Last time we did some historical speculation about the previous astrological ages from Virgo to Aries. In this post we’ll explore the current age in more detail with a look at how the archetype of Pisces has manifested in reality. For more on how the astrological ages arise see: The Age of Aquarius and Precession of the Equinoxes.
The Age of Pisces runs from roughly 50 BCE to 2100 so we’re currently in the transition between ages. The Age of Aquarius is waiting in the wings and new archetypes are rising as the old gods fade. This is creating a lot of chaos and confusion and a desperate desire for the New Age to begin as soon as possible. But we can’t get to the future until we understand where we’ve been.
As we saw in the last post, the Age of Aries saw the birth of many of the ideas that would come to define the current age. The Axial Age happened during the transition from Aries into Pisces, bringing forth Buddhism, Judaism, and early Christianity, as well as the great outpouring of Greek philosophy that underpins Western thought.
The Age of Pisces began at the peak of the Roman Empire, which lasted until 476 CE in the ‘West’. Christianity became such a massive influence on the rest of the world largely thanks to Rome adopting it as the official religion. It spread across the empire and then remained long after the fall of the Rome.
Jung saw the birth of Christ as a herald of the Age of Pisces. It was a synchronous event that revealed the image of the divine held within the collective unconscious. In fact, most of our ideas about the Age of Pisces are linked to the symbolism of Christianity with its emphasis on fish, fishermen, loaves and fishes, the washing of feet, the ichthys, and so on.
In Aion, Jung explored this symbolism and how it relates to history. He used the two fishes in the Pisces constellation to map the development of Christianity as the Age unfolded. The first fish relates to the birth of Christ and the growth of the early Church. The second fish relates to the downfall of Christianity and the rise of science and materialism.
True to Pisces dual nature, the first fish can be seen as Christ, while the second is the Antichrist. You can see an illustration of Jung’s scheme with the relevant dates (added by Robert Hand) here.
If the Age of Aries represented the Old Testament, then the Age of Pisces is the New Testament – a shift away from smiting and vengeance towards love and compassion. In theory, at any rate. Prior to this, religion involved a lot of blood and animal sacrifice. The crucifixion of Christ meant that this was no longer necessary as Jesus became the ultimate scapegoat. Again, in theory.
This focus on Christianity as central to the symbolism of Pisces may be a projection of the ‘Western’ psyche, a sign of our cultural self-obsession. But a similar shift happened in the development of Buddhism too.
During the Age of Aries, the earliest Buddhist practices were monastic and emphasised individual enlightenment. This changed with the growth of Mahayana Buddhism which focuses more on compassion and introduced the ideal of the Bodhisattva who sacrifices their own enlightenment to help others. The change happened between c. 150 BCE and 100 CE, right on the pivot into the Age of Pisces.
The zeitgeist of the Piscean Age saw the growth of religion, faith and idealism, while the old Sky Gods drifted further out of reach. Eventually they evaporated altogether leaving us with a hollowed out materialism which doesn’t appear to represent Pisces at all. However, this reflects the complex nature of the sign and the workings of the collective unconscious which always seeks balance.
The two fishes of Pisces represent the opposites of spirituality and materialism, faith and science. They’re swimming away from each other, showing the tension between them, but they’re also tied together. You can’t have one side without the other – they need each other as two parts of one whole.
At best, Pisces represents the love and compassion that comes from the recognition of this interdependence and unity. It also represents the illusion of maya and the desire to escape the world of suffering. This can create spiritual awakening and liberation, as seen in the great mystics. But a fixation on transcendence can also lead to spiritual bypassing and being ungrounded or spaced out.
Idealism can create a desire for purity and perfection which triggers a tendency to repress or deny the opposite qualities. The physical world and the body then become problems to be fixed, creating the demonisation of the flesh, the feminine, and nature. The material world is pushed into the shadows from where it acts in distorted ways.
The shadow of Pisces can be seen in our destructive materialism as well as our longing for escape. It comes out in addictions of all kinds, masochism and guilt trips, propaganda and mass emotion, intolerance, dogmatism, and blind faith. Even science has drifted away from reality into mathematical modelling and theories of cosmology and physics that can’t be verified, such as dark matter, string theory, and multiple universes.
As we approach the end of the age, we appear to be drowning in maya and self-deception. Dark fears and illusory hopes are bubbling up from the collective unconscious and taking over the masses. Perhaps it was ever thus. How could we tell, marooned as we are in the ultimate illusion factory of the internet?
And yet there’s also been a great awakening in spirituality, esoteric teachings, mysticism, and depth psychology. The mass media love to fixate on fear but there’s more kindness and compassion going on than we’re led to believe. The positive side of the internet allows us to connect with people around the world so we can see that, deep down, we’re all the same – part of one human family.
The highest expression of this is found in the mystic and the recognition that there’s no separation between you and the rest of life. This isn’t easy to understand and embody without losing your grip on reality and drifting off into a fantasy world. You need the discipline and focus on practical details found in Virgo to balance it out.
The positive expression of Pisces comes through the crucifixion of the ego; the personal self is sacrificed for a higher truth. This is achieved through the process of individuation and the balancing of the opposites. And you can only do that by being present and grounded in the body (Virgo) while remembering your true roots as Spirit in the divine (Pisces).
This sacrifice often goes awry and turns into its opposite: ego inflation. You can see the results in almost every area of life but especially where ideology and belief dominate, such as religion and politics. This happens when ideals are interpreted literally or imposed from the outside. For example, the attempt to subsume everybody under the central bureaucratic control of the State means imposing the ideology of ‘oneness’ on the people. This can only be maintained through violence and the oppression of difference.
The new religion of scientism is also an expression of the shadow of Pisces. And our obsession with data collection and mathematical modelling could represent an overzealous Virgo: the frantic cataloguing of everything under the sun to bring order to chaos and control the unknown.
However, there’s another way to look at this. The rise of science, and its distortions, could be an expression of the incoming Age of Aquarius – the new gods warming up and flexing their undeveloped muscles.
We can see the developments of the Axial Age in 800 – 300 BCE as the transition between the Ages of Aries and Pisces. In a similar way, the developments and events of the last few hundred years could represent the transition into the Age of Aquarius. We could look back to the dawn of the Scientific Revolution and the discoveries of Copernicus, and to the Age of Enlightenment and the rise of individualism in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Some argue that these developments are a sign that we’re already in the Age of Aquarius. But we could also see these changes as 11th house experiences, as defined by Dane Rudhyar. He divided each astrological age into 12 houses of 180 years each. In his scheme the 11th house of the Age of Pisces ran from 1702 – 1882 covering the tumultuous period of political, scientific and industrial revolutions.
By this reckoning, we would now be in the 12th house as of 1882 and the Age of Aquarius would begin around 2162. More details here.
However, Robert Tulip has modified this to 179 years per house, with the start dates defined by the conjunctions of Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune as they shift through the zodiac. These are spread out across a number of years so the start date for each house is taken as the midpoint. The conjunctions that mark the start of the 12th house of the Age of Pisces run from December 2020 to February 2026, as follows:
- Jupiter Saturn conjunction at 0 Aquarius in December 2020
- Jupiter Neptune conjunction in Pisces in April 2022
- Saturn Neptune conjunction at 0 Aries in February 2026
The midpoint between these is 0 Pisces. You can read more about how this works in Robert Tulip’s article in OPA magazine here (pdf – see p. 20).
According to this scheme, the 11th house of the Age of Pisces was an Aquarian period running from 1843 to 2022. Developments since 1843 have flooded the collective with the archetypes, ideas and symbols of Aquarius. Over the next few years we’ll be entering the 12th house of the Age of Pisces, marked by the Jupiter Neptune conjunction in 2022.
The 12th house is the house of dissolution and loss, where all things disintegrate and return to their origins. It can be seen as an end but also a summation, the conclusion of one cycle of experience. This includes the idea of reaping what you’ve sown and the need to face the karma of the past, both positive and negative.
As the Age of Pisces unravels we’re being challenged to actually embody the meaning of the age. That is, to embrace compassion rather than division. We must accept all parts of ourselves – including the parts we don’t like – and become whole. That means resolving the split in our minds through a confrontation with the shadow – all the darkness (and light) that we’ve denied – to balance the opposites.
Those opposites are now becoming more polarised as the shadow erupts from the depths, forcing us to deal with it. The polarisation makes the opposites more visible and obvious, and undeniable. But it also reinforces our tendency to project what we’ve disowned onto others. That’s what has to end.
In Aion, Jung explains:
“The present age must come to terms drastically with the facts as they are, with the absolute opposition that is not only tearing the world asunder politically but has planted a schism in the human heart. We need to find our way back to the original, living spirit which, because of its ambivalence, is also a mediator and uniter of opposites, an idea that preoccupied the alchemists for many centuries.
“If, as seems probable, the aeon of the fishes is ruled by the archetypal motif of the hostile brothers, then the approach of the next Platonic month, namely Aquarius, will constellate the problem of the union of opposites. It will then no longer be possible to write off evil as the mere privation of good; its real existence will have to be recognised. This problem can be solved neither by philosophy, nor by economics, nor by politics, but only by the individual human being, via his experience of the living spirit…”
Next time we’ll explore the meaning and possibilities of the Age of Aquarius…
- Zodiac Myths: The Story Behind Pisces
- Neptune in Pisces: Disillusionment and Transcendence
- The Fountain and the Road to Awe
- Chiron: Initiation and the process of Individuation
- Notes on Apocalypse – WTF is going on?!