(11.18.02) A SNAP of the fingers, and bing! That's all it takes Samantha and her witchy cohorts on '60s sitcom Bewitched to teleport themselves from one place to another. It is quick, sudden and complete, and there's always a cute sound effect to accompany the journey. I keep hearing these sorts of sharp staccato sounds in my head, whenever I consider this week's lunar eclipse. A finger stuck inside puckered lips, then pulled out to Pop! as in "Lollipop, lollipop, oh, lolli, lolli, lolli…lollipop… [Pop!]… buh-dum-pum-pum…" Or is it a champagne cork popping in celebration? A gun shot, starting a race or startling the crowd? Fireworks? Explosions? A hundred friends yelling "SURPRISE!"? And then, whatever the noise signifies, don't we wish the trip from here to there would be as instant and seamless as Samantha's—though we know we lack the same TV editors to streamline our lives.

Before we jump too far ahead to what this eclipse brings, it's worth looking back first. Though many seek astrology to foretell their futures, I've always found it to be equally if not more helpful in making sense of the recent past. Eclipses section our lives into bite-sized chunks of six months or so—chapters, as I like to consider them—bringing momentous beginnings and endings that show us the way, move us along or (for the more stubborn of us) get us mired deeper if we refuse to budge. The last eclipses (a set of three) fell in May and June, allied with the final peak of the Saturn-Pluto opposition. Regular readers might be so sick and tired of my Saturn-Pluto references, yet I cannot overstress how significant this opposition has been to our outlook over the last year and a half. Are we "over" the events of 9/11 yet? (Hardly.) And 9/11 is just the easiest and most obvious example of the greater Saturn-Pluto atmosphere, when we've had to come to terms with necessary destruction due to deep belief-system conflicts—and then faced the difficult responsibility of rebuilding (hopefully) transformed structures.

Last June was the month that set our current chapter in motion. Seeing our limitations demarcated for us more clearly, we faced a new sobering form of adulthood. Its harshness was softened some by the last lunar eclipse on June 24, when Mars and Jupiter approached alignment in Cancer. A certain healing solace is found in returning to work while in the midst of grief, like a mother lovingly goads her skinned-knee child to get back on the bike rather than dwelling too long in tears. But mainly work is hard work, grief or no grief. So we approached the last five months as a necessary chore. We took great pride when we achieved sharper focus, got a little sweaty and moved closer to goals than ever before. And we felt deeper self-disappointment when we lost focus and returned to comfortable old vices, like pets who travel a hundred miles back home only to discover their owners have moved away. The old vices no longer provided the same comfort; they left us feeling empty and in acute recognition that their side-effects had become more dire. Both the grand accomplishments and self-defeats signify the influence of Saturn, which closely conjoined the Sun and Moon on June 10's solar eclipse. Authority figure Saturn ruled over this passing chapter with his watchful eyes, unforgiving though instructive.

The new chapter starts this week with Tuesday's lunar eclipse, and it will be heavily dominated by radical Uranus. Uranus is all those bings and pops and booms and crashes and "surprise!"s that I described earlier. In contrast to Saturn, Uranus doesn't do things carefully, methodically or in any sustained fashion. Uranus moves quickly, suddenly, shockingly—and in an instant, he changes everything. In this way, Uranus rules such things as revolutions and natural disasters (unsettling things to be sure), but he also brings sudden bursts of awareness and enlightenment. When, after years of being stuck in prison-like patterns, we experience a dazzling epiphany and are broken out of jail, this is Uranus in action. The unsettling events, meanwhile, require a certain emotional detachment and faith in the need for change, no matter how abrupt or violent or momentarily confusing. But we never feel more alive than in these chaotic moments, or more in touch with "the Now", which holds the key to elimination of past karma and the pursuit of spiritual bliss. In these moments, we are free of cultural baggage, social determination and obligation. We become uniquely ourselves, as unorthodox as everyone ultimately is—and open to experiences way beyond our expectations. Exhilarating and terrifying. Bing! Pop! "Surprise!"

During Tuesday's lunar eclipse, the Sun in Scorpio opposes the Moon in Taurus, and they both make squares (90-degree angles) to Uranus. Lunar eclipses are intensified full moons during which, in the night's bright light, our unresolved emotional conflicts come to the surface and reach climax. The Scorpio influence (which I've discussed extensively in recent weeks) has pushed us to explore the messy passionate depths that underscore our surface existences, the deaths we effect or fear or obsess over, subconsciously, in daily life. With Venus retrograde in Scorpio since Oct. 10, we've dwelled in the underworld longer than usual and used this time to assess the relative values of people and things that surround us. Now we emerge, as Venus turns direct on Wednesday. The Moon in Taurus brings out the part of us that craves stability, material security and maintenance of the status quo. It is a strong and fertile energy, but one that is challenged to incorporate the scary Scorpio psychic revelations and still feel safe. And then there's Uranus squaring both, allowing neither too much stationary self-preservation (Taurus) nor too much interpersonal psychological attachment (Scorpio). Uranus pushes, quick and hard, at both.

But that's not all Uranus is doing. Uranus is in a major power position, also making a grand air trine with Saturn and Mars. In a grand trine, three planets make 120-degree angles to one another, forming a triangle of concentrated flowing energy. The Uranus-Saturn trine is a longer-term aspect (spanning August 02 through June 03) that combines radical insight (Uranus) with disciplined efforts (Saturn) to foster an environment ripe for creating new envelope-pushing projects. Over the past couple months, we've witnessed Venus, the Sun and Mercury all pass through as the third point in this grand trine with Uranus and Saturn, bringing their respective inspiration, consciousness and mental clarity into play. Now, with the eclipse to intensify its effect and sustain it throughout this next chapter, Mars comes in, adding greater energy and force to the process. For those willing to embrace change and try something alien, the cosmic energy will ignite your efforts and fuel you for the next few months. For the others, the harder you hold on, the more ferociously you will be shaken up. On top of everything else, Uranus is finally moving direct after five months in retrograde. And it's finishing its 8-year transit through its ruling sign Aquarius, to be in Pisces by the next set of eclipses in May 03. Trust me, Uranus won't pass up his chance for one last impulsive, dynamic Aquarian release.

Whenever I see powerful energies, such as a strong Uranus aspect, in a client's chart, I advise her to embrace the power—rather than fear it or run from it—and use her free will to guide its manifestation. When change is imminent astrologically, we can either open our lives to it or we can try to suppress it. The first strategy helps us prepare to channel its momentum into something of our choosing. The latter makes it more likely that something we least expect, don't necessarily desire and may deeply fear, will happen to us. But even when we choose to embrace change—say, by quitting our jobs and traveling to India—we cannot predict what life-altering effect this new experience will have on our psyches, just that it will have one. The bings, the pops, the "surprise!"s (and also, incidentally, the "boo!"s) are all shocks to our system. They startle us, or scare the shit out of us. But regardless of what sound effect we hear, and no matter how startling or scary it is, the shock always passes. We don't know what to expect on the other side of it—but, once we calm down, it's guaranteed to be a lot more exciting and enlightening than just continuing to do what we've always done.