Healing the Split
Chiron is an oddity, whether you look at it astrologically, mythically or astronomically. In mythology, Chiron suffered a fatal wound but didn't die. He went on to become a master healer yet couldn't heal himself. Astrologically Chiron reflects much about its mythology.
In 1977, an object was discovered in our solar system with a very unusual orbit, meandering from out near Uranus to well inside the orbit of Saturn. Assumed at first to be an asteroid, it was named Chiron. However, it soon proved to be even stranger than first observed. Chiron turned out to be, not an asteroid, but the largest comet nucleus known to date — almost the size of the Canadian province of New Brunswick, about 25 times the size of Halley's Comet!
Astrologically, Chiron is also an anomaly, defying consensus as to its sign rulership (if any). Since the figure in Sagittarius is a Centaur (which some say is Chiron, himself), it is often assumed to rule that sign. Melanie Reinhart presents Chiron as a co-ruler of Sagittarius. However, Sagittarius already has a ruler (Jupiter) and doesn't appear to require another. (Melanie is the author of Chiron and the Healing Journey, one of the better books available on the subject but difficult to find. Her more recent Saturn, Chiron and the Centaurs is easier to get and includes other Chiron-like objects in our solar system.)
Barbara Hand Clow (author of Chiron: Rainbow Bridge Between the Inner & Outer Planets) gives a compelling argument in favour of Chiron being a co-ruler of Virgo — traditionally ruled by Mercury, who seems more at home in his other sign, Gemini. Still other astrologers cite an association with the Mutable Cross (Gemini-Sagittarius, Virgo-Pisces) and Fixed Cross (Taurus-Scorpio, Leo-Aquarius ). It is possible that, being a comet and not a planet, per se, Chiron will finally be regarded simply as a guest in whatever sign it visits.
Regardless of the rulership one assigns it, there is little doubt that its effects are substantial. Although many astrologers initially balked at yet another minuscule thread to weave into an already meticulous tapestry, increasing numbers of astrologers are finding Chiron to be a prominent factor when significant events take place in their lives.
So just what are the concepts associated with Chiron? The most common associations are with the ideas of the "wounded healer" and the "wound that never heals." This is directly related to the mythology of Chiron (see Pegasus' tongue-in-cheek version of Chiron's story) Chiron struggled with a painful, persistent wound, and in the course of trying to heal himself, became a respected and renowned healer and teacher. These concepts are very central to the spirit of Chiron. In the natal chart Chiron indicates, both by sign and house, the issues and circumstances by which the person's deepest woundedness plays out its drama.
The Wound That Never Heals
Everyone is wounded in some way — we have all experienced grievances, losses, shattered dreams or broken promises. We carry a residue of those experiences, as we alter our direction, actions or expectations as a result. Some have deeper wounds than others, having survived truly traumatic events and circumstances which stunt developmental growth in childhood and damage one's functioning ability as an adult.
Whatever the history of our wounds, there is typically a depth at which its effects are so ingrained, so fundamentally a part of us, that it requires a monumental therapeutic focus to affect any real change at that level. Although surface effects may be smoothed, soothed and redirected, the deepest roots of the damage tend to persist and, indeed, tell a story that is uniquely ours. However, much healing may be achieved with dedicated hard work on the issues in question.
Those with Chiron prominent in their charts are often beset with some chronic illness or condition which becomes a major obstacle to be overcome in their lives. Whether the person suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, persistent mental illness, or ongoing struggles with self-esteem, finances or career, Chiron is linked to some perpetual condition which yields ongoing distress and requires repeated attention.
The Wounded Healer
In the process of having to attend this persist condition, people often become such experts in that particular field that it's a natural leap to want to go out and help others with similar problems. Even more compelling is the phenomenon whereby it is often easier to recognize and address those same issues when we're looking at them in someone else. Like the Libran principles of mirroring and objective observation, it may be easier to heal others than to heal ourselves. Similarly, just as in Libra it is often hard to tell the object from its reflection, we may believe we're healing ourselves by healing someone else.
In some ways this is true: we do have the opportunity to learn about and work with our own issues when we project them out and interact with them in someone else. However, it still takes a conscious effort to make the leap from working only with the projection to applying that experience to our own situation. Not everyone makes that leap and all too often we wind up focusing more on other people (and therefore our own projected image) than directly on our own issues.
The counselling field is a prime example of this and is full of the "walking wounded" — people who come from dysfunctional backgrounds who want to help others. Many have done only minimal work on their own issues and inadvertently dump those issues into the laps of their clients. If this is to be avoided, it is essential to do one's own work and to keep doing it. Whether it's psychological, spiritual or physical healing, we can hardly lead others effectively into what is unknown territory for us. Even if you find that a certain technique, approach or perspective doesn't work for you, personally, you're merely going through theoretical motions if you haven't at least explored the territory through your own healing process.
And yet, helping others to explore those territories can be an essential way to bring healing to our own Chiron wounds. Simply being around the healing energy, and being a channel for it, can help to keep us focused on a healing direction. This can help us resist the gravitational pull of the destructive nature of the wound. "You teach best what you most need to learn," wrote Richard Bach. Provided we don't get stuck in believing that if we merely help others with their "stuff" then we're therefore working on our own, the experience of being a resource for others can create an almost magical effect for us, by which resonance vibrates with similar resonance, like a tuning fork humming in sync with a guitar string.
The Divine Beast
Just as it is important to equalize our focus between ourselves and others, it is also essential to balance our spiritual and physical perspectives. This is often a primary issue for people with Chiron prominent in their natal chart. Chiron, himself, suffered from his wound, not because he was human, nor because he was immortal, but because he was both! If he'd simply been human, he would have died instantly from the poison on Hercules' spear; if he'd been omnipotent, he would have simply shrugged it off.
We, too, suffer and struggle to balance our dual natures. We must acknowledge and work with our creaturehood in order to survive: we must eat, sleep, eliminate and protect ourselves from the elements. Our animal nature is an essential source of information (sensory input, instincts, feelings, etc.), without which we could not successfully navigate through life. We act impulsively, reflexively from this side of ourselves.
However, we are more than our animal nature and must also embrace and pursue the side of us that is spiritual, supernatural and non-physical. If it is our spiritual, self-aware attributes that separate us from other animals, it is also our obsessive quest to learn the true nature of this ethereal human quality. Our species has formulated a myriad of ways to examine, explore, dissect and probe the true nature of life and our place within it. As conscious co-creators of life, we seek to understand not only the effects of our surroundings upon us, but also our impact upon our environment.
Self-awareness is the hallmark of Spirit. This means we must deliberately make conscious choices, and in order to make wise choices we must acquire as complete an understanding as possible of the history, implications, consequences and dynamics of these choices. Self-awareness also means we no longer have the luxury of remaining blissfully ignorant of our lives. Once we achieve that spark of sentience, we can never go back to being simply impulsive, innocent, predetermined beings. One cannot "not-see" what one has now seen.
The Divided Self
So we are creatures bound by physical needs, laws and limitations, and yet we are also conscious co-creators of life who exude unlimited possibilities with every thought, movement, feeling and intent. How can this be? It is a problem which yields answers that evoke more questions. To quote Churchill: "It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." And it is self-perpetuating through our human obsession to solve a puzzle which changes at every inquiry into its nature.
We tend to become split between our animal and spirit natures, dividing them into extremes in which the former is seen as "bad" and the latter as "good." Religious and cultural beliefs, as well as family values, fuel and sustain this perception, imprinting it on our psyche from infancy. We are often taught that our bodies, emotions and reflexive reactions are not okay, but must be controlled or even denied altogether. We learn that it is better to rise above these things, to aspire to a level of refinement and perfection that is dispassionate, superhuman and righteous.
However, aspiring to a higher level does not remove our instinctive nature, and viewing our creaturehood solely through the lens of perfectionism gives us a dangerously one-sided outlook. The more split our judgment of our dual nature, the more dissociated we become in our experience of each side. We banish our instincts to the unconscious, where they emerge in dreams, nagging thoughts, emotional outbursts and "Freudian slips" in order to be heard. Conversely, we may distrust "all that intellectual head-stuff," staying safely entrenched in a simple, mundane outlook, blocking out anything that seems too sophisticated, complex or deep.
As the split widens, we may become inconsistent as we unconsciously waffle between different viewpoints or feelings. The conscious mind becomes a battleground between our natural instincts/feelings/needs/desires and our sentient logic/reasoning/morals/standards. The left hand is rendered oblivious to what the right hand is doing. Our actions and attitudes flip back and forth between our raw impulses and our polished objectives, but because we're only acknowledging one side, we tend to be unaware of the shift. We may get feedback from others that we're sending out double messages, or they may react with frustration, leaving us wondering, "What's their problem?"
Honesty and non-judgmental acceptance are the key. We cannot heal a wound from a childhood trauma, for example, if we pound it into ourselves that our anger, vulnerability, powerlessness or despair are inappropriate, wrong or bad. If we regard our feelings, needs and desires as unsuitable, we nevertheless still have them. They exist, in spite of all our efforts to eliminate them or reshape them into something more socially permissible. They must be included in the whole of who we are if they are to become healed and assimilated. "You gotta feel it to heal it," as the saying goes. Left to fester, abandoned in the unconscious, they force us to grow in distorted or stunted ways and may eventually infect other areas of our lives. I'm not suggesting we let our raw passions run amok, but they must be acknowledge, experienced, owned and integrated if we are to be whole beings and heal the split.
Even if we're talking about a chronic physical illness, we can still get stuck in feeling that our condition renders the flesh to be bad, weak or repulsive. It's difficult to feel good about a body that doesn't serve you the way you want it to. We may also dismiss our feelings of frustration, hopelessness, anger or depression as unproductive or weak. We may try to force ourselves to stay positive, optimistic and "up," only to berate ourselves when our natural feelings keep bobbing back up. Allowing ourselves to feel our so-called "negative" feelings may not help our physical health, but we cannot expect ourselves to feel authentically optimistic if we never allow ourselves to feel our despair as well. If we don't acknowledge and accept our pessimism, all the affirmations in the world will sound ludicrous and hollow.
Building The Bridge
Our mundane creaturehood can be correlated to Saturn and its world of form, while our spiritual nature can be linked to Uranus, the next major planet beyond Saturn. Before Uranus was detected, Saturn was known as the outermost planet in our solar system. The discovery of Uranus (1781), Neptune (1846) and Pluto (1930) have been related to concepts and forces beyond the parameters of our ego consciousness (i.e., spiritual). The modern planets are considered "trans-personal" or beyond the personal realm of existence — cathartic forces which evoke a transformational effect on who we are and the conditions of our lives.
Uranus, the first of these planets, represents the divine spark of uniqueness that distinguishes us, not only from the rest of the animal kingdom but from other humans as well. Before we can surrender to the non-physical realm (Neptune) and come to terms with our Shadow side (Pluto), we must first have a vision of ourselves beyond mundane existence (Uranus). And to do this, we must have a solid sense of self and be in command of who we are in the physical world (Saturn).
Saturn was traditionally known as the Great Malefic, but its influence seems almost innocuous compared to the earth shaking forces of the Transpersonal planets. Dealing with the demands of the world of form, manifestation, discipline and necessity, can seem relatively easy compared to the powerful soul-bending metamorphosis that we often experience under the transits of the Transpersonals.
Yet somehow, we must address the issues of both realms — we must do what must be done to survive and thrive in the physical world of Saturn, and we are compelled to meet the spiritual challenge put to us by the Transpersonals. However, the balance between the world of form and spirit is an arduous and fragile one.
It is considered by astrologers to be very meaningful that Chiron's orbit loops around the final traditional planet (Saturn) and the first of the Transpersonals (Uranus). Chiron depicts our struggle to strike a workable balance between their realms. Whereas Saturn and Uranus represent our themes and attachments in their respective realms, Chiron is the battle itself to bring these worlds together within the human psyche. The sign of our natal Chiron (in the birth chart) is the weaponry used; the natal house becomes the battleground on which to fight the good fight.
The nature of the Chironic wound is frequently a result of one's transcendental experience of the issues involved, balanced against the demands of physical reality. Our job is to somehow function effectively, given the limitations imposed by our Chironic woundedness, while managing to stay true to our transpersonal vision of who we are and what is possible. This is no small feat! Wrestling with one's Chironic wound can evoke depression, hopelessness and despair, as we labour arduously to raise ourselves up out of our predicament, only to find that our root condition remains unchanged. It takes steadfast dedication to one's goal and a resolute faith in the healing process to keep going through what may sometimes feel like misguided folly.
Walking The Walk
Beyond the healing actions themselves, it is our endurance within the healing process which ultimately strengthens us and leads us to a quality of enlightenment that can then be offered as a gift to the world of form — yes, that same world of form which facilitated our suffering in the first place! When Chiron became wounded, he didn't simply suffer in despair — he did something about it! In this sense, Chiron is a "do-it-anyway" kind of energy which challenges us to keep moving despite of our distress and discouragement.
It may be our fervent quest for relief and liberation that initially spurs us on through that painful healing process. However, it is our compassion, love and wisdom which inevitably fuel our continuing journey—given not only to others but, just as essentially, to ourselves. To shed a loving light of mercy on others while raking ourselves over the coals for our own imperfections is to demonstrate that we have yet to get the point of the exercise!
Chiron points us to the path which leads from prescriptive, mundane existence to initiation, sentience and enlightenment. The sign and house of natal Chiron show us both the nature of the wound and what we must do to heal it. Like a homeopathic remedy that inspires healing by using the same substance that caused the malady, it is by confronting, experiencing and working through our Chiron wound that we travel the path from the purely personal to the transpersonal.
As long as we are mortal beings, we will never rid ourselves of our animal, mundane nature and in this sense we will never be free of our Chironic wound. And as long as we're greater than the sum of our cells, we will also be compelled to reach beyond that animal nature to connect with our spiritual, divine nature, just as Chiron's immortality was an essential part of his destiny.
We will always struggle to some degree with these themes because they portray the complexity of our human nature. As we change and evolve, our balance between these two realms adjusts to reflect and serve our continued growth. If we take up the challenge of Chiron, we will always find reward for our suffering in the realization and actualization of all that we are.
© 1996-2008 Wendy Guy. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from Transitions Astrology Magazine, Virgo-Libra 1996 Issue. Photo of Centaurs Bridge, Pavlovsk Park, St. Petersburg, Russia, by Mikhail Kokhanchikov via 123rf.com. Map of Canada highlighting New Brunswick via Wikimedia Commons.