Myth, Archetype, and Battlestar Galactica

The persistence of the mythical consciousness within us, let alone the ancient magical, and how it continues to influence our everyday decisions and choices in much the same way Jean Gebser describes in The Ever-Present Origin, is the theme of this post. It is quite necessary, in the context of the chaotic transition or post-modernism, that we become aware of the manifestations of the mythical in our environment, and in ourselves also, as an aspect of the return of the repressed. These are quite mythical and magical times if one remains alert and vigilant in detecting their “irruption” into the present.

I’m a fan of good science fiction, and the other day I picked up, cheap, a DVD called Battlestar Galactica. Those of you who own televisions are probably familiar with it, as it was once a television series. I don’t own a television, so it was something new to me. For those not familiar with Battlestar Galactica, I’ll provide a brief description of the plot.

In the far off future, humans have colonised the far reaches of space and so much so that “Earth” — the homeworld — has become a place of legend only, like the Garden of Eden. There are, oddly enough, twelve colonised planets called “The Twelve Colonies of Kobol” and their names are taken from the twelve signs of the Zodiac. The organisation of their societies seems to reflect the usual astrological interpretation of the Zodiac signs.

The Twelve Colonies of Kobol, however, come under attack from a civilisation of artificial intelligences called “Cylons”. The Cylons were created by humans for slave labour and they now bear great enmity towards the human race believing, apparently, that they will not be safe until the human race is entirely exterminated root and branch. So the Cylons launch a surprise attack on the twelve colonies that all but obliterates them. Only a rump of humanity, some 50,000 souls, remains. This rump, their planet colonies destroyed and now fighting for their lives against the Cylons, undertakes a journey through space in search of the fabled planet of origin, Earth.

The Cylons, who are machine-like artificial intelligences, have engineered humanoid versions of themselves, though, and these were used to infiltrate human settlements and are also among the survivors. These humanoid Cylons are biological, however, and their technical programming often conflicts with their biological sentience or body consciousness. In this inner conflict occasionally the biological sentience wins out over the technical programming, and they become Cylon “rebels” who sympathise with, and identify more, with their human enemies that with the Cylons. Some of these humanoids don’t even know that they are Cylons waiting to be activated. The discovery of the existence of humanoid Cylons takes the colonists by surprise.

At the end of the movie, though, in the very last scene, the commander of the Battlestar Galactica receives a mysterious note which reads: “There are only 12 Cylon models.” That’s where the film ends, but it sets the scene for whatever follows in the series, of course — the suspense in the race to discover who are the Cylon infiltrators.

Why twelve Cylon models? I’m not privy to the minds of those who created the story, so I can’t know from where they gleaned the idea that twelve humanoid Cylon models was just the right number. Twelve, though, is a pretty significant number in myth and legend, and one that seems to recur compulsively. As it turns out the twelve humanoid Cylons closely resemble humanoid versions of Jung’s archetypes, as one observant fan of the show discovered. And, uncannily, they also resemble the twelve archetypes of the “post-modern branding” model proposed by Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson in their previously discussed book on branding The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes.

Now, I’m not suggesting that the creators of Battlestar Galactica got their ideas for 12 humanoid Cylons as twelve archetypes from Mark and Pearson, who in turn took their branding technique from Jung’s archetypal psychology. The show seems to predate the publication of The Hero and the Outlaw. But the resemblance between Mark and Pearson’s pop psychology of “twelve human archetypes” (gleaned from their rather deficient understanding of Jung) and the twelve Cylon models is pretty uncanny. To appreciate the sources of both, we have to delve deeper into the mythical consciousness structure and into a time in history when it was much more transparent, or much more the form of consciousness itself, than it is today with the hegemony of the mental-rational consciousness structure.

We’ve spoken to this in The Chrysalis earlier in discussing the number twelve as mythical number: the twelve winds of the Compass Rose, the twelve apostles of Jesus, the twelve Zodiac signs, the meaning of “dozen”, twelve-tone music, and so on.

Twelve Winds of the Compass Rose

Twelve Winds of the Compass Rose

The twelve winds were given names as follows (from Wikipedia entry “Classical Compass Winds“. These are the Greek names. The Latins had other names.)

  • Aparctias (N) are the “Scythians above Thrace”,
  • Boreas (NNE) are “Pontus, Maeotis and the Sarmatians”
  • Caecias (NE) is “the Caspian Sea and the Sakas”,
  • Apeliotes (E) are “the Bactrians”
  • Eurus (SE) are “the Indians”,
  • Phoenicias/Euronotos (SSE) is “the Red Sea and “Aethiopia” (prob.Axum)
  • Notos (S) are the ” “Aethiopians beyond Egypt” (Nubia)
  • Leuconotos/Libonotos (SSW) are “the Garamantes beyond Syrtes”,
  • Lips (SW) are “the Ethiopians in the west beyond the Mauroi” (Numidia, Mauri people)
  • Zephyrus (W) lie “the Pillars of Hercules and the beginning of Africa and Europe”
  • Argestes (NW) is “Iberia or Hispania”
  • Thrascias/Circius (NNW) are “the Celts”.

The Compass Rose predates Christianity. It was simply adopted by Christianity as meaningfully representative of the spirit of the twelve apostles. For, recall, in the ancient Latin tongue “wind” “breath” and “spirit” are very often the same word — spiritus.

In an essay entitled “The Twelve Tones of the Spirit”, Rosenstock-Huessy presumed to interpret the significance of this repetition of “twelve” in the ancient myths as twelve stages in a fulfilled life-time. And we may say, too, that these twelve “tones of the spirit” correspond to the human archetypes as also the twelve winds of the Compass Rose. Those stages in a life, presented in order from death to birth, are

Prophet or warner
teacher or educator
leader or legislator
sufferer or perseverer
protester or rebel
critic or analyst
doubter or despondent  .
player or singer
learner or wanderer
reader or conceiver
listener or obeyer

These stages or “tones”, as he puts it significantly (given our earlier discussion around The Music of the Spheres and The Jazz of Physics) are presented in reverse order: from death towards birth reading top to bottom. Rosenstock-Huessy justifies this arrangement by noting that in nature, birth precedes death; but in the life of the spirit, death precedes birth.

“When we approach the mental processes in ourselves as the process of the Spirit from others us-ward, within us and from us to-ward others, an order of three times four spiritual attitudes will become audible. The dying man, when he gives back the spirit to his Creator, is allowed by our laws to leave behind a last will and testament. This is the minimum spiritual honor the community vouchsafes him. Hence, the spiritual life of all of us should be traced from our dying hour backward. While in “nature” birth seems to precede death, and life is described as the sum of all the processes this side of dying, the Spirit reverses this order of naturalism.
In nature, birth precedes death;
In nature, life tries to shun death.
In the spirit, death precedes life;
In the spirit, the founder’s death guides his heirs’ lives.” (p. 72 of I Am An Impure Thinker).

Now, “The Twelve Tones of the Spirit”, which is included in I Am An Impure Thinker, is a tricky essay to understand. And it’s even trickier if you don’t share Rosenstock-Huessy’s theological perspective. But he has, I think, hit upon something here that may well account for the significance of the number twelve and for interpreting its symbolism as well as the symbolism of the Compass Rose as an image of the circle or cycle of life, inasmuch as the twelve winds are these same “twelve tones of the spirit”, and which are also symbolised by the Zodiac. And they also bear some resemblance with the “twelve Cylon models” in the story. For Rosenstock, these twelve are passages of the spirit through life, but which are only perceived as such from the end of life back towards birth. This manoeuvre, coincidentally, is what Castaneda was taught as “the recapitulation”, where he was required by his teacher, don Juan, to recall the details of his life in reverse order of their occurrence, backwards, in much the same way as Rosenstock insists that the real fullness of the spirit is only realised when a man or woman lives their life backwards from their death to their birth. This is why he presents his “twelve tones of the spirit” in the order that he does.

There is also to be mentioned that the largest sect of Shia Islam is called “The Twelvers” after their belief in “the twelve just imams” which also brings to mind the mandala of the Compass Rose.

This arrangement also hints at what Gebser refers to as a “pre-existing pattern” in the unfolding of consciousness, and so one which may very well be mapped in the Compass Rose, which is, after all, a mandala. I don’t think I am being overbold in suggesting that Rosenstock’s “twelve tones of the spirit” could readily replace the names of the winds of the Compass Rose. Moreover, the Compass Rose bears a notable resemblance to the indigenous Sacred Hoop or Medicine Wheel also,

Sacred Hoop /Medicine Wheel

Sacred Hoop /Medicine Wheel

So, are the humanoid Cylons as “human archetypes” the same “twelve tones of the spirit”? There is certainly a comparison to be made, and I certainly don’t think it was a deliberate and conscious decision to cast them as such. As is frequently the case, the artist is often unaware himself or herself of the deeper currents and undercurrents which drive him or her in the forms of  expression. And I think that is the case here with Battlestar Galactica — the mythical poking its head up through the matrix of the mental-rational.

And one other thing, which seems quite uncanny. Recently NASA threw the astrological community into a tizzy by introducing a long forgotten Zodiac sign — the 13th sign — Ophiuchus. By some crazy coincidence, pertinent or no, there is also a 13th Cylon model, hidden or unrealised known only as “the Artist”.

I will probably return to this “twelve tones of the spirit” in later posts, and why it may be more significant than it appears at first blush.


12 responses to “Myth, Archetype, and Battlestar Galactica”

  1. davidm58 says :

    Not related to Battlestar Galactica, but related to television – check this out – “Goth politics as the new normal.” “We’ve been heading this way for a long time: a fusion of politics and entertainment, a political party that’s also a network that’s also a reality-TV show.”

    Beware the Toxic Sequel to Donald Trump’s Flailing Presidential Campaign

    • Scott Preston says :

      It’s worse than Mr, Klein realises. Trump is preparing a “stab-in-the-back” narrative to rationalise his impending loss to Clinton. he’s going to keep his reactionary base agitated and mobilised, and probably para-militarised too. Klein’s right, though, that it’s not going to go away after Trump’s loss. It may get much, much worse. He’s a bad hombre.

      I do hate it, though, when the press describes Clinton as a “moderate”. She’s a technocrat. But I suppose the notion of “moderate” has simply disappeared in the new normal. The word is, after all, related to “modern” “modest” and we are in a post-modern age, now. One might as well call it “post-moderate” as well.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I see you attended the Gebser conference in Seattle. Sounds like it was a good one. Almost regret not attending now. I think I even know my way around Seattle somewhat.

  2. donsalmon says :

    This may be at least tangentially relevant:

    • Scott Preston says :

      I’ll have a look. But what I found particularly pertinent to the present post, in respect of your previous reference to Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, is this video on his website where he addresses what Gebser would call “the irruption” of the magical and mythical in the context of the present.

      Quite a good talk.

    • Scott Preston says :

      That’s a good essay.

      Last night I sat down and sketched out the relation between fourfold self and the twelvefold “tones of the spirit”. In the passage I cited from Rosenstock’s essay, he mentions “an order of three times four spiritual attitudes will become audible”. The four refers to his cross of reality or the fourfold self, while the twelve tones “ring”, as it were, within this matrix, and it appears to be different combinations of the four elements of the fourfold self or cross of reality. These might be considered different spirits or “winds”.

      So, say, if we have the main consciousness functions of mental, emotional, willful, and sensual, then one, which will be the dominant function (as for example, Urizen, or the mental-rational, being the dominant mode in Blake’s mythology) and there will be subordinate modes. Mental-emotional, mental-willful, mental-sensual; or Emotional-mental, emotional-willful, emotional-sensual, and so on. Each dominant mode will have three subordinate modes, so that 3 x 4 = 12. These are the “tones” or moods of the spirit.

      I haven’t worked out this twelvefold mapping in terms of Blake’s Zoas, but they also appear to have twelvefold nature within a fourfold structure, for they have their “eternal forms”, their fallen forms, and their “emanations”. It also probably comes to twelve. But I wouldn’t have thought of it, I don’t think, without puzzling over the riddle of “twelve Cylon models” in the movie as models of human archetypes, and how these might relate to Rosenstock’s “twelve tones of the spirit” also, for Jung also describes the archetypes as “feeling-tones”. I’m sure there is an underlying connection.

      • donsalmon says :

        I don’t really even have time to be doing this, but here I am:>)) In a year or two….. so this will be a bit slap dash:

        Sri Aurobindo makes 3 major distinctions of the “personality” – mental, vital (pranic, or life force) and physical. The individualized soul (Psychic being) is the “director” so to speak – though the source of the Will is the individual Self. More on that another time!

        In relation to the chakras, the physical consciousness (related to the consciousness found throughout the physical universe) is associated with the base of the spine.

        The “vital” consciousness has 3 chakras – below the navel (associated with the first impulses and instincts that occurred in one-celled organisms and become increasingly complex throughout billions of years of evolution), the navel (related to the impulses of domination and control) and the heart (the surface, emotions).

        The mental consciousness is associated with the throat (the expression of mental ideas) the forehead) the “will” of the personality) and above the head (the connection to intuition and ultimately the Self, individual, universal and cosmic.

        Each “level” is both individual and universal – so many of the archetypes are individualized at the vital and mental level but belong to the “plane of the gods” – the universal planes of the vital and mental consciousness.

        The earlier consciousness structures – archaic, and magic particularly, but the mythic also in part – were in direct contact with these universal, inner planes. The mental structure early on had intermittent contact but over the centuries – more so in the West, and most of all in Western Europe – after the Protestant reformation – was lost altogether. Hence, the terror that some scientists feel when confronted with irrefutable paranormal evidence.

        There’s a great example of this on Gerry Woerlee’s review of “The Self Does Not Die.” Woerlee is infamous in paranormal circles for writing hysterical, irrational, word salad responses to every psi advance. he is particularly hysterical in relation to evidence for paranormal perceptions in Near Death Experiences. He is professionally an anesthesiologist, so considers himself the gatekeeper of sanity (i.e. materialism) for his profession.

        It’s not that far a mindset from the technocratic one you mentioned regarding Hillary Clinton.

        Back to Sri Aurobindo, ,we all (except maybe Trump and other true psychopaths) have intuitions, glimpses of the beauty, nobility and essential goodness of the psychic being, and those very intuitions can be one of the most powerful paths to awakening the soul.

        Athletes, writers, artists, scientists and anyone really in a deep, intense creative mode has moments or glimpses of a borderless vastness, an infinite space of possibilities which can provide a link to the True Self, beyond Time and Space.

        well, that’s a glimpse…..:>) gotta go

      • donsalmon says :

        In this short (about 6 minutes) video,

        Llewellyn beautifully adds the dimension I’ve always felt was missing in Thomas Berry’s “New Story.” Berry wanted to create a new “myth” but wrote about it (with Briane Swimme, in “The Universe Story”) in the driest, mental terminology. Llewellyn describes with great passion the inner dimension lacking in most descriptions of the New Story.

        I find the same problem with David Korten, as much as I love his analysis of the corporate take over. I also find (warning, Scott, major compliment coming your way), that Scott is one of the very few who “gets” the inner dimension of Gebser. I find much writing about Gebser (sorry, Pogany also) to lack a certain feeling for the soul.

        “Soul healing” is to me one of the major things that will heal our modern(ist) ills.

        • donsalmon says :

          oh, an adulmonem (sp??) also has writing filled with soul – much appreciated too. Sorry if I’m leaving others out…..

        • Scott Preston says :

          Yes. I linked to Vaughan-Lee’s video above. I’m glad you pointed me towards his web page. It’s a very good talk.

          His remarks on change/mutation being contingent upon an upsurge of new energy, or libido, or personal power, or kundalini whatever you wish to call it does bring to mind what I wrote earlier about Blake’s words in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell about the cherubim with the flaming sword being commanded to leave its guard at the roots of the Tree of Life, after which the Ulro will be consumed by fire and will reveal the infinite which is hid within it — ie what Gebser calls “transparency” or “diaphaneity”. That merits some lengthier comment one of these days, for this upsurge of energy is otherwise what we call “inspiration”.

  3. abdulmonem says :

    I was thinking about how the mental mode of thinking can not capture the spiritual mode of revelation which is a completely different space of consciousness and here I find Don mention it in his comment, There is a divine consciousness which my consciousness is part of it, if only one be aware of that shared consciousness and work to enter it space, through a special state of meditative silence that quietens the chatters of the egoistic mind. It is accessible.
    Back to the entertainment of the world political shows that made me ask, if that is the situation of the puppets in the so-called advanced world, one should not be shocked to see the miserable lower puppets of the political shows in the third world, particularly in the middle east. What makes one be patient and not lose his mind is that god has puts limits to everything and everything will either be negated or move in the proper direction. It is the law of negation and affirmation, the starting point in the human spiritual evolution, to negate the false and affirm the true. God gives very ample space for the human to correct, this can be seen clearly in the story of Lot, when the angels came with the divine order to destroy the misbehaved city, Abrahim told them but Lot in it ,they retorted that they know better who in it and they have scanned the area and found non but one abode with good people that will be saved with Lot and his team.

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