Planet Waves by Eric Francis
ONE OF THE COMMONLY PERCEIVED GREAT FAILURES of the 1960s was the sexual revolution. In summary, what we think of as the sexual revolution emerged from the marketing of the birth control pill, which for the first time in (known) history created a means by which women could dependably have sex without getting pregnant, but without getting a man involved in the pregnancy prevention effort. Yet at the same time, this included the idea that men did not necessarily have to take responsibility for their sexual actions (not that they ever did, but the pill emphasized the point). And, in related news, many have pointed out that the pill and its subsequent social uprising did little to deepen the intimate bonds between men and women on an emotional level.
And for some, this so-called freedom came with a high price. In the gay community, for example, the sexual revolution is associated with the deaths of tens of thousands of men who practiced Free Love, but wound up getting killed in the process.
We could see these as examples of failures of a social movement, but we could also view them as failures of relationship. Or we could see them as conditions emerging from an inherently self-centered worldview, where personal satisfaction was held as more important than community health or mutual well-being. That doesn't sound very Sixties to me.
The same accusation has been made about the draft. There was, in those years, a televised lottery in which boys would have their numbers picked. Each community had a draft board of men who might be your gym coach or scout leader. Young men, one version of the story goes, refused to go to war not because they felt that the war was wrong, but rather because they didn't want to get killed. Yet the anti-Vietnam War movement was dressed up in moral terms, which can be viewed as a ruse for a deeper selfish interest, wanting to stay alive. There are, of course, other ways to analyze history, but this is one of the more cynical views.
The perspective is supported by the fact that most of the people who were politically active in the Sixties are now living pretty much the same uninvolved lives that their parents did, and are far more concerned about the stock market and getting a new SUV than they are about justice or political progress. Where are these people who were supposedly so deeply opposed to Vietnam, now that we have been mercilessly bombing the daylights out of Afghanistan, and are planning (in the further interests of business) to do the same thing to Iraq? Well, if you figure that they have no personal stake in stopping this war, we can see why they wouldn't bother. If their kids are opposed to attacking Afghanistan, or afraid of the draft, let them stop it. And if we want to take a more realistic view, we might say that everyone who understands capitalism knows how good war is for the economy, usually. Without all that oil, how do you even make an SUV, much less drive one, and how do you fly an F-15 to defend the Free World? We are going to war for the economy!
A Planetary Picture
When we look at this astrologically, we can see the seeming contradictions clearly. The generation of the anti-war protesters was made up of a constituency of people born with Pluto in Leo (1939 to 1957). Pluto in any given sign can bestow as many of the attributes of that sign as does the Sun, Rising Sign or Moon, only it affects millions of people over a full generation or more, and can, at least in part, define a period in history. And it does so in a Plutonian way: with obsession, and a subconscious drive, and what you might call evolutionary urgency. Pluto in Leo people have a reputation for being able to take care of themselves. But, bless them, not much else, though consistent with cats there have been some devoted parents in the lot. But man, these people get divorced like they had a subscription.
Pluto in Leo is also known as the Baby Boom; with the war over, sperm and money began to flow. The years in which these folks were born and bred were pretty wild, and the hysteria of the era is summed up nicely in a film called The Atomic Café. They were raised, simply, in a time when the end of the world was said to be imminent. There was a "Cold War," America and the USSR were both hoping to be number one (and it was going to be one or the other, damn it), and little kids were practicing hiding under school desks in honor of their parents' generation's lust for supremacy and outrageous paranoia. We put Ethel and Julius Rosenberg in the electric chair and felt good about it. We "took care of #1," as my surrogate father Barry used to say.
Many of these kids grew up and became some shade of Hippie, Yippie or Freak.
When the Sixties came around, the planetary emphasis had shifted to Virgo and, increasingly, to Pisces as well. Together, these two signs have a very different feeling, and different social themes, than does Leo. First of all, they take us beyond personal reality. Virgo's first keyword is service, that is, service to others. This sign, and its associated sixth house, includes themes such as healing, teaching and good old unglorified mundane work, most of which subjects derive from Virgo's earliest known theme, servants.
Pisces is a region of consciousness that we think of as cosmic, mystical and inherently spiritual. It has many properties that take us, in thought and experience, beyond this world, beyond normal awareness. These include fantasy, dreams, alcohol and drugs, but also meditation, direct experience of the numinous, and creative processes such as making film and theatre. Pisces has visionary gifts, also has a strong theme of service, because Pisces, most astrologers feel, can tune into the big picture and the higher spiritual purposes of humanity.
Leonine People in a World of Virgo
What happened in the Sixties is that a whole lot of people with very strong, even obsessive, Leonine tendencies found themselves living in the midst of an era where higher priorities and collective needs were coming into focus. Rare conjunctions were activating the Virgo-Pisces axis: Uranus conjunct Pluto in Virgo, and Saturn conjunct Chiron in Pisces (see part one of this series). These four planets combined the themes of revolution and the quest for freedom (Uranus), evolutionary necessity and exploring deeper causes (Pluto), devotion to healing and service (Chiron), and awareness of responsibility and interacting directly with the power structure (Saturn).
Both conjunctions have a special relationship to Saturn, bestowing a lot of energy that was directed at overthrowing the established power structure, or at least not taking it as seriously as it had been in the past. And, power structures such as the Supreme Court took distinctly more liberationist views. There were numerous rulings protecting civil rights, for example; the Court itself was quite literally an activist institution.
But with Nixon rising to power, with many of the great leaders of the day being assassinated (JFK, RFK, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and others), with kids dying every day in a stupid, vicious and criminal war, with others being shot on US soil (at Kent State University, the University of Buffalo and elsewhere) and with the incredible urgency that many people felt for society to finally change, there was still plenty to revolt against.
The Pluto in Leo generation picked up on this energy, and expressed it in its own way. Frankly, there was hell to pay for all the injustices that were being perpetuated by the power structure. There was what one institution called a "crisis of democracy." And this took energy. It is unlikely that any other generation would have had the stamina to stand up to the power structures in the way that this particular generation did. And they had many truly significant achievements, among them being the first generation of men to refuse to go to war -- a mighty accomplishment, and one which has been preserved to the present day. But when the powerful Virgo-Pisces relationship passed, there seemed to be little follow-through by these crusaders.
But a new generation has come. Pluto moves slowly, but he moves dependably. What happened in the Sixties defined the issues and established the need for deeper relationships between people, and between people and their culture. Today, we have inherited a legacy that we need to cultivate, nurture and develop, but that legacy has its roots in an era when people were not afraid to take up their self-conscious existence and demand change. That took guts and dedication. We could learn a lot from them. And their work spawned many social movements that have persisted to the present day, perhaps in less dramatic forms (less like Pluto and more like Virgo). Now it's up to us to create and develop the sustainable relationships that will allow the following movements to grow and thrive.
The Organic Movement. Organic food and organic farming are part of the same thing but are really two different social fronts. A population of people is beginning to understand the need for cleaner food, and another for cleaner agriculture. And there has been significant, successful movement against GMO foods in the UK. The phrase back to the Earth and the notion of ecology (which means the study of home), which were so popular in the Sixties, are now manifesting as solid business ventures and as a new generation of family farms and an environmental movement that is based on an actual relationship to the Earth, not just ideas about the Earth. And there is a concrete idea of grassroots action and the need for structure if we're going to have sustained success.
Goddess Religion. We no longer just need to be against the patriarchy. The Goddess is returning in all her diversity, as reverence for nature, as Ammachi, as the Tantrika or Sacred Whore, as the amazing popularity of Wiccan faith and tradition, or as astrologers including feminine archetypes in their chart readings. Most of the women I know, and many of the men, are involved in some form of spiritual devotion that directly honors the feminine spirit of creation and the Earth, and honors women as priestesses, drummers and the Wise. This is about a direct relationship to Goddess rather than a conceptual one.
Burning Man. While this is hardly a sustainable event, it represents the birth of a spirit of freedom and social responsibility. People are quite literally allowed to do anything they want except fire weapons, and there is no way to prevent that anyway, but they live in peace and harmony. It is the biggest experiment of radical live and let live ever, and also an experiment in a gift economy -- people come to the event with the intention of giving away lots of what they have, and they are generally willing to share the rest. It is really interesting to live in a city with a free bike shop, free dance clubs, free art exhibits, and if you need it, free food. The Rainbow Family has done a pretty good job of this as well at its gatherings around the world.
The Holistic Movement. Thus was it not ever that you could buy homeopathic remedies in supermarkets, get foot reflexology in a hospital or visit an acupuncturist without wandering down Mott Street. The holistic and human potential movements of the 1970s came through a door that was blown off in the 1960s: that door was the notion that there is no alternative to conventional ideas. It is up to a generation of practitioners, most of whom have Pluto in Virgo, to develop their mastery of their art forms, to build the reputation of the work they do so that they can have more credibility in society, and to develop a basis of mutual respect with their clients.
New Relationship Models. The difficult questions of relationship that needed to be asked in the midst of the Sixties sexual revolution are being asked today, in movements devoted to polyamory (responsible nonmonogamy), bisexuality and new experiments in intentional community. They involve efforts at making families and love affairs more egalitarian and trusting, and more reflective of real human needs, including the needs of children. Equality, honesty and working on one's issues are the basis of polyamory and most other new relationship models. In my view, the polyamorous community is asking the questions that most monogamous people need to be asking as well, and this is one example of how the sexual revolution continues in a much more responsible, if smaller, form than it began.
All of these examples are based on redefining relationships. They represent a need for grassroots action, and a sober view of things. They represent expressions of sustained commitment to ourselves, to one another and to an ideal that first emerged well over a generation ago, and have miraculously survived everything from Nancy Reagan to the American Medical Association, and are now alive in our hands. Power to the people, man. ++
-- Thanks to Elle McKenzy, David Arner, Denice Taylor and Jeanne Treadway, who helped me think this through.
Credit: T. A. Rector, B. Wolpa, M. Hanna..