Well, 2011 has certainly started with a final roar from the Iron Tiger, leading up to what we hope will be a calmer Year of the Iron Rabbit for the remainder of this year. For those readers not in Australia you have probably heard about the floods in Queensland, which are a repeat of the 1974 Brisbane Floods, which also took place in a Tiger year. However, we should also be aware that there have been hundreds of deaths due to flooding in Brazil this month and that weather patterns worldwide remain extreme. Metal (Iron) in the Five Elements system feeds water with respect to the energetics of the cycle and we have indeed seen massive shifts in water this past year. Drought has turned to floods, there have been blizzards and near-record snowfalls in Europe and the US and - possibly due to the abrupt changes in weather conditions - mass isolated die-offs of fish and birds throughout the world. What a way to start a year! Disasters aside, one of the more heartening aspects of what has happened in these past few weeks has been the response of the public to these disasters. For example, volunteers are lining up in the streets to get into flood-affected towns in Queensland and the outpouring of contributions has been above and beyond the call. The measure of a person's or nation's spirit is their response to a crisis, and if the Australian response is any measure, then I feel a lot better about the state of the world. It is the same the world over, from what I have seen.
This year will be one in which we are all called upon to roll up our sleeves and get down to the business at hand, whatever calls us. The Iron Rabbit is no shrinking violet, as we will see in the Chinese New Year letter (to come out in a week or two). There will be plenty to contend with, but it will be in the nature of a call to service for a great many of us. I have heard more than a few people say to me in past weeks that they feel life is on hold a bit and that something is about to happen, like a new phase of life is about to begin. There have been family tragedies, natural disasters, changes of circumstance - all apparently in the nature of an old way of life ending and a new one about to begin. Many of us have been through the mill in the past few years and are ready for something new to come, but then the old adage has to be remembered: "Be careful what you ask for you might get it!" It is perhaps fitting that the recent disasters on the world stage took place in the Capricorn interval this year, for the teachers and spiritual friends from their side are always on the lookout in this interval for those who are more suited to help, for those who have enough inner light in evidence and who are not afraid of a little (or a lot) of effort. Besides, Pluto will be in the sign for a few years yet and the December solstice while that is in effect will always hold a somewhat ominous or tense tone.
With respect to Capricorn, it is a sign associated with most notably with initiation and attainment - the mountain goat rising to the peak of experience. The particular initiation with which the sign is associated is one in which the orientation of the initiate becomes fixed in attitude and effort, a state of affairs that I would equate with one passing onto the path of seeing darshanamarga (Skt.) or mthong lam (Tib.). This is also known as the 'path of insight', and it is marked by meditative equipoise, the first successful sustained blending of calm-abiding and insight meditations. The event that marks the attainment of the path of seeing is when one has a direct perception and experience of 'the supramundane wisdom of the noble ones'. "If thine eye be single, thy head will be full of light." It is said that on this path one proceeds quickly with the attainments of wisdom and cannot be held back. From the Buddhist exposition of the grounds and paths, one attains a full realization of the four noble truths, as taught by the Buddha. One might think this to be a simple attainment, given the simplicity of the wording of the noble truths, but in fact the entire path of deliverance is held within them and is 'the high, rocky road'.
To put the matter in Theosophical terminology, one finally succeeds in transcending the lower nature (persona) in Capricorn and begins to traverse the path of the higher nature the soul or atma/buddhi/manas. One becomes 'a sublime one', an arhat, and from thenceforth is firmly and without reversal a bodhisattva. One attains transfiguration at least and the 'eye of wisdom' (the third eye or integrated forehead center) is finally opened. Capricorn thus opens one fully to the life of the soul, or higher nature.
It is said that Capricorn guards the secret to the soul, the 'light supernal'. Yet, even this light itself is ultimately an obscuration and to be transcended. In that regard, there has been discussion recently among some esotericists about the fact that Buddhists say there is no soul, and this bears a little examination, since we are dealing with the subject of Capricorn. In Theosophy, the soul is the 'solar angel' a being which stands as the intermediary in the human being between the monad/buddha nature and the persona. When one attains full enlightenment (full realization of the buddha nature) the 'soul' is released and resolved into its native essences. It ceases to be with respect to what it was. In human terms the soul is relatively permanent and appears from our lower perspective to be permanent and self-arisen since it is that essence that gives rise to us life after life.
However, with respect to Buddhist logic, anything which is impermanent and thus bound to cyclic existence has no true existence. In that, the Buddhists are correct. For them the matter is seen from the perspective of the fully enlightened being. Yet, from a human perspective, the soul does exist and is the vehicle that carries us ultimately to the doorway of full enlightenment. Buddhists say in truth there is no such thing as a person either, yet Buddhist teachers will say in the same breath that we are people. We are, but we are not. It is a matter of perception and interpretation that governs whether or not a thing is real, much like the wave/particle duality in physics with respect to material existence. Are we matter, or are we energy? One could say, in fact, we are both simultaneously. So, what is the secret of the soul?
The soul to us is the 'light supernal', the wisdom that transcends worldly existence, the wisdom of the path that leads one to the ultimate experience of clear light, yet cannot go there itself. Capricorn is the gateway to the soul, to the 'path of seeing', in my opinion. The soul contains the wisdom of all that can be known and taught of the higher way, the dharma. The stages of the full realization of soul-wisdom can be seen as the successive realizations of each of the four noble truths: the truth of suffering, the truth of the origin of suffering, the truth of the cessation of suffering, and the path that leads to the cessation of suffering. In short, the way of the soul is the way of truth. Much, if not all, of that path is related to the release from the sufferings of existence, both higher and lower. This is the Saturn rulership over Capricorn, as Saturn is the principle of limitation and mental suffering wrong views, as Buddhists would call it. Yet, for many readers to think of the soul ultimately as a limitation (a subtle obscuration to omniscience) and something to ultimately be transcended itself is tantamount to blasphemy and at the least very distasteful. After all, the soul is seen in religions as the highest and best part of ourselves, that which is of God and returns us to the divine. Again, both views are true and valid depending upon one's perspective.
To clarify the matter and give the mystery of the soul its due place, the path of the soul is the path of the bodhisattva the great beings whose only thought and purpose is to relieve the sufferings of each and every sentient being. A bodhisattva lives fully within the light supernal, yet cares not for it, instead being motivated solely by the desire to be of service to those who still suffer. Yet, in that service they attain the goal they wish for every suffering being full enlightenment. Thus, we have the aphorism of Capricorn: "Lost am I in light supernal, yet on that light I turn my back." Capricorn reveals to us the leviathan (the true animal associated with the sign) of our self-grasping the three sufferings (suffering of suffering, suffering of change, and the all-pervasive suffering of conditioning) and shows us the path away from it. Rather than seeing the soul as a subtle obscuration, then, perhaps a better way of viewing it is as a path (or if you like, a being) which leads one to enlightenment. With respect to one's spiritual path, the soul is 'the way, the truth and the light', the Christ/Bodhisattva within each of us, and that is no small thing and definitely not something simply to be dismissed as 'non-existent'.
What of the experience of the Capricorn type, then - one who has either the Sun or Ascendent in Capricorn? Capricorn is said to rule the best and the worst of humanity. It is the cult of personality and the way away from it. It rules over both worldly and other-worldly attainments. In its lower phase its expression is "Let ambition rule" and it then becomes the inverse reflection of the higher aspect of the sign and worldly in the extreme. The end goal before any Capricorn native is some sort of sustained contact with the higher parts of themselves if they are clearly on the spiritual path. One could say the attainment of Capricorn is fixity upon higher goals. If one is a practiced meditator, then clearly the goal is the union of calm-abiding and insight. In general, one might say that the goal for Capricorn in general is to exhibit all that is the best within us and to sustain that on a daily basis, as much as one can. This can be particularly difficult for Capricorns, for the general trend is for them to make themselves comfortable in the world and then turn their attention elsewhere. In the end, the major realization to come for the average Capricornian is that no worldly attainment ever brings lasting happiness and often brings quite the opposite. This realization that satisfaction breeds only discontent - is the catalyst that will lead them to the door of higher wisdom.
To close this discussion, one sometimes encounters great spiritual teachers who are Capricorn types and they are indeed exemplary of the highest aspects of the sign. The hardness of the Capricorn gives way to the sweetness of bliss and then the joy of Venus (as the highest ruler of the sign) shines through. The path of seeing is sometimes called the 'path of joy', after all, and such a teacher exudes the joy that comes from seeing his/her charges overcome their illusions and step firmly onto the path of return. They can be hard taskmasters, especially in their earlier years, being harder on themselves than on their students, but the rewards from being associated with such a person far outweigh any discomfort, for their motives are, in the end, only care for the student. The highest Capricorn is an incarnate bodhisattva, a mahatma, and to come under their care and tutelage is a blessing beyond measure. With that, how does this full moon look in terms of what has been considered in the preceding paragraphs?
The full moon of the Capricorn Festival 2011 takes place on 20 Jan 2011 at 8:21 AM AEDT (10:21 PM UT, 19 Jan 2011). The figure itself is a rather easy affair this time. The Sun conjoins Mars in opposition to the Moon, the Sun/Mars conjunction also being sextile to the Jupiter/Uranus conjunction, making an 'easy opposition'. This basic pattern gives the essential energetics of the chart: great energy, the possibility of sublime insight, a definite urge toward freedom and better conditions of consciousness and plenty of 'opportunities' thrown into the mix. Mars aligned with the Sun always predisposes, shall we say, 'energetic' responses or reactions to circumstance and brings about those situations that tend to break down barriers. The Sabian symbol for the solar degree reads:
A secret meeting of men responsible for executive decisions in world affairs. 30 Cap.
In this rather ominous sounding symbol we have the allusion to 'inner government', and this can be for good or ill. Conspiracy theorists will immediately be drawn to the side of this symbol which could mean secret societies, black ops and the whole range of such possibilities, but the dynamics of the full moon figure would appear to represent something different. The world is in a point of crisis economies failing, the US dollar on the way to being replaced as the world's dominant currency (yes, it is happening, and quickly), major environmental impacts and disasters, etc. Yes, there will be many meetings among world leaders behind closed doors, and there need to be. The public needs positive guidance and information. More than that, however, this symbol is an allusion to retreating inward and having, shall we say, a private conversation with oneself. Who runs the ship? Is it our limited sense of things or is it the wider view of the higher nature? That is what each of us needs to decide, and then take appropriate action. The symbol for the degree of the Moon is in counterpoint to this and reads:
A Daughter of the American Revolution. 30 Can.
For those readers who are not familiar with it, the 'Daughters of the American Revolution' is a lineage-based women's organization dedicated to the preservation of history, promoting patriotism and education, specifically regarding the preservation of the values of all those who fought for American independence. Their motto is "God, Home and Country" and their membership is drawn from women who can claim direct ancestry from those who were directly involved in the American Revolutionary War and those who supported it. That being said, the organization places a sort of halo of moral respectability around people who were at the time thought of as revolutionaries, rabble-rousers, social malcontents and who would have been labelled in those days as criminals and 'terrorists'. Now, I am not casting aspersions on the organization or what it stands for. On the contrary, the seeds of revolution are once again strongly in the air. People are not happy with their governments or social orders in many parts of the world. There have been riots, and there will be more - and bigger - to come. Do we glorify the past or do we see the original ancestors who fought in and around the Revolutionary War as having things in common with ourselves now?
More than that, do we rest on the laurels of our past achievements in overcoming difficulties and limitations (thinking strictly personally here) and think of the 'glory days', content that we have done our bit and need do no more, or do we remember how we were in those times and seek to do even more when similar situations arise in the future? The higher nature within us calls on us to revolt periodically against our personal limitations. It is good to have the memories associated with achievement, but it is not a good thing to glorify or bask in those memories. We must always evolve and move. In the combination of these two symbols we see a potent combination that speaks of coming change, revolutionary tendencies and changes in the world order. It is all very Pluto-in-Capricorn, is it not?
As for the remainder of the figure, there is not much in it. Saturn is unaspected, pointing to a lack of ambition and a sort of wild-card with respect to the karmic implications to come, whatever they may be. Venus is not in major aspect either, so relationships will be a bit difficult to cement under the auspices of this figure. Mercury is conjunct Pluto, though, meaning negotiations between people can get rather heavy and pointed at times and also indicates talks between powerful people. Neptune and Chiron are linked to the Moon, meaning that women can have a powerful role to play in negotiations and the processes of healing in the world. In fact, I would say the role of women will be significantly increased in the coming years and very much needed as well.
As is always the case with people, it is the recognition that we are somehow limited that brings us to action, that moves us toward liberating ourselves from that. And, as is always the case, the soul is behind the urge toward better conditions, toward the movement of the person away from worldly affairs and onto the path that releases one from suffering. As we have heard so many times, there is much these days to warrant our movement onto the path of the soul, so much suffering in the world. It has always been thus, but we are in a state of affairs now where the travail of the suffering is brought to us in an instant, and constantly repeated to us if we are immersed in media. Does this frighten us and send us to feelings of depression, or do we feel inspired to help? As was stated earlier, our true orientation is always shown in times of crisis. For those who rise to the need at hand in spite of their own sufferings or misgivings, the soul of the person shows its light. For those who shrink in the face of need, then time and karma's hammer will eventually bring them to the soul's door. Capricorn marks both types - those who respond and those who shrink away. In these times before us let us dig deep and see what truly reveals itself to us, and may we see and stand beside each other as those who stand ready in assistance.
Happy New Year to you all!
16 Jan 2011
Footnote: It is said that dharma is that which dispels illusions. In that regard I have received emails from a few of you questioning one that is going around about the astrological signs being wrong, that they are actually a sign out, in other words, that we are actually entering the Age of Pisces rather than Aquarius. I can assure you that is not the case. The vast majority of astrologers use what is called the tropical zodiac, which is based upon the seasons and not the constellations themselves. So, the northern vernal equinox is always the start of the sign Aries, no matter what century or millennium one is/was/will be in. True, the signs were based in meaning initially on their corresponding constellations, but because of irregularities in the Earth's orbit the relationship between signs and constellations shifts over the centuries. I think the truth of the matter is actually locked in the relationship between the length of daylight hours and human consciousness, a pattern that was set in far-gone ancient times and will persist as long as there are humans on this Earth. So, don't worry. If you were born a Leo, let's say, you remain a Leo in temperament, regardless of what astronomers or sceptics say. It is all part of the grand illusion, but it serves to take us where we need to go. It is said that astrology is based, curiously enough, on illusion (due to the precession of the equinoxes), but then again, much of science is based upon its own illusions as well. Science and astrology both work. Go figure.