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Chiron: The Collective Wound

Chiron: The Collective WoundChiron was discovered by astronomer Charles Kowal between Saturn, the last of the visible planets, and Uranus, the first of the invisible planets, on November 1st, 1977; that is, on the feast of All Saints, or All Hallows (obviously the day after Halloween, when things go bump in the night.) According to the Celtic calendar also, this was considered the ‘time between the two worlds', that is between the physical world and the spirit world. Interesting that this newly discovered body would be named after Chiron, who was both man and animal, man and god.

Son of god and human, part man and part horse, Chiron was a centaur. The other centaurs were a wild, barbaric, bunch, embodying all the rawness and lack of order of pure instinct. The Greeks were most uncomfortable with anything that was chaotic and could not be explained or controlled logically, so relegated the instincts to the ‘basement' or dark caves of civilized life. The occasional eruption of this uncontrollable group in orgies of drinking and fornicating symbolizes the fear of the chaotic feminine forces that cannot be understood or controlled. (Interesting that the centaurs were male, carrying this projection.) In terms of the Greek polarization of Nature and Culture, the centaurs definitely fell on the side of Nature, and are identified with the horse part of the equation.

Chiron, on the other hand, represented Culture, and was therefore not a typical centaur. Being raised by a male god, he identified with the ‘masculine' values of skill development, achievement, reason and the power of the mind. Although part human and part horse (including his sexual organs) he is strongly identified with the human and in particular the man. His skills, including prophecy and healing, were learnt skills and thus we see in Chiron the suppression of the strong instinctual, animal side of his nature and the identification with the educated, the civilized.

But Nature will not be denied, and Chiron found his destiny is not within his control but was ruled the unacknowledged, the repressed part of himself. He was accidentally wounded in the leg by a poisoned arrow from Heracles. But the poison had come from the blood of the hydra, a many-headed monster killed by Heracles as part of his Labors, in which he had to prove his masculinity. It was a mortal wound, but because Chiron was immortal, he could not die and put an end to his suffering. The blood of the monster, the repressed feminine, caused him immense pain, but despite his knowledge of healing, he could not heal himself. Knowledge alone is not enough to deal with such wounds. It requires the balance of masculine and feminine wisdom.

It is interesting to note the point in Western consciousness that is marked by the discovery of Chiron in 1977. The late 60s and the 70s are noted for the development of the Peace Movement - the violent rejection of the masculine value of domination by force - and the subsequent rise of the Hippy cult, the excesses of which could well be linked to the undisciplined indulgences of the centaurs. Women's Liberation had burst upon the scene, bitterly discarding anything seen as male. The repressed feminine had burst forth and totally rejected the masculine, left-brain culture of western society. By 1977, when Chiron was first seen, society was taking its first tottering steps towards balancing the two principles. In many ways Chiron seems to carry the energy of Virgo, Libra and Sagittarius, and the message is that there are some wounds which cannot be healed - you can only ever hope to achieve a balance, and it is the process of trying to achieve this balance that develops Chironian wisdom. To achieve this balance you need to understand the wound in the context of your life. With Chiron, what is most important is the process (the feminine path) rather than the goal (the masculine path.) This is true whether we are talking about an individual or a civilization.

So what were the wounds that our society was carrying at that time? Women as a group were wounded in terms of their power, their choices, in recognition for their contributions to society. The world carried huge wounds in terms of injustices to indigenous peoples, and Australia in particular carried the wound of its aboriginal people. The wounding of the earth, the environmental damage done to it by western civilization was becoming an important issue… We carried open wounds related to those people marginalized by sexuality, disability, poverty or race. The narrow clinical left-brain approach to medicine was being questioned, and the approach of doing things to our body as opposed to working with it. Many were perceiving mainstream religion was not meeting the needs of the people, that it was paternalistic, rigid and authoritarian. And were embarking on a personal spiritual quest. There was a recognition that we had to see the see the whole picture, and that we had to find a balance.

To see the whole picture could be regarded as feminine anyway, in terms of recognizing the cycles of life, the cycles of the earth, the waxing and the waning, just as women live by cycles. Since 1977, there has been a major shift in consciousness in relation to the themes from the myth of Chiron, so I will look at these in particular as they have manifested in my own country, Australia, which is, after all, a microcosm of western society.

Firstly, there is the attitude to women themselves, and the acceptance of their contribution to the workforce and their right to equal treatment and equal pay for equal work. Problems of equitable access have been addressed through funding for child care and the introduction of the supporting mothers benefit. There are shelters for those who are abused. The situation may not be perfect, but the issues are recognized as legitimate and are being addressed. There is legislation to ensure that women are not discriminated against. For many women now, the challenge is to find a personal balance, between family and career, an issue described on the chart for the discovery of Chiron, where we see Chiron in the 4th house in Taurus, a lone figure in the lower hemisphere, and Pluto, Venus and the North Node all emphasizing the he 10th house of career and public recognition. There are still inequities, and we can never expect a perfect solution, but we are learning to understand the issues by going through the process.

Some of the first important steps in addressing the wound of our aboriginal people were taken in the late 70s. Land Rights (Chiron in the 4th) became an important issue and in 1977, the Northern Territory Aboriginal Land Rights Act became operative, giving 20% of the NT to the aboriginal people as inalienable freehold title. In 1978 South Australia became the first state to take positive action when Don Dunstan announced that land would be returned to the ownership of the Pitjantjara people in 1978. The land was handed over legally in 1981. In 1978, Galarrwuy Yunupingu, aboriginal land rights leader, was made Australian of the Year. In 1981 Pat O'Shane (both aboriginal and a woman!) became the first aboriginal head of a state government department. By 1983, aboriginal people held freehold title to more than 500,000 square kilometers of land throughout Australia. During the waxing part of the Chiron cycle, much money and effort was spent, with good intentions but often not a lot of wisdom. The wound cannot be healed, the stolen children given back, the lost culture restored, but the process of reconciling, of finding a balance, has begun and has become part of our consciousness.

The repeal of the White Australia Policy in the seventies and the arrival of the Boat People and the subsequent legal migration of people from South East Asia in the eighties provided challenges for the Australian people to help heal the wound they had created in Vietnam. The challenge to accept other races and other cultures as equal and entitled to a spot in their country opened many Chironian wounds. Similarly, the coming out of the gay and lesbian community, begun publicly with the first Gay and Lesbian Mardi-Gras in 1978, has offered the opportunity for mainstream Australians to recognize that any society is wounded which does not recognize and respect all its members. It is now illegal to discriminate against anyone on the basis of their gender, race, creed, sexuality or disability. There is, and always will be, personal prejudice and discrimination, but the ideals have been articulated by the society.

The late 1970s and early 1980s marked an important time in the development of environmental consciousness. In Australia, the National Parks and Wildlife Service was established, and Greenpeace and the Wilderness Society began bases in Australia. Intense lobbying and persistent protesting brought about very tight regulations around a budding nuclear industry, legislation about native forests and the woodchip industry, proclamation of the Barrier Reef as a world heritage area, and, in particular, the prevention of the damming of the Gordon River in Tasmania, a landmark case which was won with the High Court supporting the Federal Government's intervention. Now it is virtually impossible for any major project to go ahead without an environmental impact study; the need to take the environment into consideration has become part of our consciousness. The damage we have done to the earth is beyond healing, but awareness has been raised and steps taken to stem the tide of destruction.

The discovery of Chiron also marks an important shift in our attitude to our own bodies and the rise in interest and acceptance of alternative healing methods. It marks an awareness of the importance of the holistic approach, of treating the whole body, of looking for a cause, not just treating a symptom. The left-brain scorn for what it describes as non-scientific methods has been replaced by a more general acceptance of homoeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, and a whole range of therapies which look at the person, not just the illness. Even the medical insurance industry recognizes them! Interestingly, chiropractic was developed by Daniel Palmer when he was 51 years old, i.e. at his Chiron return. Death is now seen as part of the cycle of life, and there have been huge steps forward in the care of the dying. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who opened awareness in this area, also wrote her book, On Death and Dying, on her Chiron return. In addition to palliative care, there has been a growing movement calling for the right to die by choice - euthanasia. Chiron, of course, practiced euthanasia when he chose to give up his immortality and die.

There has also been a distinct shift from traditional religion to a personal spiritual search, the New Age, and this, of course, is part of the movement just described which seeks to understand the whole person, body and soul, and which of course, the rise in profile and credibility of areas such as astrology has been a part. In the search for meaning in our lives, we are forced to face our wounds, to open them to the air, for without this the healing process cannot begin.

Now when Chiron was ‘born' on All Saints Day in 1997, the comet was at 3 degrees of Taurus. It reached its first Opposition, at 3 degrees of Scorpio, in October 1997. (Because the orbit is elliptical, this is not the halfway point in time.) So, what were the opposing forces to come out at this time? Well, there was of course Pauline Hanson, who confronted us with our shadow, polarized the country and reopened old wounds of prejudice; the chironic wound of rejection because you look or act differently. Perhaps Ms. Hanson is here to remind us that beneath our veneer of civilization we are all centaurs, that you don't have to scratch too hard to find instinctual, self-preserving self underneath, and that we are all happy to have a scapegoat to carry our unexpressed rage and feelings of impotence, whether the scapegoat is Pauline herself or the wounded groups she targets.

Add to this John Howard's refusal to apologize for the stolen generations and the division caused by the Wik legislation. Truly we live in a time when the efforts towards reconciliation hang in the balance, and when it is important to recognize the god as well as the human in every person.

Governments universally follow ideologies of economic rationalism, where the person is forgotten and the goal becomes more important than the process. Our government also argued against emission control at the Japan summit on the environment, there is to be uranium mining at Cacadu and , on the local scene, we have a boat harbor built at West Beach without an environmental impact statement. The Child Care and the Palliative Care dollar are shrinking and the Northern Territory euthanasia legislation has been overturned. The different learning methods of girls at school have been identified and catered for so successfully that boys are seen as the disadvantaged ones. The pendulum has swung!

Cycles begin with much energy and enthusiasm but little wisdom. This is acquired during the waxing part of the cycle. The waning part of the cycle gives us the opportunity, and dare I say, responsibility, to use the knowledge and understanding that has been gained. The first Chiron cycle in our consciousness is now into its waning period. Our society, like Chiron, has wounds that cannot be healed - but they can be faced, dealt with compassionately and a balance worked towards. Our challenge in the next 30 years is to bring Chiron out of the cave, for it is only by exposing the wounds to the air that the healing process can be effective.

There have been many great changes in our society during this Chiron cycle which relate to the need to heal our world, and many have been enshrined in legislation. However, this is still operating at the head level. To reach the heart takes generations. I believe that the strongest potential for developing this ‘heart' understanding is the influence of the New Age movement with its focus on wholeness. Until we understand ourselves as best we can, until we develop the wisdom that is gathered on the personal journey, then we will never take responsibility for ourselves and we will always make scapegoats of those who are different. Until we focus on healing rather than looking for cures, until we recognize that we are not separate from the needs of the planet and that we are all responsible for ourselves, for each other and for our environment then we will always be victims and our world will always be divided.

Our society is currently screaming out for leaders with vision and compassion. We have come a long way in twenty years, but we have only just started. We can only hope that, during the waning part of this first Chiron cycle, as the children who have been born during the cycle come to adulthood, knowledge will develop into wisdom, and the heart will balance the head.