Friday, November 30, 2012

The Mid-Life Crisis

The Uranus opposition, which usually occurs aged 40-42, is known astrologically as the Mid-life crisis. I wrote about this a year ago, but I’m not even going to read it, or I’ll just think I’m repeating myself and grind to a halt.

I think the Uranus opposition gets singled out because its effects around that age are often the most dramatic and evident. Uranus transits tend to be more observable because of their sudden and disruptive nature.

But all the planets from Saturn outwards complete a part-cycle in the first half of our forties: Saturn opposite Saturn, Uranus opposite Uranus, Neptune square Neptune and Pluto square Pluto. (My Pluto square was in my late 30s due to his eccentric orbit.)

So all the transformational planets are hard at work on us over a period of years, often leading to a prolonged period of soul-searching and not knowing what your life is about anymore. That’s maybe not so familiar to us at that age, and it’s not what the world wants of us, so you can end up judging yourself negatively as a mess, a failure, an underachiever. Instead of going wow, I’m turning into a philosopher!

Each of the outer planets is wanting us to deepen in different ways: Pluto wants us to claim a power, a confidence, that stands alone; Neptune wants us to re-imagine and de-literalise our conception of our lives; Uranus wants us to slough off received opinion and find that which is uniquely our own; and Saturn guides our new self into the world, helps us live the beginnings of wisdom that, hopefully, are emerging.

All these processes intermingle, they need each other: how can you have the confidence to live your originality (Uranus) without Pluto behind you?
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The spark for this piece was the idea of the Uranian move from received opinion to something which is truly our own. I think that is a crucial axis, it is something completely new coming into our lives, a new kind of quality, a real foundation on which to build.

This is, of course, schematic. Some people might be initiated by life much earlier, others continue to be (unconscious) followers all their lives, apparently barely responding to the influence of the outer planets. 

But that finding of something which is truly your own. That seems to me to be the essence of the ‘mid-life crisis’ from a Uranian point of view. Of course it may not be a crisis. It may just be a natural unfoldment. But all the same, Uranus is the planet of individuality, of our uniqueness. 

Which is my take on why it rules astrology: the chart describes the particular and unique way that each of us is made, it shows that we are essentially anything but herd members, albeit having profound links to the collective. It is also said that Uranus rules astrology in our age because it is disreputable, it is charlatanry, it is outside the norm. But I think the basis of astrology is Neptune, it is this collection of gods and goddesses and archetypal forces whose influence on our individual lives we divine.

Everybody thinks they are leading their own lives, and are offended if you suggest otherwise. Capricorns are perhaps the sign where it can be most obvious that they are not. More than any other sign, Capricorn tends to live out the imprint the parents have made. You can see them leading one or the other of their parents’ lives, sometimes in ridiculous detail. This is because Capricorn is a sign of respect for authority and rules and rising up the hierarchy. It is easy for me as an Aquarian to laugh at that, but through this Capricorns can build up a solid foundation in themselves out of which their own contribution can eventually emerge. Whereas Aquarians, original as they may be, can find it hard to land on the planet, to create a life that works.

So you can see these Capricorn types, maybe very capable, very motivated, very successful, priding themselves on their achievements. But there may be nothing original there, nothing they have brought to the table that has not been brought 1000 times before. But they don’t think like that.

And you can see it with astrologers. They may be very good astrologers, very helpful to people at reading charts, they may even have written a book or two. But what they say doesn’t grab you, like where did that come from?

Again, I’m not criticising. It is a natural process that I am talking about, that the Uranus Opposition describes. It’s like we’ve learnt the ropes, we’ve mastered our craft, and that often needs to come first, and that can take most of our thirties (after, schematically, buckling down at our Saturn return when we are 30.)

So Uranus comes along and starts to break down this maybe substantial but limited sense of self that we have created. Something new is trying to break in. Uranus is essentially a creative planet, he is the divine spark that creates new life. And that can be very disruptive. All aspects of our life can start to seem limited, the product of a previous, more narrow self. It can be messy, but there’s no law saying that change isn’t messy. But one way or another, that new self has to be allowed to live. It’s a kind of law of life, and in a way it’s not for us to judge that the consequences would be too awful and messy and unthinkable to follow through. We are simply creatures of life, and if we have sense then we follow life to the next stage.

It reminds me of what Jung said about death, that the unconscious (another word for life itself) does not behave as though death is an extinction, so it is therefore best to live like that, to remain alive and open as we age. The point being that we need to live according to how life is. And in the case of the Uranus Opposition or any major transit, to make the changes that life demands of us so it can move on.

And what comes out the other side has the flavour of authenticity, of someone who knows what they are talking about on a deep level, a gut level, an existential level, if you like. Or someone who is capable of sometimes being like that: what is planted is a seed that has to be grown.

It is a new kind of knowledge, something you haven’t read about in a book. And you can feel when someone is coming from that. It’s not something you can prove. One person may be able, for example, to talk astrology brilliantly and humorously and entertainingly, and another may not have much to say at all, but what they do say rings true on a human level, it’s like there is earth in it, they have seen it for themselves. And the first person may not have that quality, for all their brilliance. 

And that is the kind of difference the Uranus Opposition can bring, that is the essential point I wanted to make in this piece. This sense of authenticity, of reality that comes with something that is truly your own. It probably also needs a hefty dose of Neptune and Pluto, but Uranus is the spark of something new, life as a process of always creating something new that you could never have thought of beforehand.

It is like, schematically, we spend our 20s and 30s living the life that has been dreamed for us. It is natural for parents to do this around their children, they can hardly help it, it is probably not even conscious. And it gives roots to the child, a sense there is a place for them in the world. But if that dreaming is too rigid, then there are no wings, just roots, and roots on their own suffocate.

It is not just our parents who have dreamed our life for us. Society has too, and again that can create a place for us, but it can also suffocate. But I think it is wrong-headed to protest against this natural process and call it ‘brainwashing’. It is rigidity that is the problem, it is rigidity that is the problem in any walk of life. There is nothing wrong, for example, with religion in itself, it is the rigidity you often find that is the problem, the sense that things have to be one way and one way only.

And this is perhaps why the Uranus Opposition can be so disruptive. Not because it is bringing something of one’s unique self into a received way of living and thinking, but because there is also rigidity there, the sense that one has to live and think a particular way or else life will turn to poo, one will be a loser and a failure and a bad lot and shameful. That rigidity may have been bred into us, or we may have contributed it all on our own!

But one thing I think we learn from astrology readings and from listening to people’s lives is not to judge, or at least not too quickly or narrowly. What society may see is someone giving up a high-flying job to work in MacDonalds (as in American Beauty, a Uranus Opp must-see*) and bringing a ‘lower’ standard of living to his family. Bad person, irresponsible, loser, he’s lost it. That is the sort of quick and automatic judgement that conventional thinking brings, along with a secret dose of schadenfreude, of rejoicing in another’s misfortune. This is normality, how ‘normal’ people think.

But what the astrologer sees is maybe the Uranus Opposition, this force that is bigger than conventional values, that is much more real and that doesn’t care about highly-paid jobs for their own sakes. What we may see is, in a way, the opposite of the conventional viewpoint that only looks at what is apparent. We look at what is underneath, what is real. What we may see is someone who is prepared to risk his career and job security and the good opinion of others to create deeper meaning in his or her life, who is questioning the received values around him, who is going through a lot of conflict and soul-searching as a result.

And creating something that has a kind of imperative around it because it touches on something real, that cannot be measured in terms of salary and respectability: if that small pot has to be broken, then so be it. What can look like loserdom, a diminution from a conventional point of view, can in reality be an augmentation, a heightening of life; what is actually happening is that the roots are breaking the pot that has become too small. But it can take a while to realise this, you sometimes have to upend all those things and people you’ve looked up to and understand that you see things that they don’t and it’s time to move on.

* The Middle Passage by James Hollis is a good Jungian read on all this. 

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Uranians and Chironians

All creativity seems to grind to a halt when I have paperwork to do. That doesn’t mean I do the paperwork. No, it means that I sit there with it hanging over me feeling like I’m in glue. But it’s actually quite simple once I get round to it, and then life begins again. Like today!

Mercury is stationing in Scorpio. Time for some deep thought. That was the name of the computer in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Deep Thought. He probably had Mercury in Scorpio. Trine to Jupiter, because he had a sense of humour, with that business about the meaning of everything being 42. But as he said, it’s about asking the right question.

I’m not sure what deep means, anyway. Maybe it sometimes just means you don’t really know what you’re talking about, so you chuck in the word deep to fill the significance gap. “We have a deep connection.” Oh yeh? Meaning you have a deep need to be mothered, and your girl has a deep fear of confident men? Nothing wrong with that, it’s quite normal, we’ve all been there in one way or another. And one day you won’t need that anymore and it’ll all be over. Wonderful. How else would you have sorted yourself? You might even remain friends.

I’m in the mood to defend Aquarians and Uranians from the charge of being weirdos, oddbods, eccentrics, mavericks. And then worse, believing it ourselves. I admit it, sometimes we are cranky.

But often, it is simply that we are being ourselves, we are being natural, while other people are cutting off bits of themselves in order to seem like everyone else. So it is the natural people who get called eccentric, and the people who pretend to themselves they only have one leg instead of two, or 5 senses instead of 12, that get called normal.

I don’t think Aquarians (for that also read Uranians) are essentially outsiders, though they get put in that camp. No, we have an intense need to be connected to people – in our own airy way – to have lots of different friends. It’s just that we always have a take, an angle, a disruptive presence even, that is about moving things on, getting them to work better. So that can make us seem like outsiders, particularly if say we have challenging aspects from Uranus: that means we can have difficulty integrating that creative, awakening impulse into a regular social situation. But our instincts remain deeply social, and it is hard on us not to be in the thick of it, in our own way, of course.

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I think the real outsiders are arguably the Chiron types. Aquarians can do normal if they want to, if they notice it. Unless they are challenged by Uranus, in which case they can feel that even to appear normal is to sacrifice their individuality, their magic. This is something that Aquarians often need to get over, because if you can’t do normal, then your brilliance ain’t much use to anyone. And you’ll never quite land on the planet, your life won’t be fully real.

Chiron types can be kind of the opposite. While the Aquarian is busy doing his or her best to show they are not normal, the Chiron type is doing his or her best to ‘do’ normal and it just won’t work.

I have Sun conjunct Chiron in Aquarius, so I belong in both camps.

The reason it won’t work for the Chiron type is that Chiron is like a fissure deep underground through the which the outer planets are always pushing upwards. If you listen to the outer planets, then it can work. If you have Venus conjunct Chiron, then pay attention to any outer planet influences on your Venus. If you don’t, and you try to do relationships ‘normally’, you can spend 30 years with nothing working out. And maybe that applies to the Sun and Moon as well, because they get involved when a relationship becomes long-term.

And in paying attention to the outer planets you have to try to stop trying to make anything happen and just go with that other influence and trust in it. Stop wilfully going for what you want, or think you want, which can be very difficult; it can feel like a sacrifice (another Chiron theme) but actually it’s not, because I think personal fulfilment always comes with the outer planets, but not in the way you’d expected, in fact there’s usually a lot more going on than you could have thought of.

I don’t think Chiron types are really outsiders. I don’t think anyone should feel like that. I think they probably often need someone who’ll point out their gifts to them and encourage them to get on with it.

Maybe it’s to do with what we have a place for in our society. I really appreciate the fact that I am free to think and live pretty much how I want. I think that is historically very rare, and worth cherishing. Many people love to bash government as an authoritarian conspiratorial monster, but let’s not forget those freedoms. They may not be there in 50 years. And the invasion of privacy thing: imagine what it must have been like living in a village, which most people did 100 years ago. Everyone would have known all your business. I’d much rather have it as it is now, however much information the government may have on me through Facebook and Google.

So I’m free to practise as an astrologer and to broadcast my views across the world on the internet, and I do that. But that is not the same as there being a place for astrologers. There is a lot of cultural derision directed towards astrologers, homeopaths, psychics and so on. Anything that requires the use of intuitive gifts. In other societies, even though they might have been more conformist in some ways, there would often have been a recognised place for people with those gifts.

So that is why I think it can be difficult, because inwardly we don’t properly value those gifts, even though we are up to a point free to use them. And we don’t properly value them because we have the establishment poo pooing them. The laws by and large don’t stop us. It is the weight of collective opinion almost as a psychic force. That can take many years to fight off, but it makes us the stronger for it, we don’t need a label like ‘witch doctor’ to value ourselves.

And this is something that Chiron types and Aquarians, each in their own way, seem particularly called upon to do.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

America's Fragile Exceptionalism

“The best is yet to come.” Those were Barack Obama’s words on being re-elected US President last week. I don’t think he really believed them, and I don’t think anybody else did either. I think he said them because the opposite is true, and everyone knows it. Yes, America will probably become more wealthy in absolute terms in the coming years. But it will no longer be Number One in the world. For now, it remains Number One, and will be so for some years yet.

But its days are numbered, and a deep crisis of identity is therefore rumbling. It’s not fully out in the open yet, but it has been felt for some years in the American collective unconscious. That is why Obama said the opposite, almost as if to confirm it. And I think that is why the Republican Party and its followers have been becoming more extreme: this is what happens to the political right wing when a country feels under threat. Look at the increasingly popular Golden Dawn in Greece, which denies that Nazi Germany had gas chambers.

America’s identity is tied up with a fragile exceptionalism. Exceptionalism is the way a race or country feels itself to be special and superior. Like Israel being fuelled by the myth of the Chosen People. The Chinese are the Middle Kingdom, the most ancient civilisation in the world. The Achuar, an Amazonian tribe, consider themselves the only real humans – yes, even super-spiritual indigenous people have feet of clay, just like us! And America is the superior country because of its brand of Democracy and Protestant work virtues. The fact that it is the richest and most powerful country proves that those national attributes are the best.

China can be as poor as it likes, but it remains the world’s oldest civilisation. And the Jews remain the Chosen People, because God told them they were. But America has to keep proving its own exceptionalism – if it is not the richest and most powerful country, then of what value is its ‘freedom’, its democracy, its Protestant work ethic? Democracy and wealth are intertwined in the western mind, and China is in the process of proving that you can be just as rich without Democracy or Christianity.
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The MC and 10th House describe one’s standing in the world. America is emerging from a hard aspect from Uranus-Pluto to its MC at 1 Libra and to its ruler Venus at 3 Cancer. Militarily, this could be said to describe its inconclusive efforts in Iraq, and its losing war in Afghanistan. Pluto as disempowerment. Economically, China has risen faster than anyone thought, and this transit has made clear that America’s days are numbered.

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The US also has Saturn in the 10th, at 15 degrees Libra in square to the Sun at 13 Cancer. This is the big one coming up, as Uranus and Pluto hard aspect these two in the coming few years. Followed by a Neptune square to the US Asc.

Already the US Progressed Asc is describing the new USA. In the last year it has moved from grandstanding Leo to humble Virgo.

Saturn in the 10th shows how important the USA’s reputation, its dominance in the world, is for its own self-esteem. Just as important as wealth which, with Pluto in the 2nd House, shows a survival attitude that goes back to its founding, and that is outdated: the US Pluto Return at the end of the decade may bring a change in this attitude.

There is a lot that could be said about the US natal Sun square Saturn. It is not an easy aspect to have. People with Sun square Saturn find it hard to be at ease with themselves. They are continually driven to ‘achieve’, and never feel that what they have done is good enough. They tend to be identified with their deeds and reputation at the expense of an inner awareness. Saturn can be the crucible for inner awareness; but he can also be a demon who scoops out the soul and tells you that all that matters is outer: work and wealth and prestige. Sun square Saturn people can also be genuinely impressive, they really can achieve things, just like America. But there is always that other voice, the inner voice, that tends not to be listened to.

And it’s fragile, because outer achievement, wealth and reputation, can always be taken away from you. And that is a huge threat to a Sun square Saturn, because what else is there if not that? And this is what is starting to happen to the USA. Pluto will come within 2 degrees of opposing the US Sun next Spring, and Uranus will be within 1 degree of squaring it next Summer.

The US is in a similar position to the UK 100 years ago, when it was starting to lose its place as the world’s biggest and wealthiest Empire, and it had the same transit, Pluto opposite the Sun, but Cancer-Capricorn instead of Capricorn-Cancer. 100 years on, and we still don’t know our place in the world: we still long to be up there again, as shown in our cosying up to the USA; we are half in and half out of Europe; and we love to knock ourselves, to put ourselves down.

America is already in the early stages of its Uranus-Pluto to Sun-Saturn transit. And it seems to be turning the country in on itself. A President without the hunger to rule (as the first TV debate showed.) A long economic recession and big debt problems. And perhaps most importantly, a gridlocked Congress, unable to rule the country effectively, to make the changes that are needed. Putting political disagreement before the national interest, a sign of decadence, of a country that doesn’t mean business anymore, that doesn’t believe in itself like it used to.

Don’t take this wrong. I’m not slagging off America, though some readers are bound to think I am. I think it may be a good thing. It’s a long, drawn-out grinding process which is in its early stages, but America is I think having to ask itself who it is, what it wants.

For now, I think we are likely to see continuing and even increasing deadlock in Congress, brought about primarily by an increasingly threatened and reactionary Republican Party. Pluto will be exactly opposite the US Sun in 2014, half way through Obama’s second term. It may be that the next few years will be characterised by a growing sense of political crisis, due to deadlock. By the time Uranus-Pluto has well and truly finished with the US Sun-Saturn in 5 or 6 years’ time, China will probably be almost on a par with the US economically, and asserting the power that comes with that.

America will have to adjust to being Number Two in the world. This still isn’t bad for a Sun square Saturn, it’s do-able. But it will necessitate a philosophical change, a change in the US’s belief system that insists that it has to be number One. With natal Sun conjunct to Jupiter, and Sagittarius Rising (which Neptune will start to square in a year or two), the US’s beliefs about itself are unusually strong and religiously toned, but are being gradually re-defined. It may involve a move away from valuing itself because it is ‘better’ than everyone else, towards the homely Cancerian virtues (Sun, Jupiter and Venus in Cancer) – taking care of its own people, valuing the homeland for what it is. 'Failure' is often where we learn most, rather than success.

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