“Art is a ripening, an evolution, an uplifting which enables us to emerge from darkness into a blaze of light.”
Eclipses are to be experienced to be understood. Despite the chorus of astrological interpretations surrounding them, there is no substitute for direct experience, and this is especially the case with a total solar eclipse.
While astrologers tend to analyse and interpret to find their meaning, the experience of being under the Moon’s shadow as it races across the land and obscures the disc of the Sun is first and foremost not intellectual, or even rational, it is visceral. Its impact is profoundly tangible, exciting and direct. It not only becomes integrated into the human frame, affecting the energetic and emotional bodies directly, embedding itself within ‘long’ memory, but is, or can be, one of the most direct cosmological experiences we can have. It is a gift of nature, both transformative and empowering in its creative potential.
Much in contemporary western culture stands in the way of realising that natural potential, but, as astrologers like to say of eclipses, they signal a reset or return to our path. It is an ‘art’ of being human that can be relearned.
For 21st century humans this alone tells us almost as much about eclipses as we need to know, not least of all as it also points up aspects of ‘contemporised’ human nature that tend to obscure such direct experience. Conditioning and preconceived ideas can, and often do, get in the way of such a direct art and removing them is, at the best of times, far from easy, especially in the current global environment. Much needs to be unlearned.
In the run up to the eclipse of August 21st 2017 preemptive speculation has been rampant, priming people’s expectations with a vast array of interpretations about its significance and meaning. Even if it is an allergic reaction to fears, stress and the unknown that is itself a part of a conditioned sentient nature, we are not necessarily doing ourselves any favors by buying into its dynamic – it is time, as nature shows, to pause and be still.
Astrologers have however been priming this particular pump with a relish that betrays their art, and personal bias, and if we are to believe what they have been saying we can expect this eclipse to signal everything from civil unrest, regime change, assassination and the onset of thermonuclear war, to liberation and release from the very conditions that contribute to those possibilities. The effects of such a dramatisation precede and contribute to their realisation, itself a dynamic reflection of the conditioning that comes with preemptive bias. What you preconceive is, to some extent, what you get.
Eclipses, when they carry this degree of preemptive charge, begin to change reality before they have even arrived. To a large degree this is humans fooling themselves, but, it can also be exploited as an opportunistic act of deliberation.
Eclipses thus charged and framed stir things up, in ways which can make the likelihood of such radical events appear preordained, amplifying the necessity for their elimination, or realisation, depending upon which interp you jive with most. In the contemporised mindset, whether by design or not, eclipses are seen to be opportunities for creating ‘self fulfilling’ prophecies and, by the same token, are golden opportunities for social engineering and manipulation, for stressing the human frame with fear and expectations of ‘the worst’, as much as idealistic escapism.
These are old programs, partly natural, partly induced. Millenialism and religious dogmas of apocalypse and transcendence thrive on such ambiguous conditions and conditioning and these too are a part of this underlying dynamic, deep seated and all too often subliminal. Such teleologies belong to doctrines which ignore the possibility of ‘continual creation’, of a living breathing if divine universe and, in so doing, deprive us of the most meaningful experience life can offer us.
An innate perceptive susceptibility and weakness is at work here, a consequence of split consciousness which, in our times, is exploited everyday by media, governments and marketeers. It is also subtly if profoundly divisive when it is spun into the ongoing narrative. It has been projected onto our antecedents to this end, effectively supporting evolutionary agendas and authoritarian historicism alike. Through this, for example, the popularised image of the ‘native’ cowering under the shadow of the eclipse has been exploited to distance ourselves from ancestry as much as it has been used to propagate superstitions of eclipses as ‘bad omens’, all of which has contributed to human supremacism and racial divide.
If the mundane world has been pre-endarkened by this eclipse it is currently nowhere reflected more clearly than in this arena. Classic projection and dissociation, or ‘otherness’, the control mechanism of an elite caste system, both become strategies of control employed in social engineering and used to implant heirarchic conditioning, as much as division. Such insidious conditioning, if tagged on to a major eclipse event, can stir and subtly reinforce deep seated prejudice, especially in times of heightened political and social tension. With current events unfolding under the path of the eclipse we have seen a none too subtle exploitation of this dynamic at work – this eclipse has already become a part of the ongoing psychological and emotional terrain that serves the purpose. However, it merely serves to up the drama and distract from the true nature of the moment.
Its cyclical nature has been capitalised upon by some astrologers to this effect, previous eclipses within the same cycle having been used as temporal markers with fateful consequences for American Presidents for example. The complexity of historical events is whitewashed out with such use and astrologers are no less guilty in this than political spin doctors and creators of the ‘official narrative’.
The eclipse cycle’s distinct periodicity, the variability of which has been observed and tested for millenia however, is not simply a political tool, itself no less a superstition than an alleged determinant. As a physical experience of a cosmological event orthodox science tends to lean upon the periodicity of total eclipses as markers in an unchanging and stable system of planetary dynamics, a view which supports the dogma of scientific orthodoxy and physical ‘laws’ which support it. These are the bedrock of scientific determinism, as much a confirmation bias in its favor as a support mechanism, or program, for historical narratives. They are also propagators of a pernicious fiction.
This ‘predictability factor’ was, these same narratives tell us, important to the regulation of power within social structures in the distant past, the province of an elite priesthood and initiates into the metaphysical sciences – the immense calendric capabilities of ancient cultures is not conceded within the orthodox view as an indication of their scientific sophistication. Instead it is seen as a form of primitivism, if not a fear based response to forces beyond human control. We are ‘supposed’ to have progressed beyond such a condition. Such sophistication however, if it were acknowledged within deep human ancestry, would suggest a lack of ‘progress’ if not dangerous precedent, and that is tantamount to a heresy within the teleology and ‘material eschatology’ of ‘orthodox’ science.
The indigenous traditions however tell us that the primary protocol for eclipses is one of ‘respect’. The full impact of a solar eclipse can be a positive experience when given due respect, and that is open to both the scientific mind as much as the spiritually oriented. It is a time in which nature responds and shows the way, simply that, and empirically so. But, while the need for respect is achingly obvious amongst humans and their relationship with the natural world, it is also an honoring of the unknown. The world takes on an unfamiliar face under the path of a total solar eclipse. Meaning, at such times, can be suspended, creatively.
How humans respond creatively to the unknown with ‘respect’ is possibly most clearly developed, if not innate, in ritual and ceremony, a root acknowledgment of the cosmos and the powers that shape and inform our experience of it.
Within the northern American continent ceremonial sites dating back many thousands of years fall directly under the path of the total eclipse. Indigenous honoring of the Sun’s darkening will take place at many of them, following traditional practices handed down over many generations. But, the way in which that honoring takes place is not bound by tradition. To simply drop our preconceptions and be open to the universe, to quieten and be observant and receptive, is enough – the healing and integrity of nature extends into such a moment and makes a glimpse into universal nature possible. What arises is ours to honor and cherish, an empowerment which could have far reaching consequences.
Whether we experience this as mysterious or not, it is above all at heart an art, a human art of tremendous creative potential that expresses itself through natural participation, a communion with life in all its power and perspective giving glory, and eclipses of this kind offer us unique access to a deeper experience of this. If approached in this way and if the overriding nature of the so called ‘Great American Eclipse’ is to be honored so, it will change us, and will reveal an art and creative power all too overshadowed in our times which can heal the dramas we are enacting – we could simply call it the art of ‘human respect’.
The quote at the head of this article is from the great dramatist and theatrical mentor, Jerzy Grotowski.