Sagittarius, from the Astrological Bodies series

The State of the Universe

Planet Waves by Eric Francis
December 2002

IS THE WORLD getting better or is it getting worse?

Technological advances race forward along with the decimation of the environment, in an endless cycle of problems, solutions and increasing consumption of resources. Medical science leaps ahead while industrialization creates more and more new diseases, both mental and physical, for it to solve. Military technology advances make it easier for the United States to keep conquering the world, with uncertain consequences. It's like we're all riding a wave that's moving faster and faster. Will it crash?

I recently asked Ron Kurtz, the creator of Hakomi therapy, if the world is getting better or worse. "It's going down the toilet," he said, with not a hint of hesitation or irony. Ron's job is training therapists to help people be happier as the flush of empire swirls all around.

Self-procalimed "prophet of boom" Rob says it's all just getting better and better and better; we merely have to keep hoping and praying and being. He advocates taking on the feeling of what he calls pronoia, imagining that the whole world is nothing more than a big conspiracy in your favor. Of course, just because you're pronoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

Inga Muscio, the radical feminist author of a raging little book called Cunt: A Declaration of Independence gave an interesting answer not long ago, probably correct. The world is getting better and it's getting worse at the same time. The better it gets for some people or in some aspects of life, both in terms of love and expensive sneakers, the worse it's going to get for others. The trick is basically to survive and have a good time, and not try to save the world because it can't be saved anyway.

Finally, somebody absolved me of that great burden.

I visited New Paltz recently (where I attempted several times to save the world) and got into a State of the World conversation with a waiter there, in Bacchus, the Pseudohemian bar. He came out with the statement that even if he were innocent, he'd be fine with having cops look up his ass as long as it meant they were protecting his civil rights.

I didn't get the impression that he'd, you know, be into this for fun, but whatever. I learned long ago not to try to reason with that kind of logic, but forgot. I tried a few approaches, such as, it's not civil rights if someone's doing a cavity search on you for no reason. The whole point of civil rights is to protect you from precisely that kind of thing. I felt like Jefferson, impeccable in my logic, scripting these truths in magnificent cursive.

No, no, he said. It would be good for the country. We need to protect freedom.

Brother, I'm with you. Now, we're all slowly getting accustomed to this kind of doublethink here in the Age of Ashcroft. But at least the world is getting better for me. The conversation didn't last three hours. Yet these are the discussions that really make me wonder.

Better or worse? The month of December provides us with an enormous experiment that will help us not only to test the state of the universe, but also get involved in its unfolding. The juncture, or conjunction as it happens, is astrological in nature. It's astronomical, too, but astrology is astronomy with a Ph.D. in mysticism. This is a total eclipse of the Sun in Sagittarius on Dec. 4. By the time you read this, we'll be close to the week of the eclipse and all playing some version of astro-cowboy, riding that centaur. (This event is not visible from North America; au contraire, it happens past midnight in the eastern U.S.)

There are two salient features to this eclipse that I want to explore, but first, a word about eclipses in general. Eclipses relate to the nature of time. We tend to think of time as a line. That's a model that's supported neither by nature nor by science. Astrology suggests that time is more like a spiral, but often the loops cross over one another. When an eclipse happens, many of the energetic tunnels of time are converging in one place simultaneously and we cross through that node. These passageways can include those of local time and distant time, such as past lives. Individual lives can reach out in many directions. There is an energy rush or sense of acceleration, a moment of decision or indecision, and a magnified sense of the importance of a time-frame or the events that it contains.

You never noticed any of this trippy stuff go down? Well, if you saw a list of eclipses you might decide otherwise. Taken less consciously, they are points that seem to be affected with a heavier hand by fate, chance or crisis. They are transitions that we go through both collectively and individually on a fairly clear rhythm of every five-and-a-half months.

Second general comment, on Sagittarius, since that's where the eclipse happens. This is the sign of the zodiac which, along with the corresponding 9th house, is associated with The World. It is also associated with the Higher Self. It is also associated with international culture and points abroad, education and the higher courts (the lower courts are Libra and the 7th house). Alice A. Bailey, author of (among other works) the infamous Esoteric Astrology, says that this sign works on two levels, the centaur depicted, and the arrow he is shooting from his bow. She takes the arrow meaning as being on the higher level; it is the single-minded desire for spiritual growth that a true aspirant must bring to the task. Interesting, then, that as science got advanced enough to see into things a bit, to look at space out in the region we call Sagittarius, many important discoveries were made. It is surely the destination of many important points beyoud. Its natives (happy birthday kids!) surely reflect that quality, of having come from very, very far away.

Now for salient feature number one of the current event. In mid-Sagittarius is a point called the Great Attractor. Scientists are discovering the existence of dark matter, that is, stuff that you can't see, but which broadcasts waves on every frequency and emits vast gravitational force. The Great Attractor, located in space at 14 degrees and 2 minutes Sagittarius, has the most enormous concentration of dark matter known, so big that a million galaxies are rushing toward it. We might make life easier by remembering this is inconceivable, but one way to describe it is the anti-big-bang. It's a place where the entire local universe is converging. The eclipse occurs less than three degrees from this point. For those of you with birthdays in this neighborhood wondering "is this somehow meaningful to me?" the answer is yes, as are corresponding birthdays in Gemini, Virgo and Pisces, and people with Gemini or Sagittarius Moon or rising.

In terms of its dynamics, the Great Attractor polarizes energy. If you have a planet there in your natal chart, or close aspects from other planets to the Attractor, people are likely to react to you and that planet very strongly one way or the other. It's anything in the whole world but neutral. It also creates a quality in people of affecting many lives in some important way but having no clue that this is happening.

Put an eclipse there and we can experience this polarization on a massive scale, or on a deeply personal one. Mr. Bush's prophesy, "You're either with us or against us," was spoken with this quality in mind, as part of his psychological plan is to create polarity dynamics in the culture. We shall see what manifests. Usually, mass-scale polarization does not work well for conservative agendas, because once shaken out of their slumber, liberating forces are a lot more passionate and enticing than their counterparts, and chaos always breaks down order faster than order imposes itself.

Salient quality number two. The degree in which this eclipse happens is truly significant. With eclipses, astrologers watch the exact degree and strive to understand what's happened there in the past. This is where astrology starts to take on the feeling of being a science. The degree is 12 Sagittarius, and in that degree was the rare conjunction of Chiron and Pluto on December 30, 1999. This conjunction happens once every sixty years (the last time was Leo, and it happened this time around at Y2K. As it was approaching, that fall, there was quite an uproar that became known as the Battle in Seattle, which was round one in The People vs. World Capitalism. Major protests in Washington, Genoa, Canada and other cities have made it impossible for the WTO and its cousins to meet unless they're behind brick and barbed wire.

This event was momentous, and, like direct action does so well, it brought out the nature of the beast for all to see. The imperial stormtroopers appeared with their black suits, teargas. masks, rifles, riot sticks, motorcycles and dirty tricks. Young and old people from all over the country got together and stood up to them, and by all reports that I have collected living in the Seattle area, nonviolently.

The Dec. 4 eclipse activates the point of conjunction between Chiron and Pluto. What we began at that point in history, we now get to continue. It's certainly an interesting way to end the year and interesting astrology to begin a war on Iraq. And of course there is no predicting what will happen, but we shall see what we shall see. There seems to be a lot at stake, and this is an true test of the State of the Universe.++

I want to thank my Chronogram readers, my editor Brian Mahoney, publisher Jason Stern and the Chronogram staff for another year of continued participation in the Hudson Valley community, and what is clearly its finest, most gutsy publication. Solstice blessings to you!