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Planet Waves: At Opposite Ends

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What if three years ago I had predicted that a swath of Asia would be wiped out by an earthquake and tsunami, with more than 229,866 lost or missing and countless lives disrupted? What if I predicted that a paltry $7 billion in humanitarian aid would be donated? Then this would be followed eight months later by two hurricanes that would flood much of the American Southeast, including New Orleans, damage from which would still not be repaired two years later.

Included in that prediction could have been that the occupation of Iraq would go into an endless downward spiral of death and violence, with no sign of the occupied nation stabilizing. In response to this, Bush’s approval rating would sink to the 30-percent range and the American public would finally dump the Republican House of Representatives and Senate. Yet the new Democrat-controlled Congress would soon after write a blank military spending check to the Administration, proving that they are Republicrats after all.

I did not predict these things (the closest I came was to say that we would probably have a lot of serious dam breaks starting in the summer of 2005). But they would have been reasonable forecasts, given the astrology. This includes the once-per-35-year opposition of Saturn and Neptune, which made its third and final pass on June 25. Personally, I try to avoid predictions of catastrophe, preferring to give the human family the time and space to make up its mind about what it wants to do with its brief moment on the planet. I view all astrology as an opportunity for change, and I am open to being pleasantly surprised by the possibilities for difficult aspects that are not necessarily considered by predictive astrologers, who typically display little ingenuity.

Saturn opposite Neptune is one of the more difficult aspects that comes along, and there were many predictions of disaster. It involves Neptune, whose energy is dreamy, watery, foggy, delusional, creative, and idealistic, being opposed by Saturn, whose energy is typically experienced as structured, solid, heavy, and often as a limit or a boundary. Basically, it is a solid, realistic thing and a big pool of water and imagination meeting face to face, with our world in between. If you want to visualize this, imagine it like the Full Moon, with the Sun to one side and the Moon to the other (an opposition), only replace the Sun and Moon with two vastly larger planets. In an earlier Planet Waves article, I described this as “the unbearable tension of water.”

An opposition is the peak of a cycle, or maximum polarity between two planets. It is a culmination, though this is not often logically expressed by history in a way that relates to the beginning of the cycle, the conjunction. The most recent conjunction of Saturn and Neptune occurred in 1989. It was actually an extremely rare triple conjunction between Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune (since at the time there was a rare conjunction between the latter two planets, which were then joined by Saturn).

Saturn and Neptune together in a conjunction (or any other aspect related to 90 degrees, such as a square) can come with a feeling of structures dissolving and there being no solid ground to stand on. Uranus is a planet whose energy is most often described as revolutionary, electricity in the form of lightening, and forward-thinking in the style of Prometheus. So we had a kind of splash-bang-shock-crumble era in history back then. In the immediate aftershocks of that conjunction, the world witnessed, with all due astonishment, the fall of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall. But it also marked the rise of capitalism in Eastern Europe and China, the kind of freedom that is not about free people but really about so-called “free markets” and, moreover, gloriously free multinational companies.

This revolution has now come to full maturity. As I am writing this, an e-mail just came from a reader, describing how China has taken over nearly all vitamin production in the US market as well as that of many other drugs. This is merely an example of our moment in history, and related to the pet-food contamination of several months ago, because the same thing can happen with vitamins. The article begins:

“SHIJIAZHUANG, China—If you pop a vitamin C tablet in your mouth, it’s a good bet it came from China. Indeed, many of the world’s vitamins are now made in China. In less than a decade, China has captured 90 percent of the US market for vitamin C, driving almost everyone else out of business.”

Though it looked like the “end of Communism” was occurring in the late 1980s and early 1990s, what we were seeing was a capitalist revolution that, nearly two decades on, seems to know no bounds.

Yet this is just a small part of the picture of our current existence. Let’s look a little more closely at the Saturn-Neptune opposition and see what we can discern. The slower moving planet is Neptune. It entered Aquarius on January 29, 1998, and will remain there until February 4, 2012.

Scanning back in time to 1978, let’s check in with an astrologer named Myrna Lofthus, who, in the book A Spiritual Approach to Astrology, was making some predictions about who would be born during this era, tipping her hand as to the anticipated quality of the time. She gives the keywords “inspirational” and “strong humanitarian ideals.”

She goes on, describing the birth of “kindly, gentle individuals who will seek to blend philosophical, political, and social ideals into one doctrine.” It is difficult not to snicker and think of Karl Rove’s or Paul Wolfowitz’s pretty face. Of course, these people were not born with this astrology, though they are doing their part to embody it in an entirely different way than Ms. Lofthus predicted in her book. She was apparently falling under the Prozac-like effects of Neptune in Aquarius at the time of her writing, suppressing the shadowy side of the transit.

And what would that be? Does anybody remember that article from the ominous autumn of 2004 by Ron Suskind in the New York Times Magazine, called “Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush”? This includes the famous quote where a Bush administration aide accused the author of being ‘‘in what we call the reality-based community.’’

The article continued:

“[These are] people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’

In other words, this Bush aide admitted that they are not living in what we think of as the real world. They are making up “reality” as they go along. From this, it is clear why they can afford to be so generous when it comes to screwing up what we think of as the world: They are not actually here. This article came out just prior to Bush being “re-elected” in November 2004, and we can see the effect that it had: At least 49 percent of the participating public voted for Bush, hence, he won.

This is the essence of Neptune in Aquarius, or at least one essence. We can look back to the imaginary, alleged “high crimes and misdemeanors” that got Bill Clinton impeached in December 1998, less than one year into the transit. Is there anyone who does not look back on Monica Lewinsky with abject astonishment? Oh, some people are still mad at Al Gore for being Clinton’s obviously sexually immoral vice president by association.

I am sorry I never have anything nice to say about our Prozac Nation moment, what Gore Vidal called the United States of Amnesia, under this 14-year phase of Neptune in Aquarius. (Neptune is in Aquarius for 14 years of its 165-year orbit.) There must be something, of course. It’s a great time if you’re a true believer, smoking the hookah of fundamentalist religion, and if you really just adore the Greenpeace sticker on your Hummer. I think that my iPod Nano, in which I can tote around 100 CDs and a stereo in my passport case, is a good Neptune-in-Aquarius kind of thing. But I am fully aware this is not reality.

I guess the good thing about Neptune in Aquarius is that you can’t fool all the people all the time. But you can certainly fool all of them most of the time.

Now enter Saturn in Leo, the other half of the opposition. Saturn is in Leo for just over two years of its 29-year orbit, so its movement is much faster than that of Neptune. Saturn in Leo is eminently practical: During this transit, many of the great inventions of the modern world have been created or patented, from moving pictures to recorded music and the transistor. Microsoft got its start under the last Saturn in Leo. It bears the seed of arrogance, persistence and self-centeredness that makes success in a capitalist marketplace possible. (People born with Saturn in Leo have lately been getting another side of the transit, humbling and grounding experience in the form of their Saturn returns.)

Saturn in Leo is hot and dry, sober and authoritative, focused and concentrated on one purpose. Neptune in Aquarius is cold and wet, delusional, hyper-idealistic, and falls for just about anything. Put them together face to face, and what do you get? Why, you have the perfect explanation for the paralyzed cynicism that we are living through right now.

You get a world where, if you start to think about where we are going to begin to pick up the pieces, you have to hold back tears long enough to get to Starbucks and feel better.

The issue of this opposition is integrity. That includes the integrity of the world, of our communities even though we are in denial that they exist, and our individual integrity, for which there are precious few examples and even fewer coherent definitions. It’s not that people don’t know the difference between right and wrong; it’s more like the feeling of there being no actual difference. But we seem to have a vague, nostalgic recollection of one. Who knows, maybe we will remember. During the last Saturn-Neptune opposition, Nixon got caught up in Watergate. Today the notion of a scandal seems nostalgic.

For those who happen to be awake, what is wrong is so outrageously wrong and so vast, there seems to be no way to correct it.

The integrity issue is difficult to tune into under this aspect; it’s difficult to experience it as real, or to perceive it as worth bothering with. In truth, we live with the question of whether anything is worth bothering with, unless we are obsessed by it. The people who do get it must have an extraordinary gift and that gift is no doubt being tested right now, as the psychic floodwaters of deception push, pull, and tear at the structures of our minds.

An opposition aspect this powerful is difficult for relationships as well. It is like the attempt to reconcile irreconcilable differences, or the temptation to merely give up trying.

But the good news is this: We humans always learn the most in these days of attempting to stretch ourselves across diametrical contradictions. There is something profound to be gained from confronting the impossible. Indeed, there is something to learn from observing exactly who and what refuses to do so.

Praise to all who take on the lonely calling of leadership in these times; to those who make it their business to squarely face deception and self-deception, and be overwhelmed doing so. Hail those who wake up and refuse to flounder, honoring the brevity and transience of life. I assure you all, when the floodwaters recede, you will be glad you did.

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