Today, when the afternoon Sun is 18 degrees above the western horizon, the Milky Way commences its cycle of Underworld visibility. Thanks to the psychological effects of this pandemic, including disturbed sleep patterns, the Underworld is very close to the threshold of consciousness. If you take your mind off the evening news for a moment and listen carefully, you may hear the ceremonial tones of the ancestors as astronomical twilight begins in the Underworld.
If you miss it, you can listen tomorrow four minutes earlier and for four minutes longer.
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!
On 15 September 1788, at a little after 11pm in the penal colony at Sydney Cove, from which, incidentally, Friendship had already departed on its last voyage, the blaze of a Full Moon in the eyes of watchful observers, indigenous and transported alike, extinguished the stars around it in the Circlet of Pisces. This exceedingly rare extinguishment, comprehensive in most skies, is, in a nutshell, the Monk’s identity.
Whether it is some form of cosmic enthronement or Assumption he seeks, or the lost domain of a compulsive limerence of mystical import, he is exercised year after year by the Divine Hand which moves the lunar nodes and his ecliptic latitude, and every few hundred years when syzygy, latitude and Circlet coincide (in a cluster of a half-dozen or so September Full Moons nineteen years apart), he represents the eternal question, who and where am I absolutely?
Are we not in awe of the Monk? His intention is clear: to transcend country, where life projects its absence, but lived example might still swing the vote on whether the world is spirit or matter. How do you see yourself? Are you an intersection of connections, or a hierarchy of systems? And what do you think of the Vertex? Is it out there, or in here, a cyclic projection of separateness, or a theoretical synthesis of hormonal fictions? Undeniably, since it turns the Zodiac upside down, the Vertex is the star of the show in the Tropics!
The Monk’s grace appears to transcend anxiety and comfort, of day and night and birth and death, and so the gratitude of locals for spirit is his trade. On the other hand, who these days encounters monks at all, for that matter? Is it possible that feckless relativism might erase them altogether along with the escarpments of Pisces? Certainly, one must ask the question, when the Monk next attains his goal in 212 years (though he will come tantalisingly close several times, e.g. 2032), will there be anyone left to map his ghostly presence, if not see it?
As a patron of this installation, you might wonder if light pollution makes it less successful as a stimulus to self-discovery, or in fact more so. The stars which coincidentally comprise the crown, or ruins, or abyss, or whatever the shadows on the wall resemble, occupy a range of classifications and distances, but how has data like this ever cultivated meaning? The artist’s intention is clear: to other us. Look through the Circlet at a Monk who is not there, and after two years of not sharing the finite time of your grandchildren, you are gazing into the soul of your emptiness, an underworld universe inhabited by nobody who knows you.
Of course if you cannot see anything, that might be the creator’s point. Are you sure that you, regular user of that commuter platform or aimless passerby of that noisy, garishly lit alleyway, are not part of the installation? While anti-vaxxers and other oppressed minorities wrestle for centre-stage, and fires visibly burning throughout the Galaxy hundreds and thousands of years ago share no warmth, the Circlet might as well be the root of blame for human languishing, and the Monk its quarantined bureaucrat. What a way to fortify socialism!
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.…
It is happy for man that he does not know what the morrow is to bring forth; but, unaware of this great blessing, he has, in all ages of the world, presumptuously endeavoured to trace the events of unborn centuries, and anticipate the march of time. He has reduced this presumption into a study. He has divided it into sciences and systems without number, employing his whole life in the vain pursuit. Upon no subject has it been so easy to deceive the world as upon this.”
Charles Mackay, Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Gutenberg.
You pull over on a hilltop to take in the view. You are familiar with the geography, but the panorama fills your awareness with so much that you don’t know: values, intentions and functions imposed on the landscape by people you will never meet, living and dead. There is no clarity in country. Hidden in plain sight are privacy, family, opportunity and duty. Hidden in plain sight on the side of the road where overtaking motorists exercise caution in oncoming traffic are you and your astrology, the local, global and celestial contexts you impose on the patterns you see, the labours and refuges you theorize, and your interrupted journey itself.
In a way, your journey is just like the Earth’s, from the Moon’s perspective (and the Moon’s from Earth). Not to say that you go around in circles, but that your progress, though it be powered by gravity, internal combustion or the calories from breakfast, and mapped by waypoints called a and b, is measured by changes in the background, whether in space or time. So regular are these changes that from time immemorial popular belief has been seduced by the notion that they were created for your edification and control. Is astrology guilty? Do you really belong in a herd? Do the planets?
You might be angry if you weren’t so disgusted by fear of the anguish which, enthralled as you have been by the seductive growth of mystical connections, has so surprised you. You might direct that anger at a world which questions the rectitude of your state of mind and shows no inclination to conform to your dreams, or you might work with the anguish of a full-stop in search of a backspace and apostrophe to exclaim itself grammatically. In you, and around you, a conflict is raging, and the opposing sides have not identified themselves. Are these astral gates then battle lines between polarized forces? Are these bardo emotions personal or generic? On the bright side, they may be opportunistically confirmed because you can identify with them all.
Where do names and attributes come from, brainstem or frontal cortex? You may be sure, acculturated consensus notwithstanding, that when Indigenous Australians noticed the existence of variable stars, there were some who gave them names and told stories about them, but for most people there would have been nothing remarkable about changes in the sky, since nothing in country was, or is, permanent. Country is change. Over thousands of years, the “Southern Cross” at transit climbed higher and higher in the northern sky, until about 4000 years ago above where the 300-500 years old Corroboree Tree survives in Queens Way, Melbourne, it reached the zenith, and gradually it became more comfortable to see it in the south. Do you think it turned upside down? Did it shake any power structures?
How many identities do you have? How many more must you add to the intersection you call your Self before you feel your alienation, before your intellect collapses under its own weight, the weight of change, and you know the profound emptiness of being suspended in the arbitrary web of your own absence. Unless your feet know the emptiness of the dirt between you and the stars, get back in the car. You feel only your weight in your shoes, and so you will be safer on your backside. At least the underworld of your contribution to global warming may resound with the nostalgic hits of yesteryear as you proceed to point b, taking your conscious horizon with you.
The Southern Sign of the Constellation Aries, the domicile of the Ram and the Peasant Moon, is Scorpio, not Taurus. Mass circulation of Sun Sign horoscopes has captured the global population in Northern Spring, but just how important is your need to escape? Your reading of the quoted text by Mackay, so contemptuous of the peasants, has conflated opportunism and populism. Aggression might win an advantage in the manger where Autumn is trying to snuggle among the absent newborn while Ferdinand dreams of flowers, but hibernation is an equally attractive proposition. Populists may properly be regarded as opportunistic manipulators of ignorance and cynical exploiters of fear and resentment, but populism per se is misunderstood as ignorant and smug. Populism is empowered by a desire verging on the noble, to take an opportunity to integrate, not obey, a coming to attention with regard for a peasant Self without pretension to permanence, but which might withstand the desacralizing news cycle of doom, which, as we all know, trigger by trigger, activates our incoherent and piecemeal emotional response and threatens our very existence. Ah well, that’s Autumn Country for you.
The sceptre, learning, physic, must All follow this, and come to dust. Shakespeare, Fidele’s Dirge.
The Autumn horoscopes of Virgo personalities devoured by Southern Hemisphere commuters born in Spring are beyond rational understanding, but there is no stronger influence on human behaviour than confirmation bias, and I am not butting my head against it. So let it stand for the moment that this year the first Moon of Northern Hemisphere Spring, pivotal in the lives of Christian believers, is born in the Sign of Pisces and culminates immediately before Easter in the Sign of Libra. It has remained a convention among European invaders of the South for 500 years. The fact remains that the astrological romance of each Moon’s journey from inspiration to realization is complicated by the journey of the Sun: the first realization of the Full Moon as it dramatises its Opposition is that the Sun has moved on, and navigation is ambiguous in the shoals of memory, as any expatriate visiting ‘home’ will attest. Convention is not mere habit, but the fabrication of a new chapter in the same story, a contest of intuition and language, memory and awareness, success and defeat. One person’s affluence is another’s deprivation. One person’s ritual self-discovery is another’s defilement. Convention is a truce.
But can the truce hold? When the Moon elected to worship the Sun Goddess as a man, he neglected the resilience of convention, and must now admit some culpability for a worldwide resentment among women towards his mansplaining. He meant to portray himself as subordinate to the coordinating power of female creativity, but deep in the brainstem from whence he drew his interpretations of gender there did lurk an urge to power. The ambiguity of his reflected outshining was tainted by denial that he was underplaying a primeval contest, and that he might represent just another patriarch with 27 concubines. Was there not a caricature of triumph in the metaphor of dragging Goddesses by the hair out of their Underworld hill caves to worship his worship? Even if all experience is the crocodile speaking, relationship is a more serious issue than this.
One person’s instinct is another’s reason. As previously explored, the alignment of the ancestors in a straight line passing directly overhead has two configurations: one associated by indigenous custom with the mystery of male initiation, and the other labelled idiosyncratically as the Wanderer, a possible celebration of gender difference locked into the progressive possibilities of iconoclasm emerging from the Underworld River of Lethe. Perhaps this moment, visible in complete darkness in the first quarter of the year, might be the birth of a New Moon with a difference, deriving his trajectory not from Goddess worship, but from self-worship among the ambiguous roots of identity in the somatic soup of retrospection.
Thus might the Moon be relegated to the ranks of those who dangerously deal their own cards, resentment and victimization be revealed as premeditated, and interpretation of selfhood dare to contradict convention. Meanwhile, he seems in the South to have fallen right way up out of the frying-pan of Pisces into the fire of Virgo.
What it all boils down to is, in attempting to give personality to the Moon, I have landed him with the same problem we persons all have to deal with: how to get inside another’s mind, indeed how to get inside our own without an objective system of meanings such as astrology which infers that another can get in there.
To paraphrase Bob Dylan’s prescient lines, you were kidding me, you weren’t really from the farm, and I told you later as you tore out my eyes, that I never really meant to do you any harm. Perhaps we must leave it at that. Own your conventions and their ancestral languages, and let no Goddess need recourse to claims of being framed, or farmed. And yes, rejoice in any unconventional primal resurgence of the cardinal directions, especially their upsidedown-ness, and let us hope that our subscription to their metacortical experience does not inadvertently expire.
Have you ever been told to lighten up? Then you know the meaning of ‘frivolity’: letting go, moving on, getting over it, getting a life.
Frivolity is a question, not a statement, a New Year’s resolution you have no capacity to keep to, whether you know it or not. It’s the quality of the change to Australia’s national anthem from “We are young and free,” to “We are one and free,” when you’re broke and marooned outside your state by sudden and remorseless Coronavirus lockdowns.
Adherents to the settler narrative of Australian history and sympathisers with indigenous dispossession have been yelling “Get a life!” at each other for decades, and who knows which side is Morlocks and which side is Eloi? Finally, the issue has been resolved, along with the implications of absurdity our foretaste of Armageddon flings at our compulsive drive to be someone else.
The good burghers of a community in Queensland have invited the Moon down from the south to join with the elders Jupiter and Saturn, and the social media influencer Mercury, to help celebrate the day Sarina rejoins the Southern Hemisphere and brings Australia as one a day closer. All over town posters are advertising the upending of astrological meaning and the trivialisation of winter-sign intentions. Only those with permits will be allowed to enter from the north from midnight when police from Mackay and Rockhampton will glare at each other across a formidable barricade. But it’s not really an imposition on anyone’s freedom, just a harmless bit of fun: on Bramble Cay Day, February 25, every Australian will be south of the karma police blockade!
It is early in the morning of the year. We go abroad with faith alive in us, but let us not confuse the task of nurturing our faith with the insanity of perfection. If no amount of mindfulness can discourage you from striving to improve yourself, do try not to be motivated to be better than me. Keep faith not only with hope, but with anxiety, not only with imagination, but with dread. It is not wise to erect confidence on the entertainment of your judges, nor on the vanity of self-worth. The world of power and the subservient self are what they are, not what they ought to be.
Without in any way seeking to trivialise the sentiments of the previous paragraph, but also without further ado, let us sashay on into 2021 with those memorable words resounding in our aerodynamic Dumbo flaps: a day without a good belly-laugh is a day wasted!
“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.
The mechanism at the root of community is rectitude, confected as integrity and projected in hateful battle with any recalcitrant other which threatens its compensation. Rectitude stares at corruption and does not recognise its own reflection. Unable to find this mechanism in the self, rectitude finds itself starkly revealed in the face of the enemy. The Bardo of madness seethes with it.
Sun and Moon are conjunct in the Constellation of Libra, once the home of self-knowledge and -mastery, but consigned by the retrograde march of the seasons to the Sign of the Scorpion, whose assertiveness is better unopposed. In the South, its seasonal attributes are of the Bull. Not for nothing do we accuse each other of bullshit.
Of course, what the world of others tells you is not all lies, if you’re listening. I don’t wish to argue with you about Astrological Houses, you who make a living from imposing alien perspectives on Southern skies, but just look at the correspondence of the astro.com traditional chart of the birth of the Australian Commonwealth and compare it with a Stellarium view.
Turn the traditional numbering of the Houses back to front and upside down and they correspond. And what choice does astrology have? To show the Ascendant on the left to anyone orientated to the North looks like deliberate and self-defeating obfuscation!
The Southern way of going, if we imagine the first Spring Constellation in the First House, with the other Constellations arrayed anti-clockwise across the sky from East on the right to West on the left, introduces some strange yet resonant bedfellows to the self-defensive mind (Southern Signs in italics):- I TEMPERAMENT Virgo Perfection Aries II FORTUNE Leo Discrimination Pisces III INTELLECT Cancer Paranoia Aquarius IV REPUTATION Gemini Relativity Capricorn V ATTACHMENT Taurus Fear Sagittarius VI CONSTRAINT Aries Self-Development Scorpio VII RELATIONSHIP Pisces Aggression Libra VIII CHANGE Aquarius Relationship Virgo IX ASPIRATION Capricorn Deprivation Leo X REALIZATION Sagittarius Boredom Cancer XI HOPE Scorpio Ignorance Gemini XII MYSTERY Libra Seriousness Taurus
But, hey! Let’s not mess around with what works! Let’s not play with this confirmation bias thing lest tuning its relationship with what is really happening create identity issues, gender dysphoria or any number of other neurological implasticities. But ask yourself this question, ‘What is my intention in taking astrology seriously?’ And play with the answer, that regardless of the time of day, I may be stuck in the Twelfth House, and all you others may be holograms, projected from my Underworld memory without anyone’s consent.