Interview with Astrologer Paul Publisher

We talk about how America is splitting into patches, the supply chain of meaning breaking down, and why “Pocahontas” individuals might be the key to keeping the country together.

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You’ve described the coming years in terms of Patchwork Consciousness. Can you explain what it is?

Patchwork is what comes after the breakdown of our current society which is very centralized, hierarchical and top down. Centralized institutions all work together, so there's a pipeline that takes you from the institution of higher education to the private sector. If you are at a bar and you introduce yourself as a student at Stanford University or an analyst at McKinsey, you are tapping into an institution’s power to communicate your identity. In a sense, that institution is creating a supply chain of meaning for you. And that institution’s identity can be used as a token of meaning that can be traded with other people.

As these institutions disintegrate, the supply chain of meaning associated with them will also breakdown and people aren't going to be able to compare where they stand hierarchically. Society is going to be reorganized horizontally and asymmetrically like a quilt patched together. I’ve equated Patchwork with the coming Age of Aquarius astrologically, leaving behind the current cycle characterized by rigidity, hierarchy and deception.

We're going to have to be your own Google translators because of all the human societal codes getting disrupted. At present, there are certain cultural markers for decades. You can look back at a movie and say, “oh, that was made during the eighties.” You're not going to be able to do that for this decade or the next. That's why I keep telling people that in Patchwork, you will only know the collective macro meaning through its absence. There's just going to be so many competing tribal narratives.

A lot of people just won’t have any sense of personal chapters at all. [I think of all the students who just graduated college without a ceremony]. People will need to find a way to delineate days, weeks, months, that makes sense to them [the way our agricultural ancestors had the different seasons to give them a sense of the passing of time]. Self-sufficiency will also include generating meaning for yourself.

When did these changes first start happening?

This started getting disrupted around 9/11. I remember I had an early morning Media studies class on that day in a large lecture hall. When I walked into this class, on a giant screen where typically there would be the PowerPoint for three hundred people, there was live footage being projected of the towers, I think the second tower had not been hit yet.

There were only a couple of people in there when I entered. And I thought, well, it's usually starting to get full right now. And the professor was sitting on the back row of the seats, not facing the students, cross-legged, dangling a remote. He looked at me and said, “No class today. Go home”. And I didn't really know what was going on because a lot of the footage was just people and so much smoke.

The professor didn't really give me a context for what was happening, and I think that goes to the heart of my journey.

[I get the sense that in Patchwork that kind of feeling is going to be magnified]

I went back to my dorm and I just remember being on AOL Instant Messenger. Do you remember that? It was nuts. Because a lot of the people there are also from Northern Virginia, and so the whole thing with the Pentagon was happening, too. Even though it was a conservative campus, a lot of liberal viewpoints were also being shared on the AOL status updates.

[Even before Facebook] that was an early indication of the social media-ization of an event.

Then six years later the Virginia Tech shooting happened, and it was a return of that event, but in reverse because now the world was looking at me and I was looking out to the world. These historical events broke my mind wide open. But for neither of those times did I have a vocabulary for situating the individual within the context of the collective zeitgeist. When the Virginia Tech shootings happened the media rabidly descended on the town to get the scoop. There were competing narratives of what happened. That really made me question how the media alters perception through claiming to be the arbiter of truth.

The traditional media co-creates our current supply chain of meaning. If you read the Washington Post it presents you with an entire world view. This centralized world view has a border and it doesn't like an outside voice, because that disrupts the totalizing worldview that it tends to give you.

And so what's happened now is that with social media, it's so easy for people to bring in extra details or angles. That disrupts the very neatly packaged world view and narratives that the mainstream media deliver to us on demand. I first experienced this during 9/11 and Virginia Tech with AOL and Facebook.

In Patchwork you're going to see a lot of DIY supply chains of meaning patched together from different sources. People are going to be their own citizen journalists of their own micro communities. You're going to see thousands of citizen journalists replacing the ivory tower, centralized news industry that we see today. It is going to be very exciting.

What’s the role of human agency in astrology?

The planets cannot “do anything” until you give them material to work with, and you give them material to work with every day as you're making thousands of decisions. If you are trying to rush a project through [when that’s not the right pace], the astrology is going to throw variables at you to show you that rushing a project isn’t going to cut it. Someone you are working with might get pissed off, or a natural disaster might knock off power at your place to slow down the project.

Have you ever done partnered dancing?

Once. I didn’t know the moves and it was a circle dance. And what I remember from it was that as soon as I felt comfortable dancing with my partner, the host told us to switch girls [he says with a laugh]

That's the image that comes to mind when you describe astrology. You have agency, but you also need to be in sync with your partner. Even though you might be leading, you still can’t force it. You have to tune in with your partner and the beat.

I love that metaphor because the music is all of the planets working in tandem in a symphony. But your partner would be how a particular planet is interacting with another planet in your chart. You're always in the lead, and you can push back on a girl, but then it totally kills the vibe of the dance.

How do we have agency in Patchwork?

All the old comforts and delivery systems will no longer be there. So get used to encountering situations where scarcity is involved. The things that you're looking for are going to be in surprising places. Anything from dating to housing to food. Get ready for a nomadic hunter-gatherer mode of being. We’re going to be encouraged to be more self-sufficient. We're going to have to find ways to create smaller, even more temporary communities [which I describe through the imagery of Patches]. If you want Cheetos, it's not going to be delivered on-demand, with the government subsidizing some of the ingredients. It's probably going to come from your region locally produced. I also encourage people to start gardening. Even if they just grow herbs on their kitchen table because it will help you get into the DIY mindset.

And this goes for knowledge, too. Instead of going to an annual convention [where you can learn the standardized knowledge of a field] you’ll need to piece things together through books and teach yourself.

Isn’t the Internet connecting us across geography though?

See, that's what's going to create the patchwork. Because a patchwork quilt has patches connected through the stitches.

How is there going to be any hope of a cohesive nation if people are breaking down into ethnic or ideological tribes?

There are what I would call Pocahontas individuals. Pocahontas married John Smith and created temporary peace between Indians and the English settlers. At the same time she got a lot of flak from her tribe for marrying a white dude, and also the white people weren't really cool with her either. I think we're going to see a lot of Pocahontas individuals in the Patchwork Age.

The English translation of Pocahontas means “little wanton one”, they're almost like the Fool archetype. [He finds a book and reads from it during the interview] The Fool has “unrestrained spirited capacity to cross barriers of all sorts social, ethnic, racial, religious, political. They shamelessly wander into foreign regions dressed in foreign clothes, pray to different gods, bring home an unlikely marriage partner, bridge worlds of difference.

There's valuable work to be accomplished as a go between: misunderstandings can be cleared up, warring factions can better understand their perceived enemies. Whatever remains of trust and civility can be preserved. A single person's efforts can, in fact, set up a workable future that addresses all concerns.”

We talk about the homeless intellectuals on the side of Upstream Twitter [referring to a Twitter community]. These people are really going to be living out the current of Patchwork Consciousness. So if you know those kinds of individuals, I would keep an eye on them because they're going to be the ones really creating with the energy.

And that's not to disparage some people who will decide to be proud traditionalists and start a farming commune with only Austrian people. That's also Patchwork. Because they have found a way to be self-sufficient in terms of their supply chain of meaning.

But I'm personally more interested in the Pocahontas individuals who might come from a community and then self exile themselves and go explore other communities that would welcome them in, because they have some other trait that that gives them a ticket in.

If we ever have history lessons one hundred years from now, they will be the people that we talk about. Because they're going to find other Pocahontas individuals. They are going to be the stitch connecting the patches together.

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