Thursday, December 17, 2015

“The Great Clock of Worlds” Chimes Out a Joyful New Year…Happy 245th, Beethoven!

On December 16, 1770, roughly one Pluto cycle ago, Ludwig van Beethoven—the quintessential genius and giant of the classical music world, and an icon of the so-called “Romantic” era in Europe—was born in Bonn, Germany. Despite near total hearing loss as a young adult, Beethoven—living during the upheavals and chaos of the Napoleonic era—matured as a musician and composer. Dying in 1827, the artist lived through the horrors of the Napoleonic Wars and several years into the oppressive times that followed Napoleon’s 1815 defeat in Europe.  Two hundred forty-five years later, we are still moved by this giant’s passion and his music. More importantly, we might want to pay more attention to the chaotic times in which he lived as well, for they are returning to us, quickly.

But that was there, this is here, we might think. Astrologically, what happens in Europe does not necessarily stay in Europe!

In fact, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto know no bounds—their interactions and cycles forge the outlines of history as they go. As mundane astrologers like to monitor, history repeats itself along with these cycles, only with variations—like a great, symphonic piece of music than spans all time.

As we end this chaotic year of 2015, just two months shy of Beethoven’s exact Pluto Return (16°+Cap), I’d like to cast my astrological net backwards—not to post-French Revolutionary Europe in general (no protracted history lessons here)—but to one significant event that music historian Harvey Sachs points to for how it encapsulated the highest aspirations of that Romantic period. The event is the premiere on May 7, 1824 of Beethoven’s final symphony and masterwork—the “Ninth,” and its revolutionary, aspirational “Ode to Joy” choral finale. (click here to hear a recording by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and Weiner Singverein Chorus – Herbert von Karajan conducting).
In the preface to his study of this glorious final Beethoven symphony and its times, Sachs says:

Thanks to its finale… the Ninth has become a paradigm for both freedom and joy, although it made its appearance in the middle of a decade in European history that was characterized by repression and ultraconservative nationalism, as Bourbons, Hapsburgs, Romanovs and other terrified dynastic rulers strove to spruce up and enforce the concept of divine right in the wake of the French Revolution and the upstart Napoleon’s imperialism. Through this single symphonic movement, Beethoven was, in effect, serving up a one-of-a-kind counterargument to the retrograde tendencies of the day… (3-4). 
Astrologically it stands to reason, therefore, that the chart for the Ninth’s debut can provide a window into those times—and as we’ll see, a window into the perils and possibilities of our present times.

After the revolution…
As Sachs notes and history shows, mass upheavals that threaten the existing power structures of a society always inspire a backlash, and a tendency for those feeling threatened to regroup and reconsolidate their power. We are seeing this dynamic in action in American politics, which underwent a revolution of sorts in 2008: However we feel about the consequences, against tremendous odds, America elected its first black president that year, and then reelected him in 2012.

In like spirit, other revolutionary movements followed abroad, including the so-called Arab Spring (beginning in 2010). Unfortunately, both amazing developments have since degenerated into turmoil in American politics (marked by a whole new level of extremism in our politics), and overseas, in downright misery.

The uproar caused by the Arab Spring (among other factors, for sure) left the door open for the accelerated rise of extremism with ISIS and other groups, and for the catastrophic civil war in Syria. 
Yet, the ideals of the Ninth and its “Ode to Joy” persist in our cultural zeitgeist—the question is, how will they manifest going forward?

Astro-historical parallels
Both Aries and Capricorn are associated with the highest aspirations of human societies, and both are represented in the Ode’s enduring call for universal brotherhood and liberation (Schiller’s original title for this poem was “Ode to Freedom”). The sobering reality is, the oppressive 1820s were marked by a new Uranus-Neptune cycle in early Capricorn (March 20, 1821, 3°+Cap – chart below) and became a prelude to a serious rise of anti-ethnic nationalism in France and in the 1848 revolutions that transformed Europe, sweeping the entrenched absolutist regimes away.

Echoing that period, we are currently experiencing the first quarter of the 1993 Uranus-Neptune cycle that began at 19°+Capricorn and became the launching pad for the sweeping globalization of commerce, industry and trade—a different, but to many, a no less significant kind of oppressive upheaval, for its economic and social consequences. Interestingly, both the U.S. and France have been experiencing the rebirth of anti-immigrant nationalism—in the U.S., with the rise of Donald Trump and his anti-ethnic agenda, and in France, with the rise of the National Front party and ultra-conservative Marine Le Pen.

To provide a bit of background before we examine the chart for Beethoven’s “Ninth,” let’s briefly consider the 1821 Ura-Nep conjunction chart (below, set for Greenwich, England) that preceded it :

Uranus-Neptune (3°+Capricorn) square Pluto-Sun (28-29°+Pisces). Even more dramatic than the ongoing Uranus-Pluto square we’ve been experiencing in the 2010s, this outer-planet tour de force in 1821 marked the onset of an aggressive, change-oriented Uranus and Neptune for years to come. Pluto remained within orb of this Uranus-Neptune square through its April 1822 Aries ingress—adding its own aggressive voice to the mix. Importantly, the 1821 square set the tone for the oppressive (in Europe) 1820s and 30s. As Sachs puts it, “The seething magma of protest in the German-speaking world would eventually erupt into the revolution of 1848, but throughout the 1820s and 30s it remained mostly subterranean” (77). In fact, anti-monarchist revolutions exploded across Europe in 1848, just as Uranus and Pluto were finishing one cycle and beginning a new one at 29°+Aries. The events of that tumultuous year certainly fit the extraordinary magnitude of this configuration.

MC -0-Jupiter-Mercury (Aries) square Uranus-Neptune. This tight configuration suggests the public was in the mood for freedom and liberation, and we can only imagine that the underground communication networks (Mercury) were humming. It takes time and networking to foment a revolution, but the growth of and impetus for those efforts were seeded here.

Saturn (Aries) opposes the Moon (Libra), conjoins Mercury and widely squares Uranus-Neptune. The Saturn-Moon opposition captured the aspirations of the masses for freedom and justice at the same time it reinforced the more immediate prospects for public discontent and frustration. Saturn disposes Uranus-Neptune in Capricorn, deepening the generalized feeling of oppression.

Node-Venus-Mars (12-13-14°+Pisces); the stellium forms quintile aspects with Uranus and Neptune and semi-sextiles Saturn. These aspects reflect how the inspiration of Uranus and Neptune manifested in idealistic action (some called it the “Cult of Liberty”, which made sense with the Pisces energy), and that this action found ample support when the moment was right. An interesting dispositorship network exists between these three areas of the chart—Uranus-Neptune are disposed by Saturn, Saturn is disposed by Mars, Mars and Venus are disposed by Neptune and so on, creating a sustainable circuit of energy and activity.

The liberatory power of art—Beethoven’s “Ninth”
There’s no doing justice to the amazing movement-by-movement description Sachs writes about this incredible, transcendent symphony, but a short excerpt captures the spirit of his description and ushers us into the piece’s most memorable movement, the choral “Ode to Joy.” As Sachs says,

We ought to take a deep breath—symbolically—with the singer, because we have, in a sense, “made it.” We have survived the first movement’s brutality and despair, participated in the second’s harsh struggle, and been purified by the third’s glowing acceptance of life as it is. What Beethoven wants us to experience now is all-embracing joy. For this is the moment in the work in which Beethoven most unequivocally declares his aim of helping to liberate mankind through art. (154)
It is the range of emotions, soulful humanity and soaring aspiration contained in this symphony that is reflected in its debut chart. Please note that the chart has been cast for 8 p.m. because the records show it was an evening concert, but I was not able to find the exact time for that debut. With that in mind, let’s consider the highlights (chart below):

Taurus Sun trine Capricorn Uranus-Node-Neptune. Taurus Saturn widely conjoins the Sun and both trine Virgo Mars. Aries Venus disposes the Taurus points and opposes Mars. If 8 p.m. was in fact close to the time Beethoven’s “Ninth” debuted, the Sun-Uranus-Neptune trine may have been a grand earth trine, with the Moon and MC in Virgo. Even without this added earthy momentum, however, we can appreciate in this chart the gravity, humanity, sensuality and artistry of Beethoven’s message. We can only imagine how witnessing the Ninth for the first time would have been a total mind-body-soul experience.

Aries Pluto T-squares Cancer Jupiter opposite Capricorn Neptune. The aspirational nature of Jupiter opposite Neptune is at its most expansive here, but challenged by Pluto’s aggressive square from Aries, the aspect evokes an heroic, mythic tone that fits the magnitude of the Ninth. Sachs captures the spirit of this configuration perfectly when he points out that—in the wake of the staggering death toll and destruction of the Napoleonic wars—Beethoven felt that Europe had become “a vast prison for the human spirit.” As Sachs puts it,  “he wanted to help light the way for humanity; he wanted human beings to realize their high ethical potential….” (87).

The earthy dispositor network at work here (Mars in Virgo disposes Pluto; Virgo Moon disposes Jupiter; Saturn in Taurus disposes Neptune) likely accounts for how deeply and thoroughly responsive the audience was to Beethoven’s work that night in May, 1824, and for its enduring use in events that celebrate humanity’s transcendent yearnings ever since.  

What happens in Europe doesn’t stay in Europe…
Interesting parallels exist between this tumultuous period in European and American history.   The 1820s in America were occupied with territorial expansion and the consolidation of continental power, perhaps best symbolized by the December, 1823 “Monroe Doctrine.” Sachs points out that this attempt to consolidate American hemispheric sovereignty was actually supported by British King George IV because it discouraged Spain from continuing to colonize countries in the Western hemisphere. In fact, banishing Spain from South America facilitated the revolutions staged by Simon Bolivar and Antonio Jose de Sucre in 1824—the same year the Ninth debuted with its message of liberation. (78)

Obviously, American expansionism was also oppressive to many—and a prelude to the vicious turmoil of the Civil War. The northern states leaned toward industrial development of their economies; the agricultural southern states built their economies around the availability of slave labor. Clashes that cut to the heart of American identity arose as westward expansion and the addition of new states to the Union forced Congress to grapple with whether the new states would be slave states or free states.

Significantly, the so-called “Compromise of 1850”—a last-ditch attempt of that Congress to ease those North-South tensions—was hammered out with great drama during 1850, just two years after the European Revolutions of 1848 and the same year Uranus and Pluto launched their new cycle at 29°+ Aries. The first shots of the Civil War were fired less than 11 years later. In these polarized times, it seems we are heading down a similar path, updated for today’s unique challenges.

A work in progress
Seeded in the 1960s Uranus-Pluto conjunction at 17°+Virgo, the disruptive, revolutionary, transformative effects of the ongoing (2010-2017) Uranus-Pluto square from Aries to Capricorn are definitely a work-in-progress. The significant events associated with this square are too numerous to mention, but we can hardly miss the net aspirational nature of this powerful first quarter. Even though the news is fraught with torturous contradictions, divisions and chaos, if we step back a bit from the daily morass, we can see that overall, American society and humanity-at-large have struggled for two chief goals during this Uranus-Pluto period—liberation from oppression (both
perceived and real) and a socioeconomic order that is more
humane and sustainable.

Will Uranus and Pluto ever deliver us to the “promised land” of freedom and equality in perfect, sustainable societies? Clearly, this duo has its light and dark sides, and humanity fully embraces both, so the prospects for Utopia are slim. However, choosing to aspire higher despite our conflicted natures and times, has perhaps been the overarching theme of this latest Cardinal square cycle.  In pragmatic, problem-solving Cardinal cycles, issues left unresolved from prior cycles tend to resurface and create havoc, so they can be recognized and solved. We have no shortage of unresolved issues—hence, the “work in progress.”

Since 2008, we’ve seen the deepest polarization in American politics—perhaps since that disastrous 1850 “compromise!” As the aggressive energies of Uranus and Pluto have taken hold in our public discourse, politics has been marked by an almost panicky attempt by Republicans to recapture their glory days, by any means necessary. Unfortunately, if Trump’s campaign is any measure, they’ve chosen the low road to that end, tapping into people’s darkest fears and biases to gain poll numbers, instead of choosing to evoke the “high ethical principles” favored by Beethoven. Does any reasonable person think we can solve the serious problems facing our nation and the world by sinking into those fears and biases?

Joy, beautiful divine spark…thy magic reunites what habit brusquely separates…all men become brothers…
The soaring poetry of the Ninth’s final choral movement—the “Ode to Joy”—flies in the face of disaster, division and hatred (yes, deep, deep hatred is poisoning life in this country). It’s easy to forget that the poem was written by another idealist of that Romantic Era—Friedrich von Schiller, who, Sachs reminds us, “…believed that humanity needed to achieve freedom through the experience of art before it could achieve political freedom.” (154) Chances are, we won’t experience freedom at all until our politicians live to heal the nation’s inner divisions instead of exploiting them.

Do you fall down, you millions?
Do you sense the creator, world?
Seek him above the starry canopy,
Above the stars he must live…
Joy, joy drives the wheels in the great clock of worlds…

Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year to all you star-watchers!

Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and former university English instructor. A graduate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (U.K.), Raye focuses on mundane, collective-oriented astrology, with a particular interest in current affairs, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. Several of her articles on these topics have been featured in The Mountain Astrologer and other publications over the years. Raye can be contacted by comment here, or at:

© Raye Robertson 2015. All rights reserved. 

No comments:

Post a Comment