Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fashion; building an altar to Neptune

Neptune governs what is fashionable, and he changes sign every 14 years or so. Next year he moves from Aquarius to Pisces, so fashions will change, and are probably starting to do so already. Well, fashions are always changing, or they wouldn’t be called fashions. It’s more the underlying character of what is fashionable that will be changing.

“For the fashion of this world passeth away.” (Corinthians Chapter 7)

So in the last couple of years there has begun to be protest against the fashion for anorexic catwalkers. Aquarius can be disembodied and sci-fi, so not only have we had women held up as icons who are virtually ill from malnourishment, but the Japanese have even managed to create a robot dressed up as a woman that walks and talks. You could say that Chiron in Aquarius over the last few years has brought the matter of anorexic models to a head.

While the ideal is to be thin, the actuality is increasingly the opposite, an epidemic of obesity that has been flagged up as Neptune approaches Pisces. So we may have the opposite problem for some years yet, as Pisces knows no boundaries, but at least, I hope, women will be allowed to have a shape again.

Aquarius is associated with electronics and networking, so he is the sign above all others that governs the internet. Putting this together with Aquarius’ odd relationship to the body, and we have kids whose main source of sex education is the online porn industry.

Teenage girls are now under pressure to remove their pubic hair: the boys find it off-putting after what they’ve seen on the internet. Admittedly the Romans weren’t too keen either on pubic hair, but that was more to do with their ideas on hygiene. This is different. Its origins are pornographic display. To my mind, there are also paedophilic undertones, in the same way that holding up boy-shaped girls (ie the catwalk) as an ideal also has this flavour. At the same time we demonise paedophiles, they are the modern equivalent of the Jews in medieval Europe.

There is another fashion which has been around for some time, which is for women to dye their hair bleach blonde. It used to be just young women who did this, but now it is all ages, and to start with I used to find it hideous and undignified when an elderly woman did this. (I’m not protesting against dyeing, which can look good, it is the bleach blonde effect). It is so common now that I’ve got used to it. I think it is again Neptune in Aquarius – which has been going on for 12 years – because it is an attempt to deny ageing.

Bleach blonde has always had the connotations of sexy and brainless (as in ‘I had a blonde moment’). After several decades of the social advances brought about by feminism, it’s as if many women decided, after all, to choose sex over brains. OK, I’m being a bit hard here, as it’s in many cases not true, but there is still a symbolism going on.

I’m still trying to get my head around Neptune transits, because I’m not very Neptunian, but for the last 4 years I’ve had Neptune conjunct Sun and now it’s approaching my DESC and I still seem to be in a swamp with no way forward. Someone just lent me ‘Making the Gods work for you’ by Caroline Casey and here was a bit that I liked:


The Odyssey provides a Neptunian initiation tale. After fighting the Trojan War, Ulysses’ single goal is to reach home. But because Ulysses has angered Neptune by blinding the one-eyed Cyclops, one of Neptune’s children, the sea god sends disorientating winds and extravagant, weird, exotic adventures to distract Ulysses and blow him off course. Who can’t relate?

Finally, Ulysses consults Tiresias, the blind Underworld prophet, a kind of Pluto figure, who says: “You have angered Neptune. Here’s the ritual you must perform. Take an oar, a symbol of the sea, and walk it inland. When you get to a place where no-one has ever seen the sea, there you must build a temple to the god who has been oppressing you.”

So Ulysses does this, walking inland until somebody asks him if the oar is a piece of windmill, so he knows he has found the right place. He builds a temple to Neptune, the god who has been oppressing him, and it works. In an act of reversal magic, Neptune becomes his ally and sends him sweet winds. Ulysses sails for home, where he reclaims his kingdom.

Our task is to reflect upon what it might mean to build a temple to the god who has been oppressing us. What kind of oar do we take inland? The Neptunian part of us says that to liberate ourselves, we must carry our vision inland to where nobody has ever heard of it before, and give our gift there. It is easy to hang out in a homogenous neighbourhood; go somewhere new.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Gaia, the End of the World, and Jung

I’ve just been away for a week in West Wales, and the weather has been great for the first time since last September. We started getting heat waves in England a few years ago, and it seemed like global warming was for real. But the last two summers have been crap, and we have had 2 cold winters, so I’m not so sure any more.

What we do know is that the ice-caps are melting, and that the earth generally is warming up. It’s hard to know how much of that is man-made, and how much is a natural process. It certainly has a momentum of its own now, however, because the more ice-free ocean there is, the more sunlight gets trapped instead of reflected back by the ice. This is why James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia hypothesis, is now so dire in his warnings. He reckons the earth is going to get very hot through this positive feedback cycle, that most of the world’s population will die, and that there is nothing we can do about it any more.

I often say that Mars in Cancer is a good place for an environmentalist, and that is what we find in the chart of James Lovelock, who was born on 26/7/1919 in the UK. A challenged Mars – in Cancer, or square Saturn – can be tedious in a man, because deep down they aren’t very sure of their Mars, so they’re always trying to show just how manly they are. But Lovelock isn’t like this at all. I saw him on BBC4 the other night. I hadn’t had a very favourable opinion of him, because of his doom-mongering, and because the Gaia hypothesis seemed a bit flabby and mystical.

In fact he is highly intelligent and down to earth. He has the originality and poetry of a Sun in Leo conjunct Neptune, and the concern for the planet of Moon, Jupiter, Mars and Pluto all in Cancer. As a teenager, he had the intellectual precocity of Mercury conjunct Saturn, and the willingness to stand up for his ideas of Mercury opposite Uranus. I’d say it is his Mars conjunct Pluto in Cancer, square to Chiron, that reflects his fight (Mars) for the survival (Pluto) not just of mankind but of life due to the irretrievable damage (Chiron) we have done to the planet (Cancer).

In a way it all came out of the planet Mars, because in the 1960s Lovelock was part of a project by NASA involving methods for detecting life on Mars. Lovelock came up with the idea that if there is life on Mars, you would be able to detect it in the atmosphere, because life would both use the atmosphere for raw materials, and deposit its waste products there. What they found using spectroscopy was that Mars’ atmosphere had carbon dioxide and very little else, so Lovelock concluded there was no life on Mars.

This perspective from Mars got him thinking about the earth from outside of it, so to speak, and he began to see the earth’s atmosphere itself as a product of life on earth, and regulated within a narrow band that makes life possible. So well-regulated by life is our atmosphere that it has been stable within this band for a billion years or more.

It is not just the atmosphere, but many of the conditions on earth that are regulated by life, so that the earth itself is like this self-regulating organism. This made immediate sense to me. Of course it would be part of the evolutionary process for organisms to regulate their environment to their advantage, because those that could do so would have a selective advantage. An early example Lovelock gave was of a sea algae that needs warmth, but not too much, so it releases Sulphur Dioxide, which causes clouds to form, which blocks out the sunlight. So you can see the regulating mechanism here: lots of sunlight leads to expansion in the numbers of algae, leading to release of lots of SO2, which stops the water getting any hotter and in fact probably cools it and keeps numbers of algae down.

Of course, for Gaia to work you need a much more complex interactive system than this involving thousands of species, and this has been one of the arguments against it: that there is no way such a complex system could have arisen through natural selection. My argument against this is two-fold: the self-regulating systems that have arisen within our bodies through natural selection are at least as complex as those in the environment; and secondly we do not understand evolution yet, if we ever will. I can’t see how the slow process of natural selection and random mutation could have produced the life-forms we have in the time available. I don’t dispute the fact of evolution, just the limited mechanisms we have for it. It’s too much like a monkey at a typewriter. That’s why I like Lamarckian ideas, for example, with their notion of the inheritance of acquired characteristics.

In understanding Evolution, I think it is also important to realise that the idea originated and has been developed within a society that is highly competitive and makes a virtue of that sense of competition. So quite naturally the mechanism for Evolution has been seen in fundamentally competitive terms. I think this is a large part of the reason that our understanding of Evolution is so limited. The idea of Evolution as co-operation is staring us in the face through Gaia. And not just co-operation as enlightened self-interest (as in symbiosis), which brings us back to competition again as the root motive. I mean co-operation for its own sake, because it is in the nature of life to promote itself, even between species. Just as Lovelock had to stand outside the earth to undertand it, so we need to stand outside our competitive society to acquire a broader understanding of Evolution.

Anyway, the Gaia hypothesis is an entirely scientific idea that to me makes complete sense. It has a ‘Eureka that’s obvious’ quality to it. It also has a beauty and a poetry to it, reflected in the name (which William Golding came up with). Lovelock was tolerant of what religions did with the idea, who saw it as reflecting their understanding of God. But he was appalled at what the New Age did with it (see picture on left!), and I think it was probably exposure to that which has put me off Gaia for so long.

Back to his doom-mongering. What in a way makes it worse is that there is no sense of fanaticism around it. He is just putting forward the quite reasonable idea that there is a positive feedback process when it comes to global warming and the melting of the ice-caps, and the earth is therefore going to get a lot hotter for a while and this will make large parts of the earth uninhabitable by people. I’m not quite sure what to make of it. I don’t feel it’s going to be as bad as Lovelock makes out, but I can’t justify that. I suppose I tend to think that the earth is quicker to self-regulate than we may think, that life is quicker to respond to changes in its environment than we think. There is one natural process, for example, which is that if the oceans heat up, more water will vaporise, creating clouds that block out the sun, and thereby cooling the earth.

I suppose I’m back to my original observation: the earth is warming up, and the consequence for English weather for the last 2 years has been wet summers and cold winters. It’s so important in life to take account of your own immediate experience, whatever the priests/scientists say, and my experience tells me that we don’t know what the consequence of warming will be. The positive feedback loop around the melting of the polar ice-caps is of course worrying, but I don’t think we can be as certain of the outcome as Lovelock thinks.

I watched a documentary of another great man recently, CG Jung. It was a DVD I bought called Matter of Heart, which I’d recommend highly to anyone. I’d seen it twice before over the last 25 years, but I keep coming back to it. It’s pricey, but well worth it. One of the special features is a ½ hour interview Jung gave to the BBC 18 months before he died. In this he is asked about survival after death, and a point he makes is that whatever our conscious attitude may be, his work with old people had shown him that the Unconscious behaves as though life is going to continue. I thought this was fascinating.

I think another word for the Unconscious, whether in its personal or collective forms, is simply ‘life’. It’s as though life over billions of years has become this huge reserve, this huge resource and we have this fragile consciousness that floats on the surface of it, so fragile that it is extinguished for 8 hours in 24 while it recovers its ability to exist. Of course this fragile consciousness goes into some sort of abeyance at death, but the great river of life itself that flows through us, ‘the Unconscious’, is in no doubt that it will itself continue.

This is something I always take away from Jung, this sense of being part of a much bigger and richer current of life. And it removes that sense of anxious isolation that the ego often feels, its desperate sense that its own death – which after all occurs for 8 hours in 24! – is the end of everything.

The Collective Unconscious doesn't just contain human history, it contains the whole of evolution (in the same way that physically we have the principle of 'ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny' in embryonic development). We don't belong just to the human species, we are also amoebae, we are crocodiles, we are plants, we are apes... we belong to life. This again brings us back to the idea of evolution as co-operation rather than competition. It is life that is the project, not the individual species, which is ephemeral and not as clear-cut as one might think. They keep finding new species of human, for example, and in its current form (us) hasn't been around very long at all.

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It is not immediately obvious from Jung’s chart why he should have been such a great explorer of the Unconscious. Certainly you can see the analyst in him through his Sun on the Descendant, the point of ‘Other’, and the healer in the square from the Sun to Neptune and Chiron. You see his willingness to break with psychoanalytic tradition through his Aquarius Rising, its ruler Uranus in the 7th, as well as the Sun in Leo. (Leo-Aquarius is the axis of individuality and originality and coming to terms with the collective resistance to that.)

The only way we can explain his connection to the unconscious depths is through 2 wide aspects: Moon conjunct Pluto (8 degrees) and Pluto conjunct IC (8 degrees, out of sign). The Moon and the IC describe the personal unconscious, Pluto describes the necessity for facing and transforming it, as well as the connection through to the Collective Unconscious. In this sense, another word for Pluto is also ‘life’: it is only our resistance to life, unique in the animal kingdom, which makes it appear as a dark god, which is how we usually know Pluto.

Jung’s chart is an example of why I don’t treat wide aspects as necessarily weak. In Jung’s case, they were about as powerful as they come. I think wideness and out-of-sign-ness can bring space and therefore perspective and consciousness to these aspects. I’ve seen it in myself with my wide, out of sign Sun opposite Pluto. It has always been very operative, demanding that I find authenticity within myself. But the wideness has made me sensitive to the negative aspect of Pluto, which is the misuse of power, the need to dominate others, which you can often see going on unconsciously in the tighter aspects of Sun to Pluto.

Back to the Leo-Aquarius axis. I think these types can start out life very uncomfortable with themselves, because they don’t fit in. Life makes this constant demand on them to be true to themselves, rather than true to the values and expectations they see around them. But when they get older, after a lifetime of learning to trust who they uniquely are, they can be unusually comfortable in their own skins, because their base is real, it is not dependent on others. You see this in Jung, this old man who is deeply who he is, and part of that process was living with the scorn of others, whether it was from the king of the psychological establishment, Freud, or the wider dismissal of him as unscientific and mystical. Lovelock also, as a Leo, has spent much of his life at odds with the establishment.

Jung, incidentally, wasn't very optimistic about the future of mankind, thinking that we might just about 'make it round the corner'. In a sense this isn't that different to Lovelock, though I think Jung was thinking more in terms of nuclear weapons, as his last years coincided with the height of the Cold War.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Nuclear Axis

The ‘nuclear axis’ is due for another shake-up. The chart below is based on the first man-made sustained nuclear reaction, which took place in Chicago in 1942. What is immediately noticeable is the Saturn-Uranus conjunction: the splitting (Uranus) of matter (Saturn). These 2 planets are opposite the Sun, and 8 to 10 degrees of Gemini-Sag has become known as the nuclear axis. It has proved very sensitive to transits. When Hiroshima took place 3 years later, for example, Mars was at 9 Gemini. I first wrote about this in one of my earliest blogs in 2006.

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The early 60s, when Pluto in Virgo squared this axis, was at the height of MAD, or Mutual Assured Destruction, which involved the advent of ballistic missile submarines that ensured a 'second strike capability'.

In the early to mid seventies, Neptune in Sagittarius crossed this axis, and this was the time of the SALT I & II talks, which for the first time limited the nuclear arsenals of the USA and the USSR.

In the late nineties, Pluto in Sagittarius crossed this axis, and this was the time when India and Pakistan came out as nuclear powers, beginning a new era of proliferation.

Next year, Neptune will enter Pisces, squaring by sign the nuclear axis. It will be 7 degrees off, but that is close enough for a hard aspect from Pluto or Neptune to be operative, as it was in the early seventies when Neptune entered Sagittarius.

So far, it seems, the hard Pluto transits have been about proliferation and stand-offs, whereas the one hard Neptune transit we have had has been about containment and reduction of the nuclear threat.

So we are about to enter another Neptune period, and it seems to me that it is again going to be about containment, after a period of proliferation that has drawn in North Korea as well as India and Pakistan, and in which attempts are being made to stop Iran joining the club.

The issue of nuclear arms does, paradoxically, seem to be one that can draw the major powers together. What I’d expect to see over the next 10 years, as Neptune does his work, is for Iran to be stopped from developing nuclear weapons, and for India and Pakistan to be drawn in more formally into agreements on limiting nuclear weapons. As for North Korea, the ‘zombie state’, and the ‘special case’ of Israel, it is hard to say.

If we take the Solar Returns for the Nuclear Chart, the year 2012 looks very interesting, with a Pluto-Venus conjunction on the ASC, trine to Jupiter on the IC. So in 2 years time I think we could see some real progress on containing nuclear weapons.

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The Fixed Stars around the birth of nuclear energy are a bit spooky. In particular, Algol was closely conjunct the ASC. Traditionally, this was the most evil star of all. I don't know what the more modern psychological interpretation is, but Brady gives it the meaning of female passion and intensity. I think I'll stick with the traditional meaning, because nuclear energy is about the most ill-omened event ever to have occurred.

The star Regulus is conjunct the Chiron-Node conjunction in Leo. Nuclear energy is something that once done cannot be undone, and it is very tied up with our destiny and where human curiosity and reason can lead us, and how it can be our undoing. Regulus is one of the Royal Stars and is in the constellation Leo. Brady's meaning is success if revenge is avoided, which sounds about right: success if nuclear energy is only used for peaceful purposes.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Papal Paranoia and the Astrology of the Christian Era

First, the real news. A Geordie (a person from Newcastle) has beaten the world underpants record by donning 211 pairs at once. He began with 40 inch pairs (large) and finished with 60 inch. He commented afterwards: "I felt like if I'd had more pants I could have carried on."

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The record-breaking event took place on Thursday evening in South Shields. I haven’t been able to find the time, but between 7.15 and 8.15 there was a Grand Trine between the Moon, Jupiter and the MC. The Moon was in Scorpio (gonads!) and expansive Jupiter is associated with record-breaking. As the evening progressed, Mars (drive) crossed the Midheaven (public event) in square to Venus in Taurus (beautiful clothing - ?)

Anyway, onto the Pope, who is making a counter-attack. His first response to the latest round of paedophile cover-up allegations, which are starting to home in on Himself, was to accuse his critics of gossip and backbiting. The Buddhist teacher I had in my misspent youth was, and is, just like this when he deigns to respond to personal criticism. It’s like these people think so highly of themselves, they are so above ordinary humanity, that they cannot take seriously criticism from petty worldlings. How can ordinary humans have the temerity to comment on one who has a hotline to Absolute Consciousness?

Round two of the counter-attack came from the Pope’s personal preacher Raniero Cantalamessa, who compared the criticism of the Church to anti-Semitism. It really does show that these ecclesiastical hierarchs think the criticisms are essentially baseless, because the whole point about anti-Semitism is that it is not based on anything the Jews have actually done, it is just racial prejudice. In the case of the Catholic Church, of course, the criticism is very much based on things they have done – not just the paedophile priests, but the institutional cover-up, and even tolerance of paedophilia, that has gone on.

To give the Vatican credit, they did say that Raniero Cantalamessa’s remarks did not represent its official view. But the comparison with anti-Semitism is so outrageous that this bland response amounts to a tacit approval. The head of Germany’s Council of Jews was quite right to call the remarks unprecedented "insolence”.

Fr Cantalamessa was born on 22 July 1934 in Italy. He has a very weakly aspected Mars at 4 Cancer. This is the planet to look at when someone is being belligerent. It is not well-integrated with the rest of his personality, so he may come to regret his remarks. Cancer is a tribal sign, so Fr Cantalamessa is defending his tribe, and being weakly aspected, his Mars can express itself, and did express itself, in a primitive way. Furthermore, Pluto is making an opposition by transit to his Mars, revealing and empowering the archaic nature of Fr Cantalamessa’s Mars. Both Pluto and Cancer can be very primitive in their expression.

The Pope’s Mars in pugilistic Gemini is also being activated by a transiting square from Uranus. It is natally square to Mercury, so he has had plenty of years to hone it (unlike Fr Cantalamessa, who isn’t very skilled with this planet.) Even so, accusing your critics of backbiting and gossip when there is a very clear case to answer is not very sophisticated, and shows the degree to which the Pope feels under attack.

I think the Catholic Church is a primitive institution, and some of its true colours are being revealed in the way it is responding to criticism.

This could be a terminal crisis for the Catholic Church. It is a huge issue. Rowan Williams, the head of the Anglican Church, recently commented on BBC Radio 4: "I was speaking to an Irish friend recently who was saying that it's quite difficult in some parts of Ireland to go down the street wearing a clerical collar now. And an institution so deeply bound into the life of a society, suddenly becoming, suddenly losing all credibility - that's not just a problem for the Church, it is a problem for everybody in Ireland."

I am sure the same situation must be arising wherever the paedophile scandal has come out. And of course it is not just about paedophiles. It is about the whole culture that has created so many of them. They are symptoms of a deeper sickness. The Church of course does not see it like that, and to that extent I think it will not be able to adapt and survive.

Since writing the above, a top Cardinal has referred to the "petty gossip" characterising the furore around the paedophile scandal, and the Pope managed not to refer to it directly in his Easter Sermon.

The Christian Era began on 1st January 1 AD, and it seems quite reasonable to me to draw up a chart for that moment as descriptive of how Christianity is faring at any given time.

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The Sun-Mars-Jupiter Angular t-square shows the evangelistic (Jupiter), crusading (Mars) yet conservative (Sun in Capricorn) nature of the beast. By transit, it is in for a hell of a time over the next few years as both Pluto and Uranus hard aspect this t-square. Pluto has come within 2 degrees of the Angles in the last month, and shows the deep crisis into which the Church is only just entering. The transits show that this crisis is not going to go away. Rather, it will deepen, and it is saying that the Catholic Church has to change or die. At present, it is choosing to die, and I cannot imagine any other course of action under the present Pope. If we look at the progressed chart for the Christian Era, there is a square from the Sun to Pluto that will be exact in one day (5th April 2010). The exactitude of this square tells us just how strong this challenge (square) to the power (Pluto) of the Church leadership (Sun) is. It emphasises that this crisis can only deepen.

It is fascinating to look back 500 years to the Reformation, which split the Church in two. It began in 1517 when Martin Luther posted his criticisms of the Church on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg. That year Pluto was in early Capricorn, a couple of years short of an exact conjunction to the Christian Sun.

Of course it is not just the Catholic Church which is influenced by these transits, because the chart we are using is for the Christian Era itself. So we may expect convulsions in other Christian Churches, and that is certainly what we find in the Anglican Church (or Episcopalian Church as it is known in the US). There is currently a split between the US and African branches of the Church over the ordination of gay men that seems almost certain to split the Church in two.

As I wrote in my last post, Popegate, the Pope's Solar Return for 2014, combined with his transits, strongly indicate he will cease to be Pope that year. So I expect to see 4 years of an embattled, disintegrating Church, followed by some sort of rebirth, maybe of an institution that is a lot smaller and poorer, but that maybe has more sense and humility.

The chart for the Christian Era has some interesting aspect patterns, but I think I'll leave that for another posting.

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