Everything is connected to everything else: the body is a self-regulating community of minute organisms with the same constitution and provenance in all vertebrates; ideas move around in language like the breeze, coming from somewhere, touching, lingering, and going somewhere else; unconsciousness and conscience weave a dance like featherweight boxers for the entertainment of wealth; the dead are always with us. Every action is a reaction, reverberating in eternity. The sky is connected to the ground, and the stars are connected to the sky. Once upon a time, when disconnection was more horrible than death, our ancestors believed in ghosts.
Within the next two days, two recreational yachts will be found adrift, one in the middle of the Tasman Sea, and the other halfway between the Azores and Portugal. No connection will be drawn, and why would it be? Who could possibly be daft enough to imagine that these two solitary sailors, now disappeared without trace, had been either doomed lovers in a past life, or were spirit partners in each other’s underworld, two shaman ghosts longing for the other’s domain, if not resolution, release and eternal rest? On the other hand, it seems too coincidental for two separate mariners to disappear at precisely opposite locations on the globe, almost as though they were placed by design.
If you are passing through Guildford on the Midland Highway in Victoria, latitude 37.1 degrees south, pull over about 70 metres north of the Loddon, wait until midnight (at this time of year), when the Teapot is in the west, and see if there are any ghosts hanging about. Along the 37th parallel of north latitude the time to look out for restless spirits, and perhaps be one yourself, is when Taurus and Gemini straddle the west, and the ancestors along the Lethe are visible between late November and mid-April. The influence on relationships of the Electric Axis of Jayne and Johndro, the so-called Destiny’s Gate, would be for most people yet another empty astrological superstition, but in a world in which everything is connected it might be wise to hedge our bets, and also reserve judgment on the possibility of lingering Stone Age conceptions of the Milky Way and the cardinal directions. What? You don’t have any?
Consciousness can definitely get lonely in the underworld. What does memory know about dream? What do objectivity and subjectivity have in common? Is the hieros gamos love’s doom? Are love and doom the hieros gamos?
Is it possible that ancient shamans knew how to stand on their heads to embrace the good witch, as you, facing south with east on your left, would need to do to end up with your beloved’s east on your right? All cardinals are transposed in the underworld, therefore the Sun rises at sunset in the west, and sets at dawn in the east, somewhat as one might see what destiny had for breakfast. What does gravity do to the hang of a shaman’s dress?
The Full Earth is in Capricorn, the progenitor of bleating rock-climbers, and the pretender to the inflated profile it projects with Aquila and Aquarius. Mark the focus on the Olympic Games featured in your local media. To this Earth, connection is no more numinous than the measured relativity of difference. Two mariners disappear? Hundreds of thousands die of Covid-19! There is an antidote to preoccupation with ghosts and the afterlife: the measurable finality of death!
After all these centuries of proliferating the lineaments of the human spirit, the tendency survives of connecting the organism as a thing to an environment of things. There is no such thing as the Arctic or Antarctic Circle (+/- 90-obliquity): everything in the sky, everything the sky is above, and everything standing on what the sky is above, right way up or upside down, are instantly ever-changing. The proper term for what connects all those things is ’emptiness’. An instant is over in an instant. A life is over in a life. The dead are ever with us. Destiny’s gate remains open.
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.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1.
Dreams, like music, have a way of seeming personal.
It was late and time to turn the music off … turn, turn, turn … blowing through the jasmine in my mind … are you old enough? … handle me with care … I’ll clean it up myself I guess … and it ain’t me who’s gonna leave … there’s one way of gettin’ there, I’ve been usin’ the method for twenty-five years or more … so open up your beach umbrella while you’re watchin’ TV … desultorily clinging to words which had made the world around him, but merely punctuated the arpeggios of his soul … skipped the light and bangles … hey little sister who’s the only one … tastes just like cherry cola … how to open doors with just a smile … don’t want your kisses that’s for sure … and you wish the world was as tired as you … never lost a minute of sleepin’ worryin’ ’bout the way things might have been … I guess hell has finally frozen over … didn’t recognize the boy in the mirror … now he wants the music to stop, but when he takes the needle off the dream groove the music keeps going. He tries the volume and the off switch to no avail. The music cannot be stopped. He is aware that music has defined every step of his life’s journey, learned and made his own, but ever with a life of its own, a cosmos of his entrails.
The dream is still there when the astrologer awakes slumped in his wheelchair. The garden outside his window is in twilight. Any moment now the nurse will come to wheel him into the dining-room. He will eat, and then be hoisted into bed, sleep, and be hoisted out again and onto the toilet, then back into his wheelchair. His bodily processes, like the music, cannot be stopped. A lifetime of change seems petrified by the bodily processes which have governed it, and by the wheeling heavens which they have written in their dance book.
This Moon aligns with one of the vertical configurations of the Milky Way, or near enough, not the transcendent associated with the initiation of Indigenous men, but the other one.
Is anyone dreaming of music in the Rohingya camps tonight? Are Southern Hemisphere Signs protruding into anyone’s northern sky? Are the Rivers of Hades no more than a poetic device, and the Milky Way no more transcendent than a campfire?
Essential to this astrologer’s country is the awareness of cyclical change. Sometimes she is a man, and sometimes he is a woman. One of the more interesting implications of the meaning he has given to the intersections of the Zodiac with the Milky Way, in no small part inspired by the imputed association of one region of the Milky Way with ‘secret men’s business’, is that at the Southern Summer Solstice the female Sun is in masculine territory, and on this rare occasion the male Moon realizes itself in what the astrologer regards as feminine territory, ‘secret women’s business’. It must be conceded that the heroic male constantly facing the insurmountable obstacles to his immortality presented by the world, and the repression of female individuation which wipes her from history, are archaic cultural constructs nowhere near obliteration.
You should be familiar with the Emu, but you may not know how its appearance has moved throughout the millennia. It has been remarked that evidence of the orientation of Bora grounds to the position of the Emu is largely to be found in Northern N.S.W. and Queensland, a phenomenon which one day might enter the debate about continental vs. regional Indigenous culture. In the meantime, there seems to me a cogent explanation for the scarcity of such evidence south of the Murray, which has nothing to do with genocide or expropriation, and everything to do with locality.
About 12,000 years ago, around the time of final separation of Tasmanian inhabitants from the mainland resulting from rising sea levels, something just as weird began in the sky: creeping northward from Southern Tasmania, the orientations of the two vertical configurations of the Milky Way when the Galactic Poles cross the horizon converged due East and West. The Poles intersected with the horizon at the Meridian (addition of the absolute values of the declination of either Pole and local latitude equalled 90°, the angle between zenith and horizon). This weirdness got as high as Tallangatta around 4500 BCE then doubled back before it quite reached Echuca, passing south of Southern Tasmania again around 1800 BCE.
Down my way, at the Wurdi Youang stone circle, this occurred in approximately 5815 and 3190 BCE (as contemporaneously it did upside down in Copper Age Anatolia and Peloponnese Greece), according to Stellarium‘s algorithms, and during the intervening millennia the Emu was never precisely vertical. The NGP crossed the Meridian below the horizon and the SGP was circumpolar. It is possible that ‘near enough is good enough’ originated in Southern Australia (or Turkey, or Greece), but it is also just possible the Kulin nation occupied the locus for a sanctification of the Prime Vertical, the invention of the plumb bob or the transmogrification of masculinity.
It is also worthy of note, especially by those anthropologists and archaeologists who have not imagined the cultural impact of an evolving sky one lives under by night, that the vertical Emu has not always appeared as it does today head down in the southwest. Between 13000 and 3000 BCE it was entirely framed head up in the northeastern sky at Wurdi Youang, similarly moving down and back up between 12800 and 3200 BCE in Northern Victoria, and in Northern N.S.W. between 10800 and 5000 BCE.
That was the time to fetishize the dust lanes recognized as the Emu, and adapt geodesy and ceremony to the subsequent millennia, and so antiquity combined with latitude explains the orientation of countrywide Bora grounds all over the compass.
The fundamental revelation which underlies compassionate humanity is not woundedness but harmfulness. Yes, we suffer, and that means we sometimes cannot help the harm we do, but never have we alleviated suffering by being blameless. And have we alleviated suffering by institutionalising goodness? We like to think so, and weep in gratitude for the separation of conjoined twins, but we are also outraged by the sexual misdemeanours of priests.
The terrible truth is that we choose to harm, and because our freedom and responsibility are the conjoined twins of our selfhood, it eventually falls to us all to confront and own our harmfulness, and if we are not to lose our selfhood to self-hatred, see ourselves finally as victims of our own evil, we must find forgiveness. Loving myself and others as wounded victims is so, how can I put it, de-meaning? Woman, you chose to be this way. The only transformation of patriarchy that works comes from the forgiveness of the guilty, women who have taken a man, from his children, his mother, himself, to give their existence meaning, women who have accepted the inherited status of domesticated animals, and men who have conflagrated their heroism in love.
“Nobody owns my country but me,” our struggle seems to entitle us to say, and yet the past I and the ancestors have vacated stretches fence by fence across the horizon. The past of my neighbours is my country. Is it a paradox that we cannot forgive our enemies, when we are identical to them in our manias of self-justification? Have we lost with the Us and Them moieties of trade-unionism a mechanism for bringing the best out of each other? Pleistocene Australians invented the fire-stick, Holocene Europeans the fence. Is it a paradox that setting fire to the bush protects the fences, originally invented to minimize conflict over game? Do traditional owners really want the onerous task of collecting the rent to fund the administration of Blue Mud Bay fishing? Midnight permits? Boarding and sinking dinghies? Headlines? Civil war?
The human bones revealed by the shifting sand of deep time belong to a nonentity who was a hero or heroine like us, and so they are sacred, like every somebody who tries not to be nobody. The guilt-ridden invaders have been willing for ages to play a fugue with the Indigenous people their ancestral nonentities wronged, but the Indigenous prelude, from the time before European settlement, has not been scored for Western instruments. How far away are the stars now? Is it different for a man or a woman to stare into the abyss? Is the Wanderer more than a dead white man’s Fantasy in C Major? Is there now a Cassiopeia in Wurundjeri country? Yes, my anxiety is salved when the Moon crosses the Lethe, why would it not be? Am I not my Mother’s son? Was it not a Song of the Rainbow Serpent she sang which opened my heart to my welcome as an interloper at the campfire of strangers? Yes, “everybody owns my country” is what I’m trying to say.
“I’m a time traveller.” “You’re a clock watcher.” “All my life I’ve been travelling at 7.9 km/sec.” “You’re hooked on melancholy”“Doubt everything, especially yourself.” “How could you believe being a failure was paying your dues?” “How could you think therapy could pay yours?” “Your anality is dying in its arse.” “Your top-down thinking is arse-up.” “I can’t keep a straight face listening to a dead man’s vain attempt to sacralize death.” “One more km/sec and I never had to hear you.” “Why did you need to tell me that? Stop attacking me.”
This all too human propensity for discrimination and judgment, unalloyed with a good dose of skepticism, consolidates normal black and white mental illness. Applied to the skin, it establishes the difference manifested by foreignness. Binary gender is a classic example: humans have confronted and adapted to devastating climate change countless times throughout the millennia, but when they were forced to leave, it was always into someone else’s country; the right to somebody else’s country doesn’t exist, but could that be rouge on the cheeks of Chopin’s corpse when Khatia Buniatishvili plays ‘his’ Piano Concerto No. 2?
The veteran in his wheelchair will not see the like of this again, and nobody younger will experience quite the awe of the Pleistocene, because dark skies are gone from Sunbury, where once the soul could study the lines of its eternal palm under the stars. Hoisted into bed, the astrologer lays his grateful head on plumped pillows, dissolves the fences of mind, floats down and beyond the fulcrum of duality, and sleeps.