I do believe that the popularity of occult science is a step towards discovering our own power as energy beings, and realizing that the universe is intelligent, guiding and supporting us all the time. I also believe that astrology evolved through occult science and has been maintained because of occult science. The rishis and other enlightened beings in other cultures, would have used it to teach us what lies beyond the occult sciences, beyond mind, to our greater power and purpose in the human experience.
Having said that, the occult sciences have a lot to offer - if used ethically, responsibly and in intelligent ways. We need to remember that enlightened beings see the bigger picture - and that only someone who lives in the space can give you the experience of the space. Intellectual training is not not enough. I think the best way to approach any kind of occult science and the rituals it uses as tools to explore the mind and maya, is to experiment with it - within the scope of well grounded meditation practice, under the guidance of either a religion or a guru you trust. This is my approach. If it works for you, if it achieves your goals, if it transforms your consciousness - then it's a useful tool. Otherwise, ignore it.
Rudolph Steiner's ideas
Before I met my guru and even afterwards, I was fascinated with the teachings of Rudolph Steiner and the many practical applications of his theories that continue to evolve today as his legacy produces many offshoots in every area of human life. Rudolph Steiner drew insights from his own powerful intuitive abilities and his background in Theosophy (Theosophy came out of Madam Blavatsky's insights and studies from Mother India). He went on to develop some fascinating and very artistic ideas. As an artist myself, I am inspired by artistic movements that seek to express mysticism through art and artistic processes. He was a very intellectual teacher and his work is not as accessible to the masses.
One of the most interesting things about energy as I have been posting about, is how it moves according to sacred geometrical patterns. Tai Chi is a martial and healing art that works with these flowing energy patterns using the body, so that we can begin to feel them (to feel the chi/prana). For the beginner student, it is often easier to begin to feel energy by moving the hands and body in the energy patterns that are already there until we begin to feel the energy. In more advanced practice we use the breath, and the next stage is using the mind only. Dance is a very natural evolution of this bodily movement with the flow of energy. At a time when ballet was beginning to develop out of the 19th century, Steiner came up with the idea of Eurythmy which is more spiritually oriented. Really I think of it as a kind of Western form of Tai Chi. It is an art form that has all kinds of applications such as psychotherapy and community development - apart from good-for-you physical exercise! Just like Sufi dancing it has the power and potential to put us into trance like states, and these help to stop the vrittis of the mind enabling meditation to naturally occur.
Steiner wrote about the energy patterns he perceived in the universe and in our human experience. He called these forms - the basic subtle (astral) energy forms that end up as physical energy forms in life. And out of these teachings a science and artform called form drawing developed. Form drawing is a fascinating science in and of itself with application in education, art, psychology, community development and so on. In Waldorf schools it is even used therapeutically, to enhance left-right brain development, and hand-eye coordination. I am not an expert in this but I have experimented with it when I homeschooled my own children. I have not explored its full potential.
We are constantly swimming in subtle energy, moving through invisible sacred energy patterns our ordinary eyes do not see - some of them spatial some of them temporal. I think that's why the Hindu idea of the cosmos is as Siva-Nataraja, God dancing the universe into existence, because it feels like a dance (when you are more energy aware) - a very choreographed dance! That choreography is revealed in the horoscope!
Active meditation on the western zodiac symbolsHere is an interesting contemplative tool deriving from Rudolph Steiner's ideas. Someone has posted a series of very interesting try-it-yourself drawing meditations that are contemplations of the zodiac symbols - the "dynamic zodiac drawing" teachings of Nach Wolfgang Wegener. The books that explain these, published by his last student Rainer Schnurre, are unfortunately for me, only available in German on www.amazon.de Rainer Schnurre is an anthroposophical psychologist who has blended some very advanced anthroposophical teachings such as biography work, social three-folding (that I think is based on the theosophical idea of man as head+heart+hand) and his therapeutic practice into practical applications for self-development and community-development. Here is a review of one of his seminars on drawing the zodiac as macrosmos-microcosmos (meditative zodiac drawing). Someone has also posted the technique on YouTube so we can try it as see how it feels (see below - you don't need to understand German to follow it). I think of this as Tai Chi with a pencil!
Before you start, have a look at the basic concepts behind these zodiac symbol pictographs from wikipedia.
Here is the dynamic zodiac drawing exercise for ♈ Aries (just watching it is hypnotic):
And here are the rest:
♉Taurus | ♊Gemini | ♋Cancer | ♌Leo | ♍Virgo | ♎Libra | ♏Scorpio | ♐Sagittarius | ♑Capricorn | ♒Aquarius | ♓Pisces
Personal reflectionsThese are great for relaxation contemplation about the energies behind the archetypal forms of the Western Zodiac. The one for Libra is interesting as it puts me in mind of spirit (the sun) sinking into matter yet never totally one with it. The pictoglyph for Libra is ♎ is an image suggesting the setting sun because the tropical zodiac, on which these symbols are based, refers to the astrology chart in terms of the hours of the day (among other things). The sun sets in the spiritual direction of the West. West is about death of light, materialism, an ego-centric orientation into ignorance, but also the Saturn-like perspective of having to be incarnated into form, into a body in order to learn life's lessons and to grow. In the west Libra is considered the balance scales, as of blind Fate - fortuna - karma throwing us into the challenges of earthly incarnation. In the Vedic Astrology Libra is more like the "metronomoi"* a public servant of ancient Greece who came into the marketplace (agora) to ensure that none of the merchants were cheating with their weights and measures by adding to the cost of their goods. This too is like the idea of karma balancing things out, the idea of payment - but that is not a spiritually useful idea in and of itself. Karma is not merely about justice. In its higher function, karma is about giving us the full and balanced perspective of all actions and consequences so that we become detached from them. It is in detachment (by both parties) that we burn karma, that we and our karmic contract partners can walk away from a life situation that may have been bothering us for lifetimes. Ultimately it is grace that burns karma.
While I enjoy these exercises I find myself preferring to just doodle and allow the insights to come up from within. I recently took a portrait painting class where we were only allowed to paint values of light and dark not to draw. This trains the eye to see shapes and values rather than engage the intellect - because the act of drawing/illustrating is essentially a left-brained thinking activity - "drawing what I know" rather than "drawing what I see" and going deeper "drawing what I feel/understand". It is that deeper part that needs to get freed up in the artistic experience, and it can't do that if the left-brain dominates. Of course the intellect is still there, looking for form/meaning (if it wasn't we'd be scribbling like toddlers), but it is more like a witnessing observer, standing in the background, while the energy inspires the hand. This is actually what inspired impressionism. Sri Aurobindo's partner Mother Mira Alfassa wrote a great commentary on that (see my other blog). It is not only psychadelics that can produce insights about our inner world and its relationship to the cosmos, but artistic process - especially when done as a spiritual tool.
Yeat's visionYeats, as an artist and involved in Theosophy, explored automatic writing and came up with his own intuited insights about the 28 lunar mansions (he focused on the Arabian ones). Here is a link to an interactive site where you can read about each one: Yeat's wheel. While I disagree with a lot of it (Abhijit is the full Moon for example) I think we are on the same wavelength in many respects:
*"A metronomoi checked weights and measures to insure traders were not shortchanging their customers. An agoranomoi checked the quality of goods, while a sitophylakes oversaw the grain trade." (link)