The Soul Part 2: The Moon
connecting our earthly life with Spirit
This piece of writing is the second in a series I will be doing on the “soul,” which, I believe, is the key to understanding our journey and the unique role we are meant to take on in this life.
According to James Hillman, we know our soul through “hints, intuitions, whispers, and the sudden urges and oddities that disturb your life and that we continue to call symptoms.” It is a celebration of all the unique parts of ourself and also demonstrates our purpose, separate from commerce, power and practicality. This still from “The Dead Poet’s Society” reminds me of the soul:
Of course, in the realm of the soul, these things intermingle. But the soul doesn’t just manifest as our purpose; it was also used to delineate our temperament and personality—the mundane manifestations of our divine connection.
This essay is for anyone who wants to know themself more deeply and discover how astrology can help us do that.
**You can find the first installment of this series on Mercury here**
The first part on the soul is the same intro text included in the previous essay.
May it bring wisdom, poetry, joy, to all those who read.
To speak of the soul is to speak of the life of the unseen. In Timaeus, Plato tells that God created the soul before he created the “corporeal universe”, and that this the soul is “interfused everywhere from the centre to the circumference of heaven,” both infused and enveloping matter.
In other words, soul is everywhere. Plato also tells us it is timeless: the soul created “a divine beginning of never ceasing and rational life enduring throughout all time”. The soul, in other words, is all-pervasive, yet invisible: While the body of heaven itself is visible, “the soul is invisible,” though Plato is sure to mention that God “made the soul in origin and excellence prior to and older than the body, to be the ruler and mistress, of whom the body was to be the subject”. It is from the soul from which our life and its purpose originate.
Part of the reason the soul comes before the body is because it was seen as life-giving, often connected to the breath. Juan Eduard Cirliot in “A Dictionary of Symbols” connects breathing to holiness because it “enables man to absorb not only air but also the light of the sun” from which celestial influences can enter us. Our own pieces of the divine soul connect us to the world of spirit, as well as to the world around us, for what is breath but our continual intake and exhalation of what is outside of us?
In this way, the soul connects us downward, to earth and our sense, and upwards, towards the light of the divine. By being brought into the body, as Ali Olomi explains in a podcast episode, “History of Divination and Fortune-telling,” “the soul gained some sort of sensory perception, which then produces thoughts… the body then provides senses and through that senses, the soul is able to have thought known as contemplation”. By connection upwards, to the heavens, Olomi continues, “the soul gains knowledge and secret understanding,” which it could not have through mental perception alone.
Indeed, according to Lee Lehman in her presentation on the mind-memory interface, what “we now call ‘mind’ was subsumed in the Medieval concept of ‘soul’." Our ability to know was not solely credited with our one, rational mind but proved a connection to something unseen and more powerful than one’s thoughts. Plato even credits the soul with our ability to contemplate, stating it “partakes of reason and harmony, and being made by the best of intellectual and everlasting natures, is the best of things created”. No wonder that, alongside the Moon, Mercury is considered one of the soul indicators in our charts; our minds used to be where spirit and the earth met!
So far we have spoke of the soul in two capacities: as life-giver and as the locus of knowledge; Ficino says that the soul has a third quality; that of desiring. Hillman points out that the soul “has metaphysical and romantic overtones,” and often its contents reveal themselves not through linear thought but poetry and image, perhaps where the lunar aspect of the soul manifests. Hillman relays Plato’s Myth of Er in “The Soul’s Code”, which tells us the soul is the part of us assigned a daimon, or guiding spirit, who then “selected an image or pattern that we live on earth” (26). As we move into our incarnated life, we forget this original image, but our daimon remembers. Hillman says each image has a soul and even goes as far as to state that “souls are images,” meaning we connect to this part of ourself through the imaginative, perceptive capacity, not the mental faculties alone. But “we cannot get to the soul of the image,” that is, the contents of the soul, “without love for the image” (emphasis mine).
“Knowing” our role or path is not enough; to truly be ours, the soul brings passion, poetry, magic, to what we recognize as ours. On behalf of our collective soul and on behalf of the divine from which it draws its power, we must romance the particular self that the soul outlines. Indeed, we may find our first encounters with our soul to be in the form of our unpleasant habits or fixed patterns of which we have yet to see the depths. The soul is not anything if not deep, meaning there is always more to uncover the more you engage with it.
Hillman likens this process of self-revelation like the grit and irritation required to create a pearl; what begins as “a neurotic symptom or complaint, a bothersome irritant in one's secret inside flesh,” eventually becomes a precious stone that “must be fished up from the depths and pried loose”. When it is put on a necklace and worn, “the grit is redeemed” and the “complex which once caused suffering is exposed to public view as a virtue”. Hillman emphasizes that this “exotic splendor” is gained through “occult work,” or a sort of inner alchemy that can only come when one’s body and soul work together. The moon, ruler of feral, embodied magic, tells us this is where its desires have a home; within our boundless depths.
For indeed, work on the soul was thought to manifest on the most mundane levels; Olomi, in his essay on the nature of the soul in Islamicate astrology, tells us delineating the nature of the soul allows the astrologer to “interpret the manners, character, and morals of the individual which constituted the akhlaq, the enduring traits a person was imbued with from cradle to grave”. Our soul holds both our divine connection as well as our earthly personality, which makes sense in connection to this much-cited Heraclitus quote: “Character is destiny”. In his translation, Hillman is sure to point out that what we call character refers to a person’s genius, both their unique way of doing things as well as the spirit, or daimon, which guides our life. In other words, our most seemingly insignificant habits, desires, thoughts recurring images, can be indicative of our divine signature, as can divine influence be seen in our most mundane interactions. All of it is subsumed by the soul.
The Moon and the Soul
Abu Ma’shar tells us the Moon is “the light of the night,” or the luminary of the nocturnal sect, “and its nature is of coldness and wetness,” or phlegmatic, like the water element. Though Valens and other Hellenistic astrologers tell us she merely borrows her light from the Sun, Ali Olomi is sure to point out that Islamicate astrologers such as Ma’shar viewed “the moon's light as transforming the sun's light”. Accordingly, like the royal Sun, she rules “the relationship between rulers and their nobles and their people,” as well as “a king with kings, a slave with a slave, popularity, and acceptance by masses”. By utilizing the light of another to make her own, the Moon is first and foremost of planet of relation, ever-malleable to the things outside of her.
You can see this lunar receptivity in her continual conflation with women and childbirth: “noble women, women with children, pregnant women, foster mothers, mothers, wet nurses, women from mother’s side,” Ma’shar tell us, all partake in the nature of the Moon. I don’t want to reduce “womanhood” to having a womb nor elide the connection being made between receptivity and femininity because everyone, regardless of gender, contains the fertile quickening of the moon.
As a phlegmatic planet that guides the tides, she rules things which have to do with water— “fishers, sailors” according to Ma’shar, to which Lilly adds drunkards, water bearers and alewives—an infinitely connective, mutable element. Water always flows to fill its container, which feels reminiscent of the Moon being a slave among slaves and king above kings; while the Sun must always act from its center of the circle (hence its glyph), the Moon is concerned with all the malleable manifestations of this divine light.
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