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America In Transition

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Bianca
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« Reply #15 on: July 28, 2008, 09:16:18 am »









In our last column we proposed that the stymied state of public discourse in the USA makes it hard for Americans to use our intelligences fully. We discussed the dualistic way of looking at life that has begun to monopolize our approach to just about everything: to questions of great import (“Is the country going in the right direction? Press your keypad Yes or No.”) as well as to questions of not-so-great import ("Should Carmen Diaz stay a brunette or go back to blonde? Enter the People Magazine poll!").





It is difficult to escape the values of pop culture. They are as all-pervasive as the wrap-around advertising now covering walls and floor in the San Francisco subway station. But for those whose intention is the nurturance of consciousness, we must make it our business to observe these trends without identifying with them.

Being inveigled to come down on one side or the other of a hot news story is bad enough (“Should Paris Hilton be released from jail?”); but, for the seeker of self-awareness, being snookered into labeling our very identities that way is downright dangerous. “Are you a political or an apolitical person?”



Political vs. Apolitical

The political-versus-apolitical distinction, in particular, sounds like it was invented by a group of bored pundits. Like all faux-oppositions it crumbles into meaninglessness when we look at it closely. Is “apolitical” a designation we can adopt as easily as an aesthetic idiosyncrasy—like having a taste for anchovies? (“I’m a cat person, I like cross-country skiing and I’m apolitical.”) Does this imply that only “political” people are supposed to care about Nigerian slavery, or child prostitution in Thailand, or the fact that the right of habeus corpus is being suspended in the USA?

What exactly do these words mean to us? In the USA the once-venerable term “politics” has come to connote little more than the over-hyped stagecraft that goes on between the two ruling political parties, an obscenely wasteful spectacle of which the media has made a cash cow. If this is all “politics” means, is it any wonder so many Americans hold it in disdain?

Typing ourselves as either “political” or “apolitical” steers us away from, rather than towards, our own truth.The larger problem here is that the superficiality and corruption that have tainted the Dems-vs-GOP horserace have preempted a more meaningful understanding of politics. The mass disillusionment that has set in, thanks to the **** of insincerity that is the national electoral process, has in many people’s minds spread to include just about every other kind of current event as well—even those of immense global and humanitarian relevance. This is bad news for the country’s collective intelligence, and it is bad news for individual Americans of conscience.

Typing ourselves as either “political” or “apolitical” steers us away from, rather than towards, our own truth. We should rather ask ourselves this: When we are fully tuned in to the soul-wisdom that illuminates our innate structure—astrologers might call this "being grounded in our chart"—are we not instinctively repelled by cruelty and bloodshed? When we are in touch with our birthright sensibilities, are we not quite naturally inspired by justice and peace?

No ideological affiliation is required for responses like these. When we are centered in our beings, we cannot help but be moved to champion truth and life over mendacity and death.
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« Reply #16 on: July 28, 2008, 09:18:01 am »









The Rest of the World

It is a shame that the concept of “politics” has become diminished from its original, valuable meaning: the study of systems of power. But it is worse than a shame if, in discarding “politics”, we give ourselves an excuse to turn our backs on what’s happening in the world, because the world desperately needs our attention.

Abroad, Americans are notorious for failing to give the world much attention at all. Our newspapers tend to provide no more than a skimpy couple of pages to cover the entire rest of the globe. Modern life in general does not provide humanity with the sociological identifications that existed in earlier times, when a sense of responsibility to one’s fellows was a key to survival. Instead, just about all we have these days is that vague and tarnished catch-all—“politics”—to take care of any and all issues of global scope. And if we dismiss that, what do we have?

Barring the occasional reference to "The Poor" that some Americans hear from their preacher on Sunday mornings, what other frameworks exist with which to view the world beyond our own tiny little personal sphere?



Caring About the Global Moment

I have suggested that an astrological perspective has the capacity to soar above the petty infighting of the culture wars, by equipping us to observe and to care about the global moment.

Caritas may be the highest possible expression of the sign Cancer, the sign the Sun was in on July 4, 1776. I use the word care advisedly. Though it may sound insufficient to those who see the only proper response in times like these to be some kind of activism, I submit that our very first task is to find a model for caring, not acting (1). As Barbara Walker has pointed out (2), the word "caring" (also the word "charity") derives from the beautiful word caritas: cosmic Mother-Love. Walker traces the concept back to pre-historical cosmology, which envisioned the Universe as a loving Mother who cared for all living creatures just as an Earthly mother cares for her children.

Caritas may be the highest possible expression of the sign Cancer, the sign the Sun was in on July 4, 1776. With four planets in Cancer, the collective entity that is the USA (3) clearly has some very pointed karmic lessons to learn about caring. As astrologers know, an individual whose birth chart features multiple planets in Cancer has a potential to raise empathy to an art form; and this is no less true of a Cancerian nation. America as a whole was born to express a certain understanding that Cancer knows better than any other sign: that all human beings are interconnected even as family members are; we are intended to care about one another in essentially the same spirit with which we hold blood relatives. Cancer is a water sign, and this is a lesson in emotional awareness.

Political awareness, by contrast—even at a sophisticated level—is simply a matter of education and information, a point to which we will return. Politics is, all by itself, an intellectual and philosophical arena; whereas astrology, among many other holistic traditions, can take us beyond intellectual understanding. It can open not only our eyes and minds, but our hearts, to what’s happening on this Earth.

Astrologers throughout the ages have eloquently demonstrated that any and all terrestrial matters can be interpreted by decoding the vicissitudes of the planets: the doings of everything from cabbages to kings are mapped out in the sky. Less obvious but equally true is the inverse of this parallel: the meaning of the doings of planets can be revealed by earthly events. In other words, we need to keep a sharp eye focused upon what is happening down here. Worldly matters are the other side of the coin implied by that most sacred of astrological laws: As Above, So Below.

The Earth is a mirror of the sky as surely as the sky is a mirror of us. Current events, as tracked by politics, mirror celestial events, as tracked by astrology.
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« Reply #17 on: July 28, 2008, 09:19:39 am »









The Political and the Spiritual

If we aspire to the Big Picture we must challenge this false divide. Thus from an astrological perspective, there is no difference between the political and the spiritual. Yet idealists of every stripe have labored under the assumption that the two worldviews are not just different (“Go to the demonstration with you? No thanks; I meditated for peace this morning.”) but in many ways polar opposites. This is one more false duality, one that has existed over the ages and left many seekers and reformers confused and dispirited.

To presume that these two perspectives invalidate each other, and that truth-seekers must choose between them, is a presumption it is time to dispel. The irony is that the two camps mirror each other’s prejudices quite precisely: many spiritual types who turn up their noses at “politics” do so out of the same sorts of misunderstandings that are held by those politicos who disparage spirituality on the grounds that “religion is the opiate of the people.” (4) But if we aspire to the Big Picture we must challenge this false divide. The plethora of urgent problems faced by humanity right now provides us with plenty of opportunities to explore a new geopolitically-informed spirituality; or, to put it another way, a more cosmic politics.

From a macrocosmic point of view, climate change is the Goddess’ gift to this epoch.... Chief among these is the issue of global warming, a phenomenon whose labeling by factionalists in the USA as a “liberal” concern is so misconceived that one imagines future generations shaking their heads in dismay when reading in their history books about the short-sightedness with which the issue was originally framed.



Earth Changes Afoot

From a macrocosmic point of view, climate change is the Goddess’ gift to this epoch: the sheer enormity of the situation is forcing humanity, in a gun-to-the-head way, to embrace universal thinking. With the fate of the Earth at stake it is easier to see that the conceptual distinction between spiritual vision and geopolitical awareness is obsolete.

Those of us with our feelers out during this tumultuous period are witnessing a far-reaching consciousness shift that is taking place under our very noses. An international consensus about the Earth’s meteorological changes has taken shape very quickly over the last couple of years, for which we have to thank not just Al Gore but the Saturn-Neptune opposition and other recent transits that have brought long-denied truths to light.

Less widely discussed but getting increasing media attention is the fact that the poorer countries of the world will suffer sooner and more severely from these climate changes than will the wealthier countries of the First World. What we must come to terms with here is more than an ecological issue. In the decades ahead, the rich, who created the problem by burning fossil fuels too heavily, will get off relatively easily compared to the millions of Earth dwellers who never saw the inside of an SUV. (5)

Informing ourselves of a reality like global warming through geopolitical awareness is a first step. But to maintain our sanity, as well as to be of some use to the world, we need to then press into service our spiritual awareness to make sense of it.
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« Reply #18 on: July 28, 2008, 09:20:46 am »









Consciousness Changes Afoot

From this perspective we can derive significance from the fact that climate change, seen as a fringe belief (6) just a couple of years ago, is now pretty much common knowledge. In the USA we are even seeing an as-yet-tiny, but increasing, backlash against the automobile. People are starting to consider the implications of the fact that only 8% of the people on Earth drive these ecocidal machines; that’s a lot of damage being done by an almost impossibly tiny minority. More and more American drivers are daring to look in the mirror with a new acuity of self-questioning.

Those of us who lived through the Carter presidency may recall a similar popular reaction against the gas guzzlers, triggered by the purported “energy crisis” of the late seventies and early eighties. For a while there, Small was Beautiful in America; and the country’s subsequent reversion to cars the size of army tanks has struck many of us as a perverse step backwards. The same thing had happened in 1973. When the long lines at gas stations disappeared, people went right back to consuming as much fuel as before.

Like the planets with their retrograde cycles, human consciousness seems to follow a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of pattern. Until now, not much has changed with Americans’ love affair with the car: in 1912 a Ford Model T got 17 miles to the gallon; today, a 2007 Ford Explorer gets 18 miles to the gallon. But at this moment in our history we are hovering over a qualitatively different threshold, and the difference is palpable. The potential exists to take several steps forward at once—indeed, to take a leap.

Our newspapers are now printing pictures on their front pages of adorable white polar bears perilously balancing on melting blocks of ice; right next to news stories such as the one reporting that nine out of ten Americans travel to work by car, and of those, 88% drive alone. Readers who see these items side-by-side are beginning to connect the dots.

For more and more people with every passing month, the question is no longer whether we give credence to this information. The question is, how do we hold it?



Astrology as a Blend of Political and Spiritual

Global warming is but one of a host of monumental crises that all but the most obdurately blinkered Americans are confronting en masse. We have proposed that issues this daunting require a perspective that is more time-sensitive and place-relevant than mere spiritual truisms alone can address. “It’s all good” just doesn’t hack it. And at the same time, the issues require a more universal vision than mere political ideas alone can address. As those icebergs break apart, seekers of deeper Truth are finding that the whole spiritual-versus-political divide is breaking apart too.

There have been visionaries in every age who took the leap to fuse the spiritual and the political. Such worthies as Sir Thomas More or Joan of Arc, for example, may have relied upon religious assumptions that we might now take issue with, and addressed very different geopolitical realities. Mahatma Gandhi’s rebellious march to the sea would not help us much as a tactic today. But the quest for the Big Picture inspired all of these individuals, as it has inspired the wisest among us since time immemorial. Right now, the world moment has recreated, for the generations now extant, the need to put together these same two aspects of our intelligence: that of paying close attention to current events and pairing this attention with a cosmic outlook.

We don’t have to look very far back in history to find a consummate exemplar of this consciousness merger: Martin Luther King, Junior. Particularly towards the end of his life, his profound analyses of America’s role in the world (then and now, they deserve the term "radical") were quietly removed from journalistic accounts of his speeches, edited out of his articles and left unmentioned in standard-issue history books.(7) But his unflinching awareness of the geopolitical realities of his times kept pace every step of the way with his universal vision. His ability to avoid the stultifying denial of his era while maintaining his spiritual vision offers us a recent example of a great mind at work.
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« Reply #19 on: July 28, 2008, 09:22:48 am »











In our next Daykeeper Journal column we will apply these ideas to the planets of the birth chart, looking to deepen our reading of the familiar old archetypes. Our goal is to enrich our use of astrology with a new vitality, which is no more than the times we have incarnated into deserve.
______________________





1 Activism is a form of “doing”, upon which American society puts an inordinate emphasis. It is a cultural idiosyncrasy that we confer more importance upon outward behavior, actions and events than we do upon inner states of consciousness. Consider that when we want to know how a friend is, we ask “How are you doing?”. When we meet someone at a party, our primary curiosity is probably about “what they do (for a living)”. And when an American goes to an astrologer—whose primary intention is to convey the meaning of his client’s being—consider that in response to hearing about a particular theme in her chart, the client’s question is inevitably “But what do I do about it?”

In astrological thought, “doing” belongs to Mars; and though undeniably an important planet, it is, of course, only one-tenth of the chart.






2 The Secrets of the Tarot, Harper and Row 1984.

3 According to the Sibly chart, cast for 7/4/1776, Philadelphia Pa, 5:10pm. For more about the US chart, see my book Soul-Sick Nation: An Astrologer’s View of America (AuthorHouse 2006).

4 A close study of Marx’s writings reveals that his expansive mind took in much more than this much-touted quote suggests. He was warning us about the dangers of institutionalized religion, not about spiritual search per se.

5 Early this year the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel addressed the fact that despite a new plethora of recommendations about how to accommodate upcoming climate changes (diversifying crops, shoring up levees, etc) poor countries—impoverished even further in recent years by globalization—simply do not possess the resources to take remedial action. Several African states are expected to face starvation from the lack of freshwater supplies by 2020; the economies of Latin America are expected to suffer disproportionately when decreases in moisture trigger a shift from their tropical forests.

6 As recently as 2004, global warming was enthusiastically derided as a conspiracy theory by many who felt their views corroborated by Michael Crichton’s bestseller State of Fear, a book President Bush was said to admire.

7 “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed… I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the … the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice.” Letters from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963.





“What do the [Vietnamese] peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building?…I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.” "Beyond Vietnam" Address, Riverside Church, New York, April 4, 1967.
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« Reply #20 on: July 28, 2008, 09:24:51 am »










Each planet a treasure trove
There are myriad layers of meaning to each of the ten planets conventionally used in astrology. Happily, we don’t have to be well-versed in all these layers in order to derive value from a chart reading; astrology is so immensely elastic that it can oblige even a cursory reading with plenty of useful information. But it is humbling to realize that these other levels exist even if we don’t use them. It gives us a glimpse of astrology’s depth, which imbues our study with an appropriate awe and respect. And to realize that the planetary glyph we are looking at is in reality a mysterious pictogram may sharpen our intuition in surprising ways.(1)

Looking at a planet as a treasure trove of potential meanings—any one of which may be “up” at the current moment—presupposes that the birth chart is a living, breathing guide to living, with teachings planted in every nook and cranny, available to the native when she is ready for them. This is using astrology with a spiritual slant, and it is not for everybody. But those readers who can relate to the idea that each of the ingredients of the birth chart is a coded message to the conscious ego from some higher intelligence—whether we see this intelligence as coming from the gods, from the Akashic Records, or from an aspect of our own beings that we might term our Higher Self—are invited to join the writer in asking these familiar old glyphs to help us through these times we find ourselves in. Our goal is to try to discern what the planets have to say about this postmillennial reality, that we might respond to each planet’s prompting from the highest level of awareness possible.

Let us begin with Mercury.



Pop-Smart vs. Intelligent

We may have read that Mercury governs reading, writing and walking; mundane rulerships that still apply. But we will usher these levels of Mercury’s function into the background for a moment, putting our focus instead upon the features of this planet for which our current world seems to be hungry. Mercury has long been associated with the concept of intelligence. As one of the ten planets that comprise our psyche, this is the one that makes us intelligent. How might we pinpoint it, get to know it, and use it to address the distress of our times?

First we need to venture beyond the colloquial meaning of the word intelligent—“smart” (whatever that means—getting A’s in school? Speaking multiple  languages? Understanding jokes quickly?). Mercury governs the intake, output and processing of data. This leads us back to the original meaning of intelligent: to be informed. The highest expression of Mercury is disinterested intellectual curiosity. Disinterested means non-partisan; unbiased.(2) When inspired by genuine curiosity we are attracted to information for its own sake. We are more interested in the data itself than we are in our relationship to the data. People in whose charts Mercury is consciously manifest tend to revel in information: they like word play, they respect clear communication, and they pursue ideas that have conceptual integrity.

At this moment in its history, our culture does not seem to cherish Mercury; a fact that should not surprise us if we look at the situation from the standpoint of four-element theory.(3) Associated with the Air element, Mercury deals with ideas; and in American society ideas are not given a whole lot of respect—unless, of course, they lead to the production of things. Marketable ideas slip over the threshold of the Air element and enter into the credibility range monopolized by Earth. But where does this leave thinking-for-thinking’s-sake? Unlike, say, France, which fetishizes its intellectuals, America does not bestow star status upon its philosophers or poets. A telling example of our priorities occurred in early August, when, in a city as culturally sophisticated as San Francisco is presumed to be, the front page of our morning paper was taken over by a story about the demise of a football coach, with the headline screaming “Genius”’. At the bottom of the page, discreetly tucked into the corner like an afterthought, were a few lines informing us that Ingmar Bergman, considered by many the greatest film artist of the century, had died that day as well.

If what we wish is to use our own Mercury at its highest level of expression, there is one thing we must do before anything else: we must distance ourselves from the stunted way the archetype is currently expressed in our popular culture. To get back to the planet’s fundamental wisdom, we must ackowledge the fact that in the USA today Mercury has become a slave of mercantilism. Literacy has been pretty much replaced by pop conversancy, of which advertising lingo is the bellwether. The American mindset is so merged with the ethos of Madison Avenue that shifts in language inevitably lead to the retail mall. Witness how a street phrase (“Makin’ it real”) or a television-character coinage (“D’oh”) will show up on a Gap teeshirt as soon as it reaches a certain critical mass.

Indeed, the very word “concept” has started to connote an idea that can be pitched, such as the “fabulous new concept” behind a Hollywood movie or wardrobe ensemble.
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« Reply #21 on: July 28, 2008, 09:29:44 am »









Use of Language

Mercury governs all languages, as well as the understanding of how language works. If we wish to use this planet to serve our life purpose (4) (which, by Natural Law, is the same thing as serving the world around us) we will want to analyze the linguistic skill set with which we were born, and build it up the way we would work a muscle at the gym.

But first we must concede the disparity that exists between Mercury’s exalted potentials, on the one hand, and the manifestations of Mercury we absorb from our environment, on the other. The English language itself is not enjoying its finest hour in post-millennial America. Our current pop vernacular is more redolent of the barks and grunts of consumer desire than it is a place for Mercury to flourish. (If “Fa-Shizzle” is not the name of a soft drink yet, it might as well be.)

Here is where a little bit of history comes in handy. A glance at how collective Mercury was expressed by our culture’s antecedents makes our current linguistic environment seem notthe rule but the exception. To cite a particularly poignant example, to reread any given passage of the U.S. Constitution (a document which, despite being frequently alluded to, and with extravagant shows of worshipful emotion, seems to be seldom actually read) is to marvel at its consummately cadenced prose. The writing is pure Mercurial mastery. And to consider linguistic precedents from a little further back, we find in Mother England that not just the poets but even the bureaucratsof the Elizabethan Court used language with such astounding care and artistry that it’s hard to believe these were politicians talking. It makes us realize, admiringly, almost incredulously, that in the government-speak of the day, eloquence was taken for granted as a value worth striving for.

But the bottom line is this: you and I are not living back then. We have been incarnated here and now. And to confront the reality of our presence in this America of this decade is to face the fact that Mercurial precedents such as these are neither emulated nor even familiar to most of the citizenry. To realize this is to begin to withdraw our attention, more and more, from the norms of language and thinking that fail to dignify Mercury, and to set our sights instead upon forms of expression that do.

I use the word  “dignify” not the colloquial sense, of trying to sound all fancy-pants; but more in the astrological sense of a planet “in its dignity,” in its fullness.  In this context I mean using a planetary energy—regardless of what sign it’s in—with maximal awareness, which, by Natural Law, will mean it matches the moment. When we allow a given part of our psyche to do what it is designed to do, it will coincide perfectly with the immediate context; and in the process it will have a healing effect on ourselves and on the collective. An example is the newly creative use of language that has evolved out of the street scene by the young slam poets who have found their way to the stage in the cities of the new century. They have pressed Mercury into service with a jarring style appropriate to our jarring environment and its issues. This is Mercury’s genius arising to meet the times, flinging words into shapes and combinations that make a brutal beauty out of the English language. It is not surprising that the content of this poetry is often defiant to the point of revolutionary.
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« Reply #22 on: July 28, 2008, 09:31:47 am »









Ideas in the collective

Mercury’s job is to introduce ideas into our minds, and then inspire us to spread those ideas around. How are ideas introduced in the minds of Americans?

Aside from school, the key cultural institution governed by Mercury is the mass media. The current state of television, radio and the print media must force us to conclude that pure intellectual inquiry does not count for much in the USA right now. As the average American rushes to work, an idea might find its way into the margins of his attention through a glance at the TV news while eating breakfast; a commuter might check the newspaper to see what happened with Nicole Richie’s latest DUI. This is Mercury operating at a thin, pale level. The anti-intellectuality for which our society is notorious worldwide is being evidenced to an almost absurd degree in the mass media right now. Given the market-driven forces behind the U.S. telecommunications industry (5), there is a perverse logic to the fact that Rupert Murdoch, the politically reactionary tabloid monopolist, is about to buy the Wall Street Journal.

This is not where we will find the Mercurial role modeling we seek. It is a sobering but inescapable fact that our corporate media is skewed towards non-thinking.



“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth puts its pants on.”

~Winston Churchill



Astrology associates Mercury, governor of information dissemination, with journalism. But from what we have said of Mercury’s essential purpose, is this energy reflected in what we hear on the nightly news? If Mercury were the driving force behind the news, in theory the unfettered exchange of creative ideas would be the engine behind what gets aired. A pundit's credibility would depend upon his or her ability to research and dispatch accurate information. Reporters who uncritically reported the White House's disinformation about the war in Iraq would be out of a job. The newspapers they work for would go out of business. But as we know, this does not seem to be what is happening.

At this moment in American history the mainstream media has ceased to be about informing. It is pretty much common knowledge that what gets broadcast on radio and network television these days (6) is a function of which programming brings in the most profit through the delivery to advertisers of mass audiences. We must understand the implications of this fact if we are to employ our Mercurial intelligences in a way that meets the world challenges upon us.

Only puny secrets need protection. Great discoveries are protected by public incredulity.

~Marshall McCluhan



It is naturally disturbing to think that we are not hearing the truth from our official institutions. The inner child within us would much prefer that the anchorpersons up there on the screen, and the authority figures in charge of our tax dollars, were responsible beings whose words could be believed. It is understandable why the public is so deeply loath to admit what the evidence suggests: that the broadcast news gets its scripts straight from a deeply corrupt White House.

When we factor in the unconscious psychology behind our wish to believe, it helps make sense of an otherwise incongruous state of affairs: that regardless of the fact that an astounding number of our leaders’ statements are exposed as patently false a decade or a year or a month later (the time lag is decreasing), Americans on the whole continue to view government agencies as the last word on issues of global import. To the credulous public, it seems almost not to matter that the unraveling official accounts of the Pat Tillman killing (7), to choose only one recent example, have been exposed as—not to put too fine a point on it—outright lies. These lies were and are told by officials at the highest levels, all the while dutifully reported by the news. Despite the most compelling evidence to the contrary, these and other falsehoods too numerous to mention apparently continue to be seen by the average American as aberrant rather than systemic. Clearly there is a mass refusal to look at what our leaders are about, and a corresponding reluctance to see the role the multibillion-dollar media industry plays in their machinations.

But the psychology of denial is outside of the range of this essay. Our concern here is how we can reclaim our Mercuries from the indignities they sustain from the unconscious collective mind.

In next month's column, we will look further into the mechanisms of Mercury, with the goal of taking full advantage of the creative intelligence with which each of us is born. We will discuss the difference between being informed and faux-informed; between naivete and innocence; between fact, opinion and belief. We will look at how the act of becoming informed clarifies the mind. ________________________________________
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« Reply #23 on: July 28, 2008, 09:33:20 am »










Notes

1 Imagine an American tourist to an Egyptian pyramid who sees on the ancient wall a hieroglyph that looks like some kind of a bird. She asks the guide, “What does this mean? ‘Bird’, right?” The guide will be hard-pressed to provide a one-word answer for this symbol whose significances range from the exoteric to the esoteric, perhaps including, but not confined to, the literal concept “bird”. And whatever answer he does come up with must be translated not only into English for this tourist, but more dauntingly, into modern paradigms from those of an ancient world. How little we know about what went through the minds of the original readers of that symbol on the wall! Perhaps just by standing in front of the heiroglyph in a meditative state, the tourist in our example would find her question answered more profoundly than trying for a verbal translation. This can be a worthwhile exercise when applied to the symbols of astrology. At the same time that we learn about a given symbol intellectually, by reading about it and listening to what teachers say about it, we can permit the magic of the symbol to work upon us in a more personal, visceral way that stimulates our unconscious knowing.  This approach allows the more numinous significances of that planet to pour into our minds beneath the threshold of cognitive thought.

2 Note that in the American vernacular the word disinterestedis often misused to mean uninterested, but in fact the two words represent, in this context, almost opposite meanings.

3 Western culture in general is obsessed with the element Earth (material reality), exalting it over the other three elements. The consensual belief of the industrialized world is that physical things (Earth) are more “real” than spirit (Fire), ideas (Air) or emotion (Water).

4  The natal Sun placement represents our life purpose: a thumbnail sketch of our reasons for having incarnated into a particular time and place. The role of all the other planets is to serve the Sun.

5 Mercury is in thrall to Pluto in the second house (powerful business interests) in the chart of the USA; the two were in opposition on 7/4/1776. For a detailed account of America’s Mercury, see my book Soul-Sick Nation (AuthorHouse 2006).

6 The internet is the big exception. It remains, at the moment, too chaotic and immense for government/business interests to have figured out how to control it (though the campaign to end network neutrality is Big Media’s current attempt to do so, an attempt that must be carefully watched by those who care about freedom of speech). But as Noam Chomsky reminds us, one has to know where to look on the web, a qualification that is not as minor as it seems. Another surprising exception is cable television; which seems to have the potential to elude the straight-jacketing of content that afflicts broadcast programming.

7 The reason the Pat Tillman cover-up was able to endure as long as it did has to do with the group psychology of emotional pain. As tragic as the idea of Tillman’s death by “enemy fire” was, the truth (that he was killed by “friendly fire”, botched and covered up by top brass) was even more unbearable.  In the polarized state America finds herself in, for anyone to dare to point out the actual details behind such a death is tantamount to breaking a taboo: it would beg other questions too troubling to look at. Had an anti-war group spearheaded the fight for the facts instead of Tillman’s parents, they’d have probably been as furiously denounced by military families as they’d have been by pro-war politicians. For true-believer-patriots, especially other military families living in daily fear for their child’s life, buying into Washington’s lies is the most obvious way to avoid the intolerable idea that their children died in vain. Only Tillman’s parents could have gotten away with going public with their doubts (and even they were shamelessly chastised by Pentagon spokesmen and right-wing pundits). The elder Tillmans deserve all the more credit for the courage they showed in honoring Mercury over the false self-protection of denial.


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« Reply #24 on: July 28, 2008, 09:35:05 am »










Uninformed and faux-informed

Our last column focused on Mercury, the planet of intelligence. We looked at how tricky it is to truly honor Mercury in America today, given that the current societal climate does not encourage it. What would it look like to be driven by genuine curiosity, undeterred by cultural constraints?

I have said that intelligence is comprised of the instincts with which we were born, combined with the knowledge at our disposal. If Mercury is our instinct to inform ourselves (stronger in some people than in others, but present at birth in every one of us: every chart has Mercury somewhere), then from a Mercurial point of view, our choice is clear: we take advantage of our innate curiosity, or we do not. In previous “America in Transition” columns I argued against dualism as an overused ploy; but at this point I am proposing that if there is a dualism that makes any Mercurial sense, it is this: one can either be informed or uninformed.

This particular either/or should be an obvious place to begin if our goal is to enhance our intelligence. But it is not at all obvious to most Americans. The point that one can either know what one is talking about, or not, is obscured by great honking claims about "an opinion being just an opinion" and its blithely righteous corollary that all opinions are equal.  Unfortunately, this worthy-sounding argument ignores the reality of propaganda, a nasty phenomenon Americans are taught to believe exists in other countries but “not in a democracy like ours.”

Yet if we can achieve, if only momentarily, sufficient distance from these subjective nationalistic assumptions, most of us will concede that throughout history governments have used propaganda and censorship to greater or lesser degrees. This is because people in power have a stake in establishing conventional opinion (in astrology, consensus thinking is governed by Saturn, the planet associated with the concept of normality. This is a point to which we will return.) 

Political leaders want the public to believe certain things, and they do not want them to believe certain other things. A government will use its media arm to carefully render a certain point of view “normal”, while other points of view will get marginalized, penalized or worse. In this country, those who refute the official story line are no longer burned at the stake (Cool; they are merely denied air time and made fun of by Bill O’Reilly. But this is a difference of degree, not of substance. The more tyrannized a people are, the more Mercurial discourse will be suppressed.

A workaday example of the media’s faux-informing is the “both sides presented”  gambit that we get from Fox News, a network whose political links to the current administration are common knowledge and involve immense financial stakes.  Such “news” programs, with their much-touted adversarial guest debaters whose virulent opposition is supposed to offer proof of the station’s fairness and balance, have been dishearteningly successful in distracting viewers from the fact that a critical third thing—the truth—is nowhere in evidence. (9)

It is an ingenious trope. By setting up the discussion in a way that excludes the truly pertinent information, ideas are pre-empted before they can even coalesce into questions in the viewer’s mind. Framing a debate in terms of “whether the Iraqi government is stepping up to the plate or not”, for example, utterly precludes questions about whether Iraq hasa government right now—that is, a governing body other than the United States (the current group nominally in charge of Iraq can’t even choose their own military leaders without Washington’s approval). Framing the debate in such a way pre-empts any discussion about whether an occupied country is obliged to meet the criteria spelled out by its occupiers.

Most absurd of all is the absence, in all this talk of “winning” this (undeclared) war, of the question "what would 'winning' mean"? (10) The unacknowledged spin of the mainstream news effectively shuts out the only questions that would render any of the other questions meaningful. When we step outside of the bubble of reality created and maintained by the corporate media, its take on the “news” is so loopy as to fly in the face of Mercurial logic.

The goal of a person who wishes to use her Mercury fully must be to identify propaganda when we see it and to step out of its shadow.
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« Reply #25 on: July 28, 2008, 09:38:22 am »









Thinking unclouded by ideology

To use Mercury with integrity is to attend to self-informing with as much clear-mindedness as we can muster. The planet’s job is to accumulate facts and figures, and connect the dots between them. Mercury is not about platforms and passions. As planets go, this one is altogether dry and neutral (11): Mercury does not concern itself with conviction, faith, or even belief (these belong to Jupiter). It just wants to find out what’s going on.

This essential meaning of Mercury diverges more and more from the way its energies are tossed around in today’s culture wars. (12) It is not that impassioned dramatizing has no role to play in successful public discourse. It is just that where Mercury is concerned, the question is not whether or not one is capable of crowd-stirring rhetoric, but whether or not one is informed. Most of the arguments now identified as clashes between “Blue State” vs. “Red State” beliefs are not differing interpretations of facts, as they purport to be, but riffs between competing ideologies; where the speaker is judged not so much by whether they’ve done their homework but by what “side” they appear to be on. The emphasis is on choosing one’s colors, like a gang member buying a red or a blue handkerchief and then wearing it with panache or not.

True Mercurial creativity cannot exist in this skewed set-up. An uninformed citizenry is a profound problem, but confusing every issue as a “rightwing” vs. “leftwing” matter muddles the issue still further.



Naiveté posing as innocence

To call the tragic young Americans being killed in Iraq “heroes” for “protecting their country” in a war that has nothing to do with wreaking vengeance upon the WTC hijackers, for instance, is a case of naiveté posing as innocence. The idea that only “liberals” believe the war in Iraq to have been based on lies is no longer worth the energy it would take to discuss it. Many such views, seen for years as the exclusive province of “Bush-haters”, in truth represent simple access to information. What we have here is not really a political problem. It is a Mercurial problem.

There is a difference between facts and opinions, a difference that those who honor Mercury must not be shy about asserting. As our educators grow increasingly alarmed and international observers look on incredulously, America’s ignorance about world history, even very recent history, is becoming not just a cultural embarrassment but a fatal flaw, as the geopolitical stakes grow higher and higher.
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« Reply #26 on: July 28, 2008, 09:39:42 am »









Ignorance and fear

The nuclear-threat story the news agencies are now spinning about Iran would be a much harder sell were the American public aware of some very simple facts: such as which countries in the world have nukes already, how they got them and why they have been allowed to keep them. None of this is classified information. It is accessible to every American, and it is common knowledge among the educated classes across the globe. But for lack of this knowledge many among the US public are seriously considering Washington’s insane talk about an Iraq Redux in Iran. If knowledge is power, here is a case where the lack of it could mean unthinkable global catastrophe.

How ready would the man-on-the-street be to support Bush’s latest saber-rattling if he knew that Iran, Washington’s latest bogeyman, is a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty; whereas Israel, with its 200 nuclear warheads, is not? It is doubtful that very many Americans, obediently quaking in their boots right now about Iran, have given a moment’s thought to the fact that India, too, has refused to sign the treaty, has conducted tests with its nukes and used them to threaten its neighbors—all with Washington’s tacit permission, extended this summer in a round of nuclear deal-making backed up by ever-more-tortured White House explanations. The fact that Pakistan, also well-stocked with nukes but still the great good friend of Uncle Sam, is the main proliferator of these weapons to “rogue regimes” is so ironic, given all the hoopla about Iran, as to read as dark comedy.

The elephant-in-the-room in this whole scenario—the one fact that we never hear in media discussions of the matter, yet the one that fairly screams in the silence—is that the USA itself is, of course, the only power that has used the A-bomb (13); the one country whose nuclear arsenal dwarfs the combined arsenals of every other country in the world; and the one government whose leadership in nuclear disarmament—were it to choose that course—could actually make a difference in ending the arms race. Instead, American tax dollars are at the moment being spent on designs for a whole new generation of these lethal monsters, a program which the Democrats—who differ with the Bush regime only in strategy, not in geopolitical goals—have just signed off on this past August. It is a fact that lends credence to the idea that the only force that could stop this and the other ecocidal follies cooked up by our demented leaders would be an informed American public.

Which brings us back to the task at hand: reclaiming our Mercuries.

Were America a nation with a well-functioning collective Mercury, facts such as the examples in this essay—the news is filled with them every day—would inspire a virtual avalanche of dispassionate curiosity in each independent thinker. And where there was skepticism about any of this information—skepticism being the surest sign of a healthy Mercury—further self-informing would be avidly undertaken.
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« Reply #27 on: July 28, 2008, 09:41:32 am »









Putting our Mercuries to use

There is a world of information out there—many of the young blogsters are in on it; readers of the international press are likely to be in touch with it; listeners to Al-Jazeera will have heard much of it—that could give Americans the resources they need to respond appropriately to what is going on in the globe today. It is a travesty of our collective dysfunctional Mercury that so much of this data is all but unknown to the majority of the American public.

We have said that this ignorance is due not to any innate failure of Mercury but to the obscuring climate of today’s culture wars, stoked by a power cartel with a vested interest in keeping the public in the dark. We have argued that the under-use of Mercury in America’s collective intelligence, far from being a problem of lack of information (14), is primarily a function of the way information is framed in a culture obsessed with the dualism of winning vs. losing. Rather than treating facts as neutral mental energies with which to engage in order to enlarge one’s understanding of the world, we have been trained to view facts (all except those sanctioned by “official sources”) almost as we would personal feelings: suspect by definition and fueled by partisan agendas.

Mercury governs knowledgeability, which, when raised to an art form, expresses as erudition—a value treasured in many societies whose literatures and scientific creativity enrich our lives. But Mercury has a deeply practical side as well. The full use of our mental faculties allows us to exercise the free inquiry that would lead us to resolve the many immense problems we are now experiencing as a society.

As consciousness seekers in a world in crisis, we cannot afford to let this part of ourselves atrophy. Human intelligence, as astrology defines it, is not just something to use to get a good grade on a test. In the macrocosmic view, there is indeed a test here: a karmic one, on a collective as well as an individual level. The transits we will be discussing in future columns indicate that there is no better time than right now to prepare for it. To do so we must cultivate our innate dispassionate curiosity, one of the arrows pointing us towards sanity.

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« Reply #28 on: July 28, 2008, 09:44:12 am »









Notes

8 That is, rarely within the borders of the USA does the suppression of dissent take the form of outright murder. But all over the world there are thousands of deaths attributable to the careful control our state-linked media holds over the American public’s worldview. For example, not much ink was devoted in the US press last summer to explain that the armaments Israel was using to bomb hospitals and fleeing refugees in Lebanon came from our very own Pentagon. The media presented the massacre as an unfathomable, if unfortunate, mess in a faraway land, having little to do with us. The number of Americans outraged by this genocidal episode, paid for by their own tax dollars, was thus minimized.

9 The notion that all issues boil down to two polarized sides is itself so ingrained that it seems not even to cross the public’s radar enough to be questioned. See June’s Daykeeper Journal “America in Transition”.

10 Meanwhile, several administrations’ worth of US Middle East policymakers have made no bones about what they mean by “winning.” And it has nothing to do with the people of Iraq, nor about styles of government. To these men, “winning” means securing military and economic control of the region. These goals are part of the public record; they are spelled out in no uncertain terms in neo-con policy statements such as the official National Security Council Strategy (http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss.html) that anyone with access to a computer can read with their own eyes.  Even without resorting to the Internet, Americans could inform themselves of why their tax money is being poured into Iraq simply by reading in their very own newspapers (granted, it would probably require persevering into the back pages) and using their Mercuries to discern patterns of meaning. For instance, no secret was made of the fact that Paul Bremer’s primary post-Shock-and-Awe project was to privatize Iraq’s oil. He simply took control of it away from the people who lived there. But though the story was printed, its implications were not (nor did our intrepid “investigative reporters” deign to mention that by international law, an invading force does not have the right to pass legislation).

It is very unlikely that viewers of TV news shows think of any of this when they listen to discussions of “winning” in Iraq. The Karl Rove bunch has figured out that the most efficient way to keep the public’s ignorance intact is for media commentators to simply leave the word “winning” undefined. This keeps things nice and vague, encouraging the public to think of it in terms of coming home with the trophy at a golf tournament or soccer match.

11 When placed in Water and Fire signs, Mercury has an emotional coloration that it does not possess in Air and Earth. But relative to the other planets, unalloyed Mercurial logic is undistracted by the prejudicial vicissitudes of feeling.

12 Much of this over-ideologizing of simple information can be chalked up the to the transit of Pluto in Sagittarius (see “America in Transition” in February’s DayKeeperJournal), which tends to recast even the most clear-cut issues as elaborate moral crusades.

13 The recent anniversary of the dropping of “Fat Man” and “Little Boy” on Hiroshima and Nagasaki offers us a timely symbol of the contrast between what Washington says and what Washington does. The strikes incinerated 370,000 human beings, 85% of them civilians. Formerly secret documents now prove that Truman’s White House knew full well at the time that Japan was on the verge of collapse and ready to surrender. The bombs were dropped not to “end the war,” as the White House insisted at the time, but to warn the newly ascendant Soviets of the American military’s indominability—basically the same motive behind the threats against Iran today.

14 If anything, our craving for immediate access to huge quantities of information, aided and abetted by a plethora of electronic gadgets whose ever-briefer shelf-life is designed to add to their trendy allure, leaches the intelligence out of our Mercuries rather than strengthening it. Researchers of ADD and other peculiarly modern mental disorders have found that after a certain quantity is reached, the amount of data flooding into the brain exists in inverse relation to the ability to apply it. A British study from 2005 concluded that information overload actually reduces IQ levels twice as much as smoking lots of pot. As James Tulip puts it, “The greatest threat to our democracy is not from evil or incompetent leaders but from an electorate with the attention span of a gerbil on crack.”
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« Reply #29 on: July 28, 2008, 09:46:13 am »









Uninformed and faux-informed

Our last column focused on Mercury, the planet of intelligence. We looked at how tricky it is to truly honor Mercury in America today, given that the current societal climate does not encourage it. What would it look like to be driven by genuine curiosity, undeterred by cultural constraints?

I have said that intelligence is comprised of the instincts with which we were born, combined with the knowledge at our disposal. If Mercury is our instinct to inform ourselves (stronger in some people than in others, but present at birth in every one of us: every chart has Mercury somewhere), then from a Mercurial point of view, our choice is clear: we take advantage of our innate curiosity, or we do not. In previous “America in Transition” columns I argued against dualism as an overused ploy; but at this point I am proposing that if there is a dualism that makes any Mercurial sense, it is this: one can either be informed or uninformed.

This particular either/or should be an obvious place to begin if our goal is to enhance our intelligence. But it is not at all obvious to most Americans. The point that one can either know what one is talking about, or not, is obscured by great honking claims about "an opinion being just an opinion" and its blithely righteous corollary that all opinions are equal.  Unfortunately, this worthy-sounding argument ignores the reality of propaganda, a nasty phenomenon Americans are taught to believe exists in other countries but “not in a democracy like ours.”

Yet if we can achieve, if only momentarily, sufficient distance from these subjective nationalistic assumptions, most of us will concede that throughout history governments have used propaganda and censorship to greater or lesser degrees. This is because people in power have a stake in establishing conventional opinion (in astrology, consensus thinking is governed by Saturn, the planet associated with the concept of normality. This is a point to which we will return.) 

Political leaders want the public to believe certain things, and they do not want them to believe certain other things. A government will use its media arm to carefully render a certain point of view “normal”, while other points of view will get marginalized, penalized or worse. In this country, those who refute the official story line are no longer burned at the stake (Cool; they are merely denied air time and made fun of by Bill O’Reilly. But this is a difference of degree, not of substance. The more tyrannized a people are, the more Mercurial discourse will be suppressed.

A workaday example of the media’s faux-informing is the “both sides presented”  gambit that we get from Fox News, a network whose political links to the current administration are common knowledge and involve immense financial stakes.  Such “news” programs, with their much-touted adversarial guest debaters whose virulent opposition is supposed to offer proof of the station’s fairness and balance, have been dishearteningly successful in distracting viewers from the fact that a critical third thing—the truth—is nowhere in evidence. (9)

It is an ingenious trope. By setting up the discussion in a way that excludes the truly pertinent information, ideas are pre-empted before they can even coalesce into questions in the viewer’s mind. Framing a debate in terms of “whether the Iraqi government is stepping up to the plate or not”, for example, utterly precludes questions about whether Iraq hasa government right now—that is, a governing body other than the United States (the current group nominally in charge of Iraq can’t even choose their own military leaders without Washington’s approval). Framing the debate in such a way pre-empts any discussion about whether an occupied country is obliged to meet the criteria spelled out by its occupiers.

Most absurd of all is the absence, in all this talk of “winning” this (undeclared) war, of the question "what would 'winning' mean"? (10) The unacknowledged spin of the mainstream news effectively shuts out the only questions that would render any of the other questions meaningful. When we step outside of the bubble of reality created and maintained by the corporate media, its take on the “news” is so loopy as to fly in the face of Mercurial logic.

The goal of a person who wishes to use her Mercury fully must be to identify propaganda when we see it and to step out of its shadow.
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