Friday, April 24, 2009
In Part I of “Science and Religion” (CREDO LXVIII), I related that as a ten-year-old I lay out in a field looking up at the stars and declared that when I grew up I wanted to unite science and religion. Well, by now most of you know that I have been an astrologer for sixty-five years, having started out considering it, as many people do today, “superstitious twaddle for nincompoops.” I am grateful for this because I can understand the scoffers. However, when I had my chart done by Hermes, the one who introduced me the following morning to M, the epiphany was too profound. I went from the despair of thinking there was no answer to the conviction that there is an answer! What that answer is cannot be defined by the ego but only approached in the “vast certainty” intimated by the Self.
However, to share what I have come to understand calls for a new definition of astrology – what euphemistically people now term Cosmic Science, a far cry from Madame La Zonga and the popular predictions in newspapers. We don’t reject Shakespeare because you can find some of the same English words he used in the funny papers! And after years of studying Jung, I knew I was on the right track one great day when I discovered his serious interest in astrology!
Here is my definition: Astrology is really a symbolic language of archetypal processes. It functions in both the unmanifest and the manifest worlds and unites them in the Unus Mundus. As for the individual chart of a person: The chart reveals the unique way an individual is likely to process experience. It is a gift that we can become conscious of and that can help us psychologically and spiritually, or not. This is the way I have taught astrology’s usefulness at many Jungian institutes and centers. In that sense, and by virtue of my age of 86, I suppose I am considered by some to be a pioneer, but I studied with Marc Edmund Jones and read Dane Rudhyar, to say nothing of Jung, and honor all that I learned from them. Today, astrology is much more widely accepted as an adjunct to psychological analysis and a guide to spiritual growth.
Thousands of years ago, early humankind discovered the dual abstract processes of light and dark, expansion and contraction, birth and death, masculine and feminine, hot and cold, wet and dry, and so forth. They sensed that these were universal, therefore divine, and needed to be named. So they gave them the names of gods and goddesses. These names differed in different cultures and in different eras, but in all the millennia, the processes themselves have never changed! No one has ever said Mars is really Venus or Zeus is really Kronos.
Once anything is named, the next step is to personify it as an archetype with human attributes. It is then further reified by temples and rituals, and thus enters the manifest world, eventually becoming a religion yet so encrusted with material thinking that the process is virtually lost! Then the old religion is supplanted by a new “Age,” and a new cast arrives on the scene – but the archetypal processes they represent remain because you cannot kill an archetype! The worst that can happen is that one is banished and moves into a fairytale. An example is the masculinizing of the Holy Spirit (Hagia Sophia) into the Latin Spiritus Sanctus (which has a masculine ending!), thus rendering the Christian Holy Trinity all male! So feminine Wisdom took refuge in fairy tales and became the Fairy Godmother. Why is she always a helpful figure, mediating between the invisible and visible worlds and giving practical advice? Why is she called the Mother of God? The answer is that Wisdom is universally feminine in all other cultures. But the Virgin Mary is loved for her sweetness and compassion rather than her wisdom. The powerful feminine archetype, as in the goddesses Isis and Kali, was split and the negative projected onto the pagan “witch.” The root of the word witch is wisdom. Symbolically, Mary as archetype is a human goddess. But she presents a challenging model for many Catholic women who cannot be immaculate mothers in the flesh, as some have protested in writing – to say nothing of the exclusion of women from Roman Catholic priesthood. Nevertheless, I am personally deeply affected by the Virgin Mary, perhaps because my moon is in Virgo.
I will give just a single example of opposite archetypal processes, expansion (astrologically Jupiter) and contraction (astrologically Saturn), as they appear on different levels. Note that any process carried to excess can become negative, so the listed characteristics may be positive or negative.
Expansion – Yes! We can!
Psychological: + extraversion, enthusiasm, optimism, positiveness, joviality; – inflation.
Mythological: Zeus, Jupiter, Thor, Indra, Ganesh. – Bacchus?
Religious:+ Pope, St. Peter, St. Nicholas, the Baal Shem Tov, the Dalai Lama, imams, rabbis, priests, preachers who are spiritually encouraging; – fraudulent gurus of all faiths.
Secular: + Santa Claus, “emperors,” CEOs, coaches. Falstaff, Winnie-the-Pooh! Thursday! – Midas, Elmer Gantry, dictators, Madoff.
Astrological: planet Jupiter, ruler of Sagittarius, ruling + religion, teaching, and preaching, wealth, succeeding, graduating, traveling, giving, enjoying; – boasting, gluttony, greed, excess of any kind.
Scientific: heat expansion, multiplication, growth, swelling, obesity, inflation, eruptions, surplus, thunderstorms, floods, hurricanes.
Culinary: cooking, boiling, roasting, feasting, celebrating.
Contraction – No! Wait a minute!
Psychological: + introversion? logic, philosophy, rationality; – negativity, pessimism depression; caution, fear, denial.
Mythological: + Kronos, Saturn, Shiva; – Beelzebub, Satan, Mephistopheles.
Religious: + Moses, Solomon, Hammurabi, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle; – Judas, Savonarola , Inquisitors, Hitler, Stalin?
Secular: + judges, lawyers, philosophers, scientists, accountants, pathologists; – Silas Marner, Scrooge, Darth Veda, Eeyore.
Astrological: planet Saturn, ruler of Capricorn, ruling + manifestation, business, time, money, diamonds (reflect Sun most brightly), construction, frontiers, restraint, discipline, outlines, old age, grammar, philosophy, logic, law and justice, Saturday! – failure, poverty, debts, limits, imprisonment, sickness, death.
Scientific: structure, cooling, solidification, carbon, ice; geology, geography, proofs, skepticism, matter, material, weight, volume, lead, earth, snow, rock, caves, bones, foundation, limits, ends, results, accomplishment!
Culinary: + salting, cooling, setting as with Jello; – hunger, dieting, starvation.
(* This is not a description of a person born a Capricorn! Only the archetypal process as such. Capricorns are often serious as children and grow younger and more beautiful as they age.)
Here is a lovely description of the two processes in balance:
When you expand think of contraction and your work will have form. When you contract, think of expanding and your work will have the feeling of effortless ease.
– Chinese advice to any artist.
Friday, April 17, 2009
There seems to be a universal law in nature and in human affairs that extremes are self-regulated. We see it in the seasons and in the laws of opposites. A familiar symbol for this is the Yin/Yang: two curlicues, white and black, each containing a small circle of the opposite color, and all contained in the unity of a circle.
The Greek name for this phenomenon is enantiodromia – running into the opposite. You can find it in a huge pendulum that hangs, I think in a museum in Paris, which swings to and fro over sand, and is moving perpetually owing to the rotation of the earth. An example in history is the Inquisition, during which a group of fanatical monks tortured people to drive the devil out of them, thereby inviting the demonic energy, so to speak, into themselves by the backdoor!
This compensatory process now seems to be applying culturally to most of the civilized world. The emphasis during the last two hundred and fifty years, ever since the Industrial Age, has increasingly been on quantity. We call it materialism. To be successful as a person is judged by having a bigger bank account, a bigger house, car, professional rank, and so forth. The extremes come with avid collections of one kind or another, with greed and competition to have or be the “mostest” of anything, including the expectation that the United States should be the Leader of the World. This seems an unwise attitude at the moment when we are struggling in a swamp of multi-trillions of fiscal debt! We are already being challenged by other nations, which could lead eventually to armed conflict. The best model at the moment seems to be the EU, with its rotating chief, or the United Nations. These function in a circular and inclusive way avoiding opposites.
The most striking shift, which affects us all, is the catastrophic global financial collapse of the last few months. And yet that could be yielding a potentially positive future consequence, namely the enantiodromia of quantity into quality! Quantity measures materials, quality implies meaning and relationships, which cannot be measured; they can only be felt. Most of us are being asked not to run off and do more stuff, which is a way of escaping the deeper realities of life, but to take the time to get to know each other better. Perhaps the generation that has turned to drugs of different kinds has been trying to escape from a seemingly meaningless life. Now there is much reference to the “kitchen table” in the news, a place to discuss family problems but also a place where families can share food and togetherness. Curiously, our word “economy” comes from the Greek oekonomia, which meant "household management."
We can measure quality in life by happiness and gratitude, affection and kindness, and generosity toward others in loving personal service. We saw a demonstration of that briefly in the aftermath of 9/11, and certainly in the quiet heroism of men and women in floods, fires, earthquakes, and tornadoes – all four elements! Certainly, this is another proof of the intensity of opposites. But quality also depends on loving and appreciating nature and all her gifts, given so freely but now, in our ignorance, being polluted and poisoned daily by manmade plastics and toxic chemicals of all sorts. But there is hope and a solution: a conscious willingness to shift from the emphasis on quantity to one of quality.
Just yesterday, I received a letter from a 24-year-old young woman, a Smith graduate, working in a NGO program in Lawrence, Massachusetts. She writes:
I’m getting involved with the Green Sanctuary Committee and am organizing a voluntary simplicity class for May/June. It’s much more enjoyable to live intentionally – to acknowledge that I’m CHOOSING to spend this year volunteering and CHOOSING to receive the small stipend that comes along with it. And it is amazing how rich this year has been! I’ve made some new friends, shaken the dust off my spirituality, done some hard work, learned a lot about things that bring me joy that don’t cost money, and can feel good about what I am doing when I take this perspective! It is amazing how much of life is about attitude, and how contagious attitudes can be.
She is articulating so eloquently what a great number of young men and women in our country are already doing, as well as many in other parts of the world. Now a great-grandmother myself, I am limited in joining them, but it is her letter that inspires me to share these thoughts with you. That much I still can do.