道 – Dào/View
Astrology, 星命家, and Geomancy, 風水, are two premier subjects of the Chinese Traditional Mantic Arts. Their development in China over the last 2,500 years continues a tradition whose history is incalculable.
The situation we find ourselves in is a cosmic soup in which all Time and Space are an Irresolvable Chaos, called Húntún, 餛飩.
When we look closely at our situation, we find no concrete time, place, or self, but the patterned appearance of these factors bewilders us for lifetimes. Reality appears to be ordered/patterned, but close analysis brings no certainty, and the illusion/assumption of knowledge becomes big trouble when things fall apart.
Analysis/scrutiny brings with it an irresolvable confusion that humans have debated about since time immemorial, called Religion/Science. The precision of modern Science/Scientism tells us that we are close to figuring it all out, but I’m not too sure. When we look closely, chaos appears to be the source of all things, and this is the Paradox that lies at the heart of our experience—Qì strands of Time (Yáng) and Space (Yīn) weave together to form an unreadable, constantly changing astro-geomantic pattern the Chinese call “Dào.”
What is the unknowable Dào doing? Constantly displaying itself as the dualistic, ephemeral, impermanent, and dream like phenomena that we call a self-world. What appears to be knowable and that which is unknowable are in fact not different, for the dual world is a continuous expression of the non-dual. The microcosm of our personal Fate mirrors the macrocosm of the nameless Dào. Through relaxed observation this becomes apparent.
The spiritual path of the Mantic Arts and the true purpose of this tradition comes through embracing this irresolvable paradox at the heart of all experience. Relaxing our need to know/understand becomes the direct path to wisdom. The dual world we are divining, through an Astrology Chart/Calendar, which appears to be comprehensible, reveals Pattern within Chaos and Pattern as Chaos. Astrology becomes a mirror that reflects our Original Nature which is beyond concepts (the very meaning of Chaos).
Our practice is to observe the matrix of patterns that make up our experience through the symbols of Astrology without meaning making or naming. Without the compulsion to predict, fix, or improve any particular part, our false notions of an abiding self and world unravel. Chaos is never vanquished; Samsara is never fixed/improved. It is revealed as Dào.
The Mantic Arts are a non-dual revelation of things as they are. Life is revealed as an ever-flowing phantasm of light that cannot be named/known, and we accept our “karma,” agreeing to be swept up in whatever has been “pre-ordained” by our Ancestors.
After last year, it would be helpful to have answers and generate a story of great meaning and purpose, a “reason” why everything happened, but perhaps there isn’t one; perhaps this is all Dào. This Year reveals how structure/order re-appears from chaos/groundlessness.
Xīn Chŏu 辛丑 – Year of the Yīn Metal Ox
Welcome back to Xīn Chŏu, 辛丑, Year of the Yīn Metal Ox, which begins officially on Friday, February 12, 2021! After the events of 2020/Metal Rat Year, the task of prediction in the coming year seems daunting to say the least. But of course, as Liu Ming always said, Astrology is not fortunetelling; we’re in the business of symbols here! And the symbols have been spot-on!
With 20/20 hindsight, the Year of the Yáng Metal Rat perfectly expressed the essence of its Chinese Astrological Symbolism, and before you read on, I suggest you re-read my blog from last year and reflect on your experience of the Metal Rat. I think you will find it most revealing.
In short, last Year was all about the bigness of small/hidden/unacknowledged things going to extremes. The Heavenly Stem combination called Tōng Tiān Fú, 同天符, generated the atmosphere of excessive Yáng Metal Qì in the form of the Rat, which together created a razor-sharp dismantling force of titanic proportions.
Unfortunately, the image of the Rat as a harbinger of disease came to pass, and the Metal Rat’s association with Confucian social harmony, justice, and order inversely played out on a global scale. Here in the USA, the pandemic, the protests, the election, and so on, all initiated massive social change so profound that the consequences will take decades to unfold let alone understand. I will emphasize that last year was a time to initiate change, but it was not a year to make change, and this is an important distinction.
Here, we can understand all these events as nothing other than the natural unfolding of the cycles of time. Many would like to propose the narrative that our global consciousness is evolving toward a higher vibration, but the spaciousness/openness of the Chinese View denies this with any certainty, for evolution is only temporary in cyclical time. With open space/emptiness at the center of everything, the auspice of all movement is unfixed and without reference points to give us certainty. We are left only with our perception, and we are driven by the mind and its concepts/conditioning.
So, how do we proceed after such a year? The same way we always do, lol. No matter the situation, the practice of Path Astrology remains the same – we study the symbols of the Calendar; we study our own Character and Karma/Fate, and we engage in natural flow of our experience as it unfolds from moment to moment, reflecting on this multifaceted interconnected web of relationships that have no weaver. When combined with a stable meditation practice and good spiritual hygiene, this engagement catalyzes a process of insight into Nature, Dào 道, and Self-Nature, Dé 德, that can free us from the misperceptions of an abiding self and world.
In such complex times, astrology becomes most valuable when we stop trying to predict and control what will happen and get back to the essence of symbols as a gateway into Nature. I thought it fitting last year to begin my exposition of the Metal Rat with a discussion on Confucian teachings and social harmony, and although the Metal Ox in many ways continues and strengthens those themes, the destructive/dismantling force of last year prompted me to open this Year’s discussion with a return to the fundamental View Teachings on embracing the chaos and paradox at the heart of all experience. Wisdom would suggest that we embrace chaos and uncertainty rather than spin a positive outlook to make ourselves feel better.
Predict as you would like, as I will offer my take, but I think the previous Year surprised all of us. The Ox symbol, though, appears surprisingly stable and boring by comparison. But the last thing I want to inspire is hope, lol. I would rather inspire wisdom. And wisdom has no preferences, for it knows that everything is 自然 “self-resolving.” Everything from here on out is a confident “maybe.”
As I mentioned last year, Metal Rat is the first of the 4th 12-Animal sequence, so it was a renewal, a jumping off point, a catalyst for change somewhere in the middle of the 60-year cycle. The Yáng Metal Rat was a new beginning, and although I said it would be a small one, it felt pretty damn big. The Rat is an accountant that moves forward by evaluating the past , and we got quite a report. The fruition of this change has not yet arrived, evidenced by the ongoing uncertainty, and in the sequence, it does not get a push forward until Water Tiger Year, which in a Fire Monkey Country (1776) is set to be explosive (60-60 diametric opposites).
However, the first step of the Rat is always very important. The Metal Rat was retrospective, an evaluation of the last 12-year cycle, and so is the Ox. The Rat looked backward, analyzed, and took things apart to be rebuilt more efficiently. We are now looking at the framework of our society lying in pieces on the ground. The nuts and bolts of American culture have been laid bare, and we are all left with the question – what now?
The Ox answers – to build anything enduring, we must first re-establish the foundation, and to do that, we must acknowledge our lack of control. We do not control Nature, but we can learn to work with it; such was the experiment of Chinese agricultural society, and such is our task now. If there is a positive outlook to take on the current situation, it is that we can re-build, re-shape, and re-establish our world. But will we? Maybe. No guarantees.
To fully understand the foundation available in the Metal Ox Year, we must look to its symbolism, Qì dynamics, manifestation, and applications.
象 – Symbolism
In many ways, the Ox is a symbol of China, for if China is anything, it is perseverant, and its traditions are enduring. Dynastic China was the longest continual civilization of the modern era. China and the Ox represent the virtue of the heroic preserver, the continuity, stability, and convention of Tradition. In the face of Chaos, it represents a return to the wisdom of the Ancestors, who survived countless generations.
In the scheme of the 10 Heavenly Stems, this continuity of tradition is represented by the Ox and its Native Element Yīn Earth. The Chinese character for Earth, 土, tŭ, contains two horizontal lines, representing a surface and a deep sense of stability. There is no Earth season in Chinese Astrology, but rather Earth represents the continuity or ground beneath the changing seasons. And while Earth suggests solidity, the Chinese Earth element is also like Space, the indestructible openness in which all things happen.
The symbol of the Ox is related to the Yīn (rather than Yáng) aspect of Earth and expresses the malleability or spacious quality of Nature represented by the strength of the plow animal, shaping the Earth beneath us. Medieval China was the old world’s greatest agricultural society, and the Ox was the main event which made this possible, breaking away from tens of thousands of years of nomadic culture.
In the process of become agrarian, the Chinese attempted to domesticate the Mongolian Horse, but after hundreds of years, the wild nature of the Horse could not be made to plow. After the unifying of tribes, the Ox Clans brought the Ox up from the swampy regions of southern China, and as soon as they attached reigns to it, they were amazed to find the Ox walked in straight lines, plowing even furrows with no goading.
Farmers could let go of the reigns, and the Ox would plow forward, turn around, and come back on its own, making more even/straight furrows. Because of the Ox, then, China’s agricultural productivity and population increased exponentially, and in a few centuries, China became the most successful and wealthy society on earth. The Ox was always then associated with the rewards of consistent hard work and the Confucian value of perseverance in what is right. It came to represent a new contract with Nature to shape the Earth and create a new human realm, free of the hardships and uncertainty of nomadic existence.
The Ox is a gentle giant, embodying a natural/Yīn strength achieved through gentleness rather than aggression. In Asia, it is not uncommon to see children running fearless side by side with these enormous animals. Oxen are strong, made of confidence, but they are not aggressive, and this is a valuable symbol for interpreting Ox Qì.
The Ox represents “the way things are done,” exemplified in farming, craft, religion, martial arts – systems of knowledge and custom passed on and preserved through the repetition of skill and experience. To preserve these systems, tradition must maintain an integrity that is unchanged, lest they be altered and lose their strength, becoming something altogether different. Animals like the Tiger, Monkey, and Goat represent innovation and revolution, but the Ox represents the integrity of conventions and customs that are unchanged by time.
In Classical Chinese Medicine, the Ox is associated with the Liver and likened to a General. It is associated with hard work ethics, physical/mental endurance, and with the strategizing and responsible decision making associated with the military. As such, it is a stern, disciplined, and rather serious symbol, representing the stable foundation that cultures need to maintain integrity.
However serious, like the animal, this strength is peaceful and gentle in nature, and in Chinese Spirituality/Religion, the Ox is often associated with Guān Yīn, the goddess of compassion and wisdom. Lăozi is depicted riding an Ox, representing the natural wisdom of Wúwéi. In Chán Buddhism, as depicted in the 10 Ox-Herding Pictures, the taming of the wild Ox is an ancient simile for the discipline of meditation practice that leads to humility and service. Likewise, in India, the Cow is revered and worshiped as a symbol of abundance, nourishment, non-violence/harm.
This Year represents a natural return to convention and stability; we fall back to whatever it is that supports our continuous presence here. To move forward, we must look back and remember…but remember what? For now, I pose this as an open-ended question, for many of the values and conventions of our culture are being challenged. So where is the thread? What stays valuable regardless of circumstances? What is proven effective? How can conventions change and still maintain their positive integrity?
氣 – Qì Dynamic
To understand Metal Ox Qì, we must look to the Tōng Shū or Chinese Calendar. The Ox rules the 12th Moon, the dead of Winter (roughly January) and the hour 1-3 am. Ox exemplifies the still, silent, calm, and slow power of Winter. In the cycle of the day, Ox represents the middle of the night, the time of deep sleep, rest, and rejuvenation. So, what is it like to have this Qì dominate the entire year? Rat Year was a kind of retrospective dream (11pm-1am), but Ox is dreamless sleep.
Everyone knows they should be asleep at 1-3 am. Qì wise, this is the time of day when we are most able to get deep sleep. Ox hour draws us deep into the dark silence of “don’t know,” where the unconscious automated functions of the body are most efficient. During Ox hour, you should be like a catfish, hidden in the murky depths of your unconscious.
The Native Element of the Ox is Yīn Earth, which is described as sedated, solid, nourishing, grounded, sleepy, calm, and stable. Ox is the wisdom of orthodoxy and establishment, of thoughtlessness, steadfastness, and automation. Yīn Earth represents alliances, wealth, leadership, mothering, and balance. It is the center, Yīn and Yáng unified, associated with borders and boundaries defined by the empty space at the hub.
The Native Element of the Ox is Yīn Earth, but the Heavenly Stem for this Year is Yīn Metal. Since Earth is the mother of Metal, the elemental balance of this Year is supportive and generative, which means the positive attributes of the Ox are more available, and we are less likely to struggle against them. They are empowered and strengthened for better or worse.
Since Earth generates Metal, the direction is of the inward moving outward while the outward moves inward (which is the opposite of last year). The Metal Ox is less outspoken, but more forward moving, and opinionated than the other Ox. It represents a hardening of the Ox Characteristics, like ore smelted to gold. Metal, then, adds refinement, discretion, and fastidiousness to the Ox image. The Metal Ox is therefore more withdrawn, confident, and self-reflective than other Oxen. The Metal Ox is both outspoken and opinionated but has great thoughtfulness, maturity, and restraint (Obama, for example is a Metal Ox), contrasted with an image like the Fire Ox, who struggles with being too brash, blunt, and belligerent (comedian George Carlin is a great example of a Fire Ox).
Yīn Metal is associated with the downwardness of falling leaves and the dryness/decay of Autumn, and its representative emotion is grief/sadness/loss. The burden of grief is heavy this year, and the great loss we have all endured will continue to bereave us all. We have lost lives, relationships, institutions, businesses, communities, personal freedoms, and so on; our culture has changed irrevocably. This is no small event. We are deeply encouraged to continue to contemplate the death and mortality initiated by the Metal Rat.
In the Wŭ Yùn Liù Qì, the Elemental configuration of this Year is called Tōng Suì Huì, 同歲會, or “Total Annual Agreement.” This means the Heavenly Stem of the Year aligns with the unfolding phases of Qì throughout the seasons, creating a stable alignment of Qì that is milder and more temperate than the Tōng Tiān Fú from last Year, which generated chaotic extremes.
Beneath the atmosphere of Yīn Metal, this is a Year of Tàiyīn Damp Earth, which governs the first half of the year, with deficient Taìyáng Cold Water governing the second half. Since Earth controls Water, the weakness of Water will create an overall increase in Cold/Dampness. The whole year has an atmosphere of heavy wet snow, and the dynamic is slow and sleepy with an element of drowning.
For all you Chinese Medical folk, this may lead to an increase in symptoms like diarrhea, stomach aches, low appetite, fullness of the abdomen/chest, chest pain, heaviness of the body, lower back and leg pain, stiffness in the knees and hips, cold in the lower body/feet, swelling and edema in the lower body, swelling in the jaw, and difficulty with urination. Kidney and Heart disease may increase along with sexual dysfunction, and any weakness in the Lower/Middle burner will be bogged down by damp earth and poor water circulation/metabolism.
The Qì dynamic of this year is overall very different from the last, and we should keep our eyes open to both the positive and negative potentials given the current situation.
形 – Manifestation/Character
Before, I delve into my specific “prediction,” I will first explore how the Metal Ox Character manifests in people—what about babies born in this or any Year of the Ox? This year, these characteristics are more available to everyone! Try to imagine what these qualities would be like applied to the whole world, what if we’re all a little more “oxy?”
In terms of the Five Elemental Ox, Wood “destroys” Earth, so the Wood Ox would be the least “Oxey” Ox, and my Wood Ox friends (1985) tend to identify the least with the following Ox characteristics. Fire Ox are like brooding teenagers and tend to manifest Ox qualities in the most explosive and forceful manner. The Earth Ox is the natural/most characteristic Ox, and the generative direction means that the Metal Ox is the most exaggerated of all Ox since Metal is the refinement/distilling of Earth. Water Ox are the most mystical, strange, and hard to define of the bunch. Regardless, all Ox personalities manifest the following qualities in relation to the qualities of their respective birth hour.
The first quality of Ox Qì is calm, in the modern parlance “chill.” Ox is by nature easy going and relaxed. This easy-going nature comes from the symbol of the Ox’s size and strength—not much can kill an Ox. They are not intimidated or scared easily. Their strength is unquestionable and therefore unhurried, unrushed, and natural. Left alone in the wild, Oxen tend to just stand around eating grass, but when put to work they can do anything. Ox Qì, Yīn Earth, is grounded and steady. Qì wise, this comes out as a kind of natural dignity/confidence, at home in their self and skin.
The natural strength of the Ox demonstrates as a kind of self-assured confidence. Oxen tend to believe resolutely (and often unconsciously) that their way of seeing the world and their way of doings things is normal. “Doesn’t everyone do that?” or “this is the way we’ve always done it” are very Ox statements. In the Classical Tradition, this is again described as “conventional.” Even the strangest Oxen I have known do their strangeness in a conventional, consistent, and dependable way. Most of them think their strangeness is normal and are often perplexed when others do not share their views.
This confidence often demonstrates as being just and committed. The Ox is a symbol of the Confucian values of family, society, and nature, which are fundamentally rooted in equality and the fair distribution of resources. Oxen often possess a strong sense of justice, which makes them good leaders. Oxen are natural born leaders and are at their best when in charge and constantly challenged. Without challenge, work, or responsibility, they will create it to demonstrate their worth/value. Oxen need to work/be busy all the time or else they feel useless.
Oxen are the most likely to receive criticism for being “stuck in their ways,” for not growing/changing/improving/etc. The consistent and dependable nature of the Ox is natural and the least apt towards innovation, which is not to say they are not creative. It is detrimental to expect an Ox to change based on abstract notions of self-improvement. Their wisdom comes from their consistency, and it is harmful to force them to change.
The calm nature of the Ox often expresses as quiet and reserved, but this is not always the case. I have known plenty of extroverted Oxen. Ox Qì tends towards a kind of “sleepiness,” which can be literal. Oxen are often champion sleepers and can cure most illness with deep sleep. They often possess strong physical constitutions by nature and are long lived, rarely taken out by illness or injury.
Ox Qì is unflappable (my favorite word in the English language btw) and “thick skinned.” Of all the Characters, Ox are the least likely to be traumatized. Ox Qi has a tremendous capacity to undergo hardship and difficulties and come through unscathed, and they can shrug off the most painful of circumstances.
Despite the calm nature of Ox Qì, they are tenacious and uncompromising. Again, it is the nature of the Ox to work, to plow forward, to lead, and to take on responsibility. They need tasks, and they need to be constantly challenged, otherwise their strength is wasted and stagnates. Without something to do with their strength, their tenacity can be destructive to themselves, and without self-reflection/honesty, it can become harmful to others. They can become slavedrivers, dictators, tyrants, or an asshole boss who only cares about the bottom line.
They often have a strong work ethic and lead lives of great accomplishment. By nature, they are dependable, reliable, consistent, punctual, and so on, all characteristics of Yīn Earth—the manifestation of smooth, steady, even Qì. Although they are often materially successful, they usually lack attachment to material things because they are self-sufficient and do not need much.
As a work animal, the Ox is independent and yet carries others. Oxen are not usually loners, however. They do not rely on other people but rather others tend to rely on them; they are protectors and providers. They take it upon themselves to do things for other people and rarely ask anything in return. The independence, strength, and conventionality of the ox cause them to assume responsibility for everything. They can see it as their mission to carry others, and they often feel as if they carry the world on their shoulders.
Ox Qì is also loyal and supportive, sometimes to a fault. It is hard to get on the bad side of an Ox, and if you become a jerk they probably do not notice. Once they accept others, they usually do so for life and will protect others until the end. Sometimes, they can stay in difficult situations or abusive/dysfunction relationships for a long time out of misplaced feelings of duty or responsibility.
Oxen tend to be outdoorsy and at home in nature. The natural element of Yīn Earth lends to a deep connection with nature and a desire to connect to the wilderness and seek refuge in solitude. I have known many an Ox with a strong sense of adventure.
Ox is sincere, humble, and often sweet; they are sometimes naive. The image of the Ox is a gentle doe eyed cow. Generally, Oxen are honest and straightforward and not mysterious or confusing in their intentions. They mean what they say and are always honest and sincere in their beliefs and efforts.
Ox Qì can tend toward a kind of seriousness, and Oxen tend to grow up very fast. They often miss out on childhood and become children later in life, especially the Fire Ox. This seriousness can also turn sullen, depressed, and even humorless. Oxen are, perhaps, the most susceptible to “toxic seriousness” and their experience can become very heavy and downtrodden (Wood Ox being the least susceptible).
The heavy and dense quality of Yīn Earth can turn to a kind of insensitivity and thoughtlessness. Many of the Oxen I know have been accused of being oblivious, unaware, and clueless to the feelings of others. Oxen tend to “not notice” things, people, situations, and they can hurt or offend others by become aloof and dull.
The routine, conventional, and consistent qualities can easily get “stuck in a rut.” Oxen possess an immense capacity to do the same old thing, and they can become slaves to their own conventions—physically, mental, spiritually. Their confidence in their beliefs can be quite convinced and unwilling to change. Furthermore, they can be fearful of change and resist the messages of others for a long time.
Oxen can be ruthless if crossed. As I mentioned, it is hard to get on the bad side of an Ox, but when you do, they can become belligerent and hold grudges for a long time, fixated in their opinions about others and situations. They can have a difficult time letting things go, bringing up the past, repeating patterns of negativity, stuck in a loop. Once drawn into confrontation, Ox Qì can be a scary and formidable adversary (Hitler was a Fire Ox!).
Finally, they can be too strong for their own good. If they are not challenged, they can use their strength to deplete themselves without noticing and break down in old age. Or they can generate problems and challenges where there are none and become their own worst enemies.
Ox Qì has a tremendous capacity for resolving Fate. I am always impressed by Ox characters, and I have been blessed to know many in my life.
器 – Application and “Predictions”
Now for the fun part! What’s going to happen!? I’ll be honest – I am finding it difficult to step into this New Year with any sense of inspiration or hope. Last Year, I was very inspired and put a lot of idealism into my exposition of the Metal Rat. And while, my predictions felt accurate, I did not at all expect things to go the way they did.
A Year like the last forces us to confront the Impermanence and Emptiness of our situation. It forces us to come to terms with the fact that we are not separate from Nature and thus have no control over it. Chaos is not opposed to order but rather its source and arbiter.
The only thing you can control is your mind, and you may have noticed it is noticeably out of control. Reality, Dào, is beyond concepts/unknowable, and death/disaster can come at any moment to anyone regardless of their “good” karma. Empires collapse, good/innocent people die, and we have no rights other than the ones we give each other. Nature goes the way it goes and is just way bigger than our human agendas. In the face of this, the last year asked us all the question – what do you/we do when things fall apart?
The only sane answer from the Metal Ox perspective is – you put things back together, you just keep going. YOU LEARN FROM THE PAST, you rebuild, you get back to work, and you do your best to do it better the next time, knowing full well that it will all fall apart again. Everything is impermanent and constantly in flux; cyclical time demands that all things grow, decay, and die in endless cycles of renewal, and Autumn/Winter demand that we face our mortality. Ideally, however, we should not invoke entropy before its time.
The sequence of years alternates from chaos (yáng) to order (yīn) and then back to chaos, and last year yáng/chaos was out of control going to extremes, as if all structure dissolved, and it seemed like everything became particles flying around in space, disconnected from one another. This year, order comes back strongly into focus, like a grid or blueprint, solidifying and containing yáng, offering us the adage – the ground on which you fall is the same ground on which you stand. The Ox represents the stability of the ground beneath our feet, so it is time to stand back up.
This is a year to WORK. But this is not a year to work hard; this is a year to work smart. The Ox demands hard work, yes, but we are talking about the hard work of Winter when resources are the scarcest. Hard work in Winter will simply exhaust you. The Metal Ox is precise, calculating, judicious, and meticulous. It calculates when and where to expend effort, and it does so slow and steady without working up a sweat.
Our culture is left in shambles – we are deeply divided, our economy is a mess, and we are amid a pandemic we made a mess of and that only appears to be getting worse. Our efforts from here on out must be well calculated, planned, and executed with precision if we are to gain any stability moving forward, and there is no clear way to do this given our current situation.
The Metal Ox response, thankfully, is not about the "new scientific data" but rather about remembering the countless ways human beings have responded to and resolved crisis throughout history. For example – in 1947, New York city vaccinated 6 million people for smallpox in under a month, and this was the last outbreak of smallpox in America. If we have done something like this before, then we can do it again.
Rat Year saw millions of Rats arguing about the cause of a sinking ship; fear and blame got the best of us. But the Metal Ox is the definition of calm and collected. The Metal Ox takes RESPONSIBILITY and holds others ACCOUNTABLE, for their sense of justice is cold, emotionless, and logical – think Spock from Star Trek; this year is very “Vulcan.”
This Year we must sober up, take responsibility for the messes we have made, and hold people accountable for their actions. The Metal Ox is like a wise old judge or an impartial magistrate who takes in all the evidence and upholds the standard of law. The Metal Ox tallies the votes and makes sure that the majority rules, even if their side lost. This is a Year of brutal honesty, and the truth will prevail.
The Ox tills the soil, meaning there are no crops yet. The hard work of the Ox, of plowing ahead, looks forward with the knowledge and memory of a thousand growing cycles. If we want a harvest, we cannot skip planting seeds. We must take care of the soil if we want crops to grow, and that means getting down and dirty. This is a Year to put in the thankless work that will benefit yourself and others long into the future. This is not a time for immediate gratification but rather a time to persevere in what we know is best for us. Children find it difficult to accept that their elders know best, but they usually do.
This is a Year to “take our medicine,” so to speak, a time to listen to elders, experts, and the educated, and do what they say. The internet has made experts out of us all, but maybe rethink that expertise, lol. Maybe stop forming/arguing emotionally charged opinions after reading articles on the internet. In fact, if you really want to make the best of Ox Year, better to get off the social media and smartphones altogether; they’re a huge waste of energy.
It goes against every fiber of my being, but this a year to trust authority or at least give them the benefit of the doubt. Follow the rules and refrain from rebelling. Last year was all about protest, and we did the shit out of that, so I know it’s hard to stop. Water Tiger Year (2022) will be a tsunami of rebellion, and if it goes well, it can usher in the “roaring 20’s.” But for now, in the in-between, we must err on the side of order and do what is best for others. Let the dust settle. Let others take the reins. We must be conservative and humble in our actions. Reluctance is power in Ox Year.
Of course, in the world of “fake news” everyone is convinced their perspective is correct, and we don’t know who to believe. The vortex of Metal Rat fear showed us that under the right circumstances sane, rational, and well-adjusted people can be persuaded to believe outrageous ideas and groundless conspiracy theories. It showed us the power of cult psychology, and the “social dilemma” of the internet is a wild beast out of control. Qanon and the storming of the capitol are, perhaps, perfect examples of Rat Year gone mad. Metal Ox will hopefully bring the hammer down, demand that information be protected, and free us somewhat from the psychological warfare being waged through cyberspace. If we cannot agree on facts for the sake of social convention, we are doomed, paralyzed in a slippery sea of relativity asking - who decides what is true?
Metal Rat produced a whirlwind of conceptual proliferation, and without self-awareness, Metal Ox can harden our views into perpetual loops and/or obsessions. Metal Ox is here to slap some sense into us, but I am afraid this year might have a strong “Orwellian” feeling for those prone to conspiracy theories and extreme views, on either side.
For sure, a lot of angry Trump supporters who think the election was stolen are only going to get angrier and feel that all the coming restrictions, regulations, and policy changes from the new administration are stealing their freedoms, or whatever. I suspect, though, that many will snap out of the Trump cult and abandon him as a failed icon.
The extreme left, of course, has its own conspiracies and will likely have a real difficulty with the “law and order” aspect of the Metal Ox, continuing the themes of protest from last year. I fully support re-thinking and re-forming authority, which is a major theme of the year, and the way we “police.” This year offers the possibility to re-structure and solidify new foundational patterns of shared social responsibilities, so that police need not be burdened with work more easily allocated to social and mental health care workers. All the idealism of the protests of Metal Rat year can gain feet with the Metal Ox, provided they appeal to ordinary convention; the energy of a million rats marching, however, will not have the same power, and rebellion will likely incur more negative consequence.
My great wish is that extreme views fall out of fashion, and that healthy humility and genuine compassion return. May social media lose its power over us. May we all admit that we “don’t know,” take a step back, relinquish our internet expertise, take the advice of educated people, and err on the side of whatever view is most kind, cautious, and considerate of others, especially the most vulnerable.
This Year exemplifies what the Chinese call “Eating Bitter.” Sweet just isn’t sweet without the bitter. Metal Ox is painfully sober; it represents the hard-earned lessons and maturity that come from falling on your ass, so that you can learn to stand back up. Metal Ox is a cold shower and a slap in the face. All the lessons we have not learned will come home to roost. So, get your shit together. Put your affairs in order, especially at home. Metal Ox is a year to “grow up.”
Rat Year was a time to organize and plan, and now is the time to put your nose to the grindstone and get the wheel turning. Ox believes in achieving goals, step by step; this is a Year of iron will, grit, and determination. However, it is not a year of fruition but rather selfless service and work without thought of reward. Ox serves because it needs to be done and does not seek approval/recognition.
Ox is self-reliant and independent. Unfortunately, the communal aspects of Rat Year had a kind of inverse/paradoxical effect – we were forced to learn all the profound lessons about community and connection through isolation and quarantine. Well, the Ox is used to doing everything alone and does not expect others to help, although they will often complain about this after the fact. They see what needs to be done, and they do not wait for others. They have a deep sense of faith in their own ability to get things done, and they set the standard for diligence and integrity.
So, if isolation continues, Ox can handle it and will be there to support others at a distance. The Metal Ox is big enough to carry massive loads on their back and will trudge on. Ox is a loyal friend, so this is a Year for alliance and showing up. Ox takes care of others because they assume others are incompetent. So, let’s carry each other and persevere. You have the strength. In terms of romance, this is a Year for commitment, marriage, and conventional/conservative choices all around (and I’ll leave it at that, lol)
Generosity is big in the Ox Year and has the capacity to be magnified to a grand scale. Please, find a way to be generous. But don’t announce your generosity; do it in secret. Anonymity is power in Ox Year. Many people are in dire straits right now and need help. Acts of giving are meritorious and will generate ripple effects far beyond ordinary perception.
Dependability and routine are key. This is a Year for monotonous repetition and boring routine. Strict is in. “No” and “stop” have great power. This is a time to get strict with ourselves and others with some tough love (just a little, lol). Parents should be strict/firm with children. Despite some new age beliefs, humans need and crave structure and routine, and we need to face consequences to grow. Rebellious signs like Monkeys and Tigers may find this aspect of Ox unbearable, but the boredom of doing the same thing day in and day out is survival in Metal Ox Year. Create tasks, routines, and timetables and follow them religiously. The capacity to focus in and block out/ignore white noise this year is immense/intense, so ride the wave into the zone.
Regarding health and the pandemic, the Qì dynamic is Metal like last Year, continuing the energetic theme of the virus, but it is much more stable, so there’s hope. Last Year afflicted the upper burner/respiration, and this year is lower burner/kidneys, so the effects of the virus can deepen. Acute conditions in general can go chronic.
Conventional medicine has more power, which means whatever is conventional to you. This is not a year for strange unfamiliar medicine, wild experimental treatments, or miraculous cures. If your Momma put Vicks VapoRub on your chest every time you got sick as a kid, regardless of whether that was a good idea, it will help in a year like this, so spread that shit everywhere, lol. Ox is prone to nostalgia for the good old days, and this kind of sentiment can cure what ails you. If going to a Shaman is normal for you, then go for it, but if it is weird/strange, in a year like this it will probably make your tumor bigger.
The first Metal Ox response to the pandemic – personal responsibility, just focus on ordinary, time tested, boring health routines, for they will make you big and strong like an Ox. Cement in a routine this year and it can be with you for the next 60 years. The second ox response – standardization; everyone gets an N-95 mask, for example. If we are sloppy, wearing handkerchiefs, reusing old cloth masks, and so on, nothing will change. We get big solid standards in place, things will change. There is no “correct” solution. In Ox Year, it’s not the new scientific data but the consistency of standards that creates the possibility for change, so calm down about all the new data.
If we can lock into Metal Ox standards and regulation then the pandemic can start to resolve, but the Metal Ox DEMANDS SUPPORT. Without stable long-term financial support, no number of rules/mask wearing/hand washing will help. Last year the small (Rat) took apart the big, and now it is time for the big (Ox) to support the small. Last year, money was everything in the sense of scarcity, and now the Ox must become the great provider. Metal = money, and it’s time to take care of people.
In terms of politics/the election, last Year was about fuck the leader; it was about the mob and the madness of crowds. This Year is about follow the leader. Metal Ox is a responsible, natural born leader. Despite our deep divide, no matter how you feel about it, our democracy has spoken, and we officially have new leaders who at least appear to be sane and capable of empathy. Sure, Joe probably has onset dementia, lol, but whatever. The Qì of Metal Rat was dismantling, but behind the madness it was pushing to shed/prune what no longer serves us, and he’s out, despite half-baked insurrections.
Now it’s time for those who will come to power to STEP UP AND BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE TO THEIR WORD. We must hold leaders and institutions accountable, and this year is ruthless with a vengeance. Hypocrisy is out, and everything will be under intense scrutiny. No more mob mentality; no more blame and mistrust. We asked for a revolution and this is what we got; time to make the best of it. Metal Ox is laying the foundation for bigger things to come, and this is at least a shift in a more promising direction.
More on the protests – Metal Rat brought up all the inequality, racism, and injustice in our world, and the Ox must do the work for real change. This work is BIG, like the Ox; it is systemic, and it involves the restructuring and reallocation of both resources and thought. Ox is about personal responsibility. Metal Rat laid bare the mechanism of our inequality, but the only way the Ox knows how to respond is through conduct – be the change you want to see rather than calling others out. The work of changing the world must start inside, and the Ox also provides possibilities for the inner work to become policy on a big scale. It can’t just be a bandwagon and source of virtue signaling; the real change must take place where it matters – in our conduct and in actual policy and social infrastructure.
On work/career – this is again not a year for innovation, changing jobs, or reinventing yourself – that was last year, and while we all felt pressured to do this, few could take advantage. We did, however, see tremendous innovation in fields like medicine and technology. This will, of course, continue, but this year there is less power in trying to invent new gizwidgets and more power in huge, large scale application and automation. This year could be a major transition ushering in the AI future, so what are we to do? Are we all to become coders and software engineers?
In the economy at large, I see this year as a major push forward in automation. Metal Ox perfectly exemplifies the value of robotic assembly lines and automated services. The more we push towards social distance and the more advanced automation becomes, the more we will see the very foundation of the economy change towards displacing human labor. Many economists say that we are in the middle of a silent automation revolution, and the Qì of this year will do a lot to push this forward, causing us to deeply rethink the way our society works because everything is becoming automated – truck driving, clerical work, phone work, retail work, medical and dental procedures; what are we going to do when these jobs disappear?
The Metal Rat fragmentation answered this with an individualist mentality that has been pushing everyone to become unique entrepreneurs. We all feel pressured to brand ourselves and market our soul gift, but unfortunately, this disgusts the Metal Ox. The trend of everyone having a blog, a website, a podcast, a YouTube channel, and so on, in a world where everyone is an entitled self-made internet expert is not sustainable. Metal Ox askes us – can a beautiful flower grow in midair? Where is the soil? Without cohesive unified cultural values and tradition can a society of entrepreneurs and Instagram stars flourish? Can we all be rock stars? Of course, there will always be rock stars, but Metal Ox says – when quantity goes up, quality goes down. Not everyone needs a podcast.
Everything alternative, trendy, or individualistic will look flimsy and foolish this year. Old fashion/retro is in. Traditional/classical/old world knowledge and nostalgia has big power to the Ox. The wisdom of the ancients/ancestors is the new app. And we must ask ourselves – in a brave new world of automation in which rugged individualism and entrepreneurship has no roots, what kind of society are we creating? What human skill, craft, knowledge can never be automated? What should never be automated? What are our real values here? Is entrepreneurship the answer? I do not have an answer, but Ox suggests that technical, vocational, and apprenticeship work is the way forward, and it should be on the rise this year.
This is a Year to watch out for bleakness and repressed emotion. Stubbornness, seriousness, and gloom prevail, and they don’t get much better next year with the moody Water Tiger. Watch out for depression, but more importantly watch out for repression. This year we are more likely to bury/ignore our emotions rather than feel them because the grief may be too much. So, keep checking in and take care not to work/push through your feelings. We must work hard to acknowledge and deal with all the mental emotional repercussions of the pandemic/quarantine.
Spiritually speaking, the next two years are ruthless in the name of BASIC SANITY and waking down. Waking up is out; it’s time to wake down—reestablish the foundation, and I don’t mean embodiment/re-wilding/getting back to nature, and I don’t mean high minded non-dual direct whatever, I mean ordinary self-reflection.
In Buddhism this is called contemplating the Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind. Ox is uninterested in high, eloquent, profound teachings but exemplifies ordinary, ordinary, ordinary – impermanence, suffering, karma, and the preciousness of human birth - very boring and depressing to contemplate, but simple, basic, fundamental and holds immense power. A Non-conceptual approach and practice is also deeply empowered, and meditation retreats are very auspicious. Sit-walk, sit-walk, sit-walk…very OX. Ox also highly values the three R's - respect, responsibility, and resourcefulness; my teacher would add gratitude.
Hypocritical and shallow spirituality will crumble. If you’re not practicing what you preach, shit’s gonna hit the fan, if it hasn’t already. I know we all mean well, but I would encourage self-proclaimed teachers/gurus, advice/life coaches, academics/translators using a PhD as spiritual authority, and weekend workshop/internet certified whatevers to maybe re-think things, especially giving spiritual direction (obviously, I include myself in this reflection). For example, it takes 13 years of rigorous traditional study and 3+ years of solitary retreat to become a Khenpo/Geshe in Tibetan Buddhism…any volunteers…show of hands? Today, many people study so that they can become teachers and market themselves as masters of what they’re learning as soon as possible. The entrepreneur mentality is pushing us to market and sell our expertise as soon as possible. Maybe, rethink this? Slow down? My great wish is that we stop rushing to offer new workshops, teacher trainings, podcasts, and so on, and perhaps go back to the foundation and honor the immense spiritual inheritance already available in ancient traditions. We don't need to reinvent the wheel. Discover and follow the Ox's footprints.
This is a Year to honor, venerate, and study the “ways of the elders.” Traditions have, by and large, failed in America, and they are dying out all over the world. They must of course be edited/updated to suit the place and time, but rather than throw out lineage and take spiritual advice from random people on internet forums, perhaps we can support tradition this year in their own terms so that they don’t die out for good. Monasteries, churches, shedras, hermitages, mosques, temples, synagogues, etc., – established institutions of traditional learning – offer them humility and support.
Rat Year brought out all the little/subtle things that are enormous in the ways they control your life. It stirred up tremendous wind. Therefore, if it isn’t already your norm, again, this is not a Year for new age eclecticism, magic, spirits, shamans, vision quests, ayahuasca, and the now popular trend of invent/appropriate your own spiritual path, for strange and/or new things will only make more wind. Ordinary human experience and self-reflection are the doorway to liberation, as are the well-established paths/traditions that have endured the centuries. Without ordinary human happiness, trying to be spiritual by imagining spirit worlds you have never experienced or tripping balls on ayahuasca may turn you into a ghost, just sayin...
In a year such as this, don’t wait around to you turn into a version of yourself that you like better; just accept yourself as you are and do the work of self-improvement. As Shunryū Suzuki once said, you’re all perfect the way you are, you could just use a little improvement. You’re already the fruition, so relax and do what you can actually do – the absolute best practice is the one you can do every day without fail.
It’s been a rough one for all of us, so be kind and forgive each other. The New Year is a time to forgive people and start over; wipe the slate clean and offer resolution. We’re at the end of our history, so don’t expect much. In Ox Year, the remedy for all troubles is - expect less. All this may sound very serious and heavy, but there is a lighter side to the Ox that we can call “second childhood.” Ox often grow up very fast but become like children in their old age.
After all the hard work, there is a simplicity to Ox that sees the world without the complication or burden of speculation. The Ox is the champion of not noticing things. Simplify; strip yourself of the complication and conceptual nightmares of the Metal Rat. The sky may be falling, the world may be on fire, but the Ox just plows on. In a Year such as this, being oblivious might just be enlightenment.
12 Animal Forecast
Rat – Very auspicious; coming out of your own year is a bit messy – this a year to ride the back of the Ox like in the classic parable (Rat is first because he rode Ox to the finish line and jumped off to win!). This is a Confucian special pairing, as Ox offers a very stable container to support Rats plans and detail-oriented cleverness. You have a heightened capacity to work, manifest, and actualize plans. You were unable to actualize your social skills last year, but this year your capacity to entertain and bring people together will be in-demand and needed in new and unforeseen ways. Routine, organization, and structure empower and give strength to the rat. Seek out, create, and rely on community and you will do well.
Ox – Auspicious; Oxen do well in their own year because they finally feel like their sanity is being recognized/appreciated; a lot of people will be relying on you and you will feel more empowered and obligated to carry others, carry the situation, take on more responsibility, etc. The workload this year will feel heavy, but it will be rewarding and fulfilling because its Ox work. Learn to delegate and teach others to be like the you because you can’t do it all yourself. Your capacity for leadership and management is heightened and everything in life can be productive and efficient. You are more likely to overwork and ignore signs of fatigue. The main suggestion is to lighten up and let go of seriousness, or else the Year will be very grumpy.
Tiger – Neutral/Inauspicious; a year of frustration; Ox is the stillness before the Tiger lurch; tigers want to jump/move forward, and this year is very slow and does not have impulsiveness or passion available—you will hit a wall if you are impulsive and do not think things through. This year matches your dark strip, which is patient like a tiger stalking its prey. You relied on it all last year to survive, and it continues; this is a year to stalk future endeavors, wiggle your butt in the tall grass before pouncing on the deer. Tigers hate working for others, but if you are well cultivated, then you can utilize your enormous capacity for anything you put your mind to, but you must conform within convention/rules. So lay low, be patient, expect frustration, and be very strategic with work and rest. Conserve and wait until Tiger Year for big lurches forward.
Rabbit – Neutral; but not a negative year overall; you are out of style. Ox is totally oblivious to Rabbit intuition and feeling. Rabbit’s feelings are complete nonsense/gibberish to the Ox. Rabbits may feel unheard/listened to and frustrated with the lack of depth and nuance this year. Everything is on the surface and straightforward, and gossip will have negative repercussions. But you will benefit greatly from the solid and secure nature of the Ox. Metal Ox is a fortress of solitude, so Rabbits should fully embrace their nesting instincts, organize/clean up their life, shed clutter, and solidify relationships in preparation for the future. Tiger Year greatly empowers the Rabbit towards their authority, and Ox Year is a time to cultivate your inner power in hiding. Please remind people of what lies beneath the surface, so we don’t all get steamrolled beneath the dullness.
Dragon – Neutral; you are also out of styled but empowered by the strength and bigness of the Ox. You are likely to compete everywhere in attempts to demonstrate your strength. Ox Year is very terrestrial and boring, and you are celestial and radical. Grandiosity and displays of ego and individuality are out; Ox does not respond well to dragon’s charisma; Dragon strength will do well to downplay themselves and exalt others. Dragon is also very capable of carrying others on their back, but they must choose to do it and must want to participate. This is a very good year for self-discipline, cultivation, and growth. Humble yourself to the incompetent hordes and self-efface. You can accomplish huge tasks, create, bring things into being, but not with your usual magic. You will have to come back down to earth and stand in line with the ordinary folk. This year, Dragons train to be emperor through magnanimous compassion and generosity.
Snake – Very auspicious; you are part of a trine: Ox-Snake-Rooster are good buddies. Ox offers a very comfortable space in which to hide in plain view; pulling back, hiding, and reluctance are very natural to the snake and go well because they can do this both at home and in public life. People will demand and expect less of you, so you don’t have to pretend so much; we all know you don't want to be here. You can move incognito and operate very freely; everything goes smooth this year. The penetrating and visionary insight of the Snake has the capacity to strike to the heart in the worldly arena and appear very profound, so you will be a great advisor and resource to others. Snake’s wisdom is depressing for ordinary folk, and it’s a year to look at depressing truths. You can be in the world but not of the world more easily than usual.
Horse – Neutral/Auspicious; You are coming out of your most challenging year; the least productive in 12 years. Last year was a cage, and this year you are strapped to a yoke. Ox is much more supportive to the work ethic of Horse, but there is still very little room for running wild like you secretly want. Horses run fast and hard, while the Ox plows slow and steady. You are very susceptible to burning out fast and running too hard out of the gate in Spring, so slow and steady. Lean into the Horse’s love of training and put aside the wild stallion; embrace the equestrian. Horse wants to get back to work, so start projects, get productive, for you will be called upon this year. Carefulness and planning are the way to go; if a horse breaks their leg, they are done, no more racing days. Think blueprints, bucket lists, timetables, and skill building. Next Year you are greatly empowered and can run wild.
Goat – Inauspicious; this will be your most challenging yet best year for spiritual growth. Goat is the opposite of Ox; you are very similar, but mirror like in your differences. Ox seeks standards and opposes forward moving innovation; they look to past while goats look to the future to anticipate change; goat seeks refinement and wants to negotiate, compromise, and cooperate, while ox wants the hard bottom line. Goat will want to fuss over details and find the best possible solution, while ox wants rigid order and standardization. All your gifts will feel stifled and your attempts to harmonize, decorate, and further refine your life may be stunted. So, expect to get flustered and head butt people. That makes this a great year for self-reflection, insight, and spiritual growth. Best to go with the flow and not get flustered/argue.
Monkey – Inauspicious; this year may feel oppressive, not a fun year for monkey antics/risk taking. Monkeys will be very tempted to mess with the Ox’s seriousness and will provoke a lot of backlash from the ox police. Monkey antics/causing drama will have serious repercussions for monkeys if they aren’t careful, and past grievances may come to haunt you. You are very changeable and always switching directions in life/relationships, trying new things, swinging from branch to branch, but that doesn’t work this year. This is a good year to “mature” and stick to one tree for fruit. Focus and simplify; use your creativity, wit, and intelligence to stick with a plan and embrace your limits. This is not a year for risk or adventure. Boredom is not the end of the world. All the stillness may feel ominous, like doom/disaster is coming, but calm down. Patience and planning are important because next year could be rough; Tiger Year will be a big mirror.
Rooster – Very auspicious; you are part of a trine: Ox-Snake-Rooster are good buddies. Your intelligence, planning, and advising are very helpful and useful and will be welcomed all year. There will be lots of work to do and lots of opportunity to display your eloquence and expertise. This year many people will be sobering up and rely on experts to lead the way (hopefully). You may take on a lot and be in high demand, so watch out for burn out and overwhelm. The Ox calmness counteracts your rooster overthinking, so rather than going into manic overdrive, you have a heightened capacity for focus, peace, and clarity. Pace yourself and ride the Yīn Metal (your natural element) theme of editing and organizing. Roosters shine bright, so enjoy it.
Dog – Neutral/Auspicious, Ox is a great leader and loves loyalty. Dog is a very good sidekick and is ready to take directions and get to work. Dog’s work ethic is empowered and may even go to extremes. You will probably find a lot of opportunities in every aspect of life if you go with the flow and follow your nose. Lots of people need help and support, and this is what dogs do best. Watch out for getting stuck in bad alliances, relationships, or ideologies; be careful and vet who you follow; don’t hop on bandwagons too fast. Eagerness is your downfall this year. The lone wolf/highly individualistic aspect of the Dog is out of fashion, so it is best to sniff out and find an object of devotion and inspiration and throw yourself in, whether it is a job, partner, or personal project. Generosity and a big heart go a long way. Love everyone; no growling/barking. Dogs may feel guarded, betrayed, and hesitant after last year, but we need you to lend a hand.
Pig – Neutral/Auspicious; Pigs are very available and needed to show up for others, but this is not fun year for pigs – this year pulls on your deeper humanitarian callings. Ox takes care of people but is not very cuddly. Pigs are cuddly and will show up with snacks. This is a year to bring a picnic because we’re all exhausted and sad. Your humanitarian impulse and generosity will go along way – you are the most available for generosity and will be drawn to help everyone and are therefore the most susceptible to burnout and giving too much emotionally. You may be pulled in all kinds of directions putting out fires, giving back rubs, bringing sandwiches, empathizing. Pigs love to have fun and this year is a bit bleak, so bring the party! Pigs can be very hardworking and heroic only to give everything away, so bring to life your greatest aspirations to help and serve others. There is a lot of traction this year for your projects and altruism. Don’t get too down when everyone else is getting gloomy, for next year will be one of your best, and you will be needed even more.
I wish you the all the best in this New Year!
Every harmful action I have done
With my body, speech, and mind
Overwhelmed by attachment, anger and confusion,
All these I openly lay bare before you.
While circling through all states of existence,
May I become an endless treasure of good qualities--
Gathering limitless pristine wisdom and positive potential.
May all beings have happiness and the cause of happiness.
May they be free of suffering and the cause of suffering.
May all beings remain in boundless equanimity, free from attachment and aversion!
FATE IS NOT ACTUALLY CREATED (HAS NO BEGINNING) BUT
IS THE PREDISPOSITION TO RECREATE AND SOLIDIFY KARMIC PATTERNS.
THE EVER-PRESENT OPTION/DISPOSITION TO OPENLY EXPRESS OUR TRUE NATURE IS FREEDOM.
TOGETHER FATE AND FREEDOM CONSTITUTE THE NATURALLY DYNAMIC
DIMENSION WE ARE IN.
Tiger's Play--the View Teachings of Chinese Astrology
This page is your source for pithy articles on the view teachings of Chinese Astrology. Here, I will share everything I have learned about how to follow Astrology as a spiritual path.