Astronomy

Next step: Now that gay marriage is legal, let's go all the way with gender issues

I wrote this manifesto last night.  It started off that I was just going to write "I fucking love immigrants" somewhere on my site- I couldn't figure out where, so I was like, "I'm just going to write a manifesto, and I'll include that in there. (I don't know why but I just love immigrants sooo much.  They've added so much to Regina over the last 30 years.)  So but the rest is good too- that's my call-to-action for the Western world.

  Carl Jung recognized that we all have the male and female principle within us.  Maybe not like this.  Maybe in a more ethereal way.   Image unattributable because it's from one of those leech sites with all those ads.

Carl Jung recognized that we all have the male and female principle within us.  Maybe not like this.  Maybe in a more ethereal way.  Image unattributable because it's from one of those leech sites with all those ads.

1.  We call for equal status for science, math, logic, and capitalism on the one hand; and mysticism, the void, spirituality and myth on the other.  In Jungianism, these two elements are the animus and the anima; the male and female principles; in the Asian tradition, the yin and yang.  They both originate in similar times and cultural contexts, and they should be rejoined together after millenia of separation.  Neither is superior to the other, nor can they operate fully without the other.  Both are needed for balance in all areas of life. 

  Copernicus was a physician who studied astrology.  The two fields have a surprising amount of overlap.   Image from Wikipedia.

Copernicus was a physician who studied astrology.  The two fields have a surprising amount of overlap.  Image from Wikipedia.

2.  We champion A) self-knowledge (inner) education for the corporate and scientific (yang) communities; and B) business and tech (outer) training for communities of a yin inclination.  Both sides need the other to be fully in touch with reality, because in both camps, our egos viciously lead us away in search of false realities, cementing our antimony.  The future of the planet depends on learning about the interior world as much as the exterior world, and vice versa.

3.  We believe that when more people practice mindfulness, and learn to apply the Enneagram, and other self-observation and self-knowledge tools, the world will be a better, healthier, and safer place.  Self-knowledge engenders leadership; emotional intelligence brings about more "presence", as opposed to reactivity and craving, which the Buddha warned against.

4.  We call for political leaders with a mindfulness and self-awareness practice instead of those who are identified with a particular party.  When self-awareness practices become mainstream, bi-partisanship can be achieved, opening us up to more creative solutions to the world's problems. 

5.  We fucking love democracy.  In the end, though, the capacity for self-awareness is going to be more radical and effective than democracy is currently. 

  New immigrants to Regina, 2013 .  Image from cbc.ca. 

New immigrants to Regina, 2013.  Image from cbc.ca. 

6.  We also fucking love: immigrants, female orgasm, the internet, entrepreneurship and venture capital, High Maintenance (although sobriety's great), Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrology, New York, LGBT, history, pictures from your vacation, sarcasm, and this.

The 4 Things I want my Kids To Know

This weekend, I was over at a friend's house, and we were talking about how much money she'd put into raising her kids.  She said it had been really important to raise them to have three skills:

  1. the ability to swim- in case they ever fell into a body of water
  2. musical ability- for the effect it has on the brain (makes you better at math, for example)
  3. team sports- to learn how to work with other people

I said I was pretty sure my mom read that same book or article, because she also was very deliberate about our swimming lessons, piano lessons, and putting us in team sports. 

 Image from unsplash.com

Image from unsplash.com

After supper, we went outside and lay on her trampoline, and looked up at the stars.  To me, it was just a mass of lights, but to my surprise, she started pointing out the Big Dipper, Saturn, the North Star, and conjecturing about where Mars was in relation to where we were.  She laughed that I momentarily mistook a satelite for a shooting star.  I was in awe- I couldn't believe that anyone could even identify planets anymore.  I mean, an astronomer would, sure, but a regular city person with no formal training?  I decided that was my #4 on my list- that my kids have to know how to "read" the night sky like that.  While I lie there thinking about that, I sensed that it must really be true, that our ancestors watched the twinkling lights like we watch television, and the connection was so much more visceral and meaningful then.

I also decided I had to incorporate star-gazing into my course.  Logic and Science, and the meaning we attribute to what we observe in the world, all started with star-gazing anyway.

I'm pretty sure Amy Schumer Meant to Say Something a Tad more Nuanced

Amy Schumer wrote a skit for Bill Nye, and it's funny but not funny.  Here it is. 

I love Amy's sharp mind- that girl has been on fire lately with her skits, and I have all the respect in the world for Bill Nye, although I don't know him that well.  I just know he's a comedian-scientist who explains things to the public, and I'm all over that. 

When I saw this skit, though, I was a bit dismayed.  On the one hand, I agree that the affirmations movement started by Louise Hay in the late 1970's to "claim" support from the universe can be miscontrued to mean we can take in bits and pieces of reality and reject other, more glaring ones, in response to which Bill Nye says sarcastically, "We now know the universe is essentially a force sending cosmic guidance to white women in their 20s."

Ha.  Amy and her girlfriend just show us how spiritually retarded the West is, but that doesn't mean we need to quash the impulse behind trying to make sense of life's tangled strands.

 Amy Schumer in The Universe, Uncensored.

Amy Schumer in The Universe, Uncensored.

What this skit does is completely flatten the mystery of the starry night sky and our millenia-old connection to and fascination with it.  Nye and Schumer wave their hand in the face of the complex understanding that the first peoples had of the planets and stars that kept time and anchored stories for thousands of years.  The heavenly bodies and their stories essentially provided the means of survival for the human race, allowing it to progress from nomads and shepherds to civilizations who farmed and experimented with animal husbandry, giving way to civilizations who brought us philosophy, mathematics, logic, morality, and art, which eventually gave way to the development of the three major mystic traditions, Christian mysticism in the tradition of the Desert Fathers, Kaballah from Judaism, and Sufism from the Muslim heritage.  The universe was found to have spiritual laws before rationality was even beheld by Socrates.  Rationality is underutilized today by certain personality types, and overutilized by others.  We all need a balance of the two to exist with integrity in this world. 

Carl Jung talks about the ying and yang of the divine masculine (knowledge) and divine feminine (context).  The former Catholic monk, Thomas Moore, says reason and ego can only take us so far.  They CAN take us far, and we need that element, but the wisdom, -- and the emptiness of the other side of the wisdom-- is also needed. 

No one wants to appear foolish, so we use our rationality to defend ourselves from the unknown, but we all know people who have been forced into the unknown with an uncurable illness or a divorce, and any transformation that has taken place in the lives of those survivors has come because they embraced the unknown, the mystery, that which is not defined, the vaccuum.

This blog is a call for a conscious "staying" with the discomfort around the paradox of reason and science on the one hand; and mystery and ancient wisdom on the other.  As long as we have one without the other, we're incomplete beings. 

I don't blame Amy for making fun of people using random t-shirts as signs to validate their immoral behavior.  But I disagree with how she used Bill Nye to invalidate any use of mystery at all.  Poking fun of those who don't know how to read the signs of the universe is kind of funny, but let's not do it at the expense of the "yin".   Any ignorance around it needs to be met with sane formal and information education on how to use it, so we can not only become more intelligent about the universe, but also operate more intelligently within the universe.

From Ancient Times to Modern Times

I was listening to Helen Palmer give the keynote talk at the 2013 International Enneagram Conference in Denver again this morning.  She was one of the earliest people to start teaching the Enneagram in the U.S. in the 1980's, I believe.  The second person, in fact.  She's a professor of Psychology at the J.F.K School of Consciousness. 

"Terra non est centra mundi"

The best quote I've heard all month came from Paul Holdengraber, the director of public programs at the New York Library who said that he approached all his subjects with "a euphoria of ignorance", which is exactly how I feel about my course.  Like him, I'm producing Science and Alchemy School because I'm fascinated by the topic, and I'm excited to have some really great speakers enlighten us as we learn how two profound systems of inner growth-- astrology and the Enneagram-- are modeled in our planetary system, and how, in turn, we are, in our biological make-up, products our planetary system.  We belong to each other.  Not only is the universe's unfolding a fascinating story, but it's the cradle for our own psychological unfolding, and as both narratives come together in the 21st century, enabled by technology and research, there is also profound meaning.  Science and mysticism are revealing themselves to be intertwined in fascinating ways in our modern-day universe, so these are exciting times.

Another quote I heard this week was from Russ Hudson's talk on the historical context of the Enneagram.  "It takes time for ideas to cook."  That's an understatement.  In about 150 AD, a Alexandrian astronomer, astrologer, and mathematician named Ptolemy wrote Almagest, which became the standard textbook on astronomy for generations of students to come.  Indeed, for the next 1200 years, it held its place as the authority on the planets and stars, how they moved around the earth, which was the centre of the universe. 

  Nicolaus Copernicus, a Polish cleric.  His ideas weren't accepted until centuries after he died.   Image from Wikipedia.

Nicolaus Copernicus, a Polish cleric.  His ideas weren't accepted until centuries after he died.  Image from Wikipedia.

It took a man named Nicolaus Copernicus in the mid-sixteenth century to get the gumption- and the science together- to challenge Ptolemy's ideas, and his resulting book was ignored by the Church.  Copernicus was a Polish cleric who studied religious law, medicine and astrology, (since it shed light on the nature of his patients' illnesses), and as he did so, found that Ptolemy's calculation tables were a little cumbersome.  Over the course of his adult life, he developped a heliocentric model of the universe, and his ideas didn't become accepted until the 19th century. 

Talk about taking a while for ideas to cook.  Yesterday, Joanne Wilson profiled a city in South Korea that decided to go without cars in one particular neighborhood for one month.  It took TWO YEARS to convince everyone to get on board.  People just didn't think it could be done. 

I love new ideas.  I soak them up, although sure I get threatened by my fair share of them.  But I like to stay ahead of the curve as much as possible so I'm never taken by surprise. 

Science and Mysticism: We Need An Interdisciplinary Approach to Life

It turns out that Neil deGrasse Tyson has some pretty strong views on astrology.

Last week I was watching an interview that he did at SXSW last year, and something he said jumped out at me.  The interviewer was Christie Nicholson, a contributing editor of Scientific American Magazine.  She was reading him some stats from the National Science Foundation's 2014 Science and Engineering Indicators (a national survey that's been done every year for over 30 years) to get a reaction from him about what he thought of the state of scientific literacy in the US. 

Warmly regarded as "the peoples' astrophysicist", Dr. DeGrasse Tyson is a big advocate for scientific education for children so they don't fall prey to pseudoscience, and he and American creationists often get at each other's throats over how the universe came to be.  So because creationism contradicts science, I'm not defending the former, but Christianity does tend to get lumped in with astrology and other mystic traditions when his discussions turn to pseudoscience.

Anyway, one of the stats Nicholson used to build a case that America was still highly illiterate in science was that more than 40% of Americans see astrology as highly scientific.  Which is a crazy stat when you think about it.  Astrology is so not mainstream, or acceptable to bring up in conversation in almost any public context besides dates, yet more than 40% of Americans think it's "highly scientific"  I don't know what the definition of "highly scientific" is, as opposed to just normally scientific, but I will say that anyone who has ever had their birth chart read  is blown away with the accuracy of the readings, and after having mine read, and I've spent hours and hours dissecting mine lately, I can't say enough about the value of having it read. 

In my opinion-- and the Greek philosophers agree with me here, so I think I'm in good company-- if you don't know yourself, your knowledge that you've accumulated is dust in the wind.  "Know Yourself" was incribed in one of the pillars at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, which forms the basis of the Western tradition itself.  Science came later with Aristotle's drive for objectivity and logic, but Aristotle was definitely informed in his studies by the Delphic Oracle: "Knowing thyself is the beginning of all wisdom", he said.  I don't want to be put in a position of having to defend astrology, as it's the Enneagram that's my first love, but I mean, the West does have a fascinating mystic tradition that deeply informs us about our nature as human beings, as well as a scientific tradition that is just as honorable, but gets all the attention.  Both, in my opinion, need to share the spotlight. 

Until there's a marriage between science and mysticism, the West will continue to struggle with terrorism, global warming, racism, and disease.  We not only need more informed people, we need wiser people who are self-aware and emotionally intelligent to solve these problems. 

DeGrasse Tyson's rejection of astrology in his discussion at SXSW reminds me that he's an Enneagram Type 8, one of the dominant traits of this type being skepticism and a categorical dismissal of anything that appears weak of "fluffy", and it just shows what you can miss out on when you're identified with the personality.  In essence, he's proving his own point that when you don't know the facts, you're subject to being led astray.  Astrology, the Enneagram, whatever: the whole Western mystic tradition helps you come home to yourself.  Knowing astrophysics without knowing yourself is cool for a while until life comes crashing down on your personal life or whatever kind of mid-life crisis elicits your soul-searching.  (By the way, I love DeGrasse-Tyson and have a TON of respect for what he does.  I just wish we saw eye-to-eye on this subject, and I don't wish him any crises- I just hope he has ears to hear when life does throw him a curve ball.)

I'm proud that my course offers both scientific lenses on the self (astronomy and neurobiology) and mystic lenses on the self: Astrology, the Enneagram.  Both are crucial for a integrated view on the world.  It is going to blow some minds, people.  I'm very excited.

For Foundational Knowledge, for Growth, Wonder

I updated my "About page" the other night.  I wanted to get out from my brain onto "paper" why I was starting this business and why I was offering a class called Alchemy Summer School.  It's not anything poetic just yet, but hopefully will become that way with edits. 

The Battle of the Titans, Part III

The reason I'm writing about the Battle of the Titans is because I'm reading a journal article by Helen Palmer and Virginia Wiltse on the connection between ancient astronomy and the Enneagram.  Palmer was supposed to come out with a book about the connection between ancient astronomy and the Enneagram a few years ago, and I inquired about it again a couple months ago, and it hasn't been published yet.  There definitely is a lot to take in in the groundbreaking 2011 article. 

It appears that ancient Hermetic-- and eventually Christian and Sufi-- philosophers saw a connection between human spiritual development and the mythical stories behind the "heavenly bodies", the planets.  The Christian mystic, Evagrius Ponticus (b. 345 AD)- who was also a neo-Pythagorean (Greek with Egyptian scholarship)- saw the planets as having certain qualities, whose transits and mythology were ordained by God to teach us about our own personal development.  They definitely believed back then that the outer cosmos was a macrocosm for our inner cosmos. 

So in these three blog posts, I'm exploring the relationships that Palmer sees between certain planetary gods in the Golden Age and the Enneagram symbol. 

 The modern Enneagram symbol.  9 is at the top (ie. at the top of the equilateral triangle), 1 is to the right of it, then 2, 3, 4, and etc. until you get to 8.  Same as the numbering on the symbol to the right.

The modern Enneagram symbol.  9 is at the top (ie. at the top of the equilateral triangle), 1 is to the right of it, then 2, 3, 4, and etc. until you get to 8.  Same as the numbering on the symbol to the right.

 The three triangles here represent major interactions between the gods of the golden age, before the War of the Titans, an epic take-down of the Titans by their children, the Olympians.

The three triangles here represent major interactions between the gods of the golden age, before the War of the Titans, an epic take-down of the Titans by their children, the Olympians.

So is it possible that Western civilization has lost its understanding of Greek mythology and how it relates to our own personal alchemy as human beings- how we grow and change?  How we convert our own personal "base metals" into "noble metals"?  Well yes, obviously.  There are maybe a hand-full of people on earth who are conversant in this material.

So here's what's going on with those three triangles on the right.  You'll see there's a triangle connecting Venus, Saturn, and the Sun.  Of course, the Greeks associated the visible planets with their gods.  So Venus, in its lust is connected with Type 8 and the goddess of the same name.  Saturn, usually depicted with his sickle is connected with avarice, therefore Type 5, and the god of time, Kronus.  The Sun, with its warmth (and, according to Evagrius, pride) is connected with Type 2, and the Goddess Helius. 

Palmer and Wiltse's reasoning that these three are connected in the first triangle is because Saturn was the god who was primarily responsible for ushing in the golden age.  Remember, he was the one who castrated his dad, Uranus, when four of his brothers held him down.  When that junk came off Uranus, it landed in the sea and out of the sea emerged Venus.  And one of those brothers who held down Uranus for the castration was Hyperion, the father of the sun. 

OMG, this shit gets complicated, especially because this is only the golden age Enneagram- after the golden age, we have to bring in the redemptive vice-to-virtue process, which involves the moving of those lines (I think which explains why the symbol on the right doesn't look exactly like the modern symbol on the left).  I can see how Helen Palmer's book isn't out yet. 

I'll discuss the other two triangles in upcoming blog posts.

The Battle of the Titans, Part II

Kronus didn't actually castrate his dad alone.  Four of his Titan brothers helped by hiding at the four corners of the world, and waiting for their dad, the Sky, to come in and make out with their mom.  When he came, they held him down by the four corners and Kronus castrates him with his sickle.  With Uranus deposed, the Titan brothers then release their giant-brothers from the belly of their mom, Gaia (who get sent right back to the hell-pit they came from not too long after.)

(Hyperion, one of the brothers, is the god of the dawn, so he is considered to be at the East corner.  He gets together later with his Titan-goddess sister, Theia, and fathers the Sun: Helios.  The sun represents Enneagram Type 2, according to Helen Palmer, btw.)

So Kronus, the god of Time, becomes king, and his wife, Rhea takes up the role as Time's first lady- the goddess of fertility and motherhood.  (Being married to Time meant she would come to represent the flow of time from generation to generation). 

But at some point in his taking over the throne, Kronus' parents- Uranus and Gaia- propesy that one of Kronus' own kids is going to overthrow the his new government.  Kronus is understandably nervous because that's exactly what he did to his own dad, so he swallows all of his children as they're born, just to make sure they don't try anything.  But his wife, Rhea, doesn't like this, and so when she gets pregnant with Zeus, she goes to her in-laws, Uranus and Gaia, for advice on how to save this one child.  They advise her to hide away when it's time to give birth, and set up a situation where he lives in a cave in Krete, nursed by a goddess and protected by some gods.  Then when she's supposed to hand over her baby to Kronus, it's actually a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes.  Very clever, mom and dad.

It works, and it's a good thing that out of all the swallowed children, she saves Zeus, because he grows up and becomes the king of the gods, the ruler of the sky, and the highest ruler of human kind.  Zeus is a big deal.  (In astrology, he rules Jupiter, the planet that represents luck and power.)  So you can imagine, when Zeus grows up, and he's got some avenging of his own to do, and he's going to be really good at it. 

He gets his dad to vomit up all of his siblings and forms an army with them- they call themselves the Olympians- and they decide to go to war against their dad and his old boys' club, the Titans.  So basically there's an epic war between the younger Olympians and the older Titans for ten years.  This is called the Battle of the Titans.

To be continued...