New Aeon: A Consideration of Astrological Symbolism
Part 2: Aquarius and the Fixed Cross
As the equinoxes process through the signs, there is no sharp cutoff
between one era and another. The eras intermix to an extent. One era reaches
its apotheosis, continues at its peak for a while, then gradually begins
to fade, the next in turn gradually coming into power at the same time.
The Aquarian influence first appeared shortly after the Black Death swept
Europe in the thirteenth century. The severe labor shortage resulting
from the plague opened the door to the manifestation of that influence,
by creating a situation in which the common man's labor and skills suddenly
became a highly valuable commodity. This awareness of self-worth began
the destruction of the Piscean peasant-mentality, and produced the first
conceptions of the themes of individual worth and collective power that
are the keynote of the Aquarian era.
The influence faded for a century and reappeared with greater power in
the fifteenth. At that time, Gutenberg's printing press dealt a crippling
blow to the power of the sacred Word by making books cheap enough to be
a marketable commodity. When people could possess and read their own copies
of the Bible, they were no longer dependent on the church and could make
their own interpretations. Greedy church men aggravated the situation,
taking advantage of the press to create and sell dispensations, certificates,
and other printed souvenirs to pilgrims. By doing so they cheapened and
undermined their own authority, and made independent interpretation of
the Bible more acceptable.
Since that time the Aquarian current has slowly increased in influence.
It is my belief that a turning point, a final swing of the balance between
the Piscean and Aquarian eras was achieved some time between 1940 and
1960, perhaps a decade earlier or later. Some of the reasons for this
belief will become clear as we examine the current manifestations of the
The Piscean era was an intensely religious one, with an unusual emphasis
on the divine as the controlling power in all events. The same cannot
be said for the Aquarian era. The four signs of the fixed cross:and Aquarius
in particular:are intensely human signs. So we can expect that the Aquarian
era, while not to be completely wrapped in bland secularism, will show
in the long term a continued lessening of the power of organized religion
in human thought. Other modes, some of which we probably cannot imagine
as yet, will gradually appear to take its place.
Following the scheme described at the beginning of this paper, the primary
polarity of the Aquarian era is along the Aquarius-Leo axis of the zodiac,
with Aquarius taking the midheaven position and Leo the position of the
nadir or Immum Coeli. Were the Piscean era a representative case, we could
expect that in the new era Aquarius would tend to dominate and overshadow
its opposing sign. But this pair of signs is unusually compatible; they
blend their powers together much more easily than most of the other pairs
of zodiacal opposites. Each is perfectly capable of joining the other
in a seamless but seemingly paradoxical way.
The essence of this paradox can be expressed by saying that the universe
is composed of independent units, but these units -while remaining totally
free to act according to their own nature:interact with other units in
such a way as to produce larger groupings which themselves act as singular
entities. The best way to illustrate the principles involved is to consider
the relationship between the cells in the human body and the functional
whole that is the body.
Looked at on their own level, the cells of our bodies act as independent
units. Each has its individual life cycle and its own intrinsic nature
that it expresses in all its activities. Were we able to enter into its
level of awareness we would find that it has some consciousness of itself
as something distinct from its surroundings. Given a minimally supportive
environment, the cells are even capable of surviving alone, entirely separate
from the body of which they are normally a part.
But at the same time it acts out its independent existence, the cell:in
its normal environment:continually exchanges information with the other
cells in the body through many means, and each cell is continually adjusting
its activity, within the limits of its nature, on the basis of those signals.
Its activity is always consistent with its individual nature, but relates
that nature to its surroundings.
The signals passing between the many cells of the body form larger patterns
of which the cells remain unaware. And in their responses to this complex,
patterned but ever-changing movement of information, the cells together
produce something incomprehensible to any one of them, something whose
scope of action is expanded many orders of magnitude beyond the cell's;
something whose nature, in comparison with the cell's, is miraculous and
godlike: a human being. And this being, like the cells of which it is
composed, acts as an individualized and independent unit within its environment.
This same pattern appears at nearly all the scales of existence of which
we are aware. Subatomic "particles" act according to their own Janus-faced
natures, and at the same time form atoms, entities possessing properties
unknown to the composing particles. Atoms form molecules, again producing
new and more complex properties. Many kinds of molecules combine to produce
the cells. At each level, the number of properties and qualities capable
of being expressed expands enormously. The pattern holds true in the macrocosm
as well. All the living things on the surface of our planet act as an
integrated system. Planets and suns form solar systems, solar systems
form clusters, clusters form galaxies, and galaxies again form clusters.
Our perspective is inadequate to perceive all the properties being expressed
by these larger wholes; all we can see is that the pattern persists.
We can relate this pattern easily to the astrological characteristics
of the Aquarius-Leo axis. Leo is at the nadir of our cultural quasi-horoscope
and thus expresses, like Virgo in the Piscean era, what is perceived to
be the fundamental nature of the human race, and by extension, the rest
of existence. Leo is the home sign of the Sun, the most powerful of the
astrological "planets." The nature of the sign is almost entirely washed
out by the influence of its ruler.
Sol, as we know, is the centralizing and unifying power. Its symbol is
a point in the center of a circle, indicating a divine spark (the point)
defining a periphery around itself (the circle). Whatever is within the
periphery of the spark's area of influence is absorbed into its activity
so that, from outside the defined limit, what is within appears to move
and act as one thing.
This periphery is not a physical limit; it is not necessary to have a
barrier separating inside from outside. Rather the periphery is defined
by the radiatory power of the centralized units. For example, for the
solar system as a whole, the periphery is defined not by the orbits of
the planets or the commentary halo, but by the heliopause, the point along
any radius from the sun at which the sun's electromagnetic radiation and
solar wind can no longer push back the interstellar medium. The limit
is a point of balance between opposing pressures.
Similarly, for human beings the limits of their self or ego are not defined
by their skin but instead by the limits of their aura (on the magickal
levels) and by their sense of "personal space" on the mundane levels.
Even on the physical plane we project ourselves beyond the limits of our
skin. Every human body is constantly releasing its own "solar wind", gaseous
and electromagnetic radiation that express the person's current physical,
emotional and perceptual state.
So with Sol's sign in the nadir, we can expect that the Aquarian era,
as it comes fully into manifestation, will involve the cultural perception
that, at its root, humanity is composed of individuals, each with their
own nature and sphere of influence. The perception that the mass of men
are slaves or servants, as in the Piscean Age, must be swept aside. In
Western countries this process is already well advanced on the social
level, less so politically; elsewhere, particularly in the Far East, it
is present in the minds of people as a possibility, but is almost nonexistent
in the political and social spheres. How well this perception expands
its influence will depend in part on the manifestation of the other end
of the midheaven-nadir axis.
Jumping to a more inclusive level, Leo is producing a perception of the
human race as a single entity. The Maatian magickal system presents the
most coherent description within a magickal context; readers should refer
to issue 5 of The Cincinnati Journal of Ceremonial Magick for an introduction
to Maatian principles. But the concept is not limited to Maatians, nor
to a strictly magickal context; it occurs in various forms in many "New
Age" writings, some current-day Christian apocalyptic works, and in less
explicit form in many of the influential social theories of the last century.
On a larger scale, the influence of Leo and Sol passing through the Earth
is producing a growing appreciation of the Earth itself as an individualized
whole. The perception of humankind as something apart from and superior
to the other kingdoms of nature is gradually being replaced with a perception
of the true inter dependencies of the four kingdoms, and of the way in
which they make up a single biological entity. Accompanying this is a
fundamental change in our perception of the Earth's place in the universe.
Where in prior eras it was believed to be almost the whole of creation,
or at least the primary focus of the attention of the divine, we now know
the Earth to be only one inconsequential sphere in a vast universe of
similar spheres:the planets and stars. This latter perception is governed
by the midheaven sign of our era, Aquarius.
Where Leo and Sol are centralizing forces, Aquarius is a decentralizing
force. Where the consciousness focused in Leo tends to see things in terms
of individualized wholes, the Aquarian consciousness tends to see them
in terms of their components and the patterns of information and energy
exchange between them.
Aquarius is ruled by the planet Uranus, and has Mercury as its exalted
planet. Uranus is traditionally associated with explosive destruction
and the breaking up of forms. Its function would more correctly be viewed
as the power of freeing things from imposed restrictions, loosening the
bonds between the components of a centralized object so that they can
take on new patterns of interaction. This need not result in the destruction
of the object in question, particularly if the bonds being loosened are
social or mental rather than physical. Uranus also governs such things
as uniqueness, independence, individuality, and free expression. In the
area of natural phenomena it governs quantum phenomena, including electricity
and electromagnetic radiation, and vibratory motions in general.
Mercury being exalted in Aquarius, its activity here is on a higher level
than in the two signs it rules. In connection with Gemini we viewed Mercurial
thought and speech as being very much related to specific concrete events;
here it is more concerned with abstract thought, with ideas at several
removes from the events on which they are based, and with the communication
of those thoughts.
Aquarius itself is related to the principle of patterned activity. Its
glyph, two parallel zigzag lines, suggests activities that are coordinated
across different levels of existence without being obviously connected
to each other. Combining the powers of the sign, its ruler, and its exalted
planet, we have the situation described at the beginning of this section:
independent, individualized beings, freely communicating their natures
in an environment of similar beings, with patterned activity of a higher
order being the result.
As the number of entities involved increases and the intensity of the
communication between them becomes greater, the group as a whole begins
to generate an aura of radiatory power similar to that which marks the
boundary of an individualized entity. The level of communication eventually
crosses a threshold where the entities, while still expressing their individual
natures, are adjusting to each other so quickly and thoroughly that they
appear to act as a unit with respect to the environment outside their
group. The internal structure of the group disappears from view in the
radiance of the group aura, and from the outside it appears that a new
entity of a higher level has been created.
Figure 4 shows the complete cycle of this process. Note that in this
cycle we begin with Leo, pass on to Aquarius, and eventually pass back
to Leo on a more inclusive level. Neither one truly dominates the process,
unlike the definite hierarchical dominance present in the Piscean midheaven-nadir
Between the poles of singularity and decentralization, the two "horizon"
signs represent the activity of transition in this cycle of development.
Scorpio, the sign on the descendant, represents the transformation of
a singular entity into a multitude of entities with diverse natures, a
process sometimes called death. Taurus, the ascendant sign, represents
the tendency of elements in diversified systems to become increasingly
interdependent and mutually supportive. Looked at another way, they represent
the two basic modes of interaction between entities: competition and cooperation.
At each level of existence, these two apparently opposed tendencies appear.
The cells of a zygote in the process of growth show an increasing diversity
of functions and behavior; but at the same time those diverse cells order
themselves into organs, and all maintain a changing yet balanced relationship
within the growing organism. Similarly, species develop more diverse forms
and functions as we move "up" the evolutionary scale, but those forms
retain structural similarities and all species are dependent on others
to maintain their continued existence within the biosphere.
In the relations between the species in Earth's biosphere, the two transformative
signs often work together so closely as to almost merge. The waste products
of the animal kingdom, poisonous to their producers, are the nutrients
of the plant kingdom; the oxygenous waste of plants is the breath of life
to the animals. Predators benefit their prey species by killing individual
members, preventing expansion of population beyond their food resources.
When the predators die, scavenger organisms quickly recycle their bodies
into nutrients to feed the plants that feed their prey. Every death and
dissolution of an individual form leads to the nourishment and development
of other forms. The food chain, superficially hierarchical, is actually
a food cycle with everything being eaten in turn to continuously regenerate
the biospheric entity, which remains itself throughout the constant transformations
of its components.
Less drastic forms of cooperation are also common. Plants commonly provide
insects, birds, and animals with specialized foods in exchange for their
help in reproduction. Small animals feed on the parasites of larger animals.
Species with a sharp eye for predators join with others skilled at finding
food, enhancing the safety and well-being of both.
Competition, cooperation, individual and group activity; the four arms
of the fixed cross are inextricably interwoven in biological processes.
Every one of them, and every combination of them, can be found in all
the events that make up the internal functioning of the planetary being.
These four urges are equally active and intermixed in the human kingdom
as in any of the others. On the lowest level, humanity competes with and
cooperates with species of the other kingdoms, with an effect far beyond
what is normally accomplished by such interactions. Species we cooperate
with (such as grain producing plants, meat animals, and pets) find the
competition of other species in their kingdom effectively nullified, and
flourish as a result. Those we compete with, deliberately or incidentally,
find their numbers significantly reduced, or disappear all together.
The internal interactions of the human kingdom show the effects of these
four urges with even greater intensity. Every interaction, at every level
from the individual through the social and political to the global, is
in some way an attempt to find a balance between them for a particular
set of participants and circumstances. The two horizon signs are so potent
in human affairs that some occult sources have defined the kingdom's essential
purpose in terms of their activity, calling it the kingdom of "Harmony
Overlaying and permeating the basic interactions of humans in the biosphere,
the more important expression of cooperation and competition, of Harmony
through Conflict, takes place on subjective levels. In the subjective
or magickal aspect of the universe, the task of humanity is to create
links between the divine and the material poles of existence, harmonizing
these apparent opposites and causing the material world to reflect the
current state of the continuing act of divine creation. For the majority
of humanity, this involves sensing an ideal or idea, interpreting it in
personal terms, and attempting to create an object, process or social
activity in the mundane world that matches their perception.
Where the other kingdoms are composed of physically diverse forms, the
diversity within the human kingdom lies primarily in the realm of the
mind. Along with a versatile body, each individual is given a unique set
of mental predispositions: a number of talents for particular activities,
lack of talent in other areas, with unique ways of putting those talents
together. Equally diverse are the emotions, ideas, perceptual frames,
and self-images that determine where and how the individual members of
the kingdom are motivated to act. These differences ensure that the many
people who sense a particular ideal will each perceive different aspects
of it, and that their individual efforts to manifest what they perceive
will call the energies of the fixed cross into play.
The sensing of an ideal by an individual is predicated on there being
an energetic correspondence between the some part of the ideal and some
part of the individual's nature. Where such a correspondence exists, the
individual is subjectively stimulated and motivated to express what they
sense. At the same time, the stimulation produces a resonance or harmonic
vibration which, through the medium of the astral and intellectual planes,
brings the person into contact with others having similar perceptions.
Where there is sufficient similarity between two or more individual's
sense of the ideal, they tend to gather and come into closer communication
with each other, as in the first stage shown in figure 4 above. Coming
together, they begin a process by which the differences underneath the
broad similarity of their perceptions are revealed. If the similarity
is strong enough, they are held together through a period of shifting
relationships and adjusting ideas wherein they arrive at a mode of interaction
that expresses a "purified" form of their sense of the ideal, one that
reconciles or eliminates the differences between them and strengthens
those aspects of the ideal they have in common. This group expression
often takes on a life of its own, separate from those who created it,
and often survives beyond the period of the original group's interaction.
Individuals come and go, and the details change over time, but the general
expression of the ideal remains intact. Thus the four arms of the fixed
cross are shown in action, taking a group of individuals in communication
with each other, and leading them through stages of conflict and harmonization
to the point where a new individuality on a larger scale comes out of
These group expressions come into contact with other groups in the world,
and must in their turn go through the process of conflict and harmonization
on a broader scale. The process becomes more difficult because unlike
the individuals that formed the group originally, the other group entities
do not usually have a common sense of the ideal as a basis for interaction.
At the level at which most humans can sense it, the divine is not a single
ideal but a multitude, many of which are in apparent conflict in one or
another area; various groups will be attempting to express all of these.
Additionally, the most powerful group expressions are an institutionalization
of ideals that are centuries old, outdated and unconnected to the current
state of the divine ideals, but continuing in existence on the power of
their habitual acceptance as part of the human milieu. In a sense they
represent the karma of the human kingdom, the consequences of past choices
that must be dealt with in determining the future path.
Every group entity produced by the human kingdom must compete and learn
to harmonize its goals with all these other groups, as well as the many
divine ideals that never become manifested organizationally, but exist
only as ideas passed between individuals within the network of society.
Since new groups continually form as outdated groups pass away or change
their nature, the result:particularly in a era of intense communication
like the present:is a continual ferment.
These higher-level interactions quickly pass beyond the grasp of any
individual's perception. The best we can do is pick out general themes
and trends that appear consistently over time. These represent lines of
development on which a degree of harmonization has been achieved. In the
following sections, we will look at a few examples of such themes:not
necessarily representative of all those currently active: which establish
that the "Age of Aquarius" is now in existence.