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Kingston, NY, Friday, Dec. 12, 2008

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The Art of What? And a Big Full Moon

Dear Friend and Reader:

As part of our commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Planet Waves, we're reprinting what I consider to be the first-ever Planet Waves essay, called "Astrology as the Art of Bullshit." It was written in Munich the spring of 1998, more than six months before PlanetWaves.net went on the air. I was in an email dialog with Brad Blanton, author of Radical Honesty, and he was taking his at times annoying position that astrology is bullshit; that I should give it up and do something real with my life, such as take his classes.

Planet Waves
The original homepage graphic for PlanetWaves.net, posted Dec. 21, 1998. Here is a sample of what that homepage looked like.
In a moment of revelation and revolt, I considered his viewpoint for a moment, and seized the territory as my own. In about an hour, I jammed out the essay, posted below. I sent the piece to Rob Brezsny, who loved it so much he published it that week and left it linked from his homepage for nearly two years. I am sure that I have met a number of you through this piece of writing. A decade on, it's clear that I was setting the agenda for Planet Waves. I think you will see what I mean.

I went on to write a series of articles that summer and autumn for Rob's site (then called Real Astrology), covering the Clinton impeachment, my exploration of early holocaust sites in Erfurt and, further setting the Planet Waves agenda, publishing "Coming to the Revolution" (my first missive on masturbation) and "Options to Romance" (a kind of alt-sex dictionary). In retrospect, it was authentically gutsy of Rob to print those pieces on an astrology website, and revealed his true-to-life open mind.

While I've got your attention, this week's horoscope is written by Genevieve Salerno. Only one other time have we published another horoscope writer; this is the first official "stand-in" for my column. Genevieve will be covering for me for the next two or three weeks while I pull together the extended-length horoscopes in Next World Stories.

And the Gemini Full Moon

This issue is going to press within hours of the Gemini Full Moon. We are certainly riding out that peak of energy as the Sun journeys across Sagittarius and crosses the midpoint of the Great Attractor and the Galactic Core, close to where this Full Moon takes place (see last week's issue for more details).

Of note, Mercury has entered Capricorn and is making an exact conjunction to Pluto, newly arrived in this sign to stay. This conjunction has some dark shades to it: be aware of this as you move through your day, if you're wondering what's bothering you. We are witnessing, in news with a little extra personal impact, how corrupt government is with the Illinois senate seat scandal: very Pluto in Capricorn, and that Mercury conjunction indicates a mental obsession. Whether it's about government or not, beware of that obsessive energy, which you might (for example) direct at the corporate system, banking, the Pope or anything else represented by Capricorn. [Please see note about our Illinois coverage, below -- we have three articles on the issue, though they are posted in the daily blog.]

Though the Sun is in Sagittarius, this begins the Capricorn Point phase that I described several weeks ago; the first degrees of Cap being exactly square the highly sensitive first degree of Aries (the Aries Point, that odd thing that makes the personal and the political switch places like it was nothing).

This Full Moon is a grand cross, with the Sun and Moon forming a square to the Saturn-Uranus opposition that is working its way across Virgo-Pisces. This grand cross brings in all four of the mutable signs: nervous energy that wants to move but seems to wonder where it's going. It needs somewhere to ground, and where it's likely to ground is Mercury-Pluto.

The Sun is trine two planets at about 20 Aries -- Eris, the dwarf planet, and 1992 QB1, the as yet unnamed first planet that was ever discovered in our solar system beyond Pluto. Both of these are what I will call fringe feminine energies. They both represent outcast or unacknowledged qualities of women that typically struggle to make their way into our culture; this trine at the moment of the Full Moon is like a cosmic gateway being swung open. Be mindful what you invite in; make friends with who and what you meet, if you can.

Yours & truly,
Eric Francis



Astrology As the Art of Bullshit
By ERIC FRANCIS

ASTROLOGY IS BASED on the idea that there is some relationship between human existence and the model of the solar system. For some people, this is a stretch longer than fitting nylon pantyhose on an elephant. For others, it's obvious that we live in one reality and that the whole show is not just connected by some ideas and theories, but that in actual fact, life is one holistic experience of planets, bugs, people, trees, computers, rocks, thought and everything else with which we share existence. Therefore, conscious, careful and loving astrology should be a pretty good reflecting pool in which to observe our realities.

Planet Waves
Commencement Bay Chakras. By Beverly Naidus.
But there is a problem.

The unwritten rules of traditional astrology dictate that you should not have too many ideas of your own; stay between the lines; be careful not to ask too many questions because there are not so many answers; and that The Ancients have figured it all out for us. But The Ancients -- whether they lived in 425 B.C. or in 1971 A.D. -- weren't just practicing astrology.

Their astrology was part of a larger life, and that life contained a worldview that was informed by a very different world. When we use their astrology, we subscribe to their worldview. This is often quite crude and fatalistic. Modern, groovy astrology is often hung up on the personality level and the more cluttered energetic planes (astral and causal), and can barely contain the experiences of our current life.

I have a client who has repeatedly commented to me that when she is having serious problems, she comes to see me rather than her therapist because I don't have a button on my desk -- the one that he could push for the guys in white to cart her off to the locked ward upstairs. That is not therapy, that's death. But modern astrologers are not so far from this.

Crudely put, when we use dead astrology from dead eras and dead myths, our minds turn to bullshit. Astrology ends up being static and stuck and theoretical rather than being alive and creative, growing and changing and experimental. We might as well have a button on our desks. When we explore astrology creatively, from within our present context and knowledge, and from what our senses and intuition are telling us, we create a new worldview based on the circumstances and events of our reality as we experience them. This is a creative process.

Anything else is dead.

The astrological charts we use, for example, abound with lies: The planets move in ellipses, not circles. Everyone knows this, yet the chart is drawn in a circle. Because the Sun is moving around the galaxy, the planets actually move in elliptical spirals through space and time. You would never know this from an astrological chart. On a typical chart, it appears that Saturn comes back to the same place every 29 years, but it really does no such thing. Because the Sun is moving and Saturn is following it, Saturn might show up at the same point in seven or 27 or 3,000 galactic years -- calculated at about 250,000,000 Earth years each.

We still use a geocentric model almost exclusively, and rarely do we ever dare to look at a heliocentric chart. Yet, word got out in 1609 that the Sun is actually at the center of the solar system, and old Copernicus and Galileo and a lot of other people have been hassled immensely for showing us this. They did good work, but we have ignored them. Perhaps we should all join the Flat Earth Society, an actual group that believes the Earth is flat.

And then there is the small question of the Milky Way galaxy. Oh, that thing.

Planet Waves
The Galactic Center. By Jude Valentine.
Can anyone point to the galactic center on their natal chart? Have you ever considered its meaning? What about the black hole at its center -- that's really wild. When I was a kid, black holes were a theory. Now we have one as our neighbor, the central Sun. Why isn't the galaxy a factor, a major factor, in our astrological considerations? I've only seen it listed in one ephemeris and the only person to mention it who stands out in my memory was Barbara Hand Clow. Like Trudeau's Boopsie, she's never afraid to get cosmic.

Then, after already having been grossly distorted beyond recognition, except to the most abstract thinkers, our whole cosmos gets smashed onto a sheet of paper by a computer printer. Ouch. The planets in space are three-dimensional, colorful, extremely strange and positively magnificent, not boring and flat, black and white.

And then, for the grand finale, we assume that this 89th degree abstraction actually says something about us, and with this as our most trusted tool, we set about practicing psychic surgery on our friends, neighbors, children, pets, clients and ourselves. The funny thing is, it often somewhat works -- though I think we can work a lot better.

Drawn to the mysteries of the universe and with a love of God, as most astrologers surely are, we try to shove this confusing, dusty, old model and all its rules and mechanisms into our heads like a 7th grade English teacher pounding Shakespeare into the tormented minds of young students who need to see the actual play on an actual stage in order to comprehend it.

As astrologers, we are much the same way. We need a taste of reality. We all need a long peek through the Hubble space telescope and a week in the Space Shuttle. We need to be strapped to a mountain top flat on our backs and be made to search for comets and shooting stars, not holed up in some conference center debating house systems.

The responses of astrologers to the idea of new planets is quite interesting. Some are very open-minded; we all know a couple of them. But at a cocktail party at the 1996 Project Hindsight conference, where they study ancient astrology dug out of places like the Great Pyramid and King Tut's tomb, I asked venerable astrologer Robert Schmidt what he thought about Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.

Planet Waves
Favorite Planet. Photo by Lorin Vincent.
His response, as though I were mentioning incest or some other family secret, was to reprimand me for dragging that kind of thing up -- what he is doing, he averred, is hard enough. As it was my big moment to gain a few pearls of wisdom from The Great Astrologer, I changed the subject and politely asked what he thought of Chiron. Stupid question I guess -- he turned his back on me and walked away.

Now, I know that Robert Schmidt is a brilliant man or I wouldn't even bother mentioning him. But it's a good thing I have a sense of humor, or I wouldn't have gotten the joke. And the joke is on all of us because Schmidt's reaction is precisely what many astrologers do when it comes to the outer planets, Chiron, and asteroids. They turn their backs. They run. They hide in Saturn's rings. They start talking about Vulcan. They say things like, "There are too many asteroids! It's just a bunch of space junk! Give me a break, there's one named after Jerry Garcia! That shit is in-comp-re-hensible. And Pluto sucks!"

All true enough. I am an astrologer. It's my job to be empathic. I have Cancer rising; I can't help it. There are a lot of asteroids and Pluto does suck.

But still. Denial takes many forms. For example, I still hear people say that the outer planets are impersonal and generational and that you can't feel their effect on an individual level. Actual astrologers still say this. Goodness freaking gracious! Tell it to someone with Uranus rising, or someone experiencing Pluto square Saturn. You can't feel their effect on a personal level?

Half the people experiencing Pluto square Saturn haven't gotten out of bed this morning. Their heads are still under the covers. Eighty-three percent of the people with Uranus rising wouldn't get anywhere near an astrologer. They would be so bored they would rather die. Others question what possible effect Chiron, asteroids or Kuiper Belt objects can have if they are so small in diameter. This proves how little these particular astrologers have thought about what they do.

Planet Waves
Dr. Jim on a summerís day. Photo by Vikki Bouett.
Forget about the fact that Pluto is nothing more than a frozen fart -- one that will kick your ass. Tell me, how many kilometers in diameter is Virgo? How much does the North Node weigh? Has anyone ever gotten a good look at the 11th house cusp through a telescope? And how much gravity is the Part of Fortune exerting on your head?

Ugh. And then when an astrologer appears on TV or in the newspaper, they usually sound like a superstitious moron and make the rest of us look like such, too. One of the World's Most Brilliant Astrologers, an ancient text specialist, lived in my area back near Woodstock, New York. One day the local daily newspaper called him up to ask him about the effects of the coming eclipse. He replied that it would be bad for cattle.

What cattle? The 16 lonely cows of the Hudson Valley forgotten in the smash of progress? Perhaps it was an eclipse in Taurus. [Note: This was Rob Zoller, co-founder of Project Hindsight. As it turns out, he was right -- Mad Cow Disease became big news shortly after this article ran. However, this is arguably worse for people than it is for cows. -e.f.]

There's a guy named Brad Blanton who teaches Gestalt therapists and other people about radical honesty, and he says that the key to enlightenment is the mantra, "Duuuuhhhhh." Money-back guarantee, he assures, just recite this mantra for half an hour and you will become Buddha.

Now, I think that astrologers can learn more from the Gestalts than they can from just about anyone else. I am currently living in Germany and I looked up the word 'gestalt' in the dictionary and it turns out to mean "shape." The astrological chart is a shape and the position of the solar system is a shape and when we are doing work with our clients we are studying the shape of their lives and the shape of things and its effect on their experiences. Duuuuhhhhh!

When our model of the solar system is as a flat, boring, paper-thin slice of bullshit; when we can't see it the way it looks; when we can't conceive of things the way they actually are; when we don't know one-tenth of what's currently known about our little solar system as astronomers are coming up with ever more superclusters of galaxies; and when we're scared by comets and have never heard of exoplanets -- planets that orbit other stars -- our astrology suffers and our clients suffer and we learn less and have less fun and our brains turn to stale gray mush instead of wild beautiful gardens where everything grows and lives and flies around and munches things and breathes, and where the Moon shines at night.

Perhaps the reason that astrology seems so hard to learn is that it's so boring and because it's nearly impossible to get into a discussion about astrology without reverting to bullshit mode. Bullshit, by the way, is a highly technical term from Gestalt therapy coined by Fritz Pearls, and it means just that: the bullshit that people lay on each other and suffocate in.

Planet Waves
No Place To Hide (1981). By Beverly Naidus.
Our astrology is buried in the stuff, it is largely made of it, and we're gasping for air and struggling for life and crying out for a little meaning. In actual fact, astrology practiced as a living art and constant investigation of reality can be an amazingly beautiful way of looking at the world as we go though the series of presently-unlocking cosmic gateways on the way to love and freedom and getting our chaotic lives together for a change.

But that's very challenging because modern astrology is largely a prison of lies, dead concepts and mental garbage made of centuries of past rubble and scraps of slag left behind from the industrial production of religion, philosophy and science, with a little mythology and mathematics mixed in for good measure.

Centaurs -- a new and emerging class of planets that I am researching -- are not the answer. Imagination is. And investigation is, as is the questioning of our experiences and ideas. Centaurs help because they really make us work; we have to figure them out. They are sending astrology back to the ancient Greek myths and getting astrologers to pick up the phone to call astronomers and getting us to interview our clients, compile data and walk with our feet on the ground. That is progress.

But in the purely spiritual sense, I believe that the answer resides first in admitting that we are clueless; that we have no idea where the fuck we are or how we got here; in recognizing that many of us doubt we really are here; and that many more live like we're really not here. After a while, it turns out to be that way.

I think that a great question for astrologers is: How did I get here at all? What's the story? Where is here? And since we work with the model of the solar system, and since science is coming up with tons of information about it these days, what's the latest scoop? What have we learned in this century? What isn't being written about or publicized, and, most importantly, what are the implications for our understanding of what it means to be a human?


Planet Waves Coverage of Corruption in Illinois

We've been following the corruption story with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who, among other things, tried to sell Obama's soon-to-be-vacated senate seat to the highest bidder. Check out what we've written on the topic this week: click here and here for two articles from Eric and Genevieve, and here for one by Fe Bongolan, that I highly recommend. --Rachel Asher



Don't Worry, Be Happy?
By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

DOES THAT SONG work your nerves as much as it works mine? It was annoying in the 80s but now, with everything topsy-turvy, with the economy tanking and people in genuine need, it hits me like nails on a chalkboard. For most people, worry seems justified and happiness an afterthought, given our current challenges.

Perhaps the song activates that bit of curmudgeon in me -- the bit that thinks that finding the pony in the horseshit requires wading through a lot of crap and eschews simplistic answers; still, it's light and catchy, and excellent advice.

Worry, like guilt, achieves nothing productive and takes us on side-paths of experience that we wouldn't deliberately choose if we had our heads screwed on tight. The things we worry about are seldom the ones that manifest; and worry itself adds energy to the creation of worrisome events, causing us to choose erroneously in a sort of subconscious self-fulfilling prophecy.

Happiness isn't circumstantial, arriving due to the conditions outside of ourselves; it's an inside job. It's both an attitude and a condition of our body, mind and soul. Science suggests that some of us are hard-wired for happiness; others, not so much. We've seen examples of people in poverty smiling and laughing, while the filthy-rich can be just as cranky and mean-spirited as those with much less. If stuff doesn't do it; then what does?

We can take some cues from our brains. PBS recently aired a program, Magnificent Mind at Any Age, by Dr. Daniel Amen, who is the author of books on brain function and the benefits of approaches that restore our brains to balance and health at every age level. He prefers a holistic approach to problems like anxiety, depression, ADD and insomnia; he advocates nutrition, alternative medicines and mental/spiritual strategies. As we consider happiness, we must remember that it's part and parcel of whole-body health.



Don't Worry, Be Happy?
By Shanna Philipson

Just in time for Christmas: Snow on Mars

Eight years after the first discovery of standing water on Mars, NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander confirmed the presence of snow on the red planet.

Planet Waves
NASA photo of ice found on Mars on June 19, 2008. This week, scientists saw “snow in the air and frost on the ground” for the first time, Peter Smith reports.
Says Peter Smith, the principle investigator of the mission: "…for the first time ever, we saw snow falling on Mars -- snow in the air and frost on the ground. For scientists who've spent careers pondering these possibilities, it was absolutely thrilling."

Give Us $100 Million and Never Mind the Meteors


The Guardian reports this past week an international group of scientists appealed to the UN for a meteor defense program they say should cost around $100 million. The $4 million NASA currently devotes to a similar detection program is not enough when they consider the potential for a serious asteroid collision with Earth.

They acknowledge the odds are long for such an event, and the price tag does appear to be steep. "However, the cost of such missions should not be used as an excuse for failing to act, added the panel. 'We are no longer passive victims of the impact process,' it concluded. 'We cannot shirk the responsibility.'"

Meanwhile, columnist Steve Dube of Wales Online wonders if an asteroid hit wouldn't be so bad after all. What with the failure of leadership in recent years followed by an emerging world-wide economic crisis, he's a bit cynical of the crisis pitch.
"And you can't really blame us. We've just had eight years of an ingenue in the top job reading from a script prepared by the scariest bunch of apocalyptic fundamentalists ever to get near the White House. We've watched aghast as he's blustered about and messed up, ardently assisted by our own top man, who we once acclaimed as a sort of deliverer, but who turned out to be acting."
Are you a Scorpio with asthma?

The New York Times isn't laying your respiration problems at the feet of Pluto, but the time of year you were born may have something to do with your tendency to asthma and allergies.

Behold the Zeitgeist of 2008


Sarah Palin may have lost the election, but she won Google's top spot for Fastest Rising topic search, Global category. In the US, she also won Fastest Rising News Search and Fastest Rising Image Search. (Take that, Suri Cruise!)

Google, the world's largest search engine, is also the world's largest compiler of our interests and passions. For more information about what people were looking for in 2008, visit Google's Zeitgeist reference page. On it, you'll find Zeitgeist reports from previous years as well as current Zeitgeist reports for another 34 countries.

Here's the top ten list of most requested search items as compared to the 2007 list. (Feel free to freak out over these in whatever way you prefer.)

Fastest Rising (Global)

1. sarah palin
2. beijing 2008
3. facebook login
4. tuenti
5. heath ledger
6. obama
7. nasza klasa
8. wer kennt wen
9. euro 2008
10. jonas brothers


Next World Stories, the 2009 annual from Planet Waves, is coming on Jan. 3, 2009. Click here to learn more.


Planet Waves
Weekly Horoscope for Friday, December 12, 2008, #744 - By GENEVIEVE SALERNO

Aries (March 20-April 19)
Something really interesting is going on with your vision of what you want to be. Lately it's looked like you’re approaching a sense of ruling yourself with the kind of joy that comes from confidence in your own abilities and an understanding that you do have something wonderful to give those around you. You are well on your way to learning the truth about who you are and who you are not: you are someone totally unique from everyone else in the world and you know it. Sometimes it seems like a curse that holds you back from fully trusting other people, and sometimes, for one glorious, shiny moment, it enhances everything you touch and all of the work you do. Now is one of those times.

Taurus (April 19-May 20)
Does it seem like you are in a situation where the give and take looks a little uneven? Perhaps there is some traditional dynamic that is putting you through a lot of strain, squeezing you into a role that is just too small for what you are capable of. It looks like the time is right for a little investigation into where this idea of a proper code of conduct came from. Perhaps a conversation is in order with those you share this dynamic with.

Gemini (May 20-June 21)
Within the past two weeks you started a conversation that is now arriving at a new phase. It looks to me as though this conversation was about what someone wants out of a relationship. It's not clear to me whether or the outcome will be positive or negative, but it seems what's being highlighted now is how much willfullness has gone into this relationship and what has been returned. There is a certain kind of concreteness to your sense of idealism at this time regarding matters of passion -- ask yourself how flexible you are being.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)
Traditional equals safety for you and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, the ideals from the past have some sort of enduring quality, or else they would have been as forgotten as Milli Vanilli. Remember them? They were the musicians who got caught lip-synching in the early 90s. Lip-synching is basically when you mouth the words but do not say them; you play along. It seems as though the things you've put in place in the realm of relationships have been working in some ways, but not in others. Take stock of the situation -- how did you get here? Where are you going? You have the power to nourish all kinds of circumstances and changes in your life. How to most efficiently use this talent of yours is up to you.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23)
The chart I'm looking at right now seems to be spelling out a total playground for you. Suddenly, it seems as though inspiration has dawned and it's time to meld work and play together. When you have your mind set on a good idea it's hard to convince you to take your time. The architecture of this idea of yours seems to have a lot to do with the people around you. It's always nice to feel like you have these people at your disposal, but you may find yourself in a situation where what you want them to do and what they want to do is very different. Do not be discouraged! Everything you need is in ample supply.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
Have you been getting this feeling lately that you are going about your life in an entirely inappropriate way? Who is this voice and where does s/he come from? It seems as though you have been locked in a wrestling match with a forbidding force lately. Right now it looks as though you have been inspired to let loose and have yourself a good, well-deserved frolic. Have at it! But try to remember, Virgo -- it's hard to really play and carry those heavy chains at the same time. See how it feels if you extend your awareness to the part of you that demands you be an adult at all times. It's very unlikely that you can do anything truly destructive to your character, no matter what that voice says. It's okay to listen to it and file it away. Sometimes that's all you need.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
It's easy to see that you have the power to seize control of your environment and use it to the best of your advantage. This is because you have reached a point of knowledge that the base of operations is not a place, but rather a state which you carry around in your heart region. There is something that you have been meaning to say or do that you are worried is going to step on some toes; something that you, as a Libra, have a hard time doing. I would suggest you get comfortable with your own authority. You are a natural at establishing balance and harmony, no matter what you do. Take this opportunity to get a little practice in honoring the self before the other. Your sense of security will grow immensely from this exercise.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
A situation has arisen where you feel you must defend what is yours at all costs. It is rare for you to do anything without being absolutely sure of the situation, so this might be a good time to take some notes about the environment you’re finding yourself in. Who is there to listen to you, for example, is a good way to gauge this feeling, which seems to be coming from a feeling that you are involved in the greater universe and it is everywhere -- including your own backyard. In fact, it might be this feeling of sudden expansion that is creating a sense that you are losing something precious that belongs rightfully to you. Ask yourself: if something is truly yours, can it ever be taken away?

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22)
It's important to express your own values even if at times it falls on deaf ears. Once in a while, a situation I'd call an "echo effect" takes place and whoever it was you shared these expressions with will get it a long time after the conversation. This is a lesson in letting things go as they may, in accepting the other for who they are, and for not letting them define who you are and what you value.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
There is a kind of all-inclusive philosophy developing in your mind, which seems to include your role in the world around you. It looks to me as though there is a process of reformulating who you are as you come to certain realizations about the world around you. Someone has earned your respect, and you're not quite sure why, because it seems as though what they are all about is very different from what you envision for yourself. We are all reflections and fragments of the world around us, glued together by the essence of who we are on our own. It's an interesting conglomeration of personalities and it may be making you feel like you are losing your mind. Be comforted -- you're not losing anything: you are growing, and that's very good.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
There is a secret kind of love affair that is slowly beginning to bloom for you, giving you a new facet by which to understand yourself. At the same time, it looks to me as though there has arisen a situation in which you have experienced a willful kind of conversation that has put you in a "make or break" mentality that is hard to shake once it sets in. I would suggest seeing if you can't meld this experience into the new process you've so recently become attracted to. This process has something to do with increase and vision and it can use every bit of emotion you put into it.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
Sometimes it's shocking how much you affect the people around you. At the same time, it looks as though your community has expanded its reach. Your message has begun to go farther than you could have previously imagined, and your ability to command the people around you seems to have taken on a new dynamic. If it comes to pass that someone backs down from an offer or a promise, it's a gap that you can change into some much-needed personal space.


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