This series of articles, which will run into the summer, aims to examine ideas that enable astrology to serve as an aide to spiritual development. If we are to engage with this opportunity, we will need to have suitable expectations, acquire the habit of self-honesty, and have a willingness to call things by their proper names.
I was an astrologer before I became a serious spiritual seeker. I had approached astrology with an intellectual’s curiosity to find out ‘how it worked’, and the unhappy person’s hope that it would help me sort out my life.
Perhaps that motivation qualifies my early involvement in astrology to be called a spiritual search; but the point that I would make is that I was aware of the personality as an arrangement in time and space, as something which is born with us and which dies with us, before I was drawn towards Sixth Ray spirituality, where, the talk is all of the Soul, and where, so often, the personality is dressed up in a saintly garb and conveniently forgotten.
For most of us who grew up in the previous century, spirituality meant its Sixth Ray expression: devotional Eastern traditions, teachers, robes, and exotic locations, which would take us away from all that was familiar and commonplace, including ourselves.
The ideas of Gurdjieff (Seventh Ray), which aim to ‘bring man to conscience’, and which address and challenge the personality, in what is frequently a very percussive way, were attractive to me as a young person; but liability meeting with a Christian sense of sin, can turn life into something oppressive, grim and punitive. Forty years after Gurdjieff’s death, Fourth Ray teaching had become all those things. With Gurdjieff’s charisma gone, the Seventh Ray magic was gone as well, and it was Saturn, which endured. Or was it simply that time had moved on and left the system in another era?
I spent years on the sidelines of organised spirituality, looking in, seeing flashes of beauty occasioned by Sixth Ray beliefs and its big, mystical talk, but aware mostly of the confusion and dysfunctionality that these teachings bring to Western personalities whose spiritual experiences are a series of emotional highs followed by crashing lows, as unwelcome, everyday reality intrudes once more. As for the teachers! If they had dared look at themselves honestly, they could not have continued, surely…
The higher climbs the monkey, the more you see his bum! intoned an Iranian friend of that time.
Gurdjieff called astrologers charlatans. That I could deal with, because I worked too hard and made too little money to be a charlatan.
Publicly, the Sixth Ray teachers said that astrology, like the personality, was a limitation that we must go beyond. Indeed, they often ranted about it in my hearing. The fact was that they were stuck in an idea of astrology that was based on the Hindu model. They did not want to know about different approaches because they wanted to stay on familiar ground, except when they consulted me, in private, of course, to talk about the chaos in their personality lives. Then they liked what I had to say, but did not want to let their pupils in on the secret.
I found myself talking astrology in dark corners, mostly with Germans, Swiss and Dutch, as I had once sat with the other furtive cigarette smokers behind the music rooms at school. I had expected to follow my teacher to the ends of the Earth. Yet here I was: still defying authority, an experience, which did not even have the element of novelty.
The situation was a mess, and it caused me much spiritual anguish over a considerable period of time. Master DK let me sweat it out. I was no use to him until I had quietened my mental body.
And I did sweat it out. My personality might have its seriously unlovely aspects, but it was the reality through which I saw the world; and even if it was only a part of me it was still the dominating part. It was neither desirable nor safe to ignore that. If I was to move on, my personality had to come on with me. And if we were honest about and accepting of our personality nonsense, then, surely, we would not have to make such a big deal out of it and be at such pains to divorce ourselves from our reality. After all, was this not the human condition? I could see no point in making an emotional drama out of it, but it seemed that spirituality made this de rigueur, in case without it, we would not try to live better. Was not escaping daily suffering incentive enough? We all have enough of it; and I did not doubt that astrology could help us find a way through. I had heard or seen nothing that had persuaded me otherwise.
The matter resolved itself. I stepped back from organised spirituality, and Master DK stepped forward.
I have a different perspective on that troubled decade now, because I have a different understanding of the function of the Sixth Ray and the role of its teachers, and am less caught up in perceptions of wrong and right.
Even so, I still stand by that youthful assessment. To me, the question always was how to make our personalities work for us spiritually. It is my question still. And, yes, I still consider that if we accept the unhelpful aspects of our personality as our share of the human condition, then we turn a quest for betterment into an option, not an obligation, and lift the energy around spirituality, which is so often toxic with negative emotion: guilt, self-deception, self–righteousness, judgement, self- importance, and complacency.
Spirituality is something we embrace for ourselves, as members of the human family, in order to get more out of our opportunity in incarnation. God and nature require us only to be, and to fulfil our function in the Solar System. God is the Life of that System, and we are a part of Him that He would miss if we were not there, as we ourselves would miss one of our own vital organs, but He does not care whether, by our own standards, we are good, bad or anything in between. He cares that we uphold Life, and in this He gives us more freedom than we give ourselves.