Fig 1 The current Uranus Pluto square and Uranus-Pluto-Saturn t-square
Although its first exactitude will not be till June 2012, the present square between Uranus and Pluto has been in orb since summer 2010, so its themes are cooking. The last time Uranus and Pluto joined forces was in the sixties in a powerful conjunction that brought a decade of radical change. And the present square with its unusually high number of exactitudes - seven in all - promises to be just as earth shaking. So our present situation is like cooking in a pressure cooker that's just coming up to the boil!
An archetypal approach to astrology sees the planets as carriers of the qualities of the signs in which they rule.1 As in the so-called 'alphabet system', signs, houses and planets are viewed as expressions on different levels of the twelve foundational astrological archetypes. Thus Uranus, as he moves round the zodiac, carries Aquarian fixed air, and Pluto carries Scorpio's fixed water into the houses and signs they transit. At present Pluto's fixed water is modifying Capricorn's cardinal earth and Uranus' fixed air is mixing with Aries' cardinal fire in a volatile concoction.
Richard Tarnas, whose seminal book 'Cosmos and Psyche'2 supports an archetypal approach to astrology, includes the following in his list of the distinctive manifestations of the combined energies of Uranus and Pluto: "the volcanic eruption of revolutionary and emancipatory impulses," causing "social and political turmoil," an "intense acceleration of the pace of change", "intensified cultural ferment", "the radicalisation of political movements and ideologies", "nuclear threat" and "the unleashing of the elemental forces of nature." 3
True to archetype, 2011 has seen the outbreak of the Arab revolutionary wars, social unrest the world over producing strikes and street rioting, the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and a series of catastrophic earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tornados and droughts. These manifestations in the outer world correspond to processes running in our private and inner lives. Due to the perennial correspondence of macrocosm and microcosm on which astrology is based, we can use the parallels between our personal issues and outer events and circumstances to understand what is going on.
The human individual is a complex of energy systems or bodies that interface. The physical body (earth in astrology) is the densest, but occupying the same space are our subtle bodies, which include the emotional body (water) and the mental body (air). As they are all interconnected, thoughts in our mental body stir up feelings in our emotional body and vice versa, while both these subtle bodies can affect our physical body.
Psychics can see patterns of densified energy in our emotional body that have been formed by our conditioning. Some traces are so ingrained they've become deep grooves, indicating entrenched emotional positions. In astrology they would be symbolised by fixed water, and represented in a chart by a dominant Pluto or an emphasis on Scorpio or the 8th house. Similarly, if we have a strong Uranus or an emphasis in Aquarius or the 11th house, corresponding deeply grooved patterns of densified energy would be seen in our mental body, indicating intransigent opinions and mental fixations. Transits of Uranus and Pluto will trigger these patterns.
So, when Uranus is in cardinal fire as at present in Aries (Fig.1), it's foreseeable that the pressure of our deeply held beliefs could incite us to extreme action, as in the case of Charlie Gilmour, son of Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, recently jailed for violent disorder during a student fees protest march. Similarly when Pluto is in cardinal earth, as at present in Capricorn, the strength of our ingrained emotional positions would make us oversensitive around our financial security, job security and social status so that, if these were under threat, we could be driven to such desperate measures as suicide.
The fixity of Uranus and Pluto leads us to resist change and hold fast to the status quo until change overtakes us bringing radically new circumstances. Then the rug is pulled from under our feet, and we are catapulted off onto a new course we had never planned. This is a great opportunity to leave our past behind and make a new start. But often we don't take it. Our fixity can be so strong, and our intellectual and emotional positions so deeply rooted that, when we come to rebuild after the destruction, we mechanically recreate the old and familiar again. For example a Uranus-Pluto opposition during the French revolution resulted in the beheading of Louis XVI and the collapse of the 'ancien regime' – politically an extremely radical departure. However the same revolutionaries who had implemented this change went on to forego the democratic ideals that had inspired the revolution and crown Napoleon as emperor!
In general we can define three stages in the transit of a Uranus-Pluto square: a) holding, repressing and denying, b) explosion, catharsis and destruction c) freedom, rebuilding and either transformation or repetition. I would say that at present, in summer 2011, we are on the point of leaving stage a) and progressing to stage b). Pressure has been building as Uranus and Pluto have contained and intensified the cardinal energy trying to flow in free, creative expression. However fixing and suppressing energy creates heat and friction, and the accumulated pressure is now reaching tipping-point. Then, just as on a geophysical level pressure and increased activity below the earth's crust result in earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, so in the human sphere emotions that can no longer be repressed start bubbling up from the unconscious. Their eruption exposes old wounds, reviving memories of past traumas and this is the second phase of catharsis.
I guess that at present in many human relationships violent emotional outbursts are occurring, fuelled by the pressure of all the repressed grudges, anger, fear and hatred that have been repressed and denied. A Uranus-Pluto transit can release emotional stuff that has layed buried for years or even lives! Its eruption is destructive in the short term, as the spate of murders within families being reported by the media at present shows. However, in the long term these explosions can bring healing as the emotional charge becomes converted into free-flowing energy. Deaths and neurotic or psychotic breakdowns can occur, but for many breakdowns will become break throughs.
The film The Madness of King George portrays a king severely repressed by his royal conditioning, whose bouts of madness functioned as a catharsis and necessary release for his potent, suppressed libido. And it is not a coincidence that George III suffered these fits during the Uranus-Pluto opposition that accompanied the French revolution. A particularly bad bout occurred from November 1788 into 1789. And in modern times the crowds of screaming girls who freaked out at pop concerts in the 1960's, while a Uranus-Pluto conjunction was in the sky, were also catharting the tensions caused by their suppressed 1950's-style upbringing.
2011 has also seen a spate of catastrophic forest fires, tornados and parched earth causing drought – manifestations of Uranus fanning Aries' cardinal fire. Correspondingly in our inner life, we could be feeling stressed and parched by the pressures of our jobs or other untoward stresses in our life. Then our minds, already over-stimulated by the massive load of information – mostly online - that we must process each day, can flip and go into overdrive. We will be worn out by the pace of our mental activity running wild that gives us no respite by day or night, and 'burn-out'.
What to do? Give up our need to know everything in order to stay in control of our lives is the answer. Uranus and Pluto are Titans – great cosmic forces whose might crushes and overrides our puny willpower. All we can do at present is remain aware and flexible, expect the unexpected and be ready to react in tune with whatever presents itself. Basically we need to trust existence, like Dorothy whose house was lifted and blown away by a Uranian whirlwind only to be safely deposited in the land of Oz.
Where we feel the effects of the current Uranus-Pluto square will depend on the houses in our chart they are transiting. In the areas of life these houses symbolise we will experience an intense pressure for change. If the square falls above the ascendant-descendant horizon (houses 7-10) we will be more affected by the public dramas of our times than when it falls below. Then we may join in political protest actions, or fight to prevent the destruction of the environment, or engage with the threat of climate change. We may be personally caught up in the collapse of banks or businesses – events more likely to affect us by playing havoc with our careers. If the square falls below the horizon (houses 1-6) we will be put under pressure by events in our private life that demand radical changes of perspective. These could include a health breakdown, abandonment, bereavement, or the break-up of key personal relationships.
The hardest blow to deal with is the loss of our safety nets in the major areas of life represented in a horoscope by the angular houses (1st, 4th, 7th and 10th). They determine respectively our experience of our self, our home and family life, our marriage or partnership and our career and place in the world. So, if the transit of Uranus and Pluto falls in one of them, the disruption will be dramatic and challenging. And we should also look at natal planets that become involved in the Uranus-Pluto square through aspect as they will also shed light on where and how we're going to be hit.
The example chart (Fig 2) 4 belongs to a man who we'll call David. His natal Venus in the 10th house is being hit by the Pluto-Uranus square as it transits his first and fourth houses which are both angular. His situation is as follows: his wife had agreed to him taking a job in Africa, and had promised to join him there with their daughters aged seven and nine. But, when the time came for her to fly out, she broke the news that she'd fallen in love with another man and didn't want to leave. David freaked out. His Cancer moon indicates an emotional dependency on his family and close bonds with his children, who he has helped as a hands-on father to raise. Now he stood to lose both them and his wife (Uranus opposite Venus). His nightmare was to be abandoned in that strange culture without a family to provide a nourishing home (4th house crisis). He was also tormented by his jealousy of the other man (Pluto square Venus), and his wife's stated preference for this rival severely shook his self-confidence (1st house crisis).
Things were patched up enough for his wife to travel to Africa and set up house there. However she said this was only a trial, and would give him no security that she would remain there with the children. Also she refused to give up her relationship with the other man, which continued by email and sporadic visits. Being a Libra, David carried on for more than a year avoiding a confrontation, and ignoring the fact that something was seriously wrong, in order to keep the family together and the surface of his domestic life smooth. He suppressed his hostile feelings towards his wife, and dealt with his great fear of losing his children by upping his smoking and drinking (first phase of the Uranus-Pluto transit).
However with time he found it increasingly difficult to control his repressed feelings. The couple began to have rows in which he would verbally abuse his wife. These violent eruptions of jealous rage shocked and horrified David who never realised such emotions were inside him. He'd always seen himself as rational, civilised, tolerant and fair, but now an ugly monster was emerging from his depths (1st house crisis).
He has recently been persuaded to go to sessions with a psychotherapist, which are stabilising him and helping him understand himself better (1st house Pluto), but his torturing fear of losing his wife and daughters remains. The latest in the story is that, with his wife planning a longer visit to her lover in the autumn, he has finally decided that he has suffered enough, and must put an end to a situation that is no longer bearable (Uranus and Pluto drive us to the brink). He has made an appointment to see a lawyer about a divorce – better an end with suffering than a suffering without end!
This is an example of the Uranus-Pluto square shaking the foundations of lives and threatening vital security structures. However, it is also furthering David's personal growth. Without it he would never have agreed to do therapy and look at himself, and in the long run this bitter experience could lead to deeper self-understanding, more authentic relationships and a more satisfying home and family life with a new partner. The calm following the storm (phase three of the Uranus-Pluto transit) however will probably not be reached by David until 2015 when the Uranus-Pluto square has completed its transit to his Libra sun.
Saturn in Libra has been part of the equation since summer 2010 when he created a t-square with Uranus and Pluto (Fig. 1) controlling and restraining their energies. Under the t-square many people have been experiencing crushing circumstances while feeling helpless to change them. Families are struggling to make ends meet following the severe government cuts that have led to job losses, while those in work are weighed down by extra workloads and dare not protest. David felt trapped in a no-win situation with Saturn transiting his sun. He is tied to working in Africa because he would not at present find an equivalent job in Europe, and his wife is tied to living where she does not want to live because of the children's need for their father. For the family there is no way out that does not entail great sacrifice.
So Saturn has been holding the chaotic, emancipatory energies of Uranus and Pluto in check, but as he moves out of the t-square during the second half of 2011, this is due to change. If Saturn is our gaoler, he is also our protector and helps us survive. In our inner life he takes the form of what Freud called the Super-Ego – the higher instance who keeps the Id, our self-serving libido, in check. Without him chaotic, destructive urges freely well up from our subconscious. So, when Saturn's present curb on the extremism of Uranus and Pluto weakens, a more volatile and risky state of affairs could arise. However the taste of freedom this will bring could empower us to no longer tolerate encroachments on our independence and autonomy.
The Uranus and Pluto archetypes refer not only to the subconscious Id but also to dimensions of higher consciousness transcending the Super-Ego. But before these higher levels of the planets can be accessed, Saturn must retreat because he acts as a filter on our perception, setting it limits and preventing its expansion beyond the material. Therefore, though some may go mad in the coming phase of the transit of Uranus-Pluto like King George, others may receive the inspirations of genius and experience spiritual revelations.
In general we can say that the rubbish clearance action of Uranus and Pluto creates space for the new in the third phase of the transit, opening up vistas of a future in which a higher level of human consciousness becomes possible. It has the power to facilitate a more profound psychological understanding in us, which leads to healing, but first we must pass through the alchemical fire of catharsis.
Finally here are some tips for surviving the present Uranus-Pluto square:
Be prepared to change – not only your mind but also your emotional habits and daily routines. Clinging to old ways will cause suffering. Be ready to drop the set of beliefs regarding your role and your needs attached to the areas of your life indicated by the houses Uranus and Pluto are transiting. It's a time to be flexible, fluid and to flow.
Drop your props that normally help you remain unconscious or "comfortably numb" as Pink Floyd put it. Rather than submerge beneath the waves with a bottle of vodka, you need to skilfully surf them. Don't miss this opportunity.
If we just change the outer then nothing really changes. An inner rebellion is needed, and the ultimate rebellion is to let go of the conditioning that makes us act and react in habitual ways. Uranus and Pluto can facilitate this and help us move towards a new more free way of being.
The future is with those who are willing to change their creative intentions and goals. History is taking a great turn, and there's no point in trying to look back once we've turned the corner. Keep your eyes fixed ahead.
You can no longer rely on your personal willpower, which will fail you when you face these Titanic forces. An ultimate trust in existence is needed together with the discrimination that allows us to align with the creative super-conscious rather than the destructive subconscious. Think of Dorothy!
This is a strong time for meditation and therapy. The totality and intensity of the energy available from Pluto can carry our awareness deep into our psychological roots, and free us from patterns in which we have been trapped for lives. And Uranus with his lightning bolts of awakening can accelerate our development, lifting our minds beyond a limited awareness into wider and higher consciousness. The promise contained in this transit is transformation of an evolutionary nature. It can create a shift on all levels and carry us into a new future.
Phoebe Wyss July 2011
1 Wyss Phoebe The Archetypes and the Origins of Astrology and An Archetypal View of the Houses on www.astrophoebe.com/articles 2 Tarnas, Richard Cosmos and Psyche Viking Press 2006 3 Tarnas, Richard World Transits 2000-2020: An Overview, Archai Journal of Archetypal Cosmology Vol. 2 4 This chart is very close to the chart of David Cameron (born just 18 hours later), which gives food for thought as Cameron's Venus and sun are also affected by Pluto and Uranus, which are transiting his 4th and 7th houses.
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