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.

Politics

Elizabethan Protestantism – every day life in the realm

The moderate Protestantism of Elizabeth I was a compromise not only between the Protestant and Catholic faiths but also between the various competing factions in the Protestant movement (i.e. Calvin vs. Luther and Zwingli).

During her long reign, Elizabeth’s religious policy made life easier for some and harder for others but, overall, at least initially, it set the nation-state on a more even keel than it had enjoyed in years. If avoiding civil disorder was one of Elizabeth’s general political aims, then her religious policy was more of the same.

For certain individuals like John Shakespeare, this doubtless caused considerable consternation. As a Catholic, how should he fulfil his job to remove the trappings of Catholic pomp and circumstance from Stratford’s Guild Hall?  Although we do not know how he personally felt about this responsibility, we can imagine that it was difficult to part with something so culturally endemic and visually rich as the wall paintings that on his orders, were white-washed.

Similar sentiments may lay at the heart of Roger Martyn’s lamentations regarding required changes in his parish church. Like John, Roger was forced to part with an entire way of life (i.e. celebrations and festive meals) to which he had developed an emotional bond. Interestingly, for whatever reason, Roger’s accounts highlighted the impact of these changes not on his personal religious feelings and beliefs, but on the outward trappings of such. Not everyone believed such destruction to be wrong. Iconoclasm, such as forced upon Roger and John had biblical roots. For religious men like John Jewel (Apologica Ecclesia Englicanae), such lush and vibrant Catholic imagery was proof positive that, at least according to the scriptures, the Roman Catholics were the heretics, not the Protestants.

For many Catholics, Elizabeth’s policy may well have been welcomed, at least at first. Not only did it allow men like John Donne and Ben Jonson to publicly switch their religious allegiance, but it also provided Catholics with a cover under which to carry on (quietly) as before. If they were willing to superficially comply with the requirements demanded by Elizabeth’s religious policy, the Catholics were, for the most part ignored. Elizabeth had no desire to meddle with her subject’s inner beliefs – i.e. the windows to their souls. However, later in her reign, when fears over the claims of Mary Queen of Scots to the English throne were rampant and religious fighting in Europe accelerated, Elizabeth cracked down on those Catholics who stuck their heads above the proverbial parapet. Doubtless, towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign, it again became uncomfortably obvious for Protestants and Catholics alike, that their religious futures were uncertain.

In conclusion, although Elizabeth’s moderate religious policy had initially stabilised England’s political situation (for better or for worse), but the end of her reign another big and unsettling change was in the cards. Who would know if perhaps if would not be of the same magnitude as that suffered under the auspices of her father, Henry VIII, with the Reformation?

Astrology

Esoteric Dilemmas

In some esoteric circles, the MC/IC (Mid-heaven/Imum Coeli) axis depicts your spiritual descent down the ladder from the stars and into bodily incarnation.[1]

The idea is that before birth, you were given a daemon that selects the pattern that you are to live out on earth. [2]

Soul, then, is the mediating consciousness between body and spirit and, at the IC (Latin for ‘bottom of the sky’) soul picks up an emotional charge from your parents such that their hopes, fears, and fantasies become your own.
This is not really ‘you’, however. In order to incarnate, you had to create a ‘false self’ through which to adapt to the world via your ASC/DSC (Ascendant/ Descendant) axis of relationship. Through desire, attachment, crisis, and struggle, soul transmutes this ‘false’ self, allowing the real ‘you’ to return up that ladder back to the stars.Spindle1

In this context, the IC, is both about death and rebirth. It is also about going into the dark to reconnect with your passion for life. Most certainly, the IC is about the container (body, family, society) to which you have attached. It is also about how you relate with your career (MC). In this sense, the MC is about more than just career, however. It describes not only how well you relate to the material world in general but also how well you relate to authority. You might think of your MC as informing you about that which your parents didn’t achieve for themselves and expect you to achieve for them.

As you might expect, this often leaves you in quite a dilemma:

 

MC/IC Axis Dilemma
Aries/Libra Struggle between whether to compete/lead as pushed to do by parents or stay behind and remain in ‘harmony’ with them – wouldn’t be the first time any child got a double message.
Taurus / Scorpio Home environment is one of immense need and intensity and the child is caught in the middle of his/her parents’ power trips. The child tries to become referee of parents that are terrified of being abandoned and hence, are very needy.
Gemini/Sagittarius The parental dynamic is damaged and the child takes up his/her identity  whilst trying to heal it (i.e. I need my books in order to heal the rift between my parents and so my books are my life).
Cancer/Capricorn The family dynamic is about tradition and togetherness – the world ‘out’ there is bleak and hostile, but we’ll be fine as long as we ‘stay’ together. The child not only adopts the view that the world is unsafe but also suspects that his/her parents don’t love him/her – or at least they won’t do if he/she refuses to toe their party line.
Leo/Aquarius Here the child is basically used by his/her parents so that they can realise their own ambitions.  The child becomes almost like a treasured ‘pet’ –  so much does he/she need to always ‘shine’ in the eyes of his/her parents.
Virgo/Pisces Here the primary issue is control and lack thereof – boundaries are hazy, unclear. The parental dynamic is one of service and sacrifice – an imbalance of power between the parents results in hidden passion and anger. The child is drawn into this dynamic and has trouble escaping. Control over his/her own life is overridden by need to sacrifice ‘self’ in order to remain in service to his parent(s).

If soul gets too wrapped up in the concerns of the MC/IC axis, then it might well forget the whole purpose for which it incarnated. Transits to the MC/IC axis will provoke a ‘spiritual crisis’ to get soul back on track:

 

Neptune Transits to the MC/IC axis confuse you as to the direction you’re going. Soul is trying to reconnect with its original intention of incarnation and you’re forced to wait in the fog until soul gains the necessary clarity of purpose.
Pluto Transits to the MC/IC axis strip you of your outmoded ‘adaptations’ to the material world. You lose your old power base in order to create space for the new. Usually the experiences of this transit involve something taboo and forbidden.
Uranus Transits to the MC/IC can bring sudden and expected changes often seen as being completely out of your control. Equally, however, you might decide to cut loose from your family and/or career and do your ‘own thing’.
Saturn Transits to the MC/IC can bring rewards for hard-work. Equally, they may force you to work harder.
Nodal Axis Transits to the MC/IC can bring helpers to assist you in leaving what needs to be left behind.
Jupiter Transits to the MC/IC can bring restlessness. Equally, however, it can bring faith and understanding so as to make it easier for you to move forward to new and better things.

 

[1] For an interesting take on this theme, read the classic children’s book, The Little Prince. The little prince has a celestial journey and meets a king, conceited man, drinker, business, lamplighter, geographer. Each one has a problem meant to teach the prince about something to avoid. Finally, the little prince descends to earth where he meets the snake – the colour of moonlight. The snake (key to the story) says the prince is purer than the snake because he comes from a star – so the prince is not contaminated by descent from earth – i.e. he is not fully incarnated although he layers on his experiences little by little. At the end of the story, he goes back to his star and wonders – how should a person find his or her ‘own star’?

[2] James Hillman, The Soul’s Code, Random House, NY (1996), p 7 – discussing Plato’s Myth of Er.

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.

 

Astrology

Ms D and Mr B – it’s all about Communication

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Summary

The relationship of Ms D and Mr B is all about communication and the honest expression of feelings and the good news is that all the ingredients are present for this to go very well – however just make sure that you don’t ignore other key aspects of your relationship, especially the physical – otherwise it may well have difficulty standing the test of time.

 

d and b composite

 

Grand trine – Jupiter, Moon, Uranus

Composite Moon suggests how honestly you express your emotions with each other – and with Composite Jupiter in trine (easy aspect) this probably goes well. The sympathy you share with each other will likely have a positive, morally uplifting effect for you both.

At the same time please understand that with Composite Uranus in the mix, you’ll need to  deal with each other in new and usual ways; certain attributes like stability and predictability found in conventional relationships may well be missing from yours. Take heart, however, because this allows you both maximum freedom of expression. The greatest potential of this relationship is for positive change and expansion in both of  your world-views while at the very same time still making you feel comfortable and cozy.

Mercury trine Neptune and sextile Pluto

Composite Mercury indicates the level and degree of communication in the relationship and with a trine (easy aspect) this will most like be approached intuitively and sensitively. Just beware that you don’t confuse your personal ideals with present reality – it’s all too easy to get lost when your head is in the clouds. Luckily with Composite Pluto in sextile (easy aspect) this should not prove difficult. Pluto gives you both a rare opportunity to get significant insight into the real forces at work in your relationship.

Sun sextile North Node and trine South Node

Composite Sun in trine/sextile (easy) aspect to the nodal axis suggests some kind of karmic connection. Most certainly this relationship is unusually important for the both of you and you can expect that it will take you to places (physical and/or mental) you’d not otherwise go.

Astrology

Find your Personal Path to Enlightenment through your Part of Daemon

180px-Viennese_zodiacThe Part of Daemon (or Pars Daemon) is your personal pathway to the enlightenment. It is what you need to do to fulfil your life purpose.

In your natal chart, your Part of Daemon represents how you project matter into spirit – i.e. using material resources to facilitate your spiritual goals. The more you’re pushed in the material world, the more likely you are to turn to your Part of Daemon for in essence, it encompasses your entire life philosophy.

Not surprisingly, your Part of Daemon also represents how you envisage the Divine.

Hence the Part of Daemon is the reverse formula (not simply the reverse location) of your Part of Fortune which, as discussed in an earlier post. [1]

Water – This Part of Daemon will value emotional contact and emotional bonds. The Divine is present in everyday life, in personal contact, and is emotionally involved. In Cancer, it is going to be more protective and nurturing; in Scorpio, possessive and intense – an Old Testament God – testing and zapping – very demanding and fearing betrayal; and in Pisces more devotional and mystical God is everywhere and all-knowing -devotion breeds God’s love – God is all-consuming.Jim Jones

For example, the Part of Daemon for Jim Jones, an Evangelist cult leader who led over five hundred members of his cult to suicide rather that allow the American authorities to investigate them, had his Part of Daemon at 24 Scorpio. His take on the Divine was a God who was emotionally involved with all his people and rather than allow anyone else to ‘take his people, he sent them directly to God.

Air – This Part of Daemon will value knowledge and intellect. The Divine is thinking, intelligent, has a plan; one finds their Divine through learning. Aquarius is going to endeavor to claim this knowledge; Gemini is going to endeavor to transmit or collect the knowledge; and Libra will want to disseminate the knowledge (fairly) to everyone.

Billy GrahamFor example, Billy Graham, the charismatic American Evangelist preacher who launched Revivalist campaigns across the US and UK, had his Part of Daemon at 20 Aquarius. He was convinced that people could hear the ‘word of God’ channeled through him.

Fire – This Part of Daemon in this element will value action. God helps those who help themselves! The Divine is forceful, active, instigating and enthusiastic. The Divine inspires and seeks freedom of action. In Aries this will be manifest in direct and independent action – the Divine is found in martial arts or sport. In Leo, the individual can “shine” regal and proud – their version of the Divine being warm, loving, and masculine. In Sagittarius it will be focused more on inspiring themselves and others. Here the Divine is expansive and wants us to learn and philosophize – to live life to our maximum potential.

Joan of ArcFor example, Joan of Arc, the young French girl who was divinely inspired to fight against the English while at the same time serving as a inspiration to her fellow citizens and troops, had her Part of Daemon at 21 Aries. She is remembered as a saint in armor who fought the enemy in the name of God.

Earth– This Part of Daemon is going to value security and practicality. Take care of yourself and all else follows. The Divine is physically responsible for one’s physical and material well being and will ensure the well-being of all. Taurus will be concerned with the money side (money makes the world go ’round); Capricorn will connect with an institution, such as the Church; and Virgo will focus on service.

For example, Florence Nightingale who devoted her life to helping the sick, had her Part of Daemon at 20 Virgo. She followed this path after receiving what she believed to be a message from God.Florence Nightingale

[1]

 

The Part of Daemon is the reverse of the Part of Fortune:

  • Part of Daemon. Asc +Sun – Moon – for diurnal
  • Part of Daemon. Asc +Moon – Sun – for nocturnal

These formulae should be interpreted as in this way: compute the longitudes of the Ascendant, Moon and Sun as measured from 0 degrees of Aries. This is done according to the table below.

Aries Add 0 . Libra Add 180
Taurus Add 30 . Scorpio Add 210
Gemini Add 60 . Sagittarius Add 240
Cancer Add 90 . Capricorn Add 270
Leo Add 120 . Aquarius Add 300
Virgo Add 150 . Pisces Add 330

 

Let’s say someone has an Ascendant of 17 Cancer, a Moon of 13 Gemini, and a Sun at 4 Libra. An Ascendant of 17 Cancer means a Descendant of 17 Capricorn Since the Sun is between the Ascendant and the Descendant, this is a night birth so we use the night birth formula.

Ascendant 17 Cancer + 90 = 107
Sun 4 Libra + 180 = 184 Moon 13 Gemini + 60 = 73

Daemon = 107- 184 + 73 = – 4. 
This means the Part of Daemon is 4 degrees ahead of 0 Aries or 26 Pisces.

If the Sun were at 10 Cancer with an Ascendant of 19 Sagittarius and the Moon at 25 Aquarius, the chart would be a day birth so we would use the Day formula.

Ascendant 19+ 240= 259
Moon 25 Aquarius + 300 = 325
Sun 10 Cancer + 90 = 100

Daemon = 259 + 100 – 325 = 31. This gives us a Part of Daemon of 4 Taurus.

 

Astrology

Looking for God Through Astrology

Pisces-Sept07-DE7863sAR800Is the urge to spirituality innate?

Carl Jung certainly thought so.

He suggested the need to make connection with something greater than yourself is only make you feel truly alive.

One way to look for this connection is through your natal birth chart. You must be prepared, however, to look further afield than Jupiter and Neptune –  the ‘usual’ astrological significations of spirituality. Remember that every planet represented in your chart, was once a god or goddess in his or her own right.

Naturally this isn’t easy – getting in touch with the numinous. It could even be dangerous. As Liz Greene has always been quick to remind us, personally expressing the energies of outer planets like Uranus, Neptune and Pluto can not only be overwhelming but pathological.

So for now we’ll stick to the inner planets – are you up to the challenge?

To get an idea how this might work for you, look at your strongest and most influential planets (by sign and house placement)– and don’t forget the ruler of your ascendant – your chart ruler. For example, with Libra rising focus on your Venus. If your Sun is in Leo (the Sun rules Leo), then look there. If your Jupiter is in Cancer (where it is exalted) then focus on that.

While reading the rest of this post, lease keep in mind that for these purposes, ‘spirituality’ = finding a sense of meaning and purpose through connecting with that which lies beyond your ken.

 

Sun Solar energy is key to how you bring spiritual urges into personal expression  – this is accomplished not by sacrificing your ego, but by honouring it. You are every bit as much a part of creation as everyone – and everything – else. Because, as myths of ancient Egypt remind us, the Sun passes through the underworld (below the horizon) each and every day, your solar experience of spirituality could even manifest as a life and death struggle.

 

For example, with Sun in Scorpio you might undergo psychoanalysis –or act as a therapist (or shaman) for others in this way. That which you extract from working with your unconscious (for example, by dream work) may give you a sense of that which lies beyond.

Moon Lunar energy manifests through feelings of belonging and shared experience. Get tactile – get earthy – even organic – the lunar experience of spirituality is not about flying off to some lofty place – but about embodiment. The connection here is through the circle of life – in this earth plane.

 

For example, with Moon in Taurus you might  go to classes in yoga, undertake communal gardening, or even practice Zen Buddhism. The more you get in touch with your shared physical world, the more you’ll feel in touch with the lunar version of the divine.

Mercury With Mercury, spirituality is about discovery, solving problems, and making connections.  This doesn’t have much place in Piscean religions like Christianity because to question too much is considered to destroy faith. But as the great astronomical shift from the Age or Pisces into the Age of Aquarius progresses, Mercury can be expected to again take centre stage. For the power of ‘comprehension’ was worshipped as a god by the ancients– through the development of language and the discovery of how to harness ‘tools’ like the wheel.

 

For example, with Mercury in Gemini you might take up blogging – not just the kind where you shoot off the first thing that comes to mind, but that which takes research and serious consideration.

Venus The key to Venusian spirituality is not only that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but also it can be found everywhere. In this regard, beauty is not just pretty or cute or nice – but that which literally brings tears to your eyes. Real beauty (once a key component of the ‘sublime’) by the very nature of the experience takes you ‘out of yourself’. Take your cue from the Renaissance whence art was considered not only the most natural expression of spiritual feeling but also the containment of the quintessence of reality.

 

For example, with Venus in Libra, you might take a course in art history or even learn to paint and draw. If it’s beautiful to you, then it carries some aspect of the divine for you and your job is to appreciate that for what it is.

Mars Most are familiar with the image of an angry god – just have a look at the Bible’s Old Testament. But Martian spirituality can also manifest in heroic undertakings like ‘fight’ for what is ‘right’. The trick here is to make sure you’ve really got a grip on whatever it is that for which you’re fighting = with Mars, it easy to get lost with  ‘might’ makes ‘right’.  Important civilizing qualities like tolerance and understanding are not Martian things.

 

For example, with Mars in Aries you might volunteer to work in a rape crisis call centre or train to work as part of an ambulance or other rescue team– anything what will get you into touch with the many manifestations of violence and aggression will help you to understand that the divine truly has many face.

Jupiter Astrological Jupiter can function as your personal connection to the ‘divine plan’ – however it is that you perceive it.The idea is to plug into the ‘global context’ – to become connected with that which is truly outside yourself. When you find meaning in the greater patterns of the world, you’ve found the path to your own spiritual growth.

 

For example, with Jupiter in Sagittarius, you might take up the study of comparative religion – with the expectation that learning about the many manifestations of ‘Divine’ across time and cultures might will help you to get a grip on what’s right for you.

Saturn Saturn is oft associated with the teachings of traditional religions because it is so keen on ‘following rules’. But don’t forget that Saturn can also focus its quest for spirituality through other types of laws like those of science or society.

 

For example, with Saturn in Capricorn, you might  become involved with your local church. Not just in a superficial way like as an usher, but perhaps as a layman or Sunday School teacher.  Similarly, if you don’t already have a career in law, you might want to become a magistrate or justice of the peace. You’re looking for anything that takes you out of your ordinary sphere of influence while still retaining structure.

Uranus Uranus imparts the need to get a glimpse of what lies beyond the veil (i.e. the tarot  High Priestess).  The mystery lies in how all the parts fit together – the here and the now and the above and beyond – there’s a connection for certain – and it’s the job of Uranus to find it. Unlike with Saturn, Uranus can never do this through organised religion. Structure and form are merely bonds for Uranus to break – it its urge to greater and more powerful revelations.

No example is given here because the energy of Uranus is considered too strong and dangerous to be channelled individually.  If you have Aquarius rising, look to Saturn as the traditional ruler.

 

Neptune

 

Neptune searches for unity through ‘meltdown’ and dissolution of the ego/self. Christianity is perfect for Neptunian seekers – especially the mystical side of the tradition.

 

No example is given here because the energy of Neptune is considered too strong and dangerous to be channelled individually.  If you have Pisces rising, look to Jupiter as the traditional ruler.

Pluto Pluto represents the face of spirituality bound up with evolutionary processes – this is the ultimate of the survival of the fittest.  Read the work of Teilhard de Chardon – who not only was a Jesuit priest, but also a first class philosopher and palaeontologist.

 

Again, no example is given because the energy of Pluto is too strong and dangerous to be channelled individually.  If you have Scorpio rising, look to Mars as the traditional ruler.

 

Cosmology and Divination

And all you wanted was a good ghost story…

imagesMy new novel will be ‘postmodern Gothic’.

Thus I must understand the nature of the beast.

Terror has been central to Gothic literature since it first emerged in the 18th century.  Although the goal of Gothic remains unchanged – to  give voice to societal fears and desires – the goal posts have shifted.

Instead of fearing loss of meaning as did our forefathers, post-moderns fear loss of connection with self and reality. Makes perfect sense in today’s world where entertainment, information, and communication technologies provide experiences more intense – and gratifying – than RL.

In the old days, terror was generated through encounters with various aspects of the supernatural with emphasis on the duality between good and evil. This was achieved through elements of the ‘sublime’  –  that quality in nature which inspires awe, reverence, and other high emotion (OED, noun. 1. b). Hence the emphasis on turbulent landscapes, sinister forests and darkening skies.

Postmodern gothic also centres on the sublime – but no longer is the emphasis on the representable characteristics of nature such as landscapes, forests and skies, but on that which we can conceive- but cannot represent.

Strange enough, herein lies the connection between the 18th century preoccupation with meaninglessness and the 21st century preoccupation with loss of connection with self and reality; regardless whether represented or not, the sublime bridges the boundaries between the visible and invisible.

We establish boundaries through cosmologies or systems of thought through which to order our world. The sublime requires a certain type of cosmology – a psychologically spatial orientation of that which is ‘me’ and that which is ‘other than me’. It is through the shift between the microcosm and macrocosm and back again that we enlarge our perspective and transcend the boundaries of our cosmology.

The unthinkable happens.

 Thought is paralysed.

 Through circumscribing the Idea by image, the Idea is negated.

We comprehend that which lies beyond the borders of our cosmology as ineffable – or perhaps even as God?

In The Idea of the Holy, Rudolph Otto reminds us that fear, shock, and panic are all reactions attributed to experiencing traditional gods like that worshipped in Christianity – attributes like ‘goodness’ and ‘benevolence’ being idealist after-the-fact add-ons.

But according the psychologist James Hillman (An Essay on Pan), more primitive gods – like the great god Pan – seize us not in words but in immediate psychic shock. According to Hillman, in order to grasp Pan as nature we must first be grasped by nature.

So where does this leave us with the postmodern Gothic?

Full circle to 18th century concepts of Gothic and the sublime as an aspect of nature – but – according to my new heroine, Harriet, this time around the stakes are much higher.

Harriet's new home in SN_001

Book reviews

Literary Criticism / passage from Winterson’s ‘The Passion’ – how did I do?

The following is an extract from Jeanette Winterson’s novel, The Passion.

After this, is my literary critique (close reading) of the passage.  It was written for a course.

How did I do?

…………………………

The surface of the canal had the look of polished jet.  I took off my boots slowly, pulling the laces loose and easing them free.  Enfolded between each toe were my own moons.  Pale and opaque.  Unused.  I had often played with them but I never thought they might be real.  My mother wouldn’t even tell me if the rumours were real and I have no boating cousins.  My brothers are gone away.

Could I walk on that water?

Could I?

I faltered at the slippery steps leading into the dark.  It was November, after all.  I might die if I fell in.  I tried balancing my foot on the surface and it dropped beneath into the cold nothingness.

Could a woman love a woman for more than a night?

I stepped out and in the morning they say a beggar was running round the Rialto talking about a young man who’d walked across the canal like it was solid.

I’m telling you stories.  Trust me.

 

When we met again I had borrowed an officer’s uniform.  Or more precisely, stolen it.

This is what happened.

At the Casino, well after midnight, a solider had approached me and suggested an unusual wager.  If I could beat him at billiards he would make me a present of his purse.  He held it up before me.  It was round and nicely padded and there must be some of my father’s blood in me because I have never been able to resist a purse.

And if I lost?  I was to make him a present of my purse.  There was no mistaking his meaning. 

We played, cheered on by a dozen bored gamblers and, to my surprise, the solider played well.  After a few hours at the Casino nobody plays anything well.

I lost.

We went to his room and he was a man who like his women face down, arms outstretched like the crucified Christ.  He was able and easy and soon fell asleep.   He was also about my height.  I left him his shirt and boots and took the rest.

 

She greeted me like an old friend and asked me straight away about the uniform.

‘You’re not a solider.’

‘It’s fancy dress.’

I began to feel like Sarpi, that Venetian priest and diplomat, who said he never told a lie but didn’t tell the truth to everyone.  Many times that evening as we ate and drank and played dice I prepared to explain.  But my tongue thickened and my heart arose up in self-defence.

 

……………………………………………………………………………………..

 

This engaging passage is from Winterson’s postmodern, metafictional, magical realism novel, The Passion. [1]  In it, our heroine (Villanelle)[2] uses her romance with the married ‘Queen of Spades’ to investigate the discourse of (lesbian) passion through the motif of games of chance.[3]  That the reference to a deck of playing cards is the only clue to the identity of the object of Villanelle’s passion is significant.  In ancient myths, to know one’s name was to hold power over her.

Names are power.

Words are power.

Who controls this power?

Not you.

Not Villanelle.

Not me.

According to Christopher Butler, the most important postmodern ethical concern is the relationship between discourse and power (Postmodernism – A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002, p.44).  Through the discourse of power we are normalised – made ‘uniform’ – by inviolable truths thrust at us by advertisers, and political and religious leaders.  (Butler, 50). By pushing back at the boundaries between ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’, Winterson asks us to challenge the discourse of power.   To do this, we must suspend our most cherished beliefs and what better way to do that than through ‘fiction?’

According to the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, magical realism is a kind of modern fiction in which ’fabulous and fantastical events are included in a narrative that otherwise maintains the reliable tone of objective realistic report.’ Magical realism urges the reader to set aside her usual assumptions and see her world through new eyes.  Magical realism turns away from science and empiricism and returns to folklore and mysticism in order to undermine the establishment’s established ‘truth’.  Only in this way can we hope to explore different ‘truths’ about our world and how we live in it.

 

‘Could a woman love a woman for more than a night?’

 

According to the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, metafiction is a ‘fiction about fiction’, which ‘openly comments on its own fictional status.’  The technique is purposefully jarring so as to refocus the reader’s attention from the story to the process of storytelling.  The technique, especially in conjunction with the first person narrative, is often used for self-reflection.  First person narrative always raises issues as to narrator reliability.  In the same way that we listen to a friend relating a story, we are aware that it is filtered through her perceptions and prejudices.

This is wholly appropriate for our friend, Villanelle.  For even as she searches for meaning, she reminds us that – in the end, it might all be fiction.

I’m telling you stories.  Trust me.’

As friends, we do trust her.  Equally, forewarned is forearmed.  Why the exhortation if all were as it would seem to be?  The heightened tension forces us, as Winterson doubtless desires, to pay even closer attention to the text.

 

‘Could a woman love a woman for more than a night?’

For readers to creatively address this question, Winterson must craft an atmosphere in which such things appear possible.  This she does par excellence.  Through imagery, we slip into the soft, slow, dreamy world of nighttime where, from personal experience, we know the borderlands of reality are blurred.

In the first paragraph, we discover that the surface of the ‘canal’ has the look of ‘polished jet’; we begin to relax with the onomatopoeia – polished – the ‘shhh’ of our mother encouraging us to stop fussing and fall asleep.   We sink further into the reverie as Villanelle takes her boots off ‘slowly’, pulls the laces ‘loose’, and eases them ‘free’.  We are invited to ‘play’ with her as she examines her own ‘moons’ (webbed feet) – ‘pale and opaque’ – ‘moons’ that even she is not certain are ‘real’.  The invoked lunar world is akin to the unconscious – a fascinating – yet dangerous place – in which intuition and feeling take precedence over rationality and thought.  Here, anything can happen.  Here, things really do go bump in the dark.

“Could I walk on that water?”  With this example of intertextuality, we are launched into the metaphysical, miraculous world of faith.  With this example of intertextuality, our spiritual selves are challenged to rise above the negativity of the material world to be fully realised in the bosom of God. By referencing the Bible (Matthew 14:22-33), Winterson cleverly triggers brand awareness.  God is a powerful spin-doctor.

Names are power.

Words are power.

Who controls this power?

Not you.

Not Villanelle.

Not me.

The powerful truth is that, without faith, there is no redemption.  Be not afraid.  Yet doubt not, we are not safe.  Without faith, we could still ‘falter’ at the ‘slippery steps leading into the dark’ and ‘die’ in the ‘cold nothingness’.  But if like Villanelle, we have faith to ‘step out’ of our normalised selves, we too, might walk ‘across the canal like it was solid.’  And this canal is not just any canal, but one at the Rialto in Venice.  It is entirely in keeping with the metaficitional technique for our story to be set in such a carnivalesque atmosphere.  It is entirely in keeping with magical realism to utilise hybridity.  By introducing a ‘real’ place into the magical (fictional) world – we are yet again reminded that there might be multiple planes of reality.

 

‘Could a woman love a woman for more than a night?’

 

In the next paragraph, Winterson introduces another dimension of the discourse of (lesbian) passion – gender politics.  Here, we find yet another metafictional reminder that as readers, we stand between the narrator and the story she relates.  ‘This is what happened.’ Do we believe?  Should we believe?  After all, if Villanelle were not trustworthy, then why would she take us into her confidence and explain that actually, she had not ‘borrowed’ the soldier’s uniform, but ‘stolen’ it?   Yet it is ‘well after midnight’ at the ‘Casino’.  Here, anything can happen.  Here, things really do go bump in the dark.

In this sequence, Winterson uses variations of the word ‘play’ three times in quick succession.  Repetition hammers home her theme that to achieve insight, we must enter into the spirit of play.  Such an invocation is a common feature in postmodern fiction.   Are we, as readers, willing to take a chance and ‘play’?  After all, it is an ‘unusual’ wager.

Or is it?  If we (women) win, we get a man’s ‘nicely padded purse’ (money and all that it offers).  If we lose, we forfeit our ‘purse’ – our female sexuality – our passion – our selves.  With this example of metonymy, we are confronted with the quid-pro-quo aspect of gender politics.  Oddly, although this association might be unpleasant, it makes sense if we take the time to consider it.  After all, even though most of us would not consider ourselves prostitutes, we realise that there is some element of bargain in our own gender politics.

Could the price of ‘playing’ ever be too high?

‘I lost.’

‘Face down’ and ‘arms outstretched’ – Villanelle is used by the solider ‘like the crucified Christ.’ Such imagery reminds us of the price both men and women pay for redemption from the ‘original sin’ (reputably) committed by a woman.  However, if we (women) are clever, we still might turn this around.  Villanelle does. Because the ‘officer’ (who is no gentlemen) was ‘about (her) height’, our heroine is able to steal his ‘uniform’ and, in effect, change places with him.

Donning uniforms make us ‘uniform’, normalised.  I am told that English schoolchildren wear uniforms for just this purpose.  Further, uniforms endow us, for better or worse, with the stereotyped qualities of those who usually wear them.  We’re in the army now.  Soldiers wear ‘uniforms’.  Soldiers are men.  In the ‘uniform’ world, women love men not women.

 

‘Could a woman love a woman for more than a night?’

 

When her ladylove suggests that despite her uniform, Villanelle is not a ‘soldier’, she replies that ‘it’s fancy dress’.  This conjures images of a masked ball, during which we have an opportunity to dress up and play at being something other than ourselves.  Being other than ourselves allows for self-reflection.  First person narrative always raises issues as to narrator reliability.  In the same way that we listen to ourselves relating a story, we are aware our stories are filtered through our perceptions and prejudices.  This is wholly appropriate for us.  For even as we search for meaning, we remind ourselves that – in the end, it might all be fiction.

‘I began to feel like Sarpi,’ says Villanelle.  ‘That Venetian priest and diplomat, who said he never told a lie but didn’t tell the truth to everyone.’  With this example of hybridity, we are yanked back from the brink.  Google Sarpi.  He is not fiction.  Villanelle’s statement is also a paradox.  Oddly, it makes sense if we take the time to consider it.  After all, even though most of us would not consider ourselves liars, we realize that we do not always tell the truth.

Many times during the evening of eating, drinking, and playing ‘dice’, Villanelle is ‘prepared to explain’ but her ‘tongue thickened’ and her ‘heart rose up in self-defence.’  Who among us have not had a similar response when faced with the possibility of losing that for which we have a passion?  Might we be more like Villanelle than we’d like to believe and if we are, where does that leave us in regards to whom we’ve believed ourselves to be?

‘Could a woman love a woman for more than one night?’

 

Winterson’s emphasis on play as well as her playful writing style seems to suggest that not only will we will never have an answer, but also we ought not to care.  As with all postmodern works, the question posed by the author is never the same as that answered by the reader.  Each of us has her own reality and – as the saying goes – fact is stranger than fiction.

Names are power.

Words are power.

Who controls this power?

Not you.

Not Villanelle.

Not me.

‘I’m telling you stories.  Trust me.’

­­­­­­­­­


[1] Winterson has chosen to write this novel in the Romantic Tradition that, according to the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, relates ‘improbable adventures of idealized characters in some remote or enchanted setting’. Her choice supports the purpose of postmodern literature, which means to examine the impact of words on our lives. According to Peter Otto (“Literary Theory,” An Oxford Companion to the Romantic Age – British Culture 1776-1832, ed. Ian McCalman, Oxford University Press (1999), pp. 378-385), romance is intended to focus a reader’s ‘response to objects’ in such a way as to allow him to better ‘examine (his) passion.’  This is precisely the effect Winterson intends to achieve.

[2] In my chosen portion of text, Villanelle’s name is never disclosed.  However it is interesting to note that the poetic form, villanelle, is often used to express passion. The sledgehammer effect produced the two rhyming lines (aba) is potent and obsessive. Although Winterson does not utilize the villanelle form in my selected passage, her style is similarly repetitive and obsessive and I suspect that the name chosen for her heroine is no coincidence.

[3] While this section of the novel deals with lesbian – non-uniform – passion, other sections deal with other manifestations of passion.

Religion

On the Passing of an Elderly neighbour

Today, on a brisk, sunny day in the bowels of winter, I discovered that my neighbour, a frail and fiercely proud elderly lady, had died.

I learned of this sad event when, while on my way to the grocery store, I saw a shiny black hearse surrounded by small crowd of  well-wishers outside her door.

I didn’t know her name; we’d never been formally introduced.  But over the last few years, during the good weather, we’d enjoyed some friendly conversations about our mutual interest, Siamese cats.  I have three of them, you see, and in her younger days she’d bred them. Giving an affectionate pet to my ‘boys’ had always made her smile.

After I’d returned from my shopping (and the hearse and well-wishers had moved on), I stopped for a moment outside her door.  As I bowed my head and whispered a prayer for her safe passing, a chorus of circling seagulls broke into glorious song.

I can’t say whether that was a symbol or a sign or – really – whether it was anything at all.

But I can say that it did make me feel that somehow, all was well.

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