Monday, October 29, 2012

The Depth Psychology of Chiron

I occasionally try to do away with Chiron. He is, after all, only the size of the Isle of Wight. But he keeps coming back, one way or the other. So although I’m not going to give him planetary status, I will generally pay attention if he is aspecting something important in the chart. Like in my own case, conjunct the Sun and square the MC and sextile the Moon.

But that still often leaves me stuck for something to say. Which ‘bit’ of us is he? It’s not enough to say ‘the wound’ because lots of bits of us are problematic and painful. Besides which, Chiron was a wise teacher for the main part of his life, it was only later on that he got wounded by the poisoned arrow, and was in pain to such an extent that he tired of living. Catch: he was immortal. But he sorted that, giving up his immortality in exchange for Prometheus being released from his torment.

Both Saturn and Chiron have been described as bridges to the outer planets, and that seems a fairly sensible thing to say, given their positions in the solar system, on the boundary between the visible and invisible planets. It is the invisibility (to the naked eye) of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto that gives them a different character to the inner planets.

The way I’m thinking about Chiron at present is that he is the principle of the wound in the sense of that kind of difficulty and pain that can only be addressed by listening to the outer planets: he is precisely that principle you get in depth psychology that says that it is through our intractable, painful bits that we find our souls.
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Imagine the outer planets as the molten core of the earth – uncontrollable, transformative and nuking everything in its path when it breaks through the surface crust. Chiron is that fissure deep underground, that fault line, through which the molten lava can erupt. And Saturn is the crust itself, the form of the earth, over which the lava flows. The outer planets are not always out of control and disruptive, particularly if we know how to listen to them. In this case Saturn is more like machinery erected at the surface to direct the raw power coming from below. An oil rig, something like that.

So Chiron is this fissure deep underground. It cannot be sorted on its own terms, and it cannot be understood in terms of surface mechanics, earth movers and such like, ordinary psychology. No, for there is always this threat from below, or what appears as a threat. The threat that is actually our souls if we are willing to go there.

So this is why Chiron often represents a part of life - depending on where he is in the chart – that doesn’t work very well. You cannot patch him up, because there is always that roiling underneath. I think Chiron conjunct the Ascendant can be particularly difficult. The Asc is our basic ability to express who we are and make our lives work. With this placement you can bumble along in life with nothing quite working, nothing ever going anywhere, and that can go on for decades. And the problem is that you’re trying to do ‘normal’, you’re trying to live your life like everyone else does, but somehow your heart is not in it, and you feel inadequate because of that. But once you go bugger that, there’s this thing I’ve always wanted to do, it’s not going to earn me much probably and I don’t know if I’ll be any good at it but I’m going to do it, then your life can start to work properly – not in ‘normal’ terms, but in terms of you feeling there is something essential that is falling into place.

So Chiron is a ‘wound’, but not an ordinary one. He only appears as a wound, and that’s why it’s said to be incurable, because you can’t cure a wound that isn’t a wound. What ‘cures’ it lies in making what is immortal in you mortal, just like Chiron himself did, giving earthly expression to that other drumbeat you’ve always heard.

The Chiron wound can make you feel like you don’t want to go on living, just like Chiron the centaur felt. But I think it’s a case of not wanting to live on particular terms, not if life has to be like this.

In 1999 I took ayahuasca a couple of times in the Amazon jungle, and it made me aware of what I think was Chiron. It was a sense of deep pain, which I would experience from time to time anyway, but it became clear that that pain was what grounded me, connected me to the earth, it had a sort of weight to it. And then I became aware that I learnt from it, it was an ongoing source of learning. And it wasn’t something that could be put into words and certainly not to be psychoanalysed. It was uncomfortable, but very creative, and not to be ignored.

Previous to that, in the early 90s, I had driven myself into a corner by pressurising myself to ‘achieve’. And I ended up realising, like Chiron, that I didn’t want to live on those terms, I didn’t have a will to live if it meant living like that. I didn’t feel depressed or suicidal or anything, I just knew that I had to find a different way of being. This was as transiting Pluto was squaring my natal Sun-Chiron. And it was, appropriately, to do with work, my Sun-Chiron being in the 6th House. So I’ve had to spend years undoing the notion of ‘achievement’ in the way I work (note I also have natal Chiron square MC) or pushing and pressurising myself. That may work for some people, it’s quite ‘normal’ in a way, but it ain’t going to work if Chiron is involved in the 6th and 10th Houses. So it means I ‘do’ less, but what I end up doing has a quality that it never had previously.

So Chiron I think has this unconventional, outsider, even scapehorse quality to him. If Chiron doesn’t aspect anything major in your chart, you may be able to ignore him. But if he say conjoins your MC then you probably have something important to do in the world, and the ‘career’ aspect of your life will never feel right as long as you judge yourself in conventional terms. You need to do what the outer planets want you to do, and that can take a long time to come to fruition – it’s not like deciding to become a plumber and getting on with it. What you do may not have a name.

Gordon Brown, the last UK Prime Minister, has Chiron conjunct MC. Everyone knew he wasn’t Prime Minister material, but he was determined to get the top job, and he made a hash of it. But he also has another side to him, he is a feelingful bloke, he wants to be of help. He doesn’t preen himself, he has more humility than say Blair (another Chiron MC man). But because he wouldn’t, couldn’t listen to his Chiron, he ended up in a conventional job, making a hash of it. And the same with Blair, look how hated he is. You could say his faith foundation is a blundering attempt to get it right with Chiron. And George W Bush - Moon conjunct Chiron, Sun square Chiron: the debate about him has not been whether or not he was a bad President, but whether he was the worst or only second worst!

So I think Chiron can be a sort of curse if you haven’t got the wherewithal to step outside of conventional life and its expectations and judgements – and that can be a really difficult call for many people – and let the outer planets decide how you’re going to live.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Evolution, Teleology and the Outer Planets

It’s funny how life often seems to know better than us what the next stage is. Particularly, it seems, if our life is a mission, an unfolding vocation. It can become much harder to plan then, particularly at a time of transition, because we’re letting something work through us – the gods, the outer planets, fate, God, Jesus, Allah (!! :)) whatever you want to call it. But that life force can be ruthless in getting us to where we need to go, and has no hesitation in manoeuvring outer as well as inner events to its purposes. You look back some years later and see how all those painful messy endings were necessary, even though you didn’t think so at the time, and how the hell did that bit of help turn up at just the right time? 

Pluto and Neptune and Uranus have no regard for what is conventionally right or wrong, they are beyond good and evil: these 2 people need to be together to bring this new thing, this new influence, even this new person, into the world, and it’s going to create havoc and mess with their existing lives and all sorts of people are going to gossip and wag their fingers but people love to do that, it’s what makes life interesting, but that’s beside the point, this thing is going to happen and Pluto and Neptune and Uranus are quite prepared to create significant collateral damage along the way. People may even die. Did I really just say that? I’m not sure the outer planets have the same hang-ups about physical death that we have.
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But it makes you wonder, that there is this force that seems to have a direction, and doesn’t seem to make the same distinction between inner and outer that we do. That distinction, of course, is created by the brain: it has this place called ‘out there’ that is divided into up, down and across and hours and minutes that enables it to make sense of its fluctuating experience.

And it also makes me teleological about evolution, i.e. it has a purpose, though I wouldn’t want to speculate on what it is. Because if life is driving me and other people I know somewhere, then surely the same applies to the whole of life. And where life is driving me has nothing to do with ensuring I leave more offspring, or that I am better suited to my material environment, the usual criteria of biological evolution. Which makes me think that ‘survival of the fittest’ is only a very partial explanation of what drives biological evolution.

I think it’s perverse to deny that evolution has occurred. But that’s not the same as saying we know what makes it happen, that we understand the mechanism. Yes, natural selection and random mutation have their place. But what’s really driving it is I think beyond the scope of science, beyond even the scope of our puny minds, it’s something in the life-force itself, which exists outside the notions of time and space that our brains create.

Evolution is always bringing something radically new into being. Humans are a radical new departure for life on earth. But there have been radical new departures all along. That is the nature of something that is essentially creative. The emergence of a bunch of molecules that were self-replicating out of the primordial soup. The emergence of separate organisms that responded to their environment. Their clubbing together to create complexity. Their differentiation into thousands of different species. And so on. 

I know because of what drives me, that is beyond my ken and that keeps pushing me to re-create and deepen who I am, that that same urge has been playing out for a billion years on earth. It probably created matter in the first place. And that humans are therefore not the end of evolution, we are just the latest radical departure that Pluto the life-force, and Neptune the primordial imagination, and Uranus the creative impulse, have taken. They probably kind of know what they’re doing.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Why Obama Was Always Going to Win

Below is a piece I published in January this year giving the reasons I thought Obama would win this year's Presidential election. I still hold to them. They can be summed up as (1) the guy with the charisma always wins (2) a sitting leader elected under major transits tends to stay in power until those transits are finished.
It’s starting to seem a foregone conclusion that Barack Obama will win this year’s Presidential election. Not because he has been spectacularly good, but because the Republicans haven’t got a candidate they can unite behind, and the primaries have started. Obama is not just a sitting President, he is also a superb showman, a vital quality in modern politics.

You can usually tell well in advance who is going to win an election: it’s the one with the charisma, the showmanship, the one who can make the crowds go woo! That was why George W Bush won 2 elections, and Bill Clinton, and Reagan, and Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi. I don’t know if France’s Sarkozy has enough of it: he tries a bit too hard to be sexy, and it doesn’t work like that. So he may not be re-elected. President Putin also tries a bit too hard, and he is looking set for a downfall.

A lot of people seemed not to agree that George Bush had charisma because they thought he was a bad lot. But charisma is not a virtue or a vice in itself: it is just an attractiveness that inspires a following. You didn’t need to like or agree with George Bush to see that he had the ability to connect emotionally with certain types of people. Making a folksy virtue of his own ignorance was part of that appeal. And that was why his father did not get a second term: he did not have what he called ‘the vision thing’. The same with Gordon Brown in the UK.

The outcome of leadership elections is often that simple. Sometimes substance wins the day, when there is enough of it. Angela Merkel of Germany has looked like one of them from the start.
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In the 2008 US election, the North Node at 13 Aquarius had crossed Obama’s Ascendant 2 months earlier, and opposed his natal Node in March that year. In the 2012 election, the North Node in Scorpio will have crossed Obama’s MC and squared his natal Node 2 months earlier. So there is continuity of themes there, as well as in the Neptune transits: he was elected under Neptune conjoining his Ascendant, it went on to square his MC and is now in the early stages of squaring his Gemini Moon.

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What I have noticed with leaders is that they are usually elected under hard outer planet transits, and they stay in power until those transits end. Tony Blair, for example, won his first election in 1997 with Neptune conjoining his MC. Neptune went on to hard aspect his natal North Node and then his Moon-Sun-Pluto t-square. When it was done, Tony Blair left power. Neptune put him there and kept him there, just as Pluto put Margaret Thatcher there and kept her there till he’d finished transiting her chart.

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So Obama is likely to stay in power until Neptune has finished with him, which will be well into his second term. With the Nodal emphasis at the election shifting from his Asc to his MC, he will need to make his appeal less personal (Asc) and more based on his achievements in office (MC) to win the 2nd term, which is what you’d expect.

On a grimmer note, Obama will need to be careful from summer 2012 onwards as Uranus in Aries comes up to trine his Leo Sun. Presidents Kennedy, McKinley and Lincoln were all assassinated under Uranus transits to their Suns, as were Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Moreover, Obama was inaugurated under a Void Moon: as I showed in my piece on 21 Jan 2009 and then again on 29 Jan 2009, Void Moons have historically been associated with major disruption to the Presidency.

For this year, Uranus only comes to within 4 degrees of trining Obama’s Sun, so it is may be too soon to worry. On the other hand, with this Presidency being Void Moon, and with Uranus exactly squaring Pluto this year, we are likely to see extremism and major incidents that change the course of events in the world. I think it would be bad for the world if Obama was assassinated. I’m not predicting it, and it feels like bad taste to even say it. But it is astrologically possible over the next 2 years, so if there are any astrologers left in the White House, please take note!

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Ramble on Saturn and Existential Psychotherapy

I keep trying to write something about Saturn in Scorpio, but it ain’t happening. Maybe because he’s starting to conjoin my North Node (busily sorting and purging what will and won’t take my life forward.) But I seem able to come up with stuff about Saturn himself. 


It's one of my current themes in readings, keeping Saturn in his place, particularly not letting him try to boss Neptune around.

Who, being nebulous and hard to define, is vulnerable to Saturn's attempts to put him in a box.

Saturn think she knows how things ought to be


and he needs to be told to fuck off, yes really just to fuck on out

Mr 9 to 5 doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to our vocations and he needs to be told to fuck off and do what we tell him

Saturn feels secure when he's told what to do

If you don't tell him what to do, he'll tell you, and it probably won't be pretty

He needs to know where he stands
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Anyway, I picked up a book this morning, Love’s Executioner by Irvin Yalom. Earlier this year I read his Momma and the Meaning of Life, stories from the psychotherapy world. It was great, but I’m not sure I can still go there, after doing a counselling course. It kind of put me off that model. I have the suspicion a lot of them are pygmies putting the ‘correct’ forms into action.

Yalom is an existential psychotherapist, and for a while that had quite an appeal for me. Identifying certain basic givens of existence like death and the need for meaning, and using those to help people navigate their lives. Yes! But gradually I’ve been put off by the way he has allowed those givens to be infected by scientific rationalism.

These are the 4 givens he uses:

(1)            The inevitability of death for each one of us and for those we love
(2)            The freedom to make our lives as we will
(3)            Our ultimate aloneness
(4)            The absence of any obvious meaning or sense to life

Death He encourages his patients (as he calls them) to accept as a fact that death involves the complete extinction of consciousness. I really object to this, not so much because I tend to think that death is not an extinction, but because in reality we don't know what happens after death. His certainty that death is an extinction is not tenable, because we do not know, cannot know what happens. It's mysterious and unknowable, and that sense is important to our humanity, it prevents hubris (like Yalom thinking he knows what happens after death) and is also, I dunno, one of those things, that sense of unknowability, I suppose profoundly wicked is the phrase I'm looking for.

And I think it takes a particular type of narrow-mindedness - the scientific type - to dismiss the extensive documented accounts of unusual experiences - out of body, clairvoyant and so on - that suggest that consciousness and the physical body are not the same thing.

The freedom to make our lives as we will. This seems to me a partial truth. Tell this one to someone living in poverty. And what about the claims of character, the type of personality we are that, pursued far enough, leads to the transpersonal, where it is certainly not about making our lives as we will: it is about becoming more sensitive to who we have to be, what we have to do. We are, of course, free not to do it, but that's our loss. This is the realm of the outer planets. Only a superficial, rational, Enlightenment consciousness living in a wealthy society could consider 'The freedom to make our lives as we will' to be a given of existence.

Our ultimate aloneness. Don’t agree. We are all connected in deeper ways than we realise. When my partner’s father was dying in Scotland, he woke me up one morning down in Devon, fully present in a way that he hadn’t been for some years. We’re ultimately responsible for ourselves, yes. But we’re also ultimately connected to others, and there are probably connections out there that are very old, very strong that just aren’t activated right now. And then there's our imaginary friends. For me, there's Pluto likes to come and hang out. And they're onside. I think we're surrounded, I don't think we're alone, I don't think life's divided up like that.

The absence of any obvious meaning or sense to life. Yalom views a sense of meaning as something constructed, something external that we add on. This, of course, is a logical corollary to a rational, scientific materialist viewpoint. It’s hideous: the idea that we live in a meaningless universe. Meaning is something felt as much as it is rationally describable. “When I live like this, then life feels meaningful.” End of story. We need to trust that sense, not see it as something artificial we have imposed on a bleak universe. A sense of meaning is life speaking to us, telling us we are on the right track, that we are plugged into a larger whole.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Saturn the Rule-Breaker

In a few days’ time Saturn will enter Scorpio, where he will remain for about 2.5 years. Unlike the outer planets, Saturn is a planet where it is us miserable mortals who are in charge. Uranus, Neptune and Pluto stand back and watch while we try to walk on our own. With Saturn, we make mistakes and sometimes we learn from them. Saturn’s wisdom is hard-earned over many years.

Saturn is the outermost visible planet, so in that sense he is the boss one. He is the authority, he gives proper shape and foundation, he rules. All those things which, as a youth, do not generally come easily; the Saturn Return, aged 29 or so, kind of forces the issue. Unless we are naturally a cautious Saturnian type: in which case, maybe the Saturn Return is the time to rebel against all that, to lighten up, to be less ‘responsible’.

Because there is abundance, joy and rule-breaking in Saturn as well. But only after we have learned his somewhat protestant lessons. The Protestant work ethic is Saturn at an extreme: yes, we need to learn to take care of ourselves in the world, to have the ongoing material base from which to live. But when Saturn stages a coup, work becomes who you are, it makes you feel, more than any other activity, that you are a valid person. Saturn scoops out the inner you and judges you purely on observable results. This is Sun square Saturn in the US chart.

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But to the extent that Saturn is not at an extreme, he is the ease you experience when you have mastered your craft, the unconscious competence that develops. He is the wealth of ability and mastery that have been built up, and the worldly rewards that come with that. And he is easy and generous and natural with others; confident as he is in his own foundations, he has nothing to prove.

Saturn begins by learning his craft from the experience of others, the ‘rules’ if you like. Once he has done that, and knows what he is doing, Saturn becomes the rule-breaker. In my opinion, anyway, for it is usually Uranus we associate with this. I guess I am breaking a rule!

But it is a natural process. You find out how to do something, and over time you find your own way of doing it, and experience teaches you that there are at times better ways than the accepted ones. There are things you know that your teacher doesn't. Finding your own way in like this is crucially Saturnian, because your foundation shifts from the external rules to your own inner knowing. That is when we become really confident, really solid, hard to shake. And of course, it’s not black and white, it’s gradual, and you always have to have an element of your own knowing if you’re going to be any good.

So this is the shift from Capricorn to Aquarius, from conservatism to rule-breaking. Both signs are ruled by Saturn, which says to me that this aspect of Saturn, of the tree outgrowing its pot, was traditionally understood. 

Uranus has largely taken over the rulership of Aquarius in modern astrology. He was discovered around the time of both the French and American Revolutions, a time when established authority was seen as bad, as tyranny which needed to be overthrown in favour of rule by ‘the people’. 

You can’t get away from Saturn that easily, however, and if you reject him he will come in by the back door, leading to the Reign of Terror and the Napoleonic Wars in France. And to the same old story in the US, rule by the rich and powerful, but under the guise of ‘democracy’.

So Uranus has come in in a one-sided way, in which the rule-breaking qualities of Aquarius are seen purely as a protest against the conservatism of Capricorn, rather than as a natural outgrowth. So in this respect I think it is worth remembering that Saturn also rules Aquarius, that rebellion needs to remain an option, but that there are other ways of breaking the rules.

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