January to June 2013: Spiritual materialism in the spotlight

by Sarah on 15/02/2013

January to June 2013:

Spiritual Materialism in the Spotlight


Sarah Varcas


Throughout the first six months of 2013 Mars remains close to the Sun, sharing the same sign much of the time. This alliance between our unifying force (Sun) and our personal motivation (Mars) alerts us to the importance of careful reflection on issues of ambition and desire.

2013 began with the voices of the mystics echoing through the heavens. Those ancient teachings, often drowned out by their contemporary counterparts of manifestation, abundance and personal fulfilment,  remind us that motivation is a key aspect to our spiritual life, alerting us to the risk of mistaking ego satisfaction for spiritual fulfilment, which is not a path to peace but to confusion, greed (I know… an ugly word we don’t hear much about these days!) and an unwieldy  planetary and personal ego. The contemporary narrative of ‘spiritual equals materially abundant’ is a growing aspect of modern day spirituality which demands material affirmation that we’re on the ‘right’ spiritual path: that our efforts are being rewarded, be it through the development of healing powers, financial abundance or finding our soul mate. To put it bluntly, in return for our spiritual efforts we expect a more comfortable, happier and more materially abundant life.

But with Pluto (the cosmic harbinger of the destruction needed for rebirth to occur in an entirely new form) in Capricorn (the domain of the financial / material realm and all its accompanying power) until the end of 2024, I can’t help but ask myself, ‘Is this really how we’re meant to be assessing our spiritual maturity? Is this really what life is about?’. Pluto entered Capricorn in 2008. We saw a global financial crisis at this time, considered by many economists to be the worst since the Great Depression, which began as Saturn prepared to enter Capricorn (October 1929) and was then opposed by Pluto (1931).  We need to learn from this and take heed: When the heavens are stirring things up in Capricorn territory, we need to find places other than our wallets and status through which we can assess the value and worth of our lives.

The growth of ‘spiritual materialism’ (a term coined by Chogyam Trungpa in his book ‘Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism’) in the past two decades, has been phenomenal. No longer is the spiritual path about humility, releasing us from the dictates of power-hungry egos or about simplicity and gratitude for what is, above and beyond striving for what we think should be. Now the spiritual goal-posts seem to have moved. We must demonstrate our spiritual prowess through material abundance, shining health, a deeply fulfilling sex life, in short, success in all aspects of our lives, an ‘anyone can do anything if they really want to’ approach. Essentially, we’re encouraged to live a life of which others will be envious. This has become the new union with the Divine: not the quiet ecstasy of the mystic but the shop-window display of how materially successful we are in our own lives. Keeping up with the spiritual Joneses has become big business! Controlling the externals of our lives, getting the outcomes we desire, has now become the new Dharma.

To be honest, this worries me. Not least because the ego can be so tricky, so wily, and we can be so easily led. And wherever we allow the ego to lead us now is where we will, in coming years, be challenged by Pluto to let go and relinquish for the new consciousness to truly establish itself. It may, therefore, be far better that we don’t go there in the first place…

Neptune now back home in its own sign of Pisces, invites us to enter into the mystery of life, to step into an existence in which we’re not in control of outcomes and results. In which we give ourselves over completely to the process of the Divine as it ripples through our lives, shaping us here, dissolving us there, helping us here, frustrating us there. ‘Embrace the mystery’, it entreats, because without doing so we’re forever projecting our ego ideals into the future and losing the richness of the present moment as we strive to realise them there.

Which brings me back to that alliance between Mars and the Sun, and issues of ambition and motivation. Because it’s incumbent upon all of us in these times of rapid change to reflect carefully on what’s driving us and why, on how we judge value in our lives. For while Uranus continues to square Pluto (until 2015), Saturn remains in Scorpio (until September 2015) and Neptune settles into more than a decade in its own sign, it’s not the material achievements in our lives that will matter, but how we manage without them, how we feel when the material world doesn’t reward our best efforts as we believe it should. How we cope with the unknown, the unknowable, and, most importantly, that which we cannot avoid in life: the demise of our physical power as we age, the occurrence of sickness, loss of loved ones, unexpected turns of events that change our lives in the blink of an eye never to be the same again. For if we can only embrace peace and wisdom when we’re supported by enjoyable circumstances and material affirmation of our worth, we’re forever beholden to the ego, to the material world with its increasing unreliability, and to the vagaries of life that are influenced by so many more forces beyond our own personal will, than we could ever imagine.

In light of the heavenly messages beaming down to us from on high these days, it seems to me that this burgeoning new age is not about reward for efforts made but about the motivation for them. This is what matters now. If you know you should do something, do it! And let that be your reward: the experience of grace inherent in the freedom we have to follow the calling of the Divine in our lives. Don’t seek an external measure – acceptance, approval, money, worldly success, an audience of people eager for what you have. Let your reward be the mind and heart free of angst which arises from action free of expectation and desire.

Chapter 9 of the Tao Te Ching’ states ‘Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity’ (‘A New English Version’ by Stephen Mitchell). Herein lies the directive of the new age: do what needs to be done and let the doing be the reward. Let knowing that you responded to life’s call, even if you never know why the call was issued, be your reason for being. For if we cannot live at peace with the mystery of life that says sometimes doing what you love isn’t what you’re here for; that turning to the darkest and most challenging path of endurance may be your path into the light; that sometimes it takes a lifetime, not a weekend workshop, to discover you were always fine just as you are; then we are beholden only to the things that ‘work’ according to our limited and egocentric mind that says material reward is a right, vibrant health is a sign of spiritual prowess and personal happiness and status is where it’s at. How, then, can we ever experience anything that lies beyond the boundaries established by our tiny and egocentric minds, where the Divine truly dwells. Who knows what blessings may lie in wait for us there?

Well… not me, that’s for sure! I still find myself seeking those material affirmations and desiring approval and acceptance. I still smart when I’m rejected, curse and cry when I’m ill again and wonder how to make ends meet at the end of the month! Then, occasionally, I remember to ask myself… ‘What’s my motivation? Peace or reward? Recognition or grace? Passing happiness or lasting freedom?’.

In this new age we’re birthing together , the Age of Aquarius, of servicing the needs of the whole, not the desires of the individual, every moment that we meet life’s challenges with a recognition that it’s our response not our reward that counts, contributes to the collective creation of a world in which we do not demand status or riches whilst another person starves and takes their own wisdom to the grave. A world in which we can value action and intent over and above material wealth and reward. And which, by definition, becomes a world within which no one starves, no one is less than another, no-one more successful than another. We just all are, being and doing as we know is needed. And the results of our being and doing we will embrace, whatever they are, with gratitude and openness. We will ‘do our work and then step back’, knowing that true riches lie in the open heart and not in the eyes of the world.

My Introduction to Astrological Interpretation course is now available.

Check it out here

Thank you for taking time out to read my thoughts…

Sarah Varcas


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