AMERICA IN TRANSITION, JUNE 2009
by Jessica Murray
Not seeing as clearly as usual? You are not alone. The cosmic weather forecast is fog.
Here’s an instructive exercise for right now: take off your glasses altogether, and see what the fogginess has to offer (do try this at home, but don’t try it out on the street). This will give you a sense of how the current transit wants us to view the world. Then shift this exercise to a psychic level: start seeing everything—thoughts, other people’s thoughts, feelings, the whole world’s feelings—as an undifferentiated swirling mass.
But realize you’re doing it. This is key. Don’t kid yourself that now you have finally found the accurate way of seeing things. Know that the unclarity around you derives from the fact that you are deliberately exploring the nature of unclarity. This practice gets us to acknowledge and embrace the uncertainty of perception.
When I was a kid, there was a suburban legend about someone who’d dropped acid and then jumped off a roof, believing himself to be Superman and able to fly. Granted, this was the older generation’s way of warning the younger against drugs; but the story has something to tell us. There is a difference between glimpsing an alternative reality, on the one hand, and switching our allegiance to it, on the other hand. The practice of taking psychotropic drugs, removing your glasses so everything is fuzzy, whirling around to get yourself dizzy as Sufi dancers and children everywhere do, are all Neptunian exercises that induce us to momentarily perceive how many realities there are; and how arbitrary it is that we choose just one.
This is what the Neptune transit is trying to teach us right now. Once we accept that everything’s pretty much a blur—that this is the nature of the times—the mystery of not being sure starts to take on a certain appeal. Instead of straining to make out the details of what’s in front of us, we might pretend we’re an impressionist painter, seeing the scene as a shimmering dance of color. We tune in to the overall gestalt of our environment. Opening up to the fuzziness around us, we ease our way into the fluidity of the moment.
As June begins, the conjunction of Neptune, Chiron and Jupiter is looming overhead. This world-altering transit, which peaked for the first time during the last week of May (1), signifies the existential crisis in which humanity finds itself. The three bodies are positioned within one degree of the US Moon, which tells us that the American people are being singled out for particular cosmic attention.
As is often the case with Neptune transits, the mood in the air is frightened; there is a lot of grasping-at-straws going on. But there is a higher meaning to be discerned. By melting down our sense of what’s definite—especially as pertains to the presumed differences between races, nations, sexual persuasions, political parties and other group affiliations (Aquarius)—the universe is trying to get us to understand that people all over the world are more similar to each other than they are different from each other. If we follow the natural trajectory of where the transit is taking us on a heart-and-mind level, we will start to identify with wider and wider swaths of humanity, until our last remaining chauvinisms fade into mist.
It isn’t as if the transit is presenting us with anything new. Human individuals are, and have always been, aware—on some level—of the essential Oneness of all beings. But the American mass mind, which is a very young mass mind in terms of karmic age, is a long way from accepting this truth.
The US political system is set up to reduce everything to two teams, with the mass media cajoling us to pick sides as if we were in grade school gym class. In the infotainment culture that has replaced our national discourse, cultural pundits pounce on anything that could vaguely be construed as an Us-against-Them moment. Consider the glee with which the news shows played up the back-to-back timing of Cheney’s and Obama’s “war on terror” speeches in late May, easily presented as a one-on-one fight. Battle lines are instantly drawn over everything from a comic’s inconsequential joke at the White House Correspondents’ dinner to a beauty queen’s ineloquent opinion on same-sex marriage.
In a social climate like this, where polarized positions are jealously defended—even created out of whole cloth—in order to amp TV viewer ratings, the energies of powerful transits such as the Aquarius line-up now in the sky are prone to gross distortion.
At its highest, Neptune represents our capacity to feel what other people are feeling; to identify with our fellows as if their joys were our joys, and their pains were our pains. As such it is associated with compassion and empathy.
It is no accident that, a few days before the transit reached exactitude, the word “empathy” came up in the news as a term to be publicly parsed. Obama had declared that his upcoming choice for Supreme Court Justice would need to personify empathy, and his opponents denounced his word choice as "code" for liberal activism, or something. This jabber occupied the talking heads for days.
The fires of America’s culture wars are burning so high right now that absurdities such as these obscure even the most straightforward talking points.
Americans are in a tremendously vulnerable collective mood. This is the darker side of the transit; that is, the side that presents itself in the absence of spiritual vision. When people are staggering around in a fog they are easily exploitable. The media steps in as a mass hypnotic (shadow Neptune), with news stories so cherry-picked and with a presentation so skewed that their audiences are disallowed any sense of proportion about what’s going on in the world. Americans are led to believe that the existence of a handful of people sneezing in Iowa (2) is a crisis more grievous than the bombing with robot warplanes of impoverished men, women and children far away.
Yet with enough detachment we can also see that, with perverse appropriateness, obscuring the obvious is part of the transit’s function. If we were to take off our glasses while watching TV—or better yet, watch the screen with the sound off—a strange thing would happen. Provincialisms that are so commonplace we usually hardly notice them would suddenly strike us as ridiculous. We would see in a new light the various cultural insularities that are an integral part of contemporary culture. We would see the bickering about whether or not Pelosi knew about Bush’s interrogation policies in a new light; perhaps saying to ourselves, “Who cares? Why did we torture these people?” We would yearn to replace the inconsequential questions we are hearing with questions that encompass a bigger view.
What is this bigger view? It is the one being spelled out by the planetary line-up in the sky right now: that if one group is suffering anywhere, we are all suffering.
It is not that the universality of suffering is hidden from view. We are all inundated right now with the awareness that the world is in deep trouble. But like a grey gel over a camera lens, the global reach of this trouble is perceived only in a vague, all-encompassing way by most Americans; it feels too overwhelming to let in on a heart level. This is because modern secular society has no framework for understanding how this state of affairs fits into the evolution of Earth as a whole.
As a consequence, the reactivity of default Neptune takes over: we go into either denial or self-hypnosis (see my blog post, Drugged Senseless). But what might the positive use of Neptune’s energy look like? It would entail responding, rather than reacting, to the suffering we know is taking place. It would entail prioritizing world events in a way that is markedly different from what we see on the evening news.
The most logical place to start would be those events that have direct bearing upon ourselves; for instance, the ones we pay for. There is a metaphysical as well as a financial logic to support the idea that Americans should take responsibility for the actions our tax dollars sponsor. We are karmically engaged, for example, with the bombs falling on the people of Afghanistan.
The Once and Future War
You won’t find it in the headlines, but if you look in an American newspaper you’ll find news items, day after day, about civilians in this Central Asian country being blown to pieces by US missiles. Some of them are followed up with a “sincere apology” from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
I don’t know what they’re teaching in high school history classes these days, but according to received wisdom in the USA, America’s entry into Afghanistan during the Carter years was a white-knight rescue: a response to the brutal Soviet invasion of 1979. To the extent that Obama and his team mention the war’s origins at all, they stick to this story. Meanwhile, the truth is exactly the opposite.
In December of 1979 the Soviets sent in their army to support Afghanistan’s fledgling government that was about to be toppled by the CIA. (3) Few Americans seem to know this, apparently assuming instead that the CIA recruited all those Afghan mujahadeen only because it was necessary—as it was deemed to be so often during the Cold War years—to come to the aid of a people who were being victimized by the evil communist bear. Whether this necessity was presumed to be for humanitarian reasons or for the old domino-theory reasons (now discredited), it makes no sense; but this necessity seems to be the explanation the general public accepts for Uncle Sam’s invasion of Afghanistan.
Of course, now the Cold War is over; but the war in Afghanistan isn’t.
Most Americans do not seem to know what position to take on this war. The mass media has not yet given it a handle. The right wing, which tends to line up behind the Pentagon whatever its mysterious purposes, would probably be more enthusiastic about the fighting in Afghanistan if it weren’t now being orchestrated by the opposition party. The liberals, confused about the fact that their hero, Obama, is behind the escalation of this war, seem to be pretending it doesn’t exist.
What’s happening in Afghanistan is not yet fully linked, in the public mind, to Iraq, though this war was both the immediate precursor and the presumed successor to “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” And at the moment, Afghanistan is a long way from being seen as Obama’s Viet Nam. But it is headed in that direction.
The greater meaning of the crisis in Afghanistan is being shrouded from view as Americans worry about the economy. But that topic, too, would lead to a clearer understanding of why Uncle Sam is in Afghanistan if the right questions were asked. The past seven years would seem to have provided Americans with all the evidence they need to realize that the forces that underlie the world economy are all tied up with American foreign policy. As is true in the Middle East, Washington’s desire to control access to energy resources has far more to do with why the USA is occupying all these places than any concern about fighting "terrorism."
The American public will have to suffer a tremendous disillusionment (shadow Neptune) with their adored new president before they start identifying what’s happening in Afghanistan with the military arrogance of previous administrations. But a meaning shift appears to be coming very soon. Afghanistan’s native resistance controls most of their country now, and Washington seems to have downgraded its goal into simply avoiding the appearance of defeat.
All the Way Home
If there were an international prize for collective credulity, America would surely be a favorite to win. Government storytellers seem to be able to spin the most outrageous yarns and count on the fact that few among the citizenry know or care enough to call them on it. But if we have earned the complacency prize, the laurels are sitting uncomfortably upon our heads right now.
The dramatic transits of the decade to come are accelerating our collective learning curve on many fronts. One thing we are reluctantly learning is how the mendacity of our government impacts the wider world. Lies carry further as the globe grows smaller. As economic and geological crises are making clear to even the most secular-minded denizens of Earth, the countries of the world are inextricably inter-connected. Winston Churchill’s famous words have never seemed more apt: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” If fraud runs rampant on Wall Street, securities markets will crash in Tokyo. If Americans buy into their leaders’ deceit about yet another ruinous imperialistic adventure, the prospect of global peace takes a dive and the prospects of containing the damage grow slimmer.
This is the tragedy as well as the glory of the transit overhead. International crises (Jupiter) are making it impossible for humanity to ignore our essential unity. And as the grouping in the sky hovers over the Moon in the Sibly chart, the USA finds itself at a turning point in its long-running penchant for self-deception (Neptune).
Credulity is the shadow side of Neptune, the planet of faith. As we discussed in last month’s America in Transition, each of us has the power to decide whether we want to cloak ourselves in the foggy illusions of this life-altering transit or devote ourselves to its creative side, which, if we were to follow its trajectory, would lead us all the way home: to enlightenment.
1 The conjunction’s influence spans the whole of 2009, peaking in May and December. On May 27th, Jupiter, the more quickly-moving of the three, conjoined Neptune and Chiron on the same degree; on May 28th Neptune made a retrograde station, strengthening the timing even further; and on May 31st Chiron and Neptune came as close to exactitude as they have yet gotten during this cycle.
2 It is hard to avoid a comparison between the swine flu and Anthrax. Remember Anthrax? No? Barely? It was that big, scary news-cycle-devouring non-event that briefly monopolized the American public’s attention right around the time we might otherwise have started asking questions about the official story of 9/11. One notices a pattern in the USA of sensationalized mystery viruses appearing at moments of imminent populist rebellion. The pattern calls to mind Naomi Klein’s shock doctrine as applied to the propaganda of public health.
3 Afghanistan’s revolution in 1978 had ushered in a secular regime that was committed to women’s rights, mass literacy programs and legalized trade unions. It had good relations with the USSR (if you were a country, wouldn’t you try for good relations with a country you shared a 1,000-mile-long border with?), making it anathema to Washington. Thousands of Afghan literacy workers and young reformers were assassinated in this period; local thugs and well-connected reactionaries—including Osama Bin Laden—went on the CIA payroll. In an amazing interview 20 years later (Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, 15-21 January 1998), Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter’s national security advisor and later an adviser to Obama, bragged that it was his idea to use Afghanistan as a pawn in a larger geo-strategic chessboard.