Know Thyself: Learning How To Learn
Technique for recognizing important recurring themes of the life narrative is another way to appreciate the intention of Western Mystery Tradition wisdom studies. Today’s topic concerns Saturn, Prayer, and the number 28. To what end? These elements, combined, help identify major themes forming the substrate of one’s lifetime spiritual narrative.
The narrative of each human life is comprised of themes, major and minor themes, and many are recurring. Some challenge our peace of heart, while others reward our journey with talent and relationships we cherish but cannot explain as the fruit of direct effort. We tend to focus on the challenges.
Relationships, both family and non-family, material and spiritual security, confidence in self and others, personal direction and the ability to choose wisely, how to think about wellness v pain, to define success, immediate v deferred reward, and nagging moral ambiguity–are never far from view. If truth is hard to mine from the tailings of life, may we consider wisdom studies a warehouse of tools to assist the effort?
Everyone in this life is allocated no less than two profound spiritual experiences, birth and death. Between birth and death, Self-development, understood as the acquisition of wisdom revealed through direct lived experience, is served by the agency of Personality. Awareness of one’s soul-level identity–the essential “I Am”, and its incarnated actualization is both a process and a form. Think: a verb (the process of Self) intercepting history as a noun (the body as form), temporarily.
First, some housekeeping discussion about a practice of Self-development: the freedom we seek, as portrayed by The Fool of Tarot (Zero), is limitless freedom. We incarnate this possibility while in the company of effortless concentration, as portrayed by The Magician (One).
Learning How to Learn
As the phenomenon of “Learning how to learn” sets in, wisdom studies make great company for the myriad questions entering awareness. You are likely to meet (attract) people with complimentary trajectories along the way. Adepts are always working in the background–so no need to look for them; like the physical quanta–attempts to observe metaphysical virtuosity directly (the Adept soul revealed) is rewarded most often with a shadow–indirect evidence of their presence. The writer of the book of Hebrews may be describing this mystery:
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2, KJV
“Learning how to learn” in matters of the Heart, Spirit, Love, and Responsibility to Self and Others, is the mission of wisdom studies.
The orderliness of Reason along with the symbolic content of Intuition, and the multiplication powers of Imagination, plus the liminal sensibility of Paradox and the Counter-intuitive turn of mind, are able to combine, and re-combine until understanding and remembering result. No one faculty operating by itself can accomplish complete remembering which then forecloses understanding. Limited understanding disempowers change. The Personality, even with the compass of wisdom studies, is alternatively the Ferryman and the Traveler.
Is Personality as individualized as a fingerprint? Do we have a body, or, are we a body? Evidently human fingerprints are unique.
Since fingerprints are non-recurring they cannot tell us much about family. It is not possible to connect a son or daughter to a father or mother by way of fingerprints. Fingerprints are facts. Facts are the grist of Reason. Reason lives for facts, and is quite capable of setting the facts of experience in order.
Connections between son or daughter to a father or mother, brother or sister, uncle, aunt or grandparent–while real “as facts”, are untidy, and subject to diverse interpretation and misunderstanding.
Family connections are equal parts undeniable and irrational–all disorder masquerading as identity. How we must long for identity!
The entanglements of relationships cannot be explained by Reason alone. Reason’s famous cousin, Science, with its passion for process and method, actually prefers experiments that scrupulously omit the Self from the laboratory. The Self, on some level, is broadly viewed in the modern era, in the West in particular, as a contaminant.
Cain, Abel, Oedipus, Laius, Jocasta, Castor, Pollux, Romulus, Remus, Eve, Adam, Hamlet, Prufrock, Billy Pilgrim, Bukowski—not a scientist in the mix!
In a previous post, the Astrologers’ Folio defined Science as the study of religion. And religion, the study of Love. No retraction is under consideration. A redoubling is more likely; consider Cervantes, in 1605 CE writing the following axiom—“Facts are the enemy of truth”.
We can think of Cervantes as an early herald cautioning the world against the perils of deconstruction! Facts can be atomized—sub-divided into unnumbered parts—none of which, taken separately, predict the organic whole from which they are inferred. Fingerprints allow Reason to surmise: all persons are separable–disconnected. To parse the individual from the whole fabric of human history, let alone the neighbor, children or spouse, is to deny gestalt a seat at the table of human wonderment. And wonderment is the lowest common denominator of all human experience–since the Vedas to the current moment. Even the most cynical anti-institutional critic in our midst concedes a role for Love! Talk about wonderment—and confirmation bias! It is a beautiful thing to behold.
The Western Mystery conventions (the wisdom studies we call alchemy, astrology, theosophy, Kabbalah, Tarot, esoteric and exoteric Judeo-Christian sacred literature and practice) raise the possibility, human Personality (as a metaphysical form) may be as patterned as the color-wheel–where all created colors derive from an original palate of eternally reliable primary colors. Think: Original Light = Primary Colors. The Color-wheel = Created Light.
Purple, for example, is reliably expressed as the conflation of visible light wavelengths for red and blue. There are unlimited re-combinations of red-to-blue, including “all red” or “all blue”. No matter the ratio of red-to-blue, the result calls upon purple as identity. Seeing purple in the absence of “blue” or “red” radicalizes how we experience limitless freedom–limitless freedom is counter-intuitive.
Counter-intuitive insights do not constrain the utility of Reason for radicalizing waking awareness. Why else would reasonable people attribute to paradox the following power: “a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true”? Breakthrough learning often accompanies the paradox. “Are you kidding?” begins to loom as possibility.
The Major Keys of the Tarot begin with the “limitless freedom” of Zero, portrayed as The Fool. Zero is counter-intuitive. Zero allows for Purple to be “seen” as “all-red” or “all-blue”. It takes concentration to get there. Enter: The Magician.
Sri Aurobindo famously observed, the perfection of one’s integral development, with practice, allows one to “see the bliss in the pain”. We can imagine overhearing the Indian philosopher saying: “with practice you can see “purple” in the “all-red”.
Enter: counter-intuitive awareness and paradox as agents of effortless concentration leading to limitless freedom of the Self.
Reason sets the facts of direct lived experience in order. Order thereby incentivizes Reason to keep seeking patterns amidst all the “data”. To name a science after Reason, it would be the science of pattern recognition. Wisdom studies help us differentiate pattern recognition from pattern origination. Consider the patent: It should not be possible to patent a pattern of Nature since patent implies origination.
Why examine the narrative of one’s life to identify themes? Each human life, long or brief, is a narrative infused with themes. Fact patterns of direct lived experience help us identify themes and bring them within the purview of waking awareness. Narratives and the themes that inform them can serve to defeat islands of chaos in one’s life–the dragon, the monster, the darkness–however they incarnate as anxiety, abandonment or avarice. Themes form the backstory of great narratives. Enter: Saturn the great chronicler.
The symbolic rudiments of the Axiom* of 28 are simple: it takes approximately 28 Earth years for Saturn to complete one orbit around the Sun. (Astronomically speaking, it actually requires on average, 29.4 Earth years for Saturn to complete one Solar return. 29.4 is not a symbol but hails from the tribe of fact. The number 28 possesses an intrinsic orderliness because it is a symbol of mythic Time not a precise measurement. We are not trying to connect the orbit of Saturn to a life theme as a precise astronomical Earth year equivalency. We are looking to Saturn as an instrument of symbolic content. The number 28 is helpful in this regard. At the conclusion of today’s discussion we explain why this is so.
* An axiom or postulate is a statement that is taken to be true, to serve as a premise or starting point for further reasoning and arguments.
If you are older than 40 years you will be able to use your personal experience to experiment with the following exercise; the practicum is useful regardless of age–40, 60 or 22.
Identify one or two early life significant events.
Example No. 1. At age eleven we moved to a new neighborhood many miles away because Dad took a new job. Add 28 + 11 = 39.
Compare and contrast your recollection of life at 11 years with your experience at age 39. Does “relocating” represent a theme at age 39? It is okay to look at age 38 or 40 for clues–Saturn moves slowly.
Example No. 2. At age 25 my first child was born. Add 28 + 25 = 53.
What themes are evident in your life journey at age 53? Compare and contrast your recollection of becoming a parent for the first time, and the themes you are engaged with at age 53. It is okay to look at age 52 and 54 for clues. These themes at age 53 will likely resonate with your experience of becoming a new parent. If you are anxious at 53 you may be able to see layers of anxiety, unsuspected at the time, but present at the blessed event.
Example No. 3. Let’s imagine the same new parent at age 25 has a second child at age 27. Add 28 + 27 = 55.
The life themes at age 55 will reveal not only new insights about the deeper experience of becoming a parent for the second time at age 27—it will provide even more context for understanding how child number 1 and child number 2 serve very different thematic roles in the life narrative of the parent.
Continue to add to the list of life events. Example No. 4: At age 30 I received my first big promotion. Example No. 5: At age 48 my mother died.
Example No. 4. Add 28 + 30 = 58—compare the themes of recognition–as in big promotion, with the context of life at 58.
Example No. 5. In the instance of being 48 years of age when the mother dies, instead of forward, turn the clock back— 48 – 28 = 20. Look at the life experience as a 20 year old to see what it foreshadows thematically for life 28 years hence as separation from the mother is no longer metaphorical.
Conventional Wisdom. Even students of hermetic studies fall victim to hasty generalizations. Saturn, of all the planets, abounds in conventional wisdom tales—many of which are negative. “Saturn is difficult”, “Saturn is all karma”, “Saturn separates”, “Saturn is cold and impersonal” “Saturn disciplines”. But every life event is 28 years following or precedent to other experience—and not all actual or potential events can be negative, cold or remote. Seeing the “bliss in the pain” the “purple in the red-sans blue” is to see the many dimensions of Saturn. If Saturn is subject to a single characterization limitless freedom is no longer a possibility.
Keep a journal of dates in search of Axiom 28 themes. See Saturn being harsh, patient or generous in the context of your life at different times. Saturn cannot possibly by a disciplinarian at every turn. We need to respect the sober face of Saturn even as we disconnect it from “nothing but” platitudes. Saturn is a great teacher. Saturn represents the energy and attention required to stay the course for the long term. Saturn, as we will study another day, has a special relationship with the Moon–another body we closely associate with remembering.
We finish with a brief peak at the numerology of Axiom 28–to reveal yet another layer of the design and internal logic of wisdom studies taken as a whole.
The number 28, numerologically, resolves to 10, as 2 + 8. 10 resolves further to 1, as 1 + 0. 1 + 0 connects 28 to Major Tarot Keys 1 and 0, The Magician and The Fool. Effortless concentration and limitless freedom connect to Saturn the cold disciplinarian. Let the insights pour over you as you begin to catalogue your life themes with more intention and perspective.
Prayer—what about prayer? In the West the term prayer communicates how one composes the body to make room for non-waking awareness to enter the wakened state. It is an invitation for the symbolic world of the Imagination and the Counter-intuitive insight to join Reason in quiet proximity.
Thank you for your patience with this lesson. Life themes and narratives are important material for the alchemist in each one of us. The utility of wisdom studies as a tool for revealing recurring themes comes with practice. Westerners beware–Saturn cautions the catechumen, Learning how to learn is the goal–a mere fillip, delighting the Mind.
We bid you peace through practice,