The Moon is in Cancer today, and the Sun is just about to enter Pisces, taking us into the last thirty days of winter. Today let's talk about the sign of Pisces.
One thing that people constantly say about Pisces is that Pisces is the "mystic" of the zodiac or that somehow the sign of Pisces is more spiritual than other signs. Let's try to let this go for today and take a look at Pisces from a different angle. Pisces is the feminine or nocturnal home of Jupiter, and Pisces is a water sign. In archetypal terms we might more closely associate "her" with the earth, with the Moon, and with the broader archetypal realm of the feminine/lunar qualities held by the word "soul" or "anima." The soul is quite different, but inseparable from, the spirit in archetypal/mythic language.
Here are some basic distinctions. The soul is memory, and body, and history, and the moving realm of image, dream, and the imminence of psychological and imaginative reflection. The soul entangles us in the differentiating labyrinth of images and embroils us in its cyclical fantasies. The objective truth or the literal truth is the great delusion, and the action of deepening into, obfuscating, hiding, suggesting, and associating endlessly in a web of relationship the "real" evidence. Soul is problems and their depth and meaning for life, the romance and beauty and pain, not necessarily their final solution.
Now take Pisces, the sign of the two fish, tails tied together, swimming in an endless circle. A shape the soul loves, the circle. An image of the soul, the deep and slippery evasiveness of the fish. The dream of what lies below and beyond, in the cool or warm watery depths, which is also the sky.
We are so quick to try to make a sign about us, about our behavior, about our psychology, about "core needs" or "core characteristics." We're being "cored" to death by astrology! But there is nothing "core" about the two fish and their dreams, and we'll understand more of Pisces by contemplating the image, and contemplating soul, and dream, and by actually imagining, then we will talking about "mystics" or "cosmic dream activation" or "victimization" or "escapism." All these terms become the stuff of dead language, and we forget that signs are not the exclusive property of human beings, or Carl Jung, or west coast archetypal studies, or evolutionary groping. They are the vast cosmic homes of the Gods. They are celestial mansions where planets find themselves as travelers or hosts, dignified guests or exiled mavericks. We will get so much more out of the signs of the zodiac when we don't rush to make them about ourselves and "my psyche" or "my psychology."
By contrast, the word spirit implies something different, something not as close to Pisces as the word soul. Spirit is direction and mission. Spirit is the compass, purpose, and transcendent cause. Spirit animates and illuminates. Spirit leads out of the confusion and provides clear yes and clear no. Spirit clarifies the objective truth, the universal order, and the decoding or translating of the sacred truth or scriptural absolute. Spirit unifies and interprets the mystery. Spirit is assuredness and conviction. Subjectivity is the great delusion, and deepening into becomes distraction. Spirit is the solving of the problems and the liberation from the prison of the flesh, body, or the entanglements of soul.
Of course the soul and the spirit as an archetypal pair are reflected all throughout astrology, in the alternation of signs (masculine and feminine), in the two luminaries, in the daytime and nighttime skies, in the rising, culminating, setting, and anti-culminating of planets, and so forth. They are a cosmic couple and their mythology recurs all across the planet in different mythic disguises and languages, different myths and traditions. Their alchemical union is one of the great metaphors of our planet. And the point today for us to consider is that the sign of Pisces is perhaps better associated with the soul than spirit. So we might try saying that Pisces is a "soulful" sign before we say that Pisces is a "spiritual sign." The difference might seem silly, but differentiation is one of the major tasks and loves of the soul...as diversity adds depth to how we live and how we reflect upon our experiences or how we actively imagine.
To truly appreciate Pisces season, we should remember that the two fish may look similar, but they are different. They may swim in an eternal circle, but no two laps are the same. Their tails may be tied together, but its also what keeps them from ever reaching one another in the maze of their circle. The less we spell out what Pisces "means" or what it means "for me" and the more time we spend with images the closer we will get to the gates of this vast celestial mansion...nighttime home of Jupiter, the faithful one...spirituality embodied in the tremendous ecology of earth.
For today's prayer, I'll end with a poem from Mary Oliver, a soulful poet born with Neptune conjunct the Sun. Notice the two fish swimming in her words, the images of the earth and the fluid lyricism of the poet's eye for individual things, and then notice the marriage of soul to the spiritual Sun at the dawn of a new day, on the edge between day and night, sleeping and dreaming.
"Why I Wake Early"
Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the miserable and the crotchety--
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light--
good morning, good morning, good morning,
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.
The New Moon is in Pisces today but will turn void of course by this evening. Meanwhile, today Mars enters its rulership in the sign of Aries (with Venus to follow by tomorrow and conjoin by tomorrow night).
How about this idea of integration? It’s a popular concept but also one that we rarely pause to reflect on. It’s a good idea to reflect on it today as Mars and Venus leave Pisces and enter Aries.
Ever since Carl Jung emphasized the idea it’s been a hallmark of new age thinking. The basic process that the idea refers to works like this: we start with a more or less stable set of ideas about who we are, a more or less stable ego identity. The problem is that this ego identity has problems. Its unconscious of its own shadows. Eventually life throws some kind of curve ball, or we simply come to the end of our rope with the status quo, and then we enter into a disintegration process. We lose our shit. We fall apart. We see through the illusion of our ego’s supremacy, and Humpty Dumpty falls out of the tower. Then the work becomes to gather an understanding, or to gather insights, regarding all the various parts, the various shadows, etc, and reintegrate them (consciously work them) back into a state of wholeness. Beyond this, however, the process may continue repeating as the state of wholeness grows more and more “whole,” on its way to the higher self or self-realization or enlightenment…
Integration becomes the ever growing, complexifying, vast, but ultimately cohesive mandala of the self.
Jung was a Leo, whose Sun was conjoined with Uranus in Leo. He was also born with a north node in Aries while ruler Mars was in Sagittarius. The hardest thing for us to do with his ideas, especially the ones that so completely dominate the new age world, is to see them as reflections of eternal archetypes rather than as metaphysical truths or programs.
As the Sun has just entered Pisces but Mars and Venus are entering Aries, it’s a great time to see “through” the integration archetype and its implied program of SELF-realization. We have to ask ourselves “who” among the gods is most interested in the idea of a cohesive, centralizing mandala called “Self?” Is it not the Sun? We have to ask ourselves, which god is most likely to see the deconstruction of the one into the many as a process that is ultimately geared back toward the deepening or broadening of the one? Is it not the Sun? Is this not the beauty of the Sun..that for something to be at the center, for there to be a life giving center or a heart, that all things would be seen as originating from it, going out from it, and returning to it?
Similarly, take the notion of the disintegration of our understanding, our knowledge of ourselves or reality ‘falling apart,’ and then march it toward an ever broadening, vaster but more cohesive sense of ultimate meaning and unity.
Are these not the conquesting ideas of Jung’s Mars in Sagittarius? Isn’t it clear to see the Centaur rearing up on his hind legs, arrows shooting out into the night, piercing through the darkness with its fiery desire for broader states of higher knowledge?
The problem with integration is that it has such little tolerance for its less popular cousin, “particularity.” It can’t see beyond the duality of particular and wholeness…thinks they are two sides of the same coin because integration can’t stop thinking about “sameness,” can’t stop thinking about itself, can’t stop integrating.
At this point someone might ask, but what can we make of the process of ego disintegration if not the eventual resurrection of the king and his royal light? Answer: many different things.
An example. Once during an ayahuasca ceremony I watched as some of my most cohesive ideas about myself, my past, my future, about reality, got completely broken apart. Afterward I was explaining my experience to a friend, talking to him about how I could feel the personality and independent kingdoms of all the different parts of my life, my body, psyche, and even cosmos. How diverse and unique all these different voices were. I could tell he thought I was being manic, and he kept saying “give it time and they’ll reintegrate and you’ll feel centered again.” He kept trying to offer me this picture of a king and his healthy kingdom, the heart and its centralizing, organizing program…centeredness, wholeness, integration. I tried to make a joke, and I said something like, “In my kingdom, everybody, including the king, knows that king world is just another theme park…including all its own rides and restaurants.”
My friend had this look on his face which I’ll never forget…it was a combined look of worry and judgment. He was worried for my sanity (he even commented that maybe I was spending too much time with the schizophrenics I worked with in New York City at the time) but he was also worried that I was being heretical or “dark” (he kept referring to the various teachings of the shamans and group leaders about wholeness, etc).
Later that evening when I got home I happened to reflect on my friend’s deep love of Carl Jung, and it was at this point that I realized how uncomfortable it is for the solar paradigm to consider anything other than its centralizing needs. When I pulled open Jung’s chart, sure enough..a Leo with the always questing, individualizing Uranus conjoined and that blazing north node in the individuating sign of Aries, with Mars ruling from the ever unifying sign of Sagittarius.
I didn’t lose respect for Jung, that’s not what I’m saying. I didn’t lose respect for the idea of wholeness or the process of integration, either. But I also was seeing through it…seeing, really seeing, the Centaur and the Lion, the bow and arrow and the red iron spear. I was seeing the discomfort the King has with the rebel. The insanity Jung went through as inevitably part of the greater wholeness he was compelled to systematize…mandalas, integration, higher self, etc. Beautiful! But also, archetypal. Mythic rather than metaphysic.
So what does all of this mean considering our astrology over the next few days?
Practical man, practical!!
First of all, Mars and Venus, together, bring the desire for a cohesive, unified vision. Right now the idea of integration is compelling, dynamic, and important. Where are we being asked to get our shit together, to pull the parts together into the whole, or to create the wise mandala out of the moving pieces? This drive will only increase within us over the next week as the Moon’s light gains power and we are ascending ever more rapidly toward the spring equinox, where the Sun is exalted in the sign of Aries (actions toward wholeness, synthesis, etc). So knowing this, we can act accordingly…we can’t sit back, sit around, and wait for someone to create this wholeness we’ve been dreaming about…as Mars and Venus conjoin and move from the fish into the warrior, it’s time to make it happen!
At the same time, if we don’t see through our unification efforts into their archetypal nature (if we lose track of the images of the warrior and the king, or the centaur and the spear), then we can easily become dogmatic right now. The important thing is to ask which characters or elements of our lives or psyches are calling for what kinds of unification? We need to be specific so we don’t get too regimental….
For example, what do you do if you’re craving solitude, reflection, cleansing, and purification…alone time and reading, and yet there’s another character whose asking for more sex, more physical exercise, and more unpurposeful play time?
The program of “integration” will generally either try to work out the perfect compromise, seeing the various characters as each “equal pieces of the whole,” or it will moralize about which program is more likely to lead us to a stronger and more consistent sense of self..in which case whatever is perceived as more scattering or contradicatory will be looked down upon morally or energetically, etc. We’ll pat the more disruptive child on the head and say, “I’m sorry but I’m trying to be integral and you’re not helping me.”
What would it look like to relativize the “integration” drive of Mars/Venus in Aries right now? Simply put, it would mean that doing whatever you’re doing, following whatever different element of your psyche is calling for your attention, at the moment, will likely lead to a greater feeling of understanding within that unique part of yourself. Not that you’ll see it as part of the whole and start to level up as the King of your castle, but that you’ll see the particulars more completely. Particularity served by the passing of an integration weather system through the various landscapes of your different kingdoms. Your sex and unstructured play time can feel just as essential (but completely different) from your monk fasting and sunrise prayers of renunciation.
We should work with these ideas because it’s all too easy when Aries energy comes sweeping through for us to suffer the warrior’s frenzy and the Sun’s domination. When we can’t see the spear as we’re spearing our “whole life into one consistent image,” then we’re likely possessed by the spear and a dictator is taking control. And where does possession and dictatorship stem from if not the authority of a King…
Integration…the sexiest political power word to ever rule over the kingdom of the new age. A big warrior boner in the sky! smile emoticon
Prayer: Help this wave of integration serve the strengthening of particulars…particularly the parts of ourselves we tend to look down upon or find most contradictory
Image by courtesy of Keani, at creative commons image licensing
The New Moon is in Aquarius today, just as the Sun has entered Aquarius and we now move into the fixed sign of winter. Meanwhile, Mercury is stationing and will turn retrograde by Thursday (also in the sign of Aquarius). Today we’ll look at Aquarius a bit more in depth, then tomorrow Mercury retrograde.
For me it’s always best to start with the constellation image. For Aquarius the constellation image is the “water bearer.” This along with its “aqua” root makes most people think Aquarius is a water sign, but in fact Aquarius is an air sign. If we take this little piece of misdirection alone, we can learn a lot about Aquarius very quickly. Aquarius is sometimes like air disguised as water. Intellect disguised as emotion. Idealism disguised as compassion. Mind disguised as heart. There is a spacey coldness within the sign of Aquarius, a distanced eye from the heavens, a homesick alien longing to be human, expressing itself most humanly…”If only the human race could evolve or improve or ascend just a little higher, I would have more friends, I would have a real tribe, I would have some actual commonality. If only the human race could be more like the gods I so love.”
It’s often said of Aquarians that they love humanity but they can’t stand people. I always laugh at this joke, but I would modify it to read, “Aquarians love humanity, but they love the gods a little more.” The image of the water bearer in old times symbolized a young man who served the gods their divine nectar. In this simple image we see both the human love of all that is higher, more rational, more evolved, and more enlightened…the love of the gods that only the servant of the gods can truly understand, but at the same time within this love for all that is “higher,” we also see the consequential distancing or alienation from all that is truly human, complete with all our contradictions, inconsistencies, and instinctual qualities.
Aquarius plays the role of the inspiring messenger of the gods, as well as being their servant. Carl Jung once said that the price we pay for trying to harness the powers of the unconscious (the depth of space where the constellations live, lets say) is loneliness and isolation. This is the gods revenge upon us for trying to take their knowledge and use it to improve ourselves or “evolve humanity” or whatever else. The inflation of consciousness created by stealing something of the gods’ knowledge (from the unconscious) leaves us looking like egoists or weirdos to others. And yet, the voice of the gods, the messages and gifts they often send us, are unavoidable, as is the alienation we suffer when we grow in our understanding of the geography of the unconscious.
What a conundrum! For these reasons Aquarius is a sign often given to the Jungian concept of individuation. Aquarius, according to many Jungian astrologers, is the sign of the daemon or the genie, whose guiding influence comes into our lives in order to evolve or grow our consciousness out of the familiar and into a broader or deeper understanding of the unconscious. This “daemon” is often compared to Lucifer…a kind of light bringing but also rebellious spirit; neither human nor god, but somewhere in between. James Hillman has compared the daemon to Eros, or Cupid, a trickster, an intoxication, a lover, the backward lightning flash of beauty in the mind’s eye. The daemon’s lust for “man to become god” can enrage both the gods and people alike. “Let us just be who we are,” both the gods and the people might say to the daemon…longing for and admiring each other in our strange ways but also with appropriate distance and distinctions.
Sometimes the daemonic Aquarius can’t fathom why the gods and the people would want to remain separate. His refusal to allow for the separation, his insistence and rebellion, is what creates the image of devilish power, the daemon turned to “demon,” Lucifer to the devil, and the power of progress into the mangled results of a cloning experiment gone terribly wrong. The vegan with her machete of progressive intolerance. The friend who can’t shut up about how fucked up everything is and whose ego is building a tower called, “the ideal world.”
To my mind, astrology itself is highly Aquarian. That’s why it’s my firm belief that we astrologers have to constantly use our craft to shave the hubris off the faces of some of our most seemingly “divine” ideas, revealing the animal skin below or behind them. James Hillman once said that it was most important that we start doing therapy on our ideas, not just our historical or private sense of self. “Ideas that we don’t know we have, have us,” he said. The daemon is an ambiguous figure. Essential for the guiding fictions of our lives to play out and for the soul to develop along the lines of its most precious fantasies, but also a kind of thief and deceiver, a trickster rebel whose lofty causes should sometimes be questioned with the simplest language of human scrutiny, “Hey who do you think you are? Don’t be an a-hole. This is a dialogue not a dictation. I’m just fine with the way things are.”
The Saturn/Uranus double rulership of Aquarius also aptly represents all of these themes, but we’ll leave that for another post. All of these subjects should be especially in play over the next three weeks as Mercury retrogrades in Aquarius!
Prayer: Help us to learn how to dialogue with our daemons.
Image by courtesy of Gabriel C, at creative commons image licensing
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Adam Elenbaas is a professional astrologer and the founder of the Nightlight Astrology School. Adam holds an MA and MFA in English and Creative Writing and is one of the founding writers at RealitySandwich. To learn more about Adam, click here.