Friday, November 13, 2015


NB I published this piece a few hours before the Paris attacks took place. I'd had an idea come to me about the way we project our own fundamentalism onto Islamic State, and I realised I had a blog to write. But the timing is interesting, as though the idea had drifted in to my mind from the collective.

Medieval Christianity got us in the way of thinking that there is only one reality, and we have continued to think in that way since modern science superseded Christianity. Thinking that there is only one reality is a definition of fundamentalism.

It all comes back, according to one theory, as to whether a religion arose in the jungle or the desert. In the jungle there are many realities, and you get polytheism. In the desert it is much more like one reality - the sand, the blue sky and the scorching sun - so you get monotheism. Which of course isn't always fundamentalist, but it lends itself to it more easily.

Christianity and Islam both arose in desert countries.

It can be hard to see our own fundamentalism in the West. I guess it's hard for anyone to see their own fundamentalism, as it's a shadow quality, one that we don't want to admit to. You just think that what you are seeing is the truth, the way things are. "Of course God didn't create the universe, there is no evidence for it; whereas there is plenty of evidence for the Big Bang." It depends HOW you think that: some are quite happy to think that and let others have their own views, whereas others - the 'New Atheists' -  want to root out religion wherever they find it. 

Others may not go that far, but when you hear the mocking tone as soon as you mention e.g. tarot or homeopathy (which in my view are essentially divinatory rather than scientific), then you know you haven't just got disagreement - which is fair enough - but a degree of fundamentalism. And that mocking tone is very common, it can be almost de rigeur amongst some academics.

The real fundamentalists, of course, are over there in the Middle East, particularly in the form of 'Islamic State'. Or, as even the BBC calls them, 'so-called Islamic State'. Or, as David Cameron calls them, 'ISIL' - a name they stopped using a while back. Either way, the official line seems to be to refer to them in such a way as to suggest we cannot possibly take these people seriously.

Which is understandable, even desirable, but it is also a case of collective projection. It is hard for us to see the extent to which we view our own form of knowledge - science - as the only form of knowledge, and our political system - democracy - as better, as superior, as more evolved, the only acceptable system. No, we are tolerant and fair, we seek real knowledge and a better world. 

Witch Hangings
It is people like Islamic State - and Islamists generally - who are the real ignorant fundamentalists. Of course, particularly in the USA, there are plenty of Christian fundamendalists (Europe having exported many of its religious extremists to the New World several centuries ago), as well as scientific fundamendalists, but at least they can unite in pointing the finger of intolerance at IS.

And we are right in thinking all these things about IS. They really are all these awful things that we say they are. 

But we also enjoy judging them, disapproving of them, it makes us feel superior - well, some of us, at any rate - and that, I think, can be the sign that we deny those same qualities in ourselves. And it's an unconscious process. People are sincere in their hypocrisy. When we disapprove, we are saying to ourselves that we have none of those qualities in ourselves. But we do. We all have tendencies to fundamentalism, intolerance and violence.

Ironically, IS is an almost direct creation of the West, it is a shadow thrown up by our own imperialism - it is therefore part of us rather then just something 'Other'. It went something like this. Iraq was ruled by its Sunni minority. The West ousted the Sunnis and put the majority Shias in power, the 'democratic' solution. The Shias then discriminated against the Sunnis (because they are not an 'advanced' democracy like America and the UK), and the Sunnis fought back in the form of IS. This was predictable in advance, which is why I say IS is an almost direct creation of the West. IS, it seems, was created by ex-officers from Saddam's army, who knew all about fighting, and they put Al-Baghdadi as the figurehead, to give it religious legitimacy. At least, that is one story of how it came about.

IS has a very powerful idea behind it - the re-creation of a Caliphate stretching across the Middle East and beyond - so its origins will quickly be engulfed by mythology. (Rather like 9/11 was).

IS - or even the Taliban - versus the West is the latest version of the the old struggle between Islam and Christianity. Historically, they seem to be as bad as each other. Islam had been encroaching on the Byzantine Empire - which was Christian - for centuries before the Crusades began. When the West invaded Iraq, like it or not, it was carrying this mythology of the ancient enemy. You can either be conscious of it or unconscious of it, and if you deny that history - as a politician has to, at least in public - then it becomes unconscious.

Nowadays we do not call our Islamic enemies 'infidels'. We call them 'terrorists', which amounts to the same thing. In reality, we are engaged in a power struggle with Islam in the Middle East, just as we were 1000 years ago, and just as we did then, we de-humanise the enemy. Just as they de-humanise us.

The 1st Crusade occurred in 1096, and its immediate aim was to allow pilgrims access to the Holy Land, which had been denied to them since it came under Muslim control; its ultimate aim was to re-unite the 2 branches, East and West, of Christendom.

1096 was the aftermath of a Uranus-Pluto conjunction in Aries. Uranus-Pluto hard aspects, which occur every 40 years or so, herald periods of radicalism and power struggle. The conjunction is the most formative of the aspects, and Aries, as the 1st sign of the zodiac, begins things, by going to war if necessary. The Crusades began something - the power struggle between western Christianity and Islam - that continues even now.

The actual crossings of 2 outer planets churn up what is underlying, but we often don't see the results until a few years afterwards. Like the 11th century Uranus-Pluto conjunction. And like the Uranus-Pluto square of the late 20s-early 30s: Nazism came in its wake. And the conjunction of the mid-60s: the summer of love and many of the protests followed afterwards.

And it's the same now. Uranus and Pluto finished squaring in early 2015, soon after IS made its first big gains, but the real battle is only just beginning. 

And the main point I want to make is that Islamic State - 'so-called' or otherwise - is not just evil and 'other': it embodies tendencies that we all have, and more than that, it arose almost directly out of us westerners acting on those same tendencies, creating a situation of mass slaughter in Iraq: has IS killed as many people as the 250,000 or so killed by the sectarian fighting in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Evolution vs the Perennial Philosophy

I don't believe that consciousness 'evolves'. Evolution is a 19th century abstraction that we impose on our experience. And I'm suspicious, because the primary mechanism for evolution is 'survival of the fittest', a harsh and unforgiving ethos that merely reflects the capitalism of the day. A Creation Myth (for that is what it is) that justifies the worst in human nature.

A few months ago I had a dream in which I saw a speckled moth, beautifully part of and belonging to its surroundings, and at the same time I understood that evolution as we know it told us virtually nothing about how this moth came to be.

I'm not a creationist. You could say I'm a metaphysical agnostic: I just don't know how these things come to be, and I don't think they can be understood in any simple 'rational' way.

I think that Evolution is generally understood mythologically rather than scientifically. This is because most of us haven't seriously studied the evidence, yet so many accept it as a fact that you don't seriously question. It is therefore mostly a belief. We accept it because it tells a story about how we came to be, that is more acceptable nowadays than the Biblical creation myth. We accept it more for emotional than intellectual reasons.

There is nothing wrong with this. We need stories about the world that are emotionally appealing. It has always been this way. These stories contain truths about existence, and ideally you need some of them to contradict each other, just so we don't think we are in possession of the 'one truth'.

The problem with evolution as a story is that it twists life into a brutal struggle, and reduces the scope of existence to the visible, material world. (As quantum physicists have asserted, it is consciousness, not matter, that is primary.) Evolution is a story posing as an unassailable fact, that continues in an inverted form the brutal creation myth of the Old Testament.

It is this resonance with what came before that contributes to the emotional appeal of evolution. Intellectually we are satisfied because evolution opposes the religion we have left, emotionally we are satisfied because it resembles that religion, with the added bonus that humans are now at the top of the Great Chain of Being instead of somewhere in the middle.

It is because of this emotional appeal that Evolution is firmly accepted as a theory on the basis of evidence that would be laughed out of court in most other scientific disciplines. There is more direct evidence, for example, of homeopathy working, but again for emotional reasons, that evidence is frequently rejected.

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No-one has seen evolution occur, the most we have directly seen is a bit of adaption to circumstances, which is not the same thing. The evidence is partial and circumstantial. Something has gone on, we know that from the fossil record. And DNA studies show that all forms of life on earth are closely related to one another, which is a wonderful result.

But how a whole new species arises is not understood. Assuming it is consciousness, not matter, that is primary (though that statement itself suggests a divide between matter and consciousness that I don't think exists), I think new species are dreamed into being by consciousness, as much as they are generated by physical processes.

Though to what purpose they are dreamed into being is a mystery, part of the Great Mystery, the unknowability of existence.

This piece was prompted by an article by astrologer Glenn Perry, in which he sets the development of astrology in the context of a purported 'evolution' of human consciousness, in which he (wrong-headedly) declares "It must be emphasized that human awareness at this stage (4000 B.C.-1500 B.C.) was still quite dim, more like a toddler’s consciousness than a modern adult human."

Evolution has become central to the way we think about life, and it is natural to take the step of thinking of evolution as not just a physical process but as a mental/emotional process.

Evolution implies progress from an inferior stage to a superior stage of life. It is not just saying that change occurs - which would be fair enough - but that there is a value to it that makes the later stage in some way 'better' than the earlier stage.

It is one way of making sense of human history, but I think it is hard to get away from the implication that we are more 'advanced' than our forebears. I don't think this is justified, and if you junk that idea, then I think you have to junk the whole idea that human consciousness 'evolves'.

I used to have a Canadian Indian friend visit (yes, they call themselves Indians, not native this or that) and he was brought up speaking the language of the Chippewa Cree and immersed in their stories and philosophy. One thing that impressed me was their subtle understanding, through the stories of Wisahitsa, of the human ego and the tricks it gets up to: one of those tricks would surely be the self-important idea that we are 'superior' to our ancestors! Philosophically the tradition is keenly aware of how unknowable the universe is, refusing, for example, to take a position on what happens after death. And their philosophy and psychology is set in the richly imaginative context of the traditional stories, which my friend was able not just to tell but to expound on their meanings.

The usual patronising evolutionary story is that early people had their wonderful participation mystique with nature, which we have lost, but that is the price we have had to pay for the development of self-awareness, individuality, a strong ego and rationality.

In "The Passion of the Western Mind", astrologer Richard Tarnas says that it has been the task of masculine consciousness to forge its own autonomy and then come to terms with the great feminine principle in life, and thus recover its connection with the whole. This will constitute "the fulfillment of the underlying goal of Western intellectual and spiritual evolution." (p442)

In "The Philosopher's Secret Fire" (pp 263-6), Patrick Harpur takes issue with this position: "Evolution is a spirit notion which soul does not recognise. Traditional societies do not evolve. They live within a mythology which contains all imaginative possibilities, Earth Goddesses no less than Heraclean egos... Because we are changing, we think of ourselves as evolving. We are not. We are literalising the old myths...  If the rational ego is to disappear it is more likely to be destroyed by the ricochets of ideologies made in its own image."

My experience with my Indian friend suggested to me that early peoples are NOT lacking in rational egos - if you think about it, they needed to be a lot more creative and thoughtful than we need to be just to survive, apart from any philosophical sophistication they may have had - but rather, that ego has not become divorced from a sense of participation in nature.

As the poet Ted Hughes said: "The story of mind exiled from Nature is the story of Western Man."

I think that is the real story.

I think there are perennial truths about existence that have always been available to people from the earliest times, along with elements in our nature that can take us away from those truths. And the big truth we have lost is a felt sense of our participation in nature. What has gradually developed over the last few thousand years - ever since Plato and his separation of 'ideal forms' from nature - has been a massive loss of soul.

For a great exposition of this theme, see Anne Baring's book The Dream of the Cosmos. She explores this idea in the context of a well-researched account of the shift from lunar to solar mythologies.

There has been dazzling technological progress, and in a way it is natural to assume that makes us more 'advanced' than people who do not have that technology - as if we personally invented it! But I don't think it has made us more whole as humans.

What has developed has not been the rational ego - that has always been there - but the rational ego divorced from nature. Nature as something we can separate ourselves from and look on dispassionately, out of which has come at least as much harm as good, as the environmental crisis testifies to.

I think it is possible to view much of the technological progress of recent times as a mad dream created by an out-of-control rational ego. We didn't need all this technology for tens of thousands of years. It has been produced by a crazed mind, crazed because it has lost its roots in who it is.

The world we live in needs re-dreaming. We need to recover the perennial truths of existence, in which we are participants in, rather than observers of, the cosmos, and use that as a point of balance.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Pluto, the No-Self Doctrine, and an Offer You Can't Refuse

You could say there are 2 approaches to the self: building it up or abandoning it. The first approach is 'normal', even to an extent necessary. The second approach is radical and revolutionary and is also what makes us fully human.

It is quite normal to base your sense of who you are around a list of 'achievements'. 

These achievements can be quite good things in themselves. And it's quite natural to then think that that is who you are.

You get a lot of people who are half-way radical. They quite rightly don't like a lot of things about the world and want, like a lot of politicians do, to 'make a difference'. But then that becomes who they are. Not in all cases, by any means. Remember Swampy the road protester, who didn't want to know when the media made a hero out of him, and hasn't been heard of since?

But when what you do, or have done, becomes who you are, then it becomes a compensation for all the mess underneath that all of us seem to carry in one way or another.

So that's why I say you're only half-way radical if you stop at changing the world, and make that your CV. 

The world is subject to the law of unintended consequences, and it can be hard to know if you're doing any good in the long term. But the self is not subject to this law. We can change ourselves, and we are part of the world, so changing ourselves changes the world. Our first duty, in this sense, is to ourselves rather than to the world.

The point is not to think in terms of I'm good at this and bad at that, I've done this with my life (success) but I haven't done that (failure). The point is to let go of that whole way of thinking.
(That's why I think on a psychological level that self-affirmations can be missing the point.) It's not a truly honest way of thinking, even though it's 'normal'. The only thing we have that is honest is our experience right now - anything else is an abstraction, a judgement, a bad habit.

It can be just as much a habit to feel 'bad' about ourselves as it is to feel 'good'. And the two are often 2 sides of the same coin.

Behind anyone who wears their achievements like a suit of armour hides someone who feels very small and not very good about themselves.

It can be a great relief to step out of this way of thinking - good/bad, success/failure. It is natural to think in this way, and we can even spend years exploring why we think like this, and I'm not saying that's not a useful thing to do. But eventually we just have to step out of it. It can never be sorted on its own terms, on its own level.

There is a level of being behind this that has always been there. It is timeless and it is a source of wisdom and it is not a big deal. Enlightenment is, to some extent, just round the corner.

The world won't applaud you for abandoning success and failure, and some will look down on you. 

But it's  a way of being that we have to find for ourselves and value for itself - it's the only place we will ever find psychological security, and it's outside of psychology in the usual sense.
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There are times in life when the pressure to become human in this sense intensifies. This can be the real meaning of times of crisis. In astrology, these times are usually associated with the hard transits of Neptune or Pluto to the Sun, Moon or Angles. Add Uranus or Saturn to the mix, and you can have a full blown crisis, where an important part of your life, or even your whole life, doesn't seem to work any more.

And you can do your best to keep things functioning as before, and many people seem to 'succeed' at this.  

You can see events conspiring against them, as it were, and the holes are there for all to see, and they sort it with some ghastly compromise.

But the solution that is being demanded, by 'reality' if you like, is to let go of part of your life, or all of your life, or at least a way of being in your life. And to step back into that way of consciousness where nothing is certain and tied down and secure. Then the changes can happen. And the outer planets may spend years hammering at us, we may get ill, we may nearly die, we may even actually die.

Insight often needs this sort of sustained pressure to arise, like diamonds being forged.

I talk about it in terms of the planets, whose cycles have a mysterious synchronicity with the psyche. But really it comes down to pressure for change from within, and recognising that and staying with that. A major part of my job as an astrologer is to name these processes and give advice on how to be within them, because they can be very threatening and confusing. But finally it is something new within ourselves that we are needing to get to know and to trust and to base our lives around. Or something old that we've ignored and hope might go away but which has finally rounded on us and tipped over the whole cart.

And that letting go takes us outside of the usual securities and tags of success and failure that we may be used to judging our lives by. It takes us into that radical, human consciousness out of which the deeper gifts are born.

It's the transition from the 8th House to the 9th House. In the 8th House, Scorpio's House, we are in the underworld (the houses are places), the crucible, where the ordinary self is taken apart, at gunpoint if necessary. Where Pluto makes us an offer we can't refuse. 

And that then leaves room for a different kind of self, a 'transpersonal' self, to emerge. And that is why the 9th House is the House of the teacher.

I pass, like night, from land to land;
I have strange power of speech...
O Wedding-Guest! this soul hath been
Alone on a wide wide sea
So lonely 'twas, that God himself
Scarce seemèd there to be.

The teacher has the 8th House experience of being taken apart and is able to impart the knowledge of the transpersonal self, shows people how to get there and speaks spontaneously from its wisdom. In Buddhist terms, this is the Anatta, or No-Self, Doctrine.

Sometimes, on a good day, definitely after I've had my morning coffee, and fed up with the sheer effort of hanging on to my fragile self-regard while keeping the gremlins at bay, I stop giving a s"&*: it's like getting out of jail, and everything makes more sense. I recommend it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Saturn-Neptune: 'The Renewal of the Living Spirit'

Saturn dominates Neptune
Saturn and Neptune will be squaring each other over the next year. These 2 planets are opposites: Saturn promotes form, Neptune formlessness. And in a contest (which hard aspects can seem to be like), if Saturn wins, imposing his will on floppy Neptune, you get a dictatorship. And if Neptune wins (in his indirect way), you get a swamp. 

Of course, we don't really want a contest between the two, we want them to work together to create a heavenly symphony. And to do that you need to be able to both listen to the angelic voices (Neptune) while putting in the years it takes to learn your craft (Saturn).

When the US invaded Iraq in 2003, it not only did so with the Sun

and Asc in Pisces (ruled by Neptune) but with the prospect of a Saturn-Neptune opposition 3 years down the line: and it indeed
Neptune dominates Saturn
became a swamp that continued for years. The US eventually largely withdrew with no clear victory. And it has withdrawn with the prospect of a Saturn-Neptune square that begins in a couple of weeks, as Saturn changes direction, and moves forward to make the first of 3 exact squares over the next year or so. And that tells us the flavour of the new war they have out there, against IS: it is already a swamp, with no clear way forward, and is set to continue that way for a while.

The above concerns the mundane Saturn-Neptune, the 2 planets operating in the world. The world, acting in the collective way it does, tends not to very conscious, the choices are very limited: that was why Germany pulverised Greece last week, forcing it into an impossible situation.

Mundane astrology and the events associated with it can be therefore quite illustrative of what happens to us on a personal level if we don't think we have choices under these transits: we become a mess with a Plutonian, Neptunian or Uranian flavour. (Greece is a Uranus-Pluto mess).

This Saturn-Neptune square particularly concerns you if you have Sun, Moon or an Angle between about 5 and 15 degrees of a mutable sign - Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces.

If you are at the earlier end of that range, then Neptune will have been hard-aspecting you for maybe a few years by now.

Neptune and Pluto are the 2 big transformers: I'm not sure how much difference there is between them. They each tend to drag you through an underworld - one earthy, the other watery - and pull you apart then put you back together again, renewed: if that is what you want, of course.
Neptune Transit

You could say that with Pluto the emphasis is on becoming more real, more authentic. While with Neptune the emphasis is on ensoulment and redemption from suffering. There is a different feel to them, but maybe they still amount to the same thing. All astrology is doing, in a way, is providing appropriate myths at different points in our lives. And myths need not to be taken literally: they are stories that we intertwine with our lives to make sense of them.

So if you have been under Neptune's influence for the last few years, then the theme of your own suffering, and the need for redemption from it, may be writ large. Neptune dissolves. He dissolves the thick skin we often create just to survive: this is an unconscious process that occurs early in life. Unless you are lucky enough to have a functional upbringing!

And that thick skin turns into a habit, long after it has served its purpose. It is like a dog that guards us, he means well, but we no longer need to him to chase away visitors.

So Neptune slowly dissolves the skin that has, to a greater or lesser extent, become who we are, leaving us adrift, not knowing who we are any more, but open and porous to other influences - open, if you like, to the soul, in both a personal and transpersonal way. A Neptune transit is a time of messiness and hopelessness but also emotion and ecstasy.

Into this crucible steps Saturn. It is still a time to dream and wallow, but it is also a time to give form to those wallowings. If it was Saturn on his own, it would probably be time to find those forms, to sit down and work it all out and take action. But because Neptune is involved, there is also a strong element of opportunities presenting themselves, of the work you have always been 'meant' to do appearing.

The living spirit grows and even outgrows its earlier forms of expression; it freely chooses the men and women in whom it lives and who proclaim it. The living spirit is eternally renewed and pursues its goal in manfold and inconceivable ways throughout the history of mankind. Measured against it, the names and forms which men have given it mean little enough; they are only the changing leaves and blossoms on the stem of the eternal tree.
Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul.

So this is the wider meaning, the wider context of Saturn-Neptune. Your problems have become problems - which they need not do, you see many people carrying on happily in the same old misery for their whole lives. And those problems can heal under Neptune, but also be the gateway to the transpersonal dimension that Jung describes.

Which makes me wonder, is there such a thing as healing without the 'transpersonal' dimension being involved? Neptune and the other outer planets would say no, you don't get healed without us, and that's because you are us, humans are transpersonal beings. And that dimension beyond the personal is the matrix that we become from, which is Neptune again. I meant to say 'come from', but the accidental 'become from' hits the nail on the head.

Problems, symptoms are more than just bits to be fixed so we can normalise. They are also calls from the depths of the psyche. A course of 6 sessions of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy on the NHS may well produce some temporary results (though the evidence is that it is becoming less effective), but the deeper turning about that is the real meaning of misery is a much longer process. 

And this is reflected in the length of time that outer planet transits take. Yes, they may be most obvious when they are within a few degrees. But they begin a long time before that, maybe 15 degrees before the exact aspect. Deep transformations are slow and take many years, and you may not know you have been in one until you look back afterwards.

As human beings we have this capacity for deep change, if we are interested in it - or if it calls us, and leaves us with no choice. And it often begins with the wonky bits that may have tormented us all our lives. And for them to sort, we need to leave the duckpond in which we have grown comfortable and let ourselves be carried downstream to the sea. This is the soul journey of Neptune. 

And as Saturn approaches a square to Neptune, that journey starts to take shape in the world, it unites inner and outer in a synchronistic manner. The separation into subject and object, self and world, is basic to everyday, coping consciousness. But under Saturn-Neptune we get glimpses of an underlying unity, "the vison of a living, intelligent, conscious Cosmos in which all aspects of life are related to each other." (The Dream of the Cosmos by Anne Baring).

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The EU's Feet of Clay and the Greek PM's Impossible Promise

Mercury is coming up to exactly oppose Pluto as Alex Tsipras tries to sell the EU deal to the Greeks by Wednesday. Mars is close by as well, and the opposition runs along the Greek Asc/Desc. What the Greeks are being asked to accept, in other words, is surrender and destruction. If they left the Euro, it would be destruction but not surrender. It is not yet clear which way it is going to go.
Wolfgang Schauble - the bad guy

Ironically Wolfgang Schauble, the German Finance Minister  and bad guy of the whole affair, was the one who wanted the Greeks out of the Euro, perhaps the only sane solution short of debt forgiveness.

Greece - 1974 Chart

Whatever emerges out of this will not be stable, as Thursday's New Moon, in the Greek 1st House, is square to Uranus (and mischief-making Eris).

The way the EU is treating Greece is shameful. They need to either forgive some of the debt, or let them go and help them along the way. Instead, a desperate country is being crushed further. And not, I think, because anyone is being wilfully cruel. 

Individual leaders have their ideals about Europe, but the collective reality seems to be that the EU is about the accumulation of wealth, and the pitiless treatment of those who aren't very good at it. And the leaders are trapped in wider political situations that ultimately come back to individual voters: how, for example, the average German feels about Greek debts - not very forgiving.

In my last piece I said that Greece would leave the Euro this week, and I may be wrong. My prediction was based on the astrology that indicated that while the Greek referendum was a creative act, there was nothing new and creative about the following weekend's discussions - ie no debt forgiveness, ergo Greece leaves. I hadn't considered the gob-stopping, desperate U turn that Tsipras is engaged in. I think Greece will leave the Euro, but it may still take the 2 crossings of Pluto over the Greek Desc in the next few months for that to happen.

The chart for the EEC has Sun in Capricorn, Moon in Taurus and Virgo Rising. It is an earth-bound chart. Moon in Taurus in the 8th: for the 'people' of this union, their motivation is shared self-interest. As Prog Pluto conjoins the prog MC over the next few years, the bullshit will be cut and the EU will be exposed for what it is, just another self-interested empire - which is to be expected.

The Greeks were desperate enough at the beginning of this year to elect a leader who made an impossible promise: to relax the austerity terms and keep Greece in the Euro. And that is what people do who are desperate: they elect someone who promises something that in their heart-of-hearts they know is not true.

Alex Tsipras

Alex Tsipras has natal Neptune opposite a Gemini Ascendant (probably). Perfect for spinning dreams that he himself probably believes. If you are going to sell the electorate a dream, you have to believe it yourself. But transiting Neptune is squaring Tsipras' Ascendant, and I think soon the bubble will burst. Leaders of this sort are turned into gods then torn down and reviled. Greece is in a worse state than when he took office, having taken the worst course of action. And there is no consistency left in the man: he had a general referendum to oppose the EU terms, got the public behind him, and now a week later is trying to sell those same terms to the country, while claiming at the same time not to believe in them. Yes, it can be hard to follow!

No wonder there is an issue of 'trust' on the part of other EU leaders, and that is apart from the general mistrust of Greek governance. With Tsipras, there seems to be nobody there to trust, but I suppose what should one expect when he was elected on the basis of an impossible promise?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Saturn in Scorpio: Sex, Power and Old-Age

This piece was prompted by a news item in which a 55 year old headmistress, who has won awards for turning schools around, was sent to jail for 8 years for having had sex with 2 teenage boys, both under 16, while she was in her twenties. 30 years ago. One of the complainants said he enjoyed it at the time, but now he sees that it was wrong. So clearly the woman needs to be publicly shamed, have her career destroyed and - probably the least of it - be sent to jail.

We are in the last days of Saturn in Scorpio; he will soon turn direct and leave the sign for another 25 years. So I expect him to be quite visible over the next 2-3 months.

The accountability (Saturn) of older people (Saturn) for their past (Saturn) sexual behaviour (Scorpio): this has been a major theme in the UK over the last few years, as celebrity after celebrity has been dragged into the courtroom to answer for who they’d had sex with many decades ago.

And quite rightly so, in many cases. It began with the appalling legacy of the late Jimmy Savile: people who had been afraid to speak out in his lifetime began coming forward, and the floodgates opened to a widespread and hidden culture of sexual abuse (Scorpio) by powerful people (Scorpio). It has been mainly in show-business.  

There are long-standing allegations of paedophile rings amongst that other form of show-business – the one for ugly people – and these have had something of an airing: but it is proving far harder to bring accountability. Which shows, I guess, that politics is the more powerful form of show business.

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The collective being what it is, issues become black-and-white and the bad guys get turned into monsters. Like the above headmistress. There she was, this woman we admired, while underneath, all the time, she was a monster and we didn’t know it. (This, incidentally, is a perennial theme in the US, from the Salem witch trials of the 1690s to the current TV series Homeland.) The reality is she’s not a monster, she did things many of us could have done if we weren’t afraid of getting caught, and the fact that we turn these people into monsters so readily, proves the point: we demonise others to shield us from ourselves.

It’s classic shadow stuff, and again this is Scorpio territory. Saturn brings accountability and order to different parts of collective life and society, depending on what sign he is in. And in Scorpio, the collective shadow is likely to be revealed through the issues he highlights.

Sex and power is a perennial issue. It has always gone on and always will go on and it is good that it is being addressed. But is a power imbalance always unequivocally a bad thing? The inevitable black-and-white way that the collective mind works says yes. But what about bosses having relationships with their secretaries, doctors with nurses, rich old women with young men: should they too be brought before the courts, or allowed to marry, as they often do? My point is that though lines need to be drawn, they are not always going to be clear cut, and that power imbalances - perceived or real - can be the grist of relationships.

The background to Saturn in Scorpio has been the new puritanism, which began some decades ago and which has resulted, for example, in grandparents being afraid to have their grandchildren on their laps because of how it may be seen.

This will probably cost me a few readers, but what I call the dinosaur feminism of the 80s and 90s demonised men and their sexuality (remember 'all men are rapists'?) It happened while Pluto was in Scorpio – (3 cheers to Camille Paglia for speaking out against it) – and for a while it was hard to feel good about being a man. That has changed, and I feel there is more respect now between men and women. And it was probably the only way it was going to happen, after so many centuries of imbalance between the sexes. But I think we are left with the new puritanism – which could also be seen as a backlash against the permissiveness of the 60s.

So we are messed up about sex. We have been for centuries in one way or another. 500 years ago children in their early teens got married. Henry III's wife Eleanor was 13 when they married in 1236. Nowadays you are a pervert and a paedophile if you have sex with someone under 16, and if you get caught your whole life will be destroyed and you will be publically shamed. I’m not advocating any answers here, because as they say, it’s complicated.

The reason I have been able to say anything at all is because a woman got caught having had sex 30 years ago with 2 boys under 16. If it had been the other way round, I would have had to keep quiet. I’m not defending these things. What I’m arguing for is the cultural space not to be mindlessly damning.

I think the man who said he enjoyed sex with his teacher at the time, but now sees it as wrong, has been brainwashed by our culture of damnation. I agree with him, it was wrong – but to have someone destroyed 30 years later for something you admit to having enjoyed at the time? Would I regret it if it had happened to me? How many people are being persuaded by the new puritanism that what happened to them was far worse than it actually was, and how damaging is that? And that is not to take away from the awful things that have actually happened: but can they be properly understood if all we do is damn and destroy the perpetrators? Is it any different in essence to saying that the perpetrators are possessed by the devil and leaving it at that?

Saturn in Scorpio has brought a measure of accountability to the issue of sex and power. But I don’t think it has brought understanding. It will bring improvement for a while, but in a climate of fear.

And while we’re on the subject of Saturn in Scorpio, a news item today is entitled The taboo of sex in care homes for older people. It says “There may be a kind of all-pervading silence surrounding sex in later life, but that is not because it isn't happening.” The idea of older people having sex being OK - now that would be a good outcome of Saturn in Scorpio.

Personally, I have always found the idea of people who are more than about 15 years older than myself having sex a bit distasteful. I still do a bit of a double-take at the idea of gay marriage. And I recoil when I see people with disfigurements. This is all visceral, Scorpio stuff which Saturn asks us to think about. The one thing not to do is to pretend it’s not there.