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  EDITOR'S CHOICE ARTICLES April/May 2003 Issue  

Cinema and the Birth of the Aquarian Age
by Ray Grasse

Since the invention of cinema during the late 19th century, it has enjoyed a popularity that has exceeded even the wildest dreams of its early pioneers. As astrologers, however, we have the added advantage of being able to appreciate the astrological dimensions of movies in ways that can shed further light on their significance for our culture.

In previous articles in The Mountain Astrologer, I’ve explored how movies mirror global planetary trends at the time of their release and how they can reflect the horoscopes of their directors. (1) In this article, we will consider that films might even reflect broader trends - including the shifting Great Ages. In the following paragraphs, I’ll present some material from my book, Signs of the Times (along with material not included there), to show how the shift from Pisces to Aquarius may already be expressing itself, in both subtle and obvious ways, within the imagery of modern films. It should become apparent that examples like these not only help us to better understand the transformation sweeping our world, but also deepen our insight into the underlying astrological principles themselves.

The Wizard of Oz
This 1939 film features one of the most enduringly popular tales of modern culture. Yet, who would have guessed that it also holds an important key for understanding the shift of consciousness that we call the Aquarian Age? In L. Frank Baum’s story, our four protagonists (Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow) set out on a great mission: One is looking for courage, another for brains, another for heart, and another simply wants to return home. The four travel together to Oz, to meet the great and powerful wizard who sends them on a journey full of difficult trials - as prerequisites for attaining their dreams. Upon completing their tasks, they experience great disillusionment, for they discover that the "great and powerful" wizard is, in fact, nothing of the sort: He is simply an ordinary man. They learn that what they really seek lies somewhere much closer to home. "The answer has always been within you," Glynda the Good Witch tells Dorothy.

In this timeless tale, we see a beautiful expression of the seismic shift taking place in the unfolding of our spiritual sensibilities, as we move from a Pi-scean era when the answers were seen as largely residing outside of ourselves - in the form of gurus, priests, or God-like figures of one sort or another - to an Aquarian era when the Divine is seen within each of us. "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!" the wizard yells out, as our four seekers discover that the God-like figure is nothing but a sham. In a similar way, we are realiz-ing now that the old institutions and God symbols have lost much of their currency. This echoes the German philosopher Nietzsche who, more than a century ago, declared that God is dead. That idea was never intended to address God’s objective existence as much as our outworn conceptions of God. Likewise, The Wizard of Oz isn’t suggesting that there is no Divinity but merely that we must rethink our approach to this reality. Our spirituality must be rooted in a personal experience that looks within for "salvation," rather than without. In other words, we are not the servants of God, but co-creators with God - a shift from Piscean dependency to Aquarian autonomy.

Did Baum himself intend these more esoteric implications with his seeming child’s tale? It’s fairly safe to say that he did, since Baum (born with his Sun conjunct Uranus) had been a member of the Theosophical Society since 1892 and even wrote publicly about theosophical concepts for a South Dakota newspaper, the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer. Among the central tenets of Theosophy is the belief that Divinity resides inside of us, rather than in any external form or intermediary. As Madame Blavatsky herself once phrased it, the essence of spiritual esotericism can be summed up as the concept that "the personal God exists within, nowhere outside, the worshipper." (2)

The Truman Show
In this ingenious 1998 film, directed by Peter Weir and scripted by Andrew Niccol, the lead character, Truman Burbank, is depicted as the star (or victim) of a mass media show that he doesn’t realize he’s part of. As a result, every move Truman makes is carefully captured by a constellation of TV cameras and broadcast to a worldwide audience who follows his daily life as though it were a soap opera. Over the course of the film, he gradually awakens to the nature of his predicament and struggles to break out of this media-saturated virtual realm, to forge his own life, free from the domination of the God-like powers manipulating his world.

On one level, this story speaks to the potential dangers we all face as our lives become increasingly entwined with surveillance cameras and information-gathering systems of every stripe. This could easily be one of the downsides of the information-oriented Aquarian Age; individual lives are scrutinized by technologies such as these, and personal privacy becomes an increasingly scarce commodity.

But Weir and Niccol’s story touches on a much deeper level of resonance for any student of the Great Ages. The protagonist’s struggle to awaken into freedom involves an effort to break free from a world bounded by water (Pisces) into one of air (Aquarius). Specifically, Truman must overcome his gripping fear of water. Each time he attempts to escape his world, he is enticed back by alcohol (Pisces, in its negative aspect). In the movie’s closing sequence, he overcomes his fear and is shown literally stepping into the sky - ostensibly, to begin a new life.

Further underscoring this symbolism is the fact that the God-like "creator" controlling Truman’s world is called "Christof" - of Christ, one might say - a subtle reference to the Piscean-Age religion bearing this figure’s name. (Note also that Christof’s boss is named Moses, a reference to one of the luminaries of the previous Great Age of Aries.) In short, Truman’s efforts to break free of Christof’s grip reflect our own collective struggle to throw off the lingering influence of the Piscean Age and its comparatively dogmatic mind-set, to pursue a more independent lifestyle. In that respect, this film’s message is vaguely similar to that of The Wizard of Oz: Truman must leave behind the external "God" symbols of his world to become a fully authentic person, or true man - an Aquarian revelation of the highest order.

Because of the principle of polarity, each Great Age emphasizes not only the sign normally associated with it, but also the sign opposite it. The Piscean Age, for example, emphasized both Pisces and Virgo - a zodiacal axis that (as anyone with these signs amplified in their chart knows) can lean toward a more dutiful and pleasure-denying approach to life. Over the last two millennia, this gave rise to (among other things) a world religion championing the virtues of austerity and sacrifice, as embodied in the grim image of a man hanging on a wooden cross. During this age, people commonly believed that there was something inherently virtuous in suffering itself and that it was somehow unspiritual to experience pleasure. In Islam, too, we see the spirit of abstinence regarding sex and alcohol - but qualified by the promise of great pleasures in the afterlife!

In the Aquarius/Leo Age, we can expect a vastly different value system, where the pursuit of personal pleasure is not only acceptable, it could even become an end in itself. That tectonic shift of archetypal values is nicely portrayed in Lasse Hallström’s 2000 film, Chocolat. The movie is set in the 1950s, in a conservative Christian town in France, where all forms of personal pleasure and independent thought are strongly discouraged by the local church authorities. That worldview is suddenly challenged when a free-thinking woman comes to town, opens a gourmet chocolate shop, and manages to tempt these long-repressed citizens with her delectable offerings. Adding to the community’s anger is this woman’s blithe refusal to join the local church; instead, she opts to live more independently. The situation reaches a climax when she begins to fraternize with a group of long-haired vagabonds, "proto-hippies" of that time, who arrive by barge down a nearby river and whose liberal ways are even more threatening to local sensibilities. When the two worldviews finally clash, tragedy results - though, in the process, the community becomes transformed and awakened to a new world of personal pleasure.

The rigidly dogmatic and self-denying values advocated by the local Christian church in this film perfectly embody the negative aspects of the Pi-scean Age; however, the woman and her bohemian associates reflect the more life-affirming, liberal sensibilities of the Aquarius/Leo Age coming into play, so to speak. The collision of worldviews in this movie reflects a very real clash of values that has been gaining momentum for several centuries now - as spearheaded by such real-world figures as Lord Byron, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and the latter-day hippies, all of whom point the way to a more pleasure-oriented approach to life. This film shows us the more positive side of this trend; for the other side of the coin, let us turn now to our next film.

Citizen Kane
At first glance, it may be difficult to see what this story about a powerful tycoon has to do with the Aquarian Age. Yet, both its cinematic style and thematic content contain a mother lode of clues that astrologers can mine for insights about the shift we are undergoing.

First of all, this movie was released under a truly extraordinary set of planetary energies: The world premiere occurred on May 1, 1941 (the Los Angeles premiere occurred one week later), and the following patterns reached exact culmination that very week: Uranus conjunct Jupiter, Uranus trine Neptune, and Jupiter trine Neptune - these, in turn, being framed by a major planetary lineup in Taurus. Clearly, something powerful was opening up within the collective psyche that would allow for the emergence of some truly unique cultural expressions, and Citizen Kane was one of those.

The film’s story line touches upon some of the potential dangers we might expect to encounter during the coming age, including rampant materialism and the blind pursuit of gratification. Chocolat depicts the more positive dimensions of pleasure, whereas Citizen Kane shows us what can happen when that drive becomes an end in itself. In the film, Charles Foster Kane builds a sprawling "pleasure palace" in Florida, called Xanadu (coincidentally, not far from where Disney World was eventually built!). Kane’s entire life is a living testament to the acquisition of hollow pleasures and "things" - sculptures, girlfriends, newspapers, etc. We even find a curious parallel with The Truman Show: Just as Truman is shown to be the first human being to be owned by a corporation, in Kane, the lead character is adopted, at a young age, by a bank. Perhaps this movie presents a subtle warning that we could be "taken over" by materialism and consumerism in the times ahead.

The movie reflects another concept addressed in The Truman Show: the enormous power of the media to shape our lives. Specifically, Kane owns a newspaper called The Enquirer, and he shamelessly uses his power to ruin lives and manipulate public opinion: "People will think what I tell them to think!" and "If the headlines are big enough, the news is big enough!" There is no question that the mass media have contributed much to our lives by allowing us to see the larger world around us. Yet, films like these point, in no uncertain terms, to the potential problems brought about by our telecommunications technologies.

Like The Truman Show, Kane also underscores the issue of personal privacy. Throughout the movie, we are shown scenes where the most intimate details of personal lives are displayed before a hungry public. This even includes a scene reminiscent of the Monica Lewinsky affair, where Kane’s private tryst with a younger woman is broadcast to the world via front-page headlines. Indeed, the entire movie is structured around an investigative reporter’s quest to uncover secrets about Kane’s personal life, as he seeks to unravel the meaning of Kane’s dying word: "Rosebud." As we have already seen in recent years, the Aquarian downside of the emerging high-tech world is that we may all be subject to the prying eyes of information-gathering systems of one sort or another.

Stylistically, there is something subtly Aquarian in the film’s narrative, with its uniquely decentralized, jigsaw-puzzle approach to the story and Kane’s character itself. Rather than portray Kane’s life from a single perspective, the movie treats us to a wide range of viewpoints about who he really is - including those of his ex-wife, friends, butler, and business associates. (Ten years later, Japanese director Akira Kurosawa would extend this stylistic innovation a critical step further with his pioneering film, Rashomon, by featuring three completely different versions of the same story, with absolutely no indication which one was "right.") One of the key metaphoric qualities associated with Aquarius is decentralization. Unlike Leo, which symbolically draws things to a central point (like the ruler of a country or the heart within the human body), Aquarius distributes energy to many centers and hubs, à la democracy, the Internet, or the body’s arterial system. Similarly, Orson Welles’s masterpiece decentralizes the classical narrative into multiple perspectives; by so doing, it foreshadows the cinematic styles of later directors like Robert Altman (Nashville) and P. J. Anderson (Magnolia). This decentralized quality is also reflected in this movie’s pleasure palace, Xanadu, built in a very postmodern style that juxtaposes motifs from many cultures and eras; in that respect, Xanadu could be a metaphor for modern civilization itself.

2001: A Space Odyssey
As Joseph Campbell pointed out in his classic book, Hero with a Thousand Faces, the timeless story of a hero struggling against great odds to obtain a boon or life-changing transformation
is found in virtually every culture throughout history. Although the essential message of these tales remains much the same, the surface details can change from culture to culture. Within those subtle variations, we can gain important clues to the worldviews of these cultures. In earlier times, the obstacle to be overcome may have been a great dragon or supernatural demon, but in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 self-styled "Space Opera," 2001: A Space Odyssey, our hero must overcome a powerful computer named Hal. (Notice how this name changes when you move each of the letters up a notch in the alphabet!) "Man versus machine" is a theme that’s been echoed by countless science fiction tales through the years, but it’s also one of the great problems facing us in the Aquarian Age, as we learn to grapple with the challenges not only of technology but of mechanistic logic - the tendency to perceive the world through a mind-set of pure rationality, devoid of feeling or compassion.

Kubrick’s story features an Aquarian message on other levels as well -including a look at the expanded human potential. As I’ve already mentioned, the coming age will see an emphasis upon the entire Aquarius/Leo axis, because each zodiacal sign is inextricably entwined with its opposite. On one level, this portends a time when ordinary humans could well be transformed into "mini-gods" of a sort, as average men and women awaken to their own heroic potential, in creative, political, and spiritual ways. With a subtle nod to Nietzsche’s "Superman" concept - underscored by Kubrick’s use of Richard Strauss’s music for Also Sprach Zarathustra – we see astronaut Bowman traveling through a sort of hyper-dimensional stargate, to be eventually reborn, at movie’s end, as a mysterious "starchild," shown floating in space above the Earth. In the age ahead, we too could be "lifted up" to levels of higher potential that will fundamentally change our conception of what it means to be human. Will this be brought about through genetic technology, expanded educational techniques, or (as Kubrick’s movie suggests) contact with nonhuman intelligence? Stay tuned!

Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The notion of humans being lifted up is a motif that also figures prominently in the myth most associated in the Western mind with the constellation of Aquarius: the Greek tale of Ganymede, the water-bearer. Ganymede was said to have been the most beautiful youth alive. He was watching over his father’s sheep one day when he was abducted into the heavens by Zeus, where he became immortalized as a servant to the gods.

It is intriguing that, just as we are about to enter an age governed by a tale of heavenly abduction, we are flooded with accounts from around the world of people being abducted into the sky by celestial beings. True, there have been stories of abductions throughout history – for example, the fairy legends of Celtic lore or the Judaic tale of Enoch’s ascension. Yet, this phenomenon has undoubtedly accelerated in recent decades, starting with the famed Betty and Barney Hill case of 1961. Although the abduction motif figures prominently in many of our science fiction films, it found an especially conspicuous expression in Steven Spielberg’s 1977 blockbuster movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which pivoted around a young boy who was abducted into the sky by nonhuman beings.

The question is: Are these abduction tales based on fact? Or are they simply an expression of our collective fantasies, a result of our overactive imaginations? Fortunately, for our purposes, it doesn’t really matter: Either way, we can explore the symbolism of these stories for the insights they offer about the shifting Aquarian zeitgeist. But to do this, we need to explore what "abduction" truly means. Archetypally, abduction refers to a process of becoming caught up in a powerful state of consciousness beyond the control of one’s conscious ego, as the psyche is overtaken by mysterious impulses and energies. But there is an important difference between abduction upward and abduction downward; for instance, the image of Persephone being abducted into the Underworld by Pluto suggests getting sucked down into a more emotional, subterranean level of psychic energy. In a sense, whenever we feel overwhelmed by anger, depression, or fear, we’ve been "abducted into the Underworld."

However, the myth of Ganymede features a person being abducted upward into the heavenly realms - a very different implication indeed! This suggests a shift in consciousness that is predominantly mental in character. (Some would see the upward direction as having a more spiritual connotation, but spirituality is more properly related to the balance point represented by the horizon, the proverbial "crack between worlds.") The myth of Ganymede, along with films like Spielberg’s Close Encounters, may be an omen that humanity could be swept up in an increasingly cerebral mode of experience during the coming Aquarian millennia. This seems especially likely when we stop to consider the element of air associated with Aquarius and its intellectual connotations. At its very best, this shift to the air element could portend a genuine awakening of humanity’s higher mind, but it might also point to a more prosaic possibility, as our lives become increasingly dominated by the influence of our TV sets and computers.

Star Wars
George Lucas’s now classic film was an overnight sensation when it was first released in 1977. The movie treated audiences to sights and sounds unlike anything they had ever seen before. As a friend of mine remarked at the time, it was almost like stepping into an entirely different world - with its own inhabitants, atmosphere, and even its own logic. Part of the reason for this enormous appeal was, of course, the skillful way that Lucas managed to incorporate the timeless themes of myth and religion into his story and reframe them in the context of space-age technology and values. As such, he crafted a truly Aquarian vision that provided us with a glimpse of humanity’s possible future destiny in the stars and the prospect of an interplanetary society.

Further clues into the significance of this film may lie within Lucas’s own horoscope and his attunement to futuristic trends. Astrologically, there are several ways to detect a person’s degree of alignment with Aquarian themes and symbols; one is the position and quality of Uranus in the horoscope, by sign and aspect. In George Lucas’s case, this planet was at 8° Gemini when he was born, on May 14, 1944. This was the same zodiacal point that Uranus inhabited when the Declaration of Independence was signed, on July 4, 1776 (and not far from 24° Gemini, where Uranus was positioned when the planet was discovered several years later, in 1781). In short, George Lucas was born during the United States of America’s second Uranus return - a planetary cycle that occurs about every 84 years.

One could say that Lucas is deeply in touch with American tastes - and also with the emerging currents of the Aquarian Age. With Lucas’s own Uranus plugged directly into the "home" position it occupied in the U.S. chart and fairly close to this planet’s discovery point, Lucas has his finger firmly on the pulse of the emerging consciousness.

From the start, Lucas’s work reveals a recurring interest in futuristic themes and technology. His first theatrically released film was titled THX 1138 and offered a bleak look at the challenges of technology and individualism in the coming age. Several years later, Star Wars finally established his reputation as an artistically minded futurist - and a technologically minded businessman. Looking back, it’s curious how this movie mirrors the themes and struggles of the Revolutionary War itself, with its group of ragtag, "frontier-style" rebels pitted against a more organized and powerful empire, spearheaded by a great tyrant (in the one case, King George; in the other, Darth Vader). In both cases, the overriding concern is freedom. This similarity could hold an omen for our future; if so, America’s destiny might well foreshadow that of the Aquarian Age itself. Both the Revolutionary War and Lucas’s film will prove to be precursors of coming trends, with their mutual emphasis on attaining independence from depersonalized or oppressive systems - whether governmental, corporate, or technological. (3)

Walt Disney’s 1940 film features a series of animated sequences that illustrate famous pieces of classical music. Arguably the most iconic of the entire batch (and one that has become virtually emblematic of Disney’s empire itself) is "The Sorcerer’s Apprentice," set to Paul Dukas’s music by the same title. This imaginative episode features several Aquarian resonances worth pondering.

To my mind, the most interesting of these involves the startling stylistic synchronicity between this musical piece and another work composed several years later by Gustav Holst: his "Uranus" suite from the musical composition, The Planets. I once heard a musicologist claim there was no clear evidence that Holst ever heard the Dukas piece; but even if he had, it wouldn’t explain why Holst chose this particular style to represent the planetary qualities of Uranus. I believe that this synchronicity holds an important symbolic clue to the deeper nature of Uranus itself and its associated Age of Aquarius.

In Fantasia’s "Sorcerer’s Apprentice," we see a character (Mickey Mouse) usurping his teacher’s magical powers and tapping into energies far beyond his understanding. In the process, he nearly brings destruction down upon himself (and possibly the entire world). In some sense, this is a fitting description of the role that Uranus has played in modern history – in terms of the various energies and technological capacities it has awakened for us over the last few centuries. And this awakening of powers is accomplished in Disney’s version of the story by means of a magical cap with stars and planets emblazoned on it - a further Aquarian touch, hinting at the cosmic/celestial knowledge associated with this archetypal principle. As with some of our other cinematic examples, we again encounter the familiar "man versus technology" motif: The broom that Mickey Mouse orders to perform his chores (as water-bearer, curiously enough) runs amok and eventually splits, clone-like, into multiple copies of itself. Notice, too, that while Mickey is being carried away by his fantasies of controlling the world, it is specifically an environmental disaster that he sets into motion. Sound familiar?

In the end, Disney (whose natal Sun and Uranus were conjunct) offers a depiction of "The Sorcerer’s Apprentice" that could prove to be a cautionary tale for the Aquarian Age; it describes both the perils and promises of our newly awakened capabilities. This obviously applies to such areas as atomic energy and genetics, but it may even be relevant to the burgeoning field of "personal empowerment" and the awakening of our psychological potential. Will we use these energies wisely? Or wind up destroying ourselves? Disney’s tale makes one thing clear: This isn’t a child’s game.

Free Willy
Yes, I’m serious! The archetypes of change express themselves just as much through "low art" as they do through high art, and this 1993 crowd-pleaser is no exception. You don’t need to have seen this film to remember the key image associated with it: a killer whale sailing through the air over the head of a young boy. The symbol of a whale gaining freedom was a conspicuous expression of the Uranus-Neptune conjunction that same year, illustrating the blending of planets that rule liberation and oceanic concerns. But remember that these planets also rule the two Great Ages we are presently straddling: Uranus rules Aquarius, and Neptune governs Pisces. In that light, the image of a sea creature escaping confinement and becoming airborne, precisely as these planets were merging, presents us with another symbol of the transformation of consciousness from the old era into the new. Incidentally, this symbol was echoed seven years later by the image of airborne whales in Disney’s Fantasia 2000 (released on the first day of that landmark year).

Of course, the transition between eras is not always quite as smooth as this; the interests of the emerging age sometimes attack those of the older one, rather than tolerating or transforming them. The U. S. government’s destruction of the David Koresh compound in Waco, Texas in 1993 illustrates what can happen when the secular interests of Aquarian society run roughshod over the religious values of a Piscean era. Another example is Herman Melville’s oceanic novel, Moby Dick. In Melville’s story, a man associated with the whaling industry (sometimes called America’s first true industry) sets out to kill a great whale, rather than free it. Here, too, we glimpse the passing of the old Piscean order, but in a way that doesn’t allow for a creative appropriation of its lessons and blessings.

The Matrix
This film is sometimes called the Star Wars of a new generation. (4) The movie has had a wide-ranging influence - not only in cinema but such areas as fashion, TV shows and commercials, and video games. It is beyond the scope of this article to explore all the Aquarian resonances in The Matrix, but the more important ones might include the following:

• Aquarius rules networks, grids, and webs of every type; this film features matrices (down to its title), networks, and grids as an integral part of its visual landscape, just as the story addresses the potentials and perils of living in a world permeated by these things.

• As with The Truman Show, the awakening of individuals into freedom is depicted in The Matrix as a transformation from a water-bound state to an air-based one, exemplified by Keanu Reeves’s emergence from the amniotic sac into the open air.

• The movie’s story line about a computer-generated world offers what is, in some ways, the quintessential Aquarian mythos; with this depiction of a future overrun by computers, The Matrix echoes the "man versus machine" motif exhibited in other cinematic works like Frankenstein, Terminator, and 2001, to name a few. In the Aquarian Age ahead, we will no doubt witness machines and computers of staggering capacity and scope shaping our world in countless ways. The question is: Can we remain in control?

• With lead characters who can fly through the air (in the computer-generated world, at least), the movie hints at the anti-gravitational aspects of both Uranus and Aquarius - energies that promise freedom from the traditional constraints of the more earthbound Saturn. Uranus will be trining Saturn most of 2003, so it’s fitting that the two sequels to the original Matrix, which are scheduled for release in May and November 2003, feature innovative approaches to the depiction of both space and time. This trend is further reinforced by this summer’s Jupiter-Uranus opposition - a planetary combination often associated with cinematic milestones or cultural shifts.

• The Matrix – with its clever fusion of cross-cultural references, ranging from Eastern martial arts to cyberpunk and postmodern philosophy - offers another expression of the global culture that is emerging from our media-interconnected world and that reflects the more planetary scope of Aquarian thought.

• As mentioned before, in the coming age the Aquarius/Leo axis will be the dominant polarity. The Matrix expresses this zodiacal dynamic in important ways. For example, at the time of the film’s original release, in late March 1999, the Moon’s nodes were positioned in these two signs, with the South Node in Aquarius and the North Node in Leo. Simply phrased, the South Node signifies where one is "coming from" (karmically speaking), whereas the North Node represents where one is "heading toward," in terms of a higher calling or unfolding spiritual destiny. (Remember that 1999 also saw a major activation of the Leo/Aquarius axis in the form of the famed "eclipse of the century" in August of that year.) So, the main character Neo’s journey of awakening is appropriately depicted as a moving away from the high-tech matrix (Aquarius) and a moving toward his heroic destiny as the "One" (Leo) - even his name is an anagram for "One." On one level, therefore, the movie is a metaphor for each person’s struggle to awaken to his or her own individualistic, "heroic" potential in the coming age.

• A different perspective on the film’s astrological significance lies within the horoscopes of the directors themselves: Larry Wachowski (born June 21, 1965) and Andy Wachowski (born December 29, 1967). ( 5) Rather than attempt a detailed interpretation of their charts, I will simply point out that both brothers were born in close alignment with the powerful Uranus-Pluto conjunction of the mid 1960s - a rare planetary conjunction that occurs roughly every 120 years. As anyone who lived through this decade knows, the ’60s were an explosive time of social ferment and revolution, when rock ’n’ roll became the new musical language and the counter-culture first emerged as a social force. It’s often been said that we can’t see the full effects of any major planetary configuration until the children born during it reach maturity. Works like The Matrix represent the fruition of the consciousness birthed during the ’60s. This film - with its aggressive martial artistry, muscular visuals, and pervasive mood of rebellion – is clearly fueled by the fiery sentiments that energized a decade. I could probably devote an entire article to discussing all the ways that the Matrix series expresses the qualities of this planetary combination - the powerful subterranean machines, the death and rebirth of lead characters, black leather outfits, metamorphosing technologies, and a whole lot of explosions, to name just a few. (The Wachowskis’ first film, Bound, likewise mirrors the Uranus-Pluto conjunction but emphasizes alternative sexuality.)

What does all this have to do with the Aquarian Age? Simply this: The conjunctions of the outer planets, when they occur close to the cusp of a dawning Great Age, can be seen as "cosmic triggers" of a sort in the way they help to unfold that emerging era. During such "windows," we find the emerging socio-cultural trends bursting forth into consciousness with special force - and for that reason, they hold important symbolic and synchronistic clues about the shape of things to come. (6) That was true of the Neptune-Pluto conjunction of 1892; it was also true of the Uranus-Neptune conjunction of the early 1990s. But it seems especially true of the Uranus-Pluto conjunction of the 1960s; this era even gave birth to a popular song featuring the refrain: "This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius." In short, the ’60s placed an overriding emphasis on freedom and personal liberation – precisely those Aquarian themes explored in the Matrix series, with their stories of humans struggling to break free from traditional structures and powers.

On another topic, astrologers such as Rick Tarnas and Jeffrey Kishner have pointed out how the original Matrix story reflects the psychological theories of Stan Grof in uncanny ways - specifically, his views on the individual’s emergence at birth from the mother’s womb, the "perinatal matrix." (7) Though the Wachowskis were unaware of Grof’s theories when they wrote their script, it’s nonetheless striking that Grof first began developing this theory during the Uranus-Pluto conjunction in the mid ’60s - right when the Wachowskis themselves were born!

A final synchronistic tidbit: Since the fruit never falls far from the tree, I thought it would be interesting to look at the horoscopes of Larry and Andy Wachowski’s parents for further clues about the significance of these films. Lynne Wachowski, the mother, was born on October 29, 1938. The most important cultural event of this period was, arguably, Orson Welles’s "War of the Worlds" broadcast just one day later – featuring a story about nonhuman intelligence, in machines, taking over the world. Ron Wachowski, the father, was born on April 30, 1941, during the extraordinary confluence of planetary energies mentioned earlier. The most important cultural event during his first few days of life was likely the world premiere of Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane one day later; the film is known for its pioneering technical and stylistic touches and its unique approach to time. (Curiously, also on April 30, 1941, Edwin Porter died. This man, who directed The Great Train Robbery, is commonly cited as the father of modern film editing.)

I leave it for readers to make of this what they will.

Chart Data and Sources

L. Frank Baum, May 15, 1856; time unknown; Chittenango, NY (43°N03', 75°W52'); Source:

Walt Disney, December 5, 1901; 12:35 a.m. CST; Chicago, IL (41°N52', 87°W39'); A: From memory; Marion March quotes Disney studio.

George Lucas, May 14, 1944; 5:40 a.m. PWT; Modesto, CA (37°N39', 121°W00'); AA: Birth certificate in hand from Steinbrecher.

References and Notes

1. See my article, "Astrology Goes to the Movies," in The Mountain Astrologer, April/May 2000 (this article is also posted here). Also, refer to my book, Signs of the Times (Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads, 2002) for a more extensive discussion of this subject.

2. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Works XIV, Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1985, pp. 54-55.

3. Martin Scorsese’s film, Gangs of New York, provides a fascinating look at the civic turmoil that accompanied America’s first Uranus return in Gemini - not only the Civil War, but also the draft riots it sparked.

4. The stylistic differences between Star Wars and The Matrix might be thought of in terms of the distinction between Neptune in Libra and Neptune in Scorpio. In Libra (Lucas’s generation), the Neptunian imagination takes on a more lyrical, idealistic, and "airy" character; in Scorpio (the Wachowski brothers’ generation), it assumes more aggressive, sexual, and mysterious qualities.

5. As might be expected, both brothers have powerful transits firing in 2003; note especially that the Saturn-Uranus trine and the Jupiter-Uranus opposition are both closely impacting Larry’s Sun at 0° Cancer (giving rise to a dramatic solar return chart, among other things).

6. It is a testament to the seminal power of outer-planet conjunctions that three of the most popular film series of recent years - Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and The Matrix - were all originally conceived by individuals born during one of these conjunctions: Tolkien was born in 1892 (during the Neptune-Pluto conjunction); J.K. Rowling was born in 1965; and the Wachowski brothers were born in 1965 and 1967. We will have to wait and see what creative visions arise from the Uranus-Neptune generation!

7. Jeffrey Kishner, "The Matrix as a Birth Process," in TMA, Oct./Nov. 2002.

© 2003 Ray Grasse — all rights reserved

Ray Grasse is Associate Editor of The Mountain Astrologer and author of The Waking Dream (Quest, 1996) and Signs of the Times (Hampton Roads, 2002), a study of the emerging Aquarian Age. He obtained a degree in filmmaking from the Art Institute of Chicago. He is a practicing astrologer and can be reached at (630) 933-8519, or via e-mail: jupiter.enteract@rcn.com

© 2007 The Mountain Astrologer. All rights reserved.