Gemini rules the lungs and the bodily process of respiration. Respiration is, of course, the interchange between without and within, the self and the not-self, that is absolutely fundamental to life. The first breath of life taken by the newborn marks the moment of the soul’s incarnation into form (the movement from the state of total dependence to independence of the mother’s body). Breath reveals, paradoxically, both independence and interdependence; it defines the very parameters of self and not-self by crossing the thresholds of the individual body. In this repeated crossing back and forth – interweaving – between the bodily self and its environment, we are rendered simultaneously separate (differentiated, individual, independent) and contingent (interdependent, contiguous, co-existent). The breath shows us how we are woven into the fabric of life: ‘We are the ebb, we are the flow; we are the warp, we are the weave; we are the web.’
This paradox of unity and duality is essential to the human experience; it is fundamental to the development of consciousness, which relies on duality (and the sufferings of separation it incurs) to realise unity (perceived when consciousness is able to penetrate the illusion of duality). When God created the first human, so myth has it, He plucked a reed from the riverbed and by making holes in it fashioned it into a flute. Blowing into it, God is able to play the music of human existence; the winds of life pass through the flute and make all kinds of music: the variety of human experience. Rumi writes:
A craftsman pulled a reed from the reedbed,
cut holes in it, and called it a human being.
Since then, it’s been wailing a tender agony
of parting, never mentioning the skill
that gave it life as a flute.
Respiration shares its root etymologically with the words inspiration and spirit: spirare, meaning to breathe. Breath is the animating principle, the conduit of the holy spirit into our experience; it is that which calls us into life – inspires us – at all levels. Similarly, working with the breath will take us from our separative, bodily, ego perspective towards a greater awareness of spirit and connectedness. We have a tendency to breathe without awareness; much of the time this means we breathe shallowly, with very restricted lung capacity. The effect of shallow breathing is to create an undercurrent of anxiety; rapid, shallow breathing is associated with fear in our instinctual experience. Shallow breathing is an aspect of the fight or flight response. People are taught how to overcome panic attacks by mastering their breathing. When we breathe deeply and with awareness we are far more capable of remaining calm and centred in the body, for the body rests more in its gravity line, relaxed and at ease, allowing a natural and full energy flow. We instinctively associate full breathing with well-being and so to cultivate the full breath will cultivate a sense of well-being.
Many relaxation and meditation techniques begin with learning to focus attention on the breath, because the breath conditions so strongly the way we experience our lives. Re-training the breathing is a method of re-training the way we experience, and thereby construct, our realities. Gemini and the third house of the birth chart pertain to how we encounter our immediate environments, and how we assemble our personal realities.
The breath is the indicator of how we allow the flow of spirit, energy and vitality into our bodies and beings. Tension creates constrictions and blocks in the body that restrict the movement of the breath (spirit) in and out of our lives. Approximately 70 percent of toxins are eliminated through the exhalation; holding on to the out-breath (an effect of stress) is, quite simply, a poisonous activity. Conscious use of the out-breath can be effective in releasing old memories and patterns that have been deeply internalised. In her book, The Sorcerers’ Crossing, Taisha Abelar writes of reconditioning her experience and freeing herself of the past by making a ‘recapitulation’, which is a thorough and systematic remembering of the past and releasing it from the body with a special out-breath.
The breathing will also show how we hold on to energy that is ‘spent’ and how we resist opening ourselves to the influx of the new. Resistance to change and attachment to old patterns (however unpleasant, limiting and harmful) may find expression in the breath. Breathing reflects how we let life flow into and out of our existences. With each breath prana (vital energy) passes directly into the etheric vehicle and is mainly received through the heart centre (anahata). Breathing is also therefore an indicator of the condition of the heart chakra; just as the breath must be allowed to flow fully in and out of the lungs, so love must flow into and out of the heart chakra if the heart is to be nourished, healthy, open and free of tensions. A block or tension in the heart chakra will be accompanied by a restriction in the breath, signalling the problem that is arising at a non-physical level. Working to bring awareness and fullness to the breath will encourage the heart centre to relax, release and open.
Gemini also rules the hands, arms and shoulders. This is interesting for two reasons: first, because of the relationship between the breathing and the arms; second, because it underscores the idea of inflow and outflow between the self and not-self that has been established as a Gemini theme. The diaphragm is the big muscle between the thorax and the abdomen that is moved up and down by the breathing. It is connected to the shoulder blades and the arms through the thoracic spine. Thus the breath, the shoulders and the movement of the arms are related through the spine. The diaphragm also marks the bridge between the higher and lower chakras (and the higher and lower levels of experience pertaining to them). The arms, hands and shoulders are the tools of our receiving from the world and giving to the world. We give and take through the hands; the dexterity of the hands determines how we model the stuff of our lives; the strength of the arms and the mobility conferred by the shoulders condition our ability to give and take effectively. The lesson of the breath to the arms is that just as the breath must be allowed fully in and fully out, so we must be generous givers and grateful receivers: our giving and taking must be in balance. It is a strong idea with us that it is more blessed to give than to receive; but this is nonsense and cannot be. It is blessed to give and to receive in equal measure; the more we give the more we are able to receive; the more we receive the more we can give.
Our arms and hands are also our working and communicating tools; using them we become active and effective in the world. They are the communicators between self and not-self, bringing objects of not-self towards self and offering objects of self outwards. The arms and hands pertain to how we define ourselves in relation to our environments. Problems in the arms or hands could point to several mental-emotional states: the wish to retreat from the immediate environment; retraction from the human commerce of giving and receiving; the desire to resist ‘reality’; or to a block in the ability to give or receive love.
It is notable that Gemini rules these pairs (the lungs, the arms, the hands) because Gemini is, of course, the sign of the Twins. Liz Greene (in The Astrology of Fate) develops the mythical background of the signs; in the case of Gemini she draws on the myth of the twins Castor and Pollux, one of whom is mortal, the other immortal.1 The myth of the twins portrays the relation between the higher and lower aspects of the self: the soul and the personality, and the spirit and the soul. This can be thought of as the level of alignment that exists between the higher self and the lower self (that functions at the level of personality experience). The spiritual task of transforming energy from lower to higher is one of aligning the lower self with the higher. Gemini’s rulership of the arms and hands is indicative of the services the two brothers must render to each other in dissolving the separative (polarised) relation that has existed between them for so long.2 The energy of fusion that comes through the sign of Gemini oversees the polarised interplay between seeming opposites. Through this interplay consciousness arises. When the Sun is in Gemini there is a struggle for fusion between the soul and the form life; when Gemini is on the ascendant the struggle is for fusion between soul and spirit.
The heart chakra is the ‘organ of fusion’:
As the heart centre becomes active, the individual aspirant is slowly drawn into an increasingly closer relation to his soul, and then two expansions of consciousness take place: … He is drawn into the Ashram of one of the Masters, according to his soul ray, and becomes an accepted disciple … . He is drawn into close service relationship with humanity. His growing sense of responsibility, due to heart activity, leads him to serve and work.3
As the heart chakra opens the thymus, inactive in adults (due to inactivity in the heart chakra) will become active as ‘”the immortal brother floods the mortal brother with the light and life of God”’4 – and the light and life of God are imbued with the quality of love (God is love) pertaining to the heart.
As we have said, human experience is quintessentially one of the interchange of spirit and matter, mind and body; we are the mode by which heaven and earth meet and make their exchanges. As Gemini governs the interplay between dualities, its energy underlies all the other polarities of the zodiac. Gemini has a restlessness and versatility that can manifest as anxiety or superficiality; it seeks stimulation and change to such an extent that it can be in danger of skating over the surface of life without much awareness of the deeper levels of experience. A certain agility and nervousness is bestowed by Mercury, the orthodox ruler of Gemini.
Mercury is the messenger of the gods, the planet of interaction and communication. It speeds around the Sun (travelling close to the Sun, like the lesser brother flooded with the light of the greater brother), carrying energetic messages between the signs and planets. It determines the way in which we seek to integrate different experiences and energies, and thus how we learn and shape our realities. If the Sun can be said to represent the manifestation of the higher self as it is functioning through the life, Mercury is the communicant between the self and the various elements of not-self. Like the breath and like the arms, Mercury has the function of weaving and interrelating between dualities. Mercury is also the psychopomp, the guide of souls; he guides us into life (marked by the first breath) and takes us into death (marked by the last breath).
Gemini’s rulership of sensory perception and the nervous system shows its sensitivity. It governs the reception and transmission of energy; it therefore requires a high level of sensitivity. This however has the tendency of producing an over-reactive, nervous disposition that is too much involved with its own stories and dramas to be able to see the wider context and meaning of experience. Mercury and Gemini in the birth chart can indicate areas of over-sensitivity and weakness. As Mercury is so fast-moving it is impacted upon by slower-moving planets natally and by transiting activity. Therefore, Mercury in the chart is an area that is likely to manifest a problem that is actually emanating from the slower-moving planet. Mercury is the means by which the deeper meaning of the slower planet enters consciousness and makes itself available for healing.
Taisha Abelar, The Sorcerers’ Crossing: A Woman’s Journey (London: Arkana, 1992).
Alice Bailey, Esoteric Astrology (London: Lucis Trust, 1951).
———- Esoteric Healing (London: Lucis Trust, 1953).
Liz Greene, The Astrology of Fate (1984; London: Thorsons, 1997).
1 Liz Greene, The Astrology of Fate (1984; London: Thorsons, 1997), pp. 189-196.
2 Alice Bailey, Esoteric Astrology (London: Lucis Trust, 1951), p. 366.
3 Alice Bailey, Esoteric Healing (London: Lucis Trust, 1953), p. 161.
4 Esoteric Astrology, p. 367.