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America In Transition

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Bianca
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« on: July 28, 2008, 08:47:33 am »








                                               




By Jessica Murray

Taking the Pulse of the World

Astrology has no match when it comes to delineating the subtleties of an individual psyche: there is no psychological model, no sociological theory, no Myers-Briggs-type test in existence as sophisticated as a birth chart when it comes to understanding a person’s character.

And in this psychological age we live in, using astrology to take the pulse of a human being is the arena that gets far and away the most emphasis. But astrology’s symbolic reach is astoundingly elastic. It can just as easily take the pulse of a business meeting, an airplane flight, a culture, or a whole era.



Macro and Micro

Whether the story in question is small and personal (will he ask me out this weekend?), or immense and impersonal (will the USA remain a superpower?), astrology has the language to tell the tale. How can this be? It is because astrology is a system of cosmic laws; and both macro-cycles and micro-cyles abide by cosmic laws. The same planets and signs that measure the vicissitudes of a person’s work week can be used to measure the overarching themes of collective life.

As individuals get born and die, so do nations; so do whole epochs. This column will address planetary themes as they are played out in U.S. culture and the wider world. Just as we use transits to keep us abreast of our personal mood shifts, we can use them to keep abreast of collective mood shifts. Human societies have their own subplots and crisis points that are scripted, chapter by chapter, in the sky.



Written in Code

But we must keep in mind that the script is written in code, not in literalisms. Those new to astrology are often disappointed to find that the planets don’t spell out a specific itinerary. There is no list of events up there waiting to happen, for the future is written at every moment.

When astrologers foresaw Pluto (planet of destruction and renewal) heading towards the USA’s Ascendant in late 2000, for example, we knew something huge and unprecedented was about to mess with America’s mass mind. But the specific manifestation—hijacked planes into the World Trade Center—was fashioned by the group soul, not by the planets. The planets just told us it was time. They told us “what was going to happen” only in so far as they told us what it was going to mean. And they told us this in the coded language of symbols.

All great truths are couched in ciphers. We see this in the nuanced metaphors in holy books (though the religious fundamentalists would argue with me on this); in the analogies of poetry; in the riddles of the Sphinx. The wisdom of the ages has always been carefully encrypted: either by human shamans—who were often sworn to keep powerful mystical secrets from falling into the wrong hands —or by the Divine Mother herself, who designed planetary movements to render a plethora of potential expressions.

We must remember this if we want to derive spiritual meaning from astrology. We must be able to think symbolically if we are going to look to the sky to make sense of what is happening on Earth.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2008, 08:50:04 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2008, 08:51:40 am »










The Outer Planets

To take the pulse of the world at any given moment, we need to back up from the hue and cry of the culture wars. If our intention is to understand the higher meaning of global events we must refer back to the pure abstraction of astrological symbols, for that is where their truth lies. This means setting our sights beyond the partisan opinions and chauvinisms that blare at us from the media and from government spin-masters.

We must even—at first—back up from our dear friends the inner planets, and begin instead with the outer planets, whose cycles are long and slow and describe the evolution of collective wholes. The planets farthest from the Sun establish the main plot of what’s going on for humanity at a given time. The planets closer to the Sun supply the subplots.



Pluto and the Big Picture

So it is to Pluto, the most distant planet in the solar system1, that we will first look to get a bead on what’s going on in the world. Pluto is the planet with the longest orbit, encompassing the longest stretches of history. By examining Pluto in a given sign we can get a perspective on vast societal themes that are otherwise hard to see.

Pluto takes 250 years on average to go all the way around the zodiac, so when it passes into a new sign—every 12-to 20 years—it is, astrologically speaking, a very big deal. Right now Pluto is only a couple of years away from one of these thresholds (ingresses). The world is in the throes of an epochal shift. To understand where Pluto is taking us, we need to take a close look at where it has been.



Pluto in Sagittarius

It has been ten years since Pluto entered Sagittarius, the sign of righteous zeal. For a decade now, Pluto, the planet of death and rebirth, has been wreaking havoc upon the human craving to believe in something.

Sagittarius governs belief systems: not so much opinions (that’s Gemini), but convictions. It is a fire sign, so it’s about passionately held ideals and spiritual impulses. Since this transit began, issues that would have seemed utterly secular a decade ago—such as same-sex marriage and the razing of old oak trees—have been bestirring the kind of fire-and-brimstone reactions that one associates with religious crusades.

Since the mid-90s Pluto has been intensifying believers from the aboriginal (paganism) to the mainstream (American Protestantism) all over the globe. A do-or-die extremism characterizes whatever sign Pluto occupies, and the past decade has turned everybody into a warrior for the truth, whatever we imagine the truth to be. Palestinian nationalists, Zionists and Right-to-Lifers all wield the fiery sword.

Perhaps the quintessential symbol of this transit is the indelible image of those airplanes (Sagittarius) being used as death projectiles (Pluto) in 2001, an image which fused the geopolitical with the religious in the mass mind. Since then, international discourse has been framed in the context of moral absolutes, giving new meaning to the phrase “bully pulpit.” Instead of framing their debates in economic or historical or diplomatic terms, world leaders now wage theological warfare: the American president uses the word “evil” to describe his geopolitical adversaries; the Venezuelan president refers to the American president as “the devil.” The epoch’s reigning superpower has a leader who believes he was invited by the Almighty to attack Iraq. His military commanders have gone on television impugning the gods of Guantanamo detainees as being less “real” than the good old American god.
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« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2008, 08:53:43 am »









New Versions of Truth

Issues this inflammatory are difficult to think about clearly. Pluto is fueling the current period with such high-octane drama that reason and common sense are in short supply. Our question as astrologers should be: what is the point, exactly, of this righteous firestorm? What has the Dark God hoped to accomplish during this 13-year period?

The job of Pluto in Sagittarius every two-and-a-half centuries is to eradicate old versions of Truth in order to clear the stage for new ones. Pluto’s targets are doddering old ideologies that have lost their vitality, wherever in the world they exist. All around us we see religions being exposed as destructive; we see moral certainties faltering. All ethical structures that cannot withstand modernity are breaking apart. By Natural Law, if they were still viable even Pluto would be unable to get rid of them.

In the USA, corruption and power-mongering have tarnished institutions once considered untouchably sacred. This past decade will go down in history as the one that threatened the heretofore sacrosanct separation of church and state. The pedophilia scandals, which broke just as the transit was beginning, now threaten to bankrupt the Catholic Church. An astonishing number of evangelists and Bible-Belt darlings have been exposed during this period—from the pill-popping Rush Limbaugh to Rev.Ted Haggard and his clandestine call boy. The Episcopal Church is breaking apart at the seams over the ordination of gays and women. Bestsellers have been written eviscerating religious tenets that our grandparents would have considered it heretical even to question (e.g. The Da Vinci Code). Secular morality has been strained to the breaking point by pop culture products in such bad taste that they require a new ethical sub-standard to even begin to critique them (O. J. Simpson’s If I Did It).

Pluto (taboo) in Sagittarius (right-and-wrong) has taken humanity into categories of morality that render obsolete old ways of judging such things. And this was exactly its job: to cause the whole world to shake its head and ask in bewilderment, “Is nothing sacred?”

The sign Sagittarius also governs education, travel, and publishing. In our next column we will continue our exploration of how this transit has changed our society, and factor in the other planets—whose transits add specificity of timing and shadings of meaning to the epoch’s overall themes.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1 I use the term planet unamended for Pluto, despite its reclassification by astronomers in August 2006 as a “dwarf planet” (the word planet simply means “wanderer," and Pluto’s wanderings persist, regardless of its size). I propose that we symbol-readers view the new categorization with caution.
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« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2008, 08:55:40 am »










In our last column we looked at the breakdown of belief systems in American society and all across the globe, as signaled by the current transit of Pluto.

This is the cycle that has been presenting the past decade with its most obvious theme: the temples of the world undergoing a massive purge.






Reading transits has the logic of telling time from a clock. Since Pluto is the furthest-out planet in the solar system, its cycle functions like the hour hand of a clock, giving us a very broad sense of “what time it is” for humanity. Once we get a sense of Pluto’s themes, we move our attention to the less-distant planets, analogous to the minute and second hands of the clock. These continue filling in the picture of “what time it is” in layers of successive specificity.

The most significant transit after Pluto is that of the Saturn-Neptune opposition (2005-2008)[1], which describes the next set of lessons upon us during the late-‘00s (by the way, has anyone figured out yet what to call this decade? The zero years? The Aught-Aughts? The Ohs?).



The Saturn-Neptune Opposition

Those familiar with planetary symbolism know that trying to integrate Saturn and Neptune, even as concepts, is like meditating on a Buddhist koan. Where is the meeting ground between the planet of mists and fairies and the planet of rocks and corporations, for heaven’s sake? What we have here is a paradox—a tricky proposition for the linear Western mind.

The best way to approach the task is to examine each of the two symbols separately at first, on its own terms. Saturn has traditionally been associated with hard things—in both senses of the word (physically dense; difficult). It is said to govern whatever is solid or solidifying, whether conceptually so (rules and regulations; gravity) or literally so (cement, lead, glue). And Neptune has been associated over the centuries with energies that are maddeningly elusive and intangible: fog and poisons, inscrutable longings, untraceable ailments. What are we to make of the fact that two archetypes so different are opposing each other in the sky?

Let us start with the literal, always a good place to start when looking for meaning—though not, for our purposes, the best place to finish.

Mundane astrologers, whose focus is primarily prediction, interpret transits in terms of worldly events. On this level, among the meanings we can infer from this opposition are a new realism (Saturn) about environmental hazards (Neptune); the attempt to codify (Saturn) universal health care (Neptune); and the blockage and/or scarcity (Saturn) of liquids (Neptune), a signal of the politics of water.
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« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2008, 08:57:15 am »









Healthcare in Crisis

For a while now it has been common knowledge that healthcare in the USA is in sad shape; but thanks to the Saturn-Neptune transit the word crisis is now invariably invoked to describe it. Polls just before the last election ranked healthcare second only to the war in Iraq as a subject of popular dread.

Neptune governs chaos and epidemics as well as hospitals. These are images of immense miasmic power, which helps to explain why the healthcare debate is roiling in the mass mind like a storm at sea. Saturn, the planet of sharp-eyed practicality, is removing wishful thinking from collective opinion on the matter and bringing harsh realities into view. Americans are starting to connect the dots between the expense of healthcare and its inefficiency (consider that only 30 cents out of every health care dollar in the USA ever makes it to any hospital or clinic). Large numbers of people are starting to realize that the fact that America is the only industrialized country without a functioning universal program (Neptune) has something to do with the fact that private insurance companies (Saturn) run the show.

As bad as it is now, George W. Bush’s new budget proposes millions of dollars in additional cuts (Saturn) to existing programs, money that would have gone into children’s and preventative care and fighting cancer. Meanwhile, 47 million Americans are uninsured, another 17 are underinsured, and public hospitals are closing left and right. A report just came out ranking the USA as 37th in the world in health care indicators.

The greater significance of these abysmal statistics is how at odds they are with America’s proud self-image as the ultimate First-World society. Incongruities like these illustrate a running theme of Saturn and Neptune in opposition: we are being forced to look at juxtapositions that are so alarming they seem surreal. The wholesale failure of conventional standards of realness is a clue to the essential meaning of this aspect, an idea to which we will return.



The Politics of Water

Neptune governs water; Saturn governs structures of containment and application. In the USA, California provides the emblematic example of water use practices now being pushed into the headlines. Though water is widely known to have been the engine behind the machinations of power throughout this state’s history (remember the movie "Chinatown"?), the issue is rearing its head in critical new ways.

About eighty per cent of the water used in California—the country’s (and the world’s) breadbasket—goes to irrigating crops, half of which add very little to the economy but are generously subsidized [2]. The political footballs of dam construction and river diversion are bringing this information to the fore, along with the darker issue that underlies them: the plutocratic relationship between agribusiness and government. Meanwhile, Americans spent eleven billion dollars on bottled water last year— presumably out of health consciousness; but one that stopped short of considering the environmental impact of the fuels necessary to produce and distribute the stuff, not to mention the question of what to do with all those pesky plastic containers.

The transit is doing more than merely putting water in the news. We are in the throes of an epochal consciousness change around its archetypal meaning: water (Neptune) is being redefined (Saturn). The opposition augurs a new way of thinking about this unique element of daily existence, a substance so essential to life that it establishes the very requirements for life—and which Americans and other First World denizens have tended to take for granted in terms of unlimited accessibility.

But as the recent explosion of ecological awareness has made clear, the world’s oceans are dying. At the same time, increasingly scarce natural sources of water are being taken over from their indigenous users by globalizing corporations [3]. We are moving into an era of hydro-politics.

Water is fast becoming the new oil.
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« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2008, 08:58:39 am »










The Metaphysics of Water

And it is not just our approach to water as a physical reality that is changing. Our approach to the metaphysical realities of water is changing, too.

Everywhere and always, water has been seen as the universal solvent in a figurative sense as well as a literal one. Water is the aboriginal source of the other four elements, and the matrix whence everything in the universe arises. In astrology this etheric sea is symbolized by the planet Neptune, the all-encompassing womb whence we all emerge and to which we will all return. Neptune reflects the mass mood, in which the Saturn-Neptune opposition is currently triggering deep fluctuations. Collective angst and confusion permeate this second half of the decade, as the transit exposes the shifting contours of the group imagination. Once we concede the existence of this vast reservoir of pooled energies, the question arises: what is it for?

It is impossible to make sense of Neptune’s mysterious workings unless we credit the existence of the soul, for which this material lifetime is just a sojourn. Neptune’s placement in the birth chart reveals each person’s individual point of connection to an Ultimate Spiritual Source—whatever name we give it. Neptune is the part of us that remembers we have a soul dimension, and that when we came to Earth we decided to become separated, temporarily, from that soul’s source.

Is it any wonder transits of Neptune are notorious for inducing us to space out and float away? Part of us just wants to go Home.



Divine Discontent

So what happens when our worldly impulses collide with our other-worldly ones? We moderns tend to psychologize the Saturn-Neptune conundrum, diagnosing it in personal terms and giving it names like paranoia, utopianism, depression and apathy. But an appreciation of Neptune’s true meaning will help us understand the deeper implications of the opposition upon us. Instead of seeing it as a pathological impasse, we can use it as a spur to profound understanding.

There is no doubt that there is a shadow side to Neptune, which Saturn can be counted upon to put in our face. The temptation to go unconscious in the face of daily responsibilities is very strong right now. A deep restlessness may make us chafe at being confined in any one activity. And although it is true that tasks may arise which seem particularly onerous—despite (or maybe because of) the fact that they may simultaneously feel quite meaningless—we will get more out of the cosmic lesson being taught if we de-emphasize the specific events that the transit seems to cause, and meditate instead upon the meaning of the state of mind the events are triggering. No matter where we are, no matter what we are doing, we would be facing the same existential dilemma. Even if we were spending our days lying around in a hammock on Bali we would feel it a chore to get up and mix the piña coladas.

The malaise associated with this aspect is not hard to understand when we remember that Saturn is about obligations and duty, whereas Neptune refers to our connection—deeply unconscious in some, closer to the surface in others—to the part of our nature that is aching to disappear back into the Infinite. The transit now in the sky is accentuating a universal human dilemma: How do we live within the restrictions of this life when some part of ourselves knows full well that



This is Not All There Is?
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« Reply #6 on: July 28, 2008, 08:59:41 am »










Challenging the Authority of Reality

At first blush, this transit feels as if it is pitting the boring old here-and-now against the idea of a more perfect alternative. But there is a deeper riddle to solve here. Every few decades when these two planets reach the opposition point in their cycle, humanity is given the chance to melt down some of its most basic assumptions about reality.

Saturn, the planet of solidity and substance, declares that it—and it alone—knows what is real, whatever the word means in any given context. Meanwhile Neptune is associated with the unreal [4]—a slippery concept, best arrived at through process of elimination. Over the past couple of years, Neptune has been mercilessly mocking many of our most cherished convictions, with the result that the authority of reality has been challenged everywhere we turn. Reality shows, identity theft and Scooter Libby’s prodigious memory loss are examples of this process.

What is real and what is unreal—really? Though we run our lives by these distinctions, we rarely stop to think about them. In American culture, for example, we are brought up to believe that a stone is more real than an idea. Money is presumed to be more real than, say, a poem. In some cultures, the secret name given to a baby by the tribal shaman is considered more real than the name she is called by her community. The fact that Paris Hilton commands big bucks for showing up at a party makes her activities seem more real to many people than the doings of a gifted nobody. These notions are clearly very relative, yet to those who hold them they seem obvious and absolute; and since they are rarely questioned, they don’t run up against much controversy. This is why the transit is so unsettling: it is inviting us to question them.

The word "myth," for instance, is used in the vernacular to mean “not true.” But which is realer: a literal event that affects no one, or a myth that affects billions of people? And who defines what’s real? Is an idea real by virtue of being repeated over and over in the media until it assumes the patina of normalcy? In these high-stakes times, this is another assumption the transit is asking us to consider. Does the phrase “war on terror,” coined by our government and ubiquitously applied to the occupation of Iraq, refer to something real?

Also causing consternation is the issue of financial realness. Already a great source of anxiety in the USA, the concept of material security has been getting less and less concrete. At earlier points in their history, Americans were able to assure themselves of their worth in terms of acres of farmland and pieces of gold; by contrast, these days more and more people are investing their savings with Wall Street, where wealth is abstracted into a series of flickering numbers on a screen.

With massive national debt looming in the background, the realness of material worth has never seemed more illusory; and the Saturn-Neptune opposition has brought the point home. The stock market rout on February 28th that sent the Dow Jones average down more than four hundred points and erased more than a half a trillion dollars of market value occurred within hours of the transit reaching exactitude. From a cosmic point of view, the most apposite question here is a philosophical teaser: Did what was erased (Neptune) ever occupy actual form and space (Saturn) in the first place?

The Saturn-Neptune opposition is not about producing answers or assuaging doubts. It is about stimulating questions. It is a nudge to detach ourselves from fashionable but arbitrary verities, and to replace them with understandings that come from a deeper place.

This is the only way to achieve peace of mind during this transit. We must get our bearings in essential truths if we are not to be swamped by collective lies.
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« Reply #7 on: July 28, 2008, 09:00:49 am »









Debauchery and Rehab

Astrological symbols can come in very handy in times of deep cultural malaise. The opposition upon us now is reminding us that Neptune’s intention is to undermine whatever a given society’s definitions of realness happen to be. That’s the planet’s job. It messes around with our sense of clarity in order to tempt us beyond “reality” into something greater. But we must not confuse the transit’s true purpose with the ways it gets distorted through clouded consciousness.

It is all but inevitable that group expressions of this opposition will be askew in a culture that is out of touch with the spiritual meaning at Neptune’s core. Modern secular societies have precious few healthy mechanisms to model this planet’s key teaching: that every living thing in the world is connected; We Are All One. Without this central idea to guide us, we are at the mercy of the troubling emotions that slosh around just below the surface of the mass mind.

In its confusion over the Saturn-Neptune dynamic, American society has pressed into service a well-oiled escapism industry—among whose central players are television, electronic gadgets, alcohol and Big Pharma. But the enthusiasm with which the USA embraces escapism masks an acute ambivalence. It is one of the stock incongruities of American culture that conventional opinion heartily condones some drugs (Neptune), prescribing them as fast as they can be cooked up in the lab and promoting them with multi-million-dollar advertising campaigns; while other drugs—including far-less-pernicious ones—are righteously criminalized and stigmatized (Saturn).

Another expression of this societal confusion is the current Revolving-Door Rehab phenomenon. In a reaction to the Saturn/ Neptune contradiction, pop culture breathlessly extols its partying celebrities, sending paparazzi to the nightclubs to keep us informed about what they’re wearing and drinking as they make the scene—yet condemns them the minute they are perceived as crossing some fine line between high jinks and debauchery.

The trouble with all this bouncing back and forth between the transcendant cravings of Neptune and the punitive impulses of Saturn is that it is not a response to the opposition; it is a reaction. The only way to resolve the opposition is to find some sort of equilibrium between them.
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« Reply #8 on: July 28, 2008, 09:02:40 am »








Equilibrium and Sanity

If the Neptune-Saturn battle can be said to have a function, it is to get us to confront the existential problem of defining reality. Using our own society’s standards as a backdrop—for we incarnated into this culture for a reason, and must use what we have: there is no such thing as an accident of location any more than there could be an accident of birth time—we should be asking hard questions about the societal pictures all around us.

To respond in a healthy way to the transit, we must avoid reacting against these cultural pictures through negativity, cynicism or despair (unintegrated Saturn) just as we must avoid blindly caving into them (unintegrated Neptune). The two planets seem to be vying for supremacy, but they can, through awareness, be used to mitigate each other’s excesses. If we find ourselves sinking passively into conformity or denial (negative Neptune), we have the perfect antidote at our immediate disposal: Saturn, governor of healthy skepticism.

Neptune is sensitizing us to the insanity of the times. Saturn is grounding us in the understanding that just because a worldview is shared by millions of people does not mean it is not insane.

___________





Notes:



1 The opposition reached exactitude in late February and early March and will peak again in late June. As is true of all oppositions, this one is a juncture point in a larger cycle: the “Full Moon” phase of the cycle that began when the two planets conjoined in 1989. That was the year the Berlin wall (Saturn) crumbled (Neptune), a benchmark of modern world history. We are now experiencing the cyclic aftermath of that development, watching geopolitical verities that were once held as gospel being exposed as illusory or downright fraudulent.

The last time the two planets opposed each other was in 1971, when America was going through a similar mass disillusion with its official stories. Consider Viet Nam, now an enthusiastic trading partner of its former mortal enemy, Uncle Sam. Contrast this capitalistic Cinderella story with the scenario being spun by Washington during the sixties about what would happen to Southeast Asia if the USA lost the Viet Nam War. Virtually unquestioned at the time, the domino theory of communism turned out to be a Neptunian chimera.



2 For example, cotton, rice, alfalfa and pastureland.



3 Pluto in the second house of the USA chart indicates the compulsion to control whatever the world’s most coveted resources happen to be at any given time. See my book Soul-Sick Nation: An Astrologer’s View of America, AuthorHouse 2006.



4 By “unreal” here I mean transcendant or imaginal. Though we Westerners are brought up to believe that whatever is not empirically verifiable is unreal by definition, in order to integrate Saturn and Neptune we need to reconsider such assumptions. Certainly even modern thinkers who scoff at the “supernatural” know only too well how palpable the contents of the unconscious mind can be—particularly if they have Neptune strong in their natal charts.
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« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2008, 09:05:37 am »









Astrologers are, in theory, better equipped than most people to see the Big Picture. Our stock-in-trade is nothing less than the sky itself, whose patterns we use to plumb events for meaning. And right now it would seem to be high time to use our equipment.

Precarious times require that persons of conscience use all the intelligence we can muster. By “intelligence” I mean the wit to meld the instincts with which we were born together with the knowledge at our disposal. However we came by what we know, we need to press it into service.

Each of us possesses a reservoir of knowledge that is perfectly matched to the times we live in. Some of this knowledge may have come from past mentors: a wise parent who taught us not to touch a hot stove, a biology teacher who taught us how the cells of the body function; a stranger encountered on a summer road trip who taught us about human nature.



Applying Ancient Knowledge

For readers of this column, much of this reservoir of knowledge no doubt involves the study of ancient cosmologies. This kind of information, as we know, suffers from an ignominious disparagement in our time and place. Occult mysticism is out of fashion in the self-avowedly rational West, which makes modern America a rare exception in the annals of human history.(1) But I would argue that in these extraordinary times, the perspectives of the prehistoric seers—far from being anachronistic—are more useful and necessary than ever before.

In an epoch where sober international conferences are being convened to discuss mass extinction—literally, experts are debating the chances of a global wipe-out on the level of what happened to the dinosaurs; only this time, human-induced—clearly we have come to the end of our tether with conventional ways of seeing. It is time to concede that the perspectives we’ve been using, whatever they are and however valid they might once have been, are not working.

More than ever, humanity needs a dispassionate, distanced perspective. I believe this is something astrologers can provide(2); though not necessarily by foisting forecasts upon a skeptical public—goddess knows, the last thing our society needs is more evangelizing. What needs to be shared is not so much the data of astrology as the scope inherent in the astrological way of seeing. What I am proposing is that our engagement in the national conversation be guided by the transcendent principles that underlie our worldview.

As it is, there is often a strange disconnect among metaphysical thinkers between our stated beliefs and our day-to-day attitudes. As Rob Hand has noted, “Most people who do astrology think like astrologers when they're doing astrology, and they think like modern people when they do everything else—blissfully ignoring the fact that these two worldviews are completely incompatible… you cannot believe in the positivistic, materialistic worldview and also believe in the implications of astrology. You just can't.” (3)

The conundrum he describes is especially problematic right now. For truth-seekers to lose sight of the Big Picture during times like these is to get snookered into the culture wars, which depress not only our spirits but our intelligence itself.
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« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2008, 09:07:25 am »









Attention Deficit Nation

In American culture at the moment, the picture is, alas, not very big. The media doles out information to a rushed and distracted public in bite-sized pieces—Info McNuggets —as if the entire citizenry were afflicted by Attention Deficit Disorder.

Every cultural institution from public education to the entertainment industry seems fatally intimidated by complexity. In journalism, traditional newspapers are starting to look like tabloids, with abbreviated reports written in nuance-free prose. In religion, a bare-bones fundamentalism has all but taken over, with each of the three major sky-god faiths insisting that all of existence boils down to a one-on-one contest between God and Satan.(4) Rather than leaving the field open to any of those pesky shades of gray, this approach seems to take a righteous pride in seeing things in black and white.

One gets the feeling that a deep understanding of the most pressing issues of our day seems not to be the goal at all. Even in science and technical matters, instead of being asked to elucidate a topic for the sake of educating the public, experts are cajoled into simply proclaiming whether they are for or against it. Do you believe or disbelieve in global warming? Great, thanks, Professor. Now a word from our sponsor.





The Tyranny of Dualism

The national conversation has become tyrannically dualistic.



Dualism

—the breakdown of a whole into two opposing halves—is governed by the sign Gemini, in which Mars resides in the USA natal chart.(5) This is the placement of back-and-forth arguments and yes-or-no thinking; though knee-jerk binary-mindedness is a crude use of Gemini. Neptune resides in America’s ninth house of ideologies and philosophical stances, and forms a square to that pugnacious Mars. Here we see the signature of America’s obsession with dualistic battles.

We are of course not impugning Mars here, nor Neptune, nor the 90-degree angle that divides them. These are pure archetypes, whose use depends utterly upon the consciousness of the entity that expresses them. Neither is the problem dualism itself. Dualism is merely a categorical method; it underlies such mathematical and philosophical systems as astrology. But dividing things in half doesn’t go very far to help us understand real life— which is far messier than theoretical systems.

Philosophically speaking, the dualistic approach represents the very first rung on the intellectual ladder. In a college debate, few points would be granted to the speaker whose argument consisted solely of “This is a good idea; that is a bad idea” (perhaps repeated loudly for emphasis). What the ancient Greek rhetoricians would think of today’s talk-show shout-fests is anybody’s guess. It should tell us something that the best of us is more likely to descend into such tactics after a couple of beers rather than we are when sober.(6)

Dualism has segued from a conceptual device to a lingua franca in contemporary America, and it is dumbing us down. Did Roger Ebert give that movie a thumbs-down or a thumbs-up? Do you side with Britney or with Kevin in the divorce?

When did it become too taxing for us to make evaluations more complex than these?
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« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2008, 09:08:36 am »









Red State vs. Blue State

The most telling example of this phenomenon is the fact that the American political system itself is an unapologetic duopoly. With all the attention focused on presidential politics in the USA, it is remarkable how little mention there is of the fact that voters here have only two political parties to choose between. (Consider the vitriol vented in 2000 at poor old Ralph Nader—rather than at the two-party system itself, which makes any third-party candidate a spoiler by definition.) Given that the personal profiles of either party’s candidates are—let’s be frank— more-or-less indistinguishable in terms of general life philosophy, wardrobe, supposed church attendance and corporate funding sources, the question "Is X or Y ahead?" would seem to be a far less intriguing question than, say, Why isn’t something truly different allowed to happen here?

But that question is rarely asked, because it would require a different kind of thinking on the part of the public than the dualistic mindset allows.(7)



Crush the Other Team

In spectator sports the dualistic approach finds its quintessential application. In athletic competition, the us-vs.-them paradigm is institutionalized, for the sake of fun and games (and, of course, to make money). In the USA the sports metaphor has so infiltrated non-athletic contexts that more and more human endeavors are getting framed as one team against the other. And if we want “our” team to win the game, it is axiomatic that we attack the players on the other side.

The current spate of hockey dads rushing the field to beat up on the referee should be a wake-up call: the crush-the-other-side mindset has oozed into the tender realm of childhood. Even at events featuring very young children, one often hears parents hurl insults and scorn at the other team’s little ones, as if they were alien predators come to attack their babies—rather than simply, well, other little children.
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« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2008, 09:10:17 am »









Destroy the Other Country

Nowhere is the binary worldview more dangerous than when manipulated by architects of foreign policy to exploit the fears of a populace.

It was a surreal moment when President Bush first used the term “bad guys” in an early post-9/11 public address. Some of us thought: Surely he must be kidding. For a fleeting moment it seemed plausible that there was a twinkling of dark humor before us: he couldn’t possibly be using kindergarten terminology to talk about international relations, could he? One watched his mouth carefully for the telltale sneer that would indicate that he was being ironic. Appalled, one saw soon enough that the sneer was part of the furniture. He was sneering, but he wasn’t kidding.(Cool

Once the nationalistic battle lines are drawn, for a citizen to express a perspective any more nuanced than “They’re bad and we’re good” is to leave himself open to accusations of flat-out treachery. If the foe is of a different race or tribe (e.g. the Jews in Hitler’s Germany; the Arabs in the USA now), so much the better: the us-vs.-them mentality is all the more tempting the more “foreign” the presumed foe is seen to be.

This is stranger anxiety. It is a human universal; we all feel it when we are infants. But it is not a sign of spiritual adulthood.



Jupiter Gone Wrong

What are the moral questions(9) troubling the USA?

Before we attempt to parse these, we need to agree, first of all, that the country is troubled. But even this agreement has eluded consensus, causing no end of frustration for social reformers who are champing at the bit to get going on the healing process. Until quite recently, to even suggest that the country was in trouble was to expose oneself to the accusation of being a promoter of “doomsday thinking” (remember when global warming experts were dismissed with the charming nursery epithet Chicken Littles?). So it has been in every age. Despite the fact that every society needs intelligent criticism in order to stay vital, the status quo tends to deride or silence those who point out what isn’t working. A classic intimidation technique is to accuse a critic of being —horror of horrors—negative.

Many astrologers point to the Jupiter/Sun conjunction in the US chart, as well as to its Sagittarius rising, to explain the upbeat buoyancy for which America is world-renowned. But when misused, the Jupiter archetype—like anything else in the chart—becomes ridiculous, even toxic. Bush’s advisers have consistently appealed to this sunny native positivism whenever they needed to spin a particularly blatant national disaster (“Heckuva job, Brownie”), meanwhile trying to shame social critics as ye-of-little-faith. This ploy allows the critiqued government agency to avoid responding to an argument on its merits. Instead, the critic herself is judged. The effect is to shift and trivialize the terms of debate.

Misused, the optimism/pessimism pair reduces to simple character traits points of view that usually have nothing to do with human personality. It is a misapplication of the term “pessimistic” to use it to refer, for example, to the observation that the world is running out of oil; or that fish populations are dying off. People who call such discussions “negative” are confusing their own emotional responses to the information with the information itself.

The fact that the US chart is dominated by the sign Cancer, the most personal sign in the zodiac, may help explain why this approach is so trenchant in public discourse. The USA’s Sun, Jupiter, Venus and Mercury are in Cancer, a water sign that is more concerned with emotional states of mind and individual moods than with factual or theoretical viewpoints. Used without awareness, Cancer tends towards a defensive temperament, one that “takes things personally” and frames discussions in subjective terms.
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« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2008, 09:11:26 am »









Partisanship As Red Herring

Perhaps not surprisingly, among politicians in this highly polarized era the charge of partisanship has itself become a slur. To accuse one’s opponent of acting out of partisanship is to charge him with trying to “score points,” while implying that the accuser himself is motivated by nothing more than high-minded neutrality.

In troubled times, persons of conscience must beware of partisanship. But we must also beware of being drawn into arguments about partisanship, which distract from the deeper issues. In order to restore a way of seeing that is more universal than the myopic terms of the culture wars, truth-seekers must refuse to be cowed by charges that we are taking sides when what we are doing is championing universal human values that deserve to be proclaimed.

One should not have to be pegged as a member of any one political faction, for instance, to be repelled by the out-of-control violence in this country. Is it Blue-State of me to have trouble understanding why an American can have a gun and be charged with a misdemeanor, while welfare fraud is a felony?

Along the same lines, it is preposterous to think of global warming as “a liberal issue.” Or that if one opposes torture one must be a Democrat; as if such a response were merely the parroting of a party line, rather than a natural expression of abhorrence to an abomination. Nor should it require either “leftwing” or “rightwing” credentials to find something a little problematic with the growing disparity between the obscenely wealthy and the desperately poor in the United States; or with the fact that almost half of the developing world’s urban population live in slums.

An American should not have to subscribe to one ideology or another to be horrified by a war that has left thousands of her countrymen and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, created the largest number of refugees in the world and tainted that environment for centuries to come with depleted uranium poisoning. It is ridiculous to expect a taxpayer’s party affiliation to explain why he finds it disgraceful that this war has lined the pockets of a few military contractors to the tune of 27 billion dollars—all paid for with his own hard-earned money. Is not the more trenchant question: why would anyone not find it disgraceful?

To allow our essential human responses to be chalked up to partisanship is an insult to our consciences. When we permit ourselves to be compartmentalized by such labels we do violence to the broader and deeper truths that we, as sentient beings in a troubled world, must address.
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« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2008, 09:13:07 am »









Where Does Astrology Fit In?
If there are no accidents of time or of place, we must accept that we were born into this era for a reason. Moreover, each of us who identifies as an American is here—not somewhere else—for a similarly meaningful set of karmic reasons. Like it or not, every American is part of what’s going on in this country. Not all of us are destined to be “political activists”, of course; such choices lie in the unique proclivities of the individual birth chart. But to Be Here Now, we must respond, somehow, to the group and the times.

I propose that looking deeply into our natal chart is a more authentic way of finding out how to respond to our times than is submitting to the frames of reference foisted upon us by pop culture. By virtue of the nonjudgmental symbolic language at our disposal, astrologers have the ability to contribute a certain quality of observation that is precious and rare.(10) We have a system at our disposal that is much bigger than Left or Right; more useful than Blue or Red; more meaningful than optimistic/pessimistic.

In our next DayKeeper column, we will take a look at how astrology can help us slip the yoke of dualism and find our way to a deeper understanding of these times.




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------






1 During the European Renaissance, for example, a conversance in astrology was considered the hallmark of an educated man (though not of women.

Female students of the Mysteries during this period were in danger of being burned for witchcraft).

2 I refer here to serious astrology, as opposed to its better-known spin-off: the “What-[Sun-]sign-are you” gambit. Pop astrology mimics the superficiality of contemporary thinking, offering a Cliff’s-Notes approach to soul search. Reducing the infinitely nuanced multiple layers of a person’s natal chart to a quick-‘n’-easy handful of buzzwords, the What-Sign-Are-You approach allows us to hold on to our consensual worldview while sampling bits and pieces of ancient wisdom as if they were hors-d’oeuvres at a tapas bar.

3 Interview at the Astrological Association of Great Britain conference, 2002

4 See DaykeeperJournal’s 2/07 America in Transition column on Pluto in Sagittarius.

5 According to the Sibly chart, cast for 7/4/1776, Philadelphia Pa, 5:10pm. For details on this and other aspects of the USA chart, see my book Soul-Sick Nation: An Astrologer’s View of America (AuthorHouse 2006).

6 Psychologically speaking, the good/bad distinction is usually a form of projection: the object being evaluated is cast as the agent of the opinion, with the perceiver portraying herself as an indifferent bystander. It is with children that the dualistic approach makes the most sense, in that it represents an organic developmental phase. Little kids are not yet capable of taking conceptual responsibility for their ideas and values, so they use good and bad in the same way that they use stick-figure drawings to represent the human form. A child may say, “That’s a bad teacher” when what they mean is that they don’t like that teacher, for reasons that they are too young to articulate. By contrast, we would find it pretty lame if a distinguished film critic reviewed a movie as “bad” and let it go at that. We expect him to understand his own participation in the experience, and to use his knowledge about films to extract some kind of meaning from his opinion.

7 America’s presidential election is increasingly spoken of not in terms of ideas but in terms of crude numbers: i.e. which candidate is “doing better” in the polls. Even more simplistically, the numbers game has extended beyond a contest of voter opinion into a contest of pure money: donor contribution; with newspapers devoting their headlines to up-to-the-minute tallies of each party’s war chests. Here even the vague allusion to human values presumed by opinion polls is cast asunder, and the race is tracked in terms of nothing more than cold, hard dollar amounts. The question “Who’s winning” is morphing into the question “Who has more cash?” This has got to be dualism reduced to its baldest extreme.

8 Ever since this cartoon-cowboy language was inaugurated by the president, other officials have started to use bad guys and good guys, with only the faintest hint of sardonicism. Those less sociopathic than Bush seem slightly embarrassed to be using the locution; and the good-ol’-boy twang they often affect when they use the words seems to suggest that the speaker hopes the phrase will be excused as an attempt to come across as a half-ironic attempt at folksiness.

9 I do not mean "moral" in the religious sense here, nor in terms of any specific ideology. I mean it in the sense of the capacity to formulate a philosophical/ethical overview, a capacity that astrology ascribes to the planet Jupiter.

10 Eric Francis has written, “Astrology seems to be rooted in the architecture of the etheric plane. It is beyond intellectual, mental or astral... One of the reasons it's possible to use astrology to create so much intelligence, indeed, to have it come flooding onto the mental and causal planes, is that the energy source is deeper than those levels. If something emanates energy, it is alive.”
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