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Transits and the Path of Transformation
By Shelley Jordan, M.A.
Introduction: The Psychological Origins of Reality
Your natal birth chart always remains the same, just like the DNA patterns in your genetic make-up. And like your DNA, your chart is a coded packet of information describing your developmental potential. The chart defines the various possible patterns of growth that you can evolve into as you mature.
Unlike your DNA, which says you will have brown eyes whether you like it or not, your chart contains information regarding choices that you are free to make about the kind of person you can become. For instance, if your chart says that you have artistic potential, you are the one who has to develop that potential by studying creative techniques and cultivating your talent. The planets won't make it happen or do it for you. Or if your chart indicates that anger and hostility are lesson areas for you, then you are responsible for owning your temper and bringing it under control and developing healthy expressions of assertiveness.
Your chart is like an aptitude test that may point out your talents, but won't ever manifest them for you. You are always the one in charge of your life, your abilities, resources and lessons. The chart may be a guide to all of these, but the chart will never determine your destiny - only you will!
To genuinely understand the nature of transits, it is important and empowering to first be aware that your life and your environment are products of your own psychological condition. Jungian and eastern philosophy teach that "reality" is a manifestation of the projection of the personal psyche interfacing with the thought-field of the collective unconscious, which is the source of consensus reality.
Your personal reality and the shared consensus reality of the world have their origins in the habitual, perceptive and responsive patterns of the mind. In fact, the Sanskrit word 'karma' most accurately translates as meaning habit. So-called karmic conditions actually result from internalized, and often unconscious, habituated patterns of behavior, and from the mental and emotional expectational sets and responses which shape individual and collective reality. By changing and rearranging these habits and patterns of perception and behavior, you change your reality. By transforming your own reality, you alter and change the collective, because All Is One. Herein lies the philosophical foundation of our hermetic astrological science, which is based on the concept of Microcosm equals Macrocosm, or, As Above So Below, or more accurately, As Within So Without.
The Transiting Planetary Environment
The fluctuating planetary environment is a living field. It stimulates your growth just as the Sun stimulates the process of phototropism (growing toward the light) in plants. As the transiting planets form aspects to various placements in your natal chart, your individual semesters of personal growth become clearly defined. While your life is primarily the product of the combined interactions of your genetics, your socio-economic conditions, your upbringing and your own process of decision-making, the planetary atmosphere is one more contributing factor in this complex aggregate of conditions.
Knowing your upcoming transits can help you plan and understand your life. For instance, if you know that you're having a major Saturn transit next year, plan on being busy and achieving something. The key to freedom with Saturn lies in carefully choosing your responsibilities, willingly disciplining yourself to be on task, then following through in a mature fashion. There are great rewards for working with Saturn, for honoring and sticking with commitments made under Saturn. In the same way, there are rewards for cultivating healthy expressions of all the planetary energies.
Astrology and Free Will
One of astrology's great failings lies in its perpetuation of the fatal myth of predetermination. The original and erroneous claims by ancient astrologers to predict the future have clung to the tradition for centuries, much to its own detriment. Prediction and pre-destination are among the basic and fundamental assumptions of traditional astrology, and are a major source of its rejection by rational and educated contemporary individuals. Historically, the great battles between astrology and theology were waged over the debate between free will and predeterminism.
Astrologers have historically relied on prediction as a major source of their bread and butter. If prediction were removed from the body of astrological theory, what would remain? The answer is - plenty! There is enough that is substantive in astrology's ability to describe psychological states to support its position as a useful technology. It need not deny the individual right of self-determination to justify its own existence.
Astrology functions better as a diagnostic and prescriptive tool rather than as a predictive one. If used judiciously, astrology has within it the capacity to diagnose psychological and environmental conditions; and using the same technological information, it can formulate curative prescriptive solutions to problems.
Yet it remains that astrology is the science of time. Time has an ontological reality, that is, time has a variable texture and nature and a cosmic structure, all of which are constantly changing within the context of the endless overlapping cycles described by planetary rhythms. An awareness of the fluctuating characteristics of personal and collective psycho-social phases and cycles enhances and expands individual choice and the exercise of free will, in the same way that knowledge of the upcoming weather can provide useful information for certain kinds of decision-making. And let us not forget that astrology, like meteorology, is not an exact science.
One of the problems with astrology's undeniable capacity to forecast general upcoming conditions in the psycho-social ambiance has been the false exaggeration of that capacity into specific prediction, along with the generation of catastrophic apprehension and dread. Fear is typically stimulated by traditional astrology's unsupportable belief that there are good and evil planets, aspects and influences. These false and limiting, if not actually inane, ideas have their origins in astrology's primal enmeshment with religion, a problem which has yet to be identified, discussed and corrected. While astrology can describe spiritual conditions, it is most definitely not religion, having no inherent dogma or ritual.
It is imperative to learn to use astrology without fear, and to take responsibility for one's life and decisions, without the milleniallist, catastrophic undercurrents of gloom so unbearably common in traditional astrology. Concepts such as malefics, benefics, and good or bad aspects must be eradicated from astrology's vocabulary. It is time for mainstream astrology to recognize and acknowledge that all facets of the cosmic framework, whether aspects, signs or planets, are inherently positive in their essential natures, and are necessary to the wholistic functioning of the solar system, and its microcosmic counterpart, the human psyche. In other words, nothing in the astrological vocabulary is inherently good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. Only people can be evaluated as such, and then there is always the potential for change and transformation into states of health and loving equilibrium.
The Birth Chart as an Organic Whole
The entire birth chart is internally cohesive, and operates as an organic wholistic interrelationship of patterns. The chart itself is a representative of the body of the personal psyche, with the planets symbolizing individual psychic organs. For instance, Mercury is the psyche's organ of communication and cognition; Neptune is the organ of sleep, dreams, imagination and the subconscious; the Moon is the organ of emotional nourishment, well-being and security, and so on. All these psychic organs are interconnected and need to operate efficiently in order for an individual to be an optimally healthy, fully functional being.
No single, abstract astrological principle, such as an aspect or planetary position, can indicate the presence or absence of the psychic health, or the success or failure (which are such completely relative terms to begin with) of any given person. In other words, the birth chart itself cannot tell us the degree of functionality of the person it represents. Neither can the birth chart alone provide more than the most superficial information about the person it represents. The chart must always be understood in connection with the specific individual for whom it has been calculated, and always within the context of the nearly endless psycho-social variables in that person's life.
The concept of the unaspected planet is impossible to reconcile with the wholistic view of the chart as an organic aggregate. A planet is always positioned within the matrix of the entire chart, either in its phasic relationship with other planets or within its patterns of midpoint structures.
The Need for Astrological Reform
The value judgments of traditional astrology, whether pointed at so-called malefic planets or the "evil rays" of certain aspects are not only wrong, they stem from ignorance, and do not hold up under scrutiny. If you examine the many hundreds and thousands of charts that must be studied in order to learn the art of astrological interpretation, you cannot fail to notice that the traditional assessment of malefics, benefics, good and bad aspects, and so on are absolutely 100% false!
Unfortunately, due to its suppression as a consequence of the scientific revolution, the astrological tradition has for the most part remained in a stunted, dream-like state of unawareness for several centuries. It has barely begun to actualize the reformation called for by its great historic practitioners, such as Kepler, Cardano and Dee. Because of its essential truth, however, astrology has maintained its position in the public mind as an acknowledged and valid system of information. The 21st century is the likely period during which it will experience its long-awaited renewal and regeneration.
The primary requirement for astrology's imperative and mandatory development is the acknowledgment of the individual's responsibility for his or her state of consciousness and right to make choices. Each individual is freely accountable for the expression, and health of his or her birth chart and psychological condition. Two people can have identical birth charts and lead entirely different lives, depending on the previously stated list of variables: their socio-economic backgrounds, their genetics, their upbringing, and the personal choices that they make about their own lives. In fact, there are as many responses to any one given astrological condition as there are human beings on earth! Rather than pigeon-holing human personality into narrow categories of rigid character traits, astrology reveals the endless diversity of human potential.
To attempt astrological reform with the goal of determining superior techniques for making more accurate predictions is a hopeless and philosophically empty waste of time. Efforts at statistically quantifying astrologically centered behavior based on singular factors such as zodiacal signs or planetary aspects can only lead to discouragement and a re-enforced attitude on the part of the educated community that astrology "doesn't work".
Astrology is not a predictive science that can respond well to statistical analysis, because human beings have freedom to exercise their will and make a wide variety of choices regarding their responses to events and states of consciousness. In addition, astrology utilizes a highly complex system of multiple interactive symbols, which do not respond to a simple form of reductionism. While the impressive work of the Gauquelins forged major roads toward deeper insights into the operating relationship between planets, angles and profession, it was limited by its employment of a planetary unifactoral hypothesis (in other words, one planet alone describes successful professional choice). It is an amazing reflection of their personal genius that they got as far as they did.
For astrology to emerge from its superstitious origins, it must also become disentangled from its earlier enmeshment with religion, which branded it with the semantics of good and evil. Astrology is neither religion nor is it a hard science in which people respond to astrological 'influences' like Pavlovian dogs. Astrology is an art of individuality and personal freedom, not a science of predicting human behavior. It describes states of consciousness, both at the personal and collective levels.
Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to always examine the chart in close connection with the person it represents. Because we have the freedom to make choices, including the choice to live a healthy or self-destructive lifestyle, we need to apply the concept of wellness and health to the astrological art. One can be conscious of the health and state of natal Pluto as much as one can be aware of the condition of one's heart or colon. Transits are opportunities to check out the health and functionality of our psychic organs, which are the various facets of our personalities. As transiting planets click off aspects to our natal planets, external reality provides us with a virtual bio-feedback mechanism that reflects back to us the projected condition of our own inner selves.
The Structure of Transits
There are several basic guidelines to be aware of before determining the nature and potential of your personal transits for any given period:
1. A transit period is in effect from the point of first contact (applying with an orb of one degree), throughout the retrograde stage, until the point of final contact (separating by an orb of one degree). That means that there are usually three passes from the outer planets to natal positions. Even when the transiting planet is not exactly aspecting the natal planet, node or angle, and has gone beyond its first pass, but has yet to complete its final pass, the planet is still effectively in aspect to the natal planet. Therefore, the parameters of Neptune and Pluto transits can last up to two years, Uranus transits can last for as long as one and a half years.
2. During the transit period, the transit frequently increases in intensity when the transiting planet is in aspect within a one degree orb to the natal planet, node or angle. Often, the closer the transiting planet is to a natal placement, the more powerful and symbolically significant the experience. When representative events occur concurrently with a transit, they may tend to do so when the transiting planet is within one degree of the aspect. It is important to remember, however, that in astrology there are always exceptions, and that even during the most compelling transits, outer events may not be as significant as inner psychic states, and if a person has no particular developmental issues with the transiting planet at the time, little, in fact, may occur.
3. The longer a transiting planet's aspect remains within a one degree orb to a natal placement, the more potent the transit. For instance, planetary stations, retrograde or direct, can last up to nine weeks or so for Jupiter and up to twenty four weeks or more for Pluto, depending on its sign. When the station is within a degree or so of a natal position, the intensity of the experience is increased.
4. Valid transits are formed using any aspects from the 12th harmonic (30 degree series): the conjunction, semi-sextile, sextile, square, trine, quincunx and opposition are all equally significant. Of additional importance are the semi-square of 45 degrees and the 135 degree sesqui-square. Remember that none of these aspects are good or bad, or better or worse! In fact, there is little difference between the numerous aspects, an observation made by Kepler four centuries ago. What matters more than the specific aspect's angular separation from the natal position are the sign and house occupied by the transiting planet, and the sign and house of the natal position receiving the transit.
The Nature of Transits
The nature and intensity of an individual's experience during any transit can vary depending on certain facts. The psychological and environmental conditions of the person are of primary importance. This includes the ripeness of karmic and subconscious conditions and attitudes, and their readiness to precipitate into the environment. Emotions, beliefs and habitual patterns of response can crystallize into life events when environmental and planetary conditions are right. Also take into account the person's age, life lessons and purpose as described in the chart. The receptivity to learning at a given time must also be considered. These are conditions which may not necessarily be determined astrologically.
An individual's skills at dealing with planetary energies must also be taken into account. For example, a structured and responsible individual may travel through a Saturn transit with gusto, but if he or she has difficulty handling emotional intensity, there may be a significant reaction to what could be considered an otherwise minor transit from Pluto. The solution here is to learn to work with Plutonian issues like intimacy, trust, boundaries and letting go; for the astrologer, the lesson is that no transit is really minor, and we always need to carefully observe and learn from each chart with which we come into contact. You will find that the cosmos will not only provide the scenario for the planetary lesson to be learned, but will also supply the cast of characters who can be instrumental in the learning process. In this case, Plutonian people might be potential catalysts for growth.
A transiting planet will symbolically resonate with its own natal position. For instance, if natal Uranus is in Gemini in the 4th house, then Uranus transits to any natal placement may deal with freedom issues (Uranus) connected to communication (Gemini) in the family (4th house). Also, pay close attention to the house ruled by the transiting planet. If Uranus rules the 12th, freedom may be equated with inner retreat. Therefore, meaningful liberation opportunities may come in the form of privacy and seclusion.
The variety of transits which are occurring simultaneously will usually define the themes of growth periods. Typically, there are multiple transits occurring simultaneously. Look at the whole picture and search for themes. For instance, Neptune going over the Ascendant and Saturn going through the 12th are repeating similar themes of heightened sensitivity and desire for seclusion. Some transits seem to drown out other transits. The more dominant and noticeable ones are those that require and demand the greatest attention.
The Planets as States of Consciousness and Transformational Resources
An awareness of your transits helps you define your semesters of personal growth. After all, life on earth is like being in school - we all come here to learn and grow and develop ourselves. Your birth chart is a map of your curriculum, showing what facets of yourself you are here to cultivate and improve. No one can work on all features of the human experience in one lifetime. We tend to specialize in particular areas within a given life span. The chart describes the potential talents that we bring in with us in order to achieve these developmental ends. We all have lesson areas, or remedial areas which need to be dealt with, sometimes symbolized by Saturn and the South Node. If these areas are given special attention, they can become our greatest strengths and most redeeming virtues. Just because something is a lesson area does not mean that you can't excel at it.
One of the great values of astrology is that it can help us figure out what life areas and facets of our personalities would most benefit from attention at any given time period. Major transits of planets through houses describe long term projects of potential self-improvement, while specific aspects formed by transiting planets to natal planets indicate more potent and focused opportunities for learning and growth.
The transiting planets are the catalysts and agents of transformation for your inner states, which are the source of your externalized reality. Keep in mind that astrology describes states of consciousness. External events are projections of our own inner thought forms. These externalized manifestations of our states of consciousness are the product of internal subjective conditions meeting and intermingling with the environment, which, as Buddhist philosophy teaches, is itself a mass projection created by all sentient life forms.
The transiting planets generate changes in our psychic states, which, when they interface with external reality in combination with our own actions, precipitate as events. Events are then, really, mere bi-products of our internal psycho-spiritual conditions. To control and master the events in your life requires that you learn to master and control your own inner states.
When you approach your transits, don't think "what will happen?" Rather, think about what frame of consciousness might be generated by planetary patterns, and what subsequent actions you can then take that will then exploit these psychic conditions to their fullest positive potential. When inner thought worlds and actions are in harmony with the externalized cosmos, happiness and spiritual fulfillment are the result.
The Wounder is the Healer
If there are serious issues in particular life areas, a transit to or from the planet that is cognate with these specific problems can coincide with a time period during which the symptomatic behavior can be more easily and responsively changed. For instance, if there are issues with control, trust, or letting go of the past, a transit to or from Pluto can demarcate a phase during which those characteristics may be more directly dealt with, due to the life scenarios that manifest and enter into the foreground of awareness. Transits to or from Neptune can heal addictions, lack of focus or direction, and deficiencies in compassion. Uranus transits can assist in problems with excessive detachment or alienation and stimulate a desire for companionship and sociability. Shortages in self-discipline or responsibility, or issues with authority figures can be effectively dealt with during Saturn transits.
Keep in mind that astrology is not meant to be used as a monitor for the passive acceptance of "fate". It is a sacred and at the same time natural technology and resource to be actively utilized and exploited for the improvement and refinement of the evolutionary human journey.
Be a good student. Be open to the learning in all of life's scenarios. You will then progress more rapidly through the endless and varying challenges of existence. Learn from your mistakes and take responsibility for your choices and the way you respond to life. Don't blame your chart or the planets! Life is about learning and growing. The planets act like cosmic teachers. Thanks to the psychological law of affinity, the cosmos 'sends' us representative individuals and situations that are designed to teach us about the use of cosmic energies. The following is a little guide to understanding our encounters with the planets.
Saturn - responsibility and its rewards
Saturn rewards hard work, achievement and commitment - if you are working seriously at the tasks appropriate to your dharma (sacred duties). How do you know if you are on track or not? During Saturn transits, you can receive a lot of valuable, reliable feedback about your performance on the path. Take it in. If it is complementary and rewarding, enjoy it. If it isn't, believe it and do something about it!
Saturn induces circumstances that engender self-discipline, self-improvement, and increase your level of responsibility and maturity. No matter how adult and responsible you already are, Saturn says "Grow up! Be more accountable!". Honor and authority can be the rewards for successful applications of Saturnian energy. If these qualities are problem areas, Saturn can provide a time period for healing and correcting them. Saturnian authority figures can materialize who will be more than willing to guide you toward appropriate duties and obligations, and respect for authority and the rules.
Saturn has good formatting and structuring energy. It is excellent for focusing and building enduring structures, and it is great for reality testing! Saturn presents opportunities for major achievements.......even if these are only known to you personally.
Chiron - healing and mentors
Chiron is the chart's healer. It travels around the chart making house calls, offering healing opportunities to any planetary placement that is in need. Sometimes, if the requirement for healing is crucial, the symptomatology of the unhealthy planetary function will flare up during the transit, helping draw your awareness to its need for attention.
During Chiron transits, the environment usually provides you with mentors, individuals who can role model (Chiron) healthy expressions of the various parts of your personality that you are seeking to heal.
For instance, when Chiron transits your Sun, you may become aware of any self-esteem issues that you have. If your self-image (Sun) isn't positive, Chiron transits will usually coincide with an elevated awareness of whatever is getting in the way of your self-confidence. It is then, of course, up to you to work on improving your sense of identity, and to take advantage of Chironian types who are there to help you, whether directly or indirectly. When your self-concept is healthy and strong, Chiron may represent the chance to be a solar role model and healer for others.
Uranus - liberty and awakening
Uranus transits offer liberation, companionship and socialization. They stimulate activity and the urge for something new. While Saturn transits seem to slow down the passage of time to a snail's pace so you can concentrate and be on task, Uranus speeds everything up, hurrying you through accelerated periods of personal growth.
Uranus packs a high-voltage charge, stimulating your whole energy field. A Uranus transit can feel like a whirlwind of change that can quickly blow you into new and interesting scenarios if you are open to them. The urge to break out of old patterns is high, and can be accompanied by elevated courage and a heightened desire to express your individuality.
The usual Uranian smorgasbord of events arrives in the form of opportunities formulated to free you from stagnation and bondage to the past. Uranian impulses toward companionship may motivate you to develop qualities such as tolerance, friendship and community. High energy individuals can be around to help you achieve personal freedom if you are receptive and willing to learn from them.
Neptune - sensitivity and visualization
Neptune transits are designed to get you in touch with your inner self. Neptune encourages introspection, imagination and compassion. When the typical Neptunian mist comes rolling in, you have to resort to relying on internal cues and feelings, because the old reliable and habituated external landmarks seem so vague and obscured. This can result in a greater awareness of your own interior scape, and the exercising of your feelings and intuitive faculties.
Neptune states lead to heightened sensitivity, forgiveness and emotion - excellent prerequisites for the ultimate lesson of Neptune, which is compassion. Neptune in its highest form is the Bodhisattva, the self-sacrificing saint who tends to the pain and suffering of others.
Neptune also induces ecstasy - the soaring flight of the artist and the mystic. It stimulates the right side of the brain. Neptune is good for healing delusion and addiction; great for creative visualization, formulating your ideals at the drawing board of life, and pursuing your dreams. It has the potential to dissolve old encrusted attitudes and hard edges, washing the psyche in a bath of imagination and idealism. Neptune can coincide with your dreams coming true, if those dreams are realistic. People who embody your ideals can demonstrate the validity and efficiency of your own value system.
Pluto - cleansing and transformation
Pluto brings psychic garbage to the surface to be cleansed and purged so that new forms can be released by your unconscious. Pluto goes through the chart acting as a sort of cosmic septic pump for the psyche, recycling and transforming any decrepit contents of the mind that needs expunging. It has a cathartic effect, enabling the mind to release toxic, polluting thoughts and emotions, so that purification and transmutation can occur.
If there isn't a lot of toxicity in the natal position's functional condition at the time of the transit, then the transformational power of Pluto can more easily generate appropriate new forms in your life. Profoundly intimate relationships can be formed at this time, and old relationships can be renewed and deepened. Planetary archetypes can become empowered, reorganized and can function at new levels of capacity.
During Pluto transits, it is a good idea to ask yourself how you define power -- what does power mean to you, and how would you use it if you had it? See if you can come up with a conceptual difference between power struggles and empowerment. Some people are afraid of power, but it is really your own inner power that will create success and joy in your life! Agents of transformation can assist you in your molting process.
The Eco-system in the Chart
If certain areas of your chart aren't consciously expressed or aren't operating productively, they are potentially dysfunctional. If allowed to, they can wreak havoc in your life until you deal with them properly and get them operative.
Each chart contains the potential for ecologically balanced wholeness when it is performing in a healthy, integrated and efficacious way. Every planet, angle and node represents a necessary psychological function and drive. No matter how diverse certain parts of the chart may be, all components of the chart need to be integrated and expressed in a productive, healthy way so that personal wholeness may be achieved. Viewed from this perspective, astrology becomes an active application of a natural technology of evolution, rather than the banal practice of fortune telling.
As the transiting planets circulate through the birth chart, they stimulate and activate various facets of your psyche, as represented by the planets, angles, and so on. The situations and patterns of experience that you encounter are externally manifested indicators of the spiritual and psychological state of health and well-being of the many facets of your Self.
These experiences indicate not only what you are supposed to be learning, but how you need to heal, because Earth is not only a school, it is also a hospital, where we incarnate to recover and recuperate from our individual souls' maladies. We are here primarily for learning, healing and development. The most prevalent soul illness on Earth is the illusion of separateness. The reward for healing is joy and love, freedom and mastery over the game of life.
Each chart is its own model of health. There are no ideal charts, or good charts or fortunate charts. Every chart has the radiant potential to be expressed in a healthy, fulfilling and successful way, based on the terms and goals of dharma written right into the chart. The criteria for success are in the chart itself, which describes an individual's developmental purpose within his or her own lifetime. The chart shows what we are here to learn, and what we are here to cultivate and correct in ourselves. We can all evolve and grow and eventually be free, because you can always count on the Universe to inevitably supply you with your lessons over and over again, until you get them right!
Copyright © 2001 by Shelley Jordan
All rights reserved
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: SHELLEY JORDAN is an outspoken advocate for astrological reform. She is the first woman in the United States to receive a BA in Astrology, Loretto Heights College, Denver, Colorado, 1974; MA in South Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1980. She is a consultant, educator and writer whose work on the history and psychological applications of astrology have appeared in numerous American and international publications. Currently, she is in charge of book reviews for Centre Universitaire de Recherche en Astrologie (CURA): http://cura.free.fr. Shelley may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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