Following the last post on how to cope with Saturn Pluto alignments, I thought it might be helpful to share some notes from The Outer Planets and Their Cycles by Liz Greene. The book includes a series of lectures that were given on the astrology of the collective psyche and how it tends to react during significant moments in history. Although the lectures are almost 40 years old, they’re still relevant now – perhaps even more so considering current events.
These notes are taken from the first lecture that was given in 1980 in the lead up to the last Saturn Pluto conjunction in 1982. The book was published a year later when people were getting excited by the Saturn Uranus Neptune conjunction due to happen in Capricorn in the late 80s and into the 90s. Now we have the Saturn Pluto conjunction in Capricorn, and at the end of 2020, the Jupiter Saturn Great Mutation conjunction that kicks off a whole new 200 year cycle.
So we’re at the end of an era of history and that tends to spark fears that the world is going to end. Liz Greene begins by talking about the millenarian fears that were building at the time of the lecture. There were Russian armaments on the German border and lots of talk of nuclear weapons – not so different from today:
“If you turn on your television set or pick up a newspaper you can get extremely frightened very quickly, and it would be both dishonest and stupid to pretend that these dangers are not real. But there is also an atmosphere which I don’t really think arises from these dangers alone, and which possibly makes it even more difficult to react with a sane response to critical but nevertheless potentially manageable external situations.
“We stand at the end of a century and at the end of a millennium, as well as at the end of an astrological age. Very strange fantasies erupt in society at such times, which may be related to but are not caused by affairs in the outside world.
“Something seems to be going on at a subterranean level which catches all of us and throws us into a state of anxiety which is above and beyond the ordinary conscious reactions we might have to things read in the newspaper. It is a sense of the advent of something, a sense of great change.”
She then discusses how people’s fears and fantasies get mixed up with reality at times like this. We see this today in the wild speculations about transhumanism and the Singularity – we’re going to upload our minds into computers and live forever! Meanwhile, robots will take our jobs, the economy is on its last legs, the environment is about to collapse, and World War III is in the air…
Anticipating our so-called ‘post-truth’ world, she continues:
“…there is enough difficulty in trying to deal with actual facts, let alone these strange fantasies and terrors. Some of these fantasises are exaggeratedly spiritual, like the Second Coming, and some of them are exaggeratedly concrete, like a worldwide holocaust.
“On the other hand, even though we can try to understand these undercurrents from a psychological point of view, it’s equally useless to pretend that we are so sane and rational and perceptive that we won’t react in the same way everyone else does. The collective unconscious, which is Jung’s term for the deep strata of the human psyche which are common to us all, is something we don’t know very much about.
“We know a good deal about collective consciousness, which concerns the rules and structures that society creates and by which we supposedly learn to live with and cooperate with each other. But the underground stream that runs beneath the surface of those structures – that is a mystery. We only recognise its existence when it bursts into external life, and one of the ways in which it shows itself is that an entire group or country goes berserk and you have one of those gigantic upheavals or revolutions which ends in a bloodbath.
An entire nation can plunge into psychosis in the same way an individual can, and a lot of apparently very rational people disappear and become one screaming mob. … There are people who are more prone to being infected by it than others. There are people who are permeable to perhaps a greater extent than others. There are people who believe they are immune, yet who are in the greatest danger.
“There are people who seem to have an inherent natural connection with this world of collective unconscious psyche, and somehow find a way to live with it and mediate it. These are the artists and visionaries. Because they are familiar with it, and can offer it some kind of voice through their personal creative efforts, they are not as surprised as the rest of us when an eruption suddenly occurs in the world. I’m thinking of William Butler Yeats and his poem, The Second Coming, which was written long before the rise of Nazi Germany and was his vision of the new astrological age – a rather terrifying vision, not at all imbued with love and brotherhood.
“The artist and the visionary are driven by the images that rise out of that strange world, and its compulsions become their message. The line is very blurred between the artist and the psychotic, I believe because both have dealings with this realm. And there are people who actively attempt to manipulate its energies, for good or ill.
“I think Adolf Hitler is a good example of someone who successfully manipulated the images of the collective unconscious for his own dubious ends. There are quite a number of gifted manipulators in the fields of politics and religion. These are issues which I think must be talked about, not only because of what lies ahead of us in the next few decades, but also so that we can look back historically at what has happened when major conjunctions and millenarian visions have occurred before, and draw some lessons from the past. This might equip us to measure better the trends that are coming up.”
She goes on to say it’s important to remember that the energies of the collective unconscious aren’t totally bad. They’re “tremendous, powerful, creative energies, and they don’t always have to manifest in a solely destructive way.” And this is one of the reasons why our fantasies about the end of the world rarely come true. Reality simply doesn’t work the way we think it does. There may be an ending of sorts, but it’s not the end of the world.
She gives the example of the conjunction that happened in 1524 when:
“every astrologer went quite hysterical, because they only knew of seven heavenly bodies and all seven were in conjunction in the sign of Pisces. … Naturally everyone assumed the world was about to end, and they meant this very literally. … One astrologer in England built himself an ark, which was rather sensible in terms of all that water.”
But nothing much happened – nothing out of the ordinary for the time. Except:
“The only odd thing was that a very recalcitrant and bad-tempered monk called Martin Luther went around nailing nasty statements about the Church to cathedral doors, and a few people listened.”
And that was beginning of the end of the dominance of the Catholic Church. However, it actually started sooner than that. Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517 which started a process that led to his excommunication in 1521, and by 1526 he was busy setting up his own church. Interestingly, Neptune was also plugged into the conjunction in 1524 and was square Uranus – and that’s what triggered all the upheavals in the church.
The point is: it’s always more complicated than we would like and the end of the world may happen “on subtler levels than the concrete one.”
She goes on to explain:
“If it’s time for something to end, the level on which the ending manifests may vary. This depends also on what is existent in the world which is going to be affected by the emerging new energies. I think it depends very much on the structures existent within society, how flexible or rigid they might be, and how able they are to accommodate change. It also depends very much on the state or quality of consciousness in the individual in society, because nothing can come into expression except in accordance with the form which carries it.” …
“Of course if there is a change imminent, there is also going to be a fear of death, because something must die to allow that change to occur. You can see this once again in the dreams of individuals going through deep changes in the personality. They dream of people dying – mother, father, old selves that are outworn – and they often feel a lot of panic and depression until the new thing has emerged and they understand the necessity of the old thing passing away.
“You cannot have change without something dying. Any movement of this kind in the psyche tends to collect images of death around it. Religions have always known this, which is why they have always been attached to myths of dying and resurrected gods. An experience of new birth and redemption must always be preceded by the death of an old attitude.
“Initiation rites from all cultures portray a symbolic death, which heralds the birth of the ‘saved’ or ‘redeemed’ soul. Many artists experience deep depression before the onset of a new creative burst of energy. So I feel that a good deal of the millenarian fear which is around now, as in the past, has as much to do with the anticipation of change as with an actual expectation of destruction in the literal world.”
To put this in context, she goes on to talk about the differences between our experience of these conjunctions now and how people would have dealt with them in the past:
“In the earlier centuries when great conjunctions occurred, there was no sense of ‘individual.’ No one walked around contemplating the meaning of his identity and his inner self, except for a few Neoplatonists who tended to consider such things important. If a person has a sense of individuality above and beyond the place in society that he occupies, then the effect of collective changes on that person is going to be quite different.
“This ties up with something that Jung was preoccupied with. He makes the statement that if there is something wrong with society, then there is something wrong with the individual, and if there is something wrong with the individual then there is something wrong with me.
“He seems to suggest that when something is due to erupt in the collective, the only safety and sanity to be found is in the firm sense of your own individuality. Otherwise there is no way in which the eruption can be channelled without you becoming a victim of the collective. Then you are blindly carried along with it, and because it is blind and undirected by consciousness it doesn’t reason politely and set up careful standards to assess who should pay and who shouldn’t.
“These eruptions run like a torrent, with a ruthlessness that one finds only in blind nature but not in the reflective mind of an individual. One finds it in the natural side of civilised man, the collective instinctual side of him of which he is largely unaware.
“The collective doesn’t theorise. It flows toward its goal in the same way that a baby is born. If you’re caught by it, then you must go along with it, and there is no guarantee of the outcome. You might have a Renaissance, which happened around 1500, or you might have a Nazi Germany. Both potentials exist in us, both in society and in individuals.
“So understandably Jung is concerned with these things, and whenever he writes about the phenomenon of Nazi Germany he repeats again and again his feeling that if we do not want a repetition of this experience, we cannot expect laws and legal structures and religious ideals and political parties to prevent it. We have no hope at all except to see where the battle is being fought within ourselves, and to try to distinguish between our own individual values and the urgent movement that is erupting around us.”
Later in the book, in the final lecture, she sums up the idea of the end of the world as an archetypal theme that describes an inner process, and explains that:
“…it might be very helpful and relevant to us all if we could learn to distinguish a symbol from a concrete prognostication of doom. The millenarian myth is a cyclical myth, and has a tendency to erupt at regular intervals from the collective psyche at points of great change. If we don’t make the effort to understand what might be trying to emerge on an inner level, then we compel the myth to actualise in the most concrete form, and then we really will have the end of the world, because we possess the technology to bring it about.
“Obviously something is happening to us all. Each person’s perception of it is coloured by his own psychic constitution, his own dreams and aspirations and visions and insecurities and fears and parents and ideologies. I have yet to be convinced of such a thing as complete objectivity. Perhaps all one can do is be conscious of where the individual ends and the collective begins, and to be aware of the mythic element in our terror of holocaust.
“This is a time of immense mythic blossoming, although you wouldn’t think it if you turned on the television. But the dawn of a new astrological age always releases new myths. These themes are all around us, and astrologers are particularly subjected to them – the end of the world, the return of the Golden Age, the vengeance of God, the cleansing of sins.
“So I think it is a wise idea to remember these things when next someone asks you in terror if the [Saturn Pluto] conjunction means the end of the world. The way we feel about these things reflects our own individual capacity to cope with the changes that are around and inside us. Blind fatalism of a negative [or] positive kind are both ways of avoiding the very difficult and ambivalent place in the middle, where there might be some choice but where the choice ultimately depends upon individual responsibility.”
And that’s something with which Saturn in Capricorn would wholeheartedly agree!
More on Saturn Pluto:
- Saturn Pluto Cycle: Archetypes and History
- The Saturn Pluto Conjunction in detail
- How to Survive the Saturn Pluto Conjunction