I like history. But I’m also a believer in the great spiritual truth that tells us the present is all there is. I’m with Eckert Tolle when he says, “We look to the past because it gives us an identity, and to the future because it gives us the hope of salvation. But both are illusions.”
Like many modern people who grew up believing in talk therapy, I have become skeptical of the curative potential of endlessly digging into our childhoods. I’ve come to agree with the self-awareness teachings, from Zen to EST, that say the past is nothing but a collection of stories. It seems clear that any value our personal past has consists solely of whatever understanding we bring to it now, in the present.
The same must be true for the group mind. We collectively make use of our shared past—history—by understanding it in the present. Or fail to make use of it by failing to understand it.
Astrology gives one planet rulership over Time: Saturn (Chronos), which uses the sequence of events as a teaching tool. Consider the implications of there being just one symbol, in the whole pantheon, that has anything to do with time. It points up difference between how astrology views time and how the human mind views it.
The astrological perspective proposes that only one-tenth of our lives—Saturn is one of ten major planets—traffics in time. Whereas, from the human perspective, time is so fundamental that we rarely think of it as a phenomenon.(1)
The Saturn cycle, which tracks the apparent passage of time, is what generates maturity. Growing older and wiser is a function of absorbing the law of karma: that what goes around comes back around. (2)
Saturn and the outer planets describe the cycles of history that mark out specific generations, with which each birth chart comes equipped. To learn the lessons of karma, we need to take responsibility—each in our own unique way—for the world into which we incarnated, with its time-sensitive lessons for our specific era. In this sense, it’s an abdication of cosmic law to ignore the world into which we were born.
Take the anti-Semites in Germany who claim the holocaust never happened. They and the Fox News climate-change deniers are the most persuasive arguments for why we need history.
But fewer schools teach history, fewer college students major in it, fewer adults read it. These days government grants don’t go towards scholarship about the past; they go to tech programs so kids can invent the future. Or at least, the next big app.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see history show up as a segment on the John Oliver show: “History: Why is This Still a Thing?”
But it’s not just history that’s disappearing. The past itself seems to be disappearing. Since the digital revolution, the overriding criterion with which we gauge an event’s importance is how many ordinary people are talking about it, right now. This whittles the perceived past down into tinier and tinier increments.
If an event is more than a day old—or however long things are trending for on social media, at the moment—it’s almost as if it becomes invisible in the mass mind. As it becomes ever more quickly outdated, the past is becoming more fictive, like the sound of a tree that falls in the forest with no one around to hear.
Take the random New Yorkers interviewed by John Oliver, who, two scant years after Edward Snowden was making headlines all over the world, didn’t know who he was.(3) We’re all becoming like the Colin Farrell character in the movie In Bruges, who said, “Why should I care about a bunch of stuff that’s already happened?”
We should care because stuff that’s already happened provides context. As every American schoolchild knows (or used to know, before they cut history from the curriculum), the founding fathers were very big on this idea. They thought a populace that couldn’t be bothered to inform itself might as well still have a king.
But in our era, Americans are some of the most historical ignorant people in the world. In a recent poll, one out of five American students thought Watergate occurred before 1900.
This increase in ignorance seems to be linked to the fact that there’s less and less context in the way news is presented. As the media has sped up and the collective attention span has shortened, the news has morphed into an unending stream of isolated blips of info-clickbait.
Can we glean understanding from events that are reported without serious analysis, to give them shape and meaning? I think we can, if we listen mindfully. If we are motivated, we can winkle out understanding even from the mainstream news. But we have to stop playing dumb.
Pretending not to know what we really do know muffles the teachings of karma.
For example, we should know, by now, that when people in power spin the news a certain way, which the mass media then repeats for public consumption, they are serving their own interests. We should know, by now, that when politicians issue statements and give interviews, they say things that will allow them to keep their jobs.
We should know that the world’s governments harbor strategic interests, which, despite the terminology (e.g. “American interests”) are most definitely not the interests of the citizenry as a whole.
To keep these things in mind is not a stance of cynicism. It’s a stance of empiricism. To follow what’s happening in the world while applying what we know about the workings of the world? That is Saturn Work. We’re acknowledging and integrating what we’ve been through it before.
This is how we stay on the right side of the Goddess of Karma.
Saber-rattling du jour
My fellow Boomers will remember that in the ’60s, the nightly news harangued Americans into believing that we had to fight in Vietnam in order to keep all of Southeast Asia from falling to the Communists. The Domino Theory was the apocalyptic fear of the era, drummed up by the policymakers, parroted by the politicos, and lodged in the mass mind via media repetition.
In 2015, the saber-rattlers du jour are insisting we destroy Iran or it will dominate the Middle East and then Turkey, then Israel etc., ad infinitum. Either they’re too young to know what happened with Viet Nam, or they’re not getting the memo from the planet of karma.
The dark truth is that the professional political class relies upon the public staying childlike and unreflective. It is in their interests that we ignore the last few decades’ worth of history. Right now, as regards the Middle East, instead of a real war debate in which the public plays a part, all we hear is warrior-class talking heads, rattling their sabers.
Meanwhile, the powers-that-be proceed apace, incrementally ramping up the violence. This part—the substantive part—is what the US mainstream news fails to report.
CNN may cover the minor political scandal, but they leave completely unmentioned the earmarking by Washington of hundreds of billions of dollars for massive military bases to headquarter thousands of troops and fighter jets.
Here is another example of where we need to stop playing dumb. We should know by now that when the White House says they’re dispatching military “advisers and trainers” to Iraq for a “limited war,” these will be followed by more troops, followed by more still.
Yet the barest smidgeon of regional history would put into perspective how unfounded the notion is that the USA could defeat the Islamic State and its offshoots through military intervention.(4)
Learning from the past
Where is Saturn in your natal chart? The house it’s in and the aspects it forms tell you where experience is your teacher. Its placement offers clues about where to pay particular attention to the past, in order to negotiate difficult decisions in the present. Saturn’s voice is sometimes that of a hard-ass taskmaster; sometimes it’s a patient, benevolent father. Whatever form it takes, it cajoles us to learn from what’s happened before.
The USA’s Saturn (Sibly chart) is under tremendous stress during 2015 (see April’s America in Transition). Like a puppy being housetrained, America is having its collective nose rubbed in its past mistakes. Given our natal Sun-Saturn square, this country has always been a slow learner in the foreign policy department.
But with Pluto making that natal square into a full-blown T-square, our failure to learn from experience is destined to have fatal results of a world-altering scope (see my blog, Drums of War). As long as Americans remain in denial about the catastrophe that was “Shock and Awe”, they will remain oblivious to what’s happening in the Middle East right now, in their name.
Saturn square Neptune
But Americans of conscience can take heart. No one is holding a gun to our heads forcing us to watch Fox News. We in the wired world have access to no lack of clean information.(5) One of the best ways to step out of our collective Saturn dysfunction is by listening to non-American analyses about our government’s actions
This period of Pluto (destruction) opposing America’s Saturn (government) is being closely watched by the rest of the world,(6) and from intelligent foreign observers we can get a far clearer sense of what the Pentagon is up to than from our own mass media.
Information-wise, there has never been a more sophisticated age, nor reasons as urgent to take advantage of it. In November of 2015 Saturn will square November in the sky, the most important global aspect after the Uranus-Pluto square. In our next America in Transition we’ll look at how to use it to perceive patterns (Saturn) amidst the confusion (Neptune).
1 Unless we’re a science fiction writer, whose point of view questions the presumed mechanics of time. Or an astrophysicist, whose point of view is so spatially vast that the rules of time stand out, and begin to change. Or a quantum physicist, whose point of view is so spatially compressed that the same thing happens, for the opposite reason.
2 I discuss these concepts in detail in my webinar on Saturn.
4 As peace activist Brian Becker has written, the Pentagon has set up a division headquarters there, and the only reason to establish a division headquarters is for it to lead a division (20,000 troops). The division hasn’t arrived yet but, unless the US public puts pressure on the policymakers, it will.
5 Al-Jazeera, the Guardian, the Intercept, and the BBC are some of the sites I like. The ease of access to everything on the internet, however, may change radically for the average person, as Net Neutrality laws are challenged. Federal courts could easily strike down the recently adopted rules, as could any future FCC.