Is the Age of Aquarius coming or is it already here? In this extract from his book Culture, Crisis and Creativity, Dane Rudhyar explores what makes a New Age and how we can work towards its realization and draw the future towards us:
“If one asks: Does the idea of a New Age now beginning, or about to begin, correspond to actual, concrete, expectable facts, or is it merely an illusion, a dream-like utopia? The only possible answer is that the need for a radically new departure in human affairs is evident. What is much less evident is whether mankind’s response to that need will be sufficiently strong, lucid, and sustained to produce a new and viable global culture encompassing the whole of humanity within some complex form of sociopolitical organization.
The astrological fan may exclaim: “But don’t you believe we are at the beginning of the Aquarian Age?” The answer is that it is man who makes the Aquarian Age. Man perceives certain facts, such as the precession of the equinoxes mentioned in a previous chapter; he organizes these facts of experience into a conceptual picture by using the symbolism of Number, because he believes in cosmic laws and the invariance of the basic motions of our Earth and in general of all celestial bodies. He speaks of twelve precessional Ages dividing the assumed length of the cycle of precession; he studies what he knows of past history and establishes correlations between historical changes of major significance and the divisions of the precessional cycle his use of numbers has produced. And as these correlations release into his consciousness a deep and illuminating source of meaning, the astrologer states that we are at or near the threshold of the Aquarian Age.
Such a statement is a concept, because it takes for granted what could also be interpreted (i.e., given meaning to) in other ways. The most basic statements made by astronomers are also concepts based on theories which evidently depend on the scope of perception of man’s senses and the machines his particular type of intellect has built to assist him in a particular type of endeavor dictated by the particular mentality of our Western culture. In spite of what the Declaration of Independence proclaims, no statement should be called an absolutely “self-evident truth.” What is evident is that at a certain time the need for taking a particular statement as self-evident arises. The asserted proposition answers the need, and therefore it acquires the validity and power of a great myth.
Only a naive and unhistorical mind can think that facts are more powerful than myths. All radical changes in human history are the results of the spread of a myth that, in a totally convincing manner, answers a crucially experienced need during a period of crisis. […]
The Aquarian Age concept is a myth in the sense that mankind today needs to believe in not only the possibility but the inevitability of a rebirth of culture, however delayed it might be and however much man may cling to the old. Most people have to believe in a renewed descent of divinely transforming power and Wisdom. Because Western man has lost faith in the ability of political and religious leaders (and increasingly of late even in the ability of scientists and technologists) to reshape our chaotic society in terms of obsolescent, if not actually obsolete, traditional values and concepts, he has to create new myths or his world will crumble, if not physically and ecologically, then spiritually. Whoever creates the convincing myth that truly will answer the crucial need of men, women, and children will prove to be the agent of the potential of ever-renewed transformation inherent in Man.
All great transforming myths are backed by facts; but we should now realize that these facts are also made by the same historical and evolutionary forces which generated the need to which the myth is an answer. The validity of the myth of an astrological New Age depends on the ability Western man has displayed to invent telescopes, photographic and electronic mechanisms, and also mathematical formulas to organize and conceptualize in a plethora of new sense-data. On the other hand, it is this intellectual ability which has been responsible for the Industrial and Electronic Revolutions and the attendant disorganization of [cultures] all over the globe. This is the periodically repeated paradox. Science and technology at the same time gave rise to the present world-wide human need, and to the facts on which a mythopoetic creation could base new symbols evoking a potent creative answer to that need. This answer is based on a precise calculation of the cycle of precession, on the discovery of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, and the realization of the nature of the ordered multitude of stars we call a galaxy.
The great astrological New Age myth is the Galaxy Myth, for the symbols man has to use in order to conceptualize his basic sense of belonging to a greater Whole no longer have to take a transcendentally super-existential character. Man does not have to say that in Christ he “lives, moves and has his being,” as the New Testament asserts; because now the new facts of astronomy tell him that he lives, moves, and has his being in the Galaxy. Galactic space pervades every cell of every human being’s body. We all are as much galactic beings as fishes are organizations of sea-water. Yet we do not normally realize this is so. We need a new, powerful myth to entice our minds into vividly, indisputably, unforgettably experiencing that fact. We need a myth which at the same time will transform on the one hand our human sense of physicality and on the other the ancient concepts of the solar system, the constellations, and the Milky Way. In the past such concepts made of the sky a celestial abode for celestial Hierarchies of gods (the old vitalistic myth), or else pictured it as a black emptiness in which stars separated by incomprehensibly vast distances shine in lonely isolation (the nineteenth century materialistic myth).
Both types of concepts no longer answer to the intellectual, or even the emotional, needs of modern man. A new galactic myth should now rephrase the message of the sky and give it a new meaning in terms of a newly experienced manifestation of cosmic order. […] God would not be displaced by the new cosmic realizations, but rather made integral with a cosmos irradiated through and through by the divine Presence. Without such a cosmic revelation as a background, and by merely basing our hope for a New Age on the vague ideas of Aquarius being an “air sign,” succeeding the watery devotionalism of Pisces, the fervently longed for New Age could well be a deceptive dream, a utopia without factual consistency.
The statement that we are entering the Aquarian Age because at the vernal equinox an infinitely prolonged line passing from the Sun to the Earth is reaching, or will soon reach, the space designated as the constellation Aquarius is an accurate astrological deduction. But it is deduced from the old picture of the sky which we have inherited from now disintegrated and mostly unknown cultures reconstructed from only fragmentary records by archaeologists lacking really adequate data. These cultures “made” the constellations and gave them characteristics represented by names whose symbolical meaning for modern man has lost its experienceability. The meanings of the elements Fire, Earth, Water, and Air have to be carefully explained to and memorized by students of astrology. Other cultures used other names. If there is to be a really New Age (and we have to believe in that possibility if we are to retain our spiritual sanity and our will to create) we must find within ourselves the answer to the need for its formation. And first of all we must, as individuals, experience the incontrovertible pressure of that need and an inner spiritual compulsion to allow the universe’s answer to take form within our open and expectant mind.
What we have to watch for is the tendency of our minds to follow the line of least effort, and thus to use the immediately available and easiest way of giving form to this inner creative answer, the way that is already encumbered with familiar words and stereotypes. The first characteristic of the creative mythopoetic individual is his courage, his determination not to follow the easy path. I have repeated elsewhere the statement made by Erik Johnson during World War II. “Beaten paths are for beaten men.” In the realm of mind nothing beats a path as effectively as the indiscriminate use of old names into which small minds try to pour new meanings. Surely we cannot impulsively break away from all past formulas, lest we have eventually to return to them as supplicants for sanity. But we need not be rooted in the form the gradual rise of mankind has taken in more or less recent [cultures]; we may allow ourselves to be drawn into the very flow of the great river of civilization while remaining conscious of its distant source and aware of its eventual merging with the cosmic ocean.
The New Age is to be created with new symbols, not manufactured by the use of reclaimed mental materials which once substantiated the creative impulse that gave birth to what then was some other culture’s New Age. Astrology in its traditional form can point the way by showing us how the order of the sky, in contrast to the chaos of earthly jungles, can provide for us the substance of mythopoetic creations ensouling the efforts of material builders. The soul has to have a body; it is the new astronomy which is providing us with the body of new myths whose messages can be deciphered in the sky. Astronomy challenges us to write new poems of creation to give meaning to the new facts it has obtained.
There will be a New Age if and when we create it. We will find in us a readiness and the will to create when, having attuned ourselves to the rhythms of the Galaxy, we can let the immense Company of the Stars project upon our minds the hieroglyphs of the New Age. Why should they necessarily be the words of a latinized Chaldean-Greek tradition? We had to start with these words as scaffoldings; but let the Temple rise!
There is a schedule for its completion. We have to believe there is, in order to challenge, every morning, the laziness of our minds and the weariness of our spirit deafened by the noise and chaos of the building process. That there is such a schedule is what constitutes the myth of an impending New Age. This myth is an answer to our impatience, but also to our innate demand for ordered processes of growth. We accept the myth; yet need be neither bound nor haunted by our concern for its implementation. The New Age is our creating it.”
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