Archives for posts with tag: Spirituality

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A client recently asked if there was any relationship between astrology and religion. The short answer is, surprisingly: Yes. The relationship between astrology and religion – and I’m speaking here of the Western religions– is that they are based on a similar idea: there is no god, but God, the Unique, the One, the Source from which everything in the universe comes forth.

In ancient astrology, the universe was conceived to be a hierarchy. If we look at the famous hermetic illustration of Robert Fludd, we see God at the top and then a ring of concentric circles ending with Earth. Symbolically, the chart suggests a series of correspondences, of relationships, of gradations and refinements of Being. This isn’t as abstract as it sounds. Consider, for instance, the Catholic Church: it is headed by the Pope and underneath is a hierarchy: Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Deacons and Laity. (The analogy breaks down, of course, as the Pope is considered infallible but that’s sheer sophistry and arrogance: only God is perfect.)

From the point of view of Fludd’s diagram, salvation, or grace, is accomplished through ascent: we must rise back to our common Source, God. To fall from our current position in the universe is dangerous: in one sense, we are already far away from God; to fall further is to flirt with non-existence.

Despite some similarity of conception, enormous differences exist between astrology and religion regarding the path back to God. Religion, at least as it’s currently practiced, requires believing and doing certain things for which the believer is rewarded. In contrast, the astrological approach requires that you Know Yourself. The chart, through the distribution and relationship of the planets, gives or should give insight into the basic nature of the individual. By knowing your nature, you have a perspective of your strengths and weaknesses, a perspective which can be used as a compass, so to speak, to guide you. To quote Fludd:

“As for man, there is such a wonderful treasure hidden in him that wise men have esteemed that the perfect wisdom of this world consisteth in knowledge of a man’s Self, namely to find out that secret mystery which doth lurk within him. For man is said to be the centre of every creature and for that cause he is called Microcosmos, centrum et miraculum mundi, containing in himself the properties of all creatures, as well celestial as terrestrial.”

Improvisation IV (Afrique)

Several readers sent very positive comments about last week’s article, Spirit. A couple seemed surprised. One woman asked: are you saying astrology is connected to religion? That’s an interesting question. The short answer is that they are connected by the fact that both begin with the idea that there is a larger meaning to life and the universe. From there, their paths diverge, with astrology traveling the road of self-knowledge and religion following a much different path.

I’ll point out one aspect of that divergence with a quick story: years ago, I attended a talk by a rather well-known spiritual leader who asked for questions from the audience. A woman asked him what she should do about her anger. “Just don’t be angry,” he answered. “But how?” she persisted. “If you want to grow spiritually, just stop being angry,” he answered.

To me that exchange encapsulates a lot of what is wrong with what passes for organized religion: giving generalized advice for specific individual states. His advice was to tell her not to be angry, but maybe the woman needed to be angry. Maybe her current situation required her to be angry to change, to change not only herself but others around her. Or maybe she was an angry person, who just needed a legitimate channel for that energy. There are a bunch of potential scenarios here, but his only advice was: Bear it and don’t be angry. But that clearly was not option for the woman.

After the event, I searched for her outside and asked what she thought of his advice. “I guess I’m being tested and maybe it’s all for my greater good” was her response. Maybe. Or maybe she didn’t know herself well enough to understand what she needed to do.

Which leads me back to where this article started last week: Know yourself. And know your “selves”. So lets continue with looking at the Spirit. To find the Part of Spirit in a chart is to attempt to understand how and where the Spirit, the Self, the I AM, lives within us. Just as importantly, it’s an attempt to understand how active the Spirit is, how easily it can express itself. In some charts, it is strong; in some charts, not so much. Additionally, it’s not unusual to see the Part of Spirit opposed or in conflict with planets that have more worldly interests, which reminds me of the famous prayer of  St. Augustine: “Lord, make me pure, but not yet.”

In the chart shown, the Part of Spirit (called POS from here on) is marked with an S at the left side of the chart. The description that follows is a description of how this particular individual struggled to incorporate spirituality into her life. The formula to find the placement is as follows: ASC + Moon – Sun = Part of Spirit (Sun).

 

 

Part of Spirit

In the chart shown, the POS is located at 14 degrees in Cancer, very close to the Ascendant (the point is marked with an S on the left side of the chart). Any planet or point in the Ascendant, particularly when it’s close to the rising degree, is important. So for this reading, I would take their interest in spirituality, or religion, as being strong, and that they are aware of that impulse within themselves and that it is a primary impulse.

From here, we look at the sign and position of the planet ruling the Ascendant. In this case, it’s the Moon. Located in the 9th house (upper right of the chart where all those planets are) in Pisces, suggests that this is a person who sees it as their purpose in life to love others, to give to others, to surrender their substance to others. Why? The 9th house is the house of religion and Pisces is the sign of the breaking down of barriers. All those planets – through their connection to the Part of Spirit – suggests the need to serve, of a larger sympathy with the world. What is interesting is how many other Arabic parts are placed on or near this Ascendant, including:

* Part of Fortune

* Part of Happiness

* Part of Hyleg

* Part of Life

* Part of Passion

* Part of Wisdom and Patience

Was any of this accurate? The chart belongs to a woman who has been deeply religious since her early youth and works in a religious organization ministering to the poor. It’s difficult work, yet deeply satisfying to her. Perhaps not surprisingly, there’s a sense where her identity is swallowed up by her vocation. However, the anonymity of it seems entirely natural to her: “It’s not about me, it’s about something much larger than myself”.

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For many years, the back of my business cards carried the statement: Know yourself. The phrase, which is usually traced back to the ancient Greeks, was intended as a proper goal of life. But what does that statement really mean? Or to be more exact, which self were they talking about?

For the purpose of this piece, I would put forward that there is self and Self. A great deal of astrology focuses on self – or more accurately, selves. Fickle, reactive, vulnerable to all kinds of influences, these small selves often determine the quality of our lives: who we like and don’t like, our pursuits, passions, animosities and so on. But the Self – with a capital “S” – is different. It is the expression of “I AM” that is somehow above all those little “selves” that we get attached to.

In astrology, one of the ways that the assessment of the Self takes place is through finding the Part of Spirit, or the Part of the Sun. As its name suggests, the part is not a planet, but is a degree in the chart that is calculated through a formula involving the positions of the Ascendant, Sun and Moon.

Why is the Part of Spirit associated with the Sun and not the Moon? The symbolism of astrology makes this very clear: the Moon is associated with our instinctual urges. It is changeable, like the world is changing every moment. It is transient, suggesting our transience. In contrast, the Sun represents the higher Self, our personal portion of the divine. It is the opposite of transience and approaches genuine permanence, even immortality. We cannot look directly at the Sun, because it is too powerful, too brilliant, much like we would be overwhelmed by the divine if it was suddenly revealed to us.

However, it’s easy to forget that deeper, brilliant part of ourselves in the ebb and flow of daily life. And that’s because the things of the world – and the way our small fickle selves become attached to those things – can easily block the radiance of our inner Sun. To use an analogy: pick up two small pebbles, hold them closely in front of your eyes and look at the Sun. What happens? The tiny stones block the light. This is a good illustration of what happens within us every day. The constant stream of petty, transient emotions and thoughts essentially block our larger perceptions. This may be why most religions and spiritual paths require their followers to practice humility. Of course, it has to be real humility and not the pretense of humility, which is just as destructive as having none at all.

Next week, we’ll talk a little more about the Part of Spirit, as well as look at it in action in a chart.