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The Festival of the Ashram

By Malvin Artley
June 2005

Greetings All!

Vacations are always the shortest days of the year. I had really enjoyed my trip to my old home and seeing family and friends. But, alas, all things come to their timely end. There weren't many words spoken on the way to the airport. 5:00 AM comes much too early. As the car sped down the highway and I listened to the rhythmic bumping of the tires over the repaired pavement I tried to shut my eyes and grab a wink, more to hide my sadness at leaving than to gain extra sleep. I have never been very good at goodbyes. Then we arrived at the fateful parting and I suddenly realized that I was to go in to my plane alone. My folks had to leave me there at the curb after a tearful goodbye. I could tell they were hurting, as was I, wondering if they would see me again. Perhaps it was kinder to do it quickly, but I felt cheated of precious moments with them, wanting to say a "proper" farewell, if there is such a thing. But, life is always like that. We all come together for a short time, hopefully spend the needed time together, then we have to part. The only certainty with human relations is that they will never last forever. And, we realize with that how important it is that we live each moment to its fullest potential together and not waste time thinking on the thousand things that so easily distract a mind. But, we all had a good time, though some things could have been done better. Life is like that, too.

It has been said that once we leave home we can never go back and that an expatriate always feels like an alien in the country of his or her birth. My recent travels in the motherland have highlighted these points for me to a degree. Change moves ever onward and the longer we stay away from a place the more foreign it becomes to us because our systems become attuned to our new abode. Though the connection with loved ones will always remain, the body eventually becomes as one with the new place of residence, being imbued with its substance and aura and thus no longer tied to the land that brought it forth and nurtured it for all those years. We feel even repelled by some things that we once held dear and discover other things in the old place that feel completely different to us now and actually feel better than before. Cancerian moons are always good for that sort of thing.

Having just completed the high spiritual point of the year, we now enter into the series of nine solar festivals which are especially linked with humanity and the evolution of human consciousness. These nine festivals are all associated with the signs Cancer through Pisces, moving forward through the Zodiac. The three festivals that we just had - Aries, Taurus and Gemini - all provide the subjective and thus more potent framework upon which the outer manifestation for the remainder of the year is to be built. The upcoming festival of Cancer is of particular interest to us because it sets the tone for the remainder of the solar year in terms of how we build upon the subjective experiences of the three months preceding this one, and it goes a long way toward showing the prevailing undercurrents of thought that condition the mass of humanity in any given year. Cancer is a sign that is intimately connected with humanity , as we shall see, and the concepts of birth, home, the building of community and the groups of people with whom we are associated all spring from this, possibly the oldest, sign of the Zodiac. It will also be of great interest to us to note that the history of Earth humanity began in the sign of Cancer because we gained our very Souls in that far-distant eon of time and that Venus was directly a part of that process though, even esoterically considered, Venus is not associated astrologically with that sign at all.

In its orthodox interpretation, Cancer is said to rule the home, history, women, childbirth, the alimentary canal, the chest and breasts, nurturing and nourishment, food, cities, domestic life, water, motherhood, fish and fishing, cancer (the disease), places near water, the masses, land and lands, ones inherited tendencies, gastric disturbances, asthma, emeralds, the self-protective instincts, sheep, white roses, Africa in general, Central Canada, nursing, stores and toilets, to name but a few things. We thus see that through this sign we get our sense of lineage and shared history, the primary groups with which we are associated, the ways in which we nurture ourselves and the sense of foundation and support that we develop within and amongst ourselves. The primary force behind these things is the feminine archetype and Cancer has long been associated as the main sign through which humanity is fostered and nurtured. It is the sign that breathed us forth as humans, hence its association with the lungs and chest and it is the sign wherein we give birth to new lines of manifestation as Souls. It is a sign associated with beginnings, but manifested ones in distinction to Aries, which gives the impulse to manifestation.

Cancer is said to be one of the most misunderstood signs of the Zodiac. Given the fact that Neptune has sole rulership over it esoterically, the previous sentence comes as no surprise. But, the reasons for such misunderstanding go far deeper than that and reach all the way back to the dawn of human history, as I mentioned previously. Some of what we are about to consider will seem fantastic and implausible to some readers, but I ask you to simply let it all wash through and take it as a possibility or hypothesis if nothing else. Unless one is able to read the records of time in the akasha and thus the records of the Lords of Karma, hypothesis and conjecture is what that which is to follow must remain. If you want the full story, then a reading of The Secret Doctrine by Helena Blavatsky will fill in the gaps.

Many readers may not realize it, but there are three main groups of humanity upon our little globe. They are the human beings which were first incarnated on this globe, those humans who were holdovers from the Moon when it was a planet, and a third, much smaller, group with which we will not deal here. They are largely awaiting a later time in Earth's history to "walk among men" and will be more involved with the closing of certain great cycles of the human race and with the inauguration of many new and unusual aspects to civilization. The oldest, and thus the most advanced from a spiritual evolutionary perspective, appeared on Earth in the early days of Atlantis. They were the Atlanteans of historical interest, the advanced Atlanteans. They were held over from the Moon. The Moon is called the Mother of the Earth because it was the globe from which most life on our globe was passed when it met its untimely demise. You see, the Moon was a failed experiment in many ways in terms of a planetary development. To put it very simply, human evolution on the Moon when it was a planet went awry and it became too much of a danger to the other "locals" in our solar system. The higher Self of the Moon (yes, planets have higher Selves, too) at that time deemed it necessary to cut short the life of the Moon and its life was then passed on to our Earth at the appropriate time. The whole story is too long to unravel here. Suffice it to say that the Moon is now a dead body, circling its progeny (our Earth) and slowly decaying. The Moon was also the mother of the humanity on that globe so, no matter how we look at it, the Moon and Cancer are both closely associated with humanity. The Moon is the orthodox ruler of Cancer.

Our true Earth humanity appeared in Lemuria some 18 million years ago. These Souls constitute what are known in the New Age movement as the "young Souls". They represent the great bulk of humanity on our planet today. The Souls from the Moon are the most advanced in terms of spiritual development and comprise the intelligentsia and "Lighted" members of the human family. There are always exceptions to any rule, though. It is said that there is only one example of true Earth humanity who has achieved the status of spiritual mastery thus far, and that Soul incarnated as the life we know historically as Jesus of Nazareth. His progress is said to be quite exceptional, and when his life is examined in that respect his words take on a very different tone. When he stated "These things you have seen me do, you will do also, and even greater", it was at once a literal statement of fact and an example of what can be achieved by the humanity who became human on our planet. There is a fabulous message of hope in that and an indication as well of the promise that this little cosmic experiment we call Earth evolution holds for all involved. His life showed in full glory what is possible for all of us on this Earth - that evolution can be accelerated at a fantastic rate and that we do indeed have a lot to offer the cosmos if only we could get our collective act together. Most, if not all, of the other great spiritual Teachers who have walked the Earth are examples of Souls from the Moon.

This brings us to a consideration of the role Venus has played regarding Cancer and why its station and resumption of direct motion when the Sun is in Cancer is such a potent symbol. Human individualization occurred in Lemurian times as stated when the Sun was in Cancer by the precession of the equinox. In short, we were in the Age of Cancer when Earth humanity took form. I made reference in recent letters about Venus to the effect that Venus represents the same relationship to the Earth that the Soul does to the persona (animal man) and that every change in Venus is somehow reflected upon Earth. In those ancient days there were certain classes of animals that had evolved instinct to a point where a true fusion of mind could take place and thus allow a higher expression of life to occur. Coincident with that, there was a parallel development on Venus (all planets have a humanity of some sort or density) wherein a certain number of its humanity achieved liberation and the lower aspects of their Souls were no longer needed. God is an economical sort and the stage was set: Give the potential Earth humans the aspects of Soul needed for their full development as humans from the liberated aspects of Venusian humanity. In Theosophical literature this is known as the Lords of the Flame coming from Venus and giving self-consciousness and thus Soul to Earth humanity. I am deliberately leaving a lot out and being sometimes not pedantically correct, but the gist of the story is what is important here. Venus gave us our Souls as Earth humanity. The rest is history, occult and otherwise.

I told you a lot of this might seem fantastic and, like the saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction. The Light that Cancer conveys is called the "Light within the Form". It is a diffuse, incoherent light - the dark light of matter itself awaiting stimulation by a higher power (the Light of the Soul). In those ancient days the world was heavily pregnant with lives ready for the Light of Self to overshadow them. They were unconscious and instinctive. There was light there, but it was diffuse and unfocussed. The lunar Lords who comprised them were ready for liberation. They demanded salvation and the cry went forth. The Souls from Venus responded. It is said that when those Lords of the Flame appeared on our globe and made union with the lesser lives there was an electrical storm of such magnitude that it has not been seen since. It was planetary in its scope and a mass extinction took place. Old forms were shattered, lesser lives were liberated and "man's troublous journey thus began."

I have spoken before of the analogy between lightning and the action of the Soul and ceremonial magic at times. There is a "cry" that goes out from the lower forms. If that invocative response achieves contact with the higher forms, then a huge current of spiritual or electrical force (depending upon the type of energy involved) follows the initial charge to earth and union is thus achieved. That it often produces destruction is true, but this is only temporal and illusory from the higher perspective. New forms are built upon the destruction that can withstand the increased vibration and evolution proceeds at a much accelerated pace. There is a clue in this for all who would invoke the fires of Spirit, as well as a warning - be sure you are ready for the consequences of that which you seek! There has been a long litany of wrecked lives as a result of people invoking things from the higher planes before they are ready to receive them. In spiritual practice, plodding is ever desirable for that very reason and things such as spiritual awakenings should happen either on their own as a natural outcome of right living or only under the strictest care and guidance of One who Knows. A great many of the animal humans in those days were not fully ready for the coming of the Lords and the consequent union destroyed them. The process of reincarnation took care of providing a new body, but the population was so decimated that it took a long while to re-establish humanity on Earth.

In the skies today we see a reflection of these ancient days in the fact that Venus is again very active while the Sun is in Cancer and is offering opportunity for accelerated evolution and liberation. But, this is only a very small and dim reflection of those days. Still, there is a great cry going out from the masses of people everywhere for better conditions, for the amelioration of suffering and, above all, for Light. And Light will come. For those people not ready to receive it the coming years will be strained to say the least. Instability will increase throughout the globe before it gets better, but the promise of better days to come is plainly evident for those who have the eye to see. For myself, I have great faith that humanity will win the day and a better life will come for all. I spoke of faith with my family while I was overseas and, in the world today I see all around me "the substance of things hoped for ad the evidence of things not seen". Venus is in its Lucifer phase for the next 9 months-the period of human gestation - and Light will indeed be cast on dark corners as it fulfills its role as Lucifer-"Light-Bringer".

Cancer marks both the beginning and the end of life, for the 4th house in any horoscope always shows such things (Cancer being the natural 4th house). In human terms we would know this as a marker for the process of reincarnation. Cancer also rules reincarnation, though you would not find that in most astrological textbooks. There has been a lot of pap written on the subject of reincarnation over the years and, though what has been written contains grains of truth, it is only true from a very limited perspective. It is generally believed that we have to reincarnate a) because we have not yet achieved perfection and b) because the Soul has certain work it desires to do on this earth plane. Neither concept is actually a very good definition of why we would need to come back time and again. The true reason for why we are continually reborn into ever-finer grades of human bodies and personas harks back to the story of the birth of humanity. We should always remember that a Soul is a being who has pledged itself in eons long past to serve and to save. What is it serving? - the greater Plan of God. What is it saving? - the "prisoners of the planet" - our lunar bodies, as they are called, the matter that composes them and thus the lesser angelic (deva) lives that contribute their lives toward the construction of all the forms that we know. Eventually, as a result and because of the example set for them by the Soul who incarnates through them, they achieve liberation and become solar Angels themselves - Souls, if you will.

Reincarnation is thus seen as a process of invocation from the lesser lives and evoked response from the greater Life, all according to a greater Plan. It is nothing more or less than that. The perfection that is aimed for in reincarnation is not the perfection of the Soul. It is already "perfect" from our limited perspective. A better word to use instead of "perfection" in this context would perhaps be "attainment", or "liberation", and that relates solely to the lower aspects of our being. As for desire, the Soul is beyond desire as we know it. Its only "desire" is to be of service to both poles of the spectrum - Spirit and persona, and to eventually achieve spiritually in its own right. It is all a matter of vibratory rate. By being influenced by a higher vibration, so ours is raised accordingly. Beauty begets beauty. The more we can exemplify the Soul in our own lives and thus express those qualities, so our vibration is raised. This is what is meant by "I am the Way, the Light and the Life."

It should also be firmly held in mind that we always reincarnate in groups as a general rule. This is the occult basis behind family units and groups on the outer planes of any sort. Cancer rules all these in their beginning stages. The family unit and, later, the groups with which we affiliate ourselves in the greater world stage are where we learn to serve and emulate the Soul. They are the crucibles to our growth. It is occult law that people achieve more rapidly when working in group fashion. A person alone has little to push against or to contribute, whether on the physical plane or on a higher plane. It has been ordained in our local universe that human units work together. In our groups and thus by our interactions with others we create both our karma and our similarity of vibration. We are linked by our interaction, like it or not, and we all grow and liberate ourselves and others whom we contact as a group, whether or not that works out on the outer planes. Be assured that any love and recognition for another, as well as the opposite polarity, is usually a pretty good indicator that the other person is in some way associated with the group with which you incarnated. The fact that we are together on the physical plane at all and have more than casual interaction should speak volumes to us in terms of the work we are here to do and to the fact that there must be some similarity of vibratory rate with the other person. Again, I speak in generalities and there are always exceptions. An ashram is a spiritual group - a group of souls-and it is for this reason, along with the reasons above, that I call the Cancer festival the "Festival of the Ashram".

In the watery triplicity of the Zodiac - Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces - the theme of salvation and liberation always rings out. Put simply, salvation in Cancer is the salvation of matter-of the persona. In Scorpio it is the attainment of full self-consciousness through the struggles that characterize the Scorpio native. In Pisces the attainment is of full spiritual Being, and thus of salvation on a world scale. In Cancer we come to know that we are "our brother's keeper" if we are more spiritually aware. We come to know that we cannot progress effectively without our companions on the road of life, nor they with out us, and that we all do better together rather than separately. This is the first of the Zodiacal signs wherein this is known in practical terms. This is also one of the main underlying reasons behind such a strong emphasis on family and in the sanctity of the family bond. But, involvement in any group has its pluses and minuses. While it is good to work things out together it can also all go horribly wrong at times when people get stuck in their negativity or lack of vision. This brings us to the deeper significance of Saturn in Cancer and its conjunction with the Sun in this full moon figure.

Cancerian natives - those having either the Sun or Ascendant in Cancer-are known for their use of guilt and their ability to get trapped by guilt when they have erred from their path or someone close to them has crossed their path. Cancer is a symbolic place of imprisonment, as can be the other two watery signs, and it emphasizes to us the pains and the penalties of all our wrong decisions and orientations. It is difficult for the Cancerian native, at least in the early stages, to let go of a wrong, either of their own or done to them. These wrongs lead to karma that must be worked out later. Saturn, being the Lord of Karma in the Zodiac, brings about those struggles which are necessary for the resolution of such karma and which bring recognition of errors and subsequent correction. Saturn transiting through Cancer has brought out many such collective wrongs for examination and has touched very much upon national and personal feelings of guilt. These are the penalties of incarnation, but they bring opportunity for more Light as we work through our difficulties and hopefully not add more to the list as a result of our struggles.

So, when we see Cancer either as the Sun or Ascendant in a chart, we can be certain of two things: 1) there is something deep within the person's or event's psyche that is crying out for salvation and for light in dark corners, and 2) something is being born that has the potential to be a saving force, either in this life or a future one. To these two I would also add that there is always some sort of a push toward collective unity and for a reconnection with the source of a person's being. I have found there always to be a deep yearning with Cancer natives - a cry for salvation, if you will - that constantly prods and pushes the person forward until they achieve what they seek. Of course, all signs do this to a degree, but with Cancer it is primal and buried deep within the psyche. Watch world events very carefully this year, especially over the next 9 months, for there will be much that comes up for reckoning during that time, and expect to see much in the way of collective shame and guilt coming out. So long as Saturn is in Cancer as well, this sort of thing will continue, but it will be particularly strong with Venus Lucifer. Many people will feel as though they have been touched by the devil, though Venus is far removed from that.

In these coming days let us be mindful of the various groups in which we play our roles and evolve with other loved ones and not-so-loved ones, but always toward the same ends. As we serve and sacrifice for the greater good we grow in life and love until eventually we reach that fateful day when we say our final goodbyes to the Souls with which we have shared so much. It happens at the end of every life and finally at the culmination of our spiritual development in a time far in the future for most of us - but maybe not so far away as we think. In recent days I have had the reminder that things can change in an instant and change one's course for a greater or lesser period, sometimes indefinitely. So there is no time to lose. Our complete Presence is required in all that we do and for all whom we serve and with whom we cooperate. May we also broaden our vision and see the greater Plan in which we play a part. Our personal plans can change at a whim, but the Plan always remains. It is that to which our Souls resonate. And lastly, may you give birth to something new and vital in your nature this year and thus give the world a great gift from your being. It is not such a hard task. Just dive in and have a go! The only thing you will lose is your fear. Can that be so bad? May you be richly rewarded and blessed in all that you bring forth this year!