We must close our eyes and invoke a new manner of
a wakefulness that is the birthright of us all, though few put it to use.
The yearning for spiritual transformation appears as old as man himself. This is evidenced by the development of various paths to spiritual enlightenment which have appeared in diverse cultures at different times. Many of these paths have a remarkably similar structure. For example, in alchemical traditions the road to transformation lies in the three stages of nigredo, albedo and rubedo. In mystical traditions this becomes Purgation, Illumination and Union. Jung believed that these similar paths exist because they spring from a common symbolic source, namely the archetypes of the collective unconscious. Jung, who wrote extensively about the alchemical corollaries to the process of individuation, noted that these symbolic systems of transformation share a common psycho-spiritual theme; a personal death leading to a rebirth and ultimately to a renewal as a transformed fully awakened human being. Recent developments in astrological thinking demonstrate that this three fold structure to ontological change exists within the archetypes represented by the Asteroid Goddesses. This article will compare the stages of spiritual transformation of the Mystic Way (Purgation, Illumination and Union) with the archetypal process evidenced by the Asteroid Goddesses ( Ceres,Vesta, Pallas ,Juno) .
Mysticism defined as conscious union with a living absolute, (1) or alternatively as direct intuitive knowledge of the transcendent, is a distinct form of spirituality. Valenitn Tomberg believes "mysticism is the source and root of all religions. Without it religion and the entire spiritual life of humanity would be only a code of laws regulating human thought and action."(2) Mysticisms' current runs through all major religions. Throughout history numerous manifestations of this distinct religious experience have developed. These various forms have led to multiple categories of mystical classifications. However, whether the mystic is a Sufi, Taoist, Kabbalist or Christian Contemplative, they traverse a fundamentally similar path.
In the classic study, Mysticism: The Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness, Evelyn Underhill maintains that despite the diverse forms and expressions of mysticism there exists a unity of experience. She writes " It is one of the many indirect testimonies to the objective reality of mysticism that the stages of the road, the psychology of spiritual ascent as described to us by the different schools of contemplation, always present practically the same sequence of stages'(4). It is this shared byway that the Mystic Way traverses. Traditionally, this psycho-spiritual pathway involves the stages of Purgation, Illumination and Union.
The field of psychological astrology has endeavored to find within the backdrop of the sky processes of transformation. Until recently these queries have focused primarily on the transformative potential of the transpersonal planets: Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. It has been noted however that these archetypal energies are only experienced by the soul that is prepared. Stephen Arroyo writes, "Modern astrology holds that the trans-Saturnians will only powerfully influence a soul which has to some extent awakened to spiritual truths".(5) This idea fosters the notion that one must have a firm grasp on Saturnian reality if one is to venture into deeper realms of psyche and cosmos. Additionally, the transcendent forces associated with Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are felt to be impersonal. Their energies only become personal by activating the psychological factors represented by the personal and social planets. "It is as if the energy flows from Uranus, Neptune and Pluto through the channels symbolized by the other seven planets". (6) Furthermore, these planetary archetypes being a part of the transpersonal collective unconscious are not under conscious control. They are only known to conscious awareness through symbolic manifestation.
Spiritual transformation requires an inner path of development which is more personal, more accessible to the conscious life. Recently a change has occurred in astrological thinking which addresses this need. With the publication of the Asteroid Goddesses by Demetra George and Douglas Bloch, the awakened feminine archetypes expressed through the Asteroid Goddesses (Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, Juno) have become agents for personal transformation. The more personal nature of this change is also manifested astronomically by the position of the asteroids between the personal inner planets and the social and transpersonal outer planets.
In his article,"Goddess Astrology Re-visioned", Gary P. Caton elucidates the transformative potential of the Asteroid Goddesses. He notes that "the asteroids act as a more personal agent of the processes of change that are initiated consciously and experienced internally" (7). It is evident that the process of change Caton described, from Vesta, Pallas to Juno, parallels the process of spiritual ascension described in the stages of the Mystic Way.
Before delineating these correspondences it is important to distinguish between the concepts of personal growth and spiritual transformation. Personal growth involves more of the person; an expansion of personal boundaries. This Jupitarian process is pivotal to living an enriched and enriching life. But spiritual transformation is entirely different. A complete ontological change occurs which involves a death of the personal ego in order to be born anew. Contemplation, prayer and meditation are a few of the techniques mystics employ to focus their attention inward. The result is a radical change of perspective directed away from the outer world of duality and toward the realm of the eternal and absolute. It is the dissolving, not expanding, of boundaries that makes room for the apprehension of the Divine. Transformation is a highly personal process which can not be accessed directly by the impersonal dimensions of the transpersonal planets.
The cognitive set required for self transcendence is exactly the one awakened by the re-emergence of the feminine. The psychology of transformation involves the integration of left brain "masculine" thinking and right brain "feminine" thinking. The initial stages of spiritual ascent require discursive, logical cognition to rationally navigate the Awakening and Purification stages. But one can only travel so far on the Mystic Way with a "rational" traditionally "masculine" cognitive set. To reach the highest stages requires a leap in cognitive orientation that can only be brought about by intuition and imagination, traditionally "irrational", "feminine" modes of thinking. Spiritual change requires intuitive knowing. The reawakening of the feminine archetypes exemplified by the asteroid goddesses facilitates this leap to self transcendence. As Demetra George notes "the psychological issues represented by the asteroids…allow the individual to [dissolve] boundaries of consciousness and perceive a reality beyond the illusion of separateness to truly find oneness". (8)
Chart of Spiritual Correspondences
|Stages of the Mystic Way||Archetypes of the Asteroid Goddesses|
Awakening to the spiritual dimension of reality Recognition of an inner path of development Igniting the sacred flame
|0. Ceres: Goddess of Agriculture
Symbolizes the process of death, rebirth and renewal Forms the foundation upon which the process of change is built
Focusing the spiritual flame inward Purification (cleansing) of sense, will and emotion to more clearly 'see' the Divine
|1. Vesta: Goddess of Sacred Flame:
Symbolizes a focused inner fire which purifies the self Protects and nurtures the inner flame of spirituality
Direct experience of divine presence Increased use of intuition and imagination Expanded perception (intuitive, unifying vision) Ecstasies and visions
|2. Pallas Athena: Goddess of Wisdom:
Symbolizes the capacity for creative intelligence The use of inspired vision, intuition and 'exceptional' perception The wisdom of inner vision
Development of total mystical consciousness through spiritual marriage
|3. Juno: Goddess of Marriage:
Symbolizes the principle of transcending oneself to achieve mystical union
|Becoming one with the absolute||Overcoming separateness through union|
Awakening is a preparatory phase in which the mystic becomes consciously aware of a transcendental reality. By shifting the field of consciousness from lower to higher levels the mystic acknowledges the existence of a spiritual path. Mystics characterize this inner process as the igniting of the sacred flame.
Ceres, the goddess of agriculture and the "Great Mother", symbolizes the awakening process. As "the Bringer of Seasons" she forms the foundation upon which the remaining asteroids operate. Symbolizing the process of birth, death and renewal, Ceres encapsulates the archetypal principles inherent in the entire process of inner development. Ceres in the horoscope, from a psycho-spiritual perspective, helps delineate the path to enlightenment.
After awakening to the journey, the mystic must focus her newly ignited spiritual flame inward, away from the distractions of the outside world, in order that divine life may be born. This is a process of self simplification. It is accomplished by a cleansing of the senses followed by a purification of the will and emotions. With the resultant clarity the mystic can "see", unadulterated by distracting thoughts and feelings, the pure essence of the Divine.
Vesta, as the goddess of the sacred flame, represents the burning desire of the spirit to look inward and focus this flame on transformation. Demetra George points out "As the principle of focus, Vesta gathers energy and brings it to a single point thereby bringing clarity and illumination".(9) It is through clarity and focus of attention that this virgin goddess protects the inner flame of spirituality, allowing the work of purgation to cleanse the soul in preparation for the next stage. Vesta in the horoscope elucidates where and how to focus our inner flame toward self transcendence.
Illumination or enlightenment is the fruit of purified sense and emotion. By incorporating both right and left brain modes of thought the mystic now moves from deductive reasoning to an intuitive, unifying vision, which facilitates inner development. This change in perception enables the mystic to experience the Divine directly. As a result of expanded perception, the mystic often experiences vision and ecstasies during this stage.
Pallas, as the goddess of wisdom, represents the principle of creative intelligence. This manifestation of the Pallas archetype utilizes creative wisdom that integrates intuition and imagination which facilitates self transcendence. She represents the "capacity for inspired vision, intuition and exceptional perception". (10) She is the vehicle through which inspired thought takes form. Pallas in the horoscope points to where and how one can utilize creative intelligence to achieve illumination.
Traditionally the final stage in the mystic journey is preceded by a challenging phase described as 'The Dark Night of the Soul'. Once the Divine has been experienced in Illumination, there is often a period where this spiritual presence fades. Abandonment depression ensues. With devotion and continued focus the mystic can overcome this spiritual obstacle and progress along the path. Union with the absolute culminates the psycho-spiritual journey. This is described as the spiritual marriage whereby the mystic transcends her personal ego creating harmony and balance in her soul. As a result she becomes one, psychologically and spiritually, with the Divine. The mystic has "died" to her lower self and lives in and through the Divine.
Juno, as the goddess of union and marriage, can easily be seen to correspond to this ultimate stage. Her archetype transcends the personal ego and reaches out through union with another. In this respect she represents the mystical marriage. As George has noted "she symbolizes the yearning for full mystical union that is emotionally and psychologically fulfilling". (11) Juno in the horoscope points to where and how one can transcend personal ego and reach union.
An astrological examination of the life of St. Teresa of Avila elucidates the spiritual correspondences between the asteroid archetypes and the stages of the Mystic Way.
Teresa of Avila (b. March 28, 1515) the sixteenth century Spanish Carmelite nun, represents a classic example of one who found spiritual union along the Mystic Way. She is one of the most influential and best known contemplative saints and along with Catherine of Siena, the only female Doctors of the Church. Teresa lived during interesting times. Just two years after her birth the Protestant Reformation was launched by Martin Luther. Magellan, Pizarro and other European explorers were "discovering" new worlds. Teresa would also make her contribution during this 'Age of Discovery' but the ocean she would navigate would be the inner journey to the soul. The writing she left behind is a diary of her journey to discovery. Her spiritual writings have become classics in world mystical literature. She chronicled her journey in the open and honest spiritual autobiography, Life. As prioress and teacher in her Carmelite Order Teresa wrote The Way of Perfection, describing the practice of prayer to her novices. Aside from these, her masterpiece of mystical literature, The Interior Castle, describes her experiences in guiding souls toward spiritual perfection. In it she uses the allegory of the Castle as a symbol of the Seven Mansions through which the soul passes on the way from Purgation to Union.
Teresa's life however was more than her influential writing. Sixteenth century Spain was predominantly patriarchal, both in societal and religious institutions. She writes about difficulties with male confessors who often describe her as "weak minded" when she revealed her visions and ecstasies. Despite the limitations placed on her by a masculine society, her life was one of intense activity. Teresa was able to incorporate a strict reform on the then lax Carmelite Order which stands to this day as the Discalced (shoeless) Carmelites. During her life she was responsible for the construction of at least seventeen convents and two priories throughout Spain. She was able to accomplish this despite ill-health that plagued her most of her life. The sensuality with which she described her religious experiences caught the attention of the Spanish Inquisition on a number of occasions. Her remarkable life ended Oct 4 1582. In 1622 she was canonized. In 1970, due to the influence of her teachings, Pope Paul VI pronounced her a Doctor of Church. She is known as Doctor of Mysticism.
Much can be said of Teresa's nativity. Embedded within this symbolic map of her psyche are key elements that point to her life's work as a spiritual pioneer, mystic and transformer of the Church. With a first house Arian Sun, Teresa identified herself as a spiritual pioneer and a born leader. Her sixth house Virgo Moon is reflective of the qualities she brought to her spiritual calling as a sacred servant; humility, practicality and service. Her inclination toward spiritual issues is evidenced by Sun sextile Neptune. Teresa's desire to communicate these religious ideas both in writing and teaching is indicative of Mars conjunct Jupiter in third house Gemini. Jupiter sextile Mercury/ Sun conjunction also indicates an ease with religious concepts. She was able to put form to her religious thoughts by building convents, reflective of Saturn in ninth house Sagittarius. This religious work was carried out with compassion and a sense of dedication to humanity as suggested by a South Lunar Node/ Neptune conjunction in eleventh house Aquarius, as well as a Pisces ascendant. Teresa often wrote of her visions and ecstasies in sensual, almost sexual terms, not unexpected with Venus rising. Also an exalted Venus in Pisces suggests a seeker of harmony and balance through things spiritual. Finally, a tenth house Chiron reflects Teresa's maverick approach to her life calling.
These astrological symbols suggest someone comfortable in their choice of a religious life, but one must keep in mind that not all religious people are inclined to mysticism. Mysticism is more than a form of thought; it is a challenging way of life. In examining the asteroids in Teresa's nativity one finds the groundwork for a traveler on the Mystic Way.
As mentioned above Ceres lays the astrological foundation upon which the process of spiritual transformation is built. In Teresa's nativity, Ceres is conjunct Vesta in Aries in a tight trine to Pluto on the Midheaven. With this aspect alone it is not surprising that her spiritual fire was directed to her life calling as mystic and transformer of the Carmelite Order. Ceres conjunct Vesta is also indicative of the devotion a mystic must have to her spiritual cause. With Uranus also conjunct Vesta, Teresa had access to intuitive flashes of the Higher Mind which is a prerequisite cognitive feature for transcending personal boundaries. As she progressed along the Mystic Way her yearning for mystical union became part of her identity and life purpose as reflected in Sun trine Juno. With Juno trine Mercury she became known for her ability to make intelligible the struggles encountered on the journey. Barbara Hand Clow, in her book Chiron notes that" Chiron rules the most intense and mystical experiences; it rules spiritual ecstasy"(12) She also goes on to note that in her practice she has seen fourteen nuns, and of those eight have Chiron in the tenth house. In Teresa's natal chart her tenth house Chiron is trined by both Ceres and Pallas. As a nurturing mentor she utilized creative wisdom and intuition to illuminate for others a healing journey.
Certain events in Saint Teresa's life highlight her progress along the Mystic Way. Examining the asteroids, by transit and secondary progression, during these pivotal events demonstrate the influence of the goddess archetypes on the corresponding stages of the Mystic Way.
The death of her mother, when Teresa was thirteen (1528), marks the start of her spiritual awakening. She writes in her autobiography that at this time she went in pain and despair to an image of the Virgin Mary, begging her to be her new mother. Astrologically this event coincided with her progressed twelfth house Piscean Moon sextile natal Pallas, as she turned to the Mother Church as a substitute for her biological mother. Ceres, the Great Mother and the astrological driving force for awakening, is activated at this time by a conjunction with progressed Vesta. Interestingly, during this awakening when her identity became one with her spiritual fire, progressed Sun was conjunct natal Vesta.
On Nov. 2 1535, at the age of 21 Teresa entered the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation in Avila. This event marks her transition from the preparatory phase of Awakening to the stage of Purgation as she devotes herself to a religious life. This was a time when Teresa began to use the archetypal energy of Vesta to focus her sacred flame inward. Like the virgin goddess herself Teresa took vows of chastity. She often wrote of possessing a burning inner fire which refined and purified the self. At this time transiting
ninth house Vesta (conjunct transiting Pallas) is trine natal Vesta. During this pivotal period her progressed Vesta forms a triple conjunction with progressed Ascendant and progressed Sun. This configuration reflects the fact that she has become focused and identified with her spiritual search. Of note, this progressed triple conjunction itself is conjunct natal Ceres- the foundation of the process.
At age 40 (1555), as she is maturing along the Mystic Way, Teresa began having visionary experiences. These can occur at any stage, however, they are most common in Illumination as the mystic develops intimate awareness of the divine. Teresa wrote about these visions as her "second conversion" which deepened her spiritual life. These experiences usually follow a period of purification when the use of Pallas's inspired vision and exceptional perception aids the mystic to deeper spiritual realms. During this stage progressed Vesta conjuncts natal Pallas, which activates her natal Pallas trine Chiron aspect. Her evolving spiritual journey triggered her inspired "healing" visions.
The final event to examine in Teresa's journey exemplifies her reaching the stage of Union. This famous event, held to be a miracle, is immortalized in Bernini's sculpture the "Ecstasy of St. Teresa". Also known as the Transverberation of the Heart, this celebrated vision occurred on August 27, 1559. Teresa describes envisioning an angel. "In his hand I saw a long golden spear and at the end of the iron tip I seemed to see a point of fire…with this he seemed to pierce my heart several times…and he left me completely afire with great love of God".(13) With this simple image Teresa captures the transformational process of the Asteroid Goddesses. The fire (Vesta) on the tip of the golden spear (Pallas - warrior goddess) is internalized in an experience of union (Juno). Reflecting Juno's influence on this stage, transiting Juno in ninth house Sagittarius (conjunct transiting Ceres on the MC) trines her natal Vesta /Uranus conjunction. This vision exemplifies the flash of intuitive insight into Spiritual Truth that characterizes this stage. Also at this time, progressed Venus at maximum elongation conjuncts her natal Sun trine Juno aspect, reflecting her attainment of inner peace and tranquility through spiritual union.
In this article two models of spiritual transformation are compared. The three stage process outlined by the Asteroid Goddesses and the Mystic Way offer similar, archetypal paths to spiritual development. This comparison has shown that the new paradigm in astrological thinking, fostered by the asteroids, offers a more personal avenue to ontological change than the impersonal energies of the outer planets. In addition, the reemergence of feminine archetypes have awakened right brain modes of thought, namely intuition and imagination, which facilitates growth in spiritual consciousness. As exemplified in an astrological examination of key events in St Teresa's life, the asteroids can be utilized to elucidate the way to transformative change. As guides to self transcendence, they illuminate the path to the deeper Self and its connection with the Divine. In this regard the asteroids are agents of transformation, linking personal and collective awareness. (14)
References and Notes:
1. Evelyn Underhill, Practical Mysticism, E.P Dutton. 1915 p. 3
2. Valentin Tomberg, Meditations on the Tarot, Amity Press. 1985 p.41
3. F.C. Happold, Mysticism: A Study and an Anthology, Penguin Books. 1963 p. 40
4. Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: The Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness, Oneworld Publications, 1999 p. 91-92
5. Stephen Arroyo, Astrology, Karma and Transformation, CRCS Publications. 1978 p. 36
6. Ibid p.39
7. Gary P. Caton, "Goddess Astrology Re-Visioned ", The Mountain Astrologer. Aug/Sept 2009 p. 48
8. Demetra George, Asteroid Goddesses, Ibis Press 2003 p. 11
9. Ibid p.129
10. Ibid p. 89
11. Ibid p.158
12. Barbara Hand Clow, Chiron: Rainbow Bridge Between the Inner and Outer Planets, Llewellyn Publications. 1988 p.46
13. Teresa of Avila, Life in Complete Works of Saint Teresa of Jesus trans. & ed. E. Allison Peers London: Sheen and Ward 1946 p.192-3
14. George, Ibid. p.6
Chart data and sources:
(Teresa of Avila B. March 28, 1515 5.00 AM Avila, Spain; Astrodatabank: Rhodden B Autobiography/ Biographies/ Historical texts). I use the Porphyry House System with all charts.
1. Autobiography: Life in The Complete Works of Saint Teresa of Jesus, trans. & ed. E. Allison Peers ( London: Sheed & Ward, 1946 )
2. Biography: The Life of Saint Teresa, trans. J.M. Cohen ( Harmondsworth: Penquin, 1956)
Ceres, Pallas, Vesta: public domain
Teresa: Peter Paul Rubens [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/), CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) or CC BY-SA 2.0 fr (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/fr/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
First published in: The Astrological Journal, Nov/Dec 2009
James Rodgers, M. D. is a board certified Psychiatrist who graduated from Brown University Medical School and completed his Residency Training at Harvard Medical School. He is a student of Western esotericism with a focus on Alchemy and Psychological Astrology. He has a degree in Alchemy and is a member of the International Alchemy Guild.
Dr. Rodgers' article, 'The Mystic Way and the Emerald Formula: The Use of Gnosis in Alchemy and Mysticism' is due for publication in the Alchemy Journal's September issue. He currently lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina with his wife and bulldog.
© James Rodgers - first published by The Astrological Journal / The Astrological Association of Great Britain 2009
The Astrological Association is a registered charity dedicated to the support and promotion of astrology in all its branches. For over fifty years, it has been serving the astrological community through informing and bringing together astrologers from all over the world, via its stable of publications, its annual Conference, Kepler Research Day and other occasional events, and its support of local astrological groups. It also represents the interests of astrologers generally, responding when appropriate to issues raised within the media.
The first book available in English by the great French master astrologer Andre Barbault. The Value of Astrology offers incisive, captivating insights into the origins, classical tradition and modern uses of astrology.
24-May-2018, 18:40 UT/GMT
|Explanations of the symbols|
|Chart of the moment|