As stated in my Definition and Manifesto, peculiar patterns and arrangements of symbolic imagery are the focus point of my ‘probes’ into the nature of the Global Digital Unconscious. No doubt there are times when these arrangements are purely coincidental and, to paraphrase Freud, the cigar really is just a cigar. Similarly, there may be times when such patterns are, as Jung puts it, ‘meaningful coincidence’. As ‘meaningful coincidence’, these strange symmetries or ‘synchronicities’ of symbolism function as an interface between the ‘irrational’ unconscious and the ‘rational’ conscious, almost as if the universe itself were attempting to throw light on an occulted or hidden area of human existence. What follows is an example of this kind of probing and, I believe, a prime example of ‘meaningful coincidence’ originating in, and manifesting itself through, the Global Digital Unconscious.
Over the last few days the mass media has been awash with references to planets, lions, cliffs and death. The most obvious example is the New Horizons probe and its dramatic fly-by of the dwarf planet Pluto. At first view this has no connection with Jupiter whatsoever, save for the fact the probe passed Jupiter in 2007 in order to take advantage of Jupiter’s ‘gravitational slingshot’ and speed its onward course towards Pluto. In ancient Greek mythology, however, there is a rather more direct and familial relationship between Jupiter and Pluto: they are brothers. Jupiter (as King of the Gods and the Roman equivalent of Zeus) is associated with the sky and thunderbolts, Neptune with water, and Pluto with the underworld. This makes Pluto a chthonic god and associates him with the dark and mysterious world of the unconscious mind and its ‘inhabitants’: the anima, animus and shadow.
In conjunction with the New Horizons fly-by, Jupiter has appeared (directly and indirectly) in a number of stories concerning missing, presumed dead and actually dead persons. These stories, along with others, also make reference to Leo or its Greek equivalent Leon. For example, CNN published a story about missing teenagers who departed Jupiter, Florida (the Sunshine State) by boat. Their craft was later found adrift off an area of coastline known as the Ponce de Leon. A few days earlier, two young men taking part in the 2015 Grand European Rally died when the Seat Leon car they were driving crashed through a barrier and plummeted down a cliff face.
The recent death of Arthur Cave, son of musician, actor and screenwriter Nick Cave, a chthonic figure described as rock music’s “Prince of Darkness”, pre-dates both the above stories. Arthur Cave died after falling from a cliff in Ovingdean, near Brighton, UK, earlier in July 2015. The significance of ‘cave’ is that it allows us to retrieve Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which depicts mankind in darkness, confusing true reality with the shadows it sees dancing on the cave wall. Through Nick Cave we retrieve links to Satan or Lucifer or ‘the Devil’. Arthur himself retrieves myth and legend in the form of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. A cursory examination of the Round Table retrieves its function as a mandala symbol, identified by Jung as a recurring motif in the unconscious.
The death of Arthur Cave was itself ‘anticipated’ by a run of stories about teenagers risking their lives by posing for photographs on the UK’s crumbling south coast cliffs. The cliffs in question are known as the Seven Sisters and this links them to the Pleides, a star cluster in the constellation Taurus. The Pleides are named after the Seven Divine Sisters of ancient Greek mythology. Jupiter (in the Greek form Zeus) appears again here and is portrayed as having affairs with several of the sisters. Furthermore, Taurus is the Bull and both Jupiter and his Greek equivalent Zeus are associated with bulls. In fact, Zeus adopts the form of a white bull in the story of his abduction and rape of Europa.
It’s interesting to note that the continent of Europe owes its name to Europa, a fact which adds extra symbolic weight to the Great European Rally story referred to above. Europa also just happens to be the name of Jupiter’s sixth moon. Also relevant is the similarity between “Great Europa-ean Rally” and the Planetary Grand Tour – a proposal to send probes to the solar system’s outer planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. New Horizons’ fly-by of Pluto marks the culmination of this vision, which was proposed way back in 1964 and began with the Mariner and Voyager space programmes.
More recently, a story has emerged about the killing earlier this month of ‘Cecil’, Africa’s most famous lion. The culprit is one Walter Palmer, an American dentist. With the assistance of local guides, Palmer appears to have lured Cecil outside the boundaries of his home in a Zimbabwean National Park, shot him with a crossbow and then tracked the wounded beast for several days, before finally despatching him with a rifle. This particular story is not just rich in symbolism and mythology – it appears for all the world to be a retelling of the First Labour of Hercules and his slaying of the Nemean Lion.
The similarities here are striking. Hercules and Walter both try and fail to kill the lion with bow and arrow. Both lure the lion to a place it can be killed. Hercules lures the lion to a dark cave to take advantage of the cover of darkness, whereas Walter’s lion is named ‘Cecil’ meaning ‘blind’. Hercules uses a club and his great strength to kill the lion, whereas Walter uses a gun, a modern extension of the club which is also an extension and amplification of the arm’s strength. Hercules skins the lion, so does Walter. The only substantial difference between the two stories is the outcome. Both figures represent the conscious mind conquering or repressing a primitive, unconscious animal instinct, yet Hercules is depicted as a ‘divine hero’ and Walter a coward. The global response to Walter killing Cecil reflects a fundamental change in consciousness, i.e. it reflects a desire to reintegrate the unconscious, not repress it.
The story of Hercules killing the lion is a prime example of mythology mirroring unconscious processes. His struggle with the lion in the cave’s darkness is pure dream imagery and will be instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with Jung and psychoanalysis . As an unconscious background process it’s another example of the ‘daemons’ referred to in my previous post, Gods and Daemons. Hercules is depicted overcoming (rather than integrating) an animal instinct and this throws light on the myth as a symbolic representation of a civilising process. Civilisation and the process of becoming more civilised is always attended to by, and the result of, knowledge, discovery, and invention, i.e. technological change.
The link with Hercules is made more apparent by Walter’s name and profession and their association with Hercules’ Second Labour. Walter is a dentist by profession and his name means ‘ruler of the army’. There is a parallel here in relation to the mythological hero Jason and his quest for the Golden Fleece. Not only does the ‘Golden Fleece’ bring to mind the golden fur of the Nemean Lion, some versions of Jason’s quest describe him sowing the Hydra’s teeth, which immediately grow into armed men. And, coincidentally, Hercules’ Second Labour was the slaying of the Hydra.
Here we can see an additional theme teasing its way to the foreground: that of the epic journey so common in mythology. The epic journeys of Jason and Hercules have their modern counterparts in the Great European Rally, the Grand Tours of the Mariner, Voyager and New Horizons space probes, and the safari (safari is Swahili for ‘journey’) of Walter Palmer.
In my previous post, Gods and Daemons, I identified the Hydra as a metaphor for the printed word. The Hydra’s immortality was based on its ability to grow two heads for every one head cut off – provided at least one head remained attached to its body. In the same manner, the immortality conferred by print is predicated on its ability to produce exact copy after exact copy – provided at least one master copy remains in existence.
Marshall McLuhan relates the above to print’s effect as a visual medium, its role as the Father of Nations (see Gods and Daemons), and to the linear, sequential and repeatable method of the printing press itself as a template for the Industrial Revolution and the forms of social organisation it gave birth to. Here, McLuhan makes a direct connection between the printed word, with its massed ranks of sentences and paragraphs, and modern armies with their massed ranks of men and women. This provides insight into the destructive effects of new technologies, which lay waste to the environments created by the technologies they make obsolete.
On the subject of the destructive effects of new technologies, the lead character in Channel 4’s sci-fi drama Humans also happens to be named Leo. The character is portrayed as a human-synthetic hybrid and leader of a small group of sentient synthetic humans. Leo is attempting to affect a revolution by gathering all the sentient synthetics together in order to execute source code that will bring sentience to all synthetics, thus placing the future of the human race in doubt. I dealt with this subject in some depth earlier this month in my very first post.
Finally, we have to situate all the above in the realms of astronomy and astrology. The term ‘astrology’ itself is highly significant: it can be defined as ‘meaning in the stars’. This reminds us that the ancients consigned many of their greatest mythological figures to the stars themselves in the form of the constellations and zodiac signs we still recognise and use today. More significant still, however, is the current position of Jupiter in the night sky. Care to guess which constellation Jupiter is currently passing through? Unsurprisingly, it just happens to be Leo!
What, then, are we to make of all this? The twin themes of the unconscious and technology are clearly evident and this is consistent with McLuhan’s belief that mythology is technological change encoded in symbolic form. Mythology reflects our inability to see or comprehend the environments created by new technologies. These environments seem alien to us and appear to function magically and independently. Cut off from conscious apprehension, they are afforded the status of gods, demons, nymphs and so on. Their true meaning only becomes apparent after the fact, i.e. once a new technology scraps the existing environment and reveals it to us as a wasteland or junkyard.
The significance of the mythology encoded in the media stories outlined above lies in the centrality of the image of Jupiter/Zeus, the Father of the Gods, who dispenses divine retribution (i.e. restoration of order) in the form of the thunderbolt.
In ancient Hellenic and Roman religious traditions, the thunderbolt represents Zeus or Jupiter (etymologically ‘Sky Father’), thence the origin and ordaining pattern of the universe…
The thunderbolt can only be properly understood in the context of James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. This massively complicated work charts mankind’s technological development from the Garden of Eden through to modernity and back again – an eternal return. It takes the form of an enormous cryptogram comprised of portmanteau words which serve as single word metaphors for invisible environmental changes and their effects. Its use of language is deliberate, its purpose to highlight the role of language as a technology and to use language as a probe into language’s effects as a technology. Each major technological change is accompanied by a one-hundred-letter portmanteau word – a Thunder – representing the change in question. The Tenth Thunder is supposedly the final one, but just like the Zodiac and the Labours of Hercules there are in fact twelve in total. The Tenth Thunder and the text that surrounds it is, if you’ll forgive the pun, absolutely electrifying:
For his root language, if you ask me whys, Shaun replied, as he blessed himself devotionally like a crawsbomb, making act of oblivion, footinmouther! (what he thickens else?) which he picksticked into his lettruce invrention.
Thor’s for yo!
The Tenth Thunder is a portmanteau word containing multiple references to the Nordic gods (i.e. mudgaard = Asgaard, lukki and lokki = Loki, etc.) ending with a direct reference to Thor himself. It shouldn’t be necessary to point out that Thor, as a thunder god, is the equivalent of Jupiter/Zeus in Norse mythology. This identifies the Tenth Thunder as corresponding to the splitting of the atom and invention of nuclear weapons. Joyce refers to it earlier in the Wake as follows:
The abnihilisation of the etym by the grisning of the grosning of the grinder of the grunder of the first lord of Hurtreford expolodotonates through Parsuralia with an ivanmorinthorrorumble fragoromboassity amidwiches general utterosts confussion are perceivable moletons skaping with mulicules while coventry plumpkins fairgosmothersthemselves in the Landaunelegants of Pinkadindy. Similar scenatas are projectilised from Hullulullu, Bawlawayo, empyrean Raum and mordern Atems.
Even through all the portmanteau words we can discern the core themes of annihilation, molecules, atoms, projectiles, the Micronesian islands used for testing nuclear weapons, and so on. The ‘abnihilisation of the etym’ is the annihilation of etymology, i.e. the annihilation of origin or life itself. The link to etymology (the study of the origin of words) retrieves the ancient Greek Logos or Word as a divine organising principle. The reference to ‘mordern Atems’ and ’empyrean Raum’ directs our attention to the atom, Athens and Rome. Joyce is establishing a direct link to ancient Greece and Rome as wastelands annihilated by new technologies.
What does this signify? The splitting of the atom and the harnessing of the atom’s power represents mankind’s discovery and control of the ‘origin and ordaining pattern’ of the universe itself. We have gone further than Prometheus (who merely stole fire from the gods) and taken the Crown Jewels from the King of the Gods – the secret of the nuclear. We sucked the energy from Jupiter’s thunderbolt.
Although most believe there are only ten thunders in the Wake, there are in fact two more. The eleventh is simply “Thud!” and reflects the consequences of the Tenth Thunder and Jupiter’s impotence as he releases a thunderbolt containing neither lightning nor thunder. The “Thud!” is the noise it makes as it falls harmlessly to earth. The computer – developed as a weapon of war – shared the same womb as the atomic bomb, and so the eleventh thunder is the electronic, digital age – the age of the device, the network, the internet, the Global Digital Unconscious which has opened up the unconcious to conscious examination for the very first time.
And the Twelfth Thunder? A clue is provided in the story of Walter and the lion, a retelling of the first of Hercules’ twelve labours and symbolic of new technological development. Another clue is the reference to Nick Cave or ‘Old Nick’ – the Prince of Darkness, the Devil himself. The Wake is cyclical – it starts and ends in the Garden of Eden. The Twelfth Thunder is, therefore, also the First Thunder.
The Twelfth Thunder is the Fall of Man.
Symbolically, the global response to Cecil’s killing as an act of cowardice rather than heroism suggests a desire to reintegrate an animal instinct that was previously restrained – that we wish to become less civilised. This aspiration is perfectly consistent with our new tribal existence in a world shrunk to the size of a Global Village by modern technology. A symbolic return to the Garden of Eden – a world in which the lion may lie down with the lamb – is a perfect expression of this change in consciousness. This time, however, we’re going back to the Garden fully conscious and with our eyes open. We are not the naive Adam and Eve of the Old Testament. The Twelfth Thunder may put an end to many of modernity’s ‘civilising myths’, but it may also be the beginnings of a Europa-ean Renaissance.
And another manifestation of synchronicity over at Merovee.
Thanks to Roobeedoo2 and Elena on Merovee for providing the links to Europa and the CNN Florida story.