WHAT IS A SYMBOL? In ancient Greece the Symbol (Symbolon), represented the sign of recognition and control obtained by breaking an object in two, thus the possessor of one of the two parts was able to be recognized by the other by showing how they matched. This ancient tradition expanded over time to include the idea of the Symbol as a representation of a non-sensible reality, a magical reality that alluded to something mysterious but real at the same time. The magical value of the Symbol remained alive throughout the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and beyond. The objective reality of the Symbol remains its enormous expressive power, its ability to reveal otherwise inaccessible structures and characters that are part of worlds unknown to us but real, even if not evident in immediate experience. Symbols have been expressions of civilizations, materializations of the divine and transcendent, the driving force of Tradition, visible signs of divine cosmogony.
Symbolism is the most suitable and usable way for humans to pass on teachings and thoughts, the most natural way. This is easily understood when one considers that language itself, after all, is Symbolism. Any human expression is actually a symbol of thought that is translated outwardly; the ‘only difference remains in the fact that language is analytical and discursive, while Symbolism is essentially intuitive. In the ancient world every human science was part of a whole in unity with the Divine. The mythology of both Western and Eastern cosmogonies tells of anthropomorphized deities in close connection with the human world.
The symbolic world of mythology constitutes a unified and meaningful representation of the reality in which ancient peoples lived. Through mythological tales we are able to understand the thinking of ancient civilizations, their understanding of society, their fears, their needs. The affairs of the gods are mixed with those of human beings. It is difficult to understand mythology without understanding the world in which man lived. Pagan gods embody the principles that govern the world, quarrel and love, are subject to passions and remorse, but above all reflect a world that is still very much tied to nature, and that feels the need for a balance among the natural elements that cannot be altered.
And then came Descartes (Renè Descartes 1596-1650), the father of Western scientific thought, who with his “Cogito, ergo sum” (“I think, therefore I am”) led to the bipartition of reality into the so-called “Cartesian dualism,” which has extraordinarily influenced Western philosophy. Starting from the principle that thought can independently prove its existence, Descartes concluded that the essential characteristic of the subject was thought. He went on to reflect by deducing the existence of God and arguing that He had created two substances: the thinking substance (res cogitans), whose essential characteristic is thought, and the extended substance (res extensa), whose essential characteristic is that it occupies a certain physical extent; while the thinking substance conforms to the laws of thought, the extended substance conforms to the mechanical laws of physics. Descartes developed complex mechanistic models for the explanation of numerous physical phenomena, which had the virtue of replacing the philosophical speculations of antiquity. From this assumption, only what can be scientifically proven “is true,” and man has split into two parts, where the predominance of matter over the more emotional, psychic aspects, which cannot be scientifically proven, makes him fragmented and incomplete.
Initiatory astrology, far from the commodifying interpretation that astrology has assumed in our day, interprets the twelve signs of the zodiac as stages in the creation of the known world both at the level of the macrocosm universe and the microcosm man. The very placement of the twelve signs on the symbol of infinity, represented by the circle, is indicative of the message that this ancient science wants to convey to the eyes of those who know how to look, and anyone who walks through the door that leads from the “Anterior Heaven” to our “Posterior Heaven” is linked to the space-time imperatives of Heaven and Earth, which united give birth to Man. Activity, passivity, male and female. Based on these principles, the formation of Man paralleled that of the Zodiac. From the top down the energies condense, while the opposite happens if from the bottom they expand upward. The regular alternation in the sky, with expansive motion, of the zodiac signs beginning with Aries, followed by Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius and Capricorn, Aquarius and finally Pisces, is countered by the contrary motion of the planets: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
The union of Heaven and Earth begets Man. Three, in all cosmogonies, represents the transformative aspect, the fruit, of the union of an active aspect with a passive aspect. In our culture we speak of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Taosti tell of three Dantians, the Hindus of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, the Kabbalists in the Tree of Life of three Pillars and three Triads, etc… In man we find a physical body, an emotional body and an intellectual body that interpenetrate and that only by interacting harmoniously with each other enable him to access other levels of consciousness. These three energy centers surround his body in a system of vibrational shells called auras. We will have, therefore, a physical aura, with its etheric double, an emotional aura and an intellectual aura always accompanied by its own double, or, put another way, the active and passive aspect, the masculine and feminine, the + and -. These first three auras, in turn, have a counterpart at a more evolved level called atmic aura, (counterpart of the physical aspect), celestial or buddhic aura (counterpart of the astral body) and causal aura ( counterpart of the mental body).
Since life on Earth is linked to four basic elements: earth, water, air and fire, it is the diverse combination of these elements that shapes and vivifies all that exists.(Basic diagram taken from The Zodiac Key to Man and the Universe . O.A. Aivanhov)
The ‘Air and Fire of the higher bodies, vivify the Earth and Water of the lower bodies, or even, there are different types of Essence that give birth to different types of man.
Astrology divides the zodiac circle into four quadrants, which stand for
the reality of matter;
The emotional reality, of the experience of self;
mental reality, or experience of the world;
the transcendent, spiritual reality, or the inner triangle of the Enneagram.
To take us back to the Gurdijeff school, which introduced the Enneagram to Europe in the first half of the 21st century, the first quadrant (physical), represents the carriage; the second quadrant,(emotional) symbolizes the horse; the third quadrant (mental) is the coachman, but, in most cases, the master (higher centers) is missing. It requires, for this a quick Mercury, a messenger between all these worlds.Each quadrant is further divided into three parts, called houses. Each house corresponds to a need, a desire, related to the expressive level of the quadrant in which it is located. Therefore, physical needs for the first house, emotional for the second, mental for the third and spiritual for the last. Man, placed in the center of the circle lives and expresses the various functions. It was observed that depending on the months and seasons the predispositions of individuals changed, as if the movement of the seasons brought out different qualities. This observation was linked to the position of the sun along its annual trajectory around the earth, called the ecliptic. The ecliptic was divided into twelve equal parts starting at the spring equinox. Each of these parts was associated with a zodiac sign. Predispositions were thus associated with the signs of the zodiac.<
Correlations between the quadrants, zodiac signs and planets were then sought. In ancient times the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, that is, seven planets, were known. Only relatively recently have these celestial bodies been joined by the “discovery” of the so-called “transpersonal planets”-Uranus (1781), Neptune (1846) and Pluto (1930). Collective evolutionary history has thus opened up possibilities to “see” beyond the hitherto known world, beyond our “Pillars of Hercules,” to overcome the limits of Cartesian dualism.
This psycho-physical map is called the Christmas Theme.
The four quadrants represent individual reality and precisely that is, who one is, for the first two and what one could and should become for the last two.
Through the mind (3rd quadrant), transcending the Ego, through experience with the Other than Self, until uniting with the Whole (4th quadrant).
In summary, the Houses represent human needs and desires and the Planets represent the ways, the attitudes to which people habitually resort. The positions of the Planets in the houses indicate the ways in which the individual will respond to meet the needs expressed by the houses in which they are placed. The signs express the desire to achieve a certain end, what motivates, a characterization, an innate predisposition, and explain why one acts in a certain way. Claudio Naranjo’s Enneagram of Personality also breaks down and analyzes the human psyche using this ancient symbol analogically.
“As above so below” , goes a famous alchemical phrase attributed to Hermes Trismegistus. What our Christmas Chart signals is but a mirror of our inner reality. To be truly born as an individual a man must understand who he is and what he can become, and then attempt to express it, realizing his own personal Truth. In the mystery enclosed in the immutable cycles of nature and the human ability to make deep contact with its messages one encounters , immediately, Aries. This sign placed at the beginning of the zodiac, connects with spring, with its explosive force, with the impetuosity associated with life being reborn after the silence of winter, with the I want at any cost. It symbolizes the courage, even selfish courage, to live one’s life. Its point of arrival becomes the encounter between dea and action, the power of the will to shape existence.
The next sign is Taurus. Here energy is transformed into matter, into earth, into the basic “ingredient” of the needs of the previous sign. And the goal of Taurus then becomes not to get lost in that matter, to “be,” rather than to have.
Gemini, with Mercury, act as a link between the various parts, creating the communication network essential to accomplish the work. But communication, undigested, not understood observation are also his Achilles’ heel. Unraveling the secrets of things, gathering every clue , seeing and deeply understanding become his goal.
Cancer, the Mother, will create the stable base, the foundation on which to concretize the Arezzo project. Impressions, feelings, for this sign are the fabric that holds up the world. Its end point is love, trust and acceptance of existence, despite all its contradictions.
This is followed by the strength of Leo, the Sun, which will warm, accelerate and enliven the work. Leo is the reaction to the cancerous interiority is the visible expression of Self. Personality development becomes its end point.
Virgo, Virgo, represents the desire for personal transformation, for order, for perfection, beyond the superficial fanfare of Leo. But the step between wanting and doing is difficult. Humility and patience are the skills that life will ask her to learn.
Libra will harmonize the various parts so that they take shape aesthetically as well. The goal to be achieved, for this sign, is the transformation of consciousness, a prerequisite for achieving that stable inner serenity for which it yearns.
Scorpio wreaks havoc by suggesting a downsizing, a getting in touch with what is the present, with emotions, with feelings, with the thought of the inevitability of death. His goal is to learn to live every minute as if it were his last.
He is followed by Sagittarius, who calms the spirits by suggesting that the ultimate task of any path is the search for the hidden meaning of things, which Capricorn points to in the search for approval within oneself, in the fusion of one’s essence and one’s public role.
Aquarius defends itself against pack rules that annihilate it. It pursues its goal with absolute loyalty to the truth, even if this leads to always being out of sync with the values and motivations of others, if it isolates, if it marginalizes.
Pisces, or Pisces sexual energy, Jupiter’s creative potential for passage to the higher centers (see diagrams), is the symbol of awareness itself. Jesus spoke to the “fishers” of souls, and Ichthys, fish in ancient Greek, were called his followers. Their end point, the end of the journey, is a reorientation of the mind and confrontation with the inevitable reality that the world is only a mirror of one’s own personal awareness.
Twelve signs, twelve aspects of personality to be integrated to achieve that One, that union with the Father spoken of in the Gospels of our culture, and the sacred books connected to the zodiacs of other world cultures.
ZODIAC AND ENNEAGRAM:
The Enneagram is a symbol of representation of the whole of reality, a dynamic model that synthesizes the Universe at both the macrocosmic and microcosmic levels. All around the circle in a constant, repetitive motion, mythological figures, archetypes of the human ‘unconscious, move with “perpetual motion.” Only a careful study of the laws governing this Universe will enable someone to consciously activate the inner triangle and escape the narcotizing effects of its powerful laws. Similarly, only someone will be able to fully understand and realize his or her own birth chart, but it is there, available to help us understand ourselves better and always realize our own destiny.
Introduction to Astrology – Lisa Morpurgo
Astrology and the four elements – Stephen Arroyo
Spiritual Astrology – Lucio Canonica
The Fourth Way – P.D. Ouspensky
The Enneagram – Helen Palmer
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