Describing the Indescribable

treehug

In my last post I discussed the problem with Mercury and made a case for something else. I would not wish to posit a specific astrological entity for the other awareness, it no doubt lies at the centre of your nativity, the place you are drawn to if you are prepared to suffer a little or a lot, or repelled by, if you are otherwise. This otherness is entirely Chirotic, in my view.

And should we find ourselves in pursuit of this ‘other’ faculty that is not the mind, not the feelings and not the body either, we might well ask, “what is it?”. Well, it is a sense of rightness. It is an innate and non-intellectual understanding of things. It has a deeper and more profound sense of conviction than opinion and it informs our experience, our morals and our true sense of self. This principle is easily demonstrable; imagine stealing money from your friend while their back is turned and examine your reaction to the commission of such an act. It does not feel comfortable of course and there is a deep and profound sense of wrongness attached to the action but you will notice that you don’t simply ‘think’ it is wrong; you feel it. If it were an intellectual understanding then it follows that the more intelligent you are, the more moral you would be and that is clearly a nonsense. Indeed, if you wanted to posit a generalisation, you might very well be able to make a case for the opposite truth! Clearly, the mind has no real influence on the morals other than to work very hard at defeating them.

This presents us with a classification problem, not least because we are trying to describe something that does not lend itself to intellectualisation. This is partly because it lies some way above the mind and the mind is not really aware of it all that much, but beyond this it is – for the most part – indescribable.

The usual stratagem is to use a blanket term that satisfies the mind’s propensity for trivialising anything that is not of itself and call this other faculty “the feelings”, although this is clearly misleading too, because whilst a moral sense is apprehensible, it is not particularly felt; certainly not in the way that physicality or the emotions are felt. Thus language rather runs out, but we should not be surprised by this. Language is the medium of the mind after all, and once we move beyond the mind it has no grasp of the tenuous qualities of these strange quasi-mystical environs. We should additionally not be surprised since the numbers of travellers in this rarefied realm are so few and so far between and for the most part they are not ‘men of science’ in particular because they are off in another direction altogether, marching to an entirely different beat.
And this is where the inner path bears no admittance to the sacristy of proof so revered by scientists, if it cannot even be described how much further away is that from the minimum requirement for measurement and analysis? It simply will not do, the hocus-pocus of garden gnomes is as intelligible.

Only for scientists is such explicit vulgarity so enshrined. However, the poet has no such retardation with which to contend and he is free to make an attempt at it, not by creating some improbable taxonomy of labels but rather by invoking the non-mind itself to grasp the fleeting tenets of this unknowable kingdom. Poetry itself is a method of describing the indescribable.

It goes without saying that not all poetry is so inclined, nor that all poetry that attempts it succeeds. But it is inarguable that poetry does invoke in the non-mind of the reader a certain irrefutable awareness of things simply by conjuring a vision or sense of non-intellectual understanding through the exposition of sympathetic themes. This is not disputable even though it is hardly considered an outright definition of the poet’s craft, and from cultures as wildly varying as those which fostered the poetic gifts of Basho and Keats, the common thread of attuning the higher sense with the exact same language – albeit differently configured – that fails to classify it is uncovered. This must not be a mystery to the student of the inner path. It is a truth, and a love for poetry ought to be a sign or indicator of one who is comfortable with the arena of the non-mind. Those who do not ‘get it’ are reading it entirely with their minds after all; seeking literal description rather than the prayer or spell of invocation; because poetry, like prayer, is meaningless to the unbeliever and the mind is incapable of faith. Its only currency is knowledge.

A student of the inner path then should attempt to read poetry. They might even have a go at writing it. There can certainly be no harm in such activity and the potential it nurtures for easing access to the non-mind is invaluable. Any method that increases our familiarity with this most tenuous of realms is beyond value because by it we might realise wealth.

Life is more complex than we can “know.”

thinkerEvery day I get messages from people who are struggling to understand the world they inhabit. Why does this happen? Why is my life so difficult? They suggest that if they could only understand it, they would see a “way out.” If my years spent counselling people through their struggles has taught me one thing though, it is that the only route out of adversity is to stop thinking. I would write more on this subject if there were much interest in it: so my usual recourse is to implicate these conclusions within the scope of an astrological treatise; it is after all, one and the same philosophy. The mind crudely simplifies the astoundingly complex reality it perceives in order to render it manageable, to make it comparative. He is evil. She is a saint. My figure is worse than hers. My motives are good. His are bad. The mind cannot even adequately comprehend our own subjective reality, let alone anyone else’s.

The simplifying tendency of the human mind points to one very stark observation; and that is that without question we cannot know very much. Certainly we can know some things, but the majority of human knowledge is entirely superficial. If you were to take a single subject, like electricity, or fighter planes of World War Two, or the French Revolution, there may be some questions that we could answer on all of those subjects but our understanding would be superficial. Beyond this you might argue that your mind bestows you with the potential to become an expert, but even then there are only so many subjects in which you could ever hope to gain true expertise. Maybe you could study hard and learn everything there is to know about electricity. If you were exceptionally intelligent and studious you might be able to learn another subject to a high standard and become an expert in two domains; perhaps even three, but ultimately, the scope of expertise that the vast majority of us could ever aspire to is almost trivial when compared with the sum total of human knowledge, never mind the sum total of all things in creation that might bear scrutiny. This underlines the plain truth that – if you want to be comparative – we know almost nothing and we can’t hope to improve on that very much no matter how much effort we make. Put simply, the human mind’s capacity to understand the universe is mostly inconsequential.

This is not to say that it is not fit for purpose; rather that it is not fit to the purpose of understanding the universe. If you believe that you can somehow understand the entirety of creation by intellectually deconstructing it then you are deluded. Beyond this, even expertise has its limits. We understand much as a species, but our understandings when measured against our lack of understandings pale into insignificance. Take any subject in some hard, quantifiable subject like science and you soon begin to realise that in many ways we are just scratching the surface of understanding and our seeming insights are often supported upon the probability that we simply do not know enough to know what questions to ask. Can we predict the weather? A little perhaps, but not much. Can we cure the common cold? Why does the sun exist? What is the universe made of? Why do humans have fewer genes than some flowers? And these are all questions for science in the sense that they are easily quantified and are thus sympathetic to the investigative medium. What is love? Why are some people insane? What is insanity? What is sanity? Why are we here? What happens after we die? The scientific mind cannot even begin to frame other questions, let alone answer them.

So what is the point here? It is that our exaltation of the mind is based upon the entirely false assumption that the mind is capable of producing anything truly meaningful in our lives, because we cannot ever truly know anything meaningful by using the mind. Certainly we can know something useful or something interesting, but that is really the best we can hope for. We might look with intrigue at the results of the Mars explorer expedition and wonder that there appear to once have been rivers and seas on the red planet’s surface, but does it really matter? Is it going to change us in any profound and powerful way to know these answers?

And this is true of anything else as well. Do the enlightening wonders of science and intellectual understanding make the world a better place? Does our thorough and precise understanding of the mechanics of bodily nutrition benefit the millions that die annually from hunger and disease in Africa? Does our statistical grasp of the afflictions of poverty in inner cities eradicate poverty in inner cities? Does our social and medical insight into the ravages of violent crime curb violent crime? Quite simply we are promoting the wrong agenda; listening to the sunset. Intellectualising our place in the universe is like shooting the moon; our aim may be true but we can never hope to reach our target, our best effort will always fall short: massively and hopelessly short simply because the human mind is not a powerful enough instrument. It is much better employed in deciding whether to take the high or low road home on a foggy December night, or whether to stick or twist in the card game. That’s the kind of task it was specifically designed for, after all.

In all of the ways that matter to the human condition, in the eradication of suffering and the promotion of happiness the mind is not much use at all. It can tell us that people suffer because they do not get enough food to eat, or because they cannot afford fuel, but it cannot ‘do’ anything about it; rather it treats life as an interesting puzzle that must be worked out, then it intellectualises everything else based on its inescapably feeble grasp of the contingencies. The end result of this process is a rather vague opinion of matters and not a great deal of insight.

Insight requires another awareness entirely. The person who has worked many years at a particular skill or profession might be able to convey the mundane facts of their process of work without knowing how to even begin to convey the insight that results from their many years of experience. It is the kind of understanding that is not contained in the mind; which is exactly why it cannot be verbalised. If this fact were anything but true then experience would not count for much. The refined reasoning that is developed over an entire career is the most valuable of commodities in the carrying on of trades and yet it is precisely so valuable because it cannot be taught and cannot be learned by the mind. It is another faculty entirely.

Without even looking into this other faculty at all, it should be pre-eminently obvious that the mind has its limits; and they are in many ways less impressive than our most pessimistic imaginings.

This simplifying tendency of the mind points to one very stark observation; and that is that without question we cannot know very much. Certainly we can know some things, but the majority of human knowledge is entirely superficial. If you were to take a single subject, like electricity, or fighter planes of World War Two, or the French revolution, there may be some questions that we could answer on all of those subjects but our understanding would be superficial. Beyond this you might argue that your mind bestows you with the potential to become an expert, but even then there are only so many subjects in which you could ever hope to gain true expertise. Maybe you could study hard and learn everything there is to know about electricity. If you were exceptionally intelligent and studious you might be able to learn another subject to a high standard and become an expert in two domains; perhaps even three, but ultimately, the scope of expertise that the vast majority of us could ever aspire to is almost trivial when compared with the sum total of human knowledge, never mind the sum total of all things in creation that might bear scrutiny. This underlines the plain truth that – if you want to be comparative – we know almost nothing and we can’t hope to improve on that very much no matter how much effort we make. Put simply, the human mind’s capacity to understand the universe is mostly inconsequential.

This is not to say that it is not fit for purpose; rather that it is not fit to the purpose of understanding the universe. If you believe that you can somehow understand the entirety of creation by intellectually deconstructing it then you are deluded. Beyond this, even expertise has its limits. We understand much as a species, but our understandings when measured against our lack of understandings pale into insignificance. Take any subject in some hard, quantifiable subject like science and you soon begin to realise that in many ways we are just scratching the surface of understanding and our seeming insights are often supported upon the probability that we simply do not know enough to know what questions to ask. Can we predict the weather? A little perhaps, but not much. Can we cure the common cold? Why does the sun exist? What is the universe made of? Why do humans have fewer genes than some flowers? And these are all questions for science in the sense that they are easily quantified and are thus sympathetic to the investigative medium. What is love? Why are some people insane? What is insanity? What is sanity? Why are we here? What happens after we die? The scientific mind cannot even begin to frame other questions, let alone answer them.

So what is the point here? It is that our exaltation of the mind is based upon the entirely false assumption that the mind is capable of producing anything truly meaningful in our lives, because we cannot ever truly know anything meaningful by using the mind. Certainly we can know something useful or something interesting, but that is really the best we can hope for. We might look with intrigue at the results of the Mars explorer expedition and wonder that there appear to once have been rivers and seas on the red planet’s surface, but does it really matter? Is it going to change us in any profound and powerful way to know these answers?

And this is true of anything else as well. Do the enlightening wonders of science and intellectual understanding make the world a better place? Does our thorough and precise understanding of the mechanics of bodily nutrition benefit the millions that die annually from hunger and disease in Africa? Does our statistical grasp of the afflictions of poverty in inner cities eradicate poverty in inner cities? Does our social and medical insight into the ravages of violent crime curb violent crime? Quite simply we are promoting the wrong agenda; listening to the sunset. Intellectualising our place in the universe is like shooting the moon; our aim may be true but we can never hope to reach our target, our best effort will always fall short: massively and hopelessly short simply because the human mind is not a powerful enough instrument. It is much better employed in deciding whether to take the high or low road home on a foggy December night, or whether to stick or twist in the card game. That’s the kind of task it was specifically designed for, after all.

In all of the ways that matter to the human condition, in the eradication of suffering and the promotion of happiness the mind is not much use at all. It can tell us that people suffer because they do not get enough food to eat, or because they cannot afford fuel, but it cannot ‘do’ anything about it; rather it treats life as an interesting puzzle that must be worked out, then it intellectualises everything else based on its inescapably feeble grasp of the contingencies. The end result of this process is a rather vague opinion of matters and not a great deal of insight.

[Exercise?] Insight requires another awareness entirely. The person who has worked many years at a particular skill or profession might be able to convey the mundane facts of their process of work without knowing how to even begin to convey the insight that results from their many years of experience. It is the kind of understanding that is not contained in the mind; which is exactly why it cannot be verbalised. If this fact were anything but true then experience would not count for much. The refined reasoning that is developed over an entire career is the most valuable of commodities in the carrying on of trades and yet it is precisely so valuable because it cannot be taught and cannot be learned by the mind. It is another faculty entirely.

Without even looking into this other faculty at all, it should be pre-eminently obvious that the mind has its limits; and they are in many ways less impressive than our most pessimistic imaginings.

Chiron in Taurus through the houses, part 1

I apologise for the long absence from writing articles, I have been putting the majority of my energy into writing my book, which is progressing well. Today, due to popular demand, I am going to start looking at the principles of Chiron in Taurus through the houses, which will form a total of four separate articles.

In the most earthy of the signs, Chiron represents the pain of insecurity which manifests into woundedness about the material aspect of Venus. Money, possessions, body image, food, comfort and good living are all configured in this placement. The emphasis in any case is upon all these matters as they affect the sense of being safe in the world, being able to trust the Universe and feel loved in the context of a physical life. Taurus is intractable too, so clinging on to people, situations and possessions is a key trait of this placement, out of fear of losing the security that has been accrued through them. An unquestioning adherence to tradition is another factor, even though with time and self-development, it answers the conundrum of Chiron less and less, until those rituals become empty and effectively meaningless. The hallmark of a struggling Chiron in Taurus is a gradually encroaching suspicion that the material cannot provide the security that is required by the human heart. On a very mundane level, Chiron in Taurus worries about money even when there is plenty of it available.

Chiron in Taurus rising can challenge traditional dress codes

Chiron in Taurus rising can challenge traditional dress codes

1st House: Here the appearance becomes tied into themes of security, and it might manifest as an obsession with being too stout or an over-reliance on wearing clothes of sufficient quality and value. Designer labels are an easy out for Chiron in Taurus here, since they intimate these characteristics which soothes the ‘wound of image’. Another manifestation might be a requirement to adhere to, or alternately to reject, traditional clothing styles. An example of this latter embodiment of Chiron would be Serena Williams who is renowned both for her unconventional fashion choices during tennis tournaments and who also has her own designer clothes brand ‘Anares’. With Chiron rising in Taurus, the effects are easy to isolate, but the cause is – as always – a sense of deep insecurity: about body image or financial security.

At another level entirely, consider the nativityof Che Guevara, who grew up in a privileged middle-class household in Rosario, Argentina. When he ventured out into the wider world of South America, he was dismayed and motivated by the crushing poverty he witnessed in the remote rural areas of Peru, where peasant farmers worked small plots of land owned by wealthy landlords. The journey became a formative factor in his burgeoning Marxist philosophy which he told to compelling effect in The Motorcycle Diaries. He visited a leper colony during the course of this odyssey and remarked that “the highest forms of human solidarity and loyalty arise among such lonely and desperate people” and this became a major component of his subsequent life philosophy; through his travels of Latin America, he came in “close contact with poverty, hunger and disease” along with the “inability to treat a child because of lack of money” and “stupefaction provoked by the continual hunger and punishment” that leads a father to “accept the loss of a son as an unimportant accident.” The pain of poverty might well be a higher-octave expression of this placement. Guevara was killed by a gunshot wound to the throat, aged 39.

2nd House: This is a double dose of Taurus energy, so the effect of Chiron allied with Venus ought to be especially compelling. The pain of materialism and security is here most relevant and no better example can be found than Johnny Cash, a man who, despite selling over 50 million records during his long and stratospherically successful career, never forgot that he was the son of poor cotton farmers, and these early experiences coloured his outlook irrevocably. In 1944, His older brother, Jack, was pulled into a whirling table saw in the mill where he worked, and cut almost in two. He suffered for over a week before he died. Cash often spoke of the horrible guilt he felt over this incident. According to Cash: The Autobiography, his father was away that morning, but he and his mother, and Jack himself, all had premonitions or a sense of foreboding about that day, causing his mother to urge Jack to skip work and go fishing with his brother. Jack insisted on working, as the family needed the money.Consider also the lyrics to A Satisfied Mind, which ought to be an anthem for Chiron in Taurus and the potential for transforming the wound of Chiron into a gift:

How many times have
You heard someone say
If I had his money
I could do things my way

But little they know
That it’s so hard to find
One rich man in ten
With a satisfied mind

Once I was waitin’
In fortune and fame
Everything that I dreamed for
To get a start in life’s game

Then suddenly it happened
I lost every dime
But I’m richer by far
With a satisfied mind

Money can’t buy back
Your youth when you’re old
Or a friend when you’re lonely
Or a love that’s grown cold

The wealthiest person
Is a pauper at times
Compared to the man
With a satisfied mind

When my life has ended
And my time has run out
My friends and my loved ones
I’ll leave there’s no doubt

But one thing’s for certain
When it comes my time
I’ll leave this old world
With a satisfied mind

How many times have
You heard someone say
If I had his money
I could do things my way

But little they know
That it’s so hard to find
One rich man in ten
With a satisfied mind

When invited to perform at the White House for the first time in 1972, President Richard Nixon’s office requested that he play “Welfare Cadillac” (a Guy Drake song that derides the integrity of welfare recipients) and it was reported that Cash refused to play the song because he apparently considered its standpoint to be morally reprehensible.

3rd House: Here is a placement that suggests one’s intellect, education and learning path was crimped, restricted or failed to reach its proper potential due to material constraints. A person whose working class background denied them access to a good standard of education would be typical of this placement, or somebody who was forced to leave school early because of the need to go out and get a job. With the 3rd house, siblings may have used up the family resources and I have known people with this placement who endured a “brighter” brother or sister being sent to a private school while they had to endure the less exacting (and free) alternative. More broadly, it can also represent an ongoing state of insecurity about one’s mental capability, effectiveness in communication, speech, literacy, numeracy and so forth. Alicia Silverstone who has this placement for example, did not complete her high school studies and gained no formal qualifications. It’s an odds-on bet that she’s sensitive about the issue too. The Plain English Campaign awarded her the annual Foot in Mouth Award in 2000 for her ‘baffling verbal statement’, “I think that Clueless was very deep. I think it was deep in the way that it was very light. I think lightness has to come from a very deep place if it is true lightness,” and at the same time she evidently does have insecurity (Ch/Ta) about her communication (3rd); she once said: “My boyfriend calls me ‘princess’, but I think of myself more along the lines of ‘monkey’ and ‘retard’” Intriguingly, she is a fluent French speaker also. Alicia left school to pursue a lucrative acting career…

To be continued…