By “it,” I mean our current situation, which includes the following: rapid and dangerous global warming and its results (melting glaciers, massive hurricanes, devastating droughts and floods, rapidly dying coral, apocalyptic fires, all sorts of harm happening to all sorts of creatures all over the planet); a global water-problem that worsens steadily; alarmingly depleted soils; wars all over the planet; overpopulation; all sorts of governments in all sorts of places apparently intent on all sorts of counter-productive approaches to just about anything you can think of.

By “long,” I mean what we might call “long” history, in particular the historical period known as the Mayan Long Count, which began in 3114 BC and which ended in 2012 AD, a period I dealt with at some length in The Machine Stops: the Mayan Long Count Through a Western Lens (AFA 2012). My thesis in that book, explained here in brief: patterns of social development characterized by authoritarian militarism, lack of requisite feedback mechanisms, and a pervasive imbalance (between, among other matters, authority and bureaucracy) leading to planetary illness manifesting now in planetary warming (and, it seems, the attendant factors mentioned above), which we can interpret as a planet-wide fever arising as a response of the planetary system to the mentioned illness-imbalance. The Long Count also brought problematic combination of delusion and aggression, driven by unconscious elements to produce a kind of militarism best categorized as insane even if it has developed into the norm.[1]

These factors have characterized “civilization as we know it,” a form of social organization that emerged with comparative suddenness in the 4th millennium B.C. the period surrounding the 3114 BC birth-year of the Long Count. This period has drawn the attention of some of our most important cultural historians, perhaps most significantly Arnold Toynbee and Lewis Mumford. Of the period just described, Mumford writes, in The Myth of the Machine, Volume I: Technics and Human Development,

Out of the early Neolithic complex a different kind of social organization arose: no long dispersed in small units, but unified in a large one; no longer ‘democratic,’ that is, based on neighborly intimacy, customary usage, and consent, but authoritarian, centrally directed, under the control of a dominant minority; no longer confined to a limited territory, but deliberately ‘going out of bounds’ to seize new raw materials and enslave helpless men, to exercise control, to exact tribute. This new culture was dedicated, not just to the enhancement of life, but to the expansion of collective power. By perfecting new instruments of coercion, the rulers of the society had, by the Third Millennium BC, organized industrial and military power on a scale that was never to be surpassed until our own time.[2]

This shift appeared in the environment as a dramatic increase in the size of human institutions ranging from the large-field agriculture (that, according to Toynbee and others, made this new form of social organization possible) to the size of the buildings in which people lived, emphases that have remained with us up to the present. From the surplus came (c.f. Toynbee) hierarchy from which came rulers who controlled the surplus (and thus the people). We see, here, the beginnings of rigid social classes, reflecting Capricorn, one of the dominant signs of the Long Count horoscope, and a dominant connection between kingship (Leo, a second dominant sign), control (Leo as a fixed sign), and bureaucratic expansion (Capricorn). Mumford tells us that the “original connection between kingship and hunting has remained visible all throughout recorded history,” that the “unscrupulous use of weapons of the hunt to control the political and economic activities of whole communities was one of the effective inventions of kingship” and that, from the kingship-hunting connection, “a whole series of subsidiary mechanical inventions eventually came.”[3] From kingship also came, quickly and inevitably, “a kind of unrestrained cannibal lust in dwelling on the scope and power of the divine king. As pictured [in the most ancient pyramid text], kingship was actually a man-eating device.”[4]

Mumford refers to the new form of social organization as the “mega-machine” and tells us that in its early form, it had human beings as moving parts, with mechanical parts (e.g. made of steel) coming only much later with increased technical capacities. Mumford devotes much space to describing the megamachine and to tracing its development through the centuries right up to the present era. Even early on, he tells us, it had characteristics we can still recognized in the prevailing social order:

…the centralization of political power, the separation of classes, the lifetime division of labor, the mechanization of production, the magnification of military power, the  economic exploitation of the weak, and the universal introduction of slavery and forced labor for both industrial and military purposes. [5]

In The Machine Stops, I trace these developments by tracking progressions to the Long Count natal horoscope and by looking at the shifts occurring in connection with the Neptune-Pluto cycle of 496 years. Of the Long Count’s end, I write,

An observant person could tell, with increasing ease as time went on, that something, and perhaps almost everything, would have to change. Environmental degradation increased in a parabolic curve; war became endemic, increasingly destructive, and unending; propaganda spread everywhere controlling minds to a degree unthinkable in the 4th millennium B.C.; the paranoia of those in power, never very rational, took increasingly psychotic forms.[6]

Of course, historical development takes place gradually; the patterns-in-question do not appear and end on a day – not even December 21, 2012, the end-date for the Long Count. So my discussion had to do with periods, not with days or even weeks. Thus though the end of the Long Count has now receded at least a little in our collective rear-view mirror as we occupy ourselves with the “short of it” (the discussion of my next installment), the astrological patterns persist. To help clarify, I will select for discussion some salient elements from my investigation. As I say in the book, “the defining symbols of the Long Count horoscope offer apt descriptive symbols and metaphors for the major cultural developments that have taken place during the Long Count’s duration.”[7]

Factor #1: the horoscope lacks oppositions.

This suggests a difficulty seeing through projections, or even acknowledging that they exist. Mr. Mumford, speaking of developments occupying roughly the same period as the one measured by the Long Count, refers to this as “a radical failure in feedback” resulting in breakdowns on all sides:

…an inability to acknowledge errors, an unwillingness to correct them, a resistance to introducing new ideas and methods that would provide the means for a constructively human transformation…[O]nce recognized, many of the defects could be corrected…but failing this, a more dire pathological situation, demanding surgery rather than diet, comes into existence.[8]  

A lack of oppositions points to difficulties recognizing projections or accepting helpful feedback from the world. Because an opposition symbolizes a pattern of thought and behavior in which unacknowledged psychological elements appear through people and events, a lack of oppositions speaks to difficulty recognizing such feedback.

Factor #2: the natal yod (sometimes referred to as “the Finger of God”) and the positions, as of 2012, of secondary progressed Saturn and Pluto.

The Long Count natal horoscope has a powerful yod from the Mercury-Venus conjunction in Leo to the Moon-Jupiter sextile in Capricorn and Pisces. This configuration consists of two quincunxes and a sextile. Because the horoscope has another close quincunx – from Saturn in Leo to Uranus in Capricorn – the Long Count has manifested partly through planetary illness. Typically, though, when an important transit or progression arrives at the “reaction point” of the yod (the point directly opposed to the focal planets), the energy of the yod ripens: having functioned at-least-partly unconsciously, it now demands attention. From an imbalance that perhaps had remained hidden emerge events and consequences demanding attention, manifestations of imbalances long-ignored: planetary illness resulting from an imbalance that has persisted for over 5000 years.

By 2012, secondary progressed (SP) Saturn and Pluto had arrived at the reaction point. Bureaucratic power (to offer one interpretation among many) resulted in a situation in which problems demanded resolution. Civilization reached a fork in the road. Something had to change – in fact, it seems, everything had – and has – to change.

Factor #3: the natal Mars-Neptune conjunction in Scorpio and the positions of the same secondary progressed planets.

This factor raises the ante, we might say, for it brings about a great danger of military conflict driven by unconscious factors and pervasive delusions. Because N. Mars-Neptune squares N. Mercury-Venus, SP Saturn and SP Pluto form a t-square to N. Mars-Neptune just as they reach the reaction point of the yod. (See the positions in second wheel of the attached two-wheeler.) Though for a person, Mars-Neptune might point to selfless action or physical activity linked to inspiration and imagination, for a collectivity it will generally manifest as delusions related to aggression. (The United States horoscope has a close square between these two planets.) Scorpio suggests unconscious obsessions and complexes. Thus the psychotic uses of military power throughout the world, easily visible in the historical record and in the United States’ apparently endless series of military interventions (and, of course, in this country’s insane spending on increasingly destructive military hardware).

The astrological material from the Long Count horoscope suggest that these problems first took root when what we call “civilization” first arose in Mesopotamia, and because the roots have by now struck very deep, we will not solve present problems by applying cosmetic solutions. What seems required is a complete reorientation to experience, not only on the part of governments and government minions, but on the part of each person. The yod points to a pervasive pattern of social organization that influences the attitudes of all people, particularly as the megamachine has taken over pretty much the entire planet. Further development along established social lines will yield only further destruction, threatening the survival of the species, and certainly threatening the development of civilization as we know it. It seems, therefore, that we must consider – and develop! – a new kind of civilization. It will probably have to begin with changes in the people forming it.


[1] I dedicated The Machine Stops to Lewis Mumford, without whose many writings I could not have written it.

[2] Lewis Mumford: The Myth of the Machine, Volume I: Technics and Human Development, page 164 (qtd. on page 88 of The Machine Stops.

[3] Mumford 168-9 (qtd. in The Machine Stops, p. 89)

[4] Mumford 184.

[5] Mumford 186.

[6] The Machine Stops, 145.

[7] P. 76.

[8] Lewis Mumford, The Myth of the Machine, Volume II: The Pentagon of Power, page 428.

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