This essay was first published as a column in Sagewoman (#46, Summer 1999). Rediscovering it now, I am reminded of the magic that rules my life. These reminders come thick and fast while pursuing my already multi-year Recapitulation Project, to collect and share valuable essays from my prodigious output over the last four decades. Three days ago, I decided that in order to not feel so bogged down, I would need to organize (Saturn) the prodigious flow (Pluto) into an Excel spreadsheet. At this point I list over 200 entries, and there are likely at least that many more to go.
I recognize that I have been unusually fortunate. First, to have been a person who was driven to document her entire life (a Proustian endeavor, as a friend point out). Second, to have collected and retained my entire corpus. Third, to be of an age now (77) when I can look back in wonder at just how consistent has been the teaching my intuition brought through, as well as just how diverse my lived experiences. And finally, fourth, to be fully alive during this internet age when I can simply self-publish on-line, both single essays and collected e-books.
It’s been several years since I began this project, pursuing it periodically. But it was not not until Saturn/Pluto conjuncted in mid-January did I realize the significance of this project, especially for myself, so that I can see myself whole, from various perspectives and arcs of time/space, as well as having my output over the decades be available for others.
INVOKING THE MUSE: . . .and finding Synchronicity
1956. I am in ninth grade. My English class homework assignment is to read a book and write a review. I choose a book whose subject is the horrific experiences of World War II prisoners of war in Japan. My choice is unusual; during this horse-crazed period of my life I am obsessed with Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books. On the other hand, as a child of World War II; the trauma of war is my personal foundation.
Aside from my obvious passion for horses and my secret terror of war, I am a good girl, seeking approval from parents and teachers, dutifully and laboriously working through whatever is assigned. My grades in school, though not exceptional, are good enough.
Usually, while reading, my imagination runs free; I gallop like the wind, bareback through green fields on the Black Stallion. But in reading this book, I am plunged into the smelly underbelly of the soldier prisoners’ vermin-covered, tortured death-in-life. Riveted to this nightmare, my skin crawls and my heart beats wildly.
When I finally finish the book, I am in a strange state. Rather than being depressed and sad, I feel furious and frustrated. Burning with desire. Itching to do something. But what? Immediately, and without conscious thought, I sit down to write my review.
It is as if I have left one life and been catapulted into another, totally foreign to me. I am sucked into a raging river of thoughts, rushing so quickly that my hand can barely match their pace. I am only dimly aware of the meaning of the words. It is as if somebody else is doing the writing, using me as scribe.
By the time I finish the first paragraph, the fever has subsided. The remainder of the review reads like my other homework reports: studious, industrious, laborious, conventional.
A few days later, the teacher returns our book assignments. On mine, she has circled the first paragraph, and told me to see her after class. I am terrified. This has never happened. I must have done something terrible.
As the other students file out, I walk reluctantly up to the teacher’s desk, arms crossed defensively, clutching my books. The teacher looks up, studies my face. Then she asks if the first paragraph of the review was plagiarized. At my puzzled look, she explains what the word “plagiarize” means.
My face burns with shame. She is right! The paragraph isn’t mine! But it must be mine, because I didn’t “plagiarize” it. My horror — at being found out — and my confusion — at not understanding what had happened—renders me mute. Then she adds, if this is not plagiarized, it is the most intelligent thing I have ever seen from a student.
The paragraph reads: “Since the world is made up of individuals, there will always be competing ideas. Ideas which, down through the ages, have usually resulted in one thing: war.”
I forgot all about this 9th grade incident until 1971, when it came time to write my doctoral dissertation in philosophy. I was 28 years old, staying for the summer at my parents’ cabin in the mountains of Idaho. I had spent the previous year immersed in the works of Ludwig Wittgenstein, a 20th century Austrian philosopher. During this extraordinary year I had shifted from good uptight graduate student into flaming revolutionary, and Wittgenstein — both the intellectual and what I felt was the emotional content of his work — was my foil. Now it was time to write the dissertation, and I didn’t know if I could pull it off. I had no idea what I would write; all I knew was that there was this heavy, full feeling in me, which had to find release.
I had been lounging around the cabin for a full week, doing nothing, getting used to the idea of being without my children, who had remained with their father in Massachusetts. I was free for the summer, and I could feel the clock ticking. I had allotted only two months of uninterrupted time for this project and needed to get started. Yet, strangely enough, I was in no hurry. At the end of the week my father said, puzzled, and a bit annoyed, ”I thought you were here to write your dissertation.” To which I blurted out, surprising us both: “It hasn’t started yet.”
A day or so later I found myself dragging a card table and chair up to my attic bedroom. Though I didn’t consciously recognize it at the time, I was engaged in a preparatory ritual, gradually reconfiguring the gestalt of my conscious awareness to access what needed to come through. I felt pregnant with an idea, and my little room was where it would be delivered — in its own time.
July 1, 1970, 4:30 AM. I awaken to first light streaming over the tops of the mountains against the eastern sky. A slight breeze stirs the aspen leaves, mingles with the sounds of the river. A single bird calls, announcing the dawn, and my ears thrill in resonance. I am excited, nervous, anticipating. I know the long wait is over. I sit down at the table, pick up my pen, and the first words roll out. In stately, almost funereal tone, the rhythm and cadence of what will unravel as my dissertation are present as a seed, in that very first sentence. Written in a manner foreign to my usual labored style, it strikes a chord that will resonate for 200 pages. The dissertation has begun.
For the next six weeks I write four or five pages each day, in the early morning, beginning with the first bird’s call. Word for word, it is as if I am taking dictation.
Part way through this process, my mother calls me into the garage, to show me how she has organized the detritus from our childhood to create boxes of personal stuff for each of her eight children. I take my box to my attic room and open it.
There I discover that long forgotten book review — and am shocked to recognize the quality of that first paragraph. It had been written with the same rhythm, tone and cadence in which my dissertation is now slowly uncoiling.
This synchronicity between the then-present and the long-ago-past was not only mysterious, but strangely life-affirming. Affirming of my life. My nature. For the first time I opened to the idea that no matter what my circumstances, no matter how old I grow, I am the always the same person. My nature is both unchanging and yet evolving. No matter who I think I am now, I am ultimately much more. This essential core of myself lies below my usual persona, and over and over again, its re-discovery feels like a breakthrough in which I surrender to a larger mystery.
Perhaps it is not then surprising that a few years later I was guided (another story!) to study astrology, both as a science, and as an art. Astrology describes the unique energetic planetary pattern present at one’s birth, a blueprint in space that unfolds through time.
Now, as I tell this story, I look in my astrological ephemeris to see where the planets were located during 1956, when I was 14 years old, writing that first paragraph of the book review and 1971, when I was 28, writing the first paragraph of the dissertation. I am seeking planetary correlations connecting these two dates. And indeed, as usual when I wonder about a synchronicity linking one time to another, the positions of a certain planet do link these two times. In this case, the connector was Saturn, the energy of discipline that brings things into form.
In my natal chart serious Saturn was in early Gemini, the sign of ideas, conjunct Uranus, the planet of sudden unexpected changes, also in Gemini, and opposing Mars, the planet of spontaneity and impulse, in early Sagittarius, the sign of philosophy and the search for Truth.
Saturn has a 29 to 30 year cycle; because its movement is so slow, whatever geometrical aspects it makes to other planets as it moves around the chart are rare and thus unusually significant.
In November of 1956, when I wrote the first paragraph of the book review, Saturn had moved to exactly half-way around its own cycle from its birth position for the first time, to join the Mars/Uranus opposition from the other side of the chart. Fifteen years later, during July of 1971, when I began to write my doctoral dissertation, Saturn had completed that first cycle, returning to its natal place, and its original conjunction with Mars/Uranus.
For me, to discover that planetary connections correlate with linkages I notice between two or more dates widely separated in time feels magical, miraculous. Over and over again, these kinds of correlations assure me of a hidden order at work within the seemingly random, even chaotic flux of daily life.
In this case, through the agency of the symbolic meaning of Saturn, I begin to plumb the larger significance of both these events that involved accessing powerful intuitive ideas and their resonance through time. The original Mars/Uranus opposition, in the mental signs of Sagittarius and Gemini, signifies sudden, unpredictable ideas, even revelations. Saturn, sitting close to that original Mars/Uranus opposition at birth, and then on its journey round the chart hitting that opposition twice, fifteen years apart, was the timer. Saturn both identified the early revelation, and then, fifteen years later, through graduate school training, brought it into a more complex, differentiated form.
And yet, on another level, identifying planetary connections that both tie together and help me assign meaning to widely separated events in time only deepens the mystery. For why would a planet’s movements through the infinite sky be connected to my small personal life?
“As above, so below.” the old Hermetic maxim intones. There are certain truths that it appears we can not understand, but only rest within. They remind us that our life is linked to the greater whole.
We are not alone. There is no separation.
Update 2010: In 1985, with Saturn again half-way around the chart from its natal position and again conjuncting the opposite end of the Mars/Uranus opposition, I began to write for publication as an astrologer. In 2001, when Saturn returned for the second time to its natal place and touched again the Mars/Uranus opposition, I closed down (temporarily, it turns out) both my astrology practice and Crone Chronicles, a magazine that I had published for 12 years. Over time, the workings of the Saturn/Mars/Uranus configuration in my chart mark the timing of my manner of working with startling ideas and world-views, bringing them into form in ways that are more and more differentiated, complex, and incorporated into the culture.
Update 2020: Though I didn’t keep close track, I have a feeling that this Recapitulation Project likely began when Saturn was again half-way through its cycle (and thus conjuncting/opposing Mars and Uranus again), this time the third Saturn cycle. That would have been in late 2015. Sounds about right!