|Astrological Cycles of the New AgePart 2 of Dane Rudhyars Astrology and Conscious Evolution
by Gregory Ellison
This Path of Initiation (or total human metamorphosis) must be trodden consciously. It is indeed the Conscious Way of evolution.
- Dane Rudhyar,
Astrological Timing: The Transition to the New Age
We speak of the new age, or the Age of Aquarius, but what is this Aquarian Age?
Is it just a popular slogan from when the flower children of the sixties and seventies discovered astrology (with a little help from Linda Goodman) and started looking to the stars to validate their vision of a brave new world built on peace and love?
If theres more to the Aquarian Age than a happy-hippy pipe dream, where is it now? It might have seemed like the dawning of a new age when long-haired flower children changed the world with a fresh breath of spiritual idealism, ushering in the civil rights movement and pointing out the grave inequities of the Vietnam war ... but where is that peace and love today?
Our world today is one of grave crisis. War seems inevitable, terrorism is a fact of life, ethnic cleansing and racial/religious intolerance rear their ugly heads in hot spots around the world. Our cities are unsafe, violent crime threatens everywhere, the spectre of global tyranny hangs over us like a grim and fearful cloud. If the terrorists dont get us then the New World Order will! Or, failing that, the fragile ecology of the planet, buckling under the stresses of runaway pollution and greedy resource depletion, population explosion, global warming, epidemic starvation and poverty, new incurable viruses and a host of other challenges threaten to decimate life on Earth, if not snuff it out entirely.
Where is this Age of Aquarius with its loving peace and plenty?
Dane Rudhyars answer is that we are in the midst of transitioning to the Age of Aquarius at this very moment but whether or not it is a happy transition to a peaceful and loving future for mankind is entirely up to our own free will. If the only way we can get to the next higher level of consciousness is a massive meltdown that will destroy most of humanity, leaving the few survivors to enjoy the new age in primitive tribal conditions, then the Universe will allow us to get there that way. It is our choice.
Last month we looked closely at Rudhyars ideas of cycles and wholes. We observed how these concepts seeded the conceptual revolution that is now called holistic, and we saw how these cutting-edge holistic concepts found natural expression in the age-old art and science of astrology. In this installment we look at the specific astrological cycles that Rudhyar identified as pointing to a new evolutionary stage of human consciousness - the Aquarian Age - to see if they can help us understand where we are in the world today, and what we might expect in the near future.
Rudhyar saw all things as wholes, and believed that all wholes unfold in cycles. Whats more, he saw that all wholes and all cycles are manifestations of the same underlying deep structure, and that this structure can be described archetypically as the great wheel of the zodiac. From this perspective, the passing of a single day in our lives (an ascendant cycle, where the Sun rises successively in each sign of the zodiac) goes through the same pattern of unfoldment as the passage of a full month (a lunar cycle) or a year (a solar cycle).
Nor does the pattern end there. Linda Goodman spoke of the Saturn seven cycle, where Saturns successive conjunctions, squares and oppositions mark off seven-year stages of life.
Traditionally, the anciently known planets through Saturn relate to the life of an individual human being. But entities larger and older than a human being, like nations, cultures and civilizations, also follow the same cyclic pattern marked off by the signs of the zodiac. These larger entities are measured by cycles that are longer than the life of an individual person, such as the 84-year cycle of Uranus, the 165-year cycle of Neptune, and the 246-year cycle of Pluto. And the very longest humanly conceivable cycle - the cycle marking the evolutionary development of human consciousness itself - is measured by a 26,000-year-long great year marked off by the precession of the equinoxes, in which the vernal equinox spends over 2,000 years in each sign of the zodiac. It is this precessional cycle that denotes the great ages of human unfoldment, and it is this to which the Age of Aquarius refers.
To understand the place of humanity today in the larger cycles of unfoldment, Rudhyar considered the following cycles:
The cycles of the outer planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto;
The longer cycles of the aspects that these slow moving planets make to one another;
The great year of the equinoctal precession and its successive ages.
Cycles of the outer planets
The traditional planets though Saturn relate to the life of an individual person, while the three outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, relate to the larger trans-personal life of humanity. That these three planets were all discovered in the past three centuries (Uranus in the 18th century, Neptune in the 19th century and Pluto in the 20th), indicates the approaching shift in human consciousness from the purely personal (ego-centered) level to a larger trans-personal level in which we identify with humanity as a whole.
Rudhyar believed that we are today reaching toward the last phase of this at least tentative mutation in mankinds consciousness, as these trans-Saturnian planets have become integral parts of the collective mind of humanity. Each was discovered during the century whose overall character was most like the planets own character, verifying these planets as accurate symbols of transformation.
Uranus represents the power that enables man to ascend from one level of consciousness to the next, to experience a true metamorphosis of consciousness. Rudhyar analogized the cycles of Uranus to the minute hand of the clock of evolution on this Earth.
There are two ways of considering the point when a planet begins a new cycle (a complete revolution around the Sun): the point when the planet reaches its North Node, and the point when it enters the first zodiac sign of Aries. Rudhyar considers both. Significantly, the current nodal Uranus cycle began on July 20, 1945, four days after the first atomic explosion in Alamagordo, N.M., which indeed ushered in a new era for better or worse.
The nodal Uranus cycle before this began in June 1861 just after the inauguration of Lincoln at the start of the Civil War. The one before that occurred in 1777 during the War of Independence. Major transformations indeed!
When Uranus passed over its north node in 1945 the first uranium-powered atomic bomb was released, Rudhyar wrote in 1969 in Astrological Timing: The Transition to the New Age. This was a strictly Uranian event with vast consequences for the Earths biosphere and all men. But this event was part of a larger pattern of global transformation for mankind, and this pattern began to be clearly revealed earlier when Hitler, released from prison, emerged as the future leader of aggressive Nazi Germany. This emergence occurred around the year 1927 when Uranus reached the first degree of Aries.
Twelve revolutions of Uranus in its 84-year orbit around the Earth add up to a little more than 1,000 years - a millennium, Rudhyar notes. Viewing the 12 revolutions of Uranus in analogy with the Suns passage through the 12 zodiacal signs of the solar year, Uranus clocks a millennial great year in Earths cycles, and that current astrological millennium began in 1927 when Uranus entered Aries, Rudhyar said.
The first phase of this 1005-year, essentially millennial, period, will end in 2011, when Uranus again enters Aries after a single orbit. A new cycle of Uranian changes has been taking hold throughout this first orbit within the cycle. The Uranus cycle is not the same as the Aquarian Age. Ages last more than 2,000 years, and there are different theories as to when the new one actually begins or has begun. But the planet Uranus rules the sign of Aquarius, and in a sense, the Uranian cycle is announcing and preparing the way for the Aquarian Age, Rudhyar said. In the current century, this early part of the Uranian cycle will blend into the beginning of the Aquarian Age.
The cycle of Neptune deals broadly with mankinds attempts to find a wider and more encompassing frame of reference for its institutions. Pisces, ruled by Neptune, signifies institutions, among other things. This reframing of institutions cannot be accomplished by mere planning and organization. Neptune is also the planet of mysticism and spirituality, and ultimately the planetarization of our institutions can only succeed to the extent that an increasing number of human beings are able to feel compassion and to value inclusiveness and wholeness above exclusiveness and the purely analytical, quantitative, rational intellect. Otherwise all institutional schemes, even the most noble in conception, will degenerate into nationalism or other forms of exclusive institutions that try to achieve universality by compulsion. The great religious and utopian political tyrannies of history are good examples of this.
The current Neptune cycle began when Neptune entered Aries on April 13, 1861 exactly when the fall of Fort Sumter marked the beginning of the Civil War, a great clash of institutional ideologies in the United States. It will end in 2025, and according to Rudhyar, this cycle highlights the imperative need to transform and regenerate what began at that time - mainly the results of the Industrial Revolution, of colonization by Western powers, and - let us be honest - of our murderous attitude towards the American Indians and of our miscarriage of the process of emancipation of Negro slaves. (Rudhyar, writing in America, stressed the crucial elements of American history in describing the longer planetary cycles, but similar illustrations can be found in the histories of all nations.)
Pluto, the planet of transformation, was first sighted in 1930, just as the Great Depression was making its mark on the world, along with the rise to power of Hitler and Mussolini, the rapid expansion of communism in the Soviet Union, and the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal that permanently altered the relationship of Americans with their centralized federal government.
According to Rudhyar scholar Michael R. Meyer,
While Neptune is the planet of mysticism, Pluto is the planet of the true occultist and his or her work with unseen forces. Ruthlessly stripping away all glamour [illusion], Pluto is the power enabling one to cast away all but ones essential dharma, ones fundamental truth of being. In doing so, it presents the possibility of rebirth, and it produces the conditions leading to reintegration around a new center of being.
On the negative side, Pluto represents chaos, dictators, totalitarianism and holocausts, as well as the drive for ultimate power and control over others. When Uranus and Neptune have not been allowed to work constructively, Pluto assumes an ultimate, ruthless and destructive aspect.
- Michael R. Meyer, A Call to Transformation
In this respect, Pluto highlights both the opportunity and the danger of the new age. It is the ultimate test for mankind, for it heralds the possibility of true global transcendence and spiritual transformation ... at precisely the time in history when the ability to extend power and authority over others is most tempting. This is the great initiation: will we use the power of Pluto to transform and regenerate ourselves to be lenses focusing the spiritual light of a higher realm for the betterment of all mankind, or will we succumb to the temptation of ordering the world according to our own materialistic perceptions of what society needs for its own good?
Pluto began its current cycle when it entered Aries in February 1822. It reached its midpoint in Libra (conjunct the Midheaven point of the United States natal chart) in 1971 - the very time when new age consciousness first burst into mass awareness.
Although the start of the Aquarian Age cannot be determined exactly, for reasons we will shortly discuss, Rudhyar believed that the current 246-year Pluto cycle brackets and encapsulates this transition, sounding its keynote and expectations in many important ways. Deeply understanding the meaning of the Pluto cycle, he said, can be a vital help to the growth of this impersonal historical and global realization in individuals ready and willing to assume the new role now open to mankind.
The nature of that role, Rudhyar believed, was to self-consciously realize ourselves as the mind of the planet ... to make the leap of consciousness that allows us to assume our collective destiny as the self-conscious awareness of Gaia, the living being that we call Earth.
Relationship cycles of the outer planets
In Astrological Timing and other works, Rudhyar further refined the analysis of these cycles of the outer planets by examining the relationship cycles among them. The relationship cycle of any two planets is defined as the cycle between successive conjunctions of the planets, when those planets are together in the sky. The cycles can be analyzed in terms of unfolding phases - just as the phases of the Moon mark off the changing relationship between Sun and Moon as the two luminaries go from conjunction (new Moon) to opposition (full Moon) and back again to conjunction each month. The difference, of course, is that the relationship cycles between slow-moving outer planets can take hundreds of years, thus making them suitable for understanding the slow changes that occur on a global or cultural level.
The analysis of these cycles encompasses hundreds of pages of detailed research. For those interested in the connection between cosmic cycles and human history, I strongly recommend a thorough reading of Rudhyars major works on this theme, including Astrological Timing: The Transition to the New Age (1969), and Occult Preparations for a New Age (1975).
The Age of Aquarius
The phenomenon known as the Aquarian Age is a product of an extremely long astronomical cycle known as the precession of the equinoxes. This is not the place for a detailed technical explanation of this cycle, but in a nutshell it is the result of a wobble in the rotation of the Earth on its axis, and this wobble slowly changes the position of the vernal equinox relative to the fixed stars.
The vernal equinox is one of two days in the year when the days and nights are of equal length. It marks not only the first day of spring, but also the beginning of the zodiac signs. Each year, the first day of spring marks the entry of the Sun into the sign of Aries. In fact, this is the definition of the zodiac, which is simply a division of space into twelve equal sections beginning with a line drawn between the Earth and the Sun on the first day of spring! This position is defined as zero degrees Aries, and the rest of the zodiac is simply a matter of marking off 12 equal 30-degree sections, starting at that point.
This never changes. The first day of spring ALWAYS marks the start of the zodiac. However, because of the slow wobble in the Earth, the first day of spring gradually moves backward in relation to the constellations, at the rate of about 1 degree every 72 years. A little over 2,000 years ago, the zodiac was lined up perfectly with the constellations, such that the sign of Aries coincided with the constellation Aries. But for the past 2,000 years, the vernal equinox has been slowly moving backward through the constellation of Pisces, and it is now at the point of entering the constellation of Aquarius.
This is what marks the dawning of the Age of Aquarius!
This extremely slow movement, which takes about 2,162 years to travel through a single sign, defines the longest astrological cycle that is relevant to mankind, called a great year. A great year is composed of 12 astrological ages, each lasting 2,162 years, at the end of which the vernal equinox has returned to its starting point in the constellation of Aries. In astrological terms, this great year of the precessional cycle refers to the gradual transformations of the collective consciousness of mankind.
Now heres the rub: even though this is a mathematically defined and astronomically observable cycle, there is no way to determine exactly when each age ends and the next one begins, because there are no observable borders between constellations. At the present time, we can clearly determine that the vernal equinox falls between the constellations of Pisces and Aquarius, moving into Aquarius. But because there is no measurable dividing line between these two constellations, there is no way to tell exactly when the equinox has left Pisces and entered Aquarius.
This has created a great deal of confusion, with different astrologers subscribing to different theories of the exact timing of the beginning of the age. Estimates have ranged from the late 1800s to well into the 22nd century.
Dane Rudhyars approach to this problem was to use the shorter cycles of the outer planets, coupled with observable cycles in history, to fix the real date of the new age. Without going deeply into his elaborate reasoning, he concluded that the Age of Pisces began about 100 B.C., a hundred years before the time of Jesus. Taking that as the starting point, the Age of Aquarius would begin 2,162 years later, or about the year 2,062. The Ages of Pisces and Aquarius are just the first two of the 12 that will make up this durrent great year.
In Rudhyars understanding, the 26,000-year-long evolutionary cycle begun at the start of this great year is based on the keynote sounded by the appearance of Christ ... not necessarily the Christian religion, but the underlying spiritual message seeded by the great spiritual master known as Jesus Christ, regardless of what we choose to believe about his origins or the religious doctrines that have grown up around his message.
With the beginning of the Christian era, a new phase in mans evolution began which is based essentially on the eventual realization by every human being of his individuality as a single and unique person - as a microcosm - as a potential son of God. The transcendental Sages of the Upanishads and even Buddha did not consider the individual person as a microcosm, but rather as a more or less illusory formation, the consciousness of which was deeply involved in the illusion of separateness; and the goal of the spiritual life was presented as a re-absorption of this temporary form of consciousness darkened by ignorance in the one infinite Reality, Brahman. Our Christian Western culture, on the other hand, has extolled theoretically and idealistically the worth and dignity of the individual person, even if in practice it did very little to apply its ideal to social living. This ideal should now become a practical and social reality - and of course this is the grand and glorious ideal of democracy. But this word, democracy, can hide a multitude of sins of omission as well as of commission. And we are facing the possibility that the coming decades will witness a complete betrayal of this ideal in this country which had most seriously tried to make of it a practical way of life.
- Astrological Timing: The Transformation to the New Age
In other words, in this age - the Aquarian Age - it is the evolutionary aim of mankind to attain spiritual ascension while retaining individual identity, as distinct from being re-absorbed into God or dissolving the individuality in an undifferentiated ocean of spirit, as taught in earlier ages.
This is remarkably similar to the ideas of Linda Goodman, as expressed in Gooberz and other writings, in which she expresses the idea that united twin s-Elves will ascend to higher and higher levels of consciousness while retaining their personal identities.
In this context, the aim of each stage of evolution is to enable individuals to identify with and express higher and higher levels of being, without forgetting themselves to the extent of believing that their identity is rooted in those levels. For if we become fixated on any particular level of being, we lose our ability to move on, thinking that where we are at this point is who we are.
If this is the case, then the first age in this evolutionary great year, the Piscean Age that is just ending, was about learning to shift our center of expression from small family and tribal units to the much larger and more inclusive cultural wholes; while the second age, the Age of Aquarius that we are now entering, is about shifting that center of awareness to the next higher level, the global, planetary level. This is the ONE world of peace and love that has come to be identified with Aquarian ideals.
The challenge, of course, is that in the transition from one age to the next - from the cultural/religious/national state of consciousness to the planetary/global-mind/world-brotherhood state of consciousness - the old institutions do not want to let us go! The separate national, religious, economic and political institutions that were the very point of the last age, are fighting for their very lives as our conscious evolution prepares to transcend them and move on to a wider and more inclusive awareness that no longer values the exclusiveness and separation that defines them ... and this is precisely the reason that this transition period is so marked by wars, ethnic rivalries, religious conflicts and economic manipulations. It is time for a change, and as always, the institutions of the status quo are resistant to that change, and will fight it with the last of their resources.
The great choices we face
Tf the fundamental premise of astrology is correct - that all wholes, from individuals to nations to races to humankind as a whole, and beyond - are subject to a structured pattern of unfoldment that is described in the archetypes of the zodiac - then it appears to be an inescapable conclusion that we are indeed at the cusp of a great transformation of human consciousness ... what we are calling now the Age of Aquarius. If that were the whole story, we could simply leave the future to fate and forget about it! However, that is not the case. Clearly human free will has a major role to play, even given the inevitability of certain structural patterns that we are bound to follow. In individual life, one man confronted by a particularly noxious Saturn square might resign himself to the inevitable and experience whatever dire fate the aspects portend, while another with the same aspect will choose to work with those energies to achieve an outcome more favorable to himself. So too, as the whole of humankind faces a radical transformation of consciousness, we can choose our own response to it. In so doing, we may change our experience in major ways even while still fulfilling the structural laws of the transformation.
In this particular transformation, the stakes are very high, because we have attained a degree of physical power, which, if used destructively, has the potential to destroy the planet, or to decimate populations and subject others to the rule of brutal power and control. At the same time, these same technologies and capabilities could enable us to eliminate war and poverty and provide a standard of living for every human being on the planet that is now enjoyed only by the privileged few. Either choice would represent a major transformation. Even in the darkest scenario, some human souls would be propelled to the higher global level of consciousness ... but in a very unhappy way, in a world torn by unimaginable strife and suffering.
We do have the free will to choose. And the important thing to remember is that even though we are speaking of global transformation that affects all humans everywhere, the choices are individual. Again following the keynote of this Aquarian age, the crucial factor is the individual being able to extricate himself or herself from the national/cultural/group matrixes in which we are embedded, to move on to higher allegiances. No group can make such a decision for you, the groups and nations and other separate institutions we identify with are fighting for their own survival.
In the coming years there will be great struggles among nations, and great choices that we face as to whether we will, as individuals, support an us and them view of reality or a family of man reality. These choices will not always be easy, for they will come in the guise of appeals to familiar values and institutions that we know and trust, institutions that have been necessary and beneficial in earlier times. But the times, they are a-changing, and we will do well to answer from an allegiance to all of mankind rather than a desire to protect our special interests; or we may very well find ourselves on the dark side of the new age rather than basking in the limitless light and love it offers us if we will go with its flow.