Waiting for the Apocalypse

Dear Friend and Reader:

In the late Sixties, shortly after the last series of Saturn-Uranus oppositions, a song called “The Weight” was included on the first album by The Band. Though it got plenty of airplay in its first years, it was never top-40 a hit for the original artists in the United States. But the song has endured for decades, presumably due to being used in films and television programs. I think the song has stayed around so long because its seemingly mysterious story is such a haunting mirror of our time in history.

Segment from The Garden of Earthly Delights. Painting by Hieronymus Bosch.

You’ll remember the song when you hear it — it’s the one that goes, “Take a load off, Fannie, take a load for free / Take a load off, Fannie, and you put the load right on me.”

The song is as simple and complex as a folk tale, though the chorus interspersed between the episodes is what makes it feel so cryptic. (While Robbie Robertson gets the writing credit for this song, the whole band was originally credited, and much of the imagery comes from Dennis Danko, the brother of Rick Danko.)

It’s the story of a tired traveler who one night arrives in a town called Nazareth (Pennsylvania, but they don’t say that). We don’t know how or why he got there, which pretty much sums up our lives. Then a series of strange encounters follows his arrival. The first person he meets won’t tell him where to get a room to sleep, but gives him a big grin and a handshake.

Then he meets Carmen and the Devil. Carmen doesn’t have time to go downtown, but she happily leaves him in the company of the Devil, who has plenty of time on his hands. What an interesting place this turning out to be — he goes to Nazareth and he runs into the Devil.

Next he meets a guy named Luke, who is waiting for the apocalypse. The traveler reminds him about his young bride. Luke asks the traveler to look after her while he hangs out anticipating the end of the world, like so many people are doing right now. For some The End might be the rapture, or the collapse of the economy, or their own personal demise; any excuse to not actually live life.

At the end of the song, the traveler says he has to leave and get back to Miss Fannie. We find out that actually, he was sent as a her messenger to give her regards to everyone he’s just met. They all thought they were pulling fast ones on him, pawning off the people or situations they didn’t want; as it turns out, he was on a karmic journey, doing Fannie’s bidding all along.

Of course, she has passed her stuff along to him — but he at least is conscious of that fact, though perhaps he got himself into a little more than he was expecting: once again, the story of our lives. Play the song a couple of times and you can’t escape the feeling that there is something more going on: something that is left out of the story, and that until we take action to change it, the tale goes round and round.

Personal and Collective Karma

This is a song about the thin membrane between personal and collective karma. To me, this is the theme of Aquarius, the sign of groups, and the sign of the quest for individuating. You could write a lot of astrology about how and why Aquarius got these associations, but let’s keep “The Weight” in mind as an illustration of the way things are, however they got there.

Watch. Painting by Susan Madsen.

Then there’s Monday’s eclipse of the Moon in Leo, which illustrates the same theme. The eclipse is notable, first, for being in an exact opposition to Chiron in Aquarius. That is to say, the Leo Moon is eclipsed by the Earth’s shadow, just as the Aquarius Sun is in an exact conjunction to Chiron. Plenty else is going on in Aquarius: Neptune is there, and Nessus and Jupiter exactly conjunct the North Node. Mars has just arrived, and Mercury is on its way back. This week and through the next month, we are experiencing more than a dozen conjunctions in Aquarius.

The highlight of this eclipse is how Chiron exactly aspects both the Sun and the Moon; we are going to learn something about this potent little planet. Exact in this case means the contact is so close you have to split a degree of the zodiac by a small fraction to measure its precision (the conjunction is exact to seven arc minutes, less than a tenth of a degree). To me this eclipse of the Moon seems to really be about the Sun conjunct Chiron in Aquarius. The Moon, which itself blurs the line between personal and collective, is eclipsed in Leo, the sign of personal identity. This is a penumbral eclipse, so it’s barely visible. It’s like an invisible shadow is being cast over our sense of personal pride.

The Sun is Leo’s ruler. It is the symbol of our personal identity, our sense of glory and our need to shine in the world; and notably, it’s in Aquarius. This is not easy. The Sun and Aquarius have fundamentally different energies. Here, the Sun must carefully investigate its connections to everyone and everything else, and move through the perilous world of interpersonal and group politics — the complex and confusing world of ego. This is tricky enough on its own. In many ways our lives are one long quest to connect with people, to be seen, to be accepted or alternately, to avoid connections and remain invisible.

As members of our society, we are all represented by the Sun in Aquarius, seeking to find a role, to be approved of and at the same time to guard our precious individuality.

Despite all our best efforts, it seems the only real encounters we have are those that are karmically appointed — like mysteriously running into Luke, who is waiting for Judgment Day but who thinks nothing of sacrificing love at the altar of death.

Both the Sun and the Moon are joined by the Chiron connection, and by the Leo connection as well; remember that the Moon is being eclipsed in the sign ruled by the Sun. So there is a sense of one’s need (the Moon) for personal recognition (Leo) being diminished or interrupted in some way, or at least questioned (the eclipse). And this happens to the Sun as well — owing to both the recent solar eclipse, and the presence of Chiron.

Ashamed. Image by Beverly Naidus.

This points to a deep personal vulnerability. Chiron in any form emphasizes the need to be different, or the deep sense that one is different and handicapped because of it. You could say that Chiron is our most vulnerable point, representing what we feel is our deepest flaw, but the other side of that is that with awareness, it becomes our greatest strength. My latest phrase to describe Chiron is The Golden Flaw.

To me Chiron opposite the eclipsed Leo Moon is about how our individual pride is always compromised in relationships, or rather, how necessary it is to let that pride go when we’re in relationship to others, because it really gets in the way. But in this situation, the relationships involved turn out to bring in many people (Sun in Aquarius), who may indeed be connected to one another and have no idea of that fact — like everyone the traveler meets during his short visit to Nazareth.

We have a moment of the conscious light of the Sun being shined on the most vulnerable part of who we are. Note that this vulnerability involves how we relate to others — our friends, our family, our tribe, the public and technology — anything represented by Aquarius. To the extent that you try to not face your deepest wounds, they come to light and we may fear this happens in the most public way. This feels like the fear of being found out or exposed.

To the extent that you do face these injuries or sense of personal vulnerability, you can actually get somewhere. Eclipses are always moments when progress is possible, but this one reaches so close to the heart of who we are that we can truly use it as a lever for self-awareness and a sense of where we fit into the larger scheme of life. That life exists both outside the shell we usually walk around on; and inside, deeper than we typically go or reveal to others.

The Quest for Collective Mass Individuality

We live in a society that is obsessed by one-to-one relationships — by the “special relationship.” But I am beginning to figure out that this is a ruse. I think the real issue is our relationship to the collective, that is, to everyone and everything. In our times, this shows up as an urge to be famous even though you’ve done nothing particularly worthy of fame. There are a lot of Joe the Plumbers running around out there, and many people are obsessed with having as many “friends” on SpaceBook and MyFace as possible.

Abraham Maslow was the psychologist who gave us the hierarchy of needs. Remember that thing? Maslow’s hierarchy puts self-actualization at the top; but before we get there, he argued, our needs for belonging must be fulfilled. Along the way, belonging somehow became conformity. Rather than being a stepping-stone to actualization of our potential or capacities, it is more like a boulder prohibiting further movement.

Alice Bailey, the theosophical author/channel, put it a different way. In her discussion of Aquarius, she notes the difference between mass consciousness and group consciousness. A group, she says, can only be composed of individuals. A mass of people are the ones who have not individuated and who cannot therefore be a group. Conformity is mass consciousness. Therefore the alignment between the individual and a group, Aquarius style, is that a group is a group of individuals. And therefore individuating is a prerequisite for being part of that group. She has things in a different order than Maslow, but her theory seems just as valid.

Many psychological studies illustrate the perverse extent we will go to have the feeling of conforming to others, or to have the perception of conforming. With a lot of help from advertising, we are conditioned nearly around the clock to express our individuality by imitating what everyone else does, which not surprisingly involves buying something that everyone else buys, and which everyone else can see.

We can then wonder where we went; why we feel like we don’t exist, are not special, are not even different. Note that the traditional ruler of Aquarius is Saturn, which is associated with the enforcement of boundaries, rules and laws. The Saturn principle, Aquarius-styled, is about staying in line. But in a “free society” nobody would buy that. So we have to be told we’re actually unique. And try as we may to reduce ourselves to incontrovertible data, we cannot control how others perceive us.

Because Aquarius tends to rapidly crystallize patterns, it can be one of the most lock-step energies of the zodiac, involved with things like fashion, trends and the mandatory proliferation of technology. You could call it the sign of friendly fascism, usually involving the voluntary form of mandatory. First there are all the social rules, too numerous to contain in a database. Everyone loves their iPod, which is the modern equivalent of the Little Red Book. Everybody loves their blue jeans and considers them a deeply personal expression of their identity, which coincidentally looks like everyone else’s deeply personal, individual expression.

Shadows and Light. Photo by Vikki Bouett.

One interesting thing to notice is that our stunning Aquarius moment also happens when the two rulers of Aquarius — traditional and modern, Saturn and Uranus — are face to face. It’s like we are trying to shatter all of these models at the same time, even as Aquarius tries to convert the entire world into data.

Not only is everything being reduced to data, we are personally being reduced to data. Social networking sites or personal ad services are like exercises in public relations; someone once remarked that when we meet these days, we don’t meet one another, we meet our publicists. Social networking sites ask us to tick all the boxes that apply, and then expect that somehow this is going to tell others what they have in common with us. Hello, I’m a Goth Burner Indy Rocker Straight Edge Slacker. What are you? Oh, excuse me — who are you?

Before you answer, tell me this. Observe yourself. Are you going to answer based on what is actually true for you, or based on what I want to hear? How scared are you that I’m going to judge you, or that your lover is, or your business partner, or your friends or your boss?

Do you live in some degree of secrecy or deception as a result? Are you going to try to decide in advance what makes you acceptable, or are you going to answer from your heart? And what fears attend either possibility? The fear, on the one hand, of giving up who you are in order to be accepted; and on the other, the fear of being rejected, that is, thrown out of the tribe, when you actually reveal your true self, and deserve to be embraced for that.

This is the crisis we face; in our moment, this is “The Weight” of society that we are carrying, and if you ask me, the apocalypse we fear: the moment of being real or nothing.

Yours & truly.
Eric Francis

You May Meet A Green-Tailed Beauty

This February the omens say you may meet with a green-tailed beauty. Comet Lulin is her name. From Feb. 6 until February 24 (when she passes closest to Earth) Comet Lulin will be visible to us on clear nights, without the aid of binoculars or telescopes.

Comet Lulin on Feb. 1. Photo courtesy of amateur astronomer Jack Newton, Arizona.

Comet Lulin was first discovered in 2007. Quanzhi Ye, the Taiwanese astronomer who found the comet when he was just 19 years old, explains that Lulin is rare not only for its green, glowing tail, but also for the method of its discovery. “This is a ‘comet of collaboration’ between Taiwanese and Chinese astronomers,” said Lulin in a NASA interview. “The discovery could not have been made without a contribution from both sides of the Strait that separates our countries. Chi Sheng Lin and other members of the Lulin Observatory staff enabled me to get the images I wanted, while I analyzed the data and found the comet.”

On Feb. 6, we’ll get the first opportunity to see the comet with unaided eyes: Lulin will pass through the fulcrum of the scales in the constellation Libra, the sign of partnership — or collaboration. On Feb. 16 it will pass the star, Spica, in the constellation Virgo — the sign of service. Spica is a star of first magnitude, which means that even city-dwellers can catch its light in the sky. Finally, on Feb. 24, Comet Lulin will arrive at its closest point (38 million miles from Earth) and come within a few degrees of Saturn, in the constellation Leo.

Chinese astrology traditionally interprets comets as important omens of history-making events. Comets are neither good or ill-omened by themselves, but interpreted in the context of other phenomenon. Passing through the constellations of Libra, Virgo and Leo, we might consider this message from Lulin: through partnership we serve to rebuild our image of leadership. It’s about as good an omen as you can get from a green-tailed beauty.

From the Depth of the Pacific to the Height of Mars

Google Earth, the computer program that can provide visuals of anywhere in the world, released its latest version this week. Previously, the program offered satellite imagery, aerial photography and GIS 3D only for areas above sea level: bodies of water, particularly the oceans, were either blank or looked like cheap blue filler.

But now, Google Earth 5.0 explores the ocean to its deepest depth: the Marianas Trench, and includes famous underwater footage like Jacques Cousteau’s torch divers. New features also include historic imagery, where you can view up to 60 years of photographs from a single location to track changes over time, and tour recording, allowing the user to document points of interest and send the map to other users.

The biggest advance in the Google Earth project was announced on Wednesday, Feb. 2: Google Mars. It currently includes three types of data from the Red Planet: Elevation, Visible and Infrared. Google is currently working with NASA to advance Google Mars so it can be used similarly to Google Earth. There is a 3-D mock-up, made by Arizona State University, to show what it will look like. You can view it here.

Employees Wanted: Geminis Need Not Apply

An Austrian insurance company made the headlines this week for discriminating in the hiring process — based on zodiac signs. The Salzburg insurance company, after reviewing a statistical study conducted in Austria, concluded that the best employees in the country had only five signs.

First appearing over the weekend, Salzburg’s ad read: “We are looking for people over 20 for part-time jobs in sales and management with the following star signs: Capricorn, Taurus, Aquarius, Aries and Leo.”

The public, along with many equality groups, were enraged, and anti-discrimination authorities conducted an investigation. In the end, though, it was determined that in Austria discrimination only counts when it’s based on race, age and gender: not the sign you were born under.




Weekly Horoscope for Friday, February 6, 2009, #752 – By ERIC FRANCIS


Monday’s Leo Full Moon is a penumbral lunar eclipse in Leo, remarkable because the Moon is opposite Chiron and the Sun is conjunct Chiron exact to a small fraction of a degree (seven arc minutes). This focuses this eclipse on the qualities of the first centaur planet. Aspecting the Sun and the Moon, Chiron is relating to both the male and female principles of the human psyche.

Aries (March 20-April 19)
It’s true that your charm is peak level, but you may sense that people don’t exactly trust you. Is it them, or is it you who have your identity mixed up with someone who brings chaos rather than order to the situations in your life? You seem to be operating with the perception that you have two agendas. I don’t think that’s true. But if you don’t know what your agenda is, then you may be hobbled by the belief that you really cannot trust yourself. This is the thing that kills confidence before it takes its first step. In particular, you need to ask whether your male friends and colleagues hold you as trustworthy and vice versa. Claim back your projections. Claim back your false perceptions. Step into your right to be honest.

Taurus (April 19- May 20)
Your chart is a setup for funneling your current sense of some great mystery of who you are into your professional goals. I suggest you be aware that you’re working with a kind of deficit that will lead you to want to compensate in some other way, such as conquering the world. This is how it’s usually done, but you simply cannot afford to let your attention lapse where your personal growth or self-awareness are concerned. What you don’t notice about yourself you’re likely to see as flaws in other people. Any sense of emotional emptiness you feel, you’re likely to discern is the result of others being unwilling to maintain self-awareness. What you observe may be true, but until you’re in contact with your feelings, your senses and the odd dreams you seem to be having lately, your observations will matter little.

Gemini (May 20- June 21)
Where are you looking for inspiration? Recent developments in a close relationship, despite having worked out well enough for everyone’s mutual benefit, appear to have you wanting to head for the Himalayas. I think you fear there’s something, despite all the working out, that didn’t quite get worked out. I would guess that you feel you’re invested in the situation to a degree that you cannot support or sustain right now, and you may be feeling you don’t belong there. I don’t suggest you run too far. Stay in contact with the litany of thoughts, doubts and sense that you’re not good enough. The astrology is moving in your favor. Developments in the coming days and weeks will gradually take the pressure off and increase your sense of freedom, but until then, be aware that you may be feeling cagey.

Cancer (June 21- July 22)
You need to make some important financial decisions, and you need to do this with a sense of focus and adventure. The more you narrow your goals and your financial commitments, the more opportunity will open up for you. The two are related, and the connection point involves the conservation of energy, which includes both money and mental resources. And it involves focusing your eyes, so that you can see. More than you may imagine is available to you. Let go of the standard of perfection — you may not even be aware you drag this around. There is such a thing as good enough, and you are quite close to that point right now. Someone you are associating with on some pretty important matters needs to cross about two more mental hurdles to have your full trust. Give them a chance.

Leo (July 22- Aug. 23)
Rarely do we see the extent of projection in our relationships. A little self-awareness is all it would take. The problem is that the self-awareness that would lead to witnessing this projection would dismantle all of our ideas about relationships, the ones we think we hold so dear. Most of our rules of right and wrong would fall apart; most of our accusations placed on others would be meaningless, because in large measure, we want the same things out of life. Yet here is the question: do we proceed guided by the aspect of our awareness who is strong and healthy, or do we proceed under the authority of the aspect of awareness who feels injured? In this matter, we do have a choice, but for a while it has to be made about once every minute. Now is an excellent time to practice.

Virgo (Aug. 23- Sep. 22)
Your desires are still running ahead of your ability to process them, but you do seem to be moving in a healthy direction. One thought at a time, you’re beginning to see that you have the ability to make choices that acknowledge what you feel, what you think, and what you want. I know that this often feels like trying to thread two needles blindfolded. It helps if you turn on the lights and open your eyes. The issue of the week is likely to surface as some situation requiring you to work out an issue of devotion with someone in your life. You’re in a delicate spot of examining where your ideals conflict with your true needs; and where your expectations of others are clouded by your own idea that you cannot measure up to what they want from you. Honest conversations are a good place to start. All expectations are potentially dangerous, but the unstated ones are poison.

Libra (Sep. 22 – Oct. 23)
Most original works of art are created from the feeling of an inner flaw or the need to heal. I think this is an altogether better state than creation from presumed mastery, mostly because a state of growth gives us something to reach for, whereas the idea of previously attained mastery does not. Therefore, if you feel like you’re creating or loving from an imperfect space, that’s the space to occupy, because it’s where you’re going to draw on the best of your strength and your potential. You may need to get over the feeling that your own inner sense of not being fully aligned is resulting in work or expression that is not fully aligned, or making your point adequately. Remember what the Grateful Dead say in their magnificent suite of songs, Terrapin Station: that the storyteller’s job is to shed light and not to master.

Scorpio (Oct. 23- Nov. 22)
A dialog is underway between your ideas and your feelings. In your life the two have a remarkable similarity, this, despite the general consensus that Scorpio is an emotionally driven animal. Your particular form of evolution is about integrating both sides of your brain, so that you are capable of complete thought and complete feeling. Then there is a second kind of integration, which (at least in the astrological sense) is vertical in nature. It involves what you experience internally coupled with what you accomplish. You might ask why you manage to pull off such great things when you’re feeling the most insecure. The next question is: do you like the feeling, or can you have the great achievements and enjoy the feeling of quiet confidence?

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 22)
Keep your focus and take notes. You want to document every step of whatever process you’re going through: it looks like something about allowing yourself a new set of dreams or visions for your life. What you’re really doing is working with some new ideas, which are evolving rapidly at the moment. I suggest you stick to simple, clear plans for what you want to do now, which are followed up by fast action. At the same time, recognize that a limit has been removed on what you can do in the long run. The sky is indeed the limit, though you need to be practical how you get there. Remember that it was bicycle repairmen who invented the first airplane, not the purveyors of the automobile.

Capricorn (Dec. 22- Jan. 20)
A good financial plan today is better than a perfect one tomorrow. If partners are not coming through with their end of the deal, you may feel like you’re going it alone. The thing about alone for you is really a lot more: you’re always thinking in terms of what benefits everyone, and the people who your thinking is designed to serve are the ones who must put up the most in the way of support and resources. If someone is bowing out of the game, trust that you don’t need them. Then you will have room for new influences and partnership opportunities. Make sure whoever you get involved with is the “let’s help everyone” type rather than the “let’s help me” type.

Aquarius (Jan. 20- Feb. 19)
Monday’s eclipse in your opposite sign Leo may leave you feeling like your fatal flaw has been exposed once and for all. Really, it’s your Golden Flaw: the one that holds the key to success, freedom or recreating yourself. The Golden Flaw always has its source in something we perceive as being the thing that can wreck everything, such as a personality trait. And for a moment, you’re going to get a glimpse of how what you think of as your biggest problem becomes the thing that can move you the furthest ahead. The catch is you might forget what it was the next day. Make a point to remember; this will be worth remembering.

Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20)
You have a state of mind available wherein you can consider any possibility for who you are, for who you might be, for who you want to be and who it might terrify you to be. I would guess that you feel like you know things you’re not supposed to know, or have access to perceptive abilities that might scare you. Remember, you’re not really seeing the future; you are seeing potentials or what the Seth books call “probable selves.” Why might one self be more probable than another? Well, because you want it to be (a conscious desire), because you need it to be (an unconscious desire) or because you lapse in your attention and make a choice that you were not actually planning to make. Therefore, pay attention.

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