April 12, 2005
The evolution of consciousness and civilization
MERCURY RETROGRADE IN ARIES
Hello everyone at Myss.com! First, let me apologize for not getting out to you all a bit sooner some guidance on the current Mercury Retrograde, which began on March 19th. Believe me, I had the best of intentions to put something together sooner, but the Universe had other ideas! However, as we conclude the current Mercury Retrograde on April 12th, I sense that writing about it now has its advantages in that we can all observe how Astrology rightly understood is ultimately a tool based on perceiving archetypal cycles with an empirical level of observation, combined with an intuitive knowing. This is wonderful to embrace, lest one think of Astrology as way of projecting onto cycles archetypal shifts, while engaging in the power of suggestion! In addition to Mercury Retrograde in Aries, I will be presenting the Astrological Ages, of which there will be two parts. This article will contain part one, while part two will come out in a month or so…. I will finish part one on the Astrological Ages with the Age of Taurus, and spin right from there into the current Mercury Retrograde in Aries as a prelude to part two. The material on the Astrological Ages is just too rich and fascinating to edit into one article!
Before we get going on all of this, I first want to mention something that I am incredibly excited about. Many of you at Myss.com have written to me over the last year since I began my column for Caroline in regards to my teaching a course on Astrology. I currently do teach with Caroline at her CMED institute, on material that supports her wonderful tool -Sacred Contracts. Yet, due to an overwhelming reception there and emails from you, CMED and I have put together a three day workshop intensive on Astrology for beginners this July 21st-24th! What’s more, it will be at a wonderful spa/retreat center in Austin, Texas called The Crossings. Please check out their website at www.thecrossingsaustin.com and take a look at the facility. The price for the workshop is all inclusive of accommodation and food. A full description of the workshop and cost can be found at Myss.com via this link, www.myss.com/cmed5.asp.
So, are you ready for a new adventure? I hope so because writing this article has certainly been that for me: an incredible adventure. Taking a trip into the Astrological Ages will take us back in time thousands of years, from there to present time, and then forward into the future. On this voyage we will not only be looking at many of the literal events that have formed civilization as we know it but, more importantly, their symbolic import. Seems to me we could all use a good dose of symbolic insight these days with the world we are now living in, no? As Caroline and I both teach, archetypal perception provides the alchemy that can change your life, which means it can change the world. Carl Jung warned us: when we cease to live the symbolic life, we cease to partake in the life of the gods (the divine and universal processes that are the very ground of existence), and so we miss celebrating the divine sacrament of a daily life lived with meaning. It is my hope that reading this article, both parts one and two, may hold for you the possibility of embracing new perceptions to transform your worldviews and inspire a future vision. We are indeed living in the space between the current Age of Pisces and the forthcoming Age: the Age of Aquarius. This renders us between worlds, as it were, and there is so much to say about this I could just explode!
I am sure that many of you have heard about the “New Age” or the “Age of Aquarius.” But how many of you actually know what that means, or how the Astrological Ages are determined? Well, based on my experience, not many of you! Describing how the Ages are determined is actually quite complicated, so I am not going to get too technical about that until later. The last thing I want to do is lose your interest before things really start to cook. Moreover, I want to investigate the rich symbolism and synchronistic events of many sequential Astrological Ages to illuminate where it is I feel we are headed as a collective and look at where we have been symbolically. To set the stage, let’s first address the philosophical fundamentals that the Astrological Ages are based on and save the technical stuff for later. Ready?!
First, I must address a fundamental premise of why Astrology works in the first place, which is a quantum physics truth: everything is in synchronicity; everything is connected. In this regard, synchronicity is defined as an outer event occurring in one’s life that is simultaneously coded with inner meaning. Thus, everything that happens in your life has some measure of inner meaning – whether you perceive it or not and without exception. Of course none of us lives in a constant state of perceiving synchronicity; our brains would fry if we did! And to perceive synchronicity we often need tools. Astrology can be understood as a tool that connects the outer world and inner life of not only a single human being, but also a collective through the mediation of symbols. It is here that we enter into the relevance of how Astrology can be used to understand Universal and historic processes that operate inside and outside of us, revealing the Unus Mundus (One World or unity that underlies the dualities of the time/space continuum). Astrology’s true function then, is to unite the outer phenomenal world with the inner invisible world, allowing us to see the duality as one. Understood in this way, Astrological symbolism represents the archetypal process that Jung called “individuation” or the urge of the psyche to aspire toward wholeness and integration. Applying this understanding to the “collective,” we then arrive at the feet of the Astrological Ages, which encapsulate the process of moving into more encompassing states of wholeness within the collective psyche of humanity.
There are twelve Astrological Ages in total; one for each constellation of the zodiac. Each Age lasts for approximately 2160 years, but there is much debate about the exact timing, because the Ages are based on the constellations in the heavens rather than on the seasons on which we base our Western Zodiac. Thus, who decides when one constellation ends and another begins (some constellations are simply bigger than others)? Plato called the sum of all the Ages “the Great Year,” which would total 26,000 years.
The Astrological Ages illuminate a sequential process of how we project our inner collective archetypal images and patterns during a given period of time: an Astrological Age. An Astrological Age is essentially a symbol that anchors the collective consciousness in a way that is synchronous with our collective soul’s evolution. Contained within the time period of each Age, it would seem that there is an objectively observable coincidence between the symbolic meaning of that Astrological Age and the religious, mythic, physical, psychological, intellectual, and spiritual development of humanity. Furthermore, the sequence of the Ages is important to consider too, as it represents an evolutionary process of the collective psyche/soul. Each Age follows the other in a Divinely designed way that speaks to humanity’s evolution. However, this sequence also resonates with the growth and development of the individual psyche that has incarnated during a particular Astrological Age – something I find incredibly fascinating. One could visualize the Astrological Ages as a needle playing on a record in which the current Age is where the needle is, yet the previous Ages are connected in an inextricable and intelligent evolutionary sequence to the current Age, as are the Ages to come. As the cosmos spins, the music plays, the Universe unfolds, and we move deeper and deeper toward the center of the One. Yet we still have periods of transition between each “song track” where two Ages cross fade. We are currently in such a state of transition and will be for the next 300 years or so. These states of transition are called “interfaces”.
So how are the Astrological Ages determined exactly and why do they go backwards, rather then in the same sequence as the zodiacal signs? Alright y’all, we have to get a bit technical for a moment, please bear with me! You can skip this if you want and join me again by The Ages of Leo - Taurus, but give a quick try and see if you can conceptualize the process. It might be helpful to view some diagrams of this process which you can find via a web search.
Essentially, the Astrological Ages are determined by the movement of what is called the “vernal (spring) equinox point” amidst the backdrop of the sidereal constellation belt in the heavens. This belt is comprised of the visible constellations that our Western Zodiac was actually based on, so they carry the names of Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc., and they vary in width-size. Vedic/Sidereal Astrologers actually use this Zodiac when casting charts. This is also called the “Celestial Equator”. There is another imaginary circle to be considered that surrounds the earth, which is at an angle to the Celestial Equator. It is formed by the path the Sun makes as it appears to circle the earth every year, which is really caused by the Earth’s going around the Sun. Over time this circle seems to change in relation to the Earth because of the Earth’s slow wobble on its axis (which is due to the gravitational pull from the moon). This imaginary circle is called the “ecliptic” of the Earth. Are you with me?
Let’s just simplify this and call one circle the “Celestial Equator” – which once again is the belt of heavenly constellations in the sky, and the other the Earth’s Ecliptic – which is an imaginary circle formed relative to how the Sun appears to transit around the Earth. Now visualize the Earth’s ecliptic sitting inside the Celestial Equator at an angle to it…….
Twice a year, we arrive at the point where these two circles intersect. These intersections points are the two equinoxes we experience in the fall and spring on Miss Gaia. The vernal/spring equinox is when we mark the beginning of the sign Aries in Western Astrology, which is based on the Earth’s relationship to the seasons and the Sun – not the Celestial Equator/Constellations per se – though it was derived from the Celestial Equator originally when both were in alignment some 2000 years ago. At the moment/day of the Spring Equinox, the Earth’s Ecliptic and Celestial Equator cross at a point in space, and they do so amidst the back drop of an actual constellation in the heavens. This is called the “vernal equinox point”. Every 72 years, due to the wobble of the earth on its axis this point shifts back 1 degree in whatever constellation it’s in, this is what determines the timing/duration of an Astrological Age. This is an astronomical fact. Currently, the vernal equinox point is in the last degrees of the constellation of Pisces (hence we are in the Astrological Age of Pisces). The fact that the equinox point slowly circles westward at the rate of 1 degree every 72 years accounts for the fact that the Ages follow in reverse sequential order due to the clockwise movement of this point.
This phenomenon is called “the precession of equinoxes” and was discovered by Hipparchus on the Isle of Rhodes in the second century B.C. The precession of equinoxes produces the “Great” or “Platonic Year” of 26,000 years, during which the point of the vernal equinox (like a hand on a clock) makes a complete tour through the twelve celestial constellations in the Celestial Equator. Whew! If you divide 26,000 by 12 then you arrive at the duration of each Astrological Age equaling roughly 2,160 years.
This of course is in contrast to the apparent forward movement of the planets and Sun within the wheel of the Western Tropical Zodiac, which once again relates to the seasons and establishes planetary relationships to the Earth and not the Celestial Equator. Two wheels spinning in opposite directions with each other, can you dig it?!
One other more esoteric phenomenon occurs that I feel has something to do with the Astrological Ages, and that is the shifting of our North Pole Star. As we will see, the vernal equinox point’s shifting from constellation to constellation every 2160 years has much to do with the outer manifestations of archetypes evolving within the collective consciousness of humanity. But let’s shift gears for a moment. Now imagine the Gaia/Earth has her own chakra system, and the North Pole is the crown of Gaia’s head. Next, visualize the crown or 6th chakra of Gaia aligning to a new star or constellation, which happens because of a peculiar gyrating motion of the Earth that changes very slowly the direction of the polar axis (this is the same motion that causes the precession of equinoxes - think of a toy top that wobbles as it spins). Dane Rudhyar, the late Astrologer ahead of his time, called this the “Great Polar Cycle” which encompasses 25,868 years as the North Pole aligns successively to a series of stars or constellations. This process is like the earth shifting to a new 7th Chakra and opening up to new reservoirs of cosmic prana. Talk about a rewiring of planetary kundalini! I sense that this symbolizes a new energetic shift of planetary consciousness that actually initiates and precedes the shifting of the Astrological Ages. I would also speculate that this is a factor in how each Age manifests in the collective body and psyche of Gaia. Energy pours from the 7th Chakra (which is the North Polar Star) and downloads through the other chakras until it hits the 1st Chakra of Gaia and manifests via our consciousness and physicality. We are currently aligning to a new North Star, Polaris which is in the constellation Ursa Minor. The alignment is said to be exact in 2100 and would account for why we are experiencing such rapid collective shifting when it comes to this New Age of Aquarius before the vernal equinox point reaches the constellation of Aquarius. More on that in Part Two! Ok, let’s leave that technical stuff behind and jump into our first Age…..
THE AGES OF LEO - TAURUS
As I list the beginning and ending dates for the Ages, keep in mind that the dates are vague and also include generous transitions from one Age to the next. Think of this in terms of civilizations: how can we really date when they begin and end? It’s a gradual process that interfaces with the rise and fall of other civilizations.
AGE OF LEO
11000 B.C. - 8000 B.C.
As we begin here, the snow of the Ice Age melts and the global climate begins to warm up. And what do we find? The cultures on the planet during this time worshipping the Sun, the ruler of the fire sign Leo, almost as a way of saying thanks for melting all that damn ice! Sun-Gods abound, populations rise in many parts of the world, minimal farming begins to birth as climates get warmer and wetter and herds of large animals become scarcer. This is also known as the Mesolithic period, or Stone Age. Ok, I know this isn’t too exciting, be patient, it gets better!
AGE OF CANCER
8000 B.C. – 6500 B.C.
Now we have just made a shift from the fire sign Leo to the water sign Cancer, and what happens? Floods! Around 8000 B.C. is thought to be the time when the great floods that are mentioned in almost every major culture occurred. The floods drowned out Sun-worship, which was replaced by Moon-worship as many cultures became aware of how the Moon affected the rising and falling of the water: the tides. The sign Cancer is ruled by the Moon and associated with the archetype of the Great Mother, which deals with the womb, bearing, birthing, nurturing, protecting, and domestic life. Speaking of which, during this time animals began to be domesticated. To be sure, this was a matriarchal period, which is evinced in many artifacts dating to this time period with exclusive depictions of the feminine figure. Many figurines found show breasts, incised vulvas and heavy hips, and are sometimes enthroned and guarded by lions or cats (Age of Leo reference).
This is also the Neolithic Age, or Late Stone Age. The great motif of the Age was the womb and tomb, both of which symbolize the vagina of Mother Earth, who gives birth and takes back into herself the bodies of her children. During this time, burial rites developed in which corpses were buried in the fetal position, and many anthropologists believe that men probably did not realize their role in procreation, so when babies popped out of women they trembled in awe of the feminine. The Great Mother seemed to possess an incredible power, and in this sense, She was terrifying and not some Betty Crocker! Collectively, we still fear her today as uncontrollable Mother Nature who can be nurturing and life giving, but also as relentless as a devouring black widow (which we just saw with the Tsunami in Indonesia).
Current evidence points to the idea that during this time, a group soul level of consciousness was dominant, with very little individual ego-consciousness actualized. Therefore, tribalism became the dominant mode of consciousness. The sign of Cancer symbolizes our tribal origins: our family. I sense that even today, much of our unconscious fear of the dark and death is connected to the fear of the Great Mother, who symbolizes here a regressive loss of ego-consciousness and a merging back with the tribe. This fear of the feminine -- something I wrote about in my article, Fate vs. Free Will -- has spawned an industrial world of incredible scientific/technological advances at what seems to be the price of our souls and planet. We have forgotten that we are the eyes, voice, heart, and body of Gaia herself; we are part of Her soul, as we are all part of Her. Like it or not, we all pass from the tomb of the womb, back to the womb of the tomb!
Towards the end of this Age came the domestication of the horse and wild cattle, the invention of the wheel and weaving, and some of the first known examples of metal working. These new technologies began to liberate humanity from the basic survival needs of food, water, shelter, and reproduction. No longer solely at the mercy of Mother Nature, new choices were born and intellectual development began to birth a new myth out of the Great Mother…
AGE OF GEMINI
6500 B.C. - 3750 B.C.
During this Age, human beings began to develop their intellects. Most of this Age, however, still remains prehistoric, so we can only speculate how progress was made in that regard. That being said, there is certainty that by the end of this Age writing appeared, first in crude pictographs, and finally in formalized cuneiform on tablets in Sumeria and hieroglyphs in Egypt. We also find a similar trail of development in India and China. If writing developed toward the latter half of the Age, then we can safely assume that languages developed by leaps and bounds throughout the Age itself – all of which fall under the province of the Mercury ruled sign, Gemini. Mercurius/Hermes was, of course, the communicator of the Gods in the Greco-Roman mythologies. The world during this Age seemed to flourish with all things associated with the archetype of Gemini; communications, language development, intellectual development, but also – and perhaps most importantly -- the duality of opposites. Once the intellect of humanity began to evolve out of the more instinctual level of consciousness - the Age of Cancer - then humans began to perceive reality via the separation of subject and object and, by extension, duality. As a sense of duality began to permeate the collective consciousness of the planet, new images of dual-god forms spontaneously emerged. In addition, as languages developed, so did oral traditions. It is believed that though the first books of the Old Testament were not written down until around 1000 B.C. at the time of Solomon, the oral traditions of creation stories like The Garden of Eden were actually created during the Age of Gemini. The Garden of Eden itself is a myth that illustrates the perception of reality that is invoked when we take the first steps towards independent consciousness via the power of choice and the development of the mind. The Garden of Eden not only had a Tree of Knowledge (Gemini) of Good and Evil (duality - Gemini again!), but also the Tree of Life. So the two Trees themselves form the duality of Life and Death, while Adam and Eve bring the duality of masculine and feminine. Naming things is also a function of Gemini, and coincidentally a task that was given to Adam and Eve. This myth is just full of Geminian juice! The myth symbolizes that with greater awareness comes choice and consequence, while encapsulating duality in many forms. I will visit this myth again in the Age of Aquarius…..for this myth also provides a hint of how the Garden can be restored. Paradoxically, one other duality that begins to form with the development of the intellect is the rational and irrational. We could also stretch this to encompass the literal and symbolic. This speaks to a duality that exists between the signs Gemini and Sagittarius, which are in polarity to each other in Astrology. I would also like to add that in each Age, there is a residue and balance of the Astrological Age’s opposite Zodiacal Sign. This is a concept I will begin weaving in more and more with the Ages to come. For now, let me say that during this Age of Gemini, its opposite Sagittarius began to show up as the first forms of organized religion. As humanity developed this idea of subject vs. object duality, God became “other” and so did “nature.” As farming communities settled down out of nomadic life, they constructed the first centers for worship. The direct experience of the tribal shaman was no longer considered adequate in many cultures towards the end of the Age, and an organized priesthood began to develop to mediate the separation of the gods and humankind. Lastly, concerning the duality of literalism vs. symbolism, creation stories back then probably weren’t considered “myths” but literal events……funny how some things never change! Oh, yes I did!
THE AGE OF TAURUS
Alright, now we have to get into a lot of bull, the symbol of Taurus…….it would seem that around this time period, what we call “civilization” began. Keep in mind that the word “civilization” comes from the Latin civilis, which means “city”. The Stone Age has now officially ended and most nomadic tribal people had opted for the stability of farm life; Taurus is a fixed earth sign after all. Instead of having to roam around searching for food, developments allowed for the harvesting of food that could be stored for the needs of an entire year. The Earth/land became a symbol of fertility, and the archetypal feminine took on a more positive context within the collective consciousness of humanity. The collective and individual focus shifted once the basic needs for sustenance had been conquered. Cities began to build in areas central to the wealth of the land and its capacity to provide abundantly. The Astrological Sign of Taurus is associated with agriculture, money, banking, real estate and property, and all matters dealing with ownership that provide permanence and security. Cities brought with them commerce, the division of labor, and their inhabitants began to live in stone or brick houses. The possessing of my land, my house, and my money became of primary importance. In that regard, we could say that the Age of Taurus became the Age of Attachment. Farmers joined other farmers; cities joined other cities, and from this came the organization of city-states. This in turn led to the first sense of nationalism. To weave in some of Taurus’ polarity, Scorpio – with nationalism was birthed a sense national power and the need to obtain more land (Taurus) and power (Scorpio) to maintain a sense of security - even if that meant killing (Scorpio) others to acquire more of both. I find it interesting that the brokerage house Merrill Lynch chose a bull as its logo and often times it is said that one can make a “killing” on the stock market!
Inheritances were passed down matrilineally during this time. So, with a wife, a husband would gain money, belongings, and hopefully land. Of course this changed in the Judaic Age of Aries, but it’s also interesting to note that material inheritance itself (Taurus) became a consideration upon one’s death (Scorpio). During this time we also saw the birth of perhaps the oldest profession in the world in which money (Taurus) bought sex (Scorpio). On that note, the sign Taurus is ruled by the planet/Goddess Venus – which lends to the exploration of sensuality and beauty during this Age. Art was produced en masse as time was freed up to focus on aesthetic beauty that could enrich society. And what showed up most frequently in the art of this period? Why the Bull, of course! When looking at the Astrological Ages as a whole, I feel that this was the first Age that humanity most pervasively depicted some form of the Bull in religious symbolism and art work. Perhaps the most affluent culture of this time period was Egypt’s, which was established during the Age of Gemini in its duality of Upper and Lower Egypt (symbolized by the two serpents on the “dual crown” of the Pharaohs). They worshipped a number of bull deities, but the primary bullgod was Apis, who presided over the underworld (realm of Scorpio). Ra was the Bull of Heaven; Osiris was the Bull of Earth; Nut – Sky Goddess with cow’s ears; Hathor – Cow Goddess, crowned with horns; and Bulchis – the Bull of Thebes. In addition, Pharaohs carried the Ankh, which is associated with the symbol of Venus, the planetary ruler of Taurus. The Greeks had Poseidon, Bull of the Sea; Zeus, the Bull-ravisher of Europa who fled over the Taurus mountains; and,most notably, the Minotaur, which was the offspring of Poseidon’s white bull and Pasiphae, wife of King Minos on Crete.
Biblical scholars also generally agree that the earliest god of the Hebrews was also a bullgod: bull shrines existed at Bethel, Schechem, Shiloh, and Gilgal. As we know, this was to be replaced in the Age of Aries by Moses’ Ram-God Yahweh. In addition, bull worship was pervasive throughout most of Eurasia. Even China’s god of agriculture had a bull’s head! I could go on and on…from India (Parjanya, bullgod of the Vedas) to Mesopotamia (Enlil, bull god of Sumeria), but by now, I am sure you’ve had enough bull! Apparently, so had humanity by the end of this Age: as we shall see in Part Two, The Age of Aries brings with it the bull-slayer. Speaking of Aries, let’s recap this last Mercury Retrograde in Aries, which will offer some hints about the next Age.
MERCURY RETROGRADE IN ARIES
March 19th – April 12th
So what do we get when Mercury goes backwards in a sign that loves to go forward? Hell on Earth! I don’t know about you, but the past three weeks have been a rough go for me. Aries is a fire sign, and I wrote in my last article about Mercury’s Retrogression in the fire signs this year. This time around, I noticed many things that occurred in the environment. Did any of you notice the news headlines of how many murders we have had in the last month with people being shot in the USA? I am not talking about the typical murders that occur in most urban areas daily, rather I can think of at least four headlines off the top of my head (a judge’s family was shot execution style here in Chicago, a man open fired during a church gathering at a Hyatt hotel, another went into a court house and shot four people including a judge, a boy on an Indian Reservation went to school and killed others as well as himself, etc.) The planet Mars rules the sign Aries – and also rules war, guns, aggression, anger, courage, will, action, focus, and determination. Let me tell ya, I have seen two extreme sides of the Aries coin these last few weeks. Either many people are boiling over with anger and being pushed to their edge, or they are depressed (perhaps because of repressed anger), unable to focus, and feeling incapable of going forward with their lives. Blocked will, anger, repressed anger, lost confidence, impatience, depression, lack of faith in the future - does that fit any of you these last four weeks? Somewhere within all that then lies your Mercury Retrograde message (what you need to refine and work on during this cycle that relates to the energy of Aries in your life). Furthermore, as we are talking about the planet Mercury here, many communications have been mixed up, misunderstood, and have seemed to provoke battle scenarios! It’s almost as if this Retrograde has brought many to their edge of tolerance, and apparently, some have been pushed too far past that edge. Well, seems we have all been given in chance to reevaluate certain ways of being in our lives that simply have seen better days, no matter which side of the coin you fall on. Through that reevaluation you can hopefully find your Mercury Retrograde message. Positively, perhaps what we can hope to take from this time period is renewed confidence in ourselves, more patience, more surrender, appropriate-balanced action, anger expressed constructively, and putting our egos back in check. Mercury will station and move forward again on April 12th. It usually takes a good week or so for things to readjust out of the Retrograde energy, so don’t think you’re out of the woods yet! Things should, however, begin to lighten considerably – which I hope leaves all of you feeling excited about your lives, peaceful, and mindful of your own Aries energy. Please reference past articles I have written on Mercury Retrograde via Myss.com for a more in depth view of this powerful cycle.
That’s it for this time! Look for part two of the Astrological Ages in about a month. If you liked part one, just wait until part two! Hopefully I have gotten your interest by illustrating the archetypal connections of each Age, which will deepen in part two. As always, please feel free to contact me for any reason at www.robertohotto.com. I love hearing your feedback! Hope to see some of you in Austin this summer for my workshop intensive! Now get out and enjoy the greatest gift Aries brings to those of you in the Northern Hemisphere: Spring!
Namaste, Robert Ohotto
i Jungian Synchronicity in Astrological Ages. Alice O. Howell. 1990. Theosophical Publishing House. p.146
ii Ibid. p. 132
iii Ibid. p. 142