Monday, January 15, 2018

Stumbling on the Mountain: the American Dreamscape on MLK Day 2018

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday is always a Capricorn affair, which perfectly befits the occasion.  

The impassioned, inspiring leader of the 1950s-60s Civil Rights movement in this nation, King was cut down violently 50 years ago, far too soon, before he could see the fruits of his labors, courage and dedication. 

As his iconic “I have a dream” speech has reaffirmed now for fifty-five years, King aspired to shepherd his followers up the treacherous “mountain” of racial equality and social justice, but despite clear individual successes—Barack Obama’s 8 years as president, for instance—the climb is far from over for the broader African-American community in this land, and for communities of color in general. In fact, it seems that we've stumbled back down that Capricorn "mountain" lately.

That lofty mountain top that King evoked is Capricorn’s highest expression of light—the pinnacle of achievement for any society that cherishes democratic ideals. Unfortunately, Trump doesn’t aspire to climb mountains of light: he prefers to dig trenches in the dark—bunkers against the world and against any ideals that might make him feel personally vulnerable. 

With Trump and his enablers, the very definition of racism comes under fire: if he just says out loud what “everyone” is thinking (so goes the Fox prevarication), how could that be racism, right? Since when do news organization purport to speak for everyone?!  Fox gets by with it because their number one booster, Donald Trump, constantly speaks in those terms, and they’ve decided to adopt his Neptunian phraseology. Being the “state” media outlet is a role they apparently relish.

“Everyone knows…” is a phrase we hear on a daily basis with Trump, as though he thinks his job is to channel and normalize the country’s dark side. Judging from his approval numbers, only a small slice of the population agrees: more likely, Trump’s “Everyone” is simply a projection of what’s lurking in his venal, mean-spirited mind. To King’s hero on the mountain top, Trump is the troll beneath the bridge. 

So, those who try to claim that he was simply shooting off at the mouth this past week when he called African and Caribbean nations “shitholes” are challenged today to square all that with the spirit of this 50th anniversary year of Reverend Martin Luther King III’s tragic death. To consider how far we have come since that time, and how far we have regressed. Mavis Staples’ rendition of “We Shall Overcome” is playing on the radio as I write this: it’s not a nostalgic message these days; it’s a real cry from the nation’s core. 

We have to wonder what spell has been cast over our nation that has made all this possible. The lure of higher Wall Street numbers?  The seduction of a tough-talking “strong man” leader who seems to know how to “get things done?”  Pollsters have begun tracking “authoritarian” voters in America…say what?! Astrology can help us puzzle through these issues, but ultimately we have to examine our nation’s soul. Writing for the New York Times, Ibram X. Kendi claims that “denial” is at the heart of America’s tortured relationship with race. A fairly long piece, what follows is my attempt to capture and compress the key points:

“Denial is how America defends itself as superior to ‘shithole countries’ in Africa and elsewhere, as President Trump reportedly described them in a White House meeting last week, although he has since, well, denied that…This denial of racism is the heartbeat of racism. Where there is suffering from racist policies, there are denials that those policies are racist. The beat of denial sounds the same across time and space…
When someone identifies the obvious, Mr. Trump resounds the beat of denial as he did before he was president: ‘I’m the least racist person that you’ve ever met,’ that ‘you’ve ever seen,’ that ‘you’ve ever encountered.’ …Only the racist lives by the heartbeat of denial. The antiracist lives by the opposite heartbeat, one that rarely and irregularly sounds in America—the heartbeat of confession.”
The karmic mire of our national relationship with race is exhausting and deeply frustrating, to say the least. Volumes could be written about that, but suffice to say here that the Trump presidency represents a critical tipping point. Astrologically, we’ll consider why our nation’s “original sin” of racism and exploitation is now coming due. In one short year, Trump has managed to lance a hateful boil in our national soul, and it's threatening to infect our entire system. 

If it’s any solace, we can’t heal a wound that lies repressed and hidden, so it would be more productive (and ultimately more redemptive) to take on our demons once and for all. 

For many at home and abroad, this past week in Trump’s White House has dredged up all the agony of centuries of injustice. At the risk of sounding dismissive, I would offer that astrologically, this painful, regressive period is actually not all that surprising. There’s a discernible pattern at work, and we are now poised at a critical tipping point in it. 

Progress is always incremental, and regression is an unfortunate part of the spiraling, cyclical process. Two steps forward in one cycle…encounter resistance and fall back a few in the next…scramble to regain lost ground, tweaking some problems from the first go-round…fall back a tad in the next…it never ends. Regressive tendencies lie dormant in every nation’s psyche, just waiting for hard times to unleash them. 

These tendencies evoke Pluto and the shameful, antisocial impulses we typically banish to its underworld (unconscious) realm. Out of sight, where we can more easily deny them—Neptune sits at Pluto’s right hand in that underworld, enabling and masking, twisting and distorting reality. If Trump is just saying what everyone is thinking, he can’t be racist, can he? 

When—in the face of several confirmations that Trump did call Africa and Caribbean nations “shitholes”—one senator claims he didn’t hear Trump say that (is he simply lying, or is he afraid to be accused of disloyalty?), does that mean we should simply accept the consequences of Trump’s actions without complaint, and with no assurance of truth? When Neptune and Pluto link arms in this way, madness follows, but way off in the distance there may be redemption, as well. 

Let’s first quickly consider the sunrise chart for today’s MLK Day Holiday. 

Chart 1: MLK Day 2018, January 15, 2018, 7:25 a.m. (sunrise) ST, Washington, D.C. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node.

We’ll be talking more about this chart in the biwheel below, so here we’ll just capture the “lay of the land.” Notice that a Venus-Sun-Pluto conjunction rises at the Capricorn ascendant! This is the same basic energy that gave Senator Dianne Feinstein the courage to take action in the face of GOP attempts to squelch the Russia investigation this past week, only here it’s happening at the ascendant (set for Washington, D.C.). 

In Feinstein’s case, Venus represented her stature as an older female leader (Capricorn); in today’s chart, it seems that the nation-at-large is being called to courageously live out its founding values. Importantly, this stellium falls conjunct Sibly Pluto (chart shown in Triwheel #1 below), which falls in the 2nd house of our national values! Pluto traditionally rules gestation and birth, so by definition it rules these fundamental values. Were we founded on a set of innocent, perfectly democratic values? The mythology would say yes; perhaps we know better in our heart of hearts.  

I would argue that Neptune—which rules the natural 12th house and evokes the Source of life by its association with the oceanic realm—co-rules the gestation process, a point that is brought home by the nice sextile we see here between Neptune and the Moon/Pluto midpoint in Capricorn.  This aspect reflects unsettled obsessions, and a call to purge ourselves of toxins—a call that can be expressed in a range of ways. 

Clearly, Trump’s efforts to expel people he finds objectionable—Salvadorans, Haitians, Mexicans (including the Dreamers he purports to love, but clearly hates)—fit this aspect to a tee. It’s no wonder that the Senate is working overtime to craft an immigration bill that he will sign at this time. 

Polls show, however, that the majority of Americans see Trump’s racist policies and our tortured history in this regard as the problem, the toxin we need to purge, if you will. At the risk of over-simplifying the challenge, the choices boil down to hate or love, cruelty or compassion. 

IMHO, the most powerful times in the 1960s Civil Right movement were the loving, non-violent ones that spoke to the nation’s conscience. King’s uplifting message was above all loving and inclusive; he knew that our historical wounds were hurting all of us, and that healing them would help all of us over the broad sweep of time. 

Are there in-between measures we can take to address legitimate concerns about immigration? Certainly, but even so, one of the more chilling moments this past week was when Trump says he wants an immigration “bill of love”. He’s done his best to confuse away the difference between truth and lie—now he’s on to confusing even love and hate?! A person’s heart is known by his deeds; enough said. 

Where America stands today

There’s a lot more to talk about in the above chart, but this is a good leaping off point for considering it from today’s context—considering where the nation’s focus is today. To do so, I’ve cast the Triwheel below, setting the chart we considered above against the Sibly radix chart (inner wheel) and the Sibly chart, progressed to today’s date (1/15/2018). This layering should help us discuss the topic at hand in the context of our foundational ideals and intentions (warts and all), and based on where we’re at now (progressed chart), should provide either a progress report or a wake-up call. 

What are our compelling priorities and deepest vulnerabilities today, and given these, how are Trump’s race-baiting policies likely to play out? Let’s begin.

Triwheel #1: (inner wheel) USA-Sibly chart, July 4, 1776, 5:10 p.m. LMT, Philadelphia, PA; (middle wheel) USA-Sibly chart, day-for-a-year progression for January 15, 2018 at 12:00 a.m. GMT, Washington, D.C.; (outer wheel) MLK Day 2018, January 15, 2018, 7:25 a.m. (sunrise) ST, Washington, D.C. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node.

MLK Capricorn stellium (Venus-Sun-Asc-Pluto-Moon-Part-of-Fortune-Mercury-Saturn) opposes Sibly Cancer stellium (Venus-Jupiter-Sun-Mercury-Part-of-Fortune) and Sibly Progressed Jupiter Rx-No. Node (Cancer). Not to confuse us any further, Sibly Pluto (Capricorn) also plays into this amazing set of oppositions and along with Saturn (ruling Capricorn), it is the driving force here. Dramatic restructuring of power in society is the core principle here. We see this process at work in the White House, yet we need to hope that the Trump administration will not have the final word in the process, whether on race-related issues or anything else!

Note that MLK Pluto is within 2° of its own southern node (approx. 21°Capricorn), a point that deserves some explanation. Astrologer Michael Lutin sums the challenge up beautifully in the Sept./Oct. edition of The Astrological Journal (UK)[1]. It’s worth an extended quote (compressed a bit to capture key points):

“A complete reorganization and re-examination of government on the world, global, corporate and personal level in your own job is being stirred. A revolutionary spirit is occurring as well as the effort to suppress it.
What makes this even more exciting and complicated is the fact that Pluto, at its place in the heavens in the late 18th century, is now moving across what we call the plane of the ecliptic—or the path of Earth around the Sun…And it will conjoin its own South Node. This position and motion oddly happens to coincide with the abnormal shift in political and military alliances.
…Fears and paranoia can be magnified in a time like this. Xenophoboa arises. And the people have to struggle to fight a feeling of futility…We astrologers know that strange as it seems, a portal to the beyond is being opened…it is actually an opportunity to go through the darkness and re-ignite the light.”
At the end of Lutin’s article, Melanie Reinhart points out a stunning coincidence that should influence our thinking about Pluto’s movements: this transit of its Capricorn nodes coincides with the launch point of the 1993 Uranus-Neptune cycle we are now experiencing! The cultural, political and social upheavals brought on by that cycle in the late 20th century are very relevant to our current situation. 

One example of this stares us in the face continually: the onset of globalization and its redefining of economic realities, not to mention its “flattening” of national boundaries and its exploitation of natural resources, has created one migration crisis after another, dislocating people from their homelands through no fault of their own. More than 65 million people are displaced worldwide, and yes, that will create some urgency about immigration policies in the nations where people may seek to settle. Clearly, every nation has choices of ways to respond. 

I’ve talked at length about these issues in other articles; here, let’s just dwell on the choices the Trump administration has made for dealing with this global reality: lock the doors, build walls and expel those “undesirables” they fear will proliferate (via "chain migration"--a Neptunian twist on slaves arriving in chains?) if they don’t.  Be “selective” about those we take in (more from Norway, please…the fewer refugees and poor people the better). Oh, and while we’re at it… Lady Liberty says what?

This of course ties into Trump’s racist policies, since his administration is promoting blatant demographic cleansing (Moon/Pluto!)—culling the numbers of immigrants and cutting off the pipeline.  This is the difficult, even existential situation we’re faced with, as our national wound of racism calls out for healing and we wonder what America stands for anymore. 

Lutin points out that over the long scope of history, “empires and dynasties have risen and fallen” under similar Pluto passages (p. 23). Not to overstate the matter, but left to our lesser angels, we can be tipped over that abyss. As difficult as it can be, however, Capricorn is a wonderful Saturnian energy for clearing the Neptunian fog and focusing on what’s important and true, so let’s make hay while the cold wintry Sun shines! 

Saturn’s role here as Capricorn ruler and the lead planet in this incredible MLK Day stellium can’t be overstated—it’s as though Saturn is personally leading the charge up that treacherous “mountain” we’re faced with these days. It’s challenging our early Cancer Sibly planets to get with the program, and by exactly sextiling Sibly progressed Saturn, it also encourages the national soul-searching (progressed Saturn is retrograde in Scorpio) we see everywhere in the press. Like a “tough love” teacher, Saturn says that we can be better than this. 

Naturally, we could get stuck on the purely financial dimension of American life (Sibly Venus-Jupiter oppose MLK Saturn-Mercury, while Sibly progressed Saturn trines radix Venus-Jupiter)—yes, the economy’s doing well right now—but more importantly, what higher purposes are we serving with our financial strength? Are we becoming a better nation in the process?  

MLK Mars-Jupiter (Scorpio) inconjoin Sibly Mars (Gemini) and trine MLK Chiron (Pisces). There’s also a grand water trine lurking here, if we factor in Sibly progressed Jupiter-Node, but the inconjunct I’ve noted is of particular interest because it involves the manipulation of our erratic 7th house Sibly Mars. How we define “Others” is always a matter of national policy, and as we’ve seen, it’s rife with potentially racist dynamics. It can also be a volatile geopolitical mine-field, as well. 

With MLK Mars-Jupiter in Pluto-disposed Scorpio, we might suspect that powerful machinations behind the scenes (over the Sibly 12th) are poised to wage “war” (Sibly Mars) of some kind in the course of achieving aggressive goals. Over-the-top, itchy trigger-finger defensiveness is key here (Mars-Jupiter), so Trump’s “shithole” comments fit right in. With this duo in Scorpio, square Sibly Moon and Sibly progressed Mercury (both Aquarius), we need to hope that the damage to our body politic stops there. 

We might argue that there are already a couple “wars” being waged against those Trump views as “Others:” voter suppression efforts are afoot to influence the 2018 mid-term elections—a “war” intent on disempowering certain segments of society (guess which ones); Russian meddling in our election process is continuing unaddressed by the Trump administration (which is thereby enabling it). Unfortunately, Trump’s Sun-Uranus-Node conjunction (Gemini-chart not shown) falls conjunct Sibly Mars, so perceived threats and potential “wars” feel very personal to him. 

Trump’s hair-trigger defensiveness is only enhanced by the Sibly Progressed Moon now falling conjunct his natal Sagittarius Moon: no wonder his over-stimulated emotions have been conflating loyalty to country with loyalty to him, personally!

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Final thoughts

Please pardon my digressions: here, we’re focusing on today’s Capricorn celebration in honor of the good Rev. Dr. King. Unfortunately, the flip side of King’s “dream” is a painful set of illusions, which brings us finally to Neptune’s role in today’s chart. 

Conjunct our Sibly progressed Sun, Pisces Neptune trines Sibly Sun (Cancer), quincunxes Sibly Saturn (Libra) and sextiles the MLK Moon/Pluto (midpoint, Capricorn). Expressed at their highest and lightest, these placements are hopeful and potentially redemptive. Yes, we can return to and safeguard our compassionate national ideals. For instance, there’s a growing American “sanctuary movement:” people of conscience from every religious denomination imaginable are walking their talk in communities by offering shelter to undocumented immigrants threatened with deportation.

Another redemptive move could be less dramatic, but equally important: we can sit down for the uncomfortable conversations that need to be had in this country on the issue of race. We can expose our illusions to the bright light of consciousness where they can be cauterized. Watery energies such as Cancer and Pisces can have us retreating into our comfort zones, but we need to push ourselves out, to where the healing begins. The alternative is also frightening, so why not?

Not surprisingly, to heal we need to also push through long-held, Neptunian illusions. Here’s where Kendi’s article (quoted earlier) makes perfect sense: maybe we have been under the illusion that we’re better than what Trump is showing us from the White House. That we’re more “evolved” when it comes to social equality and racial progress? Is that why Fox can get by with claiming that “everyone” thinks the way Trump talks? 

Kendi captures these possibilities when he says that the “heartbeat of racism is denial.” Sibly Neptune holds court at the top of our national chart—it’s not just about that elusive “American Dream”—it’s about the illusions woven into our national fabric. 

So, we seem to be at a cosmic threshold of sorts, which certainly fits the occasion. Just maybe, to be the better nation that we can beto climb that Capricorn mountain with our dear friend and teacher, Rev. Dr. King—our illusions of equality and racial progress had to be challenged in a brutal wake up-call.  

The important thing is that we do wake up. 

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:

© Raye Robertson 2018. All rights reserved. 

[1] Michel Lutin, “When Pluto goes south…does the whole world have to follow?” The Astrological Journal, Sept./Oct. 2017, Vol. 9, No. 5, London, UK, pp. 20-23.