Planet Waves
Illustration by Via / Studio Psycherotica 1999
The River of Night
Planet Waves for January 2000

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For the Faithful: January 2000 Horoscopes
Sign-by-Sign Technical Notes and Background
Your Key Life Transits for 2000

Contents Page | Horoscopes | December 1999 Monthly

So I would read here
in my crystal
the writing

Even as Achilles
measured the stars
with the sway of a ship's mast

Even as Achilles
counted, figure by figure,
the outline of hero and beast

-- H.D.

By Eric Francis

AT MIDHEAVEN over the Americas, and hovering above western predawn horizons across much of the world, two mighty planets of our Sun mark the passage of time. The light of Jupiter, and its time-bound companion, Saturn, burns through even the glare of Los Angeles and the towering incandescence of New York. During the coming twenty weeks, these worlds, together comprising more than 2,200 times the mass and size of Earth, will meet in their once-per-generation conjunction. At the heart of what astrologers are calling the Taurus alignment, they will be joined on May 3 by the Moon, the Sun, Venus, and Mercury, with Mars just arcminutes into nearby Gemini. These are the seven traditional planets of the ancients, in one alignment called a "stellium," joined by the as-yet anonymous Centaur planet 1994TA starring in its first major role since showing up five years ago.

    Obviously, any interpretation of this alignment would be either speculative or creative. Or a stout rebuttal. Prophets through the centuries, our beloved Church fathers who hold the third secret of Fatima, Nostradamus, the grim survivalists and fundamentalists of our own time, the tabloid publishers, the nuclear wizards and the swaggering politicians insane with paranoia, stoned on power and sweating pure alcohol, have all aimed the barrels of their prescience, their supposed wisdom and their technology budgets straight at our heads, right in this very moment of history. Last year I was visiting Coney Island with my friend Maria, photographing old roller coasters, and there we met, in his person, the White Horseman of the Apocalypse, who was drinking a Pepsi out on the fishing pier.

    This is it: the Time of Revelation.

    And here we sit, still figuring out what to do on the big night. It's no surprise we're confused. I doubt there is one of you reading this who did not, at some point in the past, consider whether we would be here this month. But lo and behold.

    It is fair to say that we who are alive today have lived under siege all the hours of our lives. There were the emotional and mental trials of decaying family life, and the mild-to-horrible traumas of being born into a world made of confusion, fear and stress. But I'm really talking about the psychological menace of instantaneous world destruction, of coming of age in a collective reality where part of the mythos of life is mass murder or, if you prefer, mass suicide of our entire species and most others. Those of us who preserved a shred of sanity growing up under the threat of nuclear war -- hiding under school desks, ducking and covering, scurrying into fallout shelters, watching "The Day After" as homework and tracking (and paying for, and breathing the remnants of) the development of The Bomb through the decades -- truly deserve to congratulate ourselves.

    For we have not just survived; we have taken ourselves along, and found our way into a moment rich with psychic and spiritual chaos, metaphysical ferment and psychological vertigo, where the soothsayers were wrong, where the wise old men turned out to be wackos, and where the unknown, perhaps for the first time in the long age of automatic-fire science and thermonuclear religion, is more entertaining and far less scary than what anybody claims to know for sure.

    This is not to say that you can't turn on cable television at any hour of the afternoon or night and watch people fainting into the arms of Kansas City ministers donning $1,000 suits above a flashing 1-800 number and Discover Card logo, or take in three hours of exciting History Channel coverage of the development of the F-series bombers, side-by-side with your five-year-old, eyes glazed to the screen and the colors of the television painting your otherwise blank faces. I don't mean to insinuate for a moment that most people on the planet don't consume a diet of toxic sludge, whether it's force-fed to them by economics and politics ("Free Trade"), eaten in ignorance, or voluntarily lined-up for with two-for-one coupons six-deep at Burger King. Neither am I saying the air is clean or that the coral reef out from the beach where I live isn't dead, or that most people even care.

    I am only suggesting that there appears to be the merest hint of a growing culture of people who are not terrified of the unknown, or who are slightly less terrified of the unknown, or perhaps just willing to acknowledge the existence of the unknown, and who approach life with the window of possibility cracked slightly open, just wide enough to get a little sniff of fresh air. Perhaps that first taste of oxygen came from Conversations With God or a yoga workshop or a long talk with a midwife; or perhaps from giving birth, or something your kid nonchalantly said to you. Perhaps it appeared in a dream, or as an angelic presence vibrating over your desk when you were filling in IRS forms, or reading a Jell-o package in aisle seven, or when somebody jazzed you just the right way for the first time in 19 long years.

    But it's real air coming in. And that window slides the rest of the way. The screen even opens, or can be pushed out with your fingers. The encephalitis mosquitoes are all sleeping, the spray helicopters are in for the night, and this particular plan for wandering out into the netherworld of civilization is a moment of triumph in the history of human evolution. You crawl through the window and land on your feet. Back inside, you can still hear the revivalist meeting in Kansas City blaring to the empty room, people are still fainting at charisma and the operators are standing by, but the sound fades as you walk off into the dark evening, having left the shelter of all that is familiar, sane and rational.

    Feels pretty good.

    There is an actual breeze, and those two planets are visible overhead, currently about as far apart as the length of your thumb, if you wink one eye. They are in Taurus; you can tell because a constellation called the Pleaides, the Seven Sisters, is to their east, marking the outer edge of that sign. The last time these two planets got together, Ronald Reagan was elected president. The time before that, John F. Kennedy. The time before that, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Memorable characters all, and at big historical transition points. Of the "Zero Year" presidents in our century, Reagan was the only one who survived his term of office, though he came within millimeters of his life, and had a close brush with (legitimate, i.e., Iran-Contra) impeachment. Other presidents elected during the conjunction met unusual fates, including Abe Lincoln, who was elected during the 1860 alignment. Somebody killing the president is usually a sign of turbulent times. History gives a big heave during this conjunction, and what feel like the limits of known reality are stretched.

    In the old days of our particular civilization, nothing was known for sure beyond Saturn's realm, which represented a kind of wall around consciousness. This was during the weird years when we forgot the world was round and that it revolved around the Sun. Outside this imaginary border, chronological time (Kronos, the Greek name for Saturn) yielded to eternity, reason failed, and imagination lived in the form of what we now call myth, depicted in the constellations. There was no "sense" out there, but there were myths, and they gently held the mind together. Beyond the myths, the firmament of space corresponded with the chaos of the unknown, those unseen powers held as odd, alien or perhaps even antagonistic to the soul; though for the faithful, there was God, but God's nature was often projected from our minds as terrifying, vengeful and unpredictable -- far worse, I believe, than the more versatile, user-friendly Goddess/God available today.

    Comets, those wild celestial visitors plunging unexpectedly into awareness from beyond the known spheres, all of them a little different, were the first intimation of the as-yet undreamed-of outer planets, and were held by our grandfathers to be ill omens, foreboding disaster or threatening the known order of life within the cosmic wall.

    Jupiter, within the wall, is the expander. He is big and makes everything else bigger, even old Saturn. Jupiter associations are things like justice, education, travel, culture and the more spiritual aspects of religion -- which expand the mind and awareness, and offer, on one level, potential insights about life. When the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction happens, that wall moves a bit, or at least it groans, and in 2000, the section that's getting a push is Taurus.

TAURUS IS ABOUT VALUES. Everyone has values, but I have observed that most people don't know much about theirs. Most of the values we know about are those we have been instructed in by parents, schools, employers, churches, governments and the media. It may have occurred to you, but how many people do you think thought of refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance every day in school? Then there the ways that our peers impress their supposed values onto us, or the ways we are forced to adapt to the values of others through experiences like marriage. Most of these experiences leave us with a very tenuous sense of self-worth, which is the first and most important value. This can be as literal as the sense of whether you actually belong on the planet. Thought about this one much?

    The quest for one's own values is a major, lifelong undertaking. Saturn in Taurus for the past two years has added great emphasis to this particular quest. To me, these years have shown the many ways in which we live in a valueless world, and given me a chance to appreciate real values when I see them. Saturn's movement is believed to suggest cultural processes, and I have seen some evidence that there is movement in the direction of this kind of inner search and reassessment. But Taurus is a subdued and private process, rarely making a spectacular show. Mainly, I have noticed it in the new approaches people are taking to change: particularly, that the idea of growth being synonymous with change is becoming much more widely accepted.

    If we are in some way struggling with the meaning of our changing times, symbolized in a little temporal nutshell by "the millennium," our values are an important place to look. Values are our inner reference points that guide the rest of what we think. They are literally the basis of all perceptions we ascribe to everyone and everything within us and around us.

    And our culturally-impregnated values are getting to be kind of brittle, and at odds with the inner process of ensoulment, or recognizing the inner life, that seems to be underway for so many people. Now that there is such wide-scale prosperity, many people have a chance to figure out that prosperity isn't everything, and that it can be damned empty. We can love and appreciate people, but not when we treat them like garbage. This conflicts with any sane idea of love. To get out of these contradictions, we need to assess our values.

    In our society, technology has been worshipped as a god. That has been a dangerous value. But now it's getting thin, and surely, we are not going to be dazzled by the technological developments of the coming years any more than we're currently impressed by all our little droids, robots and telepathic toys that currently follow us around all day, doing tons of our work. (We could at least have the courtesy to say thank you.) It is clear that "medical science," if you are not very, very careful, can be little more than a toll booth where one deposits one's life savings on the way off the planet, so forget the cure for cancer, and all it represents, as a meaningful cultural value; cancer is big business, and it's a manufactured disease anyway, created by tobacco, radiation and dioxin, which cigarettes contain; and they are still very popular items at my local grocery. Every person who can read knows how to avoid cancer, anyway. Do we? What value runs that little show? To me, these examples point to a state of confusion, which is, as my friend Scott always says, the state before enlightenment.

    One place we can dependably look for meaningful values is the relationship between what religion calls it the soul, and what the soul is doing here; its purpose. This is risky because it implies a separation between "you" and "your soul," which is a common divide-and-conquer technique of religion. But if we get the picture that we've already been divided, then putting the two halves together could be an interesting contrast, more like an analysis of true versus false values, or real versus unreal personal identity. One of the games on the spiritual path occurs when we find this "real you." Then, we have the job of becoming the "real you" and letting ourselves be real as this other being, who might not be such a needy paranoid freak as the old you. But is it real? It is probably a shift best done gently and slowly. And it will always happen in the context of relationships.

    Values are the basis of our relationships to others. Tab "A" and Slot "B" may fit well between lots of people, but values make the actual meeting. When we start to tune into the true ones, we will, I am pretty sure, start having better relationships to people, which are characterized more by trust than by betrayal; more by conscious sharing and less by unconscious using; more by loyalty and less by "commitment." Real friends must stand on the same foundation. Outer factors may appear to be different, but inside, that common ground is the rock of values. When the whole world shifts, that one rock might hold together. You never know.

    Our foundational values are about things like the worth we place on our individual life and that of the species; whether things are more important than people; whether we strive for honesty or to conceal ourselves; whether freedom or control should dominate relationships and society -- the important ones, not just whether you spend the money on a wool rug when polyester will do. In traditional astrology, Taurus, represented by the Bull (some say the baked potato), is the symbol of agriculture, wealth, and food, and hence, all forms of both survival and prosperity, and is usually associated with cash. But having real values will, I believe, point us beyond survival. It would be nice.

    Taurus is also the relationship we share and the value we place on he physical body and the fact of physicality, which is an important dimension, given that without physicality you would not be reading these words and I would not be writing them, and neither would we have need to. Do we value our physical vehicle? How do we demonstrate this value, or lack of value?

    Looking a bit deeper, Taurus is the sense of worth we possess as a member of a family or a culture. It is the literal sense that one is worth anything at all; one's skills and talents, yes, but on a deeper level, one's essential being. Many people are in the crisis that their essential being is worthless, so they must compensate for it with skills, like cooking. For a long time I thought the only reason women would want to hang out with me was because I was an interesting guy. That is different than an understanding that they would just want to be with me. The more I am able to love myself, the more I am able to receive positive attention from people. Believe me, I used to scream, like when the Wicked Witch of the West got a little water splashed on her.

    So the next theme in my end-of-the-millennium sermon is forgiveness. My friend Jenny, after reading the draft of this article, reminded me to mention this one. So I will quote her e-mail directly:

If I were to tell the story of my journey to loving myself, I would tell you it began with forgiving a few people in my life that in many peoples eyes were not "worthy" of forgiveness. Some of the people I have forgiven did not ask my forgiveness. Just mention forgiving someone who has done something the world perceives to be unforgivable. I have dodged a lot of angry bullets for my ability to forgive.

My belief is that people avoid dealing with forgiveness. I could not move on with the middle part of my journey until I had. Forgiveness of others put the focus back where it belonged. On me.

So the next part of my journey was forgiving myself. Existentialism [belief that we live in a cruel, meaningless, godless world -ef] can get pretty ugly sometimes. This is where I wrestled with my most horrible demons. After taking responsibility for every problem known to mankind short of the Coca Cola Company changing its secret formula, I came to the realization that I have always done the best I can. Part of the process of forgiveness of others and myself came in the form of a decision I made. I will no longer feel obligated to assign blame.

After I forgave others and then myself, I was able to move on to the business of liking and loving myself.

    In sexuality, where many values are exchanged, the Taurus factor is first about masturbation and selflove, which is the genesis of all erotic consciousness. Selflove is the basis of all other forms of love, and I believe that this works on all levels -- erotic, emotional, and intellectual (to the extent it's even possible to divide them). Note carefully, in the actual world (don't just believe me), that it is impossible for a person to be loving toward you unless they are loving toward themselves. It is impossible for you to receive the loving gestures and feelings of another unless you are loving toward yourself. If we worked with this formula, if we could talk about it and were willing to experiment a little, we would save much misery in our relationships, but it would also be a lot harder to blame one another for everything. And that blame is, of course, perfectly convenient, until we count the misery to which it has led us.

    Through negotiating these Tauran aspects of life, we can finally go beyond survival, and arrive at some very important fundamental understandings of why we are alive, or at least what it means to be alive.

    We all know Taurans (Moon, Sun, Rising or other important factors) can be stubborn folks, often in just the right ways, and other times in really frustrating ways. This stubbornness, or perhaps it's just dependability, is an important factor of the soul's growth, since growth requires persistence. It is about desire and will. The more evolved we become, the more the Taurus factor, which we all possess, manifests as will, and less as desire. Desire, because it is so often unguided by love, is a terrible problem on the Earth right now, because it is the root of greed and its many unhappy results, including war. But the will, that is, the conscious intent to shape one's own life into creative or functional or pleasant forms, is another way of being entirely.

    And in these very days, the Taurus vibration is increasing rapidly. Alice A. Bailey, in her 1951 book Esoteric Astrology, described Taurus as the foundry of the soul, the hot furnaces and anvils of which are not ruled by Venus, but rather by her consort Vulcan, the divine blacksmith. And it is in Vulcan's shop that the whole process of greed and desire that has led to the mess that humanity is in, she says, becomes reversed, and where the life of the soul takes form and consciousness. Writes Bailey, "The great question is: Will this Tauran influence, increased as it is by the incoming Shamballa [divine or angelic] forces, produce the floodlight of illumination of which Taurus is the custodian, or will it simply foment desire, increase selfishness and bring humanity to the 'fiery heights of self interest' instead of to the mountain of vision and initiation?"

    Or, simply, what do we do with our power? Will we -- as individuals, making our decisions, in our own lives -- create the world, or will we destroy it? This is a good thing to ponder here in the Time of Revelation.

WHILE ALL THE ORTHODOX PLANETS align in and near Taurus in May, and Jupiter gives Saturn a big push outward and everything rumbles, there is another process underway, across the solar system in Sagittarius. By superficial standards, is difficult to imagine two more different astrological archetypes than solid, earthy and painfully uncompromising Taurus, and fiery, visionary, and charming Sagittattitude. But consider that with this shift we go from the blacksmith shop of the soul, to the soul's quest for adventure in the outer world.

    Sagittarius, along with its traditional ruler Jupiter, is usually considered to be among the more spiritual elements of astrology. But this notion sets off a big yellow light in my mind. I am leery of anything divided off from the whole and called "spiritual," because it casts everything else as "unspiritual" by definition. Not a good idea. But it appears that, in these recent years, we have needed to create this special category to define a term and a way of being that is distinct from "religion" and "dogma," as well as distinct from "harmful," "greedy," "unforgiving," and so on. But once we have this basic concept of spiritual down, and the related concept of the life of the soul as opposed to the life of the self that merely tries to survive, it will be very helpful to put the fish back in the water. So, proceeding with caution, let's take a look at this spiritual part of consciousness and how I think it relates to current planetary movements.

    Activity in Sagittarius involves two distinctly modern planets, both discovered in the 20th century, which work together in much the same way that Jupiter and Saturn function, since Saturn sets a limit and Jupiter pushes the limit. They are Chiron and Pluto. Chiron represents an obvious process of growth, healing and spiritual illumination. It is about awareness. Pluto represents a kind of limit not on how far we can go, but rather a minimum requirement on how far we must go. Pluto usually operates behind the scenes and below normal awareness. Chiron shows up like Federal Express knocking on the door, saying you're going to go even further than you or Pluto ever imagined.

    When planets are discovered and named, they become associated with cultural processes that are ready to surface. The processes were already in operation before the discovery, but not clearly defined as such, and often, in much weaker form. These two 20th century planets form their first conjunction ever within the phase of history that both planets, and hence, both of the processes they represent, were discovered. And, in a delightful display of synchronicity, they do so on Dec. 30 and 31.

    Chiron and Pluto are processes directly associated with the life of the soul, that is, the inner side of life not typically associated with one's day job or the color of one's car. But of course the soul, if it exists at all, is there all along, to some extent. Honoring the soul's quest has become something of a popular item these days, even in Wichita. Just a couple of short decades ago, one basically had the options of being a soulless godless heathen heretic communist sinner bound straight for hell, or, in the alternate, going to church, putting some money in the basket and having your soul saved for you. Saved for what, God Himself only knew, but saved no less, as long as you contributed next week. Whatever else you did or thought (i.e., be a lesbian) was done either alone or among very close confidants. Today there are other options.

    True, there are still places where you can get kicked out of church for reading Tarot cards, or fired from your teaching job if you're known to have danced around a fire at the full moon. But it ain't exactly Salem, and it's getting harder by the week to criticize people for any form their religion takes. I'm into Jesus and she's into Obatala and so it goes these days on the cosmic physical plane.

    That we in our culture are making progress in this aspect of life is the result of an evolutionary process, taking the form of both individual awakenings and a growing social movement wearing away at stodgy tradition for a solid, though in reality quite brief, 50 years since the Beat Generation writers informed people that they were not free. Though what we call New Age thought really goes back to the 1890s, when the occultist H.P. Blavatsky (author of The Secret Doctrine) started importing Eastern ideas and teachers to Europe and America. Plus, we have the benefits of a few Pagans, Druids, Tarot card readers or whoever dragging school administrators or town officials into federal court and/or through the newspapers, and giving the bell of freedom, tarnished though it may be, a good ring every once in a while. Christian culture, conveniently serving its own ends, has taught us to "turn the other cheek." But sometimes, if you're threatened, you have to pick up a rock and aim it straight for the head, or hold the Tarot card reading class right in the church lobby. It's risky, but so is wimping out.

    And many of those on their quests, those who believe, and those who seek truth, have persisted doing so for many years. The culture of seekers is growing, and many people are making their particular talent or gift available without serious fear of reprisal from, say, the Holy Inquisition. True, some people are a bit freaked at their first experiences of being spiritual out there in the cruel world, but maybe that's part of the fun.

    And there are all kinds of fun to have. It is now possible to have your soul retrieved by a shaman, to take a four-day vision quest with a Lakota teacher, or to participate in a workshop on Taoist Tantra complete with G-spot massage and training in continuous orgasm. Stan and Christina Grof are getting great results with Holotropic Breathwork, and have been on the scene for decades. When I was a lad and exploring the New Age more than 14 years ago, I was continually annoyed that my fellow pilgrims, invoking the power of the Almighty, seemed to be apolitical wimps. At the recent World Trade Organization protests in Seattle, there were plenty of meditation sessions or rituals held in, or directed to, or mingled in with the truly gutsy protests, by people including lots of out-of-the-closet witches, against the New World Order, representing the first birthing I have noticed of a community dedicated to both political action and mysticism. Thank God for miracles.

    To me, this represents a major healing of a social movement that split after the Vietnam War into mutually exclusive camps of Intellectual Leftism and Me-Generation Self-Helpism. But these were indeed steps on the way, and are another example of how fractioning off a portion of thought allowed that portion to evolve independently into a state of strength well enough to get to the next level.

    In these years, I have spent a fair amount of time investigating New Age religious culture, and have gazed unblinkingly into the eyes of the beloved at workshops in California with the best of them; I have done ceremony in the King's Chamber in the Great Pyramid at Giza; and I have prayed at the Grandmother Stone at the goddess temple at Malia on the isle of Crete. All of this is readily available. It was all fun, all beautiful, and though the experiences occasionally had the feeling of "Akbar and Jeff's Reincarnation Hut" from the Life in Hell cartoon strip, in actual fact, I learned and grew through all of them, and explored many dimensions of my own reality they never mentioned back in my Hebrew nursery school.

    And furthermore, I did not go to hell. But I found out more, on this quest, than I learned when I was about eight years old looking for information on something called "the holy spirit." My mother didn't know much, but suggested I call up some priests and ask them. None could really explain it. One said that it was "tongues of flame," though that didn't tell me much. So I don't blame myself, or my soul, for studying the Course in Miracles and snooping around the Great Pyramid. And I know I am not alone.

    There are other signs of the times, as I see things. Grown businessmen getting acupuncture treatments or going for Rebirthing sessions. Cardiologists advising Americans -- Americans! -- to be vegans. Church ladies taking the Loving Relationships Training program. Colleges and universities offering courses on witchcraft, sorcery and astrology. My therapist did his master's thesis on the magic powers of musical instruments in indigenous cultures.

    If you are concerned that these are passing trends, or inclined toward cynicism, consider that in recent years, a federal court in Illinois ordered the almighty American Medical Association (AMA) to stop picking on those alternative weirdo doctors known as chiropractors, which the AMA had done nonstop for decades in an effort to crush that profession. (Homeopathy suffered a similar fate earlier in this century, but is now in a revival.) A hard-headed chiropractor named Chester Wilk, who has a very powerful Chiron placement in his natal chart, headed up that battle, which took about 10 years and flushed some interesting info from the AMA's files. Today, thanks to Chet, chiropractic is still alive and indeed thriving, and this victory legitimizes alternative approaches to medicine. Some chiropractors and medical doctors even share offices, and patients benefit greatly.

    In the pharmacy I used in a snooty and conservative place called Ridgewood, New Jersey, I found a traditional druggist who could more than hold his own in a discussion about homeopathy, and who had never given his children antibiotics. We had that discussion because the naturopathic physician, whom the owners hired full-time to talk with customers, was on her day off. Ridgewood is a town populated by bankers and stock traders. It is not Santa Fe. There is no Full Moon drumming there. But women go to a naturopath to take homeopathic remedies before getting face-lifts. Go figure.

    Our conceptions of reality are changing. Many people still believe that "psychic" phenomena are "bunk," but it's clear that many more are beginning to understand, and get a tangible sense, that there is life beyond the body, that the energy bodies are real, and, thanks perhaps to James Redfield more than anyone, that synchronicity is both cool and meaningful. Rationalist materialism branded into our minds by science had pretty much trained everyone not to believe what they could not see. But we can see that what we can see is often far from dependable. Like for example, 5,000 or so ads a day.

    The dogmatism of religion and rationalism are no longer the only games in town. There are now options, and it is easy to find out about them. If you can't do a Yahoo! search these days, it's probably because you don't want to. Internet service providers are giving computers away free as part of subscriptions. It is possible to connect with people anywhere in the world, who have all different kinds of ideas. Perhaps we may not know what to believe, but that is part of growing up. With the Internet it is clear that we cannot apply the same blind faith we have given to television, and maybe that will teach us not to trust television, either. If we do this long enough, it will become increasingly difficult for us to be bigoted or misled. Maybe it will take 10 or 30 more years for us to catch up. But I look at it this way. One of my best friends is a Marxist. I am not a Marxist, but just for associating with her, were this the 1950s, I could have been dragged before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which was part of the United States Congress.

    Political freedom, ancient traditions, religious experimentation and other forms of consciousness exploration are enjoying a new sense of virtue. And they are beginning to embrace one another. And at least the schools of thought and states of mind are available for perusal. Most of them, thankfully, are no longer induced by drugs.

WHATEVER YOU THINK is causing all of this, and regardless of whether you believe in it or have any use for it, these cultural movements are synchronous, that is, timed with, with at least two astrological factors. One is the 1977 discovery of Chiron, which ushered in the holistic movement; and the more recent transit of Pluto through Sagittarius during the past four years. Pluto stirs up everything, and though he acts secretly, you cannot keep secrets from him. Everything comes out in the wash. Chiron, part of the same process, is an invocation of the capacity humans have to become conscious and build bridges, both between one another, and between levels of awareness.

    Pluto pushes the evolutionary process forward. Pluto in Sagittarius is pushing forward the evolution of direct religious experience and cultural awareness. We are, somehow, compelled to be more open minded. There was no such thing as Pluto in 1647, when William Lilly, fearing retribution from church fathers, published Christian Astrology, the first astrology text in English, when he was already near death. There was, at that time, nothing stronger than Saturn -- represented by the church government. Today, we acknowledge such a power, a "prime mover" within the human psyche. There is cause, and there are effects. Some people understand that the cruel will suffer cruelty, even if at their own hands, until they change their ways, and we are also noticing that kind people can often choose to experience something other than cruelty. This is evolution. As the world becomes smaller, it may be possible to shine this light of awareness onto places where women are killed for exposing the flesh of their arms, or where others have their genitals mutilated as part of being sold into marriage. Perhaps our awareness will help those situations, and perhaps it will just give us a greater sense and appreciation of our own freedom, and our own place in the global evolutionary process. Perhaps you will decide you want to go somewhere else and help out with these problems. That is an option, now that you are aware.

    In Sagittarius, as I write, the unstoppable evolutionary force of Pluto joins with the consciousness and metaphysical power of Chiron. So the life-and-death issues represented by Pluto, and the healing and questing issues represented by Chiron, will now be expressed together in the framework of knowledge, religion, global culture and the truly Sagittarian theme of contacting the Higher Self. Or rather, they are already being expressed there, and have been for some time.

    As more people do this, the world will continue to change. It is in Sagittarius that ambition is turned to aspiration, much like Taurus turns greed to will. Work in the Sagittarius areas of our lives and our charts focuses the power of the will into a conscious, one-pointed quest, like that arrow in the sign's glyph. Chiron, the Centaur, in Sagittarius, the sign of the Centaur, represents that very quest.

    I mentioned before that in the old days, when comets came blazing into the sphere of Saturn, inside the cosmic wall, all the old-fart emperors, philosophers and astrologers used to go into conniptions. Chiron and Pluto are essentially comets. They have strange orbits, they are made of ice and they travel very far from the Sun. They were born in the reaches of space where the comets were born. But we are now intimately involved with their life processes, which are becoming our life processes as we get familiar with one another. In this time, we are birthing ourselves, as a culture, from a very, very long time in which metaphysics, birth and death and sex were the proprietary realms of religion and science, and individual views were not tolerated.

    If real acceptance of sexuality has lagged behind other cultural movements, it is only because it is closer to the mysteries of life and death than the others, therefore more scary. And it is because we have not yet consciously identified guilt as a toxic and unnecessary element of consciousness. But any quest for love, or invocation of love, requires dealing with guilt in a conscious process, and I believe that sexual guilt is at the heart of our more general guilt about being alive.

    The sexual liberation, gay liberation and feminist movements of the 1960s made a great mistake in not cultivating new models of relationship in their days of glory, but the need for those models of relationship has now taken on a value of its own. Perhaps those early movements were just there to scream about the need for change. "The nuclear family" has failed as a cultural institution. Possession is no longer the only way to love. Heterosexual monogamous marriage is not the only option, and everybody knows it. There are significant currents of progress underway in redesigning the architecture of the family and the ecology of community, and it's clear to me that what some people call the "spiritual sex" movement -- that is, erotic love expressed responsibly, without guilt and within different models of relationship than marriage -- is next in line for widespread cultural acceptance, or at least awareness and tolerance. It is well on the way. As seekers, we will, I believe, find that the conscious use of sexuality, and adopting an appropriate ethos in relationships, will help orient us on our cosmic origins and our inner creative fire.

    In these and many other ways, the soul is calling. And that requires embracing freedom. Freedom is always an interesting test. If you seek it sincerely, there is only so badly you can fail.

    If these processes have a dark side -- something to be ever-wary of with Pluto around -- it is that when people evolve, demons are always cast away, and for a time, they can raise hell. Fear and guilt can surface from their hiding places, families can shake, rumor mills can rumble, and we must hold one another very gently in such moments, love ourselves unconditionally, and not confuse the fear of other people with fear of our own. This is an important skill to cultivate. There can be a sense of disorientation when the old structures or "living in the past" are dropped away. Those who have dealt with some or most of their fear need to gently assume roles of leadership in conscience, and fear's release needs to be an affirmatively-stated objective of any growth process. For by letting go of the known, we invoke the unknown, and that calls for courage.

ASTROLOGY IS THE ORIGINAL religion, representing humanity's earliest attempt to order the cosmos, to orient itself there, to establish cause and effect. In later days, it became a means to gain some control over life. In more modern times, it became the first organized psychology. Today it is a meeting place of all of these things.

    But to truly face astrology is to stand at the edge of a gulf where conventional reason fails. Today even conventional astrological reasoning fails, as many planets are discovered every year -- nearly 100 more planets have been seen orbiting our Sun since 1992. Someone I know who just, as in just today, got her teaching certificate in Earth Sciences, had no idea. Many astrologers dismiss the new planets in a poor attempt to avoid the fact of change, avoiding, but not really, the need to rethink everything, and to once again face the unknown, kind of like comets freaked out old Ptolemy. These rapid discoveries represent the cosmic chaos in which we now seek to discover ourselves, and remind us we cannot live on untested assumptions, and neither can we rely on the so-called wisdom of the past -- particularly any wisdom that teaches us to kill for profit.

    Most of space is pitch dark. The planets we use to navigate, even the great ones, are but tiny parts of the cosmic order, and give only reflected light. The fixed stars which a scant few astrologers use are far away, most are blotted out by light pollution, and we have, for the most part, lost the imaginative power to see in them the outlines of heroes and beasts that tell our own story. We seem to know so much, and our minds seem so complex, and we seem to have a lot to lose in embracing the great void. There is an element of profound surrender involved. We need to be ready, but we also need to stop waiting around for something to happen.

    "Life and time, flowing from an unknown source, were envisaged in the ancient world as a great River, welling up from the beyond," writes Catherine Tennant in her book The Lost Zodiac.

    "The River Eridanus, whose heavenly counterpart, the River of Night (as it was called in Babylon), flows down from the stars around Orion's feet towards the Southern Pole, was thought by the Greeks to come from paradise, the timeless Islands of the Blessed. The river is a symbol of both of the life force and of the irrevocable passage of time, and it was upon the banks of the great rivers of the Ganges, the Euphrates and the Nile that civilization, as we know it, first began."

    And it is along the shores of the River of Night that the new civilization will take its shape. ++

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