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.
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).
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?