The Spirit of the Times and What It Can Tell Us About an Obama Presidency
With many of the news stories now focussed on who will be asked to serve in the new Obama administration, a question on my mind lately is what will an Obama presidency be like? Rather than approaching this question from a political perspective and current day to day events, I’d like to address this question from an archetypal perspective, and hopefully shed light on the overarching forces – the planetary archetypes – that are shaping history, and what they can tell us about the next four to eight years.
In politics, the arts and culture, the people who win elections, the authors who write best sellers, the filmmakers who create films that are widely popular, and the people who are icons of any given period or leave a mark on “their” age are those that embody and reflect the spirit of the time or cultural “zeitgeist.” Based on this premise, I submit that Barack Obama’s presidency as well as the country that elected him and the events which unfold while he is in the White House are and will be manifestations or reflections of the spirit of the time. What makes it possible to discern its nature and character? The most effective tool that I know of for consistently and accurately discerning the zeitgeist of any given era is astrology, which very simply put is a systematic study of the planetary archetypes as they manifest and interact within the human psyche and history. (I realize that for some this premise that assumes a deep underlying connection between cosmos and psyche is illegitimate. This premise flies in the face of the predominant western world view and to accept it takes a leap of imagination easier for some than for others.)
Be that as it may, given recent events in the banking industry and the financial markets, the current period is being compared with the 1929-1933 period of the stock market crash and the ensuing Great Depression. There is an astrological correlation as well, meaning that the same planetary archetypes that were in alignment in the early 1930s are once again in major alignment at the present time. This is not to say that we will experience a financial crisis to the same degree as we did during the Great Depression, but once again we are experiencing global economic upheaval. Another link between the two eras is the economics of John Maynard Keynes. The economic theories of Keynes, which were revolutionary in their time, were conceived in the 1930s. Interestingly, we are now seeing a resurgence of Keynesian economics in the U.S., the EU, and China.
The period of 1928 to 1937, which in an archetypal sense is related to the one we’re now in, was an era of revolutionary ideas and reform in economics, philosophy, feminism, religion, psychology, and popular music. Also characteristic of this time were mass movements and social activism, social unrest, uprisings and protest. For example, in the U.S. workers organized mass strikes which led to the ascendancy of the labor movement. Freud’s Civilization and Its Malcontents was widely read during this period. This era was also marked by the political and social reforms and progressive ideas of the Roosevelt presidency. Previous eras wherein the same planetary alignment was operative were characterized by similar features of reform and revolution, a universal drive for emancipation and freedom, and mass uprisings. A synergy of the great archetypal powers sparked a collective awakening of Kundalini worldwide, resulting in widespread social, economic, and political disruption and change, as well as immense cultural creativity.
Having looked back at previous eras in which the same themes and phenomena occurred consistently under the operative planetary archetypes, what might we glean about the opportunities and challenges lying ahead for the incoming Obama presidency and what might we see in the days and years ahead? I offer the following:
1. An awakened citizenry.
2. An empowered political grassroots and labor movement/weakening in power of lobbyists.
3. Revolutionary ideas in many fields.
4. Creativity in the arts, music, and popular culture
5. A collective embrace of progressive ideas and policies
6. The emergence of new economic theories and a radical restructuring of the U.S. and world economies.
7. The destruction of old political, economic, and social institutions and the creation of new ones.
8. Rapid technological progress
9. A resurgence in the power of the press, although I tend to think of “the press” in its new incarnation as new media.
10. Radical political and social change.
11. Mass protests, revolutions and rebellions, probably violent, particularly in countries whose goal is emancipation and freedom. Worldwide, between 2008 and 2011, an uptick in violence or terrorist activity. There could be an escalation of the Israeli Palestinian conflict, or war in the Middle East. This could also mean an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, even as we are winding down the war in Iraq. Or it could mean things getting worse in Iraq with a remobilization and intensification of nationalist resistance if the U.S. maintains its occupation. Should this occur, I think the U.S. will lose, same with Afghanistan, because the times favor those who struggle for freedom and liberation, particularly in 2010 and 2011, and from 2012-2015.
12. A resurgence of socialism and/or Marxism.
13. A new wave of feminism and sexual freedom, which I venture to say will principally impact countries where gender equality has not been realized.
14. Attention to women’s issues.
15. A burgeoning of civil and human rights movements and legislation. Marriage equality for gays, particularly between March, 2010 and April, 2011. Also, in keeping with the nature of these planetary archetypes, habeas corpus and the Geneva conventions are likely to be restored.
16. A new wave of liberation and empowerment for blacks.
17. Empowerment of youth.
18. Books, articles, and films reflecting the above themes.
What are likely to be the predominant features of an Obama presidency given the planetary archetypes shaping the present course of events?
Obama is assuming the office of the presidency in a time of great crisis, as we all know, but likewise one of opportunity, immense cultural creativity, and social and political upheaval and change. In general terms, these features will likely be consistent with statements made during his campaign, among them: bringing about change from the bottom up. This will necessarily involve an engaged citizenry, and in these times, the public is more energized, dynamic, engaged, and at times more oppositional. Obama’s presidency could bring in a progressive new era. Political and social reforms will likely be implemented, though these will be less ideologically driven than in the previous administration. My sense is that due to Obama’s independence, as well as the problems the country now faces, he will not want to be constrained by ideology in implementing his ideas. At times, he may have more disagreements with the most partisan members of his own party, than with Republicans. Karen Kornbluh, Obama’s chief policy director in the Senate, after her first meeting with him said this:
"This is a guy who is going to shake things up in Washington. He had an ability to focus on people’s real lives and not just thinking in terms of what Washington thinks.”
We’re already seeing the effects of this planetary alignment today. To name just a few, the election of the first black president of the U.S., an energized electorate, young and new voters who participated in the political process for the first time, and the intense backlash and protests around the country against Proposition 8 in CA. This particular issue may galvanize the entire collective, conservatives, moderates, and progressives. There will be many more examples as the alignment builds and peaks between 2012-2015.
If Obama stays true to his purpose, if he can maintain his independence, unlike the 1990s wherein a very different zeitgeist held sway during the Clinton administration, Obama will be in office during a time most receptive to big and new ideas and bold and sweeping change. If he stays true to the spirit of the age, he will be a transformational president.
For a full exposition of these ideas, see Cosmos and Psyche, by Richard Tarnas.