Sunday, August 7, 2011

Jupiter Opposing Saturn: Culture Clashes and Crashes

(From the Better Late Than Never Dept.: my article published in the Summer 2011 issue of The Ingress, New York's NCGR newsletter)

The Jupiter/Saturn opposition was exact on March 28, 2011. Just a few days later I came down with the flu — it was the sickest I’ve been in ten years (during the Jupiter/Pluto opposition, I caught pneumonia). After recovering, I tried to write about this difficult aspect between Jupiter and Saturn, but kept bouncing back and forth between the personal (the effect of transiting Jupiter in “I yam what I am an’ tha’s all I yam” Aries) and the “Other” (Saturn transiting “I am yours, please be mine” Libra). How frustrating I found it to be unable to land firmly in either camp…until finally I decided to embrace, rather than keep trying to escape, this seesaw dilemma. I realized the very problem I had been wrestling with was emblematic of the opposition aspect in general — and the growing sense of indignation and cynicism I felt whenever I tuned in to current world events was a perfect read of Jupiter opposing Saturn in particular.

When two planets oppose each other, balance is challenged; another manifestation of the opposition is crisis in a relationship. In sharp contrast to the conjunction, which expresses itself most vividly through an individual’s psychology and direct actions, the opposition aspect brings relationship dynamics, with all their attendant pains and gains, to the fore. Boiling the opposition aspect down to one word, we are left with Libra. If we count six signs forward from Aries, the first sign of the zodiac, we reach Libra, which marks the Autumnal Equinox, half the zodiacal circle of 360 degrees (i.e., 180 degrees) — so it makes absolute sense for the aspect that corresponds most closely with the sign of Libra to be the opposition. They are indeed interchangeable, for Libra, just like the opposition aspect, derives its energy from relationships — not just the ones that occur between people, but ones that involve abstract ideas and attractively arranged objects. Libra, the charming diplomat of the zodiac, searches eternally for balance; its frequent flip-flops and indecisiveness can (and often does) frustrate the socks off more stable, grounded signs.

Although the waxing trine aspect, which occurs before the opposition, encourages romance as well as creativity, two planets forming this type of trine (e.g., Sun in Cancer trine the faster-moving Moon in Scorpio) are more likely to encourage self-expression than other-directed motives or actions. It is only when we reach the stage of opposition that we become truly conscious of another entity’s existing apart from ourselves — the rub, however, is that we have the unfortunate knack of projecting our own desires, fears, and needs on to others, whatever the relationship is. Even with a relatively neutral attitude, we still view others through our own personal lens. Therefore, pure objectivity is a pipedream. We believe that we are looking at someone while we are essentially gazing into a mirror. What is mine, and what is yours? When an opposition aspect is involved, answering that question is not so simple.

Situated between the quickly orbiting “personal” inner planets and the slow-moving “transpersonal” outer planets, Jupiter and Saturn mediate between the individual and the collective, and in so doing are our solar system’s “societal” and “cultural” planets. Their complementary energies are necessary for building social networks of all sorts, for all species, from penguin colonies to Facebook. And such social networking is a key component toward building entire nations. Jupiter and Saturn must coexist, for these two planets are flip sides of the same coin — or, even more evocatively, the two parts necessary to maintain breathing: inhalation and exhalation. Both Jupiter and Saturn deal with institutions and values, and assist in forming people’s identities as part of “something bigger” than themselves as individuals — a process that influences every single one of us, no matter how connected or disconnected each of us is from our respective cultures and societies.

Jupiter, which rules the Fire sign Sagittarius, encompasses higher education, long-distance travel and the “exotic,” the law, in-laws, religion, gambling, philosophy, ideology, excess, and life’s want-to-dos. Saturn, ruler of the Earth sign Capricorn (the sign that, not coincidentally, immediately follows Sagittarius), manifests as “the establishment” or Old Guard, career, public achievement, authority, structure, foundation, empires, corporations, deprivation, and the have-to-dos of life. Jupiter is expansion; Saturn, contraction. Without frostbitten Father Saturn, societal relations — indeed, the entire world — would be akin to Wonderland: utterly lacking in logic, proportion, gravity, time. To continue with literary analogies, without avuncular Uncle Jupiter, life would resemble 1984: heavily constricted and restricted, with zero privacy and wholesale censorship; each person’s individuality would be recognized only via custom-tailored methods of torture and brainwashing to keep rebel transgressors in line. (It is interesting to consider that the sign that follows Capricorn is Aquarius — a sign well known for its rebelliousness and unconventionality.)

Of course, some societies and nations are more Jupiterian or Saturnian than others. It is also true that a dominating society can usher the nation it calls home through a Jupiter-oriented phase (e.g., the United States in the 1960s and ’70s), then pull a 180 and take the same nation through a Saturn-oriented cycle (e.g., most of the world in the 1930s). But no matter what the era, whenever one culture or institution claims superiority over another and communicates in no uncertain terms (via speeches, editorials, laws, and/or warfare) to the other side how it should behave, whether the conflict stems from social, political, economic, or religious differences, trouble pretty much always ensues, and during a Jupiter-Saturn opposition, that trouble is doubled.

Jupiter-Saturn aspects are far from uncommon, but conjunctions and oppositions between the two planets occur only every nineteen to twenty years (approximately one cycle of the Nodes of the Moon — interestingly, the North Node or “dragon’s head” is associated with Jupiter, while the South Node or “dragon's tail relates to Saturn.) Because trine and sextile aspects indicate smooth sailing, while squares indicate inner conflict, we can therefore expect that on a societal level, the most powerful and strongly felt Jupiter-Saturn aspects are the conjunction and the opposition. The conjunction seems to give birth to a movement or event/s that builds during the Jupiter-Saturn waxing square and either explodes or implodes during the opposition, approximately one decade after the conjunction. Consider relatively recent Jupiter/Saturn conjunctions: 1940 (World War Two), 1960 (which ushered in the famous/infamous “sixties” throughout much of the world), 1980 (resurgent conservatism acting as the final nail in the coffin of said “sixties”), and 2000.

On a personal note, my Saturn Return occurred in May 2000, just a few weeks before the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction. At that time I was living in Manhattan and telecommuting (Uranus) as an independent contractor (Uranus again) for a company putting together an online (Uranus again), business-oriented (Saturn) dictionary (Jupiter). It was only a part-time job, but my parents (Saturn) were my landlords; I paid them what I could on the monthly maintenance, even though none of us was thrilled that it was peanuts (indeed, two Mays later this arrangement came to an abrupt end). My first novel (Jupiter) was in the galleys stage at a print-on-demand publishing house, and Dell Horoscope had bought two of my astrology articles (Uranus), so I felt some sense of achievement (Saturn). I celebrated my Saturn Return by signing up for yoga classes; this turned out to be a wise decision, for I still practice yoga, and have more flexibility and balance, both inner and outer, than I did in my twenties.

In May 2000, much of the world was still blissfully pre-9/11 in its consciousness. Yet that bliss, particularly in the United States, was only possible via willful ignorance (one of the negative traits of Taurus). At the forefront of current events was the dot-com bust, an all-too-apropos manifestation of the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in Taurus (money) squaring Uranus in its ruling sign of technologically driven Aquarius (a placement that had triggered the dot-com bubble back in the mid-1990s). I myself was let go without warning from my dot-commish job in late 2000, when the R&D people decided the company had no more money to put into the online dictionary. Unfortunately, U.S. society at large, instead of learning from this bust — much less recalling the get-rich-quick speculations of the Roaring Twenties, which led to a calamitous stock market crash and the Great Depression—invested in yet another bubble, housing, that peaked during the Jupiter-Saturn square (with Jupiter in Scorpio, i.e., other people’s money, squaring Saturn in prideful, ostentatious Leo) and burst in 2008.

Another embodiment of the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in the money sign Taurus was the birth of the Euro, a currency intended to unify the Continent — but this has not turned out to be the case. A recent headline in Economics proclaimed “Controversy over Europe: The Euro Divides the FDP.” As for the value of higher education (Jupiter), many college graduates of the past decade can look forward to paying off their student loans for the rest of their lives while working jobs that lack benefits and do not require college degrees — that is, if they are fortunate enough to be hired.

Along with willful ignorance, rampant consumerism and greed are negative hallmarks of Taurus, and during the decade that followed the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in Taurus, the gap between the haves and the have-nots in the United States grew alarmingly wide, reaching in 2007 the same proportions as 1928 (talk about history repeating itself). Although one hedge-fund hotshot was just convicted for insider trading, Wall Street “banksters” have gone unpunished while Main Streeters are informed that the recession is over — a “jobless recovery,” thanks to automation, offshore outsourcing, and hire freezes — but if anyone happens to still be unemployed at this point, it is their own lazy fault. Corporations (Saturn) have officially been recognized by the Supreme Court (Jupiter) as having individual rights at the same time that they are recognized as “too big to fail” and given bailouts and tax breaks, while individuals (except for the super-rich ones) have to ante up. Meanwhile, America’s surplus of 2000 has turned into a deficit so extreme that we have officially reached the debt ceiling. There is now a heated debate on whether or not to raise it.

The populace is starting to notice the power corporate interests have over (and in) politics and the media, and exactly how much of the federal budget goes to the military and prisons; however, unlike Egypt, there has been no revolution in America — just isolated protests while the rest of us sit glued to American Idol or Who Wants to Marry an Immoral but Incredibly Hot Bazillionaire?, posts another Facebook status update, or shrugs and says and as long as we have ours, we shouldn’t rock the boat.

In 2000 Osama Bin Laden’s militant Islamic global network al-Qaeda was growing stronger, yet its founder and leader remained free to plan and carry out the atrocities of 9/11 despite the opportunity to arrest him, despite intelligence warnings of imminent terrorist attack in the summer of 2001. This was yet another example of the slipshod laziness that Taurus can succumb to — but it was also highly calculated greed involving global assets. The killing of Osama bin Laden occurred on the heels of the Jupiter-Saturn opposition, but global terrorism itself is far from dead. Unsurprisingly, almost immediately following Bin Laden’s death and quick burial at sea, threats of retribution were issued. Bin Laden’s own son issued a statement that the United States violated international law in failing to capture his father alive to stand trial.

Writer and philosopher George Santayana (who was, fittingly, a Sagittarius), famously observed, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” If we are ever to learn from Jupiter-Saturn cycles and make real societal progress, we must heed those words and stop treating culture, institutions, and the economy like the weather — they are human constructs. Although come to think of it, humans managed to create global warming, so we should start taking responsibility for the weather as well.

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