AMERICA IN TRANSITION, JULY 2008
by Jessica Murray
In our last two columns we have looked at Mars, a symbol that students of astrology tend to have strong feelings about, and with good reason. Hot, volatile and very close to the biological level of human function, Mars is one planet whose good side it’s best to be on.
Servant of the Sun
As the active extension of our personal ego, Mars is analogous to the arms that extend out from our body, making manifest what we want to accomplish. Like our arms (in both senses of the word: the body part and the even more martial sense of weaponry), Mars asserts our will. Depending upon how we use it, Mars can show up either as the amoral soldier or the righteous warrior. It either acts out our impulses like a gratification-driven and tantrum-prone child, or it acts upon our trans-egoic promptings. Most of us vacillate between the former and the latter, depending on how centered we are at any given moment. The latter scenario is the goal of those spiritual seekers who meditate to put the ego in its place. Not to put it down; just to try to get it to play nice with the greater intentions of our being.
If we propose that the birth chart represents our Soul path, then the natal Sun must be our consciousness of that path. And if the Sun is a servant of the Soul, Mars is a servant of the Sun. It is the means by which this consciousness is enforced. Little red Mars, all by itself, isn’t equipped to see the chart’s greater intention; it is just there to get things done. From this point of view, it makes no sense to interpret Mars as a “malefic” force. Rather, things go awry when Mars fails to heed the Sun’s purpose. The specter of a natal Mars flailing around of its own accord, un-integrated with the rest of the chart, is as frightening and perverse as the horror-movie image of a creature whose arms move without the mind telling them to, grabbing and harming breakable objects, kitty cats and passersby.
We can see this scenario at work in the recent Supreme Court decision to allow handguns in Washington C.D., one of the most dangerous cities in the USA. Here the government is analogous to the Sun, and gun possession is analogous to Mars. The former has abdicated its responsibility to regulate the latter, which is being allowed to run amok.
All Marses are born equal
Although the old system of astrological dignities and debilities (1) would seem to suggest otherwise, this writer holds that no one Mars placement is any better/ luckier/ more-prone-to-success than any other. There is no one sign or house position that guarantees the superlative expression of any planet’s energy, nor one that condemns us to a degraded use of that planet. It is our consciousness, pure and simple, which makes the difference. This is true both on the individual level and on the group level.
The same goes for geometrical aspects. Whether Mars is the apex of a fixed T-square or the recipient of a conjunction with sweet little Venus, self-awareness alone raises Mars above the level of blinkered narcissism. Though the particulars of its chart placement help us interpret the nature and quality of the Mars function (e.g. aspects can lubricate or impede its flow, impose challenges upon it, add learning curves and subplots to the cultivation of the native’s understanding), in the last analysis any Mars position could be used either as a servant of the Soul path or allowed to wreak havoc like a bully in a bar.
Know Thy Mars
Those who look to astrology to align themselves with their Higher Self will want to consider the most exalted possible expression of each of the planets in their chart. This means
- Accepting the unique nature of the planet in question, not attempting to make it into something it’s not; and then
- Seeking scenarios in the outside world which mirror that planet’s uniqueness as closely as possible.
A Mars in a water sign, for example, represents a subtle, intuitive use of the will, best applied where indirect action is called for. Behind-the-scenes activities are ideal for this kind of Mars. By contrast, activities which call for head-on force—such as athletic competitions—would be better suited to a Mars in a fire sign. (2) A person with Mars in Cancer may be intuitively drawn to work that has to do with shelter, food or protection; whereas a Mars in Sagittarius would feel confined and restless in the same situation. Mars in earth works well with the cut-and-dried world of matter, and is well disposed to provide pragmatic boundaries to circumstances that need them. Mars in air gravitates to interpersonal activities, exchanging, comparing and contrasting ideas and data. Clearly no one of these sets of circumstances is better or worse than any other. The issue is matching one’s modus operandi to one’s external situation.
It is also true that we learn a lot about our natal planets by trying on for size situations that do not match them. Were a Mars-in-Pisces native to try to affect a high-powered me-first persona because he thought it was expected of him, not only would it feel false—it wouldn’t work. If natal astrology teaches us nothing else, it is that we ought to exploit the potentials we were born with. Gratification is never achieved by barking up the wrong tree.
We are all products of our society. Even those of us who have rejected large chunks of our upbringing bear the stamp of unconscious socialization, and this must be factored in when examining our use of the astrological resources at our disposal.
For example, when a contemporary American man with a Mars cluster in Cancer scopes out the career possibilities his socioeconomic niche has to offer, he will probably find few house-husbands among the available role models. Were he to then misidentify this scenario as his own fault rather than a limitation of his society, he might see himself as deficient or deviant. This would lead him to devaluate, repress or deny his Mars.
This is, of course, the surest way to bring out Mars’s shadow, a point upon which psychologists and astrologers agree. It is not the strong Mars that becomes macho and destructive; it is the weak or repressed Mars that does so—the Mars that doubts its right to assert itself authentically. The native in our example has only to accept his own Martial urges for what they are, and he will probably find it relatively easy to channel his proclivities into an expression of hearth-and-home activity that is socially sanctioned for men (e.g. carpentry, selling carpets, managing a restaurant).
Moreover, if we apply the there-are-no-accidents rule to the logistics of incarnation, we have to assume that the Universe knew what it was doing when it dropped us into a particular society, complete with its own peculiar prejudices. Consider the case of an impoverished Ethiopian woman with a 10th-house Mars in Capricorn, for whom a “career” as we understand it would be about as likely as flying to the Moon. Her destiny might be to become an exponent of the very thing her culture disallows: a female leader—but in relative terms, such as becoming an organizer in her village market. Maybe she would thereby achieve more societal visibility than any woman in her family ever had before, fulfilling a destiny that would not be fulfilled had she incarnated into the more opportune climate of, say, contemporary New York.
Battling through our brainwashing is part of the cosmic plan. The native with Mars-conjunct-Neptune who is born into a secular and materialistic society like the modern USA, where his metaphysical leanings are not understood and his artistic sensitivity is perhaps considered unsuited to a “real” career, definitely has an obstacle to overcome—but not an arbitrary one. With an inner masculinity that bears little resemblance to that of the latest Hollywood action hero, such a person needs to find a style of self-assertion that may fly in the face of the images of maleness that he has absorbed from infancy. And in so doing, he becomes a teacher of sorts. A culture that is out-to-lunch about the benefits of ego-less activity (Mars-conjunct-Neptune at its highest) could get to see it in action, through him. This is what is meant to happen when we are true to ourselves: the group learns from us.
When all is said and done, it does not matter to our Higher Self whether our drives and yearnings are corroborated by the outside world. If self-awareness is our goal, whining about our culture’s blind spots doesn’t hack it. Although it may make for a more comfortable life experience to be fortunate enough to have our unique sensibilities encouraged by our family and society, ultimately it doesn’t affect, one way or another, our karmic responsibility to be true to ourselves. The absence of environmental validation does not get us off the hook from having to do Soul work.
And what about the awareness of a culture as a whole? Group entities have egos too, as well as arms, as we know only too well. As souls who have incarnated into this country in this epoch, Americans have a very important global role to play as regards developing an understanding of collective Mars.
The USA Mars (3) closely squares Neptune, a placement traditionally seen as “weak”. We have suggested that, absent a hearty dose of enlightened awareness, it is the weak or doubt-ridden placements of Mars—not the so-called “strong” ones—that render the planet dangerous.
Located in the 7th house of relationships, America’s Mars leans heavily towards those foreign entanglements famously warned against by George Washington, with militarism tending to dictate the terms of engagement. The US Mars’s connection to Neptune in the 9th house of idealism indicates a not-very-realistic way of framing international relationships. America’s motives (Mars) for getting involved in other countries’ business (7th house) are destined to be either very enlightened (optimal Neptune) or very confused (shadow Neptune). Illustrating this scenario with hideous exactitude is the massively destructive (Mars) and deceptive (Neptune) campaigns being played out right now in the Middle East.
Only the most starry-eyed delusions about America’s innate moral superiority (9th house), helped along by dumbing-down propaganda (4), could have kept so many Americans from perceiving from the get-go that their government invaded Iraq for its oil. And after the news broke in June 2008 that Exxon, BP, Shell and Total have been officially granted control over those oil fields, it is hard to imagine that even the most diehard members of the we-invaded-to-bring-them-freedom camp could maintain their illusion any longer. At a ceremony in the Green Zone, right there in a former palace of old Saddam himself—that one-time pal of Uncle Sam who sealed his own doom by nationalizing his country’s resources—25% of the world’s oil was handed back over to the big boys with the stroke of a pen, after five and a half years of brutal bloodshed and, before that, decades of backroom power plays at the highest level.
It is extraordinary that this shameless development hit the headlines at a moment when exorbitant prices at the gas pump are jerking the American public out of its slumber where Big Oil is concerned. Though we will doubtless be regaled by fulsome Exxon press releases attesting to the contrary, consumers know quite well that the oil industry has no interest in sending their experts into Iraq right now, to figure out ways to lower world fuel prices. That would make their investments less profitable.
Reclaiming America’s Mars and Sun
“The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.”
On the face of it, the USA’s Sun cluster suggests a strong streak of national empathy. Protective and nurturant, Cancer in its collective guise can manifest as a mother-state that takes care of its own needy citizens like a she-bear takes care of her cubs. A conscious use of its chart could lead America to approach its foreign relations (7th house) along the same compassionate principles. As we have seen, the Sun, and not Mars, would need to be in charge of the chart for this to happen. Mars, in and of itself, has no morality. It is not immoral; it is merely amoral. An un-integrated Mars wants only to win.
The US Mars clearly needs to be brought back into proper function, but there is a deeper problem that must be corrected first. At this moment in its history the USA seems to have lost control of its Sun as well. To claim that USA Sun for themselves would mean Americans beginning to identify with the empathic global leadership role that is the chart’s highest potential. For this to happen the American populace must stop abdicating its responsibility, and recognize a simple fact that in recent decades has escaped them: that their country is supposed to be composed of the citizens who make it up.
Under-informed and misinformed Americans, which from all indications is the vast majority, are notorious for voting against their own interests. Too many seem not to realize that we-the-people and we-the-captains-of-industry are not the same “we.” So long as energy money fuels the political infrastructure of the country as well as its mass media, there will remain a confused equation between the interests of the populace and the interests of the agencies to whom the populace has given its power away.
Were this misconception to be rectified, the path would be laid for America to get its Mars back into position as the servant of its Sun. Such a turn of events would constitute nothing less than a revolution. And indeed, the Cardinal Cross forming up there in the sky suggests just that: a radical learning curve taking place over a relatively short period of time. A mass awakening of this nature would transpire the way it always does: by single individuals, one by one, bringing the light of their consciousness into the world.
A small but practical first step might be for those citizens invested in the presidential election to ask questions about their candidate’s oil lobby votes.
(1) I refer to the traditional astrological assignments which categorize planetary strength and desirability by sign. These rulerships and exaltations have meaning – e.g. Mars is indeed very martial in Aries, the sign of its rulership – but the fact that its qualities are pronounced in this position does not make them more successful or effective in worldly terms, or in the native’s own terms, any more than a type-cast actor is necessarily going to give a better performance.
(2) In case it does not go without saying, any of these comments must be qualified by whatever else is going on in the chart. A Mars-in-Pisces native with six planets in fire signs, for example, would probably not resonate with this example. No planetary delineation exists in a vacuum: everything in the chart impacts and qualifies every other thing.
(3) According to the widely used Sibly chart, which posits the birth moment of the country as 5:10 pm in Philadelphia on 7/4/1776. I cover this chart in detail in Soul-Sick Nation: An Astrologer’s View of America (Jessica Murray, MotherSky Press 2008).
(4) America’s Mercury is opposed to Pluto, an aspect whose shadow expression is mind control. See http://snipurl.com/38ips.
Jessica Murray trained as a fine artist before graduating in 1973 from Brown University, where she studied psychology and linguistics. After a stint in political theatre in the heady early '70s, Jessica moved to San Francisco and began studying metaphysics, where she has had a full-time private practice in astrology for more than 30 years.
Her book, Soul-Sick Nation: An Astrologer's View of America, is available through her website, mothersky.com. In addition to her column in Daykeeper Journal and the monthly Skywatch on her website, MotherSky.com, Jessica's essays appear in The Mountain Astrologer, P.S. Magazine, Considerations and other publications. Jessica can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jessica's writings appear every even-numbered month in Daykeeper. You'll find a complete list of them here.