Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Titan's Tragedy Predates Titanic's

One rendition of the cover of Robertson's 1898 novel.

Here’s one for fans of prophetic writings. Today’s the birthday, in 1861, of Morgan Robertson, whose 1898 novel foretold in uncanny detail the sinking of the Titanic. In his book ~ originally titled Futility ~ the ocean liner was named the Titan.
  • Both ships sink on an April night in the North Atlantic, each after striking an iceberg.
  • Titan is 800 feet long, the Titanic was only 83 feet longer.
  • Titan weighs 45,000 tons, Titanic 46,328.
  • Both are filled with the cream of high society from either side of the Atlantic.
  • Both carry too few lifeboats. And in each case, the loss of life is appalling.
According to Wired magazine:
Whatever fame or notoriety accrued to Robertson for his prescient novel, which was republished in the wake of Titanic’s sinking in April 1912 (and retitled The Wreck of the Titan), it apparently wasn’t enough to overcome his inner torment. Robertson is believed to have committed suicide in an Atlantic City, New Jersey, hotel room in 1915, although an accidental overdose of the dubious over-the-counter medication protiodide is occasionally given as the cause of death.
Robertson also demonstrated his knack for forecasting events in a collection of short stories published in 1914. The book includes “Beyond the Spectrum,” which describes a future war between the United States and Japan, which is ignited by a Japanese surprise attack on American shipping, but not Pearl Harbor.

Click here for the Wired article.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Schizophrenia May Reside in Our DNA

DNA double helix, potentially harboring mental illness.

New genetic studies suggest that sections of our genetic code affect a person's risk for developing the schizophrenia. In three separate studies, researchers found that code involved in brain development, memory and the immune system may contribute to this puzzling disease.

The findings are important because schizophrenia has been so hard to study, says Kari Stefansson, CEO of the Icelandic company deCODE Genetics and an author of one of the studies. One reason is that schizophrenia doesn't occur in animals.

"It's a disease of thoughts and emotions, the two functions of the brain that define us as a species and define us as individuals," Stefansson told NPR.

Scientists have tried for decades to find differences between the brains of typical people and those with schizophrenia, but without much success. So Stefansson and a consortium of researchers from around the world decided to look for subtle differences in the genes of thousands of people. Some had schizophrenia; some didn't.

One place the studies found a clue about what might be going wrong in the brains of people with schizophrenia was in a gene responsible for a protein called neurogranin, which can affect memory and thought.

Click here for the NPR “All Things Considered” article.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mayan Temples Play 'Raindrop' Music

El Castillo possibly a temple to the Mayan rain god Chaac.

Researchers are speculating that the Mayans constructed some of Mexico’s ancient pyramids to reverberate with peculiar “raindrop music” ~ the sound of raindrops falling into a bucket of water ~ as people climbed them.

For years archaeologists have been familiar with the raindrop sounds made by footsteps on El Castillo, a hollow pyramid on the Yucat√°n Peninsula. But why the steps should sound like this and whether the effect was intentional remained unclear.

According to New Scientist magazine:
To investigate further, Jorge Cruz of the Professional School of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering in Mexico City and Nico Declercq of the Georgia Institute of Technology compared the frequency of sounds made by people walking up El Castillo with those made at the solid, uneven-stepped Moon Pyramid at Teotihuacan in central Mexico.

At each pyramid, they measured the sounds they heard near the base of the pyramid when a student was climbing higher up. Remarkably similar raindrop noises, of similar frequency, were recorded at both pyramids, suggesting that rather than being caused by El Castillo being hollow, the noise is probably caused by sound waves traveling through the steps hitting a corrugated surface, and being diffracted, causing the particular raindrop sound waves to propagate down along the stairs.

El Castillo is widely believed to have been devoted to the feathered serpent god Kukulcan, but Cruz thinks it may also have been a temple to the rain god Chaac. Indeed, a mask of Chaac is found at the top of El Castillo and also in the Moon Pyramid.
"The Mexican pyramids, with some imagination, can be considered musical instruments dating back to the Mayan civilization," says Cruz, although he adds that there is no direct evidence that the Mayans actually played them.

Click here for the New Scientist article.
(Post originally appeared on my Ancient Tides blog.)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Number 10 ~ TREADING

Treading upon the tail of the tiger.
It does not bite the man.

The situation is really difficult. That which is strongest and that which is weakest are close together. The weak follows behind the strong and worries it. The strong, however, acquiesces and does not hurt the weak, because the contact is in good humor and harmless.

In terms of a human situation, one is handling wild, intractable people. In such a case, one's purpose will be achieved if one behaves with decorum. Pleasant manners succeed even with irritable people.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Musical Interlude ~ "War"

"We don't need no more trouble."

I agree.

Saw this on PBS a while ago ~ a great rendition of the Bob Marley song "War," performed by musicians in over 20 countries. The point was to demonstrate a harmonious world, and this time it really works. Hear the words of the reggae bodhisattva:

Until the philosophy which hold one race superior
And another
Is finally
And permanently
And abandoned ~
Everywhere is war ~
Me say war.

That until there no longer
First class and second class citizens of any nation
Until the colour of a man's skin
Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes ~
Everywhere is war.

That until the basic human rights
Are equally guaranteed to all,
Without regard to race -
Dis a war.

That until that day
The dream of lasting peace,
World citizenship
Rule of international morality
Will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued,
But never attained -
Now everywhere is war - war.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ancient Origins Found for Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood by Fleury Francois Richard (1777-1852)

It has long been known that popular fairy tales frequently had ancient origins, but new research shows Little Red Riding Hood having roots going back at least 2,600 years.

Using research techniques more commonly associated with biologists ~ called a taxonomic tree of life ~ anthropologists are able to explore these stories' origins in various cultures through various time periods. For example, Dr. Jamie Tehrani, a cultural anthropologist at Durham University, has studied 35 versions of Little Red Riding Hood from around the world. According to the London Telegraph:
Whilst the European version tells the story of a little girl who is tricked by a wolf masquerading as her grandmother, in the Chinese version a tiger replaces the wolf. In Iran, where it would be considered odd for a young girl to roam alone, the story features a little boy.

. . . He said: “Over time these folk tales have been subtly changed and have evolved just like a biological organism. Because many of them were not written down until much later, they have been misremembered or reinvented through hundreds of generations. By looking at how these folk tales have spread and changed it tells us something about human psychology and what sort of things we find memorable.

“The oldest tale we found was an Aesopic fable that dated from about the sixth century BC, so the last common ancestor of all these tales certainly predated this. We are looking at a very ancient tale that evolved over time.”
Tehrani has identified 70 variables in plot and characters between different versions of Little Red Riding Hood. The original ancestor is thought to be similar to another tale, The Wolf and the Kids, in which a wolf pretends to be a nanny goat to gain entry to a house full of young goats.

Click here for the article.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

'Intermediate' Black Hole Finally Discovered

Artist's rendition of the newly discovered black hole.

Confronted with the existence of only two categories of black holes in space ~ small and super-massive ~ astrophysicists have long speculated there must be something in between.

And apparently they were right.

According to Wired magazine, astrophysicists recently identified what appears to be the first-ever medium-sized black hole, with a mass at least 500 times that of our Sun. Researchers from the Centre d’Etude Spatiale des Rayonnements in France detected the middling hole in a galaxy about 290 million light-years from Earth.

According to Wired magazine:
The discovery may shed some light on the origins of super-sized black holes like the one at the center of our own galaxy. These astral heavyweights top out at several million to several billion times the mass of the Sun, but their origin remains a mystery.

Small black holes, between three and 20 times the mass of the sun, are created when big stars collapse and leave behind a gravitational pull strong enough to block nearby light rays. Researchers have speculated that super-massive black holes result from the successive fusion of many smaller black holes. But without finding evidence of a medium-size hole, it was a tough theory to prove.

The new discovery is the most convincing evidence to date that medium black holes exist. Using the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton X-ray space telescope, the researchers identified a radiation source that gives off X-rays 260 million times brighter than the radiation of the Sun.

Click here for the Wired article.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Typical Krishnamurti

When it comes to expressing truly profound ideas, I've frequently found the sage J. Krishnamurti (1895-1986) to be particularly perplexing because of the simplicity of his speech. I listen to him ~ or read his words ~ over and over again and still am not sure I'm fully comprehending the depth of his thought.

He once told an audience:
“I am not concerned whether you pay attention to what I say or not. I want to do a certain thing in the world and I am going to do it with unwavering concentration. I am concerning myself with only one essential thing: to set man free. I desire to free him from all cages, from all fears, and not to found religions, new sects, nor to establish new theories and new philosophies.”
This video from a 1960s talk show is a good example of Krishnamurti's style. In less than two minutes, he discusses our failure to understand death as responsible for the misery that damages the quality of our lives, has made them "a battle."

And he says it all with such a disarming smile.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Keeping still. Keeping his back still
So that he no longer feels his body.
He goes into his courtyard
And does not see his people.
No blame.

True quiet means keeping still when the time has come to keep still, and going forward when the time has come to go forward. In this way, rest and movement are in agreement with the demands of the time, and thus there is light in life.

The hexagram signifies the end and the beginning of all movement. The back is named because in the back are located all the nerve fibers that mediate movement. If the movement of these spinal nerves is brought to a standstill, the ego, with its restlessness, disappears. When a man has thus become calm, he may turn to the outside world. He no longer sees in it the struggle and tumult of individual beings, and therefore has true peace of mind, which is needed for understanding the great laws of the universe and for acting in harmony with them. Whoever acts from these deep levels makes no mistakes.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Jung's Hidden 'Red Book' Being Published

Pages of the Red Book display Jung's calligraphy and paintings.

I have long admired Carl G. Jung (1875-1961) for his intellectual heroism and explorations of the human psyche. My fascination with alchemy and astrology is fueled by his writings, my love of myth and folklore by his insights, and my worldview of archetypes and the collective unconscious infused by his understanding of them.

I owe him a lot. So I ~ along with millions of others worldwide ~ am tantalized by the upcoming publication of Jung’s Red Book, a massive tome he wrote about 100 years ago and which has been secreted away in a Swiss bank vault for many of those years. The book is an outgrowth of his “confrontation with the unconscious” as he entered middle age. As explained by the New York Times this week:
Jung recorded it all. First taking notes in a series of small, black journals, he then expounded upon and analyzed his fantasies, writing in a regal, prophetic tone in the big red-leather book. The book detailed an unabashedly psychedelic voyage through his own mind, a vaguely Homeric progression of encounters with strange people taking place in a curious, shifting dreamscape. Writing in German, he filled 205 oversize pages with elaborate calligraphy and with richly hued, staggeringly detailed paintings.
The lengthy article is a must-read for anyone with at least a passing interest in Jung and his beliefs. It provides a reasonable overview of his life and work, with the Red Book as a focal point:
Some people feel that nobody should read the book, and some feel that everybody should read it. The truth is, nobody really knows. Most of what has been said about the book — what it is, what it means — is the product of guesswork, because from the time it was begun in 1914 in a smallish town in Switzerland, it seems that only about two dozen people have managed to read or even have much of a look at it.

Of those who did see it, at least one person, an educated Englishwoman who was allowed to read some of the book in the 1920s, thought it held infinite wisdom — “There are people in my country who would read it from cover to cover without stopping to breathe scarcely,” she wrote — while another, a well-known literary type who glimpsed it shortly after, deemed it both fascinating and worrisome, concluding that it was the work of a psychotic.

So for the better part of the past century, despite the fact that it is thought to be the pivotal work of one of the era’s great thinkers, the book has existed mostly just as a rumor, cosseted behind the skeins of its own legend — revered and puzzled over only from a great distance.
Jung’s descendants finally agreed to allow the Red Book to be published. It is expected in bookstores in early October and is lauded by publisher W.W. Norton as “the most influential unpublished work in the history of psychology.”

Click here for the complete New York Times article.
Inset photo of Jung by Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Could Depression Be Beneficial?

Engraving entitled 'Melencolia' by Albrect Durer (1471-1528)

Statistics show that between 30 and 50 percent of people in the U.S. and other countries ~ at sometime in their lives ~ meet the psychiatric diagnostic criteria for major depression. The diagnosis has applied to me at times and many people I know, so I have no reason to doubt the statistic.

That’s why I’m interested in the way a few scientists are now approaching the concept of depression. They're considering that it's could be an evolutionary adaptation that has its dire costs, but also can provide benefits.

Here’s some of what Paul Andrews and J. Anderson Thomson say in a recent Scientific American article:
The symptoms of depression have been found in every culture which has been carefully examined, including small-scale societies, such as the Ache of Paraguay and the !Kung of southern Africa ~ societies where people are thought to live in environments similar to those that prevailed in our evolutionary past.

One reason to suspect that depression is an adaptation, not a malfunction, comes from research into a molecule in the brain known as the 5HT1A receptor. The 5HT1A receptor binds to serotonin, another brain molecule that is highly implicated in depression and is the target of most current antidepressant medications. Rodents lacking this receptor show fewer depressive symptoms in response to stress, which suggests that it is somehow involved in promoting depression. (Pharmaceutical companies, in fact, are designing the next generation of antidepressant medications to target this receptor.) When scientists have compared the composition of the functional part rat 5HT1A receptor to that of humans, it is 99 percent similar, which suggests that it is so important that natural selection has preserved it. The ability to “turn on” depression would seem to be important, then, not an accident.
And a bit later:
So what could be so useful about depression? Depressed people often think intensely about their problems. These thoughts are called ruminations; they are persistent and depressed people have difficulty thinking about anything else. Numerous studies have also shown that this thinking style is often highly analytical. They dwell on a complex problem, breaking it down into smaller components, which are considered one at a time.

This analytical style of thought, of course, can be very productive. Each component is not as difficult, so the problem becomes more tractable. Indeed, when you are faced with a difficult problem, such as a math problem, feeling depressed is often a useful response that may help you analyze and solve it. For instance, in some of our research, we have found evidence that people who get more depressed while they are working on complex problems in an intelligence test tend to score higher on the test.
Indeed, they may be on to something. The important thing, it seems to me, is that this offers a new way of looking at the serious situation ~ deserving of further study ~ other than simply administering drugs to dull the mind into stupefaction.

Click here for the Scientific American article.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fame or integrity: which is more important?
Money or happiness: which is more valuable?
Success or failure: which is more destructive?

If you look to others for fulfillment,
you will never truly be fulfilled.
If your happiness depends on money,
you will never be happy with yourself.

Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monks Trained Eyes for Super-Fine Drawing

The Chi-Rho page from the Book of Kells, circa 800 AD.

A Cornell paleontologist claims to have solved the mystery of how monks in the 7th and 8th centuries could illustrate manuscripts with details comparable to the finest engravings on a modern dollar bill ~ centuries before magnifying lenses were invented.

Some of the geometric designs are so precise that in some places they contain lines less than half a millimeter apart and nearly perfectly reproduced in repeating patterns ~ leading a later scholar to call them "works not of men, but of angels."

According to
The answer, says Cornell paleontologist John Cisne, may be in the eyes of the creators. The Celtic monks evidently trained their eyes to cross above the plane of the manuscript so they could visually superimpose side-by-side elements of a replicated pattern, and thereby, create 3-D images that magnified differences between the patterns up to 30 times.

The monks could then refine any disparities by minimizing the apparent vertical depth of the images ~ ultimately replicating the design element to submillimeter precision. Cisne proposed the idea in the July 17 issue of the journal

The paper suggests that the technique, called free-fusion stereocomparison, which takes advantage of the brain's ability to perceive depth by integrating the slightly different views from each eye, was known nearly a thousand years before it was articulated by stereoscope inventor Sir George Wheatstone in the 19th century.
Cisne analyzed the most detailed illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages, created between 670 and 800 AD ~ including the circa 800 Book of Kells ~ where some have as many as 30 lines per centimeter.

Click here for the complete article.
(This post originally appeared on my Ancient Tides blog)

Earliest 'Zero' Was a Placeholder

The mathematical concept of zero ~ or at least a “placeholder” zero in the form of two brackets ~ may date back 5,000 years to ancient Sumaria, when its purpose was to enable people to tell 1 from 10 or 100.

But zero actually began functioning as a numerical value in fifth century India, according to Robert Kaplan in his 2000 book The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero. "It isn't until then, and not even fully then, that zero gets full citizenship in the republic of numbers," Kaplan tells Scientific American, adding that some cultures were slow to accept the idea of zero, which for many carried darkly magical connotations.

According to Scientific American, the second appearance of zero occurred independently in the New World, in Mayan culture, likely in the first few centuries A.D. "That, I suppose, is the most striking example of the zero being devised wholly from scratch," Kaplan says.

The number zero as we know it arrived in the West circa 1200, most famously delivered by Italian mathematician Fibonacci (aka Leonardo of Pisa), who brought it, along with the rest of the Arabic numerals, back from his travels to north Africa. But the history of zero, both as a concept and a number, stretches far deeper into history—so deep, in fact, that its provenance is difficult to nail down.

Click here for the complete Scientific American article.
Inset photo shows ancient Babylonian zero as two small wedges.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Calling Back Parts of Yourself

With paper and books piling up in my office, I reached again for Karen Kingston's Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui ~ an excellent book on the topic ~ and found this:

"In Bali, they have a special ceremony known as “The Calling.” It is understood that as people go through life, parts of themselves fracture and split off. If this happens too much or, in the case of a sudden, traumatic event, too quickly, this can weaken the spirit of these people to a life-threatening extent. After being hurt in a road accident, as an example, a vital part of the healing process is for those who are injured to return with a Balinese Hindu priest or priestess to the place where it happened, to ceremonially purify the spot and call the part of the spirit they left there back to themselves. (If they are too sick to go there in person, a relative or friend can go on their behalf).

"A similar calling-back process happens when you clear the clutter in your life. As you release the things you no longer love or use, you call back to yourself the parts of your spirit that have been attached to them, and attached to the emotional needs and memories associated with those objects. In so doing, you bring yourself powerfully into present time. Your energy, instead of being dispersed in a thousand different, unproductive directions, becomes more centered and focused. You feel more spiritually complete and more at peace with yourself. All of this comes from simply clearing clutter. Amazing, isn’t it?"

Number 56 ~ THE WANDERER

The Wanderer. Success through smallness.
Perseverance brings good fortune
To the wanderer.

When a man is a wanderer and stranger, he should not be gruff nor overbearing. He has no large circle of acquaintances, therefore he should not give himself airs. He must be cautious and reserved; in this way he protects himself from evil. If he is obliging toward others, he wins success.

A wanderer has no fixed abode; his home is the road. Therefore he must take care to remain upright and steadfast, so that he sojourns only in the proper places, associating only with good people. Then he has good fortune and can go his way unmolested.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Lucid Dreaming May Help Heal Psychosis

Researchers are finding more links between lucid dreaming and psychosis, lending hope to the idea that dreams may be able to help cure a sick mind. According to ScienceDaily, citing data from the European Science Foundation (ESF):
Lucid dreaming ~ when you are aware you are dreaming ~ is a hybrid state between sleeping and being awake. It creates distinct patterns of electrical activity in the brain that have similarities to the patterns made by psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia. Confirming links between lucid dreaming and psychotic conditions offers potential for new therapeutic routes based on how healthy dreaming differs from the unstable states associated with neurological and psychiatric disorders.

New data affirms the connection by showing that while dreaming lucidly the brain is in a dissociated state … Dissociation involves losing conscious control over mental processes, such as logical thinking or emotional reaction. In some psychiatric conditions this state is also known to occur while people are awake.

"In the field of psychiatry, the interest in patients' dreams has progressively fallen out of both clinical practice and research. But this new work seems to show that we may be able to make comparisons between lucid dreaming and some psychiatric conditions that involve an abnormal dissociation of consciousness while awake, such as psychosis, depersonalization and pseudoseizures." said Silvio Scarone, from the Università degli Studi di Milano in Milan, Italy.
Meanwhile, the previously discredited idea of treating some conditions with dream therapy has attracted interest from clinicians. An example is people suffering from nightmares can sometimes be treated by training them to dream lucidly so they can consciously wake up.

Click here for the complete ScienceDaily article.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Placebo Part 1: "Dummy" Drugs Getting Stronger

For years I’ve been interested in the so-called “placebo effect,” where some non-pharmaceutical element such as a sugar pill ~ when administered to an unknowing patient or test subject ~ actually outperforms the medicine against which it’s being tested.

Placebos are one of the most profound examples of mind-over-matter ever scientifically documented.

According to a recent, excellent Wired magazine article, placebos are somehow getting stronger. In clinical FDA testing, placebos are outperforming many new “medicines” developed by pharmaceutical giants and are even proving more effective than long-standing medications such as Prozac.

As you can imagine, this new development is playing havoc with the pharmaceutical industry. I'm wondering if this could be linked to the evolving human consciousness, though there's little chance that conventional science would support that hypothesis. According to Wired:
From 2001 to 2006, the percentage of new products cut from development after Phase II clinical trials, when drugs are first tested against placebo, rose by 20 percent. The failure rate in more extensive Phase III trials increased by 11 percent, mainly due to surprisingly poor showings against placebo. Despite historic levels of industry investment in R&D, the US Food and Drug Administration approved only 19 first-of-their-kind remedies in 2007—the fewest since 1983—and just 24 in 2008. Half of all drugs that fail in late-stage trials drop out of the pipeline due to their inability to beat sugar pills.

. . . It's not only trials of new drugs that are crossing the futility boundary. Some products that have been on the market for decades, like Prozac, are faltering in more recent follow-up tests. In many cases, these are the compounds that, in the late '90s, made Big Pharma more profitable than Big Oil. But if these same drugs were vetted now, the FDA might not approve some of them.

. . . It's not that the old meds are getting weaker, drug developers say. It's as if the placebo effect is somehow getting stronger. The fact that an increasing number of medications are unable to beat sugar pills has thrown the industry into crisis. The stakes could hardly be higher. In today's economy, the fate of a long-established company can hang on the outcome of a handful of tests.
As a result of this, scientists are finally dedicating more study to the mind’s ability to heal our bodies.

Long overdue, in my humble opinion.

Click here for the complete Wired article.

Placebo Part 2: Roots in Symbolism, Shamanism

Fabrizio Benedetti is one of the world’s leading researchers of how placebos work in the human brain, and he traces their effects back to ancient shamanism.

A physician, he also is a professor of physiology at the University of Turin Medical School, a consultant for the Placebo Project at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and a member of the Mind-Brain-Behavior Initiative at Harvard University. He writes:
The placebo-nocebo effect represents an amazing example of how the mind-brain unit interacts with the body. Whereas placebos have to do with positive symbols that anticipate clinical benefit, nocebos are linked to negative symbols that induce expectations of clinical worsening. Positive symbols can range from empathic doctors and smiling nurses to trust-inducing complex medical machines and apparatuses. Likewise, there are a variety of negative symbols, ranging from shabby doctors to a pain-anticipating dentist’s drill.

From an evolutionary perspective, these symbols, and indeed their interpretations by the patients, have evolved from ancient shamanism to modern medicine, whereby the patient’s expectations and beliefs in the healing power of the doctor play a crucial role. By studying placebo and nocebo effects, today we are beginning to understand how medical symbols affect the patient’s brain or, in other words, how positive or negative psychosocial contexts can change the brain and body functioning of the patients.
According to the Wired article posted above, Benedetti, 53, first became interested in placebos in the mid-'90s, while researching pain. He was surprised that some of the test subjects in his placebo groups seemed to suffer less than those on active drugs. But scientific interest in this phenomenon, and the money to research it, were hard to come by.

"The placebo effect was considered little more than a nuisance," he recalls. "Drug companies, physicians, and clinicians were not interested in understanding its mechanisms. They were concerned only with figuring out whether their drugs worked better."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

[Whether or not you think there's anything to astrology, you have to admit the world these days is awash in major change, consistent with the current celestial alignments. Just look at the overturn of the old order in Japan a few days ago and the tumult our own country is experiencing on a number of critical issues. Lynn Hayes of North Carolina has been a practicing astrologer for 25 years and is recognized for her insightful analyses. She writes the daily Astrological Musings blog for and compiles her monthly Skywatch readings for subscribers. From the new Skywatch, here’s part of her astrological overview for September.]

The big news for September is the third phase of a major planetary cycle that began on the US election day in November of 2008 and will have a total of five phases. Under this cycle the conventional way of doing things will battle against new ideas and change. . . . This planetary cycle is operating not only on a global level where it is affecting politics in nearly every country around the world, but also on a personal and psychological level.

In our personal lives, especially if these planets (Saturn and Uranus) are aspecting our own chart, this can feel very much like we're being pulled in two different directions. The natural reaction to an opposition is to allow ourselves to go to one extreme followed by the other, but this is not the most helpful approach. If we remember who we're dealing with here, we can face this planetary cycle in a conscious way that offers us the benefit of change (Uranus) while maintaining a sense of stability in our lives (Saturn). Saturn wants us to be responsible and disciplined and preserve order, and Uranus says forget the structures and start something new. Walking that tightrope is a challenge, but it can be done!

Later, she adds:

. . . We will have a bit of a break from the planetary intensity in October. We'll need it though, because the planetary energy will heat up again in November when Saturn moves into Libra and prepares to face off against Pluto. Now is the time to prepare our internal resources and achieve greater integration and balance between the Mind, the Physical, the Emotional and the Spirit within.