Mars Retrograde 2018 and Astrology Today
by Sam Ogden
When sitting down to begin looking in-depth at a particular planetary transit such as this retrograde of Mars, there quickly surface the different ways in which we can orient our perspective to it. The first question readers might ask is, what astrological information can we know about this transit? However, this question already assumes that we know what astrology is, its use, and that both a certain type of astrology and its use will somehow prove to be relevant in today’s many diverse cultures and trends of thought. There are obviously problems with this statement and thus putting forth a relevant article reviewing the significance of this (and any) planetary transit is not as simple and straightforward as many are lead to believe in what they find in digital media searches.
In order to get to exploring this Mars retrograde with precision, a somewhat defined stance herein will need to be taken as to what astrology could be in this our 21st century while observing what its use currently potentiates. The reasoning back of this stance could be expounded upon at length but would likely bore the screen readers of this tech era. In addition, it would also distract us from the very broad intent of the article’s subject matter. To avoid both of those issues for the sake of convenience, the following philosophy is brief and incomplete.
What is Astrology?
In order to orient ourselves we should first briefly look at what we could say astrology is. Its definition is difficult to ascertain because of the many different kinds of astrology used by many people. We might wonder what astrology is, where it comes from, and how it can be learned and relevant for the present times.
Information of the 21st century is primarily sought through digital means, and there are plenty of issues in this statement which unfortunately cannot be explored at length here. In short, this “technologizing” of more things every day makes it nearly impossible for us to develop a significant relationship with raw nature. Included in the technologizing of nature are the sources for astrological teaching and learning. Now, some support technology for its revolutionary ability to make universes of information more accessible to those who had otherwise not been able to access it. In certain ways this is certainly beneficial; it can help the globe hold itself accountable against discrimination and injustice; it can save lives; it can change, mobilize, and empower billions. But this does not mean technology improves all things. Learning astrology can be likened to farming, which cannot be done in significance through a screen, ironic as this article is in its attempt to teach. Those who are serious about learning astrology- who want to sustain a true symbiotic integration of anything related to it- will need to eventually pick up a real book, talk to other astrologers who read real books and who study diverse sources of material, and wait patiently, respectfully, for a possible welcoming from indigenous wisdom keepers. If a brief definition of astrology can be made without going into much supportive philosophical context, it would be this: astrology is to understand the way of the cycles of life. What astrology is will never actually change, for it is change in the deepest sense. Astrology’s definition will change, however, according to particular societies who have a conscious relationship with it and its various types. This is to say that it is our current relationship with astrology which gives us a definition characteristic of the era in question.
What is astrology used for?
If we observe the areas of technology and digital media, astrology comes as something that has many uses. There are researchers, bloggers, countless people using video media for horoscopes and like-minded gatherings, and social media users who spread very short phrases that call on the zodiac and other astrological subject matter. But what is the deeper meaning for the use of astrology in the 21st century? What is it doing for us in a deeper sense? It does not seem to be doing much in the way it did before the Sun was discovered as the center of the solar system. Science claimed its victories over centuries and those discoveries have conditioned us into materialism.
It is very unclear as to if astrology is presently doing anything meaningful for the collective spirit, and this for a number of reasons. One of these reasons being that astrology existed in all cultures and was integral to their survival for millennia. Now, with the industrial and technological revolutions, the globe has been changing fast into something as yet unseen. Astrology has been known to provide certain uses in history, whether it was in the duality of good and bad fortune telling, as a nourishing framework through which a culture was made vital, resilient, and unique, as a way to track floods and droughts. Our ways of life and values behind it today are very different, so this ancient practice is at once awkward for whoever approaches it because we do not experience life in the same way as those cultures out of whom astrology emerged. This is a serious problem when confronting the very valid question about use and function of astrology in the 21st century, and it does not appear to have a clear answer for the all too common mind made lazy by convenience of digital computer technology. Or perhaps astrology does try to answer while under the impersonal and crushing weight of scientific-minded industrial societies. Despite its relevance in personal development and what Jungian theory calls “individuation”, astrology hangs by a thread today. People may say it is becoming more popular (again), but is a deeper practice of astrology gaining in popularity? If we see one type of astrology as being also a lifestyle of observing and participating directly with raw nature, we do not see astrology gaining popularity. In addition, popularity alone does not account whatsoever for the deeper issue of what astrology is actually doing in significance for the fundamental structures of our societies and cultures. This question is not asked for an answer. It is meant to use astrology as a way to more questions because many things in our world today must be questioned, for dominant systems, principles, and desires in our societies are far from honorable. We might say we know what this planet means in this or that zodiac sign, this aspect of these or those planets, but truly we do not know because we are too cut off from nature as a collective whole to actually know the natural significance of these things as they have been understood for millennia.
As you can see there are many issues that exist with our relationship with astrology, and it is my opinion that much of it has to do with the qualities of the “spaces” in which we engage. It is for this reason that I have chosen to include in this article more than just an interpretation of Mars retrograde. Part of integrating astrology back into our cultures and societies as something integral to their expression and survival will require us to face ourselves critically and philosophically. However challenging it might be today to approach and even relate to astrology as we think we know it, we should proceed with it and continue sitting quietly at its altar and sacrifice some offerings of ourselves to its transforming fires. One of those transforming flames comes through the Mars retrograde this Summer.
The Astrological Mars
In the Tetrabiblos, Ptolemy refers to Mars as masculine, a malefic (producing evil) and dry in temperament.(1) In Cosmos and Psyche, Richard Tarnas refers to Mars as the “principle of energetic force, the impulse and capacity to assert, to act and move energetically” among other descriptors.(2) Marc Edmund Jones says Mars “shows the tendency of the life in expressing itself.” It is “the first impulse of being in all outer revelation of self.”(3) Dane Rudhyar wrote of Mars as being a desire to move away from the center, which we might also call the ego.(4) Rudhyar refers to Mars as representing a process within the ego sphere, as a part of ego projection. This is an interesting way to consider Mars because if we look at the solar system as Rudhyar has proposed, as being itself a personality and the planets as stations along the way towards a realized self, we see the “station” of Mars following the “stations” (life processes) of firstly the lunar sphere, then Mercury, then Venus, then the Sun.(5) Mars could be said to represent the station which can produce one of two results. In one instance, Mars can contain one’s values (Venus and Moon) with ease and effectively express them, thereby defining with more qualities the personal characteristics around the ego. This at once may tear one from the cradling union of the sub-lunar realm, of earth-conditioned living passed on through ethnic or cultural lineage if the action- and therefore the values- make cultural contradictions or uproot their taboos. In any case, it is Mars who says “here I am.”
In the other instance, Mars may not be so effective in being able to express one’s inner values and needs, which can lead to Mars being clogged due to the momentum of other supporting energies who, in process towards an expression of the previously mentioned Jungian “individuation”, are now disrupted on the way towards a harmony of the “spirit-in-man,” the Jupiter station which follows Mars. A clogged Mars is to say that a person has individual issues around what it has been said Mars represents. Mars relates to the courage to charge ahead, to launch oneself into the unknown, as well as the raw drive in any outgoings. And because, as it has been stated thus far, Mars roots deep in the human experience, its psychology refers to our instinctual nature and desires. Mars is the god of war in myth and tells us of the tendency there in every one of us to strike out, to conquer, to snuff the flames of others. He is often aggressive or when wrapped up in complexes he may be promiscuous, passive aggressive, and full of unexpressed resent. Mars represents an instinctual desire to reproduce oneself, which demands a kind of figurative phallic quality in its execution- to swell with the warmth of blood-passions, to stand erect as an individual, to be firm with heat! These things are part of the human experience, but it is not to say war and battle are required. This is a tricky line to walk, as much of western culture is fraught with “Mars issues”- distortions of an evolution of Mars for centuries, perhaps millennia. But we do need Mars. Furthermore, we need today a conscious evolution of what Mars represents in the human experience, for without it there is impotence and regret, if not dictator-like entitlement fed by a self-defeating inner delusion of an external threat to one’s power and autonomy.
Reproducing oneself does not always mean creating physical offspring. It means to project one’s energies as a means of propelling oneself into the creative experience of life, and Mars wants to define the existence of its projection in an external product, reaction, or sense of overcoming through concentrating and releasing sheer energy of the self. And overcoming does not always mean conquering. Mars is the god of war but he is also the god of establishing oneself by summoning deep inner fire and going forth. Mars has intentions to define oneself in the type of processes stated above.
A planetary retrograde is an astronomical phenomenon visible from Earth. Because of the different rates of motion of planetary bodies and their solar orbits, from Earth it appears as if the planets periodically move backwards. In space they are not actually moving backwards, it is just what we see from our telescopes. So what might an apparent retrograde imply under the lens of astrology? What does it mean? If we again call on Rudhyar, he says in his magnum opus The Astrology of Personality that “retrograde planets symbolize the turning back of the libido (psychic energy or life force) from the conscious to the unconscious.”(6) He speaks of retrograde planets not necessarily losing their energy but that their psychic energies merge with other unconscious contents which later emerge through some other avenue which is already conscious in expression. He also mentions how retrograde planets, because they refer to the unconscious, may lead us to behavior that surprises us and makes us wonder how it happened or how we reached this place.(7) It seems a transiting retrograde of a personal planet (Mercury, Venus, Mars, and to a lesser extent Jupiter and Saturn) correlates or is representative of a chance to encompass with consciousness aspects of oneself which have been hidden for whatever reason or otherwise unable to be integrated. What is curious is that the potential expanding or vivifying of consciousness during the relative time of the retrograde of a personal planet occurs through a characteristically personal meaning-making process which one might associate with the circumstantial context of one’s life. To experience new meaning that arises through a consciousness change is only a potential during a retrograde, however. If there is a theme significant enough that one notices it and associates to it a particular event, series of events, or general circumstances, we can safely say that these associated parts are temporally significant. Enough of a consciousness change may then be an impetus which also reminds in memory the particular significance and meaning of the time.
And this “meaning” part- how can this vivify one’s consciousness? Carl Jung was the first to introduce the notion of synchronicity, which is different from the term synchronous. Jung’s description of synchronicity has been interpreted by many who study his theories. The mainstream has probably heard of the term but might not know from where the term comes and its actual concept. If synchronicity is interpreted yet again, we can say that it is at least two events which do not cause one another, which take place at relatively the same time, and whose natures seem to be meaningfully connected, with meaning being aroused through the human witness. It has also been said that a synchronicity is a moment that carries in it the characteristics of every moment everywhere.(8) Synchronicity in this light seems to be slowly gaining traction as a way to talk about the mystery of planetary cycles taking place alongside inner and outer events of individuals here on earth. That mystery is a difficult one, but the concept of synchronicity as put forth by Jung does an exquisite job of providing definition while allowing mystery to permeate. This allows us to experience structure and chaos together meaningfully, one of the biggest personal challenges of those in techno-industrial cultures today, though many do not realize it.
Capricorn and Aquarius
Mars stations to begin his retrograde at 9 degrees of Aquarius on Tuesday June 26, 2018 and will station direct on Monday August 27, 2018 at 28 degrees of Capricorn. Much can be said about these signs. We should see the zodiac as a cycle in which twelve distinctions allow us to apprehend an orientation within it. When we talk about Capricorn we are referring to a very cold time of year when Winter begins with the shortest day of the year, but when every day thereafter the days grow longer. Dane Rudhyar has developed a profound system of night force and day force in which he speaks of collective, universal forces being the night and individual, personal forces being the day.(9) In Capricorn, the night has reached its maximum. Social, collective forces have built social forms like behavioral etiquette informed by culture, laws to govern many people, trade agreements for collective movements of resources. Religion and philosophical thought have expanded far and wide as ways to deepen the power and meaning of what it means for individuals to participate as collective-identifiers. By the time the night stops increasing at the shortest day of the year, the beginning of Capricorn, all motions change and the day returns. Extravagant cities must be protected and maintained. We have reached the height of civilization, the splendors of collective powers. Egos are minuscule in Capricorn- the state rules supreme. In Aquarius, a fixed air sign, the days continue to grow and the ego is caught up with ideas which can be in overdrive because of some sense of personal inferiority. There can be an unconscious subversion of oneself in order to dis-identify as much as possible with the colorful pride of Leo, the Aquarian’s opposite sign on the zodiac wheel. We need to remember that Capricorn and Aquarius in the tropical zodiac refer to winter, a time of death and challenge. Nature struggles at this time of year. It is not the nature we want to know, not the full blooms we enjoy freely in Spring and Summer. Capricorn crystallizes pragmatic thinking to its maximum and represents any walled-in city that has rigid patterns of government. Aquarius follows Capricorn as being those at the lower half of a prejudiced and classist system who are fired with frustration about the limits imposed upon them by collective forces. These people might break rules that do not line up with the ethics of the spirit that passes over and through Aquarian moments. They may invent products or lifestyles that seek to imbue their communities with new life. They may be desensitized and unsure of what to do, complicit with the power wielded over them by political authorities. It is important to know that these are social zodiac signs and that there are two very different pictures of society in them. In Aquarius certain kinds of social norms and forms are breaking down which were well-maintained in Capricorn, who fears any revolution and hope of a new life, yet knows they are both soon to come.
Mars Retrograde 2018
We first notice that Mars retrogrades in not one but two signs, perhaps causing us to wonder if there is something in Capricorn which Mars has not yet finished up, some legal issue which the courts may need to settle. We can also see that during this Mars retrograde a total lunar eclipse will take place on July 27 which will align with Mars and Uranus who currently transits Taurus. Uranus nor Venus are placed well during this time which shows that the Uranian-Promethean impulse could be stifled, perverted, undermined, or lacking substance, or dealing with public health. Mars is exalted Capricorn and thus leads this chariot, but he is retrograde. This could be starting to sound like a clown car gone horribly wrong, and it is difficult to avoid instantly thinking of the government of the United States with this imagery. The issues during this Mars retrograde are tied to Capricorn and Aquarius, and more specifically their shadows. In Capricorn, a Mars in direct (forward) motion represents an intense almost militaristic work ethic and thinks logistically rapidly in order to execute irrevocably the most efficient plan. So is a retrogressed, backwards Mars in Capricorn representative of some kind of opposite behavior? “Opposites” is an unfortunate attitude through which to view the world, and because it is becoming an obsolete one we should cast that aside. What has been suggested so far is that retrogrades deal with hidden aspects which are as yet unknown. And truly it is impossible to get to the bottom of a retrograde.
To come back to the zodiac, what we see in Capricorn and Aquarius which is likely relevant for this Mars retrograde is the notion of a life of novelty. What is meant here is a life for a people in which their society has developed to a point where difficulties of the past have been worked on through technology for the means of improving the life of the people. Television, suburban living, international travel by plane, super-food smoothies are all examples of a life of novelty invented for improving the lives of "the many". It is certain that these things also have their poisons and discomforts- all is not as ideal as it wants to be in improvement- and forward-thinking Aquarius. But in order to think in a way which is open to social improvements that might gain mass implementation, one must have a very wide scope while thinking about complex relations- keeping tabs on the moving parts. Capricorn has a similar type of thinking but the orientation is not about improving as it is in Aquarius, it is about maintaining. In either situation, we see the retrogression of Mars in these two signs stirring up personal uncertainties about how one relates to a larger plan, a larger scope, government structures and action, and of course, the future. With all the standout themes of “authority” in both Capricorn and Aquarius, this retrograde can make conscious things we have taken for granted regarding authority, our own and others’. The fire of Mars and the apathy all too common in Capricorn and Aquarius can be focused through thought on the overall “gestalt” of a situation. And, lacking concern for others’ feelings or circumstances, people may be in the shadowy grips of something that moves them to behave (or consider behaving) in a way which they cannot fully understand until they find themselves in a critical situation requiring action or release of personal energy. Retrogrades have been said to call upon the past, an interesting point to consider with political events in motion on and after the lunar eclipse on July 27. It is obvious this retrograde deals with a difficult tension between individual power upheld by certain groups, and the power innate in diverse individuals who desire change and altruism. It is also clear that Mars is a personal planet, not a collective planet, though he retrogrades in collective signs. People can experience this time as a questioning of their own motives in their career, lifestyle, or overall path in life. It would not be surprising if there is a curious sense felt to make a shift regarding these things, yet also feeling the challenges and limits sanctioned by existing state structures. This retrograde refers to executive orders and changing of direction of the order and location of individuals who are at the mercy of a corrupt system.
The significance of a retrograding personal planet is a potential consciousness change. Mars in his retrograde will submerge to attach to unconscious contents and find a way to re-emerge through a conscious form of expression with that which can be integrated for more vivid awareness of oneself. Retrogrades require keen vigilance over the various areas of life which have a considerable amount of light on them as well as vigilance for moments that surprise one with a sense of specialness that is undeniable because it somehow feels meaningful. Mars is trying to get our attention through other available avenues in our lives, and the intention is to expand or vivify consciousness through it. A retrograde is not meant to give neat and tidy answers, but to provoke as yet unanswerable ones deep from within- questions which are ripe for the time.
Station retrograde: June 26, 9 degrees Aquarius
Station Direct: August 27, 28 degrees Capricorn
1. Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblios (ca. 168 AD), trans. J.M. Ashmand, chapters 4, 5, and 6
2. Richard Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche (2006) p. 90
3. Dane Rudhyar, The Astrology of Personality (1936) p. 227
4. ibid. p. 227
5. ibid. p. 240-245
6. ibid. p. 230
7. ibid. p. 229
8. Dane Rudhyar, The Astrology of Self-Actualization and the New Morality (1970) p. 9
9. Dane Rudhyar, The Astrological Signs, The Pulse of Life (1943) p. 19-25
Mars Retrograde 2018 and Astrology Today