Astrology, psychology, alchemy, hatha yoga. What do all these have in common?
The path to enlightenment is paved with ambiguity. Even if we know what “enlightenment” is, do most of us really know how to get there? Sure, we’re told meditation, yoga and self-inquiry will do the trick, but why?
Do you know why you’re meditating? Why you’re breathing like that or paying attention to ego?
I want to make a suggestion. Just for a minute, let’s lose those confusing terms that no one really understands anyway and get back to basics. If you’re on a path of self-improvement, enlightenment, or whatever you want to call it, you might find it easier to focus on just one concept, or rather, two: the sun and the moon.
The Sun and the Moon
Since symbolism is based on real life stuff, first of all, let’s take a look at what the Sun and the Moon actually do.
The Sun is a giant ball of fiery gas that lights up the sky and provides us with heat. The Moon is a slightly smaller, but still pretty giant, piece of rock that manipulates Earth’s water using gravitational fields.
Both of these giant objects have predictable cycles that we can follow to measure time, plan the harvest of crops and understand the fertility and gestation periods of people and animals.
Thus, these giant objects are pretty important to us and have been the subject of our fascination and worship for thousands of years. The most obvious of these systems of fascination and worship is, of course, astrology.
Astrology of Sun and Moon
You may well have heard of astrology before, if you haven’t, where have you been for the last few millennia?
Astrology takes into account the placement of the planets at the time of birth and uses this information to describe our inner world. It is also used to predict certain events based on the transits of those planets.
In astrological systems, the Sun and Moon are the most important aspects of a chart, just as they are the most influential aspects of our natural world. They represent the two main drives we have as humans: masculine and feminine/light and dark/active and passive. Astrology gives us a clue as to how these opposite energies play out in our lives.
The Sun is our inner masculine, it represents our conscious, ego, or personality if you prefer – what we find important and what helps us thrive, no doubt because the Sun itself gives us light and therefore life. We cannot thrive without it.
The sign, house and aspects of the Sun in our birth chart show how we act in the world according to that ego and how it keeps us feeling worthy and fulfilled. Because of this, the Sun in a natal chart is a good indicator of a person’s father archetype – it can show the qualities of their real father or the father-like qualities they have within themselves.
The Moon is our inner feminine or mother, it represents our needs, the subconscious and the world of emotion – just like the tides of the ocean, it can be changeable, but in general, the sign, house and aspects indicate what our particular needs are and how our emotions guide us to ensure they are fulfilled.
Just like the Sun is the Father, in astrology, the Moon can represent a mother archetype – not always necessarily our real mother, but also the way we mother ourselves internally.
So, that’s all great but what does it do for us except provide us with information about ourselves that we already know (I know you know what I’m talking about horoscope-readers)? Well, my personal style of astrology is not so much about describing or predicting as it is guiding. By this, I mean that I believe a birth chart is a map to enlightenment.
At this stage, you’re probably thinking – “didn’t she say she wasn’t keen on the word enlightenment?” and you’d be right, but for lack of a better word, we’ll go with this one to describe that highest goal of becoming liberated from attachment and suffering, learning all the life lessons you came here to learn, throwing off the bonds of karma and becoming one with source – a bit of a mouthful to keep repeating, so for now, “enlightenment” will do.
You see, the astrological birth chart contains extremely sensitive info about what your gifts and pains are, what struggles you’ll encounter and what your mission in this life is, as well as (if you believe it) what baggage you carry from past lives.
All this info is there to help you on your path to “enlightenment” – what to overcome and avoid, what to seek out and what to embrace. In particular, the Sun and the Moon, representing the conscious and unconscious mind, are keys to our liberation – we have to work out how to “balance” them, and for this, I’ll need to delve into some psychology.
Psychology and alchemy
If you’ve ever read my writing before, you’ll know that I’m always banging on about that famous swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, who (along with Freud) developed the theory of the unconscious, or subconscious as he called it.
Before Jung came along, it was assumed that crazy people were just crazy and that’s all there is to it – “lock em up and throw away the key”, but Jung (and Freud) theorised that there was something more going on behind the scenes.
If, like in meditation, we “watch” our thoughts, there must be one doing the thinking and one doing the watching. Jung knew that there was conscious thinking, he called this the ego, and unconscious thinking.
During his long career, he studied many esoteric scriptures, mystical techniques and ancient spiritual concepts, in particular, focussing on anything to do with what was known as “alchemy”.
To the uninitiated, alchemy makes one think of mad scientists in basements trying to make gold out of lead, but this is a common misconception.
Actually, as Carl Jung realised, the alchemist was trying to bring about union of the conscious and unconscious – achieve “enlightenment” if you will. Working with the principle “as above so below, as within so without” the alchemists combined various chemicals to trigger the same process in their minds. The chemistry was a symbol. What was really going on was psychology.
The process, now known as psychotherapy, was one of deconditioning – taking all the rubbish we’ve grown to believe, think and be, and letting it go, so we can “return to source” or become pure.
This includes: working out why we fear or dislike certain situations, why we don’t believe in ourselves, understanding pains from our past and how our childhood shaped the way we are now, becoming aware of our own motivations – why we say and do certain things and what is preventing us from becoming more than what we are now.
Carl Jung called this the process of “individuation” and I could go on and on about all the amazing work he did on this topic, but for now, just know that “individuation” is basically “enlightenment” in psychology terms, “alchemy” is basically “psychotherapy” in a mystical disguise and in order to practice any of this, we need to balance our conscious and unconscious, orrrrrrr, Sun and Moon.
Which leads to the next part:
Hatha yoga is all about the union of the Sun and the Moon, so basically what we’ve been talking about for the last few hundred words.
This ancient spiritual science works on the principle that, in order to reach “enlightenment” (or “salvation”, “liberation”, “eternal peace” etc etc etc), we have to first trigger an awakening of divine energy known as “shakti”, “kundalini” or the feminine force that animates the universe and gives life.
This shakti force lays dormant in the base of the spinal column, coiled up like a snake, and when triggered it shoots up the spine, piercing and activating each chakra on the way up to the crown, where it joins shiva and achieves “union” (there’s that word again). This is what is known as a kundalini awakening.
Hatha Yoga is a set of practices designed to awaken kundalini, but where does the Sun and Moon part come in?
Well, the kundalini can travel up one of three spinal columns. The correct way is up Sushumna, the middle column. But on either side you have Ida and Pingala. Ida is the Moon and Pingala is the Sun. If the kundalini travels up either one of those, you’ll have a bad time, ala Gopi Krishna. The trick is to get it up the middle – hence “balancing the Sun and Moon”.
To do this in everyday life, we practice asanas and pranayama and meditate on our inner world. These three things balance body, mind and soul – each part with its own Sun and Moon aspects.
Another vital part of all this includes reducing our ego (Sun) so that it is balanced with the unconscious (Moon) in order to reveal our “true self” (the you that remains after all the conditioning is stripped away – just like in astrology and Carl Jung’s psychotherapy process).
We can also pay attention to balancing Sun and Moon energies. For example, we can eat cool things (Moon energy) like cucumber in the middle of the day to balance the high Sun energy, but not at night when the Moon energy is already strong. Instead we drink hot tea.
If we take a hot bath in the middle of the day, or when we’re angry or on holiday when it’s 30 degrees out, we’ll get too much Sun energy, so instead we take a cold shower and sip cold drinks. This is also balancing your Sun and Moon energy!
Hatha Yoga isn’t just asanas, it’s a whole way of living complete with internal and external practices, all designed to activate kundalini, which could also be referred to as enlightenment, individuation, union etc etc etc.
So, it seems that many different traditions have this symbolism of balancing Sun and Moon energy to reach “enlightenment” (still, whatever that may look like) and that we can actually have some influence over the process – hooray!
Which means that, instead of using this fancy terminology of unions and enlightenments and all that fluffy stuff that just goes in one ear and out the other, we can just focus our attention on the two biggest and most powerful objects in our entire world – way easier right?
Love & truth,