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Reply To: Retro Merc


Thanks, Phil for those kind words. It can be touchy discussing astrology, given the long held popular assumption that it’s all about the stars and planets controlling our fate (in the same way that alchemy is popularly understood to be about literally turning lead into gold).

Jung wrote at length about alchemy and astrology – and many Campbellophiles forget that Joe himself used to cast horoscopes (eventually stopping because, in his words, “it gave me a feeling I  knew too much about people; you know you get these intimate things . . . “), but that focus is more on metaphor and an imaginative reading of the symbols, rather than a literal interpretation.

Many mythologists and depth psychologists today are drawn to the field of archetypal astrology. Though this can be traced back to the writings of Jung, the catalyst for this movement was the 2006 publication of Cosmos and Psyche, by Richard Tarnas (Richard wrote his first book, The Passion of the Western Mind, while manning the front gate at Esalen back when Joseph Campbell was regularly in residence); that book is well-researched and worth the read.

Here is a brief description of this nascent field from mythologist Keiron Le Grice (author of The Rebirth of the Hero):

Archetypal astrology . . . is based on an observed correspondence between the planets in the solar system and specific themes, qualities, and impulses associated with a set of universal principles and thematic categories known as planetary archetypes. Each of the planetary bodies, as well as the Sun and the Moon, is associated with a distinct archetypal principle. Thus, the planet Mars, for example, is related to a complex array of themes and qualities associated with the warrior archetype and, more generally, to the principle of assertion, action, and aggressive force; whereas Venus, understood in its simplest terms, is related to the principle of eros, romantic love, beauty, and pleasure. Rather like the ancient mythic conception of the gods, and as in the Platonic conception of archetypal Forms, the archetypal principles associated with the planets are recognized to be not only psychological but also cosmological in essence, exerting a dynamic formative ordering influence on both the interior and exterior dimensions of reality.” (Keiron Le Grice, “The Birth of a New Discipline”)

Over the course of a few millennia in ancient Mesopotamia, the planet we know today as Venus was associated with Inanna or Ishtar (incarnations of the goddess of love). No surprise that – as both the evening and the morning star, this planet presided over late night lovemaking sessions, and was often in the sky before dawn as lovers made their way home from their trysts – so there are thousands of years of near universal collective projections on that celestial body. Does the planet Inanna/Ishtar/Venus determine one’s love life? Hardly – but nevertheless, there is an ancient association between that planet and romance which continues to this day.

When it comes to Mercury retrogrades I imagine the key phrase should be “actual user experience will vary.” If you’re inclined to pay attention to that kind of thing, it can be a fascinating and, at times, useful exercise – but if not so inclined, don’t feel a need to alter your behavior (though I am curious to see if you notice an uptick in weirdness during retro Merc, though granted that might well be the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy so to speak).

I don’t disagree with Shakespeare when he has Cassius say, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves”; at the same time, it takes examining the projections we make outside ourselves (including onto the heavens) to come to know oneself.