The Power to Transmute
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The questions that Ceres asks of us are not easy to face. What do we do with the angst that comes from living in a complex world, where social, political, and economic pressures drive so many of us to such desperate measures as suicide, and where the capacity of the Earth to support and sustain us all is increasingly called into doubt? How do we cope with the deep grief, anger, bitterness, and despair that accompany life’s traumatic catastrophes — the bankruptcies, the evictions, the cancers, the PTSD of returning soldiers, the bitter divorces, and the suicides? How do we transmute the deep inconsolable grief, irrevocable loss, and unspeakable tragedy of a Hurricane Sandy, or a Fukushima, or a Newtown massacre into another magnitude of strength?
How do we cope with very large chronic issues, both personal and planetary, with no resolution in sight? What happens to us, individually and collectively, when we can no longer cope? What will happen if we fail to meet the impossible challenges facing us all that hold our very fate as a species and a civilization in the balance?
As troubling as these questions are, I do think there is some cause for hope. In contemplating Demeter’s myth anew, I have come to believe that, in addition to her more outwardly visible manifestations, she also governs the secret inner workings by which pain and suffering are transmuted into personal power — as well as the parallel process by which a civilization and a global culture rise to the challenges posed by a world out of balance. This does not happen in the limelight of public discourse so much as it happens in the secret chambers of hearts that have been violated by catastrophe and loss. In the same time period that we have been exploring, for example, public awareness of environmental issues has soared; new, more human-scale economic models such as crowdfunding and cooperative businesses are emerging; and community-based food distribution systems are proliferating.
While the intransigence of those who deny climate change should not be underestimated (1), there are encouraging signs that we may be ready to make a few long-overdue changes. A month before this article was written, President Obama gave a hopeful speech at Georgetown University unveiling his Climate Action Plan (2). Whatever Obama’s limitations and failings, the mere fact that he spoke so boldly about the necessity for action means that doing something about climate change is increasingly a political mandate. Earlier, in October 2013 – after the release of a new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, written by 831 experts from 30 countries, which asserted it was 95% certain that humans burning fossil fuels are driving global warming (3) – the Los Angeles Times banned climate change deniers from its pages (4). As this article goes to press, a brave new TV series, Years of Living Dangerously, is bringing the subject of climate change into the living rooms of millions, hoping to galvanize the political will of the masses (5).
Although Ceres is associated with the grieving process over what has been lost, she also represents that mysterious force within individual souls, communities, civilizations, and ecosystems that allows them to gestate new life in times of death, destruction, and disaster. As we move into the Age of Ceres, there is a lot to grieve, and letting it all in can be overwhelming. There is also the opportunity to meet both the Lord of the Upper World (Zeus) and the Lord of the Underworld (Hades) eyeball to eyeball and demand a restoration of balance in a world run amok — just as Demeter did in mythological time.
If we insist on maintaining our willful ignorance in the face of our global plutocracy’s ongoing rape of the Earth, there will be inescapable consequences, as there were when Persephone was abducted by Hades. If, instead, we collectively access and apply “the enormous treasury of ancient racial knowledge” about how to live in balance with the Earth — which we can glean both from indigenous cultures and from modern science — then Demeter/Ceres may treat us more benignly, perhaps even sharing with us some of her secrets of immortality (read: continued human presence on the planet).
At best, it remains to be seen whether or not our efforts from this point forward are a matter of too little, too late. However we proceed, Ceres will be both our guide and our judge. Ceres represents our collective racial knowledge about how to live in a sustainable way on the Earth, as well as the evolutionary pressure to do so. How well we heed her warning and how earnestly we seek to return our culture to balance will determine whether or not astrologers of the next century will be documenting the discovery of new heavenly bodies — or a further descent into the hungry ghost realms for this one.
The first bonus post in this series is Ceres and the Battle Over GMOs.
To read more blog posts, go here.