Interview with a Poet: Reflections on the Work of Bruce Whiteman

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The Invisible World is in Decline, Book IX is available through ECW Press, as well as through Amazon
9 (Melpomene) 

Lack of belief is the tragedy. It’s not that God’s ineffable face is gone. It’s out there somewhere like a star, like a childhood memory fated eventually to rise. It’s counting on the smaller things that come to be the hardest: poetry and its adagio truths, the tick-tock of love interminably out of reach and bound to fade away in any case, cocks and clocks and every squalid aspiration for eternity.

Bruce Whiteman, The Invisible World is in Decline, Book IX (p. 33). ECW Press. Kindle Edition. 

Bruce Whiteman lives in Peterborough, Ontario, where he is a full-time poet and book reviewer. Most recently he is the editor of Best Canadian Essays 2021 (Biblioasis). His selected essays and reviews will be published in 2022 by Biblioasis. Book IX, the conclusion to his long poem, The Invisible World Is in Decline, appears this April 2022 (ECW Press). His book reviews appear in such publications as The Hudson Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Canadian Notes & Queries, The Toronto Star, Quill & Quire and elsewhere.


Published this year (2022) The Invisible World is in Decline, Book IX is the last of nine books in your long poem of the same name which you began in 1981.  Congratulations on the publication, and thank you for allowing me to interview you.  As a writer who focuses on the metaphysical, particularly cycles of time and how they are expressed in culture, I find your work compelling, as it represents a concerted effort of vision which you have managed to sustain over a considerable time period.  Poetry is difficult work, as the matters of life, love, loss, hope can be onerous points of focus which many prefer to avoid. The Invisible World is in Decline represents an oeuvre of continual, concentrated self-awareness that is remarkable, and I am grateful that you are willing to share some insights. 

In Opus Posthumous (1957) Wallace Stevens says:  “The poet is the priest of the invisible.” The poet’s invocation of words charges our perception of hidden reality with power not otherwise available; through poetry, we are allowed to commune with subtleties which lie in places normally unknown.  Poetry’s precise reflectivity provides impressions of the invisible world with a power that is akin to that of visual arts such as photography, painting or sculpture, but poetry goes beyond what those arts offer, as the power of language is specifically human.  Good poetry has a visceral impact that forever changes the reader. Through the work of a skilled poet such as yourself, we are allowed to view the shape of the ethers underpinning our world, and we come away with new knowledge in apprehending a perspective not normally seen.

To be a poet takes great strength, and speaks of a love of life that encompasses a willingness to not look away and hide from tenderness of this world, but rather revel in it, transcribing impressions for the benefit of all.  I hope my questions here are not too personal, or vague, but rather represent what others may find salient in considering your poetry.  Your work and insights are deeply valuable, and much appreciated. Thank you Bruce.


#1 Define “Invisible World”

The phrase “invisible world” brings many things to mind, and as a person who tends to look at things metaphysically, I was quite struck by this concept.  For me, this phrase refers to the subtle current of energies which underpin what we consider consensual reality.  What do you mean when you use the phrase “the invisible world”?  Are you specifically referring to the world of the aesthete, the artist and musician, a world little perceived by the majority of humanity, or is it perhaps a spiritual reference? 

BW:

There have been times over the last forty years when the title of my long poem has seemed a regrettable limitation. Perhaps I should have chosen something less specific, broader, more capacious, like The Cantos or The Divine Comedy. And almost necessarily the poem sometimes strays quite far from the central armature, perhaps most especially at those times when the personal irresistibly comes back into the work, through passion or trauma or whatever is the case.

No, the title is not aesthetic; yes, it’s more spiritual. If you look back over the history of thought since the Enlightenment, it’s pretty obvious that the invisible world is in decline. Call it God, or the world of the spiritual generally speaking, its centrality to our lives has eroded. We see this in Locke, in Hume, in Nietzsche among the philosophers. In poetry, Wordsworth’s The Prelude announces the future dominance of the personal that will continue to be at poetry’s heart through Whitman and on into Modernism. Some Modernist art will aspire to be impersonal—T.S. Eliot wanting to derogate private experience, etc.—but really almost all art in every genre is personal after Wordsworth, after Berlioz, after Blake and Turner, after Freud. So the world of the spirits, as opposed to the world of the spirit, comes to be left behind or at least to decline in relevance. I chose such an idea as the central theme of my long poem precisely so I could get away from lyricism, from the ego as the source of poetry. I freely admit that over nine books and forty years, I didn’t always succeed in keeping the ego out of the poem.


#2 Is poetry confessional or impersonal?

It seems it is the poet’s task to delineate ephemera, showing us what they have retrieved while in communion with energies that ultimately transcend the personal.  The poet transcribes delicate perceptions into a transpersonal form, allowing the sharing of material which is larger than the individual. How much of your poetry has served as personal testament as opposed to representing collective considerations, or vice versa?  I understand that you have converted to the Catholic faith, and you are surely aware of the importance of confession to the life of a practicing Catholic.  How, throughout your career, has poetry served in place of that formal sacrament, if at all?  

BW:

I converted in 2019, so the bulk of my poem was composed before I became a Catholic, at one of the worst moments in Church history, I might add! As far as confession goes, both in the Christian sense and the psychotherapeutic sense, when I began to write The Invisible World, I had reached a point as a poet when confession had become boring, and it was precisely to get away from the confessional mode that I turned to the prose poem and the long poem. I suppose, now that you ask, that poetry WAS a kind of sacrament when I was young and writing lyric poetry, poems about feelings largely, the sorts of things one talks to a priest or a psychoanalyst about. The seven deadly sins writ large or secularized. With my long poem I wanted out of therapy, and into a kind of language that engages larger issues that are not at heart personal. Book IV is about light, for example. Inevitably, and even against my better judgement, personal feeling got back into the poem, especially at moments in my life when I was devastated by something–a love affair gone bad, the death of a parent, etc. I even allowed the “lined” poem back in twice, once at the end of Book VII and again in Book IX, where one whole section consists of poems—translations in fact—of conventionally structured poems. So I guess the short answer to your question is, inevitably, both.


#3 Does decline imply a fall from grace, or is it a matter of cyclical change?   

To consider that the invisible world is in decline is sad, and also somewhat alarming.  The question that comes to mind is this: why is it in decline? Is saying the invisible world is in decline a statement of hopelessness, or cynicism?  Or is it a clear-minded, objective assessment?  Does this concept of decline encompass the idea of falling from grace? Do you believe that decline is inevitable, a condition of mortality, or is there a turning point which can be found somewhere?   Is decline a permanent state, or do you believe it is a cyclical affair? 

BW:

That’s a hard question to be definitive about. The metanarrative of continual human progress is not easy to argue for, when you take a cold hard look at the planet today. The climate crisis feels like just the latest demonstration that somehow we humans have wasted our opportunity as a species through egotism. Of course, when you think about progress in concrete ways, it’s hard not to agree with the statements that we should be glad not to be forced to have dental work done in the 18th century, or that the elimination of smallpox is a wonderful thing. But spiritual progress? Not really. A geographer named Carl Sauer once pointed out that the first time humans did something really bad to the Earth was during the Renaissance, when humanism came to the fore; and in that sense, it has been downhill ever since, as far as our relationship with nature is concerned. And maybe our relationship with God too. But it’s complicated, and I’m not sure that the idea of a fall from grace is historically accurate. Emotionally, though, it kind of feels apt. It’s hard to imagine that we will ever return to the sort of integrated world view of earlier periods in human history. But hope is a very human emotion, so who knows?


#4 Are poets psychopomps?   

In Book IX, you say:

“Part of a poet’s job is to journey to hell. Seeking dear ones gone into pitch. Wanting the smell of love, the touch of a moving body. Missing hoarfrost and starshine, glabrous light, polyphonic voices.” (p. 14)

And:

“Remembering the dead, our lot is to walk carefully forward. Not to fall headlong from hour to hour, from day to day, hurled like water from edge to edge, into the darkness that yawns beneath our steps. Like a man on a wire we don’t look back and can’t look down, but focus straight ahead.” (p.16)

Your use of the psychopomp as a recurring character is fascinating. For those not familiar, a psychopomp is a divine or semi-divine being who is able to traverse the borders between the land of the living and the land of the dead, travelling back and forth to the underworld usually to fulfill a specific task, relay information or retrieve something lost.  Very few have been allowed by the gods to travel to make this journey and return to tell the tale, and success usually involves not looking back at that which we wish to bring to the surface. In looking back, we express doubt, and we scorn a divine gift, yet it is such a temptation to do what we have been decreed not to do. As a poet, how do you relate to the figure of the psychopomp? Are poets psychopomps in their own way, and should they be?  What temptations does the poet entertain in traversing the invisible landscapes of the underworld?

BW:

I took the idea of the psychopomp from Jung, for whom it is much as you say—a kind of spiritual cicerone. Some of the great works of western literature describe the visit to the realm of the dead—The Odyssey in Book 11, The Aeneid in Book 6, and of course Dante’s Inferno, the first great book of The Divine Comedy. The Orpheus myth as told by Ovid and others falls into this narrative as well. All of the seekers return to the world or rise upwards, sadder but wiser. Dante has to leave his psychopomp behind, because he—the poet Virgil—is a pagan, and not qualified to enter Paradise. Orpheus of course loses Eurydice because, as you say, he lacks faith and looks back to ensure that she is following him–just exactly what he has been told not to do. As I say in a note to Book IX, the psychopomp in one way is the master of dreams. Several of my poems engage with something I literally heard in a dream and recorded–the statement, for example, “I have an immortality problem.” I was hesitant to use dream material this literally, but decided in the end that there is so much poetry in dreams that it was stupid or ungenerous to ignore it. Dreams often do feel like an expedition to Hell, and what we can learn there, and from them, seems worth registering. Are poets psychopomps in this sense? The ancients would have answered in the affirmative for sure, and I do too.


#5  What advice do you have for the young poet?

For one last question, I ask broadly – what do you have to say to the young poet?  What advice do you have?  What would you like to say to those who would follow in your path, taking up the life of a poet?

BW:

I would try to be positive, though the real-world rewards are few. I would say, read as much as possible, poetry and other literature too. You cannot write well if you do not have a rich reading experience among the poets who came before you. Poetry doesn’t begin with Mary Oliver or Leonard Cohen. Read Homer and everything or as much as possible of what comes after him. Read translations if you don’t have other languages, though knowing another language is a very good thing for a poet. And as a poet who emphasizes the musical elements of poetry, I would recommend knowing at least something about how music works. Read aloud a lot. Read and re-read the same poems to know them well. Hang out with other creative people—musicians, painters et al. They will provoke you but also be good readers of your work. Learn about where words come from, as this will enrich the ways in which you use them. Poetry isn’t much of a living, honestly, but it’s a rich way to engage with life.

March 2022 Full Moon in Virgo with Forecasts for Each Sign of the Zodiac

Vasily Vereshchagin, Apotheosis of War, Turkestan Series, oil on canvas, Russia, 1872. Tretyakov Gallery

Note:  I discuss current planetary activities at length here, so if you are looking only for your astrological forecast, please scroll down. Thank you.

Since the last Full Moon on 16 February 2022, war has erupted in Europe, the likes of which has not been seen since World War Two. At this writing, 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine after Russia’s full scale invasion of February 24, 2022, and the world watches as Vladimir Putin wages a war which will surely go down in history as a crime against humanity. This month’s Full Moon is exact on Friday 18 March at 7:19 UT (3:19 EDT), and as we have seen so far this year, intensity is not abating.

Full Moon 27º40′ Virgo 18 March 2022, exact at 7:19 UT/3:19 EDT.
Chart courtesy of Astrodienst

Should this astrologer address war as it plays out on the eastern edge of Europe? Is it even ethical to discuss war astrologically? Is this not the purpose of astrological forecasting, to glean insight which is otherwise obscured by superficial events, or is that approach an archaism? I am not an entertainment-based astrologer, and I know that perhaps some readers find my posts too serious, but I offer no apologies. Whether or not my readers appreciate this proclivity in my thinking, I find it difficult to ignore the mass influence of the planets as they effect us universally. I will leave the reader to make up their own mind on these questions of ethics and entertainment, and offer my usual assessment of the sky as it happens, in the world as it happens. Otherwise, I run the risk of glossing over what I see occurring globally by just giving an account of what each individual sign should expect.  We are a global society, and I believe we cannot ignore the call of the trans-generational planets and their effects on the collective. 

For decades people have been talking about the Age of Aquarius, and unfortunately much of what has been bandied about on this topic has been overly idealistic.  Aquarius, ruled by Saturn traditionally, and by Uranus in modern astrology, while the sign of brotherly love, is also the sign of erratic and unpredictable events (like Putin’s invasion of Russia after promises otherwise), revolution, shock, tyranny, socialism, refugees, fanaticism, explosions, radiation and nuclear science, armaments, and incidentally, Uranus also rules Russia.  These are not light-hearted concepts, but rather some of the most serious things that any society can encounter.  While Saturn’s transit through Capricorn saw a tightening of governmental restrictions, and the imposition of higher-level rules for society, Saturn in Aquarius now butting up against Uranus in Taurus is testing the strength of the established order in ways not seen since the last time these two giants squared off in the late 1980s, a time marked by the Palestinian Uprising, the Soviet-Afghan War, the bombing of Libya, and the rise of Al Qaeda.   

Currently, the most visible venue of change is Ukraine, a country which gained independence on 24 August 1991, when the Sun was at 0º 42’ Virgo. A country historically subject to the winds of war, Ukraine embodies the phrase “salt of the earth.”  It is known as the breadbasket of Europe, and holds many valuable resources in its broad lands.  This Full Moon in Virgo conjoins Ukraine’s natal Mars, pushing people to violence as they need to fight for what they love most.  Saturn in Aquarius is conjoined with Ukraine’s natal Moon, which intensifies the natal opposition to the stellium in Leo, all of which is further widely squared by transiting Uranus in Taurus, signifying a heartbreaking period of loss, upheaval, challenges to idealism, emotional pain and insecurity.  The passionate conjunction of Mars and Venus in Aquarius seeks material acquisition of progress, and is moving into full conjunction with Saturn, confounding the satisfaction of personal desire as it combines with the will to aggression.   The conjunction will be at its closest by the end of March, and will result in deep frustration as people seek to enact their personal desires but are thwarted by powers beyond their reckoning.  Mars and Saturn will travel together in Aquarius until the third week of April. Saturn stands as gatekeeper, the god of time pressing down on Mars as it struggles for its will to power.  Passion, nurturance and depth of emotion are dampened by harsh reality in this overall combination, and people are tired of suffering, tired of being oppressed and repeatedly told “No”. 

18 March 2022 transits to chart of independent Ukraine. Courtesy of Astrodienst

We must also recognize the continuing influence of Pluto in Capricorn, the most cathartic force impinging upon the established order with insurmountable tensions that are boiling over in a cataclysm of collapse. Pluto has a few years left before it moves into Aquarius, and will continue to undermine established structures, sometimes painfully so.  As a rule, people do not like change, and Pluto’s approach to transformation can be extremely powerful as it eliminates what does not serve evolution’s requirements.  What may or may not be useful in the arena of Ukraine/Russia politics is beyond the scope of this article, but at the very least, we can expect that the popular, romanticized global image of Russia will once and for all be shattered in the wake of a tyrannical dictator’s destructive quest for power. Russia has long been a complicated presence on the world scene, a nation that created some of the world’s most elevated art and literature, as well being responsible for perpetrating some of the most barbaric atrocities ever known. Whenever this war is over, the reputation of Russia will be irrevocably changed, and we can only pray that lessons will be learned which allow that country to grow into a more compassionate and humane nation.

Also at play is the tremendous power of the current Neptune/Jupiter conjunction in Pisces, and the delusion inherent in that aspect, the combination of idealism with illusory desires for sublimation and loss of consciousness, indicating a deep collective need for escapism in the face of unrelenting terror.  This conjunction in Pisces is exemplified in the opiate of mass media that has plunged the world into a state of insurmountable addiction, as social media, streaming, binge watching, the gobbling down of political punditry brimming over with opinion editorials, the sheer spectacle of it all keeping people placated and numb as they flip from screen to screen in the quest for just the right sort of balm that will get them through the night unscathed.  This addiction pales with the epidemic of drug dependency which has swept across the planet, fueled by the greed of big pharma.  The Jupiter/Neptune conjunction in Pisces is also embodied in the reality of the global COVID-19 pandemic, as the rapidly spreading, highly infectious disease has brought the world to its knees, necessitating global lock-downs, restrictions on movement, and freedom to enjoy normal life. How we perceive reality, historically defined as the material here and now, is being challenged as much of the world now perceives reality virtually. Our increasing connection with the nebulous world of living “online” defies what we once considered the bulk of our daily lives. We can reach out to people around the globe, share ideas and images which shape who we believe we are. This development in human consciousness is unprecedented and has created new definitions of what it means to be human. The concentration of Neptune and Jupiter in Pisces is blowing open collective consciousness, and everywhere, people are swimming in deep waters as they try to ascertain what is real and what is manufactured disinformation spun for the purposes of confusion, profit, propaganda and chaos-making.

Despite this grim constellation of planets, I truly believe in the interconnectivity of life on Earth and that despite the problems of the world today, we are growing as a species.   I believe that while we are multitudes, we are One humanity, regardless of any distinguishing factors which individuals may use to mark out their place in the world – nationality, color, creed, sexual or political orientation.  While we are all immured in the vicissitudes of our daily worlds, on a greater level, we all exist here on this planet at the same time as 8 billion other people, and whether we are conscious of it or not, we share in a fundamental collective mind.  Aside from the high-profile war in Ukraine, violence still rages in places like Pakistan, Myanmar, Syria, Afghanistan, East Africa, Yemen, Iraq, Mexico…and the list goes on, all with considerable loss of life, terror and pain. It is easy to forget the rest of the world’s suffering as we are inundated with media’s immediate attention on Ukraine, but if we could each say a prayer for all those who suffer, for the men, women and children who spend their days and nights in fear and uncertainty, then surely that energy will be of benefit, somehow.  Use the increased light of this Full Moon in Virgo to look at the details of the world around you, and in true Virgo fashion, find some way to offer service to the greater good, even if that begins with taking a crack at cleaning up your own personal reality.

The March Equinox occurs on Sunday 20 March at 15:33 UT (11:33 EST) and the Sun moves into Mars-ruled Aries.  Let use the heightened energies available now to be peaceful warriors – do what you can in your individual world to spread some love. No effort at peace is ever wasted.


Forecasts for each sign of the zodiac:

Aries:  You feel pressure to revolutionize your value system and how the world sees you, Aries.  No longer satisfied with what you have been, you look ahead to materialize your dreams, and there is considerable power available if you allow yourself to listen to the stirrings of your subconscious mind.  You will feel discomfort as you stretch into your new persona, but that will pass with practice.  There is considerable activity going on below the surface – take the time to listen to those quiet stirrings in the fringe moments of the day and night.  Let your imagination flow, for you have the power available to manifest the changes you wish to see – use that Aries courage and grab the future by the horns.  Beware seeking comfort in workaholic tendencies.  That’s old hat for you – try self-nurturing instead and see what a difference it makes in opening up your heart and life.

Taurus:  You are revolutionizing how you come across to the world, Taurus, and while old, hidden material in your deepest heart still feels tender, and there are secrets you want to bury, know that the tough stuff also gives you strength and fuels the energy now available to actualize your new persona.  Your philosophy and what you dream of achieving are in the midst of transformation, and it’s time to take to the open field.  Build it and they will come.  Support comes from your peeps – you have a lot of idealistic energy behind you, as you work on vocalizing the dreams of many.  Allow creativity to flow, and let yourself emote in tangible ways, you will soon have the specifics down pat.  Just let the energy flow, get it out and amaze yourself. Others will catch up with your changes eventually. Don’t take this energy for granted. Carpe diem, Taurus, carpe diem.

Gemini:  What you dream, you can achieve, Gemini, and you have the power to actualize some of your ideals, though perhaps not as fast as you’d like.  Don’t worry about delays, they will prove valuable later.  Inklings of new world views that have been playing at the edges of your mind over the past few months are starting to finally concretize, and you come across as inspired on the career front.  Home matters are key, as it is finally sinking in that you need some stability in your foundations.  Philosophizing is great, but the need to be grounded presses, as you understand that what you put out to the world has to come from a stable place deep inside first. Jolts of inspiration and the disclosure of secrets surprise, but they might just point you in the right direction, so pay attention.  Trusting others feels tender, and power struggles may come to a head once and for all.

Cancer:  The spotlight is on communication with those in your immediate environment as you seek to share your ideals and aspirations with those closest to you.  Your world view is inspired as surprising influences inform the development of a new system of philosophy, and you are hard-pressed to separate dream from reality.  Beware of inundation.  Partnerships are up for renewal, and interpersonal power plays feel like very high stakes, as you seek to actualize a new system of give and take.  You are flooded with ideals, but grounding has to happen somewhere.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help, though beware the strings attached with any offers.  Any loans you take on now are going to be long-term commitments.  Mind the details and don’t get carried away. Assess what you really need carefully.

Leo:  You see the brass ring and want to grab it, and you are ready to commit to your ideals, as you finally feel that you can manifest what you actually want, not what others want of you.  Power plays feel energizing, and you may feel like you are winning, and you will if you stick to your guns, but take a good long look at what you really value before taking the fight to that hill.  If it glitters, it may not be gold, so double check before you commit.  Transformation in routine can bring up health care matters that need attention, and it’s a great time to start fresh approach on the work front.  Existing personal philosophies require maintenance and acceptance as you find some of your ideas fall short when put to the test.  If you put in the effort at work, you’ll find your attention shifts away from those tender spots, just beware of burying your head in the sand.

Virgo:  The spotlight is on your persona this month, Virgo, and you feel keenly the impact of others on how you put yourself out into the world.  Wearing your heart on your sleeve feels good right now,  and relationships of all sorts are energized, though you may get a bit confused as you can’t see straight what’s yours and what’s theirs.  This applies to friends, partners, lovers, and even people you consider enemies, so take note.  Look to exploring new influences in your world view as fresh impressions make themselves felt in how you find creative pleasure.  If there’s something you really want in your routine life – work, health, day-to-day – now’s the time to manifest changes, as energy is high and you are able to concretize inspirations.  Intimacy feels tender; don’t be afraid to transform what turns you on.

Libra:  Health, work, daily routine and how they affect you on a deep subconscious level are highlighted this month, Libra.  Subconscious material and obsessions can be seen more clearly, especially how they impact your work life.  There’s a lot of idealization happening, and you see that you can bring your dreams to life in your day-to-day setting, but beware of compulsions taking over and leading you down the garden path.  Home life is due for a shake up, be careful of any maintenance issues that may require attention before a serious breakdown occurs.  Much energy is available to help manifest your creative projects.  Don’t get frustrated by delays, but use the time to delve into details that may otherwise evade attention.  Shared resources can surprise, and partnerships feels tender.  This too shall pass.

Scorpio:  Personal values are up for transformation, Scorpio, and you may feel compelled to transform how and who you communicate with, especially on a daily basis.  Friends, fondest wishes and your regular social scene are highlighted, allowing you to see what’s what more clearly, particularly how these impact your creative output and pleasure principle. Desires for acquisition and dominance are compelling, but feel thwarted – a push/pull effect occurs as you see what you want but obstacles arise.  Work with the slow-down as you are now able to clarify details.  Things that look really good now in light of today’s idealism might trip you up later when everything calms down and the haze has lifted. Surprises pop up with partnerships, but new directions might be just the thing you need.

Sagittarius:  Your career is in the spotlight, as who you are and what you stand for shifts with powerful undercurrents of evolutionary transformation.  You are working hard at being the best that you can be, Sagittarius – roll with it and don’t be afraid to embrace change.  You are passionate about letting everyone know where you stand, particularly on the home front.  While you feel idealistic about your inner sanctum and what you need to feel inspired, you may also find yourself stymied as people around you want to be serious when you want to play.  Be careful of snags in short-distance transportation, car repair issues and getting caught in delays.  Attend to the details now to avoid hassles later.  Changes in daily routine, new co-workers and methods will crop up, but don’t worry, it’s what’s best in the long run.  

Capricorn:  The spotlight is on your personal philosophies, Capricorn, and you have the opportunity this Full Moon to see clearly what has been guiding you, what moves you, motivates and inspires you.  You come across as intense, as you want to discuss and share your ideas with the world, and you will certainly have a lot to say.  Your value structure is highly energized and if you want to manifest any changes in where you put your efforts, now is the time to build new foundations.  Think carefully as what you set in motion now will tend to stick.  Creativity surprises and new directions in how you find joy call you forward to your best new self. Discuss, share, open up and allow yourself to be all that you have ever wished for.  Not everyone gets such an opportunity – make the most of it while you can.

Aquarius:  Saturn’s rulership of your sign makes itself evident as you come across as no-nonsense and empowered, Aquarius.  Your dreams are what you value most, and your active value system is finally embodying your dreams, though how you communicate all of this may still feel a bit stifled and insecure. Let that develop on its own time, there’s no rush. Your voice will be heard.  Surprises on the home front can be inspiring, as new directions are hashed out in what you want to see actualized in your inner sanctum. Be careful of accidents around the home, as well as power plays with loved ones, as the interconnection between what you want and what others want of you is fully illuminated.  Depths that normally remain unseen spew forth transformative material which informs who you are becoming.  Let the purge happen now with the light of this critical and insightful Full Moon.

Pisces:  Your persona and how it impacts your closest relationships is front and center in your mind now, Pisces, and you seek to embody all the idealism that you hold inside you.  Normally shy about your dreams, you may come out with a few zingers that surprise those closest to you this Full Moon, as you are actively seeking to transform your social scene.  New wishes emerge from the depths, and you have the capacity to do deep and serious psychological work at this time.  Allow what is happening around you to pull forth from your core what has remained hidden for so long.  While your values are shifting, and it may seem you will never get what you really want, don’t fret.  You will, but do the foundational work first.  Avoidance tactics will only backfire and leave you (and those around you) surly. Let your dreams guide you, and shine.

Astrology: Jupiter/Saturn Conjunction December 21, 2020 – The Age of Aquarius

Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem, The Fall of the Titans, 1596–1598 Wikipedia Commons

The Age of Aquarius has long been a topic of fascination, and mention of the phrase conjures images of free-loving hippies passing a bong and digging each other’s energy, full of hope and longing for a better future. Well, it seems the future has arrived, and the hopes and dreams of yesterday’s hippies are now ready and waiting for activation, provided we sort out a few administrative issues. The Grand Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Aquarius which everyone has been talking about is finally upon us. Saturn actually enters Aquarius today, December 17, 2020 and will stay in this sign until March 8, 2023. Jupiter joins Saturn in Aquarius on December 21, and will remain in Aquarius for approximately 1 year, until December 30, 2021. Not quite pertinent yet, but still associated with this grand conjunction is Pluto, who will move into Aquarius in 2024 thus sealing the deals we are brokering at this time (more on that another time).

This conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, though, is primarily significant for the fact that there has not been a conjunction of these two planets in such close proximity to Earth since 1683, when they were conjoined in Leo*. That was the era of Louis XIV, arguably one of the most kingly of kings (Leo), whose reign lasted longer than any monarch in history, even to this day. The reign of Louis XIV and his Ancien Régime embodied stupendous, gratuitous luxury, subjugation of the lower classes, the institution of serfdom, and the glorification of wealth, power and corruption. The forces that this inequity stirred ultimately resulted in a the French Revolution of 1789-1799, which is still spoken of in hallowed terms of bravery, courage, “Liberté, égalité et fraternité” (liberty, equality and brotherhood), particularly by a country whose radical societal changes were contemporary with the French Revolution, the United States of America. The Declaration of Independence date July 4, 1776, evoked only decades prior to the revolution in France, also relied heavily on idealistic principles of the unalienable rights of equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Much has changed since those centuries passed, though disturbingly, much remains the same, and we find ourselves on the threshold of even deeper changes to come. It is my estimation that we are in the midst of an era of revolution once again, albeit nascent days.

I believe that as a species, we are at a pivotal, evolutionary moment which will change how the world itself is conceived by humanity. Globalization is basically complete, and there is little that individual citizens of the world can do about it. This train has been in motion for hundreds of years, and is arriving at the station, as we have a global population that now finds itself incrementally sharing commonality more than defining differences, mundane politics aside. The impact of globalization on the collective psyche, particularly in the last 100 years, has been gargantuan, resulting in an evolutionary jump that might one day be compared to the discovery of fire, or the first use of stone tools. These changes are mostly due to advances in technology which have not only made former modes of living largely obsolete, but have also expanded our horizons to places previously considered impossible for even speculation. Technology, an Aquarian thing, has changed our behavior patterns in ways that will take decades, if not centuries to understand, but which are nonetheless powerfully and immediately relevant. Things that we do today – “googling”, “tweeting”, “online transactions”, “tracking”, “texting”, etc. – were simply not part of the human consciousness, let alone vocabulary at the beginning of the 20th century. Our capacity for comprehension is exponentially expanding as we are bombarded with ever more complex technology, and we will see this trend continue into the future. The human result of this exponential change is a required adjustment on a psychic, individual and collective level, as our innate beliefs reach new levels of transformation and re-establishment.

The human result of this exponential change is a required adjustment on a psychic, individual and collective level, as our innate beliefs reach new levels of transformation and re-establishment.

As Jupiter and Saturn meet in Aquarius, we see the sign that is primarily associated with technology, innovation, science, discovery and invention occupied by two of the biggest forces in our solar system. Jupiter is associated with expansion, wealth, idealism, religion and higher education, justice, law, fortune, and benevolence. It is called “The Greater Benefic”. Saturn, on the other hand, represents forces which could be called opposite to those of Jupiter, such as contraction, crystallization, coldness, austerity, misery, melancholy, old age and death. He is referred to as “The Greater Malefic”. The combined astrological force of Jupiter and Saturn speak of the urge to excellence and expansion combined with restriction, minimization, insecurity and overriding desire for perfection in execution. Jupiter wants to fly away, expand and make everything bigger, better, more fantastic, while Saturn wants to halt, contract, restrain and inhibit. As such, these energies, while respectful of each other, do not necessarily combine well. There is a push-pull effect, a two steps forward, one step back sort of motion. Working these two energies together well requires great consideration, attention, and effort, requiring an acknowledgement of motives, limitations and capacities.

In Aquarius, the combination of Jupiter and Saturn is particularly pertinent in the arena of “the world at large”, as Aquarius rules society, fraternity, friendship, science, innovation, technology, the internet, invention, space exploration and associated concepts. As Jupiter and Saturn move deeper into the sign, I believe that we will see ever-expanding systems of technological architecture spreading across the planet, further unifying and universalizing human/technological interface experiences. A person in Thailand can ostensibly have the same interface relationship with their technological devices as someone in Peru, or Egypt, or Chicago or Moscow. This is astonishing, as we are transcending barriers of culture and ascribing to the new culture of technology. Technology is borderless, and knows no tribal affiliation – it is universal, a tool for all . Metrics and algorithms have been established which are recognized as common across the human experience, and which are highly effective predictors for human behavior, as well as shaping the direction of human behavior.

This last point is something of particular concern, as in the wrong hands, the tools of technology could have potentially disastrous effects on the future of humanity. Now, we can spin into conspiracy, we can discuss the mysterious origins of the technology that we are using, etc. to varying degrees of agreement and satisfaction, but the fact of the matter is, we are rapidly approaching an epoch of transhumanism, where the interface between human and machine ultimately becomes something almost organic, or at least as close to organic as one can get when discussing AI, technology, and manufactured products. This is pure Saturnian energy – giving structure to revelation, embodying pure science in reality. What we will see in coming years is an attempt at fully globalized systems administration (again Saturn) which go beyond the accidental power that was attained by big tech companies that currently rule the internet. The more or less secret controls that have been used by tech companies, the information that is bought and sold in the background by those with vested interests in market control, will become commonplace knowledge, and as a population we will need to shape these newly emerging power structures openly, and will full disclosure, implementing practical, helpful solutions to lift humanity up accordingly.

“The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.”

Maximilien Robespierre, 1792.

Despite all the many ways this scenario could spiral into a totalitarian nightmare (and again, this is a very real consideration as we now move forward into a new decade that will be dominated by revolutionary Pluto in Aquarius), we are still talking about humanity, and the nice thing about humans is that by and large, humans are well-intentioned. We certainly have our fair share of psychopaths, dictators, and those whose tendencies run to the cruel and unusual, but for the most part, humans are motivated by love, and by the spirit of doing the right thing. This motivation prevails so long as we are not manipulated into complacency and existential confusion, and this is currently the big danger, and a possible result of the deep structural, psychic and psychological changes that humanity is facing. Looking at the overall chart of this Jupiter/Saturn conjunction, sentiments run towards the taking the high road, and there seems to be a collective awareness and acceptance that “we are messed up and have to fix it”. We want to heal, we want to participate in the healing process, and we are energized to do so. What we need to hold onto, moving forward into this next decade, is that motivation to do right, to do good, or at the very least, to do no harm. We need to construct new parameters which acknowledge the realities of technology and its presence in our lives, while maintaining our personal quests for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. A tall order to be sure, but now that we are a global family, there are that many more hands to help, ears to hear and eyes to see what needs doing.

Our collective emotional reaction to all this change is confusion, and a pressing sense that we will be swamped by it all. There is a deep feeling of terrifying chaos at work in the collective, a pervading sense of “something is wrong, I don’t know, and I am scared”. We can’t really see what is happening, but we can feel it, very deep down. Levels of anxiety are skyrocketing, and for those not used to having deep psychological buttons pressed, there is eruption of anger, violence, denial and projection seeking to lay blame. This too is part of the process, as we work towards an evolutionary lift, raising our internal capacity to make sense of previously collective material. The collective IS pressing down on us, but it behooves us as individuals to press back, grab hold and reorganize things in order to maintain optimal survival, and ultimately, peace. We are all tasked now to usher in this “Age of Aquarius”, and we have on hand many highly capable tools of survival. The Sun/Mercury/Midheaven conjunction in Capricorn at the top of this chart speaks of the executive capacity for communicating, vision building, planning and manifesting what is needed – to build a world that acknowledges all comers, justly, dispassionately, and equitably. Transformation lies in the very midst of what we know as society, and the power structures that lurk within. The energy for positive change is available, we just need to keep our motivations real and strive for the best that we can be, both individually and collectively.

*Here’s a good article on the science behind the event: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/jupiter-and-saturns-great-conjunction-is-the-best-in-800-years-heres-how-to-see-it/

Chart courtesy of astro.com

The Occult Renaissance

John William Waterhouse, ‘The Magic Circle’, oil on canvas, England, 1886

Societal fascination with topics of the occult, ideas of the underworld, demonology, ancient gods and goddesses, particularly those associated with death, has seen a massive surge in popularity over the last decade. Astrologically speaking, we can consider how Pluto passing through Capricorn, as well as Neptune moving through Pisces have contributed to this upswing. Faced with events that are unprecedented in recent memory, people are more often looking to the shadows, to things that lie behind and beyond normal comprehension for explanations of life’s complexity, passing over orthodox religion and established modes of spirituality, seeking for new vocabularies of self-expression and self-discovery. This is not a clean, airy, light time in the psyche of humanity, but rather a time when we are searching ancestral roots, rummaging through established bias and assumed systems of power and hierarchy, and trying to see just how we fit into this mass, as individuals. The identity of the individual is being sublimated as pressures from “out there” impinge upon personal freedom and self-expression, resulting in growing tension and stress. On the personal level, people are left to explore and delve the murky depths of personal and societal, which is resulting in a mass churning of the collective unconscious, the energies of which are left to trickle down into the individual psyche however they may.

Georgiana Houghton (Spirit Drawing), ‘The Portrait of the Lord Jesus Christ’, England, 1862.

Capricorn is a sign ruled by Saturn, the god of time, old age, fear, darkness, the dead and matters of the dead, endings, inhibition, and is associated with dark gods like Lucifer or Satan. Pluto housed in Capricorn is right at home, as Pluto’s energy is cathartic, cthonic, depth-seeking and largely discomfiting. His influence is to purge, exhume and destroy, particularly anything which is unnecessary, fatuous or otherwise useless. This is not an easy energy, and it governs things that are larger than life, beyond comprehension and personal control. Personal issues of the individual are set against a much larger backdrop which can only be assumed and accepted, as personal influence is insignificant in the face of such power. The individual is left with trying to make sense of a system that they had no part in devising, but which they inherited from generations past, with a burgeoning sense of culpability, an impression of pressing responsibility, a need to somehow remedy the errors that manifest in surrounding chaos, but with very few tools that have proven efficient, let alone functional.

Frederick Sandys, ‘Morgan le Fay’, oil on wood panel, England, 1863-1864

Pisces is a sign traditionally ruled by Jupiter, though modern astrology assigns rulership of Pisces to Neptune, and Pisces governs matters of the occult, glamor, mystification, mysticism, delusion, confusion, spirituality, magic, photography and media, as well as addiction, mob mentality, illusion, drugs and other intoxicants, fiction, and all things fanciful and ephemeral. With Neptune currently housed in Pisces, society is swimming in these energies, as we are inundated with mass media, glamorized depictions of celebrity, drug addiction epidemics, pronounced and unprecedented attention to issues of mental illness, patient advocacy, new frontiers of sexuality and self-expression. Fantastical imagery floods our media, and the world is a captive audience, connected to ephemeral systems of communication which few understand, but all embrace as necessity. The Covid-19 pandemic itself is exemplary of the combination of Pisces/Capricorn energy at its most profound – mass pathological illness which we are hard-pressed to avoid, and which we attempt to control with rules, bureaucracy, governmental intervention and population control, all obfuscated by ever more bizarre and disturbing conspiracy theories, suspicion, hysteria and lack of information. Add to this increasing impatience with demographic injustice and incredible anomalies of leadership, resulting in race riots, removal and destruction of long-standing cultural iconography, and increasingly erratic weather patterns (also a Neptunian/Piscean phenomenon), 2020 will certainly be a year to remember, and likely one which will be studied by historians for years to come.

John Trumbull, ‘The Declaration of Independence’, oil on canvas, England, 1819

Pluto moved into Capricorn in 2008/2009 and will remain there until 2024, and Neptune moved into Pisces in 2011, remaining there until 2026. The last time Pluto was in Capricorn was 1762 – 1778, during which world witnessed both the American Revolutionary War, as well as precursory actions leading up to the French Revolution of 1789-1799. Neptune was last in Pisces from 1847-1862, during which we saw the rise of idealistic and spiritually-diverse and evocative movements such as Spiritualism, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and Marxism.

Liberty Leading the People. 1830. Oil on canvas, 260 x 325 cm.