Cho Seng-Hui: Broken Mirror

  I stopped my song and almost heart,
    For any eye is an evil eye
    That looks in onto a mood apart.

– Robert Frost, A Mood Apart (1947)

INITIATES and students of healing have been warned for ages not to concern themselves too much with the ways of the dark side. You learn very little, it can be a real distraction and it’s easy to get dragged into the mud. It’s also not necessary, for most practical purposes.

So when we want to know about the chart of a mass killer, it’s a good idea to pause and ask ourselves why.

As astrology students, we naturally want to know about what kind of planetary configuration would be behind somebody who could kill 32 people, then himself. But that is to presume he is in some way special. Who knows, he might be, but murder-suicide happens pretty often, and given the availability of guns in the United States and elsewhere, given how frustrated and hopeless so many people are, and given the way that casual violence is sanctioned, the real wonder is that crimes of this nature don’t happen more often.

Well, they do: remember, had this happened during an American military operation in Iraq, Cho Seung-Hui would have been given a medal and a promotion and we may have never known his name. What happened at Virginia Tech is meaningful because it happened out of its “normal” context, warfare. We need remind ourselves, however, that it occurred in a place where military personnel are trained and where special operations agents are recruited regularly; VT is part of the nation’s military infrastructure, both overt and covert.

Reading accounts of Cho Seung-Hui’s life, he seems like a pretty average outcast kid, though it’s clear to me that he suffered from mental illness as a child. A lot of people do; a lot of kids do. We can read in Wikipedia that dealing with mental illness in Korea is taboo, but that is true in many places even in educated Western society. Even when the subject is not taboo, many people are clueless about how to handle their kids’ psychological problems, or their own. If an adult has issues they won’t look at, what then is their incentive to get help for their child? In actual fact, most depression and most mental illness are undiagnosed, unacknowledged and go untreated. This is another way of saying that our own shadow material goes unacknowledged and unaddressed and is passed from generation to generation.

Probably, the reason we want to understand Cho’s chart is because we see something of ourselves in him, or we are wrestling with doing so. Our tropism in his direction is not so much to understand evil but to process the shadow material that he is acting out for us. Most people don’t admit the alienation that Cho was finally able to open up about in the course of his murder-suicide last week. It took him a while, and apparently, he blew out 23 years of rage in two hours.

Most of us neither speak up nor go on a rampage; instead, we live in some degree of quiet desperation. If you’ve been feeling alienated your whole life and finally, by some good graces, get to the point where you think some people think you’re acceptable, most people would assume it’s a good idea to keep quiet, lest you lose the friends you have. Let’s not forget how many people stick with a group they don’t really like because social acceptance is such a vital aspect of survival, both psychological and economic. The fear of being an outcast is quite literally primal.

Cho’s chart, because he has exploded into our consciousness so powerfully, should reveal something about our society and about a person’s relationship to the world. We need to look into his chart with the intention of learning something about ourselves. On those grounds only do I feel it’s legitimate to explore his astrology. As we do, let’s take it easy on the guy, and on ourselves; let’s not try to fix him or “figure him out” on the level of his ego motives, and let’s remember: his is not a mood apart; Cho is one of us. The darkness we see in him, and the lost potential, is our own.

For grounding, let’s begin with some technical notes on his nativity. The data comes from Cho’s Wikipedia page. I am using a sunrise chart, because we don’t have his birth time. In a sunrise chart, the degree of the Sun is the presumed degree of the ascendant (the chart is cast for the moment of sunrise the day he is born). This is one of two easy methods of handling missing birth time. I don’t consider Cho a “famous person” so much as a notorious one, so I’m not using a midday chart. We don’t know where he was born except that it was in South Korea, so I am using the capital, Seoul. I have set the wheel to equal houses (thus the degree of the Sun becomes the house cusp in each respective sign), though in practice I will use whole sign houses, treating (for example) all of Capricorn as the 1st house, all of Aquarius as the 2nd, and so on.

This method gives us traditional grounding and does not require a chart rectification; most of what we need to know about Cho we can learn from this basic chart, also called a solar chart.

The Cancer Full Moon

The first observation we can make is that he is born at the Full Moon. At the Full Moon, the two luminaries, the Sun and Moon, are opposing one another. We all know what the night of the Full Moon feels like: alertness, high tension, sometimes high anxiety, and people on edge. Living with the Full Moon is like being under this aspect all the time. One’s personality exists in the shape of an opposition polarity.

Astrology has a lot to say about polarities. It is in many respects a study in opposites that describe in many different ways how we relate to ourselves as well as to our environments, how we integrate opposites and how we balance our lives. The Cancer Full Moon may be the most challenging of the lot because the polarity puts the Moon in one of its most emotionally sensitive and receptive placements, Cancer, and places the Sun in one of its most rational and assertive, Capricorn. This is a picture of the distance between adults and children, a gap I feel that Cho never closed, even as he had adult responsibilities piled onto his psyche.

In everyone there is a little debate about “who am I?” with respect to their solar versus lunar placement. We are both. The aspect the two bodies make reveals something about how easy or difficult it is to integrate them, and we need to remember that with Cho, running in the background of his chart there is a deep struggle with feeling and extreme sensitivity, something we have read about him again and again.

The chart does not so much explain this as it does reveal a picture of how it looks: the Moon, the child self, his needs, are more or less alone and apart in Cancer, far from the other planets; and the Sun, the ego and sense of glory, is much closer to the adult world indicated by Capricorn, but still feeling isolated: late in its sign, away from Mercury, and most significantly, exactly trine Chiron.

Retrograde Chiron in Taurus

Chiron in a natal chart represents a focus of awareness. All planets do, but Chiron is critical; that is, it’s often surrounded by a long crisis, one that calls for ongoing decisions and responses. The crisis can be brought about by an injury, which tends to focus attention. When it works well, that attention concentrates effort, growth and strength. Al H. Morrison called Chiron the “inconvenient benefic.” I would like to qualify this a little. You will benefit from Chiron to the extent that you make the process conscious. In other words, Chiron is here to provide an opportunity for awareness, from which we benefit and slowly wake up to our basic humanity. If one does not do this, the typical response is to spiral downward as the Chiron transits come and go.

Chiron is in Cho’s 5th house, one house that often describes childhood situations and issues. As an adult, it tells us how we express certain curiosities and passions. The 5th covers creativity, sex in its creative and experimental form, how we manage our creativity and whether we feel we have any, and the risks we take in life. Both Chiron and the 5th crave experience, and together the effect is exponential. But for many reasons, we know that for Cho, that experience was not forthcoming.

Here we begin to get some specific information about Cho. Chiron is in Taurus, retrograde. If we combine the slow and reticent quality of Taurus, the sense of injury with Chiron, the obsessive quality of Chiron, and the buried, silent quality of the retrograde, we can see someone carrying a lot of pain; pain that owing to the involvement of Taurus is carried in the body. This is experienced psychically, but because Chiron in Taurus is the mind-body nexus and in the 5th house, it expresses itself as sexual in nature. Taurus is something you can feel, possess, experience or when it hurts too much, attempt to dispossess. This struggle seems to have been ongoing a long time.

Sun Trine Chiron

We have a description of a wedged-in and frustrated condition (Chiron retrograde) that meets the Sun in Capricorn by an exact trine. A trine is flow of energy from one point to the other. The energy would appear to be flowing from the Sun (where it is more free) toward retrograde Chiron (where it is more blocked), and instead of being expressed by the Sun, it is basically running in reverse and welling up like a battery in Taurus and the 5th house. Because Chiron is retrograde, the energy has (at first) no place to go. Had this aspect been a square, there would have likely been a series of events that provoked Cho to deal with his situation in stages, rather than having it all come gushing out at once.

We can compare that Capricorn Sun to Korea, Cho’s fatherland. It might be helpful at this point to say that Korea is one of the most parochial cultures on Earth. It is surely one of the strictest, in terms of the comportment expected of people, including segregation of the sexes and a perfectionism of the body that must transcend all human natural qualities and flaws. Let’s put it this way. We all occasionally get into those discussions about whether people are actually animals; and the people taking the animal side say, well, we all pee and poo and fart and sniffle and get horny. From a Korean cultural standpoint, it is clear: people are people, and animals are animals.

People are something else as well. We have to deal with this thing within ourselves that some know as honor and some don’t know at all. I thought of the Korean people I have known, and how they must always excel. This week, I saw on television a particular firearms expert marveling at how many people Cho managed to kill in so short a time, with weapons not made for that at all. The first thing that flashed through my mind was, well, he was Korean. He had to be the best. But I was uncomfortable with this opinion. So I called Alexander Chee, my friend who is the Visiting Writer (a kind of professor) at Amherst College, and asked him what he thought.

He did some research and replied, “What you’re trying to describe here is Han. I did a quick search and found the below explanation of Han in an article called ‘Shamanistic Influences in Korean Pentecostal Christianity‘, and it sort of jumped out at me.” Alex reminded me that Korea has been repeatedly conquered; that it is a culture whose dignity and identity lies shattered in pieces. Han is related to this concept. He quoted the article:

“[Han] has been deemed as ‘untranslatable’ by some Koreans but called by others an indispensable key in being able to understand the Korean soul (Cox 1995).

“But more exactly, what is ‘han’? One scholar calls it a ‘feeling of unresolved resentment against injustices suffered, a sense of helplessness because of the overwhelming odds against one, a feeling of acute pain in one’s guts and bowels, making the whole body writhe and squirm, and an obstinate urge to take revenge and to right the wrong — all these combined’ (Nam-dong:55-72 quoted in Yoo:221).

“Han is very deep-rooted in Korean culture and the country’s entire way of life has been profoundly shaped by the doctrine/concept (Yoo 1988).”

In this article, the author quotes another writer, Suh Nam-dong:

Koreans have suffered numerous invasions by powerful surrounding nations so that the very existence of the Korean nation has come to be understood as Han. Koreans have continually suffered the tyranny of the rulers so that they think of their existence as Baeksong individually or collectively, those under the control of a sovereign. (This term is nowadays used to mean common people). Also, under Confucianism’s strict imposition of laws and customs discriminating against women, the existence of women was Han itself. At a certain point in Korean history, about half of the population were registered as hereditary slaves and were treated as property rather than as people of the nation. They thought of their lives as Han. These four points may be called the fourfold Han of the Korean people. Indeed, as the poet Ko Bun exclaims, “We Koreans were born from the womb of Han and brought up in the womb of Han.” (Suh Nam-dong: 55-72 quoted in Yoo 1988:222)

Now, I was talking about the sexual focus of Chiron in Taurus, retrograde in the 5th house, with the energy of that Sun flowing through it at full strength and essentially charging up like a battery — one full of unexpressed desire, rage and pain. If you run that Capricorn Sun into that Chiron retrograde in Taurus 5th, you can get one of two things: a heck of a lot of frustration, such as desperate sexual frustration and tortured creative energy; or you can get a person who is highly sexually focused, then perhaps a master healer of some kind, and also likely to be a rare artistic talent. With Chiron, even in this second instance, there is going to be a long time of walking the knife-edge between the two realities, transposing from pain to pleasure and healing, and making choices about how we want our lives to affect others. It is the ongoing choice of whether to express our creative power creatively or destructively. It is said that psychosis emerges when a person is in their 20s, but what I have not heard discussed is how we manage to avoid it when we do — and what the alternative is.

Chiron in Taurus is an exalted position, but here, for many reasons, including childhood injuries, the extreme judgment of his culture, and others that I will get into shortly, it has been directly turned against him. I think Cho summed up this part of his own psyche when he looked at that young woman’s face, the one in his dorm that he liked, and said he saw what he described as promiscuity in her eyes. He certainly could not see it in himself, and he had to see it somewhere.

Mars, Pluto and Saturn in Scorpio

We have heard again and again that as a child, he was silent, perhaps mute or autistic. But just what was he not saying? With this Chiron placement, we cannot rule out a childhood sexual trauma that turned him against himself.

We can presume he was not saying quite a lot, even if we don’t know exactly what. He has three key planets in Scorpio, and they are potent to the point of obsessive: a Mars-Pluto conjunction, and Saturn, which is going to try to hold all those secrets forever. This grouping is a hologram of the whole chart. You could cut out the house and basically see the whole picture. On the one hand, we have the intensity, the volatility, and the passion of Mars-Pluto in Scorpio. Mars or Pluto would be enough; put them together and it’s less like Mars plusPluto and more like Mars times Pluto.

Saturn is containing all that vitality. What we must remember is that in our society and in many others, the only generally permissible expression of Mars or Pluto energy is through violence. Through our “abstinence only” programs and 25 years of being told to say no, we have not entirely eliminated the other channels (people are still being conceived and born), but we have messed them up pretty badly. Saturn is the presence of a kind of superego or parental conscience constantly telling Cho to be good; to be appropriate; to not experience that Mars-Pluto as feeling, as lust, as desire, as passion, or as emotional need. When this clash happens, of course the energy comes out in some twisted ways: stalking, photographing his female classmates under the desk; his imaginary girlfriend Jelly.

Scorpio is a fixed enough sign without Saturn’s help, and if these natives learn anything about flexibility, they are on their way to genuine happiness and peace of mind. Scorpio’s charisma and power are regulated enough by the fixity of this sign, and I feel that most people with strong Scorpio placements (such as Pluto), fearing their own potency, may overcompensate. In Cho’s chart, the conjunction’s “Mars times Pluto” energy is sitting in a sealed pipe, represented by that Saturn (Mars is trapped between Pluto and Saturn, and by progression, will be there his whole life).

As most people know, the contents of a pipe bomb are pretty harmless on their own. It is the pipe — the sealed container — that makes a pipe bomb what it is. In terms of the energy source, we are talking about Scorpio, and Mars and Pluto: hormonal energy, a primal human or animal force; in short, another image of unexpressed sex and creative drive. I am certain that Cho never had sex; that he never raped anyone because he lacked the confidence; and that he was terrified of his own sexual desire and the underlying “imperfect” nature that it revealed, a nature that was inherently out of control and which was constantly exploding his attempts to hold himself down.

A Hundred Billion Questions

We have at least two prior images so far in this chart of a lot of energy being either contained or distorted. One is the solar fire of his chart being basically funneled at full strength into his retrograde Chiron in Taurus. The other is the combination of Scorpio Mars and Pluto blocked by Scorpio Saturn (with all three Scorpio placements, notably, taking squares from transiting Saturn, Chiron and Nessus at different times during the past two years, particularly during his mental health crisis of 2005).

We see a third version of this image in the relationship between his many Sagittarius planets, and his Mercury in Capricorn. Consider this. One of Cho’s most telling quotations, I think, is: “You had a hundred billion chances and ways to avoid today. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off.”

Just what was he getting at? We can only speculate. Most of the focus has been placed on the blaming quality of this statement. We know he blamed everyone else for what happened, which is called projection. He admits to being a killer, but never fully owns his own impulse to kill, never really owns full responsibility for it.

To me what is more interesting is this particular number he selected: one hundred billion. It is a big number, at once grandiose, and on an astronomical scale. I think this statement is more telling in the context of his astrology. One of the most noticeable features of this chart is the impressive lineup across Sagittarius, on the top left of the chart. This includes Uranus at 12+ degrees; the South Node at 15+ degrees; Venus at 20+ degrees; Jupiter at 29+ degrees and Neptune at 29+ degrees.

There are nine additional asteroids in that space, using our list at The Planets Now, one of which speaks volumes: Hidalgo. I will cover that in a separate article, linked at the very bottom of the current one.

Sagittarius is the sign of all things large, very large and extremely large. (Pisces is the sign of all things even larger.) Sagg rules world culture and long-distance travel, and questions pertaining to God and religion. Its esoteric ruler is the Earth, our whole planet, the only place where we know life and human culture. Its traditional ruler is Jupiter, the biggest planet, the one that wobbles the Sun as it orbits. And we have some other pretty big planets placed there, including an exact conjunction of Jupiter and Neptune in the last degree, which is currently taking a transit from Pluto. That is worth a comment. Pluto conjunct Jupiter (whether natally or by transit) has a messianic quality, on the low end of the frequency. On the high end, it can connect a person with all faiths and all systems of belief; with the golden thread that weaves together all religions.

Pluto conjunct Neptune, a transit that everyone his age is going through, can feel a little like this: you want to go to India to have a spiritual experience of finding yourself; instead, you go to India and get hepatitis. At best, Pluto conjunct Neptune will test a person’s ideals to the max. It is at this point when most people give up their ideals, and begin to act like they never had them. It is also the point where many truly talented artists come into their creative strength, though they often seem to pay a price for this.

The Galactic Core and the Great Attractor

In recent years, science has made two major discoveries that have helped astrologers understand Sagittarius. First, the Galactic Core was discovered in early 1932, when it was heard interfering with telephone transmissions. The core is the cluster of our galaxy of a few hundred billion stars. Symbolically, it speaks about the depths of truth and offers only fleeting insights into its nature, apropos of the guru that it is. But it also contains a supermassive black hole, several radio sources and a great deal of other mystery. In essence, we can experience Sagittarius as containing the heart of God. This is at 26+ degrees, very close to Cho’s natal Jupiter-Neptune conjunction. All three points deal with mystical issues, be they of our cosmic origins, religion, spirituality, or psychic matters. Cho experienced his inner nature as very, very large; as in some way transcendent of ordinary experience, consciousness and the normal rules of space and time.

More recently, the Great Attractor was discovered at 14+ degrees Sagittarius. Many astrologers confuse the two points; they are quite different. If the core of our galaxy is in late Sagittarius, imagine a point on the other side of the galaxy, far away in the depths of space. This point, which is invisible but blasts radiation on every known frequency except ordinary light, is pulling about one million galaxies toward it, including ours, and our entire local group. You could say it’s the heart of darkness.

Cho has his South Node aligned with the Great Attractor, which means he is carrying the Great Attractor on his back. It’s as if he is stuck on the whole idea, and the feeling of it is that he is somehow very important, but at the same time, unfortunately slighted and disempowered. This contrast must have been unbearable.

Regarding the Great Attractor, Philip Sedgwick, a deep space astrologer, told Planet Waves, “Nobody knows what it is, or why everything is drawing to it. This thing is prodigious. It’s the largest thing that I know of, that [astronomers] know of. They can’t really see anything out there. So what is it? We don’t know. The point itself retreats from us, but everything is following it, in hot pursuit. It is the ultimate Sagittarian statement of leave me alone, don’t crowd my space, coming into the most extreme.”

We have a picture here: combine the Great Attractor and the core of our galaxy with a Jupiter-Neptune conjunction in Sagittarius, and you get the feeling of a lot of mystical experience. You get a person who experiences life on a cosmic scale; who feels God inside him; who thinks in numbers like a hundred billion and takes them personally — as injuries. He is saying he was hurt a hundred billion times, which is true if you consider how he took over his persecutors and attacked himself psychically all the time.

Now, notice that little Capricorn Mercury right there, right next to Jupiter-Neptune, and taking the pressure of all those big cosmic points in the prior sign, straining like an overloaded valve that, indeed, overloaded.

Imagine how it feels to take this whole collection of cosmic points in Sagittarius, particularly two in the very challenging last degree, just immediately adjacent to his structured, regimented and somewhat conventional mental perspective of Mercury in Capricorn. He was a living contradiction of cosmic and mundane, all carried around in his mind.

According to his roommates, the guy studied all night before he went on a killing spree and killed himself the next morning. It may well have been that this whole arrangement in Sagittarius, being in the 12th house of his Sun, existed entirely in the background and only occasionally percolated through to sentient consciousness.

And when it did so, it didn’t come across as the teachings of the Buddha, or the whispered voice of the Holy Spirit. More likely it came over as that Pluto-Mars: carnal lust on a cosmic scale, dark and anguished, frustrated and distorted by social programming, moralism and a deep sense of injury. In other words, volcanic sexual agony, experienced as judgment and isolation, and then blown through the rationality of Mercury in Capricorn, now turned toxic, dark and violent. Basically, we have an image of his mind blowing.

This is precisely the combination of factors that Wilhelm Reich suggested made the Germans of the 1930s into good Nazis, though on a much subtler level of intensity (until it added up to Auschwitz). Reich proposed that the Nazis harvested the mystical longing of millions of people that is naturally present in most people, but is pumped up by unexpressed sexual pressure. Indeed, sexual purity was high on the Nazi psychological and social agenda, and it fed the frustration that led to death on a much grander scale than we saw last week. That frustration was fuelled by the need to be important, the need to answer the cosmic calling. To a greater or lesser extent we all take part in this process; that is, we do until we make conscious choices to reverse it and take back our creativity and our sexual destiny, small though they may seem.

Cho Seung-Hui: Thema Humanum

Several weeks ago on these pages, we covered an ancient document called the Thema Mundi, which was for the Hellenistic astrologers the “chart of the world.” I would like to propose here that the chart of Cho Seung-Hui is the Thema Humanum, the chart of humanity.

Cho himself may be a kind of broken mirror that we are gazing into, but his chart makes sense. This is not always the case with notorious people, whose charts sometimes seem incomprehensible or to be lacking an apparent syntax. Remember that any one individual is merely a single expression of the potential in their chart; any chart can be expressed an infinite number of ways.

The chart relates something about the condition that many people find themselves in: our attempts to relate divine (or cosmic) nature to human nature, and integrating what we experience as sexual impulses with what we experience as cosmic ones (the Scorpio stellium and the Sagittarius stellium); the relationship of the inner child psyche to the adult psyche (Cancer Moon, Capricorn Sun); the struggle to integrate oneself socially (represented to me by the lack of major Aquarius placements); the sexual pain so many people are in, and our often futile efforts to get beyond it, as well as our related struggle to express ourselves creatively (5th house retrograde Chiron in Taurus).

Then there is the rational mind struggling to process it all, and potentially seeking to suppress the whole drama (Mercury in Capricorn). His one Aquarius placement (in this version of the chart) is Pallas Athene, which says that to some degree he can play the game. But that does not mean he can really participate in the world. His Capricorn Mercury is struggling, like all our minds are, to function as a reducing valve for so much reality that is flooding through our inner and outer senses — and to process so much that seems to make no sense at all.
All of these qualities we share with most other people, to a greater or lesser extent. Whether we emphasize some parts of the story rather than others, may depend on how much we are willing to admit (who feels all that Scorpio bubbling up inside themselves?); whether we are attuned to subtle energy (who can feel all that Sagittarius?) and finally, whether we are willing to own the hurt and extremely sensitive child we carry within us (the Cancer Moon and the 5th house Chiron).

We could have an interesting discussion about all of these placements, but I would like to focus on one natal placement and an associated transit. The natal placement is Jupiter conjunct Neptune in the last degree of Sagittarius. The associated transit, of course, is that Pluto is about to make a series of exact conjunctions to that degree. Cho never experienced the exact conjunction while he was alive; Pluto stationed retrograde one degree before his Jupiter-Neptune conjunction a few weeks ago.

Now, I think that most astrologers would look at that conjunction in Sagittarius and think: unlimited spiritual potential. The knowledge and perhaps wisdom, his psychic openness and spiritual resonance, we would think, are all enormous and available. Yet in the last degree of a sign, there is a crisis of some kind, mainly of integrating that information “before it’s too late,” that is, before those planets change signs and the game is over. But there they stand, and now the time has come for Pluto to make its conjunction. Pluto is seen by most modern astrologers as the evolutionary impulse. It is equally about hormonal impulse, as well as about unprocessed shadow material that we are gradually making conscious.

And this potent and frightening three-handed creature, Pluto, is about to encounter the extremely light, ineffable, volatile meeting of Jupiter and Neptune in Sagittarius in the chart of humanity. Right there in the end, right in the last degree of Sagittarius. This is our story right now, the big question: will we wake up? Will we embrace our cosmic origins and choose the way of love and compassion? Will we allow ourselves to integrate the material of Pluto, sexual and otherwise, consciously into our greatest potential?

Or will we shoot the whole day down?

Photo by Elena Filatova

Chernobyl: Witnesses, Far and Near

By Eric Francis

I CAN RELATE to Chernobyl because I have seen so much environmental damage in the United States. It was and is a lot worse, but it never seemed like someplace else, or something we were exempt from elsewhere.

Among these disasters I am most familiar with is the Love Canal area of Niagara Falls, a neighborhood where 700 homes were contaminated with dioxin. There, on the site of the 99th Street School, is a grass-covered clay cap that buries the schoolyard, and the toxic waste dump directly beneath it, three-quarters of the way to the tops of utility poles. They poke up a few feet and follow the line of a long-forgotten street.

Seeing that for the first time one afternoon, I witnessed the tragedy of civilization. It was like finding the Statue of Liberty’s torch sticking up out of the ground. No place is exempt. This is both frightening and reassuring; we’re in this environmental game together.

Chernobyl happened in the Ukraine. When I was a kid, my best friend Eric Olynik’s family was Ukrainian, so the place was always real to me; I had heard of it, and knew stories from there, and had a feeling for the people: proud, down-to-earth and bold. At the time the Ukraine was part of the USSR, but Ukrainians always made the point that it was its own country. Today, production on Planet Waves occurs in the Ukraine because that is the home of our webmaster, Anatoly Ryzhenko.

Before Chernobyl, I knew about nuclear power because my father worked in the industry as a public relations and communications consultant. He came in shortly after Three Mile Islandand was part of the team that helped clean up the PR disaster that the partial meltdown in Harrisburg, PA, created.

I became suspicious then, but was listening carefully to both sides of the issue. Somewhere there is a photo of me in a radiation suit inside the containment building of what was then called Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant near Peekskill, NY, where with my dad I was given the VIP facility tour one day. Over my shoulder was a radiation warning sign. The previous person to get the big tour was Jimmy Carter, a week earlier. The place is controversial because it’s located within one of the most concentrated population centers of the world. Nuclear engineers have a knack for a ridiculous lack of foresight, and for making some serious mistakes.

From what I knew about nuclear power, Chernobyl seemed like a setup. At the time, in the spring of 1986, it hit me in the stomach. Coming at a crucial point of reorienting my life, I knew at that moment it was my destiny to be involved with environmental issues. I just did not know what or when, but I was radicalized.

I was living in Buffalo at the time, and as the disaster spread, I was in bed for a week, unable to process much of reality. If I was not actually taking a significant enough dose of radiation to knock me down like that (we all took at least a small dose), I was taking it energetically, and I could barely communicate my feelings. The whole experience was psychic and emotional rather than cognitive. I was in the midst of my Chiron first square, and this was one of about five different factors, all of about equal force, that made the spring of 1986 a point of no return.

Photo by Elena Filatova

We did not have television where I lived, in the Generation house at 54 Vernon Place. I was spared the visions that I can now see in these photos from the dead zone. Here, you will meet a young woman named Elena Filatova, who travels the area around Chernobyl taking photos of the ghost cities and towns, describing what she sees and experiences. She is eloquent, honest and funny. She uses all her senses. She is my sister, sending postcards back from these places without names.

“As long as we travel through the Wolves Land, we only see the shadows of a dead villages and ruined farms,” Elena writes in one photo caption. “We also see, the grass that growing aside the road, we call this grass Chernobyl, the wormwood. It has bitter taste.”

In one photo essay, she writes, “By territory Ukraine is a bit bigger than France, and in history books it was called a bread basket of Europe. It is because in Ukraine is 40% world’s supply of black earth. Soil is good here, put a stick into this soil and it will grow. Now, this bread basket flavoured with wormwood and no one want to buy food products made in Ukraine.”

In another caption she writes, “If we travel in autumn, the fruit trees will bent low asking to treat ourself to those big apples and pears, but we don’t take them.”

In one photo essay of destroyed property, she says: “The fire engines never returned in their garages, and the firemen never returned to their homes,” she writes. “The firemen were the first on the scene, and they thought it was an ordinary fire. No one told them what they were really dealing with.”

She conveys the feeling that Chernobyl happened on an ordinary spring day like today. One day you were going to work, your kids were going to school, and by that night, your life as you knew it no longer existed. You can think of Chernobyl as a radiation disaster, as a power plant burning, as brave pilots dumping sand and lead on a burning graphite fire. But you can also think of it as the delicate patterns of lives that were disrupted that day; the loss of all things familiar; the onset of change too vast and devastating to understand, but experienced personally simply as loss.

The Horoscope of Chernobyl

I DID NOT know that a dangerous system test immediately preceded the Chernobyl disaster — that in effect, it was triggered by human action, even if unintended. According to Elena, the reactor’s defenses had been lowered, and a series of human errors and mechanical failures led first to a steam explosion, then to a fire in the graphite cooling core of the reactor. This fire spread most of the radiation around the globe, though about two-thirds went to neighboring Belarus.

Uranus is rising to the degree, symbolic of something sudden. With Sagittarius in the ascendant, we have something sudden that shocks the world, and apropos of Uranus, spreads radiation throughout the world.

Saturn is also in Sagittarius, opposite Chiron in Gemini. I get the feeling from this that it could have been a lot worse; I guess it always can. We are currently experiencing a series of Saturn-Chiron oppositions right now, which seem to reveal the weakness within a structural system.

Notice that this is an eclipse chart. There was an eclipse of the Moon two days earlier, in early Scorpio. You can tell that an eclipse is in the neighborhood because the Sun is near one of the lunar nodes. When that occurs, you always know there is an eclipse or two in the vicinity. The Moon has just opposed the Sun, which was the Scorpio Full Moon; that was a pretty potent total eclipse. You will find this in many charts associated with world turning points.

The eclipse on April 24 and the system test coincided within 24 hours. This is one of those circumstances where I think it would be good for scientists to use astrology, but of course they exist on two entirely different levels of reality. For us as people who follow astrology, it’s a good indication of why it’s better to let eclipses get out of the way before doing something dangerous, such as surgery. In any event, Chernobyl is associated with a total eclipse of the Moon in Scorpio, which is fitting enough, given how many people died, how many will die and the fear (and toxins) that were spread around the world.

Notice that the Sun is exactly opposite Pluto. So we have a double signification of radiation: Uranus in the ascendant to the degree, and the Sun opposing Pluto to the degree. Neptune is taking an exact trine from the Sun; that is because Pluto and Neptune were moving at the same speed in a 60-degree angle, the famous “transiting yod” that affected many people’s lives in those years because it meant simultaneous transits from both Neptune and Pluto — that is a lot.

Notice also that a trine is involved — Sun to Neptune. We see once again how trines open the flow of energy, and that it’s not necessarily so helpful.

This chart is best seen in the context of the Nuclear Axis chart. Most of the world’s atomic disasters occur when the important planets are in aspect to planets in the chart for the first self-sustaining nuclear reaction. That chart has many planets in early through mid Gemini and Sagittarius, including Uranus and Saturn (just like in the Chernobyl chart), as well as the Sun, Mercury and Venus.

The Moon in the Chernobyl chart (at 24+ degrees) is close to Mars of the Nuclear Axis chart (at 21+ degrees). And, notably, Neptune and the Moon in the Nuclear Axis chart are exactly opposite the Aries Point, in the first two degrees of Libra.

In recent years, we have been through many outer-planet transits to the Nuclear Axis chart, but without a serious nuclear emergency, at least not one that was made public. I consider this a miracle. We have, however, experienced a lot of nuclear politicking, threats and counter-threats, and North Korea detonating a device and China proving it could take out our space-based weapons if it wants to (praise the lord, we have a lot of them).

We did experience the Sept. 11 incident. Ominously, the scene was referred to as “ground zero,” which is an ill-omened reference to the scene of a nuclear detonation. It may well be that what we experienced as Sept. 11 was a reduced form of the same karma that gave us essentially the same message. Abused as that message is, had a nuke gone off that day, it would have been a whole other game.

The abandoned village club in Smirnovka, in the Wolves Land of the Ukraine near the Chernobyl disaster. Photo by Elena Filatova

Earth-Like Planet Found; Escape Unlikely

By Priya Kale with Eric Francis

Artist’s conception of a planet near a red dwarf star. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

On Tuesday, a team of astronomers announced the discovery of a surprisingly Earth-like planet (provisionally named Gliese 581c) orbiting a nearby red dwarf star in the constellation of Libra. The planet apparently maintains a surface temperature similar to the Earth’s, and presumably could harbor water, an element essential for life.

Note that Gliese 581C differs from most of the discoveries you read about in Planet Waves because it involves another star system. All of the discoveries we have discussed on our own pages so far involve new objects orbiting our own Sun. [At press time, discovery data for the new planet was not available.]

Some astronomers around the world, and many fans of space exploration, are excited about the possibilities of what this could mean. As Dimitar Sasselov of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics suggested to The New York Times, “It’s 20 light-years. We can go there.”

Does anyone hear bells ringing and angels singing here? It seems this new planet is the astronomical cousin of Christian rapture. Before we get too carried away in the discovery of a new world, let’s stop for a second and take a look at where we are.

News of this discovery comes at one of the most vehemently violent moments in our recent history. In one week we have seen the bloodiest death tolls in Iraq, a massacre on a college campus, and the ghosts of Chernobyl. This is aside from the multitude of other problems we face as a human race, such as starvation. To quote from Wikipedia’s entry on the subject, “According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, more than 25,000 people die of starvation every day, and more than 800 million people are chronically undernourished. On average, a child dies every five seconds from starvation.”

According to Time, it would take us about eight months to travel to Mars, which is only 35 million miles away. Compare this to the 120 trillion miles we would need to cover to plant our flag on Gliese 581c. Also the fact that the planetary habitability of a red dwarf star system isdebatable: we have not got a postcard from the place, and besides which, it’s cold and dark. Even so, assuming we overcame those minor obstacles, we’d still have to figure out how we would ship our technologically dependent lifestyles across. I mean, how many of us can give up our cell phones?

Earth, the planet we are on right now, is in deep crisis. It needs our attention, now more than ever before. Perhaps if we gave it the attention it needs, we would never need to worry about having to escape.

Taurus Solar Returns , part two

By Priya Kale with Eric Francis

You are on a compelling journey of self-discovery right now. That curiously too hot to handle sensation you feel is probably deep passion coupled with insatiable desire to break free from all that has long held you back. You are a Taurus and needless to say, change is something that doesn’t happen overnight for you. But whether you realize it or not, your inner blacksmith has been at hard at work, and likely what seems so sudden and immediate has been in the fire and on the anvil many times before.

The changes you are going through may seem jarring, but the process is both structured and synchronized with your greater good. So far as I can tell, you are at the stage of mental assessment. Even where your feelings are concerned, you are more inclined to size them up like the balls on a billiard table than to sense your inner reality like a poet or painter. This will work well for now; soon enough, you will be at the point where you can feel the necessity for change, your desire for change, and moreover your true need for nourishment — something that will gently guide all Taureans as Venus enters Cancer in a short time.

Questioning your previously unchallenged assumptions about your relationships and what you want from them has been a long, winding road. It has come with unexpected losses and gains; you have made some choices, both easy and difficult; but as time is working out, you are actually able to concede the point that you not only want different things from your emotional experiences than you did over the past couple of years, but that you have actual needs. Those needs are one thing when assessed with your brain and another thing when assessed with your heart and soul. Be aware of the difference.

The unfolding scenario is offering you options you had never even considered or imagined available. The inner conflict you are currently enduring is enabling you to confront yourself in a constructive way — rare for a Taurus — and also creating sufficient heat and friction that your ego defenses are being melted away in the process. That, in turn, will make it obvious that you can let go of some of your emotional defenses, and open up where it comes to actually expressing your deeper feelings to others, not merely what you felt yesterday.

A mighty alignment of planets, and two odd points called the lunar nodes, have been involved with all this progress. The alignment involves Mars and Uranus in Pisces, now conjunct; Vesta and Jupiter in Sagittarius, also conjunct; and your ruling planet Venus moving through Gemini. Peeling back a layer or two, we have a setup describing a huge upheaval over what is really important to you. You seem to be going to and fro on a series of questions that on one level appear to be a mental debate. What is happening could be more accurately described as this. You are in an unusually flexible state of mind. You are, at the same time, coming under the influences of people and events that are actually getting you to question your values. You are actually re-evaluating your life, and you have — for the moment — the impetus to change.

In this whole scenario, you are signified by Venus in Gemini. While you may feel like you’re getting tossed around like a pith ball, the fact is that Gemini gives you the power of decision, and it gives you the ability to suspend your security-seeking nature for a while. I suggest you make decisions that you will feel compelled to stick to in your less secure or more sentimental moments.

We could analyze the whole paradox of your life with one quick comment: you try to think with your feelings. Feelings are good; feelings are important; but feelings do not allow the luxury of logic, or of cool assessment that allows for the experience of secure, sane and rational choices. It does not take much observation of the human race to see that when things go forward for us, they go forward because we make decisions. Even when “things just happen,” such as a flood, a UFO encounter or meeting someone you really like, that is an opportunity for decision.

Imagine the cosmos is a huge game, and the only way to move through the layers of the game is to decide things. When you stop moving, you have stopped deciding; when you resume motion, you have resumed the process of making decisions.

You clearly have options that are confusing you now. They seem to be “six of one and half a dozen of the other.” But it is not an even dozen; rather, it’s a baker’s dozen, so six is not enough. You have sufficient basis for the decision you are trying to make; I suspect that up until this point, the real issue has been one of lacking confidence. And that, I trust, is a think, or rather, a thing of the past.

Nestling box in Ukraine forest, in Wolves Land, near Chernobyl. Photo by Elena Filatova




Weekly Horoscope for Friday, April 27, 2007, #660 – By ERIC FRANCIS

Aries (March 20-April 19)
You may not be able to shake off an old health issue or mental habit like a dog shakes off water, but what occurs over the next day or two can be the shock that sets you in the right direction. You are still putting too much emphasis on what you can see, and not nearly enough on what you cannot see. You are in the midst of an exercise in seeing the other world; that is, the other world which becomes evidence that there are other worlds, plural. Yet you need to move gently and patiently through this one, feeling the currents of thought, emotion and volition, and allowing them to guide you.

Taurus (April 19-May 20)
Having faith in the gift you give the world is a mature state of mind, not, as many fear, being “egotistical.” You may not be able to see it now; there is a slowly developing quality to your chart in this one respect, but when a breakthrough arrives, it arrives at full strength. What occurs this weekend is the latest in a series of developments that is doing no less than setting you free to be yourself. This may be the very thing you fear the most: exercising your prerogative to exist as the very person you are, entirely outside the bounds and limits that as a child were set on your creativity and bliss.

Gemini (May 20-June 21)
Your greatest fear may be that you are perceived as dense, or discover that you are stupid. For this reason, you are someone who feels a need to apply your mind to everything you see, feel and experience. There are times, however, when it is wiser to apply the wisdom of your body. Focus your attention behind you and see what you notice. Bring your attention from the ground up to your heart center. Experiment with every way of perceiving the world except through the little computer behind your forehead. Your perceptions have limited you, and the positively brilliant news is that by setting them aside, you can lose them like they never existed.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)
Though you’re not in an entirely comfortable position right now, there is no denying that you are using the circumstances to push, pull, stretch and tease yourself in exactly the right direction. There is something in your chart about an encounter with someone or something extremely familiar, but equally dedicated to losing your dependency or escaping from a tense pattern of habit, thought or ideology associated with it. You may in certain moments feel like you must change or die, and when you think about it that’s a pretty good set of options; at least you can tell them apart. But change in this case is about liberation on a scale you have previously considered unrealistic or even ridiculous.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23)
You’re providing a dependable source of leadership in a situation that is proving to be inconvenient for the people around you. Yet your ability to be at your best is based mainly on your perspective; you can see the whole picture, as if from high above; and you’re aware that thought is a flexible substance like clay, rather than a fragile one like glass. You’ve also made up your mind about what’s important to you; what you want and don’t want; and most important, what you’re willing to let go of in order to free energy for more deeply creative experiences. Gradually you’re reaching the turning point, or perhaps in some deep and quiet way, you may be certain that it has arrived.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
What a great time to stand back from all the insanity, and watch the wheels of the world turn and grind. Yet it would seem that you miss having direct involvement in the process of change that can only come when you are open to the direct influences of others more powerful or creative than you are. If that is true, then open yourself up to an influence that is not only available but is coming at you with all its strength and unpredictability. To be prepared, you must meet this person or event with an open mind and all your senses in their clearest, most receptive state. The more open, the more pleasure and information; the more closed, the more difficulty and challenge.

Life goes on in the village of White Coast, Belarus. Photo by Elena Filatova

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
Admittedly this is a highly unusual set of circumstances in which you find yourself. Each time you decide which way you want to go, another factor presents itself saying you need to decide again — and you have made some pretty big choices lately. This will go on for a while, so don’t sweat that. Gently remind yourself you can only make one decision at a time based on the information that you have at that moment. Changing your mind is less a matter of reversing yourself and more a matter of deciding what to do any particular day based on the psychic and emotional landscape in which you find yourself, and the data you possess. It has been said that there are two ways to look at anything, but I suggest that to suit your purposes, always make sure you find three.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
Those born under your sign are typically too conservative to express their full potential in the world. Though few would associate Scorpio with any kind of reticence or prolonged hesitation, I don’t need to convince you. But what I may need to convince you of is that the idea that is currently exploding in your heart and soul, and moreover the feeling of freedom that is coming with it, is something to mount like the white tiger and ride like the master you are. You have not waited this long merely to remain pure of heart, or to live a life unsullied by ever having made the wrong choice. There was a time when you used to love making mistakes, because they were proof that you were trying passionately. But that is who you are, not who you were.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22)
You could find yourself being emotionally provoked or triggered — be prepared for this. Preparation will absolutely, 100% make a difference, and I am not a big fan of absolutes or purity; yet I feel confident saying that your posture, your initial reaction, is substantially more important than the information that you receive or the events that transpire. You could go a long way toward defusing a potentially volatile situation by staying close to your feelings now, and to that end, it would help to spend more time with a trusted friend with whom you can be absolutely open. The whole situation is basically a setup; and in that case, preparation and proactive choices are everything.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
A hidden factor is about to be revealed, though it’s actually being revealed in the region of your own thoughts and feelings rather than in “the world.” In other words, you may find yourself asking the question, What was I thinking? If I may preempt that, what ARE you thinking? Now, the more conscious of your thought process you can be, the more you will be able to handle this volatile, potent and creative cosmic instrument. In other words, be aware. Pay attention. If you feel yourself lapse for a moment, if you find yourself driving or slicing up a tomato and not focused on what you’re doing, re-collect your mind and pay attention — and keep paying attention for about three solid days.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
You are slowly unlocking the blockage that seems to have stalled your relationships for the past couple of years, or longer. The approach to this mysterious creature called the Other is more or less direct, yet always with a reflexive quality. Keep seeing yourself in the ones you care about and you will continue to treat them in ways that gently unfold both your potential and theirs, and the potential of the experience you share. I had typed “relationship” but quickly deleted it; if you consider this an experience rather than an institution, everyone will have more fun, taste subtler pleasures and reap deeper confidence. Remember: everything you are now learning, you have learned before. It’s easier than it seems.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
You may be able to maintain awareness of your impact and influence completely, as it develops, from moment to moment through every situation into which it reaches. In other words, at no point does the reaction need to go out of control. You don’t need to speak loudly, only clearly. I assure you: people are hearing you like you’re booming off the side of a mountain. Whatever may be the quality of the sound waves or of your voice, the inner revelations and sense of strength that are becoming apparent to you are the real material here; the true adventure, or rather, the results of a very long escapade. Pisces is not a sign that typically gets fast results, but anyone who wakes up one morning in a whole new world has not been sleeping.

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