August 23/24 - September 21/22
Mutable Earth: Test of Integrity
Objectively: Harvest time. Virgo's fading light reveals exactly what one has produced to face the coming winter. 'Ye shall know them by their fruits.'1 Sun sinks south, releasing its daytime splendor, setting to meet other stars waiting below the horizon. Personality offers its ripening talents to collective service.
Subjectively: Afternoon's lengthening shadows. In that more subtle light consciousness realizes and rectifies its own inner darkness. Day's transformation into night accelerates to the tipping point. Ego purges errors and purifies abilities in anticipation of a coming judgment.
Virgo: Integrity. Healing. Service. Work. Technique. Perfection.
Virgo's setting Sun illuminates features that were hidden in day's dazzling brilliance. Its cooler light of reason reveals inconsistencies not apparent in summer's hot passion. 'The Devil is in the details.' Ego learns to observe itself dispassionately, warts and all. Only thus can it fix its failings and perfect its strengths.
In Virgo day's subjective sensitivity (Cancer) and creativity (Leo) face reality. The exhilarating adventure of personal discovery must now pay debts, acknowledge mistakes, mend any harm it has done. A tragic flaw, born of imperfect reception in Cancer, magnified by Leo, is revealed and redressed in Virgo. Like an erupting Sun encountering cold dark space, Leo's flaming ego now learns its limits. Its cherished opinions, ambitions, joys, peccadilloes go on trial. Those that work will survive. Those that don't are eliminated.
Imperfection generates disease of body, mind and desire. This forces therapeutic intervention to eliminate its cause. Virgo invokes the healing principle. It provokes a fever that burns away dysfunctional programs. And generates an enhanced immunity to future error. It cuts away tumors of exaggerated growth, prunes back inflated self-esteem. Eradicates degenerate attributes with the strong medicine of rigorous self-analysis.
Virgo cleans up one's act. It reforms subnormal performance with a Spartan regimen of discipline. It improves through a vigorous workout on every level: material, emotional, mental and moral.
Virgo draws attention to problems that can no longer be ignored or tolerated. It targets physical debility, emotional pollution and mental inertia for a strenuous upgrade. Virgo refines the coarse to the sublime, lifts the dull and primitive to the bright and sophisticated. It rejects familiar and comfortable mediocrity, embraces the demands of merit. This takes painstaking effort. That pain is the price of progress towards a higher state and greater happiness.
Virgo experiences the transformative crisis of ego consciousness. It must now admit and amend its defects. This requires honesty and analytical ability. An innocence of self-centered being, however delightful, must measure up to objective rather than subjective standards. Whether it wants to or not. Virgo brings the end of choice and the beginning of adaptation. Only thus can one escape the (perhaps gilded) prison of personality.
Willful behavior and wishful thinking yield to brutally honest criticism. Virgo may seem like a hard taskmaster. But a strong hand is needed to reform Leo's exuberant excesses. Ego's powerful forces must be checked, controlled and properly channeled:
'For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son he receives.'2
Virgo embodies mind's ability to clearly observe its own identity. Critical intellect probes weakness with intent to heal. Its truth can really hurt. A false self image is inherently maladaptive. Egoic delusions are intoxicating but deadly. They must be deflated, their energy released for better use. Virgo endures the mortification of facing embarrassments. It develops the skill to detoxify them.
Virgo's remedial feedback loop allows any entity to monitor and improve its state of being. It continually diagnoses errors and prescribes their cure. At best it acts preventatively. Foresees difficulties and preempts them by generating improvements before failure occurs. Efficiencies add up to reach an entirely new level of competence. Or it can be a crisis management procedure. Deals effectively with inevitable setbacks and mistakes. At worst it becomes a morbid preoccupation with tiny imperfections, a sterile fear of doing anything because something might go wrong.
Virgo's characteristic conundrum arises with too great an emphasis on the perfect operation of each part while ignoring the whole: 'Losing the forest for the trees.' But, more than any other sign, Virgo is self-correcting. Any undue emphasis will be noted, understood as illogical, and reprogrammed to fit in with the big picture. Virgo needs to develop a sense of the appropriate: to learn when good enough is indeed good enough. Then it channels energy into important priorities rather than obsessing over little shortcomings. Thus Virgo shades into the next sign, Libra, that of balance and proportion.
To accomplish the great work of transformation ego must accept a discipline and submit to its demands. In Leo the genius, originality and passion of the creative artist was all-important. In Virgo the objective quality of the art takes center stage. Thus Virgo refers to technique, method, protocol. This can become soulless adherence to rules or a doctrine. A robotic deadening in automated thought and behavior. A martinet, a mean-spirited stickler for the fine print; one who sweats the small stuff. Or it can display perfect attunement to the task at hand, an exquisite economy of effort in every endeavor. A delight in skillful action and apt response. An adroitness of thought, word and deed completely compatible with the situation at hand. The passion of precision. A loss of the separate self-sense in a labor of love. Eventually that labor becomes love.
Virgo demands an impeccable integrity in every field, from the conduct of daily affairs to the central challenge of a life. It achieves this by shedding sloppy indulgence and setting the highest bar for behavior. It masters itself, not by a sadistic imposition of will, but by living up to a simple code. 'Do it right or don't do it at all.' Thus its emphasis on work, properly performed. Not as drudgery - as worship. Virgo worships through a perfect execution of every undertaking in the right spirit.
Virgo strives for constant incremental improvement. It reveals the evolutionary process by which tiny adaptations add up to big breakthroughs. Evolution's demands are harsh; the price of life's privileges is high. Yet, over time, its struggle generates a joy of its own: the ecstasy of excellence.
Virgo does not describe the goal of evolution, but its means. Yet over time the two become one. The dancer becomes the dance. Complete control liberates a free flight of spirit.
Virgo realizes how infinitesimal ego is in the greater scheme of things. Yet, just as one can 'see the world in a grain of sand.'3 so too the tiny ego, properly focused, reflects all God's glory. A single act done perfectly counts for more than all the loudmouth posturing and narcissistic dreams.
Virgo learns, step by tedious step, until aspiration becomes accomplishment. Proves its merit by willingness to undergo the protracted drill necessary to master its craft. Demonstrates its love by practical action.
For example, today we can measure the oscillations of an atom vibrating millions of times per second. Think of how amazing that is. The skill involved means more than the actual measurement. This perfection of technique mirrors a refinement of character. Competence, the effective application of mind to matter, indicates a consciousness resonating with reality. Clarity of awareness synchronized with proficient ability constitutes a special intensity of being.
Virgo structures spontaneous vitality into directed effort. For example, Leo generates an effulgence of light. Virgo focuses it into the coherence making a pinpoint laser beam more penetrating than a whole sky full of scattered photons. Virgo narrows and intensifies. It takes a truckload of rock and extracts an ounce of gold. This requires craft and concentration. By hard work it produces a speck of enduring value from a pile of rubble.
The Virgo energy field of applied reason minutely analyzes every situation to identify its defects and their practical solution. It functions internally through organizing principles of the scientific method, subjecting ideas or speculation to demonstrable clarification, proof and verification. It externalizes as technology, with its systematic procedures of inquiry leading to the objectively accurate results of its precisely engineered instruments.
Technology can extend the senses and enhance the mind. It can also displace non-rational elements of morality with an overly pragmatic agency emphasizing 'can' rather than 'should.' Virgo needs to complement its observational competence and intellectual acuity with ethical consistency. Otherwise it can enable questionable ends by fascinated concentration on their means. Virgo is often distracted from the Big Picture by its intricate detail. It must learn to distinguish priorities from process; to rank the relative importance and final value of things along with their cause and effect workings.4
Virgo manipulates its inner and outer environment, not as the free form cerebral play of Gemini, but in harnessed service to a purpose. Its ever increasing skill can usurp that purpose unless it discerns the 'why' behind the 'how.' It can elevate efficiency to a fetish and lose sight of its larger consequences. It commonly manifests as a willfully blind technician empowering negative forces to the best of its considerable ability. Is this not what much of the modern workforce has become?5
Virgo needs to develop an inner technology of soul, a yoga or holistic practice to purge irrelevant, even parasitic, distractions. It is called upon to heal itself before correcting others or improving the world.6
Virgo underlies the requirement of consistency as the foundation of virtue. Things must fit together, following each another coherently and with an overall logic. A fundamental principle of logic is 'Occam's razor': the simplest explanation is best. Virgo drives to streamline. It emphasizes the basic principle of organization: every part must correlate in subordination to the whole.
Virgo demands relevance. The sophistication of simplicity. It strips off elaborate explanation and artful presentation, going right to the core. Virgo's ultimate principle is integrity at its level of evolution. All of its fine-tuned abilities are oriented to and expressions of that end.
The sixth house, Virgo's subjective correlate, and any planets in it, portrays those functions that must be disciplined, re-educated and improved. The house cusp that the sign of Virgo occupies indicates the area of life undergoing rigorous training and purification through service. The position and aspects of Virgo's ruling planet, Mercury, provide insight into the process of that exercise.
Virgo demonstrates pragmatic intelligence, applied reason. It acts as the problem solving mind. Not abstract but always grounded in actual phenomena. Intellect actively engages the world. A concrete rather than a contemplative mentality, validating truth by instrumental usefulness and real results. Discrimination between pertinent and extraneous information; fidelity to phenomena rather than indulgence in fantasy. That many a beautiful theory has been slain by an ugly fact underlies Virgo's insistence on precise observation and minute detail. Thus it embodies a necessary corrective to magical thinking. Generally and inherently it keeps us honest. However, it can become petty-minded, too literal, without appreciation for ambiguity. It can overlook the symbolic, metaphorical or poetic aspects of truth.
Virgo has little to do with desire (Taurus) or ambition (Capricorn). It emphasizes accuracy: the exact truth, regardless of what one wants. It rejects embellishment or excuse; refuses to nurture hope or illusion. Virgo seeks to enhance overall quality by raising productivity, upgrading every function to its full potential. Seeing it as it really is and taking all necessary means to make it better.
Virgo reasons inductively, but in a different way than the other Mercurial sign of Gemini. Gemini finds truth through argumentation, a free for all competition. Virgo finds commonalities in data and seeks to organize them into a cohesive whole through the discovery of unifying principles.
Virgo defines categorical imperatives: fundamental guidelines, based on a consistent logic. These rational operating procedures differ from Taurean values, based on personal preference. A sign describes a fundamental dynamic of human psychology - not its specific content. Virgo refines its nature in accordance with clearly understood criteria. It does not define the criteria themselves: these vary among individuals, cultures and historical periods.
Virgo marks the critical transition between a peak experience of subjective character (Cancer, Leo) and the beginning of membership in a social setting (Libra). It defines the gold standard of identity and coordinates behavior around that. Its emphasis shifts from the spontaneous experience of all previous signs (Aries-Leo) to an articulated code of conduct. Ego voluntarily submits to a central organizing principle outside of itself.
Virgo prepares the psyche for equality of relationship (Libra) by a willing apprenticeship in service. It recognizes that duty comes before command. And that subordination to a higher cause or norm becomes a form of spiritual achievement. It portrays the faithful servant who does the work and never gets the credit. With a growing understanding that 'credit' often means degrading self-promotion, detracting from the true nobility of work done for its own sake, not for applause.
Virgo prepares personality for its long voyage into an ocean of collective experience. A tiny navigational error at the beginning of a journey amplifies over time to go far astray. Virgo meticulously calibrates an inner compass. Later signs will decide the direction of social participation. They set a course based on judicious choice (Libra), emotional passion (Scorpio) or philosophical conviction (Sagittarius). Virgo enables such decision with an ability to figure out exactly where things are and how to reach the goal. That ability to determine true location now constitutes an equal achievement to, and is the prerequisite of, any future outreach.
Generally underestimated Virgo makes us who we are by the magic of the commonplace. For example, in considering the human constitution one might first think of the mysterious brain, three pounds of grey jelly more complex than a galaxy; or of the glamorous eye, window of the soul. Virgo is like the opposable thumb, seemingly insignificant, yet the key to our ability to manipulate reality. No thumb would mean no fire, no tools, no writing - none of the enabling techniques allowing our minds to actually engage the world. Thumb, eye and brain all co-evolved: without perfect hand/eye coordination swinging through the branches our simian ancestors would never have gotten off the ground.
Virgo demonstrates the flowering, from Leo's heart centered charisma, of an independent critical mind. Its operating principle: integrity. Its method: purification through service. Its purpose: relative perfection. Thus one may go forth to meet the other in Libra.
1. Matthew 7:16
2. Hebrews 12:6
3. 'Auguries of Innocence,' William Blake, 1757-1827, English poet, a seminal figure of the Romantic movement:
'To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour.'
4. '…a woman named Martha welcomed him (Jesus) into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 38
5. 'It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.' Upton Sinclair, American writer, 1878-1968
6. 'Physician, heal thyself.' Luke 4:23, quoting an ancient Talmudic proverb.