Saturday 6 February 2016

The Uranus-Eris Cycle

Eris is currently in the late phases of her cycles to all three of the outer planets. We're close to the waning square of the Pluto-Eris cycle, in 2020, and in the balsamic phase of the Neptune-Eris cycle, which ends in the late 2030s. The new Uranus-Eris cycle is, however, almost upon us, with three conjunctions happening between June 2016 and March 2017. The Uranus-Eris cycle is the only one which is on a human scale, as it usually lasts around 90 years. The other cycles are irregular and last anything between 200 and 500 years. 

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The Uranus-Eris cycle is about innovation rather than revolution. Over the last 500 years, almost every cycle has been a voyage into the unknown, marked by a major technological or knowledge-based advance. Uranus is particularly Promethean here, displaying vision and inventiveness and – always the rebel – bursting free from the chains of convention that pinned him to the mountain side. But what does Eris represent? It could be our soul purpose, also struggling to break free from the oppressive systems and ideologies that stifle and suppress its deeper needs. But Eris goes deeper than Uranus – just breaking free isn't enough for her. She wants to awaken us to the need for change.

Let's take a brief look at the last few Uranus-Eris conjunctions to see if they bear out what I've said. We'll start 500 years ago, in 1516, when they were also conjunct and starting a new cycle. Two really significant things were happening, both of which opened up the world. The first was that the world was expanding to an extraordinary degree. A quarter of a century earlier, in 1492 under a Uranus-Eris waning square, Columbus became the last man to discover America. This started a period of global exploration, with the voyager Amerigo Vespucci realising around the turn of the century that South America was so large it must be a continent and in 1513 Balboa seeing the Pacific for the first time. That same year Magellan led the first expedition to sail into the Pacific Ocean, which he did in October 1520. However, what was good for Europeans definitely wasn't good for the inhabitants of the New World, who were devastated by diseases carried by the newcomers and whose cultures were largely destroyed by the religion they brought with them. At the same time, back in Europe, that religion – Roman Catholicism – was about to be dealt a severe blow. In 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to a church door, starting a process that resulted in the end of the Church as a temporal power in western Europe. The rise of Protestantism led in subsequent centuries to the emphasis on self as an authority, the protestant work ethic, the industrial revolution and ultimately capitalism.

The next conjunction was in 1607, the year that the English colonisation of America started. But additionally, a group of dissenters – Puritans, in fact – left England for Holland where they hoped to be allowed to worship in their own way. (It didn't work out for them, and in 1620 they too left for America. We know them as the Pilgrim Fathers). This conjunction also saw the struggles that occurred between Gallileo and the Catholic Church. His use of the refractive telescope led to the discovery of four moons around Jupiter, and that Venus had phases and the Moon's surface was rough – all revealed in Starry Messenger (1610). He soon found himself in trouble with the Church because of his observation of sunspots (the Church had decreed the sun was perfect, so blemishes were impossible) and his endorsement of heliocentrism. He fell foul of the Inquisition in 1616 and was forced to recant. Also during this period, Kepler – out of the clutches of the Church in the northern lands, so free to explore without fear of persecution – worked on his laws of planetary motion.
The following conjunction, in 1727, is the only one that seems not to have any big ideas associated with it. However, the one after is an interesting one. It was in 1834, a couple of years after the young Charles Darwin joined HMS Beagle to undertake scientific and geological exploration. This work was the foundation of his theory of evolution. The cycle continued to pick up on the development of his theory, as On the Origin of Species was published on 24 November 1859, just days before an exact square between Eris and Uranus, which formed both a Thor's Hammer with Mars and a T-square with the Sun (Thor's Hammer was explained in my previous post). The time around the opposition in 1882 saw the rise of more progressive social agendas, like sociology as a science and the idea of Social Darwinism, promoted by the philosopher Herbert Spencer (who coined the phrase 'survival of the fittest'). The direction of travel was now towards freedom of thought and away from the rigid, authoritarian, religious doctrines.

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So on our journey to date, we've seen the world open up as the New World is explored and colonised, then the heavens expand through the explorations of Gallileo and Kepler, and finally our past is extended through the development of Darwin's theory of evolution. Now we reach the conjunction of 1927-8, which occurred – just about – in living memory, and at the very beginning of Aries. On their final encounter in January 1928 Uranus and Eris were joined by Jupiter, ensuring it would be a big one – as indeed it was, particularly in the worlds of physics and cosmology which is what I want to look at.
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 I haven't talked much about the Uranus-Eris squares, but I've found the waning ones to be a good pointer to what the next cycle might be about. Those of the previous cycle took place in 1903, between January and October. That was the year of the first powered flight by the Wright brothers, and between 1900 and 1927 there were quantum physics, which came to public attention in the early 1900s, both of Einstein's theories, the splitting of the atom by Ernest Rutherford, early ideas for liquid fuel rockets to reach outer space and for a 'city of knowledge' – a repository of the world's knowledge that sounds very like the internet. Additionally, a number of people whose work was essential to the coming cycle were born at this time, including physicist Wolfgang Pauli (1900), astronomer Jan Oort (1900), physicist Werner Heisenberg (1903) and pioneer of radio astronomy Karl Jansky (1905).

Some of the amazing ideas around at this time were Lemaitre's theory of an expanding universe that might be traced back to an origination point, Jan Oort's calculation of the position of the Galactic Centre (largely confirmed by Karl Jansky five years later) and Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle – all in 1927, the same year that the famous Solvay Conference met in October to discuss the newly formulated quantum theory under an exact Uranus-Eris conjunction. By the time we reached the oppositions in 1970-1, we had exploded atom and hydrogen bombs, taken photos of the Earth from space, walked on the Moon and sent our first message over an early version of the internet. The beginning of the 1970s also saw the publication of the Club of Rome's Limits to Growth, which set out scenarios of where we might find ourselves by the middle of this century if we didn't address our consumption of resources. E F Schumacher's Small is Beautiful was published soon after. Both laid out what I believe to be an Eridian maxim, namely that you can't have infinite growth with finite resources.

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By the time we reached the waning square, there had been numerous space probes sent into the Solar System, the Hubble telescope had been launched, the world-wide web had become a publicly available service and the Human Genome project was underway. The three exact squares between Uranus and Eris in 1992 were very close to the Uranus-Neptune conjunction. 1992 marked the discovery of the Kuiper Belt (which effectively sealed Pluto's fate), the discovery of the first exo-planet (one that was orbiting round a pulsar), and is said to be the start of the Internet Age. In 1995 we found the first exo-planet orbiting a main sequence star – and we've found loads of them since; the Hubble Deep Field image was taken the same year – that's the one that revealed a myriad of galaxies, some of which were among the youngest and most distant ever seen. And in 1996 we were introduced to Dolly the Sheep, the world's first cloned animal.

You can see the rapid pace of development since 1927 in just this small corner of the scientific-technological world alone, and there's been no let-up since the start of the twenty-first century. The Large Hadron Collider, drones, cyber-warfare, smartphones, GPS, robotics, 3-D printers, building a base on the Moon and a manned mission to Mars are just a few of the things which have come along and there's plenty more in the pipeline. But does the future lie in technological wizardry? I keep getting a picture of Uranus as the sorcerer's apprentice in Disney's Fantasia – great fun at first but look at the mess he ends up in. The trouble with gadgets like smartphones is that a few months later, a smarter one appears and you've just got to have it … they breed dissatisfaction. I see Eris challenging Uranus to be really inventive this time round and churn out solutions to some of the big problems facing us right now, rather than simply producing more and more stuff. Eris is concerned with justice and fairness, and together the pair of them could move mountains.

I don't know what will emerge from this series of conjunctions, something that could surprise us all, maybe, but I'll leave you with something I find curious. The second Uranus-Eris conjunction, in September, is on exactly the same degree (23o Aries 16') as Eris was when Columbus arrived in the New World, so America's having an Eris return during these conjunctions. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out, especially as it's a presidential election year and the early signs are that the business-as-usual candidates aren't going to have an easy time. The young, the disaffected and the dispossessed – The Other that Eris represents – are the ones spearheading the movement for change. 
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There are two other things worth noting. The first is the chart for the start of the Islamic Era. Though not exact, the Pluto in that chart is very close to Eris' position in the other charts. And Pluto will not only make a return to the Pluto in the US chart but will also square the one in the Islamic Era chart as it approaches the waning Pluto-Eris square in 2020. The second is the degree of that first square between Pluto and Eris: 23o 14' Capricorn-Aries, so close to the Uranus-Eris degree and the 'New World' Eris. This suggests that these encounters between Uranus, Pluto and Eris should be seen as part of a process rather than separate events.