In the Belly of the Internet

Moss and other forest matter suspended in the ice on the Grandmother Land, High Falls, NY. Photo by Eric.

Dear Friend and Reader:

February arrives at the depth of winter in most of the Northern Hemisphere, when we live in the shadow of cold, rain and snow. Within February’s first few days lies one of the four high holidays — or sabbats — of the pagan calendar, called Imbolc in Celtic times. Its corresponding holidays are Beltane (or May Day, May 1, or May 5 depending on your tradition), Lammas (also called Lambess, Lughnasa, first harvest or second planting in agricultural communities, August 1) and Samhain (also called Halloween, October 31, a/k/a Days of the Dead).

The cross-quarter days lie at the midpoints between the equinoxes and the solstices. Imbolc, traditionally honored on Feb. 2, is right near the halfway point of the Northern Hemisphere winter solstice and the spring equinox. The equinoxes and solstices are called the “quarter days,” so the midpoints are called “cross- quarter days.”

WowWee – MIP Robot, waiting to serve your every need.

Imbolc, also called Midwinter, literally means “in the belly,” and at this time we are deep in the belly of winter, held in a kind of gestation for the coming spring at the vernal equinox on March 20. The Sun crosses the middle degree of Aquarius at Imbolc, the symbolism of which we will visit in a moment. Think of Imbolc as the tipping point where the energy of spring starts to be felt more strongly than that of winter.

If you’re paying attention to your environment, you will notice that each of the cross-quarter days contains a shift in momentum. For example, think of the sensation of Halloween, when autumn is giving way to winter. It’s almost as if there are really eight mini-seasons rather than the four we normally think about.

In the contemporary world, we associate early February with Groundhog Day, which hardly gives a clue to the importance this holiday held not long ago. For most people, the day passes unnoticed, except for a photo in the local paper of a cute, little critter in Pennsylvania who has wiggled out of his hole for a breath of fresh air, just like he does every other day, only this time confronted by 100 TV cameras. Which is kind of a funny comment on Aquarius.

The media, though probably oblivious to this fact, are practicing the tradition of weather divination; all of the cross-quarter holidays are associated with some form of augury or communing with the spirit world.

Astrologers know Imbolc falls with the Sun at the midpoint of the sign Aquarius, the Water Bearer, who lives today as the astrological symbol of individuality and eccentricity.

Yet Aquarius is also one of the signs most prominently associated with technology, in particular, digital technology. In addition to the theme of individuality, Aquarius also embodies the theme of order, conformity and regimentation. This is one of the things we experience with digital technology, wherein everything is reduced to code that does not think for itself and must perform perfectly or it may not do anything at all.

High-def dog robot wallpaper.

The constellation Aquarius, known to be among the oldest- named configurations of stars, stands, according to Catherine Tenant, “With his foot on the head of the great Southern fish, into whose mouth his waters pour.” She traces the god Aquarius back to Babylon, noting that he rules over a huge area of the sky where are gathered the Southern fish, the dolphin, the zodiac fishes (Pisces), the River Eridanus (the River of Night) and Cetus the sea monster. These ancient waters and their primal creatures were “seen as the source of life, through which the Sun passed during the rainy season.”

Today it seems like the primal waters in which humanity is swimming are entirely digital. If we are in the belly of anything, that would seem to be the G4 network. As the Sun moves through the sign Aquarius, so too is the planet Mercury transiting here, only in reverse — Mercury will be retrograde through Feb. 11.

One of the fairly typical manifestations of Mercury retrograde is to make apparent the environment that is usually invisible, transparent or taken for granted — that of technology. That’s one way to consider the “things get weird when Mercury is retrograde” phenomenon — we notice the digital and electrical environments. We also notice the mental environment, which might account for how Mercury retrograde is associated with technological glitches as well as a check you’re expecting in the mail getting stuck between the pages of the Pennysaver.

Coming soon to a diner near you. Photo by Ociacia, MaraZe, Salon.

I’m not sure how Aquarius came to be the sign associated with technology, but while I’m on the topic let’s see if I can figure it out. In the oldest English-language astrology text, called Christian Astrology, the only clue we get is that Aquarius is associated with mines and places that minerals are dug up — an activity essential to all technology except maybe milking a cow, but then the bucket is made of metal.

We may have a warmer clue in that British astrologer and publisher Robert Cross Smith, who wrote under the pen name Raphael (namesake of the ephemeris), spontaneously declared Uranus, the first planet discovered by science, the ruler of Aquarius early in the 19th century. There was no precedent for that; Saturn was and remains the ruler of Aquarius. Planetary rulership of signs was settled before the days of Ptolemy.

But it stuck, and Uranus is very much a planet associated with technological breakthroughs — for example, its own discovery. By that kind of intergenerational telekinesis (and PR chicanery), we wind up with Aquarius being the sign of technology. Thomas Edison, whose Sun was in Aquarius, comes to mind. Notably, checking my chart files, many more scientists have their Moon in Aquarius than have their Sun there.

Anyway Aquarius, with its waves of transmission and association with being plunged into a river of something technological, seems to be an excellent fit as the sign describing the Internet. Aquarius is, in modern astrology, also the sign of social patterns. And if any one thing impacts the shape, the scale, the movement and the feeling of society, it is technology.

Familiar and friendly, R2-D2 (short for Reel 2, Dialog Track 2).

An English professor named Marshall McLuhan, who I mentioned in this space last month, was the first person who described the impact of technology on society to society. Other people had things to say, but McLuhan managed to get the word out. All this stuff we surround ourselves in and fill our senses and our heads with — from books to magazines to radio to TV to billboards — not only affects the state of mind of individuals; it shapes society. And it does so irrespective of content. It’s not he content that is shaping society; McLuhan said it is the medium itself — an idea for which many people wanted to skewer him.

One example McLuhan gives is how roads were paved during the Roman Empire in order to deliver messages from the capital to the remote regions of the country. The messages were written on papyrus. So it was papyrus that led to roads. When Egypt split off from the empire and the supply of papyrus failed, Rome went into decline because government orders had no way to be conveyed; as a result, the roads crumbled.

We are experiencing something similar with digital technology, which can also be described as the digital environment. This environment is so pervasive that it’s soaked its way into everything we do. I used to joke about the Japanese rice steamer that comes with an IP address and USB port. Now if you sold a rice cooker that was Bluetooth-compatible nobody would blink. They would just be thrilled they could control it from their ‘smart’ phone.

Some sensitive people are questioning this onrush of technology. What most of them are not saying is that humanity has never gone through anything like this before — there has never been a technological onslaught that came on this fast, this ferociously and this fully. We all must adapt, every day. The digital era is a tide that keeps rising. I have been on the ‘net for 20 years (incredible, isn’t it?) and publishing there (here) for 19 years. It seemed like high tide when the dot-com bust happened in 2000. Then there was the high tide of Google, of Apple, of Facebook and Duck Duck Go (the next big thing).

More fabulous desktop wallpaper.

We are now at the point where we live our lives through a gigantic robot, which keeps time in nanoseconds and remembers everything we write, nearly everything we say, many things we see, and knows nearly everything we do. This robot is warping the shape of society around itself, but nobody I know really understands what that impact is. How could they?

We could look to McLuhan for some information. In his 1964 book Understanding Media he suggested that someday a computer would track all details of an individual purchasing and chewing a stick of gum (hello Amazon Prime). He said that the users of media would become the content of media (hello Facebook, YouTube, Vine, Snapchat and Instagram). He suggested that we shape our tools and then our tools shape us. We create the media, and then it creates us.

This has always been true, but it’s now happening at a pace so fast, nobody can keep up. And digital media is coming very close to fully merging with the biological realm (from life support devices to injectable plasma nanocomputers to biotechnology to the way the digital environment is shaping brain function).

One thing that’s clear is that the digital environment is very, very different from the television environment that preceded it. The television environment was (and remains) like a living dream, an inner trip you could just lay back and watch 24 hours a day endlessly without even changing the channel. It does not end. Anyone old enough to remember the test pattern that came on at 3 am could get a laugh out of anyone young enough to think that’s weird — that TV would stop for some reason (after playing The Star Spangled Banner to a crusty black-and-white image of the American flag flying).

The question is, in what ways can we see that our nonstop involvement with digital technology is shaping us? On a positive note, it demands nearly total involvement. You have to move the thing along by typing, mousing, talking or dragging your fingers along the screen. If you don’t, it kind of just stalls out.

Cute female robot.

People communicate through it a lot. I jabber with friends all day while I’m working, and it’s great fun. I work in the realm of ideas and I am fed constantly — and I feed the robot back. Thanks to the Internet, I have met all kinds of people in all kinds of places — real people, in person.

On the other hand we have all seen people who get together and everyone is sitting around texting someone else, somewhere else.

Whether our whole experience of processing most thought and most communication through devices is a good thing or a bad thing seems to depend upon how you use it. Any tool can be used for good or for ill.

Part of that involves who you’re working for. If your use of a device is serving some creative or social purpose, that’s one thing. If you’re working for the robot, as one friend put it recently, that may be another story.

In Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch, there is a part I think of as the Atlantis passage: “As I have said, this isn’t the first time your civilization has been at this brink,” God says. “I want to repeat this, because it is vital that you hear this. Once before on your planet, the technology you developed was far greater than your ability to use it responsibly. You are approaching the same point in human history again. It is vitally important that you understand this. Your present technology is threatening to outstrip your ability to use it wisely. Your society is on the verge of becoming a product of your technology rather than your technology being a product of your society. When a society becomes a product of its own technology, it destroys itself.”

We are definitely the products of our technology, in rapidly increasing degrees. Whether we destroy ourselves or save ourselves with that technology remains to be seen, and there may be a very thin line between the two.


Planet Waves Monthly Horoscope for February, 2015 #1033 | By Eric Francis

Aries (March 20-April 19) — You seem to be getting involved with people in new ways. This may look like a rearrangement of your social life, perhaps as canceled plans, then other things coming up spontaneously. You may find yourself in different social circles, or arrive somewhere and say gee whiz, how did I get here? You’re in the midst of a reshuffling experiment, and while you’re there you can have great fun. Yet what I see happening is that you’re engaging with people in a different way, for a different purpose. That new purpose obviates certain kinds of social activities and opens you up to other ones. The difference between old and new will seem like you are relating on a lighter but simultaneously more meaningful level. There is a focus on authentic communication. You’re able to express and evoke from people opinions that they might not ordinarily share. Energetically, the shift within you may feel like this. Normally you relate through Mars, which has a distinct polarity. Currently you are relating through Mercury, which has many possible valences, and thus, can relate on equal terms to more people in more diverse ways. If there’s a focus on language, much of that involves a different type of listening — the kind that evokes trust, because people get that you understand and that you care.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — You’re getting a chance to experience what it’s like to be driven by a purpose you are fully confident in. When that happens, there is a certain ease involved because you don’t have to think much about what to do, or why. There is often conflict involved in the need to consciously prioritize, and if you ease into this experience you can take a ride on the sensation of what it’s like when what you have to do is so obvious there is no question about it. Though some of this is driven by an idea or a task, really a deeply compelling factor is how you feel around certain people you’re surrounded by. You have one of the most palpable, distinct experiences of connection going for you right now. This is connection that has a purpose extant on many levels, though the deepest level is the human bond that, for whatever reason, exists on a truly deep level. I would point out one thing, that for most people, it’s rare to experience a social bond that embraces love, purpose and a sense of mission. I think that once you tune into this reality, you will never want anything less. And since it’s something you ultimately contain as a capability within yourself, you have no need for anything less — and you may discover that a great deal more is possible.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — Belief is a power that I suggest everyone be familiar with the workings of, and the effects of. I would rate belief as anything from a necessary psychological tool to a volatile chemical capable of conjuring many strange effects. The problem with belief is that it’s often taken for granted. You might think something is true, not know how you got there, not notice what possibilities you’re pre-empting and therefore have no way to test your theory. Belief too often goes unnoticed and therefore unquestioned. Mercury moving retrograde in Aquarius is provoking you to inquire into something you may not have noticed you were carrying around. It looks like a mental pattern that was acting like a perceptual filter. That filter was creating a bias in your observations. The beauty of the moment is that you’re getting some evidence of the existence of this thing, through some kind of glitch or interference — for example a disagreement over something that seems ridiculous. Or it might be that your bias comes into focus when you bump into something that makes it obvious, potentially by showing you something else that’s far more important to you. It is this encounter that sends a ripple through one particular belief and as a result, all of your beliefs, proving that it pays to question them — and even just to observe that they exist.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Pay attention to your various transactions, be they monetary, sexual, social, barter or business. There is a lot of movement going on in the house of your chart associated with all of these things. While you might get the feeling that you are vulnerable to some kind of exposure, what you may really be feeling is a mental or psychic penetrating power that you have into the affairs of others. Using this gift properly is not about minding their business, it’s about minding yours. Knowing the mental state and the intentions of the people around you is vital to your success. That awareness is in itself a form of currency, and it will be worth considerably more the more comfortable you feel with yourself. Another useful thing to remember is the extent to which you’re not actually driven by money. You like money — it’s good for things like food, heat, warm boots and helping people. But that’s different from being driven by it. The thing to remember is that other people may indeed be motivated specifically by monetary impulses, and you are in a rather priceless teaching moment where you get to demonstrate through some simple gestures that there is something much more important, useful and beautiful. That would be actually caring; offering your energy for some inherent purpose; and acting as if to hold the world together.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — It seems that despite an inconvenience or some external need to rearrange your relationships, you’re feeling an outpouring of devotion to the people in your life. This is coming along with a sense of blessing, as if something truly unusual is happening to you — something unexpected that you know will change you forever. The most vivid sensation coming through your charts is a kind of abundance. This is rooted on a nonphysical level — what you might call spiritual or perhaps emotional. Yet it’s having a way of overflowing into other aspects of your life, such as the seemingly more material ones. A few different equations may be at work — such as when you find out how little you really need, you figure out how much you have. Or when you give of yourself, you can find out how much you have. Or how you will tend to love who and what you take care of, and discover that there is plenty (of whatever) to go around. The idea coming through is that to experience that abundance, you merely need to practice it as a way of life. You may have those moments where you wonder whether that’s really true, and when in doubt, test the theory. The proof will come from the experience, and I trust that will be compelling enough to shift your perception of existence.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — You may need to consciously focus yourself on staying on-task with work, and in harmony with your intimate relationships. You may not be sure which is a distraction from the other. In truth, neither is a distraction and both seemingly different facets of your life are offering you something unusual right now. On one level this seems like a question of balance. It’s as if you have these tasks requiring one kind of focus and setting, and those other things you do, which require a different kind of focus and setting. Seen as different, they will tend to compete — if for nothing else, for your time and energy. But that competition involves a deeper conflict than may seem obvious on the surface. The solution is to guide yourself to the common ground of all your experiences, which is you. You are not two different people, the ‘relationship person’ and the ‘work person’. You are one entity, and the common ground of all your experiences is the ground of your being. If facets of your life seem to take energy from one another, reach for that terrain your life is built on. Once you get there, you will feel like you’re standing on a solid hilltop, where previously you may have been trying to balance on an idea. From there, you may notice you feel far less pull and tension.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — So much of some things, so little of some others. The odd bit is how fast the proportions change, never seeming to find equilibrium. You are often able to get closer to a stable place by being willing to give up certain experiences, even ones you love the most, by reminding yourself it’s only temporary. You’re not the only one going through this; the entire society around you, and your community on every level, is on this wild ride of nothing ever stabilizing. You, at least, are experiencing a conscious overflow in many areas of your life. Right now you have some incredible wealth in a dimension where many people feel the most frustration — meaning. In fact you have so much meaning that you may take it for granted. You may think it’s just weird when people relate to you the ways they feel that they exist without purpose. Rather than wonder, go directly to relating to others on the level where every detail of life has inherent value. What you may recognize as particularly insane is that the greatest shortages seem to occur relating to love and work — potentially the two most fulfilling areas of life there are. Love often relates back to sex, and work relates back to creativity. That is the direction to guide things, closer to the original impulse that grows the whole garden.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — One reason self-esteem is such a difficult issue to get a hold on is because of this other thing, called projection. Most people look to others for validity of who they are, for affirmation of their worth. Yet when others reflect that worth back to them, it doesn’t necessarily align with how they feel inside. The result can be a weird differential, a gap, a disconnect. Is this person lying? Are they making things up? Are they just passionate about everything, and I am coming along for the ride? I suggest you experiment with considering the appreciation that others feel for you as actually saying something about you. Imagine, for a moment, that it’s a source of information, of verification, and a kind of lesson in life. More than that, when someone is excited about you, you get the opportunity to explore yourself. True, you’re exploring in the context of another person; but when you do that, you’re really swimming within your own consciousness, and your own possibilities. Everything you experience becomes your own. I suggest you be generous about reflecting that back, as confidence, as happiness and as consciously offering your journey as something that others around you can get a taste of. One thing you may be aware of is that when people have a mutual experience, it changes both of them. Yes, indeed — that’s the idea.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — Conventional astrology would say that Saturn in your sign may be describing certain limitations or boundaries. I would say that Saturn, particularly in Sagittarius, is describing your potential. What you may be feeling is that what you want the most is not going to ‘just happen’. When Saturn is present, optimism alone is not going to do the job. Saturn in the style of Saturn is the willingness to make an authentic effort, and not being deterred because results may take a while. Effort is less about an arduous exertion of energy. It’s more about focusing your mind, your intentions and your interests. Along with this, the concept of ‘boredom’ must be revised into, ‘time available to invest in the result I’m seeking’. Delay becomes an occasion to troubleshoot — or the opportunity to do something else. Sagittarius is a sign known for its fast pace. This quality has a way of breeding distraction, and often a frustration with being spread too thin. Saturn’s presence in your sign is a direct calling to concentrate your efforts. It’s offering some instruction that you must consciously think about the ways you use and structure your time. Most of all, it’s the reminder that you are the only person who can take command of your life. You no longer have any need to give that power away.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — The message of your chart seems to be: there is no value other than inherent worth. In other words, the notion of ‘secondary value’, such as, ‘this is useful, and it can be sold’, is (at least temporarily) out of the question. That idea would be revised to ‘this is useful’. Yet what we’re really talking about is your inherent worth, which in turn translates to your devotion to being alive. You’re being called inward, to respect your own inherent worth, as your most vital asset. Said another way, I’m talking about respect for existence, commencing with your existence. What’s so interesting about how this appears in your chart is how quickly that respect radiates out into your community. It’s not a secondary effect — it’s right at the origin of the idea. One of your reasons for being on Earth, I would propose, is to experience directly the way that you are integral to your community. It is not the same without you and you are not the same without it, because you are one and the same. Now, one possible sticking point is defining community. I would say: it is anything to which you are connected in an integral way. For that reason, I suggest you offer yourself, count yourself in, and understand the mutual nature of the relationship.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — One of the most distinctive shifts from the old year to the new year is that of externalization. Saturn, the primary planet that serves as a reference for Aquarius, has changed signs from Scorpio to Sagittarius, in essence emerging into the light, and into a space where everyone can see you. Looked at another way, you’re being given a chance to learn a new method of leadership, one where it’s no longer lonely at the top. One where you lead by example rather than by authority. One where you are immersed in an environment where the thing being expressed and exchanged is meaning. It’s difficult to quantify the magnitude of this shift, though I recommend you explore the new territory you’re in with some eagerness. What I suggest you remember is that if you’re relating to people on the level of meaning, that meaning comes from you first. Where there is dedication to a purpose, that starts with you. The flame you radiate is your own inner fire. Therefore, tend to your hearth, and notice its warmth. More than tend to it, speak to it and listen to the response you get — as if you’re approaching the Oracle within yourself. Over the next few years, the scenario that develops involves the discovery (or confirmation) that your inner point of contact is reflected in the deeply significant role you play in the lives of others.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — Step out of your own way and allow your radiance to light up the landscape around you, and guide others to you. You need to make no special effort; you merely need to be available and observant. It’s likely that you would underestimate the influence you have on others, which is why I suggest you look, and be open, rather than try to guess. Because you’ve decided to step up to challenges perhaps greater than you ever have, the way you relate to others is essential. Few people accomplish much alone. People whose minds are rich with ideas, in particular, benefit from the support of others who are able to carry a vision in a creative way. You in particular place a high value on collaboration. This is less about getting others to do work for you and more about what is possible when different approaches combine to form something more brilliant, more original, more helpful. I suggest that you put some trust into how much nourishment other people receive just from being around you. Now in particular, you’re focusing a creative energy reaction that pulses out into your surroundings. This is vividly noticeable given that it’s set amidst a world of entities, many of which merely drain energy. You offer heat, light, nourishment and a measure of reassurance to others. But don’t believe me! Look and feel.

Leave a Comment