Tempted by light, we are truly beings of the between, stretched between two longings — between, perhaps, what once was and perhaps, what will be — far from the Animal and even farther still from the Angel, orphaned between the heritage of nature and the destiny of the stars. Yet in this place, on this Earth, we make our way: between lightness and darkness, meaning and ignorance, knowing and not knowing, we live our lives; between sickness and health, life and death, body and mind, we fashion our characters; between evil and virtue, sin and salvation, heaven and Earth, we dream our dreams; between love and hate, joy and sorrow, community and isolation, we wait for tomorrow.
— Robert Romanyshyn, Ways of the Heart, p. 47
As beings of the between, we are assisted by bridges. Indeed, we require those structures and ways of seeing that allow us to move from birth to death and back, stand suspended between opposites, connect lessons of the past with our visions for the future, and embody the experience of an inner, erotic desire for the world out there. Bridges help us to journey from one experience to another, and they offer us a place from which to see and appreciate both sides at once.
As beings of the between, we are also assisted by metaphor, which may be saying the same thing. The etymology of the word metaphor suggests the act of “carrying across.” Following the thought of a line of thinkers who have married depth psychology with phenomenology, I believe that as human beings we are, in essence, metaphorical. Psychological life, and therefore, the realm of soul (remember that psyche literally means soul), allows for, and even requires, a crossing from one dimension to another. Here, I’ll refer specifically to the dimension of visible, literal and physical experience alongside that of the invisible, metaphorical and soulful. As human beings, we live both in between and within each of these dimensions; and in being there, we hold an awareness — however dim or bright — of the more-than that is always present in our literal, everyday, physical world. We hold an awareness of the deeper meanings and resonances which reverberate within the visible world. And we live in between the visible and invisible such that both are available at once. They are two sides of the same coin, and it is our birthright to be able to travel between the two, grasp both simultaneously, and value both equally.
As I sit typing these words, I feel the sun coming through the window to warm me, and I think of its recent movement into Pisces, a sign heavily represented in my birth chart. Looking up toward the sun and feeling its warmth, images of Miami are conjured up (perhaps it’s because I am often there this time of year, or maybe it is the thought of the ocean that connects, for me, Miami with Pisces); questions about working with empathy and psychic sensitivity arise; a familiar inkling that my autoimmune disease may be related to a need to protect myself from the pitfalls of such sensitivity creeps in. All that, in a matter of seconds, connected to the warmth of the sun. It is not just a physical sun I am experiencing — although it is that; it is also a metaphor that opens up longings, possibilities, and visions, as well as memories, regrets and thoughts not yet fully formed. A simple example of the dual awareness of human consciousness, perhaps, but one that leads us into the territory of the metaphorical nature of psychological life and thus, into the realm of soul. Going deeper into this realm might require dwelling with the images and feelings that arose without giving in to the temptation to immediately make rational sense of these connections. Honoring our metaphorical nature entails grasping the invisible through the visible, and granting the status of reality to both equally.
There are times when this dual awareness happens spontaneously. We can also cultivate it more intentionally. When I set about cleaning my home I make an effort to be mindful of and close to the archetype of Vesta. With the fire of Vesta with me, I am supported in holding reverence for the shelter, beauty, and well-ordered simplicity which surround me and effect a sense of calm and stillness —qualities within which the whispers of my soul are better heard. My countertop, which requires a visit from soap and water (literal, physical level of experience), is at the same time, a sacred and beautiful space of food preparation and part of a ritual of nurturance (soul, invisible level of experience).
Sometimes, we can successfully cultivate an awareness of the visible and invisible, the sacred within the ordinary, at once.
Knowledge of archetypes, astrology, and/or mythology can help us to do so. It is the nature of an archetype to point to, perhaps, an infinite number of manifestations of a pattern of energy or experience. Relating to the world with an archetypal consciousness is tantamount to seeing through the literal to the patterns and possibilities contained within it or opened up by it. There are other ways, also, of cultivating the practice of metaphorical consciousness. Communing with nature helps us to do so. So, too, do the experiences of music, ritual, sexual and psychological intimacy, creating art, and being with pets and children.
Children practice this way of relating to the world very naturally. They might look into the sky, see a whale within a cloud, and experience an actual whale! The pervasive attitude of modern culture, which devalues and often even denies the reality of the soul, has not yet seeped into their cells. They can experience friends who are not visible, whales floating in the sky, and angels within them, and know that these experiences are as real as any other. They can easily grasp the more of the literal world and not devalue this. Depth psychotherapy — which can be thought of as service of or attending to the soul — helps the rest of us get back there. At its best, it provides the space, silence and metaphorical language that assists the soul in its speaking, and assists the human being in her listening.
It is within this tradition of depth psychology and psychotherapy, a tradition which honors our metaphorical nature, that I locate Eric Francis’ practice of astrology. His approach to the study of the cosmos is many things; among them, it is a way of seeing and a philosophy of life that honors the depths of human experience. Indeed, he demonstrates an uncanny knack for seeing into our everyday world and articulating his vision in a manner that reveals its depths. His vision is that of a metaphorical consciousness, and he knows just how to guide his readers into a deepening of both personal and cultural experience.
Planet Waves’ recent coverage of the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords is an excellent example of this metaphorical consciousness in action. In Beneath the Guns and Politics, Gender Rage, Eric moves through the event — using the empirical art of astrology and his knowledge of planetary archetypes — into an articulation of what lies beneath the surface. Along the way, he explores experiences such as sexual repression, projection, and gender identity in a manner that ultimately points to paths of healing for us all.
In his introduction to Re-Visioning Psychology, James Hillman wrote that “where there is a connection to soul, there is psychology,” and further cautions that “beginning with soul means that psychology immediately goes into depths and has a therapeutic implication.” Eric’s work is marked by a deep connection to soul as well as therapeutic implications, and as such is the work of psychology.
Being with Eric through his writing is like reaching to hold his outstretched hand as he beckons you on a journey through your everyday physical experiences, downward, with intensity, and into the richness of the more soulful dimension of the same. The tenderness of his touch is in and of itself therapeutic, just as the gift of being guided into the realm of soul is healing in its own right. But with Eric there is more.
He also follows a journey upward, into the heavens, and embracing the cosmos. He reminds us that soul can be encountered within an individual psyche as well as within our collective one. He connects us with this cosmos, with the world to which we essentially belong, in a way that invites our creative participation. He always — always — points to identifiable paths of participation and does his best to seduce us into giving over to those soul whispers, or sometimes soul screams, which speak of a wish to creatively engage with both personal and collective experience.
This is the genius of Planet Waves Astrology.
In all of these ways, the approach that is Planet Waves is psychology in action. More specifically, I would propose that Eric’s work continues, in its own unique way, the work begun by Carl Jung nearly a century ago: “Jung’s studies of alchemy and his notion of synchronicity…move toward a psychology which is in fact no longer a psychology in the modern sense of an interior soul or self, but a cosmology where the self is a star. They move toward a consciousness which surrenders to its participation in the order of creation” (Romanyshyn, Ways of the Heart, p. 101). Romanyshyn goes on to describe his belief that “the telos of Jung’s psychology was…always a sacred cosmology where soul finds its home again in the order of creation” (p. 104). I believe Eric is accomplishing what Jung himself was not quite able to achieve, despite his vision of it.
Light Bridge, Planet Waves’ publication of the 2011 annual extended-length horoscopes, is an invitation to step into the place of metaphorical living that is rightly ours. It shines a light on those realms of experience that are most calling for our participation, and on the energies that will best support us, here and now. It also carries us through our everyday experiences and into sacred space. Light Bridge is an opportunity to be guided deeply into the events of our lives, ask meaningful questions, envision our desires, and to then step back into the realm of everyday life, accompanied by soul more fully and with a readiness to actively, intentionally and creatively participate in the order of the cosmos, which, once again, it is our birthright to do.
I wish Light Bridge readers much love and compassion on your respective creative journeys, knowing that our individual paths are crossing within the cosmos, as well as within the community that is Planet Waves.