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Signs of the Times

Signs of the Times

(Book Summary by Clayton Montez)

Atlantic University

"God will have to assume six billion faces – one for each member of the human race." This remark by astrologer Ray Grasse points to his anticipation of life-altering trends with the arrival of the Aquarian Age.

The traditional perception of God as "one size fits all" is shifting to the notion that the divine is more recognizable as a reflection of us. Likewise, the transition in the zodiac constellations relative to the earth, particularly Pisces and Aquarius for now, shows tell-tale signs about our changing world views and the corresponding effects upon us.

From the point of view some call symbolist, Grasse applies a holistic perspective to many kinds of world events, including natural disasters, scientific breakthroughs, political shifts, religious changes, cultural events, and celestial phenomena. His global explorations of omens and predictable cycles in his new book, Signs of the Times: Unlocking the Symbolic Language of World Events (Hampton Roads, 2002) support traditional mystical beliefs that the world is a reflection of a deeper spiritual intelligence made visible, rich in meaning and interconnected: "All events – intricately coordinated within an orderly whole, with no occurrence accidental, no pattern superfluous – are part of a vast symphony of meaning that extends to every aspect of our world."

Combining astrological inferences with metaphor and symbolism derived from social myths, Grasse presents insightful clues buried deep in history as well as in current trends that reveal significant patterns in our lives and the primary challenges and opportunities that await us.

Astrologers traditionally study horoscopes or birth charts for key moments in time, such as in the founding of a nation. Or they might study planetary cycles that weave through history in order to discern archetypal dynamics at work. Grasse declares that his investigatory methods surpass these practices that only offer piecemeal information of our history and thereby limit our understanding of the larger historical context that informs these smaller cycles.

For example, Grasse illustrates an historical event that takes on new meaning when seemingly unrelated circumstances on the surface appear to share a similar pattern. He ties the 1992 fire of Windsor Castle with the concurrent problems besetting the Royal Family of England. The burning of the revered icon of the English Society metaphorically depicts the declining state of royalty in modern times, such as Princess Anne’s divorce, the controversy of Princess Diana and the separation of Prince Andrew and Princess Sarah.

Other apparent coincidences that seem to connect within a broader scope of world events include the curious parallels that underlie the lives (and deaths) of former Presidents John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln and the metaphoric circumstances that constellated around the Challenger disaster and the death of Princess Diana.

We are advised to heed these synchronistic events as revelations of insights or truths in order to make sense of the world and our place in it.

Grasse, a former editor of Quest magazine, says that our history is shaped by a succession of astrological stages of about 2100 years each that represent a Great Age. Each Age brings a new framework of archetypal possibilities that reflects itself in such wide-ranging areas as religion, art, politics, and science. We now stand at the juncture of two Great Ages that have been overlapping during the past 200 years: the waning Pisces, known for the rise of global religion and transitional ego development, and the emerging Aquarius, heralding the age of information and the increasing presence of grass roots activism.

The transition of social myths combines with astrological potentials to reveal the deeper workings of our psyches. Carl Jung believed that cultural myths were as potent for acquiring valuable knowledge about the collective desires, fears, and values of society as dreams were to individuals.

The Piscean Age covered the period from 1 A.D. to 2000 A.D. True to the spirit of Pisces, its religious themes (mythology) centered on symbols of water: baptism, walking on water, changing water into wine, the Great Flood, and so forth. Throughout this period, humanity learned to relate to the divine with compassion and faith. On the other hand, devotion taken to extreme led to dogmatism and persecution for those deviating from expectations of unquestionable allegiance to a monolithic belief system.

The crucifixion is one of the more striking symbols of Pisces. It had both positive and negative interpretations for the shaping of the human ego. On the positive side, the crucifixion relates to ego transcendence and homage to a higher ideal. "Pisces is that final stage in the soul’s evolution where the boundaries of personality have begun to dissolve and the soul merges with the cosmic ocean of existence … expounding the principal of sacrifice, worship, and profound devotion."

On the negative side, the crucifixion meant self-pity, masochism, guilt and martyrdom – issues that Grasse felt were somehow confused with spirituality, but in reality, indicated an unhealthy or ungrounded ego.

The airy influence of Aquarius has not yet fully arrived, as it is officially present between 2100 A.D. and 4200 A.D. Yet it is felt in manifestations from flying spacecraft and skyscraper buildings, to television and the Internet as our minds "take to the airways" in this stage of evolving human consciousness. Whereas mythic "clues" originated in religion throughout the Piscean Age, Aquarian science wrested our attention from scriptural sources to more popular communicative forms like cinema, television, and modern literature – what Joseph Campbell coined as modern culture’s creative mythology.

Grasse stresses that a study of the recurring themes surfacing throughout popular culture will expose trends that start deep within the collective unconscious and continue to take shape in the millennia to come: "Our stories are changing. By studying the shifting details, we can better grasp the great transformation that is currently sweeping our world… affecting all of us."

Aquarius is particularly distinguishable by the drive for freedom – a predominant theme in the United States forming the American dream through democracy, capitalism, and industrialism.

Like Pisces, Aquarius has both constructive and destructive implications. It is neither an entirely good or bad thing, since it can be directed either way. The sign Aquarius relates to a form of collective rationality, with a concern for mass thought-patterns and universal ideas and values. The possible dangers here are formidable in terms of how easily individuals can get swept up in the eddies and currents of the collective mind field, such as through media manipulation. As information gathering becomes more technical and impersonal, it links us to more people globally while simultaneously isolating us from interpersonal connectivity. We will be challenged, Grasse warns, with the Aquarian tendency toward impersonal forms of social connection by means of the tension between collectivism and individualism.

Older myths can also give clues about our times. According to Grasse, each astrologically--defined Great Age is associated with a particular group of stars--each group having been connected with one or more great tales. For the Greeks, the Ram constellation of Aries was tied to the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece. The constellation of the fish in Pisces was linked with the story of Aphrodite and her son Eros. These celestial tales continue throughout the zodiac and remain subliminal forces within the collective unconscious whether or not we are aware of them.

By studying the mythic associations of the Great Ages, Grasse says we will find synchronistic clues among the subtle patterns that shape society throughout the Ages. For instance, the presence of the great monster Typhon in the Aphrodite tale of the Piscean Age alluded to themes of persecution. Accordingly, Grasse reasons that Aquarius may likely influence our present society to act out the Greek tale of Ganymede – the immortal youth abducted to serve the Gods. This partly explains our fascination with aviation technology and growing experimentation with biogenetic life extension.

Grasse deduces that three main themes will define the Aquarian Age: intellectual development, decentralization, and electrification. All three themes are intertwined with ambiguities and paradoxes that explain the Aquarian collective consciousness as neither entirely good nor entirely bad. The Aquarian Age may be a time for individual empowerment, but it will be competing side-by-side with a trend toward greater globalization and collectivism. Our ongoing obsession with freedom perpetuates the struggle between self-expression (rights) and the imposition of social restraints (license).

Grasse opines that the United States is the cutting edge of the Aquarian Age where the above themes lie abundantly within its history, institutions, and social customs.

The US connection to Aquarius begins with the synchronicity of its birth. It achieved its independence at about the same time Uranus was discovered – the planet most associated with Aquarius. The severe axis rotation of Uranus implicates the US as correspondingly revolutionary in nature.

Furthermore, the symbolic stars on the American flag, denoting the first nation on earth to display stars on its flag, reflects Aquarian symbolism. The thirteen stars representing thirteen colonies is a revolutionary break with the established order that is symbolized by the number twelve. Grasse notes, "The presence of thirteen at America’s birth signals the emergence of a global force that will break with the past in forging a new future for humanity – whether for constructive or destructive ends remains to be seen." The most distinguishing characteristic of the Aquarian spirit in the US is the quest for the realization of dreams of liberty and the possibility of achieving a better life.

Interestingly, the epitome of US government is a reformation of democracy borrowed from other cultures and it brings to the fore one of the definitive paradoxes of the Aquarian Age. It emphasizes the individual and the collective simultaneously. Whereas, the Biblical doctrines of the Piscean Age stressed external intermediaries for redemption, the modern idea of self-liberation as an inalienable right granted new power to individuals. But since every person has input, it is harder for any one person to exert influence. Grasse comments, "At the same time there has been an empowering of the individual will, we have simultaneously witnessed a neutering of the same."

Grasse encourages us to think about how the unique characteristics of jazz can explain this paradox. The jazz band represents a system where each player is regarded as an equal. Although there is always some musical framework to follow, the musicians have considerable flexibility to creatively express themselves. The jazz model strikes a balance between isolationism and mob rule. It shows how US democracy can remain supple with its people and the times while maintaining a balance between individual and group rights.

Aquarius governs both individualism and group consciousness under the auspices that the collective defines the individual and the individual defines the collective. Reconciling these polarities for a proper balance between the rights and needs of the individual verses the group welfare will likely be one of the challenges of the coming age.

The American self-styled creation of democracy, capitalism and industrialism introduced a new kind of mentality. The emotional assumptions and beliefs of bygone eras that embellished the aesthetic sensibilities of the Piscean Age are now under scrutiny and revision by the streamlined functionality of Aquarian logic. Grasse claims, "American provided a blank slate upon which the new mind could take shape and develop, relatively unburdened by tradition."

On the other hand, Grasse laments, our modern capacity for knowing the world is "a mile wide and an inch deep." Science has expanded and enriched our lives with physical marvels. However, it neglected the considerable possibilities for metaphysical and spiritual realities. Science may have conquered superstitions while, at the same time, eclipsed any meaning of the cosmos.

The Aquarian Age does not abolish spirituality. On the contrary, it promotes a way of life separated from the emotional and religious trappings that characterized the consciousness of the Piscean Age. The Aquarian Age prompts the mystical within mundane realities, reflecting Henry James’ words: "To take what there is, and use it, without waiting forever in vain for the pre-conceived – to dig deeper into the actual and getting something out of that – this is doubtless the right way to live." Instead of clinging to the Piscean promise of future salvation, pragmatic Aquarian spirituality seeks to bring God into every day life – to find the spiritual or mythic life within the here and now.

For Grasse, no event stands completely alone. Bringing to mind the Challenger shuttle disaster, the symbols constellated around this tragedy encode a wealth of clues about the lessons and challenges of the coming era.

From the discovery of the planet Uranus in 1781 to the March collision of two Boeing 787 airliners and the momentous journey of Voyager 2, Grasse connects people power, capitalism and technology with powerful forces that have awakened within the Universe.

The Challenger saga birthed heroic dreams tempered by the limitations of human frailty. Through it, the loss of innocence led to growth in consciousness. Grasse likens this experience to the stepping out of the Garden of Eden. Having experienced the pain of separation, mankind suffered the problems of mortal existence and an awakening into consciousness with the idea of someday becoming "like unto the gods."

In the era of Piscean obedience, humankind looked to an external higher power for direction. The liberation of Aquarius, on the other hand, marks an evolutionary growth of the personal will toward self-empowerment for social responsibility. Along the way, Signs tells us, we have acquired greater knowledge about the forces of the Universe, but we also have a greater capacity to destroy ourselves in the process.

The 1998 film "Pleasantville", cited in Signs, poignantly illustrates this paradox by toying with the misnomer that things used to be so much better back in the old days than they are now. It shows two teenagers getting mysteriously sucked into a 1950’s style televised world where they discover that things are simpler but less evolved and less conscious. By comparison, the film brings to light the complexity of our time that makes society richer than past times. The message is simply this: All growth experiences a movement from simplicity to complexity, and with that movement comes greater possibilities and greater problems, because it is inherent in the growth process.

When grappling with today’s issues of technology, big business and scientific rationality, we stumble and make mistakes, but Grasse consoles that the apparent sense of failure is merely a translation from a "loss of innocence" toward greater possibilities and, correspondingly, greater problems. He declares, "We are acting out the tale of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, taking greater risks as we learn to deal with the promises and perils the energies Uranus has opened us to."

The dawning Aquarius extinguishes the concept of the limited self, reflecting Nietzche’s musing that man’s struggle for knowledge and power will "fulfill itself in a new being who would incarnate the living meaning of the universe."

The Aquarian trend, Grasse claims, extends beyond the basic concepts of personal empowerment toward a realization of inner divinity. The affirmation, "Ye are Gods!" in the Gospel of John (10:34) never wholly took root because individual personalities during his time were excluded as an expression of the divine. Today’s mystical perspective, previously feared as an unseen supernatural judge, has evolved to the conventional notion that God lies within. This message is popularized in the modern parable in the Wizard of Oz.

In Oz, several heroines seek a greater significant other, the all-powerful wizard, in order to fulfill their desires. When they finally confront him, they are greatly disillusioned, but they receive a great gift as well. They learn that the answers they sought have always been available to them from within themselves. The unnecessary dependency upon the wizard had to be exposed and put aside in order for the heroines to become more self-reliant.

Grasse finds that the Oz story further illustrates the modus operandi of the Aquarian Age and provides clues for our survival. We not only awaken to our own dreams, but it is incumbent upon us to find a way to bring our own personal experiences to harmonize with the diverse spiritual experiences of others. The new perennialism, spearheaded by noted figures such as Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and Mircea Eliade attempts such an undertaking by bringing God and man closer together -- integrating the universal truths of God and applying them to individual needs.

It is through Aquarius, Grasse claims, that we are changing the shape of spirituality. In Nietzche’s words, "The God who had long been projected to the beyond is discovered within the human soul." Like the heroine rediscovering himself through mystical experiences at the end of the film 2001:Contact, we find the divine taking a more familiar form by turning back toward ourselves.

Thus our journey through the Aquarian Age promises to help us discover our true connection to the divine and overcome our limited perceptions of mortality – collectively united with God, yet individually recognized as one face in six billion.

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