Conquerors and social organisers have always been with us, but so has the imaginative Moon, encouraging the integration of mind, body and spirit. Near the Autumn Equinox of the Northern Hemisphere, where it is known as the Harvest Moon, the Monk Moon travels the valleys in the proximity of the high country of the Circlet Of Pisces, signalling the time for the herds to come down for the winter, and exhorting the blessed to share preparations for hard times with the less-fortunate.
Around the dawn of the Current Era, the Moon noticed that the proper motion of the stars behind him when the Earth was directly between him and the Sun in Leo had formed a circle. At that time, as Greece and Rome flourished, the inner voice of the gods’ authority was beginning to lose its grip on the human psyche, and the Moon was eager to symbolise the new spiritual age. He chose the Crown of the Circlet of Pisces.
Every nineteen years—the Metonic Cycle—for about 150 years, there it appeared to Earthlings, whether they were believers or not, receiving for their edification a heavenly crown. Unfortunately, this phenomenon of individuality outshining its grace, we might say, depends on the relative positions of Sun and Lunar Nodes—one goes forwards through the Zodiac and the other backwards—and for its impact, on observer latitude; and of course the moment of full moon must be visible overhead at night. The ecliptic latitude of the Circlet centre is +6º, which the Moon, let alone the Full Moon, only gets to with the help of parallax in the northern sky of the Tropics and the Southern Hemisphere.
In short, the Monk Moon offers only a tenuous sense of human immortality—but look for it in other guise before First Quarter when the Southern Descending Node (Northern Ascending), which is in Taurus now, working its way backwards at the rate of a constellation every 18 months or so, is near Sagittarius, for example at nightfall in 2028 on January 3. (You’ll need a dark sky, or binoculars, to see the Circlet.)
Furthermore, history records many occasions when the benefit of a Full Moon in the Circlet must be called into question. The glorious bloom of Romanticism, which occurred during the cycle of 1693-1845, coincided with the invasion of Australia.
The sentimental purloining of the Circlet in these pages to locate the lost love haunting the ruin of “Les Sablonnières”, the publication of Le Grand Meaulnes in 1913, and the death of its author in the First World War, have taken place during horrific times between cycles. This may have given the Moon an excuse for eschewing the weight of the crown. Perhaps, in these intervening centuries, he is doing battle with his uselessness, his privilege, his masculinity and his ego. I wonder, in this time of global pestilence and environmental destruction, what Earth the next Full Moon in the Circlet will bathe in 4-500 years, in this flux we call the Universe. Is the glass half-full or half-empty?
“Let any man lay the map of Australia before him, and regard the blank upon its surface, and then let me ask him if it would not be an honourable achievement to be the first to place foot at its centre. Men of undoubted perseverance and energy in vain had tried to work their way to that distant and shrouded spot.” Charles Sturt.
”Just before our love got lost you said I am as constant as a northern star and I said, Constantly in the darkness Where’s that at? If you want me I’ll be in the bar.” Joni Mitchell, “A Case Of You“, Blue.
“Understanding the past as a place crisscrossed by the tracks of numerous people and creatures is crucial if we are ever to glimpse futures beyond blank spaces.” Samia Khatun, Australianama (p. 105), OUP, Kindle Edition.
Sometimes it seems that life is expanding faster and faster into nothing, and sometimes simultaneously it seems like the view from the panorama lounge in the last carriage of the super-fast transcontinental. It is probably true to say that polarities unite rather than divide us, when we are aware of them. We can tolerate in one room the multiplicity of interpretations of time because each is experienced by us all at some hour. As we emerge from winter such thoughts arise because spring is activating the dormant, and complex stories are beginning to ensnare us in an understorey of bewildering urgencies. That’s Leo, and there will always be one in the bar. Just because the possum is invisible, don’t imagine that’s rain falling on your bicycle helmet.
In my short life I have been mad with lust, mad with doubt and anxiety, mad with grief, and at its end I may well be mad with death. Madness is an experiment with being, a quest of subjectivity, like Chinese nationalism, the survival of indigenous cultures and the entire history of Western Civilization, and I hear its voices loud and clear, as the universe saying, in any language available, “I am.” Say it yourself and it rings hollow. Finitude laps around it like a rising tide, and the whole of philosophy, psychology, sociology and anthropology cannot convincingly clothe the emperor. However, if you venture into solitude, extending your awareness to the vast panorama of the property which has disclosed itself to you, and you imagine it in your absence, say it then and those two words will be thunderously true, as true as the call Abraham heard to sacrifice his son, as true as the sacredness of a birth-tree.
Is it too mystical to suggest that each of us is not only the universe but everyone in it saying, “I am”? It was not disclosed to the early explorers that the heart of the land downunder had been pierced countless times in the 60,000 years of human habitation—call it property—prior to European arrival, but Sturt was nevertheless giving voice to the universe in the quote above. You can leave “I am” to the experts, and most of us do, and how democracy works is through the regular information of our experts by our voices, but we should recognize that most of the time voices are just noise: talking shit, putting a not-too-fine point on it. Chinese nationalists or no, we seem in equal numbers to be loud exploiters or exploited. However, in the category of legatee we must never fall silent, sharing with dead people, animals and plants, social and other institutions, even the weather and the universe itself, a primal voice: we are the Subjective.
Is it ironic that the voice makes noise? “Make them both confess,” as Joni said. (“The Priest”, Ladies Of TheCanyon, 1970.) Subjectivity was everywhere in 1970, in case you were not present. One man’s memory just got a prelate objectified and destroyed by popular consent to the voice of outrage. I have always wondered about the permanent injury caused by, and the apparently universal horror of questioning the damage of, the loving touch of someone of the same gender. Perhaps “I am” might be less noisy, or nosy (no ‘I’), if we weren’t commuting for hours a day, blinded by speed to the country beyond road or rail, digging our gardens in subdivision fill and submitting to evening barbecues bathed in artificial light, never venturing from the raft we have earned on the ocean of other voices.
Reality is emergent; disclosure is its enjoyment in time, gossip its narrative; the world is a subject. Whether you can identify with the tree as a physical shape, a system of responses or a set of materials, whether you regard your Self as a work in triumphant or shameful progress, a victim of circumstances or an impediment to enlightenment, the world enjoys you, because you confirm it. You may be an accident, though a probable one, but you will never happen again! Once upon a time, there was no accidence, coincidence, synchronicity or probability: there is now because the world which enjoys you invented them and you confirmed them by giving them back as passion, spontaneity, free will and unpredictability. Are you present, in this auditorium screening your History?
Oops, oh dear, you seem to be absent in me: I am your Thou; I and Thou are the subject of creation, the disclosure of the I of the universe. Whether I was a wave, a fish or a seawall, my time is near, but it will remain absent in yours, and absence in the universe has lasted forever, as disclosure will always have it. Disclosure is a two-way street connecting presence and absence, but across town with all those traffic lights it can seem interminable. If you have not already done so, you must imagine in the charts above the absence of the Earth you are standing on and looking through. In such exercise I sprout wings to join voice with the glorious equanimity of the grey butcherbird apparently confronting its finitude with its vigorous resistance to objectivity punctuated by the mournful refrain, “I am”, outside my window where our tracks intersect.
This is a transcript of the Country Talk program originally broadcast at 8 pm on Saturday 31 March 2018, presented by Joe Blow.
[Joe Blow:] Aboriginal evangelist Roundaway Camooweal has died in hospital overnight from head injuries sustained while attempting to intercede in a violent confrontation outside Trades Hall between members of the Bricklayers and Tilers Union and the Robotics Assembly and Maintenance Guild.
Mourners gathered outside Northcote Town Hall this evening thronging across High St with placards proclaiming “Emptiness Is Saved” and “Country Is Sovereign”, while inside, the Country Artisanry Awards presentation goes ahead as scheduled, following a Welcome to Country delivered by Witchetty Grub people from the Wurundjeri Land Council. In the absence of the patron of the awards, Aboriginal Petrichor Cokehurt, Professor of Comparative Astrology at Quinoa Curtain University, will conduct proceedings.
[Prof. Cokehurt:] It is gratifying to see so many people here in the aftermath of the horrific confrontation at Trades Hall yesterday, and I hope that this event may be repeated for so long as we hold Roundaway’s memory in our hearts. Tomorrow is Easter, I wish it were more widely known just how complicated that word is, but let us not conflate our tragic loss with archaic symbolism. Shall we simply look forward to the joy of watching little ones hunt for Easter eggs, keeping our thoughts about the true meaning of death and salvation to ourselves, as we have learned to internalise the seasonal contradictions Down Under of our imported ritual of springtime renewal?
Our patron initiated this celebration of artisanry which most emphatically reveals itself as a tradition voicing its own resurrection. The background of his project is not hard to grasp, although in this age of environmental alertness it can be hard to imagine the un-attuned culture our patron grew up in, saturated with personalities so separate from nature that death presented an annihilation disturbing enough to necessitate the advent of a messiah.
Roundaway was raised under the authoritarian guidance of magi who supervised the amputation of his intuition: forced to wear dresses to school, to learn to write with his left hand, and to speak in a language which few at school could understand and was too archaic to express any of the elements of his experience, he was routinely sequestered among elders who were mentally ill. While the girls in the street were able to communicate in a fashion by kicking balls around, the boys faced a constant struggle with indecipherable antagonism. The intimate caress of a magus was almost a relief.
Defined by the magi as a Capricorn, he suppressed his Sagittarian imagination as a tendency towards depression and a hindrance to ambition. He was initiated into what the magi called his true nature by some very gloomy people. He learned to mask himself as a philosopher and poet, even as he worked long hours as a delivery boy. Eventually his inner life was possessed by a priapic god, and the dysfunction of his early adulthood encompassed a search for meaning in the disposition of the body, an attempt to integrate Arthur Lingam and Martha Yoni.
And then he received his vision. Simply walking down a city street one day, still more or less a delivery boy, but now a clerk of courts in a suit, he was suddenly aware not only of images and objects as empty processes, but of the essential nature of images and objects as ingredients in empty relationships. God had taken off his dress, the illusion of form had taken shape, and passers-by were all walking backwards in time, upside down.
He stopped going to magus meetings, and his life fell apart, time and again. Other people couldn’t hold it together for long, try as they might to save their image of his Capricornia. One day he left his dilapidated land rover to wander in the bush and fell into a cave, from which he was rescued a month later, skin and bone and raving about self as the emptiness of country, and three principles: sovereignty as perpetual struggle with language; cruelty and suffering as the faces of boredom; and the sky as real from bottom up.
Many here tonight have heard his description of that experience, how the mouth of the cave yawned below him like the maw of a monstrous future, a fateful harvest of consequence coming at him like a freight train, and how wandering in the bowels of the earth led him to discover that people are all artisans, their identities created by the utility of what they fashion in obedience to the imperative of their craft, just like the processes of geology.
And so to our winners, the inhabitants of this sublime synchronicity, and with them the builders, architects, engineers and surveyors who helped put it in exactly the right place. Very nearly a perfect creation, but not quite. Should the residents care to observe the precisely full Moon due north in their location, they will be mesmerized by the arc of the Milky Way stretching miraculously from east to west, and let no astronomer or surveyor awake in the vicinity quibble about precision. Indeed, not only is no creation perfect, but no one creator is ever responsible. Add those who made it exactly the right time and place: the Moon, the Earth, its tilt, oceans and shores, the Sun and all the other stars. They all belong to our guild.
The runner-up is the precise moment of the transit of the galactic poles. The Moon and due north are too close to call: who knows where north is in the dark?
And at Uluru, who knows the precise moment of full Moon? It looks full all night, and there’s no doubt that the Moon is transiting in the same instant as the Galactic Poles! And what more fitting place for the Moon to highlight the Covenant of Crux at Easter to the awesome strains of the Kyrie! In a sense, Uluru fashioned itself through geological processes for this very event.
The girls in the packing room don’t miss much! Their award goes to a very distinguished entry indeed. Its depiction of the Moon’s conjunction with Porrima balances the confluences of the Zodiac and the Rivers of Hades on Christianity’s horizon at the stroke of its Easter Moon, thoroughly deserving the packing room accolade. Woe can be an occasion of defeat, but it can also ground us, in faith, in compassion. Forgetting can salve suffering, but moving on can condemn us to shame. Angles can anchor the projection of a map, but only as sovereign in a particular place at a particular time. It is not possible to formulate the combined experience of people on opposite sides of the Earth, walking with their feet pointing at each other, minds full of signs sticking out like pins into the cosmos.
In the beginning was the word, and the word was ‘good’. Any parent who has sought an impression of their child’s day at school has grappled with the contentious primeval meaning of that first word. Whether you believe that Jesus was the son of God or not, civilisation is a creation of gods, as surely as a work of art is its own creation, and neither one is an end product of a cumulative evolution of rules. Corruption is the fruit on the tree of law. Only creation, the inhabitation of human hearts by the meaning of the word, has saved us until now. Both the victim and the possibility of routine evil which victimises exist in the realm abandoned by gods as surely as the coward punch that killed the patron was inhabited by the god of silence and perimeters, a totem of nihilism.
Here is the last work we want to show you, from the patron’s bottom drawer. A sign is coming on Tuesday, an alignment of bodies, matrices and angles which signifies a living breathing inhabitation of country by a dead man. What does it mean that the conjunction of Mars and Saturn occurs every two years? Clockwise in the South through the constellations, signs and houses? I don’t know. Do you? A punctuation mark in separated, meaningless lives, or something else?
I do know that Roundaway hoped to live until the triple conjunction with Mercury in the Constellation of Pisces in 2026. Will that event be authored by his desire? What does it mean that today’s ten-year-olds will see it when they’re eighteen?
[Joe Blow:] So there you have it: sovereignty or narcissism, polarities or contradictions, emptiness or meaninglessness, conscience or chaos? Thank you for listening. This is Joe Blow, signing off from Northcote Town Hall. Now it’s time for us all to don Easter Bunny costumes. But remember, it’s Autumn: no smiling until tomorrow.