Tribalism in the Twenty-First Century


 

Erin Sullivan will be a special guest for "Galactic Alignments: Charting the Soul's Journey Through Astrology," a live interactive video course hosted by Adam Elenbaas. It starts on September 16. For more information, click here.

The Global Picture

The transit of Pluto in Sagittarius, accompanied by the transit of Neptune in Aquarius for most of the same time period, and fortified by seven years of Uranus in Aquarius, heralded the early stages of a new pattern of tribalism that will likely underpin the true global society. When Uranus and Neptune conjoined in late 1980's through mid-1990's in Capricorn, traditional structures in all areas of collective activity were already in the chaotic stage of transition, and the advent of true global unity seemed impossible, but indeed, was already in formation.

The concurrent transits of Uranus and Neptune in Aquarius (through to Uranus' entry into Pisces in March 2003 and Neptune into Pisces in 2010) describe the global chaos we see at the turn of the third millennium, but slowly, the chaos will begin to constellate sundry groups and affiliations under various umbrella-objectives.  These seed groups likely will take centuries to establish working systems, and many if not most will fall by the wayside as experimental.  The initial period of any eventually established 'norm' takes much longer than a single lifespan or even a couple of generations.   I like R. D. Laing's 'relative norm', which seems a better yardstick to measure the immeasurable . . . perhaps typical would be the better word!

As a world consciousness we are on the first wave of the new era — one which has been discussed variously since the early nineteen-sixties — in fact it has been philosophized about since the beginning of literary history.  Looking back over major social transitions for the last two millennia — and there are many turning points initiating sweeping collective and individual changes that demarcate those two thousand and some years — this is the first time in history such a shift not only encompasses but also involves the entire world.  Lovelock's Gaia is now here.  But, rather uncomfortably so . . . this chaotic, riotous and calamitous period of social disintegration/reintegration — what I have come to call "The First Global Guerilla War" — is natural, inevitable and, in the long run, akin to all 'primitive' prototypes of future civilizations.

Shifting Perspectives

First we will focus on some collective themes of Pluto in Sagittarius; and then, look at more individually useful motifs such as Jupiter and the sign Sagittarius and the ninth house of the horoscope.  Each of these symbolic agencies has great impact on how we define ourselves as members of the human race and how we fit ourselves into the subsequent smaller groupings and further, into our personal relationships.

Even today, the words tribe, tribal and tribalism tend to invoke images of archaic humanity, huddled around fires, hunter/gatherer banding through necessity and location.  And, on a gut level, this remains the rudimentary foundation of a tribe.  A tribe, then, is a society of people whose rituals and common beliefs, ethics, behaviors and/or location and surroundings bring them together.

In ancient times tribal groups primarily were based on geographical proximity and the natural laws that arose due to environmental conditions. Elemental, environmental and magical/practical considerations brought groups of people together to form safe containers for their individual safety and family structures.  Being based primarily on safety and protection in the earliest times, tribal affiliation slowly evolved toward upholding various laws as their necessity arose.

Out of geography and natural law emerge myths, language and tribal charters that further individuate the collection of peoples who naturally congregated and flourished under those needs and resulting conditions.   Very briefly, the development of language and symbolic characters — language structures — first arose from viewing the land in which peoples found themselves.  Gods and deities were found active through these points of reference as well, and over centuries elaborate constructs of cosmology, sociology and religion developed.

Our geographical points of reference are no longer the caves of Lascaux, the banks of the Nile River, or the Pillars of Hercules, but literally have extended themselves into the 'heavens' — the realm of Ouranos!  We get email from people from all points on the terrestrial globe, with no indication of their earthly coordinates!  It is fairly taken for granted now that cyberspace is a valid location, and can be tracked, addressed and is a real place.  

Coincident with the shifting boundaries of our world around us are the shifting points of reference we have within us.  The inner reaches of outer space are now manifest, and no longer an esoteric ephemera.

Tribalism in the Twenty-First Century

Contemporary tribalism is no longer based only in local and social origins but increasingly based in intellectual or spiritual points of similarity — such as philosophy, ideology, religious beliefs, social class and so on. Now those were the eventual outcomes of the earliest tribes — their esoterica evolved out of their proximity and relationships.  However, today, our beliefs shape our tribal needs and instinctual attraction to parts of the world we may never actually visit.  The fact that we share an experience in synchronous time all around the world — via satellite transmission — means that we are now all one, if only in cyberspace.   In fact we are united in the great collective unconscious, but that is now becoming increasingly the collective consciousness.

The advent of the extra-Saturnian planets has expanded extraterrestrial awareness while also diminishing the restrictions on 'place' — expanding and in some ways annihilating location as a primary basis for tribalism.  Already since the sighting of Uranus in 1781, our locality has ceased to be ordained by the family-of-origin, but through personal choice, and now this has accelerated to a global level of migration.  Locality is no longer 'as above so below', it is both above and below with no visible boundary.

Heaven and Earth

Focusing on Pluto in Sagittarius for a moment: its entry into that sign was foreshadowed by the mutual reception from Jupiter in Scorpio and Pluto in Sagittarius.  First, however, on December 1, 1994, there was a conjunction of Jupiter and Pluto at 28° Scorpio.  Then, both planets were each in their own sign for the first 10 days of December 1994 (mutual reception); and six weeks later, both were in the sign Sagittarius.   

This solar-system dance symbolized an agreement between the god of the nether world (Pluto) and the primary sky god (Jupiter) — as if each agreed to occupy the other's home for a while, forming a marriage of heaven and hell.  Not the mythic Christian hell, mind you, but the vast realm of the early Greek Hades/Pluto domain with all its active society, wisdom and shady liminal spaces.  In the last century, especially since the sighting of Pluto in 1930,  the underworld, the shadowy world, was brought into the upper air — into Zeus/Jupiter's domain. But, now we have a heady combination to work with — the movement of Pluto from Scorpio into Sagittarius has unleashed all the 'secrets' of Pluto's transit of Scorpio for eleven years prior, and is continuing its divulgence of earth secrets as I write today.  

Thus Pluto's entry into the Sagittarian realm coincided with a breakdown of the boundaries between the unlimited realm of the heavens (potential consciousness), and the secret, dark, primal zone of the underworld (unconscious contents).

Keeping in mind the swifter, but more immediately catalytic transit of Uranus through Aquarius, we have a fantastic combination of unlimited, simultaneous access to realms never before integrated consciously and purposefully: local and global; foreign and familiar; celestial and terrestrial; body and spirit — in short, heaven and earth.

Where am I?

Our groups, friends and affiliated organizations are based both in personal needs and collective interests held in common.  Individuals form communal bonds and agreements, that not only give them a sense of security and agreement in numbers, but also allow the individual to express him or herself more uniquely within the bounds or definition of the collective.  Astrologically, the eleventh house and the sign Aquarius and its ruler, Uranus, are traditionally associated with the 'group mind' while its polarity in the fifth house, the Leo house, and the Sun's natural home, represents the realm of personal, individual life-force and all its creative manifestations.  

The paradox within Aquarius and the eleventh house is this:  we measure our own individuality and uniqueness against the backdrop of the 'collective' whatever that is.  In the context of the anima mundi, the 'collective' is all of humanity, but in the social sense, it means the various groups which form as small collectives within that whole mass.  Further, the function of Sun/Leo/fifth house is to further reduce the group into a single person, YOU, the only you of its kind.

Keeping in mind the essence of Pluto, the existential planet with no moral intent — its transit is about uncovering absolute truths — and its current longitude in Sagittarius (another form of 'truth'),  along with Uranus at home in Aquarius, we have the makings of a social revolution of global proportions.

It all sounds quite fun, really, but it is not without its attendant anxieties.  Groups and organizations are founded to create safe places, they are modeled after the nuclear family, which is the original ideal of the 'safe place'.  It is evident that the arrangement of families has changed drastically since the 1940's, to the degree that the western world (and, slowly, all other cultures, too) is losing its family shape and desperately trying to find more contemporary ways of relating positively to the family structure/tribe.  

Families of Origin

Families are the nest from which we emerge to recreate tribes as extended families — or a group extension of our single self.  The family-of-origin may well be the prototype, but it is not the primary source of adult security.  Over the next centuries, it will become less the nest of neurosis that it has been portrayed in the twentieth century with the development of personal psychology after the model of Freud.  The necessity of the Aquarian principle, as different from the Cancerian nuclear family complex, will evolve more toward tribal families over the next couple of centuries.

The intellectual concept of nuclear family originated in the Pluto in Cancer (1913 – 1939) phase, to be drastically re-imagined and thus re-imaged since then.  Virtually the nuclear family as a constant is now an historical memory.  New and inventive ways of protecting and preparing the young are in progress now, though it will likely take generations to establish a new status quo.  Possibly by the time Pluto enters Aquarius (2024) we shall see the primitive seeds of this time of transmutation bear fruit in a family which is more gregariously organized.

Our innate need for group, place, relationship, participation, self-importance, meaningful activity and so on, is a constant — as a human archetype it does not change — how we personalize, reculture and collectively interpret that archetype will evolve.  How we can activate those fundamental human needs will have to change, and is in chaotic pre-creation now at the turn of the millennium.

Pluto in Sagittarius

The collective experience during Pluto's transit of Sagittarius is already well explicated.  We have a diaspora of cultures all over the world, resulting in a dilution of ethnicity; the redistribution of beleaguered peoples from their strife-torn countries may seem humanitarian, and is in theory, but it makes for loss of culture and beliefs, and an eventual homogenization of races.   

Pluto in Sagittarius has also brought with it a splitting of previously unified collectives such as religious, philosophical, political, scientific, artistic, and economic groupings.  These are rather 'loose' groups, however — they subdivide further into their own sects and allegiances.  However, where once it was possible that whole land masses were primarily Roman or British; or Catholic or Islam; Hindu or Moslem or Buddhist or Taoist; 'primitive' or 'civilized';  wild and tame, this is simply no longer true.  Now we live with global war, which is an infantile method of bringing unity to disparity.

Breakdown and reorganization is integral to evolution.  As alarming as it may seem on a personal level, on an epochal level it is simply part of the eternal weaving of the cosmic loom, creating the fabric of life on earth. Other more immediately warning aspects of Pluto in Sagittarius are the transmission of air-borne viruses; the apparent hubris of genetic engineering (which, in centuries to come, may be quite fine, we don't know that yet); the extinction of thousands of species daily; the loss of the richness of cultural difference; the formation of radical factions each claiming righteousness; overpopulation; civilization encroaching on nature — the list of modern fears is quite endless — however this is not where I want to go in this brief article.

Today's Heresy is Tomorrow's Status Quo

Keep in mind: what once was a heresy or even 'wrong' by collective standards and law has often become the new status quo.  If it weren't for early medical experiments and treatments (bleeding, maggots, trepanation, and so on), we would not have the advantages of extended health today; if it were not for heretics in science, religion and philosophy, we would not have the freedom of exploration we have today. . .and so on.  

If it weren't for Ptolemy, astrology (heresy) might have fostered more openly — it took about 1,400 years to reclaim the sun-centered system after his establishment of the 'final solution' — which had actually been diagrammed by ancient Greek Aristarchos of Samos c. 310 – 228 BCE (heretic). Only in the last decade has Galileo (heretic) been reinstated in the Catholic Church and his 'crimes' absolved! Giordano Bruno, hermetic philosopher, was burned at the stake in 1600 (heretic) for beliefs and philosophy which only now, at the end of the second millennium, are becoming intellectually mainstream (heresy).  If it weren't so horrific, it would be funny. Thus, when we look at the big picture, the vast sweep of time, it is difficult to know whether or not our world as we perceive it conventionally is as it appears to be.  

The insecurity of the individual in times of great social/global change is profound.  And, mind-boggling.  The picture of the planets as they move through the organized zodiac seem to reflect an ongoing, endless process.  I trust this process — it will happen regardless.

But, how we work with it is vital.  Astrology helps people see their place in the world and their relationships in the world — no matter what the world is like. The global transits  (planets as they are positioned in current time) express the world Zeitgeist, the archetypal expression of the Weltanschauung — a world view — through culture and events, moods, fashions, political urges.

It is the global transits that concur with world events — collective experience; while the natal horoscope — personal — brings that global picture into local and individual experience.  The collective ethos is individuated in this way.  It is all very well to philosophize about the great movements of the heavens and the paradigm shifts of historic quality, but usually, clients want to know about how they, as people, will manage the attendant anxieties and shifting realities that often are coincident with such changes.

Jupiter and Sagittarius

We need to think a while on Jupiter and its sign, and also, in the natal horoscope, the ninth house.  Jupiter is not the great benefic that pre-contemporary astrology has touted.  Jupiter was the invader from the north, the bringer of thunderbolts, hierarchies and republics to the Minoan Mediterranean regions.  Zeus is the prototype of the sky-god, and thus, the forerunner of monotheism.  All his more civilized characteristics were adopted, not inherent.   Jupiter represents all that is dogmatic, theoretical, doctrinal and man-made law orientated.  (N.b. the twelfth house is the ineffable divine, the primal psyche, simply the great soul of humanity,  but the astrological ninth house represents — in part –  the creation of man-made laws, and various dogma to control the divine, and people who seek spirit/soul in their lives).

Jupiter's house, the ninth, is the house in which we interpret the natural laws of heaven and earth into laws of mankind.  Because the human need for security and safety is profound, so-called divine laws are modified and interpreted by people — according to their location, race and inclination — right or wrong.

On this level of thinking, your ninth house describes the manner in which you relate to dogma, doctrine, and teachings and formulate your own individual ideas based on received wisdom from the ages.  People need containers — they need to see their beliefs manifest somehow.  And, thus, religion becomes a 'place' not a feeling or a divine experience.  The word religion is rooted in an ancient word, which means to bind the heavens to earth (bind/tie back: fr. L. religare).  And, it is inherent in the human psyche to place the spirit, soul, psyche in a container.

This once-safe place of imagined knowledge is being blown apart too — Pluto in Sagittarius, being the Truth Transit, is the beginning of the death of the Piscean Age of sequestered, local tribes who protected and punished their members. Perhaps now we may steward ourselves and our descendants toward the eventual arrival of the true global village.  And, for us, today, in the initial chaos, our tribal affiliations need to be closely examined and identified so that we can fully participate to the degree that we are able in this mutation.  

Not only are people roaming the world these days, seeking a place of comfort and safety according to their needs and beliefs, they are also roaming their psyches and the collective psyche to find tribal links to which they might identify and with whom they might share common bonds.

Finding our Familiars: The House of Sagittarius

Jupiter in the natal chart symbolizes how one's beliefs and ethics and desire for manifestation of those qualities emerges in both social and personal ways.  And, the house in which Sagittarius is found is the area in which you are natally inclined to act out your truth, your beliefs and your ethics.  By examining Jupiter by sign and house,  and the house(s) in which Sagittarius is located — keeping in mind the basics outlined here — you will find some keys to the ways in which you can deepen and find your philosophical and social bases.  In this way, some peace of mind and a sense of safety might be felt during a time of global unease and change.

Pluto's transit through your Sagittarius house(s) will excavate and disclose fundamental truths that are unique to you only, but will be reflected in social-mind groups.  It is one thing to have a strong belief, but usually it is necessary to find others of like mind, and be comfortable in the world of relationship.  It is likely that the house Pluto is transiting now has brought many serious questions to bear on the truths of the basic issues represented by that house.  By the cyclic revolution of the sun to oppose Pluto each year it is in that house, the transit will work to refine your allegiances and tribal affiliations in accord with your own personal perspective.

Finding Your Tribe

There is a significant dichotomy between the nature of Uranus and the nature of Neptune.  Uranus is a 'wake-up' planet and Neptune is a 'go to sleep' planet.  When they were periodically conjunct on people's natal planets, between 1986 through 1990, many were in a state of true confusion and liminality.  It was as if they had taken a large sleeping pill, and the alarm clock was going off constantly.  Uranus represents the individual and his or her unique psyche, and the collective soul (the mass soul/psychology) is Neptune.

The individuation and differentiation that Uranus calls for requires one to be him/herself in relation to the group.  Neptune requires a soulful and undifferentiated relationship with the anima mundi — the world soul.  

The resultant confusion that clients (and friends and all) are concerned with during the conjunctions is coming to terms with the need for personal security while still living out their spiritual path.  They inherently understand the long view. Individuals are struggling with the conceived split between world and soul, which is a problem to contend with, let alone time love and money investments.  One's spiritual life is embedded in one's incarnate path, thus the life path is the spiritual path.  The apparent differences are more socially imposed than actual.  Oddly, the 'new age' movement contrived to create a gap between love and money, spirit and body — when in fact, it has become a massive marketing agent, and a bit suspicious in its own objective — be that unconsciously or totally intentional . . . both, I think.  However, there have been many new ages, and there are many more to come. We are now winding down a major epochal phase — the Great Age of Pisces — the aion of suffering and transcendence, guilt and shame, hierarchy and blame, etc . . . moving right along.

People are longing for safety, security and a sense of belonging. Also, it is natural to seek assurance of some stability.  The function of the stampede of planets through Taurus in May 2000, all in hard aspect to Uranus, required sorting out the apparent split between freedom and safety.  I did more relocation and Astro*Carto*Graphy® work in the year 2000 than in any other year in the last decade.  Why do they want to move?  What are there concerns?  Those who have no choices, the vast majority of the world, are inadvertently involved in the largest diaspora in global history.  Adopted out, countries lost, forced emigration, loss of entire cultural history, the story is long and continuing.

People want to find a place in which they can be themselves and also find tribal affiliation.  They want community, relationship with a larger spirit and a place to feel both safe and adventurous.  This is not unrealistic, not by a long shot.  The combinations of people, race, creed, fiscal/social status and so on now is fantastic.  Cross cultural/religious partnerships and all levels of socio-economic individuals are simply looking for one thing:  safety as a person in the company of others.

These big trends in astrological practice are the indicators of how the 'above' is working here 'below'.  The travesties of invasion, expulsion and alienation of whole nations and cultures all over the world are reflections of the feelings of each individual in existence today.  What happens to 'them' as a group is happening to 'you' and 'me' as a person.

Ideally, we need to look to our eleventh house to find our group needs — how can we find a place in which our inmost thoughts, beliefs and expectations in the human experience can be validated by reflection?  What do we expect from life and its people?  What could the apparent outcome of our investment in life actually be?

Looking to the Sagittarius ninth house we can better understand our relationship with the written and spoken 'laws' extending out from our twelfth house of the Divine. . .the planet Jupiter in the natal chart is descriptive of the way we can relate to society and its codes. Aspects from Jupiter, to Jupiter, its sign, house and so on are the path to eventual social comfort.  Finding a society in which we can exist reasonably well and openly express our beliefs seems mandatory now, and the natal Jupiter and all its conditions are the agency for finding/creating this (elusive) sense of belonging.  The justice of Zeus is very much based in hierarchy and territorialism . . . and from that arises the dialectic between  nomos — man made law  vs.  physis — natural law.  The Cartesian split has now become a vast rent in the universe, hence, here on earth.

Uranus allows us a picture of the group in which we were born — born to change the system as we see its flaws and imperfections.  From this place of social analysis, we might find a key to our individuality and how we 'fit in' to the revolutionary spirit.  

The house(s) in which Aquarius falls is now being transited by Uranus and Neptune both — so two main urges are arising.  Uranus is asking for your uniqueness of self to be objectively described and developed into a talent/gift/work that will support the collective needs as well as your own;  and Neptune is asking for you to be a clear as possible about what you feel your true essence of soul needs, and how to go about fulfilling and meeting those soul needs .   

If each person works to the highest level of his or her potential, then the collective is improved by that much.  In this way the individual is now responsible for the collective, rather than the other way round.

Keeping all that in mind, the transit of Pluto in Sagittarius (for the Aquarius transits) has made the world your home. There is no geographical locus.  This is uncomfortable for some, and liberating for others.  Determining your own degree of personal need and outreaching from that central point will help you find your place and your tribe.  Finding comfort in a global society is not easy for many people, but it is so very exciting.  It is now possible to be in touch with anyone anywhere at any time.  Internet and on-line education, simultaneous communications and fast travel have made it possible to be anywhere at any time — in fact it is now possible to be in several places at once.  Video conferencing between countries, emailing and online synchronous discussions, social networking just beginning to proliferate, puts you in multiple locations simultaneously.  The choice seems to be:  alienation or individuation?

Tribalism within the Collective

While Pluto is transiting your Sagittarius house(s), keep in mind that you are part of a global philosophical change, but within that your own core beliefs must be reflected somewhere.  In some collective, whether it is bird-watching or astrology; nuclear science, quilt making or ecological movements, you already exist — listen carefully to your own inner voice, and slowly seek out the affirmation of tribes based on that unique criterion.

This worldview requires that we, as individuals, become increasingly aware of our innate values and what we inherently feel to be right and correct.  Only with tremendous inner strength and powerful intentionality will we find a sense of our own security and foundation.  Because of the vast array of 'group minds' it is increasingly critical to reduce the myriad options and desires that the expanded present brings.  Too much choice leads to neuroses.  Thus, we need to go to the core, to our basic needs and values.  Ideally, we all seek to find a core power and security to withstand the multiplicity of choices — and find the tribe or tribes within which we are most able to employ and offer those personal values to strengthen the collective in this long transitional experience.

Image by Remko van Dokkum, courtesy of Creative Commons license.