Perhaps all dimensions of space ‘came about’ at once. To my heart it seems more likely that all have existed timelessly, beyond the feeble conception of a single point of origin. Whether a changing yet eternal, fathomless stretch that ‘always has been’, or a nascent, always morphing notion of a ‘big bang’, there is meaning found in the depth of symbolism that seems to go beyond shadowy words such as ‘theory’ and ‘proof.’ A metaphoric roadmap or signpost needs no objective proof to justify itself as a guide, only a set of symbols through which meaning can be apprehended.
Perhaps it is only the rational, physically incarnate mind that perceives or projects a linear sequence onto the whole of reality. Whether or not this is the case, there is meaning and a sort of natural law to the elemental progression of 'fire, earth, air, water' found across astrology and alchemy — which repeats three times in sequence throughout the twelve signs of the zodiac. In Tarot, they are 'wands, pentacles, swords and cups.' In psychology, 'intuition, sensation, thinking, feeling.' They also bear curious correspondences to four fundamental forces in physics, 'electromagnetism, strong forces, weak forces and gravitation.'
The Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung referred to many of these as expressions of “fourness” — arms of the cross, core amidst the pillars of world psyche.
Fire to Earth
Fire into earth represents the will made awake and self-aware, the electromagnetic spark of intuition, the “spirit” made flesh, the blaze of archetypal meaning with a physical vessel to represent it. The ‘image’ is not just earth in sense-perceptible form — the ‘image’, as spoken of in archetypal psychologies and astrologies, is the active role going into form, the instinct in motion. It is the myriad qualities bound up in a constellation whose shape and figure are found in participatory gaze, an unfolding act of self-recognizing power.
Earth to Air
Earth into air represents the form developing a mind, conscious of the external and so reflecting upon the dualism between outer and inner. Earth begs the blessing of incarnation, so that we can mire in beauty and separation. Should our division be seen as temporary, only partaking momentarily of a transcendent oneness? Or is this division as real and permanent as any higher truth? If fire is the suchness of meaning found in a role, committed to an earthy form, air is the multiplicity of the role’s expressions in the external, amidst ‘separate’ characters on the stage. Air is the temporary and permanent being seen as simultaneous truths. Air is the mobilized abstraction, the applied thoughtform, the utility of genius.
Air to Water
Air into water represents the gravitation of feeling toward events of the mind, the senses, the will. Water is instinct, receptivity, empathy, a way of relating. Currents of emotion rush, and winds of the mind interact, steering and clashing, the air filled with moisture. Thoughts can train the heart’s gaze, raising it from vindictive to virtuous, and rendering it from open to broken. The full opening of water’s empty vessel is the last task of the soul, the carefully cultivated posture of spiritual wisdom.
Water to Fire
Water is the end, and yet water is the prelude, synonymous with the fiery beginning. Again and again. It is the dissolving of oneself, a sort of non-egoic liberty found in the ‘urge to merge.’ The same from which we emerge. Its cup, emptied for receiving, is the loving void which cradles light, a prism stretching through the womb, a wand and knife in the window.
As for fire and earth again… among the signs’ endless shades, Aries into Taurus is like a Ram’s electric charge, the spirit’s dominion over the body, its raw will swimming upstream… meets the stubborn but stable, beauty-seeking Bull — like war grounds of the Self into the notion of endless Eden.
Leo into Virgo is like a creative radiance, a self-honoring pride as divine birthright, a Lion stretching in the sun… applying his creation to service of self and other, the Virgin’s consummate role a perfection complete ‘unto herself’, wherever before or behind the curtain she might dance, the blacksmith and chemist of the spirit’s inward/outward synthesis.
Sagittarius into Capricorn is like a seer’s mind alight, a physical gusto born of singular vision, a soaring, expansive optimism, the Archer’s need to hit a target of its high aim… meets the realist hitting pavement, the slow climb of a Goat who in foresight moves to catch the arrow as it sinks from its crest, bringing it to a place of exalted effort, ever striving for the plateau of a timeless ascent.
The Fire and Earth of Miyazaki
Yesterday, January 5, 2016, was the 75th birthday of Hayao Miyazaki. I have often remarked with awe, only half-joking, at how Miyazaki’s films are packed full of so much archetypal symbolism that the children who see them must be set for life. Three of these anime masterpieces — Grave of the Fireflies, My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away — were named to Roger Ebert’s ‘Great Movies’ list (of roughly 363 titles, compiled from three books). The level of vision found across Miyazaki’s filmography strikes wonder and imagination in viewers of all ages.
Just as spectacular to me is how shimmering facets of Miyazaki’s filmmaking are reflected in the symbolism of his natal chart. Save for Chiron in Cancer and Neptune in Virgo, every major planet in his chart dwells in a fire or earth sign. The suchness of meaning (fire) bound up with a physical symbol (earth) in each manifold role played, passionate characters (fire) across lush physical environments (earth).
Even without public knowledge of birth time, we still know Miyazaki is a Capricorn Sun conjunct Mercury squared by Moon in Aries, Luna ten or so hours from the First Quarter square. His Moon is aspected by Mars at 0 degrees Sagittarius and Pluto retrograde at 3 degrees Leo, forming a Grand Fire Trine.
“Consider a scene in Spirited Away where his young heroine stands on a bridge leading away from the magical bathhouse in which much of the movie is set. The central action and necessary characters supply all that is actually needed, but watching from the windows and balconies of the bathhouse are many of its occupants. It would be easier to suggest them as vaguely moving presences, but Miyazaki takes care to include many figures we recognize. All of them are in motion. And it isn't the repetitive motion of much animation, in which the only idea is simply to show a figure moving. It is realistic, changing, detailed motion.”
In the above quoted review of Spirited Away from the ‘Great Movies’ list, Ebert describes Miyazaki’s “love and generosity," displayed in aesthetic details found across the entirety of each hand-animated frame. This corresponds wonderfully to Miyazaki’s natal Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in Taurus — the generosity (Jupiter) and discipline (Saturn) of developing beautiful (Taurus), meaningful details (Jupiter/Saturn) spread lavishly throughout each shot.
Light Beyond Dominion
There is a spritely quality to the way different spirit creatures bounce about in this film, something like fire and light bursting from earth and form. It conjures Jung describing the autonomy of archetypes. "Archetype don't exist in a vacuum," as Adam Elenbaas remarked. One might imagine zipping and floating about, performing countless roles and some more often than others, caught in multidimensional stretches between frames, occasionally glitching divine into our synchronicities…
The autonomy or archetypes is akin to other fiery manifestations such as intuition and the will. Intuition is like fire down the cross, and action fire up the cross. Perhaps archetypes are like fire through the cross, making their way in and speaking through and with our wills. Are archetypes the genetic and thoughtform manifestation of spirits ‘out there’? Are they external energetic forces (fire) which our minds project appearance onto and anthropomorphize (earth/air)? Or are they simply limited to our minds’ conception (air) in the sense perceptible world (earth)?
One of the themes Miyazaki returns to time and time again is that of nature and environment. He conveys that we have stopped communing with or even looking at the natural world at anything like the depth our ancestors did. To paraphrase part of an interview, Miyazaki essentially argues that this dissociation from nature leaves people looking mostly at other people, growing an obsession with faults and a subconscious hatred of humankind.
Where earth’s splendor is forgotten, the fiery, wanton will runs rampant. Here, a darker layer of the outer world is conjured… the eye trained on another’s separateness, the mind recalls not what it grows from and with.
Fire sears an eternal message, earth our only context for the act of remembrance. Even with the memories that reach into long before our present lifetimes, how can we yet know what’s truly beyond this life?
“Once you do something, you never forget. Even if you can’t remember.”
— Spirited Away, 2001