Friday, December 22, 2017

Getting cozy with computer overlords: the astrology of a new Industrial Revolution

On Valentine’s Day, 2011, record-breaking Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter—both super-intelligent humans, by any standard—met their match in IBM’s “Watson,” an artificial intelligence-enabled computer. 

After coming in second in the 3-day Jeopardy “IBM Challenge” exhibition match, Jennings wrote on his final answer board, "I for one welcome our new computer overlords." Clearly, Jennings—still claiming the longest winning streak on Jeopardy!—saw longer-term implications for that match. 

Today, the longer-term implications for artificial intelligence technologies (AI) are coming to pass, whether humanity is ready for them or not. Wikipedia describes IBM’s purposes and “Watson’s” abilities better than I can, so getting this right is worth an extended quote:

“Watson was created as a question answering (QA) computing system that IBM built to apply advanced natural language processing, information retrieval, knowledge representation, automated reasoning, and machine learning technologies to the field of open domain question answering.[2]
The key difference between QA technology and document search is that document search takes a keyword query and returns a list of documents, ranked in order of relevance to the query (often based on popularity and page ranking), while QA technology takes a question expressed in natural language, seeks to understand it in much greater detail, and returns a precise answer to the question.[16]
When created, IBM stated that, ‘more than 100 different techniques are used to analyze natural language, identify sources, find and generate hypotheses, find and score evidence, and merge and rank hypotheses.’[17]
In recent years, the Watson capabilities have been extended and the way in which Watson works has been changed to take advantage of new deployment models (Watson on IBM Cloud) and evolved machine learning capabilities and optimised hardware available to developers and researchers. It is no longer purely a question answering (QA) computing system designed from Q&A pairs but can now 'see', 'hear', 'read', 'talk', 'taste', 'understand', 'reason', 'interpret', 'learn' and 'recommend'.”

Hence, we see IBM’s recent “Ask the New Guy” series of ads, touting “Watson” as the “go-to guy” with all the answers for many work forces—agriculture operations, manufacturing, energy technologies—in any field, basically, where appropriately analyzed information is helpful for solving a problem or monitoring a situation. So basically every field.

In one ad, “Watson” even emulates the Aussie accent of the human he’s replacing. That particular ad flits almost imperceptibly over the replacement issue, but doesn’t the whole “New Guy” concept suggest that there might be an “Old Guy” who is being replaced? How many companies are going to invest in pricey AI systems so the systems can play the role of “temps?”

The key here is the extent to which human workers will be replaced by AI technologies—including, but not limited to computers, robots, microchips and endless variations thereof. In fact, the future is looking tougher and tougher for human workers because AI now enables computers to, like “Watson,” “hear, read, talk, taste, understand, reason, interpret, learn and recommend.” reports on the latest McKinsey study that puts things into perspective:

“In a new study that is optimistic about automation yet stark in its appraisal of the challenge ahead, McKinsey says massive government intervention will be required to hold societies together against the ravages of labor disruption over the next 13 years. Up to 800 million people—including a third of the work force in the U.S. and Germany—will be made jobless by 2030, the study says.”

Jobs performed by humans have been progressively automated out of existence for centuries already, ever since the late 18th century Industrial Revolution. No doubt, the use of machines for many repetitive, labor-intensive tasks did increase productivity; it probably even opened new avenues for human workers to explore. These avenues included less manual, “grunt” labor, and more opportunities to work in education-driven fields that employ that distinctive human trait, higher-level cognitive functioning.

Today’s new AI- and digitized data-driven revolution feels qualitatively different, however: our highly-evolved, opposable thumbs, command of language, and large-brained intelligence have always been our “ace in the hole” in the work place, but the truth is, we’re rapidly acquiring competition from AI-driven devices of all types. Sci-Fi fans who have been waiting for something like an “alien invasion” need wait no more—we’ve created the aliens and ready or not, they’re among us! 

Drones will replace delivery drivers, photographers and cinematographers, police and security professionals; autonomous vehicles will replace professional drivers of all types, and technicians (many of them robotic) will replace mechanics; algorithm-fueled apps will replace a host of information professionals, from researchers to legal teams. Surgeons will be replaced as robots fine tune their delicate suturing skills. Will they develop an appealing bed-side manner, I wonder?

Unfortunately, it’s hard to imagine a field in which humans—even self-employed humans—will be entirely shielded from the onslaught. Even astrologers are going to be competing against algorithms for certain types of services, if they aren’t already! Even so, we shouldn’t overestimate the power of these so-called “smart technologies,” either. Writing for a compilation entitled Megatech: Technology in 2050, published by The Economist, Luciano Floridi argues that AI-enabled technologies may be (or become) “better at accomplishing tasks” than human counterparts, however he doesn’t see the big picture as an unavoidable ethical nightmare, or a way of making human contributions irrelevant:

“Digital technologies do not think, let alone think better than us, but they can do more and more things better than us, by processing increasing amounts of data and improving their performance by analyzing their own output as input for the next operations, so-called machine learning…The serious risk is not the appearance of some ultra-intelligence, but that we may misuse our digital technologies, to the detriment of a large percentage of humanity and the whole planet.”[1]  [emphasis added]

This would be a good point to pause and consider the astrological backdrop we’re dealing with here. Because of its symbolic importance as a turning point in the Technology v. Human narrative, we’ll consider what the cosmic picture was when “Watson” beat Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in the February, 2011 Jeopardy! championship. This chart, analyzed along with the planetary cycles in play then and now, should lend some insight into what lies ahead.  

Chart #1: Jeopardy! “Watson” Championship, February 14, 2011, 7:30 p.m. ST, New York, NY. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node.

First, a couple general observations: there’s a notable explosion of Aquarius energy in this chart that speaks volumes about what tech leader IBM had at stake in that night’s contest: decades of research and development into artificial intelligence! It’s also of related, astrological note that this 3-day contest transpired during the final month of the 8-year-long Uranus-Neptune mutual reception (each planet occupying the other’s ruling sign)—all 6 points in Aquarius are ruled by a Neptune-infused Uranus here, forming the backdrop for the tsunami-like trend in technology we’ve seen since that time. 

Once Uranus entered Aries in March 2011, the mutual reception itself dissolved, but world events turned an aggressive corner, fueled by that 8-year, high-tech/globalization-friendly mutual reception period (2003-2011). In retrospect, we can see how that period laid the groundwork for a lot of the instability we’ve faced in the past decade, not to mention the “Megatech” world that seems to be overtaking us. In that sense, the synchronicity with the Jeopardy! challenge is stunning. 

The power of this Uranus-Neptune mutual reception was expressed beautifully in the event chart we’ll consider below, in fact, yet it’s interesting that the most dignified point in the chart was Lady Luna, elevated in the chart and at home in her ruling sign of Cancer. She rules “the People”—in this case, represented by Jennings and Rutter, as they opposed IBM’s computer. As we’ll see, the Moon was tied into a tense configuration that speaks very well to the stakes humanity had in that contest. 

 In fact, two mutual receptions grace this chart: between Uranus and Neptune and between Capricorn Venus and Libra Saturn. Very determined, very “connected” political, technological and economic forces were coordinating the global winds of change of that period.   

So let’s consider a few highlights from the championship’s inception chart.

Mercury (exalted in the 5th h., Aquarius) rules Virgo ASC and conjoins Ceres, Mars and Sun (all Aquarius). The importance and placement of Mercury as the ruler of this chart (Virgo ASC) is a great reminder that, after all, Jeopardy! is a game (5th h.). As light-hearted and entertaining as the tournament may have been, however, its conclusion had far-reaching implications: AI technology made a grand public relations debut on the world stage, and it was here to stay. 

Not to mention that those 3 nights must have been quite difficult for the human contestants: an exalted Mercury in Aquarius speaks to the mental rigor involved (better suited to a machine, perhaps).  Uranus disposing that exalted Mercury (as the ruler of Aquarius) spoke to the “artificial intelligence” technology involved. 

Cardinal T-Square #1: Moon (Cancer) opposes Venus (Capricorn); this axis squares Saturn (Libra). This configuration reflected the tension between human interests and corporate business interests represented by that tournament. Lady Luna is both dignified and elevated in this chart, which highlighted the human interest side of the story, but with Venus and Saturn in mutual reception (Capricorn-Libra), the pressures driving business interests (IBM and possibly others) were also quite real. 

What would have happened to “Watson’s” developers had the human contestants won in the end? Was the competition even fair? Even brilliant humans like Jennings and Rutter could hardly absorb the complete contents of Wikipedia, as “Watson” was set up to do. 

The role Saturn plays here is interesting—it’s dignified in Libra, which is certainly reflected in the engineering success that IBM could celebrate when “Watson” won the tournament. According to Wikipedia accounts, efforts were made by Jeopardy! and IBM to impose an even-handed (Libra) structure on the tournament, and to make sure—diplomatically—that several charities benefitted from the proceeds, but it’s likely that “Watson’s” victory was a foregone conclusion from beginning to end. 

Saturn co-rules Aquarius with Uranus, and it is also trine the Aquarius stellium (from Ceres through Mars and even the Sun, if we stretch the orb a bit) here, so the tech-happy Aquarian forces gathered in this chart were pretty certain to prevail. This was only reinforced by the Uranus-Neptune mutual reception (Saturn co-disposing Neptune)—“Watson” was riding an electric tsunami!

In fact, this mutual reception was characterized by a strong sense of inevitability—about globalization in general, and certainly about the technological developments that made it possible, like the Internet. The views about AI and so-called “Smart Technologies” were no different—these developments just took longer to reach today’s critical threshold. In 2011, society wasn’t quite primed for the full onslaught of robotics and AI-enhanced tech, but “Watson’s” Jeopardy! win was an important preparatory step. 

Robots and AI are making rapid inroads, hiding in plain view in a host of devices we’re starting to take for granted, but I would predict that we won’t feel the full impact until the new Aquarius Jupiter-Saturn cycle begins in late 2020. For an in-depth look at that cycle and more on this technology issue, please see the April/May 2017 edition of The Mountain Astrologer (pp. 28-36, 75-76). 

Cardinal T-Square #2: Moon (Cancer) opposes Pluto (Capricorn); this axis squares Jupiter (Aries). This aggressive configuration added fiery resolve to the powerful investors (Pluto) supporting the technology wave. Aries Jupiter is disposed by a staunch Aquarius Mars, sandwiched next to the Sun in that amazing 6-point stellium, so again, IBM and others weren’t taking “no” for an answer (Jupiter-Pluto square). 

Human interests are, again, a secondary and somewhat ill-fated (Pluto-Moon opposition) consideration here, although the tournament certainly highlighted what humans had to lose from technological developments. 

Jennings teased out the full irony in that situation with his concession: "I for one welcome our new computer overlords." This Aquarius/Uranus-enhanced Jupiter, square Capricorn/Saturn-enhanced Pluto certainly fits the bill. 

It should be noted that Pluto was only two years into its still-current transit of Capricorn when this tournament took place, so it’s worth recalling what was going on in early 2008 when it first ingressed: Wall Street was about to crumble and we were heading into the worst recession we’ve seen since the 1930s Great Depression. In fact, the entire globe was about to suffer the consequences of Wall Street’s reckless excesses under Pluto in late Sagittarius.  

Impact on the U.S.

Finally, to gauge how the tech onslaught represented by “Watson’s” victory on Jeopardy! has been, is and will continue to impact the U.S., let’s take a quick look at the biwheel for this chart with the U.S. Sibly chart. As might be expected, the connections are intense.

Biwheel #1: (inner wheel) US Sibly Chart, July 4, 1776, 5:10 p.m. LMT, Philadelphia, PA; (outer wheel) Jeopardy! “Watson” Championship, February 14, 2011, 7:30 p.m. ST, New York, NY. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node.

First, a couple general observations. The first stunning feature of this biwheel that we can’t miss is how the Jeopardy! Aquarius stellium crowds over the Sibly 3rd house (of all things Mercurial—communications, transportation, etc.) and conjoins our technology-friendly Aquarius Sibly Moon. As P.R. events go, this tournament was well-targeted for maximum effect. 

It wasn’t really that difficult to gain a receptive audience: so-called “smartphones” were already considered essential accessories, and “apps” were being developed for everything imaginable, so we were definitely primed for accepting more AI-enhanced devices in our lives. Stage it all on a wildly popular game show, and you’re home free!

Sibly Uranus rules that 3rd house from the 6th: IBM’s brave new world promised tech jobs, which is always an easy sell in American society. What may have been less obvious were the military (6th house) applications of these smart technologies—robot- and drone-powered warfare is no longer "Sci-Fi."

Let’s consider a few highlights from the charts.

Cardinal Grand Square #1: “Watson” Jupiter (Aries) opposes Sibly MC; this axis squares Sibly Jupiter-Venus (Cancer) opposite “Watson” Pluto (Capricorn). This lively cardinal stand-off between aggressive, ambitious energies is less confrontational than simply pressurized. In fact, it feels like a corral full of highly energized horses, chomping at their bits and waiting to romp in the rodeo. 

The Cancer-Capricorn axis reflects the stake Wall Street had (and continues to have) in all this; the Aries-Libra axis—enhanced by “Watson” Pisces Uranus conjunct Jupiter and also opposed Sibly MC—speaks to the ambitious plans for, and the national/global scope of those stakes. 

In fact, the strident feel of this grand square suggests that U.S. strategic interests—economic as well as geo-political—were likely at stake in the technologies “Watson” represented. Around that same time, there was mounting concern that Chinese tech-pirates were stealing U.S. technologies and not playing by global “rules.”  This piracy had deep economic implications, of course—Sibly Venus-Jupiter did not approve!

 Cardinal Grand Square #2: “Watson” Moon-Sibly Sun (Cancer) opposes “Watson” Venus (Capricorn); this axis squares “Watson” Saturn (Libra) opposite Sibly Chiron (Aries). This configuration points to an important evolutionary threshold (Pluto) for the nation, expressed in one fleeting event (Sibly Sun-“Watson” Moon). As Pluto closed in on its opposition to Sibly Sun (still within orb from the far side), the high stakes represented in this tournament took on broader, deeper implications. That tournament wasn’t just about man v. machine in the end: it was about a whole new, AI-enhanced world order on the horizon.

A critical transformation in American power has been at stake ever since Pluto edged into orb of this opposition, and it’s not all sweetness and light (Sibly Chiron). What will American power (both within and beyond our borders) look like once the opposition moves out of orb? What role will the technologies in question play in the new order?

Obviously, the presence of Donald Trump in the White House is part of this story (Sibly Sun = president), however, he wasn’t the issue in 2011 as “Watson” racked up a victory against human players. Trump came into office after Pluto had exactly opposed Sibly Sun three distinct times (not counting Rx hits…in Mar. 2014, Jan. 2015, Nov. 2015) and then moved on. A transformation in the presidency and in the “vital signs” of the nation itself has been in the works over these years, and it would be naïve to think that technological advances wouldn’t be used to some advantage in that process.

This is a story for another day, but it’s probably no coincidence that the Russian Federation’s 1995 radix chart features Capricorn Uranus-Neptune tightly opposite Sibly Sun and directly impacted by Pluto’s current Capricorn transit. They, too, are redefining their power on the global stage, and are weaponizing technologies as they do, and as we've witnessed in the past year, the U.S. is a big part of the story!

In retrospect, we can appreciate that the Jeopardy! match was the “soft-power” prelude to a much more existential (Sibly Chiron) saga about American power and its role in the world. Flashing forward, we can see how the wound represented in this 2011 chart burst open this past week (12/21) in the U.N., as Nikki Haley delivered Trump's defensive, bullying threat to withdraw funding to that body over the Jerusalem vote.

To its credit, the U.N. soundly rebuked the Trump administration for its threat by voting overwhelmingly against the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, thus undermining any hope for two-state negotiations between Israel and Palestine. "The world is not for sale," one dignitary said to criticize Trump's threat. It will be interesting to watch how Trump now justifies humiliating us all in front of the world by pulling out of the U.N. (a body we helped found). As one commentator on MSNBC put it this morning, "When did we become the bad guys?"

Woven into this entire saga is technology, big business and geo-political power--more and more very "bottom line"-driven enterprises, and ones which Trump apparently equates with transactional thuggery. Not surprisingly, Saturn opposite Chiron in the Sibly and "Watson" charts speaks to unhealed wounds inflicted by authority figures of all kinds: in 1776 the culprit was mad King George III; today, there are multiple choices. This probably explains why Americans have always had a love-hate relationship with government.

It’s possible that we may also develop a conflicted relationship with tech corporations, the types represented by “Watson,” because the well-being of We the People is definitely secondary in this new saga being written. Have we all dutifully trotted out to the stores this season to buy the latest AI-enhanced gadget?  I’ve seen normally rational individuals interact with “SIRI”—it isn’t pretty.

So Pluto square Sibly Chiron (an aspect which is now much tighter than it was in 2011) is forcing us to confront our collective wounds and this conflicted relationship we’ve had with authoritative institutions forever. What seems to always get lost in the shuffle is that the government is supposed to be Us—“government of the People, by the People, for the People!” Pluto is forcing us to revisit those ideals and decide if they're keepers or not.


One perennial problem with living these ideals has been imagining our “rugged individual” selves as a collective (Sibly Sun/Mercury square Chiron)…who exactly constitutes the People? Who enjoys the full rights of citizenship and who struggles for the crumbs? You see where this is going…it’s this primal dis-ease that keeps us divided and easily leveraged by those who stand to profit from undermining our institutions (“Watson” Saturn-Sibly Saturn opposite Sibly Chiron).

Saturn, of course, has just ingressed into Capricorn (see 12/11/2017 post), handing Trump and the GOP a victory on their controversial (and viciously greedy) tax bill. Now you see the middle class—five years from now, watch out! Saturn in Capricorn is big on personal responsibility, so unless we dig deep and decide that the well-being of all of us is important to each one of us, personally, the following may now be on their own, with no government support: children who depend upon the CHIP health care program; 13 million dependent upon Obama Care for coverage, and several million Puerto Rican American citizens (the tax bill washes the mainland’s hands of Puerto Rico's problems by deeming it a “foreign country” for tax purposes).

The sense is very real that the GOP is just getting started cutting public programs that benefit average Americans…stay tuned!

Come what may, at least we’ll have our soothing tech devices—our high-tech age “Soma” (remember Brave New World?) designed to keep us “manageable.” recently published an amazingly insightful article that's worth a final consideration here, entitled “Transhumanism and the future of humanity: 7 ways the world will change by 2030.” The article posits that humans will not just benefit from and enjoy the new wave of technological devices—these devices will actually impact what it means to be human.

From the article’s intro:

“Companies today are strategizing about future investments and technologies such as artificial intelligence, the internet of things, or growth around new business models. While many of these trends will make for solid investments for the next 5-10 years, fewer companies are considering the revolutionary convergence of disparate trends pulled from technology, behavioral and societal changes, and medical advances to understand how they will converge to transform society.  This transformation will be messy, complex, and sometimes scary, but signals already point to a future of humanity that will blur our identities into ‘transhumanism.’”
Western societies have been obsessing about humanity’s relationship with technology, and with tech-enabled systems of powers forever (even the printing press probably had its naysayers), yet what author Sarwant Singh discusses in this article transcends the usual scenarios. He pinpoints seven key levers that he expects will produce a pervasive social transformation— I’ve listed these below in quotes, with some thoughts of my own following after each one. Importantly, these seven levers are the stuff of Saturn-Pluto cycles, and a new one is beginning soon. Singh’s seven key points include:

“Our bodies will be augmented.” Wearables, implants and gene-based technologies, including IVF that selects for intelligent embryos, CRISPR gene-editing, etc. Elon Musk’s companies are working on the wearables and implants, including “brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) that will seriously influence how we communicate.  

“Gamification and behavioral science will increase human productivity.” Singh cites Uber as using such techniques in the graphic interface their drivers use now, and while he’s optimistic these techniques can be used beneficially, he says “they must be monitored to ensure they do not drift into more controlling engagements.” This is probably already happening, depending upon how you define “control.” Consumers will be targeted by these tactics, as well—as if we aren’t played like pianos as it is!

“We will be more empathetic.” Singh points to another potential for BMIs that sounds good on the surface, but it involves understanding another’s point-of-view “straight from their own brain.” If we freely engage in these brain exchanges, this could be hopeful, but what if “free will” is another easily distorted, or "socially engineered" factor?  

“We will see the emergence of extreme personalization and customization.” As appealing as this may sound—a tech-enabled “Me-Centric” Universe of our very own—there will be trade-offs in terms of privacy and intrusiveness. We’ll be seeing lots of products and services spinning out of this pursuit. 

“Business practices will shift significantly.” We’ve been hearing a lot about the coming “robot apocalypse,” and a trend towards robotics- and AI-based automation will certainly drive the shift Singh is speaking of here. However, he also says that “Most employees will have an AI counterpart with which they collaborate or through which their work is amplified.  Some futurists predict that by 2026 companies will have an AI machine as a member of their board of directors[v]” 

We’ve seen hints of this in television commercials for “Watson” devices already—clearly, there are far-reaching implications here that will dramatically transform American workplaces. Will workers be virtually tethered to their collaborating machines? In these human-machine partnerships, which “partner” calls the shots? 

Examples already exist in which the worker’s cell phone is downloaded with a work-related “app,” which drives the person to achieve ridiculous amounts of work in a given hour (or risk losing feedback points and compensation); is a technology-based “whip” any less oppressive than a real one? Companies co-opting their workers’ private cell phones is bad enough, but here we’re also seeing what Singh calls “gamification” techniques. Granted, no one has to agree to work for these companies, but what happens if they’re the only “game in town?”

“Conversations focused on our societal values will gain a great deal of attention.” American values are sharply divided these days, and conversations are certainly needed. Who is being structurally and systemically set up to thrive in the super-enhanced technological landscape ahead, and who isn’t? Will technology be used to create a more equitable playing field—let’s say by creating more and better educational opportunities for everyone—or will it be used to make the rich richer and the poor poorer? 

Final thoughts

It’s naïve to think that companies won’t do everything in their power to cash in on the years of research and development they’ve put into new technologies. It’s up to us, however, to make sure that Big Tech isn’t put to the darkest of uses. Pluto is now transiting opposite its position during the 1930s run-up to World War II—at the same time it’s closing in on our Sibly Pluto—so a lot of unfinished business from that era is coming back for further work.  This will be an ongoing theme for several years ahead, so we’ll see much more on this, as the story unfolds!

We aren’t the only society undergoing a deep transformation right now, but let’s focus inward for a moment: if the New Deal fueled the revolutionary transformation in the 1930s that shaped our society for all these decades since, today’s “Brave New World” for billionaires (i.e., the GOP Tax Bill) seems intent on creating a new plutocratic order on the ashes of that New Deal.

This new GOP/Corporate vision allows the 1% to essentially loot future generations (including their safety net and entitlement programs, no doubt) and has the makings of an oligarchic regime such as Russia’s been operating under with Putin. Needless to say, our boy Trump is eager for us to follow in those footsteps.

The good news is, if we gather our collective will and energies, this Pluto-driven transformation can be channeled in ways that protect and strengthen democracy and the common good. We can heal what divides us, and yes, even the most Sci-Fi technologies looming in our future can be useful tools in that pursuit if we demand as much. And keep demanding. And refuse to take “no” for an answer. A new year looms: let’s make it happen! 

Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and former educator. A graduate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (U.K.), Raye focuses on mundane, collective-oriented astrology, with a particular interest in current affairs, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. Several of her articles on these topics have been featured in The Mountain Astrologer and other publications over the years. 

Please see the Feb./Mar. issue of The Mountain Astrologer for Raye's article entitled "The Disappearing Personal/Collective Divide: Helping Clients to Navigate Insecure Times."

Raye welcomes new clients for individual chart readings—for more information, contact her at:

© Raye Robertson 2017. All rights reserved. 

[1] Daniel Franklin, ed., Megatech: Technology in 2050, a series of essays published by The Economist, London, UK, 2017, p. 161.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Pivotal Capricorn times & Saturnalia 2017

“I think we’re at a pivotal moment, but we’re also at a dangerous time…”
Mika Brzezinski,

“That’s the way these corrupt bargains always work. You think you’re only giving your tormentor a little piece of yourself, but he keeps asking and asking, and before long he owns your entire soul.”     
David Brooks,                                                             
Shortly before noon on December 21st (Eastern Standard Time), the Sun will enter Capricorn and begin what astrology generally considers the final quarter of the astronomical/astrological year (assuming that year begins every March as the Sun enters Aries at the Spring Equinox). While the Capricorn ingress is often given less predictive weight regarding the coming year than the Aries one, the winter solstice still holds considerable importance as we close out one calendar year and “conceive of” the next. I will argue this is especially true in the U.S., given our national chart. More on this to come. 

For the record, collective astrological wisdom is divided about which of these two ingresses should mark the new year’s inception because the natural cycle can be said to begin at either time: in winter, as the earth lies fallow and seeds are planted for the next season’s growth (conception), or in spring, when visible growth actually manifests.[1]  

So last year at this time, I suggested that we explore the Capricorn and Aries ingresses approaching at that time as one continuing story line in a potentially volatile 2017 narrative. A new presidential administration was gestating (winter 2016) and would launch shortly after the Capricorn ingress. Looking back now, the cosmic writing on the wall was startlingly clear: 2017 was a volatile year indeed. 

Last time the Sun was edging near Capricorn, I wrote about how the ancients used to celebrate Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, considered the Lord of Agriculture. Simply put, survival depended upon this often dour, demanding, earthy god—famine was an all-too-frequent reality. Even today, however, growing food for one’s family and community remains a powerful way to learn responsibility, diligence, perseverance and determination—the “sacrifices” we put on Saturn’s altar. Slackers need not apply. 

Societies took shape from this agricultural matrix and the needs it addressed, over time giving rise to moral and ethical standards and precepts which have always been heavily influenced by cultural/religious dogma and customs. So, because morality and ethics have deep ramifications for how societies function, Saturn has always been associated with the formation of standards of behavior and a moral “core”— social development on both personal and collective levels. 

This process of formation happens in the course of Time (also ruled by Saturn), as Saturn transits around a person’s (or a nation’s) natal chart, turning its attention to each area of life (house) in turn, and finally returning to its natal position. Each Saturn return takes approximately 28 years, but the developmental work achieved in the course of each return accrues in a pattern with identifiable stages. 

According to the wisdom of this cycle, we are fully “socialized” (ready to take our places as productive Saturnian citizens) when we have finally internalized the limits and norms that our elders and authority figures (all Saturn-ruled) used to mold our behavior and ethical worldviews over time. There may be wisdom here, but as any review of the news reveals, it doesn’t always succeed. Our society’s “rule of law” wouldn’t be needed if this acculturation process was foolproof. If humans were, say, less human. 

Today, one burning behavioral issue in the news concerns the treatment of women by men in powerful positions. What are the limits of acceptable behavior, in words and deeds? At what point does “misconduct” become a “crime?” These nuances are critical if we’re looking to deepen our society’s ethical consciousness and maintain Saturn’s rigor and fairness—Saturn is dignified in justice-minded Libra. 

IMHO, we’re at a critical moment in the so-called “Silence Breakers” movement, however (thanks to Time magazine for that term!): signs are strong that the Neptunian flood gates of social media and its “echo chambers” are overtaking the movement’s revelations, threatening to squander their potential for inspiring a deep, collective moral awakening. We’ll consider the astrology of all this in a bit. 

Neptune’s involvement allows corruptible players to co-opt the movement’s energies, serving it up as just another form of sensationalism or even worse, blanket condemnation. Under Neptune’s distorted lens, all transgressions will be considered ONE BIG THING with no degrees of severity and no thought for rehabilitation. Justice could be compromised, society’s moral compass could be skewed by intentional divisiveness (witness Alabama’s Senate race), and needless damage to families and reputations can be done.

Where Saturnian forces acknowledge human imperfection and take responsibility for disciplining and reforming, Neptunian ones level the field with one indiscriminate tsunami of guilt. All are guilty until proven innocent. MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski was speaking to this precarious possibility when she said, “I think we are at a pivotal moment, but we’re also at a dangerous time.”  

It’s clear that the “Silence Breaker” movement is just getting revved up, and it absolutely deserves support at this critical Capricorn ingress: my hope is that Capricorn empowers Saturn to take the lead as it continues to unfold. Regardless, we can expect the push-pull Saturn-Neptune dynamic (both planets powerful in their ruling signs) to carry us through the final quarter of this solar year into the March 2018 Aries ingress. 

Let’s consider how all this and more might unfold into the coming year: what follows is a chart cast for the Capricorn ingress in Washington, D.C., set against the U.S. Sibly chart.  

Biwheel #1: (inner wheel) U.S. Sibly Chart, July 4, 1776, 5:10 p.m. LMT, Philadelphia, PA; (outer wheel) Capricorn Ingress 2017, December 21, 2017, 11:16:51 a.m., ST, Washington, D.C. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node.

Interchart T-Square: Ingress Sun conjoins Ingress Saturn (both Capricorn) and both oppose Sibly Venus-Jupiter (Cancer); this axis squares Sibly MC (Libra). This configuration is extraordinary first because Saturn isn’t often so closely conjunct the winter Solstice Sun. Zero degrees Capricorn is considered a “World Point,” so this meeting of Sun and Saturn is significant for power relationships and structures, here and abroad. The opposition stretches across the 1st and 7th Sibly houses, suggesting that this winter-early spring season will force us to reconsider the image we project to the world and the relationships we share with allies.

Israel’s radix chart ties into this configuration through its Venus at 5°+Cancer—we haven’t heard the last of Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol. This decision feels like the tip of an aggressive (cardinal) new policy shift “iceberg,” in fact. Trump’s natal Mercury (8°+Cancer) conjoins Israel’s[2] Venus—it will be interesting to see if a Trump hotel emerges in the region as a consequence. 

World leaders are fairly unanimous that Trump’s actions have destroyed what was left of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Is it just coincidence that the Supreme Court recently gave the administration the go-ahead for its Muslim travel ban? More on all this as events unfold.

Our trading partners are also implicated in this cardinal t-square—with the midterm elections coming up in November, we can expect that NAFTA will be tossed around like the political football it is. If there’s insufficient opposition, Saturn may support Trump’s project of shutting down our borders and building walls where doors and open relationships used to exist.

Notice that the point opposite a t-square’s focal point (here, Sibly MC) is the point of resolution, where the tensions built into the configuration can be worked through to create something constructive. That point falls in the Sibly 4th—the “grassroots” dimension of American life, which makes perfect sense because turn-out and activism in next year’s election will be essential. 

This grassroots dimension is where the continued work of the “Silence Breakers” movement needs to happen as well: high profile women are not the only ones affected by the “Bro” culture that enables sexual misconduct and assault. When women find their voices and start receiving more respect in the restaurant industry, the tech industry, the retail industry and so on, we’ll know that the cultural shift we’re all looking for is real.

The involvement of Sibly Venus and Jupiter (Cancer) is key here: women wield real economic power in the U.S. market place, so companies will respond to any pressure applied. The corporate sector has been aggressive about removing accused offenders, and this will probably continue.

Finally, there’s Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump/Russia investigation. Factions within the GOP (including some powerful players like Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley) are working overtime trying to develop a narrative that disables and discredits the investigation. It’s getting too close to home, isn’t it? This brings in transiting Pluto’s (Capricorn) opposition to Sibly Sun, which plays into the configuration because Saturn disposes Capricorn.  

Mueller is methodically turning the Plutonian screws on Trump and his associates, family and otherwise, and he’s going about it with Saturnian finesse and rigor. Attempts to disqualify him are patently Neptunian (casting aspersions on his credibility, his impartiality), so it will be interesting to see which planetary heavy prevails. Nothing can be taken for granted here.

Pluto also opposes the Sibly Sun/Mercury midpoint (18°46’ Cancer), so the court of public opinion may shift dramatically. Trump probably senses this opening—notice that he’s back out on the campaign stump already? The Alabama race provided a pretext for getting his own messages out there, but he probably won’t retreat back into the White House after tomorrow’s race is settled. Campaign rallies are where he wields the most grassroots clout, and as we’re seeing in this configuration, the 4th house grassroots domain is the leverage point.

So, Mueller’s investigation may diligently unearth acres of facts and figures (Saturn), but to cut through Trump’s Neptunian victimization narrative (“it’s all a rigged system that’s determined to work against innocent little old me”), it must also capture hearts and minds.

A final word on Pluto’s role here: it’s an “all or nothing” energy—it takes prisoners, willing or not. In this sense, the power various players are trying to gain over the grass roots can be toxic and manipulative. David Brooks captured this danger very well in a recent article I highly recommend (see the epigraph of this article, above):

“That’s the way these corrupt bargains always work. You think you’re only giving your tormentor a little piece of yourself, but he keeps asking and asking, and before long he owns your entire soul.”

Brooks was referring to the Faustian bargain the GOP made with Trump to sell him their party's "soul.” We’ve seen how low he’s dragged the GOP in his quest for a Republican Senator’s seat in Alabama. We have to wonder what he will ask for next.

Interchart Grand Water Trine: Sibly Sun (Cancer) trines Ingress Jupiter (Scorpio) trines Ingress Neptune (Pisces). Notice that Ingress Neptune also conjoins the ASC, which indicates that Neptune rises in the Ingress chart. This may have its light moments, but it’s not particularly positive overall: as we’ve discussed, Neptune has a way of undermining a Saturnian agenda, and this coming Capricorn season should be Saturn’s chance to shine.

Many consider Saturn to be oppressive, but in my observation, Saturn helps restore confidence, stability and order if deployed judiciously. Its energies can, of course, be used oppressively—context and balance are everything here. The so-called “Net Neutrality” debate provides a case-in-point: by removing Saturnian regulations (a Jupiter-Neptune ploy), consumers will likely suffer more expense, less open Internet access and a general over-commercializing of the Net (even worse than it is now). Like so many areas of life, this too is relative: one man’s oppression is another’s liberation. A discussion for another day!

In the context of this Capricorn ingress—a season in which Saturn should have more sway—we can hope that its energies will help impose some kind of order, restore behavioral norms and hold corrupt officials to account. Given Neptune’s strength in Pisces, however, this restorative agenda may get lost in the less transparent agenda of Jupiter trine Neptune!

Jupiter trine Neptune reflects an overwhelming rush of idealism and perhaps religiosity—perhaps an “awakening” of sorts. This may sound euphoric, but the emotionalism that always accompanies such phenomena can be manipulated for any number of corrupt purposes, and 2018 is an election year that will overwhelm our public airwaves immediately after the New Year.

There’s a danger here that the floodgates of deceptive imagery will also open up (Jupiter and Neptune together are very “right-brained”): beware of Facebook and other social media ads that grab your attention with suspicious, over-hyped visuals. Hypocrisy, deception (Neptune) and greed (Jupiter, especially in Scorpio) will be unleashed (trine). It will be up to a conscious citizenry to fight for rationality, fact-based journalism and accountability.

What you see will not necessarily be what you get, and at least part of this distortion will emanate from the Top (Sibly Sun). We know Trump’s penchant for spinning rumors and “what-about-ism” into election issues, for whipping up a crowd and outright lying—these dynamics can easily go overboard under the unleashed watery energies we see here, and they can cause real harm (even more than we’ve seen already).  

This watery grand trine could also take the “Silence Breakers” movement touched upon earlier into dangerous excesses. Women who seriously want to influence our culture for the better need to proceed in a balanced way, erring on the side of Saturnian justice and due process. If revenge is the primary goal (a Scorpio Jupiter would be fine with that), things can go very wrong. What are the clear goals of the movement? How can we defend these goals from being manipulated and corrupted?

To effect lasting cultural change, the charges women bring forward need to be verifiable (Saturn). I know this point is hotly debated, but demanding anything less than a clear, measured legal standard will eventually inspire resistance and perhaps even a backlash. The feeling of empowerment is strong right now for women, but I’m hoping that the movement can avoid the pitfalls of Neptunian distortion at all costs! 

Internationally, the watery energies in this grand trine may exacerbate the unrest Trump has instigated in the Middle East over his Israel decision, and they can loosen inhibitions on high for responding to such tensions. Trump’s belligerent stance toward North Korea[3] is a major concern here—its Uranus (0°+Cancer) falls directly opposite Ingress Sun-Saturn, and the U.N. is warning that what Chinese officials have called the “black hole of confrontation” between Trump and Kim Jong-Un is now “the most dangerous security issue in the world.”

Belligerence is clearly not solving the problem here, and time and patience are wearing thin. A group of Nobel Peace Prize winners is in the news today for having warned nuclear-armed countries to disarm, saying that nuclear destruction is “one impulsive tantrum away.” The Mars/Jupiter midpoint in this chart exactly trines Neptune—an impulsive “tantrum” (Mars) borne of delusions of grandeur (Jupiter-Neptune) and a victimization narrative (Neptune) are not out of the question!

Geopolitical turmoil often, in fact, correlates with flowing Jupiter-Neptune energies, especially when Uranus gets into the act. Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune were powerfully involved in the so-called Arab Spring in 2010-11—Pisces Uranus was transiting in mutual reception with Aquarius Neptune, and with Jupiter in Neptunian Pisces as well, the flood gates of change were hard to contain.

Those were heady, euphoric times in a lot of ways (remember how the uprisings were called the “first social media revolutions?”), but they also inspired a series of repressive backlashes: the Syrian Civil War, a military crack-down in Egypt, chaos in Libya, and indirectly, perhaps even  the current calamity in Yemen.

The instability experienced across that entire region in the wake of these planetary passages (other articles on this blog look at the cycles involved in all this) probably helped produce the migrant crisis that’s been rocking Europe ever since, as well. That crisis in turn inspired the rise of right-wing and ultra-nationalist groups who—like Trump—see every issue through the lens of “Us against Them.”

Neptune’s role here is two-pronged: in these unstable, difficult times for refugees and asylum seekers, nations either follow the low road of fears and biases, or the high road of compassion. Balance between these two is possible and desirable. Trump has all but eliminated our refugee sanctuary program and now, the Supreme Court has given Trump’s Muslim travel ban the go-ahead. This is making America “great” again?

Fluid borders have been a much celebrated hallmark of the European Union[4], and with Neptune now transiting its Pisces 8th house, its future is uncertain at best. Aside from the ever-present threat of terrorism, instability in the Euro may undermine the EU’s joint finances (8th house), and if this happens, the trend towards old right-wing demons surfacing across the continent could deepen.

No foregone conclusions here, but Saturnian forces need to step up and reinforce the Union’s resolve and its defenses. It’s probably far from a perfect union, but it does constrain and deflect some of the worst right-wing impulses. Thankfully, some key European electorates have thus far rejected radical right-wingers, but it would be dangerous to let down their guard. 

Since a Neptunian passage often wields passive aggressive power, the best defense here could be to take a proactive approach. What can be done to balance out legitimate security concerns with the call to human compassion? The vast majority of those fleeing horrendous circumstances would probably rather stay home, if they could make a life for their families there. 

The entire Middle East, for instance, is walking on geopolitical “egg-shells” over the approaching end of Big Oil, and there’s a new “Cold War” developing between Iran and Saudi Arabia for regional power. None of us have anything to gain from instability over there, and taking sides (as Trump seems to be doing with Saudi Arabia) will only entangle us more tightly in the region’s affairs.  

So, with Jupiter in Pluto-ruled Scorpio now, we might consider the watery grand trine in this Ingress chart to be a “Pandora’s Box” configuration. Jupiter is transiting our Sibly 12th as part of this grand trine. This Jupiter is disposed by an aggressive Capricorn Pluto, making Power and Growth at any cost the quest, so it should probably not surprise us that we’re seeing how “low we can go” with the probable election—with our president’s (Sibly Sun) full-throated support—of accused child molester Roy Moore in Alabama. The fact that all this is happening in concert with the “Silence Breakers” movement is stunning.

Needless to say, the fall-out will taint us all—not just the GOP. Perhaps we need to avoid politicizing and emotionalizing (Neptune) these deep issues of national integrity: with Saturn in our collective 1st house this quarter, we can probably expect a comeuppance if we do so.

Perhaps there’s a cosmic balance available: keep our actions real and well-focused with Saturn, keep them light with a touch of compassionate (not distorted) Neptune. Criminals deserve everything the law throws at them, but in general, we need healthy individuals and gender relationships in this society, not crushed, resentful individuals and toxic relationships.

How many more disturbing compromises will we be asked to navigate in the run-up to Election 2018? 

Final thoughts, as we contemplate a new year

It’s hard to miss that this past year has been tremendously destructive: some might say the only damage has been to our complacency about life in these United States, but others say (and I fear) that our democracy, our environment and our national reputation are all up for grabs. 

It’s tempting to point the finger of blame at that ONE MAN in the White House, but of course there’s much more to it than that. Trump wouldn’t be there, actively dismantling our democratic institutions, without the concerted efforts of many, many players, both here and abroad—and he wouldn’t be there if the Cosmos hadn’t facilitated, weirdly enough. Clearly, we have lessons to learn, and the Cosmos is being fairly heavy-handed about it. So, even if we wake up one of these mornings and Trump has mercifully submitted his resignation, we won’t be out of the cosmic woods. 

Major issues on both domestic and international levels abound, so it appears that we’re going to end the year with our collective “stomach” tied in knots. Even so, the wisdom of Saturnalia might actually lighten the load. So, here’s an idea: enjoy a blow-out holiday season, trash the diet, run up the credit cards, get crazy and be of good cheer (the more raucous, no-holds-barred, the better)…then, come back to reality and get to work on making the next year better. It can be better.

A prosperous, peaceful, hopeful and joyful Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, "Festivus" (whatever you celebrate) to all -- see you in the New Year!!

Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and former university English instructor. A graduate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (U.K.), Raye focuses on mundane, collective-oriented astrology, with a particular interest in current affairs, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. Several of her articles on these topics have been featured in The Mountain Astrologer and other publications over the years. Contact Raye by comment here, or at:

© Raye Robertson 2016. All rights reserved. 

[1] Baigent, Campion and Harvey, Mundane Astrology, Thorsons, Inc., London, 1984, pp. 249-250.
[2] Nicholas Campion, The Book of World Horoscopes, The Wessex Astrologer, Bournemouth, UK. 4th printing revised, 2004. Chart #165, p. 166-69.
[3] Campion, Ibid., Chart #179, p. 179-80.
[4] Campion, Ibid., Chart #420a, p. 424-427.