Did y’all watch Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief? I sure did. Being an avid conspiracy enthusiast, I also read the book on which it was based ( by Lawrence Wright) as soon as it came out. The documentary is engaging, creepy, and deftly reveals the sinister financial motives and abusive tactics underlying Scientology. The documentary also is characterized by poignant moments where what is being exposed is the humanity of the recovering survivors of Scientology. Looking at human vulnerability to cults reveals a sadness and loneliness that is fundamental to modern life. One finds similar wistful admissions and reflections from survivors of Jonestown. It comes down to a need to belong to a group, a search for meaning, a way for the self to become coherent, the search for a moral rubric against which to measure oneself, looking for a sense of community to shield yourself from the brutality of life, a movement with which to feel effective in building a more just world… these are all generalities of modern human existence, and more qualified scholars than I have studied the factors of predisposition and circumstance that lead people into cults/new religious movements.
While I feel only compassion (and not, say, superiority) for victims and survivors of toxic ideologies, I have nothing but contempt for the people who exploit, manipulate, and abuse people under the pretense of ideology. They are like alchemists of misery— transmuting human suffering into profit. Scientology’s website lists a number of the organization’s programs. Criminon is designed to take advantage of the uniquely vulnerable position of people in prison by offering them programming that has no basis in effective research, preys upon their insecurities, and relies on dehumanizing language. Narconon, the Scientologist trap for people seeking recovery from addiction, is based on totally unscientific and fabricated assertions. Its description of the “drug epidemic” actually reads more like a description of Scientology itself: “jobs are lost, individuals injured or debilitated, savings squandered and families destroyed.”
So why am I devoting so much space this month to this discussion? Partly because it is interesting and important. Partly, I’ll admit, to assuage my periodic discomfort with being a purveyor of woo (I’m not that far gone! I love a good space opera but I’m not in it for the money or the fame! I’m no L. Ron, y’all!). But mostly I want to get out in front of any grandstanding on the part of post-Katrina Mission Scientologists. With the Church of Scientology’s image in total disrepair following the release of Going Clear, I wouldn’t be surprised if they used the looming ten year anniversary of Katrina to remind everyone about their Mission camps in an attempt to save face. Their opportunism is vile and utterly complicit in what Naomi Klein (author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism) rightly describes as the “massive uninterrupted transfer of wealth from public to private hands” that defines not only modern catastrophes, but so much of what New Orleans and the entire region is facing now. City Park no longer a public commons. Natural Resource Damage Assessment funds (aka BP oil spill money) being earmarked to build a goddamn convention center in Alabama.
My point is, beloved readers, that you don’t need a carefully crafted exposé to sniff out exploitative ideology. If you can foster an innate sense of self-worth and arm yourself with a critical lens—always follow the money and look at how the power dynamics operate—you can identify (and hopefully protect yourself from) abusive entities and ideologies.
The Full Moon on May 4th is in Scorpio, which, appropriately (and perhaps meta- ironically), portends the shattering of psychic bondage. The New Moon on May 18th is in Taurus, offering us a moment to reacquaint ourselves with our center, ground and root ourselves before Mercury goes retrograde the following day. I have discussed this thrice-yearly event at length in previous columns, which are all available online (I remind you more out of utility than self promotion—why not read back and retroactively assign blame to planets for all your missteps?). So, I won’t go into length about it here. But just to remind you, Gemini and Virgo are ruled by Mercury and thus tend to be more affected by its apparent backward movement. So for example, if you are Waka Flocka Flame, a Gemini whose birthday falls on the last day of this month, you’re particularly susceptible to Mercury’s woes: delays, mistakes, miscommunications, and obstacles. For example, being slightly younger than the legally required age for presidential eligibility. Whatever… he’ll find a way. Gemini ingenuity can go a long way. #ReadyForWaka.
You are using your strength to nourish and hold so many other people and projects right now, and that’s fine. Your heart is magnanimous and powerful enough for that. You can sustain your big life, even though to others its scope might seem untenable. Cultivate your impressive fortitude with your favorite tastes and textures. When you’re functioning as the leader or the heart of a community it is important that you not only stay grounded, but also stay connected to the bodily delights of this corporeal existence.
This winter was hard for you in some private ways, and so far spring has you feeling more overwhelmed than relieved. It is time to look at which obligations in your life are working and which are making you miserable. This is a lot harder than balancing your checkbook. You’re not always great at identifying the source of your unease (or the source of your comfort). But if you approach it calmly, give yourself the space to figure it out, this month holds the potential for clearing out dead weight and accessing your true needs.
Money is tight, but around the Full Moon you are dying for some retail therapy. You can rationalize purchases (new shoes or insoles, for example, support an active lifestyle), so work within a budget and treat yourself, thriftily. If you are feeling fly, you’ll be that much more ebullient when in the public eye later in the month. Even if you aren’t swathed in the finest silks, you are performing at a high level and will be appreciated. But if you can add fuel to your self-confidence, the successes of this month can be transformative.
Big plans unfold, revealing unforeseen kinks. The truth is, you could have anticipated these setbacks but you were willfully ignoring them. Now, what once seemed fertile is fallow. Jumping between extremes of hope and despair only makes your self- confidence deteriorate. Seek guidance from mentors in your life who make you feel stable and empowered. Draw upon that strength. Avoid the tempting distraction of cheap thrills and you will surmount these most recent obstacles.
When you’re caught up in your own velocity, you barely notice who is cheering you on. Take a breather from the marathon you are running to look at the sidelines. The crowd of supporters you’ve amassed is meaningful. Embrace the opportunities to lead and shine. Embrace your fan base. Listen to your long term cheerleaders — who they are and what they say is particularly meaningful just before the New Moon, especially if you are starting to feel tired and listless.
You are a master of psyching yourself out, because in a way you know just what you need. You know to pad your “to do” list with freebies so you can have the rush of crossing things off to fuel your momentum. But you aren’t a master of your own mind when it comes to matters of health and relaxation. That’s why you rely on powerful outside influences like holidays, vacations, and other special events when you need a mental refresh. Institute a staycation if you’re feeling especially wound up this month.
Even-keeled Libras can get irritable. Lately you are full of ire at things other people don’t understand. That’s because you get the most furious on principle, like when you (almost) boycotted Facebook because they wanted you to install a whole other app for messages. Luckily for you, most people are so won over by your charm that they are impervious to your periodic brooding. This month, try to set aside petty grievances. Approach awkward conversations with all the grace in your nature.
When young people’s bodies are growing, sometimes they have aches and pains. You are a little sore even though you’re all grown. The tenderness you feel are the birth pangs of the next chapter of your life. Use the retrograde to address unresolved issues— you may have the best results if you work within the mode of sensuality. Engage with your body, your mind has been holding you back. Focus on what’s in front of you. This summer is going to be special.
When there is doubt in one area of your life, it can seep into the other areas and color everything with uncertainty. You have the capacity to tolerate ambiguity, sometimes, and you also have the mental strength to successfully compartmentalize. Draw upon those powers, take stock of what is working, and you will find resolution at the end of the retrograde in June. Resist the urge to make sweeping changes in reaction to discomfort. Instead, encourage balance.
Taking orders does not suit your disposition, and though you are a hard worker, following stupid instructions and engaging in pointless tasks wears you down. If you’re nearing the breaking point, it might finally be time to look for a job where you can be in charge, or at the very least work more independently. Not an option? Try to redirect the intensity with which you approach your work to another area in your life. Hobby time! Subsume your discontent into yarn bombs.
All big changes and big decisions are the result of many tiny accumulated actions or inactions. That type of tedious, serious thought has been chasing you for months. This month, in contrast, it would benefit you to wild out and get real silly. If an opportunity presents itself for you to be around friends, the kind where being yourself is comfortable and easy, take and relish it. Be grateful for it. Remember other times you’ve felt that way and draw upon those memories when the tedious existential torment sets in again.
Although you’d like to spend your free time working on creative projects (because for you, that’s “play”) this month you’ll have to tend to chores and repairs. You’re actually really good at that stuff, and in general you don’t mind it, but even though your sights are set on other endeavors, it is important right now that you be thorough. If you rush, what you miss will come back to haunt you toward the end of the month in the form of a preventable household disaster. This disaster can be of mechanical or interpersonal nature. But don’t worry! I did say preventable.