Saturday, February 19, 2011

Music of the Spheres

Astrological Projection by Salvador Dali
"Our psyche is set up in accord with the structure of the universe, and what happens in the macrocosm likewise happens in the infinitesimal and most subjective reaches of the psyche." - Carl Jung

"Study constellations, they personify the Sun!" - Kevlaar 7
I don't really pay much attention to my horoscope at all unless I come across it randomly. Then I'll check it out just for the heck of it and usually put very little stock into what it says. I never really knew or cared much about astrology or the Zodiac signs actually until a couple years ago when two different books on the subject randomly confronted me and hit like lightning bolts.

The first was a book by Richard Tarnas, an eminent scholar who had previously written a book on the history of Western thought called The Passion of the Western Mind which received high praise from some of my favorite peeps like Joseph Campbell. That text has always been the book used in colleges around the country to teach Western history from Ancient Greece to modern times. This new book of his is actually a sequel though it deals entirely with what's called archetypal astrology; basically, the view that each planet (plus the Sun and Moon) embodies certain principles or archetypes and there are discernible patterns and cycles throughout history corresponding to the position of the planets relative to the earth. Really, really paradigm-shifting stuff and this was coming from one of the most respected minds in the academic community which, of course, led to lots of harrumphs from the conservative geezers.

Still, though, the basic world view put forth by Tarnas (microcosm = macrocosm) is one that most of the advanced and integrated modern minds have been revolving around for a while now. Really, it's a modern revival of an ancient world view, "That which is above is the same as that which is below" as Hermes Trismegistus puts it.

When I first came across this book I was in a bookstore after visiting my dying grandmother in the hospital back in June of 2008. I quickly flipped to the index to see which names were referenced and written about. Sure enough, all of my favorites were there: Campbell, Carl Jung, Nietzsche, Fritjof Capra, Goethe, and even Stanislav Grof. One of the main blocks Tarnas builds on is synchronicity. The book certainly seemed worth checking out but it would have to wait because I was on a Nietzsche binge at that moment in time. I eventually bought it a few months later when I found myself at the California Institute of Integral Studies where Tarnas teaches in San Francisco. I got into a great conversation with the bookstore clerk there and he convinced me to pick it up.

It's a very good book, absolutely filled with world history presented in a clear, engaging manner though admittedly it is pretty long (around 500 pages) and he presents his case so thoroughly that it kind of drags on at times towards the end. But, as the magnum opus of a renowned world historian, it's certainly a worthwhile book and I can guarantee it will, at the very least, shake the frame through which you view your earthly existence and possibly make you rearrange your perspective a bit.

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"As long as you still experience the stars as something 'above you,' you lack the eye of knowledge." - Friedrich Nietzsche
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It was in December of 2008, right around Christmas, when I was first confronted with the possibility that astrology not only contained valid truths but shockingly precise assertions. On this night, I was with a group of friends in a small city east of San Diego called El Cajon, situated seemingly in the middle of nowhere amidst valleys and canyons. We had driven out there to see a movie which one of us heard was excellent and it was only playing in a theater out there in the boonies. The movie was Slumdog Millionaire.

The entire evening seemed to be imbued with a sense of mystery and the unknown. I had only been living in San Diego for about six months at that point and was with a group of four friends, all Mexican and talking to each other in Spanish (which I don’t speak), out in the middle of nowhere in Southern California on a starry December night. After arriving an hour or so early for the movie, we decided to kill time by loitering in a Best Buy across the parking lot.

As I roamed the aisles of the crowded store (it was Christmas time, mind you) it hit me that I was in a totally different world than I’d been used to in New York. I was in a huge, extremely packed store and yet there seemed to be absolutely zero chance that anybody would recognize me all the way out in the middle of this dark desert in California. Whereas, in the Staten Island Best Buy that I’d been used to, I would run into someone from my past just about every single time I was in the store.

Now I was a stranger. In a strange land. And it felt cool.

I stood playing Madden football on a huge TV set for a little while until I was hit with an urgent need to use the bathroom for number-2 purposes. My stomach was under attack. I rushed through clusters of people and aisles of electronics until I found the store’s bathroom. Each stall in the men’s room was absolutely, horrifically mutilated. Stacks of urine-drenched toilet paper covered the seats, unflushed excrement piled up in the bowl. I became enraged at humanity and burst out the bathroom door headed outside and next-door to Barnes and Noble.

The atmosphere of B&N hummed the essence of a sanctuary compared to the pounding bright images of Best Buy. It was crowded but calm. Classical music played and turned my frantic jogging into a fast-paced stroll. I asked for directions to the bathroom then maneuvered a maze of shelves until I approached a wide path that led to the bathroom. Just before I entered the bathroom, a book facing me from a shelf on the right caught my eye. Its big beautiful yellow cover boasted: The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need. Though time was of the essence, I had just about reached my destination so I quickly stepped off the path and peeked at this book. It was big, well-organized, and had an air of authority. It also didn’t seem gimmicky and even if it did, this was something I knew nothing about. Since it was already an adventurous night, I figured I might as well pull a George Costanza and bring it into the bathroom with me. When else would I be able to do such a thing? If a store clerk confronted me I’d just ignore them and go ahead with fulfilling my urgent need to use the bathroom.

I’ll spare you any more lavatorial details. I flipped open the book and the first page I saw was from a chapter entitled “Astrology and Health” and I happened to open it on the page for my sign, Cancer. “They have delicate stomachs and digestive problems,” it stated. At that very moment I was experiencing stomach problems and I’ve had them throughout my entire life. It mentioned the Cancer’s inability to tolerate alcohol, which aggravates their sensitive stomachs, another problem I’ve dealt with. I became more interested. When the book pointed out a Cancerian susceptibility to varicose veins, an ailment which I’d experienced and had surgically corrected one year prior, I was sold. This shit is serious, I thought.

No need to flag this book because I was convinced that I needed to buy it. It has unremittingly enriched and shocked me and anyone else I’ve shown it to for two years now.

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"Attributes shared by Krishna, Attis, and Mithra
Dionysus, exploiting astrological sequence,
the birth and the death of god's son"
-Kevlaar 7
In December, when there was an eclipse on the night of the Winter Solstice, I started preparing to write a post about the solar and lunar symbols underlying Homer's Odyssey using Joseph Campbell's thorough breakdown of this in his Occidental Mythology. That idea faded away until it came back and smacked me in the face recently.

In doing some research for this post I came across some information that rocked my world. I probably should've known it already by now but somehow I never came across it (though, admittedly, I did come close to reaching this conclusion in my post about the Tunc page). The story of Jesus is the story of the Sun. Since, as I'm now realizing, pretty much all ancient hero or god stories perfectly correspond with the path of the Sun, I guess it shouldn't be that much of a shock. But, reading the parallels thoroughly explained, I found it explosively enlightening.

I think it is very simplistic and materialistic of folks to wave their hands and dismiss the importance of such information. For, what could be more simple and primitive than worshiping the sun? I think it goes way deeper than that. It has to do with an identification with the Sun, the solar symbol of infinity and timelessness. An identification with what the Sun represents is also an identification with a star or, really, all the stars in the universe since our sun is just one of many trillion.

It is this path that leads to an identification with the universe, thus shattering the ego and the subject-object dualism.

Put your thinking cap on.

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