Because Aquarius is the sign of the water carrier, many people mistakenly believe it is a water sign, yet if this were the case, we would see much more emotion from our often cool, aloof, and detached Aquarian friends. While water signs are about mastering emotions, air signs are about mastering the mind, and as the fixed air sign, Aquarius is all about the mind. Aquarius’s concern about humanitarian ideals and their apparent coolness on a personal level can seem like a contradiction until we understand the nature of air and fixed energy.
How can one be concerned for the whole of humanity and be apparently uncaring or “unfeeling” on a personal level? We might question their integrity and wonder whether they actually care or not. This is because Aquarius’s humanitarian concerns come from the head rather than the heart. It is an intellectual ideal born from intelligence and cold reason, rather than heartfelt compassion. “We are civilized people so we should be concerned for one another’s welfare.” This is one of the keys to understanding both the fear-based reactions and love-based expressions of Aquarius.
To really understand both the fear-based reactions and love-based expressions of this enigmatic sign, we need to briefly review the nature of fixed energy. In astrology, we speak of energy as having three “modalities” or modes of expression, sometimes called “qualities” because they describe the quality of the energy being expressed. These three modalities are cardinal, fixed, and mutable.
To understand how they work in harmony, think of a tree. The first green shoot that fights its way purposefully through the rocks and the earth towards the light of day is driven by cardinal energy, the energy of creation, evolution, and new beginnings. Cardinal energy is a driving force that pushes life onwards and upwards.
Now think of the trunk of the tree. That is fixed energy, the energy of a placeholder, containing and holding the energy within a fixed form or structure. Wherever there is structure – the structure of the trunk, the branches, the leaves, the cells within the leaves and even the DNA structure within those cells – we have fixed energy at work. It is fixed energy that will stabilize the tree within a structure for the duration of its life so it can fulfill its purpose.
Now think of the end of the life cycle when the tree dies. The leaves die and drop off, the trunk eventually breaks down, and the matter decomposes and transform into compost. This breaking down and changing and dissolving of form is mutable energy. The energy can then be reused (in the form of cardinal energy) once again at the beginning of a new life cycle. In the modalities we see the three essential energies that comprise the cycle of life: cardinal (creation), fixed (stability), and mutable (destruction).
Now think of the octaves of the musical scale, and you’ll understand the biggest challenge for all fixed signs, especially Aquarius. Fixed energy wants to “fixate” on something. So the only question becomes whether you lock and hold on the lowest octaves of the scale or on the highest ones. In terms of your spiritual journey, this refers to your level of consciousness.
As the fixed air sign, Aquarius is all about mastering the mind and the intellect. This is what makes Aquarius one of the most challenging signs for those on the spiritual quest, because changing course (by changing your mind) once you have locked in on your target like a heat-seeking missile is one of the most difficult things for you to do. This is why our Aquarian friends (and indeed all fixed signs) have a reputation for stubbornness.
On the spiritual journey, the activity of the intellect is actually considered an obstacle. We need to be able to go beyond intellect in order to realize spiritual truth, and this is where Aquarius often gets caught. Contrary to our contemporary Western view (where intellect is held in the highest esteem), in terms of spiritual development, attachment to intellectual ideas without the experience of direct perception is considered a form of ignorance.
[quote cite=”~ Lankavatara sutra translated by Walpola Sri Rahula”]Ignorant people get stuck in words like an elephant on the mud.[/quote]
The term “ignorance” in this context is not meant to be offensive, but refers to people who are not yet spiritually awake. We are all “ignorant” as long as our perception of spiritual truth is obscured, and it is the intellect that can be one of our biggest obstacles. In Esoteric Astrology, the Tibetan explains that we are evolving from instinct, through intellect, to intuition. In other words, intellect is a developmental stage that we are passing through. So when our Aquarian friends get stuck there, their spiritual development has reached a hiatus! The above quote is speaking of the problem of being stuck at the intellectual level.
Spiritual teachers and yogis speak of three levels of consciousness: gross, subtle, and extremely subtle. Gross consciousness is tangible and most related to our senses; we can see a rock, we can pick it up and feel it. We can hear running water. Subtle consciousness is the realm of thoughts. We are aware of thinking, but we cannot see our thoughts or touch them. This is where we experience the intellect. Extremely subtle consciousness lies in the stillness and silence beyond thoughts, and this is where we experience intuition. It is the consciousness of the Universe, and once we are able to abide at this level for prolonged periods of time, as great masters and yogis do, it is said that we have access to the wisdom of the Universe.
The musical scale of our spiritual journey is the ability to reach the high note of extremely subtle consciousness and remain there. While it is difficult for our Aquarian friends to navigate their way up the scale, and they face the danger of becoming stuck at the level of intellect, once they do reach the level of extremely subtle consciousness, their fixed nature gives them the advantage of being able to hold their attention there for long periods of time. Fixed signs can be great meditators if they have chosen well and fixed on the right level of consciousness! This is where we see the highest octave of Aquarius. Esoterically, Aquarius is the sign of group consciousness. This is not the tribal consciousness that is often associated with Cancer, but refers to the highest unity consciousness that is accessible only at the level of extremely subtle consciousness.
As we follow the soul’s journey through the twelve signs of the Zodiac, after the soul in the cardinal earth sign of Capricorn has learned how to methodically take the steps up the mountain (in other words to navigate the musical scale of consciousness and reach the high note of unity consciousness), Aquarius is able to hold the tone and allow the spiritual waters of love and life to flow for the benefit of humanity. At this extremely subtle level of consciousness, it is not holding in the sense of grasping, but rather it is a soft focus on subtle energies that accepts the flow of the dual waters of Aquarius, love and life. This is why, although Aquarius is the sign of the water carrier and has the symbolism of being a “vessel” to bring forth spiritual energy, we can also see that the water is always flowing. This is a vessel through which spiritual energy flows and is not contained.
[quote cite=”~ Alan Wilson Watts”]You cannot understand life and its mysteries as long as you try to grasp it. Indeed, you cannot grasp it, just as you cannot walk off with a river in a bucket. If you try to capture running water in a bucket, it is clear that you do not understand it and that you will always be disappointed, for in the bucket the water does not run. To “have” running water you must let go of it and let it run.[/quote]
At this level, the energy of Aquarius joins with his polar opposite, heart-centered Leo, and the united sign of Aquarius-Leo flows the energy of love and life through a pure and open heart. Once we balance the Aquarius-Leo polarity, we are centered in our hearts, yet connected to the collective consciousness of humanity at one and the same time. There is great warmth and love here and not the cool, uncaring, aloofness that is often associated with the intellectual Aquarian. This is also why, esoterically, at its highest spiritual expression, Aquarius is the sign of the collective consciousness of humanity and the flowering of human consciousness. Once we have completed our soul’s passage through Aquarius, then we are ready for the sacred heart opening that happens on the last stage of our journey in Pisces!
If you have Aquarius Rising, you can consider yourself to be an Aquarian Soul, and your highest purpose is to flow the “dual waters of love and life for the benefit of thirsty humanity” (the Tibetan, Esoteric Astrology). The only question is whether you will fix your attention on a lower consciousness by getting caught in your own mental activity, or whether you will be able to go beyond your own thoughts and focus your attention on the peace and stillness that lies within. Then you will reach your highest soul purpose and access the flowering collective consciousness of humanity, and love and life will pour through you for the benefit of all.
Ruth Hadikin – Soul Astrologer