Sunday, April 28, 2013

Nature's Little Joke



I'm in Vancouver on an astro-tour. Off to Washington State tomorrow. Below is a piece I wrote just before I went away, and before that is a piece I put on Facebook yesterday:


Had breakfast at a place that claims to be Vancouver's most famous breakfast cafe. It's good, and one of a kind. Big helpings, as much coffee as you want. The guy running it is small, about 70, bald and with a big mouth in both senses. Says 'fuck' a lot, teases the customers way beyond what most people could get away with, and has a sign up warning parents about his language. Also has a sign saying don't ask us to get your coffee refill, get it yourself. As I was eating, he told the people at the next table that if they had finished could they please move their asses. They got up straight away, no offence taken, laughing.


I was watching a guy called Brian Swimme on youtube today – he’s one of the archetypal bunch from California along with Richard Tarnas. And he was talking about Science and he’s obviously really awed by the observable evolutionary tendency of the material universe, as well as within life itself. (They are not separate.)

Archetypally, I attribute that evolutionary tendency to Pluto, the sheer power within the universe that is always wanting to move on to the next stage; and the endless creativity of Uranus, which means that next stage is something completely new, not just a re-arrangement of what came before, something we could never have thought of. And of course Neptune, the image of a universe that appears before us and which seems so real. What was the Big Bang if not Pluto, Neptune and Uranus acting in concert?

Brian Cox (on the right)
And then someone asked an awkward question: what does he think is the eventual fate of the universe? The conventional answer of course is ‘Heat Death’, about which the boyish Brian Cox waxes so enthusiastically, and for which the ladies forgive him because he’s so charming, though not exactly hot.

The Heat Death prognosis says that eventually the universe will expand into a chilly meaningless nothingness where there is nothing of anything.

Brian Swimme gave the interesting answer that he doesn’t think the universe has yet made up its mind what its eventual fate will be. I liked that. Douglas Adams couldn't have said it better.

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Swimme was further saying that we are living in an age where the old story of the universe has gone, and the new has yet to be born, and it needs to include the discoveries of science. I agree, up to a point.

But I also want an opt-out clause, or science becomes more than a story, it goes over to the dark side and becomes a 'fact' - the 4th kind of lie (along with Mark Twain's lies, damned lies and statistics.) And we need more than one story, ideally one that contradicts the science story!
A Canadian Indian friend in his 60s had a much older Indian friend in his 90s who wanted to know what this big deal science thing was about, so my friend did his best to explain, and the old Indian’s response was “So the horse shits”. Meaning that science explains the mechanics of the material world and that’s all, it’s low-level stuff.

Is that the case? Is science separate from philosophy, from anything that gives significance to human life? Certainly when it comes out with theories like Heat Death, then it seems to me positively anti-life, it is a demonised view of the universe, it makes me angry that it should be given credence just because some people can make the numbers add up on paper. And if I’d been Swimme, I would have said so, but then I would have lost academic credibility, because science has to be refuted scientifically rather than on human and philosophical grounds. 

It’s got it all sewn up, hasn’t it, a bit like Christians and the Bible 500 years ago? You can’t reject Heat Death just because it is an inhuman demonization of the destiny of the cosmos, you have to do it mathematically, and how would I ever do that? The modern mythopoeic elite has surrounded itself with a wall of numbers and none of the rest of us – the 99% - can contribute to that story.


For me, the deeper nature of the universe reveals itself not directly through science, but ironically when its method breaks down, which to me it seems to at extremes. Science is just a model, based on the idea of ‘Let’s pretend the universe is an object external to ourselves that is governed by purely material laws and whose nature we can discover through rational investigation.’ I have no problem with that, don’t think I’m anti-science, I’m not, I love it. But it is a model of the universe, not the universe itself, which is clearly unknowable in its deeper nature. 

And when you push a model to extremes, it breaks down, and that in my opinion is what happens when you push the scientific method to investigate reality at ever smaller and ever bigger levels – it breaks down, and you end up with the counter-intuitive quantum reality at one end, and nonsensical results like the universe is 96% undetectable dark matter/energy at the galactic end.

Now Dark Matter, that’s a good one. And if we think about Dark Matter as a story, mythologically, psychologically even, it is saying that our ignorance far outweighs the little bit we know. The unconscious can show its wisdom through jokes, and I think Dark Matter is one of those jokes. It’s maybe saying that we are getting MORE ignorant through science, through that approach to reality, because it has become THE way, we need to dance with it more lightly. 

The more we push science at the quantum and galactic extremes, the more reality recedes, leaving a paper trail of little jokes. I think Douglas Adams would understand that. Certainly Patrick Harpur would, the man from whom I learned to think Mythologically (along with my Canadian Indian friend): I recommend his book, The Philosopher's Secret Fire.


I think the big shift could come through brain research, which is starting to receive megabucks of funding. There are major projects in Europe and the USA to map the brain. And however philosophically na├»ve you are, when you research the brain you are faced with the created nature of the reality around us, its story-like nature, and you know exactly which bit of the brain creates what, deep structural stuff like time and space, you even know which bit of the brain creates the illusion of an object called the brain! So it’s deep, it’s paradoxical, it’s profound. I don’t hold much with collective human awakening, not for very long at any rate, and not to any great degree. But I think if anything can turn humanity into a metaphysical creature on a collective level, brain research can.

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sun-Pluto and the Gospel of St Thomas


"If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you." 

That is Saying No 70 from the Gospel of St Thomas. 

It sounds to me like Sun in hard aspect to Pluto. With Sun and Pluto, you have 2 very different principles at work. The Sun is reaching upwards towards the light, towards individual unfoldment. It is conscious, ‘civilised’. Pluto represents a call from the primordial collective consciousness, from the raw, undifferentiated power of nature. It is the Sun that needs to learn to understand and honour Pluto, and this can take many years.

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The Sun pushes forward into the light, and Pluto keeps pulling it back, saying you are incomplete. You have this nagging feeling of disempowerment that keeps you awake at night that you cannot shake off. In some ways you have the power of Pluto, you have a strong confident presence. But there is this hidden tormented side to you that contains your true power, and you maybe project it onto lovers or parents or bosses or teachers and see them as having power over you, but eventually you have to go within and claim it or it will keep eating at you.

You may even experience it as a curse, an affliction that runs through the family that has also got you, but if you are reading this, you are probably the one with the strength to make it conscious and claim the gifts buried deep within it.

So with Sun-Pluto you can’t just jog along and hope to get away with it. You have powers within you that life is pushing you to claim, and Pluto has this horrible way of trampling you down until one day you go no more and at last you stand up.

And in claiming that gift, and your independence with it, self-doubt is your companion. It is a fire you have to go through, and keep going through, because you are putting your deepest self, your soul if you like, into the world. 

And others recognise that, they respond to that. People long for that authenticity that Pluto gives. And people who want to live by the rules – well, they might admire you from a distance, they might even dip their toes in your waters now and then, but you are not safe, you can’t be predicted, because Pluto rather than Saturn is your master. Your recognition has to come from within.

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Margaret Thatcher and the British Character



When Princess Diana died in 1997, there was an outpouring of grief like we’d never seen before in the UK (Tony Blair, prescient political animal with a 12th House Sun, saw it coming).

 In his series on the British Stiff Upper Lip, Ian Hislop saw this outpouring as a signal that something was changing in the British character. Namely, that the stiff upper lip (produced by the needs of Empire and in response to the frighteningly liberated emotion of the French Revolution) was on its way out. And that we are returning to who we used to be, a very emotionally expressive nation, about whom foreigners used to complain of the excessive kissing in public.

My point is that at moments like the death of Diana, a nation can get to know itself. And I think it is the same with the death of Margaret Thatcher.


The nation has been touched and divided. With Diana, you either felt the grief or (like me and Ian Hislop) you didn’t. With Thatcher, the nation has split into opposing camps, just like it did when she was in power. And that says a lot about the British people.



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"the eyes of Caligula and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe" Mitterrand
 I have mixed feelings about her. I have a bad taste in my mouth because of the loveless, patronising way she implemented her policies. But something had to be done, and she was the only one ruthless enough to do it. And many people either hate her for her lovelessness or love her for ‘saving’ the nation. But in reality I think it is a complex mix and we need to sit with it for a few years. Her death has energised that process.

At one point I agreed with Russell Brand, who said if you didn’t like Thatcher because of her lack of love, that means you believe in love, so you shouldn’t be celebrating her death. Well, he’s right if you are just expressing hatred. But I don’t think it is just that. Her death is also the symbolic death of a harsh trait in the British character (that built the Empire and still sends 8 year olds away to boarding school, amongst other things: I was at school with her disreputable son Mark!) and I think it is healthy to celebrate that death. 

The BBC should be playing the full version of Ding Dong The Witch is Dead (from the Wizard of Oz), which has seen a surge in popularity, because it is expressing something healthy in the population (as well as hatred, but you’re never going to have purity!)




Click to Enlarge

The UK chart has Sun in Capricorn and Moon in Cancer. And there, I think, you have it. Capricorn is the demands of the world, the demands for law and order and an economy that works. Cancer is the need for nurture, for belonging, for caring about each other. Capricorn is the Empire, Cancer is the emotionality we used to be known for and which is re-emerging. Princess Diana was a Cancerian.

And the nation is split along that axis. The split over Thatcher is expressive of an enduring split in the nation between these 2 principles. That is the self-knowledge that the death of Margaret Thatcher is making available to us.


And we all have both, at least if you are British. We are a collective as well as an individual species, and that split over Thatcher, those 2 camps, is in all of us. If I were doing a reading for an individual with this chart, I would be saying that you need to bring Capricorn and Cancer together. These axes are basic to astrology. If you have a planet in a sign, then you need to cultivate the opposite sign for balance, and if you don’t, you are likely to express the negative characteristics of that opposite sign.



Even more so if you have planets in both those opposite signs, and even more so if they are the Sun and Moon, the 2 most important and descriptive planets.



William and Kate: Cancer and Capricorn
In the case of the UK, the astrology suggests it is the government (Sun) that is more likely to be one-sidedly Capricorn, putting efficiency before feeling; and it is the people (the Moon) who are more likely to be one-sidedly Cancer, sentimental (Diana’s death!) and allowing the welfare bill to get out of control.



But the 2 themes are tightly woven together: the Sun is within orb of an opposition to the Moon, while the Sun is in Cancer’s natural House (the 4th) and the Moon is in the Sun’s natural House (the 10th). There’s probably a technical name for this, a bit like mutual reception, but I don’t know what it might be.



So I think the country needs to understand and gradually get over this division on Thatcher, because the UK chart seems to be saying that the 2 camps are intimately connected, and that they are probably in each of us. If you are taking one side of it, you may well be in denial of the other side in yourself. A bit like Russell Brand’s point: are you being loveless in your celebration of Thatcher’s death, are you allowing yourself to hate her? Because if you are, then you are being just like her. And do you see the current welfare cuts just as a bad thing done by bad people, because that is a denial of Capricorn, which Thatcher was all too good at.

And if, like the Tory politicians you go misty eyed and talk about her as the saviour of the nation, well then you are being sentimental, which is feeling that is not objective, it is unconscious Cancer. All that feeling they have for her, that is what she didn’t have. She was not loyal or respectful to her cabinet members, they became her mere functionaries who she would readily discard or freeze out.







So it’s about the UK becoming a nation at ease with itself. Thatcher in many ways embodied an old Britain, which built an Empire, conquered and converted savages (as it saw them) and became the world’s most wealthy and powerful nation. (I’m talking about the UK here, not the USA :)) The Australian PM was shocked by Thatcher’s racism, and saw her as part of an old Britain. I think he was right. I think the UK is still getting over its loss of Empire and all the attitudes that go with that. And I think the death of Thatcher may be an important milestone in the country moving on from its past.



Our past, our Empire, created a Capricorn-Cancer imbalance in the nation: we lost our emotionality, we became efficient and cruel. Thatcher so much embodies what we used to be, and still are to some extent, but are moving on from. The character of the British people is changing. And that is also reflected in the major transits from Uranus and Pluto to the UK Sun, Moon and Asc. But that’s another article.

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