Oneness & Spiritual Awakening
This article is excerpted from the book The Astrology of Awakening, Volume 1: Eclipse of the Ego.
The great wisdom traditions tell us we are born from love, though we tend to quickly lose that connection and go on autopilot much of the time. Though the universe has love as part of its essential nature, we become shut off from it. And life can be full of suffering.
We all get physically sick and our bodies sometimes ache. There are abundant opportunities to feel let down by others or be frustrated with ourself. And the world at large—now there’s a circus! We are confronted with all sorts of painful, alarming situations—abuse of all kinds, starvation, poverty, war, corporate depravity. On any given day we might get into a car accident or learn that someone we love has died.
We all get banged up by life, so it’s legitimate and necessary to take care of ourselves. We have developed many coping strategies so we can roll out of bed each morning and face the world. And however useful and understandable, we may overuse and over-identify with these same strategies. The contraction in our defense mechanisms is the major concern of this book. We become cut off from love, from trusting life, from being with all that is. Pain is part of being human, but compounding pain into suffering is completely optional.
A passage in A Course in Miracles states, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”# This book is full of interesting ideas, but at its heart, it is a cosmic love story of epic scope. Perhaps the only One there really is.
The idea and experience of Oneness has played a major role in our collective consciousness. Science tells us that we reside in a unified field of energy called the universe. Every major religion, spiritual path, and wisdom tradition has some version of Oneness as its centerpiece. It is broadly understood that the universe divides (relative), while also remaining interconnected (transpersonal).
There are many terms associated with Oneness: God, Spirit, Allah, Shunyata, Brahman, The One, The Tao, The Self, The Absolute, etc. And many paths support its realization: Advaita Vedanta is a Nondual tradition from India. Sikhism is a religion explicitly promoting the Nondual view. Zen can be thought of as practices to experience the Nondual state. Buddhism has the concept of No-Self (or “anatman” in Sanskrit), which points toward the ephemeral nature of individual identity. Mahayana Buddhism is the branch that most directly discusses the experience of duality and encourages compassion for those caught in this perspective.
Nondual themes are also found in Native American spirituality. Within Christianity, the Gnostic tradition is the most recognized Nondual branch. A Course of Miracles is written from the perspective of Nonduality and is not a part of conventional Christianity, though it’s composed of teachings that are allegedly from Jesus. The Chasidic branch of Judaism is focused on direct mystical and Nondual experience, and the Kaballah is the collection of wisdom teachings that informs its practice.
The Nondual philosophy of Plotinus has had great influence in the Western world. Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling created the first evolutionary Nondual philosophy in the West, while Sri Aurobindo did the same in the East. There is great consensus about Oneness, but because of the spiritual implications, it tends to be downplayed in secular education and obscured by mainstream western religion. We live at a time when this idea is becoming less framed in terms of certain paradigms or perspectives and more universally integrated. Exciting times, indeed!
Spiritual awakening is the transcendence of ego as the pri mary orientation and identification. The process expands towards the direct experience of Oneness. Nowadays, many people are engaging in workshops, contemplative classes, and other spiritually-focused pursuits to facilitate this opening. However, attaining spiritual “credentials” does not necessarily foster awakening. In fact, the ego can easily find a new foothold in a “better, more spiritual” identity.
As we awaken, we begin to bridge separation conscious ness with life beyond it. As mentioned earlier, I hold awakening as an ongoing process, while the term “enlightenment” points to an end point of this process when spiritual awakening becomes fully realized as a pervasive and abiding experience.
In some branches of Buddhism, enlightenment indicates the condition of freedom from suffering and ignorance. The soul is released from the cycles of samsāra, the perpetual series of incarnations. The Japanese used the word “kensho” to describe the state when one realizes Nonduality. In Hinduism, the term “moksha” concerns the freedom from worldly passions. Christian ideas of salvation and transcendence have some similarity to Eastern notions of enlightenment, though there is more emphasis on theology instead of states of consciousness.
In some forms of New Age Christianity, enlightenment may be achieved directly from the “Sacred Rays.” The Jewish Kaballah offers guidance and practices towards enlightenment. The same is found with Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam. It appears that transcendence of ego is universally understood as a part of spiritual development.
There is a story that goes something like this: A young spiritual seeker runs into a master who is carrying a great load on his shoulders. He asks him, "What does it mean to be enlightened?" The master takes the load off his back and puts it on the ground, then broadly smiles from the sense of liberation. The seeker asks, "What happens next?" The master picks up the load, puts it on his shoulders, and walks away.
As this story illustrates, once we become more awake, we still have to attend to life within the everyday world. Astrologically, we can understand this dynamic in terms of the relationship between Saturn and Uranus.
The Saturnian Gate
Saturn is like a wall or gate that creates a boundary between the relative and the transpersonal domains, similar to our skin at the personal level. In order to pass through the gate, Saturn requires us to completely accept reality. We must accept our mortality, everything that has occurred in the past, our personal limitations, unmet needs, our deepest fears and vulnerabilities. Any place where we’re caught in or resisting the personal story will prevent us from moving through the gate.
Resisting reality keeps us in an adversarial relationship with it. A common way reality is resisted is by looking at it negatively, as if we are its victims. “Life isn’t fair!” In astrology, this takes the form of classifying Saturn as a “malefic.” In using this term, we create distance from Saturn and block our ability to see that it actually exists to support our evolution. When we are not in conscious connection with the evolutionary purpose of a planetary energy, it tends to manifest darkly. The unconscious Saturn is preoccupied with control and domination. It set up the PVS as a way to control the uncontrollable—nature itself—which operates by its own rhythms, cycles, and intelligence.
Life does appear random at times, and this can be threatening to the ego. When we move beyond Saturn, we reach the intelligent organization of Uranus. Associated with air, Uranus creates invisible connective pathways analogous to the neural circuitry of our brains. Although we are enveloped within its intricacy, we don’t readily see it. Astrology has served the function of pointing it out to many of us. We can trust the coherency of this connective matrix and know that we are a part of its unfolding. Since we are a strand in the tapestry, we can cooperate with the larger design. Then, we can participate with the necessary spiritual lessons that the universe is bringing us. The challenge is reconciling the ego, whose agenda of self-preservation may subvert this opening to the broader matrix.
As Uranus resides beyond Saturn, we must accept reality in order to access the transpersonal. Saturn also serves as a gate in the other direction—from the transpersonal to the relative world. It grounds evolutionary possibilities into form. Evolution is emergent in the creativity of the eternal present. However, the transpersonal is in relationship with the relative world, so we can see evolution as unfolding in linear time. Imagine evolution ary possibilities as an unending line extending infinitely into the future (Uranus). In order to function in the everyday world (Saturn), we must contract possibilities and deal with matters directly at hand. We implement and refine certain advances and create a workable civilization. This process of “earthing” necessarily shuts out possibilities that are ahead. Saturn is like a vise grip applied to the evolutionary line. It’s sturdy, holds things in place, and makes life functional.
The issue is that application of the Saturn vise can become rigid. When we become comfortable, familiar, and dependent on certain ways of operating, it’s destabilizing to want to move the vise further down the evolutionary line. Certain paradigms or institutions may not want to change, usually because they benefit by maintaining the status quo. If we do not open to further evolutionary possibilities, pressure builds towards some type of cataclysm. Integrating outer planet energies into the status quo is a delicate balance. With too much Saturn, we strangle infinity. Without enough Saturn, we get chaos.
The current Uranus activity, particularly the square with Pluto, indicates the urgency to move the vise grip further down. At this point in history, we have made many impressive advances in our collective evolution, yet we may only be at the beginning of a very long process. Consider that Uranus was discovered about 230 years ago, a small fraction of world history. Hopefully we’ll be on this planet for thousands of years to come, so there will be many opportunities to seize the evolutionary possibilities that lie ahead.
Uranus is often called “The Great Awakener.” It involves the removal of social conditioning in order to awaken into one’s authentic spiritual truth. We can learn to identify as a soul that is having a human experience and see life through the transpersonal lens.
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