Heralding the Coming God: Schelling’s Philosophy of the Persephone Myth

From its root there grew
a hundred blooms which had a scent so sweet that all
the wide heaven above and all the earth and all
the salt swelling of the sea laughed aloud.
And then the girl too wondered at it, she reached out
her hands to take this thing of such delight,
but the earth with wide paths gaped in the plain of Nysia,
and He Who Accepts So Many, the lord, sprang upon her
with his immortal horses, that son of Chronos with many names.
– From “Hymn to Demeter”[1]

For Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, the truth of God could be found in the mythologies of antiquity. Schelling’s philosophy of mythology explores the presence of God in the world as revealed through cultural myths and religious revelation. He primarily focused on Greek mythology, with a particular concentration on the Cabiri gods of the island of Samothrace, which he felt empirically confirmed an early image of the nature of God which he had worked out in his own metaphysical ontology.[2] The Cabiri myth, and the mystery initiation rituals associated with it have widespread connections throughout the ancient world, both within the Mediterranean and beyond. The most prevalent correlation to the Cabiri, as Schelling discusses in his essay The Deities of Samothrace, is the myth of Persephone’s abduction to the underworld and subsequent return, which mirrors both the succession of the seasons throughout the year and the cyclical development of a plant. Persephone’s story is both a metaphor and a symbol for Schelling’s God, a God who is also in an eternal, dynamic process that leads to the creation of the world in his own image.[3]

The ontology of Schelling’s God was based initially on the writings of Jakob Böhme in combination with earlier works of his own.[4] God exists as two poles, one of absolute free will and the other of necessity, and each pole can be understood through Schelling’s positive and negative philosophies respectively.[5] Schelling paints “a portrait of a God who constitutes himself as a duality-in-unity” and it is the continuous tension and harmonization of this polarity that gives God a dynamic, living, and even evolving existence.[6] Of these two poles, the pole of necessity has within it its own polarized structure, which also is in a process of tension and harmonization. First, there is the initial force that is the dark ground of all being, a centripetal potency of “pure subjectivity” that draws all things eternally into itself. The second force is one of “pure objectivity,” a centrifugal potency eternally radiating forth. The opposing tensions of these two forces are in continual struggle with each other, and can only be reconciled by a third potency, one that would not be present without the other two. This third uniting potency is love, which harmonizes and brings an unstable balance between the first two, before the third potency is overcome and the cycle begins anew.[7]

While Schelling writes that this interaction of the three potencies is in God’s “past” he also calls it an “eternal process,” indicating that it is atemporal and not subject to linear time.[8] However, God’s pole of necessity is ultimately subordinate to the pole of freedom, or pure will, which brings true balance to the tension between the centripetal and centrifugal forces within the necessity pole. The third potency of the necessity pole, love, mediates between freedom and necessity, allowing for harmony in God’s being.[9] It is through this highest principle of freedom that God is able to freely create the world in the image of God’s own being. Thus the world has the same polar structure as God, and the repeating process of tension, imbalance, and harmony echoes throughout every layer of creation’s existence.[10] The forces of centration and expansion exist in the world as the polarities of the real and the ideal, the corporeal and the spiritual. They too are brought into balance through love, which acts as the mediator between the world and the transcendent aspect of God. The pole of freedom exists in creation as human creativity and free will, in a parallel image of God’s own freedom.[11] Upon coming into relationship with creation, God’s freely created mirror, God is able to become conscious of Godself.[12] “Since nothing is outside of God, the very knowledge of God is simply the nonfinite knowledge which God has of himself in the eternal self-affirmation, that is, it is itself the being of God and is in this being.”[13] Yet not only is the world a reflection of God’s image, but God also enters into creation and is revealed historically in the mythologies and religious revelations of human culture.[14]

By investigating the mythologies of antiquity Schelling was able to perceive an intimation of the structure of God that he had worked out in his philosophy. The island of Samothrace in the Aegean Sea was home to the initiation rites of the Cabiri, which reveal a sequence of gods nearly identical to those in the myth of Persephone, central to the comparable mystery rites of Eleusis.[15] While Schelling indicated there were seven, or even possibly eight, Cabiri gods, he names the first four in The Deities of Samothrace: Axieros, Axiokersa, Axiokersos, and Kasmilos. These four gods are understood to be the Hellenic gods Demeter, Persephone, Hades, and Hermes.[16]

In the most prevalent version of this myth, Persephone is the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of the grain, and Zeus, king of the Olympian gods. While playing in the meadows, Persephone is drawn to an exquisite flower grown as a temptation by Gaia, at the bidding of Zeus. As Persephone plucks the flower, the earth gapes open and she is abducted against her will by Hades, Lord of the Underworld. In grief, Demeter flies about the earth searching for her daughter, and when she discovers that the abduction of her daughter was sanctioned by Zeus she desolates the landscape in her fury. In fear of her wrath, and to save the fertile earth from destruction, Zeus sends his messenger Hermes to the Underworld to retrieve Persephone. Yet, while she was in the realm of shades, Persephone ate six seeds of the pomegranate fruit, thus tying her forever to that domain; for whoever eats the food of the dead must remain in the Underworld. As a compromise, Zeus decrees that Persephone must spend six months in the Underworld, one for each seed, and six months with her mother in the light of the sun. So it is that mother and daughter are reunited, but only for a time, and each year the cycle continues, causing the wheel of the seasons to turn as Persephone the maiden of the upper world descends to become Queen of the Underworld each winter.[17]

While the structure of the story remains relatively similar, innumerable versions of this myth exist in which the cultural lineage of the gods is revealed through their many names and relationships to each other. The grain goddess Demeter was initially a goddess of Crete where her lover was the god Plautos, a name strikingly similar to Pluto, the Roman name of Hades.[18] Although in this myth Persephone, who was born on Crete, is the daughter of Demeter and Zeus, there is another myth in which Zeus seduces Persephone and she gives birth to Dionysos.[19] Schelling writes that according to Heraclitus, Hades and Dionysos were really the same god, and in other understandings of the Greek pantheon Zeus and Hades are interchangeable as well, as both are called the “son of Chronos with many names.”[20]

In the myth of the Cabiri, Hades and Dionysos are both associated with the name Axiokersos, the third god in the sequence of Samothrace.[21] Additionally, Persephone’s Cabiri name is Axiokersa, which contains the root “Kersa,” derived from the Hebrew hrs, or Ceres, the Roman name of Demeter.[22] Thus Schelling and other sources conclude that Demeter and Persephone are really one and the same, two parts of a continuous cyclical being.[23] Demeter’s Cabiri name, Axieros, Schelling has translated as “hunger,” “poverty,” “yearning,” “seeking,” and “longing.”[24] She is the first god of the Cabiri sequence, in a continuous state of seeking and drawing all things in toward her.[25] Culturally, Demeter is an older goddess figure than her Olympian brothers, and can in many ways be considered first, the fertile ground of being out of which the harvest grows.[26]

The fourth god of the Cabiri is Kasmilos, also called Kadmilos or Camillus, and is best known as Hermes, the messenger god.[27] The name Kasmilos has roots in the word “Kadmiel” which Schelling translates as “he who goes before the god.” Hermes is the messenger and servant of Zeus, highest of the gods, and acts as a mediator between Zeus and the first three gods of the Cabiri. It is from this ranking that Schelling infers that the Cabiri must be in a sequence, from lowest to highest, all heralding the coming of a higher god, which may be equated with Zeus, or ultimately Schelling’s Christian God.[28]

The Cabiri simultaneously herald the coming of the highest God, and also constitute a symbol of the structure of Schelling’s God. On Samothrace the first three Cabiri were collectively called Hephaestos, and Schelling writes that “The creation of Hephaestos is the world of necessity.”[29] Thus the first Cabiri comprise the pole of necessity in Schelling’s God: Axieros and Axiokersa symbolize the primary ground of being and the force of centration, and Axiokersos is the force of expansion.[30]

Schelling writes “Ceres is the moving power through whose ceaseless attraction everything, as if by magic, is brought from the primal indeterminateness to actuality or formation.”[31] With Demeter and Persephone as two sides of the same goddess Ceres, Demeter represents the formless “primal indeterminateness” and Persephone, who is born from Demeter, is that same power but actualized into form.

Whereas the first of the Cabiri can be equated with the first power… in its pure, unstructured aspect in the necessity pole in God, the second Cabiri goddess symbolizes that power as transformed into the first potency, which is the foundation of a dimension, or a region, of actual being.[32]

Axiokersos, who is both Hades and Dionysos, is the Lord of the Underworld, ruler of spirits and the realm of the dead, and thus symbolizes the second potency of Schelling’s God.[33] The second potency is the realm of spirit in the creation, but as Schelling’s translator Robert Brown writes, “…the spirit world is to be fully actualized only in an afterlife which souls enter upon death.”[34]

The third uniting potency, which Schelling emphasized does not have its own constitution, is symbolized by Kasmilos, or Hermes, who mediates not only between the first two potencies but between the pole of necessity and the pole of freedom, or between the triangle of Demeter, Persephone, and Hades, and Zeus.[35] The pole of freedom in Schelling’s God is pure will and balances the pole of necessity, just as finally Zeus intervenes and creates a cyclical harmony between Demeter, Persephone, and Hades.[36]

This myth, in its many forms, served as the basis of the various Greek mystery rites, from the initiations of Samothrace, the rituals of Thesmophoria or the “Festival of Sorrow,” to the Eleusinian mystery rites.[37] While some scholars believed the secret of all the ancient mystery rites was “the doctrine of the unity of god,” Schelling disagreed with this notion in part, deeming that it would be impossible for a secret monotheism to exist in deceit of a public polytheism.[38] Rather, it seems that the unity experienced in the mysteries was both an understanding of the necessary unity of the gods within the sequence of the Cabiri myth, and also the union of the initiates with the divine.[39]

Because it was forbidden to reveal what occurred during the rites, we do not have a full picture of the initiatory rite of passage. We do know that participants consumed a grain drink called kykeon, a mixture of barley, water, and mint, which was said the be the drink Demeter requested after her fast during which she desolated the earth in her rage against Zeus and Hades.[40] Also included in this drink was the psychedelic rye fungus ergot, also called Mutterkorn, or “mother grain,” in German.[41] It is likely that the mind-expanding quality of this drink, as well as the ceremonies enacted during the rites, allowed the initiates to understand the ultimate unity and contingency of the gods within the sequence of the Cabiri myth, as they herald the higher God into manifestation.[42] Even the name Cabiri seems to be descended from the Hebrew term Chabir, “which expresses simultaneously inseparable connection and magical union.”[43]

The holy, revered teaching of the Cabiri, in its profoundest significance, was the representation of the insoluble life itself as it progresses in a sequence of levels from the lowest to the highest, a representation of the universal magic and of the theurgy ever abiding in the whole universe, through which the invisible, indeed the super-actual, incessantly is brought to revelation and actuality.[44]

Like Elohim, the plural name of the Godhead in the Old Testament, the Cabiri are one, not differentiated but still distinct; so too are the potencies of Schelling’s God, each distinct with their own qualities, yet ultimately constituting a whole.[45]

The sequence of the mystery rites paralleled the sequence of the Cabiri myth, and it seems that initiates each underwent the journey of Persephone to the Underworld. Plutarch wrote that “to die is to be initiated” and even the word “to die” in Greek, teleutan, is related to the word for initiation, teleisthai.[46] Yet, like Persephone, the initiates returned to the light of day and were reunited with Demeter, an ultimate rebalancing and reconciliation.[47]

Just as the story of Persephone mirrors the cycle of the seasons, it also mirrors the growth of a plant from a seed embedded in the earth to a shoot flowering and finally fruiting. Another name for Persephone was Kore, from koros meaning “sprout;” Persephone also translates as “she who shines in the dark,” symbolizing the dormant life of the seed underground, as well as her shining presence as Queen of the Underworld.[48] Persephone’s descent is a necessary process, a cycle of death and regeneration vital for life to continue. It is as though the flower Gaia grew to tempt Persephone to the brink of Hades’ realm was grown in service of the greater need of earth’s fertility.[49] Even the symbol of this single beautiful flower carries the dynamic of the entire myth within it.

Demeter and Persephone both symbolize the first potency of Schelling’s God, but Demeter is the first potency before creation and Persephone the first potency after, just as the seed and the shoot are one plant, before and after the germination process. The world is created in the image of God, and as such has the same ontological structure as God.[50] Thus the poles of necessity and freedom, and within the pole of necessity the force of centration and physicality, and the force of expansion and spirituality, all unified by love, ripple out and can be found within every structure of the created universe. As Brown writes, “Because the potencies of being are not exhausted in whatever severally exemplifies or symbolizes them, they can recur at various levels within an extended hierarchy.”[51] The polarities can be found in the growth of plants, the cycles of the seasons, and the polytheistic pantheons of antiquity. They overlap and combine, the mythological gods intertwined with earth’s natural processes.[52]

Schelling believed that because God had entered creation, God was being revealed in a historical evolution from the ancient stories of mythology to the revelations of the religions, disclosing each potency in sequence, leading ultimately to knowledge of God as a whole.[53] The Cabiri are at the evolutionary stage of the full revelation of God’s pole of necessity, but intimations of the next stages are also present in that mythology. Kasmilos, or Hermes, is the herald of the coming God, who is both the Olympian Zeus and a God higher than Zeus. Schelling mentioned that there were either seven or eight Cabiri, and it seems that Zeus was both the seventh, as a link in the sequence, and also the eighth, as the final God who is manifested by the relationships of the first seven.[54] Each participant of the sequence is divine, as Schelling writes in one of his aphorisms: “Yet not only the whole as whole is divine. For so is also the part and the particular by itself.”[55]

As a Christian, Schelling believed that God was revealed fully in the revelation of Christ. The fallen state of the world is a manifestation of the first potency, but God acted through the spirituality of the second potency to bring new harmony and balance to creation. This manifestation of the second potency is the incarnation of Christ. The teaching of Christ is that of love, which is the third unifying principle, which leads ultimately to a full union with the divine.[56]

The polarized structure of God and the world has been in an eternal cyclical process that has also been evolving linearly through time. The Godhead is both revealed in the course of time and outside of it altogether. In the mythology of Samothrace, time is located above all of the gods, which can also be seen in the family tree of the Cabiri: Chronos, who represents time, is either the father or the grandfather of all the gods in that story.[57] Schelling also wrote, “Because the gods come forth in succession, they themselves are only the offspring of almighty time;” time is the true creator and permeates all things.[58] Yet Schelling’s God existed before time and is caught in an “eternal process,” therefore his God is also outside of time.[59] It seems that ultimately Schelling’s God is both subject to time yet also free of it, just as God has one pole of necessity and one pole of freedom.

The final question remains then, what will happen when the creation ultimately unites with God through the mediation of love? Through this process God has become fully conscious of Godself and the poles are completely balanced. As both subject to and free of time will the cycle end in harmonious balance or, like a seed planted in the earth, will a new creation germinate and sprout to a truly new florescence?

Appendix

Just as the structure of God’s being can be found throughout the creation of nature, it is also mirrored in the realm of archetypal astrology, especially as it pertains to Schelling’s own birth chart. Schelling was born January 27, 1775, at 3:00 am in Ragaz Switzerland, Germany. The most prevalent aspect in his chart is a stellium of four planets: Sun, Mercury, Venus, and Pluto. The configuration of these four planets correlates perfectly with the Cabiri myth, and thus corresponds to his ontology of God as well. Venus represents the first potency, and like the Cabiri myth relates simultaneously to both Demeter and Persephone. Venus is the archetype of beauty, as portrayed by the young maiden Persephone, and also of flowers and that which grows upon the earth. As the archetype of love, Venus also relates to the loving bond between mother and daughter in this myth. Pluto correlates directly to Hades and Dionysos, both of whom are represented by this archetype. Pluto rules the Underworld and the entire death-rebirth process, which is the primary theme of both this myth and the mystery rites associated with it. Mercury correlates to its namesake Hermes, and acts as mediating messenger, but also a bringer of love, represented by the Mercury-Venus combination. Finally, the Sun represents the Godhead, which the first four gods are heralding, the ultimate shining principle in its singularity and perfection, bringing all the other archetypes into a single conception of God.

An additional aspect of note is that Schelling’s birth chart has Saturn in a trine with the Sun-Pluto stellium, which can be seen as both the inherent structure of the Godhead, but also the prevalence of time as the true creator and that which drives the evolution of God’s creation.

Works Cited

Baring, Anne, and Jules Cashford. The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image. London, England: Viking Arkana, 1991.

Metzner, Ralph. Green Psychology: Transforming Our Relationship to the Earth. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1999.

Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von. “Schelling’s Aphorisms of 1805.” Translated by Fritz Marti. Idealistic Studies 14.3 (1984): 237-258.

Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von. Schelling’s Treatise on “The Deities of Samothrace.” Translated by Robert F. Brown. Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1977.


[1] Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image (London, England: Viking Arkana, 1991), 370.

[2] Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, Schelling’s Treatise on “The Deities of Samothrace,” trans. Robert F. Brown (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1977), 45.

[3] Schelling, Samothrace, 47.

[4] Ibid, 45.

[5] Ibid, 48, 46.

[6] Ibid, 47.

[7] Ibid, 48.

[8] Schelling, Samothrace, 48.

[9] Ibid, 49.

[10] Ibid, 47.

[11] Ibid, 50.

[12] Ibid, 49-50

[13] Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, “Schelling’s Aphorisms of 1805,” trans. Fritz Marti, Idealistic Studies 14.3 (1984): 250.

[14] Schelling, Samothrace, 47.

[15] Schelling, Samothrace, 15.

Ralph Metzner, Green Psychology: Transforming Our Relationship to the Earth (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1999), 128.

[16] Schelling, Samothrace, 16-17, 56.

[17] Metzner, Green Psychology, 128-129.

Baring and Cashford, Goddess, 364-372.

[18] Ibid, 366.

[19] Ibid, 367.

[20] Schelling, Samothrace, 21.

Baring and Cashford, Goddess, 370, 383.

[21] Schelling, Samothrace, 21.

[22] Ibid, 20, 52.

[23] Baring and Cashford, Goddess, 364.

[24] Schelling, Samothrace, 18, 20.

[25] Ibid, 18.

[26] Baring and Cashford, Goddess, 367.

[27] Schelling, Samothrace, 21.

[28] Ibid, 22.

[29] Ibid, 24.

[30] Schelling, Samothrace, 49, 52.

[31] Ibid, 20.

[32] Ibid, 52.

[33] Ibid, 52.

[34] Ibid, 53.

[35] Schelling, Samothrace, 49, 53.

[36] Ibid, 49.

Metzner, Green Psychology, 128.

[37] Baring and Cashford, Goddess, 374.

Metzner, Green Psychology, 128.

[38] Schelling, Samothrace, 24-25.

[39] Ibid, 28.

Baring and Cashford, Goddess, 382.

[40] Ibid, 377, 380.

[41] Metzner, Green Psychology, 144.

[42] Schelling, Samothrace, 28.

[43] Ibid, 39-40, note 113.

[44] Ibid, 29.

[45] Ibid, 40, note 118.

[46] Baring and Cashford, Goddess, 381.

[47] Ibid, 377.

Metzner, Green Psychology, 144.

[48] Baring and Cashford, Goddess, 368-369.

[49] Ibid, 383.

[50] Schelling, Samothrace, 50.

[51] Ibid, 56.

[52] Schelling, Samothrace, 58.

[53] Ibid, 55, 59.

[54] Ibid, 56.

[55] Schelling, “Aphorisms,” 246.

[56] Schelling, Samothrace, 58-59.

[57] Schelling, Samothrace, 19.

[58] Ibid, 33, note 44.

[59] Ibid, 61, note 8, 48.

At the Cosmic Midnight Hour: Karma and Rebirth in Rudolf Steiner and Sri Aurobindo

When one has an encounter in the world, be it a deep sense of familiarity or peace in an unknown landscape, an attraction to an area of study, or a strong desire to make a connection with a newly met individual, that experience of novelty can often be intermingled with a quality of memory. Yet, while this remembering may have no connection to one’s present life, it still has an inexplicable air of destiny; this may be no memory of the mind, but of the spirit. It is a reencountering of the result of one’s own actions, but the actions of a previous lifetime. It is a lesson learned by a former self, a fruit nourished and watered by one’s prior being, to be plucked and savored in this lifetime. It is a seed of the past, a representation of one’s karma.

The spiritual understanding of karma and reincarnation has been central to numerous cultures worldwide, and still flourishes in many religious and spiritual communities. Interpretations of both rebirth and karma differ greatly from tradition to tradition, and even person to person, as the fundamental questions of human existence are repeatedly asked by each generation. Who am I? What is my purpose? What is the purpose of the universe? Are there spiritual realms? Who, or what, is divine? While many answers have been given, those of two of the great spiritual and philosophical thinkers of the turn of the 20th century, Sri Aurobindo and Rudolf Steiner, speak not only to the unity of the divine in the universe, but also of the reality of the seeking and striving human individual.

For Steiner and Aurobindo the roles of karma and rebirth are central to their philosophies and spiritual practices. Although Steiner hailed from Europe, Aurobindo from India, their views of reincarnation were either contrary to or differentiated from the prevalent beliefs established in their regions, but also deeply resonant with each other’s perspectives. Aurobindo brought to India a more Western view of the reality of the individual, and Steiner was given the weighty task of reintroducing the ideas of karma and rebirth to the West, from which they had been absent following the widespread establishment of Christianity (NES, 6). They both saw the cycles of human reincarnation as an evolutionary process, an evolution of the individual and of the whole of humanity, the universe, and the divine.

Rebirth, for Steiner and Aurobindo, could be defined as the joining of spirit to life and matter (EA, 92). Steiner called the moment when one karmic life ends and the new karmic life begins the “cosmic midnight hour” (NES, 47). Rebirth is a joining of the old with the new, the eternal spirit with a newly formed body, mind, and personality (EA, 265). Sculpting each life is one’s karma, one’s self-created destiny, which is formed by the prior actions of one’s spirit inhabiting other bodies during previous lifetimes (NES, 197). Our karma shapes not only the bodies, families, and cultures we are born into, but the road we travel and the obstacles and turns we will meet. How we will journey down this road, and interact with what and whom we meet upon it, is within our own freedom to choose, yet will lay the foundations for our future life’s karma as well. Both Aurobindo and Steiner emphasized the importance of one’s personal experience, how we choose to travel our path; it was through their own personal experiences that they each came to their spiritual understandings of karma and rebirth.

Aurobindo writes that “if the soul enters this life with a certain development of personality, it must have prepared it in other precedent lives here [on Earth] or elsewhere” (EA, 95). Each human comes into the world with a fully unique personality, which cannot be reduced merely to physical heredity or one’s familial upbringing. Such a materialist perspective implies that the only part of us that persists beyond death would be our genes in our descendents, and possibly the fading memory of our actions in the minds of others (EA, 93). While we inherit the shape of our physical bodies from our parents, according to Steiner we inherit the shape of our spirits from ourselves. Although Homo sapiens is one biological species of which we are a part, each human individual is a spiritual species of which we are the whole (NES, 186). For Steiner this spirit is called the “I,” for Aurobindo the “psychic being” and it is this part of us alone which reincarnates (NES, 48, EA, 265).

Unlike the Advaita Vedantist and Buddhist beliefs prevalent in India, Aurobindo held the understanding that the human individual spirit was truly real, just as Brahman, also called Satchitananda, the divinity that is everything, is also real. In Advaita Vedanta, while all is Brahman, the human self is merely an illusion created by Maya (EA, 101). Similarly, the ultimate truth in Buddhism is that there is no self; therefore rebirth, and also the karma that drives rebirth, must also be an illusion. A soul which is merely an illusion cannot be eternal (EA, 96). Yet, if all is Brahman and Brahman is real, how is it that each human being also can have an eternal soul that is real? Aurobindo writes, “If the soul is real and immortal, not a constructed being or figure of being, it must also be eternal, beginningless in the past even as endless in the future…” (EA, 95). Brahman and the individual self can both be real because all of existence is in a process of evolution. According to Aurobindo, Brahman, or Satchitananda, involved itself in Matter, and has been in evolution through the levels of Life, Mind and Spirit, a process that is only possible because of the reality of each individual who is evolving (EA, 109, 258). While the involution of Satchitananda may be regarded as the beginning of existence, it seems to be a beginning outside of time, therefore all souls can be “beginningless in the past” of time and “endless in the future.”

The reality of the individual spirit is as central to Steiner’s philosophy as it is to Aurobindo’s. The levels of Aurobindo––Matter, Life, Mind, and Spirit––have many similarities to the four bodies of Steiner: the physical body; the etheric, or life, body; the astral, or soul, body; and the “I,” or spirit body (EA, 109, NES, 129). The bodies Steiner describes also relate to the levels of minerals, plants, animals, and humans. For both Steiner and Aurobindo each level carries with it the characteristics of the prior level, which are all ultimately divine. Each human being has a spirit body, or an “I,” which participates in a greater “I;” this greater “I” could be called the divine, God, Brahman, Satchitananda, or the universe, and it too is in a process of evolution, in part because of the evolution of the individual human “I”s.

Reincarnation of the human spirit is key to both Steiner’s and Aurobindo’s understanding of evolution. The spirit is shaped by not only its life between birth and death, but between death and new birth as well. Steiner described the period between death and new life as like the period of sleep we enter into each night. During sleep the astral and “I” bodies depart the physical and etheric bodies to spend time in the spiritual realm (NES, 44). After death a similar departure from the physical takes place and, according to both Steiner and Aurobindo, the human spirit enters the spiritual world (EA, 100).

In his writings Steiner goes into far greater detail than Aurobindo on the journey of the human spirit, or the three non-physical bodies, after death occurs in the physical realm. The etheric body remains with the astral body and the “I” for three days after death to present the life that has just been lived to the astral body (NES, 44). The astral and “I” subsequently undergo the two-fold experience of kamaloca, in which first the astral body is purified by moving through the frustration of no longer experiencing the pleasures of earthly existence. Upon full purification, which takes up to one third the length of the life just ended, the astral body is able to dissolve (NES, 45). The second stage of kamaloca is the period in which only the “I,” or psychic being, remains, and relives its entire life in reverse from the perspectives of the recipients of all its actions (NES, 45). It is during this stage that the karma for the following life is laid, the final moments before the “cosmic midnight hour.”

The “I” relives its life in the presence of the greater spiritual beings of the universe. It is with the help of these beings that our lives are guided, as they whisper wisdom to us during sleep, and help us shape the karma of our future lives after death (NES, 46). “We first become aware of what our last evil or good deeds signify for the world. Our experience of them while on Earth is now eliminated; what we now experience is their significance for the world” (NES, 45). Although in some passages Steiner writes of the effect of our deeds only upon other human beings, in the previously quoted sentence he broadens that view to encompass the world. This holds particular significance for the karmic structures being laid down by humanity today, as the destruction many human beings have been unleashing upon the earth becomes rapidly more apparent.

The spiritual beings in whose presence we re-experience our lives “rain down their sympathies and antipathies” upon our actions. We release our good deeds into the universe to further its evolution, but we retain our evil deeds as the new work for our future life (NES, 46). Thus it is that we take our progressive steps from one lifetime to the next, building upon the lessons we learned that will guide us toward new ones.

The new life begins with the formation of our astral and etheric bodies, which are created with the help of spiritual beings and planetary forces. These bodies are formed as the “I” passes the spheres of the Sun and the stars, and are determined by the limitations and attainments of the former life (NES, 47). These three bodies join the physical body, which, like the parents, has also been karmically chosen, in the womb a few weeks after conception. Similar to Steiner, Aurobindo writes, “The human birth in this world is on its spiritual side a complex of two elements, a spiritual Person and a soul of personality; the former is man’s eternal being, the latter is his cosmic and mutable being” (EA, 109). For Aurobindo, even the form of the physical body is dependent on the condition of the human soul, and Steiner writes that what is unique about our physical bodies––rather than what is inherited from our ancestors––is shaped by our soul body (EA, 92, NES, 189).

Upon emerging once again into earthly existence we find it is much like awakening from a long night’s sleep. The results of our previous life actions have the effect of memory upon us, unrolling our karmic destiny before us (NES, 187). We even reencounter the same human individuals from one life to the next, as our actions throughout our lives connect us to each other (NES, 196). We do not do our work upon the earth alone. During the life between birth and death the astral body, which is the carrier of memory, “receives impressions from the outer world and carries them to the spirit, which extracts and preserves their fruits” (NES, 193). It is the spirit that carries the attainments of these fruits from lifetime to lifetime, which furthers not only the evolution of the individual but the evolution of humanity and the universe (NES, 191).

This work is far beyond the span of a single lifetime, which is the reason that many human lives on earth are needed for this process (EA, 112). However, although the spirit of the individual is real and eternal, the complete human born each lifetime is unique, and work done in one life cannot be achieved in the same way in another. The imminence of death is as real as the eternal spirit, and can serve as a powerful impetus to do the work and learn the lessons this particular life has to offer.

Because the divine involved itself in matter and is in a process of evolution, every rebirth is a unique expression of the divine (EA, 259). In each human being the divine is born with the inner qualities of that person. Therefore, every action is an action of both the human and the divine, and it is those divine actions which forge our karma. For karma to be real, the individual, and the divine that is the individual, must both be real as well. Through the individual the divine is thus able to come to consciousness (EA, 105). Aurobindo writes that “A spiritual evolution of which our universe is the scene and earth its ground and stage, though its plan is still kept back above from our yet limited knowledge––this way of seeing existence is a luminous key which we can fit into many doors of obscurity” (EA, 259). Existence has a true purpose if reincarnation is seen as an evolutionary process, in which the human spirit and the world evolve together toward consciousness, and ultimately, toward bliss (EA, 267, 268).

Aurobindo and Steiner both developed spiritual practices with which to accomplish our tasks during our lifetimes; for Aurobindo this was Integral Yoga, for Steiner it was Spiritual Science, also called Anthroposophy. Steiner said that our task was to connect to our life before birth through free thinking; for Aurobindo our task was to know our previous lives and to connect to the unity of which we are a part (NES, 48, EA, 265). Both of them are offering spiritual practices that can connect us as individuals to the spirit realm in which we exist between lifetimes, the realm in which we can understand our unity with the whole. The spiritual practices of both these great thinkers are ultimately actions of love through freedom, and love can only be real when it emerges between entities that are real beings. As such, the evolution of the divine through the evolution of the universe is a process of love, as the real individuals that are each unique expressions of the divine are reborn again and again, and learn to come into true loving relationship with the whole.

Works Cited

McDermott, Robert A, ed., The Essential Aurobindo. Great Barrington, MA: Lindisfarne Press, 1987.

McDermott, Robert A, ed., The New Essential Steiner. Great Barrington, MA: Lindisfarne Books, 2009.

Full of Gods: Divine Participation for an Ecological Era

Understanding the relationship between the natural world, the human, and the Divine has been a driving inquiry of both Western philosophy and religion from the ancient Hellenic and Hebrew eras to the present. Such fundamental questions seem to pervade human thought, as each new generation grows up with a desire to discern their purpose for living, the nature of the world, and how both came to be. At our current crucial moment in history, in which much of humanity’s devastation of Earth has led the planet to the brink of irreversible crisis, such questions of the historical understanding of the relationship of the Divine to the world could be essential to moving forward in a sustainable manner.

In the opening chapter of The Participatory Turn, Jacob Sherman lays out three major shifts in the philosophy of divine participation with humanity and the world. Each of these participatory turns, which occurred during the course of the last two millennia, were informed by the previous understanding of participation and seeded the development of the subsequent concepts. The three turns are the formal participation of Plato, the existential participation of Thomas Aquinas, and the creative participation of Friedrich Schelling. Threads of each philosophy have been carried forward to the present moment, and can provide a basis for understanding the relationship between the Divine and the natural world in light of the ecological crisis.

The concept of participation in philosophy began with Plato, who used the term methexis to describe the relationship between the realm of eternal Forms, or Ideas, and the realm of incarnate things. Neither of these realms exist independently from the other, nor are they identical. Rather, the realm of divine Ideas informs each incarnated thing, and each of those things partakes in the Forms that give them being. According to Plato, the incarnated beings are able to participate in the Forms because they are recalled, by means of anamnesis or recollection, from prenatal experience. For example, an oak tree incarnates as an acorn, and as it matures it recalls the Form of Oak Tree, in which it participates, from its prenatal experience of the realm of Forms.

In Plato’s conception of participation the world is infused with gods, the Divine saturating the world of becoming. The realm that knits the Forms and the manifest world together into reality is the realm of metaxy, in which daemons carry prayers and blessings between mortals and gods. One such daimon is Eros: love, therefore, is one of the beings that weaves divinity into the material world. Plato aims “to secure the value of the world of becoming by exposing it to the contagion of the Good.”[1] As pertains to much of contemporary humanity’s current relationship with nature, such an understanding of the divine presence informing the world provides an ancient argument for reverence towards the Earth.

The existential participatory turn was put forward by Thomas Aquinas from more of a religious stance than a philosophical one. While Plato addressed the question of what a being is, Thomas takes up the inquiry of why that being exists. Thomas recognized creation as a gift bestowed by God, which also holds implications for a historical study of reverence for the Earth. If the natural world is mistreated or destroyed it is a form of irreverence for the generosity of God. For Thomas, “Creation does not describe a transformation as if from one state to another, but rather a radical relationality, a state of dependence upon the divine.”[2] He calls this relationship causal participation, for the Divine is causing a being to exist. This existence does not belong to the created being, but rather is the imparted gift received from the Divine and is ultimately within the keeping of the Divine. “As the principle of all participated beings, God overflows, even exteriorizes Godself in the generous diffusion that makes creation possible.”[3] Existence is the limited potency of an Infinite Act of God.

One can see the shift in perception of the nature of the Divine from the Platonic to the Medieval Christian era. For Plato the idea of infinity indicated chaos. Therefore, to be perfect, the Divine must be bounded and limited. As Hellenic thought was exposed to Hebraic consciousness and the mystery religions in Alexandria, Neoplatonism developed and with it a new conception of the Divine as infinite. This co-mingling of ideas was carried through Christianity to the time of Thomas Aquinas; it informed his understanding of existence as the infinity of God gifted as a limited potential in mortal beings. As regards the current environmental movement, such a vision of divine existence within a limited creation indicates the sacrality of the natural world, as well as a realization that this world is finite. It calls for respect and preservation, to revere the Divine and conserve its material presence.

Neither the account of participation in Plato nor in Thomas accounts for the creative agency of the human being. This conception of creativity did not exist in the ancient world, as the ability to create was considered the property of the Divine alone. However, as this concept of creativity progressed through history, it instigated the third participatory turn. Human creativity is a form of participation in God’s creativity, but while humans are finitely creative, the Divine remains infinitely creative.

As an understanding of human creativity developed with modernity, the clear distinction between the Divine and the created world began to blur. Benedict de Spinoza developed a pantheistic description of the world which obliterates any boundary between the divine and mortal realms. According to Spinoza, God and nature are one and the same. This expressivist philosophy is no longer participatory, as there can be no relationality between realms. It does, however, plant the seeds for the third participatory turn. “Spinoza, therefore, finds creativity everywhere; every creature participates in creativity and has the power of expression because every creature is God expressing Godself.”[4]

Not only does pantheism do away with participation, it also negates any reason for moral responsibility. If every act is a creative expression of God, then acts of harm or evil can no longer be distinguished from acts of goodness. In regards to acts of environmental devastation, there is no difference between clear-cutting an old-growth forest and protecting endangered species. Both are acts of God, and therefore neither one morally outweighs the other.

The third participatory turn, the creative turn of Schelling, emerges from the lineage of Plato and Thomas Aquinas, and is partially in response to Spinoza’s pantheism. Schelling’s panentheistic view is related to Thomas’ vision of existence as a gift from the Divine, which is an externalizing of God from Godself. Panentheism, instead of equating God with nature, sees God both within nature and transcending nature. Schelling also accounts for the creativity of humans, taking humanity from the level of puppets animated by divine existence to that of creative agents expressing God’s infinite creativity. “Schelling sees everything, humans and nature alike, as alive and creative through their relationship to a living, creative divinity.”[5]

According to Schelling, there is a complexity within God that allows God not only to exist as a transcendent power but also to exceed that transcendence and spill over into immanent form. “Schelling transforms the notion of subjectivity into a dynamic concept of the self as excessive, the subject as that which does not simply coincide with itself and therefore goes beyond itself.”[6] God is composed of three powers: one centripetal, one centrifugal, and a third which binds the first two together in a creative tension. It is this creative tension that allows for the emergence of the world and the individual creative agencies within that world. Therefore, Schelling not only accounts for the essence of Plato and the existence of Aquinas, but also the freedom, imagination, and creative will experienced by the modern human as expressed over the course of a lifetime. “We participate in the Absolute’s own creativity and so, through genuine artwork, reveal the infinite within finite forms.”[7]

Schelling’s panentheism provides an argument for cultivating a reverence for the Divine within the natural world, and also a sense of creative responsibility in our actions towards the Earth. Schelling describes the third power in his concept of God as a universal soul linking nature to spirit, yet all ultimately are the Divine. For Schelling, we live in an ensouled cosmos with which humans have a relationship. This provides a moral reason to care for the Earth and to protect it from wanton destruction.

All three participatory turns indicate a continuous thread running throughout history of a suffusion of the natural world, and the human, with the sacredness of the Divine. Yet today, as the industrial capitalist system consumes Earth’s finite bounty, little trace of this perception of the Divine in the world seems to remain within Western consciousness. For many, the dominant world view has departed even from the mechanized pantheism of Spinoza to an anthropotheism, with the human as God, which has completely disenchanted the world outside the human. The divine subjectivity of God lives in the human alone, if even there. In just over two millennia, nature has gone from being wholly informed by the Good, to a store of untapped resources made good only by human creative ingenuity.

To bring a halt to the rampant destruction of our home planet, humanity needs to recover the ability to perceive and commune with the divinity saturating the cosmos. Participation is a mode of reconnection that can allow one to see humanity’s embeddedness in, and partnership to, the world that we are. The participatory philosophies of Plato, Thomas, and Schelling each offer a crucial step in understanding one’s relationship with the Divine. While no one of these philosophies alone will serve to bring humanity forward into a harmonious ecological era, they provide the essential seeds for the future garden of that relationship to grow. Perhaps the Earth community stands on the threshold of a fourth participatory turn. If engaged fully, that vision may mature into a Form beyond what has yet been imagined by the human mind, a Form currently resting in the imagination of the Divine.

Work Cited

Sherman, Jacob H. “A Genealogy of Participation.” In The Participatory Turn, edited by Jorge N. Ferrer and Jacob H. Sherman, 81-112. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2008.


[1] Jacob H. Sherman, “A Genealogy of Participation,” in The Participatory Turn, ed. Jorge N. Ferrer and Jacob H. Sherman (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2008), 84.

[2] Sherman, “A Genealogy of Participation,” 87.

[3] Ibid, 91.

[4] Ibid, 97.

[5] Ibid, 100.

[6] Ibid, 100.

[7] Ibid, 102.

An Archetypal Glimpse into Teilhard’s Evolutionary Vision

This essay has now been published in Issue 4 of Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology.

Science and religion have been in an antagonistic battle of refutation since the dawn of modernity. Few have sought to reconcile them, and many would call it futile even to try. However, the Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin brought a revolutionary way of thinking to the two world views that provides a vision of their harmonious relationship. Writing in the first half of the twentieth century, Teilhard, who had a scientific background in paleontology, sought to express the evolution of the cosmos as a divine teleological journey culminating, thus far, in the human being. Teilhard believed the unique self-reflective quality of the human, and the human capacity for Christian love, would ultimately lead to a divine convergence of the human community upon what he called the Omega Point, or the Cosmic Christ.

Throughout his life Teilhard had an immense sense of hope and optimism for the future, in spite of the tremendous suffering he witnessed during his life, especially as a stretcher-bearer in World War I. His ideas on the psychic capacity or interiority of all forms of matter have provided the seeds for subsequent thinkers, such as Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, and Mary Evelyn Tucker. Their work addresses the inherent subjectivity of the cosmos, and the implications of Teilhard’s cosmology for creating a confluent relationship between humanity and the Earth community. In his lifetime, Teilhard’s innovative thoughts were resisted by the religious and scientific communities alike, yet, in retrospect, he is truly emerging as a visionary thinker far ahead of his time.

Archetypal astrology provides a unique entry point into Teilhard’s ideas, as one can gain deep insight by looking at the positions of the planets when he was born and comparing their associated archetypal character with the ideas he developed over the course of his career. The birth chart is so rich and multivalent in its symbolism that such an inquiry cannot be exhaustive, nor can it do full justice to the brilliance and complexity of his work. However, key examples from some of Teilhard’s essays in The Activation of Energy and The Heart of Matter, as well as his masterwork The Human Phenomenon, can illustrate how the planetary archetypes permeate his life work.[i]

Teilhard was born May 1, 1881 in Sarcenat, France, with a stellium of seven planets in his natal chart (see Figure 1). In sequence, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter, Sun, Neptune, Venus, and Pluto are all within the orb of archetypal influence to each other. It is the nature of a stellium, which is a conjunction of three or more planets, that the planets most distant from each other within the stellium may not be within the regular orb of influence, 10°–12°, of a conjunction with each other. However, the archetypal fields associated with the planets situated between them activate the archetypal energies associated with the further planets and pull them into a mutually stimulating relationship.. In Teilhard’s chart, the planet Uranus is also in a 120° trine alignment to this stellium, in closest aspect to Teilhard’s Sun, Neptune, and Venus. Midpoints, which are the axis points calculated between two planets on the circle of the birth chart, are also archetypally operative in Teilhard’s chart, as can be seen in his Sun-Mercury-Pluto combination.

Figure 1

Teilhard was born with the Sun at the mathematical midpoint between Mercury and Pluto. The archetypal combination of Mercury and Pluto can often be observed in someone who is a deep thinker, who strives to look beneath the surface of reality. This trait is clearly evident in Teilhard, who delved into the core of things with an investigative passion, searching for the psychic interior of matter. Mercury relates to seeing and thinking, while Pluto relates to what lies beneath the surface. Teilhard argues that consciousness was present in matter from the beginning. During the course of evolution, consciousness and matter complexified in concert with one another, leading to the self-reflexive consciousness present in human beings. In the opening of The Human Phenomenon, Teilhard persuades his reader to perceive differently, to see deeper into the nature of the world. He writes that “the history of the living world can be reduced to the elaboration of ever more perfect eyes at the heart of a cosmos where it is always possible to discern more.”[ii] He also focuses on cultivating new senses to aid in this seeing, including “the sense of spatial immensity,” “the sense of depth,” and “the sense . . . of the organic,” all of which relate to the Plutonic character of mass, depth, and primordial biology. [iii]

To get a deeper understanding of the components of Teilhard’s stellium, it may be helpful to first look at the conjunctions in discrete combinations. The first two planets in the stellium are Mercury conjunct Saturn. While the Mercury-Pluto archetypal complex is expressed in the depth of Teilhard’s writing, the Mercury-Saturn combination can be seen in its careful, disciplined organization. Every chapter is divided and subdivided into numbered or lettered headings, his arguments are laid out with bullet-point precision, and each of his sentences is structured according to a distinct patterning. He takes the immensity and complexity of the universe and distills it into clearly articulated, logical arguments. As an example of the multivalence of the planetary expressions, Teilhard’s Mercury-Saturn complex also correlates to the posthumous publication of his work. Saturn relates to both negation and death; Teilhard’s religious superiors denied him the publication of his work until after he passed away.

The part of Teilhard’s chart that is arguably most central to his philosophy is the triple conjunction in his stellium of Neptune, Venus, and Pluto. Neptune correlates to the transcendent, spirituality, religion, and the divine; the archetype of Venus encompasses love, beauty, and harmony; and Pluto archetypally relates to biological evolutionary drive and transformation. The central purpose of Teilhard’s work was to marry biological evolution and Christian spirituality. Neptune, Venus, and Pluto are also conjunct his Sun, which relates to the impulse to illuminate and radiate; this aspect can be seen in how these ideas shine forth as the primary focus of his writings. The trine of these planets to Uranus, which relates to innovative, rebellious brilliance, among other things, can be seen in his presentation of both a new science and a new spirituality.[iv] He is a rebel against both scientific and Christian orthodoxy.

Teilhard was a Jesuit priest, devoted to a life-long practice of the Christian faith, which is one of the expressions of his Sun-Neptune conjunction. According to his philosophy, the telos of the universe is towards unity, a convergence upon the Omega Point, characterized by Neptune’s quality of oneness. He writes in The Human Phenomenon, “To be more is to be more united––and this sums up and is the very conclusion of the work to follow.”[v] The impulse “to be” is represented by the solar principle, as is the desire to be central and integrated; meanwhile Neptune unites that which has been divided and differentiated because it can dissolve the boundaries of distinction.

Teilhard’s central focus on the human in his work is clearly reflective of Uranus trine his Sun. He expresses the Promethean character of Uranus giving the fire of consciousness to humanity, in his emphasis on the exceptional self-reflexive quality of human thought. Sun-Uranus can correlate to the unique, individual human personality that must, in Teilhard’s view, be cultivated for the ultimate spiritual convergence at the Omega Point. This theme is suggested not only by Teilhard’s Sun-trine-Uranus, but also by the presence of Neptune in the aspect, which is in a 2° conjunction with Teilhard’s Sun. Neptune, which symbolizes spirituality and transcendence, as well as unity, correlates to the convergence on Omega.

Through his study of evolution, Teilhard was in the process of discovering and developing a new form of mystical Christian spirituality. He wrote in his essay “The Stuff of the Universe,” that “Far from being shaken in my faith by such a revolution, it is with irrepressible hope that I welcome the inevitable rise of this new mysticism and anticipate its equally inevitable triumph.”[vi] His words express the Uranus-trine-Neptune complex in his natal chart, with the Uranus archetype bringing a new revolution to the Neptunian realm of mysticism.

Many of the qualities of Teilhard’s new mysticism are archetypally conveyed by the rich, dynamic conjunction of the two outermost planets, Neptune and Pluto. He writes of the need for “a Christ who can be and is commensurate with the universe, in other words a God­––the God we look for––of evolution.”[vii] He greatly fleshes out this concept of an evolutionary God in his essay “The Zest for Living,” in which he describes “zest” as “nothing less than the energy of universal evolution, which . . . wells up in what is most primitive . . . in each one of us.”[viii] For Teilhard, it is the human responsibility to cultivate this primordial zest, or energy, through the knowledge of religion. The Plutonic imagery is evident in his descriptions of evolution and primitive energy, as well as the zest for living itself, which manifest in the realm of Neptunian religion or spirituality. “A zest for living, the zest for living . . . would appear to be the fundamental driving force which impels and directs the universe along its main axis of complexity-consciousness.”[ix] The “zest for living” and the “fundamental driving force” relate archetypally to Pluto, while “consciousness,” in this context, is reflective of the Neptune archetype in combination with the Sun.

Faith is a motivating force in the zest for living, but for Teilhard humanity needs what is “no longer simply a religion of individuals and of heaven, but a religion of mankind and of the earth.”[x] In the essay “From Cosmos to Cosmogenesis,” Teilhard redefines and expands his conception of God, describing “the primordial transcendence of this new evolutive God,” “a God of cosmogenesis––that is a creator of the ‘animating’ type.”[xi] Not only is the Neptunian-Plutonic imagery clear in the description of primordial (Pluto) transcendence (Neptune) and a God (Neptune) of evolution (Pluto), but the archetypal nature of the trine to Uranus comes through in the characterization of God as animator, the bringer of the spark of life.

In the conclusion of “The Zest for Living,” Teilhard pulls both Venusian and Uranian themes into his evolutionary mysticism, by writing of “the vital charge of the world . . . in its higher, immediate, and most heightened form––love, as an effect of ‘grace’ and ‘revelation’.”[xii] Uranus relates to the “vital charge” and awakening of “revelation,” and Venus relates to love and grace, with grace particularly reflective of the archetypal combination of Venus with Neptune. The final paragraph bears the themes of Pluto, Neptune, Uranus, Venus, Mercury, and even the Sun: “The zest for life: the central and favoured ligament, indeed, in which can be seen, within the economy of a supremely organic universe, a supremely intimate bond between mysticism, research, and biology.”[xiii] The “organic universe,” the “zest for life,” and biology relate to Pluto, mysticism to Neptune, new research to both Uranus and Mercury, the “supremely intimate bond” and even the word “favoured” to Venus, and the “central ligament” reflects the Sun as the archetype associated with the center.

A specific look at Venus in conjunction with each of the two outermost planets illustrates Teilhard’s thinking further. Archetypally, the Venus-Pluto aspect comes through in his descriptions of “an amorized universe,” and also “a cosmogenesis of union in which everything, by structure, became inflexibly lovable and loving.”[xiv] Teilhard sees the ultimate harmony of physical and biological evolution; his view of the cosmos as a teleological cosmogenesis, a universe in an evolutionary process, bears the mark of the Pluto archetype, while the amorization and harmony reflect Venus.

Teilhard’s Venus-Neptune conjunction shines archetypally in his sense of Christian love. The convergence of humanity and the noosphere upon the Omega Point is ultimately achieved through a universal love, a loving of human center to human center, carried out by a love of the Cosmic Christ. “In other words, what we have to do is to love one another––because love is equally by definition the name we give to ‘inter-centric’ actions,”[xv] as Teilhard describes in “The Atomism of Spirit.” He continues: “The fact that the infinite and the intangible can be lovable, that the human heart can beat in true charity for its neighbor seems simply to be impossible,”[xvi] but Teilhard posits that such universal love between all humans is possible through spiritual convergence on the Omega Point through a love of the Cosmic Christ. If all the love of humanity unites through each individual coming into loving relationship with Christ, then that love is also extending through Christ back to each individual. Teilhard describes the need to transcend personal love relationships, represented by Venus, so they can be dissolved, spiritualized, and universalized by Neptune. When this universal love is achieved humanity has reached the Omega Point.

The attainment of Omega, the ultimate convergence of humanity in the noosphere, is the ultimate moment of both transcendent unification but also bears an “external resemblance to a death” or a “terminal paroxysm”[xvii] of the previous human situation. As part of his seven-planet stellium, Teilhard has a 10° conjunction of Saturn and Neptune, which is reflected in the above observations. The Omega Point is a conjoining of Saturnian material reality with spiritual transcendence, reached at the moment of Earth’s termination. Omega is “to unify the real” in “the concentration on itself of what we call ‘consciousness’ or ‘spirit’,” Teilhard writes in “The Activation of Human Energy.” [xviii]

At a young age Teilhard sought the divine in what was incorruptible, starting with iron, moving on to geology, and finally to the realm of spirit. What he desired was something of “Consistence: that has undoubtedly been for me the fundamental attribute of Being.”[xix] His Saturn-Neptune complex also clearly comes through in his statement: “The truth is that even at the peak of my spiritual trajectory I was never to feel at home unless immersed in an Ocean of Matter.”[xx] Saturn relates to the hard, the consistent, and the material, while Neptune comes through in the realm of spirit, consciousness, and oceanic imagery. Another illustration of his Saturn-Neptune can be seen when he writes “Matter was the matrix of Consciousness; and, wherever we looked, Consciousness, born of Matter, was always advancing towards some Ultra-Human.”[xxi]

Teilhard’s vision of the evolutive drive toward complexity-consciousness also carries the mark of the Saturn-Neptune-Pluto archetypal combination, with Saturn bearing the details of complexity and Neptune the realm of consciousness, while Pluto is related to the evolution and transformation inherent in this process. The ultimate convergence upon Omega, which preserves the individual personality within the transcendent unity, indicates Saturnian differentiation within Neptunian oneness.  Teilhard’s Sun-Neptune complex can also be seen here, as the Sun relates to the individual personality. In his personal life, Teilhard’s dedication to his conservative Roman Catholic faith through every hardship, until his death, can also be associated with the qualities of Saturn-Neptune.

In the essay “A Clarification: Reflections on Two Converse Forms of Spirit,” Teilhard compares two approaches to unity, one of expansive Jupiterian quality, the other of Saturnian concentration. This essay is one example of Teilhard’s Jupiter-Saturn conjunction, which also conjoins his Sun-Neptune. He describes two paths to unity: “The one involves relaxation and expansion, the other tension and centration.”[xxii] Conclusively, Teilhard favors the way of tension and centration (Saturn), describing the other method as belonging to “youthful mankind” who would “try immediately to embrace all”[xxiii] when striving for unification with the divine. Nevertheless, despite his rejection of this path, it is still reflective of his aspect of Jupiter trine Uranus, which correlates to youthfulness and expansion of perspectives. Additionally, the Jupiter-trine-Uranus can be seen in Teilhard’s overall sense of cosmic wonder, in his abundance of new ideas, and the expansive new horizons which are constantly opening up to him.

Although he lived through a deeply transformative and disruptive time, surviving two world wars, and witnessing immense suffering as a stretcher-bearer in World War I, Teilhard had an overwhelming optimism concerning the future of humankind. In “The Moment of Choice,” an essay on World War II, Teilhard still sees such devastation in service of ultimate good: “The height of a peak is a measure of the depths of the abysses it overtops.”[xxiv] He sees the way forward as “the road of comradeship and brotherhood––and that is as true of nations as it is of individuals.”[xxv] The optimism of his Sun-Jupiter conjunction is colored by the Venusian qualities of relationship and love, as the planet  Venus is also part of his stellium. Teilhard’s sense of hope in regards to the future is directly related to his faith in technology, which is reflective of his Sun-Jupiter trine Uranus, describing his progressive age as “not an industrial age but rather an age of research.”[xxvi] Humanity’s innovative, technological genius, associated with Uranus, is key to the ultimate convergence of the noosphere upon the Omega Point.

Although it is primarily connected with his Saturn-Neptune conjunction, Teilhard’s profound understanding of suffering is, in many ways, reflective of his entire birth chart. A single sentence he wrote in “The Spiritual Energy of Suffering” shines with each of the planetary archetypes conjoined in his stellium: “The astounding Christian revelation of suffering . . . can be transformed into an expression of love and a principle of union.”[xxvii] The “astounding Christian revelation” relates to a Jupiter-Uranus awakening of the Neptunian spiritual realm, while suffering relates deeply to the Saturn-Neptune complex. The positive transformation of the suffering reflects Jupiter and Pluto, while the expression of love is both Mercurial and Venusian, and the principle of union is that of Neptune.

Neptune and Pluto, as the slowest moving planets in our solar system for which astrologers have adequate research, correlations, and consensus on their meanings, only conjoin approximately once every 493 years. Their conjunction is therefore the rarest of all two-planet world transits. These conjunctions have marked the beginning of each major epoch for the last three millennia of recorded human history. Teilhard was born in 1881, at the beginning of the most recent Neptune-Pluto conjunction. A consistent pattern has been observed in astrological correlations that when a new, innovative, or transformative idea, invention, or creation is born it is reflected in the current transits but may not yet impact the current paradigm and thus remains relatively hidden. However, it appears that while the idea has been seeded under a certain transit it will often come to full fruition under a subsequent transit of the same planets. In Teilhard’s case, his monumental philosophy, which so clearly reflects his natal chart, may indeed be such a seeding. His dream of humanity’s convergence on the Omega Point may someday blossom fully under a future conjoining of the spiritually transformative planetary archetypes Neptune and Pluto.

Bibliography

Hand, Robert. Planets in Transit: Life Cycles for Living. Atglen, PA: Whitford Press, 2001.

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre. The Activation of Energy: Enlightening Reflections on   Spiritual Energy. Translated by René Hague. London, England: William Collins Sons & Co Ltd., 1978.

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre. The Heart of Matter: The Important Spiritual Autobiography of One of the World’s Greatest Thinkers. Translated by René Hague. London, England: William Collins Sons & Co Ltd., 1978.

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre. The Human Phenomenon. Translated by Sarah Appleton-Weber. Portland, OR: Sussex Academic Press, 2003.

Tarnas, Richard. Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View. New York, NY: Viking Penguin, 2006.

Tompkins, Sue. Aspects in Astrology: A Guide to Understanding Planetary Relationships in the Horoscope. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books, 2002.


[i] The interpretations of the planetary archetypes put forth in this essay come from a long astrological tradition, but are primarily grounded in the work of Richard Tarnas, Robert Hand, and Sue Tompkins, courses presented at the California Institute of Integral Studies, lectures from the Institute of Archetypal Cosmology, and from my own experience and practice.

[ii] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Human Phenomenon, trans. Sarah Appleton-Weber (Portland, OR: Sussex Academic Press, 2003), 3.

[iii] Teilhard, The Human Phenomenon, 5.

[iv] The trine is called a “soft” aspect and tends to have a more confluent, flowing, harmonious quality in comparison to the “hard” or “dynamic” aspects of the conjunction, opposition, and square. The 60° sextile is also considered a soft aspect.

[v] Teilhard, The Human Phenomenon, 3.

[vi] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Activation of Energy: Enlightening Reflections on Spiritual Energy, trans. René Hague (London, England: William Collins Sons & Co Ltd., 1978), 383.

[vii] Teilhard, The Activation of Energy, 383.

[viii] Teilhard, The Activation of Energy, 231-232.

[ix] Teilhard, The Activation of Energy, 235.

[x] Teilhard, The Activation of Energy, 240.

[xi] Teilhard, The Activation of Energy,  262.

[xii] Teilhard, The Activation of Energy,  242.

[xiii] Teilhard, The Activation of Energy,  242.

[xiv] Teilhard, The Activation of Energy,  266.

[xv] Teilhard, The Activation of Energy,  47.

[xvi] Teilhard, The Human Phenomenon,  212.

[xvii] Teilhard, The Activation of Energy,  262.

[xviii] Teilhard, The Activation of Energy,  393.

[xix] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Heart of Matter: The Important Spiritual Autobiography of One of the World’s Greatest Thinkers, trans. René Hague (London, England: William Collins Sons & Co Ltd., 1978), 18.

[xx] Teilhard, The Heart of Matter, 20.

[xxi] Teilhard, The Heart of Matter, 45.

[xxii] Teilhard, The Activation of Energy, 219,

[xxiii] Teilhard, The Activation of Energy, 220.

[xxiv] Teilhard, The Activation of Energy, 14.

[xxv] Teilhard, The Activation of Energy, 17.

[xxvi] Teilhard, The Activation of Energy, 354.

[xxvii] Teilhard, The Activation of Energy, 248.