Edward Steichen (1902) Rodin—The Thinker
Anyone in touch with their surroundings and relationships knows the present is rife with disruptive change and fracturing, as widespread fear is emanating within the collective along with dynamic, courageous responses. Creation and destruction are always with us, yet the prevalence today of people struggling with loss and grappling with a need to alter fundamental aspects of their life is striking. In such times of shifting, it becomes paramount to turn within for guidance from the place of psyche in touch with what we need to feel authentically alive. This does not mean self-absorbed narcissism cut off from the needs of others, but rather claiming the inner authority to make choices toward the creation of a reality that brings one fulfillment. As each individual manifests their essential radiance into the world, within the shifting and dissolving of societal norms may emerge a collective structure more open to the expression of individual wholeness.
When time is viewed through the lens of astrology, distinct seasons emerge for us to pass through defined by the slower moving planets (Jupiter and beyond) sustaining integral aspects that stretch across months. Though our current astrological season has many players, the scenes and dialogues have been most heavily under the direction of Saturn retrograde in Sagittarius, Jupiter in Virgo, and Neptune in Pisces. These three planetary giants have formed a “t-square” by zodiac degree, meaning that Saturn is in square to both Neptune and Jupiter, while Jupiter and Neptune are engaged in a full opposition. This also means that three points of a cross or square are filled, leaving the empty point in the mid-degrees of Gemini. Even with no planet transiting Gemini, the Gemini archetype has nonetheless been triggered and activated these past months, and if you have important astrological points in Gemini you have no doubt been feeling the impact. Now with the Sun and Venus in Gemini, we are headed into a full-on Mutable Grand Cross that will culminate with the New Moon on June 4, with all four points of the Mutable Grand Square occupied by planets.
Tension and transcendence are two words that immediately come to mind when considering hard aspects between Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune. While transcendence stems from the Latin transcendere, meaning to “climb over or beyond, surmount, overstep,” tension derives from the Latin tendere meaning “to stretch.” Stretching is rich in associations with these aspects, as there has been a need to stretch conceptions regarding reality in order to respond to the associated ruptures, while the overwhelming stress that has come with the changes has caused the nerves of many to become taut and hypersensitive to pain and loss. Stretching can also be a remedy to help one transcend, or surmount the challenges. Yoga and other disciplines involved in opening up what has been held tightly in our body are practical, direct ways to work with the mutating energy. On a symbolic level, we can consider that stretching the strings of an instrument is necessary in order to retune. Correspondingly, within the stretching of our previous idea of how our life would enfold we can discover the retuning needed to create the music we are meant to make in the world.
Why are these aspects such catalysts? Jupiter is the planet of vision, expansion of mind and learning, and the ability to create a meaningful philosophy of life to live from out of experience. Saturn is the planet of structure, boundaries, discipline, cause and effect, and the karmic work and issues we must face without avoidance. Neptune is the planet of illusion, escapism, and addiction, yet also the indescribable magic that comes alive when falling in love or engaging in bliss. Neptune is everything about the field of reality and life force that Saturn filters out and excludes with its structural walls, and everything that Jupiter yearns for and can intuitively sense may be found beyond the limits of Saturn. Neptune in hard aspect to Saturn and Jupiter is a wave of dissolution that washes away what was formerly solid and secure. While we cannot surmount the challenges without hardship, ultimately these aspects can be supportive in moving beyond past restrictions in the creation of a revivified life.
Pastoral Moonlight (1907) by Edward Steichen
When Saturn and Neptune come into hard aspect (conjunction, square, opposition) there can be mass hysteria found in the disintegration, and those not able to cope can become rigid and overzealous in dogmatic judgment that makes them feel more in control. The last time Saturn was in Sagittarius in square to Neptune in Pisces, the tragic Salem Witch Trials occurred in 1693 in which religious paranoia led to the murder of innocent people based upon fear of the devil. Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible about the Salem Witch Trials as an allegory about the Communist Red Scare orchestrated by U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, a communist witch hunt that occurred around the time of the Saturn and Neptune conjunction in Libra in 1952. Today there are numerous examples to connect to this theme, obvious ones being persecution faced by Muslims and refugees. We are presently at the last quarter square between Saturn and Neptune in a cycle that began in 1989 at the first degree of Capricorn. On November 26, 2015 there was the first square between Saturn and Neptune at 7º02′ of Sagittarius and Pisces, and there are two more to come: June 18, 2016 at 12º02′ and on September 10, 2016 at 10º25′ of Sagittarius and Pisces.
What makes the current last quarter square between Saturn and Neptune even more intense is that it additionally intersects with the cycles between Jupiter and Neptune as well as Jupiter and Saturn. In particular, hard aspects between Jupiter and Saturn make things show up in flesh and form with striking events and experiences rather than invisible undercurrents of change. Last August and September of 2015 was the initiation into the rupturing, with Jupiter and Saturn forming a square at the beginning of August at the final degrees of Leo and Scorpio, and Jupiter and Neptune reaching exact opposition on September 16, 2015 at 8 degrees of Virgo and Pisces. On March 23, 2016 there was a second square between Saturn and Jupiter at 16º24′ degrees of Sagittarius and Virgo, and on May 26, 2016 there will be the final last quarter square between Saturn and Jupiter at 13º41′ degrees of Sagittarius and Pisces.
With Saturn in Sagittarius being the apex planet and additionally being in square to the transiting lunar nodes, there is fundamental karma to work out in the intersection between personal belief systems and the reality of personal experience. There is a reckoning between how we envision our ideal life to be and the cold, hard reality of how things actually are manifesting. Since Saturn is in the home of Jupiter, Jupiter’s placement in Virgo guides us to attune within our bodies and material surroundings in order to make contact with the ever changing moment and our presence within it. Jupiter further aligned with the transiting North Node of the Moon signifies that the place of expansion and new opportunities is found through inner discernment and discriminating between the authentic and inauthentic path to follow. However, gaining clarity regarding one’s authenticity is made more difficult by Neptune in Pisces opposing Jupiter while further aligned with the transiting South Node of the Moon. There is an old, ancient illusion regarding reality and how we create meaning to uncover, and until we do gaining realization that what we think is our authentic presence and path is truly our essential nature will be clouded with Neptunian fog. In the end, how do we really know what we feel is our soul calling is truly our soul calling, or rather is heavily under the influence of friends, family, culture, or other influences that have shaped our personality?
The current amount of mutation is at a peak as Jupiter’s presence is further catalyzing the extraordinary transmutation of reality that occurs when Saturn and Neptune make pivotal aspects. Though Saturn can struggle at times to let in the field of Neptune, it is in fact Saturn that is necessary to make Neptune manifest: indeed, Neptune was discovered when it was conjoining Saturn in Aquarius. Not only did the American and French Revolutions take place during significant points in the cycle between Saturn and Neptune, but one can trace the global trajectory of communism as the Communist Manifesto was written soon after Neptune was discovered while conjoining Saturn. Furthermore, in the following conjunction between Saturn and Neptune in 1881 the Czar Alexander II was killed by a People’s Will group, the Russian Revolution then took place during the next Saturn and Neptune conjunction in 1917, in the following conjunction in 1953 communist leader Josef Stalin passed away, and in their subsequent conjunction in 1989 the Berlin Wall came down and communism likewise fell apart in the region formerly dominated by the Soviet Union.
The birth and fall of communism is an apt association for Saturn and Neptune as it demonstrates the dream of structuring an ideal vision to serve the greater good, and the subsequent disillusionment and suffering that arises when the vision does not work out in reality the way it had been envisioned in the purity of imagination. In our personal lives, no doubt many of you reading this have had an ideal dream you had been building with passion fall apart in one way or another in the past months with the tangle of Jupiter, Neptune, and Saturn. To follow a vision and be willing to risk all of your heart and everything else for it takes tremendous courage, not only to brave the tumultuous obstacles but also to simply be willing to open oneself to the extraordinary pain that comes when the dream does not materialize and rather is lost forever. When the beloved dream had been nurtured by the purity of the heart, when its manifestation would have genuinely been in service of a higher good for the greater collective, bearing witness to its death can feel inexplicably traumatizing.
Languid Repose (1902) by Edward Steichen
During loss, we are at risk of our grieving making us overly passive with a sense that there is nothing to do about the feeling a cruel Fate has befallen us. Feeling injured, abandoned or betrayed by a lover, we can stop believing in love or feel we can never trust someone with intimacy again. Experiencing the elation of a business plan or community endeavor we had carefully constructed crash and obliterate itself before manifesting the results we had strived for, we are at risk of giving up on our capacity to reshape reality. It is necessary to be aware of the negative potential of Saturn, Neptune, and Jupiter in hard aspect: the depression of Saturn, the illusory escapism of Neptune, and the overindulgent emotional excess of Jupiter. If we have been fixated on having a certain outcome that did not come to fruition, these aspects can make us feel that everything we had believed about our feelings and the world is an illusion and that all of our efforts ultimately led to the pain of loss rather than the gift we had thought we had been nurturing. There is, however, a treasure to be found in disillusionment, as it makes it possible for us to reorient ourselves to the truth of our reality found in the moment, within our senses engaging in our environment.
When dealing with the loss of a dream or vision, whether that be a loved one in the flesh or an abstract plan in the imagination, the associated torturous pain can seem bewildering when in fact we have not actually experienced physical torture or trauma to our body. Jupiter, Neptune, and Saturn together involve the level to which we are able to envision a hopeful future and imagine the possibility of experiencing joy again even in times of struggle. The need to be able to feel a sense of hope despite all of the injustice, oppression, and destruction found in the world is absolutely essential in order to experience happiness, and so when we experience the disillusionment of losing all sense of hope that our vision will manifest, the impact can be devastating. Both Saturn and Neptune as well as Saturn and Jupiter are forming last quarter squares, a waning aspect that Dane Rudhyar interpreted as a “crisis in consciousness.” This does not mean we necessarily need to experience a mental breakdown, but it does suggest that fundamental aspects of how we create meaning for ourselves out of life will disintegrate, necessitating that we reorient the vision and beliefs we live our life from.
It is also vital to reflect upon Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune being in Mutable signs, as the double-bodied signs are the living images of the zodiac that transition us from one season to the next. There is a long tradition of rituals involving a sacrifice when welcoming the Solstice or the Equinox, and similarly the Mutable signs transition us through loss and death into the newly found presence and creation that will emerge from the destruction of the old. Embracing the loss, entering solitude with full presence, we fall into a void in which we discover our Soul. There is tremendous potency to discover in being able to heal oneself from wounds, in being able to nurture oneself back to a state that can believe again in the power of love and imagination to recreate the world we are experiencing. There is in fact incredible power within the hard aspects between Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune to work toward construction of new structures and forms that are solid and secure, as long as we are aware that during the process of development we must be open to how our plans will need to shift and mutate out of necessity.
Edward Steichen (1906) The Big White Cloud
With both Saturn and Neptune in traditional homes of Jupiter, with Neptune furthermore comfortably at home in Pisces, within the reflection of continual river currents of change there is a new vision as slippery as a fish to intuit. The greatest depth will be found by those willing to dive into the underlying waters that source meaning and guide visioning capacities, in order to realize where our dreams are coming from. Jupiter bound to Saturn can lead to ambitions aimed at mainstream success, conforming to the conditioning of a high paying role in consumer culture out of desire for enough money to overindulge in luxury and expenses. Adding Neptune without discernment can increase the glamor quotient tenfold, making influences such as Hollywood and the ravenous gluttony of celebrity culture a guiding principle. Or in contrast, Jupiter with Saturn can lead one to conform to the moral dictates of a dogmatic religion or philosophy rather than the authentic integrity found in the moment, with Neptune leading to complete surrender and devotion to the idealized behavior commanded. Yet as Dane Rudhyar wrote, Neptune is also an intergalactic ambassador bringing messages from the far beyond that can seed inspirational flights of imagination lifting us out of a conditioned, conforming existence.
Rather than focusing on how to acquire external trappings of success through our vision of life, the t-square between Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune can correspond with reorienting toward arising passions that intrinsically inspire and motivate from within, without need of external reward in order to dedicate oneself toward. Saturn wants us to take responsibility, and so in Sagittarius the ringed planet asks for serious commitment to fiery visions of spirit and imagination, grounded in connection between the earth at our feet and the watery air above. The know-it-all side of Sagittarius must subside in the floodwaters of Neptune, deftly transmuting with attention to detail in the moment. Jupiter in Virgo brings expansion through not only exhaustive research in support of the vision, but in discerning the exactitude of expression needed to capture and manifest the essential message and meaning. While Neptune feeds on love and imagination, its danger of drowning us in waves of the collective unconscious can be navigated through yoking the discipline of Saturn with the invigoration of Jupiter so as to allow the inspirational force to pass through us, expressed into a grounded medium of form.
What wants to emerge from you, voiced with an openness to the inspiration of this moment? We are in the middle of much longer cycles found in astrology, and while this point is not an ending it is catalytic to such an extend that aspects of our old existence will need to be let go and released. Repressing the inner vitality simmering now, holding back for fear of judgment or criticism of others is the path sure to take us far off course into dangerous terrain. Whether moving with authentic flow at this juncture means we need to go it alone or collaborate with many diverse people, the greatest support will be found by embracing the course of life that brings vivifying passions alive in body and mind.
And yet, if mired in the grief of past loss to such an extent that fully embodying joy at this time is too difficult, then the t-square between Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune is asking for you to bravely go deeper with the sacred mission of rediscovering the meaning of your life. Virginia Woolf once mused in Moments of Being if the “things we have felt with great intensity have an existence independent of our minds; are in fact still in existence?” If so, than even in what has been lost can be found endless folds of meaning that can be rediscovered continually in acts of artistry and creation. The gold found between Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune is not acquired with lackadaisical lightheartedness, but rather through embracing life with all of its heartbreak and loneliness with devotional passion.
Road into the Valley – Moonrise by Edward Steinchen
Current Cycle Dates:
- The current Saturn and Neptune cycle began in 1989 at the first degree of Capricorn, giving the cycle an overarching influence of Saturn. The beginning of this cycle occurred in correlation with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism, the ending of apartheid in South Africa, and the Tiananmen Square Massacre in China. The Saturn and Neptune cycle reached its first quarter square between 1998 and 1999 around 30 degrees of Aries to 5 degrees of Taurus. The full opposition of the Saturn and Neptune cycle then came in 2006 through 2007 with Neptune in Aquarius and Saturn in Leo from 17 to 22 degrees.
- The current Jupiter and Neptune cycle began in 2009 around 24 – 27 degrees of Aquarius. It reached its waxing square on June 25, 2012 at 4 degrees of Gemini and Pisces, and its full opposition on September 16, 2015 with Jupiter in Virgo and Neptune in Pisces at 8 degrees.
- The current Jupiter and Saturn cycle began on May 28, 2000 in Taurus at 23 degrees. Jupiter in Scorpio reached its waxing square with Saturn in Leo at first on December 17, 2005 at 11 degrees, again on June 22, 2006 at 10 degrees, and finally on October 25, 2006 at 24 degrees of Scorpio and Leo. The Jupiter and Saturn cycle reached its full opposition on May 23, 2010 with Jupiter in Pisces and Saturn retrograde in Virgo at 28 degrees. Then, they opposed for a second time around August 16, 2010 with Jupiter retrograde in Aries and Saturn in Libra at 3 degrees. Finally, Saturn and Jupiter reached their third opposition on March 28, 2011 at 15 degrees, with Jupiter in Aries and Saturn retrograde in Libra.
The following is music that was recorded during recent times in the corner of the world where I live, Olympia. As the album it will appear on will be released at the time of the Mutable Grand Square, I feel “Lion Snow” by Two Ton Boa reflects the energy: