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Town Meeting- September 28, 2020

Updated: October 1, 2020

Dear BACWTT Students, Alumni, Friends and Colleagues,

Here is the verse from the Calendar of the Soul for this week:

Verse 26
Nature, Your soul of motherhood
I bear within the being of my will
And this will’s fiery might
Steels my Spirit’s impulses
That self-awareness they beget,
To bear myself in me.

This is the Michaelmas week verse, and I would like to draw your attention to the fact that there is no mention of knights, swords or dragons – which is what we traditional associate with Michaelmas. The Calendar of the Soul is working and appealing to us on another level, and the picture language of the festival does not quite reach here. The closest it comes is the “fiery might” of the will and the “steeling” of our higher impulses.

It is a tremendous and alternative picture that sounds out, recognizing in nature the forces and principles of motherhood – the holding, nurturing, protecting qualities that allow the possibility for development, progress, evolution. The inner work that has to accompany this is expressed in the closest we come to the sword image, which is transformed here into a principle of inward steeling; taking hold of the iron in one’s own soul to give oneself firm direction – knowing ourselves, to take hold of ourselves.

When we picture “Nature,” as expressed in this verse, I think we have to take the largest picture of the whole of the manifested universe – the earth, moon, sun and stars, as well as the plants, rocks, water, creatures, and elements of our home planet – and sense in this manifested universe the “mother” in “matter.” The mother principle enables incarnation from spirit into substance.

This past Saturday, I was very happy to visit the Third Year class in their studies of The First Three Years by Karl Konig. In the first year of the child’s life, describes Konig, we witness all of their processes and efforts to raise themselves into the upright position. Over the twelve months of their first year on Earth, the child slowly lifts themselves up out of the horizontal. Each achievement of freeing from gravity on the way to standing and walking is connected to the festivals of the year or, to put it the other way around, the festivals of the year recognize and celebrate this journey to establish the characteristic, vertical human gesture. Michaelmas celebrates the moment of first getting our legs under us and pushing with all our might to stand – a little wobbly and uncertain and needing the help of a wall or furniture, and not yet able to step out into the space in front – but upright with the whole body aligned and the head freely balanced above.

The Michaelmas event reminds us of the substance of nature, which provides the ground for our becoming, and also reminds of the risks of the freedom and independence this grants us – the freedom to lose our way, if we are not practicing self-awareness and self-reflection.

With this feeling for our place in the whole of the universe, here follows a description of the stars and planets and what they are doing during this time by Heather Malcolm, Second Year BACWTT student and lifetime student of the stars above:

A Perspective on Global Events 2020

At this time of year when the nights are growing longer we celebrate Michael, the Archangel, who protects us from negative forces, which grow stronger in the dark. This year, in particular, we have all endured through that sense of darkness, the uncertainty about how our lives will change because of the challenges we are facing.

Every aspect of life is being transformed and we are being asked, in our isolation, to turn inward, to come to understand not only the state of our world but those places in ourselves that need to come to light. In this difficult time, how do we best care for each other, for other races, for the environment? How do we protect ourselves, our families, our communities, our whole world?

To better understand what forces are at work, it is helpful to look back into history, to those times when we were faced with similar trials. To find that light in the darkness we look into the night sky, into the Heavens, to light our way. There we see the same stars that were revered by ancient cultures, by people who were so intimate with these wandering lights or planets they named them after their gods and goddesses.

The planets we have seen constellated together this year are Saturn, Pluto, Jupiter and Uranus. For those who read the movements of the stars, the planets “have been shown to consistently coincide with archetypally relevant historical and cultural phenomena” (1), seen on a global scale and manifested in our personal lives. The planets tell stories of our past and open a path towards our future.

Modern astrologers have known for several years that this period would be an unprecedented time in history. The Saturn Pluto alignment we are experiencing now was also prevalent during both the First and Second World Wars, the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars and the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York. The dominant theme of Saturn Pluto is one of “profound transformation through contraction, conservative reaction, crisis and termination” (2).

The conjunction of Saturn and Pluto started in 2018, got stronger in 2019, reached exact alignment this year and will continue strongly through 2021. We are at the peak right now with Saturn going backwards and forwards over Pluto. One way this has shown up in America is the authoritarian restriction of free expression by the calling out of the military to suppress the free will of the people.

The conjunction of Saturn and Pluto is now joined by Jupiter, a transit that started this year and will continue into the beginning of 2021. The quality of Jupiter is to expand what it touches, to have a more global reach as it has during the pandemic and the climate crisis.

Jupiter in conjunction with Pluto can manifest as “geopolitical high drama” (3). Jupiter in its expansiveness can be seen as the wealth of high society whereas Saturn, the constrictive archetype, can be “poverty, deficit, and a lack of resources” (4). Together, these two planetary archetypes would point to the need for social justice. Driving all of this is the influence of Pluto, the archetype of major transformation, death and rebirth.

The Saturn Pluto alignment is set against the backdrop of a much longer transit of Uranus and Pluto, which has been in effect for the last 13 to 14 years. These two planets typify periods of “widespread revolutionary upheaval, emancipatory impulses and radical cultural” (3) and technological “innovation” (3). During the opposition (compared to the present conjunction) of Uranus and Pluto, notable historical events were: the fall of the Bastille during the French Revolution as well as the Latin American Revolutions. The most recent occurrence of a Uranus Pluto alignment was in the 1960’s, the Countercultural Revolution, when there were massive demonstrations against the Vietnam War and the civil rights and feminist movements took hold. We are reminded of recent events, of riots in the streets and the increasing conflict between political parties and their supporting citizens.

Most significantly and affecting no other country, is the Pluto Return for the United States. Some of you may be familiar with the Saturn Return, which is a time in one’s life at age 29 where the planet Saturn returns to the same position it was when we were born. Anyone who has gone through a Saturn Return will attest to the fact this is a time of coming into responsible adulthood, of maturing and taking the determined narrow road of honing one’s life purpose with an eye to the future: qualities denoted by the archetype of Saturn. America is in the unique position of now going through its Pluto Return, the cycle of time it takes Pluto to return to the same position it was 250 years ago, around 1776, the same period when the United States was founded as a new country. Pluto is the archetype of major transformation, of massive upheaval, death and rebirth. It expresses the elemental energies of life: volcanic eruption, earthquake, hurricane or tsunamis and “empowers and impels to overwhelming proportions” (5) whatever it touches. Along with the global transits the world community is experiencing, the United States has the additional task of navigating the most tumultuous and transformative time in the history of the country. It is as if “the jaws of Pluto, the God of the Underworld opened up and pulled the US down into Hades like Persephone, exposing the Plutonic shadow or underbelly of America” (6).

“With Jupiter Saturn Pluto Uranus this is a time when there are volcanic energies for the radical reconfiguration of all life structures” (7).

These demanding aspects shape our character in our personal lives and shape the character of a whole generation. We have all chosen to incarnate at this time in history. This could be a time when we rise to the occasion and made a conscious choice to push for the changes necessary to bring health to the whole earth community.

It is up to each one of us to work with these astrological aspects. It is helpful to know the quality of what we are dealing with. We have a choice in how we respond. “The more we don’t deny or project onto others the more fruitful these transits will be” (8).  This time is a rare convergence of multiple transits that are extremely powerful. The outcome of events could go a number of different ways depending on how we respond to them. At no time in our communal history has it been so ripe, especially here in America, for us to take hold of what we are required to do to transform our world and world view. “It is that knife edge of uncertainty that we come alive to our power” (9).

To quote Joanna Macy:  “Out of this darkness a new world can arise not to be constructed by our minds so much as to emerge from our dreams. Even though we cannot see clearly how it is going to turn out we are still called to let the future into our imagination. We will never be able to build whatever we have not first cherished in our hearts.”

Heather Malcolm, September 25, 2020

1 Cosmos and Psyche, Richard Tarnas
2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 What’s Happening in the Stars Right Now: An Online Event with Richard Tarnas
9 From the video of the “Great Turning” with Joanna Macy

At our town meeting on Friday night, I spoke a little about the nature of the screen technology we are using so much at the moment, particularly on Zoom where we are looking at each other’s faces – and even trying to look one another in the eye – as we share and discuss. The fact is that we can never look each other in the eye through the screen. All we are looking at is a pixelated reconstruction of what the other person looks like. The remarkably intelligent and fast medium and lifelike sound builds an impression of reality, but it is a clever trick fooling our ancient senses.

We have all seen our screens go weird and pixilate and, although very annoying, it reveals the truth of what we are looking at – high speed dancing specks of light that our eyes can never focus upon. The technology that is so good at creating the illusion of reality actually prevents us from being able to have an essential human experience – to be able to focus our eyes, especially upon another person’s pair of eyes, which are at the same time focusing on ours! This looking into another person’s eyes and face is something that we are intended to do in order to be able to experience ourselves and to experience the other – also as a self.

In Lecture 2 of The Balance in World and Man, Rudolf Steiner points how we are constituted in such a way, with symmetrical organs, so that every time our left and right side meet – as with our two hands, two ears and two eyes – we have an experience of self.

We are navigating another exponential growth in the use of technology; we need to pay attention to the deeper ways in which it will affect us, how over time this may grow to cause social issues.

Over the past 120 years, human beings have grown accustomed to drive in cars for longer hours, greater distances, in increasing comfort and isolation from other people and from the inconvenience of noise, dust, heat and cold. We like our little mechanical bubbles! Yet as we zoom along on smooth highways in plush comfort, notice how we regard those around us. Do we see people or cars? How quick we are to anger at other people’s  infringements into our space. How we must diligently and without much room for discussion obey the rules of the road. How we passively submit our will to the dictates of mechanical lights that cycle perfectly logically without concern or flexibility through red, yellow and green!

Notice how driving requires complete focus upon the point in the center of the lane ahead. We can only take our eyes off of the road for a few seconds without coming unstuck. Just observe how hard it is – and dangerous – to text and drive, speaking on the phone and driving. It’s almost impossible to do anything else while driving. When I was younger, so many terrible driving accidents were caused by people adjusting the radio!

We can put these two common, everyday, technological experiences next to each other – the one that doesn’t allow us to focus our eyes and, over time, will generate a dissolving of the sense of one’s own self and the sense of the self of others, and the technology that grips us so rigidly that we dare not look away and, over time, will alter the human capacity to consider multiple points of view.

As devices in themselves, they are perfectly sensible and useful tools that enable people to do more. It is the human being that is at fault – for being so susceptible, for being flexible and malleable, for being able to change and evolve!

So when you have driven home today and finished all of your emails and documents, go outside and engage your senses with unpixellated nature, enjoy the confirming experience of eye-to-eye contact with those you are not Covid-19 distanced from, let your gaze wander among the stars at night – and give these things that are not modern technological/social experiments an opportunity to shape you too.

This can be a Michaelmas deed – to steel myself – to bear myself in me.

Kenneth Smith

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