Saturday, June 28, 2014

BUSH AND BLAIR REVISITED (part II)


As Iraq splits apart, we see Tony Blair shrilly insisting that it was not caused by the 2003 invasion, contrary to what a lot of other people see as common sense. In my last piece, I had a look at Blair’s chart to try and explain this departure from reality.

Tony Blair by GWB
George W Bush, by contrast, does not seem to have said anything about Iraq as it is splitting up. A few months ago he revealed his paintings to the world. He isn’t brilliant, but who is? He has done a painting of Blair that is recognisable. He has done one of Putin in 2 halves, one of the face he shows to the world (which may just be a photo), and the other half of the man behind the mask. Bush said that when he met this closed book of a man, he could sense his soul. Much of Bush's diplomacy was based on building personal connections, and he now seems to be turning this ability to connect into paintings. In a way, he is reflecting on and digesting his experience. We don't know what this sensitive man feels now about Iraq. And it is in such contrast to Tony Blair.

While he was President, a lot of people seemed to feel that Bush wasn’t leading his own life, that he was following in his Dad’s footsteps and was swayed too much by the old men from his father’s administration that he surrounded himself with.


His chart is not a very public one. I can see ‘leader’ in Blair’s chart quite easily, but not so in Bush’s. I can see a power of expression through the Mercury-Pluto Rising in Leo, but I would see that more in an artistic context: the feelingful and imaginative 12th House Sun in Cancer square to Neptune, and the aesthetic Moon-Jupiter in Libra.

I see what he is doing now as so much more in accord with who he is.

His Sun is not very strong in a worldly, assertive sense, being both in the 12th House and square to Neptune and people-pleasing Moon in Libra. I’d say that caused a ‘loss’ of his identity earlier in his life (the alcoholism would have been part of that) and a vulnerability to the expectations of being the eldest scion of a wealthy political dynasty. He would have to both make money and succeed politically, and he did both in a cack-handed sort of way, through family connections.

But it was never him. That is why he has disappeared. He wouldn’t even help the Republican campaign at the last Presidential election. I think it’s an extraordinary psychological story, which may one day come out.

Putin: Bush felt he could sense the soul of this closed-book of a man
By transit, the news of his painting exhibition came out on 4th April 2014, while Pluto was starting to station 14 minutes away from an exact opposition to Bush’s Sun: such powerful astrology says that the painting is not just the hobby of a bored ex-President, but part of a process of a profound change in which a more real person is emerging. This process will continue as Pluto goes on to square his Moon and MC in the coming years. He may even become a good painter, because the artistic element is so strong in his chart.

Bush also has natal Uranus conjunct North Node (as has Barack Obama). So he needs to break the mould if he is to feel fulfilled. The mould, I'd say, of his family background (Cancerians are very sensitive to family expectations.) Again, his re-invention of himself as an artist could be his means of doing this.

During the period of leaders with 12th House Suns which we had in both the USA (2000-2008) and the UK (1997-2010), I wondered about it, because it is unexpected. A strength of this placement is the ability to be a mouthpiece for the collective, and Bush and Blair both had this quality strongly (and it is for the same reason that artists can speak to the collective, and why dictators fear them.)

But in a public person, the 12th House Sun will also want to hide, being far more comfortable in quiet solitude and contemplation. You are not likely to get a leader that you feel you know. And I think this applied to all 3 of Bush, Blair and Brown.

With Bush, as I said, there was always the feeling that he was living out someone else’s expectations. With Blair (whose paternal grandparents were both actors, and who married into an acting family), there was a wall of rhetoric with enormous public appeal that won him 2 landslide elections. But who was the man, what did he really stand for? None of us really knew who this arch people-pleaser was. Until enantiodroma occurred, the phenomenon of turning from one psychological extreme to another. When the prospect of war with Iraq came about in 2002, he quickly turned from cautious people-pleaser into doing what he believed in, with religion as a back-up, regardless of what others thought. And with a big dose of 12th House self-deception thrown in.

Gordon Brown having just lost the General Election
Bush and Blair both had a persona they could project, while Gordon Brown did not even have that. Prime Minister for 3 unhappy years, he began his premiership with a telling image, speaking from a podium with half his face hidden behind a recorder. Most of Brown’s personal planets are in the 12th House, but he also has Moon in Leo in the 4th conjunct Pluto: that is the hunger for power that was always snapping at Blair’s heels, even though his personality was unsuited to leadership. Lacking, like Bush, planets at the top of the chart, he has gone happily into anonymity since losing office.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

BUSH AND BLAIR REVISITED (Part I)



Iraq was always a divided country, artificially created by the French and British, with a Shia majority and Sunni and Kurd minorities. And sometimes countries like this have nasty dictators because that is the only way there will be any stability. Afghanistan is also a case in point.


So when the US and the UK invaded Iraq in 2003, there was always going to be a problem of sectarian strife which, it turned out, the aggressors had no plan to deal with. And the consequences of this are what we are seeing now, the Americans having left, as the country splits apart. The Sunnis have a real grievance, in that the Shia government is excluding them from any say in the country. A lot of them are also jihadists intent on Sharia Law, a fundamentalist strand that was fanned by the 2003 invasion.


All this is, in a way, common knowledge and common sense. But not to Tony Blair, who leaped to the defence of the 2003 invasion when Iraqi cities began falling to the Sunnis. The reason this is happening, he said, is because the West has not been sufficiently assertive in combatting the jihadists in Syria: they have gained strength and are now spilling over into Iraq.


He kind of has a point about Syria, except the West began by supporting the rebellion against the dictator Assad (the West regularly changes its mind about dictators), but then found the situation to be more complex when the Islamists got involved. And the West had lost most of the political capital that enables intervention precisely through its botched invasion of Iraq. Furthermore, under Saddam Hussein, any invaders would have had short shrift: there was stability of a kind.

But it’s not really worth arguing with Tony Blair. As I said, it is common sense. Moreover, I’m not very interested in politics, except inasmuch as it shines a light on human nature and character. And in the case of Mr Blair, we seem to have someone who has lost touch with reality. He has his political actions to defend, and like any politician he wants to defend them, but history is so clearly proving him wrong about Iraq that the only decent thing to do seems to be to shut up, if you can’t bring yourself to admit you were wrong. You don’t see George Bush defending the invasion, that old hate-figure who seems to be showing more integrity than Blair.


Bush and Blair both have 12th House Suns, not a placement you traditionally look for in a leader, due to its private, hidden nature. For the UK, it was part of a political era, because straight after Blair we had Brown, another 12th House Sun. And I think those Suns proved problematic, and I’ll return to that.

But they don’t make you nuts. Why is Tony Blair 'unhinged' (as Boris Johnson called him), but not Bush or Brown? I look particularly to his 10th House Moon in Aquarius, a very public element to his chart that neither Bush nor Brown have. This is why the latter two have been happy to slope off quietly since leaving office – indeed, they both seem to have wanted to. But with 10th House Moon, there is a need to have a public impact and to protect your legacy, which is exactly what Blair has done.


He has not had the quiet time needed to reflect on his actions. And also with 10th House Moon, his sense of himself in a very personal way is dependent on how the world sees him, so there is the defensiveness, backed up by Mars on the Ascendant.

And I think it is the sign of the Moon, Aquarius, which brings in the ‘nutty’ element. Aquarius can be a wonderful sign, full of progressive ideas and good feeling for humanity. I’m not saying President Obama is a perfect example, but he has Aquarius Rising, and his long overdue healthcare bill for the US shows what Aquarius can do.

But it is also a fixed sign, which can find it hard to adapt to changing realities. And it gets stuck in its head with ideas about the world which are outside the conventional wisdom, and that is both Aquarius’ strength and weakness. Because being outside conventional reality can mean you are nuts just as much as it can mean you are a progressive genius. Or both.

Anders Breivik: Sun-Mars in Aquarius square to Uranus
Aquarian Anders Breivik, who  murdered over 70 people in Norway on fantastical political grounds, is a good example. 

Uranus rules Aquarius, and you can see the same kind of syndrome when Uranus makes strong challenging aspects. Julian Assange has Sun in square to Uranus, and Mars in Aquarius. While the value of his Wikileaks project will probably always be a matter for debate, if you read up on the political ideology that fuels him, there is extreme paranoia about authority and childish naivety about the ‘cure’, couched in very intellectual language. (Assange also has Moon in Scorpio, and as a child spent time in a secretive cult, so you can see a motive there!)

So Aquarians/ Uranians, partly due to their lack of feeling (Blair has no personal water in his chart), can get stuck in their heads with wild self-serving ideas about reality. Those ideas are often political/ideological, because the Aquarian’s nature is to be involved with the collective. And being a fixed sign, they can keep it up for the rest of their lives.

It doesn’t of course mean you have to be nuts if you are Aquarian, most of us aren’t, but I think there is always that tendency to look out for: ideas that do not connect to the human realities around you. Aquarius is the water bearer, which gives them strong feelings (water) that they can also be cut off from (they are in an urn rather than in you).

And Blair’s ideas about Iraq, with which he seems almost obsessed, so clearly do not connect to the realities around him.

Analysing further, Blair’s Moon is in a (wide) t-square with the Sun and Pluto. That is not an easy chart to have. There is conflict at the heart of it in the square between the Sun and the Moon. The Sun, his identity, is private and reflective, and it is easily overrun by the dynamic Moon at the top of the chart, with its need to make a mark on the world and be in the public eye. Maybe that is why the man has got religion: it keeps his Sun happy, but again the Moon distorts it and persuades him that his political actions are God’s Will working through him.

And then Pluto in a challenging aspect to both Sun and Moon. Pluto in his most basic form is the pursuit of power, and that is very evident with Blair, even though he cannot see it himself. He happened to get on personally with George Bush, but the real attraction was power. That is also why he is close friends with Rupert Murdoch. If he was more conscious, this chart, through Pluto, would place a great propensity for honesty and personal transformation at the centre of his life. As it is, his life seems to be more about ‘external’ power for its own sake. Pluto can have a life or death quality, suggesting that it is more than his life is worth to admit error over Iraq.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Astrology, Science and Non-Rational Means of Knowing



Don’t get me wrong, I love astrology. But in the context of our wider culture, it understandably seems specialised and improbable. I don’t think it can ever be mainstream, because even as astrologers we have to suspend our disbelief due to modern astronomical knowledge: the main factor is that nowadays the Earth is commonly held to orbit the Sun (though with motion being relative, it can be argued either way); then there are the thousands of other objects circling the Sun that logically need incorporating; the signs are seasonally based (so that eg Aries symbolism is associated with Spring), yet astrology seems to work equally well in Australia; and the solar system itself is known to be part of vast Galactic cycles within cycles.

These problems are not necessarily insuperable, but you’d need quite a different astrology to make it all hang together. And we seem to have voted with our feet. The old system works, and we are by and large staying with it, even though its intellectual foundations are, for a modern, virtually non-existent.

And this lack of foundation, which I think needs to be squarely faced, points to what is really going on: astrology works through non-rational, divinatory means. That is its real strength and foundation.

And the system we use has the strength of having been built over thousands of years. Tradition is a funny thing. Even nonsense, such as parts of the Old Testament, gain credibility through being old. Old mistakes. Even the good stuff becomes wrong through being set in stone and worshipped. In this sense tradition easily disempowers.

But used in a ritual way, as a means to direct experience that lies beyond the literal, a sense of tradition seems to add power. That is why you get atheists going to church services: they may not believe the theology, but the ritual itself, the evocation of the numinous, still works.

And astrology as we use it has all that. In its own terms, the system is consistent and deeply thought through. And it has the added power of having been used for so long, which is a divinatory point: if you wanted an explanation, you could say a field builds up around a tradition, or the symbols within it, all those thousands or millions of human intentions building up over time.

The much younger Tarot has power for the same reason. The symbols have accrued something, you hold a card up and you feel something stirring within, a power takes hold.

These powers were a natural part of life until the modern age, whether through spontaneous omens, direct communing with the Other World, or a gift for reading the entrails of guinea pigs. We are the first society that has had to defend the very existence of these powers.

And that is the other reason that astrology isn’t mainstream: the non-rational doesn’t have much of a place, is even under attack. Yet it is our most valuable means of knowing.

I had the idea for this piece through thinking about what would be an appropriate divination system for the modern age, in the sense that it would take modern forms of knowledge into account and could be widely accepted.

I don’t think I have an answer. But ideally, it would build upon the old forms and so bring that sense of age and tradition with it. With astrology and tarot, we are dealing with archetypes, patterns of energy that are perennial, so there is something in those traditions that will always be relevant.

The main problem, though, is not whether astrology as used is dated, but that non-rational means of knowing do not have credibility, are even seen as risible (as an academic colleague of astrologer Geoffrey Cornelius said, they are ‘one mumbo short of a jumbo’). Even the term non-rational is a concession to modern ways of thinking, as though the rational is the main thing. Whereas the rational needs to be a support for the non-rational.

Some of the ideas behind science are very imaginative. Quantum reality. The Big Bang. Multiverses. Dark Energy. Relativity. Evolution. When you get down to basics, to what is ultimate, science seems to tell some great stories. They tell us they are facts, but who has or ever will see any of the above? No-one, for they are great products of the imagination, and that is why they have wide cultural appeal.

Even mathematics, the ultimate arbiter of reality, what is it? It is about balancing sets of arcane symbols. If the symbols balance, then an idea is real. If they do not balance, then it is not real. And this principle has real world applications. Where have we heard that before? Astrology, of course, which matches configurations of symbols with real world events. Mathematics in this sense is none other than high magic.

So behind science lies a great deal of imagination and even magic. It is just not recognised as such. But what we have are some powerful imaginative ideas supported by a rational framework. Which I think is how any system of knowledge works. The non-rational, in other words, lies at the very centre of science, just as it does with astrology, tarot and other means of divination, and around it you have the rational justifications.

When I think about Quantum theory or multiverses or dark energy, I don’t think maths - I feel these ideas, they have a power for me. If I saw them on Tarot cards, they would speak to me. And I think that gives me a truer relationship to these ideas than someone who thinks of them purely rationally, but who surely has an imaginative relationship to them which, whether or not he/she knows it, is primary.

So in any cultural resurgence of the non-rational, it is not a matter of adding it on, but of seeing that it was there all along, at the heart of things.

There are 2 MA courses in the UK run by astrologers, at St David’s and at Canterbury. How do you approach the non-rational in the context of academia? A tricky and controversial question. But the course at Canterbury (Myth, Cosmology and the Sacred), which is run by Geoffrey Cornelius amongst others, explicitly seeks to affirm and explore non-rational means of knowing. I am delighted by this uncompromising approach, albeit concerned, for the same reason, that it can endure.

Below are links to Geoffrey Cornelius (author of The Moment of Astrology) speaking in 2 parts on Limits of Rational Discourse in the Realm of the Daemon. http://youtu.be/R6eu2JggYvM  and http://youtu.be/qr-3GZ7wStg

And a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

"The whole world is an omen and a sign. Why look so wistfully in a corner? Man is the Image of God. Why run after a ghost or a dream? The voice of divination resounds everywhere and runs to waste unheard, unregarded, as the mountains echo with the bleatings of cattle."

Saturday, May 17, 2014

THE MAKING OF THEM: The English Cult of Child Sacrifice




The English have a tradition, which many foreigners cannot understand, of sending their young children away to boarding school. This is not something forced on them by concerned social services, which would make some kind of sense, but undertaken entirely voluntarily and at great expense. I wondered what there is in the UK Chart that might reflect this tradition.

Of course, the vast majority of parents do not put their children into care (for that is what it amounts to) in this way. So why should the chart show it? Because it is an aspirational tradition: many more parents would do so if they had the money, and the system produces many members, perhaps even the majority, of the British ruling class – yes, we do have one of them, and they are running the government right now.

Before I go any further, I want to try and take the politics out of this. Unlike many, I do not assume that the members of the ruling class act in bad faith or that they necessarily make a worse job of running the country than Labour (whose last PM but one, Tony Blair, went to public school, unlike his Tory predecessor John Major: the lines are increasingly blurred these days.) Personally, I have no allegiance to any of the parties.

All the same, the toffs are back running the country in a way that we haven’t seen for a long time: the class structure is hardening again, and it is becoming more difficult generally for working class people to rise. The acting profession, for example, is increasingly public school. And the boarding system is thriving.

For my non-English readers, public school means private school. Schools that are genuinely for the public are called state schools.

I thought I’d start my astrological exploration with my own chart, having been sent away aged 8. And at that point I was at the end of a transiting square from Pluto to my natal Moon. The death (Pluto) of childhood (the Moon). Of course, I would have had Pluto squaring my Moon (and conjoining my Asc) for some years before that, so it was all one long traumatic process, but I won’t burden you with that right now!

I have natal Moon conjunct Saturn, so Pluto went on to square natal Saturn: the demolition (Pluto) of the structure (Saturn) of my life, and the premature entrance of Saturn as worldly taskmaster. Moon-Saturn itself often describes an undernourished childhood burdened by responsibilities. 

The Dalai Lama in the 1930s


We see the opposition of Moon and Saturn in the chart of the Dalai Lama, who was sent off to the monks at a very young age. He seems to have emerged relatively unscathed, probably because the monks were a better deal than schoolteachers; but all the same, it is there in his chart, and he was taken away from his mother when very young.


And if we look at the UK 1801 chart, we see Pluto in the 5th House of children. Mythologically, Pluto abducted the young Persephone and took her to his Underworld, from which she eventually emerged as a woman. And in the UK Chart we see Ceres, Persephone’s mother, in Pluto’s House, the 8th, symbolising her suffering at her daughter’s abduction, as well as quite literally the ‘House’ in which her daughter (unbeknownst to her) was to be found.

Pluto abducts Persephone
Pluto has the function of moving us on to the next stage of life, and the way he does it is firstly by dismembering the old stage. This can be painful because we can be very attached to the old way, it may be our identity, and we may not realise that it is time to move on. All these themes are in the Persephone story. But crucially it was time for her to move on, even though it was difficult for her mother.

And in the case of boarding schools we see the abduction and the re-emergence 10 years later of 18 year olds who will, by and large, have the wherewithal and connections to be successful and prominent in the world.

But if they were 8 years old or so when they first went, then they were abducted by Pluto prematurely: in my own case, this is described by the transiting square from Pluto to my Moon, rather than say a trine or sextile. What makes the issue more complex is that, unlike Ceres, your parents co-operate in your abduction, saying it's for your own good, it's a 'privilege'. Where does that leave the child? I won't try and unravel that one here.

And here’s the thing (as they say): in sending their 8 year olds away to school (where their relations with adults will be professional rather than personal), childhood needs are being sacrificed to worldly advancement.

This is Pluto in the 5th of the UK Chart: the sacrifice (Pluto) of children (the 5th). 

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It can also be seen in the opposition between the Sun and Moon in Capricorn and Cancer respectively. For it is also a Capricorn-Cancer issue: the need to enter the world (Capricorn) versus the needs of childhood (Cancer).

And in the UK, as far as the ruling class are concerned, we have got that balance profoundly wrong. The Sun in Capricorn, which describes a ruling class that goes all the way back to Norman times, dominates the Moon in Cancer. Hence the stiff upper lip in a people that should be, and used to be, very emotional (Cancer). (And have, since the death of Diana, shown signs of reverting to type.)

The Sun is also in the Moon’s natural House (the 4th) and the Moon is in Saturn’s natural House, and Saturn rules the UK Sun. So the Cancer-Capricorn axis is complex, as well as very central, to the UK character. The issue is further reflected in the t-square from Ceres, the nurturing mother, to Saturn, ruler of Capricorn, to 5th House Venus. Which also says a lot about the place of mothers in that system, and their constrained relationship to their children.

If you are sent away to school very young, then you have to shut off from your feelings and attachments. The natural bonding process is broken, and it can come out later in relationship difficulties. And you have to shut off from your emerging soul (if you have one, and I know many people who seem relatively unconflicted about the whole business): your raison d’etre is to become someone who will succeed and win in the world. That is the only thing that matters in this system, whatever they say, because why else would the parents spend all that money?


So a personality is constructed that is emotionally shut down, that sees the Cancerian end of life as ‘wet’, and that is driven to win and succeed as a means of validating itself.
 
Hugh Grant
This sort of personality – Capricorn at the expense of Cancer - is instantly recognisable to anyone who has not been through the system. It is the archetypal Englishman, Hugh Grant or Boris Johnson or Stephen Fry. 

Boris Johnson
Ideally suited to running the country’s institutions (the media now being one of them) and in earlier times, the Empire. Superior, capable, urbane and charming, people that many of us love to admire, but with messy personal lives, compulsively driven from one woman to the next – or, in Fry’s case, from one suicide attempt to the next. 

Stephen Fry
And probably with secret sides to themselves that occasionally emerge as scandals, the strange fruit of all that had to be sacrificed when they were younger to make them the splendid chaps they now are.

So this is what we do to our children (some of us at least, but I’m sure it must reflect a national characteristic, or there would be protest: but no, we are strangely mute on the subject.) Somewhere, I think we idealise the breaking of the natural bond between child and parent, we see it as a good thing to do in the interests of the child’s worldly advancement. This idealisation is only possible through a separation from feeling, and here we are on classic Uranus territory.

And it is expressed in the chart in the square from the Capricorn Sun to Uranus rising. Uranus here has the effect of splitting the Sun off from its inner Cancerian opposite, enabling it to act in the heartless way it does.

An American Indian friend suggested to me the idea of the idealising of the breaking of the ability to bond, given that children here are sent away voluntarily. She has had a lot to do with young Indians who were forcibly sent away to school, and sees them come back angry and not knowing it, and unable to bond and not knowing it.

Here, if you can bear to watch it, is a 1994 documentary in 5 parts about the practice of sending young children to boarding schools. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aatIB-yc7nQ The film does not have an angle to push, it lets both sides speak for themselves – ironically, it is those who speak in favour of the system who unwittingly damn it with the unbelievable things they say. Like the guy who is now sending his young children away, talking about a friend of his who had regularly to be sedated to get him back to school. There is also a book of the same title, The Making of Them by Nick Duffell, which I recommend.

The documentary came out in 1994, during the Uranus-Neptune conjunction in Capricorn, opposite the UK Cancer Moon. Now there is some symbolism! And the next year Philip Pullman's Northern Lights was published. In this story people's souls take the form of animal familiars, or daemons, which are always around them. And it turns out that a group of children have been kidnapped and taken to the Arctic where they are being forcibly separated from their daemons. A parable of boarding schools, or what? From Philip Pullman's Wikipedia entry, it seems he may have been sent to boarding school (his father having died) and he has a Saturn-Pluto conjunction in Leo which may be conjunct the Moon.

In both the documentary and the Pullman book, Uranus-Neptune can be seen as addressing the issue of children being separated (Uranus) from their souls (Neptune), and the conjunction itself being a cultural energy that can heal the divide.