Astrology

The name of the game is shame?

I don’t know about you, but I often worry about whether by taking poor decisions, I might be making myself bad karma. Mind you, I’m not even certain what karma is, much less how it might work but I’ve always been told that ‘what goes around does come around’ and for the most part, that seems to be true.

Yet, is comeuppance guaranteed? I mean, considering all that’s happening in the world of politics at the moment, I really do have to wonder. Might it be that some folks are so blessed that they can do whatever they want without consequence? 

Regardless, I opt for sensible guidelines and given that Saturn and Pluto are together dancing their jig in Capricorn, I’ll take my lead from them and so ‘shame’ will be the name of my ethical game.


Rather than thinking of shame as a punishment, as we are often wont to do, I figure shame keeps us from doing things that the person that we want to be ought not to do. In this context, shame is not a painful conclusion but a joyous opportunity.


For Buddhists, shame is the frontline defence against inappropriate actions. Such action not only produces negative karma (locking you into the painful cycle of rebirth) but also leads to difficult rebirths.

Even non-Buddhists find inappropriate actions to be trouble.  Folks tend to get annoyed when one steals, murders, and cheats.  Likewise, they shy away from those who frequently lose their temper and fail to honour their commitments.  Indeed, during the course of a single day, you are confronted with a whole host of activities that someone considers inappropriate. If you wished to comply with all of them, you might as well just stay home.


In reality, we cannot always abide by an external set of rules when deciding what we should or should not do.


Yet assuming that you do want to be ethical, then what standard might you use? I suggest using your own ‘sense of shame’.

Astrology

Have some fun…

Astrologically, responsibility equates with Saturn.  With Saturn, we undertake our duties and obligations seriously and achieve.

When things go wrong however, we’re more reluctant to take responsibility. The downside of Saturn is fault and blame.

Nietzsche has suggested that fault and blame are the bitter fruits of ‘responsibility’. In our society, responsibility is not understood in terms of our ‘ability to respond’ but instead in terms of the spirit of revenge.

On the Genealogy of Morals (3:15)

In existentialist terms, the spirit of revenge is a powerful narcotic that numbs the inevitable pain and misery of existence. When we respect misfortune as an inevitable part of living, we can utilise our innate ability to respond to life  (Nietzsche).


 ‘Shit happens’.  It happens despite the ‘best laid plans of mice and men’.

But whilst embraced by the spirit of revenge, no man can respect true misfortune.  He can have no understanding of the context in which misfortune manifests.  Focused on channelling his passions into vengefulness and spite, such a man can never respect, let alone love,  anybody or anything including himself.

Only a foolish man believes that each misfortune which befalls him, was intentionally directed at him. Yet many of us do just that.

Hands up! Just this morning when I was hurrying to get ready, something fell on my foot and left a huge bruise and I blamed my husband who wasn’t even home. 

A more productive approach might be to take ourselves less seriously.   This could be achieved through the more positive aspects of irresponsibility – i.e. having some old-fashioned, light-hearted fun.  Not only does  light-heartedness promote health, but it also helps us to accept the basic realities about life.

The natural antidote of Saturn is Jupiter.  

When your Jupiter  functions properly,  you’re optimistic, take chances and experience good luck.  Too much Jupiter however leads to extravagance and frivolity,  hence the bad associations with irresponsibility.

In my book, balance is the key to health and happiness.  It would seem Nietzsche might agree.  According to him (in a theme developed by Kundera in his novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being,) the heaviest burden (responsibility) is also boundless freedom (irresponsibility).

In this regard, taking responsibility for our own lives allows us to accept it for what it is: a game of chance in which sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

Blaming yourself or another achieves nothing but more pain.

Alchemy

The Daemon of Carl Jung

In Plato’s Republic(The Myth of Ur), souls cue up to choose their next life and are assigned a daemon – an overseer for that life. In classic astrology, daemon could be determined using one’s natal chart and as the result, it was incumbent upon the individual to establish contact with (or invoke) his or her daemon. In many respects, this was exactly what Jung was doing whilst writing and illustrating the Red Book, which he considered to the ‘prima materia’ for his life’s work.

Daemon can be understood as fate – but not fate in the sense that it comes from outside us. Instead, daemon is our personal unconscious pushing through the creative impulse to encourage us to accomplish that which we are meant to do. Naturally, you may choose to reject or ignore Daemon (or your fate) but there is a price to be paid. Equally, following Daemon (either eagerly or begrudgingly) does not guarantee you an easy ride.

Carl Jung had Aquarius rising. This means that Saturn, the ruler of Aquarius was his daemon, or at least it was in his eyes although not all astrologers (classical or modern) might agree.

When it comes to daemon, it isn’t so much that Saturn the planet was running the show but instead the symbolism surrounding Saturn. According to the 3rd century Neo-Platonist, Iamblichus, symbols are the footprints of the gods, wondrous tokens sent down from above. In this sense, a symbol can never be a man-made design. Symbols pre-exist and hence carry energy that exerts power over us not unlike Jung’s archetypes.

Jung

Jung believed it was vital that he understand his daemon – no, more than that – he was determined to establish a personal relationship with his daemon and it is highly likely this was accomplished through magical ritual.

To that end, the Red Book, Jung communicates with several different Saturnian figures (Elijah, The Old Scholar, The Anchorite, The Librarian, and the Professor) that culminate with Philemon (whose name, Jung always wrote in Greek, most probably for magical reasons).

Several key points are of significant interest regarding these Saturnian figures and as ought to be expected in many respects they are all deeply paradoxical.

  • The Saturnian figures in Red Book are all associated with rocks and stones – imperishable – belonging to and of the earth – present in the beginning of time on earth and presumably present at the end. It is not surprising that this stone/rock motif comes up often in Jung’s writings. He had been fascinated with them since youth.
  • Jung’s Saturnian images are all old men – SENEX – they are also thinkers –seekers of wisdom (as opposed to knowledge). Philosophers. They are magicians, too. This is in keeping with the writings of Marsilio Ficino, a 15thcentury Italian scholar who appears to have heavily influenced Jung’s work.
  • All Jung’s Saturnian images are recluses and sad. These are in keeping with traditional associations with Saturn.
  • Several of Jung’s Saturnian images are associated with religion and more specifically, religious experience. Not all of them are complimentary or supportive of religion. Indeed, Philemon is always shown as lame and this might well be suggesting a connection with the devil. Philemon, after all, did always have a serpent hanging around.
  • Philemon was also connected with Mercury, the hermetic figure and the philosopher stone. Hermes Trismegistus, who controlled both the sun and the moon was semi-divine and he is, in essential ways, very much like Philemon (who was also a magician – possessing his own grimoire). This highlights the importance of the ancient art of alchemy. Saturn is lead, the metal of transformation and redemption.

In The Astrological World of Jung’s Liber Novus, Dr Liz Greene suggests that because Philemon drew together Saturnian ideas and images from a number of ancient disciplines and cosmologies, he allowed Jung to build a workable bridge between the pagan and Christian aspects of his own world view.

Those  of us who are interested in similarly understanding the complexity of our own daemon, or chosen ‘fate’, might be well-advised to perform similar invocations and explorations. Dr Greene reminds us that during that difficult period in Jung’s life, his work with Philemon and predecessors gave Jung a connecting thread of meaning that helped him to understand his situation. Likewise, we may also turn to our daemons for help when things get tough.

Never forget, however, that working with daemons is not for the faint of heart. Jung’s daughter reported that things ‘went bump in the dark’ in the house when Jung was working with Philemon – things that we might well call supernatural.

Philosophy

Zen riddles that I like…

Kõ-an – a paradox anecdote or riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logic and provoke a more direct perception of reality called enlightenment.

Kõ-ans have always exercised an intellectual fascination over those who have come in contact with them. Some have found Kõ-ans profound and intellectually challenging while others have dismissed them as meaningless and absurd. But especially for those living in societies built on Enlightenment principles, the anti-rationalism of Kõ-ans has been a large part of their appeal.  Unknown.png

Although Reason is useful to conceptualize and categorize, it can also trap us in a limited and arbitrary view of the world. Once Reason gets tangled up with our socially conditioned biases, then rather like blinkers on a horse it can do no more than channel us down a predetermined path.

The practical purpose of Kõ-ans is not to rid us of our intellectual capacity but instead to allow it to function in a dispassionate way. This involves breaking down the everyday tyranny of our conditioned intellect by demonstrating the contradictions and absurdities to which it would otherwise necessarily lead.

Unknown.jpegUnlike puzzles and riddles, Kõ-ans do not have pat answers. Indeed, many Kõ-ans are not even in the form of a question. When used properly, Kõ-ans set trains of thought in motion and then derail them. With the continuity of our internal dialogue broken, we are no longer able to maintain our (false) sense of reality.

A properly constructed Kõ-an should contain many layers of personal meaning. It is most certainly not a case of ‘one size fits all’. According to Buddhist teaching, Truth can only be experienced by those who seek Truth for its own sake.  It can never be denied to those who are worthy as equally it can never be imparted to those who are not.

coaching

Existential Coaching

Another coaching model of interest is Existential Coaching – which, like all coaching paradigms, seeks to facilitate positive change. If (1) the popular sports-based models (T-GROW) focus on increased performance and (2)  narrative coaching focuses on crafting a new client story, then (3) Existential Coaching beats a unique path in between.

According to Ernesto Spinelli, the purpose of Existential Coaching is to help people to live more effectively. This is achieved by gaining clarity and renewed purpose. Obviously this may well lead to increased performance too – a bonus, if you will. Likewise, to be successful, it will necessitate crafting a new story, one in line with (newly discovered) highly personal values and beliefs.

images.pngNow, I’m not going to argue that these three coaching models do not overlap. But I will argue that their focus and approach are very different. Their philosophical underpinnings are different as well. For example, T-GROW works on the assumption that we are all wholly rational creatures who, with effort, can control the disparate parts of ourselves.

By contrast, Existential Coaching works on the assumption that there are so many varied (unconscious) ‘things’ going on inside us that complete conscious control is never possible. As there result, T-GROW focuses on problem-solving while Existential Coaching has no choice but to embrace  problems. For T-GROW, anxiety is a hindrance to performance and must be reduced/eliminated. But for existentialists, anxiety is something to be savoured = i.e. a manifestation of the existential truth that life is not perfect and neither are (nor ever will be) you.

Do you recall little Johnnie in my post about Narrative Coaching? The young man who was no longer good because he couldn’t study hard? How might these three coaching models work in his situation?

  1. T-GROW – might help little Johnnie to put in place a plan to study hard again – taking as a given this is requires enhancement for no other reason than because he says so. If successful, T-GROW gets him back up and running on par with a cultural norm.
  2. Narrative Coaching – might help Little Johnnie to reframe his story so that, for example, he might still be good even if unable to study hard. Quite what he does with this, remains up to him. Just as with any good novel, several different endings are possible and now Johnnie needs to pick one.
  3. Existential Coaching – might help little Johnnie to understand that good = studying hard is a culturally imposed standard and this is how others will judge him, full-stop. However, this does not mean that he has to define himself this way. Indeed, he ought not to do that if it does not align with his personal values and beliefs. He should also keep in mind that although he might once have bought 100% into good = studying hard, he no longer has to do. Everything in life changes and this includes his values and beliefs.

Clearly T-GROW will get the fastest results and they will measureable too; especially good if Johnnie’s (new or old) employer is paying the bill.  But although the result is culturally acceptable, it may not be personally appropriate and, in the long run, may not improve Johnnie’s life. Narrative coaching opens up possibilities for Johnnie in the sense that at least he now understands why he believes good = studying hard. But unless his new story is the result of some serious soul-searching, it will likely remain culturally determined without him even realising this is the case. In my view, Existential Coaching provides the best all-around solution but, to be honest, it might take a long time and let face it, the amount of ‘navel-gazing’ required may not be for everyone.

The moral of this seems to be, as I mentioned in my earlier post, that when it comes to coaching models, one size does not fit all.

 

Philosophy

Positive or Negative – or too hard to tell?

 

Each of us is a unique blend of both positive and negative personality traits, both of which help to satisfy our basic wants and needs.

Interestingly, we tend to focus not on our strengths but on our weaknesses because, let’s face it, it’s human nature to concentrate on what goes wrong. Although it is our strengths that support growth and prosperity and our weaknesses that hold us back, sometimes it’s pretty hard to tell the difference. This is especially the case where the result of our efforts yields results that are considered culturally desirable such as, for example, being self-focused enough to succeed in one’s career.2d449eb70c6b936f67f7a2ec90ab133f--negative-character-traits-positive-and-negative

Not surprisingly, however, because so much of our health and happiness comes down to the quality of our relationships (both personal and professional), it only makes sense it is those personality traits that seem damaging to our relationships are the ones upon which we should concentrate our efforts. But how much self-focus is good and how much is bad and which person in the relationship, if it is to survive, needs to change and how?

 

Consider the following:

Cathy is working hard to make this catering event perfect. It is set to lead to some high-profile referrals. As a perfectionist, she’s dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” for the nth time. Meanwhile, her best friend and new employee, Agnes, is in the kitchen polishing serving trays to enhance presentation. Unfortunately, Agnes is having trouble keeping her focus; she can’t stop thinking about her recent break up with her boyfriend and worrying about whether she’ll ever find the right guy.

When a good-looking waiter invites her outside for a quick smoke, Agnes doesn’t think twice. As the result, the appetizers go out to the guests on stained trays and Cathy is furious. Although Cathy realises her friend has been distraught about men as late, she can’t understand why Agnes couldn’t have tried harder just this one time when the stakes were so high for Cathy. Agnes can’t see what is the fuss; Cathy has always been too fussy and after all, Agnes is trying her best to be a good friend.

  • If you were Cathy’s life coach, what might you ask her to consider?
  • If, on the other hand, you were Agnes’ life coach, what might you suggest she consider?
Alchemy

Hidden Dangers of The Hero’s (mythological) Journey

This weekend, I was privileged to participate in an academic conference, The Talking Sky, hosted by the University of Wales and The Sophia Centre. The purpose of the conference was to explore the cultural aspects of diverse myths inspired by the heavens.

Whilst many important points were made, one surfaced time and time again – i.e. although we are fascinated with the sun (ever-popular Celtic fire festivals come to mind), we also fear it and for good reason. Although a source of life, the sun is also deadly dangerous. Myths such as that of Phaethon, son of the Greek solar deity, Helios, who was killed when he foolishly drove his chariot too close to the sun, illustrate this.

** Equally dangerous, perhaps, is our cultural preoccupation with empowerment of the (solar) self? **

320px-Heroesjourney.svgConsider the work of Joseph Campbell and his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which explores the culturally recurring mythical motif of the hero’s journey. Not only was this motif popularised by films like Star Wars, but it also forms much of the basis of Jungian psychology, the centre-piece of which is ‘individuation’, or the transformational process whereby the (lunar) unconscious is melded into the (solar) consciousness to achieve an integrated personality and (alchemical) psychological growth.images

As Liz Greene acknowledges (The Luminaries), the hero’s journey is a solar process wherein the individual actively and  consciously  drives to develop his worldly goals. Having studied with Liz, I’ve never questioned the value of using this motif in my astrological work; it ticks all the boxes necessary for survival in western culture. But apparently, the well-respected psychologist, James Hillman, has questioned this and, it would seem, with good reason.

Hillman argues that not only is (1) Jungian ‘individuation’ a ‘developmental fantasy’ but also that (2) the solar focus of the hero’s journey is dangerously reductionist. In his book, The Soul’s Code, Hillman promotes what he considers to be the healthier, more holistic (pluralistic) ‘soul-making’ to be our psychological aim. Not only is this in keeping with the cosmology of the ancient Greeks, who saw numen, or the divine, in everything, but also in line with Platonic ideals (Myth of Er), which still underlie so much of western culture.

Arguably, as the speaker at the conference pointed out, contemporary natal (psychological) astrology does not look solely at solar functions. We leave that to the popular Sun Sign columns in magazines and newspapers, which, as another speaker at the conference has suggested, have become a myth in their own right.

images-2Whilst I agree that responsible astrologers do honour the entire natal chart (along with its multitude of inherent mythologies), I acknowledge that Hillman makes valid points which ought not to be ignored. As I’m about to embark on a new career as a ‘coach’ (utilizing astrology), I worry about the stated goal of contemporary coaching – i.e. empowerment of the individual. If, as a coach, what I will be empowering is solely the client’s solar self (or ego), then if Hillman is right I will be doing him or her a huge (reductionist) disservice. However, since that is what it would seem that most coaching clients want, how do I dare to offer them otherwise?

Once I’ve commenced my coaching studies at the University of Cambridge in this autumn, I hope to be in a better position to address these concerns. Watch this space, I suppose.

Astrology

Time for Ms K to consolidate Saturn

Transiting Pluto (19 Capricorn) continues to hammer Ms K’s natal Mars (18 Cancer).

Worse, her natal Saturn (14 Capricorn) is involved. It’s through Saturn that Ms K will find the strength and wisdom to get through life and with her strong Saturn (in ruler-ship and plugged into the angles) that should be fairly easy. But even the strongest Saturn will struggle with a transit from Pluto, astrologically the biggest bully on the block. Transiting Pluto conjunct natal Saturn is a once-and-a lifetime experience (not even everyone will have it) – a frustrating period of creative destruction making way for new beginnings.

Earlier, I posted about the Gateways of the Soul – the Seven Seals or Planets – insights gained at a fabulous astrology retreat in Glastonbury. Bottom line, while there are seven seals or chakras to attain most of us remain stuck in either Saturn, Jupiter, or Mars. From what I understand of her situation, it’s likely that Ms K is currently working to consolidate Saturn.

Those living primarily in the Saturn chakra are easy to spot because they have not yet found a career that works for them; at some level they still struggle with money and earning a decent living. This is not to say that Ms K hasn’t accomplished anything of value to date; she’s been a successful wife and mother. But Ms K is the first to admit that she’s now come to a place where she feels she needs to make choices for HER future – and with her North Node in Virgo, this will have something to do with being ‘in service’ to others which in turn requires honing a skill by which she can gain a strong sense of self and appreciation.images

As yet, Ms K has not honed in on that skill – that career path that will work for her. Indeed, at the moment, she has little ,if any, idea of what this might entail. Sounds like the perfect opportunity to enlist the help of Jupiter – the key to consolidating and moving past Saturn.

Jupiter asks Ms K to develop a personal philosophy –  i.e. gain insight and understanding as to how she creates success in her life – I recommend that she finds a good counsellor or coach – someone who will help her identify what it is that she most desires to achieve in her career and then to evaluate her strengths and weaknesses in this respect.

UnknownAstrologically, we know that Ms K’s Jupiter in Capricorn gives her excellent organisational skills. She will attract fortune (Jupiter) into her life when she takes a disciplined, committed approach. Ms K will be at her best when she is self-reliant. She will be most confident when taking honest authority over others. She might choose to develop counselling and/or management skills in an area than requires structure and respects tradition. She might become  a PA (Personal Assistant) to an business executive or political leader. She might even consider a teaching career; Jupiter loves to share knowledge and experience. With both Jupiter and Saturn in her 2nd house, Ms K might also consider a career in finance – perhaps counselling others on how to restructure their mortgages and/or personal debt.

Luckily, transiting Pluto eases off her natal Mars/Saturn in the autumn of 2018. Then, at least, she’ll be able to get past her current anger and frustration. Also lucky is that in early 2018, transiting Saturn will conjunct her natal Jupiter. This will open up new opportunities – not the least because she will finally be ready to receive them. It is during 2018 that Ms K will have a chance to find a suitable outlet through which to channel her newly found ambition and because both her Saturn and Jupiter are in her 2nd house , this should allow her to both develop a strong sense of personal worth as well as making a good living.

Astrology

Gateways of the Soul – The Seven Seals or Planets

Incarnation is a lifetime process during which my soul travels downwards through the chakras from the Sun to Saturn and back up again:

  • Down: Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
  • Up: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Earth, Venus, Mercury, and Sun.

I engage (or not) with this process with every thought, decision, and action that I take.

Whilst it is a given that I will arrive at Saturn ( first Saturn return = aged 29.5 years), it is less certain how far I’ll go on my return journey. Indeed, the round-trip may take several lifetimes; there’s little doubt that I’ll get stuck along the way.

The Saturn Chakra represents the material world. Here I’m tested as to whether I can manage life at its most basic level. Those stuck here have not yet managed to make enough of a living by which to get by.

images-1To consolidate Saturn, I look to Jupiter –  a chosen career and/or life path. Jupiter is the place of  philosophy, the guru and/or the guide. Jupiter is also place of the lawyer – i.e. one who masters the laws of Saturn; many lawyers (like me) get stuck in the Jupiter chakra, so pleased are we with such mastery.

To consolidate Jupiter, I determine what brings meaning to my life and then master the skills by which to achieve it. Sadly, book learning is never enough. Instead I must resist thinking too much and instead get in touch with my feelings. Never fear, however, because by the time I’m working on Jupiter I’ll have a few Jupiter returns (i.e. 12-year cycle) under my belt.

For help with Jupiter, I look to Mars – the planet of engagement and commitment. Now I must tie the knot; devote myself to my chosen life path and /or settle down to (a happy) marriage. Sounds easy – but in reality it’s a huge jump from intellectual Jupiter to the intuitive nature of Mars. Worse, even though I’ve committed to both my life path and spouse, I must relate to both with a clear, open mind –a complete acceptance of my chosen situation. I assure you that this is difficult. For help, I look to the next chakra, Earth.53e

The purpose of incarnation is what is known in esoteric circles, as to ‘gain the earth’ – i.e. to master the external world; the buck stops here, so to speak. This is not accomplished with arrogance and egoism  but instead with confidence and contentment. The Earth chakra = the heart of spiritual meaning and balance = the best that I can hope to achieve during incarnation. I assure you that I have not achieved this – I may have glimpsed it through spiritual teachers, but I have not managed grasp it for myself. Luckily I’m in good company. Most of us will remain stuck in either Saturn, Jupiter, or Mars.

To achieve/stabilise the Earth, I would look to Venus, which is the first of the ‘inner’ chakras. There is no way to materially grasp what Venus represents – it is an inner reality –  nothing less than being able to love everything and everybody, regardless. From what I’ve read, (Astrology of the HeartAstro-Shamanism by Michael Erlewine), I can aspire to Venus through Mercury, i.e. cosmic consciousness.

The Sun, centre of all, is more than a planet or chakra. It is the source of all creation – as it says in the Prologue to the Gospel of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This one was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and apart from him not one thing came into being that has come into being. In him was life, and the life was the light of humanity. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

 

Philosophy

Post Truth = Propaganda

 

unknownPost truth = the OED word of the year = objective facts less important to forming public opinion than appeals to emotions and personal belief.

According to OED, post-truth has come about as the result of ‘truth’ having become devalued – life as we have known it is finished, or is it?

Let’s take a closer look at this newly devalued currency of ‘truth’ might really be.

It takes little or no time to discover there is and never has been a consensus on what is ‘truth’. There are, however, a morass of questions and critical theories: ‘coherence’ theory, ‘correspondence’ theory, ‘pragmatist’ theory, ‘semantic’ theory, and ‘redundancy’ theory – just to name a few.

You may know little or nothing about any of this stuff and you don’t have to do either. The takeaway point is that ‘truth’ has always been relative – impossible to define much less to determine. It’s probably good news that ‘truth’ no longer matters and this ought not to come as a surprise – at least not after World War I – during which so many governments and agencies (British, American, German, et al) took on the business of ‘opinion management’ on a mass scale – otherwise known as propaganda. So if you are shocked to hear that public opinion in the 21st century is formed (and/or maintained) by appeals to emotions and personal beliefs, don’t be.

The truth is – nothing really has changed.

You only need to look to what every good propagandist (that is or ever has been) knows – ‘opinion management’ works by (1) sharpening existing beliefs and opinions and (2) appealing to simple, strong, emotions (love/hate) – the moreimages ‘black and white’ those emotions, the better.

Post Truth = Propaganda

 

 

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