January, 2008

 

  Mythic Prelude:

Glamour and Grassroots
Welcome. Yalabina and yarimashou, meaning "Let's Go" and "Let's Do It," respectively, in Arabic and Japanese. Funny how those yah words, in any language, seem to say that the time for thinking, dreaming, wishing and talking is up now, and it's time to get something done, or at least lay concrete plans for it. But then you already knew that. If you read last month's UFC, or other commentaries on what we can expect now with Jupiter already in Capricorn, and Pluto about to enter it on Jan. 26, our emphasis in the year that has just begun is likely to be less mystical and "occult" -- though the hidden celestial dynamics will continue to apply -- and more clearly geared to practical action on the ground, by individuals and the fluid teams we form. We are in for a time of outcomes that are deeply transformative, but will not be immediately obvious. One of the true tests of faith in 2008 will be in the strength of our knowing that the stirring and the opening we long for are indeed underway, even if they are so slow and subtle that they seem not to be happening at all.
We are, after all, in Saturn's workshop now. He is in the methodical sign of Virgo (until October 2009) at the same time that Jupiter and Pluto are in Capricorn, the sign Saturn rules. Saturn's way of getting things done is prudent, regular and pragmatic, and that's why Capricorns are such excellent accountants, and managers of other people's money. They are heroic in undertaking the drab jobs that no one else wants to do, like the set builders in a theatre company who assemble the sets, load them in and out of the truck, put them up and test them on the stage, and are nowhere to be seen except in the playbill -- where their names will sometimes be spelled right -- when the curtain goes up, the show begins, and actors like me prance about in the lights, hoping now and then that we're less vain than Laurence Olivier, who said the whole point of being in the theatre is "Look at Me!"
Those grunt workers who are a lot more interested in getting the job well done than in getting praise for it are the salt of the Earth, who seem only to be grounding others, but who have a curious way of bringing life's savor to those around them. Such people will be invaluable in the years ahead, and will be emulated by others who respect the quiet ones' ability to live cheerfully without applause, without external validation of any kind. Not that this will happen all at once. It will seem at first that the only ones who are really working in Capricorn mode are you, and I, and a few others. But give it time. Patient work without much acknowledgement does not normally make human beings line up around the block for a chance to do it -- until, that is, the shape of the block begins to dissolve. And it will.
As it does, we will have to work through our usual ways of ducking the inevitable, by drooping into the Dump of Doom -- lots of that going around -- or blasting and burning whatever is in one's way. As of this writing (Dec. 30, 2007), Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated, the Pakistani elections that were slated for a few days from now have been postponed, and American media use delicate terms like "chaos to a certain degree" to describe what is going on, and will likely continue, in Angry Asia. Some astrologers could see this coming, as Brandi Jasmine did in her article on Astrology.ca about the likelihood of violent clashes between entrenched, rigid authorities and the reformers who want to dislodge them, especially if the would-be innovators are women.
The general scenario that is in effect here is that Mars in late Gemini -- assertive, impatient leaders using live and indirect communications -- has moved opposite to Pluto in late Sagittarius, thereby opening the Pandora's box of overdue change under the noses of political and religious mud turtles who are least likely to welcome it, and threatening fanatics with the intolerable notion that Allah or God or whoever may want us to listen to those who disagree with us, rather than murder them. The bloodshed was right on time, astrologically speaking, as the Mars-Saturn opposition went into effect Dec. 26, continues until Jan. 11 and will be most acute on Jan. 2, so the New Year will naturally look to some observers like the black herald of a very dark year. Such pessimism can and likely should be discounted, as Mars opposes Pluto every two 2 years or so, not always in eruptions of gore and fire.
But January of 2008 will be pivotal, and quite significant of what we can expect in years ahead: the dramatic events will draw all the attention, especially when the production values are explosive, while the hidden, seemingly dull forces really tell the tale. We will have many opportunities to understand why Reinhold Ebertin, in The Combination of Stellar Influences, described the placement of Pluto in Capricorn as "An untiring struggle for recognition, power and independence. The dictator. The successful realisation of new ideas, plans and inventions. The acceptance of dangerous position."
Assuming, that is, that one is willing to look at what is happening. Twenty years ago, we were only beginning to add the phrase "in denial" to our usage. It's a daily expression now, and it plays most entertainingly as Glamour, the indispensable public art form that enables people in "developed" countries to accept the barest lies and the weirdest illusions as the truth, and to go on believing that they do not need to change anything, least of all themselves, no matter how loud and hot the signs get that their economies, their societies and their whole planet are going through something momentous.

How bizarrely feathered can the chimeras get, how implacable the denial? Only those masters of the universe who milk the money system while pretending to manage it know for sure. They're not talking, and they've got mainstream media sealed so tight that few Americans have any idea that for the first time, their dollar is worth less than Canada's. To get some sense of how really strange it's all become, consider these exhibits:

Euro Pacific Capital reported in its Dec. 14 article "More Gasoline on the Fire" that the new plan announced by the Federal Reserve to assuage the losses suffered by credit-challenged banks will only "keep a ticking time bomb from exploding before the next election." The basic deal is that the Fed and foreign central banks will auction loans at low interest rates to holders of U. S. mortgage-backed securities within a “discount window” that offers the extra advantage of anonymity for borrowers who want to avoid the embarrassment of having to use the discount window at all. The loans can be collateralized, naturally, by the same worthless mortgage-backed securities that have popped the problem in the first place, thereby guaranteeing that "the losses will simply be monetized, or more precisely socialized, as they are passed to the public in the form of inflation." It can all be done discreetly, so that no one except the unlucky investors in E-Trade Financial will ever know that this clever firm "liquidated its entire portfolio of subprime mortgaged-backed securities for a mere 27 cents on the dollar!" So one of the key concepts in the syllabus of Glamour 101 is that glamour is a lot like what someone once said about a bikini: "What it reveals is exciting, but what it conceals is vital." It is inevitable now that as the momentum of change rumbles toward release, it will stay well hidden under glimmer, gossip, and an American election campaign that increasingly looks like a less physical version of American Idol.
Exhibit B is Ann Pettifor's Open Democracy article "Globalisation: sleepwalking to disaster" (Nov. 12) about the "broken financial and commercial system that is doing immense damage to the planet and to public life." The huge hidden bulk of the iceberg, as she sees it under all the visible trouble of leveraged corporate debt, mortgage-backed loans, credit card debt and other red ink bombs, is the enormous volume of Credit Default Swap (CDS) instruments that are called "insurance" rather than investment transactions to keep them out of the scrutiny of central banks and finance ministries. In its most recent semiannual report, for the second half of 2007, as Pettifor put it, "the International Swaps and Derivatives Association assessed the total notional amounts of CDSs outstanding at $45.5 trillion!!! This staggering figure is about twice the value of the US stock market, or 3 times the gross domestic product of the US ($13 trillion)." She does not explain what a "notional" amount is, but somehow this term does seem to fit today's fantastic scenarios of who owes what to whom, how and when it might be paid, if it ever actually is, and whether anyone knows if anything is "really" there. Welcome to the world economy of 200? (Two Thousand and What?)
Not that only the big money players get to work all these glittering dreams. The U. S. government has kindly provided a model for money games that anyone can play. The authors of a New York Times Op Ed piece "Are We in a Recession?" (December 16, 2007) answer Yes to their question, then note in passing that "The current recession is all about the coming capitulation of the American consumer — whose spending now accounts for a record 72 percent of G.D.P." Does this actually mean that Americans actually count what they spend each month on groceries, clothes and toys as household income? No, it hasn't gotten that amazing -- yet. But when a country's economy hinges mainly on how many things people buy, whether they need them or not, are glamourous images of every kind going to be used to sell them? You bet.
So what is glamour, really? Isn't it just Joan Crawford trying to outgown Bette Davis, or as Bill Blass put it, "women on terraces with a cocktail and a cigarette"? While the word does suggest in most people's minds the kind of beauty and allure that movie stars and models have, it has other mythic meanings that are relevant here. In 1720, according to Douglas Harper's Online Etymology Dictionary, it meant "magic, enchantment" -- as in the phrase to cast the glamour. The word is a variant on the Scottish gramarye, meaning "magic, enchantment, spell," and is related to the English grammar, which in the Middle Ages meant scholarship, especially in the sense of occult learning.

Sir Walter Scott wrote of glamour in these terms, and gave it the perilous nuance it had for Romantic poets. They sang the deadly skills of sorceresses like Morgan Le Fay, the beautiful sister of King Arthur, who tricked the king out of his sword Excalibur, then threw it in the lake, in one of history's better symbols of the fluid feminine enclosing and overcoming the flexibility-challenged masculine. Morgan was a shape shifter and siren of the kind we see endlessly in what is kindly termed pop culture, which is full of hideous, aged mantis witches who make themselves look like Monica Bellucci in The Brothers Grimm, or Michelle Pfeiffer in Stardust.

Glamour started to lose its occult meaning of magical power by the 1840's, and to suggest instead the allure and charm of women who were called devastatingly beautiful, using their looks and sex appeal to melt all resistance to their will. The new verb glamorize and the slang abbreviation glam arrived in 1936, when Greta Garbo was an icon of inscrutable beauty, and Loretta Young termed glamour a "concoction."

Garbo's 1932 Grand Hotel story of fabulously rich and beautiful people living in the isolated, fragile luxury of their palace suites as grimy, muttering proletarians slave and seethe in the cold, clanky hells of their freight tunnels and boiler rooms, provides the context for glamour. The contrast between glitter and gloom is crucial, for glamour shines brightest against a backdrop of misery, just as diamonds gleam on black velvet, and the shimmer of Mozart is best displayed on a curtain of silence. It also tells us that the tougher times get, and the more people moan about what they don't have, and envy the rich and easy, the more new icons of glamour are going to proliferate, and the more brilliant they will get. Thus want always engenders glamour. It cannot exist, John Berger wrote, "without personal social envy being a common and widespread emotion." So just as the bitterness of the Great Depression had to create Garbo and Dietrich, Gable and Cooper, Busby Berkeley and Duesenbergs, today's deepening Slough of Not Enough that is politely called a "recession" has to get more and more obsessive about Kidman and Jolie, Pitt and Clooney, Jetstreams and Dancing with the Stars.
As fears of scarcity sicken the minds of so many, the easiest way to assuage dread and despair is to fixate on an endless stream of colorful celebrity pictures that are less bumpy than sports, less cold than politics and cheaper than alcohol, ice and Prozac, though just as addictive as all of the above. That's how a vicious cycle of imagined poverty and adored glamour can detach people so completely from life on the ground that when the balloon or Bubble of fantasy finally pops, the poor dreamer can fall from so high in the clouds that he or she doesn't just hit the Earth and bounce off her, but goes right through the surface and disappears, and this is why we have so many more missing persons now than we had before. The celebrities themselves, at least those who get through the ego elephantiasis of initial success and last for the long run -- like Michael Caine, who's called his career a story of survival rather than success -- tend to see the glamour for what it is, and stay in touch with the ground, and the relationships that matter. "Every time I am in danger of believing the glamour of my own press," said Jessica Savitch, "some incident inevitably brings me back to earth."
Why is all this mythic rocketry, these flashing arcs up into the unbearable lightness of glamour and back down to the ground, so relevant to us now? Partly because 2008 is the glimmering, beguiling pivot year in the three-year Glamour Phase, the third scherzo movement of the four stages through which we've passed, and will keep evolving, toward the nexus of opportunity in 2012. To review:
2000 - 2003 were the Birth, from the Media Millennium through the Harmonic Concordance.
2004 - 2006 were the Awakening, culminating in the Saturn-Neptune Opposition of summer, 2006.
2007 - 2009 are the Glamour phase, heading toward the Chiron-Neptune Conjunction in Aquarius, about which there will be more here and in many other places as 2008 turns into 2009.
2010 - 2012 are the Activation time, a splendid moment of opportunity that many souls on our planet will consciously choose and use, and others will not. More on this in a moment.
What makes the Glamour Era we're in now different from earlier ones like the 1930's, the 1780's of Marie Antoinette and her diamond necklace, the 1660's and 1670's of Charles II in his Restoration and Louis XIV at Versailles? The new Aquarian technologies of computer and motion pictures, the Industrial Light and Magic of George Lucas, the Matrix mirages of the Wachovsky brothers, and all the other masters of virtual art who have brought glamour into a whole new dimension. Glamour is no longer a matter of adorning faces like Nicole, Keira and Angelina, who've already got a lot for the camera to love. Nor does it only involve cosmetizing the slipping, less than lithe flesh of stars whose luster has begun to age and fade. Now, through the wizardry of computer graphic images, creators of glamour can perform the alchemy of conjuring beauty out of, and into, thin air.
The unsung harbinger of the Glamour Phase was Andrew Niccol's s1mOne (2002), the story of a movie director (Al Pacino) who tries to save his film and his career by replacing the unbearable with the intangible, and to get away with the switch. His infuriating lead actress walks off the lot, and he doesn't just hire another flesh-and-blood diva. Instead, he crafts a digital image of such luminous, purring perfection that as soon as his movie opens, the complications in the plot start to multiply like viruses in a stoner's PC. Simone (Rachel Roberts) is a sensation. A billion lovesick fans want to know and see everything about her, every day.
The scam is manageable enough at first, as Pacino's clever CyberFaustus and his team cut, paste and lasso all the Simone pictures they need for the tube and the web, and even create a "live" Simone who seems to move and sing so perfectly on her outdoor concert stage, and the big screens on either side of it, that she's as real as can be to all the thousands of panting idolaters who throng the stage, even the ones who are right in front of it, but will never get near Simone through that triple cordon of police who are, curiously, a lot less hot with desire than men in their Mars profession normally tend to be. They know Simone's a hologram, and they're being paid plenty to keep her secret.
Expect a lot more ingenuity like this in 2008, until Chiron begins to overtake Neptune next year and the Glamour Phase begins to transmute into its truest and best white magic that aims to enlighten and heal, and no longer merely to deceive the mind and envenom the heart. What's the best antidote for all the glamour of the most toxic kind that will pour this year, especially as the United States slogs, flames and festers through the most toxic, vicious election campaign in its history, and China tries to hide the joyless prison camp of its people's life by using the lethal smog of its cities, like the stage smoke at Disneyland, as an interference medium on which the happiest, smilingest images can be projected -- as long as the observer stays obediently in his seat all the way through the tunnel, and doesn't touch the glass and feel how very cold it is?
The Saturnian identity of this year, with Jupiter already in Capricorn and Pluto moving into it later this month, anchors the main theme. It is no wonder that 2008 is a Chinese year of the Earth Rat -- more on this next month -- as it will behoove us for a while, both individually and collectively, to live close to the ground and to keep the modesty and humility that the mouse family symbolizes in many cultures. "The wise mouse," says the Puerto Rican proverb, "stays on the ground." Those tin collars that you see around the trunks of coconut palms in the Caribbean, Hawaii and other tropical places are meant to keep a mouse from climbing up to the top of the tree, gnawing through a coconut and gorging itself on milk and meat until it gets so fat that it can't climb back out, and dies. There's been a lot of that kind of feasting beyond our means and our measures in the Jupiter phase that is ending just now, as both Jupiter and Pluto cross from status-seeking, fun-loving Sagittarius into prudent, humble, sober Capricorn, and not a billing cycle too soon.
What's another sign that our focus is shifting now from the imperious actions and preening antics of powerful leaders (Sagittarius) to the practical business of organizing the job (Capricorn) and setting it into motion? That so many local, grass roots initiatives in so many parts of the world are designing and doing, at the level of the state and province, city, town and village, programs that corrupt and glory-seeking national leaders can't begin to appreciate, much less implement. Rebecca Solnit's article "The Growth of Local Power" lists a few. There are many others -- and people who would not have dared to criticize their national institutions before are doing it now. A few years ago, the Japanese media would not have dared, as they just have, to call 2007 "The Year of Deception" by their government and corporate structure. But they're doing it now. And courageous stands for the sake of a principle -- doubly rare in any election year -- are starting to bust out all over. "I believe," said New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine in announcing the abolition of the death penalty in his state, "society must first determine if its endorsement of violence begets violence, and if violence undermines our commitment to the sanctity of life. To these questions, I answer, 'Yes.'" Reverence for the sanctity of life. Imagine that, as the late Kurt Vonnegut liked to say.
It's even possible that human beings will start to wonder if they even need leaders, and will decide that the activated individual, not the party, the movement or the ad hoc interest group, holds the key to the progress we yearn for. "The fundamental purpose of all leaders, messiahs or visionaries," wrote George Gurdjieff, quoted last month by rave culture missionary Fraser Clark, "is to find some means by which the two sides of the earth can live together in peace and harmony. Time is very short -- it is necessary to achieve this harmony as soon as possible to avoid complete disaster. Philosophies, religions and other such movements have all failed to accomplish this aim, and the only possible way to accomplish it is through the individual development of man. As an individual develops his own, unknown potentialities, he will become strong and will, in turn, influence many more people. If enough individuals can develop themselves -- even partially -- into genuine, natural men, able to use the real potentialities that are proper to mankind, each such individual will then be able to convince and win over as many as a hundred other men, who will, each in his turn, upon achieving development, be able to influence another hundred, and so on…. The separate, distinct growth of each individual in the world is the only possible solution."
And the linkages that naturally occur as like-minded individuals united in the service of love find and strengthen one another on the ground. "In a country under attack," Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov wrote with his usual uncanny sense of what needs to be said right now, "members of the resistance group themselves into networks, change their names and use passwords so they are recognized only by those who have decided to fight together for freedom, and in this way they triumph. In the same way, all children of God have the means to recognize one another and work together so that the light will triumph. When many people on earth decide to undertake this work, divine life, like waves of pure water, will break over the whole of humanity. It will take a long time, of course, but this doesn’t matter; the work of the sons and daughters of God must begin. These sons and daughters of God think only of improving life, of rendering it pure, luminous, beautiful and abundant, so that it may be propagated, distributed and shared with everyone."
How long will it take? Longer than the years from now through 2012, as we can't expect a total transformation of humanity when most human beings are determined not to change, or indifferent to the rest of the human community and the Earth. The best we can expect is that those in whom 2012 is already underway, in every moment of opportunity to hold and spread the frequency of love, the coming leap into fuller spiritual consciousness for some, if not all, may indeed do much to heal Earth's wounds and cleanse humanity's cluttered mind and weary heart. Sound always helps. We don't need now to belt it to the back row. Earth will hear if we sing softly, in Saturn mode, to the ground and the hearts of those gathered upon her. Bow gently into the circle. Huuuuu. Keep holding that frequency.
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Copyright 2006 Dan Furst. All Rights Reserved.