Gemini and the Ugly Duckling

Aphrodite_swan_BM_D2

Gemini New Moon: meetings of Mercury & Venus

The Lunar Eclipse on May 24 occurred at the same time that Mercury and Venus were conjunct at 19 degrees of Gemini, also in range of being conjunct Jupiter.  In June the cycle continues, as Venus and Mercury will be conjunct again, magically, at the time of the Summer Solstice.  There is some incredible synchronicity in their cycle of the moment, as the same degree of Gemini at which they were conjunct during the Lunar Eclipse on May 24 is the same degree as the New Moon in Gemini that will be occurring this week on June 8.  In his book An Astrological Mandala, Dane Rudyhar’s analysis of this Gemini degree is intriguing in connection with intentions we can set for ourselves at this time (p. 102):

Gemini 19: A LARGE ARCHAIC VOLUME REVEALS A TRADITIONAL WISDOM.

Keynote:  Contacting the all-human planetary Mind underlying any cultural and personal mentality.

Occult tradition tells us that all cyclic manifestations of the human mind have had a primordial revelatory Source. It speaks of ancient books made of especially treated papyrus leaves and conveying through symbols the archetypal processes at the root of all earthly existence. Such volumes, said to remain in the possession of certain Adepts, constitute the “exteriorization” of archetypal knowledge and wisdom. They contain the “seed-ideas” from which the human mind grows, cyclically producing cultures of various types.

What sorts of archaic volumes of traditional wisdom are accessible to people today? With the Internet, people have more access to ancient sources of wisdom than ever before.  In our earliest development, however, one of the first sources of traditional wisdom we experienced were found in Fairy Tales and picture books read to us when our language comprehension was first developing.  Through Fairy Tales we gained an archetypal sense and understanding for a number of important lessons in life, but especially in how to individuate, evolve our consciousness, and find our true path in the world.  As toddlers we could sense the great truth of these stories, and it is why the “hero’s journey” is so widely popular in analysis of myth- because it is true.  There is timeless wisdom integrated into each unique hero and heroine’s journey that appears in Fairy Tales.  Telling stories is a Gemini association, and a function of Gemini spirituality.  In Fire in the Head:  Shamanism and the Celtic Spirit, author Tom Cowan relayed some of his research into the spiritual role played by storytellers in Celtic culture:

Alwyn and Brinley Rees note that the Latin word historia, from which the word story derives, is also the root for the word history, a term originally meaning “knowing,” “learned,” and “wise.”  In old Welsh the word for story meant “guidance,” “direction,” and “instruction.”  The stem for the Welsh term meant “sign,” “symbol,” “omen,” and “miracle.”  The Rees’s conclusion to this etymological puzzle is that the ancient Welsh  storyteller was indeed a seer and teacher “who guided the souls of his hearers through the world of ‘mystery’.”  Thus we find the Celtic storytellers fulfilling one of the important roles played by classical shamans, the guider and instructor of souls.

–Tom Cowan, Fire in the Head, p. 99

A Fairy Tale that has re-emerged for me in the midst of the intense astrological energy of the moment is The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson.  This is in part due to some synchronicity of events at my daughter’s elementary school.  Every year, the students observe the hatching of ducklings from eggs, that then spend some time growing up in the garden on school grounds that is tended by parents, community volunteers, teachers, and students.  In the past, my daughters and I have been part of the duckling caregiving team.  This year, something inexplicable happened:  a chick, baby chicken, was hatched among the ducklings.  The students gave her the endearing name, “Chuck,” and this chicken growing up among ducks brings up one of the most famous fairy tales of identity crisis: The Ugly Duckling.

I feel the story of the ugly duckling connects with this time and the reflection of this time in the transits of the celestial heavens, because the Uranus archetype wants us to find our own unique role, being, vibration, and behavior in the world at this time that can bring us most alive and so will help bring our collective the most alive in the process.  We are being tested in the face of authoritarian control and suppression, oppression visible in every direction we turn.  We can think of the energy needed being like the piercing call of a hawk streaking across the sky, but in reality it can be as gentle as a swan gazing at itself in the reflection of the water.  The symbolism of seeing your authentic reflection in the water is the same as the symbolism of mirrors that can be connected to the seasonal archetype of Gemini we are living in.  The idea of the twin searching for it’s other twin in the world, its soul mate- is connected ultimately for our search for our authentic self we long to find one day when looking at our self in the mirror.

Gemini Dreaming

This potential for the excitable Gemini mind of the personality to contemplatively connect with it’s authentic self and soul connects with the symbolism of The Ugly Duckling as well as the current cycle of conjunctions between Mercury and Venus.  This is because there will be another conjunction between Mercury and Venus in the next couple of weeks as Mercury begins to station to go retrograde, giving Venus the opportunity to “catch up.”  Like magic, this next conjunction will occur on our Summer Solstice of this year, at the same time there will be a grand water trine between Jupiter in Cancer, Neptune in Pisces, and Saturn in Scorpio.    The Sabian Symbol for 22 degrees of Cancer, the degree of the next conjunction between Mercury and Venus, also fits perfectly with the meaning of the seminal swan story by Hans Christian Andersen:

Cancer 22:  A young woman awaiting a sailboat.

Keynote:  The longing for transcendent happiness in the soul opened to great dreams.

Here the symbol pictures the imaginative youthful person who basically cannot be satisfied with what his or her ordinary social environment offers, and who instead is longing for the unknown visitation of which he or she has dreamed.  From the unconscious beyond, the concretization of a spiritual image- spiritual because impelled by the “wind” (pneuma, spirit)- is hoped for and expected.  The Beloved may come- not in a glittering opera house, but in the silence of the inner sea of consciousness.

–Dane Rudhyar, An Astrological Mandala, p. 125

Indeed, finding symbolic meaning in water birds like swans can be especially resonant now, as we are wading into a water time of the zodiac with Neptune in Pisces currently stationing in preparation to turn retrograde this week, at the same time as the upcoming New Moon in Gemini on June 8.  In addition, Mercury and Venus are both in Cancer now, with Mercury currently in the position of forming a grand water trine with Pisces Neptune and Scorpio Saturn, and Venus preparing to enter a grand water trine with Neptune and Saturn soon. However, we can not expect this current water trine involving some personal planets, as well as the upcoming grand water trine involving Jupiter to be “easy,” as each water trine will be incredibly activated by the square between Uranus and Pluto.  This is especially true now in the moment, with Mercury and Venus in Cancer and slipping into the empty degree of the t-square with Pluto and Uranus, being opposite to Pluto and in square to Uranus.  The image of water birds, beings at home in the air, on land, or in water, could be helpful guides for us at this time.  In the Celtic spirituality, water birds are sacred because of their grace in navigating all three of these elements: earth, water, and air.  Think of a swan gliding gracefully across the surface of the water with all of the external turbulence of the world around it.

duckling_clarke1

The version of The Ugly Duckling written by Hans Christian Andersen was originally published in 1845, fittingly enough in the same time period that Neptune was discovered, and a few years before the last time that Neptune entered Pisces.  In Women Who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes describes his story as being about “the archetype of the unusual and the dispossessed,” and a timeless lesson at that:

“The Ugly Duckling” has been one of the few stories to encourage successive generations of “outsiders” to hold on till they find their own.  It is a psychological and spiritual root story.  A root story is one that contains a truth so fundamental to human development that without integration of this fact further progression is shaky, and one cannot entirely prosper psychologically until this point is realized.

–Clarissa Pinkola Estes, p. 167

In Han Christian Anderson’s story The Ugly Duckling, a swan egg gets mixed in with a duck’s nest, and so the mother duck raises the baby swan along with her ducklings and everyone thinks the swan is a duck.  The ducks ostracize the young swan because of his differences, forcing him on a journey where he experiences devastating setbacks over and over again.  During his difficulties the immature swan sees graceful adult swans flying above him and feels a deep calling rise up from inside.  After growing up through his trials, and while resting for a moment in water, he glances down and sees in the water’s reflection that he is in fact a swan, leading him to find a new home in a swan community.

Finding your calling and being brave enough to follow it is a plot that has dominated myths and folktales across time and still to this day is widespread in popular and cult storytelling. As children we are enchanted with the idea of having a Fairy Godmother, a guardian angel, a guiding star, or other magical being, who will help us find our path.  What if a spirit guide is actually inside each of us? Our culture is quick to label the agonizing awkwardness we can experience like the ugly duckling to be mental health issues.  We can be led to believe we are crazy from following the intuitive insight that can come from watching the flight of a bird.  But there is a guide inside each of us that will resonate with experiences that help us find our true calling- the more you try to get in touch with this inner vibration the more clear its advice to you will be.

In my own life I have had times of feeling like I was aimlessly wandering just like the young swan, when now from a distance I can see how that sense of aimlessness was an illusion; I can see how that difficult time was a gift to develop new strength.  I may have felt like I wasn’t making enough money or producing something that would be praised by my culture; I may have felt like I was mired in darkness.  However, I was really in a process of transformation due to facing myself on a deep level.  When we are willing to dive into the depths of our being we create the possibility that we can re-surface with a transformed perspective that can help manifest fulfillment.  Whenever we intuitively experience the rush of excitement that the young swan felt when seeing adult swans, we should follow it.  To interpret the sight of our own majestic swans to be the illusion is tragic.  In the moment when we choose to view reality as being about only the difficulties we are facing, we neglect the fact that we may be in the process of transforming into something transcendent to our current troubles.  In Women Who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes sums up the meaning for her of The Ugly Duckling as follows:

The duckling of the story is symbolic of the wild nature, which, when pressed into circumstances of little nurture, instinctively strives to continue no matter what.  The wild nature instinctively holds on and holds out, sometimes with style, other times with little grace, but holds on nevertheless . . .

The other important aspect of the story is that when an individual’s particular kind of soulfulness, which is both an instinctual and a spiritual identity, is surrounded by psychic acknowledgment and acceptance, that person feels life and power as never before.  Ascertaining one’s own psychic family brings a person vitality and belongingness.

–Clarissa Pinkola Estes, p. 172

So I invite you to listen- to truly listen to the world around you and the wisdom that can be found everywhere on your path.  Inspiration can strike anywhere, anytime.  If you listen without the filters you have developed on account of others in your culture or a family of origin that did not resonate with your inner self, you will discover significance in places you otherwise would have overlooked.  You will gain a sense that whatever is happening to you right now is just part of your process, part of your calling, part of your story.

swan

References

Cowan, Tom. (1993). Fire in the Head:  Shamanism and the Celtic Spirit. HarperSan Francisco.

Estes, Clarissa Pinkola (1992). Women Who Run with the Wolves:  Myths and Stories of the Wild Women Archetype.  Ballantine Books.

Rudhyar, Dane. (1973). An Astrological Mandala: the cycle of transformations and its 360 symbolic phases.

Taurus and Incarnation

scenes from Buddha's life

Taurus and Being Human in Form

What do you desire?  What do you value?  You may have noticed others, including astrologers, asking you these questions recently as we have been experiencing an incredibly intense time period of Taurus energy these past couple of weeks, but especially now.  Unrelated to astrology, in the community college class I teach recently students have been creating projects and writing exploring what they want to attract into their life, what their current purpose in life is, what they desire to have in their life, and what they value.  There have been as many different responses as there are different people, differences in human personalities and backgrounds, with some wanting to possess material items and others more immaterial qualities.  There has been a wide range of material desires, from wanting a more simple type of a pet or a house, to more outlandish possessions such as a private jet, exotic animals, and millions of dollars; there has also been a wide range of immaterial desires, from wanting to have happiness and provide service to the local community, to wanting to provide service to the global community and to explore a higher level of consciousness.  What all of their responses have had in common, however, is desire, human desire, and the fact that human beings have desires, and that we also tend to develop a sense of values that are important to us, and that some of us live from.  This brings up the question, what is desire?  Where do our desires and values come from?  Why do we desire and value what we do?

I was recently listening to a taped lecture by astrologer Alan Oken and gained a new sense of understanding for the sign of Taurus by hearing him break down the etymology of Incarnation.  Incarnation means “embodied in flesh” or “in the flesh,” “in the meat (carne),” and so connects with Taurus as being the second sign of the zodiac since in Taurus we incarnate into form the new impulse of celestial life connected with the first sign of the zodiac, Aries.  We can further link this concept of being in the flesh to our thoughts and emotions, and indeed the sign of Taurus is connected to not only our physical form and sensuality, but also the crystallized form of our thoughts and feelings that make up the value system we live from.  The image of the Buddha above may not be the first one that comes to mind when you think of Taurus, the sign of the bull, until you begin to consider how his teachings connect with the conflicts we encounter in our physical incarnation in a body, and the suffering we cause ourselves through the crystallized patterns of thoughts and emotions we view our world from.

In contrast to thinking of the Buddha when we think of Taurus, as a result of Venus traditionally ruling Taurus in astrology many tend to visualize the sign as a sensual Goddess enjoying her physical incarnation and all the pleasures that can come through it.  And of course, since Taurus is the sign of the bull, we also associate Taurus energy as being embodied by a bull who can be fully engrossed in the presence of the moment in its natural setting, again soaking in the physical delights of its physical form:

MoreauEuropa_and_the_Bull

Taurus is all about being in our body and feeling the sensations of our world  upon our flesh.  The connection to Venus can be felt in the sensuality of our flesh merging with the flesh of our lover, the scent of our lover’s sweat, the taste of their skin.  The crystallization of thought and desire in Taurus can be seen in how we become possessive of this feeling, possessive of our lover, how some can become obsessed more with the intensity of past romantic experience more so than manifesting love into their current life.  This is the shadow side of Taurus, and we can have karmic consequences for our possessiveness.  For example, the image above is one of the most significant catalytic events in myth:  Zeus desiring to possess the beautiful Europa, so transforming himself into a bull to lure her away, and carry her off to the land that became Europe.  The desire of Taurus to possess and hold onto objects or values is where we can apply the expression of “being stubborn like a bull,” and the angry emotions that can erupt out of the normally calm Taurus when a desired object or value is lost is when Taurus can be described as “being like a bull in a china shop.”  The strong sensual desire of Taurus can be applied to anything in our life, such as the taste of food or the more nurturing touch of a friend or family member.  It can vary from culture to culture, especially where material items are concerned: to some possessing a high octane mechanical vehicle with plush interior made up of the skin of a cow could be important, whereas to someone else owning the cow itself could be important.  With Taurus it can come down to possessing what we desire, and this is where we can come down into our suffering.  This is because if anything is true in life it is change.  And since everything is constantly changing, if we are consumed with possessing something we can suffer when it goes away.

Hopefully you can sense by now how in addition to the Goddess Venus, the Buddha clearly connects with the sign of Taurus as well, and not only because he is believed to have been born, reached enlightenment, and have died during the time of Taurus.  When we consider the historical life of the man who became the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, we can imagine that he grew up in a constant state of hedonistic delight, having his every desire attended to, as the popular version of his story indicates his father the King attempted to shield him from the suffering of the external world.  The fact the Buddha grew up in such a materialistic state mirrors the lower nature of Taurus, the side of Taurus that has a desire for material possessions that can never be satiated; the more it possesses, the more it continues to desire more materialism.  In contrast, the higher nature of Taurus mirrors the spiritual development of the Buddha away from attachment to matter and desire, into freedom from materialism, gaining the freedom to connect with Spirit.  In Soul-Centered Astrology, Alan Oken illuminated this connection between Taurus and the Buddha:

The Buddha taught that the path of detachment from desire is the vehicle for the entrance of Light; that is, the Creative Will . . . He did this through those methods which imparted the means to awaken the Third Eye- the “Eye of the Bull.”  This awakening brings into one’s daily life a consciousness in which the expression of the Soul is centered in the intuitive or “Buddhic” plane.  Such an awakening brings forth the potential for the fullest expression of our humanness.  In this respect, the dual horns of the Bull become the single horn of the one pointed spiritualized being, as symbolized by the Unicorn . . . As we open our hearts and Higher Minds, we externalize those aspects of ourself which correspond to the Christ and the Buddha.  This opening is at the core of all of our efforts at self-realization; this is the realization of the Self.  The work to free ourselves from possessiveness and materiality so that through these lessons true Wisdom may emerge is very definitely at the center of the Taurean phase of the turning of the wheel.

— Alan Oken, Soul-Centered Astrology, pp.  167-168

It is traditionally said that at the age of 29 Siddhartha finally journeyed beyond the confines of his controlled life, and was able to witness the old, the sick, the dying, and the dead, causing an expansion of consciousness from within.  In astrology, the age of 29 is significant for being the time of the first Saturn return, a transit that embodies the karmic meaning of this turning point in the Buddha’s life.  He left his princely palace life in order to follow his own Path of Spirit, a journey which took him into many turns leading within himself.  In contrast to the hedonism of his youth, he went to the extremity of abandoning all sensory delight into a lifestyle of ascetism, learning in the process that a Middle Way was the True Path.  Out of this insight came his Four Noble Truths:  the truth of dukkha (translated as suffering, stress, anxiety, or dissatisfaction), the truth of the origin of suffering, the truth of the cessation of suffering, and the path leading to the cessation of suffering.  The Buddha next elaborated upon an Eightfold Path that leads to enlightenment:  Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.  These can perhaps become more manageable to think of grouped into three categories:  “Right View (encompassing Understanding and Thought), Right Relationship (consisting of Speech, Action, and Livelihood), and Right Meditation (Effort, Mindfulness, and Concentration)².”

The astrology of the moment suggests we can be gaining a lot of information into the root causes of our current wounds this lifetime, no matter your beliefs concerning past lives, with the potential to notice how our perception of reality and our attachment to forms could be causing our suffering.  It brings up the question of whether or not learning more about how we have been wounded can even be useful.  Is it useful to go into our wounds? Mark Epstein, who studied and practiced Buddhism before becoming a psychotherapist, explored these questions deeply in his book Going on Being:  Buddhism and the Way of Change, recounting this story of the Buddha:

Talking one day in the forest environment that he favored, he suddenly held up a handful of simsapa leaves and asked the attentive bhikkhus (or monks) to tell him which was greater, the leaves in his hand or the leaves in the surrounding grove . . .

“Very few in your hand, Lord. Many more in the grove,” they replied with unsparing simplicity and none of my taste for duplicity.

It was the same with his psychological and spiritual knowledge, responded the Buddha. Like the many leaves of the simsapa grove, his knowledge far exceeded the handful of his teachings.  Out of the vastness of all possible understanding, he taught only that which in his view led to freedom.  When asked why he would not reveal other facts about reality, he gave the following reply:

“Because, friends, there is no profit in them; because they are not helpful to holiness; because they do not lead from disgust to cessation and peace; because they do not lead from knowledge to wisdom and nirvana.  That is why I have not revealed them.”

The Buddha’s teachings were always direct and to the point.  In coming up against the world of psychotherapy, I have tried to use his words from the simsapa grove as a guide.  “How much of this analytic wisdom is actually helpful?”  I have wondered.  “Does it lead to wisdom, cessation, and peace?”  In the Buddhist view, knowledge is never envisioned as an end in itself but only as a beginning, useful as a means of getting oriented.

–Mark Epstein, p. 119-121

Mark Epstein explored important questions in this book, bringing up the fact he had many friends and associates who gained insights through therapy and yet remained as unhappy, dissatisfied, and egocentric after being in therapy as they were before.  He felt a place where Buddhism, meditation, and psychotherapy can all be helpful is the concept of “going on being,” which he first read about through British child analyst D.W. Winnicott.  The idea of going on being is having “an uninterrupted flow of authentic self,” similar to the pure action displayed most often in our culture by young children.  According to this idea of going on being, it “does not need to connote any fixed entity of self; but it does imply a stream of unimpeded awareness, ever evolving, yet with continuity, uniqueness, and integrity.  It carries with it the sense of the unending meeting places of interpersonal experience, convergences that are not blocked by a reactive or contracted ego” (p. 30-31).  Epstein connects this non-attachment to a “fixed entity of self” to the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha, since the Buddha taught that the first type of clinging is for “pleasant sensory experiences,” and is “equivalent in many ways to the Freudian sexual drive and involves the seeking after sensory gratification” (p. 10).  Later in the book, Epstein shows how this dukkha of the Four Noble Truths relates to our suffering, and to me this connects with the strong energy of Taurus we are currently experiencing:

We want what we can’t have and don’t want what we do have; we want more of what we like and less of what we don’t like.  We are always a little bit hungry, or a little bit defensive, anticipating the slipping away of that which we have worked so hard to achieve.  Behind every suffering, Buddhist teachers say, is the desire for things to be different.  This attempt to control or manage what cannot be changed interferes with our going on being.  We worry about the past and anticipate the future or worry about the future and anticipate the past.  Our self-centeredness causes us to create an uneasy relationship with the world in which we try to fend off any threats to our hard-fought security.  This sets up an indefensible position; we become like a fortress:  a self within a mind within a body that is threatened from all sides.  (p.55-56)

Epstein also connects this issue to being a therapist, and how his “desire for control, in the form of being a helper, is as much of an obstacle to healing another person as it is to healing oneself” (p. 56).  These aspects of dukkha related to self-identity are the other two types of “clinging” taught by the Buddha:   clinging for “being” and for “nonbeing.”  This is an important aspect I don’t have the space or time in this blog to properly explore, but it is sometimes the idea of being “empty” or lacking ego that draws some to Buddhism in order to get away from their egocentric perspective; however, to the Buddha, in either case it is the “mind’s need for certainty” that shortchanges reality (p.22).  The Buddha taught the middle path because the self concept of being a “somebody” or a “nobody” are both mistakes, having a “self-centered attitude is as much of a problem as the self-abnegating one” (p.22).  It is “our sense of self-certainty” in either case that is the issue, because since life is always changing, if we are clinging to any sense of self too strongly we are not being fully in the moment, fully going on being (p.22).  Epstein also brings up insights taught by his friend and teacher Ram Dass in his book, including that it is also a mistake to try to get rid of unwanted parts of ourselves in an attempt to gain greater freedom.  Instead if we can develop a practice of mindfulness and awareness, the “more we bring our attachments into awareness, the freer we become, not because we eliminate the attachments, but because we learn to identify more with awareness than with desire.  Using our capacity for consciousness, we can change perspective on ourselves, giving a sense of space where once there was only habit.  Discipline means restraining the habitual movement of the mind, so that instead of blind impulse there can be clear comprehension” (p. 71).  Since we are in a time of such tremendous Taurus energy, and Taurus has a strong tendency to want to hold onto past habits of comfort in order to gain a sense of self-security, it will be especially important now to practice greater awareness and mindfulness of our attachments.

So in this time of great Taurus energy, we can perhaps use our powerful sensory abilities to become more aware of our desires.  This is somewhat similar to the “diamond approach” of A.H. Almaas that involves sensing one’s body in an ongoing basis, with focus on a point in the belly, helping one to become more grounded in physical body and physical reality, and eventually bringing with it the potential to become more in touch with a spiritual essence.  To me, this is also somewhat similar to “gut wisdom” and the danger that if we are not practicing awareness, we can end up reacting to events from our guts that are more rooted in our past wounding than from a place of heart-centered awareness of the moment.  The potential of using Taurus sensory awareness to develop greater connection with Spirit and presence in the Now of the constant flux of life, also reminds me of the wisdom contained in Taoism.  In particular the following quote from the Tao Te Ching translation by Stephen Mitchell (45), brings up for me the perspective we can gain from losing attachment to form so that we can truly use the form of our life in greater alignment with what is actually happening around us:

True perfection seems imperfect,

yet it is perfectly itself.

True fullness seems empty,

yet it is fully present.

True straightness seems crooked.

True wisdom seems foolish.

True art seems artless.

The Master allows things to happen.

She shapes events as they come.

She steps out of the way

and lets the Tao speak for itself.

bull in lascaux cave

Current Transits in Taurus & Scorpio

As I am writing this, the Sun and all of the personal planets are in Taurus:  Sun, Moon, Mercury, Mars, and Venus is literally in the final culminating minutes of her most recent pass through Taurus.  This Taurus energy is even more intense today as later we will experience a Solar Eclipse in Taurus, with the Sun and Moon within a few degrees of the South Node of the Moon in Taurus.  The fact that the South Node of the Moon is  in Taurus means collectively, all souls on our planet are processing and synthesizing past issues connected with Taurus, including past life issues that could be buried in our unconscious.  The image of the Bull above in the ancient caves of Lascaux, France represents just how long the archetypal image of the Bull has been significant to humans- we are talking over 17,000 years ago most likely!  Once we step into belief in the possibility of us having a soul, a soul that has had previous incarnations on this planet, we step into the possibility that we could be impacted somewhere in our psyche by events from even as long ago as when this bull above was painted on the wall of a cave.

We can again bring the Buddha into our discussion of these times of Taurus because part of his spiritual awakening involved knowledge of his many previous incarnations, bringing the awareness that we all have a soul we have been re-incarnating in many different forms in many different lifetimes or incarnations.  In astrology, two of the approaches I am most drawn to are deeply connected with the Soul:  Evolutionary Astrology and Esoteric Astrology.  It is fascinating that both of these astrological approaches have a channeled background:  the Evolutionary Astrology paradigm as taught by Jeffrey Wolf Green originally came to Jeff in a dream, in Sanskrit from Sri Yuketswar, the guru of Yogananda;  in comparison, the Esoteric Astrology material was channeled by Alice Bailey from the Tibetan Master D.K., and is currently being taught and made popular by Alan Oken and his work in astrology.  In her book Esoteric Astrology, Alice Bailey described the connection between Taurus and incarnation:

As the individual descends into incarnation and when he takes an astral shell (emotional body), he definitely comes into a Taurian cycle, for it is desire which impels to rebirth and it takes the potency of Taurus to bring this about.

–Alice Bailey, Esoteric Astrology, p. 380

This link between desire and re-incarnation is part of the answer to my question at the beginning of this article concerning the origins of our desires, and why we have them.  The Evolutionary Astrology paradigm taught by Jeffrey Wolf Green also places great importance on the connection between our desires, our Soul, and our past incarnations.  Green teaches that the placement and aspects of Pluto describes the types of desires the soul has had in previous lives that have a direct connection to the current evolutionary intentions of the current lifetime- in Sanskrit this archetype is called Prarabdha Karma.  As a result of Pluto correlating with our soul desires, Green teaches that it also correlates with our deepest sense of security, meaning that by connecting with the sources of our soul desires, we can maintain a sense of self-consistency and security- so we tend to have a hard time moving beyond our desires as they are connected with our soul, our previous incarnations, and our comfort zone.

With regards to the South Node of the Moon, Green describes it as correlating to the kind of ego identities that the soul has created in past lives in order to actualize the evolutionary desires of the soul.  Since the current South Node of the Moon in Taurus will be conjunct the Solar Eclipse today, all of our soul desires on a collective and individual level could be triggered.   Amazingly, the Sabian Symbol for the current South Node of the Moon in Taurus at 17 degrees is connected with the story of Gautama Siddhartha in his process of becoming the Buddha.  In An Astrological Mandala, Dane Rudyar links the symbol for 17 Taurus to the Buddha in this way:

When Gautama, having sought in vain for the answers to his questions among the teachers of tradition, sat under the Bodhi Tree, he had to fight his own battle in his own way, even though it is an eternal fight.  The spiritual light within the greater Soul must struggle against the ego-will that only knows how to use the powers of this material and intellectual world.  There is no possibility of escape; it is the energy that arises out of the present moment- the inescapable NOW- that the daring individual has to use in the struggle.

The symbol is A SYMBOLICAL BATTLE BETWEEN “SWORDS” and “TORCHES,” and according to Dane Rudhyar, “suggests that salvation is attained through the emergent individual’s readiness to face all issues as if there were only two opposed sides . . . a stage of POLARIZATION OF VALUES” (p.  81).  Tied into this symbol is a “seeker” who has transformed into a “warrior,” “refusing to depend upon the past,” and “fighting anew the eternal Great War” (p. 81).  Polarity is an important concept in Evolutionary Astrology as well, for example integrating the polarity point of Pluto (Cancer to Capricorn; Scorpio to Taurus) is connected to our evolutionary development similar to integrating the North Node of the Moon.  Taurus being the sign of the South Node of the Moon at this time makes us even more magnetized than usual to past patterns because of the comfort Taurus finds in the stability, and so it will take the intense transformation energy of it’s archetypal polarity, Scorpio, to force us onto a path of greater evolutionary growth.

Since eclipses often correlate with sudden and unexpected events that can be uncomfortable, this Sabian Symbol of Gautama becoming the Buddha suggests we could experience spiritual growth through facing the events without attachment to our past, and through welcoming the struggle between the will of our soul and the will of our ego personality- achieving growth in consciousness through the conflict.  Rudhyar’s description of the Buddha in this Sabian Symbol is also a timely image for the current South Node of the moon because it brings a sense of an active warrior energy to the traditional image of a calm, peaceful Buddha-  this is because we will need to actively move beyond our ties to past patterns of desire into greater freedom and a new life of meaning amid the flux of changes that will most likely occur in this time period of eclipses.  Today’s eclipse correlating with greater awareness of spiritual forces is further shown through the Sabian Symbol of the Solar Eclipse at 20 degrees Taurus:  “Wisps of winglike clouds streaming across the sky,”  described by Dane Rudhyar as a sign that an “individual who has taken a new step in his evolution should look for the ‘Signature’ of divine Powers confirming his progress . . . The ‘winglike clouds’ may also symbolize the presence of celestial beings (devas, angels) blessing and subtly revealing the direction to take, the direction of ‘the wind’ of destiny” (Rudhyar, An Astrological Mandala, p. 83).  If we make the difficult or uncomfortable choice to move out of our comfort zone into accordance with our evolutionary growth- again, this could feel like a polarity to the desires and values we feel secure with- we will hopefully receive guidance or signs of synchronicity showing we are on the correct path.

It will not be easy to be move beyond patterns of desire associated with the South Node of the Moon because of the large number of transits currently impacting it:  on May 6, the Sun was conjunct the South Node of the Moon in Taurus, and on May 7 Mercury and Mars became conjunct in range of a conjunction with the South Node (the third conjunction of Mercury and Mars in 2013:  they were conjunct twice in Pisces in February).  So our soul purpose (Sun), perception and organization of reality (Mercury) and sense of Will (Mars) will all be connected with the South Node at the time of the eclipse.  The recent Mercury and Mars cycle is connected with the intense Pisces energy we experienced in February (which then became the intense Aries energy of April, the intense Taurus energy of May- more so than normal just so you know!). On February 8, Mercury and Mars were conjunct in Pisces (also conjunct Neptune and Chiron in Pisces and square Jupiter in Gemini), and then once Mercury stationed retrograde, they were conjunct again on February 26, 2013 in square to Ceres in Gemini (I wrote about this here:  https://esotericembers.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/an-angel-watches-over-an-argument-between-ceres-and-mercury/).  Now, three months later, they are finally conjunct once again, conjunct the South Node of the Moon at the same time as a Solar Eclipse conjunct the South Node of the Moon!  In the time of Pisces we were able to open to some sense somewhere of greater vision and possibility in our life- now is the time to manifest, and work with our mind to change the way we are thinking, to align our mind and our perceptions with not only our Will but the Divine Will of the Universe.  The Buddha and Buddhism teaches that we are what we think, that we become what we think, and that it is possible to change who and what we become in form, through changing the form of our thoughts.

In addition, with Jupiter continuing to be in Gemini and Venus moving into the beginning of Gemini at the time of the eclipse, we could experience a flood of information concerning the desires we have that are linked with past incarnations, more information than could even seem useful because of the overwhelming feeling it brings.  It again brings up the issue of whether or not all this information, this going into our past problems can help us- and again, the advice of the Buddha to train mind, discipline mind, in order to disentangle ourselves from our past thoughts and desires, in order to change through changing the way we think, does feel helpful to me.  Indeed, if we look at the Sabian Symbol for the North Node of the Moon, 17 degrees Scorpio, at the time of today’s Solar Eclipse, we will see that we do indeed have this power of divine thought within us:

Scorpio 17:  A Woman, fecundated by her own spirit, is “Great with child.”

Keynote:  A total reliance upon the dictates of the God-within.

. . . here we see the result of a deep and complete concentration reaching to the innermost center of the personality where the Living God acts as a fecundating power.  This reveals the potency of the inward way, the surrender of the ego to a transcendent Force which can create through the person vivid manifestations of the Will of God.

–Dane Rudhyar, An Astrological Mandala, p. 202

So even though the strong Taurus energy in this time period could potentially correspond with us falling into even more of a comfort zone than normal, we can use the deep rooted centering of Taurus to help us be present to the transformations occurring around us with our full being.  But in order to do this in connection with our evolutionary intentions, we will need to do it while integrating the polarity of Taurus: Scorpio.  Scorpio is the polarity to Taurus, and the location of our collective focus of evolutionary growth in the form of the North Node of the Moon, as well as the current location of Saturn, the great karmic master of our three dimensional reality here.

mahakala

At the time of today’s eclipse, the North Node of the Moon and Saturn will be widely conjunct in Scorpio.  Saturn in Scorpio to me is like the karmic taskmaster Mahakala, seen in the image above.  Mahakala is always depicted with five skulls, the five skulls standing for the transmutation of desires into wisdom.  Mahakala destroys ignorance, confusion, and doubt, he is the Lord of Time and the Lord of Death, and to me is like Saturn in Scorpio in that he may seem intense and even wrathful, but in his intensity he purifies and protects.  At this time of Saturn in Scorpio standing in opposition to the extreme magnetic desire energy of Taurus, it is a time for us to face our desires and places we are acting out of confusion without fear.  It is a time to go through death, because death is our friend in transformation-  like Mahakala, we can make friends with our own personal “demons” and integrate ourselves into greater consciousness, as Mahakala turns demons into protection.  It is like how Taurus rules our desires for form, and in Scorpio we transcend or transmute our desires beyond attachment to form.  It is like the phoenix rising from the flames.  We do not fear death, we step into it and experience our freedom.  In another passage from Going Into Being, Mark Epstein explains his understanding of Nirvana and how it is not really about death, it is about the freedom we gain from releasing the fear of death:

Nirvana is the Buddha’s word for freedom, not for death.  It is his answer to the problem of common unhappiness, to the anxiety that is encapsulated most clearly in the fear of death.  Nirvana, as the late San Francisco Zen master Suzuki Roth put it, is the capacity to maintain one’s composure in the face of ceaseless change.  The key, from the Buddha’s perspective, is to find nirvana through overcoming one’s own self-created obstacles to that composure.  The path to nirvana means working with one’s own reactions to the change that surrounds us, to the change that we are.

–Mark Epstein, Going on Being: Buddhism and the Way of Change, p. 125

Joseph Campbell and others have elaborated upon the significance of ritualistic deaths in myths and in the reality of cultures around our planet, in that the important thing is that the participants believe they are going to die, and so experience a death of their infantile ego.  Some of the most widely practiced ancient rituals were connected with myths of the underworld, resurrection, and transcendence of form, such as the myth of Demeter and Persephone, and the myth of Isis and Osiris.  Going through a near death experience, or a ritualistic experience in which we believe we may die, helps us destroy our ego perspective that feels dependent upon society or the expectations of others to validate our authority, and helps us step into our own inner authority in an authentic manner without fear of judgment.  I do not mean to suggest that we need to go through a death experience at this time in our lives, just that the symbol of death and transformation associated with the archetype of Scorpio is very important right now, being the polarity to so much Taurus energy.

In fact, this transformation we could experience at this time could be quite peaceful, calm, and meditative, if we are using some of the wisdom teachings of the Buddha.  The Sabian Symbol for the current placement of Saturn in Scorpio is especially illuminating in this way:

Scorpio 8:  A calm lake bathed in moonlight

Keynote:  A quiet openness to higher inspiration

One could stress the romantic suggestions such an image evokes, but even at the level of a love relationship what is implied is a surrender of two personal egos to the inspiration of transcendent feelings which are essentially impersonal.  Love expresses itself through the lovers, for real Love is a cosmic undifferentiated principle or power which simply focuses itself within the “souls” of human beings who reflect its light.  The same is true of the mystic’s love for God.  Man strives hard to achieve great things through daring adventures, but a moment comes when all that really matters is to present a calm mind upon which a supernal light may be reflected.

–Dane Rudhyar, An Astrological Mandala, p. 196

To quote one of my favorite wise womyn on planet earth, master herbalist Carol Trasatto, this “balm of calm” could be quite helpful in these intense days ahead.  If we can reach within for this calm state of mind and being, we can be like the reflective surface of a tranquil lake receiving the glow of the full moon, like our calm mind receiving the Light of Spirit.  A helpful meditation for these upcoming times can be found in this translation of the Tao Te Ching by Stephen Mitchell (63):

Act without doing;

work without effort.

Think of the small as large

and the few as many.

Confront the difficult

while it is still easy;

accomplish the great task

by a series of small acts.

The Master never reaches for the great;

thus she achieves greatness.

When she runs into a difficulty,

she stops and gives herself to it.

She doesn’t cling to her own comfort;

thus problems are no problem for her.

Buddhist_Vajravarahi_Yantra

Harmony through Conflict

Times of eclipses are usually never easy, but when exactly is life easy for humans on our planet these days?  If we look at the symbol above, a six pointed star or what is often commonly referred to as the “Star of David,” we can see a symbol to meditate upon for guidance.  Similar to the symbol of the cross, the six pointed star meets in the middle, in the heart.  The triangle pointing upward symbolizes the transmutation of our lower nature into our higher nature, and the triangle pointing downward symbolizes the integration of our higher nature into our lower nature:  they meet in the middle, the heart.  Just as the cross meets in the middle, the heart.  The heart is the fourth chakra (the middle chakra, with three above and three below), just like humans are the fourth kingdom (three kingdoms below- mineral, plant, animal, and three kingdoms above- the soul, and the more “angelic” realms).  Sound like the middle path?  Using the number seven as a symbol for consciousness in these ways, we find that the number four is in the middle, and the number four stands for being heart-centered.  This connects with the Fourth Ray of Esoteric Astrology:  as Alan Oken teaches, what is the conflict?  Meat!  Being in the flesh, being incarnated in our physical form on this planet in the middle of extreme energies!  And what is the harmony?  Consciousness, and living a heart-centered life.  Fittingly for this Taurus eclipse season, the two main signs of the 4th Ray are Taurus and Scorpio- Taurus, the sign of being in form, beauty and art, and “the creation of the various forms of life and the ultimate release of consciousness from them that constitutes the lessons of daily living” (Oken, p.120), and Scorpio, the archetype of transcending attachment to form, ruled by Pluto on our ego level because of bringing about the death process of our desire nature.  Alan Oken has already written a brilliant summary of this dynamic, that could relate to intense events corresponding with these series of eclipses while the third Pluto-Uranus square is happening at the same time:

There is a common rhythm for those crises brought on through the urgency of Fourth Ray energy.  It may be outlined as follows:  A person finds herself in a relative state of harmony, but then a certain change enters her life, shifting the status quo.  Such a change brings on the tensions of the struggle between the past and the unfolding future, between the urge for things to stay the same and the inevitability of transformation.  A battle ensues between the two opposing forces, which leads to a passing and a death of the form of the situation.  She is left with the struggle to reconstruct a new form out of the experiences of the battle that has just taken place.  This new form consolidates and settles, and once again there is harmony– until the entrance of the next change!  Is this not the rhythm and movement of Scorpio?  The Fourth Ray, the human state, forces the resolution of conflict, the harmonizing of the pairs of opposites, and the eventual evolution from the focus of instinct and desire to the release into consciousness and pure, essential love.

–Alan Oken, Soul-Centered Astrology, p. 121

In these times of eclipses, with the third intense Pluto-Uranus square fast approaching on May 20, may we be heart-centered, heart-focused, and live from the heart.  If we can combine this with the guidance the Buddha brings to us in this season of Taurus, to train our minds to disentangle from the desires preventing us from sensing our true being in the world without interruption, we will have a heightened ability to shift and flow with whatever intense events may be on the horizon of our lives.

Hathor as a cow, from the papyrus of Ani

References

1. A.H. Almaas: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._H._Almaas

2. Epstein, Mark. (200. Going on Being:  Buddhism and the Way of Change. Broadway Books.

3. Mitchell, Stephen (1988). Tao Te Ching. Harper Collins.

4. Oken, Alan.(1990). Soul-Centered Astrology:  A Key to Your Expanding Self.  Ibis.

5. Rudhyar, Dane. (1974).  An Astrological Mandala:  The Cycle of Transformations and its 360 Symbolic Phases. Vintage.

Aries and Individuation

the-birth-of-aphrodite-by-sandro-botticelli

The Birth of Archetypes

In Botticelli’masterwork The Birth of Venus we can sense the initiatory impulse of Aries:  a Goddess arising out of an oceanic expanse, naked and primal, radiant and yet revealing an inclination to slightly cover up her exposed beauty.  Or perhaps that slight insecurity is coming from the woman rushing in to cloth her, a woman who seemingly is from consensus culture because she seems to be frantically attempting to uphold the consensus rule that a woman should not be revealing her full glorious form so openly in public.  In popular astrology we are familiar with linking the sign of Aries with the sort of bravado that could lead one to skinny dipping in public, but the deeper astrological symbolism of the sign links it with the courage necessary to fully individuate ourselves, open ourselves to exposing our pure Soul and living our True Path in the world, despite influences of societal conditioning that would have us conform to consensus expectations of behavior rooted in the past and present.  In this way Aries is linked to the initial impulse to emerge in the process of Individuation developed by Carl Jung, a transformative process in which we develop an identity of our true Self through integrating different elements of our psyche into a functioning whole and holistically healing ourselves as a result.

The image of The Birth of Venus is reflected in the Sabian Symbol for the very first degree of the zodiac, the first degree of Aries:  “A woman just risen from the sea” who is embraced by a seal, and represents the “Emergence of new forms and of the potentiality of consciousness” (Rudyar, p.49).  Dane Rudhyar’s An Astrological Mandala works with the Sabian Symbols originally written about by Marc Edmund Jones, re-interpreting them as an American I-Ching in which there is a symbolic image and description for every one of the 360 degrees of the zodiac, “considered as a cyclic and structured series which formalizes and reveals the archetypal meaning of 360 basic phases of human experience” (Rudhyar, p.5).  Rudhyar gives this analysis of the first degree of Aries:

This is the first of the 360 phases of a universal and multi-level cyclic process which aims at the actualization of a particular set of potentialities.  These potentialities, in the Sabian symbols, refer to the development of man’s individualized consciousness- the consciousness of being an individual person with a place and function (a “destiny”) in the planetary organism of the Earth, and in a particular type of human society and culture.

To be individually conscious means to emerge out of the sea of generic and collective consciousness- which to the emerged mind appears to be unconsciousness.  Such an emergence is the primary event.  It is the result of some basic action:  a leaving behind, an emerging from a womb or matrix, here symbolized by the sea (p. 49-50).

In Evolutionary Astrology taught by Jeffrey Wolf Green, the cardinal archetypes like Aries have an energy of two steps forward, one step back.  This new initiation of energy that is prone to reenacting past patterns at the same time, can be found in the first Sabian Symbol of Aries in the form of the seal who is embracing the woman who has emerged from the sea.  According to Rudhyar, the seal symbolizes a “regressive step” since it is a creature of the ocean clinging to the woman attempting to emerge from the deep water.  Rudhyar illustrated this symbol as a representation that “every emergent process at first is susceptible to failure,” and that when initiating new changes we become surrounded by memories and “the ghosts of past failures during previous cycles,” and in danger of falling prey to “regressive fear or insecurity” (p. 50).  In the painting The Birth of Venus by Botticelli above, we can see this sense of insecurity even in the Goddess Venus herself, as she feels a need to slightly begin to cover herself.   However, this is exactly why the strong “impulse to be” of Aries is so important, to propel us forward into birthing our true selves into the world through actualizing new choices more aligned with our true desires, a sense of self that is not limited by past negative thought patterns or restrictive habits of behavior, and that carries the courage necessary to break free from outside expectations.

In Esoteric Astrology, Aries is directly linked to the idea of birthing new archetypal ideas into collective consciousness.  Alice Bailey in Esoteric Astrology described Aries as the “searchlight of the Logos” and the  “Light of Life Itself . . . where the Will of God is known” (p. 329-30).  Alan Oken expanded on this idea  in his  Soul Centered Astrology by claiming that this “initiating focus” of Aries makes it “the birthplace of ideas, according to the Ancient Wisdom Teachings, as all of manifestation has its beginnings as Divine Ideas” (p. 162).  Oken explained that Mercury is the esoteric ruler of Aries because “Aries is the fiery channel that provides for mercury’s expression, allowing for the birthing of a true Idea coming from the Mind of God . . . a spiritual impulse taking form” (p. 165).  In this way, Oken described  Mercury as linking “the Higher Mind with the lower so that the inner realization of one’s place in the Plan of Life may be recognized and then, through the use of applied logic, externalized” into the lower realms of our personality (p. 162-3). This esoteric view of Mercury is similar to the Hermes of ancient myth who was capable of crossing back and forth between the thresholds of the underworld and the upperworld.

Uranus being the higher octave of Mercury, and Uranus being in Aries and being triggered by numerous intense transits recently, it would seem we are in a period of time in which new archetypal ideas could be entering our collective consciousness.  On March 28, 2013 there were several incredibly potent conjunctions in Aries:  the Sun and Venus at 8 degrees of Aries, Venus and Uranus at 9 degrees of Aries, and the Sun conjunct Uranus at 9 degrees of Aries.  In addition, Venus, Uranus, and the Sun were also conjunct Mars within an approximate orb of four degrees.  Since this stellium conjunction also happened to be in orb of a square to Pluto in Capricorn, and also happened to form a yod with Jupiter in Gemini pointing to Saturn in Scorpio, the week of Easter this year has been fertile with fateful astrological energy.  If you lack extensive knowledge of astrology and do not really understand the significance of the astrological transits I just mentioned, just know that if ever Aries could be linked to the idea of birthing new forms of archetypes in our collective consciousness, this would clearly be the time.  At the time of this writing we still remain with the vortex of incredible Aries energy, as Venus at the moment is headed for her cyclic two year or so conjunction with Mars, which will happen on April 6 at 20 degrees of Aries, here in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

The term “archetypes” at this point in the history of astrology is usually tossed around by writers without reflecting upon the origins of the word, which in published authorship can be traced to one Carl Jung.  In Cosmos and Psyche, Richard Tarnas explained that it was in part through his research on synchroncities that “Jung came to regard archetypes as expressions not only of a collective unconscious shared by all human beings but also of a larger matrix of being and meaning that informs and encompasses both the physical world and the  human psyche” (p. 82-3).  Tarnas goes on to explain that he believes astrology primarily effects our lives as humans through an archetypal process, noting that while “the original Jungian archetypes were primarily considered to be the basic formal principles of the human psyche, the original Platonic archetypes were regarded as the essential principles of reality itself, rooted in the very nature of the cosmos . . . Integrating these two views (much as Jung began to do in his final years under the influence of synchronicities), contemporary astrology suggest that archetypes possess a reality that is both objective and subjective, one that informs both outer cosmos and inner human psyche, ‘as above, so below'” (p. 85-6).

Recently, I have felt compelled to read some of Jung’s own original writing regarding archetypes and how he came to describe them.  In his book Man and His Symbols, Carl Jung criticized the connotation of the term “archaic remnants” created by Freud to describe dream imagery evoking ancient myths because it suggested that they were psychic unconscious elements collected by the conscious mind like a trash can.  Instead, Jung argued that his term “archetypes” carried the meaning that instead of being lifeless “remnants,” that these archetypal associations and images “are an integral part of the unconscious, and can be observed everywhere,” and that they “form a bridge between the ways in which we consciously express our thoughts and a more primitive, more colorful and pictorial form . . . that appeals directly to feeling and emotion” (p. 47-49).  Jung believed that archetypal images and associations connect our “rational world of consciousness” with our “world of instinct” (p. 49).

My views about the “archaic remnants,” which I call “archetypes” or “primordial images,” have been constantly criticized by people who lack a sufficient knowledge of the psychology of dreams and of mythology. The term “archetype” is often misunderstood as meaning certain definite mythological images or motifs. But these are nothing more than conscious representations; it would be absurd to assume that such variable representations could be inherited.

The archetype is a tendency to form such representations of a motif- representations that can vary a great deal in detail without losing their basic pattern.  There are, for instance, many representations of the motif of the hostile brethren, but the motif itself remains the same. . . .

Here I must clarify the relation between instincts and archetypes:  what we properly call instincts are physiological urges, and are perceived by the senses.  But at the same time, they also manifest themselves in fantasies and often reveal their presence only by symbolic images.  These manifestations are what I call the archetypes.  They are without known origin; and they reproduce themselves in any time or in any part of the world- even where transmission by direct descent or “cross fertilization” through migration must be ruled out.  (p.67-69)

–Carl Jung from Man and His Symbols (1964)

Thus according to the man who coined the term “archetypes,” they are not in fact locked in to rigid definitions or classifications, but are indeed open to being birthed into new representations like the Esoteric Astrology interpretation of Aries, as long as they retain their basic pattern.  In Cosmos and Psyche, Richard Tarnas highlights the “factor of human co-creative participation” in contemporary astrology, and how “planetary archetypes . . . not only endure as timeless universals but are also co-creatively enacted and recursively affected through human participation” (p.86).  Tarnas emphasized that planetary archetypes “must be formulated not as literal concretely definable entities but rather as dynamic potentialities and essences of meaning that cannot be localized or restricted to a specific dimension,” and so archetypes should be “evoked” instead of “defined,” and are “better conveyed through a wide range of examples that collectively illustrate and suggest the enduring intangible essense that is variously inflected through the archetype’s diverse embodiments” (p. 89).

Fittingly enough, I had the opportunity to hear Alan Oken speak for the first time on Easter Sunday of 2012 at the NORWAC astrology convention here in the Pacific Northwest.  He spoke of the ancient battle between Kronus or Saturn, one who is frightened of the timeless and wants to create finite strucutres, and Ouranos or Uranus, one who wants to break finite structures up.  He referenced the mythology of The Birth of Venus painting by Botticelli, describing how when Saturn castrated his father Uranus, the Sky God who was the father of the archetypes, he threw his testes into the oceanic realm of Poseidon or Neptune, creating a fertile matrix in the process that gave birth to Aphrodite or Venus.  Oken said as the father of the archetypes, Uranus breathes new creative fields and has no more powerful place than its current residence in Aries, as new ideas will pour into the collective consciousness.  This influx of new images and insights, Oken elaborated, is due to the fact that Uranus individuates and is the place of the unexpected where you do not follow the norm.  Like I previously mentioned, the link between Uranus, Aries, and Individuation is fascinating from an esoteric perspective since Mercury rules Aries in Esoteric Astrology, and Uranus is the higher octave of Mercury.  With these dynamic descriptions of archetypes in mind, and in consideration of the intense Aries focalizing of energy at this time in the form of the Sun, Venus, Uranus and Mars, the time appears to be ripe to individuate a new sense of the archetypes for ourselves that can likewise be integrated into the greater collective consciousness.  For example, in our modern astrological context, we tend to view Saturn as being the representation of consensus rules, regulations, and expectations of behavior.  What this consensus reality looks like is constantly shifting in modern times, with each new generation ascending with all of its myriad fractals of individuation occurring inside.  In Evolutionary Astrology and other teachings, Uranus carries an energy of collective trauma that can be seen in the myth by Uranus being castrated by Saturn, while also carrying an unstoppable energy of individuation as a result of overcoming the societal conditioning of Saturn, as seen in this castration giving birth to the radiant Goddess Venus.  How each of us interprets this myth in our own time, the specific images that may come to mind as representations, will vary widely and will be shifting with time.  However, the basic pattern remains nonetheless.

800px-Sidney_Hall,_Aries_and_Musca_Borealis,_1825

Individuation

The archetype of Aries has been linked with individuation in many works of astrological literature.  In Pluto: the Evolutionary Journey of the Soul,  Jeffrey Wolf Green describes the evolved Aries archetype as having the “intrinsic courage and capacity to break new ground in whatever aspect of life that they apply themselves to, and can give courage to others to do the same thing” (p. 51).  Green describes people with Pluto in Aries or the First House as sensing that they have a “special destiny on a very instinctual basis,” and that as a result they desire to have the “freedom and independence to initiate and fulfill any desire or experience they deem necessary, because experience is the vehicle through which they discover or become who and what they are” (p. 43).  Thus, in Evolutionary Astrology, Aries  embodies an instinctual “sense of personal self-discovery that is felt at every moment” (Green, p. 43).  Whether we have planets in Aries or not, when we follow our instinctual inner drive to fulfill our desires, we begin to set off on our own personal path toward individuation, much like the Fool in the tarot.

When terminology like “individuation” becomes so popular and commonplace in astrology and psychology that we talk and write about it like it is already understood by everyone in the same manner, it can be helpful to research the roots of the words and when it entered the mainstream of psychological literature.  In Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols, Marie Louise von Franz wrote a series of articles brilliantly illuminating the definition and meaning of individuation.  Especially compelling to me is her use of a pine tree seed as a symbol for individuation, and how the totality of a full-grown pine tree lies latent within the being of the seed:

 The seed of a mountain pine contains the whole future tree in a latent form; but each seed falls at a certain time onto a particular place in which there are a number of special factors, such as the quality of the soil and the stones, the slope of the land, and its exposure to sun and wind. The latent totatlity of the pine in the seed reacts to these circumstances by avoiding the stones and inclining toward the sun, with the result that the tree’s growth is shaped.  Thus an individual pine slowly comes into existence, constituting the fulfillment of its totality, its emergence into the realm of reality.  Without the living tree, the image of the pine is only a possibility or an abstract idea.  Again, the realization of this uniqueness in the individual man is the goal of the process of individuation.

From one point of view this process takes place in man (as well as in every other living being) by itself and in the unconscious; it is a process by which man lives out his innate human nature.  Strictly speaking, however, the process of individuation is real only if the individual is aware of it and consciously makes a living connection with it.  We do not know whether the pine tree is aware of its own growth, whether it enjoys and suffers the different vicissitudes that shape it.  But man certainly is able to participate consciously in his development.  He even feels that from time to time, by making free decisions, he can cooperate actively with it.  This co-operation belongs to the process of individuation in the narrower sense of the word.

Man, however, experiences something that is not contained in our metaphor of the pine tree.  The individuation process is more than a coming to terms between the inborn germ of wholeness and the outer acts of fate.  Its subjective experience conveys the feeling that some supra-personal force is actively interfering in a creative way.  Once sometimes feels that the unconscious is leading the way in accordance with a secret design.  It is a as if something is looking at me, something that I do not see but that sees me-  perhaps that Great Man in the heart, who tells me his opinions about me by means of dreams.

But this creatively active aspect of the psychic nucleus can come into play only when the ego gets rid of all purposive and wishful aims and tries to get to a deeper, more basic form of existence.  The ego must be able to listen attentively and to give itself, without any further design or purpose, to that inner urge toward growth.  Many existentialist philosophers try to describe this state, but they go only as far as stripping off the illusions of consciousness:  they go right up to the door of the unconscious and then fail to open it (p. 162-163).

–Marie Louise von Franz, from Man and His Symbols 

Because of the dominance of popular astrology and the use of pop astrology stereotypes, for example associating an infantile, headstrong, or selfish egotist with the sign of Aries, people can make the mistake of assuming that Aries energy is meant to come off as pushy and aggressive.  Aries energy can be headstrong in the sense of being determined to follow an individuation process in the face of cultural pressure to conform, but the manner in which Aries energy can initiate this process can be more of a surrendering to one’s inner nature than a forceful assertion of one’s inner nature.  Again, in Man and His Symbols, Marie Louise von Franz uses the pine tree seed as an apt metaphor for this individuating process:

….in order to bring the individuation process into reality, one must surrender consciously to the power of the unconscious, instead of thinking in terms of what one should do, or of what is generally thought right, or of what usually happens. One must simply listen, in order to learn what the inner totality- the Self- wants one to do here and now in a particular situation.

Our attitude must be like of the mountain pine mentioned above: It does not get annoyed when its growth is obstructed by a stone, nor does it make plans about how to overcome the obstacles. It merely tries to feel whether it should grow more toward the left or the right, toward the slope or away from it. Like the tree, we should give in to this almost imperceptible, yet powerfully dominating, impulse- an impulse that comes from the urge toward unique, creative self-realization.  And this is a process in which one must repeatedly seek out and find something that is not yet known to anyone.  The guiding hints or impulses come, not from the ego, but from the totality of the psyche:  the Self.

It is, moreover, useless to cast furtive glances at the way someone else is developing, because each of us has a unique task of self-realization.  Although many human problems are similar, they are never identical.  All pine trees are very much alike (otherwise we should not recognize them as pines), yet none is exactly the same as another.  Because of these factors of sameness and difference, it is difficult to summarize the infinite variations of the process of individuation.  The fact is that each person has to do something different, something that is uniquely his own  (p. 162-164).

–Marie Louise von Franz, from Man and His Symbols

This idea of surrendering to the perhaps unconscious potential of the Self fits well with the current astrological time period and the acceleration of Aries energy occurring, having come after a time period with excessive astrological energy in Pisces.  The long Mercury retrograde in Pisces combined with Neptune, Chiron, Mars, Venus, the Moon, and the Sun all moving through Pisces may have coincided with us discovering at least a hint, if not a definitive calling, from our Soul purpose in the world, the latent potential of a glorious mountain pine tree that could grow from the seeds of our current thoughts and desires.

william blake angels appearing before shepherds

In ancient myths and spiritual texts such as the Bible, shepherds often receive divine messages, such as in the painting above by William Blake of angels appearing to shepherds.  The tending of sheep is important in all of the Abraham faiths, since Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David, and Muhammad were all shepherds.  In his Complete Astrology, Alan Oken noted that the symbol of Aries, the ram, was always the sacficial animal in ancient works such as the Golden Fleece and Moses.  Moreover, Oken cites the fact that many believe that “Moses, the leader of the Exodus, was born under the sign of Aries” (p.59).   As the Christian version of Easter occurs during the time of Aries, it is fitting that we are used to associating the image of the “Lamb of God” with Jesus of Nazareth.  Alan Oken in his Complete Astrology brilliantly analyzes this connection between Jesus and lambs with the individuating purpose of Aries individuals:

In the Christian ethic, Christ was known as the “Lamb of God.”  The crucifixion was symbolic of the ancient sacrificial rites in which a lamb or a ram was offered to the Deity.  Jesus used his physical body to represent the ego of Man (the lamb) on the altar of sacrifice (the cross, representing the nature of the material world).  Through His death and resurrection, Christ illustrated that man must transcend the desires of his personality so that he can gain admittance into the Kingdom of Heaven (conscious immortality in the Spirit).

Thus the Aries individual, although always seeking to express himself in some new aspect of the life experience, is often obliged to disregard his or her own personal desires in order to make a bright future for others.  He must give of his own life-energy so that Mankind may be recharged by the force of life which the Ram embodies (p. 60)

In this time of Easter, with a potent conjunction of Venus, the Sun, Uranus, and Mars all occurring in Aries (not to mention that this Aries stellium is square Capricorn Pluto and forms a yod with Jupiter in Gemini pointing toward Saturn in Scorpio), we can resurrect our true Self or Soul, our true Genius or Juno, however you want to describe it, but the soulful callings of our life purpose we can hear in the wind, which may have fallen dormant in years past, now is burning like the bush calling out to Moses, calling on us to liberate our true being from within and actualize our true Path in the World at this time.

Agnus Dei or “Lamb of God”

by Gabriel Fauré

References

Bailey, Alice. Esoteric Astrology.

Green, Jeff. (1984). Pluto: the Evolutionary Journey of the Soul. Llewellyn.

Jung, Carl and M-L von Franz, Joseph Henderson, Jolande Jacobi, & Aniela Jaffe. (1964). Man and His Symbols. Aldus.

Oken, Alan (1980). Alan Oken’s Complete Astrology. Ibis.

Oken, Alan. (1990). Soul-Centered Astrology: a key to your expanding self.

Rudhyar, Dane. (1973). An Astrological Mandala: the cycle of transformations and its 360 symbolic phases.

Tarnas, Richard. (2007). Cosmos and Psyche. Plume.

Mercury’s odyssey through Leo: Hermes as Hero

Ah, that Hermes, a crafty fellow who causes much mischief, but at the same time often shows up to save the day in myths, such as braving the underworld to rescue Persephone.  During much of this past Summer, the planet Mercury has gone through a long strange trip through the sign of Leo, an odyssey that will be culminating with the Full Moon and Blue Moon in Pisces this upcoming Friday:  as Mercury reaches the final degrees of Leo during the Full Moon, it will be in range of opposing Neptune and will exactly oppose Pisces Neptune the next day.

Hermes aka Mercury

I believe myths reflect the wisdom in the stars and can bring to life a lot of the complex interplanetary dynamics we astrologers love to discuss.  With Mercury moving into an opposition with Neptune in Pisces this week, it brings to mind many of the Neptunian myths, the journey of Odysseus among them.  In The Odyssey Odysseus primarily has the path of guiding his men back to their home, and himself back to the arms of his wife, Penelope, waiting at home for him.  Odysseus and Poseidon (Neptune) square off at many points, but some of the greatest dangers Odysseus gets himself and his men into stems from his Neptunian trysts with the Goddesses Calypso and Circe.  Each of these goddesses keeps Oddysseus in their arms as their lover for great lengths of time, Calypso keeping him as her lover for seven years on her island according to Homer!  With each Odysseus seems incapable of breaking himself free, reveling in his ecstatic union with each Goddess, while temporarily neglecting his mission to guide himself and his men to their homeland.  It is Hermes, or Mercury, who in each instance is able to appear and offer a solution for Odysseus to separate from his Goddess lover. Not that loving a Goddess is wrong in itself, it’s just Odysseus had a clear mission that was put in jeopardy of coming to fruition due to his choice of focusing on the fruits of his Goddess affairs.

In The Odyssey Hermes is able to talk Calypso into letting go of Odysseus through direct language.  Calypso is portrayed as a lovely Goddess who plays enchanting music and wants to keep Odysseus as her lover, hoping to make him immortal in his love with her.  Hermes negotiates with her to release Odysseus, and seems a little heavy handed with telling her that Zeus (Jupiter) will send repercussions otherwise, but this is sort of what can happen to us when we drift off our path into delights of our senses that begin to pull us away from the path that will lead us to the highest good for ourselves and all other beings- sooner or later something, at times even a crisis, makes us realize we are off-track.  And Odysseus does realize he misses Penelope even though she isn’t a beautiful Goddess like Calypso, and he wants to leave to return home.  In contrast, Circe is portrayed as more of a manipulating Goddess who casts spells and turns Odysseus’ men into pigs!  Again, Hermes comes to the rescue by showing Odysseus the herb Moly that will protect him from the spells of Circe, and gives him clear directions with how to deal with Circe, at the same time warning him that she will become attracted to him as a result.  Although Odysseus protects himself from her spell through the use of the herb, he still remains with Circe for a long time as her lover in her deep wooded setting.  To me, this example symbolizes the Mercury function of being able to research and categorize healing protections as well as come up with strategies or disciplines to get out of difficulties.  But at the same time, in the end we have to make the hard decisions for ourselves to break out of pleasant situations pulling ourselves off our path and get ourselves moving forward again on our path.  Recently we have been experiencing astrological transits reflecting a lot of illusions and confusing experiences baffling many, pulling many off the track of their true path.  Like Odysseus, many of us could use the help and skill of clear-headed Mercury at this time.

In the past month or so, in the midst of the intense Pluto-Uranus square, the new era of Neptune in Pisces has been ushered in more intensely with a square aspect between Pisces Neptune, Sagitarius North Node of the Moon, and Gemini South Node of the Moon.  In times ripe with illusion, when many are feeling confused and disoriented about what is illusionary and what is true insight, while others are living an illusion in complete denial of it, one of the most helpful skills to hold is discernment.  The planetary function of Mercury is involved with discernment, as it not only has to do with the way we communicate, it also has to do with the way we perceive phenomenal reality as part of our thinking, reflecting, and communicating process.  Recently Mercury went through a retrograde phase and is now moving forward again and picking up speed, having moved out of it’s “shadow” period of retrograde motion last week.

The Sabian symbols can offer us some insight into how Leo Mercury can help us. On July 14, 2012 Mercury stationed retrograde at 13 degrees Leo:

Leo 13:  An old sea captain rocking

This is a symbol of man’s great love for reliving his experiences in memory, and of his gift for achieving a mastery in advance of whatever new situations he may face by bringing all the ramifying relationships to a focus in a personal and competent grasp of their more pertinent potentialities.

—Marc Edmond Jones, The Sabian Symbols

So just as the “old sea captain” makes me think of Odysseus, more important is the emphasis on retrospect and reflection, reliving experiences from memory- a perfect symbol for any Mercury retrograde period, and a clue that part of our task has been to sort through Neptunian confusion, and to make an honest reflection about all of our relationships.  Events may have been disorienting, and Mercury has asked us to confront our responsibility in the difficulties we have experienced, as well as our responsibility in bringing ourselves self-fulfillment.

On August 7, 2012 Mercury stationed direct at 2 degrees of Leo, while making a quincunx aspect with Pisces Neptune, trining the Sagitarius North Node and sextiling the Gemini South Node, while Pisces Neptune was intensely squaring these same nodes at the same time.  Again the Sabian symbol described by Marc Edmund Jones in his book The Sabian Symbols is illuminating:

Leo 2:  An epidemic of mumps

This is a symbol of personal capacities wholly out of hand, and of the momentary appeal of escapist ideas whenever the self fails to remain alive to its own immediate needs or ultimate interests. The reversed symbolism emphasizes the absolute necessity laid on every living spirit, that somehow it retain a passionate sensitiveness to the practical import or organic usefulness of everything it encounters in its everyday situation.

So, to help propel us forward toward our collective soul direction at this time (and the Sabian symbol for the North Node at this time fittingly was “The ocean covered with whitecaps”) we need to pay more attention than normal to our practical needs on a daily basis, what is truly feeding us in our day-to-day life— but to be clear this means what is practical in helping us live our highest good, in a way that will help bring light and love for the highest good of all beings in our world— what is feeding our Soul life our true soul development.  Sometimes escapism can be more obvious like going out to a bar and getting drunk, or sitting around watching superficial television or movies, but other times we may think we are doing what we are called for, when what is calling us is truly an illusion.  Take Paul Ryan, for example.   During this time period Paul Ryan became the Vice Presidential nominee for the Republican Party- he wholeheartedly believes what he believes, and it is portrayed as good home common sense. But in reality his philosophy is deeply rooted in the novelist Ayn Rand, who at the end of the day is more of an escapist read at the beach than a fully spiritually realized soul imparting deep wisdom on our planet.

Likewise many of us may have been wrapped up in a belief during this time period we felt was serving out highest good, only to experience the disillusionment of the universal truth of that belief falling apart.  We are constantly being bombarded by images from our friends and strangers via social media networks, as well as manipulative images from the media aimed at manipulating our desires.  As upsetting as periods of disillusionment can be, however, what is helpful about them is that they let us know we have gotten off track and that we need to re-center and find our true path again.  How do we discern when we are following our true soul path, versus when we are thinking that we are but are actually following an illusion that is separating us from our true path?  Today as I was contemplating the best words to choose to answer this question, I bought the new astrology report written by my astrology teacher, Rosie Finn, and I had to laugh, as Rosie answered this question very well in her own writing!

Also, desires are spread. We want something because our senses have been accosted, influencing us to want it and we lose track of our soul longing. When we are tuned into our soul longing we feel it on every level. A ringing vibration moves through us. Our hair stands up. We get a chill.  We feel it all over.  When a desire co-opts our longing, we feel agitated, like we are missing something.  When we feel a true soul longing, the feeling itself satisfies us.  It is our own unique journey that is being high lighted.  We know our next step.  We may feel loss but not agitation, not anxiety, not distress.  We feel a direction when we feel our soul longing.

–Rosie Finn, from the September 2012 Plants and Planets

As the Pisces Full Moon this Friday approaches, Pisces Neptune is still in range of squaring the lunar nodes, and the disorientation of this could get all the more confusing once Mercury gets to the end of Leo and in range of opposing Neptune.  To make things even more intense, this upcoming Full Moon will be conjunct Chiron in Pisces, meaning that some of our deepest emotional wounds could be triggered.  While getting emotionally triggerred can make us even more disorientated than normal, if we have been clearing and letting go during this recent time, moving with the changes reflected by the Uranus-Pluto square, and doing or moving toward our soul work, this week could instead be a moment to connect with inner divinity, illumination, God, Goddess, Great Spirit, what you want to call it. If we can have the courage to face our deepest emotional wounds and not look for ways to escape our reality and our true path, it may not be easy, it may be extremely emotional, but at least the energy can ultimately be cathartic and propel us forward, instead of further into confusion and away from the path calling to us.