Confusion in the People
Navigating the Tides of Change
This Carter Memorial Lecture was first given to the English Astrological Association's annual conference on the 29th August, 2003 in York, England
Astrologers everywhere are living in a heightened state of awareness this year because Uranus is changing signs. Even more interesting, it is entering into mutual reception with Neptune. We are all looking for clues in history, watching the news, and observing each other and ourselves for signs of the new conditions we might expect. For an astrologer the pleasure of this leads to the work of translating what we discover into every chart we do; bringing the patterns of the outer planets with their sweeping, collective stories right into the heart of personal lives. We are the navigators, reading the winds and tides for those who call on our skill and art.
On the 10th of March this year (2003), Uranus went into Pisces. Along with most other astrologers in the Western world, I had been tuning myself to this event for months before it occurred. This is the picture I have by my desk, to honour this transit. It is Hokusai’s The Great Wave. The book from which I took this picture says that the print was made from the original woodblock in 1836. Uranus was in Pisces. In fact, it was the last mutual reception with Neptune before our own. It’s a beautiful image, and the interesting thing about it is that you can look at it and see an exhilarating and joyous image or you can see a frightening one. You can start out seeing it one way and then turn it into the other. Whichever way you see it has more to do with how you see, than the image itself. But you can go farther with it too: how would feel if you were in one of those boats? Would it be frightening? Ecstatic? Will the people in the boats survive the ride through the wave? Probably, but there’s always a risk in wild water.
While researching the periods of Uranus in Pisces, I began noticing where Neptune and Pluto were too. It was in Aries during the transit I have just been speaking about. We’ll look again at this period later. I’ve noticed that looking at Uranus in Pisces transits against the background of Neptune and Pluto during each cycle has helped to get a deeper impression of it - like seeing a new friend in different circumstances, rather than in isolation all the time.
But let me begin with something personal.
Twenty years ago, on the 23rd of August 1983, I came here from Africa, looking for an astrological community. I’d been living there for 12 years. During the first seven years I’d belonged to a small museum dedicated to the preservation of tribal lore, particularly the traditions and practices of the sangomas of Southern Africa. We were an odd community in apartheid South Africa – tribal healers and diviners working with a group of Europeans to transcribe, record and preserve sacred traditions before they were lost to the encroaching modern world. During those years I began my own practice as an astrologer, and spent hours and days with the sangomas, trading stories about how we each ‘worked with the spirits.’
Towards the end of the ‘70s that community dissolved, due to fateful circumstances, not to do with apartheid. I became a full time astrologer. I looked around for other astrologers and eventually discovered a few around the country. Each time we met, it was fascinating. They were all older than me and very "old school." I’d learned astrology in America in the 1960s and those English trained astrologers of an earlier generation and I had a rather careful conversation. However, though these meetings were infrequent, the stimulation was exciting enough to unsettle me. Once, in the mid 1970s I came to London for a few weeks. I attended a few lectures, met a few astrologers, and spent hours and hours in Watkins Bookshop. I met Liz Greene for the first time and had one of the most exciting conversations I had ever had in my life. When I returned to Africa – though glad to be back in its vast beauty - the longing for astrological conversation of the kind I’d had in England took deep root in my soul.
In 1983, returning to live here, my aim was to find the astrological community. I joined the British Library, beginning my own course of study into the history of our art. I built up a clientele and began to practice. I went to every lecture I could find, and explored conversations with every astrologer I met. During those early years, I met many of the astrologers who would one day be my friends and colleagues. Home was transforming itself out of Africa and into England and I began to get a sense of the community I had been seeking.
By early 1985 I was part of a new Latin translation group run by Graeme Tobyn of the Company of Astrologers and embedded in the British Library, two and a half days a week.
It was there that I read about a Sanskrit dictionary of synonyms called the Abhidhanacintamaninamamala.
This is a sophisticated tool for poets and religious writers and it hones imagination in unexpected ways for anyone who uses it seriously. Recently I found a note in my desk saying that it was written in 1170 - during a Uranus in Pisces transit. Pluto was in Gemini during that time and Neptune in Capricorn – a time of longing for order, and the mapping of new ways of articulating images.
As I was working my way towards this Carter Memorial Lecture with an eye towards Uranus in Pisces and its coming mutual reception with Neptune in Aquarius, I found myself thinking about community. It seems a good time to reflect on this as Saturn is also in Cancer, drawing us into our corners, working to feel safe, with the mutual reception sweeping us in and out of each other’s worlds whether we like it or not. Many of the most dedicated astrologers I know consider that they’re not really part of the astrological community; they feel like outsiders in this outsider community. During this transit our individual reflections on the nature of community – and particularly our community – might be fruitful in ways we can’t yet imagine.
So today I would like to ask: what do we have in common, all of us here and all of our colleagues around the world? What binds us together, in spite of our infinite variety? And what about Uranus in Pisces? How will we give it substance as it moves through our charts over the next seven years? I’d like to give you my thoughts about this, more to animate your own, than to convince you of mine.
But first what do I mean by community? The Latin root of the word community is communis. Unsurprisingly it means "common" but it also includes the concepts "universal" and "public." Put very simply it is a group of people from the public who have something in common, and that something has a universal quality. A village always used to be a community, it shared locality. But in the modern world sharing locality does not necessarily mean sharing a central idea, a universal, as it did in earlier times, or in pre-industrial cultures. When communities share localities, outsiders are immediately recognised and treated with care; sometimes embraced, sometimes rejected. Monasteries and prisons and hospitals are communities and share locality. They each share a central organising principle; monasteries contain people who are dedicated to the practice of sacred ritual; prisoners share the central idea that they are being punished for crimes against society; and people in hospitals share the notion that it is a place of healing.
Without locality, communities are very fluid entities and today we are all woven into more than one community. Potters and biologists and entomologists and physicists and footballers and environmentalists and TM meditators and antiquarians and filmmakers each have their local and international communities. People who work for large corporations belong to very powerful international communities and, oddly enough, tend to end up looking like each other. Strangers who unknowingly belong to the same community may meet by chance in airports or supermarket queues, busses and trains. They recognise each other quickly, no matter where they come from, and end up knowing many people in common. Twice I’ve met people sitting on platforms of the Underground - once in London and once in New York. Both times I was looking at a 15th century Latin text – those square charts that you have to squint at to see - and the person sitting next to me recognised it as an astrological chart. We were soon deep into conversation. We were part of the astrological community. The woman in London and I had heard of each other, we just hadn’t met. The man in New York and I had never heard of each other but we had at least 15 people in common.
This community, this English community of astrologers has its roots deep in history and its branches full and thick with all of us today breathing this common air. The conversations we have with each other in private and in public go back thousands of years. In some very long ago beginning, men and women, wherever they were, looked up at the stars above and saw them melting into patterns. These patterns evolved, through observation and conversation, into consensual forms. Some of these became our zodiac; the pathway through which we watched our planets and luminaries as they travelled their predictable cycles through our night sky. We looked up to the planets and stars and we looked down at terrestrial events for centuries, noting correspondences and handing them down through the generations.
We developed technology (the astrolabe seen here) and we developed notions about each planet, each placement, each relationship. And because the planets are physically present and have visible attributes and regular cycles, our observations led us to derive meaning from them. The quick moving and elusive Mercury; beautiful morning and evening Venus, the fiery Mars, its colour the colour of blood; remote Saturn, moving so slowly that it paralleled the processes of an entire life. As we saw correspondences, we added meaning to each planet. Our evolving and changing cultures continuously tempered those meanings without destroying the mysterious something that made Mars Mars and Venus Venus. In the last 300 years our technology has given us longer vision and we have added Uranus, Neptune and Pluto to our celestial family. These ‘new’ planets are still controversial in many quarters. Some of us don’t even consider them in the chart. Others ponder and debate over their rulerships. And others have taken them right into the heart of their astrology, using them as navigational indicators, sometimes almost forgetting the impact of the ‘older’ planets. But for all this there is something in the heart that is common to us all, from those first men and women to all of us sitting here today and all our colleagues across the world: We all share a central idea – that the stars in their courses above are connected to the courses of our lives here on Earth below. That is as true today as it was 3000 or 10,000 years ago. This is something our whole community everywhere has in common.
There is a second thing we share with each other; our passion for navigation and the charts and maps and tables that tell us where the planets are; where they have been and will be. This is a lifelong pursuit for astrologers; the oldest and most experienced among us are always finding something new, interesting and potentially useful. We never stop seeking knowledge of our art. Just as the old sea and desert navigators read the stars and drew and shared charts with each other, just as they pondered the weather and the tides, so do we endlessly read our charts and ponder the weather and tides. But for us it is the weather and tides of human affairs. We use the stars to guide the ships and caravans of people’s lives across the seas and deserts they must cross. Sometimes we work from the inside to the outside; "This transitting Saturn in Cancer in your sixth house indicates you might be susceptible to colds this winter, so pay attention to health routines." Sometimes we read from the outside to the inside; "Your kitchen or workroom may need repair this winter, so pay attention to your appliances and plumbing so you will be prepared." Sometimes we work directly into the psyche: "Attend rituals in your home, the workroom of your soul is under construction." We all develop our ways of translating these things. But don’t we all have the same aim? Every one of us here, no matter how experienced or inexperienced is looking to the stars for navigation.
The timid amongst us use their knowledge of astrology only to navigate their own lives. The boldest amongst us make vast predictions, giving advice in public and in print, on how to navigate the social conditions arising. Some simply make the predictions and leave it to us to seek our way to safety - but that is rare today. The rest of us pour over the charts of our friends and family and clients, looking at the transits and progressions to see what they might signify. We work slowly or quickly, depending on our natures and our experience. But we’re always looking at the stars and their every changing configurations to see how we might find our way here on earth. That’s what navigators do: they read their charts to find the best possible route, whatever the circumstances.
Do you know that Henry the Navigator set up his navigation school in 1419? Uranus was in Pisces, Neptune was in Cancer and Pluto in Gemini and map making became an obsession. Prince Henry was a key figure in the sea journeys that headed out from Portugal, then Spain, to eventually discover unimaginable inhabited worlds; and that the world was round. Two years later in China, the loyal eunuch admirals of Emperor Zhu Di set out in the largest fleet ever to sail. Their mission was to unite the whole world in Confucian harmony. But, by the time they returned, Zhu Di had lost control and China was closing its doors to the outside world. The ships rotted in the harbour and the records were all lost. With Neptune transitting Cancer the longing for ‘one world’ ended in disillusionment for this visionary.
So, we are a community of navigators, using the stars to aid our clients, families, friends and ourselves to find our way through life. We study our charts, alone and together, forming alliances with others that think as we do, having rifts and battles with people who think differently, squabbling and making up and hating and loving each other. Each encounter forming and dissolving new and old groups, young people getting older and new young people coming in – the same as any community. But also different to other communities because of the mystery and sacredness of our work. We have an unspoken rule, never to name a client, never to reveal their secrets. We are navigators, but we are working with peoples’ souls. We cannot put up a list of the ships and caravans we’ve taken across the seas and deserts. Those who break this rule of privacy shame the rest of us, or so I think.
We look up to the stars and down to the earth. We are bound together by our fascination with the forming and dissolving patterns made by the planets and constellations and the meanings we find when we connect these ever changing arrangements to events here on earth. We enjoy, appreciate, dislike, judge and are judged by each other. We talk to each other, influence each other, and develop our ideas with and in opposition to each other. We give form to particular notions. These notions take shape and influence not only ourselves, but also the people who consult us, the people who read our books, articles and even Sun-sign columns. As we discuss with our friends and clients what the planets mean - in whatever way we do that - so we develop our images and meanings further. We have our opinions, our attitudes, our ideas about how we should practise this art. Some of us think everyone who disagrees with us is bad, wrong, stupid, dangerous. Others – usually newer members of the community - wander around fascinated with all the ways we can do astrology. Sometimes we are threatened by our differences, sometimes intrigued. But when I do this [put a chart up] every one of us is galvanised, every one attentive.
This is what we have in common. I will show you this chart again later.
And this points to the third thing we have in common. We are all Lovers of our art. In The Myth of Analysis (on page 70) James Hillman says of Eros, "Eros connects the personal to something beyond and brings the beyond into personal experience." When I put up that chart, we all start to connect, with the chart, with each other, with the person behind the chart. "Eros connects the personal to something beyond and brings the beyond into personal experience." We may have other more complicated motives for doing astrology, each according to our psychology, but nothing could keep us at it if it were not soul food; if it were not Love. Love is the daimon, the "mighty daimon" which connects. Eros is, of course, associated with Hermes in his role as communicator and as psychopomp. When you look at a chart, you are taken out of the mundane world and into the imaginal world where connection and meaning emerge; when you start to describe what you see, you can see why the great god Hermes was astrology’s god. The art is not only seeing; it is translating what we see. We all struggle with this; we all recognise the struggle. We study this art, and suddenly one day, we are caught. Because Hermes stands behind us, and Love holds us, we find we are in service to astrology whether we like it or not.
This erotic connection to one’s art isn’t unique to astrology. A few years ago there was a documentary on TV about an obscure mathematical problem called Fermat’s Last Equation, which had to do with some mystery around prime numbers. It was almost completely incomprehensible, but riveting because of the deep connection – the erotic connection - each mathematician obviously had with his subject. When love for the subject touches the soul, it is Eros; the imagination is nourished. And you can recognise another person who has this connection. It had nothing to do with age or gender or race or culture or size or conventional beauty or conventional intelligence. It is simply there.
Whether you make your living by it or not, whether you know the charts of your family or even yourself, or not, whether you even think you know what you’re doing, or not; if you simply have to do it, then you are a true astrologer and your contribution to astrology may be as real as any popular, prolific or well-known or even great astrologer, dead or alive. Eros lives in your inner world.
Some are in the early stages; it is still romantic love. But most of us are past the romantic stage - it is just part of our lives. Of course there are as many ways of living out this love as there are lovers. Some of us are jealous lovers; we cannot bear that others may receive true inspiration to practise their way, however different it is to ours. Some of us are insecure lovers; we cannot trust the images and ideas that arise from our contemplation of the stars. Some of us are proud; we’re sure that every idea that comes from our watching the stars is the true and right interpretation. Some of us are private; only a few people know that we are stargazers. Some of us are very public; we share with anyone who will listen, the latest news from our starry heavens, the latest inspiration, images, ideas.
Eros weaves us into each other’s lives. We recognise in each other this passion for the art; this soul connection, beyond reason. Those who don’t have it at the core of their hearts aren’t truly nourished by their studies and so must give it up. They come to it wanting something, and when it doesn’t deliver, or only delivers sporadically, they turn away in anger or sadness and go elsewhere to find what they are seeking. All of us here have come to it wanting something, but by the time we found out that it wouldn’t give us what we wanted, we were caught by Love.
What happened to you when you first found out that astrology could let you down – that you anticipated an aspect and it turned out completely differently? In fact, the good you had been anticipating - we are of course talking about Jupiter transits - turned out to be so much more difficult than you could have ever anticipated. How did you feel the day or year you found out that astrology wouldn’t necessarity make you happy? It wouldn’t give you the answers that you fell in love with it for? When was the first time you felt betrayed by astrology? And what about the fact that most people think astrology is nonsense, dangerous nonsense or even worse, harmless nonsense?
If you’ve experienced any of this and you’re still doing astrology, then you are part of this community. Your love for astrology is such that other people feel it too, no matter what their heads tell them about it. You look up to the ever-changing patterns in the heavens and down to the daily events on earth. You try to understand what this or that pattern might mean and therefore, how to navigate by it. You can never lose the awareness for long that your community is considered, by outsiders, part of the shadow world. There are even rules which determine that it can’t be taken seriously on television in this country. And yet, it is alive in your soul. All of these things go along with loving, if it is astrology you love. This is a community of lovers. And because of this you have an effect on the people who aren’t of this community of lovers, but only know astrology through you.
So we have in common these three things which are woven together in our souls and make us astrologers in communion with all other astrologers in all ages and cultures; we are fascinated by the correspondences between the celestial bodies and terrestrial events; we are in love with our art, and our art is the art of navigation by the stars.
Now in the same way that lovers always have events that heighten their excitement for each other and for life, so do astrologers have events that heighten our excitement for our art and for life. For us, one of the big events is an ingress! We become more aware of life around us as we watch for clues of the new conditions on earth corresponding with the new condition in our starry skies. The Sun, Moon and personal planets cause excitement for some of us some of the time; Jupiter is always an event [though in Virgo perhaps a quiet event] and, of course, Saturn going into a new sign is pretty hot news for just about everyone. We spend lots of time speculating in public about what it might mean to our social orders. In private we wonder what Saturn might signify to ourselves. For those of us who navigate for other people it’s a big factor as we watch it slip into a new area of our clients’ lives, bringing its strippers and thinners, its measuring tools and stress gauges, its integrity checkers, scanning every corner of the world it represents in the sky and in our charts.
The Saturn ingresses every two and a half years can always be used to explore the interface between our personal life and our shared societal life – what goes on at the boundary. Working with it this way has become especially useful as we’ve been linked up by technology through Uranus and Neptune in the higher and shared Aquarian parts of our brain.
But what has been really capturing the Western astrological imagination is the Uranus in Pisces ingress. We’ve had the first moments of it, and now we can reflect, while it’s slipped back into Aquarius. Soon it’s seven year transit through the most elusive of signs will begin in earnest.
We, who are in thrall to this mysterious and ancient art, have experienced its blinding correspondences and its frustrating elusiveness; we who are continually intrigued by its subtlety and humour and the occasional perfect accuracy, are all tuning ourselves to this emerging chord in our ever developing symphony. We are all watching the patterns that form and dissolve and form anew in our behaviour and interactions here on earth. We are dedicated observers of how the great above relates to the great below – or perhaps how they influence each other.
Through conversations, articles and emails we have all been trading insights with each other. Astrologers all over the world have been finding patterns and themes that appear in history each time Uranus melts and reforms out of Aquarius’ cold clear air into Pisces ever mutating waters. You just have to say a date to a history buff and you get another list of events, insights, connections. Do you know that Prohibition, began on the 16th of January 1920. Uranus had already gone into Pisces and was back in Aquarius for a few months – just like now. Look at how the anti-smoking campaign is sweeping the Western world. Do you know there are already ‘smoke-easies’ in New York? I wonder what Aquarian ideals will turn into law before the end of December, when Uranus finally leaves Aquarius?
So, we’ve all been watching for inner and outer events which resonate with the symbolic event we call Uranus in Pisces; we’ve been noticing our husbands, wives, lovers, friends, mothers, fathers, children, leaders, employers, employees, and neighbour from heaven or hell. All of us who share a love of history as part of our love of astrology have been hunting through journals and books and encyclopediae, watching documentaries, going to exhibitions; jumping 84 years back from each transit. We’ve been trawling our collective memory and getting information from anyone we know who was born in the early years of the century. Our eyes have by now become attuned to things, which echo other periods of this transit. I loved the ‘co-incidence’ of the Art Deco exhibition at the V & A earlier this year. Art Deco was part of the last transit of Uranus through Pisces, from 1919-1927. That period was certainly full of paradox. Those who had survived the first World War were unknowingly riding a wave that would lead to the next World War. Pluto was in Cancer and families and national identities were heading for devastating ‘transformation’. It was an in-between world, though most people didn’t know that at the time. It was a time of extremes, great intensity and creativity – Neptune in Leo. Depression was all around. Dress up, be stylish, have fun, or slide into dark memories of the war; slip into the impending build-up of the next war.
Live for music and dancing and romance. Both Surrealism and Art Deco were born and thrived during that time. In fact, Art Deco was inaugurated at the 1925 Paris Exhibition and swept the world, from rich to poor from Tokyo to Chicago. Everything from ash trays to clothes to building and ships fell to its stream-lined designs. And along with it, short skirts and bobbed hair. And in America, the fox trot, prohibition, bootleggers and speakeasies; jazz and blues and swing (When Louis Armstrong was asked "What is swing?" he said, "If you have to ask, you’ll never know.") Quantum Mechanics was developed through that Uranus in Pisces transit. It includes Heisenberg’s Uncertainty principle [the position and momentum of a sub-atomic particle cannot be known simultaneously] and Neil Bohr’s theory of complementarity, [the paradox that electrons can ‘appear’ either as particles or as waves, depending on the experimental viewpoint. Of course they do not ‘appear’ at all, being invisible]. When Neils Bohr was asked about quantum mechanics, he said, "Those who are not shocked when they come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it."
Which may be said about astrology too. We are having our Uranus in Pisces time while Neptune is in Aquarius - in opposition to its 1920s transit. I don’t imagine we will have the high romance, style and artistic flair of the 20s, but neither the bitter disenchantment with our leaders. It’s too late for that; we’re beyond disillusionment with people in power. It’s now our ideals, our ideas we have to watch. It is a time of great confusion in the people; and since Pluto went into Sagittarius seven years ago, our belief in a happy future, our belief in anything grand or glorious has generally slid away into obscurity. The notion of paradise, heaven on earth or anywhere else, has gone underground.
But I sometimes pause and ask myself: what is this event that we are celebrating here called Uranus in Pisces? It doesn’t correspond to what the astronomers call Uranus in Pisces. It doesn’t have a place within the current scientific paradigm. And yet, as we observe each other and ourselves over the next few years, we will see it everywhere. We will notice the ideas that have been fixed into our culture through Uranus in Aquarius arising in odd juxtapositions everywhere in our lives; in the media, in fashion, in the shops, cafes and clubs, in the cinema, in galleries and museums and concert halls, and in our new unpredictable technologies.
Reality TV was born as an experimental idea with Uranus in Aquarius. Now it is sweeping the world. Every new version which succeeds in one country, instantly appears in several others. From America to Japan all of the women who take Ann Robinson’s role in "The Weakest Link" also copy her hair cut, her clothes, her voice and her glasses!
Of course we’ll see Uranus in Pisces taking form in our own and each other’s charts. As we see traces of it, we will more and more define and locate it. As we locate it, we will see it more clearly. The emerging traces will deepen and gain substance as we describe it to each other and the people for whom we are ‘the astrologer.’ Its field is already appearing in advertisements in the street, the cinema and TV. Sometime in May I was going through one of those long tunnels in the tube system in Lonodon and I saw my first ad with its mark on it – a fish man, swimming upwards towards a beer or deodorant or mobile phone. Since then I’ve become aware of how often water is seeping into advertising. I thought of the conversation I’d had the previous week on Uranus in Pisces with a client who designed TV ads. I wondered if another astrologer had had a similar conversation with the client who designed this ad. I know that we do charts for just about everybody. And as we develop the images and ideas each planet inspires as it moves through its dance in the heavens, so these ideas slip into the various worlds we share. We are certainly co-creators in that sense.
During the whole of this Uranus in Pisces transit, Neptune will be in Aquarius; in mutual reception with it. Through this mutual reception we may each see more clearly how our personal decisions connect to our collective affairs. We all swim as individuals, in and out of so many different communities every day - one moment particle and the next wave. The individual and the community constantly weave new patterns and we are very much a part of it. However, as astrologers we have our celestial perspective.
This mutual reception is the only the fourth in about 5,000 years. Roy Gillett's article in the Spring AA Journal made me aware how rare these are. The previous three were both in the last 500 years. There will be two more in the next 250 years and then not another for almost 3,000 years.
As we all explore our environment, history, people, and look for things which resonate with the notions that emerge out of our contemplation, the trace deepens until it’s recognisable. Each chart we study inspires new ways of saying and therefore seeing it. For us Uranus in Pisces is an imaginal event which begins to attain substance and objectivity through our multi-layered interactions with it. By analogy, I am thinking of the emergence of Quantum Mechanics again, during the last transit of Uranus in Pisces. During those seven years this ‘new science’ of the invisible entered reality. In the latest A.A. Journal Rick Levine spoke about the particle-wave paradox, which we’ve got used to now almost as an old riddle. It has filtered down layers and slid right into our thinking so that we now speak of not ‘either/or’, but ‘both/and’. We can think about the mutual reception between Uranus in Pisces and Neptune in Aquarius this way – Uranus our particle-self in the sea of Pisces and Neptune our boundless wave-self washing through the individual particles we all are in Aquarius. Wave and particle slipping in and out of each other; suddenly an individual being swept into a dream – wave into wave; perhaps a sudden absence of conscious awareness into something more subtle and elusive, and then swept back again. Something coming out of the fog, the mist of half-consciousness into awareness which opens up a larger awareness. So many strange juxtapositions slipping through into public awareness and then sliding out again, to reappear later, with this mutual reception. We are all separate individuals, each with our own congruent universe as we clash and exchange breath and fluids and inspiration while keeping our material forms. Yet we are waves, a wave of humanity racing along the currents created by forces beyond our understanding. In our community we are giving substance to a configuration we call Uranus in Pisces and we are evolving notions of what it will signify for each of our separate selves and for our wave selves in the ocean of history.
Chaos and complexity theory have been developing behind the scenes for 40 years now. They could not have arisen without the radical breakthrough in thinking in the 1920s. The wonderful new language emerging seems made for a development in our understanding of astrology during the mutual reception; the notion of co-creation; the notion of emergence; the notion that that all living things tend to live ‘on the edge of chaos’ because it is there that stability and change co-exist. Saturn and Uranus; fall into one and life freezes, fall into the other and it’s anarchy. Life emerging into the Aquarian Age.
There is the notion in chaos and complexity theory – especially as applied to weather predicting - that a large event can be traced back to the tiniest movement far away. Large systems and small systems are inextricably woven together. The half humourous notion that a butterfly stirring the air in Peking may be related to a storm over New York the following month, comes from looking at weather patterns with this particular eye. I thought of this in June when Saturn went into Cancer and trined Uranus in Pisces – which was in mutual reception with Neptune in Aquarius. Here were two layers of our reality intertwining and depending on each other. The two dimensions flowed in and out of each other for a few months right at the beginning of the mutual reception: small systems and large systems registering each other. Again I’m thinking of those reality TV programs where ‘real’ and ‘ordinary’ people invite strangers right into their private lives, their homes and we, the invisible world out there, watch from behind the scenes. As we watch them, so their behaviour affects us in ways we don’t even register. I recently listened to a morning chat program on the radio. Garden center owners were complaining about all those TV garden shows which were making their customers so demanding now, and so quasi-knowlegable.
The boundaries between fact and fiction, the real and unreal are melting and reforming. In ways we cannot predict or imagine, we are slipping into a new paradigm, or so it might seem, when one day we look back from the future.
So now let’s look at the periods of mutual reception. This table, which you can all find at the back of the room after this talk, gives the position of Neptune and Pluto too. If you investigate one or another of the periods, check the exact dates, as one or the other of them might have moved at the borders of the period. I’ve taken this from Michelsen's Table of Planetary Phenonena.
The first mutual reception was between 1506 and 1508. I’ve chosen three people from this short period who are still alive to us today, just by living their personal lives then. Each of them has touched the lives of millions of people from so many different communities all over the world throughout the centuries since their time. As you can see, the mutual reception was very brief. Neptune went into Aquarius when Uranus was already two-thirds of the way through. But, in some ways, this is the most resonant period, because, like now, Pluto was in Sagittarius. Look at this chart – it’s the one I showed you earlier. I showed it before almost as a trick. Look at the outer planets: Pluto in Leo, Neptune in Libra, Uranus in Cancer, Saturn in Libra, and Jupiter conjunct the Moon in Pisces. Now this could be a chart from February 1951, but aren’t Saturn and Neptune a bit too far into Libra here? In fact, this is the chart of Leonardo daVinci, who was born in 1452. This period in history parallels our own very closely through the outer planets. Of course the outer planets were ‘silent’ then, in the sense that they had not been discovered and so were deeply unconscious. Yet we can see them working, from this distance.
Chart of Leonardo: 14 April 1452OS: 9:37pm: Vinci, Italy. 43N47 01E55
The Mona Lisa, which has been viewed by so many millions of people from all cultures of the world, is said to have been finished in 1506. By that time Leonardo was living far from the man who had commissioned it and we don’t know why it was still in his possession. In fact, it remained in his possession for the rest of his life. He carried it around with him everywhere. Between 1506-08 he wrote several treatises. Two were on chiaroscuro – the ‘light and shadow’ principle he’d been developing in his paintings. Another was on the Moon as illumination. The Mona Lisa was famous even when it was being painted – artists used to come and look at it for inspiration.
How is it that an individual human woman, painted in a mix of a purely conventional and a radically unconventional style has become one of the most familiar faces in the Western world? Most of the obvious questions have been answered – though we all know enough about experts to know that new evidence can emerge at any moment to disprove the latest truth. But why he kept it, we don’t know. The Mona Lisa has slipped in and out of the collective mind for these 500 years, and still people from all over the world go to Paris to stand in front of her gaze. I even know a Zulu sangoma who was taken to Paris and asked to see it. He had a post card of it in his dining room in Soweto in the ‘70s. He told me she was a sangoma from Europe, a long time ago.
Michelangelo: 6 March 1475 OS: 1:45: Caprese, Italy. 43N39 11E59
He began a fierce collaboration with Pope Julius II in 1506, the year the foundation stone was laid for St. Peter’s in Rome, and he was commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel that same year. Uranus was there, on his Mars Sun in Pisces. The Sistine Chapel is one of the most powerful magnets in the world, and has been since its creation, attracting people from all over the world since its completion. And it was built during a time of such papal corruption and hatred of priests that the Church’s absolute power over lives and souls was about to be smashed into pieces. But the forces which were to do this were still in the shadows; Luther became a monk in 1506 and was chosen for the priesthood in 1507, but was not finding the peace he’d expected.
The third person is one of my favourites, and many of you have seen this chart before.
Nicolaus Copernicus: 19 February 1473OS: 5:04pm: Toron, Poland 53N02 18E35
He began his education in Krakow in 1491, with canon law. He continued his studies in Italy and by the time he returned in 1506, according to one of his biographers, he possessed "all the knowledge of the day in mathematics astronomy medicine and theology". He had been influenced by the humanists and by the neoPlatonists and had read everything available from the early Greeks, many of whom were heliocentrists. After 1506, he lived in the same rooms for the next 30 years. He was known locally as a physician but spent all of his spare time developing into mathematics his intuition that we were on a moving earth going round the Sun.
This period, 1506-1508, was so brief, but it was the centre point of an era in which some very significant collective notions were changed forever. Saturn was in Leo for most of the mutual reception and so I think I am justified in showing you two great artists, and a man who gave the Sun its rightful place in our perceptions of the universe. During this mutual reception our embedded collective assumptions about reality were fragmenting, and out of the mists of non-time new insights changed the world in inconceivable ways. It is not possible today to imagine the leap we had to make, against all sense and sense experience, to believe that the two great orbs in the sky, the Sun and Moon - both the same size - were not circling us on this flat world which was the centre of the universe. In fact, we were going round one, and the other was going round us.
This went so far against common sense that I think we haven’t quite recovered from it 500 years later. With Pluto in Sagittarius, then as now, we had come to the end of knowledge and its authority and with the mutual reception everyone had uncontrolled access to information and images and ideas; because books were a new phenonema and absolutely everywhere. In 1502 the Pope had ordered the burning of all books which questioned papal authority. It proved impossible, and was given up by the time of the mutual reception. Then, as now, the people had access to the collective and for awhile things got very confused. But the confusion was a transition, and those who rode its waves, found themselves in a world they could not have imagined. Then, as now, the old probably hated it, and the young loved it. Some things don’t change.
The next mutual reception was longer in time. It took place against the backdrop of Pluto in Cancer and lasted around five years, between 1670 and 1675. Saturn was with Uranus in Pisces for the first two and a half years. There were so many people working ‘behind the scenes’ in ways which would affect us all.
In Holland, a town custodian named Leewenhoek, obsessively ground glass to make a very fine microscope in which he saw minute organisms of all kinds scurrying round, some of which were later named bacteria. His systematic study of these living organisms paved the way for later scientists who showed these microbes to be living and able to cause disease.
In France, Pascal wrote his Pensee laying the foundation for the modern theory of probabilities (Pascal’s law of pressure). He propounded a theory that taught that God could be known through the heart, rather than reason – his principle of intuitionism. He rejected Descartes tightly woven rationalism and said it was pride to assume we could explain God or even humanity. He said that man, composed of body and mind was a paradox and a contradiction – in this we can hear "not either/or, more both/and". With Neptune in Aquarius and its two rulers, Saturn and Uranus in Pisces so much of what arose out of the mists would seed trails that flowered centuries later. Both Newton and Spinoza, two profoundly lonely men, were working behind the scenes in ways that would filter through into all our lives. Spinoza was ‘proving’ - the way philosophers do - that the universe IS God, and Newton was contemplating his way towards the laws which would describe how it all works.
In Germany two people were doing their seed work too. Otto von Guericke had created the first machine for producing an electric charge. This led to what we take for granted; the electrification of our world with all its ambiguous gifts and charms.
Also in Germany Leibnitz was inventing a calculating machine capable of multiplying, dividing, and extracting square roots. He also pioneered the development of mathematical logic. The experiments of these two Germans flashed into the world and eventually led to the machines that have changed our lives in the last 10 years. We can only watch the next few years with fascination to see how these machines are embedded even further into our lives. Mobile phones are already reminding me of Star Treks tri-corders!
By the time of the last mutual reception before the ourspresent, between 1835 and early 1843, the whole world was poised to be joined up. The inventions/discoveries of air-conditioning and refrigeration changed our world and allowed us to voyage much farther and more safely than we were ever able to before. The first white missionary women crossed North America to the Pacific and the first emigrant waggon train trekked a dangerous 2000 miles to Oregon. The first railways crossed Russia, Europe, Canada. Japanese ports opened to foreign trade for the first time in centuries. The Britannia made her first transatlantic voyage. The Cunard line opened for regular trips between the US and Great Britian. And the first large, iron-hulled screw-driven steamship sailed the North Atlantic. Pluto was in Aries!
All this moving about was aided by the invention of the Morse Code in 1837. The little twist on this is that it might have been devised by the assistant of Sameul Morse, Alfred Vail. A mystery that has, as far as I know, never been completely cleared up.
And so here we are today. We are all joined up across the globe by our new technology, in a fundamentally new way. Everywhere on the planet people are worrying about the future because we have too much information and not yet enough wisdom or knowledge to work together with nature for the good of the whole. We are at the end of a world view, slipping into a new paradigm, all being woven together, one minute particles, the next wave. I keep wondering how the new brands of popular TV will evolve during the mutual reception. How will they weave into our engagement with the internet? During the blackout in NY a friend said she had to listen to her car radio for news. She hadn’t had to listen to conventional news programs in so long they sounded contrived to her, made up, like propaganda. And what about our engagement with the environment? More and more things which start small and local end up sweeping the world now. Like weather – a small wind here, and a week later a tornado in Texas. Some of these things will profoundly effect our collective and therefore personal lives. Like Reality TV, which is hugely popular, compelling, trivial. It signify something much more profound than itself. We have our homes and families, our Cancerian worlds, but they are now fed by and feeding the mass of humanity which is usually ‘out there’ beyond our closed doors. The waters of Cancer and Pisces feeding each other through Saturn and Uranus at the start of the mutual reception. Now with Uranus back into Aquarius there is a final chance to set its ideas in motion, and then the long mutual reception during which we both sink and swim into a new era. The beauty of the equation: the distress of people ‘overwhelmed’ by ‘too much’ of everything, or not enough of anything. The difficulty of trying to see clearly enough to help each person who comes for navigational advice.
The Star Trek world was born out of the fruitful imagination of Gene Roddenbery in the 1960s.
Gene Roddenbery: 19 August, 1921. 1:35am El Paso, Texas: 31N45, 106W29
The Uranus Pluto conjunction was on his IC. He had Uranus conjunct the Moon in Pisces in the 9th! It has gone through so many different versions and gotten us used to the notion of other sentient life forms inhabiting our universe. Now every other TV program deals with various forms of life in various dimensions weaving in and out of our Newtonian ruled world. There has been a wave of programs on TV since March which shows people with non-conventional forms; faces and bodies that used to be called ‘deformed’; but seem less alien now. Some of them are using the times to find ways to get their unusual faces and bodies reshaped into more ‘normal’ forms. Others are using the times to change society’s perceptions about how we should look. The unexpected sudden appearance, inclusion of people who have been languishing in the shadows seems to be a marked feature of this mutual reception. The Aquarian paradox; we all want to be accepted as we are, but we cannot be accepted unless we agree with each other on things that we cannot possibly agree on without changing into something else.
So many notions, images and ideas will arise into and fall out of our conversations during this chaotic and interesting time, over the next few years. In 2011 the mutual reception will be past, and Pluto will already be in Capricorn. We will have a new place in the de-structuring and restructuring of our communities. But we are here now, and for the next seven years we will apply ourselves to navigating the strange and sometimes unreal world within and outside, ‘on the edge of chaos’ where all life happens. We can hide from it, escape into cynicism and mistrust, or we can use our always inadequate skills to keep ourselves and those who come to us afloat and alive with humanity, no matter what the external circumstances. This is our work. We are the people who watch the changing configurations in the skies, constantly searching for ways to translate their patterns into meaningful ways to navigate time. No matter how obscure the heavens, we cannot seem to stop searching them for meaning. No matter how confused the people and how confused we get, we cannot seem to stop loving this art. We are the navigators, reading the winds and tides for those who call on our skill and art.
-Darby Costello, September 2003