I'm away for a few days, and I first posted this piece in 2006, but it's worth another look. The basic ideas come from Andre Barbault and Richard Tarnas.
Since 1993 we have been in a rare period in which all three outer planet pairs – Uranus-Neptune, Uranus-Pluto and Neptune-Pluto – have been in the waxing phase of their cycles with each other, and will remain so until the year 2047, when Uranus will oppose Pluto and begin the waning phase of its cycle.
The outer planet cycles govern the longer-term patterns and developments of humanity. The waxing phase of a cycle is a creative, constructive phase, which reaches its culmination at the Opposition; after that comes the waning phase, when the fruits of the waxing phase may be lived out, but which also results in the decay of the old pattern and the planting of the seed of the next cycle.
The last time that all 3 outer planet pairs were waxing was during the years 1479-1538 AD, when the Renaissance was spreading through Europe; and the time before that was during the years 965-1029 AD, the period when most of Europe finally came under Christian influence. These were both periods of cultural re-birth, shaping the character of the western world for centuries afterwards. (1)
The earlier period gave rise to the Middle Ages, when the orthodox Christian Church reigned unchallenged as the presiding cultural and spiritual force in Europe. And the period of the Renaissance saw a re-birth of classical learning and knowledge, and an artistic and scientific flourishing, all of which led to a breakdown of the cultural hegemony of the Catholic Church and the birth of the modern world.
So the outer planet pairs are telling us that we too are living in a rare time of cultural re-birth, and that what is happening now will fundamentally shape the character of our culture for centuries to come, presumably until the next time all 3 outer planet pairs are waxing, from 2508-2553 AD. Because it is a time of cultural re-birth, it is also a time of a death of the old culture, just as paganism pretty much died out when Christianity gained ascendancy, and just as the Catholic Church as a unifying cultural force began to die at the time of the Renaissance.
It is hard, if not impossible, for us to know very clearly what it is that is being born and what it is that is dying, because we are living through it, we ARE it. But astrology does at least give us the insight that such a tectonic shift is occurring.
The nature of the cultural change that we are passing through is a whole subject in itself, but it is worth suggesting for now that much of it may be based in the gradual death of an Age in which the solar principle has reigned supreme at the expense of the lunar principle, in which man has been elevated above woman, rationality above feeling, spirituality above nature. This split has clearly characterised – even vitiated - our western culture for many centuries, and yet at the same time it has clearly begun to break down. What will replace it has only just begun to be born.
Like any major cultural change, it has been a long time in the making, and the current astrological configuration needs to be seen as the intensification or fruition of a pre-existing trend. The Renaissance, for example, began not in 1455 but in 13th Century Italy. In the same way, Freud’s work, which displaced man as a rational animal and gave power to an irrational ‘unconscious’, began to be published at the end of the 19th Century, 100 years before the present cultural re-birth.
It is easy to be pessimistic about humanity’s future in the coming decades. We do, after all, face a number of major problems, any one of which could lead to a collapse of our present civilisation: there is the coming energy crisis, when the supply of oil will no longer able to meet demand; there is the spectre of uncontrolled nuclear proliferation, which has started to become a reality over the last decade; and there is the environmental crisis, just one aspect of which – global warming – could eventually make the earth a lot less habitable.
All of these problems are becoming immediate, and with the Uranus-Pluto square that is coming up in just a few years time, it is hard not to see some kind of a reckoning, a necessity to really face these problems. I think we are on the verge of a very testing period. The Uranus-Pluto Square will hit major points in the charts of all the major western powers.
So there may well be wars, famines, environmental disasters etc. But also, something deeply new is coming into being, a seed that is only planted once every 500 years. It seems to be in the nature of human civilisations that we do sometimes pass through very difficult times, and since WWII we have had a remarkable run of peace and prosperity, at least in the West. But there is also renewal.
So we need to see the coming Uranus-Pluto Square against this essentially creative cultural backdrop. It doesn’t mean that we won’t have wars, plagues and natural disasters. But it does suggest that it is not the end of civilisation as we know it: rather, it is a period in which, at all sorts of levels, something new is trying to be born.
The last Uranus-Pluto square was also Cardinal, and it was in the late 1920s/early 1930s. It resulted in WWII. As a t-square with Saturn it lasted longer, and was tighter, than the coming Uranus-Pluto-Saturn t-square, which I therefore expect to be less cataclysmic. Also, the last t-Square took place against the backdrop of a dying civilisation, it was one of the death throes of the last 500 year period. So I think we can be more optimistic about this one, even though there are similarities to the 1920s/30s t-Square.
I think that the essential meaning of the coming Uranus-Pluto Square is an intensification at all levels of the wider process of renewal – social, political, artistic, religious, technological, environmental and so on. Uranus, the planet of evolution and revolution, of sudden change, of originality, inventiveness and genius is being re-empowered and transformed by Pluto. It is a very testing and challenging transit, but because of that it contains the power to re-energise and move things on in all sorts of creative and unexpected ways.
If we think in terms of centuries – a human rather than an astrological category – then the Uranus-Pluto Square is the first real test of this new century. The Saturn-Pluto opposition of 2001/2 was obviously very important, but it was not 2 outer planets aspecting each other. So even 9/11, traumatic as it was for the USA, will start to fade in significance as Uranus begins to square Pluto. It will be seen, perhaps, as just one incident in a relatively short-lived struggle with the Arab world, based ultimately on control of the oil supply.
(1) For the sake of accuracy, there have been 3 major periods since 965 AD (including our own), of between 52 and 78 years, when all 3 outer planet pairs have been waxing. There have also been 2 minor periods: 5 years between 1137-1142AD, and 10 years between 1891-1901AD. These 2 periods could be seen as prefiguring what came later, e.g. the re-discovery of Aristotle’s works in A.D. 1150, foreshadowing the Renaissance re-discovery of classical texts.