On March 11, 2011, Uranus made its final entry into the Sign of Aries, beginning a seven-year transit, an entry that was marked by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, the most powerful recorded earthquake to occur in Japan, and the fifth most powerful recorded in the world (at least since we started recording magnitude in 1900). The week after the Tohoku earthquake, I was scheduled to speak at a conference in San Francisco on the seven Uranus/Pluto squares that would occur between June 2012 and March 2015, a topic decided on well in advance of the Japanese disaster. I had chosen (with good intention but too much ambition) to relate the coming Uranus/Pluto astrological waves of change to Joseph Campbell’s notion of the hero’s journey. I spent a lot of time preparing, trying to put the pieces together, but as soon as the earthquake occurred, I knew that much of what I had prepared would be irrelevant — it’s one thing to speculate on how intense planetary interactions will manifest; it’s another thing altogether to actually witness an event that undeniably presaged the power of the planets. Within the astrological system, Uranus signifies surprise, as well as upheaval. Â And we were just at the beginning of a new Uranus cycle.
Prior to the conference, I tried not to watch too many images of the unfolding devastation. It was, and continues to be horrifying, particularly the ongoing damage at Fukushima, the loss of life, and the forever altered lives of the survivors. The courage and commitment of the firefighters bravely entering the nuclear plant was breathtaking to behold. As I witnessed their courage, I knew I was witnessing bravery born of a spontaneous and uninhibited generosity of heart. Yet the image I became fixated upon wasn’t the heroes risking their lives; it was the video of a dog that was determined to lead his rescuers to another dog that was badly wounded; upon arriving there, the dog simply put his paw on his friend and waited. It was such a keen reminder of how vulnerable we all are, a vulnerability that is particularly poignant when animals are injured. I was moved by the (Dare I say it?) dogged determination to save a friend. It was a simple, instinctual, and profound act of love and devotion.Â
And so I changed my lecture. Instead of talking about the trials and tribulations of the hero’s journey, symbolized by the increasing intensity of the seven exact Uranus/Pluto squares, I chose to speak about love. It was a stretch, but it was mine to make, and a stretch I had to take — I had no other choice. It was clear that as the seven squares of Uranus and Pluto unfolded, vast areas of our personal and collective landscape would be transformed, sometimes violently, by one tsunami of change after another, individual as well as collective, and that in order to survive these waves of change, we would need the same dogged devotion to each other, to the planet, and to all the sentient beings who share it with us.
The Past Meets the Present
We are at our best when we care for each other. Whether it is the bliss of personal, intimate love or the expansive concern of altruistic compassion, when we love, we live in the deepest, most profound regions of the heart, the place where spirit dwells and enlivens perception, perspective, and participation. Love is always a spiritual hero’s journey — we meet ourselves in every thought, word, and deed. Our limitations glare; our gifts shimmer. Love moves us out of ourselves and into each other, whether that’s a person, a place, or a passion. Love makes us care, and heartfelt caring — true concern — insists on presence. And presence transforms every act into an offering.
Uranus/Pluto cycles are understood to symbolize recurrent themes of revolution, in all areas of life, themes that, according to Rick Tarnas’ research, seem to follow an evolutionary spiral. (For those of you unfamiliar with his work, Cosmos and Psyche is where you will find it.) He traces many planetary cycles through history, and what his research reveals about Uranus/Pluto patterns is that they illuminate the theme of social justice. All the movements that make us better humans, civil rights, gender rights, labor rights, children’s rights — all the basic human rights — seem to make significant strides under Uranus/Pluto contacts.
Social justice is love at the collective level. It invites us to care about each other and to live in the deepest part of that concern — it calls on us to make the world a better place for all of us. Certainly, this is what we are now being asked to do, again; to live as if all of life — every sentient being — matters. Love at the collective level asks us to recognize the sacred in all of its particulars and to live in accordance with that awareness. And when we can’t find solutions, the power of love encourages us to keep trying, to keep moving past our differences until what divides us fades away.
Uranus/Pluto cycles, because they invite us to move into greater awareness, are often times of disruption and tumult. Uranus, as I so often write, is the astro Che Guevara, the revolutionary, the provocateur, and the subversive agent of change that catalyzes stagnant systems. Pluto signifies death and rebirth, and its presence is seldom polite or refined; Pluto teaches us that control is just an illusion. It pushes against permanence, reminding us that change is the only constant — Pluto’s power lies in the creativity of transformation, but that power comes at a cost: We have to let go of what we cling to and unfasten the masks of our denial.
We are currently in the midst of a Uranus/Pluto cycle that started with a conjunction, in Virgo, in the Sixties. It was exact in 1965 through 1966, and separating in 1967. There’s no need to reiterate the seismic shifts of those years or to remind anyone that 1967 was the Summer of Love. But it is important to point out that we’ve been in a reactive pattern since that time. From an astrological perspective, it’s possible to witness that reactive pattern through the series of squares we are currently experiencing. For while the movements for social justice pushed hard during the Sixties, the minds and hearts that didn’t agree with those values are still pushing back. Sexism, racism, greed, and ignorance continue, as does the denial of and resistance to the awareness of the interconnectedness of the Earth’s eco-systems, an awareness that took hold as the ecology movement during the Sixties. Â
The Immediate Moment Merges With the Future
On January 1, 2014, we ring in the New Year with Mars, in Libra, forming an exact square to Pluto, in Capricorn, as Mars continues to separate from its opposition to Uranus, which was exact on Christmas Day. Also on the first day of the year, Mercury is conjunct Pluto, as is the Sun, and if that isn’t enough, the New Moon, also in Capricorn, joins this entire Mercury/Sun/Pluto congregation, escalating emotional volatility in an already over-the-top atmosphere, that is likely to manifest in myriad meltdowns, yours or others’.
Jupiter is barely within range of this current planetary pattern, but that changes for the fifth exact Uranus/Pluto square on April 21, 2014. At that juncture, Mars, still in Libra, will oppose Uranus, as it squares Pluto, and Jupiter will oppose Pluto, as it squares Mars and Uranus. Jupiter opposite Pluto amplifies a desire for power; Mars puts a militant touch on that craving; Uranus imbues the entire bundle with a rebellious undertone. And because they are all aligned in a Cardinal Grand Cross, as the tension releases, many of us are sure to move into action, and that means we are likely to see more than a few uprisings, personal as well as collective.
Mars signifies the capacity for self-assertion, from the lowest forms of global rage to the most sophisticated expressions of self-actualization. It is anger, with or without righteousness. Mars symbolizes the muscles; it is the patron saint of athletes, no matter what their choice of sport; it guides the explorer; it is the mother’s milk of the adventurer.
The presence of Mars leaves an indelible imprint on the first seven months of 2014. It is in Libra, the Sign of relationships, where it will stay until July 25. Its long transit through Libra is the result of a retrograde phase that begins on March 1 and ends on May 19. While Mars must move, it doesn’t like moving backwards, and it is not particularly introspective. During its transit through Libra, we will be examining relationships of every ilk, and during its retrograde we will be combing through relationship issues with a fine-toothed comb. And, as I always remind, it matters not what your relationship status is. Everything is relational, even if those associations only exist in the imaginal realms — and what relationships don’t. Â
As we enter into the fifth exact Uranus/Pluto square on April 21, we will be in the seventh week of Mars Retrograde. Mars is one of the planets that drives the mechanics of daily life and it will have just finished a marathon of seven weeks of obstacle courses — hindrances that many of us will be certain others have erected simply to impede our progress. Very few of us are likely to be cheery. Frustration and stagnation are certain to give birth to belligerence and intolerance, and those bellicose attitudes could sour what might otherwise be innocuous interactions.
But that’s not all: Mercury is retrograde from February 6 through February 28. That’s right — one day before the Mars Retrograde begins. Mercury is the other planet that drives the mechanics of daily life. I need say no more, other than at least these retrogrades are not happening simultaneously.
And there’s more retrograde news: Venus Retrograde since December 21, stays retrograde the entire month of January 2014; it goes direct on January 31, in conjunction to Pluto at the same degree in Capricorn that Pluto will occupy for the April 21 Uranus/Pluto square.
Frankly, I have no idea what the synchronicity of these degrees portends, but I do think it would be wise to pay attention to what happened during the last week of 2013, what happens during the first week of 2014, and what occurs the week of Venus Direct. Sometimes a momentous shift can be as light as a feather, but those changes can still have the power to tilt the scales of truth and recalibrate attention and intention.
We reached the midpoint of the current cycle of Uranus/Pluto squares in November 2013. As 2014 begins, we’re still at the turning point. No one knows how the remaining transformational process indicated by this cycle will unfold. If the process is working, then rather than observing the transformation, we are actually being transformed. For some of us the process is overwhelming — the rug of reality seems ripped out from under and there are no instant remedies to turn the world right again. Refugees feel the devastation of the collective shifts more keenly than others — without a home, without water, without food, the world is hardly a place where love seems to grow. From an individual perspective, the same is of course true for victims of domestic violence and children of abuse who have no safe haven to call home. And yet, we have solutions to these situations; we just don’t know how to apply them in each and every instance. I wish I knew the answer to that conundrum. I only know that love is always the answer.
Very few of us live our lives as a true expression of our hearts. We relegate that sensitivity and vulnerability to specific life experiences — romance, children, friendship, career, pets, or other interests that engage us in our entirety. We forget that every aspect of our lives is an expression of the sacred, if only because every life is sacred. Living with that awareness is the true hero’s journey. Living with that awareness, choosing to live a life of conscious transformation is not an easy choice to make or an easy life to live, but once made, every day can become a revelation.
We can debate over politics, economics, or religion and all the theories we have conjured about how to live a better life. But nothing comes close to simple acts of loving kindness to each other and to our selves. Rather than constrict in fear or anxiety about what lies ahead, open to the power of the moment. The past creates the present as the present creates the future. It’s a simple truth that puts the power of the creative in the moment — in the now.