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Although appearing concurrently with a hopeful and idealistic Jupiter-Neptune conjunction this year, the dominant archetypal influence in the collective psyche from 2008 through 2012 coincides with a powerful T-square alignment of Saturn, Uranus, and Pluto. This consists of Saturn and Uranus in opposition to each other (180°), with Pluto forming a 90° square from each side.

This extremely intense alignment moved into 15° from exact in September 2008, corresponding with the onset of the meltdown on Wall Street and revelations of massive greed and overextension in the financial sector, the consequences of which spread quickly through the U.S. and the entire world. The last T-square of these planets, from 1929-33, coincided with the beginning of the Great Depression, and has been known by astrologers as the “Depression T-square.”

The archetypal energies associated with alignments of Saturn, Uranus, and Pluto are so overwhelming that it is hard to know where to begin to describe them, but we can start by looking at their constituent parts. At their core is the opposition of Saturn and Uranus, representing a frequently tense confrontation between Saturn’s impulse toward structure, fear, and resistance, and Uranus’ impulse toward freedom, change, and breakthrough. Saturn-Uranus alignments often coincide with periods of polarized political extremes, with each side clinging to its position with uncompromising tenacity.

For example, the Saturn-Uranus opposition of 1963-67 coincided with the beginning of what are called the “culture wars” in American society, as the burgeoning youth counterculture—impelled by civil-rights, environmental, feminist, anti-war, sexually emancipatory, and spiritually progressive influences—struggled to realize a new more holistic and harmonious world view, with many positive and mixed results. This was then followed by an inevitable backlash. Many of the American neo-conservatives, whose enacted policies during the presidency of George Bush, Jr. (2000-08) proved so disastrous, said that their antipathy toward the excesses of the Sixties counterculture was the galvanizing influence of their careers. Similarly, the Saturn-Uranus square of 1929-33 (also involving Pluto) coincided with the polarization and entrenchment of extremist political movements across Europe, including nationalist, Fascist, Nazi, and Communist movements.

In general, we can expect Pluto’s effect on the current Saturn-Uranus opposition to be to compel and obsess confrontations between the Saturnian and Uranian energies, both in society and in individual experience. There will undoubtedly be many extreme positions and viewpoints put forth during this period. It is important for all people to avoid unreasonable extremes and try to integrate both sides of the Saturn-Uranus gestalt within themselves: to strive for disciplined innovation, practical change, and responsible freedom. At its very best, Pluto acting on Saturn-Uranus can, through the attrition of long conflict, also bring about deeper compromises and reconciliation between the Saturnian and Uranian impulses, higher mature syntheses that redeem the best qualities of each. Many commentators have suggested that perhaps the culture wars in America may finally be ending, that the overwhelming pressures on the collective psyche could serve to unite the culture once again against its common challenges.

The second component of the current T-square is the square between Saturn and Pluto. As Tarnas documents in Cosmos and Psyche (2006), Saturn-Pluto alignments regularly coincide with periods and events that evoke feelings of overpowering threat and pressure, darkest catastrophe and grim urgency, along with a corresponding empowerment of and sometimes overreaction by the conservative impulse in society. The last Saturn-Pluto alignment—the opposition of May 2000 through the summer of 2004—corresponded with the period of the 911 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the U.S.–led invasion of Iraq. The probable effect of Uranus on the current Saturn-Pluto alignment will be to unveil the threatening Saturn-Pluto energies surprisingly and suddenly—as it already has with the stock market crash in 2008—and bring unexpected, liberating consequences from them.

The third component of our current alignment is the Uranus-Pluto square. This alignment represents a longer-term (2005-20) background and context for the shorter-term T-square. As Tarnas describes, Uranus-Pluto alignments routinely coincide with periods that involve a dramatic empowerment of emancipatory Dionysian, democratic, civil rights, feminist, creative, technological and ecological impulses—it is instructive to remember that the last major alignment of these two planets was during the period of the Sixties and early Seventies (1960-72). The probable effect of Saturn on the current Uranus-Pluto square, through 2012, will be to resist, delay, and inhibit the progressive energies of Uranus-Pluto but also to make them more deep, responsible, and balanced.

Overall, then, we are witnessing the confluence of very extreme energies. These are exceedingly challenging times, as many people experience overwhelming feelings of shock, breakdown, and rude awakening. In the external world, the sense of financial disaster and corruption, ongoing ideological confrontations, renewed threat of nuclear violence, and, above all, the multiple escalating ecological catastrophes and stubborn survival of the high-consumption lifestyle are all occurring in an atmosphere of dark and pervasive doubts about the future. In its purest form, Saturn-Uranus-Pluto represents the archetype of the Apocalypse—not that The Apocalypse is necessarily imminent, although it has already arrived for so many plant and animal species—but that humanity faces some degree of the Apocalypse archetype every time these planets are aligned. Another metaphor for perceiving these energies is that of a Cosmic Blast Furnace, a pyrocathartic crucible capable of drawing forth and melting through even the darkest fears and most rigid boundaries.

This is clearly a period of unprecedented gravity and urgency. The environmental and consumption choices we make now will have permanent consequences for our planet’s fragile ecosystems. Reputable scientists all over the world are unanimous in their warnings that if we want to reduce carbon emissions and prevent catastrophic, irreversible environmental breakdowns we must act immediately.

Yet, all these real and serious threats mirror a deeper process that is happening within every human psyche. The current T-square is ultimately an alignment of birth. A new consciousness is struggling to be born on this planet and we are entering the final stages of intense hard labor. Like being pressed in a steel trap, old ways of thinking are being exposed and undermined as a new consciousness emerges in our species, a more globally connected, inwardly satisfied, and sustainable way of being.

For every problem in the outer world there is a corresponding blockage of energy in the human psyche. This is one of those times when we are being forced to face our inner energies and emotions and let them flow into consciousness. Reminded of the inevitability of death, of our human mortality and fragility, old structures and illusions in the collective psyche are being burned away. The deepest contribution each of us can make is to honestly face our own unconscious emotions. Feel the fear and terror of this time. It is real. Whatever we feel inside us we automatically consume and release from our systems, with a corresponding release in the external world.

As we face Saturn-Pluto’s alarming feelings of horror and breakdown, we also open ourselves to Uranus-Pluto’s dramatic experiences of catharsis and breakthrough. With Pluto’s evolutionary energies in overdrive for at least the next decade, many people will be experiencing spontaneous eruptions of unconscious contents, healing surges of energy and emotion pouring out of their psyches. Like assisting a mother in labor, it is important to allow complete experience of these energies, supporting and encouraging their full expression in healing contexts such as Holotropic Breathwork™ and similar techniques.

Every limiting psychological structure that cracks open releases pressure on the human psyche as a whole. Our species is in an historic death-rebirth struggle and the baby of collective awakening is being slowly and painstakingly forced down the birth canal. Surrendering to the unresolved psychological energies within us, in non-ordinary states, leads automatically to powerful experiences of death and rebirth, and increases the possibility of continued human life on this planet.

© Renn Butler 2009

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Replies to This Discussion

Dear Renn,
Thanks so much for this wonderfully intelligent analysis of one of the most challenging periods of history we may ever live through.
Thank you Renn! Great analysis.
Hi Renn,

Kudos to you for a concise yet dramatic description of this, our challenging time of crisis . . . dangerous opportunity indeed!

Stan Grof, the codeveloper of Holotropic Breathwork™, was born in 1930 during the only T-square of Saturn, Uranus, and Pluto in the twentieth century, and thus his whole life is a visible expression of these energies.

We can see his Saturn-Uranus square manifesting through his career trajectory of working doggedly within, and then painfully transcending, the confines of the Freudian biographical model of the unconscious as he discovered perinatal experiences in his clients, and then the entire Newtonian-Cartesian world view as he discovered transpersonal experiences.

We can observe the Saturn-Pluto opposition expressed through his intense commitment and tireless resolve to share his research, and his emphasis on "deep" (Pluto), "systematic" (Saturn) inner work to face and consume the repressive structures of the unconscious. And we can see his Uranus square Pluto manifesting in the spectacular clinical breakthroughs, the evolutionary advances in psychotherapy, the successful descent into the most dark and feared places of the unconscious and dramatic rebirth out the other side: birth "down and through."
Hi Renn

Thanks for the text... Very interesting...
Barbara, Valeria, Pam, and Silvana,

Thanks for your feedback.

Best wishes,
Thanks so much for this perspective--it's very helpful!
Hi Tim,

Glad you liked it. Yes, the situation in Iran is intense. Its' possible the reformers might be more successful next year, when Jupiter conjoins Uranus. I really feel for them.

Check out my article on Jupiter-Neptune below. I think the main effects will be to help people to "see through" and de-literalize the intense conflicts of the Saturn-Uranus-Pluto T-square, to perceive them ultimately as confrontations between inner energies.

Thanks Renn! Really great and really helpful!


Very impressive analysis. I hope to see more commentary of this nature by you soon Renn. You have so aptly described what I am aware of living through. It is good to find it articulated here, to find kindred spirits, and, best of all, a map! Namaste.


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