In The Dark

Dear Friend and Reader:

In the late 1980s I was studying A Course in Miracles as a student at a community in New Jersey called Miracle Manor. This was my first immersion in New Age thinking, in a time when the New Age was all the rage.

A Course in Miracles with pens, pencils and art supplies.

Up until then, my inner pursuits had been directed not at ‘spirituality’ but rather in search of self-knowledge and self-development. I wasn’t interested in ‘isms’, but rather in ideas that would help me grow into the person I wanted to be and have better relationships.

One of my favorite books from this genre as a teenager was Notes to Myself: My Struggle to Become a Person by Hugh Prather.

I spent a year at Miracle Manor, during which I diligently did the Course — and was shown many reasons to believe that it was an authentic teaching. Toward the end of that year I was ready to do a satire on the New Age. Part of how I relate to the world is through comedy. April Fool’s Day is my favorite holiday, and any day of the year can qualify. And anything at all can be the subject of a parody.

My idea for my spoof on spirituality was a two-sided newspaper. Held one way, it would be the New Age News. Held the other way, it would be the Tribulation Tribune.

The New Age was full of sweetness and starlight, and promises of global enlightenment and the notion of people waking up and being kinder to one another. In the New Age, the obsession with materialism would start to abate, we would be less competitive, become motivated by love, and the purpose of the world would be healing. Everyone would eat tofu loaf.

Some of the predictions and prophesies of the time were rather exuberant. One favorite book from those days was The Starseed Transmissions by someone who wrote under the pen name Raphael. That later turned out to be Ken Carey. The Starseed Transmissions was initially circulated as a Xerox copy of a typescript that had passed through the hands of someone named Jean Houston (at one time I had a copy of that document).

The Starseed Transmissions by Ken Carey (a construction worker, initially credited as Raphael), in its original paperback cover. The illustration depicts the book’s purported extraterrestrial origins.

Houston, once very well known, describes herself as a “scholar, philosopher and researcher in Human Capacities,” and “one of the foremost visionary thinkers and doers of our time.”

Her endorsement gave Carey’s book great credibility. It then appeared as a paperback. Originally, my friend Virginia Lepley read the whole thing to me on the phone from a tattered copy that looked like it had passed through 50 pairs of hands.

Chapter 9 is called “Islands of the Future.” It begins, “As you reorient toward the new way of being in the world, you will be drawn to centers where the vibrational atmosphere is more conducive to a healthy state of function. These centers will represent the focal points around which the organs of Planetary Being will form.

“They will be, in a sense, islands of the future in a sea of the past. Within their vibrational field, the New Age will blossom and spread organically to cover the Earth. These will be the first beachheads secured by the approaching forces, the points of entry through which the healing energies of transformation will be channeled. All of those centers will work together to prepare the human species for its collective awakening.”

As for those approaching forces referenced in the quotation above, I forgot to mention that the full title of the book is The Starseed Transmissions: An Extraterrestrial Report. In this case the ETs were supposed to be angelic beings whose only desire was to help us be happy and enlightened. Those ETs would have been courteous to mention that if you’re starting a New Age center, make sure your landlord isn’t a sociopath and that you have an honest accountant.

Now for the other side of the story — about flipping my proposed newspaper over, where it could be read as the Tribulation Tribune. The supposedly forthcoming tribulation period was such a common topic of conversation at Miracle Manor that it was referred to as “the trib.”

An illustration of the Tribulation Period, from the Free Bible Studies Online website. The term was first used in the Book of Revelation. Edgar Cayce then picked up on it in his readings.

The main source of 411 on the trib were the channelings of Edgar Cayce. I never read much of that stuff but some of the hardcore cases at Miracle Manor certainly had.

Apparently there was going to be a tribulation period, either right before the New Age, or at the same time. It would come with Earth changes. Those words went around a lot. That meant things like flooding, wildfires, earthquakes, economic disasters, famines, wars and so on.

This was a little scary, since at the time the USSR and the USA had thousands of nuclear missiles pointed at one another — and were open and mortal enemies. It was also just a year or so after the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl in Ukraine. The terms climate change and global warming did not exist; those were the days of ‘a hole in the ozone layer’.

I did not miss this bifurcated thinking. On the one hand, we were all headed toward inevitable peace and enlightenment. On the other, we were about to experience a horrid phase of ongoing catastrophes.

Nobody confronted this conflict openly. That was off the table. Neither did I miss the fact that in all but rare circumstances, two other topics were verboten in our Island of the Future: the serious discussion of political issues, and any authentic discussion of sex. Now you have the New Age all summed up in a nutshell.

“The New Age or the Tribulation? The choice is yours!” my little newspaper would have announced. I never got to do it; I was working on the thing (literally, in that moment) when I got word that my grandfather had shot himself in the head. That was the weekend of the Harmonic Convergence — so far as we know, the first-ever global meditation for peace. My impression at the time was that Grandpa Jim could not make it through the threshold in his body.

New Age belief systems suggest that the world will be entering a time of peace, community and understanding. But often these modes of thought fail to account for what Carl Jung called shadow material. That morphs into the Trib. Photo from the Abbeville website.

The other day, I was driving up the Garden State Parkway on the phone with one of my business-consulting clients, Janine James, founder of The Moderns. Her business might qualify as an actual Island of the Future — it’s a kind of ad and publicity agency for businesses with evolved, socially conscious thinking.

I love talking to Janine because she is a master of the obvious. This quality about her is rather endearing. She is curious about astrology, as she is about all of life, and she is absolutely committed to building a better future for humanity. That’s even more endearing.

And like anyone selling something other than oil, drugs or junk food, she faces the challenges of doing business in a world where human progress so often seems to be the very least-valued thing. This might not be so frustrating were we not promised that the world would begin to loosen up a little and allow some progress to come through without a titanic struggle. But have you noticed how often, when someone wants to do anything wholesome with the best intentions, they seem to get run through the grinder? Not always, but most of the time?

We were talking about the end of the Uranus-Pluto square. She asked me, “Weren’t things supposed to be better by now? Weren’t people supposed to be getting nicer and more enlightened? How is enlightenment possible in the darkness of ignorance?”

Exactly the right questions. Exactly the questions we all need to be asking. Just what we need to be wondering about ourselves and our businesses. The problem is we might not like the answers we get. The benefit of that would be the opportunity to make some changes. But without asking the questions, we can miss the benefits of doing so.

Dr. Jean Houston, credited with being a founder of the Human Potential Movement, lent significant credibility to the New Age.

The world often seems to be going in very much the opposite direction of peace and love. I know there’s a taboo among New Agers and even those on the periphery against admitting how serious the world situation has become, including social conditions in our own society.

It’s as if admitting that things are really, really messed up and may be getting exponentially worse would burst the bubble of optimism necessary to maintain what passes for faith, but which is merely hope. The solution to everything is don’t watch TV.

This point of view precludes discussion of how Congress is owned by lobbyists (which explains why it behaves in a way consistent with those controlled by the mafia); how many state houses, the FDA and the Supreme Court are under the thrall of Monsanto; how it is that the resistance to Pres. Obama and anything he stands for is rooted in blatant racism; the otherwise horrid situation involving race relations; why so many people are being shot and beaten by the police; how we responded to the Sept. 11 incident, including a nearly total failure to ask any real questions or see the obvious; whether Fukushima’s radiation is in your sushi or seaweed salad from Whole Foods; and why a certain sector of the political culture seems determined to deny young people information about their bodies, or women any rights over their bodies.

In other words, discussing real issues gets in the way of denial. And there are other things getting in the way of discussing real issues. I’ll give you an example, before I drop a little astrology into my supposed astrology column.

Back in the day, there used to be this thing called the Chilling Effect. It was first mentioned by John Milton in 1644 and first appears in American case law in 1950. In a legal context, the chilling effect is something the government does that prevents or stifles the free expression of ideas. If the police send undercover spies to protests with video cameras to record the crowd, that can be considered a First Amendment violation because it’s presumed to have a chilling effect on the right to protest. Knowing that your face might end up in the police or FBI files is enough to keep many reasonable people away.

We now live in the digital age. Very nearly everything we say, do, think or make in some way ends up in digital format, vacuumed into what we now call the cloud. The NSA, the National ‘Security’ Agency, is so powerful it’s one and the same as the Internet. In other words, all those things we say, do, think and make end up in government files — and that puts the chill on what is expressed. It might not put the chill on sexting, but it could certainly put the chill on thinking thoughts that are allegedly too radical or that might potentially ruffle feathers.

U. of Virginia honors student Martese Johnson was beaten by police after he allegedly tried to enter a bar with fake ID. We have come to expect police beatings as a normal part of life, especially for people of color.

Meanwhile, the police in many places seem determined to send the message that they can kill us if they want. Whether you’re black or white or some shade in between, you know those guys have guns and are not afraid to use them, even if you’re only armed with a bottle of water, a few cigarettes or some Skittles.

Our society is doing very mean things to many people, every day. With each passing hour, we are reminded that we are, in effect, caught in an inescapable dragnet that — due to the nature of digital technology — infiltrates our most intimate thoughts. Said another way, the NSA has taken up residence in our minds, and the message is: stay in line.

About that astrology. As of Monday, March 16, 2015, we have come through the initiation of the Uranus-Pluto square — the 2012-era aspect. I would say, at minimum, that we are now in the post-2012 era. We have experienced seven exact contacts of Uranus square Pluto. Seen one way, this aspect was an invitation to rise up against the oppressive forces — especially those within ourselves. Who knows — maybe you did kick the NSA out of your brain.

The last of the seven squares is about to be followed by a total eclipse of the Sun in the last degree of the zodiac, on Friday, March 20, 2015. This combination of the last of the seven squares and the total solar eclipse is speaking loudly and in a way that’s asking to be understood.

The Ghost of Christmas Present, revealing ignorance and want.

We are being invited to make personal contact with that which is supposedly political. We are being asked to act individually on what is supposed to be collective property. We are being shown it’s possible to think of ourselves as something larger than ourselves.

Yet you don’t need to sense too closely to smell the paralysis. It’s as if everyone is waiting for someone else to say that it’s worth doing something about what problems our society faces. Other times it seems like the few people who are not so exhausted or discouraged to act are serving as proxies for everyone else. Better to let them take the risk — they are much better suited for it.

All of this — all of it — is a denial trip. Denial is the same stuff as ignorance (the root of which word is ignore). Denial and ignorance are the substances in which fear breeds the most rapidly. So if you think the world is in the grip of fear right now, you are correct — and that fear is growing in some very rich medium.

The question I would ask in relationship to Friday morning’s total eclipse of the Sun, hours before the Sun enters Aries is: where do you stand in relationship to all of this? Where do you, personally, really stand? What is your relationship to ignorance? Is action, for you, the fruit of knowledge?

Or are you still in the dark?


Weekly Horoscope for Thursday, March 19, 2015 #1041 | By Eric Francis
Aries (March 20-April 19) — You’re about to discover the missing piece. Yet it will be more like a scrim is lifting and you can suddenly see the full scene for what it is. What you discover was missing will turn out to be very nearly everything. That everything is context. It is understanding something about your environment that was rather glaringly obvious that you somehow overlooked. Don’t feel too bad about that; the environment is the most difficult thing to see at all, much less observe keenly. Over the next few days you will make many discoveries about just how (and better still, why) you want to be fully aware of and engaged with your surroundings. Once you get the hang of that, you will never want to do anything else. Being able to see and feel everything around you, and see through it to the deeper layer, is the way to live.
Taurus (April 19-May 20) — Venus has arrived in your sign, which is always a comforting experience for you. Venus in Taurus wants the best: of material things, which is totally legitimate by the way, and also of feelings and human contact and authentic understanding. These things are related on the dimension known as quality. Though this word is often abused by advertisers, there is such a thing, and you know it. In fact it’s so closely related to the core of who you are that you know very little else. I suggest that you recognize how much both within you and around you is the real thing. On that line of thought, I suggest you never doubt your validity. Never doubt how solid and real you are. And as a direct extension, you can have full confidence in what you create. It is as real and as wholesome as you are, infused with that all-too-rare thing known as practicality.
Gemini (May 20-June 21) — Yes, there is some odd tension in your life, and it’s been building for a while. Yet this is some truly useful tension; useful like a beam or any structure that supports weight and stress. It looks to me like something is testing your survival skills. However, this may not be survival in the sense of food and water but rather of identity. It’s as if you are in a situation where you have to define yourself in the context of some potentially fixed, stuck or oppressive force. You might like this not only because it’s testing your mettle, it’s also bringing out some of your grittiest, most driven personal qualities. This is a time in life when you absolutely must be who you are — and I suggest you love that fact, and be grateful for it all the time. Yet truly, you need to find a sense of ease in your life, despite this situation. You can, and you will, if you focus that thought, and allow yourself permission.
Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Friday’s total solar eclipse moves across the top of your solar chart like thunder, lightning and the drive for achievement. Take the ride. Appreciate the forces of nature with your heart and mind wide open. This is a moment when those forces are working in your favor, though I recognize this may feel a bit daunting. Yes, there’s a good reason for that. Any wind that can push a ship across the ocean can also do serious damage. Any feat of engineering that can loft an airplane or raise a structure can also fail or go out of control. That’s the chance you get to take, and it’s a privilege. It’s worth the reminder that achievement of any kind requires taking risks, and the more you want to accomplish the more risk you will need to take. But here is a clue: it will all feel more daunting than it is. Modest chances honestly taken can open up some far-reaching possibilities. 
Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — You must treat all your agreements as sacred. In making promises and offering your faith to others, you are invoking mighty forces. These are of two varieties: karmic and dharmic. These concepts work as one thing. Karma is the results of your past actions. Dharma is about acting now, as if to hold the world together. There is no separating one part of this process from the other, though they may seem to be different at times. One thing called for is awareness. The other thing called for is remembering that, “action is the fruit of knowledge.” Everyone knows that, by the way. It’s one reason why ignorance is so popular, and for you, it’s not an excuse. Far to the contrary, in fact, you are being looked to for leadership, and that leadership is based on your being a radiant example of emotionally grounded intelligence. You’re being expected to hold yourself to a high standard, for a good reason: you are the only one who can.
Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — The concept of commitment would be better understood (and less of a fuss) if everyone understood it’s something that comes from within. On some level many people do have a clue that this is true, though the outer layer often seems to trump the inner core that makes the commitment real. It’s for this reason that so many people renege on their promises. They were never actually promises in the first place. But you have a vision for an understanding with someone; this vision is being driven by potent internal motives that in recent days have all but overwhelmed you. Seen from another angle, you may be wondering what you’re getting yourself into. And if you are indeed wondering, do so in a bold way, and come up with an equally bold answer to whatever question you’re asking. You are striving to find yourself from the inside out, and you are very likely to succeed.
Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — Keep a grip on your anxiety. Fear can be useful, though only to a point. If you’re concerned about your health, look closely enough at whatever issues you need to look at to have full confidence that you are healthy and strong. You may need to make some adjustments to your lifestyle so that you add the piece about moving in the right direction. Whatever direction that happens to be, you are in an excellent position to initiate positive, valuable, worthwhile changes. We all know how hard it is to get decisions to stick. Part of that is because real choices often require a sequence of other decisions in order to help them take root and keep their grip. As you make those choices, envision yourself drawing nourishment from the Earth, like a tree that is clasping some rocks and sinking its roots into the soil below. Yes, you have some real decisions to make — and yes, you will stick to them just fine. Or rather, they will stick to you.
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — It’s rare enough to hear the terms ‘sexual’ and ‘healing’ in the same sentence, except of course for that saucy and seductive song. Many, many people are beginning to crave healing their sexuality. Many are figuring out that the breaches of trust and abuse we’ve suffered are subtler and more insidious than anything that ever made it onto Oprah. It’s not so much what was done to you but rather what was taken from you. You can now get that aspect of yourself back, if you can so much as sense or feel what it is. Your process of self-reclamation will not happen overnight, though you’re very likely to find progress as you devote yourself to a journey few ever dare to undertake. I would remind you of one thing. Sex is not about reproduction. It’s about the pleasure of existence and of human contact. Existence and contact can lead to procreation, which above all else is proactive creation. Are you following me here?
Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — You can afford to be more flexible, especially with your time and with your love. Clearly your ability to be strong and stable are providing you with something you haven’t had access to in a long time. Yet if you push strength and stability too far, you may find yourself feeling insecure. Many factors of your astrology suggest that the more flexible you are, the safer you will feel. In particular, flexibility with your feelings is the thing you want. That starts with inviting yourself to feel, whether gently or strongly, what you actually feel. At times you may feel your ideas and your needs so powerfully you begin to doubt yourself. That sensation of questioning is evidence you’re going in the right direction. The sensation that you don’t know and may never find out, if you follow it, will help lead you to the self-knowledge and confidence you are seeking. Someone close to you may be directly involved in helping you make one particular truly amazing discovery.
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — You may think there is no way you can put what you’re thinking into words. However, when that happens you will discover they are rather effective, rich and useful words, and that all the effort was worth it. Well, not so much effort; actually the opposite thereof. What would help the most is to let your ideas flow, which might mean doing something different from the organized and structured approach you usually take to projects. Your chart is all about letting the colors run into one another and moving from there to some gradually-developing vision for what you want to create. This looks likely to morph into an actual beginning; your chart says you are headed into an unusually bold creative space, toward the center of your being. This alone will provide a balm for the restlessness and insecurity you’ve been feeling for quite some time now.
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — You are an original. It’s true that Aquarius is the very emblem of ‘weird and proud of it’, though I am really talking about being innovative. This is as much the product of Aries in your chart as it is of anything else. Though you seem to have memorized all of tradition, you are rather determined to do something new with your mind and with your life. It’s not that the past is boring; it’s just that it’s the past, and we’ve done it all before. What has not been done grabs your sense of adventure and of the unknown, which at times can become an obsession for you. Now would be such a time, as the Sun gets ready to join a fiery group of planets in the idea zone of your chart. Just remember that ideas are made of imagination, and that’s something that has a life and a light of its own. That light is burning hot and bright at the moment, and you are a well of glowing stuff in every color.
Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — Friday’s total solar eclipse in your sign is suggesting that you’re being invited to take a step toward becoming yourself in a way irrespective of any other relationship. This experience or process will set you up to be closer to others, even though it may seem to be solitary and introspective. I would propose that the single most significant barrier affecting people’s ability to relate to others is their struggle relating to themselves — and this is something you’re ready to give up, in exchange for something much better. You do not need to struggle with self-esteem. You merely need to be yourself. You do not need to question your value; you only need to express yourself in a way that will demonstrate your value is beyond question. It’s so far beyond question that you will be rather pleasantly shocked.

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