Tag Archives: chaos

Neptune and the ‘gift’ of uncertainty…

‘…The constant dance between form and formlessness, being and non-being, order and chaos, occurs in all epochs and at all levels.

Humans have created a range of paradigms and metaphors, from ancient myths to modern cosmology, within which to explore this dialectic. Our ancient Babylonian forebears envisaged the beginning of the world as a battle to the death between the great sea-serpent Ti’amat and her son, the Underworld god Marduk. He vanquished her, creating Heaven and Earth from her divided corpse. Meanwhile, the grapple goes on.

Astrology has its own language for this struggle, speaking through the polarity of Saturn and Neptune. Saturn at its core represents the drive to take form; Neptune’s teleology is that of dissolution…’ (i)

Tiamat Vs Marduk.

Tiamat Vs Marduk (Christian Johnson) reddit.com

Here we are – again. We do not need astrology to tell us we are in the throes of that epic struggle between Ti’amat and Marduk as the two hundred years long era of Jupiter and Saturn meeting in Earth comes to a messy and turbulent end. The ‘official starting date’ of the incoming Air era is on 2020’s Winter Solstice, when Jupiter meets Saturn at 0 Aquarius.

The signs are everywhere you care to look: covid 19 is brutally upending our way of living, which has largely depended on trashing Mother Earth since the outset of the Industrial and Scientific Revolutions. Fire ravaged parts of Australia in 2019, and is currently blazing swathes of destruction through California on the one hand, and the Brazilian rainforests in another. Destructive flooding is on the increase. Species extinction is advancing apace. Social inequality is worse than it has been for a very long time. I could go on and on…

Where astrology CAN be helpful, at least for those of us of a philosophical bent, is via the perspectives which studying the larger planetary cycles can provide. We can thus step back, zoom out as it were (quite the apt expression since much of the world is now Zooming!!) and with even a sketchy grasp of an historical timeline reflect upon the scary evidence of an increasingly divided world in turmoil – from a longer-term and possibly more optimistic perspective.

From observing both my own life and that of our wider communities, it seems that the most fear-generating dimension is the profound uncertainty which contextualises all our lives at present. None of us can plan with any confidence for anything. Just today, as I write this on Monday 14th September 2020, the covid ‘rule of six’ has come in in Scotland – but with different restrictions in other parts of an increasingly fragmenting UK as the shadow of an impending no-deal Brexit lengthens under a chaotic government with little apparent respect for the rule of law.

Neptune – as Chaos–  is surely gaining the upper hand. This been increasingly the case since Neptune’s entry into Pisces in 2011/12; Saturn is struggling to maintain order: his shadow, Fascism, with violence as its inevitable companion, is on the rise in various parts of the world.

As is often the case for me (and probably other writers…) when I’m reflecting on a possible column topic which has been chewing at me for weeks – in this case the Saturn/Neptune order/chaos dialectic, and where uncertainty fits in – I came across an essay in the wonderful aeon.com last Friday which was really helpful and illuminating, from a philosopher whom I only vaguely recollected from university philosophy (aeons ago, in my case!) – Karl Jaspers (1883-1969). The header quote on the essay stopped me in my tracks:

‘…To Karl Jaspers, uncertainty is not to be overcome but understood…’

Karl Jaspers

Karl Jaspers ( Astrodienst) 

Karl Jaspers’ work ‘…revolves around the meaning of uncertainty in an increasingly precarious and radicalising world…he is one of the very few existentialist thinkers…who did not seek to master, tame or conquer the unknowable and finite condition of human life. Instead, he tried to cultivate a relationship to this essential quality of life and engage it on its own terms…’ (ii)

Even a sketchy understanding of history reveals that our collective attempts in every culture under the sun ‘…to master, tame or conquer the unknowable and finite condition of human life…’  have been held in the vast context of that dialectic between Ti’amat and Marduk, Saturn and Neptune, order and chaos. We have lurched between those extremes, with spells of varying lengths in which we managed to get the two in balance for a time – for ever.

The twenty-year cycle of the Jupiter/Saturn conjunctions concluding their journey through the Earth element and entering the new Air era, can roughly speaking, be mapped onto the waning crescent of the ‘old order’ and the waxing crescent of the new. This gives us a time period from around 2000 to 2040, a time in which, to use Robert Hand’s vivid phrase: ‘…the past has minimum hold upon the present, but the present has a maximum hold on the future…’(iii)

We are in a unique time now: not only humanity, but the whole of Mother Earth and all her creatures great and small are suffering the pain and turbulence of increasing chaos as the old order loses its grip. But without Neptune to dissolve the deadening rigidities of Saturn past its sell-by date in any phase of civilisation or culture, life could not go on. Dissolution precedes renewal.

In the meantime, we need to cultivate qualities which do not come spontaneously to most humans, but need to be cultivated these days, probably more than ever before in our long and bloody history: humility, patience, and tolerance for one another in the face of our our many-faceted differences. Times of uncertainty create great fear, but also greater potential to renew ourselves. Let’s not forget that uncertainty can be a harsh, but profound gift – which Neptune is offering us right now.

Endnotes:

P.S. Of course, after writing this I couldn’t resist checking out Astrodienst for Karl Jaspers’ horoscope, and there it was, as I had suspected, right up there in the tenth house in Taurus: Saturn conjunct Neptune, focal point of a grand trine with Moon/Uranus in Virgo and Venus in Capricorn. Maybe we should all be reading him!

(i) From The Mountain AstrologerContemplating the 12th House: An Optimist’s Take on Self-Undoing,” by Anne Whitaker, in the Aug/Sept. 2014 issue.

(ii) From aeon.com (11.9.20) , an essay by Carmen Lea Dege who is currently writing a book on the theory and practice of uncertainty.

(iii) From “The Astrology of Crisis” Llewellyn Publications 1993, p116

(This post is a slightly edited version of my 31st Not the Astrology Column featured in the November/December 2020 Issue of the UK’s Astrological Journal, edited by Victor Olliver.)

Tiamat Vs Marduk.

Tiamat Vs Marduk.(Christian Johnson) reddit.com

1150 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2020

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see About Page 

Order and Chaos – a Buddhist ‘take’ : honouring the late Bo Lozoff

I found out tonight from the Big Island Chronicle (Hawaii) which published a link from my blog yesterday, that the great Buddhist teacher Bo Lozoff  died in a car crash on 29th November 2012. This post featuring Bo’s wisdom, is republished in his honour.

Along with many people, I owe a large debt to Buddhist wisdom. Of the many books of Buddhist psychology I read during my 2001-8 time in the Underworld, three stand out which I would recommend to anyone going through crisis. They provide both practical coping techniques and spiritual support:

Pema Chodron’s When things fall apart”, Jack Kornfield’s After the ecstasy, the laundry”, (see  Book Reviews  page for review of this great book) and  Bo Lozoff’s“It’s a great life – it just takes practice”.

Lozoff describes a prolonged solo retreat in which day in, day out, he meditates upon the following :

“Anything that can happen to anyone at any time can happen to me, and I accept this”. He keeps this meditative thread running through days of allowing fantasies of the worst things that could devastate him, and those he loves, to rise and dissolve. At the end of the retreat he goes home, more at peace with the realisation that chaos can and does arise at any time to sweep away the order of our personal and collective lives.

Bo Lozoff is now in his sixties. His spiritual journey began at the age of eighteen. A typical self-absorbed materialistic American teenager (his own description) driving home late one night, a momentary lapse of concentration caused him to crash into a lorry and smash himself to bits.

Many months of painful surgery and rehabilitation put him together again – a person much deepened and strengthened in spirit, no longer interested in pursuing the shallow materialistic agenda of his culture, intent on a life of service and of finding deeper answers to the big WHYs : eg  Why are we here ?” and “Why do we suffer ?”

In essence, the Buddhist view is that suffering is caused by wishing for things to be other than they are.

I found reference to this simple, penetrating piece of wisdom – prominently displayed in our kitchen –  bracingly therapeutic during my long period of recovering my energy, especially at times when self-pity threatened to take me over.

Life requires both chaos and order. With chaos alone, nothing could take form. Order by itself shuts down creativity and ultimately life itself. Chaos and order interpenetrate at every level from the most trivial to the most profound.

Most of us who are at all computer-literate have at least once had the experience, early on, of pressing the wrong key or clicking the wrong box – sending our beautifully ordered and pleasing words which we haven’t backed up, into the void. And I know of hillwalkers who, slipping in the wrong place, fell to their deaths throwing loved ones’ lives into chaos in seconds.

How do we cope with this ?

Buddhism advises us to hold very lightly to order, knowing it can turn at a blink to chaos; and to walk into chaos, regarding it as ‘very good news’ in the challenging words of renowned teacher Chogyam Trungpa.

Clinging to outdated structures whilst the storms of life are tearing down everything familiar, usually doesn’t work. ‘Leaning into the sharp points’, trying to face and learn from upheaval, is a more fruitful strategy. But its rewards may take time to become evident, and it can be very hard to find the trust that new order will eventually emerge.

At an ordinary day-to day level, the key to coping well with the ever-changing energy pattern of life is cultivating the ability to live in the present moment. “Carpe diem” as the Roman poet Horace famously said in his Odes : “seize the day”. Now is all we’re sure of. Let’s live it fully!

*******************

600 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Order and Chaos – a Buddhist ‘take’

Along with many people, I owe a large debt to Buddhist wisdom. Of the many books of Buddhist psychology I read during my 2001-8 time in the Underworld, three stand out which I would recommend to anyone going through crisis. They provide both practical coping techniques and spiritual support:

Pema Chodron’s When things fall apart”, Jack Kornfield’s “After the ecstasy, the laundry”, (see  Book Reviews  page for review of this great book) and  Bo Lozoff’s“It’s a great life – it just takes practice”.

Lozoff describes a prolonged solo retreat in which day in, day out, he meditates upon the following :

“Anything that can happen to anyone at any time can happen to me, and I accept this”. He keeps this meditative thread running through days of allowing fantasies of the worst things that could devastate him, and those he loves, to rise and dissolve. At the end of the retreat he goes home, more at peace with the realisation that chaos can and does arise at any time to sweep away the order of our personal and collective lives.

Bo Lozoff is now in his sixties. His spiritual journey began at the age of eighteen. A typical self-absorbed materialistic American teenager (his own description) driving home late one night, a momentary lapse of concentration caused him to crash into a lorry and smash himself to bits.

Many months of painful surgery and rehabilitation put him together again – a person much deepened and strengthened in spirit, no longer interested in pursuing the shallow materialistic agenda of his culture, intent on a life of service and of finding deeper answers to the big WHYs : eg  Why are we here ?” and “Why do we suffer ?”

In essence, the Buddhist view is that suffering is caused by wishing for things to be other than they are.

I found reference to this simple, penetrating piece of wisdom – prominently displayed in our kitchen –  bracingly therapeutic during my long period of recovering my energy, especially at times when self-pity threatened to take me over.

Life requires both chaos and order. With chaos alone, nothing could take form. Order by itself shuts down creativity and ultimately life itself. Chaos and order interpenetrate at every level from the most trivial to the most profound.

Most of us who are at all computer-literate have at least once had the experience, early on, of pressing the wrong key or clicking the wrong box – sending our beautifully ordered and pleasing words which we haven’t backed up, into the void. And I know of hillwalkers who, slipping in the wrong place, fell to their deaths throwing loved ones’ lives into chaos in seconds.

How do we cope with this ?

Buddhism advises us to hold very lightly to order, knowing it can turn at a blink to chaos; and to walk into chaos, regarding it as ‘very good news’ in the challenging words of renowned teacher Chogyam Trungpa.

Clinging to outdated structures whilst the storms of life are tearing down everything familiar, usually doesn’t work. ‘Leaning into the sharp points’, trying to face and learn from upheaval, is a more fruitful strategy. But its rewards may take time to become evident, and it can be very hard to find the trust that new order will eventually emerge.

At an ordinary day-to day level, the key to coping well with the ever-changing energy pattern of life is cultivating the ability to live in the present moment. “Carpe diem” as the Roman poet Horace famously said in his Odes : “seize the day”. Now is all we’re sure of. Let’s live it fully!

*******************

600 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Seize the Day!

 

This article was first published in Connections magazine, August 2006,  as

“Order, Chaos and Carpe Diem”

“ Today I walked to my office, in pouring rain, and got soaked. Here I sit writing, my jeans  steaming dry on the heater, feeling really joyful. ‘Why?’ you may ask. “Is she mad? What’s good about getting frozen and soaked in Glasgow, Scotland, at the end of May?”

I’ll tell you why. Because normal and ordinary and energetic feel like gifts. Having a normal body, doing ordinary things, having the good health and energy to be able to walk in the rain, feel precious to me now. For years, whilst making the best of the circumstances in which I found myself, I couldn’t help longing at times for normal and ordinary as my body, mind and spirit went through apparently endless bouts of turbulence.

My five year odyssey in the underworld of burnout and retreat, which some of you will have read about in the first two issues of this column, now feels as though it is coming to an end. Quite suddenly, in recent weeks, my energy has sprung back and various unpleasant symptoms have largely gone.

Yes, order seems to have returned. I celebrate that, and give thanks daily.

However – having survived a prolonged period of chaos where most of my familiar landscapes simply disappeared and the usual strategies for managing life ceased to be of any use – a few things are much, much clearer than they ever were before.

Someone observed that life should be lived forwards, but can only be understood backwards. How right they were! One of the many advantages of growing older is that we have more life to look back on. Surviving until middle age and beyond – something our remote ancestors rarely did – offers us an opportunity fully to understand and accept the essential precariousness of the human condition. With this acceptance can come a greater degree of letting-go, and consequent inner peace, than is possible in youth.

Along with many people, I owe a large debt to Buddhist wisdom. Of the many books of Buddhist psychology I read during my time in the Underworld, three stand out which I would recommend to anyone going through crisis. They provide both practical coping techniques and spiritual support:

Pema Chodron’sWhen things fall apart”, Jack Kornfield’s “After the ecstasy, the laundry”, (see Personal Book Reviews page for review of this great book) and Bo Lozoff’s “It’s a great life – it just takes practice”.

Lozoff describes a prolonged solo retreat in which day in, day out, he meditates upon the following :

“Anything that can happen to anyone at any time can happen to me, and I accept this”. He keeps this meditative thread running through days of allowing fantasies of the worst things that could devastate him, and those he loves, to rise and dissolve. At the end of the retreat he goes home, more at peace with the realisation that chaos can and does arise at any time to sweep away the order of our personal and collective lives.

Bo Lozoff is now in his late fifties. His spiritual journey began at the age of eighteen. A typical self-absorbed materialistic American teenager (his own description) driving home late one night, a momentary lapse of concentration caused him to crash into a lorry and smash himself to bits. Many months of painful surgery and rehabilitation put him together again – a person much deepened and strengthened in spirit, no longer interested in pursuing the shallow materialistic agenda of his culture, intent on a life of service and of finding deeper answers to the big WHYs : eg  “Why are we here ?” and “Why do we suffer ?”

In essence, the Buddhist view is that suffering is caused by wishing for things to be other than they are. I found reference to this simple, penetrating piece of wisdom – prominently displayed in our kitchen –  bracingly therapeutic, especially at times when self-pity threatened to take me over.

Life requires both chaos and order. With chaos alone, nothing could take form. Order by itself shuts down creativity and ultimately life itself. Chaos and order interpenetrate at every level from the most trivial to the most profound. Most of us who are at all computer-literate have at least once had the experience, early on, of pressing the wrong key or clicking the wrong box – sending our beautifully ordered and pleasing words which we haven’t backed up, into the void. And I know of hillwalkers who, slipping in the wrong place, fell to their deaths throwing loved ones’ lives into chaos in seconds.

How do we cope with this ?

The Buddha

The Buddha

Buddhism advises us to hold very lightly to order, knowing it can turn at a blink to chaos; and to walk into chaos, regarding it as ‘very good news’ in the challenging words of renowned teacher Chogyam Trungpa. Clinging to outdated structures whilst the storms of life are tearing down everything familiar, usually doesn’t work. ‘Leaning into the sharp points’, trying to face and learn from upheaval, is a more fruitful strategy. But its rewards may take time to become evident, and it can be very hard to find the trust that new order will eventually emerge.

At an ordinary day-to day level, the key to coping well with the ever-changing energy pattern of life is cultivating the ability to live in the present moment. “Carpe diem” as the Roman poet Horace famously said in his Odes : “seize the day”. Now is all we’re sure of. Let’s live it fully!

Looking at the bigger picture, it’s also wise to remember that the scientific materialism which has come to dominate our view of life is very recent – a shallow surface layer of a couple of hundred years or so. For many milennia, at every stage of cultural and religious evolution, human beings across the world have perceived the whole of life as sacred, saturated with meaning.

Our distant ancestors realised that humankind could not survive alone. In coping with the often brutal buffetings of life they needed one another, and connection with the divine spirit which vitiates all creatures. Communal social and religious rituals were a vital tool in affirming connection with a greater Order. Despite the unprecedented materialism and self-obsession of our age, which seems to be bringing humanity increased levels of disorder and unhappiness, as a species we remain ‘wired for God’.

It doesn’t matter whether Ultimate Reality is perceived as transcendental unity, Emptiness or the Void in Buddhist terminology, the quantum vacuum of contemporary cosmology, or God of  the traditional theistic religions. There is now much research supporting the fact that the happiest individuals are those who believe that there is a greater Order which embraces everything known, unknown and unknowable, and who are part of a faith community with shared values centred on the Golden Rule : “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

The great psychologist Carl Jung observed that he had never treated a patient in mid life for whom their spiritual need was not part of the crisis….so here, in conclusion, is a prescription for happy ageing:

“ Hold lightly to order, embrace chaos, realise that suffering arises from the desire that things be different than they are, live in the moment, and find the God of your understanding to honour and serve in the company of  fellow spirits.”

There, my jeans are dry now and the sun has come out. Time to seize the moment and go sit in the park ! ”

1200 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2008
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page