Terrorism, Prediction And Resolution

The stunning events of September 11, 2001 have changed our lives forever, on a multitude of levels. Millions of words have already been written about that day, its antecedents and what might come next; the electronic and print media teem with articles and opinions which are rich with the benefit of hindsight. Astrological publications, in particular, fall into that category. To this astrologer, however, the question of whether or not this events could have been foreseen raises major issues concerning both the validity and value of prediction.

To my knowledge, very few astrologers alluded in advance to the dangers of September 2001 with anything approaching specificity. Yet the events of September 11 were so striking, literally and figuratively, that one might have expected the usual charts covering mundane (world event-oriented) concerns to have fairly screamed warnings; indeed, we now find ourselves engaged in an all-out war on two continents that could take many years to resolve. Yet the fact is that the various ingress, eclipse and other mundance charts, while ominous in their general portents (as is often the case), did not shout at very many astrologers. What does this mean? Is there a message here on an esoteric level?

First, we have to ask what, precisely, made September 11 so globally shocking- because, make no mistake about it, that day was a sort of Rubicon for the world: nothing will ever be the same again, for any of us. Yet terrorism has been with us for a long time, and peoples of many countries lose their loved ones daily to such acts. Why, then, were the events of September 11 so singularly stunning? One reason was their magnitude, with thousands of lives lost in only seconds, coupled with the factor of extreme surprise. Another was our sudden, appalled awareness of the depth of the hatred driving those acts. The diabolical cleverness of the attacks was another reason: one's skin fairly crawls at the realization that unsuspecting people were effectively turned into missiles against their fellow human beings and institutions. The heterogeneity of the victims is another issue, since not only citizens of the United States of America, but those of over ninety other countries, were annihilated. And one of the most chilling aspects of the attack was the years-long planning behind it, and the global network of communication that made it so effective. The fact that its perpetrators were trained at United States facilities and lived as neighbors among its citizenry compounds the crimes of murder and mayhem.

As many have accurately stated, on September 11 our collective innocence was lost. Almost since its inception, the United States has been seen as a near-impenetrable bastion of strength and security, yet it was successfully attacked with uncommon ease and brutality. Speaking as a citizen of this country, it is fair to say that the United States has long perceived itself as a protector and shelterer of all peoples, a view which the September 11 attacks make clear is not shared by everyone. So entrenched was our national self-image, that many of us were shaken to our roots by the notion that we could be so fiercely despised. The United States is also a country driven by awesome technologies which were not only turned against us and others on our shores, but this by an alleged network of people who live in the most primitive conditions, bearing arms that (in many cases) we, ourselves, have supplied over the years. We are accustomed to perceiving ourselves as powerful, yet as a group we have been driven to near-despair by people whose circumstances might best be described as Stone Age.

And hatred is not the only fuel to this flame: as the saying goes, one man's meat is another man's poison, and what the civilized world recognizes as terrorism, is seen as loyalty to God by its proponents. This introduces one of the most hideous aspects of September 11 and its aftermath. People have been killing one another in the name of religion for centuries, but today we hear groups openly and proudly proclaiming that they have engaged the United States in a holy war (a so-called Jihad) on behalf of Allah, who actively supports and enables it. That is the larger message of September 11, and every kindred manifestation that follows comes under its umbrella. Even if the current dissemination of anthrax turns out to be the work of individual sociopaths or homegrown militias, it was spawned on September 11. But in what furnace was that day forged, and why didn't we see it coming? Where were the astrologers in the weeks and months preceding that fateful date?

Earth cannot fail to reflect the heavens. The two are inseparable, and can even be thought of as distinctive states of one another, in much the same way that vapor, water and ice are different densities of one substance. The events of September 11 and thereafter were, indeed, written in the stars and enacted on Earth; it could not have been otherwise. If few astrologers grasped the immediate significance of those portents, one reason might lie in the nature of astrology, itself.

Astrology suggests that which humanity embodies. The full spectrum of human potential is present in each moment, just as the entire cosmos surrounds and penetrates us, even when the sky is obscured by clouds. The opportunities for humanity to express itself through love, or hatred, or in any other manner, coexist eternally. That is why the intelligent use of the will is paramount in human affairs and development. Human nature does not change, so much as it contracts and expands in cycles large and small, mirroring on one level the inbreath and outbreath of creation, and the celestial phases on another. The zodiac and planets describe the full spectrum of human behavior in their symbolism, and that situation is no different today than at the time of our creation; so the fact that particular cosmic combinations prior to September 11 didn't ring many warning bells, is understandable. Humanity has always been internally capable of terrorism, but today's technology has eased the way for its expression; and we also have the capacity for love and sacrifice, qualities we are now called upon to demonstrate as never before. We are dangerous creatures, and these are perilous times. That is the context of mundane astrology in the current millenium.

The astrologers who came closest to predicting September's events (Robert Hand and Robert Zoller) utilized the techniques of classical astrology, rooted in the event-centered 'omen lore' of Babylonia and further developed in Arabia and Hellenistic Greece. Modern astrology arose in the Renaissance after much of the classical material had been lost, and has become overwhelmingly psychological in its emphasis, geared toward the delineation of emotional and mental states. The acceptance of psychological astrology grew steadily in association with the human potential movement (which reached its apotheosis in the 1960's and 70's, when many of today's astrologers received their primary training). The preference for one form of astrology or set of techniques over another tends to reflect the astrologer's personal viewpoints and attitudes; generally speaking, the more psychological one's orientation, the more difficult it becomes to grasp the physical-plane implications of astrological symbolism.

Astrologers (as well as psychics, mediums, tarot readers, clairvoyants and other diviners), despite their specialized knowledge, are simply people participating in the nature of their times. They are heir to the same needs and collective beliefs as their brethren, plus some that seem to be specific to the metaphysical community. Chief among the latter, might be the idea that Everything Is Perfect, cobbled to the notion that humanity is on the brink of a new age of automatic enlightenment -- according to one definition and worldview. Yet the Taliban, Al Queda and other fundamentalist religious groups with whom we are presently engaged believe that they, too, act with wisdom when they carry out what they see as Allah's will. Clearly, these views are incompatible, a fact which -- in itself -- ought to give us pause when we find ourselves dreaming (a glamoured state) of effortlessly attained utopias. We behold the world through our own lenses, and they are limited by their optics (which is to say, we are who we are): we cannot always see as others see. Recognizing this, the majority of astrologers take care neither to offend, nor discourage others; they seek to uplift, to give people the benefit of the doubt, to state observations in a positive manner and to reframe unpleasant possibilities. These aims are noble and correct, for the most part. But they coexist uncomfortably with another notion shared by many astrologers, which is that events can be predicted with accuracy and specificity.

This leads to the question of whether or not human beings have free will, and (if so) to what degree. That issue will not be laid to rest in this, or any other, treatise. It is the view of this astrologer, however, that earthly life is akin to a multiple choice test: given our individual lenses, there are a proscribed number of possibilities that we can see and respond to. We are not strictly fated, nor do we have unlimited freedom. We are who we are -- character is destiny. Is there such a thing as evil? In a word, Yes. Can evil do good? Undoubtedly, but it will either be by accident or in order to achieve a further, more nefarious, end. Can evil be redeemed? Again, unquestionably -- at such time as its practitioner gains the breadth of vision which alone will allow him or her to recognize that possibility. A transit of Jupiter to the Sun will tend to make the Sun more of what it already is -- the transit does not necessarily alter the expression of the Sun, although it can. The potential is there, but what will, or can, be done about it? That is contingent upon the condition of the soul, at both the individual and collective levels. And it is neither dictated, nor shown, by the horoscope. The genuinely intuitive astrologer can gain some idea of the soul's intention and operational systems in the present incarnation, guided by the symbols of the birthchart; but the astrologer's perceptions can only be as inclusive as his or her own spiritual development allows. Nothing is written in stone, and for every evil there is a Grace to match it.

So- does the practice of astrology include an ability to predict the future? I would say not, if by that is meant the capacity to limn each movement and action of a person's, or a nation's, life. But the intelligent practice of astrology does involve the capacity to project outcomes, which is a very different thing. If one remains on one's present course, and it has not proven beneficial in the past, it will not yield positive fruit in the future; as the saying goes, "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten." Prediction/projection in this sense requires the astrologer to have an understanding of the individual and his or her historical milieu that is as deep as it is wide. Countries behave in ways that are analogous to those of individuals, and accurate projections can be made on that basis. Beyond that, prediction per se can lead us into rough terrain.

In particular, unless a prediction incorporates the means to alter circumstances (which provide the context for the prediction), it can be useless, at best -- and blatantly harmful, at worst (not least, because the prediction might simply be wrong). In the case of the September 11 terrorist attacks and their aftermath, obviously prediction did not stop the events from occurring, or even mitigate them. Government agencies tend not to take the warnings of astrologers seriously, in any case, so the accuracy of any such prediction could only have been acknowledged in hindsight. And no one, not even the most insightful astrologer alive, could have known precisely how the attacks would be carried out, or where, or by whom. The ingresses and other charts used for mundane purposes, while sinister in their overall tone, could take us into neither the realm of prevention, nor cure. Considering the sweep, scope and unprecedented dimensions of the terrorism of September 11, one might have expected direr warnings, predictions that were closer-to-the-bone. The fact that they weren't, is esoterically significant.

The signal lesson here is that the state of one's own soul is the most reliable indicator of future events, since events are the logical outcomes or externalizations of inner orientations. This is true of nations and collectives, as well, each of which embodies a group soul. That is why esoteric astrology concerns itself with the dynamics of energy and force (which are of the nature of spirit, soul and subtle substance), rather than events: if the former are understood and dealt with in a positive manner, the latter cannot fail to fall in line -- perhaps not in this lifetime, but ultimately. That is the truth of the human condition, which is intimately linked with the Will as the reality principle on any plane. It is in the nature of the soul to model events from the raw energetic materials available; it is astrology's role to identify what those might be, but rarely (if ever) can we know with absolute certainty what forms they will take.

With that in mind, does esotericism have anything to say about what we might do to ameliorate our current crisis? Absolutely. Every ominous portent is capable of transformation by the will; each great opportunity is fraught with peril. These are two sides of the same coin. Friction is the goad or thrust-block to consciousness, but does not of itself assure growth -- with every such opening, there is the real possibility that we will either fail to see our chance, or miss the mark. The horrific magnitude of the attacks of September 11 (and their sequelae) is matched by an unparalleled opportunity for humanity to take, not mere steps, but an evolutionary leap: we can become more than we have ever been. To do so involves taking a firm stand according to what we know in our hearts to be good, true and beautiful -- the three main qualities of the soul. Esotericism teaches that evil is separative; it is behind everything that seeks to exclude, isolate and ostracize others. Hatred (and its progeny, terrorism) is the essence of separatism. Nationalism per se is separative, but to support the ideals of freedom and brother/sisterhood is to affirm the right of humanity to develop to its full potential, and to make the evolutionary leap that alone can ensure an authentic New Age.

Reasonable people might disagree as to the ways in which this monumental task ought to be carried out. On the insightful television series, "Star Trek," mention is often made of the Kobayashi Maru, or "No-Win Scenario," a test of judgement which all prospective starship captains must take prior to assuming command. In this examination, a hypothetical situation of great complexity and consequence is presented to the examinee, who must produce a workable solution to the puzzle. There are no right or wrong responses to the dilemmas posed by each unique Kobyashi Maru; what matters most, is that the one being tested devise a course of action that is creative and which seems to foster the best perceived outcome, all things considered. The current world crisis presents us with a similar challenge.

In general, killing in cold blood is a separative act and thus tends to rebound negatively on its perpetrator; to kill in self-defense is allowable, however. War is a disturbing blend of both, but it is not esoterically forbidden; indeed, war is a necessity at certain stages of the human journey, and has even been supported by esoteric groups when its aims were clear and fostered the growth and expansion, rather than the suppression, of humanity. At the same time, there are obviously elements of separatism in any conflict in which sides are taken; and we must, if we are honest, strive to see the projected evil in ourselves when we look upon the "enemy," lest we become that which we despise.

Individuals presently (and always) face the same challenges that confront the world at large, which is why each of us is essential to the resolution of any human dilemma. We are asked to decide whether we will support good or evil, as those terms are understood esoterically, without demonizing our adversary. That is a tall order. It is also our golden opportunity.