20 Nov Playing Chess With Death ~ November 21st-27th, 2016
This week begins with the Sun’s transition from the dark hallows of Scorpio into the mutable fire sign of Sagittarius, where the spirit is resurrected and life’s journey widens once again into an open road of possibility.
If Scorpio is the season meant to explore the meaning of death, then Sagittarius is the season meant to explore the meaning of the afterlife. Beyond the initial experience of life as a process of pleasure-seeking and survival, Sagittarius begs the question, “what is the meaning of all of this?”
Ruled by Jupiter, it is during Sagittarius season that you encounter the need to explore and expand the horizons of consciousness. But, this journey requires faith in the human soul itself, something that can be hard to feel in the post-post-modern world. In this era, it is all too common to ignore the mysteries of the soul and explain consciousness through purely mechanistic perspectives of neurology, chemistry, and genetics
The Renaissance philosopher and astrologer, Marsilio Ficino, supposed that the human soul was the force that held the Intellect and the Body together, binding them in painful and glorious evolution. This is a lovely meditation on the Soul, as well as a beautiful description of the symbol of Sagittarius itself.
The mythical image of the centaur reveals Sagittarius to be an exploration of Ficino’s idea of the soul: showing that animal instinct (the Body) is propelled and directed by the human Intellect. Thus, the attractive force that both unifies and animates these two struggling aspects is the Soul.
But the journey to discover the Soul is not without its agonies, for it does not answer the question of “Why?” This burning desire to know “why” is the motivation behind all philosophy.
One of the greatest meditations upon the pain that the human soul must endure upon the philosophical path is Ingmar Bergman’s film, The Seventh Seal. This is a film so magnificent that it has not lost a single thread of its original impact or meaning. The Seventh Seal is a dark and ponderous journey: a lyrical and allegorical exploration of faith, mortality and the essence of the human soul.
Set during the Middle Ages, The Seventh Seal, opens with an ethereal Latin hymn playing under a narrator’s voice that reads from the Book of Revelations:
“And when the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.”
The film thus begins in a world that is living through the prophecies of end times: a world on the verge of collapse.
A Knight, (named Antonius Block) emblazoned with the holy cross of the Crusades, awakens upon a lonely beach to find the black-robed figure of Death quietly standing at his side.
Block knows that Death has come to claim him, but after ten years of fighting the Crusades in the service of God, he is totally bereft of any faith. Thus, he is not yet ready to die.
As a perfect image of the Sagittarian spirit, the Holy Crusader, Antonius Block, challenges Death to a game of chess so that he can explore deeper philosophical questions, even if only for a short time.
“This is my hand. I can move it, feel the blood pulsing through it. The sun is still high in the sky and I, Antonius Block, am playing chess with Death.”
Disenchanted by a decade of holy wars, Block is still searching for evidence of God and a reason for being. His game of chess is meant to prolong his life enough to find one opportunity to know God through an act of dignity.
Sagittarius season is a time where the soul will only be stirred by joy, inspiration, and the light of true divinity. Thus, the doctrines and ideologies that create suffering and impede life’s joys will be revealed to be false.
“Faith is a torment, did you know that? It is like loving someone who is out there in the darkness but never appears, no matter how loudly you call.”
The Seventh Seal penetrates the viewer with the agony of unanswered prayers, as desperate cries for help are met with nothing but silence. The film is Block’s philosophical quest to find life’s meaning in a land totally devastated by fear, poverty and plague.
In an early scene, he visits the village church to make confession. However, it is not a loving priest who hears him, but Death who listens to Block’s agonizing theological questions.
“Why must God hide in vague promises and invisible miracles?
What will become of us who want to believe but cannot?
And what of those who neither will nor can believe?”
Block finds no knowledge of God in the ritualized suffering promoted by the church, nor does he find it in the village where people terrorized by the plague have turned treacherous and cruel.
Instead he finds the essence of divinity quite by accident in an encounter with two traveling actors, a married couple, who kindly share their meal with him. Reclining on a hillside underneath the warm sun, Block says:
“I shall remember this hour of peace: the strawberries, the bowl of milk, your faces in the dusk. . .I shall remember our words, and shall bear this memory between my hands as carefully as a bowl of fresh milk. And this will be a sign, and a great content.
Sacred and serene, this moment of humble and uncomplicated love offers an underlying and unexpected optimism in an otherwise gloomy tale of philosophical yearnings.
Despite director Ingmar Bergman’s penchant for bleakness and despair, he could not bring himself to deny the beauty and tenderness of the human soul. Thus, The Seventh Seal bears the Sagittarian torch of love and optimism underneath all the hellish existential crisis.
Monday/Tuesday: I Want God To Put Out His Hand, Show His Face, Speak To Me.
On Monday, the Sun shifts from Scorpio into Sagittarius, taking a long pause to examine death from a more philosophical perspective. Let this week begin with a great deal of momentum created by your BIG questions! Why are you alive? What propels your journey? What makes life worth living?
On Tuesday, Mercury in Sagittarius will sextile Jupiter in Libra which will offer you a day for envisioning! This is an opportunity to think inspiring thoughts, speak of what enlivens your soul, and discover a great destiny! Use this aspect to expand your personal narrative, reclaiming a sense authorship over your life.
Wednesday/Thursday: Faith is a Torment
On Wednesday, Mercury will conjunct Saturn in Sagittarius. On any serious quest for finding meaning in life, some fears must be allowed to weigh heavily upon your mind. In order to know genuine faith and optimism, you must contend with your fears that life may indeed be nothing but a senseless terror.
Though Mercury conjunct Saturn can feel rather oppressive, remember that it is both imagistic splendor and linguistic control that makes for epic poetry. Thus, let your life be told in the form of an epic poem, where the gravity of experience flowers into a story of heroic triumph over despair.
On Thursday, Jupiter in Libra will square Pluto in Capricorn. In the United States, this is Thanksgiving Day which most people either love or hate. The climate of the day, due to the square between Jupiter and Pluto, will be one that fans the flames of fanaticism. Don’t let yourself be drawn into conflicts regarding politics and religion. (neither your own nor anyone else’s)
Instead, find the generosity of spirit and the humble acts of love that will be abundantly expressed towards all who keep their hearts and minds open. And yes of course, remember all that you have to be thankful for. Jupiter and Pluto can offer very positive transformation if you can avoid joining in on the “Procession of Flagellants” who use social upheaval to bind themselves to unending suffering.
Friday/Saturday/Sunday: Feel, to the Very End, the Triumph of Being Alive!
On Friday, Venus conjuncts Pluto in Capricorn, adding to the square with Jupiter in Libra. With Venus squared her sign of rulership while conjunct Pluto, expect some extra voluptuous dimensions to be added to your passions. It may create a frothing foam of desires trailed closely by jealousy and possessiveness. However this manifests in your experience will be very personal, but it has the potential to be felt as madness or, for those who know how to channel it, as pure tantric bliss.
Because Venus also is associated with luxury and this is a day where shopping is considered to be an honorific tradition, money will have a much higher likelihood of being greatly mishandled. Remain extra wary of manipulative sales tactics and all the Freudian strings they pull.
Remember that the wheel of hunger you ride upon is never satisfied by any tokens, trifles, or objets d’arts.
The weekend closes with Mercury in Sagittarius’ trine to Uranus in Aries, an aspect that offers relief from the heaviness of Mercury conjunct Saturn. Now you will feel a sense liberation from the apparitions of life’s senseless terror. Your mind will be turned in a new direction, one that faces the light of the Sun with joy.
At the very end of The Seventh Seal, when Death finally finds Block and his companions, there is prayer and trembling. But Block’s squire, Jons, looks straight into Death’s eyes without fear and encourages everyone:
“But feel, to the very end, the triumph of being alive.”
This new way of liberating yourself from longstanding fears is the gift of Mercury and Uranus. Use it wisely to start yourself off on a new path where you are not enslaved by your thoughts. Feel joyful about life, even in the face of death. This is the experience of bliss that everyone was born to discover.
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