The transit upon us is making America look at its mania for possessions, especially those that have acquired iconographic status. What is it that leads us to bestow upon certain valuables (Venus) a preternatural power (Pluto)? Why would the prosaic desire to own real estate, for example — referenced with starry-eyed yearning in the phrase “the American Dream” — have acquired such driving force in this country that it has become tantamount to a spiritual quest?
The astrology of the America’s birth chart provides our first clue. Pluto is placed in the second house of the US (Sibley) chart. This is the house of our physical attachments, usually expressed through the act of ownership. In America’s mass mind, the material world – associated in astrology with the Earth element — gets so much more attention than the other worlds — those of Air, Fire and Water – that it has set itself apart as the only “real” world.
The consummate example of a big, expensive possession that has captured the national imagination is the house. The ownership of a physical house (2nd house), as opposed to the cultivation of emotional connectedness via family or community (4thhouse), has become so central to the idea of The American Dream that it has become the deal-breaker for many people’s sense of life-purpose.
The housing bust at the beginning of 2008 took place when Pluto (breakdown) was provoked by Mars in Cancer (home and shelter). The New Year officially opened, energetically speaking, with the New Moon of December 27th, which echoed the Mars transit of exactly a year ago. Mars was opposed to Pluto then, and is conjunct to it now (for a discussion of the event that served as a template for the year to come, see my New Moon blog).
Similarly, when we look at cars as objects, and then consider the symbolic freight involved in the possession (or not) of these objects in the collective mind, it helps us understand why the automaker bailout is getting so much more attention than the bailouts to the lending industry moguls. Psychology suggests that a populace needs a nice concrete icon to wrap its mind around; and a car is a lot more tangible than a credit default swap.
But as the Uranus-Saturn opposition starts to shatter everything the status quo holds dear1, Americans are waxing ambivalent about big ol’ American cars, and the traffic and pollution that come with them. Amidst this sea change in American values the tide is turning towards hybrids and light-rail trains. The preferences (Venus) of an entire country are being transformed (Pluto). The American populace seems to be getting ready for a huge perception shift: that of seeing a gas-guzzling Hummer as a dinosaur going extinct.
And taxpayers are taking umbrage at the idea of throwing their money at the industry that created these clunkers. Thus were the Detroit titans recently raked over the coals by indignant congressmen who, a couple of months earlier, had simply sat there in mute bewilderment as far more gargantuan sums were being authoritatively demanded by the patrician crooks of Wall Street.
Pluto’s current transits to the US chart are leading us towards the Pluto Return of 2022, of which we are now on the on-ramp. A profound change to the American system is inevitable, one that will prove way more far-reaching than simply a change of administrations. The self-image of the USA will be gutted and overhauled. Neptune’s conjunction with the US Moon, now also in orb and reaching its initial peak this Spring, portends a massive blow to the nation’s feelings about itself.2
Removing the mask
A gaping chasm exists between the romantic ideal of “The American Dream” and the facts of people’s actual material lives. Though this has been so for some time, the configurations gathering in the sky right now indicate a meltdown of this “dream” on myriad levels of meaning.
First of all, the populace is starting to let a big, unsavory truth sink in: that the country’s economic gains have merely been trickling to the top. As news of the automaker bail-out blares out of their TVs day in and day out, Americans are being forced to listen to the facts; e.g. that the CEO of General Motors makes seven to eight million dollars a year, whereas the incomes of workers adjusted for inflation are lower today than in 2000. 3 For several decades now, this disparity has been masked: people didn’t notice it because they were living beyond their paychecks (more working mothers, more workaholism,4 and, of course, over-mortgaging the house5). But the transits upon us are removing this mask. Realities long ignored are now disarmingly visible.
One does not have to be an economist to see that the government bailouts have not worked. After investing four trillion dollars in an attempt to lubricate the wheels of lending, the only result is the enrichment of the wildly reckless speculators who caused the crisis in the first place. From a metaphysical point of view the economic crisis is a purgative, an unpleasant but necessary precursor to healing. As the Neptune/Moon transit suggests, beneath America’s panic about the economy is a malaise that has nothing to do with the material world. Clients who visit an astrologer these days and insist that all they want to talk about are “practical” issues like their 401ks are missing the point. As distressing as the financial facts are, the deeper issue is that of psycho-spiritual health.
The abyss of difference between the stories American-dreamers tell themselves and the statistical realities of their economic lives is reaching the point where there will be either an unprecedented mass revelation or a mass psychotic breakdown.
The cosmos is using this “recession” (the act of receding or withdrawing) to force us to reassess the role played by material issues in human experience. How much doesmatter matter?
It was not just astrologers who saw the meltdown coming. Many economic theorists predicted exactly this kind of market failure, back when Clinton was killing off the last of the post-Depression-era protections. The smart number-crunchers said then that the answer was not tax breaks for big business but investment in small business; and in working people in general through good schools, health insurance and rebuilt infrastructure. It seems that only now has the moment arrived for the concept to crystallize within the public’s consciousness that money might actually be spent for people (Uranus), not for corporations (Saturn).6
What would America look like, if its businessmen were pledged to confine their profit-making to the creation of products that were beneficial to society? What a concept. What would happen if the billions now being demanded by failing monster companies went instead into mass transit, solar panels, organic farms and health care? The crisis is inspiring an outpouring of eager Uranian voices, asking once-heretical questions. Instead of transferring our wealth to another corporate boardroom, why not try giving it to the employees directly?
One polarity of the opposition above is to recoil in fear (Saturn); the other is to break the bonds of conventional thinking (Uranus). We know from history — both collective and personal — that crisis inspires invention. Crises usher in new ways of living. When a container (Saturn; in this case, the economic system) sustains cracks and fissures (Uranus), it starts to let in light.
Many Americans who took to heart the recent rallying cry “Yes, We Can” are thinking outside the box in ways that go beyond the political. An example is the daring suggestion that for a few more billion than the auto industry is asking for, the federal government could give all 600,000 employees of GM ford and Chrysler a $75,000 buyout each, so they could survive. Some have had the audacity to propose that the government could then take out the whole industry and rebuild it, as the Japanese did after WWII, with great success. What if American automakers were to emulate that success rather than begrudging it?
A heartening example of this New Thinking spontaneously arose (Uranus) last month in Chicago, when 240 union members took over the windows-and-doors plant that the bailout-rich bank had shut down (Saturn).
But lest we astrologers fall into the same sort of stereotyping that culture warriors fall into with their opposing points of view, let us remember that planets are neither bad nor good. It is a misreading of Natural Law to view Uranus as the valiant knight on the white charger galloping forth to vanquish the evils of bad old Saturn.
Consider the role of the unions (Saturn in Virgo) in this period. For decades the government-corporate alliance that controls the American system has been trying to eliminate the last gasping remnants of the industrial labor movement. But only now, in the anything-goes atmosphere of the recession, have the powers-that-be actually had a shot at it. It makes sense astrologically that it would take an outer planet like Uranus to destabilize Detroit’s entrenched labor machine, the last of its kind in the country.
Clearly the rhetoric being used by bailout advocates is intended to frighten labor into thinking that they’d better off holding on to their jobs at any cost. (It has been suggested that the reason Gov. Blogojevich of Illinois got into so much more hot water than his innumerable and equally corrupt colleagues is that, under his watch, the SEIU had gotten too strong.7 )
Who wears which hat?
This contest is not like a football game, where one side achieves a decisive victory over the other and then everybody goes home. Like the dizzying stock market swings that started with the opposition in September, sending the Dow soaring to record-breaking heights only to plummet the next day, this latest round of the Uranus-Saturn dance is just a warm-up.
There will be plenty more radical ups and downs before this part of the transit configuration is over (after which we should be sufficiently loosened up to handle the Grand Cross). Humanity will experience Uranian triumphs sharply followed by those of Saturn, only to be followed by yet another jaw-dropping reversal. Why is Universal Intelligence putting humanity through all this? Certainly not for the sake of declaring one side or another the “winner.”
It’s about waking us up. Uranus, which has been called the higher octave of Mercury, is a mental planet. It destabilizes us in order to make us think. And to think, not merely in terms of gathering old information; but to think in outlandish new ways.
Uranus wants to shake things up and allow change in. Saturn wants to render these shake-ups productive.
1 This transit peaks for the second of five times on February 5th.
2 Jupiter and Chiron will also be players in this conjunction, of which more upcoming.
3 The last time there was a disparity like this was in 1928. Justice and morality aside, even on a baldly pragmatic level the skewing of GDP towards the rich is bad news because the very rich don’t buy things as often as they invest.
4 Americans have overtaken even the Japanese in numbers of hours worked per week.
5 The literal meaning of mortgage is “a pledge unto death” (Pluto). Astrologically we can infer that one might use this obligation either as a chain around the neck to one’s dying day, or as a means to transform oneself.
7 Twenty thousand home healthcare workers were enrolled under his watch.