This month I am thrilled to be able to offer a guest post from a keen student of astrology and magic and a dear friend! –
Hi, I’m Leslie. I’ve been studying astrology for more than ten years, and I’m also a student of hermetics. Some time ago I decided to share my insights on a specific topic, which is the Great Now, a magical perspective on what we colloquially call the present moment. All of those insights come from my personal experience of astrology and the Great Now. I believe that at this point in time the Great Now is not only of utmost importance to hermetic magicians, but to all of humanity, no matter their spiritual orientation. Authors like Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now, A New Earth) and Helen Schucman (A Course in Miracles) provide excellent information and meditations for hermetic students and everyone else alike.
David has generously given me the opportunity to put my writings up as a guest post on this blog and has also served as editor, adding valuable comments throughout the text. It was also David’s idea to add information about the role of each sign in the Gra tree of life. For more information on this natural arrangement of the Kabbalistic tree of life, please refer to Rawn Clark’s book Permutations of the Tree.
In this post I would like to show how I perceive the signs of the zodiac as different aspects and qualities of the Great Now. Note: throughout the text I will use the terms “Great Now” and “present moment” interchangeably.
In Step VIII of his book Initiation Into Hermetics (1971 Rüggeberg edition, translated by A. Radspieler), Franz Bardon introduces the student to the concept of the Great Now. But in fact the work with the Great Now already starts in Step I of the practical section, which contains three mental exercises:
- observation of thought
- one-pointedness of thought and
- emptiness of mind.
Through these exercises, the student gradually learns to disidentify with their thoughts. What remains is awareness of one’s self as pure BEing, which later naturally turns into awareness of one’s oneness with everything that is. In Kabbalistic terms, these perspectives of awareness are represented by the Sephiroth of Tiphareth and the uppermost three Sephiroth of Binah, Chokmah and Kether.
Through disidentification with thought, the importance of past and future in one’s life and perception becomes diminished. Linear past and future as we know it are astra-mental concepts that are based on one’s own story, a collection of selective memories and projections. The only moment that ever really exists is the present moment which Franz Bardon calls the Great Now. This is also the one place of power that enables the magician to focus their intent.
The Great Now is inextricably linked to the Akasha, with both being ungraspable and infinitely finite. The Akasha is the omnipresent infinitesimal ocean of stillness, the formless potency that underlies all crystallized forms. Everything that comes into form arises from the Akashic void, in its most primordial form through the Fluids and Elements.
Working with the Great Now and the Akasha gradually unveils the layers of self that underlie the personal and mundane. This is why Bardon tells the student to continue with the emptiness of mind exercises throughout the whole course. The exercises pertaining to the Astral Equilibrium also contribute to this process.
Through contemplation of the relationship of the signs to the Great Now we gain access to meditation gateways that lead us deeper into the present moment. The Lights and planets emphasize different aspects of the Great Now as they pass through the signs, so keeping an eye on their positions can help us choose especially powerful meditations. The placement of the Lights and planets in one’s own birth chart also gives us hints as to how our astral self relates to the present moment. For example if your Sun is in Leo then it is a very good idea to look closely at the Leo aspect of the Great Now and try to work with that.
Cardinal Fire. The innocence of Mars. Spontaneous, impulsive action that is unfettered by astra-mental conditioning arises out of the Great Now. In its purest form there is no other basis for one’s action than the Akasha, so whatever action arises conforms to universal legality. It is “just right”. One example of this in action is when a person is in mortal danger. The mind gets blanked and all awareness is focused on the present moment. The image of Mars in Aries as a warrior on the battlefield is a very apt symbolism for this. There is a direct application of one’s Will upon the Great Now.
In the Gra tree the Fire sign path of Aries from Kether to Chokmah gives birth to the Pillar of Force.
Fixed Earth. The abundance of Venus. Deeply rooted in being you feel the universal love that is all around you, and the aliveness of yourself and everything else. You become a rock that is a match for all waves that come crashing against you. A bull that is so confident in its foundation that nothing shakes its calmness. Practice of presence leads to realization of this interconnectedness of all being, and thus constant unwavering feelings of abundance and happiness.
When we are not in tune with the Great Now, our bodies become disconnected. The mental body is flying around in the landscapes of thought, the astral or emotional body follows it unconsciously like an appendage and the physical body gets left behind entirely in unconsciousness as the largest part of awareness resides in the mental body which is somewhere else entirely. Taurus is also about keeping the present moment grounded, putting the focus on simplicity and physical and material nature.
In the Gra tree the Earth sign path of Taurus from Kether to Binah gives birth to the Pillar of Form.
Mutable Air. The curiosity of Mercury. Gemini perceives the Great Now as a restless eruption of patterns which it must witness and report like a journalist.
In the present moment everything seems to be fresh and new, even things and thought-forms that have surrounded us for years and are very familiar. Observe how a new environment, for example during a trip to another city or country, instills presence in us. Our eyes revel in direct perception of our surroundings. Observe also how things quickly become familiar again. After a couple of days our perception of them fades into the background and we just take them for granted.
Through Gemini and the Great Now we also have the opportunity to get a first-hand perception of the polarity of everything and the realization that there is duality in everything, unless one moves beyond the level of thinking.
In the Gra tree the sign path of Gemini from Chokmah to Tiphareth imbues Force to the Mental plane.
Cardinal Water. The all-loving motherly embrace of the Moon. Through the present moment we return to our source. The sextile to Taurus shows a similarity in that both are gates to happiness and the perception of being loved. Through Taurus there is a stronger focus on the vessels of being, while Cancer points more towards formless primordial bliss. Cancer perceives the Great Now as a wholly rhythmic and cyclical expression of the universe caring for itself and its creations. Direct perception of another being as it happens through alertness in the Great Now bypasses conditioned responses and naturally induces love for oneself and other beings. This bypassing is in itself a Cancerian act.
In the Gra tree the Water sign path of Cancer from Binah to Tiphareth gives Form to the Mental plane.
Fixed Fire. The illuminating rays of the Sun. Charisma and creativity are things that do not arise out of the mind, but out of strong presence in the Great Now which leads to a direct connection with the Akasha. The wider we open our windows to the primordial source the more charismatic we become to others, and the more creative our thoughts and actions will be. Consciousness of the Leonine Light of Awareness arises, and we begin to direct our rays of awareness more carefully and consciously. The Light of our awareness also becomes softer as our resistance to the objects we let it shine upon lessens and makes room for a feeling of connectedness and love. Leo fixates on the eternal nature of the spirit which shines through the Great Now. It perceives this directly in itself unlike Aquarius.
In the Gra tree the Fire sign path of Leo from Tiphareth to Gedulah emanates Force from the Mental plane.
Mutable Earth. Directed crystallization through Mercury. Deeper immersion in the Now brings about benefits of a Virgoan nature. The perception of details is enhanced so that a particular object of focus reveals more. In the context of direct perception this is very different from perceiving things intellectually. The focus on depth and detail is the general characterization of Mercury in Virgo, but through the lens of the intellect everything is filtered heavily. Alert direct perception through the present moment moves the spotlight from thought-forms to the essence of the object being perceived. Instead of clothing one’s perceptions in symbols and language constructs it allows the observer to recognize the fullness of the outer world in oneself, i.e. the macrocosm in the microcosm. Further benefits of direct present-moment perception that are part of the Virgo experience include enhanced memory and the ability to adapt to the ever-changing astra-mental-physical state of the Now with greater ease. Another domain of Virgo is the hands-on production of arts and crafts. More time spent in the present moment while working on a piece of art will allow it to be infused with greater amounts of Light, resulting in a vast increase in the quality of the art produced. This is the difference between a mediocre piece of art and one that really touches the perceiver in a fundamental way. Virgo is about perceiving the innate perfection of the Great Now and striving to harvest it.
In the Gra tree the Earth sign path of Virgo from Tiphareth to Geburah emanates Form from the Mental plane.
Cardinal Air. The vibrational harmony aspect of Venus. True balance among things starts with an all-encompassing mode of perception so that all the sides of an issue are apparent. This requires some degree of focus and attention, as well as an ability to let go of purely intellectual observation of the issue at hand. The ensuing act of bringing about balance and harmony has similar requirements. Putting one’s alert present-moment attention on an object and being still with it allows one to integrate its vibration with one’s own. Flexibility of the astral body increases and allows for greater harmony with others. Eventually there is a clear perception of the equilibrium of the Great Now.
In the Gra tree the Air sign path of Libra from Gedulah to Yesod imbues Force to the Astral plane.
Fixed Water. Right and unconditioned action of Mars and Pluto.
Pure unadulterated perception has to be direct. Judgement and evaluation are subject to conditioning. Examples are biological conditioning, conditioning through society, through experiences in childhood, and conditioning rooted in past life experiences. Finding all the modes and causes of one’s conditioning is an impossible task. Their exploration is a worthy endeavour, but it has to be pursued alongside with the deepening of a mode of perception and action that bypasses these things completely. Being still and alert in the Great Now sidesteps all conditioning, liberating the inner child and bringing about the innocence of Mars. This is what makes the arising of true love possible.
Another aspect of this is a further deepening of the vibrational harmony that has been pursued in Libra. Mars and especially Pluto confront us with situations that are designed to challenge us emotionally. These often come in the form of death, loss (which is just another kind of death) or conflicts of power. The emotions that arise, no matter how difficult, have to be held in the astral body and have to be allowed to flow. We need to put our full present-moment awareness on them and regard them with love. Both negative and positive astral beings have their place in creation. I believe this is one of the things that Franz Bardon meant by saying “The genuine magician takes life such as it is; he enjoys the good things and learns something from the bad ones” (IIH Step VIII, Magic Psychic Training, section 1). Scorpio is representative of the astral depth of the Great Now and its power to open us to occult mysteries.
In the Gra tree the Water sign path of Scorpio from Geburah to Yesod gives Form to the Astral plane.
Mutable Fire. The ever-burning fires of Jupiter. The symbolisms of the centaur archer are manifold.
We humans have strong links to animal nature. Animals inspire us and aid us, and require the same from us. Through our evolution we are part animal as well, symbolized by the lower part of the centaur. Its upper part is human which changes our overall nature to a degree where we often find it difficult both to relate to other animals and to integrate our animal nature with it. Understanding and relating to a being (this includes our very own animal) through direct perception and alert interaction in the Great Now gifts us with the ability to jump this hurdle and
recognize the oneness of everything perceived.
The glyph of Sagittarius is an arrow piercing through the arc of perception. In the Great Now this piercing through comes in the form of alert, still, non-judgmental perception of another, expanding
one’s own astra-mental boundaries. This also has powerful effects on the mind and its patterns.
Sagittarius is also trust in life and the belief and knowledge that the whole of creation in every moment is Good and Beautiful, and that our paths always lead to our desired destinations, even if
some milestones do not seem to make sense to us. It is the identifier of truth: the present moment Is always a crystallisation of truth, being the cutting edge between what has happened and what will happen.
In the Gra tree the Fire sign path of Sagittarius from Yesod to Netzach emanates Force from the Astral plane.
Cardinal Earth. The undeniable reality of what is now, as revealed by Saturn.
The Great Now has the property of being what it is. No resistance on our part can change that. What we *can* change though is our relation to it, and our perception of it. Accepting what is in full awareness instead of astra-mentally running away from situations that offer adversarial vibrations opens up a pathway in us that allows the flows of life to run through us in greater quantity. The section on Aquarius below elucidates this further.
Capricorn is often said to be about survival, the ties of tradition and coping with entrenched power structures. However it is our very belief in the existence and inevitability of those things that reinforces them and causes them to continue. In the Gra tree of life, Capricorn gives birth to Form from the astral plane, causing mental beliefs and the emotions that are being caused by those beliefs to crystallize to physical density.
One path of initiation in the Great Now that is being taught by Capricorn is as follows: start with non-judgmental, alert awareness of what is. Acceptance and love follow naturally in this process. Then start changing your intent and emotions to express how you would like reality to be. Through the powers of Saturn in Capricorn, change is inevitably effected.
Capricorn in the Great Now also teaches us about the interaction of time with space and form. Through our immersion in the Great Now, Saturn changes our perception of time and space and, Divine Providence permitting, reveals to us their non-linearity and oneness.
In the Gra tree the Earth sign path of Capricorn from Yesod to Hod emanates Form from the Astral plane.
Fixed Air. The direct connection to the Divine through Uranus, and the transcending of form governed by Saturn.
Aquarius is about our relationships to others, with an emphasis on co-creation through mutual harmonized resonance for a greater goal.
The relation of Aquarius to its ruling planets shows us two different approaches. Through Uranus, its modern ruler, transcendence of a state is inspired by Divine Intent. Thus, change is initiated from the transcendent realm. Saturn’s approach is to show us our limitations so that we may go beyond them, effectively transcending our old selves. But no matter how we go about it, either way we work with the essence of Aquarius, the clarity aspect of Light.
Through the Great Now we become aware of our own vibrations, and how these relate to the vibrations of other beings. We detect inharmonious frequencies with great clarity and are thus given the opportunity to modulate them to a more desirable state. In this way we become familiar with different vibrations and become more attuned to them.
The deeper one’s presence in the Great Now the easier it becomes for life energy to flow through us and transform ourselves and our life circumstances. Inner and thus outer blockages dissolve.
In the Gra tree the Air sign path of Aquarius from Netzach to Malkuth imbues Force to the Physical plane.
Mutable Water. Flowing oneness in highest vibration, Jupiter and Neptune.
In the Aquarius aspect of the Great Now we explore our mutual resonance with everything. This prepares us for the realization that we *do* have a connection to everything that is, was and will be. Time, space and consciousness become one, and there is a merging with Divine Unity.
The closer one moves into the consciousness of Unity the more surrendered one becomes. Accepting the Great Now as it is in every moment produces a feeling of peace and the innate knowledge that Beauty and Good are omnipresent throughout creation. And surrendering to and being at peace with the way things are in every moment, i.e. the state of the macrocosm, naturally means being at peace with oneself, the microcosm, and vice-versa.
In the Gra tree the Water sign path of Pisces from Hod to Malkuth gives Form to the Physical plane.
Thank you Leslie for these very interesting thoughts!