It’s been a long, hard winter, with major ice storms and record breaking snowfall in the northern states east of the Rockies and thermometers plummeting as far south as the Gulf Coast region here in the US for the past several months, so the Spring Equinox, marking the official end of winter, is welcomed with more than the usual amount of enthusiasm this year.
From an astrological perspective, the Spring Equinox marks the moment the Sun moves from the last degree of Pisces to the first degree of Aries. The chart for the 2014 Equinox on March 20th shows this movement occurring on the cusp between the 10th and 11th houses. What this suggests is movement away from “business as usual” into a heightened sense of global community. This is especially true when you consider that the keynote message for the first degree of Aries is one of rebirth: “A woman rises from the ocean,” representing the first moment of true self-awareness for our species.
Other clues for this coming year can be found in the keynote messages for the Midheaven and Ascendant moments in the 2014 Spring Equinox chart. The Midheaven at 11 degrees Pisces describes an inner ordeal experienced by every true seeker, leading to “God-revelation,” while the Ascendant at 27 degrees Gemini speaks of forgiveness of all debt and the release from collective pressures that have become impossible to bear. Underscoring the interrelated themes of individual and collective awakening, the asteroid Astraea, symbolizing the Greek goddess of justice, sits atop the chart at 9 degrees Pisces, overseeing a year during which the highest ideals of humanity may arrive at a much-needed and long-anticipated culmination point.
Putting all this in context, it’s important to note that both Mars and Saturn, plus the major asteroid, Vesta, are all retrograding at the time of the 2014 Spring Equinox and for many months to follow. From the vantage point of the earth, this means they appear to be backing up, as if to reinvestigate and reevaluate the cataclysmic events of recent years. This is especially true of Saturn, the planet of soul responsibility and karmic justice.
Adding to the weightiness and significance of this time, the fifth in a series of seven Uranus square Pluto events (spanning the time period from June, 2012, through March, 2015) will occur on April 21, forming an extremely powerful and potentially revolutionary Cardinal Cross in the heavens, with Mars and Jupiter taking up the remaining two points of the Cross. This configuration points to the activation of the fifth chakra, related to the throat and issues of free speech, especially here in the US, since Jupiter at 13 degrees Cancer exactly conjuncts the Sun in the birth chart for the United States.
When you consider that the astrological ley lines for all four of these powerhouse planets converge in the area of Fukishima, Japan, the site of an ongoing nuclear power plant melt-down, which continues to spew high levels of radiation into the ocean and air currents directly impacting the United States, a picture begins to emerge of one possible crisis that may precipitate the impending global economic collapse this year, not to mention the need to exercise one’s freedom of speech in calling for the forgiveness of all fraudulent debt worldwide.
Putting all this in an even wider context, the last time we experienced a series of Uranus square Pluto transits in Aries and Capricorn, respectively, was during the decade immediately preceding the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War, fought to overthrow the shackles of economic tyranny and injustice, in general. Sound familiar?
In the year 2025, the United States will experience its first and possibly only Pluto Return at 27 degrees Capricorn. This astrological event could well mark the true and final end of the American Empire, which is, unfortunately and ironically, what we have become on the world stage. In the meantime, we are in the throes of the ultimate identity crisis, one that requires us to suspend business as usual and face the inner ordeal of every true seeker, mentioned above.
We accomplished a revolution before. We are being called to do it again, but this time through nonviolent means, through withdrawing our energy and support en masse from institutions and enterprises that no longer serve the greater good, if, indeed they every did, having been coopted by unseen forces intent upon our complete enslavement.
The shift that is occurring is a birth process and birth is always messy, though the new species that emerges through a necessary leap in consciousness is well worth the effort. We can do this. We can become a “new order” of human beings (not to be confused with the New World Order), which some are calling “homo luminous.” In the process, we will become beloved members of a new global community, co-created from the bottom up in alignment with the natural workings of our planet, our galaxy and our universe.
Romantic love is often considered frivolous, even silly. But what if true, wildly passionate, fiercely romantic love – not the overly-domesticated, highly-sentimentalized and ultimately impoverished version that often passes for same – is the eternal flame that blazes at the very heart of creation, fueling everything that is holy in our world? And what if two brave-hearted souls, engaged in the fiery dance of romantic (with a capital R) intimacy and transparency with one another, are at the cutting edge of evolution, not just for the human species, but for the entire universe in which we live, going all the way back to the Big Bang and beyond?
Finally, what if God has never been simply a singularity, but has always been a most sacred duality, an eternal dance of twin flame lovers, held within the singularity – a “first couple,” if you will? And what if this great God/Goddess duo dreamt each of us into existence through the ultimate act of sacred sexuality an eternity ago? Could it not be that having dreamt each of us into existence in this way, they might now need us to awaken from the dream, in and through our twin flame relationships with our most significant others, in order that they might fully awaken, as well?
To the Greeks, this most exalted of unions is known as hieros gamos: the alchemical marriage of sacred masculine and feminine principles, of the God and Goddess within. Taoists describe it as the perfect balance of yin and yang polarities, while in Tantric Buddhism it’s commonly known as yab-yum, and depicted as two equilateral triangles overlaying one another to form a perfectly balanced, six-pointed star mandala.
In the major arcana of the Tarot, the divine union is symbolized by the Lover’s Card, likewise associated with the number six. In the realm of archetypal mythology, it’s typically represented by the Tree of Life with two kundalini snakes coiling up its trunk. At the intersection of sacred geometry and quantum physics, it’s known as the vector equilibrium or double torus, with its ubiquitous black hole/white hole pairings. In Jungian terms, it’s the syzygy of anima and animus. To a computer programmer, the binary code. To a geneticist, the double helix that comprises our very DNA.
These days, the human species is surfing a very steep evolutionary wave, as the process of collective awakening is intensifying and accelerating on all fronts. It goes without saying that when you find yourself poised at the apex of a tsunami, it’s important to keep your balance at all costs and this is precisely what is required and accomplished through the sacred marriage of inner masculine and feminine Selves.
The astrological chart for Valentine’s Day shows energies aligning to help facilitate the highest expression of romantic love, as described above. First, notice the beautiful symmetry along its vertical axis with a six-pointed star as its centerpiece (in purple), connecting the ruling planet Mercury (messenger of the Gods/Goddesses) with the Sun (one’s Higher Self), the South Node (past-life inheritance), the Moon (one’s Soul, deeply felt emotions and capacity for intimacy), Mars (the Spiritual Warrior archetype) and the North Node (one’s destiny). Added to this potent mix are several Asteroids associated with romantic love: Cupid (the God of desire and erotic love), Magdalene (representing Mary Magdalene, whom many consider the twin flame of Christ), and Hera (aka Juno, the Goddess of sacred marriage, no less).
The fixed star Regulus (courageous heart of the Lion, nobility, sovereignty) completes the message delivered through the spinning portal of the six-pointed star, from the heavenly realm of the original couple, the great God/Goddess who first dreamt us into existence, straight to our Higher Selves. In a nutshell: Rest assured that we draw upon soulful lessons learned and enlightened qualities cultivated in past lives, as well as our most deeply felt emotions, our lion-hearted courage, the archetype of the Spiritual Warrior and the considerable resources made available by the many Gods and Goddesses associated with romantic love, in order to fulfill our twin flame destinies at this time.
Underscoring this message are three overlapping Swords of Truth (the orange isosceles triangles) – representing great focus, clarity, wisdom and truth telling – all of which share the Moon and fixed star Regulus (the sovereignty and nobility of the Soul) with the sacred geometry of the six-pointed star (sacred marriage).
Other planets informing these Sword of Truth formations are Saturn (karma, cause and effect), Pluto (transformation, death and rebirth), Uranus (the revolutionary impulse for freedom, lightning strikes of intuition) and last, but certainly not least, Venus (the Goddess of Love, herself). Rounding out this picture of wildly passionate, fiercely romantic love, are Mesopotamian versions of Venus, Astarte and Ishtar, plus the fixed star Alcyone (the great Mother Sun of our galaxy).
Let this message of empowerment and hope go forth to all who have BIG love in their hearts and an unrelenting, unstoppable desire for completion on this Valentine’s Day, 2014. Let your hearts be like magnets for those you would seek to attract in accordance with your soul’s deepest yearnings.
When you answer the call of your soul in the affirmative and begin the transition from ordinary life into Act II of your Hero’s Journey, there will be those who will show up as allies to help you make the transition and those who will show up as adversaries, attempting to block your path and, thereby, test your strength and resolve. Joseph Campbell referred to the former as Mentors and the latter as Guardians of the Threshold.
Guardians of the Threshold
Since embarking on your Hero’s Journey and successfully engaging in the process requires that you be on intimate terms with the full depth and breadth of your very human emotions, it is often people who are uncomfortable with their own feelings, especially those involving vulnerability, who will try to stop you in your tracks as you’re attempting to cross the threshold into Act II.
In my case, it was two of my siblings who functioned in the role of “The Grief Police,” as I referred to them at the time. From them, I typically heard things like, “Dad’s been dead for ten years now. Get over it!” and “Stop wallowing!” My mother functioned as a threshold guardian, too, at times, though with the best of intentions, no doubt expressing her own ancestral wounding when she counseled me to keep my head down and my dreams small. Otherwise, she said, “You’ll become a target and people will attack you.” A very strong anti-intellectual bias prevailed in my maternal family tree, as well. Consequently, every step I took in the direction of cultivating my intellect felt like a huge act of betrayal.
I quickly learned it wasn’t safe to let my guard down and be myself with my family, in general, so I stayed away for many years, focusing instead on the relationships that allowed me to be bold and live my biggest, most outside-the-box dreams.
Meeting the Mentors
Mentors come in all shapes and sizes, in human form and otherwise. Ultimately, they serve as midwives as you travel down the birth canal and are reborn into a more authentic, soul-centered life. In my own case, there were two people, in particular, who played the role of mentor for me during the transformation I underwent in my mid-twenties. The first was the spiritual teacher, Ram Dass, whose bestselling classic Be Here Now was a complete revelation, reminding me of everything I had always known but somehow forgotten.
I didn’t become aware of Be Here Now until 1977, but once I was exposed to Ram Dass’ eloquent words of wisdom and shining example, it quickly became a life line for me, a New Age Bible of sorts, inspiring me with the courage and insight I needed in order to take my first tentative steps forward, into the life I was destined to live. If Ram Dass could wake up to the present moment in such a radical way, I knew it was possible I might do the same.
The second and even more significant mentor was my beloved professor of Asian Religions at the University of Oregon, Dr. Hee-Jim Kim. I had the good fortune to become acquainted with professor Kim at the age of 25, shortly after the mystical awakening I described in my previous blog. Seeking to understand that profound experience, I had been guided eventually to his Intro to Zen Buddhism class. Sitting in the front row listening intently to his description of the teaching of “dependent co-origination,” my mind and heart exploded once again and I knew I had found my spiritual home.
For the next eight years, through the many ups and downs of my undergrad and grad school days as a Religious Studies major at the U of O, professor Kim was my touchstone. I took every class he taught, spent hours in his office asking probing questions, was his teaching assistant for two years, and, ultimately, edited two of his books, both classics in the field of Zen Buddhist studies. At his urging, I even took up meditation and spent a year on a foreign exchange program, studying and practicing Zen in Japan.
In retrospect, I realize I finally, fully settled into the main act of my Hero’s Journey sometime in my late twenties. By then, I had said YES to the call of my soul consistently and insistently enough that I had reached the point of no return. I had demonstrated my commitment. I had walked my talk. There was no going back.
Since then, many other allies and adversaries have made appearances on the stage of my personal story, all of them delivering messages and life lessons that have helped shape the person I have come to be. Those who presented themselves during that tenuous and treacherous Crossing of the Threshold moment, however, are the most worthy of note, which is why they warrant their own blog, along with their special designations as Mentors and Guardians.
(Stay tuned for my next blog on Act II: Trials and Triumphs.)
Trials and Triumphs, Allies and Adversaries
You’ve finally arrived in the second act of your Hero’s Journey, having definitively and affirmatively answered the call. You’ve dug way down into your soul, endured the intense pressure of the birth canal process, and been reborn into an entirely new level of being. Soon, you’re staggering around like a drunken sailor/infant taking your first steps and struggling to get your bearings in this brave new world. You may have lost a lot of friends in the process of crossing over from your old life to your new one, and some who knew you before may not even recognize the person you’ve become. You may not even recognize yourself when you look in the mirror. Then again, you may actually recognize yourself for the first time.
This second act is typically a very long one, perhaps several decades in length, during which you will most likely experience many trials and triumphs, while encountering a colorful cast of allies and adversaries along the way. The most important lesson during this phase is that no matter how challenging and even heartbreaking the conditions and circumstances with which you are confronted, you always have a choice regarding how you respond to the moment. You can make choices that are empowering, ennobling and redemptive or abdicate responsibility for your soul’s journey through this life, making choices that are self-abandoning and disempowering. Most likely, you will do quite a bit of both, especially in the early stages of the journey.
Since this is the arena of free will, and “practice makes perfect,” you get to practice making choices over and over again. Be kind and compassionate with yourself throughout this process. Ask for help from your friends and allies, including, and perhaps most especially, those of the supernatural variety. Draw strength from the myriad empowering archetypes available to you. Learn to invoke and embody them.
Also, as much as possible, learn to see your adversaries as allies in disguise, admittedly sometimes very convincing disguise. You may be victimized, as I believe most of us are by our current monetary system, for example, but you can still choose not be become a victim. Everything depends on how you relate to the experiences before you. Make the choice to never, under any circumstances, disconnect from your soul and your deepest possible knowing and guidance. Make the choice to not become embittered and defeated, to never close your heart, even while maintaining healthy boundaries and holding yourself and others accountable.
Dark Night of the Soul
At some point, you will likely experience a dark night of the soul. It’s pretty much inevitable. In fact, it may have been a dark night of the soul that accompanied your wake up call to begin with, propelling you into the second act of your journey. Take heart. This means you are actually making progress and nearing the end of Act II, despite any and all appearances to the contrary. As your eyes adjust to the dark and you surrender more fully into the experience, you eventually discover that you are, in fact, resting in the Womb of the Great Mother. This is, ultimately, a very nurturing place, designed to provide maximum comfort during a time when yet more of your familiar reference points and attachments are being stripped away.
Whatever is happening in your outer life at this time, it’s your inner life that is of utmost importance. The dark night of the soul is a major crisis of faith, during which absolutely everything is called into question. Buddhism refers to this momentous occasion as “The Great Doubt,” which necessarily precedes “The Great Awakening.”
We live in a world of duality, the yin/yang binary code of life. There is no escaping this and we wouldn’t really want to. It’s what gives life its dynamic interplay and, ultimately, its blissful experiences of Oneness. Earlier in our journey, due to cultural imperatives and the very structure of the brain, we likely experienced duality in the form of polarized opposition and contradiction: Spirit vs. matter; good vs. evil; intellect vs. feeling; masculine vs. feminine, etc.
At this point, however, we break through into a direct experience of the paradoxical nature of reality. We find ourselves perfectly poised and balanced on the head of the proverbial pin, a profoundly peaceful place where difference is not problematic, neither hardening into dogma and objectification, nor sliding into an obliterating form of unity consciousness. This is especially poignant in the area of male/female relations. After years of struggling to embrace and own all the disparate parts of ourselves, including those designated as masculine and feminine, we finally achieve a reconciliation of that which was previously experienced as irreconcilable. This sacred marriage on the inner plane is the ultimate awakening, which is often, though not necessarily, reflected outwardly in the meeting and marrying of one’s soul mate, or twin flame.
Crossing the Threshold
Having met the many challenges of life with your heart wide open and fully engaged, you’ve managed to cultivate a great deal of courage, compassion and clarity over the years. This has resulted in an awakening to your true self along with a resolution of false dichotomies, both within and without: a true sacred marriage. It is now time to pass through another major threshold, only this time in the opposite direction: back into the world from whence you came, the place you left behind when you answered the call of your soul.
From the outside, to those with an undiscerning eye, this may look like regression, but it is nothing of the sort. Instead, it is a higher order of rebirth, one that both transcends and radically includes all that has gone before. This reverse journey into immanence is motivated by the awareness that none of us are truly free until all of us are free. The Bodhisattva vow to work ceaselessly for the liberation of all beings comes from such a place of ultimate compassion. And, just as there were guardian associated with the previous threshold, attempting to block one’s passage down the birth canal, there are guardians again, insisting that you will surely fail in your mission, that it is impossible to adequately convey the understanding you seek to impart. Might as well just give up and hoard the bliss for yourself! But, that is not the path of return.
Returning Home with the Treasure
The return passage is a dangerous one. The ego, which has surrendered itself in service to the soul, runs the risk of being inflated by the beauty of the gifts it has cultivated and now seeks to offer. The ongoing practice of humility and gratitude is, perhaps, the best antidote for this tendency. We are each meant to share our gifts fully with the world, and until this is accomplished our journey is not complete.
(In subsequent blogs, I will apply the Hero’s Journey template to my own life in order to clarify how this process may be empowering for you on your own journey.)
We are all living mythic, archetypal lives – Hero’s Journeys – to one extent or another, whether we are aware of this fact or not. It goes with the territory of being both innately spiritual and imperfectly human. The more conscious and intentional we are on our journeys, the more empowered and heroic our lives will be, and the more likely it is that we will manage, against all odds, to fulfill our destinies. With so much at stake during this time of accelerated growth and collective awakening, it is crucial that we understand the lay of the land.
What follows is my understanding of this vitally important path to wholeness, acquired through almost six decades of life in a female body, spent primarily in the US, spanning the latter half of the 20th century and early part of the 21st. I’ve lived this journey full out, so what I have to share in this and subsequent blogs is very close to my heart and informed by direct experience.
Like any good story, there are three main acts to the Hero’s Journey: Act I) Ordinary life before receiving the call of your soul; Act II) Receiving the call and embarking on the great adventure of initiation, which, ideally, results in the cultivation of great courage, compassion and clarity along the way; and, Act III) Returning home with newly-acquired and hard-earned inner riches in order to make a positive, soulful contribution to the lives of loved ones and the greater human community.
Within the three main acts, there are several stages that are worthy of note, so I have described them below. Keep in mind that no two Hero’s Journeys are exactly the same, of course. In fact, you may say NO to your journey, altogether, skip some of its stages entirely, or even experience certain stages repeatedly, at increasingly deeper turns of your own unique evolutionary spiral.
Receiving The Call
The call can come at any time in almost any form. Typically, it waits until you’ve become an adult, though not necessarily. It can be something relatively subtle like a still, small voice within that whispers “Is this all there is?” or “What’s the point of all this?” or “You were born for something more than this.” More often, it comes in the form of a sudden, shocking occurrence, a seemingly worst case scenario: the unforeseen death of a loved one or the diagnosis of a terminal illness; a near-death experience; getting caught up in an extreme weather event or mass tragedy; an accident that causes you or someone you love serious injury; the discovery that your spouse has been unfaithful and wants a divorce; getting fired from your job; relocating to a foreign country whose language, culture and climate are very unfamiliar and unsettling to you; or losing your home during the housing market collapse, etc. It may even come in the form of something very positive that is, nonetheless, sudden and shocking, such as falling in love with a soul mate or experiencing a profound mystical awakening. There are also ways your soul may call out to you slowly and repeatedly over time: a chronic illness; the gradual dissolution of your marriage; growing dissatisfaction with your work; the aging process; children growing up and leaving home; or increasing awareness of the suffering and injustice in the world, etc.
Refusing the Call
When you first receive the call to awaken into a more soulful life, the tendency is to hit the snooze button and go back to sleep. There are many ways to rationalize this initial refusal, for example: “I can’t afford to take the time off from work right now.” or “I need to make a living.” or “People will think I have lost my mind!” or “It’s too hard and I’m not that special.” or “I’m just being self-indulgent. I need to buck up and be practical.” The bottom line, though, is that we initially say a big NO to our soul’s calling because on some level we know that saying a big YES would require everything we have and more. In order to eventually emerge from our relatively safe and comfortable cocoons as the beautiful butterflies we are meant to be, we must repeatedly undergo a process of surrender and dissolution, which feels a lot life death, at least from the perspective of the out-of-balance ego. If a caterpillar could speak, he’d tell you it’s not for the faint of heart.
Meeting the Mentors
During one of those times when you’ve hit the snooze button again but haven’t quite gone back to sleep, you may have the good fortune to meet or become aware of someone whose life is an inspiration to you. You may even begin intentionally seeking out and cultivating mentor relationships at this stage. These may be with people who are currently alive, people from the recent past or the history books whose life was the stuff of legends, even saints, avatars, enlightened teachers, or empowering mythological figures and archetypes. Through these shining examples, you catch the glimmer of a possibility and hold onto it for dear life.
Crossing the Threshold
The crossing of the threshold is definitely a birth canal experience, and like any birth, it’s unavoidably messy. On the verge of taking the leap into a new, more soul-centered way of life, forces will align to try to stop you in your tracks, thereby testing your resolve and strengthening your character for the long road ahead. You can count on this happening. It’s so predictable it’s become a cliché: the boss who tells you you’re making the biggest mistake of your life; the father who threatens to disown you; the husband who questions your sanity and withholds his affections; the child who throws a tantrum when you’re no longer selflessly available 24/7 to anticipate and meet her every desire. Often these “guardians of the threshold” express sentiments that mirror your own worst fears and self-sabotaging tendencies, and though they initially appear as adversaries, they may later morph into your biggest cheerleaders – but only once you have fully demonstrated an unwavering commitment to your new life path.
(to be continued…)