Looking back on the Presidential election, it would be easy to be cynical. Most people seem to have voted against the greater of two evils, and total turnout was only 57.5 percent, lower than in the previous two elections. This means that Obama was re-elected by about a quarter of the American electorate, which is hardly a mandate. In fact, every one of the so-called United States has since filed for secession. A progressive might say that at best we dodged a bullet; at worst the drones are set to blast what remains of our civil liberties.

But when we shift our focus and cast our gaze beyond the Presidency, a different and more hopeful picture emerges. Although overall numbers were down, voter participation increased among young people, African Americans, Asians, and Latinos—all left leaning groups that aren’t about to shrink into obscurity. Needless to say, this does not bode well for Republicans, especially if this election portends the color and shape of things to come.

What Democracy Looks Like
More women senators were elected than at any other time, bringing the total up to twenty—one-fifth of the Senate. Among these women are the first openly lesbian senator (Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin), the first Asian American—and first Buddhist—senator (Mazie Hirono of Hawaii), and the first female senator from Massachusetts (Elizabeth Warren, a supporter of the Occupy movement). The House will have its first its first Hindu (Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii) and its first bisexual atheist (Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona), while West Virginia and North Dakota will have their first openly gay state legislators.

At the state level, marijuana was decriminalized in Washington and Colorado; same-sex marriage was legalized in Maryland, Maine, and Washington; and Montana and Colorado passed initiatives stating that corporations are not people. The Senate seats from Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida all turned from deep red to blue, and in California, Democrats won a super-majority in the state legislature.

In general, the GOP took such a trouncing that pundits immediately began calling it obsolete and irrelevant. Indeed, it’s hard to see how the party could possibly continue standing on its rickety old platform—anti-women, anti-gay, anti-minority, anti-poor, anti-intellectual, anti-environment—amidst rising tides both figurative and literal. Ever since the 2008 stock market crash at least, most Americans realize that the Republican panacea—trickle-down economics—is nothing but snake oil. Furthermore, the party’s Christian base is shriveling, inspiring the blogosphere to proclaim the end of the old white man era, perhaps even the beginning of the end of patriarchy itself. At the very least, the GOP will be forced to moderate its views and distance itself from its kookier constituents.

Nothing less than a political paradigm shift is afoot. Although there are practical reasons for this that involve changing demographics, I would like to venture beyond the mundane into the cosmic realm in order to show that dramatic change is not just in the air; it’s in the stars.

Prometheus the Awakener
Before going galactic with 2012, let’s start in our own solar system with the first of the three outer planets, Uranus, associated with revolution, rebellion, novelty, ingenuity, and with the mythological figure of Prometheus, bringer of fire. Back in 2009, Uranus entered into a 90° relationship with Pluto, correlated with profound transformation, raw power, libidinal urges, and deep unconscious forces. The last time these two planets were in dynamic aspect was during the 60s and early 70s, when enormous strides were made in the areas of civil rights, gender equality, sexual liberation, gay rights, and ecological awareness. It was a period of artistic experimentation, radical self-expression, and psychedelic exploration that threatened to upend the status quo. Understandably, conservatives were freaked out, and the inevitable backlash lasted for decades—arguably until November 6, 2012.

The current Uranus-Pluto square will last until 2020, providing another window of opportunity through which the forces of radical change can leap. This time around, our growing edges seem to be gay marriage, transgender issues, drug use, religious tolerance, and freedom of information, especially in regard to the Internet, which began taking form during the previous Uranus-Pluto cycle. Partly because of this Promethean global medium, formerly fringe issues are gaining wide exposure and gradual acceptance among the older mainstream, while most younger folks who’ve grown up in a digital, multicultural, postmodern world take it for granted that people should be free to marry whomever, dress however, smoke whatever, and worship however they please. Mitt, meet the politics and the politicians of the future.

That is, assuming there will indeed be a future beyond December 21st, 2012, when the solstice sun aligns with the galactic center for the first time in 26,000 years. All signs say yes, 2013 will arrive, although the forecast calls for intense solar activity that could disrupt the electrical and communications grids and cause more extreme weather on a rapidly overheating planet.

Perhaps 2012 is largely symbolic, marking our official transition into the Age of Aquarius. The waning Age of Pisces has been dominated by Christianity (symbolized by a fish) and by religion in general (associated with Neptune, ruler of Pisces). Given that Aquarius is ruled by our freewheeling friend, Uranus, astrologers expect the next two millennia to be characterized by democracy, humanitarianism, universal tolerance, and accelerated technological innovation.

The Peril and Promise Ahead
Zooming out even further, we can see signs that an even deeper shift is underway. Another significant astrological alignment involves the two outermost planets, Neptune and Pluto, which are in a 60° relationship that began in the middle of the 20th century and will last until the middle of the 21st. As noted astrologer and cultural historian Rick Tarnas writes:

“We are living today at the moment when . . . the largest planetary cycles known to us have just completed their conjunctions in succession, marking the full initiation of the corresponding archetypal dynamics for the next several centuries . . . Our present moment in history is most comparable, astronomically, to the period exactly five hundred years ago . . . that brought forth the birth of the modern self during the decades surrounding the year 1500.” (Cosmos and Psyche, p482)

The modern era has been all but defined by what the philosopher Jean Gebser calls perspectival consciousness—a single-minded rationalism that has led to world brimming with technology yet wanting in wisdom. This is partly why Gebser also calls this the deficient mental structure of consciousness, which began crumbling during the early 20th century under the weight of discoveries by Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, and other physicists who challenged the Newtonian, mechanistic paradigm that had held sway for the previous few centuries. Also during the early 20th century, artists like Picasso and Braque began depicting objects from multiple perspectives and times, while postmodernists initiated a mental deconstruction project that continues to this day.

In fact, we’re still struggling to assimilate the insights of quantum physics and to broaden our collective worldview to include other forms of consciousness besides left-brain, linear logic. The emerging form integrates yet sees through all the more fundamental forms—mental, mythical, magical, and archaic—in order to access deeper truths and realize the numinous. What Gebser dubbed the integral structure of consciousness is characterized by freedom from the constraints of time and of the ego, among other qualities difficult to describe in language (and a in brief overview). Perhaps it is best likened to an altered state in which “the witness” remains fully present, as in lucid dreaming.

Not only does a shift in consciousness take time, it takes diligence to maintain the emerging structure. During a transition period such as we’re now undergoing, it’s easy to slip back into magical and mythical thinking, as we can see in certain New Age groups and among conservatives who cling to a pre-rational worldview that rejects scientific notions, particularly evolution—arguably science’s most profound insight—and climate change, our most urgent global problem. Author Gary Lachman explains: “As the dominant structures collapse, a ‘free space’ is made available, a ‘spiritual vacuum’ that will be filled with either creative or destructive forces. Any sort of leap also includes the possibility of a fall.” (Secret History, p243)

So just because we have certain cosmic forces on our side does not mean that the coming decades will be easy. If the Occupy movement has taught us anything, it is that the forces of resistance and oppression remain strong. But perhaps the heavy-handedness of the powers-that-be is just an indication that they are losing their grip. Whether consciously or not, even the minions of Saturn know that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, equality, and a fuller expression of human being. From the rejection of monarchy to the abolition of slavery to civil rights to gay rights, history does not march backward into darkness. Though she may occasionally lose her way, she stumbles inexorably toward the light of freedom.