The stars are like letters which inscribe themselves at every moment in the sky. Everything in the world is full of signs. All things depend on each other. As has been said, 'Everything breathes together.' (Plotinus)

All very nice, but scientific? Nonsense, you retort. Well, it is the oldest profession, mother of all our sciences. Until the 17th century, astrology was considered a scholarly tradition, and it helped drive the development of astronomy. 

It was originally for the ruler and his wars and lineage. Only with the gradual emergence of horoscopic astrology, from the 6th c BC, were the techniques and practice of natal astrology developed. Ptolemy's work the Tetrabiblos laid the basis of the Western astrological tradition, and 'enjoyed almost the authority of a Bible among the astrological writers.' Ptolemy was so obsessed with getting horoscopes right that he began the first attempt to make an accurate world map (maps before this were more relativistic or allegorical) so that he could chart the relationship between the person's birthplace and the heavenly bodies. While doing so, he coined the term geography. Yet Cicero's De divinatione (44 BCE) rejects astrology and other allegedly divinatory techniques.

As Europe descended into its dark ages, the Islamic world preserved the Greek texts and incorporated Persian astrology. The second Abbasid caliph, Al Mansur (754–775) founded the city of Baghdad to act as a centre of learning, and created the Bayt al-Hikma 'Storehouse of Wisdom', a major impetus for Arabic translations of Hellenistic astrological texts. The 10th century Persian astrologer al-Bumasar's Introductorium in Astronomiam was one of the most important sources for the recovery of Aristotle for medieval European scholars. Another was the Persian mathematician, astronomer, astrologer and geographer Al Khwarizmi. The Arabs greatly increased the knowledge of astronomy, and many of the star names that are commonly known today, such as Aldebaran, Altair, Betelgeuse, Rigel and Vega retain the legacy of their language. The great astronomers of the middle ages were Muslims such as al-Farabi, Ibn al-Haytham and Ibn Sina.

Their criticisms argued that the methods of astrologers were conjectural rather than empirical, and conflicted with orthodox religious views of Islamic scholars through the suggestion that the Will of God can be precisely known and predicted in advance. Ibn Sina's Refutation against astrology argues against the practice of astrology, while supporting the principle of planets acting as the agents of divine causation which express God's absolute power over creation. Ibn Sina considered that the movement of the planets influenced life on earth in a deterministic way, but argued against the capability of determining the exact influence of the stars. In essence, Ibn Sina did not refute the essential dogma of astrology, but denied our ability to understand it to the extent that precise and fatalistic predictions could be made from it.

Despite condemnations by the Church, translations of Arabic works into Latin started to make their way to Spain by the late 10th c, and in the 12th c astrological works from Arabia to Europe flooded Europe, thanks to the Crusades. By the 13th c astrology had become a part of everyday medical practice in Europe. Doctors combined Galenic medicine (inherited from the Greek physiologist Galen - AD 129-216) with studies of the stars. Dante immortalised Bonatti in his Divine Comedy (early 14th c) by placing him in the eighth Circle of Hell, a place where those who would divine the future are forced to have their heads turned around (to look backwards instead of forwards). Chaucer, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton all referred to astrology.

Right from the start, the idea of the planets affecting us was clear. But it was for the king and society. It was only in the 20th century that astrology gained broader consumer popularity through the influence of regular mass media products, such as newspaper horoscopes. But from the start, it was seen as conjectural, and predictions were always dicey. Ibn Sina got it right.

The planets were agents of God and their influence is beyond our ken, But we can use empiricism, make studies, look at the many coincidences we see in our lives, in our society's history, and find clues that help us understand creation, how we fit in. Bridgman: coincidences are what are left after applying a bad theory. We should honour their appearance in our lives, not dismiss them as silly. An inexplicable coincidence is really a synchronicity, a voice from beyond, something greater. The cosmos is intrinsically meaningful to and coherent with human consciousness; the Earth is a significant focal point of this meaning. The goal is to reunite the human and the cosmic, and restore the transcendent meaning to both.

We are each a universe, a micrcosmos. We have many possible worlds, meanings living within us in potentia, awaiting enactment. We are not just solitary separate subjects in a meaningless universe where we impose our egocentric will. Nor are we blank slates. Is it not more plausible that human nature emerges from the very essence of the cosmos, that the human spirit is the spirit of the cosmos itself as inflected through us and enacted by us? And that the human imagination is ultimately grounded in the cosmic imagination?

Cosmos and Psyche

It was Richard Tarnas's Cosmos and psyche: Intimations of a new world view (2006) that turned me from mild skeptic into an enthusiastic believer. Tarnas is a proud New Ager, for a decade 'gatekeeper of Esalen', California's premier home of psychedelics and the weird and new, teaching and studying with Stanislav Grof, Joseph Campbell, Gregory Bateson, Huston Smith, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, and James Hillman. He is director of the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program at the California Institute of Integral Studies, His Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View (1991) became a bestseller.

So what does a brilliant scholar, thrill seeker, do after wowing us with his (fine) treatise celebrating the western mind? So far, no mention of the A word in his CV. But after digesting the syllabus of western thought, with a healthy dose of LSD in the 1970s and no doubt lots of Esalen hanky-panky, he had the epiphany to end all epiphanies, finding his home in the most ancient and despised profession.

Until I picked up Cosmos and Psyche, I poo-pooed attributing cosmic significance to my lowly birthday. My first thought: gravity is too weak, so this must be a fraud. Tarnas takes this ridicule head on. First, synchronicity is everywhere. We all have had those inexplicable coincidences. You think of X and a letter arrives the same day from X, or X died at the precise moment you thought of him. Our air-tight sterile, pseudo-rational world is easily shattered. I love Jung's example of the woman patient whose dreams were filled with sexual imagery, which she interpreted in nonsexual symbolic terms, despite Jung's protestations. On the day of her next appointment two sparrows fluttered to the ground at the woman's feet and 'performed the act.' God/Nature has a sense of humour. Sadly, we dismiss this inexplicable events, like Santa Claus, or God. Quaint but silly.

Second, gravity has nothing (or little) to do with it. Your skepticism is 'caused' by our scientistic thinking. Numbers are all we recognize as facts.

Third, just as prostitution, the second oldest profession, has many faces, from the sublime to the ridiculous, so too astrology. Anything that's important and serious is usually buried in fakery and slander. Is there a kernel hidden under the stinking pile?

We think like the universe thinks

Skepticism is the chastity of the intellect (Santayana). If you never 'perform the act', never fall out of skepticism, you lead a dull life. Which most of us do. We suffer from a deep sense of alienation, not just personal isolation, but spiritual estrangement in a disenchanted universe, as a species, cut off from the rest of nature and the cosmos. We've lost the narrative, caught in our eternal recurrence without end, going nowhere.

The 'simple' answer has been repeated over and over but doesn't register. i.e., the Plotinus quote at the top. Or Jung: Our psyche is set up in accord with the structure of the universe, and what happens in the macrocosm likewise happens in the infinitesimal and most subjective reaches of the psyche.' Hegel and Engels make the same point. Tarnas takes this seriously, which means, yes, your birth event has cosmic connections. And now with computers and Hubble, we can churn out the numbers from 500BC on and start to connect the dots. Make astrology empirical, scientific. Bacon, father of empiricism and a pretty good astrologer, would be delighted.

Enlightenment's shadow

Tarnas loves the history of ideas and you love it along with him. His typology is great books and writers and Cosmos and Psyche looks at them through their astral signs. Especially the 15th--17th cc Enlightenment. Pico della mirandola Oration on the dignity of man (1486), Da Vinci, Columbus, Luther, Copernicus, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Bacon, Galileo, Descartes Discourse on method (1637), Newtons Principia (1687). These two centuries laid the foundation for the modern world and modern mind. A new Genesis. And all of them loaded with astrological significance.

Nature and nature's laws lay hid in night: God said, let Newton be! And all was light. (Pope)

Nature is limited by laws, but humans know no limit, having free will, 'as though the maker and model of thyself, thou mayest fashion thyself in whatever shape thou shalt prefer.' (Pico). So we have da Vinci's Creation of Adam, Columbus and da Gama making the world Europe's, Luther shattering Christianity, Bacon replacing alchemy with chemistry.

But despite Copernicus and Galileo, the Enlightenment still left the Christian-Jewish-Muslim man-centred universe. God faded away for Christians and Jews, but his legacy – clever human beings on top and in control – remained.

Astrology, while having its ups and downs, was doing just fine till then, but, like Christianity, became a casualty of the Enlightenment, losing out to Newton's laws, though he was an astrologer and alchemist himself, a transition figure. The early scientific revolutionaries perceived their breakthroughs as divine illuminations, triumphant fulfillments of the sacred (increasingly secular) quest. It was still a matter of human being's divinely graced capacity for direct, accurate knowledge of the world, now at the macrocosmic level. For Newton, our divine intelligence was given to us precisely in order to understand the cosmic order, a puzzle for us to solve in our spiritual journey.

Fast forward to our postmodern reality where Man and Earth are no longer the centre. Astrology is adaptable. The Sun will do just fine. In any case, we are still the centre, or rather the problem for everything else. Humanism is the endgame here, liberalism the highest state for humans. Human progress. Darwin's Ascent of man.

That's the good news. There's the flip side. Human history as the Fall, tragic, separation from the original state of oneness with nature and an empty spiritual dimension, filled with modern industrial consumerism, creating a totalitarian dystopia.

All good or all bad. Maybe they're both wrong? We now know that subject-object is a false dichotomy in science. The object can't be perceived without being selectively shaped by an interpretive framework, which itself is shaped beyond the awareness of the interpreting subject. The enlightenment vision begins to encounter its own shadow. Yes, we are caught in a fuzzy world, but remember Jung-Hegel-Engels.

Our thinking is not arbitrary. The world is animated by the same psychologically resonant realities that human beings experience within themselves. A continuity exists between interior world of the human and the world outside. All human minds are much the same, evolved in the cosmos, reflecting the logic of the cosmos, right down to the way we perceive the cosmos. We may be subjective, but we look much the same to the stars. And we think like them too.

Back to primal experience, which takes place within a world soul, an anima mundi a living matrix of embodied meaning. the world as a subject embedded in a world of subjects, with no absolute boundaries among them. The workings of that anima mundi are articulated through language, which is mythic and numinous (though now desacralized).

The world speaks a symbolic language; we can directly communicate the meaning and purpose from world to human. The many particulars of the empirical world are all endowed with symbolic, archetypal significance, flowing between inner and outer, self and world. The participation mystique involves a complex sense of direct inner participation of humans in the world, connecting with divine power through ritual. Divine powers are in the world by virtue of their immanent and transformative presence.

And yet science tells us that the only knowable source of meaning in the universe is the human consciousness. How empty, egotistical, sterile. We're still stuck in the pre-Newton flat-earth world, despite our sophisticated postmodern cool.

The greatest act of hubris is when we insist on de-anthropomorphizing our cognition. 'Facts are out there, meanings come from in here.' No! Language is the culprit. Linguistic symbolization differentiates us further from the world, objectifying our experience. We lose sight of the fundamental unity of the cosmos. So there's no meaning or purpose? We are the only 'subjects' acting on objective nature? Dawkins' selfish gene is all there is? The modern mind as a subjective human self in an objective external world? The world outside the human being lacking conscious intelligence, intrinsic purpose and meaning? Baah, humbug!

Myth and archetype: micro and macro

Tarnas realized that the last and greatest frontier, the Holy Grail, consciousness, requires bringing together the macro and micro of science, returning spirit and soul to the equation. For 50 years he has used his Esalen and Harvard gestalt and his devout Catholic upbringing (Greek, Latin, and the Classics at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy) to put astrology back in the game.

Imagine you're the universe. Who would you fall in love with? The suitor who thinks you're dead, ripe for exploitation, or the suitor who worships you, or at least considers you as intelligent and noble, as permeated with mind and soul, as imbued with moral aspiration and purpose, spiritual depths and mystery, as he? As for hubris, beware of Greeks bearing tragedy. How about disenchantment as a perverse form of enchantment?

We have new personal freedom from externally imposed meanings, previously seen as embedded in the cosmos, but in the process, we have usurped God's position as supreme conscious subject, making God's creation ours, but leaving it out there, dead.

The western psyche's archetypes are from primordial experience of the great gods and goddesses of ancient mythic imaginaton. Embodied in Homeric epics, Greek drama, reality pervaded and structured by powerful numinous forces and presences rendered in human imaginaton as divinized figures, associated with celestial bodies. Greeks did not say 'god/theos is good/love' but experienced either joy or awe and said 'this is god' i.e., my awe is god. Love, victory is god. Sacred power. Otherworldly experience, union with the divine, a glimpse of heaven. Recognition between friends is theos. We partake of the divine through our awe, worship, loves, friendships.

The visible planets were long ago ascribed divinity, Mercury (the messenger), Venus (love, lust), Mars (war), Jupiter (thinker, ruler), Saturn (concentration, permanence, tangible rewards, tenacity, ambition). The sun is creative energy, the Moon the self, the soul which senses and intuits. The Earth represents your physical location and dharma, or sense of purpose. It's the mirror image of the Sun, in the same degree but the opposite sign. We find our purpose here on Earth, with the encouragement of our cosmic brother and sister planets.

The hero, but also the heroic age, the heroic collective cultural psyche, Kant's 'starry heaven above me and the moral law within me.' Nietzsche fully recognized the plight of the modern self, 'straying as through an infinite nothing,' took his paradigmatic plunge into the interior depths, foreshadowing Freud, Jung and James.

For Plato, direct knowledge of the Forms, the archetypes, and striving toward them in life, is the spiritual goal of the philosopher and the intellectual passion of the scientist. Aristotle desacralize Plato's world but added the dynamic and teleological character as concretely embodied in the empirical world. Darwin further de-sacralized nature, and modern evolutionary theory has added a touch of science to (tribal) human behaviour, with reciprocal altruism and empathy the dialectic of evolution. Astrology absorbs each advance easily, much like Hinduism absorbs whatever gods you propose.

What is special about archetypes, the centrepieces of astrology, is that they can be used to tell time. They recur again and again in different forms. They are the timepieces of the recurring typicalities of history, the syndromes of psychiatry, the paradigmatic thought models of science, culture, the arts, tracing the motions of the stars. Whitehead: pure potentialities whose ingression informs the unfolding process of reality. Jung: fundamental formal principles of human psyche, expressions of collective unconscious, unus mundus.

The idea of archetype is itself an archetype, a continually shape-shifting principle of principles. You can analysis behaviour in Skinnerian terms of reciprocal altruism but this fails to express the living character, the archetype. An AI can mimic human behaviour, but that doesn't make it a living human. I doubt God thinks in terms of reciprocal altruism. How mundane. The instincts we developed are just potentialities of a deeper spirituality. Unless we want to live our lives as unfulfilled potential. 

The astrological correlations Tarnas relates (patience! we're almost there) are an orchestrated synthesis combining the precision of mathematical astronomy with the psychological complexity of the archetypal imagination, a synthesis whose sources seemingly exist a priori with the fabric of the universe. Plato's forms were rooted in the very nature of the cosmos, while Jung's are rooted in the human psyche. In between times, we became dogmatic subject vs object dualists, with all the archetypes coming from our minds, divorced from their cosmic spirit. Jung strives to overcome this false dichotomy. 'In the symbol the world itself is speaking.'

The epochal transformation of the relationship between divinity, humanity and the world -- that really put astrology on the map -- was set in motion in the first millennium BC, the axial age. It was decisively sundered by the Reformation's militant desacralizing of the world. The achievement of human autonomy has been paid for by the experience of human alienation. Empirical astrology confirms the importance of the outer planets in these epochal events.  

As we expand our knowledge of the cosmos, we are now overcoming the schisms: between human being and nature, self and world, spirit and matter, mind and body, conscious and unconscious, personal and transpersonal, secular and sacred, intelllect and soul, science and humanities, science and religion. And astrology is returning to its ancient prestige.

One big happy family

As the eldest of 8, Tarnas must have seen his own microcosm as a reflection of the macro. The Solar system as a family. 6 visible siblings + Uranus 1781, + Neptune 1846, + Pluto 1930. For 2500 years, we have honoured the 'music of the spheres'. There's not the smallest orb that thou behold'st but like an angel sings.

It's not just gravity that the family members have in common. Born together, they are all characters. The outer 3 – Uranus, Neptune, Pluto – much slower, more ethereal. Hidden, but influencing us unconsciously till each was discovered and immediately embraced by the 'profession'. As if revealed when humans had matured enough to make sense of them.

From the earliest hominids, our minds have been shaped by the resonances, the transits, our own configuration when we are born. We are born into the solar system. Likely we are the only fully conscious beings here, so we should make friends with our extended families. Learn from them.

Cosmos and Psyche surveys the great moments in human history and relates them to the transits of the planets. Computers can churn out the numbers. It's not predictions of the future Tarnas is interested in. There are just too many variables to do that. What he looks at is how the transits of the planets in various conjunctions correspond to earthshaking events, how, say, the Uranus-Neptune conjuncture is expressed in human history. And he discovered it's the outer planets, the slow pokes who carry the most weight.

He starts with the accepted characterizations of the planets' 'natal charts', how the six visible planets were depicted over time, which is time-proven. Astrologers managed to easily find consensus on the outliers' roles in the human-world psyche, as if they had found the missing pieces of a cosmic jigsaw puzzle.

What Tarnas found, after churning out the charts of thousands of historic individuals, was that the observed psychological states corresponded closely to the supposed meanings of the relevant transiting and natal planets as described in standard astrological texts. The correlations were consistent and matched the traditional meanings of the planets.

Furthermore, the symbolic principles associated with the planets were easy to assimilate because they are identical to the archetypes of modern depth psychology of Freud and Jung et al. The planets themselves don't cause any event or character trait, but do cause a consistently meaningful empirical correspondence between astronomical and human phenomena. We become more or less what our natal chart implies.

Since the 1950s, the 'Mars effect' has been cited as showing a significant statistical correlation of Mars located on either the eastern horizon or zenith at the birth of prominent athletes. Ditto Saturn for scientists, Jupiter for politicians, and the Moon for writers, all corresponding to traditional astrological principles and character traits. 'The findings are inexplicable but factual; they cannot just be wished away.' (Eysenck, 1982).

The range of correspondences is just 'too vast and multidimensional, too manifestly ordered by structures of meaning, too suggestive of creative intelligence, too vividly informed by aesthetic patterning, too metaphorically multivalent, too experientially complex and nuanced, and too responsible to human participatory inflection, to be explained by straightforward material factors alone. Rather, the planetary positions are indicative of the cosmic state of archetypal dynamics at that time.'*

So does this mean no free will? Your fate is written in the stars? Astrological knowledge is ultimately emancipatory, bringing potential increase of personal freedom and fulfillment through an enlarged understanding of the self and its cosmic context. To the extent that one is unconscious of these potent and problematic forces, one is a pawn of the archetypes acting according too unconscious motivations. Wake up and smell the coffee!

Intuitively, we think that the Sun, Moon, Venus, Mars, maybe Jupiter and Saturn are the major family members, the closest, the ones we've known for maybe a million years or so. Who cares about weird Uranus (on its side and spinning backwards), icy Neptune, and orphan Pluto, not really a planet at all?

Wrong. It is the latecomers, the icy giants, who have the most to say, even though their voices were mute to our consciousness until the last few centuries. 

Uranus was named after the father of Kronos/Saturn but its character is that of Prometheus, as astrologers soon realized from the data of natal and transit charts. Rebellion, freedom, sudden awakenings, cultural and technological innovation. Even its discovery in the 18th c has archetypal meaning, its emergence into conscious awareness of the collective psyche. The culmination of the Enlightenment, the era of the American and French Revolutions, the industrial revolution, the beginning of Romanticism. Its 84-year cycle makes its orbit a bookend for a human life.

Neptune when discovered in the 19th c, orbital period 165 years, was named after the sea god for no particular reason, but it was prescient. The archetypal principle linked to Neptune governs all nonordinary states of consciousness, and the oceanic depths of the unconscious. The primordial participation mystique of undifferentiated awareness. Its discovery coincided with the rapid spread of spiritualism throughout the world beginning in the late 1840s, the upsurge of utopian social ideologies, the full ascendancy of Idealist and Romantic philosophies of spirit and the imagination, transcendentalism, eastern mystical and western esoteric traditions, theosophy. Psychoactive drugs in European Bohemian circles, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, anesthetics. Photography and later cinema. All this as Neptune creeps into our conscious.

Pluto's name is apt. Its character is much like Hades-Pluto-Dionysus. Nietzsche's Dionysian principle and the will to power. Orbital period 248 years.

Imagine, since the earliest life forms hundreds of millions of years ago, and even more, since the first hominids more than a million years ago, once consciousness happened, suddenly the planets and the movement of the planets began their work. Human pre-history, then history, have been shaped according to cosmic forces. We were dimly aware by a few millennia ago, but didn't even know about the outer planets. Behold, the birth of a new science.

And it is their transits that hold the magic, both personal for your planetary configuration, and for the world (Earth, Gaia), for its prevailing state.

Aspects: Astrological harmonies


Tarnas doesn't pay attention to zodiac signs at all. It's our solar family that counts. Conjunction/ opposition are the main aspects. Then trines, sextiles, semi-sextiles, quincunx, squares. Astrological harmonics. Planets resonate, like strings in tune, in harmony, during transit. A cosmic chord. Truly music of the spheres. That goes back to Pythagoras. And reaches its apotheosis in Beethoven. Music is the language of the universe, of love.

'Easy' aspects may be positive, because they enhance opportunity for talent to grow. They were defined and used by Ptolemy in the 1st c, Kepler also in the 16th c. Highly favourable conjunctions may involve the Sun, Venus, and/or Jupiter as well as any of the three possible combinations. Highly unfavourable conjunctions may involve the Moon, Mars, and/or Saturn as well as any of the three possible combinations.

The five outer planets move slowly, their transits with other planets lasting several months or years and occur up to centuries apart. They are most telling for a person's lifetime. Uranus transits last three years. Descartes was born with Uranus in conjunction, and wrote his 'I think therefore I am' when it was in opposition 40 years later in 1637. Ditto for Galileo in 1610 and Newton's Principia in 1687. And Freud in 1897 after completing The interpretation of dreams wrote, 'Insight such as this falls to one's lot but once in a lifetime.' For Jung, the same personal transit occurred in 1917, his intensive self-analysis which produced the collective unconscious, the Self, the process of individuation.

Tarnas looks at Einstein, Darwin, Kant, even Rosa Parks, and finds their innovations are all born of Uranus influences.

Of course, all nine planets are involved in anything. However, Uranus-Neptune-Pluto are the keys to the great trajectories in one's life and in humanity's life. Midlife crisis? Youth rebellion? Blame Uranus transiting. Which prompts the observation that these crises are how we mature, eventually stumbling across wisdom if we're lucky. So thank you Uranus! And Neptune and Pluto. The interactions of these remote icy giants is literally world shaking. And it's being going on from time immemorial.

The 1960s to 1972 was Uranus-Pluto conjunction (Prometheus and Dionysus). The French revolution and the English Puritan revolution occurred when they were in opposition. The plays of Shakespeare, the poetry of Blake, the novels of Dostoevsky, Melville's Moby Dick, Jung's Answer to Job were all written by individuals born during Uranus-Pluto periods and often created during the next alignment. The Promethean can destroy the Promethean, burning itself out in the intense archetypal drama. Many Promethean figures die young. Che Guevara, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, the Kennedys. Marat, Danton, Robespierre.

The '60s never stops giving too. Everyone born after the 1960s is living through them, bearing the effects of that era. To wit: gaylib, gender dissolving, hedonism. Once set in motion, an intense conjuncture effect will resonate for … ever?

Tarnas was amazed at how archetypal patterns, clearly defined, were evident in historical and cultural phenomena for every one of the ten planetary cycles involving the five outer planets and their combinations.

The most dazzling are the major alignments of the relatively short Jupiter-Uranus cycle. Through history, Jupiter has been associated with the principle of expansion and magnitude, higher learning. When Jupiter and a second planet are aligned, the archetypal influence is magnifying and elevating, crowning it with success. Jupiter and Uranus correlate with celebrated creativity or emancipation every 14-16 years.

Crests of remarkably synchronous breakthroughs appeared close together. They occur between the less frequent Uranus-Pluto alignments. Darwin and Wallace 1858. The Moon landing and Woodstock in 1969. Joyce, Proust, Kafka, Yeats, Pound, Eliot, Stein, Lawrence, Woolf, 1912-15.

The only triple conjuncture of Jupiter, Uranus, and Pluto in the 20th c, 'the 60s'. Descartes was born with the Sun in conjunction with Jupiter, Uranus, and Pluto. 'Everything must be thoroughly overthrown for once in my life, Descartes declares in the first of his Meditations, but it could well have been said by the better part of a generation in 1968-69.'** 

Nietzsche's chart is, well, off the chart. Born with Mars-Mercury conjunction, the warrior whose sword is his pen, his ideas. Add in Uranus-Prometheus and Jupiter, the impulse to soaring freedom, delights of uncertainty, the celebration of unfettered creative genius. His Sun in opposition with Pluto. He is the heroic avatar of Dionysus in western thought, celebrating the instincts, the descent into darkness to permit resurrection of greater life. Live dangerously. Build your cities on the slopes of Vesuvius. Send your ships out into uncharted seas. Truly mad.

Recent Jupiter-Uranus conjunctions/ oppositions 1955, 1963, 1969, 1977, 1983, 1990, 1997, 2004, 2011, 2018, 2024.***

Pluto-Saturn. Every 33 years or so. 1914, 1947, 1982, 2019. Bad news. Periods of contraction, gravity and tension in 3 yr transits. Epoch closure. 1929-33 Hitler and Stalin. WWI and WWII began. September 11, 2001 (Saturn and Pluto in opposition and a full moon configuration of the Sun in exact opposition – a grand cross). 1946 terrorism King David Hotel. Grave events also part of collective psyche where they constellate and project those shadow qualities with unusual potency. Inspiring many writers, actors. Crusaders' Jerusalem massacre 1099 ~ invasion of Afghanistan and Abu Ghraib Iraq 2001--04. 

Neptune-Saturn. Every 45 years. People born in 1988 have this alignment; the next conjunction is in 2032. Strenuous effort to embody spiritual values and compassionate ideals in concrete realities. Challenge to collective spirit of the age. Social anomie. Tendency to metaphysical skepticism, demystify religious belief. Hume. Also contrary tendency of firm commitment to superiority of poetic imagination. Blake. Also romantic existentialism. Reality of tragic or disenchanted world. Samuel Barber. → greater self awareness as individuals, societies, world.

Uranus-Saturn. Mine. 1951, 1975, 1999, 2021, 2043... Have many ambitions, a powerful will and very capable of achieving what they want in life because they can use their creativity and intuition to put their plans into actions, as well their most original ideas. Capable of expressing their real freedom as self-discipline is something they’re truly practicing and they’re always ready to take responsibility for their actions. Tarnas doesn't spend much time here.

Uranus-Neptune. Good for spirit. 172 yrs cycle. Conjunctions last 14--20 yrs. Illusion and delusion, deception, confusion, ambiguity, projection, maya. Informs all that is paradoxically united. No strict boundaries, dichotomies. Metaphorical. Governs myth and religion, poetry and the arts, inspiration and aspiration, experience of divinity, mysterious.

Conjunction 412—397BC Socrates, Plato. Jesus in opposition 16--32AD. Muhammad in conjunction 617--629. St Bernard of Clairvaux 1146, Maimonides Ghazali, Ibn Sina, Aquinas, St Francis, universal compassion mystical participation in nature as expression of divinity. Dante. Kabbalah Zohar. Petrarch. Hus. Luther. Zwingli. Saint Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross. These sudden bursts of spirituality. The Carmelites Pascal, Quakers. The Puritan revolution, Wesley and the Great Awakening. Mary Baker Eddy Christian Science, Baha'i. The Second Great Awakening, transcendentalists.

Hope and faith in an ideal future that will liberate humankind, the creation of a new paradise through the free exercise of human will and reason and the spiritual transformation of the human condition. Marx born 1818. His vision rhetoric and influence like Condorcet French revolution. Utopian impulses independent of religion. Karamazov Dmitri Pluto, Ivan Uranus-Prometheus, Alyosha Neptune. Transpersonal and archetypal psychology. James: Let empiricism be associated with religion not just irreligion. A new era of religion and philosophy will be ready to begin.

At the beginning of the Uranus-Neptune conjunction, the first images of Uranus and Neptune themselves were sent back to Earth by Voyager II in 1986 and 1989. Uranus-Neptune is to become less rigidly structured more relational, more ecological and cosmological, more open to the mystical dimension of religion, more dialogical, oriented to the larger world community, more participatory. Promethean within the ocean domain of Neptune. We have no Uranus-Neptune conjunction or opposition till 2078.

Uranus-Pluto. Good for culture but decadent, Dionysus. Revolutions in physics both relativity and quantum physics. Cezanne, Picasso, Joyce, Proust, Stravinsky, Schonberg, Freud Jung. James, Bergson, Whitehead, Richard Bucke Cosmic Consciousness, Frederic Myers Human Personality and its survival of bodily death, Buber, Tagore, Gandhi satyagraha letters with Tolstoy just before his death 1906. Tolstoy and Thoreau from the previous Uranus-Neptune.

Sri Aurobindo's sudden epiphany from militant revolutionary 1908. Motion pictures projection dissemination of maya. Imagination, hypnotic, dissolving of conventional structures of identity and reality.

1960—72 Uranus-Pluto. Only conjunction of outermost planets in the past hundred years. Next is Uranus-Pluto not for another century.

The grand trine of Uranus-Neptune-Pluto in the 1765--70s just happened to be the most dazzling in all human history, second only to the Uranus Neptune Pluto conjunction of the 6th c BC. Enlightenment, a sense of providential blessing. Spiritual idealism. Neptune interwoven with liberty, revolution of Uranus-Pluto. 590-550sBC is the only time in human history when Uranus-Neptune-Pluto ever coincided in conjunction. Spectacular as the grand trine of Uranus Neptune Pluto of the 18th c was, this unique event corresponds to humanity's greatest spiritual awakening, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Jainism, Judaic prophets.

The next such conjunction is not till 3370, though Tarnas hopes for a second axial age sooner than later. The first brought a stage of differentiation and individuation to human spirituality. The new stage of cultural evolution will be more complexly dialogical and participatory.

It seems that of the three furthest brothers, Uranus is the charmer, Neptune's head's in the clouds, and Pluto is a bit of a perv, but gets along with Uranus. They all play havoc with yours truly and every other conscious thing, and social group, but sometimes bring us together to do marvelous things. Bateson muses about 'patterns which connect, reveal an immanent mind pervading all of nature, and a world in which personal identity merges into all the processes of relationship in some vast ecology or aesthetics of cosmic interaction.'


Tarnas: Most recently, in the case of the Saturn-Pluto opposition of the 2000--04 period, on the basis of past correlations, I felt I could justifiably anticipate another period of conservative or reactionary empowerment, historical crisis and contraction, and a widespread increase in divisiveness and violence in the world. I.e., about as useful as a weather report or nothing at all.

Around 9/11 most astrological writing was archetypal and retrospective, not concretely predictive. The archetypal astrological lens better understands the cyclical nature of past and present, an understanding of the forces at work. You see the world in metaphors, archetypes. You turn to history books for what might happen. Look at the unfolding of larger cycles of archetypal development and human evolution in some sense cosmic, subtely ordered and intelligible.

By explaining so much, maybe it ends up saying nothing? What's the use? Well, it's great for lit-crit. A flourish for historians. 'The Helsinki accords signed during Jupiter-Uranus opposition of 1975-76' still sounds silly. But that really just shows how parochial I still am. Or maybe I'm just postmodern, laughing at everything. But in a good way. Not shrugging laughter but joyous heavenly laughter. I hope the universe gets a good belly laugh out of us too.

I've just scratched the surface here. My eyes started to glaze over with all the facts Tarnas presents. So I searched out my natal chart. You can do it free on the internet. Find your key planets. Read about yourself. Mine is quite accurate. I'm nostalgic to a fault, searching for a lost paradise. Moon-Saturn-Uranus. Hopefully I can learn to follow the planet transits and stay in bed on really bad days. But you should know at least approximately the time you were born for any hope of accuracy.

Oh, and brace yourself for 2024, Jupiter-Uranus conjunction. Anything could happen, but the gods will be routing for us in our travails.


 *Richard Tarnas's Cosmos and psyche: Intimations of a new world view (2006), p. 77.

**Ibid., p. 299.

**Iibid., p. 311.

 I have quoted from Tarnas's fine book throughout. I'm grateful for his diligence. It's like a detailed reference book. Like Ptolemy's.


 See also

Harnessing human nature to save the world

Harnessing human nature Part ii: Your siblings shape your genes. For life.

Harnessing human nature Part iii: Mind, Madness and Modernity

Harnessing Nature to save the world: A theory of soil


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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

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