The Masks of the Teacher

(Originally appearing in The Second Road)

Not long ago I was taking my weekly kundalini yoga class. My teacher, Stephanie, was relating her experiences with her teachers in a training intensive. She described in the Kundalini tradition the types of teachers they had. One teacher was a Saturn teacher, a taskmaster, while the other was a Jupiter teacher, more jovial and guiding. Each one attracts the type of students that need that type of teaching.

Something really struck a cord with me when she described these two modes of teaching. As a teacher myself, the dynamic of a relationship with a teacher naturally intrigues me. I’ve been blessed with some very wonderful teachers, and had some more difficult experiences that were educational, if not in the way the instructor intended. I’ve drawn from my own experiences, trying to recreate what’s worked for me, and avoid the actions and behaviors of past instructors that were not helpful to me. The idea of spiritual teacher archetypes as a guide for the student/teacher relationship struck me as an amazing concept, simple and obvious, but something that is not talked about much in Western spirituality. The Jupiter/Saturn model planted a seed, but I thought there must be more to it than that.

While meditating at the end of the yoga class, I was struck with the idea that all the planets are teachers in our lives. When we study astrology, we know that each one has a gift or lesson to bring to us. But some planets play a more personal role in our development while others are more spiritual. By looking at the spiritual planets, Jupiter through Pluto, we have a greater range of teacher archetypes to develop in our spiritual lives.

 Jupiter is the planet of expansion, opportunity and spiritual light. In India, Jupiter the planet stands for Guru, or teacher. The archetype of Jupiter is the father god, usually loving and kind. Jupiter teachers are often good- natured, using humor as a tool. They also use the intellect to bring practical understanding to esoteric material. Such teachers often gently guide by shining a light where the students need to go, but allows them to find their own path. Jupiter is the higher vibration of the Sun, so it provides higher spiritual energy, rather than physical, day-to-day energy. Sometimes the light of Jupiter teachers takes us into the dark, and to the things we do not want to see, but then give us the choice to go.

Saturn: The planet Saturn is known as the Lord of Karma in many texts. Saturn manifests the lessons we need to learn, and forces us to face them. We can choose the easy way or the hard way, but Saturn makes sure we take responsibility for past actions, thoughts and feelings. Saturn teachers take the same approach. They can give difficult, tedious tasks to teach a lesson and reveal you to yourself. They are taskmasters who seek to confront you with things that you don’t want to see. These guides ask us to face our fears and the very things we run away from. They push us past our emotions, and give us limits for us to push and test. Saturn is the higher vibration of the emotionally reactive Moon, setting boundaries and discipline with our feelings. Saturn teachers aid in breaking down the ego and false identities. Saturn teachers push your buttons, and during the process you may not like them, but the result is very worthwhile.

: Uranus is the unconventional teacher. It is the planet of the rebel, the trickster and the bolt of sudden enlightenment. They seek to teach through paradox, like the riddles of Confucius. Their actions and words may conflict until you contemplate them. Uranian teacher will not give you the answer, but will ask you to figure it out. They may even push you in the wrong direction or give you a sudden and unexpected change to give you a jumpstart. Uranian teachers will encourage you to be yourself, trust your intuition above all else, and find your individual path. They encourage you to seek your own bolt of enlightenment and shed all that keeps you from being free and in the moment. As we enter the New Age, or Age of Aquarius, the planets that rule Aquarius are Uranus and Saturn, indicating the type of teachers that may be needed in this transition.

Neptune: Neptune is the planet of dreams, illusions, creativity and unconditional love. The Neptune teacher works through stimulating your unconscious through your creativity and artistic expression. Art, music and dance are expressions of the soul. Although named after a sea god, the archetype of the sacrificed/resurrected god is another Neptunian principle. Dionysus, the Greek god of poetry, health, madness, and rebirth is an example, as is the more modern image of Jesus Christ. Although often imaged as martyrs, Neptunians are also great healers, healing through unconditional love, they help you dive into the depths of your soul, and come back out again. When we are lost, Neptune teachers guide us back home to spirit, to merging with the divine through love. The planet is a higher vibration of Venus, the planet of earthy love, but Neptune teachers strive to come with no judgment or attachment when offering the higher vibrations of love.

: Pluto is the lord of death. His domain is not always the finality of death, but the darkness before rebirth. Pluto teachers are very shamanistic in nature, bringing you to the depths to face your shadows and prove you can guide yourself back out. It is the trial by fire, the initiation test. Pluto is the higher vibration of Mars, the god of war, will and fire. Pluto deals not with earthly, personal will, but divine will. To paraphrase Nietzsche, if Pluto teachings do not break you, they will make you stronger. This teacher opens the ways into the mysteries, exploring esoteric subjects few choose to pursue. Pluto teachers ask you to explore and investigate. Rituals, sexuality, trances and magick are part of the Pluto course. The mystery schools of ancient Greece, such as the Eleusinian mysteries, or the Orphic Mystery School are Plutonic in nature.

Now all of these descriptions are pure archetypes, but each person, teacher or otherwise, is working with all of these spiritual planets. No one is a pure archetype. People blend the characteristics of several archetypes. Teachers styles may change over time, and develop from one to the next. Some teachers are more appropriate in certain paths and disciplines than others. Martial arts instructors often have a Saturn approach, while meditation teachers may have a Jupiter or Neptune approach. Reiki teachers often work in the Neptune zone. Progressive school teachers may have a Uranian approach and shamanic teachers have a strong Pluto flavor. Everyone is different and brings a different combination of styles and skills.

Spiritual teachers don’t always come in human form. Often events in our life, and our actions/reactions, can be the biggest spiritual teachers. As the planets are teachers to us all, we may not find a Plutonian style teacher, but experience a “dark night of the soul” ending in a personal revelation. We may choose a job or project that becomes our Saturn taskmaster. We may become our own rebellious Uranian tutor. These energies are not confined to individuals in our life, but flow in and out through many expressions. So the next time you feel you are on the verge of learning your next “lesson” ask yourself what kind of energy, what kind of teacher is giving me this gift. That may give you a whole new perspective about what you need to learn.