Mimi’s research became focused around what she called “Spatial Archetypes,” which is the subject of her book, Spatial Archetypes: The Hidden Patterns of Psyche and Civilization.
She spent twenty-five years working on the book and died before she could finish it. Her widower John Lobell will publish the book, essentially as she had left it. Below is first his preface to the book, and then Mimi’s introduction. His preface gives an account of the writing of the book, and her preface provides a brief summary. The book is available in paperback on Barnes and Noble and both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.
By John Lobell
A Remarkable Book
I wish to introduce you to a remarkable book by a remarkable person. Mimi Lobell was a force of the cosmos, someone who took up the space around her and pulled the currents of cosmic energy through her. She read, studied, traveled, designed, experienced. She was an architect, a scholar, a professor, a mentor, a spiritual being, and much more. And she approached all that she did with a powerful mind and an appetite for life.
This is a book about cultures, about how cultures move through archetypes over their histories, but it is unlike other books that attempt to cover such material. It absorbs Oswald Spengler’s morphological patterns, Joseph Campbell’s mythological insights, Carl Jung’s depth psychology, and the Goddess scholarship to which Mimi made major contributions. And then with access to the remarkable advances in archeological scholarship of the latter half of the twentieth century, plus a deep awareness that architecture is the crystallization of a culture into form, Mimi’s work goes further than any previous study in understanding the patterns of human development. Cultures are symbolic entities, a notion not understood in current materialist approaches to culture but presented in Mimi Lobell’s Spatial Archetypes: The Hidden Patterns of Psyche and Civilization. It is a book rich with insights that gives us a deeper understanding of cultures and ourselves.
Oswald Spengler published his Decline of the West between 1918 and 1923. It was immensely popular and widely discussed, as it seemed to describe the decline of Western civilization experienced after the Great War. But much of the book is actually about something else, about the nature of cultures. Spengler rejects the Eurocentric model of history that sees a progression from primitive to ancient to Greece and Rome to the Middle Ages to the Renaissance to the modern world, with some non-Western cultures as footnotes. Instead he says that there have been nine major high cultures: Babylonian, Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, Meso-American, Greek and Roman, Arabian, Russian, and Western.
For Spengler, each culture is an independent entity with its own “psychology,” which Spengler calls its “Prime Symbol.” And each culture goes through “stages” which he describes with seasonal analogies (spring, summer, autumn, winter) and with organic analogies (from youth to old age and death). Spengler begins each of his descriptions with the emergence of the high civilization but is unable to describe what comes before, saying that cultures “bloom with the randomness of the wild flowers of the field.” Mimi completes what Spengler could not, going back before the emergences of each of the high civilizations.
The mythologist Joseph Campbell, who was influenced by Spengler, began his career by identifying the archetype of the Hero Journey that we see in fairytales, mythology, literature, and religion: separation from ordinary reality, a journey to a realm of fabulous forces, the winning of a decisive victory, and a return to enrich the world. The Hero Journey is an archetype. The manifestation comes in thousands of stories from that of Odysseus to that of Luke Skywalker. Campbell went on to look at the differences between cultures, for example the identification with transcendent oneness in the East and the emphasis on the individual in the West. But Campbell was struggling to bring into focus the morphology of cultural stages in his unfinished last work, a morphology that Mimi resolves with her seven Spatial Archetypes.
We also find this notion of archetype and manifestation in the work of Carl Jung, who was influential on both Campbell and Mimi. But just as important to Mimi was Jung’s notions of individuation and of the collective unconscious. Individuation is the process whereby a fully integrated Self emerges out the components of the immature psyche. Mimi shows how this process is different in different historical periods (her Spatial Archetypes), thus she develops a historical psychology. Jung’s collective unconscious is a complex and often misunderstood notion, but it has to do with the relationship between archetypes and their manifestations, notions well developed by Mimi in this book.
Finally, as a woman, Mimi brought a totally new perspective to this material. In the 1960s and 1970s work was being done that demonstrated a male bias in academia, psychology, and spirituality, and that entire histories of female-centered cultures and historical goddesses were being suppressed, and Mimi’s approach was in the context of that work.
The 1960s saw the emergence of what is now called second-wave feminism. (What is now called first-wave feminism was associated with the women’s suffrage movement.) Second-wave feminism was focused on gender roles, sexuality, family, the workplace, reproductive rights, and inequalities between men and women. When Mimi got out of school, the help wanted sections of newspapers were divided into male and female. You can imagine which section advertised for architects. Faculty members in architecture schools might occasionally say to a woman student something like, “I am not going to waste my time with you, you are just going to get married and have babies.” Although Mimi never experienced anything like that at the University of Pennsylvania where she studied architecture, she did have some difficult experiences as a woman in some architectural offices where she worked and as a faculty member in the School of Architecture at Pratt Institute.
Mimi became involved in the women’s movement in architecture. She was one of the originators of an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum in 1977 titled “Women in American Architecture.” She co-founded the Alliance of Women in Architecture and The Archive of Women in Architecture and briefly explored, with several colleagues, creating an office of women architects. These efforts lead to some interesting questions. Should women be brought into more prominent roles in architectural offices and schools because they are just as good as men? And if so, what is to be gained by the offices and schools? Or should women be brought into more prominent roles because they have something different to offer? And if so, what might that be, and if it is kitchens, is that not perpetuating a discriminatory stereotype? Advocates for enhancing the role of women in architecture took both sides, but Mimi came to approach the issues of women in general and women in architecture from a different perspective. To see from this perspective, we have to back up for a moment. In the 1960s Mimi began various spiritual studies including Tai Chi with Professor Cheng Man-ch’ing, Buddhism with Chogyam Trungpa and others, and shamanism with Michael Harner. She attended lectures on mythology by Joseph Campbell, read the works of Carl Jung, and attended lectures at the New York Jung Foundation and the New York Open Center. And she later regularly lectured on the material you see in this book at the Jung Foundation and the Open Center. While she found all of this enriching, she also found all of it male-centered. She had become friends with Jan Clanton, a Jungian analyst, and together they began to explore feminine spiritual perspectives.
Mimi’s explorations of “female spirituality” and “the feminine principle” put her in conflict with most feminists on three counts. First, feminism is for the most part materialist, often Marxist, so it usually regards any spirituality as superstition. Second, many religions have enslaved, dominated, and abused women for thousands of years. Most feminists wanted to get rid of all spirituality and religions, not create new ones. And finally, and this is the most important difference between Mimi’s position and that of most feminists, feminists rejected any form of “essentialism.”
Essentialism holds that there are essential (defining and eternal) qualities in things, and it is widely rejected today. For example, in bi- ology we once thought that a tiger was a part of a group, the species “tiger,” and that all members of the group (in this case, the species) shared an identity, a set of essential characteristics. We tended (and still tend today, often without being aware of it), to use the term tiger for both “that tiger over there,” and “the tiger is a dangerous animal.” But today we hold that a species is not an entity with essential characteristics, but only a temporary gathering of DNA in a group of individuals; that members of this group exist in continuity with related contemporary creatures, with creatures in the past that were different, and with creatures that will exist in the future and that will be different.
Feminism shared this general rejection of essentialism and in particular rejected any essentialist characterizations of women. If we can say that men and women have different essential characteristics, for example that men are essentially assertive and women are essentially passive, we can justify treating men and women differently. Feminists would say that the only differences are statistical. While men may be generally more assertive, there are some women who are more assertive than most men, some men who are more passive than most women, etc. Feminists hold that women and men exist in continuities. Periodically a major publication will do a cover story on newly discovered differences between men and women, and feminists will attack the story. Mimi was well aware of these issues, and addresses them in endnote number 8 to the chapter on The Great Round, among other places in this book.
If there are no essential characteristics of women, and also no spirituality, certainly there can be no “spiritual feminism.” But there were (and are) feminists who felt there is a spiritual feminism, and they began to find each other and form women’s spiritual groups. Mimi was involved with several—they often called themselves Goddess Groups. And there were a few scholars interested in goddesses in ancient cultures. We might think, yes, goddesses—Hera, Aphrodite, etc. But spiritual feminists would counter that these are later, domesticated versions, attached to male gods, of earlier independent, more powerful goddesses.
Around the time Mimi began to have these interests, scholarship began to appear about goddesses in ancient cultures. In 1974 Marija Gimbutas, a well respected scholar, published The Gods and Goddesses of Old Europe (only later did her publisher allow her to change the title to what she originally intended, The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe). Gimbutas’s thesis is that Eurasia was filled with Neolithic egalitarian goddess-worshiping cultures. These cultures were overrun by Indo-Europeans who worshiped gods and brought war and a male-dominated hierarchical culture wherever they went. (You will find extensive references to this in Mimi’s book.) Gimbutas had few written records to work from, so she did her work from fragmentary artifacts, ruins, folktales, myths, languages, and other material that she would piece together, an approach that Mimi also used. In 1976 Merlin Stone published When God Was a Woman. Mimi began working with psychologists interested in “the feminine principle,” and with scholars interested in “the Goddess” and female-centered cultures.
At the same time there was a growing interest in all kinds of spirituality, including in Buddhism and Shamanism, and as I mentioned earlier, Mimi became involved with leading teachers and spiritual leaders in various disciplines. Many people were lumping all of this together into a generalized spiritual interest. One of Mimi’s contributions was to sort it out. Shamanism, she realized, is a Paleolithic Sensitive Chaos discipline. The Goddess belongs to the Neolithic Great Round. And Buddhism belongs to the periods of the Four Quarters and Pyramid archetypes. (All of which is explained in great detail in this book.)
So part of the uniqueness of Mimi’s approach was the incredible breadth of her background, her scholarship, and her experiences. She brought together architecture, art, history, archeology, archaeo- astronomy, anthropology, mythology, cultural studies, spirituality, and more.
For Whom is this Book?
For whom is this book; how should you read it; how might you even enter into it? It is hard to say. It is so broad and its underlying premises are so far from current materialistic thought. Many of us read to find confirmation of what we already believe, while Mimi’s book presents new material in new ways. How many of us were educated to understand that history has a “psychology,” and that psychology has a “history?” That there are spiritual feminisms as well as political feminisms? That cultures are symbolic entities and they unfold through archetypal forms? That the world’s mythological traditions are rich with insights? So let’s just say that this book is meant for those who are willing to open up to a new vision of our cultures, of our histories, of our notions of the arts, and of themselves.
There is a brief biography of Mimi Lobell (1942-2001) at the end of this book, and you can visit the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, where you will find a hundred boxes of her work. But for here, a few thoughts about how she was uniquely positioned to write this book. First, Mimi was brilliant—she had a quick mind and was well educated. Besides a strong undergraduate education in the liberal arts, she had one of the best architectural educations of the 20th century at the University of Pennsylvania. There architecture was presented in its fullness, as form, as history, as construction, and most importantly, as a manifestation of culture. Then she read thousands of books on every aspect of every culture. Today one could do some of the research for a book like this online—certainly check the dates for monuments, people, and publications. But the Web did not exist when Mimi began this book and Wikipedia was only a couple of months old when she died. She did all of her research from books, and not books from libraries, but books that she bought. Thousands and thousands of books.
And she had the good fortune to teach at Pratt Institute. Pratt had and has its limitations, but one of its advantages was that it left its faculty alone to pursue their (sometimes radically) creative ideas. Here is just one example: Mimi, in this book, is able to show the strong parallels between Egyptian and Mayan pyramids and their underlying cultures. Not just with a cursory glance, but with a mastery of the key scholarship on each, and with the advantage of having visited the Mayan pyramids. Pratt allowed this. Other institutions, and academia in general today, would frown on this. If you were an Egyptologist, you would be penalized for doing work on the Maya and vice versa. Pratt let Mimi follow her broad interests, which were fundamental to her doing this book.
Mimi was not only immersed in the scholarship of numerous cultures, but she went beyond scholarship to experience. She studied not only Buddhist architecture, but Buddhism with various Buddhist masters; not only Chinese architecture, but the Tao Te Ching and Tai Chi with Tai Chi masters; not only the lives of hunter-gatherers, but shamanism with shamans; etc. And she studied Modern Architecture with major modern architects: Louis Kahn, Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Edmund Bacon all taught at Penn when she was there, and she worked for Marcel Breuer who had been a key figure at the Bauhaus.
So Mimi could do things that other scholars could not do, both because of her brilliance and also because she worked outside the centers of academia. Outside the centers, but not outside. Once, while she was at a conference in Malta on ancient Mediterranean religions to present a paper, she was having cocktails with a group that included Colin Renfrew, the “dean” of European archaeology. In conversation Mimi remarked that a particular motif “appears everywhere.” Renfrew challenged her: “Everywhere?” Mimi conceded, “Well, only where there were people,” and then rattled off a dozen cultures, identifying the specific periods with the dates during which the motif appeared, and for good measure identified the key scholars who had done work pertinent to the motif in each culture. Renfrew was quiet for a moment and then invited her to present a paper at a group he was organizing at the 1986 World Archaeological Congress in England.
About This Manuscript
Mimi worked on this book for twenty-five years from 1976 until her death in 2001, so some references to the “contemporary” world will refer not to “today,” but to the time during which she was writing. The book expanded and seldom contracted. It had commitments from publishers, and then it didn’t. It went through computer crashes. She wrote it with word processing software that no longer exists—the version here comes from a printed copy that was scanned and then cleaned up. Mimi was meticulous in her work, so the errors that I am sure you will find are my fault and the fault of the scanning process, not hers. (If you do find errors, please contact me and I will attempt to fix them.)
You will notice that there are a lot of quotes in the manuscript. Some of them are from original texts, and these she would have kept. Others are to expand examples. Central to the thesis of the book is the universality of the Spatial Archetypes. Pyramids appear not just in Egypt, but in dozens of cultures during their Pyramid stages. Many of the quotes show how widespread the archetypes are and she would have kept these as well. Other quotes she would have removed, and she would have integrated the material into her text. At the time Mimi died, she was about to do one more edit, deal with the quotes, and finish several sections (for example, “Dissolution”). Rather than at- tempt to remove quotes and complete the incomplete sections, I am leaving the manuscript as is—otherwise it could be another decade before it gets out. And Mimi had intended the book to have hundreds of illustrations. Again, by leaving them out, I am able to get the book published. If I were to gather them, it would also take a decade, but today we have images online and you can look them up.
So here is Spatial Archetypes, not finished, but rich with brilliant insights, overflowing with material, and presenting a new way of seeing ourselves and our cultures.
John Lobell, 2018
By Mimi Lobell
I have, in my place, books about English history. l like the bloodiness of it. I have one set of eight volumes. I read only the first volume, and of that only the first chapter, in which each time I see something else. But really, I am interested only in reading Volume Zero, which has not been written. And then Volume Minus One. History could not have started in the places they speak of. History preceded this; it just is not recorded. The beauty of architecture is that it deals with the recessions of the mind, from which comes that which is not yet said and not yet made.
~ Louis Kahn
The recessions of mind of which Kahn spoke—the pre-formers of civilization in history’s unwritten “Volume Zero”—are very much like the psychological territory C. G. Jung called the collective unconscious—the repository of instincts and archetypes that pre-form human behavior. An archetypes is a psycho- logical center “from which comes that which is not yet said and not yet made.” According to Jung, archetypes are buried so deeply in the collective unconscious they cannot be known directly by the conscious mind, but they do shape our ideas and forms of expression—art, architecture, music, literature, relationships, social structures, cosmologies, worldviews. Through these, archetypes become known indirectly. Since archetypes are part of the collective unconscious, like it, they are shared by all human beings. Some are active, while others are latent. A latent archetype does not strongly affect daily life, but an active one shapes every detail of existence and every aspect of a culture. We can easily see the universality of archetypes by looking at world mythology. Mythological archetypes, such as the Great Mother, the Dragon- Slayer, or the Dying-and-Resurrecting God, appear in various disguises throughout the world. The Dying-and-Resurrecting God, for example, appears as Quetzalcoatl in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, as Viracocha in South America, as Tammuz or Dumuzi in the ancient Near East, as Osiris in pharaonic Egypt, as Dionysus in classical Greece, and as Jesus in the Christian world, and as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in Asia. Comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell pointed out that the underlying structure of an archetypal myth is universal; its particulars—its details, character traits, and local colorations—vary to reflect specific cultures and geographical regions.
This gives a useful model for distinguishing between the universal and the particular in architecture. The pyramid is one ex- ample of universal form in architecture. Clearly, the Pyramid is an archetype: a sky-reaching, human-made World Mountain that signifies the sacred place where high priests negotiate the relation of Heaven to Earth. Heaven—the numinous, immortal, eternal realm. Earth—the mundane, mortal, temporal realm. Civilizations all over the world have embodied variants of this archetype: the Egyptian pyramid, used as a tomb; the temple-topped ziggurat of Mesopotamia and temple-topped stepped pyramid of Mesoamerica; the hemispherical stupa, chôrten, or dagoha of Buddhist Asia, used neither as tomb nor temple but as a ritually circumambulated reliquary. Even Solomon’s temple, the Athenian Acropolis, and the Gothic cathedral were “pyramids.” They (or the hills they were built upon) towered above their surroundings, and they each precisely modeled the underlying structure of the Pyramid archetype in their respective cultures.
Archetypes help us to understand our innermost selves. And, paradoxically, they connect us in a profound way with ancient civilizations and with people in other cultures. The path of archetypal self-knowledge leads not into isolating self-centeredness, but into union with the whole of human civilization. For instance, Jungian analysts explore their clients’ dream images by comparing them to motifs in world mythology. World travelers sometimes awaken heart-and-soul affinities with foreign people and places. New Consciousness centers abound in cross-cultural course offerings from Ashanti fertility rituals to Zen calligraphy.
Spatial archetypes are especially intriguing because our minds can translate almost anything into spatial terms: time can be seen as a line, a circle, or a spiral. Managerial systems can be egalitarian, implying that everyone is on the same level, or they can be hierarchical, implying that everyone is ranked in a pyramidal chain of command. A person can be straight or square. A bad job or relationship makes us feel cramped or low, but good ones make us feel elated or high. Beyond these personal “spatializations,” socio-cultural sensitivities affect our daily use of space: the way desks are arranged in a classroom or office; the shape of a dining table and who sits where; the personal distance we maintain in a face-to-face conversation; what we consider “private” and “public” space; the way we visually convey information in a chart or graph; the mental map we construct to find an address. Beyond these socio-cultural “spatializations” are the grand concepts of space that attempt to explain how the universe is shaped and what its origins are. Imagine the spatial differences between the “Big Bang” and the “Steady State” universes, between one that expands and contracts and one that does not, between one with two or three dimensions and one with four, five, seven, eleven, or fifteen.
We even build spatial models of how our minds work around such structures as ego, unconscious, id, or whatever seems verifiable by our experience. Our mythic and religious ideals are often symbolized as places: the Garden of Eden, the New Jerusalem, Mount Meru, the Elysian Fields, the Lunar Mansions, Shangri-La, the Kingdom of Shambhala, King Arthur’s Roundtable, Atlantis, and so on. Certain mythic places also symbolize our fears: Hades, the Cretan Labyrinth, Dante’s Inferno.
Because our minds so eagerly spatialize everything we encounter, spatial archetypes offer profound insight into the psyche and civilization of humanity. Spatial archetypes are expressed most directly through architecture—the art form that engages society in its entirety and marshals the most extravagant resources to build, when it is at its best, a mediator between the self, society, and the cosmos. This is architecture’s highest function. It has been the function of every monument of world architecture from Stonehenge to the Egyptian and Mayan pyramids, from Greek and Indian temples to Gothic cathedrals and Persian mosques, from Pueblo kivas to the lines and figures in Peru’s Nazca desert. Civilizations have left these exemplary works of architecture—their supreme achievements—to carry on their worldviews. As the modem architect Mies van der Rohe said, “Architecture is the will of the age conceived in spatial terms.”
The “high civilizations” of the ancient world are justly famous for their impressive cities and their monumental pyramids, temples, and ceremonial centers. But these civilizations did not spring full blown into their Classic Periods. Long periods of gestation, struggle, innovation, and cultural infusion built up to their “Golden Ages,” and centuries, sometimes millennia, of decadence, stagnation, and decline followed before dissolution.
All civilizations have had much longer life cycles than we normally realize. Vico, Hegel, Spengler, Neumann, and others have argued that civilizations go through essentially the same developmental stages as individuals: birth, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle age, old age, and death. Though this cultural version of “phylogeny recapitulates ontogeny” generally holds true, the analogy risks oversimplifying the great complexity of human culture. (Especially dangerous is the idea that cultures naturally or inexorably “evolve” through a progression of stages toward the Western model of the modern, industrialized nation. The problems with this idea will become clear when we look at each spatial archetype.)
In The Origins and History of Consciousness, psychoanalyst Erich Neumann presented his theoretical and clinical findings on the psychological orientations individuals display at the different stages of life: oceanic, embryonic oneness in the womb (the Uroboros); birth and dependence on the mother (the Great Mother); separating from the mother and establishing one’s place in the world (the Hero); assuming adult responsibility in the male-dominated world of the fathers (the Slaying of the Mother); and finding one’s mature place in the world (the Slaying of the Father). These orientations parallel the worldviews revealed by the spatial archetypes. Without insisting that cultures go through the same developmental stages as individuals, we can still appreciate insights gained from these parallels.
Two or more cultures oriented to the same worldview will produce similar buildings, towns, social structures, values, mythologies, and the like, even though the cultures are widely separated by time and space. For instance, when the Mayan and Egyptian civilizations were each manifesting the Pyramid archetype—even though they were separated by half the globe and three thousand years—they shared pyramid-building, class-structured society, hieroglyphic writing, rule by theocratic god-kings from dynastic families, elaborate funeral rites, astronomy, the keeping of records and histories, the maintenance of a standing army and a governmental bureaucracy, similar myths about the deities of heaven and the underworld, and an obsession with dualism and reintegration. There is nothing mysterious about these similarities: they are simply common features of theocratic nations and city-states. Few of these traits would be found in cultures expressive of another archetype. The hunter-gatherers of the Sensitive Chaos, for instance, share a completely different set of similarities. Although there are many spatial archetypes, there are only a few prime archetypes that represent basic worldviews and types of cultures. I have identified seven. Each symbolizes and generates a worldview, which coheres all the qualities, characteristics, belief structures, actions, and forms of expression of a culture or individual. (In American Heritage Dictionary, cohere means “to cause to form a united, orderly, and aesthetically consistent whole.” This is the action of a worldview.)
The seven archetypes—the Sensitive Chaos, the Great Round, the Four Quarters, the Pyramid, the Radiant Axes, the Grid, and Dissolution—are inclusive of all of human civilization from the earliest evolution of our hominid ancestors to the present, including all of the world’s historical periods and cultures. Each archetype represents a way of life, a way of knowing, and a way of being in the world that is complete in itself. Earlier archetypes are not backward or less developed “stages” on the way to more advanced or developed “stages.”
Here are brief profiles of the archetypes, which are more fully explored in the succeeding chapters.
The Sensitive Chaos
The Sensitive Chaos is the archetype of nomadic hunter-gatherers living in small egalitarian bands like our prehistoric ancestors from the beginning of human evolution through the Upper Paleolithic era. As they live absorbed in nature, not removed from it like city-dwellers, they interact with the world directly rather than through abstract concepts, numbers, and geometries. “Chaos” is not meant negatively. It simply indicates that there are no obvious, organizing, Euclidean geometries in the spatial archetype. “Sensitive” recognizes that cultures of this archetype, like the raw nature that surrounds them, beat to a subtle, intricate intelligence that may escape over-technologized people of the Grid.
The people of the Sensitive Chaos sense nature as a living organism: a roiling sea of energy whose power courses through the landscape, the sky, and all living things. It supercharges some places with palpable force fields. These become sacred places. The spirals and meanders of the archetype symbolize the continuum of nature and human life, animated by an overwhelming sense of spirit in everything, to which people sensitize themselves through dances, rituals, psychoactive plants, shamanic trances, and sympathetic magic. Within this spiritual continuum, one life form can change into another—a human can become an eagle or a deer. This “sympathetic identification” is critical to the hunter-gatherers’ survival and constitutes a psychoerotic (psyche + eros) way of knowing as sophisticated in its way as modern Western civilization’s technelogos (techne + logos) way of knowing. The intuitive, organismic sensibilities of psychoerotic knowledge are another aspect of the meandering spiral.
The Sensitive Chaos corresponds with Neumann’s psychological stage of the Uroboros: the child’s state of mind in the womb and shortly after birth before it separates from its mother and begins to develop an individual identity and ego. The symbol of the archetype illustrates the corresponding spatial configuration of the psyche, without the ego to fix a central reference point. Similarly, there are no permanent towns or buildings in the Sensitive Chaos. Such edifices obstruct the free flow of nature’s life forces, as well as the nomadic way of life, and hunter-gatherers have no use for them. The buildings that nomads do make—huts, windbreaks, igloos, tents, blinds, shelters—are constructed of simple, readily available, natural materials: mud, thatch, ice, hides, bones, leaves, bark. Like the people, they leave no permanent marks on the landscape.
The Great Round
This archetype marks a distinct break from the Sensitive Chaos. It is the realm of the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age farmers, settled permanently on the land and grouped into egalitarian clans. The circle or sphere symbolizing the Great Round illustrates the farmers’ worldview, centered in a stable, intimate relationship to the land. It is echoed in the arcs of the sun, moon and stars in the great circle of sky, now observable from a fixed location. Time revolves in cycles, following the rhythms of the heavenly bodies, especially the moon. The round of life turns with the agricultural seasons, accented by planting and fertility rituals, harvest feasts, and propitiations of the deaths of winter.
The analogous psychological orientation is centered on the archetype of the Great Mother, when the young child begins to separate from its mother and comes into conscious relationship with her. Since most ancient Great Round cultures were pre-historic and left no written records, it is difficult to discern their social structures. But their art and burial patterns often suggest they were matrilineal, tracing inheritance and descent through the mother’s line like the Pueblo Indians, a contemporary Great Round culture.
Spiritually, the Great Round worldview is similarly focused on the Great Goddess. She is not the lesser half of a dualistic Godhead as seen in male-dominated cultures—the compliant fertility goddess; the barefoot-and-pregnant Earth Mother; the submissive yin principle; or the medieval Christians’ corrupting power of flesh, matter, and nature. As an archetype, the Great Goddess is the whole—not just earth, matter, nature, body, birth, nurture, being, and space; but earth and heaven, matter and spirit, nature and culture, body and mind, birth and death, nurture and torture, creation and destruction, being and non-being, space and time. She is the entire matrix of the cosmos. The elemental characteristic of the “feminine” principle represented by the Great Goddess is not fertility, pregnancy, nurture, or submission—it is the principle of non-duality.
The Great Goddess is the first anthropomorphization of the spiritual continuum that animated the Sensitive Chaos. She weaves the mysteries of human fate and confides in sibyls and oracles. Her rites bring the knowledge of immortality and the mastery of physical, sexual, and earthly energies. Above all, she teaches her initiates how to transcend duality, reintegrating the fragments into the holistic wisdom of the feminine archetype— symbolized, too, by the circle of the Great Round.
Great Round cultures have embodied the archetype in count- less monuments all over the world: goddess-shaped megalithic temples in Malta; vulviform passage mounds in Brittany, Great Britain, and Ireland; womb-like kivas in the American southwest; circular earthworks and communal burial mounds in the United States, Western Europe, and India; uterine beehive houses, pit-houses, and tholoi throughout the Neolithic Mediterranean, Middle East, and Asia.
Roundness of architectural form, however, is not the defining feature of the archetype. An extremely inventive period, the Great Round saw the rise of urban cultures like Çatal Hüyük, Minoan Crete, the Indus Valley civilization, and the Anasazi. These cultures more often built rectilinear rather than round buildings, yet they displayed another, more important aspect of the Great Round’s holism: peacefulness. War is almost completely absent from the Great Round (which means that war is not always inherent in human nature). This archetype prevailed for thousands of years in comparative peace, yet its civilizations were highly innovative, the source of not only agriculture and animal domestication but also astronomy, metallurgy, writing, textiles, pottery, irrigation, plumbing, stone and mud brick architecture, and cities.
The Four Quarters
Symbolized by the cross within a square, the Four Quarters draws and quarters the Great Round. Territoriality and war invade human affairs for the first time, and the warrior ethic dominates social values, just as the heroic epic dominates literature. As the ego emerges in the psyche, the chieftain emerges in society as the central authority figure. The ego becomes the central reference point that quarters the mind into distinctions of “self” versus “other,” “mine” versus “thine.” Similarly, society gets quartered into a hierarchical caste system headed by a military or priestly aristocracy. The chieftain is paralleled mythically by the archetypal Lord of the Four Quarters—Zeus, Indra, Thor, Horus, Brahma, Jehovah, Quetzalcoatl—who reigns supreme over the Four Quarters of the universe. He often lives in a heavenly palace or temple, walled and divided into quadrants by crossroads, four rivers, or the cardinal axes. Gates and guardians at the cardinal points in the wall protect the Lord’s territories and possessions, just as the ego sets up psychological defenses to protect its position.
Coinciding historically with the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age, Four Quarters cultures perfect and revere metallurgy, crafting superior weapons and war chariots. The blacksmith, mirrored in mythology by the thunderbolt-wielding storm and war god, is as powerful as the chieftain.
Psychologically, the Four Quarters is analogous to the ego’s pulling away from the mother, seeking to identify with the archetype of the Hero to become master of its own will and destiny. We often see in Four Quarters cultures a great struggle over the balance of power between men and women. Matrilineal descent and the worship of certain goddesses may continue, but an increasing masculinization of culture begins in the Four Quarters that continues throughout the succeeding archetypes. The final dualistic separation from the Great Mother archetype is acted out in the mythic themes of the Separation of the World Parents and the Slaying of the Dragon (the Dragon being the demonized aspect of the mother that is holding back the Hero/ego).
The architecture of the Four Quarters perfectly models the archetype. Typical features include forts, walled cities, centralized temples, rectilinear ceremonial terraces, and cruciform or cross-axial layouts such as quartered town plans with gates at the cardinal axes. Variants of these appear in every Four Quarters culture. From China’s Bronze and Iron Age dynasties—the Hsia, Shang, and Zhou—comes the legendary Ming T’ang, the model for all Chinese capital cities including Beijing. Similarly, India’s Iron Age Vedic culture established canons for architecture and city planning that influenced temple cities such as Shrirangam and Madurai as late as the 17th century. Hierakonpolis, a predynastic Egyptian capital, was a walled temple city built over an earlier circular shrine of the Great Round period (such overlays are common as each succeeding culture seeks to impose itself on the earlier one). The Vikings’ round, earthen forts of Trelleborg and Fyrkat were divided cross-axially, as were the Plains Indians’ Medicine Lodges. In the first millennium B.C., Peru’s Four Quarters Chavin culture built in the heart of their capital a cross-axial configuration of passageways, at the center of which was the intricately carved, phallic Lanzon Stele.
The Pyramid archetype rises from the base of the Four Quarters. The archetype’s symbol represents the dominant mythic image: the World Mountain. The World Mountain is a sacred place where Heaven and Earth meet, where human and divine communicate. The Mountain’s levels stand for the different classes of the pyramidal social system. Its faces retain the quadrated symbol system inherited from the Four Quarters, each face having a designated direction, color, season, guardian spirit, and so on.
The Pyramid’s overall form, especially the double pyramid or octahedron, expresses the dualism of the worldview resulting from the ego’s divisive effect on the psyche. In this archetype, the entire world is divided into two opposing realms: the upward, sky-reaching, positive, “masculine,” light-seeking, eternal, conscious, solar realm, and the downward, earthbound, negative, “feminine,” dark, temporal, unconscious, lunar realm. Thus logos opposes eros and techne opposes psyche in a violent cleaving of the formerly holistic Great Round. This increasing logos orientation can be seen in the growing emphasis on the Word, the Law, special names, written records and historical accounts, sacred numbers and geometry, and standardized systems of measurement.
Socially, in the Pyramid archetype, the nation or city-state emerges, militarily uniting several former chieftainships and petty kingships under a dynastic, theocratic God-King. This Divine Ruler is the son or incarnation of the Father-God. Psychologically, in this archetype the Hero of the Four Quarters—the newly independent and willful ego—becomes inducted into masculine society, identifies with the father, and assumes adult responsibilities.
The psychology of the Pyramid and Four Quarters archetypes has mainly concerned the male psyche. Presumably, the struggle to separate from the mother is less acute in the female psyche, since girls grow up to be women like their mothers, but boys do not. To come into their own, it seems that boys must at some point define themselves in opposition to femaleness. Historically, it was in Four Quarters and Pyramid cultures that once independent women and powerful goddesses were transmogrified into dutiful wives and mothers or into demons and monsters—the gorgons, dragons, harpies, and witches whom the Heroes killed, appropriating their quarry’s powers and sacred sites.
Naturally, the prominent architectural works of the Pyramid archetype are the various pyramids and temple mountains described earlier.
The Radiant Axes
The Radiant Axes is the archetype of the empire, which subsumes nations and city-states in its vast net of power. The goal of the empire and the emperor is to have unbounded power like the sun, thus the sun is the dominant symbol of the archetype. Most empires have identified themselves with the sun: the Aztecs sacrificed thousands to their bloodthirsty sun-god Tonatiuh; the Incas reckoned their descent from the sun-god Inti; Egypt’s expansionist Ramessides empire glorified the sun-god Amen-Ra at the monumental temples of Karnak and Luxor; the brutal Assyrians assumed the name of their war-god Asshur, whose emblem was the winged-disk of the sun; Louis XIV was known as the Sun-King in imitation of the sun-god Apollo; even the English, not given to mythological thought, were fond of boasting that “the sun never sets on the British Empire.”
The psychological parallel of the Radiant Axes is the inflated ego, which knows no bounds. It believes it is God. This conceit is impossible to maintain—after all, the ego belongs only to a fallible human being, not to a god—so the ego goes to the other extreme: deflation. Icarus’s flight too close to the sun that caused him to drown in the ocean mythologizes the ego’s frenzied swing from inflation to deflation. Radiant Axes empires also overreach themselves. Ordinary gods cannot compete with a despotic emperor who assumes unnatural divine rights. Mercifully, most Radiant Axes empires are short-lived, drowning ignominiously in social revolution, invasion, or internal collapse.
Architecturally, the rays of the archetype appear as avenues radiating from imperial palaces and capital cities such as Versailles, New Delhi, and Washington, D.C. Also, networks of imperial highways radiate throughout empires to carry messengers, troops, provincial governors, tax collectors, census takers, and other government agents. The Roman, Incan, Mongolian, and British empires were all famous for their road systems. Other features of the Radiant Axes include colossal sculptures showing the ego-inflation of the emperor (Abu Simbel), intimidating propagandistic murals or bas reliefs (Persepolis), and obelisks. Obelisks were fashionable in the Radiant Axes New Kingdom in Egypt, where they symbolized a ray of the sun; in the Roman Empire (Trajan’s column); and in Europe’s imperialistic Baroque era. In India, Asoka’s edict columns were a variant of the obelisk, as were the “Mandate of Heaven” columns of China.
The Grid archetype becomes apparent in the international commercial-industrial networks that survive the collapse of Radiant Axes empires. The Grid marks the decline of a civilization, characterized by deflation, anonymity, mechanization, commercialism, crushing bureaucratization, secularism to the point of despiritualization, and paralysis of the creative will. Technelogos steamrolls psychoeros, eliminating the intuitive, holistic, organismic wisdom needed to counterbalance the cold rationalism of the Grid.
The Grid has no center. Thus, it separates everything into identical units, becoming the champion of statistical uniformity, quality control, measurement, and census-taking. The Grid is the handmaiden of any operation seeking to reduce something—products, people, information, land—into predictable, manageable units. Hence it is favored by industry, the military, bureaucracies, and colonial governments. Rewards are given for the techne skills of making things, figuring things out, and “getting the job done.” The marketplace governs human affairs. The Grid, a beneficiary of the Radiant Axes empires, builds its technocracy upon the imperial infrastructure of roads and shipping lanes, trade alliances, international currency systems, and vast governmental bureaucracies. Thus, within one civilization, it is nearly impossible for the Grid to precede the Radiant Axes. However, Radiant Axes cultures often use the Grid pattern as an expedient layout for military camps, as seen in the Roman camp, and slaves’ or workers’ quarters, as seen in the sun-god-king Akhnaten’s capital at Tel el Amarna. Four Quarters and Pyramid cultures are fascinated by the Grid’s logos properties, shown for instance in the mathematical “magic squares” revered in Vedic India, ancient China, and elsewhere. Psychologically, the Grid represents the existential malaise of the deflated ego, with no centering inner Self to turn to and no sense of power in the world. The deflated personality is adrift on the Grid’s endless alienating sameness. This state, however, can be the precursor to the death of ego, an experience shown in mythology and religion as a painful but necessary step toward enlightenment. Similarly, the Grid can help to break down the centralized and often corrupt hold of organized religion, freeing us to see how we contain the archetypes within ourselves. We realize that the Animal Spirit, Goddess, Hero, God-King, and Emperor are part of us. Instead of projecting these archetypes into exterior beings to whom we look for deliverance, we can take the Inner Path and see ourselves as our own spiritual liberators.
The Grid became the banner of revolutionaries fighting corrupt autocracies. It symbolizes the political systems designed to redistribute power from the few to the many—democracy, socialism, communism, republicanism—which usually follow the dissolution of empires.
Naturally, the Grid archetype produces grid forms in architecture: street grids, modular building facades, rectilinear rooms, right-angled surfaces, grids of chair and desk layouts, and so on. The Grid has also organized military barracks, workers’ housing, colonial cities, industrial plants, factory towns, and land divisions in the West since the Industrial Revolution, as well as in the Grid periods of Hellenistic Greece and Ptolemaic Egypt, and the late or declining empires of the Romans, Aztecs, Incas, Chinese, and Japanese.
In Western culture, we can witness the archetype in the Cartesian coordinates and the scientific method, the isotropic universe (uniform in all directions, that is, made up of stuff more or less evenly distributed throughout space, rather than being centered on the earth, the sun, or our galaxy), modern social mobility, the nuclear family and suburban sprawl, the move toward metrification, the spread of democracy, and many other phenomena.
(See the book for the footnotes for this material.)