No Going Back: The Saturn-Uranus Square of 2021

Posted on January 3, 2022
Posted by Grace Ironwood

Before turning to the bristly phenomenon of the Saturn-Uranus square of 2021, I will pause to comment on some other features of the astrological landscape.

The Neptunian Wave and Saturn Craving. We are still engulfed in what I call the Neptunian Wave that is the pandemic. We know more about the virus, but it keeps mutating, and answers to some important questions remain elusive. Meanwhile, a new form of “reality” is being created, consisting of what people see on the screens of their devices. The word “screen” is telling.

The old reality returns for some when they cannot breathe. Their Neptunian journey is not over. The seclusion of the hospital, sacrificial ministrations of exhausted doctors and nurses, fog of sedation, lingering weakness, and for some the final dissolution – all of these things lie in the Twelfth House realm that is ruled by Neptune. Outside the hospitals and mortuaries, sales of alcohol – Neptune in a bottle – are up.

We crave something firm to grab onto. Clear answers delivered by someone we can rely on. Schedules that don’t change, at least when it comes to airline flights and supply-chain logistics. In astrological terms, this is a craving for more Saturn energy in its positive form and less Neptune energy in its negative form.

Saturn is the planetary archetype associated with the positive forces of stable structures, leaders who command respect, and traditional solutions that have stood the test of time. When faced with chaos and uncertainty, these are the things that we turn to for protection.

Neptune, when it manifests negatively, is the planetary archetype associated with the opposite of these things. All that is foggy and nebulous. Crumbling structures. Dissolving boundaries. Leaders who are not what they seem. Deception in all forms.

The planet Neptune is transiting through the sign of Pisces, the zone where astrologers consider its influence to be at its most powerful. This transit started in 2011 and will continue into 2025-26. The effects of this long transit can be hard to perceive at any given moment. When driving in fog, we need to slow down, or pull over and wait for the fog to lift. It’s the same with Neptunian fog. As I have written about elsewhere, slowing down and waiting are not things that our culture likes to do! But the pandemic has forced a lot of that to happen. It seems that one lesson that Neptune in Pisces is teaching us is to reconsider the pace at which we move, and the pace at which we expect others to move. Perhaps we need to slow down to receive Neptune’s positive gifts of compassion and spiritual insight.

Amid all this, we find ourselves craving Saturnian stability. Tired of uncertainty, we have nostalgia for the way things were before and a desire to go back to that state as soon as possible. What is getting in the way? The dissolving tide of Neptune is part of it, but there is more: Uranus is in play. Let’s take a look.

The Saturn-Uranus Square. Throughout 2021, we have also had the transiting Saturn-Uranus square to contend with. Saturn is in the fixed Sign of Aquarius and Uranus is in the fixed Sign of Taurus. The two planets made an exact square aspect to each other (90 degrees apart) three times in 2021, on February 17, June 14, and finally on December 23-24. The energy formed by two planets in a square aspect is considered challenging and marked by friction that forces us to make decisions.

Moreover, this is a last quarter square, marking the entry into the last quarter of a cycle that began in 1988 when Saturn and Uranus were conjunct in late Sagittarius. “The last quarter phase symbolizes a moment of crisis in the formulation and the sharing of meaning and value with other human beings.[i] Under this influence, people have a “tendency to experience crisis in consciousness,” and to “force issues on the basis of some more or less important principle which they feel they must uphold.”[ii] Did we not see a lot of this kind of thing in 2021?

 Office vs. remote work. One place where the Saturn-Uranus friction has been playing out vividly is in the debate about remote working in those jobs that have traditionally been performed by people sitting at desks and conference tables in office buildings.

The Saturn impulse has been manifesting in the desire of many institutions to force employees who have been working remotely during the pandemic to return to the office now, or by some fixed deadline. The people in charge of those institutions – the bosses – are authority figures and thus personify the Saturn archetype. People inhabiting that role will feel pressure to perpetuate the existing structures that they are charged with overseeing.

The existing structure of many workplaces is made up of office buildings coupled with a belief system that requires people to do most of their work inside them. This structure provides stability even as it reinforces authoritarian hierarchies. It allows bosses to physically monitor workers and direct their movements throughout the day. This gives bosses a reassuring sense of control. Office buildings are generally designed to reward bosses with better physical space to work in: more room, privacy, better lighting, and so on. Subordinate workers are given less of all these things, making their environment less pleasant and more oppressive. Differences in status are thus made visible and palpable. Rules about start times, break times, quitting times, and “time off” ensure that workers spend most of their time inside the structure, which is itself part of a larger infrastructure of roads, parking garages, public transportation and geographic zones like “downtown,” “business districts,” and “residential neighborhoods” that generate the destructive long commutes that have become so normalized. All of this is fundamentally Saturnian in that it is made up of physical structures, boundaries, and rules that demand conformity.

The pandemic upended this office building infrastructure in the sudden, startling way that astrologers associate with Uranus.

Uranus is the archetype associated with unexpected events that destabilize existing rules and structures, bursts of creative inspiration, innovation, and the desire for independence that manifests as a sudden break for freedom.

The shift to remote working forced by the pandemic awakened individuals and businesses to a realization that the office building infrastructure is not as necessary as it seemed. Many businesses found that they did just fine, financially speaking, with a remote workforce using new technology and methods. This discovery undermined the rationale for penning workers into offices, to say nothing of the costs to lease or buy those offices. Meanwhile, many individuals came to realize that they could not imagine going back to their former long commutes, cubicles, noisy and distracting “open office” spaces, fluorescent lights, etc. They were no longer willing to suppress their own needs for fresh air, sunshine, sleep, time with family, pets, a serene domestic life, and so on.

Unable to point to financial losses from remote working, the business world started talking about “office culture” as a reason to bring workers back to the office. The newfound emphasis by Saturn authority figures on “office culture” does not ring quite true, but it may be that some bosses really are perceiving a need to reformulate the “sharing of meaning and value” with their human workforces.

To be fair, some workers also want to go back to the office. These people tend to have clear reasons that make sense. For example, some find that working from home erodes the boundary between work and private life. This is a Neptune problem (no boundaries). The cure is a dose of Saturn, that is, to re-establish the boundary by going to work in a separate building. Other people don’t have a good workspace at home. Lack of material resources is a Saturn problem. One solution is to go where the functional workspace is, namely the office building. Still other people have a Venus problem: they miss the social interactions that happen in an office building. Bringing everyone back to the office is one way to assuage that loneliness.

But there is another group of workers who do not want to want to go back to the office at all. These people can supply enough of their own Saturn energy to work from home in a disciplined manner and stay productive. They do not want still more Saturn energy in the form of oppressive commutes, rigid schedules, and confining workspaces. They want the increased freedom that comes with working from home. This is a Uranian desire.

And so the debate has raged. We’ve all seen the articles. Remote working is here to stay! No, it’s not! Company X is going all-remote! Company Y is offering a hybrid schedule! Company Z is bringing everyone back to the office! Workers are prepared to quit if they can’t keep working remotely! The Great Resignation is sweeping through the economy, what now?

Things are not sorted yet. This is no surprise when we remember that the last-quarter square marks the beginning of the last stage of the current Saturn-Uranus cycle. Again, that cycle started in 1988, when the use of computers in the workplace was still new. It will end – and a new cycle will begin – in 2032 when Saturn and Uranus are conjunct in late Gemini. We have about ten years to integrate the lessons of the 2021 Saturn-Uranus square. Those lessons will span all areas of life, but focusing on the topic of office work, I wonder how likely it is that the traditional office building infrastructure will dominate life in 2032.

I won’t go further and try to predict how office work will be structured ten years from now. I will say that those individuals and organizations who can consciously balance Saturnian stability with Uranian freedom and openness to new information will be most likely to thrive and point the way forward.

[i] Dane Rudyhar, The Lunation Cycle, p. 33 (1967).

[ii] Id., p. 54.

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One response to “No Going Back: The Saturn-Uranus Square of 2021”

  1.' Cecilia says:

    I found your article very informative. My knowledge of astrology is limited, but what you wrote seems to make sense. I was not aware of the square between Saturn and Uranus during this time. It will be interesting to watch how the next ten years unfold. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

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