It’s Full Moon in Aries today – one moon phase that is turning out to be particularly intense, but also exceptionally interesting in a number of ways.
In today’s online world, the art of vigorous debate and respectful disagreement seems to have virtually vanished – there is no middle ground anymore. On social media, we’re inundated by a lot of self-indulgent and often banal opinions (many of them ill-thought-out or unsubstantiated) on one hand; and on the other, anyone demonstrating a willingness to engage in intelligent debate/conversation must be prepared to deal with: a) either being ignored by the majority of people who are just looking for easy entertainment, or b) being abused by those unwilling to constructively engage with/respectfully consider points of view different to their own without things descending into personal mudslinging or a spiral of conflict.
As the world becomes increasingly polarised and people become much less mindful of how they express themselves – or, indeed, cognisant of how their words/posts may affect others – such experiences seem to be becoming increasingly common, especially online. Something that my peace-loving but intellectual Libra Sun finds quite disturbing.
Freedoms such as the right to express yourself are important, but they should not come at the expense of other people’s mental wellbeing or personal dignity. There are no freedoms without responsibilities. We cannot simply throw out the social contract, or our humanity, just because we disagree with someone. Or, perhaps more to the point: set aside our empathy just because we no longer have to look someone in the eye before venting our spleen. To me, this is the lesson of the Aries Full Moon (which is, in effect, a coming together of the Libra Sun and Aries Moon): emotional freedom does not equal selfishness, bullying or rudeness. Nor does it equate to petty, childish and often passive-aggressive personal digs disguised as ‘critique,’ ‘art’ or ‘free speech’. In this respect, I think that Tristan Harris of the Center for Humane Technology is right – the biggest threat facing humanity behind climate change is not war or nuclear bombs but the downgrading of our humanity via technology addiction and algorithms. According to him, this ‘attention capitalism’ is making us nastier, more stupid and less likely to find common ground with others.
That being said, I do feel it is important to be able to disagree with others openly. Conflict is certainly one way to grow, to clear the air, to learn to appreciate differences. Indeed, as Steve Goodier, once said:
“We don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note. Only notes that are different can harmonize. The same is true with people.”
A sentiment I think the Pythagoreans would have agreed with wholeheartedly. But respectful conflict and constructive debate seems to be a dying art form. And in this respect, we do need to develop, or at least define, some rules for engagement. On this subject, I think astrology, Greek philosophy and a former lecturer of mine have quite a lot to teach us.
Astrology & The Concept of Polarity/Opposition
In astrology, difficult encounters/experiences are often reflected via transits marked by square and opposition aspects. These catalyse growth, either through struggle/creating uncomfortable friction (square), or via the reconciliation/balancing of opposites (opposition).
Of these two ‘angles’, it is the opposition that is the aspect par excellence of relationship. It divides the circle into two equal but completely different halves – the hemispheres of day and night, ruled by the Sun and Moon respectively. Which in and of themselves symbolise the primary dualities that exist in the cosmos – male /female, conscious/subconscious, active/passive etc
However, the important thing to bear in mind is that an astrological opposition links two polar opposite but equal points which differ but are on the SAME spectrum. (Some might say they resonate at the same frequency). Indeed, as we see so perfectly at Full Moon (when the Sun, Moon and Earth line up to form a straight line – 180 degree angle), it is through compromise – by finding middle ground = the mid-point on this line or spectrum, that the trinity/third thing/child is born.
This is the basis of creation in many forms of numerology. In Pythagorean sacred geometry, it is through the coming together, or harmonious union of binary opposites (the monad and the dyad which are akin to the yin and yang of Chinese cosmology) that the world (triad/trinity) is: a) created and b) stabilised.
And It is also the thinking behind midpoints in astrology – an old idea embedded in the so-called Arabic Parts used by Hellenistic astrologers – as well as phenomena such as the lunar nodes – the so-called head and tail of the dragon, – both of which are so wonderfully illustrated in this image taken from a notebook of Johannes Reuchlin’s which forms part of the Wellcome Collection.
We see a similar idea reflected in the DaodeJing about Chinese cosmology:
“The Tao gave birth to One.
The One gave birth to Two.
The Two gave birth to Three.
The Three gave birth to all of creation.
All things carry Yin
yet embrace Yang.
They blend their life breaths
in order to produce harmony.” (Lao Tzu, DaodeJing, Chapter 42)
The main difference though, between a lot of Western dualism and many oriental philosophies is that the latter make more allowances for difference – in fact, they demonstrate these poles as being necessary and a fundamental aspect of the nature of the cosmos – but, and this is the crucial bit, they do not feel the need to privilege one pole above another – it is more about cooperation, rather than competition. Walking the middle line – finding that third way or happy medium – something which the Greeks saw personified in a goddess called Harmonia (the antithesis of Discordia), who ironically enough, is described as being the daughter of Ares and Aphrodite in some versions of the myth!
Opposites Both Attract and Repel
And yet, there is sometimes no getting away from the fact that, fundamentally, two people or positions ARE different – literally poles apart. Like the signs of Aries and Libra. Indeed, Henry Coley, the English astrologer, wrote in his compendium that the opposition is the ‘Aspect of Perfect Hatred’. But then, as one clever Austrian psychologist wrote:
“There is no love without hate; and there is no hate without love. The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference; the opposite of feeling can only be the absence of feeling. Disinclination, which is coloured by feeling, often only serves the purpose of concealing and protecting oneself against an inclination. Love and hate must go hand in hand; and the people we love most we hate also, because hate is grounded in the nature of love.”
Indeed, the result of this friction is a great deal of energy and emotion, which has the power to ‘swing’ either way. Nonetheless, it is still generative, creative energy that must lead to some kind of alchemical reaction: both parties have the potential to affect/change both themselves and the other person. Something that I think is captured very well by this quote from Andreas Weber – a philosopher whose work I was introduced to by Patrick Curry – more on whom below.
“Being in the world is primarily an erotic encounter,
An encounter of meaning through contact,
An encounter of being oneself through the significance of others — humans, lovers, children, But also other beings, companions and competitors.”
Dialogue and Dialectical Forms of Learning
For centuries, the predominant way of learning within many wisdom traditions has been through dialectical discussion and debate, often between two people. The relationship between teacher and pupil, master and novice, guru and initiate, and even between an individual and his/her inner guide, is central to the process of acquiring and then testing out, the validity and veracity of important spiritual truths.
Platonism & Patrick Curry
Which brings me onto my own personal experiences. One of the people who has probably affected my thinking the most in the last few decades has been Patrick Curry, who served as one of my supervisors and lecturers when I was studying for my MA in Cosmology and Divination at the University of Kent.
(More on this in another post because I do think that he helped to question some of the assumptions I had about Platonic philosophy and see its potential pitfalls, especially when it comes to reconciling the question of duality and the feminine, embodied aspect – something I think can be a problem if you do not take a more nuanced approach to the subject).
But, no doubt, some of this tension also arises from the fact that our Suns sit at opposite ends of the zodiac spectrum. Here I feel it important to add that, in the true spirit of academic discourse, our differing views never affected our personal relationship, which was always amicable, if rather lively from time to time. I think this can be put down, in large part, to Patrick’s honesty, along with a remarkable ability, perhaps as a result of his Buddhist beliefs, to remain intellectually fluid, respectfully engaged and comfortable with complexity. As a result, he makes an excellent dialetical teacher.
“Wisdom begins in wonder”
“When the eye and the appropriate object meet together and give birth to whiteness and the sensation connatural with it, which could not have been given by either of them going elsewhere, then, while the sight is flowing from the eye, whiteness proceeds from the object which combines in producing the colour; and so the eye is filled with sight, and really sees, and becomes, not sight, but a seeing eye.”
Socrates therefore concludes that it is only through encounters/relationships between two equal subjects that anything can ever be truly seen or indeed, known. Indeed, he says:
“[Erotic love] is one of the three great threshold experiences in human life (so Hermes attends all): being born, dying and in-between, meeting another person in a way at once personally intimate and universal, even cosmic….The effect is the enchantment that results from participating in something larger, older and deeper than oneself.”
Amen to that!