Friday, December 11, 2009
I have related in my book Jungian Symbolism in Astrology and elsewhere how I came to be converted from viewing astrology as “superstitious twaddle for nincompoops” to spending the next sixty-five years of my life studying it, teaching it to Jungian analysts, lecturing worldwide, and writing about it in my books! So I will concentrate on it as a majestic topic uniting the visible cosmos with its invisible meaning. Astrology transcends people’s individual charts. It is at least 5000 yrs old and has evolved through the collective unconscious and sheds wisdom through each of those Ages right up to the Age of Pisces and the coming “New Age” of Aquarius. If you are sick of hearing about the New Age, relax, we have 2000 years of it to come!
So my definition is Astrology is a symbolic language of archetypal processes. The astrological horoscope or natal chart is a description of the way an individual is likely to process experience. In other words, no two people are exactly alike. Even born at the same moment, one will go to the drugstore while the other takes a nap. As Heraclitus put it, “With our eyes open we share the same world, but when we close our eyes, each of us enters a separate world,” Jung warns of predicting because many complexes can be dissolved through consciousness; otherwise we have to live them out as fate! Three factors are requisite: latitude, longitude, and exact time of birth plus the gender of the person.
Up until the Age of Reason, in the seventeenth century, astrology was what united science and religion. For centuries Christian cathedrals and early Jewish temples had zodiacs on their floors, and the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 disciples each were allotted to a sign of the zodiac, but when the split occurred with Descartes and others, religion lost its proof and science lost its sense of the sacred. Now, in the last hundred years, thanks to theoretical physics, Jung and many others, we are beginning to see the reunion of the two taking place on a new level.
We do not reject Shakespeare because of comic books, though both share the same words and even some of the archetypal characters. Unlike many other mantic or psychic devices, such as tea leaves, crystal balls, etc., astrology is soundly based on the visible planets orbiting a visible Sun whose positions are measured mathematically through time. But I confess I get a symbolic kick out of looking in an almanac and seeing the Sun’s glyph depicted as a circle with a dot in the middle and finding the same glyph for gold in metallurgy! The same symbolic implication is the wick in a candle and the individual Self that Jung describes as the center of our own unconscious psyche’s mandala. And each Self holds the Same (!) Flame of Spirit’s Life, Light, and Love that I call our Divine Guest to avoid the differing names given it in different cultures.
I find all these matters to make sense, to be symbolically obvious. God geometrizes indeed.
Most of humanity these days is too preoccupied with enormous social and environmental problems to remember and appreciate that our solar system is still running on time. The Sun appears to rise daily, the Moon orbits the Earth every month, and the seasons come and go every year. The Point of the Vernal Equinox precesses (not processes) through the 12 visible sidereal constellations at the rate of 1 degree every 72 years. This message of cosmic order should be a source of comfort. (The word kosmos comes from the Greek and actually means ‘beauty,’ as in cosmetics.)
As I am writing this in December, the whole idiotic argument about whether schools, for constitutional reasons, should abstain from religious or even secular displays and music celebrating the season! What most people don’t realize is that the entire basis for celebration is astronomical – the Winter Solstice – when the Sun appears to suffer the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and yet begins to return the Light anew. Hence all the Light symbolism! December 21 marks the entry of the Sun into the sign of Capricorn, ruled by Saturn. Pagans for millennia have naturally welcomed this event, and the Romans literally called it Saturnalia and whooped it up, big time. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, it was easiest to arbitrarily supplant this with Christmas, which symbolically equates the birth of Jesus Christ as the coming of the “Light of the World.” The actual date, even year, of his birth still is a mystery. One thing only is certain – the astronomical event of the Winter Solstice, and the rejoicing of all of us that the days will be getting longer and spring will come again.
When my children went to school, they sang all the carols, Christian, Jewish, and secular, and celebrated Santa Claus, who as the disguised archetypal Jupiter, the beneficent opposite to Saturn, ho-ho’s his way, bestowing gifts and good cheer. If you don’t believe me, look at the actual planetary glyphs or symbols. They are the same, only reversed! They balance each other’s processes of contraction/expansion.
Saturn, who is depicted as an old man with a long white beard, rules the material world and matter. Symbolically, it takes nine months for a new life (Aries) to manifest in a body. Capricorn starts the tenth sign. Saturn is also the Grim Reaper or death, proving our body is temporary, and, wouldn’t you know, Saturn’s Greek name is Kronos, which rules chronological Time! Saturn’s process is contraction.
Jupiter, rules Sagittarius, and the processes of expansion, fecundity, religion, optimism, and joy. These archetypes manifest themselves in literature in characters such as Scrooge and Falstaff, and, by now you should know which is which!
The Chinese advised the artist: When you think of expansion, use contraction and your work will have good form. When you think of contraction, use expansion and your work will have the spirit of effortless ease.
To close, a friend of mine decried the loss of these archetypes in our daily lives, and I had to laugh – each day of the week is named for a planet with a god’s name:
Sun-day, Fr. dimanche, Lord’s Day;
Mon-day, Moon’s day, It. lune-di;
Tues-day, Norse for Mars or Fr. mar-di;
Wednes-day, Norse, Wotan’s Day or Mercury, mercredi, Fr. (the German Mittwoch or midweek, is Mercury’s function as both/and);
Thurs-day, Norse for Thor or Jupiter, as in It. giovedi, Jove’s day;
Fri-day, Norse goddess Freya, or Venus, as in Fr. vendredi;
and finally Satur-day!
Writing this on Mercury’s Day. I could mention that the ancients also had planetary hours, starting with the Sun’s rise. Years ago I made myself, for fun, a bracelet with colored beads: gold, silver, red, white, blue, green, black, so I could watch the rotation. I know, I was eccentric, but that is Uranian, the higher octave of Mercury, and I have Uranus rising in Pisces in my First House and Aquarius on my Ascendant. Uranus, now rules Aquarius, and Aquarius rules astrology. Figures! Now I have hunger rising and will stop for lunch!
Posted by IonaDove