"Here," reads the epitaph of the poet John Keats, "lies one whose life was writ in water."
The line clearly applies to many things on our planet now, and not only because we are still digging out from the debris and heartbreak of the Aceh Tsunami. And not because Keats too perished by drowning, and before he did, he was a generous, proto-Aquarian figure who was far more passionate about living his visions than about getting credit for writing them, as we might expect from one who sang so well about the fleeting glint and music of ecstatic experience. We shall soon see more about how so many of those who write and create for the spiritual lift and encouragement of the planet now birth their work in water, and concentrate far more effort on making sure the nightingale gets heard than on reserving all right to its song.
All our lives are writ in water now as we begin the Age of Aquarius the Water Bearer, especially in this month, when many Earth-based traditions celebrate the beginning of the New Year at Imbolc (Jan. 31 - Feb. 3) and other mid-winter festivals. In ancient times, all of Eurasia celebrated the New Year, as the Chinese still do, at the first New Moon while the Sun is in what the West calls Aquarius, when the surface of the ground begins to thaw, and life stirs anew toward Spring. Thus Aquarius month resembles Hexagram 16 of the I Ching, Enthusiasm, as the electrical attraction and arousal of thunder flickers above the colder, receptive quality of Earth. The symbolism of this pairing is complex and profound, embracing, among other themes, the flashes of insight that awaken compassion in frozen hearts.
But the Aquarius New Moon, on Feb. 8 this year, will far transcend all the lion dancers and steamed pork buns, and come to stand for much more than the Rooster or the Pig. For the next seven years, from now through 2011, every Aquarius New Moon will anchor a stellium -- that is, a combination of five or more planets -- in Aquarius. Most of the stellia will have the same composition as this year's: the complementary energies of intellect and intuition, creativity and receptivity, male and female (Sun and Moon), aligning with rapid thought and communications (Mercury), mystic vision and imagination (Neptune) and compassionate healing (Chiron). The implications of this design are evident enough, as we continue to move from overempowering the masculine to re-empowering the feminine, and approach a healthy balance, and as we discover and project our healing capacities through wider circles of the community and intention.
That's why the next seven UFC preludes for February will all be devoted to the Aquarian theme of living in and with water -- assuming, of course, that the solar system, the author, the world wide web and people who can and will read all survive the ravages of tyranny, folly and time, and are still here in February 2011. So we begin with the first of the seven ages, birth and infancy, as the karmic car wash begins, and much of what we trusted and thought we knew takes a bath, and we undergo the cosmic dunk and wring of 2005.
We might as well all have been born yesterday anyway, so strange is the news that breaks now in and about places hit hard by the Aceh Tsunami. It is not just that money is slow in flowing to the places that need it, as aid donors often promise much and provide less. Nor is it just the usual obstacle of religious blockages to sympathy and common sense, as some survivors claim they were spared by Buddha, while Christian missionaries in India deny food and water to those who will not convert, and American evangelicals rejoice in their belief that God sent the tidal wave to carry off thousands of sexually deviant Swedes.
No, one reason why the money doesn't flow to Sri Lanka or Iraq or Darfur is that no one wants to spend much when the whole global economy may soon be in free fall. Whether the months to come bring catastrophe or opportunity is, as always, a matter of one's point of view. The world's bankers and financial experts may as well be learning the parodos steps to a choral piece out of Sophocles, so uniform is the chant of tragedy sounded by, among many others, Seymour Hersh, who advises Americans, "if you have not sold your stocks and bought property in Italy, you better do it quick." The spokesman for China's central bank reports that his country is about to switch from heavy dollar investment to "a more flexible basket of currencies." International drug pushers now increasingly require payment in euros rather than US dollars. And the United Nations has just urged the major industrial countries, especially Japan and the nations of Europe, to spur growth in their economies in order to help the United States reduce its alarming trade and budget deficits.
Yes, you're right. This last idea does sound rather like trying to cure a person of morbid obesity by getting all his family and friends to triple their intake of pizza, pork, chocolate and beer. Not all the possible solutions, mercifully, are quite so bizarre. Some people are even advocating "less, not more" ideas. San Francisco's Commission on the Environment has unanimously approved a proposal which, if approved in the coming months by the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor, will charge grocery shoppers 17 cents for every paper or plastic bag they take home, and will provide free canvas bags for those who need them. And at the G-8 conference in Davos, Switzerland, Patrick Sabatier reports, "Chirac defends the idea that was sown in Porto Alegre of an international tax to fight poverty. . . . Blair launches the concept of a G-8 that he wants to consecrate to development, the environment, and a 'Marshall Plan for Africa' . . . . And the Davos organizers accuse bosses and political leaders of being stingy, blind to the dangers of growing inequalities, persistent misery, and the ravages of nature."
What's going on here? If leaders of the developed nations are talking like this about giving money away, then the situation must be really serious, right? Doesn't something have to give, and soon? Perhaps. Americans aren't sure. For them, the main issue for debate at the moment is whether the beloved cartoon character Sponge Bob Squarepants may be gay, as has been charged, with the usual righteous rage, by James Dobson and others at Focus on the Family, who are now on the attack against a new music video, aimed at school children, which they allege has been made to "advance an agenda" of legitimizing the gay lifestyle.
Does our focus seem rather scattered, and our priorities rather unfastened, at this time? Welcome to the seven years from now through the top of 2012, when so many of our old systems of order and logic will change and disappear. It will seem at times that no two people can agree on anything anymore, that emergencies are seen as trifles and vice versa, and that our aim of uniting Earth's conscious people in the same spiritual frequencies and intentions must have been the cruellest joke that we could ever have conceived and inflicted on ourselves.
It has to happen this way, and it has to happen this way now. We will have to go through some chaos before we cohere into order, and disperse before we come back to the center. Like an orchestra that tunes up in cacophony before it hits the harmony of the score, we will have to weather our illusions that things are falling apart before we see the unifying figures that were in the design all along.
How to play and navigate the jumble of beliefs and sensations that will swirl around us from now and through the years to come? One way is by simplifying our minds and sharpening our focus, keeping our minds clear for a few trusted streams of information rather than letting them become sewers in which lies and truth both get to flow. How to tell whom to read and believe? The week's news from the US helps with this too, as three "journalists" have now been exposed as of this writing (1/29/05) as having accepted -- but not having acknowledged on the air or in print -- government money for having advocated the policies of the current administration.
While it would be facile to suppose that the more money the reporter gets for his or her work, the more he or she is lying, it is worth reflecting on what a colleague at the Japan Times once proposed: that anything somebody wants to suppress is news, and everything else is publicity. The idea that something is more likely to be truthful if it's free -- like the web page you're reading now -- is uncomfortably close to the impacted thoughtform of many self-consciously "spiritual" poverts: that money is dirty, and I'm pure because I don't have it. One need not live long to notice that those who claim it's more blessed to give than to receive never seem to have that much to give. Poverty may be in the same key as simplicity, but it does not guarantee sincerity. If anything, scarcity breeds tricksters.
The location of Truth is never fixed or simple, and that's why she's so often imagined as a winged goddess who doesn't even live on Earth. Yet it's worth noticing for a moment that the three pieces of writing that are reprinted or referenced in this month's Prelude Supplement have not earned their authors a penny. One piece has brought in some money -- not to the author, but to others who have stolen her work. One piece is anonymous. All of them demonstrate that some of the best and most honest writing now being done is not on the world wide web, much less in print or on TV, but in e-mail that first goes out free to an address list, then may get picked up, and even honestly credited, in other media. Here are three intriguing examples of how Aquarian communication works:
Michael Lightweaver's "We Need to Talk: A Message from Big Mama" first went out on Jan. 24 to the e-mail list of the Planetary Awakening Network (PAN). This view of the Aceh Tsunami from Mother Earth's point of view may be the most cogent and perceptive thing yet written about what Big Mama did, and had in mind. The writing works as the kind of satirical comment that is, as John Irving once said of Kurt Vonnegut, "wise and funny, compassionate and kind." The author was paid nothing for writing this piece, though it may help attract some well-deserved donation money when it's posted later this month on his Network 2012 website.
The story of Melynda Jill Jones' "Outsourcing of Jobs Reaches the President" is wry, and a brilliant model of the spiritual premise that to a truthful man, everyone is honest; but to a crook, everyone seems to be lying. Jones, not a professional writer but assuming the guise of a "staff reporter" for an unnamed paper, first wrote her comic gem in January, 2004 and sent it by e-mail to entertain her friends, apparently never thinking that it might bring profit to her or anyone else. The Pelican Press in Sarasota, Florida proceeded to run a version of the piece in February, followed by the Long Island Press in April, and then by so many websites that by November, Jones was getting accused of having plagiarized her own work.
The last of the trio, "Sponge Bob's Secrets," was sent out by a Honolulu man who wanted only to make his friends laugh, and refuses "broad credit" or any acknowledgement for his very funny compilation of news reports and cartoon images by artist Mark Lipset. Only a cynic would claim that the author of this message chose to stay off the radar so Mr. Lipset wouldn't sue him. Rather, the point is that one is acting most selflessly as an Aquarian creator, he becomes like the medieval icon painters and cathedral artisans, who sought only to work in service to God and humanity, and celebrate beauty.
The contrast now grows extreme between those who want to own, sell and control all the credit for good work, and those who happily put it on the water's surface and let the stream carry it where it will go, like the Japanese court poets who wrote their lines on paper flowers and set them afloat, never to be seen or sold again. For them, the evanescent moment of inspiration was everything. It is obvious which of these two postures clenches the energy inward, with the Piscean fear of loss, and which lets it all flow outward, in the Aquarian spirit that seeks to spread love in the laughter of one's friends.
Just as the power base of communications must shift now from authorities and publishing companies who control information and reserve all rights, to people who are going to write and read whatever they want, everything else on our planet will move away from the old grip of fear, greed and ego and into the stream of love, trust and community. The same thing will happen, is already happening, with the first thing we ever do, the act of birth.
We know how it was for most of us, and how it still is for those who think the world is an arena for suffering that human beings richly deserve. The expectant mother hears the horror stories of what agonies her mother and sisters, grandmothers, aunts and friends went through. The emergency begins when the water breaks and the contractions come, and the mother is helpless, praying that she gets to the hospital in time as her husband drives the family car like an ambulance toward a crisis. Excruciating pain and shrieks ensue as the baby is forcibly evicted from its dark, cozy home into freezing air, the blinding glare of fluorescent light, a chaos of blurred color, chemical stenches and deafening noise, and gets hoisted by its heels like a chicken as a monster in a white coat with coffee breath and creepy glass eyes whacks it on the ass to make it scream. Welcome to the Earth, kid! Get over it. Soon the umbilical cord is cut, and the baby takes its first searing breath of air that smells like alcohol. Then the poor new arrival, not already traumatized enough, gets whisked away from its mother -- who may or may not have been allowed to touch and hold him -- and gets put in a nursery next to a machine with blinking colored lights, a purring electric voice and no sudden moves. The machine is the first thing that hasn't given the baby any pain or fear, and the child trusts it. Is it any wonder that in developed countries boys love their gadgets and cars more than their women, and girls grow up to learn that men come and go and give you sorrow, but diamonds are a girl's best friend?
This is already changing now, as once again what we do in the Aquarian Age is nothing new, but something done well long ago, then long forgotten, and now slowly remembered and renewed. Consider this account by Varga Dinicu, in Iris J. Stewart's Sacred Woman, Sacred Dance, of a birth dance ritual she witnessed in Marrakesh in 1967:
"[The pregnant woman was] dressed in a caftan and d'fina and was squatting over the small hollow that had been dug in the center of the tent . . . The other women had formed a series of circles three deep around her. . . . All the women were singing softly and undulating their abdomens, then sharply pulling them in several times. The movement was much slower and stronger than what dancers call the flutter, seen in some Schikhatt dances [an erotic dance in Morocco]. They repeated the movements while slowly moving the circles clockwise. The mother would get up and do the movements in place for a few minutes and then squat for a few minutes and bear down. She didn't seem particularly agitated or in any pain. The only sign of strain was the perspiration that soaked her hair and forehead. We stopped only for midday prayers.
"About an hour later, she gave a gasp and we heard a soft thud. She lifted her caftan and there was a baby in the hollow. She held up her hand: it wasn't over yet. Fifteen minutes later, another gasp and another soft thud. It was twin boys. . . . The women kept up the singing and dancing till way past sundown."
That's right. Before oriental dance became "belly dance," done by one woman to titillate an audience of men who throw money at her feet or tuck it in her waist scarf, it was the dance of birth, done by and for women only as a sacrament of music and sisterhood that made birth painless and joyous for mother and child. And as we keep ridding ourselves of guilty, painful expectations, so it will be again.
Or consider the ancient custom that is well known to the Russian water birth researcher Igor Charkovsky, and other pioneers who are reviving the art of water birthing, sometimes with the assistance of dolphins. Moses, like the other children of the high priests in ancient Egypt, was born in the water of the Nile, caressed from the moment of emergence by the living body of the lady Isis. He felt little difference at first between the water in the womb and the warm water of the river, and the first sight to greet his eyes, shaded from the glare of the Sun, was the smile and embrace of his mother, who rubbed him with the scents of lotus and sandalwood, rose and amber, the first fragrances to welcome him. His mother placed his ear on her breast, reconnecting him with the familiar music of her heartbeat, then rocked him and chanted softly to him, vibrating his body with the sound of her voice until he easily blew out the fluid in his nose and began to breathe. And he lay on her heart for an hour or more as the sounds of voices, harps and long flutes gave thanks to the One God for this newest gift of innocence and beauty. When the mother was ready, she rose as light as a gazelle, still holding her son, and danced with him. And so it will be again.
Which type of birth, in cold air or warm water, is more likely to bring us children who are loving and kind, happy and eager to help create happiness for others, imprinted from their first moment of life with the knowledge that Earth is a blessed place? This is why it is only a matter of time before works like Barbara Harper's Gentle Birth Choices become better known, and more parents embrace guidebooks like Zoe Weston's work-in-progress Paradigm of Peace. The book is based on the core idea that "a child birthed, raised and educated in a peaceful, loving manner has a higher chance of becoming a peaceful, loving adult," and covers such topics as "tantric conception, healthy birthing, healthy, peaceful homes, consistent home and public life, and holistic education." This is clearly the way to go. As air is the element of intellect and water is the element of feeling, it is evident enough that when we live in surrender to the way of the heart, happy babies will not be the only people or things who are born in water in the years to come.
Dance. Breathe. Sing. Keep holding that frequency.