Urania's Well: Astrology for Changing Times

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Randi's Prize and Neptune's Gifts


A book I’m reading got me thinking recently about some of the deeper issues of the current, ongoing Mercury-Neptune square, as Mercury has been retrograding over the degrees of the aspect, dragging out what is usually a very short encounter.  The square aspect generally presents as what a friend of mine called A FOG — Another Freakin’ Opportunity for Growth. (It’s never easy, might be painful.) Both arms of the square have ideas and approaches to problems that must be brought together into a workable synthesis, ‘cause nobody’s backing out of this fight.

Right now, both planets are extremely strong in the signs they rule, Gemini and Pisces, so the clash of ideas and ideologies is profound — and so are the opportunities for synthesis and alignment of Mind and Spirit. I want to tell you a bit about the book and my thoughts on it, then give you a short ritual to help attune to and balance these planetary energies.

Randi's Prize

The book is titled “Randi’s Prize: What sceptics say about the paranormal, why they are wrong, & why it matters” by Robert McLuhan. The author — possessor of an inquisitive, orderly, and Oxford-educated mind — recounts his own journey of questioning the so-called “paranormal”. He approached the topic by first reading the skeptics, then going back to the source material, reading the actual records and data behind whatever reports the skeptics were debunking. Despite his own natural skepticism, he found all-too-frequently that the skeptic’s arguments were based on mis-interpretations, mis-attributions and often, clearly falsified data and seemingly deliberate mis-statements or even a complete lack of research on the topic. As an example, when he looked into Randi’s claim (James Randi, stage magician and uber-skeptic, is the Randi of the title) that Targ and Putoff’s experiments with Uri Geller were faked, that the cameraman had actually come out and said they were faked. McLuhan discovered, to the contrary, that the cameraman had said nothing of the sort.  In fact, Targ and Putoff had a signed affidavit from him, as well as his verbal statement that he shot all the video and that Randi’s claim was totally fabricated. 

But McLuhan doesn’t stop with scrutinizing how the skeptics approached and handled the evidence. He also looks closely at the psychological reasons behind skepticism, and questions whether or not the sceptics (he uses the British spelling) were being as rational and un-influenced by emotion or prejudice as they professed. Skeptics are quick to point the finger at those claiming to have had paranormal experiences or shown psi or paranormal influence in experiments, and say that they are delusional or fraudulent. If these people aren’t totally fabricating their claims, skeptics say, they are clearly fooling themselves in order to fulfill repressed emotional needs. McLuhan turns the psychological inquiry right back on them and suggests that their own fears of having their ideas of how the world works shredded are affecting their ability to treat the subject with reason and fairness. And McLuhan sympathizes with those fears, because he shares some of them. What if someone could read your mind, he asks; what if someone could mess with your brakes just by thinking about it? McLuhan points out that many people are so disturbed by these ideas that they reject them out of fear, only attempting to clothe their rejection in logic after the fact.

But clothing is getting harder and harder to find as evidence accumulates that, for instance, telepathy does exist, consciousness survives death, and can directly affect physical reality. The accumulation of evidence is Mercury’s realm — information, communication, science. Mercury rules the rational, reasoning mind, and this mind is a wonderful thing — but Neptune is here to remind us that there is a vast conscious reality beyond anything our rational mind can encompass.  Neptune shows us the larger reality into which our rationality is expanding, and that reality is the ever-shifting world of consciousness.

Neptune's Gifts

If consciousness exists independently of physical manifestation, maybe even independently of time and space,  if reincarnation is "a thing” — and the accumulating evidence for this is hard to ignore — then some of the fundamental ideas of science will need to be discarded or drastically revised. It is, indeed, scary stuff. Mercury is wandering into Neptune’s realm, and Neptune’s vast, amorphous, inclusive reality can be utterly destructive of a need to control or understand one’s environment. We need all the courage we can find to confront these questions with the objectivity required to follow where they lead.

But there is more than one way of handling Neptune’s energies, ways that do not involve the insanity that follows Mercury’s loss to Neptune, or Neptune’s loss to Mercury. Insanity can come from too strong an identification with the inchoate, the infinite, from the loss of Mercury’s rational boundaries that allow us to function within time and space, but insanity can also result from denial of the Consciousness that is the ground of our being, and which is the Source of every atom and particle within Time and Space.

Neptune and Mercury are both coming to the table right now at the height of their strength and vision, and we have a marvelous opportunity to work on aligning mind with soul and spirit. Neptune’s gift is to remind us that we are all connected in a way that is inescapable and unforgettable, because it bestows direct experience of spiritual realities. It is these ongoing experiences that drive people to find out more about the “paranormal”, to go into ritual, to practice meditation or shamanic journey. Neptune’s domain is the vast domain of Consciousness, not only what is known as “undifferentiated consciousness” but any consciousness that exists outside of the container of Time and Space. The gods, the divines — at least the ones we are generally aware of — exist within in a larger conscious awareness than ours while still being able to interact with us in our physical lives. We are here to experience the exquisite focus of existence within Saturn’s temporal and spatial framework, but we, too, visit the larger realms of consciousness where the gods live.

Too much time spent in Neptune’s realm can — as we all know and often fear — lead to problems in our physical lives ranging from general spaciness to outright mental illness and disconnection from reality. But if you fear being led down Neptune’s foggy path  to insanity — have you looked around lately? Insanity is pandemic in our war-torn culture, as we mindlessly destroy the web of life that sustains us and kill and brutalize each other on a daily basis. This kind of heartless, sadistic insanity comes from too *little* connection to Neptune’s gifts, from an insistence on a purely materialistic perspective, a deliberate avoidance and shutting down of the parts of our mind that allow us to plug into the love and creativity that is the Source of our existence. 

As Pagans, Witches and Heathens, we tend to rely more on direct experience in our spiritual lives, and seek out spiritual experiences. (Gus diZerega explores that tendency in this article on the lack of a perceived need for theology in Pagan religions.) Yes, some of us do go off the deep end into delusion, but most of us tend to function fairly well in this crazy world and support and care for each other, and I think that one of the reasons for that is because we deny neither Mercury nor Neptune — we work to balance reason with spirit, and understand that one does not negate the other. We also do not assume that the realm of spirit is beyond reason — only beyond our *ability* to reason, as the calculus would be beyond the reasoning abilities of a Neanderthal. Our ability to reason is ever-expanding — and refusal to explore where our “paranormal” experiences take us cripples and stunts our minds.  Too little respect for and acknowledgement of Neptune’s gifts is deeply damaging to us all.

A Ritual for Mind and Spirit

So what can we do to balance Mind and Spirit in this time of a Mercury-Neptune square? We can do magic, of course, magic that will help us balance reason and logic with intuition and larger awareness. Here’s one way to do that:

  • Pick one small object (a stone would be good — anything you can carry with you) for Mercury and one for Neptune. You might also want to do a bit of preliminary research on the two planets. A good place to start is here and here
  • Put the objects on your altar, then do whatever you do to get into a magic-making space.
  • Pick up the Mercury stone. Spend some time meditating on Mercury and the realm of the mind. Consider the human ability to reason, and how it has lead to great discoveries from the wheel to the computer. Think of Mercury’s rulership of communication, and how it can help — or harm — our relationships. Think of it, too, as the Trickster, and how one mind can fool another, or even trick itself (“where *did* I put my keys?”). Think about your own mind, your own approach towards rationality and communication. If you know where Mercury lives in your own chart, meditate on how Mercury expresses itself through that sign and house, in both positive and negative aspects. 
  • Then meditate on how you want to express Mercury’s gifts in your life. You might want to journal about  this first, then charge the stone or object you have chosen with these ideas and concepts.
  • Put Mercury’s object aside, pick up Neptune’s and repeat the process, considering your connection with Spirit, the peak experiences you have had in your life, the sense of divine love that renews and inspires, the intuition that leads you to the correct answer for a question. Also consider how you have been deluded in your life, where you don’t always see things clearly, and what fears might underlie your escapes, whether they are into fantasy or drugs or alcohol, or even over-work.  Again, if you know your own natal chart, look at Neptune’s sign and house and consider those meanings.
  • Meditate on how you want to express Spirit in your life, how you relate to the numinous, and how you want to invite Neptune’s gifts in your life. Journal, charge the stone.
  • Once you have dismissed or dissolved your working space (do you do that with Mercury, Neptune, or both? ) put the objects somewhere you can keep them with you — purse, pocket, a pouch around your neck, whatever works for you. When you find yourself needing to make a decision, pull them out and let both rationality and intuition guide the process. Spend some time meditating with them daily for a time to help you balance rationality and intuition in your life.

And if you’d like to know a little more about astrology so you can work with your personal chart, I’ll be offering a class later this summer called Chart and Soul: Astrology for Yourself.  If you want to know when I’ve scheduled it, please join my mailing list, and like my Facebook page (click the little drop-down arrow on the Like button and choose “Get Notifications” if you don’t want to miss anything). I’ll be offering the course at a substantial discount for this first round.

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Diotima Mantineia began studying astrology in 1968, taking classes from Zoltan Mason in New York City. For the next 22 years, she practiced astrology only for herself and her friends, continuing her studies while watching an increasingly humanistic, psychologically oriented, modern astrology blossom through the work of leading astrologers such as Noel Tyl, Liz Greene, Rob Hand, Marion March, Stephen Arroyo and Howard Sasportas. In 1986, Diotima began her study of Wicca and started reading Tarot, discovering that she is a gifted intuitive. In 1991, she began practicing both astrology and Tarot professionally. She majored in plant and soil science both in college and grad school, and grows much of her own food and "materia magica" on her land in the mountains of western North Carolina. Diotima’s personal spiritual path is rooted in the Western mystery traditions, the principles of Yoga, and a profound connection with the natural world. Wicca gives structure to her spiritual journey, and she utilizes shamanic practices for healing and to live in harmony with Nature. Over 15 years of studying Chinese martial arts has given her a deep appreciation of Taoist thought which has strongly influenced her magical and personal philosophy. You can find her at www.uraniaswell.com


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