Category Archives: On Life the Universe and Everything

The Changing Structures of our Lives

Today at around 6pm my heart swooped down into a profound trough of bleakness.  I felt alone, disconnected and disillusioned with myself and separated from those I love.  It was a profound feeling, like being attacked by a Dementor (as it turned out, I happened to re-watch later the Harry Potter film Order of the Pheonix where Harry and Dudley are attacked by Dementors who suck the life force out of them until they are dispelled (pun intended!) by Harry’s Patronus spell).  I state this because at the time it happened I looked up the current transits and the Sun and Neptune were right on the descendant conjunct my Chiron in Pisces and squaring my Sun.  It took me 15 minutes or so to regain my equilibrium and recognise it as like a nightmare that I was slowly waking from.  Yet my point is to illustrate that these emotions and reactions are like a programme playing out very precisely.  We are finely tuned receivers.  Mostly we are unaware we are receivers.  We assume ourselves to be autonomous creators.  It is not unusual now for me to see planets on the descendant when events are being triggered – I can even predict reasonably accurately, before opening my astrology app, what planets or signs might be on the angles of the chart.

Harry Potter dispelling the Patronus was symbolic of the entire story arc of the film.  At first Harry is disbelieved and ridiculed and falsely accused – like being attacked by a dementor – but by the end, while deeply grieved by the loss of his godfather Sirius, he has overcome the obstacles and fear surrounding him and in himself.  And so to Coronavirus.  People are increasingly speculating on what the meaning of Coronavirus might be for humanity – and I am no different, I love to speculate philosophically.  However, I am less concerned with what it is teaching us morally (somewhat unusual for me, I know) but rather with what the actual consequences of coronavirus are and might be.

I can’t help feeling if, like Harry Potter being attacked by a Dementor, we have fallen prey to a sense of bleakness and fear which has collectively sucked the Life out of us and left us awash with fear?  However, the interesting point is how we react to this collective fear of death and illness that the current situation is creating and more importantly, what might it be manipulating us into seeing about ourselves?

I am now going to connect a series of events and insights to try and put together a picture of what might be happening – bear with me, I have the Sun rising in Sagittarius with Mercury in Sagittarius too and Jupiter in Gemini ruling it all so it is pretty much impossible for me to cut to the chase without taking you through the disparate elements and their connection!

My first point relates to the virus itself.  Is it any more dangerous than any flu virus that has preceded it?  The answer is that we do not really know.  According to estimates from the World Health Organisation (WHO) 290,000 to 650,000 die from flu each year (as of 2017) .  In this context, 12,944 deaths (WHO 22/3/2020) from Coronavirus (a type of flu) does not seem that unusual.  No-one seems to know precisely whether it is a huge threat or not, there are many opinions but we simply don’t know yet.  So, the more interesting point here for me is not that Coronavirus is necessarily a greater threat to humanity than anything in previous years but importantly, we feel more threatened.  This strikes me as a continuation of a process that has been going on for some time, where we “feel” under threat – like we are living in dangerous times.  Many people point to the idea that we are living in VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) times.  Yet, if we look back, when were times not Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous? During the cold war with the threat of nuclear destruction?  During the world wars?  Before modern medicine when diseases like TB, Smallpox and Cholera were rife and infant mortality high?  Certainly compared to the World Wars and living with the threat of something like the black death these feel like pretty comfortable times!

So, it is not the circumstances that lead to our feelings or perception about the time.  If this is true then it pushes us back to look at how our own minds are operating and in particular what is influencing our collective mind?  A few days ago, my friend David sent through a fascinating email about the origin of the word Influenza:

influenza (n.)

type of infectious disease, now known to be caused by a virus, usually occurring as an epidemic, with symptoms similar to a severe cold along with high fever and rapid prostration, 1743, borrowed (during an outbreak of the disease in Europe), from Italian influenza “influenza, epidemic,” originally “visitation, influence (of the stars),” from Medieval Latin influentia in the astrological sense (see influence).

influence (n.)

late 14c., an astrological term, “streaming ethereal power from the stars when in certain positions, acting upon character or destiny of men,” from Old French influence “emanation from the stars that acts upon one’s character and destiny” (13c.), also “a flow of water, a flowing in,” from Medieval Latin influentia “a flowing in” (also used in the astrological sense), from Latin influentem (nominative influens), present participle of influere “to flow into, stream in, pour in,” from in- “into, in, on, upon” (from PIE root *en “in”) + fluere “to flow” (see fluent).

Much of my understanding of how our personal minds work is based on the recognition that our brains operate much more as receivers – akin to a mobile phone.  We all understand that mobile phones receive signals (waves) that we cannot see which they convert into symbolic representations through pixels (such as apps, people’s faces etc.).  We know (if asked) that these are not real; when we see someone’s face on our screen via facetime or skype we do not think they have been shrunk and are in our mobile phone.  Yet, we relate to them very much as real – we talk to the person as if they are real even though they are not actually there.  It appears to be the same with our brains.  They are like receivers for a cosmic or collective field and they create or project a 3D symbolic reality which we treat as very real.  When we are in the grip of emotions (or cosmic influences) they seem to us to be very real (like my early swooping despair example).  It takes real presence of mind and hard work not to identify with these emotions (or influences).  Yet, when we reflect back on our state of mind later, it looks so clear that we were not quite in our “right mind” – that we had lost a broader perspective.  The fact that we can look back and see people and situations very differently suggests that our perceptions might not be quite as “real” or solid as we think they are.  They are much more influenced by the receiver than we suppose.

At the moment, we are under an influence from the stars – a large conjunction of planets in Capricorn with a sextile (a positive connection) to Neptune in Pisces.  Capricorn rules death, limitations, governments, control, protective defences and fear.  It also rules work, structures and society.  So we find ourselves in a global lockdown, restricted and distanced from others and limited to our homes (Capricorn opposes Cancer, the sign which rules the home).  At the same time there is a positive connection to Neptune so there is a sense of oneness, singing to each other and selfless spirit of help towards the vulnerable and those in need.

We are in a period of enforced meditation or reflection, blocked from our normal structures of life.  These are the conditions for great breakthroughs and changes in our mindset or frame of reference.  We know that in our personal lives, crises precede breakthroughs, insights and new ways of being.  The current crisis is like these personal rebirths – the world is never the same again.  It is rarely that we would choose such periods of change or the difficulties that come with them; it is often only afterwards that we see the meaning of what has happened or the value of the changes that it brought.

My experience of life is that it often employs a “cunning wisdom” to get us to change – none of us would willingly step out of our comfort zone.  I don’t think any of us would have chosen the current situation.  However, I see many now who are excited by the possibilities it presents to step back from their normal approach and I think this might be part of the point of the current crisis, namely that we are being forced to re-evaluate our priorities and our current focus on work and money.  At the same time, I think that there is another subtler manipulation taking place through these influences.  I have noticed through the course of my work as a coach and facilitator, a distinct process of change going on in the way people work and the way work is organised.  For most of us now, the majority of work is done with people that we are not in direct physical contact with.  Meetings with personal bank managers, or even trips to the bank are fast becoming a relic of the past.  Similarly, even if we are old and have not joined the modern world, we talk to vast call centres often in different countries.  The structure of our lives contains more and more that is not about direct physical contact with people.

We have all been pulled into a virtual, online world whether we like it or not.  Many I have spoken to have not been happy about having to load zoom or webex on to their computers and connect virtually, yet at the same time it has create a profound change.  Combine this with an environmental crisis which sees travel as the route of destruction of the earth and you see an astonishingly brilliant piece of cunning wisdom and manipulation.  We are caught in a perfect pincer movement to get us to fundamentally change the way we work and organise.  Individuals, companies and organisations who would never have dreamt of operating through video-conferencing are being forced by necessity to attempt the approach and they are realising it is possible.  Individuals who would never have dreamt of spending their whole working time at home are forced to do so too.  Even if we go back in a few weeks or months time the world will not be the same again.  It is an acceleration of a process to force us online and into a virtual world.  Stroud Farmers’ market locally to me, friends running workshops with the express intent of personal connection and retreat are all being forced on line and realising they can do it and it works.  At a personal level, I have just finished a zoom call with someone in a charity I work with where we were contemplating running training via Zoom and experimenting together with how to present slides etc.  We both suddenly saw the potential for it transforming some of our training.  At the same time she was describing an earlier first meeting of the charity team where people attended in their dressing gowns, eating their breakfast and she commented on my unshaven state.  This linked into another theme I had picked up about our normal Capricornian structures for work being undermined.  It came from a conversation with a client at Louis Vuitton in Shanghai.  I had been a facilitator for a Leadership training programme she attended in London and as part of this we had visited Thomas Pink’s new factory in the heart of London where they were moving the business away from mass retail of shirts to bespoke tailoring.  She mentioned in the call that LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) were selling off Thomas Pink and she said that at the training all those from Asia had been surprised by the strategy and the targeting of the Asian market.  I asked her why and she explained that nobody in Asia really wore formal shirts to work anymore.  At the same time, I had noticed in the last few years that all my clients had stopped wearing suits and ties had become relics of the past.  Whereas ten years ago, I had looked slightly unusual in my unwillingness to wear a tie, in the last few years, I suddenly realised I needed a new wardrobe as wearing a suit had become outmoded.

It is the same with children and education.  Once freed from the straight-jacket of physical school will it ever fully return?  The seed has been sown for an understanding that there is a different way and (to mix my metaphors) I don’t think we will be able to put the genie back in the bottle on any of these things.

Before the Coronavirus phenomenon took place, my son and I attempted to open a joint bank account for the business we were starting.  Frustrated by the online process which promised so much but delivered nothing that would work for us we decided to resort to going into town and into the branch to see someone face to face to open the account and we were very surprised when we were told that we could only open an account online.  The resulting 6 weeks later without a functioning account was a painful process involving call centres that never answered, interminable phone options and having to redo the process because of one small mistake.  It is not that much of the shift online is efficient or works well – far from it – but without us all doing the work of being forced to go through these problems, the technology and understanding would not evolve.  Last night my friends had a date to explore the new online Guggenheim museum together but only because they had been isolated for a week already. We are changing so much but because it is happening day by day we do not really contemplate the scale unless we look back.  Just twenty-five years ago, all this would have seemed bizarre.  Certainly to someone living fifty years ago it would have seemed the stuff of science fiction.

With the move to the age of Pisces and Christ as the seed point for the age, we learnt to understand that we were all one and about the nature of unconditional love.  Our learning still goes on in this regard, but we are now building on that through the Age of Aquarius by utilsing the virtual world and structure and, I think, to put this into practice with people we are not physically present with.  It is hard work and we are all slowly learning how to interact by email, by Video-Conference by phone without it being impersonal or misinterpreting each other.  I suspect that this is the seed point of the Age of Aquarius-Leo as we move towards the virtual world being a reflection of and indistinguishable from our physical world.  The scale of this change is enormous and the acceleration at the moment is also much greater than we think.  It might have taken us many years to achieve the changes that are taking place overnight.

It is significant from an astrological point of view that Mars is involved.  Mars is exalted in Capricorn and being faster moving and initiatory of the new or change, it is acting as a trigger for these underlying Pluto in Capricorn changes to our structure.  With Jupiter there as well, it is being inflated and expanded very rapidly on a huge scale.  On one level it looks like infection,virus and limitation – which it is – at another level, it is a fundamental change to the structure of the way we work and organise our society.

At the same time the sextile to Neptune in Pisces allows us to gain a glimpse of the positive possibilities of this change – that we can connect with love and heart in a personal way through this changing structure.  For the last few years we have been using the internet to polarise and criticise each other in a negative and destructive way over Brexit, Trump etc. yet now we are using it to connect kindly and come together.  I have clients and friends sending each other jokes, messages of support and love and around the world people are singing to each other and supporting each other in their local communities through groups and individual acts.  Even the governments are putting plans in place to support people and have compassion for the hardships.  Who would have envisaged this even a few short months ago?

At the same time, we are seeing that there are more important things to build our society on than simple material wealth and the pursuit of it.  It is like we are undergoing an enforced meditation; a possibility to reconnect.  It is highly probable that this will pass and maybe just as quickly as it erupted and we will go back to many of our normal habits but I think the seed of change will remain and grow as it has already been doing for many years.  Pluto’s movement through Capricorn has fundamentally changed the nature of work and the way we organise ourselves and opened the door for a new structure of connection globally.

One other area that this is bringing us face to face with is our approach to death (A very Pluto in Capricorn subject!).  For many years we have been divorcing ourselves further and further from the reality of death.  In the current environment it feels a very present threat to everyone.  Yet, when we contemplate the figures for flu’ each year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that there are 290,000 to 650,000 deaths globally from flu’ each year (as of 2017).  A very large proportion of those dying from the coronavirus are in their 80s or older.  In our present society, we have extended the lifespan of our bodies way beyond that of previous generations.  How do we now die?  My father is in his mid 80s and whilst his body continues (at the same time as it deteriorates rapidly and he is no longer able to walk) he wants desperately to go.  My mother and sister and I know it will be a blessing for him to go.  An illness which now released him would be a kindness.  Flu used to be called the old man’s friend.  Death is an ever present and Life feeds on death.  This is Pluto’s truth.  How could we have spring without Autumn and Winter?  It is fine for us to grieve and have compassion and certainly the mad way that we have ignored illness and continued to work through it as a social norm without consideration for spreading the disease to others (particularly the more vulnerable) might well be in need of revision but to think that we can overcome or defeat or hold back death is like thinking we can hold back the waves at the sea.  Don Juan in the Carlos Castaneda books talks about “consulting death” as an approach to keep our perspective and our self-importance in check.  Indeed in Greek tragedy, the source of tragedy always lay in the hubris of the hero who thought they could escape or cheat fate, who believed in their own power and agency beyond the limits of nature and life.  These events have been a rude but valuable awakening to the limits (Capricorn) of our powers (Pluto).  We like to think that we are so powerful and so able to control the world and our lives and yet, one small virus from Life has demonstrated the limits of our power and knowledge and our dependence on the Universe.  It is a touch on the tiller to remind us.  At the same time, when we see our vulnerability in the face of Life it brings out the best in us – our common humanity and our compassion.

A few final thoughts on this.  In Genesis we ate from the apple of knowledge and we were thrown out of the garden of Eden.  We moved from innocent ignorance to awareness and suddenly we had to face reality and to work and use our newly found free will.  Whenever we are aware (Uranus) we are also responsible (Saturn). I realised recently that the Matrix is a retelling of this story for modern times.  We take the red pill and we come out of the matrix and see the disillusioning reality of Life and then we cannot go back.  We are no longer identified with the matrix.  It seems a very apt metaphor for the modern world and our understanding now about the nature of our inter-connectedness.  It revolves around seeing reality (Pluto in Capricorn) and being disillusioned (Neptune in Pisces).  At the same time, we see the limits of our bodies and the possibilities of transcending them (Uranus in Taurus).   We also see the cosmic interconnected field of the earth (Uranus in Taurus).  A recent video I watched by Dr Thomas Cowan on the link between flu epidemics and technological breakthroughs – the beginning of radio waves and six months later the spanish flu epidemic etc. up to the modern day and the correlation between 5G in Wuhan and South Korea and the Coronavirus raises interesting connections – are they correlated in a causal way?  Who knows? I am not about to jump on this, however, it is a possibility that they are.  I certainly do not subscribe to the general view in all these things that we are somehow getting it all wrong and being punished or that we have to go back to some imaginary previous golden age before we messed it all up.  Every generation seems to feel that the next generation is going to hell in a handcart because of their technological breakthroughs.  As far as I can see, if this theory about new radiation waves creating viruses is true then we have adapted to each change/virus but perhaps more interestingly what it raises for me is further clues to the real nature of our world and reality.  A recent experiment (https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/08/these-scientists-took-over-a-computer-by-encoding-malware-in-dna/536361/) demonstrated that it was possible to introduce a computer virus into physical DNA and take over a computer by doing so.  The boundaries between the virtual world and our real world are getting more and more fuzzy and this may well be because there aren’t any boundaries because both are describing the same thing.  Perhaps with the current virus what we are being given the possibility to see is that DNA is computer code?

The German philosopher and mathematician Leibniz invented the binary system based on his discovery of and respect for the I-Ching with its concept of the binary nature of Life – yin and yang.  The scientists who introduced a virus into physical DNA did so based on the idea of the four building blocks of DNA (Adenine (A), Cytosine (C), Guanine (G) and Thymine (T)) being associated with ones and zeros.  It is like we are being teased and manipulated into consciousness and learning.  We may never get to a full understanding but we are always progressing in our models for understanding Life.  We have a chance at each stage to play it unconsciously and take it all as real or to peak behind the curtain – to take the red pill or the blue pill in Matrix parlance.  It strikes me that in this instance, we have the opportunity to model and understand the real nature of viruses and their role in the brilliance of Life rather than treat them with collective fear and anxiety.  But also to recognise that we are being manipulated through our fear and anxiety into expanding our awareness and understanding.  Can we, as Ram Dass used to put it, be “in the world but not of it”.  Can we stand back to appreciate the sheer brilliance of what we are part of and have a sense of awe at how amazingly it is constructed to prompt us to consciousness?  Can we do this at a collective level?  We seem now to be moving to a position where we are local fields of awareness in a global field of consciousness and we are building the technology to represent and understand this – individual consciousnesses but part of one consciousness – we don’t need to move to connect to the whole world.  Wow!

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Dark Times

There is a prevalent idea at the moment that we live in Dark Times – environmentally, politically and psychologically.  With Pluto conjunct Saturn in Capricorn the astrology seems to bear this out.  What could be darker than Satan and Hades together – certainly down in the underworld and very dark.  In traditional western astrology it is a combination of the heart of Autumn (Scorpio) with the beginning of Winter (Saturn and Capricorn).  We cannot help but be affected by this.  Recent advances in Epigenetics described in a lecture I watched at the recent New Scientist conference, suggest that our frame of reference for understanding and interpreting the world is shaped in the womb and that we carry the influence of previous recent generations in our DNA and our response to the world.  It was also suggested that these frames of reference act almost like scripts for our experience of reality – our confirmation bias determines our reality.  Put this together with the scientific evidence about the way the unconscious brain determines our actions which are then justified and rationalised by our pre-frontal cortex and you begin to see that from all angles – astrologically and scientifically, our experience of our world is influenced by the way we are interpreting it rather than by the reality.  If you think the world is in darkness you will focus on darkness and you will find it and you will be confirmed in your suspicion that the world is dark.

Our brains, as my friend Chrissy Philp points out, are designed to understand metaphor or symbol.  We do not experience reality directly but rather through metaphor or symbol.  As one scientist described the conundrum – when we scanned the brain we found that if someone looks at something and if we ask them to close their eyes and imagine it, the same parts of the brain light up.  There isn’t a difference between what we imagine and what we experience.  The latest research from the New Scientist conference presentation on free-will suggested that this frame we inherit and is being moulded in the womb (no surprise to Astrologers) can be expanded and enriched to include a fuller picture of reality if we share our inner reality with others.  If we do not then our picture of reality becomes impoverished.

So to understand ourselves and each other we need to understand metaphor or story.  If we want to change ourselves then we have to find a way to change our narrative.  Again, when listening to the presentation on Epigenetics, the example of mice being exposed to the smell of cherry blossom was quoted.  Mice tend to get very excited and explore everywhere when the smell of cherry blossom is introduced into their cells.  After doing this on a number of occasions the researchers then introduced a mild electric shock at the same time.  After 3 or 4 instances of this, the mice started to freeze and tense each time the smell was introduced.   They then left these mice alone and allowed them to reproduce, they also left their offspring alone to reproduce and then with the grandchildren of the original mice they introduced the smell of cherry blossom and the mice tensed.  It seems to be that each of us has genetic challenges that are passed on from generation to generation – what has not been resolved by one generation passes on to the next.  The other implication of epigenetics is that we pass on our DNA to our offspring at the level it has evolved to at the time we conceive our children.  It is fascinating in this regard to note the average age for giving birth has reached 29.5 years – a Saturn return.  What might be changing as most DNA is passed on after a Saturn return?

I have the Sun rising in Sagittarius squaring Chiron and Saturn in Pisces and Pluto-Uranus conjunct in Virgo.  My father had the Sun conjunct Chiron in Gemini in a t-square with Saturn in Pisces and Neptune in Virgo so the family themes are very clear.  My grandfather was Sun-Saturn conjunct in Pisces square Pluto in Gemini so it is easy to trace the theme further back and watch it mutating with each generation.  For me, my Saturn square the Sun is eight degrees from being exact, whereas for my grandfather and father it is much tighter.  My son has not inherited these themes but my wide Sun-Jupiter opposition (9 degrees) has become an almost exact opposition in his chart.  My grandfather worked in Business and feared destitution all his life, my father worked in local government and suffered the same fear of being destitute – no matter how much money he earnt.  I inherited the same fear, which I have worked with all my life.  My friends and family laugh each time I forecast downturns in my work but I point out to them that this time the end really is nigh, this time it is real…..strangely they keep laughing and ignoring me!

So we are born with these dilemmas built in whether you believe in Astrology or a scientific approach or both.  This seemed to be what Christ recognised.  He saw that Judas and everyone around him was reacting to a narrative – playing their own storyline as part of a larger story.  He saw that it could not be otherwise and his great insight was to recognise no-one was to blame for this.  Everyone can blame me he said, then we can take blame out of the equation.  It’s all an illusion, even death – you can’t really kill my consciousness.

So what has this got to do with the current transits and our approach to them?  The real gift that Astrology provides is to be able to see these myths/archetypes so that we are not so identified with them.  It allows us to stand back from the play and prevailing paradigm or mindset to see what it is we are learning rather than to be absorbed in playing it out.  Saturn conjunct Pluto in Capricorn is an opportunity to examine and understand our shadow.  Yes, says everyone and we can see it – it is them!  They are the shadow and we are the light.  And then we separate ourselves and we really are in dark times, not the ones we think – a fight of our light against the darkness of others but the darkness of our own closed hearts and minds – our own projections and shadows.  We exhort each other to join the fight against the oppressors not realising that we are really fighting our own projections.

The social media streams have been perfect for facilitating our collective confirmation bias – we point out the hypocrisies and shadows of opponents not seeing how it disturbs and closes our own hearts and we are re-inforced in our belief that the problem lies with the other side and more and more bemused by the darkness of the world that we think others are creating but which really lies in us.  We laud those who express aggressively our criticism of others – egging them on and re-inforcing the sense that we are good guys fighting for justice and others are the problem.

In my teenage years, I thought like this.  I hated Margaret Thatcher and I thought she epitomised all that was evil in society.  When the Brighton bombing happened I was (much to my horror and shame) disappointed she had survived.  I thought Tories were evil and bad people.  It was complete projection and Life soon landed me in jail for a night at an anti-apartheid  protest where I had mocked and ridiculed a group of politicians and their wives heading into Downing Street – accusing them of racism and prejudice.  The prejudice was all mine – I knew nothing about them.  Life shocked me into waking up and rightly so.  If I was going to be consumed by prejudice and projecting my shadow aggressively on to others, I really was imprisoned.

I think part of the value of this current Pluto-Saturn conjunction is to see our collective darkness and shadow.  It is not “out there”, it is in us.  As soon as we separate ourselves from others, we create a shadow.  As soon as we identify with one group, we see another group as wrong or bad and we scapegoat them.  We need figures like Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump because they provoke us into seeing our shadow.  Poor things, that is their role.

When I went to visit my friend Cathy recently, she was asking me about the Pluto-Saturn conjunction.  She wondered what it meant and what the positive side of it was.  I began to talk about it and then she related her experience with the recent UK election.  On the day after the result she had sat down to do a Metta Bhavana or Loving Kindness meditation.  Her object for the meditation was to send loving kindness to Boris Johnson.  She also took the things that she disliked about him – lying, self-aggrandising and asked herself whether she had done these things – yes, she had lied, yes (with Leo rising) she had certainly been guilty of self-aggrandising.  Boris Johnson became a fellow human being again; someone doing his best.

We then talked about the result of the election and Brexit happening, she had again revised her thinking.  Whilst reflecting on Brexit she thought about the fact that she had been sure in the past that she had known how things were or how they would turn out and yet she recognised that she had been entirely wrong – events had not turned out as she had been sure they would  – so she accepted that she did not necessarily know now how they would turn out now.  She did not feel the doom and gloom about the world that seemed to be affecting everyone around her. I told her that I thought this was a brilliant response to the Pluto-Saturn conjunction.  This was the transformative and regenerative power of the transit at its very best.  I think that is the role of Pluto – it is recycling – taking what has become stagnant or worn out and transforming/recycling it into something of value again.  We take our old habitual way of thinking and transform it.

In the recent election my social media was bombarded by posts desperately demonising the central figures in the election.  It has been similar with Donald Trump in the US and it has played out for the rest of Europe with the UK and with the polarisation between Macron and the “gilets jaunes” in France.  In the climate debate there has been a similar polarisation with Greta Thunberg.  The feeling has been that anyone who could vote for the other side must be either an idiot, immoral or have been deceived or duped in some way.  There has been a constant pointing out of the flaws of the other side.  Yet, the effect has been increasing polarisation and certainly not any persuasion of anyone with a different view.

So what is going on? Why do we polarise and what makes it so difficult for us not to get caught in lambasting the great “them” and seeking someone to blame, someone who must be at fault?  I think there are two main constituents to this which are linked.  One is that our limbic system – our primal brain – is dealing with threat and the other is that we are adjusting to fate – that which is beyond our control.

In our own lives, we know that when we are in crisis or our heart closes down, our thinking analyses the situation and tell us that everything is black, our life is a disaster and we are terrible, we are sure the future is bleak and that the current situation is a disaster which we will never recover from.  Yet a day, a week, a few years later, we look back and we see it all completely differently, we see it did not turn out the way we thought, we see what we learnt and in most cases we would not go back and change it.  We see what we could not see at the time; that fate knew better what we needed than we did.

In Chrissy Philp’s new earth alignment model, she maps astrology to the I-Ching and the results are astonishing.  In this model the 6 lines of the receptive align to the 6 feminine signs and the 6 lines of the Creative align to the masculine signs.  Capricorn is the top line of the Receptive:

Six at the top means:
	Dragons fight in the meadow.
	Their blood is black and yellow.

In the top place the dark element should yield to the light. If it attempts to 
maintain a position to which it is not entitled and to rule instead of serving, 
it draws down upon itself the anger of the strong. A struggle ensues in which 
it is overthrown, with injury, however, to both sides. The dragon, symbol of 
heaven, comes to fight the false dragon that symbolized the inflation of the 
earth principle. Midnight blue is the color of heaven; yellow is the color of 
earth. Therefore, when black and yellow blood flow, it is a sign that in this 
unnatural contest both primal powers suffer injury.

For me this links to the polarity that we are currently struggling with in so many areas of life.  If we do not understand the limits of our own understanding – that we know very little and are dependent on the Universe – then we suffer from the Hubris which precipitated all Greek tragedies.  That is, we forget our limits and we start assuming that we know best and that we know how everything will work out – it will all be a catastrophe unless what we know to be true is acted on.  It gives us a sense of urgency that we have to be listened to and that we are right to force our views on others because it is the only way to avert the terrible consequences of their appalling blindness.  Yet we fail to see that we are equally blind.  We lose our humility and recognition that there is something greater than us that we can trust even if we cannot fully understand it.  We lose our “not knowing”, our innocence, and in our blind state we try to push others and the world to conform to what we are sure is needed.  Yet, when our heart is closed, so is our mind.  We fail to see that our thinking is being coloured by our closed heart and that our mind is closed.  Anyone who opposes us is dealt with as a limbic system threat – they might kill us all and they are evil, they must be forcibly dealt with and attacked.  This limbic system thinking splits and separates us from others.  It thinks in terms of “us and them”, good and evil and we are conjoined to fight or despair.  This is a collective black hole (cf. One Way of Looking at Man).  We start to think we know what the world needs and we think we have the power to control or change it all if only we were listened to.  What I think we are learning again in the current crisis is that we have overstepped the limits of our understanding and power.  Not in the way everyone thinks.  Not in the sense of our apparent destruction of the planet, or the creation of our current political or economic systems but rather in our sense that what we are experiencing currently is wrong and someone must be to blame for it – us, other people, governments, right wing people, left wing people, men – whoever we choose to blame, but rather in the fact that we have lost faith in something beyond ourselves and our own views, in fate, in the Universe.

When you look at the charts of Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, Jeremy Corbyn, they are all perfect.  They are all being triggered by outer planets and they are all playing exactly the role they should be playing for us to evolve and grow.  They are there to reflect back to us all our own projections and for us to learn how to keep our own hearts open.  We are not there to change them, that is beyond our power or control.  We are here to change ourselves.  We cannot change anyone else, they can only change themselves.  Beyond Saturn is the outer transpersonal planets.  Saturn is our boundary keeper.  The I-Ching in Hexagram 30 – Clarity says:

Human life on earth is conditioned 
and unfree, and when man recognizes this limitation and makes himself 
dependent upon the harmonious and beneficent forces of the cosmos, he 
achieves success. The cow is the symbol of extreme docility. By cultivating in 
himself an attitude of compliance and voluntary dependence, man acquires 
clarity without sharpness and finds his place in the world.

Cf. Harry and drug taking - you can't stop fate or another individual.  All you can do is work on yourself - same in our relationship with planet - so Claudi and Pete.

In the 1930s we discovered Pluto and it is no coincidence that during at period we polarised and started to demonise each other – you had figures like Stalin and Hitler who acted as perfect catalysts (poor things) for helping us understand our collective shadow and we saw the full power of our destructiveness until the first atomic bombs really frightened us into seeing the full power of our destructiveness.  Many people draw parallels with that time and there is some truth in that but again, the danger is that we think the shadow is “out there”. without realising that it is actually in all of us.

When my wife left as Pluto and Uranus began to affect my natal Mars in Capricorn opposite the Moon in Cancer, it all looked so wrong to me.   Her affair with a woman who had been living with us and subsequent abandonment of me and our children was annihilating to me psychologically and emotionally.  I did not see, after twenty-six years of being together, how we could ever recover and yet now, three and a half years later, my wife lives in the next village, we work together and we even go on holidays together as friends.  Our family has come back together and healed and I see how we have all grown.  I realise the perfection of what happened in a way I could not fully see at the time.  It is the same with children and with all of us.  If you prevent us from experiencing pain and suffering we cannot grow and we also cannot change our inherited narratives and extend beyond ourselves.  The brain is a receiver; a receiver which works entirely on metaphor.  Words and language are all metaphors, symbols.  Our modern mobile phones work entirely on symbols (pixels and images), we understand them because our world works on symbol and metaphor.  Our love of stories is not because they are analogies for our own experiences in the real world but because they are the real world.  We live in a world of symbol and narrative.

Understanding myths and metaphors is important because without them we are blind to our shadow.  In almost every myth embracing what appalls us, is the key to unity.  Think Beauty and the Beast, kissing the frog, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.  It is compassion brought about by seeing something of ourselves in others that is the resolution of darkness.  Luke Skywalker tries to fight Darth Vader and the Empire but he cannot win.  Only when he loses does he start to look inward and find the darkness in himself, at which point he no longer needs to win and he has compassion for Darth Vader which allows him to resolve the separation and disunity.  The idea of oppressor and oppressed is left behind and is replaced by unity.   In Harry Potter, Harry is Lord Voldemort.  The co-incidences are too close and they become closer and closer until they thoughts are entwined.  Harry is always looking outside himself to solve the challenges – his parents, Dumbledore, Sirius.  Yet every time, at the critical moment, Dumbledore is called away to the Ministry of Magic and in the end dies.  Sirius also dies.  His parents have already died.  In the end, Harry always faces Voldemort on his own, because Voldemort represents Harry’s own ability to be corrupted by his desire for power, fame, greed etc.  In the end, the last horcrux (the false selves we create as my friend Sam pointed out) is in Harry himself – his real battle is an internal one not an external one. When Harry gives up himself, surrenders, then Voldemort is vanquished.  Re-watching the movies recently, it was clear to see that when Ron destroys the diadem of Rowena Ravenclaw he realises that its power lies in paranoia, in the voice in him that tells him that Harry and Hermione are really in love with each other and he is worthless and they are bound to end up together.  He has to overcome his paranoia to destroy the diadem.   We have taken our myths at face value and missed the fact that the hero’s real struggle is an inner one, not an outer one.  Hogwarts is Harry’s inner world, in the outer world he is undistinguished.  All his battles lie within himself.  If we project these battles on to the outer world we miss the fact that they lie within us and that the only solution to our individual and collective problems lie in shifting our perspective and evolving our consciousness.

The current transits are transits of death and regeneration.  But what is dying?  What is being transformed?  Our stories suggest to us that pride comes before a fall.  In every Greek tragedy it is hubris that creates the fall (or as we would say now – ‘pride comes before a fall’).  When we believe we are greater than the gods – that we know better than life and lose our modesty we come a cropper.  All our black holes we fall in, all our disasters are really opportunities to wake up.  In Greek tragedy, the hero once he has fallen, has wisdom and is valued by the community and is a source of wisdom because when our ego is crushed we have the humility to recognise there is something greater than us.  We stop fighting life and we are open to a new perspective, where we are not as important.

So we need pressure and adversity, we need dark times to regenerate ourselves.  What is this regeneration?  It is a changing of the story or narrative – a shift in perspective.  Because we realise our current narrative or metaphor does not work.  Only dark times allow us to change, to refresh our view of the world as our old view dies.

I wonder if the new narrative concerns a recognition of our global mind and our global body (the earth).  We have the opportunity to examine and change our global narratives.  We are being provoked to do so.  We can only do this if we become less identified with our global mind and body.  The answers do not lie with our global leaders.  All my experience of change is that it does not come from those who in theory have power.  It comes from a new consciousness or awareness.  As Einstein said, “we cannot solve the problems of today at the level of thinking that created them.

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A new consciousness?

I wrote to Ram Dass recently – I know it is a somewhat presumptuous thing to do.  I wasn’t going to send it for this reason however my friend Sam read it and said it was worth sending and I didn’t think he would read it or respond so it seemed harmless.  Asit turned out his friend Raghu Markus who runs his podcasts responded very positively and liked it so I thought I would post it here.

Hi Ram Dass, I met you back in 1991 in Bath in the UK.  I had been listening to you and sharing your perspectives and lectures with others for some years before and have continued ever since and I have incorporated your teachings into my life and my work.  I love what you are teaching and I am indebted to your wisdom and loving heart. I have learnt so much from you and you have been such a companion on my own journey. At a personal level I have been a student of the I-Ching and Astrology for the last 34 years.  I also work as a coach internationally and for a charity working with young people coming out of prison.  I draw from many sources and I recognise that we are all pointing at the same thing from different standpoints.  I have been lucky enough to have a teacher who had an enlightenment experience back in the 70s and has taught many people over the years.  I wanted to write to you because I listened to a podcast recently where you were talking about Trump and how to love him and recognise that he has Karma to work out so that you can see his soul and that were you with him you would be working on that with him.  You also talked about how dark the world is at the moment, more so than you saw in the 60s.  I have been reflecting on this too.

 

I think we are at an interesting threshold of consciousness – the move to the Age of Aquarius.  Aquarius is concerned with the collective and it is about consciousness.  With the internet I think we have given form to our collective mind.  Our consciousnesses are now all connected across the world and we are beginning to see that we are all like cells in a giant brain (universal mind).  Donald Trump has the Sun conjunct Uranus in Gemini.  Gemini is the mind.  It is also the cosmic trickster.  Uranus rules Aquarius and it is about disruptive change which awakens us.  I have begun to appreciate that Donald Trump’s role (and Boris Johnson’s – an almost identical figure and another Gemini) is to act as catalysts for us to see our collective mind.  Everyone is frustrated with them because they are not taking it all seriously – they are not playing the game and they are saying it is fake news and dealing with it as if it is.  They are like old style court jesters in Shakespeare’s day who take over the throne when the King has become lost in taking himself too seriously and in folly.  They talk gibberish but their role is to wake us up.  What I realised Trump is waking us up to is our collective “mind chatter”.  We are stuck believing that the media is providing us with the truth but it is not.  It is providing us, like our own minds, with subjective opinions fuelled by drama.  I had never questioned things like the BBC before Trump.  I had assumed that they gave me the “truth”.  So I reflected that if they did not give me the truth, what was the truth?  It came to me that the truth was that I did not know!  it reminds me of your story of the stand up microphone being Maharaji in drag coming to catch you out as a “phoney-holy”.  I think that is the role of Trump and Boris – can we love them?  More importantly, can we laugh?  I watch what a fantastic foil they are for our self-righteousness and anger.  Everyone is so sure they are the bad guys and we are the good guys.  Not only that but they are highlighting our hubris.  We are so sure we know what is best that we have forgotten that we are not in control of Life and that it is perfect but it does not conform to our notions of how it should be.  I remember all your wonderful stories about Maharaji and your rascally friends undermining your wonderful plans and ideas about how it should be, like a friend coming in with muddy boots and treading all over your white carpet.  Trump is certainly a rascally friend.  I am not condoning his actions or suggesting irresponsibility or that it is not right to take action against what he is doing but rather that we are not there to change him but rather to be changed by him.

I understand that everywhere I look people feel a despair about the state of the world.  It looks in a real mess but is it?  When you consider the fact that there has never been less war, less poverty, less violence, more international sense of connectedness why do we not feel that we are living in a golden age?  I know that the transits astrologically show that we are going to feel like this.  I think it is like the pressure or crisis before a breakthrough in consciousness, like a collective long dark night of the soul.  I also recognise that what it is pointing at is that our collective mind chatter is not a reflection of reality and nor are the emotions it produces.  I think we are being asked to develop a witness that can stand back from identifying with it all and open our hearts and minds wider.

I also think the same is true of the environment.  The current crisis is waking us up to the fact that the earth is our collective body just as Trump is waking us up to our collective mind.  Yet, again, all we know for certain is that there is change.  Whether we think that is a good thing or a bad thing is an emotional subjective viewpoint.  We are stuck thinking we know how it should all be and how it will be.  But that is an illusion, we don’t know.  We thought in the 80s that we would definitely be destroyed in a nuclear holocaust, coming up to the year 2000 we were certain that the whole world would meltdown because of the Y2K bug.  Many people believed in Nostrodamus’s predictions and so on.  I am not suggesting or advocating that we do not take action but that the crises we face are there to wake us up collectively.  I think we are at the point where we are ready and beginning to develop a collective witness that can stand back from it all and take a wider perspective which befits our new collective consciousness – we have always known that we are all connected but previously it has been an intuitive knowledge.  Now, through the internet, we are all consciously connected to the collective mind.  it turns out it is like all our individual minds.

My enlightened friend has developed, through chance, a model of the brain.  She did not set out to find one.  Through it I have begun to see the whole political spectrum differently.  I recognise that we need every point of view.  We need a right and a left, in the same way that we need a right and left hemisphere in our brains.  The creative tensions of these oppositions create consciousness. The left’s truth is compassion and care for others.  Its shadow is self-righteousness, dependency and the drama triangle.  The right’s truth is that only we are responsible for ourselves and our lives and we have to have discipline and recognition of limitations.  Its shadow is cold-heartedness, materialism and looking after number one at the expense of others.  The green movement is like that part of us that nags us constantly about what we are eating and drinking and the effect on our body, it keeps us healthy and aware of our body and the impact of our actions but it is also obsessively self-critical and blaming – a sort of eternal do-gooding perfectionist.  The more I look I see the perfection of every person, like every cell in our body in sustaining our consciousness.  Each has to play its role but can we do it with humour and love whilst valuing the role others are playing?  Trump is playing a vital role in waking us up, as did Hitler in waking us up to the horror of war and our own shadow.  I think like Judas, they deserve huge compassion and respect for being willing as souls to play these difficult roles for all our benefits.  At a personal level, I was married to my wife for twenty-six years and then she had an affair with a woman who was living with us and left me and the kids.  It was the most devastating thing I could ever have contemplated and I was utterly devastated by it.  I loved her deeply and thought we would be together for the rest of our lives. Yet now three years later, we love each other, we have come together as a family and it has changed us all.  We are no longer together in the same way, but we have all forgiven each other and opened our hearts back up.  It crushed our egos but opened our hearts.  My wife and I have talked about it and I can see that her soul’s work was harder – if it was our fate to wake up in this painful way then to be the Judas was the harder choice and work.  It coincided with Trump being elected.  I was so sure it was wrong and that she was wrong but I see that Life knew better than I did.  We are so sure at the moment that we know best and that it is all wrong and will be a disaster because it is not the way we think it should be.  Yet, how do we know?  From what you write in Be Love Now, it was a similar crisis of faith for you with your stroke yet to all of us that listen to you, it is abundantly clear that who you are now and the depth of wisdom and love you have is intimately bound up with the experience the stroke precipitated.

I am in awe of your contribution to humanity and your love and compassion.  I am also in awe of your integrity in living what you teach.

 

With love

 

Nick

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Is Brexit important?

I was recently at my main client, one of the largest (perhaps the largest) law firms who are in the process of deciding whether to merge with a US law firm to become a really big and fully international law firm.  Everyone is concerned with whether this is the right thing to do.  The timing seems very parallel to Brexit – with similar delays and deadlines slipping past.  The head of the firm is utterly convinced that it is the right thing to do.  In the same way, there are people who are convinced Brexit is the right thing to do and those who are equally convinced that it is the wrong thing to do.

In discussing the potential merger at the Law firm, I noticed the leaders that I was talking to were concerned with how to achieve the right result – merging with the US law firm.  This stirred me into thinking because I saw that it was a case of the ends justifying the means.  The firm is trying to decide whether to change its voting structure and have an open rather than confidential vote on the basis that everything should be out in the open.  A laudable aim except that it appears that the real aim is to identify those who dissent and force them into the open and intimidate them.  As I thought about it, it occurred to me that everyone thought the outcome was the important thing.  I was laughing with my client because we were aware that the fact that Brexit was happening at the same time could not be a coincidence.  It was clear to me that the same thing was happening with Brexit – everyone was convinced that whether Brexit happened or not was the important thing.  The more I thought about it the more I realised that we were being manipulated by whatever consciousness is at play in the universe.  Here we all are thinking the outcomes are the important thing yet we don’t control these outcomes.  No-one can determine whether Brexit happens or not – it is beyond the individual’s power to influence.  It is a collective thing.  It is the same with the merger at the firm.  It is beyond any indivdual’s power to control.

The situation was very apposite to my client.  He had come to a personal breakthrough in his approach to his life.  He had spent the last year going through the process to be a partner at the firm and he had failed the first time.  He had been so wounded by this that he had finally decided to leave and had received an offer of a partnership at another firm (see!, someone else loved and valued him!).  When we met after he had resigned, we were talking through his reasons for leaving.  I knew that the whole experience had revolved around a dilemma in him where he placed his sense of value in how others saw him and not in himself.  Throughout his life this had been a theme and he had chosen a path where he was continually an underdog who did not feel properly valued by those around him.  The real point of the failure was to free him from this dependence on how others saw him and external validators of his value.  During this session the final penny dropped into place and he went back to the firm to say that he had made a mistake – that he loved working for the firm and he was prepared to risk failure again to find out whether it might be the right place for him.  More importantly his whole approach to his life and work radically changed.  He stopped taking on pieces of work based on whether they would influence his reputation and chances of making partnership or get him into other people’s good books but instead on the basis of whether he thought he was the right person and had the resources to do it.  The result was that he discovered there were no terrible consequences and his life became more straightforward and peaceful.  His attitude to going through the process of becoming a partner changed too.  This time he wasn’t trying to convince or manipulate the selection panel to make him a partner.  He didn’t see the partners on the panel like gods that he had to convince.  Instead, he saw them as fellow men and women who would make their own decision.  His role was only to present what he thought and leave them to decide whether they thought he was right to be a partner or not – all the angst and worry about how to say the right thing to guarantee the oresult he wanted reduced.

What he had learnt was to separate himself from the outcome.  As he pointed out, he was just finding out whether he was going to be a partner there and then when he had found that out, there would be his next step.  He saw that he didn’t need to make his sense of self-value dependent on that.  Instead he could see that he valued himself and he trusted that he would find the right outlet for himself; he was just waiting to find out whether it was at this firm and developing himself and learning in the process.  We are so concerned with the outcome – whether we are successful or not, whether Brexit happens, whether Trump does awful things etc.  Yet we have no control over these things.  So we try to control them by manipulating and pushing.  This inevitably provokes resistance and our heart closes.  People like Viktor Frankl say “Don’t aim at success, the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued….you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge.  Then you will live to see that in the long-run – in the long-run, I say! – success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.”

In her work Byrom Katie talks about three things; your business, other people’s business and god’s business.  I think most of us are confused.  We think other people’s business is our business.  We also think that things like Brexit, Trump, whether our firm merges etc. are our business rather than God’s (fate’s, that which we can’t control, the Universe – however you wish to describe it).  Most of our lives when we really examine them have a flow to them which we do not control.  It is important to us, so we try hard to influence it and this makes us very stressed and wrought up in efforts to make it the way we want it.  The ancient Greeks had a word for trying to control or decide God’s business – hubris.  It was at the heart of every tragedy.  It is hard for us to recognise that things like Trump, Brexit etc. are God’s business – that they are not our business.  We are welcome to think about them or have an opinion but we do not control them.

So what do we concern ourselves with? Now that is the interesting point.  I saw that it is not the outcome that is important – it is the way we treat other people.  It does not really matter whether Brexit happens or not.  If we end up with a deeply divided and resentful country which is polarised and intolerant of each others views, then whether Brexit happens or not is not material.  If it happens and we have become more tolerant and accepting of others’s views and more willing to co-operate then we have all benefited.  If it doesn’t happen and we are more tolerant and accepting of others’s views then we have all benefited.  So the outcome is a red herring.  It is more valuable to become curious about what Life (God etc.) is up to since it is clearly beyond our knowledge (humility), but if we are curious rather than indulging in hubris we might gain really big insights and perspective.  If we judge it from our limited perspective of what we believe to be right then we will probably learn little and be frustrated by the apparent idiocy of our fellow men.

So the only important thing is how we are treating each other in each moment not the outcome.  This does not imply that we are passive as most people conclude from this philosophy since that assumes what we do is not important.  Yet it is the reverse, what we do is very important and how we deal with this moment and others around us is the important part.  Where that leads is God’s business.

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Dissolving the bond with your group

This morning I consulted the I-Ching and threw the first and third lines of Dispersion (a hexagram which according to Chrissy Philp’s model represents Neptune.  I wondered what this might be about.  The first line says:

Six at the beginning means:
	He brings help with the strength of a horse.
	Good fortune.

It is important that disunion should be overcome at the outset, before it has 
become complete-that the clouds should be dispersed before they have 
brought storm and rain. At such times when hidden divergences in temper 
make themselves felt and lead to mutual misunderstandings we must take 
quick and vigorous action to dissolve the misunderstandings and mutual 
distrust.

the fourth line says:

Six in the fourth place means:
	He dissolves his bond with his group.
	Supreme good fortune.
	Dispersion leads in turn to accumulation.
	This is something that ordinary men do not think of.

When we are working at a task that affects the general welfare, we must leave 
all private friendships out of account. Only by rising above party interests can 
we achieve something decisive. He who has the courage thus to forego what 
is near wins what is afar. But in order to comprehend this standpoint, one 
must have a wide view of the interrelationships of life, such as only unusual 
men attain.

After throwing these lines I headed into my home town – Stroud – to meet a friend.  In the middle of Stroud a demonstration was taking place.  The demonstration was against the plans that the council had to sell off the central venue called the Subscription Rooms.  Another mutual friend was very vocal in persuading us to join and protest against this.  He blamed the government putting pressure on the council.  As we were walking through the market, my friend introduced me to a friend of his who was a leading proponent of the movement to create a legal precedent that prevented governments from reneging on their commitments to climate change proposals.  It was to create a fundamental right that existed beyond individual governments.  As we talked, there were a number of references to Trump and the sense was of being part of a war against Trump.

When I joined the protestors they were reciting poetry to the crowd.  The poetry sounded very angry and cynical.  It was about people deliberately screwing the poor and it had a very angry and bitter feel to it.  There was a definite sense of a “cause” that had to be fought for.

A few evenings ago, I was talking to a friend of mine whose wife had had an affair in secret and brought an end to thirty-seven years of marriage.  His four kids had been devastated, as had he.  He was asking me (since I had suffered a similar fate) what was the point of being people taken over by forces which caused such devastation and suffering.  He saw it very much that way.  He was angry that his wife saw herself as such a victim still rather than understanding the pain she had caused.  But he was questioning whether anyone could really be responsible for being taken over by such forces.

My European friends are still hurt by the fact that the UK is leaving the European Union.  Everyone seems to feel the world is such a mess.  It is clear that Trump, Climate deniers, Brexiteers are to blame.  At a personal level it is the same.  What a mess.  Everyone feels so disillusioned and it is clear that someone, somewhere is to blame.

When I run programmes for my clients at large corporates everyone has their nemesis and we are often told that we need to be aiming the programme at the difficult people who really don’t get what we are teaching.  We have said many times (half in jest) that we have proposed running a programme for difficult people – it’s just that no-one seems to sign up.  Everyone knows these difficult people are there and they are ruining their lives but no-one seems to think it is them.

What do we do?  Are we at the mercy of ungovernable forces that we can’t control?  Do we fight the good fight against evil and put in place rules and rights to protect us from people who don’t hold sacred what we hold sacred?

I have noticed that whenever a new consciousness is emerging it tends first to polarise.  It is as if something cannot emerge until it first separates.  This seems to be the function of Uranus.  To cause separation and polarisation.  Yet, I think the point may well be to cause us to have to think more deeply.  Certainly everyone seems consumed by Trump, Brexit, the rise of the Right etc. Life has achieved it’s aim that we are provoked and stirred into action and discussion.  It is like we have been poked with a cattle prod.  Everyone feels very angry and disturbed.

Certainly with Uranus in Aries square Pluto in Capricorn and Neptune in Pisces, there is a feeling that we are being prodded by an electric cattle prod and governments and politics are certainly to blame.  Everyone feels so unfairly victimised (Neptune in Pisces).  In my own life, this is playing out through my wife having an affair and leaving to live with her new girlfriend.  After twenty-six years together and being a bolt out of the blue for the whole family and done in Neptunian style with plenty of deceit everyone in my personal environment feels very stirred up too.  Oh dear, oh dear!  What can we do?  Everywhere we turn this sense of separation and feeling a victim feels apparent.  Is it men who are to blame?  Is it white people?  Is it Brexiteers? Trump?  The liberal elite?  ISIS? The USA? Surely someone somewhere must be to blame.  They must be taken on, fought, shown the error of their ways. They are clearly heartless, ruthless, unconcerned with people’s suffering and they should pay.

Now I have a secret to share, I think I have found out who is to blame – they are ruthless, heartless, unconcerned with people’s suffering and I think they need to take responsibility for the suffering they have caused.  The big secret? I think it is Life itself and I think it has done it deliberately.  But how do we fight it? I think we need to spike it’s guns and thwart its motives by coming together and having compassion for each other and blame it rather than our fellow human beings.  That would really show it.  Or could it even be that Life itself needs our compassion?  That it too is really trying to help us? Oh no, can’t even blame that!

When I worked as the head of a Steiner School, it had a Chiron-Saturn square, with Uranus and Pluto plus Mars thrown into boot.  It also had a Moon-Neptune conjunction.  Everyone who was involved in the school could feel there was a problem and that it was sitting there festering and no-one was addressing it.  The teachers felt it was the parents and trustees, the trustees felt it was the senior staff, the parents thought it was the teachers and so on.  Everyone was convinced there was a problem and that someone must be to blame.  Periodically someone would be identified and scapegoated for being the source of it.  Yet strangely, no matter how many people were got rid of the problem did not shift.  In the end I realised the only place I could deal with the problem was in me.  I realised that the part of me that felt a wave of frustration when the school responded to a problem by doing the wrong thing and making a crisis was the issue.  I could see that everyone was feeling that feeling and that the only place I could shift it was in myself – to give it up.  To stop getting caught by that frustration and negativity.  Life of course gave me plenty of practice!  But I got the hang of it and so over time did everyone else until the frustration was replaced by an amazing sense of coming together and unity.  It felt like Life was setting the challenges for us and the sense of ‘us and them” dissolved.  It had a profound effect on all those who were part of it.

I think it was Christ’s message.  I think he saw that no-one was to blame, that it was a set-up and so he said everyone could blame him so that we could all take blame out of the equation.  I think it is the same now.  I don’t think anyone is to blame.  I think we can all blame Life.  I think it is setting us a collective test.  Can we overcome our sense of separation, can we see it is all “us”?  Are we up to it?  Well, of course, first I’ve got to forgive my wife – that’s my contribution to the test.  I blame Life for giving her a personality (chart) and transits that would do it.   I see she is suffering just as much as we all are.  Time to control my instincts and rise to the challenge – will I be up to it?

I wonder, can we all become “unusual men” as the I-Ching describes it in the 4th line of  Dispersion?  Can we overcome disunion?  That sounds a better use of Uranus-Pluto square and Neptune in Pisces:  “unusual men” who are on everyone’s side and have compassion and understanding for everyone?  Could that be the beginning of a collective game – my friend Chrissy thinks we might be moving towards a collective black hole game (a collective game of consciousness).  I think that with the Age of Aquarius starting she may well be right.  Nothing like a good collective argument and conflict to create a breakthrough and bring us together.  The other night my daughter and I argued for a good few hours to try and resolve a conflict and see each others emotional reality and in the end we got there and the result was a beautifully loving evening, like the sun coming out after a storm.  Perhaps conflict and separation will lead in the end to union.  I think that is the point – we are learning to handle our collective emotions.

What if everyone realised that each person (cell in the collective organism) was important and had their role?  What if we saw that every political party had it’s grain of truth and it’s shadow and that all were needed to create the tension that is collective consciousness – in the same way that each sub-personality and tension between them is part of creating our consciousness?  What if we saw no-one was to blame?

What a challenge to be given, are we up to it?  I asked the I-Ching again and it said a situation of 62 – Preponderance of the Small – it describes “a struggle and exceptional conditions in general”.  It also says “exceptional modesty and conscientiousness are sure to be rewarded with success….we must understand the demands of the time in order to find the necessary offset for its deficiencies and damages.”  It also says that “the superior man derives an imperative from this image: he must always fix his eyes more closely and more directly on duty than does the ordinary man, even though this might make his behaviour seem petty to the outside world.”

There is one changing line to give us advice on how to deal with this situation:

Nine in the second place means:
	Remorse disappears.
	 
The situation is abnormal. A man's force of character is greater than the 
available material power. Thus he might be afraid of allowing himself to 
attempt something beyond his strength. However, since it is the time of 
DURATION, it is possible for him to control his inner strength and so to 
avoid excess. Cause for remorse then disappears.

Can we hold back our instincts? If we can then we can avoid the anger and blaming that might be a cause for remorse it seems to be suggesting.

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DNA & Astrology

I recently went to a conference held by Resurgence at Worcester College Oxford.  One of the speakers – a late replacement as it turned out – was Bruce Lipton.  His session focused on epigenetics and its implications for our understanding of evolution.  What he was saying was that we have misunderstood the key driver in evolution.  We have confused the blueprint – DNA – with the architect.  He pointed out that our DNA does not determine our evolution or consciousness in the way that people thought.  He also suggested that evolution is not taking place over millenia in a continuous line but rather evolution is a series of jumps where the paradigm shifts.  He explained that the initial thinking was that DNA was the brain of the cell and responsible for our level of evolution and that it was controlling our lives.  If we have a particular faulty gene for instance then we are fated to be ill or die from cancer.  As part of his research he described having stem cells in a petri dish which were multiplying from an initial cell. All these cells shared the same DNA but he realised that if he put them in different environments (different solutions), they developed into different cells – bone cells, fat cells, muscle cells etc. Hence it was not the DNA but the environment that was critical.

The research on sequencing genomes confirmed this since when they sequenced the genome of a small worm low down on the evolutionary tree it had twenty-one thousand genes and when they sequenced a mammal half-way up the evolutionary tree it had seventeen thousand genes and finally when they sequenced humans they found they had twenty-one thousand genes. So it was clearly not the amount of genes that was determining evolution. What Lipton realised was that the key was the membrane (mem-brain as he calls it). He described how environmental stimuli reach the membrane and then are converted by receptor and processor proteins to make an appropriate response via an effector protein. Since the environment was responsible for determining the development of the cell then the larger the surface area of skin the more perceptions (definition: “to become aware of something through the senses”). His point is that our bodies are just like big cells – taking in information through our sensory perceptors – touch, sight, hearing, taste, smell and then being processed through the brain to create a response.

Bruce Lipton’s insight is that the DNA does not have to express; how the DNA expresses is to do with our response to our environment.  The DNA is the blueprint but it is not the architect, ie. how we choose to respond to environmental stimuli from the potential of our DNA blueprint – how and what parts of our DNA we choose to respond with – is determined by the architect.  Lipton’s point is that as human being we are just like our cells.  The mind is the processor so how we interpret our perceptions through our mind is the key to how we respond but also critically this in turn shapes our biology too. We are self-programming and as we do so, we are evolving. So our free-will and choice about how we perceive stimuli from the external environment determines our response and our programming for how we use our DNA.  According to Lipton there are two processes that adapt our response, one which selects genes from either our mother or our father (methylation) and another process which determines how the gene selected responds (gene splitting).  Since each gene has around three thousand different proteins that it can express as part of this gene splitting process it means we have huge scope for adapting our response.

Bruce Lipton’s conclusion is that we are just the same as cells and receive signals from our internal and external environments and these signals are filtered through our mind to create perceptions that are then communicated through our nervous system to create our behaviour and gene activity as well as affecting the blood which is the culture medium which feeds the fifty trillion cells in our bodies.

So what are the implications of all this? For Lipton it is that we need to exercise as much control over our environment as possible in order to promote feelings of love rather than fear and stress since fear and stress responses cause cells to go into stasis and stop evolving whilst we deal with the threat. In the past this would have been for a short duration whilst we dealt with a physical threat, ie.it would have been our animal response. His advice is that we should control both our internal and external environment.

This got me thinking about the astrology of all of this and I realised that our chart is our DNA; the blueprint for our potential to respond that is our genetic inheritance at birth.  Thinking about this further I suddenly realised that the chart does nothing. It is a blueprint or potential. This blueprint is only activated by the evolving environment or in Astrological terms the on-going chart. Yet, the chart does not appear to describe our consciousness or free-will which determines the expression of this chart. As a long-term student of the I-Ching, it occurred to me that what the I-Ching is providing is a guide to our attitude or interpretation of our perceptions which allows us to modify our internal environment and express our DNA or chart in the wisest way possible. In effect to help us evolve.

This answers one of the conundrums of Astrology which is that knowledge of Astrology does not necessarily make us wise since it does not control the expression of our chart, it simply gives us information about the nature of the environmental stimuli and the blueprint which is our DNA. How wisely we express and evolve the expression of our chart is down to our attitude and this the I-Ching is concerned with training. The I-Ching takes the particular moment which the evolving chart describes and provides advice on the attitude appropriate to the environmental stimulus of the moment. Wow – amazing stuff.

Unlike Lipton, I do not think that the implications are that we can control our environmental stimuli in terms of foods etc. since, as the chart describes, we are not in control of these stimuli. Lipton noted that twins born with identical DNA will, over a relatively short period of time, deviate as they experience different environmental stimuli and their cells respond differently to these.  I was wondering about this since as astrologers we know that the chart does not change, however, I saw that this is right since even twins born within minutes of each other who have very similar charts or DNA will not then exist in the same space so the influence of the environment described by the ongoing chart will differ as will their use of their free-will to determine the expression of that chart.

Chrissy Philp’s work on a model of the brain and the synthesis of the I-Ching and Astrology puts Uranus as the creative and Saturn as the receptive and the two together rule the pre-frontal lobes. Since Saturn rules the skin or membrane and Uranus rules the Creative energy of the Universe, then Saturn is the receptors of our physical body and cells and Uranus is the energies of the environment which stimulate these receptors. It is interesting to note in Lipton’s explanation that there are two processes which determine the way DNA is expressed. Methylation determines which genes will not be selected from the parental pairs and this seems very much like Saturn with its ability to block expression or inhibit and the other is epigenetic gene splicing which sounds remarkably like Uranus in operation creating change and new possibilities.

The idea that evolution is to do with membrane size and capacity and that it does not gradually evolve over time but instead is about sudden changes in capacity which create paradigm shift fits with the symbolism of Uranus. At the same time, his notion that then this level of evolution is refined and worked on to create the best of the new paradigm fits with Saturn. When reading Robert Pirsig’s book Lila back in the eighties, I was struck by his idea that change was to do with a shift in consciousness and that those shifts were created by a change of paradigm. I was also struck by his description of the fact that the existing level of consciousness and evolution has to be guarded and protected against the attempts of new ideas to breakthrough because it is preventing a slipping back to a previous state. I used this as the foundation of my understanding of the role of leadership and management in organisations. I saw that the role of management was to create the maximum value from the existing paradigm and hone and perfect it but that the role of leadership was to change the paradigm. In this sense there was an inevitable tension between the two. It helped me hugely in terms of my change management role at the time within Ernst & Young because I recgonised that the Saturnian blockers of change in the organisation were the very people who, once the new idea was accepted, would be its greatest guardians and would be the most adept at making it established and grounded in the organisation. Bruce Lipton described exactly the same process with evolution. It required a new membrane for us to evolve since this allowed for more perceptions and greater interaction and co-operation of specialist cells or organisms. He explained that with each evolutionary leap you had a larger organism with greater skin area – hence the multiple folds of the brain to create maximum skin area. Once the new membrane was in place the evolution was about creating the best possible version of it till it reached its maximum capacity. At this point it required a paradigm shift to a new larger membrane with greater capactity for perception and interaction.

Pirsig in his book, described the fact that we already have larger organisms in play than human beings. A city or country has a life span far in excess of any single human being and no single human being has the capability of understanding how to run all the multiple complex processes that allow it to continue to exist. It requires co-operation between all the various cells (humans) and it requires different and specialist human cells to ensure its survival. Yet, like us, all the cells (or humans) can die and be replaced and the city continues to live and evolve. Yet, you say, a city is not alive as such. But how do we know? If you were able to ask the individual cells in your body – say your hand – whether the body they were part of, had a higher, intangible consciousness which was running the show and was called “John” and that this “John” would continue to exist even as every cell died out and was replaced they would probably tell you that you were suffering from a big delusion – that they had never encountered this mystical “John”. So, there is already evolution beyond the human and we are all part of co-operative membranes – multiple ones in many cases. However, the most interesting evolutionary leap is that with the internet, we are, as Chrissy Philp and others point out, evolving a giant brain. But the key is that it is a digital membrane (Uranus-Saturn). This digital membrane increases the capacity of evolution by a scale of magnitude and introduces a central nervous system for a global consciousness. We are in the beginnings of an enormous paradigm shift to the age of Aquarius-Leo. Interestingly what it suggests is a need for enlightened self-interest on the parts of the cells (us) to recognise that we are all feel special and individual (Leo) and that we all have a specialist unique role to play but we are all part of one humanity – in fact part of one world or one consciousness.  Having just made a call where I went through to a call centre in India, I was reminded of this fact.  It feels very impersonal (Aquarius) yet, when I started to ask the person where they were and established they were in Bangalore – the one Indian city I had visited – it transformed and our hearts connected to provide the Leo sense of the personal.  I was also working in Belfast and we were discussing the fact that for most people these days our immediate environment where we relate to people at the heart level has changed.  We relate through social media which connects us to multiple people with whom we might have little connection and most people’s jobs involve contact via e-mail and phone with people in other countries or areas that they may never directly meet.  Even for those not working and part of the older generation, they cannot avoid call centres in different countries etc. as part of their lives.  It all feels very impersonal and I think our challenge during this age will be to understand that it is all personal, that as the I-Ching says “we are all one in our hearts” (Leo).  I wonder whether old people coming together in homes, babies in nurseries, all of us working in an expanded global world, is part of this adjustment to a global consciousness.  I don’t particularly like it at a personal level but I see that the work we may be asked to do is to see that everyone (Aquarius) is personal (Leo) at the level of hearts (and consciousness) so that we are never really separate or alone.  I think it is going to take a long time to get the hang of this and the tension may well be with us for many millenia.

At the conference there was also a focus on discoveries taking place in terms of communication between plants and between fungi and the fact that more and more evidence from more and more disciplines are suggesting that the whole world (the earth) is alive and communicating at a fungal, bacterial, plant and every other level. In the past our ancestors lived with an intuitive unconscious knowledge that they were part of a numinous world. With the age of enlightenment we separated ourselves from this and positioned any spiritual belief in a disembodied extra dimension which was separate from the dead inanimate matter of which our world was composed. Now that Air-Earth rational materialism function is discovering the scientific evidence that the planet is alive and consciously all one. I think with the emergence of the Neptune-Uranus generation as they come of age, the rift between the scientist and the mystic is being healed as the proof of our oneness is being discovered by science. I suspect this might be a result of the Pisces-Virgo age fully expressing itself but it creates and cements the foundation for the new Aquarian age which we are at the very beginning of.  With the current Neptune-Saturn square the foundations of the old paradigm are breaking down and science and Spirituality are beginning to come together.  I am also aware that for the Neptune-Uranus generation, the Neo-Liberalism that sprung up at the time of the conjunction is now breaking down and with transiting Pluto and Uranus forming a t-square to this Neptune-Uranus conjunction it is no wonder that the younger generation is suffering from depression, alienation and breakdown and is turning to drugs to solve the problem.  The old paradigm is breaking down and this generation are somehow breaking down as part of that (thanks for this insight Clem).

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How to react to the Paris bombings?

 

How to react?  This is difficult because it is raw so I apologise in advance, particularly to those directly affected, if it feels presumptuous to be discussing this and putting forward a view on how to react (I am presumptuous, I have been since birth so I hope I will be forgiven).  I have been thinking about this and talking to others about it since Friday night.  First for me is compassion for those who have been hurt or shocked by this.  How could it be otherwise?  My heart goes out to those who have been so shocked and to those who have lost loved ones.  I can understand that they will be feeling shocked, hurt, angry, distraught.  I am with them, who would not understand such feelings?  It needs a lot of love and a lot of compassion for those hurt.

Then my heart says, how do we stop anyone hurting each other like this again?  Our natural reaction is to try to prevent being so hurt again.  Here, I think reflection is important – as Einstein said, “we cannot solve the problems of today at the level of thinking that created them”.   So something must change.

The I-Ching likes reflection and sees it like being on the top of a mountain – that is being an example that others can see from afar and also getting a wider view.  It calls it Contemplation (Hexagram 20) and the first line says:

Six at the beginning means: Boy like contemplation. For an inferior man, no blame. For a superior man, humiliation. This means contemplation from a distance, without comprehension. A man of influence is at hand, but his influence is not understood by the common people. This matters little in the case of the masses, for they benefit by the actions of the ruling sage whether they understand them or not. But for a superior man it is a disgrace. He must not content himself with a shallow, thoughtless view of prevailing forces; he must contemplate them as a connected whole and try to understand them.

We can all identify with having acted in a child like, impulsive way (boy like contemplation) and then had the wiser side of ourselves regret it (For a superior man, humiliation).  So how do we contemplate things as a connected whole?

Well, here is my attempt at this.  If we are all connected as one whole, then we cannot separate ourselves; it is all us.  Looked through this lens the Paris attacks take on a different meaning.  I think it might be that Life is provoking us to be more conscious about how we are all connected.  Paris in the last few days has been experiencing what it is like on a daily basis to be in the Middle East.  I think we in the West, through the immigration and the bombings are having to come to terms with the fact that we cannot separate and isolate ourselves from our actions in the Middle East.  If we bomb other people and kill them, then they are going to want to do the same to us.

In the hexagram Conflict (Hexagram 6) the I-Ching says:

Nine at the top means:

Even if by chance a leather belt is bestowed on one,
By the end of a morning
It will have been snatched away three times.

Here we have someone who has carried a conflict to the bitter end and has triumphed.  He is granted a decoration, but his happiness does not last. He is attacked again and again, and the result is conflict without end.

Violence does not solve violence, it causes more pain and hurt which creates more anger and desire to hurt and so on.

So what can we do?  None of us would choose such situations and yet, we can all look back on our lives and see that the experiences we would never have chosen somehow changed us.  It takes huge emotional courage, but to choose not to respond by hurting others but instead to turn the challenge to change back on ourselves we can transform the situation so that it creates a greater consciousness and allows us to evolve as humanity.  This is very hard work but it seems to be the only way to transform rather than perpetuate the problem.  It requires a lot of compassion for those hurt.  If we do not react with more violence we create the possibility for the end of conflict.

This is difficult to do because it requires us to challenge ourselves and see our contribution to the situation and to take responsibility for that.  The fifth line of the Hexagram Contemplation says:

Nine in the fifth place means:

Contemplation of my life.
The superior man is without blame.

A man in an authoritative position to whom others look up must always be ready for self-examination. The right sort of self-examination, however, consists not in idle brooding over oneself but in examining the effects one produces. Only when these effects are good, and when one’s influence on others is good, will the contemplation of one’s own life bring the satisfaction of knowing oneself to be free of mistakes.

I wonder what those killed would like their legacy to be?  I cannot say because I am not them but I think if I was killed by someone, I would not like my legacy to be more violence and killing.  I would feel my death had served a purpose if it led to greater awareness and a reduction of violence.

If someone is angry with us and we respond with anger and hurt, they continue to be angry and justify their anger.  However, if we don’t respond with anger, they lose the fuel they need to justify their anger, it means they cannot blame us and they have to reflect.  I think it is the same with countries.  As long as we are bombing and killing people in the Middle-East if fuels the belief that we are the problem.  If we stop and act peacefully then in the end, the problem is thrown back on the country and it creates the conditions over time for the country to change itself.  This requires patience but in the end it is a lasting change.

If these events provoke us to greater consciousness, to recognise that we are all the same and to take responsibility for our part then that would be a remarkable reaction.

 

The top line of the Hexagram Contemplation says:

Nine at the top means:

Contemplation of his life.
The superior man is without blame.

While the preceding line represents a man who contemplates himself, here in the highest place everything that is personal, related to the ego, is excluded. The picture is that of a sage who stands outside the affairs of the world. Liberated from his ego, he contemplates the laws of life and so realizes that knowing how to become free of blame is the highest good.

I think most of us can now see the impact of the way we reacted to the 9/11 bombings by invading Iraq and Afghanistan, we have taken many years to reflect and collectively we are beginning to take responsibility for our “boy like” reaction.  The same is true of the migrant crisis with our initial refusal to accept or have compassion for the migrants.  No-one wanted the little boy to drown but it woke up our hearts and changed our approach.  Can Paris wake up our hearts to the suffering violence causes?  I hear more to suggest we might respond differently this time I hope it will not take more pain to wake us up.

 

 

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