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.”
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.