Signs of the Times: Unlocking the Symbolic Language of World Events

Signs of the Times: Unlocking the Symbolic Language of World Events

By Ray Grasse
Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing, 2002. Paperback, 297pages

As Dane Rudhyar writes in his Occult Preparation for a New Age"When doors are open between two deeply different realms of existence and consciousness, attempts to explain what comes in and what goes out of the door are nearly always confused, for the explanation has to be formulated in terms of the culture which has developed on our side of the door." As Ray Grasse adds in Signs of the Times: Unlocking the Symbolic Language of World Events, "If one hopes to uncover the 'signs of the times' one must sometimes look in seemingly unlikely places."

Thus each major writer who analyzes the transition from the Piscean period to the Age of Aquarius does so by looking at what he feels are the key signs of transition but also in terms of the ideas and discipline with which he is most at home. C. G. Jung's important analysis Aion stresses psychological archetypes and the role of symbols. Sri Aurobindo, although he had withdrawn from active anti-colonial politics, saw in political events such as the rise of Hitler and the independence of India the signs of the passing of one age and the start of the next. Marilyn Ferguson, active in mind/brain studies, stresses shifts in consciousness in her well-known book The Aquarian Conspiracy. While drawing to an extent on all these earlier writers, Ray Grasse, trained in film making and analysis, highlights popular culture, especially films, as a reflection of the fading of Piscean values and the progressive flowing of the Aquarian age.

Grasse quotes the poet Ezra Pound, who once remarked that artists are the antennae of a society. Thus, by studying the recurring themes already surfacing throughout popular culture, we can discern the broad trends that are forming deep in the collective unconscious and will continue to take shape in the millennia to come.

Among those who analyze history within the framework of Great Ages, there is widespread agreement, as Grasse notes, that humanity is "leaving the Piscean Age and about to enter the Aquarian Age. Like vast tectonic plates shifting deep within the collective unconscious, this epochal transition has already begun manifesting as a series of historic changes in our world, as the symbols of an older order make way for those of a radically new one, and our attention is transfixed by a different set of issues and values." The Piscean period, which we can date from plus or minus year one of the common era to the year 2000, is the only Great Age for which we have real, worldwide historical records. For the two earlier ages-Aries (2000 BCE to 1 CE) and Taurus (4000 BCE to 2000 BCE) ---we have archeological evidence and some art from a few regions. On the basis of this very limited evidence, all sorts of theories such as those on the role of the Egyptian pyramids or the Sphinx-not to mention visitors from space-have been made, yet there is no common agreement on them. Thus, to be on solid ground, we must base Great Age analysis on the study of the most recent two thousand years. We see the start of the Piscean period in the Mediterranean area - to be expected from a sign represented by two fish-·a nearly closed sea around which flowered major societies: classic and Hellenistic Greece and Rome, followed by Spain, Portugal, France, and England-all became politically great powers with worldwide cultural influences. The Piscean period is marked by two religious cultural systems: Christianity-the birth of Jesus is often used as the major symbolic start of the Piscean period and the second Piscean faith, Islam.

Thus, to advance the hypothesis of a Piscean-to-Aquarian progression, we should look for a shift away from the Mediterranean-influenced civilization and for signs of a fading of both Christianity and Islam. The shift in symbols for the age would also indicate a geographic shift in power and influence from the Piscean fish (the sea) to Aquarius -a person pouring water, indicating land in need of irrigation or water conservation. We can look for signs of a shift toward states or combinations of states with large plains in need of water management for prosperity. Such a hypothesis would indicate at least four states with large plains that would take the lead in the transition to a new era: the United States, Russia, China, India, and perhaps Brazil. There is less agreement by the general consensus on the fading of Christianity and Islam given the emotional attachment that some have toward the religions and the energy with which some spread the faiths. Yet as Ray Grasse notes, "The Aquarian Age will probably sweep away many of the emotional and religious trappings that characterized Piscean-Age consciousness and replace them with a more sober and clear-eyed approach to reality." He goes on to describe the shift from the Piscean climate that has been largely pleasure-denying in character even to the extent of fostering guilt over experiences of pleasure toward self-realization, happiness, and freedom. The Aquarian Age ushers in a more self-affirming philosophy and a greater emphasis on personal empowerment.

Yet as we analyze the ending of the Age of Aries at the time of the birth of Jesus, we see that there was suffering. Every transition between two Great Ages results in suffering, and the suffering is greatest when fear, a clinging to the past, or an exuberant eagerness to race ahead introduces tensions, inner conflicts, and false expectations. For a new age to emerge, there must be courageous servants of the cyclic purpose. All deep and radical transformations require an illumined mind and an all-encompassing heart.

Ray Grasse's book and his useful bibliography make an important contribution to the study of this period of transition. If the dawning of the Age of Aquarius is to mean more to us than a line from a popular song, it will require more efforts along the lines of Ray Grasse's serious and even approach.


March/April 2006