Depth Astrology




How Gargatholil chose his name

One day, driving home in traffic, hearing our children prattling in the back seat of our 1976 Honda Civic, my wife remarked how our children's names seemed to fit their personalities so well.  She turned to me and asked whether I thought my name fit me.  I unhesitatingly said, "No."  She then asked, well what name do you think fits you.  I thought a long time and then I told her, Gargatholil.

Now, I will say that I had been reading Tolkien to our oldest child, our daughter.  And I very much identified with being elvish.  So, it was natural that I should choose an elvish name.  Gargatholil resonated with my core identity.  After all, I have a yod involving Saturn and Uranus and the Moon in Capricorn cusp Aquarius.  And, I have Pluto in the fourth house.  I have always felt a lot of heavy depth, which is where the name starts.  But, especially since experiencing the Small Enlightenment during the sixties, there has been a part of me that flies away into lightness.  That is where the name ends.  Yes, the sound of Gargatholil steadily rises from a deep place and floats off into the Light. 

Early awakening

I was brought up Roman Catholic and, when I was young, I believed all of that and was relatively pious.  In fact, one of the town toughs, with whom I went to catechism classes, once told me that what was wrong with me was that I was too holy.  When I was about ten or eleven, a nun told our class that the Blessed Virgin Mary had delivered a letter to two children (I think maybe at Fatima), which had been given to the Pope with instructions to open the letter in 1960, at which time something momentous would be revealed.  I eagerly awaited this event.  Well, 1960 came and went and nothing was revealed.  That shook my faith and I began to think that if what the nuns told us was untrue in this instance, what else might not be true.

I began to see that all those Bible stories did not make a lot of rational sense.  Then I discovered Darwin (I didn't actually read Darwin, just about him and the theory of evolution).  I began looking for proof that what the Catholic Church taught was true and found none.  I was also interested in history and beginning to read about the history of medieval Europe and the corruption of the Church further undermined my faith in Catholicism.  For me, the Church soon lost all authority and I began seeing its rites and rituals as empty and meaningless and its rules and mortal sins against the Church as having no rational basis.  After confirmation (for my faith had not completely disintegrated at that point and I was bound by my parents' wishes, also), I graduated from attending catechism to meetings of the Catholic Youth Organization (which my parents forced me to attend).  There, I had the opportunity to question the priest about my emerging theological questions.  I found that he could provide no satisfactory answers.  Later, I would come to realize that the parish priests did not themselves understand the meanings of the teachings of the Church (conveniently called "mysteries").

Having lost faith in Catholicism, I began an exploration of other religions.  First, I examined the Protestant denominations and quickly concluded that they had no more access to Truth than did Catholicism.  I then began to study the teachings of non-Christian religions, particularly those of the East.  However, I found that every religion ultimately told their followers to accept the teachings of that religion on faith.  Moreover, every religion claimed that its teachings and beliefs were true (with the implication that the tenets of all other religions were not true) and only by following this religion and conforming to its prescribed practices would one achieve salvation.  Obviously, they could not all be right in their assertion that their particular religion was the bearer of the absolute theological Truth and, so, I concluded that none of them could be right.  I think I reasoned that, if a religion claimed to be the only true path to God or to some Divine state, and there was no proof beyond its own assertion that it was indeed the true religion, that claim itself must be false and, being false, all of the other teachings of that religion were suspect.

By the age of fourteen, I had become a confirmed agnostic.  I did not not believe in God, but I understood that there was no way with the rational mind to be certain of anything pertaining to God, even that God existed, or did not exist.  Faith, I saw as an illusion that would not stand up to the test of reason.  I am sure that a good part of my concluding this was the prevalence, in all religions, of beliefs that were patently illogical or could be disproved by science. 

My agnosticism did not end at the sphere of religion, however, for I began to explore in my mind the great epistemological questions about the nature of perception and the possibility of knowledge.  Frankly, I'm not certain whether I was exposed to any Plato at that point or not.  However, I followed the course of reasoning suggested by Socrates that our perceptions of the world were not trustworthy.  Therefore, how could we trust any knowledge thought to be gained from the perception of our senses.  Furthermore, reason could not be an infallible guide, for people applying reason came to different conclusions.  I began to see that what we call truth was relative and I also discovered in my mind the principles of what philosophers would call nominalism.  We "know" a certain thing by calling it a name and we agree on the names that we call the phenomena we experience.  However, since it is impossible for anyone to actually experience the perceptual reality that another human being is experiencing, we cannot be certain that the phenomenon that I give a name to is the same phenomenon to which you give the same name.  We may both call a color "yellow" but how do we know that our experience of "yellow" is the same as that of others or even that our experience of color itself is the same?  How then, can there be any certainty in knowledge? 

By the end of my fourteenth year, I had become not only an agnostic, but a philosophical skeptic, as well.

Were there any astrological markers for these events?  Nothing in terms of progressions.  However, transits may offer some clues, possibly.  In 1960, Uranus had transited my natal Pluto and, retrograde, had stationed less than a degree from Pluto in my fourth house.  Now, of course, this is a generational transit and, so, there must be a presumption that even at that early age I was particularly attuned to the energies of the outer planets.  Remember that Uranus is involved in a yod in my chart.  The fact that this conjunction was happening in my fourth house would indicate that the very grounding of my being was being shaken in a deep and powerful way.  Meanwhile, Pluto was transiting over my Venus, which is my primary ruling planet (along with Saturn with which it is conjunct).  This could indicate more disturbance at a deep level and an obsession with discovering the truth or a ruthless drive to evaluate the world against an uncompromising standard of truth.  Anything that did not measure up was to be thrown out.  Is it stretching the coincidence too far to note that my Venus and Saturn are in Virgo, the sign of the Virgin (Mary)? 

Transiting Neptune had conjuncted my Mercury in Scorpio when I turned ten, so that astrological event preceded all of this mental turmoil.  Yet possibly this symbolized a receptivity toward fluidity in my mental processes, the disillusionment with fact-based reason, and access to intuitive mental realms.

By the time I was fourteen, Uranus had entered Virgo conjuncting my Saturn and then Venus.  Saturn is at the other sextile end of the yod.  Symbolically, this could denote the destabilization of all fixed constructs.  While my outer life was quite stable, all of the mental equipment supporting the conventional order had been blown away.  I was in a suspended state where anything was possible.

Further explorations

My conversion to philosophical skepticism was just the beginning of an intellectual/philosophical exploration that continued through my high school years.  In a sense, my philosophical skepticism opened the door for intellectual exploration that was unhindered by adherence to any one school of thought or paradigm.  I was free to enter anywhere, knowing that any and all conclusions I might reach were tentative and not binding on me.  These explorations, which were purely the traveling of the intellect through deep and prolonged thought, set the stage for later realizations that, under the influence of altered states of consciousness, seemed more profound but, in retrospect, had already been grasped, but not realized. 

One direction where my thoughts led me was to absurdist existentialism.  I had at my disposal not only the writings of Camus, Sartre and Kafka, but more importantly my own ability to reflect on my experience of the world.  I clearly saw that the activity around me, the entire course of human life (at least in my age-limited experience), had no meaning.  Just like in the song that Pete Seeger sang, "Little Boxes," we sought an education, so that we might work, so that we might have a home and raise a family, so that they might seek an education, so that they might work, etc., etc., etc.  We earned money to eat, drink and do what else to keep our bodies alive (hopefully in relative comfort) so that we might procreate so that our offspring might eat, drink and work and procreate. 

Looking at history only confirmed the meaninglessness of human existence.  A reading of Shelley's Ozymandias is all it takes to grasp that there is no meaning in the exploits of humankind.  All crumbles into dust and, eventually, even one's "place in history" will be lost and forgotten.  I discovered Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West which not only confirmed the arrogance of our Euro-centric view of history and the world, but exposed the fallacy that Western civilization epitomized the pinnacle of human development and would continue to evolve indefinitely in never-ending progress.  The idea that human progress gave life meaning--meaningless.

If we would look to virtue or any such value as meaningful, this will not survive the realization that everything is relative.  This is the inevitable conclusion to which philosophical skepticism leads us and it is a conclusion that, if we take off the blinders of our belief in absolutes and objectivity, becomes self-evident.  Enter Nietzsche proclaiming that there is no Good or Evil.  What is left but pleasure?  But looked at honestly, we must fail to find meaning even in the pursuit of pleasure.

Now coming to view existence as essentially without meaning could drag the psyche into a dark, depressing place.  And, indeed, I bore my share of existential pain.  But two things saved me from depression.  One was the adoption of the hero's stance.  Fortunately, my reading of the Romantics had primed me for an emotional mindset in which I could view my facing the cold existential truth as heroic.  Thus, I was able to enjoy my melancholy.  (It helps that I have a strong 4 wing to my 5 on the Enneagram scale.)

My second savior was the theater of the absurd.  This allowed me to see the cosmic joke in all this existential meaninglessness.  It allowed me to put life in a better perspective and to ride the cosmic wave of detachment.  In my senior year of high school, I wrote an essay (which incidentally won the school prize) titled "The Art of Schizophrenic Thinking," in which I explored the possibility, the existential necessity, of holding two contradictory views in mind at the same time--being able to recognize the illusion and live in the illusion simultaneously.  I was being prepared for a lifetime of dealing with paradoxes.

Metaphysics was a second direction that my thoughts were taking during my high school years.  This branch of thought had been stimulated by my studies of Hindu and Buddhist thought, particularly Vedanta.  Of course, I recognized all this as speculation, but it was very interesting speculation.  I also came across a book, whose title I wish I could remember, on Western mysticism.  It had a cover with a painting of a room with the same painting on the wall, so that the sequence disappeared into infinity.  There, I discovered the Neo-Platonists, Plotinus, Origen, the Pseudo-Dionyses.  I also read about Timothy Leary and his experiments with LSD and, so, became exposed [in theory only] to the idea of altered states of consciousness.  All this began percolating in my mind.  In my junior year of high school, in my honors English class, we had weekly in-class writing assignments.  I remember that one of my essays was titled "Everything is Nothing," in which I put forth that Everything, being an all-encompassing unity, was equivalent to Nothingness because that entity would lack an objective point of reference through which to recognize its own existence. 

Suffice it to say, that through my metaphysical studies and speculations, I became familiar with some basic mystically-oriented concepts--the Oneness of all Being, the Void, karma, reincarnation, emanation, and levels of consciousness or Being.  These concepts would become more defined during the next phase of my intellectual and spiritual development. 

Astrologically, Pluto, Neptune and Saturn were all in empty spaces in my chart but Uranus early in this period was on my Saturn-Venus conjunction, especially working on Venus before moving on.  At the same time, my progressed Sun was trining natal Uranus as it began to approach my Scorpio Mercury (though it would not reach Mercury till after high school).  Since Venus is a ruling planet in my chart (ruling both Sun and Ascendant), I take this as significant, with the energy from that contact remaining in sway until the next major astrological event.   The symbolic emphasis of Venus here is value system, particularly the search for meaning and the shattering of any stable repository of meaning.  With Venus in Virgo, this also took on an analytical cast.  Also evident is my receptivity to insights from the Higher Mind.  Furthermore, what I learned to value during this period was the life of intellectual discovery and my own individual uniqueness.  How firmly this all became wrapped up in my identity is symbolized by the progressed Sun-Uranus contact.

Musical development

I want to go back now to a parallel track in my life--my interest in music.  No, I'm not a musician (though I did play the trumpet for a number of years and amuse myself on the recorder).  Music has always fed my soul, though, figuratively speaking. 

When I was seven or eight, I discovered American Bandstand (with Dick Clark).  It came on every afternoon after I got home from school.  I would come home, turn on our black and white TV and dance to rock 'n roll.  Soon, I was singing to the tunes and memorizing the songs.  This did not make me popular with my peers, however (I must have had an awful singing voice). 

About the same time, I became exposed to classical music.  Those were the days of Green Stamps and special supermarket promotions.  One of those promotions was the sale of the World's Greatest Music series of classical music albums and my mother started collecting them.  As was the taste of the mid-1950s, the series was heavy on the Romantics, which was just the right hook for my imaginative eight-year old mind.  I thrilled to Listz's Les Preludes and Sibelius' Finlandia.  In my nerdy fashion, I would "conduct" to the music.  Later, my taste in classical music would deepen when I discovered Baroque (at the time of the Baroque revival).  We lived in central Connecticut, just close enough to New York that I could pick up WQXR ("the radio station of the New York Times") on my AM transistor radio.  Being on the AM band and 90 miles away, I learned to listen through the static.  But, the result was that, as classical musical tastes developed in mid-century America, so did mine.  It was through WQXR and their live broadcasts from the Met, hosted by the inimitable Milton Cross, that I discovered opera.  When I became old enough to actually check out books from the adult section of our town library (as opposed to sneaking down from the children's room), I discovered a wall of classical record albums to be checked out and my taste expanded further.

Back to rock 'n roll, I soaked up those early days of rock 'n roll, faithfully watching American Bandstand and listening to the two pop stations out of Hartford, WDRC and WPOP.  Then, around 1962, rock n' roll almost died.  Just as automobile tail fins had receded into a growing blandness, so rock n' roll had become increasingly insipid.  The influence of my parents' generation seemed to be taking over, with Perry Como and Nat King Cole getting way too much airplay all the raw excitement being squeezed out like so much processed TV dinner food.  So, I took a break from rock 'n roll and started looking for more authentic musical experience.  Ironically, this was just when my cohorts started to be entranced with the pop music scene, so this (among other traits) set me increasingly at odds with my classmates. 

What I found to replace rock 'n roll was folk music.  Fortunately, I had much better exposure to the folk revival than Hootenanny.  WOR, another New York station, broadcast a 2 or 3 hour folk music show on Saturday nights.  It went on past my bedtime but I just put my transistor radio under my pillow with the volume turned real low and the pillow made a perfect amplifier to my ear.  Pete Seeger.  Woody Guthrie.  Ian and Sylvia.  Dave Van Ronk.  Cisco Houston.  New Lost City Ramblers.  One of the first albums I bought was Bob Dylan's Freewheelin'. 

About the same time, I started to be interested in jazz.  My first exposure was to Dixieland.  I still have one of my first jazz albums--Kenny Ball's Midnight in Moscow.  I quickly discovered a New York station with a late night jazz show and was exposed to straight-ahead jazz and bebop.  Other albums I acquired included Dave Brubeck's Time Out and Getz/Gilberto's Girl from Ipanema. My favorite jazz musician, though, was (and still is) Thelonius Monk. 

During my high school years, I also got my first exposure to world music through an album, Music of Southern India.  This was quite by accident, as I happened to come across it in the record rack of the music store where I took trumpet lessons, put it on the turntable and was intrigued.  The next (and only other) Indian classical music album I was able to purchase was Ali Akbar Khan's Traditional Music of India.  These albums transported me.  An Indian friend once described to me that, for him, listening to this music was like dancing in his head.  It would be some time before I became familiar with other world music genres.

When my little brother left the crib, I got to move into our finished basement and my father rigged up speakers that were connected to our stereo console (record player and AM/FM radio.  This meant undisturbed extended listening.  Although by this time I had started appreciating the incipient counter-cultural influenced rock that got airplay on pop radio (Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Byrds), the presence of reborn rock 'n roll on the pop charts was too sporadic to merit alone-time listening to those stations.  So, it was my growing record collection and the new FM spectrum that fed me.  This was before FM became the dominant (and commercialized) medium.  In Connecticut, it was primarily the domain for classical music, folk and jazz.  One particular station played a rotating set of the "100 best classical pieces."  One would think that this would have been watered-down musical schlock, but no--these were great selections.

My next musical leap occurred at the start of my second semester, freshman college year.  I knew there was something really big going on in the counter-cultural music scene but had not really been exposed to it beyond what creeped into pop radio.  So I asked a musician dorm-mate what I should listen to and he recommended Jefferson Airplane.  I bought Surrealistic Pillow, took it back to the dorm, played it, and decided it was too conventional.  So I asked for another recommendation and he said go listen to the Mothers of Invention.  I bought Freak Out and totally dug it.  Then, I went back and bought Surrealistic Pillow again and finally appreciated it.  From there, the floodgate was open.  Not only were tons of good albums coming out but alternative FM radio was playing whole album sides back to back.  And, later, as the back-to-the-land counter-cultural trip had its influence on the music, I got into mountain music, particularly through intense exposure at a fiddler's convention in Boone, NC.

With the end of the sixties (which actually occurred from 1972 to 1974), the high-energy Spirit that had permeated counter-cultural rock 'n roll withdrew, and what was left turned relatively insipid.  A lot of it was good, musically, from a technical viewpoint, but nothing like the outpouring of totally great stuff that had gone before.  So, for that and other reasons, I went into a listening hiatus, even giving away my record collection to my brother-in-law (who returned much of it later). 

It wasn't till I had children that I began to be turned on to some new forms of music--early MTV (Talking Heads, The Cars, etc.), funkadelic, punk and politically progressive hip hop. 

So, what music don't I like?  Country (as opposed to authentic bluegrass, old-tymey, Western swing).  Pop.  Gangsta Rap.  Smooth jazz (e.g., Kenny G) and other forms of elevator music.  Broadway.  Crooners.  Twelve tone and other purely dissonant classical music.  That's about it (though I can take only limited amounts of hard core punk). 

To be continued with more about Gargatholil (looking at another facet of my early years)