Friday, December 16, 2011

Aries and its problem with ageing

I admire the sign Aries. They are not unlike Capricorns in their desire to be at the top. Except with Capricorn it is a long game requiring years of training, whereas with Aries they have a brilliance and competitive spirit that can get them to the top very early in life.

Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, so they are newly born, they are fresh, naïve even, convinced that theirs is the best way. And they are relentless. The sign is ruled by Mars, and in debate they are always attacking. It is very hard for them to take on the other’s point of view: that is a quality of Libra, the opposite sign. It is rarely worth crossing swords with an Aries, even when they are clearly wrong, for they will fight and keep it up and keep it up until you feel worn down. Gentler souls can feel bruised and out of harmony with their Aries friend, but for him or her conflict is the stuff of life.

Aries qualities and attitudes are youthful, and it is often difficult for them to mellow as they grow older. Because the sign is the first of the zodiac, self-awareness does not come easily, even as they age. So they keep fighting, keep needing the challenge, and in a way this is refreshing and admirable. But you also want them to be able to stand back and have an ironic take on this continual need for challenge.

Otherwise life is likely to hit them with something. I know one Aries who has spent 30 years living in tough physical conditions, enjoying the battle and the romance of it. But it has taken a breakdown in his health that could have killed him to get him to move on. They are very tough, and will die for their cause, but that toughness can become obstinacy.
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It’s not just Sun in Aries. Moon in Aries can be the same. Bill Gates is a Scorpio with Moon conjunct Midheaven in Aries, opposite Mars. There was the early brilliance and desire to beat off the competition. What is interesting about Gates is that he has changed. He no longer runs Microsoft, and is instead putting his wealth into conquering malaria worldwide. It’s still a very Aries thing to be doing, but he is not fighting people in the form of other corporations anymore: his business had for many years a bad reputation for squeezing out and destroying the opposition.

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Steve Jobs had Moon and Mars in Aries, and he remained clearly Aries through to the end. Illness seemed to intensify rather than mellow him. And he seems to me of an example of an Aries who wouldn’t change, being hit by something that might just break the mould. But as I say, Aries will die for their cause, and in a way Steve Jobs did that. And it is now his company that has the bad reputation, in this case for controlling and overcharging its customers, and for having an unhappy, pressurised workforce.

You could say that Christopher Hitchens, who has just died of cancer aged 62, is another Aries who didn't mellow. He had Sun conjunct Mars, Venus and Mercury in Aries. Hitchens was a well-known literary critic and political commentator who couldn’t be fitted into any neat category. As he got older, so did he develop a crusade against religion. He certainly had a point, and he was entertaining, but reason was his god. Richard Dawkins, another crusading atheist, admired him. Hitchens was a champion of the New Atheism movement, which advocates the view that the evident truths of science have now reached the point where "religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises."

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To my mind, this is Aries at its worst. It would be understandable, if naïve, in a young Aries, but in a man in his 60s? It is Libra, the opposite sign, which has ‘the live and let live’ quality that Aries needs. Religion in a way is awful, but it is just another manifestation of mass unconsciousness, of collective dynamics, in a way that membership of political parties can be, or the blind worship of science and reason. It’s just part of the human condition. Aries perhaps more than any other sign is likely to be fighting its own shadow, and I’ve often thought that the New Atheism has, in its zeal and fundamentalism, the characteristics of a religion.

Religion does trap people, but it’s often where they are at, they need that kind of security, they would fall apart without it, so you need to let them have it. And, in its favour, it does advocate a view of reality that is non-rational (as well as often irrational, unreasonable.) It is saying that not everything can be reduced to reason, reason is just a tool, and there is a place, a need, for some kind of faith as a foundation, even though the object of that faith is often crude and intolerant of other faiths.

I have Moon conjunct Saturn in Sagittarius, so the idea of what to have faith in has always been important to me. Particularly because in our age, everything tends to get reduced to reason. But the quest for faith gets confused with the need for certainty (which science is just as capable of providing). And so you always have to look beyond the images and the doctrines and to your own experience, and to a sense that comes and goes that there is some kind of unifying beauty in the universe – or something like that – which can never be pinned down.

Hitchens had a yod in his chart, which is 2 planets that are sextile, and both inconjunct a 3rd planet at the apex of the triangle. I’m not sure I know what yods mean, but they are supposed to indicate some kind of fated element in your life that can never be resolved, but has to be accommodated.

A good example is in the composite chart of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, which had Mercury at the apex, and Neptune and Pluto at the base: these 2 men were forced to communicate (Mercury) by the forces in their collective (Neptune and Pluto), but it was always a very difficult accommodation. Neptune and Pluto were, perhaps, the 2 wings of the party they represented, with Brown being Neptune and Blair Pluto. Or maybe the other way round.

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In Hitchens’ case, Jupiter in Aquarius was at the apex (faith in humanity), with Saturn (tradition) and Uranus (science) at the base. This suggests an ongoing attempt to reconcile religion and science. But Jupiter was square to his Aries Sun, suggesting that his crusading temperament may have got the better of that other dialogue.

In my piece Blair vs Hitchens, Religion vs Science, I gave a recent quote from Hitchens that to my mind is not consistent with the tone of his attacks on religion and to some extent sets the lie to them:

“… 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."

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Steve Jobs and the US Midlife Crisis

I don’t use an Apple computer, but there is one in our house. It looks good, it works well, but I prefer my regular Windows PC. I was a bit amazed at the outpouring of hero-worship when Steve Jobs, the Apple CEO, died a few weeks ago. I didn’t know what I thought, and I also knew that if I said anything critical, it would probably not go down well.

I remembered Obamania in 2008, when Barack Obama could do nothing wrong in the eyes of many otherwise intelligent, liberal leaning people all over the world. At the time I was told by one astrologer that my problem was having Saturn in Sagittarius, which meant that I was afraid of having faith! Actually, I think that Saturn in Sag has given me a long lesson in where to have faith and where not to have faith, and to always be critical.

Let’s be realistic about Steve Jobs: the man was on a mission to conquer the world with gadgets. And he was brilliant at it. This is understandable in a man in his 20s or 30s, but if he’s still doing it in his 50s, then somewhere he has got stuck. That sort of heroic mould belongs to young men (I won’t try and explore women’s psychology here, I wouldn’t know): they want to achieve something, they want to be recognised, they want to excel, and other people are probably going to get trampled on along the way. The actual value, in itself, of the thing they are achieving is secondary. It is the glamour of the thing, what it stands for, that matters. And how you go about achieving your end also tends to be of secondary value. Steve Jobs turned Apple into the USA’s biggest technology company, and he was also known for his anger, for humiliating and belittling people, and for putting his employees under a lot of pressure. Apple was known for not being a happy company. All this is classic young man warrior stuff, but in the body of a dying middle-aged man.
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It has been well-said that in the first half of life, men are ruled by Mars, and in the second half by Venus (and vice-versa, it is said, for women.) Mars is what I have already described. Venus is where you go hang on, what is this doing to me and the people around me? And what is the value, in itself, of the product? This changeover is part of the mid-life passage, which by no means all men go through.

It passes some by with no discernible side-effects, like Rupert Murdoch, for example, still trying to conquer the world in his eighties and still in good health. Some, like Bill Gates, change their values away from money and raw power and want to give back to society, which he is doing in a big way. He does have a Jupiter-Pluto conjunction, so will always want to do something big. But all the same, in trying to free the world from malaria – which is hard to fault – he seems to still be in thrall to the glamour (Neptune) and obligation (Saturn) of achievement, albeit in a less crude form. These things are not black and white.

And then there are others who receive the wake-up call but choose to ignore it. Like Steve Jobs. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003. It can be too easy to attribute someone’s diseases to what you criticise them for, what you don’t like about them. Sometimes cancer is just cancer. And maybe that’s all it was.

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But he was diagnosed as Uranus was starting to conjoin his Sun, and Pluto and Saturn were squaring his Ascendant. With this sort of concurrent demand for transformation, there has to be a connection. Because of our scientific culture, we tend to think in terms of simple cause and effect: Steve Jobs’ refusal to re-examine his life ‘caused’ his pancreatic cancer. But the relationship is synchronous, in the same way that astrology works on synchronicity, which Jung called an ‘acausal connecting principle.’ Two events with a symbolic relationship.

Astrology can help show these synchronous relationships, where one event is saying something about the other event. Not everything is synchronous, discernment is required. In Jobs’ case, not only do we have the transits, with their psychological, even metaphysical demands to awaken and re-examine; we also have medical astrology, in which Pluto and Virgo are associated with the pancreas, and Pluto was squaring Jobs’ Virgo Ascendant in 2003. Moreover, Jobs’ Sun was in the 6th House, affirming a general connection between his health and his realisation of his inner goals.

I suspect that Jobs was ruled by his Moon and Mars in Aries and that his Piscean Sun, which was unaspected, was used by the Moon and Mars for their own ends. Who was Steve Jobs apart from the companies he founded and built? It's hard to find out much about the man apart from his business career, suggesting an over-identification with that. It is possible to be fully and authentically identified with a project, if you are, say, an artist, but conquering the world with electronic gadgets? A Pisces Sun will eventually need quite different conditions than these to continue to move on and unfold.

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Apple itself was an expression of Jobs’ warrior cast of mind. Incorporated on 1st April 1976, it has Sun at 11 Aries in a Cardinal t-square with Mars and Pluto. Jobs’ Moon is at 7 Aries. This t-square is exceptionally dynamic. Uranus conjunct North Node makes it a mould breaker (Obama has this aspect in Leo), while the sign of Scorpio suggests issues to learn around money and power.

If a planet is unaspected, it can be hard for it to find expression, for the rest of the personality can put it to one side. It is interesting that Jobs was adopted. I knew someone who was adopted who also had an an unaspected Sun, and his life seemed to be for him a series of ‘important’ events that proved he existed. He was lacking a foundation. The nature of Apple is interesting in this respect, because it is not built on a stable product that can be developed over time, like say Microsoft or Google are. It is built on relentless innovation, the next big new thing. Jobs was always racing. What did he think would happen if he slowed down or stopped?

Jobs' Moon was also unaspected. The personal planet that was most joined up was Mars in Aries, which aspects 5 other planets. So one could say that it was Mars more than any other planet that ruled his life, subsuming both the Sun and the Moon to its desires and demands. The Moon, being in Aries, fitted well, but the poor old Sun in Pisces didn't have much chance. Jobs spoke about his life in terms of holding fast to what you want and going for it, and this is very Martian. As was his desire to conquer, to be the best, and his often unsavoury way of dealing with people.

Jobs was an American hero with a cult following. Don’t get me wrong, I admire the American ability to get things done and to re-invent itself and to think big. But you need something behind that, something you can come back to that is actually more important. Jobs heroic status in the US says a lot about that culture, that it is still adolescent. The US Neptune and Jobs’ Ascendant are both at 22 Virgo. He made technology (Virgo) sexy (Neptune).

I think America is starting to enter its mid-life crisis, which is a good thing, and Jobs may come to symbolise the end of an age – a golden age for some, depending on your perspective. Natally, the US has Sagittarius Rising and Sun conjunct Jupiter. Hence the expansiveness and optimism, but also the reluctance to grow up, to come down to earth, outside of all that futurism, and find who you are.

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When you enter the mid-life passage, things often stop working so well. This is happening to the US. It’s not just in a recession, which has happened before. China is at its door economically, threatening its pre-eminence, and that is new. It has had its credit rating lowered for the first time. It can no longer control the Middle East, the source of its energy, in the way that it has become used to. The US seems powerless in the face of Iran's nuclear ambitions. And the US progressed Saturn is, for the first time retrograde and starting to pick up speed, just as the US has experienced a Saturn Return. With Saturn, there is pressure to grow up, to move on to the next stage of life.

I have no desire to see America brought low, and America will remain wealthy and powerful for a long time yet. But its confidence is taking a knock and that is a good thing. Failure, or the perception of it, can bring out the best in people. And for America, its best may cease to mean economic and military eminence. What you’re looking for in the mid-life crisis is an ability to value things and people in themselves. With its Venus-Jupiter-Sun stellium in Cancer, America needs to learn to value itself for what it is, its own values and culture, regardless of its place in the world. You could say this is true of any country or individual, but with that stellium in Cancer, the US has a particularly rich and expansive home culture that, with the natal square to Saturn, has been undervalued.

Sun square to Saturn is a particularly difficult aspect when it comes to creating depth. With Sun square Pluto, for example, you will really suffer, or you may do something abominable, if you continue to seek power outside of yourself. But Saturn acts as a barrier that you cannot see through, a voice that tells you that reality lies 'out there' in position and prestige, and which may always seem to you a self-evident truth. You do not have the suffering of Pluto to make you question it, just the self-doubt of Saturn that keeps telling you your value lies in your achievement. It’s painful, but maybe not painful enough.

So the US will always have this niggling doubt about itself that it has been so good at covering up. This aspect is classically related to fathers and their achievement, or lack of it. The US grew out of, and rebelled against a burgeoning British Empire. It had something big to measure up to, and it succeeded many times over. But that niggle is still there. Look at the fascination with British Royalty, which says so much. When I do a chart, I focus on the major challenges. And in the US chart, Sun square Saturn stands out. The real measure of the US is not its ability to achieve, for that is a reactive pattern expressive of the Sun-Saturn aspect. The real measure will be when it can no longer be top dog – for China, with 4 times the population, will eventually beat it hands down. Will the US find another way of feeling at ease with itself? This is not easy for an individual, let alone a collective.

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Undead and Plutonian Change

3000 people took to the streets of Brighton dressed as zombies this weekend. Some of the anti-capitalist protesters in Wall Street have also dressed as zombies. Vampires, another undead phenomenon, have also been very popular in recent years. It’s not all just for kids, either. Anyone out there a True Blood fan?

The world is undergoing a major Pluto transit as it squares up to Uranus in the early cardinal signs, hard aspecting significant points in the charts of all the major powers. We are collectively undergoing a death, with much resistance and hanging on to the old, and maybe the young people dressed as zombies are acting that out for us. The young often sense the future better than we do, and maybe that’s because they are the future.

As you get older you get more ‘realistic’ and you try to stay engaged with it all and there is wisdom in that. But there is also wisdom in the instinctive youthful rejection of the adult world. It’s often inarticulate, but that’s no reason to dismiss it. There’s something for us in it, and it’s also a psychological necessity for them. The Occupy protests, which are occurring under the Uranus-Pluto square, are strongly resonant of the student protests of the 60s, which occurred under a Uranus-Pluto conjunction.

They are not just resonant, they are in a way the same thing one step on, being part of the same Uranus-Pluto cycle. The conjunction sows the seed, while the call to action is much more urgent under the opening square. The conjunction is a sign of things to come; the youth of the 60s saw the deep flaws in the system, but the economy was still boomimg. Now, under the dynamic opening square, the system is reaching decadence, and the protests have a more immediate relevance.
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Uranus and Pluto are often described as ‘evolutionary’ in their function. I think that is putting a human wish on them. They certainly bring about change, each in their own way, but it can be anything but ‘evolutionary’. The last Uranus-Pluto square of the early 30s resulted in the Great Depression and World War II. And then we carried on as before. Different empires, a few tweaks like the UN, but same basic values.

And it is the same with the present Uranus-Pluto square. Things are certainly under pressure to change in a Uranian-Plutonian manner. Deep structures are under threat, the balance of power is shifting eastwards, there is protest and revolution. But to say it is evolutionary suggests that what comes afterwards will be better, and who can judge that? It depends on your point of view. Or you can try saying that Pluto’s ‘real’ intent is evolutionary, it’s just that we ignore it so he becomes destructive or something. But Pluto is not human, and evolution is a human idea, a recent one at that.

We are seeing the cruel side of Uranus-Pluto at present. Col Gaddafi was shot on capture in Libya. Most Libyans are delighted. It’s understandable. The Libyan authority wanted him captured alive and put on trial. Then they would have shot him, a year or two down the line. Parade the monster in a cage for a while, like they do with Death Row in America, then kill him. I think the Chinese system is more humane: a prompt trial, and a prompt execution. And let the collective deal with its own shadow.

We are also seeing the Greek people treated cruelly. They are subject to inhuman austerity measures at the behest of the EU. They are rightly protesting, and the cost-cutting may just drive the economy further downwards. But who is being cruel? Is it Angela Merkel, Germany’s leader? She doesn’t strike me as the type. Is it the Greek Prime Minister? He just seems to be doing his best to save the country. By being a member of the Eurozone, Greece can’t simply default, declare itself bankrupt, which in a way was what Iceland did in letting its banks go to the wall, costing foreign investors huge sums.

It is a cruel situation, created by folly: the Greek government’s overspending in an era of cheap borrowing, and the EU’s creation of a currency without proper controls. You could say the humane thing for the EU to do would be to simply bail out Greece properly and write off enough debt for it to have a good chance, rather than just enough to survive until the next crisis. But looming in the background are exactly the same problems with Spain and Italy, but much bigger, much less affordable. So the EU is paralysed. And so is Greece: in order to default it would have to leave the Eurozone, and it would be on its own, a small indebted country in a world of empires, its trading relationships severely compromised. And behind it all is the dream of a United Europe under threat.

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The EU is in a classic Plutonian crisis. You cannot move, nothing will work, because the paradigm itself has to go. The founding vision for the EU was the Treaty of Rome in 1957. This chart has Sun at 4 Aries, Asc at 6 Libra and MC at 7 Cancer. Pluto has already hard-aspected all these points at least twice.

The way that Pluto change often occurs, especially when there is a lot of resistance (as in this case), is that the entity is destroyed from within by the crossings of Pluto, until all that is left is a shell that one day finds it no longer has the will to go on living. This is what has been happening to the vision of the EU in its present form. The astrology tells me that no-one really believes in it anymore, and that we are simply going through the motions. There is no underlying strength or will to continue. An important crisis meeting of all the leaders has been going on in Brussels this weekend, at the same time as 3000 people dressed as zombies marched through Brighton.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Crazy Ones

Here's to Uranus, currently being empowered by Pluto:

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

As Above, So Below; The Quantum Origins of Life

This picture has been doing the rounds on Facebook. It’s a great example of the idea of ‘As Above, So Below’, which is a symbolic truth rather than a literal truth. If you were to push the comparison between brain cells and galaxies, it would probably break down fairly quickly. All the same, the pictures are similar and the comparison has deep appeal.

Why? Speaking for myself, it makes me feel connected. It is a Neptunian experience. Why do our brains work like this? It is worth remembering that outer reality is a construct of our brains – space, time, left, right etc – and that includes the brain itself.

We forget this. We have created a dream, and the dream has become real. It is humanity’s enduring amnesia. Anything that reminds us of what we have forgotten resonates, it reminds us of home, of where we came from. And the universe, so impossibly large and far away, is at a deep level a construct of our minds. This picture reminds us of that, it reminds us that we are not just the brain cell, we are also the galaxy.

This is also why astrology works. The universe out there is just our minds writ large. If you can read it, it not only gives you self-knowledge, it gives you that sense of connection and homecoming. As with the brain/universe metaphor, astrology works on poetic/symbolic truth, so pushing the metaphors in the wrong sort of way, particularly with the literalising methods of science, will cause them to break down.

Strangely, literal truth and symbolic truth connect through astrology and other divination systems. Astrological truth can also be literal truth, such as ‘Given your work situation and the strength of the astrological factors affecting it, you will almost certainly have a new job in 6 months.’ But it doesn’t work the other way around: literal, observable truth doesn’t easily lead to psychological and metaphysical truths, not unless you’re sensitive with it, which is not part of the remit of the scientific method.

I bought an edition of the New Scientist recently, because it promised an article on the quantum origins of life. As usual, they were spinning an article out of a few maybes, and even then it was about biochemical processes using quantum effects, rather than on the origin of life. But the title was thought-provoking.

I view quantum theory as the point at which the scientific method starts to break down. Science is a model, and like a metaphor, it breaks down when pushed too far – like to the nano level and beyond. Or to the galactic level and beyond: look at the ‘dark energy’ fiasco. Quantum theory has required considerable ingenuity to make it work and even then, after 100 years, a coherent and proven model of that world has yet to fully emerge. The tinier the world that science explores, the more it explodes into multidimensionality and irrationality and indeterminacy.

So when I read about life having quantum origins, I thought that was about right. The ‘rules’ of consciousness are more similar to the rules of the quantum world than they are to the rules of everyday science. Perhaps you could also talk about the galactic origins of life, in that the ‘rules’ of the galaxy require it to consist of 96% unknowable, unobservable ‘dark’ energy, which is again rather like consciousness in the sense of its predominant ‘Unconscious’.
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Incidentally, I think ideas about humanity having been seeded by aliens is part of the same poetry as the brain cell/universe picture. We live in a literalising age, and people easily make fools of themselves when they insist this poetic truth is a literal truth. But that doesn’t make it mere fancy. Poetic truth, mythological truth needs to be experienced as real, as more real than literal truth. Get your head round that one!

So the more science pushes to the extremely large and extremely small, the more it is pushing at boundaries, boundaries between consciousness and matter. The scientific method is based on a hard distinction between inner and outer, on there being a solid, real world ‘out there’ that can be measured. An elementary training in philosophical thinking would make it clear that this outlook is a case of ‘let’s suppose for a moment’. But the undeveloped, the uncivilised human mind wants simplicity and certainty, and mainstream science seems only too happy to provide this.

Particularly with the nano world, it has been clear for a century that we are no longer dealing with a solid, separate, ‘out there’ world. Not just because of its indeterminacy, but because it is known that at this level you can’t separate the observer from the observed. This insight has not been carried through to mainstream science, perhaps because the effect of the observer is not so obvious on an everyday level, and because of its subtlety.

But on the nano level, we are dealing with a place where the connection between matter and consciousness is clear, and where the rigid boundary between ‘subject’ and ‘object’ starts to break down. Quantum Reality has huge philosophical implications that have been explored by some authors, but even after a century have not reached the mainstream in a rigorous way.

They probably never will, if you look at the history of religion. Religions tend to have a mainstream that is sustained by simple, collectively-held certainties, and a mystical heretical fringe composed of individuals who have their own unique relationship with the truth. Science is no different. It has many of the characteristics of religion. One of this year’s Nobel Prize winners discovered a new form of crystal, and had to endure years of ridicule before his ideas were taken seriously. That’s religion for you.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Mid-Life Crisis

We all know about the mid-life crisis that corresponds to Uranus opposite natal Uranus, occurring sometime between the late thirties and early forties. I’d noticed that this ‘crisis’ seems to go on longer than that, and also that all the outer planets reach challenging points in their cycles between our late thirties and mid-forties: Pluto square Pluto, Neptune square Neptune, Uranus opposite Uranus and Saturn opposite Saturn. Chuck in that over-egged asteroid Chiron, and you have the Chiron return at 50-51.

I think Uranus gets singled out because his effects are often dramatic, but I think it’s much more accurate astrologically to talk in terms of a mid-life passage that lasts for up to 9 years. Events usually occur in this period that can cause us to reconsider our values, what is important to us, and to make corresponding, and often major, changes. Often it means finding OUR values as opposed to the ones we grew up around. The choice always remains ours: you see some people, subject to distressing events that confound their expectations of life, coming out the other side as though nothing has happened.

This 9 year period could be seen as pivotal rather than as the whole change, because that search for a life that is authentically us, and not just the product of unexamined hopes, fears and compulsions, is a gradual process, often taking decades. Mine began in my early thirties, and twenty years later it is still going on. But that 9 year period, where all the outer planets hard-aspect their natal positions, was when I made a decisive change from one life to another, that put me out there on my own. It is always a solitary journey; you no longer have the implied affirmation of others. The source of authority moves firmly within.

The Jungian analyst James Hollis writes about this extended period of change in his book The Middle Passage. Here is an excerpt:

I call the period roughly from 12 to 40 the first adulthood. The young person who knows, deep down, that he or she lacks a clear sense of self can only try to act like the other big people. It is an understandable delusion that if one comports oneself as one’s parents have, or rebels against their example, one will thereby be an adult. If one holds a job, marries, becomes a parent and taxpayer, the confirmation of adulthood will surely follow. In fact, what has occurred is that the dependency of childhood has partly gone underground and has been projected onto the roles of adulthood. These roles are not unlike parallel tunnels. Out of the confusion of adolescence one walks through them with the assumption that they will confirm one’s identity, provide fulfilment and still the terrors of the unknown. The first adulthood, which may in fact extend throughout one’s life, is a provisional existence, lacking the depth and uniqueness which makes that person truly an individual.
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These tunnels are of an indeterminate length. They endure for as long as the projected identity and dependency upon them still seems to work. It is next to impossible to tell a thirty year old who is productively working, married and expecting a second child that he or she is still in a form of extended childhood. The parent complexes and the authority of the roles offered by society have sufficient power to attract the projections of anyone still exploring life in the world. As suggested earlier, the Self, that mysterious process within each one of us which summons us to ourselves, often expresses itself through symptoms – loss of energy, depression, sudden fits of rage or over-consumption – but the power of the projections is such that one may keep the larger questions of the journey at bay.

How terrifying it is, then, when the projections wear off and the person can no longer avoid the insurgence of the Self. Then, one must confess to powerlessness, to loss of control. The ego never was in control but rather was driven by the energy of the parental and collective complexes, sustained by the power of the projections onto the roles offered by the culture to those who would be adults. As long as the roles have normative power, as long as the projections work, the individual has managed to forestall the appointment with the inherent Self.

The third phase of identity, the second adulthood, is launched when one’s projections have dissolved. The sense of betrayal, of failed expectations, the vacuum and loss of meaning which occur with this dissolution, creates the mid-life crisis. It is in this crisis, however, that one has the chance to become an individual – beyond the determinism of parents, parent complexes and cultural conditioning. Tragically, the regressive power of the psyche, with its reliance on authority, often keeps a person in thrall to these complexes and thereby freezes development.

In working with the elderly, each of whom has to face loss and anticipate death, there are clearly two categories. There are those for whom the life remaining is still a challenge, still worthy of the good fight, and those for whom life is full of bitterness, regret and fear. The former are invariably those who have gone through some earlier struggle, experienced the death of the first adulthood and accepted greater responsibility for their lives. They spend their last years living more consciously. Those who have avoided the first death are haunted by the second, afraid their lives have not been meaningful.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Science and Astrology

You’ve probably noticed I bang on about Science a lot. I’m going to do so again today, but with more astrology than last time. I think. Why do I bang on about it? Probably because I’ve got Sun in Aquarius, which gives a natural interest in science. But also because I have Sun opposite Pluto, which makes me acutely aware of anything I find disempowering. I struggle against it until my head emerges above the water.

Some people find it difficult to understand that one can be critical of something without being agin it. I find science to be a beautiful and useful creation. But I am strongly against its tendency to usurp its place, its evangelical tendency to oppose anything in society that does not see truth in its own narrow terms. And the collective brainwashing that comes with it, so that many people feel, maybe despite themselves in many cases, that scientific reality IS reality.

I don’t think views are that important. It’s the way you hold them that matters. A failing of the ‘alternative’ section of society can be to assume superiority because of the views they have adopted, usually green, left wing, ‘spiritual’ and often anti-government.
In my experience, these views can sometimes be rigidly held, not thought through, and adopted as part of a package. Much more impressive to me might be, for example, a wealthy Tory-voting businessman who has come in his own way to feel a degree of responsibility to society.

My job as an astrologer is to help people develop and trust their own judgement, rather than foist my views on them (which are many!) Human development has nothing to do with whether your political views are left or right wing or the degree to which you believe in green energy or alternative medicine. It is the degree to which you have made your experience your own that matters, and the degree to which you are able to observe and use, rather than unconsciously take on, trends in the collective.

So this is why I bang on about Science: because I feel it has a collective power over people’s minds that is not healthy, that is a form of brainwashing (just like Christianity was in the Middle Ages) – the Enlightenment idea that everything needs to be reduced to reason, and reason in the particularly narrow, lab-rat form that science takes for truth. Don't get me wrong - as an Aquarian I am in love with reason. But it has its limits.

This is why in my piece last Friday I was expressing delight that the speed of light appears to have been broken. Because it meant a foundation stone of modern science had been undermined, an 'immutable' truth was slipping away.
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What I wanted to do was to look at some of the astrology around current developments in Science.

First of all, Einstein’s chart. Charts of famous dead people continue to work because their influence continues. Einstein’s Mercury, his mind, is still around.

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Saturn can make you old for your years (or the opposite: you may need to wait till you are old for that aspect to come to fruition.) In Einstein’s case, his Mercury-Saturn conjunction gave him a precocious intellect (that became Saturn in the negative sense – conservative and closed to new ideas – as he grew older.) And this conjunction is in Aries (fresh and groundbreaking) and in a yod with the North Node in Sagittarius (universal vision) and Uranus (radical and original science).

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And what do we find now that his idea about the absoluteness of the speed of light appears to have been proved wrong? By transit, Uranus is conjoining his Mercury, and Pluto is squaring it. By Progression, Mercury is moving up to conjoin his natal then prog Uranus! And the Prog Node is moving towards opposing his Prog MC.

All this suggests to me that indeed the speed of light has been broken, and there is more to come over the next few years as the progressed aspects become exact. More of Einstein’s thoughts, so fundamental to the way modern science sees the world, will unravel.

Uranus is the planet that rules Science, and at present he is in Aries in a square to Pluto in Capricorn, which will continue for at least another 4 years. So this is the bigger picture behind the breaking of the speed of light: the destruction (Pluto) of established (Capricorn) science (Uranus) and the creation of a new vision (Aries).

But Capricorn is also about limits. Science is a model of reality, rather than reality itself. This gets forgotten. Maybe Pluto in Capricorn will have a lot to do with science realising its limits.

It is not just the speed of light that has been broken. In the last few weeks the evidence has started to go against both dark matter and supersymmetry, theories which are foundational to our understanding of the macro and micro universes. This is happening again under the Pluto-Uranus square, which suggests it is not just one or two theories being proved wrong, but something more fundamental that is happening.

To me, it is obvious that Science must sooner or later start to find its limits, because apart from being a mere a model of reality, it also confines itself to rationality. Maybe this is what is starting to happen. You push a model to extremes – in this case to the extremely large and the extremely small – and it starts to break down, it becomes harder and harder to make progress.

That said, in the ‘middle-ground’ where Science works very well and will no doubt continue to work very well, we are seeing a string of developments brought on by the creation of superior instruments. There have been a series of new space telescopes, and the building of the Large Hadron Collider, the biggest ever atom-smasher, at Cern.

As I have said before, my dream is that every schoolkid will learn the wonders of Science, but will also be taught that it is just a tool that eventually breaks down, perhaps when faced with the extremely large and the extremely small.

For most of last year, there was a Jupiter-Uranus conjunction, which is particularly associated with scientific advance and breakthrough. This conjunction overlapped with a Saturn-Uranus opposition, the time when these new instruments were being built.

So Uranus as Science has been considerably activated over the last few years: firstly by Saturn, a time of planning and building; then by Jupiter, when the new instruments started functioning and results – such as lots of new exo-planets - started coming in; and now by Pluto, suggesting a radical overhaul of our scientific understanding, as well as an empowerment of Science.

The Jupiter-Uranus conjunction took place at the end of Pisces and at the beginning of Aries, the last and first signs of the zodiac, suggesting the beginning of a new era. If we were to find signs of life on other planets, now would be the time: the incredible newness of Jupiter-Uranus at the beginning of Aries, followed by the transformation of vision under Uranus-Pluto that would result. And the new, cosmic dream of Neptune in Pisces.

Some would say they know there is life out there anyway, because aliens have been visiting for years. I tend to think these experiences are real, no less real than material reality, maybe even more so, but they belong to Neptune. An Indian friend once told me that when you have a visionary experience, it appears at the time as just as real as everyday experience, and it is often only afterwards that you realise what it was. I think experience of aliens falls into this category. Otherwise it’s like why do they ALL play hide and seek?

It seems to me just a matter of time before we scientific evidence out there of life-as-we-know-it, as we are now finding so many new exo-planets. What you need to find is light that has the signature of complex organic molecules. It’s going to be inference, rather than actual sighting.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Humanity Enters the Dreamtime

Neptune began to change sign earlier this year, from Aquarius to Pisces. Neptune governs the underlying myths, the underlying dreams by which we live. This is not just an overlay on ‘objective’ reality: these myths ARE the objective reality. They generate it. It requires a certain amount of subtlety, however, to see this. Naïve literalism, with black and white values, is a much easier and more certain way to live.

A simple example would be the experience of space as a real 3-d box within which everything happens. If you think about it, 3-d space is just a way in which the brain builds relationships between the objects it experiences. It is not literally there, it is just a story. It is a story which, to us, is real.

When Neptune changes sign (about every 14 years), our dreams, our mythologies change. They change anyway as Neptune moves through a sign, they gather momentum. But particularly when Neptune enters a mutable sign, and particularly when it is Pisces, the 12th and final sign of the zodiac, old dreams and mythologies fall apart. Humanity collectively enters the dreamtime, the land where all things are possible, but where all is spirit and it can be hard to manifest.

Humanity is embarking on a big bit of dreaming for the next 14 years, but we will not be properly ready to live it until Neptune enters Aries, the 1st sign of the zodiac, the place of new vision, in 14 years time. 

Neptune is leaving Aquarius, the sign on a collective level of Science and Democracy. And what do we find? In America, the home (as they see it) of Democracy, the system is ceasing to work. In July and August, at a time of financial crisis, the government was paralysed by partisan dispute, and as a result America for the first time had its credit rating reduced. In Europe, another proudly democratic continent facing a financial crisis, the collective government is also paralysed, not this time by partisanship, but by a system that was a product of political idealism that got carried away with itself. The system that is working and that is on the rise, and which is anything but democratic, is Chinese totalitarian government.

As Neptune leaves Aquarius, so is the dream of Democracy starting to fade. With Neptune’s dying breath in Aquarius, we have this year seen the ‘Arab Spring’, the widespread and sometimes successful revolts against autocratic, secular leaders. But as in the Iranian revolution 30 years ago (which took place with the Sun in Aquarius), the eventual outcome seems just as likely to be theocracy: you don’t even need a majority vote for this, just a determined minority, and the Islamists are certainly determined.
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Only yesterday on BBC News there was an article entitled ‘Dark matter theory may be wrong’. A few days ago there was an article in which the idea of supersymmetry was brought into doubt. In both cases the doubt came as a result of experimental evidence. These theories have become fundamental to the way science sees the universe at the galactic and quantum levels respectively. Science has been stuck for some decades now in trying to develop theories, backed up by evidence, as to how the universe works when faced with the extremely large and extremely small.

I have always doubted the existence of dark matter. You could say Dark Matter is a projection onto the universe of our own ignorance: there’s lots of it – 96% of the universe – and it’s impossible to detect. It’s a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes.
It’s been as though any theory that will explain major gravitational anomalies, however outlandish, is better than no theory. It’s based on a primitive need for certainty.

As Neptune leaves Aquarius, so it seems to me is the dream of Science as in principle able to explain everything, fading. I, for one, am delighted!

There is a difference between ignorance and not knowing. Not knowing is a wonderful place to be: the Universe opens up as a ‘Great Mystery’, and wisdom flows from it. Socrates claimed to be the wisest man in Athens because he knew he didn’t know. In the West, we have become addicted to certainty, whether through the claims of Christianity, or latterly through Science and political ideologies. And this is ignorance, which comes from the word ignore, suggesting something wilful: it’s obvious when you think about it that there’s very little, if anything, that we really know. But we don’t think about this, we feel about it, and it feels uncomfortable and insecure. So we ignore it, we choose to be ignorant. Ignorance is thinking you know.

So this is where Neptune is starting to take us as he enters Pisces: into the place of not knowing which, for humanity as a collective beast, is a very uncomfortable place to be. I think this is why the prophecies around 2012 are so popular: they provide a sense of certainty and even hope in a world which is increasingly uncertain, and in which we are rapidly destroying the environment and resources we need in order to have a future.
To this extent I think the 2012 mythology is a cop-out, a collective delusion. To sort a situation you need to head straight into it, taking the time to re-dream it as you go, on an individual level. There are no inevitabilities in either direction. 2012 mythology is not mainstream, it belongs to the ‘alternative’, more ‘enlightened’ culture, which in this respect is showing itself to be just as superstitious as any collective is in times of insecurity. Some 2012 mythologies are apocalyptic, others describe collective spiritual transformation. In either case, they produce disengagement from the actual problems while we wait for the causeless big event that will change everything.

All the big ideas of the 20th century are failing: communism and democracy as political absolutes, scientific knowledge as metaphysical underpinning, the inevitability of economic progress. Neptune in Pisces is underscoring this. The Great Recession, which seems about to double-dip, and the rise of China, have given the West a tremendous blow to its self-confidence, and this has not fully played through yet by a long chalk. We are still hoping that things will go back to what they were.

Pluto is usually considered to be the planet of ‘power’. And he is that, he gives us the power to live and the power to transform and unfold. His power is basic and raw. But Neptune has his own power, which is the mythologies we live by. People will live and die for them, they are that real to us. There is something human about Neptune that Pluto does not share, because animals and plants do not live by mythologies: they just live, they know what they are, and they get on with it. Pluto lives in the Underworld, he is not human (though he still has a very important role to play for us.)
Neptune, in a way, is also not of the human realm, because he is god of the ocean. But while we cannot visit the Underworld – not, that is, if we hope to return – we have always sailed the seas, we have always visited the life-giving waters of the Imagination which Neptune represents. For humans, Pluto alone does not enable us to live. Without Neptune, we will die of a different kind of thirst.

So Neptune in his own sign of Pisces is tremendously powerful. It is a cauldron of the Imagination. His Ingress into Pisces represents the old certainties failing, and that creates much collective anxiety. We can inevitably expect a retreat into right-wing governments and fundamentalist religions as a response, for now, to that anxiety and insecurity (as well as into millenarian, 2012-type prophecies.) And that is described by the Uranus-Pluto square which is occurring concurrently: the empowerment (Pluto) of radicalism (Uranus), whether of a left or right wing variety. Uranus is an archaic god, and can describe a collective retreat into primitive, less conscious forms at times of insecurity: look at the rise of Fascist regimes under the last Uranus-Pluto square in the 20s/30s.
Rick Perry, Mr Texan Death Penalty, who is starting to lead the Republican race in the US, is an appropriate expression of this.

There is an issue of survival which has not filtered through to the collective yet, blinded as we are by advertising and politicians. The survival issue is of course based around environmental degradation and the profligate consumption of limited resources. Perhaps the larger a collective is, the stupider it gets. Any intelligent individual can see the danger, but what can they do? Preach to the converted? Any ‘primitive’ tribe would have acted by now.

And unfortunately, the party isn’t over yet. There are still enough resources left so that when a humbled West picks itself up again some years down the line (as Uranus finishes its square to Pluto around 2015), it can continue for a while as before, albeit less sure of itself, less dominant in the world. This shift in the world balance of power, away from the West and in favour of the BRIC countries, seems to be much of the meaning of this Uranus-Pluto square.

But all the while Neptune will be in Pisces, a subterranean collective re-dreaming on the part of what is now a global tribe. Uranus-Pluto will come to an end in 4-5 years, but Neptune will remain in Pisces for a further 9-10 years. The party will be continuing, but not with the old certainties: they will be in Neptune’s cauldron.

Interestingly, Neptune’s passage through a sign, 14 years, is about the same time as Saturn takes to complete half a cycle round the Sun. Saturn is the opposite of Neptune, he is the planet of manifestation. When he is opposite himself – opposite where he was when Neptune entered that sign – then there is a strong impulse to manifest. In this way Saturn brings Neptune’s dreams into reality, makes his visions grow corn.

Uranus-Pluto is not just about the shift in the world balance of power. Its influence will be felt at many levels, locally as well as globally. And the empowerment of Uranian radicalism, which is so central to the meaning of this transit, will feed into the re-dreaming of Neptune in Pisces, in the progressive sense of Uranus. Pluto is about survival, and while one response to the current crisis will be a retreat into right wing governments and fundamentalism, another will be a growing awareness of the real threat to our survival.

So there is this other, more hopeful, side to Uranus-Pluto which is kind of inevitable, because Pluto is there to ensure our survival. He is the life-force. You put that together with Neptune in Pisces, and you can see a growing current in the collective, determined that we should survive (Pluto), open to radical solutions (Uranus) and quietly dreaming the sort of world in which this is possible (Neptune.) As I said earlier, there are no certainties, and if we do build a slightly saner world, there is no knowing at this stage what form it will take. But if the outer planets teach us anything, it is that there are powers beyond us, creative depths to nature that in our hubris we overlook. The present situation is certainly an outcome of hubris, and you cannot avoid the eventual cost of that; but the outer planets, nature itself, has a way of surviving, and humanity is part of nature.

We are not just another species, we are a new development, and maybe we won’t last, or maybe most of us will be wiped out, only to repeat the same mistakes, as in Battlestar Galactica, some millennia down the line.
But what we have forgotten is that there is a deeper knowing within us, that knows where to go from here on a collective level, and Neptune in Pisces can take us there. It comes down to whether collectively we are prepared to listen. We ain’t there yet, but as we emerge from the Uranus-Pluto reckoning of the next few years, and as Neptune – as we collectively - have time to dream deeply from there on, a way forward will gradually present itself. Neptune is, after all, the planet of redemption.

The chart for Neptune’s first entry into Pisces, on 3/4 April 2011 (depending where you live) is quite remarkable, for it has 6 planets, including a New Moon, in Aries.

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It sends a strong message that out of the collective re-dreaming, the search for new ideas/mythologies, of the next 14 years, something very, very new will be born. As if to underscore this point, the Ingress chart for Neptune into Aries in 2025 also takes place under a New Moon in Aries. Spooky!

I want to be fanciful for a moment, but I have talked about Neptune in Pisces in terms of the Dreamtime, which is an Australian aboriginal idea. And Uluru, or Ayers Rock has come for us westerners to most symbolise that dreamtime. So what was happening at Uluru when Neptune entered Pisces?

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As you can see, the Ascendant was at the midpoint of Pluto and the North Node, both of which were within 5 degrees of the Ascendant. This suggests the power (Pluto) and significance (Node) of the idea of Neptune in Pisces as humanity's Dreamtime.

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