I have a vibrant memory of Sunday evenings in the 1950s, walking home after visiting grandparents in the nearby village. We walked on the pavement in almost complete darkness through the countryside. The stars were so bright, and my dad pointed out the common constellations (the Plough/Big Dipper, Orion…) and the Milky Way.
There were street lamps, still gas powered in those days. They cast small oases of light in the pervading darkness, an essential aid when the Moon was not up. As we navigated from oasis to oasis, they gave a feeling of security.
In later decades street lights became ever brighter, until more recently people realised that this over-brightness was polluting any chance of being aware of the majesty of the night sky – the pervading influence for all earlier human generations. So, they’ve become more subdued and direct light downwards rather than everywhere. On our residential estate there’s now a small sense of those earlier oases of light in the darkness – although the power of modern leds is inevitably much stronger than the old gas lamps.
But there’s a new kid on the block: a proliferation of lighting from residential houses, notably porch lights, and lights at the end of the drive. Some throw stronger light than the actual street lighting. My senses are repelled by this unnecessary brightness and the accompanying waste of energy. Why? When a cheap sensor could turn the light on only when needed. If every house did the same we would rarely experience the darkness of night.
We need to make friends with the darkness, it is as much a part of life as the light. Only then do we and our children see those gems in the sky, perhaps inspiring an interest in astronomy or its twin astrology.
Human eyes are actually very good at seeing in low light conditions. So please can we turn those lights out, except when needed.
And make friends with the dusk, one of the truly magical parts of the day (I’m sure the dawn is also, but I rarely make it.)
Featured image of gas lamp by Tulane Public Relations (Uploaded by AlbertHerring), via Wikimedia Commons
Image of The Milky Way by John Fowler, via Wikimedia Commons
Wyatt Robinson expresses important truths very simply on his blog. His recent post, Victimised, is about the stories we tell ourselves, and the effect that has on our lives.
You have to experience the world as someone, not anyone or no one. As such, in the story that is you, you have no choice but to assume the role of the central character and populate your story with the characters around you. Interestingly, that narrative tends to be a story who’s genesis is in childhood with our original cast of characters setting the mold for all characters to come. These original characters establish a set of expectations and those expectations become a self fulfilling prophecies which lead us to recreate our story over and over again. These expectations lead us to make assumptions about people’s motives and intentions which we twist into to fit our narrative. Of course, we have to maintain protagonist status…we have to keep living with ourselves…thus blame is typically aimed outward…plus the narrative has to survive.
Italian psychiatrist Roberto Assagioli invented the concept of the subpersonality which links very well with Wyatt’s storytelling narrative. At different times we may be any of a number of sub-personalities, which were mostly established in childhood as a reaction to surrounding circumstances, and of which are not initially aware. Each subpersonality corresponds to a story we have told ourselves about the world, maybe subconsciously. Assagioli’s psychological approach of psychosynthesis encourages the uncovering and integration of these subpersonalities, and thus the development of a more whole person.
The Swiss astrologer/psychologist Bruno Huber (with his wife Louise) took this a step further, by applying the best of the ancient practice of astrology to help in this process – an integrated method he called astrological psychology. Astrological psychology practitioners use the birth chart to help uncover unconscious influences on themselves or a client, and particularly in a time-related way. This is particularly effective in helping to uncover key influences during childhood, including specifically relationships between the child and those around them in father- and mother- roles (the ‘Family Model’). Once in conscious awareness, we have the chance to do something about it, and move beyond earlier blockages and coping strategies such as blaming. We can change our stories.
Wyatt ends his post with the following, which explains his title:
There are bad characters out there, but for the most part, most of us are not that. We might all be deeply flawed, but we are rarely sadistic, and in the end we all tend to walk away feeling the victim. I suppose we all are correct, we’re victims of ourselves. Victims of our stories.
Here I diverge from Wyatt’s post. No, we do not need to be victims. The story we tell is in the end up to us.
There is a battle of ideas in understanding the human situation and its history.
On the one side, we find the ardent materialists, who profess to be scientists but in reality follow the pseudoscience of scientism. They present a history of the ‘big bang’ and the gradual coalescing of matter into galaxies, stars and planets. Then, on planet earth, came land and sea and a favourable atmosphere, whence emerged plants and the panoply of animals, fish, birds and so on. And eventually random mutation led relatively recently to the human being, who at some point mysteriously became self conscious and completely different from the other animals. And the inexorable march of science is slowly explaining all these things, and will eventually be able to explain the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness.
In this sort of world view there is little room for astrology, which is hence denigrated by its popularisers, such as Richard Dawkins and the ex-rockstar Professor Brian Cox. Indeed, there is little room for the ‘interiors’ of things, as opposed to their exterior manifestation.
In the other side, we find a view from inside out, taking consciousness as the primary feature of existence, and showing how consciousness itself has evolved since its dawning. In the beginning is a seamless unity with the world; then the emergence of self consciousness, magical and mythical stages moving into rationality, a super rationality of the divorced ego and ultimately a purported more integrated participatory consciousness.
In this sort of world view astrology, and particularly astrological psychology, finds a natural place in meaningful relationship of the individual and the whole. And it is
this sort of viewpoint that is explored by another ex-rockstar Gary Lachmann in A Secret History of Consciousness.
This is really an exploration into ideas rather than the telling of a particular story. Lachmann looks at the work of many thinkers who have spent their lives investigating aspects of such stories. A partial list of these explorers will give some idea of the vastness of his scope: William Bucke, William James, Henri Bergson, A.R.Orage, P.D.Ouspensky, Helena Blavatsky, Rudolph Steiner, Goethe, Erich Neumann, Stan Gooch, Julian Jaynes, Colin Wilson, Owen Barfield, Jean Gebser, and so on.
This is a very readable, but also quite demanding book to read, covering such a wide range of extraordinary human beings and their major contributions to understanding consciousness. A veritable tour de force!
Do read it if this is an area that is of interest to you. You might also be interested in my earlier post on materialism.
Based on an article that first appeared in Conjunction, magazine of astrological psychology, in 2012
Featured image of ‘big bang’ by cédric sorel, via Wikimedia Commons
This article was first published in Conjunction, magazine of the Astrological Psychology Association, around the turn of the millenium. I believe it is still relevant today.
In the recent media attention given to attacks by scientific and religious personalities on aspects of ‘New Age’ thinking you can almost hear the sound of paradigms shifting. The frozen floes are beginning to crack. In his Structure of Scientific Revolutions Thomas Kuhn did great service in clarifying the nature of the learning process of the scientific community, indeed of any human communities of common interest. He showed how the existing shared viewpoint (paradigm) is defended at great length by the current ‘establishment’ until finally it gives and is overwhelmed and superseded by a new and more encompassing paradigm.
We can see a parallel in the recent media discussions. Scientists attack the New Age as representing unscientific, woolly thinking, which threatens their rationalist paradigm; it is in some way even more threatening than religion, which is regarded as equally woolly – but which they have learned to live alongside and dominate. Religionists attack the New Age as primitive and dangerous mysticism which threatens the ‘true’ paradigm they have constructed over the nearly 2000 years AD.
Astrology, Astronomy and Paganism
It is interesting that astrology and paganism bear much of the brunt of these attacks. Both are more ancient than today’s science and religion. From the days of the ancient Greeks astrology and astronomy were a single field of study, until sundered by modern science. Many leading exponents in the early days of modern science were indeed astrologers, such as Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe.
Paganism as a loose and embracing term was there before Christianity. Many of its features were incorporated into Christian practice to ensure acceptability to the populace. Most celebratory events such as Christmas happen at the time of pagan festivals. Many churches are built on ancient sites of worship and incorporate pagan symbols such as the Green Man. They also include astrological symbols.
New Age interest in astrology and paganism is thus in part a return to our roots. It is understandable that science and religion should be suspicious of that which they thought they had superseded. Our concern should perhaps be that they have thrown out the baby with the bath water.
The essence of science is its objectivity and insistence on proof by the experimental method. Its extreme proponents deny anything that is not amenable to this approach, and insist that the material world and its mechanistic operation according to scientific laws is all that there is. Modern physics has tended to retreat from this position as relativity and quantum theory have demonstrated that the objective separation of observer and observed is not possible.
We have perhaps put science on too much of a pedestal. It is after all only about the construction of models of reality, and not about reality itself. History tells us that today’s model which seems so natural will tomorrow become discredited by a better model. For example the ‘flat earth’ theory with the sun going round the earth was eventually superseded by the ‘round earth’ theory with the earth going round the sun.
It is difficult to see why scientists attack phenomena for which there is extensive subjective evidence, such as telepathy and spiritual development. Explanation of these phenomena is clearly beyond the capability of current scientific models, but their subjective reality is surely undeniable. A true scientific attitude should surely see this as the spur to developing new models, rather than reject the reality of the phenomena.
Mathematics has provided a salutary message in this context. Gödel’s theorem tells us that in any model that we construct there will be things that we can neither prove nor disprove – they are outside the scope of the model. A model of everything is impossible. Thus extremist science appears to be being unscientific, what about religion?
Church as Institution
If we look at the evolution of Western Christianity since the time of Christ we can see the construction of the Church as an institution. A theology of accepted belief has been developed – a paradigm. The history of the Catholic church contains a story of evolution of doctrine, with corresponding ideas outside the doctrine being regarded as heresies. Eventually the universal paradigm proved unsustainable and the Protestant movements in particular broke away.
The Catholic church provided the pathway to God, with the priests as mediators between the individual and the divine. The Gnostic traditions, which provided for the individual approach to God independent of the church as institution, were rigorously suppressed at the early stages of this process. Signs of resurgence were equally repressed, such as that shown by the Cathars in 13th century Languedoc. Thus was individual spirituality channelled through the church or suppressed.
Crisis of spirituality
In the modern world the church has lost much of its power and influence, contributing to a crisis of spirituality. If you doubt this look at our modern buildings and their lack of soul; stand in a field of modern agriculture with its loss of vitality; see world poverty and injustice with its lack of compassion; see the pollution of our earth and the loss of species,… You will only truly ‘see’ these if you open your heart and perceive as a whole human being, rather than just using your mind, and particularly your logical left brain.
Compare this modern evidence with the flowering of that which is highest and best in man during those special eras of the ancient Greeks, the early Gothic cathedrals and the Renaissance. It is surely the search to resolve this crisis of spirituality that much of the New Age is about.
Let us sum up. Science has led us too much into the limitations of an objective, left brain, mind-dominated world view, belittling the complementary parts of our nature which are subjective, right brain, and of the heart.
Religion is not providing for most the route to the spiritual that the testimony of the ages tells us is there. It is these chasms of malaise at the heart of today’s Western societies which the New Age is destined to resolve.
The paradigms of our science and religion must come up to date and become part of our solution. The strong reactions of those fundamentalists deeply embedded in the current paradigms are an encouraging sign that the change is beginning to take place. The ice is beginning to melt.
Featured image shows sunrise over tessellated pavement, courtesy of JJ Harrison and Wikimedia Commons
“The true, the beautiful, the good: through all the ages of man’s conscious evolution these words have expressed three great ideals: ideals which have instinctively been recognized as representing the sublime nature and lofty goal of all human endeavour.”
When I first came across Plato’s ‘big 3’ I knew this expressed an essential truth. I wrote this original article in 2010 for the magazine of the Astrological Psychology Association, but I think it bears repeating here in edited form for a different audience.
It was in the writings of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato that the beautiful, the true and the good were first identified as primary intrinsic qualities, from which all other values are derived. Over the many centuries since, many philosophers have continued to regard these qualities as of prime importance; for example they formed the subject matter of Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant’s three major treatises The Critique of Pure Reason (truth), The Critique of Practical Reason (goodness) and The Critique of Judgement (beauty). Mystics and spiritual teachers have also championed these three essential ‘windows on the divine’, for example they correspond to Sri Aurobindo’s ‘three dynamic images’.
It is not surprising, therefore, to see beauty, truth and goodness identified as primary considerations in the ‘integral philosophy’ pioneered by American philosopher Ken Wilber. One of the building blocks of Wilber’s comprehensive philosophy is his model of the Four Quadrants. On the left we have the subjective ‘I’, and on the right the objective ‘You’. At the bottom the field of the ‘Collective’ and at the top the ‘Individual’. The words in the quadrants indicate the sort of field of human experience that relates to that particular quadrant. In this diagram Wilber can situate all fields of human endeavour. (See e.g. A Theory of Everything, or his magnum opus Sex, Ecology and Spirituality.)
It will not help us enormously to attempt to define beauty, truth and goodness in great detail; we all have a good idea of what they mean. Goodness is basically about how I, the subject, relate to the collective – Wilber’s bottom left ‘cultural’ quadrant. Truth is about how we relate to the world in an objective sense, and hence particularly relates to the second and third ‘objective’ quadrants – ‘social’ and ‘behavioural’. Beauty is the term we apply to the most exquisite features of the external world, and of our internal world, so essentially belongs to the field of the personal subjective – Wilber’s fourth ‘intentional’ quadrant. This mapping of the ‘big three’ onto the quadrants is given by Wilber himself.
Bruno & Louise Huber
Of course, the quadrants are not unique to Wilber. A similar model is found in the astrological birth chart, which is particularly related to the human psyche in the astrological psychology pioneered by Bruno & Louise Huber. The quadrants are related to the four elements Fire, Earth, Air and Water.
The Hubers discovered a relationship between the four quadrants and the stages of a human life, in a technique called ‘Age Progression’. At birth, we begin at the ‘I’point and move through the quadrants in a counter-clockwise direction, as follows. There is an interesting relationship with the ‘big three’ qualities.
Age 0-18. Life in the first ‘Impulse’ quadrant is about establishing and preserving the self in a formative environment, and adapting to this environment. How often do we hear the injunction ‘be good’ addressed to children? Goodness is about how we relate to others, and in those early years we learn what goodness is about, particularly relative to the demands of society. It is well understood that where this early conditioning is not available or unsuccessful there is a much higher chance of criminality in later life.
Age 18-36. Life in the second ‘Instinct’ quadrant is about establishing a position in the collective society as the unconscious social self. We learn to adapt to the You. We soon discover that ‘be truthful’ is the necessary condition to earn the trust of others, both in personal relationship and interacting with groups. So in this context truth is again about how we relate to others, but now these truths relate to objective things, such as laws and behaviours, contrasting with the more subjective codes of morality and goodness.
Age 36-54. In the third ‘Thinking’ quadrant we establish ourselves as conscious and autonomous contributors to society. We begin to realise our true conscious self and understand our own life philosophy. We come to understand what it means to be ‘true to ourselves’. So this truth is about our inner life and what we are really about – if you like, our ‘soul’s purpose’ and any ‘life vocation’.
Age 54-72. Finally, in the fourth ‘being’ quadrant the full fruits of life are experienced, first out in the world and then as inner spiritual beings. Beauty is perhaps the quality that is closest to our inner spirituality. It is ‘peak experiences’ of transcending beauty that often signal events of spiritual significance. We recognise the beauteous radiance of sages such as the older Krishnamurti, the outer beauty a reflection of an inner spiritual beauty. It is pleasing to consider the prospect that such beauty might be a fruit of the later years of life after all those busy years of contributing to our society.
After age 72 we move on again into the first quadrant, but that is another story.
As shown by the quote at the beginning of this article, the fundamental importance of our ‘big three’ qualities was recognised in the late 19th/early 20th centuries by Rudolph Steiner, polymath and founder of anthroposophy. Steiner gave a more spiritual perspective on truth, beauty and goodness.
He suggests that a feeling for truth is connected with our consciousness of the physical body, and that living in truth helps to retain the sense of the connection between this physical body and pre-earthly existence. The physical body is clearly that part of our existence that most corresponds with the objective right hand ‘truth’ quadrants of the Huber and Wilber diagrams.
Steiner relates beauty to the etheric body – the formative forces that lie behind the physical body and provide the link with previous spiritual existence. He suggests that a highly developed sense of beauty gives us a right relation to the etheric body. Now the etheric body is the ‘inner’ corresponding with the ‘outer’ of the individual physical body and thus corresponds fairly naturally with the fourth quadrant.
Steiner goes on to relate goodness to the astral body. Through goodness a person can develop the actual power that will lead him directly into the spiritual world – a goodness that flows to other human beings and is not confined to self-interest. Again, the astral body is an ‘inner’ body, this time related to the collective and other people, which naturally corresponds with the first quadrant.
Thus Rudolph Steiner’s analysis from a completely different perspective is consistent with the Wilber and Huber models.
This exploration of truth, beauty and goodness has taken us from Plato’s philosophy via Ken Wilber’s modern integral philosophy to Bruno Huber’s astrological pychology and Rudolph Steiner’s anthroposophy. In the process, we can see that these high-minded philosophical ideals do have a very practical relevance to our lives and our life journey.
We might speculate on the Life Clock of the Western societies on some almost unimaginable timeframe and wonder if we are not in the period of adolescence towards the end of the first quadrant, where our concept of goodness is being thoroughly tested in the the current economic crisis [written in 2010]. It is clearly unthinking greed in the financial community that has led to the current crisis – ultimately a problem of lack of ‘goodness’, grasping for ‘me’ while letting ‘you’ go hang. Global warming presents another example – we collectively must have our creature comforts and travel, to the detriment of the third world, the environment and future generations.
And yet the encounter with ‘truth’ from the second quadrant increasingly comes to meet us – the truths of what is really happening in the financial world, to populations denied justice, to the environment – truths that cannot be avoided by denial such as has been evident for a generation.
When we can learn to face this truth with goodness, creating a just and more equitable global society that can sustain the global environment, we will be collectively metaphorically entering the second quadrant and approaching adulthood.
It is salutary, but perhaps also exciting, to realise that there is a long way for the our societies to go before they even get to the 3rd quadrant and start to become truly conscious and will-driven, learning to live out humanity’s true destiny.
What a prospect, to reach the fourth quadrant and for a society that lives in true inner spiritual beauty, which will of course be reflected in a world of outer beauty. No longer will the blight of ugly functional human construction mar the beauty of the creation; it will be enhanced and glorified…
Integral Consciousness, Steve MacIntosh A Theory of Everything, Ken Wilber Sex, Ecology and Spirituality, Ken Wilber LifeClock, Bruno & Louise Huber The True, the Beautiful, the Good, lecture by Rudolf Steiner, January 19, 1923
Featured image shows a sunset at Santa Monica, California