousness. Such a process cannot be articulated and mapped simply in empirical, conceptual, phenomenological and hermeneutic terms, but requires an all-embracing archetypal language, revealing an archetypal structure which enfolds mind and matter, self and world, reason and instinct and all the different levels and deep structures of the 'Great Chain of Being'. Such a language would, as Tarnas makes clear, go beyond the essentially subjective Kantian categories and the strictly psychological archetypes of the earlier Jung, to a more transcendent concept of archetype harking back to Plato and Plotinus a concept of the archetype as bridging mind and matter which the later Jung called 'psychoid'10 and which has been developed further by the post-Jungian James Hillman. Tarnas cites the transpersonal mapping of the realms of the unconscious by Stanislav Grof and archetypal astrology as centrally important contemporary paths leading beyond the current postmodernism to a profoundly new paradigm. In fact, it is this claim which inspires the present essay an attempt to articulate the interface of postmodernism conceived as an archetypal deep structure of consciousness with certain features of the astrological transcendent and psychoid archetypal structure.

I believe that all the dimensions of the postmodern condition and its intellectual tenets are, along with the conception of the perennial and participatory view, symbolically enfolded within the same archetype, the twelfth principle; that is to say, a 12th wedded to the 6th in developmental relation to the 3/9 axis as constituting the central orienting framework within the larger structural and developmental picture.

Postmodernism and its key points on the astrological map

The essential lineaments of postmodernism can be mapped thus: Essentially, postmodern theory is concerned with the nature of language as that which constructs 'realities' (3rd pr.) conceived in terms of the underlying beliefs and narratives of the particular cultural/historical context (9th pr.). The discovery that philosophical systems, religious, ethical and aesthetic values and even scientific 'facts,' are culturally and linguistically relative, arose through a process of radical psychological and sociological self criticism language and logic turned back upon itself; critical reason taken to its ultimate extreme (6th pr.). The multidimensional and pluralistic contemporary world where the old structural integrity and coherence has dissolved and James' 'buzzing, blooming confusion' has manifested before our eyes, is a world which has become our 'reality,' multifaceted and pluralistic (12th pr.), emerging at this particular phase of the greater trajectory of the evolutionary unfolding of consciousness.

The archetypal nature of the 3/9 axis (Gemini/Sagittarius)

The third principle refers to the basic cognitive processes of thought, language, concept, symbol, communication, mastery of the rules of social and language games, natural and social environmental adaptation and expertise. Developmentally, it refers to the differentiation of mind and thought from the body-ego level (1st & 2nd pr.) constituting the basis for the complex self concept defining the mental-ego of the second quadrant. The ninth principle is the cultural context of third principle intellect and its knowledge claims, the underlying beliefs, values, narratives, ideologies, and paradigms of the group, society or culture. (This axis is only dimly present in pre-reflexive cultures and infants). Nine constitutes the abstract foundations, the universal truths, the general laws, or the transcendent archetypes that are held to underlie or enframe the particular knowledge claims of the third.

The archetypal nature of the 6/12 axis (Virgo/Pisces)

The sixth principle is the self awareness, self evaluation, and adaptive self correction of the more or less mature mental-ego in its social interactions. This is not the self consciousness upon which the original formation of the mental ego the differentiation of the self-concept and the body takes place. It is a self awareness once the mature self-concept and the mental-ego is established, not the self consciousness which is the ground of the mental-ego.

Including and going beyond Piaget's formal operational thinking (mature abstract and conceptual reasoning), the optimum form of the sixth principle denotes a more integrative mode of thought capable of grasping and integrating complex multidimensional and dialectical viewpoints. This is Wilber's 'vision-logic' or 'network logic,' which can "unify opposites, dialectical and nonlinear, and...weaves together what otherwise appear to be incompatible notions..."11 It is Gebser's 'integral a-perspectival' reason possessing a 'transparency,' the capacity to be self aware as to its own contextual nature. This mode of cognition engages a holistic twelfth principle world which is a multidimensional inter-subjective creation rather than a monological objective world, whether this world is conceived in either atomistic or holistic terms. It is the most mature form of postmodern awareness going beyond critical postmodernism's relativistic stand in which the "leveling of perspectives is not an interrelation of all perspectives (i.e. vision-logic) but is itself merely one particular and covertly privileged perspective."12

The sixth principle in its optimal sense is not simply an intellectual critique, but a lived, existential and personal process in touch with the immediately concrete, a mode of cognition at best uniting mind and instinct, symbol and concept, left and right brain. Its purpose is self control, self organization, critical evaluation, the cognitive ground of the mature moral will, responsive change, mental health and the development of autonomous responsibility. Yet, as the process of radical self criticism and an exclusively analytical and skeptical stance toward life, it also denotes the existential despair of the twentieth century zeitgeist, a loss of meaning in relation to a 12th principle 'unreal world.'

The sixth/twelfth axis symbolizes the capacity of individuals and their social and cultural groupings to undergo creative restructuring and renewal. The spirit of sincere and astute learning in the sixth principle is necessarily conducted in a rational, intentional, effortful manner whereas the twelfth principle process of cultural and societal growth and renewal cannot be a product of deliberate social engineering. The twelfth principle dimension is largely beyond direct human control. In one way, it denotes that which falls through the cracks of society's institutions, that which remains left over and outside, forever resistant to our efforts to wrap it up in society's tidy packages. It is that which 'happens' (the pathological and the creative) when society's ideals, beliefs, goals, and projects are foundationally undermined, revealed in their inherent contradictions, inadequacies, or underlying power motives.

The archetypal essence of the 12th appears to be chaos, whether experienced as the world of quantum physics or the absurdist void of a Sartre or Camus. It is a multidimensionality beyond normal control or understanding, a 'reality' without ultimate foundations or coherent structure, beyond our old concept of 'objective nature' and beyond our human capacity to control! It calls for a letting go, whether as the chameleon-like adaptation of 'Protean man,' the unattached intellectualism of the postmodern 'ironist', or the masterful flexibility of the Zen adept. It requires a larger sense of intuition and faith which can nonintellectually discern its greater meaning, an opening to the Tao of things, learning to open and trust the 'unknown' through dropping old beliefs and systems now revealed to be severely limited and humanly imposed.

Mapping of cultural and intellectual themes

Radical self criticism and indeterminacy

The contemporary cultural and social transmutation is more than a process of dissipation, devolution, or a rising tide of irrationalism. The deepest impetus behind the collapse of the intellectual and cultural values, ideas and institutions of the world's patriarchal societies has been a conscientious commitment to individualistic reason and progress (11) along with a sixth principle process of radical self criticism and self doubt leading to the transformational realization of the limitations and contradictions of its own enterprise. Armed with the incisive scalpel of intellect, dissecting each detail and trimming the fat of pretensions, it is indeed Virgo that has exposed the linguistic and social contextual nature of all statements, the relative nature of all beliefs, and the foundational narratives, metanarratives and power motives that shape all self-legitimizing grand truth claims including those of science. Critical reason has accomplished this by dynamically engaging the ground of linguistic structures (3) and their formative narratives (9) through its humble and conscientious devotion to self criticism in the light of rationally revealed truth. These changes have been wrought, not through an end of reason, but through an expansion and further development of reason (even beyond Piaget's formal operational level), a more mature level capable of self criticism, self evaluation, change and adjustment.

But from such a viewpoint of radical self criticism and 'incredulity toward all metanarratives,'13 the twelfth principle comes to manifest as a kaleidoscope of fragments. Difference, dispersion, discontinuity, idiosyncrasy, and indeterminacy characterize a dimension where "the multiplicity of incommensurable human truths exposes and defeats the conventional assumption that the mind can progress ever forward to a nearer grasp of reality."14 Where this extreme view predominates, it undermines much of what is still legitimate at the ninth and eleventh principle level, namely, the "narrative of emancipation, equality, consensus, and progress"15 ideas, principles, values and goals which need to be incorporated within an evolutionary twelfth principle step. But by refuting these principles, the twelfth becomes largely devolutionary.

While identifying the emergence of a new intellectual vision from the "pluralism, complexity and ambiguity" of the postmodern situation in our terms, a creatively fruitful 12th principle cultural milieu and acknowledging the necessary deconstructive work, Richard Tarnas sums up what I believe to be the sixth principle limit of the postmodern critique, thus pointing to the way beyond its more negative manifestations:

On its own terms, the assertion of the historical relativity and cultural linguistic bondage of all truth and knowledge must itself be regarded as reflecting but one more local and temporal perspective having no necessary universal, extrahistorical value... Implicitly, the one postmodern absolute is critical consciousness, which, by deconstructing all, seems compelled by its own logic to do so to itself as well. This is the unstable paradox that permeates the postmodern mind. 16

Deconstruction of the cosmocentric ego

As normally interpreted psychologically, the 6th principle symbolizes self improvement through a therapeutic criticism of the particular qualities of the 5th principle ego. But as a symbol of the contemporary period, the 6th examines and criticizes the inadequacies and limitations of the single, proud, confident cosmocentric ego itself, while the limitations and inadequacies of society any society and its cultural institutions and practices show up in the form of the twelfth principle! To a great extent the approaches of depth psychology, hermeneutics, phenomenology, and existentialism have significantly challenged the unity and irreducibility of the ego, giving rise to a richer, more multidimensional, in-depth view of the psyche (Jung, Hillman, Assagioli) challenging the modernist form of the 5/11 axis, where the integrated, rational, and heroic ego (5) engages a rational, scientific, and progressive social order (11); namely, the proud self/world cosmology of the Enlightenment.

Beyond the ego-based (5) projection of the rationally ordered world of the Enlightenment (11), the ground gradually began to give way revealing that the rational self was not the master. The sources of the rational will were found to arise from unknown and hidden depths; the world as irrational and irrevocable Will (Schopenhauer); natural evolution and the survival instinct (Darwin); sexuality and the phylogenetic unconscious (Freud); the collective and archetypal unconscious (Jung); all gradually shifted the prevailing Weltanschauung of the age from the 11th to the 12th principle.

The Jungian 'ego', as the centre of a most limited field of consciousness confronting a vast sea of collective unconscious, is not foundational. In the spiritually developmental process of 'individuation', consciousness, dynamically engaging this sea of unconsciousness leads ultimately to the realization of a transcendentally integrative 'Self' as the marriage of consciousness and unconsciousness. The 'various selves' of William James, the 'subpersonalities' of Roberto Assagioli17, the radically archetypal perspective of the 'polytheistic' psyche of James Hillman18 all these views express the complex 'reality of being' better than the old 'monotheistic' ego and awaken us to a more complex yet more concretely real view of human personality than that envisioned by the older abstract 'unities' unities established by a central repressive dominance of one major factor over an array of other factors.

The whole and holism

Rather than simply a new structure or dimension beyond the 9th, 10th and 11th principles, the 12th principle, by general agreement, reflects and contains the whole. As such, it aptly characterizes the postmodern situation where no single style dominates, where "every important element of the Western intellectual past is now present and active in one form or another,"19 where styles from other times and cultures and interweavings of textual references subsume the individual author or creator so that "the self no longer uses language to express itself; rather the language speaks through the person" and "the individual self becomes a medium (Pisces) for the culture and its language."20

Here is where the 'karmic shadow' of the past is to be confronted, where we, as a culture (collective consciousness and unconsciousness) are called to become reconciled with the past, to redeem the past. In this spirit, the words of the cultural historian Morris Berman are especially appropriate for capturing an essential quality of the 12th principle, pointing toward that 'hoped for' 'reenchantment of the world,'

Holistic society is thus coming upon us from a variety of sources that cut across the traditional left-right political axis. Feminism, ecology, ethnicity, and transcendentalism (religious renewal), which ostensibly have nothing in common politically, may be converging toward a common goal. These holistic movements...represent the repressed 'shadows' of industrial civilization....If there is any bond among the elements of this 'counterculture', it is the notion of recovery. Their goal is the recovery of our bodies, our health, our sexuality, our natural environment, our archaic traditions, our unconscious mind, our rootedness in the land, our sense of community and connectedness to one another.

And conjecturing upon the possibility of a "reenchantment of the world":

The infinite spaces whose silence terrified Pascal may appear to men and women of the future as extensions of a biosphere that is nurturing and benevolent. Meaning will no longer be something that must be found and imposed on an absurd universe; it will be given, and, as a result, men and women will have a feeling of cosmic connectedness, of belonging to a larger pattern.21

Although reflecting the manifest whole, the twelfth principle is not a transcendent whole, the highest unity, the deepest universal, but is more like Rudhyar's "equinoctial storms that send wintry icebergs to liquid deaths,"22 an ending of attachment to cultural universals and an opening to an ultimately unknowable and inexpressible interweaving of intersecting localities and uprooted practices within spontaneously generating communal networks. Of course, the 12th symbolizes holism, a keyword of the postmodern and new-paradigm vocabulary yet a concept that can be taken as much to describe a naturalistic world as a mystical one. Holism is a word used as much by pragmatists and cultural linguistic relativists as by deep ecologists and new paradigm scientist/mystics.

Contrary to some views which simply universalize it, the 12th is actually a movement from the abstract universal (9) toward the local but in a holistic, ecosystemic and interconnected sense. The 11th principle envisions the local, although still very much in terms of large and abstract ideals; but in the 12th, the local becomes real and ever-present. Thus the twelfth principle embraces diversity and fragmentation, yet also, paradoxically, homogenization; all characteristics noticeable in the contemporary world as traditional boundaries dissolve. Wilber sheds light on the nature of reason in its quest for the universal (9 & 11) as it was engaged in the modern era and how it came to take on new and more developed forms of global universality in the (12th principle) postmodern mind;

...during its first large-scale emergence, the admirably worldcentric stance of rationality took all the various perspectives of different peoples, places, races, and creeds, and attempted to abstract those items that they all agreed upon, that were not merely idiosyncratic or egocentric or sociocentric. But in its frantic rush to find and speak a 'universal language' whether in science, politics, art or religion (Deism) it simply steamrollered over every single trace of individuality wherever it appeared. Humans were monologically objectified, and only objectified, to find their commonalities...But rationality can rise to its fullest potential and find its fairest expression when it also pursues more even-handedly the actual space of universal perspectivism. The whole point of rationality and its capacity for multiple perspectives is not simply to abstract the commonalities...but to put one's self in the shoes of others and thus find a mutual enrichment and appreciation of differences. This is the same worldcentric rationality, but now celebrating all the multiple perspectives and not merely steamrollering them into monotonous uniformity. And it was precisely this celebration of diversity that was behind so much of the Eco-Romantic rebellion against the Ego-Enlightenment. Eco-Romanticism often called itself 'antirational', but in this particular regard it was actually 'anti-uniformitarian.' It started from the same rational stance of universal perspectivism, but it emphasized the 'perspectives' instead of the 'universal.' 23

Philosophy of language

The postmodern philosophical treatment of language is readily mapped by the mutable cross. The view of sentences used as tools for specific purposes, associated with Wittgenstein and the pragmatists James, Dewey, and Rorty, is clearly sixth principle. Where language, connected with such names as Nietzsche, Heidegger and Derrida, becomes a 'quasi-agent, a brooding presence,' something that suggests the ineffable (which most mainstream contemporary philosophers find uncomfortable), it is clearly the 12th principle that is being evoked. For Derrida, language possesses restrictive and absolutising tendencies (3) to establish closed and even ethically unbalanced systems of meaning (9). It is these tendencies which must be cured through an ongoing process of deconstructive criticism (6) in order that language re-establish its original ground state of pure possibility, freedom and potentiality (12).

As Virgo is capable of excessive self criticism or preoccupation with trivia rather than identifying the underlying relevant themes (9), linguistic philosophy has been carried to extremes either as an excessive concern with the purely linguistic minutiae of the third principle as in the ordinary language school of English analytical philosophy, as a 'totalizing self referential critique'24 of the French deconstructionist school or as a relativistic pragmatism as in the 'ironic' attitude cited by the philosopher Richard Rorty. A narrow concentration on the 3rd principle produces Wittgenstein's 'cage of language.' For those of the French school, (e.g. Lyotard, Derrida), their iconoclastic and anarchic attempt to eliminate all metanarratives involves them in a self undermining contradiction. In a similar way 'ironists,' with their radical doubt, undercut their own logical/empirical ground seeing all truth claims as ultimately based on platitudes. Hence, "they are never quite able to take themselves seriously (5th pr.) because always aware that the terms in which they describe themselves are subject to change, always aware of the contingency and fragility of their final vocabularies, and thus of their selves."25

Religion, philosophy and literature changing faces

Two foundational cultural institutions indeed crumbling in the face of the postmodern critique are religion and philosophy, the seat of the ninth principle, the search for ultimate truth, meaning, and the essence of things. Yet the twelfth principle symbolizes the religious consciousness cleansed of its doctrinal and institutional strictures as well as the pure metaphysical sense of wonder stripped of its narrow linguistic and ahistorical logocentrism.

The once inviolate distinction between philosophy and literature, the logical and the narrative, the imaginative and the rational, blurs in the twelfth principle while 'meaning' becomes only function, and philosophy only the 'therapy' of the sixth principle, undoing the linguistic knots of the third principle ("Ask not what something means but what is its function" within the particular language game Wittgenstein). The novelist's concern with narrative, the idiosyncratic, the concrete, the particular, the detailed, becomes valued over the philosopher's concern with the ahistorical, the essential, the timeless, the universal imagination and celebration (12) of the concrete details and immediate realities (6) become valued over reason and the search for essences, universals, and transcendent meanings (9). Yet ultimately, the twelfth principle is a fusion of the universal and the particular, a realization of essence and universality which includes, embraces and celebrates all diversity, offering an answer to such postmodern 'end of philosophy' philosophers like Richard Rorty who would reverse the 'arrogance' of the seeker after transcendence by an exaltation of the Rabelaisian over the Hegelian.26

From the Enlightenment to Postmodernity

Self and Nature

To truly understand the profoundest archetypal meaning of the postmodern mind, we need to trace its sources back to the modern period, to grasp the ways in which our age is the inevitable outcome or result of the essential currents of thought of the previous age, its deepest struggles, strivings and problems. The objectification of nature during the earlier modern period gave rise to the view of a grand interlocking order constructed by a deist God (who would eventually drop out of the picture as a non-essential hypothesis), a rational order knowable by human reason; an instrumental reason employed by an independent subject engaging and controlling nature in the pursuit of its own interests. Such a view would eventually lead to the objectification of the self as well, as the scientific methods which had worked so well in the study of nature were turned toward the understanding and control of interiority.

Challenging this dominant or mainstream current of thought, the Romantic spirit arose as a protest against the dehumanizing of the individual by such a narrow obsession with analytical reason. Mourning the disenchantment of the once living and unified cosmos, the severance of the organic unity of self and world which the ancients had known, the Romantics saw humankind's highest value and fulfillment in the holistic expression of the living current arising from the 'source of all things' calling on feeling, inspiration, intuition and imagination. In this way, humans would once more establish a communion with nature, rather than disenchanting nature through self-interested reason dissecting, abstracting and objectifying .

But it is not only Romanticism that would decry the objectification of human nature. Developments in the later Enlightenment, within the rational-empirical tradition itself, would come to emphasize the freedom and autonomy of the self, a self which was not simply another object in nature. Such a moral freedom implied a necessary separation from nature, a rising above natural and instinctual inclinations in response to a moral law transcending the cause-effect systems of the natural order. Receiving its quintessential expression in the philosophy of Kant, this view broke with the dominant utilitarian ethic which was grounded on hedonic self interest. The Enlightenment and Romantic streams began to merge around this issue of human freedom and subjectivity. The problem remained, though, as to how to unite the radical freedom which implied a separation from nature with the need for an expressive unity and communion with nature! The increasing emphasis upon the nature of subjectivity and its relation to the world (as Romantic expressivism which led to the epiphanic art of our era or as the concept of human freedom and rational moral autonomy) became the central thread binding the modern and postmodern eras.

The humanistic quest of the Enlightenment toward individual freedom and autonomy reached its apogee in the Kantian moral will. The highest possibility of individual freedom and the moral will, namely self determining autonomy (5/6), was possible for Kant only by operating completely independently of heteronomous factors, i.e. instinctual, natural and collective factors desires, inclinations, customs from an absolute rationality attuned to the purely formal, universal and a priori 'categorical imperative'. But as Charles Taylor, whose general analysis we have here been following, puts it, "The problem with Kant's criterion of rationality is that it has purchased radical autonomy at the price of emptiness."27 "...Full freedom would be situationless. And by the same token it would be empty. Complete freedom would be a void in which nothing would be worth doing, nothing would deserve to count for anything."28 And this indeed aptly fits the twelfth principle world which is surely the outcome of such a narrowly rationalistic and indeed as the Romantics knew in their wanting to heal the split between self and nature severely imbalanced, definition of individual freedom and autonomy (6th)!

Yet ironically, the Romantic conception would also lead to a less than satisfactory manifestation of the twelfth principle. "A subjectivity which is inspired tirelessly to create new forms is one which by definition can never achieve integral expression, can never find a form which truly expresses itself." Hegel terms such a Romantic ideal of endless change a 'bad infinity'. And as Taylor describes the eventual darker face of the Romantic movement, we can also hear the subjective existential cry before the groundless space of the twelfth principle; "On Hegel's view there is an inner link between the Romantic subject's claims to boundless creativity and his experience of the world as God-forsaken..."29

A Postmodern Reconciliation

Yet, a fundamental and central truth of postmodernity, which is most aptly symbolized by the 6/12 axis, is that once the individual reaches that extreme of self responsible, self defining autonomy, the 'world' which the person confronts, the world he or she is 'in,' is not and cannot logically be a world which is thoroughly 'other' with a nature in itself independent of the experiencing subject. We need not define individual freedom as the Kantian era defined it; that is, as necessarily over against natural inclination and environmental causal heteronomy. By immediate and direct experiencing, by our knowing and valuing of our freedom prior to abstract thought, the 'world,' rather than a meaningless and nihilistic void, becomes the multidimensional and creative space of the 12th principle. Self and world, subject and object are in a sense re-joined as an archetypal interpenetration of the space of the 6th and 12th principles:30 subject and object are still indeed distinct, but not as separate absolutes. So instead of inhabiting a divided universe consisting of two literally existent ontological realms or dimensions, the subject and the object, the self and the world, we now inhabit a world where the subject/object distinction, although still real, is structured in a different way. That is, the subject and object are still necessarily distinct, but this polarity is the archetypal form of any and every experience, any and every identifiable 'entity' or 'holon.' 31 All is now contained in a unifying 'space' which is itself neither subject nor object. Our contemporary conditions are constituted by the very attempt to resolve the problems inherited from the late Enlightenment. Although we may not, in terms of our present deep archetypal structure be able to find a complete resolution, there have been profound changes in the fundamental terms in which the essential issues are experienced and proposed.

A view which arose with the Romantics and shared by Idealists such as Schelling was that the original seamless communion with nature which the ancients enjoyed was necessarily lost with the rise of self reflexive reason. But although this was a necessary cleavage which allowed the development of rational consciousness, the telos of such as painful process was to once more be rejoined with nature in a higher level communion. But Hegel, in an attempt to integrate the grand opposites would offer a somewhat different account in terms of a more linear, yet dialectical historical process of development. The underlying motive of both Hegel and the Romantics, according to Taylor, was the "ambition of combining the fullest rational autonomy with the greatest expressive unity"32 but unlike the Romantics, Hegel sought to do this through reason rather than by means of art, intuition and imagination. According to Taylor, Hegel saw that Romanticism with its intuitive way of knowing nature would actually allow only a return to an original unity prior to the necessary separation from nature, rather than constituting a genuinely higher synthesis to which the spiral is called to ascend.

The Romantic 'spiral view' has been reformulated today in a more sophisticated form by such transpersonalists as Michael Washburn, Stanislav Grof, Richard Tarnas, and other 'new paradigm' thinkers. Like Hegel who incorporated somewhat the Romantic stream while opposing much of it, Ken Wilber combining Eastern, Western and postmodern perspectives, similarly rejects what he, somewhat derisively sees as the 'retrogressive Romanticism' of much contemporary and New Age thought, particularly in its embrace of the spiral view. So the same conversation is occurring in a new form today but with vaster dimensions and far reaching discoveries at our disposal. Hegel saw that it wasn't so much a question of resolving the duality of self and world, how to get them back together again after they had come apart which was essentially the Romantic formulation. Rather, it was a matter of how to synthesize the principles of division and unity. Hegel posits a higher and synthesizing 'reason' (Vernunft) above the 'understanding' (Verstand) (the lesser problem-solving 'reason' of the Enlightenment). Rather than a combining of self and world which the Romantics wanted to do, Hegel seeks to include in a greater synthesis historical, developmental, hierarchical both division and unity. And it is such a higher level 'reason' which Wilber equates with his own 'network' or 'vision-logic.' (See section '6/12 axis' above).

But this 6/12 space is not itself a realization of the transcendent or the resolution of the problems of multidimensional endless contextuality, but the individual/collective 'mind' (i.e. mature mental-egoic selfhood and culture/community) space necessary for increasing numbers of individuals to make the journey beyond into the transpersonal. The postmodern deep archetypal structure, though different from the modern structure is nevertheless still one part of a larger deep noospheric33 structure which Ken Wilber terms the 'mental-egoic' and 'centauric' level. So 6/12 is the culmination and possibility of the maturation of the mental and noospheric level, not a new trans-egoic or transpersonal level which lies beyond it. Hence, 6/12 does not indicate even in its highest mode, an ultimate resolution to the inherent problem of duality, subject/object, self and world. Rather, it prepares the mental ground or cognitive foundation for such a total and experientially integrative resolution; it clears the decks so that such a resolution becomes a possibility. So in this sense, in agreement with Wilber, the contemporary intellectual situation is a higher development of reason, of the mental-ego; but such involves an integrative incorporation of other faculties espoused by the Romantics, namely, imagination, intuition, feeling a range of epiphanies.

It is precisely in no longer offering the authoritative structures that conventionally inform the egoic self, that twelfth principle society performs the function (at the deepest levels of consciousness and culture ultimately reliant on basic political and economic structures achieving viability) of actually encouraging the awakening of true individual autonomy and post-conventionality under the 6th principle. Such self-defining self-reliance of the truly autonomous individual is possible only in a collective matrix which is free, undefined, and undefining! In this way, the 6/12 stage/structure calls us to step outside the cultural institutional milieu which has shaped us in order to develop as creatively participating individuals in communion with other individuals. Society's evolving shape, its cultural and institutional structures, will be the intersubjective creation of such individuals not the 'given', not the separate thing-in-itself! But such constitutes a dangerous transition, an arduous test, a kind of new, yet now noospheric, 'survival of the fittest.' Deprived of our social props, we are either thrown back upon our own deeper existential resources or we suffer fragmentation and regression. Here is the inevitable result of the original project of individualism; namely, the responsibility of the individual (distinct from social definitions) to choose and shape his or her own self in relation to the archetypally corresponding 12th principle world, a blank, yet willing and participating canvas upon which to paint and express one's creative potentialities along with everybody else!

Contemporary Real Conditions

Materialist postmodernism

As we have already seen, the dignity and centrality of the individual as mental-ego in integral relation to the collective structures of humanistic and liberal democracy (the Enlightenment cosmos) is the essential constitutive social and psychological framework of the modern period and is aptly symbolized by the 5/11 axis. This axis stands in primary dynamic relation to the 2/8 axis which symbolizes the foundational infrastructure of the concrete world of nature, the biosphere, and more specifically, all concrete and industrial modes of production. 2/8 is the concrete material, need-fulfilling, hedonistic and utilitarian foundation which has brought about a higher level of technological production and economic, material abundance and control over nature the 8th principle, our control of Mother Nature, the 2nd principle, our satisfaction of individual needs and appetites, i.e. hedonism and self interest.

As 5/11 rests upon the material industrial infrastructure of 2/8, so does the 6/12 axis now come to rest, as the cutting edge of evolutionary development moves from the Nineteenth into the Twentieth century, upon the computerized, advertising, information and communication-based technology of 3/9. The 3/9 axis as symbolizing the information age and high tech. economy must be properly understood in relation to the industrial age 2/8 a further development beyond and integrated with 2/8, rather than replacing it as the economic infrastructure.

In our time, the 6th principle has become the movement to maximum streamlined efficiency, the honing of technocratic and instrumental reason in service to individual needs and interests. On one level, while symbolizing the maturation of the psyche, the rationally autonomous and self-responsible individual emerging more and more in this period of history, the 6th also denotes a type of person who is the product of our objectifying, controlling, technological and materialist-scientistic mainstream culture; an efficient expert detail-handler, a dissociated droid fashioned by instrumental thought and seamlessly interwoven with the all-pervading technology and dominant functional corporatist ideology of the age. Bereft of a capacity for genuinely critical thinking, that long revered quintessential sixth principle ability to 'think-for-oneself' which reaches back to its source in Socratic inquiry and social critique, these efficient managerial masters of data operate in ninth principle space, disseminating the prevailing ideology of materialist-modernist scientific control and market place advertising propaganda.

At this level, the 'discriminating awareness' of the 6th principle becomes the expertise in operating within the structure, actual success as a technocrat or manager within the 'system', engaging a twelfth principle world characterized by the openness of deregulated global markets, the credulity of an increasingly media-hypnotized mass, an increasing variety of cultural and ideological styles and choices undergoing qualitative degradation in relation to an increasingly mentally homogenized population. The social/economic order symbolized by the fixed cross a relatively integrated rationality with a commitment to social emancipation and the enjoyment of a general level of employment participation (if people were alienated in the factory, at least they had a job!) is challenged and broken up by the movement to 6/12.

Having lost, not only the specific ideologies and narratives of the past, but the very meaning of meaning, the 9th principle manifests as an unchecked Jupiterian proliferation of computerized filaments encasing the globe as a vast web connecting countless individualized nodes in an orgy of hypertextual references connecting and interconnecting functional data in which all living meaning and presence is in danger of strangulation, except for the sophisticated virtuosity of the still culturally inspired few. The elegance of third principle literacy is in danger of becoming lost, while intelligent communication metamorphizes into the crudest forms of functional and/or indulgent exchanges. Instead of transformational thought and deeper insights where patterns of interconnected information reveal larger synthesizing visions, the reigning ideology becomes the vast system itself, 'the media is the message' polyester interweavings of facts and data imitate and mock the genuine natural fabric of epiphanies and understandings!

The 12th principle dimension which we are struggling to realize in its highest possibilities against the entropic gravity of the socio-political realities of our corporatist system, reveals itself in a jarring play of discordant yet related archetypal manifestations: the welcomed dissolving of 'inhuman' bureaucracy becomes an uninformed populist revolt against governments which are the only possible voice of the people who are calling for their devolution; deconstruction becomes deregulation, allowing corporations more freedom to amass profits by exploiting people and the environment; openness and tolerance, through an absence of discrimination (6th) becomes naive gullibility, a people victimized and brainwashed by corporate propaganda and advertising; diversity and choice, becomes qualitative blurring and homogenization (Disney, McDonald's, endless skyscrapers); decentering becomes decentralization supported by corporatists who can then escape local control.

Globalization and the erosion of democracy

As in the Aufhebung of Hegel, where, developmentally speaking, the lower form and stage is both preserved and annulled in the higher level, both the ego structure (4,5) and its corresponding democratic, governmental and public structure (10,11) (which properly defines, preserves, and nurtures the freedom and autonomy of the individual against the rule of non-democratically legitimated power) optimally must not collapse, but rather be transcended in an integrated 'self/society' deep archetypal structure symbolized by the 6/12 axis. What is called for is a global trans-national, truly universal humanistic transformation of all old parochial, ethnocentric, chauvinistic, sexist and racist forms a transformation calling for a truly individualized and autonomous, post-conventional and morally responsible self-determining 6th principle individual whose social milieu is multidimensional, creative and indeterminate (12).

But despite the intellectual and cultural renascence of which we have been speaking, our present age is suffering a crisis. A true evolutionary development to a next and 'higher' stage is by no means certain and it is unclear, in actual practice, how we, as a collective, are going to extricate ourselves. Socially, politically and economically that is, in the day to day concrete social and global infrastructure in which we find ourselves our present crisis has two equally disturbing concrete manifestations which demand integrated solutions; namely, as continued industrial exploitation of the environment and as social deterioration through corporate downsizing in an anti-democratic and increasingly all powerful global marketplace.

Both nationally and internationally, neither the Green eco-movement nor the trade union and social democratic movements, have been able to meet the incredibly complex challenge and achieve the necessarily integrated vision to go beyond the role of opposition and the necessary consciousness raising function to effectively and concretely participate in the democratizing of the institutional structures of society. This crisis is a crisis of hegemonic power, not of traditional elites aristocracy and bureaucratic government but of the market place, the private sector which has slipped the moorings of liberal humanism and participatory democracy which had increasingly shaped the public domain from the Renaissance through the Enlightenment. Robert N. Bellah writes, "...the greatest threat to our genuine human happiness, to real community and to the creation of a good society comes not only from a state whose power becomes too coercive...but from an economy that becomes too coercive, that invades our private and group lives and tempts us to a shallow and competitive individualism that undermines all our connections to other people."34

Thus, the people lose democratic power and the individual drowns in an amorphous sea of more 'primitive' structures, that is, non-democratic need-driven corporations which have now slipped away from the democratic controls of increasingly decentralized and consequently weakened national governments. The Enlightenment democratic gains of the eleventh in relation to the tenth principle governments which brought government more and more into accord with the individual and local community is now lost. As Taylor sees it, the "ideology of participation...cannot cope with the complexity and fragmentation of a large-scale contemporary society. Many of its protagonists see this, and return to the original Rousseauian idea of a highly decentralized federation of communities. But in the meantime the growth of a large homogeneous society has made this much less feasible....homogenization has undermined the partial communities which would naturally have been the basis of such a decentralized federation in the past."35

There is an important contrast between two powerful trends in contemporary society the trend toward multicultural tolerance with its celebration of ever richer diversities (which occurs with the decentering of ethnocentric and logocentric identifications) and a movement toward greater homogenization. Previous cultures and nations were smugly ensconced within their own worlds, dimly aware of other 'not so enlightened' culture/worlds 'out there' (the usual responses being ethnocentricity, missionary zeal, or imperialist dominance and war), but now we all share the same concrete world, a multidimensional cacophony of incommensurable beliefs, styles and practices shot through with bizarre syncretisms. We see a breakdown of old class systems and racist exclusivism according to the ethic of individualism and universal human rights while under the influence of advertising, mass media, communications, travel and the global marketplace there is more and more erosion of the legitimate essence of national and cultural identities through a lessening of qualitative richness and uniformity of products. Consensus, as the foundation of our modernist view of democracy is undermined by both multiculturalism and the expansive growth of populations. Hence, as Charles Taylor describes it;

...the increasing alienation in a society which has eroded its traditional foci of allegiance makes it harder and harder to achieve the basic consensus, to bring everyone to the 'general will', which is essential for radical democracy. As the traditional limits fade with the grounds for accepting them, society tends to fragment; partial groups become increasingly truculent in their demands, as they see less reason to compromise with the 'system'. But the radical demand for participation can do nothing to stem this fragmentation. Participation of all in a decision is only possible if there is a ground of agreement, or of underlying common purpose. Radical participation cannot create this; it presupposes it.36

Nevertheless, multicultural proximity undermines, for better and worse, the central authority and integrity of particular religious and cultural traditions which are ultimately fighting a rear-guard battle against the relentless force of homogenization which is stirring and blending all into the bland global stew pot of corporate uniformity. Rather than a genuinely participatory community-based democratic shift from increasingly bureaucratized central governments to the people, the process of contemporary decentralization becomes a devolution to more local systems of government with less power for taxation to fund public programs because corporations can move or threaten to move (negative 12th). As social critic John Ralston Saul points out, "the point of decentralization is not really to deal with the tension between big government and the citizen...those who are against government social programming are almost all in favour of decentralization...more or less the same grouping is in favour of referenda and 'direct democracy' as against the slow tedious grind of representative democracy."37

In perfect accordance with the archetypal essence of this postmodern deep stage/structure, the previous divisions between have and have-not nations appear to be dissolving. Though a 'karmically appropriate' equalizing effect in itself, the resulting across-the-board internalization of inequality is clearly a lower octave manifestation. This homogenization of nation states is producing a new elite and an increasingly marginalized underclass within each country a process nurtured within the embrace of a transnational corporate and anti-democratic global structure (replacing 11th principle nation state democracy). But rather than motivated by a pure urge to 'power-over' others as occurred in traditional pre-democratic collectives, we now witness a more selfishly indifferent and coldly alienated tendency to ignore the plight of increasing numbers of people condemned to the garbage heap. Such a specter conjures up images of a kind of hi-tech feudalism. "Certainly corporatism is creating a conformist society. It is a modern form of feudalism with none of the advantages of the early urban guild system, where obligation, responsibility and standards played a role," writes John Ralston Saul.38 Yet astrologically and archetypally considered, the 12th principle is not an apt symbol of serfdom. Rather, we are dealing with people who simply fall through the ever enlarging cracks of increasingly underfunded public and mechanized productive systems an expansion of the human flotsam and jetsam which had always lived outside and beyond even the feudal structure as more of the wealth concentrates in the hands of fewer and fewer. In this sense, the 12th is appropriate as a symbol of society's failures which began in the early industrial revolution and which, despite a period of social/economic liberalism that fueled jobs and a broader basis of democratic participation, has now reached an unprecedented level of replacing jobs with mechanized and consequently cheaper labour.


Economic hegemony is actually the end result of the development of radical individualism. Corporate power as the rampant paradoxically 'collective' power of our day follows the unlimited freedom of absolute individualism (never intended by its Enlightenment authors, i.e. John Locke nor even Adam Smith.) There is nothing more antisocial, antidemocratic and socially irresponsible than today's large corporations committed to the profit of managers and shareholders. This is the institutionalization of a particularly primitive notion of the individual, namely, individual self interest based on instrumental reason and a narrowly hedonistic interpretation of the utilitarian ethic and of individual freedom as freedom from any sort of restraint against the individual's absolutely self-interested competitive drive. In fact, it can be argued that such a radical individualism expresses the victory of one pole of a profound dialectic which has shaped the modernist period, a dynamic polarity of viewpoints which Wilber calls the 'ego' and the 'eco' and which, as we have seen, Taylor identifies as the primary challenge of the Enlightenment a tension between the autonomous ego of Enlightenment rationalism and the urge for self expression and communion with nature of the Romantics.

Yet, despite the over emphasis on radical individualism, in reality more and more individuals are becoming less and less autonomous. As the central ego (4,5) is challenged and fragmented in the postmodern mentality, so also is the centrality of public power (10/11), consequently undermining the power of the individual who is then defenseless against those more primitive forces which the Enlightenment contained, yet through its materialism, instrumental reason and hedonistic utilitarian emphasis, it also spawned. The increasing usurpation of public power by private (yet still collective) power is, according to Saul, even assisted by certain elements of the deconstructionists' approach to language.

The citizen's great difficulty in making public debate work begins, however, with the crisis in our language...Our underlying problem is that public language can no longer shape power by fighting single, isolated causes...Today, the seamless web of corporatism means that these specific battles for justice end up at best as isolated victories, which are often then easily marginalized...It is through language that we will find our way out of our current dilemma, just as a rediscovery of language provided a way out for Westerners during the humanist breakthrough that began in the twelfth century...the difficulty with many of the arguments used today to examine reigning fallacies is that they have fallen into the general assumptions of deconstructionism. They do not seek meaning or knowledge or truth. They seek to demonstrate that all language is tied to interest. The deconstructionists have argued against language as communication in order to get at the evils of rhetoric and propaganda. But if language is always self interest, then there is no possibility of disinterest and therefore no possibility of the public good. The net effect has been to reinforce the corporatist point of view that we all exist as functions within our corporations.39

In fact, as we are here conceiving 3/9 as the central foundation of 6/12, the subtleties of language are foundational for our present social, political and economic situation, as again, Saul argues; a corporatist society there is no serious need for traditional censorship or burning...It is as if our language itself is responsible for our inability to identify and act upon reality. Our language has been separated into two parts. There is public language - enormous, rich, varied and more or less powerless. Then there is corporatist language, attached to power and action. This splitting of language into a public domain and a corporatist domain makes it very difficult for anyone outsider or insider to grasp reality. Without a language that functions as a general means of useful communication (our 3 & 6), civilizations slip off into self delusion and romanticism, both of which are aspects of ideology, both aspects of unconsciousness. 40

The liberal humanism of the Enlightenment Locke, Rousseau etc. was grounded on the idea of the social contract between prior individuals which tended to produce an unhealthy skew toward the distinct individual pole of thought where society is an abstraction which serves the individual. Collective thinking, which found an embodiment in the philosophies of Hegel and Marx (as well as generally resonant with Eastern societies) opposes this view, positing the collective as the primary reality where the individual is an abstraction which serves society or the State. Actually, individualism and collectivism are polar principles which are interpenetrative as in the 'conformist individualism' of the American fifties and the 'non-conformist collectivism' of the sixties. According to James Ogilvy, both accounts are abstractions. "Rather than seeing the individual and the collective as ontologically given and concrete, individuality and collectivity can be recast as equal and opposite abstractions from the concrete life of everyday communities. No individual is ever completely isolated, and no actual community has ever extended its reach to the entire species. Both individuality and species-being are abstractions from the concrete, day to day reality of life in limited communities. Both individuality and collectivity are biographical and historical achievements" 41 rather than starting points. This necessary interconnection of individual and society is well expressed by Bellah.

There is a fear that institutions threaten individual freedom freedom as the right to be left alone. This set of beliefs leads us to think of institutions as efficient or inefficient mechanisms...But "Freedom must exist within and be guaranteed by institutions, such as the right to participate in the economic and political decisions that effect our lives. What is missing in the classical liberal view of society? Just the idea that in our life with other people we are engaged continuously through our words and actions in the creation and re-creation of the institutions that make our life possible. So what the liberal idea tends to forget is that institutions are not only constraining but also enabling. They are not just neutral mechanisms but the substantial forms through which we understand our own identity and the identity of others as we seek cooperatively to achieve a decent society.42

The realization of the highest possibilities of individualism implies a rational development beyond egocentricity and exclusive concern with self interest just as Virgo and Pisces typically express responsible and compassionate service and self sacrifice. The valuing of the freedom of the primitively self interested individual rather than the valuing of the development of the truly mature individual has become the fundamental institutional societal infrastructure more and more, domestically and internationally, eroding the real power of the public sphere, government as the people (10/11). The now valued 'individual' is not every individual, or the alienated or marginalized individual, or even the critically aware individual (healthy 6th), but the heroic self-serving 'successful' individual who can most efficiently play the game a technocratic, instrumental, efficient and corporatist game (narrowly defined 6th pr. in terms of a regressive 2nd) where the 'successes' stand over against an increasingly large mass of 'losers' (12th pr.). The socio-political order of the 12th principle, 'empty' of the previous industrial lower tech. structures, calls for a radical post-industrial re-organization of previous forms of social/economic participation demanding higher 6th principle developments of individual autonomy and self reliant efficiency the new emphasis on the self employed, self motivated entrepreneur. But the failure to include those still at the previous stage, encouraging and assisting them to gradually develop, means all but a select few (an over individual emphasis on 5/6) can flourish.

Distinct from the pathological form of individualistic self interest that has taken shape in the modern world in hand with the frightening pace of technological development, there is also an evolutionary archetypally natural and healthy form of development of the human spirit within the matrix of an awakening culture. This optimum expression of the archetypal picture points toward the development of a thoroughly autonomous and responsible, critical and astute, self reliant, mature post-conventional person well symbolized by the archetypal form of the sixth principle. Such 'individuals' being post-conventional are necessarily moving beyond society's institutions but are not thereby alienated from their fellow human beings. In their maturity, they realize their essential social and interconnected nature; this is the mental and moral ecology, the 'we-are-all-in-the-same-boat' situation of the 12th principle. The mature individual recognizes, (as we now recognize the social-linguistic nature of the individual) his or her essential interconnection with society. Otherwise, the sixth manifests as 'only the fit survive' only those individuals who can qualify in our present meritocracy can join the technocratic and managerial elites.


I have tried to demonstrate that both developments in culture and consciousness and disconcerting changes in socio-political and economic institutions are enfolded within a newly emerging archetypal deep structure which at this point of its unfolding, we are characterizing as postmodern. What we tend to see as both positive and negative features, a cultural renaissance yet an increasing economic disparity, 'leading edge' or 'high' culture along with popular or 'mass' culture, are to be understood in the same archetypal terms. So genuinely higher developments along with changes that might be deemed even pathological, bear the signature of the deep structure unfolding in history, a structure appropriately illuminated by the archetypal lattice work of the astrological mandala from the perspective of the mutable cross. This deep structure is as distinct from the modernist as the modernist was distinct from the medieval and ancient structures. A dialectic between elements of earlier structures and newly emergent characteristics results in a complex of creatively evolving and devolving or regressive elements, the totality of which characterize the age. In healthy or optimum development, some old forms are to be retained while others are modified; still others are to be entirely transformed or replaced by completely new and higher level structures. Either we will manifest this archetypal dimension with increasing conscious awareness or we may face a devastating collapse at the end of a great cycle.

The exciting richness of unfolding intellectual, cultural and spiritual possibilities is indisputable and the inevitable spectrum of culture, from its most sublime creations to its more simplified and popular forms, is natural and acceptable. But there remains the overwhelming concrete reality of continued biospheric exploitation, increasing economic disparity and the marginalization of mounting numbers, not only deprived of their fair share of material security and well being, but more importantly, bereft of cultural enrichment with a consequent increase in the worst forms of market-driven mass culture and a resulting degeneration of the democratic process. This is the greatest and most critically difficult challenge of our age!

It calls from each of us an Olympian mobilization of our own psycho-spiritual resources, a maximization of our individual intelligence and moral responsibility, to open in faith to an infinitely open space which is our shared and mutually-to-be-created world. Awakening beyond the existentialist's initial call to nobly thrash around within a Void inventing futile 'meanings' and 'purposes,' we seek to attune in consciousness to the deep archetypal structure which is here to guide us. Now, as never before, it is incumbent on more and more individuals to awaken. The individual the 'interior' path is, as never before, the channel of the evolutionary impulse. But this is not the distinct, separate and self interested individual. This interiority leads not to a solipsistic withdrawal from the collective and the reach of history; rather, it leads through the interior space to a deeper inclusive objective dimension of ever more subtle levels of Spirit. Individual expression, full self actualization and psycho-spiritual fulfillment no longer imply a necessary esoteric withdrawal from the conformist pressure of exoteric societal life. Now more than ever, this mode of individual unfolding is profoundly socially and culturally participatory. The individual comes to know that his or her development is one with the community, with others, with the evolutionary advance of human culture as the matrix of further development. The present deep structure is a doorway to that Spirit, a preparation for the 'Return path'43 those levels of the transpersonal which still await us in our collective future.

Although there are no guarantees, we are not inevitably lost in postmodern multi-perspectival space since it is a grand stage containing numerous dimensions and sub-stages in an overarching process, a stage of particular significance that heralds a fundamental archetypal change of direction in the grand evolutionary trajectory of consciousness. The 'heroic' thrust of history Tarnas' Promethean principle, the dominance of the assertive and individualizing force, the painful 'triumph' of the patriarchy over the original matriarchies has reached a necessary extreme, the developmental limit of the 'Outward path' of evolution. All the essential biological and mental structures are in place; further differentiation and complexification, fueled by the 'causal' drive, the 'force from behind,' simply adds ever more endless variations on a now dying theme. A teleological principle is pulling us forward to a new path, urging us to seek integration, the ending of duality, awakening us to the profound depths of our original separation and ultimately to a union with the higher levels of soul and spirit. Here we are being prepared for the path of awareness, of opening, responding, allowing moving toward a new integration of mind and body, self and other, male and female, creature and creator. No longer 'knowing,' fluid and open, sensitively aware of 'difference' not naively, but keenly self aware, self critical, cognitively fully developed we are now called in a new direction. That this comes through a crisis, a particular stage of illness and healing, is the message of Virgo and Pisces.


1.) Goddard, Gerry, Embracing a New Dawn; transpersonal theory and the astrological mandala.. Forthcoming.

While the twelve-fold astrological mandala must be understood holistically, holographically and structurally at each stage and level of the evolutionary unfolding of consciousness, the principles can be understood as mapping the deep developmental stage/structures of the overarching trajectory of history. It is customary to interpret cycles, and the grand movement of evolution itself, in a linear fashion from Aries through Taurus and ultimately on to Pisces. But it is more correct to think of consciousness developing as a 'self/world' structure from 1/7, through 2/8 on through to 6/12 the present period and level of collective consciousness then on to possible future collective and present cutting edge individual transcendent levels, 7/1 to 12/6. Each axis is to be understood in both psychological and socio/historical terms. When we interpret the Virgo/Pisces duality in postmodern terms, it symbolizes a particular evolutionary level that is now being reached by the global collective in its most highly developed and in its pathological or arrested forms. When the symbolic fit is so appropriate, and if a similar case can be made for each of the previous historic stage/structures (1/7, 2/8, 3/9, 4/10 and 5/11), the astrological mandala becomes a powerful tool for interpreting the deep historical structures of consciousness in their archetypal relationship to psycho-social factors as well as to the transpersonal structures (7/1 to 12/6). As such, the astrological map is validated as an overarching model of consciousness capable of fruitful comparison with the best of existing transpersonal models.

2.) Ihab Hassan, "On the Dialectic of Modernism and Postmodernism" quoted in Huston Smith's

Beyond the Postmodern Mind, Wheaton, Ill., (Theosophical Publishing House, 1989), p. 43. 3.) Richard Tarnas, The Passion of the Western Mind, (hereafter Passion) (N.Y., Ballantine, 1991), p.402

4.) Huston Smith, "Postmodernism and the World's Religions," in The Truth about the Truth, ed. by W.T. Anderson, (N.Y., Tarcher/Putnam, 1995), p.213.

5.) Huston Smith, Beyond the Postmodern Mind, (Theosophical Publishing House,1989), p.217.

6.) Ken Wilber, The Eye of Spirit, (Boston, Shambala, 1997) pp.130-131.

7.) Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, (hereafter SES), (Boston, Shambala, 1995),

p. 202-203.

8) SES, p. 73.

9) SES, pp. 72-73.

10) C.G. Jung, On the Nature of the Psyche, (Princeton N.J., Princeton University Press, 1960) and Synchronicity; an acausal connecting principle, (Princeton N.J., Princeton University Press, 2nd ed. 1969).

11) SES, p. 185.

12) SES p. 188.

13) Now almost a slogan from Jean-Francois Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition, 1984.

14) Passion, p.399.

15) For an informative account of a relevant debate between Jurgen Habermas with his commitment to democratic debate and the possibility of consensus versus Francois Lyotard's deconstruction of the 'emancipation' narrative, see, Robert C. Holub, Jurgen Habermas; Critic in the Public Sphere, (London, Routledge, 1991) pp. 133-161. (Also note 24 below).

16) Passion, p. 402.

17) Roberto Assagioli, Psychosynthesis, (N.Y. Viking Press, 1965), p.74-77.

18) James Hillman, Re-Visioning Psychology, (N.Y., Harper Perennial, 1992).

19) Passion, p. 402.

20) Steinar Kvale, "Themes of Postmodernity," in The Truth about the Truth, p. 22.

21) Morris Berman, The Reenchantment of the World, (Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1981), pp.279 & 280.

22) Dane Rudhyar, The Pulse of Life, (Berkeley, Shambala, 1970), p. 107.

23) SES, p. 460.

24) See Richard Rorty, "Habermas and Lyotard on Postmodernity" in Essays on Heidegger and

Others, (Cambridge University Press, 1991).

25) Richard Rorty, "Ironists and Metaphysicians," in The Truth about the Truth, p.101.

26) Richard Rorty, "Heidegger, Kundera, and Dickens" in his Essays on Heidegger and Others.

27) Charles Taylor, Hegel and Modern Society, (hereafter, Hegel) (Cambridge University Press, 1979), p. 77.

28) Hegel, p. 157.

29) Hegel, p. 13.

30) My model (see ref 1.) incorporates Rudhyar's analysis of the archetypal and cyclic interplay of the Day and Night forces which reach their maximum balance at the equinoxes and maximum imbalance at the solstices. In Virgo/Pisces we see the individualizing Day force (Aries to Virgo) once more moving toward a balance with the collectivising Night force (Libra to Pisces) which can be interpreted as symbolizing an increasingly conscious interconnection of the two polar principles.

31) The concept of the holon attributed to Koestler means that any identifiable entity is

simultaneously a whole unto itself (an identifiable individual 'thing') and a part of a greater whole. Everything is a holon which is neither reducible to its 'thingness' nor its 'partness'.

32) Hegel, p.12

33) As mind is to body, 'noosphere' is to biosphere. The term was conceived by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. See his The Phenomenon of Man, (N.Y., Harper, 1975).

34) Robert N. Bellah, "Autonomy and Responsibility: the Social Basis of Ethical Individualism" in Revisioning Philosophy edited by James Ogilvy, (Albany, State University of New York Press, 1992), p.157

35) Hegel, p. 116.

36) Hegel, p. 115.

37) John Ralston Saul, The Unconscious Civilization, (Concord, Ont., Anansi, 1995), p.107-108.

38) Ibid. p. 90

39) Ibid. p. 169-172

40) Ibid. pp. 46, 47

41) James Ogilvy, "Beyond Individualism and Collectivism" in Revisioning Philosophy,


42) Robert N. Bellah, "Autonomy and Responsibility" in Revisioning Philosophy, pp.158-160.

43) The concept of the Outward and Return paths refers to a particular grand overarching view of the evolutionary development of consciousness which differentiates between development up to and including the mature mental-ego and the path of transpersonal transformation. The path of pursuit, the Pravritti Marga, is characterized by self- assertion, while the inward movement or the path of return, the Nivritti Marga, is characterized by an increasing self realization. See Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, The Dance of Shiva, (N.Y., Dover, 1985), p. 7-8.