By Eugene Johnson
A few days ago my friend Roy and I were talking about our collective penchant for naming and numbering things. In the numbering category we see a lot of the ‘index’ these days. Every area of life that has a statistical aspect to it will display at least a few indices to quantize what it is doing; the financial sector would arguably have the most.
I thought that Roy was joking when he said that there was even a Rapture Index. But, later I checked it out on Google, and sure enough there is such a thing. In fact, according to the site, the Rapture Index today is near an all-time high, 172. You can get a grip on the relative power of this number by the fact that the Index, in its highest reading, was 182, on September 24, 2001. I sensed that things were tense but didn’t think that we were near 9/11 stress levels yet.
If this sounds a bit too weird to be true, check this out for yourself at http://www.raptureready.com/rap2.html
I have to include here a bit of the text from the site: “You could say that the Rapture Index is a Dow Jones Industrial Average of the end time activity, but I think it would be better viewed as a prophetic speedometer. The higher the number, the faster we’re moving towards the occurrence of pre-tribulation rapture.”
It would be funny if these people were not dead serious, and the fact that about 20% of the American population (according to some opinion polls) thinks this way. At the other end (shall we say the Left End) of the sanity spectrum we have had a wild, wide variety of end-time predictions over the years; the most currently popular is based on the year 2012, ending of the Mayan Calendar. Meanwhile, the Silent Majority, who occupy the mid-section of the Great Bell Curve ‘live in quiet desperation’ waiting for the ‘other shoe to drop’. There is a widespread sense that ‘something huge’ will have to sweep across the country before the dark cloud of angst will be blown away and there is not much any one person can do about. So, what’s up?
Society historically has not been well-served by those it has looked to for predictions of future trends and events. We have to look no farther than the financial collapse in the fall of 2008 for an example of this. How could an event which some compare in severity to the market collapse of Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, catch all the financial ‘experts’ completely by surprise?
The poor track record of modern prognosticators is the result of many factors but probably the greatest handicap they work under is the belief in linear time and the unidirectional movement of history. ‘Linearists’, seeking to view the future, are reduced to a straight-line extrapolation of events of the recent past, thus history’s last act is often taken to be the herald of if the shape of things to come –which is very seldom is. It has been said that looking toward the future in this manner is like trying to drive a car by looking in the rear view mirror. Associated with the linear time world-view is the Western notion of history-as-progress, Darwinism, and the theological linking of religious scripture to literal historical events. Our mind-set is firmly rooted in conviction that human ingenuity will ‘figure out a way’ of any problem that besets us.
Time also can be seen as simply chaotic. From this point of view, history has no discernable path or pattern, events follow one another randomly and any effort to impute meaning to them is a foolish waste of energy and time; a view that is rapidly gaining ground in this so-called ‘post-modern’ era. In academe, many historians throw up their hands, cover their ears, when any suggestion is voiced that the past offers any lessons whatsoever for life in the present or future. There is no ‘single history’, no connections or patterns in events, just a multitude of stories. Political powers are the primary shapers of events many say.
Time and history can also be interpreted as cyclic. The ancients were able to see a linkage between the natural cycles of the planets, human activity, the seasons and plant life; indeed, it was this psychological achievement that separated them from the primitive mentality with its chaotic time perception and which provided the basis for the first human civilization. It is doubtful that civilization as it has been known can be sustained without the perception of time as some mix of linear and cyclic patterns.
The observation, charting and study of the cyclical movements of the planets became the basis of the first science of humanity. This, along with the experience of the rhythms of the seasons enabled traditional societies to intuit the underlying unity of life, time and nature. Cycles in themselves are simply endless meaningless repetitions. However, a cycle unfolds in phases, four fundamental phases, permitting a quartering of the circle and the fixing the four cardinal directions in space; the equinoxes and solstices of the four seasons. Human life has its ‘four seasons’ – childhood, young adulthood, midlife, and elder hood.
During the past few years several excellent books have appeared that have taken a view a history though the lens of ‘seasonality’, the generations, of human life and correlated these with history. William Strauss and Neil Howe have done the most extensive research in this area, their first book, “Generations, The History of America’s Future” appeared in 1991. In 1997, they published, “The Fourth Turning, What the Cycles of History Tell Us about America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny”; several other books and papers have followed these.
Their work is complex and comprehensive so I can only give a brief over-view of it here. What they show is that the most powerful shaper of history is the relational dynamics of the four generations living at any given point in time. The effects of politics, economics and technology are not the primary drivers they contend. They divide Anglo-American history into ‘saecula’, or seasonal cycles of history. These ‘saecula’ are further divided into generations by birth year and are classified as one of four types – Prophet/Idealist, Nomad/Reactive, Hero/Civic and Artist/Adaptive – and these four generational types appear in sequential order through in four historical ‘turnings’ or ‘saecula’ – Awakening, Unraveling, Crisis and High. An easy way to conceptually grasp the essential meaning of these is to relate them to the four seasons, thus a High Turning is a ‘springtime’, an Awakening Turning is a ‘summer’, an Unraveling, a fall season and a Crisis Turning, a winter’, historically and culturally.
In “The Fourth Turning”, page 99, a ‘turning’ is described as “an era with a characteristic social mood, a new twist on how people feel about themselves and their nation. It results from the aging of the generational constellation. A society enters a turning once every twenty years or so, when all living generations begin to enter their next phases of life. Like archetypes and constellations, turnings come four to a saeculum and always in the same order”
The First Turning is a ‘High’, follows a ‘Crisis’ period, and brings a spirit of renaissance to a community as the people want to put the struggle and suffering of the crisis period behind them. Any social issues left unresolved by the Crisis must now remain so. Post- World War II America was a High Turning, spanned the period from 1946 to 1961, and was a time of very high optimism in the country. The previous High was during the Gilded Age, 1865 to 1886, when there was a massive surge in industrial expansion fueled by a rate of capital formation unmatched in U.S. history.
A Second Turning follows a High and is described as an Awakening and “arrives with a dramatic challenge against the High’s assumptions about benevolent reason and congenial institutions. The outer work now feels trivial compared to the inner world. New spiritual agendas and social ideals burst forth, along with utopian experiments seeking to reconcile total fellowship with total autonomy.” The years 1964 to 1984, was an Awakening Turning described as a Consciousness Revolution. The previous second turning was during the Great Awakening of 1886 to 1908.
The Third Turning brings an Unraveling period “as a society’s wide embrace of the liberating cultural forces set loose by the Awakening set in. People generally have now had their fill of spiritual rebirth, moral protests and lifestyle experimentation. Content with what they have become individually, they vigorously assert an ethos of pragmatism, self-reliance, laissez-faire and nationalism. While personal satisfaction is high, public trust ebbs amid a fragmenting culture, hence, Culture Wars arise. The approaching specter of public disaster ultimately elicits a mix of paralysis and apathy that would have not been seen in the previous turnings. A Third Turning, according to Strauss and Howe began in 1984. At the time of writing their book in 1996 they projected the end of the turning at around 2005. However, in retrospect, since the events of September 11, 2001, I suspect they might move the date for the end of the Unraveling and the unset of the Crisis Turning near to the date of the attack. The immediately preceding Unraveling Turning was 1908 to 1929, Prohibition and World War I.
The Fourth Turning, a Crisis, “arises in response to sudden threats that previously would have been ignored or deferred, but which are now perceived as dire”. This seems to be an apt description of the situation immediately following the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. Strauss and Howe write that fourth turnings have provided the great pivot points in Anglo-American history. Dating back to the fifteenth century there have been six (War of the Roses 1459-1487, Armada Crisis 1569-1594, the Glorious Revolution 1675-1704, the American Revolution 1773 – 1794, the Civil War 1860 – 1865, and the Great Depression 1929 – 1946). The present period is called the Millennial Crisis and is projected to continue until sometime around 2025.
Strauss and Howe never refer to astrology in their writing. They really didn’t need to because their research stands firmly by itself. What they have done is produce a very strong case for the reality of a cyclical rhythm in human society, and in doing this they provide at least indirectly a theoretical basis for the astrological organon. There are many interesting correlations between planetary patterns and their conclusions that I will explore in this essay. For example, according to the author’s calculation there have been six complete saeculums (of four turnings) since the first High of the Tudor Renaissance beginning in 1487, and then counting forward until the onset of the present Crisis period gives 518 years, and this number divided by 6 gives 86 years as the average length of one complete saeculum (four Turnings) This correlates fairly closely with the orbital period of Uranus, 84 years. Uranus is the planet often most closely associated with humanity and the ideal length of human life.
The cycle of Jupiter and Saturn conjunctions (about 20 years in length) is the key cycle used by astrologers to delineate the major social/cultural periods. During the past 24 turnings the average length of each is 21.7 years; a very interesting correlation.
The aspect patterns of Saturn, Uranus and Pluto are also clearly associated with the cycle of turnings. For example during the Crisis-era now underway there is a T-cross pattern formed by these three planets. A similar pattern was present during the previous Fourth Turning of the Great Depression and WWII. The only triple conjunction of the three planets during the last 200 years occurred during the 1850 preceding the Civil War. The American Revolution Crisis years had an opposition of Uranus and Pluto, and the planets were in square aspect during the Crisis-eras of the Glorious Revolution (1675-1704) and the Armada Crisis (1569-1594).
None of this is to suggest that the cycles of the saeculum, or astrology for that matter, in any way restrict human free will or are predictive of specific events such as accidents, inventions, assassinations, etc. The authors on page 116 address the question of “how can the saeculum coexist with all of history’s chance events and trends…how can any theory of social change predict such things?”
“The answer is simple”’ they write,” The saeculum neither predicts them nor precludes them. Yes, history dishes out accidents. But, for the saeculum, what matters most are not the accidents themselves, but rather society’s response to them.”
In Chapter 10, ‘A Fourth Turning Prophecy’, the authors write: “A spark will ignite a new mood. Today, (this written in 1996, an Unraveling period) the same spark would flame briefly but then extinguish, its last flicker merely confirming and deepening the Unraveling-era mind-set. This time, (now) though, it will catalyze a Crisis. In retrospect, the spark might seem as ominous as a financial crash (which we have had), as ordinary as a national election (remember 2000), as trivial as a Tea Party (but not the one they are referring to!). It could be a rapid succession of small events in which the ominous, the ordinary, and the trivial are commingled.”
“Recall that a Crisis catalyst involves scenarios distinctly imaginable eight or ten years in advance. Based on recent Unraveling-era trends, the following circe-2005 scenarios might seem plausible:
“Beset by a financial crisis, a state lays claim to its residents’ federal tax monies, similar tax rebellions spring up in other states causing a confrontation between the states and the federal government (not too unlike the state secessions in 1861)…treasury bill auctions are suspended…Cyberterrorists destroy IRS databases…a global terrorist group blows up an aircraft and announces it has nuclear weapons inside the U.S. and threaten to detonate them in an America city…marshal law declared, a nationwide strike declared…foreign capital flees the U.S. An impasse over the federal budget reaches a stalemate. The president and Congress both refuse to back down triggering a near total collapse of the government. Dollar and bond prices plummet…social security checks stop going out… Wall Street panic…The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announce the spread of a new communicable virus…”
“…At home and abroad, these events will reflect the tearing of the civic fabric at points of extreme vulnerability – problem areas where, during the Unraveling, America will have been neglected, denied, or delayed needed action. Anger at “mistakes we made” will translate into calls for action; regardless of the heightened public risk….America will have entered the Fourth Turning…”
“The new mood and its jarring problems will provide a natural end point for the Unraveling-era decline in civic confidence. In the pre-Crisis years, fears about the flimsiness of the social contract will have been subliminal but rising. As the Crisis catalyzes, the fears will rush to the surface, jagged and exposed. Distrustful of some things, individuals will feel that their survival requires them to distrust more things. This behavior could cascade into a sudden downward spiral, and implosion of societal trust….if so, this implosion will strike financial markets…the economy…through the Unraveling, people will have preferred or at least tolerated, the exciting if bewildering trend toward social complexity. But as the Crisis mood congeals, people will come to the jarring realization that they have grown helplessly dependent on the teetering edifice of anonymous transactions and paper guarantees. Many Americans won’t know where their savings are, who their employer is, what their pension is, or how the government works. The era will have left the financial world arbitraged and tentacled: Debtors won’t know who holds their notes, homeowners, who owns their mortgages, and shareholders, who runs their equities – and vice versa.”
That Strauss and Howe made these predictions in 1996 that so accurately describe the general conditions today and the direction events are trending is quite amazing and gives great credence to their methods and findings. Perhaps my attempt to communicate at least a minimal understanding of their ideas and research has not been successful but I hope this will do deter you from taking the opportunity to read their work first-hand.
After reading and thinking about this material I must admit that I am not at all optimistic that ‘we the people’ will fare at all well during these next years. I will briefly outline some of my reasons for this feeling.
Strauss and Howe write that a Crisis-era is ignited by a catalytic event. The attack on the WTC, September 11, would seem to fit those criteria. It was a sudden shock to the collective body which for a time did seem to ‘bring the country together’. The authors stress that national unity and sense of a common purpose are vital if a country is to successful navigate through a Crisis period. Unfortunately the feelings of national unity quickly evaporated and we are left with a very, very divided country, and the chasms between the various political and interest groups is widening.
Diversity is producing new racial enclaves. America is no longer a ‘melting pot’ but rather more resembles a ‘stew pot’ , meanwhile ‘immigration’ issues heat up that are basically not resolvable. The Culture Wars continue, not a good sign. Ideally the intensity of these should abate as the population turns its attention to physical survival during a time of external threats posed during the Crisis.
The financial ‘meltdown’ in the fall of ’08 has not produced any meaningful legislation that will break up the financial monopoly of Wall Street and the six big banks that control most the nation’s financial wealth. Financial astrologers believe that sometime in September or October this year the ‘other shoe will drop’, and there will be a second crash. If this does happen the fall-out will be much more devastating than when the first shoe dropped because at that time the Federal government borrowed money to pump into the system and keep it afloat. There was also money for unemployment benefits. This time around, the government is tapped out and can not borrow the amount of money needed. So, be prepared for the Great Devaluation. Entitlement payments by the government may be greatly reduced or suspended.
The cost of clean-up and restoration of destruction natural disasters such as the huge rainstorms, tornadoes and hurricanes that have punished the land in recent years could be extremely high. The outlook is that the weather will become more unstable in the future as a result of global warming. Then there are the man-made disasters, such as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that will have to be dealt with. All these things requiring money the country does not have and are very unpredictable.
The election of Barack Obama kindled our hopes for a more unified and civil society after the divisive two terms of President Bush. But this has not happened, perhaps it will, eventually. During Mr. Bush’s term the political Left was agitated, now it is the political Right that is aflame with righteous indignation accusing Mr. Obama of being a Communist, or a Muslim, or a Dictator, or not being born in the U.S.A, hence an Impostor, or all of the above.
I will close this article with a few more words about the Saturn, Uranus and Pluto cycle that appears to be so significant in the turning of the historical eras. The cycle of conjunctions of Uranus and Pluto is about 127 years; it varies some because of the eccentricity of Pluto’s orbit. Dividing this number by four gives thirty-two, this means that about every thirty-two years, or four times in a cycle, we will see a quadrature aspect between these two planets, i.e., a conjunction, a waxing square, an opposition, then waning square and another conjunction, completing one cycle. Then, because Saturn’s orbital period is nearly thirty years in length it will frequently join the mix with Uranus and Pluto making it a three partner dance, rather than two. Indeed, as previously mentioned the three planets have formed a quadrature aspect configuration in every Fourth Turning (Crisis) period since the War of the Roses Crisis-era of 1459 to 1487, except for the Civil War era when a triple conjunction came together in Aries during 1850-51.
When the archetypal meanings of these three planets, Saturn, Uranus, and Pluto is studied in the light of historical events it is not surprising that quadarture alignments between them so often correlate very closely with historical periods of significant change in society and culture. Saturn, the closest planet of the three, represents the principle of limit, structure, necessity, rule of law, etc., hence its action is to maintain stability and resist any force that threatens to change or upset the status quo. Uranus, on the other hand, is very much the polar opposite of these Saturnine attributes as it represents the principle of change, and all that is associated with change – freedom movements that may blossom into rebellions or revolutions and rapid social changes, and on a more personal level, it is associated with intellectual brilliance, technological invention, original thinking, etc. Pluto’s activity is a little harder to grasp, which is not all that surprising since it is a very small, very distant planet. But, this does not mean that it does not carry plenty of power, in fact, Pluto can be thought of as the power planet in the planetary hierarchy. Indeed, with respect to the synchronistic timing of its discovery in 1930, its activity correlates closely with the splitting of the atom and the unleashing of atomic power and all that followed – the modern industrial civilization, massive military forces, rise of fascism and other mass movements, psychoanalysis, and the use of it to manipulate individuals through propaganda, advertising, ‘public relations’, etc. Pluto transforms and there is in it a touch of the instinctive and elemental. It intensifies what it contacts.
This is not the place for an extensive astrological essay but I do think it is worth taking a few moments to examine in more depth the astrological correlations mentioned earlier. The astrology here clearly supports and buttresses the conclusions of Strauss and Howe.
Three of the most pivotal periods in American history, most historians agree, were, first, the American Revolution and the years leading up to the adoption of the Constitution; second, the Civil War Crisis and then the Great Depression – World war II period.
There are two other periods of crisis in English history that had the results gone differently there would probably not be an American nation as we know it. One is the so-called Glorious Revolution, 1675-1692, (the name used today in England) an event that very few Americans would know anything about but was highly significant because it was this revolution which overthrew James II and brought the Dutchman William of Orange to the English throne and with him the beginning of English parliamentary democracy was born. The other major event was the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 which saved England from defeat.
The events of each of these five periods unfolded during a Fourth Turning Crisis-era. Strauss and Howe write that “All five events marked the culmination of swift and sweeping change in the secular world. Each surrounding era witnessed widespread fear for personal and social survival, collective unity in the case of peril, and sudden institutional change or innovation. Apprehension about the future reached a climax – and was followed (in all but the fourth case, the Civil War) by a sense of victory and the dawning of a bright new era.”
Astrologers and even some historians have noted curious time sequence between these five events that averages 87 years. Between the American Revolution, 1776, and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 1941, is a span of 165 years, the length of Neptune’s orbital period. And, the year 1861, when the first shot of the Civil War was fired at Fort Sumter, is almost the exact mid-point of this 165 year period. Eight-seven years passed between the Glorious Revolution of 1689 and Independence Day. Preceding the Glorious Revolution was a longer period of ninety-nine years to the victory of the English fleet over the Spanish Armada. A set of very fascinating numbers for an astrologer as these suggest a combination of Uranian and Neptunian influences.
Turning now to look at the arising T-square, called by some astrologers. The Cardinal Climax, so named because by late mid-summer the planets will align with Jupiter and Uranus in the first three degrees of Aries, opposing Saturn at the first degree of Libra with Mars moving toward it, these planets all in square to Pluto in the third degree of Capricorn. Astrologers agree that this configuration is the potentially the most ‘power packed’ alignment that has been seen for many, many years.
The last time these three planets were simultaneously in a quadrature aspect alignment was from 1964 to early 1968, when Saturn opposed the longer Uranus, Pluto conjunction of the 1960s. We all remember those days – a head-on collision of revolutionary (Uranus) impulses with a reactionary (Saturn) cultural milieu, the intensity of the confrontation accentuated through a release of pent-up collective energies (Pluto).
Reflecting on what the connection might be between our present time and the 1960s in the context of the astrological conditions, it is significant I think that at that time Uranus and Pluto were in conjunction, an aspect associated with the ‘initiation of a new cycle’, thus, the 1960s were a time when ‘the Spirit’ moved, and caressed humanity with fresh inspiration which was responded to in very different ways, positively and negatively – but, astrologically, this was only the beginning of a longer process. Now we come to the second phase of that process.
Continuing this line of thought, in the developing planetary picture Uranus is now moving toward its opening square with Pluto, the second phase of the four-fold cycle. The basic meaning of the square aspect is “a call to action”, “to walk the talk”, to manifest, give definite structure and form to what was initiated at the conjunction. We do have astrology that can give a conceptual framework, a map, of a kind, to help us figure out what to expect.
From a generational standpoint we see that Generation X (named the 13th Generation by Strauss and Howe as it is the 13th generation alive since American Independence) born during the Saturn, Uranus, Pluto alignment of the 1960s (President Obama is of course a very early cohort of this group) is now coming to power. And, the children born during the epochal Uranus, Neptune conjunction of the late 1980s and early 1990s is reaching young adulthood. In view of this generational power-house coming into its own the over-all outlook for many years to come is for a sustained development of idealistic cultural activity, creative vision and spiritual awakenings.
I will close with a passage from Richard Tarnas’s magnificent book, “Cosmos and Psyche, Intimations of a New World View”. “If we consider then the unfolding cycles of the three outmost planets – taking into account the current alignment between Neptune and Pluto (the long-running sextile), the number of years since the most recent Neptune-Pluto conjunction a century ago, and the completion of the subsequent Uranus-Pluto and Uranus-Neptune conjunctions of the 1960s and 1990s, respectively – our present moment in history is most comparable, astronomically, to the period exactly five hundred years ago with which we began this book: the era brought forth the birth of the modern self during the decades surrounding the year 1500.
This too was an epoch of extraordinary turbulence and uncertainty, and also of great cultural creativity and dynamism. It was the moment of the High Renaissance of Leonardo and Michelangelo, Erasmus and Thomas More, in the immediate aftermath of Pico della Mirandola’s new vision of human possibility in the “Orantio” and Ficino’s Platonic Academy in Florence – a period shaped by the rapid spread of a powerful new medium of universal communication, the printed book; the first expeditions to a vast new world that, at enormous human and ecological cost, led to the opening of the global community itself; and the immense spiritual and cosmological transformations, still unfolding, represented by Luther’s start of the Reformation and Copernicus’ conceiving of the heliocentric hypothesis ….Our postmodern age of ceaseless flux and irresolvable complexity, for all its metaphysical disorientation, and despite the collective entrancement produced by the mass media and corporate marketing, has nevertheless brought forth new conditions and possibilities that could prove invaluable for our future…it is perhaps not to much to say that, in this first decade of the new millennium, humanity has entered into a condition that is in some sense more globally united and interconnected, more sensitized to the experiences and suffering of others, in certain respects more spiritually awakened, more conscious of alternative future possibilities and ideals, more capable of collective healing and compassion, and, aided by technological advances in communication media, more able to think, feel, and respond together in a spiritually evolved manner to the world’s swiftly changing realities than has ever before been possible.”
This is a marvelous perspective and a perfectly real possibility that could come to pass if we can learn to work together. It all comes down to what our collective ‘Community-Spirit Index’ is. I just made that one up. I call it the CSI, sounds impressive, I think. If we take as our baseline the High-era of post WWII America as 100 what do you think the current CSI is? My friend Roy says it feels like a number somewhere below 30. I said Roy,” you are much too pessimistic, it must be at least 50!” We can speculate, but the proof is in the eating of the pudding.
Like a young soldier does not know what his nerve is until he is in the firefight, so, we will not know how the race will stand up together in the trials ahead.