Friday, March 26, 2010

Popegate 2010-2015

So the Pope is at last under direct pressure over his role in the long-running cover-up over paedophile priests, many of whom were quietly moved to other parishes, where they could, and did, carry on as before. It’s about time the Pope came under scrutiny, because he was in the thick of the cover-up for many years when he was the previous Pope’s Enforcer, or ‘Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’, formerly known as the Holy Office, the historical Inquisition.

As I wrote 2 years ago, “Ratzinger (as he then was) also had authority over other matters including clerical sexual misconduct. In 2001 he issued his notorious “Crimen Sollicitationis”, which affirmed and clarified the Church’s right to keep secret its own investigations into clerical sexual misconduct. In other words, he legitimised the cover-up that was going on. Under normal circumstances, he would have been prosecuted for inciting people to withhold from the police information pertaining to serious crimes.”

Look at the fancy Latin name they gave to it, Crimen Sollicitationis. You just know there’s a scam going on.

The current case involves a paedophile priest at a school for deaf boys in Wisconsin. Complaints were made to the Vatican office in 1996, and it seems there was no response.

There are no doubt dozens of other similar cases in which Ratzinger was involved, but the trouble is that he was at the very top, and people at the top rarely take the rap. You just have to look at the Iraq torture cases involving the US army. It was the lowly soldiers who were charged and convicted, not the senior officers who presided over the culture.

So I have no doubt that Ratzinger was involved in the paedophile cover-up in a big way for many years. But I doubt that he will take the rap for it, at least in the near future. Even if the secular authorities went for him – and the Church seems to remain above the law in many ways - I think it would be very hard to prove anything. The most we can hope for now is a damaged reputation.

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What we see in his current transits is the tail end of a Uranus square to his MC and Mars, and Saturn conjunct his Moon, which rules his 5th House of Children. So his position could be under a certain amount of pressure and destabilising influence and attack for the rest of the year, but that will probably be that. For now.

His natal Moon in Libra is also square to natal Pluto. So it could get very heavy indeed a few years down the line when Pluto and Uranus begin to hard-aspect his natal Pluto and Moon. Pluto will also be culminating his long passage through Ratzinger’s 10th House of career and reputation. (He became Pope just as Pluto was entering his 10th House.)

The paedophile issue will run and run, because there is too much pain involved for it not to. It has been going on for years now and only seems to get bigger. And it is only just starting in Europe.

So for now and for the next year or two the Pope is looking like he’ll remain untouched, albeit under a certain amount of pressure. But the nature of the issue put together with the astrology suggests to me that the noose will gradually be tightening.

It looks to me a bit like Watergate, but set over a longer time period. For the next couple of years, the Pope will be able to blame others. But in 3-5 years time, with Pluto and Uranus starting to make some serious aspects to his natal Moon-Pluto, we may see a process leading to the Pope's resignation, the first to do so since 1415.

I can back this up with another major transit, Neptune square natal Saturn. The Pope’s Saturn is in Sag in the 9th House, a classic position for religious authority (the Dalai Llama also has this placement; the previous Pope had Pluto in the 9th). This authority could begin to diminish in 2011 when Neptune enters the sign square to Sag, Pisces, a process that could deepen until the exact square of 2014. Saturn is also our physical structure, and being in his early 80s, this transit could reflect an increasing frailty over the next 4 years.

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The Pope’s Solar Return for 2014-15, relocated to Rome, has Pluto conjunct MC opposite Jupiter conjunct IC, forming a Grand Cross with Mars and Uranus. There is also an eclipse along the ASC-DESC axis. This will surely be the year when he ceases to be Pope, and Pluto’s involvement in both the Solar Return and by transit suggests to me it will not simply be the gentle passing away of a much-loved pontiff.

The issue of men in religious positions, like any position of power, getting up to sexual shenanigans is an old story. Normally it is adult female pupils that the male teachers are sleeping with, and different cultures have different attitudes to this. Amongst Native Americans, for example, it is assumed that the teacher will be sleeping with his female pupil. In our culture it has recently become an absolute no-no, which I think has a lot to do with the influence of puritanical feminism and its fear of male sexuality. Timothy Leary was once asked if he'd slept with any of his students, and after pausing for a moment, replied that he couldn't think of any he hadn't slept with. The French sculptor Rodin slept with most of his young female models, to the extent that he felt obliged to let them down gently if he didn't feel so inclined. In rural Ireland, the Catholic priest usually had a female housekeeper, and it was understood that she also shared his bed. My view tends to be that if 2 adults decide to sleep together, it's not really my business, and if one of them happens to be a teacher and the other a pupil, well it can be messy, but so are a lot of relationships, and people often learn from that.

The above, though, is a bit beside the point when considering the Catholic Church, which has managed to twist and pervert to an unprecedented degree the sexual desires not just of its priesthood but also its lay congregation. A lot of the trouble seems to lie in the training of the priests, who from a young age are hidden away in boys-only seminaries and taught that sex is dirty. Consequently they suffer from arrested development, and their repressed sexuality finds unhealthy outlets. I don't think celibacy (which was originally introduced for economic reasons) is so much the problem, because hypocrisy is always an honourable way out.

Personally, though, I think they should do away with priestly celibacy - they can leave that for the monks and nuns - and not let a priest near a congregation unless he is married. They also need to look at the training that causes the problem in the first place, but the trouble is that you are up against religion, which often has a doctrinal, rather than pragmatic attitude to its practices and trainings. So far, the Church has shown no sign of common sense on this one.

I wonder also if priestly paedophilia may be a power issue. These priests are bummed up as spiritual and superior, but in reality they have been neutered, they are men in skirts, they are disempowered. Apart from the odd cowering parishioner, perhaps the only time these ghosts of men feel they have any real power is when they force themselves on children.

I watched the film 'Doubt' recently. It is set in a Roman Catholic School in the US, and involves a tussle between a male priest who is a teacher, and a nun who suspects him of being a paedophile. You never quite find out if he is, but it is also clear that he has enormously helped the boy with whom he is also suspected of sexual activity. The film gives the issue the moral complexity that you find in real life, rather than the simplistic black-and-white demonisation that you find in the tabloids.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Part II of Number Symbolism

My last post covered numbers 1 to 6 of Liz Greene talking about number symbolism in the context of a Tarot Weekend. The whole seminar lasts about 9 hours, is well worth getting, and you can buy it here.

So here's part II. (Again, the pictures are my choosing!):

The 7 is again like the 5 not divisible by anything. They’re both rather odd numbers. The 7 is the Sephirah called Netzach, and it’s sometimes translated as victory and sometimes it’s called splendour. It’s on the feminine side of the tree of life. It’s almost like the rainbow or the peacock’s tail in alchemy. It’s this glorious expression of all possible manifestations, all forms of life. It’s as if Adam in the garden is suddenly presented with every possible variety and form of living being. He hasn’t yet named them. But the whole range of possible manifestations is revealed. 7 is a number which of course is also associated with the 7 planets. So it’s a number that seems to pertain to the variety of dynamics inherent in the cosmic system. It’s the complete cosmic system, it’s all the components. And you find it turning up a lot in many different symbolic systems. Because it’s a very specific representation of ‘Here’s the cosmos and it’s all one.’ But by the time you get to 7 it’s been broken down into 7 primary ingredients, which are the astrological symbols of the planets, all the possible choices.

It’s also associated with ceremonial magic. It seems to have that connotation. Ritual. Different from the 5 connected with the pentagram. 7 has to do with invocation. It’s the knowledge of correspondences, the understanding of all the links and connections. So the number in Cabbala, in Pythagorean thought, seems to have to do with the recognition of the diversity of manifestation and how to manipulate it, how to work with it. And also the beauty and glory of the range of things that are available in life.

So you can see how something that starts as a unity gradually enters further and further into the realm of manifestation, it gets more and more diverse as it goes. It appears to fragment, it has more and more colours, more and more shapes, more and more names. It’s still not complete because the numbers from that perspective are a process of emanation into reality. So the completion only comes at the last one.

So 7, you get a sense of the variety, and it does seem to connect with Psyche’s choices. She just has all these possibilities thrown at her.

8 is connected with worldly knowledge. And I think that the card reflects it very well because it’s about having to understand and name and learn about all these different facets of manifestation that are presented in the number 7. So like 4, 8 is connected with the earth plane. It’s the Sephirah of Hod. In some systems it’s associated with the planet Mercury because it has to do with industry and knowledge and understanding applied to reality. It’s Adam naming the animals, taking power over the material world. It’s the application of knowledge to the diversities of life which seems to link up very well with the 8 here in the suit of cups.

The 9, which is the last but one of the Sephirot, is called the foundation. It’s name is Yesod. And it’s an unashamedly phallic connection. It is literally the ejaculation of the divine energy into material reality. So if you take that quality of the number 9 and you put it together with the suit of cups, which has so much to do with the heart, then of course you’re going to get ecstasy. Which is precisely what it is.

10 is the completion of the system. It’s called Malchut, the kingdom, so manifestation is now complete. It’s the miracle of the completed universe into which all the prior 9 qualities have been embedded. This is the permanent relationship, it has a foundation as a kingdom, it’s anchored and earthed.

I know that it’s very abstract, trying to get a sense of the quality of a number. Although from the point of view of reading these cards as they turn up in a spread, simply working with the mythic image is immensely helpful. You can actually get a picture of Psyche going down into the underworld and that gives you something to hang on to in terms of interpreting a card. The numbers behind them really form the structure of the whole Minor Arcana. It is worth trying to get a sense of the quality and colour and flavour of the number.

Numbers in these kinds of systems are not just quantities. They are qualities and they are also entities. They are beings, they have life, they have sentience. Just like the planets in astrology do. The numbers in the Pythagorean and Cabbalistic systems which I think underlie the numerical symbolism of the Minor Arcana of the Tarot are not simply measuring something. They have a power of their own. So it’s not only the image on the card that is important to remember in giving you a key to the divinatory meaning. It’s what is this number about? Because as it comes through the 4 suits it’s almost as if the number is a deity or a living entity and it’s going to wear the clothing of the element that the suit belongs to. It’ll wear the clothing of water when a number represents one of the cards in the suit of cups.

To get a sense of the entity under the clothing you lock into the meaning of the card in a way which I think is impossible if you’re just trying to remember a divinatory meaning for it. So although it’s quite abstract, it’s worth trying to learn more about these numbers. There are variations as to what’s involved from one symbolic system to another.

If you read Plato’s description of the geometric forms, they don’t really sound a lot like trying to read a Cabbalistic text about the Sephirot. So they’re not going to squash together neatly as in A on top of B fits exactly. But the more you get a sense of how numbers are used in the various systems that have fed into the Tarot, I think the better your ability to read these Minor Arcana will be.

All the numbers come out of Oneness and Oneness is just a point. If you have ever done geometry or played around with it, a point doesn’t have any shape or form or can’t see anything, it’s just a point. You can’t see what its depth is, what its height is, it’s got nothing, no dimensions. And a point is visualised in number symbolism as the centre of a circle. This is the Godhead as a unity. The moment you draw a diameter across the circle you have 2. You’ve cut the circle in half. If you take the radius of a circle, which is from the point at the centre to the circumference and you line it up around the circumference you wind up with 2 triangles, or a hexagram.

So all the geometric shapes, what Plato called the plane figures, all come out of a circle, from a point. The whole of the structure of material reality, all the solids, the pyramid, the cube, the dodecahedron, all these amazing structures that form the imaginal basis of material reality, come out of a point. So when you’re thinking of numbers, they’re perceived as a metaphor for the creation of the universe out of a Oneness. It’s a very, very profound perception of numbers that they’re working with here. Not just 1,2,3 to count up how much sterling you’ve got in your pocket.

So if you can make the effort to do a bit of reading around this kind of symbolism, it really will help your understanding of the cards.

I think astrologers have an advantage because they know their aspects, so you can get a lot of insight from the nature of how aspects are interpreted, because they’re based on the same number symbolism: an opposition is a 2, a square is a 4, a trine is a 3, a sextile is a 6, a septile is a 7 and so on, a quintile is a 5. And there is such a thing as a decile which nobody ever uses, which is a 10. And then we also have the reptile! The puerile, the imbecile! Which are very, very esoteric aspects, not often used.

It’s remarkable how it gets you going. 3 is the 1st plane figure, but there’s no doubt it’s only 2 dimensional. The moment you’ve got 4, a square is a plane figure, but you can get a pyramid out of 4. It’s got 4 sides, it’s the first number that can actually create something solid. It’s wonderful stuff, but as far as what to read, there isn’t really a handbook, and most Tarot books don’t go into it. A good place might be Frances Yates’ books.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Liz Greene on Number Symbolism (Part 1)

While I was hobbling about recently after having some bone removed from my foot, I took the chance to transcribe a section from a Mythic Tarot Studyshop by Liz Greene and Juliet Sharman-Burke. It was the section in which Liz Greene talks about number symbolism in the Cabbala, and applies it to the Minor Arcana in the Tarot. The particular context is a discussion of the suit of cups, which in the Mythic Tarot uses the myth of Eros and Psyche. The whole studyshop is brilliant - I managed to separate the spoken part from the image part and put it on CD to play in my car - so below is a taster. Numbers 7 - 10 will be in my next post. The images are of my choosing.

The 4 suits do seem to correlate with the very ancient idea of the 4 elements, being the basic substances out of which everything is created. The stories that they tell therefore apply to one of 4 possible levels of life. That’s why we’ve tried to find myths that correlate with that element.

The suit of cups seems to relate to the element of water in terms of the traditional meanings associated with the numbered cards. We chose Eros and Psyche not just because it’s a myth about relationship, because in fact all myths are about relationship on one level or another. It’s because it’s a myth that involves the development of feeling values. That myth is unique because first of all the central character is female: rather than a hero we have a heroine. And her journey has very much to do with her establishing her values in the realm of the heart. So it seemed to be a particularly appropriate story for the element of water because the element of water is connected with feeling values.

It’s worth remembering that the very first record we have of the 4 elements is in Empedocles. And he calls them the 4 roots. And they are divinities, they’re not just stuff, they’re actually gods. And the element of water he associates with a goddess who he calls Nestis which is the Sicilian epithet for Persephone. And his version of Persephone is not the one we usually think of as being the young maiden who’s abducted by Hades and dragged into the Underworld. She is the mother of Dionysus and her background is in Orphic myth. And when Dionysus is dismembered and destroyed by the titans she weeps, and her tears in Empedocles’ cosmological model are the element of water. The element of water for him is a deity that represents grief and the pain of separation, the inevitability of separation that happens to all living beings.

(The divinatory meaning is jealousy as well as love).

These 10 numbered cards are full of number symbolism and it carries through in all the suits. The symbolism is linked with Pythagorean ideas about the cosmos being built on geometry and number and also with the cabbalistic idea of 10 Sephirah, each of which is an emanation of increasing complexity and further distance from the original source. So the more you understand about the numbers, the more you’ll get the feeling of the card. And 1 of course is unity, 1 has always meant unity, 1 is the One, everything is part of the One, everything emerges out of the One.

In the Cabbala, one is the 1st Sephirah called Keter which is the crown. Everything is contained within it, all the other Sephirah are contained within it, before they begin to emerge and differentiate. So that primal 1, the Ace, always carries the meaning of a raw primal unity which contains the whole story. And that’s why we put the deity on the Aces, the deity that presides over the myth, because that deity encapsulates the entire story, inside her she’s got all the characters. That goddess, in a sense aspects of her, are represented by Eros, by Psyche, by Psyche’s sisters and by all the other characters that we meet in the story.

2 It should be obvious, it’s one becomes 2, it’s male and female. So immediately you have the connotation of relationship, of conflict, equilibrium, mortal enemies, passionate lovers, everything that has to do with opposites, both in the dark and the light sense. The 2nd Sephirah in the cabbalistic tree is Chochmah. That Sephirah is the beginning of manifestation, you have the beginning of the pronouncement of the word that’s going to generate the cosmos. So already there is the deity and an Other, there is already the beginning of a separation of the deity into two.

The 3 is a very powerful number in many different religious systems. The Trinity in Christianity is a form of completion. It could be argued that it’s a very early form of completion because it’s an entirely male trinity and missing the 4th leg. Tables tend to be very unstable with 3 legs.

But the triangle in Pythagorean thought is a conflict which is tentatively not resolved but kept in equilibrium by a 3rd point which has emerged out of the conflict or its opposition.

So we have the equilateral triangle. It’s a very tenuous kind of balance, it’s not going to last because it’s static, there’s no movement in it, and the tension that’s still there between the opposites is going to erupt again because there’s something not complete about it. So the Sephirah which goes with it in the Cabbala is Binah. This is known as the Sepurnal triad of Sephirot. Binah is usually understood to be female. And the initial movement towards manifestation that happens in the 2nd Sephirah now is ready to be actually given birth to in form, in Binah, but it’s still not out yet. So you get this gradual movement toward manifestation, toward the animation of the cosmos. And in Binah the foetus starts to become recognisable as the universe, but it’s still not born yet, so there’s a deceptive harmony about it.

The 4. In Pythagorean thought, 4 is the number of manifestation. It represents the earth. So it’s a very stable structure and at the same time there’s something dense about it because it has to do with something concretising. And where the triangle is often associated with spirit, the square is associated with matter.

Also in astrology, which took up this Pythagorean idea of number symbolism, the trine is seen to be a beneficent aspect, the square is seen to be an aspect of friction, and I think largely because of forces linked in to manifestation. So possibly one of the reasons why the 4 in the suits of cups and pentacles is uncomfortable is that these elements are already very much embedded in life, and so if you then take the qualities of the feeling realm and sensory realm and you push them even further into incarnation, there’s a sense of entombment, it’s a sense of being trapped, because there’s already enough substance in those elements. So you put the element together with the form, it’s too much. Whereas if you put the form together with air, which is the realm of the mind, or fire, which is the realm of the intuition, the imagination, they can manifest and there’s not so much of a sense of being trapped.

The Cabbalistic 4 is very different, and this seems to be a place where it’s hard to apply the number symbolism because the 4th Sephirah in the Cabbalistic system is Chesed, which is Mercy, and this is very benign and generous, it’s the flow of energy in the deity down into manifestation with generosity and with compassion and with mercy. Too much of it, if it’s not in balance, is perceived as allowing evil to happen because there isn’t enough of a sense of justice. So the negative component of 4 in the Cabbalistic system is that it’s too soft and the dark can raise itself and begin to destroy if there is not sufficient structure to stop it. So the 4 in the Cabbala is quite different.

Psyche is too generous. I think in her relationship with these sisters she’s quite blind, she’s mercy without justice. They’re her sisters so she wants to make them welcome, she’s going to give them all some jewellery, and it wouldn’t take rocket science to work out that these sisters don’t wish her well, they’re green with envy. Anyone with any sensitivity would pick that up, but she doesn’t. So she herself is very much the Cabbalistic 4, she’s full of generosity and kindness, she’s discontented, but nevertheless she can’t draw the line and say I’ve got to protect myself or it’s wrong for them to say insulting things about my husband. So it does fit in that context. Part of what goes wrong with the 4 is that there isn’t enough strength to prevent evil and so the problems that arise out of it later have a lot to do with that lack of boundaries.

5 in the Cabbala is the Sephirah of strict justice, of severity, which is called Gevurah. In Cabbalistic philosophy Gevurah is the root of evil in the world or in the cosmos, because evil is understood to be severity unchecked by mercy or anger, unchecked by compassion, bitterness unchecked by forgiveness. So it’s a very peculiar, necessary but rather dark aspect of deity. And it’s interesting the way it comes through in medieval magic, because the pentagram has become the common symbol of magical working and whether its horns are pointing up or down is supposed to distinguish whether it represents white magic or black magic. But in the medieval popular mind the pentagram is associated with the conjuring of demons, with the darkness. When it’s pointing with its horns up it’s the head of the goat, when it’s this way it’s supposed to be positive, when it’s the other way it’s supposed to be negative.

The very fact that the number is associated with the dark side seems to be connected with the Cabbalistic idea that the dark side comes from this Sephirah. How it relates here, I think it does have to do with the appearance of something very destructive that is injuring or contaminating or spoiling. It’s very much about spoiling. In the Eros and Psyche myth, the love has been spoiled, at least apparently so, although not irrevocably, any more than it is irrevocable in the Cabbala, it isn’t, but something has contaminated the cosmos with that number 5.

The 6 is two 3s which suggests there is some component in the 6 which involves equilibrium and harmony. 6 is also the Sephirah at the centre of the 2nd triangle of Sephirot. It’s called Tiferet and it has to do with equilibrium. The extremes that precede it from mercy to severity are joined together in Tifiret which is still not yet complete, it’s not yet finished, but it’s a point where there’s this very tenuous equilibrium and balance between forces, and I think the 6 of cups has that quality. It’s a place of stillness which is not entirely comfortable, because you’re having to reconcile past and present and future fears, future hopes, anger and blame, compassion, forgiveness, and somehow hold all of them in a place of rather uncomfortable balance which is that central point in the tree of life.

Tifiret is a very interesting complex of ideas. Another word for it is beauty. It’s perceived as the bridegroom in Cabbalistic iconography. It’s the male quality of the godhead which is now ready to mate with the feminine in order to generate the world. But it’s the bridegroom that’s not yet done it. It got picked up in the Christian Cabbala as an image of Christ because it’s holding this extremely tense point between divinity and humanity, between what is above and what is below. It hasn’t quite become embodied, or not entirely, but it is not entirely in the spirit. It’s neither entirely male nor entirely female. So it’s having to hold everything together right at the centre of the tree. 6 is a terribly important card in the sequence of numbers because it’s having to pull together all the 5 cards before it, which involves something extremely beautiful, full of godhead, full of divinity. And yet there’s this tension and difficulty and the emergence of evil and things that have been spoiled, and finally there’s a temporary place of rest which involves a certain degree of sacrifice, which I think is why the Christian Cabbalists connected it with the figure of Christ. Sacrifices have to be made around that figure 6 in order to maintain the equilibrium. (to be continued)

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