How Not to Go Insane

Dear Friend and Reader:

Based on even a cursory reading of the news, or listening to anyone speak for more than five minutes, the mental health problem is now obviously at the pandemic scale. Random acts of violence, the lack of the obligation to make any sense, and a frantic feeling that seems to be soaking through society are just a few clues of its existence.

John Fire Lame Deer (1903-1976).

That there is at least one firearm for every man, woman and child in the United States indicates the level of fear, insecurity and mania over control. The symbol of the gun is that it’s the one sure way to get someone to do something, at least in the mind of the person who has it.

The political conventions have spun out nonstop gossip while the real issues — among them, what is happening to the natural environment around us, and how many people are struggling to get through the day — are largely ignored.

I’ve noticed that it’s not fashionable to talk about difficulty. Complaining is one thing; that’s always popular. To actually open up about one’s personal struggle seems to violate the “it’s all good” rule. Opening up also necessitates vulnerability, and courage, and these things are in short supply at the moment.

As a result, my sense from listening and observing is that many people are holding in a lot: of pain, of anger, of fear, of confusion. Many, many people struggle daily with depression, often without understanding it and having no idea what to do about it.

What I’ve also noticed working as a personal astrologer for people in recent years is a struggle with purpose. Many people want to do something but don’t know what to do. Many feel called to action but don’t know what action to take. Part of that paralysis involves looking into the chaos of the planet and not seeing anywhere they can possibly make a difference, have an influence or make a living.

Yet I think that most of it involves the inner relationship, which is a dangerous thing these days. I say that because many people fear they are holding in so much that to open up even a little would be to let it all out. Therefore, the supposed answer is to hold on and try to keep control. If you’re wondering why things seem so anal these days, that’s part of it (so too is humans trying to act like computers).

What I’m describing is not affecting all people to the same degree. Obviously there are people who are doing well: who have a dry roof, food and a gig, and who feel pretty good most days. My purpose here is to speak to those who want to be doing better, by which I mean living a little more in balance, more connected, and living closer to a tangible healing process.

The Foucault pendulum, installed personally by Leon Foucault, traces the rotation of the Earth and the passage of time at the Pantheon in Paris.

In recent editions, I’ve documented the influence of the internet on the chaotic state of society and the disoriented condition most people find themselves in at the moment.

To sum up, the ‘net is inducing a disembodied state of existence. Part of what is driving the confusion and indeed the violence is a lack of connection to the body and its purpose.

I’ve quoted Eric McLuhan, the son of Marshall McLuhan, a few times lately, and I’ll do it again today, because one of the problems we’re having is remembering what happened yesterday. For reference to an ancient document from the remote and foggy past, here is an article on the topic from June 23.

In that article, Prof. McLuhan said: “The body is everywhere assaulted by all of our new media, a state which has resulted in deep disorientation of intellect and destabilization of culture throughout the world. In the age of disembodied communication, the meaning and significance and experience of the body is utterly transformed and distorted.”

It may not be easy to see the connections here, though it makes more sense if you know even a little about how the impact of something like the typewriter or the telephone transformed both society and how people think of themselves.

This issue goes back long before the internet, but it’s now exploded to the degree where it’s uncontainable. There is no turning back. There is only the potential to find some new form of meaning, some new relationship with the body, in the midst of the chaos that we have created. This is possible, though it’s going to require many different learning curves, including discovering or remembering how to communicate with one another about things that matter.

Most New Age religion emphasizes being out of body rather than in your body and in your circumstances. It’s designed to be easy and to provide a sense of relief. Yoga fits this pattern in that as currently practiced most of the time, it seems to be devoid of its philosophical and spiritual content; it reaches all the way into the other side of the polarity, in its own way denying the need to integrate living and how we respond to it with our minds.

Symbol of the Freemasons above my former apartment entrance at 7 rue Des Chantiers (the street of the builders) in Paris. Master engineers, they considered themselves the designers of the world in which we now live.

In 1972, the words of Lakota prophet John Fire Lame Deer were published in the book Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions. He said:

“Only human beings have come to a point where they no longer know why they exist. They don’t use their brains, and they have forgotten the secret knowledge of their bodies, their senses, or their dreams. They don’t use the knowledge the spirit has put into every one of them; they are not even aware of this, and so they stumble along blindly on the road to nowhere — a paved highway which they themselves bulldoze and make smooth so that they can get faster to the big empty hole which they’ll find at the end, waiting to swallow them up. It’s a quick, comfortable superhighway, but I know where it leads to. I’ve seen it. I’ve been there in my vision, and it makes me shudder to think about it.”

I think that on one level, it’s possible to “keep it positive” and not worry about this stuff — you know, all of society and where it’s headed and all of that. Actually starting the conversation involves taking a pause from the drug of our era, which is hope. The minute you look directly at the issues, it’s easy to feel hopeless. That tension between hope and hopelessness is putting people under a lot of pressure, because there is no reconciling the two states of mind. Neither is either of them especially useful as a tool; they both lead away from tangible perception or decisions.

Let’s use astrology to get a few ideas about how to handle existing in this environment. Astrology gives clues to specific aspects of the background energy, so that you don’t have to take it all at once. Those aspects can then be related to one another and a more complete picture formed. You might recognize some elements of your state of mind in these descriptions.

Uranus conjunct Eris (2016-2017, with a very wide time orb, perhaps 2011-2020). This is the big aspect that’s driving most of the current environmental conditions, particularly digital conditions. The most recent conjunction was in Aries in 1927-1928 at the dawn of the electronic media age. Such has now come full circle.

The Judgment of Paris, the famous scene from the mythology of Eris, by Henri-Pierre Picou (French, 1824–1895). One lesson of the Eris myth is that chaos, strife and discord are often imposed through proxies who do the bidding of others. Another is beware of vanity.

I reckon this aspect began the day that Uranus entered Aries in 2011, and the Fukushima quake, tsunami and multiple meltdowns happened.

That was the unleashing of mayhem if anything was, complete with lots and lots of uranium.

One of the properties of digital conditions is mass amnesia. It’s a little like that scene in One Hundred Years of Solitude where everyone forgets the past and the town fortune teller has to remind everyone what has already happened, rather than predicting the future. This was Gabriel Garcia Marquez being ironic, though it’s a poignant image now (particularly as an astrologer who often references history, reminding people of where they just were and why it matters). This amnesia also refers to self-knowledge, which people seem to be forgetting at a rapid pace.

You might say that this aspect describes the relationship between self and self, and self and society under the influence of the internet. Through the early summer of 2016 we experienced Mars, at the end of its retrograde, making a long aspect to the conjunction, provoking all kinds of identity-seeking through violence.

This aspect is quite literally behind everything we are experiencing, and it reaches well into the future; it’s calling for fully conscious and mindful adaptation. It is not describing society as much as something about your state of mind as influenced by society. Uranus is about both technology and groups; the quest here is to maintain awareness of who you are in both of those contexts.

Something I’ve never seen before till now: the children of Eris include pains, disputes, killing, blindness, battle, hardship, lies, starvation and forgetfulness. The Greeks, who invented the astrology we use, were extremely clever psychologists. Greek myth is a tool for understanding human nature. Just remember, they didn’t like or trust women very much.

Because the pressure is so intense, and the tendency of digital is to make us forget rather than to remember, this particular mindfulness is an ongoing process of self-discovery. I really do mean discovery because the self that’s being unearthed or reformulated may not exist yet.

Chiron square Pholus (Pisces to Sagittarius, 2016-2019). Chiron and Pholus are the first two discovered centaur planets. Centaurs represent non-ordinary states of consciousness, and they describe healing processes. There are several points of tension between Chiron and Pholus in this equation.

Pholus represents the uncontained release. Chiron represents a gradual process of development or healing. The square, seen one way, represents Chiron trying to get a grip on the out-of-control reaction of Pholus. You might think of Chiron as working to slow down the flow and deliver an appropriate dose of whatever Pholus is dispensing. This can be any medicine that is used properly, or abused. (Specifically, Pholus might represent the perfect homeopathic dose, or drunkenness with chaos ensuing. It all depends on the circumstances. But a substance is often involved.)

What is interesting is that Pholus is conjunct the Galactic Core. The ‘medicine’ that’s flowing through is galactic consciousness, whatever that means. My take is that the Galactic Core is the homing signal we pine for. It’s a direct spiritual calling in the form of a feeling-tone or instinct.

The problem with Pholus is that it may come across as an overwhelming longing, or as nothing at all. Pholus may represent a cause so subtle that nobody connects it to its effects. (The Galactic Core can work like this as well.) Chiron, square the Galactic Core, is a reminder that this energy is coming from inside of us, rather than from the outside or from some external thing.

It’s difficult to photograph the core of our own galaxy, however, this is what it looks like from Earth. There is a black hole at the center of the thing. Currently two centaurs (which have a galactic feel to them) are in aspect to the GC: Pholus is conjunct the core, and Chiron is square the core — a truly unusual alignment, which lasts quite a while and is trying to get our attention. Photo by Anthony Ayiomamitis.

This, of course, is the ultimate spiritual lesson: that we each contain the healing power we need.

One last thought. Chiron in Pisces is describing a kind of highly focused erotic sensation, and a calling for sexual healing, that’s an answer to the mystical longing of Pholus in Sagittarius.

This is another version of the need to integrate psychic experience (meaning mental and emotional) with physical experience. All the many forms of the seeming mind-body split are more perilous now than ever.

How do you do this? Slowly and gently — but steadily and dependably. You don’t need to “take it all on.” You merely need to leave your awareness open enough to have a sense of what’s going on around you and within you. Chiron in particular rewards paying attention. Pholus rewards the conscious choice not to be reckless, and to use mind-altering substances appropriately.

Saturn square Neptune, with Mars involved (August 24, 2016, with an orb of 2015-2017). This is a real mash-up, between three entirely distinct kinds of planetary energies.

We see another example of the physical and the psychic acting on one another with the Saturn-Neptune square. Saturn is the planet of form and structure; Neptune is the planet that dissolves forms and structures. Saturn is about practical, tangible reality; Neptune is what you dream, imagine or hallucinate. When the two get together, old things dissolve and new ones are synthesized.

Astonishing view of our old friend Saturn seen from the Cassini Space Probe. Saturn, looming in the astrological background, comes to the fore in late August.

We’ve been living with this tension all year, but it’s so subtle compared to other factors that it’s been lurking in the deep background. It’s about to emerge into the foreground as Mars makes a conjunction to Saturn and a square to Neptune August 24-26. Mars, a hot, sharp object, pushes Saturn-Neptune right to the front of consciousness, just as the general election season is getting up to full speed.

This aspect pattern describes circumstances that call for careful handling, because it describes something that looks explosive. If there are any actual large explosions around this time, they are symbolic of the pressure we are under, and are trying to release.

This is an aspect that says blow off as much steam as you can, in advance of its arrival. If you’re facing an important decision, be mindful of that, and start to create options for yourself. Most of all, if you’re in denial about something, open up that door before it’s blown open for you.

Mars-Saturn-Neptune can be brilliantly progressive if you use it consciously. And that contains one of the keys about how not to go insane: recognize your resources, and use them with awareness. Recognize how you feel, and respond appropriately.


The Purple Party Bus, part of the UpToUs Caravan, on the road in Nebraska. Photo: Ethan Au Green.

Weekly Horoscope for July 21, 2016, #1109 | By Amy Elliott

Aries (March 20-April 19) — Look before you leap. Undoubtedly you’ll have heard that concise bit of wisdom before; this is a good moment to pay it particular heed. If you experience some impulsive emotion that feels a bit like rage, it would probably be worth taking the time to analyze that, or to express it constructively through your favorite creative medium — whether that be painting, blogging or something else — rather than acting it out immediately. Consider carefully the needs and responses of those around you as well, and you’ll be on course to realize the important truth nestled in the swirl of emotion. It’s there, and it’s ready to speak. — by Amy Elliott.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — One of the things working with Eric has taught me is that healing — whether physical, emotional or at the soul level — fundamentally begins with nourishment. This doesn’t just mean eating properly, although that’s a vital component. It’s also about doing little things to care for yourself such as taking a bath, reading a book or hanging out with friends. As your sign is ruled by Venus, that also makes you deeply sensitive to beauty in nature and art. If you find yourself needing to tap that specific well this week, I suggest you go for full immersion. You don’t have to ask permission. Those treasures are yours to love and enjoy. — by Amy Elliott.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — There’s a reason they say nobody’s an island. If you have a particular project on the go this week and are perhaps scratching your head, don’t be too proud to ask for help. In fact, it’s quite likely that someone you know will have the very answer you seek, whether you bring the subject up consciously or happen to be discussing something entirely different. So keep your eyes and ears open; a moment of serendipity could be all you need. Moreover, if you seem to be getting bogged down in routine, you can easily find inspiration again through taking a break or switching things up. Do what you enjoy, and you’ll be doing it right. — by Amy Elliott.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Living is a process, and to embrace it fully means a devotion to the pursuit of truth. It’s all too easy for the human mind to get stuck on a particular recurring theme. Old or deep emotions might be acting like quicksand for you this week. If so, you can pull yourself free by consciously turning your thoughts elsewhere. Get together with friends, for example; or apply your wits to studying something completely new. Notice what this teaches you about your beliefs and values; you may discover exciting, previously unexplored conceptual territory. — by Amy Elliott.

Photo by Greg Willis.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — The feeling of being refreshed and renewed that comes with your birthday season might be especially potent for you this year. If that’s the case, feel free to ride the wave, bearing in mind the usual caveat about considering carefully any significant risks you might be drawn to. Pay generous attention to any opportunities for developing your career or public life. What you’re particularly looking for here is a chance to move toward increased fulfillment at the soul level; this may include withdrawing from a situation that has somewhat of the opposite tendency. Be ready, and seize the moment when it comes. — by Amy Elliott.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — This time of year can serve to enhance your capacity for reflection, and for exploring the deepest recesses of your complex and rather beautiful mind. Your instincts are likely to be firing on all cylinders, particularly in terms of understanding and relating to loved ones and new friends alike. Listen to the wisdom of your gut. Notice also what your dreams might be telling you, and write them down if possible. This could be a chance for a creative breakthrough; so make sure your living space is arranged to give you maximum support, and then dive into your depths. — by Amy Elliott.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — Sometimes it’s necessary to ground yourself before undertaking any new project. This is by no means a bad thing. Inspiration can be as much a product of the everyday as of the unusual. This week, count the blessings you already have, and allow yourself the freedom to enjoy them. If you are able, spend some time with your social group; preferably in person rather than on Facebook. There is an unequaled pleasure in a real face-to-face conversation. Not only will this nourish you emotionally; you are likely to be all the readier when Jupiter arrives in September to rock your world. — by Amy Elliott.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — This could be the perfect moment for cultivating your relationships, in every sense of that adaptable word. There are many ways to enjoy the delights of other beings in your life, and to bless them in turn with your own gifts. One thing that’s especially beautiful about human contact is that with each person in our multifaceted lives, we develop a form of love that’s wholly unique to that partnership. That makes it possible to love without reserve or restraint; and, as the song goes, the world surely needs it right now. Luckily, you have plenty to give. — by Amy Elliott.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — Is adventure calling? Feel free to answer; only, while you’re traveling in the glorious realms of imagination, be sure to pack proper supplies and bring along a high-definition camera. This isn’t simply so that the envious folks back here on Earth can get a piece of the action. If you have what appears to be a divinely inspired idea, keeping some form of recording equipment on hand — and also tracking your progress methodically — will likely help you shape your moment of contact with your ingenuity into something concrete, lasting and thoroughly satisfying. — by Amy Elliott.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — Many now subscribe to the view that there is a divine presence within all of us; some believe it consists of all genders. Right now, the goddess part of you is surfacing. You can welcome her and cultivate her acquaintance by giving yourself some extra love and pleasure. That could mean sex; in which case the more time, space and exploration or experimentation you can indulge in, the better. You might also spend a bit of time out in your preferred patch of wilderness. When encountering others, too, do all you can to make the experience life-enhancing and nourishing. Your goddess-self will thank you. — by Amy Elliott.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — When was the last time you really had fun, as in belly laughs or full-on bliss? If you’re pining for that now, by all means indulge in some relaxation. It’s not necessary to go for what’s truly risky or chaotic simply for the sake of being that. In fact, it can be surprising how well the smaller pleasures in life can answer your needs. Don’t go to the opposite extreme, either, by rationalizing away your desire for a good time; we all need to kick back. If you’re really stuck for a recreation recipe, ask someone close to you for ideas. Then simply serve and enjoy. — by Amy Elliott.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — The extraordinary journey of development you’ve been on lately may receive a nice boost this week. Make sure you grasp any opportunity with the firmness it deserves. This could involve, for example, a revision of old habits that seem to be holding back progress — if that’s true, now is probably a good time to jettison them and pursue more productive methods. Additionally, try to maintain focus and don’t allow yourself to be led off into tangent land. You need to preserve your energy, especially emotional, so that you leave enough space in your head for the Muse to enter. — by Amy Elliott.

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