An edited excerpt from Venus and Jupiter: Bridging the Ideal and the Real (CPA Press, 1997). This article shows the many aspects of Eros and inspiration in life, love and creativity. First published in Apollon, April 1999.
In the Theogony, dating from the 6th century BCE, the origins of the Greek hierarchy and theocracy are found. Hesiod begins this wonderful poem with the origin of the world in Chaos. Chaos means literally a gap, a ‘yawn’, a state of animated suspension. The Greek state of chaos implies unboundedness, an open, undifferentiated state of being. In other origin myths there are parallels – in Egyptian, Sumerian and Babylonian stories, as well as Native American, South American, African, Tibetan, Hindu exist a state of chaos out of which is born matter. Hence from this cosmic prima materia are born various deities – often elements of nature or necessary precursors to life itself. Therefore, chaos is a rich array of elemental forces all in place, but without form or differentiation.
In this original context, chaos is all things in a hiatus, waiting for something, living in a sense of intelligent suspension. This is a vital ingredient in the creative process – any creative process. Jung called this phenomenon a pleroma – a “full void”. For instance, in preparation for a seminar on this material, with a mind of chaos, I just “happened” to open the right book at the right place to a quotation from Jung, describing the pleroma: “. . . in the pleromatic, or as the Tibetans called it, Bardo state, there is a perfect interplay of cosmic forces, but with the creation, which is the division of the world into distinct processes in space and time, events begin to rub and jostle one another.’ This kind of “chance” discovery, or synchronicity is a necessary part of the pre-creative chaos function in making anything happen. Not till we give in to the pleroma and allow it to work its own material, do we get the “heureka!” of discovery. . .or uncovering, as it may be, for all is exists, waiting to be revealed.
In this mythic beginning, after the pleromatic state of chaos, the elements spontaneously began to differentiate, constellating in myriad ways to form complex entities, such as Love, Tartarus, Night, and so on. The pleromatic condition is the ennoia before logos – the feminine wellspring of the seed-idea (ennoia), which pre-exists the masculine logos.
The early arrival of Eros in the origin myth not only offsets the other rather gloomy siblings of Tartarus, but also establishes his function for further creation. Eros is the cause of love and creation and thence, all life. From the origins of consciousness, humanity has sought to understand the mystery of creation – in myths the cosmic creator takes fantastical forms, but that we still use the term ‘eros’ in our language means we must look back at Eros’ original intent.
In the origin myth, “something out of nothing”, is analogous to our own individual experience of waiting, of being ‘stuck’, harboring a mysterious seed, which undergoes a spontaneous incubation period. During times when we feel full of ourselves and complete, as if we are ready for something new, Eros is at work. The discomfort which attends this completeness is the urge to give birth, whether that is to a new perception, an evolution of our self or a relationship or project – we may be consciously preparing for a new experience, but unconsciously still incubating which is the source of the frustration or discomfort. For example, if one feels stuck or depressed, it may be a foreshadowing of a creative burst – often creation is preceded by a form of depression. Or, on the other hand, one might feel angst or excitement with no obvious reason. Pre-creative inflation can create complicated symptoms all of which are essential to the creative force.
Self-insemination, incubation and delivery is our interior creative process. Psychologically, one begins to collapse into an all-consuming fullness of void. Astrologically, there are liminal periods in which this process is marked. These times of thresholding are experienced in retrograde cycles; Saturn’s transit over the angles (sometimes to and fro the angle); progressed lunations; eclipses; periods of returns such as lunar, Mars, Saturn, and so on. Also, outer planet cycles as they transit the natal planets three to five times in eighteen month periods are distinct liminal, chaotic and creative gestation cycles. All of these astrological times are seeded with Eros.
Eros is the deus ex machina – he arrives, apparently, as the embodiment of a fully matured experience in what appears to be a flash, an instant to save the day. Eros may appear to be an event in this way, but in fact, is a process – a long, process.
The processes of creativity and love are fraught with potential disaster, which is why many people forgo the risks involved in both love and creativity. The god Eros is primordial, amoral and completely uncontained – he is present in all things, a kind cosmic inseminator. The gods are too powerful to be manifest in mortals without a transformer. The wattage is too high. An intermediary or a representative for Eros is necessary for the power channeled and focused. In the story of Aphrodite Urania’s birth, we find the medium, the conduit, for the primordial power of Eros. Aphrodite is as powerful a goddess as Eros is a god, but she is defined, has form, is an entity, whereas the earliest Eros is not a figure, but an agency. The medial Aphrodite, our astrological Venus, is a channel for Eros’ seminal passion. Eros is infused into all the planets as they are powers of creation and agents for the psyche, however, he is the personal minion of Venus, giving her power to transform his primeval rawness into embodied, accessible forms. Venus’s aspects in the horoscope to the other planets is the further distribution of creative eros, and Venus in aspect then employs the planet(s) in the creative function. Eros is not always content to be channeled – concern about Eros running amok is valid – we have all experienced times when our creative impetus set us on a wild goose-chase, spending time, money, love or energy on a fruitless – literally non-productive – quest.
A pre-verbal experience of belonging lies in the core of adult feelings of love and relating. A primordial recollection of profound fusion with another is harbored our psyche. Metamorphosis and transcendence is the prerogative of the gods, and the metamorphosis that occurs in the womb is a mortal replica of the potential for godliness in the human. This intrauterine metamorphosis is both a human evolutionary and godly morphosis. The womb memory is what romance longs to recreate in our relationships. It is in this place, and only in this place, where two hearts beat as one. The desire to recreate this state and fuse totally with a loved one is common – the inherent longing for merging is normal, but easily become neurotic compulsions. It is a soulful possibility but clearly not a physical nor even psychological reality.
The horoscope – the moment in which our first experience of creation occurs, that of our own self – has several primary indicators of the media through which Eros might move. Birth expels us from perpetual Eros into a separate reality. From that instant on we must find ways of differentiating the raw life-force into ego and personality. On the most basic, instinctual level, Neptune and the Moon hold Eros most closely in its raw state, and then, in the individuated state, Venus provides Eros the embodiment he needs for conscious, manifest results.
Neptune and the Moon: Cosmic Eros and Human Eros
Though personally I have no formulated dogma about reincarnation, there is something the soul brought over from pre-existence, that we are not a tabula rasa, the vessel is not empty. . . Plato’s story about Er, the man who died and came back, and recalled his journey to Hades is a fascinating reading. In the terrain of the underworld, Er came to a river, Lethe (literally, Oblivion, the root of our word “lethal”) At the River Lethe the soul, in its transitional state, is urged to “not drink deeply”, even though it is parched from its journey across the Plain of Oblivion, which is roasting hot, like Arizona in the summer. If the soul drinks heavily of Lethe, it is reborn in a state of forgetfulness, or Oblivion, which is lethal. If the soul just slakes its thirst, it will then pass into a new incarnation with the capacity for recollection – for anamnesis. This is the ultimate origin of creative wisdom, and Oblivion. The River Lethe is Neptune – and, in Neptune, lie all things forgotten from the soul’s experience of previous activities, and thus, all things necessary for creative life as an ongoing experience. And, it is also a symbol of generation, of life-giving, cosmic water. . . or obliviating cosmic water.
In this way, Neptune, is an astrological symbol for the “cosmic womb” – the primordial origins from which all life is generated and emerges. Coming out of Neptune into incarnation, the next agency is the physical womb, symbolized in the astrological Moon. The Moon symbolizes the birth-mother who housed and nourished us in her body and thus, represents our sense of safety, warmth, security and soul-history. In the relationship or aspect between the Moon and Neptune, you can often see how deep is the longing to return to that space of transcendental experience where two hearts beat as one – the Neptune side of the womb experience.
Primordial Eros (Neptune) is the innate psychic longing to return a space of absolute and complete participation with nature, of total fusion with the source of life itself. This state to which we long to return is a memory of the “amniotic Eros”, which we experience while we are evolving in the womb (Moon). The ultimate, cosmic womb is symbolized by Neptune and the Moon is a symbol of the mother-womb, the embodied Neptune. We all seek the ultimate womb – Neptune – through the unconscious, in the realm of archetypes – through spirituality, art, music and various transcendent functions. Too, we all seek to find the safety of the original container, the womb of mother – we do this in our relationships, our homes our beliefs and in our habits.
The cosmic longing for creation and perfection – the impetus of eros in its rawest form – lies in our natal Neptune, whereas the more human, and therefore somewhat attainable, longing for a relationship, a creative outlet and a safe place is very lunar, and symbolized in the Moon. And, I am equally certain that this existential longing is not just a psychic/somatic recollection of the womb experience, but actually lies in the Eros archetype. Archetypes in their raw state are dangerous to live out; they result in compulsive behaviors without teleology; however in their “stepped down”, or individuated state, archetypes are the essence of organized humanity, the core of self, identity and personality.
So, with the erotic lunar image in mind, it seems that the Great Mother is at the root of our longings, our creative urges, our needs for relating and intimacy – and our mum is at the root of making all this magic into something practical. So, mother complexes are “good” in that they spur us on to find our own creative source within, and mother complexes are “bad” when they urge us to expect the creative source to be found in another, or outside our own psyche or provide unstinting comfort without effort.
Lunar eros is physical, in the body, and Neptunian eros is transcendent, in the mind. One needs the link between them, between the symbolic Moon and Neptune, to bring the transcendent to earth, to embody the erotic creative force into life, love, relationship and creative living. Psyche/soma, body and soul – the intimacy between them is possibly the highest force of eros we find.
The urge toward cohesion and the embodiment of intangibles – mental or spiritual – is an innate human characteristic. Various literary figures called it different things; Goethe called this force “elective affinity”. The ancients saw Eros as the divine attraction, cohesion and formation of relationship – the interaction and balance of things, a context we might well benefit from embracing today. The Socratic philosopher, Plato, thought the infusion of Eros into the psyche was a form of divine madness, either good or bad. About this, he says, “This is the best form of divine possession, both for the subject himself and for his associate (that is, his beloved). And it is when he is touched with this madness that the man who’s love is aroused by the beauty in others is called a lover.”
What Plato meant by lover, was not quite what we think today. A “lover” was a person (male) infused with divine Eros, and thus, a potential philosopher – a lover of wisdom. Not a lover of bodies. Whether or not Eros promoted a higher state of consciousness and brought about ultimate peace and harmony to the soul, or drove a person mad or to the (lower) sexual expression of Eros, was entirely determined by the conscious intent of the Eros-possessed person. Obviously, an attack of Eros does not always bring about a desire to read the classics, or to write an aria or a novel! Conversely, a desire to embrace higher wisdom or truth is an attack of Eros. The experience of an Erotic attack is often about transcending the physical world, and sometimes this is done through physical means. This is where Aphrodite in her two guises, Urania and Pandemos, is needed to give shape to the feeling. Aphrodite Urania is her father’s daughter – parthenogenic and masculine – her domain is the celestial love, immortal and philosophical love. . . whereas, Aphrodite Pandemos, born of Dionne and Zeus Dios, is the human, mortal “common” goddess of human, sexual love.
We all know that the love of a friend is not fraught with sexual territorialism and the negotiation of feeling between established friends is less threatening to the integrity of one’s whole self. And, in sexual and romantic love – even when domesticated – there is a frisson of danger to the ego, threat to the wholeness of the self, which fuels the passion and desire. Platonic love, as it is now called, is a love which is not sexually active. Eros is with all relationships, fueling them with life and creativity, but the much touted platonic relationship is one which some people are more comfortable with – usually Uranian types of people or Aquarian Venus or Venus in strong aspect with Uranus. More earthy astrology allows for Aphrodite Pandemos to have a stronger agency – literally, earth Venus’s, Cancer/Scorpio natal signatures, Pluto/Venus contacts, and an infusion of Mars bring Eros more comfortably – sometimes compulsively – into sexuality.
From Urania to Pandemos
Because we cannot stay in Eros, we must move toward separation, differentiation, articulation – within reason. The underlying danger in barreling along the cartesian path is becoming overly compartmentalized and dualistic so that the Platonic search for truth, beauty and wisdom are all lost. A delicate balance between the ideal and the real is needed. A balance between Aphrodite Urania and Aphrodite Pandemos must be achieved.
Basically, Plato said that anything in mundo is merely a flawed replication of the ideal form in caelo. The love of wisdom, of philosophy was Eros embodies by Urania and functioning in its highest state. Falling in love with the Ideal, could bring one closer to perfection, truth, beauty and wisdom only if one wanted this badly enough. Philosophically, Plato was right, but practically he only touched a small core of the general populace! In Platonic terms, Eros was both dark daimon and exaltation of the soul, but it took conscious effort on the part of mortal beings to employ Eros towards love of things intangible, and therefore the love of a beautiful person, should stimulate the lover to things higher – to things at a loftier level, rather than to descend into the bowels of primordial chaos, or worse, sex. The same primal force powered both the desire to explore the ethereal realms and the physical realm of the body. The capacity to take the responsibility for the ineffable idea and render it into a tangible product is the greatest achievement of human nature working with Eros.
Creativity – Bridging the Ideal and the Real
A state in which no split exists between mind and body, psyche and soma, is what the French mythographers called participation mystique. This is a world-view wherein the relationship between man, gods and nature is in complete sympathy. The experience of the divine and the daemonic were the manor of the gods and people took great care to respect episodes of possession by the gods, or states of enthios, where the god enters in to the body and takes possession of it through psyche. Literally, this is what enthios means – it is the root of enthusiastic – enthusiasmos means having the god/s within, thus becoming god-filled, or one with the god and in a state of participation mystique.
Eros’ capacity to seize and compel was highly regarded and in cases of spontaneous possession, to be feared beyond all other forces. A truly divine possession and erotic stimulation is a transcendent experience. It’s what one does with erotic possession that matters. Haven’t we all been enthused with a sense of new creativity? “I’ve got this brilliant project I mean to do”, or a painting, or an idea, or a book, or a dress to make, or a bookshelf, or whatever it is that’s going to be created.
All creativity is preceded by a rich fantasy time wherein the creation is going to be so beautiful that people will be stunned and transformed when they see it, read it, hear it, or experience it. Erotic Urania must be channeled through practical Pandemos. Creativity requires plenty of Saturn, lots of work – and Kronos, Saturn, was the midwife of Aphrodite Urania. . .it was Kronos who reached up with the adamant sickle provided by his mother, Gaia, and castrated his father, Ouranos, as he, “. . . lay round her [Gaia], longing for love.” It is astrologically relevant that we need Saturn to midwife and contain our own aphros/foamy creativity. . .without a good solid shape, the intangible ‘idea’ remains in the heavens, and not manifest on earth. From the castration, the blood of the wound fell to earth, spawning the Erinyes, the three Furies who were the minions of blood-justice and have since become metaphors for our conscience – or guilt, however it manifests (Saturn inspired stuff). And, from the semen, falling into the Cyprus Sea, sprang Aphrodite, full born and attended by the Graces and Eros. So, Saturn is midwife to both creativity and guilt, if we look at it in this way.
From that archaic time, all subsequent variants of Aphrodite/Venus myths, origins and tales, Eros is either her faithful attendant her lover or her son. The Roman tale of Eros and Psyche, is first told by Apuleias in his novel, The Golden Ass , and is not even vaguely Greek, but more a morality play about the conditions in Rome circa second century CE. The Golden Ass is a tale rich with metamorphoses and transmutations, and in the Psyche/Eros tale, there is an heiros gamos, a sacred marriage between Psyche, the incarnation of Venus, and her son, Eros! From out of the collective unconscious emerges the longing, once again, for the marriage of the heaven and earth, of mortal and immortal – the union of the archetypal with the human.
It seems that the gods need humans to act through, and Psyche either is an incarnation of Aphrodite, or her daughter; and Amor/Eros is either the god of Love or Venus’ son . . . it matters not, the essence is the same: immortal power must be transmuted through mortal action. This is enacted over and over in the translation of the horoscope into the human experience. Our collective longing for union with the divine will manifest in myriad ways and in the order of the myth of all beginnings – from chaos, to Eros, to Aphrodite, to Venus in the horoscope and its aspects, locus and sign, and thence, through the psyche into our mundane lives.
Aspects of Love and Creation
Eros is the prime motivator and operates through Aphrodite/Venus. Now, that still leaves a vast realm. What has Aphrodite the goddess got to do with me and my horoscope, for example? Well, I might need to think about how my own natal Venus behaves and interacts with other planets in my chart, working to individualize and personalize an archetype, an ideal. How Venus interacts on various levels with other planets in the chart is a start. The archetypal experience is a foundation shared by all, but the personalized, astrological picture is the individual experience.
An artist in the throes of creative angst, might feel tortured, besieged, maddened, infuriated, with her craft at times – that is the inherent, archetypal difficulty of translating the ideal into the manifest. Looking at Venus in the chart will describe how the imagination becomes reality. Creativity is always hard work, as Saturn midwived Aphrodite, he delivers our creations, too.
Sculptors say they are releasing a form imprisoned in the prima materia. The finished sculpture preexists the stone or marble, and is imbued within. It is there to be uncovered, so the sculptor chips away very carefully to release the figure from its prison. Painters say that they are the medium for the image, writers feel cramped by the inadequacy of words and the limits of earthbound creativity, and so on.
Creativity is discovery – not design. This follows for love, as well. There is skill (tecnh/techne), expertise and craft; this is a realm of Aphrodite, but it comes after the erotic attack, after the infusion of divine energy. The source of the creative energy itself is vast and raw, but its channel is necessarily narrow and refined – and the end results are dependent both on our own willingness to shoulder the task, and on the execution of Eros’ will through Aphrodite’s realm.
So, the primal, creative impulse is refined and personalized by Aphrodite. All things appear to come chaos, through this pleroma or full void, and then through Aphrodite, in her higher form, Aphrodite/Urania. See how the hierarchy came into being:
CHAOS – EROS GAIA – OURANOS APHRODITE PANDEMOS – APHRODITE URANIA Dual Goddess: VENUS
We are constantly translating things from one level to another, to another, to another until we get right down to the specific. It is highly productive to do some exercises on translating the ideal to the very specific, down to the real business of what you want to think about, feel, do or whatever. A good exercise in shifting things from that place in caelo where it’s all perfect, to this place, down here in mundo – the daily life of the world. Make a list of the ideals in your heart or mind, and then across from the ideal put the real, in other words, that which actually occurs, or is likely to happen, in life.
Creativity, for example is not just the fine-arts, it is not about being a painter, or the writer of arias, or elegant, mathematical formulae, it is spontaneously self-generating, giving birth to yourself. That is the most basic creation you can produce – the ever evolving fullness of yourself. Sometimes creativity is simply about staying alive. There is a lot to be said about creation which has little to do with artwork. There’s far too much stereotype overlaid on creativity which denies most people a proper place in the creative world. Self-image is distorted by the conventional
For example, here is a dialogue that occurred in the CPA seminar on Venus:
Audience: I have never felt like a creative person. I have Venus in Capricorn in the fifth house, and I think the Saturn energy blocks my Venus energy.
Erin: Judging from your age, I should think Venus is also squared to Neptune?
Audience: Yes, in fact, Venus is square the exact midpoint of Saturn/Neptune. They are in the second house.
Erin: Based on that alone, there is a complex of relationships going on – your Saturn/Neptune is disposited by Venus, and Venus and Saturn are in mutual reception, and Saturn is in Venus’ house. This is an incestuous type of relationship in which all the planets are involved in a feed-back loop. It is easy to see why you consider yourself uncreative. However, the configuration itself does not deny creativity but hampers your ability to see what you do as creative! Creativity is a life-style, not a painting. It strikes me that your childhood (fifth house) was emotionally malnutrient and dry – that your innate sense of value and worth was never acknowledged and possibly you were an ‘investment’ of your parent’s, like expected to be just like them, or your father more likely. It is difficult for you to see your playful side and recognize a talent because, though you may be talented, if it isn’t reinforced by the parents and established in early life, then you would feed-back that primal rejection and think it is you! The fifth house Saturnian Capricorn Venus is bound to think itself ‘non-creative’ because of the status-quo stereotype you have assimilated from your parental experience, and reinforced by our culture. Frankly, I think you could be terribly creative at solving problems – unraveling other people’s vague and nebulous problems and sorting them out. When you are posed with a series of choices and confusion from a friend do you find that you can see the picture very clearly and organize the friend into a better situation? Venus in Capricorn is creative in a practical way – remember that Saturn is the midwife of Venus, and you are more likely to respond to creativity if it is real, that is if you can find a practical outlet, a solution, a proper vehicle for creative thinking. This is a perfect resonance with Venus Pandemos – the earthy, practical, tangible manifestation, but is it also in aspect to Uranus, wasn’t Uranus in the opposition point?
Audience: Yes, it is a T-square, and my Sun is Aquarius.
Erin: So, there is a dramatic split between the Urania/Pandemos urge – you have both aspects of Venus very strongly configured – there is Saturn, the realist, Neptune the romantic and Uranus the elitist idealist! All honing your Venus in practical, and insecure, I might add, Capricorn. So, your imagination is fine, your romanticism is fine, it’s self-acceptance that is taking a bit longer to develop. Now that you see this aspect alive in your chart, can you bring it to a better perspective within your self? Can you not see that when you are faced with a complex set of problems, you can figure them out better than anyone else? And, management is terribly creative if you use your innovative mind and stop thinking of yourself as suffering under the Saturnian yoke of inadequacy. All the agencies are there: creativity, innovation, imagination and practical awareness of your boundaries and limits. Success can come from this. You don’t have to be burning with fire to create or be creative, nor do you have to be up in the aethers, nor swimming around, awash in feeling – there are not always lighting bolts and burning bushes with every revelation – the ones that last are the ones which creep slowly to the front and have substance.
We really need to rethink creativity. At any rate, all of these things that we are talking about are bound up in the same impulse. The force that drives individuals to bond and merge in meaningful ways in relationships, is the very same impulse that urges individuals to create. This whole business of being creative and experiencing creation has to do with the erotic force underlying the impulse to stay alive, to live – to have libido, life-force. Both creation and procreation are motivated by Eros. We may not realize it, but when we love a subject, an idea, or an activity, project or a learning experience that too is an invocation of Eros. Eros turns us on, it stimulates us and inseminates us with the need to know, to understand and learn. How we do that individually, is seen through the horoscope through Venus.
It is fundamentally important to realize that the idea of functioning in an erotic world is so different to the one that we’re usually taught. At least, in the world in which I was taught. We weren’t made aware of Eros and education, we weren’t taught that there was something that could be done with these feelings, these longings to merge and fuse and bond other than find a relationship. The function of astrology, however, is to bridge the Ideal and the Real, and bring archetypal motifs into the world in which we function on the daily level. Thus, the astrologer and the fortunate recipient of a depth reading of the chart, might mediate between the all powerful gods and the human soul – and allow the person to have eros in life through all his and her activities – in love, relating, creativity, work and study!