Sunday, February 19, 2012

Frozen in Time

Many years ago, when I was first studying astrology and in psychotherapy with a therapist who speaks astrology, I remember telling her about a dream theme of people 'frozen' in blocks of plexiglass.  There was no sense in the dream of death or tragedy; it was more frustrating than disturbing. I was comfortable at the time employing transits and progressions (tools for looking at the passage of real time), and mundane (historic time) astrology.  I believe she observed that the plexiglass people sounded like photos as opposed to videos.

I never felt like I quite got my hands on what those dreams were about.  Sometimes I felt like I was going through files of 3 dimensional playing cards of countless people, some of whom I recognized and others not.

In the last two months I have copied over three hundred charts from the Horoscope Drawings and Calculations section (click on Horoscopes and the option for Chart Calculations drops down) of Astrodienst; thus satisfying a long held desire to watch natural time from one moment to the next the way I watched the clock as a student in elementary school.  In the process of copying all these maps,  plotting where the planets are from one four minute period to the next; I have finally gotten a feeling for how astrology works.

In spite of my deep love for this subject which is at the very roots of our culture, it always felt too much like magic; a trick of language that as an astrologer I was playing on myself and the people whose charts I translated to 'plain English'.  I felt like a magician using a stage prop I did not understand, or a car driver with no knowledge of how the internal combustion engine makes the wheels turn.

In the centuries after the zodiac was defined (about 419BC) time became something to be managed rather than studied and understood; spherical geometry and time graduated from subjects to be researched and discovered, like unknowns in the classic 'black box,' to tools for researching still other mysteries of life on earth.  Once the Babylonians and Egyptians had amassed and analyzed thousands of pages of raw data showing the positions of the planets and their movements for short and long increments of time, a system as elegant as the periodic table of elements was developed (the zodiac) and there was no more need to follow minutes to understand why some constellations rose more swiftly than others on the eastern horizon, or winter days in Alexandria were shorter than those in the Nubian Desert: western culture had reached a historic plateau.

By the end of the fourth century BC, astrology/astronomy had evolved to a system that people could use without understanding how it worked, much in the way many of us drive cars and consult computers every day without understanding how they perform the magical wonders we have come to take for granted.  Imagine a future where the vast majority of literature preserved on paper and electronically; not just Mark Twain and Margaret Atwood, but works that outline the development of computers and computer programming languages, basic works on subjects ranging from electronic engineering to molecular biology; imagine it ALL GONE.  Gone, like the works of Aristarchus.  That's what happened sometime between the development of the zodiac and the Rennaisaince; the literature outlining how astrology/astronomy evolved was for the most part lost to posterity.

Twenty five years ago, without a computer and expensive astrology software, or access to the internet, it took me an average of 80 studious minutes to calculate an accurate birthchart.  While I found the task pleasurable, it was time consuming.  Fast forward to 2009 when I returned to studying astrology with the benefit of broadband access to internet.  All of a sudden I could have charts calculated for me in less than 10 seconds!   

Thanks to the computer programming magicians at Astrodienst (and other sites that offer free chart calculations), I have been able to travel wayyy back in time and get some idea of what hundreds of astronomers working together twenty five centuries ago experienced when they first completed a systematic analysis of the starry bowl's motions.  They must have gotten the same thrill as the people receiving data from the Hubble Telescope.

Until recently I did not know that Aristarchus (born around 310BCE) proposed that the earth revolves around the sun, or that in his time spherical geometry was employed by astronomers.  I expect to repeat these facts often in my career as an astrologer; I think it is a largely ignored part of our heritage that should be given more attention.

But back to my dreams of people trapped in plexiglass like three dimensional playing cards; I believe I was frustrated by the way astrology was being presented.  Daniel Chenneviere (a compatriot of Eric Satie who immigrated to the US in 1916 and soon after changed his name to Dane Rudyar), advocated an approach to astrology that viewed the chart in the context of all the cycles surrounding the moment analyzed.  He was my favorite astrologer in those days when so much about astrology was right before me, but trapped in vinyl tablets like the ten commandments brought down from the burning bush to the desert valley.

In these last two months I have gotten in the habit of drawing a chart for the day before leaving to clean houses.  I do not go to work without a list of the number of minutes it takes each sign to rise.  Instead of keeping up with clock time, I have attempted to become more aware of organic time.  This is difficult without the luxury of being able to actually gaze at the heavens.  On Jan 15, 16 when I did not have to work, I just spent the day copying charts and noting my thoughts and activities for the entire day.  Instead of clock watching, I was virtual sky watching.  In those two days, what flowed through my hands onto a couple hundred pages of charts, was a cartoon style flip book of how the starry sky moves over our heads from one moment to the next.  I can flip back through the assembled charts and see the ecliptic gradually widen, until it suddenly blossoms like a flower, then closes at variing speeds, and repeats the process.  I can see why the ancient astronomers divided the zodiac into twelve sections and have a good idea of how the system evolved.

As Neptune passes from Aquarius to Pisces, and I experience that awful sense of panic that so many of us are feeling as the mother ship leaves the harbor, I can now not only name that fear, but have a clear understanding of its place in real time.  I am more at home on the currents of darkness as the ship picks up speed and heads out to sea.