Melanie Reinhart wrote the book on Chiron. Literally. And if you don’t know who Chiron is, you’re obviously not an astrologer or an Ancient Greekophile or an, er, astronomer. Melanie Reinhart seems to be a creative commingling of all three. A used copy of her chef d’oeuvre, Chiron and the Healing Journey (1989), is currently on its way to my apartment via AbeBooks.com.
Chiron is a planetoid or proto-comet discovered by astronomer Charles T. Kowal on November 1, 1977, orbiting idiosyncratically between Saturn, the restrained planet, and Uranus, the kooky. Previously, Chiron was known to Ancient Greeks and nineteenth-century Neo-Classicists as the gruff, muscled, talented centaur, half-man, half-horse, who taught Achilles archery and was himself hit by Hercules’ poisoned arrow — a wound that famously never heals. Astrologically, Chiron signifies the point in the chart where the soul’s deepest wound, embraced, can awaken the ability to heal self and others.
Listening to La Reinhart parse the symbolism of Gustave Moreau’s painting of “A Dead Poet Carried By A Centaur” (1890), I observed myself entering that feeling state I’d previously derided in others. I was near tears, I felt she was speaking to me personally, I mean a deep inner part of myself, the part that used to listen to my mother tell me stories as a child. Reinhart moved me on some subtle, intangible level I didn’t know anyone else held the key to. And I was too relaxed to be embarrassed by this ignominious suspension of my otherwise flawlessly critical faculties.
I’d been in New Orleans a week, alternately imbibing the Dionysian laissez-aller of the French Quarter, hanging out with a young tarot card reader near the cathedral, and practicing “active listening” at the Marriott on Canal Street in the context of the 2012 United Astrology Conference. I’d come to New Orleans to learn how to be an astrologer. What a mad plan! I was loving every minute of it.
So it was I found myself, in the midst of taking conscientious notes on Reinhart’s insights, sometimes dropping my head into my hand, as my neck relinquished its burden and my mind wandered onto some level of consciousness not usually associated with rational thought, in a pricey New Age “workshop,” in a large charmless hall at the Marriott, full of seekers: possibly misguided, possibly narcissistic, spiritual and emotional hypochrondiacs mesmerized by an arcane science derided by many as beneath contempt.
Studying at the Zen Center in San Francisco fifteen years ago, I’d been warned off gurus. The City Center sangha had been badly burned by their founding roshi, Richard Baker, who overdid the sportscar-wardrobe-and-adultery piece of the lifestyle. British mystic Andrew Harvey, too, had had a famous falling-out with his guru, Mother Meera, detailed in his chronicle of spiritual break-up, The Sun at Midnight (2002). I’d interviewed him for the Bay Area Reporter and taken his disillusionment to heart.
More recently, I did embrace my singing teacher, Marcelle Dronkers, as my guru. She rebuilt the instrument. Total surrender was the condition of that transformation, but my abandon was mitigated by the daily rigors of vocalise: lip trills, scales, Vaccaj. My feeling for her felt like love, but it wasn’t love, it was merely the total sympathetic, physical and emotional realignment in resonance with my teacher.
Melanie Reinhart, my guru?
Listening to her gentle voice, simple phrases, precise diction, looking at her tangled cloud of hair and floaty pink garments, sensing her profound command of the room, her ability to project a psychic intimacy few people are comfortable with even in the privacy of their own libraries, her patient, sure establishment of a dreamy tempo, the slowing of the heartbeat, intoning the word “poetess” until I heard all three syllables… awakening to a significance beyond words, entering a trance state.
I know nothing about her personal life, but I gleaned a few facts about its outlines. Reinhart was born in Rhodesia: a late-comer to the British Empire, staked out in 1890 — when Gustave Moreau was depicting his Chiron in Paris — for the purpose of extracting mineral wealth. When she was 16, Ian Smith, the last prime minister, broke with Britain rather than accept majority rule. There were maybe 300,000 whites to 6,000,000 blacks at the time. At 22, as the last attempt at diplomatic resolution failed, signaling the escalation of guerilla war, Reinhart left Africa to hitchhike around Europe and settle in London. In 1977, at the height of the Rhodesian Bush War, Chiron entered her consciousness. Stories of the unhealed wounds of her astrological clients formed the basis of her Chiron and the Healing Journey. By the time it was published, her birthplace was named Zimbabwe.
I can’t say for certain, but I believe her Sun’s in the tenth house (career) exactly opposite Chiron in the fourth (home). In other words, Chiron is for Melanie Reinhart an inescapable presence she’s chosen to raise everyone’s consciousness about. More than an expert on Chiron, she’s his avatar, raising astrological interpretation to a healing art, intuitive, immediate, and ongoing. Her books, lectures, and meditations comprise a healing journey for herself and those fellow travelers lucky enough to stumble across her path.