The Year of the Peak Experience

Cosmophilia: You Belong Here for Aquarius

By Eric Francis

Aquarius Part One

Aquarius Part Two

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Cosmophilia prologue

Cosmophilia houses

Aquarius is the original sign that describes the very human, or rather modern human, crisis of belonging. It is at once the sign of individuality and of conformity. It’s the sign that represents the group, in particular the in-group, and which also describes the need to stand apart and express one’s originality. Every sign contains its little paradox. This is the one that belongs distinctly to Aquarius.

All From Nothing We Become Something by Cameron Gray.

All From Nothing We Become Something by Cameron Gray.

For you, it works like a battery. You play with this tension. You’ve learned how to work with it, and to work it. You have learned to position yourself so that on a good day you’re suspended between your individual consciousness and that of the group. In that very act, however, I would remind you that you maintain a real measure of autonomy, because you’re aware of the different possibilities.

You actually know there’s a difference between thinking for yourself, thinking as part of an organized entity, and an option you don’t usually fall for and likely find repugnant — not thinking at all. You would rather make up your mind and be dead wrong than not have tried to make up your mind in the first place. At least you give yourself credit for having thought things through, which usually means thought them through a few times. You have the conscious thought, I have intelligence; it would be good if I use it.

(Note: if you’re an Aquarius and trying to convey a bit of how your mind works to people you care about, let them read this.)

These have been critical ideas for you the past few years, as you’ve experimented with (or been dragged into) various leadership roles. Leadership accentuates the relationship of an individual with a group. It is a special relationship. It is a serious issue now, as people are aware that such things as consensus exist, and are insisting on more democratic ways of doing things; that is, until they figure out that it’s much easier to be bossed around. Or rather, until predatory ‘leader types’ figure out it’s easier to boss people around, knowing that they usually fall for it — it is, after all, more convenient to be told what to do.

The theme of leadership continues to be a strong element in your chart this year, though in a distinctly different way. For about the past two years, in various ways and situations, that has involved the more formal style of leadership — the take-charge kind. I don’t think this is really on your agenda, but it’s occurred as part of a development process, and as a phase it was necessary to pass through.

As you may already be discovering, your role is shifting from formal to informal leadership; from what you might think of as the bureaucratic or authority-based style to the one that’s about knowledge; the one that’s about your respected place in the tribe. That place always has a touch of honor and a touch of outcast. They are not mutually exclusive, and I think you’re familiar with how to navigate this psychic territory.

A Bit of Background: The One and the Many

You might say Aquarius describes the relationship of the one to the many, whether the many is three or thirty or in the millions. That relationship naturally comes with some tension, because contemporary individuals always feel a need to belong to something seemingly greater than themselves, yet at the same time there is a need to develop one’s individual sense of self.

So really, on a deeper level, Aquarius describes the relationship of a person to who they are, which is almost always experienced in contrast to, or in the context of, some form of group. This goes back to the overwhelming power of the original group, the family, which usually seeks to shape individuals in its own image (often coercively, and sometimes violently). Family groups by their nature try to shape young people to their own norms and social patterns. Then we spend the rest of our lives figuring out what happened, as we experience different groups under various circumstances.

This is a modern crisis, as far as I can tell. In tribal culture, it’s unlikely to manifest the same way, if at all. Tribal generally means pre-literate. Literacy dissolved the tribe and created something else, which is the modern sense of the individual, the group, and the tension of individuality versus conformity. From what I am reading lately, it seems to be the alphabet — especially in the form of the printed word, and in particular the book — that is likely to have created the ‘sense of individuality’ of a person as apart from the tribe.

In previous eras, the one who stood apart from the tribe but was also integral to its life was the medicine person, who had a responsibility for the wellbeing of the tribe. This entity is making a cameo in modern society as the urban shaman. You can hardly get into a conversation about any spiritual topic today without someone announcing they’re a shaman or studying this thing that seems to exist only in Western culture, ‘Shamanism’. Being a shaman has nothing to do with an ism or system of belief. It’s about a direct relationship to existence, and as a consequence of that, an altered relationship to one’s tribe or group.

That relationship cannot be contrived, and it’s unlikely to be self-selected. One either has that role or does not. As far as the shaman being one who is sought after for their wisdom, their ability to transcend known reality, or heal suffering, those properties would need to come first. They are earned, often at great peril, and they are gifts that tend to be fragile and need to be treated with caution and respect.

To the extent that this role actually exists in contemporary society — and I have seen it, though very, very rarely — it is dependent upon the commitment to constant learning, learning in particular that is not centered on your own culture, but which must look as closely and as honestly at your own culture as possible. And of course it’s driven by a profound quest for self-knowledge, which I will describe in more detail in the section on Pluto in Capricorn.

First let’s account for a sign-change of the planet traditionally associated with Aquarius, which would be Saturn. I know most modern astrologers say Uranus is the ruling planet of Aquarius, though since Saturn came first, and was known to astrologers for thousands of years prior to the discovery of Uranus, I choose Saturn as the primary planet that actually tells us something useful about Aquarius. I’ll touch on Uranus more closely right when I look at Pluto, since the two are part of the same story.

Saturn in Sagittarius: A New Vision of Leadership

Saturn spent two years in Scorpio, from late 2012 to late 2014. Right before Christmas 2014, Saturn changed signs to Sagittarius, where it will be until late 2017. There’s just one exception, approximately 90 days between June 14 and Sept. 15 of this year. That is a chance to go back, resolve any pending business, and touch base with where you were so recently — so you remember before you move on to a new calling in life.

Sagittarius is your 11th house, the one that’s associated with groups and organizations. It’s the one associated with the public wider than your immediate circles of friends, family and colleagues. In addition to organizations, it covers friends of friends and social networks, right out to the shores of this odd thing called ‘the general public’ — but not out into the water.

Sagittarius is to you what Aquarius is to most other people — it’s your concept of the group entity. In your mind, this is a fundamentally spiritual manifestation. By that I mean it’s got its own identity, it’s greater than the sum of its parts, it cannot really be described, and it has a kind of conductivity that you’re sometimes or perhaps often able to tap into.

You experience this entity as having great diversity, a foreign quality, a mind of its own and something you can commune with and benefit from. To you this concept is not something to tinker with, play with or manipulate — it’s something to relate to and explore in a conscious way. To put it simply, you relate to your environment as something that has inherent meaning.

Saturn in Sagittarius is saying now it’s time to do that fully. It’s time to find your equilibrium with this thing, which seems to be first making itself known as a calling. As you pick up on this calling, you will go through a series of initiations, some of which are in the past, and some of which are happening now. You cannot really judge whether you came through one of these successfully; you just need to do what you feel called upon to do, and then move onto the next phase of the process.

Most of the journey I’m describing is inward. Inward journeys are often riddled with contradiction and sometimes with struggle, and they rarely produce results that are measurable in numbers. It is, however, possible to create the illusion of riddle, contradiction and struggle, and have that grow into something that is indeed measurable in numbers. Therefore, be real, be sincere, and don’t present yourself as more than you are. Always understate your case, your qualifications, and the importance of your opinions. Those who recognize you will recognize you for who you are, without much need for explanation.

Meanwhile, the way to foster this experience in subtle ways is to be bold about the experience of, and the expression of, meaning. The way you do that is by hanging out there, and by relating to everyone and everything through the medium of its conscious and inherent value — that is, its quality of being living information that is like the foam on the sea of knowledge.

Pluto in Capricorn, and a Word from Uranus

There are several long growth processes described in your charts. They have phased in over approximately the past seven years, and each of these years has taken you a bit beyond the last one. One transit I’ve covered extensively in past annual editions is Pluto in Capricorn. I’ve written about this a great deal and all that writing is available without additional subscription by digging back through past annual editions, which we will post in a clear place on the website.

Each year, I take a new viewpoint, and here is what I have to share, seven years into this process: Its main purpose has been to orient you on inner reality as your principal location of who and what you are. There is activity aplenty in the world, demands on your time and many roles to play, though what Pluto in Capricorn is doing is making sure you organize your cosmology from the inside out, rather than from the outside in.

Pluto’s trip through Capricorn, which ends in 2024 when Pluto enters your sign, is also about your relationship to your family history. This may have been a considerable point of tension for you, owing to many factors — what you know about that history, some of the dark spots you’ve discovered, and what about that story you just don’t relate to and don’t want to become. Yet to the extent that everything that lives is a product of its environment, it’s served you very well to probe deep into that environment and make sure you come out finding some essence of yourself, some vestige of what was lost.

This is soul-searching — the real thing. It is not, as you know, the kind of thing you do in one day, or one night. It’s a way of life, and it’s become a way of life for you. If you’re struggling in any way, return to that spot of soul-searching and orient yourself there. When you do, you will return to a greater state of harmony with the world around you. Your relationships will be more meaningful, because this soul you are searching out and indeed making contact with is the thing that makes your relationships meaningful. Nothing else does. Many things pass for meaning, but the single quality of existence that is not faking is that which is connected to soul.

The outer world, and the slag heap of history, have done such a good job of hiding that fact that it can be a challenge getting there, returning to those primal waters of existence — and make no mistake, that is what you’re doing. Part of why it’s not especially easy is because you have to take this trip without much help from others.

You are, however, in the fortunate position of having the wider society — the group scenario indicated by Saturn in Sagittarius — as a kind of extended ‘inner realty’. You can, if you want, experiment with the social environment around you as a kind of ‘soul pond’. You can get some feedback there; you can test your theories; most of all, you can be who you are becoming. Note that this ‘being in the process of becoming’ is likely to feel a little out of place, vulnerable, and most of all, different than.

Different than what? Than the rest of existence. Different than what you’ve known before. Different than, well, anything — and that is the whole idea. The deeper you go within yourself, the wider experience you open yourself up to, and the more meaningful life becomes. The thing is, you may be experiencing this difference as something ‘apart from’ and therefore isolating. You must learn to build the bridges or make the connections — or rather, to immerse yourself in inherent meaning and experience the connection to your environment from within.

Uranus in Aries — Your Ideas Are Not That Weird

Uranus, the evolutionary partner of Pluto, is in Aries — that’s the zone of your chart associated with words, with ideas and how you communicate them. On the most basic level of what I would call personality, you seek your identity there, and with Uranus there, you are seeking your freedom.

You may have the notion that the ideas you express are weird. They are not, actually — but they are two other things. One is that they are different, and the other is that they are a work in progress. As such (as both) all you need to do is refine the language you use to express your ideas to the stage where it conveys the basic idea, and then share it with people.

It is very likely that you are describing a much deeper inner process — and that as a result, the personality you express through your writing is likely to be connected directly to the inner journey I’ve been describing. Well, that is, if you are writing. It would be very, very, very helpful toward your feeling like you have some cohesion in your mind and in your world.

Writing would, in any event, offer you a place to experiment and to explore. You could explore yourself, as well as the influence of your ideas on your environment. It would provide you with a point of contact that would be valuable. Working with the writing of others is not going to do the trick. This has to be you, your original work, shared with others as a gesture of friendship and community.

Soul-searching can get lonely — this opens up an area of life where you can soul-search in a more collective way.

The Well and the Water Bearer

I mentioned earlier that there are several sets of transits working together that seem to be taking you through a profound initiation.

One interesting fact of your astrology is that after nearly 20 years of slow-moving planets coming through your sign, this has finally let up.

As a result, a group of planets that spent many years in Aquarius have now collected in your 2nd house, Pisces, which is highlighting this cluster of themes. The ‘secret sign’ of Aquarius is Pisces. By secret sign, I mean the sign through which Aquarius expresses itself — the next sign over, or your 2nd house. I might ordinarily call the 12th house the secret sign, but not in the case of Aquarius; this is about the relationship of the water bearer to the water; Aquarius is the container, and Pisces is the content.

One of the most vivid changes to your sign’s astrology is about the potent forces that have left your sign during the past few years; the last of them, centaur Nessus, makes its exit early in 2015. These planets, which during the past 10 years have also included Uranus, Neptune and Chiron, are major forces that can spin the world on their finger, and you’ve experienced all of them quite directly. In the life of an individual their presence close to one’s Sun or ascendant can be overwhelming. Yet it’s possible to get used to it — and then when they leave there can be an eerie silence, a pressure drop, a sensation of calm, or of something missing.

What you may have noticed is that elements in your psyche that seemed to be driving you, pushing you toward something, compelling you to dig deeper, have gradually let go of their hold on you. This can be disorienting. Those who have an inner orientation, as you do, can benefit from guidance, and these transits have taught you a lot. Note that the planets I’m describing have not left your life; it’s just that their influence has changed. Yet you’ve also changed; you’ve internalized much of what they were driving at.

A rather spectacular New Moon that begins your solar year describes what is currently motivating you, which seems above all the impulse to help others. On our particular planet, that’s a beautiful calling. You will need to manage it carefully, however. Those who do a lot of helping can get burned out on a planet where just about everyone needs help. And many who don’t really need help certainly want it, because it makes their lives easier. In these and other transactions, you just need to pay attention to the effect you’re experiencing, both in the relationship and in the results of whatever ‘work product’ (for lack of a better term) comes out of the helping process.

Keep contact with how many people are involved in any situation where you’re offering a service to others. I suggest you focus your energy in situations where more people are involved rather than fewer. You have the ability to extend your positive contributions much further this way.

Your calling to provide assistance has a kind of magical overtone to it. It’s even a bit seductive. With that in mind, keep the help you offer as close to the ordinary and as mundane as possible. Attend to the day-to-day practical needs of those you may lend your energy and ideas to, and the magical will seep in.

Magic is not the kind of thing that it’s especially healthy to strive for, to advertise or in my opinion to flirt with. I’d recommend you reach down rather than reach up. If, for example, you’re assisting someone with a complex or difficult task, perhaps inquire if they’ve had lunch or would like some coffee. Such small things have a way of ‘working miracles’, if for no other reason than being pragmatic expressions of love.

I would caution against a few other things. One is that you seem to have incredible stamina on this mission of being helpful. Be careful that you don’t treat it as the Twelve Labors of Heracles, however. Being heroic could work against you; again the idea of keeping things on the most human level comes up. That does not define what you do, but more how you do it.

Another is to be sure to keep your promises. Several factors suggest you don’t want to tease anyone with the possibilities of what you might offer, or seem unavailable. You have an allure, a charm, a kind of siren-like quality, and you will draw people to you who are attracted to that. Make sure you actually share some of what you’re promising, or implying that you offer.

What is true is that you are drawing from a very deep well. Your “secret sign” Pisces is home to Neptune and Chiron, two planets that amplify the energy of Pisces.

The 2nd house describes one’s sense of self-worth. In older versions of astrology, some of which still apply, it was considered the house of available resources, meaning money, chattel, cattle and other things you could use to sustain yourself. Having Pisces on this house suggests your personal resources are almost entirely of the spiritual and creative variety.

Those can be transformed into nearly any other medium, though it’s helpful to remember their starting place. Your strength is not money, physical prowess, time to spare or clever ideas. Your actual inner power is about a profoundly deep well of intimately personal resources that allow you to create whatever you need to create.

Pisces also emphasizes the point of service. If Aquarius is viewed as a humanitarian sign, those who are in touch with a values system based on the sign Pisces are a good reason for why that is.

Chiron and Neptune are only adding to your resources, and reminding you that the more you share, the more you will be aware of what you have. Remember that the normal laws of supply and demand do not all apply to Pisces, which of all the signs has the deepest connection to the infinite.

Yet this connection is easily overlooked, and Aquarius can have a tendency to go into rational, prove-it-to-me mode. Slow down and remember that most things of any real meaning are not subject to either proof or analysis. They are however subject to such things as faith, kindness and an orientation on existence that comes with the reminder of how delicate existence really is.

Why This is the Year of the Peak Experience

One factor that’s standing out from your chart is Icarus. He’s the guy that ‘tried to fly too high’, though what he was really trying to do was escape from a maze. In astrology, Icarus has the property of the desire for peak experiences.

Normally the presence of an asteroid would not color the whole chart, though sometimes they just seem to glare out and ask for attention. Icarus in Aquarius is doing just that.

The whole peak experience thing is something of a social meme, with various Internet challenges, extreme sports and taking things a bit or a lot too far becoming a way of life. I’m not sure what to make of this, though it does describe the desire for experience over attachment to life, which could be beneficial to many people.

The presence of Icarus in your charts this year is coloring your perception and approach to life. In some ways it’s always been true that you’ve sought out peak experiences, though now you’re likely to give yourself permission to do so.

Whatever you do, strive to do it in a way that excels, in a way that is bold, in a way that makes it distinct from any similar experience you’ve ever had. This is a little like competing with yourself, though it’s a friendly kind of competition; you can think of it as a total commitment to quality. Nothing is exempt. It’s a way of making even the most mundane tasks exciting. It’s a way to bring a spirit of excellence and a touch of the inventor into everything you do.

These peak experiences are likely to have a transformative quality for you. They go far beyond ‘high on life’ type things. What you’re really seeking is less about the experience itself, and rather what you gain in an opportunity to reinvent yourself. These excursions will be more fun and more meaningful if you remember it’s something of their underlying power that you are seeking, or rather something of your own power.

Think of the impulse to seek out peak experiences as an element of your evolutionary impulse. It’s a calling to grow, to change and to become. Because you’re an Aquarius, you have a tendency to settle into psychic patterns, and you can sometimes get stuck in them. One method for redefining your psychic patterns is to apply a kind of self-administered shock, found in experiences you’ve never had before. Yet changing the patterns is just the beginning — what you’re able to focus and create with the new pattern is what you’re really after.

Whoever thought there could be so much spiritual intrigue to skydiving, or staying up all night helping a client? Really, though, this is intuitive. Obviously the reason we seek profound experiences is to change us, and the purpose of change is to develop our senses, cultivate intelligence and foster our ability to relate and create.

That’s exactly what you’re doing.


Aquarius chart.

Aquarius chart.

Aquarius sketch.

Aquarius sketch.

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