“Is it possible to be on the outside of the outside of the outside? Or perhaps that is the seventh circle of hell.“ Rick Morton.
It’s nearly last curtain for the Moon: time, I can feel it in the stalls, to put his costumes back in Wardrobe, or the closet perhaps, and go back into the Underworld.
My father used to say I talked because I liked the sound of my own voice, but I think it was irrepressible for two reasons: it wasn’t mine, but a voice with which the woodwork might become human, the hills might converse across the creeks, and the stars might exchange their vacuum for a night sky; and it ignited the silence of ignorance, and complacency towards incarceration of the body by the mind, delighting in the play of power. I haven’t grown up much.
This blog began as a Facebook page, motivated by a rather naive impatience with people who were attracted to the meaning astrology seeks in the heavens but knew so little about the night sky that the Moon in Aries was effectively lost. As above, so below, people were saying who were as interested in making a living as in connecting real people to the real world. This motivation was of course also true of Facebook, who invented the monetary value of talking to the world, and silenced the hills.
It might profit us ordinary people to compare ourselves to peasants, for we resemble them in many ways, despite protesting too much, methinks. Alan Hollinghurst, in his introduction to Penelope Fitzgerald’s quite superb Offshore, quotes the author as being drawn to “people who seem to have been born defeated or even profoundly lost … They are ready to assume the conditions the world imposes on them, but they don’t manage to submit to them, despite their courage and their best efforts ….” I think of myself, I think of people in various places trying to survive the devastation visited on them by distant, imperious and collusive decisions of unfathomable interest, indigenous Australians, West Papuans, Palestinians (and indeed Israelis), and anybody whose traditions situate them on top of what someone else wants. I think of the courage of the equally unfortunate communities disintegrating in arduous habitats of no value to anyone else, seduced of their youth.
”What the land needed was not a degree but sons and, in certain cases, daughters who were willing to stay behind and work it and breed. It was, and to an extent remains, a feudal system in its simplistic expectations.” Rick Morton, A Hundred Years Of Dirt.
The reason Southern Hemisphere Astrology Full Moon names are so archaic is because, like voice and vocation, they arise in the Underworld, where cosmos breeds mind, where the numinous dwells, where the memes of 85 million years belie their disappearance, and where we put the past, the poor and the dead. What better symbol of community than the peasant in Spring, what better model of self-acceptance, confidence in, and contribution to others, in the Adlerian terms Kishimi and Koga (The Courage To Be Disliked, Allen & Unwin, 2017) use to describe community. And if your season is not Spring, it really is in your Underworld. But the Moon, your moon, is not a symbol, is it? And you don’t think of yourself as a peasant?
What is there to learn from the mechanics of peasantry towards an optimization of harmony and control in the age of artificial intelligence? What will we do with the poor when climate change erodes their self-sufficiency and menial stop-gap occupations are filled by machines? How will we frame our global regulations so that the annihilation of the poor indicates to us their best interests? Will the economics of automation offset the economics of mental illness?
Jusqu’ici tout va bien, as the man who fell from a skyscraper said as he counted the floors. Control the Underworld, the presence of absence, and you own the country. But the question is, how to do that without getting stuck there, like the peasant? What typifies the peasant in our everyday usage of the term is a lack of the normal ambition to make the world a better place, an acceptance of the unacceptable, an unpalatable satisfaction with ignorance. The account the peasant gives of past and future is rooted in repetitions and cycles: such and such a season, a birth here, a death there. It seems shallow and constrictive, but in comparison with us, he seems free of incapacity, of a sinister legacy of the past, and of anxiety about the future. The Underworld, our unconscious and unknown, is palpable to him: the ground of his being is the earth upon which he works, this globe with its atmosphere and its climate which physically enfolds him and his ancestors. At least he is grounded. Perhaps it should inspire our confidence too, that if you feel unqualified to exchange ideas about how the world might be made a better place, you can at least enjoy finding yourself in the body of your own mind.
Enmeshed in his physical rather than emotional environment, he is no more attuned to human behaviour than the pigeons of suburbia, who keep telling everybody to “Cross the road” an hour too late after daylight saving kicks in. He is oblivious to the precession of the equinoxes and the ‘man box’. Neither happy nor unhappy, he seems satisfied simply to get done the job at hand. Self-development for him is a good meal for family and friends. You can safely predict such a person deprived of subsistence will instantly turn to crime. But what of that? He is of use to us, even as a criminal, so long as he accepts and contributes to our power. In fact, we even feel a sense of connection with him, since we too are embedded in a non-emotional physical environment, a machine of economic and social goods in which we in turn often feel a lack of meaning, almost as though we are marionettes.
However, should he revolt, we must annihilate him, for if anything should obstruct the power which flows through us, our culture will collapse like a deck of cards. It actually feels good that so far this has not been necessary. That we continue to enable him to be poor reflects well on our compassionate community and the system we enjoy. He has served us well in surveillance, but CCTV is making him redundant again. Opposite to the Artisan, the Sensualist and the Dabbler in the Order of Appearance, he would make the perfect counterfoil to architectural durability. We can make him a builder, or better still, a building inspector: more work for the insurance industry. The play’s the thing.
[Abliq to Community. You may have noticed I have omitted any reference to ‘country’ in the sense ‘Welcome to Country’ gives it. This is not because I consider myself less qualified to speak about reality than anyone else, whatever language is appropriated to do so, but because it is now so hard for most of us to hear country’s heartbeat empty, and that’s as much my Moon’s fault as anyone’s. Back with more good reading and listening leads next month, hopefully in good voice. Abliq out.]
“True singing is a different breath, about nothing. A gust inside the god. A wind.“ Rilke, Sonnets To Orpheus.
You need to listen to this. Do you think of community as a timeless thing, with age-old issues, or a problem of your time to which you personally must address yourself? Are you aware of your underworld, or do you identify it as an antipodes inhabited by others?
Country transcends the visible. Before it can become authentic existence, life in death, empty and real, it must include its ghosts. We all have ghosts, even if we ghost them: real people we have clothed in norepinephrine, epinephrine and cortisol in our hippocampus, unreal people we have idealized, our own selves as we wish we were or hide in shame, people we have lost or never had. The visible, material world ghosts them; Indigenous country shares them, dances them. Community is not possible without ceremony which keeps them in place, in the living, breathing underworld, our world’s body. Is it better to preen and screech like one’s cockatoo, and gossip like one, or try to wing it from a tree?
Did I forget to mention that the only person who can really tell me Cessnock’s location is its representative? The episteme of the age of democracy, the belief in representation, is dissolving in instinctual dissatisfaction, and the normalizing mechanics of power, institutional propaganda addressing a shared morality which no longer exists, are only reinforcing the experience of powerlessness and a universal sense of loss of sovereignty. Country is under threat from the ghosts of its underworld (read emotions!). Passion overwhelms regularity and cause overshadows effect. Trauma relives its anniversaries.
Community, which has historically been an honourable battle against a common enemy, the forces of nature, seasonal deadlines, ignorance of the law, zombies and psychopaths, poverty, inequality etc., has in many places forgotten honour in action in order to heal, to demand dignity, to ghost its ghosts. Community means safety, and in a society terrorized by the rare disasters which dominate the news, and driving the kids to school so they don’t get abducted, at 40kph 500 metres either side of a pothole repair, it means confidence that nothing horrible is going to happen. The common enemy is now the unknown. Blessed be the ghost who walks, for the warrant on his head.
How can a person be there for you if you don’t know who they are? (Read: Indigenous Australians, do your Underworld homework,)
“Advance Australia Fair” is the epitome of anachronism as the national anthem of a modern state. What is the national character it celebrates? Who even knows the words, let alone how offensive they are? How does it promote the sense of community schools are trying to inculcate in Australian youth? Can any of us truly sing it, as a national community? What virtues do Australians distinctively and unanimously extol, which are not equally valued by every society on earth? What is the true nature of a community in which a hundred distinct cultures may coalesce? Silent respect? Empty breath? Or secret psychosis?
Is community akin to the synthetic co-existence of the agglomeration of cells and processes we call the body, the universal template which differentiates identity in terms of the incidental repercussions of time and place? Does it transcend or inhere in narrative? Can we own our different bodies without honouring universal body-consciousness? Must identity divorce personal perspective from the emptiness of country, defining the delusory as the particular?
Such are the questions which engage a consciousness which revolves in a sequence of emergent ideas, beginning afresh in the waters of Lethe to rediscover and explore in turn the corridors of responsibility, connection, disclosure and community. The geocentric conjunction of the Sun and Moon and position of the Full Moon are mathematical fictions. Can they really transcend differences in chirality and topocentric perspective of North and South and unite a community? I might laugh at any Southern astrology which divorces itself from the practice of observation which birthed it, but I seem to be the only one laughing.
The evolution of intelligence has always involved regulation in a feedback loop of consciousness and voice, law and instinct. In every utterance in the history of human thought you can hear the voice of some element of human yearning, for freedom, tolerance, immortality, victory etc., in a dialogue (we call sensibility) with accepted meanings of prior utterances in the cultural forms of the everyday. Community has never existed in law, but in the resonance of voice in the underworld.
Community will be one of the last redoubts of the unconscious to resist the inexorable march of the robotic mind. It disappears when you try to think it, turns into something else, culture, ideology, society, nationality, kinship, class, race and gender, any of which can be rationalized and is constantly redefined by the robotics of the sociological mind, but none of which comprises community or can exist without it.
We held our annual solar midnight fling in the first week of this month, lined up around the horizon, and detonated our usual tonne of fireworks. Nobody even noticed, although last night the waning Prodigal Moon made audible supplications, and we are bound by thousands of years of tradition to grant him what he wished for: community. After all, this week marks five years of the astrologer’s exile.
Back in the good old days, we used to line up across the zenith from east to west, and what parties those were! We only do that up near the Arctic Circle these days, a kind of wildling banishment it seems.
Alack, poor Orpheus, we knew him well, we who have danced our blood and conjured ghosts. Yes, 2,148 years ago communities were no masters of their underworld either. And still it is our nature to wish the other’s imperious flesh to be made of dream.
Silence cannot be the foundation of community, because silence enables secrecy, secrecy enables corruption, and corruption usurps power, which evolves to manipulate trust and destroy community. Why is there no safe passage through the Sahara? What happened to hospitality? Why are hungry Rohingya babies crying in exile? Why can’t Uighurs, Syrians, Yemeni, Sudanese, Londoners and Bavarians breathe peacefully? Because silence and submission are one, and for millenia have provided a vocation for witch-doctors.
Many undesirable things come from the underworld: wounds, illicit desire and other unsavoury instincts, bad habits, attitude, habits of any kind, evil, anger, fear, and most dangerous obedience to voice, psychosis. Never tell a psychopath they’re a psychopath, it upsets them. But that’s not the real reason. After they’ve killed you, or done to you whatever was done to them, they will do their homework, and correct the mistake by which you recognized them. You’ve made the world a more dangerous place by perfecting its mask.
So what to do? Nobody in the history of civilization has ever figured that out.
Do you have someone in your past who speaks to your anguish in the words of pop songs? Or are you someone’s ghost? Have you hurt a lot of people in the past, and even though you’re more in control of yourself now, do you find people looking sideways at you when you speak from the heart? Do you dig up graves? Do you own shares in BHP?
Do you hate people who couldn’t care less about the Great Barrier Reef, or the feminist implications of hijab, or what eighty-year-olds from other cultures get up to in the privacy of their pre-pubescent nephew’s or niece’s bedroom? Yes, you may be a psychopath, and yet belong to a community. Is community never telling anyone they’re a psychopath? Is being a psychopath any more than having a mind that’s made up? Can a community exclude? A mind can be, ought to be, aware of its thought patterns and the patterns of others as the workings of a machine which situates itself malignantly in it, but a sense of the beauty of life’s dance with the machine of the world blooms out of the change of mind. That sense is the machine personified, the world’s living, finite epitaph. Immortality is an exclamation-mark, the sarcophagus of the made up mind.
Nothing, never too little, ever too much: that is the community we enjoy here, in the underworld. When do you join us? Q was dancing at Caboolture! How satisfying it is, that the impossibility of community is embodied by its authentic existence among your dead and us ghosts-who-walk-upside-down!
Hidden deep within conventional astrology is an undisclosed intention, to help you make something of yourself. It is not just yiddishe mamas who define parental accomplishment as providing the world with more doctors and lawyers, and it is not just Western culture which judges a life by its social benefit. For 3000 years poets, storytellers, philosophers and priests have been teaching us the art of creating a self, and astrology has merely delivered a universal tool to the same end with its Sun Sign daily horoscopes. Astrology provides an aesthetic dimension to subjectivity’s game of chess with the world machine, but the aim of the game is to win.
Not necessarily fame and fortune, but something approaching those supremely admired achievements is still unquestioned as the purpose of life by those still desiring entry to heaven and those dutiful to heaven’s creation on earth, if only to convert the world, by force if necessary. Self-improvement is the madness of the House of Constriction in my astrology, but lack of motivation to better oneself and others verges on psychosis in the minds of most. What life discloses is a way forward, and if we don’t take it, some self-defeating mechanism must be involved.
The September Full Moon reflects both the impulse to leap into the traces and the grasshopper threat of not having enough laid by, and in keeping with the ostensible self-disclosure we admire in our delusion, the gambler mourns wasted opportunity. Does the father in the parable welcome the wastrel home because everyone deserves a second chance, or did his own youthful impatience reveal itself as it decayed into world-weariness? How many more eggs can we put into the basket of gender?
What image the prodigal doesn’t live up to, and where it resides, what initiation into the desirable path they receive, and who really desires it, are fraught questions. The imagery, not the morality, of cultural tropes would bear closer examination. The expectations of tiger mums may be deplorable, but would not self-awareness be more effective in discouraging her than stigma? The meditations of astrology on the subject of the vertex may serve better than a lifetime of therapy in the hands of professional imagery.
The image we harbour of the desirable other and the demeanour we develop, unconsciously and reactively, as a projection of our response, is as hidden as the ecliptic from which astrology derives its quantities. Even as avid a stargazer as I could not assert an observational basis for any significance in the altitude of the zodiac due west or east, and naturally I regard magnetic or electrical resonances with extreme suspicion. Previously explored here, the rapidity with which the Vertex can change Signs and houses in and near the Tropics, a huge chunk of Australia, may disqualify it as an element of personality formation. Nonetheless, as offering a spectrum across which to observe in ourselves the mysterious hormonal interaction of coincidentally waxing and waning images of the ideal, the Vertex is a fruitful concept.
As Alan Watts said, “It was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.” The Vertex is quintessential astrology. It is as the music of our soul that it discloses itself, just as the chemistry of photosynthesis discloses itself as wood and height. As the intersection of the western Zodiac and the Prime Meridian it makes no sense, but as the focus of all the important people who come into our lives, and leave them, it discloses the hormonal shades of our interest in others, what it is in them which arrests and seduces our instinctive will to be.
The pleasure of observing sunrise and sunset is part of it, and the degree of comfort I feel in the presence of another. The primordial resonances of east and west are part of it, and the feedback loops of projection. I experience the character of my love-image, and the success or otherwise of its projection, in cyclical patterns. They morph into different forms as the Vertex inhabits different constellations, in other words at different altitudes above and below the horizon, and at different times of life, of the year and day. The higher the zodiac, the more intense and constellated is the effect of the Vertex in the west or the anti-Vertex in the east; the lower it is the more primal and potentially transgressive. But these are my moves. Now you have a dance!
You be the judge. Do you find yourself varying the dosage of your self-medication at these times?
Incidentally, it seems patently obvious to me that conjunctions of stars and planets with the Vertex should be measured horizontally, not along the Zodiac. Here is a particularly seductive alignment in Charleville’s narcissistic Prodigal underworld. Note the configuration of the Milky Way, giving the lie to the synchronous Covenant invisible on the Australian side.
Here’s another one, possibly the hormonal undercurrents of a bleary elevator ride following another $50,000 of inheritance blown on the roulette wheel.
This graphic way of representing or imagining the underworld, as the hidden correlates of the conscious or visible, not only unites the hemispheres, but persistently alerts us to the existence of the Other in ourselves, a partner in the dance. No culture is alien to any other. No way of looking at things is entirely wrong. No perspective is unique, or entirely conscious. There are no opposites in gender. Projection is the very definition of imagery.
What if the altitude of the Zodiac around the time of your birth, in the evening or early morning according to outhouse visitation preferences, had a big influence on what your parents decided, perhaps in a narcissistic epiphany at the pan, to impose on your meaning in their lives? Must such self-unawareness surely ordain your eventual repudiation? Is “What went wrong with you?” our universal doom? A global government must surely take this seriously, and coordinate biometric data on transnational emotional and imaginative responses to the Vertex, in order to remove parental bias from the resonance of upbringing in our careers and relationships!
Let it be emphasized that the natural resonance of the Vertex is unifying, that across the threshold of consciousness, across the seasonal polarity of the hemispheres, its Signs are the same, and cardinal directions are interchangeable.
However, unity is a dangerous thing to wish for. Not only could astrology-savvy AI enable police reinforcements to be mobilized in anticipation of conjunctions of a full moon with disruptive angles (cue Charleville), but its design might impose extreme intolerance, of resistance to careers in medicine and the law for example. Our cultures are divided in their attitudes to gender fluidity: artificial reunification might as easily be designed to eradicate it, and prohibit homosexuality as a sacrilege and mental disorder, as be designed to destigmatize its hormonal fluctuations. One could ask, what went wrong with the hormones of Indonesian Islamists? ‘Eternity’, the Vertex in the Ninth House (Aspiration), in the Tropics? Or ‘Permanence’ in the Fourth (Reputation), eternity’s fetish?
The words of the Prophet belong in the world which discloses itself to childhood. They are the lawns of suburban parks and backyards, evolved to minimize injuries and indelible stains through generations of debate about the Good. They exist in Reason, as binary gender does, but they are made of grass, which is the disclosure of Instinct. You could say that lawns help grass to make something of itself, but they are really weeds dancing with the machine.
Anyone who has lived through the internet’s transformation of reality will have noticed a proliferation of certainty. Every debate is loud with it, and wisdom, dismayed, must consider unassailable facts on both sides. Whereas investigation was previously predicated on ‘I don’t know’, it has apparently degenerated into a search for facts which support ‘I know’. This is quite amazing to somebody educated in facts, with the purpose of disclosing the extent of ignorance, who has seen the transformation of critical theory into the syllabus of primary schools, with the purpose of exposing the ambiguity of knowledge.
The notorious family conflicts which arise when children reach puberty disclose the ideological opposition of ‘I know’ to ‘I don’t know’, and two stages of personal development, the investigation of experience as existence and the investigation of existence as experience. Such conflict can take generations to resolve. In an Australian multicultural context, these two stages manifest themselves in the perennial dynamic of integration. Immigrants are dismayed by their perception of a demand for acculturation, and antagonists to plural monoculturalism can find difficulty in locating their pragmatism in recovery from the grief of their own displaced ancestors.
What differentiates quality journalism from populism is the avoidance of bias confirmation. Both base investigation on the Five W’s, who, where, when, what, and why, but whereas quality journalism demonstrates the ambiguity of the answers, populism confirms their simplicity. Once upon a time, my own investigation of current affairs was led by The Guardian and the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and it has taken time to accept, to grieve, that quality journalism can no longer be confidently sought there.
In similar terms, quality astrology differentiates itself from the populist variety in its focus on ambiguity and recognition of confirmation bias. It presents a tool for asking the Five W’s, but it assumes readers to be seeking more questions, not answers, and to be intensifying existence, not pacifying it. The answer to the question, ‘Who am I?’, is indeterminate, and that is exciting. If you must know who you are, it is my sad duty to inform you that you are nobody.
Where and when you were born cannot be identified, because the where has disappeared, like your parent culture and the climate and geographic coordinates of your birth location, into nowhere, and the when cannot be retrieved except in the historical antecedents of various different arbitrary measures of time based on their obviously impossible separation. The increments of one against another may be small– the measure of sky movement, sidereal time, increases against solar time by 33 seconds every 8 years–but no-when will they ever coincide again. Specifics are out of the question, my dear Watson.
Where is this place?
Cessnock is a real entity, proclaimed with defined boundaries in 1906, and is indexed on thousands of databases and maps. It welcomes the traveller with a real sign in the real ground beside the highway, and every property-owner knows they are in it because they pay council rates. That information may answer the questions who and what, but my question was, ‘where is it?’ Someone in Cessnock, perhaps you can tell me? Down the road from Newcastle, yes, but where is Newcastle, down the road from Cessnock? If I approached from the west, the bush of the Pokolbin Forest, following a road, or else Cessnock would repel me beyond an array of back fences, sooner or later a sign would tell me the road’s name, and someone would tell me I was in Cessnock, someone who wouldn’t understand that they weren’t answering my question, “Where am I?” If I were really lucky, a child might give me the right answer, “Here, in country!”
Here is another correct answer: Cessnock is, not a thou’ out, directly and exactly above its underworld! (A pubescent child always knows when an adult is using semantics to reach a common understanding, which explains the ubiquity of the expression, ‘Sarcasm is the wit of fools’.) Seriously, you have to ask yourself, couldn’t we have done away with 100 years of research into the unconscious if we had simply listened to the people who could find it on a map, right here?
The Miserere, Psalm 51, is the cry of the penitent who is left here, when the rivers of Hades, and their grazing thunder lizards, have disappeared beyond the boundary of the underworld, and penitents are not sure which shore they inhabit. Who are we? The ordinary souls sent to the Asphodel Meadows of our underworld’s underworld? Can Here be There, as the Proclamation has it? What do the aquifers of country disclose when your lover is on the line and your voice is in their head?
This is the moment the ancestors ring the edge of the world, above and below, in neither. Steep Point is the western tip of a continent, from which the then living ancestors watched Dirk Hartog sail past in 1616 CE, with no idea that country was about to be proclaimed out of existence, parcelled up as abutments. To be fair to those seafarers and the settlers who eventually followed them, they had no idea of the Universal Proclamation of Humanity gestating in the abutted minds of landowning philosophers, astrologists and activists. Like any migrant, they were simply creating right of way through abutting, overseas kinships they had no relationship to.
Now we come to the weird bit. Who are ‘they’? Who are we as they?
Osorezan is an active volcano in northern Honshu believed by many to be the threshold of the underworld. Half the world (and almost everyone in these parts) has always believed that ill fortune is not an outcome of karma, what goes around comes around, but the result of sorcery, the conjuring of injured, vengeful spirits from the underworld. I have not found reference to which way up they endure, or if their seasons, directions and chirality mirror the hemisphere of the living, but when they climb out of the fissures of the Earth their evil is authentically alien to ours. Shamans and sorcerers know how to channel them, and so, apparently, do the revilers of Captain Cook, and those still fighting the lost War Against the Proclamation of Country.
So you have no self which is not some other nobody’s nobody, no country which is not some other underworld, and no history which has not been repudiated by you, its child. How WOW is that? But you will be who you want to be, until we have built Jerusalem, and the holy temple of your devotion will be the body, of the visible world, indeterminate, ineffable, enfolding you tenderly in your confirmation bias until you have exhausted fact, country has thrown open its five aggregates of mind and the fleeting moment has disclosed its unbearable beauty. Country, world disclosure, is your will to be, your sap, your yeast, your music, and you are always welcome!
Meditation develops mind, and permanently elevated levels of perception, problem solving and consciousness. Can we stop teaching children the building-blocks of reality, language, citizenship and morality if we teach them to meditate? Is this the way to create a world of loving-kindness in which building-blocks are known to be empty causes of confusion and division? By example, monks claim to enlighten the world by perfecting themselves and teaching that suffering arises from clinging to a fixed self in an objective reality imprisoned in time. Do they?
We are well aware of the danger of undervaluing a healthy ego. We don’t want students to succumb to melancholy, depression and suicide, and we don’t want them harming others on rampages of resentment and vengeance either. We want them to be centred, confident and successful, and only drawn to the ladder of spiritual practice with a natural desire for enlightenment. Is there anything worse than organized ignorance? Ask the Rohingya. Ask the Arakanese.
Meditation is natural. Not only mystics do it, but birds do it, crustaceans do it, and perhaps even the trees do it. Can you imagine any living thing not desiring to prolong bliss or the glimmer of self-consciousness? Is it not ultimately an instinct for transcendence that will overturn this bucket of crabs you find yourself in?
Way back at the dawn of civilization the ancestors imagined into being an aid to the task of clambering out of the bucket. Answers to the question, ‘How do I fit into the scheme of things?’ come from within the nascent consciousness formed by meditation, but how to get in there to control the answers, how to be sure we are not just sacrifices to time in an eternal crab-race?
“Angels (they say) don’t know whether it is the living they are moving among, or the dead. The eternal torrent whirls all ages along in it, through both realms forever, and their voices are drowned out in its thunderous roar.” (Rilke, The First Elegy, trans. Stephen Mitchell, The Duino Elegies & The Sonnets to Orpheus, Vintage International, 2009.)
Clamouring with the antediluvian authority of journalists on social media, the white cockatoos rearrange themselves on the tree of life. You never see them, unless you are evolved indeed! Their raucous flight takes place, and is impossible not to hear, in the underworld houses beneath the ground, where they endlessly challenge the Monk’s mind with ancestral bypass. Like the numerals on the back of football jerseys, and the nations of the Earth, their bodies are interchangeable.
Antares, 11 million years old, is 550 light-years away, a supergiant 12 times the Sun’s mass, 680 times its diameter and nearly 100,000 times its luminosity. Its nightfall transit heralds the arrival of true Spring’s generic obligations in the South. It is one of the cardinal Royal Stars.
Uriel represents an ancient argument about the basis of stability, triangle or square. They are variously the angel of repentance, the pitiless, the south wind, patron of the arts and of confirmation, angel of the face and the earth, one of the four angels of the presence, ruler of Tartarus. They are in awe of what is occulted by Earth.
Canopus is a bright giant 310 light-years distant, 8 times the Sun’s mass, 71 times its diameter, and 10,700 times its luminosity. Its right ascension places it in Breamlea Zodiac Gemini, and those in the North above latitude 35° who can never see it can reason its upper transit beneath the southern horizon on a line projected from Mirzam and Tejat, and its opposite lower transit below Kaus Australis.
Sandalphon’s head reaches to heaven, and like music, is firmly rooted in, yet soars beyond, the body of the world. As the immortalized Elijah, they are the protector of the unborn, and their almost human cry resonates with the pangs of your faltering attainment.
Altair, 1.2 billion years old, is one of the closest stars visible to the naked eye, about 16.7 light-years. It has about 1.8 times the Sun’s mass and 11 times its luminosity. It spins so fast, once every 8.9 hours (compared to the Sun’s 25 days), that it is 20% flattened at the poles, and observably brighter at the poles than the equator. It is prominent in August and September nights.
Akathriel, an angel of the presence, and possibly God themself, is the angel to some of Kether (meaning ‘crown’), the topmost of the sefirot of the Tree of Life, and no wonder here in the Tropics, but in temperate latitudes they find themself outscreeched up there. Anything for a quiet life, says the circling Yesod eagle. They have 8,760 eyes, one for every hour of the year.
Fomalhaut is about 449 million years old, 25 light-years away. Nearly double the size of the Sun, it is 16 times more luminous. Its visible transit more or less overhead in Chile, Argentina, Southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific begins in June and disappears in November, heralding Summer. It is one of the four Royal Stars, the watcher of the south (at the Winter Solstice of 2,600 BCE–in 1,150 years it will be at the Northern Vernal Equinox).
Gabriel is God’s messenger, the plucker of new souls from the Tree of Life, the guardian angel of Israel and the bearer of revelation to prophets, such as Muhammad. Gabriel administers severity in the North, and may accordingly assist in death. In the South they squawk to the other side of the tree. They announce high summer, and affirm the victory of instinct.
Achernar, 139 light-years away and 37 million years old, is the first magnitude star on its own opposite the Southern Cross on the South Celestial Pole clock. It spins so fast, rotating every two days, that its equator is 56% greater than its polar diameter. It blinks on at upper transit at the latitude of Melbourne, Florida, and is visibly circumpolar below Melbourne, Australia. Seven times the size of the Sun and 3,150 times more luminous, it lurks below the southern horizon at Tehran.
Belial is the archangel of cleansing and hostility to hell, but that is because they are reformed. Historically the angel of darkness and destruction, one of the fallen ones, they may have fathered Lucifer and been the avatar of Satan, but liar that they are, they seek to overcome their worthlessness by promoting self-sufficiency and personal accomplishment. They would have you address them as Independence, or Headwater, but their tight wheel brings a waterboarded Cassiopeia to mind.
Aldebaran is an orange giant 44 times the diameter of the Sun and 425 times its luminosity, though only 1.7 times its mass. Aldebaran is 6.6 billion years old, nearly half the age of the universe, and around 65 light-years away. It is the eye of the Bull and the baleful follower of the Seven Sisters.
Michael is the highest in rank of the angels, leader of the armies of God against evil, the Prince of Israel and the archangel of mercy (it was they who substituted a ram for Isaac). They are in charge of the soul of justice, and roost in the west side of the tree, on your right facing south, or remember, on your left if you go behind the tree.
Regulus, a star-system of two pairs of dwarves, is about a billion years old and 79 light-years distant. The main star rotates every 16 hours, has over 3 times the Sun’s mass and 360 times its luminosity. Its name, meaning ‘little king’, identifies it with the basilisk of mediaeval bestiaries. It is one of the Royal Stars marking the cardinal quarters, and is notable for its regular occultations by the Moon, and its encounter every 8 years with Venus.
Raphael is the healing archangel, bestowing submission to the severity of the wound with a healthy sarcasm, directed towards the tropical duality of meditative connection and theology’s engrossment in perfectionism, often misinterpreted by those unfamiliar with the spirits of the underworld, being focussed only on cognitive diagnosis.
What do stars and angels, higher consciousness and music, social media and stigma, gender and mental illness all have in common? They are in the body! Ah, Monk, you smooth talker! You have me in two minds.
You are certainly higher than I on the ladder leaning to heaven’s restoration of innate human divinity, and if Lamarckian inheritance of acquired characteristics, the permanent improvements you have made to your consciousness, and pharmaceutical or psychedelic alternatives to our disembodied spirituality can all be combined, the pilgrim’s progress may prove to the benefit of all, but if gamma waves prove barely to rustle the leaves of the tree of life, suspended as it is above a lower realm of struggle and strife, and the most heightened consciousness cannot elude its underworld, might we not be wise to use meditation on the body which is the world the mind is embedded in, to connect us to history, and to forgive us our past and theirs rather than engineer a future unlike it?
Turn off the lights so that children can see the stars. Encourage the inexperienced to be alone, carry a tune, remember change, and blaspheme against the prophets’ words with their non-binary, non-perfectionist bowels. Let children discover the underworld of country in sidereal time and project the houses of the Vertex onto their social firmament before we teach them its emptiness and the existence or otherwise of angels.
“But if the present is only a time because it is passing away, how can we say that it exists, since the reason for its existing as time is that it will soon not be, which means we can only say it exists because it is on its way to non-existence?” Augustine, Confessions, Book Eleven, III, 17 (Penguin Classics).
Guess what? Speech has just three basic components: waffle, prattle and wank.
Waffle is making something out of nothing. Prattle is making nothing out of everything. Wank is making everything out of something. Depending on which voice you heed, the evening appearance of the Warrior sky might mean something, everything or nothing. It might portend the end of an Indigenous initiation season; it might illustrate a fundamental observation of the nature of time, that any configuration of the sky first appears before dawn, finally appears after sunset, then disappears into the afternoon; or it might serve as an example of dependent arising, one delusory form among the many snares of human suffering. We say we ‘pay something no mind’ when we simply fail to register it among more pressing concerns, when it doesn’t enter our ‘space’.
Did ancient Australians measure time by the motion of the Sun? When they erected their stone circle on the rise overlooking the river now known as Little River, and invested the West with the significance attested to by the three enigmatic boulders facing the extinct volcanoes of the Anakies in that direction, did they dance to the left, like the inner clockwork of Big Ben? Even primary school children know the loss of country suffered by Indigenous people under colonization, but who appreciates the cultural upheaval of learning to tell the time clockwise?
Like any map, the stereographic whole-horizon projection can be difficult to orientate. You need only keep in mind that the Earth rotates to the east–that is the very definition of East–then you will instantly see that the stars appear to revolve clockwise around the South Celestial Pole, and anti-clockwise around the North Celestial Pole, unless it’s not the sky’s face we’re looking at, but its body. Look up, and you see the face; look down, at a map of your sky, or through the ground at your Underworld, and you see the body. Furthermore, your face is at the bottom of the chart, and everything over the Prime Meridian is projected upside-down. Tilt your face back far enough from the daytime direction of the Sun and imagine what is going on behind you as the experience of a night sky on the other side. Don’t get it? Perhaps your gamma wave needs some work?
Or try this exercise revealing everything connected to everything else: raise your arms in opposite directions, rotate them in tight circles the same way, and notice that one hand is in clockwise motion and the other anti-clockwise, and that an observer beyond either arm would see the opposite motion to what you think it’s describing. Think about that the next time you query the meaning of retrograde motion, adopt identity or hear your habitual inner voice: perhaps, for example, something is being made out of a prattler’s nothing. And I assure you, on the face of it, any resonance in the influences of exactly opposite stars, the so-called stargates, must be pure wank, since I projected them seven years before the Breamlea Zodiac.
Voices and their words, the concepts they communicate and the behaviours they influence are all embodied in culture, in turn embedded in history, and like the clockwork of Big Ben and the psychology of colonization (and gender for that matter), are coming at you from the opposite side of your face, out in the ageing body of the world into which you were born and cast your narrative. No matter how successful you are in wresting back the clock-face of your heartbeat and breath, the body of time has fossilized your life-span. When you try to share your life, you cannot free it from a narrative the Other creates.
Of course my conjectures are just more waffle, commemorating like a plaque a shared ‘space’ in time, for old and young, ‘right’ and ‘left’, male and female, native and exotic. The fact is, I would waffle you out of your wounds, contrived by the spatialization of time, of displacement and historical injustice, into this time-space I also call ‘Country’, an empty space made of now, pulsating with codependent, reified, numinous historical forms such as the body, the clock, real estate, difference, evil, the mere male and the warrior, the whore and the mother, the psyche, and even consciousness itself.
Behold the reconciliation of separate perspectives, of geographical hemispheres, of consciousness and sleep. The markings on the clocks indicate different ways of going, but the signs are in the same temporal houses. Thus does space wed time, body wed mind, self wed other. “Spacetime tells matter how to move; matter tells spacetime how to curve” (John Archibald Wheeler).
The essence of human existence, which it shares with all animate and so-called inanimate entities, and which Buddhism knows as dependent arising, materialism knows as history, and we all know as culture, is within time, not space. Life is within death. Body is within change. Mind is within experience. Connection is within habit. Death is not a place. Its essence is permanence. Culture is not a structure. Its essence is freedom. Identity is not a thing. Its essence is relationship. The world is not a thing. Its essence is clockwork.
We are beguiled by the prospect of making the world a better place, but we are pinned like dead butterflies to a map, and the market of cultural interchange is located in a cul-de-sac. We embarked long ago on a project of what Fromm called ‘rootedness’ to make all of the categories of existence we could imagine into spaces within themselves. The psyche, once a transcendent identification of life and self, air and breath, became merely a compartment of being along with the body. Community became an assembly of individuals, heredity an arrangement of DNA. The world became a jigsaw-puzzle and death became part of eternal life. Consciousness forgot how to be unconscious. The horizon formed a space, seasons and phases were fixed on calendars, language banished the nameless, heaven was subsumed by distance and light extinguished the night.
This all happened in a period of not more than twenty thousand years. The next twenty thousand years is a mystery which defies compartmentalization, and yet we are already within it. Voyager 1, which was launched half a life-span ago, accompanied by two time capsules, will take twice as long as the spatialization of being to reach the vicinity of the nearest star in its path, but nonetheless is already nearly five times further from us than the outermost planet of our system. It is already beyond our within of light-minutes from Sol, the nearest star. Soon it will be beyond the within of light-hours, but even after forty thousand years, it will still be connected to any descendants still here, and to us now, though we be long dead, by the momentum originating here, in our neighbourhood of heaven.
The spatialization of the alienated self continues apace. “Keep ‘it’ buried in the not-me, and ‘I’ am what remains, blameless, shameless,” is prattle. No, comforting Jeremiah, putting definitions and boundaries in the right context, requires us to embrace time as the essence of self. Every ‘thing’ is indeed not connected to everything else, because ‘everything’ is an error, a closure, a linguistic confusion of ‘is’ and ‘is not’. The land and the inhabitant, the artefact and the commodity, the violater and the victim, each breathe history into the other, but the mantra, ‘always was and always will be’, is an absurdity. Country is not ‘timeless’. It obliges fearless familiarity with change. Whereas separation is emergent in space, connection is emergent in time: the meaning of a foreign language, the lifespan of a cemetery, the scar made out of flesh, the village’s love for the newborn, the faith in whom we have chosen which makes us the right choice, the barely perceptible dying breath of a machine in the silence between stars, and the knowledge of a warrior staring up at someone’s Underworld.
Think of time as waffle, prattle and wank. It is embedded like a signature on the treble clef of speech. The Moon and the stars chant its music, have you noticed, not on the horoscope page, but at the hour you sometimes remember to look out?
“Defined in the end by its disenchanted context, the human self too is inevitably disenchanted. Ultimately it becomes, like everything else, a mere object of material forces and efficient causes: a sociobiological pawn, a selfish gene, a meme machine, a biotechnological artifact, an unwitting tool of its own tools. For the cosmology of a civilization both reflects and influences all human activity, motivation, and self-understanding that take place within its parameters. It is the container for everything else.” Richard Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche [Viking, 2006, p.33].
A drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle, like a satellite without responsibility for its own trajectory. The meanings we have given the Moon’s orbit derive not from its motion, which is straightforward, if subject to gravitational influences and historical violent collisions, but from our perspective. However, not only its elliptical orbit and the inclination of its orbit to Earth’s but their phenomena belong to the body of the world. The Moon’s angular distance from the ‘First Point of Aries’ and its deviation from the Ecliptic are real, and so is its apparent size and phase, though these are not its properties. The law which has always addressed and divided humans, punitive and often aggressive and cruel, is real in the same way. Its initiates are drones; it is inherent in country as a phenomenon, not a property. Country is the body of the world we are made of as we perceive it, or rather create it with our perception and account of ourselves.
To recognize the Constellation of Capricornus in the night sky is to be seduced into an expansion of its proportions. The smallest Zodiac Constellation is also exceedingly dim over cities, but to compensate, it can impose its shape beyond its boundaries, across the entire field of vision, because it is replicated by the stars surrounding it, as the personage inhabits the child who wears an item of its clothing.
The Fish-Goat was placed in the heavens by ancient reverence for duplicity as the birth-pangs of subjective consciousness: for the state of being one thing in the world of aggression and another in the inner space of difference. Capricorn is the symbol of deceit. The fish-goat was fatally flawed: it was ruled by the desire to under-stand the gods. It was obliged to climb out of the waters of oneness with the tides of spirituality to actualize the commands of its god. Sadly, by the time it clambered onto the historical shore, social relations were no longer a chorus of inner voices, but a mime of certainty obtained from the soundless reading of the written word, and the goat-fish could not read. He became a goat, his own body, and lost his mind to goat’s head soup.
To this day, Capricorn in the Breamlea Zodiac continues to resonate with the concern for authenticity which is the hallmark of the present age. As a late summer constellation, a mansion the Southern Sun occupies from January to February, it carries the fifth Sign of Leonine confidence, but as the winter mansion of the Southern Full Moon it also carries the eleventh Sign of Aquarian altruism. It symbolizes our struggle with deceit, life making do with the subordination of care and the subterfuge of being. Gone is the Aquarian impulse to found a harmonious commune—the New Age has morphed into a therapy for addiction and dissent—and gone is the respectability of an inner life immersed in canons of literature and music. The techniques developing today are to affirm identity from hostile country, to give voice which overcomes noise, to colonise public space, to stop hiding, to dream the life, to think the body.
You have been brought here to the Port Louis Casino to observe how these techniques might be more successfully developed and employed on country. For tens of thousands of years the Moon has presented its metaphor for human existence, waxing and waning, emulating the path of the Sun optimistically in winter, soberly in summer, regularly and irresistibly receding and drawing near. Tonight, by remote control, we are synchronized with the Moon’s eclipse at apogee. What can we learn from the Moon’s survival of bombardment of our own experience of persecution by the world? Can we emerge from violence non-violently? Can we slough the fishtail of an eye for an eye, pause in the struggle for existence on the stony paths of goathood to enjoy ourselves, without creating enemies of mind and body, self and world, instinct and expertise? Can we create country in our own beautiful image? Can we both empty and own our body, its eccentricity, obliquity and remote-control eclipse?
The good people of Nhill have set the standard for living on country. All you need to know is how to put yourself on the map, obliquely perhaps, but always with good grace. We’re all winging it, aren’t we?
“‘Where is God?’ he cried; ‘I’ll tell you! We have killed him – you and I! We are all his murderers. But how did we do this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Where is it moving to now? Where are we moving to? Away from all suns? Are we not continually falling? And backwards, sidewards, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an up and a down? Aren’t we straying as though through an infinite nothing? Isn’t empty space breathing at us? Hasn’t it got colder? Isn’t night and more night coming again and again? Don’t lanterns have to be lit in the morning? Do we still hear nothing of the noise of the grave-diggers who are burying God? Do we still smell nothing of the divine decomposition?…’”
Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Book 3, §125, “The madman” [Trans. Josefine Nauckhoff, Cambridge University Press, 2001].
“…It’s not anger that I feel towards the two of you, it’s something much, much worse.
You have no empathy for your fellow man, and you clearly have no idea what love is.
So you have nothing.” Anthony Maslin.
“…To be different/ imperfect/ not normal is scary.
To be different/ imperfect/ not normal in a world where everyone projects ‘perfect’ is a fear
I tell my story here to confront that fear.
To show the world who I am.
I am Grief. This is me. Grief is me.
To look at me is to see your own fear reflected back at you.
To look at me is to also see strength.
The strength of us all.
All of those who stand behind me.
The strength of my fathers and grandmothers.
An ancient strength.
The strength of my land.
My land of burnt umber and dry sand.
The strength of laterite and million year old tears.
The strength of the broken who rebuilt.
What do you see when you look at the bully?” Rin Norris.
I see stars. I see someone controlled by the body. I see a drone.
“Anxiety is the first experience of our freedom, as a freedom from things and other people. It is a freedom to begin to become myself. Anxiety is perhaps the philosophical mood par excellence, it is the experience of detachment from things and from others where I can begin to think freely for myself. Yet, as Heidegger was very well aware, anxiety is also a mood that is powerfully analysed in the Christian tradition, from Augustine to Kierkegaard, where it describes the self’s effort to turn itself, to undergo a kind of conversion. Heidegger’s difference with Christianity is that the self’s conversion is not undergone with reference to God, but only in relation to death….” Simon Critchley.
Astrology’s conversion is undergone by gender and the mind/body duality with reference to the Antipodes, (complete with continents of obscuring cloud), where planets are in opposite signs and houses, but the houses carry the same signs.
Bordertown in South Australia is in fact some 17 km from the Victorian border as the crow flies, but it is perfectly named as a location demonstrating another border, between the adaptive attitudes and habits of consciousness and the reactive, instinctive moods of the body’s interpretation of its existence in the world, which together form identity, the emptiness of Country. At the stroke of New Moon, the Signs and angles of Bordertown’s Underworld are in perfect harmony with the hours across the border in the Northern Hemisphere, and Death speaks with its customary ambivalence.
It is in response to the awareness of finitude that we show ourselves who we are. There are many ways our body can seduce us into evasion of this awareness, by consoling us with belonging to something timeless, eternal salvation in religious and secular ways. Are we making the world a better place? Are we following the rules which screen entry to Heaven? Does anything really matter? Is not pleasure an end in itself? These are some of the voices which call us to forget the anxiety of the anticipation of annihilation. These are some of the roadmaps we overlay on country to separate ourselves from it, and to make it traversable.
Bordertown tells us, on the other hand, that whether we are emerging from the waters of Lethe into an interlude of imaginative indolence or determined withdrawal, instinct is locating the necessity to identify gratitude as the harmonious well of our calling. This world is not a thing, it is me! I made it; I am made of it. It is not a departure point to another one. The future is no different from the past: both have no existence other than right here, in me, in the only world there is, mine, lived with you.
Ah, relationship. “We are lovers, that is a fact” (Bowie). In a social reality dominated by discrimination, judgement and projection, relationship is in theory a connectedness which overcomes meaninglessness and loneliness, but in practice it reveals more than we want to know, engaging identity in constant trench-warfare against misunderstanding. Just who is the person your lovers and friends are in relationship with? Is your Shadow your shit or theirs, and whose, if theirs?
Somewhere out of mind in the South Pacific, the invisible Underworld sky of the spiritual home of the Abrahamic religions affirms what most martyrs still breathing acquire, the spiritual materialism of immortality; but with a decided lean by nightfall, the idea of a covenant, like the heritage churches of rural Australia, which are struggling to stay standing, let alone provide financial compensation to victims of historical clerical sexual abuse, has passed its use-by date this year as a source of meaning, if we ever had the imagination to make it one in these secular postmodern times.
At dawn up at home, however, it is the vain queen Cassiopeia who is faded from the sky, her chair lodged in the branches of the elm at the entrance to Hades, like the morning-after evidence of a rowdy party. The Jerusalem Signs, identically mirrored in its autonomous underworld body, bode ill for the likelihood of a resolution of sectarian conflict coming from mutual understanding and respect. What really happened seems as elusive as what is really happening, in this cloakroom of multiple tickets for the same baggage.
Yes, it is relationship which tears our world apart. The British vote for their right to autonomy, but baulk at complete separation. The Americans bring the World Order crashing down around our ears, but our protests contain no inkling of faith in the World Order’s capability to develop solutions to the unemployment of children and grandchildren ejected from automated workplaces and failed states. The reallocation of Australian aid to Palestine through the United Nations provokes a reaction revealing political Islam’s belief in spitting on people. The endorsement of same-sex marriage in Australia precipitates debate about religious freedom, to which the Social Services Minister adds the insight, “We have not realised Martin Luther King’s dream of a society where you are judged by the content of your character, not the colour of your skin. Instead we have woken up to a nightmare where the value of your contribution to a debate depends on what you claim to be a victim of.”
But peppering the news on all these fronts of our alarm come daily reports of irresponsible masculinity: murder, rape, assault and adolescent aggression and criminality. Before we have agreed on the evolutionary value of anger and aggression, it might well be geneticists who solve the problem by doing away with masculinity altogether, but in the meantime, what is it we are initiating our men into, global or local, community or game, grievance or responsibility? Undoubtedly, we need to equip ourselves with an authentic grasp of our own emotions, as the custodians of the world body into which our children insert their consciousness, and if we have no idea how the heroism of the Tham Luang cave was formed, perhaps an historical cultural practice of the Australian First Nations can nudge us in the right direction.
The Warrior Sky is the name I have given to the configuration of the Milky Way when it arcs in a straight line over our heads from southwest to northeast with its awesome centre, in the last degree of Breamlea Zodiac Scorpio (currently at tropical longitude 27Sgr6), near the zenith (Melbourne BZ longitude 23Sco11, tropical 20Sgr38). In this article, in Australian Archaeology, No. 77, Fuller, Hamacher and Norris (2013) present evidence of Aboriginal initiation sites being aligned with this configuration, as a result of its vertical presentation of the Emu. The opposite configuration which I have called the Wanderer Sky, extinguished by sunlight at this time of year, features the upright Emu rising vertically in the southeast, but its body is too close to the horizon in Australia to be seen. Is there a hidden message to non-Aboriginal initiates about gender and responsibility in the upside-down appearance of the Emu emblem in the southwest?
Perhaps, hidden in our bodily awareness, the physical impact of the world we interpret through the cultural lens imposed by generations of ancestors through our parents, there is an emptiness of meaning our sons can use to disarm anger, hostility and aggression. Perhaps the upside-downness of the Emu means nothing.
Boys, can you find the temporal emptiness of your bodily imperatives, your aggressive reactions to disappointment and disability, your intimidatory expression of frustration and anger, your malignant resentment of your displacement from the pedestal of worship? The essence of responsibility is to own the shit of others. Look to the Underworld, the Other Side. You will soon have a lot of time to do so.
Girls of the Northern Hemisphere, observe your animus downunder, and girls everywhere, in the bodies of boys, own your own shit.