Uranus-Pluto: The Next Phase

Ocean Whale by AstralSeed

Artwork by AstralSeed.

During the summer of 1851, an extremely rare conjunction of planets took place in the first 3 degrees of Taurus. On the very day that Mars joined Saturn, Uranus, and Pluto there, Harriet Beecher Stowe published the first in her popular series of articles that, a year later, became her nation-changing novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. That same year, Melville's classic tale of excessive ambition, Moby Dick, was also published.

In a single year these two literary firebrands stamped the world with the two primary themes that were to define the second half of the 19th century in America: The abolition of slavery and, less directly in Melville's case, the extreme rise of industrial capitalism.

While Mars and Saturn certainly play a role in understanding these themes and their place in this moment of history, it is the Uranus-Pluto cycle that speaks most directly. Uranus is connected with technology and social concerns. Pluto represents deeply hidden power and wealth. Whereas Uranus corresponds with sudden, explosive change, Pluto is akin to the compressed magma under a volcano, hidden from sight yet roiling with an unfathomable energy. Pluto's intense potency requires a catalyst to encourage its cathartic release and allow its hidden power to become incorporated on the surface. Uranus's sudden, electrifying strike often provides that catalyst. Like the coming eruptions of war and avarice hinted at by Uncle Tom and Moby Dick, Uranus and Pluto acting together give us a sense of an erupting volcano that forever transforms the face of the planet and even the fate of humanity itself.

As Uranus and Pluto come into significant alignment certain themes repeat themselves with impressive regularity. A prominent example in recent centuries is the emergence of industrial revolutions. Like the Uranus-Pluto trine (120º) of the 1760s/70s that kicked off the First Industrial Revolution, the Uranus-Pluto sextile (60º) of the early 1870s kicked off the Second Industrial Revolution. The following sextile almost 80 years later, the end of World War II, marks the beginning of the Third Industrial Revolution.

This is appropriate to the astrological symbolism: Uranus is specifically correlated with cultural revolutions along with new technologies and their dissemination throughout society. Pluto correlates with the deep underground power sources that fuel these technologies, be they coal, oil, or steam (or venture capital). The sextile and trine alignments typically give functional form to whatever is aligned, so that, in this case, the power inherent in the Plutonic energy is harnessed and utilized by the newly architected Uranian inventions.

Today, we are on the cusp of entering just such a period. The Uranus-Pluto trine of 2024-2030 will no doubt bring into the forefront new technologies that revolutionize travel, commerce, and energy, creating what is thought to become a Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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Wrapping up 2022: The Pressure Before Relief

U.S. Mid-Terms

Chart for the U.S. Mid-Term Elections

It's not surprising that the astrology for the US mid-term elections looks like a mess. Put less bluntly, the chart reflects an extremely tense moment that is going to permanently alter the course of events going forward. Featuring a Taurus Lunar Eclipse at square to Saturn and conjunct Uranus, the chart evokes a demand for change that will break and leave behind what we thought we knew about our place in the world and what our future might hold.

As dire as that sounds, it is not a prediction of doom. As always, eclipse charts represent an era, or a phase, a period of time that has been gradually building up to a moment of consciousness, where we finally realize some truth we can no longer ignore. There's no going back because, despite what we see in the world, the human soul abhors regression.

Correlated with the intense political polarization in the US today, as well as with events like the Covid pandemic and the January 6th insurrection, is the Saturn/Uranus square that began in 2020. I've written about this square before. It is associated with rebellions, failed incursions, and massive economic contractions. Despite how dire the crisis appears, it seems that, from a US perspective, whatever is novel and rebellious during a Saturn/Uranus square ends up failing to subsume democracy into its fold.

There are historical and astrological reasons for this. The prime astrological point is that, in the natal chart for the United States, Saturn and Uranus are in a harmonious trine aspect, with Saturn in exaltation. We are not destined for political failure but for eventual political integration. A functional democracy requires occasional crises that breakdown dysfunctional elements, making space to recreate itself based on what works. We see this breakdown/rebuild cycle occur with surprising consistency in coincidence with Saturn/Uranus transits. This particular square, lasting for only another few months, is no exception.

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History, Hope, and Handling These Times

For some time now there has been a crescendoing discussion around a global battle between democracy and autocracy. This battle has become crystallized in the form of the Ukraine war, where autocratic Russian oligarchs are violently asserting dominance over Ukrainian democracy. It is by no means the only arena where this ideological battle is being fought, but it is the most obvious and destructive.

Conflicts between concentrated governmental, military, or economic powers and a popular majority recur fairly consistently during periods when Saturn and Uranus are at square aspect (or right angle from our perspective on Earth). It is as if a societal breakdown is occurring in order to highlight major dysfunctional patterns that require dealing with. The abolition of slavery, the institution of banking protections, and the addressing of climate change are all examples of alterations to societal order in response to a crisis arising during Saturn-Uranus squares.

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Build Forward Better

Re-election Campaign Poster for FDR

Re-election Campaign Poster for FDR

In October of 1929 the New York Stock Exchange collapsed, occurring just after the collapse of the London Stock Exchange and marking the start of the Great Depression. At the time, Saturn was entering into a conflictual square with Uranus, as it was at the start of the Civil War, and as it is today. During each of these periods we see American democracy in peril, even outright attacked, as the country adjusts to fundamental changes to its political, economic, and social fabric. Yet despite the dangers, these periods also tend to trigger collective efforts that result in a more strongly reassembled democracy.

Saturn and Uranus aspects are especially meaningful for the United States, in part because of those planets' associations with democratic ideals and the institutions that serve and enforce them, as well as scientific advances and technological inventions. Democracy in particular is an essential keyword of American rhetoric, as it is of the sign Aquarius, where the nation's Moon is placed, a sign governed specifically by the planets Saturn and Uranus. Most of America's greatest crises and greatest triumphs have occurred while these two planets were in strong aspect.

Moreover, Saturn and Uranus are at a trine aspect in the natal chart of the United States, suggesting what we have already seen many times since the country's founding, that no matter how serious the crisis, American democracy tends to emerge stronger as a result. It's as if each major crisis brings to light deeply dysfunctional patterns that force us as a country to deal with them, as far as we can. This leads to overall improvements that inch us toward a more functional democratic ideal, until the next Saturn-Uranus conflict.

The Great Depression offers us a paradigmatic glimpse: Incumbent president Herbert Hoover tried to recover the economy by cutting taxes and government programs, with the idea that the resulting concentration of wealth at the top would naturally distribute into the populace via charity and industrious job growth. He believed that private industry should remain unencumbered by government interference to handle the crisis.

Hoover's approach was a disaster. The situation only got worse as the American people spiraled further into poverty. Hoover's resulting unpopularity allowed a new visionary president to be elected, namely Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

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An Arc of Rebellion and Order

Sun poking through

 

When the first public Covid vaccines were being administered in December 2020, Jupiter was just reaching its conjunction with Saturn in Aquarius. Here we have a symbol of scientific breakthrough, of a collective effort to bring to everyone a humanitarian boon. This conjunction carries the hallmarks of the ancient interpretation of a major regime change, and during those weeks we saw that despite rabid attempts to hold on to power, the incumbent political party in the US was displaced. For many, a sense of optimism was brewing, that perhaps we could move past the traumatic events of 2020. Indeed, the popular hubbub around the 2020 Jupiter/Saturn conjunction echoed the celebratory acknowledgements of planetary alignments from ancient times.

That conjunction, however, was also at a square to Uranus, symbolizing a battle between factions of rebellion and the existing structures of authority. In the US this square was exemplified as Mars, planet of aggression and attack, reached conjunction to Uranus, planet of disruption and rebellion, both making an explosive square to Saturn, the planet of established authority, as the events of January 6th unfolded. From very early on, the year 2021 showed itself to be no less shocking than its predecessor.

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Lights in the Dark

Source unknown

Source unknown

Although Jupiter and Saturn are now transiting different signs they are still operating as two components of a centuries-long process that will redefine and rebuild our social and political institutions. With the emphasis on Aquarius, we are being driven to create a more humane and inclusive world. But this is not as simple of a goal as we might hope for. Like any ideal, it is fraught with challenging paradoxes and extant problems that seem insoluble. Striking at the heart of the Aquarian dilemma is the very definition of freedom and what it means to create a free society within a highly diverse and increasingly complex world.

Early in 2020, as Saturn was sandwiched between a conjunction with Pluto (concentration of authoritarian power) and 90º square to Uranus (populist uprisings against centralized authority), Covid came sweeping across the globe. Since then, many diverging and at times sharply conflicting social ideals have been pushed forward. Many purport to promote an ideal society free from tyranny and control, a utopia hamstrung by whoever constitutes the "other side". With Uranus in Taurus, there can be a literalization of social ideals, to the degree that if you do not agree with me, then you do not deserve to live, at which point the ideal has broken down into total dysfunction. The Saturn/Uranus square represents the great tension between these conflicting ideals, demanding that we release the literal forms and sort out what, at essence, defines freedom for us as a society. Racism, guns, voting, unions, infrastructure — all appropriate Saturn/Uranus topics, seen in past instances of Saturn/Uranus transits, moments that ask, as today: How do we structure our institutions to support both individual freedoms and responsibility to the greater whole?

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The New Progressive Era

Of all the questions which can come before this nation...there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us.

- Theodore Roosevelt, president during the Progressive Era of the early 1900s

Protest for unions



Activists for Women's Suffrage

Progressive Era (1896-1916) photos from the
Library of Congress

The tide is turning, if slowly and with great effort, towards a more socially progressed world. The reign of conservative leadership in recent years has reached its limit and is quickly losing steam. We find ourselves in a unique position, possibly feeling beaten down by recent events, possibly feeling hopeful for a future refreshed by the outing of corruption and the bonds of solidarity that have risen in response, while justified in holding real hopes for a positive reversal of fortune that uplifts and provides for the populace.

While the situation on Earth is never perfect, and we still have battles to fight and win, I believe we can expect some real reform via progressive policy over the coming years. The challenges we face today and soon to come present us with a direct opportunity to shore up the very framework of our society.

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The King is Dead; Long Live the ____?

Americans

 

Now that Joe Biden is the official President-elect there arises a question of where we go from here. To begin to address that question I think it's worth taking an astrological look at what happened with Trump and what he symbolizes for us collectively.

Trump's rise and fall is symbolized by the transition from Leo to Virgo, which is the transition from power to humility. As Trump was campaigning for president in 2016 his progressed Sun crossed his Leo Ascendant, which also makes a conjunction to the fixed star Regulus (nicknamed the "heart of the Lion" because of how it is situated in the constellation Leo). Astrologers give a lot of significance to conjunctions of the progressed Sun, especially if a fixed star is involved. For Trump to have it crossing his Ascendant and Regulus is a symbol of rising to a great destiny. But hidden in this symbol, hanging quite heavily above his head, is an astrological Sword of Damocles.

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Saturn and Pluto, part 4: Collective Shadow Work

Trust the Shadow

Image courtesy Gerd Altmann

One of Carl Jung's great contributions to the understanding of the human psyche is the nature of psychological shadow. For every constructive "sunlit" part of our psyche — qualities such as kindness, generosity, discipline, and achievement — there will always be an equally destructive, or shadow, part. You may give a stellar performance of creative genius, then walk offstage and feel crushed by loneliness. You may go to temple to pray and offer alms to the poor, then later shout angrily at the waiter who takes too long to serve you. You may rise in your career as an exemplar of your field, all the while neglecting family and emotional depth. No matter how "good" we try to live our lives, an equal shadow part will stalk us and appear in our abusive thoughts and actions, depressed emotions, chronic health problems, crippling nightmares, and unconsciously created accidents. The seesaw of good and bad, civilized and uncivilized, light and shadow, is always and inexorably seeking balance.

As Jungian analyst and writer Robert Johnson points out, we are always whole, whether we want it or not, whether we see it or not. Our choice is to either consciously and creatively engage our shadow through ritual and play, or allow our shadow to play us.

It's not that the shadow is some kind of scary antagonist that we have to be guarded against, but that it is us and is "shadow" merely because we are choosing to mask it, to relegate our uncivilized qualities to an unacknowledged psyche-closet, where they fester as our secret shame, guilt, and victimization. Healing occurs when we choose to open those closet doors, engage with those cut-off parts of ourselves, and learn to embrace and even dance with them. What we ultimately find is that our shadow is full of riches and vitality, that it is not "evil" but it is "dark", meaning mysterious, magical, intuitive and deeply nurturing.

Astrologers link Pluto with Jung's concept of shadow, referring to the deep passions and existential urges and fears that drive us from the level of Freud's "id". Pluto is also connected to a deep transformation that occurs when we have no choice but to face these untamed powers, realizing that our small, rational, separated ego mind is no match for the seismic flows of the oceanic, non-rational, and ultimately unifying powers of the deep psyche.

Today the world is wrestling with its collective shadow. This is particularly true for the United States, now in its Pluto Return. For all the good that America has done and created, it has always maintained a largely unacknowledged shadow, expressed in systemic racism, burglary of foreign resources, and terrorism against countries far poorer than itself. The US has proved itself as both a great defender of human rights and one of its worst abusers. As it has raced to become the richest country in the world it has imprisoned many of its poorest people in a deliberate system of mass incarceration. America is a showcase of extreme polarization and the tension has become untenable.

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Saturn and Pluto (and Jupiter) Part 3

Naked Emperor

Naked Emperor

As mentioned in previous articles, we are in the crux of a major dance of planets involving Saturn, Uranus, Pluto, and Jupiter. I covered the conjunction of Saturn and Pluto first, then added the "spice" of Uranian influence in part 2. Now we mix in the mellowing flavors of Jupiter.

At this point in the long line of major planetary aspects for 2020, we are in the midst of a strong degree of retrograde. Multiple simultaneous retrogrades always occur when superior planets are grouped together (superior meaning further from the Sun than Earth), as Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto are today. Whenever the Sun reaches approximately 120º (or trine) from a superior planet, that's when the planet's course reverses, either retrograde or direct again. When many superior planets are near to each other, as we have now with Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto, then those planets will all go retrograde at roughly the same time (distances from Earth play into the timing).

When so many beyond-Earth planets turn in reverse, we're looking at social and collective psychic forces taking a step back, going underground, hiding from plain sight. It's a time of potential confusion, conflicting reports, and unresolved conflicts. It's also a time of retooling, rebuilding and taking our attentions inward to find new solutions to old, or newly arisen, problems. Themes may recur that we thought were resolved but still need another look. As Laurence Hillman points out, we are deeply in a "yin" time, an inwardly reflective and potentially transformative process. This is especially true during this retrograde season, lasting into the Fall. We should not expect clear movement forward towards resolution of any of our pressing social issues for some time.

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