Dear Friend and Reader:
Today is Christmas Eve, so I thought I would do something borrowing from an old Christian tradition. I’ve only mentioned being Quaker a few times on these pages, though it’s a significant piece of my philosophical heritage. I made this discovery as a kid, after attending Friends summer camps for five years (Quaker is old-fashioned shorthand for The Religious Society of Friends).
You can think of Quakerism as a form of Zen Christianity. It’s a religion without dogma, without hierarchy and with few words spoken. Each person is encouraged to develop his or her own relationship to God, the Creator or existence. There is no minister (rather, a committee, called Ministry and Counsel); each person speaks, if moved to do so, in the midst of silent meeting.
There are no set rules or doctrines, only flexible guidelines for living. We’re so used to religions telling us that this is how it’s supposed to be, and this is the law, and you have to do that or God doesn’t love you, that we may lack any concept that something else is possible. Friends’ guidelines for living include being dedicated to peace, doing business with integrity, not swearing oaths, and seeking divinity or the voice of spirit within. Quakers call this the ‘inner light’. It is considered a natural part of the human psyche, not something we have to earn.
One of the notable things about Friends is that we do not go to war, we so not advocate war, and we don’t advocate the cause of war in any form, for any reason. It is that simple. Warfare is unnecessary, immoral and stupid (besides being waged by businessmen and based entirely on deception and greed). We’re the people you come to if you don’t want to get drafted. Quakers saved the lives of a lot of young men who would have otherwise ended up in Vietnam. We know how to make the case against war on ethical grounds.
One of the modes of Quaker discourse is in the form of ‘advices and queries’. This is one of the basic models I use in writing my horoscopes, which I view as an ongoing inquiry about the nature of existence. In this last weekly horoscope of 2010, I thought I would borrow from the Quaker style and present queries based on the recent experience of astrology for each of the Sun signs. By recent, I mean going back as far as seven years for one of the signs, five years for another, and a bit less for the others.
Here is some of the language from the ‘advices and queries’ section of Faith and Practice, in a modern British edition. Notice the open-ended approach to religious concepts.
“The Religious Society of Friends is rooted in Christianity and has always found inspiration in the life and teachings of Jesus. How do you interpret your faith in the light of this heritage? How does Jesus speak to you today? Are you following Jesus’ example of love in action? Are you learning from his life the reality and cost of obedience to God? How does his relationship with God challenge and inspire you?”
Note, not all Quakers use this kind of language, but it’s there for reference, in minimalist form. If you’re looking for a copy of the Bible in a meeting house you probably have to go find it in the office or up in the library, where it belongs. Most literature published by Friends is about ethics, or commenting on what it’s like to live faithfully on our weird planet. It’s more like practical advice rather than the word from on high. Here is an example:
“Are you honest and truthful in all you say and do? Do you maintain strict integrity in business transactions and in your dealings with individuals and organisations? Do you use money and information entrusted to you with discretion and responsibility? Taking oaths implies a double standard of truth; in choosing to affirm instead, be aware of the claim to integrity that you are making.”
One of the Quaker founders was a guy named George Fox, the one with his “old leather breeches and shaggy, shaggy locks.” In 1656, he suggested:
“Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one.”
In that spirit, I wish you a blessed Christmas.
Weekly Horoscope for Friday, December 24, 2010, #844 – BY ERIC FRANCIS
What is the role of technology in your relationships? Has Facebook replaced the sight of someone’s face, or texting the sound of someone’s voice? Digital devices are rapidly infiltrating the realm of human interaction, threatening to take over entirely. There is a reminder in your solar chart to check in with the influence this is having, and to look in subtle ways. Plenty else has been stirring in your interpersonal life; you seem to need a lot more space — both emotional and physical — than you have any time in recent memory. You’re finally recognizing that what does not work for you cannot be made to work. You are entering a time when the old structures of your life will feel the strain and birth contractions of your rapidly increasing self-awareness. What adjustments to your life patterns have you made to respond to these needs or desires? How have these adjustments affected your relationships? Do you crave human companionship more or less than you did one year ago?
Pluto in Capricorn raises questions about the role that religion has played in shaping your worldview. Remember, like many things, that role could be invisible — till you look. Religion is more than ‘about itself’. Far from being a closed system, it’s about all of existence, not merely taught in a house of worship. Its effects reach into every aspect of life, most particularly, how we are supposed to feel about ourselves, and how we feel about sex. Its ideas are, to this day, defended with guns, armor and constitutional amendments. Have you investigated this topic lately, on the most personal level? Have you questioned the extent to which any of the psychological patterns you would love to change are connected to the religious beliefs and practices of your parents? In what ways are your values shaped by religious concepts, among them the supposed necessity of guilt, the ‘institution of marriage’, faux conservatism, or the notion that God is powerless or vengeful? These days you seem determined to embrace life with your own philosophy. Do you give yourself the freedom to be who you are, nd who you want to be at your best?
Anything giving you feedback does so in a language of some kind. The poet Adrienne Rich described relationships as the dream of a common language. If you were to consider your relationship experiences specifically in the context of the words that are spoken, what would you learn? Do you feel that the words and ideas you express in your partnerships are mutually understood? Do you and the people around you speak the same language? If not, by what means do you overcome the differences? Do you enjoy learning new words and concepts, or do you find the process frustrating? One thing to consider are the potential differences in perspective between you and those close to you. Do the people you attract tend to have a wider or narrower worldview than your own? Where are they from, geographically? How does their spiritual perspective differ from your own? Most significantly, how do you respond to these differences?
Do you feel like the world is making room for you, or more like it’s closing in on you? And, whatever is happening, would you say you’re responding more with presenting your vulnerable side, or by thickening your skin? Your charts for 2011 suggest that you’re going to be a lot more visible, and have the potential to challenge outdated ideas of ‘success’ and ‘achievement’ with an invention or creation of your own. If you take your current relationships as an indicator, how would people respond to your having a much more prominent role in the world? There are some who say that success breeds contempt. Others say that everyone likes to bet on a winner. What is your theory? You are a deeply emotional person and some of your transits describe developing authentic emotional independence. How does that feel to you? Have you found ways to be more independent, while not isolating yourself at the same time?
How long does it take to get to know a cat? Mysterious as they are, you get the basics right away. The more significant question for you is, how long does it take for you to get to know the people in your life? Thee years have been a gradual process of seeing through your projections, peeling back layers, looking through the image that people project, though it seems you’ve been persistent. Your love has been steady, despite many twists and turns. So too has your process of gaining awareness of who the people you care about the most really are. Think back five or 10 years and consider your impressions of the people who have been in your life continually. What was your sense of who they were then, and what is it today? How have you changed in that time, including your philosophy of relationships? Finally, there is a group relationship angle. You have learned a lot about connecting with groups, and how to be yourself in them — but what, exactly?
Your sign draws much of its energy from the planet Mercury, which is retrograde three times a year. One of the properties of Mercury retrograde is how swiftly, after turning direct, it moves from going one apparent direction to coming up to full speed in the other direction. That suggests a life where you are constantly reconsidering just about everything. Yet some elements of your existence proceed on an entirely different cycle. That involves Chiron, which is in the process of changing signs. For the past five years, Chiron has been your solar 6th house, suggesting you’ve learned a lot about how to take care of your health. Aquarius, which is in that house for you, is excellent with theory and needs a little help putting things into practice. My question for you is, what have you learned, and what have you applied on the topic of taking care of your health — both mental and physical? If you had to choose one longterm goal for your wellbeing, what would that be? What about your relationships? The two are related.
Most people would say that Saturn in their sign put them under pressure and slowed down the pace of their lives. I have a feeling you’re responding differently to Saturn in Libra. The influence of this planet tends to be about guiding us to mature. (In that respect, everyone is feeling it in a slightly different way.) I’m wondering what messages you’re getting, and whether Saturn seems to be working as a force for change, or a force that appears to be slowing things down. Some of the most sage words an astrologer ever said to me about Saturn near or conjunct one’s Sun (as it is for you in these couple of years) is that it represents coming to terms with yourself. That can at times represent a loss — such as a loss of what was not truly your own. As another astrologer (a Libra) once said, Saturn always gives more than he takes away. Be mindful of the exchange. Participate consciously.
The year began with a series of professional or employment-related upheavals that seem to have rewritten the script you thought you were following. They also had an interesting effect of revealing what happens when you’re not really taking authority over your life; and you got some clues as to what you can do to get your grip back. How is that coming? Have you made any progress in bringing your personal identity and values closer to the work that you do? Much of what you’re experiencing involves old thought-forms, mental patterns and factors of your environment giving way to something new, as if their time has finally come. This will — of necessity — change your work patterns, how you think about yourself and how you relate to the people around you. Yet more than ever, you need to choose the direction of your life. You are in a position to choose what you think of as your destiny. And what would that be?
One theme I have not emphasized but which is pervasive in your astrology involves financial independence. This is a big theme nowadays, as the dog of capitalism tries to cast off the fleas of humanity. Yet at the same time, many are becoming weary of being so invested in the system, dependent on one source of income, or one concept of abundance. Pluto in Capricorn is, for you, a story about developing your personal resources in such a way that you have greater personal responsibility over your financial affairs. This includes your methods of acquiring wealth in its many forms, and how you invest them in yourself. Considering the many potential facets to this project, from developing accounting methods to recognizing the many ways that your money represents your power, how is that going? What have you learned about the relationship between standing on your feet financially and emotional independence from your parents?
I’ve made a number of references this year to your leadership calling. That’s a story about Saturn, the planet of Capricorn, making its way across Libra, your solar 10th house — the house connected with authority, reputation, fame and acclaim. Even if you’re not famous by the standards of People magazine, we are all ‘famous in our own worlds’, and people look up to you as an example of grounded, purposeful living. Your mission seems to far exceed that, as you may be in a position of leadership in your profession, or even pioneering a new way of doing things. How do you feel when you are called to take a prominent role in the world around you? Does the example you set live up to the theories you hold? Are there any double standards in your life that you would like to resolve? Most important, what are the top items on your agenda, in terms of what you came here to achieve?
Five years of Chiron in your sign has come with its share of everything from recognizing your ‘imperfections’ to embracing your talents. In these years, the things that have happened to you, and that you have initiated, had the mark of not only setting you more firmly on your life course, but also in helping you recognize and embrace who you are from the inside out. If you had to list a few of these events and how they have changed you, what would they be? How have developments in seemingly unrelated aspects of your life taught you the same thing, or revealed the same basic truth? In what ways have your ideas about life grown closer to the life you live every day? Last and certainly not least, there is something about Chiron that relates to standing out and being as different as you are. Are you any more at peace with yourself about this than you were, say, in 2005?
You’re about to reach the conclusion of Uranus in your birth sign. This visit, by one of the most restless, revolutionary, inventive and disruptive planets, goes back seven years, and in many ways you’re a different person today than you were then. This is a good time for a review of where you were at the beginning of that stretch, which goes back to March 2004, where you are today by contrast, and the considerable territory you’ve crossed along the way. In what ways have you experienced personal reinventions during that time? What ‘radical’ elements of yourself have you developed and brought to the forefront of your life (remembering that radical means coming from your roots)? What have you done to adapt to a condition of constant change, both inner and outer? If you view these seven years as a time of preparation, what do you think you were preparing for?