AUGUST, 2005

 

Mythic Prelude:

Pertinacity

The momentous week of July 17 - 23 has come and gone, and either it was not nearly as big a thing as some of us expected -- or it was indeed a major celestial dustup that human beings are just not seeing clearly yet. Time will tell, as it always does, more accurately than the human beings do or will.
Some of the events of mid-July, with Saturn moving into the fire sign of Leo and opposing Chiron in the air sign of Aquarius, were right on time, and, sadly, right on target. There were deadly heat waves and more than the usual spate of wild fires. And another bombing in Egypt, this time at the heavily-guarded resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. The Egyptian government's relative silence about this one says it all, as the Sharm attack may be the most worrisome terror event of its kind ever to rock the Red Sea coast, or the whole country. Yes, the massacre at Hatshepsut's temple in 1997 was horrific. And any attack in a major tourist zone, like the ones near the Egyptian Museum and in the beloved Khan al-Khalili bazaar, brings with the shock and sorrow an icy fear of what may happen soon in Egypt, already so dismally poor, when murderous fanatics who seek to topple the "republic" succeed in destroying Egypt's tourist industry, and the rest of the economy along with it. But Sharm el-Sheikh is the dream of Egypt's tourist industry, the upscale resort town into which Egyptians have poured investment, hope and much else in recent years, in hopes of creating a jewel as elegant as anything in the Gulf states. While Egyptians agree in public that all life is sacred, the private thought just will not go away: attacking Khan al-Khalili, much as we love it, is like destroying a pawn shop; attacking Sharm is like blowing our future to bits.
Grim prospects, especially when another major pillar that holds up the Egyptian economy -- covert American support for the Mubarak regime -- will resemble sandstone more than granite by the end of 2006. The overdue but still incalculably disturbing news about the world economy entered right on cue last month, when the Chinese government finally announced that it will no longer peg the yuan to the US dollar, but will revaluate the yuan in relation to a "more flexible basket of currencies." The language bubbles with subtext, if not actual meaning, suggesting as it does that the dollar, or the government that manages it, is no longer supple and clear-sighted enough to move gracefully under changing conditions. And the Aquarian nuances abound in the whole concept of a basket of currencies, as this implies that the world economy will no longer be hierarchic, as the late Piscean economy will still be for a little while, pegged to the standard currency of a single dominant economy, but will instead be more cooperative, with currency values linked to a collective standard that cannot help but encourage the emergence of a more communal world economy.
The Chinese have been careful to point out that the effect of their new policy is minimal, and increases the value of the yuan by "only" 2.1%. But the profound change has begun, and will continue incrementally now, as East Asian money mandarins prize stability above all things. Given the choice between knocking over a wall all at once and dismantling it stone by stone, the Chinese, the Japanese and other subtle players will much prefer to see the change happen so gradually that no one notices, until even years have passed, that the old wall is no longer there, and that this new building that took forever to assemble, from those stones we could swear we've seen somewhere else before, is so majestic and strong that it was clearly well worth the wait.
Does the world yet realize how huge and significant this change is? Yes, at least insofar as pages and pixels all over Europe and Asia are getting filled with notes and guesses about the floating yuan and its next likely ports of call. One hardly gets a hint about any of this in the US media, where the new adventures of Don Yuan may get a playing card-sized box on page 6 of the business section, or ticker across the bottom of your TV screen under today's main stories about which Hollywood stars are sleeping together, or claiming they're not, or which baseball teams have pulled the bonehead plays of the week, or which trailer park dweller started a fire by using a vacuum cleaner to siphon gas from his truck. One would almost swear that some central controlling intelligence were deliberately trying to keep the people of the United States so continuously distracted with gossip and scandal that no inconvenient, uneasy truth can possibly get through. We'll revisit this in a moment, after looking at another item that may help sidelight the questions about whether and how we can speak our truth, and what we can do when no one is listening.
As you probably know by now, the world wide web and even the mainstream media have been abuzz with news about Saturday August 27, when Mars is expected to make his closest approach to Earth in a very long time. While some "experts" disagree, and say that this close orbital alignment will actually come in October, the main points on which official sources agree are that it's been at least 5,000 years, and maybe as many as 60,000, since Earth and Mars will be within 34,649,589 miles of each other -- and that Earth and Mars will not pass so close to one another again until the year 2287. Even when we allow for the limits of archaeo-astronomy software programs, which can at best make only very elaborate guesses about the timing of astral events from tens of millennia ago, the facts are that Mars will be brilliant enough to rival even Venus, at a magnitude of - 2.9. He will be convenient as well as easy to see, rising at sunset and reaching the zenith in the night sky at about 12:30am. And, unless we manage soon to quadruple our life spans or there is some major bump and jumble in the mechanics of our solar system, it will be true that -- lights! drum roll! quiet on the set! -- that no one alive today will ever see this again
Yes, this is certainly enough to get anyone's attention, even if for most of us, this year's Mars show, like the Venus passage of June 2004, comes and goes as a bright bit of celestial entertainment that brings, for most human beings, no questions about what it may signify. This may be just as well, as Mars has traditionally been viewed as a baleful, "malefic" planet who has a nasty habit of being in stress with other planets when rage erupts and violent, cataclysmic events occur. There is something to all this, of course, as astrologers have known ever since the astronomer priests of Mesopotamia methodically correlated the moves and "aspects" of Mars (that is, his angular relationships with other planets) with news of wars and riots, naphtha fires and chariot wrecks from around and beyond the realm. Inevitably, there will be dire predictions this month of explosive, bloody events. There always are, especially now that people of power become ever more skillful in using myths, spin and now the "frame" of fear to control and exploit their people. Even if Mars were graciously hosting a vegan soiree and serving mango smoothies to all the other planets, doom pimps would still be peddling disaster to all who will listen.
The actuality is that while Mars' most dangerous qualities do come out while he's in friction with other planets -- this is why you don't want to take flying lessons when Mars is conjunct Uranus, or challenge a type A boss when Mars is square Jupiter -- Mars is in fact ethically and spiritually neutral. He represents the masculine energies of assertion, direct action and drive, and the competitive will to win. He can save you from a burning building or torch your town, depending on who's directing and paying him, as the only things he naturally seeks are great sex, trophies and beer, and the acclaim of other men he respects. He can be trained to matchless efficiency in the heroic arts of emergency service and fear management. Or he can fire on his own neighbors, and if he is questioned about how anyone could possibly do such a thing, he can claim he was only following orders. Once the basic contours of the Mars type were understood by ancient peoples, it was only a matter of time before someone would begin to forge the most clueless, malleable Mars personalities into armies -- just as it was also inevitable that someone would organize the more protective Mars personalities into fire departments.
What are the astrology aspects for August 27? Nothing hugely momentous, though Mars' position in Taurus at the middle leg of a T-cross with Mercury retrograde in Leo and Neptune in Aquarius -- with Jupiter in Libra trine Neptune and the Moon's North Node in Aries trine Mercury -- certainly does suggest that Mars will experience some inner doubts and soul friction about what his government and society will tell him to do. There is even a possibility, with Mars "in detriment" in the Venus-ruled sign of Taurus, that Mars' usual head-down aggression will be tempered by conscience, and by unusually high receptivity to the wisdom of others who see that when we live in fear, everything is a threat, while to those who live in love, everything is a blessing. The Sabian symbol for the 16th degree of Taurus, where Mars will be on August 27, is startlingly apt. As Marc Edmond Jones describes it,
"TAURUS 16 An old man attempting vainly to reveal the Mysteries This is a symbol of the need to share whatever may be the ultimate substance of selfhood, as here brought to a personal realization on the intellectual side. Implicit in the negative symbolism is an awakening to a transient inadequacy, and a stirring to the effort which of itself is a promise of fulfillment once the proper conditions have been established. There is revolt against an inertia which threatens the very core of selfhood. The keyword is PERTINACITY. When positive, the degree is the uncompromising integrity of higher vision and an unshakable determination to dramatize it, and when negative, a failure in accomplishment through a loss of touch with everyday practicality." (Sabian Symbols, p. 194)
Does it seem to you that you and other conscious people you know are trying in vain to reveal the mysteries, even if you're not technically an old man of 60 like me, and you feel as I do that you don't so much hold any mysteries as just aspire to them? It may be best now just to accept, as the Prophet and others advised, that one cannot teach another more than he is able or willing to know. There will be times between now and October when we hear people who don't know when to be still, and remind us why Lao Tzu wrote that those who know do not speak, and those who speak do not know. This ordeal of seemingly endless, vacuous talk can indeed require pertinacity -- which is like tenacity, except that the per prefix implies patient, brave endurance for a longer time, and through tougher conditions.
Does the sheer degree of difficulty in all this mean that from now to November, we hide our light under whatever has replaced the bushel basket? Certainly not, as moments of truth will come, especially when we are called to defend others from unjust attack. But we will be more judicious in attracting and picking our showdowns, and deciding when to observe and learn, and when to act. We watch closely: not just the events, but the body language that signals which way the human heart is bending.
There is plenty to observe in the place where I live, just beyond a stone's throw from the Sphinx, now that the people who have been causing murder and mayhem in Egypt in recent months -- the ones without uniforms, that is -- have warned that one of their prime intended targets is the popular sound and light show that jazzes up the Sphinx and the pyramids three times every evening, within earshot of my house, and within what could be shrapnel distance if the blast were big enough. Each night offers a different menu of sound and light shows in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Russian and of course the English that many American tourists speak. The tension is palpable on the English nights in Nazlet el-Samman. And when the show comes and goes without a bomb or a bullet, you can hear the collective sigh of relief from the soldiers and police on security watch, from the shopkeepers, horsemen and camel boys, from everybody on the street, who all seem to feel at once: Another night in English is past us. Our guests, and we and our loved ones, have come through without a scratch. I feel like a cigarette, and I'm one of the few Egyptian men who doesn't smoke. I find myself liking gallows jokes that never made me laugh before.
I sympathize, and I was starting to feel the same way by the end of May, when I left Egypt for a summer in Hawaii. How's this for a paranoid fantasy: Somebody finally fingers the American officer at Guantanamo Bay who authorized his torture team to flush the Qur'an down the toilet. The perp's picture is published in newspapers all over the world -- and he turns out to be my living double. I start seeing everywhere some stinkeye much worse than anything I get as a haole (white guy) on the Waianae coast of Oahu. People who look at me on the street, the metro, everywhere are clearly thinking "There you are, ya kelb (you dog), hiding in plain sight."
Do I think about such things much? No way. Consider the arithmetic. Millions of tourists visit Egypt every year, and a handful get blown up or shot. Meanwhile, in the country I was born in, over 32,000 people have died over the last year from gunshot wounds. I'm safer in Giza, even though every day I pass right by the Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken that share a storefront on Sphinx St. I'm more likely to be killed by the food from those places, if I were suicidal enough to eat in them, than I am from any bomb that might go off there.
And it's not just the percentages that favor me. It furthers one to have somewhere to go, as the I Ching puts it. And when conditions are fluid or hazardous enough that it's unwise to speak yet, it helps to have the right local cover. Like the Fayed family, who own Sphinx Guest House and have been among the custodians of the Giza plateau for centuries. Like Abdel Hakim, now in his 80's, whose historic memory ranges much farther and deeper than anything Egyptologists think they know, and who will be the main source of my next book. And above all, like the Lady, who guides all things in the country of the river and favors those who will flow where she wants to send them.
More about her in the months to come. For now, best wishes for safe states of mind that keep bodies whole and souls free. And for the patience to wait for the willing ear and the moments when conscious speech can actually be heard. Patience. Peace. Keep Holding That Frequency.

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