This is the final post of three (Chapter Eight: I, II, III), concerning Astrology as one of my Ten Tools for Transformation. This post will make it abundantly clear — I hope! — just how thoroughly I have deconstructed the current shallow, mechanistic world-view of (linear) Time and 3D Space to make room for an integrated, multidimensional reality that addresses, and includes, both poles of the original dilemma of philosophy: Which is more real, the One, or the Many?
Chapter Eight III
A Vision of the World-View of Astrology
This is the third chapter in which I attempt to introduce to the reader why and how astrology has been, for me, an extraordinary tool for transformation. I am not going to go into details, presenting how this or that life situation was illuminated by the use of astrology. That belongs in a later volume. Everything I present here is prologue. To paraphrase Kant, the title to his short work, “A Prolegamena to Any Future Metaphysics,” these three chapters on astrology function, for me, as a prolegomena to any future astrology.
Think about an alien being who had never before encountered water, but who had heard all sorts of things about water, most of them from aliens who had never encountered it either. So, when he finally was confronted with water, he had a bunch of assumptions about it that needed to be corrected. What water is as a phenomenon, how it tastes, how his body feels in it, how water pours, congeals, distills, etc. All this might both serve to correct the false and misleading ideas about water he had picked up earlier, and as preface to his actually learning how to drink or swim.
So here, in these three chapters, I attempt to give the reader a sense of the type of thing that astrology is, and why I find it to be of such extraordinary value, before I invite you to actually learn how to swim in its language.
Elucidating the value of astrology is not an easy task, given the bias of 20thcentury western culture, and given the — at worst, superstitious, and at best, superficial — understanding of astrology that pervades all but the most serious of its practitioners.
This final chapter on this most transformational tool is the most difficult for me to articulate. What I wish to do is to spell out my vision of the world-view of astrology. I debated whether or not to attempt it in this volume, since it is abstract; some might think it doesn’t fit with the rest of the material presented. On the other hand, much of what I talk about in this book is to some extent abstract, not to mention downright confusing to anyone who expects a merely logical presentation.
Throughout the book, I spiral through many subjects, over and over, showing them in different lights, linking them in different ways. In this manner, I hope to implant in the reader a feel for the way a person who has absorbed the language of astrology actually thinks, how this way of thinking bends into continuous change, and therefore continuous exploration. It truly “blows our minds” to have our minds bent into circles and spirals. We are so used to straight lines. We feel so secure with straight lines. And yet what have we at the “end of the line” but death? No wonder we avoid death, since wedosee it as “the end.”
Despite my penchant for investigating assumptions, as I said earlier, I do not pretend to know or to understand the deeper assumptions of astrology. Simply, the subject is too vast, and its origins lie too far back for me to ever pretend to uncover them. This, for me, as a Sagittarian, is a relief! It means I can stay in one place for awhile — can explore and explore and never penetrate its further reaches.
Since I was born with Sun, Mars, and Ascendant all in the sign of Sagittarius, if ever I did begin to fully comprehend the assumptions of astrology, they would dissolve and I would move on! Sagittarius is the long-range traveler, searching for the meaning of life. Indeed, in Sagittarius, the search for the meaning of life isthe meaning of life. Wherever I have already been, I want to go further. No matter how much I learn, my understanding of things rests in the void. Understanding is finite, and floats within an infinite sea of mystery.
I don’t understand the sea of mystery from which astrology emerges. Nor do I understand how or why I was led, early on, from one thing to another, always searching for a way to more fully comprehend the phenomenon of my own life. Looking back now, I discover early seeds of my fascination with astrology, and see how these seeds germinated into vision.
Teillard de Chardin and Jean Piaget
While still a senior in college, and pregnant with my first child, I was riveted by the theory of evolution — not as formulated by Darwin, wherein mutations are “random,” but by Teillard de Chardin, for whom evolution is purposeful and meaningful, tending toward an “omega point” which he called the “noosphere,” the One Mind of collective consciousness. Many years prior to discovering astrology, this mystical interpretation of evolution had already altered my thinking, filling my imagination with visions of an ever-expanding universe, wherein consciousness is continuously catching up with creation.
Another whose vision has influenced my own is Jean Piaget, a psychologist whose “developmental epistemology” pioneered the study of the way children’s minds develop over time. Piaget understood the changes children’s perceptions undergo as occurring within a dynamic, ordered process. The child, he said, goes through a process wherein he or she is sometimes at one with the world, and at other times seemingly under great stress. This alteration is accounted for by the formation and subsequent breakdown of what Piaget named “stages of equilibration,” each of which becomes more and more differentiated and complex. The final stage, he said forms when the child reaches the age of 12, when she or he becomes capable of thinking logically, like an adult.
According to Piaget, by the time a child is 12 years old, she or he has learned to re-present the world outside within his mind. Ideas now substitute for objects, which are combined and recombined according to the rules of formal logic.
Piaget’s theory was both descriptive and prescriptive. He assumed that not only was this the way adults do think, this is the way they should think. Logic, one might say, is the final word. This is not surprising. Piaget is a product of the same culture he was attempting to describe.
When, years after absorbing Piaget, I began to study astrology, I discovered that Piaget’s final stage is equivalent to the 12-year Jupiter cycle in astrology. Expansive, generous Jupiter, the “ruler” of philosophical Sagittarius, is known as the “Greater Benefic.” It makes us feel good by connecting us to a greater whole. The first “whole” to which we connect is the culture into which we were born. Since the meaning of the planet is its cycle, we can say that the completion of the first 12-year Jupiter cycle signifies that the 12-year-old child has incorporated the values and perspectives of the culture of which she or he happens to be a member. Thus, to look at Piaget’s theory astrologically, is to relativize it. Piaget’s logic is notnecessarily the adult point of view; it is rather, the-adult-point-of-view-of-western-culture.
If one thinks of human learning as developing through certain stages, and compares Piaget’s developmental stages with astrology’s planetary cycles, then what immediately stands out is the fact that there are planetary cycles beyondJupiter, at least one of which can be fully incorporated (and thus considered a “developmental stage”), namely Saturn, with its cycle of approximately 29.5 years. And what is even more interesting, there are (at least) three more planetary cycles which last long, indeed longer than our lifetimes, namely Uranus (84 years), Neptune (165 years) and Pluto (248 years). With the possible exception of Uranus, these cycles can never be known to us, because we do not live long enough to experiences their fullness. This means that when these planets activate natal planets within our birthcharts, their action is beyond rational control, being essentially unpredictable (Uranus), mysterious (Neptune), and destructive/regenerative (Pluto). Within the domains of the three outer planets, the much vaunted “logic” of the so-called “adult” western mind has no application.
Given my earlier absorption of the ideas of de Chardin and Piaget, once I had been struck by my third epiphany, that the meaning of a given planetary energy is its cycle, a new world-view arose within my imagination. This world-view uses the symbolic system of astrology to extend Piaget’s developmental theory of incorporating meaningful conceptual structures, and it represents a chronological structure for de Chardin’s for de Chardin’s interpretation of evolution.
I have been describing precursors to this “vision of a new world-view based on astrology,” because I wish to lead the reader up to the vision the way I was led up to it, step by step, so that, when I finally describe it, it will seem not only easy to grasp, but obvious. On the other hand, the reader may well be asking, why do I wish to describe this vision, why does it matter so much to me? What would be lost without it? Again, my answer has to be that I am Sagittarian, a “the philosopher of the zodiac.” For me, what counts is the overall perspective within which I see everything. Unless I do have an overall operating perspective, then nothing that I do or think or feel makes any sense. Unlike many people, I cannot live in a world without asking questions of it, questions about meaning. And since giving meaning to something seems to be equated with perceiving it as a whole, I ask about the whole, its meaning, or structure, or gestalt — and inside that whole, the parts settle into their rightful place.
This discussion may seem too abstract for some readers, who are used to looking at the world piece-meal, and asking questions about what lies within the world, rather than questions about the world-as-a-whole. Perhaps it would help to make the place and importance of philosophy in life more concrete.
Imagine yourself on your death bed, needing to complete what Elizabeth Kubler-Ross calls your “unfinished business” before you die. We all know about this business. Perhaps your father or mother died before you could forgive him or her for whatever he or she did to you that left you crippled emotionally. Or perhaps your lover died before you could show how much you loved her or him. You know how this hurts. How awful, how incomplete you feel, when you know it is too late for . . . for what? What does it mean to say we have unfinished business, and what is this need of ours to “finish” something?
Well, think of any good story. What we call a “story” is not just a series of random (or even chronological) events strung together. In order to be emotionally and/or intellectually satisfying, a story has to have what can be perceived as a beginning, a middle, and an end. The end of the story, if consciously noticed, renders the whole story meaningful. We understand the beginning and the middle parts of the story in a new way, as a result of how it ended. Once it ends, we “get the point of the story,” and can work to understand it as a whole.
At the end of this life we are at the end of our own particular embodied story. It is not unusual for one who is dying to want to complete the story by coming to peace with her or his unfinished business. One might say that on our death beds, we naturally become philosophers, wanting to see our world-as-a-whole.
Now think of a “world-view” (or a paradigm, as we call it these days), as a huge, abstract, collective story, allowing for the possibility of many and various individual stories within it. Each particular story, without our knowing it (since the assumptions of a world-view function automatically and unconsciously), conforms to the hidden rules of the larger, more abstract story. In our culture, for example, with its linear view of time, we don’t like to think about death, because we view death as the “end of the line.”
When we are forced to think about death, we tell stories about it; for example, about the time when we almost died and “our whole life ran in front of us, in the space of a few seconds, just like a movie.” For those few seconds, during which we presumed we were near death, the entire cycle of our life was recapitulated. Why? Why does our unconscious give this movie to us? As the person on her or his deathbed consciously enters into a philosophical mode of thinking, so does our unconscious, when faced with a sudden, unexpected near-death experience, insist that we enter that philosophical mode quickly and intensely, by heaving our whole life story up for review.
I notice the same thing sometimes happens with astrological cycles. The meaningfulness of, for example, a two-year cycle (the Mars cycle) will be recapitulated at the end of that cycle in, say, a 24-hour period. When this happens to me, I am instantly alerted; I think: “There is something about this 24-hour period; the day is charged, somehow, with meaning, what?” Then, if I look up the astrology of the day, I might find . . . “Aha! The meaning of this day mirrors the meaning of the larger, two-year cycle which is now completing.”
So, there seems to be something in the very nature of the human psyche — or of consciousness itself — which yearns for meaning, and which gains that meaning at the end of cycles — often through a shortened cycle of recapitulation — whatever the original cycle’s size. From one short day to one long life, what we perceive as meaningful is gathered from cyclic wholes.
Now, instead of a cycle, think of a circle, which one might liken to a dynamic that has already unfolded in time. Rather than a time period (the dynamic cycle), we now have a space period (the structured circle), and a world-view can be likened to that “space”: it is of a certain size, and it allows certain possibilities, certain stories, and not others, to be told within it; we can live our lives in certain ways, and not others, within the space of any particular world-view.
When I spent that year investigating my assumptions, deconstructing my (our) world-view, I was left with nothing, no way to make sense of my experiences. My “paradigm” for making sense had been destroyed. What was next? As a human being, I needed to have an overall structure through which to see the world. Like a set of glasses, a world-view functions as a lens with a certain refraction; change the refraction, and the world appears a different place.
The philosophical sign of Sagittarius is one of twelve 30° signs of the circular zodiac, signifying a certain phase of action and comprehension in the world. All 12 phases are equally important, and all of them are necessary to complete the whole. In 20thcentury western culture of materialism, however, the way Sagittarius usually manifests is through mainline religious doctrines and other fundamentalist beliefs. There is seldom the play of ideas, the open-ended questions about value and meaning which the evolved Sagittarian hungers for. Since I happen to be Sagittarian, at a certain level of my own development I naturally began to question the overall philosophical structure within which I was operating, and found that it was too limiting for my evolving taste. That world-view felt like a static two-dimensional grid, whereas what I was seeking was expansive, multidimensional.
Please bear with me now, while I (finally, after this rambling preamble) attempt to flesh in with words what I live inside of every day, but which most people have never imagined. We don’t imagine it partly because it is so abstract, but mostly, we don’t imagine it because our minds have not been trained to work that way. Looking back now, I realize that by investigating my own assumptions, I de-constructed the world-view into which I was enculturated and thereby opened to the possibility of receiving a vision of this alternative world-view.
Please think about what follows as one possible conceptual structure for understanding human evolutionary possibilities. And in thinking about this structure, please remember to ask, not, “Is it true?” (since “truth” cannot be justified, or proven). As the philosopher Sir Karl Popper said about scientific theories, ask instead: “Is it rich? Is it creative? Does it lead to further questions? Can it help us to live more fully and harmoniously — and if so, how?”
A Vision of the World-View of Astrology
Imagine: That the old mystic maxim describes our reality: As Above, so Below; As Within, so Without.
Imagine: That an earth-bound human can learn to psychically and experientially attune to the cycles of the planets of the solar system.
Imagine: That these planets, in appearing to surround Earth, function as a set of both collectively archetypal and specifically individual timers, pulsing out moments of quickening — both in our individual lives, and in the life of humanity.
Imagine: That the universe is continuously expanding — so that its center is everywhere, and its circumference, nowhere. If this is so, then each and every entity that can be said to be “born at a certain time and place” stands in the exact center of the universe.
Imagine: Each individual, standing in the center of the universe, surrounded by a series of concentric rings representing the orbits of the planets of our solar system. At the time of this individual’s birth, each planet occupied a certain degree in its nearly circular path around the sun (as seen from Earth). Together, these planets created a geometrical configuration that is unique for the individual born at that moment. This (circular) map in space also functions as a (cyclical) calendar in time — of the unique rhythmic unfolding of the laws of that individual’s life as a process.
Imagine: That each individual’s life process configures into multiple and interpenetrating time/space meanings which are generated by the pulsing of planetary cycles of varying lengths through their circuits and back again, going round and round. These various cycles are constantly creating ever-new geometrical patterns, each of which is a further development of what has gone before, and refers back in time to the birth pattern as the constant which, throughout life, is continuously unfolding.
Imagine: that the soul of each individual chooses his or her moment of birth, the birth pattern most attuned to the developmental needs of the soul in this incarnation.
Imagine: that each individual, moment by moment, continuously chooses whether or not to act in accordance with the divine plan of his nature as chosen by the soul, and as signified by the geometrical pattern in the birth chart.
Imagine: were each individual to consciously act in harmony with her or his own soul’s growth, that the planetary “music of the spheres” would be duplicated, here, on Earth. Each of us, acting in accordance with the divine plan of our own unique soul, moves in harmony with all others.
The implications of this “new” (very old) world-view are revolutionary. They include the following:
- Since every entity born is both central to the universe and utterly singular and individual, then everyone born is both equal and special. The rules always holds: only one entity can be born at a particular time and place. Even twins, born through caesarian section, occupy different spaces with their bodies, and are usually lifted from the womb at least a few seconds apart.
- Since the planets are always in motion, both their positions and relationships to each other are always changing, as ordered by the laws of geometry and planetary motion. There is no security or certainty or stability, no “bottom line” outside the pattern imprinted at birth by the Self. For each of us, the Self stands at the center of the universe — expressing through its original pattern that unfolds naturally according to its own internal laws. Creation is continuous, ever-flowing thorugh the still point in the center of the Self.
Indeed, each expanding human is a species unto him or herself. Since each human being is so individual, there is no one upon whom anyone can model the growth of his or her Self. Only by looking within, and creating a relationship with that inner world, can we discover who we are, where we are going, what we are here for. We can no longer compare ourselves to others; all we can do is live up to the potential within ourselves, to which we alone have the key.
- Since the individual stands at the center of the universe surrounded by a series of concentric rings which represent the orbits of the planets (from the 29 day cycle of the Moon out to the 248 year cycle of Pluto), and since each planet’s space/time sphere is a dimension of awareness incorporated through the process of experiencing its full cycle, then growth beyond physical maturity is defined in terms of expanding awareness. The cycles of the longer-cycled planets, from Saturn (30 years) on out to Pluto (248 years) represent these larger dimensions of awareness. Continuous growth in awareness is both natural and inevitable for those who are truly learning from their own experiences.
- If the cycle of any planet is its meaning, and if we cannot understand a cycle until we have completed it for the first time, then there are certain planetary cycles which operate in our lives in an entirely different manner than others. These “outer planets” are Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, and their cycles are, respectively, 84, 165, and 248 years. The processes of evolution and transformation via individual, generational and collective life are symbolized by the cycles of the outer planets.(Some of us, of course, do complete the cycle of Uranus, but not until very late in our lives. Conceivably, if advances in understanding the process of aging lead to a longer life-span, then some people who complete the Uranus cycle will have time to consciously put into practice what this cycle represents.)
Since we cannot complete the cycles of the outer planets, we do not understand what those cycles mean, what experiential whole each of them signifies. Our experience of them is always fragmentary, partial. We can never learn to totally control and focus these energies, use them for our own purposes. We can only surrender to them, and hopefully, attune to them — either consciously or unconsciously.
These outer planets, with natures greater than we are, are the sources of genius and madness, of whatever magic, miracles, mystery we accept into our lives.
5. Whereas the above implications of the world-view of astrology focus on individuality and diversity, astrology also accounts for community or unity. This happens at every level. For example, two people born the same day do share certain similarities — since most of the planets (all but the Moon) do not move faster than one degree per day. People born the same year share characteristics of planets with longer cycles, from Jupiter and Saturn on out. And generational astrology has to do with periods during which outer planets occupy certain signs. (For example, the “Pluto in Leo” generation includes all those born between the years 1938 and 1958; except for short retrograde periods, “Uranus in Gemini” generation includes all those born between May 1942 through August 1948.) Sign placements of outer planets describe the unconscious urges and attitudes of generations, and the transits of outer planets through the signs describe epochs in the political and cultural life of humanity.
The most profound unifying idea is the central axiom of astrology — As above, So below; this mystic axiom connects our lives on Earth with a greater whole, the solar system of this small sun which is itself connected to a greater whole since it is also a star within the milky way galaxy, and so on out to infinity.
Astrology honors the central question of philosophy, namely how to simultaneously account for both Unity and Diversity, The One and The Many. The Many consists of equal and diverse Ones, each imprinted by the planetary pattern present during its date and time of birth at a certain point on Earth. Each small One is a unique being unto itself with its own set of laws; and all Ones are evolving according to the greater Law of One: the interpenetrating field of the ever-cycling planetary energies in the solar system, and its cycling beyond into the galaxy, and so on into infinity.
This astrological world-view includes uniqueness, since we are all born in our own unique time and space, but not separation, since we are all living within the same field of interpenetrating energies; nor is there judgment, since everyone is unique and no one can be compared with anyone else.
This concludes what I can articulate of this vision of the new world-view I have gained through my absorption of the language of astrology. I realize that this vision is difficult to grasp, that it tends to make one feel as if one is floating, swirling, ungrounded. This is not surprising, since it describes a universe in constant motion, constant change, with no “bottom line.” We are used to bottom lines — in economics, in epistemology, everywhere! Like our linear view of time, our assumption of the “bottom line” falls under the rubric of the straight line, with the “bottom line” being either the lowest run of a ladder of straight parallel lines, or the lower end point of a single line. This rubric operates wherever the structure of things is conceived as a hierarchy. One might say that the hierarchy, the bottom line, clock time — all these belong to the particular space of our “world-view,” the greater story of our culture.
Through astrology we surrender to a different kind of world-view, or greater story. A story in which the universe is in constant motion, and the center of the universe is everywhere, its circumference nowhere. In order to surrender to this new world-view, we must center ourselves. We no longer need a bottom line, nor do we need justification or proof. For our security, our safety lies in the center of the Self that stands at the still point of the turning world.
Grounding the Vision in Experience
This vision of the circular/cyclical way the world works has ramifications beyond astrology. For example, it gives me a methodology for pushing through my own tendency to polarize with others, and thus to create conflicts with them.
I discovered this some years ago, when I wrote an essay on an astrological topic, first presenting my own view, and then comparing and contrasting it with the view of another. I didn’t consciously realize that by doing this I set up a polarity with him. It felt so natural to do it this way. So real. So definite and clear. No wonder it felt natural; it was how I had been trained.
In that essay, it was as if I was standing on one point, my “position,” and looking across to another point, finger cocked like a child using her hand to mimic a pointing gun.
Luckily, with my dear friend Claudia’s help, I threw the essay away. I caught myself in time to not make enemies. To not get trapped once again in that polarized place, that limited space where I distract myself from presenting what I see. Instead of allowing my imagination to proceed further, I had been getting caught up in defending my position in the face of real or imagined attack.
Here is my take on the underlying motivation behind our culture’s psychological/sociological mechanism for “making enemies”: When I begin to describe the further reaches of what I see, at some point I grow afraid. What I fear is infinity, endlessness, continuously opening space. (Review that classic nightmare, “falling through space.”)
In response to fear, my mind contracts, to a level at which it feels secure. First, I posit a point in space where I “take my stand.” From here, I look out and create (project) another point, at a certain near or far distance from the point upon which I am standing. And then I say “this . . . is not that.” This point is not that point. I define myself through what I am not. I am notlike him. He becomes my “opposite.” We are polarized, and competitive. “There is only room for one at the top” (of the ladder, the hierarchy). We are in a battle for survival, the “survival of the fittest,” and only one of us “wins.”
This time, immediately prior to the whole sorry cycle of conflict beginning again, I caught myself preparing to do it and recognized where it would inevitably lead.
I create my own reality. In order to change that reality, I must first change my mind, by enlarging my vision. I do this by considering the epistemological mechanism of projection and its hostile repercussions in behavior from the point of view of geometry.
Thinking visually, I can view my “opponent” as merely the other end point of a line that I have just created through positing a point across from my own.
This line, in turn can be visualized as the diameter of a circle, the size of which is determined by the length of the line, by how near or far away I originally posited my “opponent” to be.
Now I have created a circle around myself, where formerly there was open space. I have created a circle and I am caught inside — without realizing it.
Whereas before I was afraid of openness, now I am afraid of its opposite — claustrophobia! I seek a way out, want to break out, to punch my way through by destroying the point opposite to the one upon which I think I am standing.
In reality, I am no longer standing upon this point, which is now a point upon the circumference of the circle. Somehow, I have jumped to a point exactly halfway to the other side. I am standing in the middle of the circle now. I must be. Otherwise I wouldn’t feel so enclosed, so surrounded, on all sides by potential enemies . . .
So, in order to first visualize and then resolve this self-created conflict, I first visualize the initial polarity geometrically, as a line, which in turn becomes the diameter of a circle. The third step is to consciously realize that I have placed myself “squarely” in the center of that line, that circle.
As long as I stand in the center of the circle without awareness of being there, I feel surrounded, enclosed, claustrophobic, even paranoid. Once I recognize that I am standing precisely there, and that this circle is one that I created through the psychological mechanism of projection, my experience of the circle changes utterly.
Now I feel myself in the center, equidistant from all points on the circumference of this particular circle I have created to “orient” myself.
As my goal, in childhood, was intellectual certainty and emotional security (the “bottom line’), so now the goal of both head and heart is that of centering. As I ground myself in the precise center of the circle I have created, I find I am standing upon the very ground I was seeking all along.
Standing in the center, I sense the circumference of the circle I have created as a membrane, rather than a wall. It breathes, it pulses, vibrates in resonance to the beat of my heart. Rather than being something I must break through to once again express my freedom, I can now rest centered within the circle, as one more form through which I both orient myself and direct energy.
For I sense, in myself, the capacity to create an infinite number of concentric circles, both larger and smaller than this one. The circles radiate in all directions. The circles are frameworks or structures, paradigms within which I “make sense” of perception.
Each of these circles can be visualized as a globe or sphere or dimension of awareness. Each one contains an infinity of points, both upon its outer and inner skins, and within the space which it encloses. Even in a limited space there are no limits. Between any two points, there is always a third.Which means that between any two points there is space, which itself blooms into infinity. (In mathematics, these spaces are known as “_____’s Cuts.”)
In order to bypass my old habit of limiting my perception by tying it down to work as merely one end of a polarized point of view, and then creating conflict, I recognize myself as the center of a continuously expanding universe.
Each of us, as unique and singular individuals, stands centered, radiating outwards from the center of a universe with no outer limits, no circumference. Each of us as the eye of our own storm, the stillpoint of our own turning world. We are creative agents, attuning ourselves to and expressing ourselves through larger and larger spheres of awareness — forever.
We are all creators. We all breathe the same air. Our hearts beat to a universal biological rhythm, a rhythm entrained with other more subtle rhythms, all of them in concert as the universal harmony, the music of the spheres, the song of ourselves. We are one. We are many. We are the one in the many. All polarities dissolve in the swelling sea of infinite space.