Urania's Well: Astrology for Changing Times
This post will be a two-parter: You can read part 2 here.
“No man lives without jostling and being jostled; in all ways he has to elbow himself through the world, giving and receiving offense."—Thomas Carlyle
With Mars settled into Libra for a nice long transit of about six months, this is a good time to take a look at the Red Planet’s meaning in our lives, in our charts, and at the lessons we can glean from the Warrior’s transit through the realm of Themis and Her scales of justice. Mars isn’t happy here — He’s not very good with the social graces beloved of Libra, the sign of his detriment — but he’ll happily fight for Libran causes. This means that one of the most prominent manifestations of this transit is often an emphasis on fighting for social justice, which can — and frequently does — devolve into fighting over issues of political correctness (at any point on the political spectrum) and hurt feelings. Libra is the sign of the diplomat, and wants everyone to get along. Mars loves to fight. Put the two together, and you’re going to see a lot of people with ruffled feathers, fighting over whether or not their feelings are getting sufficient respect and attention from others. In other words, there will be a lot of people taking – and giving – offense.
Sometimes, an act or statement of opinion we deem “offensive” so clearly challenges our sense of justice or personal core values that it requires an emphatic, even aggressive, action or statement of opinion in response. So the feeling of being offended can serve to raise an internal red flag, alerting us to a possible violation of standards we deem personally acceptable, and the need to do something about it. But more often than not, people don’t simply notice the red flag, take it as a warning, and then move to identify and solve a problem. Instead, they chase the flag and the flag-bearer around the arena, snorting and huffing and puffing, determined to trample the offending parties into the dust, certain that only the total decimation of the red flag will make the pain they are feeling go away. But it won’t, of course, no more for the offended person than for a wounded bull. And the offended person is wounded, no mistake, but the pain is sourced in a wounding much older than any current situation. Those unhealed wounds are worth identifying, whether in ourselves, someone we care about, or even just someone who is demanding our attention. We all overreact sometimes, and tracing that reaction back to its source can give us a wonderful opportunity for healing.
When the sense of being offended is turned into a major event, when “I’m offended!” is an ongoing response to a red flag, then it’s pretty clear that we are not dealing with a simple violation of personal standards, but with an ongoing trauma drama that involves emotional manipulation, avoidance of personal issues, a damaged sense of self, and an attempt to take the moral high ground as a defensive position. When this happens, we’ll see minor points of disagreement inflated, and/or another person’s opinion or statements deliberately mis-characterized in the (often unconscious) interest of creating and maintaining a state of high emotional drama. The psychological payoffs for that behavior are, of course, individual, but frequently include distraction from deeper, underlying emotions, often rooted in early-life trauma, a need to sooth cognitive dissonance, and/or an attempt to shore up one’s sense of self-worth. Unfortunately, these payoffs are neither healthy nor long-lasting. Learning to recognize Mars running amok in others, and to rein in and direct one’s own Mars, can make the Red Planet’s journey through the sign of its detriment a bit easier to deal with. So let’s take a look at what some of those underlying wounds might be, and where we might find healing, whether for ourselves or others.
“Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come… “
If you look in any random astrology book, you’ll usually find the Sun assigned rulership of the ego, but this is a misuse of the term, at least in a psychological sense. What the Sun symbolizes in astrology is the ruler, the monarch, the inner, greater Self that is aware of its connection with Soul and Oversoul (feel free to adjust the terms to suit your cosmology, but I’m sure you get my drift). The ego is a part of the psyche that is mostly conscious, and is in control of our interactions with physical reality — making sure we are safe, fed, sheltered, etc. This is a primarily Martian function. When we use the word “ego” in social terms, as in “she has a huge ego”, we are usually referring to aggressively-presented self-esteem and an extreme self-focus that almost always hides a damaged sense of identity and self-worth. This damage is the result of our disconnection from our Ancestors, from Spirit, from Source, from the unity of Consciousness that is the creative force behind the Universe. This "ego" is a defensive position taken in response to a perceived threat to the self, and is also ruled by Mars.
Looking at the Natural Zodiac, which is the template that astrology lays over our solar system, we see that the Sun rules the fifth house. Like any monarch, the Sun requires an advance team to prepare for the royal visit of the Self into physical reality. Mars, ruling the sign of Aries, reigning over the first house, is the pioneer, establishing identity through the trail-blazing endeavor of being born into a physical body, demanding a place for one’s Self in the world, and establishing a personal identity. This is followed by a process of gathering resources (Venus/Taurus/2nd) — where will the monarch stay, how will she travel, how will it all get paid for, who will do the work? It is also necessary to establish communication networks, gather relevant information about the destination, plan an itinerary (Mercury/Gemini/3rd). The monarch also needs emotional and domestic support — family, home, nourishment, and the power of ancestral resources made available (Moon/Cancer/4th). Once these “personal planets” — Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, ruling the four houses that precede the fifth — have done the advance work, then the monarch, the Sun, our inner Light that is incarnating to shine in this lifetime, can come through and fully express itself here within the realm of time and space as we grow into full adulthood.
“As soon as you’re born, they make you feel small” — John Lennon
The only problem, of course, is that there are an awful lot of things that can go wrong in the advance work — the childhood traumas and dramas that we all go through to one degree or another. By the time we are adults, most of us have been suppressed, repressed and oppressed to a point where we are not expressing the Light of our Soul to any truly effective degree. In fact, we’ve often turned what should be the decision-making functions of the monarch (the Sun) over to the advance people (personal planets), and left them to fight about who’s in charge. Then we live in the resulting chaos. When decisions that should be made in the light of Spirit — with our greater Self weaving identity, core values, information and empathy together into a chosen course of wisdom — are, instead, made by disparate parts of the psyche all clamoring for attention, still trapped in bonds of childhood trauma, then we are pulled in different directions within our own heads. And whether or not you are a magician, you know what effect that this kind of psychological mayhem is going to have on your life.
“He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”
― Gabriel García Márquez
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being an individual and having an ego — indeed, we can hardly help it. We come into this world as individuals, with individual bodies and minds, hopes and dreams, ideas and desires. But a healthy, functioning person will, once the Sun, the Self, is firmly established in this incarnation, move on to the sixth house, to the realm of service, and begin to turn their focus out into the world. The seventh through twelfth houses take the Self into relationship — with other individuals, with groups, and ultimately, with Source.
A number of religions make the task of discovering the Self (or, depending on the religion, the illusion of the self) a primary topic of meditation, asking “Who are you? What defines you? Your body? Your thoughts? Your emotions?” In fact, all of those things cluster around an inner sense of “I AM” that is as elusive and as solid as the dance of particles within a single atom. This sense of Self, when explored in depth, leads to an understanding that “I am” cannot be separated from “you are” and “we are”, and “the Universe is”. But that enlightening realization of interconnectedness does not negate the importance of the individual. It is abundantly clear that we have been invited to explore individuality within the frame of time and space. We are, each one of us, every atom and molecule, Source creating Itself within this framework. And despite rumors to the contrary, the ego is not something to be overcome, dismissed, or suppressed. It is a necessary part of a healthy, functional human psychology, but it is not designed to be making decisions above its paygrade. The IT maven should not be making decisions that require the broader perspective of the CEO.
“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious”. ~ Carl Gustav Jung
When we are not living in the light of our personal Sun, when we deny the world of Spirit, deny our ancestors, deny our connection to others, to Nature, to the vast reaches of the Universe, then we live in pain. Sadly, to one degree or another, this is the normal state of the vast majority of us. But as we expand into Spirit, as we grow and develop and reconnect with our greater Self, then the pain begins to lessen as we heal, and we learn to live a life of increasing wholeness, connectedness and joy. Mars, loudly beating his sword against his shield as he stands on Libra’s scales, is giving us a wakeup call about where we each need to heal our personal Mars, and also where we need to work to develop our empathy and sense of connectedness.
In the next post, I’ll take a look at the spiritual and psychological pitfalls of being offended, the lessons of Mars in Libra, and how we can use this transit for healing and growth.
Read Part 2 here.
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