ADRIAN: Many astrologers have a “when it’s done, it’s gone” understanding of a transit, the on-off switch model. Rick Tarnas says transits are to be seen more like an initiation, once you entered the space that opens with the transit, you can enter that door many times afterwards. Is that so?
RENN: (Laughs) Yes, every transit leaves a kind of permanent mark, it opens something up which hopefully will stay open. But there’s no question that at certain points, when Pluto squares your natal Saturn, you tend to feel more a sense of urgency about work and practical matters and when Jupiter is in opposition with your Venus you feel like taking it easy and sitting back and enjoying yourself.
The thing is that the Saturn transits not only create the need for more work, but they also create the desire to take on more work. Every transit creates both a necessity and also the motivation to deal with that transit. So when Saturn is active you feel more serious, it’s more important for you to take care of business and practical matters.
ADRIAN: What’s the source of your astrological knowledge you are using in your readings? How can someone work with different transits? Can you give some specific advice?
RENN: Well, it is certainly based on my own experience, you really have to live through these cycles to get a sense of what they are, what their positive sides and possible shadow sides are, and thus, after a few years or better yet decades, you can really offer helpful support to people.
With Neptune-Jupiter transits for example, such as transiting Neptune forming alignments with natal Jupiter, there is a great potential for over-optimism, of seeing connections in the world, and the imagination just runs with that and you can see how this positive idea in your mind is going to lead to spinoff benefits that will benefit hundreds or even thousands of people. It can lead to a kind of franchise-expansion mentality. Of course the positive side of Jupiter-Neptune transits include a feeling of the spiritual cup running over, with rich feelings of generosity, faith, optimism, connection, higher meaning and so on. You just don’t want to invest or borrow a lot of money based on those positive feelings, without first getting cold, sober advice from people who do not have the same transit. However, Jupiter-Neptune transits are fantastic for inner awakening, healing, and exploration.
With any Jupiter transit, it’s very helpful when, as an astrologer, you can tell people that this is a time of possible expansion, of higher integration in your life, of connecting, but it won’t last forever and there is a chance that you could overdo it, so be careful about borrowing money on faith or speculation, get a sober second or third opinion.
With heavy Saturn transits, it can be very helpful for people to know that again there’s a time limit, this is difficult, there is suffering, but it won’t last forever and what you’re going through is exactly what people might expect to go through under these transits. Everyone goes through them sooner or later, we all go through them and this can be very validating and encouraging for people to hear. And with Saturn transits, as well as taking care of practical responsibilities and pruning and editing unnecessary elements in our lives and being careful, it can be very helpful to spend some time every day to lie down for half an hour or more, with limbs uncrossed, which is the most open position, maybe put on some music or not, and just surrender into the feeling, let it register, let yourself suffer, feel it deeply, feel the gravity and the weight, let the Divine or the gods see that you are hurting and let yourself be humbled, let yourself feel weak, let yourself be pressed down – and miraculous things can happen. When you allow these feelings, you’re giving openings for the Neptune and Uranus archetypes to come in and bring you through to the other side, for the Divine hand to catch you. You have to be willing to fall through the cracks with Saturn, in order to fall into the hand of that Universal Protector or Protectress archetype. So this can be very encouraging for people.
When Mars is activated, we’re more likely to experience not only energy and desire to take action and assert ourselves, but also conflicts with people, maybe being too aggressive or too pushy, or sometimes we attract those toward us, but the best solution is usually to unilaterally withdraw from these conflicts and work through our own aggression and aggressive feelings, to yell into pillows or yell in a parked car when it’s safe to do so. There are very specific ways with different Mars transits that people can help to express these energies out of their systems. And so on.
ADRIAN: What about the so-called world transits? Can you give some suggestions about how to “participate” in these big-scale events?
RENN: I think these world transits are to the collective psyche what individual transits are to our individual psyches. During Saturn-Pluto alignments in the sky, which we’ll be moving into in a couple years, a Saturn-Pluto conjunction, this tend to be a bit more of a conservative time, when people may feel like the rate of evolution or progress seems to be taking one step backward, more of a time of consolidation, of getting real, getting more serious, to lay the groundwork for the next evolutionary wave. And not to be so concerned about it, but to simply allow that to happen.
And then, on the other hand, in a Uranus-Pluto period, such as the larger trend that were in now from about 2007 until 2020, this is a time of rapid change and rapid evolution and drive toward freedom in the human psyche and to appreciate and enjoy the energies, try to do as much inner healing as possible.
Whatever causes we are involved in the outer world, our equal priority should still always be, I think, to keep working on ourselves. They’re not mutually exclusive. Inner work can help us avoid projecting our own material out into the world. We can be more effective, calm and persuasive in our efforts in the outer world, such as environmentalists for example, when we’re not filled with anger or we’re not acting out our eccentricity. And during a Uranus-Pluto period it would also be helpful for people to realize that there is a fanatical, shadow side to these archetypes, and to not get too carried away in the outer world. If you have these kind of fanatical feelings, these are essentially perinatal feelings, and what we need to do is complete the death-rebirth process in our own private sessions or in Holotropic Breathwork sessions, and reach a more integrated level of functioning and then we have a better view of what we can actually do and how we can actually make a contribution in the world, without just adding to the problem. You know, every fanatic thinks they’re improving the situation, they feel that there’s an urgent thing that has to be done, that has to be changed, but usually they just end up making things worse and you can see certainly what`s going on in the Middle East right now, there’s a lot of Uranus-Pluto energy being acted out in a very brutal way.
ADRIAN: Is there any real possibility to deal with such “dark-side” manifestations of world transits? What can we do to sort of “solve” situations like this?
RENN: How can we solve such situations? Well, I think what’s really happening is that a new ethic of self-exploration is being born, which is that it is a responsible thing to do our own inner work. It’s not only beneficial to us to heal our physical, emotional and relationship issues, but it also helps society at large, people become more naturally conscious of the environment and the effects of their actions on the larger ecosystem. They develop a natural feeling of planetary citizenship, a desire to live in a more peaceful and harmonious and sustainable way, to have meaningful work. This doesn’t mean that they just become mushy and sort of totally limp and accept everything. People develop more critical minds, they can tell the difference between quality and substitutes and they want quality things, they want loving relationships, they want satisfying friendships, they want to live more time with their families, in nature and feel good about their work.
When people experience rebirth elements in their process, their inner lives, they develop critical attitudes toward the abuse of power – they don’t appreciate being manipulated, or watching people destroy ecosystems for their own selfish gain. But they would look for peaceful ways to solve the overall problem behind those actions. I think that, as these kinds of processes and techniques spread, that there will be some point, some kind of a tipping point – we’re not there yet by any means – where enough of our shadow material is being worked through internally and we’ll get ahead of the wave of catastrophic events that are compounding and escalating all around us now, such as climate change and global warming and the foolish competition over Arctic minerals and oil. By the way, I think relations between the West and Russia would be dramatically improved if the Arctic was declared a non-mining and drilling sanctuary, just as the Antarctic has been for decades.
ADRIAN: I often face questions like this: if I take time to approach astrology, are there any other real benefits beyond the purely intellectual exercise? What people want to know is essentially how can a modern man reconcile the scientific attitude towards life he has gained from his Western education with the astrological/spiritual perspective? Can you give some suggestions?
RENN: Astrology is a perfect way to observe synchronicities and correlations between the macrocosm and the microcosm, to regain the sense that there is a higher Universal Intelligence and also to encourage people to face their own deeper emotional contents, as they are activated by their ongoing transits.
As Rick Tarnas points out over and over in his writing, astrology is archetypally predictive not concretely predictive. We can’t use astrology to make specific decisions, like when to sell our stocks or when to buy a house… It could be generally helpful in an emotional way, but it is not so helpful for trying to manipulate the future. Or to avoid danger and suffering…
I think it was Glenn Perry who said many years ago in an article that traditional astrology was about trying to predict events; in archetypal astrology we’re trying to understand the meaning behind events: what is the psychological material which is causing this event or making us react in a certain way to events. Archetypal astrology is ultimately a tool for personal growth and deeper understanding and opening.
A fun way to learn astrology would be to plot your Moon transits for a whole month and then just write in your diary little things that you noticed, like I saw a woman wearing really bright zany clothes under a Venus-Uranus transit for example, but you can do it on a more sort of hour by hour way with Moon transits. Or just notice all your transits for the day and just keep little notes of things you notice. I mean people can write endless books on astrological synchronicities, it’s endlessly fascinating. Or about things you notice in the news.
And then of course, when you’re entering holotropic or psychedelic states, the synchronicities become hundreds of times more powerful, you get a much more condensed and distilled version of the archetypal energies. It’s a shame that these aren’t more readily available to people. Not only for people with serious emotional and physical problems. Grof points out that in his experience, the most effective therapeutic possibilities are available to intelligent, well-established individuals whose lives are boring and becoming routine, so for people that are already having pretty good lives, who get satisfaction from their lives in various areas, but who feel that there’s something more they could experience… For them life just doesn’t have the zing, the excitement and enthusiasm and these kind of inner explorations can be just fantastic, adding much more depth. I mean you can have experiences from the lives of our Cro-Magnon ancestors, you can relive formative experiences that happened throughout our human or even animal past. Transpersonal experiences are endless.
It’s a fascinating exploration and I think that there’s kind of a movement in television that began 15 years ago or something like that, with “The Survivor” series, “Reality TV”, where people crave emotional experience, they want to have different kinds of strong emotional charges and experiences. And they don’t want to it to be totally predictable. Psychedelic and holotropic states are the ultimate “Reality TV”. This is the ultimate movie. Here you are truly exploring the final frontier. I’m a huge “Star Trek” fan, I absolutely adore it but the physical universe is not the ultimate exploration, the ultimate exploration is in the human psyche, and many of those “Star Trek” episodes can be interpreted as inner journeys, as there are psychedelic experiences that really resemble some of the best episodes from “Star Trek”. It’s endlessly fascinating and not just entertainment, far from it, because holotropic experiences can be so emotional and there are elements of suffering at many points in the journey, as well as deeply ecstatic moments. In addition, you have a feeling that you’re helping, you’re not only helping your own life, but you’re maybe helping to create harmony between different racial groups or work through karma from a war that happened 300 years ago.
I remember an episode with one of my best friends. He is of Dutch ancestry and I have some English ancestry, and there were some elements of competition and conflict underlying our friendship at a certain point. I had a session where suddenly I felt that I was back in the 17th century, reliving the intense marine rivalry between the Dutch and the English and it felt that my conflicts with my friend were somehow directly related to these unresolved issues from the collective psyche. And that really did help our friendship. A lot of the problems just went away, disappeared.
So, I think that, as Grof puts it, we can be responsible in the world, be reliable employees, pay our taxes, be good citizens, good mates and parents and participate in our communities, as well as periodically entering into holotropic, moving toward wholeness states, where we can get access deep meaning and context in our lives – we can have positively lives on both the outer and inner levels. And I think in order to be a truly healthy human being, we have to become comfortable in both worlds. And this is an ideal that is not new, this goes back tens of thousands of years. Shamanism is at least 30,000 years old. And we’re the first civilization, our modern industrial civilization, that is attempting to live on a kind of concrete we have paved over our psyches. We’re trying to live on the day-world half of existence, the solar side of life and we have lost the night soul, the lunar, the feeling of connection and mystery. So it’s just a question of reintegrating those elements that we left behind in our very rapid technological advance. We can have the best of science and technology, while reintegrating what we our civilization left behind.
ADRIAN: What transits do you consider to be the most “difficult”? And how can one address the specific issues of such a transit with this holotropic approach?
RENN: Well, I’d say that Saturn transits can be the most painful but Pluto transits can cause the most damage, in the lives of people with no opportunities to process their psyches. The basic trajectory of Pluto transits involves a descent into the underworld, i.e., the unconscious, and confrontation with powerful inner material, then powerful catharsis and rebirth out the other side. But when Pluto transits begin – they last about five years – people often feel like the energies are coming through the back door. The emotions and energies associated with Pluto feel to the ego like the last thing that would be helpful.
Our solar egos are basically on a kind of linear path of progress. Pluto transits can feel like they’re coming from left field, or from behind or below us, and it just feels like that is not the direction we want to go. And yet the rift in our psyches seems to open wider and we feel like we’re being pushed somewhere we don’t want to go. And often times people or circumstances seem to constellate around us, that seem to put pressure on us, to face some of the deeper energies and emotions. However, once people have opportunities to process, to turn toward the inner energies and really express them in safe contexts, Pluto transits become a powerful cleansing and purging force in our lives.
It’s very helpful to know this, as well as to know that a Pluto transit is not going to end right away. There are no other transits under which it can be more helpful to do Holotropic Breathwork or similar types of releasing sessions. Find someone who is doing breathwork and give it a try a couple of times, and see if it helps. There is a finite amount of repressed energies in the psyche at the individual level. So every time we give these emotions and energies an outlet, we’re releasing some pressure, some of this finite pool of inner material.
People in breathwork sessions with a strong Pluto transit can experience powerful catharsis of energies related to their birth process, for example. This could include pressure in the head, feelings of suffocation or nausea, profuse sweating, complex twisting movements that closely resemble the infant’s positions during labour, twitches and tremors, explosive aggressive discharges and so on. All of these are much more common and intense in a high-dose LSD session, of course. But they can also occur in breathwork sessions, though usually in a milder way. As facilitators, we just support the process as the material comes out. It is totally natural and normal, just let it out, these energies are better out than in. The attempts to repress these kinds of driving inner energies are always less than successful and cause many problems in people’s lives and in the world until they’re faced and released.
ADRIAN: Why do you consider transits being operative for such large time periods as you just mentioned?
RENN: You’re referring to a technical detail in archetypal astrology regarding some of the timings I just mentioned, like Pluto transits lasting five years and so on. Tarnas convincingly makes the case that we have to expand the orbs, the allowable operative range on transits, if we want to account for the data from the observations from history, in different world events, and in famous people’s lives.
A personal transit starts when the transiting planet first comes within 5° applying, that is approaching the exact transit to the natal position. And it will continue, though of course it gets stronger when it’s within 3° and up to exact. But that transit continues until it is 5° past, 5° separating for the last time. Even if it goes beyond that position but it’s coming back, you’re still in that waveform until around 5° separating. You will first start to feel it around 5° and then it’s especially strong within 3° on both sides of exact. Many people miss so much because they’re only looking at the exact transit. Pluto is conjunct your natal Uranus today and then tomorrow you have some different forecast (laughs). That really is like shining a mini flashlight when really you need to look at the entire field around you. A transit like that lasts for at least five years.
There are some exceptions. Mars transits seem to come into orb a bit earlier, maybe 8° for the hard aspects (conjunctions, squares and oppositions) and they seem to be over a bit sooner after Mars transits get to exact, after which they seem to lose some of their power which fits, as Tarnas says, Mars’ archetypal nature, i.e., to jump ahead. Saturn transits can sometimes delay their most powerful effects, correlations, and synchronicities until near the end of the transit. This also fits Saturn’s nature, i.e., to delay things.
We recognize even wider orbs on transits of an outer planet to itself, especially Saturn to Saturn, in which we can see around a 15° orb for the conjunction and probably 10 to 12° for the squares and oppositions so really something like the first Saturn return is a two-year transit starting at about 28 ½ to 30 ½ or even 31. And with this slight modification astrology makes a lot more sense. It accounts for a lot more of the data and observations from people’s lives and from history.
We just talked about the Saturn to Saturn, but for all the outer planets I would use around 10 to 12° orbs as well. Uranus to Uranus opposition is such a major moment in a person’s life. If we look at someone’s life carefully and what they’re feeling and what they’re doing, this wider orb makes a lot more sense. When we integrate this modification, then a lot of the other symbolic layers suddenly become less important. It’s less important what signs and houses the planets are in. And things like intercepted signs and rulerships and so on, become even less important when faced with the powerful blared-out meanings of the transits and aspects themselves.
I think astrologers were always looking to fill in the gaps, to explain things, and when you realize that this Pluto square Pluto is still going on – it didn’t end the day Pluto went past exact in its square to natal Pluto and it’s still happening for another two and half years, that can account for a lot of the Plutonic experiences that people may be having in their lives. You don’t have to look any further to explain why things are intense. The important thing is that astrologers themselves are doing their own inner work. Then they are in a better position to offer suggestions for dealing with the energies.
ADRIAN: I would say this is the right context to ask why did you choose to include in your book all the transits, even the minor ones which last for days only?
RENN: Well, I don’t know, I did it in my Mercury-Jupiter way. I have Mercury square Jupiter, very close in my natal chart. I just wanted to do a comprehensive job, I wanted to include everything and know I won’t have to do it again. I have lots of other books in various stages of completion, but for the first one I just wanted to do the full Monty (laughs). Some of these shorter transits are more useful than others, I mean it is obviously far more important to know that you have Pluto trine Uranus – what an incredible evolutionary and breakthrough potential that signifies! – versus Moon trine Mercury, which is a very passing, short-term and not particularly influential transit. But if you’re looking for it, if you know what to look for, it will always register.
I just thought it would be useful for people who are interested in exploring the full range of archetypal influences, to include all of them. And luckily I had the material, I was amazed to find that in all the sessions that I had collected from various sources over the decades, I had just the right number, at least one good session for almost every chapter. One juicy interesting session report of someone in a holotropic breathwork session, psilocybin mushroom, or ayahuasca session etc. And that was quite amazing to me. It gave me a feeling somehow that there was some sort of Universal Mind helping me with the research. (laughs) Of course I had to cut a lot of material. I have many other good session reports which will come out in other books.
ADRIAN: The core of your book is your descriptions of the manifestations of the archetypal pairs. When did you start to write about them and how did you pick the idea? And what’s the source of your delineations?
RENN: Well, I actually wrote the prototype of my descriptions of the major ten archetypes (Sun through Pluto) while I was living at Pocket Ranch in Geyserville California, which was a spiritual-emergency centre, during the spring of 1990. Funny, I just had a dream last night that I was back, isn’t that amazing? Pocket Ranch probably comes up every five years in a conversation, or maybe every ten years. There’s a synchronicity for you. I dreamed that I was back at Pocket Ranch and I when I woke up I could actually smell the fragrance of that beautiful place in Sonoma County, CA.
So I wrote the prototype back then and then I worked on it again in 2000, and then put a lot more work into it in the last five years. I wrote the chapters mainly from my own experience but I was of course deeply influenced by my many conversations with Tarnas. He has been by far the most inspirational mentor for me – he is not only on fire intellectually, but is a deeply generous and kind-hearted man, with the soul of a Greek poet. The writings of Robert Hand including Planets in Transit, Sakoian and Acker’s The Astrologer’s Handbook, and Reinhold Ebertin’s The Combination of Stellar Influences have also had a big effect on my understanding, as well as the work of Liz Greene, Caroline Casey, Stephen Arroyo, Karen Hamaker-Zondag, and many others.
Back to Robert Hand. I was able to participate in a weekend workshop with him at Esalen Institute and really loved him, I admired him so much. He was playful and enthusiastic, and had a twinkle in his eye. He really loved astrology, and was very innovative and experimental. He was a true scientist, willing to question everything. He didn’t believe that we should just accept the astrological traditions that were passed down to us, but that some of the symbol systems stand up to modern investigation better than others and he was willing to look at everything on its own merits. I really admire that.