One of the most useful things I have learned from studying astrology is contained in the following simple but powerful insight.
Thinking has shape.
Our entire reality, both the physical world around us, and the mental world of our consciousness, shares a single basic structure, a structure that can be expressed in terms of mathematics and geometry.
Traditional astrology is all structured on the basis of the symbolism of the first four numbers – 1,2,3,4 – their corresponding geometric shapes – point or circle, line, triangle, square – and the energy dynamics they represent. The elements, the planets, the signs, the houses, the aspects – the basics are all there, contained in the meaning of those four numbers, and everything else in astrology builds on their foundation. (More on that in future posts – much, much more.)
The structure of astrology, including the geometry, is a way of mapping the structure and dynamics of human experience, including our thinking. Once you really understand those basic numbers and structures, you can use it to make sense of the different dimensions of human life – including politics.
What is the shape of our thinking? And, how is that shape playing out in the politics of the current situation here in America? That is the question I want to explore here.
I want to focus on the numbers 2 and 3, their basic meaning, and the astrology aspects they represent.
Two is represented by the opposition, and by the pairs of opposites that make up so much of the language of astrology – day/night, masculine/feminine, hot/cold, wet/dry, benefic/malefic.
Two is the most natural way that our minds sort things when we aren’t paying attention, when we are not self-aware. We tend to divide things into opposites.
Two also means taking sides, choosing one of the opposites as good and standing over against, opposing, the other.
By contrast, Three is the trine, the smoothest and most harmonious and peaceful of aspects.
In terms of how our minds work, thinking in threes takes conscious effort, awareness, reasoning. It is a deliberate and conscious process where you stand back from a pair of opposites and consider where you could find a third harmonizing point.
When you are dealing with an opposition aspect in an astrology chart, it is good practice to look for a third point that is in a smooth, trine/sextile aspect to the two opposition points. That third point can serve as an integration place.
Another way of dealing with an opposition is to look for a third point that is in a square aspect to the end point. That is also a meeting place but it is tense, unstable, and is a place for dynamic action, for the stress of the opposition to be worked off.
If you think of the geometry of points, with two points you have only a line, and you can go back and forth and that is it. With a third point you have a vantage point outside of the line, from which you can view both of the ends of the line at the same time and get another perspective. Two points gives you a line, three points gives you a triangle, which is the most stable of shapes.
That third point gives you a higher point of view – you are viewing the line from a higher dimension, a higher logical level.
So what does this have to do with our political situation today?
Thinking in politics is all about twos – polarized opposites.
There is a reason why there are exactly two major parties, no more and no less. Any third party is the oddball, the odd one out, and is usually framed by the media as taking support away from one side or the other – three gets collapsed back to two. In close elections, voting for a “useless” third party candidate is framed as a traitorous act – you are not voting for Us, so that vote taken away from Us is, by default, a vote for Them. (By that odd logic, voting for a third party candidate is the one way your vote is counted twice – think about it.)
In politics, and in the media, you see thinking in terms of twos, either/or thinking. Us/them, liberal/conservative, Republican/Democrat, Capitalist/Socialist.
The two opposite sides cannot be integrated, cannot work together, without a third point that gives shared ground between the opposites. Opposing values can only work within the larger framework of a shared value system that is greater than the opposition.
One way to get opposites to work together is to give them a combined enemy, a different Other that they can unite in opposing. This is still at the level of thinking in twos, but it pushes the two, the other, out onto an outer entity. We are One as opposed to Them. I think this is analogous to a T-square aspect in astrology, where two points vent their built up tension out on a third point.
I don’t think it is a coincidence that our country is almost always involved in some kind of war, either hot or cold, and that we function best when we are united against a clearly defined enemy that is clearly a threatening Other. Without an Other to unite against, the tendency is to turn on each other – the need to have an Other, an Enemy, someone or something to oppose, is very strong.
In good economic times, when the economy is growing and thriving – and our country is just off an unprecedented century long period of economic expansion fueled by a massive use of fossil fuels, especially oil – in such times of growth, it is easier to find a consensus, a shared working agreement, that keeps things functioning.
Also, diversity of values is okay provided the diversity is not too extreme, and that there is some consensus of shared values that the diversity can function in. When diversity gets too extreme and core values are threatened, then the consensus can break down.
There is no such thing as complete freedom of speech – such freedom is always implicitly within an acceptable assumed larger framework, a shared set of values. If free speech pushes too far outside of such a framework the system breaks down.
When things start to break down – when the economy stagnates and growth slows or stalls – when the supply of cheap oil runs out, and people can no longer afford to buy enough to keep the economy going – or when there is too much diversity, when some behavior or speech is publicly accepted that is too far outside of the bounds of what others can tolerate as reasonable or decent – then the strains in the system become visible.
In a two-based thinking system, when something goes wrong, the first and logical response is to find the Other that is to blame. Notice how much of the rhetoric in the last several elections has been framed around blaming Them for our problems. For many election cycles now, people have been warned that if you do not vote for Us, then the evil Them will win – and They are the source of our problems.
Us/them thinking, thinking in terms of polarized opposites.
When the Us/Them polarity is intensified, then finding that compromise point, the third meeting point, can get framed as a negative thing. “Compromise” has become a negative term, and being willing to compromise is equivalent to being a traitor to your side. Also, you can compromise on a lot of issues, but not on issues that touch your core values – and some of the fault lines in our culture today cross core values on both sides. Trust goes down, accusations go up, lawsuits increase.
The tendency is to boil issues down to a simple matter of right and wrong – but the problem with two is just that – there are two sides. If you think in terms of twos, then you have to choose one or the other.
You have to take sides.
Choosing for one side means choosing against the other side.
It is definitely not a simple case of one side being right and the other wrong, since the two sides can have very different ideas of what those terms mean.
Let’s take just one issue, one that is very emotionally charged – sex and gay marriage.
One side is convinced that is absolutely Right that all humans should have the choice as to how to conduct their sexual and relationship lives, and that gay people have as much right to that as anyone else. In terms of our western cultural history this belief has not been the norm for at least two millennia, but to people who hold to this belief, it is plain and obvious – just the Right thing to do. (I can’t tell you how many posts I have seen on Facebook that are along the lines of, Why can’t they just do what is Right? ) This side has countless sacred scriptures they can point to that support their belief.
The other side is convinced that God, the source of what is Right, declared that the only proper form of marriage is between a man and a woman, and any other sort of union is an abomination, Evil. That side has a couple of thousand years of religious and legal precedents, and countless sacred scriptures they can point to that support their belief.
For both sides, that issue cuts right to the core of what they view as Right and Wrong, and the reaction in that area is immediate, instinctive and very strong. The belief is hard-wired into the structure of their minds by now, so that it takes no conscious thought to react along those lines. In fact, it takes a great deal of self-awareness and self-control to avoid reacting that way.
Consider the opposite sides in the demonstrations that have been happening in our country recently. I sympathize strongly with one of the sides – but if I stand back and look at the two of them facing off, I can see that each of them shares this set of thoughts.
I am superior, and you are inferior.
I am right and you are wrong.
My values are higher than yours.
I look down on you and I despise you.
You are my enemy and I oppose you.
I will fight you and I will win.
If you are like most people, you are probably thinking – well of course, and it is obvious which side is in the Right! That goes without saying, without the need for thinking.
That is thinking in twos, thinking in opposites. If you approach the situation in terms of which side is right and which is wrong, that is more thinking in twos, and it perpetuates the problem. The opposites stay opposites, and the tension grows.
(Well yes, but isn’t it obvious which side is Right?)
What happens when you have that unreleased tension of opposites? It keeps growing, and the two sides become increasingly polarized. If the two sides are not able to find a point of release, the tension looks for some sort of outlet – and you have some kind of crack, or fracture, or explosion, or violence.
Tension builds until it explodes.
If there is a viable approach, it has to be along the line of thinking in threes – looking for a meeting point, a median, a higher more inclusive value and frame of reference that includes both sides. In astrology terms, we are looking for the trine or sextile that can serve as a mediating point where the two sides can come together and resolve the tension.
That has to start by letting go of the polarizing, blaming, demonizing process, that need to see your side as Right and the other side as Wrong. That sounds like an easy thing to do, until you actually try it, especially if one of the sides has beliefs or behaviors that trigger any of your own value hot buttons.
I have lost more than a few friends in this past year because I refuse to hate the same people they hate, refused to polarize along the same lines that they are. Even just wanting to stand back from the whole polarization process, to try and understand both sides, was enough to get me banished – after all, if you’re not with me, then you’re against me. You have to take sides.
(If you’re not against Donald Trump then take me off your friends list right now…)
Thinking in threes also means being willing to respect both sides as motivated by what they view as right, and being willing to just listen to each side to understand where they are coming from. You can’t have a dialog until both sides are willing to talk and listen – and listening is a far more difficult skill than talking.
When you are thinking in twos and trying to work together, you are down on the dimension of a single line, and trying to move the compromise point as close to your end of the line as you can – it is an adversarial model, where one side wins and the other loses, and you move it as close to your end as you can, given your power.
When you think in threes there is a vantage point off of the line, an outside reference, a higher value to refer to. This outside vantage point makes it possible to see the line as a larger whole, and look at what common value frames it – so it is possible to frame things as a win/win kind of situation by keeping a larger framework in mind.
Thinking in terms of twos – and the large majority of people, and the culture as a collective frames thinking in terms of twos – for a democracy to work there must be an agreed upon standard of values as a frame of reference.
The two points on the line can get only so far apart to work together.
In society, the wider the range of openly acceptable values, the more strain it puts upon a common standard – so that, as freedom of expression, freedom of values, freedom of lifestyle, becomes more and more broad to include more of what were formerly out groups – it puts more strain on the collective consensus – the opposite poles get ever wider apart until they fracture, break down.
That is a paradox of any democratic society – the more freedom and diversity of value that you have, the more of a strain it puts on the collective social consensus.
Consider how many sorts of behavior are now out in the open and at least theoretically accepted, that at one time were either unthinkable or could literally get you arrested.
Until fairly recently it was against the law to preach or write anything that opposed the Christian religion – that has been true in America, in England, and in much of continental Europe. For other countries in the middle east, being anything other than Muslim could get you killed. To be accused of being a witch could get you burned alive or buried alive – consider the Salem witch trials in our own country.
Women’s rights? consider how very recently in history women in America obtained the right to vote. Equal rights for men and women before the law? That amendment to the constitution was proposed back in 1923 and it has yet to pass.
Consider sexual behavior – until very recently some forms of sexual expression could land you in prison – ask Oscar Wilde. When the English occultist Aleister Crowley refers to some subjects “whereof it is not lawful to speak” he meant that literally – talking about sex in the wrong way could land you in jail.
Transgender rights? Until very recently transgender sexuality was an unthinkable abomination, a monstrosity of nature. Unfortunately, it is still an unthinkable abomination in a lot of people’s minds.
Homosexual relationships and marriage? Look through older writings referring to the “peculiar vice of the Greeks”. Older translations of the Greek philosopher Plato go through all sorts of contortions to avoid clearly translating certain objectionable parts.
Equal rights for different races? It doesn’t take much digging to see how very deeply the mythology of the superior White Aryan race runs in our cultural history. Us/Them, Superior/Inferior thinking, runs very deeply within our collective psyche.
So, the more there is a broadening of civil rights for more and more formerly out groups and formerly unacceptable behaviors, the more it puts a strain on any sort of collective consensus of shared values.
Depending on your value system, this broadening of civil rights could either be viewed as, progress towards a more just and inclusive society – or, a collective breakdown and degeneration of moral standards.
This is not a simple question of good and evil, right and wrong, white and black. Wherever you divide things in twos, if good falls on one side, evil falls on the other – and if you have parties who disagree as to the nature of good and evil – you either find a shared higher value or the collective consensus breaks down, and the formerly united society is no longer united.
Wherever you have a breakdown in shared moral standards, the culture or country falls apart. I see such a breakdown in process in America today, and I do not see any signs of any sort of shared higher collective value emerging.
So, you people who are standing on opposite sides of a picket line or demonstration – that is precisely the issue at hand – you are on opposite sides. You look at the opposite side and see your enemy – and they look back at you from their side and see their enemy…
Do I have any easy answers now? I am just working very hard to understand the situation, to try to stand back and get a sense of where each of the sides are coming from.
I am trying to avoid taking sides.