We lead such busy lives. We often use how busy we are as a yardstick to measure success, despite moaning about not having enough hours in the day to do everything we want to do. Being busy gives us a sense of purpose, indicates a flattering demand from others for our presence or services, and often keeps us preoccupied with pressing matters of the day ahead of unhurried, quiet contemplation.

And that’s understandable. The spiritual aspect of our existence is not as tangible as meeting a work deadline, picking up the kids from school, going on a date, or simply not letting others down. Rather than spending valuable time mulling over the derivation of our thoughts, words, and actions or the pursuit of true happiness, most of us prefer to take on another project, another partner, another debt, or another pet in the pursuit of ‘more’ that we think might make us happy.

The most common reaction of the human mind to achievement is not satisfaction, but craving for more.

(Yuval Noah Harari Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow)

‘More’ is the elusive, escalating quantity that can never be attained or satisfied. The desire for more is the driver of the consumerist juggernaut which advertising execs the world over carefully navigate toward destination ‘needs’ that don’t exist on the map of reality. The more we get, the more we want. How many folks maintain they have everything they need or want in their lives - in their workplace, home, relationships, wallets or in their garage? Unfortunately, most of us embody a fertile breeding ground for the fatiguing virus of dissatisfaction.

One of history’s few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations.

(Yuval Noah Harari Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)

And I don’t mean to bad-mouth desire. Desire is a major player in the unfolding game of evolution, shaping the trajectory of human development and societal structures. In order to achieve something we have to imagine it as a possibility and want that achievement enough to take practical steps to make it happen. Neither is desire a singularly human phenomenon. Animals the world over enlist desire in their pursuit of sustenance and procreation. Biologically, it can be argued that every cell in existence expresses its desire to grow, communicate with other cells and die through their various, interconnected life spans.

The philosopher and historian Yuval Noah Harari suggests in several of his enlightening books that human desires, whether for survival, companionship, or transcendence, have been the driving force behind the development of complex social structures, technological advancements and cultural innovations. His argument that “Desire is the engine of history,” emphasises its role in the creation of intricate systems of human imagination, such as religion, politics and economics - key signatures of the Anthropocene era. An innate human insatiability presses us on, and on again, to invent new modes of behaviour regardless of the sometimes catastrophic consequences of our actions, for others and the planet. Just ask Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng.

We do not become satisfied by leading a peaceful and prosperous existence. Rather, we become satisfied when reality matches our expectations. The bad news is that as conditions improve, expectations balloon.

(Yuval Noah Harari Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow)

This weekend’s full moon reaches its peak in the sign of Virgo and, for astrologers, traditionally represents the galactic tension between the conscientious, industrious lunar influence of Virgo and the opposing wistful, transcendence of the Sun in Pisces. It’s a cosmic combination that might find us caught uncomfortably between practical, mundane matters and a building desire to rise above such earthly concerns. This heavenly axis accentuates the archetypal dynamic between the material and non-material; the visible and invisible; the physical and spiritual; work and leisure; busyness and contemplation; the desire for external validation over self reflective internal dialogue. Balance may therefore be hard to find over the coming fortnight, so, to avoid frustration, we might be well advised to make space in our busy schedules to consider both sides of the equation:

  • Does being busy bring me the happiness I seek?
  • Which of my desires for more are born of need and which are default settings of cultural conditioning?
  • Which desires for more could I do without and still be happy with my lot?
  • Which material desires did I fulfil only to spawn eventual disappointment?
  • Which desires for more caused harm to others?
  • Where is my non material existence situated in relation to the material one?
  • Is my life experience actually determined by the quality of my thoughts and reactions to material circumstance and how?
  • How can I change my default thoughts and reactions to effect positive change in the quality of my life experience?

People are usually afraid of change because they fear the unknown. But the single greatest constant of history is that everything changes.

(Yuval Noah Harari Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow)

Several philosophy and wisdom traditions suggest that the immaterial world not only informs the physical realm but is its source. The central tenet of Solipsism argues nothing exists that has not been imagined. The argument rests on the idea that knowledge of anything outside of our own mind is unsure, that the external world and other minds cannot be known and possibly do not exist outside of our mind.

Non-duality traditions point to evidence that there is only one, omnipresent mind in existence, of which all consciousness in the material realm is an inextricable part. Such schools of philosophy propose that reality is a state of interconnected union; that the world of matter is an illusion caused by the imagined thought of separation. They acknowledge the illusion seems very real, much like our own vivid dreams, but similar to our dreams being contextualised by waking to our daily reality, the illusory dream of the material can be correctly contextualised by a return to thoughts and experience of union. Other traditions refer to this immaterial process as atonement or at-one-ment.

As all things were from one.

(Jabir ibn Hayyan - 750 BCE - attributed to Hermes Trismegistus The Emerald Tablet)

Current developments in science seem to share some of these ideas. The dense material realm our personalities appear to inhabit has proven to be a coalescence of interrelated electrically charged particles floating in space. The smaller the particle observed, the greater the similarities with the vast emptiness of the galaxy. At the atomic scale, the nucleus and electrons are separated by distances resembling the relative proximity of stars, while the gaps between molecules are akin to the spaces between galactic star systems. The cosmic analogy travels further as galaxies themselves, composed of stars and cosmic matter, are separated by millions or even billions of light years - a scale that mirrors the significant distances between groups of molecules within a substance, whether stone or bone. Whichever lens you choose for perspective, these microscopic and macroscopic scales share a common theme of expansive voids, illustrating the extraordinary parallels between the miniscule building blocks of matter and the vast reaches of the cosmos. Ladies and gentlemen, whatever we think we are, on so many levels, we really are just floating in space.

That which is above is from that which is below, and that which is below is from that which is above, working the miracles of one.

(Jabir ibn Hayyan - circa 750 BCE - attributed to Hermes Trismegistus The Emerald Tablet)

As above, so below, this coalescence of electrical charge operates with such precision that it is not difficult to recognise the force of intelligence at work. This intelligence, animating the cells in our bodies and the physical world beyond in a web of interconnected communication, might be thought of as the material world’s common heritage - it is in constant flux, adapting and changing the ongoing dance of evolution. But where does this intelligence reside and from where does it emanate? Is it invisibly harboured within matter or mysteriously directing the show from outside? Even scientific methodology starts to flounder when it approaches the inextricably linked intricate concepts of consciousness and the mind. Science concurs that both are central to our life experience, yet the most up to date developments in physics, neurology, psychology, and philosophy still struggle to comprehend the nature of consciousness.

Rather than remain frustrated by a lack of understanding, many wisdom traditions suggest that a path to happiness lies in accepting and aligning with what is - whatever that may be. An attitude of unconditional non judgement is encouraged. Not to be confused with failure to express one’s considered preferences in life, such traditions nurture acceptance as the root from which love grows and flowers. Through non-duality traditions, one joyfully accepts one’s place in the harmonious unity of All That Is in order to achieve peace. But how many of us truly want peace as an outcome in our lives? Most of us make a rhetorical claim that we do, but our actions regularly fall short of supporting the assertion.

Under this desire led Virgo Full Moon perhaps we should take a few moments to explore the immaterial and examine the deeper intentions behind getting more of what we want. Do the outcomes of material demands reflect our inner desire for peace and happiness? If not, how can we adapt our thoughts, words, and actions to deliver outcomes of lasting satisfaction and wider benefit for All?

I’ll leave the final material word on the immaterial to the excellent Mr. Harari from his seminal text Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind: “According to Buddhism, the root of suffering is neither the feeling of pain nor of sadness nor even of meaninglessness. Rather, the real root of suffering is this never-ending and pointless pursuit of ephemeral feelings, which causes us to be in a constant state of tension, restlessness, and dissatisfaction. Due to this pursuit, the mind is never satisfied. Even when experiencing pleasure, it is not content, because it fears this feeling might soon disappear, and craves that this feeling should stay and intensify. People are liberated from suffering not when they experience this or that fleeting pleasure, but rather when they understand the impermanent nature of all their feelings, and stop craving them. This is the aim of Buddhist meditation practices. In meditation, you are supposed to closely observe your mind and body, witness the ceaseless arising and passing of all your feelings, and realise how pointless it is to pursue them. When the pursuit stops, the mind becomes very relaxed, clear and satisfied. All kinds of feelings go on arising and passing – joy, anger, boredom, lust – but once you stop craving particular feelings, you can just accept them for what they are. You live in the present moment instead of fantasising about what might have been. The resulting serenity is so profound that those who spend their lives in the frenzied pursuit of pleasant feelings can hardly imagine it. It is like a man standing for decades on the seashore, embracing certain ‘good’ waves and trying to prevent them from disintegrating, while simultaneously pushing back ‘bad’ waves to prevent them from getting near him. Day in, day out, the man stands on the beach, driving himself crazy with this fruitless exercise. Eventually, he sits down on the sand and just allows the waves to come and go as they please. How peaceful!”