The Better Angels of Our Nature


November 22, 2018 at 9:40 pm PST / 05:40 am UT (23rd)

Sun and Moon opposed at 0°52' Sagittarius/Gemini

picWe are swiftly approaching the culmination point of the current lunar cycle, the Full Moon, when the Sun and Moon form a perfect, dynamic opposition emphasizing two complementary signs. An opposition signifies just what you might presume: potential conflict, clashing values, contradictory and sometimes incompatible urges that can pull in entirely different directions. Yet oppositions are also complements, magnetically attracted to one another and ultimately seeking balance through some kind of creative integration and synthesis.

This fundamental balance between separation and integration is encoded in astrology through each oppositional pair on the zodiac wheel which fall in elements that are compatible (either a combination of water and earth, or fire and air). The two signs also share the same yin or yang polarity as well as the same "mode of energy" — a basic building block of the zodiac, expressed in three variations: cardinal, fixed and mutable. This phenomena of opposition and integration is demonstrated in all six polar zodiac pairs, one pair highlighted every month at this culmination point in the lunar month. picWe could say that the cosmic challenge at every full moon is for all of us to do just that: find a way to bridge our own internal conflicts, as well as collective, societal differences — and transcend this human propensity for separation and division.

picIn addition to their oppositional positions on the zodiac wheel, Sagittarius and Gemini are also associated with issues of duality within their own sign symbolism. Sagittarius, represented by the centaur, half horse, half man (shown above), describes our inherent dual nature: the human and the animal. We possess both intellect and instinct, body and soul. Mercury-ruled Gemini represents nothing less than the fundamental, basic polarity of life. The Gemini twins are the celestial and primeval twins, sons of the sun god, brothers who represent the two sides of human nature, twin powers of good and evil. The building blocks of life itself derive from the double spiral, the twin helix of DNA. It is remarkable how similar the helix resembles Mercury's twin-snake-entwined caduceus.

Gemini is evident in the diverse myths and religious stories that feature polar twins, often at odds with each other, often enemies. Some examples from a variety of sources include the biblical twin pairs of Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau; picEgyptian twins Osiris and Set, Shu and Tefnut; the Scandinavian twins Baldur and Loki; and in Roman myth, Romulus and Remus, and Castor and Pollux. Especially relevant are Castor and Pollux. Most commonly associated with Gemini, they are the two bright stars in the constellation of Gemini.

In the Roman story of Castor and Pollux, one is often depicted as light and the other dark. The domed caps they wear represent the Cosmic Egg, for they were born from the union of the mortal woman Leda and the god Zeus. Zeus had disguised himself as a swan in order to seduce Leda, apparently she was fond of birds. Leda, however was married and so a second father was involved in the twin offspring that resulted from this union. Thus Castor was fathered by Leda's mortal husband Tyndareus, and Pollux by Zeus. Castor was therefore mortal and represents earth-bound, human nature, while Pollux was immortal: the soul that endures beyond physical death. Castor and Pollux, "Everyone on earth comes under the influence of Gemini. It represents the dual forces: the opposition of the human and the divine in all of us. Until the two are harmonized the law of opposites will continue to operate."joined in their twin symbolism, represent our own dual nature, spirit in physical form.

Most of us work these fundamental dilemmas out within our most intimate, committed unions, the place where we ultimately meet ourselves. Seeing the self in others, the inherent unity in polarity is at the heart of the Ascendant-Descendant, or relationship axis in everyone's natal chart, as well as striking at the heart of Gemini, the Twins, core meaning.

Isabel Hickey, in her book, Astrology the Cosmic Science, addressed these complementary Gemini/Sagittarius principles, noting that Gemini represents the conscious mind, while in its opposite, Sagittarius, lies the potential of the superconscious faculties of illumination and wisdom. "From the standpoint of the universal laws," Hickey maintained, "Gemini is the most important of the twelve signs for our earth. Everyone on earth comes under the influence of Gemini. It represents the dual forces: the opposition of the human and the divine in all of us. Until the two are harmonized the law of opposites will continue to operate."

I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.

* * *

What counts, in the long run, is not what you read; it is what you sift through your own mind; it is the ideas and impressions that are aroused in you by your reading. It is the ideas stirred in your own mind, the ideas which are a reflection of your own thinking, which make you an interesting person

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Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.

— Eleanor Roosevelt, Sagittarius Rising

I've been watching Ken Burn's series on the Roosevelts, which covers Teddy, Franklin Delano (FDR), and Franklin's wife, champion of human rights, Eleanor — a Roosevelt herself (Teddy's niece), picnot just through marriage to Franklin. As I was working on this post, many of her actions and thoughts, shared in the series, were such a perfect echo of this Gemini-Sagittarius integration challenge — which, as Isabel Hickey claims, is fundamental to human progress. How interesting then to pull up Eleanor's natal chart and see her Sagittarius Ascendant and natal Venus and Jupiter conjoined, right on Sagittarius' and Jupiter's own 9th house cusp.

Eleanor's natal Mercury fell in diplomatic, justice-oriented Libra, conjunct forward-focused Uranus. After Franklin died in 1945, Harry Truman appointed her the first delegate to the newly established United Nations, where she was appointed Chairman of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in which capacity she played an instrumental role in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Her Sun and North Node of the Moon also fell in Libra. How similar our current economic troubles and political struggles are to the time when she and FDR were leaders. How we need people of this same courage, talent and integrity now.

We have to face the fact that either all of us are going to die together or we are going to learn to live together, and if we are to live together we have to talk.

* * *

Will people ever be wise enough to refuse to follow bad leaders or to take away the freedom of other people?

* * *

It isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it.

* * *

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.

* * *

Each of us has... all the time there is. Those years, weeks, hours, are the sands in the glass running swiftly away. To let them drift through our fingers is tragic waste. To use them to the hilt, making them count for something, is the beginning of wisdom.

— Eleanor Roosevelt


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The title of this essay is a nod to Abraham Lincoln, who was sworn in as president in March of 1861, one month before the attack on Fort Sumter and the beginning of the American Civil War. Desperately wishing to avoid this terrible conflict, Lincoln ended his inaugural address with this impassioned plea:

"I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

The statues of Castor and Pollux shown above grace the Capitoline Hill in Rome. Atop a wide cordonata (stairway) designed by Michelangelo Buonarroti the stairway gradually ascends the hill to reach the Piazza Del Campidoglio, a beautiful square also designed by Michelangelo, built wide enough for riders to ascend the hill on horseback without dismounting. Info and photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

This is a repost of an essay written originally for a Gemini Full Moon in 2014.

The image of the angel at the beginning of this essay is detail from a fresco by Bernardino Luini, c1480