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Jessica Murray: America in Transition

by Jessica Murray

In our last column we proposed that the stymied state of public discourse in the USA makes it hard for Americans to use our intelligences fully. We discussed the dualistic way of looking at life that has begun to monopolize our approach to just about everything: to questions of great import (“Is the country going in the right direction? Press your keypad Yes or No.”) as well as to questions of not-so-great import ("Should Carmen Diaz stay a brunette or go back to blonde? Enter the People Magazine poll!").

It is difficult to escape the values of pop culture. They are as all-pervasive as the wrap-around advertising now covering walls and floor in the San Francisco subway station. But for those whose intention is the nurturance of consciousness, we must make it our business to observe these trends without identifying with them.

Being inveigled to come down on one side or the other of a hot news story is bad enough (“Should Paris Hilton be released from jail?”); but, for the seeker of self-awareness, being snookered into labeling our very identities that way is downright dangerous. “Are you a political or an apolitical person?”

Political vs. Apolitical

The political-versus-apolitical distinction, in particular, sounds like it was invented by a group of bored pundits. Like all faux-oppositions it crumbles into meaninglessness when we look at it closely. Is “apolitical” a designation we can adopt as easily as an aesthetic idiosyncrasy—like having a taste for anchovies? (“I’m a cat person, I like cross-country skiing and I’m apolitical.”) Does this imply that only “political” people are supposed to care about Nigerian slavery, or child prostitution in Thailand, or the fact that the right of habeus corpus is being suspended in the USA?

What exactly do these words mean to us? In the USA the once-venerable term “politics” has come to connote little more than the over-hyped stagecraft that goes on between the two ruling political parties, an obscenely wasteful spectacle of which the media has made a cash cow. If this is all “politics” means, is it any wonder so many Americans hold it in disdain?

Typing ourselves as either “political” or “apolitical” steers us away from, rather than towards, our own truth.The larger problem here is that the superficiality and corruption that have tainted the Dems-vs-GOP horserace have preempted a more meaningful understanding of politics. The mass disillusionment that has set in, thanks to the orgy of insincerity that is the national electoral process, has in many people’s minds spread to include just about every other kind of current event as well—even those of immense global and humanitarian relevance. This is bad news for the country’s collective intelligence, and it is bad news for individual Americans of conscience.

Typing ourselves as either “political” or “apolitical” steers us away from, rather than towards, our own truth. We should rather ask ourselves this: When we are fully tuned in to the soul-wisdom that illuminates our innate structure—astrologers might call this "being grounded in our chart"—are we not instinctively repelled by cruelty and bloodshed? When we are in touch with our birthright sensibilities, are we not quite naturally inspired by justice and peace?

No ideological affiliation is required for responses like these. When we are centered in our beings, we cannot help but be moved to champion truth and life over mendacity and death.

The Rest of the World

It is a shame that the concept of “politics” has become diminished from its original, valuable meaning: the study of systems of power. But it is worse than a shame if, in discarding “politics”, we give ourselves an excuse to turn our backs on what’s happening in the world, because the world desperately needs our attention.

Abroad, Americans are notorious for failing to give the world much attention at all. Our newspapers tend to provide no more than a skimpy couple of pages to cover the entire rest of the globe. Modern life in general does not provide humanity with the sociological identifications that existed in earlier times, when a sense of responsibility to one’s fellows was a key to survival. Instead, just about all we have these days is that vague and tarnished catch-all—“politics”—to take care of any and all issues of global scope. And if we dismiss that, what do we have?

Barring the occasional reference to "The Poor" that some Americans hear from their preacher on Sunday mornings, what other frameworks exist with which to view the world beyond our own tiny little personal sphere?

Caring About the Global Moment

I have suggested that an astrological perspective has the capacity to soar above the petty infighting of the culture wars, by equipping us to observe and to care about the global moment.

Caritas may be the highest possible expression of the sign Cancer, the sign the Sun was in on July 4, 1776. I use the word care advisedly. Though it may sound insufficient to those who see the only proper response in times like these to be some kind of activism, I submit that our very first task is to find a model for caring, not acting (1). As Barbara Walker has pointed out (2), the word "caring" (also the word "charity") derives from the beautiful word caritas: cosmic Mother-Love. Walker traces the concept back to pre-historical cosmology, which envisioned the Universe as a loving Mother who cared for all living creatures just as an Earthly mother cares for her children.

Caritas may be the highest possible expression of the sign Cancer, the sign the Sun was in on July 4, 1776. With four planets in Cancer, the collective entity that is the USA (3) clearly has some very pointed karmic lessons to learn about caring. As astrologers know, an individual whose birth chart features multiple planets in Cancer has a potential to raise empathy to an art form; and this is no less true of a Cancerian nation. America as a whole was born to express a certain understanding that Cancer knows better than any other sign: that all human beings are interconnected even as family members are; we are intended to care about one another in essentially the same spirit with which we hold blood relatives. Cancer is a water sign, and this is a lesson in emotional awareness.

Political awareness, by contrast—even at a sophisticated level—is simply a matter of education and information, a point to which we will return. Politics is, all by itself, an intellectual and philosophical arena; whereas astrology, among many other holistic traditions, can take us beyond intellectual understanding. It can open not only our eyes and minds, but our hearts, to what’s happening on this Earth.

Astrologers throughout the ages have eloquently demonstrated that any and all terrestrial matters can be interpreted by decoding the vicissitudes of the planets: the doings of everything from cabbages to kings are mapped out in the sky. Less obvious but equally true is the inverse of this parallel: the meaning of the doings of planets can be revealed by earthly events. In other words, we need to keep a sharp eye focused upon what is happening down here. Worldly matters are the other side of the coin implied by that most sacred of astrological laws: As Above, So Below.

The Earth is a mirror of the sky as surely as the sky is a mirror of us. Current events, as tracked by politics, mirror celestial events, as tracked by astrology.

The Political and the Spiritual

If we aspire to the Big Picture we must challenge this false divide. Thus from an astrological perspective, there is no difference between the political and the spiritual. Yet idealists of every stripe have labored under the assumption that the two worldviews are not just different (“Go to the demonstration with you? No thanks; I meditated for peace this morning.”) but in many ways polar opposites. This is one more false duality, one that has existed over the ages and left many seekers and reformers confused and dispirited.

To presume that these two perspectives invalidate each other, and that truth-seekers must choose between them, is a presumption it is time to dispel. The irony is that the two camps mirror each other’s prejudices quite precisely: many spiritual types who turn up their noses at “politics” do so out of the same sorts of misunderstandings that are held by those politicos who disparage spirituality on the grounds that “religion is the opiate of the people.” (4) But if we aspire to the Big Picture we must challenge this false divide. The plethora of urgent problems faced by humanity right now provides us with plenty of opportunities to explore a new geopolitically-informed spirituality; or, to put it another way, a more cosmic politics.

From a macrocosmic point of view, climate change is the Goddess’ gift to this epoch.... Chief among these is the issue of global warming, a phenomenon whose labeling by factionalists in the USA as a “liberal” concern is so misconceived that one imagines future generations shaking their heads in dismay when reading in their history books about the short-sightedness with which the issue was originally framed.

Earth Changes Afoot

From a macrocosmic point of view, climate change is the Goddess’ gift to this epoch: the sheer enormity of the situation is forcing humanity, in a gun-to-the-head way, to embrace universal thinking. With the fate of the Earth at stake it is easier to see that the conceptual distinction between spiritual vision and geopolitical awareness is obsolete.

Those of us with our feelers out during this tumultuous period are witnessing a far-reaching consciousness shift that is taking place under our very noses. An international consensus about the Earth’s meteorological changes has taken shape very quickly over the last couple of years, for which we have to thank not just Al Gore but the Saturn-Neptune opposition and other recent transits that have brought long-denied truths to light.

Less widely discussed but getting increasing media attention is the fact that the poorer countries of the world will suffer sooner and more severely from these climate changes than will the wealthier countries of the First World. What we must come to terms with here is more than an ecological issue. In the decades ahead, the rich, who created the problem by burning fossil fuels too heavily, will get off relatively easily compared to the millions of Earth dwellers who never saw the inside of an SUV. (5)

Informing ourselves of a reality like global warming through geopolitical awareness is a first step. But to maintain our sanity, as well as to be of some use to the world, we need to then press into service our spiritual awareness to make sense of it.

Consciousness Changes Afoot

From this perspective we can derive significance from the fact that climate change, seen as a fringe belief (6) just a couple of years ago, is now pretty much common knowledge. In the USA we are even seeing an as-yet-tiny, but increasing, backlash against the automobile. People are starting to consider the implications of the fact that only 8% of the people on Earth drive these ecocidal machines; that’s a lot of damage being done by an almost impossibly tiny minority. More and more American drivers are daring to look in the mirror with a new acuity of self-questioning.

Those of us who lived through the Carter presidency may recall a similar popular reaction against the gas guzzlers, triggered by the purported “energy crisis” of the late seventies and early eighties. For a while there, Small was Beautiful in America; and the country’s subsequent reversion to cars the size of army tanks has struck many of us as a perverse step backwards. The same thing had happened in 1973. When the long lines at gas stations disappeared, people went right back to consuming as much fuel as before.

Like the planets with their retrograde cycles, human consciousness seems to follow a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of pattern. Until now, not much has changed with Americans’ love affair with the car: in 1912 a Ford Model T got 17 miles to the gallon; today, a 2007 Ford Explorer gets 18 miles to the gallon. But at this moment in our history we are hovering over a qualitatively different threshold, and the difference is palpable. The potential exists to take several steps forward at once—indeed, to take a leap.

Our newspapers are now printing pictures on their front pages of adorable white polar bears perilously balancing on melting blocks of ice; right next to news stories such as the one reporting that nine out of ten Americans travel to work by car, and of those, 88% drive alone. Readers who see these items side-by-side are beginning to connect the dots.

For more and more people with every passing month, the question is no longer whether we give credence to this information. The question is, how do we hold it?

Astrology as a Blend of Political and Spiritual

Global warming is but one of a host of monumental crises that all but the most obdurately blinkered Americans are confronting en masse. We have proposed that issues this daunting require a perspective that is more time-sensitive and place-relevant than mere spiritual truisms alone can address. “It’s all good” just doesn’t hack it. And at the same time, the issues require a more universal vision than mere political ideas alone can address. As those icebergs break apart, seekers of deeper Truth are finding that the whole spiritual-versus-political divide is breaking apart too.

There have been visionaries in every age who took the leap to fuse the spiritual and the political. Such worthies as Sir Thomas More or Joan of Arc, for example, may have relied upon religious assumptions that we might now take issue with, and addressed very different geopolitical realities. Mahatma Gandhi’s rebellious march to the sea would not help us much as a tactic today. But the quest for the Big Picture inspired all of these individuals, as it has inspired the wisest among us since time immemorial. Right now, the world moment has recreated, for the generations now extant, the need to put together these same two aspects of our intelligence: that of paying close attention to current events and pairing this attention with a cosmic outlook.

We don’t have to look very far back in history to find a consummate exemplar of this consciousness merger: Martin Luther King, Junior. Particularly towards the end of his life, his profound analyses of America’s role in the world (then and now, they deserve the term "radical") were quietly removed from journalistic accounts of his speeches, edited out of his articles and left unmentioned in standard-issue history books.(7) But his unflinching awareness of the geopolitical realities of his times kept pace every step of the way with his universal vision. His ability to avoid the stultifying denial of his era while maintaining his spiritual vision offers us a recent example of a great mind at work.

In our next Daykeeper Journal column we will apply these ideas to the planets of the birth chart, looking to deepen our reading of the familiar old archetypes. Our goal is to enrich our use of astrology with a new vitality, which is no more than the times we have incarnated into deserve.

1 Activism is a form of “doing”, upon which American society puts an inordinate emphasis. It is a cultural idiosyncrasy that we confer more importance upon outward behavior, actions and events than we do upon inner states of consciousness. Consider that when we want to know how a friend is, we ask “How are you doing?”. When we meet someone at a party, our primary curiosity is probably about “what they do (for a living)”. And when an American goes to an astrologer—whose primary intention is to convey the meaning of his client’s being—consider that in response to hearing about a particular theme in her chart, the client’s question is inevitably “But what do I do about it?”

In astrological thought, “doing” belongs to Mars; and though undeniably an important planet, it is, of course, only one-tenth of the chart.

2 The Secrets of the Tarot, Harper and Row 1984.

3 According to the Sibly chart, cast for 7/4/1776, Philadelphia Pa, 5:10pm. For more about the US chart, see my book Soul-Sick Nation: An Astrologer’s View of America (AuthorHouse 2006).

4 A close study of Marx’s writings reveals that his expansive mind took in much more than this much-touted quote suggests. He was warning us about the dangers of institutionalized religion, not about spiritual search per se.

5 Early this year the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel addressed the fact that despite a new plethora of recommendations about how to accommodate upcoming climate changes (diversifying crops, shoring up levees, etc) poor countries—impoverished even further in recent years by globalization—simply do not possess the resources to take remedial action. Several African states are expected to face starvation from the lack of freshwater supplies by 2020; the economies of Latin America are expected to suffer disproportionately when decreases in moisture trigger a shift from their tropical forests.

6 As recently as 2004, global warming was enthusiastically derided as a conspiracy theory by many who felt their views corroborated by Michael Crichton’s bestseller State of Fear, a book President Bush was said to admire.

7 “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed… I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the … the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice.” Letters from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963.

“What do the [Vietnamese] peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building?…I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.” "Beyond Vietnam" Address, Riverside Church, New York, April 4, 1967.

Alex Miller-Mignone, photo
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 new book, Soul-Sick Nation: An Astrologer's View of America, has recently been published by AuthorHouse. In addition to her column in Daykeeper Journal and the monthly Skywatch on her website,, Jessica's essays appear in The Mountain Astrologer, P.S. Magazine, Considerations and other publications. Jessica can be reached at

Jessica's writings appear every even-numbered month in Daykeeper. You'll find a complete list of them here.