This year at Norwac I will be giving a pre-conference workshop called Finding the True Self: Technical and Counseling Skills for Astrologers. This will focus on work emerging from my forthcoming book Therapeutic Astrology which is in the editing process (thanks as ever due to the brilliance of Tony Howard) and scheduled to be published in September to coincide with my Fall trip to the US, when I will visit Boulder and Portland to teach two extended weekend intensives.
I am also giving two 90 minute talks (new longer format) at the NORWAC conference, one on the Uranus opposition and one on Neptune and healing. I hope you can join me there. I will be in Minneapolis the weekend before Norwac teaching on the potential of the birth chart to explore prior life material and the value of that in a vision of deep healing.
I was in Serbia at the Kepler Institute in March teaching a workshop on Pluto as the Soul’s perspective. The workshop was held on Serbia’s National Women’s Day and was attended by a room full of only women! A funny synchronicity occurred when describing the nature of attachment. I used an example of opening the door to a sexy man – when a knock was heard at the door and a lady at the front said, "it is our sexy man." Indeed a very shy young man was delivering a parcel and had no idea why a roomful of women were applauding and laughing as he entered!
Whilst in Serbia I was able to spend some quality time with colleagues Patricia Walsh and Laura Nalbandian. Laura was kind enough to share how good the attendance was for the Finding the True Self workshop; which although personally edifying was more an indication to me of the importance of the interface that needs articulation between a truly evolutionary astrology and transpersonal psychology. More still, that people within the astrology community also yearn to experience a psychologically mature spirituality, infused with the visionary potential of astrology. Astrology that speaks of the evolution of the Soul through multiple lifetimes is enriched immeasurably by a psychotherapeutic approach centred in the healing and transformative capacity of the present moment.
A workshop focused on finding the true self is making the explicit assumption that there is a true self. This is actually more radical than you might think. Certainly within the medical model of neuro-scientific analysis and pharmacological care, the idea that one could have a true self at all, never mind one that could be lost and found, is anathema. It is as if from their perspective this workshop is about finding a unicorn: a nice idea but sure to be a long and fruitless search. Even within psychoanalysis and the early origins of depth psychology, the idea of a true self is something of a chimera – the ghost in the machine that Freud tried to see as a series of interlocking drives and mechanics. I say tried because in his personal courage, his literary ebullience and sheer kindness to his clients (personal time and attention, lending some money, helping them settle in their new locale) he transcended his own quasi-scientific fantasies.
There were original thinkers within the psychoanalytic movement who saw through the obscuring veils toward the beauty of an authentic self. Karen Horney saw it enough to identify the “tyranny of the should” that could keep one from experiencing it. In the U.K. the child psychiatrist Donald Winnicott, whose play therapy with young children kept him in touch with the sparkle of life, wrote profoundly on the subject. His was an oblique strategy, approaching the subject from the side; primarily through a profound analysis of what he called the “False Self.” This term has entered the general discourse of depth psychology in no small part due to his kind heart which allowed him to gain access to the imaginal worlds of hundreds of young children. Richard Rohr in his short but powerful book Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self is able to put into simple but profound language what analysts like Winnicott preferred to dress up in jargon. On the nature of the false self Rohr writes:
“Your False Self is not your bad self, your clever or inherently deceitful self, the self that God does not like or you should not like. Actually your False Self is quite good and necessary as far as it goes. It just does not go far enough and it often poses and thus substitutes for the real thing. That is its only problem… Various false selves (temporary costumes) are necessary to get us all started… If a person keeps growing, his or her various false selves usually die in exposure to greater light.”
By way of contrast here is Winnicott:
“When the mother’s adaptation is not good enough at the start the infant might be expected to die physically, because cathexis of external objects is not initiated. The infant remains isolated. But in practice the infant lives, but lives falsely… the infant gets seduced into compliance, and a compliant False Self reacts to environmental demands and the infant seems to except them. Through this False Self the infant builds up a false set of relationships, and by means of introjections even attains a show of being real, so that the child may grow up to be just like mother…”
Both analyses are extremely valid, if not crucial. Winnicott’s decades of observation of infant behavior centered on the nature of what he called the holding environment – this initially is the mother and then extends to both parents and the early home environment. To the extent that the holding environment fails the child, then the young being is left creatively trying to bridge the gap. For there are terrible anxieties as a child when there is a failure of parental care: this may literally cost one one’s life, before it has really got going. When the environment fails profoundly, the child develops the False Self as a survival strategy. Even within a relatively loving home there will be lapses in care. And we can all identify with the core idea of faking it at times to stay in rapport with someone, to not be left out in the cold.
The genius of Winnicott is that by way of a kind of negative theology he presupposes a True Self by analyzing the formation of a False Self. As such, he began an implicit relationship with the potential diamond within: the pearl of great price, one’s own innermost essence.
Over the last year I have been absorbing the work of A H Almaas (the pen name of Hameed Ali, the founder of the Ridhwan school) which integrates the analytical methods of depth psychology and places it alongside the Sufi mystical tradition and his own experience of connection with essence. Core to the work of Almaas is that essence has substance: one’s own inner nature has a subtle but physically real form. So it is not a metaphor to ask, what color is your Soul? This is a literal question. Essence has color, shape, smell... When we realize that our innermost personal essence has substance, subtle form, then we can begin to orientate to its inherent beingness and as we do so find our own being transformed.
What began as an absence within the medical and analytical models, that is partially re-discovered by Jung as an image or an archetype becomes now a living super-sensible reality. In a way, Jung’s work is a bridge for astrology. The image of your Self is not your actual Self; just as a depth analysis of your birth chart is no substitute for your being – although it can be profoundly useful.
I have increasingly begun to see the role of Uranus as symbolizing the subtle mind, the deep memory in which the significant events of the past are imprinted. Then Pluto is the emotional identification with those events which we transform into the psychological significance of what has occurred. Pluto is the heart-memory of our Soul’s story, Uranus the mind-memory that holds the events in a field around us. In contemplating the birth chart in this way one can begin to access profound layers of meaning within an individual’s life.
Having said that, however profound one’s understanding of astrology or the natal chart, it cannot come close to the experience in the moment of the pristine clarity of one’s essence: the luminous centre of one’s being. Before that truth, all conceptual forms, all insights from the natal chart, no matter how seemingly profound, must be surrendered. I salute that diamond in all of you.
God Bless, Mark
Upcoming Teaching Dates
May 17-18, 2013
May 23-26, 2013
Mark will present a pre-conference workshop and lectures.
I've received enthusiastic feedback about the post-conference workshop The Silver Path of the Moon, in which I adapt my core method of Pluto and the Nodes of the Moon to become the Moon and its nodes. I did this to show evolution from the personal, felt level of the individual having a reading (the Moon) rather than the more unconscious orientation of the Pluto placement. This workshop ends with a powerful synchronicity when a chart example on the board echoed the experience of one of the participants. In both men's lives, a near-death experience around age 12 was prominent. And if that was not enough, because he was 12 years older than the man whose chart was on the board, he had experienced his near death experience almost to the day that the man in the chart example was born! Both men’s experiences had radically transformed their lives. We ended the workshop there; with a short prayer. On Sale for $35 through May 31. Buy Now