AMERICA IN TRANSITION
by Jessica Murray
In our last column we discussed Saturn’s association with the
concept of “reality.” We proposed that it seemed pretty
arrogant for one single planet to claim to be the last word on a concept
as all-encompassing as “reality.” How does Saturn get
away with it?
It gets away with it because It is the definer.
It establishes rules and sets boundaries. Saturn’s considerable
clout has nothing to do with logic; it has to do with authority
and control. Saturn is the Because-I-say-so planet.
We spoke last time about the concept of reality being, well, a concept;
not an absolute. Mystics and magi have been aware of this distinction
since time immemorial, of course, and the New Physicists have recently
corroborated it in terms that the modern mind could theoretically
accept. But the man-on-the-street has yet to receive the memo.
Saturn decides what’s
true and normal
Anachronistic though it may be, in the modern world Saturn still
means what it meant before the string theorists and Carlos Castaneda
started messing with our minds about the nature of reality. In a given
culture, Saturn governs those consensual viewpoints that are felt
to be so unarguably real that they don’t register as
relative. They register as self-evident.
An example is the idea that American-style democracy
is the most superior form of government the
world has ever seen (1). It is not considered
a mere opinion; it is a defining cultural premise. So is its corollary:
that the desire to introduce democracy to less-enlightened nation
states is a proper and, indeed, an idealistic position for a politician
to take. The only argument between the two major political parties
on this issue concerns the means by which an American-style government
should be foisted upon, and thereafter managed within, the benighted
countries involved. The question of whether it
should happen elicits no argument; only how it should happen.
considered too obviously true to subject to argument.
argue about gravity, either.
We proposed in our last column that the Saturnine concept of normalcy is
similarly relative: that what a culture considers
to be base-line normal changes from decade to decade, if not from
year to year or month to month; even varying widely from one socioeconomic
group to another—all the while seeming, to the person holding
the assumption, to be as immutable as Mt. Everest. Saturn represents
all viewpoints which take for granted that Everybody sees things this way except
for a few wingnuts.
To the extent that we stay stuck in this collective
application of the Saturn principle it becomes impossible to assess,
or respond to, what’s going on in the world today. Our job
as symbol-readers must be to rediscover the elasticity of the archetypes
we find in the astrology books, thereby to use them, in all their
fullness and complexity of meaning, as tools of consciousness.
Saturn decides what is important
The operating principle behind a group chart, no less than an individual
chart, is that all the planets should operate together into a smoothly
functioning whole. If a planet is estranged from the overall life
purpose of the entity (especially if it is at cross-purposes with
the Sun, as we will see next month when we look at the US chart),
problems arise. An un-integrated planet is often taken over by its
shadow side. It is prone to projection (i.e. cast out upon the external
world). It may stay stuck in arrested development.
One of Saturn’s key principles is the word/concept important.
Saturn presides over the people and subject matter
deemed importantby a given group at a given point in its history.
A well-functioning Saturn will bestow importance upon public figures
and issues that stabilize the group by bringing forth worthy values
from its past which benefit the commonweal.
An unhealthy use of Saturn will drive a group to confer importance
according to artificial and capricious criteria, as a bouncer at a
nightclub does whose boss has instructed him to allow inside the velvet
rope only the attractive and rich-looking among those waiting in line.
The election extravaganza
A timely example of distorted Saturn can be seen
in the current showcasing by the American telecommunications
industry of the biggest money-making scam in
media history: the presidential campaign season.
This massive election-prep period, with its
preternaturally early whistle stops, its up-for-grabs
scheduling of primaries and its rule manipulating
run amok (2), is proving itself as elastic
as Mike Huckabee’s
Even if we set aside the content of the speechifying
and its attendant punditry, the sheer girth
of this media phenom—its extravaganza-like
presence across the media landscape—tends to
seduce even the most skeptical American into believing that there
is nothing more newsworthy in the whole wide
world than that day’s
tiny poll shift or the tear that appeared in
or the number of times Rudy said “9/11” in a speech.
Low-level Saturn logic concludes that if the
official voices of a society—in
this case, the talking heads on TV—are giving this subject so
much attention, it cannot be nonsense. It must
We have seen that Saturn gets its heft from the notion
is what everybody thinks. The scale of the stagecraft involved
in America’s election-year machinery is cultivated to convey
the idea that everybody thinks these goings-on
Although, as we have seen, Saturn resists defining
who this “everybody” is,media
consumers are cajoled into assuming that what
they are watching represents something of overweening
concern to some vast, universal majority.
Saturn decides what the majority
is thinking, even when it isn’t
But the more closely we look at it, the idea of The Majority starts
to shift and fluctuate, much like the idea of reality. Like other
Saturn-governed concepts, it is less sacrosanct than we are led to
For example, pollsters tell us that only a dinky
little third of the American electorate is
behind the Bush-Cheney cabal at this point, but one would never
know it given the great honking sound and fury emanating from the
candidates vying for the GOP torch. This contingent is given a huge
amount of airtime, because, of course, the game is rigged; they
represent agencies with oodles of money and connections to the seat
of power. (3)
What does this scenario have to do with the workings of Saturn?
Skewed media positioning provides its beneficiaries with a patina
of gravitas, Saturn’s ultimate prize. The lack of a
level playing field of visibility has fed into
a fictive construct that not only do most people find these individuals
and their scripted sound bites eminently significant, but that most
people see these views as normal. The intention is to make
the most foolish, off-the-wall public figures achieve an aura of being
the voice of majority opinion without it being literally true. (This
phenomenon has a counterpart in the financial world. Stock analysts
call it the “salience
bias:” investors give high-profile information—even when
it is obviously flawed—more weight than they give sound, lower-profile
In our last column we described the tendency of individuals
in the grip of a Saturn picture to disdain subjecting their story
to statistical analysis (for example, the idea that “most marriages last until-death-do-us-part”).
The irony here is that the presumption of factuality
is exactly what makes their view feel so solid.
But even when such stories are backed up by empirical data, Saturn
persuades us to believe that its truisms are not just true; they are more than
true. They are common knowledge. There is a sense of psychological
weight surrounding Saturnine institutions and viewpoints that would
not exist if they were thought to be the beliefs of the minority.
Saturn decides who The Fringe is
Most Americans—whether right- or left-leaning—know
that endorsing torture is not a value that the US citizenry
as a whole identifies with. If we’re talking about actual majority
opinion, it is very improbable that Mitt Romney’s call to double
the size of Guantanamo represents mainstream
thinking. Moreover, it seems likely that most Americans in their heart
of hearts detected the whiff of the nutcase about Sen. McCain changing
the lyrics of the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann” to “Bomb
bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran;” as well as about Mr. Huckabee’s
announcement that if all the nation’s aborted fetuses had gone
to term, the US wouldn’t need low-cost immigrant labor.
Nonetheless there exists a stubborn collective resistance
to seeing these stances for what they are:
the unwholesome, bizarre opinions of a fringe
wing of an unpopular party. The stagecraft shoring up these gentlemen—the
fact that they are given the imprimatur of the headlines day after
day, and that big-name reporters analyze, with grave solemnity and
dead seriousness, their every word and gesture—is
designed to prevent them from being seen as fringe
Even were an idea to pop out of one of these speakers’ mouths
that was fringe-like in a positive sense—i.e.
refreshingly unique—Saturn would have none
of it. Saturn does not acquire authority by being original
or idiosyncratic. It gets its avoirdupois from
the idea that certain things are generally known and accepted. These
candidates do not aspire to be seen as brilliant or innovative.
They want to be thought of as predictable exponents of What Most
People Think. They are running on the Saturn platform.
With perverse irony, the faux-majority thinking trope
works its magic all along the political spectrum. Many leftwing
Americans buy into this fallacy every bit as much as the cheerleaders
of the candidates we are describing. Consider that American progressives—the type
of voter who might see Dennis Kucinich as a harbinger of integrity
and common sense, for example—even this kind of American, if
she watched enough TV, would tend to get snookered by Saturn’s
Reality Show. The rules of this show declare
that if Kucinich is denied a place in the big debate, he must not
be a real candidate. Thus if a voter identifies with him and believes
in his authenticity, she must
be the fringe thinker.
By this skewed logic, the anti-war contingent, despite being identified
by pollsters as the overwhelming majority of the US populace, tend
to see themselves as the odd-men-out, as voices in the wilderness,
as the weirdos.
for the rest of the world
While it might have been true right after 9/11 that
the hawkish viewpoint constituted a numerical majority in the USA,
a couple of years later the opposition to a preëmptive strike against Iraq rose to the
millions in the USA and to the hundreds of millions throughout the
rest of the world. In every major city across the globe, masses of
humanity arose to protest Washington’s plan. The war promoters
were so hugely outnumbered that the New York Times declared
there to be “two superpowers on the planet: the United States
and world public opinion" (Feb. 16, 2003).
This scenario brings to light yet another layer of
un-integrated Saturn. To what extent do international viewpoints
factor into America’s
We have seen that rigorous accuracy is not the driving
force behind America’s sense of majority opinion, even its
own national majority opinion. Much has been
written about the tendency of the US government
to minimize the numbers of domestic dissidents
(by refusing them access to media; by contesting their reports or
resorting to character assassination [e.g. global warming scientists,
Joseph Wilson]; by undercounting mass demonstrations), thus manipulating
sense of what constitutes received wisdom in
the USA. But the faux-majority gambit becomes qualitatively
more outrageous when we consider how it allows
Americans to summarily dismiss the perspectives of the other countries
of the world. (4)
A distorted Saturn is nothing if not provincial.
Following the lead of their government, Americans by and large give
global opinion very little attention. They accept quite readily
their leaders’ cataloguing
of other nations into two groups: “allies” or potential
objects of conquest (or, as it is demurely being
framed, the lucky recipients of new, improved regimes).
True majority opinion
The truth is that aside from the apparently infinite
credulity of certain groups within the American public, basically
no one across the whole face of the globe sees things the way Washington
does. To see the Iraq war as having to do with "democracy," for
instance, may be either the normal or the faux-normal position here
in the USA, depending on your point of view; but it is considered
flat-out preposterous just about everywhere else in the world.
If we applied Saturn’s own presumed standard—that
of preponderant viewpoints—we would find that
at most a few million Americans take seriously the “We bombed
Iraq to free them” and the “Attacking Iran would make
the world safer” rationales.
By contrast with the billions of other Earth
denizens this is not a very impressive number.
Saturn mutates with perspective
At this point in our study of Saturn, we may conclude
that the longer a view one takes, the more
Saturn’s reality-pictures change.
We have seen that were we to keep Saturn’s frame of reference
limited to the impression conveyed by the American
get a certain very emphatic, if unfounded, sense
of What Everybody Thinks. And were we to expand
this frame of reference to the whole American populace—one that included
those who did not watch television—we’d get a very different
Finally, were we to expand to the world at large
notion of what constitutes consensus thinking,
we would see its Saturnine sureties not only melt away but reverse
The chart of the USA
How did America’s premier Saturn agency, its
government, come to misuse the authority of this noble archetype?
What factors account for a planet-gone-bad?
In next month’s column we will discuss the
placement of Saturn in the US chart, using the natal map of the
entity born July 4th 1776 in Philadelphia as our primary source.
From the aspects formed by this planet much can be derived about
how it became so susceptible to distortion, as well as about the
ways we might coax it back into working order.
1 Similarly, the assumption that the
USA actually has this form of government right
now—that is, the form identified with the Founding
Fathers of 1776—was almost never questioned
until the current administration’s conduct started provoking
questions about it from some quarters (and questioning it still
brushes up against cultural taboo). Until very
recently it was just another assumption, upon
which the ours-is-the-best-government assumption depended.
2 An example of blatant gerrymandering that
made surprisingly few waves was the attempt
in mid-January by Hillary Clinton’s
people to exclude the Las Vegas Strip from
voting. They knew the Culinary Union was
big there, and that the Latino and black workers who dominate its
membership would likely go for Obama.
3 The FCC’s recent approval of even
more media consolidation flies in the face
of almost unanimous public opposition. The tightening of the control
the White House exerts over the telecommunications industry over
the past few years has assured that Washington-favored interests
get the choicest coverage, feeding into their perceived status as
more real than
those whom Washington makes sure the public rarely gets a chance to
see or hear.
4 This point will be driven home during the Pluto-in-Capricorn years
upcoming, when the whole idea of national boundaries will come up for