Living in Time
This book is about developing a sense of timing. The main focus in cultivating this sense is awareness, a receptivity to what's in the wind, what's going on within and what appears to be the underlying meaning of life's remarkably variegated experiences.
There are many paths to awareness, and each of us follows our own heart in pursuing the path appropriate to us. Here we are using the language and symbology of astrology by which to identify the ever-varying facets of time, and thereby to become aware of what's really going on in life as we experience it.
Astrology is useful in this process of identification, because it is precise and well used, encompassing many approaches to reality, and is a language spoken by many and increasing numbers of people. In generations to come, it will most probably move into centre-stream as a language for understanding time, change and things psychological and subtle.
Even if you are not particularly interested in devoting your life to absorbing astrology thoroughly – a rather committed path – it is undoubtedly worth picking up its basics and using them in your own life, in any way useful for you. This book is thus for you who are interested in the passage of time, in energy-working and natural religiosity, in seeing astrology in a new light, or in simply being aware of what's going on in your life.
Here we are talking about subjectively-experienced time, which is an elastic, a-rational flow of feeling-tones, head-spaces, angles on life, partial insights into whole-reality, phases and chapters, experienced both on an individual and a collective basis.
When we usually talk about time we refer to clocks and calendars: "I'll meet you at the station at two-thirty on Wednesday 26th April". Clock and calendar time is a socially-agreed mode of time-measurement, based on the coming and going of the day and the seasonal year, which we use to coordinate our activities in a complex, urban world.
The time we are looking at here is more qualitative than quantitative, as in the usage "The times are changing". Here we refer to an identification we might make of the essential qualities of the period we live in – a subjective assessment, but nonetheless real for us. And often it is the case that many people find themselves sharing subjective assessments with others, thereby imbuing such assessments with larger claims to reality.
It is very useful to come into tune with the nature of time, because it can make our lives easier. We can fit the immediate moment into a context, a wider scenario, which gives us a sense of direction and purpose amidst life's otherwise confusing whirlpools and eddies, such that we become aware of life being a process.
This matters a lot during 'bad' times, because when things are hard, when life is an uphill slog, it feels as if it is going to go on like that for ever, and it feels as if the difficulties we perceive are going to bug us indefinitely. It matters a lot during 'good' times as well, because, even though we might be enjoying ourselves, it helps to know that (apparently) good times, like (apparently) bad times, don't go on for ever, even if we might want them to! This scraping of our expectations and extrapolations against ever-changing reality, both internal and external, is what makes up the Stuff of Life, very much characterising our human condition.
Sooner or later we realise that we are here, most fundamentally, to learn, and that if we consciously dedicate our lives to doing so, everything we experience becomes a success and part of an ongoing stream of good fortune. For even if everything seems to be going wrong, our learning from life makes it very right, valuable, and fundamentally happiness-producing. For happiness, peace, light, freedom, health, love or whatever it is we seek, is a state of being, which derives from within ourselves rather than from the fortuitous arrangement of sought-after circumstances in which we expect, according to our life-education so far, to feel happy.
Astrology can give not only a better understanding of what's going on, but it can give us an initiation into working with time-energy actively. If it is possible to identify experientially what Mars energy is like compared to Jupiter energy, or even to distinguish what is likely to be the case when these two energies combine, then it is possible to enter into dynamic involvement with these energies in order to allow them to come through us more clearly and effectively. Or, at least, we can reduce some of the scraping, jarring and conflicting which goes on!
Moving in phase with the time, or even adding to its qualities by manifesting situations and creations to outwardly express and manifest those energies, we move into a deep union with the power of Life itself, intuitively, engaging deeper movements of energy in our everyday lives. It's like surfing: once adept in the art, a surfer stands there and stays on balance, to be transported far and fast by the wave-energy available freely to any conscious partaker of it. So let's get out our psychic surf-boards, as from today.
Astrology suggests that life is a process, and that the travelling of the road of life is what it's all about – even though we regularly get caught up in the notion that the reaching of the end of that road is what's desirable. Astrology points out that time is cyclical and evolutionary, and gives us the wherewithal to identify the different qualitative cycles at work characterising any given moment. Astrology gives us an ability to see the length and context of those cycles, and to move in accord with them, organically.
Itself, astrology is but a simple language of symbols which, when interrelated and set to work with each other, can describe and help us attune to time, its passage and meaning. These symbols can be perceived and experienced mentally, emotionally and experientially, imaginally and actionally. They contain no judgements of right or wrong: these are entirely supplied by any person interpreting its symbols, and by our own cultural values and prejudices. Astrological factors just are, that's all, just like the sunshine or your left foot.
Astrology has traditionally been burdened by many such value-judgements (especially 'good' and 'bad', 'difficult' or 'easy' – which might or might not land up being the case on examination of our experience). Astrological symbols describe energy, simply and directly. Our responses to this energy are what make the times feel either comfortable and welcome or uncomfortable and adverse. Thus astrology becomes a language of awareness, in that we can come to see how our responses to life colour our experience and influence further experiences leading out of earlier ones.
What I recommend to you in this book is that the best source for learning astrology is your own life, and that while astrology books and experts might be helpful in pointing out useful things to you, the words and ideas given out, including these here, in no way replace observations you might derive from your own experience. In fact, a real living feel for astrology and for time is what's most useful in making astrology work for us in our lives.
So what we're going to do in the pages which follow is look into cycles of time, what they do, how long they last, how they interrelate, and how to see them at work in our own lives, and in the world surrounding us, as we each personally experience them.
We're not looking at birth charts. For some reason astrology has become fixated on them, to the exclusion of this very foundation of astrology itself – and neither are we going to look at fixed definitions of what this means or what that means.
It's over to you to get a living feel of what fullmoons are about, or what goes on when Mars opposes Pluto, by observing for yourself rather than by indirect learning through the interpretative intercession of an astrologer or astrology books. Some guidelines will be presented, though, as to how to view things, with the qualification that they should at all times be read critically, with an eye for your own experience. In this book, I'm sharing with you what I understand of astrology and life, and if this is useful and stimulating to you, then we have lift-off and all is well. If not, then perhaps this book can help you clarify what your own insights of life and astrology are, by giving something to disagree with!
In the end, the honest aim of all astrologers is to become redundant. Yes indeed. Astrology is a tool for getting to grips with the nature of time, but like all tools, it needs eventually to be ditched. It is perfectly possible to develop a sense of timing without using astrology. Any receptive person can sense when the right time is to move forward, and when it is right to hold back – and can learn from previous experience how to be more attuned next time round.
But astrology gives us a remarkably accurate means by which to work our way into a keen sense of inner timing, and every aware person would do well to understand at least a little of the basics: lunar cycles, annual cycles, a sense of history and of our participation in its creation. There will come a time in the evolution of humanity when such people as astrologers will no longer be needed: our awareness will have developed to a point where we no longer need such tools for understanding.
Illustration by Jan Billings - one of the guardians of Glastonbury Tor
Absorb astrology at your own speed, relaxed, in your own way. Learn what is applicable to you in your own life, at this time. You don't need to struggle through tomes about the zodiac or lengthy expositions of other astrological concepts: it is best to learn about those signs or factors which matter to you in the present time, for you will come to the other signs in due course when you need to connect with them experientially.
It isn't necessary to program your memory-files with descriptions of what Venus square Jupiter or Mars in Libra mean, for all you will land up with is a full and heavy head! But it is distinctly fruitful to look into what is currently valid for you and what will help you resolve questions you have in front of you, for you will absorb astrology in a living way, in relation to life and experience, beyond words, in the heart of your being.
Get what you need out of astrology and enjoy it! You're doing this voluntarily, out of your own personal wish to learn from life, and there is no need to concern yourself with what others think, how fast you or they are learning astrology, whether you understand it right or whether or not you're 'good enough' at it. If you are lousy at figures, leave them until you feel right to tackle them, and persevere, for you will find that since you are self-motivated in your astrological studies, you will be able, in your own time and own manner, to motivate yourself into mastering what previously seemed difficult.
This is an opportunity to learn something for yourself, for posterity, something which will have definite benefit for you and for those around you. It's a question of multilevel absorption of astrology by the whole of your being, rather than head-cramming.
The wonderful thing about astrology is that it can bridge our thinking mind and our deeper self, our left and right brains, our feminine and masculine sides, our psyche and world, our left and right brains, our personal dualisms. Many of the best astrological insights come after we have given up the books, tables and studies, and are driving the car, sitting on the toilet or lying in the sun by a waterfall – conscious mind relaxes, and allows the unconscious space to work. Books and ideas do have their value (I'm a pretty heady character myself!), but having ingested them, suspend them and look at life!
The unconscious doesn't think thoughts: it sees things in wholes, and grasps things in visions, grokkings, flashes and experiences. Perhaps you've just had a tiff with a loved one or the dog, and you're feeling a bit shocked, and you suddenly realise, yes, that's it, Venus is in square to Mars, and you've just acted it out! Oh gosh! Caught! The unconscious works by associations, images, urges, flavours, meanings, knowings, sensings, dreamstuff and horror-movies, and it is well for us to allow it to talk in its own language, and to utilise it as a resource for living, rather than as an impediment to the survival and furtherance of our ego and its often rather crazy intents.
Use your head to take in the words, but then let it all drop, and allow the rest of your being to really grasp, holistically, what the astrology is all about. Or, conversely, go to therapy groups, meditations, mosques, oak trees, or find your illuminations up a mountain, then use this or another book as a way of backing up your experiential gleanings with a dose of astrological mental structuring. Unlike academic subjects, astrology is multidimensional, bridging schisms and allowing room for all sorts of people to use it in their own way. Wonderful!
Astrology is a multilevel language which far outstrips other modern languages in its expressiveness and dimensionality, when it comes to understanding the nature of the psyche or the underlying nature of time and change. As when learning any new language, we enter first into a phase of thinking in and translating back to our mother tongue. With practice, a new mode of language-thinking dawns, where we find ourselves beginning to think in the new language, without need for translation. After a while you even grasp the subtle nuances too.
If you willingly beaver away at absorbing astrology, in as many ways as you can, you will find that it all falls into place in the course of time, and that it will become a second language which stays with you throughout your life. Unless you actively suppress it, it doesn't go away. In fact, if you're interested by it now, it's presumably because it didn't go away since the last time!
In this book, we are not focusing on astrological charts - though there is a page about such charts. Instead we're looking at the roots and principles of astrology, as a way of understanding the nature of time and how it moves.
We start the book by looking at lunation cycles, annual seasonal cycles and planetary motions. The approach taken here is loaded with well enough potentiality to keep you occupied for years, if you so choose. We start in the realm of the transpersonal, the collective, the natural, and land up in the realm of the personal. It all weaves together by the end of the book. Take from it what you need.
Cycles of Time
Astrology didn't begin with birth charts: these have become significant primarily in relatively modern times, for we have been gradually individualising throughout history to the extent that we now perceive ourselves as separate from everyone else, and separate from our world, and therefore we have a deep need to examine ourselves as individual entities, spurred on by the challenges and questions we encounter in our current lives. Astrology began as a science for understanding the nature of time, and the harmonic movement of all things through change. Astrological charts and 'fortune telling' came later.
The ancients perceived the cyclic seasons of life, and sought to learn how to work with these cycles. They knew that if they caught the right time for carrying out particular activities – migrating, planting crops, culling, getting pregnant, lying low or doing great things – they would be able to carry out these activities more easily, with fewer hitches and more likelihood of success. They were at one with their world to the extent that that they realised that if they did not ask the seasons to roll on and bring their benefits, then the seasons might cease doing so.
This might seem a bit silly to us, but the ancients had a lot more sense than we, and they knew themselves to be not only recipients of the effects of the divine plan, but active ingredients in it as well. They knew the right times for conception, and therefore had no unwanted children, and they knew the optimum times for planting and harvesting and therefore had nutritious and productive crops.
We needn't seek to emulate the ancients – we need to seek what they sought (this is a lovely quote from Sig Lonegren, the dowser, quoting his own teacher, the late Twylah Nitsch). They timed and placed their sacred ceremonies carefully and with great effort, building stone circles and landscape temples which enhanced energy flows in Earth and Cosmos, bringing about wellbeing and ease of living, channelling the flows of cosmos and consciousness such that they moved in accord with time.
Moving in accord with time has the added advantage that universal and natural energies back up human efforts. It makes life simpler yet mightier, more effective and aligned with a deeper level of intent. Nowadays, governments and institutions cannot even reliably manage the economy, and everything is only just in control. Have we progressed?
The ancients observed and mapped out the cycles of time by observing the motions of the planets and their interrelations with the orbital and rotational antics of Mother Earth. Nowadays we have a simplistic notion that, somehow, the planets up there, millions of miles away, beam down rays which somehow affect us down here, as if we were puppets on etheric strings being interfered with by the cosmos. This is a narrow, mechanistic cause-and-effect way of looking at things which doesn't credit us moderns with much intelligence or insight.
When we talk about cosmos and wholes, we refer to the notion that a whole is a unity, in which its parts are functioning in harmony with its overall movement and flow. In other words, the energy which we ascribe to planets is actually down here on Earth, within the very nature of our existence, even closer to us than this page is to your eyes. This energy modulates and flows in patterns and tides, and it just so happens that the motions of the planets of our solar system move in accord with this same underlying energy here on Earth. There's no specific cause or effect – the macrocosmos and the microcosmos move at one.
This means that since life on Earth is rather complex, and since the underlying energy patterns within all forms are apparently intricate and subtle, though somewhat simpler and more elegant than life's mundane complexities, we can benefit from using the motions of the planets as indicators of the nature of time and change, since they and we are part of the same wholeness. Looked at this way, astrology makes a lot of sense.
What's going on up there is not as important to us as what's going on down here, but examining what goes on up there is very useful as a way of getting a clear picture of the underlying factors and influences in our lives down here. The proof is in the pudding: use astrology and you will find that it works and serves you in creating a more coherent and meaningful life. No further excuses are needed.
Freedom of choice
We are not victims of fate, time or anything else, unless we use outside influences – planets, God, governments, football teams, neighbours, the cat or the weather – as scapegoats for our own hangups, omissions and weaknesses. When things go well, I did it, and when things go badly, they did it, according to our normal conditioning (though for some it is the other way round!).
We have the power to become creators in our lives, through owning our actions of thought, word and deed, and taking responsibility for our causative involvement in the intricacies of the life process. And what living astrology can teach us is that, in order to become creators, we need to learn to move in accord with time. It's ecological – or perhaps tempological or horological.
Paradoxically, creation involves acceptance of what is, for there are things we can change, and things we cannot change. Types the likes of you and me have the freedom and capacity to be masters of our responses to the objective world, such that we no longer fall victim to circumstances. If it is raining when you wake in the morning, and you are addicted to the idea that it should be sunny, then you suffer, and become a victim to surrounding (rainy) conditions. If however, you accept the rain and make of your life the best that you can in that context, you might well find that miraculous things take place as a result. This book was born on a rainy day! Making use of what is, is freedom. The rest is what could be but isn't.
Receptivity thus gives birth to creativity. And a creative approach to life enhances our receptivity. Acceptance is different to victimhood in that it implies a choice, a fundamental decision to take into ourselves our experienced world and live with it, as it is. We want nothing more than we get. This gives a handle on reality, an attitude which allows things to be as they are, and which ceases imposing wishes, intentions, illusions and prejudices on life, on others and on the world. With this, we can get our fingers into the dynamics of life, co-creating with the universe (of which we are a part anyway), situations, spaces and outcomes which are in phase with universal need. Yin and yang cannot do without each other. Neither can we and the universe!
A personal note on change
This book isn't just about astrology. It's about a whole world-view. I stand the risk of being seen as opinionated or laying on an ideological trip, but something in me says it is right to take a stance. The stance I am taking is that we are at a very critical point in history, and I don't believe that you have to be an astrologer or seer to see this. Nowadays, it is necessary to do a thorough ostrich job to avoid seeing what's going on in the world and, unfortunately, this is the case for many.
We humans can bring about change either through using our wisdom and foresight, or through being forced to do it. We seem to have habituated ourselves to the latter option, and now we are getting ourselves shocked into change. I believe wholeheartedly that every single department and detail of life is, sooner or later, in for a very fundamental change, and that no stone can be let unturned, and no person can escape this transformation.
There have been crises all through history – invading Mongols, infectious diseases, white men with guns, declines of empires and falls of what once was great, and you name it – but this current world crisis has a new dimension to it: everyone is involved, and the stakes have reached life-and-death pitch for the whole planet. It's really exciting. We possibly have more choice available to us now than we ever have had. And no one is going to save us except ourselves!
If you stand outside a therapy room full of people catharting, it sounds as if the Devil has taken over: wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth and all manner of suffering fill the air. Come back an hour later, and all is calm, and a wonderful feeling of love and okayness emanates from those who, shortly before, were manifesting sound effects from the depths of hell.
I believe that the world is today in catharsis, and already the moaning and groaning is easily heard – in the room next door, in distant lands, and in our own hearts. What happens in this catharsis and what finally resolves it is anybody's guess, but I feel that the time is now and very soon. And we have the choice, individually and collectively, to make this a creative or a destructive catharsis.
I believe we have the capacity to make it through this initiation, intact and as a human family. I'm glad to be alive in it, and if I have to die, the work goes on whether or not I am in a physical body: what matters is that we make it through this quantum jump, and that we use the circumstances to learn, in the deepest place in our beings, what we are here for. And then we need to get on with it.
Now I don't expect everyone to agree with these views, and I cannot insist that they reflect truth: they are my beliefs. They are founded in a good measure of questing and soul-searching, pain and insight. I know that there are many who share roughly similar views, and am privileged to live amongst a caucus of such people in Glastonbury (England) with whom I have had a good number of experiential previews of the future potential of the human race.
I cannot write an astrology book without weaving in this world-view, for I find little motivation to impart simply astrological information, however interesting it may be. The seed for this book came from a bunch of women who had been doing protest and consciousness-raising work at Greenham Common, near Newbury, England, a Cold War American cruise missile base. These women had twigged that lunar cycles were important: they asked me, an astrologer, to fill them in on what I knew about such things. Running camps and gatherings for astrologers, shamans and seekers at Glastonbury, I became aware that there was a large body of interest and awareness around understanding subjective time, and particularly around identifying the specific times when transformative work can be done with enhanced effects.
Astrologers, meanwhile, were not addressing themselves to these questions: for some reason, only a few astrologers seek to enter into actually working with the energies they identify in their use of the craft. So along came this book, beliefs and all, and I dedicate it to all of you who know in your hearts what must be done, and who seek to find ways to do it. If my reality-bubble can in any way be of use for you in your reality-bubble, then the purpose of these pages, of the trees who sacrificed themselves for it, and of the people who have played a part of the weaving of these words, is fulfilled. Travel well!
Lower down is the Foreword to the book, written by the late Charles Harvey. Unless you wish to read it, skip now to the next chapter...
to the 1987 edition
by the late Charles Harvey
former Chairman, Astrological Association of Great Britain
A knowledge of Astrology can open us to the Music of the Spheres, awakening us to the ever sounding symphony of creation which Time and the planets unfolds. Yet all too often the astrologer slices up the Music of Time so that we hear but one bar, the one beat of the individual birth chart, disconnected from the larger harmony.
In this refreshing book Palden Jenkins, of Glastonbury Camp fame, brings us his long experience in helping people attune themselves in an immediate and practical way to both the smaller and larger themes of the time.
Firmly relegating personal birth charts to the end of the book, Palden quite rightly insists that much of the real mystery and magic of astrology, and much of its most important message for mankind, lies in its power to open and sensitise us each day, each moment, to the unfolding ‘energies’ and ‘power points’ of the interweaving cycles of creation.
If the true astrologer is he or she who learns to listen to, to appreciate, and to work with, the creative energies of the moment, then Palden’s book will certainly encourage the growth of true astrologers and a real living astrology. The more we can establish an active relationship with those living archetypal Ideas in the light of which the universe itself is produced, the more genuinely creative we can become, learning consciously to choose our path in tune with the time.
As Palden emphasises throughout the book, it is not what happens to us that is important but what we make of what happens to us, what we do with the potential offered to us, The kind of increased astrological awareness advocated in this book can assist us to optimise that potential each and every day.
This work is in a sense a handbook for the appreciation of Time. It shows that, even without using the individual birth chart, there is great personal value to be had from studying the ever changing ‘climate of ideas’, a study normally reserved for mundane astrology.
As astrologers have always understood, Time is not simply a measurement of duration, it is that dimension in which the Eternal takes on material form, with all its ever changing qualities. As Plato put it, "Time is the flowing image of Eternity" and "the planets are the instruments of Time". The heavenly bodies as "the first-born thoughts of God" can in this sense be said to mark out the very flow of the Ideas of the Time.
The more we can attain to a conscious awareness of those archetypal ideas and processes, the more effectively we can work with them. This book will help in its own way to awaken its readers and students to that daily sense of wonder which awaits all who actively accept the challenge of Living in Time.
One word of warning is perhaps in order. The reader new to astrology will need to take in the ideas here presented fairly slowly.
This is an ambitious and at times complex book. It sets out to cultivate an appreciation of all levels of Time from the simple rhythms of the lunar month and the annual cycle of the year, right through to the great interweaving patterns of the outer planets which unfold the great formative processes of history.
Fascinating and powerful though such intricate analysis can be, it is obvious that nothing less than a state of Cosmic Consciousness would suffice for the effective daily use of all this material by any one individual!
For individuals trying to live their lives more effectively and with greater awareness, the sheer volume of information presented here could at first be overwhelming rather than illuminating.
It should not be forgotten that we each have our own unique relationship with the One. With this in mind it will be seen that ultimately the individual birth chart is essential to filter out our ‘own’ tune from what must at a personal level often come through as collective ‘noise’.
That said, there can be no question that, the more each one of us attunes ourselves to the working of the ‘ideas of the time’ in the world around us, the more creative, understanding and tolerant we will become of the issues facing humanity, and the more we will be able to help turn to the Good all that befalls us individually and collectively.
2 December 1986