The Dark Night of the Soul

dark night of the soulThis article was originally posted in September of 2006 when Saturn and Neptune were in opposition.  Many of my clients have been referring to a “dark night of the soul” resulting from the Chiron/Neptune conjunction so I thought it might be useful to repost it.

While I was on vacation I happened on a radio interview with Andrew Harvey, a mystic and Shakespearean scholar who believes as many do that the earth is heading for some troubled times. I was very impressed by the depth of his commitment to the spiritual life and his eloquence in describing the twists and turns that are required on the path to becoming one with the divine.

Harvey’s recent book is entitled The Sun at Midnight: A Memoir of the Dark Night , written about his long journey through the dark night of the soul. In the opposition from Saturn to Neptune, many of us are experiencing such a “dark night” in the form of the ending (Saturn) of our illusions (Neptune). Although Pluto is now associated with death and the principle of rebirth, before Pluto was discovered Saturn ruled over death’s domain. Death under Saturn is a cold hard ending as we come face to face with the fragility of our spiritual connections under Neptune. Although Saturn is a stern teacher, the rewards are great and when we face the hard lessons that Saturn brings we are given great rewards. In its opposition to Neptune, adopting or deepening the discipline (Saturn) of a spiritual practice (Neptune) will help to facilitate the progression of our cosmic education.

But there is a deeper death in Harvey’s writings: the death and regeneration that we associate with Pluto. The reclassification of Pluto into a new category along with Ceres and now Eris adds a new complexity to our concept of this transformation that we may not yet have the capacity to understand. Perhaps there is a clue in Harvey’s words from an interview he gave in San Francisco last year:

[Regarding St. John’s “night of the senses” and “night of the soul”] This first dark night purifies all of the senses so that they can become the vehicle of the inner divine self. This first dark night is extreme, but it’s not as extreme as the second dark night. It’s a purification that enables the ordinary senses to start registering the divine world. Through devotion, through meditation, through intense mystical practice, you start to see the divine light. At first it just flashes, and then when the process is complete, you have an overwhelming experience in which you see the entire creation as a manifestation of the light, and your consciousness is one with that. This is not enlightenment. This begins what is called the state of illumination. Although the senses are purified, and although they’re able now to register the divinity of the world, the ego is still subtly present. So there has to be a second death on the path, which is the death of the personal identity. . . .

The entire world is now going through a massive crucifixion on all levels. It’s going through an environmental crucifixion — hundreds of species are vanishing every month. It’s going through a personal crucifixion. There are two billion people living on less than a dollar a day. It’s going through a crucifixion of all the patriarchal systems — look at Enron and what it has shown us about Corporate America. Look at the Catholic Churches’ scandals of pedophilia and what it shows us about authority. Look at the growing disillusionment of politicians of all kinds. All of the systems are being exposed as illusory and as fantasy ridden — as deeply corrupt and exploitative.

There’s another kind of crucifixion going on — crucifixion of purpose and hope. Everybody is totally bewildered. They know that the world is potentially on the brink of total apocalypse. There’s a tremendous danger that as people wake up to the horror of what is going on, they will run into political extremism or into fundamentalism of one kind or another. So it’s extremely important that the wisdom of the dark night gets across because if people understand the necessity for this crucifixion, and understand that it’s preparing the resurrection and the birth and an empowerment, then they will be prepared to go through it without fear — or without too much fear — trusting in the logic of the divine transformation.

See, the power that is doing this to us is coming towards us simultaneously with terrifying destruction and extreme grace and prosperity [emphasis added]. The destruction is, in fact, a form of that extreme grace. It’s quite clear that humanity is now terminally ill, and can only be transfigured by a totally shocking revelation of its shadow side. And this is what we’re living through, these shadow sides exploding in every direction because we have done nothing but betray the sacred in us.

We have lacerated the sacred in others. We have betrayed the sacred in an orgy of fundamentalism. We have brutalized the sacred in nature. We are now terminally destructive. . . .

You can lose hope. But if you know the wisdom of the dark night, then you are looking out for protection. You’re aware that through this terror, protection will be given. This is the universal testimony. They mystics have gone through this process. It’s the testimony of Rumi. It’s the testimony of the great shamans. It’s the testimony of St. John of the Cross, and it’s the testimony that I gave in this book. And it’s, of course, the testimony of Bede Griffiths. You are given tremendous divine protection, because as the human is being destroyed, the divine consciousness comes up. So one side of you is being annihilated, but the other side is stronger than ever in the ashes. So great dreams will come and light will become more and more vibrant. The divinity of life will become more and more naked to you. Miracles will take place to protect you. To anybody who comes to this path, the divine is both extremely ferocious and extremely tender. Ferocious to destroy the illusions, but tender to give the human being the courage to hang in there and do the work.

It’s becoming more and more clear to me that the newly tripartite nature of Pluto embodies the symbolism of this process: Eris creates the discord and strife that begins the death of the ego under Pluto, and Ceres presides over our emergence from the underworld and the regeneration of our lives.

More thoughts on Obama and Neptune

Barack ObamaI happened to watch CNN this afternoon while I was at the gym as they were discussing the appearance of President Obama at the commencement address.  Raymond Arroyo was a guest on the program, and he was shocked, SHOCKED! that President Obama had reversed his position on abortion from what he promised during the campaign.  Arroyo said that many Catholics voted for Obama because during the campaign Obama said that he wanted to see the number of abortions decrease, saying that this meant that Obama was against a woman’s right to choose.

Obama was very clear throughout his campaign that he was a pro-choice candidate, and he was endorsed by NARAL and other pro-choice groups.

This is an excellent example of how Obama’s natal Neptune/Sun square creates a Neptunian fog and illusion that can make it easy for others to see in Obama what they want to see.  This doesn’t make him deceptive; it simply means that he is an easy hook for others to hang their projections on.

I wrote about this phenomenon in an earlier post and compared it to my own natal Neptune/Sun and my experiences of being a target of the confusion of others.  There has been considerable hysteria among the astrology-savvy about Obama’s Neptune/Sun square that trickled down even into the comments of this usually very reasonable blog, especially during the election.  “Obama is like Hitler.”  “Obama is the Deceiver.”  “Obama is Satan.”  There is already a full-length movie called “The Obama Deception.”

Astrologer Barry Perlman wrote eloquently last year about this phenomenon:

But when the Leo Sun squares Neptune, however, that purest light of ego-self (Sun) is interfered with by a mystifying cloud of fog we can only partially see through (Neptune)… leaving us to fill in specific blanks with what we wish to see, or what we wish not to see. Individuals born with a Sun-Neptune square often possess a hard-to-read quality, their sense of self somewhat obscured by context–who they’re with, what they’re trying to get across, how they’re feeling that day. Neptune, after all, seeks to dissolve ego boundaries, causing it to become less clear where another person actually ends… and where our own investments in who we imagine them to be (the good or the bad) begins.

There’s an inherent glamour and romance to Sun-Neptune people, in that we may pin our most idealistic imaginings onto the mysterious blank-slate in front of us. They appear larger than life (especially with a Leo Sun), able to rise above the common fray… and we wish for them to lift all of us up, too, on the wings of the faith we place in ‘em. Neptune promises such blissful transcendence from our daily woes, if only we can keep our faith intact.

Just as significantly, though, Neptune also tempts us to flirt with our own self-delusions. And as such, Sun-Neptune individuals often attract our suspicions just as readily as our admiration. Those not instantly drawn in by the promise of who the Sun-Neptune person might be–and unwilling to proceed on faith alone–may instead sleuth for hints of them being something wholly different than who they appear. Their sympathetic slipperiness of self is so quickly misunderstood as active deception, creating anxiety or paranoia aimed squarely at them… though, again, not necessarily based on who they actually are.

This kind of paranoia over the Neptune/Sun square is itself Neptune at work, creating confusion, illusion and delusion.  With Neptune square the Sun there is often a desire to sacrifice the Self for the good of the collective and this aspect is often found in the charts of people who dedicate their lives to the public,   Franklin D. Roosevelt , Bobby Kennedy and Sir Thomas More all had a Neptune/Sun square, and so did Maximilian Robespierre, engineer of the French Revolution.  It is also found in the charts of people who destroy themselves through their own illusion, such as Chris McCandless who wandered Into the Wild of Alaska and lost his life due to a romantic idea of survival.  The late River Phoenix and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, who lost a large part of his life to mental illness, both have Neptune square the Sun.  But so did Franz Schubert and Jonathan Winters.

Planetary aspects manifest in an infinite number of ways, which is why a “cookbook” approach to learning astrology can only go so far.  One person with the Sun square Neptune will behave in one way, and yet we will find something completely different in another.  The Neptunian fog, however, does make it easy to project all of our hopes, dreams, and fears onto the Neptune individual which makes us the dangerous ones, not Neptune.

Quotes on Science and Psychology

These quotes are from a very interesting, but fairly technical, article by Douglas Boyd entitled “Inner-active Psychological Astrology” (courtesy of the Starcats site).  This article was originally posted in 2006.

“Only after I had familiarized myself with alchemy did I realize that the unconscious is a process, and that the psyche is transformed or developed by the relationship of the ego to the contents of the unconscious.”
C. G. Jung; Memories, Dreams, Reflections: P. 209.

“Mathematics has been and will continue to be the qualitative language of science, but astrology will become the qualitative language of the human condition.” — William Tiller – Professor of Physics, Stanford University

“Sooner or later nuclear physics and the psychology of the unconscious will draw closer together as both of them, independently of one another and from opposite directions, push forward into transcendental territory, the one with the concept of the atom, the other with that of the archetype.”
– C G Jung; Aion (1951). CW 9: Part II: P. 412

“That we can now think of no mechanism for astrology is relevant but unconvincing. No mechanism was known , for example for continental drift when it was proposed by Wegener. Nevertheless, we see that Wegener was right and those who objected on the grounds of unavailable mechanism were wrong.”
– Carl Sagan

“In Jungian psychology there is a clear appreciation that great transformative wisdom resides in the inner world of our dreams, fantasies, and feelings. However, synchronicity shows, that occasionally, this wisdom, this transforming meaning, expresses itself in the inner and outer worlds simultaneously. Appreciating this re-enchants and divinizes the world. From an astrological perspective, we might say that wisdom continuously speaks to us through planetary motions.”
– Victor Mansfield; Physics and Astronomy Department, Colgate University

What is most remarkable and philosophically significant about astrology is that its symbolism is grounded in a time/space map and not simply projected upon the physical world…. we need presume that ‘reality’ is multileveled beyond the simple sensory/empirical level. The symbol is our way of understanding something which is ineffable, yet something ‘real’ which lies beyond us and is beckoning us ‘forward’ (or ‘higher’ or ‘deeper’ depending upon our preferred metaphor). These symbols appear to ‘work’ by general agreement, hence astrology becomes a technology of self knowledge and transformation, a direct participatory and largely dialogical process.”-- Richard Tarnas Ph D–“The Passion of the Western Mind”

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
Jesus Christ; Taken from the Gnostic Gospels uncovered at Nag Hammadi.

NASA and Mercury Retrograde

NASA seems to really like Mercury retrograde.  NASA first launched the Discovery space shuttle on August 30, 1984 when Mercury was retrograde.  The Discovery launched the Hubble telescope on April 24 1990 when Mercury was retrograde.

After the initial launch of the Hubble scientists discovered that the optical mirror was flawed.  Because the Hubble was supposed to be shooting photographs of deep space, this was a real problem.

Often Mercury Retrograde periods can be used to repair problems from previous Mercury Retrograde events.  For example, in July of 2006 problems during Mercury Rx kept the Discovery from a successful launch, and the December launch, also during Mercury Rx was successful.

Yesterday, with Mercury Retrograde,  the Atlantis space shuttle was launched with a crew to repair the Hubble telescope.  Immediately after its launch scientists discovered some damage to the exterior of the shuttle but it was termed “minor.”

This is a good illustration that Mercury Retrograde periods do not necessarily need to be feared.  Yes, problems occur but they are rarely fatal.

Joseph Mina adds in the comments:

NASA was created by an act of Congress on July 29, 1958. At that time, Mercury at 2 Virgo conjuncted Pluto at 1 Virgo, both sextile Neptune at 2 Scorpio. Just prior, on July 20th, Mercury entered its retrograde shadow at 24 Leo with the retrograde station occurring on August 9 at 7 Virgo. So Mercury Retrograde would be a natural rhythm for NASA. Add the Scorpion juice of the Pluto conjunction to the mix and you have some high octane rocket propellant. One other interesting astrological point – Chiron in the July 29 chart is 21 Aquarius. As transiting Chiron is now moving back and forth over that degree with Jupiter, a renewed energy is building to take NASA in a different direction. Very happy the Hubble Telescope repair is underway. The images coming from that device over the past 19 years have redefined our understanding of the Universe in extraordinary ways.

Are the stars aligned to pass a health care bill?

President Obama says that the stars are aligned to pass his health care agenda this year.  Well, we are in a unique position to see if the President is correct!  The House of Representatives pledged today to pass landmark health care legislation by July 31st.

Obama may be on to something.  The triple conjunction of Jupiter, Chiron and Neptune will still be a tight formation as the three planets retrograde together within four degrees until early September, putting the pressure on all systems (psychological, social, governmental) to heal and evolve.  Saturn (convention) and Uranus (change) will no longer be in alignment, minimizing the partisan opposition that was so powerful from the fall into early in 2009 with the two were tightly in opposition.

Obama has interesting planetary cycles during the month of July that will assist him in passing legislation.  First is a square from Mars to Uranus in his chart – this can be a time of irritation and reckless behavior but it can also provide the pressure needed to stimulate change.  His progressed Sun makes an exact sextile to the Midheaven in his chart, the point where we express our Self in the public arena.  This is an extremely favorable event that signifies not only success, but also that the result will positively reflect on Obama’s public image.

It will be an interesting dance to design and implement a new health care design that serves the majority of Americans while not bleeding the treasuries even more.  But Saturn remains in Virgo, the sign of health care, through the end of the year so this is the time to make it happen!