Crying Tears For the Gods…

This post is inspired by a very moving dialogue on The Alchemical Journey forum, about death, despair, grief, loss, shame – and how sometimes we need to surrender our mental constructs and journey deep into the mystery of those perspectives in order to find catharsis and healing. Often it is not enough to just “understand” the psychological dynamics of a situation or apply positive thinking strategies or other mind games. We’re in the Scorpio phase, in our natural alchemical cycle of the year, it seems like a very appropriate time to surrender our rational mind those perspectives within a safe ritual container.

Colette and I entered such a container this weekend. We’ve been doing a very intense tantric course – and it was a real weekend of shadows – it brought up so much shame and grief and deep, impenetrable emotions, which included joy and desire, as well as rage and fear. I cried more deeply on Sunday than I have for many years – without even really understanding why. Colette said she’d never seen me cry like that in 8 years. Looking in from the outside, one might ask why on earth would anyone want to go into that? Why risk opening up such deep wounds, wounds that go even beyond this one life? Yet by doing so we both experienced such an incredible sense of healing and re-connection to one another, and beyond that to something more profound, more-than-human.

We realised the extent to which we just been going along in a really kind of low-level way in our relationship – putting up with the way things were between us. And it reminds me how most of the time, in our everyday dialogues, we are just superficially dancing on the surface of life, playing with words, ideas and concepts – and they don’t get anywhere near the powerful truth – which is always buried deep in our shadows through our complex relationship to sex, money, power, death and so on. And those shadows belong to the underworld realm of the soul, where deep memory resides – and that is vital to who we are – not something to be denied or suppressed.

I think astrology is very helpful here – especially when we treat it as a naturalistic path of transformation that can reconnect us to the divine, heavenly half of our natures. As Paracelsus said: “Heaven retains within its sphere half of all bodies and maladies” – that’s the imaginal half, as Jung and others have described it – the part that belongs to the soul and cannot simply be “understood”, fixed, or rationalised. It needs to be honoured in its heavenly, imaginal aspect. I like what James Hillman says, specifically in relation to astrology:

“The zodiac returns events to the gods. Each time an astrological consultation can return a characteristic to its divine character, polish a problem so that it shines in a different light, reveal the god in the disease, let the client see clearly for a moment that heavenly half, the astrologer is performing an epistrophe, returning a mess in the human to a myth in the gods”

Maybe this weekend was a kind of epistrophe for me (more than an epiphany – I’ve had those too!), and maybe my tears were for the gods…

In my opinion, astrology is far too easily reduced to an explanatory psychological model. Not by experienced practising astrologers, generally, though I have (too often) heard astrologers attempt to justify their alchemical art in quite reductive terms. For me astrology should not be used to reduce the complexity of our life experience to convenient, psychological “sound bites” – rather it should be capable of amplifying our experiences and opening us up to a more mythical, more-than-human realm of possibilities.

Astrology is not a reductive science, and should not be dragged, like psychology has been, down that cold, clinical and ultimately futile path, where the creative impulse to tell stories and connect to natural rhythms is starved of imaginative nourishment and imprisoned by the impossible fallacy of “objective truth”. The paradigm of modern science is too narrow and exclusive to contain the mythic richness of astrology and the complex soulfulness of the psyche.

So when I work with the Zodiac, I seek to follow a naturalistic rather than psychological path, deepening the fabric of our understanding of natural cycles and systems in more-than-human terms. In other words to embrace the persectives of animals, birds, plants, trees, sacred places, each capable of embodying a divine presence. Let us not forget that this is accepted as real by every traditional culture other than our own, even though our maninstream culture has arrogantly dismissed them.

An experiential engagement with the zodiac reveals layers of mystery that cannot be comfortably be explained (away) by purely humanistic tools. Those layers of mystery can help to reveal our embodied connection to the songs and stories of the earth, songs that are ever chanted and re-chanted, stories that are ever told and creatively re-told, with modified and verses, additions, nuances and harmonies.

I believe the zodiac has the possibility to re-awaken awareness of our soul life. Like the zodiac, the soul is irreducibly plural in its perspectives. It helps restore our relationship to the gods, and although it is more comfortable nowadays to call them archetypes, we must remember that they have agency – they are alive, autonomous, capricious, and liable to surprise us at every turn.

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