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 ____?



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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Saturn and Pluto (and Uranus) Part 2: In the Thick of It

The world is struggling to cope with a pandemic that seems to have swept us into a universal feeling of great uncertainty almost overnight. A mere few weeks ago life was going along as "normal," plans were being made in expectation of no change to the status quo that have since had to be scrapped. For myself, my fiancé and I had to postpone our wedding for — who knows when?

The question I've been asking myself is, how can I, as an astrologer, contribute helpfully to all of us going through this? Being an astrologer comes with a number of challenges and expectations, but the greatest value of astrology comes through redefining our perspective on the moment. Dedication to their craft gives astrologers a unique insight into the overall picture of experience, both personal and collective. When we're good at what we do we offer a perspective that is uplifting and inspiring, helping people stay above the degenerative vortices of fear and despair, while validating that yes, in fact, this is a helluva difficult time for the evolution of the human race.

With that in mind, I'll do my best to give a contextual map for where we are astrologically, where we appear to be going, and why there is good reason for hope.

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Saturn and Pluto, Part 1

Saturn and Pluto

Saturn and Pluto

Five hundred years ago, during the year 1518 according to Wikipedia, one of humanity's darkest and cruelest endeavors, the transatlantic slave trade, began. In the United States, slavery was a legal and acceptable practice for roughly 250 years, outlawed now for only 150 years. While we see no legally sanctioned instances of slavery in the US today (or do we?), ongoing problems of racism are still prevalent, as we have hardly erased the stain of slavery's trauma on our nation's consciousness.

Just prior to that time, in November of 1517, the planet Saturn culminated its conjunction with Pluto in Capricorn, a conjunction that would last well into 1519. When we consider the archetypal nature of the relevant symbols — Saturn, Pluto and Capricorn — we can imagine a difficult dynamic of power and control, of superego wrestling with id for domination. Compulsion for order and unbridled passion merge and clash in supreme battle, giving rise to relentless pursuits of power. Saturn and Pluto together represent the lowest, as well as the highest, of possible collective human achievement, positive and negative modes of construction and destruction.

Today, Saturn and Pluto are again conjunct in Capricorn, having taken 500 years to return to the sign they were in when the tragic chapter of modern era slavery began. Using the techniques outlined by Richard Tarnas in his book Cosmos & Psyche (15º orb for outer planet quadrature alignments), the conjunction began in January 2018 and will continue through the end of 2021.

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Looking Again at Mercury Retrograde

I was recently interviewed by ABC7 News to explain the meaning of Mercury Retrograde, from both an astronomical and astrological point of view. As the presenter (community journalist Jalyn Henderson) explains, people tend to get a bit excited or even freaked out when Mercury goes retrograde. But as I tend to explain to those who ask me — you can relax, this is not a bad thing.


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Mars in Taurus: Revitalizing the Golden Calf

Fiery Bull

On Valentine’s Day Mars made its entrance into Taurus, where it will remain until March 31. This planet and sign combo is a curious one, given Mars's tendency towards passionate action and Taurus's relaxed complacency. Mars in Taurus evokes aggression with relaxation, fast movement with rooted stubbornness, new frontiers with known environs. Fire finds its fuel from earth and roots down into solidity.

To understand this transit and the kinds of experiences and events it can correlate with, we might consider what happens when Mars, the god of war, takes a break from the bloody conflicts of Aries to revive and rejuvenate. His focus has shifted from fighting battles to a passionate deepening into a calm environment, taking in salves that help heal and erase the traumas of war. At other times Mars in Taurus asserts, or defends, for the sake of preservation, stability and comfort.

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