It’s Great to Anticipate! Mercury Enters Aries.

After practicing the art of negative capability, Mercury, the planet of perception moves forward in Aries on Saturday, April 3rd.  Looking becomes forward looking.  A type of looking that generates excitement.  A perception that is fond of future and its yet-to-be contents.  When Mercury moves into Aries it becomes clear how great it is to anticipate. 

Numerous psychological studies performed in 2007 (professors, Leaf Van Boven and Laurence Ashworth) reported people feeling more intense feelings when contemplating future events than when reflecting on things that already happened.  Prospective holidays far outranked the levels of excitement and happiness than the reflected-upon past holidays, even the most satisfying ones. 

Anticipation underlies optimism and hope.  It provides momentum, and works wonders even in its most simple practices.  

To see through the eyes of the Ram is to see the future in lit-up pieces.

Plato saw vision as a a smooth and gentle outward-flowing fire that was emitted from the eye to fuse with ambient light and create a “body of vision.” Empedocles also believed this but added that the fire of the eye was lit by Venus herself.

While science agrees little with this theory of vision, psychologically there is something here. Venus, with her delights, “light” our visions of future events. There may in fact exist an outward-flow of fire when it comes to an important type of vision; the vision of looking forward, the fire of anticipation.

As Twin Peak’s special agent Dale Cooper muses, “It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee.”

Aries’ forward-fire is more alive when contemplating the future because it is only in the future that we can experience hope.  Jean Jacques-Rousseau said “anticipation and hope are natural born twins.”  The strength of the Ram is the strength of the Will, again connecting fire to future, as in “I will..”

Fire mixed with future is what nurtures the Japanese concept of “Ikigai (pronounced icky guy), which is seen to be a key to longevity. Ikigai translates most literally into “a reason to get out of bed every morning.”  It is a dynamic sense of well-being, one that hinges on a relationship to the immediate (and also faraway) future. 

The Sun and Venus have been relearning many active principles, and Mercury is the latest to join the springtime party.  The trickster looks forward to looking forward, and experiencing what Camus called “the sweet pain of anticipation to tell us we are really alive.”

How will you ignite some anticipation in your life?

Mercury will anticipate in Aries until April 19th when it will embrace itself in Taurus.  

Happy anticipating and happy astro pondering!

Astro Art by Johnnie Day Durand.

The Object Changes Me. Full Moon in Libra.

The first Spring Full Moon comes Sunday, March 28th , in the romantic sign of Libra.  Opposed by the Sun with lady Venus, both in the seasonal sign of lively Aries, let’s wake up our senses and engage in a romantic pondering!

When Libra illuminates the night there is a growing awareness of the reality of relations.  As it turns out, the reality of relations is the reality of ourselves.  This is the interesting viewpoint of neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio.

In his book The Feeling of What Happens, he talks about the relational nature of consciousness itself.  The two players of consciousness are the organism and the object.  The organism relates to an object and the object changes the organism. 

The organism is our body, our brain.  The objects are sensory (out there in the world) or mental (thoughts, memories).  What emerges from this relationship, is what he calls core-consciousness, and from that, the core-self.  

“Because of the permanent availability of provoking objects, it is continuously generated, and thus appears continuous in time.”

He also speaks of two other forms of self: the proto self, which we are unconscious of, and the autobiographical self, which is constructed from memories and future anticipations.  But the core self emerges as a “transient entity, ceaselessly re-created for each and every object with which the brain interacts.”  

When the object changes the organism, the organism then brings the object into better focus.  It is “set out” from other, less important objects.

“Attention is driven to focus an object and the result is saliency of the images of that object in mind.”

The Carlotta Valdez painting ‘changing’ ‘Madeleine Elster’ in Hitchcock’s classic, Vertigo.

The objects hold half of the deck.  Who knew!  When it comes to a sense of self, we are as much other as we are not other.  Things, people, scenery, thoughts, smells, memories all cause changes in us.  And these changes are what construct our senses of self!  

Watch a child delight at what he/she sees.  It becomes obvious that there is no end to stimulus.  As we get older, a lot of the stimulus is more under wraps, in streams of thought, and private feelings.  But it is amazing to think that any object causes a change.  Opening a window, tilting your head to see the blue sky for a moment, indulging in a nice memory or a plan for the future.  Changes.  Re-creation of self!

Though this is a Full Worm Moon, it speaks to the most human part of us. If we can know that objects change us, and that we constantly re-create ourselves from these changes, we can attempt to navigate a bit, and make the most out of this relationship. We can learn to listen to our changes and respect that they are trying to keep us on track, and towards a place of balance. We can seek out stimuli that treat us well, like a glorious Full Moon in Spring.

It’s the romantic story of the organism and the object. Aren’t they cute!

Happy changes and as always, Happy Astro Pondering!

Astro Art by Johnnie Day Durand

The (Active) Art of Loving. Venus enters Aries

In the previous post, the very verdant verity of an inner spring was examined via Erich Fromm’s two existential modes of “having” and “being”.  It seems natural to stick with Fromm for this next transit on Sunday March 21st, as Venus, the Love Goddess goes into action-oriented Aries.

Fromm begins his very popular book, The Art of Loving (1956), with this question:

“Is love an art? Then it requires knowledge and effort. Or is love a pleasant sensation, which to experience is a matter of chance, something one “falls into” if one is lucky?”

As the title suggests, he believes it is an art.  A “faculty” rather than a “feeling”.  A verb rather than a noun.  He sees love as an “activity” rather than a “passivity”, centering primarily on giving rather than receiving.  

For Fromm, we have it all wrong when we try to make ourselves more lovable to attract love.  Thinking this way turns ourselves into self-made commodities, looking for the commodity in others that fit the bill.  The problem becomes a passive problem of being loved, rather than an active affirmation of our capacity to love.  

Fromm himself was an Aries, born right around the time of the vernal equinox.  Spring is a clear display of life, and for Fromm, so is the art of loving.  The name of his book is The Art of Loving, not The Art of Love.  Love, like life, is not a noun, but a verb.

And what does the dedicated artist of love give to others, and to the world?

Fromm says, “he gives his life”.  This, however, is not a sacrifice. He further explains,

“he gives him of that which is alive in him; he gives him of his joy, of his interest, of his understanding, of his knowledge, of his humor, of his sadness—of all expressions and manifestations of that which is alive in him. In thus giving of his life, he enriches the other person, he enhances the other’s sense of aliveness by enhancing his own sense of aliveness. He does not give in order to receive; giving is in itself exquisite joy. But in giving he cannot help bringing something to life in the other person, and this which is brought to life reflects back to him.”

Maybe this is why springtime birds sing so much.  They are skilled and knowing artists practicing the liveliest art.  The art of loving.  

How can you turn love into a verb?  Venus will delight in Aries until April 14th, when it will cozy up in Taurus.

Happy Astro Pondering!

Astro Art by Johhnie Day Durand

A Very Verdant Verity! Spring Begins.

On Saturday, March 20th, at 5:37 am, the Sun will move into Aries, commencing the vernal equinox, the long-awaited first day of spring.  

Buckminster Fuller said, “I seem to be a verb.”

There is some very verdant verity embedded in these words, and in this time of year, when life becomes obvious again. As the green takes back over the scene, we might ask ourselves, where does spring begin within?

Where is the verifiable and veracious place inside from which we renew ourselves?

From his last written book, To Have Or to Be? psychologist and philosopher, Erich Fromm described two primary modes in which people orient themselves to the world: the “having mode” and the “being mode”.

The “having mode” is based upon possessing and owning, whereas the “being mode” is more about “aliveness” and “authentic relatedness to the world”.  

He writes that modern society has become overly materialistic, and prefers “having” to “being”.  He sees this leading to a loss of one’s inner self.  An out-of-touchness with one’s own inner activity

Of the two modes he writes,

“Having refers to things and things are fixed and describable.  Being refers to experience, and human experience is in principle not describable.”

He asserts that in every mode of life, people should ponder more on the “being nature” and not towards the “having nature”.

“The mode of being has as its prerequisites, independence, freedom, and the presence of critical reason.  Its fundamental characteristic is that of being active, not in the sense of outward activity, of busyness, but of inner activity, the productive use of our human powers.” 

Happiness, from the having mode lies in “superiority over others”. From the being mode, it lies in “loving, sharing, giving.” This is the very verdant peace and naturalness of green. The ease on our eyes and in our hearts. No games, just truth. Just aliveness, in relating to the aliveness in others and the world, and not in some deadened status-charade.

Is this why the Ram’s horns turn inwards?  Inwards to a place of verdant inner activity?  Towards a true and vernal orientation?  The place where “I” is a verb? Life is you, you are life?

Novelist Charlotte Perkin Gilman said “life is a verb not a noun.”

Some scientists now believe that life may have begun on Mars, symbolically the primordial verb.

A very verdant verb indeed.  Verifiable in the vernal internalness.  

Happy first day of Spring and as always, happy astro pondering!

Astro Art by Johnnie Day Durand.

Negative Capability and the Real World of All Streams. Mercury enters Pisces.

Mercury moves into Pisces on Monday, March 15th, joining the effortless harmonics of the Sun, Venus and Neptune.  Into the vibrant vibrato goes the trickster, to see what can be seen through the ultimate fish-eyed lenses.  

Having moved through Aquarius since the start of the year, there has been healthy turbulence in the streams of thought.  The turbulence has oxygenated the water, and created fresh negative ions.  The atmosphere is like that after a rainstorm, perceptually speaking.  How can you make the most out of these new lenses?  This new soft vision of synthesis?

For starters, soft vision is not to be confused with blurriness.  Soft vision is a receptive mental act.  At its ultimate, it is what John Keats referred to as ‘negative capability’, a kind of negation of the personality so as to be as open as possible to all different points of view.  Shakespeare was said to be an expert in negative capability as his characters diversified from each other with  such rich complexities, yet Shakespeare the man remains quite a mystery.  

To have negative capability is to be satisfied with ‘half-knowledge’ and not impatient to reach firm conclusions that would undermine the complexities of experience.

Keats said, “Let the mind be a thorough fare of thoughts” rather than a “select party of beliefs.”

Pisces vision is like a waterfall.  Not only a stream of consciousness, but the real world of all streams.  The real world of all accumulated thought, Chardin’s ‘noosphere’.  The reality that if libraries were to contain all the written works of history, and then the human race was nearly wiped out, a new generation could use this knowledge instead of starting from scratch.    

When Mercury is in Pisces, the real world of all streams is more apparent.  There is a desire to synthesize, and to open your senses as wide as they can go.  Through the lenses of the fish, peripheries are extended and centers are strengthened.  Outside of the hard outlines of a fact and reason, the mind gets a holiday, and can begin to think about nothing, which can lead to everything, as Einstein and other geniuses have proved.  

Mercury will be in Pisces until April 3rd when it will burst forth in willful Aries. 

Happy soft eyes, happy open mind, and as always, happy astro pondering!

Astro art by Johnnie Day Durand

Fusing Fact and Value. New Moon in Pisces

A New Moon in Pisces is in store for us this Saturday.  New Moons “hide” from us, thus they hold a signature of privacy. With the archetype of Pisces, the most inward of all signs, the privacy dimension gains more depth.  Throw in the fact that harmonizing Venus and mystery-of-mysteries Neptune are right there too, and we have, what seems like, a romantic quest.  To the inner-most bounds!  A loving quest for the universe within! 

Psychologist, Abraham Maslow saw this quest to be paramount to discovering a person’s “isness”.  This “isness” is very important, because in knowing this, one can find their “oughtness”.  Maslow saw this as a crucial fusing of fact and value, is and ought. 

 In a storybook, this “is” would be the landscape, conditions, and basic reality of the hero.  The “ought” would be the hero’s desires and visions.  The ultimate question, or quest of the story would be: can the facts of reality merge with the value of the vision?  

Maslow applies this dynamic recipe for good ficiton straight to our own sense of well-being.  Of the person willing to look inward to his “isness” he says,

“The more he knows about his own nature, his deep wishes, his temperament, his constitution, what he seeks and yearns for and what really satisfies him, the more effortless, automatic, and epiphenomenal becomes his value choices… Discovering one’s own nature is simultaneously an ought quest and is quest.

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This is celestial music straight from the effortless graces of Pisces and Venus.  A song that is no song at all, like John Cage’s 4:33.  

Notice that when he talks about discovering one’s inner nature he focuses on “deep wishes” as well as “temperament” and “constitution”.  It’s a balanced inventory- a real assessment, but an assessment of a hero/ heroinne, and all that he/she seeks and yearns for.

Don’t even think about taking the romance out of your “isness”!  And at the same time, two feet on the ground please. 

Will you indulge in the Fishes inner plunge tonight and alchemize some facts and values?  

Happy Astro Pondering!

Astro Art by Johnnie Day Durand.

The Planets Align, But How Are They Mine? Quadruple Formation in Aquarius.

Have you ever experienced the sublime satisfaction of tidying up a room? Have you ever been near-mystified by the way things just “worked out?”, or how things just, “fell into place?”

This Wednesday evening, the sky display a pretty pattern of order and meaning. Three planets will line up perfectly in an ascending diagonal line, with the Crescent Moon nearby.

The faintest light on the bottom will be Mercury, followed by Jupiter, the brightest. At the height of the diagonal will be Saturn. All of them, and the Moon, will be in the existential sign of Aquarius.

Writer philosopher Colin Wilson said that existentialism was a “philosophy of intuition”. Unlike Sartre and Camus, he saw the world as inherently meaningful, with the only thing blocking us from such meaning being our own “sensory blinders”. Ultimately, his existentialism was based on optimism just as much as realism. He saw the “feelings of inner freedoms” to be intimately bound with an effective “grasp on reality”.

“It is as impossible to exercise freedom in an unreal world as it is to jump while you are falling.”

Colin Wilson, The Outsider

With the planet of optimism and intuition blazing the brightest in the center of the lineup, its a perfect evening to ponder the vital hunches of a cheery existentialist.

Our perceptions are Mercury, the faintest light at the bottom. Faintest by design, for they keep the chaos of stimulus ordered for us. We can walk down the street without feeling bombarded by sounds, sensations and sights. Our selectivity saves us, yet it also keeps us away from our full reality.

For full reality, we have to find places of correspondences; how our physical reality corresponds to us in a personal, meaningful way. In this way we can sense our interior power, which Wilson also refers to as our reality.

Sensing our interior power is to abolish the notion that we are passive creatures. In fact, he correlates passivity with an increasing sense of unreality. If we can, for a moment, embrace his maxim that “perception is intentional”, we can begin to see how passivity really can blur reality.

“The sense of order and meaning is a direct stimulus of the will, and even mere perception springs from a will to perceive .”

Colin Wilson, Existential Criticism, The Chicago Review 1959

What does this twinkly display of order correspond to in you?

Can you feel an interior power arise in recognizing this correspondence?

Can you feel… your reality?

Saturn the planet of reality winks from the top of the line.

Happy star-gazing and as always, happy astro pondering!

Astro art by Johnnie Day Durand.

Waking the Word. Mars enters Gemini 3/3

After a 2 month journey dedicated to finding better stability, the red planet now embarks into the quizzical domain of Gemini. Nothing is straight forward when it comes to the Twins. They represent objective thought, yet they are tricksters. They are two, yet they lie. They are perception, as well as perceptions’ tricks.

Giggling all the way, the Twins welcome Mars on Wednesday, 3/3. Wednesday and 3 both belong to the trickster, with Gemini being the 3rd sign and Wednesday attributed to Mercury (Gemini’s ruling planet). The willful hero is about to go through the looking glass in search of the Twin’s treasures.

Gemini looks at the world objectively. In philosophy, objectivity is the concept of truth independent from individual subjectivity. For example, the tree that you climbed on in childhood is just a tree and not the loving supporting wooden arms that supported you in your triumph of independence.

And here is where the Twins start to giggle. They know that it isn’t truly possible to separate the tree in such a way from the onlooker whose experience has helped constitute for them that special tree.

Just like identical twins, Gemini was once one, not two.

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The two used to be one!

Writer, philosopher Owen Barfield discovered that by studying words (Gemini delight!) one can see how consciousness is evolving. He says that all words have deeper meanings that fade over time, and that their deeper meanings reflect a time when life was very differently experienced.

As Barfield sees it, early humans existed in what he calls “original participation”, living “inside the world’s unity.” At some point, however we became free from the world’s unity. Free to think, and perceive things for ourselves, from our own centers of subjectivity.

We became free, but now we don’t see the full reality.

In original participation, thinking and perceiving were one. The games of the Twins had not yet begun.

Barfield sees subjectivity as not just something that comes out of nothing, but rather a form of consciousness that has contracted from reality’s peripheries into individual centers. The inner meanings of things is the inward truth of nature, and of ourselves.

By ignoring inner meanings, and being content with only the outer meanings, Barfield warns that we have produced a “world of outsides with no insides to them”.

Mars commits to moving forward into Gemini’s gifts. What is Gemini’s purpose? If we have split from the world’s unity in the name of freedom, what are we becoming free for?

Barfield sees this question answered by means of a new phase of consciousness. He refers to this phase as final participation, and sees it to be based around our creative use of the imagination, to actively restore for ourselves the world’s unity. With imagination’s ability to enlarge a meaning, by the power of its full expression, we can begin to taste that original sense of wholeness, while also maintaining our full subjective freedoms.

“Mere perception — perception without imagination — is the sword thrust between spirit and matter.”

Owen Barfield, The Rediscovery of Meaning and Other Essays

No better time to embrace such a concept as now, is the midst of Pisces Season.

Rev up those engines of curiosity! Mars will be in Gemini until April 23rd, giving you plenty of time to tackle the twin’s illusions and transcend their tricks, enlivening what you see to a fuller reality deemed true by the inwardness of nature, and yourself!

Happy Astro Pondering!

Astro Art by Johnnie Day Durand

We Were All Born Poets. Pisces Season Begins.

Philosopher Gaston Bachelard said, “we are all born poets, whether we like it or not.” Pisces is the sign of poetry, the rhyme of time, the wish of the fish, the gleam of the dream. The Sun will go into Pisces Thursday, February 18th. Are you feeling open to a poetic awakening within? Are you wondering where to start?

For Bachelard, the poetic image is “the flare-up of being in the imagination”. He says “One must be receptive, receptive to the image at the moment it appears.” If we can perceive the poetic image in this way we can experience the “ecstasy of the newness” and a “sudden salience on the surface of the psyche.”

The antithesis to this kind of poetic consciousness is the robotic consciousness that tells us “there is nothing new under the sun”. Robotic consciousness de-values a moment, where as poetic consciousness not only restores its full value but stands in awe of the power of an instant, a moment of emergence, where time is disrupted and there is an element of surprise.

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“This world of Imagination is the World of Eternity.” -William Blake

There is still quite a lot of Aquarian activity in the sky, including a potent square between Saturn and Uranus. Saturn is time and Uranus is a shaking. There is a strong existential quaking happening, and anxiety is likely to be felt. Anxiety, by Kierkegaard’s definition is the “dizziness of freedom”, the effect of confronting the boundlessness of ones possibilities.

But if we can keep a few key ideas in place, we are likely to get more out of this disrupted sense of time, and the quaking of a boundless existential angst. As the Sun goes into Pisces, so too do our hearts illumine in this softer light. This is a soft poetic light, a “flicker of the soul” when we perceive the specific reality of something in its moment of its emergence. We are reminded that, as Bachelard says, “being is already a value”, and a certain bounded internal mystery soothes an over-thinking mind.

If we can trust, even for an instant, that this poetic sense is our origin, then we may be able to connect to an oceanic power within, and all its gifts of psychic renewal. As Owen Barfield said, “the poet, while creating something anew, is likely to be in a sense, restoring something old.”

If we can look forward to that “sudden salience on the surface of the psyche”, we can shift from robot to poet, restoring something old by creating something new.

Pisces, the fish are natural-born swimmers, and the poem, in an instant, finds its strength in the shimmer.

Happy astro pondering!

Astro Art by Johnnie Day Durand

Nothing Happens Until Something Moves. New Moon in Aquarius

In 1936 a not-yet-famous Tennessee William sat in the audience of Ibsens’ play “Ghosts.” But he didn’t sit for long. The play soon moved him so much that it moved him straight out of his seat and he had to pace up and down in the back aisle.

This Thursday the 11th, we have a New Moon in Aquarius, the sign of the Water Bearer, the sign of us, of human beings, with full potential to feel things and allow ourselves to be moved.

You can practically see movement in Aquarius’ glyph of two wavy lines.

Einstein said, “Nothing happens until something moves. When something vibrates, the electrons of the entire universe resonate with it. Everything is connected.”

Most of the planets in the sky are currently buzzing in Aquarius. Uranus, the planet associated with Aquarius is in the self-sustaining sign of Taurus, along with Mars, resonating like a Tibetan singing bowl over the rest of the buzz.

Taurus, often associated with money, is also the notion of taking stock in something. Just think what would have not happened if Tennessee Williams put no stock in the emotion that propelled him off his seat.

What has been moving you lately? Anything worthy of taking stock in? Anything worthy of cultivating?

The movement you feel might be strong enough to propel you off your seat, but it also might be more subtle. A special shift, and all of a sudden some chemicals inside stir. Maybe you feel a quickening of energy. Maybe the other side of the universe feels it too!

The movement of Aquarius’ wavy lines hint at the magic of feedback loops, always at work in the present moment.

Alfred North Whitehead said “What we perceive as the present is the vivid fringe of memory tinged with anticipation.”    

That sure adds a dose of dynamism to the moment! The fringe of memory and the tinge of anticipation, fringe and tinge! Vibrating sounds, vibration abounds!

These feedback loops show the logic of an optimistic attitude (i.e don’t let that fringe sabotage the tinge and vice versa!) Such a correspondence also shows the grand potential of letting art, love, or anything else move us.

Put some stock in those special emotions!

Happy Astro Pondering!

Astro Art by Johnnie Day Durand