“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” – from “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats
Our Universe has a tendency toward disorder.
Yes, sure, it also has some pretty sweeping laws built into it that seem to apply themselves consistently across the board. In that sense there’s some Order to be found throughout. For example, gravity has stuff exerting an attractive pull on other stuff, while inertia works to keep bodies that are at rest, resting…that sort of thing. We do have some structure.
But within that structure, our reality seems to favor disorder. It’s far easier to tear something down than it is to build that thing up in the first place.
Think about the scenes of devastation that always follow in the wake of some force of nature or other. Photographs taken after the passing of, say, a tornado or an earthquake show scenes of horrific destruction, of once proud constructs cast into ruin. They show rubble.
They do not show us stretches of former trailer parks that are now suddenly dotted with pyramids and temples that were skillfully crafted into being by the gale-force winds and the careening landscape. Hurricanes and tsunamis don’t generate highways and shopping malls for us – they topple and crush them. This is in line with the default settings of our Universe. Again: there’s a tendency toward disorder.
Try this experiment… Get yourself a deck of cards. Carefully stand them up against each other until you’ve created a towering edifice of them, one that’s comprised of several levels and multiple wings. Next…dash the house of cards apart with your hand…
And you’ll be left with a seemingly random scattering of cards across your floor. The house of cards won’t reassemble itself into another house of cards, and it also won’t arrange itself into any other complicated construct. It will collapse into the card equivalent of rubble.
It takes time and energy to produce a serious house of cards…but that very same house of cards can be demolished in an instant with a sweep of your arm. This is because the Universe is set up to enable dismantling and demolition. It takes a lot of work to build things, but far, far less to destroy them.
And interestingly, this notion applies on the intangible plane, as well.
It’s a difficult proposition to build up an excellent reputation, for instance, or a relationship. This process can take years. Consider, though, how quickly someone’s reputation or any of their relationships can be ruined. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of a single moment: an ill-considered outburst, a telling knee-jerk reaction. The work of a lifetime can be turned into rubbish in an instant.
So the point here is to think about how easy it is to tear things down, versus how challenging it can be to build them up. It’s easier and “cooler” to cop a snarky attitude and to ridicule people and things than it is to sing their praises. It’s more romantic somehow to be dark and brooding than it is to be bright and peppy and positive. It’s apparently appealing to many people to approach the world from a place of exclusion and repression than it is to come at it from a stance of community and empowerment. Fear trumps faith so very often in our society, and hate eclipses love.
But that doesn’t mean that the bright, flower-power road isn’t worth traveling. In fact, maybe it’s more critical than ever that some of us commit to taking it. Being negative can be pretty easy…but the easy path is often the least rewarding one.
Praise something. Hug something. Love something. The Universe won’t make these things especially easy for you…but it will appreciate your efforts in those directions, and maybe you and those in your vicinity will, too…
It’s pretty common knowledge that if you want to, you can mix Astrology into your Tarot practice. They’re two very different systems, but if you settle on some linkages to connect the symbols of one with the symbols of the other, then using them together can actually enrich your practices with both.
The same can be said for Kabbalah. This is hardly a carefully-guarded secret, but plenty of occultist types will do the similar thing of interweaving these two systems together – it’s just that Kabbalah theory isn’t anywhere near as well-known as Astrology is.
Do you know the cool and colorful symbol at the left in this image? That’s the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life. It’s a deceptively simple-looking glyph that actually captures all of existence within its magical bounds. At the top is what you can think of as the “Godhead” – pure, shining Divinity – and at the bottom is the sphere called Malkuth, which represents the material world. This is where we live: as “corrupted” and far from the Godhead as it gets…which explains a bit about the world around us today… But we’re still inextricably connected to that Godhead, is also part of the message here! The 22 pathways on the Tree each correspond to one of the 22 Major cards in Tarot, while the 10 spheres, or “Sephiroth” each hold the corresponding numbered cards, as well as providing housing for the Suits and the Court Card ranks.
As with Astrology, you don’t strictly need to use Kabbalah concepts with your Tarot…but if you want to, this can add a lot of depth to your understanding of traditional Tarot card meanings. And Tarot is receptive to it! Check out the arrangement of the Pentacles in that 10 card there in the image, which card was taken from the hugely popular Rider-Waite-Smith deck. It looks familiar, doesn’t it…?
So do you actively embrace Kabbalah concepts in your Tarot practice, or do they seem like so much unnecessary overkill to you…?
Sometimes the human experience involves a leap into completely unknown territory. This can happen on the personal level (“I’m in love… I’ve never been in love before!”) or on the species level (“–say that they’ve named the sheep ‘Dolly’…”). Sometimes it can happen on both levels at the same time (“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”).
And I’d guess that when looking for this kind of phenomenon in the Tarot deck, most people probably associate these leaps with The Fool. Maybe the Aces have some rightful claim here, too, and maybe in a way either the Pages or the Knights…but probably The Fool comes first and most often to the minds of Tarot people in this context.
It suddenly occurs to me that The Fool would therefore have some tremendous stories to share over drinks or dinner. Think of the things that The Fool has witnessed first-hand! Like, here’s a puzzler that The Fool could probably answer… You and I are communicating right now via cyberspace, right? And The Fool would have been there when humans first made long-distance contact across this medium. So here’s my question: did we invent cyberspace when we hit upon the notion of using URLs and such to connect by way of our computers? Or did cyberspace always exist in the Universe, even during those earlier millennia while it was still inaccessible to us? Was it just sitting there, waiting patiently for us to ramp up our technology to the point when we could finally reach it?
And if it was always there…what other such “spaces” might there be, also biding their times until we can access them? For example, is there a “telespace” awaiting our species, where we’ll all meet and interact telepathically as soon as humans can get that psychic ability really up and running? The Fool probably knows — I’d like to have a sit-down and ask…
We got into a great bit of side-chatter in last night’s inaugural Tarot Toolkit session about initiations and initiatory rites: putting yourself through some kind of exacting ordeal so as to evolve and ascend. The Hanged Man always embodies this concept for me. In fact, in this deck, the equivalent card is even called “Sacrifice.” The idea is that – as Bruce Cockburn sang in his “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” – nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight (“Gotta kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight…”)…
Humans have been practicing Astrology in one form another for more than 3,000 years. That’s three millennia of turning our questing faces up to the sky in search of wisdom…
Fast-forward from the the origins of astrological studies to April, 1953, when two scientists – James D. Watson and Francis Crick – published their discovery of the double-helix construction of DNA. Where astrologers for centuries had turned outward to learn what makes our existences tick, Watson and Crick turned inward. DNA is of course the molecule that carries the genetic programming of all known living organisms on Earth. Watson and Crick managed to understand the structure of this fabulous molecule, granting us unparalleled insight into the workings of evolution and the biological phenomenon we call “life.”
In addition to the characteristic double-helix form of DNA, another critical feature of this vital molecule is the fact that it’s comprised of four distinct building blocks called nucleobases, which line up in matching pairs to form the twin strands of the double-helix. When it comes to life in all its myriad forms, these four things are like God’s Lego pieces… The four different nucleobases are called Adenine, Thymine, Guanine, and Cytosine.
These are regularly abbreviated as A, T, G, and C.
And here’s where things get interesting in a way that smacks of tremendous synchronicity…
When it comes to the complicated discipline of Astrology, most non-students of the field have little to no grasp on the important symbol-sets of the Planets and the Houses…but even the most disinterested parties have at least some surface familiarity with the 12 Signs of the Zodiac.
And the first four of those Signs, forming the sequence that leads off the string – or strand? – of Zodiac entries are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, and Cancer.
If we were so inclined, we might make use of a shorthand for these initial Signs. We might abbreviate them as…A, T, G, and C.
That little chain of letters should look familiar… What are the odds that the letters assigned to represent the genetic brickwork underlying every life-form on Earth are the exact same letters also assigned to denote the opening members of the most widely embraced symbol-set in Astrology…?
This of course doesn’t exactly prove anything. This odd bit of “coincidence” doesn’t guarantee that Astrology works, or that there really is some Grand Pattern at play informing the cosmos. It doesn’t mean that the Zodiac Signs are the DNA of our personalities, and of the lives that we lead…
But in my own mind, it certainly means something. Whether you agree or not will depend on your own views…and maybe on your astrological make-up! But as I see it, this is an instance of the “As above, so below” principle shining through the fabric of our reality. Astrology is in our DNA, and vice versa…
When it comes to metaphysical disciplines, I’m a huge fan of Tarot and Astrology. Both are rich, fascinating, and deep as fractals, and they each provide their adherents with methods for peering into the very fabric of reality. However, beyond those overall similarities, the two are extremely different systems. One thing they do share, though, is a fundamental embracing of the classical worldview that everything in existence can be broken down into four “Elements.”
This theory originated with the Greek philosopher Empedocles, who held that everything is composed of some combination of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. This notion, or some variation of it, was then embraced by virtually every major culture and philosophical belief system that came about in its wake. As civilization evolved, humanity began to regard Empedocles’ concepts in more of a metaphorical light, rather than as literal truth, but his work remains hugely influential in modern metaphysical thought. One outstanding byproduct of this development is the fact that an understanding of the basics of the Four Element system will give anyone a terrific leg up in trying to become conversant with both Tarot and Astrology. In fact, as different as the two latter systems are in so many ways, they do tend to interpret the meanings of the Four Elements in remarkably similar fashion. In Tarot, the Elements primarily come into play when we look at the Minor Arcana. This is a 56-card subset of the overall 78-card Tarot deck, and one of its primary characteristics is the fact that much like our standard playing card decks, the Minor Arcana is subdivided up into four Suits. The names of these Suits can vary from one deck to the next, but the most common designations for them are Pentacles, Cups, Swords, and Wands. In the majority of decks, Pentacles are associated with the Earth Element, Cups with Water, Swords with Air, and Wands with Fire. More on what that all means in a moment…
But first, let’s take a look at how Astrology incorporates the Four Elements into its own structure… One of the ways in which Astrology differs from Tarot is that while the latter can arguably be summed up as one set of 78 complex symbols (i.e., the Tarot cards themselves), Astrology is more like a system comprised of three interlocking sets of symbols: the Planets, the Signs, and the Houses. Each of these three symbol-sets can then be broken down into terms that probably would have received the ancient Greek equivalent of a thumbs-up from Empedocles. Working with the Planets can be tricky here, as some of them are seen more as fusions of a couple of the Elemental energies we’re discussing than as pure embodiments of any single one of them. The Signs and the Houses, though, are each assigned one of the classical Four Elements much like the Tarot’s Suits are.
Here’s a handy table that captures all of this in simple, graphic fashion:
Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
Second, Sixth, Tenth
Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
Fourth, Eighth, Twelfth
Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Third, Seventh, Eleventh
Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
First, Fifth, Ninth
So if this breakdown into the Four Elements runs all through both Tarot and Astrology, what, then, are the basic meanings of each? Another user-friendly table can summarize that in fine, cheat-sheet style:
Associated with the physical realm: career, home, family, the body, money, possessions.
Connected to the emotional sphere: love, compassion, dreams, feelings, psychic perceptions.
Experiences of a spiritual nature: creativity, passion, impulse, courage, life-force, determination.
So whether you’re confronted with a Tarot card drawn from the Suit of Cups, or you’re trying to interpret a bit of astrological data having to do with, say, the Sign of Pisces or the Eighth House, you’ll know that you’re dealing with issues that are rooted in the emotional plane. You’ll then want to look at matters such as romance, feelings, the subconscious mind, or even altered states of consciousness. A Pentacles card, though, or an astrological placement in Capricorn or the Second House should all lead you in equal fashion to delve into questions revolving around physical phenomena such as work, health, and/or money…
This schematic is necessarily a bit oversimplified here so as to fit into a standard blog post, but if this kind of analysis is new to you, this should be a great aid in getting you started. It can also be incredibly enlightening to occasionally look at life through that four-layered lens of physical/emotional/mental/spiritual, and realizing what your own natural predispositions are in this regard is massively illuminating. Also, the understanding that not everyone else will be wired in similar fashion can be a true epiphany, and one that can actually generate a tremendous amount of understanding and compassion for your fellow humans. Empedocles’ name might not have lodged in the greater modern consciousness, but there’s a reason why his Four Elements theory has enjoyed such widespread and enduring popularity down through the centuries…
I can’t say I’ve ever been a pure believer in past life theory. I mean, I do absolutely believe that consciousness exists in forms we can barely guess at just beyond the walls of linear space and linear time that pen us into this 4-D existence of ours. Having said that, though, I was still never unreservedly on board with the notion that we’re born here, we live a life, we die, and then we get reincarnated into a new body here again, etc. I remain open to such possibilities, mind you, but I’ve never been fully convinced, that’s all. In the interests of full disclosure, though, I’ll also put on the table here the fact that I’ve never had much personal experience that would point me toward that sort of past life outlook on existence. That is, I don’t believe I’ve ever had dreams of any such past lives in which I lived as a different person in a different place at a different time, I’ve never had visions of same, I’ve never glimpsed data drawn from such past lives during meditation, and I haven’t even had much in the way of relevant perceptions while traversing other…um…altered states of consciousness…
So it was with a shaker filled with quite a few grains of salt that I began reading through a book on what’s known as “Evolutionary Astrology” a few weeks ago. The book in question is Yesterday’s Sky, by an astrologer named Steven Forrest. I had just signed up to take a seminar from Mr. Forrest here in southern California this coming November, and I’d enjoyed several of his other books, so I figured I’d make it a clean sweep of his most popular titles, even though, as I said above, I was never strictly on board with the kind of past life theory that the book discusses and explores. General principles of karma — yes; successions of past lives spent in this same world — the jury was still decidedly out on that when I picked up the book.
The book offers some techniques for distilling out from a birth-chart a helping of clues that can shed light on the past life experiences and resulting present-day karma that might be associated with the person belonging to that birth-chart. I won’t get into too much detail on the techniques here, as — quite obviously — that could (and did) fill up an entire book. Instead, I’m just going to boil down my own experiences with applying those techniques to my own chart, and anyone following along here can decide for themselves what to make of it all…
Okay. So in brief, this whole set of procedures hinges on the Nodes of the Moon, which are two mathematical points present in any birth-chart. The South Lunar Node describes past life experience and the unresolved karma being carried forward, while the North Node indicates the pathway toward healing, and toward resolving those karmic issues in this life. You begin by studying the Sign and House positions of the South Node in a chart, and you look to the darker interpretations of these during this part of the process (the idea being that we don’t really have much need to work through things that we got right in past lives; it’s our wounds and failings that haunt us forward through subsequent incarnations).
With this in mind, my own journey into past life analysis begins with delving into a South Node in Scorpio in my Twelfth House. Darkest interpretations… Well, Scorpio at its darkest captures the very worst things that we, as humans, are capable of: things like murder, torture, rape, incest, maiming, brutality, naked cruelty. And then the blackest end of the Twelfth House spectrum of meanings can indicate catastrophic failure and calamitous loss — the experience of having everything obliterated on a grand scale, and not just one’s own life, health, and possessions, but possibly even the lives, health, and possessions of everyone held dear. As you can see, the combination of the darkest interpretations of this Sign and this House make for very grim stuff indeed!
And my very first thought when contemplating this, which came to me from out of nowhere, was: “Oh, man — what if I was some genocidal lunatic in a past life, like Cortés or Pizarro??” Hernán Cortés, as you may know, was the Spanish conquistador responsible for wiping out the Aztec people of Mexico, and his distant relative, Francisco Pizarro, did the same for the Incas in Peru. I can’t tell you why these two names appeared in my head at this juncture, but I can say that it was mostly Cortés I was flashing on, and Pizarro was more of an afterthought that I may have appended because I associate the two men in my mind.
I felt let off the hook by the next step, though: the dreamy Planet that we call Neptune lies close enough to my South Node that it forms what’s called a conjunction with it. This is like a permanent link, in which two Points or Planets are bonded in a chart, one’s activation at a given time generally always activating the other. Neptune is associated with things like psychic experiences, mysticism, spirituality, illusions, addictions, and as mentioned, dreams. None of this seemed very Hernán Cortés to me…but then I had another sudden flash: it might not fit him, or his Spanish buddies in this context, but what about one of the spiritual types on the Aztec side of the equation? The Aztecs adhered to a very rich system of religious beliefs, one that was felt constantly throughout their daily lives, and which would also have to be described, by almost anyone’s definitions, as rather bloodthirsty, as well (human sacrifice abounded…). This would all fit the darker Scorpio interpretations referenced above, and given that the Aztecs were essentially exterminated, it would also be consistent with those Twelfth House readings I listed (catastrophic failure and calamitous loss). And an Aztec priest would have been a source of mysticism and spirituality for the people…or put another way, a very Neptunian figure.
Next, since my South Node’s Sign is held to be ruled by Pluto and/or Mars, a quick glance at their placements in my chart shed additional light: both of those Planets lie in my chart in Virgo and in my Tenth House. Among other things, Virgo can indicate being of service (like, say, a priestly figure bringing spirituality to the “flock”), and the Tenth House would indicate things like public acclaim and maybe leadership. Mars can indicate violence (as was very prevalent in Aztec culture…), and Pluto is intensity and power dynamics (ditto). I had a few more steps to work through, but for purposes here, I’ll just say that I felt that this conjectural notion about a high-ranking priest-type in the Aztec world at the time of the conquest by the Spanish seemed to fit every aspect of my analysis…and furthermore, it just plain “felt right.”
And now we arrive at the intriguing parts of the tale…
Once I settled on this Aztec priest thing, I went home and went to bed. Then, over the course of the following week, a veritable flood of synchronicities rained down upon me. Witness:
1) I finished reading that book. At the very end of it, the author describes his own karmic Nodal set-up. Turns out, while his planetary placements differ from mine, his Nodal distribution is exactly the same: South Node in Scorpio in the Twelfth House and North Node in Taurus in the Sixth House. Since there are 12 Signs and 12 Houses, the chances of our having the exact same set-ups in our charts would be 1 in 144. Not exactly a slam-dunk, right? Furthermore, he reveals his best guess at his own past life as him having been…a significant contributor to the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs. Yes, he sees himself as having been on the opposite side of the conflict that I was likewise drawn to in my head, but the fact that it was still the very same conflict at all pretty much astounded me.
2) That night, I went home and put on a rerun of a 15-year old sitcom called Sports Night…and a couple of characters had a verbal exchange about Cortés and Moctezuma (also commonly known as Montezuma), who was the ruler of the Aztecs when the Spanish descended upon them.
3) I woke up the next morning, and decided to do a bit of research on Moctezuma. I learned that he was succeeded by a man named Cuauhtémoc, who — before apparently being betrayed and killed by Cortés much as Moctezuma seems to have been — married a daughter of Moctezuma named Isabel. It struck me immediately that I had a new Tarot client coming in that very evening — a new client who was a young Latina woman named Isabel (and I’ve just now heard from Isabel, and she told me that she’s actually descended specifically from the Aztec people!!).
4) I went out to get something to eat, and then on my way home, I was standing still at an intersection, waiting for the traffic light to change…when a hummingbird flew into my wrist. It felt like a kiss. Let me share that in several decades of walking the Earth, I have never had a hummingbird fly into me before, and as I said, I was standing perfectly still, so it’s not like the little creature and I rounded a corner in opposite directions, and I startled it or anything. I should have been utterly avoidable, had the hummingbird wanted to avoid me. At the time, I didn’t know of any connection linking the Aztecs with the hummingbrd, but I did think this was a fairly extraordinary occurrence anyway, so I still took notice of it. But let’s now put a mental pin in this item, as we’ll be coming back to it in a minute…
5) The following day, on a sudden whim, I decided to punch “Hummingbird” and “Aztec” into my search engine. I’ll confess here that my past tours through Aztec Mythology had centered mainly on the fascinating and rather sinister God known as Tezcatlipoca, and his nemesis, the famous “Feathered Serpent,” Queztalcoatl. My search engine now, however, pointed me toward the Aztecs’ most principal Deity of all, the Sun-God/War-God, Huitzilopochtli. It may interest you to learn — as it certainly did me — that Huitzilopochtli is so strongly associated with the hummingbird that he is called the “Left-Handed Hummingbird,” and is always depicted with a large hummingbird helmet and decorates himself with hummingbird feathers…
6) A couple of days later, I decided I need to be looking into a possible trip to Mexico to visit Aztec ruins…you know, just to see what might happen! I discovered that one such archaeological remnant of that civilization called Templo Mayor lies right within the bounds of Mexico City itself. I typed “Templo Mayor” into my search engine, and I went to the very first website that popped up. It featured this great photo of the grounds there that had been taken by…a close friend of mine that I’ve known for more than 20 years. This website had borrowed it from her Flickr account, and credited her by name in the caption. I verified that this was indeed her by way of a charming and informative phone-call (and she gave me some tips on seeing some of the Aztec sites)…
7) Two days later, I went to a party with a friend. Upon arrival at his home, I noticed that in his living room, he had both a small replica of the famous “Aztec Calendar Stone” and a rendering of Quetzalcoatl. Not long after, his daughter came home, bringing along her boyfriend, whom I’d never met before. He’s a Latino guy who works as an artist…incorporating elements of both Aztec and Mayan lore into his art. He showed me a piece he did that depicts the myth of how the Aztecs knew to found their grand city of Tenochtitlan: according to an ancient prophecy, they were to build on the spot where they spied an eagle devouring a serpent while perched atop a cactus. Modern-day Mexico City is now built on that same spot… We then went to the party, where I promptly met a gentleman who was born and raised in Mexico City…
So that’s one week’s worth of Aztec-related synchronicities that all manifested right after I theorized that I might have been some kind of Aztec priest during the conquest of their empire by the Spanish (and I even left out a couple more minor happenings…).
Now, of course none of this proves anything, not in any way we might label “scientific.” Even if I could deliver scientifically verifiable proof to you that the events listed above did happen to me — and since I can’t, you’ll have to decide to take my word for all of it or not — it wouldn’t prove that I lived a previous life in the Aztec culture. But I’m convinced at the very least that something kind of intense is going on for me with respect to that culture and that region and that time period. I don’t remember ever experiencing such a deluge of synchronistic happenings in such a short span of time before in my life! So I’m now looking into a trip to Mexico. You know…just to see what might go down while I’m there!
And meanwhile, you might be interested in looking into your own Evolutionary Astrology findings. I can’t promise that a hummingbird will kiss you on the wrist, or that any other odd things might happen for you…but I also will not try to rule it out! As always, I’ll be curious to hear any tales along these lines that you might care to share…