Venus is moving into a square with Pluto today.
Here's what to watch for:
* When Venus and Pluto combine it's normal to see turmoil in relationships. Why? Because the planet of harmony, friendship, and diplomacy is moving into a Mars-like relationship (squares are of the nature of Mars, traditionally speaking) and Pluto is the lord of the underworld.
* The "underworld" is one of those words we should have to put a quarter into a jar for every time we use it mindlessly in astrology. The word definitely evokes strong feelings and images, but all too often people think of the underworld as something like the unconscious, and because we're all programmed to light up at the possibility of probing or getting in touch with the unconscious, (emphasized: "even when it's difficult"), we usually think of Pluto transits in terms of the potential for personal growth. We think of getting in touch with invisible patterns that we can't see, and we think of transforming those patterns as they erupt to the surface of our conscious/waking awareness, our "overworld" awareness. This is fair enough, Pluto can definitely represent the unconscious, but it's important to remember that there isn't just one idea or theory about what the unconscious IS or what it's role is in human existence.
* Ironically, we take the unconscious itself for granted in new age speak. I'm guilty of this myself sometimes. We act as though something that is by its very nature deep, mysterious, and..."unconscious," to be something easily understood, something we all unanimously understand. How is it that a region as fundamentally mysterious to our waking consciousness becomes the most common altar-call of a word? The truth is that it's because we love the theater, the art, the aesthetic, of the underworld. We love it as an image in the psyche just as much as we love it as an actual place, or an actual experience.
* There is nothing wrong with having a love affair with Pluto. In fact, this is where Venus and Pluto make a kind of sense that we rarely talk about. Venus and Pluto isn't just THE DARK UNCONSCIOUS SHIT THAT WILL COME UP IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS...Bah ba BUMMMMMM! It's also the love that we have, the love that arrives and displays itself, within ourselves, within our jobs, within our words, within our thoughts, within our families, within the world, for what is dark, what is mysterious, what is erotic and hungry, what is destructive and beautiful at once, etc. The new age love of the word "unconscious" is actually an aesthetic preference, a taste of worlds, a special taste for the image of an underworld. And of course it is! Of course! Because of the many familiar new age values, those most prevalent involve light, growth, integration, balance, harmony, self-development, evolution, co-creation, etc. So of course in order to get there, we need things like the darkness, the unconscious, and the underworld. We need to get really excited at our new age workshop when we hear someone say, "Let's be real, we're all working on our shit." The shit has to have some real appeal to us, in other words, and so Pluto and the unconscious becomes a beautified picture of our own poop...Pluto is the most necessary, lovely, challenging but you can do it poop that we all need to play with in order to level up on the otherwise rainbow trail to heaven.
* I'm teasing. But I'm also serious. Venus and Pluto brings up an idealized way of looking at elements of our lives that we can't even really understand or see or name or redirect toward our happy self-growth paradigm, or our desire to keep things civil or balanced.
* Sometimes the need to keep everything beautiful is the unconscious issue. Sometimes making Pluto into a good guy, is the real problem. Sometimes bad guys aren't just turds in the process of being polished, they are actually bad guys. Sometimes life serves up tremendously painful and irrational events, events that deconstruct our conspiracies of meaning and challenge us to see divinity instead, which is sometimes a sight far beyond the mind and its meanings.
* Consider it again, Pluto asks us to go beyond meanings and explanations and rational ways of making the darkness beautiful. We should be careful not to tempt Pluto into disfiguring us due to our constant attempts to reconfigure Pluto into a sexy gothic visitor on the highways of light and love.
* Now, this isn't to say that Pluto isn't the unconscious, or that Pluto isn't meaningful, or that Pluto may not bring up "stuff" from the underworld of relationships as Venus and Pluto collide today. This post is mostly about pointing out that so frequently we see Pluto through the lens of other planetary archetypes, or through our metaphysical assumptions, rather than attempting to understand Pluto on its own terms.
* Venus and Pluto together can also, truly, bring beauty and darkness together in fascinating ways. Lets just not forget that darkness, in order to be understood, has to be entered into on its own terms. Shining a light around in the darkness and describing it is usually going to result in nothing but a description of the light we're using amidst the darkness we're now pretending to "see."
Prayer: Show us the divinity of your darkness. Let it guide us with its own wisdom.
Today Mercury is Cazimi...
A meditation on the meaning of cazimi, dedicated to my fallen astrological and herbal colleague Tricia McCauley, who was brutally murdered on Christmas this past weekend.
My favorite writer and thinker, James Hillman loved to say that "we are lived by powers we pretend to understand." Hillman, an archetypal psychologist like Jung before him, recognized the life of the soul or psyche as a kind of middle ground between the everyday stuff of human life and the realm of gods and myths, daemons and archetypal energies. Hillman believed that in order to live soulful lives we have to stop trying to redeem, save, or correct all the confusion and instead live with a kind of transparent awareness of the archetypal within the mundane elements of human life: the boredom, the betrayal, the drudgery, the violence, and confusion, the broken childhood stories, etc. In other words, it's our work to look for the god in the sicknesses of the world and to find its romantic, archetypal, and aesthetic value for the soul, rather than trying to simply root out, purge, or banish the difficulties of life. To Hillman, trying to banish or root out the complexities of human life was the equivalent of an unhealthy spiritual bi-passing...something that rejected rather than embraced the real depth, mystery, and complexity of the soul of our world.
Tricia was an astrologer and actress, a yogi and herbalist who embraced the same kind of romantic love for the complexities of life that Hillman prescribed over and over again throughout his prolific career. In my last conversation with her, Tricia was discussing with me the challenge of a difficult Neptune transit in her birth chart after I wrote a post about James Hillman's often repeated line: "We are live by powers we pretend to understand." The planet Neptune was conjoining her natal Sun and she told me that she was feeling a sense of confusion about her life's purpose, meaning, and direction. As the Sun in astrology (among other things) pertains to our sense of direction, purpose, and calling, it wasn't surprising for me to hear that she was struggling in this particular way, as this is a common Neptune/Sun experience. But then she wrote this as a qualifier to her challenges with the transit..."[But] I always find that (no matter how challenging the actual experience is), my life is easier and more clear while doing theatre -- like there's an outlet for the archetypal energies that otherwise would fester. All the "challenging planetary transits" become more manageable as an artist than as a civilian!"
What Tricia clearly knew was that she was in the midst of being seized by an archetypal power. Rather than trying to compete with it, purge it, or heal it, and rather than living in fear of it, Tricia simply recognized it for what it was and chose to let the power of the transit come through her, creatively, by returning to her love for theater (which she told me she had been away from for a little while). She could have easily chosen to feel as though she was sick, lost, or in trouble, but instead she shared with me that what she saw was Neptune. Like, "Oh that's just Neptune, and he wants to act in and through me. I think I'll return to the stage."
When Tricia was brutally murdered on Christmas, her natal Moon/Mars opposition was being exactly conjoined/activated by the current Jupiter/Uranus opposition (a very powerful/sudden/shocking and potentially violent theme). Meanwhile, the ruler of her 8th house (a house whose topics include death), Venus, was being eclipsed right on her ascendant by Neptune.
I am sure that Tricia did not want to die, and I cannot imagine passing from this world in the way that she did. But I can also tell you based on the profoundness of her soul, her dazzling intelligence, and her love for the archetypal powers of astrology, that she would be the first to say that we are all actors upon a stage far bigger and stranger than we are capable of understanding most days. In fact, I could almost feel her presence this morning, with me at my desk, looking at the transits in her birth chart, saying things like, "Oh look at my Mars/Moon opposition getting activated by Jupiter/Uranus. Wow!!"
Tricia was the caretaker of an urban garden. She understood that we have to grow things right in the thick of everyday life and all its chaos. She lived that way and she died that way, and as far as I knew her, she had no illusions about the fact that our lives are the expressions of mythic forces, and that the best we can do is let them flow through us with thoughtfulness and care. In fact, I think this is what made her such a profound human being, someone who lived each facet of her being from the standpoint of a participation mystique.
So what does this have to do with Mercury being cazimi with the Sun today? Well, when Mercury conjoins by zodiacal degree with the very heart of the Sun it is as though the power of the King/Queen (the Sun), is temporarily granted to the messenger (Mercury). When this happens it can signify many different things (lest we forget that astrology is a contextual/divinatory art form), but most generally it symbolizes the importance of cultivating the exact kind of mindset that Tricia lived by each day.
Let me explain...
C.S. Lewis, another favorite thinker of mine, loved to use an analogy to describe the meaning of a spiritual symbol. Imagine that you are walking into a gardening shed tucked under some trees in the shade. You walk inside the shed and it is dark save one long beam of light coming in from a hole in the ceiling. At first, you are staring at the beam of light, and that's what it is...a beam of light. But then, you walk into its ray of light, and you look along the beam, through the beam, up into the world and by its light you see the tree branches and blue sky and white clouds outside and above. Lewis said that a real spiritual symbol is one that at some point moves from being a beam of light that we're looking AT, to one that we see by means of into the world.
Mercury at the heart of the Sun is just this kind of move. It's the move from seeing a symbol to seeing by means of a symbol, so natural that we no longer say "I'm doing symbolic thinking" and instead start to see, perceive, understand, and live by means of the symbol itself.
If there is anything I believe I am here to cultivate, in myself, in my readers and clients, in my friendships, and my community, it is the same understanding Tricia embodied as a symbolic thinker....not someone who liked symbols or had them memorized in some kind of rote spiritual science, but someone who lived, saw, and breathed life by means of their rays of light. In the living fibers of planets and plants, in the wild animals of yoga postures and the faces of the many characters and voices she inhabited as an actress.
So, as Mercury is at the heart of the Sun, I see by means of Tricia's life and am trying to say something as a messenger on behalf of my soul sister...her life was itself a beautiful and timeless symbol that we can all see by means of if we take the time to let HOW she lived illuminate how we live today.
I know she would tell us the same. Because as she said, "I always find that (no matter how challenging the actual experience is), my life is easier and more clear while doing theatre."
In your loving memory my friend!!! Travel well, be with the stars, you are a star whose light we will see by means of...whose rays will still be reaching us long after your death.
Prayer: Bless us to see by means of each other's light.
Just as Mercury stationed and turned retrograde a Cardinal showed up at our kitchen window and has been either perched on the window sill, singing in the tree directly outside the window, or tapping on the window on and off from dawn until dusk. For the first 24 hours I resisted the urge to google browse through all the random pages filled with people chirping endlessly about things like "empowerment" and "the color red" and "root chakras." Instead I kept thinking of what the late James Hillman once said about the obsession with trying to decode the meanings of various animals or dream images. He wrote, "Lives without meaning hunger for meanings, and psychologists feed the hungry with the living presences of animals. Patients as carnivores, devouring the flesh of their dream animals to satisfy their gluttony for knowledge. Or, have we psychologists become taxidermists, disemboweling the snake, stuffing it with concepts, and preserving it as a carefully fixed meaning?"
So instead of trying to decode its meaning, for the first day of its tapping I simply spent time with the bird. I noticed that I was thinking of dead people, and my first sense was that a person, not a bird, was trying to say something to me. However, each time these thoughts came up I dismissed them and tried to recall Hillman's wisdom: don't rush to decode or make this bird into something self-serving. Don't kill the messenger with conceptualization. What this bird "means" is something happening right this very moment, not some idea or words to be extracted FROM the bird.
But still...I kept feeling as though the bird was an emissary or messenger tapping on the behalf of a dead person...someone trying to communicate with me.
Then yesterday the bird was there all day again, and my wife took the photo below. At one point, whether I dreamed it up or my subconscious has a good sense of humor, I heard James Hillman's voice in my head saying, "It's actually ME. I sent the bird just to give you permission to not take my words so literally. Sometimes decoding riddles in nature is exactly what's needed in order to understand something that can't be spoken in human language. However, there can be more than one meaning to these messengers. Trust me on this. Oh, and for the record, I'm not the dead person who sent this particular bird. I'm also not "IN" the bird or anything like that."
Then last night I had a dream that an old friend of mine wanted to come into my house. He was homeless and out on the street, and suffering from what appeared to be schizophrenia. He said, "I'm stuck in a loop that won't stop repeating." His eyes were filled with tears. He told me that smoking too much pot had led him from one bad thing to the next and that for as good as marijuana legalization might be for the crime rate it's going to create other problems that many people aren't aware of yet. He suggested that for many people the plant is actually more like a band-aid than a true medicine. I suggested he lay down and rest on my couch, and he started crying and said "thank you." He looked afraid.
This morning I woke to the sounds of the same Cardinal tapping at the window. In fact I can hear his song and intermittent tapping outside as I write this. We put out bird food in all the feeders the first day he came, but today I plan to spend some time in prayer and make a small peace offering to the Cardinal and invite him to keep speaking to me...both in terms of his simple song and his beautiful red, and in terms of the dreams, visions, and images that he has inspired.
So how does all of this relate to today's astrology? Well one of the archetypal titles we astrologers give Mercury is that of the "messenger." One of Mercury's traditional topical designations was also related to divination, and most of us know that the associated Greek god Hermes was also a psychopomp and guide of souls. Furthermore, many of the earliest astrologers attributed the original secret doctrines and teachings of astrology to Hermes Trismegistus, or Hermes thrice great. We have to remember, in other words, that astrology is a language that lives, and conceals itself, in nature. It's a language that teaches us how to read AS we learn how to read it. It's a language that teaches us to speak, AS it speaks its multiple meanings. It's a language that retains its ambiguities deliberately so that we might learn the difference between the living and the dead. It's a language that encourages us to seek for the correct answers to its riddles and rewards us when we find the right answer by teaching us ever more complicated and subtle exceptions held within the language.
The more we learn this secret language the less the language stands in for something "other" and the more it embodies the most obvious appearances...the plain truth of what is tapping on our windows or chirping all around us, all of the time.
Prayer: Teach us the heavenly language. Put our minds at rest with the words of life.
The Sun has just entered Taurus, while the Moon is moving through the sign of Libra, heading toward a square with Pluto and then oppositions with Venus and Uranus.
In an essay called "Imagination is Bull," James Hillman wrote, "When confronted with a great animal power, whether in the shape of an actual animal or an animated image, we in our culture rarely bow down to it, sing to it, or dance in its honor, nor do we even run for cover. Rather, our usual move is to interpret. We have the hermeneutic wand to make the force go away by transforming it into a meaning. Our modern propitiatory rite is to look up "bull" in the symbol dictionary. Bull dissolves into "moon," "father," "fertility," "thunder" ...andtakes on names from Gaelic to Hebrew to Latin to Urdu accruing more mythic tales as we research. Civilized men and women in institutes of humanities and culture have met the bull with their own sort of bull: what they say about the bull. Myth, after all, is what is said about what is said: the bull about the bull. What does this bull about the bull tell us?"
One of the reasons I love this passage is because it so eloquently describes a Taurean dichotomy. Imagination in all of its fecundity is as real, earthy, and sensual as the Bull. I notice this when I take my four month old daughter for a walk on our land. As we walk through the trees in the shade, beams of light spearing through the fresh green buds, the trickle of water running into our little coy pond near an old shed, and I see the full wonder on her little face, I am witnessing the substance of imagination. So tangible we call it "present." Not in the sense of some omnipresent singular substance, but in the sense of many textures and fragrances blending and moving, swimming as it were through the first spring air she will ever breathe.
Taurus has a way of making the imagination that simple, that animate, that lovely, and that "real." Taurus is Venus ruled but earthy, fragrant but stable, solid but youthful.
On the other hand, Taurus also represents the stubborn fixity of our imagination. The tendency to think our imaginative vision of anything and everything is the "simple" truth, or the "practical" truth, or the "earthy" bottom line. This version of Taurus may see the imagination as anything that deviates from this bottom line...calling such deviance impractical, fanciful, delusional, or lacking in substance. They cry "Bull Shit!" without realizing that the substance of anything, no matter how physical, earthy, habitual, steady or simple in appearance, is already the hot black stuff of imagination...as rich and dark and foundational as manure...as "simple" as a pile of steaming "bull shit."
So it goes with Taurus. Taurus is the simple, life affirming, life animating, life supporting stream of imaginative beauty in the natural world. The very "stuff" of imagination. But Taurus also reflects the tendency for the stuff of imagination to become literalized...for imagination itself to be forgotten in the physicality of its simplest and most obvious forms: plants, animals, smells, taste, touch, sight, sounds.
It's also wroth noting that sometimes the Venusian daydreams of Taurus become plastic, like people who say the word "imagination" so many times that it feels like a children's museum gift shop, filled with over priced trinkets just calling your name. Used in this way, imagination itself becomes a vacuous word, ironically pointing toward lifelessness rather than fantasy, depth, or diversity.
When Hillman says that we tend to look at things and then extract or decode their deeper meaning, he is talking about this same tendency we have to kill the ongoing imaginative power of phenomenon...whether we take things too literally and dam the flow of imagination or whether we go making mountains out of molehills in the name of MORE imagination. Of course, Hillman is sort of an anti-Platonist in this regard, and many philosophers will disagree with his point of view. Regardless of whether or not we agree with Hillman's philosophy of psychology, he is right to say that our tendency to constantly decode or interpret experience robs the soul of something important. But what? What does it rob us of? And the answer: it robs the soul of its bull shit. Rich, dark, real, and total bull shit.
Prayer: Help us to feel the bull in our bull shit this Taurus season!
The Moon is in Gemini this morning, applying to a trine of Mercury and then square with Neptune.
Today I'll field another question from a reader that has popped up several times recently, also from several of my students. The question is simple, "Why do some astrologers only use seven planets rather than including all the modern and newly discovered planets and asteroids, etc?"
As someone who used to be perplexed by the same question I feel like I can speak to this question very personally. It even used to make me angry to think that some astrologers were out there only using the traditional seven, as if it were sheer ignorance of the much vaster reality of cosmos and psyche. I now see the issue much differently, and though I don't speak for all astrologers on the subject, here are some of my thoughts.
I've been using mostly the traditional seven planets for almost a year now, and I have nothing against the outer planets or minor planets. My own use of the traditional seven doesn't derive from any inherent dislike or disrespect toward them or their use or people or schools who really focus on their importance in contrast to traditional schools or vice versa. My own use of the traditional seven (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) stems from the fact that I've been immersing myself in traditional forms in order to learn them and in order to astrologize in a different way. To me, astrology is an activity, a verb not a noun, and I think it's a deception to think that either more or less planets standing in as symbols in the act of astrologizing is what indicates how "true" astrology is as a field of inquiry or spiritual activity. So my first answer is just that. I think successful, deeply meaningful, spiritual, and soulful astrology can be done through many different forms of astrology that utilize more or less planets or symbols. In some ways I see these differences like the literary art forms I studied in graduate school. Some writers are minimalists, they use fewer words, and they say far more about the unconscious or the nature of life as a result. Some writers are flowering word smiths and yet similar results are achieved; we see deeper because of richer or more elaborate descriptions. One thing I know is that artists don't accomplish much when we sit around discussing which form is "truer," and for the most part I don't think astrologers do either. Instead we should talk about the way in which the use of particular forms illuminate some things while leaving out others. And good astrologers, like good artists, should have an appreciation for a diversity of forms. So I see different forms of astrology like different forms of art. The forms we are attracted to are reflections of what we find beautiful, what we find interesting, what we find important. They are each putting forth something positive insofar as they are putting forth coherent forms of astrology in the first place (forms that speak truth to the soul). What gets us into trouble is thinking that more or less planets or symbols in a chart is primarily what determines how truthful, useful, healing, or beautiful a certain form is.
To me, the use of the traditional seven planets has been like finding an aesthetic or archetypal home as an astrologer. It has far less to do with the "truth" of the outer planets, in other words, and far more to do with the beauty I am finding in the traditional seven, along with the classical language and the classical models of delineation. In this sense I am still archetypally transparent about the inescapable/subjective nature of archetypes that twist the "clear lines"of "TRUTH" we think we have whenever we think we have a pure or straight or tidy sum at our fingertips. But by the same token, I see it as a mistake to assume that the use of the modern planets and endless minor aspects or asteroids or modern psychological theory is somehow superior simply because it is a negation of the old. To me this would be like saying that classical music has no place or value just because rock n roll came about last century. Progress is just as tempting a delusion as the worship of the past!
I think of my favorite psychologist and archetypal genius, James Hillman. In an essay he wrote called "Back to Beyond: On Cosmology," he wrote about the purpose of metaphysics for the life of the soul. He wrote that too often people pit metaphysical truth against human truth, or subjective/personal truths, as though to know the truth about God or the Universe (metaphysics) takes us to a cleaner or higher or straighter level of knowledge than the knowledge of some lower, human, crooked, psychological, relative, or subjective level (earth!). Similarly, astrological progressivists, whether locating their astrology in the past or in the modern/future, will claim that one system of astrology, one use of the planets versus another, is cleaner/straighter, and less prone to the relativistic traps or subjective/earthly snares. Astrologers who worship the past claim that the system is more "objectively" true, while astrologers who worship the future claim that the outer planets are more "objectively" true, in terms of reflecting more of the cosmos and more of divine knowledge, "as it really is." Not all of this is bad. Even Hillman (who was not a fan of metaphysics generally) wrote in his essay on cosmology that the soul craves a sense of ultimate meaning, or models of supreme unification. However, for Hillman, the action of metaphysics was more important than which particular theory we held. He wrote, "During the Renaissance, in alchemy, the art of memory, and astrology--thick-crusted things, things gray and dull, wintry, or living in isolated places, belonged to Saturn, as did laconic speech, a mathematical turn of the mind, measuring tools, and so on. All "things," whether styles of mind, diseases, foods, geographies, or animals, found location according to their qualities. Everything had shelter and altar. Nothing was lost; everything belonged to a cosmos because it belonged somewhere as image to the planetary persons and their myths. This emphasis on descriptive qualities gives back to cosmology its original aesthetic meaning. We have lost that first sense of the word. Cosmos now means empty, vast, spacey--a video game for astronomers. The Greek word meant orderly, becomingly, duly, an aesthetic arrangement. Cosmos once reffered to the anima mundi, world-soul, an Aphroditic order. And our word "cosmetics," referring to the facial appearance of things, brings to light this original sense. So, besides its astronomical and metaphysical meanings, cosmology implies even more fundamentally an aesthetic world whose essence is constituted in sensory images. Attempts to reduce the account of the world to the fewest coherent principles, even to mathematical formulae, have the intention of revealing by means of scientific elegance this cosmic beauty."
What Hillman is saying is that the purpose of a metaphysic is to provide meaningful, soulful, and beautiful order to the world we live in, complete with all the facets of life that we experience in our day to day lives. As Hillman goes on to write, "Knowledge becomes gnosis when things and experiences, by virtue of their being known, suggest their subtle bodies in the Anima Mundi. Rather than abstracting us from the world, knowing takes us more directly into its soul as aesthetic presentation. The way to see the Gods is to know the world. Practical knowledge, common sense, therefore cannot be divided from metaphysical knowledge....metaphysics becomes the praxis of an essentially lived life in which being, substances, method, order, and other traditional topics of metaphysics become qualities of soul.
So if this "seeing things as they are in essence," from within the sphere of phenomenal life on earth, is the common goal of astrologers and astrological metaphysicians, then we have to ask ourselves if we really believe this is achieved solely through how many planets we use, or what house system, or whatever other methods? Henry Corbin suggested that the circumcision of the heart, which leads to the perceiving of these essences in phenomenon, does not come from philosophy or science, from books or authorities, but through angels and daimones, who give to us the task of exegesis..of explaining what we have seen in the symbolic language of the heavenly realms, until the exegesis becomes less an act of interpretation and more the actual act of seeing itself.
As Hillman wrote, "We learn their truth as witnesses and bring recitations, dramatic accounts, of what has been seen and heard. After descents and flights "out of the world" by means of disciplined imagining activities--oneself the subject of an exegesis, being led out by an angel...the world becomes transparent, the beyond here..."
The key phrase for me in Hillmans statement is "by means of disciplined imagining activities." And "by means of" is just as important as "disciplined imagining activities" in that sentence. The use of the seven planets for me has become the disciplined imagining activity. The classical language is rich, mythic, archetypal, deeply spiritual, metaphysical, far richer than what most modern astrologers believe it to be (not having examined it with something like a daimon or angelic guide), and it is also rigorous and disciplined in much the same way disciplined forms of breathing, meditation, or exercise are disciplined. For me it's been a stronger discipline in this regard, but I haven't lost touch with the "by means of" that Hillman mentions, echoing Corbin's writings on the guidance of the daimon in our lives, taking us through these various imaginative disciplines towards a universal form of spiritual vision..a vision that is at once "here" while simultaneously "sitting atop the cosmos."
To me, like a form of music, I love love love the classical language of astrology. It is the language my daimon is showing me its love for me as I love what it loves. The work for any astrologer is to make sure that our language stays alive, just as fluid as a composer who cannot stop writing and making music. When language dies, angels die. As Hillman once wrote, "Words are angels. Hosana! Hosana means both save (an appeal for deliverance) and praise (a shout of adoration). A cosmology that saves the phenomenon adores them." And I believe the saving and adoring of all phenomenon, the vision to see as the creator sees, is facilitated by a variety of symbolic languages. Our angels lead us to them, teach us to see through them by making our lives their interpretation, and then by means of their rigor, we learn to speak life, truth, hope, and beauty, to the soul. Fewer words or fewer planets, or more, is missing the point...and the life giving power of astrological language start to die like wilting flowers before our distracted mouths when we go down this road.
It took me a lot of words to say all of this...so to some of my concerned readers and students, don't be disappointed that I don't use more planets and more aspects and more minor planets at this time...there's an entire universe in a grain of sand, and just as frequently as we cut things out unnecessarily, too little is said using too much.
Prayer: lead us by means of disciplined imagining activities
As the Moon and Venus move closer to a trine of Neptune, we might recognize the growing feeling of mystery, allure, depth, and sensuality.
CS Lewis once wrote, "It is the chief duty of the interpreter to begin analyses and leave them unfinished."
Heraclitus wrote, "Nature loves to hide."
Lao Tzu wrote, "The way that can be named is not the way."
And James Hillman wrote, "The soul is undiscovered, though explored forever, to a depth beyond report."
In the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the children meet a talking Star. Skeptical Eustace says, "“In our world a star is a huge ball of flaming gas." The star replies, "Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is, but only what it is made of.”
We sometimes think of this mystery as having to do with the limits of the mind. But doesn't that put mystery in the service of the mind, as though we each have an easily accessible, bottom line, "Well, some things just can't be spoken. It's all so mysterious anyway!"
I'm not so sure this is the best way to use the word...doesn't it leave out the fact that mystery isn't just a concept we use to communicate our lack of intellectual understanding? Isn't mystery a robed woman, walking with a starry headdress, Moon slippers and Solar crown? Isn't mystery the way something feels? Isn't mystery the way we know something we don't know? The tangible feeling that accompanies unspeakable holiness?
Isn't mystery something whose contours say things to us..even if they're hushed, or unrepeatable...mystery is not an empty place holder, a dead end, or a white surrender flag. I'll have none of that!
I see mystery like the body language of God. A subtle language that speaks more and more the more we choose to see beyond the visible, hear beyond the audible, and touch with hands of heart.
Prayer: Venus, Moon, Neptune...may the mystery make us feel all right.
The Moon is void of course today in Capricorn. Meanwhile Mercury is slowing down to station again in Gemini while opposing Saturn in Sagittarius. Venus has just entered Leo, and Jupiter is approaching its exact trine to Uranus. Meanwhile Mars is getting swallowed by the sun as both sextile Jupiter and Uranus, and Neptune is stationing to turn retrograde. Some big shifts coming, though it will still take until the waxing of next moon cycle before we really start to feel the shift of momentum taking over.
As Mercury and Saturn are opposing one another in two signs traditionally associated with the mind, intellect, belief, and knowledge, it's a good day to talk about the modern spiritual obsession with metaphysics. Let's simplify our definition of metaphysics for the sake of this meditation. Spiritual metaphysics is the kind of spirituality that centers around explanations of "how" things work, spiritually. So, for example, whenever we present a spiritual paradigm that says something like, "this is the way spiritual consciousness is evolving, and these are the general mechanics of how it evolves," or when we say "All energy works like this," or we say, "the soul is governed by this particular set of laws," or even, "all energy is fundamentally moving back toward where it came from," -- in each of these kinds of statements we're offering an explanation of "how things work."
If we say that opposites work toward synthesis, or if we say that things separate and come back together, or that every up has a down and every down has an up...in each of these explanations we are, to a certain extent, spiritual scientists.
But what happens if we step back from these statements and learn to see through them? What happens when we psychologize them?
James Hillman, the founder of the archetypal psychology movement, argued that the soul isn't interested in metaphysics as much as it is interested in the constant activity of seeing through...of taking something "as it is," including metaphysical claims about the nature of reality, or even claims about the nature of the soul itself, and working into ever deeper layers of hidden meaning contained within the claims (at the moment or within the environment or specific context they are being made). As one new discovery is made more hidden layers draws us in. Hillman suggested that this mysterious process itself, not its discoveries, is what the soul craves. In fact, he suggested this process is the closest we can get to a definition of soul...which he also frequently compared to the words "psyche" and "imagination."
So, back to metaphysics. When someone says, for example, that the soul is fundamentally working its way through successive stages of enlightenment, on its way back to source, Hillman would argue that the claim is psychological and archetypal before and after it is ever "true" in any literal sense of the word. He frequently used this same ideas to psychologize about psychology itself.
For example, the Jungian notion of individuation he would frequently talk about as solar or heroic. Not in order to dismiss the theory of individuation but to continue the active process of psychologizing...so that a psychological idea did not become a metaphysic, truth claim, doctrine, or dogma. For Hillman, the major problem of cartesian dualism was still very much evident in the modern mind's tendency to take fantastically rich ideas and turn them into hard, concrete, absolutist truth claims.
Applied to our spiritual lives, we might try to psychologize or "see through" the most common metaphysical explanations we hold about the way things are or the way things "should be." For example, the common claim that "everything is love." When the idea is taken out of the context of a particular moment where its claim is relevant, where its claim is a poetic statement or an organic psychological response to an environment, when the claim is made into a "this is how it all works" kind of thing, then we've put a choke hold on the process of psychologizing...which isn't about whether that statement is literally true or false. The task then becomes about seeing through the truth claim aspect of the statement.....trying once more to uncover something hidden within it. For example...someone randomly posts a claim that "the universe is made of love and its all moving back to the source," but you notice that they misspelled the word "made." The statement actually reads, "The universe is mate of love and its all moving back to the source." You recognize that the person posting is Australian, and furthermore their profile picture shows them semi-nude at a large festival. Immediately you start thinking about Australians, sex, animals in the outback, and mating. These images are now taking the statement and environmentalizing it. Picking it apart, complexifying it, layering it, deepening it, adding an ironic juxtaposition of humor, etc, etc. You now have the image of an zoo'd out australian high five orgie festival rather than a truth claim. For whatever reason the soul needs this in addition to considering whether or not the statement is ever true or false. This is also why the soul, apparently, slides through the cracks and makes little messups like "mate" rather than "made." It will not be held back too long by the hyper literalizing claims of the rational mind or the ego.
Hillman was a student of Heraclitus, who is sort of like the Greek version of Lao Tzu. "The way that can be named is not the way," and furthermore this isn't a metaphysical statement or truth claim. This is poetry.
Hillman loved to tap dance. He was actually buried with his tap dance shoes on.
So if you are feeling uncomfortable with any of what we're saying here, then I would invite you to see an old man tap dancing in your minds eye. Or maybe you'll find something else in the words or images of this post which you will then take off with..so that what I'm writing doesn't STOP the process of psychologizing...of making soul stuff out of what you're experiencing.
Back to the astrology to close.
With Mercury opposite Saturn we are being asked to psychologize into our beliefs and truth claims and we're also being asked to carefully examine the images, the environments, and the aesthetics (the felt images) of our beliefs and ideas. Are we actually in resonance with what we believe or the ideas we hold most dear? Is the environment real to us or is it just a lot of words and claims trying to concrete themselves over the organic Tulips of our psyche?
Where are we fresh and organic with our studies, practices, beliefs, and ideas? Where are we just a tired set of frustrated cliches? Where does our spiritual study or belief enact itself as a living system of natural, psychically vibrant responses and interactions? Can we consider that spirituality is more about an environment or a style of consciousness than it is about an explanation or a "this is how it all works" statement?
Important things to consider as Mercury slows to station in opposition to fierce Saturn in the sign of the true believer.
Prayer: a tap dancing bear, a tempting contract, an eye watching, a disbelieving pirate, a suddenly surprised priest....images frequently say more than explanations
An imagined note from Saturn retrograde in Sagittarius...to an imagined audience of students:
* If you're not involved in ongoing study or practice of some kind, any kind, then it's not likely that much of any part of your life will change in the ways you hope or dream. It's not that studying "makes us better," it's that it makes us different, and difference leads to change...one of the essential ingredients for the pursuit of our dreams and the health of our imagination.
* Don't let someone tell you that some studies are holier or more divine than others...comparisons of these sorts are like the hiccups....eventually you'll do anything to make them go away
* Don't bullshit yourself, if you don't make room in your life for studying and practicing and learning more about what you love, then your interests will be just fantasies you have about yourself
* Don't let go of perfectionism...just let go of the idea that perfection is literal
* Don't be too proud to ask questions...more important than the answers you get when you ask questions are the people and voices you meet when someone answers
* Faith is an attitude, not a set of concepts
* The heart is unconditional...it just beats and beats and beats...this is more than a metaphor...but unconditional is not the same thing as accepting.
* I have my opinions, you have yours, but they are not automatically equal
* Age and experience still count...equality and rebellious creativity sometimes need to zip the lip and listen to someone older speak about their experiences
* Problems are problematic...that part doesn't change and its still there in all the answers we find to our problems
* Solving cosmic and spiritual problems happens while you're alive...when you're dead you don't know what happens or whether the same problems exist or the answers we think matter still matter...think about this as often as you try to solve your good problems
* Read books and write and turn off the TV and cell phone
* Make something with your own hands
* Sweat and work your body so that it's tired
* Do things that you'll say you'll do and finish things you start
* Remember that work is holy, but the way we do work is what counts more than the results...
* When you do things, really do them...don't just "kinda" do them
I am the gym coach of your spiritual training. I am serious and kind of old school and often depressing. But here's what I need you to do. I need you to "work" your depression..work into it...and right now this should be done through whatever you're learning, studying, or practicing.
Once a man prayed this prayer to me: "Depression is an answer to widespread manic activism, and is a dying to the wild world of literalism. Feeling low and heavy, we are forced to move inward, turning to fantasy rather than the literal action of the ego. And that turn is necessary for the soul, for it creates psychic space, a container for deeper reflection where soul increases and the surface of events becomes less important."
And so you need to take your studies seriously...go into something and keep going into it and don't stop...or I'm telling you...your life will feel unreal. Everyone says I'm about "reality" versus "fantasy," but I'm not. I'm about how unreal life feels without the deeper and more committed focus of the imagination.
Use it or lose it, party people. smile emoticon
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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.