Ceres has just passed its conjunction with Pluto but Dawn (the unmanned spacecraft) is now orbiting the planet. Given this and our previous experience with the correlation of physical insight into planets coinciding with a similar shift in our collective psychological insight into the planet, I have been thinking more about what Ceres represents. At the same time, given it has been conjunct the planet Pluto at a time when it is making a close square to Uranus, it is hard to separate out the Pluto-Uranus issues from Ceres. Indeed, given the Demeter myth (Demeter was the Greek name for Ceres) and the association with Pluto, it seems difficult to separate the two. This prompted me further to think about the way we interpret charts on a mundane level versus individual birth charts. It occurred to me that when we look at a birth chart we synthesise how all the planets are working together to create the overall personality of the individual whereas with transits we tend to look (or perhaps I do..!) at individual transits more. Thus in considering the current world situation I am interested in the interconnectedness of the outer planets and also Ceres and Chiron.
So let me explain my thinking on one point which I think the Pluto-Uranus square is picking up. In terms of Ceres and interpretation generally, I am wary of attributing planets (and asteroids) to either men or women exclusively. I am more in line with Jung’s interpretation (informed perhaps by his interest in astrology) that men and women contain both masculine and feminine natures. Indeed one has only to look at a chart to see that both men and women’s charts contain all planets and all signs. There isn’t a greater preponderance of male signs and planets in men’s charts or female planets or signs in women’s charts; we cannot tell by looking at a chart whether it is a man’s or woman’s chart. There are just as many women with strong or dominant Jupiter or Mars as men with strong or dominant Moon or Ceres. Thus the archetypes might express male or female energies but I do not think that means that they “belong” or are “exclusive” to men or women. I think for the world in general, without the benefit of Astrology, this is causing significant confusion and is part of Chiron in Pisces and the Pluto-Uranus square.
Back to Ceres/Demeter; I think that a key part of the Demeter myth is that it provides a key to Pluto which echoes other myths such as the Sumerian myth of Ereshkigal In this very Plutonic myth, Inana descends to Ereshkigal’s realm where she usurps Ereshkigal’s throne. There are multiple versions of the myth and in some Ereshkigal is in mourning already for her husband whom Inana is partly responsible for sending to his death. They also suggest that Inana went to ursurp Ereshkigal’s throne through a lust for more power. However most versions are clear that once the judges of the underworld have decided against Ereshkigal she is hung up on a hook like a piece of meat to rot. The key to the myth is that Inana has agreed in advance with her servant that, should she be unsuccessful, he/she (depending on the version of the myth) is to approach a number of gods for help. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to persuade other gods, Enki, the god of wisdom, agrees to help and fashions two mourners to go down to the underworld to grieve with Ereshkigal. Ereshkigal is so moved by the mourners willingness to mourn with her that she grants them whatever they wish and they ask for Inana and restore her body. There are also parallels in that the Descent of Inana into the underworld links to the notion of fertility and the cycle of the seasons as well as the movement of Venus (with whom Inana is associated) from morning star to evening star.
There are strong parallels between this myth and the Ceres/Demeter/Isis myths. In the Isis and Osiris myth Isis weeps and mourns and eventually is able to heal and restore Osiris and in the Demeter myth she weeps and mourns and eventually Persephone is allowed to return from the underworld. Yet in each there is nevertheless a price to pay; in the descent of Inana, her husband replaces her in the underworld; in the Demeter myth, Persephone spends half her time in the underworld and half above ground and in the Isis myth Osiris is restored to life but not fully. What I am wondering is whether the asteroids in general deal with the fact of being human in a world of powerful transpersonal forces – Neptune, Uranus and Pluto. It is about our ability as separate vulnerable individuals to come to terms with the powerful forces that interact with us and render us at times powerless. The inner child in us rages against the unfairness of these events. Yet, these black holes (cf. One Way of Looking at Man by Chrissy Philp) where the universe refuses to conform to our picture of how we think it should be are also the engines for our growth and development and for the evolution of our individual and collective consciousness.
On this level, I think the asteroids are a collective – a planet that did not form – and I also think with their sense of vulnerability, woundedness etc. they are linked to Virgo. Think of trying to keep a house clean – it is a never ending wound. It is the same with the body. All our efforts at good health cannot hold back the process of decay. It is the same with our neuroses; however much we try to work on ourselves our inner-child remains perpetually insecure because it has the consciousness that we are mortal. Yet this constant wounded quality is also the prompt for us to evolve. We work and work to stay alive and to maintain our survival in the face of a world which is in a process of entropy. Yet the product of entropy according to Tom Stonier (Information Theory and the Internal Structure of the Universe) is information. My friend Chrissy’s model of the brain has on the left brain side Scorpio, followed by Taurus, followed by Virgo as you work forward towards the front of the brain. This is a pattern of evolution as it follows our evolutionary consciousness discovering Pluto in the 1930s then Taurus (ruled by the Earth according to Chrissy’s model) when we first ventured into space in the 1960s and then Chiron in 1979. Again according to this pattern the signs link to I-Ching hexagrams and Taurus and Scorpio create the hexagram 18 – Work on what has been Spoiled in the I-Ching. Work on what has been spoiled is about consciousness and the next evolutionary step leads back to Leo or the Sun. In the myth of Chiron, Chiron was the trainer of heroes (Leo). I think we are in the midst of a transition where work is changing from being a means of survival to meaning work on ourselves, on our own development and evolution. Certainly in the formal work context it is now seen less as a job which provides the monetary means for survival and much more as a creative expression and being about the development of our potential.
All the Ceres myths have the ideas of life and death plus mourning and the cycle of the seasons and fertility woven together in them. Taurus and Scorpio bookend the seasons in terms of being the centre of Spring in all its beauty and life and Autumn in all its death and decay. So I think a recognition of the cycles of young life being overtaken by decay and then regeneration to be the fertilisation of new life is central to Ceres. For all of us, these cycles of nature are disturbing and anxiety provoking. For we humans with our self-consciousness which involves knowledge of our own mortality and the mortality of everything in the world it is a painful place to live. We live surrounded by the knowledge of the inevitability of decay and death. Yet also at a subtler level, we have to acquiesce to the pain of life and our inability to prevent suffering since it is the fertiliser of our development and growth. We do not necessarily like this experience – we are like Persephone being led down into the underworld and Demeter grieving her loss. It all seems so unfair and so unnecessary. We are appalled at the current level of death and destruction of the planet yet it seems to be necessary for us to evolve. Darwin, in very Virgoan style, went around the world, studying and cataloguing animals. His discovery was the evolution of the species but it was as much about constant death of species and physical adaptation (Virgo again?).
So how does this apply to our current situation and the Pluto-Uranus cycle? The last major aspect between Pluto and Uranus was the 1960s conjunction with all the upheaval and change that that brought about. The Pluto-Uranus generation are now in their mid 40s to mid 50s and therefore quite dominant in society. The Pluto-Uranus in Virgo conjunction brought a revolution in attitudes towards sex with the stigma of birth outside marriage eradicated and class, gender and race boundaries being brought down. Interestingly Chiron was also in Pisces in the middle of this as well as it is now and so for many of those with the Pluto-Uranus conjunction, they also have Chiron in Pisces. The question of the morality of war was also challenged with protests over the Vietnam war and the first shocking footage of the reality of war (Chiron in Pisces).
Uranus as a planet seems to involve inevitable separation – a splitting. If it is the Creative in I-Ching terms then it can only manifest through the Receptive which creates a binary pair. It allows us to become less identified with things – particular the material (Saturn) – to dissociate. It also allows us to create the duality between subject and object. Uranus is also about enlightenment and the cosmic mind. It is collective awareness. It is no surprise that with the square to Pluto being exact recently the results of a study at Southampton University were published http://www.southampton.ac.uk/mediacentre/news/2014/oct/14_181.shtml#.VOe6eHbexWY
This study’s implications are that awareness is not localised within the body. If this is true and judging by the experiences of those who have experienced Near Death Experiences (NDEs) then awareness is a shared and collective phenomenon which is separate from our physical existence ( http://www.slideshare.net/chrissyphilp/time-part-one-35490207?qid=fd14171b-b0f2-464a-8718-08a945fac1c0&v=qf1&b=&from_search=1).
So what is the relevance of all of this? Since Uranus separates us from things it has a rather nasty shadow or side-effect. When Uranus was first discovered in 1781 revolutionary energy exploded into the collective consciousness. There was the French Revolution, the American war of Independence, the declaration of independence, the Industrial revolution and many more. However, since Uranus separates it also has the danger of polarising. It rules Aquarius and it is very uncomfortable with water (emotion) because it is messy and subjective. Uranus dissociates but in doing so it is unable to recognise its own subjectivity. Hence the Sun is in detriment in Aquarius because Aquarius struggles to see itself as individual and subjective (the essence of the Sun). This is a paradox since it is the fact that we all feel like individuals that makes us the same. Uranus instead identifies with the group. This is fine as long as we identify with the whole of humanity or with consciousness itself, then we are part of everyone. But if we identify with part of consciousness then there are huge dangers. Thus the mob in Paris identified with being the proletariat and it wasn’t interested in how individual aristocrats (or later anyone opposing the revolution) had behaved, anyone it disliked was condemned by the mob and their head was chopped off. At its worst Uranus is this mob mentality, quick to judge and condemn others on principle and concerned with equality above all. Communism was concerned with this notion of equality and human rights and principles yet it became stiflingly grey and repressive of individuals, whilst at the same time covertly creating huge differences between people. Beauty, freedom of individual expression and any questioning of the party was quickly punished. Talking openly and questioning the ideology was dangerous in the extreme.
Many of the things which came to prominence under the Pluto-Uranus square are now reaching a point of crisis. In the 1960s, there was the rise of feminism, greater social mobility, sexual freedom, a move away from the stigma of birth out of marriage, the human rights movement under Martin Luther King, challenging of the Vietnam war etc. It was a like moment of adolescent freedom when the rules laid down by parents were there to be challenged and the dominant models demolished. Yet where are we now with all these issues?
In myth Ouranos fathered children with Gaia the Earth, yet he found these children abhorrently ugly and imprisoned them in Tartarus deep within the earth where they could not be seen. At the prompting of Gaia, Kronos (Saturn) finally castrated Ouranos and ended his reign. The fact that Ouranos imprisoned his children deep within the Earth and that they finally erupted to castrate him tells us something important about Uranus. Uranus in its process of separation and its dislike of the earthy or emotional side of nature holds the danger of repressing those sides of ourselves and others it finds ugly or distasteful. It condemns these sides and they become demonised, but above all it distances itself from them. It creates “us” – good, untainted by emotion and “them” – corrupt, bestial, inhuman, irrational. It is no coincidence that Ouranos is castrated. The very violent and sexual nature of this act tells us something about what Ouranos represses and is undone by. Liz Greene associates Uranus more strongly with perfectionism than Virgo. Uranus’s idealism and desire to live in the nice clean world of ideals and concepts rather than the messy world of biological nature gives us a clue about this perfectionism. With the current Uranus in Aries square Pluto in Capricorn we can see this phenomenon at work. Rolf Harris, Jimmy Saville, Gary Glitter, Dave Lee Travis, all these old plutonic “satyrs” have become representative of Pluto. In the recent case of Ched Evans the footballer, the mob through its new Uranian medium of the internet became prey to the mob. Anyone who spoke against this mob reaction was trampled and scapegoated in its wake. In this respect, one can see that it is difficult to separate out the effects of the outer planets when talking about what is happening in the world – Chiron in Pisces and Neptune in Pisces have the danger of seeing the world in terms of victims and scapegoats. It is interesting to note that since discovering Uranus in 1781 we have quickly cantered through the discovery of Neptune, Pluto, Chiron etc. It seems like we have reached adolescence as a collective and are now having to take greater conscious responsibility for collective forces. Getting our approach right to these collective forces seems to be the evolutionary stage we are collectively involved with. Yet to handle these forces wisely it seems it is important that we understand the implications of these collective forces getting entangled with individual energies. In themselves these transpersonal forces are collective – consciousness (Uranus) , uninterrupted flow of the heart (Neptune) and our collective inner child (Pluto) yet when we distort them to personal ends and forget it is all us they become very dangerous. Currently with the square, there is a danger that we play out Uranus tension with Pluto through a desire to eradicate the bestial in human nature. Yet, in this division and separation there is tremendous shadow at play. It is as if, through these collective scapegoats, we can eradicate our own biological natures, we can become pure, free, rational beings, who are separated from our biology. It is also a war on horror and the reality of the world. Can we really eradicate Pluto and Capricorn from the world? Would we want to?
Looking at the issues we faced in the 1960s (and it is no coincidence that this generation are now at their most influential in society), war still haunts us in the form of Afghanistan, the Middle-East and Ukraine. In these situations we have ready targets for scapegoats in Putin, the Taliban, ISIS etc. Yet, have we learnt from the conjunction? Do we see ISIS, Russia, Afghanistan as “us” or “them”? The danger is that we are still caught in separating ourselves and seeing “them” as “bad” rather than recognising the gift of Uranus – that consciousness is a shared phenomenon; that it is all us. Alan Curtis’ brilliant documentary Bitter Lake was a fantastic example of the Pluto-Uranus square and Neptune and Chiron in Pisces with Ceres mixed in. It highlighted the dangers of failing to see our own Pluto in the form of the inhuman brutality dished out by our own troops and drone warfare; that, as the army captain pointed out, their simplistic view of Taliban as “badies” and them as “goodies” meant that they could be manipulated by local warlords into killing rivals simply by the warlords labelling their rivals as “Taliban”. To see the world through the Karpman Drama Triangle lens of victims and persecutors and get sucked into a saviour role is to fall prey to Neptune at its worst. It is as if under the current transits we are being given the chance to see the dangers of responding like puppets caught in the Pluto-Uranus crossfire and Neptune mob victim mode, reacting instinctively as if we want to root out and destroy Pluto but in the process becoming the very thing we are seeking to eradicate – our testicles are being castrated. Thus programmes like Alan Curtis’ give us a chance to really see ourselves and our potential to be corrupted. It is the same with our greed and social mobility. The dream was that society would become more equal if we eradicated the older generation’s notions of hierarchy and class privilege. However, there is greater polarisation of wealth than before and greed runs rampant. It is easy to blame the bankers and to separate ourselves from them but this misses the point of Pluto. Pluto prompts us to look more deeply, to confront our deepest nature and transform it. At this point I have to own up to the fact that I am not describing the Pluto-Uranus opposing Chiron in Pisces generation from a detached standpoint – I am the Pluto-Uranus opposite Chiron in Pisces generation – indeed the aspect is very tight and closely square my Sun on the ascendant in Sagittarius. Oh no – that means it is me too! It is; I recognise the fear and greed in me that prompted the bankers and I recognise the tendency to disgust at the manifestations of Pluto. Perhaps this is only my own realisation that I am projecting on to the collective? No, no, I I am sure it is safe to assume that I am the only one who is capable of Uranian, god like detachment from subjective involvement in these issues! Sadly, my own journey has turned out to be more about seeing my own flawed humanity on a grander and grander scale than achieving the god like detachment that the Uranian side of my personality might desire.
It seems futile to attempt to eradicate deep biological reality (Pluto in Capricorn). By separating ourselves from it we only deepen it and castrate our ability to be conscious of it. It has taken me until this last square between Pluto-Uranus to fully understand what it is going on but I often notice that this is often the case with transits. I see a very similar theme with the issue of human rights and feminism. The current focus on diversity with its emphasis on the biological differences between people has increased the focus on our difference so that individuals genuinely believe that others are alien but more importantly it holds the danger of people identifying more strongly with their sex, their ethnic background etc. If we are not careful in trying to eradicate prejudice we define and identify people more strongly with their gender, racial background, as if this was the sum of who they were. It is a pernicious form of prejudice and it is Uranus shadow at its worst, creating separate groups and a tribalistic identification with that group. It is isolating and depressing to be with men who talk about and treat women as if they were alien but it is equally isolating and depressing to be among women who treat men as if they are alien. That anyone should be dismissed simply because of their biological features is a denial of our common humanity, yet I think the solution to this is greater identification with our common humanity and shared consciousness rather than greater focus on and identification with our differences. This is the problem of the conscious mind separating itself from nature. In trying to be “rational” we become deeply “irrational”. Like Ouranos, banishing his ugly children to the underworld, we will not rid ourselves of anything distasteful and irrational, instead we hold the danger that we are castrated by it. The idea that we will eradicate sexism or racism by getting everyone to say the right words, or quotas or statistics is similarly “irrational”. This is not the role of the conscious mind.
The current square is really challenging us to bring Uranian awareness and insight to Plutonic issues rather than attempt to imprison them deep in the earth. Uncomfortable as it always will be Pluto’s role is to face us into deep truths and to transform our lives. This is where I think Ceres is key. Ceres is the ability to mourn and grieve with others about the pain and horror of life and it’s biological imperatives. Who can grieve with and have deep compassion for the paedophile – perhaps the legacy of this period will be the bravery of programmes like The Paedophile Next Door with it’s protagonist Eddie’s bravery in admitting to his tendencies and asking for help before acting on them. This is Uranus and Pluto at their best. Uranus enlightening and unorthodox seeing our shared consciousness and Pluto forcing us to confront and transform our deeper natures. Neptune and Chiron in Pisces is not easy identification with victims or one-sided compassion. It is genuine compassion for us all without excluding any part of humanity. How do you have compassion even for those who have murdered or committed atrocities towards us or represent all that might disgust us? Yet our most inspirational figures do just that – The Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa. A recent study on those who commit extreme acts of heroism on behalf of people they do not know concluded that the difference was that those who do not act see a “stranger” whereas the individuals who act see a fellow human being.
Can we see everyone as us? Can we accept even the horror of death and devastation, pain and grief as part of life and allow it to deepen us? There are wonderful things coming out of the Pluto-Uranus cycle and more still to come, we are only beginning to take our first steps towards understanding ourselves collectively. I leave the last word to Tich Nat Hahn because he expresses it so beautifully:
I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.
I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.
I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.
I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my
hands, and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.
My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.
Thich Nhat Hanh