Onward, Inward, and the Unseen Guide

Dear Friend and Reader:

I have been boycotting the news lately, devoting myself entirely to the study of psychological and spiritual astrology for LISTEN, the 2013 annual. I have been studying my annotated 2013 charts, about 100 of them, since early July, and now is when I pull many planets and aspects together into a series of coherent narratives that offer some guidance for growth and living.

O’Hare International Airport. Photo by Eric Francis.

That’s what I do every autumn, however my change in direction this year involved more than a seasonal project. It started after more than 18 months of tracking the U.S. presidential election, which led directly into the David Petraeus scandal — the story of the CIA chief who resigned allegedly for having an affair. In retrospect, the election seemed like a farce, and the Petraeus story did not add up no matter which way I ran the numbers. As this holy mess unfolded, I kept looking at the TV and reading articles thinking: You. People. Must. Be. Kidding.

I started to feel something verging on cynicism at the end of all of that; the sensation that I had been played. Yet I have no regrets about taking certain issues seriously — one in particular, the threat to women’s reproductive rights, the blatant misogyny and the truly vicious homophobia that were so boldly exhibited in the election cycles of both 2010 and 2012. Election or not, that needed an airing out.

This was, however, political material that pointed us inward, as the astrology has been doing through the past year, particularly the retrogrades of Venus and Mars. In the public arena, what we witnessed was the emergence of political material focused not on actual discussion of right and wrong, or how society should be run, or how to handle global crisis, but the eruption of a dark, controlling, self-serving impulse that basically views the life force, and particularly being female, as inherently immoral. We can’t wage a political campaign against that, but we can do our best to recognize the problem and seek healing. The underling problem is ultimately personal, not one of policy.

On some level, in order to take the kind of abuse that the political system doles out so generously, it’s necessary to have been conditioned to feel wrong for being alive. What we call spiritual or psychological growth, or healing, is about coming to terms with that conditioning and then doing what we can about it. And there is plenty we can do. The problem is that it’s inconvenient, defying the thought patterns, beliefs and ideas that support a way of life, yet one that doesn’t necessarily support us back. And perhaps most of all, we are conditioned to be dishonest with ourselves, and with others, and often rewarded for being so.

The transits of the next two years are calling us to get beneath that conditioning, and to do what we can to resolve it. The result would be freeing up creative energy to do whatever we want, and there is plenty to do. There’s plenty we’re all saying we want to do.

Transcending the Obstacles

Many obstacles stand in the way, besides mere inconvenience. One is guilt. It is guilt that says, “It’s your fault that you feel this way, and you’re wrong for wanting to claim yourself back.” Make a note: guilt about wanting to heal is evidence that something was done to you, and that you have internalized the oppressor or attacker as a guilt-inducing mental script. This can manifest as many different forms of negative self-talk, self-sabotage and inviting others to do further damage to us, often under the guise of good intentions.

The Bean, Chicago. Photo by Eric Francis.

There is extra guilt in that much of the injury is located on the sensitive sexual/emotional dimension — where we are so conditioned to think we’re wrong for feeling bad, and for feeling good. The mere thought of exploring sexuality, including the part about healing a deep injury, is enough to send many people into a guilt spasm, which often manifests in the form of fearing moral retribution.

That double bind alone is evidence that a crime has been committed, and among other things, it’s a crime against trust. This can make it difficult to take one of the most important steps in the healing process — learning to trust others enough to allow in some help or guidance. Then there is the double bind, “If I admit something was done to me, then I am a victim, and that’s not allowed.” Under this logic, going for therapy is evidence of being messed up, rather than evidence that you want to feel better.

Another obstacle is the sensation that there is so much to deal with, we’ll never get it done. Another is relationship patterns that pretty much guarantee that the sexual/emotional material is intractable, since the rules of the relationships tend to prevent the discussion, and then often repeat the injury. A diversity of social rules support people in sticking with relationships that don’t work, in part by failing to support us in being autonomous people.

Dr. Wilhelm Reich had a term for this — he called it the emotional plague.

Let’s put it this way. To get out of this loop, you have to really want to. It is possible. It is necessary, even if many don’t get around to it. Yet it takes focus, determination, time, willingness and resources. It takes cultivating selflove and patience. It does not happen ‘by itself’. And it’s not realistic to expect there to be one magical relationship that will come along and save you. That expectation is a big part of the problem we face.

Pluto in Capricorn: Rearranging Reality

The astrological aspects that have developed the past few months — a pattern that will hold in various forms through 2014 and into 2015 — offer a map to the territory I’m describing.

Pluto began its ingress into Capricorn in 2008, signaling an end to the ‘post-9/11’ world (though arriving with another manufactured catastrophe, the banking collapse at the end of the Cheney/Bush administration). That was a news alert that we were embarking on many structural changes that are described by the unstoppable force, Pluto, encountering a form of the immovable object, Capricorn (ruled by Saturn). This was the selling out of the American dream — the home.

Winter view to the west from my back porch toward Washington Ave., in Kingston, NY. Photo by Eric Francis.

For you, a home is simple: you turn the key, walk in, and you’re in a safe place. For a speculator, mortgages and mortgage-backed securities can be converted into scores of different greed-driven gambling schemes, all of which went bad at once.

Contributing to the problem was that many people signed for mortgages they could not afford, and where the banks lacked the integrity to care. They were moving product. On a much smaller scale, tens of millions of people find themselves in debt they cannot deal with — a complex problem related to real wages going down steadily since the 1970s. (This is one reason why so many people need three jobs. If everyone wants the 99-cent breakfast, you can be sure the people making it aren’t going to be paid much to flip the eggs.)

The energy of Pluto always goes somewhere, and via Capricorn, where it’s going is into changes that reach the patterns we live, the structure of society and the foundations of our beliefs. Pluto in Capricorn can work two ways. One way is the impulse to dive deep into what we are dragging along from the past, recovering what works and transforming what does not.

The other way is the concentration of power, ranging from control drama to blind ambition. To work the healing side of the Pluto-in-Capricorn equation we need to be mindful of the power-oriented side of the equation. The evolutionary impulse of Pluto can quickly turn destructive, especially if one tastes something one thinks of as power, and wants more.

Pluto in Capricorn is a long process (lasting until 2024), and it’s going to leave no stone unturned, no cave unexplored, no mountain unclimbed. This is a journey deep into shadow, into the core of the psyche, entering what you might think of as the collective unconscious. Pluto in Capricorn is not strictly about an individual process. It’s something that’s collective property, collective responsibility and which will require cooperation.

Saturn in Scorpio: Enforced Growth 

More recently (in early October 2012), Saturn arrived in a sign associated with Pluto — Scorpio, where it will be into 2015. Scorpio and Pluto are associated; Saturn and Capricorn are associated. Here we have two of the most potent psychological forces in astrology occupying one another’s signs, and for many months to come, dancing in a sextile aspect. Think of the sextile as the option to cooperate, and as entities close enough to reach one another for a common purpose.

Saturn is a maturing influence. It represents the principle of the boundary, the necessity, the limit and the maturing impulse. Saturn represents the passage of time and the time limit, and prior to the discovery of Pluto was considered a significator of death.

Self-portrait, Baltimore, 2006. Photo by Eric Francis.

Saturn in Scorpio is about establishing a relationship with all of these things on the emotional level. Scorpio includes the sexual / reproductive level, as well as addressing any topic related to shared or exchanged resources (this includes subjects related to debt and investment, including the obsession with credit cards and the stock market).

On a more intimate level, Scorpio is the place where two people meet on the level of an exchange, and also admit the transience of their bond in this world. Saturn in Scorpio is about understanding the nature of the exchange, creating a safe container for it to happen in, and most of all, is a reminder that this is an exchange and not a total merging of interests.

Seen another way, Saturn in Scorpio is about compelling a level of maturity on all of these topics. We can really use it, and we know it. Part of that maturity includes addressing what we fear, which seems to be a morph of sexual shadow and all things related to intimacy. Part of this includes the fear of abandonment and the fear of aloneness, which are integral to the intimacy crisis we face. It does not help that we teach our children dependency rather than autonomy, and often push our peers to be dependent on, rather than independent of, dysfunctional and even dangerous situations.

One reason why abusive relationships are so wildly popular is because they provide a hedge against intimacy. The abuse, the drama, the standoffs and the lack of empathy render intimacy impossible, so in this respect the dramas serve those who are afraid to be close to others. Yet it goes deeper — I am fond of the definition of intimacy offered by my friend, the poet Jason Blickstein — into-me-see. The fear of intimacy is also the fear of seeing into oneself, to address what might be there.

And this is what Saturn in Scorpio and Pluto in Capricorn are inviting us to do. For many, inward looking is terrifying; hence, the persistent emphasis on appearances, on status, on money, on everything but the actual content of who a person is. One resulting shadow side of both of these transits is emotional fear resulting in knee-jerk conservatism, denial and withdrawal. Such is almost always directed at sex and its creative power, and that is much of what Pluto and Scorpio are describing. If the reactionary thinking is recognized for what it is, there will be an obvious invitation to healing.

Main entrance to the Chironian, in the cement mines near Keator’s Corners in Rosendale, NY. Photo by Eric Francis.

As I mentioned, Saturn and Pluto are occupying one another’s signs, which is a way of occupying one another’s spaces and energy fields. This is called mutual reception (note, I am bending the ancient rule by applying it to Pluto, a modern planet). It’s a situation that points to options, to alternative viewpoints and gaining mutually aware perspective within any relationship.

But when planets occupy one another’s signs and can, therefore, be seen to switch places, that transports in time as well. Pluto in Scorpio takes us back to the dawn of the modern AIDS crisis, when much of the present sexual neurosis took hold — all based on the obsessive connection between sickness, death and sex. This was so persistent that it could only be denied, and denial is what we now live with most of the time.

Saturn in Scorpio takes us to the same era, when religion-based social conservatism was on the march, supported by fear and driven relentlessly into government policy. So, with this setup, we get a chance to visit the late 1980s and early 1990s, and heal what was done then, including the values and attitudes that were put into place, and which most people accepted without questioning. One of those simply must be abstinence-only sex indoctrination in public schools, which I believe has done far more harm than we recognize. This must be replaced with honest, socially tolerant and most of all, science-based sex education.

A Presence Within the Darkness 

There is one last detail that I have been observing and dialoging with in the process of doing the 2013 readings. Saturn in Scorpio is making a long conjunction to a point called Poseidon. This is a hypothetical point, one of the eight trans-Neptunian points that were developed in Germany early in the 20th century. Its use is considered controversial outside of Uranian astrology, though from years of observation I have learned to respect these points.

Poseidon is like a super-Neptune, offering the vision and inspiration without the delusional side effects. It is associated with mirrors and windows, and therefore with reflectivity and transparency. It has a psychic quality and can help spread ideas through an etheric conducting medium. Saturn-Poseidon will offer the opportunity to challenge the religious dogma of our times, as well as the persistent image-over-substance crisis that has itself become a form of religion.

On the most personal levels, I think this placement goes deeper. I view Poseidon’s role in this setup as an unseen guide through all of the issues I have described.

Photo by Eric Francis – Book of Blue, NY.

As we are called to descend into shadow material, and see what we’re dealing with, there is a spiritual presence that accompanies us. Nearly every system of healing, metaphysics and even religion describe this in one way or another. It’s the ‘presence at the threshold’ that helps those on deep healing missions light their way through the dark.

Yet awareness of the spiritual presence manifests in direct proportion to the commitment to healing. If one commits oneself in earnest to understanding and resolving their shadow material, then the guide makes itself known. If one does not, the guide is still there, but one is unlikely to be aware of it.

Said another way, we are not being asked to go through any of this alone. Indeed, the sense of being alone, and even the reality, is a direct consequence of the isolation caused by the initial injury, and not being able to say anything about it. For a time, the company we are offered will manifest as an inner presence rather than as an outer one; it is this inner presence that will make other forms of companionship more meaningful. Indeed, it’s vital that we set aside the company of others who deter us from our mission, once we have committed to it, and invite in only those willing to be supportive. This can require making decisions that seem difficult at first, but obvious in retrospect.

We need to remember this, as the astrology of 2013 is in many ways a deeply introspective journey into the heart of what troubles us the most. This is not a task for the faint of heart. Courage and the cultivation of self-respect are required. If we focus the goals of liberation, resolving the causes of pain, self-knowledge and nourishing pleasure, I believe we will know what to do.

There’s a reminder from A Course in Miracles that I would offer you, which places a lens in front of the astrology we’re experiencing.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. It is not necessary to seek for what is true, but it is necessary to seek for what is false.

“Every illusion is one of fear, whatever form it takes. And the attempt to escape from one illusion into another must fail. If you seek love outside yourself you can be certain that you perceive hatred within, and are afraid of it. Yet peace will never come from the illusion of love, but only from its reality.”


Weekly Horoscope for Friday, Dec. 7, 2012 #929 | By Eric Francis

Sagittarius Birthdays: Integrity Check, Ongoing

The word “factcheck” has become part of the modern lexicon; with Mercury square Neptune in your solar return chart, I suggest you add it to your hourly routine. Check everything you hear, before you repeat it. Check everything, before you believe it. Verify that your parents really did get divorced in such and such a year, and look for evidence of how you really felt about it. Look up the spelling of ‘Tucson’ before you send it in an email. Read the fine print in everything you sign. Take people at their word, then wait for them to offer some proof of what they say, or at least evidence that it’s true. Most important, make sure you’re being honest with yourself about what you feel, since you’re likely to have reason to deny it — if only your idealism. I suggest being cautious of entering into shared domestic situations; if you do, make sure that you leave a back door for yourself, in case you find the person doesn’t turn out to be what you thought. You will know most things in advance — the key will be listening to yourself. If your intuition whispers something twice, stop and pay attention on the spot.

Aries (March 20-April 19) — Just because something is dressed up in ‘spiritual’ terms or spoken by an allegedly holy one, that does not make it true. What is said or written by the Dalai Lama, an eminent scientist or a venerated author is not true just because they said it; it has to be true on its own merits. By the same logic, something spoken by one allegedly stupid or insane is not wrong because that person said it — it too must be subjected to a test that’s more rigorous than whether you believe it. You have the intellectual and intuitive discernment to assess what you hear or read, and I would propose that this is the time to use it. Is a product safe? Is a claim that someone is making actually valid? Does an idea hold water? Your mind and your intuition may disagree at first, but if you subject all incoming information to rigorous scrutiny, it won’t be long before the two are in agreement.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — How much of how you conduct yourself in relationships is a reaction to the past, and how much is a response to what is available in the present moment? To sort out this question, you’ll need to slow down and live from thought to thought — that’s where the information is contained. It may often seem that the story arc of your life bends around the weight of history, and that what happens today is strictly the consequence of what happened in the past. It may seem that the results of prior choices intervene in your life from moment to moment. Yet if this is true, please consider that you’re being reminded of the need to step outside of that reality. This is not merely ‘escaping’ the effects of the past. It’s about an orientation on existence, and an orientation on your journey through time. You may be caught in the perception that time is linear. That is a compelling illusion. If you pay attention over the next few days, you may notice that each moment is a gateway to many dimensions of time, extending in every direction — and offering possibilities you had not considered.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — There are many levels of honesty, though they contain one another. The one to monitor now is emotional honesty. This is to say, are you feeling what you feel, and are you admitting to yourself what you feel? I mention this in connection with a particular relationship situation, which is trying to get your attention — though you may not be hearing the bell through the fog. I suggest you listen, and feel. You need the information that is trying to come through to you now. If you find yourself doubting anything, or pretending it does not matter, that’s the time to pay attention. But this is subtle, as you have to notice when you’re not exactly noticing, which is a form of double mindfulness. In the moment you wake up, you will make a discovery about someone that can change the course of your life merely for being willing to notice, and reveal a potential in you that you have long denied — and will be unlikely to let slip away ever again.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — You can get a lot of work done this week — in fact, you may be able to wrap up everything you have planned for the rest of the year. However, I would encourage you to slow down, prioritize the top most important projects, and focus on quality. That translates to maintaining your intellectual and spiritual impeccability, in a moment when you may be in a minor crisis over doing just that. There’s no irony involved; moving through this territory carefully is the whole point of the astrology you’re under. I can sum it up fairly simply — when in doubt, get real. That is to say, get real about what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling and most of all, what you want. There is a chance that with a little reflection you will see that it has less to do with what you accomplish and more to do with existing with full awareness at the intersection where pleasure meets healing. This is a bold space, and the thing to be bold about is your imagination. Pleasure is healing, and you can allow this idea to soak into everything you touch.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — Numerous indicators in the astrology continue to remind you to pick the locks, open the windows and tear down the walls that separate sexuality and mysticism, or what some would call God. If you start from the point of knowing that the division is itself false, and was introduced into thought as a kind of virus, with an agenda, that makes things a lot easier. The division starts with any moral position on sex whatsoever. Let me state this another way: sex is not a moral issue, and anyone who says it is has a control agenda. Sex is an experience of pleasure, a way to learn about yourself, an experiment, a journey, a matter of personal choice, a mode of creative expression, a way to explore your connection to someone, a way to mirror yourself in someone, and an offering of yourself as witness, mirror and container. It is not a moral issue. Morality potentially enters where there is deception and where autonomy is violated, but there are more practical ways to work through these problems, should they arise. Meanwhile, a passionate mystical experiment is calling your name.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — What is that little voice in your mind telling you? I have a clue: it’s trying to tell you something specific. This is not about a ‘general message’ coming through, or summing up the meaning of life in a platitude or two. It seems like you’re searching for a precise bit of information, like that information is trying to find you, and closer to the point, like there is a predestined meeting. In particular, you’re seeking some information about yourself, mainly to confirm or deny something that you have become aware of in a relationship or partnership situation. I am making an educated guess when I say that this has been puzzling you for at least a month, and you may be wrestling whether you’ve been informed of a limit you cannot bypass, or have been informed of what is your lot in life. You may think you’ve reached the edge of your potential based on conditioned limitations or the expectations of others. The roots of this perception are complex, and they have a long history. The answer you seek, or that is seeking you, will turn out to be relatively simple. Listen carefully. Listen for the obvious.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — You seem to have made up your mind about yourself based on some poor treatment, negligence or abuse that happened to you in the past. This point of view may ‘inform’ you at certain points, especially when you want to take a chance on an intimate experience. The chance may seem extra risky due to the potential that someone would abuse your trust. Note also your possible concern about what might get out through a social network or some form of gossip. The question here is: are you trying to hide something? Are you trying to cover a perceived vulnerability, and in doing so, do you block off the kind of experience that you can only have by being vulnerable? Leaving the whole matter unresolved can become a kind of a hedge that you use, much like people use the excuse of having a partner to make sure they don’t meet anyone new — having nothing to do with their existing relationship. Be honest with yourself and get to the bottom of this. You will be much happier.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — To get out of the mental knot you seem to be caught in, you need to think beyond yourself. This may be difficult for a few days, because there is currently a kind of exaggeration effect in your astrology where changing your mind can feel like giving up everything. Or, you may have this idea that once you come to terms with one specific thing about yourself, or a particular fact of your life, there will be a cascade effect and one thing will lead to another as you gradually go out of control. You’re probably right about that. All it takes is one realization about yourself, one moment of truth, to get you to make a series of necessary changes that have in fact been long overdue. This particular psychological configuration is why so many people spend much of their time being ‘stuck’.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — The question surrounds the role of a particular relationship in your life, which you seem to be seeing with about as much perspective as looking backwards through opera glasses. However, there is about to come a moment when you flip your perspective and get a clear look at what you’ve been experiencing. You may decide you like it a lot. You may decide that you are in a situation that’s more complex than you realized. Here is a simple way to tell: make a list of everything you have not said to whomever this situation involves. Take some time, for example, an hour or a day, to make sure you’ve thought of everything. How long is this list? And what is on it? What is your reason for not mentioning everything you’ve not mentioned? Now for phase two: what do you think has been left unsaid, coming in your direction? How would this person respond to being asked to do the same inventory? The thing that would make any situation in your life new and different is what you don’t withhold — love, pleasure and what is really true for you.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — There is a lot that seems ready to burst out of you right now. You may wonder if you will set the house on fire by allowing any of whatever that may be out of yourself; there is a lot in there, and it has the approximate constituency of cosmic fire. One of the biggest Capricorn secrets is how passionate you are. I know it’s easy to conceal behind your somewhat formal demeanor and your constant attention to your image, but that does not change the fact of what is behind the veil. If astrology offers any clues, the time is long gone that you need to conceal who you really are. Indeed, it’s verging on impossible for you to do so, and if you pretend that nobody knows, you will just seem silly. Here is an analogy: imagine you’re wearing thin summer clothes, and you get rained on and they become transparent — and you have nothing dry to change into. If you want to feel good, acknowledge everyone can see what you’ve got — because they can.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Remember that public image and self-esteem are two different things. No matter how anyone perceives you (or how you think they do), that only goes so far toward allowing you to feel good about yourself. In a similar way, public recognition does not substitute for being adequately compensated for your time, talent and effort. And having an edgy or spiritual appearance is, of course, not a substitute for what those things are supposed to represent. So, one theme that comes up for the next week or so is the difference between the appearance and the reality. One way you can go right to the heart of the matter is to forget appearances entirely. You are capable of this, though perhaps it will be persuasive if I say that you will make a more vivid impression on people if you don’t care how they perceive you. Also, I would remind you that you have very little influence over the impression you make. You never really know for sure, and you have more influence on focusing your need for affirmation inwardly rather than outside yourself.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — You seem to be poised for some advancement in your career, which may come in the form of visibility, notoriety or your reputation spreading rapidly. You have the most spin control before this happens, which will arrive in the form of maintaining a position of impeccable truth at all times. This way, you have nothing to go back on if you’re ever questioned; your story will be simple, because it’s true. It’s worth one sentence of caution on what you could unleash if you deceive anyone intentionally or inadvertently, or deceive yourself, over the next few days. Therefore, the question must always be, ‘Is this true?’ Go word for word, line for line, idea by idea, and ask yourself. I am not saying doubt — I am saying verify. The reputation you want is the one for being fully present, authentic and concerned not with how people perceive you but rather the substance of what you say and do. You have plenty of both image and substance — this is a matter of emphasis.

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