“No one is more of a slave than he who thinks himself free without being so.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The gorgeously rich period in Alexandria during which Ptolemy wrote the Tetrabiblos and Gnosticism, Neo-Platonism, and Hermeticism were all blossoming was surely the golden age of esoteric thought. Astrology as we know it was coming together as a fusion of the Babylonian, Egyptian, and Greek traditions. Classical antiquity was coming to an end with a flourish of brilliant emperors such as Hadrian and the philosopher Marcus Aurelius. Mystery schools still dotted the eastern Mediterranean in the days before Yahweh plastered the western world with his megalomania.
From this period’s spiritual stew emerged two ideas that are very important for astrology: first, that the world was ruled by a demiurge who was at best incompetent and more often malevolent, and second, that the descent of one’s soul through the sphere of the fixed stars and the seven planets impregnated it with the attributes of each of those planets. Beyond the seven classical planets and the zodiac, the soul was one with the source, the true essence of being. The journey to earth carried with it an incremental separation from that oneness as it moved step-by-step down through the planets towards earth, with each planet applying an additional veil of separation.
The Gnostic Sophia lost herself in the material plane, as did every soul imprisoned in it. Only by transcending one’s fate, or one’s chart, could the original unity be regained. Just as the alchemists tried to separate the elixir from the massa confusa, so the Gnostic Jesus came to rescue his other half, Sophia, the divine spark separated from the Pleroma. For the Gnostics, the end of a successful spiritual journey meant meeting Sophia and Jesus beyond the seven planets and the zodiac, not within them. This idea might seem archaic in our world of material reductionist dogma, where people pray to the brand Gods while worshiping bodies and bank accounts, but it’s important to keep in mind that astrology came of age at a time of much spiritual hostility toward the material world. For modern Gnostics, Yahweh and his Arcon henchman have much in common with our bankers and their corporate media lackeys.
What would the journey of a modern soul through the planets entail? Let’s first investigate the product of the descent.
Delusion Dwellers by Laurie Lipton 2010 (1) Laurie Lipton
Contemporary baptized, corporatized, and sanitized people rarely have the occasion to question their identity, and when they do a typical response might be, “I am product manager for a large retail chain, married to Joe, mother of Johnny, a Democrat, Steelers fan and a Lutheran.”
Their answers imply not only their beliefs but also the many responsibilities, rules, and restrictions to which they are subjected. Few if any of these were ever negotiated — rather they were imposed on the individual — yet people still consider themselves to be free.
But is free the right adjective for these people, or would modern domesticated simians be a better description? They have been told what to do, believe, think, and feel since they can remember. A very clever rancher has bred billions of these creatures around the globe and created the most profitable livestock imaginable. They work for him, fight for him, die for him, believe his wildest tales, laugh at his jokes, and rarely get out of line. When domesticated man does break one of the rules, there are armies, jailers, and bureaucrats prepared to kill, incarcerate, or hound the transgressor into submission.
One of the most fascinating aspects of domesticated man’s predicament is that he never looks at the cattle, sheep, and pigs who wind up on his plate and make the very simple deduction that he is just a talking version of them, corralled and shepherded through his entire life. How is this accomplished? Only animals that live in hierarchical groups can be dominated by man. The trick is to fool the animal into believing that the leader of the pack or herd is the person who is domesticating them. Once this is accomplished, the animal is under full control of its homo sapien master. The domesticated man is no different, as they were originally organized in groups with a clear hierarchy and maximum size of 150, making it easy to replace the leader of these smaller groups with one overarching figure such as God, King, President, CEO, etc. (2)
The methodology for creating this exceptionally loyal and obedient modern breed, homo domesticus, can be described as having seven pillars from which an immense matrix captures the talking simians and their conscious minds and hooks them into a complex mesh from which few ever escape. The system is so advanced that those who do untangle themselves and cut their way out of the net are immediately branded as mentally ill, anti-social, or simply losers who can’t accept the “complexity of modern life,” i.e. conspiracy nuts.
Plato described this brilliantly in his Allegory of the Cave, where people only see man-made shadows of objects, institutions, Gods, and ideas:
“- Behold! Human beings living in an underground cave…here they have been from their childhood…necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance…the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets… and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall…”
It began with the word, which forever changed the ability of men to manipulate each other. Before language, every sensation was directly felt through the senses without the filter of language. But somewhere around 50,000 years ago words began to replace reality and the first pieces of code were put in place for the creation of the Matrix. (3) As soon as the words began to flow, the world was split, and from that fracturing was born man’s angst and slavery. The words separated us from who we really were, creating the first screen onto which the images from Plato’s cave were cast. Gurdjieff said it well: “Identifying is the chief obstacle to self-remembering. A man who identifies with anything is unable to remember himself.”
It’s no accident that in Hesiod’s ages of man the Golden Age knew no agriculture, which appeared in the Silver Age, and by the time we reach the Bronze Age, the dominant theme is toil and strife. The two key elements to the enslavement of man were clearly language and agriculture. In the hunter-gatherer society, taking out the boss was no more complicated than landing a well-placed fastball to the head. Only since the advent of farming was the possibility of creating full time enforcers and propagandists made possible, and hence enslavement inevitable.
The search for enlightenment rarely, if ever, bears fruits in those temples of words, our schools and universities. Almost all traditions point to isolation and silence as the only paths to awakening; they are the true antidotes to modern slavery. As Aristotle wrote, “Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.”
So, from the institution from which we are mercilessly bombarded with words and enslaved to time, we begin our descent through the seven planets and into the Matrix.
There are things we are born able to do, like eating, laughing, and crying, and others we pick up without much of an effort, such as walking, speaking, and fighting, but without strict institutional education, there is no way we can ever become a functioning member of the Matrix. We must be indoctrinated, sent to Matrix boot camp, which, of course, is school. How else could you take a hunter and turn him into a corporate slave, submissive to clocks, countless bosses, monotony, and uniformity.
Children naturally know who they are, and they have no existential angst, but schools immediately begin driving home the point of schedules, countries, professions, and money, which inevitably lead the students to the concept of who they aren’t. We drill the little ones until they learn to count money, tell time, measure progress, stand in line, keep silent, and endure submission. They learn they aren’t free and they are separated from everyone else and the world itself by a myriad of divides, names, and languages.
It can’t be stressed enough how much education is simply inculcating people with the clock and the idea of a forced identity. What child, when she first goes to school, isn’t taken aback to hear herself referred to by her full name?
It’s not as if language itself isn’t sufficiently abstract, but nothing must be left without a category. Suzy can’t just be Suzy — she is a citizen of a country and a state, a member of a religion, and a product of a civilization, many of which have flags, mascots, armies, uniforms, currencies, and languages. Once all the mascots, tag lines, and corporate creeds are learned, then history can begin to be taught. The great epic myths invented and conveniently woven into the archetypes that have come down through the ages cement this matrix into the child’s mind.
Even the language that she speaks without effort must be deconstructed for her. An apple will never again be just an apple; it will become a noun, a subject, or an object. Nothing will be left untouched, all must be ripped apart and explained back to the child in Matrixese.
We are taught almost nothing useful during the twelve or so years that we are institutionalized and conditioned for slavery — not how to cook, farm, hunt, build, gather, laugh, or play. We are only taught how to live by a clock and conform to institutionalized behaviors that make for solid careers as slaveocrats.
In the countries that claim to be democratic, the concept of a government created to serve the people is often espoused. Government, and the laws it creates and enforces, is institutionalized social control for the benefit of those who have seized power. This has always been the case and always will be. In the pre-democratic era, it was much easier to recognize who had power, but the genius of massive democratic states are the layers upon layers of corporatocracy and special interests that so brilliantly conceal the identity of those who really manage the massive apparatus of control.
The functions of the state are so well esconded in dogmatic versions of history taught in schools that almost no one questions why we need anything beyond the bare essentials of government to maintain order in the post-industrial age. The history classes never point the finger at the governments themselves as the propagators and instigators of war, genocide, starvation, and corruption. Hollywood’s version of history, the one most people absorb, always portrays “good” governments against “bad” ones. We have yet to see a film where all the people on both sides simply disengage from their governments and ignore the calls to violence.
The state apparatus is based on law, which is a contract between the people and an organism created to administer common necessities — an exchange of sovereignty between the people and the state. This sounds reasonable, but when one looks at the mass slaughters of the 20th century, almost without exception, the perpetrators are the states themselves.
The loss of human freedom is the only birthright offered to the citizens of the modern nation. There is never a choice. It is spun as a freedom and a privilege when it is in fact indentured servitude to the state apparatus and the corporatocracy that controls it.
Patriotism is pure abstraction, a completely artificial mechanism of social control. People are taught to value their compatriots above and beyond those of their own ethnic background, race, or religion. The organic bonds are to be shed in favor of the great corporate state. From infancy, children are indoctrinated like Pavlov’s dogs to worship the paraphernalia of the state and see it as a mystical demigod.
What is a country? Using the United States as an example, what actually is this entity? Is it the USPS, the FDA, or the CIA? Does loving one’s country mean one should love the IRS and the NSA? Should we feel differently about someone if they are from Vancouver instead of Seattle? Loving a state is the same as loving a corporation, except with the corporations there is still no stigma attached to not showing overt sentimental devotion to their brands, and fortunately, at least for the moment, we are not obligated at birth to pay them for a lifetime of services most of which we neither need nor want.
Flags, the Hollywood version of history, and presidential worship are drilled into us to maintain the illusion of the “other” and force the “foreigner/terrorist/extremist” to wear the stigma of our projections. The archaic tribal energy that united small bands and helped them to fend off wild beasts and hungry hoards has been converted into a magic wand for the masters of the matrix. Flags are waved and we respond like hungry Labradors jumping at a juicy prime rib swinging before our noses. Sentimental statist propaganda is simply the mouth guard used to soften the jolt of our collective electroshock therapy.
As powerful as the patriotic sects are, there has always been a need for something higher. Religion comes from the Latin re-ligare and it means to reconnect. But reconnect to what? The question before all religions is, what have we been disconnected from? The indoctrination and alienation of becoming a card-carrying slave has a cost; the level of abstraction and the disconnect from any semblance of humanity converts people into nihilistic robots. No amount of patriotic fervor can replace having a soul. The flags and history lessons can only give a momentary reprieve to the emptiness of the Matrix, and that’s why the priests are needed.
The original spiritual connection man had with the universe began to dissolve into duality with the onset of language, and by the time cities and standing armies arrived he was in need of a reconnection, and thus we get our faith-based religions — faith in the religious experiences of sages, or as William James put it, faith in someone else’s ability to connect. Of course, the liturgies of our mainstream religions offer some solace and connection, but in general they simply provide the glue for the Matrix. The Neo-Platonists described in great detail the world soul, Anima Mundi, and our connection to her was one of the keystones of their thought, but the Matrix drags us down to the most base material level, disconnecting us from the universal soul. A brief perusal of the news will clearly show that their “God” seems most comfortable amidst the killing fields.
If we focus on the Abrahamic religions, we have a god much like the state, one who needs to be loved. He is also jealous of the other supposedly non-existent gods and is as sociopathic as the governments who adore him. He wipes out his enemies with floods and angels of death just as the governments who pander to him annihilate us with cultural revolutions, atom bombs, television, and napalm. Their anthem is, “Love your country, its flag, its history, and the God who created it all” — an ethos forcefed to each new generation.
The sad thing about the bread and circus is that it’s generally not even entertaining. The slaves are told it’s time for some fun and they move in hordes to stare at their electrical devices, believing that they are watching something of value when it’s generally nothing more than vulgar propaganda.
As long as homo domesticus goes into the appropriate corral, jumps when she is told to, and agrees wholeheartedly that she is having fun, then she’s a good slave worthy of her two days off a week and fifteen days vacation at the designated farm where she is milked of any excess gold she might have accumulated during the year. Once she is too old to work and put to pasture, holes are strategically placed in her vicinity so she and her husband can spend their last few dollars trying to get a small white ball into them.
On a daily basis, after the caffeinated maximum effort has been squeezed out of her, she is placed in front of a screen, given the Matrix approved beverage (alcohol), and re-indoctrinated for several hours before starting the whole cycle over again. God forbid that anyone should ever take a hallucinogen and have an original thought. We are, thankfully, protected from any substances that might actually wake us up and are encouraged to stick to the booze. The Matrix loves coffee in the morning, alcohol in the evening, and never an authentic thought in between.
On a more primal level we are entranced with the contours of the perfect body and dream of “perfect love,” where our days will be filled with soft caresses, sweet words, and Hollywood drama. This is perhaps the most sublime of the Matrix’s snares, as Venus’s charms can be so convincing that one willingly abandons all for her devious promises. Romantic love is dangled like bait, selling us down the path of sentimentally-coated lies and mindless consumerism.
Money is their most brilliant accomplishment. Billions of people spend most of their waking lives either acquiring it or spending it without ever understanding what it actually is. In this hologram of a world, the only thing one can do without money is breathe. For almost every other human activity they want currency, from eating and drinking to clothing oneself and finding a partner. While religion came from innate spirituality and patriotism from the tribe, money they invented themselves — the most fantastic and effective of all their tools of domestication.
They have convinced the slaves that money actually has some intrinsic value, since at some point in the past it actually did. Once they were finally able to disconnect money completely from anything other than their computers, they finally took complete control, locked the last gate, and electrified all the fences. They ingeniously print it up out of nothing and loan it with interest so that 18-year-olds can spend four years drinking and memorizing propaganda while incurring a financial indebtedness that will most likely never end.
By the time typical Americans are thirty, their debt is so high that they abandon any hope of ever being free of it and embrace their mortgages, credit cards, student loans, and car loans as gifts from a sugar daddy. What they rarely ask themselves is why they must work to make money while banks can simply create it with a few keystrokes. If they printed out notes on their HP’s and loaned them with interest to their neighbors, they would wind up in a penitentiary, but not our friends on Wall Street — they do just that and wind up pulling the strings in the White House. The genius of the money scam is how obvious it is. When people are told that banks create money out of nothing and are paid interest for it, the good folks are left incredulous — “It can’t be that simple!” And therein lies the rub because no one wants to believe that they have been so easily enslaved.
“Culture is the effort to hold back the mystery and replace it with a mythology.”
– Terence McKenna
As Terence loved to say, “Culture is not your friend.” It exists as a buffer to authentic experience. As they created larger and larger communities, they replaced the direct spiritual experience of the shaman with priestly religion. Drumbeats and sweat were exchanged for digitized, corporatized noise. Local tales got replaced by Hollywood blockbusters, critical thinking with academic dogma.
If money is the shackles of the matrix, culture is its operating system. Filtered, centralized, incredibly manipulative, it glues all their myths together into one massive narrative of social control from which only the bravest of souls ever tries to escape. It’s relatively simple to see the manipulation when one looks at patriotism, religion, or money. But when taken as a whole it seems as natural and timeless as the air we breathe, so intertwined with our self-conception that it is often hard to see where we individually finish and our culture begins.
Escaping the Grip of Control
The Astronomer, Albrecht Durer, 1500
Some might ask why this all-pervasive network of control isn’t talked about or discussed by our “great minds.” Pre-Socratic scholar Peter Kingsley explains it well:
“Everything becomes clear once we accept the fact that scholarship as a whole is not concerned with finding, or even looking for, the truth. That’s just a decorative appearance. It’s simply concerned with protecting us from truths that might endanger our security; and it does so by perpetuating our collective illusions on a much deeper level than individual scholars are aware of.” (4)
Whoever discovered water, it certainly wasn’t a fish. To leave the “water” or Plato’s cave takes courage and the knowledge (gnosis), not the belief, that there is something beyond the web of control. The path out of the Matrix is not for everyone because it requires dangerous unlearning, unbelieving, disconnecting, and unplugging. No stone can be left unturned within the soul of the seeker, but the reward is beyond anything words and culture could possibly offer.
Astrology can be a great help because it describes the forces that rule this realm while refraining from passing judgement on them. There is no good and bad in astrology, only archetypes driving the powers that shape our existence. Unlike almost any other worldviews, astrology simply aims to find equilibrium between a wide array of equally valued forces.
Plato described the process of leaving the Matrix over 2300 hundred years ago in the Allegory of the Cave:
“…if the prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled… to look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows…will he not be perplexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him?
He will… grow accustomed to upper world…first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections…in the water…then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heavens…Last he will see himself in his own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate himself as he is.”
(1) Used with permission of the artist.
(2) The Guardian
(3) NY Times
Bio: Robert Bonomo is a novelist, blogger, and astrologer. He created a unique blend of anarcho-capatalism and esotericism in his latest novel, Your Love Incomplete, available as a free download. He blogs at The Cactus Land.