Crossing the Borders and Boundaries of Time

Dear Friend and Reader:

LAST WEEKEND when I met Melanie Reinhart in person for the first time, she was chipper as ever about her belief that it doesn’t matter if people use Chiron in their astrological work. This is an interesting comment coming from one of the most grounded teachers and indeed creators of the subject of centaur astrology. This is not Melanie being humble — rather, it is Melanie being a clever occultist and one dedicated to the responsible use of power. [My interview with Melanie at the United Astrology Conference is listed here.]

The Dead Poet Borne by a Centaur, by Gustave Moreau (1826-1898).

While you could say that Chiron is such an essential and obvious tool that everyone needs it in their repertoire, it’s also clear that when you use Chiron you can potentially end up with more on your hands than you expected, and somewhere different than you were planning.

Most astrology works on the level of psychological first aid. Band-Aids, a little Neosporin and the advice “act your age” are often highly effective, this last bit being one of astrology’s greatest and most prolific gifts to clients: the claiming of maturity. Chiron is like picking up a laser. When you invoke this energy in your work, you go deeper; challenging material comes up; you don’t know where the session is going to go because you cannot plan in advance. It’s certainly not going to be your average astrological reading. And it’s not for everyone.

When I teach a course called “Demystifying Astrology” this weekend at Omega Institute, I plan to begin the astrology portion with a discussion of Chiron. It’s appropriate: we will be at a holistic education center, where people come specifically seeking healing. Not fortune telling, not mundane planning, not personality analysis, but addressing the deeper material of life. Before we get to that, my basic scheme is to handle the workshop just like I handle a personal session: hold open the space where we can all figure out why we are there and what we need. And this alone is dangerous in a world where so many people have so many healing needs, sensual needs and problems that seem to have no solution or resolution.

If you’re doing astrology work, I suggest this be your first mission with those you work with: figure out what they need. You’ll do this partly from what they tell you, and partly from listening between the lines. Sometimes people can articulate their needs; sometimes or often, they cannot quite get there. Often those needs are enmeshed between the layers of who they are, the layers of their experiences and the various strata of aware and unaware; of remembered and forgotten; of what we carry in conscious memory and what information has tagged along for the ride with our DNA. When you think that each cell in our bodies carries a sample of the entire human genome, that is a lot of unconscious information. It includes family history, racial memory and probably quite a few other things we don’t have words for.

This unusual thing called the unconscious (individual and collective being equally strange), a vast ocean of data and experience that resides behind the thin veil of the ego, is always waiting for a moment of expression, and centaur energy helps open up a small opening so we can witness what is there. Chiron and the centaurs provide an astrological point of entrée to these realms, as they express personally and collectively. Chiron is a tool to investigate and activate awareness, and it works well as long as you remember that we are all responsible for what we notice. This is one reason why paying attention is so unpopular.

Chiron and the centaurs will take us into ancestral material, tribal material, and will cross the kingdoms. In other words, we must confront and experience our connection to other forms of life, including and particularly dismantling the illusion that a human being is not an animal. Often when Chiron events emerge, we are experiencing one of these factors without directly recognizing it. The key as an astrologer or as one experiencing the effects of the astrology is to bear witness: you don’t really need to do anything, though you need to hold your awareness open and therefore expand the field of awareness for the person you are working with.

From an astronomical standpoint, the first and most essential quality of a centaur planet is that it crosses the orbits of other planets. The solar system from Jupiter out to Neptune is interwoven with about 100 known objects in this class, and untold thousands of as-yet undiscovered ones. Imagine them waving their designs over the eons, bridging the space between the orbits of the major planets, creating intersections where we may alter the course of our life.

The centaurs are drawn in from a region of space called the Kuiper Belt. This is a field of millions of objects splayed out around the orbit of Neptune. They are pulled in by gravity when several of the gas giants align and form an unusual gravitational event. Their orbits are also subject to change for this reason, and they are considered visitors who will be expelled back out to the Kuiper Belt or into interstellar space under the right conditions.

Pluto was the first discovery of an object in the Kuiper Belt, and besides being a small, icy critter (like many centaurs) he has one thing in common with them: Pluto crosses the orbit of Neptune, dipping into those illuminated, vibrating waters of mystical consciousness, then emerging again some decades later. Apart from the similarity between Pluto and Neptune that is easy to overlook (along with everything else about Neptune), here we have an example of the strength of a planet that temporarily enters another realm of awareness and teaches us something about what it’s like to be there.

Neptune is like a sphere of limitless creative potential, a borderless psychic realm where all thoughts thought by any entity are available to anyone who will look and listen. Pluto comes in like a penetrating ball of focus and activates those potentials into our hottest erotic experiences, our worst nightmares and the most focused experiences that free us from who we were and compel us to become who we are.

Centaurs, with the notable exceptions of Nessus and Cyllarus, don’t cross the orbit of Pluto — though there is some controversy of definitions here. For the most part they interweave the orbits of Neptune, Uranus, Saturn and Jupiter, bringing these impersonal or transpersonal energies into tangible focus. They traverse the space in between. As Alice Bailey and the Tibetan pointed out more than half a century ago, space is not empty and it is not dead. It is alive and it contains information, though we are not typically accustomed to it. It is in these spaces that so much of the energy that we call soul is contained; seemingly trapped between the heavily trodden pathways of the major planets, which so predictably dominate the course of history and the rutted streets of our lives. The centaurs help us retrieve ourselves there, much like the one depicted above has retrieved the apparently not-so-dead poetess.

Just remember, when you take a ride on a centaur, you may end up in an unfamiliar land, far from where you started.

In honor of today’s first of three occurrences of Mercury trine Chiron, we are re-publishing the Chiron article from Planet Wiki as a point of entry into the subject. Here is an article by Melanie and here is an earlier introduction by me.
Eric Francis

An Introduction to Chiron

WAY AT THE BEGINNING, someone named Al Morrison summed up Chiron brilliantly, if incompletely, when he called it the ‘inconvenient benefic’. Chiron nearly always bestows a profound gift; it will save us over and over, waking us up just in the nick of time; but the events surrounding it almost always seem a bit shocking as they occur. Though over time, a degree of mastery of Chiron’s most fundamental energy may be attained: and that energy is awareness.

Chiron and Achilles.

This quality extends through all the Centaur planets which arrived after Pholus (the second Centaur) was discovered in 1992; each makes us aware of something different, and each helps us reclaim some cast-off aspect of our existence. They all point to what are typically unnoticed cycles of our lives, thereby calling attention to patterns of changes we might otherwise have missed.

Chiron has an orbit of just under 51 years. It is elongated such that at one end, Chiron will move through Virgo and Libra in about 18 months each, while at the other, it will move through Pisces and Aries in about nine years. This means that at one phase of history people can have a key Chiron transit (such as Chiron square its own natal position) as young as seven and as old as 23.

Some say the basic nature of Chiron is about healing, but if that is true, awareness is the most frequent agent of that process. Melanie Reinhart gives the keyword transition; when awareness changes, that is inherently a transition. Chiron may arrive in the form of a practitioner who assists with a change or healing process, and what most healers teach is awareness, principally self-awareness. This often arrives in the form of change, and what change most often teaches us is awareness.

This was well understood at the time of Chiron’s discovery in 1977, when there was still such a thing as the Human Potential Movement: a secular (not spiritual) movement that involved people teaching one another to be aware, holding the space for one another to own their faults and virtues, and to take responsibility for their lives as a conscious act. Chiron remains a living agent of the Human Potential Movement, or more accurately, of any movement devoted to expressing human potential.

Anyone who has tried knows how difficult this usually is. We encounter the maxim love brings up everything unlike itself. We meet those who assist us in our transition consciously and effectively; they are Chirotic in nature. We meet others who assist us through some process of injury and they are Chirotic if we use that injury to transcend being a victim. We also meet healers who wound, who are one of the most common manifestations of Chiron’s shadow side.

Perhaps if humanity were not so intent on denying its awareness, ignoring its knowledge, suppressing its potential and investing its energy in greed, Chiron would feel gentler or not be necessary at all. Perhaps if we considered understanding and embracing our shadow nature as important as seeking the light in our spiritual pursuits, we would not need Chiron. If it were more encouraged to allow curiosity its place, and to let it be a teacher, we would not depend so heavily on Chiron to instigate the experiences and crises we need to learn and grow.

Perhaps if we counted ourselves among the animals we possess, abuse, hunt and consume, connecting with the wounded nature of Chiron’s animal being — in the myth, his lower body is afflicted — would not be so difficult. Yet religion, in teaching us to deny our animal nature, has in a sense trapped us in our shadow nature; our minds cast a long shadow over our bodies. Chiron fundamentally addresses the mind-body split from which so many people suffer. Almost all events or developments involving Chiron can be seen in terms of mind/body divisions. Typically any healing associated with Chiron can arrive in the form of becoming aware of those divisions.

The most poignant example of such injuries can be seen in our approach to sexuality in Western culture. We crave sex; we romanticize it; we exploit it for every possible purpose; we demonize it and make it a crime. Then, based on the lack of awareness necessary to make any of that happen, we get caught in the injuries of guilt, possession and jealousy. We can, understandably, confuse guilt and jealousy with sexuality itself.

If, under the influence of a Chiron transit and its accompanying events, we investigate these things, we might confuse the shadow material that emerges with Chiron itself, and not view Chiron as the source or metaphor for the awareness that is helping us be free. The ultimate goal of any Chiron process, or perhaps any life process, is attaining freedom, and freedom is most meaningfully experienced as the freedom to make a conscious decision.

Photo by Eric Francis.

Chiron is about integrating the experiences that make us aware of ourselves, our role in the community and our relationships with others. In this respect, the way to understand Chiron is not by book learning or astrological theory, but rather by investigating the events associated with Chiron transits, and our responses to them. Just as with a homeopathic remedy, there is no one interpretation of any Chiron placement, transit or experience. Some theory is helpful, but Chiron is primarily a workbook. The astrology student working on her own chart, or the astrologer serving a client, will get the necessary knowledge about a Chiron placement by listening carefully to the events from a series of several Chiron transits, noting the common threads and finally, noticing the direction of the overall movement.

Appropriate questions relating to these transits include: ‘What did you learn?’, ‘What did you become aware of?’ and ‘What are you aware of now?’

Chiron teaches through direct knowledge, a thing almost unheard of in our current era of history. Traditional astrologers who say they have difficulty grasping Chiron probably have this trouble because they are trying to get it in theory first, rather than through what we and our clients learn from real-life developments.

It is best not to think of Chiron as a planet to be interpreted but rather as a sequence of events in a lifetime, going back to childhood or before. These events both teach values and describe a growth process.

What you have in the above paragraphs is more than enough theory to apply Chiron in astrological practice. No books are necessary; if you check the transits of Chiron — to its own natal position; to the ascendant and other angles; and to key points in the chart — you will get a sense of the process in that individual. It may be possible to understand the transition or struggle for consciousness involved, and intuitively sense the next step; that is, if you are listening carefully for clues to what is happening beneath and behind the story line. Look for motives and how they manifest; choices and how they end up; and what just seems to happen as time goes on. You are not just looking for a litany of the past. You are looking for patterns, and for some expression of how the person feels about the past in the present, as if it were still a living thing.

Through this process of awareness-raising, we can begin to tap into some of the promise of Chiron’s discovery degree, 4 degrees of Taurus, which is ‘The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow’ — that which links the celestial and mundane orders of reality, or, translated into human terms, the mind and the body, which are connected by awareness.

Chiron In the Natal Chart

The typical quality of one’s natal Chiron might sound like this. It’s a place of obvious focus, sometimes success, often what you could call productive struggle. Fritz Perls referred to the power of frustration as a teacher, and this is often how natal Chiron feels. One of two things occurs frequently: unusual power gathers there, special talent, an exception granted or unusual knowledge gained; or there is repeated injury. All together, these comprise a process of experience and learning.

This locus of experience will typically take on the qualities of the house placement. The person may not feel particularly strong there; it may seem like a point of special weakness. The sign placement will provide a kind of filter and show the contact between the individual experience (the house) and the collective (the sign). The sign will also show something of the style of the expression.

The placement will be expressed, seemingly blocked, or modified by the aspects involved. While these are cataloged in some books, careful listening to circumstances at the time of Chiron transits will reveal the nature of the natal position and the aspects. In general, we could say that Chiron will try to raise an unconscious Pluto process to full awareness; it will tend to focus the diffuse experience of Neptune; it will ground the radical changes of Saturn in some tangible form; and it will give a clear expression to the wisdom and experience-seeking of Jupiter.

Where an inner planet is involved, the developing and expressing the quality of that planet will be intensified, as if it’s cracked open and some element of its nature is allowed to come out; it will tend to dominate the life, though in different ways at different times.

Hand and glasses. Photo by Danielle Voirin.

Chiron energy can often express itself as a helping or teaching role in the community. You get everything from acclaimed masters to exemplars on many levels to people who don’t remotely practice what they preach. In a sense, all are at different points along the same path, and if Chiron is involved, you can be pretty sure that the damage of any negative expressions will be limited and events will point someone in the direction of growth, progress and mastery — no matter how gradual it may seem.

Events and developments at the time of transits to Chiron’s natal position will bring up situations that express the nature of the natal placement. The natal themes and the transit themes are closely related, perhaps more so than with any other planet. The fundamental experience of developing and focusing consciousness of the natal placement will persist, seeming to reach peaks at the time of the transit, and in the process entirely new levels of expression can be attained.

When Chiron is on an angle natally, it can connote a crisis that is existential, that is, having a life or death quality or seeming to relate to a struggle for the right to exist. The ability to ground the process of Chiron in a conscious and productive way seems to be related to whether the aspect pattern is connected to the angles or not. If there are not aspects to the angles, Chiron will feel like something in the background without a name. To gain access to the process, the astrologer will need to do a little more teaching and a little more pointing to how certain key experiences connect to Chiron themes.

Now, it is arguable that the process of cultivating awareness happens on some level with every planet, but more accurately we could describe Chiron as reflecting the process of astrology itself. Astrology seems to involve little other than learning to pay attention. A bunch of weird glyphs are involved, true. But as anyone who has studied astrology for an hour knows, most of what we do is try to become aware of what they are saying.

Basic Astronomy of Chiron, and its Application

The discovery of Chiron came with the advent of astrologers and astronomers working together cooperatively for the first time in centuries, building the first bridge of many that Chiron would become associated with.

Chiron’s orbit.

Brian Marsden at the Minor Planet Center at Harvard University gave Zane Stein an ephemeris for Chiron, and the process of its continuing discovery was begun. Later in the Centaur discovery process, this would continue with Stein, Melanie Reinhart and other astrologers assisting astronomers. Chiron also marked a time when an increasing number of astrologers began taking up their role as cultural astronomers.

Some astrologers would recognize that delineating a new planet would require them to be aware of more science than they previously had ever done and also more classical scholarship. By the late 20th century we had Centaur astrologers who were experts in classics and could interpret ancient Greek, program the ephemerides of these distant planets, and develop original interpretations.

The first keyword for Chiron was assigned by its discoverer, Charles Kowal, when he said, “This thing is a maverick.” He was not intentionally handing this to astrologers, but it was a great gift. Chiron fit no known category of planet; it was not orbiting in a known orbit and crossed the orbits of other planets, and there was nothing quite like it. He named it after a hybrid between a man and a horse, resurrecting a nearly forgotten myth and as it turned out, an entire body of then-obscure folklore.

Chiron was actually the second planetary discovery to be an orbit-crosser: it was by the time of the discovery known that Pluto crossed inside the orbit of Neptune. Chiron, for its part, crosses inside the orbit of Saturn and reaches out nearly to the orbit of Uranus. It has an elliptical orbit and moves as slowly as Uranus at its slowest (near aphelion, in Aries, it takes nine years to cross a sign) and considerably faster than Saturn at its fastest (near perihelion, in Libra, it takes 18 months).

This Saturn-Uranus connection provided one of the basic ideas for understanding how Chiron connects the distinctly different experiences of the structured material world (Saturn) and the energized world of change, progress and revolution (Uranus). It was perhaps the first planet to be discussed specifically in terms of its astronomy, and, for sure, the first where the discovery chart was used consciously in the delineation of the planet.




Weekly Horoscope for Friday, May 23, 2008, #715 – By ERIC FRANCIS

Aries (March 20-April 19)
At last you have begun a new story of your life, one that seems to be dedicated to coexisting in harmony with others. Look around and you may notice that many people, all of us at times, define our existence on the basis of who we are in conflict with. In my view of psychology, this is an eruption of the conflict we experience within ourselves. Were we at peace with ourselves, we would indeed be at peace with one another. Your mission at this point is to be in harmony with your significant creative and erotic passion, and with the influence that it has on others. The world is not as simple a place as you would often like it to be, and the emotional reactions of people around us are often invisible to our perception. Denial helps nobody. Therefore, the best you can really do is be authentically yourself, and pay attention to the data that your senses return.

Taurus (April 19-May 20)
By now you have probably received some form of the message that you need to reorganize your financial reality, but this seems to be coming with some potent emotional signals that may in certain moments be leaving you feeling anything but confident. Indeed, it seems you may feel like you’re looking right at a limit: a time limit, a space limit, or insufficient cash to get by the way you want or need to. Without commenting on whether this is really true, I will say that if you perceive such a thing, remember that necessity is what provokes the human spirit to invent its way out of a box. Invention insinuates the creation of something new, and that implies change: get used to this concept, because plenty is on your inner horizon. Though it may seem abstract, Thing One that is changing is how you think of yourself.

Gemini (May 20-June 21)
Mercury is about to station retrograde in your sign, which is another way of saying that the planet that, in theory, resembles you the very most is going to be with you through mid-July. Let’s put it this way. If you ever had the idea that you’re a mystery to other people but wondered how that was possible, check out what a fabulous mystery you become to yourself. You have a restless and curious mind, so I presume you will find this experience intriguing. If there are times that you find it unsettling, perhaps respond with compassion and an open mind. You’re likely to discover some old material you would rather not be aware of; the best way to be free of that material is to raise your awareness. The whole phenomenon of your shifting perception is rooted in seeing things from a different point of view. Keep doing that.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)
Planets are aligning in a way that signifies an unusual spell of profound introspection: dream activity, spiritual or psychological work, inner dialog and confronting your fears all come to mind. Other factors suggest that you are filled with the feeling that you know what is important to you. If I may be so bold as to suggest something — don’t be so sure you know. You may be able to pursue certain specific financial goals without interfering with your inner process, though I suggest you keep your priorities in order. At this stage of your life, your inner world is the one that matters the most. I recognize this defies the teaching of nearly every aspect of Western culture, but so be it. While you’re at it, keep going: this is the time to have no secrets from yourself. None, as in not a one.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23)
You may feel you’ve reached some kind of practical limit, but what you’re really coming up against is the boundary of a structure that you can now work outside of. On one level, it’s a structure in your belief system. Human beings are as susceptible to our beliefs as computers are to the software that runs them. They quite literally are the programs with which we define our reality. Beliefs seem to be based on the truth, but more often the opposite is so: we based the truth on what we believe. This can seem like an impossible paradox to step out of, but it’s not as difficult as you think. Start with a basic equation: What if this [insert an idea] were true? What then would be a natural outgrowth or result? If you think in terms of possibilities and not absolutes, you will be able to get out of any mental trap in which you find yourself.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
You cannot control how certain people feel about you, or what they think about you. In truth you cannot control how you feel about yourself; you can just feel and acknowledge. The closest you can come is to let go of the judgments you may be holding against yourself for as long as you can, and trust that into that environment some new feelings or ideas will enter. You are obviously pushing yourself to take a bolder, more adventurous and more visible role in the world. When we do this, plenty of misgivings and inner conflicts can bubble to the surface. You may fear that these are going to compromise your ability to be a leader, or reveal to people that you have deep misgivings about yourself. Yes, people respond to your energy and you respond to theirs. But they are not mind readers, and even if they were, everyone is responsible for what they perceive.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
If there seems to be some deep issue troubling you, then go deep. I suggest you go deep enough such that the many parts of yourself disappear and it’s just you that you’re in communication with. How will you know? At first, you may feel guilty about how you feel, or some resistance to acknowledging whatever may be on your mind. That’s a good sign — a sign that you’re moving in the right direction. You may feel a need for emotional independence, or authority over yourself, and this may not quite align with a sense of obligation to something or someone. In confronting this hook directly, you have a chance to let go of it. Commitment is one thing; a lurking sense of guilt is another thing. At the least, make sure you’re well aware of the difference.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
People may be in the mood to renege on their agreements, but they are not going anywhere so fast. Forget what they think at the moment; and don’t worry about trying to hold them to anything. What matters is what happens. Meanwhile, you have some excellent reasons not to worry. You have other sources of assistance and funding; you have a diversity of supply lines, which is part of what makes you such an excellent survivor. Right now, you need to let nothing distract you from your significant leadership role. Quickly address your own needs or any organization needs you have, and then deal with flaky people second. Start by making sure there are no misunderstandings, which are likely to be abundant the next few weeks. Keep your cool and get the basic facts. Start there, and proceed logically.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22)
You may feel like you’re not exactly on the right track, though I think that you’re about to prove yourself wrong. Though it’s a tall order, I suggest you not get too hung up on linear time. The symbol for Sagittarius is a centaur or a hunter. I propose that it be a spiral, because this is more in accord with your experience of time and movement through the world. You’re about to get a taste of the spiral effect in terms of seeing how close you are to a certain goal when you thought you were so far away. The difference is often one of attitude, which can affect whether you walk with your eyes pointing toward the ground or facing outward toward the horizon. Note, if a relationship starts to move, shake or seem like it is something that it was not, or wasn’t something that it is, that, too, is a matter of perspective.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
You were looking in the wrong direction for that innovation or breakthrough — you had it in you all along. Just make sure that you benefit from it as much as everyone else does. For that to happen, I suggest you keep your ideas under your hat for a while. Through the halfway mark of your solar year would be a good time — the Cancer solstice, or a few weeks after. You may feel you have an excellent concept now, but it’s going to get a lot better. So let it incubate, let it bounce around your gray matter, and spend plenty of time tinkering in your workshop like a good inventor. Though I despise secrets of any kind, this is not about secrecy, it’s about not diluting your ideas, and it’s about making sure you know who is really on your team before you invite them to the big game.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
I hear from a lot of people about their ideas on creativity, and I hear some weird ones. The result is not the process. A finished painting in a gallery bears little resemblance to the art studio where it was created (some colors on the floor might match colors in the “finished” work). True creativity is a process composed of about 66% allowing, 33% controlling and 1% pure and total anarchy. The whole thing is done on a dare. In a workday you expect that by 5 or 6 or 10 you’re likely to have such and such done. The creative/artistic process might start at 1 am, you surrender to it, and by 5 am you end up someplace entirely different than you envisioned, having created something with no resemblance whatever to what you intended. And you call it good. This is the approach to take with your whole life for the next few weeks; it is an approach you can learn to apply for as long as you’re mindful enough to remember.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
Mercury is about to station retrograde in your solar 4th house — the angle of your chart associated with your security base. You have an air sign here (Gemini), and that tells us that your ideas about security are as important as the real thing. It reveals that most of what influences you to feel safe or not involves something on the mental level. The retrograde is calling you to go deeper: to investigate why it might be that you don’t feel safe, or why you do; and to look at the subtle interplay between what you think and what you feel. I suggest you take the question of safety in reverse: instead of just looking at what induces you to feel safe, look at what makes you feel insecure, and question whether these factors are valid or based in reality.

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