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Ceres and the Bardo State

September 2014

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Astrologers have long assigned the process of death and rebirth to Pluto, Ceres’ divine adversary in the myth. But I have come to believe that the inscrutable mystery of the passage between death and rebirth — the bardo state, as it is known by the Tibetans — belongs to Ceres. We see the death; we see the rebirth. What happens in between is beyond our scrutiny, just as was the re-enactment of the Eleusinian mysteries in Ceres’ temple and, before that, Ceres’ period of wandering in disguise.

Nearly 50 years ago, Timothy Leary (who had Ceres conjunct Pluto within 3 minutes of arc) (1) wrote The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which was meant to be a guidebook for those who wished to explore that mysterious space between death (of the ego) and rebirth of a more liberated sense of self — using LSD as a catalyst. Gushing with enthusiasm in the introduction to his book, Leary says (2):

"Here then is the key to a mystery which has been passed down for over 2,500 years — the consciousness-expansion experience — the pre-mortem death and rebirth rite. The Vedic sages knew the secret; the Eleusinian initiates knew it; the Tantrics knew it. In all their esoteric writings they whisper the message: it is possible to cut beyond ego-consciousness, to tune in on neurological processes which flash by at the speed of light, and to become aware of the enormous treasury of ancient racial knowledge welded into the nucleus of every cell of your body."

As Ceres moves into her power as a dwarf planet on a par with her nemesis Pluto – after 205 years of secret gestation in asteroid status – Leary’s tantalizing promise poses a potent question: How is it possible to rise above the petty concerns of a beleaguered ego and access “the enormous treasury of ancient racial knowledge” within us in order to meaningfully serve a world badly in need of every single one of us to step up to the plate?

Are we not in a kind of bardo state now? The old order built on fossil fuels, capitalism, war, and the myth of limitless expansion is dying. The future is uncertain. To be alive on the planet now is to be in a liminal space – between death and rebirth. Could it be that Ceres’ promotion to dwarf planet status at this juncture signals her availability as a guide through the bardo state into a more sustainable, more humane civilization, more fully integrated into the whole web of life? Certainly, if she does have this capacity, we could use her help.

I believe that Ceres, in orbit within the asteroid belt, serves as an intermediary between the personal planets and the collective and transpersonal planets – and, metaphorically, as a bridge between the “beleaguered ego” and our “ancient racial knowledge” of how to live in greater harmony with the rhythms of the Earth. Ceres’ sign, house, and natal aspects in our chart can provide clues about where and how we might connect with and apply this knowledge in service, not just to our egos, but to the good of the greater whole. Significant transits of outer planets to Ceres — perhaps especially by Jupiter and Pluto — can indicate moments in time when grief and anger can be transmuted into transformative power. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, the Cerean Age is a time to “ask not what you can get from this world, but what you can give to it.”

The next post in this series is Entering the Hungry Ghost Realms.

To read more blog posts, go here.

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