Astrology, used as it should be used - to teach ourselves the truths that underlie our complex experience - shows us, with careful examination, something of what a Church is, what it must do, and the roles of men and women in the Church's life.
First, we must decide which among the twelve zodiacal archetypes refers most closely to matters of religion. Traditionally this Sign is held to be SAGITTARIUS the Archer, represented as a Centaur; and this is fitting, as even now in the late 20th Century both the Tropical Sign and the Constellation ( Sidereal Sign ) direct the eye toward the Galactic Centre around which we and our particular source of light and life, the Sun, move, dependent on its even mightier light and power.
To know the nature of anything, we place the appointed Sign on the left of a zodiac wheel, as if it were rising in a horoscope, and then assign the inner wheel of twelve Houses to the Signs in sequence, our chosen Sign embracing the First House.
When the Christ spoke as Jesus, saying, " I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life " (St.John, 14: 6) he was telling us that the divinity at the heart of each one of us as children made in the likeness of God, whatever the race, colour or creed, is the Way, the Truth, the Life; that this living inner beauty, light and love is indeed the only Way to come to the knowledge and presence of the Father, our Source and Destiny.
LEO is also known as the creative Sign, and the sign of Fatherhood, education, and play, of fulfilment and deep happiness in the whole knowledge and expression of the Self. "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" said God through the words of Jesus (St. Matthew, 18:3) - and this is what any Church must continue to teach, this return to the innocence, honesty and spontaneous joy of the child at play, so that we may at last become co-creators, loving and beloved companions with God.
A true Church exists for every individual soul in this utter simplicity; yet SAGITTARIUS itself, gregarious in its nature, shows the Church to be a body of many individuals, each on a Journey, each one seeking and finding joy and faith in each other's company. What more can we learn about a Church?
To look at the Sign and House opposite, namely GEMINI with the Seventh House, is to realise that a Church's first response to others should be to communicate; dialogue is natural and essential, for without these the ideas, visions and healing love of the Church would find no outlet, would be rendered ineffective and useless. Without the Word there would be nothing to hear! Gemini, ruled by Mercury, is a Sign of youth, and it is in the young of the day that a Church should find its most ready listeners, their minds fresh and hungry for truth and entitled to be fed with all that is most nourishing for the human soul. Otherwise we know and sadly often observe what takes its place, and as a society pay the penalty for our dreadful neglect. "Outreach" is the term often used these days, a good term for an essential part of the Church's work - as much the natural responsibility of the laity as of the priests and ministers.
The Eleventh House also speaks of outreach, taking us into the social arena generally; and here we find LIBRA gently insistent on the upholding of human rights, and the Christ's teaching, "Love thy neighbour as thyself." Who is your neighbour? His answer was to tell the story of the Good Samaritan. There is no-one in Heaven or Earth who is not your neighbour and mine.
Opposite the Eleventh is the Fifth - related to the vital Ninth House through its natural association with LEO. In the Fifth we learn how to love, how to experience and fully express "the holiness of the heart's affections". For the Church, ARIES lies here at the fifth house, symbol of identity itself, binding the Church indissolubly with the work of Love, and bravely too! For Aries does nothing discreetly, and the Church's love must blaze out like homing beacons, like warming fires, like the glory of Sun itself. Freed to the world, it is the Perfect Love that Casteth Out Fear, given vigorously, unconditionally, unhesitating and without stint.
This has all been about giving - but the Church has its own needs, both spiritual and material. It can also be as frail as those to whom it has been sent to minister, and should be most careful to avoid some common pitfalls in the area of self-interest....
With CAPRICORN in the Second House of resources, it may be tempted to fall through too great an attachment to authority and the world's goods.The ideal, however, is found in the selfsame pattern - for Saturn, ruler of Capricorn, limits in gentle ways too, and. asks for the humble acceptance of essential goods only, that spirit of holy poverty honoured by many monastic orders, particularly the Franciscans and Buddhists.
With CANCER, ruled by the Moon, and by tradition the Sign of the general populace, linked to the Eighth House opposite, it is a matter of Church and people sharing what they have, having "goods in common", each both investing in and contributing to the other's welfare, securing the work of the Church in time to come. Can it be significant that the Moon's metal is silver, and it is this currency, not the coppers of Venus nor the gold of the Sun, that is asked for here?...A Sign comprises 30 degrees out of the whole wheel's 360 - so here we actually do have thirty pieces of silver, in the House that is also the place of deepest suffering and resurrection. We have known this symbol become a living thing, in one Divine Life. The Church, God's other body in the world, must also make it live, through its own sacrifices, material and spiritual, each of us, each of God's children, making our journey through the Dark Night of the Soul, crucifying the world and the little self ( all of the Moon ) to reach the glory of the eternal Life.
When a great Treasure awaits, we must each become the hero and slay our impeding Dragon. (There are deep truths locked in this story.)
Deep things are also the domain of the Twelfth House, where SCORPIO - the eighth Sign - is. Lying behind Sagittarius and First, it lies behind the Veil; the Church must have and must guard its secrets, must keep its Holy of Holies beyond the common gaze for the celebration of the Mysteries and rites of Initiation. Here should be the Inner Church, to which those who have made their spiritual journey have access. Here, however, one often finds the difficult things a particular Church has ‘buried’ and which threaten it from within: if a Church fails to go fully into knowledge of the Darkness, it will always fear it, never overcome it, never help or heal those who call in fear and pain out of it, and may in the end be overwhelmed by it. The Darknesses of Scorpio may seem to threaten the Leo Light, falling as they do on the Fixed Cross; but the true Priest or Initiate has already journeyed into and become that Light, which will never fear to enter and conquer the Darkness.
That is the deepest secret of the Church; but what about its public voice? The Third House embraces AQUARIUS, the Sign of the incoming New Age; this is the Sign of change, surprise, enlightenment, even unorthodoxy... so although the fixed nature of Aquarius can result in straight-jacketed ideas, ideally the Church's thinking and actions should always be based on its global vision, allowing freedom of thought and expression, keeping its people informed, keeping its own mind open to those insights that can often come from unlikely or uncomfortable sources, making room for change through consultation.
On the Fixed Cross, then, the Church holds fast to Love in LEO, to Mystery in SCORPIO, to Enlightenment in AQUARIUS ... and in TAURUS and Sixth House, to Service. Rooted in Mystery, with the Sign PISCES governing its Fourth House, the Church on Earth nevertheless exists for one principal goal - to serve. Not only does Sixth-House Taurus ask for the basic needs of Humanity to be met and firmly secured, but the Sixth Sign, VIRGO, crowns the circle at the Tenth House showing that the way forward is through such service, in all humility, achieving perfection by attending to the little things that make big differences. If such service becomes a matter of pride; or if its minutiae become a distraction from the love of God and Man that must motivate it, then again the Church can lose its way, just as much as by an over-concentration on the inward life, or the letter of its laws, or the gathering of income, or the attracting of congregations. A Cathedral's fabric may, indeed will crumble as Fourth-House Pisces promises; "Except the Lord build the House, their labour is but lost that build it ........ the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal: let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity".
In other words, a Church, the Church, cannot put material roots down at man's will, but only at God's bidding and pleasure. It must be prepared to do its work far and wide, in changing circumstances to which it must fluently adapt. It must be a chameleon, all things to all men, yet always the House of God and Holy of Holies. It must willingly root itself in the midst of the saddest human detritus, and be just as willing to uproot and wander wherever beauty is needed to redeem squalor, water thirsted for in a wilderness. Its only permanent earthly building is the spiritual Temple in Man, which should be as hallowed as the hushed aisles of cathedrals and chapels.
There is a confusion often between fluidity and laxity; the Church that falls from sensitivity to sentiment is losing touch with its Holy origin and risks replacing the vibrant stillness, the heavenly beauty and peace of God's House with dispiriting chaos amounting at times to desecration. The Church must be "rooted and grounded in Love", perfected in Pisces, not set adrift, rudderless, in a sea of illusion that we fondly take to be Reality. Yet in that sea it is our one safe raft.
When Jesus the Christ walked upon the water, he was fulfilling this image in the wheel; the Church walks with him upon the water, when it renounces every security in surrender to the Sea of Faith.
Unencumbered, undistracted, we may better perceive the sparrow's fall, may more freely multiply the loaves and the fishes, and offer our voices fearlessly to the Holy Spirit.
THE CHURCH AND THE AGES
Now that we can see more clearly the nature, roles and functions of the Church (by which I mean the collectivity of Paths by which the varying cultures of mankind find their reunion with the Divine, as well as the individual worshipping group), it is necessary to understand its shifts of perspective during the course of human history.
This we do by taking the Sign of the chosen Age ( of 2,150 years, one-twelfth of the Equinoctial Precession cycle ) and as we did with the Church's Sign, Sagittarius, place it on the left of the wheel to mark the First House.
It is the placing of SAGITTARIUS and the NINTH HOUSE to which we must attend; and we find this idealistic, emotional, world-renouncing and often escapist Age dominated by religion through Sagittarius' Tenth-House position. The ARIES Age, corresponding to the archetype of Man, and with the Signs aligned to their natural Houses, reminded us forcibly of the importance of the Spiritual Search and established cults and temples far and wide, headed by both priests and priestesses qualified by their wisdom, devotion, faith, experience, and initiation into the Mysteries. Now the Churches became so dominant in everyday life that their impact on secular government increased tremendously; this bred an authoritarianism far outstripping their proper authority in the spiritual domain, and led to many centuries of power politics, warfare and intimidation that continue to precipitate crisis after crisis in the late Twentieth Century.
Sadly, this underlines the perennial problems of any Church in any Age: it is made up of human beings who are striving but failing to comprehend God. The Ninth-House vision is of a Godhead beyond you, always beyond your grasp. So you set his image high on an altar, or deep in a tabernacle, and worship it from afar. This God cannot touch you, except through his appointed oracles and priests. The Tenth-House vision is of an exalted God, an all-powerful, stern, demanding and punishing parent to whom you can only kneel and pray while hoping to work your passage like a dutiful child, to Heaven. In the Age of Aries, the remote God was propitiated through typically Arian practices with knife and fire, in blood-sacrifices of sheep - or people. In Pisces, the Age of Obedience, this became self-sacrifice and world-denial, sometimes to ludicrous extremes. All we were asked to do was to know the Godhead as our true and generous Father, and to learn Love and quiet Service on our way back into his Heart.
Another noteworthy feature of the Piscean Age has been the diminution of the woman's role within the church; in all the major world religions of today, priesthood and the monastic life are dominated by men, with only subordinate ministries allowed to women. Gone are the women's Mysteries; all that remain are the Christian cults of Mary and some female Saints within the Catholic Churches but under the authority of male Priests, and the revivals or survivals of Goddess-worship around the globe that are coming into more prominence with the growth of women's movements. We find the significator of this religious patriarchy in SCORPIO'S junction with the Ninth House during the Age of Pisces - although a receptive Sign, it is ruled by the male energy of MARS, again imposing ideas of power on the spiritual life, together with a potential for greed and even darker deeds undertaken in the name or under the cloak of Religion. The true intention of Scorpio is to teach the deep truths of Death and Resurrection. Often there has been a grotesque excess of death, and scant importance given to resurrection, the one dear hope there is left to cling to amid such suffering. Many are still going through the Dark Night of the Soul, unhelped by their spiritual leaders.
Aquarius is the paradoxical Sign of both the individual and the group. Where Love was to be shown through service in the Piscean age (Leo on House Six), now Love demands to be expressed directly in one-to-one relationship ... LEO is Seventh House now to Aquarius’ First, eloquent of the loving care the true Aquarian has for his or her neighbour as an individual, while identifying intimately with Humanity as a whole. Aquarius is a Sign of companionship, of brotherhood, of clear thinking and warm, loyal, truthful relationships.
It is no surprise to find SAGITTARIUS with the Eleventh House, natural house of Aquarius itself - bringing humanity the new injunction not only to be loving to one's neighbour as never before, but, further, to know God as our dearly beloved Friend and constant Companion, in whom to seek, and with whom to share our hopes and joys. There will, of course, be those who turn Society itself into a god, who deify mankind. In part this is right and good, in that we are to recognise the budding divinity in our growing souls - but some will replace God with Adam and lead us another merry dance.
The Ninth House carries the Sign LIBRA, the Sign above all of harmony, and in harmony with the ‘rising’ Aquarius and holy Sagittarius. We should look for a renewal of peace and loveliness in our worship, voices sweetly blended, not drowned by blasting organs. A return to simplicity may include far more of the feminine - as this is a Sign of VENUS, and invites the woman back into the Church. Already the painful process is beginning to re-balance the energies in the Churches with the first wave of ordinations of women ... many to Deacon, a few to Priest, and one to Bishop. Whether these are the right roles for women to fill is open to long and intense debate - and I shall attempt to shed a little light on the issue. But the Priesthood of women in some form must be recognised and redeveloped in the coming Age; there are bound to be some mistakes at first until we discover God's Will for us in these matters through his chosen Messengers. This aside, Beauty shall inform our worship, and Justice shall guide our spiritual journey.
CHURCH, MEN AND WOMEN
We have seen how the Piscean emphasis on a predominantly male priesthood has led so often and so tragically to wrongful assumptions of power and its consequent abuse, certainly in the Western Churches, amounting at times to unholy despotism and corruption when Popes and priests were beguiled by affairs of State or material gain. That is not to say that a female priesthood would be any less vulnerable to temptation - but intrinsic to LIBRA as compared to SCORPIO on the Aquarius wheel, is a far greater desire for fairness and kindness, with a mind to think and talk things through to a just resolution. This may mean compromise, and may imply periods of indecision and frustrating delay on pressing issues; it may also invite a laziness and complacency into ecclesiastical affairs, but the dangers of entrenched emotional allegiances and the intense feelings they generate are greatly reduced, together with the sectariansim, religious paranoia, ‘witch-hunting’ and general belligerence typical of unregenerate Scorpio. The passing of the stars of Sagittarius out of the Tenth into the Eleventh House may also see the end of the Church as a career and a mark of status; this should help a lot to straighten out its priorities and sweeten its politics.
Scorpio Man may look on and use the Church and spiritual knowledge as a resource ( Sagittarius on the Second House ) which ideally should sustain him in his many times of trial and teach him his prophetic and healing skills - but as we know, some types have darker purposes, and must be prevented. So -- be watchful; cherchez la femme!...much Mystery work (such as Freemasonry) is deep, valuable, healing; but where the old gods (Cancer at the IC as our past roots) or the goddess are invoked there are atavistic practices going on which should have been left behind, and may not be as innocent as they often pretend.
The natural partner of Aries is LIBRA; she and TAURUS are both feminine Signs under the rulership of VENUS. The Sun is partnered by the MOON, her Sign being CANCER, next to Leo. It is to these three that we look to see where women find their role in the Church.
Let us take CANCER first, as we have just found her involved in the Mysteries. Cancer is the Sign of the Mother, the adult woman, and of the infant she has borne and nourishes. SAGITTARIUS falls on the Sixth House, so her role is clearly and unambiguously to serve, to make herself useful in the day-to-day practical matters of the Church, alert to its needs and happiest when she is fulfilling them. PISCES occupies the Ninth; her attitude to God and the Church is an emotional one, ranging from sentimentality to poetic sensitivity to mystical vision and cosmic consciousness. The Church, for her, is her release and spiritual fulfilment, healing and inspiring her. In turn, she may act as a healer, musician or artist in the Church, or fulfil her prayer and service most completely in the life of a nun.
Either she will ally with Scorpio and go into the deep Mystery workings (hopefully avoiding their darker paths), or will steer clear of such matters altogether, preferring to remain ignorant and undisturbed by ideas and activities that seem extremely threatening to a quiet life! With CAPRICORN on the Ninth this may lead to a denial of God altogether, or adherence to rigid and predictable forms of worship that add to her sense of security. She will look up to her priest; she may even fear him, and the God he serves. Her attitudes are likely to be old-fashioned and reactionary.
But if it is a hard worker you need in the parish, a pillar of strength, a reliable fund-raiser, unwavering moral and practical support who has a genuine concern for the future of the Church to which she is attached and the perpetuation of all its diverse amenities and customs, this is your woman! She may have authority ... but she may not be a priest. She is so strange to the subtler things that to her the Mysteries are no more than an odd kind of social function. The very same placing of Pisces on the Eleventh, though, reveals her soft spot for people, and her generosity to her fellow-men and women through charitable work and ready sympathy.
There is plenty for a woman to do in the life and work of a Church, that is plain. But to be fulfilled in worship there must be more provision than there is for celebration of the Feminine Mysteries adjacent to the Sacraments. Otherwise we have women leaving the Churches, women trying to be men (and inevitably failing), women attracted to atavistic ritual and stuck in the Dark, women drawn to Masonic working that has lost its spiritual heart, women frustrated and trailing from cult to cult in a fruitless search for their proper role.
The Aquarian Age, with Libra in the Ninth, promises to redress the imbalance, and with Sagittarius on the Eleventh, we can hope for the eventual growth of the World Religion -- long prophesied by the Masters and seers. How long it will take us to get it right remains to be seen. Maybe these few words will provide a little food for thought.