Reclaiming the Body

In the two previous posts in this series I have examined the way that our astrology has inherited a value system based on a mind/body, spirit/matter dualism. The purpose is to become aware of the language that we have inherited, and the values that it assumes.

In this post I want to look at places that we can see the development of a different, body-affirmative kind of approach to spirituality and values, and how that affects the language we use in doing astrology.

Over about the past half century I think we can see the seeds and roots of a new point of view that re-integrates the sacredness of the body, of our emotions and desires,  and of the  earth. I see evidence of this new worldview in a couple of different areas.

First and foremost, I think credit needs to be given to the modern feminist movement. It makes sense that a body positive spirituality should arise there since it fits the symbolism. It is the re-empowering of woman, feminine, body, which had been opposed to Man, Mind, Reason, Spirit.

This is not just women being empowered to function as equals in a man’s world; this is also women being empowered as women, with their own special strengths.

Along with the feminist movement we also have the rise of the ecology movement. We are talking about the body of the earth here. Getting in touch with our own bodies goes together with getting in touch with the aliveness of the earth, of this physical reality we find ourselves in. The earth is not something out there that we conquer and exploit, it is alive being, and we are part of the flesh of the earth.

I don’t think we can have a healthy, ecological relationship with our earth without the re-empowering of women, and the reclaiming of the neglected ‘feminine’ sides of our human experience.

Paralleling these, there is the modern pagan and wiccan movement of the 2nd half of the 20th century.  This is an earth based spirituality, keyed to the seasons of the year, that worships the divine in the form of Goddess and God in relation. At its best, it is tuned into the physical reality of the body, of sexual relations, and of the natural cycles of birth, growth and death.

Looking further back, earlier in the 20th century we have Aleister Crowley and his worldview of Thelema, based on the Book of the Law. Granted that Crowley the man had issues with women, I think that his revolutionary system, which affirms the divinity and sacredness of every individual, of our bodies and desires, has been a powerful influence behind the scenes in the modern pagan movement, and with the occult in general, including astrology.

I think much of the most interesting and radical work in this area is taking place in evolutionary astrology,in the later work of Jeffrey Wolf Green and Steven Forrest. I want to examine some quotes from them here, in a book which they co-authored, and comment on how they illuminate our topic.

In the evolutionary astrology system, the worldview that includes the spirit/matter, mind/body split is labeled, patriarchal reality, and a body affirming, world affirming reality is called either matriarchal, or natural law as opposed to man-made law – and yes, I did mean man and not human there.

This next section is quoted from Green and Forrest,  ‘Measuring the Night’, Volume One. This first chapter of the book is jointly presented by the two of them, and the first few quotes here are by Forrest. In the second part of the quote he is talking abouty the Hindu concept of the world as Maya, an illusion to be overcome.

…as Jeff was saying, the notion in the old patriarchal kind of spirituality was that our aim was to get out of here…

…So, in this view, what should they be doing instead? Why, penetrating the veil of Maya and entering a ‘transcendent’ state of consciousness! Get away from the body, away from the senses, away from normal experience – that’s the message. This idea sounds very holy.”

Yes, it does. Consider the implication, the sort of feeling tone, that the word Holy invokes in most people. I think you might describe the word Holy with words like, pure, white light, dispassionate, above any sort of lust or desire. When you think of a divine being, an angel, you would think of something pure and disembodied, definitely not something earthly and smelly with a serious erection!  (That last metaphor was very deliberate – I am describing the God Pan, currently relegated to a low-budget bit part as the Christian devil.)

The assumed, and unexamined, implications of the word Holy imply a whole system of morality. I happen to think that some of those implications are unhealthy at best, dangerous at worst.

This assumption profoundly affects our attitude towards astrology, and towards working with the birth chart. If you hold to a spirituality that pits spirit over against matter, then the birth chart is something to be transcended, to be overcome!  A lot of late twentieth century astrology has a tendency to say that you need not be ‘confined’ by your chart, but can rise above it.

That attitude has deep roots, both in our Western astrology from its Christian and Muslim roots, and in the strong influence of Theosophy. We rise above our earthly life by the grace of God.

This next quote is from Forrest again.

But the point is that the birthchart ultimately describes spiritual evolution through embodied, worldly experience. It is not a ‘transcendent’ system, it is a pagan system. And by pagan, I don’t mean anti-Christian, I mean affirmative of the flesh and our physical place in the world, and of our human emotions and our human drives, and above all our human senses. Are you comfortable with that? You feel how subversive it is, that thought?

He’s right – think that through and it is very radical, deeply subversive of much of our Western, and Eastern. spiritual heritage. It is worth it to really become aware of how much of our spiritual heritage denies the goodness of the body. It is also worth deeply considering the implications of viewing the body and its feelings and desires as holy.

I want to push that thought a bit further here.  Think of the world of the astrology chart as being the world of the planetary gods expressing through the zodiac. If we are here to fully embody and live within our chart, then we are affirming the reality and power of the planetary gods and their action in our lives. By reclaiming our bodies, emotions and desires, we are reclaiming our connection with the powers of the old gods.  (Stay tuned for more reflections on reclaiming the old gods in a future post.)

This final quote is by Jeff Green.

How many of you can accept the following thought: there’s nothing to transcend? And that the word, under natural law, that is truly linked with Pisces is ‘union’, not transcendence? There is everything to unite with, and nothing to transcend.

Consider the implications of that concept – they deserve sustained thought and meditation.

Consider the difference it would make, in our astrology and in our lives, if we got past the idea that we were at war with the world we find ourselves in, and got past being at war with ourselves.

In my next post, I want to examine another part of our embodied human experience, that we need to come to terms to in order to really have a body-affirming, wholistic astrology.

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