Ashé Journal, Vol 3, Issue 2, Summer 2004.
Eric K. Lerner
Alex Grey's Transfigurations from Inner Traditions, soon available in paperback, is the most important volume of metaphysical art in recent memory. This sumptuous monograph features over 300 reproductions of Grey's work, as well as artist interviews and essay. Grey's work invites superlatives, as well as clichés and contradictions, in describing it. Trying to find verbal equivalents and values for a Grey painting is daunting. First, he depicts genuine visionary realms with extraordinary refinement. Secondly, he reveals "unseen" phenomena that coincide with the readily perceived world. Thus, I end up considering trite phrases such as "He shows what cannot be seen" or "He explores visionary realms." What bullshit! Haven't we all seen these types of descriptions bandied about for just about any artist who explore metaphysical topics?
A couple factors set Grey apart:
Most folk don't have a clue when it comes to distinguishing true vision from gibberish. An artist can label his fantasies "visions," and not too many people will know the difference. Grey does not do that. There is substantial evidence to substantiate his integrity, including my own experience. Many of us in the West just are not used to seeing the world this way. A shaman does not have that setback. Grey shows us what shamans see. For instance, in "The Visionary Origin of Language" a fiery sprite dances on a mushroom. I've seen this type of spirit several times when I have entered semi-trance states to perform healing rituals. When I first saw that painting, I said to myself. "Wow, a wori-wori (That is a Yoruba designation for that type of spirit.) Grey's been there." I am not nearly as sensitive a shaman as Grey is. In my limited visionary experiences as an ordained Yoruba priest, I have seen things very similar to what he depicts.
The history of shamanism also supports Grey's veracity. One of the most widely discussed features of Grey's paintings is their x-ray detailing of the human form. Man's skin becomes transparent. Grey depicts bone, organ and nerve structure in textbook detail. Revelation of internal organs is characteristic of shamanistic art. There are ancient examples left by Pecos River Indians in "Red Monochrome" rock art. They left us a famous rendering of a skeletized deer, which also shows some of the quarry's internal organs. Huichol shaman-artists in their renderings of Peyote visions provide numerous examples of similar phenomenon in their weavings. The ability to envision internal anatomical details has been described by holy men and women from places as widely dispersed as Siberia and the Australian outback.
They substantiate the fact that Grey has entered and documented a universal visionary realm. The ultimate effect is startling. The contemporary Westerner usually sees the depiction of human innards in either the contexts of horror movies or medical documentaries. These presentations are made in the contexts of horror or scientific advances. These are far removed from our identification of spirituality. Grey takes us by surprise, because his art is both unexpected and beautiful. He integrates human anatomy with ribbons of transcendent energy creating intricate mandalas. He recognizes intertwined chords of light, energy and spirit.
Another example is provided by "Empowerment" (1985). Its subject is a man who provides a fulcrum for numerous levels of energy. He receives and transmits various energy patterns represented by light and flame. I am particularly struck by connected dot patterns that overlay his muscles and organs. They remind me of acupuncture points. Acupuncture is a practical expression of shamanistic knowledge that has been developed over thousands of years. Is it not unlikely that its earliest practitioners might have had visions similar to this one of Grey's?
Grey writes of his work:
Grey recovers ancient metaphysical insights in his contemporary paintings. His work is original in two ways. First, his work is intimately liked to the very starting point of esoteric experiences and vision. It cuts to through written language to the primordial source of insight. Second, he makes it seem new because far too many of us have forgotten how to see the world this way!
His work is very modern, enhanced by the prowess of Grey's draftsmanship. He has taught medical illustration on University level. Such anatomical realism grounds his esoteric subject matter. It provides the viewer a knowable point of reference. This makes spirituality pragmatic. It becomes something we can recognize, touch and feel. (Remember, to a shaman vision states are matters of fact).
In purely aesthetic terms, his workmanship achieves technical genius. One feature that particularly stands out is his handling of light. In Transfigurations, Donald Kuspit writes:
Grey's dexterity commands our attention. He substantiates his art's value by communicating integral and substantial information about mankind and his role in the cosmos. This is work that needs to be seen. Fortunately, Transfigurations provides an overview of Grey's development as an artist. It contains early childhood pieces. These are not only striking because of Grey's technical precocity. They indicate his early preoccupation with death and shadow realms in drawings of cemeteries and Grim Reapers. They hint that early on, Grey sought out to transcend the physical boundaries of the mortal coil. Transfigurations also documents his early performance art, which seems to extend Theatre of Cruelty into the world of the mortuary and biological functions. Also, Grey's work with cadavers a la Davinci is fully illuminated. Grey learned medical anatomy hands-on. We can appreciate how Grey began his quest to know the cosmos through confronting the human boundary of death. Quite a bit of the early work seems just as fresh and relevant as Grey's later more polished presentations.
The reproductions of Grey's work are beautiful. The large format encourages the viewer to perceive intricate details of the paintings, such as sprites inhabiting the edges of compositions. These could easily get lost in smaller copies. The luminescence of the paper ads to light's subtleties in the compositions and enhances the vivid colors. It is a sumptuous volume to behold. The essays from Albert Hoffman, Stephen Larsen, Donald Kuspit and Ken Wilber add to the reader's appreciation of Grey's work. Plus there is more than adequate commentary from the artist himself. All of this makes Transfigurations a must have for anyone who is serious about either modern art or the development of contemporary consciousness.
In reviewing Grey's work, I feel that there is little that I can add to Transfigurations in terms of traditional art criticism. It should be obvious that I am in awe of his accomplishment. I do not feel that the Ashé reader is going to gain much more from a flurry of praises.
Grey is truly a man of the cosmos, as any cursory examination of his art indicates. His work and life deserve to be examined in light of that. This type of investigation is best accomplished through astrology, the science of evaluating the effects of stellar bodies on mankind. The most accurate form of astrology available in the West is Cosmobiology. (I am aware that Hindu astrology is well renown for its diagnostic accuracy. I am not trained in it. However, I look forward to reviewing How to Practice Vedic Astrology by Andrew Bloomfield (Destiny Books) for an upcoming issue of Ashé.)
I will explore key events in Grey's life:
Analyses of these dates provide startling testimonies to the accuracy of Cosmobiology. (The directions and progressions did not require use of an orb of greater than one degree, and their midpoints generally any more than 30 minutes or less!)
These hallmark dates in Grey's life give recognizes a dramatic exchange and ultimate balancing of Yin-Yang energies. The positive and negative forces of the cosmos intertwine in relevant ways at these times. The interplay of specific masculine and feminine currents show up with such frequency that I run out of descriptions for them by the time I examine Grey's daughter Zena's birth! Hopefully the following chart helps the reader appreciate the poles of this dynamic.
None of these entities are precisely the same as another sharing space in the same column. However, the type of relationship each has with its mate in the opposite column is similar. They intertwine with their partners in intricate patterns throughout Grey's life. The powers merge and converge in a manner akin to Grey's visualizations of intricate mobius strips and mandalas. Grey's art and purpose illustrate the principles of the cosmos. Grey is an artist of the integral and his horoscope is a powerful testament to this. In this way, his art becomes an expression of the cosmos itself.
Today, computers transmit knowledge through binary coding. In Grey's horoscope, the universe provides information in a similar way. Based on the premise that basic influences of positive or negative, the universe emits a steady stream of information about the complex exchanges of force constantly taking place through Grey's life. His horoscopes vibrate in tune with higher powers. This could be said of anyone. However, what makes Grey's case so astounding is the constant dynamic which takes place between positive and negative. It is uncommon to constantly have precise contacts between sun and moon, Venus and mars, especially such that involve the personal angles of Ascendant and Midheaven, show up with such remarkable frequency at key moments as they do for Grey. Grey himself is a fulcrum of cosmic energies. It is no wonder that he is such a gifted interpreter of them!
Now, before going further, I'd like to take a moment to explain my methodology. The comsmobiologists may omit this section. For dates after Grey's nativity, I examine events in terms of solar arc directions and tertiary progressions. Energetically solar arc direction represents positive development, tertiary progression negative. Solar arc directions measure time according to the movement of the sun. Each year of life corresponds to one day of solar movement relative to the time of birth. Hence, the position of the sun on the 12th day of life corresponds to the 12th year of life. The degrees of movement made by the sun during the twelve days are added to the position of each astrological body in the radix (natal chart) to determine solar arc direction. Astrologers regard this as representing the development of the soul. Tertiary progressions measure time and development according to lunar months. One day is equal to one lunar month. Hence, for the 12th year, we would look at planetary positions for the 166th day of life, which is based on 13 lunar months per year. Tertiary progressions correspond to the emotional core, the ego. By examining these two factors, I believe that we bring into focus a yang-yin perspective that allows us to look at the total complexity of one human being. (Some astrologers may wonder why transits are not used. Transit activity corresponds to external events and factors. That's not a reflection of Grey's vis a vis the cosmos, so I do not include them in this analysis.)
I need to introduce Cosmobiology to those of you who have yet to encounter it. Basically, it's a lot like astrology, but it works...All kidding aside, Cosmobiology is an astrological discipline developed largely by Rheinhold Ebertin. His definition of Cosmobiology suggests many worthwhile points of comparison between this discipline and Grey's artistic output:
Cosmobiology is a scientific discipline concerned with the possible correlations between the cosmos and organic life and the effects of cosmic rhythms and stellar motion on man, with all his potentials and dispositions, his character and the possible turns of fate; it also researches these correlations and effects as mirrored by earth's plant and animal life as a whole. In this endeavor, Cosmobiology utlizlizes modern-day methods of scientific research, such as statistics, analysis, and computer programming. It is of prime importance, however, in view of the scientific effort expended, not to overlook the macrocosmic and microcosmic interrelations incapable of measurement." (Ebertin, p. 11)
The emphasis on integrating science into a metaphysical tradition is reminiscent of Grey's anatomical realism amidst as vortex of psychic potencies. Cosmobiology provides a perfect mirror for the Shaman-Artist of the Scientific Age.
Key characteristics of Cosmobiology include:
Midpoints merit definition. A midpoint exists equidistant between two planets on a 360-degree radius. It represents a unique sum of the energetic qualities of both planets. Both direct (indicating the shortest distance between the two points) and indirect (reflecting the longer distance) midpoints are used and weighed equally. A planetary body occupying a midpoint or related to it by hard aspect experiences its unique influence.
The standard reference for cosmobiological interpretation is Ebertin's The Combination of Stellar Influences. (I'm tempted to just call it the Astrologer's Bible.) Many of the word pictures in this analysis are based on that work. Initially, the reason for referring to a standard work was to codify astrological principles so that astrology could be taken seriously as a science. (In other words, it has reproducible results, regardless of the interpreter.)
However, there are points in which my interpretation differs radically from Ebertin's.
I believe that Grey is a rare being for whom a more spiritual spin is necessary. (Ebertin advocated the need to examine other factors in a native's life when evaluating stellar influences. And he admitted that his word pictures were to be evaluated in context of synthesizing the weight of multiple cosmobiological and life factors.) There's ample evidence his life breaks rules. For instance, he makes the death axis of the Mars/Saturn midpoint a powerful focus for transformation and new life. It is almost always a positive force when it comes into play for Grey. That meaning is implicit in metaphysical interpretations of Death. For instance the Death card in Tarot often indicates rebirth. Your are not going to find that interpretation in The Combination of Stellar Influences. I argue that Cosmobiology has proven itself time and again as a scientifically accurate tool of analysis. At this point I think we are free to integrate metaphysics into its remarkable database.
One more set of technical notes. Cosmobiology generally looks at the 10 planetary bodies, the Ascendant. Midheaven and Dragon's Head. I also look at the influence of the Part of Fate, the shadow moon Lilith, the asteroid Ceres, Transpluto and Chiron. I'm a bad astrologer in that I believe in doing what works. I have found these other factors aid in chart analysis.
Finally, I do not wish to put down any other system of astrology. If you can use Linda Goodman's book to cast accurate horoscopes, all the power to you. In my own experience, I have seen a lot of merit in qabalistic astrology, as used in my previous collaborative astrology article written with Bozana Antic on Aleister Crowley for this publication, the use of Arabic parts and Vedic astrology. Cosmobiology is an exquisite fit for Grey, his life and work. I hope that other astrologers will apply their systems to Grey and other significant thinkers to help us all understand this world and its true spokespeople better!
Note. Planetary and midpoint relationships (aspects) are expressed by an = sign. This signifies all hard aspects. Standard International planet abbreviations are used.
The Birth of Genius
Alex Grey was born Alex Velzy on November 29, 1953 in Columbus, Ohio.
Using traditional sun sign astrology, his chart does not reveal much. Most of the planets are clustered in the upper half of the chart. The traditional interpretation of this would be that the native has an outgoing personality. In fact, one might say the person is a little shallow in how they realize their potential, since he is so strongly connected to outside areas of influence. Furthermore, there is a relative absence of traditional chart patterns. Outside of maybe a couple stelliums, that is planets gathered in the same house, there exist virtually none to define Grey's chart. There are few hard aspects. This is surprising. Aleister Crowley has written that the great ones' charts are characterized by many tight aspects between the majority of planets in the radix. Given Grey's brilliance, one would expect that in his. It is only when one examines the numerous and rich midpoint structures in his chart, that one realizes how well integrated and complex Grey's chart is.
First I examine the personal points: Sun, Moon, Ascendant and Midheaven. These represent fundamental positive-negative polarities. It will be interesting to see how they interact with one another through Direction and Progression at key junctures in Grey's life. In light of these, it is also relevant to note Grey's reason for changing his birth name. In Transfigurations, Stephen Larsen explains: "Alex changed his name to Grey, as a way to balance his light and dark divided inner oppositional nature. Keeping Velzy as his middle name resulted in the initials AVG -- Average. Grey's work integrates the common dualism of matter, spirit, science and religion" (p. 2)
Grey's natal sun lies in Sagittarius. It is a mutable fire sign. It characterizes alchemy. With the transformation of energies being a central theme of Grey's artwork, it is not surprising that his soul is identified this sign. Grey's art is to the point like an Archer's arrow. It achieves transcendence through its recognition of complex patterns of energy. In this way, it is honest. Honesty is considered a Sagittarius characteristic. The native's relationship to honesty may bring about depression. In Grey's case, depression brings him into Shadow realms. He transforms these shadows into arrows of light. He cuts through metaphysical vagary with direct and powerful images. He flies high. He is like Daedlus, rather than Icarus. He stays on the path. But, like the mythic father, whose flight to freedom brought about the death of his exuberant son, Grey is aware of the penalty for flying unbridled. There is recognition of loss and despair in works like "The Nature of the Mind Series" and much of Grey's earlier work. One cannot achieve genuine vision without seeing some pretty ugly things.
The sun makes aspects with Uranus and Neptune, the planets of occultism and mysticism respectively. Grey uses the energy generated through the Uranus contact to find in himself the revolutionary zeal to create provocative art. That is a type of sorcery. He creates powerful images that can enter and effect another consciousness. He uses mysticism (Neptune) to tap into the Universal Subconscious to discover his powerful subject matter.
There are a number of midpoint contacts with the sun that provide insight into Grey's eventual work.
SU=DR/MA: This relates to comradeship and good fellowship as well as the will to unite with others as well as the union of the sexes. Grey work integrates humanity through demonstrating links between individual bodies and the cosmos. His identify the fundamental unity of human experience. His wife, Allyson, has become an essential part of Grey's work and life. She is a frequent collaborator in his performance art, and a subject of many paintings.
Grey's union with Allyson has a cosmic character. The recognition of negative and positive energy, Yin and Yang is essential to many metaphysical practitioners. That Grey would find a powerful female partner in his life's work seem written in the stars so to speak. Many of the midpoint structure around his sun support this:
MO/VE: This is the grace of marital love and the ability to appreciate its expression on both profound personal and artistic level. In this structure the expression of love is art itself.
JU/VE: Here again, love is a joy. His own warm heart and ability to give love to other complete the native. This also indicates that he does so through the strength and health of his own body.
MO/PL: This indicates a delicate and sensitive being that will find unique experiences in union with his wife.
In addition to an erotic union, there is also a will to power and ability to overcome obstacles indicated by MC/MA. This provides the fuel necessary to overcome obstacles and well as provide the ambition to become important, a strong will. It is a sign of mania. Grey also has a solar midpoint that opposes this: NE/MA. This midpoint characterizes a weak individual. Grey is honest about his battles with depression, and that is a frequent component of artistic character. However, the midpoint also means the dissolution of the body. Grey does this through his ability to see through the skin. His art disperses the energy associated with the physical shell of the body (which can therefore integrate itself with cosmic energies). Perhaps it is a function of his fundamental despair to burn away the external shell of the physical body in his work. Isn't depression often discussed in terms of looking into dark and hidden places?
The sun combined with the moon plays a seminal role in Grey's life and horoscope. On a natal level the moon is already integrated with the Sun in midpoint structures that are consistent in meaning with both the sun's midpoint structure and the eventual conditions of Grey's life and art.
First, let's look at the Moon itself in Virgo. Usually this talks about a mind that can rule the emotions. That is something of a struggle for Grey, but obviously it plays a key factor in his ability to illustrate dramatic tensions on a cosmic level. He masters chaotic forces to give them concrete expression. Virgo Moons frequently imply a love of tidiness, correct behavior, and simplicity. Perhaps this is illustrated by Grey's dedication to detail in his painting. He is a most realistic painter. Indeed, his ability to perceive light goes beyond most photo-realism in its accuracy and poignancy.
It forms aspects with both Jupiter and Saturn. These planets are the fundamental source of expansion and contraction. Together, these energies enable the birth process. The moon is the source of emotion. When these three elemental forces are factored, one may draw the conclusion that Grey's emotions enable him to give birth to new forms. Of course, this has all the attendant agony and ecstasy that a physical birth exerts on the mother. (It is useful to remember this when examining Grey's reflections on his daughter's birth later.)
A key midpoint seems to be MO=Asc/SU: This indicates fruitful activity in conjunction with the female sex. It also brings three of the four major personal points together. The fact that the sun has significant midpoint contact with the Midheaven gives Grey a powerful basis for bringing together and thus understanding the spectrum of existence through the mental lens of one being. Grey writes: "The integral vision brings together three domains of reality = the inner world of the "I"; the intersubjective world of culture, "we"; and the outer world of self, nature, and society, "it." None of those three can be reduced to the other, each is needed for a more comprehensive view." (p.199)
He realizes the possibility of integrating the various foundations of existence, which constantly intersect in his horoscope.
The other lunar midpoints reiterate the importance of Woman to Grey's life. As a rule, women are more naturally inclined to shamanistic activity than men are. For a man to be a shaman he must master aspects of the feminine within himself. Buddhism and its philosophy seem to play an informative role in Grey's work. Historically, sexual contact with shaman women played a significant role in Tibetan Buddhist education for a man, according to feminist scholar Vicki Noble. Grey's enthusiasm for his erotic relationship with woman reverberates on a spiritual level. He has painted numerous portraits of himself with Allyson. Elements of femininity and the subconscious echo in these midpoint contacts.
=ME/NE: This enables the subconscious to become conscious and indicates a highly receptive mind. Sometimes it represents a deceptive woman. Quite obviously, when discovering any sort of complex truth, there is going to be an element of misunderstanding on some level so that there can be eventual discovery.
=PL/MA indicates a powerful woman and her possible injury, as well as daring and audacity. Certainly Grey pushes limits. Injury breaches the skin. Grey describes a seminal experience: "I cut off the head of a dead woman, then poured molten lead into her ear as a way to make a model of the delicate spiral labyrinth. It was a violent way to make contact with her spirit, so she would speak to my inner ear. I experienced the psychic repercussions later when her spirit angrily confronted me in a dream."
ME/DR: Communication of ideas is ultimately a form of communion for Grey. It is no irony that this midpoint also indicates his strong desire for meaningful exchanges with women.
Grey's Midheaven in Libra. This placement indicates a harmonious person who advances his career through reliance on others. Certainly any artist needs support in order to work. Simply put, if nobody buys your work, it is really tough to make a living. An artist like Grey benefits from the ability to develop good social skills that enable him to get other people to appreciate him and his work. This does not make an artist evil or a sellout. Indeed this type of Midheaven placement for Grey can really help bring the work of an important artist to the public.
The Midheaven is also conjunct Neptune. (Frankly this is a three-degree orb, which one of the widest used in this analysis. Traditionally, the maximum orb is allowed for the personal points.) This identifies mysticism as a critical component of Grey's ego consciousness. Its mastery is essential if he is to know himself. Also Neptune rests on the Death Axis of MA/SA. We will see this midpoint throughout our exploration. In this instance, my interpretation is that the experience of death energy is part of self-understanding. Grey's interest in death borders on mania at many points in his life in work. He's pretty matter of fact, when talking about decapitating a corpse. Death is part of his territory. We will see how his relationship with it grows as he does, and ultimately paves the way for a profound appreciation of the subtleties of life energy on multiple levels.
The Midheaven structures reflect several those already developed by the Sun and Moon. Indeed, it is on the Sun/Moon midpoint, which brings about harmony of the soul and the potential to experience a very special marriage to another being. The Midheaven also brings the Ascendant into relationship with the other personal points. The AS/VE midpoint accentuates qualities of affection, a sense of beauty and an appreciation of art. The other significant Midheaven midpoint is SA/UR, which makes the highest demands upon one's strength. It is a hallmark of rebellion and provocation. It helps set Grey apart.
His Ascendant in Capricorn brings with it a purposeful attitude. Vigorous self will is absolutely essential to the success of an artist. An artist must embrace the motto "Actions say more than words" if he has any hope of making a real statement with his work
Grey's ascendant semisquare both Mercury and Venus. This places it at the midpoint of both.
His Ascendant squares Lilith. Lilith is the shadow moon. It is a congregation of shattered particles loosely knit together that may have once composed earth's second moon. Lilith's qualities may be explained by the myths associated with Lilith. She was First woman, wife of Genesis' Adam. She dared to mount her husband, left (or was banished from) Eden and abandoned herself to sexual intercourse with a sea of demons. Although mentioned elsewhere in Hebrew literature, she is not mentioned in the Bible. Lilith represents that which we try to suppress. Grey's capacity to provoke is essential to the way he expresses himself. People may perceive him as an agent provocateur. He is edgy and dangerous, threatening complacency. He proves himself by entering secret places and illuminating them.
The VE/ME provides him the ability to create a beautiful environment. It also gives him a means to create important social contacts, which as previously stated are an essential component to an artist's success.
Mars helps spark his individualism through midpoint combinations in relationship to the Ascendant. The MA/JU midpoint helps him master his environment and gain advantage through other people. It is also an indicator of a beneficial marriage that results in procreation.
The MA/MO midpoint is another combination of masculine and feminine energies for Grey. It indicates that he is able to establish his position in the nuclear family hierarchy and have positive contact with women. The SU/SA midpoint helps him maintain individual focus through having an appreciation for himself alone and aloof from society. It is the hermetic quality necessary for meditation and reflection that is part of the creative process.
Grey's Mercury like Venus and Saturn lies in Scorpio. This sign was first thought to be ruled by Mars. Now popular assignation is Pluto. Mars is a warrior, and in a way so is Pluto. However, Mars attacks, whereas Pluto deters his adversaries through his sheer force of presence. He owns the underworld, and not too many folk seek to go there. This is unlike Grey, whose mind seems to embrace dark, Scorpionic places. His art does not actually attack people or their minds. Rather, it does threaten the status quo, and it represents frightening subjects to ponder. Other Pluto associations also come into play for Grey's imagination. The planet represents the generational consciousness shaped by world war two. Awareness of atomic energy, Einstein's warping of the universe, and the Nazi death camps both shook the imagination. One of Grey's early paintings, "Nuclear Crucifixion," brings all three of these phenomena into perspective. Grey's intellect bears the force of Scorpionic advancement and treachery. It is also worth noting such events represent mankind carrying out once was God-like prerogative. Being a painter of secret cosmos, Grey does aspire to god-like manipulation.
To characterize the mind of a provocative artist like Grey with Scorpio is hardly surprising. Scorpio is also associated with genital expression, particularly that of the male. Grey's intimate painting demonstrates the functions of both lingham and yoni. He is keenly aware of sexuality as power, as the ability to harness the energies of the universe. This is evident in numerous paintings (not to mention his performance art.) Examples can be seen throughout Transfigurations in the paintings "Tantra," "Lingham," "Yoni," and the drawing "Fucking Dragons.' Sex also represents transfer of God power to humanity through procreation. It is man's exhibition of creative force through his body.
Grey's Mercury midpoints draw on solar power. The midpoints SU/DR, SU/MC and SU/NE enhance Grey's communicative power as well as pepper his ability to see hidden truths and embrace the irrational.
Venus is also in Scorpio. Combined with Mercury, it accentuates Grey's erotic power and fuels his passionate disposition. It is not a little dangerous. It stokes the fires of sexual excess and can expose a native to dangers of illness acquired through intemperance. In Grey's work exists terrible beauty, the necessary infusion of the erotic and creative energies. Obviously, he is passionate about his work. Lunar energies inform Venus midpoint structures, just as the sun did Mercury. Again we see a balance and antagonism between yin and yang in the Grey's Scorpio placements. There is UR/MO, the revolution of love and Eros that lends revolutionary zeal to ancient lunar mysteries. This energy is given a ready means to expand through UR/JU. NE/MO provides a counterweight to Mercury's SU/NE. It represents strange tendencies and a seemingly perverse expression of love as parts of Grey's erotic and creative expression. Grey frequently employs his wife as a model, presenting her with the anatomical detail one associates with medical textbooks and autopsies. He has also given public performances in which they participate in tantric acts. This is not the typical way we are used to see someone express his love for his wife.
Mars in Libra facilitates collaboration for Grey. Mars is primal male force. Conjunct the Part of Fate, it generates sheer force. The part of fate is a sensitive point that realizes the complex relationship between solar and lunar expression. It illustrates how Grey realizes his purpose in existence. His use martial force reveals his courageous approach to life and art. He challenges both fiercely through an awareness of mortality. Visions of the intricate inner workings of the body that Grey depicts in his art are gained through autopsies. To recognize such intimate anatomical detail in a living subject reveals facts about the human body that it takes death to realize. In doing so, Grey wages war on the boundary we draw between life and death. He brings the intimacy of death to life.
It is interesting to note that Grey's Mars and Part of Fate rest on the MC/AS midpoint. This midpoint in represents the union of higher and lower selves. It is not a causative midpoint in the sense that it characterizes other points it contacts in the zodiac. Rather it receives the energy of contact points and thus characterizes the native. Grey's contact with Mars in Libra generates positive, aggressive communication for Grey. It makes him an action man for the world, bringing light, Martial fire, to the masses. It also necessitates a virile explosion of sexual energy.
The original fire stealer, Prometheus, plays a role in the myth of Mar's next significant aspect: Chiron. Chiron was a shaman centaur, both a diviner and healer, who traded his immortality to free the fire stealer Prometheus from his eternal torture. This shows the sacrifices a healer makes to spark other's healing processes. Mars contact with Chiron hints at the courage required of Grey to do his healing work. He betrays himself in his work. One looks at one of his early performance art works, Life, "Death and God" (1975). In it, a nude Grey he assumes the pose of the Hanged Man, balancing his weight, his life essence, against the weight of a cadaver. Between the two figures is the shape of the cross, the symbol of crossroads, the four elements, and a redeeming self-sacrifice.
Jupiter in Gemini further facilitates Grey's social skills. It brings exuberance to his work and expression. On a spiritual level it may represent growth through twinning. In other words, Grey finds a counterpart, presumably Allyson, and in doing so is able to expand his mental awareness. Gemini is under Mercury's dominion, and this finds reinforcement in the midpoint ME/MC. This provides Grey with enormous intellectual energy, as well as a very optimistic attitude toward it. It provides the necessary energy for self-expression. We see Venus also invigorated in Jupiter's expansive midpoint structures.
VE/NE indicates a love of beauty and the ability to both recognize and create artistic forms. One thinks of the jewel-like appearance of Grey's Mandalas. One only has to look at "Oversoul" on the cover of Transfigurations to recognize the beguiling and expansive nature of Grey's Creative vision. Featured is a very opulent mandala, wrought in gold. Its dazzling appearance evokes Tiphareth, the heart of the tree of life, and spiritual culmination of what it is to be human. Grey realizes this as gorgeous. The VE/NE midpoint indicates a need to acquire artistic objects or jewelry, a love of luxury, an appreciation of religious art. It is supported by VE/UR, which also makes Grey's love of art an integral part of his growth process, as well bring with it the necessity of a powerful female partner or counterpart.
Saturn joins Mercury and Venus in Scorpio. For every characteristic of light, there is a shadow version. Certainly, Grey is not all love and light. His ability to perceive light and universal energy is largely based on work with the dead. He worked in a mortuary for five years. His knowledge of anatomy was gained through direct handling and observation of corpses. There is seriousness obvious to his quest. This saturnine quality is very intimate and a constant component of Grey's works, especially his earlier work. Before he is able to realize his remarkable series of paintings with a birth theme, he had to do extensive studies of dead bodies and decomposition. Grey writes about his Secret dog, a study Grey made in 1973 of the decomposition of a roadkill dog: "While driving on the freeway, I hit a dog with my car. I picked up the dog, put it in a garbage bag and left it by a river. Over a period of six weeks I went back numerous times, pulled out the dog, and documented its decay"(p. 12)
Interestingly, Saturn is at the MA/VE midpoint. This is a hallmark of Ying/Yang energy, symbolic of sexual expression and the meeting point for the anima and animus. Often this midpoint contact is thought to bring about inhibitions in one's love life, but in Grey's case, it is hallmark of his knowledge of morbidity being part of sexual expression. After all, we are born to die, and the clock ticks the moment we draw breath. Death has long been a metaphor for the sexual act. As mentioned before, Grey recognizes the force of the universe in the sexual act. That force is both creative and destruction. The penis itself swells and bursts in the sexual act. It mimics a warrior slain in the heat of combat. Its sacrifice releases the seed of life.
Uranus is explosive, revolutionary force, in addition to occultism. Grey's placement in Gemini gives further testament to his passionate intelligent, a tendency to take everything in leaps and bounds and have a truly restless questing nature. Its danger is a tendency to scatter one's energy. Grey is keenly aware of all the pathways of energy relative to human beings. One need only look at breathing with its twins (Gemini) representing inhalation and exhalation. During a Palo ritual, a sprit guide once told me that inhalation and exhalation were the fundamental forces of the universe and that the purpose of magic was to direct these energies. They hung in balance with one another. Being able to sense the precise vibrations of the balance was the key the palero (magus) used to open the door to a spiritual plane in which he makes his will action. Grey subtly portrays this energy exchange in Breathing. On contemplating the double leaf reproduction, I really feel the ribbons of energy moving away from the figure on the right who is exhaling, just as the figure seems to be drawing those same ribbons in on the left hand side. Grey writes:
Uranus conjunct the Dragon's Head. Agent provocateur, who shares himself with the rest of humanity, Grey has rendered himself naked to audience countless times in his performance art. Frequently he has exposed his audience to nudity, blood, guts, putrefaction and sexual congress--aspects of existence most people hide. Grey permits the community to explore forbidden subject manner through his body as the medium. He continues to bring revolutionary subject matter to audiences.
In Uranus one sees Grey's power and mastery of energy in JU/VE. Simply put this is the capacity for enjoyment, the ability to express love and grow. It is accentuated by
MA/MC, which gives Grey the seeds of ambition and the energy to conquer obstacles and achieve that ambition. He is able to share his revolutionary vision through DR/MA, in which he can actively share his insights with a community
Neptune is a favorite planet of mystic. Seemingly its placement in Libra seems mild. It provides Grey with a receptive faculty, and the ability to express the finer feelings of love and high ideals. Its peril is over romanticism which has long been identifies as a weakness of artists.
Neptune conjunct Midheaven: When Neptune meets the Midheaven, ego conscious is stripped away. Just like Grey strips the obvious skin from his subjects. It is this type of depersonalization that frequently informs shamanic experience. A medium loses his ego in order to express oracular vision and allow a spirit to fill the shell of his body. The X-ray vision Grey brings to his work depersonalizes the subject at the same time it reveals the subject's most intimate details. The internal organs and networks of veins and arteries seem anonymous. They are what we expect to see in a medical textbook representing an anonymous cadaver. They are not what we expect to see in a portrait that traditionally depicts the subject's humanity and personality.
This submergence of ego is amplified by contact with MA/SA. The MA/SA midpoint is commonly called the death axis. In performing prognostication, it is one of the more sensitive positions to be examined. Quite frankly, it often plays a powerful role in identifying the moment the soul leaves the body. However, for Grey it consistently shows up at growth points in his life, including the birth of his daughter and meeting his wife. Grey intimately aquatinted himself with death throughout the 1970's. Even earlier, we see juvenile painting in "Transfigurations of Grim Reapers" and "Cemeteries." Through gaining knowledge of death, Grey has been able to realize a deep awareness of life. Esoterically, death represents union of the being with the universe. The physical body is no longer necessary to the spiritual energies that represent consciousness. In being a child of the universe and an interpreter of universal energy, Grey uses death force as a scalpel to reveal the microcosm to the macrocosm and help integrate the two. He unites higher and lower energies through revealing the pathways between them.
Note that the Dragonhead, symbol of karma in the horoscope, also makes midpoint contact with the Death Axis. Interestingly the Dragon's head is in Capricorn. That placement indicates the struggle to create a community. Grey has long taken part in workshops and collaborative artistic projects, a s well as conduct spiritual gets together on key solstice dates. He is a driving force for bringing together metaphysical artists and helping the public at large develop through shamanistic art. The Dragon's head's contact with the death axis traditionally talks about communication with sick people. Grey views art as a healing medium. He works a great deal with healers. As earlier commented, his shamanic vision is that of a healer. It is no surprise that his karmic destiny as expressed by the dragon's head would be linked to association with the sick and infirm.
His Pluto in Leo empowers him to transcend the protoplasmic spheres of energy. He is a man of extraordinary force and accomplishment in his ability to recognize the forces present in the world and the body human. Pluto too has a karmic influence for Grey through its midpoint contacts DR/UR. This again gives him essential power to break through the veneer of complacency and genuine connect with other people, even though some might describe that experience as traumatic.
He also recognizes the feminine dimension in such groundbreaking work with the MC/MO contact. That indicates spiritual revolution through woman and the achievement of peculiar emotional and psychic states. All of this is very expansive for Grey as indicated by MC/JU, which brings forth a ready means of success.
"The first time I hear of LSD was aback in 1967. I was 12 years old and in seventh grade. I read about LSD in Life magazine. Acid was not given a negative spin in those days. There were pictures of hippies, Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary in his guru mode. It all looked really cool, LSD was legal and the visionary and therapeutic "cosmic consciousness" aspect of the drug was emphasized. I did a seventh-grade science report on LSD-25. I hadn't taken it but was very intrigued. Not a long time after that, I fell into a chronic adolescent depression, and some of my friends were listening to Hendrix and the Beatles and taking acid. Some of them got pretty freaked out. I was their "sitter" for them and tried to ease their panic. I didn't take it during that time for fear it might make my depression worse." --Alex Grey
Connections between the cosmic pairings Ascendant/Midheaven, Sun/Moon and Mars/Venus are redundant factors throughout the key dates selected for Grey. This cannot be coincidence. They illustrate his quest to master the spectrum of energy and to give birth to new forms through a total integration of existing ones! A number of solar arc factors amplify this during Grey's twelfth year.
The directed planet or midpoint is listed first in the equation, with the affected natal point last.
Sun = Moon. This deals with the very balance of Nature. The directed sun is still in Grey's birth sign Sagittarius, heralding experimentation and transformation. The natal moon is in Virgo. Virgo is under Mercury (mind). Grey's soul challenges his outward personality through his intellectual growth. At Age Twelve, Grey experiences the dawning of cosmic awareness, as well as depression.
The solar arc moon also makes a powerful contact, Moon = Lilith. The directed moon comes into aspect with its shadow, Lilith. Emotions are brought into direct contact with fears. In order for Grey to grow emotionally he begins confronting his fears about aspects of existence that he has yet to understand. Here a seed is planted. Remember too that natal Lilith=Natal Ascendant. The Ascendant represents aspects of the ego.
Moon contacts to the Ascendant promote individuation, particularly when dealing with a sensitive personality. The solar moon is in Libra. Elementally, that is an air sign. Grey's natal ascendant is Capricorn. The contact lends itself to a word image of wind stirring up dust, earth scattering. This phenomenon enhances plant pollination at the same time it scatters foundations, even though the native is trying to achieve equilibrium.
Note too that Progressed Lilith (moved by Lunar progression, and thus key to Grey's emotional evolution), experiences the revolutionary and occult force through directed Uranus = progressed Lilith. The way his soul challenges authority and wields magic powers (Uranus) comes face to face with his emotional fears (Progressed Lilith).
Venus=Sun. Venus's role as erotic anima and creativity has already been established. At this juncture in Grey's life it is being illuminated at the onset of puberty.
Ascendant=Part of Fate. The Part of Fate is revealed by the following equation: Ascendant plus Moon minus Sun. The Part of fortune represents a moving index of the sun's relationship to the moon, and the moon's direct effect on development. It is the emotional tone of the personality. It characterizes the personality. It demonstrates how a unique individual receives life force. It is sensitive to transits and directions. Here the colorless ascendant meets the natal part of fate. Signage and aspects always define the ascendant itself, since it does not impart cosmic meaning on a point in contacts, but rather receives energy. (This is also true of the Midheaven. Don't scream that I have the chart wrong by having put it in the Masculine column. Both serve as signposts for unique components of the individual that do have positive/negative correspondences.) The value of the contact here illustrates that this is a significant turning point for Grey. His natal Part of Fate is in Libra indicates a need for others to validate the native's experience by intimate spiritual contact. Dane Rudyhar writes of that placement "There is an eagerness to impersonate great ideals, or even God! As a result of psychological uncertainty when faced by society or oversensitiveness."(Rudhyar, p.82) It is interesting in light of this that Grey talks about witnessing other people's acid experiences, rather than having his own. Still it profoundly influences him. He manipulates the action by acting as baby sitter. (It is also interesting to reflect on the long range effects of his Part of Fate in light of his later work with the Secret Dog, and his gaining intimate knowledge of the body human through vivisecting and thus assuming god-like dominion over other people's bodies.) He is honing his personality (Ascendant) through refining its pitch (Part of Fate) through contact with others
This critical dimension of this time is tolled more loudly by Solar Arc Midheaven = Progressed Ascendant. Midheaven (career, profession as well as his emotional expression) with meets Ascendant as shaped by its emotional growth. Yikes. Talk about a Mobius strip and everything turning in on itself. This period of time is really beginning to resemble a knot! One can envision the swirling energies surrounding the young artist as he begins to authentically realize the cosmic nature around him. He begins pursuing it. It is probably at this time that Grey begins to focus his ambition on becoming a successful artist and interpreter of the cosmos.
Venus, the warm fuzzy feminine element, also receives powerful solar arc directions.
Jupiter=Venus: The growing awareness of sexuality, love and artistic expression, which is further fueled by a contact with the emotional force of Mars. Note cosmic knot: Progressed Mars, Venus' male counterpart experiences the growth of its intuitive dimension through Directed Jupiter, expansion. Directed Jupiter=natal Venus= Progressed Mars. Both Yin and Yang receptors are being activated and cross-pollinated.
Directed Transpluto also makes contact here, making everything seem accelerated. Transpluto is like Pluto on Steroids. It intensifies the all energies.
A couple of quick word pictures for solar arc midpoint activity.
MO/PL=MO: Extreme emotions, inclination to sudden acts.
JU/UR=SU; Thank God! Good grasp on a situation.
SU/MC=MA: Strong individuality.
JU/PL=JU: Striving for Power!
UR/VE=JU: Love of art, inspiration.
ME/JU=SA: Inhibitions, withdrawal.
VE/PL=UR: Love at first sight.
JU/MC=NE: Dream of good fortune, weak dream.
ME/SA=PL: Brooding over destiny
Lunar Factors are expressed along the radius of tertiary progressions. In looking at the trifold cosmograms illustrating Grey's life achievements, I am reminded of a pattern of intertwined chalk circles which are drawn on the ground during some Yoruba healing rituals. Each circle represents a dimension of existence. The client is positioned in the center and must erase each circle with his foot. This symbolizes him integrateing the various realms of existence in order to achieve physical-spiritual harmony and thus heal. The circles and their relationships to time and the patterns of the cosmos in a cosmogram are similar. They represent dimensions that have value relative to the center. Each represents a unique manifestation of the space time continuum. It is essential for the native to integrate these in order to realize his own truth. Planets animate one another's energies by making aspects between one another based on their positions on the corresponding dimensions of time represented by the difference circles. These are circuits of energy. They oscillate. If one visualizes the resulting patterns, one can identify them with the geometry of intertwined energetic strings that Grey uses to compose his mandalas.
Grey's Tertiary progressions frequently reverberate the harmonies expressed in his solar arc direction. There is constant music of the spheres sounding in Grey's cosmic journey.
Progressed Mars=Venus: Venus and Mars are the inner planetary expression of Yin/Yang, Yoni/lingham, creation and destruction. Intricate structures with these two planets have already been described in the analysis of solar arc directions. Further analysis at this point is perhaps best left to the reader
Lilith =Saturn. Grey's fears are being defined. Saturn constricts. It fixes things in a precise position. When planets come into contact with Saturn, their potential energy becomes concrete and recognizable! Grey's fears become real and he must respond to them. He is tantalized by the prospect of tripping. He cannot risk it because of his own vulnerability to depression. He does the next best thing. He witnesses the phenomena by seeing others do it. He needs to externalize his fear of the unknown and give it concrete forms.
Jupiter=Mercury recognizes the expansion of intellectual horizons.
There are a number of Progressed midpoint contacts.
UR/NE = Sun: Lifelines, illness.
SU/UR = ME: Mental progress, sudden flashes, young reformer
SU/MO=VE: Harmony between Spirit and emotion, male and female, attraction between sexes, marriage. Heterosexual individuation.
SA/AS=JU: Indifference, joy over separation, move. (Inwardness of adolescence)
NE/PL=JU: Love of humanity, peace, and religiosity.
NE/DR=SA: Demonstration of emotional inhibitions with others, emotional suffering through another.
MO/VE-UR: Sudden manifestation of sexual desire, fits of emotion.
SA/AS=UR: Self willedness.
ME/AS=NE: Falsehood, deception. The midpoint also activates the Death axis for Grey as all Neptune contacts do.
Meeting Allyson and Trying Acid for the First Time