Gerry Goddard's Memorial Website Home Page

Transpersonal Perspectives
and the Eighth Principle

Gerry Goddard

The intellectual resonance between astrological psychology and post-Jungian transpersonal psychology promises a new paradigmatic model of the development and evolution of consciousness in which not only is the language of astrology enriched by the ideas and findings of Neumann, Hillman, Wilber, Grof, Tarnas, Washburn et al, but is also profoundly contributive to the larger debate. We'll look at the interface of some of these ideas with the familiar archetypal meanings of the eighth principle.

Basic Notions

We can all agree the eighth principle has to do with death and rebirth, the necessity of dying to one level before one can be reborn at a higher level. Here is the archetypal encounter of Eros and Thanatos, the urge to life and the necessity of death; a dialectical interplay, which when conceived more subtly than in Freud's original formulations, may hold a most important key to understanding the evolutionary development of consciousness both as original emergence and as the possibility of higher transformation. Eros is the urge to life operating as becoming, seeking, wanting, grasping but it is a force that can never be satisfied for it finds only symbolic substitutes for what it is really seeking; namely, reunion with the prior Wholeness before the division of the self and other, and this implies its own death. In the words of the transpersonal psychologist Ken Wilber,

"The boundary between subject and object, self and other, has to be constantly and unceasingly recreated moment to moment...As the individual moment to moment recreates his illusory boundaries, so reality, moment to moment, conspires to tear them down. Such is Thanatos, and its real meaning is transcendence...Thanatos is the power of sunyata, the power and push to transcend illusory boundaries, but it appears, to a self that will not surrender its boundaries, as a threat of literal death and physical mortality. ..Wherever there is boundary, the Thanatos of one's deeper nature remove it...One will either submit to Thanatos and transcendence, or one will have to find something else to do with that "death wish." One will have, that is, to find substitute sacrifices." (Wilber p.152)

Involved in this view is the familiar paradoxical eighth principle issue; the urge for fusion simultaneous with the need to maintain distinction - a drive to bridge the subject/object or self/other gap, yet at the same time the need to maintain it. It is an urge for full identification with the loved object yet at the same time a need to maintain control over it, an urge to merge with the beloved yet to maintain one's unique individuality, for as Wilber says, Thanatos comes with the other. If one refuses Thanatos, then it is projected upon the other in destructive ways.

To know an object in the second principle sense is to be distinct from it, to observe it through the senses from outside. To know the object in the eighth principle sense is to know it by becoming it, like the artist, mystic or lover. It is to know the object from the inside at a deeper level hidden from the normal view, a level where everything is at root already joined, a level which underlies apparent diversity and distinction.

The structures of social and political power (10th principle) are rooted in the 8th principle. Legitimate politics and business management are grounded in backroom power politics and boardroom deal making-- the 'old boys network', misogyny, racism, nepotism, and a general climate of domination and 'pre-ethical' corruption where money and power are the ultimate values. The line between legitimacy and integrity on the one hand and lawlessness on the other blurs as subterranean forces at war with established cultural institutions manifest as tribal, extremist, paranoid, anarchic or fundamentalist regressions declaring a moral absolutism fueled by primitive domination and exclusivism. At the same time as signifying the unconscious ground of established cultural institutions and their underworld nemeses, the eighth principle directly symbolizes those marginalized and repressed traditions such as alchemy, hermeticism, goddess worship, wicca, as well as yoga and tantra from the East, occult, organic, and mystic traditions that preserve and awaken the living ground, the primal libido, the Great Mother, the Anima Mundi.

Because they tend to be powered by a complex set of ideals and agreements among rational-egos, egos that are out of touch with the eighth principle dimension, 11th principle attempts at social-evolutionary change are generally a failure. Eleventh principle rational ideals are powerless to effect real change in the fundamental power structures of the eighth principle. This is what Krishnamurti meant when he said that the only revolution is within. But this "within" is not the personal 'within' of the distinct individual. It is inextricably entwined with everything and everybody in eighth principle fashion. To paraphrase Krishnamurti - If I look inward and see that I am violent, then I am responsible for the violence of the world, since violence is One. I need not, and indeed cannot, try to become non-violent, but the very deep non-judgemental awareness of the violence is itself the beginning of the end of violence.

Pathology as the door to 'Within.'

The eighth principle would seem to be the very archetypal source of pathology but to so label it is to do what society has done since the advent of patriarchy and the mental ego. It is aversion to and moral judgement and repression of the eighth principle that has been the cause of historical sickness and sin. It is the particular dialectic set up in relation to it and not the eighth principle itself which is negative. Thus, the "Terrible Mother" is created by rejection and refusal of the "Good Mother". As the polytheistic gods were 'outlawed' and the very rich and protean depths of the ancient's "underworld" was converted into Hell by the Christian West, the source of Soul itself was buried, then later converted into the conceptualized unconscious, a field of pathologies that needed to be cured or transformed. Seeking to resurrect the primary value of Soul as distinct from Spirit, the post-Jungian depth psychologist James Hillman argues that "pathologizing" is actually the very essence of "soul making" which, rather than being seen, as in normal medical based psychotherapy, as a sickness to be cured, should be approached mythically and poetically, listened to for its innate wisdom to be revealed. Such an attitude to the eighth principle as constituting the very archetype of 'pathologizing' is profoundly respectful of the Great Mother as She actually is, rescuing her from rationalist denigration. The true sickness - the barbarism, genocide and misogyny of the last several thousand years - arises from the devaluation of pathologizing in the realm of fantasy. Hillman writes:

"Our attempt to envision pathologizing psychologically is to find a place for it, a way of accepting it...We want to know what it might be saying about the soul and what the soul might be saying by means of it. And this attitude must come before making moves to treat it, condemn it, justify it, or do anything else for or against it... For the soul to be struck to its imaginal depths so that it can gain same intelligence of itself -- or, as we would say more dryly today, "become conscious of the unconscious" -- pathologizing fantasies are required. A bloodied or obscene image in a dream, a hypochondriachal fantasy, a psychosomatic symptom, is a statement in imaginal language that the psyche is being profoundly stirred, and these pathologized fantasies are precisely the focal point of action and movement in the soul...We learn that one need not soar and plunge on grand shamanistic journeys in order to effect the soul to its depths. These would be trips of the spirit which distend the soul... The soul is not moved by our moving through it; this is but another heroic voyage of the ego now translated into interior space. Instead, the pathologized image held solemnly is what moves the soul." (Hillman, pp 57, 92, & 93)

When we put aside the ego and its heroic or Promethean strivings, we become deeply aware of that which lies within, and indeed, what arises does have a pathological character. But rather than judging it as wrong, we have only to remain quiet, to look and listen without judgement, without a movement of the mind, then there may come a deep transformation. These words which resonate to Hillman's message express as well the essence of the teachings of Krishnamurti. To again paraphrase - If I am angry (bored, lonely, afraid) then I need to be fully aware that I am angry while being totally attentive, in a non-judgemental way, to the anger. I then become the anger. There is no longer an 'I' standing outside of the anger. I am one with the anger. Through this there may come a transformation.

It is the eighth principle that teaches us the truth that if we have something that we are trying to avoid, some pain - state of loneliness, anxiety, hatred - rather than trying to make it go away, we must be willing to enter into, to fully embrace that state without judgment, condemnation or resistance, becoming one with the pain; only then can there be a transformation.

The Primal Nature of the Eighth Principle

Both historically and psychologically, the eighth principle is the realm of the Great Mother, the home of the polytheistic gods and goddesses still alive in the psyche, and the archetype of the original conjunction of male and female. At the same time it contains the seed of their division, the seed of patriarchal emergence and dominance, and is also the place where male and female are ultimately compelled to return and re-fuse. This principle is not a simple and placid undifferentiated Oneness, a peaceful mystic transcendent condition, but an ecstatic, dynamic, and Dionysian dance of energy within a secret chamber where the polarities of life and death, good and bad, love and hate, self and other are no longer clearly distinct, where a constant reversal of polarity takes place, revealing all opposites as ultimate unities.

It is to this place we are compelled to return when we undertake journeys of deep self discovery and transformation. In fact, phenomenologically, this dimension appears to correspond to the third perinatal matrix described by the transpersonal therapist and theorist Stanislav Grof. (Grof's transpersonal and deep experiential therapy recognizes four major archetypal structures of consciousness corresponding to four stages in the birth process.) He describes this matrix as constituting a titanic struggle of catastrophic proportions featuring aggressive, sado-masochistic, sexual, scatological and demonic mythological themes, thus uniting concepts of death and sexuality, victim and victimizer, and the ecstatic rapture sometimes associated with intense suffering. Of course, this obviously eighth principle carnival lies beneath the surface of consciousness and is revealed only to the intrepid traveller willing to risk all to encounter the 'underworld.'

As it so commonly manifests and is understood, the eighth principle might appear to be an impossible project, an infernal realm that we must try and get through to reach at least a promise of transcendence in the ninth principle and, like the makyo of the meditating Zen monk, best to be ignored. It would seem to contain the possibility of resolution at some high level of mystic realization not available to most of us - though if one is prepared to go through such a radical procedure as Grof's perhaps there is some hope. The seemingly complex and seethingly ambivalent entanglements among human beings of which the person, strong in the eighth principle, is keenly aware, seem unresolvable except in momentary flashes as in deep emotional or sexual communion before the separate egos again assert their autonomous control and resume their struggles. One seems condemned to play on the edge, to flirt dangerously with others in compulsive melodramas, to seek intense and ecstatic experiences by using others or being used by them, driven to achieve fusion by absorbing the other into oneself or surrendering oneself to the other, either strategy perpetuating the human melodrama.

Alternately, one can establish firm controls to resist the compelling pushes and pulls of volcanic energies and passionate urges that, rather than offering fulfillment, love and transcendence, threaten to annihilate the self -- but then repression and excessive self control is one of the problematic faces of the eighth principle.

Original Repression and the Development of the Ego.

Such a pessimistic view needs to be placed within a larger perspective, one that grows from contemporary transpersonal psychology, one that provides a bridge between 'normal' neurosis or pathology and levels of transformation or integration more accessible than transcendent nirvanas and satoris. By general consensus, the mental-ego, the identification of the self with the mind as distinct from the body, (and its concomitant patriarchal culture of the last several thousand years recapitulated each time in early childhood development) evolved precisely through the repression of all that is represented by the eighth principle! So for the ego to deeply encounter the eighth principle, the primal biological and energic Ground, the original realm of the Great Mother in both her benific and terrible guises, is to encounter the ego's essential negation, that which it originally had to negate in order to exist.

The development of consciousness - both historically and individually - began from an original undifferentiated ground state from which eventually emerged a sense of egoic selfhood identified, at this primal biological level, with the body as distinct from other bodies and from the world, existing within the cultural mythology of the Great Mother. Here is the level of the "body-ego" absorbed within the family matrix or, historically, within tribal unities where the psyche was still largely collective, experience polymorphously sensual, and Nature alive and animated. In the words of Michael Washburn, "The body-ego alienates the Ground by perpetrating a repression that contains the power of the Ground". Thus we see the profound ambivalence of the eighth principle as we normally know it.

"...the body-ego's fundamental project is to be an 'independent intimate' of the Great Mother. In the body-ego's interaction with the mothering parent, this project takes the form of the body project, which is the attempt on the part of the body-ego to use its body as a means of achieving both closeness to and safe distance from the mother...the body-ego has mixed feelings, wanting both intimacy with and independence from the Great Mother. It wants both to receive the Great Mother's blessings and to be self-possessed and self-controlled. However, these two desires are in conflict with each other. The desire for intimacy conflicts with independence, for when the body-ego comes into close contact with the Great Mother it suffers dissolution and re-embedment. And the desire for independence conflicts with intimacy, for when the body-ego makes a move of independence it experiences separation from the principle reality of its world, a reality to which the body-ego remains strongly attracted and attached. The body-ego pulled in these opposite directions by its two basic desires, is caught in a dilemma...something must be sacrificed. and in the interests of development, it is the Great Mother...that in the end is relinquished. In effect, the body-ego is finally confronted with the choice of either regression or repression." (Washburn pp57-66)

After the development of the body-ego comes the mental-ego where the sense of self is thoroughly identified with the mind as distinct from the body, with concept as distinct from feeling and instinct. Thus the repression of the Great Mother is completed. As long as the mental-ego is seeking to preserve itself in order to go on developing to a level of mature autonomy, to be drawn into the challenge of the eighth principle would be premature, involving the dynamic tension of repression and regression. But for the fully autonomous and mature ego, the evolutionary challenge is to re-encounter the Great Mother, the bodily libido, the realms of feeling, emotion, passion and the underlying human connectedness which brings with it the reality of psychological death, of finitude, and the ending of the heroic project. Also promised is the ending of misogyny, a new marriage between the male and female principles in each of us and in society. Hopefully, what this encounter will accomplish is a deeper (or higher) level of consciousness than the ordinary egoic, achieving an integration of mind and body, of thinking and feeling, of self and other, maleness and femaleness.

Client Categories.

As in the human growth movement in general, in astro-psychological counseling we need to recognize the distinction of these two levels or stages of development; namely, the stage where the ego is still needing to come to full maturity and autonomy and the stage where the ego - as described in existential analyses - is ready to begin to transcend itself.

In the first case one is engaged in a struggle with the Great Mother where the Apollonian ego must yet gain a certain control over the Dionysian unconscious. This type of client gets involved with others compulsively, co-dependently, blaming the other, playing manipulative power games, blaming the world or the other for the way things are, claiming that these things 'just happen to me' that s/he is a helpless victim before such unfortunate conditions. The path to a stronger, more mature and autonomous ego comes through beginning to take responsibility and personal power and to realize that one is profoundly participating in this reality. One must witness the mechanism of projection and unconscious collusion, coming to realize that what is outside is also inside. From this awareness there needs to be a powerful handling of disruptive passions, fears and anxieties and a choice of groups and relationships that encourage health and strength.

With the client at the second level, there is the capacity to deeply encounter the 'not-self' manifesting as outer circumstances and relationships that have been constellated by the repressed material. Here the autonomous and responsible ego moves toward a more totally empowered condition of self actualization and creative freedom, a level of mind/body and thinking/feeling integration which Ken Wilber refers to as the 'Integrated Centaur'. There is the capacity to open to the biographical or personal repressed unconscious and then to go beyond that to experience the primal and transcendent energies and archetypes of the collective or pre-personal unconscious. Self concept, persona and shadow are revealed in an existential and experiential realization of the higher Unity of body and mind, self and other.

Centrally, the maturing of the ego takes place through the sixth and seventh principles. But deep relationship - a higher level of the seventh principle - which goes beyond personae, roles, and games, serves as a catalyst for the emergence of eighth principle material which needs to be experienced on the journey of transformation.

Regression in the Service of Transcendence.

At this higher level of the seventh and eighth principles, group and encounter therapy leads into deep experiential and transpersonal therapy which contacts the archetypal and phylogenetic dimensions. Michael Washburn calls this return to the depths of the collective unconscious, or the 'dynamic ground,' "regression in the service of transcendence."

"The battle between the ego and the Ground that ensues during regression in the service of transcendence is a battle to determine which of these will be the sovereign power of the soul... The ego...experiences the encounter with the power of the ground as a confrontation with an alien force that challenges the ego's claim upon supreme authority within the psychic polity... The ego eventually realizes that it is the inferior party, both in strength and in right. The ego finally understands that it cannot triumph over its adversary and, moreover, that its adversary is really the ego's own higher life: spirit...In re-encountering the power of the Ground...the ego has the experience of renewing its relation with the maternal principle...more specifically of renewing its relation with the negative side of the maternal principle: the Terrible Mother. The ego finds itself once again in face of an abysmal, dark-dreadful-doomful-devouring reality... finds itself once more in a life-and-death struggle with the power of darkness.. It tries desperately to shore up old defenses and, if at all possible, to reseal the Ground... in time the ego also is somehow related to the Terrible Mother as to a larger part of itself...the ego reverses its stand. It ceases being the hero who would slay the dragon -- that, after all, was the role of the body-ego -- and becomes the knight of faith, the hero who submits himself to the awesome power of the dragon so that, through an atoning death, spiritual rebirth can be earned." (Washburn, pp 116, 182)

This is a most apt account of the higher meaning of the eighth principle, the necessity of the return into the deep unconscious in order to transcend. 'Regression in the service of transcendence' is followed by a 'regeneration in spirit' which includes yet goes beyond the eighth principle to the highest levels of the twelfth.

Concluding Thoughts.

To fully illuminate the eighth principle would involve considering it in relation to all the other principles within an overarching developmental and evolutionary model of consciousness. Although no one principle is more important than any other, I chose the eighth principle for this article because it is particularly pivotal in the path of development beyond our typical mode of being, that process which concerns those of us involved in counseling and human growth.

To establish a theoretical foundation for a true 'astrological psychology', a systematic and coherent explication of the astrological topography is needed. Astrology is not an infinitely flexible system, a mirror for endless imaginative projections, reflecting anything we care to read into it. Its protean richness is circumscribed by an inherent archetypal structure and a pragmatically demonstrable phenomenology. As such it is capable of adjudicating contentious issues arising among prevailing grand models of consciousness, for example, the linear and hierarchic system of Ken Wilber, the organic multidimensional view of Stanislav Grof, or the bi-polar and dynamic view of Michael Washburn.


Wilber, Ken. Up from Eden,Shambala, c1981.
Hillman, James. Re-Visioning Psychology, Harper, 1976.
Washburn, Michael. The Ego and the Dynamic Ground, U. of N.Y.,1988.
Grof, Stanislav. Beyond the Brain, U.of N.Y.,1985.