Planet Waves is running a membership drive.
Read more in Solstice Fire and the Art of Service, by Eric Francis.
By Amanda Moreno
I recently managed to procure a good amount of time off from all of my jobs, and having space to decompress and hit the reset button has been rad. The first few days were spent in revelry with friends in celebration of the last three Grateful Dead shows. Then, the shows were over, and just as I was wondering what reading materials would accompany me to my seven-day tour of Seattle’s glorious parks, I fell back into an old, glorious pattern: post-apocalyptic and dystopian young adult fiction and re-visiting all of the apocalyptic non-fiction from my grad school days.
Yes, this is how my mind decompresses.
Having spent three years studying the psychology of apocalyptic thinking in terms of images, I’m fascinated by the trends I see in pop culture that point to increasing consumption of these memes.
This past week, I’ve watched episodes of “The Last Ship,” “Between,” “The Strain” and “Ascension,” most of which deal with some kind of “the virus killed everyone but us” kind of plot line. I’ve also read three young adult books written in recent years that are basically the same thing.
The other day, while sedating myself with the white noise of waves at my favorite local sandy beach, I began flipping through my favorite book about apocalypse, Dreaming the End of the World: Apocalypse as Rite of Passage by Michael Ortiz. Ortiz’s basic idea is that the foundation for apocalyptic thinking has its roots in Mesopotamian culture, as urban reality became exalted above or against the wilderness.
We are currently in a phase of technological realization of these myths, characterized in Judeo-Christian mythology by the battle between the Messiah and the Beast, images of which moved from the mythic to the literal with the single, terrifying and — Ortiz would say – ecstatic image of the mushroom cloud. What began as mythology reflecting an inward process of descent, destruction and resurrection has been concretized in a mythic image imprinted in the collective imagination.
In that sense, Ortiz would say that apocalyptic initiation is about waking up from self-destructive imperatives. Sounds so neat in that little phrase, but this can be harrowing work.
I wonder a lot about the ways in which mass culture is saturated with apocalyptic imagery, and whether this facilitates our “waking up” or compounds the fears that are already being repressed. There is a mystery to the “dream at the end of the world,” and to the apocalyptic imagination, that can become addictive. Not only do we have access to TV shows, movies and books laying out fictional accounts of post-apocalyptic landscapes, we have real world correlates and the images to go with them as well.
We can see the effects of ecological degradation, including assuredly human-caused effects. We know that bioterrorism is real. And we spend vast amounts of energetic reserves ignoring the fact that Fukushima is still leaking, and that nuclear reactors are peppered across the landscape.
Apocalyptic imagery is majorly seductive, and Ortiz puts out a warning that we need to use caution because, as he says, “the myth of apocalypse seeks to enthrall us into an epic fiction with very real consequences. Beware the fascination with what is larger than life, this vulgar passion play that would crucify the world.”
Astrologically speaking, I’m fascinated by generational themes in terms of outer planet transits. I’m currently paying a lot of attention to my Pluto in Scorpio clients (born roughly 1983 to 1995), namely because they’re the ones who come to me the most often. Although dealing with the wounds of living in “apocalyptic” times isn’t unique to this generation, they are a group that is, from my point of view, here to heal some of the deepest, most shadowy places of the soul, and they are being asked (or have chosen) to do so as they are coming of age on shaky ground.
The tension of having that apocalyptic consciousness blooming inside of you while at the same time trying to “be an adult,” settle into a career, get married and have children can be intense, even more so when one is individuating and actively trying to seek out the soul’s calling. The constant bombardment of images and articles at every turn can leave us in a state of perpetual numbness or overwhelm that makes it very difficult to do soul work at the level that is probably necessary.
Although many individuals have clearly existed in recent history who have done great things to steer the course of humanity away from the concretized apocalyptic myth, this is a generation that gets to attempt to individuate away from the self-destructive imperative. In that sense, I think that the glut of apocalyptic media can be a helpful outlet for coping and releasing some of the inner mayhem, so long as its seductive qualities don’t take over.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about this last cycle of Saturn in Scorpio, as I’ve mentioned twenty thousand times. It feels to me as if this transit has been asking us to take responsibility for a lot of psychic, and often physical, deep cleaning. I often think that this transit is doing some of the legwork for Pluto’s entry into Aquarius in the not-entirely distant future, an event that happens round about the same time Saturn is in Aquarius. Whatever was birthed or surfaced during Pluto’s time in Scorpio in the ‘80s reaches a crisis point, or first quarter square, in Aquarius. Perhaps Saturn is offering us an opportunity to re-work culturally ingrained apocalyptic thinking patterns.
What would that look like? Well, Ortiz speaks of the apocalyptic rite of passage as being about the awakening of compassion in a dark time. As apocalyptic mythology collided with and helped to sculpt Judeo-Christian myths, those who did not believe in the “One True Word” of god were cast into the role of the other — as someone who does not exist, has no rights, and is not quite human until they convert, saving their soul from eternal damnation.
What does a conversion to compassion for oneself and all others look like? What comes to mind for me is what I often speak of when I see Pluto in the 12th house of a chart, with the 12th house’s resonance with Pisces pointing towards a kind of culmination point for the journey of the soul, which is represented by Pluto.
Pluto in the 12th house to me speaks of a deep need for forgiveness. It reminds me of the need to go into our own suffering, to face the places where we are the most wounded and offer compassion to ourselves first, right there in the face of the shame, guilt and fear that might arise. From that place of internal compassion and unconditional love of self we can extend the same to others.
Of course, we have to watch for compulsive tendencies, as Pluto can represent compulsion, and the Pisces/12th archetypes can speak to martyrdom and self-sacrifice. But there is something about facing those deepest, apocalyptic-feeling fears, and then going to dance it out — say, at a friend’s house for the last three Grateful Dead shows — that is cathartic, and more importantly, regenerative. The creativity that comes from regeneration seems to be exactly what is being called for now.
Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but I thought this piece on apocalyptic images/fiction and the idea that it *might* actually serve creative/cathartic use for the Pluto-in-Scorpio generation was fascinating. I definitely get that apocalyptic thinking can be seductive and is a slippery slope. But I’m also wondering how one would guide a younger/young-ish person through ways to use such outlets constructively, without getting too wrapped up in the “lie”?
Are there specific techniques? Or is it more that the more conscious and soul-searching people do this somewhat naturally…and those who are “unconscious” simply get sucked in?
I think that when it comes to the apocalyptic imagination and apocalyptic imagery, it’s really helpful to have some kind of support or structure. Some people might come by it naturally, or be shaken into it by loss or transition, but I think the potential to be “sucked in” is there across the board. When we’re talking about shadow material coming forward, I think having a container is huge. That might be a therapeutic container, a community container, ritual, or just a really strong (and healthily adaptible) ego container.
I tend to coach people through more gentle ways of getting to know the way their psyche communicates first. I find that things like collaging are fantastic, especially when structured around something specific like a New Moon, planet or theme. Not only do we get to see what images we’re drawn to, but we can pay attention during the process to what memories or emotions arise.
There are ten thousand ways to work with dream images, too. Techniques where you re-animate a dream, or move it forward to a different ending, or engage with dream figures can also be applied to childhood (or past life) memories.
I remember when I went to present my thesis to the public, I was really wrapped up in the image of the mushroom cloud, wanting to give an example of how to re-imagine that image. Suddenly, as I began to speak, I saw the cloud on the screen in back out me out of the corner of my eye, but it looked like a tree with roots going deep into the soil. The image had flipped on its own, and I was able to lean into it. Instead of the anxiety and morbid fascination that resulted from the original image, I felt grounded, rooted, and hopeful.
At a more basic level, I guess what comes to mind as far as “guiding” is the importance of using gratitude as a container, and then letting the feelings associated with grief/fear/anger/etc actually come through in full expression, and then doing something creative once that catharsis has run through.
Catharsis and grief work as I tend to talk about and use them definitely aren’t for everyone. I usually just wanna go in, find the root, dig it up, and heal it — which is why I’m such a fan of certain forms of cathartic regression work that incorporate soul retrieval and etheric level healings. Sometimes, though, support and validation of experience go a long way — and always, always, letting the process unfold in its own time and place rather than pushing a person into it.
Hope that helps?
Thanks Amanda that did clarify a few of my feelings. I guess it all comes down to our desire to feel safe and secure in a place driven by fear and control. If fear and control are to be overcome we have to see outside of this limited lifespan. I cant ignore the terror so maybe I just have to make friends with it. Acceptance of our ultimate destruction? But enjoy today.
I want to believe that the future will be beautiful but somewhere deep inside I just don’t buy it. That stubborn fear seems stuck and unmovable.
I guess what comes to mind there is that for me it’s acceptance of our ultimate reunion with source — or remembrance of that inherent connection. My thoughts on doing “healing work” in the world is that if I have to strive for something it might as well be saving the world, knowing that I’m not the only one with that goal and that we might fail, but what better use of energy is there?
The fear definitely runs deep. Hugs and deep breaths
As one who was raised on a steady diet of Hell and Armageddon I totally despise all of these horror movies and shows. my kids live in a virtual wasteland for hours a day through on line gaming. I don’t think it is a healthy diet but they are both really good conscious boys and don’t seem to have internalized any of the doom and destruction they have fed on since early grade school.
We had tried to limit their exposure to blood and gore for many years but by age 12 we just didn’t have energy to try and control them plus I reminded me of my dad and mom trying to control my music back in the days of Kiss and ACDC. I couldn’t stomach myself like that and I knew it wouldn’t work.
These boys both almost beyond high school now have never got in trouble. They just love really violent first shooter games. So I tend to acknowledge that there must be some benefit from apocalyptic games and movies but I still don’t like it.
But if we run from facing our fear doesn’t it just get larger. In our collective dream are we starting to accept the dark side in some healthy way? Or is this just an expression of our collective death wish? Or paradoxically, are we just about ready to see beyond the fearful dream – or are we stuck in the horror of this matrix?
Facing my fears has always worked out well for me but this collective fascination with apocalypse seems like an unhealthy fetish.
Cowboy (Amanda) — thanks for chiming in. I guess this last sentence really speaks to me: “this collective fascination with apocalypse seems like an unhealthy fetish.” That’s kind of why I was interested in this column; because except for the (relatively speaking) few who are called to do deep healing work on themselves and address this with a guide, I guess I tend to feel some concern about the overall collective Western mindset.
Not that I obsess over it at all. But when the topic is brought up, I kind of say, “Um…what *is* happening here?”
I also appreciate the comments about your two sons. My nephew turned 10 this winter, and I’ve been astonished by the degree of violence (and violent language) he’s been allowed to engage in (and the amount of screen time) from an even younger age. His parents are divorced, and there are some complicated facets to how the custody/visits balance has worked out. So mainly I just try to be present when I can be, and play with him actively outdoors when able.
If there’s actually some benefit to it all for a very sensitive boy with a very watery chart, that would be a relief.