Astrology & The Mythological Layer

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Meeting Iron John

Meeting Iron John, animation still by Xun Wang

In his book Iron John, Robert Bly writes about the collapse of the mythological layer. He’s referring to our culture’s sacrifice of a truly living mythology for hard idealisms of pure reason and delusional attachments to unattainable glamor. We’ve lost touch with the invisible inner realm of gods and goddesses that the Egyptians, Greeks, native peoples and other ancient cultures knew quite well. From our centuries-long infatuation with science and factual knowledge to the exclusion of the mystical dream source of experience, we’ve piled intellectual boulders before the gates to heaven and left ourselves bereft of its wonders.

This leads to all manner of great anxieties and dysfunctions. A murderer does not know about the mythological layer and thus identifies with the dark spirit that passes through him and acts out its intentions. A man leaves his wife after falling in love with the wrong woman because he confuses the idealized goddess that briefly moves through her as the woman herself. A father terrorizes his children because his ignorance of his own mythology produces resentment at what he believes to be his life’s ruin. The child becomes an adult who has also learned nothing of mythology, so frets endlessly over her terrorized childhood because without a mythological context we can only remain trapped in victimization.

What to do?

The current upsurge in interest and effort in the field of astrology is an attempt to reconstitute the mythological layer. Those that study and practice astrology seriously, like any artist or mystic, are seeking the deeper mysteries that re-fertilize the inner life. They represent hope for a sustainable human future by resurrecting the wisdom of the ancients and reshaping it for our technology dominated world.

Astrology is probably the best tool we have to heal the split between visible and invisible, physical and imaginal, to regenerate the lost connection to an ensouled universe. Merging the science of astronomy with the storytelling of myth, astrology bridges the gap between facts and dreams, definition and meaning, knowledge and wisdom. It shows us our place as humble and kingly, full of human error equal to divine magic. The realization of our oneness with the cosmos comes naturally as we see the movements of the planets consistently reflect the shape and contours of our own lives.

When Jupiter crosses our chart ascendant we are likely to feel confident and bold. When Saturn does so we feel limited and afraid. But with mythological awareness we see both confidence and fear as inner guests, guides that teach us and move us into appropriate action (what the ancients really mean by what we call "gods"). By not identifying with them, or as them, we avoid falling prey to their potential folly. We don’t necessarily need astrology to have that awareness but astrology gives us a clear map of the unfolding process and illuminates us to healing mythological contexts we couldn’t see otherwise.

Mythological awakening is essential for growth, healing and nurturing a better future. But it does not require that we attach ourselves to any particular doctrine or divine pantheon. You may have your Aries, I have my Aztec warrior, someone else may have a red cloud that strikes lightning when decisive strength is needed. The beauty of mythology is that, so long as we are in touch with the truth underlying the imagined, we can give it whatever form we want. We only need to recognize the reality beyond the visible and have the clarity of sight that can distinguish between the material and the mythological.

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4 Responses to Astrology & The Mythological Layer

  1. Lin Schaye says:

    This is a good article Brian. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and reading James Hillman and Robert Sardello is helping me come at it from a different perspective. Thanks for this contribution. Unfortunately, I will not be in Chicago on Thursday. Hope to see you soon.
    Lin

  2. Amy Statton says:

    Thanks Brian! I appreciated your thoughtful comments on the need for both mythology and “reality.”
    Amy Statton

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