An Eclipse of Reason
By Glenn Perry
As most of us already know, there will be a total eclipse of the Sun on Monday, August 21st, directly over America. Naturally, everyone wants to know what this means, and so the media has been awash in stories featuring various astrologers offering differing opinions.i
Historically, eclipses were regarded with a mixture of awe and dread. When astrology first began some 3000 years ago, people had no understanding of the natural cycles of earth, Sun, and Moon that caused eclipses. All they knew was the lights went out, and understandably that was alarming. Eclipses were generally seen as a bad omen, from which is derived the word ominous. In fact, however, an eclipse is just a conjunction between the Moon and Sun in which the two bodies are perfectly aligned by both longitude and latitude. It has the same meaning as any other Sun-Moon conjunction: a beginning of the lunar-solar 30-day cycle, which occurs every month, the only difference being that on months with an eclipse the Sun and Moon are more perfectly aligned than normal.
Process and Content
What strikes me the most about some of the predictions I’ve been reading is their content heavy nature. While some astrologers remain safely and appropriately abstract, talking about times of change and new beginnings, others leap to more concrete conclusions. All the usual suspects are mentioned – nuclear war, earthquakes, assassinations, racial strife, civil unrest, revolution, fires, crashes, violence, heart attacks, impeachment, and even scientific breakthroughs. The latter is especially heartening given the list of horrors that precedes it.
In AstroPsychology, we take pains to separate process interpretations from content interpretations. Process refers to the inner, psychological meaning of a configuration. Content pertains to event outcomes that constitute observable data. A cardinal rule in AstroPsychology is that content mirrors process, but whereas process is knowable with some degree of certainty, content is inherently indeterminate in its concrete form. All we can know is that whatever happens will conform (usually more perfectly than we could have imagined) to the range of possibilities inherent in the configuration.
The distinction between process and content is important because as astrologers we are constantly being asked by the media to predict something concrete about what is going to happen. But this is a trap. For unless we start with an acknowledgement that such attempts are inherently and unavoidably speculative, we run the risk of being “proven wrong” when future events do not conform to our predictions. Then we end up with egg on our face, and once again astrology becomes a subject of derision and scorn. In fact, however, a prediction can be true on a process level and wrong on a content level, but the latter is less important than the former.
Deconstructing the Current Eclipse
Let’s consider an example that pertains to the upcoming solar eclipse. On Monday, August 21st at approximately 2:30 EDT, the Sun and Moon will perfectly align at 28 degrees, 52 minutes of Leo. I will not detail here the astronomical intricacies of what constitutes an eclipse, for it’s not particularly germane to our discussion. Suffice to say that four variables combine – Sun, Moon, Conjunction and Leo – each of which has its own meaning.
On a process level, we can say that the Sun signifies the yang, masculine component of the psyche, both individually and collectively. It relates to the human capacity for creativity, ego-identity and intentionality – the capacity to bring about preferred outcomes. The Moon signifies the yin, feminine component of the psyche and pertains to our need for caring, belonging, and establishing emotional connections. The conjunction means that Sun and Moon come together at the end of their synodic cycle to begin anew. Thus, the conjunction signifies fresh starts, a kind of reset that ignites a new cycle of action and generates a vital, dynamic energy, like a shot of adrenalin.
Finally, the sign Leo suggests the conjunction of Sun and Moon will be expressed in a dramatic, playful and perhaps prideful way, for Leo is all about having fun and enjoying who one inherently is. In many ways, Leo is about the need for identity, which collectively can manifest through “identity politics” or a focus on “national identity”, the two being diametrically opposed.
Putting all this together suggests a moment in time of a particular quality that will radiate across America like a giant magnetic pulse. We might say that our national identity (Sun) is coming together in a way that promotes closeness, caring, and a sense of interdependence (Moon). Masculine and feminine can potentially meld together in a dynamic unity, like a rare metal both strong and supple. Moreover, our country is enjoying a rebirth of sorts (conjunction) that will incite a celebratory (Leo) spirit, much like we might experience on the 4th of July. Perhaps something will be created for the first time that unites the populace and becomes a source of national pride. Since this is not a typical conjunction, but one that entails perfect latitudinal alignment – that is, a total eclipse – its effect is amplified considerably.
In short, a solar eclipse in Leo is hardly a bad thing. Things fall into place for a new start, a fresh beginning, a sense of creative possibility. There’s a feeling of resolve and coherence of intention, like blasting out of the blocks in a 100-meter sprint with cannons booming and fireworks overhead.
On the other hand, it could also constitute a period of emotional reactivity (Moon) pertaining to issues of identity (Sun). Expressed in a Leo manner, this could mean rage over perceived offenses as occurs in identity politics, and/or compensatory pretensions of superiority as exemplified in individuals and groups identified by race, gender, class, or religion who claim exalted status for one reason or another. An obvious example is white supremacists, but similar pretensions of superiority can be found in the more extreme factions of the women’s movement, Islamic supremacism, and other groups who seek to elevate themselves at the expense of the whole.
All the above could be elaborated further, and nuances of meaning teased out and discussed in greater detail. For now, however, it suffices to paint a picture of what Sun and Moon conjunct in Leo could mean at a process level. But what about content? What might this mean in terms of empirical events?
This is where things get speculative, for any single configuration is embedded in a matrix of other planetary cycles that pertain to the moment as a whole. For example, the conjunction of Sun and Moon forms a trine to Uranus at 28 degrees Aries, which suggests an opportunity to create radical change, advance a cause, or awaken the national psyche to a new realization. Other relevant aspects further contribute to the overall quality of the moment. A solar eclipse does not occur in a vacuum, but in relation to a complex web of interdependent influences, just like in a natal chart. Deconstructing and attributing a coherent, intelligible meaning to the entirety of the moment is a daunting task.
This is further complicated by the fact than any single variable is multidimensional in its manifestation. Sun, Moon, conjunction and Leo have a multitude of meanings individually. When combined, the number of possible outcomes potentiated by their synthesis increases exponentially. Imagine that one astrologer predicts medical science will achieve a heroic breakthrough in rejuvenating the heart through stem cell implantation that could extend the human life span. Another predicts that North Korea will agree to stop its nuclear program, swelling our sense of victory in a test of national wills. Yet another predicts that President Trump will be impeached and that he will resign from office, triggering a clash of far left and far right ideologues that plunge the United States into a period of tumult.
Any or all of these could happen, or none at all. Other, more perfect manifestations of the eclipse could occur, and these might total in the hundreds or even thousands. Most will never make it to the front page of our newspapers, magazines, and websites – or, if they do, we may never hear about them because we do not read those particular sources.
The point is that predicting the future is mostly guesswork, a combination of inference, speculation, and projection, the latter being the inevitable accompaniment of the person making the prediction. We perceive the future through the lens of our biases, hopes, and fears. That’s why different astrologers may make dissimilar predictions even though working with the same data.
There is also a natural tendency to want to predict something significant that confers an advantage to the recipient(s). Astrology is predicated on the assumption that the future can be known with at least some degree of certainty, and that knowing it enhances our ability to avoid calamity and exploit opportunity. Accordingly, there is an egoic investment in the importance of the predictions made; the more sensational the prediction, the greater the attention given to the astrologer. This can escalate toward ego-inflation and morbid exaggeration, with ever more ominous predictions competing for the limelight.
With regard to eclipses, typical of these is predicting “the King will die”. A notable example is often provided of the “sun king”, Louis XIV, the monarch of France who reigned from 1643 until his death in 1715 at age 77. It seems terribly fitting that the sun king died just following a solar eclipse. However, he was certainly not the only king to die and be replaced during such an event. Given that there are approximately four to six solar eclipses every year somewhere on earth (even if not total eclipses), and that their influence allegedly extends months beyond the actual date, we can surmise that an eclipse will knock off a few kings over the centuries, and millions of lesser personages, too.
Perhaps during eclipse periods we should be less afraid of apocalyptic scenarios than of the tendency to make lurid, dramatic predictions that place astrology itself in a bad light. While the vanishing (or vanquishing) of kings is certainly one possibility with the eclipse, recall that any conjunction is inherently a new beginning, which naturally requires that something end. Predicting only negative outcomes implies there’s nothing positive in the astrological event. Yet, having a new king is surely as meaningful as having an old one pass away.
To illustrate how this can happen in far less dramatic ways, I am currently in an ISAR board meeting in the Gulf of Mexico on a cruise ship. We just had our first session (Sunday) with new ISAR president, Alexander Imsiragic, who replaced the venerable Ray Merriman. Ray stepped down to make room for new leadership but will remain on the board – hardly an occasion for gnashing of teeth and falling on one’s sword. In fact, it’s been a fun, exciting transition, as befits a solar eclipse in Leo.
The Trump Factor
Speaking of kings, I recently read a blog by an astrologer who proffered that since a solar eclipse entails the Moon’s shadow falling onto the surface of the earth, this must mean that eclipses require us to face our individual and collective shadow, the latter being embodied in U.S. President Donald Trump who represents all that is dark, reprehensible, and inferior in our collective nature. And so, this astrologer contends, the current eclipse is a time for facing our own darkness and eliminating atavistic tendencies.
I am not sure this is helpful. First, it posits a synchronistic association between the Moon’s shadow and our national shadow. Well, maybe. More importantly, it is an obvious projection of the author’s political sensibilities. While some degree of projection is inevitable when predicting concrete outcomes, I think we should take pains to stick as close as possible to the evidence; that is, not get too far out in front of the facts.
Donald Trump, Jun 14, 1946, 10:54 am, Jamaica, New York
Much has been made of the eclipse falling within a degree of Trump’s Ascendant and Mars in Leo. Just as with other transits, this Sun-Moon conjunction at 28° Leo will activate those parts of a birth chart that are close to the 28th degree of any sign. Trump’s Ascendant is 29° Leo and his Mars is at 27° Leo, so the eclipse will activate both. Does this mean Trump could be impeached, assassinated, have a heart attack, promote violence, or start a war with North Korea as some astrologers predict?
Note that the above scenarios are all negative. Given that the eclipse is simply a conjunction, there is nothing bad about it. Likewise, neither are the Sun, Moon or Leo inherently negative. To the contrary, the perfect alignment of male (Sun) and female (Moon) principles in celebratory, romantic Leo suggests a blossoming of positivity. This is certainly not the first time Trump has had a significant transit to his Ascendant and Mars; yet, he is still here, richer and more powerful than ever, despite his embattled presidency. We might attribute this partly to natal Mars sextiling his Sun and trining his Moon, as will the eclipse when it conjuncts his Mars.
What then can we anticipate from the eclipse sitting on his Mars Leo Ascendant? Since the eclipse itself is a Sun-Moon conjunction and it, in turn, conjuncts his Mars, which conjuncts his Ascendant, what we have is a kind of super-conjunction of four variables: Transiting Sun-Moon conjunct Ascendant-Mars. An aspect derives its meaning from the sign that corresponds to that angle in the natural zodiac. The conjunction is an Aries aspect since the angle it forms is 0°. Likewise, the Ascendant is an Aries point since it corresponds to where the horizon meets the ecliptic, or 0° of the earth’s 360° diurnal cycle. And finally, Mars rules the sign of Aries. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, “It’s Aries all over again, and again, and again…” In short, there are five ways Aries is implicit in the eclipse falling on Trump’s Mars-Ascendant.
What I would infer from this is that everything the eclipse means is hugely compounded in Trump’s chart. At the very least, this will entail a massive infusion of “fire and fury” into an already dramatic personality. So, we might expect to see the Donald behaving more like himself than usual, which is hard to imagine since he’s already extremely dynamic, bombastic, and combative. Having a solar eclipse in Leo conjunct one’s natal Mars is a bit like pouring gasoline on a fire. Perhaps events will trigger a need for him to fight even more strongly for what he sees as his mandate, to project strength, and do it with his usual bold, feisty, unapologetic style. I would also expect some sort of new beginning to the Trump presidency in keeping with the Super-Aries quality of the transit.
As an external event, this could mean pretty much what we’ve been seeing the last few days – members of both parties attacking him for his handling of the violence in Charlottesville last weekend, Trump doubling down and generating more criticism in an escalating, rapid cycling of attacks and counter-attacks, just as occurred in Charlottesville and in lesser ways throughout the country.
Given that Trump’s eclipse on his Mars also sextiles his Sun and trines his Moon, it would not surprise me if he lands on his feet and lives to fight another day. There are some signs of a fresh start, like spring buds pushing up through the hard crust of the earth. Trump’s former chief strategist who was fired on Friday, Steven Bannon, stated he believes “a new era is beginning” that is actually at odds with his (Bannon’s) brand of nationalist-populist exceptionalism. Bannon expects that Trump’s new advisors, specifically chief of staff John Kelly, will try to moderate Trump and turn him into a more conventional president.
In the meantime, however, Trump continues to fight back against an ever-increasing tide of attackers accusing him of hateful rhetoric, bigotry, and vitriol. With violence erupting all around him, Trump is at the center of America’s cultural war. Last weekend in Charlottesville VA, there was a clash between two fascist groups, one on the left (Antifa), the other on the right (Neo-Nazi, White Supremacists).ii During the fight over the city’s removal of confederate monuments, a demonstrator drove his car into approaching counter-demonstrators, killing one and injuring many others. Trump condemned the violence “on many sides” without specifically mentioning the white supremacy group. His response was clearly inadequate and since then he’s been under constant siege. One can only imagine that the heat will increase following the eclipse.
In fact, however, the violence was between two groups, “each of which,” in the words of Melanie Phillips, “perpetuate hatred and intolerance, stand against freedom and seek to impose their view of society and human nature by force….He [Trump] should have specifically denounced white supremacism as having no place in American society. At the same time, he should have specifically condemned the hatemongering ideology of left-wing identity politics.”iii
Trump, ever the happy warrior, embodies a certain anger in the populace that fueled his run for the presidency. Against political correctness, excessive compassion, identity politics and the cult of victimology, Trump is always ready for battle. It’s no surprise he’s surrounded himself with generals – Chief of Staff John Kelly, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster. All of this is especially fitting as the eclipse bears down on his Mars-Ascendant in Leo. Again, expect to see him project strength and courage in the immediate future, even more than is his usual custom.
Summary and Conclusion
The total solar eclipse sweeping across America is neither good or bad, but likely to have effects both ways and everything in between. The clashing of two fascist groups in Charlottesville last weekend encapsulates a larger picture that is currently unfolding throughout the country. Like the natural opposites of Sun and Moon, both extremes are attracted to the other; an erotic, orgiastic melding of mutual antagonisms desperately seeking a middle ground. The resultant effect reminds me of cold atomic fusion. The hot Sun expresses, the cool Moon contains. Tremendous power is released, but there is also a potential for transformation if resultant forces can be controlled and directed to constructive ends.
While we can understand the processes involved, it remains to be seen how exactly the eclipse will manifest from this point forward on a content level. As always, content is a matter of context – the total surrounding chart – as well as the level of integration of the participants. This means America itself. The title of this essay is an eclipse of reason. If the extremes of both parties prevail, then by definition this is unreasonable, irrational, and unbalanced. For balance to be restored, we truly do need a new beginning, one that transforms opposites into a higher order unity.
Regarding integration, much depends on how America’s leader, Donald Trump, fares in the coming months. He has, after all, the bully pulpit, and what he says and does will set the tone for the rest of the country. The eclipse on his Mars-Ascendant in Leo could portend an escalation of attacks on his presidency and more needless counter-punching. On the other hand, it also suggests the potential for a new beginning, a fresh start after painful lessons learned.
Only time will tell.
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[i] Shamus, Kristen Jordan. “Eclipse could seriously impact Trump, the nation, astrologers warn,” at: http://www.freep.com/story/life/2017/08/18/solar-eclipse-trump-astrology/570025001/. Accessed 8/18/17.
[ii] Pierce, Matt. “Who was responsible for the violence in Charlottesville? Here’s what witnesses say,” at: http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-charlottesville-witnesses-20170815-story.html (accessed 8/2/17)
[iii] Phillips, Melanie. “America’s Cultural Civil War,” at: http://www.melaniephillips.com/americas-cultural-civil-war/ (accessed 8/2/17).