Asteroid-World Summer 1996

Zip Dobyns

Millennial fever is building. The conspiracy theories are proliferating, along with the prophecies that the end of the world is imminent, or at least doom and gloom is coming to unbelievers. The stories are coming from many sources, ranging from the “alternative” (as opposed to mainline) media, to fundamentalist religious leaders in many groups including native peoples, to self-proclaimed gurus of Wall St., to men in jail (or hiding) who accuse government officials, especially U.S. intelligence agencies, of crimes. Some of the deluge is probably disinformation. Divide and conquer is still a popular way to stay in power. Some of it is defensive or just self-serving. Some of it is fantasy. Some of it is a too-literal interpretation of symbolic myths.

I have spent most of this past summer reading and trying to make sense of this explosive deluge of information. There seem to be three main sources of the truly millennial type of material. The bulk of the conspiracy theories may be exaggerations of some underlying facts that are being offered to the public for a variety of reasons. For one, books, magazines, and newspapers make money from them, for the authors and the publishers. They help Wall Street gurus sell their high-priced newsletters. People in jail claim they were only taking orders and their bosses are the real criminals. In addition to whatever profit is gained by the conspiracy promoters, their claims add to the millennial fever in the atmosphere. They are adding fuel to the fire.

In this issue of Asteroid-World, I will focus on the “truly millennial” material, discussing its sources and trying to sort out what I see as major confusion in much of the material coming from ostensibly “spiritual” groups, whether traditional or “new age.”

One obvious thread of millennial beliefs is well-known. Norman Cohn’s book Cosmos, Chaos, and the World to Come, is a good source for this information. The book was updated by Cohn and republished by Yale University Press in 1993. His theories are largely accepted by historians who trace the history of religion. The ancient world mostly believed in repetitive cycles. One age would end, only to be followed by a new age. If one creation was destroyed, which happened periodically, another would be produced by some variety of gods. Cohn suggests that the primary early source of the idea of a final triumph of good over evil stems from Zoroaster, a teacher in what is now Iran in about 1500 B.C. This “apocalyptic” faith was especially appealing to people when they were living in very unstable and stressful times, when the present was miserable and the future seemed both unpredictable and threatening. It was especially attractive since it could “explain” the current misery without challenging the basic religious beliefs. The true believers could still have faith in both the power and the goodness of their god with the reassurance that eventually He would overcome all chaos and evil in the world (which was conveniently blamed on an evil demiurge or lesser god) and the faithful believers would be rewarded by eternal bliss.

This apocalyptic belief was preached by a variety of Jewish prophets during times when the Hebrews were under major stress, conquered and ruled by a foreign power, or even sent into exile away from their homeland. Daniel is probably the most quoted of these prophets. Many of the early Christians accepted the idea of an “end time” when God (in the form of Jesus to the Christians) would destroy all non-believers and the faithful would inherit the earth to live forever in peace. The Book of Revelations is the most elaborate source of these ideas, and modern fundamentalist Christians pore over the Bible and watch the news, looking for the signs which will signal the day of Armageddon—the final battle of good and evil which is to take place on the plains not far from Jerusalem. For years, it was widely accepted that the Roman Catholic Church was the Beast who would be conquered. Then, Russia was identified as the target. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Saddam Hussein is being nominated by some to play that role.

Over the centuries, the “great day of reckoning” has been predicted many times. True believers have gathered on hilltops in many countries, often having sold all their possessions, wearing white robes, expecting to picked up and carried to heaven, only to be disillusioned. A doubter might wonder why they “sold” their possessions instead of just giving them away, since presumably the money was not needed in heaven or in the new paradise to come on earth. Some have taken very painful routes to attain what they believe will be their reward in heaven—witness David Koresh at Waco.

Another good book for those who want more information on recent fundamentalists is When Time Shall be no More by Paul Boyer, published by Harvard University Press in 1992. Boyer writes that in gathering information for his book, he read about 100 pre-1945 books and over 200 post-1945 books on prophecy. He also read the published papers of 8 prophecy conferences between the 1870s and the 1970s, and about 25 prophecy newsletters and religious periodicals on the subject. I did not manage the time to read his whole book, but I think that he mostly stayed with the Judeo-Christian material.

A variety of native peoples have had their own versions of this ancient hope that their gods would come to their rescue, validate their traditional beliefs and ways, destroy their oppressors, and give them an earthly paradise. The Ghost Dance Cult of the Plains Indians in the 19th century in the U.S. promised this if the believers performed the proper, painful rituals. Some Hopi Indians in the U.S. southwest still look for the return of their “elder brother” who will come reinforced by the traditional gods to bring honor and restitution to the Hopis. The believers say that it is only the continuing Hopi rituals which keep the earth rotating properly. In a video released in recent years, the same claim was made by a group of natives in South America. The birth of a white buffalo on August 20, 1994 on a small farm in Janesville, Wisconsin, is being heralded by some American Indians as a sign of a prophesied new spiritual age. The Cargo Cult in Melanesia described by anthropologist Melanowski offered a variation to a people overwhelmed by western “civilization.” Linda Schele and David Freidel’s book Maya Cosmos describes the beliefs still held by Cruzob Mayas who are preoccupied by war and the immanent end of the world. They believe there will be a great war with all societies fighting each other, that the machines will be destroyed and the armies reduced to fighting with machetes and sticks. They say that their people will win because they have kept faith and listened to their “talking crosses” and a Maya King will rule the lands.

The various belief systems lumped as “new age” offer their own versions of apocalypse. For example, the August 1996 issue of Fate Magazine has an article from someone who obviously knows almost nothing about astrology, listing May 5, 2000 as doomsday, and blaming it on the fact that several planets are “lined up” in Taurus. The author quotes Richard Kieninger, author of The Ultimate Frontier, as the original source of this prediction. Richard Noone’s book Ice: The Ultimate Disaster, agrees and thinks a polar flip is coming on that date. Astrologers know that we have had as many planets in a single sign several times already in this century without any noticeable tremor in our world.

Some of the current true believers have accepted the ideas of native spiritual leaders. Sometimes, the faithful are to be picked up by a UFO just before the catastrophe comes to earth. The form of final catastrophe is often described as geological. Continental edges are to sink beneath the ocean which is to inundate large inland areas as well. Volcanoes and earthquakes are to create widespread destruction, and the poles are to “shift” or “flip,” leading to tidal waves washing over the earth and killing most of its inhabitants. A different scenario calls for intervention by the “White Brotherhood” who have reportedly decided that humans are not going to ever “get it” on their own, so the spiritual teachers plan to accelerate Karma. This is a less bloody version of the myth. The ruling elite of the earth, who are driven by their greed for power and wealth, will experience breakdowns in their immune systems and will self-destruct, leaving the earth to the loving and sharing people. Some “new age” and financial gurus sound rather similar, with predictions of a total breakdown of the world’s economic system. For some, the ballooning debt will finally destroy the system. For others, the geological disasters will wipe out the insurance companies and the rest of the financial establishment will fall into the abyss after them.

Needless to say, some dramatic astrological patterns would be needed for any of these “total” scenarios, so most practicing astrologers remain skeptical. As I have written before, we see problems due to human inhumanity to fellow humans, but not the end of the world.

There is another primary source of these apocalyptic scenarios which is totally mixed in with the wishful thinking that the “elect” (which is naturally always our own group) will soon live happily ever after, even if a lot of other people have to die to produce this “happy ending.” This important source is ancient astrology. As far as I know, the first book to present this information was Hamlet’s Mill by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, published by Gambit Inc., in 1969. It was later reprinted by Weiser in NY. A recent book which follows up that seminal work is The Secret of the Incas by William Sullivan, published by Crown in 1996. I have written previously about this basic theory about astrological ages in the Gemini 1984 and Gemini 1994 issues of The Mutable Dilemma, but we have to include it in any discussion of millennial thinking.

We know from Marshak’s work presented in The Roots of Civilization that humans have been using the sky as their clock and calendar for at least 20,000 years. Neolithic hunters marked the phases of the Moon on reindeer bones and horns. By the time writing was developed in plus or minus 3,000 B.C., the ancient world recognized the equinoxes and solstices as major turning points in the year. They were like the corners of a circle, when the relative length of day and night changed. Major monuments like Stonehenge and Mayan temples and simple stone circles among preliterate people were used to identify these days, and vital rituals were performed on them.

The ancient world had also recognized the “precession” of the equinoxes as, over the years, these important dates shifted against the backdrop of the star groups called constellations. A variety of myths described this observed fact that the spring equinox which had formerly occurred when the Sun was in the constellation of Taurus was now occurring in the constellation of Aries. The worship of the Bull was replaced by the veneration of the Ram, and then by the Christian symbol of the two Fishes. To a human viewing the sky, the former important constellation had disappeared, had sunk into an invisible sea, and a new one had risen A former “age” had ended, and a new one had begun, with a new planetary ruler god. The objective astronomical reality was described in the myths of a flood which ended the old age. Santillana and von Dechend found this same basic myth everywhere, across the whole earth. They traced it through Iceland, across Europe, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas. Only the elite, the educated astrologer priests, knew the actual astronomical source of the flood myths. “Ordinary” people assumed that they described historical facts—real floods. The western Bible’s version is the story of Noah.

Sullivan’s book explores the related myths found in the cultures of the Andes, from the great city of Tihuanaco at Lake Titicaca, which was a religious center several hundred years B.C., to the Incas who were conquered by the Spanish in 1532. Sullivan’s time table for the Aymara people of Tihuanaco is questionable. Alan Kolata’s book Valley of the Spirits, published by John Wiley & Sons in 1996, claims that the kingdom of Tihuanaco lasted until after 1000 A.D. when it was hit by a severe drought that lasted for close to 400 years. The marvelous irrigation system developed by the people of the area was not able to function during the prolonged drought, the city was abandoned and people dispersed. The ancient farming technique was rediscovered by modern archaeologists. It is now being practiced by current descendants of the Aymara in the Lake Titicaca area of Bolivia

Despite the questionable data on the Aymara dates, Sullivan’s book is well worth reading. It is as fascinating as a detective story as he explains his efforts to penetrate the astrological meaning behind the symbolism in a variety of myths. One of the important conclusions from his work is the likelihood that the basic conceptual system which included precession was brought to the Andean people from the north, not independently invented. Sullivan points out close parallels between myths of the Andean area and the recorded myths of the Mayas and Aztecs. Especially significant is the fact that even though the Andean peoples lived south of the Equator, they maintained the system developed in the northern hemisphere in which north was up and south was down. Had the astrological system been locally developed, the reverse would have been more logical with the longest day of the year coming in December and the shortest in June.

I can’t do justice to a very stimulating book, but it sent me on a search to explore astrological techniques which were used in the ancient world but which I had never tested. I knew of the former importance of the “fixed” stars, especially of stars which rise just ahead of the Sun—the so-called heliacal rising. The Egyptians were able to anticipate the flooding of the Nile and plant their crops when Sirius rose just ahead of the Sun. Sullivan interprets Andean myths to describe the people’s dismay when, due to precession, the Sun no longer rose in the Milky Way on the June solstice. The Milky way to the Mayas as well as to the Andean people was the bridge to the lands of the gods. The home of the gods was in the north, and they came to bless the people across the Milky Way at the June solstice. The home to which the human dead went during the interval before reincarnation was to the south, and at the December solstice, the dead returned to be welcomed with food and prayed to for help for the living. Halloween is our modern remnant of the ancient day when the dead returned to visit and eat with the living. The connection of the Milky Way to the December solstice lasted some 800 years longer than it did to the June solstice, but it too was lost in time, to the dismay of the people.

Sullivan describes a story told to the Spanish by local informants. A ruling Inca when they were still a relatively small tribe reportedly had a vision at about the time when that last bridge to the lands of the gods was lost. He was said to have predicted that within five generations, the Incas would lose their religion and their power. It was after this time, in the middle of the 1400s, that the Incas began their effort to conquer other groups. There is evidence of human sacrifice in every group which attained sufficient size and wealth to build monuments and maintain both an artisan and an elite noble class. But in the plus or minus 100 year period of the Inca rise to power, human sacrifice was expanded. Literally thousands of unblemished 10 and 11 year old boys and girls were killed each year. Theoretically, they were sent to intercede with the gods, to save the people from their anticipated disaster. Sullivan says: The gods answered. They sent the Spanish.

Sullivan points out the connection of the 800 year periods to the conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn. As all astrologer know, these conjunctions occur at roughly 20 year intervals, and they were considered highly important keys to world events in the ancient world. In approximately 800 years, or 40 conjunctions, the planets would meet again in approximately the same place in the zodiac. This is the source of the common use of the number “40” in ancient stories, whether the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness resisting temptation, or the 40 years in which the Israelites wandered in the wilderness. It is a general symbol for the completion of a cycle.

The mistake made by people who lacked knowledge of the astronomical/astrological source of such numbers and of the cycles of precession has been to take as literal facts the mnemonic (memory aiding) stories that were once told to the “peasants” by the educated elite. And, who knows whether anyone really understood the factual basis of the myths by the time the religious system reached the western hemisphere? Santillana and von Dechend think that Plato understood the source of the stories when he wrote about Atlantis as a way to describe his version of a properly conducted government, but the knowledge might have been lost soon after him.

As I have written repeatedly before, I think that many people with some psychic ability have created astral versions of these stories of civilizations going down into the sea. Edgar Cayce gave a major boost to the myth of Atlantis, helping to firmly establish it at the astral level, just beyond the physical world in which we live. Anyone who can remember a dream can visit the astral Atlantis and add their own details to it. And, the more we visualize the apocalyptic scenarios, the more “solid” they become on the astral level, and the easier it is for people with a little psychic ability to experience them. I think that the astral level is full of heavens and hells created by human minds; “happy hunting grounds,” paradises where males can have all the beautiful houris they can imagine, little exclusive heavens where self-righteous believers can look down and see imaginary victims being tortured by the devil, and whatever else a fertile mind can create. Fortunately, the physical world is not so malleable to our psychic imagination, but our beliefs can certainly produce discomfort in our lives. Believers may quit their jobs, sell their homes, even leave their families, seeking safety from anticipated geological threats, but they lack the power to produce them in the material world. If living minds created earthquakes, we would have to conclude that fish have a lot of mind-power since there are many more earthquakes in the oceans than on land. I think our character creates our destiny. If we have an “earthquake character,” we can move to a place where one will occur, but fortunately, we can’t create it. When dealing with our fellow humans, if Sullivan is right, the Incas killed a lot of children as a consequence of a destructive set of beliefs.

I have been presenting the theory that the religious apocalyptic beliefs which seem to have been mostly born of wishful thinking by people under intense stress have been thoroughly mixed with a too literal interpretation of the ancient myths of cyclic ages based on the precession of the equinoxes moving in front of the constellations. But there is a third possible source of some of this mix, and I have just recently been given new and exciting relevant information about it. Back in the 1950s to 1960s, I read the books of Immanuel Velikovsky, a psychoanalyst who proposed what the scientific world considered outrageous theories. His book Worlds in Collision, published by Macmillan in 1950, became a best seller, but Macmillan received so much flak from “scientists” who threatened to boycott the textbooks it also published, that the company gave the rights of the book to Doubleday. The episode was a shocking illustration of the lack of objectivity among so-called scientists. Some of his fiercest critics actually bragged that they had not read his heretical book.

Velikovsky’s research was actually very impressive, including predictions considered absurd at the time which were later found to be accurate, such as radio noise emanating from Jupiter and a high temperature on Venus. In later books he described the extensive physical evidence of past catastrophes on earth which killed huge numbers of animals and humans, and he noted the stories of rains of fire and stone, days of darkness, rivers of blood, etc. Velikovsky suggested that these catastrophes might have been caused by a comet, but he really upset the standard scientific belief system in a stable solar system by theorizing that the source of the destruction was actually Venus careening around the solar system and narrowly missing Mars and the Earth. He pointed out that in many early cultures, the same word was applied to Venus and to comets, and Venus was described as “long-haired,” bearded”, “smoking”, etc. Later, on the strength of ancient myths about Saturn as ruler of a golden age, Velikovsky suggested in an unpublished manuscript that Earth was once a satellite of Saturn, and that this was recent enough to be retained in stories carried down to historical periods..

For astrologers who are familiar with the widespread myths of the “Ages,” it is obvious that Velikovsky had fallen victim to the problem previously discussed—taking literally what were myths based on precession. Part of the world-wide astrological belief system traced by Hamlet’s Mill included the successive ages of Gold which was followed by Silver and then by Iron. Saturn was the original mythical ruler of the remote and idealized golden age in some versions, and he was deposed by his son, Jupiter to use their Roman names. To the Greeks, they were Chronos and Zeus. Saturn/Chronos was always associated with time. Jupiter and Saturn were the slowest planets, the farthest out of the planets visible without telescopes. The conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn every 20 years were major timers and keys to the world scene for the ancient world.

But early astrology was far from formalized into a logical system. In the association of metals with planets, Saturn was given lead and he was usually seen as the great malefic. Mars was second to Saturn as a threat to humans. In later more organized astrology, as humans continued to observe the patterns in the sky and to correlate them with events on earth, gold belonged to the Sun, silver to the Moon, and iron to Mars, the god of war. In the Near East where this effort was strongest, Venus was associated with copper and became the goddess of love, equated with Artemis, Aphrodite, and other goddesses. Naturally, the gods had different names in different cultures, but they referred to the same planets. Yet it is true that she was also assigned to Libra, which could be a zodiacal sign of either partnership or warfare, and Venus could be pretty nasty in some of the Greek stories. She was not purely sweetness and light as some modern astrologers would like to believe. To the Mayans, Venus was one of the most feared of the planetary gods, and was definitely associated with war. Astrology was then and remains a work in progress.

The “scientists” attacking Velikovsky had some evidence on their side since early records of Venus, Mars, and Saturn show them in orbits which fit modern calculations projected into the past. The major planets in the solar system do seem to have been in stable orbits for a very long time. If Velikovsky had not taken astrological myths literally, and had stayed with his evidence for catastrophes coming from the sky in times recent enough for the traditions to be retained into historical periods, he would have been on solid ground. Over the years since the original Velikovsky “episode,” his fame and acceptance has risen and fallen. A number of serious researchers have been impressed and have sought evidence to support his theories. Just in the past month, I have received new information on one such group which is currently presenting their ideas in a scientific journal published in England. They are also holding conferences to discuss the ideas which include very concrete and persuasive evidence specifying a precise source of past catastrophes. One of the leaders of this current group is Dr. Victor Clube in Oxford University, and they include searchers in Oregon, northern California, a man who works for NASA, and a University Professor in Australia among others.

Dr. Richard Heinberg sent me the Clube article from the 1996 issue of Vistas in Astronomy. Dr. Heinberg was a personal assistant to Velikovsky in his last years, and he has continued to study and write on mythology, anthropology, and ecology. He publishes a small but very interesting monthly newsletter which is available from him for $15 a year in the U.S.. Write to him at: 1433 Olivet Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95401.

The Clube article is fascinating and wide-ranging, but so complex I can’t begin to do justice to it. He summarizes a Spenglerian model of civilization, which is the title of his article, as an alternation in human history between a pre-Socratic view of the cosmos which was continued by the neo-Platonists and an Aristotelian conceptual belief system about the nature of ultimate reality. As Clube describes this alternation, the early belief systems pictured a Universe which is infinite in extent, both temporally and spatially, but with life here on earth subject to an astronomical environment which influenced or controlled it. (My addition: astrology was the basic religion of early humans.) Clube writes: Plato and his predecessors .... “subscribed to the idea of innumerable worlds of ‘cosmic eggs’ scattered throughout infinite space which passed in and out of existence. The underlying idea was that of an infinite or ‘boundless’ Universe whose constituents therefore represented the unlimited ‘stuff’ of the Universe. Such ‘stuff’ was of an ungenerated and imperishable nature; it was also in a state of eternal motion, being therefore classified as immortal and divine.” (My addition: In essence, as the religions of the east have put it, “we are that”, part of the immortal infinite.) In Plato’s terms, while here on earth, we are part of a particular cosmic egg and they are finite, subject to beginnings and endings which are connected to the astronomical environment. (My addition: Many people believed that our world was controlled by what, to them, were the astrological gods of the sky.)

The Aristotelian conceptual system was closer to the one eventually accepted by Christianity—a finite Universe, both temporally and spatially, and subject to external, benevolent control. (My addition: Modern western science continued this system but removed any hint of divinity, made ultimate reality totally physical, and substituted “natural law” for God). Spengler suggested that in periodic times of crisis and change, humans switched from one of these basic belief systems to the other.

Clube, like all scientists who want to be accepted by the scientific community, has trouble dealing with astrology. He is trying to offer evidence to account for and to justify the total acceptance of astrology by the ancient world without admitting that there is any truth in the claims of modern astrology. His primary information which I found so exciting includes his evidence for previous impacts on earth by cometary fragments which affected the course of history, but he goes much farther! The Alvarez theory that major extinctions of life on earth were caused by impacting asteroids or comets has now been generally accepted. Clube points out that occasional events such as the Tunguska explosion in Siberia in 1908 could justify fear of astronomical phenomena by early humans. But Clube suggests that physically non-threatening phenomena such as unusual numbers of meteors (meteor streams), and eclipses, and comets which did not fragment and hit earth, instilled such fear in humans that they produced revolutions in religions and politics. He tries to deny that astrology could be a valid key to life on earth while accounting for the universal fearful beliefs and reactions of humans in the past to astronomical phenomena. So, in the abstract of his article, he writes: “The historical fear of comets which has been with us since the foundation of civilization, far from being the reflection of an astrological perception of the cosmos which was deranged and therefore abandoned, has a perfectly rational basis in occasional cometary fragmentation events.”

I am reminded of the cliché from Shakespeare—“Methinks thou doth protest too much.” Of course, Clube, like most scientists, may never have seen competent modern astrology. Another cliché is “Never the twain shall meet.” In general, occultists and scientists distrust each other. The belief system of each is threatening to the other. Their concepts are so different, in effect they speak different languages, so communication is truly difficult. But, even more, we live in our belief systems, so they are a primary source of our security. Most people react to a challenge to their beliefs as they react to an earthquake—with terror.

Clube’s main theory is that fragments of comets have hit earth repeatedly within the last few thousand years, creating terror in humans and changing cultures in dramatic ways. He suggests that even spectacular streams of meteors, which are presumably fragments of comets, could have produced fear and general social destabilization which resulted in revolutions. He connects the theories of Spengler and Toynbee, who described periodic violent crises in human history, with periods of increased astronomical phenomena—not just eclipses and occasional comets, but also fireball flux surges (meteors). Chinese astronomers made exceptionally extensive records of astronomical phenomena, and Clube has noted correlations between increased unusual activity in the sky and many periods of unusual turmoil in human affairs. In line with the relatively new view of evolution that it remains static for long periods but then is punctuated with bursts of rapid change, Clube agrees with Spengler and Toynbee that this general picture also fits the evolution of human cultures. He associates episodes of increased fireball flux with the periods from 0 to 100 A.D. when Christianity was being formulated, 400 to 600 when the Roman Empire collapsed, 1040 to 1100 for the Crusades, 1400 to 1460 for the Great Schism, 1500 to 1540 for the Reformation, 1640 to 1680 for the English Revolution, and 1760 to 1800 for the American and French revolutions. His focus is obviously on western history, and more work will be needed to see whether other cultural areas were also destabilized at these times.

In addition to checking astronomical records in China and other countries, Clube also offers mathematical formulas in a search for repetitive patterns. He even pinpoints the remnants of what he thinks was the great comet responsible for some of the chaos in human affairs during the last 2,000 years: our present comet Encke and the Taurid-Encke meteor stream which is seen annually in July-August and October-November. Of course, with his basic belief in scientific materialism, Clube has to blame the turbulence of humans on their fear of coming disaster from the sky. That seems almost bizarre to me, thinking that humans reform religions and fight wars and depose kings just because they are upset by meteors. Logically, humans would not have remained so obsessed with the sky if meteors had come and gone while their lives remained stable. But, those who believe that the world is inherently meaningless cannot consider the possibility that the events in the sky are a source of valid information rather than a cause. As regular readers know, I think that the sky is a visible part of the order of the cosmos, so it is a convenient way to see the order. It does not create it. Jung coined the term “synchronicity” to describe a meaningful coincidence. The cosmos is evolving, in fits and starts as the punctuation theories suggest, and the sky offers us a map of the psychological issues at any given time and place; a mirror of the emotions which are driving us, a clock showing the timing for events in individual lives and in societies which are driven by those emotions. The events are not caused by the sky, whether we metaphorically call it a clock or a model, or a mirror. The events are the culmination of many prior causes; ripe destiny or karma in an endless chain until we change our emotional attitudes and actions.

So if I don’t agree with their materialistic conclusions, why am I excited by the work of Clube and other astronomers who are finally recognizing a relationship between the sky and human actions, human history? Partly, because I find any new knowledge about the cosmos and humans exciting. Hamlet’s Mill, Sullivan’s book on the Incas, and the work of Velikovsky, Clube and others are reminders that there is always more to discover, “new to us” astrological techniques and insights that may help us understand where we came from, how we got here, and what we might do next. But more importantly, despite their disclaimers, Clube and his fellows are providing support for astrology in their correlations between astronomical phenomena and history. I am not suggesting that early humans did not fear comets, eclipses, and unusual meteor streams. Written records provide ample evidence for that. I am saying the fear was based on astrological knowledge that disturbances in the sky typically accompanied disturbances on earth. I think that for millennia humans observed the correlations between drama in the sky and uproar on earth. Their fears were realistically directed at more mundane events than the remote chance of being hit by a fragment of a comet. Unusual turbulence in the sky did accompany wars, famine, pestilence, weather crises on earth such as droughts and floods, etc.

Nowadays, most educated people are too sophisticated to fear comets. Halley’s comet was not much of a spectacle on its last return. It will be interesting to see whether Hale-Bopp next year is more impressive. And astrologers will be especially eager to see whether its visit to the inner regions of our solar system coincides with any major turning points in human history. A number of researchers are now theorizing that evolutionary breakthroughs occur when living beings are stressed. Clube’s addition is the suggestion that unusual astronomical events have been in the past one of the major sources of such stress on humans. That is true as far as it goes. We just need to remember that the stress comes from the BELIEFS of the humans. If Sullivan is right, it was the beliefs of the Incas which led them to fear being cut off from their gods and to sacrifice thousands of children in the vain hope of persuading the gods to reconnect with and protect them. The rise of materialistic science may have been necessary to break humans free from a lot of destructive beliefs. Science threw out the baby with the bathwater, and the efforts of Clube and others are a part of our current efforts to recover the baby without the dirty bath water. Astrologers are now challenged to sift out the valid and helpful insights of their theories from a lot of traditional and often destructive nonsense.

To summarize the preceding material, I think that all of these sources of human beliefs and fears are playing a role in the present millennial fever. As I write often, life is an “and,” not an “either/or.” Previous humans fought revolutions and created other turmoil as an outgrowth of accumulating frustrations plus, usually, some new ideas, AND these turbulent times occurred when there were corresponding unusual patterns in the sky, AND the widespread beliefs in astrology undoubtedly contributed to the general feelings of foreboding and willingness to consider radical action. Currently, some people pressured by economic and other fears are hoping for an end to such pressures, for a paradise providing all their desires without any challenges. Many people take the myths literally, whether they accept the Bible, or the shamanic traditions of native people, or the pronouncements of psychic channelers or UFO abductees. The warnings of current versions of Malthus and Rachel Carson are also a source of concern to thinking people. Over-population, the destruction of ozone in the atmosphere and of the rain forests, global warming, soil erosion, pollution from damaging chemicals from industry and agriculture as well as nuclear waste and stockpiles of nerve gas, are all serious matters which can add fuel to the fire of pervasive unease, not to mention the investment gurus predicting financial collapse.

What can we as individuals do? Serious students of astrology can continue to study the parallels of meaning between the sky and the affairs of earth, and to use the knowledge to handle life more effectively. We can work for or contribute to efforts to limit population growth and clear cutting of old-growth forests, or protecting endangered species, or any other “cause” that appeals to us. We can VOTE for politicians who share our concerns. But I truly believe that part of our contribution can be expressing as much love and joy as we can muster. Character creates destiny. Character is habits which are carried over from one physical expression to another. Habits of love and joy not only create a better personal destiny; they help the world to move in that direction. I stand with the pre-Socratics. I think that ultimate reality is composed of emotion (desire/aversion) and information which life processes to facilitate movement toward what is desired and avoidance of what is not desired. As participating expressions of that eternal Infinite, we contribute to the manifestation of its unrealized potentials.

So far, we have considered a lot of theories. Can we include some relevant astrology? To test Sullivan's ideas about the solstices and the Milky Way, I ran a lot of charts for solstices and Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions from 204 B.C. to the coming of the Spanish in 1532, but in the end, the computer program Dance of the Planets was more helpful in demonstrating that Sullivan was approximately right in his dates on the loss of the “bridge to the worlds of the gods” at the June and December solstices.

As far as I know, the only modern group which may still hold similar beliefs is the Mayans in relatively remote areas. Since some westerners are currently promoting the idea that the end of the current Mayan “long count” calendar will mark an apocalyptic end of the world or at least of our age, perhaps the most interesting horoscope is one drawn for that date. It is reported to be either December 21 or 22, 2012. I have not seen a time of day for this “great” event. The Sun will enter 0 Capricorn on the 21st, so I looked at that Capricorn Ingress at 11:13 UT, but was not impressed. The entry of the Sun into the cardinal signs is traditionally a key to the coming 3 months. If anything important is to occur during this interval, it should show in the horoscope. The chart is arbitrarily calculated for Palenque, Mexico, a major center of classic Mayan culture, but if readers are interested in seeing the angles in other areas, they can make the minor mathematical adjustments. I also looked at a chart for the next day, December 22, and it seemed appropriate to run the chart for sunset: the end of the day for a symbolic end of an age. The Sun will be on the Descendant at 17:35 CST. Jupiter in its own twelfth house will be quincunx both Saturn and Pluto in the sign of Saturn—a fitting pattern for religious illusions meeting the reality of this physical world and doing some analysis and change. Repeating this message are a number of squares between the mutable signs and houses. A common form of the mutable dilemma is the conflict between beliefs and the reality of the world we live in.

I also did a chart for the reported beginning of the Mayan calendar, which is described as the “birth of Venus.” August 13, 3114 B.C. (or minus 3113 to use the alternate nomenclature) is given in both The Mayan Prophecies by Gilbert and Cotterell and Maya Cosmos by Linda Schele, David Freidel, and Joy Parker. Both books specify that the ancient Mayan date has been translated into the modern Gregorian calendar. To have a chart, we have to have a time of day as well as a place. So, I put Venus on the Ascendant, which is traditionally the point of beginning life. As with the chart for 2012, this early horoscope is calculated for Palenque. I progressed the early chart to the previously mentioned date, which is theoretically the end of the current cycle in 2012 A.D.

In addition to the current popularity of ancient Mayan beliefs, another reason for focusing on the Mayas is their obsession with Venus. Velikovsky's research connecting Venus to the appearance of comets and the Mayan fear of Venus make one wonder whether the planet was somehow connected to an ancient catastrophe. Could one of the episodes when cometary fragments actually did widespread damage to earth have occurred when Venus was prominent in some way? Maybe at heliacal rising, when the Mayans especially feared the planet, maybe conjunct the Sun, Mars, or Saturn, maybe on a solstice date or when the Sun was directly overhead, which occurred twice each year in most of the Mayan region. Linda Schele discovered that August 13 was one of the days when the Sun was directly overhead in Copan and other important ancient Mayan cities. This is all speculation, but wouldn't we love it if a record carved on a stele were found!

Calendars are circular, so the end of one cycle is the beginning of another, unless we believe in an apocalyptic scenario. The Mayans actually had a very complicated system with more than one calendar: a ritual one of 260 days and a solar one of 18 months of 20 days each with an extra five days at the end which were much feared as possible times of disaster. Scholars are not certain of the source of the ritual calendar. The best guess seems to be that it might have been connected to the human gestation period. But it might just be based on the importance the Mayans placed on the number 13. They had names for 20 days and 13 sets of them produced the ritual year. The two main calendars meshed and started a repetition of the name combinations every 52 years. The Aztecs had a similar system, undoubtedly borrowed from earlier cultures. The Mayans also had names for longer sets of days and for sets of sets, and the beginning of the “long count” may have just come from adding or multiplying in some way all the possible sets. Gilbert and Cotterell in The Secret of the Mayas suggest that, but most of their material seems highly dubious to me.

IF the early chart for the “birth of Venus” is meaningful and not just playing with numbers, and IF the 2012 date is important, the progressions for that date should have dramatic aspects. Frankly, I am not impressed with the chart, but with the flexible symbolism of astrology, we can always find something appropriate. The early chart has a Leo stellium for fame which fits the current publicity about the people, including pilgrimages of devotees visiting Mayan ruins to perform rituals. It also has a high focus on an elevated P Jupiter plus natal Neptune conjunct Mars, which fit the religious faith being invested in what I suspect is probably fantasy. P Mars is leaving a quincunx to P Saturn, and P Sun is approaching one. As in the transit chart for 2012, Saturn as key to the physical world is calling for analysis and probable change. My obvious guess would be that 2012 will bring some disillusionment to any remaining true believers. The archaeological evidence for human sacrifice as an integral part of ancient Mayan religion should have raised some doubts about their spiritual wisdom, but humans hungry for revelation can ignore evidence and common sense. The charts are included so readers can do their own analysis and decide whether to look for a hill or a cave.

So, what do I think is reality? Everything! But there are an infinite variety of realities. To scientific materialists, only the physical is “real,” but I think that emotional experiences, cognitive or intellectual experiences, and spiritual experiences are even more “real” in the sense that they are more inclusive, more universal, more enduring. We just need to recognize the different types of reality and not confuse them. That ability to discriminate may be the great gift of life in this physical world. The combinations of physical and cognitive reality which we can experience here let us make conceptual models of our experience and test them against the physical (and other) consequences. Imagination, fantasy, dreams, myths and other cognitive models, and a varying component of what we believe to be our memories, are non-physical reality. We can lump them under the term “astral” while acknowledging that the levels or “realms” in the “astral” are undoubtedly more complex than we can imagine when we are operating in and mostly focused on this physical realm. Some gurus teach that we should focus on escaping from this physical level of experience. But why would the Infinite produce it and life explore and expand it unless it offered some value? Maybe sitting on a cloud and playing a harp just gets boring after a while. Maybe life is the urge to do more than we have done before, even though it is often painful. I think that pain is our warning signal of some type of excess when we have gone too far in one direction and lost other valuable parts of life. Astrology is the most useful of the many cognitive models of reality that I have explored, but it is still a model and no model is total and final truth. Even with astrology, life is still an experiment. We try something, in any level of reality, see what happens, then decide whether we want to continue doing it. Bon Voyage!

Copyright © 1996 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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