Whitehead and Archetypal Cosmology: Presentation at the “Seizing An Alternative” Conference

The paper from which this presentation was given, also entitled “Whitehead and Archetypal Cosmology,” is available here.

5 Replies to “Whitehead and Archetypal Cosmology: Presentation at the “Seizing An Alternative” Conference”

  1. Nice, Becca! Your analogy of cosmic influence through archetypal hypostases (concretely embodied in the planets) to the diffraction of light through a prism is very interesting. I was wondering if that came to you as a description of an intuitive vision or as a flash of insight on its own. Also, the artwork on your Archetypal Prism website is very nice– complements to whoever did it. Not sure how interested you are in the Sabian Symbols for zodiacal degrees, but in a, to me, interesting parallel, the symbol given for 29th degree Pisces is simply “A prism”. This is also only 2 degrees away from your own Natal North Lunar Node.

    To quote Marc Edmund Jones in his description of this symbol from his book _Sabian Symbols in Astrology_ (p.329):

    “This is a symbol of the world’s stability, and of the refusal of nature to change any aspect of herself unnecessarily. The reliability of normal processes and the consistency of true intelligence are the foundation of a common knowledge which man has been expanding through the centuries, and his continuance of the control he has gained over his environment is promise of much more wonderful achievement ahead. He is able to take any convenient facet of the reality at hand and fashion it into an effective instrument for a measure of the whole potential. The keyword is VALIDATION. When positive, the degree is exceptional accomplishment through judgement of unusual accuracy, and when negative, fatuous pride of intellect.”

  2. Just to clarify one statement above: “I was wondering if that came to you as a description of an intuitive vision or as a flash of insight on its own.”
    What I mean is that I was wondering whether the descriptive analogy of operative celestial influence you gave (i.e. “A Prism”) came to you in a ‘pictorial’ vision or as a verbal insight…

    Also, do you think that there might be some correlation between your ‘prism’ analogy and the kabbalistic concept of ‘tzimtzum’ ?

  3. The initial insight into the archetypal refraction through a prism came to me as an image (I tend to think or imagine (they’re rather inseparable for me) in images primarily. And while I hadn’t directly thought to draw a connection between the metaphor of a divine prism and the concept of tsimtsum (or tzimtzum) I can now very much see how they do relate, so thank you for drawing that idea forward. I briefly touched on the concept of tsimtsum in an essay I wrote about the 17th century philosopher Anne Conway, who was influenced by Kabbala, and in turn influenced Leibniz and through him Whitehead (the connection is not often made because as a female philosopher Conway has been largely ignored, and many of her ideas have gone without citation, or have been misattributed to her male contemporaries). But there is certainly a complementarity between Conway’s expression of tsimtsum, Whitehead’s God, and the refraction of the archetypes.

    That’s quite interesting that the Sabian symbol of the 29th degree of Pisces is a prism, especially because that is the final degree in the zodiac before the cycle begins anew. The prism comes both last and first, beginning the cycle again, refracting all that has come before into new potentials to be lived into throughout the upcoming journey around the zodiac.

  4. Fascinating. Thank you.

    I’d like to also complement the paintings that you have posted on this website. The one called “The Oversoul” is also especially interesting in context of the above comments. Does that painting have anything to do with your vision of the archetypal prism? It seems at least to have a direct connection to Conway’s Infinite Dynamic Staircase. And you do mention Emerson’s conception of the Oversoul in your Conway essay. [As an aside, the Oversoul concept also figures prominently into the work of Paul Brunton and Anthony Damiani, who also draws heavily on Plotinus and informs this concept with a distinctly astrological cast in his book _Astronoesis_.]

    Some of the concepts discussed in your Conway essay again brought Rudhyar and Panikkar back to my mind. Rudhyar often wrote about ‘multi-unity’ when discussing his concept of ‘operative wholeness,’ but perhaps his general emphasis on the chronological aspect of cosmic cycles may make some of his conceptions more difficult to directly incorporate into what seems to be the main salient problematic. Panikkar, on the other hand, often decisively emphasizes the kairological moment, and his concept of ‘ontonomy’ (exhibiting ‘inter-independence’) seems maybe to resonate with some of what was presented of Conway’s thought in the context of ‘sacred relationality’ and tikkun.

    In my opinion, concepts like metempsychosis, as usually discussed, often tend to obfuscate the issue by creating a kind of dissociative remove from present experience, thereby emphasizing the same spirit/matter dualism that is claimed to be transcended.

    From what you have written on Conway’s expression of tzimtzum, it seems that she is equating it fairly closely with the Christian trinitarian concept and further identifying Christ as a personification of the primordial hylic matter. I am not an expert on anything really, including theology and kabbalah, so I cannot really speak to the potential fine points implied by this conceptual elision. From what I understand, the Lurianic concept of tzimtzum is a little bit different than the Christian Trinity. It is part of a detailed Creation cosmology. Maybe it could be described as something like the foundational abstract intention of a creative act of God, said to be like a ‘contraction of breath’ or a vacuum. There are a lot of complicated elaborations on this concept that I have not studied; but I think it is said that at some point in tzimtzum there arises the Adam Kadmon, which maybe could be potentially identified somehow with a sort of hylic Christ, but it seems to me that there are important distinctions to be made between the two concepts. The Adam Kadmon mediates between the light of Ein-Sof and the hierarchy of worlds. It is a little bit different from just identifying a mediation between spirit and matter. Perhaps the Christ could be more particularly identified as a specific expression of this mediation in its concrete ramifications extending to the human activities within the hierarchy of worlds in a capacity related to tikkun. I don’t know. Maybe it is not an important distinction.

    The reason I wondered about a connection between tzimtzum and your concept of an archetypal prism is because in kabbalah tzimtzum leads to what is often called “breaking of the vessels” (I cannot remember the technical term) which can maybe be associated with the creation of the hierarchy of worlds. It is a cascade of fragmentation that necessitates the healing processes of Tikkun in order to return to its original concrete wholeness. It is like an involutional-evolutional process where the “breaking of the vessels” is an involution and tikkun the concomitant evolution. The term “breaking of the vessels” has always seemed to me rather strange, connoting something like a piece of pottery smashed into shards, and somehow insufficient. To me, the idea of an archetypal prism, perhaps situated in the “brow” of the “head” of the Adam Kadmon of Tzimtzum, seems to speak to some kind of poetic truth. Rather than connoting the shattering of the Adam Kadmon like a piece of pottery, the idea of the archetypal prism connotes that the emanating light of the Ein-Sof refracts through the “brow” of the Adam Kadmon thereby leading to the cascade of fragmentation that is partially represented by the creation of the cosmic hierarchy of the worlds and partially represented by a full collapse into chaos. The part represented by the cosmic creation maintains a certain order, reflective of the source (and in some sense reiterative) but also different, somewhat like the varying colors propagating from a photonic refraction. However, the ordered refraction of the cosmic hierarchy of worlds is not only one singular refraction but a compound chain or cascade of refractions taking place as involutions of each discrete body at each successive hierarchical level of scale. It also greatly differs in consideration of the evolutional return to source exemplified by the healing processes of tikkun, and that each refraction is not just a photonic waveform but a conscious (or potentially conscious) personality, reflective in some way of the Adam Kadmon. The analogy is nicely suggestive but should not be taken too literally.
    I’m sorry for writing so much here. I hope very dearly that I am not being too bothersome.

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