Planet Waves | The Art of Rebellion, part two | by Eric Francis


Rare Bird (" i know why the caged bird sings.") by Via Davis, Studio Psycherotica.
Photos by Greg McGovern & BC. Sun from Trump XIX of the Sacred Tarot,
Thoth Deck, by Lady Frida Harris & Aleister Crowley


The Art of Rebellion (Part Two)

Part One (Taurus Thunder) | Printable

Planet Waves for June 2000 | By Eric Francis

Dad could not wrap his head around it. Not that many people can: astrology is usually accepted either on its face, or on faith, since most who rely on it in are not actually astrologers. Like you, they are the curious, the intrigued and the seeking -- not for an escape from reality, but rather in pursuit of meaningful information unavailable elsewhere, or a higher dimension of logic than this world usually offers. In astrology, we explore the idea that the universe is a unified whole, which we verify by real experiences in time and space. This is usually proof enough.

"The astrological phenomenon" manifests on a highly individual level every time we read a sun sign horoscope column and it makes any personal sense to us at all. This is often a total affront to what we call reason, and we wonder how it could be possible, when thousands of people read the write-up for each sign, and millions of people are born every day under each sign, and everyone's life experience seems so different. But it works nonetheless, in spite of our best efforts to rationalize it, or rationalize it out of existence.

As for dad. I would not describe my father as a skeptic, but rather someone who, like most people with extensive academic training (he has a Ph.D. degree and is a college professor) needs some firm linear proof before accepting a concept as real or valid. That may be an unreasonable demand on astrology, and on life -- not the proof part, but the linear part; astrology is not about lines; it's about symbols, circles and spirals, and we can't impose another order of rationality on something that will not contain it. That would be a lot like trying to measure the area of a sphere with a ruler. To measure a sphere, we need a another set of formulas, and other tools, than when we are measuring a box.

Anyway, the discussion involved Italy, and the return to our family roots, since we are a little clan of Sicilian-Americans, and he and I have both made an effort to stay in contact with that. My father was showing me his pictures of a recent trip to Assisi and the Vatican. He was describing the aura he saw around the Pope as he waked down the aisle of St. Peter's, even though my father is not the type to see auras or even go to church. But there it was, and his girlfriend saw it too, and that was enough. So, seizing the moment, I brought out the astrological charts of my visit to my ancestral town in Sicily, which I trace to the last known residence of my Godmother, Aunt Josie, who fulfilled her role faithfully in the absence of my natural mother. The town is called Piazza Armerina, and I visited there one week in 1996, during Easter.

Now, for this story to mean anything, I need to convey two astrological concepts, which you can take with you. One is the "nadir" and the other is the "ascendant." We really learn the energetic nuances of these things not from books or articles, but rather from years of practice, but the basic ideas can come across fairly easily.

A horoscope, or chart, is an actual map of the heavens as they relate to the Earth at any given moment. The nadir is straight down in such a figure. It is the lowest single degree of all 360 degrees in the zodiac at any given time of day or night. The nadir, one of the four "angles," is also the cusp between the third and fourth houses. In interpretation, it is usually associated by astrologers with one's genetic ancestry, and the third and fourth houses both tell about childhood conditions (among other things).

The nadir is a very personal point; on average, this degree will change once every four minutes through the course of a day (the moon, for reference, changes degrees once every two hours, and the sun, once per day). It advances fast, as fast as the world turns. In the moment of your birth, the nadir will be in a certain degree, and that is your personal nadir.

Later in life, when a person has planetary activity around this degree, astrologers will often notice some kind of unusual activity involving their heritage, genetic legacy, or family residence. It also represents the roots of things, and getting to the bottom of a matter. In my chart, the nadir is at 14 degrees and 12 minutes of Virgo. The nadir is always opposite the "midheaven," which is straight up, and in my chart the midheaven is at the same degree and minute of Pisces. The midheaven and nadir (sometimes called the MC and IC) form the vertical axis of a chart. For complicated reasons of celestial geography, Virgo and Pisces move relative to the earth about twice as fast as the other signs; each degree of these two signs stays in the nadir for about two minutes.

Next concept. The ascendant is on the horizontal axis; it is the eastern horizon, where the first house begins, opposite the "descendent," in the west. The ascendant, the starting point of the chart, has a great many meanings. I call it the "event horizon," borrowing a term from quantum physics, because that is how it works, as a horizon of events. It is, symbolically, where things are really happening. The ascendant sign is another word for "rising sign," which anyone who has looked at astrology knows is important. Only here, I am talking about the specific degree of the sign that is rising. Like the nadir, the ascendant also changes degrees every four minutes. And as with the nadir, where Virgo and Pisces are concerned, the movement is twice as fast as normal. Each degree of these signs will hold the ascendant for about two minutes per day.

My trip to Sicily was spontaneous, and the time I took it was fairly random. I had enough money to enjoy a well-deserved week of partying on the Greek island of Mikonos, or, alternatively, to visit my ancestral home. I chose the second option, and boarded a plane from Athens to Rome, and another from Rome to Palermo, with no idea where I was going, how to get there, or how to speak a word of Italian (much less Sicilian) except for chicken cacciatore. On the last flight, I met some musicians who were on tour and would be playing in Palermo, and I adopted them, rode into the city on their chartered van, and we got along great. After a few days at La Grand et Des Palmes Hotel in the downtown area, I said goodbye to my new friends, and boarded a bus to Piazza Armerina to go about my family business, which involved physically seeing and experiencing something of life in the place from which my family sprung. It was a symbolic journey, but I had been assured by a reliable source that I was on an important karmic mission as well.

It was a long bus ride. In Sicily everything runs late except church and sunrise. Easter weekend was coming, and it was really crowded, it was about 102 degrees on the bus, and I was surrounded by Sicilian kids who looked like my old classmates from Brooklyn, and who I was sure were viewing my freakish hair and far-from-Italian style of dress with some derision. The bus finally stopped in Piazza Armerina. I picked up my backpack and got off the bus and stood on the ground there for the very first time, and looked at my watch. It was 4:58 p.m., on April 3, 1996. After finding the one and only hotel in Piazza Armerina, and schlepping my pack and drum about a mile to get there, I called my friend in California, who runs a chart service, and he faxed me the horoscope for that moment.

I did a double take, and then a triple take: the ascendant, the degree rising at the moment of my arrival in Piazza Armerina, was exactly, to the degree, the nadir of my natal chart, 14 and-a-half degrees of Virgo. My nadir, my astrological tap-root, was rising at the moment of my arrival -- to the very degree. There are 1440 minutes a day, there are 360 degrees, and that particular degree occupies the ascendant for two of them, and there is no way to plan this kind of thing, especially if you're depending on a bus in Sicily. Remember that keywords for one's nadir are things like genetic heritage, legacy, roots, home base and origins. And there I was, at 14 degrees of Virgo, standing in the last known residence of my Godmother, on the island of my genetic origins.

Dad, the doctor of philosophy, gave me a blank, somewhat frustrated look. "And what does that mean?"

To me, it was brilliantly obvious, and remains one of my favorite examples of real-life astrology. I tried to explain it, but it was no use. My first attempt at connecting the symbols to the experience was to say, "Well, it was confirmation that I was in the right place at the right time." Finally, I left it off with, "It's poetic and symbolic and very personal."

But it's more than symbolic, and make a note: science could never prove this, because the experience cannot be repeated. Yet the sense that the universe has reached across reality and acknowledged us personally can be tremendously important. Much of what we suffer from in this life is a sense of being separate, alone, inadequate and wrong in our own lives. Rarely do we feel like we're in the right place at the right time. And when a whole confluence of random events confirm that an undertaking requiring great effort is indeed meaningful, that can he very helpful.

This kind of spontaneous merging of reality happens in astrology all the time, and each time it occurs is a miracle, and miracles are good teachers. The language of astrology is full of very specific symbols, and they arrive at very specific times. These are easy miracles to document, as long as you believe the one doing the documenting.

Still, "What does it mean" is a fair question, but its meaning is not what we normally think of as meaningful, because it's not linear (like the Dow Jones average). To accept nonlinear meaning, we need to be especially open-minded when we approach reality. We must ask in a sincere way that allows us to face the mystery of life in a moment of reflection, with some humility and a sense of how great is the unknown. The "meaning" is a direct experience, and it requires sensitivity and the use of some imagination. And it requires consciously experiencing the relationship between symbols and reality in a way that we don't normally do it, which is to say, really paying attention.

All of these qualities are things that school specifically taught us to unlearn. I believe that our inability to think in a wider reality is why, so often, we become so limited as we go through life, and why our options seem to close off. Looked at another way, you could say that our inability to conceive of more of reality is why our civilization is destroying the Earth so fast. Nobody seems to want to look at the whole problem, and it's hard to convince people who think in the linear reality of the stock market to consider the spherical reality of the globe. People want "proof" of environmental devastation and "proof" that genetically modified foods are bad. Meanwhile, we keep spreading the poison. But we are hardly ignorant; we just tend to be narrow-minded.

But in our times of what Terrence McKenna called "exponentially increasing randomness" -- with information, people and experiences flying at us at the speed of light, which is faster than the speed of time, new ways to apprehend reality can help a lot. Astrology is one such way; there are many others. But just remember, if dad doesn't get it, that doesn't mean you're on the wrong track; to the contrary, it may be direct conformation that you're going past the belief system you were unconsciously taught as a child. That is an act of rebellion if there ever was one. And from there, a real sense of purpose, mission and freedom may be only a single thought in the distance.>>

(To Be Continued)

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