Saturday, April 12, 2014

The End of the World?

In the run-up to major astrological alignments, the word gets out and people start to get worried. And then…. Nothing happens. Or not much more than usual happens. And the fact that very little happens gets forgotten about, and people get worried all over again the next time there are some major alignments.

We’re in the middle of one of those periods right now. There is a Cardinal Grand Cross in the sky that will peak on 23rd April [1], and there are lunar and solar eclipses in the middle and at the end of the month respectively.

Astrology is not a mechanical thing. This is my beef with the way mundane astrology – the astrology of countries and politics and world events – is often practised, as though it can be reduced to a set of rules.

Astrology is essentially divinatory. In spirit it brings us back to ancient times when the seer would be posed a question or a problem, and he or she would head off and go into a trance or go to sleep and dream and would consult with the gods or whatever powers there were, and then would come back with advice. And the advice from that sort of realm is always about how to live well, maybe you are given some insight into a situation, or get told how to go about something, or given a cure for a medical problem.

That kind of consciousness, which is opaque to much of modern thought, is the context in which astrology arose.

With that perspective, it becomes absurd to separate the astrologer from the chart being read, and reduce it to a set of rules that can predict the future. We do not need to be told the future. What we do need as humans is to be reminded of the wider forces, natural forces that surround us, which we tend to forget but which need to be taken into account and which can also guide us.
That way we will live well. We forget those powers because the business of everyday living can be so demanding, or because we get inflated or depressed. So part of our job as astrologers is to remind people of that, not in a pedagogic way, but through the experience of those powers at work.

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So when some major planetary alignments come up, they do not necessarily mean anything at all. You need an astrologer functioning beyond the rules to see their meaning, and his or her job is not really to portend catastrophic events, which is what people get most worried about. (It’s not just worry though, is it, we also want interesting, dramatic events to happen.)

I looked up an interpretation of the 2 coming eclipses by Bernadette Brady, and she writes: “… wasted energy or misdirected motivation… There can be sudden inspiration but this is potentially unfulfilling. No real action should be taken.” [2]

That was kind of synchronistic for my theme. Some of her interpretations have a lot of action around them. But this one could be summarised as not a lot is going to happen!

I had someone ask me if they should be worried about the Cardinal Grand Cross, and my answer was well it doesn’t interact with your personal chart, so you can probably ignore it!

To some extent, of course, astrology can be reduced to rules. We need them, they are the launch pad. And to some extent astrology-as-rules works. But what tends to happen when you use those rules repeatedly to generate a particular meaning is that it gradually stops working!

There is a trickster at work: Mercury, the messenger between the gods and this world, gets in the way. I suspect it is the same with homeopathy, for example: you cannot separate it from the practitioner, the who and the how is just as important as the pill itself, the diagnosis is not in that sense ’objective’. 2 homeopaths could prescribe the same pill in the same situation, but one pill may work better than the other because of where the homeopath ‘went’ to find the cure.

And for astrology to work well, there needs to be a real question, or a real issue. We know that through doing readings. You can be coming out with good standard interpretations of a chart, but somehow it’s not really going anywhere, you’re not connecting with the other person, and you’re interpretations aren’t that good as a result. And then bam! you find why the person is there for the reading, you connect with them on that level, and the chart opens up. I had an experience recently where I hit the issue, and it was exactly what the other person didn’t want to talk about, and wouldn’t give me information on it, but I kept coming back to it because that was where the chart was pointing.

So this brings me back again to the major alignments that people get concerned about, which I suppose belong to mundane astrology, because it is world events, floods and earthquakes and military invasions that vaguely seem to worry people.

Are people really worried, or just enjoying the thrill of potentially ‘interesting times’? Is there a real question? And where the worry is real, is that because of a particular way of looking at astrology and the heavens, as though the will of the gods is a mechanical thing that exists independently of the participation of the astrologer/seer/priest/witch doctor?

OK, many of us are prone to superstition at times, which is a kind of determinism. And astrology as it has come down to us is maybe the worst offender in this respect among the divinatory arts. And the offence comes from the idea that the heavens have a meaning that can be divined, that exists independently of the divinatory consciousness of the astrologer. And this is not the case. Why else would every astrologer have a different take on a chart? But nor is it just a ‘subjective’, whimsical act on the part of the astrologer. Every reading is particular and individual and dependent on the astrologer being able to go to that place in him or herself that the divination emerges from, and being able to bring the other person along.

It is an experience that you and the person you are reading for and the planets are all ‘inside’, it is a particular message from the gods, and if you try to stand ‘outside’ that – as we moderns tend to – then that essential sense of participation is lost. [3]

[1] As Mars moves from applying to separating in its opposition to Uranus

[2] Predictive Astrology p332

[3] Some of the ideas in this piece have been augmented through reading Geoffrey Cornelius’ ‘The Moment of Astrology’. I didn’t know about him until recently, and my response has been wow, at last, an astrologer who thinks like I do!

Saturday, April 05, 2014

The Sociopath Next Door

I just got a book from Amazon, ‘The Sociopath Next Door’. I was beguiled into ordering it by the title, but the book itself seems dull, albeit worthy. (Much better is Jon Ronson’s ‘The Psychopath Test’.) All the same, it’s an American book, and it got me reflecting that there is this theme in America that the ordinary person next door, who looks just like you or me, could be harbouring a dark secret.

You see it in 2 current TV series, ‘Homeland’ and ‘The Americans’. In the first, a soldier returned from Iraq, now living with his family as a regular American and a hero, is secretly a Muslim terrorist. In the second, set in the 80s at a Reagan-induced height of Cold War paranoia, what appear to be a normal American husband and wife are in reality Russian agents living under false identities.

This theme seems to go all the way back to the Salem witch trials, when ordinary women were put to death for practising witchcraft. It is a theme that can turn into mass hysteria, as occurred (along with Salem) in the Communist witch hunt of the 1950s.

I wondered what is it in the US chart that might express this theme? A bit of illegitimate astrology is revealing. The US Sibly Chart is for 1776, the Declaration of Independence. It occurred at the Uranus Return of the Salem Witch trials. So even though the US did not exist in 1692, Uranus was at that time conjoining what was to become the US natal Uranus at 8 Gemini.


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And the US Uranus is conjunct the Descendant, the point of other, of projection onto the other. Uranus is about splitting/division, and you also have uncertainty, you can never be quite sure what is going on, your neighbour really might be a Communist/Muslim terrorist/Russian agent/Devil Worshipper. (In Homeland, the evil has spread even to an American hero. Is no-one immune?) The theme of projection is intensified by Sun, Jupiter, Venus and Mars all being in the 7th House.

The Salem Witch trials were religious in origin – Satan was in the world, and he could be infesting anyone, so keep on your guard. All misfortunes, the people believed, were due to the work of the Devil. The US has both Sagittarius Rising and Sun conjunct Jupiter, making it an unusually religious nation.

So putting all this together, the theme of the neighbour with the dark secret seems to go all the way back to the Protestant/Puritan origins of the US, the religious fanatics who came over from Europe to found the New Jerusalem. There were, of course, witch trials in Europe around that time as well. But Europe was more of a mixture. In England, the Puritans came and went.

In psychological terms, it comes down to the shadow, projecting it ‘out there’
and seeing others as having the brutality or whatever that is in fact your own, but unacknowledged. We all do it in one way or another. It’s the bits we are ashamed to admit to. They may not be ‘bad’, they may just be conventionally unacceptable. And if we are happy to talk about what we think of as our shadow, then it probably isn’t.

A book that has this American theme is ‘The Human Stain’ by Philip Roth. The ordinary person here is secretly black. His ancestry is black, but his skin is so white that he can conceal it. It is his shameful secret. He is a Professor, and he is unfairly accused of racism. And the story develops from that. But I thought it was rather a brilliant take on the theme. Your neighbour might be secretly black. As if blackness is an inherited evil that is not the same as skin colour. You can never be too careful.

And perhaps the American Dream is the obverse of the same theme, with the same religious root. Just as Satan can enter anyone, so can anyone, if they work hard enough, be saved. Anyone can become rich and famous. Maybe they are 2 sides of the same coin?

PS I didn't talk about Pluto, who is typically associated with the Shadow. But maybe he is the content of the Shadow, whereas in this case Uranus and the 7th House are the propensity to split, to see it in the other. And a major feature of this particular Shadow issue is treason - whether it is the Russian agent or Muslim terrorist, both disguised as ordinary Americans. And treason is a betrayal (Pluto) of the State (Capricorn). The US natal Pluto is in Capricorn.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Russia and the Ukraine

On 1st March 2014, the day Mars turned retrograde, President Putin ordered Russian troops to mobilise in Crimea. So Mars is the planet to watch out for in this crisis, and he will be retrograde until 20th May.

A retrograde period can be a time to turn inwards and reflect, and by the same token a period for going over old ground. And the status of the Crimea has been anomalous since the end of the Cold War. During Soviet times, Crimea was transferred to the Ukraine, though still under control of the USSR/Russian Empire. And during the 20th century, her demographic changed from 35% Russian to 55%. In 1991, as the Cold War ended and the USSR fell apart, Crimea became an autonomous republic within the Ukraine.

As the Ukraine has moved towards Europe, the divided loyalties of the country have been exacerbated. And Russia, like the US, is protective of its sphere of influence. As the Ukraine underwent a revolution in favour of moving towards Europe, so did Russia act.

There are many possibilities for a chart for Russia, as the USSR’s collapse occurred in a number of stages. One chart I have used is for 19 August 1991, when Yeltsin stood on a tank and proclaimed his resistance to an attempted coup by the old guard. That was arguably the decisive shift in power from the USSR to Mother Russia. It occurred at about 11am, giving 23 Libra Rising, which Mars has been retrograding over in the current crisis. By progression, the MC is approaching Jupiter, so Russia’s expansionism is not going away anytime soon. And Vladimir Putin has a stellium of Sun-Saturn-Neptune-Mercury between 14 and 23 Libra, close to Russia’s Asc, making him the mouthpiece of Russia’s self-expression.


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Meanwhile the West is wringing its hands and imposing sanctions on Russia for its annexation of the Crimea. Putin is not someone to be pressurised. He acts on behalf of Russia with the straightforward ruthlessness of a country that has 1st House Pluto in Scorpio square to proud Sun in Leo.

Of course the ‘referendum’ in favour of Crimea joining Russia was rigged. But that was probably just a sop to the West. Russia doesn’t think in terms of our democratic niceties. Crimea is mainly Russian, we want Crimea, so we will take it.

And you can see their logic. What would be the democratic alternative? Crimea perhaps having a referendum, after years of bombings and atrocities by Russians who want to be part of Russia, versus a Ukraine that doesn’t want to lose any territory. That is what democracy often produces. When Russia has a breakaway region, it stamps on it ruthlessly, as it has done in Chechnya. That was what the US needed to do if it was to have any chance  in Afghanistan. Unless you are prepared to do that, then don’t invade. Democracies are too accountable to be able to have this degree of ruthlessness.

Now I’m not speaking out in favour of these brutalities. I’d much rather live in a western democracy. But it occurred to me in the case of the Crimea that this straightforward assertion of power by Russia may in the long-term give a better result than the democratic approach.

The chart I’m using for the Ukraine is for 24 August 1991, when Independence was proclaimed. All 3 outer planets conjunct the 2 main Angles, which suggests to me a country that is liable to be swept along by wider forces. And Uranus Rising suggests a country that is not stable and settled, that is liable to split – much as the UK, with its Uranus Rising in the 1801 Chart, has been subject to calls for independence from Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

Pluto and Uranus are activating Ukraine’s natal Uranus by transit – just as they have been for the UK, where we have a referendum on Scottish Independence later this year.

The East of the Ukraine leans politically towards Russia, though it is only in the Crimea that Russians form a majority.

The crisis is likely to continue in its present form until Mars stations in May at 8 Libra – square the Ukrainian Asc, Uranus and Neptune.

As far as Russia is concerned, that is that, Crimea belongs to Russia. The only negotiations will be over the sanctions the West is for now imposing. The noise will probably have mostly died down by the time Mars returns to 27 Libra, the point from it which it began retrograding, in late July. At that point Mars will have crossed 3 times over the Russian Ascendant between February and July, a cycle of assertion and aggression. But in the sign of Libra, traditionally a sign in which Mars finds it hard do well, being opposite the sign it rules, Aries. Russia, however, seems to have been able to use Mars in Libra to its advantage, using the thoughtful quality of the sign to wait until the right time before seizing the Crimea. And creating an illusion of ‘fairness’ through the referendum. Well, from Russia's point of view, and from the point of view of the Russians in the Crimea, what has happened probably does seem fair. It really is Mars in Libra.

After its cooked-up invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US is not in a position to claim the moral high ground over Russia’s actions. And Russia knows this.

Putin is not a man who explains his actions. America is the opposite, producing copious justifications – many of them spurious – when it infringes the sovereignty of other countries. America feels secretly ashamed where Russia does not.

So what is the future for the Ukraine? The Crimea has considerable strategic importance, as well as having a population that is mostly Russian. These conditions do not apply to the East of the country, which though it leans towards Russia, has a slender majority of Ukrainians, and far fewer Russians.

So though the country will continue to feel divided – as evidenced by the natal Uranus Rising – for demographic reasons this doesn’t seem likely to result in another split.

The Solar Returns for this year and next year are interesting. This year’s (starting last August) has Angular Sun, Pluto, Neptune and Jupiter, as well as a Moon (the people)-Uranus (division) conjunction. We don’t need to interpret all this to see that it is pretty tumultuous.

But then next year’s Solar Return (starting this August) is nowhere near as dramatic. Overall this suggests that as the Mars retrograde cycle completes in July, and as the new Solar Return begins, the Ukraine will settle down – though perhaps licking its wounds (Neptune-Chiron opposite the SR Asc!)