We are the Cosmos in Human Form:
An Interview with Rick Tarnas and Kenny Ausubel about the new documentary, Changing of the Gods
By Ray Grasse
Ray Grasse: There’s an idea that comes up in the documentary — the “arc of the moral universe.” Would either of you care to explain what that means to you, and how you see it as tied in to world transits, and to the historical trajectory of social movements?
Kenny Ausubel: Yeah, in constructing the film and looking at the narrative, a lot of my interest was with world transits, as in Cosmos and Psyche, and looking at these correlations across different cycles of Uranus and Pluto. And I saw a kind of historical arc, a trajectory. In the film, we go back primarily to the French Revolution and work forward from there, and each time it’s like jumping across lily pads; you see this radical kind of surge of this revolutionary energy in large-scale social transformations. And it’s not a kind of “Groundhog Day” of simple repetition, there’s clearly an evolution each time. There can definitely be two steps forward, one step back, or one step forward and two steps backward, but it’s moving, and moving in really big ways.
And as we were constructing the film, Rick really pointed out that, from his perspective, the overall character of Uranus–Pluto transits is indeed that the “arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” And of course, it all happens to coincide with the three main Uranus–Pluto transits where that beautiful quote recurs in three very prominent ways: it began in the 1850s with the abolitionist Theodore Parker, then, of course, with Martin Luther King Jr., and then, Obama repeated it, yet again, who topped it off by saying the arc doesn’t bend by itself, you have to put your hand on it and bend the arc. Which happens to be my personal belief system, as well.
That was what I found really compelling. Even when you look at the footage we have of the 1960s and the different aspects of that period, you see how we have come so far in so many ways from that period, though in other ways, of course, we are regressing. You know, in the ’60s not only was being gay illegal but you could go to jail for it; it was just absolutely a taboo in society; people were loathed and reviled. And that’s just not the case today, not even close. And of course during this transit we see gay marriage and sexual revolutions involving transgender issues, and so forth. So I think it’s possible to live with a lot of cultural amnesia — particularly in the digital world we’re in today, what with the sound bite and the 15 seconds of fame and all the rest of it — so that we lose that long view. Certainly in mainstream and corporate media, the depiction of social movements is generally very stereotyped and kind of denigrating; you’re tagged as “do-gooders” and that it never really leads to anything good. I think that by seeing that historical arc there really is a moral arc of the universe and that it does bend towards justice. As to whether it’s bending enough, that remains to be seen.
RG: That brings up that interesting point, about how “history doesn’t repeat itself; it rhymes.” And that quote of Theodore Parker’s is a great example of that. It resurfaces at different times through history, under those Uranus–Pluto transits, but there’s a change in the context and inflection each time.
Rick Tarnas: Yes, it’s quite striking how that pattern played itself out in history. There has been a tendency, going all the way back to ancient astrology, to think in terms of ever-repeating cycles of the planets returning to the same point, coming back into a conjunction and beginning a new cycle. What was remarkable for me in writing Cosmos and Psyche was, I set out to follow cycle after cycle of each time Uranus and Pluto went through a major quadrature alignment, or each time Uranus and Neptune did, or Jupiter and Uranus, and so on — and I saw there was not only a cyclical activation of the same archetypal principles very visible through history, but there was also a very distinct evolution. This was something I hadn’t planned to track quite so vividly — that we’re really experiencing a spiral here, we’re not seeing a flat circle or cycle that keeps repeating itself. It rhymes archetypally; it’s the same archetypal principle, but it can be rhymed and inflected in a number of different ways. And that’s where freedom and courage of consciousness comes into the equation.
RG: Beautifully said. I know this could change, but as of this conversation your documentary is scheduled to premiere on February 22nd of 2022 — which happens to coincide with the first Pluto return for the US. Was that intentional, or just a scheduling fluke?
KA: It was not intentional. We had an earlier release date, but we had to change it because of COVID-19, actually, and we knew that for practical reasons it needed to be after the first of the year. So, I was looking for an approximate window that would be practically viable, and I conversed, of course, with Rick on the exact day, and it ended up being February 22nd. So that was sort of synchronistic.
RT: The whole process of doing the film took a number of years, so the Pluto return was not something we focused on at the time the film was being conceived. But I do see the Pluto return of the US as one of the really shaping archetypal factors in US contemporary political and social life right now, even its moral and spiritual life. And of course the Saturn–Pluto conjunction we’ve just gone through has played a huge role, as well, on many levels.
KA: Yeah, when I learned about that (the timing of the film’s release with the Pluto return), I felt that that was deeply karmic on some level. Because although the series deals with global events, it’s also very American, in that it’s centrally focused on the US. And we go into a lot of hidden history that is not necessarily in the history books or most of them. And one of the themes that Rick raises around Uranus–Pluto transits is the “return of the repressed,” and so just looking now, for example, at what’s happening with critical race theory — which was a rather niche, academic discipline, and is now on the front page everywhere — is really about the rewriting of American history.
What we do in the series is go back to the very beginnings of the founding of the country with a pretty serious analysis of what the constitution is. The series is not just the story of revolution, it’s the story of revolution and counter-revolution. In the American Revolution, there were revolutionary elements that we would consider to be very progressive and positive, but then there would be a countervailing movement to essentially recreate a property-based society that would secure the elites in place once again — but with American elites, rather than British ones. And we deal with similar issues related to the racial history of the country, and to the feminist history of the country — there’s just so much hidden history, much of which we often talked about at Bioneers. Very few people know that during the mid-19th century Uranus–Pluto conjunction, Seneca Falls happened. That was a seminal event in the women’s rights movement in the first wave of feminism. And very few people know that some of those women lived in New York state and ended up visiting the Iroquois, who actually had the only genuine democracy existing on the continent until that time, where women had truly equal standing in all ways with men; different roles, yes, but equal standing, politically. And that became a primary influence on the early feminists who all had been having this dream of “What would equal rights look like?” — and there it was, in their own backyard.
And so going back to the transits and tracing the evolution of that “arc of the moral universe,” these are the things that constitute a kind of a transmission; this is the history that people really need to know, and that has been largely neglected or repressed until this time. And I think in relation to the Pluto return coming full cycle now, in many ways you could characterize this as a contest between democracy and empire, the two multivalent poles of that Pluto return. And I think that is what’s up right now, that is the choice point that the country is at: Who are we, and who are we going to become? Are those founding ideals real, or are we, in fact, a tyrannical state and an imperial one?
RT: Regarding the Pluto return, I would include the importance of facing the shadow at the level of our national consciousness and conscience, and also the willingness to go through the purgatorial fire of transformation that is Pluto’s signature.
RG: Well, as you know, the U.S. not only has the Pluto return happening, but its third Uranus return will be firing as well, in 2027. So we’re in for some interesting times!
Rick: Yes, that’s right, both of these huge national transits will be active during this decade. And notice how that first Uranus return in the mid-1860s was both a Uranian disruptive event that went straight to the heart of the American experiment, yet was also bringing the possibility of what Lincoln called a new birth of freedom. This ideal had been prevented from being fulfilled by the very structures of the original Constitution, which had sanctioned slavery and given special powers to the slave states. The Civil War represented this enormous convulsion that helped set in motion a new birth of freedom.
And you can see perhaps some similar factors at work in our own time as we move into this next Uranus return. But the Pluto return of course is unique to this time, as it’s our first Pluto return. It’s a journey into the underworld and an activation of the collective Id within the US, yet at the same time it’s this transformational crucible of death and rebirth. I am hopeful that the United States may come through this in a deeply transformative and life-enhancing way.
Ray Grasse is associate editor at The Mountain Astrologer, and author of several books, including StarGates, Signs of the Times, and Under a Sacred Sky. His website is www.raygrasse.com
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Full interview is featured in our current “Aries Nox 2022” issue, available here!