Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Outer Planets, Nietzsche and the Madness of Groups

Last week’s blog turned into a 5000 word article on the Underworld, so I thought I’d see if I could first publish it elsewhere, a mag or something.

Meanwhile, Christina has a piece which begins with a quote from Nietzsche, one version of it being: “In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.” 

 I found another related one by Nietzsche: "The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently."

So I wondered about describing crowd behaviour, or the behaviour of a nation, astrologically. I think what happens in a crowd is just an extreme form of what is going on all the time. We believe things, we are in the grip of dreams, that the group around us hold. It seems like Neptune.

You see it with the nationalisms of different countries. People deeply in the grip of certain beliefs, which cannot usually be justified, about their nation and about themselves as members of that nation. It is part of our identity. Americans, Israelis, Russians, Chinese, Germans, British, Japanese – all in the grip of something particular to their nation. And you see it as soon as one country is threatened or affronted by another, a crowd reflex that is an instant siding with one’s own nation right or wrong. And this is a different thing from loyalty, or patriotism, which is a thoughtful appreciation of what your country has given you and the things it is good at, and no illusions about your country’s shortcomings either. Reflective vs unreflective Cancer.

So Nietzsche would see nationalism as collective madness, patriotism as individual and sane.

I’m not saying that all aspects of a group are mad all the time, some good things sometimes happen through collective action. But I think there is always some madness there, even if it’s just a degree of demonization of other groups. It’s very noticeable in protest movements, whether against the excesses and injustices of capitalism, environmental degradation, GM foods, nuclear power etc: the protests are necessary, but they get very mixed up with anti-authority rebels-seeking-a-cause type stuff, people who find it hard to imagine that there exist bankers and fund managers who are reasonable open-minded people doing a job that is necessary and useful. Or GM technicians who aren't Monsanto-monsters, creating plants that may be of help to the world. And that polarisation is self-defeating, cos once you've demonised the opposition, they ain't going to listen to you cos they'll rightly think you're a nutter.

As Nietzsche said: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” 

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In an astrological chart, there are the personal planets, which are the Sun through to Saturn, and the collective planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. When you get a group, there is less room for the personal planets which separate us and make us distinct, because they are all bumping up against each other. It is much easier for that which we have in common, the collective planets, to take over. And it has its own momentum which is hard for an individual to resist. 

If we had been born in Germany early last century, how many of us would not have felt thrilled and uplifted by the Nuremberg rallies? I know I would have done, they were so overwhelming (and terrifying) if you watch them on film, which I highly recommend (‘The Triumph of the Will’). I would also have had a side of me going hang on a minute, well as I grew older I would have, but as a teenager? Who knows. And academics, supposedly thoughtful people, were just as vulnerable to this human tide, this tsunami.

We all have that bit of us that longs (Neptune) to join the collective in this sort of way, to lose ourselves in that warm sense of belonging and certainty, that connection with the old myths (‘The Chosen Race’) that hold the group together and make it special.

I’m going to assert that if you think you don’t have that side, if you think as a German you wouldn't have felt to some extent the allure of Nazi Germany, then you are probably kidding yourself, you would have been among the first to have been swept up in it. It is only by recognising that collective animal within that we begin to have a choice not to act on it.

Of course these days we make Hitler and Nazi Germany entirely ‘Other’, it stands for exactly what we think we are not. That, at any rate, is the respectable group attitude, and in so doing we remain just as vulnerable to those collective forces. The crowd thinks in simple, black and white terms.

The outer planets describe different aspects of this crowd consciousness. Pluto is the survival instinct, that aggressive reflex when another group threatens us, and the ability to throw away our own life in its service. On this level, the survival of the individual does not matter, all that matters is the survival of the group. Pluto also gives us the ability to surrender our life for another on an individual level, but that is different, that is something that
rightly awes us. You see this collective throwing away of life in war, where soldiers on both sides are willingly brainwashed into thinking that right lies solely on their side, the enemy are the bad guys and that makes it easier to kill. Of course within that you get individual acts of self-sacrifice by soldiers who still also think the enemy are the bad guys, so it gets slightly complicated.

Pluto is also the group secret, that which you must not name.  A group casts a shadow, and the more rigid a group is, the more highly it thinks of itself, the stronger the shadow, the more they need to reject certain others as ‘not us’. You get this in 'spiritual’ groups a lot, as well as in nations. And the secret is some attribute of the group which they would rather not admit to and which is seen as belonging outside the group. A simple example would be a marriage within a wealthy family. Money is nearly always a factor here, the marriage would not take place without the presence of large amounts of money and/ or social standing. Does anyone really think Kate would have married William if he hadn't been a prince? Of course she wouldn't have. I’m not damning her, it’s normal behaviour and always has been. But you are not supposed to say it. It’s other people who marry for money or position, not Capricorn Kate. (That’s why royal marriages are fairy tale marriages, because in them it’s all right to marry someone just because they are a prince/ess.)

On a ‘spiritual’ Facebook group recently I naively pointed out that dividing members into those who could post anything and those who couldn't was creating inhibition, and maybe that distinction should be removed. Nobody said anything, the silence was deafening, like I’d said something I shouldn't.  I'd thought I was being helpful. Actually I was pointing out something at the heart of the way they are, a division into 2 classes of people, and the higher class want it to remain like that, it's their secret.

Nietzsche: “Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed.” 

Neptune on this group level best describes the specific aspect of insanity that Nietzsche was referring to. Neptune is the ocean, he is the breaking down of the barriers of ego-consciousness (which we need for day to day living), and so he is the dissolution of the thinking individual in the group dream. And it’s that recognition that you are in someone else’s dream that is not your own that is crucial to the development of consciousness. Of course, none of us thinks we are, we all think we are our own person.

Nietzsche with his notion of the Superman was ironically taken up by the Nazis with their notion of the Master Race. But Nietzsche’s Ubermensch or Overman was precisely the person who has broken free of the group, rather than the sub-individual subsumed into the group dream that characterises a member of the ‘Master Race’.

Uranus is the creative spark, he is active at times of change. When the herd in its madness needs to go from one insanity to another, Uranus is the catalyst. (Like I said earlier, the group is not all mad all of the time, but I think there is always some madness there.) Uranus is the planet of democracy, and in democratic government you see this continual division/split into different parties, with politicians arguing a position for party reasons, rather than because sanity requires it. 

And if you have stepped outside the collective dream, the group can see you as the mad one. Nietzsche again: “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” 


Anonymous said...

Well done!
Very good one!

Twilight said...

I naively pointed out that dividing members into those who could post anything and those who couldn't was creating inhibition, and maybe that distinction should be removed. Nobody said anything, the silence was deafening, like I’d said something I shouldn't. I'd thought I was being helpful. Actually I was pointing out something at the heart of the way they are, a division into 2 classes of people, and the higher class want it to remain like that, it's their secret.

I'm reminded of exactly why I continue to refuse to get into Facebook, even if it means being stranded on the shores of bloggy cyberland.

I've just started reading Terry Pratchett's Small Gods -
noticed this line - it's fitting here:

"You're not one of us."
"I don't think I'm one of them, either," said Brutha. "I'm one of mine."


LB said...

The irony is there are probably people who will read this and think they get it, but won't. Thanks for sharing your insights and for trying. It's never easy being the lone voice of reason in a sea of madness. We're just not there, although I wish we were.