Maritha Pottenger and readers
Introduction by Maritha Pottenger
We are always eager to hear from our readers. Some of you have taken the time to write and share your thoughts and feelings with us, which we appreciate immensely. Several people have sent in stimulating ideas and questions, and we would like to share some of them with our other readers. Thus, periodically, we will publish letters from readers which we feel offer further insights in the field. If you write to us, we would appreciate just a note to the effect of whether or not you object to all or part of your letter being published at some future time. Thank you!
From Cara Beckenstein of Buffalo, NY we have some additional examples of what she calls “sexism as an underlying foundation for astrological thought.” She says:
“I’m sure you’ve seen Rudyar’s explanation of the lunation cycle, in which he equates men with the Sun (supposedly “life giving”) and women with the Moon (“life receiving”), in which he lays out the supposed sacredness of the heterosexual model in which women follow adoringly after their male gods-incarnate. A more glaring case of womb envy I’ve yet to see. Michael Meyers equates “up” with the “Father principle” and “down” with the “Mother principle” and of course “up” means up towards the heavens where God hangs out. In this bit of genderized geography the universe continues to be essentially masculine. Alan Oken has the entire zodiac and solar system divided up into masculine and feminine, and even Mercury, the androgyne, is a teeny-weeny bit more male because Mercury thinks. Liz Greene, excellent writer and brilliant thinker that she is, believes that feminists have Saturn sitting on their Venus and Mars, making them feel unattractive and impotent (What other reason could there be for wanting to be a feminist?). Sakoian and Acker are too banal to quote, and Marcia Moore thinks that the only way two people can ever be truly united is by having a baby. I like Marc Robertson, but even he feels it necessary to point out to us that even homosexuals have relationships! Should I even bother to mention Max Heindel, father of modern astrology, who talks about the “lower classes and lower races” of (man)kind? One could go on. Clearly, the work you are doing is so vital, so crucial, so absolutely important, that it must go on and be restated and restated until it sinks in. I think that if astrologers can begin to understand the relationship between culture and individual they will be on their way to exploring their own biases. This is a very hard one for people in general to grasp—there seems to be a great reluctance to seeing the world in political terms and to analyzing ones cherished ideals and values as perhaps only relative, or even wrong. When you’re talking about sexism, this is especially true, because old old ancient antediluvian patriarchal attitudes die hard. Our culture is founded upon them. Even I, as a conscious feminist, a woman trying to overcome a lifetime of negative conditioning, find myself in a constant battle with guilt and doubt on this road to self-actualization. Imagine how much harder it is for a person who has never even questioned the rightness of sexist attitudes and who has structured his or her life by them....
“I hope you’ll continue to use this forum for the expression of feminist philosophy in astrology, which, in my opinion, is not a debatable issue—the sexist/racist/classist world-view which sees people as inherently limited by physical structure is obsolete and no longer viable in a world in which people of all kinds are demanding human rights. It never ceases to amaze me that despite the astrologer’s constant contact with diversity of life-style and personality and background, as a group astrologers continue to maintain some very reactionary attitudes that cannot help but be destructive to our aims. How can we help a person achieve his/her true potential if we believe that this “true potential” is in itself an aberration? An important question, but one which too few astrologers care to ask themselves. I think it is crucial that astrologers be aware of the relativity of their viewpoints and the danger of making too many value judgments about what is or is not an acceptable way of life. We have a responsibility to be as open-minded and accepting as we possibly can be, understanding that what we may accept for others, we need not choose for ourselves. You’d think that simply studying astrology and doing charts would automatically bring about this kind of world-view. Where else can one get the opportunity to see the phenomenon of unique character and individuality in action? Sometimes I think astrologers are unaware of the kind of effect we can have on our clients. While it’s true that we cannot change the course of anyone’s life, it’s also true that we sometimes have a profound effect on choices people make once they leave. If we’re not supporting the client in reaching toward that inner spark that only he or she can grasp, why be involved in astrology in the first place? Part of the problem comes from the fact that so-called “politics” and so- called “spirituality” are seen to be mutually exclusive. Yet another of the false dichotomies born of patriarchy. How can we ever separate the cultural milieu in which we live, and from which our attitudes and beliefs come, from who we are as individuals? Bridging the artificial gap between politics and spirituality is necessary if we are going to evolve astrology into an art that will remain relevant in this era—particularly now that we are at the crossroads of two ages, when the Aquarian concepts of democracy and sharing and respect for the individual’s rights are becoming more and more essential for survival. Too many spiritually inclined people like to consider themselves “above” a political (or materialist) worldview, feeling they’ve gone on to something higher. In fact, they’ve left their very political biases and value judgments unchallenged, to actually create an entire view of spirituality that is very much a relative thing.
“One of the most obvious kinds of hang-ups I see spiritual people get into (and this really is true for astrologers) is the “astronomy is Biology is Destiny” trip—the literal translation of supposedly objective material reality into metaphoric terms. The Sun/Moon—Man/Woman analogy is only the most glaring. (Isabel Hickey says that material affluence is the result of “good deeds” from a past life—tell that to the world’s poor.) The most detailed account of this thing that I’ve read is in Rudhyar’s book on the lunation cycle, in which he relates women to the mysterious, changeable, emotional Moon. Of course, women may appear mysterious to men, but we certainly aren’t mysterious to ourselves and each other. While it is a fact that certain vital life functions and cycles are tied to the Moon and that these may particularly relate to women, I still get a somewhat uncomfortable feeling when spiritual feminists zero in on the Moon as THE symbol for the Goddess (or whatever), when there is such a wealth of powerful and useful energy out there. Which is not to say that I’m “anti-Moon”. I would like to see women understand the symbolism of the Sun, Mars, Mercury, Uranus, etc. as having meaning and vitality as well—I guess in particular the Sun, since this is such a visible and central force for us earthlings. Integration of Sun and Moon is far more important as far as I’m concerned than a focusing in on the Moon at all cost. Of course it is true that in the denial of womanity that we experience under patriarchy, rediscovering the Moon is in some ways a rediscovering of, or perhaps a revalidation of ourselves as women, an authentication (is that a word?) of our unique strengths in terms of intuition, compassion, emotionality, receptivity, nurturing and adaptability. On the other side, however, is the fact that too much compassion and adaptability has really enslaved women for centuries, and these days women are working more and more on self-love and personal conviction. One of the things we as feminist astrologers can do for women is to present all the astrological symbols as terrific role models, so to speak, in order than we can reclaim for ourselves the full range of psychological potential that exists in the human sphere.
P.S. The myth that gay men just need a “good lay” does exist! I’ve known gay men who were hounded by well-meaning women hoping to jump in the sack with them in order to show them the glorious heterosexual possibilities. Women do get into the “real woman” conquest trip just as men get into trying to seduce lesbians.”
Maritha: I just want to say “Right On” to all of Cara’s comments. And whoever says feminists have no sense of humor had better re-read her remarks, especially the first few paragraphs!
Cara again: “As far as the translation of matter into some kind of spiritual metaphor, it seems to work best in medical astrology. It works horribly in karmic astrology where the astrologer seems to think that the political, cultural, social milieu is absolutely irrelevant. In this view, rape is a matter of bad karma, of having been a violent, oppressive person in another life. Every immoral, unjust, inhumane thing that happens in the world can be chalked up to the mysterious God of Karma who zaps all the bad guys and rewards the good guys. No need for social change, no need for a humanitarian perspective in which one might take a stand. Fascism is group negative karma in action; the United States is the bastion of good karma (if you happen to be a white male making $40,000 a year). One thing I really love about The Mutable Dilemma is the attention you pay to social issues. It is clear that you have a point of view, a fairly radical one for a change—how refreshing and how important. I love seeing the charts of famous fanatics like Anita Bryant and Jim Jones and understanding their personalities from a liberal, humanitarian perspective. So, obviously you are already doing the opposite of the why-fight-it-it-must-be-karma school of astrology. However, most astrologers seem to retain this as an underlying assumption somewhere in their overall philosophy. This is another thing I think needs to be challenged, because it fits so neatly into the point of view that sees the current stereotypical roles for women and men as “the way things are” and the way they should remain. Astrology does have the potential to be a political as well as a spiritual vehicle (not necessarily from the point of view of mundane astrology, although this is a subject I would like to explore and see what the possibilities are. I had a friend back in 1969-70 who was a left-wing radical and an astrologer, and she used to predict upcoming riots and confrontations with the Buffalo police during the protests at the Univ. of Buffalo using mundane astrology. It was kind of a kick to us materialists in those days who thought anybody into astrology must be right off the deep end). The fact that the asteroids seem to have some connection to feminism and social activism in general portends a gradual merging of the spiritual and political, which is quite fitting in this age.”
Zip: Amen to Karma as a cop-out on personal responsibility when “it’s my Karma” is taken to mean “I can’t do anything about it.” Karma is consequences. Consequences are life’s reaction to what we are now, to what we are doing now! The past only explains how we developed the character that inclines us to be and do our thing. As I have said in many lectures, if we are being a doormat now and being walked on, it is not because we walked on someone else in the past: it is because we are lying down now, saying “walk on me.” We stop being a doormat when we develop the courage to get up and say “stop walking on me.” Loss of eyesight is generally an unconscious need to avoid looking at the world, not a punishment for putting out someone’s eyes in a past life. The tit-for-tat kind of simplistic version of Karma is absurd and dangerous, as it does encourage passivity and fatalism. Life continues to respond to our present character until we change that character (habitual attitudes and actions). If things are happening to us that seem contrary to our conscious desires, we had best take a good, hard look at what we are putting out from the unconscious. At the same time, Cara is quite right that a great many people are not able to change their character and circumstances without help, and if we believe in the oneness of life, and realize that all of life is deeply interdependent, we will do whatever we can to alleviate suffering wherever we see it. We are all on a ladder; one hand down to help the person below us and one up to receive help from above. Shared pain is halved and shared pleasure is doubled. We are all in the same lifeboat, and it is getting smaller every day. We had better learn to row together!