Nature v Nurture

CET in colour

When I was training to become a teacher, I remember one lecturer stressing that the child (and ultimately, the adult that he or she becomes) is a product of heredity and environment.

The formula given was H x E = I: heredity combined with environment makes the individual. It’s maybe a bit simplistic but it gets the message across. Nature and nurture together have a huge impact on what we become.

In my book The Cosmic Egg Timer – a comprehensive introduction to astrological psychology –  I include a chapter explaining the Family Model, the primary source of heredity and environment, in the natal chart. By considering the planetary positions of the Sun, Moon and Saturn in a person’s chart, a lot can be learned about the Mother/Father/Child relationships which existed as that person was growing up, and what might have shaped and influenced them. Astrological psychology is about self-awareness, personal growth, and taking charge of your own life. It has nothing  to do with prediction or “fortune telling”, and often a lot to do with healing personal rifts and wounds.

The Sun – our star – symbolises, in the natal chart,  the will and the mind together with IMG_0698aspects of the personality which relate to “self”, like self-confidence, self-esteem and self-identity. A young child is not ready or capable of developing these things for him/herself; they’re something which develops slowly as the child grows and matures. The child therefore projects their own Sun/sense of self on to the person in the family whom they assume plays that “leadership” or sense of self role.  Traditionally that is the father, but nowadays it could just as easily be the mother, in which case the child will look to the mother to fulfil both parenting roles. Note that this role may also be shared by both parents, depending on the role each assumes within the family set up. Ideally, the Sun in the natal chart will be placed high and somewhere near the top of the circular chart. This “perfect” placing doesn’t always happen and variations and what they mean are explained in The Cosmic Egg Timer.

Saturn, the planet which is sometimes associated with boundaries and restrictions, is symbolic of the physical self as well as security in all its manifestations. Security means different things to different people, but one thing is for sure –  we all need security, especially when we’re children. Who is the first and best person to offer this, along with protection? Mother of course, so a child will project their Saturn needs on to her. She’s the one who gives out the rules and guidelines on what’s what as the child grows up. She – or the parent who assumes this role (again, it could be either) – is the one who keeps us on track. Ideally, in the natal chart Saturn will be placed low down. You can read more about this, and why, in The Cosmic Egg Timer.

The Moon symbolises emotional needs and how people express themselves with and through their feelings. Feelings can be a minefield which some people prefer not to walk through, and the sensitivity and vulnerability of the Moon is something which can stay with us into adulthood. The Moon in the natal chart represents the child in the context of the Family Model – it’s about you or me as we grew up in the family we were born into. In the chart the Moon is ideally placed somewhere on the horizontal axis of the circular natal chart where it stands the best chance of making contact with others and connecting with them.

There is much more about the Family Model in The Cosmic Egg Timer, where family relationships, family dominance and specific bonding between child and one or both parents is covered. Once our own Family Model is understood, a lot of insight can follow, along with healing some of the stuff left over from childhood.

 

 

 

 

The Four-Fold Way

Some tim4foldwaye back in the 1990s I came across the Four-Fold Way, which was referred to at a personal growth workshop I attended. The Four-Fold Way was attributed to anthropologist Angeles Arrien, and I was impressed by it’s four simple points of wisdom:

· Show up and choose to be present

· Pay attention to what has heart and meaning

· Tell the truth without blame of judgement

· Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome

This led me to read her book, entitled The Four-Fold Way – Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary. The book, its content and ethos have come back to mind right now. The times we are currently living in are blighted with fake news, lies, trolling, disrespect of people who are different in some way, divisions within society and climate breakdown. It’s time for us all to start taking responsibility and stop moaning.

Angeles Arrien suggests four paths we might take, and her opening sentence, way back in 1992 when the book was published, is pressingly relevant today. She says,

“Today it is imperative that we pay attention to ecological issues. Our planet, the house we live in, is in danger of becoming unliveable, due primarily to the neglect of our own industrialised society. It is clear we need to take action before it is too late.”

She goes on to say that the word ecology comes from the Greek word oikos, which means house, in other words, our planet.

The four ways she describes can be shown diagrammatically using the medicine wheel layout and includes the four points of the compass, and the four elements of fire, earth, air and water. Each Way has a single line description which more or less lays out what it’s about.

The Way of the Warrior – Show up and choose to be present– the message here is to stip dillydallying about and do something, take action. The associated human resource is power, the way of living is right action.

The Way of the Healer – Pay attention to what has heart and meaning – this suggests don’t allow yourself to get distracted (by smart phones, social media etc?) but remain in touch with what is really important and connected to your heart. The associated human resource is, unsurprisingly, love; the way of living is right speech.

The Way of the Visionary – Tell the truth without blame or judgement – here we have to remember to speak our own truth, be true to ourselves, and not take on board what others have tried to foist upon us. This can be a tough one as it’s much easier to go along with things we don’t really agree with in order to fit in, or keep the peace. And we have to remember not to blame or judge ourselves and others. The associated human resource here is vision, and the way of living, right placement.

The Way of the Teacher – Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome – the message is to stay open to the new and not have an end goal in mind. A good teacher will always be open to new ideas and viewpoints because so much fruitful material can come from staying open and learning more. Good teachers are always learning! The associated human resource is wisdom and the way of living is right timing.

Angeles Arrien’s work as an anthropologist, educator and facilitator of workshops aims to build a bridge between cultural anthropology, psychology and comparative religions, revealing how indigenous wisdoms are relevant to our families, professional lives and our relationship with the Earth itself. There is something in The Four-Fold Way for all who wish to develop themselves, their potential and their ability to live life creatively, and we need this approach more than ever in our current times.

“Do all the good you can, with all the means you can, in all the ways you can, to all the people you can, as long as you can” – Angeles Arrien.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse

BoymolefoxhorseThis book was a Christmas gift (thank you daughter) and its simple message, full of wisdom and magic, bears hope and significance for the times we are living in as 2020 and the new decade begins. It’s about love, friendship and kindness.

I’ve read it through cover to cover, I’ve dipped into it, and I’ve used the attached glossy ribbon it comes with to mark pages which hit the spot for me when I open it at random. I’ve even had a go at playing the music printed inside the front and back covers; there’s no title, just the instructions “Lively and in strict time”, the musical staves themselves adorned with drawings of the four characters in the title, and horse, like Pegasus, with wings, galloping and flying through the notes. I recognise the tune but can’t name it; it’s a cheerful trotting tune.

The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse is a book which will entrance children and have equal appeal for the oft-neglected inner child in adults. With my astrological psychology hat on, I’ve read passages which I can relate directly to the psychological meanings of the planets in a natal chart and the sub-personalities of Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis. The mole is like the Moon – needy for love, wise about love, but not averse to substituting it with cake.

The mole tells the Boy “I’ve discovered something better than cake.” “No you haven’t,” said the boy. “I have,” replied the mole. “What is it?” “A hug. It lasts longer.”

The Boy is lonely and full of questions. He seems to be searching for himself and perhaps could symbolise the Sun/sense of self. He wants to get back home and is joined on his journey by the mole, the fox and the horse. The fox is quiet and buttoned up, having been hurt by life. He doesn’t say much but the other characters include him and love him just as he is. The fox has a Saturnian quality; he is restrained and caught in a trap when the boy and mole discover him and set him free. His presence is welcomed even though he is silent. The fox rescues the mole when he falls into the water, and contrary to his nature, doesn’t attempt to eat him.

The horse is the last character to appear. He is white and wise and very special. He has Jupiterian qualities of wisdom and Neptunian qualities of unconditional love and acceptance. “When have you been at your strongest?” the boy asks the horse. “When I have dared to show my weakness. Asking for help isn’t giving up,” said the horse. “It’s refusing the give up.”

The horse also reveals to his travelling companions that he can fly, but I won’t spoil the rest of the story or the magic for you because this illustrated book is beautiful to read, to look at and to provoke thought and introspection. The author, Charlie Mackesy, has been a cartoonist for The Spectator and a book illustrator for Oxford University Press.

In these changing, troubled times, it’s essential to have reminders of how we can be when we draw upon our latent goodness and decency and give it out into the world. “Nothing beats kindness,” said the horse. “It sits quietly beyond all things.”

 

The Magic of Psychosynthesis

We are living in troubled, unsettling times, not just here in the UK where I sit and write, but in many countries around the world. Brexit, now exposed for what it really is, has morphed into an unpleasant can of worms and the effects reverberate not only in the UK, but in other countries in the European Union which are involved in this mess. France is having prolonged demonstrations with the gilet jaunes, and in Catalonia, the people are demonstrating against the lengthy prison sentences given to the leaders of their bid for independence. We are connected in our European angst, but unrest is global. Hong Kong and Chile have political protests, Libya too; the Extinction Rebellion movement and the Friday school strikes for action on the environment have spread around the world. Change is prevalent.

As an astrologer and practitioner in astrological psychology, I can turn to my ephemeris to see what might be going on through an astrological lens, knowing full well that Saturn and Pluto have been in Capricorn for sometime now. Working alongside, they’re gradually grinding down and clearing out the outworn structures of the so-called “establishments” which are taking the hits. Like industrious workmen, they get on with their own jobs, coming together from time to time to combine both energy and effect. From April to June 2019 they rubbed along together for a while in conjunction; they touch base with each other again in December, staying in tandem in the near future until February 2020.

Will book cover

What, you’re probably wondering, does this have to do with Will Parfitt’s new book – The Magic of Psychosynthesis: initiation and self development? The answer is just about everything. The book is a treasure trove for anyone on the path of personal growth and self discovery – what the author calls The Work. Moving from the stage of Aspirant (as we all are) to Adept (what we aspire to) Will offers clear and detailed signposts for how to navigate, travel and develop our inner world, yet remain fully grounded and connected to the changing world and environment we live in.

The book acts like a spiritual satnav, gently guiding the reader through the principles of Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis with a wealth of practical exercises to support the journey. Students of Astrological Psychology will already be familiar with the Egg Diagram, and with the analogy of the orchestra, the sub-personalities being different players within the orchestral whole, or Self.

Using reflective meditations based on Assagioli’s four steps in experiencing the will, readers are encouraged to explore their awareness and use of their own will, with techniques to build up muscle and strength here. In astrological psychology, developing the way the Sun – the sense of self – functions in your own chart could be worked on alongside this. I liked Will’s questions here: Who is running your life? Are you directing your life? Are you in control of your life? To what extent is the direction of your life determined by outer events?….

Other compatible approaches are introduced for use alongside the The Work, such as Kabbalah and Tarot. The practical exercises throughout the book can be taken at leisure; there is no pressure to work on them in a linear fashion and I for one will be going back to the section on training the imagination to do the suggested work on automatic drawing. The exercise on selling your soul I found particularly potent, with challenging and thought-provoking questions which hold up a mirror we may prefer to avoid looking in.

Developing the transpersonal qualities of Love and Will underpin much of Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis; both are required, and while it is important to engage with the will, without love there is no cohesion, connection or wholeness. The Work, Will asserts, is about travelling the path of self discovery…and the journey has to include love too. Focussing on and developing the heart is therefore equally important, especially in these times of change and uncertainty. Will suggests that the simplest and most profound way to deal with obstacles, difficulties, challenges, opposing viewpoints (very pertinent right now in our Brexit-splintered society) is to remain heart centred. That, using an astrological psychology prism, requires stepping beyond the personal emotional needs of the Moon – our emotional needs and feelings –  in the chart and taking the leap to connect with the pure and highest manifestation of Neptunian energy – of acceptance, inclusivity and non-judgemental love.

The text of Will’s book is richly supported by references to other psychological and esoteric traditions such as Crowley, Gurdjieff, Regardie and Fortune. These do not intrude on the flow of the text with footnotes but are listed in appendices at the end of the book, along with an index of Practices and Spells.

Drawing on forty years of is own personal and spiritual development and his experience as a therapist, Will writes clearly and with warmth, as though he is speaking personally. For every exercise he emphasises the importance of grounding in real life what the reader discovers on their own explorations of the inner world. He emphasises the importance of coming back to earth, of being here now, in everyday reality and to opening the heart to love in all interpersonal relationships. This, he suggests, is especially needed in these challenging times of global change and upheaval and relates to what we as individuals can do, which is to live with a deeper consciousness of our self, and to live every day with love in action.