Sunday, December 16, 2007

In Response To Jessica Murray's "Fire At The Threshold" (The Jupiter-Pluto In Sagittarius Debate)

In Response To Jessica Murray's "Fire At The Threshold" (The Jupiter-Pluto In Sagittarius Debate)

9:28 AM 12/15/2007 Sat

Earlier this week I took it on the word and high recommendation of a good friend and colleague to checkout the book "Soul Sick Nation" by West Coast-based astrologer Jessica Murray. Pulling the link up on Google and purusing what Amazon.com had to say about the book, I hopped over to her website (mothersky.com), where I was treated to a good deal more of her writings and views. Although there are quite a few I would like to address in due course, the one I want to treat in particular is her December 2007 "Skywatch" piece, "Fire At The Threshold: The Jupiter-Pluto Conjunction".

To those in the know, Ms. Murray is no neophyte; she's been around as an astrologer almost as long as I've been alive, and by all accounts is going strong, riding high on the sales and reviews of her book (of which I'll be reading and giving my own review in due course of time) and is quite popular in the New Age and Astrology community. However, I found the words in her article, taken along with other expressed sentiments, to be a bit problematic for me. Not because of the views themselves - this she has every right to express - but for the seeming onesidedness of it all.

Although Ms. Murray may not know me from Adam (a fitting phrase in light of the subject matter!), she does know one Gary Caton, an astrological peer and contemporary of mine; I see he is included in the "Links" section of her site. Mr. Caton and I have debated on related issues previously (and which can be seen on the University Of Astrology forum on MySpace: groups.myspace.com/uoaforum), and so doesn't surprise me in the least that he and Ms. Murray would be two peas in a pod; perhaps its Fate that has led me to her writings, and to provide a countervailing view - just in time for the cluster of planets in Sagittarius to bring an Archer* into her life!

Before I begin, let me say the following in the spirit of full disclosure: not only am I a believer in God, but that belief comes from a great tradition, though not without its bumps and bruises. Nevertheless, it has contributed mightily to the Western world, the whole of the Earth's peoples, and yes, to Astrology as well. This rebuttal will attempt to lay all of this out in astrological terms, as well as to take up other central themes that flow through Ms. Murray's writings, in a yet accessible way.

So, let's begin...

Areas Of AgreementMs. Murray is correct to point out the fact that the astrological Pluto, perhaps the "biggest" of the Mundane chronocrators, would bring out the ugliest in Sagittarius during its nearly 13 year sojourn. The Catholic Priest Sex Scandals, and the Radical Islamic Terrorist and Jihadist movements in particular, have punctuated the Pluto in Sagittarius period in ways that none of us are likely to forget. And Ms. Murray is correct to point out, as she does in other writings on her website, that Organized Religion - and let's be precise here, we're speaking of the "Big Three" - Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all of which in this astrologer's humble estimation is symbolized by Jupiter - have done their fair share of dirt. As a Muslim, I will be the first to openly acknowledge that and denounce the evils done in my faith's name. At every turn of History's page, one can find instances of wrongdoing at the hands of those who claim to be acting on God's behalf. It was wrong, it was immoral, and I do not hesitate to call it for what it is.

But what Ms. Murray seems to evade, not mention, overlook, is the tremendous GOOD that the Big Three have done over the centuries. The same Catholic Church that has had pedophiles in its midst for at least a generation also has educated millions of children worldwide, took the homless off the streets, and fed the hungry, often for free. Mother Theresa took up Jesus' words about tending to the "leper", those afflicted with AIDS, in Calcutta. Western Europe would a be pestilence-infested backwater without the direct intervention of Islam - the same Islam that in our time is in the throes of its own Reformation. The Mormons, and Evangelicals, the Quakers and Anglicans, all of whom have contributed immeasurably to both the West and America in particular, were the driving force behind many of this nation's greatest social and legal achievements - Abolition and Civil Rights for my people, African Americans, just to name a quick few (and really, can anyone deny the devoutness of Martin Luther King Jr.?) And while some of us may look askance at the Ten Commandments in our ever-increasingly sophisticated times, we all - Jew and Gentile, Believer and Non-Believer alike - have benefitted from the Golden Rule.

Pluto, the planet of Perspective, Depth-Psychology and all that is deep-rooted, has asked us all to reconsider our core Beliefs as Human Beings over nearly the past decade and a half. Doing so forces us to confront the ugliness in ourselves, on the group level, as well; but in so doing we REDEEM ourselves, and re-commit ourselves to uphold the Ideals that are the Eternal Truths that have been Divinely revealed to Mankind. True, I confess that the Pluto in Sagittarius transit has seen some very bad things with regard to religion. But it gives us believers a chance to repent, atone, and most of all, forgive. Pluto in Sagittarius is the prototypical "trial by fire" - what the Hindus call "Agni" - to burn the dross off of that which is no longer needed, or, needing an "upgrade". All institutions, beliefs, for that matter, people, need to go through such a time of rigor.

This is another area of contention I have with Ms. Murray, who seems to leave out this very important part of Religion, in particular the Big Three - Forgiveness, Repentence, and Redemption. And contrary to Ms. Murray's assertions to the contrary, I must say with all due respect, much of the world prior to this did not practice such ideals. We'll get to that later. But first, I want to draw the reader's attention to another area of contention I have with Ms. Murray...

Well, What About Atheism?
Since Sep 11, 2001, the West and in particular the United States, has seen an uptick in Atheism - the idea of Nontheism. Although there are many permutations of this worldview, basically, its the notion that God doesn't exist. There is no God, atheists claim, because It/She/He cannot be proven in any empirical way. Moreover, so say the unbelievers, that because human beings now exist in a time of unpreceedented scientific advance and discovery, Religion can, will and should go the way of the dinosaur. Hugely popular books like "God Is Not Great" by Christopher Hitchens, takes this idea a step further - he argues that anytime human beings bring in religion of ANY kind, things invariably takes a turn for the worse. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) Somali-born, former Dutch politician, is hailed for her break from a horrid and oppressive Sharia Islamic life. Richard Dawkins, another well known atheist, gets thousands of hits, if not a lot more, on his website and is widely published with regard to his views on religion and how it is a pall on Humanity. We even have a US Congressman in Peter Starks, whose district is in Ms. Murray's neck of the woods, coming out recently to proclaim that he is a "humanist" - which is the nice way of saying, that he doesn't believe in God.

According to noted astrologer Liz Greene in her excellent text, The Astrological Neptune, she posits that pairings of Saturn and Neptune seem to be correlated with Atheist themes; the "grand experiment" with Communism/Socialism in the last century and a half, occured after the discovery of Neptune.

In light of all the attention Atheism has gotten in recent times, and for our purposes those times were characterized by a recent Saturn-Neptune opposition, both of whom being tied into the umbrella transit of Pluto in Sagittarius, it's puzzling indeed as to why Ms. Murray didn't devote any time at all to this phenomenon and instead addressed only the Catholic priest scandals or the Jihadist terrorism of the Islamic world. Perhaps she felt that the latter two issues were of more import because they had the potential to more drastically effect more lives, and in this I wouldn't disagree. But to completely turn a blind eye the apparent Rise of Atheism, is to make a huge historical mistake. One that from all that I have read on Ms. Murray's site, she continues to make.

Although Atheism has been with Man as long as Theism, it seems that Atheism as we know it today - as a set of ideas and postulates - came into being in the latter half of the 18th century. Some put it closer to the tailend of the period, and present as an example the 1770 work The System of Nature, by Paul Baron d'Holbach. This was the first openly atheistic tract written and published as such. At the time, Pluto was transiting Capricorn, the Sign immediately following Sagittarius, and a fitting descriptor of one exalting the Material over the Sublime.

We can take matters a step further, noting the formation of the French State after its revolution to oust the Monarchy, with its chart featuring Pluto in Aquarius, rising in a Capricorn Asc, its ruler opposed both Jupiter and Neptune in the 9th house. In fact, it can be said that France was, in a way, the first modern state to at the very least, tolerate Atheism as we have come to know it today.

Then came Karl Marx, in some ways the quintessential atheist, and his Communist Manifesto, among a great many other works, was published in 1848 - just a few years after Neptune's discovery. At the time, Neptune was tightly conjunct Saturn, ushering in the Socialist/Communist era we've all known today. Please note that Jupiter is completely out of the picture, so to speak, at the time of Neptune's discovery.

This last feature is most important and central to the debate here, because Jupiter - the planet long associated with moral codes, and by extension to a large degree, the Abrahamic Faiths - greatly tempers any planet it comes into contact with, be it by aspect or dispositorship. This is especially true for Pluto, as it moves toward the end of its sojourn in Sagittarius and conjoins its "maker". Jupiter lifts up the quality of what it touches, and brings a higher perspective into the mix, all within an appropriate framework of established norms and customs. Neptune, on the other hand, searches for an ideal, and very few human beings realized said ideals; unless guided by Jupiter's hand, every Neptunian attempt to do this on a grand scale has met with failure.
We see this astrologically confirmed in the charts of the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, and even Albania, the only country that has officially proclaimed, at one time, to be officially Atheist. In China's chart we see Neptune sextile Pluto, the ruler of the 9th house, with Jupiter fallen in Capricorn and in the 12th (religion banished). In the chart of Albania, we see Saturn sextile Neptune; this same Saturn-Neptune pairing recurs over and over again astrologically in the charts of nation states who go the full out Atheist way. And the results of their (un)thelogical choices have been severe.

As Dinesh D'Souza recently pointed out to Hitchens in their debate on whether Christianity was the problem at The King's College in New York City in late Oct of this year, every society that proclaims there is no God, or is even fuzzy on the matter, takes a developmental step BACKWARD, not forward. Human rights are trampled, and abuses are commonplace. Civil liberties are a thing of the past. Mobility socially is contingent to what extent one is willing to tow the party line (the darker side of Neptune, to be sure!). And one other thing about Communism/Socialism/Atheism that those on the other side are loathe to admit - millions die in its name, in defence of its cause. Far more than anyone ever killed, or for that matter, merely mistreated, in the name of Judaism, Christianity or Islam. In fact, as D'Souza rightly points out, Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot were responsible for more human dead than the entire 100 year history of Crusades! Ho Chi Minh's massacre of millions of Southern Vietamese after the pullout of American forces makes even the most exaggerated accounts of European and American Witchunt Trials look tame by comparison.

And as we all saw with our own eyes, less than twenty years ago, State-backed and powered Atheism fell under its own weight - at the time, in 1989, the rare triple conjunction of Saturn, Uranus and Neptune was in the sky.

For Ms. Murray to conveniently sidestep all of this documented history, is again a bit odd. But perhaps there might be another reason for the omission...

Atheism & Paganism: Happy Together?
Perhaps the reason why Ms. Murray doesn't have too mean a word to say about Socialism and Communism might have something to do with the fact that while these two ideologies have been virulently against the Big Three, they were quite tolerant when it came to the old folk Pagan rituals. For example, while Albania officially proclaimed itself Atheist in the 1960s, it actually *encouraged* its citizens to go back to the "nature religions". In China, the same thing obtained, where folk traditions abound. This was even true in many of the Socialist states in Africa prior to the tremendous upheaval symbolized by the Uranus-Pluto conjunction of the 60s came roaring through the Dark Continent. Even the most casual reading of the articles on Ms. Murray's website quickly lets the reader know where her religious sensibilities lie; the very name of her site, "Mothery Sky" says it all. A strong proponent of "Back To Mother Nature" faith(s), Ms. Murray has quite a bone to pick with the Big Three, and especially with Christianity in the form of the Church. I find it very interesting that Murray and others who think as she does - and there are quite a few in astrological circles - advocate a return to such faiths. As some of you reading this may know, I'm often accused of wanting to "go back to an illusory 1950s America" because of my Right of Center sensibilities. I'm told that we live in a New World, and that such notions are at best fanciful, if not outright dangerous, because I overlook the gross inequities that took place back then. And of course, Ms. Murray's chief gripe with the Church was that it was discriminatory or worse, to Women. Even if all of these things were true, Life would be, and has indeed been, far more worse, during the "good old days" of the so-called Nature Religions.

How so? Well, one simple example was in terms of Human Rights. As loathe as Murray and others are to admit it, ancient Greek and Roman theology - of which goddess worship played a huge role - did nothing to end Slavery, like Christianity did. As Murray points out herself in her article on the role of the "Asteroid Goddesses", the Vestal Virgins (from which we get the asteroid name "Vesta") were often buried alive on charges of unchastity. Spartans routinely discarded newborn babes who were misshapen or otherwise weren't deemed appropriate, left on the hill side to cry itself to death. And speaking of children, it is a documented fact that childbirth was a dangerous affair for both mother and baby - in the 1600s, for example, more than half of all babies and/or their mothers, died in childbirth or shortly thereafter. And as for Sexuality, we know now from official Communist teachings coming from the Soviet Union, the idea of "free love" was highly encouraged; according to Murray's writings on her site, this idea seems to be true of many aspects of "Mother Nature" religions as well, where transitory sexual unions were not only the norm, they were encouraged under the aegis of "higher spirituality"; any children born of such unions were to be taken care of by the Community as a whole - "it takes a village" - right? And while she may rail against the Church's stance to stamp these practices out, what she doesn't seem to want to acknowledge is the fact that the Church also brought a great deal of stability to communities by way of Marriage, the biggest benefactors being children. As the Communist countries from China to the USSR to Albania and Romania have shown us, "free love" doesn't work - and the biggest losers or the precious babies that Murray's musings claim to care about.

Once again we see Neptune's hand involved in all of this, and as Greene points out in her Astrological Neptune, Neptune represents the Maya principle - the longing to return to a womb-like state. This manifests in many ways personal and political and yes, even spiritual as well. In the chart of Albania we see the Moon conjunct Neptune in Cancer - a stronger signal for "Mother Nature" religion couldn't be stronger - in the chart of China, we see the Sun and Neptune in aspect. Jupiter is left out of the mix.

These romanticized notions, while sounding great in theory and look beautiful on the written page, are in fact "dead" for very important reasons - THEY DON'T WORK. And, as D'Souza points out again in his debate with Hitchens, it's not just that the Atheists don't believe in God - their bellicose militancy belies the fact that they in fact, HATE God. I would like to suggest that something similar with respect to our current discussion is happening, that it isn't that the Mother Nature folks just want to exist, they want to "kill" off the Big Three, and especially Christianity. It isn't enough that they simply go about their business and do their thing; they want to excoriate the Church. The astrological reader is reminded of the epic Uranus-Neptune conjunction in Capricorn of the early 1990s, a time of tremendous upheaval along many lines. It was during this time, for us astrologers, that Project Hindsight was born, and along with it a fervent interest in the Mother Nature religions of ancient Greece, Rome, the Celtic areas of what is now the United Kingdom, and so on. Much scapegoating was going on then, and from what I can see here, it's still going on now, attempting to lay at the feet of the Church every evil and blight on the Human Soul that the "alternative community" can find. And while the Big Three has come into account with what bad was done in their names, one is hardpressed to find an ardent supporter of Atheism or Paganism, who will be just as candid - in fact, as D'Souza says in his debate with Hitchens, not only do Atheists want Christians to be accountable for their own sins, but they also want them to atone for the sins of Communism! A greater conceit would be harder to find.

Astrology's Role
As noted above, the Uranus-Neptune conjunction in Capricorn in 1993-94 ushered in a wave of "alternative faiths" as well as a period of re-examination of the world's largest ones. Astrology itself had long been dissociated from Religion, back during the Enlightement and the Age of Reason, around the last time Pluto transited Sagittarius. The Baby Boomer generation of astrologers, born around the time of the Saturn-Pluto conjunction in Leo, brought with them these ideas as well as those of the great psychologists of the period, most notably Carl Jung; by the mid 70s (when Saturn was in Leo), "Humanistic" astrology was the only kind of astrology discussed, and any notions of the Spirit in the modality of the Big Three was considered oldhat. But as Pluto left Scorpio to enter Sagittarius in this dispensation of time, from the mid 90s forward however, that began to change, thanks largely to the massive influx of Vedic astrology, with its keen focus on its awareness of the Spirit. This feature of India's ancient astrological system, sparked discussion and interest into Religion playing a role again within the astrological community, and as Saturn entered and travelled through Leo yet again in the early 21st century, this time opposed by Neptune, the Humanistic mode of astrology birthed by the Baby Boomers seemed to have gone as far as it could. With the entrance of Uranus into Pisces, the traditional Zodiacal Sign of Christianity, joining Jupiter's other Sign being tenated, Sagittarius, which is home of the Islamic faith, eventually the "next generation" of astrologers would at the very least take a look at the Big Three with fresh eyes. And indeed this has begun to happen - more open discussion about this is taking place more and more all the time.

Concluding Thoughts
As noted above, Ms. Murray is absolutely correct to point out that the Big Three have done some horrendous things during its watch; this is something no one can deny, and as said before, I will be the first to denounce it, apologize for it, and to work harder to make my faith better. And she is right to suggest that the Pluto in Sagittarius period brought a time of intense srcutiny to these Great Faiths, dredging up the undesirable elements in each, so that they can be rightly addressed. But what Ms. Murray doesn't seem to understand, with all due respect, is that every Great Religion undergoes its "trial by fire", its own brand of reformation. The Jews did it. The Church did it. And now, the Dar-es-Salaam, the Islamic World, is undergoing this process. It is painful and long, but in the end, Islam will be a much better Faith for it, just as Christianity and Judaism have beem much improved as a result of theirs. That the Catholic Church has grown in adherents in places like Africa and Asia; that Islam has been and continues to be the fastest growing religion not just in the USA, but in much of the Western world; that the Evangelical and Mormon Churches have grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade and a half here in the USA; and that Israel, despite repeated attack and assault by age-old enemies, continues not only to survive, but indeed to thrive, are all testaments to the endurance of the Eternal Truths these Great Faiths have come to represent to Humanity. Far from seeing the "death" of the Church, I see Judaism, Christianity and Islam being reborn - another Plutonian theme - into a much more transparent, vibrant and energizing force for Good in our world.

But Ms. Murray needn't be worried about this great rebirth, for one of the truths that will emerge out of this Pluto in Sagittarius period, is that none of these Faiths are valid if people come to them by force. Nor are they represented well when done in a spirit of intolerance. As a fellow astrologer and American, I affirm Ms. Murray's right to believe - or not to believe - in the manner that best suits her and her kin. I do not seek to "convert" her at the point of a gun, or sword, or bomb; rather, I seek to engage her in spirited, yet respectful debate. That, is the Islamic tradition. And one that will rise again out of the ashes of Terrorist failures.

Salaam,
Mu'Min M. Bey

*Mu'Min M. Bey Dec 2 1968 9.43AM EST Phila PA. I share a birthday with the legendary Jeff Green!

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