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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Cultural Correspondences in the 1960s

The 1960s was a truly archetypal time. Tarnas (2006) in speaking of this revolutionary time period notes:

By all accounts the Sixties were an extraordinary era.  Intense, problematic, and seminal, the entire decade seems to have been animated by a peculiarly vivid and compelling spirit—something “in the air”—an elemental force that was apparent to all at the time, that was not present in such a tangible manner during the immediately preceding or subsequent decades, and that in retrospect still sets the era apart as a phenomenon unique in recent memory. (p. 142)
The word “revolution” itself, so often heard in the 1960s and so emblematic of its spirit, first came into wide use in the 1790s in its present meaning of sudden radical change of an overwhelming nature, bringing into being a fundamentally new condition.  Innumerable allusions, explicit or otherwise, were made in the press and the popular culture of the Sixties that directly connected the spirit and violent revolutionary impulses of that era with the French Revolution. (pp. 144-145)

Tarnas is not the only one to describe the decade in this fashion. In reading about the 1960s, the archetypally appropriate language that is used by various commentators to describe the decade is striking. For example, Rielly (2003) in The 1960s writes:

The decade of the 1960s was a time of great change in American culture.  The winds of change, sometimes more like a tornado, swept across the cultural landscape, uprooting the old and depositing the new.  These changes were exciting, troubling, horrifying, energizing, depending on one’s individual attitudes toward past traditions and beliefs.  Every historical period brings some transformations, but the 1960s seemed to replace an old world with a new one.  Even those Americans who wanted to remain faithful to past practices could not totally resist what was happening around them.  [emphasis added] (p. ix)

Tornadic winds of change is an apt metaphor for this planetary archetypal complex. Later, while discussing fashion, Rielly (2003) refers to “the anti-establishment earthquake” when he talked about how fashions also reflected reactions against the establishment (p. 84), and Maltby (1989) calls the period of the 1960s the “Revolution of Youth.”  In This Fabulous Century 1960-1970, (Bowen, 1970b) we can see the Promethean awakening of the Dionysian in the chapter titles: “Cities and Spirits Inflamed and “Angry Voices Speak Out.”  Jennings and Brewster (1998), too, called the 1960s the “crisis years” and recount:

nothing can challenge the status of the Second World War as the century’s most dynamic event, but while it is harder to measure its impact, the Sixties were nearly as transforming, if only for the sheer quantity of conventions overturned, battles joined and ideas put forth . . . . Sixties contain both liberal apotheosis and conservative backlash (p. 368)
To be alive in the Sixties was to feel exhilarated, present not necessarily happy, but at least fiercely awake.  To be young in the sixties was to be all this and more.  Along with “consciousness raising” and pleasure (particularly sexual pleasure . . . ) the Sixties glorified youth and freedom; the years also maligned old age, tradition, discipline and the conformity that had been the hallmark of the most recent decade. (p. 370)

In describing the “challenges to America’s self-satisfaction” Jennings and Brewster (1998) cite the moral confrontation over civil rights and “the competitive life and death struggle symbolized by the space race” (p. 358).  Lastly, Jennings and Brewster in discussing the Apollo XI mission note the contrast betwween the chaotic, yet Promethean lived experience of the situation here on earth, and the view of Earth from space: 

Yet in an odd way Apollo XI belonged not only to America as it once was, but to America as it had become, to this era to and its abundant sense of free spirit . . . . Perhaps most importantly in the views of their lunar cameras captured when they were directed back to Earth.  At home, no matter where you stood, the Sixties looked messy and unreadable… yet from out there, in the dark eternity of the universe, the planet projected a picture of harmony, an essentially beautiful orb, ordered and still. (pp. 418-419)

Having seen how various commentators have discussed the decade, we will take a quick archetypal preview tour of the 1960s and see these archetypes at play in culture.  These two Uranus-Pluto vectors, awakening of the Dionysian energies (Uranus—> Pluto) and the radical empowerment of technology (Pluto—> Uranus) were clearly visible, with a little Saturn thrown in every once in while for good measure.

Beginning on the more playful side, the James Bond movies combined Plutonic sex and violence with the Uranian technology of Q’s beloved gadgets.  Disneyland was also “archetypally correct” during the 1960s, showcasing the empowerment of technology by unveiling a new and improved Tomorrowland, as well as the new technology of audioanimatronics.  Audioanimatronics made its debut in the more liminal (Plutonic) side of the park in Adventureland in 1963. Along the same liminal lines, New Orleans Square also opened in the mid-1960s. 

In typical Uranian fashion, the two liminal rides of New Orleans Square, “The Haunted Mansion” and “The Pirates of the Caribbean” [Explore liminality further in the "Antistructure Excursion" in Disneyland’s Extra Extra Chapter] breached the confines of the berm, and with true trickster subversion, went under the berm and a portion of each ride being located outside of the park’s formal boundary.  In 1964, Disney also unveiled four exhibits at the World’s Fair, which featured the archetypally appropriate “twin themes 'Man's Achievements in an Expanding Universe' and 'A Millennium of Progress' celebrated the boundless potential of science and technology for human betterment” (UCLA, 2005) (  One of Disneyland’s ancestors was the Great Exhibition or Crystal Palace of 1851, which occurred during another Uranus-Pluto conjunction from 1845-1856. Disney thus returned the World’s Fair favor and all of the exhibits that Disney provided also focused on archetypally correct themes: for General Electric—Progressland; for Ford—"Magic Skyway" showcasing the primeval power of dinosaurs; for Pepsi—“It’s a Small World”; and for the Illinois Pavillion—Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (the Great Emancipator).

Other expressions of the empowerment and intensification of technology and liberatory impulses [Pluto—>Uranus] were the titanic promethean power of the space program, advances in many different fields of science from the microcosm and DNA to the macrocosm and the Big Bang, and in-between with seafloor spreading and plate tectonics, along with the aforementioned birth of chaos theory.  Tarnas (2006) adds thatgf:

In the philosophy of science, the very concept of “scientific revolution” was given a radically new formulation and influential analysis during this period with Thomas Kuhn's 1962 masterwork The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which in itself commenced a paradigm-shifting revolution in Twentieth Century thought. (p. 164)

Speaking of revolutions, a revolutionary spirit swept across the country as revolutions occurred in women’s rights, civil rights, the sexual revolution, and gay liberation movement, many of which were turn of the Twentieth Century themes, too, along with the environmental movement, touched off by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962.

Laurence Hillman (1999) notes that the civil rights movement is an example of Uranian energy, because it is “colorblind and cares about the person inside the shell, indifferent to color, creed, origin, race, religion, or sexual orientation.”  Tarnas (2006) maintains that Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington was “perhaps the paradigmatic statement of this powerful collective impulse during the 1960s … where King gave prophetic voice to the long evolutionary struggle (Pluto) for liberation, awakening, and freedom (Uranus)" (p. 153) 

The arts and sciences also partook of this amazing Promethean-Dionysian (Uranus-Pluto) energy:

As with the spectacular burst of creativity and cultural influence sustained by the Beatles and Bob Dylan between 1962 and 1970, joined by scores of other suddenly creatively empowered musicians, it was as if all the arts and sciences during the 1960s seemed to have been given a kind of rocket boost of creative shakti, paralleling the titanic technological, social, and political explosion of the decade—a creative power capable, as it were, of hurtling human beings around the Earth and into space, within and without. (Tarnas, 2006, p. 197)

Lévi-Strauss’s championing of structuralism in 1962, with The Savage Mind, and his four volumes Mythologiques produced throughout the decade, is also an expression of the Saturn opposite Uranus-Pluto dynamic, as it played out.   Bricolage was born in 1962 with Structuralist (Saturn) Lévi-Strauss's The Savage Mind. Derrida used Lévi-Strauss's own bricoleur to explode the bricoleur/engineer binary in “Structure Sign and Play” in 1966, launching deconstruction (Uranus-Pluto). 

We see the Saturn opposite Uranus-Pluto dynamic in the dynamics between the counterculture and the establishment, with the counterculture’s embrace of a “new ‘consciousness,' open to mystery and mysticism, spontaneity and fun, sensuality . . . The Civil Rights mvoemnt had already established the power of cameraderie in the interest of change." (Jennings & Brewster, 1998, p. 392), reflecting the Uranus-Pluto planetary archetypal complex.  The counterculture was often at odds and battling the Establishment which had a more Saturnian, conservative focus, and embraced the status quo and tradition.  The establishment often reacted out of fear and repression, which only served to further inflame the Promethean-Dionysian youth.  All of this was heightened by the already tense Cold War climate. 

Tarnas (2006) in discussing the Saturnian interaction with the Uranus-Pluto planetary archetypal complex, explains:

The more revolutionary, rebellious, innovative impulse associated with Uranus in various compromise formations with the more limiting, contracting, and controlling impulse associated with Saturn, with both of these in turn empowered, often violently by the principle associated with Pluto, in mutual antagonism or synthesis . . . . alignments involving these three planets in hard aspect were consistently associated with periods of intensified  emancipatory and revolutionary activity as well as intensified  efforts at control, conservative reaction, and repression, all combining to produce a state of extreme tension and crisis. (p. 221)
The unmistakable cultural ambience which pervaded the decade of the Sixties, a Zeitgeist whose prevailing quality combined a mass awakening of emancipatory and creative impulses with a titanic eruption of elemental and libidinal forces, was talked about, celebrated, criticized, feared.  Attempts were made to suppress it, attempts were made to sustain it indefinitely.  It dominated people's experience at the time, just as it now dominates retrospective views of that era.  (pp. 167-168)

The 1960s was also a time of Dionysian awakening (Uranus—>Pluto) of most memorable the sexual revolution, with the erotically charged music of groups and artists like The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin filling the hearts and minds of the youth of the times.  Tarnas (2006) associates the Dionysus-Pluto archetype to “the great Indian mythic figures of Kali and Shakti, goddesses of erotic power and elemental transformation, death and rebirth, destruction and creation” (p. 167).  The 1960s was the decade of the “Summer of Love” in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969.  Eastern religions and fashions also made their way West.  Tarnas cites as examples of this awakening of sexuality: “the ‘free love’ of the hippies and flower children, the countless Dionysian festivals of music and dance, the mass 'happenings' and 'Acid Tests'” (p. 167).   He also notes that there was another darker side to the Dionysian energy:

For the same decade was characterized by an equally powerful eruption of the volcanic, violent, and destructive elemental energies associated with the Dionysian-Plutonic-Kali principle . . . . combination of the Promethean and Dionysian principles often seemed to express itself not only through the intensification, empowerment, and violent eruption of the Promethean, but also through the destruction of the Promethean, burning itself out as it were in the flames of its own intensity, in the exigencies of its own archetypal drama.  This potential outcome reflects the deep ambiguity of the Dionysian-Plutonic-Kali principle, at once empowering and intensifying, violent and destructive, transformative and regenerative. (Tarnas, 2006, p. 200)

The negative side of this Dionysian-Promethean dynamic can be seen in the tremendous violence of the period, from the assassinations of the Kennedys and Dr. King, to the massive escalation of the Vietnam war, to the often violent antiwar demonstrations, and widespread violence in major cities, along with the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and civil rights marches during which peaceful protesters were the objects of violence.  These archetypal activities were not limited to United States. There was also the Soviet intrusion on Prague Spring of 1968, and the massacre of demonstrators in Mexico the same year. 

The 1960s is still with us, Tarnas (2006) remarks continuing to “exert its titanic effects—emancipatory, revolutionary, violent, creative, erotic, disruptive, destabilizing, driving ineluctably towards the future, awakening to the new” (p. 199). And this not only true with respect to culture at large, but it is also true right here in the dissertation, Mary Poppins, as we will see is responsible for the form of this dissertation, and the movie deals with our same reiterating archetypal theme.  The twin creative geniuses of Doug Engelbart and Walt Disney have very much influenced, so let us see how the Uranian idea of genius figures into the equation before we discuss these archetypal principles at work in depth psychology.

The 1960s was a time of genius, too. Walt Disney introduced Mary Poppins audioanimatronics, “It’s a Small World,” and the beginnings of EPCOT center and DisneyWorld. Doug Engelbart and others gave us the beginning of the personal computer and the Internet.  Both of these men were geniuses, and both had the Uranus-Pluto archetypal complexes in their birthcharts.  Walt Disney was born in 1901 under the turn-of-the- century Uranus opposite Pluto-Neptune conjunction, and we see Disney's genius in the realm of the imagination; his masterpiece Mary Poppins shows his technoloical and imaginative (Uranus-Neptune) genius showcasing and illuminating the death-rebirth (Pluto) theme.  Doug Engelbart was born on January 30, 1925 and with a grand trine (120°): Saturn in Scorpio trine Uranus in Pisces trine Pluto in Cancer. Pluto is also opposite Jupiter in Capricorn.  Saturn, Pluto, and Uranus are in a harmonious aspect (trine) in Engelbart's chart, leading to his creating revolutionalry new technology in the service of existing structures.

Doug is an Aquarius, which is ruled by Uranus and Doug’s initial vision for a way to augment human intelligence through the use of electronic technology (Uranus) was spurred by a humanitarian impulse (Neptune).  These powerful energies of transformation (Pluto) have had the effect of leveling the informational playing field in ways that no one could have imagined, as Thomas Friedman (2005) has shown in The World is Flat. Lawrence Hillman (1999, online), in discussing Uranus notes:

numerous inventions that changed the world, often connected to electricity. The telegraph, electric lights, then the phonograph, the telephone, satellite communication, cell phones, and perhaps the greatest revolution since the steam engine: the advent of the Internet in the past few years. The Internet has changed just about every facet of our life as we know it. Uranus is a great equalizer, giving essentially everybody the same access to information.

Both of these men, who have so transformed our lives, were geniuses, which is a Uranian quality, and since both have Uranus and Pluto aspecting each other, we can see the tremendous empowerment on a massive scale [Pluto] of genius, and innovation [Uranus].  In Prometheus The Awakener, Tarnas (1995) in a footnote quotes a Newsweek article, “The Puzzle of Genius: New Insights into Great Minds” that listed several characteristic qualities of geniuses:

qualities that suggest why we find the planet Uranus and the archetype of Prometheus so regularly associated with the term “genius”: (1) Creative geniuses do not simply solve existing problems, they identify new ones. (2) They form more novel combinations of thought elements and are alert to chance permutations of ideas and images spontaneously combining in novel ways; they possess an ability to make juxtapositions that elude others, to connect the unconnected, to see relationships to which others are blind, to cross frames of reference—an ability linked to an imaginative faculty set in motion by the reconceptualizing power of metaphor, (3) They have an interest in multiple unrelated fields, making novel combinations more likely.  In addition, they have (4) a tolerance for ambiguity, a patience with unpredictable avenues of thought; (5) a tendency toward iconoclasm; (6) an impulse for taking risks; and (7) a childlike delight in what they do.  To these are added two qualities suggesting the importance of Saturn.  First creative geniuses work obsessively, producing much that is great as well as much that is not.  And second, they combine a certain balance of youth and maturity—an innovative impulse on the one hand and time and experience on the other.  Individuals in whom one or the other polarity is dominant tend not to produce significant revolutions (Sharon Begley, Newsweek 28 June 1993, 46-51).  (Tarnas, 1995, pp. 148-149)

The same kind of genius in another medium, during the 1960s is found in the music of Ray Charles. Charles combined previously unconnected genres to form his own new kind of music, which also profoundly influenced our culture. Mary Poppins and Bert exhibit many of these Uranian qualities of genius in the movie, and not surprisingly, these qualities also relate to play and bricolage! 

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