A few weeks ago, a French gentleman named Olivier Clerc contacted me about the possibility of getting more of my work published in his country. Naturally, from my point of view, that is an attractive thought. He has connections to the French publishing industry and there are some encouraging early signs that it might happen. I hope so. Getting this kind of astrology out to the global community is a pretty good summary of my life’s purpose.
In an email exchange I had with Olivier this morning, he wrote glowingly about a section of my book, The Night Speaks. He suggested that I publish it as an article on my website. I’d come to the time of the month when I needed to be thinking of a newsletter topic, and, well – voilà, as they say in France. I put two and two together.
I originally published The Night Speaks in 1993, at the time of Uranus-Neptune conjunction in Capricorn. I wrote quite a lot about that epochal event in those early pages, but of course it was “pure astrology.” No one, myself included, really knew yet what the alignment would bring. I was writing about it in real time, as clueless as a newscaster “on the scene.”
In 2016, we brought out a new edition of the book. I added a “23 years later” perspective on what I’d originally written about the conjunction. That is the section of the book that Olivier Clerc was praising and asking me to share with a wider, current audience. He pointed out that many of my long-time readers who bought the earlier 1993 edition would not even know of this more-current version.
There was a second reason for me to offer these words again in this newsletter context. As a citizen of the United States here in late October 2020, I am of course nervously awaiting November 3rd and the results of our national elections. I do not know how they will turn out, so I can’t yet write a meaningful commentary on them. The deadline for my newsletter comes earlier, yet I felt the need to say something relevant to this turning point in my country’s history. As I re-read this section of The Night Speaks, it struck me as deeply “current” in a kind of mythic, meta-political way.
So, thank you Olivier – and here is the “Update, 2016" section of the book. There are a few references to the longer, original historical analysis which appears in both editions, but I think you’ll be able to follow along without difficulty.
THE NIGHT SPEAKS, excerpted from chapter 10: In Practice
As I mentioned in my introduction to this new release of The Night Speaks, my intention is to offer the book essentially as I originally wrote it. One major departure from that principle presses at me now. When I wrote the previous section about the epochal conjunction of Uranus and Neptune, it hadn’t even happened yet. The book was published in 1993, right at the center of the event’s time-line. Naturally the actual writing had occurred in the years before that, starting in 1988. In other words, all that I wrote – and all that you just read – was “prophecy” relative to the as-yet unrevealed meaning of the alignment.
Now nearly three decades down the road, we can evaluate the event from a clearer vantage point. Keep in mind that we are only barely into the full 171-year cycle. Perspective: during the last conjunction, in 1821, humanity discovered how to generate electricity. How clearly were the implications of that development understood by, say, 1844 – a similar 23 years later? Nights were still dark and no telephones were ringing.
We are in the same position now. But the handwriting on the wall is clearer now.
Subjectively, it doesn’t feel like so long ago since The Night Speaks came out, yet I wrote the first sections of it on a very early, very clunky, Windows-based computer using a primitive word processor. Not long before, with my little DOS-based “Commodore 64" machine, I had developed an active business of printing out ugly little “dot matrix” birthcharts for people and snail-mailing them the sheet of paper. We were busy enough with that enterprise that we had to hire someone to do the work for us.
I said “snail-mailing,” but back then we didn’t use that term at all. To me, there was only one way of mailing anything – that was via the post office. My little computer was not connected to the Internet. In fact, I didn’t know what the Internet was. I vividly remember reading letters-to-the-editor in TIME magazine. Some were signed firstname.lastname@example.org.
I wondered what “@aol.com” meant.
That’s the way the world was back then at the onset of the Uranus-Neptune conjunction.
Launching into a long, obvious discourse about “how the digital revolution has changed our lives” would be tedious for thee and me. We’ve heard it all before. But that doesn’t make the digital revolution any less epochal a shift.
Here’s another potentially tedious point: how do those of us with gray hair explain what that earlier world was like to younger people today?
That is what it feels like to live through a Uranus-Neptune conjunction. If you were born before, say, 1980, you know exactly what I mean. If you were born before, say, 1960, it’s as if you remember dinosaurs. There has been a paradigm shift. A new myth of the world has arisen. It has happened fast enough to be shocking – and slowly enough that it kind of slips under the radar screen.
Not to belabor the digital point, but what about Facebook and “social media” in general? What about cell phones? What about Google and Wikipedia? If people had told me in 1989 that I would soon carry a little wireless computer in my pocket with which I could access virtually all of humanity’s accumulated encyclopedia of information while standing in line in the grocery store, I would not have believed them.
Then there are some purely human implications. Here’s a giggle I saw on Facebook. “Be kind to your parents. One day you will look up from your cell phone and they will be gone.”
Obviously the digital revolution has impacted family life and social relationships, and not always in a way that feels healthy to an older person such as myself. But who is to say? As we saw last time around with this conjunction, we created the roots of media and rapid geographical mobility. I’m sure there were older folks back then talking about how the world was going to hell in a handbasket too.
Let me go deeper. Not that it matters, but I tend to be politically progressive – liberal,” to use the old word. How you vote is your own business. If we can’t honor human diversity, we have no business in the world of astrology, amen. But my Facebook feed is mostly progressive commentary. I don’t get much of the conservative perspective, except as it is caricatured by other liberals or progressives.
Of course the same is usually true for politically-conservative Facebook users. They see “liberal jokes” a lot more than they see serious progressive argument.
On another note, I might add that I sure see a lot of astrological commentary on Facebook too. For obvious reasons, an interest in astrology reflects the people I have “friended” there. I also have a great affinity for Buddhist philosophy – once more, my Facebook feed reflects that.
So, if I were to judge society by my “social media” experience, the world is populated by environmentally-savvy, gay-friendly, anti-gun , Buddhist-sympathizing liberals, all of whom believe in astrology.
In the same vein, I listen to my own music on my iPod or I stream specialty channels on Sirius XM. When I was growing up, Top Forty radio was very diverse. Now my ears tell me that everyone on the planet loves the rock ’n’ roll of the period 1955-1985, hard jazz, and a bit of classical music – minus the operas.
See the pattern? The digital revolution has fragmented culture. The unifying impact of shared experience and a consensual interpretation of reality has been vastly reduced in the past three decades. Again, it happened so fast that we are in shock – but slowly enough that it didn’t register.
Going further with the same idea, I grew up thinking I was “an American.” We still use that language, but how much sense of shared community does a right-wing radio host in Texas feel with an LGBTQ blogger from San Francisco? And, given the digital fragmentation of society, what basis do they have for possibly understanding each other?
Like looking at yourself in a maze of mirrors, the implications of all this just keep on ramifying. Connect the dots. Under the Uranus-Neptune paradigm shift I believe we are witnessing the collapse of the idea of geographical nations and communities. Where I once thought I was “an American,” I now basically think of myself as a “kind” of American.” What kind? I painted it as a cartoon a few lines ago, but here is the underlying principle stated more seriously and broadly: I now identify with a set of ideals and values rather than with a geographical location.
I brought up my “being American” a moment ago, but I actually have more of an active sense of shared values, shared interests, and shared experience with friends in Australia than I do with most of the people living in my little town out in the desert. I even do half of my shopping on the Internet – no need to leave my house. And I am in daily contact with people in China, Turkey, and France with whom I have more in common than with my own neighbors
In the post-Uranus/Neptune digital age, identity is becoming non-local.
Has this broadened my life? Or narrowed it? There’s an essay question – one humanity is still answering.
I wonder how much the rise of extreme nationalism is a reaction against this sense of the old world eroding out from under the feet of people who are still attached to it?
Now, I am going to seem to change gears without actually changing them at all. For citizens of the United States of America, the world changed utterly on September 11, 2001 with the attack on the World Trade Center. Before then and since then, other countries have experienced similar fates. Clearly, the rise of international terrorism has been one of the most obvious features of post-1993, post Uranus-Neptune conjunction, global society. What does the rise of terrorism mean? What is really going on? In response to 9/11, the Bush administration elected to invade Iraq. In the words of Richard Clarke, who was an intelligence and counter-terrorism advisor to four administrations, “Invading Iraq after 9/11 was like invading Mexico after Pearl Harbor.”
It’s a funny line until you start the body count.
I am verging dangerously close to divisive political territory here, but I want to skirt that abyss in order to make a far broader point – and to distill the wisdom that underlies Clarke’s quip. On September 11, 2001, America was not attacked by a nation. We were attacked by a group of people united by a common idea. That had never happened before. In the language I used when I wrote the earlier sections of this analysis, we were attacked by “barbarians” or by “people who do not matter.” But they were not a nation. They had no homeland for us to attack in retaliation. In a classical example of “always preparing for the last war,” my impression is that the Bush administration did not understand this absolute change in the underlying form of the human world. They felt they had to attack a nation because a nation was the only “enemy” they could imagine. So they “invaded Mexico.” So far history does not seem to support the argument that this was a good idea.
In writing these words, I am aware of perhaps sounding “too American” to my international readers. Guilty as charged. Other countries have suffered far worse than America as a result of this spate of terrorism – this global war of ideologies fought by armies united, not by geography, but by common ideas. France is in shock and disarray. The Middle East has become a hell-world for an awful lot of innocent people. The “Islamic State” – ISIS – is presently looming very powerfully . . . and, in my opinion, it is doomed because they too are operating in the old nation-state, geographical model. Their recruiting, however, is utterly post- Neptune/Uranus. It couldn’t happen without the tools of the digital age, both for spreading their ideas, but perhaps even more pivotally by presenting them in a socially-fragmented “bubble” with no reference to other points of view.
And that brings us right back to the Internet and the digital revolution. The civilized world is fighting a battle against an idea – and the neurons and synapses in the brain of that idea are digital.
All of this of course makes the digital revolution sound like a bad thing. That is not my point at all. Going back to the last Uranus-Neptune conjunction of the early 1820s, was fossil-fuel driven mass transportation a bad thing? Was the industrial revolution a bad thing? What about electricity? We may be rightly nostalgic for the good things we have lost, but I doubt that very many of us would turn our backs on the freedom, empowerment, and convenience those developments have brought to us. And remember: the roots of all those inventions lie in the previous conjunction of Uranus and Neptune early in the nineteenth century.
But under this new Uranus-Neptune cycle, we are now confronted by global climate disruption which is, in part, driven by those inventions.
As we explored earlier, in many ways, the previous Uranus-Neptune conjunction of the early nineteenth century marked the beginning of mass democracy. How well is that experiment unfolding?
What about the birth of media culture? (As we saw, the advent of photography and primitive sound recording, along with electrical communication over long distance in the form of the telegraph marked the germination of media culture during the previous conjunction.) It would be easy to sermonize here about kids “helped” through puberty by Internet pornography. It would be easy to compare a live performance of Shakespeare to Blast the Aliens, Part VIII . Thinking about the current realities of media culture, it would be easy to mount the pulpit and sound the bugle for “a return to the good old days.”
But I don’t want to do that – and not only because that is a bugle famed for its futility. Truth said, when we hear that bugle it is usually playing Taps for the dead and the dying.
The old world will not return.
One further illustration of that principle lies in the changing definitions of gender. Here’s a line I quote from back in Chapter Four. “But certainly women, either by nature or by programming, have traditionally been identified with our intuitive right brain/left hand, leaving the “more valuable stuff” to men.”
I probably wrote those words in about 1990. When I read them again in preparing this new version of The Night Speaks, they seemed awkward and anachronistic to me. Much that was controversial and “politically correct” back then is simply assumed to be true today. Who today imagines women to be incapable of logic? And when was the last time you heard anyone use the term, “women’s intuition?”
I grew up in an age of activist feminism. The rights of women were a hot issue. Nowadays, many of the feminists of my generation are dismayed by the lack of support and appreciation they feel from younger females. The younger women, in return, seem to feel that the battle is over – they won, so why keep on fighting it? They are free to enter the workplace more or less as the equals of males. They are free to express themselves sexually as they please. They can live on their own and make their own decisions.
They are already, to use the common term, living in a “post-feminist” age.
I will happily leave it to history to sort all that out. Suffice to say that the roles of women before and after the Uranus-Neptune conjunction of the early 1990s bear little resemblance to each other. At least that is true across much of the Western world. Again, this change has happened quickly enough to spin older heads, but slowly enough so that it is easy to miss the enormity of it. We older people see it more clearly than the younger ones since we have lived in both worlds.
But the younger ones “wear it” more naturally.
A similar, if even more dramatic evolution has taken place relative to the acceptance of gayness as a natural condition. As with feminism, that battle is not necessarily over. But it would be folly to fail to see how far we have come. Remembering that the Uranus-Neptune conjunction was at a peak in 1993, consider the following synchronicity: On December 21, 1993, the United States Department of Defense prohibited the armed forces from barring people from service based on their sexual orientation. This policy was famously known as, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." I believe it is fair to take it as the point where the cultural tide turned, leading to the widespread appearance of sympathetic, multi-dimensional gay characters in the media, people being “out” without much shame or hesitancy, and of course to the seismic shift in the collective attitude that has led to the acceptance of gay marriage.
Just to sharpen the point, let’s go back to 1977 in San Francisco – a city famous for its openness to diversity. A gay man, Harvey Milk, had won a seat on the Board of Supervisors. He introduced an ordinance to protect gay people from being fired from their jobs because of their orientation and another one against “Proposition 6,” which attempted to forbid gay people from being school teachers. That’s the way the world was back then. Appallingly, bizarrely from today’s perspective, people could be fired from their jobs for being gay.
And on November 27, 1978, Harvey Milk was assassinated.
A couple of years ago, there was some kind of bloody headline in the news. Just to strike a balancing note, I posted a simple statement about how humans are capable of progress and how we do get things right sometimes on my Facebook page. I spoke of how far we had come in my lifetime in three areas: racism, sexism, and homophobia. To my shock, I got some condescending feedback explaining to me about how racism, sexism and homophobia are “alive and well.”
And, hey, I know that.
But I was born in 1949 and in the world I entered, racism, sexism and homophobia were actually the law of the land. If you weren’t white, male, and straight, you were a target of derision, or far worse.
Anyone who says we are not making progress just isn’t paying attention. Things were different before Uranus caught up with Neptune and changed the world forever.
I once taught a four-day seminar about the world’s current changes in one of my Apprenticeship Programs. One line to which I kept returning was simply “trust the children.” I repeat it here. So many of the world’s current problems had their origins back at the last conjunction of these two invisible giants, back when that unsung visionary, Mary Shelley, was writing Frankenstein – what a prophetic book, as science creates a monster whose effects it cannot foresee or control.
Children and young people today have inherited a dreadful world full of seemingly intractable challenges. But they are different from us. They hold the seeds of a new paradigm. Some years ago, they were often called “the indigo children.” I don’t hear that term much anymore, but the principle behind it was solid.
As I write these words, many of these human beings – born from, say, 1988 through 1995 – have just touched the shores of full adulthood. Most are not yet at full power. I have enormous faith in them.
I also have faith that they will shock and confuse me, and that’s because I am a creature of the past and they are creatures of the future.
I have faith that they hold the seeds of answers I could never imagine. And of course, fair is fair – they are not all little saints, geniuses, and moral paragons. Many will just be members of a generation of lost souls, cut off from all that has given meaning to life for the past two centuries, or longer. They carry an enormous burden. Some will break under the load. Even the best and wisest of them, in fashioning the new world, will surely, unwittingly, sow the seeds of many new problems – but let’s not worry about that until 2165, the next time Uranus and Neptune align.
I suspect the scientists among them will begin flowering over the next decade or two – famously, scientists often do their best work before they are forty. Meanwhile, the painters, poets, novelists, and screen-writers among them, like fine Cabernet Sauvignon, may “need another thirty years to age in the bottle.”
And these human beings will have children. They will have students and disciples, and the story will go on unfolding just as it has in all the previous apparitions of the Uranus-Neptune conjunction: old problems solved in previously-unimaginable ways, a world created that bears little resemblance to the previous one it displaces. New art, new music, new tools, new styles of relationship – and the faint breath of some unsuspected Frankenstein just below the threshold of detection.
What have I missed in writing this new section of The Night Speaks? Probably half of what is important – and half of what will be utterly obvious to future historians. Famously, what can the fish tell us about the sea?
But there are two points which I did not miss and which I feel are the practical center of everything: do not lose faith in the human future, and, above all, trust the children.Listen to the podcast