Gun Control and the Uranus Pluto Square
At the 2009 at the ISAR Astrology Conference in Chicago, the hot topic was predictions about the years 2009-2015. At the conference, and for the months to follow, the astrological community was buzzing about the looming 2010 Saturn-Uranus-Pluto T-Square, and the coming years of the Uranus square Pluto transit. There were predictions of financial collapse, civil war, unrest, assassination and revolution. And the fear expressed in the astrological community was mirrored with identical projections all throughout our culture. It seemed that wherever I looked, people were saying that the apocalypse was at hand, the sky was about to fall and that it was time to head for the hills.
As I started to do my own analysis of the potentials of the coming transits, I zeroed in on the potential for revolution. With Uranus in Aries squaring Pluto in Capricorn, I imagined challenges to the status quo, who could in turn respond with even more harsh measures of control. I imagined the possibility of fascism in response to revolution. History has no shortage of grave human errors. And I wondered if we might be at the threshold of another such time.
Another line of thought had me worried about physical changes in the earth, and catastrophes that we wouldn’t be able to stop. I began to get pretty worked up about all of these fearful projections, and everywhere I turned it seemed that other people were doing the same thing. Because of the daily stress I started to feel, I made a deliberate effort to stop this line of thinking, which was both unproductive and disturbing. I decided to leave fearful speculation to the masters – the newscasters. I turned off the news, and decided I’d just take it day-by-day and respond to whatever life delivered as best I could in the moment.
And then bang – just as the square between Uranus and Pluto heated up, revolution was on everyone’s lips. From the Arab Spring, to the Occupy movement, challenges to the status quo were in full force. Dramatically, the day Uranus moved into Aries, we experienced the colossal earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in Japan. It seemed that all of my worst fears about the potentials of the transits were coming true. I had a feeling there would be more to come. And because one of the potentials of Uranus is that events colored by its transits can be quick and shocking, I knew it would be hard to pin down exactly when or where such events would take place. All of this was a recipe for my fearful projections to start up again. So I really had to make a daily effort to avoid that and do my best to stay present.
Then the shootings started. And right on time, I was shocked and surprised like the rest of you. I’m not sure why I hadn’t considered the lone-shooter scenario as part of the potential of Uranus’ transit through the sign of Aries, because in hindsight, it makes so much sense. But astrology is often like that: easy to explain after the fact, but more difficult to predict with certainty. I’m sure someone out there did accurately predict the increase in lone shooters. But I was so focused on Uranus’ interaction with Pluto spelling r-e-v-o-l-u-t-i-o-n, that I overlooked some of the most basic meanings of both the planets and the signs. So let’s look at them.
The Uranus Archetype
At its most base level, Uranus seems to be about individuation, liberation, and awakening. It is associated with outside-the-box thinking and behavior, and is often featured prominently in the charts of people who are outsiders, forward-thinkers, rebels or outlaws.
The highest Uranian impulse is towards the freedom of self-expression. It is the pull to have less restriction on being who you are, loving who you want to love, praying the way you want to pray, etc. This can be a good thing. But we have to look at the shadow side too.
In the interest of being true to themselves, the Uranian person can get so attached to being different that they will stubbornly defend their outsider identity without care for whether they’re hurting others or limiting themselves in the process. A Uranian gets it wrong when she/he mistakes real individuation for difference from the status quo. Think Marlon Brando in The Wild One when asked, “What are you rebelling against.” His reply: “Whaddya got?”
As part of the natural process that a strong natal Uranus points to, a Uranian person will have formative experiences in which they need to buck the system in order to individuate. This is a normal part of the developmental process, because it gives the person the skill to see the difference between inner wisdom and outside influence. The process gets skewed if the person gets the mistaken idea that individuation always requires such an act of rebellion. A truly individuated person will find their identity from within, whether it matches what is outside or not. They may or may not feel aligned with the status quo. That isn’t the issue. The high-end aim here is to know oneself without attachment or reaction to the status quo.
If I am a Uranian person, over time I might develop a natural awareness of the confines and limitations imposed on me by authority figures, individuals, organizations and social structures. But I also know myself first from the inside-out and choose to respond from that place whether it creates friction or it doesn’t. Sometimes my actions will align with the status quo, and sometimes not. But I remain unattached to either position. There is a high-end experience of detachment and objectivity available here. I do what I want with or without group approval.
Such a highly individuated person is comfortable both as an insider and an outsider.
Uranus is associated with explosions, both figuratively and literally. When we blow something up intentionally, we obliterate what is there so that something completely new can take its place. We might blow up an old building to replace it with a more modern one. Or we might “blow up” a work situation so we can get work that better suits us. Often before we get to the point of wanting to blow something up, we are overcome with a feeling of being “fed up.” Astrologically this can be represented by transiting Uranus forming an aspect to a natal planet.
During such a period, we’re more likely to have an itchy trigger finger, and we can suddenly fly off the handle, telling our boss to “stick it,” impulsively quitting our job without thinking about the consequences until it’s too late. We take actions we later regret. The tense Uranus aspect represents the tension we feel and the compulsion to make a change. The trick to getting it right is to manage the change without sacrificing our essential needs or doing unnecessary damage to others in the process.
Uranus in Aries
OK, so we have a feel for Uranus. But planetary expressions take on a different hue based on which sign they’re in. Right now Uranus is in the sign of Aries, where it remains through 2018. Propelled by the motivations of Aries, Uranus is fueled by even more impulsiveness, tension, anger and conflict. For the sign Aries, conflict is the fertile ground in which it faces its own base-level desires and makes them manifest in the world. Aries is expressed in the simplicity of any statement that begins with “I want.” It is represented by the loud voice of “MINE” or “NO” that emerges during the “terrible twos.” It is the impulse NOT to share. It is the impulse to take action without consideration of others, to be self-actualized. In Aries we find a desire for the freedom to act on our own, with none but our own authority. Not for power’s sake (that’s Scorpio’s business, and Capricorn’s), but just for the sake of winning.
Notice some common ground between Uranus and Aries? In both we have a need for the freedom to express our personal will – a desire to be free of constraints and limitations. With Aries, we can add an often angry and/or frustrated energy or tension that compels our actions. We’re more reactive, impulsive. We “blow up” more easily. We have mini-meltdowns and reactively instigate conflict with the intention of breaking free from supposed limitations and restrictions on our limits. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it sure can be.
So with Uranus in Aries, we’re less likely to have access to restraint when our trigger finger is itchy. There is only the seeing red, and then the carnage that is left after the explosion we instigate. Tragically, we’ve seen plenty of real-life examples of this lately.
Mass Shootings and Gun Control
I won’t belabor a description here of the various mass shootings (in Colorado at the Batman film, in the elementary school in Sandy, etc. – and boy, I’m sad to type “etc.” here). In part because I’m still working with my own grief and shock over those events, but also because we’ve all been subject to the usual media blitz around these events. In short, if you’ve been paying attention to the media, you already know the stories well.
But I do want to talk about the shootings in the context of Uranus in Aries, which now stands out to me as the signature of the lone shooter. Every planetary archetypal pattern holds the potential for multiple expressions. But historically, we can identify specific themes that emerge prominently in certain periods. In our desire to quantify and name things, we reduce those periods to expressions like the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, or the Summer of Love. When we utter such phrases, we’re flooded with images that carry the energy of those time periods. And those descriptions sync up well with the planetary patterns at any given time.
Right now, there is a strong energetic constellation around the issues of guns, gun control, mass shootings, and armed violence.
This marks a really interesting moment in the context of American history, and hopefully a productive turning point. Built into the US Constitution is the stated intention to define and maintain certain freedoms for its people – religious freedom, and freedom of speech take a front seat. But what started as a high-end dictum has devolved into a perverse and absurd cultural dialogue around the gun control debate. It seems that we’re being challenged to refine our ideas of what freedom really means.
We can see the shadow Uranus operating in the culture as the opposition to any rules or constraints that would limit one’s access to any kind of gun, whether it’s a gun that shoots a single bullet or one that fires rapidly, like the semi-automatic weapons used recently to take out several innocent people quickly.
The argument goes that we can’t let the government interfere with or control this “natural” right. But those expressing such an opinion appear to be unable to access their own compassion or understanding, and they use distorted logic to defend their actions. The few that I’ve been able to stomach watching in interviews have appeared red faced, short tempered and full of passionate illogical vitriol at any suggestion that they’d be denied the right to purchase a semi-automatic weapon to “defend” themselves in the event that the government decided to come after them or their property. Sound a little like angry Uranus in Aries foot stomping?
These temper-tantrums are no laughing matter. Remember the Virignia Repulicans who called for armed revolution if Obama won the 2012 election? Or take the heated debate that raged between Piers Morgan and pro-gun advocates in which Alex Jones coerced his supporters into creating a petition to have Piers Morgan deported because of his stated opinions about gun control.
We can understand something about the Uranian shadow and the attachment to freedom at all costs when we consider how irrational and uncompassionate the pro-gun viewpoint seems. With just the slightest amount of detachment, one can see the madness in fiercely defending one’s right to kill masses of people indiscriminately with a semi-automatic weapon.
The cultural conversation that started with the US Constitution’s higher-end goals about human rights has degenerated into one that is ludicrous, profane, and shows a complete disrespect for life, humanity and peace. This teaches us something important about the archetype. A Uranian-gone-bad doesn’t need friends or seek approval. He just needs you to “stay out of his God-damned business.” And thus, one of the natural positive checks and balances from being motivated by relationships with others is missing.
What’s frightening about this Uranus in Aries business is that we’re just now in the middle of the cycle, which won’t start to dissipate until 2018. That’s a long time to be collectively short-tempered, explosive and constantly ready to blow things up at a moment’s notice. Of course, in your own chart, the intensity will depend on how close the aspects are for you.
Pluto in Capricorn Wrestles for Control
At the same time Uranus is in Aries, Pluto is in Capricorn, and the two are in tense aspect. In the same way that we can describe some common ground between Uranus and Aries around the issue of freedom, we can do so with Pluto and Capricorn around the issue of control. With Pluto we find control as an exploration of the dynamics of power, as in “I have control over you, and therefore I have power over you, and I take your power.” Whereas with Capricorn the desire might not for power itself, but rather the desire to achieve, to get ahead, to make it to the top of the heap.
On the way to the top, Capricorn can step on a few toes because of its myopic eye on the prize. In that pursuit, a Capricornian may intentionally limit their own access to balancing experiences, like pleasure and ease, as a trade off to get what they strive for.
Capricorn can represent the status quo. Not necessarily in a pop culture, American Idol kind of way (we can find that kind of glitz in the Leo archetype or in the glamour of the planet Neptune). But more in the way that a government might establish the rules and parameters that most of us agree to in order to live in a productive and civil society. Such rules limit some behaviors. But they’re also necessary and can serve us.
So with power-imbalanced Pluto in achievement and control-oriented Capricorn, we find common ground in the desire to control others’ behaviors. In the current US gun control debate, Pluto in Capricorn represents the government, which by executive order is (unsuccessfully) attempting to control the impulsive, Uranian trigger-happy outlaw by limiting their access to certain guns. This is a recipe for quite a fight, and we’ll likely see many people caught in the crossfire along the way.
How will it all play out? It’s hard to say. The aspect is a square, which suggests a tension or conflict that can be worked around if both parties make some adjustments. They don’t have to see eye-to-eye, they just have to work to integrate something from the other’s point of view. The process will likely involve tension, harsh exchange, and frustration on both sides. But a square can reach some resolve in the end as long as there is stretching in both directions.
Pluto also represents that which asks us to face what truly terrifies us. It asks us to look at things we’d naturally have the impulse to turn away from. I became aware of the Pluto archetype while forming the ideas for this article while noticing my resistance to write it. I didn’t want to look at these issues. I wanted to turn away. As soon as the Batman shooting happened, I knew I wanted to write about it, but I stuffed the idea. I didn’t want to face the shootings. They were too dark, too tragic, and led me to too great a feeling of unease and vulnerability in the world.
One of the strongest messages we could internalize from these events is that we’re not safe anywhere – not in a movie theater, not even in an elementary school classroom. But the underlying problem runs deeper, and Pluto says it’s time to face it. It’s time to look at what we’ve done as a culture, what mistakes we’ve made, that would compel a young man to walk into a room of frightened young children and coldly fire off the rounds of shots that would end their lives.
We all have the impulse to exert control when we feel vulnerable. Sometimes we do this in unhealthy ways – with denial, or by shutting down, or shutting out others. We find in our government the desire to control the populous by passing new laws, through “stricter gun control.” Those three words together suggest something productive that could arise out of a tense conflict between Uranus in Aries and Pluto in Capricorn. But Pluto is also asking us to look even deeper.
Many people are calling for a discussion of the systemic problems that have lead to the random acts of violence in the first place. In what ways have we encouraged such behavior? In what ways have we unknowingly set the stage for such disturbing events to unfold? In what ways have we collectively created the perfect environment for such shooters to manifest? And in what ways are we just like them? Tough questions, but Pluto says it’s the season to ask them.
Everybody's Packin' Heat
For the outro, enjoy this live recording of Laura Veirs' new song "America." Addressing the current gun issue, one of its first lines is, "Everybody's packin' heat in America."