After a month of communing with our alienness and uprootedness, the month of clear-sightedness finds us acknowledging that connection and inclusion have an unfortunate implication: community excludes those who don’t abide by its conventions. This is not our intention, so it is time for some tidying up. What are our conventions, and how can we attend and respond to the reactions of outsiders to make a more inclusive community universally satisfying? It is time to look our culture in the face.
If only it were that simple. In fact, those we exclude have their own communities, and different conventions we don’t much care for, because they declare judgment of ours. Even if we were to jettison convention completely, the whole of our political correctness, for example, we would still be excluded by theirs. Looking our culture in the face feels like an enemy’s perspective. Ever loved someone so much, your difficult child perhaps, that you had to seriously question your own supreme values? You must have noticed, if you ever raise your eyes from your self-help books, that barbarians are claiming victimization by your victim status. Nobody said that perfectionism would be this hard!
Perhaps it is best to accept that our generosity and love have boundaries, and some misunderstanding and conflict are inevitable. Perhaps we can find and cherish our true selves and cope with an imperfect world the way we always have, in our sleep. The conjunction of Sun and Moon in Aquarius occurs in the middle of the night in eastern Australia, in the adaptive unconscious of the Underworld of the Northern Hemisphere meridian in Eastern South America. Perhaps the present will remember itself differently tomorrow.
What our somnolent beings are dealing with in their visceral reordering are two truths. In our waking lives we may be able to convince ourselves of an objective reality, and if we have a university education or religious affiliation, that reality might be universal and absolute, but in our heart of hearts, I think we know, recognizing the transience, relativity and ambiguity of all we experience, that we don’t know reality, beneath its conventions, at all. Perhaps our bodies and sleeping minds know as much as we need to know. Their function is simply to order memory at all levels in the simplest and most accessible way for painless and successful existence. We are not objects in this process, unless we so conceptualize ourselves, in order perhaps to assert egoic importance or control. Rocks are as good at it as we are.
There is a better way, of course. It is a convention of ours to regard the Agrarian Revolution as the wellspring of human civilization, but I would make the case for a different development, a discovery which predated leisure, specialization, science and technology by tens of thousands of years, which surpassed kinship as the foundation of community, and which indigenous peoples offer as their timeless wisdom to this day. I speak of ceremony.
Ceremony, like sleep, is a reordering of awareness, a housekeeping of anxiety and conflict, but it connects our consciousness to our deepest, most personal memory while we are awake. You can do it getting married or placing a sprig of rosemary on a casket. You can do it brewing tea, waxing your legs, or saying grace at the family meal. Conceivably, you can do it marching en masse in a protest. There is a wonderful video of ceremonial cricket here.
Astrology itself has ceremonial roots: it began not with mathematics, or observation of the dance of wandering stars, but with communal life at the hub of the wheeling sky at night. The rational perspective of the solar system we now embrace has turned our primordial experience of being at the centre into an historical convention, but I am at pains to restore it to supremacy, for years by focussing on the relationship of the night sky to the seasons, and now, like Australian Aboriginal ceremonial life, by locating us in the configuration of the Milky Way.
I have been initiating you into a ceremony for some time. Before you can share its transformative, centred power you must abandon many of the conventions, not only of astrology, but of your everyday consciousness. That reality is a linguistic and conceptual convention of posited essences, and that it is ultimately empty, since nothing we enunciate or conceive of has any independent existence in time or space, occurs to any enquiring mind, but immediate awareness of the emptiness of self-improvement and of emptiness itself seems a little more difficult to acquire.
What is the Milky Way? Is it just one of millions of large structures without essence which evolved from the uneven density of the early universe? Can its appearance mean anything to the prevailing convention of science that we observers are specks of dust in the cosmic microwave background? Can we empty ourselves of the laws of science, prevailing in sociology, economics and psychology, which have displaced us from the centre and dissolved us in a soup of empty knowledge mediated by better-qualified people elsewhere?
Of course we can, and meditations on the universe or anything else don’t have to be therapeutic or remedial. They’re allowed to be real, empty of emptiness, which is how I differentiate a ceremony from a ritual or habit. I have been gaming astrology for years, making it up as I go along, but always by inventing what I know, and now I think I’m ready to conduct a ceremony. I have tried to formulate what I actually experience by substituting equatorial coordinates for ecliptic ones, transposing the signs and the lunar nodes, using a reversed anti-clockwise house system, pondering the antipodean ramifications of the meridian, imagining the celestial location of the rivers of Hades, and teasing the equivalence of the unconscious and the Underworld. Now for the clockwork of the Milky Way.
All you have to do in this ceremony is stand in an open space, in day or night, face north and lift your arms towards east and west. Your personal identity is on your right, and your language and social dialogue is on the left. In front of and behind you are the sense you make of those, to the north the internalized rules and conventions which guide your individuality, and to the south your soul, the collective memory which informs your instinct, your attitude and your emotion. What holds everything together is where you stand.
If your night sky offers the faintest glimmer of nebulosity in the Milky Way, this moment, four minutes earlier each day, currently at 12:52:24 sidereal time, is available from an hour and a half before sunrise in early February until an hour and a half after sunset in late June. Bring out your anxieties and conflicts, your responsibilities and confusion, your intentions and your blame, and with your arms spread like a prophet’s, help the sky do its work on you. Just look to the north for the law, to the east along your right arm for your skin, to the west along your left arm for your language, above your head for your country, and craning your neck backwards, behind you, at the confluence of the rivers of Woe and Forgetting, for the Styx of your Covenant: “It Was Only Pain”.
Honestly, you don’t look empty, or as though you’re trying to pretend you have presence. You’re quite alone!