There is a prevalent idea at the moment that we live in Dark Times – environmentally, politically and psychologically. With Pluto conjunct Saturn in Capricorn the astrology seems to bear this out. What could be darker than Satan and Hades together – certainly down in the underworld and very dark. In traditional western astrology it is a combination of the heart of Autumn (Scorpio) with the beginning of Winter (Saturn and Capricorn). We cannot help but be affected by this. Recent advances in Epigenetics described in a lecture I watched at the recent New Scientist conference, suggest that our frame of reference for understanding and interpreting the world is shaped in the womb and that we carry the influence of previous recent generations in our DNA and our response to the world. It was also suggested that these frames of reference act almost like scripts for our experience of reality – our confirmation bias determines our reality. Put this together with the scientific evidence about the way the unconscious brain determines our actions which are then justified and rationalised by our pre-frontal cortex and you begin to see that from all angles – astrologically and scientifically, our experience of our world is influenced by the way we are interpreting it rather than by the reality. If you think the world is in darkness you will focus on darkness and you will find it and you will be confirmed in your suspicion that the world is dark.
Our brains, as my friend Chrissy Philp points out, are designed to understand metaphor or symbol. We do not experience reality directly but rather through metaphor or symbol. As one scientist described the conundrum – when we scanned the brain we found that if someone looks at something and if we ask them to close their eyes and imagine it, the same parts of the brain light up. There isn’t a difference between what we imagine and what we experience. The latest research from the New Scientist conference presentation on free-will suggested that this frame we inherit and is being moulded in the womb (no surprise to Astrologers) can be expanded and enriched to include a fuller picture of reality if we share our inner reality with others. If we do not then our picture of reality becomes impoverished.
So to understand ourselves and each other we need to understand metaphor or story. If we want to change ourselves then we have to find a way to change our narrative. Again, when listening to the presentation on Epigenetics, the example of mice being exposed to the smell of cherry blossom was quoted. Mice tend to get very excited and explore everywhere when the smell of cherry blossom is introduced into their cells. After doing this on a number of occasions the researchers then introduced a mild electric shock at the same time. After 3 or 4 instances of this, the mice started to freeze and tense each time the smell was introduced. They then left these mice alone and allowed them to reproduce, they also left their offspring alone to reproduce and then with the grandchildren of the original mice they introduced the smell of cherry blossom and the mice tensed. It seems to be that each of us has genetic challenges that are passed on from generation to generation – what has not been resolved by one generation passes on to the next. The other implication of epigenetics is that we pass on our DNA to our offspring at the level it has evolved to at the time we conceive our children. It is fascinating in this regard to note the average age for giving birth has reached 29.5 years – a Saturn return. What might be changing as most DNA is passed on after a Saturn return?
I have the Sun rising in Sagittarius squaring Chiron and Saturn in Pisces and Pluto-Uranus conjunct in Virgo. My father had the Sun conjunct Chiron in Gemini in a t-square with Saturn in Pisces and Neptune in Virgo so the family themes are very clear. My grandfather was Sun-Saturn conjunct in Pisces square Pluto in Gemini so it is easy to trace the theme further back and watch it mutating with each generation. For me, my Saturn square the Sun is eight degrees from being exact, whereas for my grandfather and father it is much tighter. My son has not inherited these themes but my wide Sun-Jupiter opposition (9 degrees) has become an almost exact opposition in his chart. My grandfather worked in Business and feared destitution all his life, my father worked in local government and suffered the same fear of being destitute – no matter how much money he earnt. I inherited the same fear, which I have worked with all my life. My friends and family laugh each time I forecast downturns in my work but I point out to them that this time the end really is nigh, this time it is real…..strangely they keep laughing and ignoring me!
So we are born with these dilemmas built in whether you believe in Astrology or a scientific approach or both. This seemed to be what Christ recognised. He saw that Judas and everyone around him was reacting to a narrative – playing their own storyline as part of a larger story. He saw that it could not be otherwise and his great insight was to recognise no-one was to blame for this. Everyone can blame me he said, then we can take blame out of the equation. It’s all an illusion, even death – you can’t really kill my consciousness.
So what has this got to do with the current transits and our approach to them? The real gift that Astrology provides is to be able to see these myths/archetypes so that we are not so identified with them. It allows us to stand back from the play and prevailing paradigm or mindset to see what it is we are learning rather than to be absorbed in playing it out. Saturn conjunct Pluto in Capricorn is an opportunity to examine and understand our shadow. Yes, says everyone and we can see it – it is them! They are the shadow and we are the light. And then we separate ourselves and we really are in dark times, not the ones we think – a fight of our light against the darkness of others but the darkness of our own closed hearts and minds – our own projections and shadows. We exhort each other to join the fight against the oppressors not realising that we are really fighting our own projections.
The social media streams have been perfect for facilitating our collective confirmation bias – we point out the hypocrisies and shadows of opponents not seeing how it disturbs and closes our own hearts and we are re-inforced in our belief that the problem lies with the other side and more and more bemused by the darkness of the world that we think others are creating but which really lies in us. We laud those who express aggressively our criticism of others – egging them on and re-inforcing the sense that we are good guys fighting for justice and others are the problem.
In my teenage years, I thought like this. I hated Margaret Thatcher and I thought she epitomised all that was evil in society. When the Brighton bombing happened I was (much to my horror and shame) disappointed she had survived. I thought Tories were evil and bad people. It was complete projection and Life soon landed me in jail for a night at an anti-apartheid protest where I had mocked and ridiculed a group of politicians and their wives heading into Downing Street – accusing them of racism and prejudice. The prejudice was all mine – I knew nothing about them. Life shocked me into waking up and rightly so. If I was going to be consumed by prejudice and projecting my shadow aggressively on to others, I really was imprisoned.
I think part of the value of this current Pluto-Saturn conjunction is to see our collective darkness and shadow. It is not “out there”, it is in us. As soon as we separate ourselves from others, we create a shadow. As soon as we identify with one group, we see another group as wrong or bad and we scapegoat them. We need figures like Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump because they provoke us into seeing our shadow. Poor things, that is their role.
When I went to visit my friend Cathy recently, she was asking me about the Pluto-Saturn conjunction. She wondered what it meant and what the positive side of it was. I began to talk about it and then she related her experience with the recent UK election. On the day after the result she had sat down to do a Metta Bhavana or Loving Kindness meditation. Her object for the meditation was to send loving kindness to Boris Johnson. She also took the things that she disliked about him – lying, self-aggrandising and asked herself whether she had done these things – yes, she had lied, yes (with Leo rising) she had certainly been guilty of self-aggrandising. Boris Johnson became a fellow human being again; someone doing his best.
We then talked about the result of the election and Brexit happening, she had again revised her thinking. Whilst reflecting on Brexit she thought about the fact that she had been sure in the past that she had known how things were or how they would turn out and yet she recognised that she had been entirely wrong – events had not turned out as she had been sure they would – so she accepted that she did not necessarily know now how they would turn out now. She did not feel the doom and gloom about the world that seemed to be affecting everyone around her. I told her that I thought this was a brilliant response to the Pluto-Saturn conjunction. This was the transformative and regenerative power of the transit at its very best. I think that is the role of Pluto – it is recycling – taking what has become stagnant or worn out and transforming/recycling it into something of value again. We take our old habitual way of thinking and transform it.
In the recent election my social media was bombarded by posts desperately demonising the central figures in the election. It has been similar with Donald Trump in the US and it has played out for the rest of Europe with the UK and with the polarisation between Macron and the “gilets jaunes” in France. In the climate debate there has been a similar polarisation with Greta Thunberg. The feeling has been that anyone who could vote for the other side must be either an idiot, immoral or have been deceived or duped in some way. There has been a constant pointing out of the flaws of the other side. Yet, the effect has been increasing polarisation and certainly not any persuasion of anyone with a different view.
So what is going on? Why do we polarise and what makes it so difficult for us not to get caught in lambasting the great “them” and seeking someone to blame, someone who must be at fault? I think there are two main constituents to this which are linked. One is that our limbic system – our primal brain – is dealing with threat and the other is that we are adjusting to fate – that which is beyond our control.
In our own lives, we know that when we are in crisis or our heart closes down, our thinking analyses the situation and tell us that everything is black, our life is a disaster and we are terrible, we are sure the future is bleak and that the current situation is a disaster which we will never recover from. Yet a day, a week, a few years later, we look back and we see it all completely differently, we see it did not turn out the way we thought, we see what we learnt and in most cases we would not go back and change it. We see what we could not see at the time; that fate knew better what we needed than we did.
In Chrissy Philp’s new earth alignment model, she maps astrology to the I-Ching and the results are astonishing. In this model the 6 lines of the receptive align to the 6 feminine signs and the 6 lines of the Creative align to the masculine signs. Capricorn is the top line of the Receptive:
Six at the top means: Dragons fight in the meadow. Their blood is black and yellow. In the top place the dark element should yield to the light. If it attempts to maintain a position to which it is not entitled and to rule instead of serving, it draws down upon itself the anger of the strong. A struggle ensues in which it is overthrown, with injury, however, to both sides. The dragon, symbol of heaven, comes to fight the false dragon that symbolized the inflation of the earth principle. Midnight blue is the color of heaven; yellow is the color of earth. Therefore, when black and yellow blood flow, it is a sign that in this unnatural contest both primal powers suffer injury.
For me this links to the polarity that we are currently struggling with in so many areas of life. If we do not understand the limits of our own understanding – that we know very little and are dependent on the Universe – then we suffer from the Hubris which precipitated all Greek tragedies. That is, we forget our limits and we start assuming that we know best and that we know how everything will work out – it will all be a catastrophe unless what we know to be true is acted on. It gives us a sense of urgency that we have to be listened to and that we are right to force our views on others because it is the only way to avert the terrible consequences of their appalling blindness. Yet we fail to see that we are equally blind. We lose our humility and recognition that there is something greater than us that we can trust even if we cannot fully understand it. We lose our “not knowing”, our innocence, and in our blind state we try to push others and the world to conform to what we are sure is needed. Yet, when our heart is closed, so is our mind. We fail to see that our thinking is being coloured by our closed heart and that our mind is closed. Anyone who opposes us is dealt with as a limbic system threat – they might kill us all and they are evil, they must be forcibly dealt with and attacked. This limbic system thinking splits and separates us from others. It thinks in terms of “us and them”, good and evil and we are conjoined to fight or despair. This is a collective black hole (cf. One Way of Looking at Man). We start to think we know what the world needs and we think we have the power to control or change it all if only we were listened to. What I think we are learning again in the current crisis is that we have overstepped the limits of our understanding and power. Not in the way everyone thinks. Not in the sense of our apparent destruction of the planet, or the creation of our current political or economic systems but rather in our sense that what we are experiencing currently is wrong and someone must be to blame for it – us, other people, governments, right wing people, left wing people, men – whoever we choose to blame, but rather in the fact that we have lost faith in something beyond ourselves and our own views, in fate, in the Universe.
When you look at the charts of Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, Jeremy Corbyn, they are all perfect. They are all being triggered by outer planets and they are all playing exactly the role they should be playing for us to evolve and grow. They are there to reflect back to us all our own projections and for us to learn how to keep our own hearts open. We are not there to change them, that is beyond our power or control. We are here to change ourselves. We cannot change anyone else, they can only change themselves. Beyond Saturn is the outer transpersonal planets. Saturn is our boundary keeper. The I-Ching in Hexagram 30 – Clarity says:
Human life on earth is conditioned and unfree, and when man recognizes this limitation and makes himself dependent upon the harmonious and beneficent forces of the cosmos, he achieves success. The cow is the symbol of extreme docility. By cultivating in himself an attitude of compliance and voluntary dependence, man acquires clarity without sharpness and finds his place in the world. Cf. Harry and drug taking - you can't stop fate or another individual. All you can do is work on yourself - same in our relationship with planet - so Claudi and Pete.
In the 1930s we discovered Pluto and it is no coincidence that during at period we polarised and started to demonise each other – you had figures like Stalin and Hitler who acted as perfect catalysts (poor things) for helping us understand our collective shadow and we saw the full power of our destructiveness until the first atomic bombs really frightened us into seeing the full power of our destructiveness. Many people draw parallels with that time and there is some truth in that but again, the danger is that we think the shadow is “out there”. without realising that it is actually in all of us.
When my wife left as Pluto and Uranus began to affect my natal Mars in Capricorn opposite the Moon in Cancer, it all looked so wrong to me. Her affair with a woman who had been living with us and subsequent abandonment of me and our children was annihilating to me psychologically and emotionally. I did not see, after twenty-six years of being together, how we could ever recover and yet now, three and a half years later, my wife lives in the next village, we work together and we even go on holidays together as friends. Our family has come back together and healed and I see how we have all grown. I realise the perfection of what happened in a way I could not fully see at the time. It is the same with children and with all of us. If you prevent us from experiencing pain and suffering we cannot grow and we also cannot change our inherited narratives and extend beyond ourselves. The brain is a receiver; a receiver which works entirely on metaphor. Words and language are all metaphors, symbols. Our modern mobile phones work entirely on symbols (pixels and images), we understand them because our world works on symbol and metaphor. Our love of stories is not because they are analogies for our own experiences in the real world but because they are the real world. We live in a world of symbol and narrative.
Understanding myths and metaphors is important because without them we are blind to our shadow. In almost every myth embracing what appalls us, is the key to unity. Think Beauty and the Beast, kissing the frog, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. It is compassion brought about by seeing something of ourselves in others that is the resolution of darkness. Luke Skywalker tries to fight Darth Vader and the Empire but he cannot win. Only when he loses does he start to look inward and find the darkness in himself, at which point he no longer needs to win and he has compassion for Darth Vader which allows him to resolve the separation and disunity. The idea of oppressor and oppressed is left behind and is replaced by unity. In Harry Potter, Harry is Lord Voldemort. The co-incidences are too close and they become closer and closer until they thoughts are entwined. Harry is always looking outside himself to solve the challenges – his parents, Dumbledore, Sirius. Yet every time, at the critical moment, Dumbledore is called away to the Ministry of Magic and in the end dies. Sirius also dies. His parents have already died. In the end, Harry always faces Voldemort on his own, because Voldemort represents Harry’s own ability to be corrupted by his desire for power, fame, greed etc. In the end, the last horcrux (the false selves we create as my friend Sam pointed out) is in Harry himself – his real battle is an internal one not an external one. When Harry gives up himself, surrenders, then Voldemort is vanquished. Re-watching the movies recently, it was clear to see that when Ron destroys the diadem of Rowena Ravenclaw he realises that its power lies in paranoia, in the voice in him that tells him that Harry and Hermione are really in love with each other and he is worthless and they are bound to end up together. He has to overcome his paranoia to destroy the diadem. We have taken our myths at face value and missed the fact that the hero’s real struggle is an inner one, not an outer one. Hogwarts is Harry’s inner world, in the outer world he is undistinguished. All his battles lie within himself. If we project these battles on to the outer world we miss the fact that they lie within us and that the only solution to our individual and collective problems lie in shifting our perspective and evolving our consciousness.
The current transits are transits of death and regeneration. But what is dying? What is being transformed? Our stories suggest to us that pride comes before a fall. In every Greek tragedy it is hubris that creates the fall (or as we would say now – ‘pride comes before a fall’). When we believe we are greater than the gods – that we know better than life and lose our modesty we come a cropper. All our black holes we fall in, all our disasters are really opportunities to wake up. In Greek tragedy, the hero once he has fallen, has wisdom and is valued by the community and is a source of wisdom because when our ego is crushed we have the humility to recognise there is something greater than us. We stop fighting life and we are open to a new perspective, where we are not as important.
So we need pressure and adversity, we need dark times to regenerate ourselves. What is this regeneration? It is a changing of the story or narrative – a shift in perspective. Because we realise our current narrative or metaphor does not work. Only dark times allow us to change, to refresh our view of the world as our old view dies.
I wonder if the new narrative concerns a recognition of our global mind and our global body (the earth). We have the opportunity to examine and change our global narratives. We are being provoked to do so. We can only do this if we become less identified with our global mind and body. The answers do not lie with our global leaders. All my experience of change is that it does not come from those who in theory have power. It comes from a new consciousness or awareness. As Einstein said, “we cannot solve the problems of today at the level of thinking that created them.
One response to “Dark Times”
Thank you Nick. You give me hope for the future.