In & Out of Time

Planet Waves for July 1999 | by Eric Francis

Small wheel turn by the fire and rod
Big wheel turn by the grace of God
Every time what wheel turn 'round,
bound to cover just a little more ground.

-- from "The Wheel" by Robert Hunter / Jerry Garcia

Image of M31, above, copyright by Astronomy Picture of the Day. M31, The Andromeda Galaxy, is our closest Galactic neighbor, and very similar in shape and size to the Milky Way, our home galaxy.

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REMEMBER THAT POSTCARD with a picture of a spiral galaxy, with an arrow pointing to a place toward the edge, and the caption, "You Are Here?"

Consider, for a moment, the possibility that this postcard is the only true fact you really know. Apart from the symbolic representation of using another galaxy to depict our own (we can't photograph the Milky Way from the outside quite yet), it's arguable that all you can really say for sure about your existence is that you are alive, and you live on a planet next to a star at the edge of a big spiral thing in space. It's pretty poetic, when you think about it. Essentially, it's a bit of knowledge that points to a vast mystery, and little else.

My friend Hilary had a child named Zaia a few years back, and one day when he was very small, she said to him, "Where did you come from?" His hand shot up like and arrow, with a finger pointing toward the sky.

How we lose sight of this mystery is itself no great wonder. From the moment we are born, most of us are strung into an entanglement of frightening belief systems that existed prior to our arrival. For example, there is usually a guy waiting with a pair of pliers, set to grab us by the head and "help" us into the world. Many of us are circumcised, which is an early initiation into intentional, involuntary pain (synonym: "torture") in the male genital region, a wounding from which both men and women ultimately suffer. Many of us are baptized to cleanse away our "original sin," this being an early introduction to morality, which is a highly arbitrary set of rules and regulations about what is right and wrong, having very little basis in observable events. (Fortunately, none of these trips were laid in my buddy Zaia.)

We are (still) put into pink or blue clothing early, one of many initiations into something called "dualism," or us-them consciousness, which is later tapped in times of war and business rivalry, and, more lately, we are bedecked in little Gucci outfits and McDonalds bibs and, not long after, we are absolutely certain of the meaning of life, which we express and worship largely in front of a television set keeping us up-to-date on all the latest developments in the known cosmos. We also spend a lot of time in school, with assorted teachers droning on in monotone day after day for between 13 and 24 years about The Way It Is, expecting us to beg to open our mouths and speak a few words.

And then, having been thus prepared for life, when the going gets tough, we ponder how people got the way they are, and why the world is in the sorry state that it is.

For anyone who survives this program and then, at some point in the future, returns to the place of approaching the mystery of existence with a sense of wonder, it's fair to say that life is a brilliant triumph.


An Age Without a Cosmology

It's precisely this relationship to the unknown with which astrology deals. Looking at an astrological chart, there is nothing you can say for sure. There are only suggestions, but moreover, there are questions. Figure out what some of the questions are, and you're in pretty good shape.

Consider that astrology is presumably the model of the human psyche as illustrated by the stars and planets. This idea is based on a presumption that there is a connection between us and the rest of it all, whatever "us" and "it all" turn out to be. For some, this is pure folly. For others, it's a very practical, undeniable experience. You can't jump out of the universe, so hey, maybe we're actually part of it.

Consider, as well, that in just seven years since 1992, nearly 100 new objects besides conventional asteroids have been discovered orbiting our Sun. It's long been observed that planetary discoveries parallel the times in which the planets manifested. Doesn't this kind of say it all? There are now, as of last week, 13 more objects cataloged in the Centaur class of planets, of which Chiron (discovered 1977) was the first astonishing member, plus more than 60 in the Kuiper class of objects beyond Neptune's orbit (of which Pluto is one), and numerous others such as Damocles (which are categorized as weird little things defying easy classification).

The relatively small number of these new objects that have been plotted and researched by astrologers have been demonstrated to show significant meaning in terms of denoting themes, time cycles and intense moments in the lives of the people who have been studied. The mythology of the planet's namesake and the mythography as it plays out in life can be startlingly similar. And -- this is new -- every new planet gets a birth chart, and in many cases the birth charts of the planets make symbolic pictures that follow the myths after which they were named.

But there is no way you can really account for the impact of 100 new astrological cycles and natal placements. This is far more complicated than a hundred cable channels, trust me. All you can say for sure is that something is afoot. We are changing fast. We are discovering our subtle nature. We are expanding outward, and we are, more importantly, expanding inward, as internal dimensions, connections and interconnections are revealed to consciousness. Many of these new planets cross the orbits of old planets, weaving the inner dimensions into ever-more intricate fabrics. But just as so many people don't know about the new planets (there is a kind of cover-up, because the media never mentions the discoveries) many of us seem to not know about the inner developments within the human psyche.

In addition to these planetary findings, some honest and sincere scientists are working out new theories of the larger universe, of the structure of our home galaxy, and of the innermost structure of matter. What they come up with are a lot of weird observations, such as contradictions between well-developed theories and carefully-documented observations; striking properties are observed but unexplainable by current reality-models; and wild possibities suggesting we may be located in a corner of the universe from which the rest of the universe is hidden -- in short, questions, questions, questions. The way, these days, to tell a real scientist from a corporate charlatan is humility.

We thus live in an age without a cosmology. There is no neat theory, no all-inclusive diagram, and no "center of it all" now that the Earth and Sun have been disqualified as candidates. We know we live in a galaxy, but just what is that? Is a galaxy a huge living thing? What's going on at the center, or at least closer in? There are, as well, hundreds of millions of galaxies and galaxy clusters, yet the collective mind of science has an extremely difficult time, for example, conceding the mere possibility of life elsewhere, as if to admit to that potential means admitting you eat lunch with little green men, after which you would get your tea-leaves read.

As the human psyche gradually adapts to the reality that there "may have been" life elsewhere (reports from very recent Mars probes and related research clearly indicates that planet was once alive, but it took a lot for science, which swears it's not religion, to 'fess up to this ego-shattering notion) we can slowly adapt to new possibilities. One is the idea that we are not alone in the universe, randomly splattered on a wet rock. We are not an accident, as so many kids are devastated to learn is their worldly progenitors' opinion of their creation. Imagine us, a whole culture, thinking we are an accident! Imagine us, poor sorry us, living on a little island in space, and seeing millions of lights all around us, and thinking we're alone! And yet as people, isn't that so often how we feel? How well do you know your neighbors? Do you even want to?


The Gateways of Time

Set within this context, a truly modern look at the total solar eclipse chart for Aug. 11 would necessarily begin with a long pause. The nature of eclipses, being the rather astonishing, undeniable phenomena they are, is something you'd think there would be a lot of astrology books written about, but there are not. I have never actually held one in my hands, and I am a rather diligent hunter of astrology titles. What I have learned, I have learned mainly through personal observation, from my mentors, and through putting together little clues and drawing inferences.

Eclipses, by definition, are a culmination of a number of cycles; many things happen at once, in the same place, and there are always involved two very mysterious, well, let's call them vortecies, or things, or gateways, or something, referred to as the "lunar nodes." The lunar nodes have no mass as we define mass. They therefore have no gravity as we define gravity. They cannot be physically seen. But they are there, they are real, and so they immediately stretch our definition of what "is" because technically they are "are not" anything, physically, except for a marker of a cycle -- at least in theory, anyway.

The cycle they mark is the progress of a double-Dutch game involving the Sun and the Moon. At four precise moments each year, moments which move "retrograde" (backwards) in space, and thus ever-backwards in the calendar as part of the larger epicycle of the nodes, the Sun and the Moon align with the Earth by all possible three-dimensional coordinates; the three bodies make an astronomically perfect straight line, always near the lunar nodes. This is called an eclipse. Wee people are directly involved, since we're part of the planet. Somewhere on Earth, depending on the type of eclipse, the Sun's light is blocked by the Moon, or the Moon's light is blocked by the Earth. When this occurs, we get some new version of the strange, miraculous, scary, intense, uncontrolled, unexplained and awesome events that typically show up at such moments.

But here's the curiouser part, involving the nodes. In natal charts, and in many other kinds of charts, the nodes themselves present an awesome force having nothing (apparently) to do with eclipses. Astrology from the Far East has given us our best glimpses at what these nodes are about. They seem to operate as an energy pattern, like a standing wave in the chart, but it involves a wave of time.

Indeed, it's a kind of riptide of time, running through the person's life, which can be identified based on where the nodes fall by house and sign. This energy moves through the dimensions of time, connecting people with their past and future lives, and the past and future in the current life. With Western astrology just now getting its first actual awareness of the nodes (and by that, I mean in the past twenty years), it's no great wonder we've been such lost puppies, metaphysically speaking, for so long.

Study the nodes using the most fundamental syntax of any method of astrology and you get some astonishing results. Tune into them on an energetic ("psychic") level and you can pick up a signal that feels like a gust of power that we must, as many astrologers have discovered at some point, acknowledge and deal with. Vedic astrology from India, which is very conservative and follows strict rules, holds both the North Node (Rahu) and the South Node (Ketu) as dangerous points, like those places near the mouths of harbors where because of current and tidal conditions, a lot of ships happen to sink.

But to navigate the chart and the life it represents, we must especially navigate the nodes. To understand the present, we need a concept of what it means to acknowledge and deal with and release the past, and what it means to have our hearts, our heads and moreover, our actions, pointed toward progress, and actually moving in that direction.

In natal astrology, the nodes represent the process of what is now called "evolution" -- this being a relatively new concept for our culture, standing for the utterly shocking idea that there is no fate or predestination, but rather a growth process called our lives. Evolution denoted by the lunar nodes ranges from the most immediate and personal lessons, to the most vast and collective experiences, connecting large numbers of people. (Individuals with planets harmoniously aspecting the nodes tend to have a lot of public contact, and seem to take on unusual levels of collective karma.)

Because they are exactly 180° apart, the nodes also represent a balancing act between what was and what is becoming, teetering on what is. Put a planet at 90° to the nodal axis, and you get what can seem like a block. Really it's more of a picture of what must somehow be addressed with great emphasis if the life under consideration is to progress. As astrological significators go, the nodes can provide some of the most astute questions. And in times of eclipses, the nodes are where the action is, and as a result, there is a great deal of emphasis on issues of growth and evolution. This is true for individual souls, and for the great collective soul we all share.


Lightning Strikes the Tower

When the Sun, Moon and Earth align with the physical position of the nodes, we end up in eclipse mode. And what we experience in the coming weeks is directly involving eclipses on July 28 (lunar) and Aug. 11 (solar). We are standing, our tiny planet, and our two most important companions in space, in a vast temporal wind tunnel, in the current of time, which can gust and vent and release energy in both seeming directions of time, from the past to the present and the present to the past. There is an obvious equalization of pressure, or in the eminently descriptive words of Ross Perot, a "great big sucking sound." In that moment, we get to hoist our sails in the direction of progress, or drop the sails, go below and wait out the storm, only to emerge and see where we ended up.

Most of the time, not knowing when eclipses are going to occur, we do neither, but if you can say nothing else about the Aug. 11 total solar eclipse, and the corresponding lunar eclipse on July 28, it is that awareness counts for a lot -- starting now, or better yet, yesterday. Coincidentally, these are among the best-publicized and most widely-discussed eclipses in recent history. We are getting conscious about our evolution. We can agree, on some level, that evolution exists, and that we are part of it. We can now acknowledge a point of juncture. We can make an aware, awake decision about what to do next, or at least many of us grok the idea that something is indeed next.

Taking a dare at interpretation, the overall effect of the Aug. 11 eclipse, with all its other involved planetary alignments (a grand cross involving Mars exactly opposite Saturn, and Uranus closely opposite the Sun and Moon, plus other configurations) the basic energy comes off a lot like The Tower trump card, in which lightening, a natural force, strikes a man-made structure, shaking up what we think of as stable reality. Or, looked at another way, stable reality gets in the way of progress, and the sparks fly. If you ask me, it's a perfectly lovely time for such a blast of power to come through our world, which is getting dangerously set in its ways, and precariously attuned to Master Card as the arbiter of all reality and morality.

But many of us know as well that we're ready for change. We are as prepared as we're going to get, and now it's time to cross the threshold. Many of us have minds and bodies full of spiritual ideas and organic food, and the eclipse process this summer is a moment of reckoning, a squaring of the books, and a leap forward.

What, then, is your highest vision? Is your mind free enough that you even have a vision? Can you see a life and a life purpose beyond what you are doing now? Can you see certain elements of your present activity being radically empowered, with that power clearing away what is unnecessary, and carrying you forward? Are you ready to allow what you believe and what you actually do come a lot closer together? Are you ready to let go of the past such that it no longer has an impact or a dragging-down effect on you? Isn't it time that the past becomes the past, the present becomes the present, and the future becomes the future? Are we, the quanta of spirit, ready for this quantum leap into the unknown?

This we shall see. It may take a miracle, or a lot of miracles, but when that big wheel is in spin and the stakes are high, that's where I lay my chips. ++

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