Saturday, September 07, 2013

The Butterfly Soul

The ancient Greek word for soul was ‘psyche’. It also meant ‘butterfly’. The essence of a butterfly is colour and movement. If you pin it down, you will kill it. As soon as you say the psyche is ‘this’, it changes colour and moves. In the same way, humans cannot be defined.

Modern scientific psychology would do well to remember this, or else change its name. –ology comes from the Greek legein, to speak. So it is the study of what the soul is telling us. Which changes depending which flower the butterfly is sitting on, and how the sun is reflecting off its wings. So Psychology involves listening, rather than the testing of theories.

I think that words still carry their root meanings even though they have changed into something else. I suspect that psychologists are drawn to their craft for poetic rather than scientific reasons, even though that can become buried. In the same way, someone who becomes a doctor has the ancient healer archetype calling them, whether they are aware of it or not.
To heal comes from a root meaning ‘to make whole’, that was around long before the modern mind-body split was ever thought of. Nowadays, the effect of the mind on physical health is readily categorised as pseudo-science. No wonder so many doctors are alcoholics!

For the ancient Greek, psyche was not confined to the human shape. The world had a soul, what nowadays we call Gaia (another pseudo-scientific  concept :))

So in the same way, the world cannot be pinned down and defined. If you do that to the world, you will either kill it, or it will slip away into mysterious quantum realities and dark energies. Or both.

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This idea of the soul as a butterfly suggests how we can live. It suggests having a light touch to life. It suggests not carrying judgements of yourself as this or that. I was watching a film, ‘Miss Austen Regrets’ last night. At one point she is judging herself for having achieved so little with her life, despite being a well-known novelist. Point one is that creative endeavours often take a short time, compared to the years spent fiddling around and ruminating to get there. Point two is why judge anyway? It’s a product of the mind-as-not-butterfly. Your life is what it is, we never know what is going to happen next. It’s easy to be in the grip of imagined inadequacies and to forget the things you’ve done which are natural to feel good about. Like the enjoyment people got from reading Miss Austen's novels.

It seems fundamental to people to carry around judgements of themselves, often involving inadequacy, and they weigh us down. Or to have fixed ideas of what our lives are about and what is and is not possible.

As an astrologer, I encounter this in readings when people are going through major transitions, almost invariably reflected in major transits from Neptune or Pluto. And it’s the same sort of message. Often people want to know when the transition or turmoil is going to end, in the unspoken hope that they can hang on grimly until that end point, and then carry on as before. But the point about the transit is not to reach the end of it, it is what attitude to have to yourself and your life now you are in it? And the answer is butterfly. Life works when you are butterfly, when you are psyche. A transit is an initiation into how to live like a butterfly, how to live according to what the soul needs. It is an initiation, because all those things we do, and ways we are, that are contradictory to that get shown up. That is the essence of a transit, at least from one point of view. What attitude to have so that life works. And my job as the astrologer is to point all that out, even though I also spend a lot of my time doing the opposite!

Hermes, or Mercury, is the god/planet who most has the qualities of a butterfly, and he rules the mind and communication. So maybe pay attention to Mercury in your chart to see what sort of butterfly you are. I have Mercury in Aquarius tightly opposite Uranus in Leo. And square Jupiter-Neptune-Node. So a whole bunch of stuff comes with him. If I start thinking too much along conventional lines, or one-sidedly logically, then Uranus and Neptune – and indeed Aquarius – are offended and I do not feel alive. If you have Mercury in Taurus, your soul needs the enjoyment of the senses and the natural world to feel alive. That is one of Taurus’ gifts, being able to enjoy life in its physical sense and to communicate that joie de vivre. Those are examples. But if you can honour your Mercury, maybe you are half way to having that light touch, to knowing how to live.

This light touch also applies to thoughts and beliefs generally.  If I'm asked what I think about something, I'll often say it depends what day of the week it is. You can always argue the opposite of any belief. Words are only descriptions, not the thing itself. That doesn't mean I won't have certain positions thought through that I will argue for. I think that's important. But they still remain a process, and will inevitably change over time. I sometimes meet people who are saying the same old things, espousing the same old beliefs as they did 20 or 30 years ago. I think that's quite common. That suggests to me being over-identified with one's beliefs, they have ossified and are no longer alive. A butterfly pinned down.


Anonymous said...

So often public figures like politicans are derided in the media for having changed their views over time, e.g. believing in different things when they were at University 30 or 40 years earlier. Personally, I'm more worried about the ones whose views haven't changed since that time. Ossification indeed.

Anonymous said...

Great post Barry. The soul as a butterfly works for me. Time to honor the soul! I have a big ol' Pluto transit going on right now... feels like dancing in a demolition derby. I'll give "Floating like a butterfly" a try.

Anonymous said...

My Mercury is in Cancer (trine Neptune). What I "think" depends on the degree the Moon is in, i.e. what minute is it?

PS I am not a robot.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr Goddard, that was a beautiful reflection on the soul which reminded me of the glyphs for the planets. The half-circle is said to represent receptivity of the soul. Interestingly you mention the 3 planets that happen to have the sickle top most, receiving from above. Soul in different ways reaching down to infuse the cross of matter. Butterflies are indeed the answer as they also live very lightly on this earth.