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What's going on up there?...

...or is it down here...?

By John Townley, March 2016

Since just before the topsy-turvy December holiday season, it seems like people’s personal worlds – and the world in general – have come off the hook and are rolling about in the most alarming fashion. Folks with bad transits feel they’re going down for the last time, and even those expecting bounteous Jupiter visitations are complaining that the expected wave of good fortune is turning out to be unmanageable and is capsizing their boats. Since New Year we have personally seen two of the latter, good friends expecting and actually experiencing windfalls of opportunity, only to wind up in hypomanic breakdowns that landed them in hospital and/or rehab, victims of unanticipated system overload.

And on a larger scale, it’s happening all over – the general social anxiety index fueled by bombings, civil conflicts, and unbalanced economies has skyrocketed. The big disasters make the news, but the daily conflicts like road rage and simple explosive daily transactions (our local postmistress complains her customers are going off like firecrackers for no apparent reason). The question on everybody’s lips to astrologers’ ears is: what’s happening, and when is it going to stop?

That might be easy to answer, if it were all astrological. But it’s a mix of what’s in the sky and what happening locally on the ground. And both are changing the ordinary way we behave and interpret each. The old rules aren’t applying well for the moment, and we haven’t figured out exactly why – or how to get back to a normal we can rely on astrologically or physically.

Astrologically, we’ve had several sets of big sky weather events over the last several years, which we’ve covered on these page along the way. The nasty, lingering cardinal grand cross of 2013 seemed like a perfect storm with its accompanying sky shifts. We even gave advice on what to do with the accompanying troublesome solar returns it was producing. Further, the shift from the Great Recession’s choking Saturn-dominated skies, subsequently imperiled by the Arab Spring’s ongoing Uranus-Pluto square, to a reversal bringing Jupiter to the fore reminded us of the similar exit from the Great Depression’s skies and what that brought.

Jupiter's yearly wave effect used to be a big, free ride -- now it's a more perilous challenge...

Two years earlier than that, we had already forecast these coming Jupiter skies, along with the dark side that recurring Jupiter swings could present. That’s all come to pass now, on a daily basis, where great expectations of the big planet’s good news have been turning problematical to those counting on them. All of this was foreseeable, just by reading an ephemeris with a basic eye on history.

In the longer term, these recurring sky patterns, including larger ones that mark huge falls and recoveries in major civilization crises, are normal and to be expected, and are weathered successfully, albeit sometimes at great price. But the ultimate existential challenges come not from above but from the systems below – just how well our vessels, large and small, are being maintained in the face of expected storms, and how thin we allow the margin of error to become while seeking gain from the winds and seas surrounding us. When we push our luck, trying to get too much out of too little, even ordinarily-beneficial breezes can roll us over and sink us under.

That is basically what has been happening of late, on multiple fronts. Usually – or at least in the historically recent past – there has been a lot more leeway for give and take and recovery from accidents. When America ran out of profitable land, it simply moved West and developed more. When Europe had the same problem, it colonialized Asia and Africa. Not enough timber? Cut down a new forest. Not enough fish? Plunder a new, more distant sea. Not enough energy? Drill and dig for more, then burn, baby, burn. Not enough water? Dam rivers, drain reservoirs, drill wells, suck up every bit of the natural buffers of drought. But now we’ve run out of plentiful new resources, used up what we have to the edge, and the demand is still growing. Renewables-technology is just getting underway, while the need is greater than the supply, putting pressure on the natural resilience of the environment and those who depend on it. And in the process of consuming our resources, we’ve helped heat up the planet, bringing on more extreme weather, and rising sea levels and salinity, exacerbating all of the other problems brought on by stretching the limits.

The world landscape is stormier, and with defenses weaker, large developments are more threatening...

And that only covers our interface with the environment, which is turning from a soft buffer to a hard wall. We’re also doing the same thing to each other lately, by our own political and economic intentions. In an effort to squeeze out more profits, average productivity has been forced up and wages down around the world. Goods are supplied from earlier padded, safe inventory levels to just-in-time supply practices that don’t allow for emergencies wrought by unexpected changes in production or demand. Renewal of supporting reserves and infrastructure are neglected in favor of quick returns. The rate of change in information and works skills needed to keep pace outdistances the normal cultural learning curve, causing unanticipated shortages in human resources and social confidence. The results are overwork, personal tensions, and increasingly unequal and adverse living conditions that make everyone except the very wealthy (who themselves aren’t immune to psychological ills brought on by this) more fragile, vulnerable, and afraid.

That’s the unfortunate picture on the ground, but it has ramifications skyward as well. When there is continual pressure, no room for slack, with strength and resources thinly-stretched to the breaking point, then more subtle forces such as astrological cycles, which are not usually taken into account anyway, can turn out to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, the final tug on the rope  causing it to part, while the finger in the dyke is no longer sufficient to hold back disaster. That’s how the normally-benign waves of Jupiter changing signs, for instance, have turned out to feel more like tumultuous tsunamis than opportunities to move forward with confidence. It takes some leeway and stability to begin with to use Jupiter for a launch, and many don't have it.

Systems more robust before now fly apart at a formerly-helpful puff of wind...

Indeed, some of the folks most benefitting from these periodic tidal thrusts seem to be crazies and hostiles, not the usual leaders and innovators of general wealth and social progress. The politics of fear, and chaotic and destructive organized criminality in the name of race and religion, are catching the wave, while the forces of good struggle to play catch-up and regroup in confusion behind the curve. In too many ways, it really has been a replay socially, politically, and astrologically of the mid-to-late 1930s. We are clearly out of balance globally, on social, economic, and some would say moral levels, perhaps stemming from the swing to political individualism and greed begun in the 1980s, resulting in massive neglect of the mutual caring and social contracts comprising the glue that holds civilization together.

But however all of this may ultimately resolve, it is important for astrologers to note the at least temporary shift of customary impact that may be expected from routine planetary transits. When we would be normally congratulating clients on a big, generous Jupiter transit over the Lights or Angles, we perhaps should be warning them to trim their sails a little before the rising wind hits. So far, we have seen a lot of personal ships knocked down by the overstimulation that brings, just in the last year or so. When opportunity knocks, it can knock you down if it’s too loud, too insistent, and coming from too many directions at the same time. The proper advice would be to be ready to engage in a form of positive triage, taking on the best and most sustainable prospects while quickly passing on lesser, but possibly interfering and time-consuming temptations.

It's time to take a new look at the cutting edge of each planet, against more voluble states below...

The same can be said for Mars (ordinarily a two-edged sword to begin with), which can ordinarily bring extra energy, but also with it overexhaustion, stress, and aggravation. And, curiously, it may be a time to reevaluate the normally-frustrating and burdensome attachments of Saturn, when it may be bringing a needed slowdown and second look at how well-supported your surroundings are, or are not. It’s message may be not just to plough patiently through, but the back off and try something else entirely. And that is now more than ever, the message of Pluto...don’t fight it, just back off and try another route. Uranus (still tangling in square with Pluto) is more trouble than enlightenment, and Neptune (in a nasty square with Saturn) is more treacherous than spiritualizing.

And another useful second look might be at all retrogrades, which have had a misleading reputation among practitioners. When a planet is retrograde, that means we’re at our closest physical approach to it, it’s not somehow lost and far away, and we are in fact re-engaging it most strongly, both as we fly in semi-free-fall toward it, then painfully pull away as our orbital inertia moves us on. It’s not a time to put that planet’s matters on hold until further progress, it’s about tangling with its attraction and reacquainting ourselves with its benefits and dangers, so real progress can be made.

Will we ever get back to our more robust, formerly normal state, or is this unusual fragility the new normal? 

Or, on a different tack, is this phenomenon itself cyclical and subject to periodic adjustments? Perhaps, even probably. The further back in time you go, the more astrologers' own writing about specific planets and their transits changes. Saturn has historically almost always been considered a malefic (well before we had outer planets to blame for our short-term miseries) and so has Mars. But in recent times, Mars has been increasingly been attributed with strengthening and energizing powers, and during really fat times and places (like, America and Europe in the 1980-90s), even Saturn was being given a friendly face by the likes of Liz Greene. And there was a whole school of astrologers who seemed to see only the rebirth side of Pluto, forgetting it had to kill you first before you could arise like a phoenix out of your ashes.  Amid relatively easy circumstances, even the worst can be painted with an upside. And, when things are tight, a big, beneficial transit can prove more than a fragile setup can handle or take advantage of.

When you're not as sure-footed as usual, even an expected gust of wind can spin you around -- it's about how it catches you...

So it may be that the real story of a planetary transit is more than its fundamental breadth and hitting power, which does not vary across history, but the relative speed and frequency at which it catches your personal situation, along with how prepared you are to catch its momentum. Given that, our experience of all the planets would shift along with how vulnerable people on the ground are, how stable their environment is, and how robust are the systems they depend on. That would not only go far to explain/describe historical differences in interpretations, but also geographical and cultural ones as well. Living in India or China, at any time, is a lot different than living in the West, and that may account for the differences in their astrological systems, as we have suggested before. Much of our apparent celestial disagreements about planets and signs may be ground-based after all, our shared local response to more unchanging, planetary physics.

Time will tell on the ground, especially if experience and opinions swing once again, but for the moment, it's important to take the currently more tender situation into account when looking for how what's happening above is impacting what's going on below...

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