In this blog, I would like to answer the question—what is the “universe” from the perspective of Polestar Astrology? In doing so, I would like to present the “big picture” of Astrology and how this view helps us to follow Astrology as a “wisdom path.”
The “Universe” is UNKNOWABLE. The Chinese tradition refers to the unknowable universe as Dao although that is not a direct translation (Dao has no English equivalent). A famous translation of the Dao De Jing goes something like, “that which can be known is not the Dao.” For those suffering from expertise, this may be disconcerting. Expertise is probably the biggest troublemaker in the world—assumed knowledge (especially of other people’s experience) is far more dangerous than conscious ignorance. One of my all time favorite quotes comes from a Christian mystic, Bernadette Roberts, “When you have learned it all and lived it thoroughly, then you had better get ready to have it all collapse when you discover the highest wisdom is that you know nothing.”
When we examine our experience, we find ourselves in a Cosmic Soup, in what the Chinese call Hun Tun. Within this Cosmic Soup, all Time and Space are an incomprehensible chaos. When we examine our experience closely, we are confronted with irresolvable, unending confusions brought about by analysis (scientism). In other words, the universe, the world, and our “self” appear to exist, but this appearance is dubious. When we actually try to find the objects referred to by these terms, we cannot. We find no particular time, place, or self. Rather, we find an infinite number of temporarily compounded “things,” each made up of smaller things, ad-infinitum, in the flow of ordinary experience, which is processional. And the universe, or Dao, as some kind of “Ultimate Reality,” is beyond conceptual elaboration, beyond the grasp of human thought. It is far too “big” to understand (duh!), which is the same as saying the universe is made up of things too small to understand.
Paradoxically, this Hun Tun, this irresolvable chaos is the source of every thing and every being. When we relax our need to know, our need to “figure everything out,” (scientism) we open the door to wisdom. When we embrace reality as incomprehensible, our experience opens up to what we can actually observe—temporary patterns of energy/light (qi). Our actual experience tells us that we are a weaving of “qi strands,” light waves. We are like a candle flame, a stream of energy that “appears” temporarily, displaying a certain pattern, which we call “Me/I” The world, too, appears to be solid and stable. But under close examination, the world is revealed as nothing but an appearance of cycling energy. What we know as the world, other people, events, and so on are merely the tendency of qi to look like “stuff,” crystallized by the conceptual process of labeling the unknowable.
I often make fun of western science because it seeks to "prove" through observation, and in trying to do so it proves itself wrong every five minutes. In the Chinese view, everything is fundamentally empty and ultimately unknowable, and therefore saying anything "conclusive" based on statistical data is foolishness. Wisdom Science does not operate from the assumption that anything reliable can be said about anything. The only reliable constant is change, and the patterns of change are all we seek to describe, and even these are not reliable as concepts. You may get cancer, but this will resolve in death. You may die, but this will resolve in birth. All we can say about health is "for whom, and when."
The view of Chinese Astrology, then, has two dimensions—the dual and the non-dual. Buddhism calls these the two truths, the ultimate and the relative.
In the non-dual view, we practice divination (fate calculation) in order to observe things “as they are,” to look into the fundamental nature of things, to break down our compulsion to predict, fix, or improve particular aspects of the limitless sea of Dao. Rather, we observe these patterns as compound and processional in order to recognize that we are too. The constant observation of flowing patterns, then, undermines our notions of a solid world and of an abiding self. When these notions fall away, what remains is the ever flowing nameless cosmos.
In this revelation, we experience ourselves and the world as a phantasm of light (qi).
This revelation, however, comes through the dual view of Astrology. In other words, what we divine through astrology is a dual (relative) vision, the dance of microcosm and macrocosm. As soon as we begin to name the patterns of qi, we separate them from the Chaos of Hun Tun and from the nameless Dao.
In the view of Chinese Astrology, the dual and the non-dual are not opposed; in fact, the non-dual contains the dual, and by investigating the weaving of the cosmic matrix we find ourselves in, we “unravel our fate.” Hun Tun is not vanquished, it is embraced, and we agree to be swept along in the cycles in which we are already flowing. In other words, our experience is already flowing, and by naming the patterns we find ourselves in, we define a sense of personal fate within the greater cycles. Through identifying our personal fate, our “karma,” we define a path composed of smaller cycles that we call health (our alchemical body) and happiness (our relationships).
By studying the dual vision of the universe, and by creating a personal sense of fate and freedom, we learn how to disentangle our qi from karmic debts (repeating patterns of depletion) and aggression (false views of a solid world and an abiding self). This disentanglement is called the resolution of fate. In the resolution of fate, we experience what the universe, the Dao, actually is—freedom, with no particular agenda.
This freedom appears to the conceptual mind as the irresolvable chaos I mentioned in the beginning, and because of our anxiety, we try to pin down and describe everything in order to get "control"(modern science). But when we are resolved of fate, this chaos relates openly with order, and the dual and non-dual are no longer experienced as two. In this, we experience our original nature, devoid of self/other, and yet freely generating character and fate. We find ourselves perfectly situated in the magnificent matrix of Dao—no self, no problem.
The resolution of fate is called “Great Completion,” the realization that everything is already harmonious, in Tibetan - Dzogchen, the “Great Perfection.” The universe (Dao) consists of cycles of fate (karma) moving from apparent Chaos to Great Completion and back again. These cycles, as I have mentioned in a previous blog, are self-resolving. Meaning, the universe is characterized by a kind of balance (yin/yang) which is self-correcting. Yin is always moving in the direction of yang, and yang is hurling in the direction of yin. Hence the famous yin-yang symbol depicted as one circle. Even when our life appears to be chaos, it is moving toward order. Completion comes when we recognize that perfection includes both chaos and order.
From the non-dual perspective, the universe is open space full of dancing light. From the dual perspective, this light vibrates/flows in cycles and “appears” as patterns, which we call “things,” people, places, planets, kittens, flowers, and so on. This experience of light, however, is unknowable. But it is an experience. In fact, Great Completion is demonstrated when we become we are—light having an experience of light. Those who experience Great Completion "light body" and leave behind no corpse, as Liu Ming’s teacher demonstrated. The Body of Light, however, is not a special experience; it is what the universe eventually does in the cycles of time.
Astrology as a wisdom path begins from the view that reality is an unknowable experience. We practice divination and study the cycles of change, time, space, character, and fate to undermine our notions of a solid world and of an abiding, separate self. So to answer, the original question—what is the universe? Chinese Astrology replies—unknowable. What we can “know” is only what we can observe, which is nothing but temporary appearance patterns.
In the following blogs, I invite you to come with me as I examine more of these temporary appearances. The Chinese Tradition of Polestar Astrology offers a complete cosmology, a complete picture of what it means to be a human being on earth. In the next blog, I will explore the concept of personal freedom through the “Five Element/Phase” cycle, what is called our “Inner Element.”
Before I delve further into the specific view teachings of Chinese Astrology, I need to backtrack and define why Polestar Astrology, in particular, is relevant to modern life. To do this, I will explore the question—what is Fate?
Disassociation and purposelessness are among the most troubling epidemics of modern technological culture. Now, more than ever, human beings dissociate from their natural environment, from one another, from history, from culture, and from their own embodied human experience. Disassociated from natural cycles, we consume in excess and throw everything out of balance. We have become a society of floating heads; we connect wirelessly, but in reality we seem to connect very little.
Our culture, especially in America, has lost any sense of coherent or cohesive values. As a culture, we are inundated with confusing, ever-changing ideas from the shrine of Scientism, which changes its mind every few hours, presenting us with contradictory and often conflicting views about everything. Most of us reject our religious heritage, and if we don’t, we tend to prosthelytize others or judge them silently. As a culture, we argue over just about everything, confusing each other with bad ideas, and, unfortunately, corporatism and consumerism provide the most coherent value structures in American society.
Our hard fought individualism has given us freedom, privilege, and comfort but no idea about what to do with our freedom. Because of this, many people lack what I will call “Life Purpose.” We’re not quite sure why we were born, and we spend a great deal of time wasting our energy in pursuit of an outdated and unsustainable model of success. Most of us exhaust ourselves trying to survive our own life.
The American Dream died (probably sometime in the late 80’s), and its ghost is dangerous. And yet the whole world tries to achieve it. I have been to over twenty countries; I have lived in Asia, and I have seen the whole world struggling to have “everything,” or in some cases anything at all. We want career, kids, family, money, two cars, a house, money in the bank, and so on. If we do achieve this, it is often because of privilege, plain and simple. Failing to achieve this, many become despondent and lost, and many blame themselves. And who’s to blame us for feeling this way?
The view of modern culture (or lack thereof) lags far behind the reality of our actual situation. We cannot have it all because resources are limited. And actually, we are not supposed to have it all.
In the Chinese view, we are supposed to have what we are fated for, and very few are fated for "everything." We’re supposed to work together and support one another to balance and create social harmony. What one lacks, another is fated for in abundance, and through social order and the distribution of resources we keep the balance. We have enough resources to feed, clothe, and shelter everyone on Earth, and yet we do not because we are disassociated from Natural Wisdom and one another.
According to the Chinese view, we waste tremendous energy and life force (qi) trying to achieve things we are not fated for. So first, according to Chinese Astrology, you have something called “fate.” This may be news to you, and you may even object, which is quite normal. So I will say upfront that fate is not determinism.
Fate means opportunity. Obviously, we all have different opportunities in life based on where, when, and to whom we were born, meaning our opportunity is Astrological. Furthermore, the circumstances surrounding our opportunities are much bigger than we can grasp. Our actual situation is enormous.
Some people seem lucky—in the right place at the right time. Some people are phenomenally talented and yet live lives of quiet desperation with little to no opportunity. The American Dream tells us we can “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps,” and yet we all know this is insane. Through no amount of hard work will I be a center in the NBA.
The Chinese answer to this paradox is fate. We are each fated to have a certain potential for experience and opportunity in life, and this potential manifests or unfolds based on the timeliness of our birth.
Fate (opportunity), according to the Chinese view, is rhythmical, cyclical, and mathematical. The Ancients observed the cycles of time, space, and nature for thousands of years and discovered within these cycles a number of different patterns. One of these cycles generates what the Chinese call Character, which I will discuss in a future blog. Another, which I will describe here, is related to Fate. In Polestar Astrology, we call these cycles “Currents of Fate.”
The Currents of Fate are related to mathematical calculations based on the Polestar, or Emperor Star, the only star in the night sky which does not appear to move. If you visit the homepage of my website, you will see the Emperor Star in time-lapsed photography, the heavens swirling around it. Every few thousand years, the Polestar changes; it was Vega, and now it is Polaris. Every culture on earth since time immemorial has used the Polestar for navigation and, more importantly, for Astrology.
After thousands of years of observation, the Chinese noticed that the constellations in the night sky swirled in patterns around the Emperor Star, and that these patterns were cyclic, rhythmic, and mathematic. Furthermore, they noticed that the circumstances or opportunities of human life were intimately related to these patterns in a predictable way. These patterns are energetic expressions of vibrating light, and so are we.
Imagine that the energy or light of the entire universe (qi) flows in big cyclical patterns related to the relative position of heavenly bodies within space. From our position on earth, we are related mathematically to one of many intertwined and interrelated swirling patterns of energy within the galaxy and greater universe. Every planet, then, would determine different but related patterns. From Earth, our patterns are determined or calculated by the fixed position of the Polestar. The patterns observed shift every hour, every year, generating and concluding different phases in the cycles of time and energy (qi). This flow shifts from one pattern to another in a predictable way—sunrise, sunset.
Imagine now that the energy of the universe is not disconnected, cold, insentient energy, but rather that the whole universe is an intimate web of living, breathing, cycling energy. Finally, consider the possibility that you are also an expression of this basic living energy, and that you are fundamentally interconnected to these greater cycles and patterns which operate beyond the grasp of your conscious mind. No definable point of separation between yourself and the universe can be found; you are a breathing pulsation of the entire matrix of Life.
According to Polestar Astrology, when you were born, you emerged as an expression of the same pattern of energy the universe was exuding at that moment. Imagine that in each moment the universe is exuding or “doing” a certain pattern. At the moment of birth, the pattern of the universe, which you are fundamentally connected to, patterns you. In other words, you become a living expression of that pattern. Everything that “began” in that moment also expresses that pattern. These patterns radiate outward, containing and relating to one another like a Russian Doll, and they express a continuum from microcosm to macrocosm.
Imagine that in the moment of birth you are plugged into one of these streams, these current of cycling energy, forever connected to it temporally, and that this stream is already in motion, set to unfold as a rhythmic pattern, and it will carry you along in it like a flowing river. As you flow through life, this pattern of energy will unwind and create the potential for certain kinds of experience to manifest. This potential for experience, based on these patterns of energy, are what the Chinese Tradition calls Fate. These Currents of Fate are finite in number (518, 400) but infinite in their potential, variety, and multiplicity of expression.
Have I confused you? Not to worry. To simplify, you have something called “Fate,” which is determined by the timeliness of your birth, by whatever streaming pattern of energy you “popped” into.
So how is this related to life purpose? Polestar Astrology is also called “Fate Calculation.” A Polestar Astrology Session reads the particular “pattern” of your birth and can tell you the nature of how this pattern may unfold. Remember, it is not fortunetelling, it cannot predict the future, but it can tell you the possibilities within the container of your “pattern.” The value of Polestar Astrology comes through dialogue, meaning the Astrologer provides interpretations of Fate, but it is up to you to define that meaning in terms of your own experience.
The Chinese Tradition is very practical, coming from Confucian values. Fate, then, is read in relation to practical human life. In a Natal reading, I look at family, marriage/romantic partners, children, money, career/work in the world, and pleasure. And in the Chinese view, your fate lies within these categories. And while fate is spread throughout these categories, our major fate, what we are here to “do,” lies within one of them. Some people are fated to be parents, and that is the most important thing they are fated to do. The rest is unimportant in the big picture and may even constellate around parenthood. Some are fated for career but not everyone, which may terrify Americans. Some are just here to enjoy themselves.
Knowing this, Polestar Astrology can take an immense pressure off of the confusion of modern technological life. First, if we lack direction it can give it to us. Polestar Astrology can tell us, quite plainly, what we were born to do. Polestar Astrology provides the big picture, the context for our entire life. Sometimes fate is clear (yang) and sometimes it is mysterious (yin). Knowing that our life is fated to be unclear may actually relieve us of trying to “figure it out.” In that space we may even relax (!) and experience insight. Knowing that our fate lies in family life, we can relax and not waste our energy trying to build a “successful” career. In other words, knowing that we can’t “have it all,” we can stop wasting our energy trying to have it all, and we can put our energy into our fate.
Sometimes we are fated for difficulties. Polestar Astrology can tell us where those difficulties may manifest, which provides us a tool for navigating them. Some people are fated for freedom, knowing this we can use our freedom to experience our original nature and benefit others. Modern life tells us we are supposed to do everything, but perhaps this need not be the case. Maybe we can relax.
One goal of Polestar Astrology is to relax because everything is self-resolving. This means that in the cycles of time everything resolves of its own accord. Birth always resolves in death, which resolves in birth, both of which express the continuum of Life.
In my first blog, I asked a number of fundamental questions about life, the universe, and time. In this blog, and the in the blogs that follow, I will explore and attempt to answer some of these questions from the perspective of Chinese Astrology.
The first of these questions is, perhaps, the most important. Any religion, science, or system of understanding reality must answer this question before it can have any relevance in our life. If any system of inquiry, such as science, does not answer this question it has no basis, no fundamental starting point, and no coherent view on anything. This question is--what is a human being? We are human beings, and anything we do, create, or learn is a projection of this fact, and everything must relate to our humanity and to the relationship and significance of our humanity to the universe. In the next blog, I will answer the question—what is the universe? However, any understanding of the universe without an understanding of our humanity is meaningless and actually useless, for in order to understand what we are looking at, we must first know—what is looking?
The answer to “what is a human being?” may seem big, but it is actually not. The answer is simple, perhaps too simple, and yet this simple answer contains the greatest wisdom available to any person. A human being is a compound. You may be saying—what the hell does that mean? That’s not profound. Let’s unpack what I mean. For our compound nature is the basis of all Astrology.
First, this is a reference to both Daoist and Buddhist view, and here I will refer specifically to what Buddhists call “the four seals of Dharma,” (not the four noble truths), the four defining factors of Buddhism. “All compound phenomena are impermanent.” If we search our experience, we cannot find anything that is not compounded, meaning composed of many things. For example, everything we see is a compound of shape and color. Everything composed must decompose; therefore everything in our experience is unstable, in a process of coming together and apart, in a process of change. Human beings, then, cannot be “perfected.” Meaning that we do not evolve toward any kind of ideal state, but rather we are cyclical, and our life is a rhythm which contains ups and downs, good and bad. Since we cannot be perfected, we are relieved of any notion of progress and of any ultimate notion of “self-improvement.” The goal of being human is not to become perfect but rather to relax and understand our compound nature of cyclical and rhythmic change.
Our nature is movement. All that we can actually observe in ourselves and the universe is movement.
If a human being is a compound, this begs the question—a compound of what? The very nature of being compound means that we are a multitude of different processes in some kind of relationship with one another. In other words, to be compounded means to be in relationship, and we are fundamentally a series of relationships.
In the ordinary sense, we are a compound of ordinary things—you, sitting and reading this, are a compound of what you ate from breakfast this morning, of your relationship with your mother, of blood, muscle, oxygen, and probably a great many fantasies, ideas, beliefs, and so on. From the perspective of Daoism and Chinese Astrology, however, we are a compound of different cycles of “qi” in relationship with one another. Qi is described by what the Chinese call yin and yang and the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water), what are called the heavenly stems, and by the 12 animals of the zodiac, what are called the earthly branches, which describe different patterns and qualities of cycling energy. In human beings, these qualities compound to create what we call “Character.” So a human being has Character, composed of qi qualities. Character will be defined in future blogs.
What is qi? Qi is has not English equivalent and cannot easily be defined. To appease the Western mind, I will define qi as the movement/rhythm (meaning Time) of Light within Space. And so ultimately we are a compound of time, light, and space. In the relative world, this compound is characterized by yin/yang, the five elements, and the 12 animals (energy patterns) of the zodiac, which is nothing other than our ordinary experience. But the bigger picture of time, space, and light also compound to create what the Chinese call “Fate.” So a human being has Fate, not a pre-determined future but a pattern of energy set to unfold rhythmically over our life, manifesting as the different possibilities of our experience. Fate will also be defined in future blogs.
Because we are compound, we have no abiding self, for any self we could find would also be compound ad-infinitum. This means that our fundamental nature is not fixed and unchanging, but rather our nature is Freedom, the freedom of light to move within space unimpeded, and the freedom of light to move slowly, creating the appearance of solidity. So a human being has a Nature, which is fundamentally empty of solidity and therefore free to manifest or appear as anything, including the "world." But this freedom, what Buddhists call Emptiness, does not manifest chaotically. Freedom is Chaos, and because it is chaos it manifests as order (chaos without order would be meaningless), and it does so through rhythms of time, space, and light. The movement quality of time, space, and light create the “appearance” of a world and of an abiding “self,” but upon investigation these appearances are empty of any solid continuity. They are nothing other than movement.
To summarize, a human being is a compound of character, freedom, and fate.
Have I confused you? Not to worry, in the blogs that follow, I will define all these terms in further detail. To conclude, I will add perhaps the most important definition of a “human being.” The Confucian tradition calls this “human heartedness” and defines human nature as fundamentally good. A human being is fundamentally an expression of a basic goodness, a freedom which is beyond duality yet free to express duality. Our compound nature, which cannot be perfected because it will always decompose, is also not imperfect. It is the display of a kind of primordial perfection containing all possibilities, and it is our basic goodness that makes us capable of both compassion and hatred. The goal of Chinese Astrology is to become a gentle person, a person who knows that everything is falling apart only to come back together again in different ways, that birth is the only cause of death, and that human beings are perfectly imperfect—knowing this creates human heartedness; knowing this, we can laugh and not take ourselves or life seriously.
To kick off my Astrology blog, I would like to first address the most fundamental challenge Astrology faces in the age of Scientism, namely skepticism. "Astrology? Do you really believe in that? You think the planets have something to do with someone’s personality? Come on…how naive can you be?"
To be honest, people should be skeptical of Astrology, especially given the way it has been portrayed in the west as a “pseudo-science” and as a form of fortunetelling. First, Chinese Astrology is not a science by Western definitions, and it is not a pseudo-science. Chinese Astrology is, by its own definition, a “Mantic Art,” a form of “Divination,” and I will define these terms in the following blogs.
As long as we compare Chinese Astrology with Western Science from the perspective of “Scientism,” the modern religion which seeks to “prove” through statistical research data, we will always be at a loss; we will be speaking about two different subjects. Chinese Astrology and Western Science begin with different fundamental assumptions about the universe and about human beings, and so to begin we must, as my astrology teacher used to say, start with start. In other words, we must define the “view” of Chinese Astrology, its point of departure, and answer the questions—what is the universe? And, what is a human being? Any discussion of Astrology or science must begin with these questions, and in answering them, the question of skepticism will actually be answered on its own. How? This is what I intend to answer in the following blogs, for if you understand the view of Chinese Astrology, then you will understand that is not something to “believe” in. Believing in Chinese Astrology is akin to saying, “I believe that tomorrow the sun will rise, or that tomorrow I will continue to have skin.”
My intention as an Astrologer is not to defend Astrology or make it match science, nor is it to apologize because they never will. Rather my goal is to start over with the subject. In the blog posts that follow, I will introduce many topics that are fundamental to understanding the view teachings of Chinese Astrology and Astrology in general. In doing this, I hope to show you how Astrology can be followed as a “wisdom path,” as a way of life.
So, if you are skeptical of Astrology, I ask you to consider the following questions, which I will address in the weeks and months to come.
First—what is Time? Is there any significance to Time or to sequence? What is Space? Where are we? When are we? Is time linear, marching toward an ultimate end? Or is it cyclical and rhythmic? Are there any observable rhythms in nature? Is there any significance to these rhythms, such as the seasons? Do these rhythms form observable patterns?
These basic questions must precede any discussion of Astrology, which is fundamentally a study of time and space, what we call “macrocosm.”
Second—what is a human being? Is it important to be a human being? What is our basic nature? Are human beings significant? How does a human being relate to its environment? How does a human being relate to other beings, human or otherwise? Where do we come from? Do we evolve, meaning are human beings linear? Or do we adapt for better or worse, meaning are we cyclical? Does human life involve rhythms? How about patterns? Where does our behavior come from? Are we born as tabula rasa, as a “clean slate?” What is a human body? Does the human body have rhythms? How does time affect human beings?
These kinds of questions must also precede the discussion of Astrology, which is secondarily a study of how time and space affect human beings and how human beings relate to others and to their environment, what we call “microcosm.”
Once you have considered these questions, you are ready to enter into a discussion about Astrology. These and similar questions are meant to draw out your conscious and unconscious views about life, for if you begin any conversation without examining your unconscious assumptions you will most likely be talking to yourself, engaging with your own foregone conclusions. A famous saying goes, “the mind is like a parachute; it works much better when it is open.”
Tiger's Play--the View Teachings of Chinese Astrology
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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.