To get our heads around current events we need to understand how the collective mass of humanity changes over time. And that means plunging into the depths of the collective unconscious.
The collective unconscious is the atmosphere in which we move. But like fish swimming in the ocean who don’t understand the nature of water, we rarely try to understand our own condition. We emerge from and are created by the collective into which we’re born. It shapes how we think, the language and symbols we use, our values, what we consider to be possible, real or unreal, important or irrelevant.
Most of the time we’re not aware of the psychic waters around us (and inside us) – we don’t tend to examine our own experience much, unless something “goes wrong.” We see what we expect to see, even if – and especially if – what we expect is mostly unconscious.
So our behaviour is largely driven by unconscious patterns, many of which aren’t even personal. These patterns are conditioned by the collective unconscious, which, in turn, is influenced and shaped by archetypes.
An archetype is a universal principle that gives structure to the human psyche. Archetypes are multidimensional and multivalent, taking various forms with multiple layered meanings and interpretations. An archetype is always true to its own form, but will manifest differently according to specific cultures and historical eras.
For example, specific taboos vary by culture and within cultures over time, but the idea of taboo itself is the same, i.e. a custom that is prohibited or restricted.
An archetype is what it is. The content changes, but the Form stays the same. So each archetype contains multiple possibilities and how it manifests will evolve over time depending on how we interact with it.
What, you may ask, has all this got to do with astrology?
The planets in astrology represent the various archetypal forces that shape the collective unconscious. It’s no accident that they were named after the gods and goddesses of antiquity. Although the gods and the archetypes don’t entirely match up – they mirror each other and are a useful shorthand when talking about these ideas. But it’s important to acknowledge one thing here:
Nobody knows how astrology works.
We can’t even adequately explain the nature of the archetypes themselves. To answer these questions we’d have to dig into the nature of reality and consciousness – perhaps another day!
But we can say there is a synchronous connection between the movement of the planets and the movement of the individual psyche and the collective unconscious.
“The universe is informed and pervaded by a fundamental holistic patterning which extends through every level, so that a constant synchronicity or meaningful correlation exists between astronomical events and human events. This is represented in the basic esoteric axiom, “as above, so below,” which reflects a universe all of whose parts are integrated into an intelligible whole.” – Richard Tarnas
Each moment in time is shaped by the interaction between these archetypes and reflected in the angular relationships between the planets. Every period of time has its own quality as embodied and expressed by the archetypes and their cycles.
When two or more planets form an angle to each other, as seen from our perspective on Earth, they are said to be in aspect. The aspects between the planets represent a mutual activation of the archetypes that are involved in the interaction. This is then experienced in the human psyche as a change in consciousness. The change will feel different depending on the nature of the archetypes/planets involved and the type of aspect being formed.
The main aspects are:
- Conjunction: 0°
- Sextile: 60°
- Square: 90°
- Trine: 120°
- Opposition: 180°
Each aspect also has an orb of influence – in other words, the archetypes are activated gradually as the planets move towards an exact aspect, and then fade out again as the planets move away from each other. Not only that, but each aspect is related to the previous aspects between a particular pair of planets in a pattern that forms a cycle starting with the conjunction.
So each cycle begins with a conjunction and then moves through a sextile, square, and trine before peaking with an opposition. It then completes the circuit with another trine, square, and sextile, to end with another conjunction and the start of a new cycle.
You can see how this works with the cycles of the Moon: the New Moon is the start of the cycle when the Sun and the Moon are conjunct; and the cycle reaches its peak with the Full Moon when the Sun and the Moon are opposite each other.
What this means is that no single aspect can be viewed in isolation. Each cycle has a cumulative effect and the changes within the collective unconscious evolve over time accordingly. And to make it even more complicated, there are multiple cycles happening at once, all intersecting and cross-influencing each other.
This makes predicting specific events impossible. One thing leads to another, and what happens next depends on what we do right now. Examining the nature of these astrological cycles makes it possible to predict which archetypes will be active at any given point in time, but not how those archetypes will play out.
As always, what happens is up to us. The possible events of the future are dependent upon the level of consciousness we bring to bear upon the present.
The current condition of the collective unconscious can be seen by watching events unfold around the world. The upheavals we’re experiencing are reflected by the major alignment between Uranus and Pluto, which has been active since 2007 and runs until 2020. The Uranus Pluto square was at its closest between 2012 and 2015, and is now waning, but we’re still dealing with its energies and consequences. For more on this read: Zeitgeist: Revolution
Whatever happens next will depend on how we deal with the forces in motion already. If you’d like to read more on the most recent planetary alignments, I recommend this excellent overview by Richard Tarnas: World Transits 2000 – 2020 (pdf)
Collective Transits: 2017 – 2024
These are the major alignments from now until the middle of the next decade. There are more Jupiter cycles that plug into these but I’ll tackle those as they arise year by year. I’ll be doing individual posts on each of the main cycles to explore them in more depth, including examples from previous cycles so you can see how they work.
- Pluto in Capricorn – until 2024
- Neptune in Pisces – until 2025
- Uranus Pluto square – waning until 2020
- Jupiter Uranus opposition – until January 2018
- Saturn Uranus trine – until December 2018
- Saturn in Capricorn – from December 2017
- Uranus in Taurus – from May 2018
- Saturn Pluto conjunction – from December 2018
- Jupiter Saturn conjunction – from December 2019
- Saturn Uranus square – from January 2020
- Saturn in Aquarius – from March 2020
- Jupiter in Aquarius – from December 2020
- Pluto in Aquarius – from March 2023
- Uranus Neptune square – coming 2032
- Uranus Pluto opposition – coming 2045
We’re at an interesting point in the evolution of the collective psyche and 2020 looks set to be a major turning point. If you thought the hype over 2012 was overdone, just wait until the 2020 hype gets going! There are multiple planets changing signs and starting new cycles, and Aquarius is heavily featured. It looks like the Age of Aquarius is upon us. (Actually, it’s not – we’re just in transition between ages…)
“Transformative evolutionary forces are fully in play now, energies that we can participate in but that are far more powerful than we can control or predict. The past and the future seem to be converging in our time with extraordinary intensity. Clearly some form of creative intelligence informs the whole, yet just as clearly the human future is radically uncertain, contingent both on human choices and on larger forces beyond our power, beyond our awareness. An old age of the world is passing away, and a new one is struggling to be born.” – Richard Tarnas, World Transits 2000-2020
For more detail on this year go here: The Astrology of 2020