The planetary model of human consciousness potential is exquisite. The personal planets (the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, and Mars) describe your unique personality, likes, emotional needs, relationship values, and how you assert yourself. The social planets (Jupiter and Saturn) reveal your natural relationship to your culture, what you find rewarding, and your responsibilities. The outer three planets (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) are transpersonal, beyond the realm of the ego. They are aspects of your spiritual nature and deal with the soul's awakening and the growth of consciousness.
Humanity has known of the planets out to Saturn seemingly forever, because they are observable with the naked eye. It wasn't until Galileo's invention of the telescope that planets could be detected beyond Saturn—Uranus was discovered in 1781, Neptune in 1846, and Pluto in 1930. These are relatively recent in our understanding of the solar system, and for astrologers, understanding the realms of human consciousness and experiences to which they relate has been a process of discovery. As astrologers first became aware of these outer planet influences, they were seen as disruptive and troublesome—and they will disrupt any attempts to live an ego-encapsulated life. They are meant to disrupt the ego's attempt to maintain control over your life. There is a joke in astrological circles: "Would you like to hear the outer planets laugh? Just tell them your plans!"
This is why many people have difficulty with the outer planets, either in the natal chart or by transits—we are dealing with forces outside of our ability to control. For those interested in maintaining stability in life and the status quo, the outer planets are nothing but trouble—but for those interested in conscious growth, spirituality, and continuing to evolve in the soul's journey, the outer planets are where the action is!
Each of the three outer planets contributes to spiritual growth and the soul's evolution. Uranus, the urge for freedom, brings the unexpected into life, revealing that another level of intelligence beyond the thinking mind is influencing your life and you need your intuition to understand it. Neptune and the urge for transcendence gives spiritual vision and inner guidance once we overcome its illusionary ways. Pluto and the urge for power is where you need to go through transformations to align with the highest calling of your soul's purpose. All of these outer planets are working together for your soul's evolution.
Uranus: The Awakener and The Urge for Freedom
Uranus is the first of the outer planets that operate outside of consensus reality, which is governed by Saturn. Uranus awakens you to a level of reality that is beyond the rational realm, through unexpected events and inexplicable surges of nervous energy. Saturn represents the limits of what the rational mind can understand and make sense of. Nothing about Uranus makes sense—it is the rebel among the planets, rolling on its side in its orbit, rather than spinning like a top like all of the other planets. It is the rebel, the revolutionary, or the reformer, but never the conformer.
Uranus awakens you to your own direct sense of truth, whether or not it aligns with others. Carl Jung, the great psychologist, wrote about the individuated level of consciousness, when individuals no longer rely on others, but accept their own unique perspectives as truth. To achieve this level of consciousness requires questioning everything that you have been taught, read, or learned in light of your own direct perception of truth. Individuals who have incorporated the Uranus level of consciousness may seem eccentric or rebellious to others, but what drives the Uranus person is the drive to be authentic. If it doesn't feel authentic, they won't do it.
Uranus-types of individuals march to the beat of their own drum and most often have an independent streak a mile and a half wide—not being able to tolerate being micro-managed by others. They often work best as self-employed entrepreneurs, or working for someone who gives them latitude to fulfill their responsibilities in their own unique way—and there is always something unique about Uranian types.
Uranus quickens the nervous energy field with surges of unexpected electrical energy—prana. If one isn't aware of this type of unexpected energy, you think you are nervous, anxious, and feeling like you want to jump out of your own skin. The secret of working with Uranus energy isn't really a secret at all—it is breath. Energy follows breath, and when you are anxious and panicky, how is your breath? Restricted, shallow, or gasping—always. Breathe deep into your belly and slowly exhale. Expand your self-awareness to embrace this energy. On an inbreath, picture yourself getting up on the wave as a surfer—there is no point in trying to quiet a wave to make it easier to handle. As a surfer, either you get up on the wave and ride it or you get knocked over and tossed about, but you are not going to quiet the wave!
Uranus brings the unexpected wherever it is at in your chart—unexpected things happen outside of your control to let you know there is more going on than meets the eye. Uranus is the higher octave of Mercury. Mercury deals with the logical, practical mind, and Uranus is intuition. Intuition, the fabled sixth sense, is another order of intelligence beyond the thinking mind. Intuition is not just really fast thinking.
To cultivate your intuition, put yourself in novel, unique to you, situations. If you are just going through the same routines day in and day out, intuition is not needed. Rote memory and conditioning can get you through the day. But when you put yourself in novel situations with which you are unfamiliar, your senses come alive—particularly intuition, your sixth sense, is heightened to help you navigate the unfamiliar territory. Often, you learn about your intuition retrospectively, from not acting on it and you realize later that you had the insight earlier, but didn't follow it.
Uranus taps you into the genius level of consciousness. Genius intelligence is a collective level of intelligence into which we can tap. The same flash of genius can come to many people at the same time. Perhaps you have had a great idea for a book of movie that came to you in a flash but you didn't act on it. Someone else will. If you don't write the book, you can read it a year later because someone else did! They often give the Nobel Prize for science to multiple individuals who came up with the same groundbreaking discoveries independently and simultaneously.
Uranus individuals are often evolutionary agents in the lives of others, helping them to wake up from their conditioned way of seeing things. A bit like an alarm clock, appreciated later, but not when it is waking you from your slumbers. Uranus types of people often say things that are shocking in the moment, and only later appreciated.
If you are a Uranian-type individual, you can either fight for your right to be free, or learn to simply express your right to be free. At the unskillful level, freedom is sought from whatever is perceived externally as holding you back, like quitting your job, leaving your marriage, and leaving town to show them what real freedom is. It never works, ever. Eventually you get the cosmic joke…if you have to prove your freedom to others, you are not really all that free in the first place ! At the skillful level, you simply express you individuality freely and other people's approval or disapproval doesn't weigh as heavily on the psyche.
Ultimately, Uranus helps liberate you from all that is holding you back from your soul's evolution.
Neptune: The Visionary and The Urge for Transcendence
Neptune is the planet that calls for transcendence, to rise up out of the mundane world of the senses. Neptune gives the capacity to imagine, to visualize, to fantasize. As a collective planet, Neptune taps you into the collective level of imagination—the artist and the spiritual seeker are going to get the best of Neptune—tapping into sources of information that enhance individual life.
Unskillful use of Neptune leads to escapism, drugs, alcohol, excessive TV watching, and the internet—these are all transcendent facets of everyday reality, but not all necessarily enhancing one's life. Neptune can also be illusions, deception, and deceit. Avoidance is another Neptune tendency, as well as the notorious blind spot, coming from imagining things the way you want them to be and not perceiving how they actually are. Illusion always leads to disillusion.
Neptune is associated with the third eye, the sixth chakra. Imagine your sixth chakra at the brow of your forehead to be a lotus flower. When the petals are pointing upwards towards the light, you receive the light and inspiration. When the petals are pointing downward, you get the distortions of the collective muck.
To become skillful with Neptune, it is essential to know that fear and faith are flip sides of the same coin—angels and demons are both of the imaginary world—call in your angels!
Neptune and the Meditative State of Awareness
The clearest level of Neptune is attained with the meditative state of pure awareness. In the best of meditations, you awaken to and rest in pure awareness, aware of your thoughts, so not your thoughts, aware of your emotions, so not your emotions, aware of your body, so not your body—just pure, peaceful awareness. In this state, you have access to your higher mind, spiritual insights, and wisdom.
When you practice mindfulness throughout the day, you are staying in position of the detached observer in all that you do—noticing what you are thinking about and its energetic effect on the body and emotions. Conversely, when a strong sensation or emotion is felt, you become aware of what you are thinking right in the moment. You are not trying to change anything, just staying in awareness, which melts and dissolves the impermanent states of the mind and emotions.
Those who connect with their spiritual guides, angels, ancestors, or extra-terrestrial intelligence are employing Neptune. When Neptune is strong in a chart there is increased sensitivity at all levels—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Neptune individuals feel the vibes; they walk into a room and can tell if there has been fighting or loving going on. Physically, they are more sensitive to toxins, food additives, and viruses. Emotionally they are empathic and often need to stay away from emotionally toxic individuals. At the mental level, Music, dance, poetry, and art access this transcendent level in enriching ways.
Where Neptune is in your natal chart by sign, house, and aspect shows which area of life you need to be cautious of the blind spot—seeing things the way you want them to be—like falling in love with a person's potential. This is also where you can cultivate a spiritual perspective.
If you would like to learn more about meditation and start your own practice, my book, Llewellyn's Little Book of Meditation, explores many styles and types of meditation so you can find a technique that works best for you.
Pluto: The Transformer
Pluto is the furthest planet away from the Sun, the center of your of your self-awareness. This is the most difficult planet with which to work, being outside the range of the personal will. Pluto is the planet that relates to the process of transformation that comes from becoming conscious of that which was unconscious.
In mythology, Pluto was the ruler of Hades, the underworld, and had a helmet of invisibility. Where Pluto is placed in your birthchart is where you most want your motives to be hidden from others and the challenge is to reveal to others your true nature, risking exposing yourself—the biggest hurdle to overcome with Pluto work. This requires overcoming fears of being vulnerable, which is required for deep intimacy with others.
Pluto cannot be seen directly within your consciousness; you come to know it by watching its impact on your life. Just as with the wind, you can't see it directly but know it is blowing when the leaves move on the trees. So it is with Pluto manifesting in your life—you become aware of it by observing your compulsions, obsessive behavior, power and control issues. Pluto rules subconscious forces and all that is beneath the surface, hidden. But like a volcano, Pluto will bring to the surface, at times violently, all that has been hidden. Pluto lessons are some of life's biggest tests—a loss, death, and betrayal issues. By facing our shadow and fears we develop soul strength and become fearless. Pluto can lead to a spiritual rebirth and rejuvenation, but not until one learns to surrender to a greater power. Not surrender as in sacrifice or give up—surrender to the empowerment of a soul animated life.
Look to your Pluto by house, sign, and aspect to discover where you have buried pockets of subconscious material built up over life times, which will skew your compass until the transformation of the shadow realm of Pluto is done. This is where you need to purge who you aren't to become who you are! By cultivating your Pluto's polar opposite sign to where it is in your birthchart, you help reset your compass to your soul's intention for growth and evolution in this life.
The test of the right use of power shows up with Pluto issues, and if you have not claimed your power here, you will attract controlling, domineering, manipulative, and abusive people into your life. The right use of power could be described as using your power in such a way that is not harmful to self or others, and in such a way that is in your best interest as well as the best interest of others.
Unskillful use of Pluto energy comes from trying to direct it—like trying to direct God's will. To direct it is to deflect it from its true course. It is not until one has learned to surrender with some version of the spiritual saying, "Not by my will, but thy will" that the healthiest expressions of power can emerge.
The three outer planets work together for your spiritual growth and transformation. Uranus frees you from the constraints of living in consensus reality and awakens you to your own intuitive direct perception of truth. Neptune awakens vision and spiritual insights born from transcending everyday reality and seeing your life as if you were on a hilltop looking down and seeing things exactly as they are without judgement. Pluto is the arduous process of going through a metamorphous and transformation to purge all that doesn't support your true essence so that you become more of what your soul intended for you to be.
If you would like to sharpen your astrology language and learn how to read your own chart, my newest book, Astrology for Beginners could be just right for you.