from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Sunday, 17 November 2013

connecting principles, symbolic systems & astrology

There are literal truths, and there are symbolic truths. From time to time, I blog about an abiding passion of mine: the symbolic system of astrology. One such post is here. I'm always hesitant to mention my interest as many people, as soon as you say that word, tune out, assuming a flaky New Age 'blaming of the stars' fatalistic attitude.

Given the exoteric aspects of that, mostly known through the tabloid press as predictive astrology where one-twelfth of the population, those who have their sun in the zodiac sign being addressed, will each have 'money problems', or each meet the 'tall dark handsome' etc, that's not surprising (though if Jonathan Cainer is still the astrologer for the Daily Mail, I do have to say that his predictive astrology is phenomenally accurate, despite that!).

But of course, as always with symbolic systems, there is an esoteric aspect to it: its serious and profound 'real' meaning. Just as the tarot, say, is from an exoteric perspective merely a fancy set of playing cards with some extra rather strange cards thrown in, or alchemy is about turning physical lead into physical gold, the same is true about astrology. (The tarot is an old and profoundly wise expression of the journey of individuation, or the journey to consciousness; alchemy was/is actually about transmuting all that is gross and incomplete in the human psyche into a sublime and subtle expression of an integrated consciousness.)

In the 80s I did a course in, and have continued to study, Astrological Psychology. This is based on the Hüber system, itself an offshoot of Jungian thinking. As an archetypal way of reading the world, alongside other similar approaches this informs all that I do, though I rarely proclaim that publically.

I responded to my friend Miriam who commented and asked questions after my blog about Mercury  (; her questions were posted under a succeeding blog, 12 November. One question was in relation to whether everyone would be experiencing, consciously or otherwise, the communication and travel hitches that Mercury apparently travelling retrograde through the heavens suggests). I thought I might reproduce my response here.

There's a book to write on all this, and at the heart of it is our relationship to the planets – whether we view them as causative or acausal principles (the two may be closer than initially seems; it may just be that we can't see the bigger picture of possible causative principles, even though we know we live in an utterly interconnected universe – whether we look at that through the lens of biological ecosystems, quantum physics or mysticism).

This is all difficult to address in many ways, of course, because it raises such big philosophical/ontological/cosmological issues that I can't possibly start to address here.

My own view, as briefly as I can make it and as to some extent I've explored here before, is that we live in a participatory universe, in a vast web. All aspects of the web will in some ways mirror every dynamic and cycle, and we can look at some parts as being the 'natural order writ large' – where we can 'read' movements and tendencies more easily when they are in some way at one remove from us. All symbolic systems offer this insight – eg tarot, myths and archetypes, chakras, kabbalah, etc.

In this view, the planets, seen as constellations of archetypal (and mythic) energies since – well, kind of forever, since the origins of storymaking, perhaps – in the human consciousness mirror aspects of the human psyche which of course is itself a mirror of larger wider more-than-human qualities. (There are many books on why which planet has ascribed to it which energy-dynamic.)

For now, let's say that the principles behind the 'reading of the stars' – again in my own view, not universally seen like this – are to do with a conjunction of archetypes with sacred geometry (the principles of which are found frequently in eg music, in the intervals between notes, etc. There's a very important co-incidence/connection/correspondence between music, the planets/the spheres; and it has a correspondence in our psyche).

The basic idea is that each moment has its own quality, speaking cosmologically; and therefore each event, situation, birth, death etc in time partakes of the greater universal qualities of that moment. We can look to the planets as archetypes, and their movement through the signs and houses of the map of the heavens at the moment we want to examine to determine what the cosmic 'climate' would have been, or is.

So, according to this model, not only does each planet in itself exhibit a very distinct pattern of movement and quality of energy, but it will also find resonance in our psyche ('as above so below'). So too, depending on the geometric relationship between moving planets, the earth, and the qualities in us that, according to our natal charts (assuming we too partake of a particular celestial/cosmic climate pertaining at the moment of our birth), are particularly attuned to certain planets and degrees of aspect, we will tend towards certain relationships with the cosmic climate.

This interconnected view of the universe was prevalent still, at least to some extent, during the European Renaissance, but we largely lost it at the Enlightenment (though it was still preserved in the music of eg Bach, and its sacred intervals – which is why it's so beautifully moving still; and also in Georgian architecture, as of course in church architecture always) and during the scientific revolution.

If we go back to my starting premise, that all is connected and everything is a mirror, should we so wish to see that, it brings me to: according to this theory, there are 'comfortable' harmonious aspects, which are the trines and sextiles – relationships between planets, and between houses, signs, and planetary aspects on the individual horoscope – where even traditionally 'tricky' movements are reasonably easy to relate to, but a trine relationship, like any recognised aspect astrologically, nonetheless demonstrates an intenser-than-usual (if by 'usual' we mean what is called in astrology 'unaspected' ie, not in significant mathematical connection) relationship.

Then there are aspects that traditionally are 'hard': disharmonious, conflict-ridden; but where we learn.

So, back to Miriam's question: the movement of Mercury through the heavens will mirror something that we may all be experiencing, whether or not we are conscious of it. Since it's been moving through Scorpio, those with Scorpio suns (or indeed other planets in their natal chart in Scorpio) will have been feeling it most keenly, perhaps; as will those with the sun or other planets in strong aspect to Scorpio, or 'in square' to Mercury – a relationship of 90 degrees, very uncomfortable, or in opposition to Scorpio/Mercury– say in Taurus. Those with planets in trine, in water signs – Cancer, Pisces – will be aware of the tug but it might not be as challenging, or perhaps it is simply more easily compensated for (because trines symbolise harmonious relationships).

But this is very simplistic, and it's impossible to say to what extent which planet/aspect will (appear to) have an impact on us and in what area of our life, without a full and detailed horoscope as a birth chart drawn up.

That's all I want to say that the moment.

There are many sites you can visit should you wish to follow up on all this; a favourite of mine because I resonate with his approach is Joe Landwehr's

Liz Greene is a Jungian analyst who, like me, trained in Transpersonal Counselling and has gone on to do more, probably, for the field of psychological astrology than anyone:

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