If you recall, the full name of this series is MY SECRET LIFE: Tools for Transformation. I have now shared with you seven of these Tools: Death, Walking, Processing, Journal, Dreams, and Questioning Assumptions. Each of these tools has proved central in helping me not only maintain my own direction in life, but do so primarily on my own, but with “a little heep from my friends.”
The next six posts, prior to the final one, which will again focus on the Tool of Death, I share first, three posts elucidating something of the nature of the seemingly most “abstract” Tool I employ, namely Astrology; then, to balance that, I will share my ways of working with the most “concrete” Tool I employ, namely my relationship with my own Body.
Re: Astrology, please bear with me here. While we in the 21st century have trouble penetrating to the murky depths of our own shared understanding of the world, preferring instead to ride the waves in order to “stay on top of things,” these next three chapters will definitely require penetration, and if you do slow yourself down enough to move with me here, I promise rich rewards.
Chapter Eight: I
TRANSFORMING ASSUMPTIONS: From Science to Astrology
My Prejudice — and Ours
One of the assumptions I had received from the culture was the opinion that “astrology is nonsense,” “sheer (or mere) superstition.” Like most academics, I viewed astrology with contempt and disgust. Even though I had deliberately and systematically undermined my own rationality by continuously questioning my assumptions, thisassumption, that astrology was utterly ridiculous, “a realm of soothsayers and quacks,” was so powerful, so deeply embedded, that it remained immune to my investigation.
I have now been a student and practitioner of astrology for 21 years. For 18 of those years, I worked as a consultant in the field, analyzing and “reading” thousands of “charts” for others. I still lecture and teach astrological seminars on occasion, and write articles for astrological magazines. I keep one “ephemeris” (a book showing the daily positions of the planets through time) on my office desk, another next to my bed.
Astrology has become my principal tool for transformation. This complex and intricate symbolic language gifts me with an expanded world-view that is both abstract and concrete, both mystical and precise. Astrology allows me to place any particular experience within the larger structure of my life as a whole, rendering it meaningful. Astrology replaced the scientific world-view I was deconstructing within myself.
Aha! I must ask myself here, does this mean that I replaced one dogma with another? Did I repudiate one form of fundamentalism only to embrace another? If so, then whatever happened to the epistemological relativism I supposedly learned from LSD?
Like many others who encounter this field of inquiry, there is only one appropriate word to label what happened to me, and that is “conversion,” a word usually only reserved for religion. The comparison is apt. Like religion, astrology is a way of exploring and attending to the world-as-a-whole; moreover, I will attempt to show that, in common with the claims of religious traditions, astrology is a language which allows that whole to become meaningful. So yes, I did “convert” to astrology — and though the process took years, in the end it was as if I had left this planet and flown to another, where gravity and air and water and food — all were changed. In order to live there, I had to change, too.
I puzzle over this now, and want to be honest with myself. Okay, in truth, by converting from science to astrology did I simply exchange one form of fundamentalism for another?
I don’t think so, and here’s why.
One of the most fascinating characteristics of astrology, as opposed to any kind of fundamentalism that I am aware of, is that its practitioners do not assume there is one and only one correct interpretation to any astrological statement. Nor then, is there any “search for the correct interpretation,” or even assumption that one interpretation is better than another. Astrology is a symbolic language, similar to the language of dreams. Rather than being dogmatic, astrological statements are suggestive and evocative; they help us expand the way we see both inner and outer worlds.
Ever since leaving the Roman Catholic religion, I have been repelled by any system of ideas that I sense to be dogmatic or fundamentalist. Such systems seem closed, rather than open; they have a certain feel or tone to them — that of rigidity and strictness. Even when my mind might be attracted to particular ideas within such a system, my body instinctively recoils from the restricting, oppressive feeling of that system as a whole.
So I ask myself here, “Is there anything about the language of astrology that makes me feel constricted or oppressed?” And the answer is a resounding “NO!” The language of astrology is extraordinarily spacious; its insights and metaphors tend to be complex and multidimensional. Every “answer” that astrology gives spawns a hundred new questions. No matter how far I penetrate its mysteries, the horizon recedes even further. I never tire of exploring the world through the prism of astrology, for it sheds continuous new light on any subject imaginable.
On the other hand, some of the uses to which astrology is put do upset me. Three examples come to mind. First those stereotyping sun-sign columns in newspapers — which, to my mind, keep those who read them stuck in a superficial, indeed superstitious view of astrology. Second, in line with our cultural tendency to not take responsibility for our lives, blaming someone or something else for who we are and what we do, there are those who use astrology in this way (as in, “I can’t help it. I’m a Cancer” — or Leo or Virgo, etc.), thus ignoring their own freedom to choose. And last, but not least, I must admit that I and other astrologers do tend to resort to a kind of shorthand in talking with one another, which my husband says does at least sound like reductionism, or fundamentalism.
Yet stereotypes are not the exclusive province of astrology. And there are plenty of ways, besides astrology, in which people deny responsibility for their lives. Nor does astrology differ from other specialized languages in being compacted into short-hand conversation by specialists. Moreover, as with other specialized languages, there are plenty of charlatans who hoodwink themselves and others into thinking they are astrologers.
Even those, like myself, who do speak the language, acknowledge that our understanding of astrology now is a mere remnant of what must have been a rich and complex heritage reaching back to remotest antiquity.
And here we come across another assumption built into the dominant scientific and technological world-view, that of “progress.” Though this notion has been thoroughly debunked in recent years, both by scholars with a longer view of history and by those who decry its obvious and subtle damaging effects on our human and earthly environment — the myth of progress still persists in the collective imagination. Its corollary, the idea that people who lived long ago must inevitably have been “primitive,” is another one of our rock-bottom cultural assumptions. Given this cultural climate, the fact that astrology reaches into prehistory is used to condemn it.
What first motivated me to pry my mind loose from the dominant paradigm was the vague but strong sense that something was radically wrong, off, damaged — both within my own self, and in our society. Assuming that whatever was going on within me was also going on within others, I decided to use myself as subject, and embarked upon the project of consciously investigating my assumptions. I assumed that whatever discoveries I made in myself would also apply to the culture that produced me.
Viewing my psyche as an archeologist would a dig, I sifted through the layers, searching for bedrock — or for what I had thought was bedrock, and turned out not to be. For whatever assumption I was able to identify and understand, dissolved. The project was endless! There was no basis for thinking, no Archimedian fulcrum, no fundamental bottom-line beyond which I could not go. Unlike Descartes, who, when he embarked upon a similar project, ended up with “God” as the foundation, for me, there was no God, there was only what philosophers fear above all, the “infinite regress” — that feeling, that nightmare, of falling through space.
Unlike most philosophers, I was not afraid of this feeling; indeed, I welcomed it. As a child, I had spent many afternoons lying on the grass of our back yard, peering into the immensity of sky. At night, snuggled in my sleeping bag, drinking in the Milky Way, my spirit would shudder free of body and shoot to the stars. In my 20s, during that first LSD trip (see chapter —), unlike my philosopher boyfriend, who had had to lie on his stomach or become overwhelmed with dizziness and nausea, I had lain on my back in exaltation, surrendering once again to that shocking, breathless, whooshing expansion of childhood.
I imagine the reason why philosophers are afraid of the feeling of “falling through space” is because they fear feeling of any kind, being so unaccustomed to it. Philosophers and other intellectuals tend to ignore their bodies and stay in their minds, because they don’t realize there is another dimension — or if they do realize it, they only experience it as a “fall,” a descent into darkness, an unforgiveable loss of control.
So when I discovered that there is no real foundation for any idea, I welcomed it, and began to call myself a “relativist.” By this I meant that all ideas, though they may make sense within their context (of other ideas) are ultimately baseless; that all ideas are, ultimately, created from nothing. Whether my mind created the idea or someone else’s mind did, whether it was created in the moment of my thinking it or a long time ago by some one else, that thought, any thought, can always be questioned. There is no absolute, bedrock “Truth” — and therefore, no such thing as justification or proof.
That was and is my philosophical “position” — that there is no way to guarantee that any idea is “true,” i.e., in agreement with a reality which is “out-there,” beyond the mind. Who knows what is out there? There may be no out-there, or certainly no way to prove it. (Indeed, what we call “mind” may encompass “reality.”) All thoughts are “posited,” i.e., actively thrust, by the mind that creates them, into what is ultimately a void.
Once we imagine ideas as loosened from their moorings, as having no justification or proof, then our questions about them become more interesting. Rather than trying to prove anything to either ourselves or anyone else, we jump right into the creativity of the idea. Rather than asking “Is it True?” we can ask, “What good will it do? What are its implications?” “What problem(s) does it solve?”
This philosophical position is not original to me. It has been called “skepticism” — a word which I don’t like to use since it is so often confused with “cynicism.” (Cynicism, in the dictionary, means “doglike,” whereas a “skeptic” is a “searcher.”) Skepticism was popularized by the British philosopher David Hume, in the 18thcentury, when he argued that even if the sun has risen a million times, there is no guarantee that it will rise tomorrow morning. Hume’s skepticism was reissued by another British philosopher, Sir Karl Popper, in his book Conjectures and Refutations (1962), where he argued that scientific theories cannot ever be proven true, though, he said, they can be proved false — through a single refutation. I would agree with his first statement, but not his second, since “proving” something “false” assumes a context of ideas which itself, cannot be proved.
As a philosopher, I would rather call myself an “epistemological relativist” as distinguished from “fundamentalist,” and as distinguished from ethical relativists (for whom any action can be “justified,” in its own context). As an epistemological relativist, my “position” is that no idea can be ultimately justified as “true” — and that includes ethical ideas. Given this position (which “position” I freely admit is taken as a stab in the dark, a thrust into the void), I must find another basis besides the intellect to discover how to act in the world.
This to me, is the real point of skepticism. Unlike Hume, I do not think of myself as a skeptic (or epistemological relativist) only to thumb my nose at those who seek proof. I am no longer looking for proof. I no longer need proof. “How could this be?” you might argue. And I can just see my teachers, furious with me, stating vehemently, stamping their feet, “Everyone needs proof! The mind craves certainty as the stomach craves food!” This is precisely where I would disagree. I feel that the certainty which we think our minds crave is actually a poor substitute for something else altogether, which we do crave. That this craving is not intellectual, but emotional — the instinctive need for security, a feeling of being safe in the world. And I sense that the emotional loss of this feeling of safety or security (as individuals, as a community) is at the heart of our cultural insistence on intellectual proof, as well as of our assumption that science (or any type of intellectual activity) can generate proof.
I was an epistemological relativist, and yet I wanted to arrive at a foundation for ethics, for living with others in the world. I could not do this through the intellect, since there was no such thing as proof. What was I to do? Little did I realize it at the time, but the solution to my problem lay close at hand; it lay in the process of paying close attention to my own responses to different experiences in daily life, and to allowing those responses to change me. This was no easy task. I was so used to thinkingabout my experiences that I had desensitized myself to anything my body was feeling. Once I did learn to stop, and listen to what my body was telling me, I had to sometimes acknowledge something which I had heretofore thought “logically impossible,” namely, that what my body was feeling often contradicted what my mind was thinking.
At this point, my logical mind, of course, wanted to deny the feeling, in order to stay with what it was thinking. But a deeper part of me refused to do so, instead deliberately committing to simultaneously holding in consciousness both the thought and the feeling. In order to do this, in order to accept and honor such contradictions within myself, I had to expand my capacity, and this meant I had to learn how to include and transcend the either/or dilemmas of logic.
Somehow, the business of learning to accept the reality of contradiction, or paradox, into my life — which usually translated experientially into learning how to surrender to the pain of not getting my own way— was the key to learning how to create an ethical foundation for my life. One emotional crisis after another bruised, battered, and finally broke my heart wide open. The small egocentric “I” surrendered. I began to think with my heart. Now my thoughts are “true,” not because they can be justified intellectually, but because they come from the heart. “The heart has its reasons that the mind will never know.”
Thus, the most important experiences in my life, those which have given me an ethical foundation by teaching me how to get along with others, have been those times when I have not gotten my own way. Such experiences of “failure” have tempered me, softened me, opened me to my own feeling life. These experiences made me turn inward, which in turn — another paradox — was the key to experiencing not only my own inner life but that of others. As I suffer, so do we all suffer. Though our ideas may differ, and though it may be very difficult for us to understand one another, our feelings are like a great ocean in which we are all swimming. By opening my own heart, I learned to give personal, existential meaning to the old ethical maxim, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
I don’t always think with my heart, of course. But I want to, I long to. The struggle for inner peace is endless. I seek to think with my heart; and to counter my seemingly hardwired territorial need to be “right,” righteous, rigidly dogmatic, I remind myself that I am an epistemological relativist.
Imagine what would happen if we all transformed into epistemological relativists! Imagine what would happen if, in thinking about the world and how to act in it, we moved from our minds down into our hearts! For at the bottom of all our arguments and fights and murders and wars are disputes over ideas of some kind. Ideas which lead back to other ideas which we hope or are convinced of or at least assume to be Absolutely True. Only by staying within the fortress of the mind, do we remain impervious to our steadily beating hearts, drumming as one, feeling as one.
The Assumptions of Astrology
I have not attempted to investigate the root assumptions of astrology. What are they? I have no idea. I doubt anyone now living does. The origins of astrology lie too far back for us to comprehend. And if my history is any indication, if I could know and understand the assumptions of astrology, then astrology itself (for me) would dissolve.
Perhaps this is a clue as to why astrology has been around for so many thousands of years. Why the human psyche is still so attracted, despite our relatively recent strictures against it. The bedrock of astrology is profoundly unknown. Even those who do speak the language don’t usually ask — or even wonder. It’s too difficult; it takes us back so far into prehistory that we get lost in the mist. We “fall through space” back into the stars. Astrology feels mysterious, even religious. As we do not demand that our religious mysteries be fully explained, so I do not demand this of astrology.
But what happened? Why astrology? Why not something else? Why did I choose, as my doctor father asked, genuinely puzzled, to “waste my good brain?”
Despite the systematic attempt to open my right brain and integrate it with my left brain, to dissolve my “rationality” into a larger “presence” by questioning my assumptions, I was still an ignorant intellectual. I had been a doctoral student in philosophy for six years. This kind of intellectual training — not to mention the milieu in which it takes place — does not easily let go. What opened me to the possibility of astrology as a living language of the psyche was what, by now, you might expect, a sudden horrific life crisis.
Death and Rebirth
In 1972 I was hired over more than 500 candidates as a full-time teacher at New College of California, an experimental school which was, at that time, only one year old. Fresh with a newly-minted PhD, I entered the school as a heroine, my application telling the students I wanted to “help undo in them what had been done to me.” My philosophy was Socratic: real knowledge is found within; the word “educare” means “to pull out,” rather than to put in; real learning requires that we remove the veils created by our schooling and social conditioning which prevent us from accessing this original knowledge. I still subscribe to this philosophy of education, though I rarely talk about it. Back then, I was young, and foolish, and arrogant, and trumpeted my beleifs endlessly.
Needless, to say, this attitude was extremely polarizing, and another, equally arrogant teacher whose background was The Great Books program at the University of Chicago became my worthy opponent. “Real learning,” for him, of course, was filling students’ minds with ideas from (Great) books. In endless debates, attended by the entire school (of about 100), we thrust verbal daggers back and forth, both of us striving to prove the absolute truth of our opposing points of view. (I had already forgotten the epistemological relativism taught me by LSD . . .)
Little did I know it then, but the school had been founded during the time of year when the Sun was in Scorpio, its president was Scorpio, five out of the seven full time teachers had their Suns in Scorpio, and during that period of my life Pluto (ruler of Scorpio, symbolizing, power, death and rebirth) was crossing the Midheaven (symbolizing the public life path) of my birthchart.
After one year came the crisis: I was summarily fired. The president, in a letter to me three days before school was to begin again in September, said that I was “too experimental” for that experimental college. The real charge, however, should have been arrogance, “power over.”
Back then, my reaction to being fired was first shock, then denial of my own part in what had happened plus fury at others, and ultimately, depression, as I unconsciously turned my anger inward. Pluto’s death and rebirth process plunged me into Hades: I had been fired, which killed my academic career, and elft me for dead. I moved into a room in the basement of a house with four other people upstairs, lived on unemployment checks, and took long slow walks through the grey rain and fog of the Marin County winter.
I tell this story to give you a sense of the context of my life at that time. Being fired from the job I had been working towards for 30 years cracked my foundation, leaving me to some extent broken and humbled. In this atmosphere, one of my housemates, who was learning how to set up astrological charts, asked me — somewhat hesitantly, she could sense my inner fury, and knew that I might bark at her — if I wanted her to set up my chart.
“Sure,” I responded. “What the hell? Why not?” As if it didn’t matter. As if nothing mattered.
So there I was, one soggy afternoon in January 1974, sitting at the kitchen table poring over my birthchart . . .
I had already spent other afternoons sitting there staring at its meaningless jumble of scribbled symbols. Precisely the nonsense I always said it was! But something had happened to day before which made me see this jumble differently . . .
I had been in a book store, where I had noticed an astrological chart, tacked onto a wall. This chart was drawn with colored lines connecting the planets to one another. What had struck me, struck me so forcefully that I call it my first astrological epiphany, was that these lines created a pattern. Aha! I thought to myself, staring, so maybe astrology deals with patterns?
Years before I had been fascinated with Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, in which he says that the mind itself is structured to see the world in only certain sorts of ways; then I had come across Arnold Kohler’s gestalt theory of pattern recognition in psychology, which in turn had led me to Jean Piaget, his theory of developmental structures in psychology. So I was attuned to the idea of patterns or structures as important, somehow, epistemologically — in terms of understanding how we perceive, how we learn, and what ultimately, creates a meaningful whole.
In the bookstore, I asked the clerk if he knew what the colored lines on that chart on the wall meant. He told me that they symbolized different types of “aspects,” which he said, were certain geometrical angles of relationship between planets. I was fascinated. For if astrology was meaningful, I sensed that its meaning was going to have something to do with the geometrical patterns formed by aspects.
So there I sat, one day later, looking at this chart again, transfixed! Even more so now! “What’s the pattern of mychart?” I asked myself. (“Who cares? It wouldn’t mean anything anyway!” whispered the skeptical — no, I mean cynical— little devil on my left shoulder.)
The situation at that moment reminds me of the beginning of my fascination with Wittgenstein, my remark: “This book is true, but I don’t know what it means.” Something in me was saying, “This chart is true, but I don’t know what it means.” I wondered: “Could it be that astrology is, somehow, in some way, ‘true’? Could it be that this chart really isa map, that it can help me understand who I am, what has happened to me?
Over and over I found myself drawn towards it, magnetized, as if the chart was a symbol in a particularly numinous dream. It seemed to be whispering secrets, just out of hearing. It seemed to contain a golden key, to some locked door I didn’t know existed, and now stood there, shimmering, just beyond reach. “How ridiculous!” I thought to myself, as over and over I caught my psyche just in time to prevent it from moving into the chart, blending with it, fusing. “Stop that!”
This particular rainy January afternoon I was feeling even more exhausted than usual. My defenses were down. Lethargically, for want of anything better to do, I picked up my housemate’s astrological ephemeris for the 20thcentury and started leafing through it. I knew I shouldn’t be doing this. Knew I was playing with fire. I knew, somehow, that the consequences of this simple act were to be incalculable, perhaps disastrous to my entire view of the world.
It is as if, in this seemingly random act of picking up a certain book, I suddenly gave up, surrendered to the dynamism of my larger being. At first with pretended indifference, and then with more and more focused intention, I began to look up the positions for the planets Pluto, Neptune, and Uranus during 1970.
A few moments later I had my second epiphany in two days. In only a few moments, that year in my past which had been so mysterious and so profound all of a sudden began to make sense . . .
1970 had been the year when my mind turned, focused inward. The year I discovered Wittgenstein, and he became the foil for my own process. Deciding to systematically investigate my intellectual assumptions had had the effect of plunging me into the abyss of my own unconscious. And while my intention was to do exactly that, I had no idea what that would entail, nor did I realize that once started on such a journey, there would be no stopping it. That it would accelerate. That as I let go of the rules of logic, the stereotyped, socially conditioned roles of society would also fall away. That an inner earthquake would shake my psyche loose from its moorings, plunge me into a twisting, turbulent river, where I would shoot through rapids so thunderous they made my solar plexus thud with fear.
At the end of one full year I finally washed up on the shore, changed. I felt newborn, fresh, utterly sensitive and responsive to the present moment — and unable to separate myself from it. Gone were the divisions between inside and outside; no longer did I sport a “detached observer” who watched what was happening as my body/personality moved through time and space like a robot. The Cartesian mind/body split within me had collapsed, leaving me alone, a stranger in a very strange land. Utterly vulnerable. And crazy, too, supposedly. From others’ point of view. Not from mine. I had survived, and I was alive. Truly alive for the very first time.
So, that’s how my surrender to astrology began, at the kitchen table, poring over my birthchart, in January, 1974. I looked up the positions of Pluto, Neptune and Uranus during 1970, the year when I plunged into the collective unconscious. I looked up these particular planets because I intuitively knew that because they were the outerplanets, with cycles longer than one lifetime, they symbolized the unconscious mind. I knew that if these planets, during that strange and wondrous year, crossed over points in the zodiac that were occupied by faster-moving planets on the day of my birth, that these crossings would correlate to the extraordinary journey of that year. And that, if this were indeed the case, I would have to devote my life to the study of astrology.
Back in 1970, there had been moments when I was truly terrified of the journey I was on. I worried that I would not come back to ordinary life. That I would be unable to survive, complete my dissertation, get a teaching job, take care of my children. Every day I would go to the mirror, look into my eyes, and wonder, who am I now, who am I becoming? One day in front of the mirror I heard a voice, low and booming, from deep inside. DON’T WORRY, it said. JUST KEEP GOING. DON’T GET STUCK. Later that day the voice announced that some day I would help others to go through the same process.
Sitting at the kitchen table in 1974, I remembered that booming voice in 1970, and I realized that astrology, because its outer planet symbols are correlated with the emergence and timing of transformational processes, would be the language I would learn in order to help others go through their own evolutionary shifts.
At that time, of course, people didn’t use the word “transformation.” The world had a polite name for my journey — “nervous breakdown” — and certainly, others had been nervous in my presence! I would feel them whispering among themselves. When my professors and fellow graduate students hinted that my raging philosophical questions were actually psychiatric, I would cry, desperate, “Don’t you understand? The two are connected? Don’t you sense how the philosophical “mind/body split” is in me?”
What they had called a nervous breakdown, I intuitively knew, even then, was a breakthrough. That though I was alone, my experience was prophetic; that it would herald similar breakthroughs in others. Now, in 1997, 27 years later, we refer to transformation almost casually. A growing subculture within our society values this extraordinary personal journey. There is evolving an intricate social infrastructure that supports the collapse of the mind/body split, the subsequent integration of mind/body/spirit, this initiation into the miraculous unfolding of our essential natures.
Prior to that massive and irreversible shift within myself, there had been signs of what was to come. For years I had been fascinated by the whole question of change, by the specific differences between continuous and discontinuous change. I had been drawn to explore the latter type, those changes which defy our ability to describe, predict or understand. Now, three decades later, “chaos theory” in mathematics is hip, bandied about at cocktail parties.
What Is Time?
As a graduate student I had also wondered about Time. One day I had asked Agassi if I could write a paper on the concept of Time. “Time?” he had scoffed. “I wouldn’t touch the subject. Too difficult.”
Now I realize he was right. Understanding “Time” isdifficult, especially when the concept is imagined as a straight line running from the present moment backwards and forwards into infinity. Indeed, if time is linear, then how can we possibly understand it, since this kind of time is impossible! The present moment, conceived as a mere point on a line, has no dimension, and therefore does not exist!
It is no wonder we have trouble being truly present to our experience. For if the present moment is merely a point on a line then we cannot follow Ram Dass’s admonition to Be Here Now. Instead, we are solipsists, locked inside our “own little worlds,” living imagined lives, inside our heads!
Constructing a fantasy reality of what we would like the world to be, we spend our lives either terrified of, or longing for, a future that will either repeat the past or help us forget it.
Our trouble with Time is not merely psychological or neurotic; it lies deeper than that. Our trouble is epistemological and metaphysical, a matter of how our culture unconsciously instructs our brains to perceive and operate within the world.
Time is one of those subjects that we do not talk about. We talk within our socially-constructed view of Time, but we do not notice the way Time itself is constructed. Like the air we breathe, or the water we drink, we take Time for granted — until something goes wrong. As indeed, it has. Like pure water and air, Time has become precious, scarce. We “don’t have time” — for who we really are, for how long we to live our lives.
Imagine a world-view where time is not linear but cyclical. Where there is not just one time, but many. Imagine a world where there are as many times as there are cycles, each one repeating itself over and over again, moving from beginning to end, and then beginning again. In this world-view death is viewed as a part of life, one node within a continuum. Every birth is followed by death, and each death makes way for new birth. Such is the world-view of astrology; it is also the world-view of the Bible, where “everything has its season,” and of farmers, peasants and other “primitive” peoples who live close to nature, follow her ways. Within this spacious and more ancient astrological view of time, the Plutonian death experience which I had undergone in being fired from New College was transformed into the Plutonian rebirth experience my soul had ordained all along.
Though my teachers and my father and just about everybody else could not understand why I was “wasting my good brain,” I discovered that astrology, as the study of the structures and processes of Time and Space, was utterly continuous with my philosophical quest. Within astrology, I found my intellectual and spiritual home.
Many of the foremost astrologers of today discovered astrology when I did, in the early ‘70s. It’s as if we were members of some old temple school, and reincarnated together again, to help reseed the ancient understanding of cyclical time into this industrialized culture where most people no longer live in conscious attunement to changing daily, monthly, seasonal, and ever-larger rhythms.
The discovery of the goddess as focus of female spirituality also emerged during the early ‘70s, and it too, recognizes the primacy of cyclical time.
Mainstream culture’s artificial simplification of “time” into a single straight line projection has been, of course, for centuries now, especially difficult for women to appreciate. Indeed, women cannot both act as if linear time is real and remain attuned to our own biological lives.
Women know, from the periodic lunar rhythms of our own bodies, that time is not linear but cyclical. That time describes circles, each of which is experienced as a complete whole. We are also aware of the structure of each of these wholes, as we undergo the various phases of our menstrual cycle. The new moon phase at ovulation signals our new beginning; the full moon phase when our blood flows — the initial bursting fullness, the celebration of fulfillment, release.
Those of us who keep personal journals and pay attention to truly processing experience further realize that we live on many levels, and that therefore, we are simultaneously and continuously involved in many different cycles, many different dimensions of experience, many different kinds of tim
Cycles as Wholes
Each of these cycles, when first completed, can be felt as a whole. It is the felt sense of wholeness which gives meaning to any cycle. Once we understand its meaning, we can incorporate that cycle, and transcend it.
Cycles of experience come in many sizes. They range from the daily fluctuations of our moods to our monthly menstrual periods, to seasonal and annual returns, to the gradual but inexorable psychic shifts within the unconscious which are both terrifying and exhilarating, and signify yet another stage of personal growth. These latter cycles are the ones signified by the outer planets: Pluto, Neptune, and Uranus. When a person undergoes the shifts these energies require, they are liable to think they “have gone mad.” This is where a consultation with an astrologer is so valuable. When we know that this incomprehensible process was preordained, that our soul chose a particular time to be born so that we might undergo this kind of shift at this point in our lives, we begin to pay attention. We realize that the shift is natural. Rather than resist, we surrender. To change. To transformation. To allowing the individual dance of our own unique evolutionary process.
Though cycles differ from one another in size, all cycles are identical in structure. As we consciously undergo any cycle of any size, we experience a secure sense of continuity and stability, knowing that every beginning is followed by waxing, midpoint, waning, and completion; that what goes around comes around; that everything has its season. No longer do we need to fear the future or freeze the past. Life and death become processes understood as transformations within a larger order.
While identical in structure, the specific meaning of any cycle is derived from its size, from the amount of time required to complete one whole circuit. Yet some cycles seem to be more interesting, or obvious, or transformational, than others. In astrology, these cycles are known as “planets.” The meaning of a planet is the amount of time it takes to complete one full circuit. The meaning of a planet is its cycle.