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As a tremulous teen struggling to learn astrology with Derek and Julia Parker’s beautiful “The Compleat Astrologer,” I avidly poured over their descriptions of planetary transits. Most were clear and nicely instructive, but I fell into dismay when encountering their cursory summary of the transits of the outer planets as uniformly a time of upheaval “not easily lived through.” I shakily turned to the ephemeris entries for the upcoming two decades and thought, well, I will just be dead once I experience these transits. I then spent my twenties ignoring the harbingers of doom, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, inadvertently practicing traditional astrology before it was cool.

In my thirties, still not dead, I encountered Howard Sasportas’s “The Gods of Change: Pain, Crisis and the Transits of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.” Despite the ominous title and what looked like pictures of demons on the cover of the book, I decided to dig in. I had read Liz Greene’s books of conversations with Howard Sasportas and loved him for his wisdom and his general sense of peace with the cosmos. Maybe, I reckoned, his publisher had forced such an inflammatory title on him to boost sales. But as I skipped through his descriptions of the aspects, landing narcissistically on those I was currently experiencing or about to undergo, the old bogeyman “upheaval” reared up through the passages on Uranus, then the dismal “sacrifice,” “loss,” and “dissolution” appeared in connection with Neptune, and, saving the best for last, Pluto brought “the death of ourselves as we know ourselves.” I was way too self-centered to have any of this, or as Howard Sasportas stated, “The ego is not interested in its own destruction.”

Following all the midlife passages of the Pluto square, Neptune square, and Uranus opposition, still breathing, I was now humbly aware that “I” was significantly less important than I had thought and there were greater forces at work in this life. I picked up “The Gods of Change” once more and have never really put it down since. It is my go to when studying outer planet transits in my own or others’ charts. We can best understand any difficult experience or painful crisis, Sasportas tells us, if we know why we must undergo these passages. We all have what he calls a “core self” which knows, just as an acorn carries the intelligence that it will become an oak tree, “what we are meant to become and the path we need to follow to get there.” And we lose track of this core self in the busyness of life and the strains of the ego to gain status and support. We lose our way. Events that emerge during outer planet transits to our own personal planets can nudge us or thrust us or propel us back to the life our core self intends us to live. Pain can then be a “messenger telling us that things are not as they should be” and crisis can then lead us to “creative and constructive ends.” Outer planet transits are thus “periods of growth.” Finally, I was on board with the cosmos.

The role of Uranus’s “upheaval” is, yes, to remove the old paths which are not working, but for the purpose of making way for a new, truer path. “Through conflict and turmoil,” Sasportas assures us, “we remove an aspect of our existence which is not in accord with the deeper truth of our nature.” I thought of a workaholic contractor who was in a car crash when Uranus was activating his Mars Mercury square. He was out of work for six months, struggling on crutches to get around, and, frustrated, reconfigured his crutches to work better and shared his efforts with those in his physical therapy center, making their lives better. Once he was able to return to work, he suddenly realized his old job was the last thing he wanted to do and he instead went back to college with the intent of becoming a physical therapist.

Through the “sacrifice,” “loss,” and “dissolution” of Neptune transits, Howard Sasportas instructs us, we relinquish the sense of being a separate entity and fulfill a very human longing to be part of a larger whole. Dissolving our separateness enables us “to rediscover and reconnect to the underlying unity of all life.” Someone with the predilection for alcoholism, for example, may during a Neptune transit to his moon feel lost and disconnected and turn to drinking to escape this pain. His drinking spirals into full blackouts until he loses his home and family, disconnecting him even more from life. With nothing left to lose, he checks into a treatment center and there through some imperceptible miracle finds hope and community and the spiritual intervention of recovery. This broken person who has been made whole knows now that he is one of many who suffer from this illness, and dedicates his life to serving them.

Pluto transits can be times when the “props” which sustain us are kicked away and we are forced to restructure who we are. “We have to let go of our attachments,” Sasportas reminds us, “in order to learn that who we really are is that part of us which remains when everything else we thought we were is taken away.” A contented homemaker experiences a transit of Pluto to her Venus Sun conjunction. Her husband, the owner of a small but prosperous investment firm, is diagnosed with cancer, undergoes debilitating treatment and cannot work for months which turn into several years. His business goes under and their comfortable income plummets. They get out from under their mortgage by moving into small, cramped quarters in a less cushioned part of town. Our homemaker, long out of the job market, takes the first job she can find in retail. She notices that local artisans sell jewelry in the shop where she works. She remembers an earlier passion for jewelry making and resurrects this forgotten skill and talent for design. Soon she is selling her own work in the shop and promoting it online. By the time her husband recovers and is able to reconstruct his investment firm, she is passionately building her own business, with no intention of ever again being in a position where she cannot support herself financially.

Granted, such dramatic events do not occur for all of us experiencing transits from the outer planets. Uranus can simply bring a change in interests, Neptune a deeper spiritual or religious practice, and Pluto an obsession with a topic or interest or relationship. Howard Sasportas reminds us, too, that an outer planet transit is seldom happening in isolation. We may experience a Neptune square to the Sun while Pluto is approaching a sextile to our Venus and Uranus has just completed a quincunx to our progressed Mars – and the faster moving planets, while making their own aspects to our natal planets may be triggering the outer planet transits as well. “With so many factors to synthesize,” Sasportas tells us, “interpreting outer planet transits is a complex task that challenges the skill of even the most experienced astrologer.” We best help our clients as well as ourselves by understanding the “opportunities for growth” during the outer planet transits, and asking whether our current life path is true to our “core” nature and will lead us to the person we were born to become. “Whether we choose to change or we are made to change,” Sasportas tells us, “transiting Uranus, Neptune and Pluto challenge our own way of being, and coerce us to remap the borders of our identity.”


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