“The cup, the cup itself, from which our Lord
Drank at the last sad supper with his own.
This, from the blessed land of Aromat”
-excerpt from The Holy Grail by Alfred Lord Tennyson
On June 9th, 2017 there will be a Full Moon in the sign of Sagittarius. This Full Moon arrives in a strangely somber cloud, but will end triumphantly as Jupiter stations direct in Libra only an hour after its culmination. Yes, a test of your strength is coming, but it is important to welcome such tests as providential. Without intense examination, how can you truly know yourself?
Full Moons occur when the Sun and the Moon are directly opposed one another, offering an experience of stark polarity between their respective zodiacal signs. In this case, the Sun in Gemini will oppose the Moon in Sagittarius, prompting you to pay greater attention to your appetite for knowledge and where that appetite may be leading you. Examine your current opinions and beliefs with sincerity. Are these currents of ideology bringing you any closer to wisdom?
In the Information Age, almost any appetite for information is extolled as a virtue. Whatever it may be that keeps your mind occupied, plugged in and buzzing with mental stimulation is considered desirable. During Gemini season, the urge to consume data, connect dots, and hear both sides of every tale is enlivened to a point where you may find yourself totally entangled in a web of hysterical non sequiturs and groundless statistics.
Though Gemini’s whirring appetite for knowledge is a welcome asset for keeping one’s mind nimble, the act of amassing information without any wisdom to back it up can become its own kind of imprisonment. Without wisdom, all facts fall into grey areas and all context becomes lost in a haze.
Thus, at this Full Moon in Sagittarius, you will be offered a welcome chance to distill some of your knowledge, finding a deeper meaning within disparate facts. The sign of Sagittarius seizes the volumes of information gathered by Gemini and begins to look for ways to boil the pulp of knowledge down into a quintessence of wisdom. Inspired to know the holiness in everything, the archer embarks upon an epic quest to find the meaning of life.
“‘Lo now,’ said Arthur, ‘have ye seen a cloud?
What go ye into the wilderness to see?’
Like any legitimate quest, this particular Full Moon in Sagittarius, is not without challenging aspects. The Moon will be conjunct Saturn and squared Neptune forcing a confrontation with irresponsibility and delusion. Your soaring sense of destiny will be stopped short by some serious obstacles.
The presence of Saturn in Sagittarius over the last two years has put quite a strain on ideology and belief, demanding blind zealotry or the total sacrifice of one’s former illusions about life. The narrative of history, politics, religion, education, and philosophy have all been scalded by this punishing fire. Thus, with the Full Moon culminating near this point, (Saturn) your newfound wisdom will be wrought from a complex confrontation with delusion. (Neptune) It may be your own delusion or the delusions of your society. Either way, there may be a sense of inherent mourning.
This Moon/Saturn/Neptune square will dispassionately ask you to consider, “What lies have I succumbed to in the name of love and compassion? What great sacrifices have I made in vain?”
Considering that the square between Saturn and the Neptune will create a need to reconcile delusion (Neptune) with reality (Saturn), expect to see the dark side of utopianism, where idealism degenerates into a narcotic haze. The Full Moon in Sagittarius will help you to find the truth through primal instinct, offering you a window of escape from the dazed malaise of mind numbing rhetoric.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed by your place and time, it is usually fruitful to gain perspective by looking to the past, for whatever our ancestors have endured, we too can endure.
Despite the advent of information technology arising at the end of the 20th Century, the Information Age has its roots in the Victorian era, when the way that people understood information changed significantly. For the first time, information no longer had to be associated with a lineage of thought or an intrinsic tradition of ideas. Instead information became divorced from context and content, transforming into an abstract subject in its own right.
The Victorians, ruled by progress, industry and science, now became increasingly fascinated by statistics and reports. Bureaucracy really hit its stride. Sounds familiar, right?
During this time of progress and upheaval, the poet laureate of England, Alfred Lord Tennyson, was working on his epic the Idylls of the King, which was a Victorian interpretation of the Arthurian legends. As a poet who was exalted by the Royal family, his work did not venture into the rebellious territories that the Romantics had dared to tread only a generation before.
But, as a gifted poet and a great lover of the legends of Arthur, Tennyson dealt with the suffering of his time through his re-interpretation of the legends, most notably in his version of the quest for the Holy Grail.
In his later life Tennyson was quoted as saying:
“My meaning in the Idylls of the King was spiritual. I took the legendary stories of the Round Table as illustrations. I intended Arthur to represent the Ideal Soul of Man coming into contact with the warring elements of the flesh.”
If Arthur is the ideal Soul of Man, then Tennyson’s version of the Holy Grail is represented as a tragic betrayal of that Soul. He must have been trying to express the dissonance experienced in his own time and place, where the Soul was being systematically betrayed by industry and commerce.
In the Victorian era, all aspects of religion, faith, and belief were being questioned and scrutinized by science, especially by the popularity of Darwin’s Origin of the Species. The fundamentals of the premodern worldview, founded upon religion and a belief in the Soul, were growing increasingly out of fashion as they were replaced by a socially conscious materialistic outlook.
Tennyson’s Holy Grail deals with the tragic loss of Camelot, King Arthur’s paradise on earth where the ideal Soul of mankind is enthroned. Tennyson envisions that King Arthur’s intentions are noble, pure, and utterly impossible to realize as the social order degrades. In this melancholy poem, the reader witnesses the destruction of the Round Table as each of King Arthur’s Knights lose touch with their allegiance to Camelot in pursuit of personal salvation through communion with the Holy Grail.
“Thereafter, the dark warning of our King,
That most of us would follow wandering fires,
Came like a driving gloom across my mind.
Then every evil word I had spoken once,
And every evil thought I had thought of old,
And every evil deed I ever did,
Awoke and cried, ‘This Quest is not for thee.’
In Tennyson’s interpretation of the Grail story, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The Holy Grail (aka the Sangreal) represents delusion and distraction more than salvation. This may be because by this period of history, literary people no longer truly believed in the legends as the medieval writers (like Sir Thomas Malory) had. Tennyson loved the legend of the Holy Grail, but he could not believe in it. The sacred meaning had become profane.
As early as 1859 Tennyson had addressed this very issue in a letter he wrote to the Duke of Argyll which states:
“I doubt whether such a subject could be handled in these days, without incurring a charge of irreverence. It would be too much like playing with sacred things. The old writers believed in the Sangreal.”
As an examination of his society, which had decayed into materialism and individual interests, Tennyson revived the legend of the Holy Grail. Much like the state of England in his own time, in the legend, Camelot was experiencing an increase in degradation and suffering. The Quest for the Holy Grail was thus born from the desire to abate the disappointment with the loss of honor. In other words, the Quest becomes a form of escapism.
For good ye are and bad, and like to coins,
Some true, some light, but every one of you
Stamped with the image of the King; and now
Tell me, what drove thee from the Table Round,
My brother? was it earthly passion crost?”
Instead of staying in Camelot and working together as the Order of Knights, they disperse themselves, dividing their energies and weakening the state of Camelot further. Each Knight strikes out in pursuit of his own personal interest.
Sir Galahad seeks the Grail for personal enlightenment
Sir Percivale seeks the Grail to heal the world.
Sir Lancelot seeks the Grail for salvation from his sins.
Most of the individual quests for the Holy Grail are treated sympathetically by Tennyson, who obviously understood the impulse to seek salvation and retreat from a crumbling society. As a poet, there is no doubt that he understood the impulse to become devoted to mystical revelation.
But the poem reveals that these quests for revelation and salvation were ultimately fruitless and demanded the sacrifice of their primary allegiance to King Arthur and to the city of Camelot. The original ideal was thwarted for another even more impossible ideal.
“‘O son, thou hast not true humility,
The highest virtue, mother of them all;
For when the Lord of all things made Himself
Naked of glory for His mortal change.”
The epilogue of Tennyson’s Holy Grail is quite melancholy, revealing the complex emotions of King Arthur who has lost his Knights and his city. Arthur, like Tennyson, maintains deep sympathy for the spiritual desires of humanity. But Camelot was reduced to a wasteland in the absence of the Knights. Thus their hope to heal the world and bring salvation ended in failure.
Tennyson’s Arthurian legends caution the reader against the delusions of utopianism and a fervent belief in the notion of progress. Tennyson conceives of the values of the industrial scientific era to be akin to a fruitless quest that will leave a wasteland in its wake. (It is indeed this same wasteland that T.S. Eliott wanders through in his most famous poem several decades later.)
In conclusion, the conjunction between this Full Moon in Sagittarius and Saturn, both square to Neptune will ask you to discern where you are using high ideals to mask delusion and escapism.
Knowing that the Holy Grail only appears when society has become increasingly aware of its hypocrisies, evils, and errors what temptation to escape from this awareness do you fall prey to?
In moments when he feels he cannot die,
And knows himself no vision to himself,
Nor the high God a vision, nor that One
Who rose again: ye have seen what ye have seen.’
You can easily see escapist behavior in others en masse, but search your soul first and foremost. If you want to successfully refute denial and ignorance you must not feed pious mania, but instead familiarize yourself with the dimensions of cold hard reality. That’s Saturn’s lesson for the moment.
Be fearless. Be cool.
“So spake the king: I knew not all he meant.”
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