I had my bluff called after my last post, in which I declared myself a polytheistic evolutionary astrologer: a reader showed it to someone at the San Diego astrological society, and they want me to give a talk in September on the theme of the planets as gods. I thought well I don’t know much more than the few paragraphs I’ve written in the post, and I get a bit reluctant around planning talks, but I’m going to agree. I like it once I get going. So thank you to Simone for acting as catalyst, and I think the next few blogs are going to be on this theme. Writing blogs gets me to research and think in a way that I wouldn’t otherwise do.
You can view the planets as principles, as a list of ideas, and that has its place. That seems to be what they were in traditional western astrology. The idea of the planets as archetypes, as presences, as gods, is more modern. But it works well for me. Life as an ongoing response to the claims made by these presences. You could see them as ‘yours’, as sub-personalities. But I prefer to see them as transpersonal, as belonging to the soul of the cosmos.
Hubris is when you think it is you that is in control, and Nemesis is the eventual result of that. You see it with political leaders. They can start out tuned-in to the collective, being used by wider forces to effect change. But then they claim their position as their own in a narrowly personal way, they think their power is their own, rather than given to them. I think this happened to Margaret Thatcher. Love her or hate her (those seem to be the only 2 responses most Brits have!), there was a job that needed doing. Economic housekeeping. And, if you like, the collective was using her to do that job. And she did it. And then she should have gone. But she stayed on, increasingly dictatorial and intolerant, until she was ousted. Nemesis.
The more we see our lives as a response to the claims of wider forces - in astrology, to the planets as gods - the more our life goes somewhere, unfolds, the more it paradoxically becomes our own. And you could argue that if we see the planets merely as archetypes within the psyche, we are more likely, subtly or otherwise, to see them as belonging to us.
Astrology begins with the planets. You can do astrology with just the planets – their movements, and the angles between them. You can’t do this with the zodiac signs on their own. They have to have a planet in them to mean anything.
And the planets begin with the characters of the gods that function through them. And that brings us to the ancient Greek mythology around each of them, along with the principles that they embody. I think as astrologers we need to know something of the mythology behind each of the planets to get a proper feel for them. It is a kind of foundation.
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So a good place to start is the Sun, or Helius. In early Greek mythology he is, interestingly, subordinate to the Moon. Every day the Sun drives his four horse chariot across the heavens from his magnificent palace in the far East to his equally magnificent palace in the far West – from the Imperial Palace in Tokyo to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco? And in the West he unbridles his horses and they graze on the Islands of the Blessed.
And at night he sets sail with his chariot and horses on the Ocean Stream, which goes right round the world, in a golden ferry boat made for him by the lame smith Hephaestus. He sleeps soundly in a comfortable cabin. So that is his daily life.
The main story we know about him is that his son Phaethon was once plaguing him to let him drive the chariot across the sky. Phaethon was a young man, and of course he wanted to drive his Dad’s car, particularly as it was a Lamborghini. And the one thing you don’t let young men do is drive sports cars, even if they can get the insurance. Phaethon wanted to show off to his sisters, look I can do what Dad does.
Helius was very reluctant, as the horses were wild, and if you didn’t handle them firmly would go out of control. But eventually he gave in. And he told his son that if he flew too high, the earth would freeze, and if he flew too low he would scorch the earth.
So off Phaethon went. But of course he couldn’t control the horses. They were going all over the show – far too high, and people on earth were shivering; far too low, and the crops were getting scorched. Zeus, angered, kill Phaethon with a thunderbolt, and he fell into the river Po, which is in northern Italy. His grieving sisters were changed into poplar trees on its banks, and weep amber tears.
So what does this tell us about the Sun? The Sun is the principle of individual consciousness, and it takes a lot of handling. Handled with the skill of many years practice, we can manage our lives in a balanced way. It seems to be about balance – neither too close, nor too far away, and life flourishes.
So we can’t expect to understand our Sun and the sign it is shaped by, and the house it naturally functions through, when we are young. At least, not very well. It takes the skill level of a master horseman, or maybe a jet fighter pilot!
Are we driving the Sun or is it driving us? I think that is mid-life crisis stuff. Classically, we spend the years 20 to 40 (very roughly) unconsciously living the lives we were brought up to lead. Even if we try not to do that, that early conditioning still often operates in the way we go about things, the way we shape our goals. That is the Sun, the four horses, driving us.
And the mid-life crisis is the point at which we start to wake up. We realise that the old life was not our own. And we question. And we begin to steer the horses, to steer our own life.
And when we do, it is a splendid thing. Our life flourishes, and the lives of those around us are helped to flourish.
Helius sees everything, but he is not very observant. And he let his son loose on his horses before he was ready. He is subordinate to the Moon. And he is not one of the main gods like Zeus or Poseidon. So maybe that is saying something about the individualised consciousness which we astrologers take him to represent. Maybe it is a fragile thing, a new thing. Helius doesn't show much wisdom or observation. Our Sun, that sense of who we uniquely are, is easily lost. It needs to be developed over years. Even Helius, master horseman, and with a son who was say 16, still had a long way to go. Professional competence and being a parent aren't necessarily the same thing as having wisdom.