Today and Tomorrow are Six of Cups Days

With the sun in Leo (play and self-image) and the moon in Scorpio (catharisis and assimilation), today and tomorrow are Six of Cups days.

Kabbalistically, all the tarot sixes are asociated with Tiferet – the place of the Christ – the sacrificed god.

Because Cups signify emotions (both positive and negative),  I’m reminded of Jesus’ message – ‘suffer the little children unto me’ for ‘theirs’ is the Kingdom of Heaven’.

These are powerful words and you don’t need to be Christian to understand them.   Instead, just watch some kids at play.

Isn’t it amazing how free and easy they are?  How is it that they can be mortal enemies one minute and the next, best friends?

This child-like ability to give and take freely (without the resentments and fears which as adults, we harbor and accumulate) is what today’s and tomorrow’s energy is about.   In other words, today and tomorrow you have a unique opportunity to look back at your past and understand how you can use it as the foundation for the future that you’ve dreamed about.

But as with all the sixes – no pain, no gain.  By definition, sacrifice requires giving up something in which you have a vested interest and you’ll be surprised to discover how much you still have invested in the past (happy and sad).

If you can come to grips with this, so much the better.  So start working on it today and tomorrow!

The Unexpected Benefits of Shame

In his highly readable book, A Blissful Journey,  Geshe Kelsand Gyatos suggests that instead of being a punishment, shame  restrains us from doing that which the person that we wish (or ought to wish) ourselves 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 actions not only produce negative karma (locking you into the painful cycle of rebirth) but also lead to difficult rebirths.

But 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.

The reality of life is that we cannot always abide by an external set of rules when deciding what we should or should not do.

Yet assuming that you want to be ethical, what standard might you use?

I suggest using your own ‘sense of shame’.

Assume that you wished to use your mobile phone in a place where it was prohibited.  You might be tempted to do it anyway – especially if you were (1) in a hurry, (2) pretty sure it wouldn’t harm anyone , and (3) fairly certain you wouldn’t be caught.  If – prior to giving way to temptation – you considered how you’d feel if you were caught, you’d have your answer.

If you’d feel embarrassed or guilty, then deep down you know that you ought not do it.  This is regardless of the logical arguments you might make to the contrary.

However, if you truly wouldn’t be fussed, then you might as well give it a try.

The Dangers of Individuality – The Sabian Symbol for Today

With the Sun moving towards 24 Leo, the Sabian Symbol for today is an ‘untidy, unkempt man’.

Usually with Leonine energy, we think of proud playfulness, openhearted generosity, and confident charm.   But sometimes, it can all go wrong.

The ruler of Leo is the Sun, which can be equated with the Ego – that part of your personality that maintains the balance between impulses (‘id’) and conscience (‘superego’).   When balance is achieved, you have the unruffled self-assurance so often associated with Leo.  Actually, you’d expect nothing else.   Leo is ‘fixed fire’.  The Leonine ego must come to terms with itself by turning not to the world outside, but instead to within.

Yet after such intense soul-searching, it’s imperative to share your hard-won wisdom with your fellow man.  Most spiritual traditions emphasis this final leg of the Self’s journey as the most important.  This makes perfect sense as Leo’s balancing energy is to be found in its opposite -Aquarius -the epitome of social responsibility and the egalitarian ideal.

But when the ego fails to find balance, the result is complete self-obsession and an unattractive insensitivity to the wider world.

Today’s Sabian less is not just for Leo, but also for everyone.  Individuality is key to human happiness.  But without balance, the exact opposite is attained.  Hence we find the image of this Sabian Symbol – a negative, perverse satisfaction in the neglect of self.

The Astro-Art of Wisdom

Regardless of what the dictionary says, I believe that ‘wisdom’ requires more than knowledge and understanding.  Wisdom requires using your imagination to literally push knowledge and understanding beyond itself into the realm of experience.

This can be accomplished through looking at life through the eyes of an artist.  Artists communicate through symbols.  Artists evoke moods and emotions using pictures and words.  Artists connect us with’something’ that breathes fresh air into otherwise stale lives.

Neptune may very well represent that ‘something’.  Neptune is the astrological symbol of the deep unity with all things into which artists tap.  It’s rumoured that great sculptors connect with the imprisoned energy of a stone.  With their tools and skills, they free that energy for all to enjoy.

The artist’s tools and skills are represented by the Saturn function as that symbolises one’s ability to plan and achieve.

Thus Neptune and Saturn might well be the two most important astrological signposts toward your attainment of wisdom.   By putting Saturn and Neptune together you can make manifest something that jumpstarts your innermost Self to life.

If, like me, you have close Saturn/Neptune contacts, you can work with them through the energies they represent.  For example, I have a Mercury/Saturn/Neptune conjunction in Libra.  Libran outlets through which I might gain wisdom are relationships (all types), law (I am a lawyer), social connections, and artistic endeavours (I’m pursuing a degree in creative writing at Oxford University).

Even if you have no Saturn/Neptune contacts in your natal chart, at some point they’ll come by transit.   Prepare for this golden opportunity by learning how to best exploit what you already have.

The Wicked Witch of Amsterdam – An Astro-story of Sex & Lies

Upon asking her magic mirror who is the ‘fairest’ of them all, the Queen sees Snow White’s reflection instead of her own.

Instantly jealous, the Queen vows to destroy her rival and in the process destroys herself.

Such is the stuff of fairy tales and compulsive relationships.

Yet while all relationships are mirrors, compulsive relationships show you something very special.  Compulsive relationships show you a dangerous archetypal pattern so deeply ingrained in your psyche you’ll never see it except through someone else.

The Queen can’t deal with the insecurities stirred up by Snow White’s pretty face.   So, like most of us, she projects her anger onto the ‘other’ – in this case the girl.   Thus they become locked into an archetypal dynamic of destruction and renewal that neither can control.   Note that in the original (unsanitised) tale, the Queen was Snow White’s real mother and she intended to eat Snow White’s heart to boost her own power.

Her mother’s treachery serves as Snow White’s initiation to adulthood (the ‘father’ is noticeably absent).  When Snow White succumbs to temptation and eats the apple  (fruit of the tree of knowledge), her child ‘self’ dies.  It is only after a period of dormancy and mourning that she can move forward again.  By the end of the story (in the original version), Snow White marries a prince and, as the new queen, Snow White behaves just like her mother.  We come full circle as the new queen forces the old queen to dance herself to death wearing red-hot iron shoes.

Some years ago, I was trapped in a compulsive relationship with an older woman in Amsterdam.  She was my boss.  Her Chiron (healing) was conjunct my Mars/Venus (passion).  It likewise set off my Moon/Mars square (anger at ‘Mother’).  We had mutual Mars/Uranus (sex, sex, sex) contacts.  With her, I experienced desires I’d never before (or since) known.

I was scared.  I took the moral high ground and played Snow White to her Wicked Witch.  Constantly, she baited me with the apple (sex), which I was never allowed to taste.  Jealously, competition, and mutual admiration were the foundations of our relationship.  We had much in common, but for me, the attraction lay in what she had that I didn’t.

Finally, it dawned on me that we were acting just like my mother and me.  But this time I wasn’t a child.  With help from transiting Pluto squaring my natal Venus/Mars I made my escape to London.  I went straight from the pan into the fire.

Although my relationship with the Wicked Witch of Amsterdam had put me in touch with my long suppressed anger and thwarted ambition, another woman (my new boss) made it clear to me that I had no idea now to use it.

But that’s a story for another day.

Literary Criticism/ in practice for a test

St Kevin and the Black Bird / by Seamus Heaney (1996)

And then there was St Kevin and the blackbird.

The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside

His cell, but the cell is narrow, so

_

One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff

As a crossbeam, when a blackbird lands

And lays in it and settles down to nest.

_

Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked

Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked

Into the network of eternal life,

_

Is moved to pity: now he must hold his hand

Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks

Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown.

*

And since the whole thing’s imagined anyhow,

Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?

Self-forgetful or in agony all the time

_

From the neck on out down through his hurting forearms?

Are his fingers sleeping? Does he still feel his knees?

Or has the shut-eyed blank of underearth

_

Crept up through him? Is there distance in his head?

Alone and mirrored clear in love’s deep river,

‘To labour and not to seek reward,’ he prays,

_

A prayer his body makes entirely

For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird

And on the riverbank forgotten the river’s name.

___________________________________________

Literary Criticism

The following is offered as a draft criticism for the above poem/ as my classmates and I prepare for our upcoming U Oxford/ Creative Writing exam / comments gratefully appreciated:

Heaney’s St Kevin and the Blackbird begins with a saint kneeling – arms outstretched in his narrow cell.   One of his upturned palms is out the window.  This invites blackbird to lay in it and settle down to nest.  St Kevin feels the warm eggs and small breast of the bird and finds himself linked with the network of eternal life.  He is moved to pity because now he must remain in this position until the blackbird’s young have grown up and flown away.  This leads to an intense self-scrutiny where he questions whether he’s even imagined being himself at all.  He examines each part of his aching body and then slowly slips out of himself into the solitude of prayer.

This poem is about the tension of man as a part of the material world (nature) and his more divine self that is shared only with God.  It elaborates on the pain of incarnation and the man’s innate yearning to be at one with the divine.  In the end, it may even suggest a religious or mystical experience through which one senses one has connected with God.

The use of free verse contributes to the overall sense of the search for order and place.    That each stanza consists of three lines reinforces the notion that such order is to be found in the Trinity – traditionally the three faces of the divine.  The use of the specific name of St Kevin (as opposed to an anonymous seeker) gives an overall sense of reassurance.  We know whom we’re dealing so in the end everything will turn out fine.  The first line in the first stanza (where Kevin and the blackbird are introduced) is end-stopped.  This shapes the initial feeling that nature (of which man is a part) is all that there is.  However the next two lines– are run-on-lines giving the impression of expansion beyond that which man incarnate is able to physically touch.  The cell is ‘narrow’ (the word cell is repeated to emphasize the sense that incarnation is a prison) yet St Kevin does his best to escape.  Because he’s kneeling, we know he means to accomplish this through supplication.  Thus man’s horizons broaden when he appeals to that within him, which is divine.

One thing leads to another as the run-on-line into the 2nd stanza suggests.  St Kevin has only partially managed to set himself free.  Only one ‘turned-up’ palm is ‘out the window’.  The words ‘stiff’ and ‘crossbeam’ reinforce the feeling of man’s frustration to be in his body – separate from God.  However when the blackbird (birds are symbolic of messengers from heaven) ‘lands’ on his palm there’s some suggestion that through nature man can find his desired communion with God.    The messenger from heaven (the blackbird) finding himself comfortable in the ‘’palm’ of a man (usually we find man in the hands of God rather than the other way around), ‘lays’ and ‘settles’ to ‘nest’.  This is the beginning of something that will grow with time.  The end-stopped line at the end of this stanza also suggests that St Kevin’s yearning has found temporary rest.  All is in order when man and the heavens are at one.

The next stanza stirs things up again with the use of run-on-lines.  There’s an uncomfortable contrast struck between the feeling of ‘warm eggs’ and ‘claws’.   Now Kevin (a regular person like you and me no longer referred to as St) is ‘linked’ with the ‘network’ of ‘eternal life’.  This suggests that by his experience he’s fallen in status.  While the experience feels ‘warm’, it’s also unpleasant.  In a run-on-line into the next stanza we find indeed the experience in uncomfortable enough to have moved him to ‘pity’.  This a strange word to choose.   The cause of the ‘pity’ is that now Kevin must ‘hold his hand’ ‘like a branch’ until the baby birds have grown and flown away.  I would have thought Kevin would feel ‘anger’ instead of ‘pity’.   That he doesn’t suggests he’s already overcome some of the emotions of man and transformed them into something more (Christian-based) divine.  A end-stopped line finishing the stanza give a sense of finality.  At this point we get a sense that everything is so static that something must give soon.

After the break, come the questions. The tone has clearly changed.   A transition of some kind is in process.  Like Kevin, we struggle to make sense of where we are and where we’re headed next.   There’s very little punctuation from now through the end of the poem except for the question marks.   This adds to the feeling of searching and being lost.  Despite the lack of end-stopped lines, the sense and grammatical structure of the lines don’t really run over.   It’s abrupt.  Not continuous.  So how and where will we find our place?  Perhaps we won’t.  Perhaps everything is shutting down?  Kevin ‘imagines’ ‘being’ Kevin.  He ‘forgets’.  His fingers are ‘sleeping’.  He feels his body (his ‘hurting forearms’) yet he has thoughts of stillness (even perhaps death) – ‘shut-eyed’, ‘blank’ and ‘underearth’.

Equally however he could be moving into a trance that is often the precursor to a mystical or religious experience.   This is suggested by the words ‘distance in his head’ which could point to an out-of-body experience.   He is definitely ‘praying’ while at the same time slipping away – his body ‘entirely making the prayer (as opposed to his mind).   Also there ‘forgotten’ is repeated 3 times – suggesting that he is deep in meditation (or the religious or mystical experience) and thus has stepped away from ‘self’.  The sense of slipping away is further reinforced by ‘love’s deep river’, which is winding further and further away.  The poem concludes with Kevin having completed the journey he commenced at the beginning.   At least in one sense, he’s no longer man incarnate and separate from God.

In many ways this is a soothing poem.  Although the use of free verse and many run-on-lines suggest displacement and ‘agony’, the use of the 3-line stanza structure reassures us that order is in the end, preserved.  Thus the poem itself creates a safe space for Kevin to let go of ‘self’ and join with God.   This is skilfully accomplished through using of a heavenly messenger (a bird) coming down to Kevin while at the same time Kevin moves up to God.  The circuit is complete.

___________________________

The Hermeneutics of Divination – or why astrology works

Last evening a friend asked how astrology could work if it’s based on the incorrect notion that the sun and stars revolve around the earth.  Fair point.  However it’s not the science but the symbolism of astrology that answers that question.    Here’s how it works.

The Fourfold Interpretation of the Symbol used in modern Western astrology is based on hermeneutics – a model of meaning and interpretation developed by Christians searching for meaningful ways to read the Bible.[1]    In this regard, reading an astrological chart is akin to interpreting a ‘divine sign’, which is the  literal meaning of divination.

Psychological astrologers like myself believe this is not so much about a chart as a ‘thing’ to be interpreted, but instead about the ‘interpretational act’ itself.  As we’ve learned from CG Jung, when you choose to interpret something as a symbol you will intentionally (albeit unconsciously) force your world to conform.

The four levels of interpretation used are as follows:

  1. Literal – the letter teaches you the facts – this level presents that which is an objective truth to be observed and verified.   It is an astronomical ‘truth’ that there exists a planet named Mars that takes 686.971 days to pass through the 12 signs of the zodiac.   Likewise it is an objective truth that you have Mars in Leo in the 10th house.
  2. Allegorywhat you should believe – this level expands the literal sense by pairing observed objective truths to subjective life events.  Here the astronomical fact that you have Mars in Aries in the 10th house is interpreted to mean that ‘you should be a reforming crusader in a highly visible public career.’
  3. Trope how you should act – this level reveals the context of the interpretation and allows you to interact with it.   The term ‘trope’ comes from the Greek tropos, to turn, as in the tropic of the Sun’s turning at the Solstices.  Moved by the literal and allegorical ‘truths’ you’ve observed and interpreted, you now turn toward that ‘truth’ and take the necessary actions to implement it.  With Mars in Aries in the 10th, you literally turn your life around by taking the steps necessary to become that reforming crusader so visible to the public eye.
  4. Anagoge what to hope for – this level, signifying the symbol as something through which the turn of the trope turns, is reflected in the astrologer’s desire to predict.   Here you enter the world of the daemon, which manifests as a power from outside rather like providence or fate.  Although you may have taken all necessary actions to secure your place as a reforming crusader in the public eye, powers beyond your control may block your way.  It’s through the predictive powers of astrology that you can weigh up your options and with that ‘vision’ of the future, choose how best to proceed.

[1] Origen (fl. 3rd century) is credited with first identifying this method.  He developed a three-level interpretation of literal, moral and mystical sense of Scripture.   His mystical level was later divided into allegory and anagoge.  By the time of Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, the four levels hermeneutic had become widely accepted as the means by which Scripture was to be interpreted (although today fundamentalists have for the most part moved backwards in time to using only the literal level of interpretation).