Learning from Chiron
I have decided to publish the chapter on Chiron from my book Man & Cosmos: Astrology and the Human Experience in order to shed some light on the healing process and the deeper nature of the many conflicts which we as individuals struggle with.
I hope you will find it enlightening.
The discovery and subsequent naming of new celestial bodies presents us with a fascinating curiosity. How is it that the names chosen and their related mythologies seem to perfectly coincide with the astrological effects of the planets named? The discovery of new planets always represents the expansion of the frontiers of human consciousness, wherein new archetypal journeys are accepted into the framework of the individual life and given the grace to express themselves actively rather than remaining dormant in the collective unconscious (i.e. as hidden or undiscovered planets). The display of active intuitive faculties connected to the naming of new planets suggests that their discovery is symbolic of an inherent principle of consciousness within coming into collective awareness through the advent of a freshly unveiled point of light in the heavens. The mystery of our connection to the starry realm above is our spiritual inheritance and the archetypal nature of the way these energies manifest in an individual’s life compels the very fabric of the human psyche.
Chiron is the name given to an asteroid that was discovered in 1977 between the planetary orbits of Saturn and Uranus. Astrologically, Chiron urges us to tend to the unresolved emotional wounds that are delaying our process of soul integration and personal becoming. On a collective level, it implies the full embrace and value of our feelings as guides and teachers rather than encumbrances to be dealt with along the way. In this light, Chiron can also be said to relate to the development of the positive feminine qualities that have been forsaken over time in favour of a masculine system of power. The comparatively recent unveiling of Chiron in the skies means that it is at this time especially important for humanity to integrate the lessons this asteroid represents.
The rich mythology belonging to the figure Chiron, a centaur born from the union of Cronus (Saturn) and a nymph called Philyra, serves to unite several planetary principles and the archetypal processes inherent in more than a few signs of the zodiac. As a centaur and thus containing hues of the sign energy Sagittarius, Chiron is emblematic of the relationship of the intellect to the instinctual. Sagittarius, as ruled by Jupiter, is the sign energy of higher learning, holistic thought, and the pursuit of God on Earth. However, as a sign heavily influenced by the Earth realm itself (the Earth is the esoteric ruler of Sagittarius), this energy is also greatly connected to the very experience of bodily incarnation. The delight of sensual pleasures is alive and well in the Sagittarian individual, and here the path of excess leads to the wisdom of balance, which is the essential quality of the spiritual state.
While centaurs are famous in Greek mythology for being rowdy and Dionysian (God of wine, sensual pleasures and religious ecstasy), Chiron is not comfortable in his incarnation as a centaur. He connects the raw expression of sensual pleasure and the drive to satisfy emotional needs as being lesser-evolved pursuits and so denies the more Earthy side of his nature. The story goes that Cronus ardently pursued Chiron’s mother; she in turn having no desire for him turned herself into a mare in order to escape his advances. However, Cronus succeeded in deceiving her by transforming himself into a horse, and the two then mated in this form. The child brought forth from this union was Chiron. Upon seeing the half-man half-horse, Philyra was horrified and begged the Gods to change her into anything but her current form, a request with which they complied by transforming her into a linden tree. This early rejection wounded Chiron badly and he in turn rejected his own basic nature (instinctual), eventually being taken under the wing of the Sun God Apollo, who taught him about music, art, and healing (intellectual). Chiron was widely renowned and sought after as a mentor for his great adeptness in these fields and for his knowledge of sacred rituals and natural science.
One of Chiron’s students was the famous hero Hercules, who was one evening invited to sup with the centaurs. A confrontation ensued, and Hercules ended up striking Chiron in the leg with one of his arrows, which was covered in the poison of Hydra, a sea monster Hercules had defeated in one of his well-known conquests. The wound this created was unable to be healed due to the powerful nature of the poison, and Chiron was fated to a future burdened by his injury.
This wounding is profoundly rich in symbolism. The very battle between the centaurs and man (Hercules) represents the conflicting nature of the instinct and the intellect. Today, the suppression of the instinctual is clear in the division between man and nature, and our denial of responsibility towards our planet Earth, the very container and mother of our form life. The feminine, of which the instinctual qualities of receptivity, collective union and love bonding are a part, is repressed and denied its true place as the complementary force to the masculine values of straightforwardness, individualism, and practical thought that are so dominant at this time.
In the tale of Chiron’s wounding, Hercules is the embodiment of the Martian principle: he is a courageous warrior, conqueror of monsters and figure of immense physical strength. But he is also destructive, impulsive and individualistic to a fault. His famous battle with the many-headed sea monster Hydra is really the narrative of the man exploring will and strength (Mars/Pluto) in battle with the unconscious complex (Hydra). This is another way of looking at the suppressed emotional/conditioned responses that create disturbances in our efforts at true self-expression. Here we revisit the theme of Scorpio, for the Hydra represents the shadow side of the individual; the subtle and destructive emotional complex (Pluto) that lay seething beneath the surface, poisoning elements of an individual’s soul expression. Herein we come to a feature of the Scorpionic energy in light of the sign’s connection to profound transformation (Pluto). It is within the emotional body, in the shadow of our relationship to love and the successful fulfilment of our emotional needs, where Scorpio must enter to do his work. It is in the efforts of the deep Scorpionic journey that the instinctual (body) and intellectual (mind) are alchemically united through the heart (for their union is a reflection of the merging of the internal feminine and masculine forces).
Here, the Hydra is the destructive feminine: the dark force of the deep inner emotions that threatens to wreak havoc on one’s conscious expression if left unresolved. When Hercules attempts to destroy the Hydra by brute force and aggression (Mars), he only succeeds in making her stronger. In the tale, she grows three heads for every head he chops off. This is symbolic of the way an unconscious complex only grows stronger if it is suppressed or confronted with frustration. In life, this typically manifests in the form of aggression against the self through self-destructive behaviours, ultimately born from of a victim mentality (inability to claim one’s power [Pluto]) in reaction to unresolved issues. The fact of Chiron’s endless suffering in mortality from a wound that cannot heal is another emblem of the individual living in suppression of his instinctual self or one who is struggling with a belief/behavioural pattern/addiction related to the unresolved unconscious complex. When one deals with emotions by ignoring them or facing them with cold logic, he in turn becomes possessed by them. The symbolic transformation of the scorpion into the eagle, discussed under the sign of Scorpio, represents a transmutation that carries one out of the entrapment of the emotional body (the scorpion) and into the soaring freedom of the mental body (the eagle). In order for this to be completed, the instinct towards suppression must be sublimated, and instead acceptance and release be cultivated. The impulsive emotional nature must be recognized and subdued, while the informing agent of feeling is honoured as guidance from the inner Self. The arrow in the symbol for Scorpio is aimed upwards by the soul that is seeking expression through the personality nature. This is why Chiron is associated to the development of Christ consciousness, as this process takes place in the seat of the soul: the heart, and leads to higher levels of awareness through a purification of the emotional nature.
Hercules finally defeats the Hydra by kneeling before her and raising her into the air; a fruitful correspondence to the idea of bringing what lay in shadow into the light in order to disempower it. This is also reflective of a situation in which direct logic and straightforward thinking (masculine) did not provide the keys to our hero’s success. Here, victory was gained through surrender (Neptune) to the might of the unconscious (feminine), wherein by removing the Hydra from her watery realm (the seas of the unconscious) she lost her menacing qualities. In entering the paradoxical world of Neptune (surrender), where acceptance and trust are paramount, we gain the ultimate empowerment of our Plutonian might.
The relationship between Pluto and Neptune takes on many forms, some negative as in the way escapism (Neptune) upholds addiction (Pluto), but also positive as in the way the mystic realization of the divine within (Neptune) leads man into a radical personal transformation (Pluto). In the case of Chiron, the early complex created by his mother rejecting him is again brought into consciousness through the wounding inflicted by Hercules’ poisoned arrow. The instinctual side that Chiron was repressing in his preference for the intellect, as well as the rejection of his centaur body, resurfaced from the deeply buried unconscious in a symbolic wounding that shot pain throughout his entire being. Much in the same way, if we ignore the active resolution of the emotional complexes at work within our own psyches, they densify from their natural energetic state (the very word e-motion conceals the concept of energy in motion) and end up being expressed instead through the physical body, often through dis-ease and poor health.
Chiron’s predicament made him the wounded healer; for as he grew in knowledge of how to ease his own pain, he further mastered the art of healing, which he was able to administer successfully to others. Often the area of life that Chiron affects through house placement is one in which we are able to help others ease their pain because of our own familiarity with the nature of its infliction. The sign in which Chiron is placed indicates qualities we will develop in order to transform our area of weakness into a fertile ground of strength and empowerment. For example, Chiron in Cancer in the sixth house (the house of Virgo) would manifest as an individual who has experienced wounding in relation to the mother principle (Cancer) and thus develops ways of being nurturing and protective towards her being and the ones she loves. The sixth house placement might suggest a particular susceptibility to expressing the suppression of the emotions through the physical vehicle, as this is the house of the mind-body connection. As a result, this individual may develop a health regimen and be especially sensitive towards the lifestyle imbalances that cause dis-ease in the body. This knowledge could be useful in healing others who are suffering or who need guidance in the area of diet, lifestyle, and managing the mind-body connection. Naturally, this counsel would be done in a style that attended to the other’s deepest need for emotional safety and honoured their position of vulnerability (Chiron in Cancer).
As was mentioned briefly in the discussion of the sign energy Aquarius, after much suffering Chiron ended up sacrificing his mortal life to liberate the immortal and imprisoned God Prometheus, who was chained to a mountain by Zeus for his many acts of disobedience that showed favour to the human world over the world of Gods to which he truly belonged. In reference to this part of the story, it is useful to revisit the fact that Chiron is located between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus, rulers of Capricorn and Aquarius, respectively. In the conflict between these two planetary energies we experience a palpable tension: where Saturn seeks respect for authority figures and solidified systems of organization, Uranus dislikes established order and employs disruptive qualities to impose a utopian vision of personal freedom and social revolution. Both of these planets are isolative in their effects, although the sign energy of Aquarius is commonly connected to friend groups and community efforts. Chiron, too, was a victim of the isolation he imposed upon himself by not feeling comfortable in his incarnation as a centaur and thus being unable to relate to his kind. In Aquarius, the inclination towards an active participation in society is typically expressed after the humbling experiences of Saturn (karma) temper the restless quest that holds the individuality up above all else (remember that as the opposing polarity to Leo, Aquarius often struggles with the ego inflation characteristic of this axis). Just as Prometheus learned, lawlessness does not equate to abiding by the cosmic law and order, and the Aquarian who feels invincible is necessarily just as active in creating his personal karma (Saturn).
Prometheus was thus gravely punished for his defiant nature and constantly suffered in his immortality as his eyes/liver were pecked out daily by a griffon. The function of the liver is in cleansing the body of toxins and governing elimination of what need not be assimilated, and Jupiter rules this organ in medical astrology. This is poignant as Prometheus was punished for his belief systems and his inflated sense of self-importance, both symptomatic of a rowdy Jupiterian influence (note that Jupiter is also the esoteric ruler of Aquarius). This experience, though traumatic, cleansed Prometheus of his self-centered ways.
When we refine our beliefs to honour the needs of the collective over the individual, we align with a divine truth wherein the interconnected nature of all beings is honoured and love as the fabric of reality is recognized. As a result of this we are made one with the divine power that in turn blesses our lives with its grace and guidance. Only when the individual becomes aware of his victimized state and chooses to take responsibility for his shadow side, which he has hitherto been projecting onto the outside world, can salvation and surrender to one’s wounding take place and elicit the healing process of release and integration. The journey of Chiron takes us into a personal rebirth after which no experience in life is seen in the same light. It teaches us we must step into the shadow to discover the true strength of our inner radiance.