Excerpted in Vanguard in the Belly of the Beast, May 2003.
The planet Saturn is potent this year. It is orbiting in perihelion — as close to the Sun as it gets– with a peak period in July 2003. In this state of maximized strength, Saturn will ingress into Cancer in early June, which means that for the next couple of years, all charts with Cancer planets have an appointment with their karma.Saturn, governor of karma, completes its turn around the zodiac every 28 years, necessitating the native to reap that which he or she (or it) has sown. There is nothing mysterious about the operation of this law. It is one of the least opaque principles in metaphysics.
When we look at the current global situation from a metaphysical perspective, things start to look oddly simple. The law of karma is doing its job, and in the mirror of its alliances America is being shown who it is.
A Karmic Birthday
Much has been written about the rare and profound transit which the planets Saturn and Pluto have been making in the chart of the USA since August of 2001.1 Moreover, George W. Bush and the USA itself2 will both have Saturn-transit birthdays this year. Meanwhile, Saturn will continue unveiling our national karma in the seventh house of “open enemies”.Saturn’s job is to give back to a source whatever that source has put out into its environment. To understand a Saturn transit, first one identifies the source, then one considers what it has put out into the environment. Let us begin with our not-quite-elected national leader. George W. Bush’s natal chart has a twelfth-house sun, indicating that his outer persona bears little resemblance to his public persona. Protected by the benign sheen of a Jupiter/Moon conjunction in Libra, he has gotten a lot of mileage out of the puerile charm by which he is commonly known. But the planet of accountability is heading in his direction. Underneath his easy manner is a scared little boy, and right now he is the most hated man in the world. These are not the optimal circumstances in which to welcome the transit of Saturn, which will soon be conjoining W.’s sun and that of his country. But it is a very good time to gain a deeper understanding of what it happening and why it is happening. This transit represents the culmination of the cycle3 that began fourteen years ago at the first Gulf War, when the father of the current president was in office.
Our understanding of karma is usually confused by the notion of blame, an invention of the human mind, not of cosmic law. Neither self-blame nor projected blame has anything to do with universal principles. This is the first speed bump we must get over in seeking to comprehend the deeper truth behind the pain our planet is in. All over the globe right now, the human impulse to judge is running rampant, as whole societies and factions of societies struggle to come to grips with a worldwide climate of breakdown and fear. Let us back away for a moment from the lens of human subjectivity and examine this universal law on its own terms.
Karma is impeccably neutral. If you throw a ball up in the air, it will slow to an arc and head downwards. If you study hard for your test, you are more likely to pass than if you blow it off. If you bury land mines, they will eventually have to be unearthed or exploded. If you drive people off their land, bomb civilians and destroy Arab cities, you are going to get terrorists.
The USA in Relationship
Saturn is active in the corner of the USA chart that deals with the Not-Self. Whether in the chart of an individual or a country, the question posed by a transit to the seventh house is this: Who am I vis-à-vis others? Each of us has been tested in one-to-one relationships, trying to play nice; trying to balance. Nation states work through knots and tangles, too, with other nation states. Nobody said relating was easy. With Saturn in this placement, you have to work at it even harder. You have to earn whatever cooperation you get.Or not. Since Saturn and Pluto opposed over the USA chart’s horizon, this country has been struggling with its relationship to Relationship. Saturn was on the Descendant when the airplanes hit the towers on 9/11/01. With Pluto, the life-and-death planet, simultaneously on the Ascendant, the stakes were raised to a whole-world-at-risk level. It is not merely that we must learn mature relating skills; it is that if we do not, we will all be toast.
Political scientists may never be able to identify for certain the many-tiered forces behind the so-called War on Terrorism at ground level, as it were; but as astrologers we can identify these forces in the sky. And we can time their arc of event manifestation. The USA crossed a zodiacal threshold in 2001, inaugurating a long lesson about our approach to any and all non-Americans. Saturn has been testing this country’s isolationist patterns and pushing us to transcend our collective narcissism, through the gradual, inevitable return of international chickens to the roost.
An Era of Censorship
The biggest stumbling block in turning the current world crisis around is that most Americans do not know what is going on. The millions of people who are in the best position to correct the current global trajectory — that is, the American public — are estranged from the rest of the world by a paucity of information while being deceived by their own government with a deadening shroud of disinformation.Saturn governs all forms of institutionalized restriction. In the sign of Gemini, it indicates authoritative control over language and data. Saturn (delay, shutdown) was just ingressing into Gemini (media access) when Bush Junior rescinded the provision that gives access to a president’s records twelve years after he leaves office. In perhaps his most symbolically significant first act as president, he proposed that disclosure be indefinitely postponed.
Some of the manifestations of this campaign of curtailment, such as the proposal to take the French out of French fries, come across as farcical. Others, such as the music giant Clear Channel’s do-not-play list of presumably un-American songs (John Lennon’s “Imagine” among them), and Viacom’s reluctance to rent billboard space to peace groups, represent Big Media’s awkward first attempts to define an identity in Ashcroft’s America. More deeply impactful developments, such as the gradual deregulation of and government control over the mainstream media, have accelerated exponentially since the transit took hold two years ago. While the Iraqi invasion raged, the front pages of our newspapers featured G.I.s tenderly ministering to wounded children, instead of showing us what newspapers in other countries showed: the ghastly results of the American cluster bombs which turned those children into orphans.
What is happening to our media represents more than mere intellectual inhibition, governed by Saturn. It falls into the category of mind control, governed by Pluto.
Censorship and Criminalization
All of the official censorship since September of 2001, from the ban on the networks’ airing of Osama bin Laden tapes to the ban on congressmen at White House intelligence briefings, has been justified by the claim that access to the information would aid and abet the machinations of a faceless yet larger-than-life horde of lethal international outlaws.After their stunning policy switcheroo in 2002, whereby bin Laden was replaced with Saddam Hussein as the face of this amorphous evil, Bush et al have vastly expanded their criteria for censorship (Saturn) and criminalization (Pluto). Now these apply not just to suspected terrorists, but to presumed terrorist sympathizers, a net cast to snare American immigrants with and without documentation. More recently, these criteria have been expanded to include any person or entity with the gall to criticize Washington. This last is an especially ambitious category, encompassing, unprecedented, longtime allies like France and Germany. Indeed, professors, peace activists and movie stars who have dared to condemn the occupation of Iraq — born-and-bred U.S. citizens all, whose citizenship could be officially revoked under the attorney general’s new law — may be the latest entrants into the ever-widening pool of treachery suspects.
September 11th: More an Effect Than a Cause
“The day the world changed” was less than two years ago and already the date is mythic. At first blush, the events of 9/11 seem to be the cause of which the current world situation is the effect. The astrological view, by contrast, is to see events not in terms of agency, but in terms of symbolism and timing. Planetary cycles constitute a complex clock, signifying certain lessons which are due to be learned, en masse, at certain times. We look at this clock to see what time it is for the world; then we look at the events which come along to symbolize the lessons of that time. From this point of view, 9/11 was less a cause than an effect.Before the transit hit, the D.C. buzz was all party-politick squabbles about sexual misbehavior and campaign finance. But when Pluto and Saturn moved into position, decades’ worth of clandestine foreign policy patterns with immense global consequences very quickly began to surface. Osama bin Laden’s early communiqués raised three issues that seem to get right to the heart of the matter as regards America’s karma in the Middle East: foreign troops in lands sacred to Islam, the bombing of Iraqi civilians, and non-neutrality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
After the transit reached exactitude, a handful of uncowed American critics and a great number of international ones began sniffing around the roots of America’s investment in these ancient desert lands. The Iran-Contra affair suddenly returned to relevance; several of its key deal-cutters having quietly crept back into powerful positions in Washington. Our long-moribund affair with the Shah of Iran once again became newsworthy. Curious Americans started looking up the Crusades in the encyclopedia.
The Invasion of Iraq
Saturn highlights unfinished business; Pluto pinpoints corruption and cover-up. The prospect of vanquished Iraqis showering their American “liberators” with flowers of welcome, a fantasy engendered by the Pentagon and supported by the press, proved harder to spin than the spin-meisters expected. A surprising number of Iraqi civilians, despite their oppression at the hands of Saddam, showed themselves capable of fighting their new colonizers tooth and nail; prompting a quick change of terminology in the U.S. media from “civilians” to “enemy”.When the famous video clip of Saddam’s statue crashing to the ground amidst cheers from the crowd was pressed into service, over and over on all eight news networks at once, it offered American viewers a picture of the invasion not shared by viewers in other parts of the world. The foreign press was taking note of the fact that despite Geneva Convention stipulations, the conquerors made no move to protect Iraqi men, women or children after the looting began; the soldiers’ orders were neither to guard the hospitals nor to restore water. Their first move was to secure the all-important oil fields.
The uncensored international press reported that Iraqis had actually been flowing back into Iraq, not to fight for Saddam, but to fight for their country. That native resistance to invasion could have surprised anybody is a testament to the depth of ignorance the American public suffers about even the most recent Middle Eastern history. Every one of Iraq’s schoolchildren has grown up knowing about the British occupation of their country, its 1958 revolution, the twelve years of deadly sanctions and the current imperial intentions of the United States. Americans, by contrast, can hardly be bothered to remember back to 1983, when none other than Donald Rumsfeld himself was dispatched by Reagan to pledge undying American allegiance to Saddam during Iraq’s conflict with Iran.
The forces of karma do not bend to government spin. Karma identifies a particular energy at its source, and returns like energy to that source. So what will the gods do with the fact that it was a germ warfare manufacturer outside Washington D.C. who supplied anthrax to Saddam? This was in 1988, six months after the historically ambiguous gassing of the Kurds, an atrocity which began to shock and appall Washington only last year.
Or so they would have had us believe. From the onset of the weapons inspections, it was whispered that the committee behind this war had been planning to invade Iraq all along, a campaign that would be facilitated by pre-disarming Iraq’s already fourth-rate military. After Baghdad fell and nary a weapon of mass destruction could be found, Hans Blix publicly cried foul, with the rage of a man humiliated and defrauded. Bush’s prize pretext for invading had been Saddam’s offensive arsenal; but there was no smoking gun. All that was smoking was the rubble of a ruined Iraq. Washington’s bluff and posturing reaction to the U.N. investigation had been a long, drawn-out charade.
Pluto resides natally in the second house of the USA chart: the signature of plutocracy, not democracy. The links between huge but secretive corporations and the politicians they finance– and by extension the laws which those politicians enact– are by now old news to all but the egregiously naive. With perverse appropriateness, producers of the network news shows posted running stock quotes beneath the battle reportage, making no bones about the war-as-marketplace rationale (at least for certain favored companies) behind Washington’s lethal adventure. War cheerleaders like CNN, which made its mark during the first Gulf War, are beneficiaries of the boom no less than war suppliers like Lockheed and postwar builders like Bechtel. Our Plutonian vice president (secrecy, back-room dealings), who in the early ’80s was deep in discussion with Saddam about a pipeline that was then President Reagan’s pet project, is now best known for his ties to the companies whose contracts –awarded without any bidding– will earn billions from rebuilding Iraq once the fires amidst Baghdad’s ruins have smoldered into ash.
The USA and the Rest of the World
Saturn refers to authority, Pluto to raw power, and the seventh house refers to generic “Others”, friend or foe. For the entity that is the United States, that means the rest of the world. The double transit upon us has forced the examination of patterns of foreign involvement not just current but long-evolving, not just overt but covert.Critics are returning to questions not raised since the ’70s about the CIA and FBI’s involvement in counter-revolutionary sabotage around the world. The assassination of the democratically-elected President Allende in Chile, perhaps the most public of a series of hundreds of military incursions since 1945 initiated by the United States, has become emblematic of a new point of view; one which asks: Why was the storming by Kissinger’s men of the presidential Palace in Santiago acceptable, whereas the idea of a suicide bomber hitting the White House is heinous to the point of devilry?
The answer, of course, is: That was Them; this is Us.
Herein lies the central issue of the seventh house, and the code we must crack in order to plumb the deeper meaning behind the relationships we draw into our lives. The first law of the seventh house is that one must see beyond the Us vs. Them paradigm if one wants to avoid the transiting planet’s coming right back at us — and in its least benign form — come the karmic deadline.
The Laws of Projection
In order to make sense of the astounding hypocrisies streaming forth from Washington, let us consider how a psychologist interprets the blaming patterns of warring spouses. The law of projection is at work when the accuser condemns in others the very features he needs to see in himself but cannot see. If we decode his diatribes, we find an uncannily accurate self-description. 4The very generals who expressed outrage about purported Iraqi chemical weapons are themselves responsible for unleashing upon the Iraqi people depleted uranium, a munitions seen by some as a radiological scourge with the power to destroy Iraq’s genetic future. The same George W. Bush who regaled the American public with tales of Saddam’s use of torture is permitting his army to conduct unspeakable “interrogation procedures” right now upon hundreds of unnamed, unlawyered apprehendees within the soundproof cells of Guantanamo. Indeed, his is one of several administrations that have refused to extradite an estimated 1.000 torturers whom Amnesty International says are now living safely in the USA, most of them graduates of the infamous School of the Americas.
From the Pentagon brass who ordered the bombing of hospitals and foreign reporters, we heard charges of war crimes regarding Iraq’s handling of captured GIs. After they had boasted about the shocking and awesome effect their latest mega-bombs would have upon the terrified residents of Iraq, these men cried “terrorist” when a ragged Iraqi blew himself up defending his home.
And as an apologia for the carnage abroad, the word “freedom” was touted in the war propaganda like a litany. Meanwhile, on the battle front, Iraqis fighting for their freedom from a foreign power died — and are still dying — by the uncounted thousands, while on the home front the noose on freedom of speech and freedom of the press tightens with every week that passes.
Projection and the Father
As family therapists know, projection gets particularly heated when the parties in question are personally related. Bush the Younger’s righteous denunciations of dictatorship were a centerpiece of his call to war, but of course his own father was among those policymakers who supported the bloodiest dictators of a generation. It could be argued that Mobutu and Suharto make Saddam look like Mr. Rogers.George Senior was also supposedly the object of a murderous plot hatched by Saddam, and thus the star of a vengeance fantasy W. was thought to harbor; though one must decode the language of projection to see the simple tit for tat. In George Junior’s 2003 State of the Union address, he implied, with horrible smugness, that his men have murdered scores of purported terrorist masterminds (they are “no longer a problem” he said, with a wink and a nudge). By contrast, had Saddam’s forces succeeded in killing George Senior, nothing less than the noble term assassination would have been pressed into service, with Washington no doubt reacting to the murder as if it were the martyrdom of Jesus Christ. As to the military retaliations, given the thousands of innocent Iraqis now dead from sanctions and invasion combined, one shudders to imagine the scale of the vengeance that would have been meted out had the elder Bush been hit.
The Face in the Mirror
One need only look at our government’s recent obsession with the concept of “weapons of mass destruction” to see projection in its baldest guise. Ours is the country whose military expenditure will soon equal that of the next fifteen most powerful states combined. We are by far the number-one producer, seller and deplorer of weapons that create mass and every other kind of destruction. Among disarmament activists, much has been made of the “irony” that the USA, the only country responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of innocents with an atomic bomb, should thereafter claim to be the arbiter of which nations can possess nukes and which cannot. But far from being ironic, this is exactly the way projection works.Astrology posits that relating is not just mirroring in a figurative sense; it is mirroring in an absolute sense. After the fall of Baghdad, American newspapers put the term “looting” in bold-face headlines — referring to mobs in the streets of Iraq. A few pages further into the paper, in the business section, they reported the triumphs of American corporations contracted to loot that country’s oil.
The axiom behind the Ascendant and the Descendant proposes that both are houses of identity. First-house action (I did this) shows us who we are in a direct way; seventh-house action (you did that) shows us who we are in an indirect way. When we’re too unconscious to create friendship, we create enmity. Though we may prefer the former to the latter, from a cosmic point of view the two have the same valence. In fact, either one has the same valence as the self. To paraphrase Robert Hand: “People we relate to are as indicative of our level of consciousness as we are ourselves”.
This is an understanding that would take the bite out of the whole He-said/She-said game were we to apply it to our personal relationships. It is an understanding that could deflate moral righteousness and defuse international violence were we to apply it to group relationships. Every instance of Us-vs.-Them thinking can be opened up to a higher level by identifying the mirroring mechanism at its core. It may be over-optimistic to imagine that such a shift in perspective could be espoused widely enough to render moot warfare in the world. But we are in an Endgame as far as old global paradigms are concerned. Ambitious leaps of consciousness are no longer a luxury but a necessity. The secret of the Descendant — “We have met the enemy and he is us” (Walt Kelly)– must be told. It is the understanding we need in order to make sense of the international sea storm into which our drunken captain would otherwise lead us.
Friends and Foes
The Descendant refers both to our interchanges and to the alter egos (“other selves”) with which we have them: the partners, rivals, friends and peers. Pluto’s opposition to this angle in the chart of the USA, still in orb, has been exposing several generations’ worth of hidden patterns motivating our nation’s feuds and alliances.Pluto governs domination and genocide, thugs and warlords. Soon after Saturn and Pluto together opened the Pandora’s Box of American foreign policy, our military bankrolling of Israel moved from being an open secret to high-profile news. The Pentagon’s old friend General Pinochet was indicted as a war criminal. And a coup in Venezuela was linked to the CIA without us having to wait a decade to hear about it.
Each of our government’s rapports with foreign governments in the past couple of years has been met with a new level of suspicion from those observers unconvinced by official explanations; and the stonewalling from Washington has taken on a new fierceness as the worms come crawling out of the can.
Pluto also governs betrayal. The crisis in Iraq has thrown a spotlight upon the White House’s history of embracing, and then demonizing, puppet-strongmen all over the world. Turning the idea of loyalty on its head, our government has traditionally exhibited no real allegiance except to those U.S. business interests for whose benefit a given country needs to be stabilized. With rigorous consistency, Washington has trained, armed and then repudiated despot after despot — men like Pol Pot, Trujillo and Somoza. Even in the censored American press one can find mention of how the Pentagon supplied guns to the same Mujahadeen our soldiers would later gun down; and about how it supported and then betrayed dissident Iraqis during the first Gulf War. Tony Blair himself may be the latest to feel the sting of Washington’s betrayal, as he hears now from Bush that Britain’s share of Iraq’s post-war plunder will not be as extensive as promised.
What kind of karma are we accumulating as a nation? We might ask ourselves what fate we would expect a good storyteller to divvy out to a fictional lover who woos, jilts and then murders his ex.
Around the time of Pluto’s station at the spring equinox 2003, America’s foreign policy began to degenerate into a veritable film-noir of behind-the-scenes power plays. The Bush administration’s tactics vis-à-vis other countries moved from being disguised to undisguised manipulations, creating a string of grotesquely dysfunctional international relationships. Washington was caught bugging the bedrooms of swing-vote U.N. Security Council diplomats like a jealous husband, while trying to bribe, coerce and threaten Iraq’s financially bankrupted neighbors for war access, like a mafia goon. As the U.N.’s weapons inspection efforts started to bear fruit, thus deflating Washington’s pretext for war, the thuggery approached the level of dark comedy. Charges of forgery arose surrounding Colin Powell’s supposedly damning evidence of Nigerian uranium sales to Iraq. And in a detail worthy of Peter Sellers doing Inspector Clouseau, the revelation surfaced that intelligence reports solemnly touted by the Pentagon had been plagiarized from a grad student paper …downloaded from the internet, typos intact.
What are the consequences of a superpower’s world-scale wrongdoing? The United Nations was set up to be the venue to try such cases, but the United States, as the only country with the might to refuse to play fair, has excepted itself from war criminality jurisdiction. From issues ranging from global warming to the prevention of nuclear holocaust, decades of painstakingly eked-out international efforts have been summarily dismissed and undermined by Washington.If the world body’s other members had any faith left in the USA’s integrity after this shameful legacy, we can be fairly sure that the contemptuous game-playing Bush et al demonstrated over the arms inspections has killed off any last vestige of that faith. What is the karmic blowback for sabotaging the only international peacekeeping body in the world?
In a heartrending coda to the military violence, word came that American soldiers had stood around callously watching as Iraq’s museums were ransacked with a barbarism that hearkened back to the sacking of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade. What is the karma of dismissing with a sneer the desecration of antiquities seven thousand years old?
If a schoolchild is caught cheating on a test, we expect there to be a punishment. If a doctor is convicted of malpractice, we want him to lose his license. The laws of karma do not exempt the high and mighty. Whether the perfidy is individual or collective, blind universal law will prevail. Ultimately, the gods do not care who or what is the agent of a particular injury, who received the harm, nor in what form responsibility will ultimately have to be taken. To them, it is nothing personal. But as mortal beings, we must try to fathom our stance towards these issues.
The phrase “an accident of birth” reflects the prevailing assumption that our birth data are among the few things in this life that are incontestably arbitrary. But from a metaphysical viewpoint, we are each denizens of a certain place and members of a certain generation for a reason. Our collective identity is one of the many layers of who we are. As surely as one is indelibly bonded with the parents one was born to – not just actually, but psychologically-one is a part of one’s country for better or worse. In a karmic sense, if not in an electoral sense, we each have a relationship with our country’s government; and like all relationships, this one can be used to burn off karma — both our own karma and that of the planet.
If one believes that we each somehow choose our soul’s lessons, it follows that we must express ourselves not in some theoretical elsewhere but where we are, alert to what is happening now. Again, this has nothing to do with blame; nor does it imply that all people must express their sense of responsibility in the same way. Some may march in protest, some may support politicians, some may read and write, dance, speak, weep or pray. We must neither try to escape — an impossibility anyway — nor merely react: we must respond. Though we may feel powerless in the face of terrible global events, we are never powerless when we truly respond.
In times like these, each of us must actively cultivate his or her own unique heart connection to the greater world of which we are a part. Otherwise, we descend into a state of victim hood, denying yet absorbing the toxicity in the atmosphere all around us, condemning or ignoring its perceived source, and making our lives very small.
2. “The Saturn-Sun cycle is one of the few cycles where the conjunction is a culmination rather than a beginning. The cycle begins at the opposition…” Rob Hand (“From Bush to Buddha”, The Mountain Astrologer, April/May 03) Return to Article
3. The metaphysical understanding of projection differs from the psychological in one major respect: projection is not necessarily a fantasy. Natural law dictates that we attract individuals who do in fact play out those same themes that we are denying in ourselves. Saddam may well have been a brute and a mass murderer. Projection does not address accuracy or exoneration. It merely explains the choice of sins with which the accused is condemned, and the exaggerated fervor of his accusers. Return to Article