The Drama of America and Russia: An Archetypal Perspective


When we look at the volatile relationship between the United States and Russia, it’s hard not to wonder whether there isn’t something deeper at work in this geopolitical dynamic. Is it possible that an archetypal drama is being played out in the historic dance between these two superpowers?

With this in mind, I’d like to suggest that in the relationship of the US and Russia we’re witnessing the two key descendants of the ancient Roman Empire that have survived into modern times. For while the institutions of the Empire have long since disappeared, the spirit of Rome lives on in these two superpowers, each with its own imperialistic ambitions and cultural forms.

Consider the fact that in the year 293 CE, the Roman Empire began dividing into two parts: one centered in the east, Byzantium, the other centered in the west, Rome. In its architecture (e.g., the Kremlin) and alphabet (Cyrillic), the modern Russian nation is the chief inheritor of the Eastern Roman Empire. (Remember the word “Czar” stems from the word “Caesar.”) On the other hand, the US, via England, has its roots in the Western Roman Empire, something visible not just in its architecture (e.g., the Capitol building in DC, inspired by the Roman Pantheon), or its alphabet (Roman/Latin), but in its political vocabulary (“Senate,” “Republican,” and so on).

Seen this way, the tensions between these two superpowers reflect the working out of a schism that actually extends back two millennia.

But what, really, is “Rome”?

If we take a hint from depth psychologists like James Hillman, Carl Jung, and Sigmund Freud, the Roman Empire wasn’t simply a political entity but also a particular state of consciousness. In the symbolism of its monumental architecture and imperial policies, Rome reflected a new sense of identity and ego-awareness taking shape in the world. Just as any empire strives to dominate and assimilate the regions in its environment, so the ego strives to assimilate and dominate the outlying regions of the psyche itself. This rudimentary sense of self-awareness represents an important stage in the evolution of consciousness, and with it comes an extraordinary range of new possibilities — but also a new range of problems. That’s because inherent in this ego-awakening is a profound sense of duality, a heightened sense of the self/other dynamic that naturally inclines toward “war,” toward defensiveness and expansionism. In other words, there is a battle inherent within the dynamics of the ego which compels it to defend its own boundaries while broaching those of others. The rise of empires around the world, i.e., Rome, China, and Egypt, were but the tangible expression of that primal ego-awakening, writ large.

Not surprisingly, this reached its climax during the Age of Aries, which lasted roughly from 2100 BCE to 1 CE — the zodiacal era associated with humanity’s ego-awakening. While the Arian Age may be long gone, we’re still contending with its mixed legacy, and an internal self/other conflict.

In a sense, you could say that in the nuclear dance between the US and Russia, we’re witnessing the myth of the “warring brothers” who originally seeded the Roman Empire — Romulus and Remus — now being played out on the global stage. Our relationship as rival nations is thus a deeper and more fraternal one than we’ve suspected. Sharing in the psychic bloodlines from both parents, we’re like split-off portions of an original whole who faintly sense in each other the missing half of our own nature.

The current stage in this ongoing drama of the ego’s evolution is transposed onto the Great Age mutation taking place now as we grapple with the seismic shift from Pisces to Aquarius. As a result, one of these two superpowers (Russia) is noticeably more attuned to the mythos of the fading Piscean Age, not only with its collectivist sensibility and identification with suffering but its deeply religious roots; whereas the other superpower (US) is more attuned to the Aquarian mythos and its more individualistic, capitalistic, and secular values. The resistance of Russia to the US is more broadly a resistance to the modernized West and all it represents, while the antipathy of the US to Russia issues out of a resistance to the archetypal values of the fading Piscean Age.

Seen from this perspective, the tension between these two powers may represent the birth pangs of a new ego-identity struggling to be born — one that’s poised between the extremes of the collective and the individual, between belief and empirical rationality, between religion and science. What form this new mode of being will take, and whether it will ultimately prove a more constructive or destructive force in the world, remains to be seen.

Illustration: Romulus and Remus suckling a she-wolf on the bank of the Tiber River (detail of an illuminated manuscript page from the Romuléon by Benvenuto da Imola, 1480. British Library, London.

© 1987, 2022 Ray Grasse

Ray Grasse is associate editor of The Mountain Astrologer magazine. This article is excerpted from his most recent book When the Stars Align: Reflection on Astrology, Life, Death, and Other Mysteries (April, 2022). His website is RayGrasse.com.

 

 

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11 Comments

  1. An interesting article, and I like the idea of the split in the Roman Empire… although I wonder how you so easily allocate the US to Aquarius and Russia to Pisces…I could see an argument for a different allocation… definitely food for thought here. Thank you!

    • Thanks, Joanna. Personally, I see Russia and the U.S. *both* as expressions of the outgoing Piscean mythos and the incoming Aquarian one, but to different degrees – in both cases, you see it in the contrast between their fundamentalist religious and hyper-scientific sides. (After all, Russia was the first country to put both a satellite and a man into space.) They’re both what could be called transitional cultures, bridging that divide between the old and new; but all things considered, I do see the U.S. as embodying the Aquarian mythos to an even greater degree than does Russia – especially in light of the former’s emphasis on democracy and the latter’s more collectivist streak. But yes – I can see how one could make a different case, in light of those ambiguities.

  2. Provocative insight, Ray. Thank you! Your archetypal perspective deepens the ego-shadow tension. If we then think archetypally about China and the U.S., do we find the rigorously secular and materialistic (China) vs. the secular/religious (the U.S., where secular and spiritual/religious are struggling to work out a “third way”)?

    • Hi, Boris – I’ve thought long and hard about how China might fit into this emerging picture – and I’m still unclear about it. (When I originally wrote this piece back in the late 80s, China really didn’t seem to be a factor – but I clearly missed the boat on that.) But to expand on what I said to Joanna above: I personally see all three countries – Russia, the U.S., and China – as “transitional cultures,” in the sense that each embodies qualities of both the passing and incoming Ages, but to different degrees. Here’s an analogy: what culture best embodied the Piscean Age? The Tang Dynasty? The Incan Empire? Medieval Christian Europe? The Islamic Golden Age? The Roman Empire? In fact, they probably *all* did, but in different ways and to different degrees. Likewise, while I feel the U.S. probably embodies the incoming Aquarian mythos more than any other right now, it’s by no means the only one. To one extent or another, all the world’s cultures now are struggling to come to find that balance between secular and religious/spiritual, rational and emotional, collectivist and individualistic – and just as happened during the Piscean Age, it may well be that we wind up seeing many different formulations arising out of that archetypal stew, rather than just any one way or form. Interesting to ponder.

  3. Thanks for a fabulous article, Ray .. a real ‘aha’ of a read. Felt that thrill one feels when astrology shines it light on something and clarity is revealed. Loved it! (I’d seen your name mentioned in the ‘Acknowledgments’ section of Gary Lachman’s book “The Return of Holy Russia” and wondered if you’d had (unstated!) astrological input to this marvellous book.) Thanks again!

    • Thanks much, Melanie. As for Gary – we talked quite a bit while he was writing his book, but not really about the astrological side of Russia. surprisingly. The above article was actually something I wrote for Whole Earth Review back in 1987, and pulled out of mothballs when things started heating up between our two countries in February (I re-tooled it slightly for the present, and then shoehorned it into my latest book as an appendix.) At any rate, I appreciate your feedback.

  4. I wish more of a distinction were made between the historical use of the word Ego, aka the great I AM, and the watered down use of ego. Some consider Ego references so corrupted they clarify same as the “true self”.

    In any case, healthy Ego development and individuation continue, but often seem muddled by use of “ego”.

    Great read, btw, completely understand your historical points…I’ve come across similar presentations recently.

  5. I am not sure I agree with this view which indicates the US is the more advanced —— The war inside of US which between religion and science is still going on. Casting the shadow of the US ( which is represented by Trump) on Russia is so obvious in this article.

    • I largely agree with you, Lucia. As I tried to convey in my responses above (but didn’t clarify so well in my essay), I feel both the U.S. and Russia are struggling with those dueling impulses of Piscean religious fundamentalism and Aquarian scientific rationality. While I personally believe the U.S. leans more heavily in the scientific and technological direction than does Russia, I can see why someone might think otherwise. (In a sense, I think you could even say that both nations embody the “shadow” of the other – which ties back to my point about them being warring siblings.)

      • I appriciate your deep thoughts and open attitude but I am still confused that you seem to be on the side of science as an astrologer in this article. From what I can see people have different stories based on different facts and so they all believe their stories are very true and so a lot of educated people live in different “facts bubbles” now. To understand there is no single truth(scientific view) is the key to peace and we should all try to understand each other’s stories. I see a lot of “scientific and rational” people in the western media are so proud with their “facts” and always ridicule their political enemies and that concerns me and it shows how limited scientific minds are.

        • I’m not 100% sure I understand what you’re suggesting, but let me come at it this way – hopefully this will explain my view a little better.

          While I feel the Aquarian perspective tends to be more scientific and rational in nature, that isn’t to say I believe it’s “better” or more valid than the Piscean one – each has it’s own relative virtues and vices, and I think we always need to keep those ambiguities in mind. For example, the Piscean Age gave us great mystics and artists like Dogen, Meister Eckhardt, Bach, Michelangelo, Hildegard, etc. – but also the burning of witches, the Crusades, and Torquemada the inquisitor. The Aquarian Age is already giving us extraordinary technological and social achievements like the Hubble Telescope, modern democracy, and the Internet – but also a society addicted to smart phones, media manipulation of the masses, and a more mechanistic and materialistic approach to the world.

          So is the onset of an Aquarian scientific world a good or a bad thing? Both. To the degree it opens us to the wonders of the universe, the values of critical thinking, and non-dogmatic truths, it’s great. To the degree it becomes a soul-less fundamentalism all its own, it’s a destructive force. I personally believe science must draw from the positive legacy of the Piscean Age to be truly “whole,” to have soul. (As one example of what I mean, the study of the stars in a purely materialistic vein gives us astronomy. Add the dimension of soul to that study and we get astrology = i.e., astronomy infused with meaning.)

          So yes, I do believe the world is leaning progressively in a more Aquarian and techno-scientific direction – and that the U.S. embodies that a bit more than Russia (though they’re both clearly involved in that shift) – but that doesn’t mean I believe it’s an entirely positive movement, nor entirely negative. It’s complex, and multi-faceted. Likewise, the legacies of the passing Piscean Age will never completely disappear – and those are also neither entirely positive or negative.

          Not sure I’m really addressing your points, but those are the thoughts which come to mind.


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