Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jung on Death

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Assange, Obama and Bush: the Outer Planets and Collective Projections

There was a period in 2008, when Barack Obama was campaigning to be the Democratic Presidential candidate, when you weren’t likely to get a good reception if you said anything critical of the man. He was sweeping people away on a wave of hope for a better world. One astrologer told me at the time that my Saturn in Sagittarius gave me a fear of faith, which was stopping me from seeing Obama as he really he was. (I’d say it gave me sense!)

It was all very Neptunian, and it was Obama’s natal Sun square to Neptune that gave him the ability to sweep people away like this. Even the Nobel Peace Prize Committee got swept away by his promise. Now, 2 years later, he appears much more ordinary. Smart and trying to do a good job, but also at ease with the less savoury tasks that come with his position – wars, black ops, no doubt a certain amount of torture, putting pressure on big companies and other countries to do America’s bidding, and so on. America has changed a bit, but its big resistance to change has also become clearer.

Now, in late 2010, we have a similar situation with Julian Assange, the Great Rebel, who has become a cultural hero to many, especially as his leaks have provoked the inevitable response from the US and other western countries. He is now not just the Great Rebel, he is also the victim who needs protecting. (My last piece, suggesting a less savoury side to Mr Assange, has come under sustained, irrational attack in the comments section.)

I am not trying to say here whether or not I think Wikileaks is helpful. It is complicated, and how you view Wikileaks will probably determine whether or not you think he is a cultural hero. This time the relevant planet is Uranus, which natally squares Assange’s Sun and which is the planet of rebellion. (Chiron, which makes a t-square with the Sun and Uranus, gives him his victim/scapegoat status.)

The world is as it is because human nature is as it is. Why do we think that an Obama or an Assange can make it radically different? Why do we need the world to be radically different? I think that what happens in these situations is essentially a projection onto the world, and onto prominent individuals, of our own unrealised potential, or even our own dissatisfaction with ourselves.

To the extent that you feel the outer planets to be consciously operative in your own life, to that extent you won’t get carried away by these figures. It’s going to be a mixed thing for most of us. And what others are collectively feeling also affects us.

Living the outer planets is not an easy task. It takes many years, and is always work in progress. And it’s not really under our control either. The temptation to be drawn into collective projections of the outer planets, to have someone else seeming to live those planets for us, is quite natural. And maybe a bit embarrassing afterwards. But that is precisely how we can learn, how we can become more conscious.

Say you find very appealing Julian Assange as a harbinger of revolutionary change. He may or may not be – that is beside the point. The real point is that deep appeal, which is like a gift in that it contains the potential for awakening. In this case, it is a call to live Uranus more fully. It is a call to allow a constant sense of progressive change into your life, to welcome the unexpected, and to be deeply unconcerned by what the neighbours think. Uranus breaks us away from convention. In its unsophisticated form we enjoy the breaking away, the rebellion, for its own sake, and maybe project it out onto the world. In its more developed form it enables us to progress our own lives, to have a deep sense of our own very individual life, unhindered by what others (family members!) may or may not think.

And say you find/found Barack Obama deeply appealing. He embodied the hope for a better world and a leader who could be completely trusted. OK, people were sick of George Bush and all he stood for and of course they wanted someone different and hoped Obama would be. But the feeling around Obama went much further than that, it was religious, it was numinous; for many, for a while at least, he could do no wrong. And in this sense he was a call to live Neptune more fully: a sense of being part of the ocean of life and a sense that life is always unfolding and that you are part of that and you can trust that process and that just being part of all that makes life meaningful and hopeful. Again, we may start with someone out there – and with Neptune in the 9th Obama carries the ‘spiritual teacher’ and ‘redeemer’ archetypes – but wisdom and compassion and trust in life are ultimately to be found within.

What about Pluto? I think this type of cultural figure is more obviously dark to start with. And we can look to our old friend George W Bush, who like Obama and Assange has the ability to stand for something. Bush has Pluto Rising. He came into his own once he had a clear enemy to focus on, which was firstly Al Qaeda and Bin Laden, and then Saddam Hussein. And he had much of America behind him, often in a very ignorant way – like the people who thought that Saddam was responsible for 9/11, which Bush was happy to let stand.

So Bush keyed into the unconscious shadow projection which collective humanity is prone to, and the lies and deceit that goes with it. Hitler was also, via the demonization of the Jews, a Plutonian figure (as well as, in other ways, a Neptunian figure.)

The real lesson here is to become conscious of our own darkness. What gives the game away is the sparse knowledge we often have of the people like Bin Laden to whom we attribute ‘bad’ qualities. Classically, the evil we associate with them is precisely what we are ashamed to admit about ourselves.

I was on a Liz Greene seminar once, and she said that our shadow is that which we are ashamed to admit to. She said some people claim to be at ease with their shadows, and may list off certain ‘bad’ things about themselves. But then that is not their shadow. The shadow is that which we are ashamed to admit to, and it may not be anything that is harmful to anyone else. You might just be a secret cross-dresser or something!

What is needed with Pluto is honesty and a lack of being judgemental of ourselves. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with being the way we are. We are what we are. It doesn’t of course mean we always have to act on it. And it doesn’t mean we can’t transform. But in a way the transformation isn’t up to us, with our limited human perspective and narrow sense of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Our job is just to show up, and let Pluto take care of the transformation.

Sooner or later the public figures who carry the outer planet projections will let us down, and if we haven't spotted the projection before, that time of betrayal is also when we can learn. Or we can stay feeling betrayed, and carry on hating Neptunian Tony Blair or whichever figure it is.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Shadow Side of Julian Assange; Wikileaks and UFOs

There was an interview with Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, in the Guardian Newspaper on 3rd December. It took the form of written questions from readers. It was telling and a bit shocking that Mr Assange refused to answer the only critical question.

It was from a retired diplomat who prefaced his question with a list of some of the achievements of his diplomatic work, in e.g. preventing ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, and pointed out that the diplomatic service needed to be confidential in order to operate. The questioner concluded: “Why should we not hold you personally responsible when next an international crisis goes unresolved because diplomats cannot function?”

The question could hardly have been more germane, and Assange replied: “If you trim the vast editorial letter to the singular question actually asked, I would be happy to give it my attention.”

And that was that. It was a big-time evasion. There were other questions which were nearly as long, and not half so cogent, which Mr. Assange had been happy to answer. And why does he call the question 'singular'? If he means 'noticeable', then why not answer it? If he means 'strange', then that is a bizarre put-down, because the question is one that everyone is asking.

The big question about Wikileaks is whether it is doing more harm than good. It has clearly done some good in the past. But it would seem that Julian Assange does not want to look at this issue, and the rudeness of his answer suggests a high degree of self-importance.

This incident reveals a shadow side of Wikileaks, and it reveals Julian Assange as a dangerous individual. There is a degree of blind anti-authoritarianism, and a sense of himself as on a special mission, that is fuelling him. But he is a cultural hero at present, the darling of the left, who are often blindly anti-establishment themselves.

Below is part of what I wrote about his astrology last week (Sun in Cancer square Uranus, Moon in Scorpio, Mars in Aquarius square Jupiter):

Click to Enlarge

Assange has Sun trine Moon (his Moon is between 0 and 12 Scorpio), so he is at ease with who he is on a basic level, he is not conflicted. But therein also lies the danger, for the primal wateriness of his Sun and Moon lack self-reflective ability; bring in the Mars square Scorpionic Jupiter, and you have someone who could be doing more harm than good, while thinking he is one of the good guys (Uranus/Aquarius). Here is the thing: Uranus comes from principles and ideals, rather than consequences of actions. And you don’t know what the consequences of all these leaks are going to be. The stage is too big, the amount of loaded information is vast. Your actions might create a more open society. Or they might lead to war. Or both. You don’t really know.

Assange also said in the interview that if anything happens to him, the cables will continue to be released, for they have been sent to 100,000 people in encrypted form. We are talking about a cultural movement, a mass protest here, more than we are talking about a single individual. And we are talking about the incoming square from Uranus to Pluto, which brings rebellion and protest, like the conjunction in the 1960s, that can do some good. But the rebellion also had its shadow side then as now, which is the tendency to be blind and highly polarised in its opposition to the establishment. You get this wherever you have opposition on a mass level. Wars are like this.

Moving on, Julian Assange makes an interesting point about free speech in the interview, saying that the reason our speech is free is because our speech does not have the power to change anything. The real power, he says, lies with the international web of financial institutions:

The west has fiscalised its basic power relationships through a web of contracts, loans, shareholdings, bank holdings and so on. In such an environment it is easy for speech to be "free" because a change in political will rarely leads to any change in these basic instruments. Western speech, as something that rarely has any effect on power, is, like badgers and birds, free. In states like China, there is pervasive censorship, because speech still has power and power is scared of it. We should always look at censorship as an economic signal that reveals the potential power of speech in that jurisdiction. The attacks against us by the US point to a great hope, speech powerful enough to break the fiscal blockade.

I presume the last sentence refers to Assange’s promise to release a load of confidential info about a major US bank. Like ‘cablegate’, it will probably give us a lot of insight into how these institutions operate, but whether these leaks will do more harm than good is again the question. Assange is basically attacking the system, he seems to want to bring it down without having anything to replace it. Money has always been where the power is, and the 20th century attempts to create a mass alternative through communism were even worse than the capitalist system. Hasn’t Assange learnt from history? I am not saying the system cannot be improved, of course it can, but these blind systemic attacks are not the answer.

On perhaps a lighter note, the topic of UFOs was raised in the interview. There have, of course, been claims for years of big military cover-ups of UFO sightings and involvement with UFO technology. If this is the case, then somewhere there will be documents, and somewhere there will be someone who wants to leak some of them. And now there is somewhere to go with them: Wikileaks.

So applying a sort of reverse logic to the Wikileaks phenomenon, if something doesn’t eventually appear on Wikileaks then it probably didn’t happen! There is currently a Jupiter-Uranus conjunction, which signifies UFOs, and a Neptune-Chiron conjunction in Aquarius, which signifies the use of the internet (Aquarius) for leaks (Neptune) that have a healing effect (Chiron) – or a permanently damaging effect (Chiron). So the moment has come.

Julian Assange was specifically asked, “Have there ever been documents forwarded to you which deal with the topic of UFOs or extraterrestrials?”

He replied that no such documents had been forwarded that also met 2 of Wikileaks’ publishing rules: that the documents should be both original and not self-authored.

That said, he added that “in yet-to-be-published parts of the cablegate archive there are indeed references to UFOs.”

That sounds to me like the references are incidental, and that there is no major Wikileaks expose of military cover-ups of UFOs to look forward to. And, applying my ‘reverse Wikileaks logic’, that there has therefore probably not been any such cover-up.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Wikileaks and Uranus-Pluto; America's New Public Enemy No 1

The Wikileaks story is developing so fast that anything I write will probably be out of date by the time you read this! Wikileaks has been going since 2006, and is particularly known for releasing documents that expose corruption in regimes around the world. In 2009 it won an award for its exposure of corruption in Kenya.

Wikileaks only reached super-prominence this year, however, when it turned its sights on America. Since April it has been releasing documents relating to the Afghan and Iraq Wars. In November, it began the release of 250,000 US State Department diplomatic cables, and this is when the response reached boiling point. Julian Assange, who heads Wikileaks, is now the world’s most wanted man.

Hilary Clinton called the release of the diplomatic cables “an attack on the world community.” Actually, the cables didn’t really tell us anything we couldn’t have worked out already – like the fact that a number of Middle East countries would like the US to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities, or that the US is suspicious of Russia. Or that Hamid Karzai personally benefits from the opium trade in Afghanistan. Or that the US spies on UN officials.

America comprises just over 4% of the world’s population. Probably half that population has heard of Wikileaks (I’m not joking) and let’s say half of that remaining 2% are bothered by it. Add to that my above point that the cables don’t tell us much we couldn’t have worked out anyway and we are able to correct Hilary Clinton: instead of being “an attack on the world community” the cables are “an embarrassment to 1% of the world’s population.”

Astrologer Jim Sher makes the point that “…what is coming out is that for the most part, the U.S. policies we are being told about are basically what is really happening. It is what a rational person would expect. Diplomats are being shown to be sharp, well-informed, lucid and astute.” I thought that was a great point. The leaks empower us, they reassure us that yes, we can work out what is going on, there is not some vast conspiracy of deception going on.

Not that I thought that anyway, but it can be very hard to get a rational political discussion these days in ‘alternative’ circles, because people are so influenced by conspiracy thinking, that in some very vague way they know what is ‘really’ going on. Here’s where I will lose a lot of my readers (!), but I find most of this thinking complacent, self-serving and irrational. It seems to stem from a sense of personal disempowerment that gets projected onto governments. Of course, some government conspiracies are for real, they are backed up by good evidence, and they are fascinating. Like the German government setting up a hijack in the 70s to dispose of some Palestinian prisoners they didn’t know what to do with. Or the coups set up in South America by the US.

The Wikileaks phenomenon is presided over by Pluto (secrets) in Capricorn (governments). A lot of us probably expected the opposite – that governments would become more secretive and controlling of information. But the reverse has happened, probably helped by the incoming square from Uranus (the unexpected) to Pluto. Pluto is now properly in Capricorn, moving up to 7 degrees next year. His first couple of years in Capricorn coincided with a Saturn-Uranus opposition, bringing a high degree of uncertainty and changeability with it. But that Opposition is now over, and Pluto is far enough into Capricorn for us to begin to discern some of the trends of this long transit. And it seems reasonable, in our internet age, to foresee a period in which governments will not be able to control information in the ways they always have. Previously if someone wanted to reveal classified information, what could they do with it? They could tell the Russians, and that would be that. Nowadays they can just stick it on the internet for all to see. And there will always be people working for government who are prepared to do this.

So Wikileaks seems to presage an age in which governments will have more openness forced upon them. And the Uranus square to Pluto is only just starting: what Wikileaks is doing now is just the beginning of something that will probably become much more normal and established over the next few years.

Of course, governments will respond by tightening up security and, for example, by keeping conversations more private and verbal. And I don’t think it is at all a straightforward issue. I welcome all these cables that have been released for the insights they have given us into how governments work. And as even a Pentagon spokesmen have said, the standard government response that the release of this info puts lives at risk cannot so far be backed up in the field. It’s overblown.

But governments have a difficult job to do, and they have to be able to speak freely, both amongst themselves and with other governments. Personal communication often makes all the difference when institutions are rubbing up against each other. If confidentiality is compromised, then we may see a world in which conflict becomes harder to head off. And because information flow becomes tightened, government departments will become more distanced from each other.

So I think it is inevitable that the Wikileaks phenomenon will to some extent lead to the very opposite of the openness it is trying to create. And that will be the ironic way in which the type of Pluto in Capricorn that we all fear will come about. Uranus-Pluto, as we saw with the conjunction in the 1960s, has the theme of rebellion (Uranus) against power (Pluto). Just as Uranus has started a run-in towards its 1st close square to Pluto next summer, so has the Wikileaks phenomenon exploded. It is the opening salvo of a longer term theme, in which we will see ever more internet exposure of government activities, and ever more attempts by governments to clamp down on them, along with increasing secretiveness by governments. It will be highly polarised, just like the 1960s. By the time Uranus-Pluto is well and truly over, however, which won't be for another 7 years or so, we can expect some sort of outcome, some sort of accommodation - and quite a different world when it comes to the way governments control information and the access we are able to have to that information.

Though I think it is in many ways a good thing that the US diplomatic cables have been released, I don’t think we need a repeat unless there really is something that needs exposing. There is also an ethical issue here. If your government is doing something corrupt, and you are an employee with access to the relevant info, then there is a case for breaking your confidentiality agreement and blowing the whistle. But if it is just the usual interchange between diplomats that is needed to keep the world functioning, then I think it is unethical, and it is unethical for Wikileaks to have published them. It is interesting that Jupiter, ethics, is conjunct Uranus and squaring Pluto at the moment. The square to Pluto suggests an ethical compromise in dealing with the powers that be.

Julian Assange, who heads Wikileaks, has done some good in exposing corruption. But I think he has also shown an indiscriminate opposition to authority which made my first thought about him that he has father/authority issues. When I looked him up on Wikipedia, I read that he is from Australia, that his parents split up when he was 8, and the new stepfather belonged to a controversial and secretive cult, the Santiniketan Park Association, which seems to have had a highly abusive attitude towards children. When he was 11 his mother took Julian and his younger half-brother into hiding for 5 years due to a custody battle over the younger brother with the stepfather. Assange has his stepfather’s surname.

So a distance from his natural father clearly developed when he was young, and being taken into hiding for 5 years from a stepfather belonging to an abusive cult is pretty extreme. At the same time, his stepfather has this to say about the young Julian: "A bright boy with a keen sense of right and wrong. He always stood up for the underdog with his school friends, he was always very angry about people ganging up on other people."

So you can almost see the man in the boy here, and Wikileaks itself: the genuine and courageous desire to stand up for what is right, mixed in with a sense that any authority/father has dark secrets that need exposing.

Click to Enlarge

We have a reliable birth date for Assange – 3 July 1971 in Townsville, Australia, but not a reliable birth time. There is one circulating from someone who claims to have seen his birth records, but according to Lynn Hayes who has written about it: “…as you'll read in the comments from Australian astrologers, the method of data collection appears to be somewhat suspect since birth records there evidently do not include birth times and can be obtained only by a relative.”

So we have the midday chart, and as you can see right away, Assange has Sun square to Uranus: rebellion (Uranus) against authority/father (Sun), and also the father you are separated/split-off from (Uranus). But we can’t simply reduce this aspect to childhood difficulties, because it carries an ‘adult’ meaning in its own right that at its best involves a dynamic and progressive disruption of the status quo, both within oneself and outside oneself. It is hard to settle into a rut with this aspect. And when it seeks external manifestation, it is established authorities which are likely to be the target.

In Assange’s particular case, Uranus is in justice-seeking Libra, while the Sun is in Cancer, meaning that his target countries are likely to experience his activities as an attack on their homeland security (Cancer). With his Sun being close to the US Sun, you can see why his attacks have been so effective there. He instinctively knows how to get to them.

For Assange functions primarily on instinct, on gut-feeling. His Sun is in Cancer and his Moon is in Scorpio. They can both be hidden signs, so it may not be evident to others just how much Assange is driven by personal emotion in his quest to expose corrupt authorities. At its best, his Scorpio Moon seeks to restore power to ordinary people, and his Cancer Sun feels protective and nurturing to those he is fighting for; at its worst, his Scorpio Moon seeks revenge for what happened to him in childhood, and his Cancer Sun makes decisions based on mood and personal neediness.

Whatever mix he is coming from, the Crab and the Scorpion also provide him with the ruthlessness, the cold-bloodedness necessary to start and continue this campaign, this war.

His Mars is in Aquarius (again ruled by Uranus) giving a desire to progress humanity through action and even aggression. Aquarius being Air means he can stand back and choose his target in a considered manner, but the square to Jupiter in Scorpio means he can be more destructive than he realises.

Assange has Sun trine Moon (his Moon is between 0 and 12 Scorpio), so he is at ease with who he is on a basic level, he is not conflicted. But therein also lies the danger, for the primal wateriness of his Sun and Moon lack reflective ability; bring in the Mars square Scorpionic Jupiter, and you have someone who could be doing more harm than good, while thinking he is one of the good guys (Uranus/Aquarius). Here is the thing: Uranus comes from principles and ideals, rather than consequences of actions. And you don’t know what the consequences of all these leaks are going to be. The stage is too big, the amount of loaded information is vast. Your actions might create a more open society. Or they might lead to war. Or both. You don’t really know.

Assange’s Mars is conjunct his North Node in Aquarius. What comes easy is his South Node in Leo: the lone individual doing something unique and original – and aggressive (Mars opposite)! What comes harder is integrating that into the wider community (Aquarius). For now he has put himself at odds with much of the world. With Chiron making a t-square with his Sun-Uranus, he has made himself the outsider/victim/scapegoat in a big way. But you never know, a few years down the line, as Uranus-Pluto progresses, all this may look very different. Assange may come to be seen as a catalyst (Uranus) for a big change in the world.

Fascinatingly, Saturn is now in the same sign – Libra – as when he first went into hiding with his mother when he was 11. Saturn is a planet of confinement and therefore prison, which is where he now is, after a period of hiding. In both cases Saturn has made a square to his Sun. (Being in Cancer, you can see the involvement of his mother in the earlier instance.) It suggests the connection I made earlier between the stepfather who was a member of a secretive, abusive cult, and the desire now to reveal the secrets of governments. Saturn is also authority, which again is both the stepfather and the USA, which shares Assange’s Sun position. That said, I am not suggesting that Assange’s actions are simply a reaction from childhood. There is clearly a connection, but it may be that he has made something of his early experiences, that the response is a creative one. With Saturn, at best, we learn from experience.

Julian Assange is 39 years old, and beginning that mid-life juncture where you have lived out your earlier, unreflective impulses that propelled you through the first half of your adult life, and where it is time to look back and see why you have done what you have done, what was genuinely you, and what was the influence of others and early conditioning, and what you want now. This process takes some years as all 3 outer planets plus Saturn hard-aspect themselves. But Assange has this more intensely, for his Sun is at 10 Cancer, which will be hard-aspected by both Pluto and Uranus over the next 2-3 years.

Given what he has done, he could be a dead man. Or spending 20 years in an American jail: America will do its best to create the necessary legalities, and apply the necessary pressure, to get their man. According to an article on the BBC site, though, this will be problematic for the US. If they try to do him for espionage, for example, then that is a political crime, and there is no extradition treaty between the US and the UK, or the US and Sweden, for political crimes.

Much of the world establishment, particularly America, is rounding on Assange, and pretext after pretext is being created to hem him in and nail him. Wikileaks is being shut down; Paypal, Mastercard and various other companies are refusing to channel donations to his site; his bank account in Switzerland has been frozen on a technicality and an extradition warrant is out for him on rape charges in Sweden, which seem to be a set-up. The man has not been convicted of anything, or charged with anything related to Wikileaks, yet he is being treated as an arch-criminal. And it is America more than anyone who is after him, and able and prepared to exert whatever pressure it likes on any company or western country to get its way. It is fascinating to watch a man being singled out and hounded in this way by America. We’ve never seen anything quite like it. Some politicians in the US have said they would like to see him executed for what he has done.

America needs an enemy for its own psychological balance, to avoid the pathology underneath its perception of itself as the world’s no 1 country. And it expects other western countries to join the dance when it has such an enemy. The US has Mars in Gemini, so its aggressive tendencies are unusually divided into good and bad, black and white. Not since Osama bin Laden has someone been identified as public enemy number 1 like this, and there is a section of the country that must be starting to feel at ease with itself in a way that it hasn’t for a while. Bin Laden could never be tracked down, so he was never entirely satisfactory as public enemy No 1.
Ahmadinejad of Iran is a good candidate, but again the US hasn’t been able to run with that one, because military action was never possible due to the Iraq War (wrong target!) Now they have a visible enemy who can be caught, but unfortunately they have the wrong President as scapegoat cheerleader. There is no doubt Obama will do his best to get Assange behind bars in the US - he is an American President after all - but he is not the sort to create a personalised cult of vilification. This is part of the reason the US elects Presidents like George W Bush and Ronald Reagan from time to time: it is so the collective can feel good about itself again by finding an enemy to vilify. I have no doubt that Sarah Palin would oblige in this respect.

Back to Assange. As for the rape charges, Assange has natal Venus square to Pluto, currently being hard-aspected by Uranus. So there is a dark element to his sexuality, issues of power to be dealt with: either letting women have power over him, or the reverse, or both. Assuming the rape charges were a set-up, a honey-trap, Venus-Pluto could attract this. During August, when the alleged events took place, Mars and Venus were conjunct in Libra, and passed over Assange’s Uranus and squared his Sun. The sign of Libra suggests to me it was a honey-trap. Mars and Venus also passed over Saturn (protection) in early Libra, and apparently much of the case rests on whether or not a condom was used. Early in August Mars and Venus were also part of the Uranus-Jupiter-Saturn-Pluto Cardinal t-square, so events took place then which were hugely catalytic for Assange (and for the world via Wikileaks). The likely outcome seems to be at least bail and surrender of passport in Sweden while the Americans do their best to press charges.

HOWEVER, it is also increasingly clear that there is huge public support for Assange. In London, he has not been given bail, but people who did not know him offered to stand surety. Australia’s ex-PM Kevin Rudd has said that Assange was not responsible for the leaked American cables, it was whoever pinched them in the first place. Rudd is right, and to this extent Assange is being scapegoated for someone else’s crimes.
More than that, there is a wave of hackers called Operation Payback who are interfering with the sites of companies who have withdrawn services from Wikileaks, like Amazon and Visa. They are engaging you and I by offering a botnet tool for your computer that joins it to an army of machines which launch denial of service attacks on those sites. You can in theory find them at, but unsurprisingly it appears to have been taken down. They are currently operating via Twitter.

It is quite thrilling, and true Uranus-Pluto, which is about a collective rebellion, not one man. Through his Uranus in Libra, Assange has become a voice for collective protest as it is activated by Uranus-Pluto. The internet is ruled by Uranus, but so is rebellion, so in a way the internet is coming of age as it becomes a tool for mass protest.

On another Uranus-Pluto note, in the UK we are seeing protest by students against big rises in student fees in a way we have not had since the Uranus-Pluto conjunction of the 1960s.The rebellions are on their way!

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Sunday, December 05, 2010

Science and its Primitive Certainties

In my last post I wrote that, like Christianity before it, Science provides the collective with simple certainties, and therein lies its power. I’d never thought of that before, and it has quite struck me since.

Of course, if you look into Science, you realise its picture of reality is not simple at all. Quantum Mechanics, for example, where there is only probability and never certainty. 11 dimensional M theory . Boltzmann Brains.

But if you don’t think too much about all that – or if, like Einstein and quantum theory, you refute it – then you can have the comfortable feeling of certainty about how the universe works that science seems to provide.

Christianity at its simplest tells us that an omniscient God created the universe, and if we are good he will let us into heaven after we die. For centuries that was simple and certain.

Now Science at its simplest says that we are composed of inert matter and after we die that is it. Not very appealing, perhaps, but it is simple and certain. On the upside, it tells us that we were created by evolution and flatters us (like Christianity before it) by putting humans at the top of the evolutionary tree. The success of Science also allows us to feel collectively god-like. Science also holds out the promise of eventually explaining everything (omniscience) and even finding a cure for old age and death.

These simple certainties have a powerful effect on us emotionally, even if intellectually we are more sophisticated. Look at Nazi Germany. There were plenty of ‘intellectuals’ who were swayed by the emotional power of the Nazi message. It’s a collective thing. You are influenced osmotically. Even if your understanding of Science extends to the subtleties of quantum theory, that can be largely intellectual, while emotionally you remain reassured by the simple and omniscient certainties that Science holds out. And one is further reassured by the fact that so many other people feel the same way. Nothing needs to be said, it is a sort of primitive and unconscious tribal pact.

That is why homeopaths, acupuncturists etc get given a hard time by the conventional medical authorities: they are a threat to the tribal certainties that Science provides. They need to be ridiculed and cast out so the rest of us can continue to feel OK.

I think this is just the way things work when you have large collectives of people. If you are an astrologer or a homeopath, then you probably don’t need quite so much the certainties that the collective provides. (Note I say not quite so much: there are plenty of astrologers, healers etc who seek security in their own alternative canon.) If it wasn’t science vs astrology and homeopathy, it would be something else that put you on the margins, that made the individual way you see and do things a threat to the collective certainties. So there’s no point being surprised by it or wanting it to be different. It’s always been that way.

It’s paradoxical that Science can be so sophisticated and creative and complex, and yet at the same time kept in place by primitive needs. You also see this phenomenon in the resistance with which scientific progress can be met from other scientists.

The real evolution is not human technological prowess, which flatters us into believing we are gods. The real evolution is the ability on an emotional level, to whatever extent, to dwell outside the collective certainties and not need to feel part of the tribe in that sort of way. That’s when life gets interesting.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blair vs Hitchens, Religion vs Science

Last Friday there was a debate in Toronto between Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens. The motion was: "Be it resolved, religion is a force for good in the world". The hall was packed, and tickets had been selling at inflated prices. The theme obviously touched a popular nerve. And no prizes for guessing who was putting the case for each side.
Tony Blair is a well-known proponent of religion, while Christopher Hitchens is well-known for being part of the New Atheism movement, which believes it is now time for atheists to be far less accommodating about religion.

The debate, in effect, was religion versus science, and it obviously fascinates a lot of people – just as it did 150 years ago in Oxford, on 30 June 1860, when Huxley and Bishop Wilberforce had their famous debate about evolution to a packed hall of about 1000 people. In both cases there was a hard aspect between Mars and Jupiter: a fight (Mars) about beliefs (Jupiter).

Jupiter is where we look to see the nature of someone’s beliefs, and this planet figures strongly in the charts of both Hitchens and Blair. This is not surprising, as both men are known for having strong beliefs. This to some extent sets the lie to the atheistic crusade against religious belief, because the atheist position can be just as much a religious belief, in the sense of dogmatically held views about the nature of existence, as can the views of formally religious people.

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Tony Blair’s Jupiter is at the end of Taurus, conjunct Mars and the Asc in Gemini. So there is a strong Gemini/Mars influence to his beliefs: the battle (Mars) of good versus evil (Gemini/light and dark) about which he has talked quite explicitly. At the same time, Blair’s Jupiter is in an earth sign, so his beliefs are quite practical and in a way unsophisticated: he has set up a faith foundation to promote faith generally.

We don’t know Christopher Hitchens’ birth time, but he has Jupiter in Aquarius, square to his Sun and Moon. Much of his belief is influenced by the progress of science, which is very appropriate for Aquarius. At the same time, there is the square to his Sun and Moon, suggesting an ongoing inner struggle and evolution around his beliefs that is central to who he is. His beliefs are dynamic. This is in contrast to Blair, whose Jupiter has no hard aspects, suggesting that his beliefs are more of a given. Blair has a sense of certainty about God etc, and for him it’s simply a matter of putting that certainty into action.

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I think that Hitchens (who won the debate by a factor of two to one) can come across as more nihilistic than he is. I think that underneath the intellectualism he feels very deeply, and that the undeniable evils of religion upset him deeply – but he isn’t going to put it like that. Here is his concluding statement from the debate, which is anything but reductive and nihilistic:

“… the sense that there is something beyond the material, or if not beyond it, not entirely consistent materially with it, is, I think, a very important matter. What you could call the numinous or the transcendent, or at its best, I suppose, the ecstatic. I wouldn't trust anyone in this hall who didn't know what I was talking about. We know what we mean by it, when we think about certain kinds of music perhaps, certainly the relationship or the coincidence but sometimes very powerful between music and love. Landscape, certain kinds of artistic and creative work that appears not to have been done entirely by hand. Without this, we really would merely be primates.

I think it's very important to appreciate the finesse of that, and I think religion has done a very good job of enshrining it in music and architecture, not so much in painting in my opinion, and I think it's actually very important that we learn to distinguish the numinous in this way. I wrote a book about the Parthenon, I will mention it briefly. I couldn't live without the Parthenon, I don't believe every civilised person could, if it ... much worse than the first temple had occurred, it seems to me. And we would have lost an enormous amount besides by way of our knowledge of symmetry, grace and harmony.

I don't care about the cult of palace Athena, it's gone, and as far as I know ... the sacrifices, some of them human, that were made to those gods, are regrettable but have been blotted out and forgotten, and Athenian imperialism is also a thing of the past. What remains is the fantastic beauty ... the question is how to keep what is of value of this sort in art in our own emotions ... I will go as far as the ecstatic, and to distinguish it precisely from superstition and the supernatural which are designed to make us fearful and afraid and servile.”

As you have probably guessed, I am more sympathetic to Hitchens than I am to Blair. In a way, I don’t concentrate too much on what someone’s beliefs are: it’s how they come across as a human being that matters, and in that respect I find Hitchens much more impressive. Hitchens is humane (though I wouldn’t always agree with him) and still trying to work it all out, whereas Blair has found his answers and his certainty and identified himself firmly with what he sees as the good.

Here is Hitchens early in the debate:

Once you assume a creator and a plan, it makes us objects, in a cruel experiment, whereby we are created sick, and commanded to be well. I'll repeat that. Created sick, and then ordered to be well.
And over us, to supervise this, is installed a celestial dictatorship, a kind of divine North Korea. Greedy, exigent, greedy for uncritical phrase from dawn until dusk and swift to punish the original sins with which it so tenderly gifted us in the very first place.

However, let no one say there's no cure, salvation is offered, redemption, indeed, is promised, at the low price of the surrender of your critical faculties. Religion, it might be said, it must be said, would have to admit it makes extraordinary claims, but though I would maintain that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, rather daringly provides not even ordinary evidence for its extraordinary supernatural claims."

Hitchens’ 2007 book God is Not Great is an all-out attack on religion. He thinks that science and reason are what should guide us. But then there is his statement at the end of the debate, starting: ”the sense that there is something beyond the material, or if not beyond it, not entirely consistent materially with it, is, I think, a very important matter.” This seems to contradict the trend towards scientific materialism in his thought. Sure, science can find places in the brain for wonder, awe, love etc, and one of its strengths lies in demanding evidence for claims. But the sense of something beyond the material, or not entirely consistent with it?

I think he’s probably in a bit of a fix that a lot of us find ourselves in. You can’t deny the claims of science, and its increasing ability to find a biochemical source in the brain for every human faculty and experience. I think that is to be welcomed, because it constitutes an increase in knowledge and understanding of ourselves. And yet, some of the time at least, we feel there is something else.

Hitchens is dying of cancer. Maybe that is why he allowed himself that extraordinary and unscientific claim at the end of the debate.

But maybe it’s a fix we’ve always been in, because organised religion is just as good at killing off the sense of wonder and openness and transcendence, through its insistence on a fixed and narrow and authoritarian metaphysic, as is science.

I think the real issue is authoritarian belief systems. We have known nothing else in the West for at least 1000 years. First it was Christianity, now it is Science. It is their intolerance that shuts out the magic and transcendence, rather than the systems of belief in themselves. Science can be every bit as intolerant to its rivals as Christianity can be. And Science has the power of the state behind it when it needs to enforce its claims, just as Christianity had.

But even without that, the exclusive claims of Science get into our heads from an early age, just like those of Christianity used to, and it can take a lifetime to get them out again. And ultimately it is not an evil system that is out to get us: science as an authoritarian belief system is simply a reflection of a collective need for certainty. It is because people en masse need simple certainties that we have these systems.

So I think it misses the point to argue about whether Science can explain everything, and where is the room for magic and transcendence in that? It is motive that needs to be looked at. Once you recognise the authoritarian nature of science as a collective endeavour, and take back the power it wants to have over you, then there is plenty of room for everything.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

The Hunting of the Snark and the Quest for Certainty

Scientists get very attached to the accepted theories about how the universe works, to the extent that the theories get treated as immutable laws, in effect as facts; and reality – the place of real facts – is contorted to fit around the theories. This is the Sagittarius-Gemini axis: faith versus fact/information. Religion functions in the same sort of way.

The Great Modern Example of this sort of contortion is the theory of Dark Matter. It was first noticed in the 1930s that galaxies do not rotate around their centres according to Newton’s Law of Gravitation, and evidence for this built in the ensuing decades.

The conclusion that was increasingly drawn was not, as you might expect, that we do not understand gravity. That would be too simple. No, the conclusion that was drawn was that there must be large amounts of matter out there in a form that we cannot see or detect that is distorting the picture.

Decades on, the hunt for dark matter continues, and we still haven’t found any.

Gravity as we understand it is full of anomalies. The clockwork universe as described by Newton and modified by Einstein no longer seems to hold up very well.

Firstly, there are the galaxies. According to Newton’s Laws, they should rotate around their centres much as the planets do around the Sun, which obey the inverse square law: the further you are from the Sun, the slower you go, according to the square of your distance. So you really do slow down as you get a long way away. But galaxies, unlike planets, do not behave like this. The outer arms of the galaxies all seem to rotate at about the same speed, regardless of their distances from the centre.

We are dealing with huge distances here – light years – in which gravity is infinitesimally weak. Obvious conclusion: just as the laws of matter change when we get down to the quantum level, so do the laws of gravitation change when it becomes extremely weak.

To give science some credit, there are modified theories of gravitation out there, such as scalar-tensor-vector gravity (STVG), (or MOdified Gravity (MOG)), which deals with the galaxy rotation problem. But the generally accepted theory is that the universe must be 80% undetectable, transparent dark matter. The hunt for it is a bit like the hunt for WMDs in Iraq. The difference being that with the WMDs, they were eventually forced to admit they weren’t there. If what you are looking for is invisible, such logical constraints do not apply. You couldn’t make it up!

And so we come to our title: The Hunting of the Snark is a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll that “describes with infinite humour the impossible voyage of an improbable crew to find an inconceivable creature".

Other gravitational anomalies include:

The two Pioneer spacecraft (which are currently leaving the solar system) seem to be slowing down in a way which has yet to be explained.

Various spacecraft have experienced greater accelerations during slingshot manoeuvres than expected.

The expansion of space seems to be speeding up.

Recent measurements indicate that planetary orbits are widening faster than if this was solely through the sun losing mass by radiating energy.

The behaviour of photons travelling through galaxy clusters indicates that gravity may fall off faster than inverse-squared at certain distance scales.

Surveys of galaxy motions have detected a mystery dark flow towards an unseen mass. Such a large mass is too large to have accumulated since the Big Bang using current models and may indicate that gravity falls off slower than inverse-squared at certain distance scales.

Hydrogen clouds are more clumped together at certain scales than expected and, like dark flow, may indicate that gravity falls off slower than inverse-squared at certain distance scales.

So there you have it. Gravity, which was always the awkward squad when it came to developing the theory of everything (the Unified Field Theory, for which 11 dimensional M-Theory seems the most promising candidate), ain’t quite what it seems to be.

One of the big problems when it comes to science or religion or metaphysics is people’s need for certainty. This is where it all goes wonky and where you can end up with one system of belief attacking another. I don’t think it matters too much what you believe, because you can generally make a case for the opposite anyway. What matters is the ability to dwell happily in not knowing and to be able to see the unknowability of things. In this lies awe and freedom. But this is too difficult for many people, even very clever people, maybe especially them. It is subtle, and requires psychological security. It is ‘negative capability.’

This is why the Buddhists continually set up teachings about the nature of existence only to refute them a few steps down the line. I don’t know how effective it is as a method, for it can seem a bit abstract and clumsy, but you can see the point.

So the need for certainty gets in the way of the progress of science, just as it does with any other system of knowledge. Old truths automatically become deeper truths, instead of what they might well be, which is old mistakes.

One certainty a lot of people have concerns what will happen after we die: after we die, that is it, finish. Now they may well be right, but the way they think it makes them wrong, because they are so certain of it. It is very common nowadays for people to be certain that when we die, then that is the end in all senses. Even though it is ostensibly an anti-religious belief, it is in fact a religious belief – religion in the worst sense – because of the dogmatism.

Death is unknowable, so any belief about it – if you wish to have one – needs to be provisional to have any kind of sense to it. Death is something we get a feeling, an intuition about, like all ‘deeper’ realities. That feeling/intuition develops and becomes more subtle over time. That is how a human progresses metaphysically. Any belief held too firmly impedes this progress.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pluto's Tomb and the Great Recession

I don’t think I’ve ever been so ill as I was last week. Flu or something. Must be Neptune turning direct to leave my 6th House of Health. I was in bed for the whole week, and I was hardly present to the outside world. But I was fully present inwardly, I was dragged inwards and downwards to a more image-based place than I am used to, and stuff was happening. Must have been Neptune.

Turns out our new neighbour is a homeopath, and things began to turn round straight after she prescribed me bryonia on the Wednesday. All the same, unreasonable doubt that the homeopathy was doing anything crept in after a day or so. I have the same thing with astrology: reasonable doubt and unreasonable doubt, and I’m not sure I can always tell the difference. Unreasonable doubt is a cultural demon that knocks the life out of anything ‘unscientific’. Probably more of a male thing.

The Pluto-Node conjunction in Capricorn, which peaks on 27th November, has been working itself out very literally over the last 3 months, as we have seen a series of miners trapped underground around the world. The first 2, in Chile then China, resulted in the miners being saved. The 3rd incident in New Zealand ended yesterday with all the miners being killed in a series of underground explosions – if the gases had not killed them before that.

Pluto is Lord of the Underworld, and Capricorn adds a sense of constriction and confinement. In the case of the Chilean miners, the entombment was long and they were eventually freed. Ceres was moving in to conjoin Pluto and the Node during their incarceration. Mythologically, Ceres’ daughter was abducted by Pluto but eventually freed (sort of) from the Underworld. She subsequently had to spend six months a year there. This shows how this sort of experience changes us, just as it will have changed the Chilean miners. They will never be entirely the same after their experience.

In the case of the New Zealanders, the experience was short and sharp. Ceres was moving away from Pluto and the Node, so her redemptive presence was no longer there. In addition, Mars was moving into a square with Jupiter and Uranus (which it was not during the Chilean crisis), making a sudden, violent ending more likely.

Jupiter and Uranus are back in applying conjunction yet again, and the applying square to Mars makes sudden, violent crises likely. So North Korea has been shelling a South Korean island, provoking an international crisis, as well as revealing the much greater extent of its nuclear reprocessing facilities than we knew about. A stampede on a bridge in Cambodia has killed 450 people. And Europe, and the world economy, has gone into the jitters as the debt crisis has reared its head again in some of the countries that are part of the Euro. This time Ireland needed bailing out. Portugal, Greece and Spain remain unstable due to their banking debts. On the other hand, we have seen the sudden release of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, showing that these sudden Mars events (she was released by the military/Mars) do not always have to be destructive.

This theme of miners and entombment has gripped the world, on and off, since August. Before that it was the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, that went on for months. Pluto’s realm again: a raw, destructive, uncontainable force from the depths that we seemed to be able to do very little about. All these events triggered off by man as he sought to exploit the earth’s natural resources.

There is nothing wrong with using the earth’s resources. But it needs to be give-and-take, there needs to be a sense of gratitude and of being part of a renewable cycle. Our westernised culture continues to accelerate away from such an attitude. We are offending the gods as never before. There has never been a culture so out of balance, so full of hubris at its own god-like powers.

So it is not surprising there is the odd kick back, particularly when Pluto conjoins the Node. What do we need to learn collectively, what karmic debt are we building up (Node) by not honouring the forces of nature (Pluto)? Pluto will always prevail. He is the dragon guarding the earth’s resources, and this summer he breathed out some fire – casually, in his sleep, irritated, a warning.

Maybe the mining incidents have also come to our notice because they describe how we feel collectively: trapped. We are in the midst of the Great Recession, and we cannot see our way out. It has been going on since Pluto entered Capricorn in early 2008 and the stock market began bucking and lunging. Sure, the US has just released better than expected growth figures, but then unemployment refuses to do down. The UK is also reporting growth figures, but then the Euro again threatens to go into meltdown.

So we are like the miners, in a pit of our own making. The ‘toxic’ debt of the banks is very like the toxic, explosive gases in the mines, threatening everything. There are still high levels of unstable gases in the mine shafts called Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Greece, which could shut down the whole mine if we don’t attend to them. We don’t want to seal them off because there are people trapped inside.

The reason this recession is so protracted is because, despite our best efforts, the outcome will not be a return to economics as we know it. We are on the brink of a square from Uranus to Pluto. They will come within one degree of an exact square next summer. Such outer planet hard aspects only occur occasionally, and they take us from one age to the next, as Uranus-Neptune did in the early 90s, and Uranus-Pluto did before that in the sixties.

So that is why the recession won’t budge. It is because we are on the brink of something new. With Uranus now starting to station before changing direction and making a 6 month run-in to an almost exact square to Pluto, now is the time when, at last, we may start to get some indication of the new world order that is coming into being. One thing we can be sure of is that it will be a world in which the West is less wealthy and powerful in relation the East, particularly China – maybe even less wealthy in absolute terms. And probably less confident in its ability to contain its new enemy, militant Islam, which is spreading worldwide. For the West, a keyword for Uranus-Pluto will probably be ‘humility’, just as for China it will probably be ‘hubris’.

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