Close encounters with public reality often leave me reflective. For one thing, they remind me of what I have within (and help counter my usual undercurrent of self-doubt!) By ‘public reality’ I mean life as many people live it, where you accept as objectively real the values and ideas that you grew up around; and where people who don’t share those values are seen as a bit weird. Not that you’d say.
I often forget how many people live in this unreflecting way. I’m more likely to compare their certainties with my uncertainties and find myself wanting. When I was younger I was very judging of people for not being reflective, not questioning; but that was just the same attitude that conventional people can have about unconventional people, that I’d brought with me and reversed. Nowadays I don’t mind people being like this, it is who they are, their lives are meaningful to them, I can enjoy their lives with them. It is just humanity and how it is.
The arising of reflective ability is a mysterious process. I think it is crucial, axial. It often starts to arise when things go wrong, when our received values are inadequate to deal with our experience, and as an astrologer you can be part of that process for people.
You can be a brilliant Nobel Prize winner, yet be happy within the status quo, even be seen as a wise person within that status quo. And on the other hand you can appear as a ‘loser’, in and out of unskilled jobs, just about holding your life together, yet be very perceptive about the values people are driven by.
And there’s a thing about confidence. It is so much easier to feel confident and at ease with yourself if you accept the status quo and succeed within it, living your life by its simple certainties, buoyed by the values shared with those around you.
If on the other hand you are on a lifelong search for meaningful values, you probably won’t have the motivation to succeed very much on the world’s terms – maybe just enough to hold your life together – and it can be hard not to compare oneself unfavourably with the ‘winners’. Self-confidence when found, however, is very real, it is a Leo thing, that source of life from deep within. But I think most of us bounce in and out of that. Writers and artists are archetypal examples of this way of being.
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And now I want to turn to a favourite topic of mine, science, because it can be understood in a reflecting or an unreflecting way. Don’t get me wrong, I think science is a great subject, I’m not anti- it. But there is a crucial point about how we understand it. And it is to do with ‘facts’.
For example, is matter made up of atoms? Well yes, we all know that, it is an established fact, part of 'public reality'. But do we actually know it? No, of course we don’t, we have merely been told it by people whose opinion we respect. And we have been told it so many times, crucially we were also taught it at school, the culture generally is so automatically accepting of the idea that matter is made up of atoms, that we accept it as a fact, yes of course it is true, everyone knows it is true. It has acquired a firm reality as a ‘fact’, free of its original moorings in someone’s mind.
I’m not playing a game here. It is about intellectual integrity, it is about being true to experience – without those qualities, reflective ability cannot arise. The real situation is that we have merely been told that matter is made up of atoms, and that is a THEORY, not a fact, for no-one has or ever will see an atom with their bare senses. And it is a good theory, or should I say story, for it explains a lot of things.
It is an inner knowing that I am arguing for here, what do we really know within ourselves? That is the point from which consciousness grows, and the more you come from that point, the more you realise how much you don’t know. Real knowing has to begin with stripping away what passes for knowledge in public reality, but which is really just a bunch of stories that hold together well enough to provide a sort of coherent picture of reality, provided we don’t look too closely.
And I find it a liberation to think of science in this sort of way. Scientific knowledge is so all-pervading these days, there is just so much of it, and it locates reality so firmly outside of ourselves, that the inner has correspondingly less reality. But all scientific notions begin inside someone’s mind, and then they spread to other people’s minds. Science itself has an inner starting point and foundation, and it gets detached from that, and to that extent we humans get detached from who we are. And science has such spectacular results that we are dazzled into thinking it is real in a way that it is not. It is a product of the mind, like all human creations. (I have a suspicion that the mind is so much the creator of the reality around it that science will pretty much always discover what it sets out to find.)
We live in a Gemini Age. Pluto and Neptune, the 2 outermost astrological planets, meet up every 500 years or so and define the age we live in. They last met in about 1890 in Gemini, and in Gemini again 500 years before that. Each sign needs its opposite to be balanced. Gemini is facts, information, and Sagittarius is the wider human context, the sense of meaning, within which we place those facts. The shadow of Gemini is facts without meaning, facts as the be-all-and-end-all, mere information as ultimate reality. Science at its worst. And it has been creeping up on us for 600 years (corresponding to the period of the growth of modern science) and has several thousand years to run! The blink of an eye in the history of humanity, but hopefully in that time we will collectively learn to tame the tyranny of facts, remember that all such information is the product of the human mind, and set it in that huge all-inclusive imaginative context we are capable of creating. We cannot let the muggles win!
I think it is about coming back to the mind, feeling the ideas of atoms or quarks or evolution, for example, as mind-created like any story, and letting the ideas float there, subject to the forces of the imagination, essentially inner things rather than hard external realities, which I think is a kind of corruption. Through treating stories as ‘facts’ we have created a huge weight that presses down on us collectively. ‘Facts’ are the modern shadows in Plato’s cave, that seem so real to those chained to its walls.