Interval of Possibility

Dear Friend and Reader:

Over the weekend, astrology did one of those handoffs from one era to the next. All year long, we’ve been under the influence of the Jupiter square Neptune aspect, what you might think of as a bubble of unreality. That aspect completed and began to separate on Sept. 21, meaning it was, in effect, finished as a mundane event.

Now the current pattern is the long-awaited, anticipated or feared conjunction of Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn, which takes place on Jan. 12. This three-time-per-century aspect (and others in its cycle) has a way of driving history forward, often with events that bring a contraction and conservative or fear-based uprising.

Photo by Lanvi Nguyen.

I challenge anyone to come up with two aspect patterns that reveal greater contrast. Dreamy, fluffy, hopeful, sweet-talking Jupiter, Neptune, Sagittarius and Pisces, as contrasted with gritty, hardcore Saturn and Pluto placed in earthy, rocky Capricorn. This is the shift of energy we experienced over the weekend and into this week.

We are now fully in the vortex of Saturn conjunct Pluto, and need to respond to this significant change. It takes a little time and awareness to develop aspect sensitivity: that is, discerning how aspects feel and what they represent.

In one single example, consider the two-year investigation and report of the Special Counsel disappearing into nothingness this past spring. Most people understand that something wrong happened during the 2016 campaign. The investigation confirmed that many times over.

But then, based on a one-page press release from the Attorney General, the whole thing was sunk. The New York Times reported in a huge page-one headline that a cloud over the presidency had been lifted. The report confirmed no such thing; it was a catalog of criminal behavior. In fact, the crimes were lost in a cloud and a fog — that of Jupiter square Neptune.

How did that happen? Well, can David Copperfield make a jet airplane disappear? That is the sensation of powerful Neptune aspects. Stagecraft goes further than substance. Now, welcome to the world of Saturn conjunct Pluto, where substance is all that matters.

Follow along with this scenario. Jupiter made its third square to Neptune on Sept. 21, just as news rippled out that a U.S. intelligence officer had filed a complaint against the president for a pattern of improper use of his power in association with a foreign country. The agency had one week to make the complaint available to appropriate members of Congress, but had been ordered (presumably by the president) not to.

Photo by Lanvi Nguyen.

Over about 72 hours, that story rapidly built momentum. By Monday morning (the equinox), 40 more members of the House of Representatives were calling for impeachment. At 5:05 pm EDT Tuesday, Nancy Pelosi took to television screens and announced that an impeachment inquiry had officially begun.

All over cable news, program hosts, pundits and commentators are saying the same thing: wow, that was fast. How the heck did that happen? How are things suddenly moving so fast? What we have is a rather delightful textbook case of astrology. I can imagine all of my teachers jumping up and down.

Now, the Saturn-Pluto conjunction is about more than this, though it is the cornerstone of the presidential election year 2020, occurring on Jan. 12. Saturn-Pluto is associated with the first-ever Pluto return of the United States, and the Pluto-Eris square. This is the astrology of Unprecedented Big Changes.

The capstone event of 2020 is the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in the first degree of Aquarius (on the winter solstice, no less). I think all those people who were envisioning the supposedly big deal of 2012 were actually gazing into 2020. Or, 2012 was a seed moment and the eight-year Venus cycle (a big deal for the Mayans) is delivering some results now. We shall see. Hope is not my particular religion; I am more action-oriented.

Our Bardo Moment

As I’ve mentioned here and there lately, I’ve been “coming out” about my Tibetan Buddhist studies. In various forms this has gone on for a while (beginning with my Book of Blue project in about 2005). I took a vow of refuge (a basic introduction to Buddhist practice) with the Karmapa a few years ago.

Then earlier this year, I finally dropped by his North American monastery, which is a 10-minute ride from Yum-Yum Noodles in Woodstock. There, in the bookstore, I found a book called Bardo: Interval of Possibility by Karthar Rinpoche. Bardo is what Catholics call heaven: an energy plane where people go when they die. We have no proof that it exists in the scientific sense, only the reports of reincarnated teachers who know enough to tell us about it, and a few reports of people who have returned from near-death experiences.

Photo by Lanvi Nguyen.

What Karthar means by “interval of possibility” is that as it’s the space between lifetimes, we have the ability to make some choices, in particular, what happens next: though this depends on the power of one’s awareness. The problem with bardo is that it’s not entirely obvious that one is there. Most “dead” people don’t know they’re “dead.” (See the animated film Waking Life for an illustration of this.)

Bardo is often a confusing, disembodied state, where most people lack the power of decision, because they lack physical agency. They search for their bodies, their senses, their experiences. But they cannot access three-dimensional space because they don’t have three-dimensional bodies. They watch helplessly as their possessions are divided up. They can become possessed by old resentments and rage.

It’s enough to make someone want to take up a spiritual practice, to avoid this whole business and get somewhere better. One indication of progress is whether one is fully aware of dreaming during a dream.

One illuminating idea I read in this book was something I was waiting for a teacher to confirm: that our current experience is a kind of bardo or in-between state, just as much as the space between lifetimes. For many people, our current plane has many of the same issues that bardo has for dead people — a kind of hazy, sleepwalking quality, the apparent lack of agency, being cut off from one’s senses, the entrapping power of resentment, and a polarized quality more suited for the astral plane than the physical one.

I’ll come back to this in a moment. First, I would propose that our current situation of being in the timespan between the Jupiter-Neptune square, and the Saturn-Pluto conjunction, is a kind of bardo moment: an interval of possibility.

In Body, or Out of Body?

One thing you may have noticed is that many notions of spirituality and enlightenment involve the aspiration to be out of body. Many of the goals of what we think of as spiritual progress involve “transcending” the body and its needs. Astral projection, bilocation, telepathy, predicting the future, and the big one — going to heaven — are tops on many spiritual agendas.

Photo by Lanvi Nguyen.

On the other end of that, enjoying sex, food, sports, politics, smoking pot and finger painting, or drinking martinis in Vegas are often considered “unspiritual” because they involve the body, or invoke some notion of sin, or in some way ritualize conflict. But they are very much experiences of the physical plane, and of physical bodies, which is where we are.

It is interesting to me that spirituality usually advocates the transcending or escaping from space and time, rather than learning how to work within space and time, and to be more aware here. I would propose that the goal of what some call spirituality is to grow into our lives and our purpose; to facilitate the ability to become ourselves.

That means learning how to participate, how to be real, how to manifest your potential in a meaningful way. Fritz Perls (1893-1970), the co-founder of Gestalt Therapy, describes such a process in this video. As he explains, we have gone from a long historical precedent of being driven by necessity and moral obligation, to one of hedonism.

This is difficult to navigate, and is a big distraction. Fritz is not objecting to enjoying life. Rather, he is pointing out that making a religion of pleasure and feeling good points us away from the challenging necessities of growth and progress. It has made people phobic of pain and struggle, which are often avoided at all costs — and there are many. The main one is the satisfaction of full investment in your own existence.

Saturn, Pluto and Necessity

We are now in a time where there is no such thing as a necessity. Or rather, the necessity of having shoes on one’s feet has been replaced by that of Nike Air Jordans and/or the closet full of shoes and/or being in style, regardless of the damage stylish shoes might do to your feet. Saturn conjunct Pluto is, I think, going to reorient us on the concept of what is actually necessary.

Meanwhile, we are in the “interval of possibility” between these two stages of time. We are coming out of a dreamy, foggy, clouded sense of reality, where truth is optional or up for grabs. And we are entering a situation where we must confront a hard-edged reality and our need to work from within, rather than “have an impact” from the outside.

Photo by Lanvi Nguyen.

The scale of Saturn conjunct Pluto, and the complexity of the aspect (which also involves Mercury, Ceres, the Sun, Jupiter and the South Node), indicates the scope and potential of this rare moment.

Please, allow me to be blunt. We are not in a feel-good moment. Yes, there are plenty of distractions around us. You can now while away your whole life and not even notice it go by. You can play Angry Birds or Candy Crush with every spare moment and save yourself the challenges of growth, creativity and intimacy.

You can also get lost in hopelessness, futility, frustration, stagnation, inadequacy, paralysis, victimhood, anger, fear, pain and resentment. All of that is available to you, in great abundance.

You may live haplessly, like Peter Pan or Little Red Riding Hood. If you do, you will be very popular and get the attention of many who envy you. You can live from hope to hope, and people will appreciate you because you give them a vacation from reality.

You might, as well, buy into the possibility that being mean to people, judging them or accusing them of things, is somehow the path to a better future. I assure you, if it matters at all: hatred, attack or guilt in any form are not activism or the way to love. That includes hating Donald Trump and all his minions.

Saturn conjunct Pluto is a teacher of the bottom line, from the standpoint of physical reality. It will demand strength, and call it forth from you, if you concur. The bottom line means how much time we have, and what we do with it. It means adjusting and adapting creatively to the changes in our environment.

Most of all, Saturn conjunct Pluto represents the necessity for participation in your own life and the life of our society, in that order. There is no workaround for this. It is time to recognize that decisions are the one and only way you direct the course of your life.

Perhaps my favorite Fritz Perls quote is, “Learning is discovering that something is possible.”

We could do with a lot more of that now; we are long past ready, and the interval of possibility is upon us.

With love,

Photo by Lanvi Nguyen.

Planet Waves Monthly Horoscope for October 2019 (#1262) | By Eric Francis

Aries (March 20-April 19) — You have both unusual magnetism and the ability to help others discover themselves. You possess something of what others need. Yet this can also work the other way; where Chiron is involved, it’s necessary to refine and focus the “do no harm” approach to existence and to relationships. This is not always possible, because people can make self-destructive choices even when you are at your loving best. Still, you will benefit from aligning your awareness with your psychic hygiene, and being fully present for everyone you encounter. You need to maintain your own sense of what people are ready for, and whether your communication is clear enough to sustain deeper levels of intimacy and sexual contact. One characteristic of people who enter your energy field is that they may be trying to define their reality their way. From your viewpoint this may be a “conscious” or “unconscious” process for them, though I suggest you err on the side of acknowledging the self-awareness of everyone you speak with. Listen to the words people say for clues as to how they want to exist within their reality, which includes you. It does not matter whether you agree or disagree with their position; whether they try to impose it on you or whether you pick it up in a passive way. Invest the energy and love into listening to people carefully. Figure out what they are saying about their state of being, and what they want from existence. You might be able to offer some of it; you might not. Regardless, your ability to bear witness to someone else’s reality will help you bear witness to your own.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — For the past year and a half, the big news is that Uranus has been in your birth sign; that is still relevant. At the moment, though, there is another point, which may be having a significant influence, and that is Vesta. This is something of a subtle influence that people often notice years after it’s been having an effect. The gist is that in collaboration with Vesta, you take the role of holding space for others. You become a kind of facilitator, yet doing so with minimal intervention. Basically, you hold space and allow, reflect and, to some extent, protect the journey that your fellow humans are on. By contrast, Uranus is rather bold about mixing yourself up in the affairs of others, or acting on your own behalf with little care how others might feel. So we have some contrast here, and two approaches you might take when investing yourself in any situation. Uranus will be around for years; you’ll have plenty of time to master it, and its art of self-reinvention. Vesta grants you the gift of assisting others in their self-reinventions, though with little or no direct benefit to yourself. That is the whole idea: to allow yourself to be a vessel of transformation for others. Yet this must be done with the utmost care, and without injecting that thing known as ‘ego’. What you are doing, more than anything, is allowing. This could be in the context of an intimate relationship, where it’s clear a partner wants privileges that go beyond your agreed-upon scope, or what makes you feel comfortable. You might offer yourself in service of someone’s artistic development. This is not necessarily a permanent state of being; rather, it’s a temporary privilege.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — October ends with Mercury stationing retrograde in Scorpio, so let’s focus on that first. Along with much other activity, this takes place in your house of work and wellbeing. This is a well of strength and resources for you, and you’re about to have full access. Yet it represents an inner reality and not an outer one; it is something you are being invited to experience, though not necessarily to express. In essence, you are on a journey of self-discovery. This may involve making your way along a fine line where sexual expression meets your unexpressed inner sexual reality. In our society at the moment, we have a serious question regarding what to do when you have amorous feelings for coworkers. This calls for a delicate balance of sensitivity and awareness. Our robot-driven world has put us out of touch with how the social realm is the way into the deeper emotional aspects of life. Most of our social skills are deteriorating (if they ever existed in the first place). Where there are professional and political considerations, the thing you don’t want is for your hormones to take over. Rather, start with maintaining basic respect for the humanity of anyone you may care about. Ask them how they’re doing and perhaps how their day is going, with no expectation of any special response. Notice if you are seeking their approval in some way — investigate what that is about. If someone likes you, they might signal that to you and the conversation will develop. During the retrograde, don’t make any guesses. Meanwhile, your astrology indicates that you would be wise to wrap up old business this month. Clear the way for the future.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — The planetary currents are drawing you deeper into your creative side, which for you includes lust and passion. Try to keep it light. Give yourself options. Emphasize feeling good, taking care of yourself, and exploring the aspects of your nature that can easily get sidelined in our busy world. You probably know what those things are. Dust off your paints or pastels, and dig out your sketchbook. Put new strings on your guitar or violin, or clear all extraneous material away from the piano. Take this as metaphor: make room for what makes you feel good, by which I mean space, time and emotional bandwidth. Reconnect with the part of yourself who is that sensual, creative person for whom the whole world has the flair of the erotic. Be alive and act like it, feel all the beauty, and allow yourself to be turned on for its own sake. In our current version of the world, this is considered a dangerous kind of vulnerability. So you will want to beware of any zombies roaming about, and casually walk the other way. Don’t make the mistake of trying to convert them into joining the living. Rather, observe who picks up on your vibe. Notice who comes over to play. Listen carefully for people who have their own relationship to “the rules,” and who have already determined that freedom is preferable to tyranny. With that as a standard, you will not exactly be overwhelmed with suitors or potential collaborators, though you’re certain to make one, two or a few friends you can groove with.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — Keep your focus on your health: good food, enough rest, and making sure that your work feeds you rather than depletes you. Yes, there is such a thing as work/life balance. But if you find yourself focusing on that too much, the time has come to question your work and why it’s not in the category of “life.” Your work has to be vocational. It must be a calling. It’s not enough that it be about responsibility or a sense of duty. Yes, those things are relevant as well, though you need an element of sacred honor — and you cannot fake this. As the next few seasons unfold, the question of vocation comes to the forefront of your existence. So where are you called to serve, and what are you called to do? And what is the origin of the message? Sometimes the phone rings, and someone has an assignment or wants you to do something. At other times, there is an event that shapes your life and sets you on a certain path. I think that at the heart of the concept of vocation is an inner summoning, coming in a form akin to a necessity like eating or breathing. That sounds compelling, though most people are shallow breathers and don’t eat especially well. Diet and whole breaths aside for the moment, your astrology is potent enough that you are probably hearing your inner voice speak loudly and clearly. If you’re willing to listen, you will get the message about your assignment or your mission. How you might go about it is another question, though that information usually flows from the commitment and not into it.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — Honor your words and your ideas. This is seemingly a great notion in a time of deception, where not only truth but the most basic value of meaning is being blurred, lost or intentionally destroyed. For your own sanity, you cannot participate in this, and further, you are someone whose leadership is needed to help us go beyond the current state of anarchy. This will require a careful review of your own point of view, your vocabulary and the way that you connect words and ideas to meaning. The most basic question to ask yourself is, “Is this true?” The second is, “How do you know?” Then there is another more sublime dimension: “What is the speaker’s (or writer’s) intended meaning or effect?” Words and letters are abstract symbols, and are inherently meaningless. We attach much to them, and then, ultimately, reading is what you might call an educated guess. Yet when you are the speaker or the writer, you must work with an element of precision, based on your understanding of what you’re saying. For most people, even the most artful professional writers, the quality of writing comes through the process of revision. Therefore, take the time to write, read, rewrite, and reread. Share your thoughts in progress selectively and ask other people what they think you mean. Then listen to what they say. You’re up against two disturbing trends in society. One is the prevalence of programs, scripts and robots. The other is the use of words as weapons. You are doing something else; you are conveying nuance and feeling. This is a purpose of its own.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — The whole world and your experience of life may seem like one endless test of your confidence and sense of safety. Yet while this may be true, there is something else going on, which is about your emotional independence. That applies both in personal, intimate relationships, and how you interact with family and those you may live with. One of the primary sources of insecurity and instability comes directly through your contacts with others to whom you feel some sense of obligation. You also tend to use your partnerships to stabilize your sense of who you are, which seems natural enough — though that is part of your situation. Other people are rarely a good way to orient yourself; or, better said: you need inner reference points. The challenge is that you don’t usually find those moorings until you detach yourself from dependency on others. And the further challenge is that when you start to do this, others can rebel, because you’re likely to affect their sense of confidence and orientation as well. This is the problem with relationships that are based on maintaining the status quo, emotional security or one’s sense of identity. The good news is that certain key people around you are beginning to question this for themselves as well. So you may find common cause with them, and consciously expand your agreements to include more introspection, time apart, and the cultivation of new friendships outside of your shared emotional sphere. You are going through a kind of revolution, though you don’t need to revolt. You need to practice noticing how you feel, and honoring that all the time.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — One quality of Scorpio is its tendency to be mired in the past, and then to forget that fact. While some rather potent astrology is dynamiting you out of that at the moment (including Uranus in your opposite sign Taurus), you’re in a place where a review phase is necessary. You might actually discover there are points of attachment in your personal history that you want to resolve and disconnect. This is not so much a demolition job but more your specialty, which is forensics. Note that this might be about actual bonds and relationships, and it might be loyalty to people through ideas that no longer serve you. There may be some notion that “my mother valued this thing or thought this way, so I must as well.” But it’s rarely so blatant. You will notice the condition in a subtle sense that you’re betraying the person, which comes with a little pang of guilt. The place to begin is with what you take for granted: what you assume is true, or what you notice from time to time but rarely question. The theme of the coming New Age of your life is mental and emotional independence from those who would only drag you down. Look at the results of what loyalty to the ideas of others has caused for you. This applies not only to relatives but also to those who you established in your mind as being somehow greater than human, or in some way infallible. It’s time to dial that back, and then update your files.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — All year long, Jupiter in your sign has been in a 90-degree, or square, aspect to Neptune. Jupiter has a 12-year orbit, and spends only one year of those 12 in Sagittarius. Usually this is as good as astrology gets for you, though there has been a challenge lately, which has been the angle to Neptune in Pisces. This has made it difficult to have any sense of standing on solid ground, or any real leverage toward meeting your goals. (Pisces has been affected in a similar way.) The square passed as of Sept. 21, and it was as if a spell was cleared, allowing you to be more realistic, and to see certain problems for what they are. The astrology is now tipping in the other direction, of gritty practicality and even urgent necessity. This will help you prioritize. But you don’t want to grind too deep into the bedrock for this. You have had a good look at your highest ideals from your experience of Jupiter-Neptune; you’ve had the opportunity to dream a little. Your task is now to put together the best attributes of your vision with just enough pragmatism to get the job done — without sacrificing either. This is one of the most basic forms of alchemy for getting anything done on the planet, particularly in this time of so much potential, and so many available creative resources. You will need to find the right mix, though there must be one — going only one way or the other will not suffice. Some things will work on one part vision and four parts business; others on four parts vision and one part business. Regardless, you must integrate the two.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — Consider the possibility that the coming season is one of the most significant of your life. Certainly, it is a time like no other. These next few months have you on the final approach to Saturn converging with Pluto in your sign. We would need to go back a long time, hundreds of years before the American Revolution or any modern government, to find this conjunction in Capricorn, where it is particularly significant. This is because Capricorn represents the underlying structures of society, what we think of as stalwart institutions, and the foundations of family. You are at a personal crossroads, where your choice of directions is to set yourself free from the grip of history, or to invest yourself further in it. Plenty who claim to be revolutionaries end up as supporters or subjects of the old order; it’s so commonplace as to be ordinary. If a radical feminist who spent years fighting the patriarchy suddenly announced she was getting married in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, most people would say oh, how lovely, and not blink an eye. Every cell in your body is urging you to make a choice that will advance your own cause, and set your life on a new course, as apart from your ancestors. You have decided over and over that many facets of your upbringing, your family’s culture, and the direction of society are not for you. Yet are you willing to take the personal risk to really test that out? You might ask yourself what you honestly have to lose. If you look at that carefully, you might say your sense of orientation. But that is already gone, and there is no turning back. There is only moving forward.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — “Unconscious” is a strange term. It has a number of meanings in psychology, and others in pop spirituality. Generally, it means what is within the realm of denial, or what is subliminal to one’s own awareness, such as an unconscious motive. I am from a therapy tradition where the thing you don’t do is to deny consciousness. “What does he know? He’s just a kid/dog/houseplant/rock” is a question that deserves an answer. If one does not have an answer, what does one assume? That a kid or tree does not know what is going on? Right now, most of the activity in your chart is in a region that most astrologers would say describes the “unconscious.” That might include your relationship to your own motives and your own psychological workings. Can any of that really be unconscious, or just unacknowledged? The thing to do now and for the foreseeable future is to pay attention to this whole realm of what might lurk below the surface of your thinking. To do this, the main thing you need is to want to. If you are feeling restless, or angry or even just miffed, or feeling pushed, or wondering why you are making strange decisions, gently look inside of yourself to figure out what is going on. Notice what is coming through your dreams, and pay attention to how you feel when you wake up. It’s true that your mind is something of a cryptical envelopment these days, though it is your mind; we’re talking about you, not a thing apart from you.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — You have been working your way through a slog for the past nine months. Did you feel it? That was the sensation of what should have been within easy reach turning out to be a projection onto a cloud. Yet despite this, there are some specific goals you have persisted in moving forward. Notice what they are, and how you did it. You now need to shift the focus and method of your efforts. First, note the projects and intentions you have chosen to invest your efforts in through this challenging time. Size them up, and see if you can consolidate and prioritize. Determine what you want to do the most, and what you don’t need to do at all. That will help you set yourself in order, based on both your values and your experience. Then, start to draw the most direct lines between your artistic goals and sources of revenue that support both you and what you do (they are closely related). With the world, and the internet, in its current state, this is not necessarily an easy process. What you’re doing may not have been done before, though there are many elements that can draw on precedent and experience. You will have to apply them in new ways. As a Pisces, you are often the psychic or emotional probe into collective consciousness. Even though that can be overwhelming at times, you have talents and assets you can offer to support your own cause, mission or purpose; this is your main directive currently. To do so, you must know what that purpose is, and remember all the time.

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