Category Archives: On Life the Universe and Everything

A new consciousness?

I wrote to Ram Dass recently – I know it is a somewhat presumptuous thing to do.  I wasn’t going to send it for this reason however my friend Sam read it and said it was worth sending and I didn’t think he would read it or respond so it seemed harmless.  Asit turned out his friend Raghu Markus who runs his podcasts responded very positively and liked it so I thought I would post it here.

Hi Ram Dass, I met you back in 1991 in Bath in the UK.  I had been listening to you and sharing your perspectives and lectures with others for some years before and have continued ever since and I have incorporated your teachings into my life and my work.  I love what you are teaching and I am indebted to your wisdom and loving heart. I have learnt so much from you and you have been such a companion on my own journey. At a personal level I have been a student of the I-Ching and Astrology for the last 34 years.  I also work as a coach internationally and for a charity working with young people coming out of prison.  I draw from many sources and I recognise that we are all pointing at the same thing from different standpoints.  I have been lucky enough to have a teacher who had an enlightenment experience back in the 70s and has taught many people over the years.  I wanted to write to you because I listened to a podcast recently where you were talking about Trump and how to love him and recognise that he has Karma to work out so that you can see his soul and that were you with him you would be working on that with him.  You also talked about how dark the world is at the moment, more so than you saw in the 60s.  I have been reflecting on this too.

 

I think we are at an interesting threshold of consciousness – the move to the Age of Aquarius.  Aquarius is concerned with the collective and it is about consciousness.  With the internet I think we have given form to our collective mind.  Our consciousnesses are now all connected across the world and we are beginning to see that we are all like cells in a giant brain (universal mind).  Donald Trump has the Sun conjunct Uranus in Gemini.  Gemini is the mind.  It is also the cosmic trickster.  Uranus rules Aquarius and it is about disruptive change which awakens us.  I have begun to appreciate that Donald Trump’s role (and Boris Johnson’s – an almost identical figure and another Gemini) is to act as catalysts for us to see our collective mind.  Everyone is frustrated with them because they are not taking it all seriously – they are not playing the game and they are saying it is fake news and dealing with it as if it is.  They are like old style court jesters in Shakespeare’s day who take over the throne when the King has become lost in taking himself too seriously and in folly.  They talk gibberish but their role is to wake us up.  What I realised Trump is waking us up to is our collective “mind chatter”.  We are stuck believing that the media is providing us with the truth but it is not.  It is providing us, like our own minds, with subjective opinions fuelled by drama.  I had never questioned things like the BBC before Trump.  I had assumed that they gave me the “truth”.  So I reflected that if they did not give me the truth, what was the truth?  It came to me that the truth was that I did not know!  it reminds me of your story of the stand up microphone being Maharaji in drag coming to catch you out as a “phoney-holy”.  I think that is the role of Trump and Boris – can we love them?  More importantly, can we laugh?  I watch what a fantastic foil they are for our self-righteousness and anger.  Everyone is so sure they are the bad guys and we are the good guys.  Not only that but they are highlighting our hubris.  We are so sure we know what is best that we have forgotten that we are not in control of Life and that it is perfect but it does not conform to our notions of how it should be.  I remember all your wonderful stories about Maharaji and your rascally friends undermining your wonderful plans and ideas about how it should be, like a friend coming in with muddy boots and treading all over your white carpet.  Trump is certainly a rascally friend.  I am not condoning his actions or suggesting irresponsibility or that it is not right to take action against what he is doing but rather that we are not there to change him but rather to be changed by him.

I understand that everywhere I look people feel a despair about the state of the world.  It looks in a real mess but is it?  When you consider the fact that there has never been less war, less poverty, less violence, more international sense of connectedness why do we not feel that we are living in a golden age?  I know that the transits astrologically show that we are going to feel like this.  I think it is like the pressure or crisis before a breakthrough in consciousness, like a collective long dark night of the soul.  I also recognise that what it is pointing at is that our collective mind chatter is not a reflection of reality and nor are the emotions it produces.  I think we are being asked to develop a witness that can stand back from identifying with it all and open our hearts and minds wider.

I also think the same is true of the environment.  The current crisis is waking us up to the fact that the earth is our collective body just as Trump is waking us up to our collective mind.  Yet, again, all we know for certain is that there is change.  Whether we think that is a good thing or a bad thing is an emotional subjective viewpoint.  We are stuck thinking we know how it should all be and how it will be.  But that is an illusion, we don’t know.  We thought in the 80s that we would definitely be destroyed in a nuclear holocaust, coming up to the year 2000 we were certain that the whole world would meltdown because of the Y2K bug.  Many people believed in Nostrodamus’s predictions and so on.  I am not suggesting or advocating that we do not take action but that the crises we face are there to wake us up collectively.  I think we are at the point where we are ready and beginning to develop a collective witness that can stand back from it all and take a wider perspective which befits our new collective consciousness – we have always known that we are all connected but previously it has been an intuitive knowledge.  Now, through the internet, we are all consciously connected to the collective mind.  it turns out it is like all our individual minds.

My enlightened friend has developed, through chance, a model of the brain.  She did not set out to find one.  Through it I have begun to see the whole political spectrum differently.  I recognise that we need every point of view.  We need a right and a left, in the same way that we need a right and left hemisphere in our brains.  The creative tensions of these oppositions create consciousness. The left’s truth is compassion and care for others.  Its shadow is self-righteousness, dependency and the drama triangle.  The right’s truth is that only we are responsible for ourselves and our lives and we have to have discipline and recognition of limitations.  Its shadow is cold-heartedness, materialism and looking after number one at the expense of others.  The green movement is like that part of us that nags us constantly about what we are eating and drinking and the effect on our body, it keeps us healthy and aware of our body and the impact of our actions but it is also obsessively self-critical and blaming – a sort of eternal do-gooding perfectionist.  The more I look I see the perfection of every person, like every cell in our body in sustaining our consciousness.  Each has to play its role but can we do it with humour and love whilst valuing the role others are playing?  Trump is playing a vital role in waking us up, as did Hitler in waking us up to the horror of war and our own shadow.  I think like Judas, they deserve huge compassion and respect for being willing as souls to play these difficult roles for all our benefits.  At a personal level, I was married to my wife for twenty-six years and then she had an affair with a woman who was living with us and left me and the kids.  It was the most devastating thing I could ever have contemplated and I was utterly devastated by it.  I loved her deeply and thought we would be together for the rest of our lives. Yet now three years later, we love each other, we have come together as a family and it has changed us all.  We are no longer together in the same way, but we have all forgiven each other and opened our hearts back up.  It crushed our egos but opened our hearts.  My wife and I have talked about it and I can see that her soul’s work was harder – if it was our fate to wake up in this painful way then to be the Judas was the harder choice and work.  It coincided with Trump being elected.  I was so sure it was wrong and that she was wrong but I see that Life knew better than I did.  We are so sure at the moment that we know best and that it is all wrong and will be a disaster because it is not the way we think it should be.  Yet, how do we know?  From what you write in Be Love Now, it was a similar crisis of faith for you with your stroke yet to all of us that listen to you, it is abundantly clear that who you are now and the depth of wisdom and love you have is intimately bound up with the experience the stroke precipitated.

I am in awe of your contribution to humanity and your love and compassion.  I am also in awe of your integrity in living what you teach.

 

With love

 

Nick

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Is Brexit important?

I was recently at my main client, one of the largest (perhaps the largest) law firms who are in the process of deciding whether to merge with a US law firm to become a really big and fully international law firm.  Everyone is concerned with whether this is the right thing to do.  The timing seems very parallel to Brexit – with similar delays and deadlines slipping past.  The head of the firm is utterly convinced that it is the right thing to do.  In the same way, there are people who are convinced Brexit is the right thing to do and those who are equally convinced that it is the wrong thing to do.

In discussing the potential merger at the Law firm, I noticed the leaders that I was talking to were concerned with how to achieve the right result – merging with the US law firm.  This stirred me into thinking because I saw that it was a case of the ends justifying the means.  The firm is trying to decide whether to change its voting structure and have an open rather than confidential vote on the basis that everything should be out in the open.  A laudable aim except that it appears that the real aim is to identify those who dissent and force them into the open and intimidate them.  As I thought about it, it occurred to me that everyone thought the outcome was the important thing.  I was laughing with my client because we were aware that the fact that Brexit was happening at the same time could not be a coincidence.  It was clear to me that the same thing was happening with Brexit – everyone was convinced that whether Brexit happened or not was the important thing.  The more I thought about it the more I realised that we were being manipulated by whatever consciousness is at play in the universe.  Here we all are thinking the outcomes are the important thing yet we don’t control these outcomes.  No-one can determine whether Brexit happens or not – it is beyond the individual’s power to influence.  It is a collective thing.  It is the same with the merger at the firm.  It is beyond any indivdual’s power to control.

The situation was very apposite to my client.  He had come to a personal breakthrough in his approach to his life.  He had spent the last year going through the process to be a partner at the firm and he had failed the first time.  He had been so wounded by this that he had finally decided to leave and had received an offer of a partnership at another firm (see!, someone else loved and valued him!).  When we met after he had resigned, we were talking through his reasons for leaving.  I knew that the whole experience had revolved around a dilemma in him where he placed his sense of value in how others saw him and not in himself.  Throughout his life this had been a theme and he had chosen a path where he was continually an underdog who did not feel properly valued by those around him.  The real point of the failure was to free him from this dependence on how others saw him and external validators of his value.  During this session the final penny dropped into place and he went back to the firm to say that he had made a mistake – that he loved working for the firm and he was prepared to risk failure again to find out whether it might be the right place for him.  More importantly his whole approach to his life and work radically changed.  He stopped taking on pieces of work based on whether they would influence his reputation and chances of making partnership or get him into other people’s good books but instead on the basis of whether he thought he was the right person and had the resources to do it.  The result was that he discovered there were no terrible consequences and his life became more straightforward and peaceful.  His attitude to going through the process of becoming a partner changed too.  This time he wasn’t trying to convince or manipulate the selection panel to make him a partner.  He didn’t see the partners on the panel like gods that he had to convince.  Instead, he saw them as fellow men and women who would make their own decision.  His role was only to present what he thought and leave them to decide whether they thought he was right to be a partner or not – all the angst and worry about how to say the right thing to guarantee the oresult he wanted reduced.

What he had learnt was to separate himself from the outcome.  As he pointed out, he was just finding out whether he was going to be a partner there and then when he had found that out, there would be his next step.  He saw that he didn’t need to make his sense of self-value dependent on that.  Instead he could see that he valued himself and he trusted that he would find the right outlet for himself; he was just waiting to find out whether it was at this firm and developing himself and learning in the process.  We are so concerned with the outcome – whether we are successful or not, whether Brexit happens, whether Trump does awful things etc.  Yet we have no control over these things.  So we try to control them by manipulating and pushing.  This inevitably provokes resistance and our heart closes.  People like Viktor Frankl say “Don’t aim at success, the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued….you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge.  Then you will live to see that in the long-run – in the long-run, I say! – success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.”

In her work Byrom Katie talks about three things; your business, other people’s business and god’s business.  I think most of us are confused.  We think other people’s business is our business.  We also think that things like Brexit, Trump, whether our firm merges etc. are our business rather than God’s (fate’s, that which we can’t control, the Universe – however you wish to describe it).  Most of our lives when we really examine them have a flow to them which we do not control.  It is important to us, so we try hard to influence it and this makes us very stressed and wrought up in efforts to make it the way we want it.  The ancient Greeks had a word for trying to control or decide God’s business – hubris.  It was at the heart of every tragedy.  It is hard for us to recognise that things like Trump, Brexit etc. are God’s business – that they are not our business.  We are welcome to think about them or have an opinion but we do not control them.

So what do we concern ourselves with? Now that is the interesting point.  I saw that it is not the outcome that is important – it is the way we treat other people.  It does not really matter whether Brexit happens or not.  If we end up with a deeply divided and resentful country which is polarised and intolerant of each others views, then whether Brexit happens or not is not material.  If it happens and we have become more tolerant and accepting of others’s views and more willing to co-operate then we have all benefited.  If it doesn’t happen and we are more tolerant and accepting of others’s views then we have all benefited.  So the outcome is a red herring.  It is more valuable to become curious about what Life (God etc.) is up to since it is clearly beyond our knowledge (humility), but if we are curious rather than indulging in hubris we might gain really big insights and perspective.  If we judge it from our limited perspective of what we believe to be right then we will probably learn little and be frustrated by the apparent idiocy of our fellow men.

So the only important thing is how we are treating each other in each moment not the outcome.  This does not imply that we are passive as most people conclude from this philosophy since that assumes what we do is not important.  Yet it is the reverse, what we do is very important and how we deal with this moment and others around us is the important part.  Where that leads is God’s business.

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Dissolving the bond with your group

This morning I consulted the I-Ching and threw the first and third lines of Dispersion (a hexagram which according to Chrissy Philp’s model represents Neptune.  I wondered what this might be about.  The first line says:

Six at the beginning means:
	He brings help with the strength of a horse.
	Good fortune.

It is important that disunion should be overcome at the outset, before it has 
become complete-that the clouds should be dispersed before they have 
brought storm and rain. At such times when hidden divergences in temper 
make themselves felt and lead to mutual misunderstandings we must take 
quick and vigorous action to dissolve the misunderstandings and mutual 
distrust.

the fourth line says:

Six in the fourth place means:
	He dissolves his bond with his group.
	Supreme good fortune.
	Dispersion leads in turn to accumulation.
	This is something that ordinary men do not think of.

When we are working at a task that affects the general welfare, we must leave 
all private friendships out of account. Only by rising above party interests can 
we achieve something decisive. He who has the courage thus to forego what 
is near wins what is afar. But in order to comprehend this standpoint, one 
must have a wide view of the interrelationships of life, such as only unusual 
men attain.

After throwing these lines I headed into my home town – Stroud – to meet a friend.  In the middle of Stroud a demonstration was taking place.  The demonstration was against the plans that the council had to sell off the central venue called the Subscription Rooms.  Another mutual friend was very vocal in persuading us to join and protest against this.  He blamed the government putting pressure on the council.  As we were walking through the market, my friend introduced me to a friend of his who was a leading proponent of the movement to create a legal precedent that prevented governments from reneging on their commitments to climate change proposals.  It was to create a fundamental right that existed beyond individual governments.  As we talked, there were a number of references to Trump and the sense was of being part of a war against Trump.

When I joined the protestors they were reciting poetry to the crowd.  The poetry sounded very angry and cynical.  It was about people deliberately screwing the poor and it had a very angry and bitter feel to it.  There was a definite sense of a “cause” that had to be fought for.

A few evenings ago, I was talking to a friend of mine whose wife had had an affair in secret and brought an end to thirty-seven years of marriage.  His four kids had been devastated, as had he.  He was asking me (since I had suffered a similar fate) what was the point of being people taken over by forces which caused such devastation and suffering.  He saw it very much that way.  He was angry that his wife saw herself as such a victim still rather than understanding the pain she had caused.  But he was questioning whether anyone could really be responsible for being taken over by such forces.

My European friends are still hurt by the fact that the UK is leaving the European Union.  Everyone seems to feel the world is such a mess.  It is clear that Trump, Climate deniers, Brexiteers are to blame.  At a personal level it is the same.  What a mess.  Everyone feels so disillusioned and it is clear that someone, somewhere is to blame.

When I run programmes for my clients at large corporates everyone has their nemesis and we are often told that we need to be aiming the programme at the difficult people who really don’t get what we are teaching.  We have said many times (half in jest) that we have proposed running a programme for difficult people – it’s just that no-one seems to sign up.  Everyone knows these difficult people are there and they are ruining their lives but no-one seems to think it is them.

What do we do?  Are we at the mercy of ungovernable forces that we can’t control?  Do we fight the good fight against evil and put in place rules and rights to protect us from people who don’t hold sacred what we hold sacred?

I have noticed that whenever a new consciousness is emerging it tends first to polarise.  It is as if something cannot emerge until it first separates.  This seems to be the function of Uranus.  To cause separation and polarisation.  Yet, I think the point may well be to cause us to have to think more deeply.  Certainly everyone seems consumed by Trump, Brexit, the rise of the Right etc. Life has achieved it’s aim that we are provoked and stirred into action and discussion.  It is like we have been poked with a cattle prod.  Everyone feels very angry and disturbed.

Certainly with Uranus in Aries square Pluto in Capricorn and Neptune in Pisces, there is a feeling that we are being prodded by an electric cattle prod and governments and politics are certainly to blame.  Everyone feels so unfairly victimised (Neptune in Pisces).  In my own life, this is playing out through my wife having an affair and leaving to live with her new girlfriend.  After twenty-six years together and being a bolt out of the blue for the whole family and done in Neptunian style with plenty of deceit everyone in my personal environment feels very stirred up too.  Oh dear, oh dear!  What can we do?  Everywhere we turn this sense of separation and feeling a victim feels apparent.  Is it men who are to blame?  Is it white people?  Is it Brexiteers? Trump?  The liberal elite?  ISIS? The USA? Surely someone somewhere must be to blame.  They must be taken on, fought, shown the error of their ways. They are clearly heartless, ruthless, unconcerned with people’s suffering and they should pay.

Now I have a secret to share, I think I have found out who is to blame – they are ruthless, heartless, unconcerned with people’s suffering and I think they need to take responsibility for the suffering they have caused.  The big secret? I think it is Life itself and I think it has done it deliberately.  But how do we fight it? I think we need to spike it’s guns and thwart its motives by coming together and having compassion for each other and blame it rather than our fellow human beings.  That would really show it.  Or could it even be that Life itself needs our compassion?  That it too is really trying to help us? Oh no, can’t even blame that!

When I worked as the head of a Steiner School, it had a Chiron-Saturn square, with Uranus and Pluto plus Mars thrown into boot.  It also had a Moon-Neptune conjunction.  Everyone who was involved in the school could feel there was a problem and that it was sitting there festering and no-one was addressing it.  The teachers felt it was the parents and trustees, the trustees felt it was the senior staff, the parents thought it was the teachers and so on.  Everyone was convinced there was a problem and that someone must be to blame.  Periodically someone would be identified and scapegoated for being the source of it.  Yet strangely, no matter how many people were got rid of the problem did not shift.  In the end I realised the only place I could deal with the problem was in me.  I realised that the part of me that felt a wave of frustration when the school responded to a problem by doing the wrong thing and making a crisis was the issue.  I could see that everyone was feeling that feeling and that the only place I could shift it was in myself – to give it up.  To stop getting caught by that frustration and negativity.  Life of course gave me plenty of practice!  But I got the hang of it and so over time did everyone else until the frustration was replaced by an amazing sense of coming together and unity.  It felt like Life was setting the challenges for us and the sense of ‘us and them” dissolved.  It had a profound effect on all those who were part of it.

I think it was Christ’s message.  I think he saw that no-one was to blame, that it was a set-up and so he said everyone could blame him so that we could all take blame out of the equation.  I think it is the same now.  I don’t think anyone is to blame.  I think we can all blame Life.  I think it is setting us a collective test.  Can we overcome our sense of separation, can we see it is all “us”?  Are we up to it?  Well, of course, first I’ve got to forgive my wife – that’s my contribution to the test.  I blame Life for giving her a personality (chart) and transits that would do it.   I see she is suffering just as much as we all are.  Time to control my instincts and rise to the challenge – will I be up to it?

I wonder, can we all become “unusual men” as the I-Ching describes it in the 4th line of  Dispersion?  Can we overcome disunion?  That sounds a better use of Uranus-Pluto square and Neptune in Pisces:  “unusual men” who are on everyone’s side and have compassion and understanding for everyone?  Could that be the beginning of a collective game – my friend Chrissy thinks we might be moving towards a collective black hole game (a collective game of consciousness).  I think that with the Age of Aquarius starting she may well be right.  Nothing like a good collective argument and conflict to create a breakthrough and bring us together.  The other night my daughter and I argued for a good few hours to try and resolve a conflict and see each others emotional reality and in the end we got there and the result was a beautifully loving evening, like the sun coming out after a storm.  Perhaps conflict and separation will lead in the end to union.  I think that is the point – we are learning to handle our collective emotions.

What if everyone realised that each person (cell in the collective organism) was important and had their role?  What if we saw that every political party had it’s grain of truth and it’s shadow and that all were needed to create the tension that is collective consciousness – in the same way that each sub-personality and tension between them is part of creating our consciousness?  What if we saw no-one was to blame?

What a challenge to be given, are we up to it?  I asked the I-Ching again and it said a situation of 62 – Preponderance of the Small – it describes “a struggle and exceptional conditions in general”.  It also says “exceptional modesty and conscientiousness are sure to be rewarded with success….we must understand the demands of the time in order to find the necessary offset for its deficiencies and damages.”  It also says that “the superior man derives an imperative from this image: he must always fix his eyes more closely and more directly on duty than does the ordinary man, even though this might make his behaviour seem petty to the outside world.”

There is one changing line to give us advice on how to deal with this situation:

Nine in the second place means:
	Remorse disappears.
	 
The situation is abnormal. A man's force of character is greater than the 
available material power. Thus he might be afraid of allowing himself to 
attempt something beyond his strength. However, since it is the time of 
DURATION, it is possible for him to control his inner strength and so to 
avoid excess. Cause for remorse then disappears.

Can we hold back our instincts? If we can then we can avoid the anger and blaming that might be a cause for remorse it seems to be suggesting.

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DNA & Astrology

I recently went to a conference held by Resurgence at Worcester College Oxford.  One of the speakers – a late replacement as it turned out – was Bruce Lipton.  His session focused on epigenetics and its implications for our understanding of evolution.  What he was saying was that we have misunderstood the key driver in evolution.  We have confused the blueprint – DNA – with the architect.  He pointed out that our DNA does not determine our evolution or consciousness in the way that people thought.  He also suggested that evolution is not taking place over millenia in a continuous line but rather evolution is a series of jumps where the paradigm shifts.  He explained that the initial thinking was that DNA was the brain of the cell and responsible for our level of evolution and that it was controlling our lives.  If we have a particular faulty gene for instance then we are fated to be ill or die from cancer.  As part of his research he described having stem cells in a petri dish which were multiplying from an initial cell. All these cells shared the same DNA but he realised that if he put them in different environments (different solutions), they developed into different cells – bone cells, fat cells, muscle cells etc. Hence it was not the DNA but the environment that was critical.

The research on sequencing genomes confirmed this since when they sequenced the genome of a small worm low down on the evolutionary tree it had twenty-one thousand genes and when they sequenced a mammal half-way up the evolutionary tree it had seventeen thousand genes and finally when they sequenced humans they found they had twenty-one thousand genes. So it was clearly not the amount of genes that was determining evolution. What Lipton realised was that the key was the membrane (mem-brain as he calls it). He described how environmental stimuli reach the membrane and then are converted by receptor and processor proteins to make an appropriate response via an effector protein. Since the environment was responsible for determining the development of the cell then the larger the surface area of skin the more perceptions (definition: “to become aware of something through the senses”). His point is that our bodies are just like big cells – taking in information through our sensory perceptors – touch, sight, hearing, taste, smell and then being processed through the brain to create a response.

Bruce Lipton’s insight is that the DNA does not have to express; how the DNA expresses is to do with our response to our environment.  The DNA is the blueprint but it is not the architect, ie. how we choose to respond to environmental stimuli from the potential of our DNA blueprint – how and what parts of our DNA we choose to respond with – is determined by the architect.  Lipton’s point is that as human being we are just like our cells.  The mind is the processor so how we interpret our perceptions through our mind is the key to how we respond but also critically this in turn shapes our biology too. We are self-programming and as we do so, we are evolving. So our free-will and choice about how we perceive stimuli from the external environment determines our response and our programming for how we use our DNA.  According to Lipton there are two processes that adapt our response, one which selects genes from either our mother or our father (methylation) and another process which determines how the gene selected responds (gene splitting).  Since each gene has around three thousand different proteins that it can express as part of this gene splitting process it means we have huge scope for adapting our response.

Bruce Lipton’s conclusion is that we are just the same as cells and receive signals from our internal and external environments and these signals are filtered through our mind to create perceptions that are then communicated through our nervous system to create our behaviour and gene activity as well as affecting the blood which is the culture medium which feeds the fifty trillion cells in our bodies.

So what are the implications of all this? For Lipton it is that we need to exercise as much control over our environment as possible in order to promote feelings of love rather than fear and stress since fear and stress responses cause cells to go into stasis and stop evolving whilst we deal with the threat. In the past this would have been for a short duration whilst we dealt with a physical threat, ie.it would have been our animal response. His advice is that we should control both our internal and external environment.

This got me thinking about the astrology of all of this and I realised that our chart is our DNA; the blueprint for our potential to respond that is our genetic inheritance at birth.  Thinking about this further I suddenly realised that the chart does nothing. It is a blueprint or potential. This blueprint is only activated by the evolving environment or in Astrological terms the on-going chart. Yet, the chart does not appear to describe our consciousness or free-will which determines the expression of this chart. As a long-term student of the I-Ching, it occurred to me that what the I-Ching is providing is a guide to our attitude or interpretation of our perceptions which allows us to modify our internal environment and express our DNA or chart in the wisest way possible. In effect to help us evolve.

This answers one of the conundrums of Astrology which is that knowledge of Astrology does not necessarily make us wise since it does not control the expression of our chart, it simply gives us information about the nature of the environmental stimuli and the blueprint which is our DNA. How wisely we express and evolve the expression of our chart is down to our attitude and this the I-Ching is concerned with training. The I-Ching takes the particular moment which the evolving chart describes and provides advice on the attitude appropriate to the environmental stimulus of the moment. Wow – amazing stuff.

Unlike Lipton, I do not think that the implications are that we can control our environmental stimuli in terms of foods etc. since, as the chart describes, we are not in control of these stimuli. Lipton noted that twins born with identical DNA will, over a relatively short period of time, deviate as they experience different environmental stimuli and their cells respond differently to these.  I was wondering about this since as astrologers we know that the chart does not change, however, I saw that this is right since even twins born within minutes of each other who have very similar charts or DNA will not then exist in the same space so the influence of the environment described by the ongoing chart will differ as will their use of their free-will to determine the expression of that chart.

Chrissy Philp’s work on a model of the brain and the synthesis of the I-Ching and Astrology puts Uranus as the creative and Saturn as the receptive and the two together rule the pre-frontal lobes. Since Saturn rules the skin or membrane and Uranus rules the Creative energy of the Universe, then Saturn is the receptors of our physical body and cells and Uranus is the energies of the environment which stimulate these receptors. It is interesting to note in Lipton’s explanation that there are two processes which determine the way DNA is expressed. Methylation determines which genes will not be selected from the parental pairs and this seems very much like Saturn with its ability to block expression or inhibit and the other is epigenetic gene splicing which sounds remarkably like Uranus in operation creating change and new possibilities.

The idea that evolution is to do with membrane size and capacity and that it does not gradually evolve over time but instead is about sudden changes in capacity which create paradigm shift fits with the symbolism of Uranus. At the same time, his notion that then this level of evolution is refined and worked on to create the best of the new paradigm fits with Saturn. When reading Robert Pirsig’s book Lila back in the eighties, I was struck by his idea that change was to do with a shift in consciousness and that those shifts were created by a change of paradigm. I was also struck by his description of the fact that the existing level of consciousness and evolution has to be guarded and protected against the attempts of new ideas to breakthrough because it is preventing a slipping back to a previous state. I used this as the foundation of my understanding of the role of leadership and management in organisations. I saw that the role of management was to create the maximum value from the existing paradigm and hone and perfect it but that the role of leadership was to change the paradigm. In this sense there was an inevitable tension between the two. It helped me hugely in terms of my change management role at the time within Ernst & Young because I recgonised that the Saturnian blockers of change in the organisation were the very people who, once the new idea was accepted, would be its greatest guardians and would be the most adept at making it established and grounded in the organisation. Bruce Lipton described exactly the same process with evolution. It required a new membrane for us to evolve since this allowed for more perceptions and greater interaction and co-operation of specialist cells or organisms. He explained that with each evolutionary leap you had a larger organism with greater skin area – hence the multiple folds of the brain to create maximum skin area. Once the new membrane was in place the evolution was about creating the best possible version of it till it reached its maximum capacity. At this point it required a paradigm shift to a new larger membrane with greater capactity for perception and interaction.

Pirsig in his book, described the fact that we already have larger organisms in play than human beings. A city or country has a life span far in excess of any single human being and no single human being has the capability of understanding how to run all the multiple complex processes that allow it to continue to exist. It requires co-operation between all the various cells (humans) and it requires different and specialist human cells to ensure its survival. Yet, like us, all the cells (or humans) can die and be replaced and the city continues to live and evolve. Yet, you say, a city is not alive as such. But how do we know? If you were able to ask the individual cells in your body – say your hand – whether the body they were part of, had a higher, intangible consciousness which was running the show and was called “John” and that this “John” would continue to exist even as every cell died out and was replaced they would probably tell you that you were suffering from a big delusion – that they had never encountered this mystical “John”. So, there is already evolution beyond the human and we are all part of co-operative membranes – multiple ones in many cases. However, the most interesting evolutionary leap is that with the internet, we are, as Chrissy Philp and others point out, evolving a giant brain. But the key is that it is a digital membrane (Uranus-Saturn). This digital membrane increases the capacity of evolution by a scale of magnitude and introduces a central nervous system for a global consciousness. We are in the beginnings of an enormous paradigm shift to the age of Aquarius-Leo. Interestingly what it suggests is a need for enlightened self-interest on the parts of the cells (us) to recognise that we are all feel special and individual (Leo) and that we all have a specialist unique role to play but we are all part of one humanity – in fact part of one world or one consciousness.  Having just made a call where I went through to a call centre in India, I was reminded of this fact.  It feels very impersonal (Aquarius) yet, when I started to ask the person where they were and established they were in Bangalore – the one Indian city I had visited – it transformed and our hearts connected to provide the Leo sense of the personal.  I was also working in Belfast and we were discussing the fact that for most people these days our immediate environment where we relate to people at the heart level has changed.  We relate through social media which connects us to multiple people with whom we might have little connection and most people’s jobs involve contact via e-mail and phone with people in other countries or areas that they may never directly meet.  Even for those not working and part of the older generation, they cannot avoid call centres in different countries etc. as part of their lives.  It all feels very impersonal and I think our challenge during this age will be to understand that it is all personal, that as the I-Ching says “we are all one in our hearts” (Leo).  I wonder whether old people coming together in homes, babies in nurseries, all of us working in an expanded global world, is part of this adjustment to a global consciousness.  I don’t particularly like it at a personal level but I see that the work we may be asked to do is to see that everyone (Aquarius) is personal (Leo) at the level of hearts (and consciousness) so that we are never really separate or alone.  I think it is going to take a long time to get the hang of this and the tension may well be with us for many millenia.

At the conference there was also a focus on discoveries taking place in terms of communication between plants and between fungi and the fact that more and more evidence from more and more disciplines are suggesting that the whole world (the earth) is alive and communicating at a fungal, bacterial, plant and every other level. In the past our ancestors lived with an intuitive unconscious knowledge that they were part of a numinous world. With the age of enlightenment we separated ourselves from this and positioned any spiritual belief in a disembodied extra dimension which was separate from the dead inanimate matter of which our world was composed. Now that Air-Earth rational materialism function is discovering the scientific evidence that the planet is alive and consciously all one. I think with the emergence of the Neptune-Uranus generation as they come of age, the rift between the scientist and the mystic is being healed as the proof of our oneness is being discovered by science. I suspect this might be a result of the Pisces-Virgo age fully expressing itself but it creates and cements the foundation for the new Aquarian age which we are at the very beginning of.  With the current Neptune-Saturn square the foundations of the old paradigm are breaking down and science and Spirituality are beginning to come together.  I am also aware that for the Neptune-Uranus generation, the Neo-Liberalism that sprung up at the time of the conjunction is now breaking down and with transiting Pluto and Uranus forming a t-square to this Neptune-Uranus conjunction it is no wonder that the younger generation is suffering from depression, alienation and breakdown and is turning to drugs to solve the problem.  The old paradigm is breaking down and this generation are somehow breaking down as part of that (thanks for this insight Clem).

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How to react to the Paris bombings?

 

How to react?  This is difficult because it is raw so I apologise in advance, particularly to those directly affected, if it feels presumptuous to be discussing this and putting forward a view on how to react (I am presumptuous, I have been since birth so I hope I will be forgiven).  I have been thinking about this and talking to others about it since Friday night.  First for me is compassion for those who have been hurt or shocked by this.  How could it be otherwise?  My heart goes out to those who have been so shocked and to those who have lost loved ones.  I can understand that they will be feeling shocked, hurt, angry, distraught.  I am with them, who would not understand such feelings?  It needs a lot of love and a lot of compassion for those hurt.

Then my heart says, how do we stop anyone hurting each other like this again?  Our natural reaction is to try to prevent being so hurt again.  Here, I think reflection is important – as Einstein said, “we cannot solve the problems of today at the level of thinking that created them”.   So something must change.

The I-Ching likes reflection and sees it like being on the top of a mountain – that is being an example that others can see from afar and also getting a wider view.  It calls it Contemplation (Hexagram 20) and the first line says:

Six at the beginning means: Boy like contemplation. For an inferior man, no blame. For a superior man, humiliation. This means contemplation from a distance, without comprehension. A man of influence is at hand, but his influence is not understood by the common people. This matters little in the case of the masses, for they benefit by the actions of the ruling sage whether they understand them or not. But for a superior man it is a disgrace. He must not content himself with a shallow, thoughtless view of prevailing forces; he must contemplate them as a connected whole and try to understand them.

We can all identify with having acted in a child like, impulsive way (boy like contemplation) and then had the wiser side of ourselves regret it (For a superior man, humiliation).  So how do we contemplate things as a connected whole?

Well, here is my attempt at this.  If we are all connected as one whole, then we cannot separate ourselves; it is all us.  Looked through this lens the Paris attacks take on a different meaning.  I think it might be that Life is provoking us to be more conscious about how we are all connected.  Paris in the last few days has been experiencing what it is like on a daily basis to be in the Middle East.  I think we in the West, through the immigration and the bombings are having to come to terms with the fact that we cannot separate and isolate ourselves from our actions in the Middle East.  If we bomb other people and kill them, then they are going to want to do the same to us.

In the hexagram Conflict (Hexagram 6) the I-Ching says:

Nine at the top means:

Even if by chance a leather belt is bestowed on one,
By the end of a morning
It will have been snatched away three times.

Here we have someone who has carried a conflict to the bitter end and has triumphed.  He is granted a decoration, but his happiness does not last. He is attacked again and again, and the result is conflict without end.

Violence does not solve violence, it causes more pain and hurt which creates more anger and desire to hurt and so on.

So what can we do?  None of us would choose such situations and yet, we can all look back on our lives and see that the experiences we would never have chosen somehow changed us.  It takes huge emotional courage, but to choose not to respond by hurting others but instead to turn the challenge to change back on ourselves we can transform the situation so that it creates a greater consciousness and allows us to evolve as humanity.  This is very hard work but it seems to be the only way to transform rather than perpetuate the problem.  It requires a lot of compassion for those hurt.  If we do not react with more violence we create the possibility for the end of conflict.

This is difficult to do because it requires us to challenge ourselves and see our contribution to the situation and to take responsibility for that.  The fifth line of the Hexagram Contemplation says:

Nine in the fifth place means:

Contemplation of my life.
The superior man is without blame.

A man in an authoritative position to whom others look up must always be ready for self-examination. The right sort of self-examination, however, consists not in idle brooding over oneself but in examining the effects one produces. Only when these effects are good, and when one’s influence on others is good, will the contemplation of one’s own life bring the satisfaction of knowing oneself to be free of mistakes.

I wonder what those killed would like their legacy to be?  I cannot say because I am not them but I think if I was killed by someone, I would not like my legacy to be more violence and killing.  I would feel my death had served a purpose if it led to greater awareness and a reduction of violence.

If someone is angry with us and we respond with anger and hurt, they continue to be angry and justify their anger.  However, if we don’t respond with anger, they lose the fuel they need to justify their anger, it means they cannot blame us and they have to reflect.  I think it is the same with countries.  As long as we are bombing and killing people in the Middle-East if fuels the belief that we are the problem.  If we stop and act peacefully then in the end, the problem is thrown back on the country and it creates the conditions over time for the country to change itself.  This requires patience but in the end it is a lasting change.

If these events provoke us to greater consciousness, to recognise that we are all the same and to take responsibility for our part then that would be a remarkable reaction.

 

The top line of the Hexagram Contemplation says:

Nine at the top means:

Contemplation of his life.
The superior man is without blame.

While the preceding line represents a man who contemplates himself, here in the highest place everything that is personal, related to the ego, is excluded. The picture is that of a sage who stands outside the affairs of the world. Liberated from his ego, he contemplates the laws of life and so realizes that knowing how to become free of blame is the highest good.

I think most of us can now see the impact of the way we reacted to the 9/11 bombings by invading Iraq and Afghanistan, we have taken many years to reflect and collectively we are beginning to take responsibility for our “boy like” reaction.  The same is true of the migrant crisis with our initial refusal to accept or have compassion for the migrants.  No-one wanted the little boy to drown but it woke up our hearts and changed our approach.  Can Paris wake up our hearts to the suffering violence causes?  I hear more to suggest we might respond differently this time I hope it will not take more pain to wake us up.

 

 

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Back to the myth of probability

A recent article (New Scientist 3rd of October – Definitely Not Maybe) by David Deutsch, a researcher in fundamental aspects of quantum information at Oxford University, opined that Probability “is as much use for explaining how the world really works as the flat-Earth theory”.  This article surprised me since I had written about the same thing in this blog, using the same language and arguments, some three years ago and here was someone (with a lot more academic credibility!) saying the same thing.  It particularly surprised me since I had been revisiting it when talking to people recently and the synchronicity was particularly strong.

The second surprising thing about the article was that we were both using our conclusion about probability to examine the theory of multiple worlds.  However, whilst someone thinking the same way as me is clearly someone who should be listened to with great respect (just ask my son and daughter for their concurrence on this point!), what was curious was that we had come to opposite conclusions about parallel universes.  In his argument, Indeterminism – the idea that events happen by chance not from deterministic causal events – “is an absurdity introduced to disprove the multiple universes implied by Quantum Physics”.  However, he posits that by accepting the multiple universes implied by Quantum Physics, a deterministic, non-probabilistic world view can be upheld, whereas to deny multiple universes implies either a probabilistic world or an indeterministic one.

I agree with his final conclusion that:

“It is easy to accept that probability is part of the world, just as it’s easy to imagine Earth as flat when in your garden. But this is no guide to what the world is really like, and what the laws of nature actually are.”

Yet, I do not concur about the theory of multiple universes and it seems to me that the arguments lead towards the conclusion that our understanding of what is happening at a quantum level is flawed rather than the notion that there are multiple universes – an explanation that seems to me to be the one that is “an absurdity introduced to prove” our current limited “personal garden” understanding of quantum physics.

So let me step back a bit.  What is invalid about probability?  The core of my argument (and Deutsch’s) is that probability is a human construct which we have confused with reality.  Like many models of reality it has its advantages, but it fails when we assume that is actually the way reality works.  In probability theory, if something is repeated an infinite number of times then it will conform to certain “laws” if the conditions are equitable.  Yet in reality nothing can be repeated infinite times and so we can only deduce that something is, for instance, 99% probable.  In order to operate our models we have to assume that saying something is 99% probable is equivalent to saying that it will happen.  However, as Deutsch points out, saying that the weather was 99% likely to be sunny yesterday does not meant that it was sunny yesterday.  You can attest from your own experience that events do not 60%, 50% or 40% happen; they either happen or they do not.  We are so ingrained in thinking that the world is a result of our choices and that events happen a certain way but could have happened another way that we forget that all this takes place in our imagination and requires another human construct – time – in order to make any sense.  Chrissy Philp’s presentation on time (http://www.slideshare.net/chrissyphilp/time-part-one-35490207?qid=070d8cfa-e076-44c8-85f2-a3e932f45e8f&v=qf1&b=&from_search=8) ably shows how time does not exist other than as a human construct.  The level of approximation inherent in probability means that we become blind to the normative aspect and begin to think that probability is real.

This all sounds very abstract but, for me, it has profound practical implications and goes to the heart of the question as to whether we have free will or to what extent we have free-will.  But before I going on to these, I want first to deal with why I think that the flaws in probability lead to the conclusion that multiple universes do not exist and why that is important.  David Deutsch’s analogy for probability is that it is like flat-Earth theory; it works well when considering your garden but is disastrous if planning how to avoid an asteroid strike on the earth.  Taking this analogy further, I think it worth considering quantum theory on this level.  Flat-Earth theory can operate as a view of the world when you have not travelled far enough outside your back garden to be able to establish that the world has no ends off which you could fall.  In the past we did not have the understanding or technology to circumnavigate the world and establish that if we journeyed long and far enough we would end up back in the same place again.  Now that we have the technology to leave the Earth and view it from space, any individual can prove to themselves that the Earth is a sphere.  I actually think Deutsch’s analogy is a good one for thinking about Quantum Physics.  The technology we have at our disposal and the limits of our senses make it impossible to accurately see or determine what is happening at a quantum level.  We are speculating, in the same way that philosophers of old might have speculated about what happened at the end of the world if the world were flat.  Modern research suggests that flat-Earthism died out among scholars around the 3rd Century BC in Europe but took longer to do so in other cultures, indeed there is still a flat-Earth society today, so even with evidence it takes us time to relinquish our world views.  We know that our current model of quantum physics presents us with problems, such as the fact that it does not tie up with the theory of relativity at levels beyond the quantum but it is our best guess so far (the current thinking seems to be that relativity may also have to change).  To suggest it is more than a guess is dangerous – as per the quote “if you think you understand quantum theory…..you don’t understand quantum theory” attributed to Richard Feynman by Richard Dawkins in his book God Delusion.

In the same way, I strongly suspect the concept of multiple universes (like Ptolemy’s attempt to explain the retrograde motion of the planets by attributing multiple interlocking circles to the planets’ motions or more recently the concept of time moving backwards to explain Ben Libet’s research on the brain and free will) exists to justify our current model of quantum physics because our understanding is too limited to allow us to see the full picture.  In this sense, I think that Deutsch’s assertion that probability is flawed, and that the mysteries of Quantum Physics will be solved by a deterministic model is accurate.  Like Einstein, I do not believe that God plays dice.  I also recognise that to suggest that the world is not random and probabilistic is currently a dangerous heresy and that Einstein is seen as outmoded and consigned to scientists of the past who have been superseded.  Yet, while there may have to be revisions to the theory of relativity, Einstein’s views on Indeterminism may yet prove to be more valid than we currently suppose.  David Deutsch’s use of multiple universes to get round the difficulties of the indeterministic view implicit in Quanutm Physics is clever, but is it clever rather than necessarily valid?  His points about probability seem far more convincing – to me at least (as another person speculating and of course agreeing with him!).

I suspect that, in time, this will all be unravelled by improvements in technology that allow us to understand in more detail what is happening at a quantum level, although I recognise that will probably just present us with new conundrums to solve. However, let us return to the practical implications that I put to one side as I think they are at least as relevant and may well prove another route or mode of thinking to consider this topic.  The practical implications of our current belief in parallel universes and a random, probability driven world is that meaning has been driven out of our model of the world.  A world that is random and driven by probability implies that there is no inherent meaning in our lives and that any meaning that we attribute is illusory or only for our own sakes.  This may possibly be the case (I am keeping an open mind on that). However, it is leading us to some destructive behaviour.

In Deutsch’s article he pointed out that Probability theory did not evolve as a scientific discipline but rather out of the gambling fraternity’s desire to beat the system and find foolproof ways to make or maximise the chances of making money.  Game theory has evolved out of this.  This belief sees the world in terms of probabilities and statistics.  It is a very material view of the world – the primary motive was the making of money (presumably in the belief that this would make one more happy?).  It also has inherent within it the notion that one can control the future and outcomes by playing percentages – that one can beat the system or maximise one’s opportunities and this belief seems to underpin our approach to many aspects of life.

Secondly, if multiple universes theory is true then, as people love to point out, you could be prime minister or president in another world, implying you could be more successful than you are now.  The obvious conclusion this leads to is that we can be anything we choose to be and the only thing determining that is us and the only thing standing in our way is making the right choices and maximising our chances. So we must compete to win and the harder we work, the more we push, the greater the probability that we will be one of the material winners.  Ambition and fear of missing the boat become dominating drivers.  This world view is deadening and heartless, because it denies anything spiritual or any belief in intuition or the heart.  Also, if there are multiple universes then this one we live in, is not in anyway special or meaningful, it is one of many.

Thirdly, if there is nothing numinous then you are entirely responsible for your fate and you better do everything you can or you might miss the boat and, lets face it, you in one of the parallel universes is bound to be doing better than you are in this one, which leads to dissatisfaction and more material ambition.  More importantly if there is nothing numinous then what happens to you is random and to do with percentages so virtues such as patience, kindness etc. have no value unless they allow you to manipulate others to your advantage.  It is interesting to note that almost everywhere in the world currently, any good qualities or acts are always justified with the proviso that they will provide a material reward.  Being kind to others, emotional intelligence, mindfulness are subtly justified with the notion “and you will be more successful (materially)”.  Even more spiritual or psychological approaches such as NLP are predicated on the notion that you will be more successful materially and that there is no inherent meaning or morality in life; you can be whatever you want to be.

The overall effect of this world view is to create an overwhelming pressure that we are responsible for creating our lives and the perception that we must do everything to maximise our chances.  This looks a pretty bleak outlook, and it is.  It is a game called “survival of the fittest” and finds its apotheosis in the concept of ‘the selfish gene”.

There are a number of areas of life where this world view has been particularly destructive.  I work coaching business leaders and this world view has resulted in an increasingly frenzied fear of missing the boat and the belief that there is a relationship between the number of people you meet and network with and the business you win.  The pressure and fear of missing the boat is intense and if you are not playing the game of trying to manipulate and push and network then you are clearly a failure – the notion that you can trust or have faith that work will come is meaningless in this world view.  Material measurement has become god, with profit and numbers ruling business management and league tables set up in every area to identify the winners and losers.  The mindset is that if you work extremely hard you maximise the chances that you won’t have the bad luck of being someone who can’t keep up and is rejected.

I also see a similar world view dominating our approach to education where exam success and league tables dominate our approach to education.  Attending a recent final stage interview for a Steiner School application to be an Academy was very shocking.  The questioning was ferocious and pointedly about exam achievement to the exclusion of all other factors.  It was a mathematical exercise about proving that the school would “add value” to children – meaning increase their grades.  Globalisation only adds to this fear of missing the boat since the number of participants for global resources has increased and so have the winners and losers.  Better make sure you and your children are “winners” and maximise their chances.  Indeed the government had better make sure that our children are trained to fill the gaps in our economy so they and we don’t get left behind and we maximise our collective chances of winning.

The third area where I have watched this play out is in working with young offenders.  For these young offenders, they reject the pressure to conform to this model and they know that their chances of winning in the system are poor from the start.  So why play at all? Also, if there is no moral consequence to our actions, they are simply random or chance, then why not play the probabilities and steal and deal in drugs and do your best not to get caught?  If you are smart, you might get away with it and then you’ve won; if you get caught then be smarter next time and play the probabilities so you are less likely to get caught.  The saddest part of this is that there is no personal growth or learning in this world view, or only how to be cleverer at playing the percentages next time.  It does not encourage moral responsibility since any belief in anything larger than ourselves is delusionary.

This leads me to the next point about the probability/random view of the world.  This concerns the belief in individual agency that accompanies it.  In her recent series Genius of the Ancient World, Bettany Hughes explored the lives and philosophies of three key individuals all born within a hundred years of each other who have shaped the world’s thinking for the last two-thousand or more years – the Buddha, Socrates and Confucius.  I wondered, watching the programmes, if the world view they ushered in has become distorted.  All three believed in human agency – that we could use our free-will to choose our approach to the phenomenon of life.  They believed that we had choice about how we approached life and they brought forward the idea that we could use our free-will to determine our actions – that we were not determined by the events around us.  This individual separation of our consciousness from the world around us had benefits; we had choice in how we responded.  However, none of them suggested that we were not subject to fate or that we could control the material world around us. Where they seemed to me to co-incide in their view was in the idea that we have agency to decide our response to the world.  This has evolved to make us now believe that we are separate from the phenomena around us (first God was abstracted) and now we believe that free-will and human agency is all there is, that there is no limit to our individual free will.  However, in believing in our free-will above all else we hold a terrible danger of hubris.

This desire to feel that we, at an individual level, are completely free and that we are in control is a strong desire, but that does not necessarily mean it is true.  In choosing our attitude or response, we are completely free (and this seems to be the message of the three) but that does not mean we have complete control over the world around us, or that it does not exist separately from our free-will.  There is a simple thought experiment to test the limits of our free-will.  Try using your free-will to change the fate of your body – see if you can use it to create a third eye or three working legs or to become cat-shaped.  If there are limits to our ability to change our own material form, what makes us think that our individual free-will is not subject to limitations?

A recent study of the global financial collapse suggested that the interlinking business networks and dependencies that created the collapse mirrored those of biological systems and that the same patterns of collapse were evident.  We can all accept that this might be the case, but the individuals who were part of those businesses would baulk at the idea that they were not making completely free and individual choices, unaffected by any larger forces or “fate”.  Yet all their individual actions conformed to a pattern inherent in other systems.  The suggestion of Buddha, Socrates and Confucius was that if we are aware of the deeper nature of life and our existence we can have agency in how we choose to respond to it – that we can be virtuous if we choose to be.  Thus, the idea of multiple-universes is attractive to our concept that it is our free-will and choice which is determining the universe – in the same way that we are concluding that our acts of observation influence the outcome of quantum events, yet that does not necessarily mean that it is true.  It might be, but until we know, it strikes me as wise to keep an open mind and be aware of what is driving our speculation.  Rejecting any notions other than the material has become a cause celebre for many scientists, including separating, and rejecting any role for, Philosophy in modern scientific thought.  Yet this rejection of any other mode of thinking or existence other than the material creates dangers for us in failing to remember that our models are just that.

On that note, I am conscious the same is true of this article and I reserve the right to be completely and utterly wrong – even as I write I am wondering if it might all be created by our imaginations.  It will be interesting finding out – whatever the outcome, large amounts of humble-pie are likely to be on the menu.  In that respect, I realise my obscurity could be a distinct advantage in a personality prone to large-scale speculation.

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Ceres, Neptune and the dark side of the Uranus-Pluto square

Ceres has just passed its conjunction with Pluto but Dawn (the unmanned spacecraft) is now orbiting the planet.  Given this and our previous experience with the correlation of physical insight into planets coinciding with a similar shift in our collective psychological insight into the planet, I have been thinking more about what Ceres represents.  At the same time, given it has been conjunct the planet Pluto at a time when it is making a close square to Uranus, it is hard to separate out the Pluto-Uranus issues from Ceres.  Indeed, given the Demeter myth (Demeter was the Greek name for Ceres) and the association with Pluto, it seems difficult to separate the two.  This prompted me further to think about the way we interpret charts on a mundane level versus individual birth charts.  It occurred to me that when we look at a birth chart we synthesise how all the planets are working together to create the overall personality of the individual whereas with transits we tend to look (or perhaps I do..!) at individual transits more.  Thus in considering the current world situation I am interested in the interconnectedness of the outer planets and also Ceres and Chiron.

So let me explain my thinking on one point which I think the Pluto-Uranus square is picking up.  In terms of Ceres and interpretation generally, I am wary of attributing planets (and asteroids) to either men or women exclusively.  I am more in line with Jung’s interpretation (informed perhaps by his interest in astrology) that men and women contain both masculine and feminine natures.  Indeed one has only to look at a chart to see that both men and women’s charts contain all planets and all signs.  There isn’t a greater preponderance of male signs and planets in men’s charts or female planets or signs in women’s charts; we cannot tell by looking at a chart whether it is a man’s or woman’s chart.  There are just as many women with strong or dominant Jupiter or Mars as men with strong or dominant Moon or Ceres.  Thus the archetypes might express male or female energies but I do not think that means that they “belong” or are “exclusive” to men or women.  I think for the world in general, without the benefit of Astrology, this is causing significant confusion and is part of Chiron in Pisces and the Pluto-Uranus square.

Back to Ceres/Demeter; I think that a key part of the Demeter myth is that it provides a key to Pluto which echoes other myths such as the Sumerian myth of Ereshkigal In this very Plutonic myth, Inana descends to Ereshkigal’s realm where she usurps Ereshkigal’s throne. There are multiple versions of the myth and in some Ereshkigal is in mourning already for her husband whom Inana is partly responsible for sending to his death.  They also suggest that Inana went to ursurp Ereshkigal’s throne through a lust for more power.  However most versions are clear that once the judges of the underworld have decided against Ereshkigal she is hung up on a hook like a piece of meat to rot.  The key to the myth is that Inana has agreed in advance with her servant that, should she be unsuccessful, he/she (depending on the version of the myth) is to approach a number of gods for help. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to persuade other gods, Enki, the god of wisdom, agrees to help and fashions two mourners to go down to the underworld to grieve with Ereshkigal. Ereshkigal is so moved by the mourners willingness to mourn with her that she grants them whatever they wish and they ask for Inana and restore her body. There are also parallels in that the Descent of Inana into the underworld links to the notion of fertility and the cycle of the seasons as well as the movement of Venus (with whom Inana is associated) from morning star to evening star.

There are strong parallels between this myth and the Ceres/Demeter/Isis myths.  In the Isis and Osiris myth Isis weeps and mourns and eventually is able to heal and restore Osiris and in the Demeter myth she weeps and mourns and eventually Persephone is allowed to return from the underworld.  Yet in each there is nevertheless a price to pay; in the descent of Inana, her husband replaces her in the underworld; in the Demeter myth, Persephone spends half her time in the underworld and half above ground and in the Isis myth Osiris is restored to life but not fully.  What I am wondering is whether the asteroids in general deal with the fact of being human in a world of powerful transpersonal forces – Neptune, Uranus and Pluto. It is about our ability as separate vulnerable individuals to come to terms with the powerful forces that interact with us and render us at times powerless.  The inner child in us rages against the unfairness of these events.  Yet, these black holes (cf. One Way of Looking at Man by Chrissy Philp) where the universe refuses to conform to our picture of how we think it should be are also the engines for our growth and development and for the evolution of our individual and collective consciousness.

On this level, I think the asteroids are a collective – a planet that did not form – and I also think with their sense of vulnerability, woundedness etc. they are linked to Virgo.  Think of trying to keep a house clean – it is a never ending wound.  It is the same with the body.  All our efforts at good health cannot hold back the process of decay.  It is the same with our neuroses; however much we try to work on ourselves our inner-child remains perpetually insecure because it has the consciousness that we are mortal.  Yet this constant wounded quality is also the prompt for us to evolve.  We work and work to stay alive and to maintain our survival in the face of a world which is in a process of entropy.  Yet the product of entropy according to Tom Stonier (Information Theory and the Internal Structure of the Universe) is information.  My friend Chrissy’s model of the brain has on the left brain side Scorpio, followed by Taurus, followed by Virgo as you work forward towards the front of the brain.  This is a pattern of evolution as it follows our evolutionary consciousness discovering Pluto in the 1930s then Taurus (ruled by the Earth according to Chrissy’s model) when we first ventured into space in the 1960s and then Chiron in 1979.  Again according to this pattern the signs link to I-Ching hexagrams and Taurus and Scorpio create the hexagram 18 – Work on what has been Spoiled in the I-Ching.  Work on what has been spoiled is about consciousness and the next evolutionary step leads back to Leo or the Sun. In the myth of Chiron, Chiron was the trainer of heroes (Leo).  I think we are in the midst of a transition where work is changing from being a means of survival to meaning work on ourselves, on our own development and evolution.  Certainly in the formal work context it is now seen less as a job which provides the monetary means for survival and much more as a creative expression and being about the development of our potential.

All the Ceres myths have the ideas of life and death plus mourning and the cycle of the seasons and fertility woven together in them.  Taurus and Scorpio bookend the seasons in terms of being the centre of Spring in all its beauty and life and Autumn in all its death and decay.  So I think a recognition of the cycles of young life being overtaken by decay and then regeneration to be the fertilisation of new life is central to Ceres.  For all of us, these cycles of nature are disturbing and anxiety provoking.  For we humans with our self-consciousness which involves knowledge of our own mortality and the mortality of everything in the world it is a painful place to live.  We live surrounded by the knowledge of the inevitability of decay and death.  Yet also at a subtler level, we have to acquiesce to the pain of life and our inability to prevent suffering since it is the fertiliser of our development and growth.  We do not necessarily like this experience – we are like Persephone being led down into the underworld and Demeter grieving her loss.  It all seems so unfair and so unnecessary.  We are appalled at the current level of death and destruction of the planet yet it seems to be necessary for us to evolve.  Darwin, in very Virgoan style, went around the world, studying and cataloguing animals.  His discovery was the evolution of the species but it was as much about constant death of species and physical adaptation (Virgo again?).

So how does this apply to our current situation and the Pluto-Uranus cycle?  The last major aspect between Pluto and Uranus was the 1960s conjunction with all the upheaval and change that that brought about.  The Pluto-Uranus generation are now in their mid 40s to mid 50s and therefore quite dominant in society.  The Pluto-Uranus in Virgo conjunction brought a revolution in attitudes towards sex with the stigma of birth outside marriage eradicated and class, gender and race boundaries being brought down.   Interestingly Chiron was also in Pisces in the middle of this as well as it is now and so for many of those with the Pluto-Uranus conjunction, they also have Chiron in Pisces.  The question of the morality of war was also challenged with protests over the Vietnam war and the first shocking footage of the reality of war (Chiron in Pisces).

Uranus as a planet seems to involve inevitable separation – a splitting.  If it is the Creative in I-Ching terms then it can only manifest through the Receptive which creates a binary pair.  It allows us to become less identified with things – particular the material (Saturn) – to dissociate.  It also allows us to create the duality between subject and object.  Uranus is also about enlightenment and the cosmic mind.  It is collective awareness.  It is no surprise that with the square to Pluto being exact recently the results of a study at Southampton University were published http://www.southampton.ac.uk/mediacentre/news/2014/oct/14_181.shtml#.VOe6eHbexWY 

This study’s implications are that awareness is not localised within the body.  If this is true and judging by the experiences of those who have experienced Near Death Experiences (NDEs) then awareness is a shared and collective phenomenon which is separate from our physical existence ( http://www.slideshare.net/chrissyphilp/time-part-one-35490207?qid=fd14171b-b0f2-464a-8718-08a945fac1c0&v=qf1&b=&from_search=1).

So what is the relevance of all of this?  Since Uranus separates us from things it has a rather nasty shadow or side-effect.  When Uranus was first discovered in 1781 revolutionary energy exploded into the collective consciousness.  There was the French Revolution, the American war of Independence, the declaration of independence, the Industrial revolution and many more.  However, since Uranus separates it also has the danger of polarising.  It rules Aquarius and it is very uncomfortable with water (emotion) because it is messy and subjective.  Uranus dissociates but in doing so it is unable to recognise its own subjectivity.  Hence the Sun is in detriment in Aquarius because Aquarius struggles to see itself as individual and subjective (the essence of the Sun).  This is a paradox since it is the fact that we all feel like individuals that makes us the same.  Uranus instead identifies with the group.  This is fine as long as we identify with the whole of humanity or with consciousness itself, then we are part of everyone.  But if we identify with part of consciousness then there are huge dangers.  Thus the mob in Paris identified with being the proletariat and it wasn’t interested in how individual aristocrats (or later anyone opposing the revolution) had behaved, anyone it disliked was condemned by the mob and their head was chopped off.  At its worst Uranus is this mob mentality, quick to judge and condemn others on principle and concerned with equality above all.  Communism was concerned with this notion of equality and human rights and principles yet it became stiflingly grey and repressive of individuals, whilst at the same time covertly creating huge differences between people.  Beauty, freedom of individual expression and any questioning of the party was quickly punished.  Talking openly and questioning the ideology was dangerous in the extreme.

Many of the things which came to prominence under the Pluto-Uranus square are now reaching a point of crisis.  In the 1960s, there was the rise of feminism, greater social mobility, sexual freedom, a move away from the stigma of birth out of marriage, the human rights movement under Martin Luther King, challenging of the Vietnam war etc.  It was a like moment of adolescent freedom when the rules laid down by parents were there to be challenged and the dominant models demolished.  Yet where are we now with all these issues?

In myth Ouranos fathered children with Gaia the Earth, yet he found these children abhorrently ugly and imprisoned them in Tartarus deep within the earth where they could not be seen.  At the prompting of Gaia, Kronos (Saturn) finally castrated Ouranos and ended his reign.  The fact that Ouranos imprisoned his children deep within the Earth and that they finally erupted to castrate him tells us something important about Uranus.  Uranus in its process of separation and its dislike of the earthy or emotional side of nature holds the danger of repressing those sides of ourselves and others it finds ugly or distasteful.  It condemns these sides and they become demonised, but above all it distances itself from them.  It creates “us” – good, untainted by emotion and “them” – corrupt, bestial, inhuman, irrational.  It is no coincidence that Ouranos is castrated.  The very violent and sexual nature of this act tells us something about what Ouranos represses and is undone by.  Liz Greene associates Uranus more strongly with perfectionism than Virgo.  Uranus’s idealism and desire to live in the nice clean world of ideals and concepts rather than the messy world of biological nature gives us a clue about this perfectionism.  With the current Uranus in Aries square Pluto in Capricorn we can see this phenomenon at work.  Rolf Harris, Jimmy Saville, Gary Glitter, Dave Lee Travis, all these old plutonic “satyrs” have become representative of Pluto.  In the recent case of Ched Evans the footballer, the mob through its new Uranian medium of the internet became prey to the mob.  Anyone who spoke against this mob reaction was trampled and scapegoated in its wake. In this respect, one can see that it is difficult to separate out the effects of the outer planets when talking about what is happening in the world – Chiron in Pisces and Neptune in Pisces have the danger of seeing the world in terms of victims and scapegoats.  It is interesting to note that since discovering Uranus in 1781 we have quickly cantered through the discovery of Neptune, Pluto, Chiron etc.  It seems like we have reached adolescence as a collective and are now having to take greater conscious responsibility for collective forces.  Getting our approach right to these collective forces seems to be the evolutionary stage we are collectively involved with.  Yet to handle these forces wisely it seems it is important that we understand the implications of these collective forces getting entangled with individual energies.  In themselves these transpersonal forces are collective – consciousness (Uranus) , uninterrupted flow of the heart (Neptune) and our collective inner child (Pluto) yet when we distort them to personal ends and forget it is all us they become very dangerous.   Currently with the square, there is a danger that we play out Uranus tension with Pluto through a desire to eradicate the bestial in human nature.  Yet, in this division and separation there is tremendous shadow at play.  It is as if, through these collective scapegoats, we can eradicate our own biological natures, we can become pure, free, rational beings, who are separated from our biology.  It is also a war on horror and the reality of the world.  Can we really eradicate Pluto and Capricorn from the world?  Would we want to?

Looking at the issues we faced in the 1960s (and it is no coincidence that this generation are now at their most influential in society), war still haunts us in the form of Afghanistan, the Middle-East and Ukraine.  In these situations we have ready targets for scapegoats in Putin, the Taliban, ISIS etc.  Yet, have we learnt from the conjunction?  Do we see ISIS, Russia, Afghanistan as “us” or “them”?  The danger is that we are still caught in separating ourselves and seeing “them” as “bad” rather than recognising the gift of Uranus – that consciousness is a shared phenomenon; that it is all us.  Alan Curtis’ brilliant documentary Bitter Lake was a fantastic example of the Pluto-Uranus square and Neptune and Chiron in Pisces with Ceres mixed in.  It highlighted the dangers of failing to see our own Pluto in the form of the inhuman brutality dished out by our own troops and drone warfare; that, as the army captain pointed out, their simplistic view of Taliban as “badies” and them as “goodies” meant that they could be manipulated by local warlords into killing rivals simply by the warlords labelling their rivals as “Taliban”.  To see the world through the Karpman Drama Triangle lens of victims and persecutors and get sucked into a saviour role is to fall prey to Neptune at its worst.  It is as if under the current transits we are being given the chance to see the dangers of responding like puppets caught in the Pluto-Uranus crossfire and Neptune mob victim mode, reacting instinctively as if we want to root out and destroy Pluto but in the process becoming the very thing we are seeking to eradicate – our testicles are being castrated.  Thus programmes like Alan Curtis’ give us a chance to really see ourselves and our potential to be corrupted.  It is the same with our greed and social mobility.  The dream was that society would become more equal if we eradicated the older generation’s notions of hierarchy and class privilege.  However, there is greater polarisation of wealth than before and greed runs rampant.  It is easy to blame the bankers and to separate ourselves from them but this misses the point of Pluto.  Pluto prompts us to look more deeply, to confront our deepest nature and transform it.  At this point I have to own up to the fact that I am not describing the Pluto-Uranus opposing Chiron in Pisces generation from a detached standpoint – I am the Pluto-Uranus opposite Chiron in Pisces generation – indeed the aspect is very tight and closely square my Sun on the ascendant in Sagittarius.  Oh no – that means it is me too!  It is; I recognise the fear and greed in me that prompted the bankers and I recognise the tendency to disgust at the manifestations of Pluto.  Perhaps this is only my own realisation that I am projecting on to the collective?  No, no, I I am sure it is safe to assume that I am the only one who is capable of Uranian, god like detachment from subjective involvement in these issues!  Sadly, my own journey has turned out to be more about seeing my own flawed humanity on a grander and grander scale than achieving the god like detachment that the Uranian side of my personality might desire.

It seems futile to attempt to eradicate deep biological reality (Pluto in Capricorn).  By separating ourselves from it we only deepen it and castrate our ability to be conscious of it.  It has taken me until this last square between Pluto-Uranus to fully understand what it is going on but I often notice that this is often the case with transits.  I see a very similar theme with the issue of human rights and feminism.  The current focus on diversity with its emphasis on the biological differences between people has increased the focus on our difference so that individuals genuinely believe that others are alien but more importantly it holds the danger of people identifying more strongly with their sex, their ethnic background etc.  If we are not careful in trying to eradicate prejudice we define and identify people more strongly with their gender, racial background, as if this was the sum of who they were.  It is a pernicious form of prejudice and it is Uranus shadow at its worst, creating separate groups and a tribalistic identification with that group.  It is isolating and depressing to be with men who talk about and treat women as if they were alien but it is equally isolating and depressing to be among women who treat men as if they are alien. That anyone should be dismissed simply because of their biological features is a denial of our common humanity, yet I think the solution to this is greater identification with our common humanity and shared consciousness rather than greater focus on and identification with our differences.  This is the problem of the conscious mind separating itself from nature.  In trying to be “rational” we become deeply “irrational”.  Like Ouranos, banishing his ugly children to the underworld, we will not rid ourselves of anything distasteful and irrational, instead we hold the danger that we are castrated by it.   The idea that we will eradicate sexism or racism by getting everyone to say the right words, or quotas or statistics is similarly “irrational”.  This is not the role of the conscious mind.

The current square is really challenging us to bring Uranian awareness and insight to Plutonic issues rather than attempt to imprison them deep in the earth.  Uncomfortable as it always will be Pluto’s role is to face us into deep truths and to transform our lives.  This is where I think Ceres is key.  Ceres is the ability to mourn and grieve with others about the pain and horror of life and it’s biological imperatives.  Who can grieve with and have deep compassion for the paedophile – perhaps the legacy of this period will be the bravery of programmes like The Paedophile Next Door with it’s protagonist Eddie’s bravery in admitting to his tendencies and asking for help before acting on them.  This is Uranus and Pluto at their best.  Uranus enlightening and unorthodox seeing our shared consciousness and Pluto forcing us to confront and transform our deeper natures.  Neptune and Chiron in Pisces is not easy identification with victims or one-sided compassion.  It is genuine compassion for us all without excluding any part of humanity.  How do you have compassion even for those who have murdered or committed atrocities towards us or represent all that might disgust us?  Yet our most inspirational figures do just that – The Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa.   A recent study on those who commit extreme acts of heroism on behalf of people they do not know concluded that the difference was that those who do not act see a “stranger” whereas the individuals who act see a fellow human being.

Can we see everyone as us? Can we accept even the horror of death and devastation, pain and grief as part of life and allow it to deepen us?  There are wonderful things coming out of the Pluto-Uranus cycle and more still to come, we are only beginning to take our first steps towards understanding ourselves collectively.  I leave the last word to Tich Nat Hahn because he expresses it so beautifully:

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my
hands, and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

Thich Nhat Hanh

 

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