Progressions and Transits - 4
The Transits of the Planets
While progressions refer primarily to the development of tendencies of all kinds inherited from the past — genetic, cultural, spiritual — and all these internal tendencies operate mainly through the lunar and soli-lunar cycles, the interrelating cycles of the transiting
planets should be interpreted specifically as patterns related to pressures and impacts coming from the outside. By the term "outside" I mean here what is outside of the field of consciousness — outside of the realm over which the ego rules, and whose center is "I", the song of individual selfhood, often turning into a harsh series of discords. The "outside" is the collectivity in relation to the individual. But, as we have already seen, there are several kinds of collectivities. At each level at which a human being operates, his or her activities are influenced by and often have to fit into rigid collective patterns, not only of behavior, but — though the person may not be fully aware of this — of feeling-responses and thought.
At the biological level, "collectivity" refers to the whole biosphere, and to human nature's reactions to changes. whether they be regular seasonal changes or cataclysms. At the next higher level, collectivity has a sociocultural character; transits refer to the way a nation and its various institutions — political, religious, and commercial — impress their collective power upon the men, women, and children whose lives they control, not only outwardly, but psychically. Transits then act primarily upon the psychism that binds people, and as societies become more
complex and more mentally structured and active, what was at first only "psychic" takes increasingly more intellectual or mental forms. The psychomental pressures, symbolized by the transits, in turn produce — directly or indirectly — concrete and physical-material results, what we call "events."
When at a certain stage of the process of individualization, the consciousness of a person becomes evolved enough to become aware of the possibility — or the actual existence of — a contact with a realm of transindividual beings, this person can become directly and individually related to some aspect of the "higher" collectivity which encompasses the spiritual aspect of mankind. A one-to-one relationship can be established between the human individual and the "star" that symbolizes his or her trans-individual selfhood, or a particular aspect of the "galactic" consciousness operative in this higher collectivity may focus itself upon the mind of the individual on the transpersonal way. Before such a direct and individualized relationship is established, the higher collectivity can undoubtedly affect human beings, but the connection operates in a psychic and unconscious or semi-conscious manner, rather than as a direct and individualized line of influence.
Some scientifically-oriented astrologers who dismiss progressions as being "symbolic" and not referring to actual facts are willing to accept transits as factual because they deal with what is actually happening day-by-day in the sky. But while a transiting planet is concretely observable, to speak of it in the astrological sense implies that one thinks of the natal positions of the planets as having been somehow indelibly stamped upon the human being, or of the shape of the universe surrounding a newborn as a kind of permanent enveloping structure. In this structure the natal planets would be like windows through which the "rays" of transiting planets could pass. When Mars passes over the natal Venus-window a "transit aspect" occurs; and theoretically the Mars energy affects and somewhat blends with whatever the Venus-type of activity and consciousness represent in the birth-chart and in the life of the person to whose birth-chart Mars' transit is being referred.
Another explanation is that at birth the organism of the baby is, in a sense, programmed to respond in an individual manner to the ever-changing interaction of ten variables — the planets (including the Sun and Moon). A simple illustration would be found in an ordinary alarm clock: when the moving hand of the clock passes over the alarm indicator set for a selected time of day, a bell rings. Whoever selected the time and set the clock jumps out of bed — or sometimes yawns and falls back to sleep. Each natal planet, the Angles of the chart, and other secondary factors could, according to this illustration, be considered indicators set once and for all at birth. When the day-by-day moving planets in the sky pass over (transit), the positions of these indicators around the face of the clock, the person can be expected to react. The character of the reaction depends on the nature of the planets involved, that is, of both
the natal planet and the transiting planet.
These illustrations, however, leave unanswered the basic question posed by such explanations, which try so hard to appear concrete and factual. The only satisfactory way to approach the problem, at least in the present state of our knowledge, is to think of both
the birth-chart and the transits as potent symbols. The birth-chart is the foundation of a person's life, from birth to death; the transiting planets represent the manner in which the solar system — or any "greater whole" within which the little whole (the human being) operates — affects this foundation and the development of the lesser whole, the human being. It really does not matter how one tries to explain the way what occurs within a greater whole affects the lesser wholes it contains. One may speak of "correspondence", "synchronicity", or an "inner clock" set at birth and continuing to run at its own speed while the solar system maintains its complex rhythmic patterns of ever-changing interplanetary relationships. All explanations are symbolic. The important point is to understand what each component of the symbolic system one uses refers to at the level at which one's attention is being focused.
In every situation with a cyclic character — that is, one that has a definite beginning, a growth process and an eventual ending — two factors are always present, because such an existential cycle starts with one single dynamic impulse which establishes a basically invariant rhythm of being, the "unity aspect" (or alpha
) of the cycle. We may call this unitarian impulse, and the form it takes, "the Word" that is "in the beginning", or the genetic code, or the archetype of the life-cycle, or the "Tone" that sustains and keeps all the operations of a living organism integrated according to a relatively unique plan of existence. But whatever it is called, it is a permanent factor, at least within the scope of terrestrial existence.
When operating at a strictly biological level, a human being is not aware of the existence of such a primordial and invariant factor. It is spoken of in Genesis 2:7 as "the living soul" breathed into the human form by the ruler of the realm of life (the biosphere), the Biblical "Lord God", Yod-He-Vau-He, the Tetragrammaton. The birth-chart of a single human being is a symbolic representation of this permanent factor, and the transits refer to the effects that conditions in the biosphere and the strictly physical environment have on the daily development of the
biological functions and their psychic overtones.
At the level of a conscious human being operating in society, the birth-chart is to be considered the archetypal
pattern of his or her personality — or we might say "personhood." When the person who has developed under the powerful influence of a particular language, religion, culture, and social way of life succeeds in asserting his or her own individual center, "I", the birth-chart becomes a mandala symbol in which everything is referred to this autonomous center, its consciousness and its theoretically independent will-power.
At these two levels (sociocultural and individual), planetary transits refer to what the constantly changing conditions prevailing in the family, social, or business environment can do to the personality and individuality of a human being operating in that environment, as well as, to his or her physical body and its functions.
As the individual begins to walk on the transpersonal path, the relation of the individual to his or her collectivity takes on another character. Then, planetary transits may often refer to situations that seem to disturb the process of transformation — as distractions, temptations, or challenges to the sincerity and dedicated will of the traveler on the path. The cultural enjoyments or achievements (for example, wealth or fame) which society may offer can be deterrents or tests indicated by planetary transits. But at this stage some of the transits may also be interpreted as — and they may actually be — attempts from this "higher collectivity" of spiritual beings (the Pleroma) to intervene in the process of transpersonal overcoming of and detachment from culture and social concerns — and also from biological attachments of various kinds. Such "interventions" are especially related to the transits of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, for these planets outside of the Saturnian boundaries of the solar system proper can be symbolically regarded as "agents" or ambassadors of the galaxy whose function is to convey messages from the transindividual realm to the I-center of the mandala of personality, and also to serve as guideposts helping to orient the individual on his or her way to the "star."
The study of transits can be a fascinating exercise in intuition, if it is not more or less unconsciously conditioned by the textbook interpretation of what is supposed to happen when transiting planet A crosses over, opposes, or squares (or even forms a trine or sextile to), the natal position of planet B. In the case of the faster planets — Mercury, Venus, and Mars — with short periods of revolution around the zodiac, the entire repeated cycles of these planets should be studied in relation to a person's life and natal chart. Repetitive patterns may emerge from such a study, and recurrent events or internal feelings would point to factors in the personality that especially need to be understood and dismissed as irrelevant when one is engaged in the process of radical transformation. These factors may be strengthened by interpersonal contacts or made a repeated source of confusion and doubts by environmental pressures — for example, the pressures of one's peer group, or repeated bouts with a chronic illness.
Mercury and Venus transiting over natal planets may be related respectively to the passing influence, direct or indirect and insidious, that the cerebro-mental and emotional trends operating in a culture and its fashions have upon the people living in that society. And intellectual fashions are as much in evidence as fashions in clothing and group-behavior or interpersonal relationships such as marriage and love-affairs. We may believe that the way we feel and express ourselves emotionally is strictly our own, indeed, an absolutely personal matter; but this is a fantastic illusion, especially in our modern world where the media spread fast-changing fashions in every field of personal activity, feeling and thinking — witness the results of the movement of youth protest and the "flower children" of the late Sixties.
In principle, Venus and Mars are intimately connected with personal emotions, and these too are far more determined by collective trends and pressures than we care to admit. What psychologists and educators like to call "spontaneity" is, in the great majority of cases, the working out of unconsciously determining images, or of interpersonal influences assimilated by the psyche, but whose source has been forgotten.
The transits of Jupiter and Saturn are more specifically related to the larger aspects of collective living - to religion, the authorities, and the law. Jupiter takes about twelve years to circle the zodiac, and its passage through the natal houses at times shows the impact which money, wealth, expanded social contacts, or the desire to meet and work with people have on various fields of experience. Jupiter refers to expansion in general, but the possibility of expanding very often depends on the general conditions of business, of taxes, or of the way one's peer group reacts to religion, politics, or commerce. If Jupiter moves over a person's natal Sun or Ascendant, this does not need to mean that greater wealth or prestige is experienced, but rather that the Jupiterian factors in society will have a more focalized influence in the person's life during the time of the transit.
The nearly 30-year long cycle of Saturn is particularly important because it may interweave and react upon the also 30-year long progressed lunation cycle. The phases of these cycles do not operate simultaneously unless a person is born just at New Moon. While the progressed lunation cycles deal with the autonomous internal unfoldment of the birth-potential of the human being, the Saturn cycle refers primarily to the development of his or her sense of security and ego. During the first 30 years of life, a person largely depends upon his or her physical-emotional vitality — and in many cases also upon parental support — to give him or her a sense of security. In normal times, this sense of security takes, at the mental and emotional levels, the form of either total reliance upon a tradition and parental way of life, or of a revolt against the family and class environment — this revolt providing the youth with a negative kind of sustainment. Both alternatives, in fact, are usually experienced simultaneously, at least after puberty.
During the second 30-year cycle, the Saturnian sense of security takes, at least theoretically, an individualized character which was actually lacking before the first "Saturn return". The youth in his or her twenties, however, often pretends he or she is already truly an "individual" completely self-motivated arid secure in his or her identity. Yet he or she is still constantly affected by social and financial pressures which force the would-be-individual to respond to collective pressures in order to securely maintain this identity. After 30 the problems this poses should be handled more consciously and in terms of an inner sense of security. After the age of 60, the more or less "retired" person may have found outer security in his investments, in the support of his or her children, or "social security" — or in some cases in public prestige and fame. Even if these social props are missing, an individual may develop a deep and unshakeable sense of security on the basis of a philosophical or (more often) religious kind of understanding and acceptance of his or her destiny. This is the wisdom of old age. But if the experiences of the preceding Saturn cycles have been frustrating and embittering, and life has seemed dreadfully empty, Saturn's transits may bring rigidity and sclerosis to the organic and intellectual functions represented by the planets being transited.
Yet in most cases, when Saturn transits over the zodiacal degree occupied by a natal planet, one should not be led to expect some deeply sobering or at least dreary experiences, but rather the probability of some situation impelling the ego to deal more effectively with that life-function or aspect of the personality which the natal planet symbolizes. When Saturn passes over the natal Sun, the vital forces may be negatively affected, and their tone lowered, but the cause of this should be found in either a previous weakening of the ego's stability, or in the impact of social-political or religious and ethical forces. These forces may operate from the "outside", as for example a business failure caused by a national depression or change in fashion, or an encounter with the police which either was or was not justified. There are many instances of a person assuming a heavy business responsibility or an important and demanding political office when Saturn crossed his or her natal Sun. Saturnian forces may also operate "within" the mind and psyche in terms of what used to be called "one's conscience" — the product of a collective tradition which one may have refused to follow, yet which has remained entrenched in the subconscious (the collective psychism).
Transits of Uranus are likely either to cause sudden changes or to bring transformative processes to a focus in the area of the personality these transits affect. The 84-year Uranus cycle is extremely important in our present individualistic and intellectually-oriented society. I believe that, once a human being reaches an individualized status through the use of an effective and relatively independent mind, this 84-year span is the archetypal measure of life. This of course does not mean that a person cannot live longer; but if he or she does, forces beyond his or her individuality may be operating — some of which, however, may derive from a special genetic background, in turn related to particular biospheric conditions. The 90-year period produced by three 30-year long Saturn cycles may have much to do with living a few years beyond the 84 years of the Uranus cycle. As to the transit cycles of Neptune and Pluto — respectively 163.74 and 245.33 years — they transcend the field of a normal lifespan at this present time of human evolution. Their transiting squares and semi-squares to their natal places as well as the full range of aspects they can make to other natal planets may symbolize disturbing or cathartic, but also potentially regenerative, crises of growth or identity.
The transits of these trans-Saturnian planets gain a particular importance as an individual walks on the transpersonal Path, because this individual has taken a step which, if he or she is sincere and persistent, brings him or her to the attention of the "higher collectivity" of tran-individual beings. Especially when Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto pass over the Sun, the Moon, and the four Angles of the birth-chart, they often refer to definitely critical turning points in the life of such an individual, and the astrologer using a transpersonal approach has to be very careful in suggesting what meaning these crises might have in the process of repolarization of the mind and the activities of his or her client.
It is never possible, from strictly astrological data
only, to predict what concrete forms such crises may take, and the transpersonal astrologer should certainly not indulge in definite predictions. At this transpersonal level, what exactly
will happen is of no real interest. The essential requirement is to be truly open to the possibility of a radical transformation of any element within one's personality. The character of the I-center of this personality may be particularly affected when Uranus crosses, opposes, or squares the Sun. The conjunction of transiting Uranus with natal Sun almost infallibly correlates with a basic change in the life of an individual on the transpersonal path, often with what is called an identity-crisis. Yet the inertia of the Saturnian insistence on inner or outer security may not allow the crisis to release its deeper potential of transformation or reorientation.
If, for example, a person loses his or her job or public position when, let us say, Mars and Uranus pass over his or her natal Midheaven, such a person may experience discouragement or bitterness (especially if Pluto is also involved), and fight to be transferred to a similar job or use his or her knowledge of the job-market for the same purpose. The planetary transits can be considered indicators of an upsetting event, which an astrologer might have expected. But the individual who has his or her mind oriented toward a process of transformation would consider this loss of job under such aspects as life's "revelation" that it was time for him or her to use this opportunity to transform whatever the Midheaven symbolizes for him or her as an individual center of consciousness
— as an opportunity far deeper than merely passing from one job-situation to a similar one.
The astrologer's task at this transpersonal level is to evoke whatever seem to be new possibilities — whether of action or of understanding — to help the client "relax the cramp in the conscious" of which Carl Jung spoke, yet without losing the faculty of discrimination.
A transit of Neptune may excite and confuse the part of the personality it contacts with glamorous visions or hopes inconsistent with the individual dharma. These often use the material with which the individual's religious tradition — or some other "esoteric" teaching — had filled his or her mind. If this happens, a time often comes when Pluto will de-glamorize that mind and leave it empty and bewildered.
It is important to be aware of the rather extraordinary fact that the archetypal length of the cycles of these three transformative agents of the galaxy as they revolve around the Sun are so interrelated that two Uranus cycles equal one Neptune cycle, and three Neptune cycles, one Pluto cycle.(6
) In other words, the operations of these three planets should be studied and understood as constituting a threefold process. What begins with Uranus, proceeds through Neptune and — as far as we are able to comprehend at this time — ends with Pluto. This does not mean that there is no planet beyond Pluto; one may have been discovered, but it may not be a planet in the same sense as the others. Even if it is, Pluto may still represent the end of a particular process — the total atomization of what was once a "solid" structure. This process, symbolized by Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, if successful should be followed by another phase referring to re-organization at a new level. I have symbolized this reorganization process under the name Proserpine — but Proserpine may not be a visible
planet. It might remain invisible if
the collective, planet-wide crisis of transformation now being experienced by mankind is not given a constructive meaning and ends in some kind of catastrophe.
Considered from a holistic point of view, the value of transits is that they help us divide a human life-span in several ways, and thus enable the astrologer to watch the unfolding of a complex pattern which can mean not only personal growth, but also transpersonal transformation. Seen from a person-centered
point of view, this pattern is itself encompassed by the repetitive circle of birth, death, and new birth; what had been potential "in seed" develops, reaches a degree of fulfillment, then disintegrates — leaving some kind of harvest and a definite amount of unspent energy and unfinished business, both of which in turn will condition a new life-cycle. This cyclic sequence constitutes what the Hindus called samsara
— the wheel of birthing and dying — the wheel of karma, always revolving, producing new and often repetitive lives, all related to one another according to a "horizontal" kind of relationship-in-time.
approach, especially when founded upon the principle of holarchy, evokes for us the possibility of another kind of process — a multilevel process that does not close upon itself. Such an approach postulates the interaction and interdependence of lesser and greater Wholes. It reveals the relative value and purpose of the "I-realization" to which our Western world's individualism (or philosophical "Personalism," or occult monadology) has given an absolute character. It attempts to evoke through symbols of universalistic interaction and interdependence the twofold interrelationships between levels of wholeness — the "descent" of the higher being synchronous with the "ascent" of the lower — and of their eventual meeting.
What results from this meeting — this "marriage of Heaven and Earth" — is still, for most of us, a great mystery. Today it no longer needs to be a mystery; or rather, it can be understood and experienced as a "Mystery" in the ancient sense of the word: a ritual celebration within which action instantly reveals its meaning, and consciousness and activity fuse into a poem of existence. At this stage of the development of consciousness, human existence can be considered and indeed experienced as a wholeness of being gradually realized through cyclic and multilevel processes of change. Each level has its place and function. Each level answers to a basic kind of need; and all needs and all solutions interact and interpenetrate.
In the same sense, all approaches to astrology, whether in the mode of analytical knowledge or of synthesizing wisdom, can be said to interact and interpenetrate. Every approach, if sincerely, honestly, and effectively followed, can meet the need of some kind of human being. Yet because mankind today has reached new levels of knowledge and should also attain higher levels of understanding, the need for new symbols and new levels of interpretation is a fact that can no longer be dismissed or circumvented. The transpersonal approach to astrology presents us with a way of thinking which can help us to bring into a more ordered and meaningful pattern the increasingly more complex experiences whose impacts may easily confuse or even bewilder our mind and feelings. Objectively and unemotionally watching the unfoldment of this pattern can bring periodic revelations to individuals intent on using whatever confronts them in the fullest and most transformative way possible.
l have discussed the interactions between these cycles and the meaning of the passages of these three planets through each zodiacal sign in my book The Sun is Also a Star
already-mentioned. The transits through the natal houses were treated in The Astrological Houses