Imagine you’re sitting in a restaurant with a group of your friends, and a discussion about a potentially sensitive subject comes up. A few of your friends express their views, and you decide to take a turn, something you don’t usually do. You speak your mind and the room goes chilly. There are stares in your direction. Your stomach turns; you’ve crossed the line of social appropriateness.
It’s like a nightmare: you’ve revealed yourself and been rejected for it. In a single moment you realize that in order to maintain your social relationships from this point onward, you would have to ignore the difference in values and suppress your views and, in reality, yourself. If you were to be open about them, you would basically be unacceptable. Suddenly you feel very alone in the world. Could it be that these people were not your friends at all? What is a friend? And could it be that you really need to invest more energy into actually expressing who you are, rather than in conforming to what other people think for their convenience?
If you look closely at our world, it’s easy to see a thousand ways in which we put up with such compromises every day. Generally, in our era of history, we deal with just about everything by suppressing it. Either that, or distracting ourselves with all our fabulous means of entertainment. Most entertainment is passive and antisocial; in the U.S. most bars play the music so loud you cannot hear your own voice, much less someone else’s; people walking down the street wearing an MP3 player are not going to be available to meet new people, say hello or even make eye contact. The examples go on.
Suppression is really depression and a lot of people are depressed. Many are resorting to coping through antidepressants; it seems like the best most people can hope to do in life is cope and it seems that we are in a “whatever it takes” phase of history. These drugs are showing up in the water supply, and they are also making an impact on our social relations, though it’s extremely difficult to point to what it is — it exists as a kind of psychic climate change.
There are so many factors influencing us to bury our real personalities and the real issues we have on our heart and mind that they are too numerous to count. At the same time there has been another trend, which is toward the spiritual or opening-up practices that are available to exist as private experiences; things we do alone rather than together, or where social relationships are discouraged in the name of integrity.
To say that Western culture has grown more superficial than ever seems a ridiculous statement because it has been so superficial and appearance-oriented for so long.
Do we really need an astrology newsletter to inform us of how uncomfortable this is? Or to point it out? Or to say that this is killing us?
Or is it obvious, if we look, and more accurately, feel? Do we need to be told how much pain our society and the people in it are in? Do we need to be reminded that it’s not necessary to struggle alone, and that all of our problems have already been solved by someone else in the past — if only we will seek the solution?
It may just be that there is a widespread sentiment of this kind that is rarely put into language. It could be the thing you want to say at dinner but are afraid will be like a mouse squirming around the salad bowl. It could be that many people are so thoroughly dissatisfied with their social relations and that there is an ocean of energy waiting to burst up to the surface. Of course, it’s been so long since anything like this has happened that most people aware of the phenomenon’s possibility generally count the notion as wishful thinking.
Enter Chiron in Aquarius
A messenger and provocateur is on his way. Between Feb. 21, 2005 and Feb. 8, 2011, the world and all the people in it will take the trip of Chiron in Aquarius. The effect will be an exposition or even explosion of the themes and issues of Aquarius — in particular, the tension between the individual and the group, which is well beyond its rightful bursting point today.
This will occur during a time when the historical process is being accelerated exponentially by the tightening spiral of time, as we speed toward the 2012 centerpoint of history. Chiron in Aquarius will be our constant companion along the way to the very doorstep of 2012, and will be one of the most palpable tone-setting transits of the era. It will provide us with tools, opportunities and challenges that speed collective evolution precisely because of the collective nature of Aquarius. Chiron in Aquarius will give us a way to approach the question.
One of the primary questions of this transit is, “What do we mean by We?” For most people, We means me and my posse, me and my family, me and my fellow devoted Visio employees, Pepsi drinkers of the world, or us way-cool England fans. For whom does We mean all of us here? All of us who drink water? All of us who breathe air? For whom does We mean all of us who must raise children on the Earth? Aquarius is the territory known as the Commons: the space we all share; what we have in common.
The numerous social issues that will emerge in this era demanding collective attention promise to redefine We in larger, more meaningful and more inclusive ways. We will come to believe there is such a thing as We. Maybe we’ll even start to capitalize We just like we capitalize I.
The Meeting Place
Aquarius is the meeting point of I and We. This can be extremely uncomfortable, self conscious territory, particularly if we’re aware of the conditions that are placed upon individuality in order to have the privilege of saying We: the rules and regulations of being able to identify with a collective of any kind, that great privilege.
The world is organized for the most part into various kinds of cliques. Cliques always require us to be defined by a group, and within such an arrangement the individual is only as good as the rest of the group says he or she is. Chiron in Aquarius, as I feel its approach, promises to blow this issue open. People go to enormous lengths to be accepted. But the pain and struggle of this is rarely acknowledged.
One recent example, a kind of Chiron in Aquarius forerunner, comes to mind. There were recently several studies in Scandinavian countries that associated breast implants with increased incidence of suicide. At the moment such a story can sink beneath the surface of awareness and seem to have no implications. Under Chiron in Aquarius it could become an issue that gets a lot of attention, seen for how deeply it reaches into the problems of our society, seen in relationship to many associated problems in our culture.
One of those problems is clearly loneliness. For all the people in the world, you would think that loneliness would be the rarest problem on the planet. Everywhere you go, you find more people. Yet loneliness only seems to be increasing in incidence and intensity as the factors that alienate us pick up power. We are, in reality, unable to be perfect enough people to meet the standards of cliques, advertising, and the expectations we have been raised with. This is deeply isolating. What exactly are the barriers between people? Are we even aware of them? The events of 2005 through 2011 will have a lot to offer in the way of insights and quite possibly solutions. Once a problem is identified, a solution is never far away.
Transits of Chiron typically alert us to what is already happening, and raise the matter for discussion. They don’t necessarily create new situations but rather drop a lens in front of perception and allow us to focus on a particular pattern. That focus thrusts it into the environment of awareness. Then we have to deal. As I discussed a couple of weeks ago, Chiron is now in Capricorn, the sign of corporations and government, a transit which began within days of the Enron bankruptcy and weeks of the Sept. 11 attacks. On Thursday this week, Enron’s former CEO, Kenny Lay, met Chiron in the form of federal prosecutors and a grand jury. Obviously what was happening with Enron fraud was going on for years, out of sight. Then as Chiron transited into Capricorn it plunged into awareness [see Planet Waves “Living with the Truth”].
What we are living through today is a vast setup. It is difficult to imagine the combination of media overload, personality-altering drugs, hyper-emphasis on glamour and appearance, fundamentalist religion and a general climate of “who gives a shit” in the face of the most serious issues we’ve ever witnessed, being more over-the-top. Add a really thick layer of denial, which seems necessary to get through the day. Then, suddenly, drop a lump of pure sodium into the water. We will soon find out the temperature at which Prozac burns.
An Energy Condenser
A sign represents a quality of energy that generally works in the background (unconsciously or latently). A planet brings the energy into focus like a condenser, in its own particular style, embodying that energy. Chiron, being the opposite of denial, happens to be exceedingly focussed and in your face. The shock of Chiron in Aquarius will be all the more stunning given that we are currently living through Neptune in Aquarius: drugs, delusion and denial in the sign of collective reality. For a while, both processes will unfold at once, yet heading for the guaranteed to be infamous Chiron-Neptune conjunction of late Aquarius of February 2010.
Aquarius is the sign of the tribe: collective values, social concerns and society itself. Society is made of individuals, and often individuals must compromise their values, beliefs, conduct and behavior for the sake of the collective. And sometimes this goes way too far, to the point where there is next to no individuality left, or where it’s so rare it seems strange.
Chiron will point out how wounded by tribal thinking we have become. Since tribes in the modern sense rarely accept a person for who he or she already is, the result is an injury to individuality. And there is also an injury to our ability to trust groups at all. Particularly the group known as society.
For all the talk of freedom that we’re hearing thrown around by politicians, we live in a time when it’s exceptionally scary, illegal or immoral to simply be yourself. We grow accustomed to news reports of increased clampdowns on civil liberties, and somehow accept that we’re supposed to be safer. Okay, it’s not the scariest of times in this respect (the McCarthy era, the last time Chiron was in Capricorn, was a good bit more frightening). But there is a particular urgency about our moment in time, be it personal, political or ecological. And we have yet to see the current cycle of Chiron in Capricorn come to its culmination. We have yet to see the natural result of the way things have been going the past three years.
Meanwhile, individual freedom these days basically represents the power to purchase goods on credit — often to impress others so we can be part of their group. This is a sham of awesome complexity. Aquarius being the sign of collective resources and values, we may see a consumer debt crisis as interest rates spike. Millions of people will be cut off from the drug of consumerism and what is called conspicuous consumption. Something will need to take its place; that energy will need to go somewhere. And this will be a Chiron in Aquarius process.
Chiron’s main action, as I understand it, is to raise awareness. Chiron does this any number of ways, from crisis to revelation to discovery, but one thing is clear: by the time Chiron has come and gone from any particular corner of our charts, we are paying attention to that aspect of life. And by the time it’s come and gone from a sign, a lot of people in society are getting the message of what is happening in that aspect of life.
Here are some examples. Take these and magnify them by a few million and imagine that they represent much larger social movements that we can all feel and see:
<> A person who has adhered to a particular form of Christianity gets sick of hearing about how Islamic people are Satan’s army and should be killed. The result is a crisis of faith that leads to a deeper devotion to the affairs of his or her soul, and to seeking out real community instead of one based on false ideologies. Many people in their congregation suddenly begin to have this feeling and express their deep concerns to one another.
<> Someone who has always noticed how plastic people are wakes up one morning feeling like their life has been a kind of fraud. He or she wakes up feeling like a fake person and experiences a kind of personality collapse. He seeks someone to share the experience with and finds that he knows nobody. He’s left to rebuild his life starting with the question, “Who am I?”
<> A famous television talk show host realizes that she’s been manipulating and lying to people for years. She sets up a special live edition of the program and comes clean on the air, admitting to her own mistakes and criticizing television for its superficial and ignorant treatment of just about everything, particularly people’s most intimate subject matter. This leads to many people in the viewing audience having a revelation about the impact of TV, and a wave of talk show hosts admitting their misgivings about what they do.
<> Someone who has used the Internet to meet people, rather than doing so in person, meets and soon after marries a person who turns out to be a total fraud; everything about their life, as stated, turned out to be in some way false, including their name, their age and their personal history. Suddenly the whole Internet community begins to seem like it has no basis in reality.
<> Someone who has taken antidepressants for some time realizes they are not dealing with their problems, and that the drugs are completely masking over who they are. In addition, some serious psychological conditions are discovered with a little research to be caused by the drug. Additional research reveals a support project for people who are attempting to withdraw from this drug, and through getting involved with this, the person meets many new people and begins a new phase of life.
<> A well-loved national television newscaster discovers the secret file in his producer’s desk about an important issue and discovers he’s been lying to his viewers for years. He makes a public resignation in protest.
<> A temporary collapse of the Internet forces people to come out of their houses and actually start meeting people, or to pick up the telephone and start calling people they have not talked to in years.
<> George Bush obviously loses the November presidential election, but when the votes come in they somehow add up to victory. But there were no paper ballots so there is no way to have a recount. People mobilized behind a candidate and succeeded, but ultimately failed to make a change.
<> A military draft becomes an extremely hot point of controversy amongst a group of friends who realize they have nothing in common, except for the fact that some people are opposed to the draft and the war, and others are in support of the war. The issue personalizes the war for millions of people and there is, for the first time within numerous communities, a real discussion about the issues surrounding the war.
Of Blackouts, Subway Strikes and Personal Politics
In other aspects of consciousness, we may suddenly be confronted with how cold the world has become. It’s not that the “big world” was ever so warm, but people have always had their ways of making the world a smaller and friendlier place. Extended families and villages certainly allowed us to have the feeling of kinship in a way that is very rare today, where people in the Western world have many modern conveniences and privileges that basically rob them of contact with other people.
Despite this, there are many examples familiar to everyone of how crisis brings people together. When I was growing up in New York City, I remember the big blackout of 1977, and then a transit strike when I was in high school. The city changed; its true nature seemed to come out. People who had never spoken to one another were suddenly friends. During the transit strike, people who would never imagine picking up a hitchhiker or getting into a stranger’s car were jumping along for a ride, or picking up anyone who needed to get into Manhattan.
This is often how people in urban communities respond when there is some kind of collective crisis we all agree is there. Suddenly the conditioning not to trust people or the desire to be alone in your air conditioned car give way to something more important, more beautiful, more real. The farce of society melts. We no longer need to pretend we don’t give a damn about one another or think that everyone is a potential murderer.
The odd thing is how those old social expectations, those crystallized patterns, can come back as soon as the electricity returns or the trains start running again; the sleep of society comes over just about everyone and we go back into our little worlds. Then we may remember with nostalgia that friendly night when everyone shared their stuff and we lived like a tribe that had some common interest, or the time you jumped into someone’s car on the entrance ramp to the Brooklyn Bridge.
Under Chiron in Aquarius, crises that lead to awareness of who we are are likely to have a relentless quality — just like the political and corporate crises of Chiron in Capricorn. What is missing under the current setup is our ability to define “we” in a tangible enough way to do something about it together. However what is clear is that we lack the social skills to do too many important things together, particularly outside the context of work and having a boss.
It may be that we have not yet fully appreciated — within ourselves — the role of the individual in the world. Closer to the heart, we may not have had the revelation that our personal actions matter, and that we can join forces with other people who share our values.
And the problems we see may feel bigger than anything we can define as “we” can ever make a dent in, much less solve. The world as we see it is too large.
One last thing — right now, it’s not cool to care. It is very cool not to care. You are considered more intelligent, or more psychologically healthy by your therapist, or more acceptable to your partner, if you don’t take on what you can’t really affect, and what is not really your business. At the moment the individual ego is the most important thing in the world. Maybe it will be replaced by the wego.
In its highest state, Aquarius is about a meeting of individuals who recognize themselves as such. It is driven by social responsibility and a devotion to service. Aquarius has a natural sense of humanity and as such is deeply humanitarian.
Aquarius is a fixed sign. Though it’s often associated with rebellious people and inventions, its fixed nature is undeniable, both as a fact of astrology and as an energetic process. Saturn is traditionally the planet that runs Aquarius. If Aquarius is responsible for change, it happens through persistence, methodical work and clear ideas: all these are fixed attributes, attributes of dedication and stability.
More often, Aquarius is about the creation and perpetuation of systems. These systems include political structures which, in our day, are distinctly resistant to change; ideologies that dictate mass consciousness in total violation of common sense (certain forms of religion with which we are becoming intimately familiar); and aspects of culture, such as marketing, that are designed to steal our identities and blur the line between the group and the individual.
Once an Aquarian process or pattern takes root, it is very difficult to get rid of. The Internet is a good example. Through the era of Uranus in Aquarius (1997-2003), the Internet went from something largely confined to the academic and military communities to a household product, and a network on which the entire economy depends. It went from a kind of curiosity that people had heard of, to an entertainment novelty, to something we depend upon from minute to minute. The Internet is a good example of the fixity of Aquarius and also of what you could call change through fixity.
Though it is difficult to see it now unless you really question your own life, we live in times when the human personality has become caught in exceedingly crystallized patterns and behaviors. Many people would rather die than change. Many others opt for drugs that stabilize their personalities rather than go through any kind of metamorphosis. The intended use of antidepressants — as a therapy aid or temporary holdover until therapy works — is a true rarity. They are used by people to cope, and we live in a society where the rule is basically cope or die. You can hardly blame people for using these chemicals, but that does not remove the effects of doing so.
Those effects must be felt individually before change can occur. However, under the current environment, individual process rarely shifts to the collective. There is a notion of the “integrity of one” that many people have adopted, consciously or not. There is a notion that desperation is a private matter that has become deeply pervasive. Imagine, though, if individual crisis, process and change suddenly shifts to a collective level.
Imagine individual change occurring so frequently and with such intensity that it feels like a storm gathering in society. Imagine a kind of widespread identity crisis coming to a head, and rippling through society. Imagine world events impacting people in such a way as to ignite and accelerate the process.
Note that Chiron is reaching the slowest point in its orbit, taking more years in each successive sign. With planets, slow means powerful. At the point where Chiron reached perihelion in 1996, it moved through Libra in just 18 months. After gradually slowing down through the next few signs, it spends four years in Capricorn. As it reaches Aquarius and Pisces, then Aries and Taurus, it will take between six and nine years to move through a sign. At its current point Chiron is well beyond the orbit of Saturn and functioning as an outer planet. Contrary to the myth that “outer planets have generational effects” and thus you can’t really feel them, Chiron in particular shows up vividly in the senses and leaves a trail of documentation behind it. Yet the generational effects and the transpersonal feeling of the Chiron in Aquarius era will be undeniable.
A Few Possibilities
I’d like to end this discussion this week with a few images of what might be, if we get the message of Chiron in Aquarius — a message which we can begin to get now.
<> One person amongst a group of people who have been friends for years notices that everyone is on mood-altering drugs. She dares to say something about what this might mean at a dinner party and a real discussion happens. That night, the group commits to supporting one another through getting off of these drugs, and being present for the changes in one another’s lives.
<> A group of employees at a small technology firm that is about to go public manages to get financing to secure a controlling interest in the company. The company is thus able to stay in private hands and can act in more socially conscious ways without being sued by shareholders.
<> Several couples who realize that they are neither spending enough time with their children or with one another pool their resources to solve the problem. It begins with a simple day care schedule that includes creating one free weekend each month for each couple. This has the effect of everyone spending more time with their own children. Several people who are neighbors experiment with a larger household so that work can be saved and free time increased.
<> As a result, these people recognize the need for developing deeper relating skills. They do this, and their lives solidly orient around human contact rather than things and entertainment. They write a book that becomes a national bestseller and begins a clearly visible trend in improving relationships.
<> Three friends who work in the high-tech industry and have identified serious problems with accessibility decide to create a technology cooperative. They make up a budget and realize how inexpensive it will be, because the real costs are in programming and consulting, and they have the experience. They invest in the equipment and begin offering free Internet services to the community, including a community radio station that broadcasts both locally and around the world.
<> Members of a religious congregation decide they’ve had enough of what they’re hearing, and create a Sunday morning community gathering and resource with food, discussion, meditation and a group problem solving session. This is basically a meeting of neighbors where people announce their problems and anyone who can offer assistance or solution comes forward.
In our moment of history we are rather unaccustomed to thinking in terms of collective solutions. We are trained to solve our problems in isolation, and that creates more isolation, which is the problem we are really trying to solve. In this light, we can be thankful for the problems that make us aware that there are other people living on the same planet as we are, that we face similar circumstances, and, as Aunt Josie was always fond of saying, that many hands make light work.