Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Ukraine and Uranus-Pluto

“Never believe anything until it is officially denied.” (John Pilger). Well the US has officially denied that events in the Ukraine amount to a battle between East and West. And as we all know, it is exactly that. Should the Ukraine be allied with Russia or the EU? The country is divided over the issue, and there is a sizeable ethnic Russian population that wants to stay with Russia. The outcome is not yet clear.

Astrologically, it is the latest in a series of Uranus-Pluto crises that have been afflicting the world. The 2 planets are moving towards another exact square (in April, the 5th of 7) and the Ukrainian crisis has peaked, which often seems to be the way of it with these Uranus-Pluto transits: a month or two before the exact aspect happens, all hell breaks loose.

And the reason the world has its eyes on the country is precisely because it embodies the struggle between East and West, the remains of the Cold War, as Russia – like the UK before it – gradually loses influence to a level proportionate to its population and economic strength. But that is also why the US is saying that there is no battle, because in a sense there is none, Russia has already lost.

The Cold War officially ended in the second half of 1990, with Uranus and Neptune between 7 and 13 Capricorn (their conjunction was the main significator of those events), but the fact that Pluto is now transiting these points suggest that we are indeed seeing a revisitation of those times, maybe a clearing up of unfinished business.

Under Uranus-Pluto, underlying weaknesses or tensions that may have been brewing for years come to the surface and are fought out. Pluto, Lord of the Underworld, reveals the issues that have been cooking beneath the surface. Uranus the sky god facilitates their eruption and brings polarisation, radicalism and new solutions.

Under the current transit, the structures of power (Pluto in Capricorn) are challenged by the fresh vision, the new beginnings of Uranus in Aries. Politically, it’s not usually very pleasant. Sometimes, where there is great potential within the current forms, Uranus-Pluto can represent not a dissolution but an empowerment, dramatic growth, as we have seen with China.

I don’t think you need to see the chart of Ukraine to be pretty certain that Uranus-Pluto is transiting it in a major way. It’s one of those times where you think if this isn’t what is happening, then astrology doesn’t work!

Unlike the chart for an individual, the chart for a country is rarely a simple matter. At what moment was the country ‘born’? And which incarnation, which new constitution or newly regained independence shall we use? The Ukraine never seems to have had much in the way of a continuous independent existence, so the charts dating back to the break-up of the USSR seem as good as any.

And for that event, in Nick Campion’s Book of World Horoscopes, we find 2 charts. One for Ukraine’s declaration of independence on 24 Aug 1991, and one for a referendum confirming independence on 1 Dec 1991, at which point, we are told, with foreign recognition in place, it began to function ‘as a genuinely independent sovereign state’.

The first seems more of a legal, governmental decision/aspiration, the latter one that included all aspects of the newly-born state, and crucially the people.

If we use the USA as a precedent, then we find 2 parallel charts (as well as others). There was the Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776, but 2 days before that Congress had already voted and agreed on the matter, so which day, let alone time, do we go with?

Popular practice has gone with the 4th of July, when both legal and popular agreement had been addressed (though not decided on in a referendum).

Maybe there is a parallel with a human birth here: should the birth chart be for the moment the baby has begun to emerge from its mother (the proclamation of independence), or when it has left its mother (legal independence) or when it has begun to breathe (a functioning state?)

Maybe it depends what aspect of the country you are looking at, but I’m inclined to go with the final chart for a reading of the general state of the country, when legal and popular issues have been addressed, and foreign recognition is in place.

Anyway, here are the 2 charts:

I don’t know the national character of the Ukrainians, so I don’t know which chart describes them best, but one thing we do know is that they are a divided people, and both charts clearly express this: in the first chart, we see Uranus Rising, and in the second chart we see Uranus conjunct the North Node and square the MC. Uranus is at 10 Cap in both cases, and so currently subject to the Uranus-Pluto square.

With the division within the country so stark and so ethnic, a split is possible. It is difficult enough as an individual to feel at ease with yourself and society if you have a prominent Uranus, let alone if you are a large collective. 

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The UK (1801) has Uranus Rising square to the Sun, and I think that gives rise to contradictions within the country – such as the democratic impulse (Uranus) vs the strong class system and love of tradition and royalty (Sun in Capricorn) – and maybe that has a creative aspect, which is Uranus at its best. But it also suggests instability, and whether or not Scotland votes to become independent this year, devolution or even separation of parts of the UK has always been an issue, with Eire (gone), Northern Ireland (bound to go eventually), Wales and Scotland.

The current Solar Return Chart for the earlier chart for the Ukraine is very descriptive:

It doesn’t get much stronger than this, and maybe therefore the earlier birth chart is the one to go with for now, despite what I said earlier, until a possible re-birth of the country. Angular Neptune and Pluto, Uranus square the Asc, showing the powerful forces of struggle, protest and dissolution that both the government (Angular Sun opp Neptune) and people (Moon conj Uranus and square Pluto) are going through. It’s quite a remarkable chart.

Regardless of which is the best chart to use, the Aries Ingress chart for 2014 (in 3 weeks time) set for Kiev has Uranus, Pluto and Jupiter on the Angles. The October Libra Ingress (after which the current troubles began) had Neptune and Pluto on the Angles. So the revolution and unrest look set to continue for some time yet. Uranus in the upcoming Aries chart points to the issue of the country perhaps splitting.

The Ukraine is just one country having a crisis, but it is critical geo-politically, and so describes bigger themes within the Uranus-Pluto transit that the world is going through.

Since Uranus and Pluto began to approach each other back in about 2008 – the orb is a wide one with these long changes, these phase shifts, that the world goes through – we have had crisis after crisis, as any astrologer could have predicted, though their natures and the timings would not have been so easy to predict. All we know is the shape and rough timings of these big changes. (Which is just as well, because even with that sort of knowledge, astrological forecasting can be a hindrance to actually living through change.)

We have had the biggest financial crisis since the 30s, as the underlying weaknesses of ideologically driven ‘free market’ economics and in particular financial deregulation showed themselves (though we don’t seem to have learned much from it); there has been the Arab Spring, begun as a long overdue series of popular rebellions against western-leaning dictators, and which has turned into a death struggle between secularism and Islamism; the underlying weakness of the Euro - the attempt to achieve fiscal union without political union - led to a series of crises that have gone quiet for now, but remain
essentially unresolved; meanwhile the greatest economic expansion the world has ever seen, the modern rise of China, has continued apace and is gradually shifting the balance of world power. That said, China has itself built up huge internal debts as it attempted to tackle the world economic slowdown through government spending, and it may yet have its own crisis as Uranus-Pluto continues to run its course.

Meanwhile the US political crisis, a struggle that has been going on since the end of the Cold War, in which the right wing of the Republican party seems prepared to bring the country to its knees rather than let the Democrats govern, has ways to go, particularly as Pluto makes its exact oppositions to the US Sun this year and next.

Uranus and Pluto still have 3 exact crossings to make between now and March next year, and they will remain within orb for some time after that. The new shape of the world has yet to become clear, a shape that will remain until the next time 2 outer planets make a hard aspect, which will be Uranus square to Neptune in about 25 years’ time.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Is Astrology Scientific? Causal vs Mythological Thought

I don't know where to begin with this one. Astrology News Service, which claims to be sponsored by august bodies such as the American Federation of Astrologers and the National Council for Geocosmic Research, is rejoicing that more Americans think astrology is scientific than did a few years ago. It reminds me of the time the Sun newspaper took a poll of its readers as to whether Princess Diana had been murdered, as if those readers were qualified to make a judgement.

It's not just that. Anyone whose studies astrology quickly comes to see, in my opinion at least, that astrology is NOT a science, not in the modern, narrow meaning of the word. Nor are poetry and music and psychotherapy and a lot of other things.

That's why I said I don't know where to begin unpicking this one. Astrology sometimes needs saving from its friends rather than its enemies! Though personally I think those enemies can be a good thing, they keep us on our toes.

It would be interesting to find out what people mean when they say they think astrology is ‘scientific’. What they really mean, I suspect, is that they think astrology works, but science has such epistemological authority for them that saying astrology is ‘scientific’ amounts to the same thing. 1000 years ago they might have said they thought there was room for astrology in the teachings of the Church, and I can’t see there’s much difference in the two statements.

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I think what overlap there is between astrology and science is incidental, because their ways of thinking are inconjunct. Science is based on cause and effect and repeatability, along with an explanatory mechanism (except for the privileged disciplines of Evolution and Psychiatry). Astrology is based on sychronicity, "the experience of two or more events as meaningfully related" (Wiki). In this case, earthly events and heavenly events.

Astrology is not based on cause and effect, you could call it 'mythological thinking', it is how early people thought. They would, for example, see some unusual behaviour in nature and reflect that it must therefore have a meaning for them. (Source: Chippewa Cree friend). I think that the reclaiming of this way of thinking is potentially astrology's most important contribution to the world. Astrology in itself is a rather specialised and improbable subject that I don't think will ever be mainstream. But I love it :)

Like Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, astrology and science need to learn to live with each other. I don’t think, however, that it is an equal relationship: astrologers can understand how science sees the world, but science finds it much harder to understand astrologers. We need to be patient, even indulgent. After all, we see reality through all 4 elements, whereas science concentrates on Air and Earth as means of knowledge, it is limited. Its basic method tends to disregard Fire and Water as means of knowing and valuing. The proper place for science is that of a speciality within a more all-encompassing culture that includes astrology. Causal thinking needs to take its place within the broader context of mythological thinking.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Astrology, Death and Human Sacrifice

Just watched the series Vikings on DVD. It’s drama, not documentary, about the semi-historical, legendary figure Ragnar Lothbrok. And at one point 9 men are sacrificed to Odin in the temple at Uppsala. They go willingly, and after their throats are cut they are hung upside down from an ash tree in the way that Odin was hung upside down from the world ash Ygdrassil in his search for wisdom:

“I hung from that windswept tree, hung there for nine long nights; I was pierced with a spear. I was an offering to Odin, myself to myself. No one came to comfort me with bread, no one revived me with drink from a horn…Then I began to thrive, my wisdom grew; I prospered and was fruitful…”

I never thought I’d find myself defending human sacrifice – it’s not exactly politically correct – but this event, at least the way it was portrayed, had archetypal power for all concerned. For the Vikings the afterlife was real. If you died as a warrior, for example, then Odin would take you to his hall where every day you would go out on to the plains to fight, you would be killed, and Odin would raise you up again for a night of feasting and drinking.

Well, Odin took half the battle slain, and the goddess Freya took the other half to her fields, and those who died a dishonourable death went to Hel. And as myth, there are plenty of loose ends.

Maybe it depends how you view death. But if death has this sort of myth behind it, who is to say that it is better to live than to die, why not be part of a religious sacrifice for the sake of your people?

Of course, the spectre of Islamic suicide bombers immediately raises its head, with the prospect of all those virgins waiting for them in paradise.

So human sacrifice is not a simple issue, and I think a major factor is the degree of brainwashing involved and the degree of narrow literalism behind the way the myth is taken, so that only your race or religion are saved.

All the same, the reason I am defending it was because I could feel the archetypal power behind the event, the sense of the forces of a greater reality being invoked. Maybe I’m just a sucker for Norse mythology.

And then I thought well which is better, having this sort of myth around death, or the nihilistic bleatings of the existential psychotherapist Irviv Yalom, that death is an extinction, and you’d better believe it, because any other view is a false comfort? And that there is no meaning in the universe apart from what we artificially add on? And he gets his poor patients to think like that as though these are ‘facts’ they need to come to terms with, rather than just his own prejudices.

No, it’s a puny way to live and die. Humans need great myths to live and die by, it is the way we are built. We are diminished as people without such myths, myths that are real without being hard ‘facts’, the curse of our Gemini Age, facts without meaning, lacking the the opposite sign of Sagittarius.

[We live in a Gemini Age because that is the sign in which the last conjunction of Neptune and Pluto took place around 1890; and the conjunction 500 years before that. The Spectre of Facticity, largely through the medium of science, has been pursuing us for a long time now.]

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So what myths around death does astrology have? First of all, anything around astrology is myth, rather than fact. The planets as gods, influenced by starry constellations, telling us stories about our lives down here. How could that ever be ‘fact’? But to the degree to which that sort of cosmology has imaginative power for us, to that degree it will tell us things that are real, far more than mere facts ever could.

This is an important point. Truth is an imaginative act, and there can only be a small degree of truth in anything that does not have imaginative appeal, that does not infuse the universe with meaning. And when a collective has a common set of myths, such as those of the astrological community, then I think those myths gain power almost as entities in themselves. So in some sense your mythology is “what does it for you”, but it needs to be more than that if it is to have much power, it needs to come from a deeper, collective source that will therefore also appeal to others.

I don’t think astrology does have a set of explicit myths about what happens when you die, which is why it can be used as an ‘add-on’ to say Christianity or Buddhism. But I think there are implied myths through the fact that the planets are named after the Greek and Roman gods, and astrology derives its power from that, whether or not we have reduced the planets to a set of principles and keywords. They are there lurking in the background, and it is interesting that by transit ALL the planets from Jupiter outwards can be involved in death one way or another. Jupiter because he takes us up to the realm of the gods when we die; Saturn and Pluto because they ARE death; Uranus and Neptune because they can represent that life-changing disruption or dissolution respectively with which death can appear. The inner planets may be the trigger for death, but the outer planets ARE the death that the inner planets are triggering.

If you are an astrologer then you are living mythologically, so it would not make sense to have a non-mythological view of death. That said, I think there also needs to be room for the idea that actually we don’t know what happens after we die, there is an honesty to that if we live in modern times. And therefore a dishonesty to insist in a literal way on any particular mythology, including the materialist myth of extinction.

And let’s face it, some of us KNOW that life continues in some form after death, we have experiences of people after they die. They turn up, and it feels good, it feels right, even though we don’t probably know what happens to them next, but that doesn’t matter, it’s unknowable anyway because it’s happening outside of time and space and form, which are just temporary constructs that we use.

But back to the mythology of death and astrology, what we do have is Mercury taking dead souls to the Underworld where Pluto takes them in, once you’ve paid Charon’s fare across the river Styx. And that’s why I want to be buried with a coin in my mouth, in honour of that mythology, because Pluto turns up regularly for me and these sort of things continue after death. And I’m quite happy to have these 2 different things going on strongly: that I don’t know what will happen when I die, but I can trust it because life has taught me to trust whatever major stage comes next, and why should death be different?; and that I need a coin in my mouth to get to Pluto’s realm. I don’t need to add it all up logically, logic gets left far behind once you’re dead. Or thinking mythologically, something many people have forgotten how to do.

And when I say Pluto is mythological, I don’t mean any less real than ‘factual’ reality. Myth means a story about a divine being, and you can experience these beings, they really are there, and they are powerful.

So if you’re an astrologer, it’s worth thinking about how you feel about death in the light of Greek mythology, because you are plugged into that mythology, though not necessarily exclusively. And some parts of those mythologies are more primal, more archetypal then others, like descending to the Underworld and being taken there by Mercury; while other bits, like the description of the Underworld, with its different places such as Tartarus and the Elysian fields are more culture specific and less universally archetypal, and therefore I think we can put them to one side if we wish.