This will be the first of a series of posts. I want to examine some of the ways that our western astrology mirrors some fundamental splits in human consciousness today, and think about ways we can become aware of them, and move our minds more towards wholeness.
If we go back to the era of the birth time of western astrology in the Hellenistic empire, we have a kind of beautiful and precarious balancing and mingling of different threads of consciousness. On the one hand there is the still vital connection to the Gods, what we in the west tend to label the “mythical” side, but without the reductionist connotations of that term that we have in the modern world.
Along with that we have a beautiful flowering of the Greek development of the mind, the reason, and of geometry, mathematics, philosophy – and of course astrology, which feels like the system that ties it all together into a living whole.
However, also during that era, I think that we have the beginnings of a series of splits in consciousness taking place, where we were distanced from our bodies, our emotions, our desires – and from the Gods.
At its peak, and its most vital, astrology is an incredible blend of mythology, geometry and mathematics, where all are equally alive and expressions of the sacred.
I think it is important to get a feel for just how wondrous, sacred and holy the Greek development of their philosophy, their mathematics, their geometry, their astronomy and astrology, really must have been, what it must have felt like in its youth.
What an amazing thing a triangle is! How very wondrous it is to contemplate the mysteries of a simple triangle made up of 10 dots in four rows! Discovering that order must have felt like peering into the mind of God, and they still had a strong and youthful enough sense of the sacred to appreciate that.
This was the fresh flowering of an emphasis on reason, the objective mind, the ability to think and order. I think that the sheer infatuation with those mental concepts became strong enough that this part of consciousness eventually eclipsed the part of consciousness that apprehended the Gods, through the imagination, the emotions, the feelings, and through the body and the body’s wisdom.
As part of their development of reason, the Gods went from being living realities to being metaphors, shapes that were actually the expression of abstract universal principles or forces. In most older books on Western philosophy there is usually a chapter that rhapsodizes about the birth of Reason, and finally emerging from the old Superstition of their mythology.
This is also where our minds began to become thoroughly split. The imagination, the emotions, the feelings, the senses of the physical body, were all held at arm’s length and judged to be crude, inferior, mutable, primitive.
This is what I now think of as the “original split” that took place in the Hellenistic era. The gods were eventually abstracted, conceptualized and metaphor-ized as the development of the objective reason was flowering. I get the sense that the traditional worship of the Gods became somewhat looked down upon as lowbrow, unsophisticated, primitive, inferior – somehow the sense that they were growing beyond that, and could look down on the uneducated classes who still took the worship of the gods more literally. What became true and most highly valued was the reason, the intellect, the detached experience, and the immediacy of connection to the gods was lost.
It seems that it was also during this era that there developed the belief that spirit was somehow opposed to and superior to matter, and that the mind and reason were superior to the body and emotions.
It is also quite interesting that a similar sort of mind-body dualistic split can be found in many different religious traditions around the world. While not completely universal, I think it is fair to say that the majority of mainstream world religious traditions all pretty much agree that Mind is superior to Body, and Spirit superior to Matter.
Somehow, across the entire planet, we have one major religious tradition after another deciding that there is somehow something wrong with being a physical body, and that being out of that body and in Spirit was superior, more real, more valuable.
It seems to me there are a whole series of splits in our consciousness that all parallel each other.
Spirit vs Matter
Mind vs Body
Reason vs Emotion
White vs Black
Male vs Female
In this list, the parallel items in the left column are thought to be superior, and all the items in the right column are inferior, unreliable, dangerous or even evil.
Along with this list, there is one other dualism that parallels it which is easy to lose sight of –
Reason/Science vs Mythology, the Gods
Notice that Mythology and the Gods are on the same side of the equation as the body, matter, emotion and so on.
When we lost our sense of oneness with our bodies and our feelings, we lost our connection to the living Gods of astrology. The two processes seem to be intertwined.
I think it is part of the purpose of astrology today to help to heal the mind/ body split by helping to accept and reclaim the sacredness of our bodies, our incarnate selves, our feelings, emotions, desires, all those parts of us labeled as inferior.
However, we can only do that when we become aware of how that mind/ body dualism is wired into our current culture, our language, our assumed values – and the language and practice of our astrology.
So how has the mind body split helped to shape the world of modern astrology? That is a subject for the next post.