The ancient Hindu and Buddhist scholars taught us that the external world is an illusion, Maya. Taken on an intellectual level, the concept is barely acceptable to anyone’s mind! We aren’t used to the notion that there’s no separation between ‘you’ and ‘me.’ In fact, the stability of our psychology rests on believing that this separation exists! In other words, the experience of reality as ‘oneness,’ can be really destabilizing. At its worst, it can take you off the deep end. So let’s be kind to ourselves, and allow ourselves to be comfortable with this as merely a concept, for just a little while in order to examine it here as it relates to astrology. (A short story about Maya: http://www.eeedesign.com/stories/Maya.html ).
The Nature of Reality: Advaita
‘Oneness’ as the nature of reality is described really well by Advaita. Advaita is a sub-school of Vedanta, a Hindu school of philosophy. Advaita says that there isn’t really a ‘you’ and a ‘me.’ There’s just one. All of consciousness, life, the totality of all things, is one. It is this understanding that is the essence of Advaita, nothing can be attained. The mere wish or desire for attainment or enlightenment shows a belief that there is a self that is separate from enlightenment, and this belief is incorrect according to Advaita.
Advaita, or Non-duality, is best explained at the following website named Endless Satang. http://endless-satsang.com/advaita-nonduality-oneness.htm. I strongly recommend you check it out before reading further. At this site, you will be walked through an experience of your hand that will help you get a better handle on what Advaita says about the nature of reality.
Perception and the Mind of Duality
Egoic consciousness means more than ‘I think that I am awesome.’ Ego is the way your brain/mind understands experience. It organizes reality into discrete parts with names or labels such as “me,” “you,” “this tree,” “my house,” etc. Ego is the perceiver that perceives these forms as discrete, separate, and distinct. There is also a cultural collective or cultural ego – the perceptions, beliefs, and notions of a society that are conscious and ‘acceptable’ including rules for behavior, reward…etc.
Duality itself is a construction of the small mind, or local mind– the limited mind (as opposed to the universal mind). Don’t write off the local mind too quickly though — it’s necessary. Virgo is ruled by the planet Mercury, the planet associated with the local mind, or immediate environment. In a person’s chart, the planet Mercury represents a person’s mental filter – the filter through which they perceive the world. It’s a neat thing 🙂 and a helpful thing – in its rightful place. (Stayed tuned, I’ll be writing more about Virgo and the upcoming new moon in Virgo on September 5th.)
Q & A
Question: Could there be more than one way of looking at the universe? I mean, if Advaita is the true nature of reality and Maya is the false nature of reality, does that mean that I should just forget one of two contradicting ideas and pick the true nature in order to find happiness or enlightenment?
Yes, we all look at the universe differently; and we are, indeed, extensions of it as well. Which means, we don’t need to deny our subjective realities.
If the egoic mind or the local mind of consciousness is the only difference between you, me, the planets, and everything under and beyond the sun, then it must be pretty important in some way – and in what way is that?
Would you be surprised if I told you many? In astrological terms, the planet Mercury represents the scribe, the text itself or message (not necessarily its meaning), short-distance travel, and data. In astrology, the planet Mercury describes the local mind, perception toward neighbors, siblings, and the person’s mental filter. The planet Uranus is its transcendent aspect, the Higher mind – and will not be discussed here directly.
The Bigger Picture
But for now, let’s get back to conceptualizing astrology, in terms of a bigger picture. If all is ONE, then wouldn’t it be the same for the planets and the stars, the Earth underneath our feet, and everything all around us? Oneness. No separation. No distinction between you, me, the moon, Mars, the Sun, or even a far away galaxy. Nevertheless, we perceive these discrete forms as separate in order to learn about the true source – in order to have recognition. Now, does that make any sense? What is a mirror other than glass with a silver backing along with some other treatments for adhesion? What is re-cognition but another cognition? So, in the bigger picture what we see as things that appear different really are just a reflection of the source of all things – and you are it. Everything is a symbol of You. The true Self. See Alan Watt’s, “You are IT”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6S2zzAIBFA
Let’s scale it back down again, while simultaneously opening it back up again, for a moment, so that we can “travel” to other, multiple dimensions of this one reality…forget astrology… it’s just a metaphor – or is it?
I highly suggest you check out this link from Nova because it really helps to get a look at what some scientists are theorizing right now, especially the mathematical concept of string theory. There have been some updates, as CERN is starting up again very soon – this spring 2015. It also helps you to understand where all this is going, and from whence it came. What science points to is a new way to view the universe http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/physics/imagining-other-dimensions.html. In fact, science isn’t really pointing out anything in particular, or conclusive; it’s really a just a method.
Is the difference between ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ really a matter of perspective, or are these just two of many dimensions? How much does scale or size matter in witnessing the tiny dimensions that string theory theorizes? http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20600-quantum-magic-trick-shows-reality-is-what-you-make-it.html#.UiTouNIqiSo This is a proverbial rabbit hole (or portal) and you will likely have fun! This is the stuff that scientists really can’t be certain about quite yet… but it’s hot, and researchers like Brian Greene are hot on the trail. There’s more to IT ALL! And, it hasn’t been disproved.
Archetypes as symbolic language
Beyond the symbolism of mathematics– what other symbolic way do we have to describe the many dimensions of the universe? What might they look like? Do these dimensions have unique perspectives?
An archetype is a construct, which means it is created (not real), and it is created not just by a local mind but by a cultural mind. Archetypes transcend time and space, and minds! You find archetypes in stories, mythology – among other places, like astrology. They are ancient, universal patterns that are sourced in the collective unconscious. The archetype communicates across cultural lines: the trickster, the hero, the maiden…etc. In fact, archetypes can even function all by themselves. Jung got some of his ideas from Kant, Plato, and other philosophers. He pulled a tremendous amount of archetypal data from mythology, from dreams, across cultures, and from his own experiences. These archetypal identities of old exist in every tradition – oral or written. Check out archetypal cosmology (http://www.archaijournal.org/) it’s a field of study that researches the correlations between “discernable archetypal patterns in human experience and the structural order within the solar system.”
We can all thank Carl Gustav Jung for the breath of his resources, in order to develop his own work around archetypes. He influenced so many different ‘alternative’ disciplines because – quite frankly, I believe he delved into all sort of disciplines to get his information. Even if much of what he observed and reconfigured fell upon deaf ears, similar ideas sure show up in other disciplines, from anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, ‘unconscious infrastructures,’ to linguist Noam Chomsky’s ‘deep structure’, to even biologist Edward Osborne “E. O.” Wilson’s observation of epigenetic rules – or behavioral constructs evolving over time. See the following link from a Guardian Commenter who noted these parallels in his article. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2011/jun/20/jung-archetypes-structuring-principles
The planets are archetypes
So how do archetypes fit into all this, and what do they have to do with astrology?
Check your experience. Honestly, check it out. The planets are archetypes. I don’t know the physics of how, nor can I pretend to. I can make other stories, though == planetary stories. Each planet has its own sort of energy or personality – Mars is passionate and fiery, while Saturn involves patience and discipline. One is fast and the other is slow. When I look at a chart – I can see a story as the planets (or energies or archetypes) interact. The story can go a lot of different ways, but there is something that’s the same – that is the archetypes. A hero is a hero is a hero. He sets out on a quest. We are all heroes in our own stories/journeys—just like we are all at the center of the wheel in our perception of the universe, and in an astrological chart. The central axis of the traditional astrological wheel is the earth – or “you.” Contemplate the center, which is your access point to all things. What I am pointing to in this article here is that your subjective experience is something to get to know as well as you can. People claim that Self-inquiry called Atma-vichara in Sanskrit, is the most important meditation practice in the Vedantic tradition. I’m not sure if I agree with that – as there are so many beautiful and fruitful practices. However, I do agree with the following statement from source below, and as many have been asking since their early years. “WHO AM I?”
The teaching of Self-inquiry is direct and simple, its literature is not as extensive as that of other yogic practices. In addition, the path of Self-inquiry demands a certain ripeness or readiness of mind that may require other practices to develop.
The process of Self-inquiry is so simple that it can be explained in a few words. To practice it you need only trace the root of your thoughts back to the I-thought, from which all other thoughts arise. This is initiated by the question “Who am I?”. By asking, “Who am I?” our thought current naturally gets focused on the search for the true Self and we forget about all other concerns and worries of the mind.
Mandala, an astrological chart
What is the practical application of the knowledge of archetypal symbology?
A mandala is a circle or circle-like structure. This symbol is used by just about every tradition under the sun — Navajo Indians, South Asian Indians, Tibetan monks, etc. It is used to represent an integrated view of the universe, and reminds us of our relationship with the totality of existence. An astrological chart functions like a mandala – it is a circular symbol, that when contemplated, helps our local minds “sit” more undisturbed in the universe. It unifies our experience of the archetypes, demonstrates the ease and tension in our psyche, gives us a viewpoint, and yields insight into the way we perceive ourselves in the universe. It can be a wondrous tool for your own evolution of consciousness –like a huge clock tracking repeating cycles of experience—and it helps us tie everything together in one beautifully integrated visual image, mandala. I’m so grateful for astrology! See this page for more on mandalas and for free mandalas that you can print out and color 🙂 http://www.unh.edu/health-services/ohep/spiritual-wellness/mandalas-spiritual-practice
Have fun with this stuff!
(Photo is Mandala plate of Buddha Amitayus (TIbet; 19 century. Pigments on cloth, mounted on wood. copyright Rubin Museum of Art))