2022: Reflections on a Uniquely Dramatic Year


Sadly, most of us will remember 2022 as a year of unimaginable tragedy – the year when a major war came back to the plains of central Europe, after over seventy years of peace. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought eerie reminders of previous European wars to our generation, who thought we had escaped the collective trauma experienced by our parents and grandparents. As a very harsh winter bites in Ukraine, whose damaged energy infrastructure remains under attack, we are reminded of the primal significance of the midwinter fire festival: it served as a precious opportunity for communal warmth and jollity amid bitter cold from which there was little escape.



Hiroshige, from ‘One Hundred Famous Views of Edo’ (1856-59 CE)

That deep winter chill has been pretty much held at bay for our generation, due to the luxury of central heating – until now. As we try to limit our own energy use due to the fall-out from Putin’s war (along with concerns on its unsustainability), it is rather easier to imagine the suffering of Ukrainians who are enduring energy blackouts as well as attacks on their water supplies in sub-zero temperatures. This conflict has certainly reminded us that the security blanket provided by modern technology use is very fragile indeed. Of course, there are numerous charities worldwide in desperate need of support at this time, including in the UK amidst our cost of living and energy crisis, but for those of you seeking a Ukrainian charity to support, we can recommend Olena Zelenska’s foundation: https://zelenskafoundation.org/en

Maidan Nezalezhnosti ‘Independence Square’ the central square of Kyiv, 2022





While Putin’s barbaric war has reminded us that the oil and gas we still rely on is becoming a highly contested resource, the multiple extreme weather events of this year have provided further painful illustrations of the devastating impact of fossil fuel use on the global temperature. The scene below was photographed in France this summer.

After such terrible events had impacted so many of us, including in Europe, another major shock of the year was the failure of COP27 this November to make any serious effort to reduce emissions. Unbelievably, the fossil fuel companies appear to have used this critical climate meeting at Sharm el-Sheikh to actually lobby for more business; this just as global overheating is beginning to spiral out of control, and we are losing sight of our declared goal of keeping the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above preindustrial temperature. This is why our book of the year has to be Bill McGuire’s ‘Hothouse Earth’; a lucid, step by step account, by a leading scientist, of the future that humanity will soon be dealing with on our rapidly heating planet.

Yet we are hopeful that environmental awareness may have increased a fraction over the past year. Thankfully, the year is ending on a note of optimism, with a ‘pact with nature’ agreed at COP15 in Montreal – its goal to protect 30% of the world’s wild environments by 2030. And we can see that more of us are now trying to make sustainable choices, for our lifestyle in general and our Christmas plans in particular. Also in this year, a few UK homes were even built with better insulation!!  And we are very grateful to major environmental charities like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace for leading opposition to unsustainable, business-driven decisions that compromise our key climate goals, such as the current plan to reopen a coal mine in Cumbria. Another highlight for us a few months ago was the election of President Lula in Brazil, where we hope and pray he will be able to halt - possibly even start to reverse - ongoing destruction of the Amazon rainforest, which is such a precious bulwark against runaway global heating.

For us, other thought-provoking highlights of the year came from the pages of some very different books. To mark the 100th anniversary of the publication of T S Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’, Faber has published a moving memoir by his friend Mary Trevelyan, ‘Mary and Mr Eliot’. Written by a quite remarkable woman, this unexpectedly engaging record of a 20-year friendship sheds new light on Eliot, not just as a devoted member of the Anglo-Catholic communion (a path he shared with Mary), but also as a man torn between opposing impulses towards sociability and seclusion, and especially troubled in his relations with the opposite sex.

We were absorbed in a completely different way by ‘Putin's People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West,’ which was authored by Catherine Belton, a former Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times, and published in 2020. Belton’s book describes how a corrupt network of former KGB operatives brought Putin to power, helped to shape his views, and has not only fostered endemic corruption within Russia but has also created widespread and unscrupulous “influence operations” abroad. It explains why Putin’s Russia abandoned the post-communist drive towards democracy and retreated into Soviet-era paranoia towards the West. The final ideological spark that has ignited the current conflict, of course, is Putin’s obsessive preoccupation with restoring the Russian empire, and creating a Russia-dominated new world order. Two years before the invasion of Ukraine, Belton’s forensic analysis had already demonstrated that ‘Putin’s people’ had absolute indifference to the international ethical order, and that they would use any means, no matter how ruthless, criminal or deadly to others and even to the people of Russia, to advance their own interests. At a time when the world needs to work together to address its common economic, viral, ecological and climate problems, we can only hope the Russian people will eventually find a way to oust Putin and his kind. Sadly, this may take at least a generation. In the United States, a different yet still deeply troubling challenge to democratic (and American Constitutional) principles remains widespread in the toxic aftermath of Donald Trump’s presidency and the January 6th insurrection; but the mid-term elections of November, and the dedicated work of the January 6th committee, only now completed, have reassured us that US democracy is not yet dead.

On a lighter note, we now read some Chinese poetry on an almost daily basis, nourished by its lyrical evocation of the stunning “mountains and rivers” landscape of that vast land, and by its expression of the ideals of Taoism and Chan Buddhism. This year we were inspired by Arthur Waley’s The Life and Times of Po Chu-I, first published in 1949. A prominent government official of the T’ang era, Po Chu-I was also a widely respected poet and a devoted practitioner of Chan. Waley makes Po’s life (772-846 CE) supremely accessible: no mean achievement when to many in the Western world early China still seems so obscure. We thought we would close with a sample of Po’s poetry translated by David Hinton.


Winter Sun on my Back

A winter sun rises huge and bright,

lights the south corner of my house.

Eyes closed, I sit warming my back,

ch'i stirring through every muscle,

serene. Soon it's like sipping wine,

like the refreshment of hibernation.

Body genial, its hundred bones clear,

spirit serene, no thoughts anywhere,

I've forgotten where I am, boundless

Mind, all emptiness, rendered whole.


Chao Meng-fu (1254–1322 CE), from ‘Twin Pines, Level Distance’


The Astrological Forces Influencing the United States & United Kingdom –

And how to deal with them!

Part 1

Everyone living in these two nations will be acutely aware of the turbulent, indeed toxic, political climate now prevailing in the US and the UK. In each case, a gradual build-up of intense political polarisation in the country, over many years, recently came to a head. In the UK, this change of mood become fully apparent in the summer of 2016, with the controversial ‘Brexit’ vote to leave the European Union; in the US, this occurred in the autumn of the same year with the election of Donald Trump as US President. Each country is now grappling with some extremely nasty aspects of its national psyche: hatred, resentment and various disturbing forms of prejudice, especially racism and xenophobia, have begun to emerge from the country’s collective subconscious.

In what follows, I will explain the chief astrological cause behind this troubling state of affairs, and also suggest what can be done to resist or challenge the prevailing climate. For although this is undeniably a challenging time, it also has the potential to act as a significant spur to our individual and collective development; indeed, recent events in both countries have shown that this is already happening.

Under the shadow planet: Rahu or the North Node of the Moon

In astrological terms, the political turmoil in both the United States and United Kingdom has two very specific causes: Firstly, each nation recently had a rare aspect to its Sun, representing both its government and its core identity, from transformative Pluto. This planet, named for the Roman lord of the underworld has close connections both with the deep unconscious and with quasi-fascistic forms of political prejudice and repression. Thus Pluto can cause political extremism to surface in some very ugly forms. I have written about this quite rare transit in several astrology posts over the last few years.

Secondly, both countries are currently under the influence of Rahu, the North Node of the Moon. Often called the Dragon’s Head in traditional astrology, Rahu is described as a shadow planet in Indian astrology. The UK began an 18-year period ruled by Rahu at the very end of 2012, while the US began its own 18-year Rahu cycle (called a ‘dasha’) in the late summer of 2016. As the two lunar nodes govern the eclipse cycle, when the lights of the Sun or Moon are briefly extinguished, their influence is associated with difficulties, challenges and disruption by Indian astrology – with a time of disorientation or ignorance when we can lose touch with the guiding inner light of Spirit that is represented by the two luminaries of Sun and Moon. (Rahu is shown here swallowing the Sun.) However, in the longer term, the Nodes’ impact on both individual and collective consciousness can be illuminating. The Indian myth of their creation is suggestive in this respect:

The Churning of the Ocean of Milk

The episode relates to a time when there was a great war between gods and asuras (or demons). Although almost defeated, the Indian gods had offered a truce to their opponents, the asuras or demons, suggesting that they cooperate to churn the Ocean of Milk; this process that was designed to create amrita, the nectar that gave immortality. But to do this a churning mechanism was needed, so it was decided to wrap the body of Vasuki, an asura who was king of the serpents around the world mountain; the gods and asuras then pulled his huge body from side to side, like a churning rope. This caused the mountain to revolve and churn the milk. When the amrita was created, the gods tricked the asuras and kept it for themselves; this enabled them to renew their strength and finally defeat the asuras. But Vasuki managed secretly to drink some of the nectar. When the chief god Vishnu discovered this, he threw his discus and cut Vasuki’s head off. However, as the serpent king had already consumed the amrita, he was now immortal. So he entered the skies as two separate entities, becoming the invisible but extremely powerful Lunar Nodes, Rahu (the serpent’s head) and Ketu (the serpent’s tail).

The hidden meaning of this myth is twofold: in the first place, just as eclipses temporarily hide the solar and lunar light, so the Nodes can temporarily eclipse the inner light that wants to guide us towards higher consciousness, by exacerbating our lower, or ‘asura-like,’ desire-nature. Yet without Vasuki, the gods could not have created the amrita, and our journey toward higher consciousness requires us at certain key junctures to face and learn to control the ‘asura’ side of our nature.

The UK and US are both having national Rahu dashas at this time, yet more generally the influence of Rahu has come to the fore globally in the last two to three hundred years, especially or initially in the West. As the serpent’s head, Rahu governs individualism and individual, ego-directed intelligence, promoting brilliant technological and scientific innovations, as well as encouraging the gratification of our desire-natures through excessive materialism. His energy flourishes in an irreligious age, where a secular scientific mentality guides mankind, and where people are predominantly focussed on the comforts and pleasures afforded by global capitalism. The big machines of the industrial age and our relentless mining of the earth for its toxic fruits - oil, carbon and mineral wealth - are all related to Rahu, as is our deepening environemental crisis. I list more Rahu-related themes and activities below…

Two nations in the serpent’s mouth: the current Rahu cycles of the UK & the US

In early 2013, barely a month after the United Kingdom had entered its Rahu dasha, the UK government felt compelled to call a referendum on the country’s membership of the European Union. To the amazement and consternation of many liberal UK citizens, this released a deluge of racist negativity which was cleverly fanned and manipulated by some unscrupulous political figures; the result, in the summer of 2016, was a majority ‘Yes’ vote for leaving the EU. As negotiations on the precise terms of Britain’s exit from the EU muddle painfully on, the intense acrimony still being expressed in political life shows that the country has far from recovered from this fateful moment of extreme political and social polarisation. It is clear that Britain is in the midst of a dramatic sea-change – a change of collective mood and of national destiny, in which the comfortable liberal certainties of the last several decades suddenly appear extremely fragile, while the gap between the haves and the have nots seems to have become a yawning abyss.

As the UK started to absorb the immense shock of its EU referendum result, and began to argue about what exactly this might mean, another rising tide of racial prejudice, self-interest, hypocrisy and bad faith was gathering force across the Atlantic in America. Another acute and seemingly irreconcilable process of political polarisation was coming to a head. This bitter polarisation of a great nation has very deep roots, some of which reach back to the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery. By November 2016, a second, hitherto inconceivable sea-change in the mood of (a large part of) a nation had delivered an equally appalling shock to liberal Americans, with the election of asura-guided Donald Trump as 45th US President. Rahu occupies a position of great strength iivig standards in the world - n Trump’s astrological chart, where it is placed in the tenth house of career. Unthinkably, this dangerously corrupt man had achieved the highest office in a nation whose Founding Fathers (with admirable prescience) drafted not just the Declaration of Independence but also the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Amidst the political mistrust and confusion generated by tricky and often delusive Rahu these two nations no longer seem so internally ‘United’. But as I said earlier, Rahu’s astrological influence is complex and wide-ranging. Below is a list of some of the key themes we may expect to come to the fore in a national dasha (long planetary cycle) governed by Rahu:

  • Rahu is an interloper among the gods, an asura (or demon) who secretly drank their nectar of immortality. Thus Rahu is closely related to the outsider and stranger (whether living outside a nation or on its periphery, as a disadvantaged minority ethnic group). Under a Rahu dasha, the question of relations with such individuals and groups becomes acute: foreign nations; those from abroad; tribal peoples; the subject of ethnic difference; issues around immigration will all come to the fore.
  • As an asura or demon, Rahu’s focus is primarily on worldly gratification. Greed, excessive materialism and worldly values are on the increase. Stories of corruption abound.
  • Rahu is a trickster and promotes deception and illusion. Some of his creations are glamorous and seductive: film and the internet are closely connected with Rahu. But he governs spies and espionage as well, and these are likely to be in the public eye under a Rahu dasha. The media comes to the fore, for good or bad; with Rahu’s penchant for deception, this can include ‘fake news’.
  • Acute political polarisation, followed by intense political ferment, is likely; political debate and activity intensifies and involves the masses. While some will be misguided by prejudiced political views, others will be positively influenced to a new level of political involvement.
  • Technological impetus increases at these times, with focus on computers, machines, space research, but also in deep earth fields involving mining. Many breakthroughs are possible in these fields, but over- or misuse of technology (such as in hacking) is likely to increase also.
  • Because of his link with venom, Rahu is predominantly a polluting and exploitative energy, and there is likely to be intense debate around the environment and its exploitation and/or protection under his dasha. We now know that planet Earth is facing runaway global heating over the next century, and the karma for driving this process lies very considerably at the door of these two nations, since one began the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, and the other - whose citizens have the highest living standards in the world - has intensifed the process. As Rahu is placed in water signs in both the UK and the US chart, the theme of clean water – such as the debates around fracking and the campaign at Standing Rock – ia also coming to the fore at this time. For some, however, working positively with Rahu, especially through spiritual practice, will take them towards the sought-after amrita which he helped to create.

In the next part of this article I will describe some of the ways to deal with this Rahu influence, and will describe some significant achievements and events in previous Rahu dashas that I hope will inspire you with optimism - and a determination not to be cowed by the influence of the serpent’s head!


The astrological forces now influencing the United States & United Kingdom

And how to deal with them!

Part 2

In the first part of this article, I described how the energy of Rahu, the serpent’s head or North Lunar Node, is shaping the collective national experience in both the UK and the US at this time, exercising a powerful influence on culture, society and politics. And I listed some of key trends that are already emerging in this distinctive planetary cycle, which will influence the UK from late 2012 until 2030, and the US from autumn 2016 until 2034.

The asura (demon-like) energies of Rahu may seem overwhelmingly negative as its dasha, or long planetary cycle, starts: exacerbating political conflict amid a climate of racism and prejudice; promoting conservative political and economic agendas that serve the interests of a moneyed elite; driving our ambiguous love-affair with technology further; and stimulating our restless pursuit of different sensory stimuli, encouraging deeper immersion in the illusory (Rahu-governed) world of the internet and IPhone. The shadow planet’s energy is highly mental, so typically it promotes a rationalist scepticism, and drives a decline of mainstream religion; yet non-conformist or alternative spiritual paths can also flourish under its influence. But because Rahu promotes the desires of the ego, not the wisdom of the soul, his influence can mix error or confusion with religious or spiritual belief (the effect is especially striking in the case of America, where Rahu occupies the ninth house of the spiritual path and higher knowledge).

Under a Rahu influence, the dark veil of illusion or maya that characterises worldly life can seem almost impenetrable. The purest levels of spiritual wisdom become harder – but not impossible - to access. Individualistic self-absorption and self-interest is now seen everywhere, as a hyper-materialistic society characterised by extreme mental and physical restlessness – along with many addictions – is led by celebrity culture and its media to a blind following of mass trends. This Rahu influence has given us the disturbing spectacle of a US President unable to concentrate for long periods, and compulsively misusing Twitter to express his thoughts or feelings, typically in the middle of the night. Trump is also reported to be addicted to fast foods and sugary drinks.

Yet Indian astrologer Bepin Behari comments of Rahu’s influence that: “Materialistic proclivities must be aroused to their fullness before they can be destroyed.” His implication is that only when we are confronted by the ogre of excessive worldliness, prejudice and delusion, in all its grotesque ugliness and inflated self-importance, do we strengthen our resolve to reject these misguided, asura-like values and embrace the path of dharma. Thus while a Rahu dasha puts many obstacles in our path, it can also trigger a growing reaction against the Rahu ogre of self-interested, self-absorbed worldliness. Some astrologers liken this process to the violent churning activity that occurred when the king of the serpents was wrapped around the world mountain, and his body was pulled from side to side by the gods and the asuras in order to create the precious amrita of the gods from the Ocean of Milk. As a tide of apparently negative events ‘churns’ our collective and individual consciousness, a variety of idealistic values and agendas begin to motivate many members of society. The trend does not reach all members of the affected society, but planting the seeds of dharma, or right action, will be pivotal as the dasha unfolds. The inspiring actions which sprout from such seeds are like the nectar of immortality that the king of the serpents helped to extract from the Ocean of Milk.

Coping with Rahu: current positive trends in the US and UK

As the Rahu dasha of the US began in September 2016, the Sioux people of Standing Rock received sympathetic publicity and global support as they engaged in a bitter struggle to protect a key water source and other sacred sites from the Dakota oil pipeline. The Standing Rock tribe even spoke of a Lakota prophecy about a black snake crossing their land, bringing with it destruction and devastation, declaring that their goal was to cut off the black snake’s head (i.e. stop the pipeline). The tribe did not succeed in stopping the pipeline, but their courageous defence of clean water – and their reverence for Mother Earth – was a rallying call for all First Americans fighting against environmental degradation, and for many other environmental activists.


Two key democratic commitments of the First Amendment – notably the freedom of the press and the right to assemble - have been under vicious attack by the Trump administration. But there is also a fierce democratic fight-back against these moves. As the current Rahu dasha unfolds in the US, we may expect further action in defence of these founding democratic principles, which were fought for so tenaciously in America’s first Rahu cycle (see below for previous Rahu dashas in US). In the growing opposition to Donald’s Trump’s retrograde views and politics, we can see large swathes of American society – along with much of the press, and numerous state legislatures – ignoring his undemocratic threats and committing to different types of remedial action (including legislative challenges), especially in opposition to his ignorant stance on the environment, on race and immigration, and on women’s rights. And Trump himself has been dogged by charges of collusion with Russia during his election campaign - a strongly Rahu related theme that will not completely go away, even after the Mueller inquiry ends.

In the UK there has also been increased momentum for radical action took about three years really to get underway, it has been a similar story. After the shock election of radical and outsider Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader in late 2015, the formerly centrist Labour Party began to revise its pro-capitalist agenda and turned back to socialist values, supported by a groundswell of popular support. But it has been mired in bitter internal conflict, by divisions over Brexit, and by disagreements about its views on the state of Israel's apartheid policies. At the same time, campaigns in support of migrants and refugees; against sexism, racism and the ruling elite’s neglect of the most disadvantaged members of society; for continuing provision of free health care; and for accessible higher education and better standards in food have become vociferous, to the extent that the Tory-led government now looks seriously beleaguered. And action on the environment – from campaigns for clean energy and divestment from fossil fuels to the new campaign against plastic pollution of our seas – is especially high-profile at this time.

Amidst this ferment of activism, several of the remedies recommended by Vedic astrologers to mitigate the negative effects of a Rahu dasha are already intuitively being initiated. Below I describe these remedies – the positive actions and attitudes to cultivate in a Rahu dasha. For those interested in the ways in which the influence of Rahu played out previously for these nations, the last section of this article outlines the challenges, errors and achievements of three previous Rahu dashas – two in the United States and one in the United Kingdom (since its creation in 1801).

Remedies for Rahu

Vedic astrology teaches us that some adverse experiences just need to be experienced, due to individual or collective karma, but others can be alleviated through different upayas, forms of remedial action. These remedies are of different kinds: practical action in the world; adjustments to our moral outlook; and lastly, methods of mental purification and spiritual practices. Each approach is beneficial, although inner/spiritual practices will give us the greatest peace and also give us insight into any Rahu-influenced situations we are trying to remedy or mitigate.

     Different kinds of charitable action:

To remedy the adverse effects of Rahu, it is recommended that the individual (or society) gives support to causes in one or more of the following areas. This can be in the form of voluntary support, joining demonstrations, petitioning etc., or through regular donation, however small:

  • The environment
  • Campaigns against pollution in the environment, especially toxins in food or water
  • Supporting/giving hospitality to foreigners, strangers, refugees or indigenous tribespeople
  • Supporting drug treatment programmes for addicts or organisations like Alcoholics Anonymous

All of these initiatives are forms of dana, which is Sanskrit for giving. But they also require us to cultivate compassion or daya. Cultivating both qualities helps to moderate the extreme ego-centeredness of a Rahu dasha. According to the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, daya was the virtue that the Creator told the asuras to practise when they asked him how to behave. In that sense compassion is a primary remedy for Rahu as a former asura.

     Connecting with Divine Mother:

In both the Hindu and the Christian tradition, daya, meaning compassion or mercy, is a key aspect of the Divine Mother, and Jyotish tells us that it is she who is the most effective opponent of Rahu among the gods, and that Rahu is pacified when Divine Mother is worshipped. A simple mantra to Divine Mother is: Om Shri Matreh Namah (repeated daily 12, 27 or 108 times.)


Rahu is closely linked with toxins, including alcohol, tobacco and drugs, so to mitigate the effects of a Rahu dasha, keep away from these substances. Stimulants, meat and adulterated foods are also linked with Rahu, so eat pure or sattvic foods whenever possible.

     Calming the mind by disconnecting from the Rahu matrix:

To manage the extreme mental ‘churning’ that is promoted by Rahu (which can stir up an entire nation), find ways to slow down and take time out from our hyper-active societies. Go into nature regularly, and try to set times aside each week, or better, each day, when you disconnect completely from the technology-powered Rahu matrix of collective restlessness which promote inner agitation and subtly negative or tamasic emotions. Switch phone, television and computer off for at least a short period.

     Best of all, meditate!


The first Rahu Dasha for the US: 1776-1794

Between autumn of 1776 and 1794 the newly independent America was in its first Rahu dasha. As expected with the influence of Rahu, relations with abroad – in the form of war – dominated this period: firstly, as the fledgling country, in alliance with France, fought for independence in a protracted war with Britain, and secondly, after the war, when the new nation sought out new trading opportunities and alliances in the Pacific – a zone of economic and political interest that would become more important in American’s next Rahu dasha.

In internal politics, the virulent polarisation of opinion typical of Rahu dashas was in evidence: bitter internal disunity between states plagued the war (with the result that Washington’s troops never got properly paid). These political rifts in the new ‘republic” came to a head after the war: was it to be a confederacy – a loose association of semi-autonomous states – or a federal nation with shared laws, a central government and a (king-like) President? These questions have dogged American politics right up to the present day, but over an eleven-year period, up to the signing of the Constitution in 1787 (see picture), the federalists gradually won the argument, chiefly due to clever political manoeuvring and some brilliant use of the press by James Madison, John Jay, and rising political star Alexander Hamilton.

In fact, Alexander Hamilton’s mixed-race origins gives a striking example of how an outsider could play a vital role in guiding a nation during a Rahu dasha; another brilliant stranger, the Frenchman Pierre Charles L’Enfant was given the responsibility of designing the new capital of Washington near the end of this period. L’Enfant’s inspirational design stands as one of the greatest intellectual achievements of this first Rahu dasha (for more details, see Nicholas Mann’s Sacred Geometry of Washington DC). Overall, the greatest achievements of this dasha were political: the Constitution was followed by the Bill of Rights in 1789. With the Declaration of Independence, these documents are the foundation stones of American democracy, mandating a complex system of political checks and balances designed to limit not just the power of a President but also that of either branch of the legislature.

Yet there are also serious flaws in these documents: it was not possible to reach agreement on the abolition of slavery, while the right to bear arms, enshrined in the Second Amendment, would have tragic consequences in subsequent centuries. A different problem was bequeathed among the precious democratic commitments of the First Amendment –including the freedom of the press and the right to assemble– for this Amendment’s establishment of complete religious freedom and separation of church and state paved the way for future conflict between evangelical Christianity and a deliberately secular federal government. The First Amendment laid the foundation for a uniquely free-thinking society in matters of religion and spirituality - a radical decision that reflects the placement of non-conformist Rahu in the ninth house of religion and the spiritual path in the US astrological chart.

Yet as noted above, this is not an entirely happy position, attracting the people to unusual spiritual paths or sectarian positions that may cause moral, intellectual and political confusion - as seen in virulent opposition to the teaching of Darwin’s theory of evolution in many states, and more recently, in the support of Donald Trump by many evangelical Christians. Yet perhaps the most striking evidence of Rahu’s non-conformist influence upon the status of religion in the new republic, however, was the distinctive rationalism of the Founding Fathers, most of whom favoured a deist philosophy that focussed not on Jesus Christ or the Trinity but on one God who does not interfere directly in creation. (At the same time, several of the Founding Fathers were freemasons.) Apart from about 1000 Jewish citizens, the avowed faith of most white Americans, in many different sects and denominations, would be Christian until the next Rahu dasha and the early 20th century. But the seeds of later US interest in other spiritual paths were already present in the First Amendment.

Not everyone benefited from the democratic rights affirmed in these key documents. Slaves, Native Americans and women were excluded from the Declaration of Independence; so were all men who did not own property. Each of these groups experienced rather different fortunes in this Rahu dasha. In the case of women, although they were excluded from direct participation in political life, their opportunities for education increased significantly in this period. As for poor whites, the new nation’s Rahu-like emphasis upon individual initiative and self-help (due to the frontier mentality), combined with the lack of any single legal code on social welfare, left the question of poverty relief to individual states and philanthropists – this serious omission has still not been resolved.

But in another Rahu theme, the ethnic difference of black and Native Americans was met with the greatest prejudice. Slavery continued in many states, although many African-Americans who had fought in the War of Independence were freed at its end, and several northern states began moves to end slavery (the Quakers were especially active in the cause of abolition). The first US President, George Washington, tried to protect Native Americans’ rights but also began the first phase of a long project to ‘civilize’ and Christianize them. In addition to this gradual erosion of native culture, the tragic narrative of numerous battles and broken treaties, followed by loss of Indian lands, now entered a decisive phase. A century-long land grab had started as the white man rushed to expand across the entire continent and exploit its immense natural resources. This greed and desire to dominate the natural world was sadly another predictable feature of a Rahu dasha. The trend was not only driven by greedy land speculators, but also by poverty and economic necessity, but it led to ruthless over-exploitation of the formerly ‘virgin’ territories, displacement of native tribes, and drastic over-hunting of the animals that roamed there. At this early stage in American history only a few rare souls, like Quaker and naturalist William Bartram, spoke of the innate morality of these ‘savages’ or celebrated the sublime beauties of an American landscape accessible to all: “equally free to the inspection of all [God’s] creatures”.


The second US Rahu dasha: 1896-1914

“They made us many promises, more than I can remember. But they kept but one—They promised to take our land... and they took it.”

Chief Red Cloud, Oglala Sioux    

This dasha began with another period of acute political polarisation: a bitter Presidential campaign not unlike that between Trump and Clinton was coming to its close. Republican candidate William McKinley was backed by big business, and the corporate plutocrats of the time—John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan—threatened their workers with lost jobs and closed down industries if Democratic nominee William Jennings Bryan won. The populist and pro-labour Bryan (akin more to Bernie Sanders than to Clinton in his values) could not match the massive funding of McKinley’s campaign. After election, McKinley rewarded his business supporters with protectionist measures and high trade tariffs similar to those proposed by Donald Trump, and turned a blind eye to the expansion of corporate power in the creation of massive business monopolies. To keep white Southerners happy, he did little to address the growing disfranchisement and exclusion of black Americans from political power, and the rise of segregation. McKinley denounced lynching but did nothing to curtail anti-black violence in the South, which reached near-epidemic proportions in the last four years of the century.

In an echo of tense relations with abroad at the start of the last Rahu dasha, McKinley controversially ended a century of US non-interventionism and set the country on an imperialist path. Media manipulation was crucial, and he had the support of the newly powerful press barons in this step. In a four-year war with Spain the US seized the strategically significant territories of Puerto Rico, Hawaii, the Philippines and Guam. (In the Philippines, which had expected the US to support its bid for independence from Spain, the U.S. brutally put down a Filipino ‘insurrection’, in which thousands died.)

Rahu’s love of machines was much in evidence: this was an era of heavy industry, now powered by oil as well as coal and gas. It was intoxicated by new machines, notably the railroad, the car and the aeroplane. Historians describe the era as economically prosperous, yet there were at least two financial crashes in this period, and by 1900 10% of Americans owned ¾ of the national wealth; with thousands of union-led strike actions and growing interest in socialism, it seemed to some that the US was on the brink of class war. But Rahu’s radicalism gradually came to the fore: the latter part of the era (now called the Progressive era) saw activism on a wide range of issues: government corruption, women’s suffrage, social welfare, prison and educational reform, prohibition, various public health initiatives, and civil liberties. Women were active in these causes, and also militated for pure (non-adulterated) food and better regulation of drugs – together with the growing opposition to excessive alcohol consumption, this theme highlights Rahu’s association with toxins and poor food.

Momentum for progressive ideas increased in 1901 when McKinley was assassinated and his more liberal Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt took office. Roosevelt advocated breaking up the enormous monopolies that controlled prices and prevented competition. He pushed for fair trade and pro-labour laws, and as a sign of mounting environmental concerns in a Rahu dasha, put protection of the environment high on his political agenda and created several iconic national parks. He also sponsored the creation of the American Bison Society to save the bison from extinction after its mass slaughter in the 19th century.  (Roosevelt is photographed here with John Muir in Yosemite National Park.)

In respect of the Rahu theme of the foreigner or outsider, the era was marked by growing anxiety about the high volume of immigration, especially from China, while other Americans perceived as ethnically different – notably Native Americans and African Americans – also had mixed fortunes in this period. Conditions for African Americans in the South were worsening at this time, but they began to organise to protect their rights and improve their educational opportunities. Meanwhile, Native Americans were seeing the final parcelling up of their promised treaty land. Railroads now crossed the plains, the bison had gone, barbed wire and other fences divided the land for farmers and ranchers; the tribes were confined to reservations on the poorest land, and were struggling against the devastating impact of the ‘civilising’ Indian boarding school system. Yet Native American identity survived, with the help of a dedicated band of American ethnologists who recorded details of their culture and beliefs, and encouraged key figures like Geronimo to narrate their life stories. These accounts of their simple way of life and deep respect for Mother Earth began to inspire growing interest.

In cultural terms this era was buzzing with the impact of a buoyant press, and entertained by vaudeville, cinema and new musical trends, including ragtime and the blues. At the same time, Rahu’s non-conformist vibrations stimulated the creation of several communitarian settlements and the pursuit of different spiritual paths with foreign roots such as Buddhism, theosophy, and occultism. The first Hindu temple in the West was opened by the Ramakrishna mission in San Francisco in 1906, and survived the earthquake and fires of that year.


The first Rahu dasha of the UK: 1892-1910

In this era we see another manifestation of Rahu-driven greed, in the obscene levels of wealth controlled by a decadent aristocratic elite, whose wealth flowed both from the British Empire and from their control of landed wealth, and was secured by their control of parliament and the media. But this was the last gasp of aristocratic control; political, social and economic pressures (including the growing wealth of industrialists and new death duties) now led to the break-up of many landed estates and a reduction in the power of the House of Lords, while political unrest built at home and in different parts of the Empire. The Empire was still expanding, but the reputation of the aristocratic Tory party was seriously damaged by the debacle of the Boer War, a conflict driven by lust for the gold and diamond mines of South Africa. But with Rahu’s rulership of mining, the UK was successful in securing another foreign country’s mineral wealth when it discovered Persian oil later in this period.

Overall, we see again the Rahu theme of extreme political polarisation reaching a head. At home, rising prices and falling wages drove a new climate of radicalism, as trade unionism grew in confidence and socialist values inspired many; the Labour party was formed in 1900. (The coal miners were especially militant in this period, in another link to Rahu’s association with mines and the underground.) The campaign for women’s suffrage also took organised form in this period, and became militant just before it ended. (The pictures shows Mrs Pankhurst being arrested in 1908.) While the popular press now assumes its modern form, with the creation of The Daily Mail and The Mirror, there were also numerous left-wing periodicals being printed. Although a Liberal government (supported by the Labour Party and Irish nationalists) did not come to power until 1906, when it did it won by a landslide.

The revolutionary energy of Rahu was also at work through the ethnic outsiders that imperialist Britain had formerly despised and dominated: India and Ireland were now determined in their pursuit of nationalist agendas and were affirming their cultural difference (in Ireland through the Gaelic league and Celtic revival, in India through a demand for national schools and the boycotting of British goods). The refrain of ‘Bande Mataram’ – a hymn to Mother India – now inspired the Indian independence movement; in Ireland, where the republican party Sinn Fein was formed in 1905, there was an overlap between love of Ireland and devotion to the Virgin Mary, seen by Irish Catholics as the protector of their island.

Rahu in the UK chart is placed in the seventh house of partnerships, which is why the current Rahu dasha has been so deadly in terms of the UK’s partnership with the EU. While this era brought breakdowns in several key overseas relationships, it was also an era of multiple treaties, as Britain sought to strengthen European alliances and stave off the looming threat of war. Among the numerous technological breakthroughs of this period were several we can link especially closely with Rahu, including the electric underground railway and the laying of the snake-like Transatlantic wireless cable (Rahu occupies the oceanic sign of Pisces in the UK chart). The Rahu theme of wild nature and the outsider also came to the fore in the proliferation of ramblers’ associations who challenged the exclusivity of the big estates and started to demand the right to roam. In 1896, the National Trust was formed, with the declared goal of providing access for the public to open spaces in the country and various historic sites. The Trust wanted in this way to promote better public health, and the policies of the new Liberal Government of 1906 reduced poverty and paved the way for the British welfare state, by introducing old age pensions, free school meals, labour exchanges and free medical examinations.

In respect of the toxic substances associated with Rahu, the era saw a gradual turn away from adulterated foods to better nutrition (vegetarianism was growing in popularity), while the struggle to reduce alcohol consumption continued throughout the era. The Victorian middle- and upper-class habit of self-medication with opiates was also a persistent problem, only gradually controlled through regulation; Britain did not agree to dismantle the notorious India-China opium trade until 1910. As to religion, while church membership in Britain apparently peaked in 1904-1905, this was above all an age of science and scepticism in keeping with Rahu’s rejection of religious orthodoxy; thinkers like Bertrand Russell and writers like George Bernard Shaw and Virginia Woolf rejected Victorian religion and idealism to embrace an agnostic modernity. But popular versions of the supernatural also fascinated, in the fictional Dracula, J M Barrie’s Peter Pan and fairies, and in the séance rooms of spiritualism. And spiritual alternatives to Anglican Christianity were attracting a growing minority, in the forms of Catholicism, theosophy, occultism, or Buddhism.

Philippa Glasson,

Revised March 2019