Stephanie Pope essay, Janus Series: Two Faces, One Coin Part 5: The Soul In The Coin, mythopoetry.com
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Two Faces, One Coin Part 5: The Soul In The Coin

The soul in the coin is the nature of the coin’s many faces and its reason d’etre.

                                                                                     -One Coin, Two Faces: Part 4

In so many words I have come to the world behind the word writing this essay. This essay, you see, is not about the war strategy in Iraq. It is also not a critique of the Bush administration’s “we can win/we must win” initiatives nor about Madonna’s plight nor about the hubris or hybris of the American culture in playing cowboy. To be sure these things are there in the essay and important. But, they are brought to bear and to be by another kind of correspondence –an unseemly odd correspondence as such between the surface skins of materialisms, maternalisms and cowboy resolve at work in dramatic ménage á tois.

Through an archetypal imagination, that of the coin, something of the magicoreligious imagination tries to and succeeds in expressing consciously something else that is precisely nothing but an image held more deeply contained within the cultural sphere of our cowboy nation. It is a case now of nothing but an image holding everything together and belonging in such a way –a way through the as such that operates in the not so very ‘together’ local, national and world sentiments of our human psyche. 

Through the image of twoness in the coin, & the coin a third, everything is brought to bear. As a Trinitarian drama we are by way of the image constantly broken through from behind or from underneath our self identities to new possibilities in expression in our cultural eidos as a people. It is an economy of exchange keeping to itself in ways that are precisely meant, and these, personae. Personae in coinage announce that something dramatic has come to bear.

David Miller argues convincingly in Three Faces of God about the play of threeness as the genre of drama in which two things behave one by way of a third that is dramatic movement no less.  It is as if the third is a menace and terrifying. He calls the very perspective of the third a Trinitarian one, a “lie of faith” that as such is a smoke going up in flames, the lie itself, consumed.

Or, he says, -----------------bibliography for David Miller

“the ‘lie of circle and triangle’, the one who is three and the three that is one, is the truth about God who is a rose!”

                      -The Rose of Edmond Jabés, Three Faces of God: Traces of a Trinity p113

Like the one who is three, the trinity, the coin with two faces is a Trinitarian metaphor. Where the certainty of meaning represented by the coin with two faces is broken by a third, something else, something dramatic is taking hold.

In the lie between circle and triangle, the coin itself is circular. It suggests a coin in circulation which also suggests a kind of moveable center throughout the expression. Outside this meaning is a world coming to bear down upon it in a way which threatens it and is frightening. Cowboy resolve therein has two sides. One side is an archetypal image in a conservative and comfortable principle of order that is a conventional and traditional morality. This resolve is broken by another archetypal image, something feminine and unpredictable in how it operates in shaping ‘male body’ (the cowboy image) inside and out.

Furthermore, the identity of this construct is no identity construct. Madonna, infamous for her ‘material girl’, ‘Fuck-doll’, and ‘like a virgin’ gender poses strikes a pose and be haves a third, a menace (in the matter-mater) which is even more imposing.  This side in what the archetypal image of cowboy resolve behaves expresses the aesthetic and artistic. It talks a language neither here nor there, one that neither represents her nor ‘here’. For all images at root, as many have come finally to understand, behave what images themselves are being.

The artistic voice in the feminine side of cowboy resolve reveals it has a thousand faces.  In each and every face the one symbol resurfaces what cowboy resolve is resolving. The face of cowboy resolve is an archetypal image and as such it points past itself toward that which reveals in active living dispositions what preforms and continually influences our collective felt sense, as Americans, for being what we are. Strike a pose!

Indeed, strike a pose. Compose. Such composures give rise to the shapes of things we are and do. This finally, is as close as I can say in saying what archetypes of the collective unconscious are and do. Two faces, brought to bear in a multiple of ways broken by a third, expressed through words begin again to tell the story of an archetypal image at work in our cowboy resolve. The story-making as it makes its way reanimates our collective, conscious cultural expression. The image of the one coin in two faces represents this making, it does not mean. For the image of the coin is a symbol. Symbols do not mean as much as symbols are subject to interpretations.

The Jungian analyst John Granrose provides the notion

The word "symbol" is based on the Greek symbolon, from sym, "together," and bolon or ballein, "to throw or fit." The Greek word refers to the practice of breaking a coin or other small object in half when friends parted. Each half of the object would serve as a reminder of the friend during his or her absence. Then when the friends were reunited the re-fitting together of the two halves would serve as a kind of proof of his or her identity. One friend could also entrust half of the object to a further friend or relative and thus show to the holder of the original half that this stranger was entitled to recognition or hospitality. Thus, as Verena Kast puts it, "... the symbol is a visible sign of an invisible reality. ... When we interpret, we seek the invisible reality behind the visible and the connections between the two….a symbol points to ‘... an intuitive idea that cannot yet be formulated in any other or better way.’

 
Granrose continues

Symbols are captivating pictorial statements .... They are indistinct, metaphoric and enigmatic portrayals of psychic reality. The content, i.e. the meaning of symbols, is far from obvious; instead, content is expressed in unique and individual terms while at the same time partaking of a universal imagery. Worked upon (that is, reflected upon and related to), they (content) can be recognized as aspects of those images that control, order and give meaning to our lives. Their source, therefore, can be traced to the archetypes themselves which by way of symbols find more full expression .... Symbols are thus one type of what Jung called "archetypal images," that is, the representation in consciousness of an underlying archetype.

early roman coin
Quite frankly, I do not claim to know what the coin with two faces symbolizes or tries to symbolize. I understand modern scholars may not really understand the cult of the ianuae, either. Still, I have tried to show different aspects of this archetypal coin. What else can be told regarding it is told through the poet, Virgil in the epic poem of Rome, The Aeneid. What deeper truth can there be about the god who lies between the coin and the two halves that proof it?
Republican coin, c.225-212
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien


herm JanusIn Rome the sacred gates of war, the lanus geminus stood open in the Forum in a time of war. But, before this and once upon a time the gate first stood in a temple of Janus within the city of Laurentum and the god was surnamed divom deus, a very ancient form of Latin meaning "the god's god". His portrait is always pictured on the oldest Roman coins. Furthermore, the oldest lists of roman gods begin with this name.  One characteristic of the god is in reference to this psycho-mythological trinitarian image ~ Herm of Janus, Villa Giulia, Roma

metaphoric of ‘in the beginning of the gods’ and also where something that is nothing in movement, an image, is changing the image of god as it moves the mind deep within the image forward and launches the soul-logical movement into the pathos of experiences lived.

Latinus, the early king of the Latins, refuses to open the ianua, the gate of war. His rule is keep to a time of peace and prosperity, a golden age.  Until, Virgil recounts most memorably in the Aeneid,  Latinus  in refusing to be dragged into a needless war against Aeneas and the Trojans, is trumped by Juno (in Greek, Hera) who throws open the ianua anyway. What is closed within the enclosure, the peace and prosperity of a people, is opened by the mater whose matter behaves in be-half, the son of culture, war.

During the reign of the emperor Augustus (27 BCE - 14 CE), folk started to connect things with the cult of Janus that originally had nothing to do with it but there are hardly any ancient texts that antedate this period. Pliny the Elder mentions another statue that stood between the two gates in the temple in Argiletum. (Natural History 36.58)                                                 
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This time the god is portrayed with two bearded heads. The fingers of the god are placed in strange positions Pliny thought represented numbers that stood for the number of days in the old Roman calendar. This is speculation on the part of Pliny.

There is also this Greek reference to Janus by Plutarch dating between 29-25BCE.  

Janus also has a temple at Rome with double doors, which they call the gates of war; the temple always stands open in time of war but is closed when peace has come. The latter was a difficult matter, and it rarely happened, since the realm was always engaged in some war, as its increasing size brought it into collision with the barbarous nations which encompassed it round about. But in the time of Augustus it was closed, after he had overthrown Marc Antony; and before that, when Marcus Atilius and Titus Manlius were consuls, it was closed a short time; then war broke out again at once, and it was opened.
                                                            
                                          -Plutarch, Life of king Numa 20.1-2 tr .Bernadotte Perrin


Augustus pulls the Janus legend from obscurity in his autobiography. The poet, Virgil helps this in inventing tradition around the one fact that every consul left the Roman Forum through Rome’s single important road, the Argiletum. And the story next takes on the ritual glaze of polished ancient sheen.


There was a sacred custom in Latium, Land of the West, which the Alban Cities continuously observed, and Rome, supreme in all the world, observes today when Romans first stir Mars to engage battle, alike if they prepare to launch war's miseries…There are twin Gates of War, for by that name men call them; and they are hallowed by men's awe and the dread presence of heartless Mars. A hundred bars of bronze, and iron's tough, everlasting strength, close them, and Janus, never moving from that threshold, is their guard. When the senators have irrevocably decided for battle, the consul himself…unbolts these gates, and their hinge-posts groan; it is he who calls the fighting forth, then the rest of their manhood follows, and the bronze horns, in hoarse assent, add their breath.
                                                  ------- -Virgil, Aeneid, 7.601-615 tr. W.F. Jackson Knight

Virgil ‘explains the meaning’ of this ritual closing of the gates:

The terrible iron-constricted Gates of War shall shut; and safe within them shall stay the godless and ghastly Lust of Blood, propped on his pitiless piled armory, and still roaring from gory mouth, but held fast by a hundred chains of bronze knotted behind his back.
---------Virgil, Aeneid, 1.293-296

closed gates of Janus                      
If for Virgil the gates of war are closed to keep war in, for Ovid and Horace the opposite is so. Peace is what is held within the keep in the temple of Janus. See Ovid, Fasti 1.281; Horace, Epist. 2.1.255

It is only now I am tempted to say of the deeper truth that may lie between the coin and any two halves that proof it, the power of its image lay in its ambiguity in sides. Not only in sides; insides.
the closed gates of Janus




Two Faces, One Coin Part 1
Two Faces, One Coin Part 2
Two Faces, One Coin Part 3
Two Faces, One Coin Part 4

Interlude: Part 6 Two Faces, One Coin
Two Faces, One Coin: Comments From Readers

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