The astrological portrait of an event always presents us with many layers of meaning and implies a situation more complex than is apparent on the surface. The terrible terrorist attack on America on 11th September 2001 is no exception. Since that day, numerous articles have appeared on the internet offering an astrological interpretation of what has happened, and many of these can aid in our understanding. No amount of interpretation of planetary symbols will mitigate the grief and outrage felt by so many people, nor will it affect the decisions made by governments which do not avail themselves of astrological insights. However, astrological insights can sometimes help the individual to find a more balanced perspective. It seems to me that, in the present astrological climate,  a balanced perspective is badly needed in the wake of such a terrifying and terrible event.
1. The chart of the event
Like many charts for the inception of war, the chart set for the collision of the first hijacked aircraft with the World Trade Centre building contains a deceptively benign aspect. There is a powerful and apparently harmonious configuration between the planets Mercury, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. It is not my intention to discuss the horary or predictive implications of this chart - other astrologers who specialise in these perspectives have already done this elsewhere - but rather, the deeper picture it portrays of the collective psyche at the moment of the attack. Like the similar benign configuration in the inception chart for World War Two, this set-up of planets is telling us something we may not wish to recognise: it is easy for such events to occur when the collective psyche floats in a state of complacency and unawareness. Such planetary configurations are aspects of ease and reflect gifts and innate aptitudes in an individual's chart, but they can also connote a naive assumption that all is well in the world. It is the 'difficult' or 'inharmonious' aspects which force us to become conscious and work at containing our conflicts and developing our potentials. This chart contains a striking juxtaposition of both types of aspect - a grand trine and a T-cross. It is characteristic, when this occurs in an individual's chart, for the trines to dominate initially, and the hard aspects to register through a crisis of some kind which forces the person to face painful realities they would prefer to avoid. This planetary alignment is in the astrological element of air - concerned with ideas, ideals, and concepts - and perhaps reflects the dangerously self-satisfied idealism with which we in the Western world began the week of 9th September. The dominance of political correctness over human reality, and the belief that it can solve the world's problems, may be one of many things which has just come to an abrupt end.
Other aspects in this chart are aggressive and potentially very destructive. Treated with consciousness in an individual's chart, they can be productive of extremely positive results. When they appear as the signature of the climate of the moment, they can be explosive. The aspects of 11th September portray this event as being rooted in ideological conflicts, the underlying drumbeat being the fanaticism and intolerance which have yearly been on the increase in every nation of the world. The focus of the tension is the sphere of the horoscope concerned with ancestral ghosts, inheritance from the past, traditionally the house of 'secret enemies'. From a psychological perspective, this area of the birth chart is concerned with patterns in the collective unconscious which stretch back over many generations. In short, this explosive configuration of hard aspects describes the fruition of issues of anger, aggression, scapegoating, and fanaticism which have their roots in a much longer past.
I do not believe it is possible to take the chart for an event, or the transits over a national chart, and foretell what will 'happen' in concrete terms. Sometimes a transit picture over a national chart is highly suggestive when linked with knowledge of political affairs, as was the case with the Soviet Union in 1989. But the configurations here are not that obvious. Threatening and disturbing, yes; clear and simple, no. Many people are now proudly declaring, with hindsight, how easy it is to read the events of 11 September in this chart, and in the transits across the chart of the USA, discussed below. This is a facile pronouncement. So are the various prognostications of the End of the World, which have been around for as long as the world has. Claiming to have such foreknowledge may give a feeling of personal power and importance, but it might be more constructive - and truthful - to admit not only our ignorance but also our need to look objectively at many different levels and perspectives to try to make sense of the catastrophe which has just occurred and steer our way to a future which is constructive rather than destructive. If we believe there is any possibility of free will and any capacity to work on difficult configurations to generate creative rather than destructive results, we must accept the fact that the terrorist attack on America was not 'fated'.
It is also pointless to declare how it could have been avoided if so-and-so had done or not done such-and-such. There are too many 'if only's being thrown about, and perhaps also too many smug declarations of blame in every direction, including self-blame. This is not helpful and is rather like telling someone with cancer that it's their 'fault' because they didn't sort out their psychological problems or ate the wrong food ten years before. We need to look at the meaning of these events first, and then look forward to how we can turn a great evil into an opportunity for bettering things. Of course America has a psychological 'shadow'. So does every other nation in the world. At some point it may be appropriate to explore the nature of that shadow. But just as no amount of self-analysis can protect an individual from the unexpected, no amount of self-analysis can protect a nation from the unexpected either. Those who assume that terrorist acts are the inevitable 'result' of a nation's failings are, in effect, attributing logic, fairness, and justice to people who abandoned logic, justice, and fairness long ago.
Whether in an individual's, a nation's, or an event's chart, the contrast between a benign configuration reflecting lofty and noble humanitarian ideals, and a stressful configuration reflecting elements of scapegoating, aggression, obsessive fanaticism, and potential violence born of impotent rage is striking. Benign configurations in a birth chart often hide a multitude of sins. Psychologically, we tend to hide behind our gifts and aptitudes to avoid the pain of dealing with our limitations and conflicts. It could be said that the collective - globally, and not just in America - was in precisely this state of hopeful denial of reality on the morning of 11th September.
Juxtaposing this chart with the birth chart of the USA - in other words, examining the transits - gives a clear picture of what this event means to the country. The chart of the event is the chart of the collective psyche at the moment, but as a transit chart, it tells us how the qualities of the moment affect America. These transits are very disturbing - although it should be remembered that the most important of them has been around for some time and is not exclusive to 11th September. Conflict with 'others' is synchronous with a deep internal transformation, and transformations of this nature are usually extremely unpleasant, even devastating, to begin with, although in the long term they are immensely creative. The quality of America's Sagittarius Ascendant - the 'personality' of the nation - has always been evident to the outside world in attractive and less attractive ways - the undaunted explorer's spirit, the boundless enthusiasm and faith in the future, the deeply religious bias, the material and emotional excess, the assumption of moral superiority, the courageous refusal to accept defeat, the unquenchable optimism.
All these qualities, pleasant and less pleasant, reflect a glorious naiveté in the best and worst senses - an innocence about what people are really capable of, a simultaneously tolerant and self-righteous attitude toward broader philosophical and spiritual issues, a desire to believe the best of everyone, and a firm conviction that all things, even the bad ones, can yield opportunities for growth. The transformation now occurring, reflected by transiting Pluto moving across this Sagittarius Ascendant, is a kind of Childhood's End, bringing with it the loss of innocence and the challenge of transforming Sagittarius' childlike intuitive vision of higher purpose into genuine wisdom and a more realistic vision of humanity. Pluto can take us to hell and back, and its process can involve loss, humiliation, depression, and a sense of colliding with fate or forces beyond our control. Pluto transits are humbling and may also be accompanied by feelings of impotence and great anxiety. The terrorist attack on 11th September is the major trigger for Plutonian transformation, but it represents only one of several ongoing issues which reflect a deeper process at work.
It should be remembered that planetary movements such as these have a long build-up period, and Pluto's first approach to the American Ascendant coincided with the scandal of President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. However silly and superficial this might have seemed to many, it raised deeper issues about morality and public responsibility. The present crisis is in a different league altogether - America is under attack, over five thousand innocent people have been killed and, unless action is taken, more tragedies may occur. But underneath, the moral questioning now demanded of all Americans is fuelled by the same Sagittarian quest to define the ultimate and absolute nature of right and wrong, truth and falsehood, good and evil. And because Pluto moving through Sagittarius reflects a process in all of us, every nation must now grapple with this same moral questioning. The time for hypocrisy is over.
It is natural, psychologically and also astrologically, to seek to identify the culprits for the tragedy, and to feel victimised by those who are obsessively unbending in their ideology and intolerant of points of view other than their own. Usually, when an important transit passes over this part of the birth chart, the 'other' really is out there. This is not just 'projection', as some rather silly people are claiming. There are real terrorist networks active around the world, dedicated to overthrowing Western institutions; they really do kill people; and they will happily do so again. The British have endured acts of terrorism and the murder of innocent people in their home cities by the IRA for over twenty-five years, and know what it feels like. But at the same time, the enemy 'other' is a catalyst as well as a perpetrator, and it may be necessary to recognise that a polarisation has been building up for a long time which needs to be better integrated. The events of 11th September coincide with the beginning of a long, ongoing transit of Saturn through the 7th house of the national chart. It is the aftermath, and the inevitable changes in collective thinking, which will highlight the real meaning and potentially creative outcome of the present disaster.
With any planetary opposition, it is extremely important not to polarise. Polarisation - 'us against them', and 'hunt the scapegoat' - is the easiest way to deal with oppositions, and sometimes inevitable at first. But it is not the most helpful way in the long run. Remaining as objective as possible, and holding back until reason can contain and direct impulse, can allow us to do what is necessary without indulging in the mob rule which smashes shop windows and lumps all individuals of a particular race or religion or nationality under the same umbrella. Those in America and Europe who are perpetrating acts of violence against innocent Muslim families living among them are no different from the terrorists who lump all Americans together as 'evil'. Those who have been scapegoated - in this case, America herself - need to be able to respond without becoming scapegoaters. Psychologically, rage and feelings of vengefulness are a normal and necessary part of the grieving process, and we should not be ashamed of feeling them. The critical question is whether, and how, we act on them.
There are many other striking transits. One, involving the planet Mercury, concerns America's image in the eyes of the world, both positive and negative - as the 'moral judge', the defender of civilised society, the peacekeeper, the bastion of the 'high moral ground', the 'policeman' of the world. This is an ambivalent image, sometimes immensely strong and just, sometimes oppressive and self-righteous. It is possible that this transit in America's chart could, hopefully, signal a new and more positive use of the nation's power as compassionate judge and wise leader. The transit cycle of Mercury which began on 11th September is coming to completion on 23rd October, although I would not wish to hazard a guess as to the nature of the completion. It may be that those who are responsible are brought to justice. Or the cycle may be psychological, and reflect a firming and crystallising of moral, political, and legal structures resulting in measured, carefully thought out action.
The financial effects of the catastrophe are reflected in another transit, this time involving the planet Neptune. More important than the financial loss is the undermining of assumptions of safety and security. There is also a statement being made here about resources and the ways in which these are used and shared. The regressive tendency is to isolationism and protectionism, while the progressive tendency is to pool resources and recognise the necessity of co-operation, both materially and psychologically. Neptune transits often accompany losses which must be accepted, and it is wiser, under Neptune, to let go and trust in the eventual resolution of things rather than fighting blindly to hang on to a sense of safety which has already slipped away.
Resources may be psychological as well as material, and the immediate effort by America to create greater co-operation with other nations is an extremely positive response to this Neptune transit which asks the nation to focus less on how many millions the WTC building cost, and more on how much we all need each other if we wish to exist peacefully with other nations and other peoples. Countries which have been ostracised or dismissed as unimportant may turn out to be friends; countries which have appeared to be friends may have to look again at their own covert destructive activities. The transit of Neptune highlights the theme of relationship with other countries, and in this sphere America's chart is not especially indicative of ease. There is a tendency to emphasise the material level of reality and a reluctance to look at the deeper levels of human motivation. Co-dependency with other nations and a spirit of psychological if not economic equality may have been sometimes difficult to achieve. It is perhaps worth remembering that, during World War Two, America reluctantly but decisively entered the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbour - itself a form of terrorist attack - and despite the terrible losses, this involvement in a global effort helped to generate a world in which there has, at times, been greater recognition of the mutual dependency of all nations. This transit of Neptune, which has coincided with great grief and loss on many levels, may ultimately yield an enduring spirit of unity and co-operation.
3. The progressed chart of the USA
A progressed chart portrays the deeper meaning of the time, and is less descriptive of the kinds of outer experiences which are likely to impinge on the individual's or nation's life. This progressed chart presents us with a striking aspect which suggests greater honesty and more open dialogue between government and people, and the beginning of a new cycle of development involving increasing understanding of and sensitivity to the global entity of which the nation is a part. It is an extremely positive and creative aspect. It is my experience that painful external events often occur when such a positive progressed aspect is building up - as though it is in some way necessary to clean out what is outworn and go through a kind of trial by fire in order to release the potential which is trying to be born. This progressed aspect, so different from the transits in America's chart, gives me hope for the outcome of current events because it implies a growing capacity for clarity, consciousness, and integration which could inaugurate a kind of rebirth. Although there are likely to be further trials to be undergone in the immediate future, this progressed aspect is very promising in terms of how things will eventually unfold.USA progressed chart Positions for 11 September 2001
A transit of the planet Uranus in the progressed chart reveals quite a literal image of what has happened: a shocking and unexpected experience, arising from the sphere of 'others', awakens the fiery spirit of the nation and kicks it into life. This transit could signal an awakening of a positive kind involving not only the attitudes of the public but also the nature of America's relations with the outside world. With all such aspects, everything depends on how people respond. In other words, every individual has a choice: polarise and conduct a campaign of hatred and protectionism, indulge in a morbid analysis of every real or imagined American mistake and failing, or remain objective, centred, and sympathetic to all people who are on the side of life - regardless of their nation, religion or race - and who are doing their best to contain the destructive elements which exist within all of us.
In the next weeks it is likely that aggression will be unleashed against those who perpetrated the terrorist attack, although hopefully this will be restrained and realistic rather than unbridled. Equally, the transit which suggests this also describes the anger and outrage justifiably felt throughout the nation. At the end of December a new transit, involving the planetoid Chiron, will begin to highlight the American birth chart. This transit goes on for a long time - all through 2002 and into 2003. It is not a transit of violence, but rather, one of grief, sadness, soul-searching, and also healing. It also describes a sense of vulnerability and recognition of national problems, wounds, and failings. Such soul-searching must come organically and naturally when the moment is right; it cannot be forced by those who want someone to blame and indulge in blaming their own nation because of the feelings of humiliation and impotence which major catastrophes always engender on a collective level. As an accompaniment the deeper process of transformation described by Pluto in the natal chart, it suggests a major re-evaluation of internal attitudes and a willingness to work at self-image and admit and attend to weaknesses and flaws which are human rather than 'bad' or 'evil'. The sphere of soul-searching may well be the real, rather than idealised, unfolding of the nation's history and its use of natural resources - the land, and the earth itself.
4. The President's chart
Finally, it might be helpful to look at the birth chart and progressed chart of President Bush. As an elected leader, the responsibility ultimately lands on his shoulders to meet the present crisis with both firmness and sanity. The links between his birth chart and those of America's natal chart are striking and an interesting study in their own right, since transits over one chart will always coincide with transits over the other. The present transit of Neptune in both charts may reflect not only Mr. Bush's encounter with an elusive, threatening Neptunian 'other', but also the challenge to his Leo Ascendant and his capacity to avail himself of its potential nobility and leadership qualities rather than its potential self-aggrandising tendencies. Another important transit to both his and America's charts is awakening him to the importance of the larger world community. A further transit describes clearly the emotional shock and pain which is evident in the President's response. And a forthcoming transit of the planet Jupiter in late September, which recurs next year, may bode well for both Mr. Bush and his country, particularly in opening up positive links with 'friends' and 'partners'.
5. President Bush's progressed chart
Over the next six months, progressed aspects in the President's chart suggest a chance for Mr Bush to establish his credentials in the world as a firm but civilised world leader, fulfilling the necessity indicated in his birth chart to carve his own path rather than falling back on the inheritance of his father and the values and belief systems in which he was raised. Whatever one's political views, this man is the man who is now in office and must deal with the present crisis. It is not especially helpful to vilify him at this time, as he has not yet had a chance to demonstrate fully how he intends to accomplish his goals in the midst of the nightmare. He (or those he works with) may surprise those who have dismissed him as incapable of handling the crisis. In some spheres or situations he may be the 'wrong' president, but it is possible that in the current climate he may be precisely the 'right' one.
There are many aspects, transiting, progressed, and natal, which I have not touched on in this article. I have tried to focus on the major aspects and what they might mean from a psychological perspective. Once again, I do not believe the terrorist attacks of 11th September could have been predicted. Also, I do not think there is any assurance they could have been avoided even if it had been possible to foresee them. As with experiences which occur in an individual's life, these dreadful events are the outer shape of a much deeper dilemma, which ultimately involves the reshaping of America's self-image and relations with other nations. It is a true life crisis of a Plutonian kind, and as with an individual, the opportunity is available to grow and flourish if old attitudes and perspectives can be relinquished and extremism and polarisation can be contained and neutralised by understanding. This is up to every single individual. It is pointless to go around shouting, 'It's the fault of the right/ left/ communists/ capitalists/ anarchists/ Muslims/ Jews/ Christians/ government policies/ immigrants/ extraterrestrials!' The terrorists themselves will, hopefully, receive their just due. But that is only one level of these transits. Change in any collective begins in the heart of each individual and in his or her way of dealing with a crisis. The spirit of compassion, mutual support, and unity which these terrible events have already generated in America is profoundly moving and ensures that Pluto's transformative propensities have already begun to reveal their deeper meaning.
The Saturn-Pluto opposition currently presiding in the heavens is a hard and painful aspect, and every person is experiencing it on one level or another - some in their intimate lives, some through their health, some through financial difficulties, some through being caught up in collective crises. This opposition pits two archetypal principles against each other - reason against chaos, civilisation against anarchy, entrenched structures against the inevitable need for change, rational control against the forces of the deeper unconscious psyche, human will against what we call 'fate'. Neither is 'right' or 'better' than the other. Balance and endurance are required, lest we polarise. The end product of the transit could be greater insight, more flexible and compassionate social and economic structures, greater realism, a diminishing of hypocrisy and an increase of self-honesty, and a true maturity and tolerance of spirit. And people can only pass through this painful initiation as individuals. That is ultimately the real message of astrology - not whether we can 'foretell the future' or 'spot the bad guy' and use our insights to bludgeon those we personally disapprove of for emotional or ideological reasons. Hatred, cruelty, and intolerance are great evils wherever they are found. Saturn-Pluto has a way of smoking them out and bringing them into full view. However, they exist in every human being and they exist in every nation. Fanatics, bullies, and terrorists of a subtler kind may also be alive and well in one's family, one's religious leaders, one's friends, and one's internet correspondents. Knowing this should not prevent us from acting as necessary to secure justice, or condemning those who perpetrate crimes. But perhaps it can help prevent us from indulging in precisely the same fanaticism and blindness that unleashed the tragic events of 11th September.
Zürich, 15 September 2001
 This is a reference to the Saturn-Pluto opposition presiding in the heavens at the moment, which carries unpleasant connotations for astrologers due to its historical coincidence with outbreaks of war. The conjunction of these planets in 1914 accompanied the start of World War One; the conjunction of 1946 occurred right after the end of World War Two, when the real devastation of the Holocaust became known; and the opposition in the mid-1960s coincided with the Vietnam War.
 The actual configuration is: a grand trine in the element of air, involving Mercury in Libra exactly on the Ascendant, exactly trine Saturn in Gemini in the 9th house and also trine Uranus in Aquarius in the 5th house and Neptune in Aquarius in the 4th.
 The inception chart for the moment the Germans opened fire on Danzig, inaugurating World War Two, has a grand earth trine involving Uranus, Neptune, and Mars.
 I.e. squares, oppositions, semisquares and sesquiquadrates.
 The conjunction of Pluto and Chiron, although well past its exact point, is still operative. Saturn in Gemini is opposite Pluto in Sagittarius, the obvious 'culprit' (although perhaps not so obvious as it seems), and Moon at the end of Gemini is opposite Chiron and Mars in Sagittarius, all straddling the 3rd/9th house axis.
 This reflects the slow progress of Pluto through Sagittarius, the sign concerned with religious, moral, and philosophical issues.
 The Sun in Virgo, forming a T-cross with these Gemini and Sagittarius planets, as well as being placed exactly on the Pluto-Chiron midpoint, focuses the stress point of the oppositions firmly in the 12th house.
 Transiting Pluto moved over the natal Sun of the Soviet Union in 1989, suggesting a total transformation or definitive ending ('death') of this political entity in the form in which it had existed since its birth.
 Scapegoating is peculiarly linked to the Pluto-Chiron cycle, which occurs roughly every 60 years. Under the last Pluto-Chiron conjunction, the Germans began their wholesale murder of Jews in the 'death camps'. The present conjunction, while past its exact point, has encompassed not only the massacre of Kosavars by Serbs, but also the bombing of Belgrade and the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Britain resulting in a wholesale scapegoating of animals. Aggression is reflected by the opposition of Mars and the Moon; obsessive fanaticism is a characteristic of Saturn in Gemini opposition Pluto in Sagittarius; and impotent rage is reflected by the wide but nevertheless operative conjunction of Mars and Chiron.
 Saturn opposition Pluto. This opposition falls right across the American Ascendant-Descendant axis, with Pluto on the Sagittarius Ascendant and Saturn on the Gemini Descendant. The Ascendant in a national chart is concerned with self-image and identity,k while the Descendant is concerned with 'others' - in other words, other nations and other political entities.
 Transiting Saturn is on the cusp of the 7th house - the house of others and of 'open enemies'.
 Saturn in Gemini, the sign concerned with mental attitudes.
 Saturn-Pluto and Chiron-Pluto configurations are particularly good at this kind of group hatred and scapegoating.
 Transiting Mercury and transiting Ascendant fall exactly on America's natal Saturn in 14° Libra. This natal Saturn is in the 10th house, concerned with 'public image' and role in the world's eyes.
 Given the trine between Saturn and Mercury in the event chart, and also the trine from transiting Saturn to natal Saturn, this conjunction of transiting Mercury with America's 10th house Saturn - itself involved in trines with Uranus and Mars in Gemini in the 7th house - could bode well for the future. Mercury will be making its retrograde station in 29° Libra on 2nd October, and will station direct on 23rd October in 14° Libra - the same degree in which it was placed on 11th September, the degree of America's natal Saturn.
 Transiting Neptune in the chart for 11th September is exactly on America's lunar south Node in the 2nd house. The nodal axis in America's birth chart involves south Node in the 2nd and north Node in the 8th.
 Any transit involving the nodal axis concerns relationships. The south Node in the 2nd house inclines to an instinctive self-sufficiency and protectionism (and also the good fortune of natural wealth), while the north Node in the 8th suggests that effort must be made to recognise the need for co-operation and sharing of resources with others.
 Natal Mars in the 7th house.
 Transiting Pluto at this time was moving over the north Node in Leo in the 8th house.
 Progressed Sun is approaching a conjunction with natal Moon. The conjunction will be exact in about five months. It occurs in the 3rd house of the natal chart.
 Transiting Saturn still has to conjunct Mars in the 7th house; transiting Chiron is still within a couple of degrees of opposition to this Mars; and transiting Mars will be opposing all the natal Cancer planets over the next couple of weeks.
 Progressed charts should be drawn up as charts in their own right, complete with progressed angles and progressed house cusps. This reveals much more than simply placing progressed planets around the natal wheel. The progressed chart is also very sensitive to transits (especially the progressed angles). In America's progressed chart, the Descendant is at 21° Aquarius, and at the time of the terrorist attack, transiting Uranus is sitting right on this Descendant. In some ways this transit is more descriptive of what is really happening than the Saturn-Pluto opposition across the natal Ascendant. The Saturn-Pluto opposition is more a picture of how deeply split, threatened, and burdened the nation is feeling rather than of what has happened to it on the concrete level. Soon transiting Uranus will arrive at 27° Aquarius, in time to join the progressed Sun and natal Moon in the natal 3rd house and the progressed 7th house. Uranian energy is innate in America's chart through its Aquarian Moon (dispositor of the natal Sun in Cancer) and its angular natal Uranus, suggesting a positive response to the upcoming configuration.
 Transiting Mars moving through Capricorn will soon oppose America's natal Venus-Jupiter conjunction, and then the natal Sun.
 Chiron will enter Capricorn after its long sojourn in Sagittarius, and it will oppose the Cancer planets in the USA 7th house.
 Chiron is in the 4th house of the national birth chart, and understanding the meaning of any transit requires looking at where it is placed natally.
 For example, Neptune transiting over the American south Node also transits over the President's Descendant, and Jupiter transiting in 13° Cancer over his natal Sun in late September also transits over America's natal Sun.
 The Saturn-Pluto opposition lands on his natal Uranus in the 11th house.
 Transiting Uranus in 21° Aquarius at the progressed Descendant of America's chart opposes his natal Venus in 21° Leo.
 In the President's progressed chart, the progressed MC is exactly on the progressed lunar north Node, and the third phase of the Saturn-Pluto opposition in 2002 will fall within a degree of this progressed axis.
 Given the strong trines from transiting Uranus to the progressed stellium in Libra in the progressed 3rd house, Mr. Bush may find his voice at last, and focus his energy on what he deems to be his 'mission' to bring peace (Libra) to the world.