Sunday, July 17, 2011

Uranus-Pluto Crises

We’ve been here many times before with the showdown between the US President and Congress over the next year’s Federal Budget and raising the debt ceiling. It can lead to shutdowns of government departments until the money is there to run them. These shutdowns began under President Carter.

But we haven’t had one of these showdowns before under a Uranus square Pluto transit. These 2 planets will be within about a degree of an exact square until early August. Moody’s is considering downgrading US government debt from its AAA status on what it calls the low but not insignificant risk that the US government may default on some of its debt obligations. If the US government were to default, it would be under a transit such as this. It would have huge international ramifications.

Uranus-Pluto brings crisis followed by dramatic and far-reaching change. With these 2 planets being currently so close, it is not surprising that the crises are bigger than usual. The European debt crisis has escalated again, with several countries vulnerable to default. And it is no longer just minor economies like Greece and Portugal. Italy is now on the list.

The tightness of Uranus-Pluto suggests to me that the US budget crisis and the European crisis cannot be dealt with in the usual ways: more bail-outs in the case of Europe, and political compromise along with ever higher levels of debt in the case of the US. These crises, because they are happening under this major astrological aspect, can only be solved by deep structural change.

It’s like we’ve been moving towards this for some years now. Astrologers have known that with Pluto moving into Capricorn, to be squared by Uranus a few years later, deep change in the world economy was on the way. The stock market lurched almost to the day as Pluto first moved into Capricorn back in early 2008. Since then we have gone from lurch to lurch, seemingly staring into the economic abyss and pulling back each time with various rescue deals. But the crises keep coming back.

Uranus-Pluto says to me that something at some point is going to give. If it is not this year under the almost exact square, then it will be next year under the exact square. But the present sense of crisis will not ease until early August, when Uranus and Pluto begin to separate.

I said ‘economic abyss’, but that is just how something appears when you are resisting Pluto’s ministrations. Giving in to Pluto is never as bad as you think it is going to be. Pluto resides deep underground, and part of his function is to bring us down to earth. The western world needs to find a new basis for its economy, based on being less affluent than we used to be. Resources will have to be spread more widely to include the BRIC countries, and with their living standards going up, we cannot rely long term on cheap goods based on their cheap labour. Less affluent doesn’t necessarily mean less happy, but we have forgotten that. In some ways a major default might be a good thing, and the sooner the better.

The word crisis comes from the Greek krisis meaning ‘the turning point in a disease’. Astrologically, I’d say that turning point will happen some time in the next year. Pluto’s entry into Capricorn in 2008 was in conjunction with Venus and Jupiter, which is economically favourable. The first exact square from Uranus to Pluto on 24 June next year also has a Venus-Jupiter conjunction. ‘Favourable’ is a relative term which in this case means we have merely had the Great Recession instead of the second Great Depression!

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation is in crisis as well. This is also Uranus-Pluto. It is only one company, but it is the world’s second largest media conglomerate. It is iconic and influential, and the scandal is going to affect standards and practices across the journalistic world. This is what happens when capitalism is not properly regulated and scrutinised: its competitive nature means that there is strong pressure to do whatever it takes to beat your rivals, in this case getting news scoops by hacking dead people’s phones.

It is the same story that we saw with the banking industry: laissez faire under Pluto in Sag leading to crisis and regulation under Pluto in Capricorn.

America’s relations with Pakistan, a crucial ally, have also been in crisis since the raid which killed bin Laden. Again, it is only a difficulty between 2 countries, one of them not very powerful. But America’s continual infringement of Pakistan's sovereignty is pushing this nuclear-armed country more and more into the hands of the Islamists. And that would be very big indeed. Hillary Clinton described this prospect a while back as a ‘mortal threat’ to the international community.

So we are in major crisis season, as one would expect from a tight Uranus-Pluto aspect. Crises are turning points. You can only put off dealing with them for so long. Any that are not dealt with now will surely have to be dealt with in a year’s time, under the exact square.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Saturn in your Fifties

Saturn is the planet of our progress through the world. He operates more consciously and concretely than Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Saturn we can work with, whereas with the outer planets something entirely new and unpredictable is coming in, and the best we can do is just run with it. And trust.

Saturn returns to its natal position when we are 29-30. This is the Saturn Return, and it usually corresponds to some sort of stepping up of worldly responsibility, whether through promotion at work or getting married and having children. It can also be a confusing time, because Saturn is a planet of duties and expectations. So you may have spent your twenties living how you felt you ought to live, working 9 to 5 and trying to do what everyone else does. The Saturn Return can upset this, because it needs to be your Saturn that you are living, not someone else’s.

The Saturn Return, however, is not the first major Saturnian event of adult life. The first such event is when we leave home, leave college and start working and living in the world. Typically this would occur at the last Saturn square before the Return, at age 21-ish. At this age, it is dynamic and challenging. Or you may be 23/24, when there is a sextile of Saturn to natal Saturn. You are maybe not quite so driven, you take your time, you are maybe better qualified, and it is easier.

That’s all a bit schematic and I’m sure it’s never that cut and dried. But the point I’m coming to is that in our early 50s we have the Return of that first major Saturn event. We have completed a 30 year cycle of being in the world, and it is time to take stock.

In previous times, when people did not live so long, this Return would signal the beginning of the slope down to retirement, cemented further by the second actual Saturn Return in the late 50s.

But not now. In our early 50s we are still young enough to start over, building on our 30 years in the world. Being 53, I find myself pulled two ways. There is the old mind-set which says that all you can do is carry on with what you are doing and expect to slowly wind down. And that was quite reasonable in its day. And there is the new mind-set, which says it’s time for a new start. Which is what seems to be happening.

I don’t know how long we will continue to have such improved health and longevity in the West. But while we have, I think we need to view the early 50s as a time of new beginnings. You still have 3 decades ahead of you. The crises, the long slow changes of the 40s are over. Saturn opposite Saturn, Uranus opposite Uranus, Neptune square Neptune, Pluto square Pluto, even the Chiron Return are all done with.

The new start of the early 50s has very sure foundations, and reaches fruition at the second Saturn Return of the late 50s.

An example: Bill Gates left college in 1975, aged 20, and began working in the fledgling computer industry. 31 years later - one Saturn cycle - he announced he was leaving Microsoft to concentrate on his charitable work. His second Saturn Return is still a few years off.

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Saturday, July 09, 2011

Pluto in Sag, Pluto in Cap and the News of the World

In the UK we have high drama in the publishing world, with Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World, one of the best-selling Sunday papers, being shut down after phone-hacking allegations. The issue first blew up about 5 years ago, after it emerged that royal phones had been hacked by reporters. Heads rolled and journalists went to prison and more celebrity hacking allegations emerged. But now it is alleged that reporters hacked the phone of a teenager who had been murdered. They deleted some of her messages, leading her parents to hope that she was still alive. Other high-profile child-murder cases are being reviewed to see if there was similar activity.

All this was going on while Pluto was in Sagittarius. Sagittarius is publishing and Pluto is dirty tricks and invasion of privacy.

The News of the World was first published 168 years ago, which looks to me like 2 cycles of Uranus. It does indeed have its 2nd Uranus return going on, and this cycle is associated with sudden disruptive events that change your life. The Uranus opposition, occurring aged 40-42, is famously associated with the mid-life crisis (I think actually it begins it, and that the ‘crisis’ continues until our mid to late forties, as Saturn, Neptune and Pluto also reach major points in their cycles.)

So the sudden death of the NoW is a classic Uranus event, particularly the conjunction, which is the cyclical end point. It is a deeply cynical move: people expect to see the Sun newspaper, also Murdoch owned, producing a Sunday edition shortly.

NewsCorp seems to have no values apart from the accumulation of power and money. British Prime Ministers have been well aware since Thatcher that you need the Murdoch press on board to win an election. NewsCorp was incorporated in New York on 12 Nov 2004, on a New Moon in Scorpio, with Mars conjunct South Node in Scorpio. Scorpio at its worst is about power for its own sake. So it is a very appropriate chart. Murdoch himself has Sun in Pisces, just in case there's anyone out there who thinks Pisces people are gentle, lovable Old Souls! Being the most collective of the signs, it can use the power of the collective more than any other sign, for better or for worse.

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The NoW began in 1843 as it continued. It “was aimed directly at the newly literate working classes. It quickly established itself as a purveyor of titillation, shock and criminal news. Much of the source material came from coverage of vice prosecutions, including transcripts of police descriptions of alleged brothels, streetwalkers, and "immoral" women.” Then as now, the police were probably being paid by the newspaper.

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If we see the Sun as the founder and owner of the paper, then the Moon is the people who read it: it is in Capricorn conjunct Saturn and square to Pluto. This is the secret of its success. The people were very conventional and restrained (Capricorn/Saturn/Victorian Era) and Pluto was the fascination with transgressive behaviour that such restraint produces. Now, under Pluto in Capricorn, popular disgust with its methods have brought about its closure.

It’s always worth looking to oneself when a popular bout of righteous indignation is going on. There is a level on which we enjoy being disgusted and appalled. I do! That is why these newspapers sell. All societies have their shadow side, and we need to see it being enacted somewhere to keep us sane. Otherwise we would have to face ourselves, and many of us would implode. The NoW only existed because people paid for it. Like the police who end up in the pay of criminals, the reporters moved ever closer to becoming the monsters they were writing about.

I think the way to approach the shadow side is not to have any idea of transforming it. Let it take care of itself. The only issue is being aware of it versus projecting it onto others.

(The US has a particular shadow fascination in the form of foreign monsters, whether it was the Communists, Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden. It is a need the country has. For a short while, after the fall of Communism, it did not have such an enemy, and the country turned inwards, producing its own home grown terrorists fearful of the New World Order. America is again without a public enemy No 1 after the death of bin Laden, but it will inevitably not be long before another emerges.)

Andy Coulson was the editor of the NoW at the time of the latest phone-hacking allegations, and he has been arrested. He was forced to resign in 2007 after the first bout of allegations (a royal phone-tapping scandal), and claimed he knew nothing about them. This was ludicrous, but he got away with it, and was appointed David Cameron’s main PR man 6 months later. The allegations continued, and 4 years later he resigned as Cameron’s PR man.

So what was Cameron thinking of? Of course Coulson knew what had been happening, he was the editor. He was lying, and being the paper it was, there would inevitably have been other dirty tricks, including phone-tapping, that hadn’t yet come out.

Cameron is a Libran, and his Venus at 7.33 Libra is exactly conjunct the Sun-Venus of the NoW. That is a very strong connection, with perhaps not enough space for reflection. Or a perception that your popular appeal (Venus in a politician) is inextricably tied to the NoW.

Libra, in its desire to create good relations, is often naïve about people. (Have you noticed that if you make a critical observation about someone to a Libran, they will instinctively defend them, and you end up feeling like the bad, ungenerous guy for having said something truthful!)

Cameron is now leading the popular sense of disgust at the NoW (which, of course, we are all enjoying. String ‘em up, put them in the stocks!) But he is also defending his decision to employ Andy Coulson. He said he had decided to give him a second chance. There it is, the Libran naivety. I’m the good guy giving this guy a second chance. But it is strange. You only give someone a second chance if they have done something wrong. But at the time, Coulson had officially done nothing wrong, though we all knew he had.

So Cameron is trying to have it both ways. Either Coulson had done nothing wrong, in which case he didn’t need a second chance. Or he had done something wrong, and on top of that was lying about it, so what was David Cameron thinking of?
I wonder how conscious Cameron is of his Mercury in Scorpio which, being in square to his natal Moon-Jupiter in Leo, can be tricksy and self-serving.

Cameron clearly thinks of himself and sincere and straightforward, but then how do we explain his behaviour over his personal passion, the National Health Service? Soon after the election, we were presented with plans to radically overhaul it, which he had previously concealed, presumably to get elected. Then the detailed plans were presented some months later, and they clearly hadn’t been thought through properly by Andrew Lansley, the Health Minister, and they came tumbling down. Firstly we have what I think was Cameron’s deviousness in keeping plans of this magnitude concealed. Mercury in Scorpio. And then he put too much trust in a minister to sort it all out. Sun and Venus in Libra.

People don’t usually have much wisdom unless they’ve been dismembered to some extent and had to rebuild themselves. This process makes them more who they authentically are, and less a product of their background and childhood fantasies (Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, wanted to be 'King of the World' as a child.) The trouble with politics is that you can’t do that. You always have to look good, and if you come apart, that is the end of your political career. This is why we had so much trouble with Tony Blair. He had his dismembering while he was Prime Minister, and the country had to suffer it. Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to learn much – he just turned increasingly to religion.

So I think it’s the same with David Cameron, another young PM, who is less of a religious nut and also less politically talented. He is earnest and hard-working and a bit naïve in a Libran way. Cameron has Sun at 15 Libra, so his dismembering won’t be for another 3 years, when first Uranus then Pluto hard-aspect his Sun. Expect betrayal (Pluto) by those close to him (Libra), particularly by his even younger Chancellor, George Osborne. With Sun in Gemini opposite Jupiter-Neptune, Osborne is a much more talented showman than Cameron.

NewsCorp is facing a crunch point in its attempts to take full control of BskyB, the main satellite broadcaster in the UK. There is a lot of opposition to more Murdoch domination of the airwaves. It seems more than a coincidence that this crisis over the NoW, which brings into question Murdoch’s fitness as a broadcaster, should happen now.

Another big issue around the press lately has been super-injunctions, whereby celebrities are able to get gagging orders to stop the press not just from revealing their sexual misdemeanours, but also from revealing the existence of a gagging order. The move towards greater legal protection of privacy began in 1998 after the European Human Rights Act was passed. The internet has brought the super-injunctions tumbling down, as erring footballers were named on Twitter. This process has taken place under Pluto in Sagittarius and Pluto in Capricorn. Pluto in Sag created the power (Pluto) to keep secrets (Pluto) from publication (Sag). As the injunctions escalated, it effectively became the state (Pluto in Capricorn) protecting people’s secrets, but the state decided it did not want to do this, as when the PM said in Parliament that he felt uneasy about super-injunctions.

Privacy (Pluto) versus institutions (Capricorn). This issue is also being thrashed out on Facebook and elsewhere on the net. As individuals, we are having to decide how much we want to reveal about ourselves, and to who, in a way that we’ve never had to previously. But the big companies such as Facebook and Google also have an interest in using our personal information, and regularly overstep boundaries unless specifically stopped from doing so. It is a new issue, and is set to continue for years as the internet continues to develop, and as Pluto moves steadily through Capricorn.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Astrology and Mythological Thinking

I think if someone says they don’t believe in astrology, it shows they don’t understand symbolic thinking. OK, this statement could be read as fundamentalist and intolerant, but it’s not quite like that.

Modern knowledge is based on the application of reason to what are called facts. This knowledge is scientific – it is hard, it is objective and it is ‘out there.’ But as even science will sometimes admit, you cannot separate the observer from the observed. What is seen is profoundly influenced by the mind that is seeing.

And the mind thinks symbolically, whether it understands that or not. A scientific fact or theory may seem to be just that on paper. But if it is a significant fact or theory, then our mind does something else with it. That idea acquires power, it comes to stand for something. Even the term ‘significant’ shows this: something is significant because it signifies something, it stands for something. Or let’s say ‘important’ idea instead: well that means it has an import, it implies something beyond itself. Even the word ‘understand’ means to stand under, as if we are receiving wisdom from above.

Science is deeply symbolic/ mythological. Evolution on paper can seem like a fact, but to our minds it is a story, a very big story that tells us where we came from. And it has its origin in the medieval myth of the Great Chain of Being. Or the Big Bang, the whole universe created out of nothing by a single immeasurably large explosion: we cannot possibly view that as a hard 'fact', for apart from anything, who saw it happen? it is a story that to our minds has, like Evolution, the power of Creation Myth.

Moreover, the universe is made up of invisible particles and packets of energy, whose nature and laws are fundamental to the world that humans live in and experience: does that not sound a bit like the world of the Greek gods, invisible controlling influences?
Bits of matter are magically attracted to each other and we don’t know why, but instead of being awed by it, we give it a name, gravity, as though that tells us something. And then Einstein tells us that gravity doesn’t exist, it is that space is curved around material objects. What a wonderful bit of myth-making!

There is nothing wrong with scientific ideas except the tendency to treat them literally. The reality ‘out there’ is only ever half the story, and literalism naively does not understand this.

Symbolic or mythological thinking takes both poles into account. It tells stories about events ‘out there’ but does not shy away from allowing the imagination to re-invent and contribute human meaning to those stories. Because the mind is just as much a part of the 'objective reality' as outer events are. And we mythologise anyway.
It happens to history: 9/11 is a classic example. Both the conventional account of daring, evil enemies hijacking planes and the alternative account of a secret government conspiracy make great stories, and as time goes on these explanations increasingly enter the realm of mythology, and you can take your pick which you want to believe. Conspiracy theories have considerable mythological force behind them, which is why they are so popular. Along with theories about Atlantis and alien abductions. They are modern myths.

It is a matter of acknowledging how the mind works and responding appropriately. If you think you can pare away the contribution of the imagination and arrive at ‘fact’, then the imagination will creep up behind and bite you, turning you into a literalist fanatic, whether of a scientific or religious cast, and I don’t think they are that different.

It is naïve to treat major religious figures as anything other than myth. They stand for something, and the stories around them contribute to what they stand for. If we look at the stories swirling around 9/11, which was just 10 years ago, then how can we possibly know anything ‘factual’ about these people from 2000 years ago?

Science and history work mythologically. So does politics. Politicians have to ‘stand for’ something or they won’t get elected. Advertisers understand perfectly well the power of myth when it comes to selling. Romantic love works mythologically and largely unconsciously, as we are attracted to people for reasons we know not why. And we tell stories to ourselves about our own lives.

And, to return to my original point, astrology and all divination systems work symbolically. Like all good symbols/myths, they connect ‘out there’ and ‘in here’. Astrology tells us meaningful stories about our life. To say you don’t believe in astrology is like saying you don’t believe praying to Vishnu works, or that neo- pagan ceremonies do not work.
Of course, there are plenty of people who believe these things do not work. (However, they probably act otherwise when it comes to the ceremonies of Christmas or Marriage.) But if you feel the symbols involved, then you know that these things work. I don’t know ‘how’ they work, but maybe that need to know how just reflects the modern desire to reduce everything to a mechanism.

If you're not aware that you think mythologically, then you can’t understand anything of importance. Truth has to consider both outer and inner, events and consciousness, and the imagination, which thinks in symbols, performs this function. The trick is to feel the power of symbols while not taking them literally. Feel the power of science and its ideas, even, but do not take them literally, as hard facts 'out there'.

So do I ‘believe’ in astrology? I wasn’t sure what I meant by the word believe, so I looked it up in the etymological dictionary, and it can be traced back to an ancient Germanic word ga-laubjan, to "hold dear, love”. I thought yes, that’s how I feel about astrology. On a bad day, when scientific literalism is pressing closely on me, I will tend to dismiss astrology. And I will look at it as belief in the modern sense of taking an idea to be literally true, a hard fact ‘out there’. And astrology is no more literally true than anything else. It is naive to think that astrology works by actual planetary energies influencing us, though it's quite a good story. Truth is never literal.

So I don’t ‘believe’ in astrology in the modern sense of the word believe. And if challenged about astrology, I would probably have to challenge the categories in which the other person thought, which is not an easy thing. It’s not a matter of blind belief versus experience, with astrology falling into the experience category. I loved astrology before I ever had the experience to know it worked. But that didn’t make my belief blind. It is that I was fortunate enough to have a connection to symbolic thinking and its power from a relatively young age, even though I didn’t know what it was and it took denial and many years to bring to fruition.

I don’t know if I could justify astrology to anyone else. The other day I was muttering about symbolic thinking to someone who was into Jesus, but I’m not sure it went anywhere, maybe because they took Jesus a bit too literally. To myself, it is feeling the power of the symbol that gives astrology its value. But that on its own is not enough. Hitler was a symbol that carried a lot of power for people, and still does. These are 2 different types of power, but they are both felt strongly. I know the difference, but I don’t know if I can describe it.

I think one way of looking at it is that the Hitler type symbol is experienced as external to oneself. It makes you feel stronger within, but the source is outside, and if you are used to knowing your own power (which usually takes many years), you can tell the difference. When the symbol is rigidly external (and God or Science can be experienced like this), then you feel empty within, and reliant on the literal reality of the external symbol. This is an insecure position, and to that extent leads to fanaticism. But the person in this position cannot usually see that this is what they are doing, as the surrender of authority tends to be deep and unconscious. It is the basis of religion.

And astrology can be religion just as easily. I haven’t been near the astrological ‘establishment’ for some years now. But it is divided up into authorities and wannabes and eternal disciples just like any religion, and I usually manage to say the wrong thing before too long when I’m around that sort of mindset. It’s usually in the form of someone who takes themselves and their own thinking far too seriously and who doesn’t like being contradicted!

So to conclude, the apparent paradox of astrology working when it 'shouldn't' is a fruitful one to consider. The answer, if there is one, definitely does not lie in answering the criticisms of science on its own terms, with its peculiar kind of demands for evidence. We can say from our own experience, empirically, that astrology works. But it also leads to a consideration of the very different type of thinking involved, mythological thinking. And that then leads round to the idea that ordinary thinking has a strong mythological element anyway; it is just that there is another current myth, the idea that reality can be fully described in rational terms, that confuses the issue. This is a myth both in the sense of being a falsehood, but also in the sense of an idea that has power over our minds. And I think it is the wrong sort of power.

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