With the full moon in Sagittarius this Sunday we have an opportunity to resonate its alchemical power, and plumb the depths of the psyche in search of transpersonal gold.
The constellation Sagittarius shows us an image of a Centaur, half horse, half man with an arrow knocked and drawn toward the galactic center of the Milky Way.
One way to think of the galactic center is as the spiritual heart of our local universe. It has within it a super massive black hole that is the central axis around which our galaxy turns. Physically, it is the rotational axis of our galaxy while symbolically it is the foundational support and the motive force of our highest spiritual aspirations on the path of return. Sagittarius’ arrow points to the center of it all, representing an alignment with the trajectory of evolution or telos of the universe.
This sign reminds us to get to the heart of the matter and to align with its center. Yet such a task is a heroic deed, requiring of us our skillful engagement in the alchemical union of opposites. As the most idealistic sign of the zodiac, Sagittarians have an optimism that is as transcendent as it is practical. This is because philosophically speaking, this zodiacal archetype is in tune with the function of evolution itself. Within its fiery intelligence is a light that illuminates the alpha and the omega, the origin and result of all the activities of the life power, the end and perfection of the one goal of creation. It holds the memory of the benevolence of cosmic law, and the primordial wholeness that pre-existed the big bang, the fall from grace and the exile from Eden. This aspect of consciousness recognizes that the end and the beginning are connected through the complete rotation of the cycle of time.
Sagittarius reminds us that the redemption and the restoration of our primordial wholeness is certain. This fact is the source of the greatest optimism that can be experienced. Yet, this insight comes also with the powerful recognition of the primordial wound, resulting from the gulf between Heaven and Earth. Our separation from Source is the kosmic condition for which the medicine of redemption and reunion becomes necessary. This kosmic duality then, is represented in many ways in the zodiacal mythology of Sagittarius. The Myth of Sagittarius suggests that Heaven and Earth, animal and human, medicine and the poison, the ego and the Self, the alpha and the omega are in fact polar manifestations of one single thing, and through the alchemy of their unification we can build a bridge that heals even the deepest of divisions.
The Myth of Chiron, the centaur
Chiron is a wise teacher and healer of the Gods, renowned for his knowledge and skill in the mystical healing arts. Having been raised by Apollo, the God of the Sun, music, prophesy and healing, Chiron is a master healer, oracle and sage. One day Chiron is training Hercules to apply poison to his arrows. Since Chiron is a master of both medicines and poisons, he helps Hercules prepare for a battle with a beast that would otherwise be impossible to defeat. During the lesson Chiron accidentally fumbles the arrow and pricks himself in the thigh, poisoning himself. But Chiron is immortal and can not die so the poison only causes him a great deal of pain, all but incapacitating him. All his attempts at healing himself fail and in agony he resigns his position as master healer.
Meanwhile Prometheus had been enduring his own terrible fate. Prometheus, you might recall, is the Titan hero and trickster who fashioned humans out of clay, giving them life. He loved humanity and wished to protect and to serve us, aiding us in our journey of evolution. Seeing that humanity was entirely ruled by fate, Prometheus sought to empower us to control our own destiny and liberate us from the rule of the Gods. He stole fire from the Gods providing humanity with the ability to light up the world, develop culture and ultimately learn to build weaponry and all manner of technology.
But Zeus was angered by Prometheus stealing fire to give to man because fire decreased humanity’s dependence on the Gods. Fire freed us to build civilization and control our own destiny. To punish Prometheus, Zeus chained him to a rock and sent his eagle to eat out his liver. Like Chiron, Prometheus is immortal, so everyday his liver would grow back. Because he could not die, he lived in daily torment. In one version of the story Chiron, suffering his own agony, learns of Prometheus’s imprisonment and decides to intervene. Since Chiron and Prometheus both love humanity and wish to serve us, Chiron feels a special kinship with him. Knowing that there would be no cure for his own wound, he sought to make his own torment useful to humanity. Chiron went up to Mount Olympus to plead with Zeus to let him take Prometheus’ place on the rock. Zeus agreed and freed Prometheus. At least now Prometheus would be free to serve humanity while Chiron, already incapacitated could serve a useful purpose. Eventually, Chiron became the constellation of Sagittarius.
Unpacking the Myth
A centaur, is a combination of a horse and a man. In Greek mythology, Centaurs are usually described as being wild, brutish creatures without the refinements of human culture and education. But Chiron is just the opposite. This duality operating as a unity gives us a clue that suggests that the combination of our animal consciousness and our human consciousness makes for a profound type of integration. When our instinctive natures are joined with our higher reasoning capabilities, we are embodying an exalted wholeness. With our instinctive drives being led by our higher intelligence, the intrinsic duality between the higher self and the lower self come into a synthesis expression that elevates both, bringing them to a level of ascendancy that is truly alchemical.
With the power to heal also comes a great capacity for pain. Like the duality between the higher-self and the lower-self, there is a duality between liberation and limitation that Sagittarius mediates. Chiron is perhaps the best example of this since in his great wisdom to heal others he is struck with a wound that he is unable to heal in himself.
Known as the wounded healer, Chiron’s story points out that the core central wound in the soul of humanity, is at once the poison that underlies all our pain, and the power to make the ultimate sacrifice of universal love.
Fire is the engine of technology, and the single most powerful tool humans can possess. All forms of technology are a kind of fire by extension, including the spiritual technology of alchemy which provides us with the capacity for the transformation of the soul by means of integrating and transcending the contradictory parts of our dual nature.
Sagittarius, being a fire sign represents that technological capability of human consciousness which is able to innovate, plan for the future and combine things of seemingly unrelated or even opposite natures to make something altogether new. We could say the Promethean faculty, a word meaning “forethought” is the alchemical inventor within consciousness. It is the light of consciousness that can anticipate outcomes and even design them. It is a capacity that distinguishes us from animals making us distinctly human. And, it is this capacity for forethought that allows us to sense into the relatedness between the alpha and the omega, providing us with the means to prophetically see into the nature of nature, thereby recognizing and utilizing its laws, both spiritual and material.
Healing The Personal and Transpersonal Wound
A core duality underscores what is described in non-dual metaphysics as the fundamental split in consciousness. Our individuated existence, resulting from our separation from Source, provides us with our person-hood, our sense of being a separate self, unique autonomous individuals. This divine sacred gift, which gives us life, beingness and the sense of “I”, also has a wound within it. There is a karma here, an echo from the fall or the exile from Eden which is to be worked out and transmuted into our dharma and the divine gift we can give to humanity – if we can only perform the alchemical union of opposites that allows us to finally receive our own medicine.
One part of our nature is in separation – separating out this and that, dividing off parts from the whole, eating from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil daily. Yet another aspect of our consciousness is joining the many separate things back together again, seeing sameness, communing with love, and seeking to yoke ourselves to the divine once again. These two opposite and contradictory parts of our nature are at odds with one another. There is a downward activity, a descending current and an upward ascending current at the foundation of the psyche. This duality, like the centripetal and centrifugal forces generated by the rotation of the galactic center, presents us with our great healing need and our sacred gift, at both the personal and transpersonal levels of our consciousness.
On a personal level this duality generates the compensatory response. Wherever our particular wound is, we may become adept at the skills that draw it into balance and overcome its limitations. This Chironic feature of consciousness – which is ironic in its own right – makes us experts at providing for others the very thing we are unable to accept for ourselves.
So how do we perform the alchemical transmutation that allows us to receive the medicine that will cure our own wound? How do we transcend the limitations of our dualistic nature and become healed healers?
“Physician heal thy self” Luke 4:23
The Chiron myth, and the esoteric essence of Sagittarius gives us a powerful suggestion. Like Chiron who gave himself to suffer in the place of Prometheus, we must give ourselves to the wound and really FEEL it completely. When we willingly surrender to the full impact of our pain, we ultimately find that our way beyond it is through it. The way out is in. On the one hand we are divine sacred beings at one with our Source and all life – complete and whole, unborn and undying, on the other hand we are eternally wounded, divided at the foundation of our inner most being. Transcendence then is not simply a rising above, up and out of our human frailty and personal pain, it is actually our going in where the alchemy is performed.
When we reach into our deepest depths, facing the shadow and the pain at the center of the wound our most powerful gift is realized. When we reach in to the center of our wound we find the alchemical gold that is the true healing power of our lives. It is this heroic act that transmutes the poison of our pain into the medicine that we bring back to humanity.