Fifteen million people in Australia’s south-east are emerging from lockdown, and a monk is on the ridge which overlooks the vast reaches of suburbia sloping down to the Lethe, peering into the heart of anyone emerging long enough from social media to return his gaze, and looking for stirrings of love and kind intentions, so long constrained.
Is it just a coincidence that the monk is back? Where is this Moon? Why is the Moon where it is? Is that even a sensible question?
The monk will not discourage any romantic impulse or narrowly focussed desire, because he too has had a lonely time of it. He is the archetypal lover, you see, the Libran Moon of the Southern Hemisphere, and while nothing might overcome his buddha-nature, he is occasionally disturbed by thoughts unbecoming in one sworn to celibacy, and by memories of not-quite innocent, and consequential, passions of the past.
Permanence, idolatry; completion, fantasy; idealisation, delusion; submission, convention; seduction, narcissism; eternity, cynicism: every angle the westerly zodiac makes with the horizon has its opposite. The anti-vertex is both the weakness which empowers the vertex wish, and the compensatory mechanism for the absolute unattainability of that wish.
The electric axis is, as the passport out of herein, a powerful tool for the self-congratulation of the spiritual bypass we have for so long indulged in lockdown. The weeds of narcissism are luxuriant.
And where is it to be found, this tool? In the cosmos, in the dreamtime or the moment? In the warp of imagination? In the pages of pseudo-science? In the gaze of a dead Moon? Does it only exist because we narcissists, or whomever we are wholly not, have invented it to cocoon our unreality?
Are we, on this dangerous axis, committing ourselves to the impossibility of being ourselves? For an entire generation, isolation might become the elephant in the room.
Everybody’s mad. Go out and give someone the hug you need from them. Let’s do it. Let’s fall in love. Embrace your muse. Cling if necessary. Enjoy any limerence which can survive helpless altruism!
Idealize a future and idolize its impossible permanence. Be seduced by the reflection of your agoraphobia. Submit your difference to self-help. Believe in your cynicism. Is totalitarian surveillance intimidating you? Check out the monk’s skimpy g-strings on the line!
“I’m looking at the river, but I’m thinking of the sea.” Randy Newman, “In Germany Before The War”, Little Criminals, 1977.
Today is an important day in Townsville, Australia. Locations south of Toolakea witness their noonday shadows to their south for the first time since the Sun’s declination moved south of Townsville’s latitude on 19 November. In astrological terms, the noon Vertex moves from the 9th House to the 4th, or in simple geometrical terms, the overhead intersection of the Ecliptic with the Prime Vertical crosses from the east to the west, transformed from anti-Vertex to Vertex. Another way to relate to this phenomenon is to imagine the complete reorientation of your sense of direction when the Sun goes from rising on your left to rising on your right, how mindful of your shadow you would need to be in terrain with no landmarks, and how familiar with landmarks you would need to be in the tropics. You would expect our ancestors in the tropics to travel a lot at night and know the stars like the back of their hands, wouldn’t you?
The longing for the divine partner underfoot in eternity is transformed by material greed or secular cynicism into the archaeology of imperial trophies, and, by what Greta Thunberg called “fairytales of eternal economic growth”, into the replacement of religious obedience by scientific enthralment. Is that what happens? Can the Earth’s obliquity really single out the residents of Townsville for such an influence during their lunch break today? And can we really know the exact day the Sun’s declination equals the latitude of anywhere before the noon shadows of the locals announce it? [The sine of the Sun’s declination equals the sine of Earth’s obliquity multiplied by the sine of the Sun’s ecliptic longitude. The Vertex ‘flip’ occurs at the longitude after the Summer Solstice Point (either one) whose sine equals the sine of the latitude divided by the sine of the obliquity, and before that Solstice Point by the same degree. Since sine 0 = 0, those longitudes at the Equator are 0 and 180, the Equinox Points.]
And finally, is there a more logical basis for the application of Sun Signs to places without four seasons than which horizontal hemisphere the noon Sun is in, North or South? As the Sun retreats towards the Northern Hemisphere in our late Summer, we welcome back more of the Tropics to our shared perspective; or the more of us there are, the further away the Sun. [It takes two months for Australia to get all of its Tropics back from the Northern Hemisphere, but the South gains Singapore at noon on March 24, Monrovia on April 5, Bangkok on April 27, Mexico City on May 17, the Kaaba on May 28, Hong Kong on June 3, Havana on June 11 and ultimately Mazatlán on June 13.]
Whatever the flipping of this mysterious recently invented influence on the heart from sidereal Cancer in the House of Aspiration to sidereal Capricorn in the House of Reputation signifies, you can imagine it has a huge bearing on the price of fish, up and down Australia’s tropical east coast. Even with GPS, the unwary visitor who cannot smell the sea will begin westward when trying to find the fishing co-op! No aid will be forthcoming from the locals, either, who will be down on hands and knees with plumb-bobs and rulers, trying to calibrate the turbulent hormones which cascade during a four-hour period in Townsville at different times of day. Perhaps the visitor is of a mind not to ‘lose it’, but simply to go without fish today. Such a person might well be absent in their own country, and not lost at all. What kind of country might that be? Not a culture of power relations and commodities, oppression and exploitation, perhaps, but unfortunately a world of innerness without outward form or utility to anyone else.
Miraculous though its panorama certainly is, the tenancy of country with a small ‘c’ becomes null and void, any freehold extinguished, at death. Whatever ancestors or previous inhabitants might have put into place, for however long the grandfather clock might have ticked, or the eels teemed into the traps, country did not exist until its tenant came along and made it. Has the tenant lived an impoverished existence, up to their ears in debt, even enslaved, banished, children gone in war and marital strife and migration? Very likely! But you know how beautiful their country is? How awesome to be its only inheritance? You probably don’t because, embedded in history, social theory and economics, identity and law, or perhaps the search in therapy for love and validation in your existential victimhood and educated blame, it is too soon for you to stand here on the banks of the Lethe, dissolved in awe of karma created by hope, error, sorrow and submission, defeat, addiction, intoxication and joy, which for all eternity has been the haunt of our ghosts. When the time comes, welcome to cosmic individuality, the practice of awe, where even scientists and high priests acknowledge the relativity of their faith in platitudes about life’s journey.
Let’s whizz to the moment in time, several hours before Townsville noon, customarily identified by the Academy of Scientific Astrology and the Uniting Church of Oncology, Climatology, Astrometry and Extragalactic Dynamics as New Moon. So here we are, ready to argue about signs and influences, but suddenly aware that the only thing we know for certain is that we know nothing. It may or may not be the case that this is not a dream, that the underworld is the outside looking in, or that the many mansions of my Father’s house are the wards of a detention centre’s psychiatric hospital, the hours which mark the various ways the autonomous spirit of everything gasps for survival under the putrefaction of my corpse, or the seams of my resistance to the emptiness of consciousness, time and illness. The following relativities of geography, Milky Way mythology and rotational orientation may or may not be helpful in sustaining the dialogue you might have with the Moon this year. [They are all plotted using Stellarium 0.19.2 and paint.net 4.2.7.]
Every one of these snapshots could begin a dialogue between insiders and outsiders typified by a line in the sand separating absolutist and relativist: do not assert your truth over mine, because I am right and you are wrong. Presented together, they offer the elusive prospect of a system which ties them all together, which should remind us that our most conspicuous lack is not respect for difference, but a spirit of solidarity, an ethics of presence, a sharing of silence. In fact, it is relatively easy to discover systems on the outside, but it is not easy to share from the inside one’s creation, of love and obedience, integrity and awe. The oaths sworn by the gods in honour of the goddess Styx, the elm tree at the entrance to the ancient underworld to which false dreams cling under every leaf, the varieties of madness in the no-man’s-land of the bardo, and the experience of life in death I call ‘country’, are concepts borrowed from other times and cultures, and elements like the oils on a canvas, with no intrinsic meaning or independent agency, of an astrology of empty identity, time and place.
I would like to say I remember every face which has ever presented itself to me, but I can’t. I very much fear that there is no longer a man in the Moon, and sometimes I wonder if there ever was. I know that I am, and where I am—I know your retina like the back of my hand—but I no longer seem to remember when I was here last or what I was feeling. I am in less of a rush to watch Lethe’s ablutions, and less susceptible to Aldebaran’s eye, as though I have forever already passed through the Gate of Man, or the waters of Lethe permanently cling to me now, in a Labyrinth of Forgetting haunted by the Minotaur of who I once was.
I know I once flaunted myself over the trenches of Flanders, and confusing what is deep in the heart with what is in the sky is as old as time, but whereas I have hosted human technology and confidence you could achieve anything, more than half the world has lost faith in everything, including that, and the rest are sampling a delectation of priceless baubles, even while they decry the manufacture of their satisfaction beyond the event horizon of the seventies, when developed countries allayed their panic about pollution by creating mountains of waste someone else could get filthy and sick transforming. ‘Progress’ had a different meaning in those days. Now it means a race by the poor for world domination, or giving up the technology of climate creation and planetary mining to lie down in a submissive but guilt-relieved ditch of abnegation.
How long ago was it that your ancestors could hold you accountable by disappearing over the horizon and leaving you to your ’emotional intelligence’, your faithless disobedience? In the oldest continuous culture on Earth, among Australia’s first immigrants, it looked like this.
But in the politics of resistance to patriarchal aggression the ancestors always reappeared in the East to applaud the resilience of women, and dare I say, non-binary men? Women who rise from their beds early in the Spring and retire late in Summer are confirmed in worshipping nothing but their own sensibility: it is all going to be just fine.
In the Northern Hemisphere it has always been a different story, and what other explanation do you need for the despoliation of the planet and the exploitation by miners and slavers of Southern Hemisphere equanimity? When they align themselves across the eastern sky, arcing like ancient wisdom between the cardinal directions of South and North, it is as gods within that the ancestors first return in Northern skies. It is at the Gate of God, when the nebulosity at the centre of the galaxy in the southwest leaves its spoor directly overhead, that boys cross into manhood in the hungry dawns of Spring and the proud evenings of Summer’s disappearance. The matriarchy of Southern latitudes is a mythical lost paradise. Seventeen hours or eight months later, the ancestors retire under the blankets above post-industrial Western welfare-states, where the masculinity-challenged may dream of healing, presence, collective rights and a day of reckoning.
Yes, the burqa and niqab are written in the stars, but now that nobody who looks can see, I am lost. I cannot read your heart any more. Your thought seems more like borderline personality disorder than soul, and that begins to seem as though we are no longer looking at each other with the same capacity to share that a bird on a wire has regarding the cars on the freeway, if only the drivers would stop, and let the children get out, to walk under the wire.
Is it time to be a Peasant or a Vagabond? Aggressive or insecure? Independent or withdrawn? I don’t know, and it is rather urgent we put our heads together, because next May, the Northern Ascending Node (Southern Descending Node) precesses to the Lethe. If I don’t find myself, neither will you, but unlike yours, my forgetting might be eternal. “What am I here[-]after?” we may well ask. The answer is just around the corner I turned yesterday, as you would realize, not having turned it.
“The last men, far from being the heirs of power, will be of all men most subject to the dead hand of the great planners and conditioners and will themselves exercise least power upon the future.” Lewis, C. S.. The Abolition of Man (Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis) (pp. 58-59). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.
“The past is the present’s food, and the present’s digestive system is synchronized, adapted as it has always been.” Abliq.
The phases of the Moon are conventions. The mathematical definitions of the relative positions of Sun and Moon on the Ecliptic are real enough, but what they define is imaginary, illusory, transient, relative and nebulous. When the Moon will be in conjunction with the Sun is important for anticipating eclipses and tides, and convenient for dividing the year, but the event itself as dependent arising occurs in nature as a disappearance, an invisible transition from morning crescent to evening crescent lasting several days. You would be right to call any moment in that transition a New Moon, wouldn’t you?
We all ‘know’ that it is the movement of the Earth, not the Sun, which continuously changes the Sun’s background stars, but once again, the stars behind the Sun’s present ‘location’ are invisible, and only tangible as somewhere between which stars are rising in the dawn and which are setting in the dusk. Nonetheless, thanks to the scales of measurement and frames of reference developed in astronomy for thousands of years, we can be confident that if the astrologers tell us this New Moon is happening in Pisces, it is, and if the astronomers tell us Aquarius, we can be confident of that too, and that the wet season the North once associated with the Water-Carrier asterism has gained on it a month.
Such matters as these present themselves for our contemporary scrutiny because the conventions of cultural interplay and civilized discourse seem to have dissolved into the contested perspectives from which they emerged. Southern Hemisphere Astrology focuses on norms at this time of year because Aquarius down here carries the conventional sign which precedes the Autumn Equinox, Virgo, associated with perspicacity tending towards perfectionism, not necessarily the obsessive compulsions you would not be alone in seeing everywhere at the present time. Aquarius upside-down resembles the post-graduate waiter who skilfully manages two armfuls of dishes while imparting a sniff at the conventional choice of wine a mealtime assemblage of newly independent MPs might have made.
By curious coincidence at the moment of New Moon as defined, a divine promise is being given to the good people of the Bowen Basin, where local and indigenous sovereignty has been under attack ever since it became conventional wisdom that the best way to pass on a better world to your grandchildren is to impoverish them, and the best way to beat the colonialist rap is to cede your sovereignty as a mark of indigenous ignorance. Perhaps the Adani coal-mine will proceed, honouring the wishes of the majority of traditional owners, and perhaps there will be fewer numbers in endangered species in the area for the rest of us to be unconscious of.
The Solar System orbits the Galactic Centre at about 230 kms/sec; the Earth orbits the Sun at about 30 kms/sec; and the Earth’s surface at Australian latitudes rotates at between about 350 and 460 metres/sec. If you add the approximate velocity of our galaxy through the universe of 583.3 kms/sec, that’s a lot of motion to be physically unaware of. It is up to you to decide which elite will be victorious: those who would override your sovereignty in the cause of mitigating climate change, or those who would override your sovereignty in the cause of minimizing the cost of energy. If it were up to me, I would not accept a scientific basis for the supremacy of any value, certainly not a rigid one.
The asterisms and myths of the Zodiac have been influential conventions on at least 500 successive generations, in ways we are as unconscious of as we are of our astronomical motion. These days, the Gregorian calendar and its widespread end-of-year celebrations, the urban lifestyle of the vast majority of the global population, and climate change itself, have largely supplanted the seasonal basis of human behaviour, and general precession will eventually associate every seasonal sign to every constellation, if it has not already done so, especially below the Tropic of Cancer.
Is a coking or thermal coal deposit below the surface or in the underworld?
Should the evaluation of the needs of others be an extrapolation of our needs, an ownership of theirs, or a continuous contestation of both by experts on the nature of ‘Reality’ and ‘The Good’? When it’s a simple matter of projection, why are we always compliant in the wars of the powerful?
The solstices precessed to the Galactic Plane in 1998 CE, and so for as long as recorded history into the future, the Sun’s maximum positive and negative declinations will precede its crossing of the Milky Way, assuming the IAU don’t fiddle. In 2177 CE, the December Equinox will precess into Scorpio in the Breamlea Zodiac. In 2228 CE, the Sun will cross the Galactic Plane on Christmas Day, and cross it New Year’s Day around 2700 CE. In all that time there is one thing that will not noticeably change, as it has not during the millennia of human civilization, and that is the stars in the background of the nodes where the Ecliptic intersects with the Galactic Plane. The Milky Way is as real as the seasons were when mass media began popularizing Sun Signs in the 1930s, as the Underworld Zodiac was when children asked 10 thousand years ago, “Why does the Sun go down?” and as the unconscious was at the dawn of the twentieth century when its geography was desacralized.
I, writing my epitaph, and thou, resonating with it, have this in common: we resist convention, but end up accepting that we belong in a timeless tradition–of accepting the wisdom of our ancestors, unscientific as it might be, as a prescription of who we are–into which we might be seen to have groomed those of our descendants who listened and were grateful for their culture.
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.