What does it mean to be out of step with the zeitgeist? While not a subscriber to any religion, I value stillness and silence. And, in today’s bipolar climate of networking and TMI*, too much contemplation = social suicide. It was cool during the sixties’ stampede for consciousness expansion, which you could seek through some guru or the shortcut of an acid trip. For a while, a window opened on unprecedented possibilities. But don’t such bids for freedom tend to provoke a conservative backlash? And Eastern mysticism, with its ideal of detachment, represents the antithesis of our insatiable Western capitalism.
It’s hardly controversial to say humanity’s entered the digital age. The billions of souls who can’t yet afford admission will soon be brought up to date; colonised by technology whether or not they want to be. Let me state up front that I’m neither a technophobe nor a technophile. While I try to spend as little time at my computer as possible, I’m nonetheless grateful for all the time it saves me. My dependence dates back two decades to when I was establishing an astrology practice. Until then it had taken me half an hour to cast a chart by my own calculations. The computer could do it in half a minute. Yet I’d show students how to do the maths themselves, just once, so they’d understand each chart as a function of time and place combined – as more than an abstract, pizza-like diagram.
Astrology at this level is nothing if not digital. The 360º dial, with relative positions of all cusps and planets expressed in degrees and minutes, provides an objective framework, which a computer can produce much faster and more accurately than a human brain can. But what about a computer-generated chart analysis? While those are designed to go beyond a mere sun-sign profile, no program that exists can handle the complex art of synthesis. A program is digital by definition, i.e., grossly simplified. To begin to approach the complexity of an individual psyche, one would need to create a unique program for each client. When unmediated by a program, interpretation is an analog process; and apt analogies can serve to amplify a chart’s indications. This part requires empathy and intuition, which digital processes, being binary – 1/0, yes/no – just can’t mimic. And how can programmers breathing code grasp the implications of these limits?
What characterises the digital age? Increasingly, we cede our thinking to our phones, computers etc., so their growing sophistication frees us to get stupider: unless we can break down the boundary between them and us, incorporate them into our bodies, and/or invest them with emotion – or soul.
As technology has developed we’ve allowed it to penetrate us – a process which is accelerating exponentially. Where will it end? I reject the idea of being compulsorily microchipped like a pet – that would violate my integrity, let alone my privacy – and yet I set off metal detectors with the titanium screws in my spine.
According to the Bible, Gen. 1:26, ‘God said, Let us† make man in our image, after our likeness [which is what humans are now doing with technology – making it in our image, after our likeness]: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth…’
This quote comes from the principal text that informs the religion that underpins Western, capitalist society. Christian logic pervades our culture no less than CO2 pervades our air and fluoride (that industrial waste product) pervades our drinking water. Our calendar starts counting from the purported birth year of Christ our Lord – the most famous event of the last two or so millennia that can’t be incontestably verified. And the events set down in Genesis are much less convincingly documented.
My point is, we’ve tasted the fruit of the Tree of Technology and become addicted, so we can’t return to a state of, nor plead, innocence. We’ve banished ourselves from the Garden by creating a world of artifice; including (for want of the real thing?) virtual war games and AI.‡ (The fact that humanity continues to re-enact this ‘Fall’ script could be a clue that it’s a myth. And the fact that so many ‘civilised’ humans still take this myth literally would seem to imply that we lack the wits needed to use technology wisely.) A Christian ethos has dominated the last two millennia, roughly corresponding with the Age of Pisces (the symbol of which – the fish – has long identified Christians). But language is changing to reflect a changing ethos, an age in transition. Consider the bastardisation of concepts like ‘icon’ and, especially, ‘avatar’.
The idealised projection of one’s ego into a virtual construct now goes by a Sanskrit word that refers to the descent to Earth, or incarnation of, a god. Such an ironic reversal, one among many, serves as a clue on the unfolding map of human evolution. The new meaning of ‘avatar’ seems evocative of our new age.
Some people, and that includes astrologers, seem to be under the impression that the psychedelic sixties ushered in the Age of Aquarius (due to the rare, 1962 line-up of five planets, Sun and Moon in that sign?). Others believe it will kick off in sync with the imminent end of the Mayan calendar (as if change is ever as neatly on cue as a Hollywood denouement). All such confusions reflect astrology’s forgetfulness of its astronomical roots.
The Macquarie Dictionary defines the precession of the equinoxes as ‘the earlier occurrence of the equinoxes in each successive sidereal year because of a slow retrograde motion of the equinoctial points along the ecliptic, caused by the combined action of the sun and moon on the mass of matter accumulated about the earth’s equator. A complete revolution of the equinoxes requires about 26 000 years.’ Each ‘age’ spans one twelfth of this period: approx. 2160 years. The vernal point (the position of the Sun on the celestial equator at the time of the vernal equinox, about 21 March each year) has now retrograded to around 5º Pisces 6´. So, technically speaking, the Age of Aquarius begins when it reaches 0º Pisces 0´ – in the latter half of the 24th century. The vernal point reached 0º Aries in 221 AD – the beginning of the Piscean age, the avatar of which had been dead for two centuries. My point? Expect to be crucified if you’re too far ahead of your time.
* too much information
† This ‘us’ has been interpreted by certain conspiracy theorists as evidence that the human race is a failed alien experiment, which, if no more nor less convincing than hardline Darwinian dogma or Genesis, at least sounds more complex and interesting.
‡ artificial intelligence