As I think about the state of change we find ourselves in at this particular moment in history, I’m drawn to step back and take a bigger view. I want to enter the controversial territory of The Age of Aquarius. The energetic shifts it embodies casts long shadows over all contemporary events and all the various paradigm mutations we are experiencing. I call this territory controversial because while there are many astrologers who say we are already in the Aquarian Age, there are others who claim it is still four centuries away. As is often the case, there is a lot of intellectual posturing, and behind it, quite a mountain of ignorance. The reality is that these Ages are not precisely definable, unlike timing the squares of Uranus and Pluto where we can count on the exact clockwork of the cosmos to guide us. Following is an explanation of how it works and why it is subject to so many interpretations.
The place against the background of stars into which the sun rises on the first day of spring is always moving against the constellations. It takes a long time—about 26,000 years—to pass through all twelve signs. The cycle is called the Precession of the Equinoxes, and it is one of the most basic rhythms of the earth. The so-called Astrological Ages are defined by the changing constellation into which the sun rises on that day, not the sign—and therein lies the problem. The boundaries of the constellations are uncertain. Western astrology is based on the familiar twelve signs, and they are different from the constellations even though they bear the same names.
Unlike the signs of the zodiac, the starry constellations vary widely in size. Their boundaries were only determined officially in the early 1930s by the International Astronomical Union. For the last couple thousand years, the Equinox has been drifting through “wide-load” Pisces—hence, the Age of Pisces. So when exactly does Pisces end and the Age of Aquarius start? Well, that question boils down to an even more basic one—where does the constellation Aquarius itself start? If you accept the I.A.U.’s constellation boundaries, the answer is: not for about four more centuries. That’s why some astrologers put it so far into the future. But how much power to do we want to give to a bunch of astronomers who arbitrarily divvied up the sky eighty years ago? In that same meeting, they also inserted Ophiuchus into the zodiac, giving us a thirteenth sign. Any takers?
I think that the astrologers who have, usually unwittingly, sided with the International Astronomical Union are wrong. I think we are in the Age of Aquarius now. Let me explain why.
All through what follows I am going to assume something that is true in every other kind of astrological experience: that the signs are all equal in size, each of them 30 degrees wide. That’s not true of the physical constellations, but it is has always been reliably true about the astrological zodiac. If we make that assumption, then each astrological age would be 1/12th of the 25,770 year precessional cycle, or exactly 2147.5 years long. This assumption might be wrong, but I doubt it. From now on, it will be our bedrock.
Our next question is, when did the Age of Pisces begin? If we can’t tell by looking at the sky, maybe we can figure it out by looking at events here on earth. “As above, so below” works both ways, in other words. If it means anything at all, we should see the indications of the changing Age in the pages of the human story. Here we turn astrology on its head. Instead of looking to the sky in order to understand human reality, we look into the mirror of human reality in order to discern events in the sky.
Pisces, at its best, is the sign of the Mystic. I think of the two great mystical figures who dominated so much of human culture over the past two millennia: Jesus and Buddha, born in approximately 563 and 4 BC, respectively. Arbitrarily splitting the difference between their births yields 283 B.C. for a possible beginning of the Piscean Age. That is of course just an impressionistic starting point. If it were true, we would add 2147 years to it in order to find the beginning of the Aquarian Age, which works out to 1865. I personally prefer making it a little later: say, about 1903-1905, to coincide with two pivotal “Aquarian Age” events: the Wright Brothers first flight and the publication of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity. We could just as easily point to the 1890's and the gift Nikolai Tesla gave us all in the form of alternating electrical current. What could be more Aquarian than electricity? In any case, all these dates are so closely grouped that any differences are meaningless—and trying to find an exact date for the start of the Aquarian Age would not only be impossible, it would be pointless as well. There would naturally be a long period of transition which would blur the timing. When did the modern age begin? When did your kitten become a cat?
I am content to say that I believe that the human evidence suggests that the Age of Aquarius began about a century ago, and that the Age of Pisces must thus have begun in the third century, B.C., about the time the Hellenistic culture was inventing something of the roots of modern astrology.
What does the recent birth of a new Age signify?
Aquarius is correlated with genius. Starting at this presumed cusp a little over one century ago, humanity went from Kitty Hawk to the Moon in sixty-six years. We lit our cities. We invented the automobile, the radio, television, and the telephone. We split the atom. We mapped the genome. Our population exploded. The nature of human experience was utterly transformed.
Anyone who tries to place the dawning of the Age of Aquarius in the distant future has a lot of in-your-face—and deeply Aquarian—facts to explain away. Clearly something very dramatic, something with a distinctly Aquarian signature, happened back then about a century ago—and it happened close enough to “2147" years after the births of Jesus and Buddha that the timing of these two signatures—the mystical beginning of the Piscean Age and the technological one of the Aquarian Age—confirm each other. This time, I believe the mirror of earth has revealed the sky to us.
This subject is a vast one. I’ve often wanted to write a book about it. Maybe I will do that someday. Here, in this short article, I want to pick up one single thread in the larger tapestry of ideas. “Mystical” Pisces is about dissolving our individual identities into something greater. That’s the broad picture. In the spiritual area, the “something greater” is the Divine. But this “dissolving” can take other forms. At the dark end of the spectrum, we can dissolve into a bottle of whiskey. That’s Pisces too. We can dissolve into a uniform. We can dissolve into a marriage or a relationship—and “romance” has been a big feature of the Piscean Age. You don’t find nearly so many love stories in the previous—and much less sentimental—Age of Aries.
All those kinds of dissolutions are Piscean. Here is another one, closer to the point of my present essay: In the Age of Pisces, we dissolved ourselves into nations. Tribes and city-states were the norms before that. Watch the rise of the Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire, at that Piscean cusp. Suddenly people from Turkey all the way to England were “Romans.” Despite their vast cultural differences, they were ready to become identified with something bigger than they had ever before imagined.
Good news? The world became less fragmented—not “unified” obviously, but rather humanity congealed into fewer, bigger groupings, each with a shared sense of identity. That sense of dissolving into a shared identity is the classic mark of Pisces—its “energetic DNA,” so to speak. In this case, the dissolution and surrender does not reflect mystical oneness, but rather a lower-octave expression of the same principle: losing one’s individual identity in the greater whole of a national identity.
The central point here is that the very idea of nations is a Piscean one—and that humanity is now at the early stages of leaving that mythic framework. We have lived with nations so long that we have come to think of them as the natural order of things. It is sort of analogous to the way “everyone knows” time is composed of weeks, each seven days long. The rhythm of the week is completely cultural, and yet we take it for granted, as if it has always been that way and must always so remain. But the reality is that nations, like weeks, are arbitrary structures to which we have simply become accustomed.
These lines the politicians have drawn on the map of the world—do they define us? Are they worth dying for? Will the world end if a line moves—or if we erase one?
Aquarius is a sign that emphasizes individuality above everything else. And certainly we see more and more focus on the drive toward independence and freedom everywhere at the individual level—who could doubt that we now inhabit an age of unprecedented selfishness? But what about the expression of that same rebellious impulse at the geopolitical level? How does it work within nations themselves?
When I was a kid, many held a common assumption that we were naturally moving toward some kind of unified world government. That unity now seems further away than ever. Now, with the old colonial empires mostly broken up, we have far more individual countries on the earth than we did back when I was a kid—almost two hundred of them at last count. Think of all the various “secession movements” that drive current world events. South Sudan just split from Sudan. Quebec doesn’t want to be part of Canada. Scotland might secede from Great Britain. The Basques want to leave Spain. Will Greece leave the European Union? Tiny Cyprus is divided. Ditto, practically, tiny Sri Lanka. The Soviet Union has already collapsed into its many parts. In America, the “red states” and the “blue states” resemble one of those couples whom everyone hopes will just go ahead and get the divorce.
Everywhere, we see that Aquarian signature: cultures are breaking down into smaller units, each with their own individuality. Sometimes the process is harmonious and sometimes it is stupid, ugly and violent. But it is happening everywhere, and it holds that classic Aquarian fingerprint: individuality above unity.
We can go further. Aquarius is an Air sign—it is about ideas, in other words. That is part of the formula too. So now we see the emergence of groups of people bound, not by geography, but by that classic Aquarian genetic marker: common ideas and ideals. These, rather than location or biological kinship are the new glue underlying the emergent social structures which define the realities of our lives and our loyalties. How many Facebook friends do you have compared to actual friends in your own neighborhood? (And why do some old-school people take that as a criticism?) Aquarian-fashion, we are becoming non-local, bound into loyalty-groups by tastes and values far more than by geographical proximity.
One nicely-encapsulated expression of this changing reality is the “War On Terror.” There you see the Piscean behemoth of the American military attempting to do something it has never before attempted: to do battle with something that is not a nation and which has no location. Al Qaeda, et al, are a diverse group of people unified by common ideas and common hatreds rather than a common culture or common land. The military is probably correct in prophesying that these are the “wars of the future.” Editorially, I would add that it seems to me that in fighting ideas, logic demands that eloquence and passion ought to play a more central role than cruise missiles and predator drones. One can aim deeply-felt ideas at a non-local world, which is the true target here. Missiles and drones are more problematic. They tend to hit people who were not engaged in any of the questions.
A parallel Aquarian Age development, and one that scares me personally more than terrorism, is the rise of the multi-national corporation. These organizations too are fluid groups of people bound together by common ideas rather than common geography or DNA, and with no loyalty to Piscean Age nationality at all. There is a cold calculation to them as well, which is another shadow-feature of Aquarius. Does Monsanto care about America? Does Novartis put Switzerland first? Do the huge oil companies care about poor people on the Louisiana coast—or marginalized Muslims in Jordan or Yemen?
Canadians often call themselves a “salad,” comparing their diverse society to the great American “melting pot.” In Canada, the ideal has been that diverse cultures would co-exist in harmony, enjoying each others’ differences while maintaining their own individual uniqueness. That is a much more Aquarian notion than a melting pot, which is very clearly Piscean. Perhaps in this regard Canada is an early model of a positive human future—a world defined, not by nations, but rather by diverse associations of people working in synergy, each facing the shared human dilemmas in its own way, each one a laboratory coming up with original solutions to those dilemmas. Diversity does not necessarily mean conflict. It can also correlate with very high levels of innovation.
This subject is so vast that I am just skating over the surface of it here, pulling at one thread. What about relationships? Psychology? The arts? Wave after wave of implications derive from this core sense of Pisces-to-Aquarius paradigm shift. What has stimulated my particular thinking about Ages right now is my most recent return to China. When I first stepped off the plane in Shanghai in 2011, I expected a very “Piscean Age” country full of people who dressed alike, thought alike, and all marched to the same drummer. That’s not true at all. China is no more immune to the new Aquarian energy than is anywhere else. The society is opening up and changing at the pace of a lightning bolt. It is every bit as wild and messy as the Western world. Chinese people are surfing the same waves of individuation as we are here in the West—and, like us, it is straining against cultural and governmental controls and limits. Personal growth is a compelling concern. Divorce rates are rising as people expect more from their marriages.
For me personally, there are people in China with whom I feel a deep spiritual and emotional affinity—and people in Texas who seem to me as alien as Jabba the Hut from Star Wars! On which associations do I actually base my identity? I’m an American. What does that mean? That I get my mail in California and pay my taxes to Washington? More than that, of course—but my Americanness currently feels less defining of my basic loyalties than a set of shared ideas and values which link me to my larger “family” in China, Mexico, Istanbul, Australia, Italy . . . not to mention in the U.S.A. The basis of my social identity has shifted. Yours too, is my guess. Our mythology has not yet caught up with our realities.
If my calculations are correct, we have about two thousand years of the Age of Aquarius left to go. We are only at the beginning, in other words. To a great extent, we humans are still currently conditioned by Piscean Age myths and values. Sometimes we are new wine in old bottles—and we feel alienated from these archaic social structures. Other times we bring our old conditioning to bear on realities which have spun off into a brave new world . . . and then we sound like Otzi the Ice Man ringing Customer Support.
The ride across this Piscean-Aquarian frontier is bouncy. I am grateful to have the fine, clear Rosetta Stone of astrology to at least shine a light on the wind’s direction as we rush collectively toward this singularity from which a very different human society will emerge.
Based on the slow Precession of the Equinoxes, every couple of millennia, humanity enters a new mythic season with new potentials and pitfalls. There is controversy about exactly when the Age begins; follow Steven as he attempts to answer the question and unravel the riddles of our social and cultural future.
Treading a middle path between hope and caution, the talk is fast-moving, serious in intent, funny in delivery, and wide-ranging--and full of daring predictions. Steven makes a persuasive case, controversial among astrologers, that the "Age of Aquarius" has already begun, and that the evidence for its onset is compelling and obvious...and urgent.