“Superfluous lags the vet’ran on the stage…”, Samuel Johnson, l. 308, The Vanity of Human Wishes, 1749, derived from Juvenal, Satire X.
Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee. Deuteronomy 32:7, King James Bible.
It’s no use. The Veteran cannot hide from the truth. It’s not just that his triumph in Northern skies comes in the middle of a Coronavirus-infested winter, as humanity struggles to celebrate the turning of the year with breaking heart, or that in Southern skies his diminutive opposition to a searing Sun needs the compensation of the un-moonlit symmetry of the Eurocentric mythical Twins to impress, but having crossed the Lethe immediately before syzygy, he realizes in his curtain call only the magnitude of the reintegration which lies ahead for the audience (who are yet oblivious to the Acheron River which daytime has just crossed), and the possibility that he no longer has the will to help. Oh God, not more feelings!
On the other hand, the Veteran has died and been reborn so many times that the Bardo provides his second name: “The Hell You Say!” The Tenth Bardo House of Boredom is one he particularly enjoys, where the cleansing of the Lethe affords him the luxury of staring out of the window of the Northern Tropical Indolence bus on his way to Total Withdrawal, paying no attention to dark continents rolling him around their clocks. His fellow-passengers cannot wait to get off: being bored is akin to being boring; the emissions from the bus out-thrust its propulsion; grasping is mindfully consuming acceptance; and forests of wild viruses are being cleared for the graduation of sated ignorance. “We must alight at centre-stage,” they cry. Not the Veteran. He is indifferent to the footlights, and to his demotion from a starring role for the next twenty-four times he appears on this stage: you will not see a Full Moon in Gemini (the Constellation) until January 2023.
What tortuous labyrinths of despair might just squeeze a sleeper up to the surface? What convulsions of suppressed hatred, what intestinal convolutions of corruption and deliberate pain? What catacombs of memory, what collapsed and utterly expunged escape routes out of anxiety? What tectonic shifts of catatonic stress? And reversing direction, the Ngaanyatjarra Lands in the Australian Central Ranges is no country for old fish.
It is time and memory which stamp Veteran country, a duration of exile from the permanent present. Aligned with the course of the Moon’s progress across the faintly visible constellations between Sagittarius and Gemini, Woe and Forgetting, and irrevocably past Regulus and Spica and Antares to the Acheron again, an artesian underworld meanders beneath a landscape dotted with caves, one of which is yours, another mine.
Is life a journey? Does one day, month or year to another measure a distance, or does duration just go around in circles like the hands of a clock? What is this mysterious ‘Now’ the self continuously inhabits? Does it transcend time, or is it a piece in the journey’s jigsaw-puzzle? Is it ‘Country’? Is it emptiness? Is it no more than the struggle for existence between birth and death, or a moment of emergent Being as it learns and actualizes the interplay of an infinite array of evolving controls? A serious question: are you conscious or unconscious? In 17 days it will be 140 years since a ship’s apprentice by the name of Tom Pearce rescued Eva Carmichael, around 2 hours before a New Moon in Taurus, the only other survivor of the wreck of the Loch Ard. (No, they did not marry–read this eerie story, by Tony Wright, at the Sydney Morning Herald.)
A similar configuration of the southern stars is visible all over Eastern Australia. Come on, quit your studies and social media conformity, and bow with me to hear the Kyrie, at journey’s end. Along the Shipwreck Coast an estimated 638 journeys ended in tragedy. I’m afraid you’re staging for a free-kick if you can’t budge from your ideological opposition to the invasion which resulted from the courage of your ancestors lucky to get here to spawn you. Our lives are a complicated mechanism, and if truth be acknowledged, we are a little rusty. We have too many conflicting theories of how it works, and as many therapies for its repair in situ, but having eliminated religion and sympathetic magic, even applying objective understanding to the emotions, we find the mechanism lacking in an essential input, the lubricant of communion, the sense of shared energy within, and the security of being another’s Thou which comes with the faith that we can get inside each other.
“Man needs vengeance like a tired person needs a bath.” (Baudelaire.) The ‘Realm of Hungry Ghosts‘, represented in my charts as the Houses occupied by the Sun when we’re usually asleep, is always operating in us unconsciously, and if you’re stuck with an insatiable desire for revenge, an unshakable belief that you could be the person you want to be if someone’s actions hadn’t denied the possibility forever, or you can’t help loving it when you see another person suffering, you may need to enhance your conscious connection with where your dreams come from. Try closing your eyes in a public place and imagining there is no way of measuring how far away the hubbub is; or try in conversation to be the person your interlocutor thinks you to be.
Here is a chart which represents where the European invaders on the Loch Ard might have thought they were on the morning of their death so far from home.
The New Moon was soon to occur in Gemini, but there was nothing Springlike in the fog in which their journey ended, and no familiar Zodiac was lurking in the southern sky anyway. Woe at the Vertex (though it hadn’t been invented yet) was not an auspicious sign, but otherwise the portents for their new life in Terra Nullius seemed favourable enough. However, a local perspective tells a different story.
Sun and Moon were not highlighting the Ascendant House at all, but the Animal Realm, where taking yourself too seriously on awakening is a natural cover for ignorance, but it may have been the retrograde motion of dauntless Jupiter in relativist Capricorn and the idealist hunger of Cancer that did them in. Perhaps you should try to imagine this was you, but you should definitely eliminate the intergenerational trauma of not finding the Zodiac when you look to the south.
Back to 2018, when the IAC and tropical astrology agree that the May New Moon occurs in Taurus (1° and 14.6° respectively), but I have the Sun 2½ days away in Breamlea Aries. The important thing is to know where we are, and that is definitely not in a seasonal quarter neatly divisible by three. Deep Winter in Victoria arrives in a week, but it came early, didn’t it? Not only Southern Hemisphere Astrology believes that Kalgoorlie ego and mood are contiguous in the Bardo Realm of Hell, but arcane powers as well.
The Bardo Houses are identical on the same meridian north or south of the Equator, a facticity of profound interest to forces for integration and harmonious difference. You may imagine what use in diplomacy might be made of knowing the unconscious mood of entire populations, and being able to project it from your own experience. Furthermore, I am not the only one who has established that the Houses are opposite on the same meridian the other side of the geographic poles.
In the age of artificial intelligence and psychological and virtual warfare, these elements of Being have not gone unnoticed. Moscow’s meridian passes through the Middle East, Washington’s through Cuba and Ecuador. I believe I am at the forefront of incorporating elements of Australian Indigenous wisdom in my self-examination, formatting Milky Way configurations with the cardinal directions of Country, but I cannot be at all sure of that.
To succeed in life you must assert yourself. Don’t worry about who your self is–it’s a passive, defeatist predilection to think of life as a set of rules to obey, or a race you’re not winning, especially if you’ve retired hurt. Life is not a straight line, but cycles within cycles, circles intersecting incongruent circles, and you must always be ready, like a fox evading the hounds, to leap sideways, from one merry-go-round to another, one treadmill to another. Opportunism is a characteristic of the ground of being. If you reflect on your addictions, you will know how opportunistically they multiply their positive reinforcements.
“So you don’t have to look painfully for some kind of stepping-stone; instead, a stepping-stone presents itself in your life. You have the confidence to start on the first thing that is available within your experience—if you know the geography or road map of developmental psychological structures.
…If you try to create something by will, you have to use accidents as a way of channeling yourself.” (Chögyam Trungpa, Transcending Madness.)
Unconstrained by ego’s besieged battlements, the midnight mind
Hurls its toys against a nursery wall daubed
With experiments in defecation.
Try as noon might to wrest behaviour from dream
Boredom never surrenders
the puppet-strings of meaning.
[On May 19, when the Sun enters Taurus, until July 25, when it will be in Cancer, the nightfall Sun (12° below the horizon) will be in the House of Self-Improvement at the latitude of Melbourne. The naked-eye Breamlea First Crescent of Opportunism will be at 18:05 on May 17, but the Moon, in Taurus, will be in the House of Fear. At nightfall, 6° above the horizon, it will occupy its rightful place in the House of Self-Improvement. The nightfall Sun will be in House VII (Aggression) until Full Moon in Sydney (Campbelltown)-Margaret River, and all Lunar Month above Port Macquarie-Yanchep. Make hay while the sun shines.]
Looking south past the Pepper Coast above the South Atlantic Ocean, this is the view at the moment of Full Moon an hour after midnight: a sensual delight for the average person, perhaps signifying nothing, but more fancifully, a portentous conjunction of Moon and Jupiter above an horizon glistening with the reflection of riotous fires in the eyes of bewildered children.
Why complicate it? If you recognize the Maiden’s asterism, the Full Moon is at her foot. Does it actually make life meaningful to recognize myths traced in the night sky thousands of years ago by foreign cultures?
These are good questions, and I have to ask myself whether astrology is more than a narcissistic obsession. Take the prominent constellations of Centaurus and Lupus for example. In my imagination, they are emblematic of the root of the historical conflict between British settlers and the Australian First Nations. Someone half-human is killing either a kangaroo or a sheep.
From my equal divisions of the Ecliptic, I place the Moon in Libra, the scales of colonial justice, and the Sign of Taurus, which after all, is not as ridiculous as placing it in the Scorpion, as Northern Hemisphere tropical astrology does. Astronomical definitions also place the Moon in Libra, but do hemispheric seasonal differences, mathematics and geometry make what a child might see more real?
The astrological chart of tropical Conakry, a place sadly organized at the moment by hate-speech not civility, is crowded with ambiguity. The declinations of Zodiac Constellations in this representation determine their signs, accordingly as they appear in the northern or southern sky, but like language, the meanings of astrology should not be regarded strictly in terms of syntax. That my words are usually interpreted to mean something utterly different from my intention, that the world is empty of intrinsic meaning, and that I refer to things constructed by my mind alone, do not deter my instinct to share my feelings, and nor should they, within reason.
All things and all beings are without self, but they are not non-existent. Sensation is one of the aggregates to which we may attach ourselves in suffering, but as long as we live, we are all sensualists, using our senses to interpret our experience. For the true sensualist who does not cling to the forms of a reality delivered by the senses, the world of the senses is, like poetry and music, a symphony of pleasurable emptiness. Sensuality is the language of things without self. This Moon is such a thing.
Of course, sensualism has its pitfalls. It values the passions over abstract ideas, and that can lead to recklessness. It attaches itself to presence, and has a hard time subtracting its ears from its symphony of constant need. It is readily convicted of narcissism, and bending cognition to its will, can create a prison cell from solitary practice in its body temple. It is difficult in practice to delight in another’s beauty if you’re attached to your own, and intimacy can be denied a being resentful of neediness.
However, sensuality is a song of joy in response to finitude, and not to be pathologized by the intellect. Notwithstanding the invisibility of the Moon of sensuality in the landscape encircled by the rivers of Hades a short charter flight from her embarkation at Birdsville–remember civility?–our voluptuous heroine is its embodiment on her mission to introduce to the women of Yandruwandha Yawarrawarrka Country the principles of Tantra so entrancing to the men of Birdsville.
Have you ever flown the length of East Coast Australia, marvelled at the patchwork of farms below you, and wondered beyond your horror at the deforestation of Aboriginal Country, how many lifetimes of displaced labour were dedicated to clearing by axe and handsaw, grubbing and ploughing those fields? In such manner marvels a wellness guide on her way to lunch past a group of Aboriginal men, sprawling in meagre shade in a dry creek-bed, apparently sharing a flagon in a forlorn attempt at spirituous escape from appalling conditions.
Below, in a nutshell, is the sensualist view of Innamincka Country. Civility is the entrance to Hell. But epiphany is a wondrous thing, a sudden inexplicable simplification of the neural pathways between instinct and reason, intuition and inference, occasioned by nothing more urgent than the discomfort of riding over deep corrugations in a hard-suspensioned 4WD. Our heroine suddenly realizes how comfortable that Aboriginal backside feels up against its tree. And in this moment, ladies and gentlemen, she understands what ‘Country’ means. She is in it!
Her husband, not unfortunately on the other side of the world, would never understand: such a narcissist! Sensualists are what they are aware of, and deep in her body temple our heroine is aware of her dreams. Without the auspicious epiphany from deep within her organizing principle, she might have been in considerably less favourable frame of mind to guide the spirits of a group of Aboriginal women, because the dream she had this morning, when the Sun was in the Tenth House, was a fight to the death with her abusive husband, a disturbingly brutal fight resulting in vividly gruesome injuries to him, traumatically never enough to change his murderous intent.
Life is full of organizing principles, as any astrologer will tell you, and at this very moment, at the conclusion of today’s proceedings of the ecological convention he is attending in Brazil, not in the slightest interested in dreams, but practised in the arcane arts of interpreting the organizing principles of populations, her husband is feeling quite at home with the Southern Cross.
No doubt when he gets home it will be back to the contingent bitter resentment which blights his life. If only she had an interest in the world. Without an interest, we are assailed by boredom. Of that statistically undeniable organizing principle he is aware. His wife’s behaviour establishes the empirical fact: out of interest, responsibility; out of boredom, practice. In what deluded scenario does the delight in the touch of herself transform itself into a desire to touch him?
Southern Cross and Queen Cassiopeia are spokes on a symmetrical wheel, an invisible organizing principle. When we call someone a narcissist, it just means we have fallen out of love with their peculiar sensualism, because ours doesn’t feature in it. Christian missionaries gave the First Nations a name for sitting against a tree in a river-bed: ‘Love’–the love of God, being loved by Creation. Identity is not a self, but beloved Country. Identity secure on Country is empty. Have we turned our spouses, and everyone really, including our Aboriginal people, and farmers who cut down trees, into narcissists?
All of the planets would fit between the Earth and the Moon at apogee. Imagine that. The biggest, Jupiter, will be at opposition on Wednesday week. That means it will transit around solar midnight, and will be the closest it gets until June next year. It is nearly 143,000 kms in diameter, over 11 times bigger than Earth, and in the range of 9.58 +/- 1 Earth-Sun distances away. As a narcissist, I love knowing that.
“Soon the hay-fields will ripen, soon the berry will show
Then they’ll fade into Autumn, to lie under the snow
Some years among many leave much more to remember
No need to explain how I feel about her. (Siebel, 1970.)
You could say that every Full Moon tests the understanding between lovers, but none presents greater danger than this one. “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse?” (Springsteen, 1980.) “Man from Mars, this time you went too far.” (Mitchell, 1989.) My heart may harbour a different dream, but it hurts just the same as yours. The man in the Moon exults in the light of the goddess Sun, but we all too often define worship as needy, and are just as quick to label vain assertions of independence as egoistic. We cherish the freedom of Summer in Winter, and the intimacy of Winter in Summer, but Spring and Autumn are most uncomfortable bedfellows, when the one is full of hope and the other is full of resentment. But so much in love depends on attachment style. The Peasant transits simultaneously over Detroit and Columbus (Ohio), and on down through Georgia and Florida, Western Cuba, the Gulf of Mexico and Costa Rica, and as latitude decreases, the meaning of love becomes more primal, totemic and transcendent. Do you have enough yeast in you to trace the astrological g-spot?
The Scales upside-down are a policeman’s boot, which means racial discrimination and the imposition of foreign law, but Aries is a ram, both ways, all instinct. If you have a sensitivity to cultural appropriation, you ask walking directions from Google Maps for Bamaga to Melbourne, and by all means argue your arcane knowledge of water-holes and star maps for one day’s walk out of sixty. That’s Aries. Here it comes: Permanence.
The Peasant is a convergence of two archetypes, one being coarse and ignorant, and the other confined to tradition and the rhythms of Nature. He is contemptuous of urban sophistication and political correctness, because every day he must, on behalf of city-slickers, do things they are too squeamish for, such as saw off the horn growing into an eye, shoot an endangered bird raiding the fruit, cut down a native tree or separate the newly-born from their mothers for butchering. He is the very opposite of late-Spring tranquility, and yet in his intransigence he is tranquil in his way. He will give you a mouthful if you do not qualify as his judge, but to let him get on with what he has to do you must be content with his reversal of your superiority. The Peasant is the quintessential Shakespearean Fool.
But what stirs in his heart? What hides behind his stubbornness, his brusqueness and his sullen strength, to explain his relentless commitment and unwavering care? Fly over farmland and weep for the felled forest of the world, but marvel at the increment of life upon life of back-breaking hard work with axe and saw. How many generations, how many acres per man? The Vertex and its projector are but geometric labels in search of a symbology, but peasants do have beloveds, I’m sure, even if they don’t dream of them like lovelorn adolescents. Every peasant is a philosopher on the porch before bed, with only one rudder in the sea of stars and time straight up, his deep. How did they love their wives? How did their children love them? And how are they remembered? For atrocities against indigenous people who were just like them? In terms of the imagination, not a lot has changed.
Permanence can easily be envisaged through the eyes of a peasant on a porch, raising his countenance from idealization at the horizon, comfortable completion halfway up, and then its logical implication as high as it is possible to look without straining something. But the peasant knows that the stars move the other way across the west, and it is a little more difficult to understand what’s happening when the cynic craning his neck eastward has to turn around.
The experts say that tropical weather patterns are expanding, but the lines of tropical latitude (Cancer and Capricorn) are moving towards the Equator, at the rate of about 1.5 kilometres per century. Currently, the Vertex can appear in Meridian Houses V and VIII at north and south latitudes less than 40.92°, IV and IX less than latitude 26.59°, and crosses the Meridian, twice, in the tropics, when the Ecliptic is overhead, equal and opposite distances from the Equinoxes. At the Equator, it is always at the (tropical) Aries or Libra Points–the Equinoxes–(whichever is in the west). It is permanent.
The enslavement of a user by a plaything is actually quite common, and really the transit of the zodiac at the zenith is as banal if you don’t apply your attention to it. Is not accepting a truth you don’t understand mere clinging to a world made by others? Is not the task of fixing a problem you see in someone else not a column in an edifice meant to be older than time? You’ve probably heard, ‘I’ll never forget you,’ a few times, and even, ‘It was written in the stars.’ What is heaven without permanence, asks the cynic trying to analyse eternity. Idolatry is boredom’s safety net, dreaming of old flames, or the first rung on the ladder of affect.
“Come away, come away, death,
And in sad cypress let me be laid;
Fie away, fie away, breath;
I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
My shroud of white, stuck all with yew,
O prepare it!
My part of death, no one so true
O did share it.
Not a flower, not a flower sweet,
On my black coffin let there be strown;
Not a friend, not a friend greet
My poor corpse, where my bones shall be thrown:
A thousand, thousand sighs to save,
Lay me, O where
Sad true lover never find my grave,
O to weep there!”
[My vain project is not only to enhance tropical astrology with a Southern Hemisphere perspective and an equatorial connection to the still-visible stars which might help heal its visible displacement, but to present a non-linear, cyclical background to human affairs before which people might discover more of the preconception of their moment, and as whom they are being created in it. I am not an activist telling you who you are, a scientist telling you what you’re made of or a medicine-man telling you who you were meant to be. Call me deluded, call me demented, but if I say something which helps you resist the magical realism of DSM diagnosis, the abyss of stardust cosmology, and the taboo against tampering with preordained creation with bottom-up interpretations of time and place, then I am justified in acting the fool. Call me a peasant then, my fellow-peasants!]