In The Ever Present Origin by Jean Gebser, he identifies the circle as the key symbol of the mythic expression of the human imagination from the era of the pre-socratic philosophers and the Buddha up until the Renaissance (in which he sees the dawning of a sense of perspective accompanying a shift to a more rational central human experience). For Gebser, reverence for the soul is born out of the mythic expression of human consciousness, symbolized by the circle of life that encompasses the interaction of the soul arriving in time. The symbol of the soul arriving in time is held in the symbol of the circle, the most complete and poetic example being that of the astrological natal chart.
The central image of astrology, the circle, arose (in Gebser’s terms) from the mythic imagination as the ultimate symbol of the soul. It is clearly this mythic expression of the soul’s cycling of the individual lifespan that Rudhyar sees as central to the nature of astrological symbolism and the capacity of the natal chart to speak to us about the soul’s message. In the early pages of his excellent pamphlet From Humanistic to Transpersonal Astrology Dane Rudhyar approvingly quotes Jose Arguelles (from his book Mandala);
“The universality of the mandala is in its one constant, the principle of center. The center is the beginning of the mandala as it is the beginning of all forms and of all processes, including the extensions of form into time . . . The center is symbolic of the eternal potential. From the same inexhaustible source all seeds grow and develop, all cells realize their functions — there is a structural law, a cosmic principle by which perceptible forms are sustained and which governs the processes of transformation in all things. This can be realized only because the center principle manifests itself through man in the same ways as it does through a flower or a star; in it we may discover our cosmic commonality — our community . . . At the core, each man is the center of his own compass and experiences, his own cardinal points, North, South, East and West. We are defined not only by our place on the physical level, but by our position in consciousness, and these are an interdependent whole . . . “
It is clear that, for Rudhyar, the birth-chart is the personal mandala – the center of the individual life and symbolic of the central meaning of that life. The symbolism of the cardinal cross is used as an anchor in space-time of the soul potential of the individual. It is the cross of incarnation – symbolising human potential at the crossroads of the compass – just as in the tradition of the medicine wheel.
It is for these deeper reasons that I have enjoyed teaching part 1 of a 2-part webinar on the 12 signs of the zodiac as a developmental process that allows us to explore a greater sense of meaning in the path of our life. The 12 signs of the zodiac become a living symbol of the journey that the soul takes in time; the circle that Gebser identifies as the symbol of the soul’s becoming. Although coming into being through an ongoing meditation that has seen me contemplate the way that astrology can help us to realize our true potential and soulful inheritance, the webinars themselves have seen me return to an accessible beginner friendly style of interpreting the signs of the zodiac from the ground up – explaining every step I take along the way.
This developmental theory emphasises the way we birth ourselves into every moment through Aries, or the Ascendant, and the way we endeavour to find our felt sense of security and belonging at Cancer. This also explains the crucial importance of the lunar nodes as expressions of our personal journey. In the upcoming second part of this 2-part series I will pause at Capricorn to explore the core meaning of the Saturn lesson in the idea of psychological maturation which will be illustrated with multiple examples. Upon reaching Pisces – I then return to Scorpio through the lens of spiritual insight and re-imagine this archetype of transformation through the Persephone initiation, with its subsequent and profound impact upon the expression of the signs that follow; viewing Sagittarius, Capricorn and Aquarius from the perspective of the Queen of the Underworld (comfortable in both worlds) rather than the abducted youth.
Following on from these explorations of the story of the 12 signs will come a Sept 17th webinar – The Shape of Things in which I explore and explain the nature of hemisphere emphasis (intense clusters of planets in one section of the chart) using the same developmental model outlined in this 2-part webinar series.
All of these seminars following the principle of the circle of the natal chart as the symbol of the soul and therefore a vehicle for understanding the soul’s message and purpose. This is the true gift of astrology – it draws the circle, fills it with a symbolic map of the sky at the moment of birth and then encourages us, like the magi following the star, to search for that meaning. Crucially, the search itself then becomes part of the meaning; the soul circling back to us, in time.