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Earth Revisited

by Melanie Reinhart

The four elements of Fire, Earth, Air and Water are universal energies described in the philosophical traditions of many diverse cultures. Further, there is usually considered to be a primary energy, known variously as Chi, prana, vital force, orgone, or ether, of which these elements are an emanation, a denser manifestation at a lower voltage, so to speak. The cosmologies of China, Vedic India, Tibet, and Ancient Greece all feature the elements; Medieval Europe imported the ideas of the Greek physician Galen and associated them with the "four humours", or human temperaments that were important in medical practices of the time and frequently referred to in literature. Deities ruling the elements can be found in mythologies which stretch back to the dawn of consciousness, confirming that man can readily perceive these elements as the foundation of his reality.

In astrology too, the elements are important, each sign of the zodiac being associated with an element:
Fire - Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Earth - Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
Air - Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Water - Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces

At the beginning of the year, there was an extraordinary line-up of planets in Capricorn: from January 23rd 1990 until February llth 1990, there were continuously up to seven planets in earth signs, mostly with six in Capricorn. Of the four elements, Earth is the most dense, and perhaps the most misunderstood. However, Planet Earth is the physical home of the human race, and thus intimately connected with our Humanity. The ground we stand on perhaps 'under-stands' us with an intelligence we fail to recognise. This article explores the three Earth signs, which symbolise different relationships with matter and substance. Taurus, whose symbol is the Bull, may be considered as primary earth energy, containing the raw thrust of evolution and desire to create manifest life. The intensity of this drive leads to stubbornness and inertia if thwarted or misdirected. In Taurus, passive identification with matter and substance runs deep; the worship of matter as materialism is one culturally acceptable expression for this sign - hence the Taurean flair for making money!

Taurus is ruled by the planet Venus, bringing the potential for sensual enjoyment, appreciation of beauty and delight in the natural world. The Eye of the Bull is also the Eye of Revelation, and the Taurus/Scorpio Full Moon in May is celebrated as ‘the day of Buddha's enlightenment, his teachings being much concerned with the transmutation of desire into aspiration.

In Virgo, whose symbol is the Virgin creativity is harnessed to productivity and inventiveness. Ruled by the quicksilver god Mercury, Virgo uses matter intelligently in the service of life. Technology is born, skills are developed the hunter-gatherer begins farming, plant are cultivated for food and medicine. Thus Virgo is traditionally associated with the healing arts, particularly herbalism and homoeopathy; ritual alchemy and magic are also the province of Virgo. In the Northern Hemisphere the Sun is in Virgo during harvest time, when the Harvest Moon hangs red and low reflecting symbolically the satisfaction of hard labour having borne fruit. The instinctive understanding of the ebb and flow of organic life lies behind Virgo's creativity, which can both accept fallow times and also rejoice in abundance.

Taurus lives embedded within organic life, so Virgo encompasses it, thus also symbolising the womb of matter, containing the hidden Christ Spirit. To shield, nurture and contain the Divine within, Virgoans show inscrutability and self-containment; the perfectionism and self-critical tendencies reflect the instinctive knowledge of the Perfect Being deep within and struggle to become a vessel for it.

In Capricorn, whose symbol is the mountain goat; we struggle to the peak of material and worldly ambitions compelled to externalise our goals and to create large structures. Organizations institutions, governments and legal systems come into being as life become increasingly complex. At a persona level, we become identified with our separateness and ability to master an» control others and ourselves in the service of achievement. Having worked with and encompassed the earth energy in Virgo, the final conquest of it in Capricorn contains the seeds of our downfall, for there is no higher to climb in a manifest sense. In this part of the Capricorn spectrum, the vital force of the earth has become imprisoned, appropriated by the ego. Struggle, discipline and effort result in crystallization, responsibilities and burdens carried with diligence come to naught but a painful sense of alienation from life. The Scapegoat is another Capricornian figure. When qualities considered undesirable for the coherence of our individual ego, or indeed society at large, are rejected or excluded, they may be projected on to a person, nation or race who is then despised, persecuted or banished as the carrier of evil, like the Scapegoat.

Saturn, the ruling planet of Capricorn, is notorious as a hard taskmaster. However, if we can but recognise and submit to the higher inner authority beyond the personal ego, he may turn towards us the face of ageless wisdom. Mountain peaks are also sought as places of enlightenment, spiritual renewal and apotheosis, but should we stand there proud and arrogant, Saturn may knock us down, demanding we bend our knees (ruled by Capricorn) in prayer and humility. Once the heart is broken open, often through suffering, the white unicorn also associated with Capricorn depicts one-pointed aspiration and dedication to service. When the abyss of isolation is crossed and the illusion of separation dissolved, there follows a commitment to manifest the highest within us. Achievement becomes self-actualisation, and in the words of Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet, "Work is love made visible". Capricorn begins at the Winter Solstice, the darkest night of the year. The earth is frozen, awaiting the mysterious birth of the spirit of compassion, to awaken and reinfuse it with the life to come. Likewise, many Capricornians experience periods of bleakness, alienation and sorrow; the test is one of enduring the disappearance of light, love, hope and meaning without bitterness. Like Job, we may rail at God's apparent injustices, but we must also preserve our basic sense of goodness giving in to the temptation to cast blame.

Given the profundity of these themes, we would expect the recent concentration of planets in Capricorn to have yielded some extraordinary event. And indeed it did, for on February llth Nelson Mandela was released, having spent the last 27 years mostly on Robben Island prison in South Africa. The island itself is rocky and barren, jutting out black in stark isolation from the surrounding blue ocean, which sparkles in the sunlight off the Cape of Good Hope. Thus Robben Island is itself a symbol of estrangement from humanity, the bleakest phase of Capricornian experience. Given the powerful metaphor of release, and the worldwide focus on this event, we may perhaps assume that its symbolic overtones are relevant not only for apartheid in South Africa, but also for humanity at large. Nelson Mandela stands for the oppressed everywhere, within and without, in the tradition of Martin Luther King. So who or what was symbolically released during this concentration of Capricornian energy?

The astrological chart for the time of Mandela's release shows six Capricorn planets mostly in the 7th house, which suggests the phenomenon of collective projection. At an individual level, the 7th house is primarily about relationships: not master and slave, victim and persecutor, but equal partnerships. To truly see someone requires that we release him or her from the images, positive and negative, that we may have projected upon them, images that originate in our own unconscious. This process is usually at work when our emotional reactions to a person, nation, or race is extreme and irrational. Reflecting upon who you idolize, or indeed hate, will reveal something about yourself.

Three powerful planets remain in Capricorn for some time. Saturn moves into Aquarius in February 1991, but Uranus and Neptune stay in Capricorn until January 1996 and December 1998 respectively. As the latter two are outer planets, they signal the breakdown of Saturnian structures. The worldwide political changes are an expression of this at a collective level, but there is also a parallel process taking place on an individual level, involving all of us at varying levels of intensity. Thus the 1990s are a decade bringing the possibility of profound personal transformation, as our inner structures of belief, expectation, ego-ideals, self-concept and accumulated experience are touched by these energies. In practical terms this means many people, especially those whose horoscopes are stimulated directly by these planets, will experience an increased sensitivity to themselves, others and the cosmic force-field we inhabit. Chaos, fear and turmoil may reign for a while as the old breaks down and the new is yet to be formed. It is a little like living with no skin, and having to wait for a new one to grow.

During periods such as these, a creative return to the primary energies and activates of the earth (see Taurus and Virgo above) can be helpful. For while in transition, we may be unable yet to be architects of any grand life-plans, but we can be willing gardeners to the seeds of our new life, still invisible below the earth of our deeper being. In my view, this is to accept and trust the gift of the earth element - the sanctification of daily life, the mystery of Incarnation in its most fundamental sense, the joy of being.

First published in Link Up June/July 1990 Issue 43

All website contents copyright © Melanie Reinhart 1989-2021 [except where alternative attribution is noted]. All rights reserved.

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