The Country of Our Dreams

Dear Friend and Reader:

IN HONOR of an issue on July 4, I thought I would take a look at the chart for the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Independence Day is considered by most people to be the birthday of our country — the moment when the 13 colonies joined together against the King of England and declared themselves free and independent states.

American flag in a field of milo, Kansas, autumn 1998. Photo by Eric Francis.

Have you ever read the thing? It’s short, it’s very sweet and it sets an example for the world. The Declaration is the document from our history that sets the goal of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for our nation. It states in part, “When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government and to provide new guards for their future security.”

Gee whiz. We need this thing today. Has it expired? It continues, “Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.”

The Framers then provide the candid world with 27 paragraphs outlining the long train of abuses and acts of tyranny, at the end of which the colonies declared that “they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that, as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.”

The document concludes: “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

Consider this: here we had the richest and most powerful men in the country pledging to one another their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Can you imagine Donald Trump, Bill Gates and Dick Cheney, saying this kind of thing, much less even meaning it? Not beating their chests singing “God bless America” out of tune, but rather, humbly stating that we trust Divine Providence?

The July 4 chart reflects this idealism, and casts us in the role of a visionary nation (Sagittarius rising, with Jupiter in Cancer — we are envisioning a home). We are a culture based on reason, knowledge and science (Aquarius Moon conjunct Pallas Athene); on the sharing of resources (Venus conjunct Jupiter in Cancer in the 8th house); and a place that cares deeply about its people, and acts on it (Cancer Sun). If we were born on July 4, we are a nation of laws and not men above the law, or men who think they are the law. We recognize equality and the parallel, responsibility. We are a country that protects its people, is fair to them, and that recognizes our common interests with others in the world community. Think of it: Sagittarius, Aquarius, and Cancer work quite well together in one chart.

The chart has 12+ Sagittarius rising — two degrees from the Great Attractor (which was, at the time, at 10+ Sagittarius). If nothing else, the Great Attractor’s presence talks about an event that will have implications far beyond what the participants themselves understand. If you are an astrology student, I suggest you familiarize yourself with this point which, in our era, is at 14+ Sagittarius. It is the largest known object in the universe, and it is being pursued by a million galaxies (including our own). But it exists along the plane of the Milky Way, so dust and debris interfere with our ability to perceive it accurately.

If we were born on July 4, the United States of America is not the nation of Watergate, of Abu Ghraib, of genocide in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, or of so many wars for oil. It is not the chart of a government that, under the leadership of Nixon and Kissinger, overthrew Chilean President Salvadore Allende on Sept. 11, 1973, killing thousands of cultural heroes;nor are we the country that signed off on providing South American oil for Hitler. July 4, 1776 is not the birthday of the country that bombed both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is not the chart of the last Western nation to use a peacetime death penalty (a distinction we share with Iran, China and Saudi Arabia).

The July 4 chart is, rather, the nativity of the country we think we are, when we think at all; the one we feel good about being: of amber waves of grain from sea to shining sea. It is the United States of our dreams.

The Sibley Chart and Sept. 11

There are several USA charts. It is not known exactly when the Declaration of Independence was signed, though it’s likely to have gone on for a few days. It took a while for all those guys to come up and sign the thing one by one, and political meetings always take longer than you think.

Bill Gates, Donald Trump and Dick Cheney, signing the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Image by Rachel Asher.

One July 4 chart that seems workable (and which is demonstrated to be accurate by recent history) is the first one ever calculated, called the Sibley chart, and that is the one that gives Sagittarius rising.

It’s an 18th century document based on statements attributed to Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and John Q. Adams, who said they signed the Declaration in the “late afternoon” of the 4th in Jefferson’s case, and “late in the day,” according to the Adams’. The Sibley chart is one of about a half-dozen speculated times given, and birth time is pretty important in astrology.

The “late in the day” time, more or less, is confirmed by other sources — such as the marginalia in the Raphael’s Ephemeris of an astrologer contemporary to the Revolution, someone named John B. Early. That data is July 4, 1776, Philadelphia, 5:10 p.m. LMT (Local Mean Time), and it’s the chart most often used. I am not sure how it got the name “Sibley chart.”

Due to the variance in possibilities for when the Declaration was signed I considered this chart iffy until the Sept. 11 incident. This event was associated with the alignment of Saturn and Pluto across Gemini and Sagittarius. That opposition, exact for the first time on Aug. 5, 2001, went directly across the axis at 12+ Gemini and 12+ Sagittarius. In other words, it intersected the ascendant/descendant of the Sibley chart to less than one degree of exactitude; and then we had this terrible thing happen, which changed the course of history forever.

This transit includes Pluto crossing the ascendant of the Sibley chart. Pluto in the ascendant is one of those transits that redefines one’s identity; it changes the nature of one’s relationship to existence. Indeed, at the time of Sept. 11 we became identified with Plutonic forces of death and destruction, both as victim and perpetrator. We allowed the righteous fundamentalism of Pluto in Sagittarius to literally seize our identity, reinvigorating the long battle between Muslims and Christians. We allowed other people to lure us, once again, into believing lies that would not even fool a dog. As James Madison warned, “enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.” And as P.T. Barnum warned, “there is a sucker born every minute.”

On one level, the Saturn-Pluto opposition seems to have derailed us as a country; but really, it exposed who we have been as a nation through much of the 20th century. We might want to ask ourselves: is this the side of Sagittarius we want to express — the one that thinks it can define right and wrong for itself? Are we happy remembering remnants of the American Dream, paid for exclusively on credit?

The Dark Side of the Dream

If there is a dark side to this chart, it involves Mars in Gemini. Mars has a special role, because it represents the 12th house (which has Scorpio on the cusp). So Mars is the ambassador of the 12th house — which is the most paranoid and delusional of the lot; the house of secret enemies; the house of not quite knowing what is real and what is not.

Mars is in the 7th house, which is the zone of projection. Mars, particularly in Gemini, is aggressive.

See if you can follow the moves. Mars emerges from the 12th house and Scorpio, that deep, unconscious place, and materializes face to face with us in the 7th house in Gemini. It’s as if everyone we look at is potentially our enemy. But the whole arrangement is in Gemini, suggesting that our friends are our enemies and vice versa. This would cover two men who were well-established CIA assets, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

Perhaps it’s every country, but it seems that the United States is always gazing into the eyes of a supposed bogeyman who wants to hurt us because he doesn’t like our way of life. We would be wise to consider the psychological projection involved in having Mars being the effigy of this evil critter, be it kidnappers, Communism, queers, heathens, al Qaeda or our neighbors.

James Madison, author of the U.S. Constitution, was cautious about scenarios where we give up a little freedom to have a little safety, something we seem to do on a regular basis. “It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad,” he wrote in his commentaries on the founding of the U.S. republic.

It would be nice if we could define ourselves some other way than by who we despise. Because at the end of the day, if that is how we choose to live, then who we must ultimately despise is ourselves.

Yours & truly,
Eric Francis

R.I.P environmental activist Erik Jansson

I AM DEEPLY saddened to note the death of a man named Erik Jansson. Erik, editor of Department of the Planet Earth website, was one of the unknown heroes of the environmental movement. He was found dead last week in his farmhouse at the age of 67. Though he was highly effective on issues from global warming to aluminum as a cause of Alzheimer’s disease, I don’t suspect that his death was anything more or less than natural.

Earth as seen from Apollo 11 mission.

Erik was a Leo and he was typical of that sign in that he worked tirelessly, even to his own detriment. Leos are often accused of being egotistical, but there is another breed of them who take their responsibilities so seriously, they have to be dragged out of the office, handed a beer and fed dinner on the threat of bodily harm. These people tend to work their hearts into the ground; they are driven by love, but there’s just not a lot of room for it in their lives. (If you are into homeopathy, consider aurum metallicum.)

I met Erik in 1994 at the Third Citizen’s Conference on Dioxin in St. Louis. At the time, I was about to come out with my cover story about the history of a dioxin-like chemical, PCBs, in Sierra, the magazine of the Sierra Club. Erik introduced himself to me as one of three legislative aides who stayed behind in Washington, DC the summer of 1976 to write the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). This law banned then widely-used PCBs in new equipment and began a fairly massive phase-out. It was the first act of Congress banning a specific chemical by name as being a menace to human health and the environment.

The modern equivalent of banning PCBs would be something perhaps 100 times the scale of eliminating polycarbonate plastic, which is used in everything from Coke bottles to eyeglasses.

So I always think of Erik as being the guy who co-wrote the law banning PCBs, which is what he actually was. More recently, he was involved in proving that aluminum is a cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Thanks to Erik, I disposed of all my aluminum cookware right around 1994, literally putting it all in the trash. This includes Teflon, which is a kind of hybrid of plastic and aluminum. Many people have heard of the aluminum-Alzheimer’s connection as a rumor; I heard of it from someone who read ALL the science, and I consider myself extremely blessed to have had such early warning.

Most recently, Erik was involved in a push to organize the governors of all 50 states to take up a new level of climate change/global warming action, in the absence of any such action by our oil biz-controlled White House (it should be called the Black House.) To this end, he had worked tirelessly with David Shiah (pronounced “see”) the majority whip in the Maine House of Representatives, to get the various state governments on board. At last tally, there were up to 20 governors signing onto their proposal.

Shiah wrote, “Over the past several years I had the privilege of working with Erik on global warming as we tried to get various states to take actions realizing the Congress and White House were doing nothing on the issue. Erik’s wide-ranging knowledge and exceptional collection of information impressed many state officials throughout the country. I just forwarded him a letter from the Governor of Hawaii in which she stated her appreciation of the comprehensive information and references contained in Erik’s paper on global warming. We were working on another mailing to go out soon to all 50 governors but alas, it may not happen now.”

Despite his considerable efforts, it would be fair to say that Erik had no patience for politics; he only endured this neurotic game long enough to get things done. Indeed, he had a reputation for putting his foot in his mouth from time to time, which is exactly what you would expect from someone who cares only about the issues and the people they impact.

Erik headed a local organization, Potomac River Association, which was founded by his parents. He was president for 10 years. I’ve been in contact with the Department of the Planet Earth webmaster, Bob Lewis (also involved with Potomac River Association), who described Erik as “a spirited person who knew the urgency of addressing human impacts to our environment and ourselves. Erik always set a standard that others tried to emulate.”

He was a loner, a man with few people he considered friends (two that I know of, although I am sure he considered Carol van Strum, my environmental mentor and one of his best writers, a friend). He lived on his family farm, though his mother, father and brother who lived there died over the previous 10 years.

Carol wrote, “The first time I met Erik in person was during the 80s, when he stopped by our farm in Oregon on his way to or from some conference. Privately, I tend to associate my favorite people with particular birds, and from that visit onwards Erik was for me a stormy petrel – small, trim and indomitable, a lonely spirit defying every tempest with unfeigned grace; to have him alight and visit was a rare privilege. The audacity and humor that inspired him to create the Department of the Planet Earth were so damn typical of this remarkable, unassuming champion. Keeping Planet Earth alive is the greatest tribute we can pay him.”

I leave you with this thought, and it’s the thought I had when, after three years of work putting together the PCB scandal from 1991 through 1994, I met the man who co-wrote TSCA. It is often the people you don’t hear about who get the real work done. It is people who don’t care to be in the rat race, who don’t care what kind of car they drive, who don’t collect awards, who don’t get slapped on the back by the chairman and who never bought a latte in their entire lives, who often do the heavy lifting in our society. We may think that we would be just fine without them. But this is not true; we would not be, and you would not be.

We enjoy the spoils of capitalism, the privileges of technology, and the “benefits” of chemicals like PCBs, which are still sitting in breast implants in (hopefully) living people. Every now and then, someone like Erik Jansson comes along and insists on being the conscience of a system that otherwise would never dream of having one.

Yours & truly,
Eric Francis




Weekly Horoscope for Friday, July 4, 2008, #721 – By ERIC FRANCIS

Aries (March 20-April 19)
The world is focused on taking a break this weekend, and you seem focused on solving problems and working your way through the backlog of projects that have collected the past few weeks. You run the risk of focusing on the wrong thing. You need to be solving large problems, not small ones. How do you tell the difference? Focus on things that will take at least two weeks to work out. If you find yourself working on issues and expecting an immediate result, that’s a clue you’re probably wasting your time. I suggest you devote at least half your energy toward preventing new problems rather than solving old ones. Neither could properly be called art, but if you take a long view rather than a short one, you will make space in your life for the things you want.

Taurus (April 19-May 20)
You are now in the process of coming head to head with some of your deepest creative and sexual blocks. The astrology you are under now occurs once every 29 years or so — that probably translates to once or twice in a lifetime, so far. One of the issues you’re working with is the sense of being divided into many parts, rather than experiencing yourself as one integrated entity. This is actually an illusion. What you seem to be working through are blockages based entirely on your beliefs, which you usually put your time into working around, rather than processing to the point of completion or closure. You now need to work through something that seems insurmountable. Your small energy seems like no match for the monolith that has appeared in your living room. Remember — you don’t need to blow it up. You just need to climb on top of it and look around.

Gemini (May 20-June 21)
Yes, this is a period of your life calling for guts and the willingness to speak out on a level that is unheard of. And I don’t just mean posting to your Myspace page. I mean specifically keeping a focus on what you feel in your heart and in your guts about a domestic situation that you simply cannot ignore. We humans (particularly Americans) are accustomed to ignoring and avoiding pain. By doing so, we subvert the very purpose of pain, which is a message that something is wrong (and not incidentally, invite much more of the stuff into our lives). I suggest you listen to what your nervous system is telling you. It is definitely telling you something, and I suggest you consider this a rare opportunity to be motivated enough to take action where action is significantly needed.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)
Yes, we live in a profoundly turbulent time in history, where the world has never seemed less predictable or dependable. It seems like you are gathering your focus and getting ready to pour it into one idea. In our current mental environment, this is challenging — and while you may not be able to go 100%, you will surely make some significant progress in the next four weeks. I suggest you devote as much energy to feeling good as you are to getting things done. Don’t get so lost in your work that you lose contact with the people around you. True, don’t get so lost in the people around you that you lose sight of your goal, but that’s rather unlikely right now. What you are doing requires support, and it will thrive with the right environment of cooperation. Most of what you need to do, only you can do; but with the rest, keep the flow between you and the people around you free and easy; real, but light.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23)
I noticed the other day that a jar of homemade jam at the local Farmer’s Market costs only slightly more than a cappuccino. Both fall in the category of sweets; as nonessential items. Yet if you look at this carefully, you can see something about the values structure of our culture. I am aware this is not exactly a new discussion — that we prefer and popularize the disposable quick hit to something of quality and even slightly more lasting value. Value is the issue; at this point in your life, it is the only issue. The distinctions are not subtle, and they are coming into sharper focus all the time. You are someone dedicated to living your life the right way, whatever that means to you. Take it easy on yourself the next few weeks as you make some important decisions about who and what is right and wrong for you.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
Change is inevitable, and you are probably feeling that inevitability now. You are feeling it, I would imagine, as motivation, and also as fear. You may also be feeling it as a series of judgments about the person you have become lately: more given to conservatism than to freedom; more devoted to caution than to experimentation. You may be contenting yourself with the idea that some of the most revolutionary ideas emerge from a conservative mindset. This is often true; but it’s not an excuse to retreat to the ways of your parents or grandparents. As the next two weeks develop, the psychological drive for progress is going to meet the inertia that has been collecting, and the two are likely to collide and create some interesting new elements. Remember, the name of the game is change, of a kind that would make your family’s knees shake. You were made for it.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
Most people are way too lazy to live consciously. It takes work. It’s harder than doing the recycling. Yet the rewards are greater. Part of living consciously involves consciously facing fear. At the moment, you seem to be getting in contact with forces, circumstances and situations that are all much larger than you. You may first be confronting the notion that you don’t actually have any control, and you barely have any influence over things you know would benefit from your attention. Keep in contact with your fear, no matter how annoying it is, and no matter how little others seem to want to hear about it. If there is one key to actually making your mark on the world, it starts with having an honest relationship with the single most dominant force in society today, which is anxiety.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
Current aspects may not make you the flavor of the month, but they will help you figure out who your friends are — and more importantly, who they are not. If someone seems to be standing in your way at the moment, blocking an important goal associated with your professional income, social standing or role in the world, I suggest you beat them at their own game and use them as an ally. They are giving you all kinds of advantages, most particularly their inability to respond to change. In order to use this to maximum benefit, you need specifically to take advantage of the refusal of others to change or to allow for change. I don’t suggest you set yourself up for a fight; and if you do, make it stealth rather than going blow for blow. But neither of those options are necessary. The current setup is offering you a chance to find your true place in the world.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22)
People may be accepting your ideas in their raw and/or unrefined form, but soon you’re going to need to develop a new strategy designed to work through the resistance of others who are what you might call the rear guard. Fortunately for you, those who insist on keeping their minds in the past often wind up staying there. There are a lot more of them than you may think, or than you want to admit exist. Your job now is to make your ideas appealing to them. Emphasize what is traditional, cautious, and rational about your approach. You may be tempted to appeal to the fears of certain individuals, but I would propose that this is the one thing you want to avoid. Be aware that their uncertainty and indeed mental agony is based mostly on self-doubt. No matter how conservative people are, they tend to like someone who is self-assured.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
You are in the process of challenging some of your deepest beliefs — the ones you thought you would never change, or better stated, be able to change. Where we need to do the most work is often where we feel our ideas about life are intractable. When people get set in their ways, they reduce their relationship to those factors to a kind of stalemate. But in that stalemate, the stuck ideas have all the power, and the psyche usually responds by going to sleep. You need to respond by waking up — all the way up. You need to know what you believe, and more to the point, why you believe it. All beliefs serve functions — that is what keeps them in place. The function may have a negative charge (‘protecting’ you from your feelings) or it may have a positive one (helping you remain optimistic in scary times). But at this point, you can take none of this for granted.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
You have entered a phase where contractual negotiations of any kind must be handled with the utmost caution. Do not expect things to go well; do not expect them to go poorly. Rather, observe from day to day and hour to hour what is developing, and keep your ear to the ground for some surprise developments. Remember that disagreements on your own team are more meaningful than anything that would surface with an ‘adversary’ or much larger negotiating partner. If your current inclination is to apply force, let it be the force of your ideas. However, you need — like any good salesman or negotiator — to suss out the objections in advance. You also need to remember what your strongest negotiating point is. When in doubt, stick to tradition. True, you are pushing for a revolution. But for the moment, only you need to know that.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
You may see a drama unfold in the life of someone around you, and it’s about time. What you’re witnessing is a release of energy, and it’s a key step in their healing process. Your role is to keep your objectivity (this is a key step in your healing process). This is difficult for a Pisces because you feel things so deeply; you are able to immerse yourself in your point of view so deeply you might forget there is any other one. Now is the time to remember, and it’s time to put the part of your mind that is a witness into the relationship first and foremost. You are in an excellent state of mind to do this. The long-term picture of your relationship astrology is about making sure you embrace what works and set aside what does not work. In the immediate days and weeks, make sure you know the difference between a problem that is yours and one that belongs to someone else. And despite what may be unfolding in those around you, you are free to take pleasure in the many benefits that life is offering you at the moment. Indeed, such is essential.

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