Beware the Moon

The New Moon a few weeks ago was accompanied by a level of energy in our household that usually only occurs at the Full. I wondered then what the Full Moon would be like: compensatory gentleness, the usual hyperactivity or completely insane? In keeping with my general ignorance of divine law in this matter, it was none of the above. It offered, however, a likewise unexpected insight.

Everything seemed relatively relaxed last night. The children were abed and the dogs settled. The hens were tucked away, and with the moon hidden by a thick bank of clouds it looked like it was going to be a quiet evening — until midnight that is, when my youngest awoke and was up for three hours. By that time, I was pretty much up as well, but a shift, subtle but as deeply pervasive as the release of a static charge, had also occurred in my awareness. The shift I had been expecting in the energy level of my household had occurred instead in my mind.

Now I find various states of mind fascinating, and the effect of the moon on our perceptions of reality is always of interest to me, particularly since there are so many variables at play. For example, all the planets with the exception of Jupiter and the Moon have been in Virgo (sidereally speaking at least) for the last little while (although as I write this, Mars has moved ahead into Cancer). I am not good enough with astronomy to know if they were all in conjunction (they sure looked close together), but they were all at least well within the bounds of the constellation, but neither am I good enough at Astrology to know what their meeting meant. All I can do is watch and see what happens. The point is that each of the planets is said to correspond to an element of our experience: Jupiter to leadership, politics and public life, Saturn the delimiting of

This fresco from Pompeii shows Jupiter, Mars and Venus as they would have been conceived in the pleasure palaces by the first century.

time (particularly endings, hence its negative connotations), Mercury the mind and what I think of as path-finding (in terms of money, career, and planning: I will be posting more on Mercury later), Venus to sexuality and (less-so) love, and Mars to ambition and aggression. The point is that the moon is supposed to influence the body, which in turn affects all the other faculties, but there are so many variables that any given set of circumstances can be hard to read.

This is all background. What struck me at two in the morning was how much my attitude and sense of perception had altered. Trying to go to bed at nine, I was emotionally restless and unable to focus on anything. I had been possessed of that peculiar frenetic intensity that I have found leads to all manner of ill-conceived courses of action from drinking too much on a school-night to sending overly emotional emails to the worst possible people at the worst possible times. Like being unable to resist scratching at a wound that has just scabbed over, it’s like there are times when we cannot help but do the most unreasonable, drama-inducing, even catastrophic things, even — almost especially — when we rationally recognize that we will regret them later. I’ve long since learned to recognize this state of mind and, like the Wolf-Man locking himself in his own dungeon, shun most human contact when possible. Last night I was reminded of how extreme and subtle this irrational restlessness can be. I only realized that I’d been in it after it had left me.

So here is where the insight comes in.

It occurred to me in the hyper-rational state of mind that followed (that state of mind when usually you suddenly realize what you have done — you know, the ‘Morning After’ effect) that this was what most commentators mention when talking about the problem of astrological influence. In other words, if that self-confusticating frame of mind is due to some astronomical circumstance — the phase of the moon, say — then are we not to take responsibility for our own actions? After all, it wasn’t us but the moon that set us in that state of mind which led to our disastrous decisions. Suddenly we are choosing between an infinitely unfeeling, causatively distanced universe in which free-will is a simple fact and an infinitely connected, infinitely personal but deterministic universe where everything is preordained through an infinite series of mechanistic processes.

As usual, I reject both of these as simply polar aspects of a much more elegant reality: both aspects are true, and both are likewise false. The dilemma and thus the solution lies in the nature of consciousness, and not in the nature of will. This is to say that the determining difference lies in our chosen state of perception and not in the faculty of choice. One perception is that the whole of reality is a great … well, wholeness! Divisions are meaningless illusions because everything is connected to everything else at the most foundational level. This is the experience of the mystic; free-will is simply not an issue in the great divine panoply of the divine, organic All. The other aspect perceives reality as comprised of an infinite array of discrete individual items colliding with one another according to their own distinct properties. This is the universe of the Newtonian scientist (a problematic term, but I will use it for now); non-linear connections and hyper-dimensional influences are simply nonsensical, leading to the formulation of increasingly subtle concepts like quantum superposition and entanglement. Available data support both perceptions, so an alternative perception must be more accurate.

The missing link in my estimation is consciousness, its role in the universe as something more than just an agent of perception, and the nature of divinity. For more than two millennia, Astrologers have talked about ‘the influence of the planets,’ predominantly based on the doctrine of the humors as discussed by Ptolemy, choosing to avoid any overt connection to pre-Christian deities, even though the planets were originally considered to actually be the gods. With our change in viewpoint having seen the planets ‘up close’ (kind of), we cannot see the individual, physical masses as the gods, but the significance of their behavior is no less real. Jupiter is not *Dyaus Pitr, but this does not say that the perceived motion of the planet is not informed by the god’s presence or significance. So unlike the perceptions of many detractors who understandably presume that, as one polemicist put it, ‘it all boils down to the planets and stars having an effect on people, the character of individuals and other phenomena depends not on the planets exerting some kind of force but rather the semi-regular manifestation of divine authority within their individual purviews.

Too often we seek to connect responsibility and blame. When something untoward and unwanted happens, we look to place the blame on someone, but thereby we actually abandon our own responsibility, not in the performance of a crime but in our divine ability to rectify what has happened. If we are aware of a fault, crime or other unhappy occasion, it is not up to us to assign blame in order to punish and thus ‘balance the scales.’ Our awareness of a tragedy is an opportunity to right a wrong by helping everyone involved, no matter who is to blame. To assign blame is to say ‘it is not my fault: I am not involved,’ but we are all deeply involved whether we like it or not. In this way, we seem to be deeply affected by the motions of the heavens, but perhaps a better way to describe this is to say that we are informed by the invisible principles that the heavens make readily apparent. Our divine right as humans is then to act rightly with the knowledge of how the gods themselves are acting in the world.

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