The Planets: Uranus
But the unhappy gymster didn't want the spot next to Branden that day. Nor did he like standing beside the teacher where he was forced to endure the closing ritual, with all hands joining into the center as the group shouted "We are terrific!!" Trailing his mom through the parking lot after class, the little misfit was sad all the way to the car. He had entered, for possibly the first time, but certainly not the last, what I call the "Uranus Zone," that prickly space where we don't fit in, and we're sure there's somewhere else, somewhere better, that we do. In the Uranus Zone, we're the square peg surrounded by a field of round holes. We know we're different. We suspect we're even smarter than the rest. We're rebellious. Too, we're inventive, progressive, and creative. We feel an urgency to improve things. But we won't always like the society our creativity aims to serve. Nor will it always like us. Donna Cunningham has observed that within the Uranus glyph there's an upside-down Venus. Uranus turns the Venusian principle of relatedness on its head. With Uranus, we're often alienated and irritated, cursed with feeling terminally unique.
Many people have told me they got hooked on astrology after an astrologer with uncanny accuracy delivered a stunning personal truth. With surprising frequency, that truth goes something like this: "Your chart says you're not like everyone else. You're another breed, a spirit from some other realm, an alien searching for your true home." I can understand the appeal of such a declaration. All the wounds of not belonging-in one's birth family ("Who are these people? What lame stork dropped me here on the way to my true kind?"); in grammar school ("Why doesn't anyone like me? Why don't I belong?"); continuing through the painful isolations of adolescence ("I don't fit in. I've got to hide who I am.") -all the lonely chapters of feeling estranged and misunderstood are explained and excused at last.
Identifying aliens through a horoscope is a technique I never quite learned. It likely has something to do with Uranus, but the whole business has long smelled fishy to me. If I can find outsiders with astrology, it follows I should also find insiders, a few of the infamous "them" who fit in. What does that look like in a horoscope? And what good are proclamations about not belonging anyway? Suppose some of us truly are misplaced spirits from another world. What then? Is it our unhappy fate to simply wait out the mistake? Or should we join a cult of similarly displaced souls, take lethal potions and beam up to some great mothership beyond?
I'm not minimizing our alienation wounds. One of my worst moments as a young mother came when I watched three boys snub my son at the park. They were about his age, running in and out of the sand box, around a slide, having great fun. Branden lobbed three "Hello's" at them, then a couple "Hey boy-what's your name?" followed with "I have a dog." Giggling amongst themselves, they didn't seem to hear. Branden stood and watched the boys weaving in and out of the swings. After a few minutes, he jumped into line with them, giggling just as they did, as if he too were in on the joke. They never once looked at him; quietly he went back to his truck. He-and I-were crushed.
It's a mother's instinct to exchange her child's defeat for something gifted ("Of course you didn't fit in, you're smarter, you're better, you're somebody special..."). Astrologers often suffer from the same syndrome. We use horoscopes to uplift people, to soothe their psyches and ease their pain. We focus on the unique blueprint in each chart and how that makes everyone special. There's just one problem with this approach: we all get the same solar system. People with a little astrology under their belts start talking about "my Pluto" or "my Uranus" as though they were personal property. But every chart gets a Uranus. And that means everybody has "alien" moments. Not belonging is a universal experience. All our hearts will get broken at times.
To have Uranus in your chart means it's your occasional destiny to be shattered. Maybe you were picked last for the 3rd grade kickball team. Or kids laughed when you wore the dress your grandmother sewed because your mother was too poor or too obstinate to buy the fashionable kind. Just when you made a few friends, your family moved again. You discovered your parents were fallible, withdrawing favor, stumbling with weakness, cheating on each other, or even dying. You lost a job, got kicked out of school, a drunk killed your sister in a car accident, your nephew committed suicide, a predator grabbed your daughter. Uranus brings awakenings. We like to emphasize the shiny brightness of this word: illumination, inspiration, freedom and change! But often enough, Uranus awakenings can be rude. "Breakthroughs" are also Uranian; but as the word suggests, before getting through, something must first be broken. As the rest of the world hums along cohesively, you'll find yourself distraught and alone.
When you're shattered by Uranus, something unexpected happens. In your despair you reach out, and like a lightning bolt it comes. Your perspective shifts and you get a sudden revelation. It wasn't anything you could find on the shelves at Wal-Mart or pick up from the nightly news; it wasn't the thing your mother has been telling you for years. Uranus is the supreme sky god, and his solutions are birthed in the great invisible, beyond consensus reality. Out of the storms of discontent, comes a gift from Divine Intelligence, a flash of knowing that was impossible before. Uranus charges us and changes us. It jolts us off one road and drops us onto another. It's what makes our futures different from our past.
Watch a few commercials and you might think people love anything new and improved. But the truth is, we usually resist change. Cosmologist Brian Swimme makes an interesting observation about human progress. "We have long assumed," he writes, "that as soon as humans figured out how to plant seeds and tame animals they rushed into it." And why not? What a fabulous idea! No more roaming. No more grass tents. No more nights shivering under the stars and days spent searching for food. Comfort at last! Yet, as Swimme points out, the hunter-gatherers probably didn't want to settle down. Traveling was their way of life. Their evolution into settlements was likely forced by extreme duress-roaming populations may have grown too big, climatic conditions may have diminished their food supply. In other words, they were probably dragged into the future kicking and screaming.
Biology systems theory teaches that in open nonlinear systems, like social groups and ecosystems (or that psychological structure known as the ego), the general tendency is toward order and stability. Most things prefer to stay just as they are. Change therefore requires instability. Disequilibrium. Anarchy. When a system is shattered, it responds by reorganizing itself. That's how paradigm leaps occur. Without some discomfort in our Uranus house, or through the planets it aspects, our breakthrough thinking may never be evoked. Why would we challenge the status quo, if we weren't at first unhappy with it? With Uranus, we have to expect some alienation, dislocation, even trauma. We might forgive therefore the neurotic styles often associated with this archetype-the aloofness, the absent-mindedness, the restlessness, the arrogance, the stubbornness, the revolutionary zeal. These may be a small price to pay for the upside of Uranus. It inspires our genius. With it we can create and liberate, freeing ourselves and humanity from its ruts.
With or without a trauma, Divine Intelligence uses Uranus to whisper unusual ideas in our ears. "What about a nose ring?" it says, long before nose rings become fashionable. Astrologers associate Uranus with radical vision and a passion for freedom, its intellectual brilliance often in defiance of authority; its creativity thumbs its nose at cultural conventions. Curiously, these traits don't fit the mythological Uranus (the Greek Ouranos). That's why historian and philosopher Richard Tarnas argues that Uranus is one planet the astronomers have improperly named. Hardly progressive, Ouranos is a poster boy for the status quo. The god of the heavens resisted change by systematically forcing all his children back into their earth mother Gaia's womb. A more appropriate archetypal figure, proposes Tarnas, is Prometheus, the trickster Titan who stole fire from the gods and thus liberated mankind.
Tarnas researched the charts of revolutionary thinkers throughout history and discovered an impressive majority bear a strong Uranus influence. Among them are the chief protagonists of the scientific revolution-Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes and Newton. All have Uranus in major aspect to their Suns, as do Rousseau (whose writings influenced the French Revolution) and Jefferson (a pivotal figure in the American Revolution). Iconoclastic women with Sun/Uranus aspects include Marie Curie, Margaret Mead, Gertrude Stein, Mary Shelley, George Sand, Susan B. Anthony, and Simone de Beauvoir. Innovative thinkers like Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Stephen Hawking have Uranus aspects to Mercury.
For those of us with strong Uranus aspects, this is encouraging news. Yet it's also likely (though difficult to prove with research), that for every Uranian history honors, there are plenty of eccentrics and misfits whose names must have been ground in history's dust. Unusual people, even gifted ones, don't always fare well in a status quo world. I think of the struggles of some of my clients and friends, like Noemi, a delightful woman with an exact Sun Uranus conjunction in Cancer in her 8th house. When Noemi first called me she was suffering, financially and emotionally; she hoped our session would help her get the career she loved on more stable financial ground.
"At times I find it quite hard to function in society," she confessed. She never felt at home in her native country ("I just didn't fit in"). She'd been fired or let go from nearly every place she worked. Despite her best intentions, she was often accused of making waves or upsetting the organization. She feared she was a disappointment to her father, and worried she was following his footsteps into a cold and isolated life. But Noemi's personal challenge of feeling at home in her own body inspired her to help others feel more at home in theirs. Working from the healing depths of her 8th house, with the loving sensitivity of water-sign Cancer, she became a transformational body worker using the medium of water. Her work is innovative, intimate, and nurturing, and the word-of-mouth reputation and media attention she's received have been enthusiastic. Noemi is gifted. But no matter how wonderfully healing her services, how necessary even for a population that's overwhelmingly depressed and disturbed, popping pills for all manner of dis-ease, slipping into a pool of water with a body worker is not something the masses are leaping to try.
When Divine Intelligence whispers to us through Uranus, its message may be ahead of our time. And that's the challenge with this planet. Getting an inspiration is one thing; manifesting it in the real world is another. On this point, we may find something useful in the Ouranos myth after all. If read from another perspective, it identifies our developmental struggles in expressing this planet. Ouranos is the god of infinite possibilities and therefore most at home in the realm of pure thought. Our first expression of Uranus is usually idealistic, which means we're often less skilled or uncomfortable with seeing our ideas take shape in the world. "Not good enough!" we'll think, as we stuff our thought-children back into the womb. If we stay here, we may have a profusion of ideas that never get off the ground. And it's not just our own thoughts we'll abandon or reject. We'll likely dismiss any well meaning suggestions from family and friends. At best we're a romantic visionary during this first stage. At worst we're dogmatic, elitist, and contrary.
And yet, because Ouranos can't resist lying down with earthy Gaia each night, at some point we'll be drawn into the next stage: manifestation. The sky god's desire for earth produced a child named Kronos (or Saturn, emblem for material reality), but father and son will battle. Ouranos must inevitably meet the reality of space and time, and through this collision, Ouranos will be changed. But Ouranos doesn't want to change. Indeed, there is vulnerability in the role of idea-maker, and resistance-both outer and inner-is a dominant feature of this stage. The world won't budge and we refuse to compromise. Struggling to manifest a vision can make us brittle and defensive, or hurt and angry at a world that refuses to recognize our gifts. Unfortunately, Kronos, god of time and earthly limits, is destined to win this fight.
Kronos severs Ouranos' genitals and tosses them into the sea. There is no more humbling moment than when we realize we don't have the juice to force our changes on the world. No matter how brilliant, there are limits to what one individual can do. Many of us simply give up here. Yet what happens next might give us hope: out of the sea foam, radiant Venus is born. After the battle, comes the beauty: this is the stage when, transformed, Ouranos is finally accepted by the culture of consensus. Our idea becomes beautiful after it meets Kronos; over time or through refinements, perhaps even a loss of some potency, our innovation acquires attractive power. The world either catches up to us, or we ourselves yield, adjusting to real world limits, experimenting with alternatives, incorporating the ideas of others. In the third stage of Uranus, when we join our individuality with the collective sea, we may gain unexpected new life. Sometimes even a sky god must change.
Change is the one thing we can expect with a Uranus transit, though what that will be is hard to predict. We might change jobs, begin or end relationships, move across the country, or shave our heads and get a scalp tattoo. When I hear from clients in the middle of a Uranus transit, they're usually quite stimulated. They want more freedom, a life in greater harmony with their inner truth. Often they're obsessed with some outer situation that's got to change or they can't be happy. They're in revolt, urgent to overthrow what's oppressing them, issuing fervent manifestoes to husbands and wives, or bosses and co-workers. Uranus transits can empower us to make much needed changes. But if we don't move thoughtfully, we may just repaint the scenery. We might get a new job or a different partner, but discover a few months later we're just as miserable.
I have my own theory about Uranus transits. We can use them to revolt against restricting conditions. Or we can change ourselves so that what once was confining is no longer a problem. Instead of revolution, we could go for evolution. We could become someone new. With or without outer changes, becoming more inwardly free-more enlightened-is the best promise a Uranus transit can offer. I got an opportunity to test this out a few years ago when transiting Uranus opposed my Moon. First I consulted my astrology books. They suggested this transit might bring sudden changes of mood, friction with women, insomnia, an unexpected pregnancy, issues with mother or mothering, or something unexpected in the home, possibly a relocation. I didn't want to move. I had just bought my new home and was hoping to plant spring flowers all over the yard. I briefly worried I was pregnant, but found I wasn't. I didn't feel particularly enlightened or inspired. But then, as the transit drew closer, the walls started closing in.
My new neighbor kept appearing with complaints. My corporate job was a struggle. One of my managers was depressed and every conversation with her was irritating and hard to release. A couple Moonprints customers thought I'd made mistakes with their charts. I hadn't, but my 12th house Moon was so sensitive to exposure and failing others, just the thought was traumatizing. Then my worst nightmare: A client complained about her session. I started to jump whenever the phone rang. My neighbor's demands escalated. "I don't want to sue you," she said, "but if you don't fix the problem in my yard. "
It was overwhelming. Claustrophobic. And yet something was familiar about it too. Gradually it dawned on me. My mother, the touchy critical mother who scared me as a child, was everywhere! I was living next door to her. I was working with her. I was giving her readings. So this was how Uranus was triggering my Moon. "Freedom!!!" I wailed. None of the events were earthquake size, but my feelings were so intense, I certainly wanted to move, quit my job, and end a few relationships ("All of you stop it!"). Even my desire to plant flowers on the New Moon was thwarted. Every time I cast my shovel into the dirt, I hit a tangle of toughened roots. The resistance was awful.
Then the Uranus leap came: resistance! All the pain was coming from my resistance. My desire for revolution was a plea for stability in disguise. I just wanted everyone to quiet down and leave me alone. I didn't want to change at all-which was a stunning revelation for a Uranus transit. I wanted the rest of the world to change so I could stay the same. If a Uranus transit represented electrical flow, I had to eliminate my resistance to the current. I had to allow myself to become electrocuted. So I stopped fighting and took the emotional hits. I welcomed my hopelessness, anger and fear instead of stuffing them down. It was uncomfortable. The ground beneath my feet was unstable. It was, as the Buddhists say, like sitting on a razor's edge.
A week or two later most of the turbulence had died down. But the strangest thing... Even though my outer life was pretty much the same-same job, same neighbor, same friends-I felt differently about it all. I was softer, lighter, more relaxed. I felt inspired too, not about anything in particular, just more curious about the world. Employees who had never been comfortable with me before began knocking on my office door. Suddenly they found me helpful and accessible. My neighbor even started throwing compliments my way. Uranus had changed my world after all, but from the inside out. Here's hoping that your next Uranus transit brings a result that's just as enlightning.
1. Donna Cunningham, An Astrological Guide to Self-Awareness (CRCS Publications, 1978), p. 93
2. Brian Swimme, Canticle to the Cosmos Study Guide (Sounds True Audio, 1990), p. 45.
3. Richard Tarnas, Prometheus the Awakener (Spring Publications, 1995)