Archetypology, Astrology, Collective Intelligence, History, Myth, and Story, Language, Morphology, Psychology, Semiosis, Synchronicity

Archetypal Semiotic Transference

09.25.11 | 16 Comments

I’m assigning the term “Archetypal Semiotic Transference” (AST) to describe instances of semiosis where a symbol (or set of symbols) and its interpretation(s) in one disciplinary knowledge domain appears directly (and perhaps coincidently?) similar to a symbol (or set of symbols) and its interpretation(s) within an entirely different disciplinary knowledge domain.  By similarity, I mean similar in both the visual morphology and the common meaningful interpretation of the symbols.

One example of archetypal semiotic transference is the case of strong association between the mathematical symbols h-bar (ħ) and psi (Ψ) with the astrological symbols for the planets Saturn (♄) and Neptune (♆).  This example is best illustrated by taking note of the famous Schrödinger equation of quantum mechanics (below).  In this case, h-bar traditionally represents Plank’s constant, which is essentially the “smallest” boundary limit of an energy quanta (such as a photon), and psi represents the wave function, which is essentially the diffuse probability amplitude, and behaves like a wave.  H-bar (Planks’s constant) represents the extreme concrete and particular aspect of the quantum event, and psi (the wave function) represents the extreme abstract and non-particular aspect of the quantum event.

Clearly, the mathematical symbols have nearly identical visual morphology with the astrological symbols.  And even more, the meaningful interpretations for the symbols are nearly identical, and at least very similar.  In archetypal astrology, Saturn essentially represents boundaries, limits, contraction, and restriction; Neptune essentially represents the formless, intangible, invisible, diffuse, undifferentiated, and rules all forms of water and waves.  The direct association is actually quite perfect: as the planetary archetypes of Saturn and Neptune represent the tangible/physical and intangible/non-physical aspects of reality–and the mathematical quantum equations which use h-bar and psi typically involve descriptions of material and energetic aspects of reality.

Thus both the visual morphology of the symbols and the interpretive meaning of the symbols are semiotically very similar.  The question is: how did this happen?  Was the transference consciously intentional, or non-intentional and thus a literal “meaningful coincidence” (synchronicity)?  Certainly, the planetary astrological symbols were around (thousands of years) before quantum mechanics, and also well before the invention of these modern mathematical symbols and the corresponding mathematical functions.  If we look to the broad trend of western cultural history, it’s clear that the alchemical tradition borrowed from the symbols of astrology.  The alchemical tradition then ultimately lead into more contemporary chemistry, mathematics, and physics.  So it is feasible that the symbols made a gradual transfer from the astrological tradition, thru alchemy, and then into more contemporary expressions in modern science.  If this is the case, in the gradual transference thru time, the application of the symbols and their assigned meaning are made applicable in entirely different domains of knowledge, yet they maintain (and even augment) generally the same archetypal significance.

Interestingly, psi is also used in psychology to refer to the paranormal, supernatural, and extrasensory perception.  Again, this psychological interpretation of psi is directly associated to the archetypal meaning of symbolic Neptune: as a planetary archetype (of all the planetary archetypes) it is most strongly representative of the spiritual and psychic (commonly associated to dreams, fantasy, delusion, mysticism, telepathy, etc).

I intend to research the specifics of these instances of archetypal semiotic transference more … and will post updates here (along with other examples of archetypal semiotic transference).

A final point in closing: by the term “archetypal semiotic transference”, I intend “transference” to signify both literal transfer thru time, across physical space, and across conceptual or knowledge space, as well as refer to the traditional meaning of “transference” in psychology: how original psychological complexes from deep within an individual person’s past  can tend to be transfered (even projected) toward another person. Tho in this sense, the psychological transference is of archetypal nature and is thru the collective psyche.


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