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.