Jun 2011
When Everything We Know is Wrong

Here it is, the Murravian Mantra: Only by living through our charts can we understand the world, and our place in it.

Two clarifications:

1. I don’t mean that astrology is the only way to reach this understanding. “Living through the chart” is just my way of saying committing to our life purpose. Astrology is one of the best means I’ve ever found to arrive at that place; but “living through the chart” is a state of being, that we can get to with the help of any number of spiritual paths and modalities. We just have to be ready to be authentically and fully ourselves (I talk about this in August’s Mountain Astrologer Magazine).

2. When I say understanding, I’m not referring to some stash of esoteric knowledge that we acquire, as when we get a degree and hang our diploma on the wall. I mean the kind of understanding that comes from our core essence. This is about tapping into what we already know.

The way we sky-watchers get in touch with our core essence is by continuously going back to our natal charts. We ground ourselves by remembering what those symbols say about who we are, at the deepest level of being.

Then we forge a relationship between what’s happening in our inner world and what’s happening up there in the sky.

King and Queen of Transits

What’s happening up there in the sky are year-by-year, day-by-day, minute-by-minute planetary changes. By decoding these changes, astrologers discern the meaning of the world moment. It’s like watching a giant crawl-feed screen in Times Square…  except that, instead of being a message from Disney or the Gap, this one’s from the cosmos.

Right now the king of transits is the Cardinal Cross, whose longest arm is building to its first exactitude in June 2012 (I cover its main themes in many other recent essays and lectures). This month the Cross is in fine fettle. In addition to being provoked by the two lunations, on June 2nd, Mercury ingresses into Cancer, setting off those same early cardinal degrees. Pay particular attention to the Solstice on the 21,st when the Sun follows suit; I will be posting a lecture on the Eclipses of June 15th and July first soon. After that, from June 26th-28th, the Sun will T-square Uranus and Pluto, activating the Cross still further.

Covering roughly the same period as the Cross is the other momentous transit of the era: Neptune in Pisces. For the duration of 2011, Neptune remains neck-and-neck with Chiron, from which it is slowly separating from exactitude. Loaded with teachings about the difference between pain and suffering (Chiron), Neptune is now more universal and mystical (Pisces) in its feeling-tone than ever before. Wistful, melancholic, ecstatic and all-encompassing, Neptune’s call is bewitching. We will want to come up with strategies to keep ourselves from diving overboard into its waters. This is what Ulysses feared he might do, which is why he asked his fellow sailors to bind him to the mast: he knew about the power of the sirens’ song. We will be addressing such strategies in future Skywatches.

Neptune made the dramatic plunge into the sign of its rulership on April 4th. We have never experienced Neptune with this degree of strength; not in this lifetime, anyway. And we have never before experienced it squaring other planets from Pisces: to Mercury (6/2-3), Venus (6/10), and, the most insidious of the three, Mars (6/21-22).

Watch for delusion, deception or malfeasance during these peak periods. What house of your chart are Mars and Neptune transiting? This is where we start, in order to identify where in our life the transit is playing itself out. Knowing this will come in especially handy when the square waxes to opposition in a few months. Then the illusions of this particular cycle will come to a head.

Collective Illusion

In a longer-range sense, we’ll be working with Piscean illusion for 14 years.  To keep our sanity – indeed, to bring it to a higher level – we’ll need to start making vital distinctions between pernicious and non-pernicious forms of illusion. Everywhere we turn, we’ll find that what we thought was true is in fact just somebody’s story.

Neutral illusion — that is, illusion that manipulates and deceives, but without malevolence — is consciously received, does no harm and sometimes delights. The best example of this form of Neptunian illusion is art: “the lie that tells the truth”. In an art gallery, we look at a canvas, a flat surface on which a series of paint marks conveys an illusion of forms in space, and we conspire with the artist to pretend that three-dimensionality is going on. If what we are looking at is great art, and we are able to let it in, the boundaries of our perception are expanded; and Neptune has done its job.

Also in the neutral-Neptune category are myths and legends, including religious tales for adults and fairy tales for children. These, too, are “lies that tell the truth:” their rich imagery conveys important cultural messages that speak the language of the unconscious mind. They are automatically understood by all who hear them to be symbolic, not literal. An example is the tale about young George Washington chopping down a cherry tree and supposedly saying to his father, “I cannot tell a lie”. Everyone knows it is apocryphal; it is a fable about a national hero’s honesty.

More insidious are those lies that we don’t know are lies. Pernicious illusion is when a story about what happened masquerades as what happened. We see this with government-generated and media-promulgated narratives, that have been given a shiny gloss of credibility by the stamp of officialdom. For Americans, the most epoch-defining of these in recent times include the assassination of JFK, the bizarre events of 9/11/01, and the shooting of Osama bin Laden on May first of this year.

In theory, no interpretation of a cultural event has to be harmful, necessarily; any more than a theatrical event is harmful. Even advertising can be construed as an art form; after all, in France they even give awards to the cleverest commercials. If the conventional narrative of the bin Laden killing were to be viewed as a modern legend, in the Rambo revenge genre, it could even be instructive. Sociologists studying the mores and values of American culture who turned their attention to the assault of the Seals-6 (now trademarked by Disney) in Abbottabad would find a treasure trove of material.

The problem arises when we buy into what we hear on TV as if it were the truth. Whatever that means.

The Assassination of Osama bin Laden

The truth under Neptune in Pisces is a very slippery commodity. As Voltaire said,“Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position. But certainty is an absurd one.”

In the case of this most recent cultural myth, that of the bin Laden killing, a global meaning has not yet gelled. It is far from clear whether any commonality exists between the spin America’s self-congratulatory politicians are putting on it and the meaning it has for the Arab street. Or, for that matter, how it will come to be seen in Libya, or Ivory Coast, or India. Even the official American version of has already been through multiple permutations (recall it was said at first and later retracted that Osama was armed, and that he used his wife as a human shield).

Under Neptunian skies, the lack of consensus about the meaning of this episode is more telling than anything else about it. One of the biggest question marks is how Uncle Sam’s interests will now be received by Washington’s erstwhile ally, the Pakistani government; and by its civilian population, who are still getting slaughtered in Pentagon drone attacks. What is the meaning, for these people, of the fact of bin Laden’s death, and of the way he died?

Which is more likely to become the more globally dominant legend: bin-Laden-as-martyr, or the purge-of-the-antichrist spin popular in the USA?

As reactions to the assault came in from governments around the world, we saw the subjectivity of truth exemplified. Washington’s staunchest rival, Beijing, has been eager to capitalize on the strain between the Obama administration and Islamabad. Their spokesflacks heaped fulsome praise upon the Pakistani government for being a brave and true fighter against terrorism. Meanwhile, the sheiks of Saudi Arabia, supposedly Washington’s staunchest allies, issued a statement so cautious it could only be called a non-statement, calling the death a “step that supports the international efforts.” (The sheiks know they’re sitting on top of a powder keg: their subjects are as anti-American as they are desperately poor. They’re watching the Arab Spring revolts erupting everywhere else but in their own feudal petrocracy, and they’re angry. See my lecture “Something’s Happening Here,” to be released in June.)

In Cuba, Fidel Castro decried the way “Osama was executed in front of his children and wives.” In Palestine, the event was protested by both Hamas and non-Hamas Arabs as the murder of an “Arab holy warrior.” In the USA, John Yoo, the Justice Department official who made torture legal under Bush, gushed that the killing was a success generated by the “tough decisions” of his former boss.

We are watching myriad stories bouncing off of each other, like refracted shards in a kaleidoscope.

No More Cause-and-Effect

For those who deeply integrate the Piscean lessons of the coming era, old notions about cause-and-effect will come to seem very limited. When we consider the probable effects of the bin Laden killing, we need to remember that the great Neptunian Law of Unintended Consequences trumps all human plans, guesses and purposes.

Where did this long and violent story begin? It depends on who is telling the tale.

One way to find meaning in this miasmic saga might be to ask ourselves how future historians might tell it. We cannot even know now, in 2011, whether history will unquestioningly attribute responsibility for 9/11 to Osama bin Laden. History makes mincemeat of our cherished certitudes. We all know this, yet we seem to forget it every time we read about a new discovery in the newspaper. Scientific announcements about the age of humankind, for example, or about the danger of cell phone radiation, tend to be disproved every few years — completely discrediting what was accepted as gospel before. And the history books are constantly being rewritten: in this morning’s paper I read that journalists are now debating whether the poet Pablo Neruda actually died of cancer after all, or whether he was killed by the same Kissinger-financed assassins who murdered his friend Salvador Allende.

Perhaps Osama bin Laden will ultimately be remembered by some scholars less as the mastermind of the WTC catastrophe (about which there remains all that curious evidence showing the CIA knew about it well in advance) than for his early communiqué to Washington; the one most Americans didn’t get a chance to see, because it was censored in the USA media as soon as it was leaked. In it he demanded 1.) an end to foreign troops in lands sacred to Islam, 2.) an immediate halt to the bombing of Iraqi civilians, and 3.) that the USA stop bankrolling Israel against the Palestinians.

I am not suggesting that, after questioning the official story, we should swing over to a different point of view and cleave to it just as tightly. Under skies like these, certainty is a lost cause. I am suggesting that under skies like these we are meant to be learning about the folly of there being only one story to anything.

“It’s the best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong.”

–character in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia

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