by Jules Cashford

‘Luna per omnes menses nascitur, crescit, perficitur, minuitur, consumitur, innovatur. Quod in luna per menses, hoc in resurrectione semel in toto tempore.’ (‘The Moon is born every month, increases, is perfeced, diminishes, is consumed, is renewed. As in the Moon every month, so in resurrection once for all time.’).
—St. Augustine Sermo CCCLXI: De Resurrectione

‘Jesus said unto her: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that be- lieveth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”’
—John 11:25

Jesus’s death, descent to hell and resurrection were conceived, in the imagery of the time, under the figure of the setting Sun and its journey through Hades. Jesus died on the fourteenth of the month of Nisan, which fell on a Friday (the day of Venus), lay in his grave on Saturday (the day of Saturn) and was resurrected on the ‘first day of the week,’ which was Sunday (the day of Helios) as the risen Sun.1 The significance of his rising on the third day entered the Apostles’ Creed, articulating the main tenets of Christian belief: ‘… Was crucified, dead, and buried, He descended into hell; The third day he rose again from the dead, He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead…’2

Yet the older figure of the risen Moon lurks, as so often, beneath the later portrait of the risen Sun. At the deeper level of the imagery, it is as though the ancient lunar imagery clothes the story of the Resurrection. For ‘born of the Virgin Mary’ as the New Crescent, Jesus dies at the summit of his powers at Full Moon, the fourteenth day of the month after which the Moon will wane. In the figure of the dark Moon, Jesus descends to the underworld and rises on the third day, becoming the New Moon of the eternal cycle. Krappe observes that all divine heroes rise on the third day after their death, having their prototype and origin in the disappearance and reappearance of the Moon:

Quoi qu’il en soit, le mythe de la résurrection du héros divin, le troisième jour après sa mort, mythe bien connu par la légende d’Attis et par l’Evangile, a son prototype et son origine dans la disparition et la réapparition de la lune.3

The three days descent into the dark entered Christian symbolism originally through the analogy made between the resurrection of Jonah and Christ. In Judaic tradition, Jonah, fleeing the presence of his Lord, was cast into the sea in a storm, but:

The Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights.4

Fig. 1. Earth in Space, as seen by Apollo 17 crew travelling towards the Moon, December 7th, 1972. NASA.

St. Matthew’s Gospel, written at least a generation after Christ’s death, gives Jesus drawing the analogy himself:

For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.5

The makers of this 15th century German Bible (fig. 2) obviously wished to emphasize the affinities between Jonah falling into the mouth of the whale, Joseph being cast into the pit and Jesus being laid in his tomb. In fig 3, Samson substitutes for Joseph, Jonah is regurgitated, while Christ is reborn.

Since the Moon could disappear for two or three nights, Jesus’s nights of death become, strictly, two nights, rising on the third day. As the lunar gods had illuminated the dead in the underworld, sometimes slaying the monster of darkness, so Jesus is often shown releasing souls from death by spearing the monster of hell, imagined as a whale. Reading the image without the text, Jesus is here cast in the role of the Bright Moon slaying the dragon of the Dark Moon, bringing rebirth.

With this model, it is predictable that Saul’s conversion on the Road to Damascus results in three days of blindness and fasting.6 Similarly, Dante passes through the gates of Hell on Good Friday and reaches Paradise on Easter Sunday (taking, as Christ, three days but only two nights).7

The Christian tradition, then, has drawn on a universal symbol of death and rebirth, found all over the world, informing folk-tales and religions alike. Let us review some of its appearances.

Fig. 2. Joseph in the Well; the Entombment of Christ; Jonah and the Whale. A page from the Biblia Pauperum, German edition, 1471.

Fig. 3. Samson with the gates of the temple, Jonah coming out of the whale, and Christ arising from his tomb. A page from the Biblia Pauperum, German edition, 1471.

* * *

It was for three days and three nights that the Sumerian Moon goddess, Inanna, hung dead as a corpse upon a hook in the Great Below until, revived by the water and food of life, she ascended back into the Great Above.8 It was for three nights that the Left Eye of Horus was torn into pieces and thrown into outer darkness, when Thoth reassembled it, piecing it together until it was whole.9 Tjapara, the Oceanic Moon god, who was slain in a death-fight by the man whose wife he had taken, appeared in the sky three nights later, while the mortal drowned in the sea.10 When the West Ceramese maiden, Rabie, died from her rape by the Sun Man, Tuwale, her family celebrated the death feast for three days, after which they saw for the first time the Moon rising in the east.11 In Vedic India, the souls who died into the old Moon were reincarnated three nights later in the returning crescent, falling into the wombs of their new mothers as Soma-rain.12 In ancient Iran, the soul hovered perilously round the body for three days (as though in danger of dying itself), while families conducted ceremonies to help the deceased begin the journey to paradise.13 The Siberian Yakuts say that ‘the future shaman “dies” and lies in the tent for three days without eating or drinking.’ Three times the candidate had to undergo this trial, during which he is ‘cut to pieces,’ as though in imitation of the Moon.14 The Irish hero, Cuchulainn, fought without stopping from summer to spring in defence of Ulster, then collapsed and slept for three days and three nights while his father from the Other World kept watch over him. He awoke to find his wounds miraculously healed.15 When the Buddha was dying, the animals of the Earth crowded round him, weeping bitterly. ‘Do not weep,’ he said to them. ‘Look at the moon! As the moon dying renews herself again, so shall I dying be renewed again.’16 Rituals of mourning for Adonis, lover of Aphrodite, gored to death by the boar, took place over three days: effigies of the god, cast into the waves to the sound of wailing, were rescued three days later with singing and dancing, for had not the god arisen to live again?17

Fig. 4. Christ releasing souls from the mouth of hell, imagined as a whale. Winchester Bible. 12th century. Winchester Cathedral.

Fig. 5. Jason disgorged by the dragon, with the golden fleece hanging on the tree of Life behind. The presence of Athene suggests a lunar pattern to the ritual of release. Attic red-figure vase by the Duris painter. 5th c. BC. Gregoriano Etrusco, Vatican Museum, Rome.

The Lunar Myth of Transformation

We may ask, what is going on here? There must be an archetypal model at work which informs all these different stories for some reason beyond that which is given in the stories themselves. The symbol (of death and rebirth) grapples with a contradiction, for at the level of ordinary experience death and life are exclusively opposed to each other – such that where the one is, the other is not. Yet here, at the deepest level, there appears to be a merging into a single reality, as a result of which what was death becomes life. So – the inference goes – there must be a state from which both life and death come. Life and death are the parameters of time as we understand it, so this state must be beyond time, even that from which time also comes, which is to say – to give it a name – eternity. Consequently, the visible Moon – the Moon of the senses – has to make this journey from the temporal to the eternal, to participate in the ‘stuff of eternity,’ to enter into the sacred realm and become one with the eternal. When ‘the eternal’ gives birth to the new form of the Moon which is called the New Moon, it imitates the original act of crea- tion in which form came forth from formlessness and light came forth from darkness. For the point about the Moon’s death was that it was a return to the original wholeness of the beginning. The old had to die completely, the old structures, the old powers, all had to go before anything new could come. If they did not go willingly, of their own accord, they had to be sacrificed. They had to be absorbed in the primordial unity of eternity out of which all temporal forms arise.

Fig. 6. ‘The New Moon…’ J.M.W. Turner. Oil on mahogany. 1840. The Tate Gallery, London.

The Moon, then, undergoes a rite of passage from the profane (time, which has worn out) to the sacred (the eternal), which regenerates time, and by implication, the world which cannot be conceived apart from time – making time sacred time and the world a ‘brave new world.’ This is how it seems to be that the New Moon holds the promise of recreation in the image of the Beginning, in illo tempore, which is also, of course, ‘the beginning’ for the human mind, bound by ‘the same’ categories of space and time. Nonetheless, those heroes, saviours, shamans – indeed, anyone who endures even for a moment the heroic, shamanic role in their own lives – also follow this rite of passage from profane to sacred to a transformed life in time, in imitation of the way shown by the Moon.

This idea, of the merging of time into eternity, or perhaps the impregnating of time by eternity, can be seen in stories of every plane of being. There appears to be a consistent structure to tales of trans- formation. The first phase is the dissolution of all forms. On the cosmic plane, order has to collapse into chaos (as in flood, deluge, millennium, apocalypse, or the ‘end of the world’); on the tribal plane, the living priests have to be emptied of the present to be filled with the Dream of the Ancestors; on the social plane, norms of conduct have to be suspended or reversed (as in the New Year orgies of the Saturnalia, Twelfth Night, New Year’s Eve, and Carnival at the end of the seasonal year); on the individual plane, the conscious self has to lose itself in order to be open to the unconscious; on the vegetal plane, the fruit has to disintegrate in the dense, dark soil (Kore, Persephone, Dionysos), before the seed can be shed, and the life-force return. Festivals of mourning in autumn and rejoicing in spring were intended to assist the life-force in its metamorphosis. This descent into darkness may be conducted through shamanic initiation ceremonies, or the communal rituals of the Ancient Mysteries, or the rite of Baptism (dissolving the forms in water), or through participation in the Mass or Holy Communion, or through the suspension of the individual in ritual prayer, among many other religious forms. Or it may be undertaken in the modern way, mostly without communal guidance, often in the isolation of a private despair.

Many New Year ceremonies used to be timed to the last moonless night before the reappearance of the New Moon. In California, some North American Indian tribes believed that this cosmic timing connected them to the immortal beings who inhabited the world before people did, so that the present tribesmen can re-enact through contemporary ritual the original cosmogonic ceremony inaugurated in the ‘Dreamtime’ by their ancestors. They call it ‘putting posts under the world.’18 Time is again symbolically regenerated by repeating the original act of creation, an aspiration found in the conclusion of many another prayer: ‘As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, amen.’

Another Californian tale centres on the dark time of three days, or three years. A Chumash wizard called Axiwalic fell sick with consumption and left his village to find a place to die. He followed a strange light which led him to some animals who bathed him back to health and sent him home to his village through a spring (baptism through water). When he returned he was amazed to find that he had been gone for three years as he thought it had only been three days.19 Joan Halifax, in her book Shaman, comments of this tale: ‘Three days dead, three years dead, like the dark of the moon, is the pause between the personal past and a realized transtemporal life.’20 The personal and temporal, it is implied, merges in this sacred interval with the impersonal and transtemporal or eternal, and it is this merging that brings about that change of state at a new level which we call regeneration.

But the term ‘eternal’ is still only an idea, an explanatory hypothesis, as opaque as the condition to which it points, and as unanswerable as any primordial image which will not go away. When a narrative is given to this idea, it is typically represented as a state beyond all opposites, beyond the inevitable dualism of life in time. In ordinary consciousness, differentiation presents us with polarities: life or death, time or eternity, male or female, I or thou, Thou or That.

It would make sense, then, that, in the imagined dark of the Beginning – before the categories to be called time and space had come into being, and so before consciousness could know itself – there would be a union of realities otherwise experienced in ordinary life as distinct or mutually exclusive. A return to this state would be a return to the state before duality. This means that, to speak in the different language games: mythologically, there would be a union, or reunion, of the human and the divine; psychologically, a reunion of conscious and unconscious; epistemologically, a reunion of reason and intuition as modes of knowing. A male hero would become one with his inner feminine nature and a female hero with her inner masculine nature. Masculine questing consciousness would reunite with the ground of its being, the Feminine. In celestial symbolism this is the Sacred Marriage of Sun and Moon, or Heaven and Earth; in Alchemy this is the Coniunctio of Sol and Luna. This Sacred Marriage of hitherto separate, even opposing, realities, it has to be inferred, is what brings about the rebirth at a new level of synthesis, the ‘child’ of the marriage, the transformed being.

* * *

The Moon’s cyclical death and rebirth, which used to be interpreted as promising rebirth after death for human beings, may now be read symbolically, as proposing a structure of transformation in which the individual dies to the old self and is reborn into a new mode of being. It could immediately be objected that, since the premisses on which the early inferences were founded are manifestly illusory, there are no grounds for attributing any sense to them at all, symbolically or otherwise. It may also seem ironic that many of the world’s religions have drawn on the symbolism of the Moon to explore their insights into the relation of temporal life to eternity, when the symbolism appears to arise merely from the limitations of the human mind. But earlier beliefs, once no longer believed in, can mirror back to us the primordial impulses that were originally behind them, the genuine need of the psyche within the old, literalized, even false, interpretation of the world. Such beliefs lead back to the archetype, rendering it transparent in a way that would be difficult, even impossible, so long as the image through which the archetype is expressed still captures our imagination as objectively true.

What the Moon stories suggest is that the unconscious psyche yearns for transformation. As it is so it sees. Reading the Moon, as the ancients did, as a living being who grows, dies and is reborn, suggests, when mirrored back, that this is how the unconscious psyche sees itself, that ultimately it is interpreting its own reality in this outer pattern. This is to say that, at the deepest level, we could infer that modes of feeling, thinking and being experience themselves as perpetually in movement, growing and diminish- ing and reforming to a rhythm of their own. Arising from invisible depths, they take on a shape and a character, growing to their most complete manifestation, after which, their purpose done, they start to dwindle, their conviction fades, and (if we would let them) they dissolve back into a deeper stratum of the psyche where they can be re-absorbed, refreshed, and reborn in new form, one more in accord with what has been learned through this latest expression of themselves.

But the temptation of the conscious mind is characteristically to hang on to the old form, to prevent it moving and changing of its own accord (that is, in accord with the laws of the unconscious). Since these laws are not formulated by, and often initially unavailable to the conscious mind, they are vulnerable to being dismissed as arbitrary. For the conscious mind prefers to identify itself with what it knows, with what worked so far, with who it thinks it is or would like to be. The danger, then, may be to arrest the flow of experience, turning it into an idea, confining it to ‘culture’ and forgetting it is ‘nature,’ and so must live and die by changing its form. The Moon, Yeats remarks, ‘is the most changeable of symbols, and not just because it is the symbol of change.’21 It is as though the old self, like the old Moon, must die before a new self can re-emerge out of the darkness of its own being, like a New Moon. And not just once, but continually. Goethe’s poem: ‘Holy Longing’ ends:

So unless you understand this: To die and so to grow, you are but a troubled guest on the dark earth.22

In St. John’s Gospel, Jesus, talking of rebirth, appears to be talking of transformation rather than im- mortality (reading the ‘Kingdom of God’ psychologically):

‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus saith unto him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’23

In the Gnostic Gospel According to Thomas, the ‘Kingdom of God’ is explicitly given as a state of mind:

His disciples said to him: ‘When will the Kingdom come?’ Jesus said: ‘It will not come by expectation; they will not say: “See, here”, or: “See, there”. But the Kingdom of the Father is spread upon the earth and men do not see it’.24

Paul expresses a similar idea when he says: ‘It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.’25

Jung, in his Mysterium Coniunctionis, explains the alchemical symbolism of the Coniunctio in terms of lunar symbolism, making the point that the Coniunctio takes place not in the Full but in the darkest night of the New Moon, and it is here that Sun and Moon unite.26 Von Franz adds: ‘the coniunctio happens in the underworld…in the deepest depression, in the deepest desolation, the new personality is born.’27 What St. John of the Cross called the ‘dark night of the soul’28 is, then, a necessary stage in the trans- forming of the personality, not simply an irreparable loss of ‘the soul’s light’ – as it may well feel without the mythic image as guide. T. S. Eliot explores this loss in The Four Quartets by showing why everything has to go, even the things that are good:

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.29

Similarly, as we have seen, in the Egyptian, Greek and Christian Mysteries, the participants were in- vited, even compelled, to lose their identification with their mortal frame – which, as bios, lives and dies – and find it in their eternal source – zoe. What was lost, or sacrificed, was biography, the personal ego, the temporal self, and what was found was that which is beyond the individual at that or any moment in time. As in all true art, perhaps, the people, rapt away from their habitual selves, become – for as long as the rite lasts – gods themselves, participants in ‘eternity’, entirely convinced by values which tran- scend the vicissitudes of time. Only when the epiphany is accomplished and the rite is complete, do the priests and the people return to the persons they were before, but, strictly, are no longer, for now they are changed, filled with zoe, renewed. The fact that the people went back to the Mysteries in Egypt and Greece year after year (and that the Mysteries themselves lasted for thousands of years) suggests that the inevitable falling back into life in time needs a periodical dissolution into the timeless if the memory of the source is not to fade. Otherwise, the experience may become theoretical, an idea only, the inevita- ble consequence of knowledge divorced from being. One of the secrets of the Mysteries never to be told (because only to be grasped through an altered state of consciousness) was that, while the slayers or betrayers (Seth, Hades, Judas) are, on the stage, the enemies of those they sacrifice, behind the scenes – where there is no polarity of contraries – slayer and slain are of one mind: sacrificer and victim, hero and dragon, are one and the same. Hence Seth and Horus face each other as equals, Persephone ‘mar- ries’ Hades, Jesus ‘loves’ his enemy and kisses him. Only in ego-consciousness is there separation from one another (fig. 7).

Fig. 7. Horus and Seth flaanking the head of Hathor, with the eyes of Sun and Moon above. Gold Pecto- ral. 12th Dynasty. c. 2050-1750 BC. Eton College Library, Meyers Collection.

The participants at the Mysteries had to abandon themselves to what would happen, and what hap- pened was a change of vision. For these lunar mysteries do not seem to have been primarily narrative reassurances of a rebirth analogous to the Moon’s rebirth: they were essentially possibilities of transfor- mation, which had radical implications for how life was to be lived in the present. ‘Osiris is useful here on earth as well as for those who have died,’ one Egyptian inscribed on his grave stele.30

It is only the experience of the numinous, Jung wrote, which brings about a transformation in a person.31 Inevitably, what is called zoe or the ‘eternal self’ is indescribable, except in metaphor or analogy, and any attempt to translate it into the language of time results in banality or paradox at best: ‘Show me your original face,’ the Zen Master demands.32 Yeats’s girl, musing in mirror after mirror, answers an imaginary lover’s question: ‘I’m looking for the face I had / Before the world was made.’ 33 The Egyptians imagined a bennu bird, whom they called ka, after the sound the heron makes when it flies away. After the deceased had united with their personal ba-soul, in the shape of a bird with their own face, they met their cosmic soul, their Ka, the ‘Mother of Transformations’ (fig. 8).34 Egyptian Christians transferred the Ka to the Holy Spirit, and other Christians conceived of angels – messengers, as the Greek word angellos meant, from the divine realm. The Romans had their genius, and Blake, for whom ‘the Eternal Body of Man is the Imagination,’ attributes to all humankind their own ‘Poetic Genius.’35 Throughout the ages the eternal dimension, assigned to humanity by human beings, has also been simply called the soul.

* * *

More generally, a survey of Moon myths suggests that the image of eternity has to be carried by someone or something external to human beings, to enable us to forge a relationship to our own eternal selves. The ‘eternal’ may be called the Great Mother Goddess, Mother Earth, Moon God or Goddess, Sun God or Goddess, Father God, God, Goddess, Tao, All That Is, or the Good, the True and the Beautiful; it may be mediated through beings who have lived on Earth, such as the Buddha, Christ or Muhammad; or it may be metaphorically located in the human psyche as ‘the Self’ or ‘the Centre’ or ‘the Soul.’ It may also be described as ‘the archetype of wholeness’. It may be expressed through values which are considered to belong to human beings by virtue of their humanity, and through which that humanity is defined. Inevitably, there have been numerous expressions of ‘the eternal,’ just as the idea of ‘eternity’ has been given many different meanings, but whatever the name the function is similar: the attribution of the highest value, to which all other values are subordinate. This supreme value is invariably conceived as transcendent to time and inviolable, which is to say, sacred (the terms ‘eternal’ and ‘sacred’ belong together). Eliade has shown, in A History of Religious Ideas, that an experience of a sacred dimension to life occurs in all cultures in every age, early or late. This suggests that ‘the sacred’ is not a stage in the development of consciousness which human beings outgrow as they become more complex: it is an inherent part of the structure of consciousness, possibly the essential part.36 So when one image of the sacred loses its numinous power, the role of carrier of the sacred is transferred to another image. Some- one or something has to carry it: if not a worthy carrier then – as various collective seizures of the race have shown – an unworthy one.

Fig. 8. The meeting of the person with his Ka in the image of the bennu bird, wearing the crown of Osiris. Tomb of Anhurkhawal, Deir-el-Medina, Thebes. c. 1190-1085.

For this reason, it may be that the attempt to understand the source and current of ancient longing is as necessary on a mythic level as the attempt to understand our own outmoded thoughts and actions on a personal level, becoming aware of the deeper impulses that have fuelled them. Otherwise, the danger is that these ancient beliefs (like our earlier now-discarded attachments) will have outworn only their last provisonal form. If their springs are not recognized, they will simply reappear in a new, no less opaque, disguise, and the unconscious identification will begin again, with not much more understand- ing than before. Jung describes the religious feelings that were once ‘projected into space as gods, and worshipped with sacrifices’ as ‘powers’ which are ‘still alive and active in our unconscious psyche.’37 They still, therefore, require honouring in some way if they are not to alight anew upon some cause, person, mission, idol or god, anything (to turn to Conrad) which ‘you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to…’38

* * *

When the Father God took over the role of the sacred from the Mother Goddess, eternity or the sacred was redefined, as it was when (in a parallel way) the Sun took over the role from the Moon and Earth. It seems regrettable that, for these earlier transferences of the sacred to be effective, the previous carrier of the sacred has so far had to be redefined as, at best, inferior and, at worst, destructive to the new order; but so long as this process of transferring the sacred from one image to another takes place unconsciously, it is probably inevitable. Just as, broadly, when the Father God became supreme, the Mother Goddess who had given birth to all life was redefined as chaotic or inanimate (before she became invisible), so, with the rise of the Sun, the Moon, once the hope of rebirth, now promised death. Then Moon, and Earth below Moon (looking down from Highest Heaven), had to carry the pejorative image of time as dissolution and decay – sublunary – in contrast to the eternal and immutable Sun who was now the one beyond death. When the Judaic Transcendent God, who was beyond any graven image, turned the role of the Father God into Pure Spirit, eternity was again redefined as beyond anything that could be seen or heard or given a name. The phenomenal and temporal world became ‘fallen’ – Sun as well as Moon and Earth – so that all of what we now call Nature was desacralized (a loss that remains to this day). The Christian Church, inheriting this tradition, spoke disparagingly of ‘this world’ in contrast to ‘the next,’ which was the real world of divine union after death. (Aristotle’s adaptation into Medieval Christian thought through Thomas Aquinas meant that the Sun was metaphorically rescued from the curse of the phenomenal world, persisting as a symbol of Christ). The question that arises now, given the general waning of faith in the Christian story as divine revelation, is where will the image of eternity fall next?

We can see from this (extremely over-simplified) pattern that the whole interpretation of our world’s structure and value derives from where eternity is located. For it is only ‘eternity’ – in whatever form it is given – which can be imagined to redeem time and transform death into rebirth. Wherever the sacred is not located, on the other hand, becomes profane.

It now seems clear that all the Moon’s ancient powers were derived from its eternal being, its capac- ity for rebirth. The ‘water of life’ came from the ambrosial cup of the nectar of immortality, which was, of course, the crescent of the reborn Moon. The fertilizing powers over conception and birth came from its ability to give birth to itself, as did its sway over the waxing and waning of plant life, where, most evocatively, new life appears to be born from the death of the old. Its rulership of fate as well as time came from the investing of the Moon’s phases with qualities of time, for who better to deliver destiny than the one who can suspend the inexorable laws of its conclusion? Of course, these are sovereignties found in all goddesses and gods in whatever celestial body they are made visible, whatever mound of Earth or height of Heaven. Nonetheless, as beliefs in which few people now believe, they may be viewed with sufficient detachment to be able to mirror the intensity of the unconscious need, however this may appear to the sceptical conscious mind.

Myth as Symbol and Metaphor

Understand that you are another little world, and have within you the sun, the moon, and also the stars.39

Thus, somewhat surprisingly, the Early Christian Father, Origen, in the 3rd century AD, anticipating by many centuries Zimmer’s analysis of the contemporary state of myth:

All the images and intimations of his depths that man, from the Stone Age almost to the present time, projected upon the shimmering screen of the universe, have flowed back into man himself.40

Whether myths are to be called the poetic images of the race, or the collective dreams of the human psyche, or the stories of the tribe, and whether they are to be attributed to the Great Memory, the Anima Mundi, the Collective Unconscious, the Imaginal World, or the Soul of Humanity, they may offer us an albeit partial and fleeting glimpse of what it is to be human. For myths can show us how we think, but only if we both engage with them and ‘see through’ them at the same time – the ‘double vision’ Blake proposed as the way to relate to both art and life.41 Treat them dismissively, and they are gone; take them literally, and they are in the way. It could be said that the task of mythology is not complete until the myths have become transparent to their source in the human imagination. So goddesses and gods, demons, dragons and the whole pantheon of supernatural beings are in this sense metaphors of states of mind, images of potentialities realizable within us; they are figures of passion which give energy and form to our deepest longings and fears, telling their story, turning them into narratives which test and explore ideas. To try it again, myths are at the least a way of exploring a universal sense of wonder, and apprehending and thinking through the mystery of the numinous (a term which means literally the wink of a god, and, more generally, the coming alive of divine presence). Myths may be read as symbols, whose meaning cannot be known through intellect alone, yet whose multiple meanings unfold the more diligently they are pursued – something that could also be said of dreams, thrown up from the same su- pra-personal or transpersonal source. For dream, as Campbell has eloquently said, ‘is the personalized myth, myth the depersonalized dream.’42 In their widest reference, myths represent, through analogy, the timeless adventure of the soul.

So it is ultimately an inner drama that is driving those perennial myths which survive through epochs and cultures, not offering solutions – being, generally, insoluble – but requiring ever more baffling com- plexities of response, ever more depth. ‘Primitive man,’ (that impossibly unfair but indispensable category), as Jung briskly says: ‘simply didn’t know that the psyche contains all the images that have ever giv- en rise to myths, and that our unconscious is an acting and suffering subject with an inner drama which primitive man rediscovers, by means of analogy, in the processes of nature both great and small.’43 But we do. Consequently, we can find in the ancient myths a poetic formulation of psychological truths, freed from dogma and schools and doctrines, answerable only to the judgement of an informed heart.

Our age is unique in having the opportunity to understand the essential unity of the human race in its never-ending attempts to understand itself. In the late 18th century, the Sanskrit texts of the Vedas and the Upanishads were translated into English, revealing a common Indo-European linguistic root, which proposed the idea of a common Indo-European family. Then, in 1821, the Egyptian hieroglyphics on the Rosetta Stone were decoded, disclosing a totally unsuspected sophistication of thought some two thou- sand years older than the Bible. This was followed, in 1850, by Layard’s excavations of Babylon which opened up Mesopotamia, and by 1875 Schliemann had uncovered Troy and Mycenae, and inspired Arthur Evans to search for their origins in the island of Crete, which he finally found in the 1920s. At the turn of the 20th century the great Paleolithic caves were discovered, culminating in the find of the cave of Lascaux in 1940, preserved in all its brilliance from 15,000 BC. Mycenaean writing was deciphered in 1954, unlocking the pre-Homeric origins of classical Greece, and in the 1950s and 1960s, the missing Neolithic strata of civilization were put in place by Marija Gimbutas, unearthing what she called Old Europe, while James Mellaart, working in Turkey, once Anatolia, laid bare a place called Catal Huyuk, inhabited since the seventh millennium BC. Then, in 1969, the first image of Earth as a whole planet in space came from the Moon.

All these discoveries have undermined the former assumptions of linear development, in which ear- lier meant more primitive – ‘the dark, backward and abysm of time’44 – and promoted a spirit of more open-minded assessment as to what composes a cultural life. By comparing the mythic images of these vastly diverse cultures, it becomes undeniable that there are motifs common to all of them – images, rituals and stories, echoing each other as though in dialogue, agreeing or disagreeing on particulars, but always, at the deepest level, as though working on a shared task. Images of the Moon may serve as an example of this. For though the specific ideas focussing on the Moon belong to the local folk in their local landscape, their similarity to those of other groups apparently unknown to them, in many other tribes, times and places, discloses a universal reference. Not surprisingly, it seems, when people are thinking as human beings, not merely as members of a social group, they think in a way that other human beings can recognize, whenever and wherever they live. And thinking as a human being, in this sense, means considering humanity in relation to the universe as a whole.

Perhaps it is just because the reference of thought goes beyond the tribal and self-interested that mythic images in their universal dimension have been so often linked with the unanimous tradition of the ‘Perennial Philosophy’ – the exploration and transmission of primordial truths throughout history, whichever culture and age originally housed them.45Coomaraswamy, for instance, writing of the ‘Philosophia Perennis, of which the specifically Indian form is Vedic,’ calls it ‘the heritage and birthright of all mankind, and not merely of this or that chosen people.’46 It is by no means confined to aspects of the world’s great myths and religions; its signature can be found in folklore and fairy tales, legend, custom and rite alike – wherever an underground stream of human wisdom continues to flow.

Can we, then, read back from these ancient myths anything relevant to addressing the questions of our own time, not in terms of what the gods do or don’t do, but in terms of what the psyche needs for its growing; or, to speak in the grander Greek meaning of psyche, what the soul requires? For when myths have lost their ancient power they disengage from the outer world, withdrawing back into the human psyche which once propelled them outwards to contemplate them. And once the soul finds no echo of itself in collective religion, or once the unconscious psyche loses its ‘objective correlative,’ to expand Eliot’s phrase,47 then the individual has to take the heroic journey within to find new forms, which is to say, new metaphors of reality. As Wallace Stevens writes:

It is as if there were three planets: the sun, The moon and the imagination, or, say,
Day, night and man and his endless effigies…48

New Moon

We may ask, then, metaphorically, what is the New Moon of our time? It has to be said that people of all ages have felt themselves to be on the brink of a new world order, and many a personal longing for renewal gains in credibility when represented on the social or cosmic plane. Nonetheless, it is highly probable that so many such intimations of crisis constitute a genuine recognition that collective modes of consciousness are in transition. Furthermore, the fact that many people are speaking of a paradigm shift may be itself the expression of a paradigm shifting, for the mind that reasons and communicates is typically the last aspect of the psyche to know about a change that has already taken place in the deepest springs of its being. Campbell has articulated this perception in the metaphor of death and rebirth:

The old gods are dead or dying and people everywhere are searching, asking: What is the new mythology to be, the mythology of this unified earth as of one harmonious being?49

The astronomer Fred Hoyle declared that ‘Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from the outside, is available – once the sheer isolation of the Earth becomes plain – a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.’50 Ironically, it was the Moon, for millennia a symbol of transformation, which made this new idea possible, providing the standpoint needed to transform our vision – the view of planet Earth as a whole. And from the moment when the Earth could be seen from the Moon – looking like the Moon has always looked from Earth – a new relation to Earth became inevitable. The event, and primarily its image, was greeted throughout the world with the same wonder that abounds in early mythopoetic thought, as though the human imagination had once again awakened.51 For the first time we were able to contem- plate our own home, not forever looking out at somewhere else and far away. At the deepest level, this is an image of consciousness reflecting upon itself, giving form to the idea that human consciousness is Earth’s way of knowing itself.

As in early mythopoetic thought, this image allows the Earth to become again both numinous and personal, with the radical difference that this Earth is no longer the local piece of territorial earth as in former days but the unified Earth in which everyone shares and for which everyone is, therefore, responsible. Again for the first time, we can experience Earth as a planet revolving in space, putting what we see into accord with what we know, and bringing two hitherto diverging aspects of the psyche into harmony with each other. For though we have known about the heliocentric universe since Copernicus in 1543, most of us still see sunrise and sunset as though our Earth were still the still point of the turning world. But it is possible that, with the vision of our planet floating in the vast, black backdrop of space, its physical boundaries so irrevocably etched against a void, we may finally be persuaded there is nowhere else to go. Here the Moon assumes the role of Wallace Stevens’s ‘Angel of Reality,’ who shows old things anew:

Yet I am the necessary angel of earth,
Since, in my sight, you see the earth again,

Cleared of its stiff and stubborn, man-locked set…52

Standing imaginatively upon the Moon looking back at Earth, what do we see ‘in its sight’? Do we see what Plato saw – a living being, zoon, composed of other living beings, bound together in mutual and intimate relationship, all dependent upon one another for survival and value? If we do, we see, then, a community of subjects, not a collection of inanimate objects with only the human mind to bring them to life. From this perspective, the dignity of being a ‘subject’ is not restricted to humanity but extends to all manifestations of life on the living Earth – animal, vegetable and mineral: in a word, albeit much abused, Nature. Nature becomes then, again, a ‘Thou’ but a Thou with all the complexity of any personal relation- ship, which includes the rights and responsibilities common to all communing subjects.

This recalls Barfield’s third stage in his pattern of the evolution of consciousness. As mentioned in ch. 6, Barfield called the first stage ‘Original (unconscious) Participation,’ the second, ‘Separation,’ and the third ‘Final (conscious) Participation.’ The first phase could be characterized as an instinctive union with the world, and generally subsumed under the culture of the Goddess; the second involves a radical withdrawal of participation from the world, which is then set in opposition to humanity so that it might be the better understood and controlled. This stage is reflected in the presiding image of the God. The third stage, ‘Final Participation,’ is defined as a return to the old participative relation to nature, not in the old, original way – which in any case is impossible, consciousness inevitably moving on – but at a new level, through ‘the Imagination.’53 This involves, he explains, a dual relation to Nature, which acknowledges our experience of Nature as separate from us, but creates a new poetic union by participating with the natural world, consciously and imaginatively. This brings about a new kind of relationship with Nature, recognizing our essential identity while exploring the specific human role of consciousness within it.

In both of Barfield’s two earlier stages, the mythic image is held for the most part unconsciously, in the sense that it is believed in as though it had nothing to do with the human psyche. It is not thought of as a story flowing from human beings, but as the truth about a Goddess or a God – what they said and did. In the third, the present stage, Barfield proposes that we could become aware of our myths by seeing them imaginatively, as stories both provisional and necessary, and that this same imaginative sympathy could return us to participating in a unified Earth in a new mode of being. Barfield’s way of restoring poetry to our vision resembles Thomas Mann’s way of restoring myth as a ‘late and mature’ stage in the individual’s life, which comes out of the early youthful engagement with myth but renders it conscious, and so can live it and not be lived by it.54

Viewing the mythic images of the Moon in the light of different kinds of participation, it would seem that stories of the Moon carry an early stage of exploration of questions about life on Earth. These stories, it could be argued, constitute a necessary stage in the asking of these questions, even though, from a later perspective, some stories are not true and appear to be nonsense, and other stories no longer entrance and so can no longer be told. But it may be possible to save the essence, while abandoning the form in which the essence was originally expressed. In other words, the vision of a unified world, which the lunar myth embodied, is not necessarily disproved because of the simplistic way in which it was once understood; it may rather be that consciousness explored it – perhaps inevitably – at too literal a level. For mythic images do not die out, they merely change their form, and we continue to dream them onwards in new clothes under other names.55 In the long journey from original to final participation, we might expect that images of a unified world become real at a different level of understanding, so that what was once belief becomes metaphor. The image of the universe as an unbroken wholeness – as composed of a web of relationships, containing an ocean of energy, having an implicate as well as explicate order, being a continual process of movement with no absolute point of rest – these are images from modern sub-atomic physics. Whereas in the myth of the Goddess, of which the myth of the Moon was one expression, these images were believed to be true because all life was of the substance of the Goddess, she who was worshipped under a thousand names. However, the language of the new science might remind us that all the great mystic teachers have had a holistic vision, embodied in a passion for right living: the notion of Buddha consciousness in all things, the Hindu vision of Thou art That, and the words of Jesus in The Gnostic Gospel According to Thomas:

Cleave (a piece of) wood, I am there;
lift up the stone and you will find Me there.56

The focus of Barfield’s discussion is the evolution of consciousness and how to reunite ourselves with the natural world without forsaking the supreme achievements of the last 2000 years: the persistent differentiation of the human intellect, the hard-won autonomy of human will and reason, wrested from the grip and spell of various religions, the painful creation of interiority and the subjective self, and the forging of the individual in counterpole to the collective norms of the tribe. It was both a condition and a consequence of these discoveries that the objective world would lose its numinosity, and that disen- chantment with ‘nature’ would bring arrogance and alienation, together with a yearning to return to the original ground of being. What, then, can take us forward? Barfield’s answer is imaginative participation, but what if the very attribute we need to rescue us has become atrophied over the millennia of its dis- use? What, to return to the earlier question, if the last two thousand years of ‘mythological conditioning’ prevent us from being open to the way out?

Jung uses the phrase ‘the inertia of the unconscious’ to point to the way in which we may adopt a new position intellectually, but overlook the deeper levels in the psyche which resist change:

We think we have only to declare an accepted article of faith incorrect and invalid, and we shall be psychologically rid of all the traditional effects of Christianity and Judaism. We believe in enlightenment, as if an intellectual change of front somehow had a profounder influence on the emotional processes or even on the unconscious. We entirely forget that the religion of the past two thousand years is a psychological attitude, a definite form and manner of adaptation to the world without and within, that lays down a definite cultural pattern and creates an atmosphere which remains wholly uninfluenced by intellectual denials. The change of front is, of course, symptomatic, but on the deeper levels the psyche continues to work for a long time in the old attitude, in accordance with the laws of psychic inertia.57

It would seem necessary to take the Hermetic route and ‘by indirections find directions out.’58 In fairy tales the grown-up interpreter is encouraged to look at the structure of the family and see where the imbalances lie; what is missing that the dynamic of the tale is likely to make good? If we look at the Judaeo-Christian ‘family’ of divine images, we find a Divine Father without a Divine Mother (and not even a Wicked Stepmother to outwit or convert). In the specifically Christian family, there is also a Son (but no Daughter), and a Ghost or Spirit who is Holy but also male. This would suggest that the archetypal masculine has so prevailed over the archetypal feminine that a radical imbalance exists between so- called masculine and feminine values in our time. In a fairy tale we would expect to find (loosely) one or more of the consequences of such an imbalance: an overvaluing of reason over feeling, of intellect over intuition, of spirit over nature, of mind over matter, of the written word over the image, of hierarchy over partnership, of transcendence over immanence, of authority over love.

By analogy, we might expect that in the west we have (collectively) been conditioned by our particular mythologies to assume that the divine, the eternal, the sacred, the holy – call it what we may – is inevi- tably transcendent, in the sense of being necessarily beyond nature. The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden may still resound with Yahweh’s curse, even if we think we no longer hear it. We would, then, be less likely to look instinctively for consciousness in Nature – still less Nature as Consciousness, or Consciousness as Nature – because we have accorded that prerogative solely to ourselves, on the grounds that only human beings are made in the image of their God (and have souls). We do not read that statement as tautology. We may further assume that Reason, as apparently the closest human rela- tive to transcendence, is our most god-like faculty, and oppose this to other, by definition less god-like, faculties such as Feeling or, worse, Passion and Instinct, which we share with all other creatures. Because of this we may vastly overestimate our power to change the world, or our attitudes, accepting uncritically the derivative myth of Reason and Human Will. We will not be accustomed to distinguishing between different kinds of feelings (as we automatically distinguish between different kinds of reasoning), and so will not be able to recognize and trust some of our feelings for intuitive insight, intelligence and moral guidance. We may not, then, instinctively know what Imagination is, and may resist ‘final participation’ without even being aware of it.

Let us test this. To take one example: it would follow from a perception of a living Earth as a communion of subjects that these subjects are entitled in principle to be accorded the same rights as human beings confer upon themselves. To quote the cultural historian and ecologist Thomas Berry:

The natural world on the planet Earth gets its rights from the same source that humans get their rights, from the universe that brought them into being.’ … ‘Every component of the Earth community has three rights: the right to be, the right to habitat, and the right and responsibility to fulfill its role in the ever-renewing processes of the Earth community. All rights are species-specific and limited. Rivers have river rights. Birds have bird rights. Insects have insect rights. Humans have human rights. Difference in rights is qualitative, not quantitative. The rights of an insect would be of no value to a tree or a fish. Human rights do not cancel out the rights of other modes of being to exist in their natural state. Human property rights are not absolute… Each component of the Earth community is immediately or mediately dependent on every other member of the community for the nourishment and assistance it needs for its own survival. This mutual nourishment, which includes the predator-prey relationship, is integral with the role that each component of the Earth has within the comprehensive community of existence…59

But do we, can we, feel this? Is our imaginative sympathy sufficiently practised for us to ‘widen our circle of compassion,’ in Einstein’s evocative words? The passage is worth quoting in full:

A human being is part of the whole called by us ‘the universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free us from this prison by widening our circle of understanding and compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.60

Many individuals, of course, feel such things instinctively, and always have done. The question is addressed only to those times when we think ‘collectively,’ in Jung’s term, meaning when we think as members of a culture, and express the values of that culture rather than our own personal experience. In these moments we may well initially assent with our minds to ideas such as Einstein’s and Berry’s – since they follow logically and organically from the original vision of Earth from the Moon; organic, that is, in the sense advocated by the Romantic poets to explain the way in which one image or thought in a poem comes naturally and inevitably out of the one before: ‘Those images that yet / Fresh images beget,’ in Yeats’s phrase.61 But, subsequently, do we find ourselves (in a collective moment) returning to the argument with some bewilderment – unable to think it through, unable, ultimately, to imagine it in all its ramifications? Possibly the only way it could be sold to us is as ‘enlightened self-interest’? Which is to say (to return full circle), by appealing to rational considerations divorced from our sense of value.

But the proposal was presented as an end in itself, as inherently good, without reference to how hu- man beings might benefit from it. It does not say the Earth will be better able to be ‘managed’ as a resource if it has not been polluted. It says rights belong to all existence as their right, and those who understand this (and are in a position to foster or deny them) have to accept individual responsibility for ensuring that Earth and all Earth’s members are no longer deprived of these rights. This is a vision specifically honed to the morality of being a human at this time in our and our Earth’s history.

Habits of response, and the mythic structures in which they are, however tenuously, embedded, are extremely difficult to dislodge, as history has taught us many times. A paradigm, such as the Judaeo-Christian myth, and the derivative polarization of Spirit and Nature, which sees Earth and Earth’s creatures (except ‘Man’) as Nature without Spirit, sets up a way of seeing and valuing which cannot be disproved from within the paradigm; it is not falsifiable because it has already subsumed the methods of falsification. But even if we cannot disprove the basic assumptions of the paradigm, we can still recognize and refuse them: arguments that are exclusively anthropocentric, oppositional, mechanistic, materialistic – these we can suspect as belonging to the last stage of the evolution of consciousness, not to the holistic paradigm that is coming into being. Ultimately, one paradigm can only be displaced by another paradigm, a wholly new vision. Richard Tarnas gives a brilliant overview of the way paradigms change:

Each paradigm is a stage in an unfolding evolutionary sequence, and when that paradigm has fulfilled its purpose, when it has been developed and exploited to its fullest extent, then it loses its numinosity, it ceases to be libidinally charged, it becomes felt as oppressive, limiting, opaque, something to be overcome – while the new paradigm that is emerging is felt as a liberating birth into a new, luminously intelligible universe.62

It is worth considering whether the emerging paradigm is energized by imagining it as being fully operative already, responding as if its tenets were true, so that the new way of envisioning life may be explored at the deeper instinctive levels of the psyche. Imagining ourselves into the being of the other – whether that ‘other’ be humans, animals, plants or the body of Earth – allows us to argue for their rights as if they were our own. Acting as if, seeing through the present into the future – this is of the essence of Imagination, which, as Coleridge said, dissolves, diffuses and dissipates what is, in order to create what could be, bringing ‘the whole soul of man into activity’ in order to do so. Imagination, he continues, ‘reveals itself in the balance or reconciliation of opposite or discordant qualities… (It) is the soul that is everywhere, and in each; and forms all into one graceful and intelligent whole.’63Imagination is revealed, for instance, in the choice of the name Gaia for James Lovelock’s theory of ‘the Gaia Hypothesis,’ since it makes present to the mind and evokes the feeling of the original creative power which once belonged to the ancient Greek Mother Goddess Earth.64

Drawing on the lunar pattern of the hero myth, we may remember that the old mode had to be sacrificed before the new could appear. We could ‘sacrifice’ our reason by temporarily holding it in abeyance (suspending our disbelief) so that feeling and imagination could emerge without comment, without being categorized according to pre-existent ways of thinking. The ‘inertia’ of the unconscious, of which Jung warns, is now, arguably, manifested in continuing to split off one aspect of life and set it in an absolute hierarchical and oppositional relationship to another, or the rest – whether it be ‘Man’ over the Cosmos; a particular species, religion, tribe, race, culture, over another; one self over another self; one faculty of the psyche over the other faculties; more generally, it is expressed in separating the part from the whole and the means from the end. All this ‘partial thinking’ is supported by the habit of reasoning from the senses without reference to the rest of the psyche, and by the language of opposition in which the habit is enshrined and imprisoned. Only poetic language is fluid and flexible enough to allow the emergence of new ideas into consciousness, appealing to feeling and intuition as well as to thinking and reason. This means drawing on a sensibility that might be called lunar because it can rest in ambivalence and sustain contraries until a resolution presents itself in its own time. As Rumi says:

A new moon teaches gradualness
and deliberation and how one gives birth
to oneself slowly. Patience with small details makes perfect a large work, like the universe.65

So it may be that this ‘inertia,’ like the dragons of old, can be addressed initially by not endorsing its terms, for ultimately this monster of the dark, like any other, is the outer image of the hero’s own fear; here, perhaps, fear of change, particularly fear of the loss of autonomy. But from where does such a refusal come? The power to transform the dragon of inertia – the lunar myth would suggest – comes from a greater allegiance, from an imaginative sympathy for a value discovered beyond one’s fear. This is the heroic equivalent of the three days dark, the journey from profane to sacred, when the old forms, or present attachments, have to submit to immersion in the eternal realm where new values are forged. Only these new values can carry the heroes across the lonely threshold of fear and return them to their communities with transformed vision.

Blake and Yeats may serve as spokesmen for the claims of Imagination over Reason. This is Yeats writing about Blake, for whom ‘the world of imagination’ was ‘the world of eternity’ and ‘Nature was Imagination itself’:

The reason, and by the reason he meant deductions from the observations of the senses, binds us to mortality because it binds us to the senses, and divides us from each other by showing us our clashing interest; but imagination divides us from mortality by the immortality of beauty, and binds us to each other by opening the secret doors of all hearts. He cried again and again that everything that lives is holy, and that nothing is unholy except things that do not live…Passions, because most living, are most holy…and man shall enter eternity borne upon their wings.66

Blake even attempts a bridge between the new and the old in his conviction, as Yeats puts it, ‘that the sympathy with all living things, sinful and righteous alike, which the imaginative arts awaken, is that forgiveness of sins commanded by Christ.’67

For Yeats, as for Keats, the Moon is a muse for Imagination:

If I look at the moon herself and remember any of her ancient names and meanings, I move among divine people, and things that have shaken off our mortality, the tower of ivory, the queen of waters, the shining stag among enchanted woods, the white hare sitting upon the hilltop, the fool of Faery with his shining cup full of dreams, and it may be ‘make a friend of one of these images of wonder,’ and ‘meet the Lord in the air.’68

* * *

In Keats’s poem ‘Endymion,’ the shepherd falls in love with the Moon as the Muse of Poesy, the haunt- ing light that, like ‘some shape of beauty,’ moves away ‘the pall from our dark spirits,’ and ‘always must be with us or we die.’ On a ‘magic bed of poppies red’ he dreams a vision of the Moon:

‘And lo! from opening clouds, I saw emerge The loveliest moon, that ever silver’d o’er
A shell for Neptune’s goblet…’

The vision comes down to Earth as a maid with ‘pearl round ears, white neck, and orbed brow.’ Later Endymion swears to Apollo, God of the Sun and the Lyre, that his sister the Moon is ‘the gentlier-mighti- est’:

‘When thy gold breath is misting in the west,
She unobserved steals unto her throne,
And there she sits most meek and most alone;
As if she had not pomp subservient;
As if thine eye, high Poet! was not bent
Toward her with the Muses in thine heart;
As if the ministring stars kept not apart,
Waiting for silver-footed messages.
O Moon! the oldest shades ‘mong oldest trees
Feel palpitations when thou lookest in:
O Moon! old boughs lisp forth a holier din
The while they feel thine airy fellowship.
Thou dost bless everywhere, with silver lip
Kissing dead things to life.’69

Fig. 9.Crescent Earth. View of Earth as seen from Apollo 12 spacecraft, July 20th, 1969. NASA.


Endnotes Chapter 14

1. John, 19: 31-42; 20:1. See Rahner, Greek Myths and Christian Mystery, pp. 109-34. 2. Apostles Creed, The Book of Common Prayer, Oxford University Press, p. 49.
3. Krappe, La Génèse des Mythes, p. 113.
4. Jonah, 1:17.
5. Matthew, 12:40.
6. Acts, 9:9.
7. Dante, The Divine Comedy.
8. See Ch. 1. pp. 21-22.
9. See Ch. 12, pp. 10-12.
10. See Ch. 12, p. 14.
11. See Ch. 9, p. 17.
12. See Ch. 13, p. 23.
13. B. Moon, ed., Archetypal Symbolism, p. 368.
14. Eliade, Shamanism, p. 36.
15. ‘The Cattle Raid of Cooley,’ The Ulster Cycle.
16.Van der Post, The Heart of the Hunter, p. 221:
17. Frazer, The Golden Bough, Pt. IV: Adonis, Attis, Osiris, vol. 1. pp. 2-56.
18. Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return, p. 72.
19. Joan Halifax, Shaman: The Wounded Healer, pp. 12-13.
20. Ibid., p. 13.
21. Yeats, Essays and Introductions, p. 91.
22. Goethe, ‘Holy Longing,’ in News of the Universe, ed. Robert Bly, p. 70.
23. John, 3: 3-5.
24. Gospel of Thomas, Logion 113, op. cit., pp. 55-7.
25. Galatians, 2: 20.
26. Jung, CW14, pp. 7-37.
27. Von Franz, Alchemy, p. 163.
28. St. John of the Cross, The Dark Night of the Soul.
29. T. S. Eliot, ‘East Coker,’ The Four Quartets, III.
30. Quoted in Rundle Clark, op. cit., p. 88.
31. Jung, in CW11, writes: ‘The numinous experience of the individuation process is, on the archaic level, the prerogative of shamans and medicine men; later, of the physician,prophet, and priest; and finally, at the civilized stage, of philosophy and religion. The shaman’s experience of sickness, torture, death, and regeneration implies, at a higher level, the idea of being made whole through sacrifice, of being changed by transubstantiation and exalted to the pneumatic man – in a word, of apotheosis.’(pp. 294-5).
32. Max Cade, The Awakened Mind.
33. Yeats, Collected Poems, p. 308.
34. Cf. Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods, p. 67.
35. Blake, op. cit., p. 580.
36. Eliade, A History of Religious Ideas, vol. 1, Preface.
37. Jung, CW8, p. 375.
38. Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, Penguin Books, 1989, p. 32
39. Origen, Homiliae in Leviticum, V, 2; in Jung, CW16, p. 197.
40, Zimmer, pp. 351.
41. Blake, op. cit., p. 860; see ch. 3.
42. Campbell, Hero, p. 19.
43. Jung, CW9:i, p. 7.
44. Shakespeare, The Tempest, 1, ii, 48.
45. Campbell, ‘The Perennial Philosophies of the East,’ Transformations of Myth through Time, Tapes no. 5. Vol. 1. Prog. 5; Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy.
46. Coomaraswamy, Traditional Art and Symbolism, p. 458.
47. Eliot, ‘Hamlet,’ Selected Essays, p. 145: ‘The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an “objective correlative”; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.’
48. Wallace Stevens, The Necessary Angel, p. 83.
49. Campbell, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, p. 17.
50. Fred Hoyle, The Nature of the Universe, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1953, p. 9. (slightly differently phrased; perhaps the original for the more popular version quoted above?).
51. The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, etc. quoted in The Week, Talking Points, July 20, 1999.
52. Stevens, ‘Angel Surrounded by Paysans,’ Selected Poems, p. 127.
53. Barfield, Saving the Appearances, pp. 144-7.
54. Thomas Mann, ‘Freud and the Future,’ Life and Letters Today, Vol. 15, 1936, pp. 89-90.
55. Jung, CWIX:1, para. 271.
56. Logion 77, op. cit., p. 43. See also Capra, The Tao of Physics.
57. Jung, CW6, p. 185.
58. Hamlet, II, i, 63.
59. Thomas Berry, 1/1/01, Notes for a Conference on Earth Jurisprudence, Washington, April, 2001. See also his The Great Work.
60. Einstein, The Expanded Quotable Einstein, p. 316.
61. Yeats, ‘Byzantium,’ Collected Poems, p. 281.
62. Tarnas, The Passion of the Western Mind, p. 439. The whole of his Epilogue is essential reading: pp. 416-445.
63. Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, XIV, pp. 173-4. For further discussion, see Baring and Cashford, The Myth of the Goddess, pp. 659-681.
64. James Lovelock, The Gaia Hypothesis.
65. ‘New Moon, Hilal,’ in Rumi: Lion of the Heart, trans. Coleman Barks with John Moyne, p. 50. 66. Yeats, ‘William Blake and the Imagination,’ Essays and Introductions, pp. 112-3.
67. Ibid., p. 112.
68. Yeats, ‘The Symbolism of Poetry,’ op. cit., pp. 161-2. Yeats’s quotations are from Blake.
69. Keats, Endymion, III, 44-57.

This essay is excerpted from chapter 14 of The Moon: Myth and Image (Cassell Illustrated, 2003) by Jules Cashford. Published with permission from the author.