Wednesday, 2 January 2013
In defence of Chiron
Most of the material about Chiron rightly focuses on the pain and suffering that Chiron causes, on the wound that it represents in our personality. It is the part of our life that will not work, or causes us continual pain. I do not demur from this view or from the notion that Chiron is connected to the painful aspects of our life, but I would like to examine its attempts to bring something of value to our lives beyond just the grace of suffering and in this sense I want to act as defence counsel for this small planetoid. I respectfully submit, my lord, that this planetoid, due to its diminutive size and reputation for scapegoating has been the victim of some scapegoating itself and being a small object easily picked on, I intend to stand up for it. Rumours that I have Chiron closely square my Sun and Ascendant and therefore have a vested interest in defending this planet are completely without foundation; it is an act of pure compassion on my part.
Chiron in myth was the trainer of heroes and I notice that, while this is often mentioned, it is not always focused on in terms of what this tells us about Chiron. In myth, Chiron was immortal and this was part of the central tension inherent in his myth, in that when he is accidentally wounded by his friend and student Hercules, whose hydra poison tipped arrow brushes his thigh, he is in agony from the wound which cannot be healed (due to being the hydra’s poison) but from which he cannot die because he is immortal. We can all identify with Chiron in the sense that there is always some part of our lives that does not work for us, that causes us pain or fear, and which we worry away about, like a nagging tooth pain without ever resolving it. I was recently looking at the chart of a friend who was in the midst of a relationship dilemma. She was in her early fifties and involved in an on-off relationship with a younger man. Her dilemma was whether to stay or leave someone who appeared to be so difficult to relate to. She herself had given up altogether on relationships for many years because they were so difficult. Her focus was on the difficulties in the personality of this man and the dilemma of whether to give up or not was almost overwhelming her. Yet it was clear standing back, that whichever way she turned relationships was where her black hole game was playing out. They were not going to be easy in her life. Whether she chose the pain of loneliness, because relationships were too difficult and painful or whether she chose relationship and accepted they were painful and frustrating was the real choice. In typical Chiron terms, the blame went on the other person. Why was he so difficult and why was she wasting her time and yet she could not let go either. The presentation of herself as the victim in the story invited all her friends to tell her that this man was worthless and she should give up on him but this advice didn’t resolve anything. On this evidence, Chiron looks guilty as a bringer of pain and irreconcilable difficulty. Yet if we look more deeply, this man, who entered her life and whose Hydra like poison was causing her continual pain which she could escape, was really her training about relationships. This was someone whose role involved coaching people in leadership positions. Really it was key to her learning and her teaching of others. This man reflected many of her own personality traits and the only solution was to work on herself and give up blaming him or thinking she could change him.
I am conscious that the part of Hercules in the myth, is rarely focused on, but I wonder if it is worthy of more exploration? When Hercules injures Chiron it is not intentional. This seems pivotal and traditionally the focus is on the unintentional nature of this incident, it is just an accident and that is as far as Hercules’s role goes. Yet I wonder if there is more to it than this; what is the Hydra’s poison? And what is it about Hercules that causes him to be the person transmitting it? Everyone has presumed Hercules innocent, yet looking at the detail of the myth, Hercules’ arrow tips are poisoned and on a symbolic level arrow tips seem quite clearly Mars and therefore are redolent of competition; Hydra’s poison has more of a Pluto quality and thus power and jealousy rear their heads. Looking further, Hercules’s poisoning of Chiron is a direct consequence of one of his greatest triumphs. This is a familiar thread for me. Having the Sun less than half a degree from being exactly conjunct the Ascendant, I am a big personality and with Mars in the first in Capricorn trine Pluto-Uranus a competitive one too. It was a shock to me to discover that this big personality could wound other people who felt small by comparison. I did not feel like a big personality (I have a Cancer moon) but this did not stop my personality making other people feel small in comparison. Thus they were wounded by personality, especially when I was doing a good job of shining brightly and confidently and so they would poke me, anticipating that my big personality needed a barge pole to poke with to get it to notice, whereas with my Sun square Chiron in Pisces it needed only the lightest of touches. Thus for my friends it was painful to have me around at times and for me, it was painful too. I can’t help feeling that a similar thing is at play in the Chiron myth. There is no-one to blame but everyone ends up hurt. It is an accident, which no-one intends. That is the most frustrating part of the myth, that Chiron cannot really blame his friend Hercules, yet Hercules’s brilliance in the world (conquering the Hydra), does wound his friend. Yet what is the result of this wounding? The result is that Chiron has to deepen, to evolve and learn about himself. So his friend is both the source of his suffering and also his evolution. There always seem to be people in the world who just by their existence make us feel inadequate in some way, and yet in most cases it is not intentional. Somehow it this which makes it so unfair, that really no-one is to blame and yet nevertheless it is painful. Our parents, doing their absolute best and loving us enormously somehow manage to wound us. They don’t mean to but they do it nonetheless. Can we really blame these poor human beings who were doing their best? It is the inequality of life which seems so unfair; some are beautiful, some are talented, some are rich, some intelligent, the list goes on and on.
Yet, there is something curious at work here. This black hole game, where life is imperfect and full of painful situations is also key to our evolution and growth. This is something I have detailed before which is described by Chrissy Philp’s book about the black hole game, One Way of Looking at Man. Even more than this though, Chiron is somehow critical in bringing us together. Expressing our pain and vulnerability and the aspects of our lives that don’t work, somehow tempers the discomfort of solar energy, where everyone is shining. Who likes the individual who seems to have it all, or has no vulnerability? Somehow we identify with vulnerability and imperfection, it brings out our empathy and compassion for others. Where would stand-up comedy be without the collective recognition of our neuroses and inadequacies? Hearing comics reflect our own neuroses brings a relieving laughter that brings a sense of unity about the state of being human.
This tiny planetoid, situated between Saturn and Uranus mediates the connection between the individual and the collective. We cannot truly enter the realm of the gods, we are none of us immortal; we are all subject to decay and death, yet somehow this is the point and perhaps the very thing which does make us immortal - our acceptance of these painful limitations (Saturn) which brings us an enlightened perspective (Uranus).
Many astrologers now give rulership of Virgo to Chiron (and according to Chrissy Philp, the asteroid belt and perhaps Kuiper belt as well – this would certainly be fitting in terms of the wounding and Virgo’s constant war to bring order to their environment without ever fully succeeding – the asteroids never quite got cleared up into a planet!) and this fits with the notion of neuroses and the imperfection/perfection axis. Yet it also suggests another element of the Chiron myth, that of modesty. Hercules the great hero returns in triumph from defeating the Hydra, only to wound his best friend. How must he have felt? His greatest success turns into shlick in his hands. He must have felt dreadful. Oh no, now both friends feel awful, Chiron for the pain he feels and Hercules for having unintentionally hurt his friend. Ow, ow, how awful. Those who have been wounded by painful misunderstanding will recognise that the only way out of this dilemma is profuse apologies, tears and genuine empathy for each other (as the I-Ching says Men bound in fellowship first weep and lament, But afterward they laugh. After great struggles they succeed in meeting). Somehow this messy painful process also has unexpected benefits. We are currently on a ski-ing holiday in France with friends, including many of my son’s friends and some of my daughter’s. One of the grown up friends of our son Luke, said that he thought we were the most dsynfunctional family he knew and this hurt Luke particularly and the rest of us, an argument followed between Luke and Rafe and then eventually Luke and I explained the real issue was that we felt hurt. Rafe instead of continuing fighting with Luke, gave him a big hug and then each of us a big hug in turn. None of us could help smiling and laughing and all our hearts opened. Rafe is a big personality and apt to make tactless remarks or simply to be overwhelming and boundary less – he has Mars conjunct Jupiter in Libra in the first house. Yet he is brilliant also at knowing how to bring everyone’s hearts together and he explained that he has been with us so much as a family that he feels part of the family and that with us, our dysfunction is out in the open and expressed. These experiences of overcoming hurts and misunderstanding deepen friendship and often the outcome is laughter and a sense of warmth and open hearted goodwill when it is resolved. Laughing with our friends about painful and embarrassing mistakes is one of the ways of sharing mutual vulnerability and absurdity which brings down barriers and cements the sense of goodwill. All the best storytellers tell stories against themselves and this often grants us access to new groups.
Chiron also seems to play a critical role in teaching and learning. My own learning has been mostly influenced by storytelling, that of my friend Chrissy and also such people as Milton Erikson another quite brilliant storyteller and Ram Dass, the ultimate raconteur. Yet, it is not just that these people tell stories; it is the stories that they tell and what these stories contain. In the Carlos Castaneda books, particularly Tales of Power, Don Juan relates stories to Carlos full of power. What he meant by power in this sense was stories with the power to transform our understanding. They were critically stories about learning. The key to all these storytellers is that their stories are about their own solar process of clarity and enlightenment gained through the mistakes and difficult experiences of their lives. It is their ability to use these stories creatively which allows them to teach others to fulfill their potential and become heroes (full expressions of themselves). The point about these stories is that they are full of the vulnerability and reality of human life yet redolent with the process of having turned these experiences into wisdom.
In Greek myth heroes such as Oedipus were undone by a fatal flaw, Hardy continued the theme in his novels. There was always the sense of misunderstanding and human flaws piled atop each other to create an inevitable denouement. It is always Hubris routed in the individual’s personality which brings their downfall. In Tess of the D’Urbevilles Angel Clair cannot accept that Tess is not the virgin of his dreams, in Oedipus, his rage and ambition cause him to kill his father and sleep with his mother. Yet it is intriguing to then watch what happens to these characters following their demise. Oedipus is consulted for his experience and wisdom despite his downcast status, in Hardy, Angel Clair period of separation and reflection causes him to understand his flaw and return to Tess. They may not be happy stories in terms of events but they are stories about suffering turned into wisdom.
At a personal level, with my Chiron in the second house, I was struck the other day by a response from someone to a comment I made about my luck that my work has continued to come despite the economic downturn. They found it amusing that I should suppose it was good luck and not down to ability. A sense of neurosis about work drying up has been a fairly constant companion which I have played with throughout my career owning my own business and before that I was nagged by a sense of being unemployable beyond the job I was in. Yet, I am conscious that it is luck. While it is a neurosis on my part there is also a truth to my neurosis that has its value. In this sense I think Chiron has a role in keeping us safe from hubris, in staying modest (a very Virgoan virtue). Our difficult experiences, our neuroses have their value in preventing us from taking our good luck or our solar shining for granted. Had Oedipus been more neurotic and had more modesty and less confidence he might not have so impulsively killed his father and married his mother. At its best Chiron brings humility which allows us to shine without the hubris and arrogance which brought about Icarus’ demise. Our current vogue is to see our neuroses and frustrations as the elements getting in the way of fulfilling our potential. Yet, what if they are the key to training our solar energy to shine without self-combusting, to temper our immortal side with the humanity and modesty of mortality?
Thus I rest my case for Chiron, a poor misunderstood planetoid, who isn’t really meaning to hurt anyone but rather to teach them. His sacrifice in the end to release Promotheus, tell us about this relationship between the Sun and Chiron. Chiron’s modesty and willingness to suffer, released Promotheus from his continual pain (in the end, if we can see that our suffering is key to our evolution we transform it into something which nourishes and enlightens us allowing us to fulfill our creative potential).