Tag Archives: “as above so below”

Some thoughts on… the place of astrology in our contemporary world

We live in a vast energy field of constant motion, most of which is invisible to us. The rippling patterns of order and chaos, which is the fundamental dance of creation, govern everything. I have come to see the art of astrology (helped by what I have grasped of what the quantum world has revealed to us) as one that enables us to map those patterns via the constant shifting energies of the planets in their orbits.

Astrologers take a step that, in our reductionist, materialist culture, pulls down all sorts of opprobrium and scorn upon our heads: We attribute meaning to those patterns.

Beginning in ancient times until the Scientific Revolution of the 17th Century (which caused a split between form, described by astronomy, and content, described by astrology), the maxim “as above, so below” governed people’s worldview. Prior to the Scientific Revolution, we lived in a cosmos charged with meaning, an “ensouled” cosmos, where form and content reflected and informed each other.

Astrology and prejudice

Some of us still live in that cosmos. Others do not. Where you have such a powerful clash of worldviews, polarisation and prejudice can arise. I think that Victor Olliver, editor of the UK’s respected Astrological Journal, was right regarding his eloquent and well argued response to my doubts and questions about popular astrology in the spring of 2015. At that time, he pointed out that the real enemy of astrology is prejudice.

There is the prejudice from outside the astrological community (especially from much of the scientific community) from those who believe that our lives are the product of cosmic chance, and thereby devoid of meaning. And then there is the prejudice from those within the community — those who consider themselves to be “serious” practitioners — toward the populist, mass-market astrology that millions avidly consume across a vast range of media on a daily basis, looking for some glimmer of meaning in life.

What do we do about this? In reflecting on how I might “wrap up” Victor’s and my three-part debate, which generated a great deal of interest across the Web, the word “occult” came strongly to mind.

I pondered it for a few days. According to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, the original meaning of the word is from the Latin “occulere,” i.e. “to hide, conceal.” It also (in a more physical sense) means “to cut off from view by interposing some other body,” as in, for example, the occultation of one planet or heavenly body by another.

Is astrology an “occult” practice?

The word “occult” in recent times has taken on a more sinister connotation, referring often to magical or supernatural practices of a dubious nature. As I reflected on it, I became more interested in the original meaning of the word, which has led me to a conclusion about the status of astrology, especially in our modern world: The true depth of what astrology can reveal about human affairs, both in the collective and the personal sense, will always be inaccessible to the large majority of people.

Astrology is an occult subject. As such, its influence and its great value are likely to remain masked, hidden from view, operating powerfully but behind the scenes of everyday life.

For example, in ancient times its practice was held in high esteem by Babylonian and Egyptian rulers, whose astrologer-priests scanned the stars and advised the kings (and sometimes, even, the queens!)  on the fate of their nations. There were no personal horoscopes. The general public was in no way consulted or informed regarding decisions made that affected all their lives. Astrological knowledge, deemed sacred, was deliberately kept hidden from ordinary view.

Paradoxically, in our time, mass-market popular astrology could be seen as fulfilling the function of concealing the real power of astrology quite effectively. Most of the public remain unaware of the depth that exists behind the mask of the Sun Sign columns, although I do agree with Victor that there is a very big difference between the nuggets of truth that a quality Sun Sign column can reveal and the kind of trashy stuff that some popular newspapers, magazines, and internet sites churn out.

A warning ignored

Sun Sign columns are also rather effective in raising the ire and spleen of reductionists who thereby are permanently deflected from benefiting from astrology’s true depth, which at times could have been life-saving as evinced in the powerful example of astrologer Dennis Elwell’s prescient warning in the 1980s.

In 1987, Dennis Elwell, the late well-known U.K. astrologer, wrote to the main shipping companies to warn them that a pattern very similar to that under which the Titanic had sunk was coming in the heavens very soon. He strongly suggested that they review the seaworthiness and safety procedures of all their passenger ships. His warning was duly dismissed. Not long afterwards, the U.K.’s Herald of Free Enterprise ferryboat went down, resulting in the loss of 188 lives.

Popular astrology—a stepping-stone?

It is true, as Victor pointed out in his robust reply to my challenge, that mass-market astrology is the stepping-stone that enables people who are seekers after deeper meaning to step from relative triviality to much greater depth.

However, to understand the profound link that exists between your unique chip of energy and the larger, meaningful cosmos, you will need to seek out a good astrologer to offer you a sensitive and revealing portrait of your moment of birth via your horoscope.

Those of us who are in-depth practitioners know that a quality astrology reading with the right astrologer at the right time can be truly life changing.

Only a small percentage of people who read Sun Sign columns take that step into deeper territory. Most do not. Either they are quite happy with the superficiality they find there, or they spin off into active enraged prejudice, and sometimes very public condemnation, of our great art…

As I said to Victor Olliver by way of conclusion to our most instructive debate, pondering on the word “occult” has led me to quite a peaceful place. I can now abandon any prejudice I may have toward my colleagues who are Sun Sign astrologers: they are offering a valuable service in providing a smoke screen.

This helps greatly to maintain astrology in its true place as an occult activity, perhaps leavening the ignorance and crassness of our materialist, consumer age  — but from behind the scenes.

Concluding thoughts from academe

I have recently been reading an excellent book by astrologer, teacher, and writer Dr. Bernadette Brady, Chaos, Chaosmos and Astrology. In her book, Brady quotes fellow astrologer and academic Dr. Patrick Curry’s view that the practice of astrology is  “…an instrument of enchantment, a way in which humanity encounters mystery, awe, and wonder….,” and that in order to maintain such a position it is “…necessary for astrology to be marginalised by science…” (1)

I was very happy to encounter this viewpoint put forward by fellow astrologers whose scholarship and viewpoints I respect. Their views have eloquently endorsed my own.

Readers, what do you think of this viewpoint?

I’d be most interested to hear.

Galaxy...

Galaxy…

Endnotes:
(1) Bernadette Brady, Cosmos, Chaosmos and Astrology, Sophia Centre Press, 2014, p 71.

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1200 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2019

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see About Page 

“I am the Soul of Nature”…

“…I who am the beauty of the green earth and the white moon among the stars and the mysteries of the waters,

I call upon your soul to arise and come unto me.

For I am the soul of nature that gives life to the universe.

From Me all things proceed and unto Me they must return…”

(from ‘The Charge of the Goddess’ Traditional, by Doreen Valiente, as adapted by Starhawk)

There are very few clear evening skies in Glasgow, Scotland, UK. If you’re rushing up Byres Road on the way home on one of those rare nights, especially when you cross the Queen Margaret Drive bridge, look out for a small woman standing still, gazing at the sky. That’ll be me, admiring the wonderful, fragile beauty of the waxing New Moon.

 Even in the city, in the increasingly hurried pattern of 21st century life, it is possible to maintain a connection to the cycles of the seasons and the rhythms of nature. It’s increasingly recognised that regular contact of this kind is an important component in establishing and maintaining the kind of inner balance and peace that promotes happiness.

One of the many advantages of living in a small country like Scotland is that access to the great outdoors is not difficult – half an hour out of Glasgow, for example, it is possible to disappear into lovely countryside and forget the existence of the city very quickly. Try it !

It doesn’t matter how stressed you are, how much angst you are carrying. A couple of hours of  tramping across the hills, often in rain and wind, focusing on nothing more complex than  where you put every footstep in order to avoid disappearing up to your waist in a bog, is guaranteed to purge out at least some of it.

Over many years of  walking, I have offered the hills both my joys and my sorrows, and  have found validation for the former and solace for the latter. In homeopathic medicine, broadly speaking, you treat an ailment with a very dilute form of the toxin which caused it.

I have found the homeopathic principle works very well with bleakness of the soul or spirit. That condition can be effectively treated by choosing weather and landscape to match your mood, and immersing yourself in it for a few hours. Meeting bleakness with bleakness has a powerfully cleansing effect.

Complementary to this is the powerfully life-affirming effect that natural beauty can have.

"I am the Soul of Nature...."

“I am the Soul of Nature….”

Standing on top of a favourite hill on a sunlit day, looking at stunning panoramic views, listening to the joyous song of a skylark, feeling at one with the wind and the landscape, has on numerous occasions made me feel so glad to be alive that I have wept for joy.

These experiences may fade in the face of the rigours of an average life. But if you repeat them often enough, you develop a sense of being part of the great round of nature, where joy and sorrow, youth, maturity, decline, death and rebirth all have their part. You also learn, slowly, the importance to being a happy person of being able to  “grasp the joy as it flies”, celebrate the moment, “seize the day.”

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ENDNOTES

(This is an edited version of an article first published in “Self & Society”(The Journal of Humanistic Psychology) (UK)Vol 27 No 5, November 1999, then http://www.innerself.com : Innerself Magazine (USA), and most recently – March 09 –  in ‘ The Drumlin’, the Newsletter of Glasgow Botanic Gardens as “Happiness and the Healing Power of Nature” . )

550 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2016
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Surprise, surprise! Our communities prefer grass to concrete…

Following the North Kelvin Meadow/Children’s Wood campaign’s recent great success in having New City Vision’s plan to build on our precious piece of open community land in Maryhill, Glasgow, UK, “called in” by the Scottish Government, an important part of the campaign’s thrust continues to be the establishing of links with diverse grassroots initiatives in order to connect and share ideas.

Save our wild land!

Save our wild land!

I very much enjoyed reading Priya Logan’s account of her trip to Copenhagen in March to help further this process. Do have a read! It’s inspiring – and a great antidote to all the grim politics and general doom and gloom around at present.

100 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Priya Logan 2016

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

 

How I became an astrologer – a lesson in open-mindedness…

Here is the latest post on Astrology: Questions and Answers:

My first horoscope

My first horoscope

http://astrologyquestionsandanswers.com/2016/01/04/how-i-became-an-astrologer-against-all-the-odds/

 

‘the still, sad music of humanity’….Some thoughts and feelings during an awful week for our world…

Something I have learned – the hard way – is that some of us are more porous to the experiences of others at an intuitive, non-rational level, than others. This hyper-sensitivity is a gift in some contexts: it can ensure an appropriate, compassionate response to one’s fellow beings, thereby enriching one’s own life, as well as being useful to one’s fellows. Having worked all my life in contexts where sensitivity is essential to being an effective teacher and helper, I can personally affirm the value of such a gift.

Prisoners of Conscience window, Salisbury Cathedral

Prisoners of Conscience window, Salisbury Cathedral

photo: Anne Whitaker

But the gift has a dark shadow. It means difficulty in creating the boundaries that are at times necessary to protect oneself from being invaded by others’ pain, others’ woundedness, others’ unconsciously destructive energies…and the pain of the world…

I have been feeling really low since yesterday when the dreadful news of the Tunisian beach massacre burst on us all, following on other horrors this last week. In this, of course, I am not alone.

I feel as though the dark pain at the core of my own being, old long-accepted pain which most of the time just lies there, like rotting old leaves at the bottom of a deep pond, has risen to meet and join with the world’s pain. Normally I keep those feelings to myself, sharing them only with one or two trusted loved ones. But today, I thought I would write about it, and share a personal experience from a long time ago which  also evoked for me  ‘the still, sad music of humanity’, in poet William Wordsworth’s poignant words.

Calais, France, Summer 1990

Twenty five years ago whilst fulfilling our mother’s wish for her seventieth birthday that my brother and I  should take her to visit her older brother’s war grave in Calais, I had a shattering experience of being plugged into the world’s pain which I have never forgotten.

 Le Touret

Le Touret

Le Touret Memorial (Le Touret Military Cemetery)

A radio officer aboard HMS “Achieve”, her brother’s ship was sunk in May 1945, off the French coast, shortly before the end of the Second World War. His was the only body from the “Achieve” ever found. Having managed to swim ashore, he died of hypothermia on the beach before anyone could rescue him.

My husband Ian’s diary for Friday 5th May 1990 records ‘Annie a bit nervous about trip to France tomorrow’. Had I known just how fraught it would be, I’d have been hysterical…

The overnight return trip from Glasgow to Calais turned out to be pretty harrowing, owing to our time miscalculation based on erroneous information concerning distances provided by the travel agent, whose cheery “it’s just a hop, skip and a jump from Paris to Calais !” turned out to be two and a half hours longer than he had told us. We finally managed to get to the cemetery, stressed and exhausted from our 6 am start, just as a churlish and unfriendly French attendant was slowly pushing the gates shut for the night.

My choosing to burst into tears to evoke his sympathy rather than punch him, accompanied by my miraculous recall of French, probably saved us from being denied entry on what turned out to be our only opportunity. For the cemetery – bizarrely and unexpectedly – was closed on the following morning, a Sunday, only during the weekend of our visit.

But my mother did find her brother’s grave, and we were all shattered by the experience. I will never forget my brother  and I standing at a respectful distance to give her privacy, keeping an eye on the burly, scowling attendant, as she hung the silver celtic cross she had brought with her over the right hand corner of a small, plain gravestone. Head bowed, she wept quietly to herself. She had loved her brother dearly and deeply. 

Fortunately, suspecting we would need privacy, my brother and I had booked us a room each. On retiring to bed after dinner, I began to weep, and simply could not stop until exhaustion eventually brought sleep. It was no ordinary grief: I was aware once again of my personal sorrow becoming a channel  for ‘the still, sad music of humanity’….in Wordsworth’s  poignant phrase: this time, it was for the heartbreak and waste of that terrible war…

It is seventy years since the end of the Second World war, and humanity’s track record on applying restraint to the reptilian part of our brain in order to diminish the impulse to torture, maim and murder those whose values, beliefs, race and gender differ from our own has not appreciably improved as the twenty-first century unfolds. We are unimaginably ingenious, brilliant, when it comes to applying our intelligence for example to the quest  to decode the human genome:  been there, done that! – or to find the Higgs Boson – ditto.

When, oh when, are we going to find a way to stop slaughtering one another?

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800 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

A time of waiting…the hours before the Light returns…

There is a stillness about Easter Eve. Whether you are Christian, hold another faith, or none, the underlying archetypes of the Easter journey are common to all human experience.

Iona Cross, Full Moon, August 21 2013

Iona Cross, Full Moon

photo: Anne Whitaker

We have all, unless we have led a supremely charmed life, been cast out into the wilderness at one time or another. Life has crucified us all, to a greater or lesser extent. We have been in the Underworld, have known what it is like to go through experiences so severe that we die to our old selves. Then there is the wait, the wait in darkness, fear, and not knowing.

Will we ever emerge, reborn? And when we do emerge, who are we now? Who recognises us, acknowledges and honours where we have been?

And the most profound  question of all: what should we do with the life which has been given back to us?

As ever, in times of waiting, the great poets have been there before us, giving a context, bringing collective dignity to our individual struggles. Here are some magnificent lines from T.S.Eliot to see you through this dark night, before the Easter light returns:

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”

T.S.Eliot “East Coker” No 2 of the Four Quartets

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T S Eliot

T S Eliot

300 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

The Cardinal Grand Cross: some thoughts on astrology as a healing and a wounding art….

Commentaries are piling up throughout the astro-blogosphere. Angst-ridden people with greater or lesser degrees of astrological knowledge are winding  themselves up. What will the impact on our lives be, as the dramatic  Grand Cross pattern builds up in the heavens to its point of exactitude on 23rd/24th April 2014 ? To see what’s building up collectively, just read the papers. Political turmoil across the world, disasters on air and sea – these are just for starters….

Cardinal Grand Cross 2014

Cardinal Grand Cross 2014

Rather than add to the current air of nail-biting tension– addressed in his usual humorously ascerbic way by astrologer Matthew Currie, I thought I’d take off in a somewhat different direction by contemplating both the healing and the wounding aspects of the practice of astrology.

We don’t hear much about the latter dimension! But large scale panics over eg the End of Millennium Eclipse of 11 August 1999, and the Winter Solstice of 2012 (folks – we’re still here….) vividly demonstrate that  contemplating the symbolic patterns of the heavens frightens as well as enlightens us, even in this supposedly secular age.

Wounding, healing and the art of astrology

(It is important at this point to emphasise to readers who are familiar only with Sun Signs that to get ‘beyond the Sun Signs’ requires an individual’s horoscope to be drawn up for the date, place AND time of birth. Human beings are complex and contradictory. It’s not possible to approach any satisfying symbolic exploration of that complexity through the Sun or Star Sign alone.)

Astrology itself neither heals nor wounds. Having  arisen aeons ago from attempts to create a meaningful context to human life through observation of the physical movements of the planets in the heavens, whether such a framework is experienced as wounding or healing is heavily predicated upon the attitude of the individuals who choose to use it:

“The fault, dear Brutus, is  not  in our stars,
But in ourselves, that  we are underlings.”

(W.Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2)

It is easy enough to talk about the positive healing benefits of an astrological framework, providing as it does a major defence against meaninglessness and insignificance. Feeling connected at a personal level to loved ones and friends is recognised as a major factor in promoting and maintaining physical, emotional and mental health and happiness.

Feeling connected at a more cosmic level lets us see that  we are not random accidents in time and space, but threads in the weave of a greater pattern – very small threads perhaps, but contributors nevertheless. This awareness promotes a sense of spiritual well being.

There is also the sheer fun, excitement and intellectual discovery which the study of astrology brings.

Every bright light, however, has a dark shadow; in the promethean nature of our art  lies its shadow too. It is all very well to steal the gods’ fire, as Prometheus did, with the noble intention of  liberating humanity from some of its bonds with the powerful enlightenment which that fire brings.

But fire burns. It is impossible to light up the darkness of our human limitations of perception, without the hand that holds the illuminating fire being burned by it. It’s not so easy to talk about that. But it does less than justice, in exploring the impact of the astrological model on human consciousness, to concentrate on the healing aspects of the interaction,  whilst glossing over the wounding dimensions. Exposure to the model brings both.

I  always attempted to restore a sense of perspective on this issue by pointing out to my astrology  students that for the whole of human history most of humanity has managed to stagger through life without the benefit of astrological knowledge.

On one occasion, I asked a small group of my  tutorial students, who had studied and practised for long enough to experience both the light and the shadow facets of our great art, to write something about its healing and wounding dimensions. I was delighted by the honesty and perceptiveness of their feedback. Here is what Charlotte, 35 at the time of my asking, had to say.

Charlotte

Charlotte

(not her real name – data withheld for confidentiality)

 I’ve never really been asked to consider the wounding aspects of astrology in such a direct way before. I did have a bit of a job focusing on the question without the more positive aspects coming up all the time! I think the serious study of astrology knocked me out of the idyllic vision I had had of my family background. I had to accept that my parents weren’t perfect, and the overall effect of this was enlightening but also disappointing. It kind of knocked me into the real world and showed me things as they were which I found quite hard to come to terms with.

Seeing things in black and white on the astrological chart  led to a lot of resentment on my part, raising a lot of difficult questions which I’m still working hard to understand. I think this can sometimes sidetrack me and stop me getting on with things, and lead to some disasters which might not have occurred otherwise – although I would say I do have a natural tendency to analyse things anyway. Astrology just provides more scope for this.

There is also the question “ why me? Why did I have to have this chart?” which may be quite childish, but did lead at one time to some resentment at the apparent unfairness of it all. Especially when you are grappling with hard Pluto and Saturn aspects. You know you have your work cut out for you, and that life is not going to be easy. The prospect of living your life with these aspects can be quite daunting and depressing, and lead to a lot of despondency at times.

Another factor that’s hard to take on board is that you are responsible for yourself. You can’t go around blaming other people for your misfortunes all the time. You have to take responsibility for your part in the drama. It’s your stuff, and you’re the only one who can deal with it. This can lead to a lot of self criticism on my part, and a good deal of depression if things aren’t working out.

Looking at  it from a promethean point of view, Prometheus stole fire from the gods. He knew he would suffer for it, but he also, I think, knew on some intuitive level that he was doing the right thing. And in the end he was released from his suffering. Personally, I couldn’t not know. Otherwise I wouldn’t have pursued the subject as long as I have. I just hope it works out for me in the end too”.

This is one person’s vivid perspective on the implications of knowing her natal horoscope. I’d be interested to have comments on this issue from my readers, either by email, or via comments left on this post. And of course  – how was that  Cardinal Grand Cross for you? 

1150 words copyright Anne Whitaker/”Charlotte” 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page