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Apocalyptic Fears, Doomsday Astrology and Mass Hysteria

 

Last night a student commented on how some of the descriptions of astrological entities were so negative.  Elsewhere, others spoke of how the astrological world had long spoken of coming massive changes. This reminded me that there is a dark side to astrology, which I suppose should be expected since much of its original development had to do with ominous predictions of phenomena of Nature that mankind could not yet understand.

 

Astrology is nearly as old as time, and ever since its beginning it has been (mis)used to predict massive earth changes, or the vast destruction of humanity.  There seems to be no lack of appetite in some cultures for anticipating doomsday and developing a mass fearful hysteria about its arrival.

 

Currently some astrologers who plot daily transits and cycles on the charts of various countries have voiced worry about the Grand Cross alignment back in April, and the change or die Pluto Return for the US – which doesn’t actually happen until 2021 and itself could have a positive impact, although we all focus on the negative.  

 

I thought it might be useful to breakdown some of the mystique about these factors, and offer a different reading.

 

 

Which Chart?

 

The initial problem with this kind of astrology is that we almost never have an exact date and time for the “birth” of a country, let alone for a world. There is controversy about the chart of the USA because two different charts are generally used for July 4th when Thomas Jefferson completed the writing of the Declaration of Independence. One chart has Sagittarius Rising for a 5:10 pm time, and the other uses Gemini with 2:13 am time.  Students of astrology will know that these two rising signs are polar opposites in any chart.

 

And, I have yet to find clear incontrovertible rationale for the specific times chosen.

 

But the Continental Congress voted to break from England on July 2 and John Hancock’s famous first signature wasn’t written until August 2nd. So never mind the time problem -- which date should be used?  It appears that July 4th is the least appropriate date of the three. Which puts all doomsday predictions based on charts with that day in grave doubt.

 

 

The Human Affinity for Apocalyptic Thinking

 

As early as about 653 BCE, the Romans were talking about the end of the world.  In 365 CE a French Pagan turn Catholic bishop, Hilary of Poitiers, predicted the end would occur within a year. In the year 1000 Pope Sylvester himself predicted the arrival of the apocalypse, whereupon riots ensued across Europe, with many pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem, and leading into 400+ years of the western religious devastation of the Middle East by the crusades.  The list goes on.

 

In more modern times there has been no shortage of religious people expecting and preparing for the end, the rapture, the second coming, while the non-religious fear polar shifts, the nuclear annihilation of political mutually assured destruction policies of the cold war, climate change, and mass extinction of Noahic proportions due to tsunamis, earthquakes, and pandemics. Oh, and alien invasions.

 

Of course none of this happens – although some possibilities have more realistic weight than others and natural disasters can of course be devastating.  Astrological analysis will show potential for negative energies and events. But negative potential is rarely realized in an apocalyptic way. It seems that what is most predictable is that there is always someone or some feeling  “out there” that is susceptible to believing that major disastrous change is coming on a scale never before seen.

 

The concept of massive change even permeates New Age communities, who attempt to balance apocalyptic scenarios by investing belief in salvation through white light, love, and the coming of indigo, crystal, and rainbow / star children. Native communities, especially the Hopi, have used their own versions of astrology and elder visions to also predict a change of worlds, by which is meant a change of consciousness.

 

And who knows?  Perhaps there is some sudden transformative change that those who are more sensitive can feel coming. I allow for that possibility, but the historical evidence seems stacked against things unfolding that way. Instead, even Plutonic transformative change is evolutionary and incremental, punctuated at times with Uranian outbreaks of revolutionary zeal, which fail as often as they succeed to change much of anything on a planetary scale.  

 

 

Are We Evolutionarily Bent Towards Mass Hysteria?

 

One way to look at this perpetual anxiety is as a vestigial projection of ancient instincts for survival. Although humankind is safer in the 21st century than ever before, we seem hardwired to see and expect overwhelming danger all around us. 

 

Indeed, there seems to be something in the human limbic system that enjoys scaring itself to death. As a species, we simultaneously fear and revel in imagined existential nothingness and the carnage that precedes it. In the last century or more we have even built a whole industry on horror films to enjoy being terrorized by our darker fantasies. Then we take comfort in having others who are similarly anxious to confirm the signs and omens that may or may not have a completely different and more positive interpretation.

 

As I write this, a Star Trek: the Next Generation episode comes mind  -- aptly named Devil’s Due, season 4, episode 13 -- in which a con artist named Ardra has managed to convince the Ventaxian planet that their centuries of peaceful prosperity are done, and that she now reigns over them. Her holographic tricks are convincing and there is mass panic in the culture.  Hysteria envelops all --  that is, until logical Picard and techno-capable Geordi reveal the illusions she used to control public consciousness.

 

In my psychological training I was taught to ask what the payoff is for holding certain anxiety producing beliefs. I find this a good way to look fear and anxiety in the eye, and dismantle it so the positive potentials of astrology and other phenomena of Nature’s cycles can be dealt with productively.

 

 

 

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All unfolds as it must but deeper awareness allows

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