Jessica Murray's America in Transition

Walking Wounded: Jessica Murray on the Neptune-Chiron Conjunction

by Jessica Murray on March 1, 2010

astrological ephemeris - neptune chiron conjunction - saturn-pluto square

Last month we discussed the Saturn-Pluto square (November 2009 through August 2010). This is the arm of the Cardinal Cross that is giving rise to the kind of reactive (Saturn) extremism (Pluto) we are hearing from the likes of Fox News.  During the second half of March, the Sun and Mercury will exacerbate this square, sharpening its down-and-dirty edge.

Aspects of our collective consciousness are in decay; and as we know, rotting things start to get nasty. When a transit as powerful as the Saturn-Pluto square is not understood and integrated, it exaggerates the nastiness like noonday sun hitting road kill.

In this climate, the ravings of punditry flourish. The American public seems to have reached a new level of stunned acceptance of the out-and-out insanity fueling its culture wars. Just a year ago, before the cardinal T-square took hold, many media observers harbored the assumption—which now seems quaintly naïve—that the news industry would not honor with repetition the kind of patently untrue and ridiculous assertions that are coming from major political figures, such as Sarah Palin’s “death panel” statement.

But it is now clear that the media eats stuff like this for breakfast. Though Palin’s assertion was widely discredited and derided when it first appeared, she repeated it in a tweet in December when the Saturn-Pluto square was in high gear.

Neptune-Chiron Conjunction

Meanwhile, Chiron and Neptune are still within a degree of each other through March. The conjunction is unprecedented: it’s the first such event that we’ve experienced since Neptune was discovered in 1846 and Chiron in 1977.

Chiron represents the pain of being human, in a state of (apparent) separateness from The All. Although it is possible to experience Chironic pain in terms other than spiritual—I think most of us do—that just means we’re projecting it onto whatever other stories “work” for us. Psychologically speaking, we find explanations for why we hurt.

We tend to blame the outside world for our pain, and this isn’t to say that there isn’t good reason to do so. But if we go deeper into the Chiron archetype we find that, ultimately, the sense of separation is not external at all. It derives from the act of incarnating. We were expelled from The Garden—and then we forgot that that’s what happened.

Once we came into the body, we forgot where we had come from. We lost all memory of having chosen to undergo this Earthly experiment. Esoterically speaking, this is the tragedy that underlies all others in human experience.

Chiron in Aquarius (2005-2011) operates through our membership in groups and organizations, whether that means the cub scout troup or the human species itself. For the past five, years this placement has been pinpointing the ways in which we suffer, as individuals, by not coming together with each other—that is, by not doing so fully, responsibly and authentically. The transit has been highlighting our neglect of Aquarian law: that of cultivating our own individuality first, and entering into groups second.

aquarian conformity - computer in cafe

There are many ways that a single person can form a relationship to a larger group, some of them creative and some of them escapist. In the years Chiron and Neptune have been in Aquarius we have seen a burgeoning mania for social networking—for “friending” (Aquarius) on the internet—a development that has, over the span of the transit, become almost completely universalized: it’s a phenomenon that defies geographical distance and many other social barriers.

In its darker manifestation, this reliance on electronic socializing has dragged many of us into an estrangement from our hearts and bodies. One of the shadow sides of Neptune in Aquarius, moreover, is conformity. Both of these have created suffering in recent years, as the internet revolution (Aquarius) has inundated (Neptune) our lives.

Ned Ward, The CoffeeHous Mob, frontispiece to Part IV of Vulgus Britannicus, or the British Hudibras (London, 1710). Courtesy the British Library.

Ned Ward, The CoffeeHous Mob, frontispiece to Part IV of Vulgus Britannicus, or the British Hudibras (London, 1710). Courtesy the British Library.

There is a profound loneliness beneath the new-media lifestyle for many people. Where I live, a young café owner has just done something wildly radical: he has banned computers from his café. An advocate of the artistic and philosophical discussions that flourished in bohemian coffee shops throughout history, this fellow wants his customers to talk to each other. There are signs of a backlash against the cold superficiality of cyber-driven life.

But transits are not about throwing the baby out with the bath water: they are about retaining balance. In the case of the Neptune-Chiron conjunction, this means identifying our pain so we can do something about it.

USA Moon

For the past few years this conjunction has been on the US Moon (public mood). When we remember that Neptune governs dissolution —which can manifest as miasmic confusion—and that Chiron is about wounds, it’s easier to understand the strange state that Americans are stumbling around in.

How perversely appropriate it is that zombie movies are so wildly popular. The USA itself is staggering around in a state between death and rebirth, a slow decomposition process that has just begun. Pluto (death) is opposed to our collective Sun cluster (life force), and Saturn (self-definition) is squaring it.

Though there is no lack of tangible crises to concern us right now, Americans in particular are in the midst of an acutely intangible one: an existential one. This is not to dismiss the very physical suffering that is happening here and around the world; comparing and contrasting degrees of suffering is a fool’s game. But if we are to glean the meaning of transits like these, we need to consider the full range of symptoms—some very subtle yet no less daunting—with which they are expressing basically the same thing: that something is wrong.

Mortal Fear

It took the economic train wreck of 2008 to derail America’s sky’s-the-limit consumerism, and many inferred from the disaster that there were deep-structure flaws with the system. But not all segments of this sprawling and complex society took away the same message, as we see from the relentless obstructionism that has blocked financial reform at every turn.

For years astrologers have warned that this particular square between Saturn and Pluto would manifest in a fatally stubborn clash of energies. I have argued that the hostility and polarization we are seeing at this moment in our social history derives from fear,  the lowest common denominator among the transit’s myriad potential expressions. We are seeing fear of change (Saturn) mixed with an undercurrent of fear of death (Pluto).

The lynch-mob-style rhetoric coming from the camp that lost the ‘08 election is born of two different aspects of the US status quo; both afraid, on some level, that their very lives are at stake.

First there is the plutocrats’ fear that their power infrastructure is being dislodged; exemplified by those politicians who suspect they’ll lose their jobs if they vote for the public good rather than for the special interests that fund them (consider Joe Lieberman’s cold-dead-hands embrace of the insurance lobby).
It's a Wonderful Life
Then there is the fear among rank-and-file voters: a fear that something America used to stand for—something inherently wholesome, like apple pies at family picnics—is being ruined by the party now in power. We are hearing a lot of nationalistic nostalgia from pundits, politicians and town-hall-voter types. But the actual history these folks seem to be referencing appears to be inspired more from early-60s TV shows and post-war Jimmy Stewart movies than it does from American history. Those who buy into this image of the USA claim to be hearkening back to a plain, homespun, country-style patriotism where life was simple and divinely blessed. At least, for white people.

I was reading an article recently about Little House on the Prairie, a book Sarah Palin has listed as one of her all-time favorites. Apparently its author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, wrote quite a few passages that have since been revised. For example, in her original description of the hardscrabble emptiness of the plains, Wilder wrote, ““There were no people. Only Indians lived there.” (1)


10-03-unhappypersonThe Neptune-Chiron conjunction is a teaching about unconscious wounding, and the Saturn-Pluto square is about mortal breakdown. These transits are telling us that the USA is self-divided, like a morbidly confused teenager who takes a knife to her own arm—as if she had forgotten it was part of her body.

Serious illnesses call for serious medicine. It’s as true with collectives as it is with individuals. If our aim is to steer clear of distress in the years to come, the single most important thing for us to remember is that the transits to the US chart are what the cosmic doctor ordered.


(1) Now the second sentence reads, “There were no settlers.” See Judith Thurman’s essay “Wilder Women,” The New Yorker, Aug 10, 2009.

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