Monday, January 03, 2011
Living with The Outer Planets; the post-war Neptune-Pluto Ages
Coincidentally, Neptune and Pluto began travelling at the same speed when they were near enough 60 degrees, or exactly 2 signs, apart. Since then, therefore, they have always entered a new sign within a few years of each other – not long on their time scales.
The planets as gods (a modern, sometimes controversial, astrological identification) exist outside of time and space. The results of their actions, the past, present and future, are instantly clear to them. If we are intuitively gifted, then those patterns may be clear to us too, at least to some extent, maybe in flashes now and again. We, however, are creatures of clay, our journey is through time and space: those flashes can be helpful, but it is not our place to know the minds of the gods, to see too much of the deeper patterns of development that we are passing through individually and collectively, or else we would not be able to live them.
Saturn is the planet that balances this out. He is the bridge between the inner and outer planets, he shows us how to be an ordinary physical human, yet also connected to the wider, deeper, more meaningful patterns that are also part of being human.
As astrologers, discovering the deeper patterns, the hidden meanings, behind existence is precisely what we are about. It needs, however, to be in a way that is physically lived – the astrology is a mere pointer. I said it is not our place to know the minds of the gods, but at the same time nothing is more important. It’s a matter of how you go about it. If it emerges organically from the way you live, from attempting to understand your experience, then that is balanced, that is Saturn. If you grasp after it, or if you identify yourself as that sort of person, whether as bishop or mullah, shaman or astrologer (!), then that can often suggest an attempt to bypass the actual living of it.
Anything can be a religion or not a religion. The essential point is whether your understanding comes out of your experience or from what someone else has said, whether on this plane or another one, and whether you can tell the difference. If you’re religious, what some authority has said comes before your own experience. If you’re the real deal, it’s your own considered experience that is the authority. Of course, everyone likes to think their understanding is autonomous, that they are their own authority. And there are degrees of it. But that sort of independence, which is an emotional as well as a cognitive quality, is rarer than one might think.
Knowing the meaning of an outer planet transit to our chart is not easy, nor should it be. Astrology helps us see that there is meaning in what is happening, it is not just random, and it can even point us roughly in the direction of what it means. But it is just a map, sometimes brilliant and inspiring and mind-boggling, but still just a map. It is not a substitute for the actual exploration.
And it is the same with the meanings for the collective of the outer planet transits. Our lives are not just a personal journey (I don’t like that over-used word, especially since Tony Blair called his memoirs ‘A Journey’.) We are intimately tied in to where the collective is going, whether we like it or not. Getting some sort of separation, some sort of distance from the collective is necessary if we are to understand anything, but not in such a way that we can pretend to ourselves we are not part of it.
This is why mundane astrology – the astrology of the world, of countries, of collectives – is of great importance. It tells us where the world is going, and it reminds us that we are part of it. We are not just our personal chart. We are also our personal chart, for example, in relation to the chart of the country we live in, and in relation to the charts of our parents and so on. The personal chart cannot be fully understood in isolation.
It is not easy to understand the meanings for the collective of an outer planet in a sign, particularly at the time. We may have flashes of insight, and certain events may have an obvious connection, but the wider understanding takes time and cultural awareness and probably a lot of plodding through historical data.
Neptune and Pluto have been entering new signs within a few years of each other for many decades now, and coincidentally Uranus has also been part of that process. This means that the ages we have been passing through have been quite clearly defined.
So between 1955 and 1956, Uranus began to move into Leo, Neptune into Scorpio and Pluto into Virgo. This process took a few more years to complete and establish itself, but all 3 outer planets moving into new signs suggests a clearly defined new era, which is indeed what happened in the 60s, as the West moved economically from the post-war effort to re-establish itself into years of boom, and socially and politically into a rejection of old values and all sorts of cultural awakenings.
Exactly how this played out in terms of planets and signs would be very complex to analyse. You could say, for example, that the previous Pluto in Leo period had awoken a sense of the importance of the individual, the power of individuality, and Uranus coming into Leo furthered that process – heightened selfishness as well as opposition to authority. Pluto in Virgo ushered in a period where we began to rely much more on high technology (Virgo), where we could no longer survive (Pluto) without it.
All three planets came together as Uranus entered Virgo later in the 60s: you had the intense protest and revolutionary intent of the Uranus-Pluto conjunction, which was in turn sextile to Neptune in Scorpio, making protest in a way fashionable, and connecting it to the counter-culture.
The 2 most defining planets in this way at looking at our modern eras are Neptune and Pluto, being further out than Uranus and, for now, operating in tandem. With Pluto the emphasis is on the economy and the balance of power (Pluto is a god of wealth); and with Neptune the emphasis is on our underlying mythologies, fantasies and ideals, as well as the general mood.
In 1983-84, the Neptune moved into Capricorn and Pluto into Scorpio. There was a new economic boom on the way, not unlike the recent one, in which materialism became sexy – Neptune in Capricorn, combined with the raw power of money, of the bankers - Pluto in Scorpio. After a short recession in the early 1990s, the stage was set by the prolonged action of this materialistic combination to create the longest economic boom since the 1960s.
Also in the early 90s we had what must have been the biggest event of this Neptune-Pluto Age, which was the collapse of Communism and a shift in the world balance of power towards the US and the West in general. The suddenness with which the collapse happened and the move into a different future speaks of Uranus, which was conjunct Neptune and sextile Pluto. Neptune in Capricorn is dissolution of governments, and the ease with which it happened is described by the sextile to Pluto, functioning powerfully in his own sign of Scorpio.
Pluto had been moving at it fastest for some time now, faster than Neptune, putting it inside its orbit, which meant there were 3 years between Pluto moving into Sagittarius (1995) and Neptune moving into Aquarius (1998). The collective has a short memory, and the prolonged boom set up by Neptune and Pluto in the 80s/90s inevitably led to excess and the feeling (as in 1929) that somehow the rules had changed. The first excess was the dotcom bubble, brilliantly described by Neptune (fantasy) in Aquarius (internet) and Pluto in Sag (economic boom). Pluto doesn’t find it easy to function well in Sagittarius, as he lives not just on the earth but below it, while Sagittarius, ruled as it is by the king of the gods, is the sign least concerned with earthly reality.
(During both the 1980s and the Noughties economic bubbles, Pluto was inside the orbit of Neptune, in a way making Neptune the more powerful influence, adding to the possibility that fantasy (Neptune) would have a stronger than usual influence over the economy (Pluto).)
At the same time, the new internet age motored along famously, with Neptune in Aquarius being empowered not just by his sextile to Pluto, but also by the mutual reception to Uranus in Pisces (Neptune rules Pisces, and Uranus Aquarius.) The internet does not have a material existence that you can easily point to, and it is only partly governed by economic factors, so the Neptune-Pluto combination has worked in its favour rather than against it. In writing about the internet I am not just pulling out a cultural factor that suits the astrology (which you can always do); rather I am writing about something which started to change and define the whole culture, and whose full significance is not yet clear.
And so to the present. Pluto began to change sign from Sagittarius to Capricorn in 2008, and Neptune will start to change to Pisces in April this year. The entry into Capricorn was economically dramatic, more than you’d expect from a planet that usually takes time to make his presence felt, his changes being deep. But as Pluto entered earthy, level-headed Capricorn (a good sign for Pluto), so too did the ruler of Capricorn, Saturn, begin to oppose Uranus, a periodic combination that is always dramatic and revolutionary.
And so we have had the Great Recession – a measure of just how out of balance things had become economically under Pluto in Sag/Neptune in Aquarius. At the same time, the chart for Pluto’s entry into Capricorn was quite favourable – Pluto in a stellium with benefics Jupiter and Venus, and trine to Capricorn’s ruler, retrograde Saturn. There is stuff to sort out (retrograde Saturn), and it will take the time it takes (Capricorn/Saturn). And it is a fundamental restructuring (Pluto). So it will take time. It may still get worse before it gets better. But this combination doesn’t suggest the extreme of Depression.
Pluto in Capricorn is soon to work in tandem with Neptune in Pisces, and this is where we will have to speculate. I find it odd that Capricorn and Pisces sextile each other (a flowing aspect), because in their natures they are so different, even opposing. They are earth and water respectively, which is compatible, but Capricorn is so worldly and Pisces so unworldly that it is hard to see how they can get on healthily. You can, for example, just see Pisces capacity for empathy being put to ruthless and manipulative use by a Capricorn businessman. At best, though, Pisces can mellow a rigid and conservative Capricornian worldliness, and Capricorn can insist that Pisces puts its dreams into action. A successful artist, or a philanthropic businessman, could have this combination.
Neptune in Pisces is in its own sign, and as we saw with Pluto in its own sign in the 1980s, where the vulgar power of money was in the ascendant, it can bring out the worst. It could be a time when the collective tells fantastical stories about itself. I think China will be a match for America sooner than we realise, and how will America explain that to itself?
With natal Neptune square to 7th House Mars, the US is used to creating myths (Neptune) about its foreign enemies (Mars in the 7th). These planets are at 21 Gemini and 22 Virgo respectively, which Neptune will begin to hard-aspect as it progresses through Pisces. Last time Neptune hard aspected these 2 planets, in 1980/81, the country elected a cowboy actor for a President who promoted the myth of the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire! The next hard Neptune aspect will not be exact for another 10 years, but these transits can begin surprisingly early.
And what will America say to itself about the war it is losing against militant Islam? Who or what will America blame? In both US economic and foreign policy terms, there will be plenty of scope for Neptune’s mythologising at its worst over the next 14 years.
So for the West generally, putting Pluto and Neptune together, we are likely to see new mythologies created (Neptune in Pisces) to describe/compensate for the new economic realities (Pluto in Capricorn.) And for the new political realities, for money is power. China is currently arming itself at a frightening rate. And the West’s implacable enemy, the militant Islam which arose so appropriately under Pluto in Sagittarius is, under Pluto in Capricorn, equally appropriately becoming the established power in many parts of the Middle and Near East, as well as southwards through Africa. And Oil (Neptune) is at the heart of this struggle, particularly the West’s dominance of those countries which supply it. Over the last 15 years, the US Progressed Saturn and Mars have both gone retrograde for the first time ever. America is on the retreat economically and militarily, and with it Europe.
The chart for Neptune’s Ingress into Pisces is striking: 6 planets in Aries, including a New Moon and a Mars-Uranus conjunction. We will really notice this transit; it is the start of something very, very new. Well it would be, wouldn’t it, because it will be the time when the West, dominant in the world for hundreds of years, first under Europe and then under its offspring America, will cease to be so dominant. The Far East will begin to at least equal it. And with economic influence (Pluto) comes cultural influence (Neptune). Look at what the West did with Christianity and Coca Cola. No doubt the turning point will, in retrospect, be seen as the time of the Uranus-Pluto conjunction which is seriously starting this year, just as Neptune enters Pisces and asks us to re-formulate our mythologies, our stories about who we are.