The Herbst Newsletter
Thoughts, dates, & reminders about our lives as
members of the craziest species on this lovely planet.
Like a message in a bottle washing up
on the sandy shores of consciousness...
Having written over the past year about the tenor of the times and the accompanying astrological cycles that have led us over the past four decades from the 1960s to our current setting, I’m turning slowly to discuss the future at length, and in some depth.
On June 25th, Saturn made its final pass opposite Neptune, and that is very meaningful. Our collective disillusionment, social malaise, and the longstanding sense of being lost in confusion while sinking in quicksand are peaking right now after almost four years of Saturn-Neptune's scandalous revelations, endless deception, and fantasies polarized to realities.
From July on, all that weirdness slowly fades away, although it won't be gone for good until the beginning of 2008. Meanwhile, rising up in sporadic but increasing waves to replace it will be the electric, shocking Saturn-Uranus-Pluto energy of the Cardinal Climax. In fits and starts, people will start to awaken from their slumber, realize how fed up they are, and begin to actively challenge the status quo.
So stay alive, keep breathing, and know that real change is just around the corner.
I might have titled this commentary “Where I Am and Where I Think We’re Headed,” since that is obviously a more technically accurate statement. In the title I chose, however, the first “We” is not just me, but includes millions of people in this country who are like-minded and feel as I do. This probably includes the bulk of my small readership. What I write is certainly based on my own thoughts, feelings, and perspectives, but I am neither so radical nor unique as to assume that such ideas are mine alone. I come from what I consider an honorable tradition in America of free speech and political/cultural dissent—although many Americans feel otherwise; they fervently believe that people like me are traitor- ous, disloyal, and downright un-American. But then, we already know that a sizable percentage of this country’s population includes authoritarians who are enthralled by the concept of the nation-state (and the American Empire, to boot, even to the point of insisting that America is culturally supreme and spiritually chosen by God to remake the world, or at least do whatever we want with it in domination). Such people would happily coerce uniformity if they could.
Unlike obviously totalitarian societies, however, America is much more subtle in the treatment of its own dissidents, and, I might add, much smarter. Those who openly question authority and the status quo are not generally kidnapped in the middle of the night, thrown in jail, or clapped in irons. (Only in the rarest of examples when protest becomes effective and a real threat to the elites in power are its advocates violently “taken out,” as with Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy in 1968.) For the most part, dissent is marginalized, sometimes by ridicule or shouting down, but more often simply by ignoring dissenters and getting on with business-as-usual. Corporate-owned mainstream media is a great help in this by providing a prodigious weight of blanket conformity that restricts discussion to standard and approved perspectives.
In other words, we have the right to say whatever we want in America, as long as it doesn’t change anything. That may not remain true in the years ahead, however.
From 2009 on, mass protest is likely to ramp up dramatically. We can also expect the counterforce of active state repression to increase, although I doubt that it will be effective, given the widespread institutional breakdowns that are coming. Order will be infiltrated by chaos.
I also didn’t choose to use the phrase “Where I Think We’re Headed” in the title. In part, this is because I prefer a more didactic and hard-hitting header, but there’s another, more important reason as well: What I intend to write over the next year about our collective future does not generally involve the prediction of concrete events. I leave that, with considerable scorn, to those who scramble for media attention. They can have my spot in the limelight, for all I care.
As I have stated before, and often, I don’t claim to know the specific events that will shape our future. Instead, I will write about the coming challenges to our consciousness, both individually and collectively, as indicated by my best understanding of astrology, history, and human nature. This includes not only what might occur through various shocks to our collective systems, but also a kind of propaganda in lobbying for what I hope could occur if we are sufficiently mature, awake to repercussions, and willing to flow with the inevitable changes. I doubt that much of what I hope to see will come to pass over the next five years, but I’ll give it a shot anyway.
One of the amazing qualities of outer-planet cycles is their ability to enthrall us. When active, the vibra- tions from these cycles act like the water around the fish, coloring our psychic landscape in such a way that we feel certain emotions without much if any awareness of how subtly we are being manipulated.
When Uranus and Neptune came together in the 1990s, we were collectively enthralled with technological toys. Collectively, we tripped off into la-la land. When Saturn opposed Pluto in 2001-2003, fearful and aggressive war fever gripped the public. No one could speak out against the invasion of Iraq without being castigated by the unconscious tidal wave of majority opinion. Now that Saturn is opposite Neptune, disillusionment and despair have soaked into every corner of public discourse. Now no one quite believes anything and doubt is pervasive.
Imagining a future different from the present is always difficult. Each here-and-now carries with it a particular version of past history and an equally distinct set of portents for the future, which almost never play out as expected. Only as the here-and-now changes do the past and future mythologies change as well.
Yes, some people resist the mass hypnosis, but few of us can do so completely, and the center of the collective bell curve always succumbs. Only those on the fringe point out that the emperor has no clothes, and they are routinely discounted. Part of the challenge of watching unfolding cycles in astrology is to disconnect oneself from the seduction of the present. In many ways, such a discipline of looking into the future is a lonely and isolated pursuit. Like monks in cubicles, we study the charts and try to feel the essence of what is not yet here.
In general, people cannot now foresee the revolutionary upheavals coming over the years ahead, first with Saturn-Uranus and then Uranus-Pluto activations. The bulk of the population won’t recognize the
changesuntil they arrive, starting in 2008 and gearing up until hitting full bore in 2012 and beyond.
Sitting as we are now in the tepid pool of Saturn-Neptune exhaustion at the endless lies, distortions, and self-delusions of life in America, imagining the incredibly high energy of disruption and radical change that awaits us is a huge leap.
When I began writing this series, I tried to remind readers of the experience of the 1960s—how we felt in that turbulent decade, with its awakenings, its shocks and tragedies, its exhilaration and excitement. History alone, however, is insufficient preparation. What’s coming is not simply a replay of the past; it is an unprecedented phenomenon that builds on that past, but takes what once was into new and unfamiliar territory.
Nonetheless, that’s where these commentaries are about to go.
An Astrological Outline
The next section of this newsletter lays out in technical detail the progression of outer-planet configura- tions that will lead from where we are now up to 2012, which, as I say, is the critical-mass point of collective change, the kickoff to the next major revolution in America and the world. For those among my readers who are not astrologically astute, I’ve included a brief annotation of the tone and possible mean- ing of each period. Over the months ahead, I plan to write about this sequence of successive astrological events in terms that everyone can understand and, hopefully, appreciate.
I do not claim that this list of timed configurations is astrologically comprehensive. Astrology is a huge universe, much more vast than most people realize, and the old tale of the blind men and the elephant usually applies. Every astrologer has a different perspective and approach within the encompassing whole.
Take eclipses, for example. Some astrologers glean great meaning from the evolving patterns of twice- yearly pairs of solar and lunar eclipses. Personally, I’m not drawn to that particular technique, since I consider eclipses wild-card factors that are both too momentary and by definition wildly unpredictable in their manifestations. I prefer the more stately progression of longer-term cycles of the outer planets and the multi-planet alignments they form along the way. That opinion does not, however, invalidate eclipses (or anything else in astrology) as a predictive tool that may be used with insight by other astrologers. So, what follows below are the fruits of my particular research only. This list represents the center of what I feel to be important within the astrological perspectives that appeal to me. I can state without hesitation that the slant of this research is sound and accepted as valid among the bulk of astrologers who are concerned with collective evolution. Nothing in what is listed below is particularly radical or from the fringe of oddball arcana. All the events listed come from the heart of astrological technique and interpreta- tion.
August 2007 on
Saturn begins its four-year-long opposition to Uranus. Authority and the status quo are polarized by sudden change and confronted by rising energies of revolution and counterrevolution. Breakdowns in social institutions begin as the struggle takes shape. In America, foreign policy and domestic economics move to center stage finally.
The initial years of this on-again, off-again opposition occur with Saturn in Virgo and Uranus in Pisces, from mid- 2007 to mid-2009, and imply movement toward reform of the system (which will be too little and too late to succeed, in my opinion).
Then, in 2010-2011, the opposition shifts into Libra-Aries, which is when collective crises hit more aggressively.
Authorities will likely strain to hold the line through increasingly draconian measures of civil control and social repression, but mass rebellions bust out into the open in a flagrant and angry demand for radical and immediate change.
4 November 2008
Precisely on the day of America’s next presidential election, Saturn makes its first exact opposition to Uranus. Expect the unexpected. The election could be a major surprise as a provocative challenge to the status quo.
August through November 2009
While Jupiter, Chiron, and Neptune are conjoined in Aquarius, a long T-square makes its first appearance with Saturn opposite Uranus and both square Pluto, all in late degrees of mutable signs.
A dramatic acceleration of breakdown and tumultuous change gears up. To address the various crises and keep order from disintegrating, 1st world societies will be forced to seriously consider adoption of ideas and implementation of policies that were previously considered too extreme or too disruptive for ordinary business-as-usual. Suddenly, such ideas—both good ones and not-so-good ones—will no longer seem so far out.
February through September 2010
The Saturn-Uranus-Pluto T-square returns, becoming cardinal. From April 2010 on, Jupiter moves into the configuration by conjoining Uranus.
The proverbial feces begins to hit the fan. Masses of people are shocked awake, which will carry with it the pan- oramic complexities of positive and negative repercussions. “Normal” life will probably continue for some, but no one will remain untouched by the events reshaping our world.
March through August 2011
The Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus-Pluto T-square returns a final time, as all the outer planets form a single grand configuration, with Neptune and Chiron moving to the semi-sesquisquare stress point.
This alignment is extremely reminiscent of a similar rare configuration that occurred in mid-1931 during the lowest depths of the Great Depression. Once again, our economic chickens come home to roost, which should be accompanied by a re-localizing of life as communities band together.
Jupiter moves out of orb in April, 2011, but the Saturn-Uranus-Pluto T-square continues with all its extremism, conflict, and unpredictability. In June-July 2011, a mini-trine between Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto complements the T-square, which finally ends in August after two years.
All these astrological events—from 2005 through 2011—reveal to us the gradual, step-by-step setup to the long Uranus-Pluto square that makes its first official pass (of seven total) in June, 2012, and will last through 2020. So, from 2012 on, all bets are off as we enter Brave New World.
I want to comment briefly on the recent upsurge of armed conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. (For those who are astrologically curious, this “war” erupted just after Chiron replaced Neptune as one leg in the yearlong T-square with Jupiter and Saturn, and Pluto moved into the semi-sequisquare stress point. The arrival of Chiron and Pluto signaled the possibility of an eruption in a disturbed social matrix.)
Ignore whatever the mainstream media says. Israel lost decisively. Hezbollah is still standing and more viable than ever. The myth of Israeli invincibility has been shattered, at least on the Arab street. Whatever one’s politics, this is stunning.
Hawks who love the iron fist and believe that domination can be achieved through the barrel of a gun, with destruction, violence, and killing (which includes not only the Bush administration, but also most members of both major political parties in Congress) face a real dilemma. They did not learn from Vietnam. Nor did they learn from Russia’s hard loss in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Now we are paying the price of their refusal to deal with reality.
All the military invasions of the past four years—Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Lebanon—have demon- strated the impotence of high-tech armies against militant, fourth-generation insurgencies. The U.S. and Israel possess the most advanced and powerful armies in the world, and they have been vanquished, with no possibility of victory now or in the future. The handwriting is on the wall. The epoch of empires is fading fast, though the war parties in power remain in denial. Massive armies and dazzling weaponry are now little more than pitiful giants, hamstrung by ground-level resistance movements as effectively as Gulliver was tied by the Lilliputians in the Jonathan Swift tale or defeated as shockingly as Goliath was felled by David in the Old Testament.
Some soldiers at command level in the military understand these signs. Unfortunately, the institutional and bureaucratic pressures to continue feeding the unlimited and voracious economic hunger of the military-industrial complex drown out voices of sanity, even generals. So, the military is not blameless, just caught in the same complicity we all share in a war-based economy that continues its ludicrous justification on the false grounds of “national security.” As if the government or the military could protect us at all from the many looming dangers of the 21st century. Terrorism exists, but we can no more end it with the so-called “War on Terror” than we could protect the ecosphere by sending armies to fight global warming.
The killing will no doubt continue and may worsen in the years to come, for power that is not guided by love inevitably produces chaos and destruction.
Preparing for the 2010s
Since I began writing about the coming Uranus-Pluto alignment and the decade of the 2010s, numerous readers have emailed me to ask what they can do to best prepare for the turbulent times ahead. That’s a difficult question to answer pragmatically, since everyone has a custom-tailored set of interior and exterior circumstances. What might work for one person as preparation could be unworkable for another. Also, the range of possible preparations is quite vast. Should I advise us all to stop shopping at the grocery store, learn to garden, and grow our own food? Should I suggest that we get off the electrical grid, sell our cars, liquidate our homes, and move to solar-powered cabins in the woods?
Precious few of us would be able to make such major changes in our lives at this point, nor are survivalist extremes the best option for most of us anyway.
Collectively, what’s coming is not about heading for the hills, but rediscovering each other in humane ways that revivify our lost sense of community.
Well, then what about less sweeping changes in lifestyle? You know, replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents, or simply buying more organic food at a co-op? How about buying less of everything in general, especially consumer toys, and purchasing what we feel we truly need from local merchants rather than megacorporate big-box retailers? Or driving less and flying only when absolutely necessary? Or spending less computer time on the internet pursuing fake cyber-communities and more time finding real social groups in our own local communities?
All those are good choices, but I don’t feel that it’s my place to tell others how to live. With regard to making changes, I would be the pot calling the kettle black if I waxed evangelical and puritanically proscriptive about what we should and shouldn’t do, especially given that my own life is barely held together with spit and bailing wire. While I am passionate about collective change and reasonably expert about the astrology of what’s coming, I prefer to leave to each individual the specific choices of how to implement adaptive changes, as a matter of personal conscience and situational feasibility.
My concern in this series of commentaries is about our psychological preparation for the shocks that await us in the next decade. Along with many others, I am storming the Bastille of consciousness rather than the imprisonment of lifestyle. Think back to America in 1928. How many people foresaw and were prepared for the Great Depression of the 1930s? If you had been a tenant farmer in Oklahoma, could you have prevented the Dust Bowl, loss of your farm, and migration to California? If you had a stock portfolio in 1928, would you have pulled your money out of the markets before the Crash? Probably not.
A more recent scenario would be 1958. Sure, there were the Beats—Kerouac and Ginsberg trumpeting about alienation, conformity, and howling “Moloch!” Ike would soon to warn us about the dangers of an emergent military-industrial complex, and the initial rumblings of the civil rights movement were already underway—but the great bulk of middle-class, white Americans were concerned mainly with good jobs, decent schools for their kids, and the mortgage on that new tract house in Levittown. How many people in 1958 could have foreseen the amazing events of the 1960s that waited just around the corner? Darned few.
Both those periods—1928 and 1958—were on the cusps of Uranus-Pluto shocks, surprises, and upheavals that defined the 1930s and 1960s. And now here we are again, sitting in 2007 on the verge of another visitation by those archetypes of radical change. This time, however, we can see the storm clouds on the horizon. This time, we have a better chance to prepare psychologically for the shocks.
So, in light of all that, I have four questions to ask each of us. Two are about power, and two are about love. Two are about the past, and two are about future.
Now, here’s the tricky part: Don’t Answer the Questions. Ask them, but don’t answer. I do not mean to be arch, clever, or mystical with this instruction. I offer it up front so as not to take anyone by surprise.
Here are the questions:
1. Where, how, and with whomam I already powerful?
2. Where, how, and with whom will I want or need to become powerful in the years ahead?
3. Where, how, and with whomam I already loving?
4. Where, how, and with whom will I need or want to become loving in the years ahead?
In the ways I use those terms, Power is the ability to willfully manipulate an environment, to reshape our worlds toward greater perfection or harmony. Love is the ability to see and feel the beauty that lies at the heart of all our interconnections with others and with life in us and around us.
Power and Love are aspects of the Tao, seemingly opposite and exclusive, but mutually interdependent. One without the other is not only incomplete, but ineffective and perverse.
Power without sufficient Love produces chaos—we can change anything, but we don’t know what to change it into. Look at the war in Iraq for an example. All wars are power without love, destruction without harmony. To say that wars are justified is to close one’s heart and embrace chaos. That’s also why the past 200 years of the Industrial and Technological Revolutions have backfired so disastrously, because we used our power headlong without the guidance of love to provide a vision of harmony.
Love without sufficient Power results in suffering—we sense and feel a vision of perfection but cannot manifest it in real life. Look at any unrequited romance for an example of love without power. Or think of a beloved with a terminal illness, where we must stand by helplessly. We don’t possess the medicine (power) to restore health (harmony), so we suffer.
When love and power are balanced, we know what to do, what not to do, and why. Taking the long view, we impact our environments only when doing so will enhance their perfection, and then only in ways that result in greater harmony. The politicians, planners, and engineers who dammed all the major rivers in America during the 20th century had the power to do so and thought they were benefitting human beings, but they didn’t feel sufficient love to understand that they were destroying not only the beauty but also the functioning of nature’s ecological life-systems. As a result, short-term benefits backfired into long-term chaos.
Mere balance, however, is not the only criterion for love and power. We know that power corrupts, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Too much power concentrated in too few hands is not a good thing for human beings. And love? Well, many people love their own families and friends very deeply, but don’t give a damn about what happens to you and yours. So power needs restraint, and love needs breadth. The tragedy of modern civilization lies in unrestrained power and narrowness of love. To be effective, power must be widely distributed and love must be broadly empathic. Otherwise, we inadvert- ently create chaos and suffering.
Consider again the four questions. Rather than addressing those questions with your conscious mind, let them hover in the larger field of your sentience, rather like jelly fish in the ocean: bell-shaped, translucent, pulsating, and softly luminous.
This is not about “intention” or “focusing the will.” Instead, we’re asking for grace, like sending a telegram to Cosmic Central, or emailing an in-house memo to the Board of Directors of our Higher Selves. The questions are not a quiz, but a mantra, like asking just before going to sleep to receive information in a dream. Toss the questions into the ocean with the outgoing tide and let them go, then be watchful for any responses that may later wash up on the beach with the return of the incoming tide.
For all our seeming stupidity, we are smarter than we have realized. Our conscious minds are just the boats that bob up and down on the surface of a deeper, more mysterious intelligence. In the decade ahead, we will need to plumb the depths of that profound intelligence to refine our power and expand our love.
Bill Herbst resides in Olympia, Washington. You can read much more of his fine work at his website, Bill Herbst, Astrologer.
"I offer personal astrological sessions over the telephone for clients throughout America and internationally. Individual sessions are the main work I've done over the past 35 years, and I'm still passionate about talking with people to reveal the meaning and direction of their lives.
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