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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.