Mood Swing Medley
In the USA right now, only four industries seem to have escaped the downturn unscathed. Sales of junk food, alcohol, and guns are way up; and, as was the case during the Great Depression, Hollywood movies are raking it in. This says volumes about the mass mood.
Depression and anxiety are now epidemic, and I do not mean the term hyperbolically. These states of mind constitute a mass reality in contemporary America as surely as the Black Plague was a mass reality in 14th-Century England.
Neptune, Chiron and Jupiter
To respond authentically to the massive amounts of anxiety and depression in the air right now, we need to understand the underlying energies from which they arise. If we are interested in cosmic meaning, tossing around these terms as they are used in everyday speech will not get us far, nor will their psychiatric definitions.
In the context of consciousness work, depression and anxiety are not merely personal, nor are they merely maladies (mal: Latin for bad). In order to heal them we need to redefine them, which is exactly what the transit above us can help us do. The remarkable assemblage in the sky right now joins together the forces of Neptune (universality) with the planetoid Chiron (wounds) and the huge gas giant Jupiter (knowledge), in the sign Aquarius (humanity).1
Early last month Mars briefly stimulated this line-up, making it feel suddenly very real. The collective agitation and panic associated with the financial crisis were whipped into a high lather by the red planet. The malaise was brought into to the body level.
Whenever a personal planet comes along to trigger a long-running transit, we start to take personally (in both the positive and negative senses of the phrase) the ongoing transit in the background. This is why for many people the Neptune conjunction hit home, in a new way, during the first half of March. Mars gave us a heads-up that we cannot afford to ignore Neptune’s deeper message, hard to conceptualize though it may be. If we do not come to terms with the transit’s true potential, it will have nowhere to go but into depression and free-floating fear.
This is a typical reaction, but it is a misuse of the transit. The intention of these planetary intelligences is that we confront the woundedness of the world, in order to see that we’re all in this together.
When anxiety is swirling around in the environment, we encounter psychic toxins that resonate with our own unique issues, but which are not limited to our own issues. Thus we have two dimensions to negotiate: the my-own-stuff part and the collective madness part.
Depression happens when anxiety is taken personally instead of trans-personally. Some people are reacting to these troubled times by castigating themselves: telling themselves they should have done something they didn’t do or they shouldn't have done something they did do. Others see themselves as innocent bystanders; victims of external events that have nothing to do with them personally. Both views fall short of the larger truth.
If we believe that everything has meaning, and that our presence in every situation is cosmically appropriate, then we can’t simply chalk up the malaise we are experiencing to the worldly cataclysms that seem to cause it. This is not to say that global warming and financial meltdown et al don’t play a starring role in this global drama. It is rather to say that we have a better shot at healing ourselves and our world when we go beyond seeing things merely in terms of cause-and-effect.
In the holistic view, anxiety and depression are not problems, but symptoms. They are signals pointing to something else. This is not to deny or minimize the discomfort involved, which can range from mild to excruciating. It is just to suggest that the way to experience such states differently is to understand them differently.
Step One in understanding them differently is to strip the terms anxiety and depression of value judgment. This means noticing the shame-tinged associations that surround these feelings. Conventional psychology is, for the most part, loath to see these conditions as soul issues, opting instead to see them as personal mental-emotional pathologies; a view that is, perversely, often interpreted as a kindness to the sufferer (note how often families of chronically depressed people angrily defend their loved one’s condition as an illness).
This line of thinking is a natural consequence of the cultural skirmishes that have arisen as our society flails around trying to ease its pain. Many sincere social advocates, in reaction to what they perceive as a campaign to blame the victim, react by blaming the medical industry for misdiagnosis, the insurance company for not paying for treatment, or the social worker for negligence in handling the case. And of course all these charges are usually completely valid. It is hardly a secret any more that modern capitalist societies don’t prioritize taking care of their citizens, a situation that has reached calamitous proportions in the USA.
But for the purposes of this discussion, we are saying that casting the depression-sufferer as a victim is not the way to strengthen her. It will not heal either the person or the social condition.
Trying to identify the cosmic teaching hidden within distressing psychological states is not easy in the current cultural climate. To interpret depression as soul-angst is often construed as foisting a judgment upon the sufferer: either by imposing an (unreal) ideological position upon a (real) ailment, or by faulting the sufferer for being “spiritually incorrect” in some way.
Like all Neptunian dilemmas, this one requires a subtlety of understanding that popular discourse lacks the vocabulary to even talk about, let alone remedy. But astrology employs a very precise vocabulary with which to parse the myriad states of the human condition, so let us attempt a translation into the language of symbols.
If everything in the universe is energy, emotions (the Water element) must be energy, too. They must follow the same Natural Laws that everything else follows. They must operate in the same ways that physical things (Earth), thoughts (Air) and impulses (Fire) operate.
In this sense, depression is grief (Water) that has gotten stuck. Similarly, when we lose sight of our connection to Source, we get anxiety (stuck Air and Water): an offshoot of the realization that the familiar parameters of our lives have become profoundly destabilized, and have not yet resolved into a new set.
This perspective allows us to relax into the realization that what we are feeling is, under the circumstances, eminently natural. Not inevitable, not at all; but very understandable, and utterly human. So instead of immediately adding worry to the mix – worry about having these feelings -- we gently acknowledge their universality, their emotional logic.
At this point, we open up a little bit, quite organically, to Step Two: forgiveness of the self for feeling this way.
Depression, free-floating anxiety, claustrophobia and psychological restlessness derive from un-integrated Neptune, the planet of universal Water. This aspect of Neptune is fated to be highly visible right now because of its proximity in the sky to Chiron. Our emotional and mental bodies can be forgiven for not knowing how to handle these energies. Neptune and Chiron’s sublime, powerful truths are presenting themselves to be assimilated but are not there yet.
Even in this phase, however, they are serving a purpose: that of putting us on the path towards a fuller kind of health than that which presents itself as mere happiness and contentment. I’m talking about the kind of health that incorporates spiritual knowing.
This leads us to Step Three: surrendering to the essential layer of meaning here; the layer of meaning that encompasses yet transcends all the other layers of meaning (material, psychological, societal, legal, etc). The essential truth Neptune wants to convey to us is that we are all ultimately souls trapped in a corporeal existence, living out this limited Earth-plane exercise as best we can, through storylines that our higher selves scripted (laid out in our birth chart), in order to learn lessons we couldn’t have learned anywhere except in this befuddled, imperfect, fascinating realm of matter.
That’s a pretty big truth for a secular-minded culture to swallow.
Most modern people don’t have a belief system that can accommodate it, which leaves them stranded. Absent any universal perspective, where does Step One leave us? Without a belief in overall cosmic meaning, how would it help us to simply admit we’re depressed and anxious? It wouldn’t. Which is why the conventional treatments for these conditions often promote a sense of futility -- a dangerous ingredient to toss into a situation already characterized by a sense of meaninglessness.
There’s no way around it. You can’t submit a transit like this one to a merely intellectual or psychological analysis and expect to get anywhere. There is no way to heal Neptunian angst outside of a spiritual context, because it is a spiritual condition.
Revenge of the Plants
How is the collective likely to handle this transit? Group consciousness is slower on the uptake than individual consciousness. When a transit this challenging comes along we need to know which themes are likely to come to a head in the cultural environment, so we can know what’s really going on underneath the sturm und drang of current events.
As the governor of escapism, low-level Neptune is associated with drugs. Given the state of affairs in the modern world, this gives the transit a wide field in which to play itself out.
Humanity is now under the reign of Queen Poppy and the King Coca. One cannot help but feel that Mother Earth, in reaction to the degradations inflicted upon her by the human species, is parceling out her revenge by unleashing upon her tormentors these two Janus-faced plants; which now serve as the cash crop as well as the mortal undoing of millions upon millions of people.
At this point in history there are many countries whose whole infrastructure is based upon these two life-destroying plants. In Afghanistan the cultivation of poppies provides a meager living for some of the poorest people in the world, at the same time that it finances the weaponry used by all factions involved in the ceaseless bloodletting (see "Silk Road Blues" on MotherSky blog). In Nicaragua, fishing villages are abandoning their ancient trade in favor of beachcombing for bags of cocaine that wash up on the shore after having been ditched by smugglers at sea. In Columbia the long-running coca wars have consumed hundreds of thousands of lives and millions of American tax dollars.
In Mexico the narcotraficante culture has all but taken over, creating a state of civil and governmental dysfunction comparable to that of Afghanistan. Victims of the daily kidnappings, torture and beheadings include civilians, police chiefs, mayors, lawyers and whoever else gets in the way of the drug cartels who have thoroughly infiltrated every level of the police, military and governing establishments.
What Americans have yet to assimilate is the symbiotic relationship with the USA that underlies this orgy of violence and breakdown. Not only is the USA the end-market of almost all Mexican drug dealing,2 but 90 per cent of the weapons smuggled into Mexico come from here. The drugs flow north while the weapons flow south.3
America’s involvement in these international horrors is seldom examined by the US media. Neither do many US taxpayers give much thought to how much of their hard-earned money gets funneled by the Pentagon into paramilitary units, especially in Latin America, to carry out the so-called “war on drugs” begun under Nixon. This 40-year-old “war” has proven such a resounding failure that more and more Americans are beginning to realize it is more than merely a grossly misguided effort to stamp out drugs. This “war,” like the others that are bleeding Uncle Sam’s coffers dry while the economy tanks, is about covert geopolitical control. In several Latin American countries the power of dark Neptune has undermined public health to the level of genocide.
From now through February of 2010 the transit will be hovering over the Sibly chart Moon (27°Aquarius). Cracks will appear in the shell of insularity that has protected Americans up until now from identifying with the worldwide repercussions of their relationship with drugs.
In order to heal (Chiron) a problem as vast and pernicious as that of the global (Jupiter) drug trade (Neptune), aspects of it that originate in the USA must be brought home (Moon): incorporated into America’s understanding of itself.
Next month, America’s drug issues will be under the spotlight as never before. The transit’s first peak is May 27th.
1 Though their first exact conjunction is not until February 2010, next month is considered to be the conjunction’s first major preview. On May 27th 2009, when Jupiter and Neptune both hit 29 Aquarius, Chiron will be only three degrees away.
2 See Weed Wars, MotherSky blog.
3 For the fiscal years 2005-07, confiscated and discarded weapons used in these killings were traced to fifteen US states. Texas sellers were the source of more than two thousand of them; California furnished more than a thousand.