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January 2014 News

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This newsletter comes with my very best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year. I am looking forward to connecting with many of you around the world this Saturday (January 11) for my next webinar, this time on the Fourth House: Under the Earth. These webinars will be my primary means of teaching this year, as my travel schedule for 2014 is keeping me close to home. So I look forward to having you join me online.

Today I am sharing some reflections on the next upcoming Uranus Pluto square and how to think about it from a Hellenistic point of view.

Hellenistic Aspects and the Grand Cardinal Cross of April 2014

Sunnyridge Commune
SunnyRidge Commune

Over the last few years, astrologers have been discussing the historic and social implications of the next Uranus Pluto square, which comes into exact alignment seven times between June 2012 and March 2015. The conjunction between these two planets in 1965 marked the inception point of this 138 year cycle. The conjunction marked a time when the Flower Children emerged from middle class conventional families and began a revolution of consciousness, dropping out and tuning in. My memories from this era take me back to sitting in a circle on the top of a remote mountain commune in southern Oregon, holding hands, sounding the OM with dozens of other urban refugees and sending our prayers to those brothers of our generation who were dying on the battlefields in Vietnam for reasons few could understand.

The first square aspect in the cycle of any two planets is characterized by the buildup of tension leading to confrontation, followed by powerful releases of dynamically charged energy to clear away any obstacles that stand in the way of the onrushing momentum. The revolutionary fervor of Uranus that incites peoples to liberate themselves from any kind of oppression is in a standoff with the destructive forces of Pluto. As Uranus shatters the social/political structures that both support and bind us, the dark side of the dark lord of the underworld unleashes the forces of terrorism and megalomania into the vacuum that is left behind. We might reflect upon the course of events that have occurred in the Arab Spring of Egypt’s revolution or the police brutality upon the crowds in Taksim Square in Istanbul protesting the destruction of their park and trees. The hope is that the phoenix will arise from the ashes and birth a new world order.

Between April 20-23, 2014 Jupiter and Mars will enter into the celestial configuration with Uranus and Pluto forming an exact square at 13-degrees of the cardinal signs. Astrologers call this configuration a Grand Square or Grand Cross, where the potency of the single square aspect is itself squared and greatly amplified. It is sandwiched between two eclipses further intensifying the ‘fated’ quality of the time.

The foundation of my astrological thinking is now strongly influenced by the traditional approach, and my lifetime focus has been primarily on individual natal astrology rather than on mundane world events. Thus the following essay is not in the realm of my expertise. However, in thinking about this upcoming celestial configuration, I thought I’d share some ideas about Hellenistic aspect doctrine as applied to the next Uranus Pluto square that may provide another astrological lens through which to understand and analyze the events that unfold.

The basic components of astrological interpretation are planets, sign, houses and aspects. Aspects describe the nature of the interactions between planets. The notion that the ‘soft’ sextile and trine aspects are harmonious, the ‘hard’ square aspects are challenging, and the conjunction is variable has come through ages of the astrological tradition relatively intact. Modern astrology tends to blend the significations of the two individual planets as they relate in easy or difficult ways (for instance, Moon trine or square Mercury – easy or difficult communication of feelings).

Hellenistic astrology takes this a step further, and according to the doctrine of ‘testimony,’ posits that when planets are configured by aspects one planet looks upon the other one, sees and witnesses what that planet is about, and via its aspectual relationship helps and affirms that planet’s ability to bring forth its matters (trine) or hinders and negates its capacity to function in beneficial ways (square and opposition). The astrologers emphasize that when Mars or Saturn is involved in a square or opposition, and in some instances the conjunction, these malefics make a situation worse, causing pain or destruction.

Another feature of Hellenistic aspect doctrine is that of superior and inferior position, where one planet is on the right side or on left side of another. Medievalists use the terms dexter and sinister to distinguish the difference. This distinction is central to the doctrine of ‘overcoming,’ where the planet on the right side of a sextile, square, or trine aspect configuration is more powerful. The planet on the right side has the relative ability to prevail over and overcome the planet on the left side, imposing its own nature, for good or bad, upon the other. (The simplest explanation is the planet that is earlier in the natural order of the signs is on the right side and superior. It has nothing to do with applying or separating orbs, speed, or waxing and waning relationships).

Hellenistic astrologers gave very different delineations for planets in aspect, depending upon which one was in superior position. Firmicus Maternus writes that when Saturn and Jupiter are in square in a native’s chart, and Saturn is in the superior position, it diminishes the wealth, hinders the actions, and dissipates the paternal wealth. If Jupiter is in the superior position, the misfortunes are mitigated, the parents are famous, and wealth is bestowed (Mathesis 6.9.2).

We see how benefic planets, when in superior position, even in the difficult square aspect can overcome the malefic tendencies of Mars or Saturn; while the harshest aspect is when a malefic planet is in the superior square position. There was a special term given to this situation – epidekatasis (being upon the 10th) – where the superior planet is 10 signs away from the inferior planet counting in the natural order of the zodiacal signs. Robert Schmidt has translated this Greek term as ‘decimate.’ You may have heard this word in reference to a victorious team totally decimating the losing team in an athletic match or battle.

In the opposition aspect, which Hellenistic astrologers defined as adversarial, both sides are attacking with equal power. Here the outcome depends upon the overall condition and location of each planet and rather than the aspect itself.  But in the nature of the square aspect, there is a dominator. The planet in superior position prevails over the one in inferior position.  If we were to go deeper into this model, the inferior planet, if it is a malefic, under certain circumstances may have some recourse by striking back with a ray, but this is beyond the scope of this introductory explanation.

Here are a few more interpretive guidelines that I will use in the following essay. 

  • Outer planets exist beyond the realm defined by Saturn. They do not rule signs, and in turn, they are not ruled by the lords of the signs in which they are located. Thus, the rules of planetary condition in terms of sign rulerships or their relationship to domicile lords are not applicable. But their actions are shaped by the qualities of the signs through which have they have their long term transits. They act as independent agents, and ultimately their function is to liberate and move us beyond the Saturnian world view.
  • The baseline of a benefic planet is to do good. When a benefic planets is in good condition it can excel in bringing forth very fortunate effects; while in poor condition it is limited in the amount of good it can do.
  • The baseline of a malefic planet is to do bad. In good condition, it can bring about the more positive range of its significations, albeit with some obstacles or conflict; but when in poor condition, its negative propensities are accentuated.

The Grand Square of April 2014

Grand Cross 2014

The celestial configurations have a global impact, but each nation may experience these forces in different ways depending upon the time that the square occurs in their own capitol city. Thus I have set this chart for Washington DC, and some of my comments that are based upon house and sect conditions are relevant only to how these universal energies may manifest in the United States.

The Grand Cross occurs in the cardinal signs, which ancient astrologers called the ‘tropical’ signs, where there is a ‘turning’ in the dynamic quality of the air that ushers in a new season. Aries and Libra are the signs of the spring and fall equinoxes, while Cancer and Capricorn are the signs of the summer and winter solstices. These are the critical turning points in the seasonal cycle, marked by major shifts in the balance of day and night hours, increase and decrease of light and dark forces, and punctuated with sudden starts, stops, and reversals of directions in the Sun’s annual course. These tropical cardinal signs pulse with vibrant energy, want to get things going, shift the balance of power in the status quo, and spontaneously change direction in the course of events in the whim of the moment.

Uranus in Aries – the fiery, impetuous, assertive, and combative environment of Aries encourages the Uranian impulse for protest and political activism in order to claim the rights of the individual. Placed in the 9th house of the chart cast for the U.S. location, Uranus may indicate more unrest and turbulence in our foreign affairs. Uranus is in the superior square to Jupiter and overcomes it.

Jupiter in Cancer is the planet that is in the best condition according to traditional criteria: raised high and respected in the sign of its exaltation, the benefic that belongs to the sect in favor in a day chart, direct and fast in motion, visible, and receiving a trine from an exalted Venus in Pisces. Mythologically, Jupiter was the supreme god of the Olympic pantheon who brought order, justice, and wisdom into the world. Activating the 12th house of the chart set for the U.S., Jupiter as a benefic in good condition in a problematical house acts to suppress or mitigate the difficulties that may arise from enemies in regards to secret undertakings or cover ups. It may also speak to largesse in humanitarian efforts in the face of some sort of disaster. In this condition, Jupiter represents a voice of deeper truths, higher consciousness, and moral accountability. While Jupiter acts as a philosopher king, a tempering voice of wisdom and reason, the power of the Uranian protest nonetheless will prevail over his counsel. Jupiter is also in the superior square to Mars.

Mars in Libra is the planet in the worst condition in this line up. It is the malefic contrary to sect in the US chart, retrograde and moving backwards very slowly, in the sign of its detriment where the peace and love vibrations of Libra frustrate the healthy expression of his assertive energy, and it does not receive any helpful aspects (sextile or trine) from either benefic to mitigate the buildup of repressed anger.

When a malefic planet is in poor condition, then its negative qualities are activated. Mars the warrior represents the military and the police; in bad condition he brings forth gunmen, bombers, and terrorists. Placed in the 3rd house of the chart located for the U.S., issues around more disclosures over intelligence or terror around transportation may amplify tensions with foreign relations. Opposed to Uranus, we may once again see the battles between the protestors and the police, who in this case are predisposed towards violence. The good news is that Jupiter in the superior position will act to overcome the menacing qualities of Mars and mitigate them to some extent. But Hellenistic aficionados will not fail to notice that Mars hurls a backwards square ray and strikes Jupiter, setting into motion the forces of backlash and retaliation. Mars is in a superior position to Pluto.

Pluto finds himself in the midst of a long journey through the land of Capricorn, permeated with the unholy alliances between corporations and governments, rife with bribery and corruption. Ultimately his role is to destroy in order to transform. He is also very susceptible to unleashing the dark forces, taking advantage of the situation, and capitalizing on it for his own power, greed and profit. Pluto turns retrograde seven days before the exact square to Uranus; being within the span of his stationary motion further intensifies and concentrates his power. Pluto’s presence in the 6th house of the chart set in the U.S. points to the scale of possible accidents, injuries, and health related concerns.

Traditional astrologers have the opportunity here to weigh and judge just how malefic Mars is as he overcomes and attempts to decimate Pluto in this epidekatasis tenth house square by a malefic. Jupiter’s capacity to temper and pacify Mars affects Mars’ influence upon Pluto. And can an opposition from the well-placed benefic Jupiter make a successful plea for moral conscience in Pluto’s world? Do the ends ever justify the means?

I am reminded of the story of Hercules killing the monstrous Hydra; as he cut off one head, three more grew back. Perhaps Pluto will continue to destroy until every last vestige of the old order is vanquished. Pluto is in superior position to Uranus and overcomes him. In fact, throughout the entire first half of the Uranus Pluto cycle, Pluto holds the dominant position.

Thus, through this Hellenistic aspect doctrine of overcoming, for each planet we have a model that informs us which planet is subjugated and which planet is dominant. In the grand square, we have a domino effect. April 2014 portends a potentially explosive global configuration, but on this day the great benefic Jupiter has the power to call the day.

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