Editor’s Note: In this excellent lead essay from the May 14, 2010, members’ issue, Eric offers a list things you can do if you want to facilitate the process of self-actualization. At the time that he wrote this, he was looking ahead to a Jupiter-Uranus conjunction; now, the Uranus-Eris conjunction of June 2016 is pushing (or glossing over) another layer of identity awareness. — Amanda P.
Dear Friend and Reader:
The other day I got curious about the term ‘self-actualization’, which I hadn’t heard for years. The first time I encountered it as a kid (in the ’70s, when people seemed to talk about this stuff more than we do today) I intuitively knew what it meant. To me, it was about the process of becoming real, that is, of becoming fully human.
Mediterranean Sea, from a series called Daybreak in the Path of Annularity, in Valencia, Spain, 2005. Photo by Eric Francis.
When I looked it up, I learned the term was invented by Kurt Goldstein (1878-1965), a German neurologist and psychiatrist. Kurt was one of the first theorists in the Gestalt Therapy movement, and one of the original modern holistic thinkers. His clinical work involved studying the relationship between the mind and the brain, in brain trauma patients; Gestalt puts emphasis on the mind-body connection. Holistic theories emphasize unity and integration as expressed through our natural human tendency to grow and mature.
It was Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) who put the concept into popular language. It was at the top of his famous ‘hierarchy of needs’, that pyramid published in a 1943 paper that you had to memorize in psych class. It starts with basic biological needs beginning with touch, food, breathing and sex as the foundation of existence. It extends upward toward safety, love, belonging, self-esteem and finally, at the top, we have self-actualization. This includes creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, acceptance of facts, and morality.
I will take an editor’s liberty and update that last one to ‘ethics’, since this applies a more flexible approach to difficult questions. I will add mortality, since that’s a key element in consciousness of one’s full humanity. And I would check one other thing: these days it takes a good bit of creativity and problem solving (an advanced need, in his theory) to meet the fundamental needs at the bottom level. We can at least thank Maslow for getting the term self-actualization into our hands, and for reminding us that psychology starts with biology.
He had one other idea that I like: if you want to understand how healthy people function, study them, and not pathological cases. So that is what he did.
Water paints the rock on the Grandmother Land in Ulster County, New York, hours before the Taurus New Moon. Photo by Eric Francis.
Maslow also emphasized the innate curiosity in humans (which is true for nearly every other animal, by the way). He honored self-actualization as a drive or motivation that he believed fuelled all our other endeavors. For him, it was the prime mover — this, not survival. Maslow’s concept was about embracing human potential, and he was one of the fathers of a movement by that name.
Which brings me to the extraordinary astrology of June 2010: the Jupiter-Uranus conjunction in Aries. If any aspect says self-actualization, this is the one. The ‘self’ piece is Aries, the sign of ‘I am’, the key that turns the ignition of consciousness. We each have Aries in our chart somewhere, and where we have it is one zone where we tend to be driven by self-actualization: to waking up and being real.
Jupiter is a planet that is rich with potential. It’s like this cosmic bank account we have, from which we can draw down wisdom and envision wider possibilities. Where Jupiter is we seek expansion and learning; we seek to enrich our minds. And as I write, Jupiter is heading for Aries, where it will arrive on June 6. Jupiter comes back to Aries every 12 years. The energy feels like the Chinese Year of the Dragon: vibrant and daring.
Uranus is a planet that likes to precipitate potential; its job is to actualize. If spontaneity and curiosity are part of being self-actualized, then Uranus is the spark plug. It doesn’t really care what it takes or what has to happen to make something real. Uranus follows no special rules, which is why it’s involved in changing the known order of reality. That includes leaps forward in creativity, thought and imagination; with inventions; and with revolutions of various kinds. Uranus, which has an 84-year orbit, arrives in Aries on May 27, resetting its cosmic cycle.
On June 8, the two form an exact conjunction on something called the Aries Point. This is the first degree of the Western zodiac, which begins with the sign Aries. It’s the position of the Sun on the first day of [Northern Hemisphere] spring, and it’s also called the vernal point. It acts just like a focus of energy that links up what we think of as the ‘personal’ realm and the ‘collective’ realm. When we experience events that are on the Aries Point (such as this conjunction) or square or opposite the Aries Point, the world seems to go wild, and we can get drawn into the drama. Big events, which often seem negative, can involve this point — for example, the Sept. 11 incident or the Asian tsunami; or Woodstock, or the Moon landing. It is one of the most predictable things in a chart, in terms of this kind of response in physical reality. In a word, it is big.
Photo by Eric Francis.
In recent years we’ve had a lot of Aries Point activity, and we’re about to have more. Recent events include Pluto ingressing Capricorn (square the Aries Point) and Saturn in the process of changing signs to Libra (opposite the Aries Point). This has already stirred up a lot of energy: lately (however you define lately) it’s been one jarring event after the next trying to get our attention. And now the Aries Point activity shows up directly in Aries, as these two mighty factors align directly in the first degree of the zodiac. While that first degree has the ‘political as personal’ feeling, that nexus of individual and collective life, it’s also about personal awakening.
There’s a method of astrology that gives a visual symbol to each of the 360 degrees of the zodiac. These are called the Sabian symbols, and if you’re new to astrology I invite you to check out this gift. My favorite version is in an easily available book called An Astrological Madala by Dane Rudhyar. The degrees were channeled randomly by a clairvoyant working with an astrologer, such that the symbol for each degree was channeled without the clairvoyant knowing which degree she was channeling, and in random order. The first degree of the zodiac came out with the symbol: A woman just risen from the sea. A seal is embracing her.
This image evokes the birth of Venus, and the emergence of humanity from the sea of life, or the sea, literally. It implies individual awareness distinguishing itself from the unconscious, or the mind’s awareness emerging from the emotions. The implication is that the sentient environment that surrounds us (such as a seal) is waiting for us when we arrive on the planet.
Photo by Eric Francis.
More than this symbol is behind the obvious power of the Aries Point, though I think it’s a great illustration of its potential — and that potential is what the Jupiter-Uranus conjunction is helping us make real, right now. It’s doing so in the midst of a world that once again seems to be spinning off its axis. In a Mercury retrograde that spans between early April and late May (including all the prep and follow-up phases of process), we got a glimpse into how fragile the world is, and how closely connected its levels of reality are.
In those few weeks (counting only up until publication time) we experienced a volcano that disrupted air traffic across Scandinavia and Europe, which effect rippled out across the planet, rearranging lives and stranding people in remote parts of the world; an undersea oil volcano (still out of control, with no end in sight, compounded by hundreds of thousands of gallons of grease-dissolving solvent being dumped into the Gulf of Mexico), a bitterly fought election in the UK, massive flooding in Tennessee and other states, tornadoes in Oklahoma, banking fraud by Goldman Sachs exposed (which demonstrated that they helped orchestrate the recession, for profit), a debt crisis flooding across Europe with a trillion euro bailout committed to during the retrograde!, a 1,000-point dive in the stock market that nobody can figure out, and an attempted terrorist attack in New York City. After spending nearly a trillion dollars on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the new al Qaeda we’re supposed to worry about turns out to be our old friend Pakistan.
These events all have that Aries Point feeling — and we haven’t even reached the conjunction yet. Which brings me back to self-actualization. These are all wake-up calls. They are the public version: we are getting plenty of them in our personal lives as well, and I’m here to tell you there are many connections, all of which are guiding us to take a unified view of existence. And by some accounts this is starting to happen; though there are many signs of slumber, there are many other signs of awakening.
Fae and Eric. Photo by Dani.
I have a few ideas for what we can actually do, if we want to facilitate the process of self-actualization.
1. Know thyself. Part of getting to know yourself may involve admitting you don’t know yourself. I suggest you open up, allow or invite your curiosity about your true work, your authentic sexual and relational orientation, and other information about what you think you’re doing on the planet at this time. If you haven’t already figured out that this is an extraordinary and unusual time to be alive, keep getting to know thyself. This includes knowing what you want.
2. Relationship starts with self. Our relationship to our self , which is existence, is what we see animated and expressed in our relationships with others. Therefore, cultivate a deeper relationship with your self. You can discover, through this, how many different levels you exist on. Dreams are a meaningful, helpful and easy way to tap into what is sometimes called the unconscious. They always have a message for us, and usually that message presents a solution to a challenge, or a window into who we really are.
3. Relationship is the foundation of community. Part of what is holding humanity back at this time is a need to rethink our fundamental bonds with others, which are the basic patterns of existence that ripple out into the world. Most literate people know that there are a great diversity of ways to explore relationships — but we tend to limit ourselves to a very few. Exploring outside orthodox modes of relationship helps us weave community and have a more complex sense of who we are, and what we mean to others and what they mean to us. Get to know your neighbors, including the critters and the businesses that are near your home. If you love someone, give yourself permission to love them, no matter what the ‘rules’ say you should do. Learn how not to be a slave to guilt, but rather one who lives in service of love.
4. Know what you eat. A revolution is underway on the meaning of food. As we reach the end of the petroleum supply, all of our concepts of food and the production of food will need to be rearranged, and even as we’re blitzed by hamburger ads, we’re well into this process. Most of what is called food is neither nourishing nor sustainable, and it’s nearly all made from or with petroleum. The first step in the process of change is getting to know exactly what you’re eating, whatever it happens to be at the time — including knowing who produces it.
5. Know your body’s special needs, including nutritional needs. Every specimen of humanity is different, and you need to know the ways in which you’re different. This includes discerning food sensitivities, knowing the way you’re influenced by your environment, and how your physical nature influences your psychology.
6. Know your technology. We live in a haze of technology but we are largely ignorant of how it works, what we can really do with it, and its effect on our minds and bodies. For the most part we don’t understand the power we hold in our hands. Make sure that you are in the creative role; that you are creating your technology rather than letting it create you.
7. Be yourself. We humans tend to spend a lot of energy trying to convince people of what we are, which gets in the way of being who we are. Save your time, money and soul and simply be yourself, tell the truth and notice the results that you get, in the long run as well as the short.
8. Life is a camping trip. We are visitors on this planet, and though it’s our temporary home, we live at the mercy of the environment. Remember that in a sense you are always outside, always in relationship to your surroundings.
9. Choose what you want. You know what you want — and remember that the power to decide is one of our few true freedoms. To do this you will likely have to understand the nature of guilt, which sends you the opposite signal. Guilt and desire are mutually exclusive.
10. Your actions have consequences, and our actions as humanity have consequences. We have lived for a long time thinking that they do not. Karma is really as simple as being aware of your participation in the experience of cause and effect.
11. Keep your vibration high. World events, by accident or design, are having the effect of lowering the vibration of many people, even if they’re not addicted to negativity. It may be challenging to both maintain awareness of world events and keep a positive focus despite them, but welcome to the greatest challenge of our moment. As big as any problem seems, global or individual, our potential is infinitely higher, and the way we get there is by feeling good, aware and embracing of our true desire.
Yours & truly,