The chart for the first controlled nuclear fission reaction is set for 16.25, 2 Dec 1942, Chicago, Illinois. (Actually 15.25, but Solar Fire software gives the wrong answer!) As such it is a chart for all use of fissile nuclear energy, whether for peaceful or military purposes.
The main symbolic feature of this chart is the Saturn-Uranus conjunction in Gemini: the splitting (Uranus) of matter (Saturn). There could hardly be more apt symbolism. This conjunction is opposite the Sun in Sag, giving us what has become known as the nuclear axis, at about 8-10 Gemini/Sag.
What I am concerned with here, however, is the square that Uranus makes to a tight Chiron-North Node conjunction in Leo – an out of sign square, but still quite tight at 3 degrees. For me, this square is just as significant as the Saturn-Uranus conjunction.
Uranus is the Scientific Mind. Chiron is damage – and the possibility of healing. And the Node suggests some kind of important karmic lesson for humanity. It is Mind (Gemini) vs Heart (Leo).
I think that the achievement of controlled fission was a paradigmatic event for Science: we had finally begun to achieve mastery over Nature at its very core. As such, I think it can be taken as a chart that says something about Science itself. In particular, I think the Uranus-Chiron square is saying that it was a damaged or imbalanced attitude that achieved it, and that this reflects an ongoing problem within the scientific method.
And even at its most safe and peaceful, nuclear power is something that a lot of people have always felt ambivalent about. Even though we may not be able to articulate it, somewhere we feel there is something wrong about nuclear power.
If Uranus-Chiron is saying something important about Science generally, and not just nuclear energy, then we should be able to find a relationship between Uranus-Chiron and scientific breakthroughs.
What I found a couple of years ago is that there is a correlation between the PROLONGED hard aspects of Uranus-Chiron and the pivotal scientific breakthroughs that have changed our relationship to the universe. Because Chiron’s orbit is so elliptical, it sometimes makes hard aspects to Uranus for 30 years or more.
Here is a table:
.......................of Motion and Gravity
.......................theory of evolution
Opposition..1951-90..Discovery of the......1953
.......................structure of DNA?
What is key about these discoveries is not just the advances in understanding but that THEY CHANGED OUR CONCEPTION OF OURSELVES AND OUR PLACE IN IN THE UNIVERSE. And what they reflect, brilliant as these advances were, is a progressive DISENCHANTMENT, as we gradually moved from a living universe with a divine origin to one based on dead matter that can be manipulated by the use of reason. Both ourselves and the universe were gradually diminished.
The nuclear chart is not in this list, but that was a technological breakthrough, rather than a breakthrough in understanding of the universe. Nor are Einstein’s theories and quantum theory present: they fundamentally changed our understanding of the universe, but you could argue they did not disenchant it: quantum theory moved us away from a mechanical universe, and Einstein’s theories, amongst other things, expanded our notions of space and time.
So they key symbolism in all this is Uranus in hard aspect to Chiron: damaged brilliance. This has been a key theme in the direction of our culture for the last 500 years.
I think the damage lies in the separation between Mind and Heart that we saw in the nuclear chart, and I think it arises out of the very nature of the scientific method. When something is investigated scientifically, it is treated as an OBJECT, and this includes investigation of living things. Pushed to an extreme, this becomes inhuman. The world of living things is made up of subjects, not objects, and part of what makes us human is that we can see this – or rather, FEEL it. If we are taught to believe that the only real knowledge is scientific, and that our capacity for feeling does not contribute to this knowledge, then we become de-humanised. Yet this way of thinking has been a powerful current in our culture for a long time now. And it’s understandable because the scientific method has been spectacularly successful. So it’s natural to start thinking that science is telling us how the universe actually is, not just part of how it is.
To my mind this is the central problem of science: it does actually tell us a lot of important things about the universe, and yet its methods inevitably tend towards de-humanising us. The universe has to be treated AS IF it is purely an object, and being imperfect human beings, we will gradually start to feel that it IS just an object. This is how I interpret that square between Uranus and Chiron.
I think it is a problem that we were destined to meet sooner or later, it is not just an aberration. And the problem is now very much ‘out there’, as we encounter climate change and a diminished environment, brought about by a dissociation of mind from feeling.
I don’t know what the answer is, except to say that somehow the scientific/technological/ rational mind needs to be brought into a healthy feeling relationship with nature. Which is something we all know.
Mythologically, there aren’t many stories about Uranus, though we do know that he was tyrannical – like the scientific mind can be in relation to other ways of knowing – and he was divorced from instinct (through being castrated by his son Saturn). It has been argued, by e.g. Liz Greene and Richard Tarnas, that in many ways Prometheus better embodies the astrological qualities of the planet Uranus and the sign he rules, Aquarius.
Interestingly, there is a mythological connection between Prometheus and Chiron, which I think tells us something about the meaning of the Uranus-Chiron square and therefore about this problem in our modern consciousness.
Prometheus was a Titan who had a strong desire to help mankind better itself. He taught us all the human skills and sciences. This did not go down well with Zeus, the king of the gods, who wanted to destroy mankind. Zeus grew more and more angry at humanity’s increasing abilities and powers. Prometheus was contemptuous of Zeus’ attitude. He taunted and humiliated him, and brought fire to mankind against Zeus’ express wishes. This was the last straw, and Zeus had Prometheus chained naked to a pillar high in the Caucasus Mountains, where everyday a vulture pecked out his liver, and every night his liver grew back again.
In this story Zeus seems to embody that part of our nature that doesn’t want to become conscious. He symbolises collective humanity that can feel threatened by people who have their own, individual values, rather like the rednecks in the film Easy Rider who shoot the hippy motorcyclists, hating their difference to themselves and secretly envying them their freedom.
In my opinion, however, it was Prometheus who was primarily at fault. He could have got away with bringing fire to mankind if he had been more diplomatic, if he had not deliberately taunted Zeus. Zeus was not really at fault – he was simply nature being nature. Prometheus’ fault lay in his hubris, his over-identification with the cause of advancing mankind, and his consequent failure to pay his dues to nature.
Modern Science, at its worst, is in some ways like Prometheus. It desires progress for humanity, but using only that part of our nature that observes, measures and reasons. In its hubris, scientific and technological progress comes to be seen as the only real progress. Our instinctual nature, that has its own ways of knowing, and that is the source of our life energy, is relegated and discounted. What results is a humanity that is only half-alive, a humanity that, perhaps without knowing it, is suffering like Prometheus in the Caucasus Mountains.
In the myth, Prometheus is rescued by Chiron, and it is here that we see the creative potential of the astrological Uranus-Chiron relationship. Chiron was known as the wisest and most righteous of the centaurs. He became the king of the centaurs, and brought up many of the heroes and sons of the gods. One day he was accidentally wounded in the knee by an arrow, let off by Hercules, that had been dipped in the poisonous blood of the Hydra. Chiron was in agony, and the wound would not heal.
After many years of this, Chiron tired of life. However, being an immortal, he could not die. Eventually, however, he did a deal with Zeus, whereby Prometheus was released from his torture, and Chiron descended to the underworld and suffered death in Prometheus’ place. Moved by Chiron’s actions, Zeus placed him in the constellation Sagittarius in the sky.
Chiron was a centaur – half human, half horse – so his wisdom is of a sort that is not alienated from nature. It is a wisdom that grows out of nature and therefore takes into account the whole being. Chiron rescuing Prometheus represents a transformed Science that does not undervalue any of our human faculties and that does not disenchant the universe. So the myth is saying that to re-enchant our universe we need to become part of nature again – the horse - whilst not denying that which makes us different from the rest of nature – the human body emerging from the horse. There needs to be a creative synthesis between the human and the animal which, because it exists in the figure of Chiron, is a real possibility rather than just a nice idea. This seems to be the central message for us in this myth, and therefore the central healing message contained within the astrological Uranus-Chiron.
This healing occurs through Chiron’s descent into the Underworld, which ends his suffering, as well as Prometheus’. This may seem to contradict the alleged incurability of his wound, but I think it is only incurable if addressed on its own level. The collective Chiron is incurable, because collective humanity doesn’t think in terms of radically transforming itself. Here Chiron simply reflects some of the inherent limitations of the human situation. On an individual level, however, it would seem that Chiron’s wound is curable – if we are prepared to be radical enough, if we are prepared, like him, to descend into the Underworld. Perhaps Chiron in the individual chart could be said to reflect where we need to engage in this sort of transformation, or suffer the consequences!
So becoming a part of nature again is not an easy process, because it involves this descent into the Underworld, a death and a rebirth. It involves being torn apart and put together again. It involves surrendering everything we think we know. It is not something we can ‘add on’ to our present selves, which is exactly how the one-sided rational intelligence thinks. That is not the nature of real transformation. The scientific attitude, which has the illusion that it can understand and control nature, has to be surrendered. The rational mind itself, which has overreached itself in our culture and suffers from the illusion that it alone has real knowledge, needs to be surrendered. It is life that is king, not the human rational intelligence and will. Our ability to observe, measure and theorise needs to be in the service of our whole being and the whole of life, rather than attempting to dominate it. The rational, scientific attitude goes very deep in our culture, it has become one of its foundations. So it is not surprising that the services of Pluto are required to transform it. However, I think that this sort of transformation is unlikely for large parts of our culture, particularly as Science continues to be so successful on a material level. But at least the individual is free, if necessary, to undergo this death and rebirth.
What this transformation is perhaps reaching out towards is something primordial, an ancient memory of what we were like before Science and before Christianity. What we may encounter in Pluto’s realm is Chiron in the following form:
“In an old vase-painting he appears in a robe covered with stars, with an uprooted tree over his shoulder carrying his spoils of the chase, and with his dog beside him: a savage hunter and dark god.” (1)
This encounter in the Underworld may result in the emergence of a new type of consciousness, a merging of this dark god of old with the critical intelligence and self-awareness of the modern mind. It is this, perhaps, that the North Node in the nuclear chart is pointing to – it is speaking of our destiny as human beings, which is to resolve these apparent opposites: our rationality and self-awareness, with all its Uranian freedom and radical insights; and the deep well of instinct, natural wisdom and enchantment that Chiron embodies.
(1) The Gods of the Greeks by Kerenyi p160. Quoted in The Astrology of Fate by Liz Greene.