This is the fourth in a series of posts, in which I am examining the implicit mind/body dualism in our modern world, and ways to move towards a more consciously integrated set of values that affirms the worth of our mortal selves.
Last week I talked about reclaiming the spiritual value of the body along with the mind, matter along with spirit, emotions and desires along with the detached and dispassionate parts of our minds.
That was framed mostly in terms of being alive – the incarnation, the feelings, the passions, the movement.
This week I need to consider the necessary other half of the process. When we reclaim our connections with our bodies, desires and emotions, we need to recognize and reclaim our experience of sickness, decay, decline, mortality, and death.
There can be a definite appeal to having a spirit/body split. It focuses on the belief – and for some, the realization – that there is a part of our consciousness that is eternal, that is not confined to the body, and that still exists in a continuity of consciousness after physical death. I personally am convinced that there is a non-physical aspect of our consciousness that is eternal.
However, it is an easy step from there, to the false conclusion that we should strive to identify ourselves with that eternal consciousness, by denying everything in our experience that is non-eternal, mortal, and subject to decay. The one is glorified at the expense of the other, making it look like we have to choose only one.
The temptation is to try to skip over the mortal parts of ourselves – to deny our feelings, our lusts, our emotions – to rise above them in consciousness and try to live at a higher, purer, more spiritual level.
That sounds all well and good, with just one minor problem – it doesn’t work.
To take an extreme example, I think that the current crisis in the Catholic church, with widespread and pervasive sexual abuse by priests coming to light, comes from the attempt to be spiritual by denying and transcending the feelings, sexual lusts and desires of the body. Like I said, I don’t think it works, regardless of how sincere, or devoted, or well-meaning, or spiritual you are trying to be. I think that very few people are naturally constituted to be able to function completely celibate in a healthy and balanced way. Attempting to deny or transcend strong sexual desire does not make it go away, but instead creates a fierce inner inbalance that manifests in unhealthy ways, in ways that can cause emotional and physical harm to others. I don’t think that those priests who commited sexual abuse are monsters or evil people; I think they are well meaning victims of an unworkable and unhealthy ethical standard.
Interestingly, reclaiming our bodies runs parallel to our reclaiming the fulness of the power of astrology.
In Christian and Muslim culture, God was considered to be all powerful, but the human always had a choice, to follow the commandments of God or no. In the model of astrology, the planets could not be the final arbiters of destiny. Regardless of what was written in the chart, the human always had an option, through grace, to choose God and thus rise above their chart.
In astrology, the influences of the planets are expressed in the world of mortality, this mutable earthly world where change is the rule. Hence, when we cut ourselves off from our mortal selves, our bodies, our feelings, we cut ourselves off from the planets, the old gods.
This whole notion of transcending our charts through the grace of the spirit is woven into our astrology. It dovetails with the spirit/body dualism in Theosophy, so beneath the talk of spirituality and karma you have the ghost of Christian original sin and the belief that the body is inferior, fallen, dangerous, evil.
We literally renounced the old gods in the same motion that we renounced our bodies and our mortality.
Reclaiming astrology, reclaiming our bodies, reclaiming our connection to the old living gods of the planets – they all weave together.
To really do this, we need to recognize and embrace that we are fallible and mortal creatures; that we are subject to sickness and accident; that we are subject to aging and decline; and finally, sooner or later, that we all die. Not that we pass, or move on, or go home to God.
We die. Deal with it.
There is a tendency in our spirituality to want to hold the mortal, imperfect, fallible and vulnerable parts of ourselves at arms length, to want to identify with only what we think of as the ‘good’ parts of ourselves, and keep our weaknesses and vulnerabilities out of consciousness, attempting to hide them and sometimes deny them altogether.
In astrology, reclaiming our mortality and vulnerability means coming to terms head-on with Saturn, the planet of limitation, age and death, that awkward and limited planet that so many astrologers are eager to transcend to get at the supposedly more ‘spiritual’ outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.
In the world of traditional astrology, Saturn is the outermost planet and is the gate-keeper, holding the key to both our mortality, and to our spirituality. You cannot get past Saturn, or transcend Saturn, or rise above Saturn. You need to come to terms with Saturn, accept it and all that it rules.
Saturn is age, and also the wisdom of age. Saturn is death, and fully accepting the reality and finality of death is the doorway to accepting our eternal spiritual identity.
Only by completely accepting and working with Saturn, with the forces of time and darkness, of age, decay and death, can you be completely whole, completely human – and completely spiritual, completely whole. Spirituality is not transcendent, it is inclusive.
I am pleased to announce that I will be doing a Community Webinar through Kepler College online this month. It will be on Saturday, October 24, from 3:00 to 4:30 pm Central Time. The webinar is titled, Traditional Aspects, Seeing and Aversion, and this is a link to the workshop page on the Kepler site. The webinar is free, and all people who sign up will get a download link for a recording of the presentation.