What drives paranoia?
We may think that it’s a fear of the new, an inability to quantify the changes on the horizon, to see where they may lead. Over the last few years, many have invoked visions of dystopia as a dark parallel of our rapidly changing society. Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Terry Gilliam, and Margaret Atwood gave us some of the most enduring visions of a fear-based future, but these dystopian nightmares have something more than their fear in common, and it links them with this very moment in time: Saros Cycle 121.
The name sounds like yet another science-fiction reality, but Saros Cycles are part of an ancient tradition that maps the trajectory of eclipses and calculates exactly what type of eclipse will occur. By looking at these events, the Chaldeans were able to organize them into cycles known as Saros, “repetitions,” stretching over vast lengths of time. Each eclipse in a cycle occurred roughly 18 years apart, a variation on the eclipse preceding it. These cycles could be examined in context to impart valuable information about world events and societal themes.
And each date has provided its own startling vision of the future: the second eclipse in 1931 saw Aldous Huxley put pen to paper for his horrifying artificial reality, and the third in 1949 saw the publication of 1984. These eclipses continued in 1967, 1985, and 2003, and on Wednesday, May 26, we see the next eclipse in the cycle. Dystopia isn’t the only common theme throughout this cycle: each eclipse has featured tense aspects to Jupiter with five of the seven pitting the planet of expansion against the lunar eclipse itself, including this year’s total lunar eclipse in Sagittarius. This is where we find our fear of extremity, our distrust in moderation.
Lunar eclipses necessarily involve tension between luminaries: the Sun and the Moon oppose, and the Moon slips into the Earth’s shadow causing it to reflect not the warm, vital light of the Sun but the darkness of the collective. Lunar eclipses are a moment of collective crisis, bringing us into alignment with the undercurrent of the time and forcing us to look at the very things we’ve worked to remove from our awareness. Saros 121 began in Libra, and this compounds this collective influence throughout the rest of the cycle: Libra is the sign of justice, the point in the zodiac where we put aside our individual needs in order to accommodate others, to introduce outside perspectives and account for all sides. At its lowest expression it’s the appearance of compromise in order to please, an unwillingness to upset the balance for fear of the waves it might cause. It’s no wonder that this cycle has brought us nightmares of an overly-structured world where the individual is eclipsed by collective order.
Terry Gilliam’s grim corporate future of Brazil shows us what this might look like: the individual is no more than data to be recalled, and when that recall is faulty, details are fluid. Authority is infallible — when the department head mistakes his wife’s name, Jack instantly revises her, thrusting her into her mistaken identity for the rest of the film rather than embarrass his boss. And this becomes an ever-growing problem when a printing error results in the arrest of an innocent and unwell man. Each character who raises their voice against the injustice is shown just how big the system is, and how small they — and the victims — are within it.
In 1985, Jupiter was in Aquarius. While technically not a position of classical detriment, Aquarius is still Saturnian territory, reigning in Jupiter’s benefic influence. This is a reserved Jupiter, a Jupiter who prefers to defer to expert opinion. Rather than beam its full generous influence on everyone in its path, Jupiter in Aquarius asks what progress it makes. With this chilly influence pulling the threads of tension, dystopian imaginations felt the dangers of such impersonal forces rapidly scaling up. Gilliam’s world of Big Data and Centralized Technology illustrate this growing Aquarian fear through the lens of a suspicious and hesitant collective, a world who lived with looming nuclear threats and the knowledge that they may very well be pawns in a larger game. The boom of venture capital and corporate governance ensured that growth remained at the top. They were a year beyond the most ominous date in literary history and like Gilliam, many worried that they were only as valuable as the information they represented, accurate or erroneous.
Obviously, dystopian works are always an exaggeration of our fears for the future, our concerns and speculations taken to the extreme. We live in a world where data harvesting and personal surveillance are understood, contractual agreements we enter into for the convenience of same-day delivery and instant search results. Put into the context of our otherwise uneventful everyday lives, they become less like shocking affronts to individuality and more like improvements to a collective quality of life. We can certainly look backwards at the creative works of Saros Cycle 121 and pick out bits and pieces of prescience: Huxley’s world of biological simulation, Orwell’s pervasive newspeak and wrongthink, Atwood’s loss of bodily autonomy and biological imperialism. But no one work encapsulates the whole of the world we live in. Perhaps these very works keep us mindful.
But Saros Cycle 121 doesn’t end this week — it continues in 2039, 2057, 2075, and comes to a close in 2093. We still have 72 years to put the pieces together and see the full picture before us. This week’s installment adds a curious layer of colour — Jupiter is currently in Pisces, its spiritual home. Expanding consciousness may be the key to avoiding the impersonal grey landscape we were warned of. With the luminary polarity stretched across noisy Gemini-Sagittarius, testing truth and objectivity against subjective interest and communications, Jupiter in Pisces reminds us that there’s more than two dimensions to explore. Like Huxley’s moksha-medicine of his Island paradise, Jupiter emphasizes connectivity over collectivism and asks us to find ways to explore oneness without sacrificing expression.
Of course Jupiter stations retrograde on June 20th at only 2 degrees Pisces, and on July 28th returns to Aquarius. We may still see some of the impersonal collectivism so pervasive in the dystopias we’ve been warned about. But the cycle continues. if we can reach towards connectivity and recognize ourselves as drops in the Piscean ocean, we may be able to steer this cycle towards something more like Utopia: a balance of one and many, the true Libran ideal.
I was a little surprised to receive a digest in my email earlier this week announcing a dozen or so new members to this group. I began this in the summer of 2020 when Instagram debuted some new features that rubbed me the wrong way. It was the first wave of a new trend of censorship, with algorithms combing through new posts, choosing words out of context and crushing distribution as a result. While plenty of creators noticed their reach decreasing, it didn't seem to affect popular opinion and it was difficult to convince readers that Instagram--among other platforms--would not be the future of content creation. I am incredibly grateful for the readers who joined me here from the beginning, but this platform had its growing pains and for small creators like me, the walled garden model wasn't exactly conducive to growth.
However, with the recent TOS changes across the internet and social media transforming itself into so many publishers of moderated content, platforms like ...
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Hey everyone! Just a quick note that you can listen to the Hex & Heal Podcast now through Anchor and Spotify, and we're working to get it up on all your favourite podcasting platforms soon!
AND the long-awaited second episode will be up next week