When I looked it up, I learned the term was invented by Kurt Goldstein (1878-1965), a German neurologist and psychiatrist. Goldstein was one of the first theorists in the Gestalt Therapy movement, and one of the original modern holistic thinkers. His clinical work involved studying the relationship between the mind and the brain; Gestalt puts emphasis on the mind-body connection. Holistic theories emphasize unity and integration as expressed through our natural human tendency to grow and mature.
It was Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) who put the concept into popular language. It was at the top of his famous “hierarchy of needs,” that pyramid published in a 1943 paper that you had to memorize in Psych class. It starts with basic biological needs beginning with touch, food, breathing, and sex as the foundation of existence. It extends upward toward safety, love, belonging, self-esteem, and finally, at the top, we have self-actualization. This includes creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, acceptance of facts, and morality (or “ethics,” a more flexible approach to difficult questions).
These days it takes a good bit of creativity and problem solving (an advanced need, in his theory) to meet the fundamental needs at the bottom level. We can at least thank Maslow for getting the term self-actualization into our hands, and for reminding us that psychology starts with biology. He honored self-actualization as the prime mover fuelling all our other endeavors, not survival.
Which brings me to the extraordinary astrology of June 2010: the Jupiter-Uranus conjunction in Aries. If any aspect says self-actualization, this is the one. The “self’ piece is Aries, the sign of “I am,” the key that turns the ignition of consciousness. We each have Aries in our chart somewhere, and where we have it is one zone where we tend to be driven by self-actualization: to waking up and being real.
Jupiter is a planet that is rich with potential. It’s like this cosmic bank account we have, from which we can draw down wisdom and envision wider possibilities. Where Jupiter is we seek expansion and learning; we seek to enrich our minds. And as I write, Jupiter is heading for Aries, where it will arrive on June 6. Jupiter comes back to Aries every 12 years. The energy feels like the Chinese Year of the Dragon: vibrant and daring.
Uranus is a planet that likes to precipitate potential; its job is to actualize. If spontaneity and curiosity are part of being self-actualized, then Uranus is the spark plug. It doesn’t really have what it takes to make something real. Uranus follows no special rules, which is why it’s involved in changing the known order of reality. That includes leaps forward in creativity, thought, and imagination; with inventions; and with revolutions of various kinds. Uranus, which has an 84-year orbit, arrives in Aries on May 27, resetting its cosmic cycle.
On June 8, the two form an exact conjunction on something called the Aries Point. This is the first degree of the Western zodiac, which begins with the sign Aries. It’s the position of the Sun on the first day of (Northern Hemisphere) spring, also called the vernal point. It acts just like a focus of energy that links up what we think of as the “personal” realm and the “collective” realm. When we experience events that are on the Aries Point (such as this conjunction) or square or opposite the Aries Point, the world seems to go wild, and we can get drawn into the drama. Big events, which often seem negative, can involve this point—for example, the September 11 incident or the Asian tsunami; or Woodstock, or the Moon landing. It is one of the most predictable things in a chart, in terms of this kind of response in physical reality. In a word, it is big.
In recent years we’ve had a lot of Aries Point activity, and we’re about to have more. Recent events include Pluto ingressing Capricorn (square the Aries Point) and Saturn in the process of changing signs to Libra (opposite the Aries Point). This has already stirred up a lot of energy; lately (however you define lately), it’s been one jarring event after the next trying to get our attention. And now the Aries Point activity shows up directly in Aries, as these two mighty factors align directly in the first degree of the zodiac. While that first degree has the “political as personal” feeling, that nexus of individual and collective life, it’s also about personal awakening.