Dear Friend and Reader:
Have I mentioned that I’ve been trying to figure out the internet?
I was aware that when you click on something, something new appears on the screen. I knew if you post a naked picture to Facebook they kick you out for a while.
What I’m talking about is the same thing that you worry about: such as how Twitter is dumbing down the whole world. Things like the smartphone contributing to people being less smart and less able to concentrate, and someone crossing four lanes of Sixth Avenue in heavy rush-hour traffic while gazing at the screen (I actually saw that recently; apparently it’s commonplace).
Every time a new breed of communication devices is born, society is reshaped. The mother of all changes was the alphabet. Then came the book. Then came the telegraph, and the pace increased. Every time one of these things happened, society was reinvented in some fundamental way.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been going deep into the work of the first philosopher of media, Marshall McLuhan. With his grandson Andrew as my study buddy and collaborator, and Marshall’s son Eric as my ad-hoc grad school professor, I’ve made some progress that I will summarize for you in this article; but first I want to look at the astrology of the moment, and what it says about the so-called digital revolution.
However, keep this in mind, written by Prof. Eric McLuhan: “The body is everywhere assaulted by all of our new media, a state which has resulted in deep disorientation of intellect and destabilization of culture throughout the world. In the age of disembodied communication, the meaning and significance and experience of the body is utterly transformed and distorted.”
The Uranus-Eris Conjunction, Then and Now
We are now in the midst of an astrological event with profound and sweeping effects. This is the conjunction of two distinctly modern planets: Uranus (the first planet ever discovered by science, in 1781) and Eris (the 2005 discovery that resulted in the ‘demotion’ of Pluto).
First of all, this is a conjunction: the most powerful aspect, and the one that marks the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. Second, when two planets that move this slowly join forces, the effects are profound, and often so vast that nobody can see them clearly till they’ve already happened.
There are many examples, but two might suffice. In the mid-1960s, slow-movers Uranus and Pluto joined forces (in Virgo), and we experienced one of the most amazing cultural upheavals in world history.
In the early 1990s, slow-movers Uranus and Neptune joined forces (in Capricorn), and global geopolitics rearranged itself. The USSR dissolved seemingly overnight. If you’re curious about this kind of astrology, I suggest you read a book called Cosmos and Psyche by Richard Tarnas, who gives 600 pages of these examples.
The current event involves two distinctly high-energy and unpredictable planets. Uranus covers themes of revolution, invention, technological breakthrough and social upheaval. Eris (a whole new kind of planet, with a 558-year orbit) is also a subversive and a revolutionary in her own right. It’s fair to say that themes of Eris include seeking identity through conflict, as well as up-ending the known social order. This is happening in Aries, the zodiac sign symbolizing the idea of self and perhaps the most potent of energies. Put this all together and it’s clear that the thing we need to be looking for is a revolution of identity.
I’ve been delineating and dismantling the symbolism of Eris since before it was named in late 2006. From my earliest work, it seemed to represent a deconstruction of identity. This partly involves Eris, and partly its action on Aries (which is about identity — Aries in its role as the sign of “I am”).
Eris moves so slowly that it spends 121 years in Aries — long enough for Uranus to make its way around the zodiac and meet up with Eris for a second conjunction in Aries. The last one was about 90 years ago, in 1927 and 1928, when Eris first arrived in Aries. These rare conjunctions can have a window of action of 15 years. They also represent points of no return.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been getting a handle on what that timeframe is about. The 1920s came with the advent of radio. The first mass medium not involving the printed word, radio shifted identity from something highly individualistic (cultivated by the book) back in the direction of tribal existence. It was also the first form of widely available instant communication, collapsing space and time.
For the first time people could hear an event as it was happening — something extremely destabilizing to both individual and collective identity. This may seem like so little today, when radio has been reduced to commercials, the worst music and Rush Limbaugh. When it first came out, however, it was a stunning revelation — that voice and music could be transmitted over long distances without physical presence or even with wires.
Two other vital things happened related to media technology. The first television image was broadcast (a Felix the Cat doll rotating on a turntable) in 1928, right during the Uranus-Eris conjunction. It might have taken some imagination to see what that scratchy image would become in the next few decades: how much would change, and what madness would ensue.
And in 1925, the first patent for a transistor was filed. The transistor led the way to every subsequent electronic development, but mostly to the computer and then, in turn, to the internet.
By the end of the 1920s, and the Uranus-Eris conjunction in Aries, the electronic revolution was not only well begun, but inevitable. By 1930, the BBC was in business, broadcasting five days a week.
New Media Change Everything
It’s difficult to describe in a few paragraphs what this did to society and to people, but it’s fair to say that it changed absolutely everything; most significantly, how we think about who we are. This had nothing to do with the content of the devices; it had everything to do with how they structured society.
It’s worth noting that this sweeping change from every perspective developed below the level of analysis or awareness, while it was happening. Our society tends to embrace new technologies with no forethought of their impact. There’s just the assumption that this will make things better. Yet there are always strange effects.
People’s concept of space and time was totally collapsed by instant communication. We moved rapidly from a society based on literacy to one based on the much older oral tradition of storytelling. A tribal quality took over, as personal identity gave way to the kinds of group identity fostered by electric media. This took a huge toll on literacy, which in turn has taken a toll on processes like reasoning.
There is also something about collective memory here. Broadcast media is ephemeral. It tends to disappear. Until recently, you could not capture it for verification or re-watching.
It tends to depend on emotional triggers rather than facts or research. The TV image is so powerful that what we see is presumed to be true because it looks that way. Basically, electronic media is all about pressing your buttons, so to speak.
Yet it also nearly reversed 2,000 years of gradual progress made by literacy, progress that included individuality, inner awareness, and key reference points to the past. For example, Harry Truman claimed that God told him to detonate the atomic bomb over Hiroshima. It sounded good at the time, but because he said it on the radio, how and where exactly do you verify that? To this day, most people think it was a good idea to vaporize 150,000 people, and then to do it again a few days later to another city.
Radio, which does not foster critical thinking, is an amazing tool for propaganda, and for triggering group think. Personal identity was being run through the blender. We entered the “no time to think” phase of history. Instant communication led the way to mass reaction rather than to individual response. This changed expectations on every level, such as notions of community and relationships and self.
By 1938, it was possible for Orson Welles to do a radio drama that in 45 minutes convinced millions of people that Martians were invading the planet. Like many charts in this genre, Eris shows up big time — in an exact, to the degree, opposition to Mars. Fantasy and reality — in this case, of interplanetary warfare — were seamlessly merged.
A German philosopher named Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) noted early on that these media have the effect of disembodying people. That is, they take us out of our bodies and thrust us onto some other level of awareness. He viewed this as a good thing, since being disembodied was one step closer to the angels and therefore a kind of path to finding God.
Really, what we got was what Eric McLuhan said in the quote above, worth printing in large format and hanging on the wall: “The body is everywhere assaulted by all of our new media, a state which has resulted in deep disorientation of intellect and destabilization of culture throughout the world. In the age of disembodied communication, the meaning and significance and experience of the body is utterly transformed and distorted.”
Part of that distortion involves the power of new media to extend our senses and awareness to the point of hypersensitivity; and then this is so overwhelming that the result is to numb out; to cut off; to retreat and to ignore. Further, the sensation that everything is happening everywhere, all at once (and the resulting overwhelm, leading to even more cutting off of awareness), is purely the creation of electric media.
Remember that new technological developments are never assessed in advance. Eric’s father, Marshall McLuhan, proposed that the people who push these devices and communications systems on us care no more what they are doing to us than a fighter pilot cares about the people and things he bombs. Apple does not care about the actual impact of the iPhone; it cares about making money selling as many iPhones as possible, no matter what they do to society or to people. Bombs away!
Which leads us to today. The first Uranus-Eris conjunction in Aries 90 years ago marked the beginning of a society driven by electric media, which has now come to full fruition today. The early internet accelerated all of these processes begun by electric media in the 1920s. Yet it was the advent of the pocket computer — the ‘smart’ phone — that swallowed us.
The internet used to be something that you went to; that you would have to consciously enter. Now it’s something that follows us everywhere. Nearly every financial transaction except putting a quarter in a gumball machine is tracked by the internet. Every relationship is conducted by internet, many exclusively so. Most shopping and purchasing happens by internet. Most information is conveyed by internet. Music, news, art — internet, internet, internet.
We project ourselves into various profiles and identities that have a way of fracturing and fragmenting what was already a fragile sense of self and of existence. This has nothing to do with the content that’s being broadcast; it’s about the structure.
No tweet has ever changed your life or changed the world. But the idea that one could say something meaningful and relevant in 140 characters has had an effect on all of thought. That’s the latest thing — say it in 140 characters, whatever it is: review a play, comment on global politics, run for president, break up with your lover: one size fits all.
Further, Twitter, in particular, is the very dynamo of lack of context. This loss of context ends up as a feeling: of meaninglessness.
We can claim this back. There is time, and there is potential. The Uranus-Eris conjunction of 2016 and 2017 also can be read as a personal revolution, a reclaiming of personhood, of awareness, of identity — rather than of branding and tribal affiliation. Ah, but that will take what feels like work. What feels like entering the supposedly daring space of actually asking who you are and what you want. We would need to face some unpleasant truths about what has been done to us before we have any possibility of undoing those things.
Go ahead. It’s dangerous, but it’s worth it.
Planet Waves Monthly Horoscope for July 2016, #1105 | by Eric Francis
Aries (March 20-April 19) — What is it about sex? I mean, what is it exactly? Have you noticed that the world seems driven by something that it’s simultaneously obsessed with and terrified of? It’s time for you to put sex into the category of what is natural: like organic apples, playing Frisbee with a dog or dancing at a concert. Any time you have a question or a concern, imagine one of those things. Any time a power struggle manifests, think of a border collie leaping into the air and gleefully snapping a flying object in its jaws. While you’re at it, be aware of the faux moral trips that people lay into one another on a regular basis. At a certain point, any mature, happy person must decree that such is utter nonsense, if for no other reason than it’s useless for anyone to mind anyone else’s business. With this comes one particular necessity: dropping the control drama. This may seem like too much to ask, but freedom is to sexuality what breathing is to yoga. You can hold your breath through your Sun salutation, but only at the expense of depriving your brain of oxygen and turning blue. You can now do something radical: allow yourself to be free, and openly encourage others to be free. What do you do with jealousy? Recognize it as the toxic emotion that it is, and put it down — just like cigarettes.
Taurus (April 19-May 20) — The undeniable creative prowess of Taurus is rooted in the fact that you mean what you make down to your flesh and blood. Your words carry feeling. While your creative devotion goes in cycles, perhaps more distinct than other people’s, this is not a reflection of your talent, which is as solid and as alive as a magnificent old tree. You’ve reached a kind of harvest time around your creative gifts. Everything is aligned for you to tap into your potential. Not everyone is a writer, though you would benefit from at least experimenting with an idea you’ve been playing with, just to see how it feels. If you are a writer, the time is right to try something more ambitious, something you might ordinarily think is over your head. You may be calm on the outside, yet there is plenty moving and bubbling in you, and that energy is looking for a place to go, and to become. As you embark on this journey, you might find yourself going deeper than you expected, accessing something that feels like it’s ‘beyond you’. It’s not beyond anything: that’s actually who you are. One other bit: if you’re concerned that someone close to you won’t understand or appreciate what you’re learning, give them a chance. You’re closer to being on the same page than you may recognize.
Gemini (May 20-June 21) — It’s time to go beyond any semblance of survival mode. This is particularly true when it comes to money. Your chart blends the theme of survivalism (accented by old lessons not learned) with the image of natural abundance, including financial. You might be wondering what the hang-up is. Money is its own special game, with its own skills and techniques. You are particularly susceptible to negative infiltration by ideas such as ‘money is bad’, or ‘people are corrupted by wealth’. Anyway, I don’t see your goal as being rich so much as having enough and some to share. There is a difference. One of the Gemini traits around finance is that you tend to run in cycles, and you must plan for those turns of the tide. You’re likely to be running on the abundant side more than usual right now, and that’s the time to set cash aside. In fact, you will sooner or later figure out that it’s always time to stash money aside, as a kind of religious devotion. One other bit: like many companies, you’re likely to have one profitable product. For you, fortunately, that something is likely to be a direct, tangible benefit to the people who take advantage of what you offer. Put some energy into that every day and you will have something that produces for you on a dependable basis.
Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Adjust to your physical surroundings as a conscious act. Notice your environment. Feel the heat for a moment before you flip on the air conditioning. Notice who is in a room when you walk in, and notice how air in the room smells. Notice how you feel. This is about being fully present where you are. If you can do that, you are likely to notice how supportive your environment is. Life is offering you a lot right now. You will experience that abundance and that support by harmonizing with your surroundings. That means being open and receptive to who and what is around you. Feel the natural tides of life and move with them. The result will be emphasizing the beauty of existence over and above any one task or goal. This, in turn, will make the things you do more meaningful. You have equally abundant opportunity for creativity, achievement and worldly success, though that is dependent entirely on your ability to tune in and see opportunities that other people would miss or misunderstand. It’s likely that your highest and most cherished goals involve things that have not been done before, or which are at least rare enough to find. This will require invoking calm focus and expanding your mind enough to embrace the unusual and the unlikely.
Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — Imagine a famous person who is really an introvert. It seems like a contradiction because so many people know their name and face. This is a fair description of you right now. You have a lavishly enterprising outer life, and yet you are an inwardly focused person; you must pull in and find a home within yourself. This is not optional; one way or another, it’s going to happen, so you may as well make some choices that work for you and give yourself all the space and time you need away from your usual activities. This will remind you what a private person you are. You might wonder how you engage in so much activity with so many people, and with so little time and space for yourself. Those are good questions and they are worth asking, and answering to the extent that you can. Your astrology, however, is encouraging you to take a more reflective view of life for a while. That means making fewer plans, not more of them. If you do make plans, such as to travel or take time off, minimize activity and give yourself plenty of time to sit on the porch and stare at the water or at some trees. This is not any kind of permanent state. Rather, you’re gathering your strength and awareness for the next stage of your journey, soon to arrive.
Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — Relax and feel appreciated. This is not easy for you, since you’re prone to doubt and rarely cut yourself any slack. Now would be a good time, actually. You know you’re in this moment where you must grow into a new form, even though it requires stretching. Depending on your psychological constitution and your life experience, this might be a significant challenge. It will help if you invoke the flexible quality of Virgo rather than the stubborn quality. It will help if you practice opening up in the face of feeling overwhelmed, rather than shutting down or resisting. There are two factors in your sign currently, and it’s rare to have them together. One is the North Node, which can feel like a magnetic pull toward a form of growth that you don’t necessarily trust. The other is Jupiter, which is making it necessary for you to fully engage with your relationships in a way that’s different from normal. You are experiencing increased sensitivity, and the seemingly external influences (mostly coming from your opposite sign Pisces) are unusually potent. Yet the real movement, the real tension, is entirely internal. You are having to consent to something that also feels inevitable. You know that the gig is up on certain persistent factors in your life. Yet you’re safe following this influence. The time is right.
Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — For most people this is the time of year to take it easier. For you right now, it’s the time to accomplish great things. Do your best not to be distracted by the social fashion of the season, but rather put it to good use when you do get involved. You need less recreation than you think; in the language of your chart, what you need is the satisfaction of creative achievement. Your soul is calling out for the kind of fulfillment that can only come from doing something of genuine significance, in your own opinion. You cannot fake this, because when you invest yourself in your work, you do it with your body and your soul. And that, I believe, is the thing that will give you both emotional nourishment and an opportunity to mature in the ways that you want to grow, particularly as a person of influence. Remember that your sense of contact must flow all the way through from your inspiration or drive into what you create, and how it influences people. The sign that occupies your house of career is the one usually associated with feeding people, with rearing children, and with taking care of a family. That particular sign is Cancer, and right now you have enough to feed many hungry mouths, or hungry souls. Rise to your purpose.
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — At long last, Mars is returning to direct motion (on June 29). To the extent that you’ve been feeling out of sorts, you can now wiggle back into alignment with yourself. Mars, however, will spend the next month covering territory in your sign where it was retrograde. You are getting similar life lessons and life experiences in a new way. There are certain factors that you have to penetrate through in layers. In truth it’s taken most of the year, perhaps longer, to do this — though you’re at that point where you must get the point. You would do well to pause asking questions and look at what is blatantly obvious. That includes how you feel. Denial only works for so long. Then something else must take over: bold honesty, imagination, love, lust or all of the above. The nature of your life must be about who you really are, and if you don’t know, then the nature of your life must be about an honest experiment. The thing about that experiment is that you don’t know the outcome. That’s the whole thing. That’s the heart of the matter. However, it’s no longer possible for you to live only with what is predictable, or in ways of life that are pallid in comparison to the passion you feel inside. This is a rare time to move in daring new directions and, presently, the odds of success are stacked your way.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — You are being pulled in what feels like the direction of your destiny. Factors that might otherwise make this particular movement feel strange or alien are balanced by confidence that you really can do what you’ve set out to do. I think that the most delicate challenge is balancing your wider vision with the microscopic details required to get anything done. I would describe this as one of the most elemental factors of being born under your sign. The key, I think, is to keep context. If you find yourself getting lost in the minutiae of something, ask yourself why you’re doing it. If you find yourself having wild, brilliant visions, acknowledge them and then notice if you take the steps toward making your visions real. You have the strength, the experience and the opportunity right now to blend practicality and vision. Just remember: in the end, this is a practical affair. Your vision does not need to be grandiose or even grand in order to be genuinely useful to yourself and your community. The outcome does not need to be certain. What matters is that you engage a specific idea with specific action — and strive to change yourself just a shade more than you’re striving to change the world. Ultimately you are not accountable to anyone or anything outside yourself. Good thing, too.
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — While life is emphasizing relationships, and offering you so much, it’s possible that you’re feeling isolated. That’s not certain but it’s a potential that’s necessary to address, and it seems to be related to wondering what impact you have on others. What I would propose is that the thing you want is for others to have an impact on you: to be moved by them. Pluto in your sign is strongly emphasized right now, as many planets are going by in the sign Cancer, making oppositions to it. You can be sure that you’re having an influence on people: that they feel you, and want your attention. You can be sure that they notice you, even in those times when you feel invisible. The question is: are you actually moved by them? Do you let yourself be moved? By moved, I mean movement in all its forms, whether physical, psychic, emotional or metaphorical. And I mean moved in the direction of the other, in reality rather than in your head. Pluto in your sign is likely to be making you feel vulnerable, yet at the same time, not necessarily willing to express that openly. Work with your willingness. Offer the very thing you want the most. Give people a chance to trust you, by being trustworthy. Give them a chance to feel you, by feeling them.
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — You must trust your own leadership. It’s true that when you have to take over and get the job done, not everyone is happy. But more people will be. It’s essential to recognize how much humans need and depend on leadership. Crooks and tyrants know this; it’s time for wholesome people such as yourself to figure it out. It’s time to assert a few significant goals, and rally the jamboree. Do this in a spirit of service, in the spirit of what is right and true. Offer people the good feeling of cooperation and of assisting one another, and of working for a larger purpose. Say that over and over again until everyone around you is humming it like a catchy tune. There is one thing I suggest you remember, though: a key to your success is exercising your flexibility. As one born under a fixed sign, you have to work at this regularly, and I suggest you do that at every opportunity. Every discussion is an opportunity to compromise and be accommodating. Do this in conscious, measured ways; open up the give-and-take aspect of every situation, and make sure you establish an environment where ‘negotiable’ is a working theme. If you notice someone taking advantage of you, say something sooner rather than later. Keep everything above the boards and state your goals openly.
Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — In many ways, the river of life is flowing. Mars is returning to direct motion on June 29 in your fellow water sign Scorpio (after a long retrograde, dating back to mid-April). Planets are gathering in your fellow aquatic sign Cancer. There already was plenty happening in your sign. Planets in water signs are good for Pisces, which otherwise can feel like, well, a fish out of water. Now, the thing to do is swim. Send out your dolphin sonar and listen for the return signal. Yes, the oceans are large and potentially perilous, though you have the power to get wherever you want to be. In addition to all this water energy, there is the picture of some form of direct contact in your solar chart (illustrated by Jupiter in Virgo), which feels like empathy and the ability to identify with the experience of another person. You don’t have to worry about ‘losing’ your identity; rather, you can only gain from this situation, because you’ll be exposed to ideas and experiences that will compliment what you already have going on. Life is a creative experiment, or it’s very little at all. Circumstances this month will call you out of your old routines, into new ways of expressing yourself. Take the time to explore. Take the time to remember who you are and what you want. Let one good thing lead to another.