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Are You Curious About Mars?
Dear Friend and Reader:
This week’s astrology felt like the lid being lifted off of a steaming pot. The fourth inner planet retrograde of 2012 ended Wednesday morning when Mercury stationed direct. The odd kind of pressure you felt involved an aspect to Neptune. The feeling of Neptune is like something in the environment that you can’t see and can barely feel, but which has manifestations that start to appear in the corner of your eyes, that seep through your dreams or that you notice when they are gone.
Photo by Eric Francis.
Seven months of nearly continuous retrogrades has been exhausting, yet has offered an ongoing opportunity for a careful review in all the most personal areas of life. When compared to the slow-moving outer planets, the faster-moving inner planets — Mercury, Venus and Mars — are not retrograde often. They’re also more emotionally palpable, so their sensation is more distinct. They can arrive with different dimensions of personal drama, introspection, new or unusual experiences, a review of the past, or past issues coming up for resolution.
All of these retrogrades have involved either Mercury or signs ruled by Mercury; Venus was retrograde in Gemini and Mars was retrograde in Virgo. This has inevitably brought up material about thought patterns and how we communicate what we’re thinking. It’s also been good fodder for more than a little confusion, flaky behavior and a sluggish economy. And if you remember the primary elections earlier this year, the debates seemed like talent night at the County Home for the Intellectually Compromised. The astrology was perfect.
I’ve seen an unusual level of sharing around sex and relationships, and if you don’t count the whole Chick-fil-A fiasco, I am noticing an unusual level of transparency in the air: a willingness to admit what’s true, if only a little. In other areas in the news, a common theme is a bold nakedness of motive and a refusal to even throw a veil over one’s conduct. The assumption is that nobody cares, and that anyone who does care is helpless to do anything. I know this wasn’t the 2012 that 150 different books predicted, though I’ve written many times that this opportunity is up for grabs — and it’s not over yet.
We’re still in the era of so many wars we forget which one we were concerned about. Domestic terrorism has re-surfaced as an issue the past three weeks. There are serious issues with the environment. I wish we didn’t have to pay attention to this mess; everything happening in the news has such personal impact that not paying attention to world events is like pretending that you won’t get wet in the rain if you ignore the weather report. I believe that making politics repugnant and making you seem powerless is done specifically to alienate you, and thus to get you to give up your power.
There is no way to be alive now and not be impacted by the events of the wider world. I know that a lot of people are news-averse. It would seem, however, that one of our missions at this time in history is to take care of ourselves and reach for happiness, at the same time we maintain awareness of the state of the world. This is a tense, seeming contradiction; paying attention comes at a cost to peace of mind, and is a real test of faith. If ignorance leads to anything resembling bliss, it will be fragile and disingenuous.
News reports of the past four weeks have been particularly harsh. There were two mass murders in the United States, with people being shot going to the movies or gathering for Sunday religious services. While some have argued that the relatively few people killed in these incidents doesn’t affect the murder rate, events like this influence our psychology, reaffirming the message — true or not — that there is no safe place. That extends to the notion that there is no such thing as civil life, that is, if you have to go out wearing a Kevlar vest.
Photo by Eric Francis.
The other day someone sent me a video about how to survive a mall shooting. I hardly ever go to malls and I was cynical about the idea, though after I watched the video I felt better because it passed on some important skills and concepts. Talk about a sign of the times.
Neptune was involved in the Mercury retrograde we’ve just experienced, which can create some confusion about what is real — another sign of the times. One of the strangest things I heard was that people in that movie theater in Aurora, CO thought that the guy who came in to kill them was part of the show. He was dressed for the part and had all the right gear, and he came in right on cue.
One of the witnesses said something like, “We thought he was there for our enjoyment.” Then followed the biggest mass shooting in American history. Her comment is telling because so many people do watch shootings for ‘pleasure’, though we don’t seem quite up to recognizing that there’s a relationship between fantasy and reality. If nothing else, constant exposure to the discharging of weapons makes it difficult to tell whether something is pretend or not.
As for the shooting at the Sikh temple, or gurdwara, that might seem senseless (the word most often used to describe it). To me it’s perfectly logical. Remember that we’ve spent the past 11 years and about $1.36 trillion (debt financed — that’s the figure before interest is paid) killing people in the Middle East, many of whom have beards and wear turbans. I dread to think how many people have believed even for a day that “Arab terrorists” are really our problem; the Sikh temple shooter just took that distorted logic a bit further, and like many people was basing his assessment on appearances. This is about the war coming home.
The gun debate surfaces for a few days every time one of these things happens. People are wondering how it’s possible that a psychopath can buy an arsenal. There are good questions being raised about why we all need guns to defend ourselves, because there are so many other people with guns. Anyone who thinks they feel safer with everyone armed is insane, though there’s an obvious exception to that rule — guns are outright banned in Washington DC. Apparently they are not allowed where members of Congress hang out a lot, even though they like them so much, but they’re OK everyplace else.
Photo by Eric Francis.
What is the most outrageous is the lack of leadership on the issue throughout the rest of the country. Nearly all politicians on every side of any fence treat the gun issue like the political third rail — if they touch it, they think they’ll fry.
We all hear how powerful the NRA is. Whose interests are they advancing? Their own membership is far more moderate than their guns-for-everyone theory; these people represent an industry that makes money every time one of these killings happens, because there is a rush to the gun stores. The most common thing all these crime scenes have in common is a weapon made by Gaston Glock, whose Glock 19 has been a hot seller lately.
In climate news, July was the hottest month for as long as records have been kept. There has been a drought across the United States that’s killed two-thirds of the corn crop. As we read last week, a former ardent climate change denier admitted that human CO2 emissions are in fact the problem, then recommended fracking as the solution. Fracking for its part destroys groundwater sources, pollutes the air and causes earthquakes — and it’s likely to be coming to someplace near you.
In other matters, there has emerged a kind of nakedness of motives coming out into the open. The presidential campaign has been reduced to how much money the candidates can raise (I’ve read that Romney raised $125 million last month, while Obama came up with $75 million). This money will all be spent brainwashing anyone who is not both blind and deaf. Well, to say brainwashing is a bit too kind. The war chests of these politicians will be used to wage war in our minds.
Meanwhile, certain voters (elderly, black, poor, students) are being blocked from participating in three key states: Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, which will skew the remaining voters toward the Republicans. There may not be much difference between the political parties, though there sure does seem to be a push to eliminate those who might vote for Democratic candidates. If you want a clue what Mercury stationing retrograde on Election Day is about, let’s start with this. Blocking voters who tend to be Democrats has been going on in ever-bolder ways since 2000, and it’s astonishing that hardly anyone is speaking up about this.
One political story that’s gotten a lot of attention the past few weeks is the issue of Mitt Romney’s taxes. He’s only released one year of his tax returns. ABC News asked him whether there were any years in the past 10 that he paid less than his rich-man’s rate of 13.9%; he refused to answer. Had he paid more, he certainly would have said so. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has proposed that Romney paid no taxes at all for 10 years, which is actually possible if you have enough money, if you’re willing to push or break the rules, and if you can afford lawyers to defend your tax returns.
Photo by Eric Francis.
What’s amazing is that anyone thinks this is trivial. One of the core issues of our day is tax policy: who pays how much in taxes, and who pays no taxes. Who bears the burden of society, and who benefits? One version of the story is that relatively poor people seem content to allow rich people to pay less because who knows, they too might be rich some day. Yet there are many reasons that people have to support those who would harm them, and you could analyze it simply as an abuse dynamic.
One of the more interesting things that happened this week was that yet another robot was dropped onto Mars — the Curiosity rover. This was the super-fancy version of the Mars iPod, with loads of on-board experiments, cameras and even a little oven, I guess to bake dirt and see what happens. Mars is the planet associated with war and violence, as well as with motivation, drive and desire. It’s the planet to look at when you want to understand why something is happening, in terms of the intent involved.
Curiosity arrived on Mars within hours of the shooting at the Sikh temple; they are strikingly similar charts. The synchronicity here is that we need to examine, experiment with and understand our propensity to violence. We need to find out what Mars is all about and that will indeed involve curiosity. It will also involve admitting that we live in a society that’s ruled by violence and money, and it may involve admitting that on the meta-structural level there is little we can do about that; however, whether we can or cannot influence this is something we’ll have to find out for ourselves.
It’s impressive that as we explore Mars, we get more and more pictures of a landscape devoid of trees, of lakes, of oceans and of any apparently living critters. Part of the fascination is with the barren landscape, as we watch our own forests burn and our glaciers melt. The investigation of Mars that we really need is to gain an understanding of what all this violence is about; what the fear is about; why we find it necessary to execute mentally retarded people — and why we put up with it.
Photo by Eric Francis.
This may seem like too much to handle. It’s easy to shut down, and I have my moments regularly when I wish it would all go away, particularly when I tune into the unmitigated evil that’s now operating in plain view. I think that silence and denial will only make matters worse. Pretending in any way will only make things worse.
One of the central spiritual necessities of our times is maintaining awareness of the world at the same time we appreciate life, and this is not easy. The fact that there seems to be little we can do to effect change doesn’t help. But this isn’t about saving the world; responding with clarity is about something different — dharma: acting as if to hold the world together.
There was one other telling incident during this Mercury retrograde — New York Times photographer Robert Stolarik being beat up and arrested by the NYPD. Most of our problems in society right now are either rooted in or exacerbated by most people lacking access to actual sources of information, having no knowledge that such exists or confusing it with entertainment. Hearing that a New York Times photographer was beat up and had his cameras taken only makes it worse, scaring both independent and establishment reporters away from the very things they should be covering.
“My camera hitting anybody is an untruth,” Stolarik said, responding to the police assertion that he bumped or hit one of them with the lens of his camera. “They just get to say whatever they feel like saying and then charging me with whatever they feel like charging me with to justify their actions. They were violent toward me, and they were violent toward the media.”
“I always try to be reasonable,” said Stolarik, who was hassled by an officer on camera while covering the Occupy Wall Street protests last fall, when the campaign of violence against journalists began. “But there’s going to be a next generation [of journalists] to come up, and if we accept this type of behavior, what happens to that next group of people?’
This is what we need to be asking — about everything.
We Can Work it Out: Venus and Mars On the Move
Venus and Mars continue to dominate planetary news. Venus recently ingressed Cancer after four months in Gemini. Doing so, it joined other planets in the cardinal signs, and this week makes an opposition to Pluto, a square to Uranus and a trine to Chiron. It’s also making a conjunction to an odd point called Kronos, which is saying skip the self-importance and pluck up some maturity; you will need it this week.
This week, Mars in Libra makes a conjunction to Saturn. And Venus (the ruler of Libra) makes aspects to Chiron, Uranus and Pluto. That’s a lot of Venus and Mars for one week — should be interesting. Photo: Cassini Mission.
These aspects don’t describe a calm emotional ride; the ‘attachment’ principle of Venus is undergoing some kind of change, raising questions about jealousy, emotional and sexual freedom and where the human need for nourishment fits the picture. There is an opening, however: Venus trine Chiron is saying if you stay with your feelings, they will take you someplace; you will see the meaning in the deep experiences.
As this happens, we have activity in one sign that Venus rules — Libra. Mars and Saturn are about to make their long-anticipated conjunction. This describes pushing the boundary of a relationship, or the idea of relationships in general. It could also involve working out some longterm frustration. Expect something to come to a head, and if handled well, to blow over.
However, this isn’t as simple as just Mars and Saturn. We have two of the more significant new discoveries in the picture, right there in the same degrees of the cardinal signs. Eris is in Aries (Mars will oppose Eris this weekend). That is potentially violent, with a sense of acceleration and the need for self-control. The Saturn principle applies here: be conscious of your boundaries and the agreements you’ve made in the past. Varuna is in the picture, which is all about honoring those agreements. If you feel you have to renegotiate a commitment, do so openly, with clarity and compassion. Don’t just assume.
Just as this aspect is exact, the Moon passes through Cancer, making a conjunction to Varuna and squares to Eris, Mars and Saturn on Aug. 15. This is one to feel your way through as much as you need to in order to balance those feelings with some mental clarity (fortunately, Mercury is direct for this one). The Moon then enters Leo and makes a conjunction to the Sun — this is the Leo New Moon, exact Aug. 17 and opposite Nessus. More on that in next week’s lead article.
Extreme Weather Caused By Global Warming — and Industry Scams
As if to underscore skeptic Richard Muller’s concession last week that global warming is entirely human-caused, The New York Times is reporting that many chemical companies are manipulating the carbon credit system to bank tens of millions of dollars a year in scammed profits — by making more pollution. Since 2005, manufacturers of gases used in air-conditioning and refrigeration have sharply boosted their production of a waste gas just to obtain the large number of credits they get for ultimately destroying it. The credits are then sold to other polluters.
This is what global warming looks like, after a while. Photo of Mars by the Opportunity rover, January 2012; NASA/JPL.
Meanwhile, the recent spike in ‘extreme weather’ in the U.S. and worldwide can only be attributed to human-caused global warming according to James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Hansen’s study concludes that the odds of extreme temperature occurrences have grown from 1 in 300 through the 1980s to one in 10 today.
All this was announced during a week in which firefighters continue to battle 18 wildfires in Oklahoma, which has seen its highest temperatures since the Dust Bowl of 1936. In fact, the U.S. government has confirmed this July was the hottest month on record. Nearly two-thirds of the contiguous United States has been in moderate to exceptional drought, wiping out crops and driving up the price of basic staples. In response, President Obama unveiled an additional $30 million in federal aid this week to combat the nation’s worst drought in 25 years. Meanwhile in the Philippines, flooding from heavy rains has displaced 800,000 people, with 80 percent of the capital city of Manila affected.
Adding to the CO2 emissions this week was a massive fire at a Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, CA that left 900 people seeking medical treatment and tens of thousands ordered to stay inside with doors and windows closed. Chevron claims the situation is under control, but the truth is that fossil fuel processing and nuclear power are always one misstep away from disaster.
Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, a member of the Green Party, is seeking a full investigation into the blaze — but the problem is with the entire industry. It’s obvious, and there are solutions.
Romney’s Not a Business; He Just Plays One on TV
Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, pressed as to why he’s not releasing more tax returns, justified his decision in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek by saying: “I’m not a business.” It’s a logical statement but for one thing: almost exactly a year ago, he got testy with a heckler in Iowa and declared that, “corporations are people.” Romney revealed his double standard on Aug. 7, as stormy Mercury was preparing to station direct; the statement is already turning on him.
Cayman Islands, “Home of the Off-Shore Tax Shelter.”
“We have a process in this country, which was established by law, which provides for the transparency which candidates are required to meet. I have met with that requirement with full financial-disclosure of all my investments, but in addition have provided and will provide a full two years of tax returns.”
His father as a presidential candidate set a precedent of releasing 12 years of tax returns, reminding voters that it’s easy to make one or two years look good. Perhaps Romney really didn’t pay any taxes at all for 10 years, as Harry Reid, the senate majority leader, said recently, putting the Romney campaign on the defensive.
Maybe Romney is just squeamish about his offshore tax havens and having to finally admit he’s a member of the financial elite, not just a regular Joe you’d like to have a beer with (as if we hadn’t noticed when he asked why that soda had foam on top). Neither characteristic qualifies someone to be fit to lead a country, however.
It’s not enough for a candidate to be non-threatening to your self-esteem, and hating money just blocks your own flow. We’re getting repeated reminders to look beneath the surface gloss, read between the lines and vote our deepest values. Quick — before the Supreme Court rules that offshore tax havens are people, too.
Rap News Takes on the God Particle
I am fan and admirer of Hugo Farrant, who plays Robert Foster (and others on Rap News). In this edition he shines some light on the Higgs Boson — the so-called ‘God particle’. It’s a lot of fun. This guy has a great face. Check it out here. — efc
Planet Waves FM: Mercury Direct and Tantra Part 2
In this week’s edition of Planet Waves FM, I begin with a recap of the current astrology and news — Mercury direct, Venus in Cancer and the absurd chaos of the world — and then I re-introduce my guests, tantra specialists Patricia Johnson and Mark Michaels. You can hear part one of that interview here. There is a discussion and feedback about part one collecting at this link. You can reach Patricia and Mark via their website, Tantra PM.
Planet Waves monthly horoscopes provide a broader perspective that surveys the themes of the coming month and often, the weeks that follow. The August Monthly horoscope was published Friday, July 27. Inner Space for August was published Tuesday, July 31. The most recent Moonshine horoscope by Genevieve Hathaway (for July) was published on July 3. Please note a change in the publishing pattern. For a few months we were publishing the monthly horoscope on Wednesday evenings, but that was proving to be too confusing. We have shifted the monthly to be incorporated into the Friday issue after the Sun has entered a new sign; Inner Space still publishes on Tuesdays.
Leo Birthdays this week
This is the year to study up on nonviolent communication and conflict resolution. This is so strong in your charts that it could become your vocation or an important aspect of what you do professionally — though its first application is going to be more in your ‘everyday’ life — with your family, around your neighborhood, and at work. Mars and Saturn are conjunct in your house of language and communications, which is the sign Libra. There is something here about balance and fairness, and hearing all sides of the issue — especially when you or others have grievances. You seem to be breaking free of some old thought patterns, and they may be resisting; violent struggle is not the way. You will spend some time this year addressing the theme of attachment versus liberation; whether jealousy is a good idea, or something to resolve; and you have the chance to bring mature emotional intelligence into your thought process. To learn more, listen to your Leo birthday reading.
For weekly readings in your sun sign, go here: