One of the things I enjoy about John Frawley is that he is connected philosophically to Neoplatonism, as of course a proper astrologer would be. Not for him the lightweight philosophy of modernism.
In The Real Astrology Frawley says, “God too, from enfolding the cosmos, has been pushed out to some infinite distance, where He was soon forgotten. The Sun, symbol of His manifestation, was made central, but no longer central to the cosmos, only to one little, obscure corner of it. Although our immediate perception tells us otherwise, we are assured by the scientists that there are far bigger and brighter stars than our Sun: bigger and better gods” (pp. 61-62).
This was the project of Enlightenment science. In the process of opening the Universe, we humans lost much of our ground in local space in order to become grounded in a bigger world.
Then Frawley continues—and here is his genius—”Even in spiritual terms we see the consequence of this: every far-off faith is more attractive than that to which we are born, as if we have the choice of being warmed by suns other than our own” (page 62, emphasis added).
This image of being warmed by our own local Sun is vivid for me. Was it something my mother said when I was little? Maybe. I don’t remember. Until I read Frawley I thought of it in terms of living Under a Western Sky, a title I’ve used in the past for this blog. And there is the famous saying of the Roman poet Horace: Caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt. (They change the sky, not their soul, who run across the sea.)
Now Frawley has given me a larger context for the same idea. The Sun that warms us all shines on me only in the place I am, while at the same time all those other suns, the zillions of stars, create a beautiful tapestry in the heavens but they do not warm me, not this body, not where I am.
From there, it is no leap at all to Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk and spiritual guide to the West. He tells his listeners not to become Buddhists. We don’t need you, he says. If there is something in this tradition you find valuable, take it back to your own people. Transform your own culture rather than trying to become something you are not.
From Living Buddha, Living Christ: “I always encourage them to practice in a way that will help them go back to their own tradition and get re-rooted. If they succeed at at becoming reintegrated, they will be an important instrument in transforming and renewing their tradition. . . . When we respect our blood ancestors and our spiritual ancestors, we feel rooted. If we find ways to cherish and develop our spiritual heritage, we will avoid the kind of alienation that is destroying society, and we will become whole again. . . . Learning to touch deeply the jewels of our own tradition will allow us to understand and appreciate the values of other traditions, and this will benefit everyone.”
That is the part that intrigues me. My world is full of folks who are not centered in their own local religious space. A good many of them, including most of the neopagans and good many Buddhists and Hindus, aren’t even centered in their own time. I dabble myself, because it’s all just so damn interesting, but I decided a long time ago that I want the cultural component of my religion to be invisible to me. If I can see it, then what I’m doing is something other than spirituality.