Friday, March 27, 2015

I'm doing astrology readings again...

...for those of you who might be interested go to: www.elizabethspring.com to set up a recorded phone session.
                                                                     

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Carl Jung and Krishnamurti Lived at the Same Time in History, and Grappled with Many of the same Questions: Fate, Destiny, and Reincarnation

New Book Just Released, Click Here to Review or Buy

 
Are you interested in questions of fate, destiny, re-incarnation and synchronicity? This book, "Sweet Synchronicity: Finding Annie Besant, Discovering Krishnamurti" probes into those worlds. Like the film, ‘Julie/Julia’ this book is a true story based on the lives of two women who lived at different times and places but who had uniquely intertwined lives.
 Elizabeth Spring, astrologer and aspiring writer, finds Annie Besant because of unusual similarities in their astrology charts. Annie was a passionate social reformer who lost custody of her children because of distributing information on birth control in 1875. After trials and depression, Annie becomes a passionate spiritual seeker, being mentored by the Russian psychic Madame Blavatsky, head of the Theosophical Society. As Elizabeth struggles to write a screenplay of Annie’s life she discovers the heartfelt and obsessive story of Annie’s adopted son, the young mystic J. Krishnamurti. Elizabeth questions the role of fate and reincarnation in her own life by what she uncovers about her mysterious relationship with Annie who was born exactly 100 years earlier, in Victorian England in 1847.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Excerpt from book: "Lifting the Veil; Becoming Your Own Best Astrologer" on Amazon.com

Lifting the Veil; Becoming Your Own Best Astrologer: Excerpt from "Lifting the Veil; Becoming Your Own ...: Excerpt from: Lifting the Veil; Becoming Your Own Best Astrologer"   What Your Astrologer Doesn’t tell You~ What is “beneath the ...

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Readers of this blog might enjoy reading the new blog which is the "first draft/raw material" for my new book: "Mystics, Madmen, and Messiahs~The Unchosen Lives of Carl Jung and J. Krishnamurti."

The link to the blog/book is here: http://CarlJungandJKrishnamurti.blogspot.com and I welcome your comments and ideas on what's been written so far.

Both Jung and Krishnamurti have been spiritual mentors for me for over forty years and though the title may sound controversial, my hope is rather to present a balanced perspective of their lives, which would include a fresh look at the humanity and 'shadow' of these great men in light of their profound teachings and very unusual lives. Being that I live in Ojai California for part of the year, I've also had a chance to meet and talk with many personal friends of Krishnamurti....and Jung, well he has been a source of study and inspiration since 1969. ~elizabeth spring~  www.elizabethspring.com

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Excerpt from "Saturn Returns~The Private Papers of A Reluctant Astrologer"

And it was Sunday. A gray Sunday. But then I remembered—yes!—it was Sunday and it was the time of Thomas’ Sunday Afternoon Philosopher’s Club! I could go to the meeting and bring my beloved Theo home as well.

I hurriedly changed my clothes, threw a tiny box into a bag, and rushed out the door. A heavy mist lay over the rain-soaked city. I turned the corner off Charles St, and started making my way to Chestnut St, but found myself getting out of breath. The uneven brick sidewalks were unforgiving; I tripped on the curb. And then I really tripped—face down over an upturned brick and fell onto the sidewalk. Damn!


Everything in my bag threw out onto the road. As I picked them up I kept thinking this is the part of the movie when the heroine cries and the music gets poignantly loud—or maybe like an old black and white movie. But there was no real drama here, just a trip-up. Get over it, I thought.


I had never been in Thomas’ bookshop when it was actually open. Instead I had walked by and looked in the window one night after hours and delighted in seeing what I can only describe as the quintessential old bookstore, with low ceilings and a pleasant disheveledness. It was the kind of shop that is almost extinct, but it was, and here I was… I was actually out of breath by the time I arrived on the doorstep. I felt anxious… why was I nervous? I wanted to see Theo and Thomas. I wanted to belong somewhere, to some people, to some place. Perhaps I needed something or someone to come home to…and this was it.


Opening the latched door with an unsteady hand, I peered inside. I could smell pipe smoke and see the rough-hewn wooden beams across the old ceiling. Books were piled on the sales counter as before and overflowing in stacks on the floor. Thomas spotted me immediately. As I pushed opened the heavy door, the door chimes announced my arrival.


I could see Thomas running his hand through his wild white hair, giving his beard a little tug as if to wake himself up, and ambling over eagerly to greet me. He gave me a long hug. My thoughts shocked me: I love this man—! Is this the way one might feel towards a truly loving father? When I see him I get a rush—a feeling that he wants to protect me, and that he’s proud of me…. and he always has that twinkle in his eye when he sees me. And there he was again, radiant as always, with his easy manner and quick smile. He seemed taller, and his deep blue shirt made his thick white hair stand out even more. Yes, I thought, he looks like a French Impressionist painter—if there was such a “look.” His casual clothes hid a strong robust body. When his arms encircled me, the warmth of his bear-like body infused me with goodness…like a shot of whiskey on a cold day—it literally warmed me all over.


And there, sitting in a circle were his friends, the Sunday philosophers. For some reason I couldn’t help but think that each one of them sensed that he loved them in a special way…not in exactly the same way, but in a way that was uniquely special to each one of them. Perhaps I too, was falling under the charm of his charisma. “Lovely to see you, my dear! Theo has missed you. I have too.” It had only been five weeks I’d been gone. It felt like years. “Come over and sit, my dear! What a surprise!”


He quickly introduced me to what he called “the usual cast of characters.” Thomas announced their names and simply what they did for work. There was: Richard, a wine merchant (whose ruddy face suggested he loved his work), Carlos, the young Italian waiter from the corner cappuccino shop who I recognized immediately, Meredith, an antique shop owner from the Hill (whose thinness hinted of frailness and strictness), and Phillip, a professor from Boston University (whose tight collar and v-neck sweater pinched him, hinting of both confidence and vulnerability.) They were sitting on old wooden chairs in the corner of the shop. Thomas, of course, wouldn’t have described them as I saw them. I was a newcomer to the group, and I wasn’t sure that they wanted another person there who might take away part of their personal time with their charismatic leader. Meredith was the only one who actually frowned at me.Thomas sat down back down in his rocking chair and I couldn’t decide if he looked more like a contented cat or a father on Christmas Eve sharing his beloved books with his children. He was so obviously the hub of the wheel here, the center and guru of this little group. He had a generosity of time to give, and the ability to listen, as well as a propensity to giving away his books. If you were in the “club” and interested in a subject, you’d find a book in your hand by the end of the afternoon, and there’d be no charge.


Thomas kept exclaiming how surprised he was to see me, as I hadn’t told him exactly when I’d be back. Then Theo came over and curled around my feet. He had been allowed to wander around the shop freely, in my absence, and he looked more than content. He looked loved, and fat. I picked him up and stroked him thoroughly. Thomas made motions for me to sit down, so I did.Phillip, who spoke with a slight English accent, must have decided to be the one to instruct me: “Isabelle, the topic for discussion today, is—you’ll be happy to hear—from your favorite philosopher, Jung—the section in this book where he talks about how we must hold the tension of the opposites, till the third way appears—what he calls the reconciling third.”


Thomas must have told the group a little about me beforehand since Phillip knew I liked Jung. I wondered too if they knew I was an astrologer. I stared out the window, thinking how Jung and astrology were once frowned upon in academic circles. I wondered if I would be accepted into this little group. Carl Jung was now accepted in academia, but astrology bears a threatening stamp of irrationality to it—especially to those of the academic persuasion, or to those who connect it with the allure of the gypsy underworld. It’s a somewhat private language that is also disliked by some because it appears to give some people power. In the past, those in political power usually choose to either quietly pay for their astrologers, or publicly burn them at the stake.I mused: I could tell them how Jung was one of the first to use astrology in his practice with clients and to explore its symbolism, so he restored a “professionalism” to it—although he was highly discouraged in his exploration of the worlds of alchemy and astrology. I knew how it cost him many close relationships as well as a lot of personal pain. Some say that his closest friend, Toni Wolff, distanced herself from him because she couldn’t stand his delving in these disreputable fields.


Meredith saw me spacing out and filled me in about last week: “Last Sunday we had a fabulous discussion about fierce grace. Thomas reminded us of how we need to consider whatever happens to us, as a kind of grace. Good or bad.” I wondered what Meredith saw as her fierce grace? She certainly didn’t look like she was in the bloom of grace or health.So who were these people? Were they really a book discussion group, a philosophy discussion group, or a small gathering of groupies around their spiritual guru—?


“Grace?!” I exclaimed, as I bounced out of my musings, and came back into the moment. “Grace and patience: something I have very little of!” They laughed. I had no patience with anything nor ‘grace’ in love right now. If only they knew how much I was truly trying to “hold the tension of the opposites” but my loneliness and my hope were pulling in different directions. Peter’s decision to stay away—for an unknown amount of time, and Sophie’s decision to move away altogether, certainly didn’t feel like grace. More like abandonment. Was there a reconciling third? Could be my writing? I needed to come home to myself, and writing could be that anchor. Could I ever—ever—get the writing on Saturn into a finished book?


I took a little package out of my bag and handed it to Thomas. “For you, for caring for Theo—““Ah, not necessary, as Theo has been caring for us. He’s been charming the customers and making friends…” The crows-feet around Thomas’ eyes turned upward into little smiles as he opened the package slowly and deliberately. At first he didn’t understand what he was seeing. I was proud of my gift. I had wandered around the old city of Zurich for hours that last day, in pursuit of the perfect gift for Thomas. Peter had returned to his Krishnamurti gathering in the mountains outside of Zurich, and I was yet again on my own. What I found was a small stone paperweight of the “forgotten stone” carved by Jung at Bollingen. It was square, about the size of a baseball, and carved on each side with Latin and Greek inscriptions as well as astrological symbols.


As Thomas un-wrapped the paper, I tried to explain: “I don’t have a cross or a star as a symbol of my spirituality, or any talisman of this last journey-- but this stone mandala comes pretty close. It’s a copy of what’s called the ‘forgotten stone’—the stone that was left at Jung’s house by mistake, by men who were delivering supplies from a quarry nearby to his home. He carved and sculpted it into this. It’s huge actually…and I did see it when I was there….but long story short—he carved it in honor of his 75th birthday, and well….Thomas, I thought of you when I saw it, and thought you might like it.”


“It’s a perfect gift, considering our topic of conversation today!” I wondered if I heard a touch of sarcasm there. Meredith, the antique shop owner, probably noticed that it wasn’t even an antique reproduction, but—heaven forbid—a souvenir of sorts.Thomas however, looked at it closely, caressing it with his fingers, as I continued explaining the curious cube: “You see on this side of it, it’s a mandala divided into four; the number of wholeness. In the center is a little monk holding a lantern—it’s called a ‘homunculus,’ which in ancient books, meant ‘the little man inside the brain’. And if you look closer, you’ll see that he has the astrological sign for Mercury on his robe.”


Thomas interrupted: “Hermes! This is Mercury, same as the messenger-god Hermes, who’s the one who mediates between the outer worlds and the inner worlds, and between the living and the dead. He’s a hermit-monk- trickster all in one. He bridges “the worlds” and brings people and ideas together—like you, Isabelle!” I thought Thomas was more like Mercury than me.


Phillip looked curious and shot a question to Thomas: “You once told me that Mercury was like a rogue teacher, navigating between worlds, crossing thresholds into invisible worlds. You once told me I was like him, but I don’t get it.”


Meredith looked slightly annoyed: “We all have Mercury, Phillip, not just you. It’s all about our style of communicating. Some astrologer told me where mine was…it was doing something bizarre…retrograding and all that. Oh, yes, she said mine was in Gemini, which she said was ruled by Mercury. Ruled? Can’t imagine it.”


I piped in: “Gemini is a sign, but Mercury is a planet. They’re very similar and planets ‘rule’ signs, so Gemini is very curious, and can bridge the gap between “opposites.” They are great open-minded communicators when they want to be. And, Gemini is known for having two sides, like two people, so sometimes you don’t know who you’re speaking with when you’re talking with a person who has a lot of Gemini in their chart…” Meredith lifted her eyebrows with a hint of disdain, and shook her head disapprovingly. I wasn’t going to let her stop me. “Look here—“I said, pointing to the stone, and hoping to move away from the jargon of pop astrology: “On the top here is the glyph for Saturn, and beneath it is the sign for Mars. These ‘yang’ signs are about the resistance of Saturn and the assertiveness of Mars.”


Carlos looked up at Thomas: “I think I’ve got a lot of that Mars energy always being frustrated…” He chuckled. Carlos found a tiny piece of paper that came wrapped with the stone: “Look here—it says the Greek writing around the center says: ‘The man in the center, the homunculus, is the one traverses the dark places of the world….”


Thomas chuckled. “Hey, I think there’s a little homunculus in there.” He pointed to Carlo’s open fly on his tight blue jeans. “Sometimes Mercury is about zipping up your fly! You know, you’ve got assertive Mars and cautious Saturn both in there….” He seemed to love to tease Carlos.Carlos looked down and zipped up.


“I don’t get it.” Carlos grinned and looked at Thomas for an explanation.Thomas exhaled on his pipe, filling the room with a sweet fragrance.“Astrology is a symbolic system—and confusing at first. But you could think of this Mercury as being a bit like that zipper there—when it goes up, it pulls together what has been separated—like those Mars and Saturn energies--and when it goes down, it opens what has been joined.”


I chuckled to myself, remembering that this little comparison of Mercury to a zipper was something I had once told Thomas, as I had learned about Mercury from my teacher, a delightful Sophia-like woman, Alice Howell. She was one of those wise women who had inspired me over the years, and now I was impressed that Thomas remembered it.


Carlos looked at the zipper on his pants. “Well, when what’s inside the zipper, goes up, well, I—certainly like to join together—but sometimes he’s a trickster! So maybe I should call him, Mercury?” Carlos laughed and looked up at Thomas for approval. Instead, Richard the wise-man of wine, snapped back: “Let’s get serious now…really, there’s something to learn here—it reminds me of the synapses in the brain, and how chemicals—anti-depressants—connect to the receptors on each side of the nerve. They zip them together.” I wondered if he was taking “serotonin uptake inhibitors” for depression, or if he stayed with his wine drinking-- another Mercurial substance that loosens the tongue.


“I don’t believe in astrology, and I don’t like drugs. I think we’re getting off track here.” Meredith snapped.“But Meredith,” Phillip added, “try thinking “out of the box” for a moment. Think how strange Mercury is—it’s liquid silver! So slippery, yet it’s in a thermometer that can read our temperature…and as a metaphor; I don’t know….”


How interesting everyone interprets things according to what they know and feel, I thought.“Well, my temperature is getting a little bit hot, Phillip!” Meredith laughed at herself. “I didn’t come here today to talk astrology; but to talk philosophy and Jung.” I gathered that she wasn’t going to act from her open-minded “ Mercury ruled Gemini.” I have Mercury in Scorpio, but I wasn’t going to challenge her. Then I had a strong intuition that she was a Cancer—Cancers love antiques and touching into the traditions of the past. And they can be quite moody and cranky when they want to be—looney types even; their sign being ruled by the ever changing Moon. I could understand how she felt. I wouldn’t believe in astrology either if I hadn’t studied it and used it, and found that it simply worked. If it was all just simplified down to “sun sign astrology” as it is in the newspapers, it would be as valid as a fortune cookie. But the chart is so complex with all its signs and houses and aspects—it truly reflects how paradoxical we all are. Thomas looked tense. I could see him closing his eyes as if he were looking inside for an answer to comfort his children…his students.


“Meredith, could you look at it the way Jung did? Jung said, somewhere in this book, that we are each like grapes in a vineyard that was grown in a particular place and in a particular year and season in time. And astrology is like that—it uses the birth time and place—so you are like a wine-grape that comes from a section of France perhaps, in a particular year, and therefore you take on the characteristics of that time and place.”


“You mean I’m like a fine wine that gets better as it ages?” The eternal feminine hope, I thought.“Yes, exactly.” Thomas had come to my defense! I loved it. It gave me confidence to go just a little further-- I thought how Thomas was acting like Mercury by creating this group—by getting us together to connect what had been torn apart or separated within each of our psyches. He brought us all together. If ever I was to connect with them, it would be now.


So I took a deep breath and went on: “Together the planets in the four quadrants of the mandala here tell a story. Jung believed all “the opposites in our nature”, even of good and evil, were intimately related and inseparable. He felt God and man needed each other, in a sense, to be whole.” I was surprised I remembered that much off the top of my head. Thomas touched my hand as if to “second” what I had said. I felt a little unnerved, because I didn’t understand this unspoken gesture. But he simply said: “Go on….”


“Well, that’s it really….” But then in my enthusiasm I told them about visiting Jung’s house and the mythological Kingfisher bird. It was as if I was trying to understand it all, but instead, as the afternoon moved on, it seemed as if everything became a blur. I must have jet lag, I thought, or overtiredness.


I was the last to leave. Thomas gently stroked Theo one more time: “I’ll miss you little guy.” Then he lifted Theo into the cat carrier, and led me to the door. As he handed Theo over to me, Thomas tilted his head and looked at me as if he wanted to ask me something.“You going to be alright, now? Being alone now and all?” His eyes widened and I could feel his concern. I didn’t say anything. Then he leaned over, and with a slight pause, kissed me on the lips. It was a gentle kiss but long and lingering. His hand held my cheek. (c) elizabeth spring Chapter Seventeen: The Sunday Afternoon Philosophers Club

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Excerpt from book: the Journey to Carl Jung's Retreat


“I wish that life should not be cheap, but sacred…the days to be as centuries, loaded, fragrant.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Entering Sacred Ground: Carl Jung’s Retreat: The Stone Tower of Bollingen

When you really know someone, you know what they like. And it should be simple to give others what they like, but it’s not. We often don’t even care enough to give ourselves what we need. But there are times when we do care and we do give.

This was one of those times. Peter cared. He knew what I wanted—he knew enough about me to know that if I was in Zurich there was only one thing I wanted—it was to see Carl Jung’s stone tower on the shores of Lake Zurich. Jung, the famous Swiss psychologist, was my spiritual mentor, and for me, this was a chance to visit a sacred site.

I knew that Jung started building his private retreat late in life and that it took him forty years to complete. I knew that few people had ever seen his private retreat, and yet I had always yearned to see the dream images painted on the walls of his study and to see the sculpted images he carved on the stones surrounding the tower. I’d seen photographs of him there in his eighties, pipe and book in hand, simply sitting and looking out over the waters. His sculpting tools and paints were sometimes shown in the background.

Jung’s sanctuary was evocative of medieval times with its turrets, archways and courtyard. He built this “temenos”—this sacred retreat, as a place where he could study alchemy and astrology during his years of exile from the Swiss psychoanalytic community. It was here that he carved Greek, Latin and astrological hieroglyphics into massive stones. Here on the shores of the lake, was the “orphan stone”—an abandoned block of stone that workers had left behind—a stone that Jung carved for himself in recognition of his 75th birthday. Peter, as a clay worker, could understand Jung’s comment: “I need not have written any books—it’s all here on the stone.”



And that was why we found ourselves outside the door in front of Carl Jung’s house one day. The devastating news was that we couldn’t go in. And what I had wanted to see was not actually there—it was over in Bollingen on the Eastern shores of the lake, and not at Jung’s family house in Zurich. So Peter took a photograph of me pretending to smile in front of the house we couldn’t go into, and then we retreated in despair.

However—the next day Peter had an idea. And by late afternoon we were kayaking along the gentle shores of Lake Zurich gazing up at Jung’s numinous stone tower.

“Shall we go ashore?” Peter asked.

I stared up at the imposing walls and the barred shuttered windows. This was not the kind of thing that Peter would usually suggest. He tended to be one who honored rules and regulations and was not one to trespass. This idea was so out of character for him; I must have looked at him as if he were crazy but I nodded my head.

“Of course,” I said. “A little adventure.” Peter knew me, and he cared. He wanted to do this for me.

And so we kayaked through the rocks and reeds along the shoreline till we hit ground. The ivy covered tower sat poised next to the lake. We could hear only the lapping of little waves on the shore and it appeared as if no one was in sight. There was a huge tree in front of us that looked like it had been struck by lightning. Could this be the same rumored tree that Jung had spent so many hours under—the one that had been struck by lightning the day he died?

We waded through the mud and held our breath as we approached the arched doorway of the tower. I could see the inscription Jung had carved over the door: “Vocutus Atque nonvocatus deus aderit”. I whispered to Peter: “It says: ‘Called or not called, God is present.’” I was certainly hoping no one else would be present but God. We could be in serious trouble for this.

“Come here,” Peter motioned to me. He tried the latch on the door, but it didn’t budge. Then, like a kid, Peter hoisted me up to look in through a window—an arched opening in the wall, and there was Philemon.

“He’s there! Philemon!” I exclaimed. I could see Jung’s painting of a wise old man on the curved walls of the study. He was huge, with the outstretched iridescent wings of the rare bird, the Kingfisher. Here was Jung’s beloved muse, his spiritual mentor. I had just shown Peter a copy of this the day before in the recently released “Red Book.” The book that was the journal Jung kept during those years of transition when he suffered the “divorce” from his mentor, Sigmund Freud. Some say, those were the years of his psychosis. For Jung, those were the years to paint, sculpt and play in the sand by the shores of the lake.

Peter lifted me down from the window. “Maybe we’re pressing our luck…I mean our time.” He looked at me as if he was hoping I’d had enough. We both knew there had to be some watchmen around here. I couldn’t believe how quiet it was.

Peters face flushed. What did it take for him to disobey, to trespass, like this? This was not his style. But he was doing it for me.

We started to carefully make our way back, approaching the rocky shore. I kept staring at the carved stones around me—and then I saw it. It was a bird, large, recently dead, and with the same outstretched wings as Philemon. It lay under a carved image of a serpent in a rock, and it had the same dark iridescent wings. I reached for it, but Peter pulled me away and hurried me towards the boat.

The land began giving way to sand, then mud, and suddenly I lost my balance among the tall water weeds. I could see through the murky water that one foot had sunk deep between two rocks. My foot was sinking deeper into the mud, and the tall grasses looked like they could be a camouflage for snakes. I tried to pull myself up, but my foot was stuck. I yanked the foot out--and fell back into the water.

“Aggh….”I yelled, a quick sharp pain shooting around my ankle. “It’s twisted!” I yelled again. And yet I could tell right away it was more than that. I wanted to dismiss the sensation and the after-feeling. It was as if I knew something, some little bone, had snapped; broken.

How can I say it? I just felt unhinged, a little broken. Shocked. There was a sense that my body wasn’t going to let me dismiss this “fall” so easily.

Peter was next to me in an instant and what I saw reflected back in his face was a tiny terror—a sense that I was paralyzed perhaps, or scared, or simply needing him. He swung his arm under me as I let myself collapse into his arms.

He carried me over onto the grass only a few feet away from the water’s edge and laid me down softly. I looked up at the sky and could see the outline of a burnt tree above my head. The beginnings of a shiver began creeping into me. Was it getting cold?

Peter laid his sweater over me. It seemed as if the winds had picked up and the sky was being painted colors. Those clouds weren’t there before; the sky wasn’t that shade of indigo.

I could see Peter looking around us, as if “help” would miraculously be there. Instead, I turned my head and saw it. There was a dead bird next to me. There was the Kingfisher: all black and silvery luminescent, and unmoving.

Closing my eyes, the pain became duller, but I knew I needed something. “The bird…” I whispered. The shock of seeing Jung’s painted bird there, lying next to me at that moment was the only thing in my mind. Somehow, if I could have that bird, I could be like the phoenix—I could be the one who could die and be reborn from her own ashes. I could be a phoenix. “I want it Peter. I want the bird!”

Peter looked down at me. He looked scared. He looked at the bird, then looked at me. The shivering got stronger. I closed my eyes tighter.

And then…it was as if I was beginning to see through my eyes: lights and golden mandalas were radiating through some deep darkness. And then they began looking like charts: There was Jung’s chart, and mine...and Peter’s chart-- all appearing and disappearing, overlaying each other. There was my chart with my Sun, Neptune and Venus all clumped together, and then Peter’s chart rising up into it like a developing photograph.

Peter’s Neptune was radiating through my Venus: the symbol of idealism in love…had I ever told him that? And then Jung’s mandala arouse, and I could see his South Node, the astrological point of past life connection, like a bright star conjoining my Neptune/Venus. Why hadn’t I seen this ancient connection before? Why hadn’t I seen this hint of interconnected past lives? Why was my body quivering?

And then I felt him. Peter laid his warm body across mine…completely. The weight and heat from his body permeated mine like a warm comforter on a cold winter’s day. I could feel the moisture from his breath and I breathed it in like an infusion.

The images of light and symbols began fading as I opened my eyes to Peter’s soft gaze. To say I had never felt this before was obvious. But to say I had never seen such love in his eyes was true. It brought me back.

“The bird, Peter, please, get it….” He looked at me as if I had just told him to shoot me—as if I were a wounded horse asking to be shot. “Just wrap him up and we’ll take him home.”

And then he got up. I watched him as he walked over to the Kingfisher. He stood staring down at the mythological bird for a moment, and I wondered what he knew about it--if he knew that it carried both good and bad omens. Jung must have seen the bird on these same shores before he painted them on Philemon, his other-worldly mentor.

Peter bent over the dead bird but I couldn’t see what he was doing at first. And then I saw—or heard—he was removing a wing. It had to be twisted off. Peter groaned a little. I squeezed my eyes shut and reminded myself that the bird couldn’t feel pain.

And then I could feel the pain in my ankle return, but more than that, what I really felt was the weight of my body and the pull of the earth underneath me--like a magnet. I too was being pulled apart and I didn’t know if I could release myself. I tried to control my breathing. I felt heavy, rooted here to this earth, wanting to be whole again. Yet I couldn’t move. Maybe I too, was a dead bird. Were my wings were being torn off?

Peter walked back to me, and I felt his hand on my chest, gently rocking me, and calling my name. I opened my eyes. He slowly waved a long feather in front of my eyes.

“You did it!” My eyes could see every detail, and a little breeze moved the feathers. “It’s like… a feather…a feather on the breath of God.” He placed the feather in my hand.

Then he leaned over and kissed me on the forehead, then on the nape of my neck, and finally on my lips. It was so soft and pure, like the first time we ever kissed.

“Come. It’s not meant for us to stay here any longer. Come…” and he scooped me up and carried me into the kayak.

In another hour we were back at the hotel, my ankle soaked with ice, my heart full and grateful. Why had this mattered so much? Why did it seem as if all that mattered now was Peter and the presence of a one small blue-black feather? Maybe heroic deeds happen in strange ways. What had been rescued?

“Called or not called, God is present.” Jung’s words—and a small heroic deed. A wounding and a flight…ah…we had approached the castle—the stone fortress—by water, and we had claimed a victory. A prize. It felt like a good omen. (c) "The Private Papers of A Reluctant Astrologer

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Sunday Afternoon Philosopher's Club


Elizabeth Spring aka Isabelle CoCroft in "Private Papers of A Reluctant Astrologer"
 The Sunday Afternoon Philosopher’s Club


I returned home, alone, the next day. It was sad—no, it was more than sad—it felt ominous leaving Peter at that moment. I finally felt my heart opening towards him again, and now life would whirl us around in other directions, and somehow…it didn’t feel good or right.

Peter however reminded me that there was no rush about anything. “We’ve healed something between us, haven’t we? So why do you always get so emotional about everything?” He asked.

It’s true. I am impatient, particularly in manners of the heart. But still… it didn’t feel as if he was telling me everything. As he kissed me good-by it was so tender, but so civil, so proper, so restrained…so loving, but without a hint of my passionate need. It had been years since we had truly come together sexually, and maybe if we had done that—! Maybe if we had had an afternoon of luscious love-making it would have been different. But time wasn’t on our side.

I wanted a new beginning with Peter—damn it! I couldn’t understand why he had to stay at this conference so much longer. He said it would be there at least two months more, probably three, since he had volunteered to do work for them there— he reminded me that he was getting free rent and board in exchange for working through to the end of their season. But what about us? Our new feelings and relationship felt so fragile. He was honoring his commitments, but his objectivity suggested he wasn’t feeling any wrenching-away. Was he involved with someone else? Or was he high on patience and low on money? I certainly couldn’t afford to stay longer.

And so I returned to Boston, alone, and was met by Sophie at the airport. No tears here, just hugs. She looked really happy, and I wondered if she was expecting some great news from me, about us. But there was going to be no news there.

Sophie had been living with a friend in Jamaica Plain, just outside the city, and she had “news” to tell me—she had been offered a “better position and a new beginning” working as a waitress in an Irish Pub in Providence, Rhode Island. It was near where her favorite church group met, and she had friends there.

“And look!” She pulled up her sleeve to where the scar on her arm from her accident had been, and there—was now a Celtic tattoo—a circled cross with vines around it. I managed a large smile and an approving nod of my head.

“But you’re moving?” I could feel a lump in my throat starting.

“I’ve already moved. Just wanted to wait till you came back to tell you. Didn’t want to spoil your time with Dad! How was it? When’s he coming back?” She beamed. “Do you have ‘news’—I mean, did you guys decide…?” She gave me a knowing look.

“…waiting. We’re waiting. It was a great time, but, you know Peter, he doesn’t like to rush into things.” Her smile dropped. I tried to pretend happiness.

And so it went. I shared our story of our time together, and Sophie brought me back to my front door, to Charles Street, to my “home.” Then she left. Alone again. No amount of hugs and kisses good-by was going to change anything.

****

At the last minute, before I rushed off to Lindisfarne, I had asked Thomas if he would care for my cat, Theo, as he was then the only person I knew in the city. And so as soon as I stepped back into my study I felt Theo’s absence. The warm room felt cold and empty. Dead.

And it was Sunday. A gray Sunday. I needed an infusion of happiness. And then I remembered—it was Sunday and almost time for the weekly meeting of the Sunday Afternoon Philosopher’s Club! I could go to Thomas’s bookshop finally!

I hurriedly changed clothes, took out my book bag, threw in a few things and rushed out the door. A heavy mist lay over the rain-soaked city. I turned the corner off Charles St, and started making my way to Chestnut St, but found myself getting out of breath. The uneven brick sidewalks were unforgiving. I tripped. Coming home was like an old black and white movie, or maybe a dream in which you remember the mood but no color.

And then I really tripped—face down onto the sidewalk. The contents of my bag trashed themselves onto the road. As I picked them up, I wondered why this was happening. It felt like the part of the movie when the heroine cries and the music gets poignantly loud. I wasn’t going to succumb to this, I would continue—where else was there for me to go?

I had never been in the bookshop when it was actually open. Instead I had walked by and looked in the window one night after hours and delighted in seeing what I can only describe as an old bookstore, with low ceilings, low lights, and a pleasant disheveledness.

I was actually out of breath by the time I rounded the few street corners, and arrived on the doorstep. I felt anxious… why was I nervous? I wanted to see Theo and Thomas. I wanted to belong somewhere, to some people, to some place. Perhaps I just needed something to come back to…and this was it.

Opening the door with an unsteady hand, I looked inside. I could smell pipe smoke and see the rough-hewn wooden beams across the old ceiling. Books were piled on the sales counter and overflowing in stacks on the floor. Thomas spotted me immediately. As I opened the door, I could see him running his hand through his wild white hair, giving his beard a little tug as if to wake himself up, and ambling over eagerly to greet me. He gave me a long hug. My thoughts shocked me: I love this man—! Is this the way one might feel towards a truly loving father? When I see him I get a rush—a feeling that he wants to protect me, and that he’s proud of me…. and he always has that twinkle in his eye when he sees me.

And there he was again, radiant as always, with his easy manner and quick smile. He seemed taller, and his soft blue shirt made the shock of his thick white hair stand out even more. Yes, I thought, he looks like a French Impressionist painter—if there was such a “look.” His casual clothes hid a strong robust body. When his arms encircled me, the warmth of his bear-like body infused me with goodness…like a shot of whiskey on a cold day. I loved the way it literally warmed me all over.

I think his friends had the sense that he loved each one of them in a special way. He seemed to like everyone…not in exactly the same way, but it was obvious that he genuinely loved people.

“Lovely to see you, my dear! Theo has missed you. I have too.” It had only been three weeks I’d been gone. It felt like three months. “Come over and sit, my dear! What a surprise!”

He quickly introduced me to what he called “the usual cast of characters”: Richard, a retired wine merchant (who looked more like a scruffy street person), Carlos, a young Italian waiter from Starbucks (who exuded testosterone), Meredith, an antique shop owner from the Hill (who was so thin she looked anorexic, but who exuded a sense of propriety), and Phillip, a sociology teacher from Boston University (who had the ambivalent look of both arrogance and vulnerability.)

They were sitting in a circle in the corner of the shop. Thomas, of course, didn’t describe them as I saw them. I was a newcomer to the group, and I wasn’t sure that they wanted another person who might take away part of their personal time with their charismatic leader. Meredith was the only one who actually frowned at me.

But Thomas kept exclaiming how surprised he was to see me, as I hadn’t told him exactly when I’d be back. Then Theo came over and curled around my feet. He had been allowed to wander around the shop freely, in my absence, and he looked more than content. He looked loved and fat. I picked him up and stroked him thoroughly. Thomas made motions for me to sit down, so I did.

Phillip, who spoke with a slight English accent, must have decided to be the one to instruct me: “Isabelle, the topic for discussion today, is—you’ll be happy to hear—from your favorite philosopher, Jung—the section in this book where he talks about how we must hold the tension of the opposites, till the third way appears—what he calls the reconciling third.” Thomas must have told the group a little about me beforehand since Phillip knew I liked Jung. I wondered if they knew I was an astrologer.

I stared out the window, musing how both Jung and astrology were once frowned upon in academic circles. I wondered if I would be accepted in this little group. Carl Jung, was now accepted in academia, but astrology still appears irrational to those of the academic philosophic persuasion, or to those who connect it with the allure of the gypsy underworld. It’s a somewhat private language that appears to give some people power. So those in political or economic power usually choose to either quietly pay for their astrologers, or publicly burn them at the stake.

Jung was one of the first to use astrology in his practice with clients and to explore its symbolism, so he restored a “professionality” to it—although he was highly discouraged in his exploration of the worlds of alchemy and astrology. But he did, and it cost him many close relationships as well as a lot of personal pain. Some say that his closest friend, Toni Wolff, distanced herself from him because she couldn’t stand his delving in these disreputable fields.

Meredith saw me spacing out and filled me in about last week: “Last Sunday we had a fabulous discussion about “fierce grace. Thomas reminded us of how we need to consider whatever happens to us, as a kind of grace. Good or bad.” I wondered what was Meredith’s redeeming grace? She didn’t look like she was in the bloom of grace or health.

So who were these people? Were they really a book discussion group, a philosophy discussion group, or a small gathering of groupies around their spiritual guru—?

Thomas sat down back down in his rocking chair and I couldn’t decide if he looked more like a contented cat or a father on Christmas Eve sharing his beloved books with his children. He was so obviously the hub of the wheel here, the center and guru of this little group. He had a generosity of time to give, and the ability to listen, as well as a propensity to giving away his books. If you were in the “club” and interested in a subject, you’d find a book in your hand by the end of the afternoon, and there’d be no charge.

“Great topics for me!” I bounced out of my musings, and came back into the present moment. “Grace, fierce or not, and patience: something I have very little of!” They laughed. I had no patience with my book writing, nor ‘grace’ in love right now. If only they knew how much I was truly trying to “hold the tension of the opposites” but my loneliness and my hope were pulling in different directions. Peter’s decision to stay away—for an unknown amount of time, and Sophie’s decision to move away altogether, certainly didn’t feel like grace. More like abandonment. Was there a reconciling third? Could be my writing? I needed to come home to myself, and writing could be that anchor. Could I ever—ever—get the book finished?

I took a little package out of my bag and handed it to Thomas. “For you, for caring for Theo—“

“Ah, not necessary, as Theo has been caring for us. He’s been charming the customers and making friends…” The crows-feet around Thomas’ eyes turned upward into little smiles as he opened the package slowly and deliberately. At first he didn’t understand what he was seeing.

I was proud of my gift. I had wandered around the old city of Zurich for hours that last day, in pursuit of the perfect gift for Thomas. Peter had returned to his Krishnamurti gathering in the mountains outside of Zurich, and I was yet again on my own. What I found was a small stone paperweight of the “forgotten stone” carved by Jung at Bollingen. It was square, about the size of a baseball, and carved on each side with Latin and Greek inscriptions as well as astrological symbols.

As Thomas unwrapped the paper, I tried to explain: “I don’t have a cross or a star as a symbol of my spirituality, or any talisman of this last journey-- but this stone mandala comes pretty close. It’s a copy of what’s called the ‘forgotten stone’—the stone that was left at Jung’s house by mistake, by men who were delivering supplies from a quarry nearby to his home. He carved and sculpted it into this. It’s huge actually…and I did see it when I was there….but long story short—he carved it in honor of his 75th birthday, and well….Thomas, I thought of you when I saw it, and thought you might like it.”

“It’s a perfect gift, considering our topic of conversation today!” I wondered if I heard a touch of sarcasm there. Meredith, the antique shop owner, probably noticed that it wasn’t even an antique reproduction, but—heaven forbid—a souvenir of sorts.

Thomas however, looked at it closely, caressing it with his fingers, as I continued explaining the curious cube: “You see on this side of it, it’s a mandala divided into four; the number of wholeness. In the center is a little monk holding a lantern—it’s called a ‘homunculus,’ which in ancient books, meant ‘the little man inside the brain’. And if you look closer, you’ll see that he has the astrological sign for Mercury on his robe.”

Thomas interrupted: “Hermes! This is Mercury, same as the messenger-god Hermes, who’s the one who mediates between the outer worlds and the inner worlds, and between the living and the dead. He’s a hermit-monk- trickster all in one. He bridges “the worlds” and brings people and ideas together—like you, Isabelle!” I thought Thomas was more like Mercury than me.

Phillip looked curious and shot a question to Thomas: “You once told me that Mercury was like a rogue teacher, navigating between worlds, crossing thresholds into invisible worlds. You said he was like me…though I don’t get it.”

Meredith looked slightly annoyed: “We all have Mercury, Phillip, not just you. Some astrologer told me something about where mine was…it was doing something. Oh, yes it was in Gemini, which she said was ruled by Mercury. Ruled! Can’t imagine liking to be ruled by anything?”

I piped in: “Gemini is very curious, and can bridge the gap between things opposites if they chose to do that. You are the communicator of the zodiac if you want to be. And, Gemini is known for having two sides, like two people, so I think it’s more open than most to making an effort to bridge the opposites….”

Meredith lifted her eyebrows with a hint of disdain, and shook her head disapprovingly. I wasn’t going to let her stop me. I took the stone and kept going: “On the top here is Saturn, and beneath him is Mars. These ‘yang’ signs represent the struggle to live on this earth—the resistance of Saturn and the assertiveness of Mars.”

Carlos looked up at Thomas: “I think I’ve got a lot of that Mars energy always being frustrated…” He chuckled. Carlos found a tiny piece of paper that came wrapped with the stone: “Look here—it says the Greek writing around the center says: ‘The man in the center, the homunculus, is the one traverses the dark places of the world, like a star flashing the deep, leading the way to the Gates of the Sun and the Land of Dreams.’ The dark places….”

“Hah—Carlos! Look, it’s not about going into dark places.” Thomas pointed to Carlo’s tight blue jeans. Sometimes it’s like zipping up your fly!” Carlos looked down and “zipped up.” Thomas was the only one who would dare point that out.

“I don’t get it.” Carlos grinned and looked at Thomas for an explanation.

“Astrology is a symbolic system—and confusing at first. But you could think of this Mercury as being a bit like that wee tab of a zipper there—when it goes up, it pulls together what has been separated, and when it goes down it pulls apart what has been joined. Sometimes he’s a teacher, sometimes a trickster.” I chuckled to myself, remembering that this little comparison of Mercury to a zipper was something I had learned from my teacher, a delightful Sophia-like woman, Alice Howell. She was one of those wise women who had inspired me over the years, and now I was impressed that Thomas remembered it. I love how even little nuances and stories continue to live on….

Carlos looked at the zipper on his pants. “Well, when what’s inside the zipper, goes up, well, I—certainly like to join together—especially if she’s pretty! So maybe I should call the little guy, Mercury?” Carlos laughed and looked up at Thomas for approval.

Instead, Richard the retired wine merchant, was quick to reply: “You’re goofy, Carlos! It reminds me of the synapses in the brain, and how certain ‘Mercurial’ chemicals connect to the receptors on each side.” I wondered if he was taking the mercurial “serotonin uptake inhibitor” for depression, as they affect our brain’s ability to zip and connect the chemicals in the brain.

“I don’t believe in astrology, and I think we’re getting off track here.” Meredith snapped.

“But Meredith,” Phillip added, “try thinking “out of the box” for a moment. Think how strange Mercury is—it’s liquid silver! So slippery, yet it’s in a thermometer that can read our temperature…” How interesting everyone interprets things according to what they know and feel, I thought.

“Well, my temperature is getting a little bit hot, Phillip!” She laughed at herself. “I didn’t come here today to talk astrology; but to talk philosophy and Jung. I find astrology to be “pop culture” and I don’t like it.”

Meredith wasn’t going to act from her open-minded “Gemini in Mercury” and I wondered at first if she had a lot of planets in fixed earth signs. Then I had a strong intuition that she was a Cancer—Cancers love antiques and touching into the traditions of the past. And they can be quite moody and cranky when they want to be—looney types even; their sign being ruled by the ever changing Moon. I could understand how she felt. I wouldn’t believe in astrology if I hadn’t studied it, and if it was all just simplified down to “sun sign astrology.” But it doesn’t. I know how complex the chart is with all its signs and houses and aspects, and how it reflects how paradoxical we all are.

Thomas looked tense. I could see him closing his eyes as if he were looking inside for an answer to comfort his children…his students.

“Meredith, could you look at it the way Jung did? He said, somewhere in this book, that we each are like grapes from a vineyard that was grown in a particular place and in a particular year and season in time. And astrology is like that—it uses the birth time and place—so you are like a wine-grape that comes from a section of France perhaps, in a particular year, and therefore you take on the characteristics of that time and place.”

“You mean I’m like a fine wine that gets better as it ages?” The eternal feminine hope, I thought.

“Yes, exactly.” Thomas had come to my defense! I loved it. It gave me confidence to go just a little further--

“Do you see on the right side here, there’s a little monk, the ‘homunculus’ and there’s the astrological signs for the Sun and Jupiter, and over here, is Venus and the Moon. These come together in the “the alchemical sacred marriage” that Jung writes about. You could think of Jupiter as grace, and Venus as love, and Mercury, as what connects them.”

I thought how Thomas was acting like Mercury by creating this group—by getting us together to connect what had been torn apart or separated within each of our psyches. He brought us all together.

If ever I was to connect with them, it would be now. So I took a deep breath and went on: “Together the planets in the four quadrants of the mandala here tell a story. Jung believed all “the opposites in our nature”, even of good and evil, were intimately related and inseparable. He felt God and man needed each other, in a sense, to be whole.” I was surprised I remembered that much off the top of my head.

Thomas touched my hand as if to “second” what I had said. I felt a little unnerved, because I didn’t understand this unspoken gesture. But he simply said: “Go on….”

“Well, that’s it really….” I could have told them more, about visiting Jung’s house, about the Kingfisher’s wing….but I felt as if I had talked enough, and didn’t want to be seen as the newcomer who “hogs all the air time”.

And as the afternoon moved on, it seemed as if everything became a blur. I must have jet lag, I thought, or overtiredness.

I was the last to leave. Thomas gently lifted Theo into the cat carrier, and led me to the door. As he handed Theo over to me, I wished I could have just held Theo in my arms like a baby, but instead something else happened. Thomas tilted his head and looked at me as if he wanted to ask me something.

“You going to be alright, now? You got kind of quiet there after awhile….” His eyes widened and I could feel his concern. I didn’t say anything. Then he leaned over, and with a slight pause, kissed me on the lips. It was a gentle kiss, but long and lingering.

I was shocked and thrilled and unnerved all at once. I felt chosen. Underneath a certain fear, I felt happy, really happy, as if I had finally come home to someone. Was it to Thomas? Or was it to myself because I spoke up?

“Be well, my dear. Be well.” I let my head fall on his chest, and he lightly stroked his hand across my hair. A wave of exhaustion or surrender came over me. Was this the hand of that underworld god, Pluto, urging me to surrender and let go? Or? His hand on my head felt like a blessing. Pluto or not, I didn’t care.

“And now….come by again….soon. Yes?” He didn’t move to close the door, and I didn’t move down the step. I didn’t want to go, and I didn’t want to stay. I wanted to curl up like Theo and sleep…and yet every inch of me was alive and vibrating. At that moment it felt as if Thomas needed me as much as I need him. But there was nothing to do, nowhere to go. It was all just as it was, and it was enough.

I walked the two blocks home in a fog, and set Theo down gently in the green rocker. He seemed to be happy enough. What was I feeling? Theo could be comfortable anywhere, unlike me. I made a cup of tea, and paced around the rooms as if there was some way I could absorb all the confusion of emotion. It felt as if the room had changed. I was here only a few hours ago—had anything changed? My one flowering plant had completely died of dehydration. That would have to wait till tomorrow. But the rooms felt permeated with something, and I couldn’t help but feel it was like a ghost or whiff of love. Something not tangible, yet real. Was Thomas my ‘Reconciling Third?’ I wanted it to come forth from my writing, my work, my family….not another man, not Thomas a mercurial man!

But who knew if “the gods” had another idea in mind for me. Perhaps Sophia—the feminine spirit of wisdom and maker of all kinds of ‘magic’ and synchronicities….perhaps she knew more than I did here. I’d be wise to surrender to her. Tomorrow I would spend the day writing. Maybe Sophia as muse or Sophie as daughter would come for a visit. Or maybe Peter could reach out across the miles and touch my heart in some way. I was open to all possibilities.   (c) elizabeth spring from book: "Private Papers of a Reluctant Astrologer" to be published this fall (archeon press/amazon.com)  http://www.elizabethspring.com/