Uranus in Pisces [part two]
The Lost Generation
In part two of this fascinating article, Neil Giles examines the effects of the previous transit of Uranus in Pisces on "the Lost Generation" and the "Bright Young Things" of the Roaring Twenties. Rebellion, prohibition, commercial cinema and the birth of television are just some of the remarkable instances of cultural change that have come forward under this potent influence.
The rebellion of Uranus in Pisces is the rejection of reality, a stripping away of illusions, and a subsequent shift into new visions that encompass a growing sense of wholeness that often comes through weariness or disillusion with the current state of things. Thus a 'new world' may be found in the self or in some new environment, either at the expense of reality, bringing isolation and solipsism, or to enhance it, bringing a sense of new and boundless possibilities creatively or spiritually inspired.
The Lost Generation
One of the most instructive examples of the shift that came with Uranus in Pisces in the twenties is in the epithet, the 'lost generation', coined by Gertrude Stein for the great American writer, Ernest Hemmingway, and his artistic friends and companions. After the Great War, there were strong feelings of disillusionment amongst the youth of the era for this first 'world war' had shattered the illusions of the 'new world' of the twentieth century, scything its way through an entire generation of young men.
The image of the world at war was a grim spectre, one that horrified the postwar generation and one that still haunts us today. Many young men, especially young Americans who had fought in the war stayed on in Europe when the war ended. Others sailed from home to join them, disenchanted with their country. They rejected the cloying atmosphere of prohibition and the Roaring Twenties and came in search of the cultural textures and the sophistication of Europe, Paris in particular, trying to bring a new world into being perhaps by capturing the last traces of the dying world of old Europe. So, there came to be a gathering of expatriates in Paris.
They came from many nations, not just America. They formed a disparate (Uranus) nation in cultural exile, artists, writers and seekers in pursuit of the mythical 'something else'. They flourished, a universal generation, but among the blossoms of brilliance fell the shadows of alcoholism, self-delusion and ennui as they celebrated and lamented the passing era. While many failed and faded, many also succeeded in their careers and endeavours, both while they were away and later when they returned home. Through this search, the 'lost generation' left an indelible mark on the world of literature and art.
The Bright Young Things
And, while the lost generation wandered in the climes of Europe, the 'bright young things' cut a swathe through English society. The 'bright young things' were the new generation of British youth, intellectuals, pleasure-seekers, dreamers and artists, given to drinking, gambling, the arts and the pleasures of nightlife. They inhaled and ingested everything within reach, setting a pace of life too rich for the blood of those intent upon re-establishing Britain in the traditional garb of her pre-war values. They were constantly jaded, obsessed by breaking the boundaries of ennui and thus became frantic in the search for experience, with each new thing needing to be faster, deeper, higher or richer than the last. They blazed new trails by breaking (Uranus) the bonds of staid and conservative confines. They set about dissolving the boundaries (Pisces) of what could and couldn't be thought or said or done. They revolutionized London life after the Great War in a blaze of light to the clink of champagne glasses, the snort of cocaine and the flash of camera bulbs. They gave birth to the first genuine celebrity culture. Among the many whose stars rose was a young Noel Coward whose play, THE VORTEX, staged in 1924, scandalized and invigorated the English theatre with its frank depiction of drug addiction. So, while the 'lost generation' yearned for a distant past, the 'bright young things' gave birth to themselves, wishing for a new future.
Interestingly, artists and writers like Jack Kerouac and Allan Ginsburg who were later to become founding members of the rebellious Beat Generation of the nineteen fifties were born with Uranus in Pisces. This natal placement sent them on their quest for inspiration born of experience outside the normal or acceptable. So too were the first men to leave the earth's atmosphere born with Uranus in Pisces! Their search for union with the divine was a physical one that took them beyond the stratosphere, outside the enclosing shell of earth's atmosphere to where they could breath another kind of air.
Beyond the Stratosphere
Flight was an important theme during this transit. Many advances in the technology of aviation and many landmark flights were made. This came in part because the war had encouraged and trained brilliant young fliers who found themselves unemployed at the war's end. They bought up surplus warplanes and formed the barnstorming air circuses, still seeking the thrills that only flight could bring. They walked wings, crossed oceans, continents and poles in their effort to achieve the first round-the-world flight. The previous transit of Uranus through Aquarius had caused a generation to see the world as a whole. Now, the daredevils wanted to fly around it. They wanted to do it, not just think about it, symbolizing the Piscean need to learn through experience. This 'round the globe' flight finally came in 1924 when two US Army planes, the Chicago and the New Orleans flew 26,345 miles over one hundred and seventy five days. But, while planes were going up, the Zeppelins were coming down.
After the first successful crossing of the Atlantic by Zeppelin in 1919, there was a series of disastrous mishaps and crashes between 1921 and 1925 that foreshadowed the Hindenburg tragedy more than a decade later. While many countries discontinued their efforts with these volatile airships, America persisted until two navy airships crashed in the thirties, finally closing their account. Germany, founder of the Zeppelin, flew them until the bitter end when the Hindenburg burst into flame on its approach to a mooring in the United States in 1937. Thirty-five people died. By the beginning of World War II, the Zeppelins were gone from the skies, a departure clearly signalled by the events of the twenties. The dream of floating above the earth in the luxury of the 'airy navy' as predicted by Nostradamus was well and truly over.
The Prohibition Era
Prohibition officially began when Uranus was in Aquarius but the Prohibition era dominated the transit of Uranus through Pisces. The Eighteenth Amendment that encoded Prohibition as law came into being during Uranus in Aquarius, and so too the Volstead Act which enforced it. This latter was passed on Oct 28, 1919 when Uranus was retrograde and still in Aquarius, having been in Pisces from April to July of that year.
The Aquarian influence clearly governs the legislation. It was seen as the 'noble experiment', a phrase used by J. Edgar Hoover, and was certainly intended for the betterment of society whether society wanted to be bettered or not. But the Piscean influence can be seen in the consequences of a split society, a nation divided into 'wets' and 'drys', representing the rebellious and conservative aspects of Uranian influence under the double-sided mask of Pisces.
The Pisces flavour led to a Uranian rebellion of drinking and vice where a rising gangster class created its own underworld with a ruling aristocracy and hired myrmidons, carrying on activities in secret or hidden places, wielding enormous power by encouraging and promoting the use of intoxicants and gambling. This secret world of the forbidden created a fascination with lawlessness that saw everything from the speakeasies run by organized crime with their bribes, corruption, payoffs and rivalries to the bathtub brewer who delighted in breaking the law in the privacy of his own home.
The Global Village
In the mid nineteen twenties, the work of John Baird in England and C F Jenkins in the USA created a new (Uranus) dream (Pisces) that was to bear fruit in the thirties and forties. The technology of television was underway. The future held the promise of a startling 'new world' of entertainment whose fantastic possibilities could hardly be guessed at or foreseen.
From 1919 onwards, radio broadcasts spiralled across the world as Great Britain, the Netherlands, the US, Denmark, the Soviet Union, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and India all went to air. The commercial wireless was born and the world felt the beginnings of a hook up that would in time become a global radio network. The world could start to communicate across its own expanses. Disembodied voices could enter the living rooms of every home that could afford to make or buy a radio receiver. These voices could bring us to events we couldn't attend, or rather bring the events to us. They could excite our imagination, take us to another world, relax us, amuse us, inform and entertain us. They could also persuade us to buy. And, we didn't even have to stand up or leave home.
We, the listeners, became part of something universal (Pisces) and electrical (Uranus), a swimmer immersed in technological consciousness, part of a global network or village. This was a concept that would enter the thinking and vocabulary of later social commentators like Buckminster Fuller and Marshall McLuhan, but at the time of Uranus in Pisces, it was simply a new and unknown experience. It will be instructive for us now to see this as the inception of the global village and global economy that is the hallmark of the modern era.
We live now in a world in which every presentation and entertainment is geared to the global market, bringing us the preconditioned, prefabricated product, driven only by format and formula, devoid of originality and integrity, judged only by its appeal to the mass of global consumers. We may have cause to review the mixed benefits of the liberation and constraint of the new globalism.
The Distant Gods of Film
While the rest of the twenties were roaring, drinking, abstaining, gambling, flapping, flying or feeling disillusioned and running off to foreign lands, the mass of people were just living their lives. And for them, there was the cinema. Uranus in Pisces brought the final phase of the silent era to an end. Hollywood was in the business of Piscean dreams, selling romance, fairytale and escapism in a bid to make fortunes, compete for the attention of the masses and become the entertainment capital of the world. In 1919, two of the screen's biggest stars, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford extended their cinematic romance into real life by getting married. The cheerful heroism of Fairbanks was a salve for the trauma of the war as the cinema gave the nation and the world a licence to forget, at least for a few hours. Fairbanks and Pickford became the uncrowned king and queen of America, giving the nation back the monarchy they had forsaken in the war of independence.
While films and cinema of quality were being made and shown in many countries around the globe, it was Hollywood more than any other place that became associated with the art of motion pictures. But it wasn't art that drove the process! It was money. While Europe, Britain and Australia got on with the business of the arts, the USA got on with the art of business. And the business was fantasy where the facade of entertainment concealed a Piscean underworld of greed, money, sexual exploitation, corruption and power struggles that determined the cinematic fate of a world as Hollywood began to buy out and shut down rival film studios all across the world. There is an odd tendency in the negative expressions of Pisces energy, a tendency expressed through an insatiable need to be part of everything, to have control over everything without actually having genuine responsibility for any individual part of that whole. As the human self reaches out to touch the divine through Pisces, it's easy for the ego to mistake oneness for a kind of solipsism where everything exists simply as an expression of the self. In our desire to become one with god, the danger is that we end up thinking that we are 'a god' instead of part of the divine. And so, everything we touch is ours and we touch everything.
The Piscean universe of the Hollywood cinema dreamed a dream. It dreamed that all the world ached to be a part of its divine romance and treated the world accordingly, as no more than an expression of its own desire to know its fantasies and self-infatuation. Perhaps the ironic summation of the silent era is in the career of one of its greatest stars, Rudolph Valentino. The man who became the idol of millions as a screen lover, cruel, mysterious and fascinating, was a shy, bisexual who was catapaulted from waiting on tables into a lunatic limelight of swooning women and packed cinemas. Unlike Fairbanks, he had none of the qualities of the screen heroes he portrayed. Unlike Chaplin, he had neither the skills nor the background of the professional performer. His image was a fiction the public flocked to see. It was an erotic fantasy of cinematic masturbation that concealed his humanity beneath a mask of romantic delusion. This image brought about his untimely death as surely as his ruptured appendix. In 1926, at Valentino's funeral, women flocked and fainted in a display of mass hysteria that triggered an unparalleled orgy of public mourning and a wave of suicides. Little did they know they were in mourning not only for this Piscean icon of fantasy and fakery but also for the passing of an age! The next year, the era of silent films was over and the stars would need not only the right look but also the right voice as well.
Read part three of Uranus in Pisces, where Neil looks at the dark gods and hidden enemies so characteristic of the transit, including the idea of robots, expressionism, fantasy and other Piscean traits. He also looks at the way ahead in this current transit (which begins in earnest now in 2004).