Dear Friend and Reader:
There is an astrological event brewing that happens this spring for the first time since 1927: a conjunction of two slow-moving outer planets called Uranus and Eris. You may recall that Eris became famous in 2006 when it precipitated the re-definition of a planet, leading to the ‘demotion’ of Pluto.
What is so exciting is that because Eris was discovered just 11 years ago, we will experience this conjunction with full awareness for the first time in human history.
We’ve seen the Uranus-Eris conjunction coming for years; and the association between what these planets represent, and how society is changing, seems pretty clear if you know what to look for.
Yet before we dive into a distinctly modern astrological technique of assessing an outer-planet event for the entire culture and for each of us as individuals, I would like to start with a point of history.
By 1965, the birth contractions of what would become “the Sixties” were already happening. I use 1965 as a reference point since it’s the year of an astrological event associated with everything that happened in that era — the most potent conjunction prior to what we’re experiencing now.
In August 1963, for example, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom announced a new phase in the civil rights struggle that began in the mid-1950s. That was where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech before an in-person audience of about 250,000 people, most of them African American. Later in 1963, a young Pres. John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
Just 12 weeks later, the Beatles arrived in New York, creating a sensation like the world had never seen. The Free Speech movement erupted in Berkeley. By summer 1964, the Vietnam War was officially underway when Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. These things were, of course, just the beginning. Everything was changing, and was changing fast, and going in directions that nobody could predict.
The pace of unprecedented events would accelerate clear through the murders of MLK and Robert Kennedy, the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, and his resignation in 1973.
Woodstock, widespread use of LSD, the Moon landing, the shootings at Kent State University, national campus protests, the first flight of the 747 and the Concorde, revelations and leaps forward in all of the arts, in literature, in technology and in religion: the Sixties were a distinct, strange, tragic, wild and beautiful time, comparable to nothing before them. It’s true that there were similarly revolutionary eras in history, but the addition of mass culture, of technology and in particular of coverage in the media sets the Sixties apart from anything that happened before.
Most astrologers who are working today know that there was a rare planetary event associated with the Sixties, called the Uranus-Pluto conjunction. It happens less than once per century, and the event of 1965 and 1966 took place in Virgo.
Both Pluto and Uranus had been discovered by that time, and their positions were available to anyone who sought out the information. Uranus was discovered in 1781 and Pluto was discovered in 1930. They were hardly late-breaking news in 1965, decades or centuries after discovery. Yet this was the first-ever conjunction between them that anyone alive had lived through consciously.
I’ve always wondered whether astrologers who were working in the 1960s had any idea that the conjunction was happening, and if they did, whether they worked with it consciously. I had my doubts.
The first person to ask was Robert Hand. Many people know of Rob from his most famous book, Planets in Transit. Having accomplished many things since that writing, including earning a Ph.D. in the history of astrology (at the Catholic University of America, of all places) and co-founding what is today a full-on classical astrology revival, Rob is considered the dean of American astrology.
So I called him last week to find out whether the astrology profession was aware of Uranus conjunct Pluto while it was happening. He said he started attending astrology groups in 1962, and that people were not talking about it in the grassroots organizations where he had the most contact. Astrology was, at the time, in its nascent form; the practice of astrology had not yet become as popular as it would become (in part with the help of Uranus-Pluto).
There were no books about Pluto available in English (one had been written in German but was not translated till the 1970s; a pamphlet came out in the late 1970s and the first book in English finally came out in the early 1980s). So people didn’t have a lot of readily available information to work with and felt they didn’t really grasp it. However, this may only have applied to the people Hand was actually encountering in the astrology groups he attended early in his career.
I asked Richard Tarnas, author of Prometheus the Awakener, The Passion of the Western Mind and Cosmos and Psyche, the same question. He came to astrology in the mid-1970s and was not personally present in the community during the Sixties to answer directly from experience, though he pointed out two things.
One is that a number of the more advanced writers were developing ideas about Pluto in journal articles, which were at the time an important source of information for people studying astrology. Those writers included the American astrologer Dane Rudhyar and the British astrologer Charles Harvey. So we know there were sources of information on Pluto if people knew where to look for them.
“I’m sure many astrologers were aware of the Uranus-Pluto conjunction having some relationship to the events of the 1960s. Though it seems to have been generally with a more limited temporal focus, centered more on the 1965-66 period, without quite recognizing the larger waveform extending throughout the decade.”
In other words, they didn’t understand that an event that technically lasted nine months in 1965-66 would have an influence spanning over 10 to 12 years. That method of inquiry was developed by Tarnas himself, who is one of the leading scholars on the historic effects of outer planet transit events. For an excellent introduction to that mode of astrology, by the way, I recommend Prometheus the Awakener, which is short, sweet and action-packed. And it’s easy to follow as well.
Of course, all any curious astrologer needed to do was to look at the world. You know, step away from the desk and take in all that was going down, then look back at the chart for something similarly unprecedented. But it wasn’t until after the conjunction was over and the Sixties had already had their impact that anyone really made the connection.
We might ask why it would have mattered. I think it’s useful to seek an understanding of astrology while it’s happening (we do a lot of it in this column). The job of astrologers is to guide people to expanded awareness, and to help point out opportunities. That often means living out the astrology in real time with full awareness.
Astrology can help us understand themes as well as point to potential places for growth. I don’t know if the Sixties would have been any different had astrologers understood what was happening. What I do know is that today, we are approaching an event of even greater proportions. Planets seem to gain influence by moving more slowly. It takes Eris more than twice as long as Pluto to orbit the Sun.
Yet it makes more sense to say that we live in times that are described perfectly by the known themes of Eris — chaos and discord, to name two of the more obvious (but surface layer) ones. This is a special kind of chaos, however, coming partly from within ourselves and energized by our environment.
One somewhat humorous contrast between the Sixties and today is that the Sixties were about boldly finding out who you were at any cost. Today, we practice a kind of cultivated cluelessness about identity, leading to some real difficulty with any notion of ‘I am’ that to me is very much reflective of Eris in Aries as a psychological factor.
Then there is the subversive quality of Eris. It seems the only way to get anything done these days is either to spend millions of dollars, or to go underground, or to hack the system in some way and subvert the dominant paradigm. There is no such thing as legitimate anymore. If there is, it’s not particularly useful. Today, rules are made to be violated.
Yet there’s much more than that. The world seems to be seething on the edge of a boiling point, or a critical-mass point. Anger is building, for example, visible as rage and violence at Donald Trump rallies. Billionaires are born daily while most people struggle to make ends meet. People are starting to figure out that they’re getting ripped off, and are done holding their anger inside. Black Lives Matter has emerged in response to what can be described as a prolonged, state-sponsored killing spree of young, unarmed black men.
Bernie Sanders has demonstrated that there is an equally vital well of idealism and goodwill in the American psyche. Many of us have been fretting over the Citizens’ United ruling of the Supreme Court, which granted corporations unlimited rights to donate money to political causes.
Yet all the billionaires in the land have not been able to match the millions of $25 donations arriving from Sanders supporters. If nothing else, Bernie is proving one thing: You don’t need a super PAC to wage an expensive presidential campaign. The money is flowing up to Bernie, not down to him. This is not the same as an authentic grassroots movement, but it’s a lot closer than the Koch brothers writing million-dollar checks.
The Sanders campaign and the Trump campaign have two things in common. One is that they are based on populist movements. The other is that they are both subverting the power structure of the mainstream political parties.
Today the Republicans who sold their souls to the Tea Party are considered the old guard. That’s funny, but it’s rendered hilarious because they are struggling to contain the very monster that they unleashed. They are scrambling to get a grip; for example, devoting an entire edition of the uber-conservative National Review to the topic of how to deal with Trump.
How quaint is that? It’s the modern equivalent of bringing a knife to a gunfight: responding to something driven by the Internet with some well-proofread, neatly typeset magazine articles. Who even knew?
Which leads me to another key point of the current zeitgeist: nobody seems to have a gosh-darned clue what’s going on. Nobody seems to understand the Internet, especially the people who claim to be the experts. By far the very most clueless-to-the-point-of-vertigo people I’ve ever met, when it comes to the Internet, are Internet marketing specialists. Save yourself the $1500 retainer fee most of them charge, take your kid out to get ice cream, and go over any questions you have.
If we look to Uranus-Eris for some guidance, the place the Internet has had its greatest impact is on self-concept. Our entire notion of what it means to be a self has been run through the digital blender. The most pressing question about the Internet is not what it is, or how it works, but what it’s made people into. Every definition of self and relationship has changed radically in the 20 years we’ve been living with the commercial ‘net, and in the seven or so years since nearly everyone has felt compelled to have a ‘smart’ phone running their life.
You might think Twitter is ridiculous, but you might ask yourself how much longer than 140 characters your attention span really holds up. What was the last book you read? How much of it do you remember?
The Uranus-Eris conjunction seems balanced on a delicate edge. To one side is a raging ocean of narcissism and superficiality. It’s as if the glow of the iPhone or Android screen is a glamour (in the original sense, a kind of spell) that draws people in, charming them into submission, never to let them go. Uranus, representing groups and technology, will likely drive this even further. All new media shape the predominant sense of self. New electronic media tend to cause implosions of the psyche rather than expansions. They collapse space and time, in theory bring everyone ‘closer’ but in reality pulling people deeper into a new kind of inner chaos, which feels like a new kind of high.
To the other side is a potential wave of awakening, of self-awareness, of seeking individuation. The force of Eris that seems to be provoking identity chaos can also have a kind of homeopathic effect of precipitating self-actualization. Uranus, which also represents a kind of shocking, revolutionary inner-awareness, can also bring in large groups of people working with similar ideas.
The thing missing seems to be a central organizing principle. Amidst all the chaos and mixed emotions, it’s not easy to find the golden thread. I have an idea what it is.
Before Uranus makes its first conjunction to Eris in Aries on June 9, something else happens involving Aries: Mars stations retrograde. Every two years, the Earth passes between Mars and the Sun, which makes Mars appear to move backward through the zodiac. I will open this subject here and continue in future columns; though let’s say that Mars retrograde will provide, I think, an excellent point of focus.
Mars will begin its retrograde in spiritually centered Sagittarius, and end the retrograde in sexually and emotionally focused Scorpio. It will do this between April 17 and June 29.
Here’s my idea of the golden thread: what you think of as spiritual is really about sex. This is not my original idea, but I could easily claim it, since nobody seems to remember. Carl Jung suggested this; Wilhelm Reich wrote his most important book about it. The mystical longing (as Reich called it) is the direct product of sexual frustration.
Spirituality (especially in its more persistent, purist, politically correct form) is the product of the sex drive. What, exactly, could be more spiritual than the very thing that creates new life?
The problem is that the corporate owner of God has deemed sex in nearly every form a sin, guaranteeing itself nearly perpetual business (along with a child sex trafficking business that has cost the Church more than $3 billion in damages payouts — more money than any person can actually imagine, paid by a church that spends most of its time preaching purity and chasity).
Mars retrograde will do something inherently tantric: it will seek the underlying sexual nature of all existence. Between April 18 and June 28, Mars will swim upstream from Sagittarius, seeking to spawn in the headwaters of its own sign, Scorpio. Borrowing a line from Bono, religion stole sex from us — and now it’s time for us to steal it back.
To be continued next week.
Planet Waves Monthly Horoscope for April, 2016, #1093 | By Eric Francis
Aries (March 20-April 19) — You’re bestowed with more energy than you know what to do with. Yet the planets are encouraging you to do something not so characteristic of your sign: pace yourself, move methodically and take the long view. You’re onto something unusual, with a bit of extra potential. Yet your path to success looks like it will require you to revise your plan several times, including the financial end. Keep in mind that you’re not sprinting but rather running a marathon, one whose course is not exactly set at this point. As you take the journey of the next year or two, you’ll become a distinctly different person from who you are today. The greatest points of potential emerge where you encounter any seeming obstacle, diversion or reversal. That’s where the real power is contained. To tap that power effectively, you’ll want to be moving slowly and with conscious intention. The challenge here is that you are likely to be feeling driven and ambitious, which for you translates to the desire for speed. Instead, work for mindfulness and efficiency. Most important, focus on who you are becoming as much as on what you’re doing, making or reaching for. When all is said and done, that’s the single most important factor in the equation of your life: who you are becoming, in the present, now.
Taurus (April 19-May 20) — You seem to be jumping with anticipation, as if everything is about to happen all at once. You might feel that way, though I suggest you take events one at a time, just like you would move one piece at a time in a game of chess. Most of the pressure you’re feeling is coming from inside you rather than from some external source. For some, this may feel like living on the verge of a panic attack, and for others, tapping into a deep source of inspiration. One thing I suggest is that you keep your attention as inwardly focused as you can. There’s nothing as interesting in the outer world as what you have going on in your inner world. The great stage of your mind is teaching you everything you need to know; yet at the same time you have the ability to express your most intimate ideas to others. You’re learning to do what most people never figure out, which is how to articulate what really matters to you. The more you figure out what that is, the clearer you’ll be able to express yourself, and I suggest that you not hold back. Speak up about what you care about. Be open about whom you care for, and why. Consciously break the taboo of revealing your actual personal truth, and feel the rare strength that offers you.
Gemini (May 20-June 21) — Whatever you may be doing, you have the ability to reach many people this month. What’s more is that you get to be unusually bold about your ideas. Generally society requires people to mince their words and blend them with mayonnaise to ensure public acceptability. You have the opposite effect going on. You will gain traction by presenting your actual concepts, even if they seem radical or like you’re way ahead of your time (which is likely to be true). A window to the future is opening up, and it will stay open long enough for you to make your mark. I would, however, recommend that you follow what I call the American law of success: You can do anything you want, as long as you do it well. Based on that social contract, refinement counts. Quality counts, and so does being thorough. Presentation is essential. If you want to violate cultural taboos, or push the edge, it helps immensely to be polished and manicured. When dealing with business people, have your numbers in order. When addressing editors, make sure everything is already fact-checked and proofread before you turn it in. When working with art directors, present them with two or three options. Above all, be polite, pay attention and listen. You can pull off some wild, unusual coup this month, as long as you’re smooth and well organized.
Cancer (June 21-July 22) — This is a take-charge moment for you. No doubt you’ve been feeling this as unusual confidence. You can feel your own presence in the world, so it’s not surprising that others feel your presence as well. The usual glass ceiling has opened up into a skylight. You are visible and people are taking notice of both how you look and what you have to say. This combination of factors is often the formula for success. I would suggest one thing, which is that if you want to be a revolutionary, you must mind your politics. Live as if every word you’re saying is being recorded. Understand who has influence and why. Know the difference between formal leadership (the boss, for example) and informal leadership (the executive assistant who can make anything happen) and work with that distinction. All in all, remember the human dimension of everything. Slow down and make contact with people, one at a time. Learn the names of everyone you work with and pay attention to how they feel. This would usually come naturally to one born under the sign of mothering, but right now your solar chart suggests you’re more like big daddy. So make sure you draw reserves from your feminine side and take the time to express genuine caring, even as you set out to achieve bold and beautiful things like never before..
Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — You have a future. That’s a big deal right now, with the world living like there’s no tomorrow. While it’s not a good idea to obsess over the future or to treat it as your only resource, you will live more confidently in the present moment if you know you have time, space and potential ahead of you. Think of this message as: take your time rather than waste time. Taking your time means using time well. One particular angle of your chart is trying to get your attention, which is the house that addresses the themes of creativity, pleasure and risk. It seems as if there is something you want to experiment with or explore, yet you don’t know whether to dive in or to hesitate. If this involves something you could call purely creative — that is, some form of expression with few possible consequences — you risk nothing by diving in. If there are some actual, potential consequences, which you must risk in order to succeed, then consider the worst-case scenario. What could go wrong and what are the chances that it will? How can you mitigate those potential effects? Then ask yourself if it’s worth taking that risk to achieve what you want to do. Once you decide to proceed, skip all the hesitating and get on with the show.
Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — You are one of the lucky ones. Remember that all the time. You have resources available to you that most people don’t even dream of, which include actual, practical intelligence, the ability to solve problems and, right now, the potential to understand where anyone is coming from. That particular one, above all else, is your greatest asset at this time. You do not need to be mystified by the people around you, or the ones you meet. The first thing is to notice how you feel around anyone you encounter. That will tell you almost all you need to know, though if you listen you will learn more. If you’re paying attention you will hear people describe or admit to everything that really matters; notice what you learn the first hour. You can learn through these experiences that it doesn’t help to search for your completion in other people. The more you recognize the differences between you and others, the more interested you’ll be in living as your own distinct person, in your own way. Relationships have their place, though the way to find it is to live more independently of them for a while. When you show up feeling like a whole person, which takes practice, you can have a lot more confidence in yourself and in the situations you manifest. Once again, the time is right.
Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — Instead of wishing that life was not so confrontational, you might consider rising to the occasion. This will be easier than you think, especially if you consider that you’re paying for the same team as most of the people around you. Rather than invoking an ‘us and them’ kind of response, you might consider everyone ‘us’ and see how that works. What might seem strange is how self-focused people around you are, up to the point where many ordinary aspects of life can seem competitive. One reason people choose to play this kind of game is because it’s more fun, or seems so. Who really wants to play softball if one team doesn’t get to win? Yet few people understand the nature of cooperative games. I would propose that the most significant game going on in your environment (mental and physical) is about figuring out who you are, and understanding your identity, without the need to resort to any form of aggressive confrontation. You would be the likely person in your environment to offer that idea through your example. Some people may understand this one if you offer it in theory, though figuring out and demonstrating what Germaine Greer called “the trick of cooperation” will work a lot better. Note that this would involve cooperating even with people you don’t like; but that’s the whole point, isn’t it?
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — Mars, the classical planet associated with Scorpio, stations retrograde later this month. This focuses questions of attachment, jealousy and, most notably, your relationship to money. Mars will retrograde into your sign, where it will spend all of June and July. So this is less about figuring out things, and more about gaining an understanding of who you are in relationship to those things. The bottom line seems to be about identifying what you actually need, and then learning how to say that out loud. On the deepest level this is an emotional question. We’re really talking about how you feel and how you relate to what you feel, and about a grouping of themes related to survival. It’s possible to play out all kinds of root-chakra dramas and burn up a lot of energy. It’s also possible to seek authentic understanding of your most basic requirements for living, make peace with them, and learn to speak in language that other people understand. Yet this requires the intent of being understood, and the willingness to receive. How do you get there? I would say that generosity would teach you plenty. Do you really need to hold on so tight? Learn to share what you feel and what you have, and soon enough it will seem normal — as will the feeling of being understood.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — You might feel like some kind of showdown is brewing, though I doubt it. The real question seems to be what you’re going to do with all this energy you’re feeling. Even if you’re not one of these people who lives surrounded by art supplies, musical instruments and notebooks, I suggest you find a creative outlet for your abundant energy. One secret to the sign Sagittarius is that the most natural place for you to cultivate and grow your sense of personhood is in expressing yourself. Travel is important — yet I would propose this is more important. I am confident you’re aware of the many ways you want to get your thoughts out of your own mind and into the world. You now have the advantage of the best thing that inspires art or writing, which is necessity. You need to take this chance, and to embark on this personal mission. If you’re already an artist in some form, you can do riskier work and take yourself to a deeper place. In a little while you’ll wonder how you ever survived without living like this all the time. Exploring in this direction will be one of the most dependable ways to find your path to the professional success that has been calling you, and that you’ve been reaching for. Set your mind free and good things will follow.
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — If you’re experiencing turbulence in your environment, or if you’re feeling insecure, strive to make peace with yourself. To the extent that we humans create our reality, much depends on how safe we feel within our own mind and body. Part of what leads to your particular form of turbulence is that your imagination is confined. It often seems you can make the most elaborate and beautiful life you want, as long as it’s a shoebox-sized diorama. You want and need more space and freedom than this, and you owe it to yourself to reach for it. The persistent question seems to be: what would people think if they knew what a wild thing you are? Yet why do you care? There’s a reason, which functions as an excuse. It’s easier to judge yourself if you let other people do it for you. Not judging yourself would mean granting yourself permission to explore, to expand your horizons and to experiment with your feelings, your ideas and your body. This would clearly threaten an identity you’ve cultivated around being small. You cannot have both, though I would ask why you would ever want to shrink yourself down. Initially this began as the desire to please other people without actually succeeding. You and only you can call a stop to this cycle, which means claiming your existence as your own.
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Be mindful of your need to plan things out. You have enough momentum in your life, and sufficient resources, to wing it for a while. Planning and strategy have a defensive quality, which can cut you off from your abundant creativity. This is a state-of-mind thing. Strategizing when you really would thrive on going with the flow is a distraction, which takes you out of the moment and therefore out of your ability to make decisions based on what is actually happening. If you want a strategy that might work, keep looking around at your environment and ask yourself what you need to be aware of, and what you need to do right now. This is called immediacy. It may seem radical not to dwell on the past or on the future, but it’s not so strange if staying right in the moment puts you in contact with the equivalent of vast wealth — emotional, creative and material — plus a community to support you. Home in on what is genuinely available to you. Notice how generous people will be if you show up and are real in the moment. You might be amazed at all you were missing all that time, but you don’t have to dwell on it. You have what you need, and who you need, right here and right now.
Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — You have before you a brilliant moment of inventiveness with money and other resources. While I’m always careful to include finances as one among many types of assets you can work with, money is the one deserving of your attention and creativity right now. This is mainly because you can get results beyond what you typically think are possible. Many factors in your chart reveal an unusual drive for success and numerable opportunities available to you. You are in rare form now, taking control of your affairs and removing needless obstacles. Yet at the heart of every business plan are the financials. The numbers have to add up, and when you need money to do a certain job, that’s the thing that does the trick. You’re someone who usually avoids being associated with a drive for wealth, though I suggest you try on this identity for a while. Try relating to your desire to be well funded, and to have enough to go around. Wash your hands and clear your mind of any notion that there’s something unholy about money, and remember that the meaning of any tool is about what you do with it. There is plenty that you want to do, and plenty that you can do; one distinction of Pisces is taking the long, slow route, which is now evolving into the faster, more direct way.