Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

‘At the still point’: awaiting the Aries New Moon…

We tend to think of the annual 20th March equinox, the day the Sun enters Aries, as the symbolic beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere. But you could argue that its true beginning takes place with the New Moon in Aries: this year, that does not happen until the 24th March 2020, when the Sun and Moon meet at 4 degrees 12 minutes of Aries.

Image of Moondark

Moondark

You could further argue that the period from the Pisces New Moon, this year having fallen just three days ago on 23rd February at 4 degrees 29 minutes of Pisces, represents the Moondark, or balsamic period, or end phase of the whole astrological year – which began with the 15 degrees  17 minutes Aries New Moon on the 5th of April 2019.

Today thus finds us at the new crescent phase beginning the whole zodiacal year’s Moondark. It also finds us on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent in the Christian calendar, a six week period of contemplation leading to Easter Sunday which falls each year close to the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox.

So – how does that profound, doubly symbolic invitation to withdraw and reflect on the year that’s gone, sit with you?

For a very long time, I have been happy and grateful to draw spiritual inspiration from writers of all religious and spiritual traditions – or none. What I seek is grounded wisdom and perspective, wherever it comes from, to guide my life. I also love the comforting, ancient power of ritual. One of my personal Ash Wednesday rituals is to read to myself sections of T S Eliot’s great poem sequence Ash Wednesday. Here is the quote which on this Ash Wednesday has most moved me,:

‘…this is the time of tension between dying and birth/ The place of solitude where three dreams cross…’ (i)

I am in a deeply withdrawn, sensitive, pensive state in this year’s Moondark just beginning, feeling very open to our collective vulnerability and suffering as fragile creatures on a tiny planet.

Having been born in Moondark in the very last hours of the monthly Sun/Moon cycle, I am very aware of the need periodically to retreat, contemplate, take stock – a fundamental aspect of human experience which is being squeezed out by the 24/7 freneticism of contemporary living, to the increasing detriment of our collective mental and physical wellbeing.

Will this new year soon arising bring more brutality towards the vulnerable and the innocent, orchestrated by those currently in power whose humanity has in many cases become increasingly debased? Or will it signify a new generation arising, whose values are not rooted in accumulation of wealth and power at the expense of our Mother planet, ready to challenge the structures of  old order?

Thankfully, we are seeing strong evidence of the latter option arising already, as the new Saturn/Pluto cycle slowly begins and we move towards a new Jupiter/Saturn cycle at 0 degrees Aquarius, beginning at the winter solstice 2020. We need radical change, and we are going to have it over the next few years, one way or another…

The Big Why?

In contemplative moments such as this, poised in the stillness of a whole year’s Moondark, being temperamentally inclined to brood on questions most sensible folk prefer to avoid much of the time, I tend to return to The Big Why, and its attendant questions: Why are we here at all? What does it all mean? What am I to do with my small life?

It would appear from numerous surveys one tends to come across both in print and social media, that despite conventional religions losing ground, most people are just as inclined as they have ever been toward some sort of faith, some belief that despite its painful, turbulent dimensions life has meaning.

In times of suffering and turbulence, one of the great offerings of astrological knowledge, despite its being a double-edged gift with just as much capacity to scare us as to offer enlightenment, is a pointing through its symbols to something both collectively and personally meaningful going on. Looking through an astrological lens reveals patterns, not randomness.

Astrology is not a religion or a belief system – but it offers a clear lens through which to look out at the vastness of Mystery in which we exist, inviting us toward some form of belief that there is a bigger picture of  which we are all part, however small.

Personally, I have found that lens to have been a vitally important tool on my own journey toward a deep faith that we are all part of the One; even the dreadful things in life which afflict us both collectively and individually are woven into a tapestry of meaning, at some level which we are too ill-equipped to comprehend.

I find it supportive and comforting to centre myself in that faith when times are tough for the world – as they certainly are right now – and for those to whom I am personally connected with bonds of friendship and of love.

And for myself. My dear Aquarian husband Ian died peacefully on 13th January, having been felled with shocking suddenness by a cerebral haemorrhage on 12th January 2020: the very day of the ending of the most recent Saturn/Pluto cycle in Libra under which we were married in 1982, and the beginning of this new one now taking shape. Apart from the shock and grief of his dying, I am awestruck by the fated power for us of that brutal timing.

For those of you who have been wondering why I have not posted here since 10th January, that is the explanation.

The uses of Moondark

Moondark at its best is a contemplative time: time to take stock both collectively and personally.

Humans have always benefited from times of quiet contemplation, in whatever way suits them best: listening to music, doing yoga/meditation, praying to whatever Higher Power sustains them, making or contemplating art, walking in Nature –especially by the sea, that great universal symbol of dissolution and emergence.

Even half an hour a day of retreat time on a regular basis is nourishing for the spirit. In ancient times, women used to retreat together monthly during menstruation time which was seen as a period of potency, and hidden power – a liminal time to link through dreams and ritual to worlds unseen.

It would be good if individually we could get into the habit of using the time from the Pisces New Moon each year to find some retreat space in whatever way suited us: to take stock of the year that was coming to an end, ponder our successes and our failures, our joys and our sorrows,  and set some realistic intentions to pursue for the zodiacal year ahead.

Will you be taking stock? I certainly shall…

Endnotes

i)  from ‘The Complete Poems and Plays of T S Eliot’, Faber and Faber Ltd 1969, p 98

Image of Moondark

1,150 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2020

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see About Page 

The miracle of the living soul: Inspiration from Jung

All my life’s work has been with people: as an adult education teacher in many settings, as a psychiatric social worker, as a private counsellor, trainer and supervisor of counsellors, and writer.

At the core of this apparent vocational diversity has been, I now understand, the same drive. It is that urge to find meaningful contexts for my own tiny, ephemeral spark of life, whilst offering some affirmation to others that their tiny flame matters too: it is worth struggling to get our light to burn with a purer and brighter radiance.

Something ineffable and charged can on occasions arise in deep communication between one person and another – those in the helping professions and their clients are by no means the sole partakers of this context. There is a moment in which the feeling of safety, intimacy, trust, empathy and openness of exchange becomes so intense that the level on which two people are interacting shifts from ‘ordinary’ to numinous.

The Diamond Soul

The Diamond Soul
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In that moment, (to my subjective recollection) both souls are held, in a state of grace, in the palm of some vast invisible benevolent Hand. Both sparks of life are suspended in a sense of the sacred….Such a state can never be evoked. It can only be bestowed – fleeting, memorable, perhaps life changing.

Coming across the following quotes recently thus struck a profound chord:

first, from Carl Gustav Jung –

“ That is why I say to any beginner: learn your theories as well as you can, but put them aside when you touch the miracle of the living soul. Not theories but your creative individuality alone must decide.”

Carl Jung from “Contributions to Analytical Psychology” (quoted in Self and Society Vol 27 No 1 March 1999, p 22.)

second, from ‘Gilead’ by Marilynne Robinson, p 51 –

“ When people come to speak to me, whatever they say, I am struck by a kind of incandescence in them, the ‘I’ whose predicate can be ‘love’ or ‘fear’ or ‘want’, and whose object can be ‘someone’ or ‘nothing’ and it won’t really matter, because the loveliness is just in that presence, shaped around ‘I’ like a flame on a wick, emanating itself in grief and guilt and joy and whatever else …. To see this aspect of life is a privilege of the ministry which is seldom mentioned.”

(‘Gilead’, winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is a wonderful novel in which, towards the end of Rev John Ames’ life in 1956, he begins a letter to his young son, setting down all that he wishes to communicate which impending death will otherwise render impossible.)

I urge you to read it for its humanity and its wisdom.

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500 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

Contemporary astrology and the Big Picture: Linda’s question

….the “grand, overarching explanation for human behavior which you talk about in your question shifts: from the human world with its many, continually evolving viewpoints – depending on geographical location and mores –  to locating all life on tiny planet Earth within the vast teleology of an unfolding and evolving Cosmos.

Thus a truly contemporary astrology  can play its part, as Diaz, Meyers and Smith so eloquently put it recently, through “….  yielding to this broader reality instead of choosing to couch the phenomena of astrology in only familiarly personal ways….”

To read the whole of the latest post on Astrology: Questions and Answers, click below: 

http://astrologyquestionsandanswers.com/2013/11/23/contemporary-astrology-and-the-big-picture-lindas-challenge/

Zodiac

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100 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Armand Diaz, Eric Meyers & Andrew Smith 2013

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Certainty versus mystery: where do you stand?

As anyone with even half a braincell tuned into current affairs will know, we are living in an era where humans seem to need the strong seasoning of certainty even more than ever.

Militant atheism seems hell bent (pardon the expression, a tad inappropriate in this context, eh what?!) on ramming down our collective throats their conviction that religion is pernicious rubbish. And militant religious fanatics have been turning to their usual tools, honed to a fine art  over many bloodsoaked centuries, of persecution and/or slaughter in the name of whatever faith they aver is ‘the one and only truth’.

When I grow angry, and weary of those pointless, destructive posturings, I turn to one of my enduringly favourite quotations for perspective and comfort, from the scientist David Eagleman  :

” But when we reach the end of the pier of everything we know, we find that it only takes us part of the way. Beyond that all we see is uncharted water. Past the end of the pier lies all the mystery about our deeply strange existence: the equivalence of mass and energy, dark matter, multiple spatial dimensions, how to build consciousness, and the big questions of meaning and existence….good scientists are comfortable holding many possibilities at once, rather than committing to a particular story over others. In light of this, I have found myself surprised by the amount of certainty out there….”

Northern Lights Treshnish Isles

Northern Lights Treshnish Isles

200 words copyright Anne Whitaker/David Eagleman 2013
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Answering a challenge: “REAL astrologers do not charge for their services”

I’ve just received this question about the practice of astrology and felt impelled to address it as fully as possible! Do drop by Astrology: Questions and Answers to read the whole post – and if you are a professional astrologer who has had to deal with this type of question, I’d be interested to have your comments….

“Horoscope” ‘s Question:

Is it true that REAL astrologers do not charge for their services as it is against the code to take profit out of a gift from God to help people? I read this and saw a medium on tele say it.  In these circles it is donations given based on good work.Is this true at all?

Dear Ms/Mr/ X (I am assuming ‘horoscope’ is not your real name)

thank you for raising this interesting question. Before getting down to discussing the issue of  payment of fees for any  professional service, whether the professional is for example a highly trained,well qualified and experienced astrologer, lawyer,  or accountant, it is important to clarify a few points for you.

Your question strongly suggests that you associate the practice of astrology in some way with the practice of mediumship. They are two separate activities. Thus a comment on how mediums operate cannot usefully be applied to the practice of astrology.

Popular Astrology

Secondly, it would perhaps help you if I made clear that there are broadly speaking two main types of astrology. The first type, popular star sign or sun sign astrology, is the kind which most people know about. …to read more, click HERE

Season of Scorpio

Season of Scorpio

250 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Season of autumn, autumn of life….

I’m feeling philosophical as the autumn leaves start to fall….I feel wealthy in experience, in loving connections, in my talents, in such wisdom as I’ve managed to distil from life’s inevitable pains. My taste is to savour and treasure life’s small gifts: kicking through the first dry drifts of rich autumnal auburn, savouring my little granddaughter’s occasional impulsive loving hugs and kisses. My taste is also for taking time: to be quiet, be alone, to read, to walk in Nature, to reflect on what my life thus far has meant – and what may be to come.

You won’t find me in the gym, sweating it out with my peers whose main motivation is to keep age at bay. I’m not saving up for my first facelift. I don’t look enviously at fresh faces and taut bodies. Whilst celebrating their youth, I am glad to be no longer young.

Anne Whitaker

Anne Whitaker

In ancient times, when a woman reached menopause and began to feel the pull of death and rebirth into a new life phase, her tribe let her go free of duties for a year or so. She could wander, go deep into the forest, across the far hills, seeking solitude, time for reflection. She might gather roots and herbs only found in hidden places, to be used later. She had time to forge a deeper connection with Spirit than her busy life had previously allowed.

She would look at her lined face and grey hair in still river pools, sleep under the stars, slowly facing the fact that she was in the last phase of her life. By the time she returned she had deeply accepted the Great Round of birth, growth, maturation, decline, death and renewal. Having completed the mid life rite of passage, she was refreshed and ready to serve her tribe again.

Her experience, knowledge and wisdom was valued and recognised : healer, midwife, mentor to the young, spiritual counsellor, she had her place in her community till the day she died.

“ But this is the twenty-first century!” I hear you say. “Things are very different now.”

I wonder. Are they? It is certainly true that humans have never lived such comfortable, materially sophisticated lives as they do now, if they live in the affluent societies of the West. Within this current cultural phase, there is a powerful preoccupation with one stage of life. Youth.

It is possible because of huge advances in science, medicine and technology to delay the process of ageing. Death has come to be seen as a defeat, rather than a normal part of the whole life cycle.

From gnats to galaxies, everything is woven into the Great Round. Why should humans think themselves exempt ?

Everything passes, and we pass with it. Denial of this robs us of the opportunity to face and accept the flow of life as it is. Acceptance, which takes experience, courage, reflection, and time, can lead to happiness and spiritual peace. Denial of any kind usually trails misery in its wake.The  mid life rite of passage is presented to us all, the choice being denial or acceptance.

The latter road is slower and harder, but infinitely more rewarding in the end.

autumn

autumn

600 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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