Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Illness and Vocation; Sun and North Node

I often encounter people with long-term illnesses that are hard to diagnose. And it seems to me that the illness is often ‘spiritual’ (for want of a better word) in origin. There is something within that needs to be a found - a talent, a gift that is uniquely theirs. It is one of the hardest things to do, there are often fires of self-doubt to be gone through. But it is only when you start to acknowledge what you have within, stop being afraid of your own light, that you start to get better.

You see people circling their gift, sometimes for decades, going to see any number of healers and conventional doctors, looking for a diagnosis on the physical level. Sometimes they get a diagnosis: it’s ME, or its post-viral something, or they’re allergic to all sorts of things and end up on elaborate diets. They can even end up identified with being ill, it becomes who they are. They may get worse, the life-force may gradually recede. And don’t get me wrong, these symptoms are real, they are not psychosomatic.

Astrologically, these are Sun illnesses. The Sun is the life force, the life-principle, as well as our inner goals, who it is we need to become. The 6th House is usually health, but this is not a 6th House issue. Sometimes a cold is just a cold, sometimes cancer is just cancer (the ‘c’ word that we all shudder at, I felt rather uncomfortable putting it in.) That is the 6th House. But sometimes it is the Sun, sometimes it is the life-principle being denied.

And nor is it just a matter of psychotherapy in the sense of sorting out old wounds. That may be part of the process. But at the end of the day, there is still something that needs to be grasped, gold to be found in the Otherworld and brought back. And you have to find it on your own. You can only get so far analysing old wounds. It is important to understand them and see how they have made you what you are. They give you wisdom and empathy. They ground you. And they often provide the gateway out of conventional reality and conventional values into the Unconscious, the Underworld, the Otherworld. But then in that other place there is something to be found, that only you can find. An astrologer cannot tell you what it is (fortunately!), only that it is there. Once found, it needs to be developed over many years.
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It is the archetype of the shaman’s illness. The illness will eventually kill him unless he acknowledges the spirits who want to work with him. Astrologically, the Sun will be extinguished unless the outer planets are honoured, unless they are allowed to replace the ego as the guides to your life. Of course, not everyone is so fortunate as to be torn apart until they form a relationship with the spirits, and even then they may end up living hand to mouth, not quite sure where they fit in in this modern society. It can be very tough, but there is a fulfilment to be found that no amount of conventional success and happiness can equal.

Pluto and Neptune transits inevitably have a part to play in this process. They can tear us apart, in the interest of claiming something new within ourselves that changes everything. Paradoxically, that which is most deeply you is not yours, which is why the ego has to be dissolved first. (That doesn’t stop the ego trying, which is why you get teachers and healers who are both gifted and a bit dodgy at the same time.)

Particularly in the case of Pluto, it can be like an abduction has occurred. Pluto is well-known for having abducted a young girl, Persephone, and taken her to his lair. Eventually she returned to this world, but as a woman.
So these prolonged illnesses can be as if Pluto has abducted your soul and you will not get it back until you have followed it to the Underworld and taken Pluto as your guide in life. Pluto marries Persephone, providing the basis for her seasonal return to this world. It is only seasonal because once you have met Pluto, once you have looked him in the eye, you can never be the same again. You will always have one eye looking back, looking inward, to the source of life, which is Pluto, which is something within you which you know to be true. And then you will get well. Gradually.

I think the North Node is also involved. The North Node is generated by looking at the intersecting paths of the Sun and the Moon. In a way, we ARE the Sun and the Moon, this combination of inner goals with instinct and embodiment, the future and the past, the sky and the earth. So the North Node points to a complete fulfilment of our nature. The Sun shows us our goals, but the North Node shows us where to go to complete them.

The Dalai Lama is a Cancerian. He wants to look after his people. With his North Node in Capricorn, he needs to do this through occupying a high institutional position. If he had renounced his Dalai-ness, he wouldn’t have been able to do nearly so much for his people, and his Cancer Sun would not have been able to function in the way it wanted to. Along the way, he had everything torn from him as a young man, and has faced the relentless pressures of the Chinese and the modern world. The initiatory fires have been strong and continuous, purging him even of his attachment to Buddhism.

Princess Diana was also a Cancerian, and she quickly became a mother after she got married. But she also had North Node in Leo, the sign of individuality and uniqueness, and as this kicked in so did she become troublesome for the Royal Family. But it meant she was able to express her Cancerian nature more fully through her charity work. As well as modernising the Royal Family, dragging it forward into the 19th century.

I’ve got Sun in Aquarius and North Node in Scorpio. When I was younger, it was natural for me to be on the outside of society, looking in with an angle on it. That is Sun in Aquarius. But I ended up feeling deeply out of sorts and like I didn’t have a life. It was only as I acknowledged the power of my more ordinary, earthly nature (Scorpio) that I started to come right, and the potential insight within a collective of the Aquarian could become real through being lived. For Scorpio, everything is sacred, there is no higher and lower, spiritual and worldly.

Bill Gates has Sun in Scorpio. Under his leadership, Microsoft became the most powerful computer company in the world, and notorious for the ruthlessness with which it squeezed out the opposition. This is Scorpio power, but at its most primitive. Bill Gates also has North Node in Sagittarius, and as he has got older, so he has decided to try and do something meaningful with his money. He is using his Scorpio power for the benefit of the collective. This transition occurred in 2000, when his philanthropic foundation was inaugurated. At that point Neptune was squaring his Sun, while Pluto was to conjoin his North Node 2 years later.


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Sunday, June 12, 2011

What is Uranus?

A couple of years ago I got myself a projector and screen. After years of not watching films, since then I've hardly stopped. So I thought I'd begin with my recommended list from the last few weeks: The Wave; Tetro; A Single Man; Broken Embraces; The White Ribbon; Little Miss Sunshine; Lars and the Real Girl; Pierrepoint; An Education.
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Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are well known to astrologers as Greek/Roman gods. Uranus is the Greek name for the Roman Caelus, while Neptune and Pluto are the Roman names for the Greek gods Poseidon and Hades respectively.

As gods, we can feel their influence. But being modern, we tend to locate the psyche within. And I have been wondering recently what ‘bits’ of the psyche these gods correspond to?

I landed Neptune and Pluto quite quickly, and wrote about them. But Uranus has taken longer, and even then was someone else’s idea around the dinner table!

These planets are not aspects of our personality like the inner planets are. We may sometimes be aware of them, but they are not a part of us – if anything, it is the other way round. Individualised consciousness is a temporary bubble carried along by the more fundamental, primordial forces that the outer planets represent.

Pluto is the life-force itself. Pluto gives the energy, that we usually take for granted, to go on living and to want to go on living. He gives us the ability to survive. He is also evolutionary: the nature of life is to continually unfold, to keep moving on to the next stage. We don’t know what that stage is – or we would be in it – but we feel the imperative to go there. So Pluto is both the life force and the mysterious pattern of unfoldment that is integral to life.

Neptune is the Imagination, which at its deepest level is the picture, the story that consciousness presents to itself about life. Beginning with subject and object, me in here and everything else out there. That itself is just a story we tell ourselves, which any mystic worth their salt will tell you is an illusion. But our brains are hard-wired that way, so it’s hard to jump out of. Then there are all the other stories like time and 3-D space and left and right. After that come the Creation Myths that tell us how we came about. And then the myths that tell us how to live. It’s Jupiter who tells these stories. But it is Neptune that is the mythopoeic imagination.

That leaves Uranus. He is the vital spark that got life and the universe going in the first place and keeps it moving from level to level. Mythologically, Neptune and Pluto have parents, while Uranus does not; he emerged from the primordial Chaos. So Uranus comes first. Uranus then Pluto then Neptune.

In the beginning was the Big Bang, but it was Uranus who sparked it off. In the beginning was the primordial soup of chemicals and oceans on earth. But it was a lightning bolt from Uranus that turned it into life - on the material level, anyway. Life, when it began, did so on many levels, each presided over by Uranus.

Imagine a firework. Uranus is the match on the touchpaper, Pluto is the gunpowder that takes it into the sky, and Neptune is the display it creates. Saturn is the ability to give material form to these principles, the bridge between human consciousness and the wider powers it is working with.

Uranus is integral to creativity. Creativity occurs when you come up with something that is not just an extension of something that has come before, but that contains a new element. For that you need the vital spark, the divine spark of Uranus.

Uranus is also integral to moving on from one stage of life to the next. For the individual, it is new; it may have been observed in others, but it has not been lived before by you. So it happens to you; you suddenly find yourself wanting to live, or having to live in a new way. You’ve been sparked!

You can’t will this to happen, any more than you can will yourself to want to be alive. It has to come from somewhere else, like all outer planet energies. But we have a big part to play in being open to these energies; in recognising that life is always moving on and looking in that direction.
We do also have the choice to shut down and keep repeating the same mistakes. Some people sort of seem to get away with that; with other people, it’s like the outer planets keep hammering them, they make life so painful that eventually you give in and say no more! I can’t carry on living like this!

At present, Uranus and Pluto are in square, with Uranus lagging just a bit behind. So there has been a particular process of transformation for people in recent years, where first of all you have Pluto and then you have Uranus. Pluto pulls you apart, gets you to confront your weaknesses and acknowledge your powers and real interests. Through Pluto we establish a new and more solid foundation. On that basis all sorts of new possibilities are there, and Uranus comes along and awakens them in the succeeding years.

We are now entering a period where Uranus and Pluto are almost exactly square, and this will make transformation almost unbearably intense. It will be like being in a barrel that someone is shaking vigorously in all directions (Uranus); meanwhile inside the barrel with us is a vampire chimpanzee intent on tearing us apart (Pluto). Actually, it’s easy to channel a hell-fire preacher when it comes to transits. So I take it back! But it will be/is intense.

In a few years’ time, Pluto will be lagging behind Uranus, and the dynamic will change again. Uranus will be preparing people for the Pluto transit, softening them up, if you like, opening them up to new possibilities so that the Pluto transit won’t be as disorienting when you find you can’t carry on in the same old ‘normal’ way.

I thought it might be worth a quick look at the Discovery Chart for Uranus, much as I have already done for Neptune, Pluto and Chiron in previous blogs. Uranus was discovered at a particular moment in time, and as an astrologer, that is significant; it tells us something about the particular meaning of Uranus for modern people.

Click to Enlarge

The time is accurate to within half an hour, so I won't make too much of the Angles. What I think is most notable is Uranus in Gemini in a t-square with Saturn in Sagittarius and the Sun in Pisces. As the divine spark, Uranus is associated with brilliance, and in Gemini, it is the brilliant intellect, the brilliant scientific mind: this was a time when the modern technological revolution was just beginning. But it is in opposition to Saturn in Sagittarius. Sagittarius gives a context of meaning, of philosophy, of religion to the intellectual curiosity of Gemini. All this in a traditional sense, as we are dealing with Saturn. So the lasting aspect in this chart shows a tension between traditional wisdom and scientific brilliance. Because Uranus was discovered under this aspect, it is like the gods telling us to pay attention to this theme, that it is an important one for the collective in relation to Uranus.

As it is an opposition, these 2 poles of the past (Saturn) and the future (Uranus) need to be brought together; their natural tendency is to polarise. So we see people who think Science is all bad; and more commonly, we see people who think religion and traditional wisdom has had its day and scientific understanding is the understanding to which all others must be reduced.

So there is a great lesson here, because I think people do tend to polarise in one direction or the other. This chart is saying we need both. We need our brilliant scientific/technological future - and at this stage, it may be only that that can save us! - but we need our roots, we need the wisdom of previous generations. One should not need to say that, it is so obvious. But Science has been so spectacular that I suppose it's kind of understandable.

I don't think we can ignore the Sun, around which Uranus revolves. It is in Pisces, a non-rational place that defies the usual expression of both Saturn and Uranus and the signs they are in. (Although, of course, the original vital spark of Uranus was in the oceans!) But it is as if that Sun is holding out 2 arms that end in Saturn and Uranus, which he is holding in balance/tension; or as if Saturn and Uranus are the outpourings of the original oneness of the Sun in Pisces, to which they again need to be resolved. It is as if the Sun is reminding us of what came first: the direct experience and sense of interconnectedness, unfragmented by mind, in the case of Uranus in Gemini; and not obscured by the veil of hallowed tradition, in the case of Saturn in Sagittarius.


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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

A Mythological Ramble around Astrology and Science

We make sense of the world through myths, the big stories that describe creation, the end of the world, the birth of the gods and all aspects of life. These myths are true, they are real, but they are not literal. This is Neptune’s Realm.

The Birth of Athena from Zeus' Head

That is the big difference between the modern westernised world and every society that has gone before. Our myths are cold facts that point only to themselves and permit no others. Saturn, and possibly Uranus, have abducted Neptune.

For Peter Bell, in Wordsworth’s poem, “A Primrose by the River’s brim/A yellow primrose was to him/And it was nothing more.”

But when William Blake was asked, “When the sun rises, do you not see a round disc of fire somewhat like a guinea?” He replied, “O no, no, I see an innumerable company of the heavenly host crying Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.”

Our 2 Creation Myths, the Big Bang and Evolution, have this literal quality, especially the latter. That is my main objection to the Theory of Evolution: that it is presented as a cold fact, the only possible reality. And it does not point to anything beyond itself (except perhaps to a sense of humanity as the superior species.) That on its own makes it wrong, whatever the fossil record says.

Evolution could hardly be a more important myth, for it tells us what we are. In its literal form, it says we have no soul and the world has no soul. The Creationists are literal at the other end of the spectrum, but they have a point. They feel the need for a soul, in however crude a form. So do the people who say humans were planted here by aliens. It may or may not be literally true. But it is a reinterpretation of the myth that we are descended from the gods, and I like that. It has the ring of truth to it, and I am prepared to believe it. It is a perfectly respectable myth, provided you don’t fall into the modern trap of literalism.

Mythologically, the seed of Evolution is to be found in the medieval idea of the Great Chain of Being, with God at the top, and working its way down through angels, people, animals, vegetables and minerals. Evolution inverts this – a common phenomenon in mythologies – and works upwards from minerals, but puts people instead of God at the top. In response to this, many of us now feel God to be immanent rather than transcendent: he has become Gaia, the World Soul, or the Goddess. Scientific materialism pays unconscious homage to this, for ‘matter’ and the Latin ‘mater’, or mother, are etymologically related.

For someone of literal bent, astrology is patently untrue. This literalism has a long history. As far back as 1623, we find the influential monk Marin Mersenne baffled by magic of any sort. “Belief in the power of magic images of the stars seems to him quite mad.” He had even then gone beyond the demonization of practices such as astrology, which implies a tacit acknowledgement of their power.

It is a death of feeling. I feel the power of astrology. I feel it like a presence, and sometimes the planets as gods turn up as presences.

Mersenne launched a 30 year crusade against magical thinking. A bit like Richard Dawkins today. You could imagine Dawkins as a member of the Spanish Inquisition: polite, charming, educated and quietly certain of his point of view as the only reality, convinced that he is actually helping heretics to avoid eternal damnation.

What people like Dawkins need is a proper philosophical training, where you come to understand that a point of view is just that, a point of view. It can always be argued either way, and in the end is only a description of reality, it is not reality itself. And we cannot get beyond our perceptions. At least, not using just the rational mind. It is a big assumption that reality is fully susceptible to rational interpretation. Ironically, it is a superstition.

We need to be able to hang loose to how we see the world, and enjoy all the creation myths, including evolution. These myths are thrown up by the imagination, by the dreamworld. We may profitably analyse and compare motifs between them, but it is hubris to denounce them, because they come from the gods, not from the human mind.

It is similarly hubris to denounce astrology, for it has imaginative power, it comes from somewhere else. To the extent you have hubris, to that extent you are in a state of suffering, you have soul loss.

My idea of a viewpoint as only a viewpoint is not the same as you find in postmodernism, where such deconstruction seems to me the next logical step in the march of scientific materialism towards nihilism. For me, a viewpoint on a metaphysical level has the power of myth behind it; its essential truth does not lie in how well it can be argued, but in its imaginative appeal. The value of reason in this context is to counter the tendency of the mind to latch onto that imaginative truth as the only truth. Once you start doing that, even the myths you live by start to lose their power; they develop a leaden, literal quality.

Blake again: “Imagination is the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow.” Science’s remit is the ‘vegetable universe!’

Science itself is a myth, a model, and it has its place. But you can’t push it too far, or it’ll break down, because it is a model, not reality itself. This is why you find weird things happening at the mega and nano ends of the spectrum. We push the idea of matter as a solid ‘thing’ that is ‘out there’ to the limit, and what do we find? Irrationality! On the nano level, we have the counter-intuitive quantum universe, where to understand it we have to sometimes let time go backwards, and accept that matter is both a wave and a particle at the same time, and that the more we know about where something is, the less we know about its speed, and vice versa. On the mega end, the only way we can understand the larger universe is by accepting that most of it is invisible, dark matter, that has a mysterious nature unlike anything we know and undetectable by any of our instruments. It’s funny!

Astrology is the same: at the mega end, the universe is so big, with so many different objects, that it would be very hard to develop a system of correspondences based on a living relationship with these bodies. Even in ancient times, you couldn’t use every single visible star. On the micro end, if you have a tiny, insignificant event, like the dog walking in the door and out again and you looked for it in the stars, it would be a form of madness. You can’t have that sort of astrological micromanagement. Astrology works somewhere in the middle, and there it is powerful. And it’s probably the same for Science. They are both models that have a function, but models break down if you push them to extremes.

Many of the ideas above come from a book I’m reading, the best I’ve read for a while. It’s called 'The Philosopher’s Secret Fire: a History of the Imagination’ by Patrick Harpur.

I’ll finish with a quote from it, which refers to the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, who analysed myths from around the world. Myths, it seems, are the best way into the human soul, they kind of ARE it.

“So, at the close of his Mythologiques, after he has structurally related hundreds of myths to each other, Levi-Strauss cannot say with any certainty what Imagination is doing. It is generating myths which apparently go on embodying and striving to resolve contradictions, until all the permutations are exhausted – but to no purpose, it seems, beyond the process itself.

The labyrinthine shape-changing of myths mirrors the pathways of soul which ‘seems more interested in the movement of its ideas than in the resolution of problems. Therefore no classical psychological problem can ever be solved…’ It is as if we recognise the contradictions of our human existence and are intensely preoccupied with them. We are self-transcending, paradoxical beings – both part of Nature, for example, and yet outside of it. We use abstractions to express our contradictions where traditional cultures use concrete images. 

The problems of mind/matter or consciousness/unconscious about which we philosophise are only re-statements of the problems of this world/Otherworld or Skyworld/Underworld about which we mythologise. However, in neither case can the problems be solved because they are not problems, they are mysteries. Myths tell us to live without resolutions in a state of creative tension within our two-foldness.

Myths do not, so to speak, get us anywhere. While there are myths about progress, myths do not themselves progress. Indeed, Levi-Strauss even saw literal scientific ‘progress’ as, in reality, a system of myths which ‘will never consist in anything other than proceeding towards re-groupings, in the midst of a totality that is closed and complementary with itself.’ In fact, ‘… mythological thought is not pre-scientific; it should rather be seen as an anticipation of the future state of science…’

Finally, and incidentally, if there is one classificatory pair, one contradiction, which acts as a kind of rubric for all the others (says Levi-Strauss), it is heaven(sky)/earth. It is their primordial separation which brought on all our woe; and it is their impossible, longed-for reunion wherein all our happiness lies.”

Astrology, of course, is based around this most primordial of myths. When astrology really works, when we feel its power, it is at a moment of symbolic correspondence between events on earth and events in the sky. Astrology gives us par excellence that “impossible, longed-for reunion wherein all our happiness lies.”

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