Myths, symbols and images, along with the worlds of music, art and dance play an important role in our approach to the mysteries of the withiness of things. They help keep the mind fluid, open, creative, divergent so that we can see into the spaces between things and can better perceive relationships of synthesis, interdependence and wholeness. Mind is the most wonderful element of our being - but it is not the only or the sole way of knowing. Mind, or rather intellect, helps us to refine, fix and define our understandings - but mind can also slay the real. The challenge for we human beings is to keep our eyes on the distant horizon of wisdom, understanding and love - as we do this the mind can help us to get there IF we can train it to respect and value the rich resources of heart.
So let's work with this thought as we seek to align with the energies of this Cancer full moon, and to explore the opportunities they bring for the evolution of consciousness. To begin - consider the swan. Think of the swan in flight. It is most common to see a family of swans, a group, flying in harmony, together. Swans are large birds. Think of the physicality of the muscular system that drives those huge wings; that keeps the body in flight; think of the long, beautiful neck stretched out. And think of the images of calm, of grace and serenity of a family of swans on the water, at rest, at play. Think too, of the warrior swan, defending her young.
This gives us a sense of the bird outside of time and space - the graceful, elegant, sublime Soul who is our Self; who descends into time and space, acquiring muscle, learning through family and experience about joy and pain, about conflict and ultimately about the work of building harmonies within time and space.
We are like this - birds essentially outside of time and space, yet immersed in time and space to develop subtle and not so subtle muscles and senses, and, in the process, to play our part in the redemption and making sacred of the world.
So can we for a moment remember ourselves as a vast group of birds outside of time and space; flying in formation; a picture of beauty and harmony within the gaze of a host of Great Beings.
The Cancer energies speak to us of our beginnings when we had little sense of individuality, and found our identification in our family, our school companions, our friends and workmates, drinking partners and in the waves of emotions that flow through communities. It is an important part of human experience, to be reacting and responding to instinct and to others around us. We may belittle those who appear to us to be totally immersed in the mass consciousness - yet it is the ground, basic human experience. It is where we all start from, and because it lies within our memory it is an experience that we can understand and relate to. From this ground level of humanity we begin to be engaged in the process of becoming 'me', separated out from the 'herd', and then later we find ourselves challenged to become more identified with 'the Work' of nourishing the good, the beautiful and the true.
The evolutionary opportunities of Cancer concern the initial sensitivities of the individual and of the group to intuitive perception. There is a simple story that tells us about this. It is one of the stories of Hercules - the forerunner of the heroic human being. The idea of heroism that is so beautifully captured in the myth is very relevant to us, today. We live at a time when everything seeks to deconstruct heroes. We like to know that figures who have been admired, public figures, have feet of clay. Biographers aim to get behind the public perception of these figures and they know that they will sell more of their books if they can unearth a juicy scandal. We might say that this reveals the humanistic character of modern culture. And this would be true. Yet surely knowing that some famous figure has feet of clay actually enhances their heroism. We see that they are like us, that they have a shadow side, that as people with desires, emotions, glamours and illusions they have made significant contributions to the evolution of thought and society. It is not much help to have god-like figures as our models. How can we live up to such heroes? We need heroes who we can relate to.
The Hercules stories need to be viewed in this light - as stories depicting the human being, with feet of clay, who is inspired to do great things and to pioneer fresh insights. One of the primary themes of the cycle of tales is that this archetypal human being is heroic because of his ability to learn and grow in response to challenges and tests. He is a learner - and the Great Ones give him situations in which he will learn quickly and fulfill his potential to grow.
In Cancer the challenge is to move beyond the instinctual forces of memory that guide the infant human being and to sense the reality of universal truths which lie deeply embedded within. This is all about developing an 'obedience to the heart', an awakening to 'the fullness of wisdom' and to a right response to the 'power to chose'.
The story tells of Hercules being shown on the horizons of his consciousness a slender, golden doe - a beautiful young deer. He sees this image within himself and is immediately captured by its beauty. At the same time he hears two voices within. Artemis, goddess of the moon, a hunter with bow and arrow cries out that the doe is her prey and hers alone. Diana, goddess of the sun, is also a hunter, and when she sees the doe she claims it as hers.
Hercules listens to the two voices - to the argument between the hunters of sun and moon, each claiming the right to hunt this object of exquisite beauty. But then he hears another voice which speaks directly to him. It tells him that the doe belongs to neither Artemis nor to Diana - but that he, Hercules, must rescue it from their competing arrows and must take it to a place of safety in the temple of the sun god.
This is the task of the heroic human being - and to be modern and humanistic about it, it is our task. We, modern human beings, are on the path of the hero. We, with our feet of clay, with our shadows and insecurities are called by our times to respond to the vision of the golden hind; beautiful in its wholeness and in its vitality and livingness. To capture this vision, to fix it within ourselves, and then know it in its universal, sacred fullness - this is our calling.
Back to the story. For a whole year our hero chased the doe - it was a hopeless search because Artemis and Diana wove spells to obscure his vision and distract him. He would get a glimpse of his prey escaping into dark woods - and then he would again be lost. Yet he persisted. And through this ability to keep on keeping on, never to give up the chase, he finally succeeded. The doe was exhausted and Hercules finally came across her sleeping, lying in the grass, stretched out beside a pond. He sent an arrow gently into her foot, and the doe quietly waited while he walked towards her, bent down, picked her up and held her close to his heart.
It is an image of purity, innocence and beauty held to the heart of the hero. Again he heard the voices of Artemis and Diana - both laying claim to his prize. But he responded: "the doe is mine".
And then another stronger voice. "The doe does not belong to you Hercules. Carry it to the shrine of the Sun God". But, he protested, "I won this prize after endless searching and now I hold it close to my heart. It is mine".
And the stronger voice: "You are a son of God. And the shrine of the Gods is also your shrine. You share the life of all who dwell within. Bear to the shrine of God the sacred doe, and leave it there."
Hercules obeys. At the shrine, in the presence of the Lord, the doe is laid down in the holy centre. Artemis again lays her claim:
The doe is mine and always has been mine. I saw its form reflected in the water; I heard its feet upon the ways of earth; I know the doe is mine, for every form is mine.
The Lord replied that the spirit of the doe rests with the divine for all eternity - this is its home, its place of rest. Diana, seeing the body of the doe lying in the shrine, assumed the animal was dead and asked why should Hercules be allowed into the holy shrine when he had slain this most beautiful creature.
And here is the essence of this tale, in the Lord's reply, and in Hercules final comment:
The Lord of Life: Hercules bore the doe within his arms, close to his heart, and in the holy place the doe finds rest, and so does man. All men are mine. The doe is likewise mine, not yours, nor man's, but mine.
Hercules: I have fulfilled the task, set by the great Presiding One. Simple it was, except for length of time and wariness of search. I listened not to those who made their claim, nor faltered on the Way. The doe is in the holy place, close to the heart of God and likewise, in the hour of need, close to my heart also.
This simple story is, in one sense, a story about the human quest for the divine truth which lies within, the golden doe. It is a story of persistence and of listening to the heart and being guided by one's sense of beauty. Again and again, we are told, we human beings must seek out the golden fawn we sense on the horizons of our consciousness, and bear it to the holy place.
This is a high picture of the intuition we are given here. It is truly the purified, reasoning, redeemed essence of instinct. Instinct is an animal like knowing. It comes from memory; ancient memory; and from the mindless open use of the senses. We human's have the ability to know directly the golden doe - in other words to see into the mind of God. This potential haunts us on the path and is like the elixir that leads us on. The story is about the role the heart plays in this search - it gives us persistence; it gives us courage; it keeps the dream alive; and it ultimately gives us certain tools of discrimination for it helps us to hear the note of a higher love or to smell the perfume of truth or to sense the note of the good. And it is these Cancerian sensitivities that we need to guide the mind and to govern the intellect if we are to ensure that the intellect will become an aid in the quest to find the doe, hold her to our heart and carry her to the safety of the inner shrine.
The keynote for Cancer used in world service meditations by a variety of groups at this time is: 'I build a lighted house and therein dwell'. And this is the work of societies and communities in our time. We are on a path to make lighted, and good the fields of relationship (communities, economics, politics, international relations etc) - history is about making human living a shrine, and a space where the note of the divine is reflected and sounded. This requires that all who are sensitive to the vision of the golden doe, take to heart the seriousness of the search and recognise that in so far as they develop their sensitivity to universal truth, and anchor this within the shrine of their own lives they will be making a heroic contribution to the evolution of their community and of humanity as a whole. It all sounds so grand - like some great dream - and yet it needs to be understood in simple, humble ways; more human, more about daily living; more about how we experience our lives than about grandiose ideas of world peace and plenty.
Right now, there is, I believe, a moment in history that demonstrates beautifully this energy of building a lighted house. It is the remarkable coalescing of circumstances and of heroic leadership that is creating the groundswell of intent to make a difference in the fight against poverty in Africa and in climate change. Leadership from, amongst others, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, Bono, Bob Geldoff, Nelson Mandela needs to be celebrated. All is being orchestrated to build up to the G8 Summit in Edinburgh in July - and leading on to the Summit of World Leaders at the UN in September focussed on a review of the Millennium Development Goals. Already, as a part of this movement, the EU has committed to achieving the goal of allocating .7% of GNP to development aid by 2015. Already, as a part of this movement, World Bank and IMF debt has been cancelled for several African countries. In July the energy will build - consider this timetable of events:
FRIDAY, JULY 1: INTERNATIONAL WHITE BAND DAY 1. Across the globe, in the South and in the North, millions of people will wear a white band as an act of solidarity against poverty and call for world leaders to do more to eradicate poverty.
SATURDAY JULY 2: LIVE 8 CONCERTS IN LONDON, PARIS, BERLIN, ROME, PHILADELPHIA. 100 artists, a million spectators, 2 billion viewers, and 1 message... To get those 8 men, at the G8 Summit, to stop 30,000 children dying every single day of extreme poverty. The concerts mark the start of the Long Walk to Justice.
THURSDAY, JULY 6: EDINBURGH 50,000 - THE FINAL PUSH. As the g8 leaders fly into Gleneagle's a very special event at Edinburgh's Murrayfield Stadium will signal the end of the Long Walk To Justice and the beginning of the G8 Summit.
10 SEPTEMBER: INTERNATIONAL WHITE BAND DAY 2.
Live Aid was big - in many ways it changed history. The Make Poverty History campaign and the Live 8 events accompanying will be much 'bigger' and more targeted. Search the web for information in your own country or check out: http://www.makepovertyhistory.org/
How appropriate that this mass campaign, with carefully targeted, achievable aims should be being planned now, under the influence of this Cancer full moon with its keynote: I build a lighted house and therein dwell.