Money is one of the hottest of these hot buttons. In the USA, it is even hotter than death and sex, which come in a close second and third.1
The Fear Monster
This is the perfect moment to begin practicing freedom (Uranus) from fear (Saturn).
Transiting Pluto (breakdown) is still opposed to the American chart’s Venus (money), approaching its next exactitude in December. Astrologers are not the only observers who have associated the years ahead with the end of the dollar as a world currency2, the breakdown of the US Federal Reserve3 and resource depletion on a global scale. Though this writer does not believe in predictions per se,4 even making a hypothetical reference to such scenarios is enough to freak out a lot of people.
Be that as it may, freaking out is contraindicated for several reasons. Mostly because it distracts us from the wisdom we could be learning from this extraordinary historical moment.
It would be better for our bodies, minds and spirits if we were to back up, take a breath, and consider with clear-eyed dispassion events as they arise. I’m not proposing that we deny the freaking-out that’s happening all around us; fear does exist. It’s just that fear is not the most interesting thing about the situation. If one believes that there is a cosmic plan behind this period of global distress, isn’t this plan worthier of our interest than the fear it arouses?
To tease out what the plan is, we have to look at the situation energetically. This means, first of all, separating the subject matter from the charge emanating from it. The subject matter here – that which is being reacted to — is our perceived loss of material security; or, more precisely, the idea that our financial status quo is going to change in some way. Consider that the charge emanating from these ideas is not the same thing as the ideas themselves. The emanating charge is an energy pattern with its own unique quality, texture and force.
To notice this distinction is our first step towards freedom: the freedom from being sucked in by fear. Imagine being chased by a monster in a nightmare, and, instead of focusing on how scared you are, you focus instead on the color of the monster’s fur.
This approach could teach us some useful truths about fear in general. Ancient tradition links panic to the first and second chakras of the human body, the ones linked to physical survival. (If you are someone who can read auras, you might see a lot of people flashing red and yellow right now from their coccyx and groin.)
When we observe reactive energy with detached curiosity, the most salient feature we notice is its sheer power. Which leads us to the pivotal question: If all that power wasn’t going into fear, where might it go instead?
Power of Money
Esoteric law can also help us understand how this came about.
Money is a symbol of the plane of matter (which is why financial issues are described by the adjective material). In the modern mind, money represents the material plane concentrated down to its essence. Our distorted relationship with money is a function of our distorted relationship with the material plane.
The human mind craves, fears, and obsesses over that which it has separated itself from. Americans, and those cultures that have followed America’s materialist lead, have done this with matter. 5
Richard Tarnas6 has chronicled in eloquent detail the tortured journey by which the post-Cartesian mind has estranged itself from the physical. Our ecocidal ways bear witness to the fact that we seem to have forgotten we are children of Planet Earth. So does our ambivalent dis-identification with our physical bodies; a strange ontological split that has resulted in sexual urges being seen not as natural but as untrustworthy and dangerous. Another example of this split is the way we interpret physical illness as evidence that the body is the enemy. We speak of a patient “courageously battling” a disease, as if their bodies were war zones within which their mind was the protagonist-soldier.
Humanity seems to have made a collective decision a few centuries ago to approach the material dimension in a completely different way than we approach the other dimensions of existence.
Contrast the way we view the emotional, the spiritual and mental realms. We still see them as the ancients did: they are part of us, they permeate us, their creations originate within us. But we no longer see the world of matter this way. The Earth plane is seen as exclusively external, as if it were made of different stuff. Its operations must be tackled and wrestled to the ground. If we are smart or lucky, the material world may be mastered; but not because it’s on our side. We are taught to maneuver the world of practical details, logistics, of business and money as if it were hostile terrain.
This approach minimizes our own agency and exaggerates our helplessness.
We have bestowed upon the material realm a dangerous power it would not otherwise have. And we have made money the holy grail of this realm.
Meaning of Money
By metaphysical law, events in our world bubble up from the unseen arenas beneath manifestation. All forms originate from this substructure of formlessness. Our tangible realities arise from thoughts, attitudes and yearnings engendered in a zone that is not tangible at all7
This is not a new idea. It has been stated in innumerable iterations throughout the annals of mystical tradition, and it finds widespread agreement among modern consciousness seekers. Yet it seems to be qualitatively more difficult for people to apply this idea to the world of money than to other areas of life.
There seems to be a tendency to suspend cosmic laws where money is concerned. We seem to think of financial matters as occupying a unique kind of reality; as in “I don’t have the luxury of getting all philosophical here. I’m talking about the real world. How am I going to pay the rent?”
Though I’ve never heard a client say it out loud, the prevailing assumption seems to be that the everything-is-just-energy rule doesn’t apply where money is concerned. In astrological discussions, money matters seem to have a velvet rope cordoning them off. The practitioner may be invited into this arena – indeed, the anxiety surrounding it results in frequent invitations — but he is expected to handle it differently. The client wants him to suddenly suspend all symbolic interpretations and go literal.
By contrast, as regards relationships, I find that people will nod knowingly when you suggest that they create their own reality. And where their career arc is concerned, they tend to be fully open to the notion that internal drives are at work. Similarly, in terms of their spiritual lives they have no trouble at all seeing their current state as the result of unconscious energies assembling in cosmically appropriate ways.
But to suggest that the same processes are at work in our financial lives is to provoke an automatic defensive posture. The client’s lower chakras go on red alert. She may move into an animal crouch, as if her meat were about to be grabbed away.
When all is said and done, surely this is the most interesting thing of all about money.
In our more sanguine moments, were we to apply the precepts of humanistic astrology unconditionally, we would have to conclude that even money is just an end product of aboriginal energies that have nothing to do, ultimately, with the physical world.
They aren’t born there. They just end up there.
The oddly exclusive status we grant to money tells us a great deal about the current state of the collective unconscious. In our era, the attention we pay to our material needs and wants has crowded out the attention we pay to all other concerns of life.
To reach any meaningful understanding of the years ahead we must confront the preternatural importance we have given to money in our philosophical vocabulary. Not to dwell on it as a moral problem — these years are not about ethical judgments — but to see it as a gross imbalance that the transits are here to address.
The harsh angles being made by Pluto (breakdown) to Saturn (elimination) and Uranus (abrupt departures from the past), though they may be expressing themselves through financial crises, are not causing those crises. The planets are only markers, mapping out a series of profound changes the human animal is slated to go through.
By cosmic logic these changes are being expressed in terms the current human mind can understand. Ours is a world where material concerns have become the predominant way to define experience, so these are the terms through which we’re experiencing the transits.
The real change afoot has to do not with what money does but with what money means.
Haves and Have-Nots
According to Gwyn Kirk of the AGAPE Foundation , a billion people in the world live on less than a dollar a day; another billion live on less than two dollars a day. The world’s wealthiest 946 people, identified by Forbes Magazine in 2006, comprised about 0.0145% of the global population, with a net worth figured to be $3.5 trillion: about 3% of the world’s wealth. The UN estimates that just 500 rich people in the world earn more than the 416 million poorest people.
Then there’s the rest of the First World, the merely middle-class. As the have-nots scramble to survive, many of this latter group will spend the next few years pumping their vital energy into stock quotes, interest rates and retirement funds.
The Karma of Money
But it wouldn’t be enough. Not just because merely wringing one’s hands in anguish about the starving masses is unhelpful to them. But also because, in a spiritual sense, it’s unhelpful to us. Pondering where we are not doesn’t tell us where we are.
We need to take responsibility for where we find ourselves during these critical years. If, as astrologers, we believe that time and place are never arbitrary, then it follows that where we live is no accident. Each of us ends up where we are for a precise set of soul-driven reasons. The country we live in is, for better or worse, an exact match for the intentions of our higher self. In this view, if you’re an American you were fated to grapple with the weirdness as well as the opportunities that America represents. Your soul expressly chose, for its own karmic reasons, to develop against the backdrop of a financially neurotic society.
Numbers vs. Image
One of the most telling symptoms of this disconnect is the degree to which the country’s most beloved national story, the tale of Horatio Alger, flies in the face of the way America actually works. The myth declares that in this land of opportunity (which phrase is implicitly understood to mean “opportunity to make money”), any poor kid can strike it rich. Indeed, there is supposed to be no such thing as social class. But the truth is the USA is closer to the Third World than to Western Europe in terms of income disparities. Statistically, the gaping abyss between rich and poor in America is similar to that in Brazil and Central Asia.
A society’s self-image may be flagrantly inaccurate, but its numbers do not lie. Money speaks volumes about what a culture values. What does it say about a country that lavishes half of its discretionary spending on the military? Every day $500 million of American taxpayers’ money goes to pay for the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan while expenditures for the common good (healthcare, schools, etc.) are whittled down to the bone. The American president has been forced to insist that he won’t sign any health care bill that adds any amount to the national debt, but he is never asked to make such a promise when it comes to troop escalations or bank bailouts.
These skewed priorities, bizarre discrepancies and widening gaps between fact and fiction in the national identity are signals of collective illness. A doctor whose patient presented contradictions this cockeyed would have reason to be concerned about an imminent nervous breakdown.
Pluto, the planet of breakdowns of every stripe, is bringing these distortions to a head. All of the planetary players now assembling are there to bring a wildly imbalanced situation back into eventual balance.
2 While the US public’s attention is riveted on perverse political spectacles like the health care “debate,” the rest of the world is watching the financial centers in newly ascendant powers like China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Iran, who are gaining the leverage to rid Eurasia of America’s military control trips and government debt. Those Asian countries that have so far accepted US dollars – money everybody knows has no chance of being repaid — are unlikely to keep funding America’s military aggression against them.
3 See Ray Merriman’s article in The Mountain Astrologer Magazine (June/July 2009), “Camelot or Economic Armaggedon?”
4 The fundamental idea behind humanistic astrology is that we create the future at every moment, on both an individual and a group level. From transits we can “predict” archetypal developments very precisely, but not the specific ways they will act themselves out. That depends on the X factor: human awareness.
6 See especially The Passion of the Western Mind (1991).
7 For a beautifully outlined exposition of this idea, see The Field of Being: Collected Thoughts on the Evolution of Human Consciousness by Don Nix (iUniverse 2009).