Tag Archives: “as above so below”

“ in my end is my beginning”: Paradox and the Saturn/Pluto cycle…

As my tutorial students would tell you, my big love and fascination in the vast range of possible obsessions offered by astrology is: cycles. No, not bi-cycles. Planetary cycles. Large and small, I love them all. But whether the cycle is huge, like the 500 year Neptune /Pluto one, or tiny, like the monthly Sun/Moon one, the same basic stages apply: seeding, germinating, sprouting, flowering, ripening, harvesting, dying back in preparation for the new.

Cycles: beginnings – and endings

In East Coker, the second of T.S.Eliot’s Four Quartets, he began that section with “In my beginning is my end,” and ended it, “in my end is my beginning”. This rather paradoxical juxtaposition bookends the whole of life. Every beginning carries the seeds of its ending, every ending, potential for new beginnings. However, generally speaking you don’t find much astrological musing on the topic of cycles’ endings – or their slow beginnings. Especially in this particular Western cultural phase, expedited by faster and faster broadband speeds and ever more sophisticated technology, the emphasis is on satisfying the wants (often as opposed to the needs) of NOW.

The problem with this, however, is that Life on our planet still continues in its ancient, cyclic way, to which humans are still physically, emotionally and spiritually bound. Chronic disregard for this reality is now throwing up huge problems for us from the state of the planet to the increasingly fragile state of some of our young folks’ mental –and physical–health.

Here is an example, from a recent issue of  The Week which compiles ‘the best of the British and international media’: in a hard-hitting piece entitled ‘Deaths of despair: why Americans are dying young’, Joel Achenbach in The Washington Post says

‘…Whether as a result of economic hardship, stress, the lack of universal healthcare, loneliness or family breakdown, people just aren’t looking after themselves properly, and are making destructive life choices…’

The importance of  paying attention

So – in my (it is alleged…) contrarian way, I am here to muse on the endings, or balsamic phases, of cycles and the great importance of paying attention to them, especially as we approach the ending/new beginning of a whole 37-year Saturn/Pluto cycle. As everyone must be aware by now, astrologers or no, we are not living in a particularly easy light-hearted time either collectively or individually. To put it mildly.

That excellent astrological writer Dana Gerhardt observed some time ago in relation to the balsamic phase of, for example, the 29 year progressed New Moon cycle:

“When will it end?” is everybody’s first question on learning they’ve entered a progressed Balsamic phase. No matter how colorfully I paint its virtues, they peer beyond to a bleaker landscape, to a three-to-four-year sentence of all loss and no gain. I can see it in their eyes…. I tell them this is the richest spiritual time. I tell them when my own progressed Balsamic phase was over, I had nostalgia for it. I cheer: “You will too!” But it’s a tough sell….”

I would certainly endorse this from my own experience some years ago, of beginning a new phase in my career journey when no less than four major cycles were coming to an end over a period of almost a decade. I should have taken astrology’s advice, not that of my own ego!

The consequence was a long period of enforced retreat, triggered by a long family crisis and my subsequent energy burnout an enriching and deepening time, but very tough whilst it was happening… until the Progressed New Moon told me it was time to emerge and begin again.

Trying to do things differently…

Looking over my last few posts, I can see my preoccupation with cycles generally and this Saturn/Pluto one in particular. Hardly surprising, being so ‘plugged in’ to it from birth myself. In “Some notes on cycles in a time of crisis” published recently on Astrodienst, I offered this very brief summary of Saturn/Pluto’s challenges:

‘…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…’

As I write today, on 4th January 2020, Australia is ablaze, and on USA President Trump’s directive – apparently without running the plan through Congress first – Qasem Soleimani, top general and one of the most powerful men in Iran, was killed in a drone strike at Baghdad airport early today. His deputy was also killed. According to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the airstrikes disrupted an “imminent attack” in the region that put American lives at risk. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vows for “harsh revenge.”

Collectively, Saturn/Pluto = warfare of one kind or another; relentless consistency every time.

Our political masters worldwide should study history via the planetary cycles, see if they can just for once learn something from them. It would make a change to be making war on the issues that really matter e.g. climate change, increasing social and fiscal inequality, widespread homelessness, equal rights for women worldwide, inadequate healthcare to name just a few contemporary problems urgently in need of war being waged upon them. Wouldn’t it be great if most of our countries in the world weren’t being run by narcissistic psychopaths?

Personal power and insightful choices

It is one of Life’s great ironies, pointed out by Carl Jung some time ago, that as individuals we probably have more control and choice over how collective energies manifest than eg nations do. In order to exercise that control and choice, however, we need to work towards more conscious awareness of  what our personal issues are – and how we go about making choices in relation to what Life throws at us. This is where astrology can be such an enlightening help.

Working with awareness, we can see patterns shaping up, get some idea from our first encounter with them eg Saturn/Pluto opposing/conjuncting/squaring our personal planet(s) what challenges they are offering – then with some reflection and perhaps therapeutic/astrological help when necessary, work out what the planetary gods in question are asking of us over the several years in which long-term transits/progressions are in operation as they slowly apply, become exact, and separate.

To quote Dr Liz Greene from one of her 1990s seminars at London’s Centre for Psychological Astrology:

“You have to give the god what the god wants…and if it’s Mars, don’t offer a bunch of flowers!”

I’ve never forgotten this sage advice, and have passed it on many times both to clients and students. However, like all good advice, most of us to our detriment fail sometimes on the good advice front. As I admitted earlier, I failed to pay attention to what the planetary cycles were telling me, with very harsh results.

The wisdom offered by planetary cycles: a general overview

In nearly forty years of working with clients, students, and with my own process, I have found that sharing wisdom offered by the planetary cycles has been very useful in helping to set Life’s sails to go with the prevailing winds at any given time. I routinely take people through the 11-12 year Jupiter cycle, the 7/8-year stages of the 29/30 year Saturn cycles, and the progressed Sun/Moon cycle.

Depending on the lunar phase at which a person was born, a progressed New Moon can fall in any year of life, eg at age four. You can then see that in 29/30 years’ time, another progressed New Moon in a new sign, usually a new house, and making different aspects to the natal planets, is describing the early start of a new life phase.

I recall a recent client who experienced progressed New Moons at those very ages. She could see how a whole challenging process had arisen as a result of a significant event at the time of her first progressed New Moon when she was four years old, and how life changes at her second progressed New Moon in the next sign had symbolised a new start – feeling like an important stage along the road of freeing herself from old negative patterns.

It is really moving, and powerful, to see eg how the theme of opening up to new adventures of mind, body and spirit develops as eg clients’ and students’ Jupiter cycles unfold: age 11/12, then 23/4, then 35/6 and so on depending on the person’s age at the time of a reading, or in a class when we are doing some qualitative research within the group.

A great gift of astrology, perhaps its greatest gift, is this: it shows us that we are part of Something vast and meaningful, not mere random accidents in space/time. That knowledge offers a great challenge: to take our tiny ‘chip’ of that vast energy field as revealed though the symbols in our horoscopes, with its pains as well as its gifts  – and strive to leave the world a slightly better place on our exit than it was when we came in. Grand achievements are not mandatory. Just being better, more fulfilled human beings as a result of having an extra, symbolic, source of potential insight is quite enough…

The degree to which a person’s life responds to the promptings of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto transits and cycles – and the 18.6 year cycle of the Moon’s Nodes – depends very much upon how strongly that person is ‘plugged in’ to that particular planet or point, its transits and its cycles. It is also very important in contemplating the planetary cycles, to realise that each cycle carries the same basic developmental template within it: seeding, germinating, sprouting, flowering, ripening, harvesting, dying back in preparation for the new.

So – as any cycle comes to an end, typical feelings are: restlessness and ennui; lower energy available to put into the key areas of life/activities governed by that cycle; dissatisfaction with what once seemed to work quite well, but now does not. In the case of the larger cycles’ endings, eg Saturn/Pluto, Uranus/Pluto, Uranus/Neptune, life can sometimes plunge us into circumstances of extreme difficulty or pain, at times through upheavals and hurts not directly related to our actions or choices. Some might prefer to call this the action of Fate…

However, it is also most important to note, as  that wise poet TS Eliot observed,

“in my end is my beginning”:

Germinating, hidden below the churned-up earth of cycles’ endings, are also the delicate seeds of new beginnings. I have always found it helpful for myself, students and clients to relate this to our solar system’s tiny monthly cycle of the sun and moon, clearly observable in the heavens above us. The delicate sliver of the waning crescent moon which we can sometimes see if the skies are clear, indicates that an old cycle is in its dying days. Then nothing is visible for another couple of days. It’s important to remember that the New Moon, and a new cycle beginning, takes place in the dark.

Think the moment of conception of a new human or a new animal. Without the very sophisticated technology of IVF, a very recent phenomenon in terms of our technological progress, this cannot be observed – although it may well be sensed, especially by a child’s mother…similarly, some of us may sense, at that liminal point, that something has changed, something new may be emerging. And then – that beautiful slender silver crescent of the waxing new moon appears in the sky, two or three days after its total absence. We are on a new journey.

We can apply that basic template both to individual planetary cycles, eg the famous 29/30 year Saturn one, and to the cycles of planets in combination eg the 172 year Uranus/Neptune cycle or the vast 500 year Neptune/Pluto cycle. The latter began in the 1890s, and we are still only moving off from the first sextile one hundred and thirty years later…an average human life will only encompass two full Saturn/Pluto cycles, and perhaps part of a third one.

Saturn/Pluto in particular

So – what can we do as individuals to navigate this significant Saturn/Pluto ending/ new beginning with some degree of useful awareness?

What I write here can only be of general guidance. How things work out for you in particular depends on your personal horoscope and its patterns. However, the more strongly this combination occurs in your natal chart, then by transit/progression as your life unfolds, the more potent the challenge is going to be. It’s also helpful to note the houses/Angles/Nodes  ruled by Saturn and by Pluto.

For example, I have Saturn/Pluto in the twelfth house conjunct Mercury, Venus, Moon and Sun, all in Leo; Saturn rules the fifth house, Pluto the IC/South Node conjunction. All my major life challenges have circled round children (others’, not mine), home and roots – and how to extricate and direct my powerful creative energies and vocational drives from the mire of family fate and from the consequences of unwise choices, often not made by me.

The first piece of advice – I do realise, of course, that it may well not be to your liking, since it certainly wasn’t to mine! – is have patience. This is a pretty long cycle ending and beginning, so things are likely to have been difficult for you in one way or another, along the lines of what I outlined earlier, for around a couple of years, perhaps more. Similarly, it is likely to take around that amount of time for the energies of the new cycle to take form and focus so that you can see the way ahead more clearly.

There is no point in pretending that the combination of Saturn and Pluto is not tough. I used to find with my classes that the aspects from which new students recoiled the most, and the transits they most feared the more they learned, were those of Saturn and Pluto, both separately and in combination through their cycle. Pluto manifests the raw creative and destructive power of the life force; Saturn tries to shape, control and focus that power.

This dynamic in our collective lives has always produced life or death struggle of one kind or another. Individuals plugged in have a ‘chip’ as it were of that powerful energy pattern to wrestle with, and hopefully learn to channel wisely and constructively, throughout their lives.

As I said at the outset of this esssay, ‘…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 next piece of advice is this: try to get some perspective on what the challenges are now, and how you might best deal with them as the new cycle starts to unfold. To do this, go back to the beginning of this cycle, note the dates, and check out what was going on in your life then. Then note the dates of the waxing square, then the opposition, then the waning square. There are of course the other aspects as the cycle waxes and wanes. But let’s stick with the biggies for now.

Those of you young folk who have not yet lived through a whole cycle, take especial note of the nearest of the biggies to your birth date. Some of you older readers will be able to go further back – it is worth making the effort to do so: both for the life insights it may well give you, but also regarding your family history in many cases, since Pluto usually seems to have connections to issues of family fate and its consequences which have woven into the fabric of the present time. Some of that material, and its influences on your life, can be usefully recognised, mined and processed during Saturn/Pluto periods.

Let’s do it now.

The first Saturn/Pluto conjunction of the last century occurred in October 1914 at 2 Cancer, and May 1915 at 1 Cancer. The second followed on August 11 1947 at 13 Leo. You can look up the first squares, opposition points, and waning squares of both those cycles in a 20th Century Ephemeris – or google them!

The last Saturn/Pluto exact conjunction occurred – once –  in November 1982 at 27 Libra, applying for a year before, separating for a year afterwards. The waxing square was exact in March 1993 at 25 Aquarius/Scorpio, then again at 24 Aquarius /Scorpio in October 1993, and finally at 27 Aquarius/Scorpio in January 1994. The opposition was first exact in August 2001 at 13 Gemini/Sagittarius, then in November 2001 at 14 Gemini/Sagittarius, lastly in May 2002 at 16 Gemini/Sagittarius. The waning square was exact in November 2009 at 2 Libra/Capricorn, then in January 2010 at 4 Libra/Capricorn, then finally in August 2010 at 3 Libra/Capricorn.

The end of the 1982/2020 cycle occurs, with the new Saturn/Pluto cycle starting slowly to form, on 12th January 2020 at 23 Capricorn – a much anticipated, feared, and discussed planetary event as a new decade begins (or an old one ends, depending on your stance on the matter!). If you care to do so, you can go forward in the 21st Century Ephemeris to plot the waxing square, opposition, waning square and ending dates of this new cycle.

A personal example

As the Saturn/Pluto cycle begun in 1947 drew to a close in 1980/82, little did I know that a whole phase of my personal and vocational life was also ending, and a new one was set to begin. I knew nothing then of astrological cycles and their significance. I met my husband in 1980, marrying him a few months before November 1982 and the start of the Libran Saturn/Pluto cycle. I also began studying astrology in 1980, commencing serious work on the Certificate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies in November 1982.

Each of the four key stages of  that unfolding cycle from 1982 up to the present time have brought very challenging, painful and difficult issues of a family of origin nature for me to cope with, as well as with my husband’s family since I took on a step-parent role with our marriage. These times also represented key stages in the development and unfolding of my parallel careers as a social worker, trainer, and private practising therapist along with developing an astrology consulting, writing and teaching practice.

However, as the cycle has moved towards its slow conclusion from the waning square in 2010, I have been aware of an increasing feeling of deep satisfaction with how an initially tough life pattern has turned out, beginning with  my birth seven weeks prematurely and an expectation that I would not survive. I am experiencing the long-term rewards from hanging on in there, at times having to struggle very hard to deal with and free myself from old family complexes as much as possible which were getting in the way of my professional and relationship lives.

Our marriage has survived and deepened, my Aquarian husband having provided unwavering support both personally and professionally. Through some tough and at times tragic family challenges, I have slowly and gradually learned something which I believe only Saturn/Pluto could have pushed me to learn, but which growing older with less life force to waste has helped along: to focus and channel my Leonine creative energies as much as possible into constructive vocational pursuits, thereby honouring my path. And most importantly, not to waste that life force on those who are unwilling or unable to benefit from my efforts.

Learning the very hard way that you can’t make anyone do anything for what you see as their own good if they don’t wish to – or can’t – is an excellent lesson for a Saturn/Pluto control freak!

I still love astrology as much as ever. The difference, though, as this cycle closes and a new one arises, is this: my desire to work directly with clients has waned, as has my desire to have any public role other than through my writing and a limited amount of teaching and mentoring. However, my awareness of the need to claim and honour the role of Elder, to offer as much support as I can to the next able generation of astrologers arising, especially in my local area, is growing. 

Beyond being aware of the gifts as well of the limitations that come with ageing, and of the importance of living as much as possible in a soulful way in the present moment, sharing whatever time we may have left with my husband, close family members and friends, I have little idea of what new creative challenges/opportunities the new Saturn/Pluto cycle may bring. I’m not too worried about that, feeling freer in spirit now than I have ever felt – despite the dismal state of the world at present as we grapple with unprecedented turbulence and a planet under threat…

In Conclusion…

To paraphrase Jung’s point, mentioned earlier: individuals working in a conscious way can have more power to shift the balance of a difficult planetary pattern in a positive direction, than collectives do. I have long believed that if we want to change the world, we need to start with ourselves, and work outwards.

We are currently experiencing the end of an important, powerful, challenging and formative planetary cycle, and wondering what this next Saturn/Pluto phase will bring. It is my hope, therefore, that my musings in this essay may offer some pointers  regarding how to approach and understand the phase that is passing – and to gain some perspective which will help in facing the upcoming Saturn/Pluto cycle with greater understanding and insight.

3,600 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2020

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see About Page 

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.

****

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.”

_______________

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