Welcome 2009, or, We Need Four Billion Religions

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  January 1, 2009 — 2 Comments

Instead of reading more 2009 predictions from a collection of local psychics, let’s turn instead to the SF Gate’s interview with astrologer Rob Brezsny. The “free will” astrologer takes some time to punch holes in the predictions of your neighborhood doom-sayers.

“I believe that some astrologers, not all, are like a lot of New Age prophets and right-wing fundamentalist prophets in that they gravitate toward the visions of the future that stimulate fear, because at this cultural moment fear is more entertaining than the more uplifting news, and it gives them power. It gives them power to scare somebody. I try to have a very tolerant nature towards all people, but I have to admit that it really grates on me when astrologers just fixate on the ugliest possible interpretation of any astrological aspect.”

Then again, he also says the real prophets of our culture are creating a darker world.

“The more dangerous prophets are the storytellers of our culture – the journalists, the filmmakers, the writers of fiction and many musicians who are constantly besieging us with dark visions. I think about Muriel Rukeyser, the poet, who said that the universe is not made of molecules – it’s made out of stories, and if the storytellers of our culture are constantly telling us that the only true thing is an ugly thing, then yes, I do think that’s a problem.”

Being someone who alternately styles himself a journalist and an artist, I take issue with the idea that “dark stories” are creating an “ugly” future. Art isn’t just joyous inspiration, it is also catharsis and reflection. Imagine how darker things would truly be without the “dark visions” providing a safe outlet for all that “ugliness”. So while I admire Brezsny’s commitment to positive thinking, he seems to be stuck in a sort of “pronoic” tunnel vision of his own making on this particular issue.

But let’s not end the first post of 2009 on a critical note, here is a final quote from Brezsny that should warm a few Pagan hearts.

“I subscribe to Krishnamurti’s principle… he said that “we need four billion religions.” Now that number is up to 6.5 billion – a religious tradition for everyone on the planet, 6.5 billion paths to God.”

For more on Brezsny and Free Will Astrology, check out his web site. I’m also fond of his piece “A Prayer For You”. I hope you had a great New Years, and aren’t suffering too much from last night’s celebrations.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Thud

    Jason, check out Gerard Jones’ book “Killing Monsters.” It’s mostly about kids and violent entertainment, but he makes some time to talk about adult responses (and uses) of violent entertainment as well. In the chapter I’m reading right now, he discusses how *real* world violence generally results in violent art — not the other way around — as we as a culture try to work through our anxieties and fears about violence.

  • misslynx

    I like Brezny’s Pronoia book, partly just because it’s kind of crazy and a lot of fun to read, but also partly because there are elements of the philosophy that I agree with. But I do think that it can be interpreted too simplistically and become unrealistic.However, I’m not convinced Brezny himself actually does treat it that shallowly. I clicked through to the interview and read the whole thing, and given that context, as well as what I’ve read of his elsewhere, I don’t think he was saying that talking about unpleasant realities or “dark visions” was bad in itself, but that it can become destructive when it’s the only thing you talk about, or the predominant thing. If you look at the paragraph right after that one in the interview, he says:”I don’t know what the exact percentage is, but if you read the newspaper today, you would probably find that the proportion of bad news to good news is maybe 85 to 15 percent, or something like, and that’s not an accurate representation of reality. I say let’s get that at least up to 50/50.”Even in the bit you quoted, he says that it’s a problem when “the storytellers of our culture are constantly telling us that the only true thing is an ugly thing” – i.e. that it’s the negative being presented as if it’s all there is that’s the problem, not just having it presented at all. So it seems to me that he’s not saying that people shouldn’t write or talk about bad things, but that there needs to be some balance – which I’d agree with.And I say that as someone who’s had a record a band I was in in the 80s refused by the pressing plant for being offensive, and later been told that fiction I’ve written gave people nightmares. :-)Personally, I think the strongest and most enduring stories are ones that mix the positive and the negative – that make you confront dark and painful things but bring you through it in the end. At risk of sounding like a complete geek, it’s kind of like what Sam says to Frodo in The Lord of the Rings:”It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”