Monday, August 3, 2020

Conjunctions II

Venus and Mars in conjunction over Lake Superior, October 2017 (Bob King)

After Yeats has established the basis of the Aries-Taurus conjunction of Mars-Venus and the Aquarius-Pisces conjunction of Saturn-Jupiter, he goes on to elaborate a complex series of ideas based on this pair of pairings. The associations might recall at best Hermann Hesse's ultra-cerebral Glass Bead Game or at worst the ragbag eclecticism and strained connections that are not uncommon in occult tracts, where analogies rapidly become equivalents and substitutes.

Pompeian fresco of Mars and Venus

Venus and Mars

The planets have many possible associations, ranging from the mythological to the psychological, and their "conjunctions … express so many things", but Yeats singles out for Venus-Mars, "the outward-looking mind, love and its lure", and for Jupiter-Saturn, "introspective knowledge of the mind's self-begotten unity, an intellectual excitement" (AVB 207), though which is which is not spelt out and it is only the word "love", clearly linked to Venus, as well as more general astrological symbolism from elsewhere that makes the identification clear.

In a poem written "in the first excitement of discovery I compared one to the Sphinx and one to Buddha"— the link to the conjunctions would not necessarily be very clear had Yeats not added that the Buddha should have been substituted for Christ, as "Buddha was a Jupiter-Saturn influence" (AVB 207), i.e. the Buddha in the poem represents a Venus-Mars influence, even though it shouldn't. Many years later on in the pair of couplets titled "Conjunctions," Yeats made the identification of Christ and Venus-Mars explicit.
The sword's a cross; thereon He died:
On breast of Mars the goddess sighed.
                                (VP 562)
The Sword-Cross of Santiago
Astrologically Venus and Mars are very much the principles of love and sex; harmony and aggression; comfort and adventure; union and separation. Yet they work at almost exactly the same personal level and are a very much a polar and complementary pair. The signs ruled by Venus are Taurus and Libra, opposite which stand the signs ruled by Mars, Scorpio and Aries. As mythological figures they are known for their adulterous affair, since Aphrodite-Venus was married to the smith god Hephaistos-Vulcan, who famously trapped her in the act with Ares-Mars under a net.

Mars and Venus entrapped by Vulcan, Antonio Bellucci, ca. 1700.

Jupiter and Saturn

Saturn devouring one of Jupiter's siblings
Peter Paul Rubens (1636)

The symbolism of Saturn and Jupiter is more complicated. In their Greek forms as Kronos and Zeus, though they are father and son, there is really only one story that connects them. Forewarned that he would be overthrown by his own child, Kronos (Saturn) ate his children, until his wife, Rhea, replaced the last one, Zeus (Jupiter), with a stone. Zeus grew to maturity and led a revolt against his father, dethroning him as foretold.

They are slow moving and astrologically work at a similar, more impersonal level than Mars or Venus, and are sometimes referred to as the "social" planets. Their domiciles are grouped together in the wintery signs, Saturn's Capricorn and Aquarius bracketed by Jupiter's Sagittarius and Pisces. Jupiter's influence is expansive and optimistic, while Saturn's is restrictive and  melancholy. Rudolf Steiner posited two versions of Satan, the tempter, Lucifer the Jovian over-reacher on the one hand, and, the denier, Ahriman the Saturnine mechanistic desiccator on the other. However, just as for Steiner the Christ principle balances the two forces, so here the balance of the two, exploration and concentration, offers "introspective knowledge of the mind's self-begotten unity".

Yeats symbolizes them by the Sphinx in "The Double Vision of Michael Robartes", which represents the triumph of intellect:
One lashed her tail; her eyes lit by the moon
Gazed upon all things known, all things unknown,
In triumph of intellect
With motionless head erect.    (VP 383)

The focus on knowing, recalls the pairing of the Knower and the Known, Creative Mind and Body of Fate. And similarly Yeats characterizes the antithetical revelation that starts "under Saturn-Jupiter" as "the vivification of old intellect" (AVB 208). This revivification of the old is symbolized cryptically by wheat from the pharaoh's tombs germinating (a popular nineteenth-century myth), in the companion couplet to the one quoted above:
If Jupiter and Saturn meet,
What a crop of mummy wheat! 
                  (VP 562)

The second vision of "The Double Vision of Michael Robartes" is an image of the Full Moon, with a dead spirit dancing between the Sphinx and the Buddha (who should be Christ). She is dead because the Full Moon is too pure to be alive in mortal and on either side are the two conjunctions: Aries-Taurus, Mars-Venus, or Christ (the Buddha in the poem), and Aquarius-Pisces, Saturn-Jupiter, or the Sphinx, which "stand, so to speak, like heraldic supporters guarding the mystery of the fifteenth phase" (AVB 207) (see McDowell, " 'Heraldic Supporters': Minor Symbolism and the Integrity of A Vision", YA10 [1993]).

These conjunctions also preside over the beginning of each revelation or religious dispensation (for a complication about the layout of the signs, see "Conjunctions I"). As the solar Creative Mind moves away from the Full Moon is moves from Aries into Taurus, hence the conjunction of Mars and Venus presiding over the first stages of this cycle. As this cycle draws to an end, Creative Mind is moving from Aquarius into the sign of Pisces, the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. And since the "influx that dominates a primary dispensation comes a little after the start of the dispensation itself" when Will is at Phase 16, a primary dispensation is ushered in by Mars-Venus; and "that which dominates an antithetical dispensation [comes] a considerable time before the close of the preceding primary dispensation" it comes under the influence of Saturn and Jupiter (AVB 208).

Sculpture of Zeus striking Kronos, Temple of Artemis, Corfu

In a further complication of symbolism, the Yeatses' two children were seen to embody each of them one of these conjunctions, which featured at the moment of the their birth. As Yeats wrote to Olivia Shakespear on 25 August 1934:
I was told you may remember that my two children would be Mars conjunction Venus, Saturn conjunction Jupiter respectively; & so they were — Anne the Mars Venus personality. Then I was told that they would develop so that I could study in them the alter­nating dispensations, the Christian or objective, then the Antithetical or subjective. The Christian is the Mars Venus. It is democratic. The Jupiter Saturn civilization is born free among the most cultivated, out of tradition, out of rule.

Should Jupiter and Saturn meet
What a crop of mummy wheat!

The sword's a cross; thereon He died.
On breast of Mars the goddess sighed.

I wrote those lines because some days ago George said it is very strange that whereas Michael is always thinking about life Anne always thinks of death. Then I remembered that the children were the two dispensations. Anne collects skeletons.... When she grows up she will either have some passionate love affair or have some close friend that has — the old association of love and death. (CL InteLex 6087; cf. L 827-28)

Connected with this was the possible belief that Michael was in some way connected with the avatar of the new antithetical age, but that is a story for another day. 
Jupiter and Saturn are approaching their conjunction on 21 December 2020