The Symbolism and Significance of a New Planetary Archetype
By Keiron Le Grice (Article from Watkins’ Mind Body Spirit magazine, issue 30, May (Summer, 2012)
Many readers will be aware of the controversy surrounding the ‘demotion’ of Pluto from its status as a planet to that of dwarf planet in 2006. The redefinition of what constitutes full planetary status was instigated by the discovery, the year before, of a new planetary body in our solar system lying far beyond the orbit of Pluto. This new dwarf planet—one of several discovered in recent years—was given the name Eris after the Greek goddess of strife, a choice reflecting the discord and conflict its discovery had caused within the astronomical community.
Beyond its implications for astronomy, however, the discovery of Eris is also potentially of great significance both for astrology and the new discipline of archetypal cosmology, which study the correspondence between the movements of the planets and specific archetypal principles in human experience. For it is not since the discovery of Pluto in 1930 that a new planet has been incorporated into astrological symbolism and theory. In Discovering Eris, I explore a number of different approaches to help determine just what the astrological meaning of Eris might be, and reflect on what the discovery might tell us about the symbolic significance of our moment in history.
It is now widely accepted by astrologers that discoveries of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto in the modern era marked the emergence of archetypal principles associated with these planets into the foreground of human experience. In each case, the meanings connected to the planet were partly reflected both in the mythic associations with the name of the planet and in the historical events and Zeitgeist at the time the planet was discovered. Uranus, for example, which is associated with themes such as freedom, rebellion, revolution, awakening, the new, technology, invention, and creative genius, was discovered in 1781 in broad coincidence with the French Revolution, the American Revolution, and the start of the Industrial Age. Pluto—associated with instinctual power and elemental force, destruction and transformation, the mythic underworld and the depths of the unconscious—was discovered midway between the twentieth century’s world wars, in coincidence with the development of nuclear power, and at the same time as Freudian psychology was being disseminated across the wider culture. As these examples suggest, there appears to be some kind of synchronistic correspondence between our exploration of outer space and our knowledge of the ‘inner space’ of human psychological experience, as if the universe were revealing its deeper order and pattern of evolutionary unfolding to us simultaneously from two perspectives. For ultimately—as I argue in my first book, The Archetypal Cosmos—within and without, psyche and cosmos, might be recognized as different aspects of a single unitary reality that the ancients called the unus mundus.
Given these precedents, it stands to reason that the dwarf planet Eris must also be associated with its own unique planetary archetype whose meaning is likely to be reflected in the major events and Zeitgeist of our own time—an era dominated especially by the ecological crisis and global terrorism. By examining the foundational origins of these crises, and by considering sources of understanding Eris’ meaning in the fields of mythology, depth psychology, philosophy, science, history, and religion, Discovering Eris points to the existence of a complex and deep-rooted archetypal principle forcefully impressing itself on collective human experience. An awareness of this principle might therefore, I believe, not only help us to understand the place of Eris within astrology, but also to comprehend the deeper archetypal and evolutionary significance of the current time, providing orientation and insight to help us navigate the critical challenges ahead.
About the author: Keiron Le Grice, Ph.D., is the author of The Archetypal Cosmos: Rediscovering the Gods in Myth, Science and Astrology (Floris Books, 2010) and founding editor of Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology (www.archaijournal.org). He is adjunct faculty in the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, and guest lecturer in the Jungian and Archetypal Studies Depth Psychology program at Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara. Website: www.keironlegrice.com