by Peter Matthew Bauer
I began this letter the night following the election but soon stepped away. The election of Donald Trump was an important shift no doubt, one where reasoned explanation, editorial think pieces and the like, seemed somehow ridiculous; irrelevant jokes from a distant past. I felt a sense of fracturing, a new tear in rationality and causality. One hopes this will soon pass in its rawness. As I first began to write to you, unraveling the mechanisms of what occurred, what would yet occur, I was struck that the only appropriate response was, if not Yoko Ono’s elongated primal scream, then perhaps silence.
For many of us, if we think back to the morning of the election: there was palpable sense of “ahh this is almost over.” By night, a feeling of annihilation, the sudden chaos of “no, this has only yet to begin.” In this way, linear time itself felt/feels almost disembodied. The shock and surprise of it was such, it was like a break into another time, a felt sense of walking in the shadow of what was or was to be. The grounding of time was elsewhere. It still is.
I’ve been thinking since then of the Murakami novel IQ84, the heroine Aomame stepping off a highway overpass into a parallel world, one almost the same as her previous world but now profoundly transitory, profoundly other, the first noticeable change a second moon in the night sky. This moment resonates with the present. So much of the novel does.
What is arising now is an archetypal axis of great importance. In the Indian astrological system, we invoke this axis through the concepts of Rahu and Ketu, the Vedic names for the lunar nodes, or points of eclipse. The nodes are the astronomical intersections where the Moon’s orbit crosses the Earth’s ecliptic. Symbolically, they are considered such powerful energetic points they are like shadow planets, a metaphor of much importance as they could be said to manifest as shadow itself. For many readers, I imagine these words are entirely foreign. If I was to talk about the Sun, the Moon, Saturn or Mars instead, there would be something shared and unspoken in their familiarity to begin our conversation. To hear of Rahu or Ketu is to suddenly hear a strange exoticism. This strangeness is itself a sort of invocation. To speak of Rahu and Ketu is to speak of otherness, of what is hidden, of mystery at the edges and borders of the world. It is this transitory atmosphere that we enter into together now. The United States as a nation has just begun its Rahu major cycle. Despite some disagreement over timing, it most likely began in September of 2015 and will continue on until 2033. During this long period, the central archetypes of the American experience will be these great symbols of shadow and eclipse, Rahu and Ketu.
To unfold what this mean for ourselves, both as individuals and collectively as a society, means less to enter into concrete prediction and more to enter and invoke the basic nature of these symbols in and of themselves. To know them and to hold them in our awareness, both individually and collectively, is to absorb them, to refine them, and to metabolize them into our being. All this is to say: it is less what will happen- and much may still happen- but rather, what we can create and make happen that will be decisive. If one comes away with a feeling in their body, a resonance, unspoken perhaps, of this underlying energy, then we are on the path and into the woods of this journey.
This essay then is somewhat of a dance of archetypal language. As far as what happens next- and really this always has been true but the feeling is somehow greater now- our notion of ourselves as objective observers needs to be cast aside for a more radical participation. So much of what is happening now deals with our basic understanding of truth, of creation and destruction, of life seen as a primal energetic force. Our cultural notions of what truth is or is not are now dangerously in flux and we must work and open ourselves to exist actively in this moment, and keep from being lost in the illusion and disturbances of our collective psyche. Such radical participatory truth and action seems to me the work of our time.
Apocalypse & Great Awakening
Rahu and Ketu in Vedic astrology are symbols of upheaval and revelation. Rahu, our present cycle, is the more active side of this energy of eclipse, the strange vibrancy of the world. Ketu is it’s passive opposite- unboundedness, nothingness, transcendence, annihilation, potential space. Symbolically, they are seen as the head and tail of a great cosmic snake, a primal force uncoiling. Neither is good nor evil though their manifestations can be profoundly either. In many ways, they go beyond good and evil, transmuting all into pure energy. They are the subtle, esoteric undercurrent of life, something like kundalini shakti in its most unbridled definitions, raw power manifesting into the world as psyche and degrading into nothingness.
On Wednesday, the morning following the election, I pulled a card from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Tarot de Marseille and drew the Five of Cups. The card speaks to a sort of wrenching open, a tearing asunder, the beginning of a truth unfolding. For now, a strong apocalyptic current charges the air for both good and ill.
I caution that I don’t use this language to claim some terrible ending is upon us. In fact, while much may occur these next few months, this feeling, as it currently exists, could suddenly disappear in its present form and seem long forgotten. Nonetheless, it is the atmosphere of this moment. We sense the fear of a coming cataclysm, war, autocracy, the loss of civil rights, immense suffering. All these can be seen as affects of the unrefined energies of Rahu both globally and in our own personal circumstances. Concurrently, we might also sense a new invigoration, a new struggle to break free of power structures and to become alive- a Great Awakening of sorts, both political or spiritual depending on the commentator; this too is palpable. We’ve seen it powerfully in the recent Standing Rock demonstrations.
Ultimately, this dynamic of Great Awakening/Apocalypse speaks to a vast opening up of Rahu energy in the present time. If we can come to experience it as pure energy and force rather than as its lower manifestations of fear, terror and anxiety in our own lives, we are able to transmute much of this negativity into force for change and progress. What once was void and terror then becomes potentiality and space. To do so is to try to live profoundly in this moment and see the world profoundly as it is, to leave behind any attachments to how it was before, how it was supposed to be. This is a common theme when working with Rahu and Ketu. Life is never as it was supposed to be but rather only as it is. The energy and vibrancy of life arises from surprise and change, from synchronistic shifts and sometimes shocks. Whether our present experience is ultimately a historical and epoch shifting moment remains up in the air. Predictively, there are difficult configurations in the very near future. Nonetheless, our experience now is of a great psychic event. Our collective and radically active participation is thus necessary and decisive. We must embrace it as such and turn our fears into an awakened and creative spirit devoted to action.
Koba the Dread & The Loss of the Center
Throughout this last year, I have also returned to Koba the Dread, Martin Amis’ incredible essay on Stalin and the 20 million. Many of the present energies of our time seem so radically similar in their loss of shared truth, their vindictiveness and pettiness, their revolutionary fervor and mass psychic distortion. More notable perhaps then this striking and terrible dread so invoked by Amis is a sort of profound centrism, a self awareness which has been all but lost in this last year of the American consciousness. There are long sections on his father Kingsley Amis’ own participation in the communist party in the UK and the great reckoning that occurs when the truth of what has happened to the millions under Stalin and the Soviet State finally becomes undeniable. It should be noted, the younger Amis is deeply unforgiving of the many denials that occurred along the way as he should be, both from his father and from his good friend Christopher Hitchens. What then does the book mean to us now other than that we need to remain awake? Ultimately, I read it again and again because it speaks to a powerful need for each of us to dismiss such forms of Utopianism and extremism if only to stem the tides of history. We have seen throughout this last century the terrible results of ideological revolutions. What I call this profound centrism is a need to keep each individual human life central in our awareness, above ideology, to act with constant compassion through the holding of opposite and paradoxical ideas, to go beyond the rationality of any particular solution and to simply stand the ground of being against the madness of the extremes.
Temporarily or not, the center of our own culture has crumbled. Whether it has become a symbol of elitism and status quo, or considered either too corrupt or too imperfect to have any resonance, the reason does not matter. For with it goes much self awareness, our ability to understand paradox and find truth and realization through limitation and struggle. Astrologically, I would ascribe much of this form of awareness to the archetype of Saturn. I would posit that Obama was a strongly Saturnian president and that democracy, as well as the United States at its core are also profoundly Saturnian. It is the archetype of slow and often frustrating progress, of potential space found in limitation, of what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, of realization through facing reality at its most true and contradictory. Secretary Clinton also carries much of this Saturnian strength within her. It is why I thought she might succeed despite all the strange occult vibrancy surrounding Trump’s campaign.
Over this last year, Saturn has resided in a very uncomfortable position conjunct with Mars in Scorpio. This populist shift in our psyche, seen through the Rahu cycle, must now come to integrate Saturn into its nature over the next few months as the planet finally enters Sagittarius in February. Hopefully, we will soon come to the realization that without this centrism and self awareness so invoked, we will be left to the vicious and more unrefined natures of the Rahu cycle, its vindictiveness and pettiness, corruption, racism and hate, illusion and the loss of truth, constant surprise and upheaval.
Concurrently while I speak of centrism, we cannot try to make thing’s how they were before. By its very nature, this long Rahu cycle is profoundly acausal. It is made up of synchronicity and of collective psyche. We cannot try to go back to old and dead forms of rationality for, as we can see, our cultural notions of what truth really is are clearly now in flux. We have seen this cycle’s ugly side already filled with conspiracy, fake news and racist propaganda. But this flux is also a powerful energy for change in all capacities. It is truth found culturally now in the highly energetic and transitory nature of the world as it is now. Rahu as mystic progress.
In the Sufi understanding, we are attempting to go beyond the literal into the poetic, beyond the mind into a greater awareness, beyond the sharia- the law, and into the batin- the hidden, the greater mystery. We can describe this as an actual cutting through, a dimensional shift into a greater and essential symbolic understanding. In this light, the Rahu cycle has no singular meaning. Instead, it has its own being; something like a pervasive vibration, an elemental field. We can try to experience such vibration by investigating its affects, especially as they relate to our own circumstances- our personal lives- but, to believe ontologically that this symbol is this or that, we risk foreclosing our own experience and falling back onto fundamentalism, determinism, a certain concrete rationality where fear and terror are now ever so palpable. It is necessary instead to hang at the edges of language in search of an original subjectivity, an invocation almost like a prayer. And so I’ve tried to do so far in this essay. First and foremost because I believe this is also the great work of our moment.
Occultism & Abuse
I have written at length previously on the nature of Trump’s birth chart and his incredible rise over the last year and a half. In 1946, Donald Trump was born on a Lunar eclipse along the Scorpio/Taurus axis. It is here where Saturn and Mars resided throughout 2016, their conjunction causing chaos throughout the year. This position allowed Trump to embody the energy and direction of this last year like few others possibly could. Seen through the lens of his victory, these configurations take on an almost occult undercurrent, not unlike sorcery or a mass possession. Unconsciously and consciously, he both invoked and fed off the wild energy of the moment. It remains to my utter surprise however, that this same energy never consumed him. It is incumbent on all of us now that we not allow it to consume us.
At its worst, Rahu can be violence, madness, psychosis, vengeance, racism and domination. As I have already alluded, it can be pettiness and cronyism. It is the archetype of cults and charlatans, borderless, conspiratorial and illusory in nature. Ås such, it is also the archetype often associated with sexual abuse. It leads one to find a strange and direct correlation between those with great power and their abuse of such power. It was during the revelations of late October, as the many women who made accusations against candidate Trump went public, that I felt certain the tide would turn against him. Unfortunately, this was not to be. Still, I bring such abuse up now because it is so vital to where we are today.
Those who experience Rahu and Ketu at their worst are also those who often come to know their highest forms, those of true originality and transcendence. As I’ve said already, to exist and progress in the spectrum of these archetypes is to discover a profound form of living in the present, as casting aside the world as it is supposed to be, instead living with how it truly is. Otherwise, this energy is a trap not unlike a possession. Chaos and surprise must become possibility and pure energy rather than cataclysm.
Ultimately, Rahu in each of our experience can become the path of the mystic standing at the precipice of human experience. It also arises as the divine mother in her form of Kali, the feminine as creative destruction. We can draw on these aspects of the field now. They are so intertwined with all that I speak of in terms of participation and living in the moment. Though it seemed lost on November 8th, I maintain this is only the beginning, a moment of the goddess awakening.
Originality & Mystic Brilliance
I have mentioned Murakami to evoke the transitory and the ethereal, Martin Amis for the terror and the need to become aware, but I would like to end with Just Kids, Patti Smith’s memoir of her friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe, their lives together as artists and mystics in their most contemporary form. In their story, one of always chasing life at the edges of the world, there is something that resonates with what we all need in this present cycle.
Again from the Sufi reading, the groundless and borderless space of Rahu and Ketu is a cutting through into another dimension, that of Light and the Creative Imagination, a dimensional shift into an essential symbolic understanding. It is the realm of the Poet and the Artist, the realm existing beyond the confines of the Law and communing with the spirit. I remember seeing Mapplethorpe’s photos as a teenager, but it is in Smith’s descriptions of his art, which at first seemed so purposely strange and other like, so seemingly oriented to shock or break taboos at its time, that it came alive for me as a powerful and individual form of Rahu and Ketu as originality and mystic brilliance. And it is in Smith herself, in every word she writes and how she lives, that points like a compass to what it means to feel alive and awake in all this overwhelming vibrancy and field and force of our new world. To experience the coming cycle in this light, we must cut through all forms of domination and control, especially those framing our own experience, and transmute it all into pure energy and awakening.
-Peter Matthew Bauer