The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 251, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Becca Tarnas
Episode originally released on April 25, 2020
Note: This is a transcript of an audio podcast. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio version, which includes inflections that may not translate well when written out. Transcripts are created by using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and the text probably contains some errors and differences from the audio version. Please submit any corrections to Chris Brennan by email at email@example.com.
Transcribed by Andrea Johnson
Transcription released July 24, 2021
Copyright © 2016 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This is Episode 251, and today, I’ll be talking to Becca Tarnas about outer planet cycles as well as Jung’s Red Book. So hey, Becca, welcome to the show.
BECCA TARNAS: Thank you so much. I’m really so delighted and honored to be here.
CB: Yeah, this has been a long time in coming. I think I promised to interview you at one point, when you were editing or about to edit an issue of the Archai Journal years ago. And now, it’s been, I think, two issues since then, so we’re finally getting around to doing it.
BT: Well, this feels like the right time.
CB: Yeah, perfect timing. So I should mention the date really quickly. So today is April 22, 2020, starting at 4:57 PM, in Denver Colorado. And like I said, this is the 251st episode of the show. All right, so let’s get started.
So first, I wanted to talk about your background a bit and introduce you to my audience since this is your first time coming on the show. And for those that are not familiar with your work, I think right away people might recognize, from one of my past guests, your last name, of course, and the fact that you’re actually a second-generation astrologer, right?
BT: Yes. Yeah, my background in astrology is really in the branch and lineage of archetypal astrology, and it’s a perspective on astrology that’s informed by an understanding of planetary meanings or the symbols as archetypes; and that idea of archetypes really comes from a blend of Platonic forms or ideas and then Jungian psychological archetypes. So as they’re defined in that astrological context, it can be seen really as both, not just psychological, not just transcendent, but as something that really combines those. So that’s the particular astrological lineage that I’m coming out of, and it draws on Kepler’s approach, for example, to astrology that focused largely on planetary aspects.
CB: Right. So archetypal astrology is like the school or the approach to astrology. And there was some episode not too long ago where I was attempting to try to define the concept of an ‘archetype’, and maybe that would be a good starting point to even just define what that means for listeners that are new to astrology and aren’t even familiar with that as a philosophical or a psychological concept. What’s your definition of an archetype?
BT: An archetype is a way of understanding the spectrum of meanings that are associated with each one of the planets, or each of the signs, or the aspects. The fact that, in astrology, Venus can mean ‘art’, or ‘beauty’, or ‘romantic love’, or ‘the heart’, or all these different manifestations, we have this sense that there’s something at the core–there’s something behind that–and that’s really the idea of an archetype. And the term comes from Plato, the Greek philosopher, who talked about this idea of there being transcendent forms or transcendent ideas that inform mundane reality.
So one example that he gives is that of horse or ‘horse-ness’. And you can think of all the particular horses that you’ve ever seen, they have in common this form of horse. Why is it we’re able to recognize that it’s a horse, even though they’re all different, particular beings? So Plato’s idea was that there is a transcendent form of horse or ‘horse-ness’ that each individual horse is participating in. Now that’s kind of a more simple explanation or concept of what an archetype is, and you could say that astrologically we’re using more complex archetypes.
So the archetype of Saturn is a principle that can be expressed in a variety of different ways: death; finitude; time; mortality; endings; structure; discipline. I’m using all of these different words of course, but it almost draws on the intuition to understand what an archetype truly is. We can’t only intellectualize it. We can’t grasp it or put our finger on it.
Carl Jung, the depth psychologist who came to recognize archetypes as being these deep, almost energy structures of the human psyche, said there’s no way that we can simply define an archetype. We always have to talk around them to get a sense of what they are–that it’s a vessel that we can never empty and never fill. Anytime you feel like you can grasp it, it moves beyond your grasp or your concrete comprehension.
Another example I like of an archetype that’s very much connected to Venus is simply that of beauty. We recognize beauty in so many different, diverse forms: in the beauty of a bouquet of flowers; in the beauty of a sunrise or moonshine across the ocean; or in the face of somebody that we’re in love with. We recognize beauty in all those places, and yet, each of those concrete particulars are quite different, but they all have beauty in common. And so, that’s the idea of what an archetype is, and it’s really carried by the sense of participation–that the ‘particular’ participates in the ‘universal’ or in the archetype and that there’s an interrelationship that’s present there.
CB: Okay, so it’s like a transcendent concept that unifies particular manifestations in the world. And therefore, astrology, or archetypal astrology in that context, is attempting to identify and work with more the transcendent or get closer to the transcendent archetypal concepts that underlie or are overarching over the particular manifestations in everyday living, or life, or what have you.
BT: I feel like that’s a really accurate way of describing it. And I would say in addition to that not only is an archetype transcendent, it’s also imminent. So Plato would have said it’s just transcendent, but that’s two-and-a-half-thousand years ago. And Jung would say–well, Jung says a lot of different things, and he changes his mind over the course of his career. But at one point, of course, he’s saying they’re just in the human psyche, much more imminent in that sense that they’re simply psychological–we can’t say that they’re transcendent.
He would go on to make more metaphysical claims about archetypes later in his career. And actually his relationship to astrology really, I think, helped inform that archetypes aren’t only imminent or only psychological, they’re also ‘not only’ transcendent. And that really is that idea of them being participatory–that it’s bridging between worlds in some way.
CB: Sure. So in an astrological context, part of this approach then represents trying to focus more on the archetype rather than focusing on the particular or making specific statements about this will work out in some specific way, for certain, but instead describing the range of archetypal possibilities in any one configuration or placement.
BT: Yeah, I feel like that’s an accurate way of describing it.
CB: Okay, cool. So how long have you been studying astrology? What has your journey been in terms of that?
BT: It’s been about a decade now that I became really interested in astrology. And as a second-generation astrologer, I did grow up in an environment, an atmosphere where astrological language was being used, but it wasn’t ever taught to me. I wasn’t taught techniques as a child or as a teenager. It was in no way forced upon me, but it was like another language being spoken.
And I ended up kind of turning toward that interest in my early 20s, and it was coming out of kind of a maybe unexpected context because my path had been toward theater and environmental studies in undergrad. I was coming out of those studies, especially in terms of ecology, with these big questions of how is it that we’re in an ecological crisis? How is it possible that we live in a world that is so–or in a culture that’s so disconnected from the natural world, from the planet that is our home?
And those larger worldview questions actually turned me toward someone I wasn’t expecting whose work I would be so interested in, but that was my father’s work, Richard Tarnas, who was working with the idea of worldviews, paradigm shifts, and cultural history, and I realized, wow, this is the larger context that I’ve been looking for, that I’ve been craving to understand our current moment. And so, it was with that kind of impetus to make sense of how we could be in an ecological crisis that I became fascinated with astrology. And it was about, yeah, about 10-11 years ago I started tracking my transits for the first time and just diving as deeply into the practice as I could.
CB: Okay. I mean, that’s really unique, just because most astrologers just stumble across the subject at some point somewhat randomly, and to some extent in ways that are not hugely dissimilar from what you’re describing. But you had a unique perspective in that you always had some low-level understanding of it or some exposure to it. And I’m sure many people are probably curious of what that’s like growing up in that context.
I did do an episode a few years ago with my friends, Ashley Otero and Patrick Watson, where they had both recently had children and they were wrestling with some questions about how much to use astrology in raising them or to what extent they should discuss astrology with their children because they didn’t want to push it on them or something like that. And so, I think that was one of the questions I asked you once at a conference. Did you ever go through a rebellious phase where you rejected astrology or thought that was dumb because it was just something that one of your parents did?
BT: I didn’t go through a rebellious phase against it, mostly because it wasn’t enough of a part of my life really to rebel against. And so, as I mentioned, it was like a language being spoken in the house that I didn’t really understand. But I realized later once I started actually learning astrology how much I had an intuitive understanding of, say, the meanings of the planets, just from the tonal quality that I remembered when I would hear someone say Saturn-Pluto. I’m like, “Oh, wow, that sounds heavy,” or Jupiter-Uranus, and I’m like, “Oh, that sounds exciting.” So there was some, I think, inbuilt intuition that was coming in unconsciously because of being in that environment. I know that knowing my birth chart informed my parents and how they related to me. My Mom likes to talk about the fact that when I was born, she looked at me, she looked at the clock, and then looked back at me, so she got the exact birth time.
BT: And one of the first things that was done after I was brought home, to our home in Big Sur, was my Dad sitting down and hand-calculating out my chart, and his worry at the time, as he was calculating it, he had this worry that I had an unexpected Sun. And it was actually in exploring that seemingly unaspected Sun that he came to recognize how midpoints worked, because my Sun is at the midpoint of a lot of different planetary configurations. But that I had no idea of until many years later–that they were using my chart as a way to kind of understand who I was and what I was struggling with or growing into through my childhood and teenage years.
NT: But in terms of that question of raising children with it, I can only of course speak from my own personal experience. And I think that it was valuable not to know too much because then I was drawn toward the practice as an adult of my own volition, and that really mattered to me, I think, especially in the context of having a fairly well-known astrologer as a father. If I hadn’t followed my own free will along that path, I don’t think it’s something that I would be engaging in now in the same way.
CB: Sure. Yeah, you found it on your own basically instead of having it sort of forced on you.
BT: Yeah, exactly.
BT: I’m grateful for that.
CB: For example, he published his major work, Cosmos and Psyche, in 2005. You were still aware of that at the time obviously at some level, right?
BT: Oh, I was definitely aware of it. I knew that that’s what he did, and I was extremely aware, during the years that he was finishing writing that book. Growing up, we just called it ‘the book’ because this was a project that took over a decade for him to write. And his book before that, The Passion of the Western Mind, was also about a-decade-project, so I was definitely conscious of it. I knew it was about astrology; I knew that it was about cultural history. And maybe it was just something about me being wrapped up in my own childhood or teenage milieu that I just didn’t ask for further details until later, and then once I did I was like, “Wow, this is really fascinating. I can’t believe I didn’t know this.”
CB: Sure. Yeah, that’s really funny in a way and interesting, just given there’s many fans of his work. And I remember when it came out in the astrological community–I was at Kepler College–and it was a big deal. And we all sat around and read this New York Times review that came out about the book and stuff like that, so that it was an event in the community. But it’s funny thinking of you being a teenager and kind of like blowing it off on some level as just whatever your Dad’s work is.
BT: Yeah, I wouldn’t go so far as to say I blew it off, but I didn’t quite understand, or the call wasn’t there yet. I do remember helping with the design of the cover and having kind of some sense that it was representing the myths, the gods, the goddesses. I really wanted Artemis to be on the cover, with her archers bow as the crescent moon; they ended up going with a different one. But yeah, so I do remember being kind of aesthetically involved in that. As someone who was really identifying as an artist that felt special. But as far as the content, no, not at the time.
CB: Sure. So eventually you went to school, and in college, like you were saying, that’s partially where you studied astrology or that’s where you found astrology. And did you end up partially studying it in that context while you’re in school?
BT: So it was in graduate school that I started studying astrology. It was at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. And I kind of floated around the school for about a year, just being interested in what’s happening in this graduate community, the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program. I was really just fascinated by the students and the culture, and how interested everyone in this program was in astrology and applying it to their lives, and was just completely drawn in.
So it was in many ways connecting with that graduate community and a lot of the students and teachers and teaching assistants and so on who were also working with and practicing archetypal astrology–that’s really where the compulsion came in. And I saw their interest and I thought, “Okay, there must be something here that I want to understand,” and that’s when it really started to click for me that this was a discipline that I wanted to be able to integrate into my life.
CB: Okay. And that’s probably an important point that one of the things that came out of the archetypal astrology school is a push towards being able to study some aspects of astrology in an academic context and having greater academic rigor surrounding the study of this subject. And I often get questions from younger people of where they could study astrology or if there’s any way to study astrology in college. And that’s actually one of the few programs in the world where you could incorporate some focus on astrology into the context of an academic program, right?
BT: Exactly. And it’s held within a particular context, being within a graduate institute and so on. The foundational course, which is called Psyche and Cosmos, is a blend of transpersonal psychology, especially coming out of the work of Stanislav Grof and others within that field, working with psychedelic psychotherapy, for example, and how that combines with transit astrology and natal astrology.
So that’s really the foundational course: archetypal cosmology and transpersonal psychology, and then there are offers of working with a transit course and then analyses from that archetypal astrological perspective of different arts: of music, of film, literature, and so on. So those are the more advanced courses that are being offered, and they’re all held within this philosophical, cosmological, psychological, and even spiritual context there.
CB: Okay. And that’s something you’re interested in or that you’re interested in hopefully continuing to expand. And that’s still a program that’s out there that people can sign up for?
BT: Yeah. The Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program–which just goes by PCC, that acronym–it’s at the California Institute of Integral Studies. There’s a residential program, and now also a thriving online program which is amazing. And students can come in at the master’s level for a two-year master’s degree and also at the PhD level. And I think that’s where students can really deepen into an astrological understanding, following their own path, their own kind of deep research into some particular branch of astrology and research.
CB: Sure. All right, so later at one point, after you got out of school, one of your recent projects was taking up the editorship of the Archai Journal, which was the journal that was formed by some of the students of that program originally, around 2009 or so, right?
BT: Yeah. The Archai Journal, it’s an academic research journal that’s showing correlations between planetary alignments and human events, and it’s really following the methods that were laid out in Cosmos and Psyche. And it was started by a research collective–they were called ARC, the Archetypal Research Collective–that was formed in 2007, and then out of that group of researchers, scholars, practitioners was born the idea for this journal.
And the initial editorial team was Keiron Le Grice, Bill Street, and Rod O’Neal. They were the editors of the first several volumes, and those first four came out in 2009-12. I actually had one of my first article publications in the 2012 issue; I think it was an astrological analysis of the birth chart of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit paleontologist who wrote about the evolution of consciousness. And I felt like the only way that I could really understand what he was writing about was through that astrological lens. And suddenly astrology helped me realize what he was speaking about at that more philosophical level, so it was interesting how it kind of offered that kind of translation there.
So the journal kind of went on hold for a few years, and Keiron Le Grice invited myself and Grant Maxwell on as the two primary editors, and we came out with Issue 5 in 2016; it was called Saturn and the Theoretical Foundations of an Emerging Discipline. And that emerging discipline, just to be clear, is archetypal cosmology, which has astrology kind of at the core and as the practice, but the idea of the emerging discipline is more an emerging discipline within an academic context that’s bringing in the philosophical and the spiritual and the psychological lenses as well.
So it’s kind of holding all of those different fields together in one academic discipline and it’s oriented toward speaking to an academic audience or a more skeptical audience, someone that might not be as open to astrology. And it inquires not only into demonstrating that astrology works, but why it works as well, so there’s a lot of different theoretical essays in it exploring those different possibilities. What does it say about the nature of the cosmos itself that astrology work?
CB: Okay, yeah, that makes sense. And one of the questions I wondered, just as an outsider, was how–not coherent, but how rigid is the structure of archetypal astrology. There’s obviously a clear standard that was set in what the approach was gonna be in Cosmos and Psyche, and there was emulation of that by the first generation of students that followed, people like Keiron Le Grice, who started the Archai Journal and then went on to write books and stuff following that approach.
And I’m curious how much variation there is from a technical standpoint within that school versus how much it’s focusing on that specific technical approach that was set down. How much can there be evolutionary change within that versus trying to stick to a standard model?
BT: I think that’s a really ‘living’ question because I can only answer from my own standpoint. And while I’m coming out of that archetypal background, and I think I will always see through that archetypal lens, that, just for me, individually, doesn’t cut me off from learning more techniques and going to my first astrology conference and actually hearing your talks and many other people that I really respected. I just started opening up to wanting to learn more techniques, like traditional techniques, but holding that archetypal lens in relationship to it. So I personally don’t think that it’s a branch of astrology that has kind of dogmatic borders around it and think that there’s a lot of room for that to grow. I mean, any school of thought or any school of astrology is simply made up by its members and that’s an ever-evolving group of people and approach.
So I think that the most important thing in terms of what makes archetypal astrology ‘archetypal’ is just simply that perspective on archetypes, the recognition of this multivalent expression of something that stands behind the meanings that we all discern through astrological practice. So I personally find it to be very complimentary with other schools or branches of astrology.
CB: Sure. Yeah, that makes sense. I’m always just interested in seeing different schools and subsets of astrology and how they deal with that issue–the tensions between change versus staying the same, and insider/outsider issues and different things like that. I guess I’m just curious–have there ever been any major technical disputes within archetypal astrology at this point, in its, what, 10- or 15-year history so far?
Some schools have really big debates about funny things, like house division or the use of orbs or certain techniques or other things like that. Maybe there hasn’t been, I don’t know., and maybe it’s not been an issue so far.
BT: It hasn’t been an issue of major contention that I’ve come across. I think that it can spark some interesting conversations because there is this focus on that Keplerian astrology of planets and aspects. And that’s of course what’s really at the core of the method in Cosmos and Psyche, but I don’t think that that excludes other techniques. But if there’s any kind of contention, it would be what gets emphasized as most important, and that, I think, is a fruitful place for discussion more than saying that this person is right and this person is wrong, and this is the definition and we can’t go beyond it.
CB: Sure. Yeah, I guess maybe that’s one thing in it and of itself, what you referred to as the ‘Keplerian’ focus. Kepler was more strict in rejecting the zodiac entirely and focusing almost entirely on aspects. And an emphasis on aspects and a de-emphasis on the zodiac might be one of the technical things that’s more prominent in archetypal astrology, but I guess there’s variations there depending on the practitioner.
BT: Yeah. And again, I can only speak from my own experience, but I think that looking at the zodiac through an archetypal lens–especially through the lens of rulership, planetary rulership–that, for me, has really opened up that understanding of the archetypal meanings of the zodiacal signs or the archetypal meanings of the houses. I think the cosmological basis of the house systems points toward their archetypal symbolic meaning. So those are areas that I’m deeply interested in and also feel like a perpetual student in so many ways. But I think that it’s more, again, just a lens rather than a strict body of techniques or knowledge that can’t be breached beyond.
CB: Sure, sure. All right, so the first issue of the Archai Journal that you edited was the issue on Saturn, and then you recently edited another issue that came out, what, within the past year, right?
BT: Just came out in late January actually.
BT: And the title of that issue, that’s Issue 7. Grant Maxwell edited Issue 6, so we’re switching off. I edited Issue 7, and the title is Historical Roots and Current Flowerings. And unlike Issue 5, the Saturn issue, where we really kind of curated it around this archetypal theme of Saturn, the backbone of that issue was James Hillman’s article, “On Senex Consciousness,” which we had permission to republish.
So I wanted to see what theme was going to naturally emerge from the submissions and kind of just tapping into the zeitgeist, and a really strong Jungian theme ended up coming through. So at the beginning, we had three book reviews that became core to defining the theme: one was a book review of a recently published volume edited by Safron Rossi and Keiron Le Grice and that is of Jung’s own writings on astrology; it’s called Jung on Astrology. And that in itself is fascinating because Jung did write about astrology many times throughout his career, but it’s spread throughout the Collected Works; you have to really look for it. And so, they’ve done us this great service of editing that in one volume, so we have a review of that.
And then we have a review of Liz Greene’s two volumes, also on Jung and astrology–the first volume being the Astrological–sorry–Jung’s Studies in Astrology; and then the second, The Astrological World of Jung’s ‘Liber Novus’. Liber Novus is the name for his Red Book. These are just extraordinary books, so rich in research that Liz Greene did on Jung’s relationship to astrology. So we have a review of that and one other of Nan Savage Healy’s book, Tony Wolff & C.G. Jung: A Collaboration.
And I actually am the one who wrote that review, and it includes an astrological analysis of Tony Wolff’s chart. And Tony Wolff was a woman who Jung had a romantic relationship with and also a collaborative professional relationship, and it was very controversial, and so her history has largely been hidden. So I wanted to not only put a focus on her–and she was very interested in astrology–but also get a sense for her natal chart and how her life story was reflected in that, because it’s really an extraordinary life. She’s one of the hidden figures behind Carl Jung and depth psychology.
So that really informed the theme of the journal, these Jungian roots, and there’s other kinds of rooted or lineage pieces in that. Laura Michetti has an article on the origins of the Saturn return in Persian astrology. There’s a number of different ones on the relationship of astrology to transpersonal psychology; one on Wordsworth and the Romantic poets; another on the role of the city of Prague in that tradition, the astrological and transpersonal tradition; another from the great, late, astrologer, Gerry Goddard, who wrote on transpersonal psychology and archetypal astrology; and then one piece written by my Dad, Richard Tarnas, on the role of astrology in a civilization in crisis, which feels extremely apt right now considering all things.
CB: Yeah, especially coming out in January. That’s really well-timed.
BT: Yeah, it took longer to work on this particular issue than I hoped and expected, in part, because when I first started working on the issue, I was finishing my PhD. And it started to feel like, oh, this issue is actually waiting for the exact conjunction of Saturn and Pluto. That’s really what seemed to be informing so much of what was in the issue and even the emphasis on Jung–Jung was born with Saturn square Pluto–and how much the archetypal themes of Saturn-Pluto come through and his life and work, facing the Shadow, for example, so that ended up becoming the unconscious, inevitable theme that emerged.
CB: Yeah, and I did interviews with Safron Rossi and Keiron Le Grice when those books came out. So people can find more on that and some of those past interviews or past episodes of the podcast. I also tried to interview Liz Greene when both of those books came out, but it didn’t happen. But I did do an episode where we talked about the first of those two volumes on her books on Jung and astrology, or Jung’s Studies in Astrology, but we never did a follow-up for the second one, which I wanted to save as a separate discussion at some point, to discuss Jung’s Red Book. And that’s actually a topic that you focused on and specialized in, right?
BT: It is. I wrote my PhD dissertation on Jung’s Red Book and parallels that I found between it and the work of JRR Tolkien, best known as the author of The Lord of the Rings. And he also had a Red Book that actually was in the context of the story of The Lord of the Rings; that story’s written down in a book called The Red Book or The Red Book of WestMarch. So my dissertation ended up being a project looking at these numerous parallels–parallels in timing, imagery, symbols, storylines, figures, method even–between Jung’s Red Book and Tolkien’s Red Book.
And that really did draw me into this very strange, vast world that is recorded in Liber Novus, which was a self-experiment that Jung undertook beginning in 1913. As the Saturn-Pluto conjunction that correlated with the beginning of the First World War was coming into orb, he started feeling this tremendous pressure coming from the unconscious and one day was completely overtaken by a vision of a flood, a great flood, covering all of Europe. And he thought maybe some latent psychosis had been unleashed; he really didn’t know what was going on.
He had this vision twice of a flood completely covering the map of Europe and it turns to blood. He just sees the rubble of civilization, and it comes up to the Swiss Alps and is stopped by the mountains–a really extraordinary vision–and thought, “Maybe I’m going insane. I don’t know.” So he started, first of all, writing down these experiences, writing down his dreams, really just reviewing his whole life, trying to understand what was happening.
And as he started writing, he essentially came into contact with his soul. He called out to his soul and that led to this breakthrough in visions, in what he called ‘active imagination’. And so, they weren’t fully–sometimes they were, but they weren’t fully spontaneous visions. He was in some control of it, and yet, he’s also being flooded by this unconscious material, basically stepping over a threshold and entering into another interior, imaginal world.
And so, he wrote down all of these experiences, and nine months into this kind of self-study where he’s still not sure if he’s going insane or not, the First World War breaks out, and he starts to realize that many of his dreams and visions were precognitive. And even the flood, the way it was covering the map, it was all the areas that were affected by the war; you can see neutral Switzerland which isn’t affected by the flood. And that’s when Jung realized that maybe these visions weren’t just about him personally, maybe there was something in them that was collective. And that inspired him to write them down in a beautiful red leather-bound book, and he Illustrated them, and he spent many, many years trying to make sense of it.
And it was out of trying to make sense of that experience, paired with his work, his clinical work with patients, that so many of the core concepts of Jungian psychology were developed, and a lot of them were developed in conversation with Tony Wolff too, who in a lot of ways ended up being his guide through this process; she was the one that he was able to share the experiences with. And the great gift that Liz Greene has given us is that she has delved into all the astrological symbolism that’s embedded in his interpretation of the visions.
So you have the kind of core visions or fantasies that he wrote down, and then there’s a secondary layer, what the editor of the Red Book, Sonu Shamdasani calls a ‘lyrical elaboration’. And it’s that elaboration that’s kind of a secondary commentary–trying to understand what’s happening in the visions–and that’s what has all this astrological symbolism. He’s making sense of it through an astrological lens and through his own birth chart, but also, more through a collective psycho-cosmology. And so, Liz Greene has really demonstrated how much astrology is at the core of Jungian psychology, even though probably most Jungian psychologists would either deny that connection, or not be interested in it. Yeah, it’s not woven into most Jungian psychology programs or training, for example.
CB: Sure. And that’s something that really has changed or has the potential to change with the publication of Safron Rossi and Keiron Le Grice’s work, which collects together in a single volume all of his quotes and discussions about astrology, and then, now, Liz Greene’s work basically exposing and documenting the same focus and passion and continuous backdrop of astrology throughout his life.
BT: Mm-hmm. Yeah, they both published their books–or all three of them published these books in 2018, so just as the current Saturn-Pluto alignment was coming in, and at the end of the year, Uranus-Pluto square. Kind of interesting, this like revelation on the depth of Jung’s relationship to astrology, and kind of an interesting synchronicity that they would come out in the same year, I mean, just within a couple months of each other.
CB: Yeah. And going back to the Red Book, part of what’s notable about it is that even though he worked on it for several decades in his life, and it was known in some circles that it existed after he passed away, it wasn’t publicly available. It was only published publicly for the first time like a decade or so ago, right?
BT: Yeah, October 2009, it was finally published. And it took 13 years of editing by Sonu Shamdasani to bring it forward in the form that it’s in, and it’s a beautiful publication. They did an extraordinary job with it, really respecting the origin of where it came from. Although there’s a bit of a kind of controversy around that too; it has almost like a biblical feel to it. So it depends where you land in your relationship with Jung that there’s such a kind of elevated presentation. I mean, the book is enormous. It’s about two feet tall.
CB: Right, which is hard to actually overstate, like if you’d actually have it in person, in your hands. It’s like the largest book you’ve probably ever held or that you will have in your library.
BT: It’s definitely the largest book in my library; it holds a very prominent place there. And even if you don’t put it out on display, it stills like, “What is that huge red book?”
BT: Anyone who is thinking about reading the Red Book–I know a lot of people who own it, for example, and have looked at the extraordinary illustrations but haven’t actually read it–it’s very challenging to read. And I think it’s actually helpful to have, if you can afford it, both the large-scale facsimile edition and a reader’s edition just to really be able to engage with the text. Although there’s something to be said about the process of moving through these huge pages. You just feel like, “Okay, I’ve really accomplished something,” when you read five pages of that, then you may need a break.
CB: Sure. There’s been this explosion of scholarship on it over the course of the past decade. And aside from giving some insight into the inner private workings of Jung’s mind during this large span of time, over a few decades, what was new about it? What new information is relevant? In particular, from an astrological perspective, why would astrologers be interested in it, for example?
BT: The primary core of the text are these fantasy visions, these active imagination experiences that he was undergoing from 1913-to-17–so just about a four-year window in there–and then he spent 1930 illustrating it and transcribing it in beautiful calligraphy into this book. And I think what is at the core of it, first of all, it reveals the origins of a lot of his psychological concepts, such as psychological types, those polarities, such as the different archetypal figures–the anima, the Shadow, the Wise Old Man archetype; all of these different archetypal figures.
And that in itself is an interesting difference between Jungian archetypes and that understanding of what an archetype is and an astrological archetype; or contrast that with a Platonic archetype, because an astrological archetype is more complex and multifaceted than a Jungian archetype, which tends to be seen more as a figure: as this figure of one’s soul; or a figure of the Shadow; or a figure of the Wise Old Man or the Crone; or the Hero; or the Great Mother, or something like that; those are all persons.
And I think that one thing that’s really essential about Jung’s experiences that he recorded was the encounter with these persons, these ‘imaginal’ persons. And I use that term ‘imaginal’ intentionally; it’s one that I draw from Henry Corbin, who was part of Jung’s circle in Switzerland. And he’s actually a Sufi scholar who’s drawing a lot on Sufi mysticism, bringing that into dialogue with Jungian psychology and the study of the imagination. But he uses that term ‘imaginal’ and differentiates it from ‘imaginary’ because that differentiation is really key.
What is ‘imaginary’ is what’s just made up versus what is ‘imaginal’ is something that we are perceiving or encountering within, kind of within a psychological, or I would even prefer to say a psycho-spiritual space or realm, but you’re not just making it up; you are encountering that as an experience, an inner experience. And Jung was demonstrating, from his empirical, scientifically-grounded background–he always carried this tension between the scientific doctor and the mystic, the astrologer, these polarities within him–and he’s laying out as best he can his own empirical evidence of encountering such imaginal figures or archetypal figures.
And I think that that’s really helpful for astrologers to understand that there is something ontologically real about the figures, the archetypal beings that inform our practice; for example, my own understanding of astrology, of getting to know the astrological archetypes: who Mars is, who Venus is, who Jupiter is. And I use that term ‘who’ intentionally as well because it is a relationship of getting to know an archetypal presence. And I think that’s really what Jung is pointing toward with the Red Book, and that there’s so much depth to psychology; there’s a reason that his branch of psychology, we call it ‘depth psychology’.
That level of depth is already inherent in the astrological perspective. We recognize that if there are correlations between the movement of the planets and our own lives, that there’s more going on here than a modern, rationalistic, disenchanted perspective will allow to be seen. And Jung’s experiences, coming from an initially skeptical place, they blast through that. They break through into a different kind of worldview, a worldview that takes seriously the psychological, the spiritual, the numinous, the imaginal. It sees the imagination itself as something that is real, something that our language doesn’t even really know how to handle. We contrast reality from fantasy, or the material from the spiritual; they’re all split in these binaries. And what Jung is pointing toward unites those again, and I think astrology does the same thing.
CB: In studying the Red Book, you mentioned the Saturn-Pluto conjunction as being very relevant–that was happening in the mid-1910s–and coinciding with that and being connected. Were there other interesting astrological correlations in terms of the history of the Red Book, either in his writing of it or in the eventual publication of it that are notable to you or that you found in studying it?
BT: The largest astrological theme that kind of encompasses the Red Book project was the Uranus-Neptune opposition that was in the world transits from 1899 to 1918. And so, it was in the waning years of that opposition that Jung’s Red Book experiences started. And just looking at those two archetypes, Uranus and Neptune, Neptune is the principle of the imagination, of fantasy, of archetypes, symbols, images, the imaginal world. And Uranus is the awakening to that, the sudden breakthrough into a fantasy landscape or a sudden or unexpected realization of a larger, unifying spiritual whole.
So that was one of the world transits that was providing some of the context for Jung’s Red Book. And what’s interesting is that opposition of Uranus and Neptune was crossing at the time that these visions were first coming in. It was crossing his natal Sun-Neptune square, which is right on the angles of his chart; so it was aligning on his Ascendant/Descendent axis and really activating his Sun and then the natal Square to Neptune. So it was happening for him at this very kind of personal level, affecting his Sun. A heroic individual goes on this journey into the imaginal realm and encounters these archetypal figures, so that was one theme.
And Jung actually wrote four key texts near the end of his career that several scholars now see as a commentary on the Red Book. Now, we had those texts well before we had the Red Book; these four texts are: Answer to Job, Psychology of the Transference, Mysterium Coniunctionis, and Aion. And these four texts, which the scholar Lance Owens calls his ‘summary quartet’, they’re really a psychological commentary on the Red Book, and they were all written during the next alignment of Uranus with Neptune in the 1950s. The first one is Psychology of the Transference, which was published in the late ‘40s, just as that Uranus-Neptune square was coming into orb, and then the rest were all written and published during that 1950s square of Uranus and Neptune.
And then the next time that those two planets came into hard aspect was through the 1990s, that was the conjunction. And it was near the end of the ‘90s that the decision was made by the heirs of Jung, at the persuasion of Sonu Shamdasani, the editor, that, yes, they would indeed publish this text. So while it wasn’t published…
CB: What took so long, by the way, just as an aside?
BT: Jung’s family didn’t want it published. It is a very personal text in some ways, and it’s also very collective and transpersonal; it bridges everything in between, personal to transpersonal or collective. And there was a hesitation, I think, to expose that side of Jung, especially because, at the beginning, he really was questioning his sanity. I teach a course on Jung’s Red Book and Active Imagination at Pacifica Graduate Institute, and it’s actually in some ways relieving for me to see students go through a similar process as I did when I was reading it.
You start to feel a little like you’re going insane when you’re reading it. You’re just dropped into this world of madness and figures and the divine and what is going on here and what are the layers of reality. You really can only digest it in small bites. So I think that was some of the hesitation–that his family, his heirs, just didn’t want it to be published. And finally, in the late ‘90s, they were persuaded that this is a really key text to understanding Jung, and that it’s important that this be there, because it’s in so many ways the keystone to understanding so much else of his work, everything that came later.
CB: Sure. I guess maybe they were worried detractors of Jung might allege that he was mentally ill or something like that, and that this was like schizophrenia or some mental illness.
BT: Exactly. In some ways, by releasing it, it undid a lot of those questions. Because biographers, when they would write about this period without having the context of the actual Red Book, they would say, “Maybe he went through a psychotic break;” as he described it, it was his ‘confrontation with the unconscious’. And by releasing the Red Book, we actually have the text that allows us to make the call, the judgment of what seemed to be going on for him, rather than biographers surmising based on a lack of material. So I think it’s been really important that it was released to fill in the picture.
As the editor Sonu Shamdasani has said, it’s Jung’s questioning of his own sanity that is a mark of his sanity, that he is aware of what is happening to him at a level where he’s still able to be rational and reflexive upon it, and then actually analyze it and come to deep psychological understanding not only for himself, but things that are applicable to other people. I mean, the extraordinary thing is that his psychological theories do have so much of a grounding and these experiences are widely applicable to others understanding their own psychological processes.
CB: Okay, that makes sense. And his break with Freud was just a few years before that, right? Am I remembering the timeline correctly, where that was in the early 1910s?
BT: Yeah, that’s exactly right. The break with Freud was, I think, right around 1912. It might even actually have been in 1913, because what instigated the break was Jung’s book, which is now published as Symbols of Transformation. I’m just remembering the German title right now, which is Wandlungen und Symbole der Libido, which was published in two volumes in 1911 and 1912. And that was his own break professionally in terms of differentiating his theories from Freud’s, saying that the libido is more than just sexuality; the libido is creative, psychic-like life force.
And so, that led to the schism between Freud and Jung, and very quickly, on the heels of that, he then went into his descent, which I do think the break with Freud was part of what led to it–I mean, just the professional ostracization and so on–but also, it’s more than just the break with Freud; it’s what’s happening in the collective. I think that’s where actually the astrological perspective can be so helpful. He’s tapped in, in a way, to the archetypal zeitgeist and is feeling that Saturn-Pluto energy coming in that unleashes in the First World War, which so many people did not see coming.
It took the world by surprise that there were so many different alliances that then triggered a vast conflict, that really nobody predicted the level of destruction in so many different forms. And yet, Jung has kind of tapped into that at a psychological level or at an unconscious level, and I think that’s what’s really pushing through him that comes through in these prophetic visions. But like so many prophetic visions, you can’t really say what’s gonna happen from them until it’s in retrospect. I don’t think–well, I know that he wasn’t able to look at his vision of the flood and say this clearly is gonna lead to a vast geopolitical global conflict; he thought that this was just something going on in him.
CB: Right. And here’s–for those watching the video version–just a copy of Jung’s chart. Do I have the birth time right? Is he 2 Aquarius rising?
BT: Yeah, that seems right to me. The Sun might be 3 because the Sun was right on the Descendant, but that’s very, very close.
CB: Okay. And you were talking about his Sun-Neptune Square and that being part of what was getting activated. He has the Sun at 3 Leo and Neptune at 3 Taurus.
BT: Yeah. And so, the Uranus-Neptune at the time was just crossing right over Neptune, conjoining his Sun, and Uranus conjoining his Ascendant, and just completely activating that.
CB: Okay, wow. Yeah, that’s a pretty intense set of transits. Either one of those in and of itself would have been intense, but having it exactly on the Ascendant/Descendent axis and conjunct the Sun and square Neptune at the same time is a lot.
BT: Yeah, it was huge and completely life-changing for him.
CB: And then going back to the conjunction of Saturn and Pluto, because that might provide a good transition point into our next topic, what was the range on that? I guess one of the debates in the astrological community is about orbs and when a configuration or a planetary alignment comes into effect exactly. But what timeframe are you giving it for that conjunction?
BT: The timeframe I’m giving for the conjunction using a 15-degree orb is about 19’13” through 15”, I think.
CB: Okay, let me pull that up. So we’re talking about the Saturn-Pluto conjunction, which eventually went exact in what looks like early Cancer.
BT: Yeah. So Jung’s first flood vision took place on October 17, 1913, and you can see that Saturn and Pluto are approaching each other at that point. And then they were within 2 degrees when the war was declared, right at the end of July 1914. And so, that Saturn-Pluto alignment really dominated the first part of the First World War. And interestingly, the other big alignment that you can see happening there at the start of the war is that Jupiter-Uranus conjunction.
And so, you have both the intense level of destruction of the war starting, and also this Jupiter-Uranus, kind of naive sense of excitement about it–about what it means–and all of these young men signing up to fight in the war just to give their lives really on behalf of what? An idea? Patriotism? The nation? There were even German and English scholars who were studying together in universities, and they would part saying, “Well, I’ll see you on the battlefield.” How strange and naive that seems.
And then of course, as the war unfolded, JRR Tolkien, who fought in that war, called it ‘the first war of the machines’ because this is when technology–in terms of the machine gun, in terms of tanks and so on–had surpassed battle tactics, and that the old battle tactics of having a line of men run across no-man’s land didn’t work anymore. They’re not running into bayonet fire or arrows; they’re running into machine-gun fire and into tanks. And the tactics didn’t align with the technology, and really the war in so many ways ended in demoralization.
And you can see that transit shift actually from the Saturn-Pluto, that kind of cataclysmic intensity, at the beginning, to Saturn-Neptune. It was the Saturn-Neptune alignment in the later years of the war that was really peaking around 1916 during, say, the Battle of the Somme, which is one of the most heart-wrenching battles to read about. Just a complete failure of imagination on the part of the British generals, for example, and just young men’s lives being cut short in the mud of the trenches and so on.
And so, it carries that kind of Saturn-Neptune feeling of the conjunction there–of the demoralization and the lack of imagination; and the just saturation and mud and infection and fleas and trenches–and so a big shift in energy in a lot of ways from Saturn-Pluto to Saturn-Neptune. You actually see that same arc in the Second World War, which also started cataclysmically under a Saturn-Pluto square in 1939 and ended as well under a Saturn-Neptune, kind of a demoralizing transit in the mid-’40s. Interesting that both world wars carried that pattern.
CB: Yeah. So maybe that’s a good transition point into your other topic, which is outer planet cycles. And this is something that you spent a lot of time focusing on and started to specialize in to some extent, right?
BT: Yeah. And I think that my interest of course in outer planetary cycles is definitely informed by the astrological lineage that I’m carrying and coming out of. I mean, that’s the same perspective that’s put forward in Cosmos and Psyche, for example. And I think at one point I set myself the task or the goal of wanting to be a ‘human ephemeris’ for outer planetary alignments in at least the last century or so.
BT: I haven’t achieved that.
CB: And how is that going?
BT: You know, it’s in process, as always is the case, but it’s definitely something that I enjoy, being able to kind of feel those rhythms of history. And what I love about mundane astrology is that instead of history just simply being a series of dates, every year has qualitative meaning to it. And so, it becomes easier to have a handle on what alignments happened at which particular times because a number suddenly takes on a quality instead of just a quantity. I think that’s something that astrologers all experience.
CB: Yeah. I mean, studying history is really fun when you apply astrology to it because all of a sudden you can see these weird patterns and cyclical movements happening, underlying world events, where if you’re looking at it in a long enough timeframe, you can see the connections between the events through the movements of the planets and the archetypes manifesting in that way over long periods of time.
BT: Yeah, absolutely. And one area of that that I found really interesting is when an individual is born under one outer planetary alignment and then in some way they come into prominence or really come into their own, or create their great work under another alignment of the same planets. So one example, it’s kind of a classic example, that I like is of Barack Obama, who was born in 1961, the beginning of the your Uranus-Pluto conjunction, and how much Uranus-Pluto conjunction of the 1960s was connected to the civil rights movement, for example, and how the history of Uranus-Pluto alignments correlate with different stages in the abolitionist movement, for example.
And Obama then was elected as president in 2008, right at the beginning of the next alignment of Uranus and Pluto, when they came into a square. And so, born at the beginning of the Uranus-Pluto conjunction and coming into prominence, being elected President of the United States at the beginning of the next alignment of those same two planets.
CB: Yeah, I hadn’t noticed this before, but his chart’s actually similar to Jung’s in that he’s an Aquarius rising, with the Sun-Uranus conjunction in Leo; just kind of funny.
BT: Yeah, that’s true. And they both have the Sun-Neptune square as well.
CB: Right, with Jung’s being down in early Taurus, his Neptune, and Obama’s being up at 8 degrees of Scorpio on the other end.
BT: They both have that kind of charisma that can come with the Sun-Neptune, and certainly, the capacity to carry on a projection of a certain kind of image as well.
CB: Sure. So you’re pointing out the Uranus-Pluto conjunction in his chart. And then what was the later transit manifestation?
BT: That he was elected President of the United States in 2008, right at the beginning of the next alignment of Uranus and Pluto. So they moved from the conjunction that they were coming into when he was born and spent the first decade of his life living under that conjunction, and then he’s elected to office, right as those same two planets are coming into alignment again. And in so many ways, as the first black president in the United States carrying the promise of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, thematically, there’s a connection as well, but astrologically too, there’s that connection.
CB: Right. Okay, that’s brilliant. I love that. That’s a really good example just because of how central the Uranus-Pluto conjunction was in the 1960s on the civil rights movement and some of the other things that were happening in that decade.
BT: Yeah. Another example that is also connected to Uranus-Pluto, a different Uranus-Pluto theme of liberation of oppressed people–instead of African-Americans in the United States–is women and the feminist movement and the women’s movement. And if we go back several centuries to Mary Wollstonecraft, who was born in 1795, she was born with the Uranus-Pluto square. And she published her manifesto, which was called Vindication of the Rights of Woman, in 1792, under the subsequent opposition of Uranus and Pluto; that was the same opposition that happened at the same time as the French Revolution. And this text, Vindication of the Rights of Woman, really is kind of the foundational text of European feminism.
And again, this theme, she was born with Uranus square Pluto and then publishes this work under Uranus opposite Pluto. Her daughter actually was born under that same Uranus opposite Pluto alignment just a few years later. Her daughter is Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley who wrote Frankenstein, which was published under the next alignment of Uranus and Pluto. And there’s a relationship between Uranus, that kind of trickster/awakening archetype and Prometheus, the myth of Prometheus, and the subtitle of Frankenstein is The Modern Prometheus.
So you have here not just a multi-generational pattern of Uranus-Pluto alignments within one family, but they’re also both dealing with different feminist issues; Mary Wollstonecraft, in a very clear way, with Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and then Mary Shelley in more maybe subtle or creative ways, but calling out the impulse of Dr. Frankenstein to create life without a woman–that a man can be the ‘modern’ Prometheus and steal fire, steal life from the heavens and create a life without the nurturance of a family context or without the feminine in that way. So that’s another one of those patterns that I thought was quite interesting.
CB: Sure. So the underlying principle–there’s two–but one of them is that sometimes people born under specific alignments, especially hard aspects of outer planets will have an important development that represents that at some point later in their life when there’s a similar alignment, especially a hard aspect by the same two planets.
BT: Exactly. And of course, this isn’t always the case. Some people will come into greater prominence under a different alignment, but maybe their transits are being activated in some way that it’s just a more complex expression. So this isn’t a hundred-percent consistent pattern, but it is quite interesting when it shows up; when someone’s kind of carrying something maybe on behalf of a generation, for example, and express that in their being and in their work, and are bridging between these alignments in some way.
CB: Sure. And the second one is that especially outer planet conjunctions will lay the seeds or the foundations of something that will then grow and develop over the course of that cycle, however long it is. And you’ll see critical turning points, especially at the hard aspects of the square and the opposition and then the waning square, so that you can track the development and maturation of whatever was initiated at that time, at the conjunction.
BT: Yeah. I mean, I think that is definitely a really accurate way to look at it, taking in kind of the whole of the pattern. And I think that, for example, Saturn-Pluto is a good one to look at with that because they’re shorter cycles in general. We had the last conjunction in the early ‘80s, and now we’re having the next conjunction of those two planets; we can track that within a lifetime. It’s harder to do that, for example, with my you’re Uranus-Neptune where it’s so much more spread out. You had three alignments of that through all of the 20th century.
CB: Yeah. Well, let’s talk about that because that’s really relevant to today. So the Uranus-Saturn, or the Saturn-Pluto conjunctions, varies, but it goes on average every 31 to 37 years; so that’s approximately how long it takes from conjunction to conjunction. And the first one, in terms of the past century, was the one we’ve been talking about a lot, which happened around the start of World War 1, in the early 20th century.
And that was sort of the opening of the cycle that then played out over the course of the next 30 or 40 years, until there was eventually another conjunction at the beginning of the Cold War; and then that opened up a new period. But maybe even just focusing in on that first one, we can see how that first Saturn-Pluto conjunction was such a huge shift in the world in general and in politics and in geopolitics and so many different things, that we can really identify that as being an important turning point in world history.
BT: Definitely. The world completely changed with that war. And what was opened up in the First World War was, in a lot of ways, completed through the Second World War. And the Second World War was started under the waning square of Saturn and Pluto and was done by the time the next conjunction started, the one that correlated with the beginning of the Cold War. And that First and Second World War, you can kind of view it as one war in some ways involving the same issues. They just hadn’t been resolved between the First World War and the Second, and that then gave birth to the Soviet Union and what led to the opening of the Cold War.
And all the tensions of the Cold War really were at a great peak height under the Saturn-Pluto conjunction of the early ‘80s; so again, that same kind of full cycle between those two. The Soviet Union disbanded or fell, under a later, different alignment, the Berlin Wall falling, for example, in 1989, under Jupiter opposite Saturn-Uranus-Neptune, that’s of course a different configuration of planets, but the tensions really being at their peak under that Saturn-Pluto conjunction of 1980-84, especially 1982.
CB: Sure. But the World War 1 conjunction is great in terms of you can see how what started at that point and what was initiated with World War 1 led directly into a lot of the stuff that followed after that over the next 30 years that wouldn’t have happened if World War 1 hadn’t taken place. Without World War 1 there is no World War 2, and many of the reasons for the second war grew directly out of the first war and how it was resolved.
BT: Exactly, and those issues are still continuing to be at play. I mean, we can look at the whole conflict between the US and the Middle East, for example, as rooted in the end of the First World War because of how the Middle East was just arbitrarily carved up by European and American powers, just disregarding what is actually happening in that part of the world–this colonialist mindset.
So much was initiated by the First World War: what unfolded then; how it was concluded; or how it wasn’t well-concluded. And I think in some ways, perhaps, that’s connected to the Saturn-Neptune ending of the war where there’s just this demoralization, in the sense of this just has to stop. And that same kind of patterning was the case with the Second World War too, beginning with that cataclysmic conflict, and then Hitler invading various countries, and then also ending with that Saturn-Neptune recognition of what’s happening in the Holocaust and the gas chambers and so forth, where’s also that shift in the recognition of the intense tragedy.
CB: Right. And this is a good example in terms of timing. So for those that aren’t up-to-date on their early 20th century history, World War 1 was from about mid-1914 until late 1918. And I’m just looking at the chart for the exact conjunctions, but it looks like there was one of them at least at around 1 degree of Cancer, the Saturn-Pluto conjunction in May of 1915. Was this one of them? So I guess one of the other intro to outer planets cycle things is that sometimes there’s just one conjunction between outer planets and other times there’s multiple. There can be three, right?
BT: Yeah, exactly. And actually, right now, is a good example of that, where we have the current Saturn-Pluto conjunction, and they just made one exact alignment in January of this year. But this kind of speaks to the importance of orbs where we’ve been seeing Saturn-Pluto themes of multiple kinds, whether it’s sexual scandals, or corruption, or the potential of international conflict, and the ecological side of things–the fires and flooding–and now, of course, in a lot of ways, the peak of the Saturn-Pluto alignment with the coronavirus.
And even though there’s just that one exact alignment in January, we’re seeing kind of a wave of the archetypal energy that starts to come in and then will start to fade out through 2021, comparing that to, for example, the Jupiter-Pluto conjunction that’s happening right now as well where that’s gonna get three exact passes throughout this year.
CB: Right. Yeah, one of the ways that I like to visualize it, there was a diagram that was made by Kyle from Archetypal Explorer who plotted it on a graph and showed the exact conjunction of the current Saturn-Pluto conjunction, but also when the two planets would sort of retrograde back and come back within orb, or come closer to the conjunction versus when they’re further away. Let me share that for those watching the video version really quickly, just because it’s helpful in conceptualizing these things in terms of maybe peak periods of intensity. But even if it doesn’t go exact, the energy is still very prominent during those times.
BT: Exactly. And I think those graphs that Kyle makes are so helpful, just in terms of seeing when it starts to come in, when it intensifies and peaks, and when it’s going out. There is something that I believe is actually written about in Cosmos and Psyche, that in the later part of a major world transit, like at the end of the 1960’s–for example, at the end of the Uranus-Pluto conjunction then–that there is a saturation of the archetypal qualities in the collective.
So even though the two planets are moving further apart from each other–and we’re in that moment right now–it’s the ‘sunset moment’ of Uranus square Pluto, which we’ve had in the sky basically since late 2007. They’re separating; they’re finally past their 10-degree point for the square, for the orb. But I think there’s a kind of saturation of those archetypal qualities in the collective where maybe there are still more correlations present than at the beginning of the cycle, when they’re just starting to come in, even though it’s the same distance, just because so much has been set in motion in that time that’s reflective of those archetypal qualities.
CB: Yeah. I mean, one of the problems that became really super evident over the past few months was the conjunction happened of Saturn and Pluto in January and there was some stuff going on, like the Australian wildfires and everything else and the sudden rise in tensions between the US and Iran, when the US assassinated an Iranian general suddenly.
But I remember there being a traditional astrologer whose blog I was watching a few months ago, and he was trying to write this whole series about how Pluto is not important. And he tried to make the point that nothing significant happened in January in terms of world events, and this is a demonstration that astrologers were overhyping the Saturn-Pluto conjunction. But now, we know a few months later that during that time, there was literally a virus that was developing, that was brand-new, that had just jumped species and was building up and spreading and was about to kill like thousands of people, or potentially hundreds of thousands of people as it would eventually emerge a few months later, but we just didn’t know about it yet.
CB: So one of the issues with outer planet alignments, especially when you’re living through it at the time, is major changes are happening in the world, but it may not be evident right in the moment exactly what those changes are, or the full effects of the changes may not be apparent until retrospect, sometimes even decades later. If you were to tell the people who were living through that first Saturn-Pluto conjunction in 1914-1915 what effects, over the next 30 or 40 years, that conjunction would have on the world in general, they probably just wouldn’t have believed you, in terms of World War One and the effects of that and World War Two and everything else.
BT: I think that’s such an important point to make, that, as astrologers, essentially viewing history from the inside right now, we just can’t take in the full perspective. In a lot of ways, we have more of the capacity now than ever before just because of how interconnected the globe is and news and so on. But exactly, there’s so much that’s hidden, like these hidden beginnings of something that really can only be revealed later. And that is why I think, especially with outer planetary cycles, it’s the long retrospective view that’s really helpful, where you see kind of the fullness of it.
And we’ve gained perspective now, for example, on the Saturn-Pluto at the beginning of this millennium, with the Saturn-Pluto opposition that correlated with 9/11. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the fact that certain individuals, like Greta Thunberg, who was born in 2003 near the end of that Saturn-Pluto opposition, and how she has come into prominence as an advocate on behalf of doing something about climate change, and that she entered the world stage in right as the Saturn-Pluto conjunction was starting to come into orb.
And so, there’s this connection, again, of an individual born with the alignment coming into her own in some way. Of course, she’s very young still, so what her ‘own’ may be, again, that’s also important. Looking at the full arc of a life is the same in a lot of ways as looking at the full arc of a historical moment or a full cycle of two planets with each other.
CB: Yeah, that becomes really clear when you’re sitting in Saturn’s cycles, like a person’s Saturn return and their second Saturn return. And if you follow the squares and the oppositions and see them starting something new and then see the development and maturation of those themes at those different critical turning points over the course of the next thirty years, it becomes really evident in an individual’s chart, usually really clear, but the same principle also applies to just world events in general.
BT: Mm-hmm. It’s this recognition that we’re in the middle of a story. And if you find yourself in the middle of a tale, you don’t know, if you’re within it, how it’s going to end, and it’s only that ending of the story that really provides context on what you went through to get to that point. And astrology offers us that kind of narrative, which is an amazing gift of the cosmos, but we have to recognize we’re still in the middle of it, and what actions we take, for example, are so key even to how it will unfold. I mean, that’s, again, where I think there is this participatory element–that we’re in some sense maybe being called by the collective to step into certain roles at this time.
And if there’s anything to take from looking at how different individuals have published their great work or come into some kind of prominence under an outer planetary alignment, and they were born under a previous alignment of those same two planets, maybe that in some ways can be an inspiration. So for example, those born with Saturn-Pluto, or Jupiter-Pluto, or Saturn-Uranus, or a Jupiter-Saturn, we’ve got all of them at play right now and within the next few years. Maybe it’s a call to all of those different generations: How can you apply the gifts that you’ve been working on your whole life, because you have this in your chart, to this moment? Because maybe you have that gift that can be offered right now that will make the difference in bending history in a certain direction.
CB: Sure. Yeah, I like that as the very optimistic take in wanting to have something useful out of this, where we can see so many structures suddenly crumbling and changing in world events in general. I guess the thing that we can say at the very least, or that astrologers would say, or that an archetypal astrologer would say that looks at long-term planetary cycles is that being in the midst of a Saturn-Pluto conjunction, things are going to change during this time over the course of the next year that will have long-term implications over the course of the next 30 and 40 years, and perhaps some of the structures and some of the narratives and sequences in play will play out and cause great world changes over the course of the next few decades.
BT: Absolutely. I’ve been thinking a lot about the alignments that are coming in that’ll be more apparent, for example, next year, the Jupiter-Saturn square Uranus, and how can we take something from the late ‘80s, for example, when Jupiter was opposite Saturn, Uranus and Neptune at that time. That correlated with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the tensions that were present in the Cold War, and that’s a sudden collapse of structures and a sense of positive breakthrough at that time.
Can we apply that historical understanding to our current and upcoming moment of those same three planets being in different configuration–it’s true, it’s the same three planets that are involved—and see how the sudden collapse of seemingly permanent structures do make way for some kind of opportunity, for new creative, innovative ways of being? I just hold that as a possibility.
CB: Sure. So I’m just looking at that next year. It looks like around January, we have Saturn at 3 degrees of Aquarius and Uranus at 6 degrees of Taurus, and Jupiter is very closely squaring Uranus at 6 degrees of Aquarius. So that’s the alignment you’re talking about? So it’s not just the Jupiter-Uranus alignment, but also a Saturn-Uranus square as well?
BT: Exactly. Yeah, that Saturn-Uranus square has come pretty close already this year. It hasn’t gone exactly yet, but they seem to be activating each other. In following the primary, the Democratic primary, while that was still unfolding, it was really interesting to see that the two frontrunners–Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, were both of the Saturn conjunct Uranus generation of the early 1940s, born in ‘41 and ‘42, respectively–and how they were presenting two really different kind of Saturn-Uranus approaches to change.
Do we want to go back to normal, in that kind of Saturnian, ‘oriented toward the past’ way, or do we want to revolutionize in that more Uranian way? It’s gonna be interesting to see, as those two planets in the sky are coming closer and closer, how that continues to unfold, not just politically, but at these larger structural levels.
So many structures are being called into question right now because of the coronavirus and shutting down the economy and so on. Things that were unquestionable 10 years ago suddenly can be. Even things that didn’t seem to be questionable a year ago suddenly can be around capitalism, the economy; and why do we do things the way that we do and recognizing how quickly we can actually slow things down and stop, and how can that be applied in terms of climate change and ecology and so on.
CB: Yeah. And also, when I think of Saturn-Pluto, it’s like a stress test of if there are cracks and things. If you put enough pressure on that, will it maintain, or does it crumble? And this being like a stress test on a number of different areas about structures that are existing in the world in general, or the economy, or socially, or what have you, what happens when you put an undue strain on something? Can it survive or does it fall apart and then need to be rebuilt anew in some way?
BT: I think with the pretty complex configuration of planets that we have, all activating each other right now–with that Jupiter-Saturn-Pluto stellium and square to Uranus, and how Mars has so been activating that in recent weeks–there are a lot of different branches and options for how that may come through. As you’re saying, some things will prove to stand that test and show this is a really solid foundation, and other things are just totally gonna crack and crumble and already are. So what those specifics will be, we’re seeing and we’ll come to see, but I think it’s going to be quite diverse.
CB: Yeah. So going back, you mentioned the pile-up of Uranus, Neptune and Saturn that happened in the late 1980s. And I just wanted to show that on the screen really quickly, since it’s a really good point that this current Saturn-Uranus square then would be within that cycle and would be tied into that conjunction that occurred back then in the late 1980s.
And historically, astrologers associated this with the fall of the Soviet Union, which happened in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and it was actually predicted by an astrologer in a book on mundane astrology that came out several years earlier; he had said something about this being really problematic for the Soviet Union. It was in the book with Nick Campion and two other astrologers whose names I’m spacing out at the moment. Do you happen to remember or know that one offhand?
BT: I don’t know that one offhand, unfortunately, but now I’m very curious to look into it.
CB: Yeah, I think it’s just titled Mundane Astrology, with Nick Campion and Michael Baigent, and one other person. Anyway, so that’s that conjunction right there. And then you also mentioned the Saturn-Pluto opposition, which happened around the time of 9/11. Honestly, at the time, I remember when, for example, Cosmos and Psyche came out, that plays a very prominent role and gets a lot of discussion in that book, which at the time I almost felt like was too much or took up too much of the focus because it was such a recent and seemingly terrible event. But now, in retrospect, you can kind of see how that was the halfway point between the beginning of the last Saturn-Pluto conjunction cycle in the 1980s and what we’re now dealing with at the close of that cycle.
BT: Yeah. And I think that the Saturn-Pluto opposition and correlation with 9/11 took place under a Grand Cross with the Sun and the Moon in alignment with it as well on that day, I believe.
CB: I mean, the Sun’s in there in terms of forming a t-square.
BT: Right. The Sun is in there making the t-square. For some reason, I thought the Moon was involved, but that’s my misremembering.
CB: I mean, the day before, the Moon did swoop through Gemini where it conjoined Saturn and opposed Pluto and everything; so it’s at least tied in with a sort of t-square that was happening at that time.
BT: Yeah. Well, with that event, I think that the important thing isn’t just the actual event, but all of the fallout: the Iraq war and everything that that unleashed and continues to unleash; and how the rise of ISIS was connected to that and so many things. Again, we’re still very much in the middle of the story, but that critical moment really did open up a whole kind of vast shadowy world that we’re living with the effects of.
CB: Right, and that’s a really tricky thing. And another point or basic principle to write down is that sometimes these outer planet cycles, you have to keep in mind that they are, on the one hand, both sometimes indicating critical turning points that manifest in a specific event, but that the event itself is not the end of the story. Often the other part of that is the after-effects that will then last for years or for decades or what have you, keeping in mind that you’re trying to pay attention to both of those–both the event itself or a discrete moment in time–but also the shockwave that echoes throughout time for a while after that.
BT: I certainly think that we’re feeling that right now where there is such a collective sense that this coronavirus and the lockdown and the effect on the economy and all of these different layers are going to be leaving ripples through many, many years to come. We don’t know what that’s gonna look like yet, but there’s no way that things are just going to go back to the way they were last year. The world has changed because of this, and I think this will be seen as one of those kind of decisive moments.
CB: Yeah. Well, here, let’s do something really quickly, and this will be a fun, long-term project. But let’s just state what the timeframes are, or I can look them up really quickly for the next hard aspects in the rest of that 30-to-40-year cycle, and see over the course the next 30 to 40 years–or however long this recording is around–if something initiated now over the course of especially the next year comes to maturation and reaches a critical turning point in terms of its overall cycle at the waxing square, the first square, at the opposition, the waning square, and then eventually comes to some sort of conclusion at the conjunction 30 or 40 years from now. Do you happen to know those dates offhand?
BT: I wish I did.
BT: My ‘human ephemeris’ desires just stretch into the past at this point and through about the next decade.
CB: Right. I forgot to give you–I wanted to give you a pop quiz on different alignments, but so far, you’ve remembered most of them pretty well. I was gonna throw out when is the Uranus-Pluto conjunction, and that’s like the easiest one of the 20th century.
BT: Yeah. The Uranus-Pluto conjunction from 1960 to 1972. You have the previous square in the ‘30s; I think that’s about 1928, no, ‘27 to ‘37; there’s that 10-year alignment. And then you have the previous opposition that encompassed the beginning of the turn of the 20th century. I can’t remember those exact dates, but I know that it’s coming on the heels of–it’s such a great series of transits at the turn of the 20th century. Because you get the Neptune-Pluto conjunction that really peaked around 1892, which was when JRR Tolkien was born, which is part of why I know that. Hitler and Charlie Chaplin were all born within that period. And then that opens up into, first, the Uranus-Pluto opposition and then that Uranus-Neptune opposition from 1899 to 1918. So just an amazing overlapping series of transits then.
CB: All right, well now you’re just showing off.
CB: That’s fine. All right, so let’s investigate this for the future. So the Saturn-Pluto conjunction went exact in January. Do you remember the degree offhand?
BT: It went exact at 22 or 23.
CB: Yeah, it looks like 22.
CB: Yeah, okay, so 22 Capricorn. And it looks like it went exact on January 12. January 11-January 12, around that time, so 22 Capricorn. And you’re using, you said, a 15-degree orb, right?
BT: Yes, for the conjunction.
BT: That would have come in actually by December of 2017, but really starting to come in through 2018, definitely 2019, and will go out through 2021.
CB: Yeah. And honestly, this is something I wanted to propose that might be useful for you. I think there’s an intensity level, a level of intensity that the degree-based aspect brings into effect that gets increasingly more and more prominent or intense, or whatever word you want to use for that, the closer it gets to the degree, especially once it’s within that 15-degree range, and then there’s sort of like an increasing level of intensity once it gets it within a degree.
But in some instances, I’ve found it to be useful even to watch when they move into the sign-based alignment. Sometimes you’ll start seeing some of the issues and some of the themes start to correlate or start to constellated that point, even if they’re not within that 15-degree range. So there might be an overlapping thing where the sign-based component and the degree-based component could be relevant in some way from a mundane perspective.
BT: I was thinking about that actually. I had listened to your episode on the transits for April of this year, and you brought that up. And I think kind of looking through both of those lenses simultaneously really does shed a lot of light and a lot of clarity. The sign-based and those wider orbs, if you kind of hold both of those in mind, then, yeah, that does really kind of reveal more of the larger correlating patterns; comparing both of those examples compared to just looking at the exact conjunction, and saying, “Oh, nothing happened on January 12? This was overhyped.”
CB: On Saturday, January 11 or whatever, that it had to be exact like that day. So if that was true though, that would take us back to the date that you mentioned before, which was December of 2011, which is when Saturn first went into Capricorn, and then would have begun both the sign-based and the degree-based conjunction around that time with Pluto.
BT: December of 2017.
CB: It’s that recent?
BT: I think so, yeah.
CB: Yeah, that’s when Saturn went into Capricorn. Let me just put it up really quickly. There it is. So Saturn moved into Capricorn on December 20, 2017.
CB: So Pluto’s at 18 degrees of Capricorn at that point, but Saturn would quickly move into at least the 15-degree range not too long after that, by early February.
BT: And even just thinking about that in terms of Pluto being in Capricorn as this Saturn-ruled sign, and then Saturn comes in and joins it, it just really amplifies this particular conjunction, I think, in so many ways.
CB: Yeah, well, especially when you take it into the context of what the start of that transit was like when Pluto first went into Capricorn–that ingress took place around 2008-2009–and then we had the worldwide financial crisis and the Great Recession that took place at that point.
BT: Yeah. And again, it’s having those multiple lenses simultaneously. This is just the extraordinary orchestration of astrology, where Pluto moves into Capricorn right at the same time as there’s the first Saturn-Uranus-Pluto t-square since the one that happened in 1929 with 6the Great Depression. The very next time those three planets Saturn, Uranus, and Pluto coming to a t-square happens to be also when Pluto ingresses into Capricorn, and they correlate with the Great Recession. It’s just such an extraordinary orchestration in some ways.
CB: Right. And it also points out just the complexity of all of it and maybe how sometimes it’s difficult to put it all on one thing, or how sometimes it can be reductive if you try to put it on just one alignment when there’s often so much going on. And that’s really one of the challenges of mundane astrology in general is just there’s so many different alignments going on at any one time that it’s hard to keep track and synthesize all of them.
BT: Yeah, absolutely. And that is where, in some ways, it can be helpful starting off to commit to one approach, for example. For me, it was very helpful to enter into that astrological learning practice through planets and aspects and then layering in and layering in more and more. Otherwise, just speaking in general to maybe someone who’s newer to astrology, it can feel totally overwhelming, “I don’t even know which path to go down. And how do I hold all these different perspectives and techniques at once?” And I think that’s maybe where our intuition draws us to, “Okay, I’m gonna work with this for now and then see how it opens up and opens up.”
CB: Right. Definitely. All right, so…
BT: I had a…
CB: Oh, go ahead.
BT: I had a question I wanted to ask you actually around kind of these same concepts in terms of the Saturn return. And the traditional technique is to count the Saturn return as starting from when Saturn ingresses into the sign that the natal Saturn is in. Is that correct?
CB: What do you mean by traditional? Like the ancient approach to it? The Saturn return is more of a recent thing that astrologers really focus on and study as a thing unto itself, where they tend to be more focused on the exact degree-based Saturn return. But yeah, in bringing back some traditional concepts, one of them being sign-based aspects as being relevant and being valid in some way, one of the things when I started applying that to modern concepts that I noticed right away was that the Saturn return really begins as soon as Saturn returns back to its natal sign, and it doesn’t fully end until it departs from that sign, which creates a much broader time-window than people are usually used to thinking about.
BT: I’m curious. I tend to use a very wide orb, degree-wise, to calculate the Saturn return, looking 15 degrees before or1 even maybe 20, to get a sense for that and mapping that onto what you’re describing. What have you found when someone’s natal Saturn is very close to either the beginning of the sign or the end?
Let’s say someone’s Saturn is at 28 degrees Capricorn, and Saturn of course now is gonna dip back in and cross over that. But when it leaves for the last time, it’s still, degree-wise, very close. And I’m just curious what you found in terms of it seeming like Saturn return themes linger if the degree is later. Does that question make sense?
CB: Yeah, it totally makes sense because it’s a question how do you reconcile those two approaches, and I think the answer is that the orbs still matter. And especially if it’s really early in the sign or really late in the sign, and transiting Saturn gets up to within 3 degrees of that, you really do see the intensity of the Saturn return either already beginning at that point or still coming back and showing some lingering after-effects if Saturn is late in the sign. So yeah, the orb definitely still matters and that’s still relevant, especially if Saturn’s at the first degree of the sign; or if Saturn’s at the very last degree, like 29 degrees of the sign, then you really still have to take that into account.
BT: Yeah, I had just been curious about asking you your perspective on that.
CB: Yeah, it’s definitely both of those. And I saw a lot of that a few years ago when Saturn first went into Capricorn, because I had noticed it retrograding back to very early in the sign. And there were a few people with Saturn in very late Sagittarius, like 28 and 29 degrees, when it retrograded back–even though it didn’t return back into Sagittarius–you could see it being activated in the wrapping up of some of those Saturn returns stories not fully happening until Saturn had moved further away by degree.
BT: Mm-hmm, I can personally attest to that one.
CB: Okay. What degree is your Saturn at?
BT: It’s at 21 Sagittarius.
BT: And I was, for myself, just looking with a 20-degree orb past that–kind of just tracking like 10 degrees out, 15, 20–and it really didn’t feel like until it was past that 20-degree point that I was like, “Hey, this is done now.”
CB: Sure. Yeah, I think it’s definitely important to take both of those into account. It’s just useful to have additional tools for knowing certain dates to look for that might be like stepping stones that can build on each other rather than necessarily one negating the other.
BT: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you.
CB: Yeah. All right, so let’s take a look at what next dates are coming up in terms of the current cycle that we’re starting. And even though the exact conjunction has already taken place, it’s going to be a while because Saturn, at the very least–let’s just say the sign-based conjunction–is going to retrograde back into Capricorn later this year and retrograde all the way back to what looks like 25 degrees of Capricorn before it stations direct. And1 Pluto will be at 22 Capricorn at that point, around the fall, around October of this year.
BT: Yeah, they get very close again.
CB: Yeah, which makes some people a little nervous. But then, eventually, by December, of course, as all the astrologers have been talking about, Saturn finally departs from Capricorn and moves into Aquarius for good, where the Saturn-Jupiter conjunction happens shortly after that. So that’s like one step in terms of the separation of the conjunction–just having them in different signs at least from that point forward, from December forward. But at that point, they’re only, what, 7 degrees apart. So in terms of degree, they’re still pretty close together.
CB: Okay, so when do they get 15 degrees apart, I guess would be the next question. It looks like maybe within a few months of that.
BT: I think it’s actually by December of 2021 that they leave that full 15 degrees apart.
CB: Okay. So let’s see, by December of 2021, Saturn is at 10 degrees of Aquarius and Pluto is at 25 degrees of Capricorn. Okay, so by that point, finally, one steppingstone is in separation or one-degree of separation. One step of separation is December of 2020 when they move out of the same sign, and then finally by December of 2021, a year later, they’re also separate by at least 15 degrees permanently.
CB: Okay, so that’s the starting point then, and the seeds of whatever geopolitical and larger world event changes are going to happen should be firmly planted and firmly in place and moving forward and sort of growing at that point once we’re firmly in the waxing phase of Saturn in its cycle with Pluto and moving away from it.
CB: So the next turning point then would be the opening or the waxing square, when Saturn squares Pluto eventually, several years later.
BT: Yeah. So I guess we’ll look about a decade ahead.
CB: Yeah, because eventually Pluto goes into Aquarius, which is a whole thing unto itself, but it looks like that’s where it will be when Saturn eventually catches up to it. Saturn will move into early Taurus in the late 2020s, and it looks like that’s when Saturn will square Pluto.
BT: Mm-hmm. And I would use looking at the square with maybe a smaller orb than the conjunction.
CB: Like what?
BT: Like 10 degrees.
CB: 10? Okay. So yeah, it looks like it moves into Taurus by April of 2028. So there we’re getting both within a 10-degree orb, as well as a sign-based square between those two in the late 2020s. And it looks like that goes exact in that first pass. So Saturn’s squaring Pluto from 8 degrees of Taurus to 8 degrees of Aquarius around June of 2028.
CB: So that’s the opening or the waxing square. Then I guess we would eventually go on to the opposition because we know that that’s going to last for like a year or two at least, the square.
BT: Oh, yeah, the square. About two years, I think.
CB: Okay. So the waxing square, is there a statement that we could make about that? I guess the most general statement that will still end up being surprisingly specific is that something that started in the few-year timeframe, around the conjunction, will fully manifest and reach a critical turning point around the time of the square, during that two-year or so timeframe.
BT: Mm-hmm. Yeah, one thing that I keep thinking about or wondering about–and in part, this is just the interest that really draws me as well–but what are the ecological themes going to be under these different Saturn-Pluto stages, just based on the projections that are being given around climate change, and how much time we have to really change how we use energy and the economy and so on. I do think that this will probably be a next critical point, and so that could be something that’s in there.
Obviously, there have historically been a lot of different international conflicts and tensions that have unfolded too under Saturn-Pluto alignments. So again, it depends on how things are handled right now and what tensions may be seeded or released at that square.
CB: Right. Definitely. And certainly, there’s medical things that are coming up in the US, obviously, like issues surrounding healthcare and access to healthcare, as well as the medical situation in general, being able to deal with pandemics. So this is a situation that some people have been worried about for years now–because the global economy is so much more connected–and how the world would deal with and whether it was prepared to deal with a global pandemic.
So a global pandemic happening at the conjunction at this time, then there could be things related to that that crop up again at the time of the squares with the opposition, or that sort of check in again to see how the structures that were put in place after this pandemic, how well they hold up under subsequent periods where there’s issues, where those are stress-tested again.
BT: Yeah, that definitely feels like it could be an issue in those times. Just looking back many, many centuries–because of the relationship of Saturn-Pluto, this time to the coronavirus, or the Saturn-Pluto conjunction in the early 80s and the AIDS epidemic–you can go back even further to the bubonic plague in Europe that was spreading through Europe under the Saturn-Pluto conjunction.
That disease started in China under the previous opposition of Saturn and Pluto. So at that time, it took from the opposition in 1333, that opposition, where the bubonic plague started in China, then it took all the way until the conjunction for it to reach Europe in 1348-51. And of course, now, being an interconnected, global culture, we have a virus that starts in China and gets to every part of the world within months, days. But I do wonder if, not necessarily this virus, but something along those lines at either the square or the opposition, as you were pointing to.
CB: Sure. And also, even just how the world deals with these no longer being things that can be isolated to one country, that one country can keep under wraps. And then that brings in larger discussions about things like the World Health Organization and the way that that’s funded or not funded and the level of cooperation that different countries have with that and maybe that being something that’s being changed or where changes are happening now that are going to have echoes or repercussions over the course of the next 30 to 40 years, especially those turning points.
BT: Saturn themes have so much to do with boundaries and division. And that what this virus is really showing is the ‘Plutonic’ of the natural world. The elemental powers of nature don’t really care about our national boundaries. And maybe, hopefully–this is my optimism, again–some of the seeds that are planted right now are that we have to start thinking like ‘a globe’.
We’re on a planet that’s moving through space, we’re all on one globe, and those lines that we draw in the sand really don’t matter. And yet, we make them matter and we shed all kinds of blood on their behalf. But just thinking theoretically about Saturn and Pluto, Pluto being destruction and Saturn being a kind of destruction of artificial boundaries, I don’t actually really hold that hope and optimism, but I at least want to be able to speak to planting the seed of it.
CB: Sure. Definitely. Some of the keywords you were using also makes me think of Saturn and some of the significations around fear. And over the past few months, one of the things that became really palpable was like a fear of destruction. And I actually haven’t felt that same feeling that was going on in the collective over the past few months, especially before the lockdowns really went into place or around the time that the lockdowns; I haven’t really seen that collective level of fear happening. The last time I remember it was like around September 11, 2001, where you had that Saturn-Pluto opposition, and that’s the last time I’ve seen that level of just a palpable fear that people have surrounding what’s happening into the world, and this feeling like there’s events outside of their control which are happening and are sort of conspiring against them in some way.
BT: That feeling of being swept up by larger forces that are just beyond us, that’s actually an interesting comparison between the Full and New Moon positions: the opposition at 9/11 and the conjunction now. Compare that to the intervening waning square that correlated with the Great Recession and had Uranus involved. There was also a level of fear and worry around the economy, people losing their homes–also around how are we going to manage to pay our bills, to eat, and so on–but it wasn’t collectively the same level of sweeping fear of something beyond human structures. The economy crashing, those are human structures. And yes, a lot of what we’re seeing now is the fault of human structures too–in healthcare and economics, and so forth–but it’s also a virus and something that’s really beyond our structural control in that way.
CB: Yeah, definitely, because of actual deaths on a scale that people are not used to imagining, and the immediate threat of dealing with your own mortality that comes along with that. I mean, on 9/11, it was the sudden death of over 2,000 people or 3,000 people over the course of a single day, which brought that sort of immediacy. And now, with this conjunction over the past few months, even in the US alone, it’s 45,000 people dying over the course of a month suddenly, and the same sudden, immediacy of it and the questions about mortality that it sort of raises.
BT: Absolutely, and even thinking of Jupiter being in the mix now, and how Jupiter is magnifying and amplifying the effect and globalizing too the effect of the spread of the virus and so on. The number, the sheer number of deaths, or at least infections too when compared to–well, I was gonna say when compared to the event of 9/11. But then when you take into account all the wars that initiated, suddenly you get a sheer number of deaths there as well, it’s just spread out more through time. And ‘mass death’ does seem to be a consistent Saturn-Pluto theme, whether it’s the AIDS epidemic or the huge death toll of both world wars, or the Vietnam War that started under the opposition in the 1960s, and so on.
CB: Right. Definitely. All right, this is good, so let’s return back to our timelines. So now we’re in the timeline around 2036. It looks like there’s an exact opposition of Saturn and Pluto by degree, with Saturn at 20 degrees of Leo and Pluto at 20 degrees of Aquarius. So this would be the halfway point through this cycle that we’re starting right now under the current conjunction.
BT: It feels very soon, doesn’t it?
BT: 16 years away.
CB: We’re talking about things, like futuristic-sounding dates that used to be just the purview of science fiction stuff. I think Terminator from 1984 was originally set in 2029, and that’s when John Connor is sent back into the past from the future, but that’s really not that long from now.
BT: And I guess that has to do with Pluto’s orbit–that Pluto is moving quite quickly right now—so Saturn’s catching up with it. No, that doesn’t make sense.
CB: I mean, there are different periods when Pluto moves more quickly or more slowly through certain signs. I forget which one it is at the moment, but that’s one of the that’s why the Saturn-Pluto cycle varies so much between, what, 30 years and 40 years?
BT: Mm-hmm. Yeah, Saturn takes less time to catch up. So it seems like this is gonna be a shorter cycle overall than some others.
CB: Yeah, I should look that up really quickly, because I think Scorpio is one of the ones where it moves really fast through. And if that’s true, because it’s on an elliptical orbit, maybe Aquarius is one of the ones where Pluto slows down, which would mean that Saturn would catch up to it much more quickly.
BT: This is throwing another outer planet transit cycle into the mix, but around that time–I think it’s ending in 2035–the century-long Neptune-Pluto sextile is coming to an end. And almost anybody that we know and is still alive has that Neptune-Pluto sextile in their charts; it’s been there for many, many decades. And it’s kind of an interesting balancing act that’s taking place behind the scenes between the transcendent, spiritual, religious, numinous, imagination, etc., of Neptune and the Plutonic underworld and depths and chthonic, transformative elements.
And when those start moving apart–again, this is looking at something from the inside–I just wonder what is that gonna feel like as that kind of harmonious balance between heaven and hell–if we can even think of it that way, going on in the background–starts to to shift. That’s something that has been there since the ‘40s.
CB: Right. So for the sextile, you’re using a 6-degree orb? What orb are you using for that?
BT: Well, they’ve danced in and out. They’ve definitely gotten further away than 6 degrees, but I think the first time coming within that 6 degrees to the last time leaving takes about 90 years.
CB: Got it, okay. And so, you’re saying that’s ending around the mid-2030s?
CB: Okay, got it. Let’s see, so back to Saturn. So we have the Saturn-Pluto opposition, the halfway point through the cycle in the mid-2030s, and then it keeps going. We’re getting close towards the end of Pluto in Aquarius at this point, and it looks like the next square might take place after that sign change, where Pluto moves into Pisces in the early to mid-2040s.
CB: And it looks like we eventually get a square between Saturn and Pluto here, when Pluto’s at 0 Pisces and Saturn hits 0 degrees of Sagittarius.
BT: Wow, and that one’s gonna be another Saturn-Uranus-Pluto t-square too, like we heard during the Great Recession, during the Great Depression. It’ll be a potent time probably.
CB: Yeah, because this is the final hard aspect in that cycle. So this is the waning square with Saturn and Pluto and is sort of like a culmination of that entire cycle in some way, analogous to what World War 1 was at the beginning of that cycle to what World War 2 was in some ways when it similarly started around the time of the waning square.
BT: Yeah, exactly. Same parallel.
CB: And then, your point, Uranus is there at 26 degrees of Leo, which is opposing Pluto at 0 Pisces, and squaring Saturn at 0 Sagittarius.
CB: All right, and then the entire cycle will end when Saturn eventually meets up again with Pluto in Pisces, which looks like it’s taking place in the early-to-mid-2050s, and eventually goes exact. Making sure it didn’t go exactly earlier. It looks like it got really close. Oh, no, it must go exact around June of 2053, the first exact conjunction.
BT: So this will be an example of three conjunctions?
CB: Yeah, it looks like it, because it looks like it gets very close. So it’s happening at 14 degrees of Pisces. Yeah, and then it goes exact around the middle of June of 2053. And surely that’s gonna retrograde. Yeah, then Saturn goes retrograde, falls back, eventually stations direct, and then hits Pluto again in–looks like January-February of 2054.
So yeah, we’re gonna have three passes of that conjunction in the middle of Pisces, around the 2050s, but that will be the end of the current Saturn-Pluto cycle that’s just started over the past few years, especially this year at the exact conjunction, and it would be the beginning of a new cycle. So the closing down and the wrapping up of whatever that cycle was about over the course of 30 years and the start of whatever is to come over the course of the next 30 or 40 years following that.
BT: Well, who knows what will be happening with technology and podcasts and our own lives, but if possible, let’s touch base in 2054 and see what’s happened.
CB: Okay. We’ll do a follow-up in, what is that, 34 years’ time, and follow-up probably using virtual reality or something weird like that.
BT: I’ll put it in my calendar.
CB: All right, I’ll put it on my Google Calendar as well. Cool. Well, thank you so much for joining me today. This has been a lot of fun. I’m just coming out of being sick. And we decided to do this as more of a free-flowing, not very well-planned thing, but this actually worked out really well. So thanks a lot for joining me today.
BT: Thank you so much. I was just so honored to be here. Really, thank you.
CB: Awesome. So where can people find out more information about your work? What sort of things do you have coming up?
BT: I have pretty much everything I do accessible through my website; it’s just my name, www.BeccaTarnas.com. And that houses all of my writings, and there’s an events page, and videos and podcasts, and so on. And then I’m on the different social media platforms. I’m on Twitter and Instagram, and again, it’s all my name, Becca Tarnas.
And as far as things that I have coming up, I’m really mostly focusing on teaching. I mean, I give astrological readings, that’s kind of the main work that I do, but I’m gonna be teaching. I’m continuing to teach at Pacifica Graduate Institute. And I’m offering a course in the fall, co-teaching with my friend and colleague, Laura Michetti, who I know went to Kepler with you. And we’re gonna be teaching on archetypal astrology and transpersonal psychology together, so that’s definitely something that we’re each really looking forward to that’s offered through the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program at CIIS.
CB: Awesome. And the next wave is starting in the fall?
BT: Mm-hmm. Yeah, the program does both fall and spring admits, but this is a fall course, and it’s a foundational course in terms of anyone wanting to go on and study astrology and archetypal cosmology in more depth through that program. So if you’re wanting to catch that wave, yeah, the next season of admissions is for the fall, and applications are very much still open.
There’s an online program and residential program. Obviously, conditions as they are right now, the online program is really thriving and the residential program has become the online program, so we’ll see what continues to unfold there.
CB: Brilliant. That’s really exciting. And you’re co-teaching that with my old friend, Laura Michetti, who I went to Kepler with, and who was a Kepler graduate as well, and we studied all of this. I think we were fourth year Kepler students, around 2003-2004. She’s finishing her PhD in that program right now.
BT: She is. Yeah, she’s just about to defend and wrap up. And she has an amazing project that she’s been working on about Sami shamanism and divination. She’s a very dear friend, and we’re also colleagues. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from her in terms of astrology and magic and so forth.
CB: Brilliant. Awesome. Well, good luck teaching that program or co-teaching it in the fall. And I guess the last thing was people can pick up the current issue of the Archai Journal on Amazon, or you can find more information about it on the website. What’s the website again?
BT: The website is Archai.org. And that’s just spelled, A-R-C-H-A-I. And I actually wanted to mention that that word, ‘archai’, it’s the root word for archetype, and it means ‘first’ or ‘first principle’. So that’s what the journal is named after, to convey that archetypal grounding for it. Yeah, there’s a lot of free articles available on the website too, so people can really get a taste for what we’re doing there.
CB: Yeah, there’s some really great free PDFs and articles and excerpts from old journals where you can learn a lot about archetypal astrology and that entire approach, and there’s a lot of really great resources there.
BT: Yeah, we’re trying to have it be a hub for a lot of different archetypal resources and so on.
CB: Awesome. Cool. All right, well, people should check out your website, which is BeccaTarnas.com. And thanks so much for doing this with me today, I really appreciate it. And yeah, we’ll have to check in again in 34 years for part two.
BT: Sounds good. Thank you so much. It’s really a pleasure.
CB: All right, and thanks everybody for listening to this episode of The Astrology Podcast, and we’ll see you again next time.
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