Having received a response to the blog I wrote a while back – In Defence of Chiron – from Clare which I have included below I am using (abusing?) my privilege of writing this blog to respond (Clare please feel free to respond and add any further thoughts and thanks for this thoughtful response).
I have been thinking about this for a day or two. Whilst you make a great point about vuulnerability being necessary in relationships, I think all the stories you quote above actually do show an innocent victim and a level of unnecessary suffering. What about Tess I cry? There is no redemption for her, she tries to defend herself against an overwhelming tide of cruelty and prejudice, and in the end there is no way out for her. The same for various characters in the other stories. I guess I am trying to define how we view myth. I think you can read it as an moral fable, and find purpose (it all works out in the end), or as tales of the very flawed gods and the necessity for us as human to use our consciousness to mediate the conflicted energies which they represent. The first is really a monotheistic reading (there is meaning, ‘god’ behind all this), the second is a more polytheistic, pagan view, where the energies are often in flux and unbalanced, hence cruelty can result. as Chiron is currently transitting my MC, along with Neptune, I am musing a lot on these things lately 🙂
This is an interesting response . I have Chiron and Neptune squaring my Mercury in the 12th House at the moment so like Clare I am musing about these issues and experiencing them. There have been a number of situations in my life giving rise to or prompting this thinking. My father, having been a very robust and quite abnormally healthy man all his life has hit 77 (78 next month) and crashed. This crash has been taking place over the last 18 months as Pluto has squared his Mars in Libra and Uranus has opposed it. At the same time his natal Sun-Chiron in Gemini square Neptune in Virgo and Saturn in Pisces is also now being transited by Jupiter and Chiron. The result has been what the psychiatrists describe as an agitated depression with delusions. In addition to this, I have started working with a charity going into prisons to coach young offenders.
In terms of innocent victims and unnecessary suffering, I guess it depends on how you view “unnecessary” suffering. Certainly I agree fully that life is cruel (from our heart’s perspective), how could we view it otherwise? It is very sad for me to watch my father suffering. He really is in a very bad state. It is putting a huge burden on my mother who feels trapped so she is suffering too. Yes, I think this is cruel from our human point of view. Indeed, when I look around, much of nature seems cruel. Animals eat each other, people are killed by natural disasters and so on. Humans also do appalling things to other humans, very cruel things. I’m with Clare, I don’t like much of it, it hurts my heart.
With astrology we seem to have a unique system which accurately describes a pattern of archetypal energies at play (some call these gods, some angels and so on). At the moment with Neptune square my Mercury in Sagittarius, I am expecting delays and confusions with regard to travel and communication. I am writing this on the Eurostar to Paris after a two and a half hour delay on my train into London. It was a series of delays with much confusion and it wasn’t possible to contact anyone because there was no signal for mobile phones. As I mentioned in a recent blog, the more I work with astrology (I was first introduced to it when I was about thirteen years old), the more I realise it is describing very accurately the energies at play around us. At the same time, it is unusual in being a system that provides a framework which exists independent of individual interpretation. Personally I’m not convinced about attributing events in our current lives to past lives. I don’t know whether there is such a thing as past lives; I am keeping an open mind on this. However, it feels like a justification for the fact that some of the awful things that happen to people don’t feel fair so we extend their lives to say that they must have deserved it at some point, this seems an old crime and punishment type of view but then I could be wrong.
So, where are we with this one? If we have a framework that tells us that there are energies at play in a specific pattern which plays out through and around us, then it is built into the system – I am not sure if this is a monotheistic viewpoint, because I am not sure I believe in a god, or gods. My friend Chrissy suggested recently in thinking about the I-Ching that life may be like a mathematical model or system, which would explain why the I-Ching works and astrology because they reflect this inherent model. At the same time, in consulting something like the I-Ching, we are then consulting the accumulated wisdom of human beings who have encountered and interpreted the particular points in this system. In the same way, as astrologers, we are building a composite body of knowledge about the planets and transits which will contribute to the understanding of future generations and we rely on the accumulated body of previous generations.
In this sense, I would agree with Clare in thinking that we are the agents for interpreting or bringing consciousness to archetypal energies. It is in the nature of Chiron for us to feel that it is wrong. Hence Clare’s analogy of gods bringing conflicting forces. However with Chiron, everyone always feels that there is something wrong and it must be fixed; that people are suffering and they should not be, it is not fair and someone or something must be to blame. This leads to the classic Chiron cycle of blame and scapegoating. Yet, I think this is the paradox of Chiron, namely that we cannot eradicate pain and suffering from the game, they are not a mistake, mistakes are a necessary part of the game. If the gods are flawed then that is not a flaw, it is the perfection. If it prompts us to learn and evolve, to accept suffering but still act to take responsibility where we can for not passing this suffering on then we can arrive at the right point to handle Chiron.
I want to zoom right out at this point to take a different look. If we look at history, we tend to describe it like an evolutionary story, eg. the roman empire fell, this led to a period of chaos, out of which came and so on and so on. We don’t seem to talk in terms of unnecessary elements. We do not say, it was unnecessary for the Roman Empire to fall, or Henry Bolingbroke to kill King Richard. We might describe certain events as cruel but we would not describe them as unnecessary. Zooming further out, we would not say that “in the one of the cruelest and most unnecessary events in the history of our planet, the dinosaurs were wiped out. This event should not have happened and served no purpose, these poor dinosaurs were cruel victims of an unfeeling universe and the cruelty of mammals and other animals who took advantage of their suffering to exploit their former environments.” We see it as part of the history of evolution of our planet which led to the proliferation of new forms of life. If there were no death, there would be no evolution as we understand it. Each moment has to pass or die for the next moment to arrive. Princess Diana’s death might seem cruel and unnecessary yet it changed the royal family and left us a legacy of compassion carried by both princes. At the individual heart level it hurt William and Harry (and all of us judging by the outpouring of grief) yet zoom out and it was of great value to the boys (would they be as committed to charitable work and continuing her legacy without it?) and to all of us collectively.
Going into the microscopic again and to my current situation, I can see that, for my father, he is really facing the fact that he is going to die. His power and his competence is fading and he is upset, scared and angry about it. People around him have labeled it a disease and treated this unnecessary mistake with anti-depressants. Sadly, this had no real impact and in fact made things far worse. They were more for the sake of the rest of the family than my father. When he came off them, he was far better and able to start to gain some of his humour and some of his ability to learn from his situation and gain insight. Without the pain, he could not learn or come to terms with what was happening to him, he was confused and frustrated, yet even this served to teach everyone and him. It was not an illness but rather a coming to terms with change. When I look back at my own life, I would not change the cruel events that have happened to me, nor would I change them for those around me that I coach. I don’t particularly like some of the things that happen but for me that does not mean that I can judge them to be unnecessary. Given the transits my father has, somehow his experiences are necessary (to the extent that he can’t change his transits and have different ones) and certainly he will have to come to terms with old age and dying, he cannot get younger, however cruel that might seem to him.
My own experience of having a still birth might seem a cruel event; my wife and I might have been perceived as innocent victims, but we did not see it that way. For us it was a source of huge learning; we would not have chosen it or felt it was necessary but we can see that it was certainly necessary for us to learn and evolve. For my wife, who is obsessed with horses and had steadfastly refused to give them up despite the demands that meant our young son was coming second to them, it was a wake-up call about the preciousness of life and the fact that she was not accepting motherhood. For me, it was that I was stuck in a big black hole, obsessed with how others saw me and having a huge tantrum to the point that I wanted out. This is what “out” looks like, I was being shown. It put my tantrum into perspective by helping me see that I was in a universe which was far more powerful than me and my own dramas were not really very important. I also have friends who have been abused as children, this seems to us the very epitome of unnecessary cruelty and yet, for one it provided the motivation for a long career working with teenagers who have been abused and learning about forgiveness and compassion. I would not have chosen this agenda for him, but would he have been the human being he is without it? I think it is easy not to want Chiron, to reject it and see it is as wrong, to feel that it should somehow be put right or changed so suffering never happens again. It is officially an outrage. It is hard for us to accept this planetary energy into our lives. Yet death and suffering are part of the make-up of life. Like sensitive parents we do not want our children to suffer and would protect them at any cost, but in the end, if they do not suffer, they cannot learn and ultimately if things do not die, then life cannot evolve.
Personally I shy away from the concept of “innocent victims” because of the Karpman Drama triangle (Victim, Persecutor, Rescuer). It so easily leads to a feeling of anger and that there must be someone to blame and if there is someone to blame then we feel that we must judge them as wrong and then something must be done about them, which means more victimhood for those who are deemed the “bad guys” or persecutors. I would rather live from the perspective that there are no victims or “unnecessary” cruelty. It doesn’t stop my heart hurting, but it seems to lead more to compassion than righteous anger and blaming. Perhaps if we are all innocent victims including all the people like Hitler, Stalin, Gaddafi, Jimmy Saville then it is ok. Then no-one is to blame because everyone is a victim.
In terms of theistic or pan-theistic, I simply do not know. Perhaps both are true or perhaps they are both constructs we impose. Certainly we seem to have agency, as far as I can see, and we are influenced by energies beyond our control. If we are influenced by energies beyond our power to control, then that suggests to me it is not wrong or unnecessary whether we individually like it or not.
In terms of preventing suffering or cruelty, I think, paradoxically, we have to accept Chiron (cruelty and suffering) to reduce it. It seems that most of the wars and conflicts between humans are because people feel that they are victims of each other and of unnecessary cruelty, this justifies “protecting ourselves” or “victims” and judging others as bad. Most wars seem to be committed because people feel that there is something wrong and it must be corrected or eradicated. In this sense it reminds me of Chogyam Trungpa’s translation of the ending of the Heart Sutra “gate, gate, parasamgate, bhodi svaha” “gone, gone, gone beyond, completely exposed, awake, so be it”. Chiron is the key, the key to the open heart. If we accept suffering it opens our heart to compassion and intuitive insight into the nature of life. If we resist it, it closes it.
Coming back to your original point Clare. I’m not sure it is pantheistic or monotheistic. The real nub is whether we see Tess as an innocent victim of others cruelty or not. It strikes me that the world is the way the world is; the rest is our interpretation and likes and dislikes. Certainly Tess has choices, she does not confront Angel directly about her past life but shoves a letter under the door, she chooses to give up on Angel and return to Alec D’Urbeville. In fact all the characters have flaws and choices. Personally, if it were a true story I would have empathy for all of them – it would be in all their charts. Like children in a playground, everyone gets thumped, bumped, hurt along the way. Generally children seem to accept this as part of life and pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get on with it. Similarly seals do not seem to have formed a society to petition against the cruelty of killer whales and asked for them to be tried by an international jury and banned from the oceans, that would be equally cruel to the killer whales.
The work of Pim Van Lommel, and having met more than one person who has died and was resuscitated, has reassured me that death is not something to fear – neither of them wanted to come back and both of them loved the experience of oneness and love that they felt. If death is not an ultimate cruelty, then what is the rest? In the end of the novel both Angel and Tess have come to terms with fate and seem to have a calm acceptance of it. The Tao-Te-Ching says:
Do you want to change the world?
I do not think it can be done.
The world is already perfect.
Looking at my own life, I recognise I am not a good judge of what I need. All the things I have thought were necessary have not turned out to be really necessary and I have been healthier without them and many things I thought unnecessary turned out to be necessary. I realise I don’t really know what is necessary or unnecessary.
Chiron has inconveniently poked his head up into our consciousness since 1977 and now we really feel that things are mess and should not be like this – child abuse, pain and suffering, animals dying out, the climate changing. What a mess. Someone must be to blame! How could this be an ingredient in the system? Who is to blame for designing it this way? We need to know and sort them out.
Ultimately I don’t suppose it matters whether it is Gods who are flawed, humans who are flawed, the system which is flawed. Flawed seems to be built in and in Chiron this archetype, now more conscious, is here to stay. Damn! I think it deserves a collective tantrum and stamping of our feet; we should not put up with this appalling state of affairs and imperfect world. I think Chiron should be told; he should be shown the error of his ways and made to suffer, that would teach him (but then he might be very hurt, I wouldn’t want him to suffer, poor little thing!)
3 responses to “In defence of Chiron (reprieved)”
musing over your reply. Thank you for spending so much energy on it. I’ll make a few comments in a day or two, cheers Clare
Well, as Mercury conjuncts Chiron I will put a few more words together in response. Maybe you have said all you want to say regarding this, that’s fine. But, forgive me, I have Mars in Gemini rising sq Pluto, so there is always more to say from my point of view 🙂
I want to start with Tess. She is what drew me to your blog, as I read the book in my teenage and it had a marked effect on me. Then, it spoke to me about the role of fate, and whether fate was determined or not, and whether we could change it. Today when I consider the story I see more the double standards in Victorian morality, the lack of choice and agency available to women, the visiting of ‘sins of the father’ upon their children, the class divide, and individual courage. Hardy’s subtitle for the book (‘a true account of a pure woman’) hints at his intention, and her penultimate scene of laying on the stone at Stonehenge definitely casts her as the sacrificial victim. (there are obviously many readings of the text). I would simply say that, given her sex, social position and standing, and the confluence of terrible circumstances, she shows amazing bravery and courage. In Shakespearean terms, ‘all occasions do inform against her’ : letters are lost, parents sicken and die, she crosses paths with just the wrong people at the wrong time. To say she had choices and could have avoided the final end seems very harsh indeed, and, from my reading, lets ‘the gods’ of the hook.
I accept that suffering is a part of life, but I don’t accept that it is always pedagogical. The fact that some people manage to rise above it and gain benefit from it is testimony to the human spirit, not the effacacy of suffering in and of itself. Many people do not manage to rise above it. Too much suffering too early in life ends up in lives that are severely diminished, and, often, in a cycle of repeated suffering and sadistic behaviour.
In your response I still hear a murmur of victim blaming (‘she could have made other choices) and a sense of justifying the gods (‘if the gods are flawed, then it is not a flaw, but perfection’). These are things I do not believe. There are circumstances in life, for some people, where there are only bad choices or worse choices, thankfully most of us in the west have a broader and more benevolent selection available to us, but that is not the case for everyone. And, I am afraid that I will never forgive god for his capricious behaviour towards Job, no matter how many theologians try to put a positive spin on it. That deity is certainly not one to whom I would entrust my life.
And finally you conclude that if death is the end of our journey, and not to be feared, then there is meaning in accepting things that lead us to our own demise. Well perhaps. But when death comes early, or cruelly, or madness descends, lives that could have contributed so much are snuffed out. If one wants to continue living, such arguments have very little to offer.
I believe in evil, I have a sense of unnecessary suffering. I think there are sadistic energies in the Universe (call them ‘gods’ or ‘planets’ or ‘demons’) that can rampage and destroy things of real value. I believe some people can end up unwitting victims to these energies. I stand by my first assertion, that it is our role as conscious compassionate human beings to shine a light on this energy and call it by its name, and do our best to put an end to it. You and I end up in the same place, though from very different positions.
I have written too much already, but I will finsh with an example that perhaps clarifies my position. In my country, Australia, there is a an ongoing and growing campaign against asylum seekers arriving at our country by boat. These people are demonised by the media, politicians and many of the general public. They are sent to terrible detention camps in other Asian countries, and the freedoms of their lives are progressively destroyed day by day, to the point where many take their own lives or choose hazardous sea journeys where many drown in order to find some means of escape. Many ordinary, upright Australians justify this but saying that these people (virtually always from war-torn areas) had other choices, they must have brought this on themselves, they are greedy and self seeking etc etc. The enormity of their suffering is rejected outright, as it is beyond the scope of consciousness of ordinary, regular people living in an affluent western society. this is why I argue so strongly against this particular framework.
Thanks for taking the time to discuss these issues with me, I appreciate it.
Clare, thanks for this. I agree that people can be very cruel and refuse to acknowledge the suffering of others. I am careful though to judge another person’s suffering. I can only talk from personal experience. Books like Tess have a danger that we are not talking about real people so it is difficult to base an argument on them (probably my fault in using it as an example). In terms of affluent people judging from the West, I simply don’t know. I have met people who have suffered severe disabilities and been dying from Cancer and they recognised that their lives had been transformed and they had learnt in a way they would not otherwise have done. I am also working with young offenders in prison from broken homes and abusive backgrounds and I am stunned by their understanding and perspective and the way they view their experience and learning in prison. I remember Ram Dass talking about the terrible suffering he witnessed in Benares in India when he first went there and not being able to cope with the scope of this suffering, yet when he went after studying under Maharaj-ji he realised that the looks of suffering that he had originally seen in the faces were actually pity for him. For those in Benares coming to die (often with terrible diseases and life stories) it was the fulfilment of a spiritual journey to come to Benares and to die consciously. Similarly in the Don Juan books by Carlos Castaneda, I remember Carlos bemoaning the fate of the poor boys licking the plates at restaurants who would never have the opportunities that someone like he had. Don Juan is quick to point out that he was once such a boy and that Carlos is talking nonsense, every boy has the chance to become a man of knowledge and to SEE, what more opportunity could there be. Perhaps the most interesting example for me is the way that Victor Frankl describes his experience of concentration camps:
“I had wanted simply to convey to the reader by way of concrete example that life holds a potential meaning under any conditions, even the most miserable ones. And I thought that if the point were demonstrated in a situation as extreme as that in a concentration camp, my book might gain a hearing. I therefore felt responsible for writing down what I had gone through, for I thought it might be helpful to people.”
Personally I believe that Life is an evolutionary game prompting us to learn but even if I am deluded in this, then our human capacity to turn suffering into learning, meaning and compassion strikes me as the summit of our capacity as human beings. It is particularly noteworthy for me that Frankl, Mandela and the Dalai Lama have managed to do so without hatred for those who might be seen as responsible for this suffering but rather have managed to have compassion for them too and unite us rather than creating divisions and further hatred. Personally I am not interested in good and evil because I haven’t seen compassion for everyone stem from this but rather further division and suffering. Since I have Mars in Capricorn in the first house trine Pluto-Uranus I can probably keep competing on this one for as long as you but I think I will concede beyond this response (probably….!).