Pluto: Its Discovery, History, and Meaning

2020 promises to be a year of big changes astrologically, culminating with a Jupiter/Saturn Conjunction, also known as a Great Conjunction, in Aquarius at the Winter Solstice. This will mark the end of a two-century era in which the Great Conjunctions fell in Earth Signs and the beginning of a new two-century era in which they will occur in Air Signs.

As if this were not enough, before Jupiter and Saturn can come together, they will both have had to cross the path of Pluto. Saturn closed in on Pluto on January 12, 2020, and Jupiter will meet with Pluto three times, on April 4, June 30, and November 12.

For a detailed discussion of the Transits of 2020, see 2020 – An Earth-Shattering Year.

While all astrologers agree that the Jupiter/Saturn Conjunction has great significance, what about the meaning of the conjunctions of both of these planets with Pluto?

Answers to this question will vary widely by who you talk to. A Modern Psychological Astrologer or an Evolutionary Astrologer will attach deep meaning to these transits, while a strict Traditional Astrologer might say that they have no meaning at all.

In order to examine this subject, it might be helpful to take a closer look at Pluto, its history, and the significance that has been given to it by astrologers.

The History of Pluto

Before we delve into the astrological and metaphysical meanings of Pluto, let us step back and look at what we know about the discovery of this planet, its demotion, and its current place in modern astronomy.

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Clyde Tombaugh

Pluto’s Discovery

Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh when he was 23 years old. He worked at the Lowell Observatory, and his job was to search for Planet X. A century had not yet gone by since the discovery of Neptune in the mid-1840s.

Apparently, in the late 19th century, some astronomers believed that the orbits of Uranus and Neptune were not what they were supposed to be and speculated that there was another planet causing the anomaly. This undiscovered planet was called Planet X.

Percival Lowell was a wealthy Bostonian and scholar who was interested in a variety of subjects, including mathematics and astronomy. He founded the Lowell Observatory, and searching for Planet X was one of his pet projects.

Percival Lowell did not live to see his dream become a reality, but one of the glyphs that is commonly used for Pluto has a combined P and L, which in addition to being the first letters for the name of the planet, were also the initials of his name.

Pluto’s Demotion

Beginning in the early 1990s, barely 60 years into its discovery, Pluto’s status as a planet was beginning to be called into question. Part of the reason for this is that astronomers were finding out just how small Pluto really is. It is about two-thirds of the size of the Earth’s Moon.

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Pluto, compared to the Earth and Moon

Another difficulty is that Pluto’s orbit is quite messy. Like the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Pluto’s orbit is filled with other space objects and is now known to be a part of a region that has been named the Kuiper Belt.

Pluto’s final fall from grace happened when another body larger than it was found to be further out into the Kuiper Belt. This body eventually became known as Eris, after the Greek goddess of strife and discord.

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) officially determined the definition of a planet to be a celestial body that 1) is in orbit around the Sun; 2) has enough mass to be round; 3) has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.

Celestial bodies that have only met the first two criteria are now known as dwarf planets, and there are now 5 bodies that belong in this classification, among them, Pluto, Eris, and Ceres.

Pluto’s demotion was highly controversial. In his book, The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium and one of the key players in Pluto’s reclassification, tells the story of the popular outcry. Apparently, Dr. Tyson received quite a bit of mail complaining about the demotion, which included letters from elementary school children. One letter even included a picture of Pluto crying.

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Pluto’s Heart

It turns out that the elementary school children discussed above may have been right to be concerned about Pluto’s feelings. Unbeknownst to anyone, Pluto apparently has a heart.

In 2006, the space probe, New Horizons, was launched to explore the outer Solar System. This probe arrived at Pluto in 2015 and mapped this celestial body along with its largest moon, Charon. Charon is so large in comparison with Pluto that Charon does not actually orbit Pluto. Instead, these bodies orbit a point between them.

New Horizons sent back a great deal of data about Pluto. Some of the most interesting discoveries were that the most prominent feature of Pluto’s landscape is a large heart-shaped region and that there may be water beneath its surface.

Pluto in Astrology

Pluto’s role in astrology has also taken many twists and turns. At the present time, Pluto is just as controversial in the astrological community as it is in the scientific one. For the most part, Indian astrology does not incorporate Pluto or any of the modern planets, but for such a small celestial body, it has become a very big bone of contention among Western astrologers.

Below are some of the views of Pluto based on three of the main branches of Western Astrology.

Traditional/Classical

Strict Traditional or Classical Astrologers ignore Pluto altogether. They also ignore Uranus, Neptune, and all of the asteroids. They primarily use the Seven Traditional Planets and see no need to make room for any of the planets discovered in modern times. This is, in part, because of the doctrine of visibility, which is that only the bodies that are visible have meaning to our lives.

Yet, there are many astrologers, some of them quite well-known, that use mostly traditional methodology and still incorporate Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto in their readings.

In general, though, these astrologers do not assign the planets the rulerships of any signs, and instead, stick to the traditional rulership scheme.

Modern Psychological Astrology

The most common branch of astrology that is practiced in the West can be loosely described as Modern Psychological. Actually, this is far from a unified or organized school of thought, but there are some common themes.

The reason it is often termed psychological astrology is that its primary purpose is to describe people’s personality traits and internal psychological dynamics. Often, practitioners do not try to predict events that will happen in people’s lives but instead focus on a person’s Free Will.

Planets and celestial bodies are often incorporated into the system shortly after they are discovered. Innovation is welcome and even encouraged by practitioners.

In Modern Psychological Astrology, Pluto governs deep internal psychological forces. The associations for Pluto are often quite dark, although, it is also termed the planet of “transformation.” Pluto is assigned the rulership of Scorpio, sometimes alongside Mars, the traditional ruler, and sometimes in place of Mars. Areas assigned to Pluto are the areas of the psyche are ugly, violent, and that most people try to keep buried.

On a global level, it has been noted that Pluto was discovered as we were discovering atomic power, and the element named for it, plutonium, was used in the first atomic bomb detonated in war.

Pluto’s demotion has not changed its usage by most Modern Psychological Astrologers, although some have included other dwarf planets, such as Ceres and Eris, into their readings.

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Evolutionary Astrology

Evolutionary Astrology takes Pluto even further, teaching that it is central to a person’s soul. Indeed, it points to the soul’s karma and its intentions in this present life. One of the major schools of Evolutionary Astrology is known as The Pluto School.

This branch of astrology also combines a sign, its ruler, and the house whose number corresponds to that sign, and gives them all a synonymous meaning. In this system, Scorpio, Pluto, and the 8th House all mean approximately the same thing.

Interestingly enough, this system places a heavy emphasis on Free Will. The chart is just a reflection of your past up until the point that you were born, and you can decide what to do with it in this life.

Even so, in many cases, Evolutionary Astrology often takes a close look at the traumas and unpleasant experiences that one has encountered in this and previous lives.

Further Discussion and Research

Last spring, on the Astrology Podcast, hosted by Chris Brennan, there was an interesting episode titled How Did Pluto and the Outer Planets Get Their Meanings. The panelists were Chris Brennan, Kenneth Miller, Sam Reynolds, and Lisa Schaim.

You can watch this episode on YouTube here.

This was a very good discussion, and I highly recommend it.

One of the more interesting parts of this video was a discussion by Kenneth Miller about a study he conducted regarding the views of astrologers concerning Pluto since its discovery.

According to his research, for the first few decades, most astrologers were unsure of whether Pluto did have meaning and if so, what that meaning was. Sometimes it seemed to impact people and sometimes it did not.

In most cases, astrologers from the early decades of Pluto’s discovery seemed to think that Pluto was only relevant in a birth chart if it impacted other planets or chart points in the chart.

In modern times, however, Kenneth Miller observed that astrologers who use Pluto are convinced that it does have meaning, are confident of that meaning, and see evidence of its influence whether or not it is connected with the more personal planets.

In the episode, he pondered what that might mean, assuming that both the astrologers of the past and present astrologers were faithfully reporting their professional observations. Could it be that Pluto actually is more influential now than it was in the past?

Also discussed in this video was the practice of ascribing meaning to Pluto and other celestial bodies based on the name given to them by astronomers as well as by what was going on in the world during their discovery. The basis for this practice is the doctrine of synchronicity. One of the observations made, however, that there did not seem to be any discussion of the significance of Pluto’s demotion according to synchronicity.

Pluto and Free Will

One of the central controversies in astrology concerns the roles of Fate and Free Will in our lives. This is not just an abstract philosophical discussion. For astrologers, it has profound practical implications. Our position on this issue governs how much we think that a person’s astrological chart can tell us and what we believe that we are able to predict by the movements of the planets.

Ultimately, every astrologer must come to terms with this question for themselves, but the different branches of Western Astrology tend to have different beliefs the interplay between Fate and Free Will.

Modern practitioners of Traditional/Classical Astrology tend to fall heavily on the side of Fate. There are a few who go so far as to think that our entire lives can be predicted with mathematical precision from our charts. This is an extreme view and is not held by many practicing astrologers, however.

Astrologers in the Hellenistic Age seemed to have a more nuanced view and in general, believed that some things were fated and some were subject to Free Will. I have found that most modern Traditional and Classical Astrologers would agree with this. Yet, I think that almost all would say that Fate plays at least some role in what happens to us and that we can predict our present and our future to a certain extent from our birth charts.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are Evolutionary Astrologers who do not believe in Fate, but ascribe everything to Free Will. As discussed before, in this branch, our birth chart only reflects the choices that we have made in past lives. Our present and future paths are up to us.

Most Modern Psychological Astrologers fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

For my own thoughts on the subject, I refer the reader to the article below:

Fate, Free Will, the Cross, and Wa

One of the things that I have noticed is that it seems that there is a correlation between how much astrologers believe Pluto and the Outer Planets impact us and how great of a role Free Will plays in our lives.

I do not think that this is a coincidence.

Thoughts and Reflections

When I first read, The Feminist Universe, by Miss Alice Trent, I learned about the modern poisons of atomization, deracination, and deformation. Atomization separates us from each other, deracination separates us from our Source, and deformation twists and inverts that which is good and beautiful, making it an ugly parody.

If you are interested, you can purchase a copy of The Feminine Universe here.

When I was reading about these poisons, I was struck with how similar they were to the accepted meanings of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.

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I wrote about my thoughts in the article below:

The Outer Planets – A Theory

In a later article, I discussed my thoughts on the notion that the Outer Planets were “Higher Octaves” of the Traditional Planets. The article is linked below:

The Outer Planets: the Pseudomythos of “Higher Octaves” and “Transcendence”

Based on these reflections, and in monitoring my own chart as the charts of my clients and others I know, I have developed my own practice as to how I use Pluto and the Outers.

I do believe that they can have an impact on people, but that this impact is almost entirely the result of Free Will.

 

I believe that the Traditional Planets, which we can see with the naked eye, cannot be avoided. We do have some Free Will with respect to how we interact with the principles they represent, but we are fated to deal with them as Axial Beings in the material world. For example, a mortal cannot avoid Saturn. We will all face the ravages of time and will eventually die.

We can, however, avoid delving into the depths of Pluto. In order to see it, we must go to substantial lengths and effort to do so. I think that is a metaphor for the Pluto principle as well.

On the other hand, no one is an island, and if our society has embraced Pluto, we will be impacted by it at some level whether we want to be or not. I find it interesting that there has been an outcry against the demotion of Pluto, and that many astrologers have ignored it completely.

If synchronicity was involved in its discovery, surely its demotion was meaningful as well. I think that, perhaps, we have been given the choice to reject the principles that have been associated with it. Maybe, over time, our society will be able to make that choice.

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Perhaps, we can use this year of changes to stop employing Pluto as a symbol for the principle which encourages us to dig up parts of our psyche better left buried or to take apart the building blocks of matter giving the power to destroy ourselves. Instead, we can let it alone to be a teeny world at the edge of our Solar System. We can enjoy its dance with its partner, Charon, let it have its heart, and speculate about what might be in the oceans beneath its surface.

I think that we have that choice if we want it.

Learning Indian (Vedic) Astrology

I have been rather quiet on my various blogs recently. This has been a rather busy time for me. During the month of May, I took a course at Kepler College called Crash Course in Indian Astrology, which was taught by Kenneth Miller. The course proper is finished, but I still need to finish the final homework assignment.

I had wanted to study at Kepler College when it was still able to offer Master’s degrees, but at the time, it was not possible for me. I have also been curious about Indian Astrology for a long time. Unlike Western Astrology, Indian Astrology has a living tradition, so it did not seem fitting to attempt to learn it through self-study. It just so happened that I learned about this course at the same time that we got a nice-sized income tax refund, so I decided to go for it.

At the time, I had no intention of “converting” to Indian Astrology. I was only seeking to learn a little more about it so that I could talk intelligently when asked about the subject by friends or clients. A “crash course” seemed perfect for that purpose. Now that I am in the home stretch, I find that I am re-thinking the entire direction of my practice. Before I discuss this, however, I want to talk a little about the differences between Indian and Western Astrology.

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Differences between Indian and Western Astrology

Indian Astrology, or Jyotish, is a different astrological language from Western astrology. It is a related language. Much of the vocabulary is recognizable, but it is used in different ways. Below are some of the main differences that I have learned so far.

Sidereal Zodiac(s)

Even beginning astrology students usually know that most practitioners of Western Astrology use the Tropical Zodiac, which is based on the Solstices and the Equinoxes.  When learning this, students also learn that Indian Astrology uses “the” Sidereal Zodiac which is based on the constellations.

As it turns out, this is not really accurate. To begin with, none of the Sidereal Zodiacs in use by practitioners of Indian Astrology truly correspond to the actual constellations. For one thing, the constellations are not all the same size.  The largest constellation, Virgo, is about 3 times the size of the smallest constellation, Capricorn. Just like the Tropical Zodiac, the Sidereal Zodiacs divide the ecliptic into 12 equal parts.

The difference is merely in where 0° Aries begins. In the Tropical Zodiac, 0° Aries begins at the Spring Equinox. In theory, the Sidereal Zodiacs begin at the first star of the constellation Aries in the sky. There is a problem, however. There is no bright star at the beginning of Aries to measure by.

As a result, various calculations of what is known as the Ayanamsa exist. The Ayanamsa is the difference between 0° Aries and the Spring Equinox. Apparently, historically, different almanacs were published in different villages with different Ayanamsas, most of which were calculated using one of the bright stars at the end of the constellation Pisces.

This became a problem not just for astrologers. In India, the dates of most of the major festivals are based on the position of the stars. The different Ayanamsas meant that different villages were celebrating their festivals at different times. To remedy the chaos that this could cause, in the 1950s, the Indian government standardized the Ayanamsa using modern scientific methods. This became known as the Lahiri Ayanamsa.

This did not settle the issue for astrologers, however. Apparently, rather than using stars at the beginning of Aries or the end of Pisces, Lahiri uses Spica, which is at the end of the constellation Virgo, and sets 0° Aries opposite to this fixed star. There is no traditional authority that allows the Ayanamsa to be calculated in this way, so there are quite a few astrologers who reject this calculation.

All in all, it seems like the calculation of the Ayanamsa in Indian Astrology is as chaotic as the quadrant House divisions are in Western, if not more so.

Other Technical Differences

Speaking of House divisions, practitioners of Indian Astrology, by and large, use the Whole Sign House system. This goes a long way in reducing the amount of chaos that the different Ayanamsas would otherwise cause.

This brings me to a different issue. Even though most practitioners of Western Astrology use the Tropical Zodiac, there are some that do use one of the Sidereal Zodiacs. There was a time that I did not have an opinion on this, but now I do. My current opinion is that this is not a good idea.

There is some research that suggests that Vettius Valens, a renowned astrologer of the Hellenistic Era, used a sidereal zodiac along with or instead of the Tropical Zodiac. Even if this was the case, the methodology of Western Astrology has developed using the Tropical Zodiac for almost 2,000 years since that time. One of these developments has been quadrant-based House Systems, such as Placidus or Regiomontanus, and there is no real consensus between Western Astrologers as to which one to use. So, if you combine the uncertainty as to the Ayanamsa with the uncertainty of quadrant-based houses, you are increasing the chaos exponentially.

Even if you use a Whole Sign House System, the methodology of Indian Astrology is very different than Western. For example, Indian astrology does not use the five-tiered dignity system that Western Traditional/Classical Astrology uses. It does use exaltation and rulership. It also uses something that is known as debilitation, which corresponds to Fall in Western Astrology. Aside from that, dignity is based on a system of friendship and enmity between the planets and a complicated combination of other factors, many of which are not considered or are considered differently in Western Astrology. Also, Indian astrology does not use the Ptolemaic aspects. Instead, the only aspects it recognizes are planets that are in the same sign and opposite signs and special aspects for Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

Given these differences, in my opinion, it does not seem wise to “mix and match” by using one of the sidereal zodiacs with Western astrological methodology.

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Philosophical Differences

While there are major technical differences between these two astrological languages, the most profound differences are in their philosophy.  While people of other religions can and do practice Indian Astrology, by and large, it is rooted in Hindu beliefs and religious rituals. This gives it a rich philosophical and spiritual foundation that is mostly lacking in Western Astrology as it is practiced today.

For example, in Indian Astrology, the planets do not operate mechanically. They are governed by Intelligent deities. This means that if you are having trouble with a planet, one of the things that you can do about it is to appeal to the deity of that planet for relief. Hinduism also has rich teachings about karma that explain the interaction between Fate and Free Will in a very profound way.

It is also a common practice for Jyotishi (practitioner of Indian Astrology) to say prayers to the planetary deities before reading a chart. Our instructor began each class with one of these prayers.

My Dilemma

As I said, when I started the course, I did not intend to “convert” to Indian Astrology. Now, I am not so sure. Obviously, I do not know enough after a “crash course” to switch at this point in time. I will still be offering my services in Western Astrology for the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, I have been working on developing what I have been calling Essentialist Astrology. Essentialist Astrology is more of a philosophy of practice rather than a methodology. After learning about Indian Astrology, I wonder if this is not a fool’s errand.

Much of what I have been trying to do in Essentialist Astrology is a regular part of the practice of Indian Astrology. Indian Astrology is patriarchal, of course, but not as much as one might think. For example, the planetary deities are all masculine, but the stars and the deities of the Nakshaktras (the Indian version of Lunar Mansions) are all feminine.

Also, while Indian Astrology is mostly rooted in Hinduism, there are many practitioners of other faiths such as Buddhism and Jainism. This is one of the reasons that the instructor prefers the term Indian Astrology to Vedic Astrology.  When I asked what practitioners of other religions do, I was told that it was perfectly acceptable to substitute the angels or deities from one’s own tradition for the Hindu gods. Apparently, Buddhist practitioners use bodhisattvas or aspects of the Buddha, and Christian and Jewish practitioners use the Archangels.

So, substituting the planetary Janyati for the Hindu gods does not seem like it would be a problem either.

Given all of this, it seems like it may be more productive to study Indian Astrology than it would be to keep struggling with Western Astrology. I do not know yet, but it is something to seriously consider.

My New Shrine

One of the things that I have done is to make a new shrine, which is on the top shelf of the desk that I work at. In Filianism, it is encouraged to use images for Dea and the Janyati from living traditions rather than historical ones whenever possible. This is because with living traditions, we have more confidence that we are using the images correctly. I was able to stick to this practice with my new shrine, as you can see below.

 

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From left to right: Sri Saraswati, Quan Yin, Green Tara, Uma, White Tara, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sri Durga

 

In this shrine, Our Lady of Guadalupe is Sai Raya (the Sun). Quan Yin is Sai Candre (the Moon). Sri Durga is Sai Vikhë (Mars).  According to the Chapel of Our Mother God, Sri Saraswati can represent either Sai Thamë (Jupiter) as the Divine Musician or Sai Mati (Mercury) as the goddess of Wisdom and learning. I chose to have Her represent Sai Thamë.

I had originally planned to use Sri Lakshmi for Sai Sushuri (Venus), but I could not find a statue that I liked. Instead, I found a lovely image of Green Tara. I had a difficult time with the image to use for Sai Rhavë (Saturn). Many of the images associated with Her, such as Kali, are rather difficult. In Filianism, She is loosely associated with the Dark Mother, who is God without Form, and thus has no images. In researching, though, I discovered that White Tara bestows longevity and compassion for earthly suffering. If nothing else, it seems like it is appropriate to go to White Tara for Rhavic difficulties.

Surprisingly enough, I had the most trouble with Sai Mati. I thought I might use an image of Sophia or even a historical image such as Athena, but I could not find one I liked. I found an image of Uma in a catalog, and I kept being drawn to it. I did some research, and I discovered that She is a mountain goddess of Wisdom. I found a story about Her that I really liked in which She taught Agni, the god of fire, and Vayu, the god of wind, about humility. This reminded me of The Sermon of the Apple Seed from the Feminine Scriptures, which I try to keep in mind in all of the work that I do.

Where Do I Go From Here?

So, the question is, now what? Where do I go from here? The answer to this is that I do not really know. I guess the first thing is to finish the last assignment from my class. There are a few books that the instructor recommended that I have not had the chance to read yet, so that will probably be the next step.

I guess after that, I will let the Janyati lead the way and see where that goes.

Zodiacal Releasing: The Narrative of Our Lives

As an astrologer, I am very conservative about adding new techniques into my practice. In my experience, when reading an astrological chart, in many ways less is more. I have found that the more techniques I throw at a chart, the harder it is to interpret, and the fuzzier my reading becomes. For this reason, I was not immediately ready to jump on board when I first heard about an Ancient Hellenistic technique known as Zodiacal Releasing. This past February, however, the Hellenistic Astrologer, Chris Brennan released a podcast and YouTube video on this technique which included a good basic description of how to use it. You can find this video here.

What is Zodiacal Releasing and How Does it Work?

Zodiacal Releasing is a Time Lady technique. Time Lady techniques divide a person’s life into sections, with a planet or planets ruling each section. Zodiacal Releasing is a little different than many of these techniques in that it uses zodiac signs rather than the planets.

It is a rather complicated technique, and the division takes place on four different levels, with Level 1 spanning years and sometimes even decades and Level 4 spanning days or sometimes only hours. This technique uses the Lot of Spirit or the Lot of Fortune as the launching point depending on what you are using it for. Chris Brennan describes it as dividing one’s life into chapters and paragraphs, but it makes more sense to me to use the analogy of trilogies and story arcs.

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Evaluating New Techniques

Before I go into my thoughts about Zodiacal Releasing, I would like to explain my process for evaluating techniques to determine whether I will incorporate them into my practice. The practice of astrology has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. The ready availability of computers has made casting a chart much, much easier than it was when I was twelve years old and learning to cast a chart by hand on the kitchen table using my mother’s astrology textbook.  Furthermore, everywhere you look on the Internet, there is someone talking about a new (or old) technique or practice. If one were to learn and use everything available, it would be chaos. To manage this, I have a process I go through to sort through techniques that I encounter.

1. Is the technique sound on a metaphysical or philosophical level?

While some astrologers take a purely pragmatic approach to our craft, it is my own belief that we cannot separate what we do from our philosophy.  Sometimes, with older techniques, it is not possible to know their metaphysical basis; however, from my perspective, the older the technique is, the more likely it is to be sound on a metaphysical level, even if we do not know the underlying philosophy.

2. What is the lineage of the technique?

I think it is very important to know where a technique comes from to the extent that it is possible. Now, while I am not one who believes that we must trace every technique to an Ancient, Medieval, or Renaissance text, I do tend to favor techniques with a deep historical lineage. There is a problem, though. In the West, we lack a living tradition. At most, we have remnants that have survived through the ages.  So, when we uncover older techniques, we must reconstruct them, and we are very likely to get it wrong.

So, from my perspective, the best techniques are the ones that have stood the test of time. Given how broken the astrological tradition is, there is a surprising amount that has survived relatively unchanged. For example, with the exception of granting the Outer Planets rulerships over signs, the rulership system has remained largely unchanged since the Hellenistic Era.

With respect to modern techniques, I do not reject them out of hand; however, to me, the burden of proof with respect to them is extremely high.

3. How well is the technique understood?

In the past several decades there have been many dedicated translators and researchers who have worked hard to recover traditional astrological texts, including the late Robert Schmidt, who founded Project Hindsight, and Robert Hand. Even so, the process of recovering and understanding techniques is not an easy one. In many cases, all we have are incomplete texts without a living teacher to explain them properly. So, even when we have ancient techniques with a solid pedigree, we must still proceed with caution.

4. Does the technique work?

While this is not my first consideration in evaluating techniques, I am a practicing astrologer and not a researcher. If I am going to use a technique, it needs to work, and it needs to work reliably and consistently. Most of the time when techniques are presented, the astrologer will give example charts, and of course, it is important to carefully listen to the examples presented. That is not enough, though. The technique needs to work for me.

I first test a technique on my own chart. The reason I do this is that I know my own chart the best, and I have the most information about my own life. There is a disadvantage in that it is hard to be objective about one’s own chart, but I have long experience as an astrologer and in testing techniques on my own chart. If the technique does not work on my chart, and I cannot see a good reason why it would not, I usually reject it out of hand.

From there, I test it on other charts that I am familiar with, and then move on to charts of celebrities and famous people. I am a bit ruthless when it comes to these things. For me, the burden of proof is on including a new technique, not excluding it. I generally expect a technique to work at least 80% of the time, and for there to be a good reason why it did not work on the other 20%.

5. Does it tell me something I did not already know?

I already use a number of different techniques, and it is hard enough to juggle the sometimes confusing amount of information that can be gleaned. While there is something to be said for getting the same information from several different techniques, life is short. If a technique does not improve my readings, even if it meets all of the above criteria, I will not take the time to incorporate it in my practice.

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Evaluating Zodiacal Releasing

So, now that I explained my process for evaluating techniques, how did Zodiacal Releasing do? The short answer is…very well! For the long answer, let’s go through my criteria.

1. Is Zodiacal Releasing sound on a philosophical and metaphysical level?

The technique of Zodiacal Releasing was found in Book 4 of the Anthology of Vettius Valens, and he attributes it to Abraham. Generally, when a technique is attributed to a religious leader by a Classical text, it is an indication that the source is Ancient revealed knowledge. As such, it can be presumed to be sound on a metaphysical basis, even if we do not fully understand it.

Yet, the details of the technique also suggest its philosophical basis. In using the technique, one moves the Lot of Spirit, which is related to the mind and the will through the chart. In doing so, one pays attention to its relationship to the Lot of Fortune, which is related to bodily matters as well as luck or chance. In other words, this technique considers how one’s will interacts with the forces of fate or chance.

2. What is the lineage of Zodiacal Releasing?

As mentioned above, the technique is found in Vettius Valens’ Anthology and is attributed to Abraham. On the other hand, the technique had largely been lost, and as far as can be known at present, there is no mention of it in the texts from later traditions.

So, by necessity, we are dealing with a reconstructed technique. This is not an ideal situation, but if it passes all of the other tests, it is certainly not a reason to exclude it from consideration.

3. How well is Zodiacal Releasing understood?

There have been astrologers, including Chris Brennan, who have been researching and working with Zodiacal Releasing for over a decade. While there is a lot of work still to do, this seems to be a good start.

4. Does Zodiacal Releasing work?

When I watched the YouTube video explaining this technique, I was impressed from the beginning. With just a superficial understanding, the technique captured the major turning points in my life. The more I learned and the more I played with the technique, with my own chart and the charts of others, the more impressed I became. I think I can safely say, even with the limited understanding that I have, it is by far the most accurate timing technique that I have come across.

5. Does Zodiacal Releasing tell me something I did not already know?

Yes, it does. In applying this technique, I understood things about my life and my life direction that had long baffled me. When I practiced the technique on a couple of my friends, they reported that it really helped them understand the meaning of things that they had gone through in their lives.

How to Learn Zodiacal Releasing

Zodiacal Releasing is one of the more complicated techniques that I have come across. I would definitely classify it as an Advanced technique. I would not recommend it to a beginning student of astrology. A good understanding of astrology in general and at least some familiarity with Traditional/Classical Astrology is necessary.

As mentioned before, the technique is described in Book 4 of Vettius Valens’ Anthology. A full translation of Anthology translated by Mark Riley is available for free pdf download here. The technique is also described in great detail in the last chapter of Chris Brennan’s book, Hellenistic Astrology.

On the other hand, this is one technique I would not recommend learning on your own, even if you are an experienced astrologer. If you are interested, I would start by watching the YouTube video I linked to above. From there, I would highly recommend Chris Brennan’s course.

He teaches this technique as a part of his Hellenistic Astrology course, but he also has a stand-alone course on Zodiacal Releasing available. It consists of an 18-hour video lecture plus a great deal of bonus material. While you do not get individualized instruction, there is a comments section, and he does answer questions that way.

Next Steps

As you might imagine, it is not often that I incorporate a new technique into my practice, so it is always exciting when I do. I still need to work with and practice this technique before I fully incorporate it.

For a while now, I have been considering a new project. I got this idea when I listened to the full soundtrack for the musical Hamilton. The final song talks about Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, and all that she did after he died to preserve his memory. I thought about the many other stories of feminine bravery that we know nothing about. My idea was a site specifically devoted to telling these stories. I have a lot on my plate right now, and I did not know how I would find time for another site.

Yet, with this new technique, it occurred to me that I could combine this project with my research of Zodiacal Releasing. My plan is to write a biographical article about each woman, and then to include bonus astrological articles about them whenever possible, using Zodiacal Releasing and other techniques.

The new site is live, and its name is Quiet Heroines: Celebrating the Power of the Feminine. I plan to have the first article up on Sunday, April 7, 2019, and it will be about the woman who inspired the site, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton.

Can Eclipses Bring Good Things?

When reading the article on my astrology site regarding the Lunar Eclipse of January 21, 2019, a friend of mine noticed that I suggested that the launching of the modern Olympic Games was related to the Saros Series that this past Lunar Eclipse belongs to. In response to that, my friend asked me whether eclipses could bring good things?

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That is a really interesting question, I think. In my research, many inventions seem to have been related to eclipses, as was Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the Americas. This would seem to be problematic to my assertion that eclipses represent periodic, temporary triumphs of Dark over Light. Or is it?

It would take a wiser person than I to have anything that resembles a full and complete answer to this question, but I do have some thoughts on the matter. To start with, I think that it is undeniable that eclipses can bring things that are beneficial to some people. For example, I live in the United States, and I would not be living here if the discovery of the Americas did not happen. On the other hand, this discovery was not beneficial for everyone, and indeed, it was quite harmful to the original inhabitants of this continent.

In order to unravel this mystery, it may be helpful to look at the Symbol of the Cross and our nature as Axial Beings.

The Symbol of the Cross

The CrossI have discussed the Symbol of the Cross before, but here is a brief overview. The Cross relates to the material world. It has two axes, the horizontal and vertical. The horizontal axis relates to pure materiality, and the vertical axis relates to spirituality. Even though they cross in the middle, these two axes are independent of each other. One can do very well on the material axis while falling into Darkness on the spiritual axis. In the Christian written tradition, Jesus is reported to say, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24, NRSV. Likewise, it is possible for someone to do poorly on the material axis while rising towards the Light on the spiritual axis. Indeed, in the same Christian tradition, this was the fate of the saints and martyrs.

Inventions and discoveries often give us a more comfortable life on the material level. In this sense, they are good and beneficial. On the other hand, they are usually neutral and can even be harmful to us on a spiritual level. In many cases, inventions are necessary due to the fact that we have declined on both a material and a spiritual level. See also The Bugbear of Literacy by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy.

So, in effect, there is no reason why there should not be things that are beneficial on a material level associated with eclipses. I would say that even so, there is a good chance for there to be an element of Darkness involved as well. That is certainly the case with the discovery of the Americas, and it could be argued that there has been some Darkness surrounding the Olympics from time to time in its history. I will address the Olympics in more detail later, but before I do, I would like to discuss another element of discoveries related to eclipses.

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Eclipses and the Modern Scientific Worldview

Not only have there been many discoveries that have been astrologically associated with eclipses, but eclipses themselves have led to direct discoveries about the Universe, or at least the mechanical workings of it. While these discoveries are interesting and even useful, they have also prompted the current belief system of the modern Western scientific community. This belief system appears to be that the Cosmos is merely a mechanical place governed by chance and random events. In this belief system, an eclipse is merely a shadow.

Yet, in spite of this, or perhaps because of it, there is almost a religious fervor to encourage people to go out and watch eclipses. In a sense, viewing an eclipse seems to be almost of the nature of a religious test to prove that one is not bound by the “superstitions” of the past. In this respect, I do believe that the modern embrace of eclipses is an intentional movement into Darkness, even though there have been technological advancements associated with it.

Our Nature As Axial Beings

This being said, I think there something different going on in the case of the Olympics. Yes, there have been negative things associated with the Olympics including violence and countries using them for political purposes in terms of boycotts and the like. On the other hand, I do believe that the modern Olympics is a positive development not just on the material level, but a movement towards the Light on a spiritual level. Indeed, even the negative things that have happened may have prevented wars and more serious problems as countries could take their aggression out on the Olympics instead.

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Yet, it does appear that they are related to eclipses. There was a Total Lunar Eclipse that occurred on November 4, 1892. Later that month, on November 23, 1892, Pierre de Coubertin launched the plans for the modern Olympic Games. This eclipse was 44 minutes long, and if you count a month for every minute of totality, this would mean that the full impact of this eclipse would not be felt for another three years and four months. This would be the end of March and early April 1896. This was the beginning of the first modern Olympics in Athens.

So, what is going on?

I think this has to do with our nature as Axial Beings. Humans are the ones with the power to choose. Even if Darkness is present, we have the choice to embrace it or reject it. From my research, one of the features of eclipses is that they seem to be times when our Axial nature is tested. There are many repentance stories surrounding eclipses. One of them was the Eclipse of Thales that stopped a war according to Herodotus. There was a long-standing war between the Medes and the Lydians. There was a Solar Eclipse that occurred during the battle, which caused the parties to stop fighting and negotiate a peace.

Perhaps the launching of the modern Olympic Games is of this nature.

Implications

So, what does this mean?

In Modern Astrology, often eclipses are presented as times of opportunity and spiritual growth. It would seem that this might be the case from what I have said.

Yet, I think this goes too far.

Of course, whenever we have a crisis, there is an opportunity for growth. When there is a death in the family, when we have a tragedy, or when we face a serious illness, it is common for people to view these as turning points in their lives. They can even be the catalyst for deep spiritual awakening. Does that mean we should embrace these times? There is the old saying, “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”

This leads to the deeper question of what is the point of suffering, which is a subject that has confounded spiritual leaders and theologians for millennia.

I cannot claim to have the answer to this question; however, I think that the best practice is still to avoid eclipses as much as possible. Yes, it seems like it is possible that good things can come from eclipses, but it is not something to expect or hope for. Just as we might experience spiritual growth from a tragedy, we would not willingly embrace such a tragedy to obtain this growth. In the same way, it seems like a bad idea to embrace eclipses.

Being Without a Living Tradition

One of the biggest challenges as a Filianist is that there is no living tradition to draw upon. As I have been thinking of this, it has occurred to me that this is also a challenge for Western astrologers who are trying to work in a more traditional manner.  I would like to share some of my thoughts and ideas about this.

What is a Living Tradition?

Before I begin, it might help if I explained what I mean by a living tradition. A living tradition is one that has been passed down in an unbroken line from teacher to student from either a time that cannot be counted or from a genuine source of revealed knowledge. With respect to Filianism, such a living tradition no longer exists. We believe that there was a time that there was a feminine living tradition, but any line between teacher and student has long been broken.

hieroglyphs-541146_640There are remnants of the feminine tradition in the patriarchal traditions practiced today, and there is archeological evidence that there was a feminine tradition that existed in the past. While these things are to be valued and treasured, they are a poor substitute for having a true living tradition.

In Orthodox Filianism, this is dealt with by keeping to very simple devotional practices and by not allowing for priestesses or anything of that nature. This is in the Orthodox version only, however. Many independent Filianist groups do allow for priestesses.

The lack of a living tradition is also dealt with by being honest and humble in what we profess, exercising a great deal of caution.  We use the remnants of the feminine tradition that can be found in various cultures today, in the East and in the West, and supplement this with some of our own materials and practices.

Reconstructed Traditions

The problem of a lack of a living tradition is faced many who are not Filianists as well. In the West, Christianity was ruthless in rooting out “pagan” religions and traditions, so those who wish to explore these forms of wisdom and spirituality are in a similar position.

One of the other ways to deal with this problem is to try to reconstruct these traditions from the written and archeological evidence that we have available to us. An example of a reconstructed tradition is the modern Druid movement. It could also be said that the modern practice of Traditional/Classical Astrology is a reconstructed tradition.

Uncertainty of Interpretation

The difficulty with a reconstructed tradition is that there is very little certainty that one is interpreting the material that we have accurately.  In many cases, we do not have written records. If we do have written records, they often must be translated. Furthermore, we have to deal with the problem of texts. The printing press was not invented in the West until the 15th Century, even though it was developed in China about 600 years earlier.

Before that texts had to be copied by hand. Of course, the scribes in those days were surely more accurate than someone completing such a task today would be. On the other hand, we are still dealing with uncertainty that increases the further the text is in time from when it was written.

The other big problem is that even when we have written materials and even when we have original texts, not everything was written down. Of course, some information was probably deemed too important to reduce to writing, but even more of an issue is that writing was a major project. Just as secret matters would not be written, neither would things that were common knowledge. It would be far too much of a waste of time and resources.

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Adaptation to Modern Times

Even if we did have perfect information about broken or destroyed traditions in order to revive them, we would still have the problem of how to adapt them to modern times. I do not believe in evolutionist ideas about “progress,” nor do I think that we are more advanced than our forebears. However, we are not the same as them either. Our physical, mental, and spiritual capacities are greatly reduced. At the same time, we have more technology which artificially enhances our computational abilities.

Because of this, any revival of spiritual traditions, or any revival of traditional sciences such as astrology, needs to take into account our reduced abilities to understand and to implement its doctrines or teachings.

In a living tradition, this adaptation would have taken place over time, as spiritual leaders or masters of the craft would have made small adjustments from generation to generation. Every now and then, there would have been major changes as a leader emerged. In the present, we tend to think of these leaders as innovators. Within a true living tradition, however, these leaders are not innovating but are making large-scale changes to adapt a tradition to the present age.

This idea is reflected in the Christian tradition in the Gospel According to Matthew when Jesus says:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.

Matthew 5.17 New Revised Standard Edition

Without that organic adaptation over time, modern scholars and practitioners are in a very difficult position. This often leads to one of two extremes. On one extreme, scholars can decide to bend and shape the tradition to fit the modern world until it bears little resemblance to the original. On the other extreme, scholars can rigidly hold on to the letter of what was written to the point that it is unworkable in the modern world.

In Traditional/Classical Astrological circles, there are those who go to both extremes, and sometimes the same person will do both at the same time. For example, there are Traditional/Classical Astrologers who will insist that any technique or practice must be attested to by a traditional, pre-Enlightenment source, while at the same time also insist that astrology is purely mechanical, denying any spiritual or Divine powers that may be at work….a position that would have been considered absurd by pre-Enlightenment thinkers.

Modern Revelations

Now that we have looked at the problems with reviving broken traditions, what about modern revelations? There are many who have claimed to have received revelations about spiritual matters. In modern astrology, one of the most influential sources of alleged “received wisdom” comes from the Theosophical Society. One of the early leaders of this Society was Madame Blavatsky, who claimed to have received revelations from a brotherhood of Great Masters. On a smaller scale, the founder of one of the main branches of Evolutionary Astrology claims to have received some of the major tenets in a dream.

The problem with modern revelations is very similar to the problem in reconstructing or reviving broken traditions. The issue of continuing revelation is a subject of great controversy within a number of religious denominations. Those religions that do accept continuing revelation usually have some means by which to test and evaluate them.

Without a living tradition, it would seem that evaluating such revelations would be extremely difficult. How do you know where the revelation is coming from without a tradition to use as a standard?

So What Can We Do?

From all of the problems that I have raised, it would seem that the situation is impossible. How can one know anything or be sure of anything, especially in the West? There are some who turn to Eastern forms of spirituality as a solution. Within astrology, the Vedic tradition is one of the few surviving astrological forms that still has a living tradition to draw upon. The problem with that is similar to the problems with reviving historical traditions, however. As a Westerner, is it really possible to understand the Vedic tradition and get it right, especially without a guru?

Despite the broken tradition and despite all of the problems, I do think that there is value in the Western system, particularly for Westerners. This is the reason that I am slowly working to develop what I am calling Essentialist Astrology.

On the other hand, I think it is important to be aware that we are dealing with a broken tradition. As such, it is necessary to proceed with caution and humility, and to be cognizant and honest about what we do not and can not know.

10 Magical Things About the Natural World

This world is a magical place. It is filled with wonder and beauty. In many ways, it seems like modern scientists try their best to make us believe that the universe is dry, mechanical, and sterile. Yet, many of the things that they find are truly marvelous and mysterious. So, in that light, here are 10 magical things about the natural world that are often presented in a boring way.

1) The Big Bang

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If we are talking about magical and mysterious things, it seems logical to begin at the beginning. Scientists are pretty confident that the entire observable universe comes from something infinitesimally tiny approximately 13.8 billion years ago. While we often learn about this in dry, technical language, it is truly wondrous to contemplate. What makes this even more mysterious is that no one knows what caused the Big Bang. There are lots of speculations and theories, but that is all they are.

Another interesting thing is that for those of us old enough to remember analog television, the static that we would sometimes get was actually residue from the Big Bang!

2) The Speed of Light

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Light is an important concept on a spiritual level, but on a purely physical level, light is incredibly magical and mysterious as well. In our science classes in school, most of us have learned about the equation E=mc2. We also learn that this has something to do with the fact that the speed of light is the absolute speed limit of the universe. It is also fairly common knowledge that the closer to the speed of light we get, the slower we age.

Yet, take a moment to think about this and what this means. To begin with, it means that when we see the stars, we are actually seeing them as they were in the past. The further away the stars are from us, the deeper into the past we are looking.  For example, it is now thought that the North Star Polaris is about 323 light-years away from us. This means that what we see is the star as it was 323 years ago. The furthest single star that we can see with the naked eye is Cassiopeia, which is 16,308 light-years away, and on a dark night, we can see the Andromeda Galaxy, which is 2.5 million light-years away.

As amazing as it is that we can see 2.5 million years into the past without even needing a telescope, there is something about this that is even more magical. The closer we get to the speed of light, the slower time gets, but at the speed of light, time stops altogether. So, from the perspective of the light beam that started 2.5 million light years away, the trip to Earth was instantaneous.

3) Rainbows

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Intuitively, we all know that rainbows are magical. Yet, our science classes teach us that they are “just” light that has been bent and separated into separate colors by going through the water in the air, which acts as a prism.

When you look beyond the boring explanation and stop to think about it, this means that all white light has the colors of the rainbow in it, just waiting to be seen. That is pretty wondrous and mysterious.

4) Life

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Life itself is extremely magic and mysterious. While scientists believe that life came from some primordial soup by chemical processes, they really have no idea how or why that happened. Actually, scientists do not even fully understand what life is!

What is truly fascinating is how abundant and resilient life is, at least here on this planet. There is life in every nook and cranny on the Earth, even in the most hostile of environments. There are organisms that live in ice, volcanic springs, areas flooded with radiation, and any other environment that you can imagine.

Also, it is now believed that life began on Earth almost as soon as it was fully formed!

5) Stardust

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It is now believed that all of the elements that make up our Solar System, our planet, and even our bodies come from the residue of stars that exploded at the end of their life cycles. This means that we are quite literally made out of stardust.

6) Gravity

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Gravity is one of the most mysterious forces in the universe. It is what holds us to the ground, keeps us orbiting around the Sun, and keeps the Moon orbiting around us. Yet, no one really knows what it is. The mechanics of gravity have been well known for a few centuries now, or at least the mechanics when things are not too big, too small, or too close to the Sun.

According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, gravity occurs because somehow objects bend spacetime by their mere existence. Even this, however, merely explains the mechanics of how it works. It does not explain what it is or where it came from.

Yet, without gravity, we could not exist.

7) Snowflakes

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Almost everyone knows that no two snowflakes are alike. It is such common knowledge, in fact, that it is easy to forget just how magical and wondrous that this is. Even if it snows so much that it accumulates to 12 feet or more, each tiny snowflake in that pile is absolutely unique.

8) Flowers

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Flowers are truly amazing. They are so beautiful and diverse. Yet, what is the purpose of their beauty? It is said that it is to attract bees and insects to pollinate them. However, bees and insects are just as happy with soda in the garbage. In the Deanist/Filianist tradition, flowers are said to be love letters from Dea.

9) Geodes

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Geodes are truly amazing. Plain on the outside, and magnificent on the inside, they are full of magic and wonder. Also, just like snowflakes, there are no two geodes that are exactly alike.

10) π

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For every circle in the world, if you multiply the diameter by the mysterious, irrational number π, you will get the circumference. If you multiply π by the radius squared, you will get the area.  π is also used in calculating the volume and the surface area of a sphere. Spheres are ubiquitous in the universe, by the way. The reason that there are so many spheres is due to gravity. Apparently, any object large enough will eventually turn into a sphere.

Sleeping Beauty, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and the Soul’s Search for Spirit

Traditional Fairy Tales are one of the few places in the Modern World where we still have access to Perennial Wisdom. The written versions of these stories are usually chronicles of much older oral folktales, and they are rich with symbolism. Often, the themes of these stories are universal, and there are different versions told in different cultures throughout the world. The tale of Sleeping Beauty is one of these stories. In a previous article, I discussed the symbolism of Saturn in the French version, which was collected by Charles Perrault. In this article, I would like to talk about the main theme of this story, which is the jouney of the Soul to find Spirit. I will also be talking about the same symbolism in the Norwegian version of this tale, East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

Spirit and Soul

The terms, Spirit and Soul, can be confusing to the modern reader. Many people, even experienced astrologers, confuse them. They are quite different, however.

In order to understand these concepts, it is important to realize that on a deep level we are all One. Everything and everyone in the Cosmos springs from the same Source, and on a very deep level, we never left that Source. In the Feminine Scripture, it is written,

If thou wouldst find union with Our Mother, know that thou hast never left Her.

If thou wouldst escape the veil of matter, know that there is no matter and is no veil.

Cry Marya 12-13, Gospel of Our Mother God

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This may be what the monotheistic movement in the Abrahamic tradition was originally trying to convey.  A better description can be found in the Vedic concept of Brahman and the Buddhist doctrine of “No Self.”

This is reflected on a lower level even in the manifest, material Universe. It is thought that everything in existence started with a single particle, smaller than an atom. It is also thought that all of the matter that makes up our physical bodies and the world around us comes from the explosion of stars at the end of their lives. Even Modern Scientists deeply entrenched in Rationalism would say that we are made out of stardust. Of course, none of these Modern Scientific Theories “prove” anything about Fundamental Truth, but all of this does seem rather magical!

The Spirit is the part of us that is still connected with the One. At its Highest Level, the Spirit is still United with the One, but at a lower level, it is the part of the One that lives inside each of us. This is true nature of the Solar Principle in its purest form.

At some point, each of us became separated from the One, or Spirit, and began to experience individuality. We became Souls. Our Souls came from Spirit and they reflect the Light of Spirit, but to a greater or lesser extent, they are also removed from pure Spirit. Most of us who have incarnated into a physical body on the manifest world are trapped on what is known in the Vedic and the Buddhist Traditions as the Wheel of Samsara. Our Souls can be seen in the Lunar Principle.

The story of Sleeping Beauty is the journey of the Soul searching for Spirit.

Sleeping Beauty

In Sleeping Beauty, a King and Queen are childless for a long time, but eventually they have a baby girl. Depending on the version, a certain number of fairies or wise women are invited to her christening. There is one, however, that does not get invited. She comes anyways, and out of anger and spite for not having been invited, she lays a curse on the Princess that she will  prick her finger on a spindle on her sixteenth birthday and die.

One of the fairies/wise women cleverly waits to give her gift until the end. She is not able to completely counteract the curse, but she is able to soften it, so that the Princess will not die, but only sleep for one hundred years. The King outlaws all spindles and orders them destroyed.

Sleeping Beauty curse

The Princess grows up to be beautiful and perfect in every way. In turns out that there was a spindle still around even after the decree of the King. On her sixteenth birthday, the Princess does find the spindle, pricks her finger, and falls into a deep sleep.

The Princess in this story represents Spirit. She is pure and perfect in every way.  Yet, she has fallen prey to a curse. In a sense, so has the Spirit inside of us, by entering the manifest world. Yet, even though the curse was supposed to be death, the Spirit cannot die, but instead falls into a deep sleep. In a sense, that is the condition we find ourselves in this life. In Greek mythology, there is the River of Lethe, or forgetfulness, which we must cross in between lives. The word for Truth in Greek is Aletheia, or Unforgetfulness.

Sleeping Beauty AwakenIn both the German and the French versions, thorns grow up around Sleeping Beauty. A Prince braves the thorns and finds her. In the Disney adaption of the German version, he must battle the evil queen Maleficent as a part of the journey. In the German version, the Prince kisses the Princess and she awakes. In the French version, she wakes up at the appointed time with the Prince present, and there is a second story line of danger afterwards, but ultimately, they are able to be together in peace.

The Prince in this story represents the Soul. Our own Souls are barred from Spirit, which is asleep behind a barrier of thorns. Through his bravery, he is able to reunite with Spirit, and they live happily ever after.

East of the Sun and West of the Moon

There is a Norwegian story with a similar motif as Sleeping Beauty called East of the Sun and West of the Moon. In this version, the genders of the characters are reversed. This gender reversal is of no matter, as Spirit and Soul, or the Solar and the Lunar, are beyond human gender.

The White Bear

In this story, there is a girl who was the youngest daughter of a poor husbandman. She was the most beautiful of all of the children. One day, a White Bear came to their door and asked her father if she could live with him. If she did, the White Bear would make them all as rich as they were then poor. The father said that he must ask his daughter first. At first the girl refused, but then she relented and said she would go for the sake of her family.

On the way to the home of the White Bear, he asked her, “Are you afraid?” Her answer was, “No.”

Journey with Bear

The White Bear lived in a beautiful home, and the girl had everything she could wish for. Every night, however, a man would come and lie down beside her. He would always be gone before daylight, so she never knew who he was.

The Mother’s Advice

After a time, she started to get homesick, and the White Bear said that she could visit her family. Before he did, he gave the girl a warning. He said that her mother would try to give her advice, but that she should not listen to it. If she followed her mother’s advice, it would bring misery on them both.

When she went home, the mother did indeed give her advice. She told her mother about the strange man who visited, and her mother told her that he was probably a troll. She said that the girl should hide a candle in her breast at night, and that she should light it when she was sure the man was asleep so she could see who he was.

When the girl returned to the White Bear, he asked if her mother had given her advice. The girl admitted that her mother had. The White Bear cautioned her again not to follow her mother’s advice.

Mother's Bad AdviceWhen the girl went to bed, just as before, a man came in and lay down next to her. When she was sure that he was asleep, she lit the candle that she had hid in her breast according to her mother’s advice. When she did, she saw the most handsome man she had ever seen. She was so enamored by him that she could not help but kiss him. When she did three tallows from the candled dripped on him and he woke up.

At this time, the man told him that he was under a curse to live as a White Bear during the day and as a man at night for the space of a year. If he could live with a woman for a year without her finding out, he would be free of the curse. Because the girl found out, however, he would have to leave her to go to the land East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and marry an ugly Ogress Princess.

There is some overlap in this story with Beauty and the Beast, in which the Beast is Soul and the Beauty is Spirit; however, in this case, the White Bear does seem to represent Spirit. To begin with, Bears are magical animals with a deep history of being considered Sacred. Also, the girl’s recognition of the True Nature of the White Bear does not save him. Instead, her discovery before the appointed time cemented the curse. The mother’s advice can be seen as the wisdom of the world, which is often counter to the Wisdom of Spirit. The third clue that this is a Sleeping Beauty story is that the girl undertakes a Hero’s Journey to rescue her Prince.

The Hero’s Journey

When the White Bear leaves for the land East of the Sun, West of the Moon, the girl goes to find him, even after being told it was impossible. As in rise stories such as Cinderella, she receives magical help along the way.  You can read the full journey here, but whenever she asks directions, she is asked in return, “Are you afraid?” When she replies that she is not, the helper says that maybe she was the one who should have married the Prince. The helper gives as much help as he/she/it can, and many of them also give her inexplicable gifts in case they can be of use.

Eventually, the girl does find the Prince, who is in the custody of the Ogress Princess. For three nights, the girl barters one of the gifts she received along the way for one night with the Prince. For the first two nights, he is asleep and does not waken. Before the third night, however, he is told about the girl, and he realizes that he has been drugged. He does not eat or drink anything given to him, so on the third night, he is awake when the girl comes.

East of the Sun Happy Ending

The Prince assures the girl that he will work things out, and he devises a test that the Ogress Princess and her mother will fail, but that the girl will pass. When this happens, as in Sleeping Beauty, they marry and “live happily ever after.” The Soul has journeyed to find Spirit, which has led to Liberation and Enlightenment.