To Mr. C (Chris)
Inspired by the exclusive presentation of the series Changing of the Gods and the books Cosmos & Psyche by Richard Tarnas and Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. The true paradigm shift based in 1543 when Copernicus published his research about the cosmos. Mankind went from being at the center of the universe to being just a part of the universe. The change in this knowledge has never been assimilated in the modern world. The Ego was ruler at the center of the world during the time when the world was magic.
The expansion of the cosmos served as the greatest deflation of the magical Ego in history. Much this is the hidden problem of the modern world. This change was necessary for humanity to give up the old magic and superstitions that filled heavens of the ancient world with (human-looking) Gods and Goddesses. Copernicus proposed that the earth was no longer at the center of the universe but a part of the universe.
Being at the center of the universe was both a harsh period of history but also a magical period. The great difference between the two periods have been described as the periods between religion and science, between the alchemy and magic of this Copernicus’ period of history. Between the dark brutality of life and the coming Enlightenment.
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Before ideas like freedom and democracy were little more than hazy images on mankind’s distant horizon. Copernicus offered nothing new really. Rather a new way of looking at something old. It is perhaps these types of revolutions that are the greatest of all. Ones that make us see what is already here than force something new upon us.
I’ve studied and written about Carl Jung for years and have acquired a symbolic way of looking at the world. My son Chris is an amazingly knowledgeable person about astrology and encouraged me to watch the program Changing of the Gods that was airing to an exclusive group of subscribers in late February of 2022. He urged me to sign up for the free nine-episode series based on Richard Tarnas’ brilliant Cosmos & Psyche. I reluctantly signed up to watch it. The subscription was free after all, and I could put up with nine episodes over a period of nine nights. Each episode released just for 24 hours. A new publishing platform for video.
I’ve gone back and forth with astrology over the years. But having a son like Chris who is right up there in astrology knowledge, it’s been impossible to ignore or dismiss it. The series was beautifully produced and filmed. It was based on the influence of the outer planets of Uranus and Pluto on large scale events in the world.
I found myself losing interest in the program by the second night. Besides, it interfered with my writing period in the evenings. I stopped watching and told Chris (on our daily calls after the evening’s program we had agreed to do) I would try to watch the next night’s episode, but I continued to miss it.
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However, I started pursuing an aspect of the series Changing of the Gods through an essay of Richard Tarnas talking about the importance of the Copernican theory that the earth was not at the center of the universe. This set me off to re-explore an important book in my life by Thomas Kuhn titled The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn had written a brilliant book in 1962 that took the entire scientific community by storm and overturned many ideas about science. Yet, five years before this legendary book, Kuhn had written The Copernican Revolution in 1957 (Harvard University Press). In many ways, this was really Kuhn’s great book.
So, as the series Changing of the Gods continued with Chris watching it each night and me skipping it, I felt I came to the real insight of Richard Tarnas and his brilliant Cosmos & Psyche, one of the great books of modern times. A modern version of Thomas Kuhn. Or perhaps Copernicus.
The real insight of the experience of this week during the presentation of Changing of the Gods and Chris’ insistence I watch it has instead pushed me in my own direction springing off this TV series.
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Being at the center of the universe was brutal and closer to basic instincts as well as magic and myths and ceremonies. It was a difficult time in history compared to our modern time. Yet it was also a magical time. And being magical, it was not a lonely time. The world was all connected. The heavens were filled with Gods and Goddesses. And, even thought they were often angry at humans and had great, terrible tempers, the heavens were always filled with them.
Humans were not alone in the cosmos. All the pesky Gods and Goddesses had to be appeased in certain ways. Had to be honored and celebrated. Copernicus did away with all these Gods and Goddesses in the heavens. Mankind was freed from them for the first time in history. The sky was no longer filled with them.
This new freedom was the end of magic and the beginning of modern science. In the old world of magic, everything in the world was connected. The Gods and Goddesses overhead related to all parts of life. Mankind was connected to all parts of earth before Copernicus. The disappearance of the Gods and Goddesses in the heavens was replaced by modern science’s increasing understanding of the universe.
The cosmos to ancient minds filled with Gods and Goddesses always in your face each day. Now, just the vastness of space and how alone in it we are. No longer the center of the whole thing. But perhaps a new center of thought that we are not the center of thought in the universe.
It’s a scary thought. The scariest thought in the grand line of civilization. A total paradigm shift in mankind’s view of itself as the center to something on the periphery. From the grand Actor in life to a mere Spectator to life. This is the great psychological problem that has never really been addressed. It needs to be. Like so many of the most important, controlling forces of a particular life, these forces are invisible and oblivious to us. Much like what McLuhan might call a medium. Or, an environment. An old comment attributed to him comes to mind. “We’re not sure who discovered water,” went the comment. “But we’re sure it wasn’t a fish.”
The effects of this grand blow to psycholgy with the Copernicus Revolution. It is a blow that civilization has never recovered from.
Especially western civilization. Western civilization more than eastern civilization.
The eastern culture contains the pre-Copernican world. The world before 1543. The world that still believes in alchemy and magic. In spite of all the incredible progress of their modern science. The eastern world is a world where everything is connected to everything else. A world of the feminine archetype. A world that has a strong connection to the heavens above. A world in fact connected to these heavens.
Yet the modern symbol of the Copernican Revolution are gorgeous photos of distant galaxies by our largest telescopes. They represent the grandest photos ever taken. They are not images from the mythology before Copernicus. Gods and Goddesses, as brutal as they might be, yet still, surrounding the earth which is at the center of the universe. Before 1543.
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In the short little congregation of images and music and words I assembled above, I wanted to make a contrast between the symbolism before Copernicus and after Copernicus. People view these times with different perspectives. The modern perspective moves from the Feminine embrace of the pre-Copernicus world … to the Masculine loneliness of the post-Copernicus world.
Not much of a choice.
There’s gotta’ be some hybrid compromise.
More questions than answers presented by the above. As McLuhan might say, more probes.
Two symbol systems presented and juxtaposed against each other. What is the major symbolism of the images presented in the short film?
I might suggest it is the contrast between human forms surrounding mankind in the cosmos (pre-Coperican) to beautiful photos of the galaxies (post-Coperican).
In effect, the grand change from pre-to-post Coperican world.
How does one put this into a cartoon like form for all to see in a better way?
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There might be other ways of getting at this but let’s start out with the belief that human forms once inhabited the heavens. It’s the belief of ancient civilizations. A belief in a heavens full of Gods and Goddesses. They circulated above the world. The earth at the center of the cosmos at this time. It is a neighborly world before Copernicus. The world might be brutal and terrible to people. Yet it is real and not fiction. Forms to distinguish from each other. To maybe hide behind. Or perhaps run forth into battle behind it. The world was made up of so many different views today. Having more than a passing similarity to the various demographics available to a modern marketer.
John has written much about symbolism in various publications over the years. He is the author of the book Battle of Symbols: Global Dyanics of Advertising, Entertainment and Media (2003, Daimon Verlag, Zurich). Explore other works of his on this site. Contact me at email@example.com