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The Rise of the Religious Right: A Cultural History

Part I: Setting the Stage

religious-rightIt’s useful to begin this discussion by reviewing the dialectical process of transformation: First there is a change in the culture (the thesis), followed by a reaction to that change (antithesis) and the resolution that results (synthesis).

In recent history, perhaps we can trace the current religious right back to the cultural upheavals of the 1960s during the conjunction of Uranus and Pluto that occurred in Virgo. I can’t improve on the way Palden Jenkins describes the combination of Uranus Pluto on his fantastic Historical Ephemeris site:

Uranus and Pluto do not automatically signify forward change. They bend the bars and blow holes in the walls, leaving us to respond to the acute options presented. One sector of society might take one path, and another sector might take another. It’s not always ‘the people’ who lead and the saturnine authorities which resist – ‘revolution from above’ happens too, as Mao Tsedong attempted in the 1960s Chinese Cultural Revolution.Uranus and Pluto have their own characteristic styles of creating resistance and conservatism. They can push people up against their fears, exacerbating resistance to change by threatening insecurity or disaster. Uranus’ resistances include the diversion of social energies. Two examples are the starting of the Napoleonic wars and of WW1, both of which captured nascent popular energies which became dangerous to the established order. Yet when one plays with such forces, they can backfire. Uranus can hijack new initiatives by forms of trickery too, as in the revolutions of 1848, when European bourgeoisies filched the restless energies of factory workers to strengthen their own power.

Pluto’s resisting patterns include outright oppression and escalation of social control. Two relatively recent examples were the stamping out of protest and the illegalisation of LSD around 1968-70 [followed by CIA mind control experiments using that drug in the early 1960s] or, worse, the Nazi takeover in Germany in 1933 (during a Uranus-Pluto square). Here, suppression of minorities disguised the subtle control and coercion of majorities. Another Plutonine example is the use of abject fear and destruction – a recent example being the use of defoliants and napalm in Vietnam in the late 1960s.

Genghiz Khan, master of medieval blitzkrieg, set the Mongols on the rampage around the 1201 Uranus-Pluto conjunction (in Cancer). By the square of 1236-39 they threatened Eurasia, and by the opposition of 1283-86 they ruled much of it. The zenith of the neo-Mongol terror-merchant Timurlenk, reputed for his piles of skulls, occurred later during the major configuration of the 1390s (mentioned in an earlier article), with Uranus and Pluto in opposition. Terror indeed.

There’s a hidden twist and kick-back: these forces are, after all, uncontrollable. The energy of revolutions can often turn to chaos, leading to the re-creation in new form of what was destroyed: Louis XVI’s execution in 1793 turned into the emperorship of Napoleon by 1799, and Czar Nicholas’ death in 1917 lead to the rise of Stalin in 1924. The historical lesson here is that, if forces of change are blocked, they turn savage, leading to excess and consequent reaction, giving power to historical figures with the spunk to take advantage of a situation. Yet such power-holders usually embody something in the collective psyche which craves authoritarian control, even if demanding the opposite.

The influences of Uranus and Pluto are not simple and clear-cut. During the Uranus-Pluto square of 1933-34, a pressing need to reactivate sagging economies after the worldwide crash of 1929 led in Germany to Hitler’s rise (he was seen at first as a reformer and national saviour) and in USA to Roosevelt’s New Deal (an enlightened move which actually gave background military-business interests an insidious leg-up). Similarly, in the mid-1960s conjunction, there was a mixed outpouring in pop music of both light (“All you need is love”) and dark energies (“I am the god of hell-fire…”), bringing very confused archetypes into the public domain.

civil-rightsThe social and cultural change that occurred in the 1960s, while thrilling and exhilarating to those who embraced it, was shockingly frightening to those who resisted the force of change. Free love and sexual expression, the explosion of mind-altering drugs, the rise of Black Power and women’s rights. Nothing was the same and everything was different, and this cultural upheaval planted the seeds for the conservative reaction that came later. We can trace this reaction through the evolution of the Saturn/Jupiter cycle in which we find ourselves today.

The dance between Saturn and Jupiter acts out the idea of action/reaction. Jupiter takes action: it’s expansive, dynamic, hopeful. Jupiter is willing to step out and make changes; however, Jupiter can be somewhat reckless and overconfident which is where Saturn steps in. Saturn acts as the reaction agent, setting boundaries and limitations to confine the impulses of Jupiter. Saturn therefore represents the conservative impulse. Saturn and Jupiter were conjunct in Capricorn in 1961, coinciding with the inauguration of President Kennedy. One could say Kennedy was the first truly liberal president in the US since FDR, and his election was the catalyst for a new wave in politics, fashion, and the culture in general. That was the year of the birth of the civil rights movement, when the Freedom Riders rode through Mississippi protesting the treatment of black Americans.

Jupiter made its opening (waxing) square to Saturn in July of 1965 and the first combat troops were sent to Vietnam, marking the beginning of the end of the expansive idealism (Jupiter) of the early 1960s. The waxing square presents a challenge, and as the repressive forces of Saturn moved in Jupiter erupted in a violent effort to continue the expansion of the previous years. Uranus and Pluto were in tight conjunction that year and police attacked civil rights demonstrators in Selma, after which President Johnson signed into law the civil rights bill which was later expanded to include rights for women. A tornado outbreak in April (when Mars was conjunct Uranus) brought fifty-seven tornadoes to the midwest, a vivid symbolism for the upheaval of Uranus and Pluto, and the Watts riots erupted during the Long Hot Summer.

A conjunction of Jupiter to Uranus and the entry of Saturn into Taurus in 1969 brought a tremendous surge of creative energy in the form of several powerful cultural events that marked the culmination and implosion of the social change of the 1960s: Woodstock festival and the Moon landing, followed shortly by the Manson murders and the violent Altamont festival. Saturn is the most conservative of planets, since it strives to maintain order and preserve form. In Taurus, the sign of stability and resistance to change, Saturn stubbornly holds to the status quo. That resistance creates more tension when opposed by the desire of Jupiter for expansion, and the oppression becomes more severe. 1970 continued the slaughter of the 1960s ideals as the counterculture imploded following the Kent State murders and the death of Janis Joplin.

In the background, the backlash was beginning.


woodstockOne underlying thread of influence throughout this period is the continuing opposition of Chiron (exposing the wounds in the culture) with Uranus (individuation and radical new ideas). This is too complex to cover in this context but I’ll drop these tantalizing tidbits: Chiron and Uranus were in opposition fairly consistently during the period between 1952 and 1989 with over 40 exact oppositions. The pressure on the culture worldwide to permit individual rights (Uranus) and the painful results of not doing so (Chiron) is one of the overall most important factors in the rise of the empowerment of the Self that we have seen over the past 60 years.

After the cultural upheavals of the 1960s, the final event in the opposition of Jupiter to Saturn took place in November of 1970 coinciding with the passage of Neptune (spirituality) from Scorpio (sexuality, the occult and death), where it had been since the 1950s. During Neptune’s passage through Scorpio, psychedelic drugs became associated with spiritual experiences, and the occult became popular. In 1966, during Neptune’s passage through Scorpio, Time Magazine asked the question on everyone’s mind, “Is God Dead?” about a spiritual movement that arose during the 1960s which argued that the sacred had disappeared from modern culture. The Supreme Court decision banning prayer from public schools was often cited as a cause of this problem, as well as easy access to contraceptives that led to a more lenient attitude about sexuality (Scorpio) and premarital sex became more common.

The ingress in 1970 of Neptune into Sagittarius, the sign of religion and shared ideals, brought a new concept of spirituality (Neptune) into religion (Sagittarius). This was the cusp of the New Age movement in which one experienced God, rather than just believe in God. The dissolution (Neptune) of the role of traditional religion (Sagittarius) must have been very frightened to the more conservative Christians who felt their way of life slipping away, particularly after the increasing demands of power from women and black Americans.

Pluto’s entry into Libra in 1971 marked the explosion of the feminist movement and a decade of that was later termed by Tom Wolfe as the “Me Decade” for its focus on individual rights (Pluto in Libra created a breakdown (Pluto) in established relationship patterns (Libra)). Gender roles for women (Venus/Libra) were transformed, with more women entering the workforce than ever before. The entire system of marriage irrevocably changed during the Pluto/Libra period as families dealt with issues such as day care that had not previously been an issue when women stayed home.

The first sign of the conservative backlash may have been the fight by Phyllis Schafly against women’s rights. While her fight began in the late 1960s, it wasn’t until 1972 when she campaigned against the proposed Equal Rights Amendment that her battle against feminism went public, galvanizing conservatives across the country.

The Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973 that granted women the right to an abortion was perhaps the single most important event in the rise of the Christian conservative movement. The case of Roe v. Wade was first argued in late December of 1971, but reargued in October of 1972 in time for Jupiter to square Pluto, overturning (Pluto) the laws against abortion in Texas and liberating (Jupiter) women to make their own decisions about their body.

After Roe v. Wade, and the decision to ban prayer in the public schools, the conservative Christian movement began to organize. Jesse Helms began a group called the Conservative Caucus as a political action and lobbying group to advance conservative causes, and various conservative Christian groups began to form. After Nixon was forced to resign in 1974 during a square of Pluto to Saturn which created upheaval (Pluto) in the government during the Watergate crisis, the Vietnam War finally ended in April of 1975. Jupiter was conjunct Chiron and squared Saturn, combination which continued into 1976 along with a square of Saturn to Uranus. At times the four planets interacted in a powerful Grand Cross, exposing (Chiron) the Watergate scandal (Jupiter/Saturn), breaking up (Uranus) established patterns (Saturn). This era saw the downfall of Richard Nixon, two assassination attempts on Gerald Ford, the first public right-to-die debate over the fate of Karen Ann Quinlan.

In other parts of the world, Palestinian terrorism increased following Israel’s victory in the Six Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur war of 1973, and Islamic fundamentalism begins to grow in Arab states (particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, later run by Al Zahawiri who went on to lead Al Qaeda).


raptureIn 1976 Jimmy Carter campaigned for president on a campaign promise to heal the “malaise” the country was experiencing as the result of a poor economy and the Iran hostage crisis. Malaise is a great description for the Jupiter/Saturn experience as the expansion of Jupiter battles with the restrictions of Saturn. Saturn saps the energy of Jupiter and can cause tremendous fatigue. The square of Saturn to Uranus strives to bring form (Saturn) to new ideas (Uranus) (this configuration also witnessed the beginnings of Apple Computer and Microsoft) but also brings repression (Saturn) against new ways of thought (Uranus), leading to the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1978-1979.

During Carter’s administration the Christian right was mobilizing in response to what they saw as a threat to their way of life. The group American Christian Cause was formed in 1974 shortly after the Roe v. Wade decision as a means to gain more political influence. This group later evolved into the Christian Voice and the Moral Majority in 1978, which campaigned actively for a voice in the Republican party. Having lost much of their power during the explosive social revolutions in the 1960s when their participation in groups such as the KKK gave them a public image as bigots and backwards, they seized the opportunity to use the backlash against the cultural revolution to gain political power. These new political groups used issues that were of concern to cultural conservatives, but used a religious bias. An excellent article cataloguing the rise of the religious right is this one by Bryan F. LeBeau.

Neptune in Sagittarius was trine Pluto in Libra during a long period from 1974 through 1982 that coincides with the rise of the political Christian right. Neptune in Sagittarius in its highest expression integrates spirituality and experience of the divine (Neptune) with religion and theology (Sagittarius), and when in trine to Pluto we saw an increase in power (Pluto) particularly through alliances (Libra) of like-minded individuals. This time period also saw the rise of alternative medicine, the healing arts and spiritual philosophies that were not necessarily doctrinary approaches to religion. However, the connection between religion and spirituality did increase during this period, and fundamentalist Christian groups expanded in number and power along with a number of more nontraditional religions.

The square of Saturn to Neptune between 1978 and 1980 brought repression (Saturn) and confusion (Neptune), personified most vividly perhaps in the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the worldwide energy crisis that resulted, as well as the taking of American hostages. The Saturn/Neptune cycle is often associated with oil and gas (Neptune) shortages (Saturn), and because Neptune rules that which is hidden from view and mysterious, such as the hostage crisis. (The hostage crisis became even more mysterious when Reagan negotiated the announcement of the release of the hostages to occur after he took office so Carter would receive none of the credit.)

Ronald Reagan was the first presidential candidate to welcome the influence of the new conservative Christian political groups, the most powerful of which was Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority. Pat Boone was a close confidant, and Jerry Falwell met with Reagan more than any other religious leader. Jerry Falwell claimed that the Moral Majority was responsible for the election of Reagan, but regardless of the truth of this statement and the fact that Reagan was fascinated by astrology and UFOs conservative Christians loved him because of his stand on abortion and the fact that he believed that Armageddon was close at hand. The Jim Bakker sex scandal eroded support for the Moral Majority after Jerry Falwell took over Bakker’s PTL ministry, and the Moral Majority closed it’s doors in 1979.

Reagan made promises to the conservative Christian lobby that he would advance their agenda, but in reality he did not do much for Christian fundamentalist causes, focusing instead on economic recovery and dealing with the Soviet Union. Reagan’s failure to keep his promises (coinciding with the end of the Neptune/Pluto trine that brought a new wave of power (Pluto) to spiritual groups (Neptune)) led these groups to realize that they needed to build power themselves rather than rely on a friend in the presidency.

In 1983 Pluto entered its own sign of Scorpio and began to break down the established power structures (quite literally in the case of the Berlin wall). Neptune entered Capricorn in 1984 and gave rise to the fantasy (Neptune) of quick gains in the stock market (Scorpio) and the desire for acquisition and success (Capricorn) as noted in the popular television shows “Dallas” and “Dynasty” and the film “Wall Street.” Although the power of the Religious Right had wained during the mid-1980s, the threat of AIDS (Death by sex = Pluto in Scorpio) was portrayed as punishment for the free sexuality of the previous decades and inspired a new generation of conservative Christians. When Saturn conjuncted Uranus in 1988-89 and then Neptune, the repressive forces of Saturn again came into play resulting in a new wave of extremism both from conservative Christians in the US and from Islamists, including the birth of Al Qaeda in 1989. The three major battlegrounds for the religious right are what they perceive as the loss of morality, the rise of feminism and what they perceive as the destruction of the family, and the rise of gay and lesbian rights movements. All three battlegrounds are symbolized by Pluto and Scorpio, and the period from 1983 through 1995 when Pluto traveled through Scorpio created tremendous anxiety for conservative Christians and inspired a huge growth in the intensity (Pluto/Scorpio) of the movement.

This time it was Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition that became the public face of the Christian right on the heels of Jimmy Swaggart’s own sex scandal in 1988. George HW Bush used Reagan-esque tactics of pandering to the Right in order to be elected, but then failed to satisfy their demands and consequently lost to Bill Clinton in 1992, beginning what I like to think of as the Golden Age. The Golden Age also saw the conjunction of Uranus to Neptune in Capricorn that released a sudden wave of radical new ideas (Uranus) and brought fringe spiritual groups (Neptune) into the mainstream (Capricorn). The wave of Christian fundamentalism that was radicalized during the Saturn/Uranus conjunction lost influence after Clinton was reelected in 1996.

Pluto’s entry into Sagittarius marked the beginning of religious and ideological (Sagittarius) wars (Pluto) on many different fronts. The fundamentalist Taliban gained power in 1995 and seized control of Kabul in 1996. In 1997, the Republican-led House of Representatives voted to support the use of the National Guard to prevent removal of the Ten Commandments from a courtroom and members of the Heaven’s Gate cult committed mass suicide. Osama bin Laden openly declared war on the US in 1998. In 1999 various states passed resolutions requiring schools to display the Ten Commandments or to say the Christian Lord’s Prayer.

In March of 2001, with Mars (warfare) conjunct Pluto in Sagittarius, the Taliban blew up (Pluto) the famous 2000 year old Buddhas (Sagittarius). Then on the September 11th came destruction (Pluto) by planes (Sagittarius). Shortly thereafter Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell blamed this action on the ACLU, abortion, and gay people. September 11th and the debacle of the Iraq war combined with the rise of Islamic fundamentalist warfare is seen by many as heralding the end of the world, the Armageddon. We are concluding the pass of Pluto through Sagittarius in 2008 and Pluto is wrapping up the issues of the culture wars, but the battle between fundamentalism and reason has really just begun and will, I believe, be the battle we face as we approach the square of Uranus (radicalism) in Aries (warriors) to Pluto (destruction and change) in Capricorn (social structures, governments, corporations).


By | 2017-04-02T09:41:14+00:00 July 18th, 2006|Favorite posts, Longreads, Politics|Comments Off on The Rise of the Religious Right: A Cultural History

The True Meaning of 666?

Elsa had a link the other day to a site called Astrococktail that has a great collection of news links with astrological connections. From that site I found a link to the works of Chrichton Miller, who speculates that the Celtic Cross was an instrument for astronomical calculation, and that the ancients knew the locations of many of the constellations by using the Celtic Cross.

Miller claims that the constellation Draconis (the Dragon, or Serpent) lies above the latitude of 66.6 degrees. Astronomer David Pratt confirms this: “The north ecliptic pole lies in the constellation Draco, and has the equatorial coordinates 18h (270°) RA, +66.6° decl. “ The word “Draco” is from the Greek draconis meaning “dragon,” and the constellation is symbolized by a coiled serpent or dragon.

I then found this interesting page, The Stars of Revelation, from which I quote the relevant passages of Revelation regarding the Dragon:

[Rev 12:1-6] [A]nother portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth…

Later, there is a war between Archangel Michael and the dragon:

[Rev 12:7-9] Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world–he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

Later, in Rev 13:11-17, another beast appears that “spoke like a dragon.” This beast “works great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of men,” and it’s number is 666.

Ancient cultures throughout the world have legends of serpent-like creatures that were revered and feared, representing wisdom, knowledge and power. The Aztec god Quetzalcoatl was known as the “feathered serpent,” and in China, dragons are the most powerful and divine of creatures. Even the snake in the Garden of Eden was the monitor of the Tree of Wisdom.

Surely the connection between the dragon, the number 666 and the constellation Draco at the 66.6 degree declination is more than a coincidence. Nowhere could I find a more reasonable explanation of this number “666.” I have no idea what this means, but it’s certainly worth pondering.

By | 2006-06-04T11:49:00+00:00 June 4th, 2006|Favorite posts, Religion|Comments Off on The True Meaning of 666?

Spirit and Fate in the Astrological Chart

The ancient Greek term “daemon” has come a long way from its original meaning as guardian, guide or higher self,.  The term “demon” gained a malevolent bent in the early books of the Old Testament as nasty creatures who caused disease and plagues, and in the New Testament, they were considered to be angels who had fallen from grace and turned to the dark side.

For Plato, the daemon or guiding spirit was chosen by the soul before each incarnation. For most people the daemon was thought to be an unconscious guiding force, but the occasional enlightened beings were said to be able to communicate with their daemon. In ancient Egyptian astrology, the daemon was said to be symbolized by the Sun sign. Iamblicus , student and teacher of ancient mysteries (280-330 CE) wrote: “”For whether these arts are knowable or beyond comprehension, yet the aura or emanation from the stars brings the daemon to us, whether we ourselves are cognizant of it or not.” These ancient sages wrote before the age of monotheism limited the role of the divine in the lives of men and women, and offered a more personal concept of deity.

The question of fate versus free will is an ancient one, and astrology has been used for thousands of years to determine one’s fate and thereby avoid the painful process of self-discovery. Until the emergence of the outer, or transpersonal planets over the past few centuries, Eastern and Western schools of astrology all taught that one’s fate was preordained by the stars and that very few humans could escape their destiny. One’s horoscope was beneficial or detrimental, and one’s fortune in life was set in stone and easily predicted. Over time, beginning with the discovery of Uranus and its implementation in the astrological pantheon and continuing with Neptune and Pluto, the practice of astrology began to evolve in a way that offered a greater degree of self-determination to the querent.

The birthchart is given to us at the moment we take our first breath on Planet Earth, and will never change. To that extent our fate is predetermined; our basic identity and certain facets of our personality will never change. The planetary systems that form the basic web of the chart show psychological complexes that predispose us to certain modes of reaction and behavior that will remain with us throughout our lifetime. However, we are given free will which enables us to utilize these very complexes in order to maximizing our true potential and thereby create our own destiny. As a result, we can predict the climate of future events but not the events themselves.

For the modern astrologer and student of transformation, the concept of daemon as the “higher self” or guiding spirit is a significant one and resonates with the symbolism of the astrological chart. We are all familiar with having desired something which is refused us, only to discover later that the event which actually happened turns out to have been much more beneficial to us in the long run. We see this frequently in the work of the planet Pluto, which acts as the “will of the higher self” both in the natal birthchart and when it affects us by transit. In the midst of a Pluto event, when transiting Pluto hits a planet in our birthchart, we are forced to let go and surrender, often kicking and screaming, as our higher self removes from our life that which no longer serves us or keeps us from achieving personal empowerment.

Understanding the role of the daemon or guiding spirit in our evolution can facilitate the transformational process as we develop a sense of greater trust. As our awareness increases, we are able to more effectively distinguish between that which we can control, and that which is being guided.

By | 2017-04-02T09:41:13+00:00 May 16th, 2006|Fate, Favorite posts|Comments Off on Spirit and Fate in the Astrological Chart

What is Compatibility in Relationships?

soulmateWe have been duped by Hollywood and our own sense of incompleteness into believing that somewhere there is one perfect person who is our “other half,” someone who is our perfect complement and will make us feel whole again.

This fantasy is problematic for several reasons. As any of us who have been in dysfunctional relationships knows, two incomplete people coming together do not form one perfect whole. The goal is to become complete in oneself, to learn and grow and evolve into a fully actualized being. In order for that to happen we often need certain experiences which will teach us and put us in touch with various aspects of ourselves. Some of us do this through our work, some through family, some through romantic relationships.

Compatibility is rarely a factor in attraction, because it doesn’t create that attractive spark. We are more likely to be attracted to mates who stimulate us because they are different, who open doorways into worlds that are new to us. Perfect compatibility is boring – it’s sitting on the sofa watching tv for the rest of our lives. Few of us are really looking for this kind of relationship.

The arena(s) in which we will do most of our soul growth is/are indicated in the natal astrological chart. A soulmate relationship generally begins with a feeling of fatedness and kinship, which signifies that there will be contact on a soul level. This does not necessarily mean that marriage and a lifetime of perfect harmony will follow, but rather than this relationship will provide lessons and growth experiences for you. It is not unusual for this kind of relationship to fall away once the lessons have been learned so that the individual can move on to the next level.

Compatibility analysis using astrological symbolism can identify areas of tension and ease between two people, and identify areas of compatibility and the source of challenges that the couple are likely to encounter. It can also offer solutions to aid in resolving longstanding conflicts. But the real question for me is not “are these two compatible?” Instead my question is: Does this relationship aid both individuals in their growth and can they have a good time along the way?

By | 2017-04-02T09:40:54+00:00 January 15th, 2006|Favorite posts, Relationships|Comments Off on What is Compatibility in Relationships?