Many people consider Astrology abstract and irrelevant to ordinary life, but the truth is quite the opposite. The assumption that Astrology is strange, superstitious, or occult comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of what Astrology actually is.
So what is it? In short, Astrology (better understood as Chronology) is the study of Time, Cyclical Time to be precise. Time is the flow or rhythm of our experience in the rhythms/cycles of Nature, reflected in the rhythms of the human body/mind. If you do not think Time is relevant to human life, then feel free to stop reading. If you do, then please keep reading. I would like to offer you some reflections on Time and the spiritual path.
What do I mean by spiritual path? I use this term a lot, but I honestly have no idea what people think when I do. So here, I define the term “spiritual path” as an ongoing interest in cultivating your humanity, which means being interested in what you must do as a human being. Furthermore, this cultivation must be based on a coherent and cohesive view about the nature of human beings/reality. The spiritual path according to the Chinese and Tantric Traditions begin with an interest in your natural and inherent human condition. This begs the question—biologically we are human, so can we resist our humanity? Actually yes.
From the Confucian/Daoist perspective, we are given human birth by our parents, obviously, but we must qualify as a human through education, conduct, and self-reflection. In other words, if we are not properly educated in expressing and relating to our humanity, and if we do not discover these values/virtues in our own experience and conduct, then we can use our freedom to express non-human qualities.
Humans, for example, may use argument to warm up conversation to agreement and compromise; if argument turns to anger, blame, aggression, and violence, we are expressing demonic rather than human qualities. If we spend our life blaming others, we are not qualifying as human and may not be born human the next time around.
Generosity is natural to human beings, but if we do not experience what it feels like when someone is generous to us and act from this feeling, then we may not choose generosity and opt for selfishness, which is a non-human virtue. Because we are free, we can choose limitation and therefore need education and self-reflection. The spiritual path, then, begins and ends with cultivating our human nature, which according to the Chinese Tradition is already in perfect harmony with “Capital N” Nature but may need some education. And unfortunately, most of us receive a very poor education in our humanity.
The Human Spiritual Path cultivates the fundamental aspects of our humanity that we cannot escape. Within the context of Daoism and Tantra, these inescapable human qualities fundamentally relate to Astrology, which is what I would like to discuss here in brief. These are the breath, food, sleep, sex, and death. As human beings we must do these things, and they are all rhythmic, i.e. Astrological.
The following list outlines the categories of spiritual practice and cultivation according to the Human Spiritual Path of Daoist/Tantric Astrology. If anyone tries to sell you a spiritual path that does not engage with these principals, they are selling you a fantasy religion.
As humans, we must breathe. This is the most basic and fundamental rhythm we cannot escape for more than a few moments. The Daoist/Yogic traditions of meditation are very interested in breathing, as you may have noticed. Most basic meditation practices will ask you to relate to your breath in one way or another.
In Chinese Medicine, we breathe Tian Qi, or Heavenly Qi, which when combined with eating or Gu Qi, Earthly Qi, forms the basis for producing Blood and Chen Qi, or ordinary Qi, the basis of our ordinary experience.
How is breathing related to Astrology? First, you cannot inhale and exhale at the same time, which implies that breathing alternates (Yin-Yang) in the flow of Time. The fact that it alternates means that it is a rhythm which is the definition of Time/Astrology itself. While it may seem abstract, our breath is considered a microcosmic reflection of the rhythm of heaven/the universe. In Daoism, the breath is called the gate of Heaven and Earth (in and out), or the “Purple Palace,” which in Astrology is called the gate of Fate and Freedom. The breath is our main source of reciprocity with the world.
What most people don’t know is that our breath actually flows in reciprocity with the Sun, Moon, and Seasons. In Daoist and Tantric Alchemy, the rhythms of the Sun and Moon affect our solar and lunar channels, which help to regulate our breathing, for example alternating which nostril opens and closes.
Simply put, breathing is the basis of our Human experience and the basis of the spiritual path. We cannot stop, so if we want to have a spiritual path, we must become interested in our breathing.
We breathe from birth until death. Our first breath demarcates our “birth time” in Astrology, which forms the basis of our Fate.
As humans, the second thing we must do is eat. This means that we must also assimilate and eliminate. This pattern of eating, then, involves many rhythms related to Time/Astrology. We bite, chew, and swallow; our digestion undulates in a rhythm. We tend to shit (pardon my French) in a rhythm, too, usually in the morning. If we do not defecate consistently/rhythmically, this is a sign of illness.
For many reasons, eating is the basis of the Spiritual Path. Buddhist teachers may not tell you this, but I will say unabashedly that if a spiritual teacher does not ask you to relate to your diet (and this does not mean forcing vegetarianism for "moral" reasons) then they are teaching a fantasy path.
The experience of our body and health is founded upon diet/exercise. This is a big subject, so I will keep it short and say that we each possess a unique constitution that thrives on different kinds of food. In Tantra/Ayurveda, this principal is called “for whom and when.” In other words, in order to follow a spiritual path, you must cultivate your health through understanding your elemental constitution and then eat accordingly. The tradition of Macrobiotics/Dietetics is an integral part of Daoism, and Daoists have experimented with diet and meditation for millennia.
Eating and breathing produce Chen or Ordinary Qi, which allows us to do EVERYTHING, including meditation, Yoga, and so on. No eating, no spiritual path. Improper eating—poor quality of life, poor quality of meditation. Monks the world over are malnourished and unhealthy. Americans are often over-nourished.
How is eating related to Astrology?
First, food is planted, grown, and harvested according to the seasons (or at least it was before mono-cropping). The Seasons are fundamental to Astrology, and seasonal eating is fundamental to health. Eating according to Astrology profoundly connects you to the Earth.
Second, you may notice that you eat at certain, hopefully consistent, times of the day. According to Astrology, there are specific times in which we assimilate nutrients most effectively. Furthermore, according to Astrology, we should not eat dinner after the Sun goes down, for our digestive fire goes down with it. If we eat late at night and close to sleep, then our sleep and dreams are disturbed.
Third, breathing and eating produces Xue, or Blood, which, like our breath, pulses in a rhythm. In Chinese and Indian Medicine, we take a pulse because this fundamental rhythm reflects our health/state of being. The pulse alternates according to Yin-Yang and the Five Elements, which we read in/according to Time/Astrology. The Moon pulls the tide and regulates our pulse, since blood is mostly water. We have 12 pulses that reflect the path of the Moon through the 12 houses/28 Mansions of the sky from day to night.
Again, this is a big topic, and it is enough to say that if you do not pay attention to your diet, you are not showing up and inhabiting your life, and you are certainly not following a spiritual path.
Sleep & Dream
As humans, the third thing we must do is sleep and rest. We spend 1/3 of our life asleep, which may be 30 years if you live to be 90, so clearly it is important. Yet how many of us black out at night exhausted and wake up groggy, un-rested, and with no memory of the night? If this is you, then you are not fully on the spiritual path. You must sleep to be healthy. If you want to follow the Human Path of spiritual cultivation, then you must be interested in what you must do, so reclaim the night and actively participate in sleep and dream. Path/Shamanic Dreaming is a huge topic, which I will eventually write a book about, so stay tuned.
Sleep and Dream are fundamental to both Daoism and Tantra. Sleep and Dream are also related to Death, which is last on our list.
How is sleeping/dreaming related to Astrology? By now this should be obvious. We are not nocturnal; we sleep according to the rhythms of the Sun/Moon, which is the subject of Astrology. When the Sun goes down, our body begins to shut down and prepare for sleep. According to Chinese Astrology, the night has many phases that regulate our sleep and dreaming (to learn more read my blog on Conduct and Harmony with the Time of Day). The content of our dreams is both Astrological and Ancestral, Ancestral Qi being a primary subject of Natal Astrology.
If we do not learn how to have proper restorative sleep and if we do not consciously engage in our dreaming, we are not on a spiritual path; we are wasting 1/3 of our life. Astrology/Time is the context for understanding Sleep and Dream.
Mom and Dad got into a rhythm, and now you’re here. Sex is the only way into the human realm. So as humans, the forth thing we must do is have sex/reproduce. If you do not consciously engage with your sexuality, you are not on a spiritual path—period. If a spiritual tradition says that being celibate is more spiritual, it is teaching a fantasy path. It may be for some people, but probably not for 98% of the planet. Sexuality is absolutely natural; horniness, in a sense, creates the species. No sex, no precious human birth. In the Tantric/Daoist View sex has three purposes—reproduction, recreation, and re-creation.
According to Chinese Medicine, we produce something called Jing, regulated by the Kidneys, which is a kind of predilection towards physicality, towards manifestation. Jing carries our ancestral memory, which we inherit from Mom and Dad kicking boots. Jing reproduces us; a scar is faulty Jing memory. Made to reproduces us (the subject of Daoist/Tantric Alchemy), Jing also creates junior, which is why you have your Mom’s eyes and your Dad’s jaw. My Grandma told me I have the “Eartmann Nose,” which I channel from my Danish Ancestors.
How is sex related to Astrology? First, Natal Astrology is related to an event called BIRTH, you probably don’t remember it, but it was significant. The timeliness of your birth says everything about you. Birth determines Fate and Character. Fate is something given to you by your ancestors, part of which is passed through Jing.
According to Chinese Medicine, the quality of sex your parents had to have you has a great deal to do with your Fate, Health, and Character. When we have good sex, when we both lose our false self and find our humanity in the process, when we deeply want a child, and when all of our organs (not just our genitals) are aroused, our Jing becomes magnetized, and this calls forth powerful beings and makes great children. So according to the Chinese Tradition, it is immoral/irresponsible to have bad sex because it produces bad humans, hence the many manuals on sex in Daoism (which unfortunately get misinterpreted along with all the Tantric sex nonsense).
Of course, most sex does not make babies. But according to Astrology, our sexual chemistry is very much defined by our Astrology, a cornerstone of arranged marriage in both China and India. And seeing that every human being wants to have sex at least a little (probably a lot), then (regardless of with whom/in where) we should have good sex. Astrology helps us understand how two people relate sexually due to ancestral Jing.
Finally, sex/relationships are now the source of tremendous confusion, frustration, and suffering, especially due to a 3,000+ year history of transcendental over-masculinized religion that has repressed women and sexuality (and women’s sexuality) with the view that sex/woman/the body are sinful or an impediment to the Path. According to Daoism and Tantra this is inhuman. Sex is fundamental to our humanity and therefore fundamental to our Path; if we do not engage consciously with our sexual energy, we do not walk the Human Path.
Finally, as humans we must die. Obviously, you just had to be born or you would not be reading this. Birth is the only cause of Death. No one dies from illness, disease, accidents, and so on—this is an exaggerated myth. We die because we were born—period. Death is natural to birth in the same way that shitting is natural to eating; we may not like it, but we have to go. If we do not engage with death and mortality, then we are practicing a fantasy path. And this is not morbid.
Every human being has the natural ability to die well, but we cannot do this if we do not practice. Luckily you practice dying every night when you fall asleep, another reason to consciously engage with Sleep and Dream. Daoist and Tantric practices are largely a preparation for death.
That being said, we die like we were born—somewhere in the flow of time. Our predilection for illness and death is largely ancestral, according to Chinese Astrology. Astrology can help us understand our “ancestral stream” (which I will discuss in the next blog), and this stream tells us where we came from and where we are going. If we resolve our Ancestors (karma/everything that came before, i.e in Time), then we are able to experience our Original Nature and die as an Immortal.
Birth and Death form the basic rhythm of all Life, which is actually an Immortal continuity. Engaging with Death, especially through Sleep/Dream practice, we learn that our Original Nature was never born and therefore never dies; we learn that Birth and Death are a dream. Touching this primordial continuity and living from it is the meaning of Enlightenment and Immortality in the Daoist/Tantric Tradition.
Breath, food, sleep, sex, and death are the pillars of the Human Spiritual Path, and each show us the continuity of the Rhythm of Life in the flow of Time/Astrology. These are enormous topics, and my goal here was to give you a taste of how they relate to Astrology. If you are sharp, you will realize that the Human Path is all inclusive, meaning we cannot reject any aspect of our Humanity if we want to grow spiritually. This is not a popular idea yet in Modern Spirituality, most teachers start you with Meditation or Yoga, which goes to show how crazy it is. Meditation is useless if it is not contextualized within your actual human life, which is founded upon breathing, eating, and so on. This may sound controversial, but as I have said, any spiritual teacher who does not engage you with food, sleep, sex, and death are teaching a fantasy. You are human, and your human body and its natural appetites are the spiritual path—period.
Astrology offers a fundamental lens to understand our Humanity. Why? Because Astrology is the study of Time, and all of our experience happens in the cyclical procession of time. I contend that you cannot become enlightened or even live a full and rich Human life if you do not fully engage with these subjects through the lens of how they flow/flux/alternate in the rhythms of Time.
How do we engage with them? APPETITE
Appetite is the KEY to all of these subjects. The Human Path is inherent within you because you have a natural appetite, given to you by your Ancestors, for breath, food, sleep, sex, and death. If you learn to cultivate your body as a sensitive instrument, then it will tell you everything from when, what, and how to eat; it will tell you what kind of partners and sex you need; it will tell you precisely when you’re tired, and it will even tell you when it is time to die. If you relax into your Natural Human Condition through relating to these fundamental rhythms, you will realize that your Natural State is already in perfect harmony with Dao, no need for strenuous meditation and striving.
Finally, and above all, as humans, we MUST relate to other humans. The Path of Human Spirituality is the path of discovering your natural relatedness, and these five categories are a good place to start.
Stay tuned; in the next blog, I will discuss the meaning of Ancestors in Chinese Astrology.
Tiger's Play--the View Teachings of Chinese Astrology
This page is your source for short, 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.