Saturday, August 15, 2015

Pluto, the No-Self Doctrine, and an Offer You Can't Refuse

You could say there are 2 approaches to the self: building it up or abandoning it. The first approach is 'normal', even to an extent necessary. The second approach is radical and revolutionary and is also what makes us fully human.

It is quite normal to base your sense of who you are around a list of 'achievements'. 

These achievements can be quite good things in themselves. And it's quite natural to then think that that is who you are.

You get a lot of people who are half-way radical. They quite rightly don't like a lot of things about the world and want, like a lot of politicians do, to 'make a difference'. But then that becomes who they are. Not in all cases, by any means. Remember Swampy the road protester, who didn't want to know when the media made a hero out of him, and hasn't been heard of since?

But when what you do, or have done, becomes who you are, then it becomes a compensation for all the mess underneath that all of us seem to carry in one way or another.

So that's why I say you're only half-way radical if you stop at changing the world, and make that your CV. 

The world is subject to the law of unintended consequences, and it can be hard to know if you're doing any good in the long term. But the self is not subject to this law. We can change ourselves, and we are part of the world, so changing ourselves changes the world. Our first duty, in this sense, is to ourselves rather than to the world.

The point is not to think in terms of I'm good at this and bad at that, I've done this with my life (success) but I haven't done that (failure). The point is to let go of that whole way of thinking.
(That's why I think on a psychological level that self-affirmations can be missing the point.) It's not a truly honest way of thinking, even though it's 'normal'. The only thing we have that is honest is our experience right now - anything else is an abstraction, a judgement, a bad habit.

It can be just as much a habit to feel 'bad' about ourselves as it is to feel 'good'. And the two are often 2 sides of the same coin.

Behind anyone who wears their achievements like a suit of armour hides someone who feels very small and not very good about themselves.

It can be a great relief to step out of this way of thinking - good/bad, success/failure. It is natural to think in this way, and we can even spend years exploring why we think like this, and I'm not saying that's not a useful thing to do. But eventually we just have to step out of it. It can never be sorted on its own terms, on its own level.

There is a level of being behind this that has always been there. It is timeless and it is a source of wisdom and it is not a big deal. Enlightenment is, to some extent, just round the corner.

The world won't applaud you for abandoning success and failure, and some will look down on you. 

But it's  a way of being that we have to find for ourselves and value for itself - it's the only place we will ever find psychological security, and it's outside of psychology in the usual sense.
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There are times in life when the pressure to become human in this sense intensifies. This can be the real meaning of times of crisis. In astrology, these times are usually associated with the hard transits of Neptune or Pluto to the Sun, Moon or Angles. Add Uranus or Saturn to the mix, and you can have a full blown crisis, where an important part of your life, or even your whole life, doesn't seem to work any more.

And you can do your best to keep things functioning as before, and many people seem to 'succeed' at this.  

You can see events conspiring against them, as it were, and the holes are there for all to see, and they sort it with some ghastly compromise.

But the solution that is being demanded, by 'reality' if you like, is to let go of part of your life, or all of your life, or at least a way of being in your life. And to step back into that way of consciousness where nothing is certain and tied down and secure. Then the changes can happen. And the outer planets may spend years hammering at us, we may get ill, we may nearly die, we may even actually die.

Insight often needs this sort of sustained pressure to arise, like diamonds being forged.

I talk about it in terms of the planets, whose cycles have a mysterious synchronicity with the psyche. But really it comes down to pressure for change from within, and recognising that and staying with that. A major part of my job as an astrologer is to name these processes and give advice on how to be within them, because they can be very threatening and confusing. But finally it is something new within ourselves that we are needing to get to know and to trust and to base our lives around. Or something old that we've ignored and hope might go away but which has finally rounded on us and tipped over the whole cart.

And that letting go takes us outside of the usual securities and tags of success and failure that we may be used to judging our lives by. It takes us into that radical, human consciousness out of which the deeper gifts are born.

It's the transition from the 8th House to the 9th House. In the 8th House, Scorpio's House, we are in the underworld (the houses are places), the crucible, where the ordinary self is taken apart, at gunpoint if necessary. Where Pluto makes us an offer we can't refuse. 

And that then leaves room for a different kind of self, a 'transpersonal' self, to emerge. And that is why the 9th House is the House of the teacher.

I pass, like night, from land to land;
I have strange power of speech...
O Wedding-Guest! this soul hath been
Alone on a wide wide sea
So lonely 'twas, that God himself
Scarce seem├Ęd there to be.

The teacher has the 8th House experience of being taken apart and is able to impart the knowledge of the transpersonal self, shows people how to get there and speaks spontaneously from its wisdom. In Buddhist terms, this is the Anatta, or No-Self, Doctrine.

Sometimes, on a good day, definitely after I've had my morning coffee, and fed up with the sheer effort of hanging on to my fragile self-regard while keeping the gremlins at bay, I stop giving a s"&*: it's like getting out of jail, and everything makes more sense. I recommend it.