Of Deities or Mortals ~ May 15th-21st, 2017

Ode on a Grecian Urn

by John Keats

Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,

   Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,

Sylvan historian, who canst thus express

   A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:

What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape

   Of deities or mortals, or of both,

              In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?

   What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?

What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?

              What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy? …

This week, Saturn and Uranus will make their second exact trine summoning a transcendent harmony between the stark polarities of order and chaos. Saturn and Uranus typically interact through a very competitive tension that underlies the dialectic between control and release; tradition and innovation; the memorial past and the imagined future.

However, this week, the trine aspect between these two planets will invite a reconciliation between these temporal forces, one that catalyzes a new acceptance of paradox. Here you have an opportunity to find the harmony between time and timelessness. Under such circumstances, a reflection upon the ideals of the Romantic era can be greatly appreciated.

In astrological terms, the dawn of the Romantic era was heralded by the discovery of Uranus, a planet that orbited far beyond Saturn’s boundaries. Thus, the conception of the universe expanded beyond its former limitations. As an earthly reflection of this cosmological breakthrough, there were great cultural revolts against the decaying Saturnian structures of governments and religion. Uranus arose with promises of salvation from the sinking ships of monarchy and monotheism.

The Romantic spirit, awakened by Uranus, unleashed electric Dionysian impulses in literature and art that raged with rebellion, passion, and demonic revelry. But Romanticism and its revolutions were never led by an eternal flame. The destruction waged by these devotees of the future eventually aroused a reactionary traditionalism that anchored their progress back down to the familiar patterns from the past.

The greater the tension between Saturnian and Uranian influences, (the past and the future) the more pronounced the effects of disintegration.

Napoleon the heroic lieutenant becomes Napoleon the loathed Emperor.

LSD, the darling of Harvard’s psychological research projects becomes a Schedule I drug.

And rock n’ roll becomes sexless elevator music.

It is certain that these patterns of rebellion and relapse are well known to you through your historical observations as well as your personal experiences. But during this week, as Saturn and Uranus harmonize their conflicting energies, you will be given a chance to see beyond time, integrating the past and the future in your imagination as a ‘moving image of eternity’. (Plato)

With Saturn representing the weight and gravity of time itself and Uranus representing liberation from the limitations of time, this week offers the paradox of being an eternal soul expressing its light through a temporal body.

The proper understanding of the reality of both your temporal and eternal nature is the goal of all the world’s mysteries and wisdom teachings. And this week offers the perfect conditions to face your limitations with much less reactionary rage.

You will resonate with the truth that you were born to be a creator and that being a creator requires that you intelligently use the resources at your disposal, including time, money, talent, and materials.

A beautiful meditation upon the subject of reconciling the temporal and eternal can be found in John Keat’s Ode on a Grecian Urn, which contains some of his most enduring words. As a creator, Keats was greatly limited by circumstance. He was not an aristocrat, he was orphaned early, and he struggled with the agonies of tuberculosis which took his life by the age of 25. In response to the many Saturnian limitations put upon Keats’ temporal life, his imagination responded by widening his ability to access his eternal nature.

Ode on a Grecian Urn was written in May of 1819 when Keats was 23 years old. In this poem, Keats meditates upon a Grecian urn to express his concerns about love, art, death, and eternity.

In Ode on a Grecian Urn, the poet begins by receding into the realm of imagination, where he begins to have a dialogue with the ancient urn. At the onset of the poem, he observes a stark contrast between the unchanging urn and his own temporal life. The Ode begins with an apostrophe:

“Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,

   Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,

Sylvan historian…”

The contrast between the urn as a bride of quietness still unravished by time expresses his mourning for the fact of temporal life’s continual decay. Keats describes the Urn as a Sylvan historian, something old enough to know the life and death of ancient trees.

       who canst thus express

   A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:

What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape

   Of deities or mortals, or of both

In contrast to the ephemeral lives of human beings, Keats honors the Urn for being the transmitter of a ‘leaf-fringed legend’ which is eternal, liberated from the limitations of time.

The Ode on a Grecian Urn expresses Keats’s desire to be immortal, to exist in the realm of eternal myth. The poet immerses himself in the circle of paintings depicting ancient Greek stories. He sees musicians and lovers in pastoral splendor, living in the bliss of eternal summer.

Keats speaks to the urn as a symbol of art’s conquest of time, as a window to immortality. With such a philosophical mind and vivid imagination, it is best to assume that Keats did not really yearn to live forever in his temporal body. Instead his quest for immortality was more akin to connecting to the divine spark, from which all art is born.

Just as Gilgamesh discovered at the end of his long journey, immortality is not about physically living forever. It is about knowing your divine nature which grants you the experience of seeing through time, finding ‘eternity in an hour.’

In the final stanza of Ode on a Grecian Urn, Keats writes:

“Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought

As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!

        When old age shall this generation waste,

               Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe

Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,

        “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all

               Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Beauty is truth, truth beauty. This is a declaration made in an imaginative trance, where the urn offers its final message to the poet. Though these words are not a logical syllogism, they evoke a far more powerful essence of wisdom than logic can define. Keats believed that, “What the imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth.”

If you believe, as the Romantics did, that imagination is a portal to the divine then the ability to experience and create beauty must be reified. The perception of beauty is thus a perception of the divine within form. It is a soul recognizing the light of another soul. The Grecian urn is an experience of beauty and thus it is seen as a living thing, as something animate and imbued with eternal spirit.

During this week, as Saturn and Uranus harmonize their conflicting energies of contraction and expansion, you will be given the chance to come to a more mature understanding of the experience of time. Time is and it is not. Like Keats did in his Ode on a Grecian Urn, you may begin to establish a better balance between the material and the ideal, between death and eternity.

Monday/Tuesday: What Men or Gods are These?

On Monday, Mercury re-enters the fixed Earth sign of Taurus where he was at the beginning of April. This transition will be a nice change of pace for anyone who has felt frenzied by too many bright ideas with not enough time to enact any of them. Now, your ideas will become more lingering and luxurious to chew on, like long stalks of sweet grass. The mental mayhem brought about by Mercury’s conjunction with Uranus will finally quiet down, giving you pause to be thoughtful and make solid plans for the future.

Wednesday/Thursday: What Mad Pursuit?

The Moon is waning in the sign of Aquarius in the middle of the week, making a grand trine to Jupiter in Libra and Mars in Gemini on Wednesday. You will still be releasing the heavy mantle of emotions that emerged at the Full Moon in Scorpio.

Fortunately, the Moon in Aquarius will enable you to feel objective about your feelings, giving you ample space to examine your intentions and motivations with clarity. Expect to feel particularly attracted to exploring the liminal spaces where science and magic merge, where Eros and Thanatos embrace and where life and death bleed into eternity.

Friday/Saturday/Sunday:  What Struggle to Escape? 

On Friday, Saturn and Uranus will make their exact trine, offering you a time for reflection upon questions such as:

“What does the collective mourning for the past catalyze in the human soul?”

“What effect does the awareness of time’s devouring nature have upon the experience of life?”

This concrescence of Saturn and Uranus will inspire you to create something that represents the endurance of the human soul.

Friday will be softened by Venus in Aries opposition with Jupiter in Libra, a beautiful aspect which favors sensual indulgences and creative exploration. With Saturn and Uranus thundering in the background, this is a day that would be well spent working on an artistic project. Whatever you do, find a way to simultaneously express pleasure, discipline, and innovation.

On Saturday, May 20th, the Sun leaves the slow and luxurious sign of Taurus and enters into the mutable air sign of Gemini. This is the last third of the season and with it comes a fluttering transitional energy that stimulates forward motion. With Mercury in Taurus, Gemini’s hyperactive dissemination of ideas will remain wisely tempered by patience. You will feel intellectually agile, open to paradox, but quite in control of how you express your musings.