[Editor's note: we are honored to present this excerpt, the first in a series from astrologer Jessica Murray's new book At the Crossroads, An Astrologer Looks at These Turbulent Times (July 2012), a new collection of published essays available now.]
Prophecy and Symbolism
During the several years leading up to the year 2012, there were swarms of prophecies buzzing around. We can learn a lot from them; not about 2012 so much as about the human mind. They show us how the popular imagination reacts to the underlying currents from which history is created.
There was a common thread between all the different 2012 scenarios posted on the internet, reported on TV and written about in books. They all described a preternatural cataclysm that would happen all at once, like the chimes of a grandfather clock when its hands reach the midnight hour.
The mass rapture that was predicted by certain religionists, the extraterrestrial visitations anticipated by UFO enthusiasts, the telluric disasters and meteor collisions warned of by apocalypse trackers—zall of these featured sudden, cinematic dramas taking place in the external realm.
The existence of these fevered pictures leaves no doubt that the public is well aware of the convulsive growth spurt that has been associated with our epoch by any number of spiritual traditions. And they show us how the mass consciousness deals with such convulsions: they get interpreted as big, splashy, literal events.
Throughout history, seers and sages who wanted to express important, complicated ideas have used the language of metaphor. In legends and scriptures worldwide, prognosticators have explained their visions in symbolic code. When the Buddha wanted to talk about the attainment of impeccable wisdom, he told a story about the discovery of a priceless gem. When Jesus wanted to evoke innocence, he told a story about a lamb.
Granted, there have always been believers who took these things literally. There were and are Christians, for example, who believe that evil is personified—not allegorically, but actually—by a red-skinned man with horns, hoofs and a goatee. And there are traffickers in astrological predictions who find plausible the idea of Earth being taken over by aliens, or of humanity being enlightened in one fell swoop by a New Age bolt of lightning.
Endings and Beginnings
We modern thinkers are capable of more subtlety of thought than this. Certainly we are brought up to see ourselves as more advanced than, for example, the medieval philosophers who saw the world as flat. “How could they be so silly as to believe that if a ship were to sail out to the horizon, it would fall off into nothingness?” we ask ourselves. But that’s not very far removed from the belief that, after December 21, 2012, the world will end.
I am not even sure what “the world will end” means. I wonder what it looks like in the imaginations of those to whom it is imaginable, for something to simply cease to exist. The closest approximation I can visualize would be an animated cartoon, or a CGI-enhanced movie, where the picture was there, and then—poof—it wasn’t.
I think we can be sure that the ancient Mayan seers, from whom the year 2012 derives so much of its currency, did not see endings this way. For them and for other ancient peoples, death didn’t exist in a vacuum. It was a precursor to rebirth. They saw the period we are in right now as an organic clearing of the decks, in preparation for the cycle to come.
Metaphorical vs. Literal
In astrological symbolism there is no absolute boundary of meaning between literal and figurative. It is quite true that the planet Uranus, for example, is associated with actual earthquakes, and, in combination with Pluto in Capricorn, with literal stock market plunges and the collapse of governments. But the reason these symbols are said to “govern” these things is because of the energy patterns that underlie the events.
Granted, there isn’t much buzz in forecasting that the world will experience… well, pretty much more of the same. Not a very sexy prediction. But in our hearts, each of us knows quite well that, barring radical intervention, the trajectory humanity is on will indeed bring us tomorrow what we have today—only more so.
The big news about these epochal transits isn’t about the outside world at all. It’s about what happens inside of us.
Jessica Murray’s new book, At the Crossroads, is available on her website.