Apr 2011
The Quake Within

It happened on the very day Uranus (shocks, shattering) moved into Aries. On March 11th, the tectonic plates under the Pacific Ocean buckled and northeastern Japan was devastated by the biggest quake-tsunami in its recorded history. At this writing the peril of nuclear reactor meltdown looms as the most far-reaching of the quake’s attendant dangers.

For many years we have been talking about the possibility of sudden telluric disasters (for example, the lecture “Redefining Normalcy and a DayKeeper Journal column from last August) under this square between Uranus (disruptions) and Pluto (mass destruction). We have also talked about the sensitivity of the Aries Point 1(e.g. in the lecture “Uranus Squared), a zodiacal hot spot over which Uranus will hover throughout 2011.

Mars, too, will be in Aries, this month.

It is not only astrologers, of course, who have been sounding the alarm. And not just about earthquakes. Scientists have predicted that by 2030 we will see a perfect storm of global food shortages, water scarcity , and near-prohibitive oil prices. Environmentalists have been supplying us with nonstop updates about climate change. Demographers have been talking about mass migration across national borders, an enormously destabilizing global phenomenon that is provoking all manner of reactivity from politicians and xenophobes, but so far little sociological consideration.

All of these upheavals fit the symbolism of the Longest Arm of the Cross, the transit that colors the period between 2008 and 2023. Uranus is wrenching us away from whatever we’ve seen as normalcy, while Pluto is breaking outworn structures down into their constituent parts. 2 The tension between the two will peak when they form a 90-degree angle seven times between 2012-16.

A philosophical decision is before us here, one that all transit trackers will have to make about the years ahead. How we are going to deal with what this transit is telling us?

How does one acknowledge energies this daunting and not freak out? What is the highest way to handle the predictions we are hearing about? And what inferences can we draw about our own reasons for having incarnated into these times?

For a certain kind of seeker, making guesses about external events is not enough. The goal is, rather, to absorb the transit’s information intently, and bring it home to the core self. This means applying its power to the unique resources and karma encoded in our own individual birth chart, the record of who we really are. It means using the Uranus-Pluto square to take in the meaning of the changes happening in our lives right now; changes which parallel the ones happening in the news.

Can we detach ourselves from the buzz of outer events enough to do this?

Literal or Figurative

Most aficionados of astrology use it primarily to track outer occurrences. Certainly the general public thinks of astrology this way. What else is it good for, they reason, except to foretell the future? But if we consider the underlying implications of this expectation, we’ll notice that it is based on a fundamental assumption to which conscientious thinkers should decide whether or not they subscribe: that events in the physical world are the sine qua non of reality.

Humanistic astrology, by contrast, proposes that literal events are not what life is all about. For us, literalism is just the cosmos’ way of making things easy to understand. It isn’t that the outside world is not a perfectly viable stage upon which energies can express themselves. But there are others.3

The use of astrology to predict literal occurrences exclusively relies on another assumption, too: that events are fixed and immutable, neatly lined up in a queue somewhere in an established Future, patiently waiting for Time to catch up with them. But if one believes that humanity creates its reality anew at every moment — via free will – what happens to this assumption? If the future is generated at every moment, then there are no specifics to predict. So what’s there to predict?

We predict energy flows. Raw, pre-manifest energies, which make time-sensitive patterns. Energies that can be molded into form by intention and intelligence.

If we believe that everything in life is a symbol, then events must be symbolic, too. We suggest that they arise in order to symbolize certain cosmic lessons. From this point of view, our job as astrologers is not to predict what a transit has “in store” (the phrase suggests stocked-up supplies in a pantry, packaged and ready to be dispensed and consumed), but to translate the patterns in the sky so as to reveal what we can learn.

Inner Landscape

Presumably the literal earthquake of March 11th has done its work of driving out of many people’s minds any skepticism that might have been there, as to how powerful this transit is. Now, the mission — for those who choose to accept it – is to undertake the inner work. This means applying our unique gifts to grapple with the larger meaning of the shattering, wipe-out and breakdown symbolized by the earthquake, the tsunami and the destabilized nuclear reactors.

And how it is manifesting subjectively, within our psyches.

We can do this by taking note of what areas in our own natal chart are being highlighted by the planets involved in the Cross. Then we look into our hearts, asking ourselves whether we feel a transformation occurring in that area of life. We can also press our intellects into service, connecting the dots between what our studies have taught us about the particular astrological metaphors being signified, on the one hand, and the facts “on the ground” — what’s going on in our lives — on the other.

How can the Uranian image of an earthquake be used as a cosmic teaching tool? There is a reason why we use the phrase “earth-shattering” to refer to emotional and psychological growth spurts in our personal lives. If Uranus is now in your seventh house, is there any wonder that you feel an earthquake rattling the foundations of your marriage?

We know that Pluto governs death and rebirth. So, taking our cue from Pluto’s placement in our chart, we ask ourselves what’s going on in that arena of our life that feels like death? If Pluto is currently transiting your fourth house, it is telling you that something in your domestic life must be let go of, so that you can move on.

It’s All Connected

Collective catastrophes certainly compel our attention, and they exist in a realm – the material – that we can all observe together; we can all agree, together, that these things are real. But energies powerful enough to shatter tangible structures on the physical plane are capable of non-physical changes that are no less real, and no less transformative.

When we wrap our minds around the particular energy afoot, and try to tune into it using our own singular intelligence, then we are truly paying attention. We are focusing not so much on what will happen as why it happens. We are setting ourselves up to respond to the energy in the air, in a way that is maximally authentic. We are freeing ourselves from the perils of herd mentality.

And we are getting in touch with what our soul always wanted for us.



1 The Aries point is the first degree of the first sign of the zodiac. The mind-blowing precision of the ingress on the very afternoon the quake happened goes a long way towards reinforcing astrologers’ respect for the potency of this singular degree.

2 Pluto’s association with nuclear destruction is reflected not only in terms of the atom from which such bombs are derived, but in the uniquely thorough way they break down physical form: all the way down to the atoms that make it up.

3 If we posit that the physical world correlates to the Earth element, it follows that the worlds correlating to the Water element (emotions and intuitions), Air element (ideas) and Fire element (inspired action) must be equally real. No one of them should get more realness points than any other. To be theoretically consistent, we’d have to concede that if an astrological archetype expresses itself through any one of these realms, it could express itself through all of them.