Notes on the Dereliction of Dharma

Dear Friend and Reader:

As Mercury works its way retrograde in Scorpio, it’s exciting to see the impeachment of Donald Trump gain momentum. I am not saying this as a partisan of any political party. If someone robbed a bank, committed fraud or assaulted someone, I would not be asking what political party they belonged to.

Planet Waves
A symbol of the eightfold path, this wheel is an intricate representation of the Dharmachakra, or very early Buddhist eight-spoked wheel. In Sanskrit, Dharma means “acting as if to whole the world together.” Photo by Shamik Chakravorty.

The current Mercury retrograde began in a conjunction to Pallas Athene, the asteroid of law and politics. The station-retrograde was just one week ago, the day the House of Representatives voted on the impeachment proceedings. Notably, these give Trump more due process rights than either Nixon or Clinton had.

From the standpoint of observing the nexus of politics and astrology, the synchronicity of Mercury retrograde, the conjunction to Pallas, in Scorpio, on the day the process was formalized, is just remarkable. Usually things that occur on or around the retrograde have an unexpected outcome. They can become mired in delays, but there are both chutes and ladders in this game.

Often there is some reversal. Most people believe the impeachment will fail to remove Trump from office, as the Senate is controlled by Republicans. Nearly half of their conference would have to go along with removal to get the 67 needed votes. That’s a long shot, but public opinion will have an influence, either way. The “reversal” could be that this thing actually works.

Remember that in the background is the Saturn-Pluto conjunction in Capricorn, which might translate to, "Everything is changing." By that I mean from the ground up, as Capricorn, the sign of family, tradition, corporations and governments, represents the foundations we stand on. And remember that this is happening as the immediate warm-up to the Pluto return of the United States.

Sometimes the System Works

After a lifetime of experience in the political realm (I took a serious interest from around age nine, and co-wrote my first full-on political campaign when I was 19, for Jane F. McAlevey), I have seen the failings of our system and I have seen the ways it can work.

Planet Waves
James T. Foley U.S. Courthouse in Albany, New York, headquarters of the Northern District of New York. It was designed in 1931 and built in 1933-1934 as part of the New Deal. This is where I went to file my lawsuit against the State University of New York.

Success does not always favor the rich and the powerful. When I was 29, with no money and a good case, I brought a federal lawsuit against the State of New York for interfering with my journalism. Against all odds, the state admitted it was wrong and paid me a settlement. That’s an exciting story, preserved for history in The New York Times.

I’ve seen the system fail miserably as well: courts and agencies rigged or stacked; righteous, hard-won victories overturned in a corrupt appellate process; attorneys with backroom connections prevailing over those who have been injured; and politics having a way of hollowing out the judicial system.

With the impeachment process, the factor nobody is looking at or discussing on the news are the financial and corporate interests that control the Democrats. That, at least, is part of the American system, whether it works for the people or not. The business of America is business. They don’t openly declare this allegiance. Were we to analyze this a bit, we would see why certain candidates come to the forefront and others do not; we would see why some are crushed and others get onto the ballot.

Courting (and Feeding) the Dark Side

The Republicans are tapping into something much darker, and I think deeper, which is a level of festering discontent, alienation and rage that is disturbing to witness and feel. Anyone with spiritual training is familiar with the dangers of drawing power from the dark side, however you may describe that. It could be some form of a "deal with the devil," the Faustian bargain, getting the Mafia to do you a favor, the genie offering you three wishes, or whatever.

Planet Waves
It’s not usually this simple. Tapping into the dark side is done on the emotional level, usually as an “easy way out” or path of least resistance. Many people feel the world is stacked against them, so it does not matter if they cheat. Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway.

It can take some sublime forms, the most commonplace of which is figuring out the power of lying. Once someone figures out how easy it is to lie, and how much power it affords, their life can be a done deal.

In Trump’s case, the power he is tapping into is fury, which is the essence of the dark side. This rage has many sources and causes; it both feeds and is fed by deception, but there is more.

Those factors include the disembodying effect of the internet magnifying the feeling of powerlessness. This makes it seem to feel good to lash out at someone or something.

This rage is currently taking many forms, which extend throughout the political spectrum. I want to say this again. Wherever you see some heavy political investment, you’re likely to see both rage and deception. Please don’t fool yourself. This factor is ubiquitous. Anger and lying always justify one another. They are usually part of the same thought process and emotional cycle.

In the presidential scenario, Trump is the figure, and the raging people are the ground. The figure is almost always a distraction. The energy and movement are coming from the wider environment, where many, many people feel cheated, lonely and horny. Note that much of this frustration gets projected into gender rage.

Manifestations of the Problem

Let’s look at Trump, our figurine, and then connect his actions to the background from which his power is flowing. Throughout Trump’s campaign and administration, there are several particularly disturbing elements I keep noticing.

Planet Waves
I realize this is difficult to look at. My take is that many people wish they could be this egotistical and self-congratulatory, but cannot bring themselves to do it. So they have this person to act out for them.

One is his bald disrespect for the laws he is sworn to uphold. His comment about being able to get away with shooting someone on New York City’s Fifth Ave. pretty much says it all.

While it’s unimaginable that a presidential candidate could declare himself above the law, it’s far more disturbing that any voters would find that appealing. He threatened either to kill you, or to kill someone else.

Who, exactly? Extrajudicial killing is a basic element of a totalitarian government. If the government itself is not subject to its own laws, it can do anything — to you or to anyone. Most people have some contempt for the law, but are not gutsy enough to violate it. Hence, Trump is their hero.

In everything he says and does, he emphasizes otherness. He began his campaign accusing Mexicans generally of rape and drug trafficking. He promised to ban Muslims from entering the country. That set the tone; there is always someone to blame. It’s a little weird how the supposedly conservative value of self-reliance has become a litany of blaming everyone else for one’s problems. This is part of his cult mentality: everyone outside the cult is bad, and everyone inside the cult is good. It’s easy to get thrown out.

I’ve watched enough of those Nuremberg-style rallies to be familiar with their various parts. A real crowd pleaser is when he points to the media section and says, "Those people are very dishonest." He gloats over this, and points his stubby fingers at the back of the room as his supporters cheer. Forget the fact that those allegedly dishonest people are his connection to the public. Forget that camera operators and political reporters do not set editorial policy. He probably does not know that most of why they are even there is in case he gets shot.

When I say that MSNBC is dishonest, what I mean is they are beholden to Merck and Exxon, and openly mock 911 truth seekers. When Trump says it, what he means is that they are waging a personal conspiracy against him and his supporters. And right now, I think it’s important that we witness the impeachment process not with disgust, doubt or contempt, but with respect. With this mentality, he stokes paranoia, which is a known psychiatric disorder.

Planet Waves
Gonzalo P. Curiel, a U.S. District Court Judge in California. He was born in East Chicago, Indiana, and attacked by Trump as a Mexican. Calling people “outsiders” is one of the oldest, most troubling and most persistent flaws of humanity.

Related to his being above the law, he disregards constitutional process. We are watching this in full force as he instructs his subordinates to defy congressional subpoenas.

Now those subpoenas are being litigated in the federal courts. Do we expect him to honor lawful court orders? News commentators are already asking, what if he refuses to leave the White House?

Federal marshals, who might enforce his removal, are under the direction of the Attorney General, who is under the direction of the president.

The Constitution is a little like Pan in the novel Jitterbug Perfume. If people stop believing in it, it ceases to have power. The Constitution is an agreement. Yes, it is the original law. But it has its authority because we respect it.

Someone I know — an attorney, and a constitutional officer, no less — said to me recently that the Constitution was written by a bunch of malcontent revolutionaries (and thus lacks credibility). Actually, that is not true, and it’s irrelevant. The Constitution we have was forged through compromise between many competing factors and factions. The Bill of Rights honors both conservative and liberal interests.

Trump attacks military and intelligence officers as traitors. While I am not the world’s biggest fan of the military, the FBI or the CIA, I admit that they exist and are part of our federal government. Trump regularly insults and degrades his own federal officials, frequently accusing them of being disloyal.

Has anyone heard of "projection"?

From the beginnings of his campaign, Trump — a draft dodger — attacked John McCain, who was held and tortured for years as a POW. He attacked the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, who in 2004 was killed in action by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Now, in violation of federal law, he is calling for exposing the name of the CIA officer who blew the whistle in the dirty deal he tried to push Ukraine into. [Late breaking — apparently the prince Don Jr. tweeted it this week.] And he is today attacking Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified last week about the Ukraine call, claiming he is a traitor.

Planet Waves
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who fled Ukraine with his family at age 3. Scholar, diplomat, decorated officer in the United States Army and Harvard-educated Ukraine expert on the White House’s National Security Council, he is being attacked by Trump as a traitor.

We now know that the American ambassador to Ukraine was indirectly threatened with violence when Trump told the Ukranian president she was "bad news" and would "go through some things." Ukranian officials passed the warning on to her.

All of this could lead someone to believe Trump is the representative of a different country from the one we are living in. That is what I find most troubling.

In a Sept. 29 tweet, he quoted a pastor named Robert Jeffries: "If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal."

One thing I suggest is that when you see someone fanning the flames of rage, take a step back and evaluate what is going on. There is something else, as well. If you want to hold anyone else to a standard, you must hold yourself to the same principles. I think for many people, that is the stretch. Calling someone out on dishonesty requires being honest, in every sense of the word.

Fury, disgust and cynicism are much easier. Or so it seems, for a while, anyway. Ultimately, they lead nowhere. There is no political or even social solution to one’s personal emotions. Rather, the political realm is excellent at harvesting anger for its own sake — not yours. Your anger is yours to address, to work with, to heal, and to use in a refined way. Your anger, wherever it came from, is your personal property. What you do with it is your business.

Here, we are in truly spiritual territory. There are no easy answers, and blaming the wrong person, or blaming yourself, is not the answer. Most things are not the answer. I will say that it helps to not feed what enrages you, and to offer your energy to what nourishes you.

Yet for many complicated reasons, I recognize this is easier said than done. But since we are talking about dharma, I do have a suggestion — help anyone you can, whenever you can. This means more now than ever.

With love,

Leave a Comment