Creating Harmonia between Opposites: Difference, Dialogue and Encounters with the Other

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.  

On a personal level, it has coincided with a series of synchronicities and developments that have proven to be both affirming and incredibly thought-provoking.
First of all, I have become deeply aware of how, in my own life, a large proportion of my intellectual and personal growth has been driven by conflict –  both the internal struggle of trying to reconcile opposing points of view within myself; as well as the tumultuous, often unsettling, emotions stirred up by encounters with people who are either very different to me or with whom I fundamentally disagree.

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.

For example, amongst the collection of texts known as the Corpus Hermeticum, a large proportion take the form of dialogues between mythical teacher figures such as Asclepius/Hermes and an unknown disciple. What is interesting is that, rather than simply being one-way ‘lectures’ from ‘wise knower’ to innocent pupil, they reveal themselves to be intimate two-way exchanges that have the power to change/affect both of the parties concerned.In this sense, they are both ‘gnostic’ (allowing for knowing through individual experience) and reciprocal – relationships in the purist (perhaps most Platonic) sense.

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.

Patrick is an Aries and in typical fashion, is not afraid of arguing or of saying things passionately or in a way that generates a stir. At the time I was studying, I found many of his ideas and views both polemical and jarring with my own, not least because of his seemingly irrational (in my view) hatred of Platonism (the irony of which will become apparent below).

(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.

And so, despite our initial ideological antipathy, it is the concepts and ways of thinking he introduced me to, that continue to stimulate and drive my thinking more than a decade on from graduating. Perhaps this is also because they are now so relevant to the current problems that plague modern times. The issues he cares about: ecology, the role of enchantment/fantasy/imagination in sustaining us spiritually in an increasingly shallow, disconnected and creatively bleak technological world and the magic/sacred as it is encountered in everyday life – seem to be more vital to our sanity (and indeed survival) than ever.
His new book, ‘Enchantment: Wonder in Modern Life’ offers some respite from what sometimes feels like an apocalyptic wasteland of species collapse, inept governments, increasing social alienation, scientism, literalism and modern slavery. It also reminds me of a quote by Socrates (another highly polemical and provocative individual):
“Wisdom begins in wonder”
Actually the correct translation is ‘philosophy begins in wonder’. But, what is philosophy but a love [phylos] of wisdom [Sophia]? There she is again – that goddess!
Taken from a Platonic dialogue about the nature of knowledge, the Theatetus , it centres around a discussion between a mathematics teacher and his pupil, facilitated by Socrates.  Socrates makes the point that the act of seeing/apprehending/perceiving something involves a two-way exchange or experience between the knower and the known that is both reciprocal and fleeting: the eye only truly sees when it gazes upon something. And that thing/person in turn, is only really known/seen in that particular light at the moment of being seen/perceived by the seer.
“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:

And from all these considerations, as I said at first, there arises a general reflection, that there is no one self-existent thing, but everything is becoming and in relation.
Which, as anyone familiar with Patrick’s work (and Buddhist practice) will know, is one of his fundamental premises. How very Libran [and Platonic!] Don’t tell him that…
(Of course, the irony of a Libran writing about a Sun Aries and opposition aspect on the day of a Full Moon in Aries hasn’t escaped me either…)
While this naturally prompts me into further thoughts about Plato, Eros and the desire to connect/relate that underpins so much of human (and indeed, more than human) experience; in the interests of brevity, I will refrain from doing so on this occasion.  
Suffice it to say, if you are at all intrigued by the man and his work, I urge you to take a look at this very stimulating YouTube discussion between Patrick and the hosts of The Good and Basic Podcast (or his website: www.patrickcurry.co.uk) It covers an array of interesting topics, including the relationship between magic and technology, nature and enchantment, and the enduring work of JRR Tolkien, to name but a few. Along with some of the concepts I have explored today.
I will leave you with a quote from his latest book about Eros/Love, which I think epitomises both what Socrates was talking about, as well as the thrust of much of Patrick’s work:
“[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!

Intuition and Science – a Follow-up

“The heart as lion is truly king of beasts, a bestial King, and our inner beauty, our dignity, nobility, proportion, our portion of lordliness, comes, as lore of character has always assumed, from the animal of the heart.”

– James Hillman

I came across this article in ‘Psychology Today’ about the the science of intuition  – yes, what a paradox – and thought I would share this quote with you by the scholar who wrote it because it sums up just how difficult it is to be taken seriously be academia or the establishment if you are not prepared to talk in terms of ‘numbers and science’:

I was aware, of course, that intuition had a bad reputation. It was seen, at best, as a woman’s gift in a man’s world. Intuition is denigrated by a Western culture obsessed by “facts” and science. it struck me that the only way intuition could be accepted was to subjugate it to the methods of science itself-an apparently absurd contradiction. I’ve since learned that like all the either/or arguments, such as nature vs. nurture, the fact is that neither really has primacy. Both interact. And can be made to reflect each other.[1]

As well as pointing out that intuition is probably synonymous with the survival instinct, he also makes a commentary on modern society and the inadvertent consequences of elevating science and logic to what some might call a religion:

In elevating rational-scientific thinking, and dismissing intuition, the Enlightenment confined its approval to a very narrow band of human intelligence – logical, deductive, proof-oriented mental operations. That intelligence has brought us the scientific revolution, high technology, and a great many material goods. But it does not take an intuitive genius (all geniuses are) to observe that the wanton application of this line of thinking now endangers human society and its terrestrial home. The earth is so terribly befouled and overpopulated that our very advances now threaten our very survival. By their very nature, the study and control of these titanic forces cannot be accomplished by exact science.[1]

I think, as a species, we realise this on some deep, dare I say it, intuitive level. Hence the rise in popularity of television series such as ‘Jordskott’ in which we are returned to the natural home of intuition – the animated world of myth where imagination, intuition and nature intersect. Because these things are intimately connected.

As Thomas Moore recently wrote:

The natural world is not made up of objects but of presences, profound metaphors, living signs telling us the secrets of life.

This is the world of the mundus imaginalis, so elegantly described by Henry Corbin, where the laws of physics do not apply and where things like astrology and divination become possible.

This is something which the sages of old totally understood, not because they were ‘primitive’ and didn’t know better, but, perhaps, because they were wise and understood the way the world REALLY works.

In a talk delivered to the Jupiter Trust in 2008, Angela Voss puts it another way.

At the risk of a gross oversimplification, one could say that one of the ways the Aristotelian and Platonic methods of philosophising became differentiated in the Renaissance was through the opposition of human and divine modes of seeing and understanding the world. Human modes were characterised by rational, theoretical and analytical attempts to grasp the world of nature through the observation and deduction of sense-perception, whereas divine modes embodied a deep intuitive sense of transcendent principles governing and emanating throughout creation, apprehended only through the highest intellectual principle in the soul which recognised the images of its divine source.  The former entailed the separation of the observer from the object observed, the latter direct participation in it in order to know it.  The former took place in time, the latter in a timeless place beyond the working out of cause and effect.  Such contrasting modes lie behind the statement of Henry Corbin that “the Active Imagination is not a theory, it is an initiation to vision.[2]

Indeed, Henry Corbin, like many sages and initiates of old, realised that in order to achieve such vision, one had to change one’s perception entirely of how the world works until, as Tom Cheetham puts it, the world turns “inside out” and reveals its hidden secrets.[3]

According to Voss, this “act of intellectual penetration…depends on a vital, dynamic connection between the soul of man and the soul of the world in a cosmos illuminated and animated with divine energy.” This is the animated world of the poet, the shaman and the seer – the world of legend and myth – a completely alien planet to that of the scientist.

And so to return to intuition and why it is so often associated with instinct. In trying to explain the difference between intuition and knowledge in his text, aptly entitled, On the Mysteries, Iamblichus, the Syrian Neoplatonist, called intuition a “unitary connection with the gods that is natural and indivisible,” while “Knowledge…is separated from its object by some degree of otherness.”[4]

Which may be why attempts to study, quantify or analyse it usually fail in some way, as Jung discovered to his cost.There is a reason why nobody worth their academic salt cares to advertise or admit to using or subscribing to Jungian ideas or theories in the world of psychology anymore – these days, it is all about CBT and other equally dry and soulless forms of therapy. And people wonder why so-called ‘mental illness’ is stigmatised instead of seeing it as a call to initiation and transformation  – as the shamans do. 
 

REFERENCES



[1] D. Cappon, ‘The Anatomy of Intuition’ in Psychology Today, May 1993 – https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199305/the-anatomy-intuition
[2] H. Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi (Princeton, 1969, repr. Mythos, 1981), 93
[3] Tom Cheetham, The World Turned Inside Out: Henry Corbin and Islamic Mysticism (Woodstock, Conn.: Spring, 2003)
[4] Iamblichus, On the Mysteries, I.3, trans. E. Clarke, J. Dillon & J. Herschbell (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Studies, 2003), 13

DianaOne of my clients recently emailed me to say that a biopic on the late Princess Diana that I helped to research had been very well-received by viewers.

The programme, which formed part of the well-known series roughly translated as Another Life, was screened on NHK-B in Japan to coincide with Prince William’s visit and the birth of Princess Charlotte, and apparently received some of the highest ratings the channel has ever had.

The email went on to say that:

Many of the viewers came back to NHK and commented on the depth of interviews and variety of the speakers who contributed to the show. Those did not happen without your hard and intelligent work.

Always nice to know that my efforts are appreciated!

Whilst I suspect that the rave reviews and sky high ratings had a lot to do with the continued star power of the royal family (and the birth of a certain princess), I’d also like to think that I tried my best to help produce a fitting tribute to an icon who I have admired since I was a child, despite the many people who refused to talk or who slammed the phone down in my ear. Having good sources also helped – and I am grateful to my sources for their suggestions and advice.

For those interested in astrology, I have written an article on the horoscope of the princess, inspired by my time working on the documentary, which can be found on my Astro-Insights blog, whilst an astrological profile of Princess Charlotte of Cambridge can be found on my main astrology website.

Cover thumbnailI recently had the pleasure of working on a book project for The Aspinall Foundation.

“A Life with Animals,” published in October 2014 (which also happens to be my birthday month!), was commissioned to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the wildlife charity. It tells the story in pictures of the 30-year old love affair between the eccentric but dedicated Aspinall family and the many animals and wildlife species they have reared, rescued and released back into the wild over the years.

It’s something I feel very proud and privileged to have worked on – not only was it thoroughly enjoyable to research and write about, but I feel very passionately about what the organisation is trying to achieve and hope that in some small way, I have helped to make a difference.

As well as writing the copy for each chapter, I also helped to select and shape the pictorial content, with plenty of guidance and feedback from Damian Aspinall and key members of the organisation, including photographer, Dave Rolfe and Amos Courage, Head of TAF’s Overseas Projects.

I know he gets a lot of bad press, but in person I must say I found Damian to be a charming and funny individual who is genuinely passionate about wildlife conservation and concerned for the welfare of animals in captivity everywhere. You can read the latest interview with him in the Telegraph about his views on zoo’s and their role in conservation – the article also contains selected images from the book. Many of these are from the Aspinall family’s private photo album, some of which have never been published before, so I highly recommend you buy a copy and have a leaf through – there are some truly magical moments captured in amongst its pages.

All proceeds from book sales go towards funding the incredible work of the organisation, so do consider it as a Christmas, birthday, thank you or anniversary present – it’s one of those gifts that keeps on giving. Copies are available to order at Waterstones and Amazon. However, the most straightforward way of purchasing your copy is by visiting the TAF Shop.

A tribute to Harold Wigglesworth

Today, the 16th of May 2014, would have been the 100th birthday of Harold Wigglesworth, whose book, the author of The Astrology of Towns & Cities, I recently had the privilege of updating for publication in 2013 – the 40th anniversary year of the original publication. I thought it would therefore be a fitting tribute to provide some background about the man for those who may not be familiar with him.

Harold was born on the 16th of May 1914 (birth time unknown, although we do know that Harold has Scorpio rising) in Waddington, West Yorkshire. The middle son of a village schoolmaster, he trained as a musician at the Royal Manchester College of Music (now the Northern School of Music) after leaving school, where his chosen instrument was the trumpet. Unfortunately, Harold’s musical career was cut short by the outbreak of war. According to his daughter, Sue Findlay:

Unfortunately, thanks to World War 2, he never had the opportunity to make music his profession and after being demobbed he retrained as an accountant, though he never lost his love of music and for several years played in the local brass band. He met his wife, Margaret, when she was evacuated from Coventry and billeted on my grandfather’s house. My mother worked for Rover on the jet engine project. They married in 1947 and settled in Clitheroe. They had two children, Susan and Robert.

His interest in astrology was sparked during the late 1950s after borrowing a book about it from the local library. It was to become a subject that he would take very seriously, viewing it, as many did during this period, as a science. He subsequently joined the Astrological Association, contributing several articles to the AA Journal and was a regular correspondent of Martin Harvey, a British astrologer based in Brazil. 
Sue recalls:

Dad always claimed that astrology wasn’t fortune telling and that he couldn’t tell people with any degree of certainty what would happen in their future but that the natal position of planets gave a fair indication of what might occur in a person’s life and how they would react to a situation. I have to say, speaking from a personal point of view, he was always spot on.

His enthusiasm for the subject led to the initial publication of the Astrology of Towns & Cities in 1973 after winning the newly created AA Astrological Prize in 1970.

Sue told me that:

He was delighted when his Astrology of Towns and Cities was published as he’d put a great deal of effort into the research necessary, all of which was done in the pre-computer age.

Sadly, Harold passed away of a heart attack in 1983, his wife, Margaret, following ten years later, in 2013. He is survived by his two children, Sue and Robert.

The timing of these publications, is therefore rather fitting: the print version coming out in September 2013; and the Kindle/eBook versions in March 2014.

Anyone wishing to order a copy may wish to take advantage of the flash sale at the Lulu Bookstore. Details below:

Three Day Flash Sale!

Get 20% off all standard and premium books
Offer ends 19th May at 11:59 PM.
Cannot be combined with other offers. Not valid on eBooks or services.

Use Code: RDM14 
To take advantage, click on the button: Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.



TNATC gets a glowing review from The AA Journal

Great News! The New Astrology of Towns Cities has received it’s first review from The Astrological Journal – one of Britain’s foremost publications aimed at the UK astrological community, and published by the Astrological Association.

Editor, Carole Taylor, writes in the March 2014 edition that:

In short, this is a fascinating and unique book – a must-have reference that opens a window onto our relationship with the places where we live and work. I confess I looked straight away at the towns and cities where I have lived – as a Gemini with a Sagittarius Descendant, there have been quite a few of them! – and was stunned to see my personal connections to the astrology. And of course I looked too at the places I have always longed to live – an even more interesting and revealing exercise.

The book, which is now available in both print and eBook formats, will soon be on sale on the iBooks store.

For more information, visit: http://www.abouttheauthor.co.uk/lisa-mendes/

The New Astrology of Towns & Cities – The astrological back story

Recently, thanks to a collaboration with the Urania Trust, whose trustees include Christeen Skinner, Lindsay Radermacher, Babs Kirby and Chair, Jonathan Powell, the second edition of the 1970’s classic by Harold Wigglesworth, was re-published under the title: ‘The New Astrology of Towns & Cities’. (Available through Amazon and Lulu.com). I was privileged enough to edit it, as the book cover makes plain. If you’re at all interested in the relationship between astrology and particular places, especially the major towns and cities of England, then this is a great little reference book to gift an astrology friend (or yourself, for that matter!)

As is often the case when it comes to researching written publications, the back story to this publication is an interesting astrological tale in itself.

When we set out to update the book, we knew very little about Harold himself, other than that he was from Clitheroe, a small town in Lancashire, and that he had passed away in the 1980’s. By the end of the project, though, which largely took form during Saturn’s transit through Scorpio (including that amazing grand trine in July 2013 with Jupiter and Neptune) I must confess to developing a strong awareness of Harold’s presence, and for me, the book has come to embody this astrological placing.

Why? Well, for one thing, the sign of Scorpio can be a little spooky, and there were more than a few strange coincidences that occurred during the re-writing and publication process of TNATC. How can one explain, for instance, that Scorpio features strongly in the Urania Trust chart, my chart and as it turns out,  Harold’s chart too?

A quick look at the UT website will tell you that it was formed at midnight on 9 November 1970 by deed of trust. This gives you a chart with Leo rising (also my AS) and a large stellium of planets in Scorpio, all very close to the IC, two of which are exactly conjunct my Moon in Scorpio. (You can see the chart at: http://www.uraniatrust.org/about-urania-trust.html ). The synastry between myself and the Trust, is pretty clear, then. So, imagine my surprise when it emerged that Scorpio is also prominent in Harold’s chart! Unbeknownst to us, Harold was born with Scorpio rising – a fact that neither I nor the trustees was not aware of when we embarked upon the project. It was only when we approached his daughter, Sue, for some biographical information for the dedication page, that this rather remarkable information emerged. (Unfortunately we don’t have an exact birth time or I woudl put up a chart here.)What is more, Harold was born in 1914, making 2014 his centenary year – talk about the ideal time to republish his book! Again, something that was not known to us initially.

I have heard authors remark that many of their books seem to take on a life of their own, and this one proved to be no exception. Certainly, to my mind, at least, it began to seem as though some kind of hidden intelligence was working behind the scenes to ensure that the ‘reincarnation’ of Harold’s book took place at this particular juncture in time, when Saturn (the planet of the sage and of old age and death) was in Scorpio (sign of reincarnation, and symbolised by amongst other things, the phoenix.)

And typically, I found myself also personally implicated in what was happening. Given my research interest in dark/midnight sun themes, it didn’t escape my notice that there are also some Sun-Saturn-Pluto connections woven into this story.

For one thing, having a Scorpio AS almost certainly means that Harold had Leo on the Midheaven. So, for me and the UT, with our Leo Ascendants, to update and republish his book, bringing it once again to public prominence, seems apt, since, in a synastry chart, both of our AS would appear somewhere in the region of Harold’s Midheaven/10th house (even if one of them does fall in the 9th, this is even more fitting, given its associations with publishing).

For another, the UT chart, has a Sun-Jupiter conjunction in Scorpio in the 4th house close to the IC (another key theme in my work) while Harold has a Moon-Jupiter conjunction in Aquarius, which, if Scorpio is rising, happens to be setting on the western horizon (ie. conjunct the Descendant) of the UT’s chart. This puts the UT in a unique I-Thou position of relationship with Harold, one that means honouring his work and ensuring his ongoing association with it, which is what we have tried to do with the dedication page and title credits.

Hopefully he is proud of what we have managed to achieve  – from a 30 page pamphlet, it is now a 260 page paperback with a glossy cover, updated/extended chart information (along with many new additions) and a vastly expanded notes section. There are also a selection of chart drawings featuring notable  places of historic interest such as Oxford, Norwich, Salisbury and London.

Finally, this project was somewhat delayed due to a number of extenuating factors. However, this meant that much of it came together under the influence of that magnificent major grand trine involving Jupiter in Cancer, Saturn in Scorpio and Neptune in Pisces. At the time this perfected (around the 18th of July 2013), Saturn was at 4-5 degrees Scorpio, the same degree as the UT’s IC and very close to my natal Mercury in Scorpio. The transiting Moon also happened to be in Scorpio at the time…As if this was meant to happen so that the book could benefit from this very auspicious transit.

See what I mean  – spooky!

At any rate, the print version is now available at Amazon.com, as well as Lulu.com. An eBook (EPUB) version is also available for iPad and Nooks, as well as those with Adobe Digital Editions readers. We hope to have a Kindle version out soon – perhaps in time for Harold’s centenary.

There are also plans to extend the series by ‘mapping’ the astrology of the towns and cities of Ireland and Scotland, so watch this space!

NOTE: It is with sadness that I have to report that Harold’s wife Margaret passed away in November of 2013. I just wanted to wish the Wigglesworth family my sincere sympathy and hope that the republishing of Harold’s book will bring them some comfort. 

Dreams, Visions and the Thought of the Heart

“Each of us carries within himself an Image of his own world, his imago mundi, and projects it into a more or less coherent universe, which becomes the stage on which his destiny is played out.” – Henry Corbin


I have long been interested in dreaming since a psychic told me over a decade ago that my ancestors wished me to take more notice of my dreams. Since then I have studied various traditions, including theurgy (practised in the Near East by the ancient Egyptians as well as Greeks, particularly during the Hellenistic era), active imagination (practised by the likes of Carl Jung and taken to a more practical level by people such as Edward Steinbrecher) and done a brief course or two in shamanism.

What I have realised is that, at the base of virtually all traditions, lies the visionary experience, one that utilises the creative imagination and which involves some sort of meditation/visualisation technique but ultimately, demands an active and participatory relationship and interplay between you and what many people refer to as the sub-conscious. In the words of Joseph Joubert,  “Imagination is the eye of the soul.”

Some people try to short circuit this process with drugs while others seem to like the theatre and indeed, status, of being considered a member of an initiated circle. To dress these things up in cultural baggage to me can be quite divisive and ultimately leads people to believe in elitist notions that they need to join some special club, employ certain rites and rituals or use some sort of guru or middle man to put them in touch with or develop a gift that essentially, every one of us has, and in fact tap into most nights (even if we don’t always remember) and which anyone, with a little practice, can potentially master.

While traditional meditation techniques can certainly help you to develop mental self discipline and sometimes even extra sensory perception, it can sometimes distance you from your own inner world because it is all about detachment from feeling and desire, and it does not always have the vibrancy, texture and excitement of the internal dream landscape in which you are personally implicated and where you have a deep personal relationship with every element.

Henry Corbin, the French scholar of early Arabic Platonism, who was also an Eranos regular and contemporary of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, was, however, convinced, that the only way to experience the divine was via the intensely personal symbols and language of your own creative imagination. Immersing yourself in this dream-like world, he believed, would ultimately lead to an encounter with your own inner source of wisdom, or what he called the ‘Angel of the Face’, which many may equate with Jung’s concept of the Self, or indeed, the spiritual notion of the Soul or Higher Self . For him, the way to the divine was via the ‘thought of the heart’  – an intensely personal experience that embraced feeling and comprised the language and symbols of your subconscious but which often, paradoxically, would open you up to a relationship with spirit (an experience referred to by Corbin scholar, Tom Cheetham, as the ‘world turned inside out’.) James Hillman, in deference to Corbin, and very much in keeping with the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, described this ‘thought of the heart’ as the ‘thought of images’, stating that ‘the heart is the seat of imagination’, and that ‘imagination is the authentic voice of the heart.’

In fact, according to Corbin scholar, Tom Cheetham, Corbin, perhaps rather fittingly for an Aries, was very much against the idea of getting too attached to any one belief system, philosophy or tradition because it can lead to what he calls ‘idolatry’ and ‘fundamentalism.’
In his new book on Corbin, All the world an icon: Henry Corbin and the angelic function of beings (2012), he writes that:

“Henry Corbin was a partisan of the freedom of the Imagination and an implacable enemy of fundamentalism and totalitarianisms of all kinds. He stands as a champion of the individual human spirit against the power of social institutions of every sort—religious, political, academic. His work provides us with an example of how we might live the Mosaic prohibition against idolatry. Every time we find a new truth, cling to a new fashion, believe in a new idea, a new savior—whether in science, in art, in politics, in the life of the mind, or in religion—we erect a new idol. Corbin’s entire metaphysics denies us the false security of putting faith in anything fixed and immobile. The Imagination never stops.” (p. 15)

So, imagine my surprise when I came across this little beauty, A Field Guide to Dreaming – Mastering the art of Oneironautics, a rather charmingingly presented, yet practical guide to the art of lucid dreaming by Dylan Tuccillo, Jared Zeisel and Thomas Peisel, three writers, filmmakers and lucid dreamers from New York. Published by Workman Press and featuring gorgeous illustrations by Mahendra Singh, it aims to demystify a process that has long formed the central tenet of many esoteric practices, including shamanism, but has roots that date back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, who practised dream incubation at Plutoniums, just like the one I featured in my previous post, and beyond.

According to the authors, who are self taught ‘oneironauts’ (Greek for dream navigators), the tips and guidelines found in the book have been developed as a result of their ‘own experiences with a decade of lucid dreaming as well as the real life experiences of many other lucid dreamers, writers and scientists.’

As well as a writing style that is refreshingly straight-forward, almost conspiratorial, without being in any way patronising or trying to dress up the technique in mystical clothing, the book is also not content light. A quick scan through the notes section at the back quickly attests that the authors have certainly doing some reading on the subject. The book also touches on some of the many traditions that have employed this ancient practice, along with the work of several pioneers in the field such as Carl Jung, as well as mentioning more recent scientific research work, all without being too academic or detracting from its main purpose : guiding the interested reader through the practical steps of how to become a lucid dreamer.

In a nutshell, this book will teach you how to reconnect with your dream life, cultivate the practice of lucid dreaming and then show you the possibilities once you’re lucid, which are surprisingly vast. Once you realise the link between dreaming, active imagination, creativity, psychological healing and even visionary experiences, you will begin to see the possibilities that cultivating a participatory relationship with your dream life can open up.

Where Corbin diverged from Jung was his conviction that, rather than having universal meaning, this language of dreams and symbols is unique to each individual. The authors of this field guide, seem to concur, writing on page 78 that:

Many of us see dreams as puzzles, little riddles to be solved. We buy dream dictionaries to understand their meaning. Well, it’s time to throw away your dream dictionary; it’ll do more good in the local landfill. The fact is the dream belongs to the dreamer. Dreams are very personal, intimate things. An apple to us is not an apple to you. An apple to us five years ago is different from our present-day association with an apple. We believe that you and you alone are the final authority on what your dreams mean. 

They also emphasise the importance of intention, saying that cultivating a clear, specific and passionate desire is key to enabling the process of lucid dreaming in the first place. Many of us have come across this concept via books that focus on the ‘power of attraction,’ and I have found that any divination driven a by question that has the power of strong emotion behind it, often proves to produce exceptionally radical and clear responses. But really what else is this other than what we were talking about earlier – the notion of adding heart to provide added ‘juice’ to our thoughts and visualisations?

So, rather than taking hundreds of courses that dress this technique up in all sorts of rituals and rites, or distance yourself even more from the wisdom of your heart and what is rather disparagingly referred to as the “subconscious”, why not just absorb the pointers from this distilled, and extremely simple and user-friendly book, written by people not trying to flog you a religion/cult/belief/therapy course and then just give it a try?

As well as a lot of helpful advice and suggestions, the book is also peppered with interesting extracts from other people’s dream journals and experiences, along with snippets of information about related rituals, research and traditions, making it a fascinating and informative read that is still easy to dip in and out of because of the way it is laid out. A summary at the end of each chapter, plenty of bullet points and sub-headings make it easy to follow  – perfect if, like me, you read last thing at night and don’t want to over-tax your brain or wake yourself up too much whilst still absorbing the little nuggets dished out on every page.

I liked the fact that the authors never tried to patronise me, made suggestions based on personal opinion and experience rather than universal, categorical statements and were modest enough to link their findings and material to wider humanistic and religious traditions and scientific research without having to make heavy assertions of ‘faith’.

I also loved the fun illustrations and trippy bullet points (which look like bees one minute and little faces the next), as well as the pithy quotations at the beginning of each chapter.

Although it suggests several possible uses of this technique in both work and therapeutic situations, it is not a cure-all for every psychological ill, nor does it set itself up to be. It does, however, offer some helpful advice for those who suffer from nightmares in chapter 15, or who may be seeking healing, possibly as a result of grief or loss in chapter 16.

All in all, a little gem of a book and one I would really recommend, especially to first-timers new to the field. Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble now.

I

TNATC FRONT COVERI am very pleased to announce the publication of the second edition of the 1970’s astrology classic on the astrology of England’s civic corporations, updated and edited by yours truly!

The New Astrology of Town’s & Cities, published in association with the Urania Trust, takes the much-loved 1973 classic written by Harold Wigglesworth and brings it bang up to date.  Inside you’ll find an updated and extended list of the incorporation dates of England’s main towns and cities, together with key chart data (Sun, Moon, Ascending sign) for each town plus geographical co-ordinates, allowing you to easily construct your own charts for each place.

The book also contains other useful facts and figures, such as ceremonial county information, Domesday Book mentions as well as a juicy Notes section, outlining the historical development of key locations from ancient burgh to market town or major city, along with alternative dates for royal charters and other important events that have made their mark on the local history of an area as it has grown and metamorphosed over time.

A brand new introduction looks at the main astrological approaches to locational and mundane astrology, as well as defining key concepts, such as ‘burgh’ and  ‘county,’ as they apply to England in particular, and outlines the seminal dates affecting boundary changes and laws affecting the status of local civic bodies.

Drawings of several 20 key historically significant and important commercial centres, including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Oxford, and Cambridge, have also been included.

In this way,   we hope it will become something more than an astrology reference book, also offering those curious about local history an interesting compendium of information they can draw on or dip in and out of when researching or reading up on the development of their own home town or area of interest.

A big thank you must go to all the Trustees of the UT for initiating the project and giving me the scope and support to give it a completely new lease on life, and to the Astrological Association for agreeing to the updated publication.

Our sincere gratitude must also be extended to Sue Findlay and the Wigglesworth family for so graciously endorsing the project. Next year will be the centenary of Harold Wigglesworth’s birth – he was born in May 1914  – so it seems fitting that the book should be revised and republished now.

Now available at the following outlets:

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Archaelogists uncover Plutonium in Turkey

This article appeared in the news section of the Discovery Channel website. It may be of interest to anyone who has read the work of Peter Kingsley, especially his “In the Dark Places of Wisdom,” which partly inspired my research into the black sun for my MA in Cosmology and Divination thesis. 

Pluto’s Gate Uncovered in Turkey

A “gate to hell” has emerged from ruins in southwestern Turkey, Italian archaeologists have announced.

Known as Pluto’s Gate — Ploutonion in Greek, Plutonium in Latin — the cave was celebrated as the portal to the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology and tradition. Historic sources located the site in the ancient Phrygian city of Hierapolis, now called Pamukkale, and described the opening as filled with lethal mephitic vapors.

“This space is full of a vapor so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground. Any animal that passes inside meets instant death,” the Greek geographer Strabo (64/63 BC — about 24 AD) wrote.
“I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell,” he added.

Announced this month at a conference on Italian archaeology in Istanbul, Turkey, the finding was made by a team led by Francesco D’Andria, professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento. D’Andria has conducted extensive archaeological research at the World Heritage Site of Hierapolis. Two years ago he claimed to discover there the tomb of Saint Philip, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ.
Founded around 190 B.C. by Eumenes II, King of Pergamum (197 B.C.-159 B.C.), Hierapolis was given over to Rome in 133 B.C.
The Hellenistic city grew into a flourishing Roman city, with temples, a theater and popular sacred hot springs, believed to have healing properties.
“We found the Plutonium by reconstructing the route of a thermal spring. Indeed, Pamukkale’ springs, which produce the famous white travertine terraces originate from this cave,” D’Andria told Discovery News.
Featuring a vast array of abandoned broken ruins, possibly the result of earthquakes, the site revealed more ruins once it was excavated. The archaeologists found Ionic semi columns and, on top of them, an inscription with a dedication to the deities of the underworld — Pluto and Kore.
D’Andria also found the remains of a temple, a pool and a series of steps placed above the cave — all matching the descriptions of the site in ancient sources.
“People could watch the sacred rites from these steps, but they could not get to the area near the opening. Only the priests could stand in front of the portal,” D’Andria said.
According to the archaeologist, there was a sort of touristic organization at the site. Small birds were given to pilgrims to test the deadly effects of the cave, while hallucinated priests sacrificed bulls to Pluto.
The ceremony included leading the animals into the cave, and dragging them out dead.
“We could see the cave’s lethal properties during the excavation. Several birds died as they tried to get close to the warm opening, instantly killed by the carbon dioxide fumes,” D’Andria said.
Only the eunuchs of Cybele, an ancient fertility goddess, were able to enter the hell gate without any apparent damage.
“They hold their breath as much as they can,” Strabo wrote, adding that their immunity could have been due to their “menomation,” “divine providence” or “certain physical powers that are antidotes against the vapor.”
According to D’Andria, the site was a famous destination for rites of incubation. Pilgrims took the waters in the pool near the temple, slept not too far from the cave and received visions and prophecies, in a sort of oracle of Delphi effect. Indeed, the fumes coming from the depths of Hierapoli’s phreatic groundwater produced hallucinations.
“This is an exceptional discovery as it confirms and clarifies the information we have from the ancient literary and historic sources,” Alister Filippini, a researcher in Roman history at the Universities of Palermo, Italy, and Cologne, Germany, told Discovery News.
Fully functional until the 4th century AD, and occasionally visited during the following two centuries, the site represented “an important pilgrimage destination for the last pagan intellectuals of the Late Antiquity,” Filippini said.
During the 6th century AD, the Plutonium was obliterated by the Christians. Earthquakes may have then completed the destruction.
D’Andria and his team are now working on the digital reconstruction of the site.

You can see a gallery of pictures by visiting the Discovery.com website.