Notes on World Trade Center attack
September 11, 2001
"We 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."
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 last Tuesday (September 18). 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.
The events 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 heaviestthe darkest, most weighty, mortally
serious, historically graveof all archetypal combinations, the
Saturn-Pluto alignment, reached exactitude, an opposition. The first
two weeks of this month 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).
This Saturn-Pluto alignment lasts around three yearsit 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.
Yet there 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 effortsomething we have certainly already witnessed.
The positive potential of the Saturn-Pluto archetypal complex is usually
inextricably intertwined with confronting its negative manifestationsgreat
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.
To understand 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 archetypally specific way, to
create a range of quite distinctive and powerful qualities, tendencies,
Pluto is 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 underworld
in every sense, the secretive and subversive, the shadow, the id, the
broiling cauldron of the instincts, 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.
The Saturn 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 gravityboth 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, traditionwhich
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
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 combinationthere 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:
1) Dark, grave, momentous, deadly serious, profoundly weighty events.
2) 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.
3) 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 kindsocial,
historical, elemental, biological, archetypalbeing in control
of ones 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.
4) Deep humiliation effected by violence, violation, and defeat. A
compensatory need to prove one's steely strength, power, and invulnerability.
5) The empowerment of forces of hatred, murderous aggression, of evil
and the demonic, of the secretive and subversive, of the underworldelemental,
instinctual, criminalwith consequences that are punitive, defeating,
traumatic, contracting, tragic. More generally, the simultaneous experience
in extreme form of both violence and contraction.
6) 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.)
7) A deeply sobering awareness of the worlds 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 and dangers.
An intense focusing of concentration on a deadly serious reality. In
the extreme, the naked encounter with ones own death, producing
in response either mortal panic or unflinching courage.
8) The empowerment of conservative or reactionary forces, bringing
about an emphatic increase in defensive armoring, rigid boundaries,
9) A tremendous intensification of the harshest aspects of realitymaterial,
mortal, existential. Negativity of overwhelming, mass dimensions. Deprivation,
poverty, hardship. Sadness intensified to anguish. At worst, intense
mass suffering, death, loss, grief, agony.
10) The encounter with that form of the numinous which inspires awe
and dread, even terror; confronting a powerdivine or naturalwhose
stupendous elemental destructiveness is more than human, that stupefies
11) The eruption of massive, titanic, volcanic, overwhelming elemental
forces that have a negative, collapsing, constricting effect.
12) 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 Saturnsupreme
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.)
13) 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 traumaboth
Grof and Rank, the major psychologists of the birth trauma, had this
14) 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 consequencesboth destructively
and constructivelyestablishing new structures and orders of life,
either solidifying or oppressive, deadening or maturing.
15) In general, the emphatic intensification of conflict and separation,
of intractable enmities, of problems, contradictions, and oppositions.
16) 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.).
17) A tendency to see things in terms of a confrontation between good
18) Both the confrontation with evil, with the shadow, and the constellating
of it. Periods of collective intense and heavy judgment, blame, scapegoating,
19) 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 evilthe "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 terrorism now.
20) Experiences of irrevocable catastrophe, intense loss, endings,
death, resulting in lasting sense of deep heaviness, darkness, and sorrow
often combined with anxiety.
21) A sense of the tremendous inescapable weight and burden of history,
the past, errors from the past, ancient resentments and enmities.
22) The sense of an ominous, darker reality descending on an age.
23) 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 naivete, inflation, or illusion. "The end of innocence."
Cf. 1914, 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 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 naivete, of inflation, of unthinking
freedom, of self-indulgence, of illusion, of unconsciousness. "That
fat, daydreaming America is gone now, way gone" (Frank Rich, NYT).
24) A greatly intensified and deepened maturation of a person or a
culture, leaving its puer dream and entering a senex realitydarker,
serious, problematic, concrete, confining and challenging, aging, burdening,
maturing (cf. Manhattans 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).
25) The galvanizing of the will, a sense of stern purposefulness, grim
The man of steel., the archetypal mother in the throes of the birth
laborthe 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"
Steely purposeful assertion of control and power (Saturn and Pluto),
after experiencing the horror of utter powerlessnessby 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 controlledthus
the alternation of extreme assertions of controlling power and extreme
helpless victimization under anothers controlling power).
"Grim determination"a 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
"Perhaps 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." NYT
From the terrorists guide found in their luggage: "Stand fast
time of fun and waste has gone. The time of judgment has arrived."
Grim, driven, humorless and merciless determination in the service
of power and controlthe 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.
26) A quality of relentlessness, implacability, irrevocability; of
ferocious ruthlessness and cruelty. Grim violence, the cruel ruthless
enemy. Wars, jihads, crusades, "holy" wars
27) 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).
28) The unspeakably difficultphysically, emotionally, logisticallytask
of rescue and recoverysifting 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
29) The Herculean labor of clearing and cleaning; of restoring structures,
of stabilizing the deep underground foundations and containments destroyed
or threatened by the collapse.
The task 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
30) Consider the great German astrologer Ebertins 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
.A hard and unfeeling disposition, also cold-heartedness,
severity, tendency to violence, a fanatical adherence to ones
principles once they have been adopted. A martyr. Mass murderer
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
." (Combinations of
Stellar Influence, 188).
Saturn-Pluto 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.
Saturn-Pluto also brings forth the possibility of wisdom, of unflinching
moral discernment and self-awareness, achieved through profound experience
Its 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: Kafka and 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; Gigers many
paintings and images of darkness, evil, brutality, ruthless entrapment;
Joseph Conrads 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").
Shakespeare 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 tragediesHamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbethexploring
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 ones
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 extreme example, we
see it in Thomas Merton, born under the conjunction of 1914-15, whose
spiritual autobiography The Seven-Storey Mountain under the immediately
following conjunction, 1946-48, wrestles with these same themes with
somewhat different results.)
The forging of the moral faculty 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
psyches 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).
Saturn and 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, "mans
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 HolocaustResnaiss Night and Fog in 1956, Kramers
Judgment at Nuremberg in 1965, Sophies Choice in
1982, Schindlers 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
In terms of the tendency to see things in terms of good and evil: cf.
Augustines 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; Churchills view of Hitler
in 1939-40; Conrads "Heart of Darkness"; Oliver Stones rendering
of America in Platoon, JFK, Nixon, Wall Street, Born on Fourth of
Melvilles magnificent dissection of this tendency
in Moby Dick; Billy Budd.
Saturn-Pluto alignments do indeed tend to bring genuine confrontations
between good and evilbut where the evil exists is not usually
as simple a matter as the confronter believes (cf. Keens Faces
of the Enemy, the perinatal projections in history analyzed by Grof
and the psychohistorian Lloyd de Mause).
Cf. Israel 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
"We are at war"those grim words, creating that heavy dark weight
in the pit in ones 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.)
In terms of that sense of an ominous, darker reality descending on
an ageweve 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),
Reagans first administration when the Cold War was at its peak,
with the tremendous nuclear build up on both sides of the Atlantic reaching
apocalyptic proportions, preparing for "nuclear overkill," and impelling
apocalyptic fears in the collective psyche, the sense of a nuclear sword
of Damocles hanging over the world because of the Manichaean standoff
between the superpowers; Armageddon fantasies emerging (along with the
empowered fundamentalist imagination), 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" and 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 impactit is the principal aspect
Confrontation 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 Durers
woodcut "Knight, Death, and the Devil" beautifully conveys this archetypal
moment (Durer born with his Sun on a Saturn-Pluto square).
Confronting "the beast" (cf. this summers shark epidemic of attacks
and fears; Spielbergs Jaws, Jurassic Park [Spielbergs
born with Saturn-Pluto conjunction, visible as well in Schindlers
List, Saving Private Ryan, AI, et al.]; Giger; Sexy Beast;
Henry Jamess "The Beast in the Jungle"; Conrads "Heart of
Darkness" "Apocalypse Now Redux"; NYPD Blues sustained
confrontation with the beast of the urban underworld, begun under the
And then there is the purely physical, material, and energetic manifestations
of Saturn-Pluto in this event:
"Steel" and "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.
The World 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, 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 767s400,000
pound jets traveling at 300 mph carrying 24,000 gallons of fuel.
Saturn-Pluto 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. The titanic cumulative weight of the
collapse, pulverizing everything belowSaturn as weight, gravity,
falling, collapse, hard materiality; Pluto as stupendously intensifying
that weight and gravitational collapsegreat mass and great gravity
creating tremendous destruction.
Pluto also 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" NYT). The combination of being crushed and incinerated.
Titanically 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.
Saturn and 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.
"Just as 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
" (David Spangler)
"The jaws of death." "The gates of hell." "Nuclear winter" (WTC witness
All the destruction was created from the encounter of fire and matter
(Pluto and Saturn).
The stupendous mass of debris: from Plutos relationship to the
results of destruction, decay, refuse, garbage, scatology, waste; Saturns
to materiality, dust, death, worthlessness, grayness.
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).
Yet Saturn-Pluto 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
timePluto 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.
NYT, 9/18/01) to keep the entire area from collapsing.
By the way, the World Trade Center twin towers were completed 28_ 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 return cycle1961-89).
Pearl Harbor took place 59 years ago, two Saturn cycles ago.
Saturn is archetypally associated with order, Pluto with chaosthe
chaos of destruction, of annihilation, but also the chaos of natures
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, evolutions chaotic
unfolding spontaneously self-organizes, every order masks and gives
way to underlying chaos.
Intrapsychically, 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 superegos energy and its potential for crueltyFreuds
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 Freuds Civilization
and Its Discontents under the Saturn-Pluto opposition, 1929-31.)
Saturn-Pluto brings both the repression of the id and the return of
the repressedthe ids 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 pere 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 Ladens
hatred of U.S.)
Concerning 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 1980s, Reagan 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 1992-94the 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 atrocity and mass death in Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Rwanda
first bombing of the World Trade Center, by the way, took place during
that Saturn-Pluto square as well, 1993.
Saturn-Pluto is the cycle of terrorism and repression, violence and
retribution, each driving and constellating the other (consider Israels
and Palestines 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 aspect1956,
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.)
Note the simultaneous opposites: Saturn-Pluto is the tyranny by terrorism,
and its the grimly determined effort to oppose and obliterate
.And its also the tyranny of a society gripped
by anti-terrorist fears, controls, and rigidities; and its a state
and military willing to murder thousands of innocent people to effect
its implacable exterminating purpose.
Cf. Robespierres "revolutionary puritanism" during the Terror
in 1793-94, Saturn square Pluto.
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.
Saturn-Pluto 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 McCarthyite
anti-Communist reactionthe evil, the shadow, the dark manipulation
and perfidy are exclusively seen in the other, never in the self.
Again, the 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
.Orwells "Nineteen Eighty-Four," written during
that same conjunction of 1946-48, is a classic expression of the dark
controlling power in totalitarianism.
Saturn-Pluto is the fundamental aspect of totalitarianism, which first
emerged in Germany with the German states 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 1921-24Stalin, Mussolini,
Hitlers 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 in China.
Cf. Saturn-Plutos 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 Gods righteous punishment
for the sins committed by secular America, liberals, gays, and feminists.
The rigid 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 Kafkas great story "The Burrow" (written during the Saturn-Pluto
square of 1923the same year and alignment that brought Freuds
formulation of the superego-id relationship in The Ego and the Id).
Saturn-Pluto 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.
Yet Saturn-Pluto 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,
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
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, NYT, 10/3/01)
We see the Saturn-Pluto energy in the recent outpouring of so many
writings and communicationsessays, columns, emails, lecturescharacterized
by sustained grave reflection, deeply serious, penetrating thought and
analysis, evincing moral and psychological depth and earnestness, engaged
with grave issues in profound ways.
People who 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
Saturn-Pluto presses for the forging of a deeper moral structure of
consciousness, of superegowhich can be rigid and pathological,
or a profound moral advance in consciousness, a deepening of conscience,
a profounder awareness of evil, of the shadow, a deeper moral self-awareness,
a moral strength of purpose.
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 Jungs acute sensitivity
to the fateful determining power of the unconscious psyche over human
life. Saturn-Pluto brings that sense of the encompassing power of the
archetypes beyond the control of the rational self:
"We 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
Saturn-Pluto is the collective psyche in a contraction of death that
is also, at another level, a contraction of birth, a 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 consciousness emerge.
Saturn-Pluto is the aspect of patriarchythe evolutionary empowerment
of the stern Father archetype, of authority, hierarchy, control, law
and order, tradition and stability, discipline, domination, oppression,
structure, maturationand at another level, it is the aspect of
the Great Mothers 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.
Saturn-Pluto 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 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.
Thus Saturn-Pluto hard aspects consistently bring those epochal periods
in history of great darkness, moral gravity, and disciplined determination
that, while confronting evilwithin as well as withoutultimately
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.
Again, the 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,
A shorter 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, saber-rattling, and, less problematically,
an overall energetic optimism and increase in courage and ardor.
While many other specific astrological factors can be adduced to fill
out the picture, bottom-line its 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 eventthe 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 forthall
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 complexessential
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-80s 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, combined with David Spanglers message, may
provide a larger perspective on the deep and grave events that have
irrevocably shaped our lives.
September 21, 2001