I’m back from a long, extremely hot, nine-day Ridhwan retreat on Maui. Believe it or not, I had a hard time uprooting myself from Vashon to head to the Valley Isle. Summer was just beginning to bloom in Washington, and folks who live here know that when summer starts displaying the goods, you gotta savor each golden day. Still, I made it to Hawai’i.
The retreat’s theme, the material presented, was incredibly challenging to articulate, and once again I’m in awe of the teachers’ focus and presence. Guidance on the subject of absence can easily devolve into acid trip-like meanderings (ask anyone that’s ever attended a bad Buddhist retreat on the subject). But our teachers’ transmission was crystalline, palpable and impacted me in a profoundly deep way.
This is all part and parcel of the process of the attempts to understand absence. The mind can’t absorb and hold on to the concept of emptiness because the observed and the perception of what is observed (in absence) are one and the same — there is no mind present, weighing and touching and parceling reality into familiar boxes. In fact ‘you’ aren’t even there to ‘have’ the experience — and yet there is the moment. So you can see the mindfuck of the whole subject.
But rather than ramble any further I’ll shift gears and go to a segment of one of Mary Oliver‘s poems, What Is There Beyond Knowing? — one of my favorites. Poetry being a fine way to trace the mind’s finger against the outline of emptiness (which is the best the mind can do — poor thing).
What is there beyond knowing that keeps
calling to me? I can’t
turn in any direction
but it’s there. I don’t mean
the leaves’ grip and shine or even the thrush’s
silk song, but the far-off
fires, for example,
of the stars, heaven’s slowly turning
theater of light, or the wind
playful with its breath;
or time that’s always rushing forward,
or standing still
in the same — what shall I say —
I’m continuing to contemplate the dazzling Jupiter Neptune conjunction that is gliding through Aquarius. During my retreat, the two planets moved directly onto my chart’s descendant. And their aspect became exact on my birthday. What a gift.
If the ascendant is a symbolic point of the self, the pure spark of existence, the descendant corresponds to how that spark views other sparks: the entirety of the ‘outside world.’ In other words: how the self experiences everything that is ‘not self’. The two points of the horoscope making a dynamic polarity.
Interestingly enough, through the retreat, we saw how the individual sustains a sense of self through the various intrapsychic self-representations that compose the self. It can be said that self-representations hold together the conviction that we are a self, that we have a separate identity and a distinct, separate existence.
According to the psychoanalyst Joseph Sandler self-representations “are organized compilations of past experiences, relatively enduring impressions, constellations of perceptions and images, which the child culls from his various experiences and which in turn provide for the child a kind of cognitive map, a subjective landscape within which he can locate and evoke the cast of characters and events within the drama of his experience.”
Wei Wu Wei said it much simpler: “Memory is the cement of the ego.”
You could say self-representations compose the mandala of the self, with the true Self (in the Jungian sense of the term) occupying the center. I’d call that center point True Nature itself.
But notice how Sandler includes ‘other’ in his definition.
We explored this during the retreat as well, how the perception of other (our relationships) mirror back and support the sense of self — it’s like self and other are one unit. Remove other, and you remove the self. How we perceive ‘other’ is never objective. We continually filter our perception of the outside world through our sense of self. Tainting it in the process. Rarely experiencing relationships in a real way, a way that isn’t defined by self-representations, object relational structures that project projections and transferences and, well, it’s down the rabbit hole from there.
With Neptune and Jupiter highlighting this theme, it was easy for me to experience the Neptunian dissolution that occurs when absence establishes and removes not only the sense of self (leaving just pure perception) but also when absence dissolves the concept of other as held by the self (represented in the horoscope by the descendant).
The beauty of astrology is that the apparent dualistic nature of opposites always contain the possibility of awakening us to the unified, non-dual field.
This happens, in an organic way you could say, when you study astrology deeply.
If you follow the ascendant deep enough towards the center of the chart (the wheel or mandala of self) it eventually turns into its opposite (the descendant). This is the mystery of opposite signs. Yes?
Follow Taurus — the sign associated with grounding the Arian life spark into a physical body — deep enough into the center and you end up with Scorpio, the sign associated with physical transformation, transfiguration and, well, death. But then follow Scorpio through it’s regenerative function, its alignment with the sexual instinct, back towards the center and we’re witnessing the birth of form in the Taurean realm again. Back to a new body you could say. And so it goes.
I think that’s enough of all that. So what else?
My post on Michael Jackson generated a tremendous flow of traffic to Astro Inquiry, which was awesome. In the process of meeting some of the new visitors to the site I came across this blog entry by Ellen Longo who publishes an intriguing site titled Astro4Bussines Intersections.
Her reading of the Neptune Aquarius transit is engaging, and I also found the quote she listed by Mikal Gilmore from Rolling Stone, related to Jackson touching. It reminded me of how the heart of the Jupiter Neptune Aquarius nexus was mirrored in the tidal wave of grief that hit the planet shortly after his death:
“In my mind, Michael Jackson, [Elvis] Presley and the Beatles all shared one virtue: they bound together millions of dissimilar people in not just a quirk of shared taste, but also a forceful, heartfelt consensus that spoke to common dreams and values.”
I’m still trying to comprehend what exactly Jackson came to symbolize for so many people. No one has quite nailed it, but Gilmore’s reading reveals the simpler, more heartfelt rationale. And Longo is correct, his reading is very Neptunian. In fact music, which Neptune is associated with, has a power that transcends just about every sense we can experience on planet earth, it’s why Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: “Without music, life would be an error.”