Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Astrology of Religious Freedom: Caesar at the Wailing Wall

The lofty concept of Liberty is arguably America’s “State religion”—right up there with Mom and that mythical “Apple Pie,” cooling on the windowsills of yore, easy prey for mischievous young boys. 

It’s true that in its founding document, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. sprang from that idealistic kernel: 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

We have an admittedly spotty history of living by the ideals of liberty and equality, however—at least in part because those concepts are so broad that they allow for constant ideological manipulation, along our “Left-to-Right” political spectrum.  As discussed in the last post here, these ideals have become so caught up in such tinkering that they are hardly recognizable. 

One bit of tinkering is particularly troubling: does “freedom of religion” really include the right to discriminate against those who don’t see social issues the way you do, or the right to funnel public monies away from public schools into private, religion-based schools? 

Or the right to funnel millions of dollars raised in religious settings into election campaigns? Trump and V.P. Pence certainly seem to think so. 

But, didn’t our Founders conceive of freedom of religion as a right designed to shield citizens from the historical perils of “state religion?” This is a reality in which a specific religion and government are hitched at the hip, with the religious side enjoying economic privileges and a great deal of power over the people, leveraged around their exercise of religion. This system exists most notably today in the Middle East—interestingly, Trump’s first international stop as president. 

State-sanctioned religion was a very familiar form of repression to the Founding Fathers: our earliest migrants supposedly fled to this continent so they could be free to exercise their faiths. It always amazed me to read about how intolerant these so-called “Puritans” were when it came to other people’s religious freedom, however. 

In fact, the Puritans formed a repressive theocracy of their own that culminated in hanging four Quakers (1659-61) for practicing their religion. Britain intervened at that point to declare this Puritan practice illegal: 

In 1661 King Charles II explicitly forbade Massachusetts from executing anyone for professing Quakerism. In 1684 England revoked the Massachusetts charter, sent over a royal governor to enforce English laws in 1686, and in 1689 passed a broad Toleration act."[2][3]
The Puritan theocracy of that era didn’t totally run aground until the horrifying mass hysteria of the Salem witch trials, however—a phenomenon Trump likes to invoke when he claims to be victimized by a media “witch hunt.” That analogy is far from accurate, however we can see a few interesting echoes from that 1692-3 period at play in the Trump administration. 


The biwheel below sets the Trump inauguration chart against a chart cast for the opening day of the Salem Witch Trials in February, 1692 (noon, no time available). I’ve placed the indeterminately timed, 1692 chart on the outside, so we have an accurate chart horizon to work with. 

Biwheel #1: (inner wheel) Inauguration 2017, January 20, 2017, 12:00 p.m. ST, Washington, D.C.; (outer wheel) Salem Witch Trials, February 11, 1692, 12:00 p.m. LMT, Salem, Massachusetts.
First, it should be noted that the final dispositor of the Inauguration (Trump administration) chart is Neptune. This means that by rulership and disposition, all the energies of the chart find their way back to Neptune, at home and strong in its ruling sign of Pisces. Venus rules the chart’s Taurus ascendant, but placed in Pisces, it is disposed by Neptune

The Sun is placed in electric Aquarius, disposed by Uranus in Aries, which is disposed by Mars in Pisces…you guessed it, we’re back to Neptune. This pervasive, even overwhelming influence speaks very eloquently to the chaotic, deceptive, subterfuge-filled beginnings of Trump’s presidency. 

It also speaks to why Trump seems to be leaning on the powerful trappings of religion to recuperate his image. The pictures of him at Israel’s “Western Wall” (aka, the “Wailing Wall”) were almost Shakespearean, evoking Richard III—an attempt to appear pious for the sake of political power. 

But then I sigh, and, with a piece of scripture,
Tell them that God bids us do good for evil:
And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With odd old ends, stol'n out of holy writ;
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.

I don’t pretend to know Trump’s heart about all things Divine, or political, but he’s proven from day one of his presidency how deeply concerned he is with appearances. He seems to have difficulty distinguishing between appearances and reality, as well—his natal Mercury square to Neptune (Cancer-Libra) chimes in on this. 

This has led to one of the most difficult developments for everyone observing his presidency: that Trump and his team play very fast and loose with the truth—that’s if they have any concept of truth at all. It appears that for Trump’s staff, the “truth” is whatever the boss says it is. Trouble is, the boss changes the story to suit whatever the situation is. Neptune definitely reigns in the White House these days.
Neptune and Pluto encompass the realm of universal archetypes, as captured in the world’s mythologies. Nature-based, as all of Humanity’s original religions were, Neptune (Poseidon) ruled the inscrutable, yet life-giving Oceans, and Pluto (Hades) ruled the mysterious Underworld, where the Earth’s hidden riches lay. In myths, these two often plotted to achieve a common goal.

In fact, their energies are forever being used to achieve powerful goals, for good or ill. This further explains why Trump’s trip was planned around the high points of religious power in the world: Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam’s holiest shrine, “Mecca,” Israel’s “Western Wall,” and the Vatican (a religious city/state).

Judging from his past comments, Trump has little sincere connection with any of these religions, but he would very much like them to “anoint” his world leadership. The Saudis managed to get him to bow to their king (to receive an award); he donned a yarmulke in Israel; it’ll be interesting to see if he kisses the Pope’s ring.

Now, on to Salem: is Trump a hapless victim of mass hysteria in the media, or is something else going on? We’ll focus attention on the most relevant points only:

Interchart T-Square: Salem Chiron-Mars (Gemini) opposes Salem Saturn (Sagittarius); this axis squares Inauguration Neptune-Venus conjoins Salem Neptune-Venus (all Pisces). This is a rather uncanny connection between the ages that denotes an ancestral “wound” (Chiron) that is perhaps coming due for healing. It’s not surprising that the “witch trials” featured a Saturn-Neptune square—the truth was certainly lost in Neptune’s fog, and in the intense fear it unleashed, leading to mass hysteria. 

Several girls fell mysteriously ill with some type of hysterical malady before the trials, and the townspeople were looking for scapegoats. They were easy prey for Church elders who saw the situation as a means for solidifying their power. 

Chiron also conjoins Venus and Mars in the Inauguration chart, and it opposes our Sibly Neptune (not shown-Virgo). The fact that the American public was played like a piano in the last election, with fake news and a deeply deceptive, perhaps even criminal campaign is certainly seen here. We also see the damage done to individual reputations (Venus) by a situation that triggers the worst defensive impulses of people (Mars). 

In Salem, those defensive impulses took a deadly turn for innocent bystanders who were “named” by others as witches. Interestingly, Salem was known to be in turmoil prior to this tragedy:

“Salem Village (present-day Danvers, Massachusetts) was known for its fractious population, who had many internal disputes, and for disputes between the village and Salem Town (present-day Salem). Arguments about property lines, grazing rights, and church privileges were rife, and neighbors considered the population as ‘quarrelsome’."
These local divisions might certainly have provided motives for vengeance and ill will, and it’s ever so easy to deceive ourselves that our motives are justified when we’re feeling threatened. So, are the tragedies that unfolded in Salem a precedent for what’s happening now in regards to Trump’s imagined “witch hunt?” 

In Salem, there were no clear, undistorted facts involved in the persecution of the so-called “witches.” There was hysteria based on fear and perhaps darker motives, there was information forcibly extracted from people through torture (the "dunking chair," the "press"), but there were no facts. The investigations into Trump's (or his campaign’s) possible collusion with Russian meddling in our election are trying to sort through a whole lot of distortion, deflection, obfuscation and confusion to get to the facts—the Saturn factor.

In Trump’s paranoid view, all these investigators are out to get him, but this simply doesn’t make sense. A lot of the same people were anything but kind to Hillary Clinton during the campaign: what’s in it for them to now go after her opponent? They have a mystery to unravel about Russia’s proven actions during our election, and wherever the facts take us, they take us. IMHO, we can’t move on to better things quickly enough!

Even so, Neptune does not succumb to Saturn (or the voice of reason) easily; we’ve seen that with Trump’s constant effort to derail the investigations. Charges that he is attempting to obstruct justice are likely yet, and Trump isn’t doing anything to help himself on that account. Saturn squares Chiron in the Inauguration chart, and both tie into Trump’s natal Gemini-Sagittarius oppositions, so it’s no surprise that he keeps “shooting himself in the foot” these days.

This is especially true because Inauguration Saturn falls squarely on top of Trump’s natal Moon (not shown-Sagittarius), which accounts for his emotional lashing out at everything related to the fact-finding efforts. Sagittarius isn’t well known for respecting rules, so Trump’s lack of respect for the limits of his power is hardly surprising. It’s hard to say what it will take for him to simply cooperate and stop making himself look guilty. 

So, no, Trump is not a hapless victim of persecution; perhaps, in fact, it’s the American public that’s been taken to the Salem “dunking pond” (Trump’s “swamp?”) this time around? The Salem Sun conjoins the Sibly Moon, in fact—as does the Inauguration Part-of-Fortune (all Aquarius).  Food for thought. 


 So, what’s new?

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen an important new development in the age-old tension between Religion and Government that overwhelmed everyone so tragically in Salem: On May 4th, Trump signed an executive order that would effectively unleash religious-based discrimination and political activity even more than the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act did:
“Seeking to appeal to social conservatives who backed him in heavy numbers, President Trump will issue an executive order Thursday designed to ‘protect and vigorously promote religious liberty’ and ‘alleviate the burden’ of a law designed to prohibit religious leaders from speaking out about politics, according to senior administration officials.”
This order would free employers to claim religious freedom as the basis for denying their female workers contraception coverage, and to speak freely from the pulpit about political matters without losing their tax-exempt status. No consideration of the rights of those on the losing end of these “freedoms.” Clearly, there are financial motives masquerading behind these pieties, as well.

The right to openly finance religious-based PACs isn’t mentioned, but it can’t be far away, if Congress agrees with Trump about overturning the so-called Johnson Amendment.

We’re headed the way of state-sanctioned religion if this trend extends to its logical extreme, and in fact, returning the U.S. to its “Christian” roots is a dearly-held goal of Steve Bannon and like-minded Trump followers. Unfortunately, what masquerades as religious “freedom” would mean second-class citizenship for non-Christian (or simply secular) Americans. Or for those who cherish our long-held separation of Church and State as a safeguard against discrimination and theocracy.  

No one can be legally constrained from practicing his/her faith here: what is constrained (rightly, in my book) is the ability to rewrite the laws to enforce one religious set of beliefs. There’s been a slow erosion of that separation over many years—even in people’s capacity to think clearly. In my experience teaching university students to write research papers, I had a front-row seat for this.

Every semester my classes would discuss at some length why matters of religious belief (like abortion rights, etc.) were not appropriate topics for argumentation papers, unless they could be argued using non-religious or scientific reasoning and research. It always amazed me how these discussions would produce at least a few blank, uncomprehending stares. In these confused students, the difference between an object of belief and a fact would simply not register—subjective and objective realities were indistinguishable, in other words.

My inner astrologer would be thinking: Neptune’s overpowered Saturn in their comprehension. This can easily happen, of course, depending upon a child’s upbringing, the cultural influences they’re immersed in, and so on. Such “filters” determine how we see everything, and setting aside those filters for academic purposes can be difficult. Being able to do that is a necessary skill in this world, however, and a big way in which university education broadens a young adult’s mind.

Unless, of course, we’re hoping to close our children’s minds off against that world. Is that what this recently exaggerated focus on “religious freedom” is about? The Puritans, it turned out, were less interested in religious freedom for all than they were for their own freedom to dictate how people around them worshipped and behaved. A compulsion to control the environment and those who populate it is at the heart of this “freedom,” it would seem.


We all have the legitimate desire to control and secure our environments; however, as the poor victims of Salem (overwhelmingly women) found out in the 1690s, this desire can turn into a mob-driven mania. The fact that the hysteria in Salem mainly targeted women (and men who tried to protect their women) is key here: women were often viewed as the “spawn of the Devil.” This attitude seems to persist today, in carefully disguised form—the GOP’s proposed cuts to health care are a strong indication.  
Salem was clearly an extreme example, but in fact, history shows repeatedly that Religion and Government are simply flip-sides of the same coin because humans have accepted from ancient times that transcendent “power over” their societies (Pluto) derives from “on high” (Neptune)—however the various cultures defined that “on high.”

Monarchies have historically justified this power as “the Divine Right of Kings;” theocracies claim that this power emanates from the Divine and is manifested through elected or appointed clerics (who are always closely allied with government officials and can therefore get by with a lot), while kleptocracies and oligarchies don’t even pretend that power comes from anywhere but Big Money (Pluto).

Democracies, thankfully, claim that this transcendent authority derives from “the People,” although as we’ve seen, there are many, many ways of undermining and manipulating the People’s authority.

As with everything Neptune touches, the dividing lines that need to be clear are blurred: this becomes particularly treacherous when the lines of authority are at stake: Christ’s saying, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” is, of course, interpreted to mean whatever people want it to mean.

Unfortunately, Christ wasn’t envisioning an empowered people in a democratic society with those words: for that purpose, it’s up to us to figure out how to wield Neptune-Pluto power wisely.

Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and former educator. A graduate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (U.K.), Raye focuses on mundane, collective-oriented astrology, with a particular interest in current affairs, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. Several of her articles on these topics have been featured in The Mountain Astrologer and other publications over the years.

She is also available to read individual charts—contact her at: robertsonraye@gmail.com.

© Raye Robertson 2017. All rights reserved. 


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