January is named for Janus, the Roman god of gates and doors whose double-faced head looks in opposite directions - seeing the past and future all at once. And so it is in late December that we customarily review the past year while preparing for the next 12 months. Atheists, agnostics, and the most faithful among us join in the spirit of self-reflection while pledging to do better next year--if only on our diets.

Nature's "cycle of becoming" is an unfolding of 12: There are 12 months in a year, 12 days of Christmas, 12 inches per foot, 12 step programs, two 12 hours cycles in a day, 12 disciples, 12 tribes of Israel, and 12 signs of the zodiac. The journey to wholeness is a 12-part process. The soul-based purpose of astrology is to help "see" what is invisible to the naked eye and then to employ the stars invaluable clues to better understand the specifics of that journey for each individual.

The same idea applies as we begin to assess the heavenly patterns for the year ahead.

While many astrologers use their art strictly in the interest of predicting world events, a humanistic or soul-based astrologer sees the same activity through an additional lens, one that interprets all planetary activity as alluding to a lesson plan encoded with growth potential for all of humanity, also known as "the collective."

With that in mind, what is the lesson plan for 2005 and will we pass the accompanying tests with flying colors?

The operative word this past year was polarization: In 2004, the Saturn Pluto opposition of 2001-2002 (the planetary showdown that correlated to the horrors of 9/11) reconfigured into an incongruous and dissonant quincunx (a 150° aspect of disharmony). And between Saturn and Pluto, this aspect depicts an impossible clash between compulsive insistence and obsessive destruction a.k.a. the Hobson's choice of the zodiac.

At the same time Saturn and Chiron opposed one another in a configuration that urged a thorough soul-searching and humble house cleaning on the part of individuals, businesses, and government. With Chiron in Capricorn, serious "adjustments" to societal structures have been in order. And did those sorely needed adjustments happen? That's debatable. One need only to look at the November 3rd electoral map with its sharp contrast of blue coastal states framing the red ones inland to have a sense of how deep this division is (a blue and red checkerboard pattern would have been more indicative of at least the beginnings of cohesiveness).

Will the current climate of polarization dissolve and give way to cooperation, wholeness and harmony in the New Year? In light of the world wide relief effort now under way in Indonesia and the Pacific Rim, Mother Nature's wrath has made certain it does.

On December 12th I attended a lecture in New York in which Betty Bland, the National President of The Theosophical Society in America told a familiar parable, the story of the man who had a chance to see both heaven and hell. In hell, an abundance of good food was available but people were starving and miserable because they were being forced to eat with five-foot-long forks. They couldn't get the food to their mouths. In heaven, the scene was much the same, except for the fact that the diners were using their five-foot-long forks to reach out and feed each other. These were the people who thrived and prospered.

The moral of the story: the banquet of heaven is here and now. Everyone is fed if we use what's available to feed one another. We decide to make our own heaven and hell right here on earth. Little did I realize when I heard this in mid-December that the parable would be ringing as true as it does now.

This year, Mars in Taurus will teach us a lesson about avarice and greed. Typically Mars (the planet of drive and aggression) averages six weeks in a sign and goes through all 12 in a little less than two years. But beginning on July 27, and for the first time since 1973/74, Mars will graze for seven months (July 27 `05 - February 17 '06) in Taurus, the sensual sign known for its hearty appreciation of pleasure and indulgence in excess and earthly delights.

When at its best Taurus is abundant, rich, persistent, dependable, delicious, and gifted. At its worst, Taurus is gluttonous, hoarding, possessive, and stubborn. In the fall of 1973, the last time Mars went retrograde in that sign, there was an enormous oil shortage. The lines for gasoline were miles long and the economy began to tumble. The Watergate scandal was in full throttle and in October of that year several members in President Nixon's administration resigned in what was called "The Saturday Night Massacre". The crisis culminated in Nixon's August 1974 resignation.

Will that same historical episode of political upheaval repeat itself? President Bush's second Saturn return-a major influence in his chart in the first half of the year---is not over until July `05, at which time Saturn in Leo will add further pressure on him, compromising his personal safety and popularity amongst the nation and his staff.

The inauguration chart on January 20th is less than encouraging and his stars in general indicate that trouble and criticism is likely to mount - not only of his policies, but on the issue of his (and his associates') profiteering from oil and war. The Aries Ingress chart (a.k.a. the Spring Equinox on March 20) which sets the tone for the next three months shows a nation in fear, with a leader who seems unavailable or even gone (Sun in the 12th intercepted).Despite his intention to be a unifier, President Bush seems to divide. Perhaps this is so because he is at odds internally? Or perhaps he is the President because we too are polarized from within? As uncomfortable as it is now, the polarization in the heavens and on earth can lead us back to wholeness if we'll let it. Know thyself. Or at least try to. I sometimes wear a button that says, "Stop Soul Abuse". Why not begin with that? Another good adage for 2005: Be a coal miner for truth.To best work with what is before us, here are highlights of key planetary activities in 2005, as well as ways in which they may manifest in the world, and the spiritual challenge encoded in each.In 2005:

Jupiter in Libra and Neptune in Aquarius are in a favorable trine(120° aspect) on and off through August '05.Count your blessings. This is a charmed aspect between the two planets that have to do with faith and spirituality. Now in a very pleasant exchange with one another, Jupiter and Neptune encourage us to dream bigger.
There is much creative energy around to be tapped into and good communication is on the upswing. The communication business is upwardly mobile too, with announcements at year's end about permitting cell phones on airplanes, as well as a merger between Nextel and Sprint. Expect more of the same. Jupiter in Libra is culturally rich, art and music are on a high, and there will be an above average number of exquisite weddings. Get your wardrobe together!