The following is an article, slightly modified, that first appeared in an October 2012 issue of ECLIPSE, for your weekend reading pleasure. Please note, the article uses Placidus charts.
There are a great many ways to think of time; all of them suggest connection among what we call the past, the present, and what is to come. It’s our nature to measure time from our own vantage point within it, and that means we do see it, whether we believe intellectually that it is or not, as a progression. Though one part is gone, seemingly unalterable from where we stand now, and the circumstances of one part have not yet coalesced around us, we somehow have difficulty both recognizing that the present is the one period we can affect without question, and that certain events in the present and the future actually arose in the choices of the past (and this is setting aside the fact that the ‘now’ that is as you read this sentence is not the same ‘now’ that existed when you read the first sentence of this article, an awareness of a kind of ‘micro-flow’).
Initially we tend to see ourselves as immersed in time, carried along on its currents, with a flow that comes out of the past and stretches out into our future. It’s only human to pretend at being mystified by this flow and the events it brings, to see what happens as beyond our control–for then who can blame us for what comes to pass? If we see things as truly random, the question of karma, of ultimate balance and reason existing whether we can see it or not, becomes invalid in our own minds; with this attitude we will see only chaos, and probably spend our lives struggling to affect what results.
Once we reach a point where we are willing to accept responsibility for our choices without excuses, to see the Universe as always, consistently causal (and that this is so whether we are privy to the causal chain of events, or the organizing energy behind it, or not), we open up a whole new way of seeing the world and the things that happen around and to us. We recognize that we are not floating on that river of time, but are part of it–we are running through it. We take our place as a component of the Universe, not as a segregated, helpless traveler within it–and it’s not a big leap from there to begin contemplating time, and how we might define it, affect it, even control it.
There is a time component inherent to those energies in astrology that define life urges. It seems that when we feel that spark of movement, we see the energy as dimensional, as containing one or more concepts of time. For instance, Saturn is the traditional indicator of time, standing for the actual process of what we perceive as time’s passage, for maturing, building, aging–it manages to symbolize all linear time–even our use of a baby for the New Year and an old man for the end of that year speaks of the Saturnian experience of time.
But Saturn also tells of non-change, the antithesis of time itself; Saturn can signify the static, the permanent, the unchangeable. Saturn is where we are firmly rooted in reality (and sometimes fear), where the past is set in stone, and where the past and present are all there is. Saturn is usually our go-to reference astrologically for time, along with the Moon. Lunar influences are ever-changing, malleable and fluid, and so ‘fill in’ those ‘missing’ parts to the Saturnian definition of time. The emotional component of the Moon’s perceptual lens renders the passage of time subjective, and so difficult to measure with Lunar consciousness, which is so unlike the steady tick of the Saturnian timepiece. In every way that Saturn suggests forever, Luna implies an illumination of the moment, here and gone, ever-shifting.
But we have other astrological signifiers of the concept of time, and it’s important we’re aware of them, as they can, mentally and spiritually (and who’s to say not also physically?) describe our experience of the time we occupy within the Cosmos. They can become ‘where we are’ just as certainly as we can be contained within the more familiar Saturnian bounds of time. Time, from the astrological perspective, need not always be considered linear–though certainly the cycles and procession of planetary movement from our vantage here on Earth, the very stuff we examine to know the meaning behind it, implies that within the limited framework of our human brains, a linear approach helps us make sense of it all, at least for purposes of organization and understanding. Still, awareness of other perceptual possibilities shows us the dimensionality of the Universe, and gives us hints of ‘What If?’ always an exciting prospect.
The planet Neptune may be the most obvious astrological body with the potential to affect our perceptions of time. With this outer behemoth we see that to be in a Neptunian state, lost in creativity or confusion, brings our awareness of the passage of time to a standstill–not like the Saturnian permanence, but in a way that seems to remove us from the linear flow–we lose a sense of time passing, or even existing, when we are immersed in Neptune; we are in what is known to some as ‘Dream Time’. The House where our natal Neptune sits, as well as the House(s) with Pisces on the cusp, might be the places we are most likely to be able to slip outside the stream of time, to gain a sense of suspension that does not capture us in a single moment (as Saturn does) but that removes the tick of the clock altogether. Here we can apply imagination, and experience matters of the House unfettered by the linear prescription; these are matters where we can lose ourselves, and our Self-consciousness, in such a way that we can connect with both our own purest sense of creativity and with the Collective itself, without boundaries or even the ability to differentiate ourselves from ‘all else’.
For instance, the person with a 12th House Neptune, or Pisces on the cusp of the 12th, may easily ‘lose’ themselves in compassionate service, meditation or spiritual practice, or as a part of a large institution or cause. Mother Teresa (26 August 1910 2:25 PM Skopje Macedonia) has Neptune in Cancer in the 7th, and Pisces on the 3rd. This suggests an ability to lose herself in caring, not for the Collective, as in the 12th, but for ‘All Others’ as defined by individuals, the human ‘audience’ all around her, with the Pisces cusp placement telling us of her need to communicate the importance of this caring attitude.
Or, as in the case of Henry David Thoreau, the naturalist and proto-ecology proponent (12 July 1817 9 PM Concord MA USA), we find Neptune and Uranus in Sagittarius in the 10th. That’s like a signature for someone who becomes known for his boundary-less connection to nature and his innovative and pioneering attitude toward it (and interestingly, Thoreau had Ceres, the asteroid of our relationship to nature and our own natural power, in the 12th–Neptune’s ‘natural’ House–trine the North Node, with Pluto at the midpoint–again, a recipe for fine understanding of nature, and the need to transform our attitudes and views toward it, as part of the Path). And, for good measure, he had Pisces intercepted in the 1st, making the ability to lose himself in those Neptunian areas a personal one. Not only does this illustrate our point about Neptune as our place of communion with the Cosmos, it brings forward another point: that our strongest characteristics and qualities are typically found repeatedly in the chart, echoing their importance within the life.
Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” Thoreau
With Uranus and Aquarius we find a time-sense of spontaneity, sudden events, immediacy, modernity, and ‘the new’–and in time awareness this translates as being in the moment. We are present in these parts of the chart, and usually highly aware of both our individuality and our place within the group. Artist Salvador Dali (11 May 1904 8:45 AM Figueras Spain) had Uranus in the 6th and Aquarius on the 8th, suggesting that it was part of his daily routine, his ‘job’, to be unique and highly individual! His ‘uniqueness imperative’ was to be shared with others, and very likely supported by them (8th House)–an important thing for any artist to garner from his or her audience. Still unsurpassed inventor Nikola Tesla (10 July 1856 12 AM Smiljan Croatia) had Aquarius on the 11th–the dream/ goal of invention–in many ways Aquarius on the 11th frames it as the House of the Future, and Aquarian connections to electricity, Higher Thought, and computing seem apt–and Uranus in Taurus in the 1st, suggesting a personal ability to innovate with ‘materials of the Earth’–perhaps a more grounded-seeming energy than we would’ve expected, though not an inappropriate one, as a practical approach is essential to implement those things of the imagination in the material realm. Also of note: his Neptune in Pisces in the 12th, the perfect illustration of one who enjoys a direct creative line to both the Collective and the Universe.
Though Mercury can stand for the minutes or hours on a clock face or in a day, and as well for many other mundane systems accounting for the passage of time, or for the changeability of our direction, literal or figurative (as in the meaning of ‘mercurial’), the planet doesn’t capture a sense of time so much as a measure of it; and the Mercury-encapsulated idea of swiftness emphasizes movement rather than a state of perception (though we could grant Mercury domain over ‘an instant’, if we then didn’t have to define it as a ‘doorstep moment’, of revelation or a turnaround), so that something may change or pass in a Mercurial way, even as it is perceived through a lens of, for instance, Neptune (‘the hour passed in a fog’) or Uranus (‘suddenly I changed my route’ the suddenness of perception being Uranian, the movement–in this case a ‘route’–being Mercurial). Mars, though a proponent of action without reservation, speaks more of a viewpoint than of anything else: ‘I am here, everything else is out there, and I will act upon it’. So oriented is Mars toward movement and activity that he barely takes in surroundings or one’s perceptions relative to time–he is instead so intent on acting that the Mars perceptual lens can be acted upon, just as Mercury’s is, by other, more time-oriented, energies. The same is true of Jupiter; with his orientation toward expansion he pushes out, but does not think of other than efforts in the now, a spreading, sharing, enlarging of what he already is. All these energies are process, rather than time, aligned, placing them firmly in the ‘action’ category. And Venus? She too is in-the-now, the experience of Love, jealousy, envy, or oneness with another through intimacy removing the consciousness from anything other than the current moment. Venus is immersive, in every sense.
We might wonder, then, about Pluto: about his rulership of the Underworld, of what is hidden, kept secret, of what Plutonian lends itself to the idea of interior time, of those things internalized by the Self as making up a cognitive, emotional, and spiritual place populated by the deepest part of us. Our secrets, our most intense and private beliefs, our dark corners, our shame, our wants, our rage, the parts of our beingness that are known only to ourselves, create a personal landscape that is an accumulation of memory, and so an accumulation of consciousness of time. Pluto may represent the closest approximation astrologically to a living aggregation of feeling that makes up who we are–and so is another, very personal, record of the past that still lives within our memory–and so Pluto could be considered to keep the past alive inside the present. Pluto can, though, hold energies that project us into the future; he tells of rage, and lust, and change through destruction or transformation, and all these are like a view of what future will follow from the past–so maybe Pluto is our best indicator of the future, by transit, by Solar Arc, and from received transits.
Pluto, then, may embody us as the river that runs through time. It is created from our past, our present (through desires, anger, projection), and our futures–and I say ‘futures’ as it contains all the possibilities, running the gamut from re-birth to total destruction. Aspects to Pluto may indicate our ‘interior issues’, those things we may be pre-occupied with, in one form or another, until we have adequately plumbed the darkness that surrounds them–and that may take a lifetime.