It is the season of Capricorn. I am gazing through our wide bay window towards the shadowy hills, as city lights illuminate a cold, rainy early January night.A very bare bay window. Where have all the jewels of multi-coloured reflection gone? Back to the ‘Otherworld’, the Romantic in me thinks. Waiting, waiting for another year…
Yesterday we took our Christmas Tree down, this year aided by our kind and helpful neighbours, their assistance a welcome ray of brightness in an otherwise doleful day. After New Year has arrived, the time of festivity and celebration is over.
The richly decorated, multi-coloured glowing beauty of our tree then ceases to bring us comfort and magic in the heart of winter, standing before us reproachfully (as we imagine), waiting to be dismantled, recycled. We cannot bear to prolong this post-festive inevitability. And now it’s done, gone.
Here I stand, in the bare, empty, dusted, wiped, hoovered space left behind. What comfort is to be found in this bleak moment?
The need to bring comfort, cheer and significance to that cold dark time in the Northern Hemisphere, when the Sun’s warmth seems a distant longed-for memory, is a very ancient one. Here are the ancient Egyptians, honouring their Tree of Life:
This thought comforts me, as it does every year. I like to feel part of the ancient river of humanity as I stand here in my 21st century bare bay window.
Dylan Thomas’ famous line from the poem “And death shall have no dominion” comes to mind:
‘Though lovers be lost, love shall not……’
This tree may have been sacrificed by us, but its spirit lives on in that bare window space, inhabiting another world, waiting to be given form yet again when the seasons turn and we feel yet again a powerful need to affirm in the cold season of Capricorn that the life force is still with us – just gathering its strength in the dormancy of winter.
A week or so ago, there was a question on one of the astrology discussion groups I drop into from time to time – from a newcomer to astrology. This person was very concerned about how to deal with ‘transits and predictive work’, commenting on how anxiety-inducing it was for so many people when they contemplated upcoming challenging transits eg Saturn/Pluto, both in relation to themselves and how they could talk about tough upcoming patterns with their clients.
This reminded me of an article I had written some time ago for the Centre for Psychological Astrology’s in-house magazine Apollon on that very topic. It is called “Astrology as a healing and a wounding art”(i) and deals precisely with the anxieties that everyone has to face who begins to dig beneath the surface of the Star Sign column level of popular astrology.
In the article, which you can access via the Endnotes to this post, I decided to interview a number of my astrology students who had been studying/practising astrology for some time, regarding what they thought were both the healing and the wounding aspects of astrological study and practice. The results were most interesting. I hope you find reading the article useful – do feel free to leave your reactions via comments.
As you may imagine, there were a number of responses to the worried astro-newcomer’s questions and concerns. Here is what I wrote, which struck me on re-reading it as having quite a Saturn/Pluto tone to it. Hardly surprising, since I have a Mercury/Saturn/Pluto line-up in my own horoscope…but I think that there are certain tough realities which need to be faced if you are going to take up the practice of astrology. Maybe those of us who have been practising for a long time don’t spell them out clearly enough…
“…I used to start my astrology classes by pointing out to students that 99% of the human race had got through history and their lives without knowing any astrology and had managed to get by. I also used to point out to them that while astrology is archetypally predictive, its track record on actual specific prediction is historically pretty unimpressive.
I also told them the story of Prometheus, who stole the fire of knowledge from the gods and was severely punished as a result.
Astrology is a wounding as well as a healing art, and if students/practitioners can’t make their peace with that reality in such a way that they can be of constructive value to their future clients, they should take up something non-threatening like e.g. stamp collecting…”
Note: the link will take you through to the pdf Issue 3 of Apollon – scroll down and the Contents page will tell you where to find my article. There is also a brilliant article by Liz Greene called ‘Wounding and the will to live’ – about Chiron – which I would urge you to take the time to read.
……a quotation from “Simple Abundance” by Sarah Ban Breathnach states……
“ Gloom we have always with us, a rank and sturdy weed, but joy requires tending.”
This has never seemed truer as we approach the end of what has been a very difficult year, our human community across the world riven with even more – and more angrily polarised – conflicts than usual.
It is becoming much harder, since young Greta Thunberg’s resolute pounding on the door of our resistance to facing the truth of our planetary crisis, to avoid facing certain harsh realities. It’s been a year for being confronted with those, both individually and collectively. Many of us are feeling pretty dispirited, exhausted, lacking in optimism for the future.
So, what to do?
Having an astrological perspective is a great help, at least in being able to stand back and realise that we very clever 21st century folk are not immune to the turbulence which has followed the unfolding of the human story throughout history. The planetary cycles are telling us quite clearly, as I outlined in my recent article on Astrodienst, that we are at a time of extraordinary, epochal change.
For the old order to die, and the new one to emerge, we need to go through a form of collective death and rebirth.
How can we help this along, and in our own small way contribute to a more positive world in the future?
Personally, I find it helpful always to return toJung‘s view: if there’s something wrong with the world, with society, with nation or with family, then there’s something also wrong with ME; so, taking responsibility for who I am and where I’m at, is the first step in changing the world for the better.
In other words, start where you are, and do what you can, to bring some light into the dark both at this solstice time of year, and during the year which is fast approaching. As the wise quote says, we need to keep ourselves from becoming too gloomy, and cultivate joy wherever we can.
Today, I had a lovely experience of doing just that. I met up with a young friend who has just completed her first term at university. After many very difficult years, she has gradually found a firm place on which to stand in her life: in a mutually supportive relationship, she knows what her future vocation is now, and her studies are focused on some very clear goals. She is fizzing with enthusiasm and excitement, and has done extremely well in her first term’s exams.
It made me feel joyful to share her enthusiasm and her optimism for the future. As an older person, being able to support young folk like her is a simple and positive way to keep the rank weed of gloom at bay, and cultivate a positive approach to whatever our future proves to be.
So – what’s your recipe for cultivating joy as 2020 approaches? Do share!
I’ve had quite a few messages of late, asking me why I haven’t posted here for a few weeks. Well, like almost everyone else to whom I speak, I’ve been feeling the pressure and heaviness of a very challenging year since Saturn began to catch up with Pluto in Capricorn last Spring 2019, coming within three degrees of exact conjunction in April as they met the South Node in Capricorn. Recent weeks have thus been a time for some rest and reflection.
As I wrote in one of my recent articles exploring various dimensions of this fearsome conjunction:
‘… In essence, Saturn/Pluto lets us off with nothing, either personally or collectively. We are forced into increasingly tight corners, whilst the pressure is ramped up on us to face and deal with the present consequences of past decisions, some of which might not be of our direct making. The environmental crisis which has become so vivid this year with the Nodal Axis joining the dance of Saturn/Pluto throughout 2019, is a case in point…’(i)
I am currently writing a reflective piece on what we should try to learn from a not very much discussed topic, ie the end or balsamic phase of planetary cycles, which I hope to post here soon. So – watch this space!
Prompting me to write today have been several conversations I’ve had, not all of them directly in person, with people coming up to experiencing their Saturn Returns at this time: both the first at age 29/30, and the 59/60 second Saturn Return.
Since the 1981/2 Saturn/Pluto conjunction cycle ends, with the new one beginning, on 12 January 2020 with the two meeting at 23 degrees of Capricorn along with the Sun, Mercury – and Jupiter not far behind – those folks at the end of their twenties and fifties are facing a profoundly defining transition during their Saturn Returns since theirs involve Saturn/Pluto as well as the other planets.
Every completing of a Saturn 29/30 year cycle is a time of being invited, in essence, to separate out as best we can from who we are not, in order to become more fully who it is we actually are meant to be.
The Second Saturn Return carries additional gravitas, because it represents a challenge to sum up what the whole Saturn cycle since age 29/30 has been about. From the Third Return on, if we live that long, coming to terms with life’s approaching ending is the biggest challenge any of us will face.
So – I decided I’d share the reflective work I have done on the Saturn Returns, to give those of my readers, younger and older, some food for thought and hopefully support in facing a challenging life stage coming up as this year ends and 2020 begins. The most recent version, published in The Mountain Astrologer magazine, is at the end of this post.
For the record, and to cheer up anyone who is feeling dismal about all this Saturn/Pluto stuff and impending Saturn Returns, I was born with several personal planets conjunct an exact Saturn/Pluto conjunction, and have been through two Saturn Returns which triggered my natal Saturn/Pluto combination.
I’m still here, still standing, still productive, not too displeased with how my life has turned out. So my writing is born not out of theory but out of surviving some very tough challenges – both of my own making and through things over which the only control I had was over the attitudes I decided to adopt…
Buddhist wisdom considers dealing with adversity as the process of “Forging the Diamond Soul”. I found meditating on this a great support in some very hard times, both past and recently.
I do hope you enjoy this article and find it helpful in getting the best out of your upcoming Saturn Returns:
Well, this issue always comes up, sooner or later…yesterday, one of my newer mentorees raised it, so I thought it worth another airing.
“Which house system is the best?”
Firstly, since there are a number of different house systems – click HERE for more detail on this – which should you choose?
Secondly, to a varying degree depending on your chart, planets can move house. In my chart, for instance, by Equal House I have no less than SIX planets in the Twelfth House. When I first saw my horoscope inPlacidus houses, one planet, my ruler Mercury, had migrated to the Eleventh.O joy!I need all the help I can get here, I thought then. But, as you will soon see, it’s not as simple as that…
Then there is a further problem. In Placidus, the MC/IC axis always defines the cusp of the Tenth/ Fourth Houses. If you use Equal House, the MC/IC axis can fall through any pair of houses from the 8th/2nd to the 11th/5th. How do you deal with that?
I worked with only two systems for many years, i.e. the most commonly used ones in the UK – Equal House and Placidus. I used Equal House from the early 1980s perfectly happily, finding that the system worked well for me. Then I changed to Placidus in 1995. I didn’t choose it for any carefully thought through philosophical or practice reasons; it was simply the system used on the Diploma course I was doing. Then, in 2015, I moved back to using Equal again. For philosophical reasons that time, as you will see shortly.
A class experiment
Ever since a small group of my ‘old’ students persuaded me to run a refresher class for them starting in August 2014 – and still running!! – I have really enjoyed returning to astrology teaching. Those students were all very rusty, and wanted to cover the basics again. Inevitably, the question of house division came up. Having covered the core meanings of the houses in an introductory class, we spent a whole tutorial looking in more detail at the issue of house division.
The methods I adopted on that occasion were twofold: firstly, I gave the class copies of their charts in Equal House to compare with their existing Placidus charts. Then I drew up a grid, of which we all had a copy. This listed all the planets, Chiron and the North Node as well as the pair of houses through which the Equal House MC/I C axis ran. Thus we could see at a glance those features which stayed the same in both systems, and which ones changed. In some charts many features changed. In others eg mine, there was very little difference.
I have always taught astrology with every student having a copy of everyone else’s horoscopes, including mine. With permissions always asked and given before the start of a course, and appropriate emphasis on confidentiality, this way of working has been very effective. It creates each class as a kind of mini qualitative research laboratory, where astrological theory can be tested out there and then, observing to what extent it manifests accurately in the nuts and bolts of the everyday lives of those present. It is a model which makes for very lively teaching…
We worked our way round everyone in the small group, including me, discussing how interpretations might change, and most importantly, how much that mattered by potentially altering the emphasis on key horoscope themes.
For instance, the Moon in one student’s horoscope changed from the Placidus Ninth house (a location she really liked for her Moon, being both a teacher and an education junkie!) to the Tenth by Equal House, which emphasised the importance of her vocational/career life but not the dimensions of teaching and learning which are both Ninth House concerns.
However, we pointed out to her that this didn’t really matter in terms of overall accuracy of interpretation; she really was very well endowed with Jupiterian energy anyway, given her Moon’s trine to Jupiter in Aries, as well as her Sun’s square to Jupiter.
This was just one example in which, whatever shift we saw of planets from one house to another, there was invariably an underlying strong theme in the birth chart, so that the emphasis being slightly shifted in one context made little if any difference to the overall accuracy of interpretation of the whole horoscope. Interestingly, more than half of our small group, despite my having worked with all students with Placidus from 1995, said that they preferred the relative simplicity of the Equal House system.
In my own case, although ruling planet Mercury moved from the sociable, group-oriented Placidus 11th House to join five other planets in the reclusive Twelfth by Equal House, I have an exact semi- square from Mercury to 10th House Uranus in both systems, Uranus also strongly aspecting the Sun and Moon, so the Aquarian/Uranian/11th house ‘tone’ remains strongly emphasised.
That Mercury energy also flows from the Twelfth House to an exact sextile to Neptune, and a square to Third House Jupiter in both systems. So any reclusive tendencies brought by the move are well and truly restrained by other horoscope factors!
The students could see from our small experiment something which is fundamental to the accurate reading of any horoscope: strong themes will shine through, whatever way you divide up the circle.
As U.K astrologer Robin Heath so memorably observed a number of years ago: “…astrology appears more and more to behave like a hologram. You can perform almost any technique with the data, turn the chart inside out or slice it up, and still the symbolic pictures remain….” (i)Both this statement and our class experiment bore out the conclusion at which I hadarrived some time ago. It doesn’t really matter much what system you use. What you get is the same overall picture…
Horses (Houses!) for courses…
I went on to outline the way some astrologers use different house systems for different purposes. Since the Equal House system is based on the Ascendant/Descendant axis which is the axis of“… here I am in relation to you… “,this system can be used when the client in their reading wishes specifically to address matters pertaining to relationship.
Since the IC /MC axis can be seen as an arrow flowing from the person’s deepest self and origins (IC) to their future direction (MC), then issues of roots, vocation and life direction are most appropriately contemplated, some astrologers think, via the Placidus lens since that system can be seen to emphasise the MC/IC.
Also, although I have never worked with the Koch system myself, I know that some astrologers swear by the accuracy of its house cusps in plotting transits and progressions.
ALSO – I have been experimenting intermittently with Whole Sign Houses for the last couple of years, and earlier this year decided to test that system out with my tutorial class of six students including myself. Having provided us all with a copy of our charts in WSH mode, we looked at planetary ingress by transit eg we looked at each chart in relation to which house was entered eg by Uranus in April 1995, and what if any the impact was.
The results for this small piece of qualitative research were quite impressive; eg in my own case, Uranus, which natally occupies the tenth house and rules the sixth, moved into Aquarius and my sixth house in April 1995. In May, I heard that I had been accepted as a student on the three-year Diploma Course at the Centre for Psychological Astrology in London, England. Since I live in Glasgow, Scotland, this positive disruption to the organising of my everyday routines and change in my career emphasis fit my horoscope extremely well.
Similar degrees of accuracy were apparent in considering the students’ lives’ responses to ingresses of Jupiter and also Saturn. We did not have time to survey Chiron, Neptune and Pluto on that occasion, but it’s a research area I intend to return to, and write about, on a future occasion.
The Equal House MC/IC “problem”
The placing of inverted commas above gives you a clue that I do not see the shifting placement of the MC/IC axis in the Equal House system, and indeed the Whole Sign House system, as a problem at all. Quite the opposite.
I think that working with the MC/IC axis against the backdrop of either the 2nd/8th, 3rd/9th, 4th/10th, or the 5th/11th adds a layer of richness to the interpretation of the MC/IC which of course should remain just as focal and important in the Equal House or WSH system as in any other where the MC/ICis always the cusp of the 10th/4th Houses.
For example, I have often encountered clients or students with 2nd/8th backdrops in professions involving finance and collective money, those with 4th/10th backdrops have their strong life focus on career/vocation emphasised. With 5th/11th emphasised, you often find “creative” types who work co-operatively and collaboratively in the pursuit of their careers. And in my own case, the 3rd/9th backdrop is highly appropriate since writing and higher education have been central to all the diverse vocational paths I have pursued throughout my working life.
Equal House: the return
Back in 2015, the students were very keen to know why I had decided to return to working with Equal House.For giving me the final shove in that direction I have to thank Phoebe Wyss and her excellent book “Inside the Cosmic Mind” . Iwould urge any astrology student or practitioner to read this book if they are inclined, as I am, to perceive astrology as a ‘top down’ art whose practice and interpretation reveals us as expressing in micro form, the shifting macro patterns of the whole cosmos.
In Phoebe Wyss’ own words:
“ Archetypal astrology is an approach to astrological chart interpretation that is based on this cosmological view. The meanings of the chart factors such aszodiac signs, houses, and planets are then seen to derive from the twelve basic categories of meaning associated with the astrological archetypes. These fundamental cosmic principles and their inter-relationships are symbolised in the geometry of the zodiac…”(ii)
Wyss’ book – which builds on the recent work of Richard Tarnas, Kieron Le Grice and other pioneers in the field of archetypal cosmology – has taken me back and re-grounded me in the basic geometry of sacred numbers, whose symbolism reflects the core shaping principles or archetypes governing the movement of energy throughout the whole cosmos. The number twelve is one of those sacred numbers.
From that symbolic, geometric perspective, dividing the inner space of the horoscope symbolically into twelve equal parts via the Equal House or indeed the WSH system, seems more appropriate than using any other house system, including Placidus, whose devising arises purely from measurements limited by the view from planet Earth in relation to the solar system in our tiny corner of space/time…
(i) The Mountain Astrologer, Issue 78, April/May 1998, Letters p 11
(ii)Inside the Cosmic Mind, Phoebe Wyss, Floris Books 2014, p 93
It is Scorpio’s season: Mercury will be retrograde in Scorpio for much of November, and here in dark, rainy, leaf-strewn post-Hallowe’en Glasgow, Scotland, I’m in meditative mood.
It’s now 1st November – Samhain – Samhain has been celebrated for centuries and has its origin in Pagan Celtic traditions. It was the time of year when the veils between this world and the Otherworld were believed to be at their thinnest: when the spirits of the dead could most readily mingle with the living once again.
It is a contemplative time; a time for honouring the renewing power of darkness, and for facing the humbling fact that everything passes, including us….
‘…For Pagans, death and birth are intertwined. Our goddesses and gods all represent aspects of the cycle of birth, growth, death, and regeneration. Every good gardener knows that fertility is born out of decay. Every fallen leaf becomes part of the soil that feeds the roots of growing trees.
Pagans have no dogma that must be accepted. Our spirituality centers on experience, not faith. Yet if we were to hold one common belief, it might be that our individuality lives on after death. We remain part of our communities, alive and present in a different realm.
At Samhain, we take time to remember and commune with those who have gone before, to express gratitude for what they’ve given us. In our frantic pace, we tend to forget our past. Few of us know much about our families beyond a generation or two back. Remembering the dead can help us keep a sense of connection to our roots.
A public ritual to acknowledge the dead is a statement that grief is valued.
In the heart of the ritual is a long, quiet meditation in which we read the names of those who have died in the past year. The death of someone we love is too hard to face alone. When someone dies, we need the comfort of community support. Even though we believe the dead are not severed from us, we understand the pain and loss of their going.
Samhain is also a celebration of renewal. When we dance our spiral, we weave a vision of all that we want to create in the new year:
May the old ones and the young be loved,
And all the forms of love be blessed,
And all the colors of our skin be praised,
And all the cycles of life be saved.
May all who hunger now be fed,
May we heal the earth that grows our bread…’
Later, when the festival was adopted by Christians, they celebrated it as All Hallows’ Eve, followed by All Saints Day, though it still retained elements of remembering and honouring the dead.
We need the dark, as this festival of Samhain reminds us. Within the year’s natural cycle, the diurnal alternation of light and dark brings restful silence at night and the restorative power of sleep, without which all creatures including us would burn out and die before their time. We are in danger of forgetting this – at our peril – as an increasingly technology-driven culture sweeps the world, creating the illusion that we can live sustainably and healthily in defiance of the ancient rhythms set by the great cycles of nature.
TheGreat Round of conception, birth, maturation, decline, death and rebirth applies to everything, from gnats to galaxies. Human endeavour is not exempt.
Perhaps our whole culture/civilisation is in its Winter phase – the signs of descent are everywhere, should we care to look…….and in the meantime, I try to stay with my current mantra “Start where you are, and do what you can.”Renewal, whether we live to see it or not, is always round the corner….
What are YOUR thoughts and feelings regarding the Descent into winter? It would be interesting to have them!
It’s Scorpio’s season, and most appropriately a global hunt for the universe’s missing matter is once again underway; this autumn everyone is invited to join in. On and around Halloween 2019, events around the world will celebrate the hunt for the universe’s unseen dark matter…
But where to start? Perhaps with Dark Matter, for those of you for whom the term is as yet unfamiliar. Here is one definition:
Dark matter is a huge part of the Universe that scientists’ calculations tell us exists, but that has never been observed. Yet, together with dark energy, scientists believe it makes up 95 percent of the total universe. What we can see, and the matter that scientists can account for is just five percent of the Universe, the rest is a mystery.(i)
Please pay great attention to that last sentence. Science can offer an explanation for just 5% of the Universe…the rest ie 23% dark matter and 72% dark energy, is a mystery. This being the case by modern science’s own admission, I have been at a loss for decades to understand why by and large most scientists operate on the reductionist principle – loudly and vehemently declaimed by the likes of the UK’s Professors Richard Dawkins and Brian Cox – that if it can’t be seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched or proved through the application of the procedures of contemporary science then it simply does not exist.
Non-existence, reductionist science style
Here are just a few examples of the ‘it’ that does not exist or is of no credible value:
** all types of paranormal experience eg precognitive dreams, telepathy, premonitions, mediumship, seeing ghosts, mystical experience – well documented by a vast range of people and cultures throughout the world for millennia
** the myths of all cultures throughout the ages – (the modern definition of a myth is ‘an untrue story’ ) – which through their symbolic stories have offered guidance to humans re how best to navigate the complexities inherent in every facet of life
** all religions, which no-one would deny have considerable flaws and deficiencies but which have at least tried to address the unquantifiable facets of human experience and offer us teachings through which we might ‘do as you would be done by’
** the great symbolic arts, for example astrology, the i ching, palmistry, and the tarot, which have evolved over lengthy time periods for the guidance of us fallible humans as we try to make our way – all of which especially astrology have largely been dismissed as rubbish by scientists who have never taken the trouble to study in any depth that which they are only too happy to condemn.
It should be obvious to any reasonably sentient, rational person that a stance of ignorant dismissal of whole bodies of knowledge which have been embedded in human culture from the outset does not and should not command any respect whatsoever. I can imagine what Prof Dawkins would say, were anyone to dismiss the whole of physics from a standpoint of wilful ignorance…
Ooops! Must not fall into ranting…I can feel one coming on…so…
Where do I stand on the science v religion/symbolism issue?
I am in total awe of the magnificent achievements of science since the rise of the Age ofReason around the middle of the 17th Century, and have been an avid reader of popular science books since my teens in a long attempt to understand the complexities thereof, especially those of quantum physics which have gradually revealed to us a Universe at an energetic level which is paradoxical, deeply strange, and only partly predictable.
I have also read widely and thought deeply – as well as practising – within those dimensions of life I have just listed which modern science largely dismisses as invalid and not worth taking seriously.
However, a view and a model are slowly emerging, despite considerable resistance from the diehard defenders of reductionism, which can demonstrate convincingly that the lenses of eg astrology and quantum physics are focusing on the same all encompassing energy field which generates our tiny existence on planet Earth.
Astrology maps this energy field in space/time through the movements of the planets in our solar system, a rational measuring process which is also conducted by mariners and astronomers. However, it goes much further than those disciplines, by ascribing symbolic meaning to those planetary movements based on observations over millennia of the correspondences between life on Earth and the movements of the planets in their orbits.
My personal view is that both the scientific and the symbolic arts have their complementary roles to play in exploring and explicating the fundamental mystery of why we are here, and what we should do about it.We need all the help we can get, after all, and should be pooling our collective human knowledge for the benefit of us all. As the atomic physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer so wisely put it :
These two ways of thinking, the ways of time and history and the way of eternity and timelessness, are both part of man’s efforts to comprehend the world in which he lives. Neither is comprehended in the other or reducible to it. They are, as we have learned to say in physics, complementary views, each supplementing the other, neither telling the whole story. (ii)
Dark Matter meets Hallowe’en in the 95% field
Given the kind of prejudices I have been describing from a profoundly dominant and influential group of people, ie the scientific community, at first I was pretty annoyed to see that the 31st October, ie Hallowe’en, had been designated as Dark Matter Day, especially as its first event last year had been billed in some quarters as First Ever Dark Matter Day in Hallowe’en Takeover. The inference in this headline is pretty clear: the choice of day represents an attempt by the scientific community yet again to attack and dismiss what they see as mere superstition which has no place in the contemporary world.
However, on reflection, I realised that the scientific community could have unwittingly created a bridge between the two worlds of the non-rational and the rational by holding Dark Matter Day on Hallowe’en.
When I first came across the compelling notion of the division of the Universe’s energy, as far as science can ascertain, into 5% matter and the rest dark matter and dark energy, my immediate thought was this: ‘Wow, so we only have direct access to a thin slice ofReality…then what goes on in the 95% we know is there but can’t as yet access via the methodologies of reductionist science?’
On further reflection,maybe the 5% could represent our conscious, practicalrelationship with the familiar world. Dark energy might be what Jung called the collective unconscious, home to those archetypal patterns shaping our myths, religious beliefs and cultural values as well as what we broadly call the realm of the paranormal. And – dark matter could represent individuals’ personal unconscious, the liminal territory which acts as a filter through which images of all kinds from the collective unconscious make their way to the light of day, ie to the 5% that science can explain.
Thus the 95% dark matter/dark energy ‘field’ could be the non-rational dimension which is rich in creative energy of all kinds, energy giving rise (in partnership of course with the rational dimension of life represented by the 5%) to eg great art and music, and also to those unquantifiable but essential attributes which represent the best of humanity eg love, compassion, humour and kindness.
But, as we all know only too well from our collective and individual lives, there is a very dark shadow side to this non-rational dimension, one of whose manifestations is fear of the unknown, especially death.This has given rise rise historically to all kinds of superstitious beliefs and practices designed to ward off evil spirits and placate threatening supernatural beings – territory which is commemorated and engaged with each year in the shape of Hallowe’en.
We need constructive outlets for those dark fears and impulses, and Hallowe’en provides just that. I find it most interesting that, far from our reductionist-dominated culture stamping out all forms of irrationality, cultural practices such as Hallowe’en have become more mainstream in recent years.
Thinking about this calls to mind a brilliant– and brave – book written by the well-known UK journalist Bryan Appleyard, who risked all kinds of opprobrium by exhaustively researching and writing about Aliens and the UFO phenomenon, setting the whole thing in a long historical context. His eventual conclusion, simply put, was this: if aliens didn’t exist (and he remains personally agnostic on the topic despite extensive research) the human mind, needing irrationality to maintain some sort of balance, is such that it would need to invent them…
So, scientists, you have I think made the right decision in aligning your Dark Matter Day with Hallowe’en – although probably not for the reasons you had in mind!
(i) from the Web on 1st November 2017 in an article entitled First Ever Dark Matter Day in Hallowe’en Takeover, which also has some interesting follow-on links if you wish to research this fascinating area further.
(ii) Stuart Holroyd ‘The Arkana Dictionary of New Perspectives’ published by Arkana (Penguin Books Ltd) 1989, p154, quoting from Lawrence LeShan’s book ‘The Medium, the Mystic and the Physicist’
It’s all identity politics’ fault. Trying to come up with a Big Picture context for this 21st century phenomenon has led me toward contemplating the so-called Aquarian Age, such a cultural cliche by now that I usually prefer to let the ageing braincell focus on fresher topics. However, bear with me. I’ve got to something which might intrigue you…
But first, a definition of identity politics:
‘…politics in which groups of people having a particular racial, religious, ethnic, social, or cultural identity tend to promote their own specific interests or concerns without regard to the interests or concerns of any larger political group…’ (i)
Does this suggest the shadow side of the Leo theme to anyone? It certainly does to me. Given that the interplay of opposites is a fundamental generator of the life force –think egg, sperm and first division of fertilised egg here – this by astro-logic brings us to Aquarius, Leo’s polarity. Aquarius is fundamentally concerned with the larger group. As the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham, an Aquarian, (1748-1832) so famously stated: “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong”. (ii) Aquarius, especially since its new ruler Uranus appeared to our view in the turbulent 1780s, is also strongly associated with revolutionary change, especially technological breakthroughs.
To be clear: I do not subscribe to the touchy-feely idea that the Aquarian Age, if it exists at all, will bring an era of universal love. The evidence from our contemporary world suggests otherwise. Moreover, the eminent astrologer and cultural historian Dr Nicholas Campion has collected around 100 dates for the supposed commencement of the Age of Aquarius – from around 1260 AD to around 2300 AD. (iii)
Perhaps best, then, to see the astrological world ages of roughly 2000 years each, as vast metaphors for helping us to comprehend political, cultural and social change.
However, I am intrigued by Carl Jung’s notion, set forth in his essay ‘The Sign of the Fish’(iv) that when world ages change, ie when the first point of Aries can be seen against the backdrop of the next constellation, our image of the Divine changes. The Aries point, having shifted backwards from its 2000 or so years’ traverse of the previous constellation of Pisces, roughly the era of Christianity, is now somewhere between the first star of the constellation of Pisces, and the last star of the constellation of Aquarius.
We have been going through an enormous technological revolution in recent decades as science makes huge strides. Mapping the human genome, expanding our view of the vast universe we inhabit via wonderful Hubble images, and linking much of the human population via the Internet and mobile phone technology are but a few examples. You could even argue that a new religion is arising: Scientism, which holds that only the 5% of the cosmos which we can perceive through our senses or test out through the procedures of reductionism is worth considering.
As societies become increasingly secular and materialistic throughout the world, I think we are beginning to project the Divine onto science and technology…even to the extent that the goal of prolonging human life indefinitely into some kind of techno-immortality is being seriously pursued in some quarters.
Pushing the boundaries of science forward just because it can be done conjures the spectres of Dr Frankenstein and his Monster, immortalised in Mary Shelley’s modern myth “ Frankenstein, or the New Prometheus”. It also speaks strongly of the shadow side of the Aquarian theme, which doesn’t mind how many individual lives it disrupts or destroys in the name of revolutionary change.
Hence its Leo shadow opposite arising in the shape of identity politics, as defined at the start of this column.
Reflecting on the stubbornly fixed positions which have increasingly been taken up in recent times eg in political discourse, religious conflicts, and environmental activism, has evoked for me the fixed cross in astrological symbolism, which on further reflection I have mapped onto the four Angles upon which every horoscope hangs: Ascendant, IC, Descendant, MC.
Since the Ascendant/Descendant horizontal axis speaks of the here and now of our individual and collective lives– the current Age – how about placing Aquarius on the Ascendant, opposite Leo here? Thus we see the march of technological progress for the supposed benefit of us all, not getting along too well presently with individual identities in various forms.
Completing the fixed cross, the IC/MC vertical axis speaks of roots (IC) from which our future direction (MC) arises. The Taurus IC is the ground on which we stand, our Mother Earth. Scorpio on the MC speaks of the deep crisis which our home planet is facing. The old materialist order is currently dying – the evidence is everywhere. The question is, what will replace it?
I have found contemplating the metaphor of the astrological fixed cross, which condenses the polarised conflicts of our current era into four fundamental themes, powerfully illuminating. It may even suggest that, symbolically speaking, the Age of Aquarius is indeed upon us.
We need to find a revolutionary way forward: from our present stubbornly fixed shadow positions, and the extreme turbulence of our current world, to a situation where respect both for the greatest good of the greatest number and the dignity of individual rights are harnessed and directed – towards respect and care for our mother planet, and away from its destruction.
This post is a slightly edited version of my bi-monthly column for Dell Horoscope Magazine ‘The astro-view from Scotland’ from the May/June 2018 Issue.
Will UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson be lying “…dead in a ditch…” come 1st November 2019 if the UK fails to leave the European Union on Halloween 2019, something it has been trying and failing to do for the last three years? Who knows? We astrologers do know, however, that Mercury turns retrograde that day. Not a huge help, one would surmise.
My regular readers will know by now that, in times of trouble and strife, both personal and collective, I turn – not to drink, drugs, toyboys or similar distractions – but to the planetary cycles, which have the merit of providing some perspective and a little detachment from general woes. I have not a few to cope with myself at present, so I’m not theorising when I say that strategy helps. It does.
I offered some musings along those lines not long ago, in my Dell Horoscope Magazine column “The astro-view from Scotland”. I hope they are at least a slight help, beginning as they do with a very brave man who was not afraid to speak truth to power, and whose words changed the world…
Martin Luther has been bugging me for weeks. No, he hasn’t been trending on Twitter. In fact, he has been dead since 1546. So – why my preoccupation now?
Here’s why. Looking round our highly unstable world – at the parlous state of the planet, the rise of China and the East, the malign interference of Russia in other nations’ affairs, the Trump factor, the disastrous incompetence of UK politicians in attempting to carry out our narrow vote to leave the European Union with huge attendant turmoil, the continuing clamour for Scottish Independence – my spinning mind has turned once again to contemplating the big planetary cycles. I need some detachment, some perspective…
This turmoil feels as though we are undergoing a collective revolution at a number of levels, given how interconnected the world now is – hence my thoughts turning to Martin Luther, one of history’s great revolutionaries.
As you read this column, Jupiter has recently moved into Sagittarius, with Saturn advancing toward conjunction with Pluto in Capricorn in 2020.… very apt imagery for that defiant, outspoken Scorpio cleric Luther nailing 95 objections to church policy onto a hard church door on All Souls Day 1517 – Hallowe’en – in Wittenburg, Germany.(i)
It is doubtful whether Martin Luther ever physically did this – but there is no doubt that his standing up to the corrupt might of the institutional Catholic Church, the year after Pluto moved into Capricorn in 1516, triggered off the Reformation, a religious revolution that changed the world.
Fast forward to the period 1762-1778, the next time Pluto traversed Capricorn. This saw a great expanse of European colonialism, as well as the American Revolution followed by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. However, arguably the most far-reaching changes of the period came through Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer James Watt’simprovements to steam engine technology: the primary driver of the Industrial Revolution. This led to the massive expansion in industrial and technological advances which have given us the world we have now.
Two Pluto through Capricorn traverses– two world revolutions. Going further back in history through Pluto in Capricorn cycles reveals similar patterns of deep upheaval both in terms of our planet and human culture. Astrologer Michele Finey’s recent summary is worth checking out for more detail on this topic. (ii)
Pluto moved into Capricorn in 2008, triggering a narrowly-averted meltdown of the world’s precariously balanced financial system. In the last decade he has purged his way relentlessly, exposing the rotten foundations of most worldwide institutional structures, social and political as well as financial: exposing for example the sexual abuse scandals of the Roman Catholic Church. But Pluto in Capricorn is not finished dredging …
According to a recent report by the charity Oxfam (iii),basing its research on the Forbes rich list and data provided by investment bank Credit Suisse, the world’s eight richest people have same wealth as the poorest 50%…the vast majority of people in the bottom half of the world’s population are facing a daily struggle to survive, with 70% of them living in low-income countries.
“From Brexit to the success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, a worrying rise in racism and the widespread disillusionment with mainstream politics, there are increasing signs that more and more people in rich countries are no longer willing to tolerate the status quo,” the report said.
Signs of this unwillingness to tolerate the status quo abound. The recent transit of Jupiter through Scorpio, one of the other significant planetary patterns adding to Pluto in Capricorn’s revolutionary impetus, has seen the worldwide MeToo grassroots anti-abuse movement; young people in the USA in mass protests against school shootings and the gun laws expediting them; and youthful protests worldwide against climate change.
Just recently, the UK’s incomparable David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series, shown world-wide, has graphically presented to all of us the devastating damage being caused to our seas by plastic pollution. We are at last beginning to take collective responsibility for this huge problem.
Humans have had to live through the pain, turmoil and upheaval of revolutionary change since the beginning of time. Why should we 21st Century folk think ourselves exempt? However, as part of the departing baby-boomer generation who will not live to see the shape of the new world order arising, I take great comfort from the increasing bottom-up challenges we are seeing to a world too long managed from the Top Down. In the midst of our current chaos, the Millennial generation arising, bred on interconnected technologies, is using them to push for a less materially exploitative, more equal world order.
Recently I had the good fortune to meet two dynamic young women friends for coffee: one (about to hit her Saturn Return) returning home to Saudi Arabia. She is intent on using her chemistry PhD to make an impact on the increasing global threat of antibiotic resistance.
The other, a Scottish community activist and parent who has achieved great things locally in bringing children, parents and teachers together outside to enjoy the benefits of spending time in nature. This has involved strenuous bottom-up community efforts, attracting worldwide support as the Children’s Wood campaign grew – thus preventing our local authority from selling off a precious bit of local wild land to developers planning to build expensive housing there.
As a means of containing my own little chip of collective anxiety in the face of this current Pluto in Capricorn revolution, I have taken their Millennial motto to heart:
“ Start where you are, and do what you can…” How very Capricornian…
This post is a slightly edited version of my bi-monthly column for Dell Horoscope Magazine ‘The astro-view from Scotland’ from the January/February 2019 Issue.
(i) The last time Saturn met Pluto in Capricorn was in 1517/18
In order to avoid noticing that we are living through a time of unprecedented turbulence, you would need to be living in a cave up a mountain far away somewhere without a wifi signal. Today, perhaps triggered by the current Aries full moon, squaring Saturn/Pluto in Capricorn, I have especially been feeling the world’s darkness and pain.
As with many of us, I have often taken consolation from great poetry. For example, Persian poet Rumi’s “This being human” contains deep wisdom regarding the turbulent duality of light and dark forces which constitute not only human nature, but also Life itself.
Light and dark are inseparably interdependent: maybe, Rumi is suggesting, it would be wise to honour them both, since those dark destructive energies which periodically sweep through, causing havoc personally and collectively, contain messages, guidance from Beyond, which are telling us something we usually do not wish to hear.
I am not alone in having had Life hurl me against the same wall a few times before I eventually ‘get the message’, and with painful slowness begin the process of change which is being demanded of me by a deeper, wiser Self – that chip of divine light which is present in every one of us.
Writers offering comforting platitudes skimmed from a glide across the surface of life, or perhaps digging down a little, do not move me. My help comes from those who look unflinchingly into the world’s dark heart without underestimating in any way the destruction and cruelty to be found there, but who can balance what they see with inspiring affirmation.
Despite all the awfulness of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ which is an ever-present reality through the ages both personally and collectively, Life is full of opportunities to be ‘surprised by joy’, to seek and find meaning in even the most scouring of experiences. That is certainly what I have come to believe.
Some writers have a way, also, of reminding us of how we need to change by poking us where it hurts. As the Saturn/Pluto grinder bears down upon us all, amplified by tonight’s Aries full moon, I’ve been reflecting on the current dismal state of planet Earth and its denizens.
I was chewing upon one of my favourite anger-generating topics: how our need to be RIGHT – and its world-wide manifestations via religious, political and scientific fundamentalism, fed hugely these days by social media – has probably caused more bloodshed, mayhem and havoc throughout history than anything else, when I came across this short but pungent poem by the poet Yehuda Amichai:
“The Place Where We Are Right”
“From the place where we are right
flowers will never grow
in the spring.
The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.
But doubts and loves
dig up the world
like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
where the ruined
house once stood.”