Mars in Libra – Might Debate & Indecision Give You a New Lease on Life?

Throughout August and the first half of September, Mars – planet of fast-paced action – is in Libra.

Mars is a mover and shaker.  He doesn’t  plan ahead.  He goes after what he thinks best for him at the moment and works out the details (if at all) later.

But in Libra, Mars is forced to slow down.  Caught in a quagmire of debate and indecision, he is confronted not only his choices, but also their consequence. This is terrible news. There’s nothing Mars hates more than to sit still.  Yet how well he manages this present task may well map the course of his entire life.

Consider the story of the Trojan warrior, Paris, whom the great god Zeus once called upon to decide which of three powerful (and jealous) goddesses was most beautiful. As you might imagine, he was immediately bribed:  Hera offered him world rulership; Athena offered him military prowess; but Aphrodite offered him what any red-blooded young man would fancy most – the hand of the world’s most beautiful woman, Helen of Troy.  Unfortunately she forgot to mention Helen was already married.  The result was the Trojan War in which Paris lost his life.

It’s easy to understand why Paris chose as he did.  But perhaps if he’d been less headstrong and self-focused, he might have chosen otherwise.

In today’s society, we’re encouraged to be like Mars – to take what we want and get on with life as fast as we can.   But as we saw with Paris, in the long run this may not be the wisest approach.  There is another way.

Mars in Libra offers us the opportunity to take a step back for a moment and explore not only what we might win for ourselves but also what we might win for the good of mankind.  Think of the possibilities of what Paris might have accomplished as a sage world leader or a seasoned military man.   We will never know.  Likewise, in our  midst of our modern hustle and bustle, we’ll never know what might be accomplished by contemplation and compromise until we give them a try.

La Passione di Roma & the difference between modern and classical art

William James (often referred to as the father of modern psychology) was greatly impressed with what he believed to be the distinction between classical and modern art.

In ancient Greek art, he argued, lay the quintessence of all reality. There the artist’s idea runs through all his creation allowing it to lose any amount of detail and still smile as freely as before.  A smashed nose or broken arm could never diminish a Greek statute’s rapport.  By contrast the ‘modern’ Madonna’s missing nose destroyed her very essence.

According to James, something in modern art created a dissonance, a subjective distance that was absent in ancient art.  Both pointed – as they should – to the existence of the ineffable beyond.  But for James, the distinction lay in the artist’s consciousness of it.

Part of the reason for this must lay in the difference between the modern and ancient worldviews.  Since Descartes, Western man has struggled with the connection between objective (I perceive) and subjective (I think) realities.  By contrast, the ancients embraced a more holistic –even magical – cosmology where all of creation was caught up in a seamless harmony of ‘being’.

For example, in the Hermetic and neoplatonic traditions, telestike or statue animation played a major part in religious rituals, which aimed to align the human soul with the gods so as to achieve immortality on earth.  In such rituals, both humans and statues became ‘god-possessed’, their material form becoming a vehicle for divine life.

While such traditions are for the most part no longer practiced today, they serve to remind us of a significant element of our humanity which sadly, we have forgotten.  As the American writer Ursula Leguin puts it, we live in an age where media continually undermines our capacity for recognising what she calls ‘real myths’.  Soul-less, artificially fabricated ‘glamour’ vanishes as soon as it appears.   But no reason or cynicism can destroy the power of the timeless truths as expressed through myth.   “You look at the Blond Hero (a golden haired Ben Hur clone),” she says, “really look – and he turns into a gerbil.  But you look at Apollo and he looks back at you.”

There’s little doubt that like the Greeks, our imaginations are still gripped with a fascination for living statues.  Many fine examples of theatre traditions of mime and tableaux have now migrated off stage to become part of everyday life.

Yet do we use them, as did the ancients to achieve immortality on earth?   No.  We use them as does the Italian company Fendi in their advertisement for a perfume called La Passione di Roma,  to sell ourselves a sexier tomorrow.

If he were alive today, William James would likely be disappointed.  For he truly believed that if in modernity a balance between the material world and that of imagination could be found, it would not in the bank accounts of multinational corporations, but in the Divine.

Survey your bounty – Today is a Three of Wands Day

With the sun in Cancer (containment) and the moon in Aries (entrepreneurial spirit), today is a Three of Wands day.

On a divinatory level, the Three of Wands implies initial completion of some important project or idea.   The foundations have been laid – the first feedback is positive – there’s promise and potential – but of course – there’s more work to be done before the project is fully baked.

For the Kabbalist, today’s energy relates to the 3rd sephira, Binah, which represents the female principle of creative power from which all things are born.   While the 2nd sephira, Chokmah, represents the male principle Force, it is in Binah, that this potency gives way to Form.  It’s rather like the title of a popular 1940’s comedy film ‘And Baby Makes Three’.

As with all tarot threes, the Three of Wands suggests strength and stability.  In numerology, the number three symbolizes the holy trinity – Father, Son and Holy Ghost – birth, life, and death – past, present, and future.

Yet just as we stand surveying our bounty on this solid ground, in our hearts we know all too well that it will change and grow – for everything on this earth is born to die.

So on a Three of Wands day, take time to honour that which your determined efforts have wrought.  But don’t take too much time – for now is not the time for procrastination.

With your shirtsleeves rolled up you will soon need to recommence your toils with renewed optimism if that is  – you wish to fully realise your ambitions.

Mars in Virgo – a time to be whole

For most of June and July, the planet Mars (action) is in the zodiac sign of Virgo (wholeness through service) – making this a time to work and play with purpose. Not just any old purpose, mind you, for the challenge of Virgo is to be of service not to oneself, but to the whole of mankind.

We’ve all seen the self-centred side of Virgo – the prissy schoolmistress and the nagging, know-it-all boss.   Instead, what we’re aiming for here is something more elevated – and if you didn’t realise Virgo had a spiritual side, look again.  Virgo represents the archetype of the Virgin, pure and intact as newly fallen snow.

You might think that here in Virgo Mars, the archetype of the warrior, has met his match.  After all warriors and virgins do seem to be an ill-fated pair.  But strangely, the two can get on tolerably well if approached in the right way.

Mars corresponds to the fifth major arcana tarot card, The Chariot, which depicts a crowned charioteer keeping tight reign on duality – symbolised by one white horse and one black horse pulling each, in the opposite direction.

With all tarot five there always be division and strife – it is the lot of the warrior to conquer and divide.   For certain, this is the nature of Mars.   For by definition when we choose one course of action over another, we leave the road not taken behind – or do we….?

Contrary to this Western concept of reality, Eastern philosophies teach that duality is a mirage, an uncomfortable illusion.  According to these traditions,  there is no right and wrong or black and white – the world is a unity, with each man and woman representing a single drop of water in the universal pond.

In Virgo, we have the unique opportunity to experience this unity where black melts into white and back again and to make something of it.*  Yet as suggested above, this  certainly will not be achieved if we work for ourselves alone, for such self- focus is the very foundation of duality.

Instead, to get the best from Mars in Virgo focus your efforts to benefit others and in doing so stop yourself for a moment to glimpse of the forest for the trees.

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* We can also experience this unity in Pisces – but there find it much harder to to make practical use of the experience.

It’s a Four of Cups Day – Beware too much of a good thing

With the sun in Cancer (feelings) and the moon in Pisces (divine discontent), today and tomorrow are Four of Cups days.

On a divinatory level, a Four of Cups day signals a time of dissatisfaction, boredom, and perhaps even depression.  This can play out in any area of our lives, but no matter where, what, or how, we are bound to end up feeling cheated and dismayed.

What’s up for grabs, however, is whether this prompts us to make positive changes in our lives (for almost certainly our angst is due to unrealistic expectations) or drown ourselves in our sorrows.

For the Kabbalist, this relates to the fourth sephira, Chesed, which represents majesty, loving-kindness, and spiritual love.  The ruler of Chesed is Jupiter (or Zeus), who in ancient mythology was the far-sighted, benevolent king of the gods.  But when we look at the stories about Jupiter, we find that no only was he associated with a cosmic consciousness we mortals could never hope to possess he was also a dirty old man.

Mythically, Jupiter’s colossal appetite for extra-marital sex (he impregnated just about everything that moved) was as legendary as was his stormy relationship with his long-suffering wife Hera, whom one gets the impression underneath it all he really did love.

Perhaps like certain modern celebrities we could say he had an addiction to sex.   In any event Jupiter‘s ‘problem’ is archetypal and can be summed up for a Four of Cups day as overindulgence – much too much of a good thing.

In the end, Jupiter did all right despite his destructive tendencies and that we can put down to his enormous reservoir of hope and good faith.   Jupiter understood the profound difference between pleasure and happiness and was able to rise above himself time and time again – so as to refocus his energy from scattered sensuality into more prosperous, long-lasting pursuits.

The Summer Solstice and the Portal of Mortals

“Today is the summer solstice – the longest day of the year.   From here we start the long, slow slog to darkness, which culminates at the winter solstice when the sun does its annual ‘about face’ to again, favour us with its warming rays.

As markers of our seasons, the solstices have long been the subject of magic and myth.  Even in our scientifically oriented times – if approached with an enquiring spirit, these ancient ideas can inform much about our relationship with the world.

In a letter to a wealthy patron, the renowned Renaissance philosopher and astrologer, Marsilio Ficino, addressed the esoteric significance of the summer solstice, which marks the sun’s entrance into the zodiac sign Cancer:

“Ancient theologians said that souls (animae) go into lower things through Cancer, the domicile of Luna.  For since by a disposition to generation they come into a region subject to generation, appropriately they were thought to make their way through the zone of Luna which favours generation.  Therefore the ancients called Cancer the gateway of mortals.”

And so according to the ancients, it’s through the portal of the summer solstice that heavenly souls incarnate into the earth plane.   Indeed, the sign of Cancer is still associated with lunar functions like mothering and nurturing the tender and young.

Kabbalistically, the moon is associated with the ninth sephira Yesod, which corresponds to the organs of reproduction.  Because of its central position in the Kabblistic Tree,  Yesod participates simultaneously in the worlds of both body and spirit thereby bridging the gap between the impersonal world of the archetypes and our most intimate selves.

But because Yesod is also associated with the concept of Maya or illusion, it is a place where we can easily go astray.  Maya literally means ‘that which is not’.  For example, at twilight is it not easy to mistake a rope for a snake and thereby summon inappropriate and unnecessary fears?

For this reason perhaps the most important lesson to learn at the summer solstice is that not everything is as it seems.   At this sacred time , we can all too well see that the light force is at its strongest.  Yet how many of us take time to comtemplate that within this moment already lies the seed of solar decay.

So today, take time to honour not only the sun’s zenith, but  the entirety of its cycle.  In doing so, you make a conscious step toward making most of your incarnation through the portal of mortals which likewise, has both a beginning and an end.

Today is a Two of Swords Day – Prepare to see things as they really are.

With the sun in Gemini (where we learn that dichotomies like dark/light and good/bad – are but two sides of the same coin) and (2) the moon in Libra (where we often find ourselves in a stalemate) today is a Two of Swords day.

On a divinatory level, the Two of Swords suggests we’re trying to preserve the status quo at all costs.  But if only we’d look close enough, we’d see we’re clutching at straws – for the sands beneath our feet are shifting as surely as day slips into night and back again into day.

For the Kabbalist, today’s energy is grounded in the second sephira, Chokmah otherwise known as Wisdom.  Each phase of evolution commences with an unstable force proceeding through organisation to find equilibrium.  Yet once this balance is achieved, no further progress is possible without first overturning the apple cart to make room for change.

That for which we strive on a Two of Swords day is no less earth-shattering than the knowledge acquired by Adam and Eve upon taking that fateful bite from the apple.  Without knowing dark we how can we know light?  Without knowing bad how can we know good?

Try describing black without mentioning white.  It’s pretty hard, if not impossible, to do.  Yet unless you’re to live in the stalemate of the Two of Swords this is precisely what you must do.

On a Two of Swords day you have an opportunity to take off your blindfold and read the writing on the wall.  Maybe everyone but you knows your job is at risk, your partner is unfaithful, or your best friend is spreading lies.  Someplace in your life, something isn’t working and you’ve chosen not to know.

Today you can take the first step toward fixing that something so that it does.

Be forewarned – it’s a Seven of Swords Day

The good news is the sun is still in Gemini.

Slightly less good news is that the moon and Mercury are there with it.  This is the triple whammy of mutable air.[1] Thus today and tomorrow are Seven of Swords days.

On a divinatory level, the Seven of Swords heralds a time when to achieve your goals it’s necessary to use guile, tact, diplomacy, and wit rather than the more usual strong-armed approach.  In other words, attack your problem laterally rather than head-on.

In some circles, the Seven of Swords smacks of questionable ethics – i.e. ends justify means.   In part this is true, because the intellect (represented by swords) when devoid as it is of feelings, can be very cold and manipulative indeed.

Yet when the energy of Seven of Swords is applied with a playful creativity, you might just come up with a workable solution to a problem for which previously there had been none.  Indeed, this is quite likely as seven is the number of victory; it heralds just rewards for hard work.

However to succeed with this energy you must take certain precautions.

For the Kabbalist, the secret name for the Seven of Swords is “Unstable Effort”, and indeed with all tarot ‘sevens’, you will certainly stir up some conflict.  The point is that you must be prepared to deal with this openly and honestly.  To do otherwise would be to slip into the dark side of this energy – a place you do not want to be.

But nonetheless, if on a Seven of Swords day you defend your position with conviction, courage, and clarity, you can expect to succeed in your goal.

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[1] Each of the four astrological elements (earth, air, water, and fire) presents itself in the zodiac in one of three modalities or ways of being – cardinal, fixed, and mutable.

The modalities work as follows: in cardinal mode, the energy first forms and presents itself – usually with a forthright bang.  In fixed, the energy holds steady.  It’s just what the package says – fixed – stable – unmoving as a brick wall.  In mutable the energy disintegrates and disperses – getting ready for cycle to repeat again and again.

For example, the element of fire in Aries is cardinal – bright and strong with intent, energy, and little or no control (have you ever known an Aries to stand still for long?).  In Leo (fixed fire) the energy is controlled and steady like the hearth fire, which warms us and cooks our food.  In Sagittarius (mutual fire) the energy is scattered as sparks from the fire, spiralling outwards and upwards until it melts away in the great beyond.

Mercury in Gemini – a Gift from the Gods

Today Mercury, the planet of connections and communication, moves into its sign of ruler ship, Gemini, where it remains until the end of this month.

We may think we already know all there is to know about connections and communication – after all we’re post-modern aficionados with our iPods and iPhones and of course… there’s the internet.

But for the next fifteen days, the message of Mercury isn’t just about texting your friends where to meet up for drinks.  Instead it’s about how to make connections in a completely different realm – that of the Gods.

Long ago, a Zen master put it this way…. “(t)his floating world is but a phantasm.   It is momentary smoke.”

Mercury is represented by the second of major arcana tarot, The Magician, also known as the Creator and Trickster.   In this aspect, Mercury relates the creative principle behind duality – black and white – right and wrong.    Mercury’s truth lies beyond appearances – Mercury’s truth is that all elements and energies are one.  Air is fire, is earth, is rabbits, is pigeons, is water, is ONE!  All are whole and all are holy.

The implications of this are massive.  Once we come to grips with Mercury’s message, we no longer spend our days filled with the fear of tomorrow and the regrets of yesterday.  Instead, once we’ve integrated the message of Mercury, we are free to live in the creative moment of the ever present now.  Know that it’s only in the now that we can touch the timeless world of the Gods.

Such is the power of the human intellect and imagination – which for the next two weeks will be enormously fertile.  During this period we are instinctively attuned to what some may call miracles – those astounding instances where the inner workings of our psyches collide with actual events in the material world.

For the next two weeks, Mercury asks you to pay special attention to events that seem to happen out of the blue – perhaps an unexpected letter from a childhood friend or a job offer arrives from thin air.  Be rest assured there’s more to these coincidences than meets the eye – never, ever take them at their face value.  Mercury requires you to do whatever is needed to puzzle through them; this could take some time.  But be rest assured that something of great value rests within them; make whatever effort is required to find it.

An old alchemical maxim teaches: “(w)hat the soul imagines happens only in the mind, but what God imagines happens in reality.”

With Mercury in Gemini, the hidden truth behind the “momentary smoke” of our Zen master erupts into consciousness – giving you a treasured glimpse into of the world of the Gods.

Today is an Ace of Wands Day

With the sun in Gemini (ideas) and the moon in Aries (action), the tarot card for today, 7 June 2010, is the Ace of Wands.

On a divinatory level, the Ace of Wands heralds a rush of creative energy not yet formulated into a specific goal or plan.  Instead, we feel a restlessness and dissatisfaction with present circumstances combined with the strong intuition that anything and everything is possible.

That’s exactly the problem.

For the Kabbalist, today’s energy is the equivalent of Kether (also known as Keter), where God’s self-creating aspect first enters the Tree of Life.  At this point,  by it’s very nature the creative force has no form.

It’s only with the next stage and the next and the next after that, that anything will ever come of that which inspires us today.

Yet with the energy so strong, there’s a temptation to rush out, willy nilly, to conquer the world leaving the ‘details’ to fall into place.

This is the danger of today.

One of the most important lessons the Kabbalah teaches us is that the world in which we live is a closed system; energy created can be transformed but it never goes away.

Therefore, we can either (1) take active, positive steps to the channel the energy of an Ace of Wands day into worldly success (be it a new project at our job or at home in the garden or maybe even the kitchen) or (2) let it turn sour and sit heavy in the pit of our psyche in the form of regret or failure.

Either way, today’s energy stays with us forever.