By Eric Francis
From Parallel Worlds, the 2006 annual edition of Planet Waves, published January 7.

DO WE HAVE any reason whatsoever to be optimistic about the future? To make the point either way, I don't need to go over the problems the planet is facing. Even if you're not paying any attention whatsoever and mustered a D+ in Remedial Political Science, you could recite many of them. The reasons are discouraging and hardly reasonable at all, time is going quickly, the ice caps are melting and the situations we face as a global community are indeed larger than any solutions we can think of at the moment.

But who cares? Or rather, do we have a choice? Well, sure we do. We have a choice between zoning out into the "parallel world" of unreality and taking up residence inside a Playstation, boredom or tranquilizers, or actually manifesting in 3-D in some meaningful way and living consciously. Life has always been here to be lived, and remains so. And it's always been here to check out of.

Problems have always fuelled the human drive for progress. Often, the bigger the better. Greed has always got in the way; stealing is easy. Plutocrats are a dime a dozen, they just think they're special. And there's always somebody else who wants you to do something other than what you really need to do.

There are many who say the world is too far-gone to bother taking responsibility or action; but this sounds like a convenient excuse to do nothing, or somebody else's excuse to get you to look the other direction.

On an ongoing basis, we all have the option to wake up. No matter how you look at it, the entity we're calling 2006 is bursting with opportunity to do just that. Even compared to what we're accustomed to lately, it seems like one long wave of awakening. Many astronomical events and cycles on which this year's astrology is based started to materialize in 2005, and we saw the effects. One of the great cycles that comes to fruition is the Saturn-Neptune opposition. Though it has not even reached exactitude, the year of tsunamis, floods and storms we just experienced certainly has the feeling of the solid (Saturn) directly encountering (opposition) the liquid (Neptune) and vice versa.

Saturn-Neptune is one of those dependable heartbeats of history, as recounted in Arwynne's article on the subject. At the conjunction in 1989, the Berlin Wall was smashed up and the evil empire dissolved. The opposition, with its symbolic confrontation of "the real" and "the unreal"; "the spiritual" and "the egotistical" could hardly be more welcome (or unwelcome) than it is today, in a world where people are so deluded as to believe that Saddam Hussein knocked down the World Trade Center and that when the rapture comes (any moment now), they will go spinning into the sky naked (and finally for a second, we can all be naked together). So what we're being lied to around the clock? We have a responsibility not to believe lies, to look through them and tear them down and prove them wrong. You put the TV in your house and you can take it out.

One of the great issues of our times is that for many, the difference between truth and lies is itself what has lost all meaning. This is a condition of intellectual immune suppression that has become one of the great opportunities for the infections of chaos and greed. Establishing sanity on this level involves establishing an orientation on the truth first, and collecting enough people who think it matters.

Among the sobering effects of Saturn-Neptune thus far has been the beginning of popular acceptance of climate change. What we do with that awareness is another question, and whether we have it in time is yet another. People usually need a long time to get used to the truth. This is not necessarily comforting if your home is under water.

We have another interesting change showing up at full strength right around now, and extending well past 2012: the first three Centaur planets just changed signs. Admittedly, astrology as an entity or a community is not talking much about this, if at all, or counting it for much. But let's not let that stop us now.

Chiron, Pholus and Nessus transiting into Aquarius, Sagittarius and Aquarius (respectively) are nearly as big as astrology news gets. Nearly but not entirely; I'm saving that one for last. Decades later, astrologers looked back on the Uranus-Pluto conjunction and said, "But of course -- the Sixties." Was this being widely discussed at the time? There wasn't even a book about Pluto in print in English. So it seems unlikely. Would it have helped us assimilate the process of the Sixties to understand the ways in which one of the great cycles of revolutionary social progress was once again having its characteristic effects? But of course.

So, the Centaurs exist, and they're on the move. Sagittarius and Aquarius are signs that address collective processes; they are like the Internet of astrology on the psychic level. Taurus is your bank account and Cancer is your kitchen, so those early signs, ruled by personal planets, are kind of personal. Sagittarius takes you to the level of the ideas that permeate an entire society or the human race (such as God), our collective knowledge and the beliefs that we share. A big planet, really, a mini solar system, Jupiter, is the ruler.

Aquarius describes and regulates images and patterns of social systems, where individuals intersect with them. It's also about you in relationship to your friends, or to the labels you wear that supposedly make you acceptable as a person. It addresses the question of how we deal with the issue of whether we want to be free, or live under some form of fascism -- a decision which we are now making each day, even if we abstain from the vote. Will we "escape from freedom," in the words of Erich Fromm, or will we embrace our responsibility as free people and earn the right to participate in community? Good question.

The Centaurs rivet consciousness to wherever they go. The keyword that covers them all is awareness, but it's really hyper-awareness and over-focus, and this induces irreversible transition. The Centaurs bring distinct and often rapid changes to the social process addressed by a sign. Notice that within weeks of Chiron, Nessus and Pholus taking up residence in their new domains, the spying program of the National Security Agency (NSA) on the American public became known. A federal court dealing with international issues (FISA) was bypassed by an agency charged with dealing with international espionage (the NSA). Both are Sagittarian organizations.

The energy of Pholus feels like air rushing into a vacuum; the air is consciousness. The vacuum was secrecy. Suddenly all our minds were drawn into this secret world of spying that now has files of all our email and tons of phone sex calls from the past four years. The question is: are we mad, are we concerned, is it merely a fact of life or does it not matter at all? This is a choice.

Yet if you think that whether you care or not does not matter, you are deceived.

Aquarius is about technology. It's about issues of freedom and control. Aquarius is the social contract. Add Chiron and Nessus and you get the good and the bad; you get the undeniable truth; you get awareness of technology as a control device on a massive, culture-wide scale. Chiron is going to hold our awareness there for a long time. Until we get it, I would imagine.

Notice what happened with Chiron in Capricorn, the sign that covers governments and corporations. That transit began in December 2001 and went through late 2005. Chiron went through the halls of power with a giant lancet and popped every government and corporate abscess, and out came the pus: Enron and Worldcom stealing everything, corrupt auditing firms helping, Catholic sex scandals, Bush knew about 9/11 in advance, no airliner crashed at the Pentagon, they lied about the WMDs, they outed their own spy in revenge for somebody saying that, Scooter Libby and Karl Rove covered it up, and we have government reports that tell us the election was stolen in Ohio. And so on.

Jack Abramoff was snagged under Chiron in Capricorn for bribing a long list of congressmen; when Chiron went into Aquarius, the information became common property and affected Congress as a group.

The astrology is doing its work. It is always encouraging when the signs of the times and the times themselves have something in common. We know life often has to get worse before it gets better. While Chiron was lancing wounds, Dick Cheney and Jack Abramoff were walking around with a sledgehammer smashing up our constitutional system, buying congressional votes, stuffing the courts with assholes, starting out-of-control wars, pumping oil profits out of the ground and turning reality in to a cynical game.

However: an abrupt end to the unmitigated lunacy appears to be in sight.

As for the Core. There is one astrological event that spans 2006 and 2007 that we have never seen in United States history, and remember that the United States is, for its youth, the longest-standing government on the planet right now. That is that Pluto reaches the Galactic Core (or Center), the hub of the wheel of our massive island in space. This is the peak of the Pluto in Sagittarius process that goes back to 1994 and seems to be a natural peak in the entire 248 year Pluto cycle.

Astrology is still in some unknown territory regarding the delineation of the Galactic Core, but we're not without a clue. The Galactic Core holds the mystery of existence. Perhaps the answer, but surely the mystery, which we are about to experience. From a physical standpoint it is something akin to Goddess/God. It represents the principles of divine justice, suspension of judgment, surrender of prejudice and authentic fairness. Pluto raises whatever it contacts to the level of inevitability.

"The Galactic Center radiates brilliant insight to anyone connected with it," writes Philip Sedgwick in The Soul of the Sky. "This insight craves implementation, [information which] reveals how to let go of what is in the way to make a clear path for the next step. As soon as an idea is grasped and brought forward, the path of accessing new information refreshes. At all times, new and newer insights spew forth. This carries the tone of consciousness evolution."

Pluto is a bottom line planet. When all else fails, Pluto comes through. It points to the utmost necessities and makes sure that, one way or another, they are fulfilled.

Sedgwick continues on the Galactic Core:

"The collective aim refocuses and retargets with higher and clearer insights at each minute in timelessness. The more considered, the broader the band of consciousness acceptance, then the more assurance can be taken with the focus of life, personal or collective. All this, by the way, occurs a step at a time. One step leads to the next, and so on. Extreme long-range vision does not accompany these insights. You will not know how far the idea will go, how much it can change the world or your consciousness. This lack of viewing actually protects the ego from going overboard on a Sagittarian agenda -- with either extreme overestimation or underestimation."

So: insights to help us get real here and now; ideas as experience with impact -- and history tells us, impact on the historical process. So, the game we have seen played out the past five or six years is not over. Indeed, it would appear to have just begun.

And though there is something about our history that seems to be coming to an inevitable end, as the oil runs out and the last clean water on the planet is contaminated, it would seem on another level that the larger human history is just beginning, because whether we like it or not, we have reached the strange, groggy or beautiful point of awakening.

Montage of the Milky Way galaxy by William Castleman.

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