AMERICA IN TRANSITION, FEBRUARY 2009
by Jessica Murray
The Pluto in Capricorn era is now fully launched. Let us organize our thinking around about this 16-year era by considering the New Year’s transits that introduced it.
There are two new years to consider here. At the tail end of 2007, when Mars opposed to Pluto while it was making its first foray into Capricorn conjunct Jupiter and the Galactic Center, Benazir Bhutto was killed in Pakistan. And at the tail end of 2008, when Mars conjoined Pluto only two degrees from where it had been a year before, hundreds of Palestinians were killed by Israeli air strikes under the New Moon of December 27. (1) Last year’s assassination was a singular and dynastic tragedy; this year’s was multiple and genocidal.
The US media has been either silent or muted in its reporting of both the slaughter in Palestine and of the millions of people around the world who have been taking to the streets in response to it (I did notice the word “carnage” on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle, but it was in reference to American retailers suffering from sluggish Christmas sales). This odd reticence has nothing to do with any belief on the part of journalists that the horror in Gaza lacks newsworthiness, but rather with the entrenched propaganda campaign that surrounds the issue.
A new kind of breakdown
Pluto’s job is to break things down. The era upon us will break down outworn patterns in the Capricorn aspects of the human condition: government, financial systems, national boundaries. Mars’ job when linked with Pluto is to trigger this breakdown, giving it specificity in time and place.
Like its parallel transit exactly a year before, this latest Pluto-Mars explosion drew our attention, like the laser-like beam in a Powerpoint presentation, to a place on the world map. Pakistan and Palestine have each provided the world with an out-of-the-gate gunshot to mark the beginning of the solar cycle as well as the beginning of Pluto in its new sign.
Both transits isolated an area of the world—the news media calls them “hot spots”—which astrologers might think of as loci of dark transformation. These areas have been cosmically tagged as templates for civilization breaking down in order to reform itself. The violence, turbulence and inhumanities occurring in these regions are rendering unavoidable a new level of public recognition about the convulsions our world is in.
An augury this emotionally volatile will always be read various ways by various people. For millions all over the globe (albeit relatively few in America), as soon as the bombs hit their targets in Gaza, what sprang to mind was Uncle Sam’s complicity in the violence. Here was another iteration of America’s “non-neutrality” (an understatement if there ever was one) in the Israel-Palestine conflict, referred to by Osama bin Laden in his explication of why the Arab world sees the USA as its mortal enemy.
The point of Pluto transits, as of those of Chiron and all the outer planets, is to force painful understandings to the foreground of consciousness. Big, seething hidden truths—on both the personal level and the collective level—become embarrassingly difficult to conceal any longer. The New Moon transit at the turning of the year revealed, once again, that the difference between the American worldview and that of the rest of the world is a gaping abyss.
Across the globe, observers looking at the bloodbath in Gaza perceive a destitute indigenous citizenry—Palestine’s—being slaughtered by the world’s fourth largest military—Israel’s. By contrast, Americans, to the extent that they think of it at all, think of it as an equal contest, since that’s how the US mass media spins it.
It is a spin that wilts in light of the facts. At this writing the Israeli offensive has killed 1,300 Palestinians and injured at least 5,500. Children comprise at least 420 of the dead. Gaza’s mosques, churches, schools, hospitals, U.N. compounds, streets, stadiums, ports, and beaches were shelled with high-impact conventional explosives and white phosphorous bombs. The U.N. alone is currently operating 50 emergency shelters for more than 50,000 displaced people; though many have refused to go to such shelters because they offer no guarantee against Israeli attack. Gaza City's wastewater treatment facility was shelled, causing the lagoon that holds 2 million liters of sewage to leak into surrounding areas. In 22 days, at least 2,500 air strikes were carried out, not including the continuous sea and land artillery shelling from gunboats and tanks.
By contrast, a reported 13 Israeli soldiers and 3 civilians have been killed.
David and Goliath
Mars/Pluto combinations refer to David-vs.-Goliath confrontations. Pluto represents raw power; Mars instigates fights. Readers who have watched the transits of these two planets across their own charts, or whose natal charts feature the two in aspect, will be well aware of the ham-fisted power plays this duet can engender. There is a tendency to attract struggles of a little-guy-vs.-the-Machine variety.
As in the Bible story, we often find a plucky hero up against an implacably dominating foe. The former may be a strikingly human character driven by an urgent personal crusade, and the latter is often either a transpersonal or a supernatural figure (e.g. Goliath, a giant).
In order to use the Mars-Pluto archetype to help us understand deeply disturbing scenarios like the assault in Gaza, we need to remember that unlike the David-vs.-Goliath story and its many variants, astrological configurations imply no good-against-evil moral. Although this would seem to be the punchline, not only in the legend’s pedantic telling but also in cursory interpretations of this astrological signature, the Mars/Pluto coupling is not about Right-vs.-Wrong. That kind of debate belongs to transits of Jupiter.
Mars-Pluto, by contrast, is about raw power.
Religion vs. politics
Jupiter and the sign that rules it, Sagittarius, govern religion. Over the past 13 years Pluto in Sagittarius gave us a surfeit of this kind of drama, with Jehovah, Allah and Yaweh slugging it out on center stage. Adherents of all three of these angry sky gods showed the world their ugliest faces during the tenure of Pluto that has now drawn to an exhausted close. From suicide-bomber jihadists to abortion-doctor homicides, fanaticism was in its glory.
But Pluto has gone into Capricorn now. And, right on cue, we have a conflagration in the Middle East that signals a shift away from ideological motives (Sagittarius) to a set of aims which, if equally ruthless, derive from the worldly realm (Capricorn), not the theological. Territorial occupation is a Capricornian issue, not a Sagittarian one.
Despite what the Israel lobby would have Americans believe, Judaism and Zionism are not the same thing. Judaism is a religion; Zionism is a political position. By no means do all Jews worldwide believe in what Israel’s current government is doing. Many citizens of Israel, Jewish as well as non-Jewish, abhor the carnage taking place in their name. (2)
The dark side of the Capricorn archetype is cold and calculating. (3) The conjunction of the Sun, Moon, Mars and Pluto in this methodical, competitive Earth sign as the siege began gives weight to rumors that Israel’s leadership had been under pressure to put on a show of mastery before its elections, a scenario American citizens have seen played out all too often by their own cynical leadership. Moreover, Israel’s leaders are being drily circumspect (Capricorn) about the existence of a rationale for this particular onslaught, their most devastating since 1967. We are not hearing the fire-and-brimstone justifications we heard before.
What has happened is the story has changed its tone. The moralistic sturm-und-drang of Sagittarius has segued into the material pragmatism of Capricorn. The fact is that so long as bombs are falling on the surviving inhabitants of Gaza, no one is going to stop Israel from continuing to gobble up the West Bank. Indeed, new Israeli “settlers” are moving into shiny new condos every day, while a few miles away bombs hammer the surviving people and rubble of Gaza City into dust.
For those who look to astrological symbolism instead of official spin, the meaning is clear. The slaughter in Gaza is part of an ongoing land grab; an augury of shadow Pluto (destruction) in Capricorn (national boundaries).
Mars, when combined with its higher octave, Pluto, shows up as a fight-to-the-death (literally or figuratively) between a strikingly disadvantaged opponent and a faceless gargantuan adversary. Though framing the issue in terms of right-and-wrong will always be part of our human response (we all have a Jupiter in our charts) and spiritual maturity compels us to somehow respond (Saturn, of which more below), the transit indicates that the old God-on-our-side rationales that used to hold sway (Sagittarius) are no longer thematic. The theme now is political power plays.
The war criminal is a distinctly Plutonian archetype. (Though you’d never know it if your information came solely from the American press, Israel has been accused by the UN of so many crimes-against-humanity over the years that it has now topped Burma and China.) The symbolism of the towering but faceless foe is also particularly apt when one considers the Apache helicopters and F-16 fighter jets Israel uses, capable of destroying human targets from thousands of feet above the ground.
The symbolism of facelessness applies also to the provider of these weapons. They are not manufactured in Israel, of course, but halfway around the world, by the world’s biggest arms-broker; the one whose politicians keep talking about mediating truces in the Middle East: the USA. Washington lavishes roughly $15 billion annually upon Israel, far more than upon any other country. (4) Israel routinely petitions the Pentagon for such luxury armaments as bunker-buster nukes, cluster bombs, depleted uranium and DIMEs (Dense Inert Metal Explosives)—among the deadliest killers on the United Nations’ outlawed-munitions list.
From the New Moon to the First Quarter, at the turning of the year all over the Arab world, in European cities and in many American ones, crowds thronged into the streets in outrage at Israel’s carpet bombing of densely packed Gaza: a tiny strip of land whose people had nowhere to flee. But in the one country whose taxpayers finance the weapons of mass destruction being used -- the USA – the robotically repeated apologia rang out from all official quarters that “Israel was only defending itself.” (5)
Click here for full-size map of Gaza
The distortion of facts in this matter exemplifies what happens when a well-oiled propaganda machine has a lock on the thinking of a populace. Mercury (the media; public opinion) is opposed to Pluto (absolute dominance) in the natal chart of the USA, an indicator of mind control. (6) Unless Americans inform themselves from sources outside of their national media, they will either fail to hear the facts, or fail to connect the dots when they do hear them. To wit, that the people of Gaza are living in virtual concentration camps on their own land, enclosed by apartheid walls, divided from farms and family by ubiquitous checkpoints, denied food, basic supplies and health care for years in a US-sanctioned campaign of attrition, in between Israeli assaults they have been barely hanging on to survival. It is very easy to see why most international observers view Hamas (7) as a struggling resistance movement, warding off extinction, against all odds, at the hands of a hybrid Goliath: the USA and Israel.
Gaza, which has no army, no navy, no air force, and which was half-starved from months of blockade before the siege began, is now, more than ever, seen by millions of observers all over the world as a mythic David in a David-and-Goliath scenario. For the new US administration to attempt any diplomatic overtures without recognizing this fact renders all such efforts a charade.
From the timing we can infer that this is the first of many David-and-Goliath pairs. The fact that this drama arose at the simultaneous launching of several new cycles is our clue that asymmetric warfare and other disproportionate power struggles will be the name of the game this calendar year.
The ability to respond
For those souls receptive to it, the stunning transits in the sky right now are an invitation to try on for size new ways of viewing old geopolitical realities. With Saturn in the process of being Uranized (the second of their five oppositions is February 5), the issue of responsibility is being cast in a new light. The atrocity in Palestine is giving humanity a chance to deploy the Saturn archetype at a more sophisticated level than ever before.
Saturn is the planet traditionally associated with partisanship. Its function is to make separation; and in the social arena it divides the Self from the Other. It is not surprising therefore that Saturn, when distorted by the human ego, degenerates into Us-vs.-Them thinking, from which arises the all-but-universal phenomenon of blame. But one of the purposes of the two-year-long Saturn-Uranus opposition upon us is to get us to consider other uses of Saturn than these tired old knee-jerk reactions. What would it look like to exercise our ability to respond in a different way?
The essence of Saturn is the law of cause-and-effect, which has a key role to play in helping us untangle episodes where terrible harm has been done. When there is a schoolyard shooting, responsible parents ask, first of all, “Why does a ten-year-old have access to a gun?” The more sincere the inquiry, the more worms start crawling out of the can. Taking responsibility one step further, the group of concerned adults in our example might ask, “Where did the shooter get his pain and rage?” and discover that the young perp had been beaten up by his stepfather. Then it might come to light, to no one’s surprise except maybe the family members in denial, that the stepfather himself had been beaten in childhood. Or maybe it comes out that both boy and stepfather had been abused by the neighborhood priest, implicating not only a family but a whole sacrosanct institution.
A string of discoveries develops when Saturn functions on this level, each one likely to make increasing numbers of people uncomfortable. But to use our ability-to-respond this way opens up a way of seeing the crime that conforms more and more accurately to the way existence really works. If one wishes to pursue an understanding beyond the initial impulse to blame, one will catch sight of wider and wider concentric circles spreading forth from a singular initiating act. Inevitably one will uncover in the process underlying layers of societal illness.
Now what happens to the “Throw ‘im in jail and throw away the key” approach? It becomes less and less tenable. It’s not an easy fix, taking responsibility on this level. It’s far easier to stay on the level of finger-pointing. That way we avoid all the complications that come of trying to understand the messy human condition. Ultimately, fault-finding is thoroughly futile, whether it’s about labeling victims and perps of social crimes or interpreting the massacre in Gaza in terms of this or that religion.
In the above example, one of the mature (positively used Saturn) parents involved might respond to the crisis by arranging for the shooter to have counseling. Another might address political attention to the wider problems of the prison system: maybe the child is being tried as an adult; maybe the juvenile hall disallows counselors. Another parent in the group might find herself recommitted to a campaign to outlaw handguns. Maybe another goes to church and prays his heart out. Depending on the level of heart-and-mind involvement, all of these are responses, not reactions. Depending on what’s going on in the natal and transit chart of the individual in question, any one of them could be valid, creative and powerful.
What would happen to the mass vibration of the world were crimes against humanity, such as the one that kicked off this calendar year, to inspire citizen engagement along these lines?
1 At this writing, after a three-week siege, Israel has pulled back and declared victory. The U.S. is at odds with its Arab allies, particularly Egypt. The putative head of the Palestinian Authority, US ally Mahmud Abbas, has seen his position so weakened he dared not attend an emergency Arab summit called when the carnage began to attract negative global attention. Nations have begun to cut relations with the Israeli polity and war crime charges are about to fill courts on an unprecedented scale. As after the massacre in Lebanon in 2006, Israel’s moral and political stock has plummeted. For details, see my blogs 12/28/08 and following, New Moon Massacre [http://jessica-mothersky.blogspot.com/].
2 Organizations such as Jews for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace get almost no coverage in the American media but are well known in other countries. This is because in other countries the press is not stymied by having a government that underwrites Israel’s military.
3 The siege on Gaza has been in the planning stages for six months. Israel was staging urban-warfare practice sessions in a mock-up Gaza City as early as this past October, just after the American Congress signed off on shipping the monster bomb GU395 to Israel. Obama, like the overwhelming majority of his colleagues, voted yes.
4 Given that the USA is in its worst financial crisis in 80 years, one would think more Americans would be questioning the really big expenditures its government makes, rather than quibbling about a few millions here and there. Yet the question remains unasked: Why is Israel getting all this U.S. money? Israel’s per capita income is as high as many European countries; clearly something other than humanitarian concerns motivates this extraordinary largesse. And one would have to be quite naïve to imagine that the Washington establishment has been motivated all these years by an idealistic desire to support Judaism (consider the grotesque anti-Semitism of the Nixon tapes). On the contrary, Uncle Sam’s long-running maintenance of Israel’s over-the-top military, possessor of 200 nuclear warheads, is self-servingly geopolitical. Washington has vetoed more than 50 UN resolutions brought against Israel by other countries. A vital part of America’s strategy to control the Middle East, this policy is designed to keep Israel as junior partner.
5 When asked on January 2 to comment on the assault on Gaza, our new president declared that if his daughters were in danger of having bombs dropping on their houses, he would defend them as Israel is “defending itself” now. Now, Obama is a very smart man. Very well-informed. He knows, as well as any of us who get our information from other sources than the mainstream news, how grotesque a falsehood it is to portray the indigent, walled-in Palestinians as the aggressors in this massacre. He knows, just as people of every other country in the world (except the USA) know, that Israel controls Palestine by air, water, sea and land. Especially distressing in this context is Obama’s pick for Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, one of the Zionist lobby’s most vocal hired guns. Ostensibly appointed to oversee peaceful international relations, she has already disqualified herself for the job by promising to support Israel unconditionally, to refuse to negotiate with Hamas, and to “obliterate” Iran if it does anything Israel considers threatening.
6 In the Sibley chart of the USA (7/4/1776 5:10 pm, Philadelphia). See Pluto and the Media, on the articles page of my website: http://www.mothersky.com/writing/21_
7 An irony that receives virtually no comment in the US media concerns the fact that, unlike democratically elected Hamas, all of the other Arab countries—the ones considered friends by Uncle Sam—are feudal states ruled by despots, dictators, shahs and kings. Part of the reason this remarkable situation does not register with the American public is that Washington propaganda has attributed to the word “democracy” a temporary meaning of political convenience, which stands in contrast to its literal meaning. A literal democracy is what happens when the people of a country vote in their own government, which is what happened in Palestine with Hamas; in stark contrast to those countries where royal oil dynasties have ganged up with the USA in order to be dubbed “allies in the War on Terror.”
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.