have not understood yet that the discovery of the unconscious means an
enormous spiritual task, which must be accomplished if we wish to preserve
our civilization.” -C.G. Jung
Many of my
non-astrological friends have asked me what has been happening in the
heavens that would make more intelligible the events of September 11 and
since. These notes are a summary of a lecture I gave in my Psyche and
Cosmos graduate seminar on Tuesday, September 18, with a few quotations
added later. In the lecture there were more historical examples, elaboration
of key points, and so forth. What follows here really are just headlines,
but I hope you can glean something of the basic archetypal background
of this historically momentous drama we now find ourselves in.
are immensely complex, beyond words really, with so many causes, consequences,
and dimensions. But the planetary archetypal situation was dramatically
clear. In the last few weeks the planetary alignment that represents the
heaviest—the darkest, most weighty, mortally serious, historically
grave—of all archetypal combinations, the Saturn-Pluto alignment,
reached exactitude, an opposition. The first two weeks of September in
particular were critical, as the Sun and Full Moon moved into a rare and
extraordinarily precise grand cross (two oppositions—Saturn with
Pluto, Sun with Moon—both 90 degree square to each other).
alignment lasts around three years—it began last fall, and will be
operative for about two more years. Historically, the hard aspects between
Saturn and Pluto (conjunction, opposition, and square) have consistently
coincided with periods resembling the present one, sometimes much worse:
the beginnings of both world wars coincided with tight Saturn-Pluto hard
aspects, as did the outbreak of the Vietnam war, the massively violent
Red Guards’ Cultural Revolution in China begun at the same time, the Terror
during the French Revolution in 1793-94, and the sack of Rome by the Visigoths
in 410, to cite only a few. The moment the World Trade Center and Pentagon
attacks were known, every astrologer in the country knew the Saturn-Pluto
alignment, which has coincided with so many grim periods of historical
gravity and contraction, had erupted.
is more to this archetypal complex than these words and examples suggest.
As horrific as is its shadow, it is equally capable of bringing forth
actions, psychological transformations, and enduring social-political
consequences involving extraordinary moral nobility and sheer physical
and volitional effort—something we have certainly already witnessed.
The positive potential of the Saturn-Pluto archetypal complex is usually
inextricably intertwined with confronting its negative manifestations—great
courage in the face of darkness, danger, and death; sustained effort and
determination, intense focus and discipline; moral discernment and wisdom
born from experience and suffering.
Archetypal Meanings of Saturn and Pluto
the full dimensions of this alignment, one has to grasp clearly the archetypal
meanings of Saturn and Pluto, and then see how the combination of the
two works. As with every major aspect or alignment between two planets,
the corresponding archetypes mutually activate each other and combine,
each in its own specific archetypal way, to create a range of quite distinctive
and powerful qualities, tendencies, and events.
in certain respects the most potent archetypal principle in the planetary
pantheon: it is the archetype of power itself, as it embodies the primordial
forces of destruction and regeneration, the id, the broiling cauldron
of the instincts, the shadow, the underworld in every sense, the secretive
and subversive, the violent and the demonic, the fiery and volcanic, the
elemental energies of nature: Pluto-Hades-Dionysus in Greek mythic terms;
in Indian terms, Kali and Shiva in both their destructive and regenerative
aspects. Whatever Pluto comes into alignment with, it greatly intensifies
and compels that second archetype, deepens and makes more profound, destroys
and transforms. It brings a titanic, overwhelming elemental potency, on
a mass scale.
archetype is extremely complex: It represents the principle of limit,
structure, and necessity in the universe; the principle of opposition
and negation, of heaviness and gravity—both moral and physical (weighty
as serious and weighty as materially heavy); of rigidity and separation,
contraction and density; repression and reaction; of hard concrete materiality.
It is the reality principle, the bottom line. It is fate and karma, the
cross we bear, hardship, sweat and labor, problems and difficulties, suffering
and death, failure and defeat, sorrow, the endings of things, the consequences
of the past, guilt, judgment, punishment. But it is also discipline, rigor,
moral determination; order, precision, control, security, and organization.
Saturn is “the Establishment”: the established structures of control,
authority, tradition—which may be rigid or stabilizing, containing
or oppressive, grounding or deadening. In hard aspects, such as the opposition
it is now in with Pluto, Saturn consistently brings out the problematic,
challenging, negative potential in any reality; it defeats and hardens,
it grounds and forges.
As you read
the following, keep in mind that every one of these experiential qualities
and phenomena are precisely faithful to the archetypal character of Saturn
and Pluto in combination—there is nothing random or loose about this
litany of phenomena. Each archetype simultaneously acts on and is acted
upon by the other—each activates, informs, inflects, opposes, and
combines with the other.
Here then are characteristic manifestations when
Saturn and Pluto come into major hard alignment:
Dark, grave, momentous, deadly serious, profoundly weighty events.
Intensely dramatic times, with enduring consequences ensuing from current
decisions and actions, with much at stake, often with life and death issues
in the balance.
The feeling of being caught helplessly in the grip of overwhelming, powerful,
and often dark forces, of being the victim of large ruthless impersonal
forces of nature or of history that are both destructive and imprisoning.
More generally, a sense of larger powers of any kind—social, historical,
elemental, biological, archetypal—being in control of one’s life.
The powerlessness of the entrapped and suffering victim is usually matched
by an obsessive drive for control, power, and domination, the two sides
of the experience mirroring each other, sometimes occurring in alternation
in the same person or community.
Deep humiliation effected by violence, violation, and defeat. A compensatory
need to prove one's steely strength, power, and invulnerability.
The empowerment of forces of hatred, murderous aggression, of evil and
the demonic, of the secretive and subversive, of the underworld—elemental,
instinctual, criminal—with consequences that are punitive, defeating,
traumatic, contracting, tragic. More generally, the simultaneous experience
in extreme form of both violence and contraction.
Absolute determination, courage, and sacrifice, unbending will, intensely
brave silent strenuous effort. Superhuman physical and moral exertion
in the face of horrific circumstances, perilous threat, murderous hostility
(the firemen and police in the World Trade Center, the passengers that
stopped the hijackers in the jet that crashed in Pennsylvania from hitting
their intended targets). Extreme self-control in dangerous and terrifying
situations. (These qualities also pertain of course, in twisted form,
to the suicidal hijackers themselves.)
A deeply sobering awareness of the world’s dangerousness. The potential
for either a highly grounded and experienced realism in the face of a
harshly challenging world, or paranoid fears of hidden organized plots
focusing of concentration on a deadly serious reality. A sense of vital
threat, causing primitive fear. In the extreme, the naked encounter with
one’s own death, producing in response either mortal panic or unflinching
The empowerment of conservative or reactionary forces, bringing about
an emphatic increase in defensive armoring, rigid boundaries, hostile
A tremendous intensification of the harshest aspects of reality—material,
mortal, existential. Negativity of overwhelming, mass dimensions. Deprivation,
poverty, hardship. Sadness intensified to anguish. Absolute defeat. At
worst, intense mass suffering, death, loss, grief, agony.
The encounter with that form of the numinous which inspires awe and dread,
even terror; confronting a power—divine or natural—whose stupendous
elemental destructiveness is more than human, that stupefies the imagination.
The eruption of massive, titanic, volcanic, overwhelming elemental forces
that have a negative, collapsing, constricting effect.
The annihilation of the established order and of the enduring structures
symbolizing that order. Also, established structures of power which are
experienced as being both oppressive and evil, and thus deserving of ruthless
destruction. (The World Trade Center and Pentagon as Saturn—supreme
symbols of established order and control; Pluto as violent destruction,
as the terrorist underworld, and as extreme hatred, demonic both in intensity
and as projected onto the established structure of power.)
Confinement and constriction intensified to claustrophobic, life-threatening,
or even lethal dimensions (cf. the fetus struggling in the contractions
of birth; suffocation; helpless entrapment by larger physical forces;
Saturn-Pluto is the central aspect of the perinatal trauma—both Grof
and Rank, the major psychologists of the birth trauma, had this aspect).
Experiences that in their traumatic intensity and gravity take many years
to absorb, integrate, or heal from. More generally, events that are extremely
enduring in their consequences—both destructively and constructively—establishing
new structures and orders of life, either solidifying or oppressive, deadening
The capacity to endure extreme pain, suffering, or hardship. Extremely
hardening experiences, the necessity to endure them, and the long-lasting
psychological or physical structures such experiences forge. Impossibly
difficult tasks, hard labor beyond human endurance.
In general, the emphatic intensification of conflict and separation, of
intractable enmities, of problems, contradictions, and oppositions.
The tendency towards ruthless complete “othering”: intense objectification
of other subjects. This extreme objectification combined with the projection
or experience of evil and shadow qualities, thereby impelling cruel behavior,
hatred, revenge, murder, anger, suspicion, fear, terror, greed, fanaticism
(Pluto). All made possible by establishing or experiencing an absolute
boundary (Saturn) between self and other as separate and alien, often
seeing the other as subhuman and unworthy of life (references to beasts,
devils, swamps, vermin, lairs, hunting down animals, etc.).
A tendency to see things in terms of a confrontation between good and
evil. Both the confrontation with evil, with the shadow, and the constellating
of it. Periods of collective intense and heavy judgment, blame, scapegoating,
punishment, execution. With one’s own side definitively good and the enemy
definitively evil, the impulse for jihads, crusades, “holy” wars.
Historically a tendency in the collective psyche to constellate the shadow
by eliciting or projecting archetypal “faces of the enemy,” seeing or
experiencing darkness and violent evil in the other, resulting in periodic
historical contractions bringing war, mass death. There is usually a powerful
focus of grave concern and fear in the collective psyche onto a particular
object, either as scapegoat or as authentic danger or evil—the “Evil
Empire” (Reagan against Soviet Union) in 1981-84; the apocalyptic nuclear
danger of the superpower arms race reaching its peak during the same period,
with widespread fear of World War III; the Germans and Japanese in 1939-41,
the Communist Soviet Union at start of Cold War (1946-48), international
Experiences of irrevocable catastrophe, intense loss, endings, death,
resulting in lasting sense of deep heaviness, darkness, and sorrow often
combined with anxiety.
A sense of the tremendous inescapable weight and burden of history, the
past, errors from the past, ancient resentments and enmities.
The sense of an ominous, darker reality descending on an age.
A sense of the irrevocable end of an era; the destruction of the established
order of existence, the end of an earlier mode of life characterized by
naiveté, inflation, or illusion. “The end of innocence.”
beginning of World War I (the first Saturn-Pluto conjunction of the 20th
century); 1929-30, beginning of the Great Depression (the following opposition);
1964-67, the beginning of the Vietnam War (the last opposition). The earlier
age now seems “Prelapsarian,” before the Fall: the WTC attack and destruction
have brought about a ruthless end to an age in America of complacency,
of arrogance, of hubris, of taunting indifference to the larger world
community, of naiveté, of inflation, of specialness, of unthinking freedom,
of self-indulgence, of decadence, of illusion, of unconsciousness. “That
fat, daydreaming America is gone now, way gone” (Frank Rich, New
The end of
naïve specialness: now sharing the hard fate of common humanity. Cf. Bob
Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone, under Saturn-Pluto opposition
of 1965: “How does it feel…”
greatly intensified and deepened maturation of a person or a culture,
leaving its puer dream of naïve eternal youth and entering a senex reality—darker,
gravely serious, problematic, concrete, confining and challenging, aging,
burdening, maturing (cf. Manhattan’s Stuyvesant high school students who
directly witnessed and were deeply transformed and matured by the events;
almost all high school students at the time of the Columbine school shootings
and the concurrent wave of other school shootings in the country were
born under the Saturn-Pluto conjunction of 1981-84).
galvanizing of the will, a sense of stern purposefulness, grim determination.
The man of
steel., the mother in the throes of the birth labor—the superhuman
effort of contraction and determination in the service of a life—and-death
cause. Cf. the firefighters and police entering the towers and climbing
to their deaths out of duty and service to others. “The iron will of the
ironworkers laboring at Ground Zero” (NBC News).
assertion of control and power (Saturn and Pluto), after experiencing
the horror of utter powerlessness—by U.S. now, the president and
military and intelligence establishment; earlier by the terrorists (Pluto
as extreme life-and-death survival instincts and intensity, Saturn as
being in control or being controlled—thus the alternation of extreme
assertions of controlling power and extreme helpless victimization under
another’s controlling power).
phrase used many times to describe both the terrorists and the response,
in different forms, by rescue workers, the American people, or the Bush
administration, and now the Taliban and Afghani people. Saturn brings
seriousness, gravitas, focused purposefulness, which Pluto intensifies
with the desperate force of life-and-death survival instincts.
the worst realization is how low-tech this attack was. No sophisticated
missiles, no stolen nukes, no exotic bio-warfare or chemical agents. The
main, decisive weapon here was determination.” New York Times
terrorists’ guide found in their luggage: “Stand fast…The time of fun
and waste has gone. The time of judgment has arrived.”
humorless and merciless determination in the service of power and control—the
terrorist mass murderer, the slave driver, the tyrant, the inner tyrant
(cruel superego), the dictator, the merciless judge, the intensely self-disciplined
ascetic, the rigid authoritarian, the obsessive-compulsive security apparatus.
Totalitarianism and terrorism, mirror images in their calculated organized
violence in the service of power and domination.
A quality of relentlessness, implacability, irrevocability; of ferocious
ruthlessness and cruelty. Grim violence, the cruel ruthless enemy.
The impulse to kill. Murder (Saturn as death, the Grim Reaper, Pluto as
violent instinct, hatred and aggression, predatory destruction, Kali).
Also, mass murder (Saturn as personal death; Pluto as mass death and destruction).
unspeakably difficult—physically, emotionally, logistically—task
of rescue and recovery—sifting painstakingly and perilously through
the endless gargantuan mountain of hot ash and pulverized debris, of fragmented
concrete, steel, and human bodies; the crushing failure to find survivors.
The Herculean labor of clearing and cleaning the immense mass of destruction;
of restoring structures, of stabilizing the deep underground foundations
and containments destroyed or threatened by the collapse.
of rebuilding from the rubble (cf., the conjunction of 1946-48, not only
the beginning of the Cold War, Iron Curtain, etc., but also the Marshall
Plan and the rebuilding of Europe from the rubble of World War II).
Consider the great German astrologer Reinhold Ebertin’s telegraphic summary
of Saturn-Pluto: “Tenacity and toughness, endurance, the capability to
make record efforts of the highest possible order, the ability to perform
the most difficult work with extreme self-discipline, self-denial and
renunciation….A hard and unfeeling disposition, also cold-heartedness,
severity, tendency to violence, a fanatical adherence to one’s principles
once they have been adopted. A martyr. Mass murderer…Hard struggling for
success. The participation in achievements brought about by large groups
or masses of people, the pursuit of difficult work or of painstaking and
thorough research in seclusion, the process of growing spiritually and
mentally, silent activity….” (The Combination of Stellar Influence,
is grit and grime, fire and brimstone, ashes and horror, dust to dust,
blood, sweat, toil, and tears (Churchill rallying the British against
the Nazis during the Blitz, 1939-40). It is harrowing and galvanizing.
It traumatizes and it forges. It destroys, transforms, and bodies forth.
also brings forth the possibility of wisdom: of deep gravitas, of unflinching
moral discernment and self-awareness achieved through profound experience
It’s helpful to think of great artists born with
Saturn-Pluto hard aspects whose work has especially embodied many of these
qualities in diverse and richly complex ways:
Melville, for example, throughout their work, both born with Saturn-Pluto
conjunctions; Hemingway with his lifelong concern with (and attraction
to) war, death, killing, and the grim brutality of life; the three Saturn-Pluto
directors Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, and Oliver Stone in their many
films of fear and suspicion, evil and the shadow, being helplessly trapped
in the dark plots of cruel, murderous, or diabolical forces; Giger’s many
paintings and images of darkness, evil, brutality, ruthless entrapment;
Joseph Conrad’s horrific, traumatizing experience of metaphysical and
human evil in the Congo under the Saturn-Pluto alignment of 1890, later
recorded in The Heart of Darkness (“the horror, the horror”).
had Pluto square Saturn as a long personal (once-in-a-lifetime) transit
during the entire six-year period in which he wrote all the major tragedies—Hamlet,
Othello, King Lear, Macbeth—exploring and articulating with such
profundity the depths of the human shadow.
We see it
too in the metaphysical and spiritual vision of major Saturn-Pluto theologians
like Augustine and Calvin, with their profound sense of the dark evil
and corruption rooted in the human soul, original sin, guilt and remorse,
hell and damnation, predestination, being in the grip of an overwhelmingly
powerful force and fate that rules one’s life and destiny no matter what
one might attempt otherwise, their relentless determination to suppress
evil and construct moral and ecclesiastical structures to serve that quest,
their overall focus on moral judgment and self-judgment. (In a more contemporary,
less medieval example, we see it in Thomas Merton, born under the conjunction
of 1914-15, whose spiritual autobiography The Seven-Story Mountain
under the immediately following conjunction, 1946-48, wrestles with these
same themes with somewhat different results.)
of the moral faculty and the collective superego is a Saturn-Pluto effort,
from the God of thunder and almighty power giving Moses the Ten Commandments
onwards (even our film recreations of that event reflect the collective
psyche’s archetypal dynamics, with both cinematic biblical spectacles
of that name, The Ten Commandments, both by De Mille, produced when Saturn
was square Pluto, in 1923 and 1956).
Pluto were conjunct when the world faced the full horror and evil of the
Holocaust, 1946-48, with the public release of the films taken of the
Nazi concentration camps (films edited for the British government by Hitchcock),
and with the Nuremberg Trials of the Nazi war criminals in 1946, with
their ambience of grave moral and legal judgment, confrontation with the
shadow, horrific evil, “man’s inhumanity.” Films precisely express the
archetypal dynamics of the collective psyche. After that conjunction,
each hard aspect of Saturn and Pluto coincided with major films about
the concentrations camps and Holocaust—Resnais’s Night and
Fog in 1956, Kramer’s Judgment at Nuremberg in 1965,
Sophie’s Choice in 1982, Schindler’s List
in 1993; virtually all of the 10-hour long documentary Shoah
was filmed under the conjunction of 1981-84. Kafka wrote The Trial
under the Saturn-Pluto conjunction of 1914 (and was himself born under
the Saturn-Pluto conjunction just before that). Saturn was opposite Pluto
in 1536 when Michelangelo began painting “The Last Judgment.”
Good and Evil
of the tendency to see things in terms of good and evil: cf. Augustine’s
epic drama of history; the American view of Soviet Communism from the
beginning of the Cold War during the conjunction of 1946-48, “the evil
Empire” of Reagan in 1981-84; “a monumental struggle between good and
evil” of Bush in 2001; Churchill’s view of Hitler in 1939-40; Conrad’s
Heart of Darkness; Oliver Stone’s rendering of America
in Platoon, JFK, Nixon,
Wall Street, Born on the Fourth of July…Melville’s
magnificent dissection of this tendency in Moby Dick and
alignments do indeed tend to bring genuine confrontations between good
and evil-but where the evil exists is not usually as simple a matter as
the confronter believes (cf. Keen’s Faces of the Enemy,
the perinatal projections in history analyzed by Grof and the psychohistorian
Lloyd de Mause).
and Palestine, whose implacable enmity was established with the founding
of Israel under the SA-PL conjunction of 1948; with every hard SA-PL aspect
since, including the present, coinciding with a Middle Eastern war, with
their mutual projective constellating of the shadow and the need for suppression
and attack. Modern India and Pakistan were divided under the same conjunction,
1947, commencing a similar tragic drama.
“We are at
war”—those grim words, creating that heavy dark weight in the pit in one’s
stomach, again and again heard during Saturn-Pluto eras. Cf. the first
Saturn-Pluto cycle of the twentieth century, beginning in 1914, and its
hard aspects coinciding with both world wars, essentially constituting
a “thirty years war” that does not end until the end of the full Saturn-Pluto
cycle at the end of World War II (the first Thirty Years War, 1618-48,
also precisely coincided with the Saturn-Pluto cycle).
Yet it does
not have to be the full-fledge open war of the world wars: the following
Saturn-Pluto conjunction (1946-48) brought the beginning of the Cold War,
with the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, the Iron Curtain, the Berlin
crisis, the beginnings of anti-Communist McCarthyism in the U.S., the
House Committee on Un-American Activities, the founding of the CIA, National
Security Council, and Department of Defense. (Saturn as “cold” war, rigid,
armored, iron boundary, containment, fear, hardness.)
of the sense of the tremendous inescapable weight and burden of history,
the inexorable power of the past, errors and conflicts from the past,
ancient resentments and enmities: note that Samuel Huntington’s often
cited (especially recently) essay The Clash of Civilizations,
with its dark thesis of virtually ineluctable and irreconcilable conflict
between the West and Islam, rooted in centuries of history and war between
civilizations and religious cultures, was published in Foreign Affairs
in 1993 under the last Saturn-Pluto square. Kissinger, whose geopolitical
philosophy has always been notable for its sense of history’s ineluctable
influences, dark and heavy, on the present, has this aspect all his life
September 1, 1939
poem September 1, 1939—widely circulated, beginning
on the very day of the World Trade Center attacks, as both resonant with
and prophetic of the current moment-was written in New York City as the
Nazis invaded Poland under Saturn square Pluto:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.
explores many relevant Saturn-Pluto themes—the dark end of an era,
evil being done by those to whom evil is done, skyscrapers and imperialism,
a psychopathic god served by an enemy gone mad—but especially relevant
is the insight about humiliation and violence: “The poem, as Joseph Brodsky
once pointed out, is really about shame—about how cultures are infected
by overwhelming feelings of shame, their ‘habit-forming pain,’ and seek
to escape those feelings through violence. What drives men mad—drives
them to psychopathic gods—is the unbearable feeling of having been humiliated”
(Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 10/1/01). Auden was himself born with Saturn
of that sense of an ominous, darker reality descending on an age—we’ve
already begun to forget what it was like, during the last Saturn-Pluto
conjunction, of 1981-84 (the one immediately following the conjunction
that coincided with the beginning of the Cold War), Reagan’s first administration
when the Cold War was at its peak, with the tremendous nuclear buildup
on both sides of the Atlantic reaching apocalyptic proportions, preparing
for “nuclear overkill,” and impelling apocalyptic fears of nuclear holocaust
in the collective psyche, the sense of a nuclear sword of Damocles hanging
over the world because of the Manichaean battle between the superpowers;
Armageddon fantasies emerging (along with the empowered fundamentalist
imagination), coincident with the beginning of the AIDS epidemic; Helen
Caldicott and the mass anti-nuclear rallies, scientists’ recognition of
the “nuclear winter” probable fallout from a nuclear war, the widely seen
“The Day After,” the fears of “triggering World War III,” the drawing
of many historical parallels with the beginning of World War I, and so
forth. It is a powerful archetypal gestalt as it emerges in and grips
the collective psyche (again, recall 1914-16, 1939-41). Saturn-Pluto as
mass death: the many wars, massacres, major terrorist attacks coincident
with this alignment.
Events with brutal and enduring impact—it is the
principal aspect of trauma.
with darkness, evil, hatred, bestial ferocity, the demonic, the shadow,
and the moral and physical effort to sustain that confrontation: Cf. Churchill
courageous rallying the British alone in Europe to face Hitler and the
overpowering Nazis in 1939-40. Albrecht Durer’s woodcut “Knight, Death,
and the Devil” beautifully conveys this archetypal moment (Durer born
with his Sun on a Saturn-Pluto square).
“the beast” (cf. this summer’s shark epidemic of attacks and fears; Spielberg’s
Jaws, Jurassic Park [Spielberg’s born with
Saturn-Pluto conjunction, visible as well in Schindler’s List,
Saving Private Ryan, AI, et al.]; Giger’s
work; this summer’s film Sexy Beast; Henry James’s The
Beast in the Jungle; Conrad’s Heart of Darkness,
Apocalypse Now Redux).
And then there are the purely physical, material,
and energetic manifestations of Saturn-Pluto in this event:
“iron” are themselves quintessential Saturn-Pluto: matter hardened by
fire, powerfully enduring concrete and steel structures, steel jet airliners,
steely responses, iron curtains, iron determination.
Trade Center towers were built beginning under the Saturn-Pluto opposition
of 1966-67. They were the strongest buildings in the world, built from
192,000 tons of steel to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes, with steel
columns encircling the 110 stories and a massive reinforced steel core
running vertically down the center. Their capacity to withstand the tremendous
impact was so great that it saved 20,000 lives as they remained standing
for more than an hour after impact, swaying and shuddering but allowing
thousands to escape, and even then not toppling over onto other buildings.
In a sense the titanic strength of the World Trade Center towers was met
by the titanic force of the Boeing 767s—400,000 pound jets traveling at
300 mph carrying 24,000 gallons of fuel.
is the stupendous weight of the twin towers collapsing, 110 stories of
steel and concrete and glass, the inconceivable amount of potential energy
(Pluto) contained by the building in its immensely elevated erect condition
suddenly destructively released as it fell (Saturn) from its great height.
“Each floor of the Trade Center was nearly three feet thick and made of
concrete; a floor gave way, and the one below it then collapsed—six feet
of concrete. That gave way, the one below it collapsed. Nine feet of concrete.
Twelve. Fifteen. Eighteen….” The titanic cumulative weight of the collapse,
pulverizing everything below—Saturn as weight, gravity, falling, collapse,
hard materiality; Pluto as stupendously intensifying that weight and gravitational
collapse—great mass and great gravity creating tremendous destruction.
as the fire ball heat of the explosion melting the steel, destroying the
steel shell of the buildings, collapsing the huge structures down upon
thousands in destructive finality (“then the fire ensues and once the
temperature gets up [to] 800 to 900 degrees, the structural shell will
start to fall. Engineers suspect the temperatures inside the crash areas
could have quickly reached well over 1,000 degrees, perhaps approaching
2,000 degrees—beyond the melting point of any steel” New York
The combination of being crushed (Saturn) and incinerated (Pluto).
massive steel and concrete material structures, destroyed, annihilated,
atomized: the Newtonian-Cartesian world (Saturn) of engineering meets
Shiva (Pluto). And Shiva uses the Newtonian-Cartesian “laws” of matter
and force, mass and gravity, to accomplish his destruction.
All the destruction was created from the encounter
of fire and matter (Pluto and Saturn).
Pluto are both archetypally “dark,” in different ways, including the literal;
their combination is extremely dark: hence the literal implacable darkness
after the collapse, black soot, smoke, ash, the impossibility to see anything.
survivors of the WTC collapse have spoken of being enveloped in dust so
thick and black that they couldn't even see their hands in front of their
faces, so it was for me entering this cloud of emotion, thought, and energy.
All I could experience within it was sorrow, grief, fear, and anger…”
of death.” “The gates of hell.” “Nuclear winter” (WTC witness accounts).
as the darkest dark, the deepest underworld, the absolute bottom, the
lowest ground, the worst, the ultimate bottom line, death’s finality,
the point of annihilation, Ground Zero—ground to nothingness, ashes and
dust. “A terrifying graveyard.”
mass of debris: from Pluto’s relationship to the results of destruction,
decay, refuse, garbage, scatology, waste; Saturn’s to materiality, dust,
death, worthlessness, grayness. (Cf. Desolation Row, Dylan,
1965, Saturn opposite Pluto.)
We see the
unusual synthesis of the two principles, Saturn and Pluto, in such phrases
describing the terrorist attack as “a carefully planned catastrophe—executed
with alarming precision and seemingly cold-blooded calculation.” A company
whose engineering expertise was consulted by the reporter of the twin
towers’ collapse was named “Controlled Demolition”—disciplined, precisely
calculated devastation. Other characteristic verbal juxtapositions describing
the events: “Terrifying professionalism” (New Yorker on the hijackings),
“Organized pandemonium” (witness of the Pentagon aftermath).
is also the aspect of unusually enduring structures and foundations, powerful
structures and structures symbolizing power, solidly and deeply constructed
buildings and existential structures whose strength and solidity allow
them to endure for great lengths of time—Pluto in this case intensely
driving and empowering the material solidity and enduring structure.
It is titanic
structures and titanic efforts, the building of structures and foundations
that endure through immense toil and struggle, grit and determination,
the strenuous marshalling of tremendous resources in a focused, determined
manner: cf. the Marshall Plan 1947, the skyscrapers themselves, and now
the extraordinary labor to secure the deep underlying structural foundations
seven stories below the larger WTC area (cf. New York Times, 9/18/01) to keep the
entire area from collapsing from the inrushing river below.
By the way,
the World Trade Center twin towers were completed 28.5 years ago, an exact
Saturn return. The Pentagon was completed 58 years ago, thus this was
its second Saturn return. Saturn returns for individuals regularly bring
major transforming events, confrontations with mortality, endings of an
entire cycle of life, profound structural shifts, completions, etc. (More
benignly, the Berlin Wall also came down at the end of its exact Saturn
took place 59 years ago, two Saturn cycles ago.
archetypally associated with order, Pluto with chaos—the chaos of destruction,
of annihilation, but also the empowering chaos of nature’s depths from
which regeneration and new structures emerge. The Saturn-Pluto combination
is profoundly embodied in the dialectic between order and chaos. Each
constellates the other; each secretly contains the other, like the yin/yang
symbol, as in chaos theory and complexity theory. Chaotic phenomena always
mask a deeper order, evolution’s chaotic unfolding spontaneously self-organizes,
and every order masks and gives way to underlying chaos.
Saturn-Pluto expresses itself as the superego and ego structure controlling
and repressing the id. Yet it is a true dialectic, for the superego is
not only antagonistic to the id, the id drives and can even control the
superego (as Freud brilliantly saw, with the id providing both the superego’s
energy and its potential for cruelty—Freud’s formulation of the superego
and its relation to the id, by the way, emerging precisely during the
Saturn-Pluto square of 1922-23). Each increases the reality and high-pressure
potency of the other. (Cf. the collective level of this, expressed in
Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents under the Saturn-Pluto opposition,
brings both the repression of the id and the return of the repressed—the
id’s eruption out of the repressive containment of the ego and superego,
the compensatory backlash, the karmic return, the consequences of past
actions, the wages of sin. (“Americans are reaping the consequences of
a monster they helped create but could not control” Sydney Morning
Herald on the U.S. financing and training of the Afghan Islamic
fundamentalist groups throughout the 1980s; also, cf. the Gulf War fought
under Bush senior to ensure flow of oil to the West, the American-led
bombings and subsequent embargoes causing hundreds of thousands of deaths
to Middle Eastern civilians; American military presence in Saudi Arabia
cited as single greatest cause of bin
Laden’s hatred of U.S.)
the characteristic empowerment of the most reactionary, conservative forces
during Saturn-Pluto alignments, bringing about increased sense of defensive
armoring, rigid boundaries, hostile separation: cf. first half of the
in the U.S., Thatcher in England, Pope John Paul II in the Catholic Church,
the rise of the Christian right in the U.S., of Christian and Islamic
fundamentalism throughout the world). Cf. conservative empowerment again
during the most recent square of Saturn-Pluto, in 1992-94—the coming to
power by the Taliban in Afghanistan for example, or the Republican right,
Newt Gingerich, and the Contract on America, both in 1994; as well as
the cruelty and evil visible in the Rodney King beatings, the trial, the
LA riots; as well as ethnic cleansing, concentration camps, atrocity,
and mass death in Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Rwanda….The first bombing of the
World Trade Center, by the way, took place during that Saturn-Pluto square
as well, 1993. It was also under this alignment in 1993 that bin Laden
first proclaimed his jihad against America.
is the cycle of terrorism and repression, violence and retribution, each
driving and constellating the other (consider Israel’s and Palestine’s
incessant life cycle, with Israel born under the Saturn-Pluto conjunction
of 1948 in triple conjunction with Mars, reaching boiling points under
each succeeding Saturn-Pluto hard aspect—1956, 1967, 1973, 1982). “How
does one create a terrorist? Bomb their families.” (Which, in a sense,
is what the terrorists who bombed New York may tragically succeed in doing.)
simultaneous opposites: Saturn-Pluto is the tyranny by terrorism, and
it’s the grimly determined effort to oppose and obliterate terrorism…It’s
also the tyranny of a society gripped by anti-terrorist fears, controls,
and rigidities; and it’s a state and military willing to murder thousands
of innocent people to effect its implacable exterminating purpose.
“revolutionary Puritanism” during the Terror in 1793-94, Saturn square
It is the
mobilization of structures of power against evil, which may themselves
move into the grip of evil: i.e., shadow—possession, unconscious id-driven
behavior often of a punitive kind.
as demonic power that is in control (cf. Hitler in 1939-40, or the images
of Giger, born in 1940).
We see a
similar polarity in Saturn-Pluto with both the Inquisition and the evil
seen/projected in witches and heretics, or the 1940s-50s Soviet Communism
and American communist underworld versus the McCarthyism anti-Communist
reaction—the evil, the shadow, the dark manipulation and perfidy are exclusively
seen in the other, never in the self.
latter phenomenon all began under the Saturn-Pluto conjunction of 1946-48
that brought the beginning of the Cold War, the Iron Curtain, the Berlin
crisis, the beginnings of anti-Communist McCarthyism in the U.S. with
the House Committee on Un-American Activities, blacklists, also the founding
of the CIA, Department of Defense, National Security Agency, military-industrial
complex, while Stalin asserted control throughout Eastern Europe….Orwell’s
Nineteen Eighty-Four, written during that same conjunction
of 1946-48, is a classic expression of the dark controlling power in totalitarianism.
is the fundamental aspect of totalitarianism, which first emerged in Germany
with the German state’s total mobilization for war in 1914. Note the sequence
of totalitarian empowerment in coincidence with the succeeding hard aspects
of Saturn and Pluto: the rise of Fascism and totalitarian Soviet communism
in 1921-24—Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler’s putsch—and crucial empowerment
with the Great Depression 1929-32; and full Nazi eruption in 1939-41;
then the 1946-48 fullest extension of Stalinist Soviet power in Russia
and Eastern Europe, and the crucial period of Communism coming to power
similar relationship to the history of fundamentalism. Note the themes
of fundamentalist empowerment and ruthless “divine” judgment visible in
the terrorists’ theology of judgment and vengeance against the Satan of
the West, and also in the emblematic comments by fundamentalist American
leaders such as Falwell and Robertson to the effect that the attacks can
be recognized as God’s righteous punishment for the sins committed by
secular America, liberals, gays, and feminists.
security measures now instituted to combat the possibility of terrorism
will precisely resemble the classic Saturn-Pluto obsessive-compulsive
syndrome of the incessantly hypervigilant superego, brilliantly rendered
in Kafka’s great story The Burrow (written during the Saturn-Pluto
square of 1923—the same year and alignment that brought Freud’s formulation
of the superego-id relationship in The Ego and the Id).
brings those terrifying encounters with death and danger that cause primitive
fear and the reactive rigid constriction of egoic security controls, the
traumatized tightening of the sphincter, the obsessive-compulsive psychological
structure, the mobilization of security measures that ensure safety, boundaries,
order, purity and cleanliness, control, leading in extreme to the anal-sadistic
personality, the rigid and punitive puritanical conscience, the judgmental
fundamentalist, the cruel superego, the totalitarian state.
is the configuration that brings a powerful confrontation with the basics
of human mortal reality, of life and death, in such a way as to cleanse
one of illusory concerns and superficial values.
“Up until the moment
the twin towers fell, America was deep in a cocoon of self-gratification
and self-improvement….Now we have to view our solipsism and wretched excess
through the prism of the ‘epic wretchedness’ of the Afghan people, as
The Times's Barry Bearak called it. It's somewhat embarrassing that we
didn't look outward sooner and that foreign wars got less TV air time
than the war against wrinkles. But our culture turns out to be about much
more than its glittery surface, and that's been clear in all that's happened
since Sept. 11: the exposure to the quiet lives of inspiration that so
many victims led; the valor of rescue workers; the altruistic derring-do
of the men who fought back on Flight 93; our concern about inflicting
unnecessary suffering on innocent Afghans; the generosity and civic tolerance
at the heart of our country's response to horrific loss. With their oxymoronic
holy war, Osama bin Laden and his murderous disciples …succeeded in illuminating—not
just to the rest of the world but to us—how little all our baubles
and all our booty have to do with who we really are.” (Maureen Dowd,
New York Times,
shock and grieving after the terrorist attacks instilled in the American
psyche a gravitas, a deep sense of grounding that seemed to slow time
in our mad-dash world and draw us into silent reflection rather than quick
talk. Thinking felt as if it were weighted in our entire body. It refused
to click into easy patterns as we sought to grasp the unimaginable new
reality. In that palpable grounding the first week, we were all bonded
with the dead and with each other, causing us to reach out to family and
friends around the country in shock and loving support. It
felt as if our suddenly having to bear the unbearable had delivered us
to another way of being, one shaped by the trauma of immense tragedy and
the movement into regeneration. Even mainstream commentators noted that
the trivial concerns of our consumer culture seemed extremely irrelevant.
We had entered a new time and a new psychological space.” (Charlene Spretnak,
San Francisco Chronicle, 10/5/01)
Thoughts in the Presence of Fear
“I. The time
will soon come when we will not be able to remember the horrors of September
11 without remembering also the unquestioning technological and economic
optimism that ended on that day.
optimism rested on the proposition that we were living in a 'new world
order' and a 'new economy' that would 'grow' on and on, bringing a prosperity
of which every new increment would be 'unprecedented'.
dominant politicians, corporate officers, and investors who believed this
proposition did not acknowledge that the prosperity was limited to a tiny
percent of the world's people, and to an ever smaller number of people
even in the United States; that it was founded upon the oppressive labor
of poor people all over the world; and that its ecological costs increasingly
threatened all life, including the lives of the supposedly prosperous…”
An outpouring of expression...
We see the
Saturn-Pluto energy in the recent outpouring of so many writings and communications—essays,
columns, emails, lectures—characterized by sustained grave reflection,
deeply serious, penetrating thought and analysis, moral and psychological
depth and earnestness, engaged with grave issues in profound ways.
have these planets in major hard aspect all their lives often have a sense
of living with special moral responsibilities, with the heavy burden of
history on their shoulders, a sense of weighty karmic duty.
presses for the forging of a deeper moral structure of consciousness,
of the superego—which can be rigid and pathological, or a profound moral
advance in consciousness, a deepening of conscience, a deeper awareness
of evil, of the shadow, a profounder moral self-awareness, a moral strength
It is no
accident that Jung, born with Saturn square Pluto, was the psychologist
who most brought the modern self into awareness of the “shadow,” which
he named and dissected, and who explored its reality in 20th century history:
the shadow of European civilization, the shadow of modern man, the shadow
of modern technology, the shadow of every individual psyche, the shadow
even of God (Answer to Job). Note also how so many of his writings are
characterized by a tone of intense moral gravity and penetrating analysis.
Cf. An Afghani
interviewed about the possibility of being bombed by the U.S. in reprisal:
“America is very powerful and can do almost anything it wants; but if
I were America, I would look deep in my heart and ask myself why someone
would want to attack me in this way.”
We also can
see the Saturn-Pluto complex in Jung’s acute sensitivity to the fateful
determining power of the unconscious psyche over human life. Saturn-Pluto
brings that sense of the encompassing power of history, of our evolutionary
inheritance, and of the archetypes themselves, beyond the control of the
not understood yet that the discovery of the unconscious means an enormous
spiritual task, which must be accomplished if we wish to preserve our
civilization.” C.G. Jung
is the collective psyche in a contraction of death that is also, at another
level, a contraction of birth, a ruthless hard labor of transformation
within the alembic compression chamber: Saturn-Pluto periods bring evolutionary
contractions, historical epochs that bring about a great death, the destruction
of an old order, deep transformation, and the establishment of a new evolutionary
structure. Through suffering and experience, deeper and wiser forms of
is the aspect of patriarchy—the evolutionary empowerment of the stern
Father archetype, of authority, hierarchy, control, law and order, tradition
and stability, discipline, domination, oppression, structure, maturation—and
at another level, it is the aspect of the Great Mother’s hard birth contractions
pressing and impelling new life and a new form of being. Thus patriarchy
as the birth canal of the Great Mother Goddess, just as History is the
birth labor of Nature. “All creation groaneth in travail” for the birth
of this new being.
ruthlessly deprives and separates and presses us—by loss, by death, by
sacrifice, by hardship, by hard labor—out of an old form of life and into
a new one, and often the new is not visible.
is the crucifixion, on the cross of opposites, where the divine embrace
of absolute defeat and death gives birth to a new humanity. (Saturn and
Pluto were in opposition in 29-31 AD.) It is the agony in the garden:
the shouldering of collective pain, sorrow, loss, and shadow. It is the
hard structure of death and rebirth. It is the sacrifice that transforms
reality. It is the dark and brutal storm which brings in its wake, in
the fullness of time, slowly but inevitably, the luminous serenity of
a new dawn.
This is the
essential insight of the death-rebirth mystery: that every death is on
another level actually a birth.
hard aspects consistently bring those epochal periods in history of great
darkness, moral gravity, and disciplined determination that, while confronting
evil—within as well as without—ultimately serve to build the enduring
spiritual, moral, and social-political foundations for the future. They
are the death contractions of history, but also its birth contractions.
Saturn-Pluto opposition, which first moved into orb last fall during the
election season, and just now in the past few weeks reached exactitude
for the first time, will last about two more years, until 2003.
term alignment that began about the time of the attacks and lasts about
six weeks, is the Mars-Jupiter opposition, typically bringing enthusiasm
for assertive and militaristic action, strong displays of patriotism,
proud flag-waving (especially at sports and military events), nationalist
bravado, jingoism, swaggering cowboy rhetoric, bluster, saber-rattling,
a crusading spirit, and, less problematically, an overall energetic optimism
and increase in courage and ardor.
other specific astrological factors can be adduced to fill out the picture,
bottom-line it’s the Saturn-Pluto alignment that symbolically and multivalently
informs virtually every element of the phenomenon. The several other astrological
factors that played a role in the timing and the nuances of the event—the
Full Moon grand cross; the Pluto and Saturn stations; the Mars retrograde
cycle (including what Mars aligned with during that cycle); the background
of specific eclipses; the Mercury grand trine with the extraordinary calculating
smoothness of the hijacking operation; the Moon and Saturn both in Gemini,
with the twin towers, twin airliners, two cities attacked, and so forth—all
these basically supported the larger, deeper, more powerful archetypal
reality of the Saturn-Pluto complex. It is this great outer-planet alignment
that constituted the simple—yet in another sense infinitely complex-essential
archetypal background of these profound events.
We must also
take into account that this alignment is taking place in the immediate
aftermath of the long Uranus-Neptune conjunction, lasting from the mid-1980s
to the present year, which has left humanity in a condition that is more
globally united and interconnected, more sensitized to the suffering and
realities of others, in certain respects more spiritually awakened, more
capable of collective healing and compassion, and, through technological
advances in communications media, more able to think and feel and respond
together in a spiritually evolved manner to these grave realities than
has ever been possible before.
I hope these
notes may provide a larger perspective on the deep and grave events that
have irrevocably shaped our lives.