July 20th, 2009

July 2009 Solar Eclipse: Welcome to the Bardo’s Edge


Wednesday’s New Moon is a tipping point solar eclipse. Its duration, nearly seven minutes long, makes it the longest eclipse of the 21st century. There’s a particular potency to any celestial gathering around the last degrees of any zodiacal sign, and today’s lunation hits, exactly, the cusp between Cancer and Leo. A mysterious zone indeed.

This is a segment of time akin to the moments prior to a pregnant woman’s labor. Full-to-bursting, when the baby is ready to roll, the mother taps into an instinctual process that carries her along until the birth is complete. She can’t do it with her mind — surrender is implicit. You could say today’s eclipse atmosphere is charged with a persistent pressure to relax, release and welcome the unknown. A process is underway, geared to undo our grip on the familiar — but only if we’re willing to forgo expectations and preferences.

More than ushering in something new, this eclipse highlights the manner in which we surrender our concepts about the future. The opportunity? To test a new expression of trust and not allow the past to crowd out open-ended potentialities. To understand more clearly, study the two signs involved. What does the cusp between two signs signify? It’s a mysterious zone, yes? A stunning demarcation between one world and another.


Consider the enigma of Cancer. Hugh Lloyd-Jones, in Myths of the Zodiac, claims that some early Greek writers considered Cancer — and not Aries — the starting point of the zodiac. This mirrors the idea that Cancer, like the crab’s water realm, is the sign associated with the beginning of life.

And yet the fourth house of the horoscope, also associated with Cancer, is linked with the end of life. Here the Sun comes to the midnight point in its 24-hour cycle. And so, a new day. Life. Death. Night. Day. Ending. Beginning. It’s no wonder most Cancerians have a difficult time maneuvering the linear world. Time for a Cancer doesn’t exist the way it does for you and me. Set to this paradoxical dance, most Cancers feel exempt from the passage of solar-defined time. They’ve a private, lunar rhythm, all their own.

The Sun does not make its appearance, as a ruler of a zodiac sign, until Leo is reached — the sign following Cancer. So the cusp between Cancer and Leo is a shift between cool and shadowy and hot and bright — lunar and solar — and it’s akin to the moment before a sperm fertilizes an egg (so we’re back to another phase of our pregnancy metaphor again). Cancer, as the womb (or the union between mother and father) with Leo as progeny: the Golden Child. This is the translucent zone between the unmanifest and the manifest, at its most physical expression. A movement from ancient past, condensed into the the parents’ union, and the newborn future, represented by Leo. The birth of a new individual. The arrival of the Sun.

I’m placing the July eclipse within a context similar to the Tibetan tradition of the bardo. Bardo is an intermediate kind of borderland that’s experienced after death and before one’s next birth. A new moon is a kind of death space. It’s where the vestiges of the last lunar cycle dissipate, die out and then, once again, the Sun and Moon conjoin and a new impetus is set in motion.


According to the Tibetan teaching, the bardo is a period when the soul experiences a variety of post-death phenomena. There can be a longing and movement towards future rebirth or a desire to straggle, dreaming of one’s former life — stalled. It’s been said that a soul can become lost in this realm, wandering in ambivalence. We’ll experience something similar — a kind of torsion between apprehension and trust, nostalgia and daring — during the next two weeks, with a forced culmination (or ultimatum) reached at the Full Moon on August 6.

Interestingly enough, the Sabian Symbol for this last degree of Cancer echoes this same push-pull between past and future, stasis and engagement. It also puts in high relief the sputtering end of the American Dream. A condition that’s clouded over by a collective longing for The Good Ole Days. But reapplying old methods won’t work, the foundation has rotted (with Pluto’s entrance into Capricorn corresponding to the exposed decay) and the center will no longer hold. The symbol, as interpreted by Dane Rudhyar reads:

“A daughter of the American Revolution.”

He calls this emblem a “glorification of the past.” And the woman representing “a tradition that was once born of revolution now extols ‘law and order,’ attempting to suppress any new forms of the same revolutionary spirit.”

When you survey the political landscape, isn’t this the predominate wave now? We’re drowning in it. A new president was elected on a radical, grassroots-driven platform. He promised fierce advocacy, a new hope for a near-spent system. But, is it a surprise that the only revolution we’ve witnessed is the public heist related to the bailout ‘stimulus package,’ which funneled billions of taxpayer dollars to bankers still tipsy after their last gambling debacle?

The political machine continues to crank along to the chorus of an old Talking Heads song: “Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.” The subtext being: “More war, more taxes, more lobbyists pulling the strings, more Republican sex scandals, more health care oblivion.” Meanwhile our attention is focused, en masse, on Michael Jackson‘s funeral.

This fuzzed-out lack of focused attention, fueled by the vapors of campaign promises that people still chatter about, is echoed in the transiting Neptune/Jupiter conjunction that’s exact in Aquarius and conjunct the USA’s natal Moon. Collectively, we’re walking around with our heads in a miasma — spaced-out, dazed, Twittering bits and pieces of our insignificance into cyberspace, while Wallstreeters pick clean the coffers and another war congeals in Afghanistan. What’s amiss here?

I mention Michael Jackson, a synchronistic passing, because it’s been said that the mass outpouring of grief (and the huge numbers — more than half a million fans from around the world applied for tickets to attend his memorial) are connected to a strong romanticizing of the past. Sentimental, nostalgic swoons for the younger days of youth. This wasn’t lost on me when I watched his televised memorial service two weeks ago.

Studying the gigantic projected images of Michael’s teenage photos — the innocence and joy of his creative self-expression — juxtaposed to pictures of the 50-year old monstrosity that had recently died, it was easy to see a kind of Picture of Dorian Gray-like narrative unraveling in front of the world. But no one questioned or actually absorbed the stark reality of Jackson’s closing years; it was all about past glories, with a peculiar form of denial fueling the unrelenting sentimental gaze. Only the comedian Bill Maher riffed on Jackson, in a way that exposed a freaky parallel to the state of the nation, he said recently on his show: “Michael Jackson is America. We love him so much because he reflects our nation perfectly: fragile, overindulgent, childish, in debt, on drugs and over the hill.”

As Voltaire said, “History is little else than a picture of human crimes and misfortunes.” And this can apply to one’s personal story as well. Our identities are forged predominantly by our childhood traumas and betrayals — everything that sucked about growing up. And yet, from that ground, out of the turmoil and the wreckage, there remains a momentum, a certain dynamism moving us forward towards a perspective that is fresh, ground that is just broken and air that is crystalline, washed clean. This applies, too, to any area of our life that we feel rutted within. Spinning, lacking direction. So, where does our attention stay fixed?

Today’s eclipse corresponds to a pre-birth opportunity veiled as a dilemma. Do we try to think and manipulate our way into tomorrow, or trust that the deeper movements of being, given latitude, will move us, just at the right time, exactly where we need to be?

Photograph: Associated Press. Solar Eclipse of August 1, 2008 at Islamabad’s grand Faisal mosque in Pakistan.

Comments are off for this post 'July 2009 Solar Eclipse: Welcome to the Bardo’s Edge'
Filed Under: Astrology and New Moon Watch