Phase 1: Sowing Season
All cycles begin with a conjunction, and this one is no different. For our current Sun-Mars cycle,
the conjunction occurred on July 26, 2017. The local time and house placement will vary depending on
your location (the date may, too), but for the entire world, it occurred at 4-degrees Leo.
The basic interpretation of any conjunction is essentially the same: A new seed representing the
archetypal configuration of the two planets is sown as we are provided the opportunity — or,
perhaps, responsibility — to cultivate and develop their growth within us. In Leo, we know that —
among many other things — there is a call to love and joy, a call to allow the creative and pure
spirit to shine through us as we radiate it out to the world. I’ve italicized the word "through"
to draw a distinction between ourselves as the source of this radiant splendor, versus being the
prism through which it is expressed. Though we are clearly the latter, this does not suggest
complacency on our part. For to sow seeds is indeed an act, an intentional act of the will to
encourage something new to come into existence.
Yet when we sow, we do so with much uncertainty. All conjunctions, therefore, are like a New Moon in
that they are dark, unknown, and carry with them only the potential fulfillment of the planetary
pair. Our task during this time is to begin to acknowledge and contemplate the ways in which these
two planets can unfold within our lives. During the sowing season, we are entering a new phase of
development where we can begin to constellate the energies represented by the planetary pair into
Phase 2: Cutting Over
All cycles between the Sun and planets from Mars outward go into their second cyclical phase as a
kind of crisis. Astrologically speaking, this is the first-quarter square between, in our current
case, the Sun and Mars. To be more meaningful about its technical description, however, I prefer to
refer to it instead as a 90-degree arc. This helps remind us that we are in a cycle (or spiralic
circle), and indicates that there has been some distance already traveled on this journey, with of
course much more to go.
This square — this 90-degree arc — marks a time when a conscious and deliberate decision must be
made in order for the cycle’s fulfillment to manifest fully in our consciousness. In many respects,
this 90-degree square is simultaneously the most delicate phase and yet the one that requires the
most courage and will (regardless of the planets involved). This is because we are tasked with
making a decision to move into a new direction, to open ourselves up to a new way of being, a new
way of operating. The nature of this first quarter square is to break free from the inertia of the
past. While the conjunction has been simmering below the surface until now, this phase of the cycle
draws out our attention with heat and charge, especially given the particular planets involved here.
Yet the maturity of the cycle is still quite young, so the question of, "To what new way of being am
I to turn towards exactly?" cannot be fully answered. Fortunately, we have a strong dose of courage
in this particular square (which occurred March 24th of this year, only a few months back, and very
near the Spring Equinox), as it not only involved the planet of catalyzing initiative (Mars) but
also had the Sun in courageous Aries. Mars itself encountered this 90-degree arc while in Capricorn,
suggesting that the nature of our challenge is to begin learning how to integrate our personal quest
for a purer state of beingness with our will to achieve or even just maintain progress in the world.
How do we seek out personal meaning when challenged by the practicalities of the outer world?
Receding into an ashram for several months may not be a realistic option for those of us with
families. Less dramatically, simply trying to take more time for personal introspection and study
can be duly thwarted by the inertia and momentum of life. It’s much easier to remain as we are, even
when dissatisfied and unhappy, then it is to charge into new and unknown terrain. Yet the call is
upon us, and as we stated earlier, the fruits of such a new way of being are worth more than our
muster: love and joy.
The task for us here then is to marshal the courage to "cut over" into this new territory. We may
not always realize it, but our consciousness has an intertia to it, a mode of operating that is
fairly repetitive and flat. Many of us make the mistake in thinking that time qualifies as age.
Though our physical bodies age and mature automatically, our being does not. In life we are
challenged to perform our own "bootstrapping" process, to take the experiences that come our way as
opportunities for learning and growth, rather than as annoyances or grievances to our stasis and
equilibrium. While the world at large considers the even road as the valuable initiative, the call
for the metaphysical practitioner is to allow his or her stability to be disturbed. This 90-degree
arc – the waxing first quarter square – is the exact moment for such a disturbance to rumble within
us as we intentionally decide to move away from – or, rather, cut over from – the inert mode in
which we've operated up to this point.
What we decide during this cutting over phase will, at least in some significant way, influence our
experience of the upcoming fulfillment phase which we will now discuss.
Phase 3: Fulfillment Returned
This is where the cycle gets really interesting. Actually, this is the portion of the cycle that
began this article, although again, most astrological information published doesn’t even speak to
the nature of this phase other than with glib statements such as, "Be patient and wait it out, it’ll
be over soon." — or something to that effect.
Critiques aside, as we enter the Mars retrograde period towards the end of Phase 2, we are entering
a stage of preparation for the main event. At the opposition aspect (July 26, 2018), the Sun and
Mars will be 180-degrees of arc away from each other, the farthest distance possible. Yet to call
this an opposition is such a disservice to all that we’ve learned and gained so far. Though our
subjects are technically opposed in terms of their geometric positions in the zodiac, they are
actually not facing-off with one another, but rather fulfilling their purpose within us. This
purpose, whether integrated consciously by us or not, is at its maximum vibrational tone. It is
resonating as loudly as it can possibly resound and is revealing the fruits of the cyclic process,
now midway along its journey.
Will we experience such vibratory pulsations as a friction-force confronting us, or as a ringing out
of this Sun-Mars ideal?
What is so fascinating about this phase, is that not only is the fruit of fulfillment becoming known
to us, but it’s also occurring while one of the planets is retrograde. Specifically, Mars is
actually going backwards in the zodiac as the cycle’s manifestation point culminates. This at
least suggests that in order for such a process to unfold and fulfill, some kind of internalization
of the factors and energies involved must be made. If we are to consciously integrate this charge
of beingness, then we must, as Mars does during this phase, slow down.
By slowing down we can turn inward and allow our deeper natures to become charged with cosmic essence,
with love and effervescent joy. What a perfect blend of the Leo-Aquarius axis:
To personally experience each moment with creativity and pure love radiating through us as we
charge the world with the visionary message of this universal love.
The above is what I would consider to be the ideal fulfillment of our current Sun-Mars cycle, though
I'm well-aware that it is an extreme vision and is also perhaps a bit abstract. To bring it into our
everyday awareness, we could simply say that the fulfillment of this Sun-Mars cycle is to experience
whatever level of increased joy that we can, and to become as comfortable expressing that with
others as possible. Leo at its best is warmth and simplicity (what we could call radiance),
while Aquarius is idealized in the sharing of a communal vision. Our
beingness – our sense of who we are during this time – can partake in the fruits of this Mars
retrograde period by presenting to others not our egoic ambitions (and attendant frustrations in not
being able to carry them out), but rather whatever quality of radiance we can find within ourselves.
The fact that this fulfillment phase occurs during the Mars retrograde period means that invoking
this charge of beingness will take time, and is perhaps best accomplished not through force but
through pulling back and slowing down.
On a realistic note, though our world doesn’t seem to allow us to slow down, part of our challenge
is to find a way to do this anyway. Especially for those of us who practice or give any credit to
astrology, what do we think is going to happen if we outright reject the very thing that this cycle
is so clearly communicating to us? For the metaphysical astrologer, the purpose is to live according
to the higher ideals, and not conform to the typical norms of our culture and society.
I can personally attest to the value of reducing overwhelm by simply slowing down whatever I am
doing. This not only increases effectiveness of the task at hand, but — better yet — allows us to be
more open to new and creative ways of being and operating. More often than not, not having enough
time is just a perspective, a viewpoint, an illusion even. A direct experience of this is needed
to fully comprehend what I’ve stated, but take a few minutes next time you’re feeling overwhelmed,
take a few breaths and force yourself to step away and slow down. Do it for just a single minute —
do it fully — then see what happens.
This current Sun-Mars cycle is especially potent due to a few other chart factors occurring during
this third phase. First of all, the Sun-Moon fulfillment phase (the actual Full Moon that will light
up the night sky) also occurs at the same time as the Sun-Mars one, as both 180-degree arcs find
themselves aligned on the nodal axis of the Moon. In fact, we are experiencing a total Lunar Eclipse
(which is also a Blood Moon due to its closeness to the Earth) during these third phases of both the
Sun-Mars and Sun-Moon cycles. Although I prefer to avoid complexity when looking at a chart, I must
also mention the powerful t-square between the Sun, Moon, Mars & Nodal Axes to Uranus. All of these
points are also in fixed signs, with Jupiter not exactly part of the configuration but still
carrying a potent fixed quality from its recent retrograde period in Scorpio.
In keeping with our wholistic approach to the t-square, we might prefer to say that the Sun is at a
90-degree arc away from Uranus as it ventures outward on the spiral to encourage our individuation
process, while the Moon and Mars are at a 270-degree arc away from it. Thus they are collapsing
back to their seed positions with this titan of individuality, suggesting our emotional drive to
break free from the status quo has already been established, at least to one level of commitment.
The above is a lot of astrological information to digest, let alone synthesize into something
applicable and meaningful to our lives. I tend to take Dane Rudhyar's position in cases like this
"The study of our birth-chart, and of progressions and transits, should help us to realize the
meaning of what happened... more often than not after it has happened, because our mind then is
probably clearer, more objective."
– Dane Rudhyar, From Humanistic to Transpersonal Astrology
The short answer is that this is a significant time where a brand new and innovative shift of energy
can occur within us. Our willingness to be open to new insights and deeply personal drives during
this time should allow us to experience our true natures unfolding more deeply, leading us towards a
higher state of consciousness. The caution here, if there is one, is that becoming more of who one
actually is may not be for the faint of heart. There is a reason most people do not break free from
the status quo definitions of their self.
Phase 4: Collapse to Expand
During this final phase of the fourfold cycle (starting December 2018), typically referred to as the
third-quarter square, we find the Sun now at 270-degrees of arc away from Mars. Most astrologers
regard this aspect as just another square — as the Sun is also approaching Mars at 90-degrees —
but for the astrologer who is integrating a wholistic “big picture” into his/her practice, this
square is of a different nature than the first-quarter discussed earlier. After all, the Sun has
journeyed away from Mars for 270-degrees. All the while, we have been challenged more ways than one,
and yet our challenge continues.
Yet we need not be daunted. By now, we have taken on this charge of beingness — including the
resolve and energy thereof — which means we are more capable than ever to embrace the crisis of the
270 arc: the call to release. So what needs to be released?
As each cycle fulfills and turns towards its return – towards the next eventual Phase 1 conjunction,
the next Sowing Season – there may be a tendency to identify with the fruits of the still
operating cycle. This may sound odd, especially in light of the significance outlined above
regarding all of this, but continually moving towards de-identification (or non-attachment) is a
critically important part of any wholistic cycle. This is because all things in our existence are
sown, fulfilled and destroyed. Not only do all living creatures experience birth, growth and death
(sowing and destruction by the natural rhythm of our biosphere), but even our subjective experiences
of our selves, our relationships and of life must go through such a process.
For the metaphysical practitioner, to be born into each moment, while dying fully to the previous
one, is the path of non-attachment, the path of transcendence of all burdens of existence. It is the
nature of true freedom and expansion, for any sort of attachment whatsoever is actually a bond or
burden which can only serve to keep us weighed down, stagnant and spiritually dead. Thus the 270-degree
arc challenging us here in Phase 4 is asking us no small thing. It is most definitely a
crisis, though now we can see that this crisis is of a different quality than the first quarter
In this one, the crisis is to let go and release all identifications to the past. By doing so, we
embrace our freedom to expand into another phase of growth which we are now turned towards.
Integrating all that’s been experienced during the cycle thus far, we are challenged here to "cut
over", not into a new way of being in the world, but a new way of seeing the world, and what it
could become. Only by relinquishing all attachments to past ways of operating can we be open to this
new vision. This does not mean that a past way wasn't the best way at that time, nor does it mean
that it won't ever again be the appropriate way at some other time. It simply means that any
identification to a particular way of operating – of being – is best left behind so we can fully
explore new paradigms as we charge forth into new realms.
And what better support could we ask for while experiencing this Collapse to Expand challenge than
with the chart of the third quarter square for this Sun-Mars cycle (December 1, 2018)? In it we see
Mars in Pisces, conjunct Neptune, allowing us to release any egoic tendencies we may have into the
broad seas of redemption, knowing we'll be be supported by the truth of the forthcoming mystery. To
complete this square, we then see that 270-degrees away from these planets is the Sun conjunct
Mercury and Jupiter in Sagittarius, indicating freedom of thought and new ideas to be explored and
accessed. It is almost as if the astrological factors in play during this phase are themselves
archetypally resonant with the nature of the 270 square:
To align ourselves with cosmic will, to let go of our personal need to just accomplish a set
of tasks or go after what we want simply "Because it's what I want", and to re-charge our sense of
purpose with love and joy.