Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A critical tipping point ahead: one Saturn-Pluto cycle ends, another begins

Every anniversary of the World Trade Center bombings on 9/11/2001 is a somber reminder that we can be targets of global forces over which we have little control. 

Even worse, we have to know in our collective gut that there’s no amount of White House tough-guy bluster and defense dollars that will render us completely safe. And, unless Trump-style delusions have gotten the best of us, there’s no magical “Wall” that can keep all the bad guys out. In fact, history suggests that over-defensiveness may ultimately undermine our national desire for safety. 

Loudly proclaiming that our safety and security is their primary concern makes for a great political sound bite, but IMHO, we throw ourselves down a dangerous “slippery slope” when we make safety and security the main drivers for public policy. Through our potential misuse of astrological forces that we’ll consider in a bit, we could end up destroying whatever’s left of our democratic institutions and reversing our progress in so many ways. 

We’ve seen the process in action—it’s sneaky and often operates under the radar. First, we’ve seen our legislative system polarize around zero-sum ideologies like “Law and Order”—and since the people at the top certainly don’t want to pay for all that entails, an obsession with shifting tax burdens

This dual track has pushed life in these United States closer to the brink of 1) a twist on the “police state” order of law (the NRA loudly claims that the government wants to take your guns away, but the worst kind of police state would be one in which the government basically deputizes certain armed people to support its aims of control and command, and arrests those it doesn’t want armed on trumped up charges), and 2) pure social Darwinism—“survival of the fittest” as a national way of life. 

Those who have the means gain political access and influence over public policy, which enriches them with more means and more access, while the have-nots lose out on all levels, which include the following dark potentials:

-         - Our infrastructure goes on crumbling, while the money gets earmarked for tax cuts and defense. Building the new, clean-energy infrastructure we need to address climate change is unimaginable under this scenario.
-        -  Our school systems—once a model for the world and a reason for pride—are reduced to corporate degree factories that focus more on filling corporate labor needs than on creating an enlightened, democratic citizenry
-        -  Our justice system becomes a “pay for play” affair, working hand-in-hand with corporate prisons to house those who can’t pay. In a nice perk for the prisons these corporations run—bursting at the seams, most of them—for the low-low cost of slave wages and working conditions, what used to be public institutions can now be turned into bustling, competitive factories. Job training is one thing—a definite positive—but prison factories manned largely by poor people of color who couldn’t navigate the justice system to their advantage are quite another story.
-         - Our corporate media drowns out voices that resist the “official line,” and those who report the facts are undermined and marginalized as purveyors of “fake news.”
-        -  Our cultural institutions—access to the arts and all that makes being human truly special—also wither into “pay for play” arrangements due to strategically dismantled agencies/organizations and tax cuts. The next generation of artists is faced with vicious competition for the few spots sanctioned by an increasingly consumer-driven entertainment industry. Corporate media pressures artists to conform by cutting off their resources and crowding them out of the airwaves; those who don’t conform risk becoming the “enemy” under a “safety and security State.”
-        -  Our cultural and ethical mores degenerate and divide us: racial intolerance and “Us v. Them” thinking invade our collective consciousness, and even the youngest are not immune to the hatred this spawns. Daily Kos reports today that a biracial 8-year old was lynched and almost killed by white teenagers in New Hampshire. Terrorism of all types (lynchings, bombings, random mass murders, etc.) is an extreme manifestation of this dark divisiveness and the will-to-violence that often accompanies it. 

      These dark, dystopic possibilities, to quote that prescient noir Sci-Fi thriller, Bladerunner, harden and stratify a society, turning it into an isolated, survivalist fortress where you’re either “Cops or little people.” In the case of lynchings and “lone wolf” attacks, we might add that you’re either “vigilantes or victims.” Trump’s pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a troubling sign from this perspective, isn’t it?
American society doesn’t have to be this way, of course, but I don’t think the dreary list above is an exaggeration: more likely, it catalogues some disturbingly real tendencies in American life in recent decades. Of course, there’s an astrological story to tell here, and it’s heavily concerned with the Saturn-Pluto cycle. 

Before we get into how that story has unfolded over time, however, let’s consider a timeline of Saturn-Pluto cycles in the so-called “modern age”—see Table 1. Bits of information in Table 1 will become relevant as we go. 

Table 1. Saturn-Pluto cycles in modern history.
1st Conjunction

Following the breadcrumbs…

Looking back, we can see that both the 9/11 attacks in New York and the troubling erosion of our national institutions ever since have taken place during the waning half of our current 1982 Saturn-Pluto cycle (Table 1). In fact, there may even be a causal relationship between the two. 

The attack provoked widespread fear, a loss of national confidence and growing enmity for the Others out there. Reestablishing American “greatness” in the face of our new vulnerability became an increasingly shrill priority. Most importantly, we were primed to relinquish our cherished rights (including the right to protect our environment) in return for safety and security

In fact, the events of 9/11/2001 fell very near the beginning of this Saturn-Pluto cycle’s second-half: Saturn and Pluto were tightly opposite, to within 2 degrees of exactitude. Since 2001, of course, their cycle has continued to wane, and along with it, our rights and institutions.

Because Saturn is a social planet, its energies respond to humanity’s efforts, commitment and determination. Because Pluto works on our survival anxieties, challenges posed by the Saturn-Pluto cycle often feel like existential crises, and they can be—for individuals, for societies, and for civilization itself. World War II was perhaps the prototypical Saturn-Pluto event—unfolding as it did during the final waning quarter of the 1915 cycle. 

So we are now experiencing the final waning quarter of the 1982 cycle, and a social unraveling and degeneration reminiscent of 1930-40s Germany is threatening to overtake our democracy, as well. Today, the Supreme Court gave a pass to Trump’s ban on refugees for now; even if this is only a temporary reprieve for Trump’s anti-immigration plans, it suggests that the Court is not going to be a great “check” on the excesses of that administration. 

Here, Saturn represents the institution of the judiciary and the “check” over absolute power (Pluto) that we need it to provide; unfortunately, the Court is enabling that absolute power at the moment with its choices, and the remaining months of this 1982 cycle may not reverse that trend. 

To appreciate the impact of this 1982 cycle in terms of American society’s evolution, we need to consider the cycle’s inception chart against the U.S. Sibly chart. We will then consider how that cycle has unfolded over a few major milestones, and how that unfolding is likely to prepare us for the new cycle beginning in 2020. Every Saturn-Pluto cycle clears out the “dead wood” that hampers evolutionary development, but what, in this case, is our “dead wood?” 

Our fateful choice of leaders? Our battered democratic institutions? Let’s consider the first biwheel.

Biwheel #1: (inner wheel) U.S. Sibly chart, July 4, 1776, 5:10 p.m. LMT, Philadelphia, PA; (outer wheel) Saturn-Pluto cycle 1982, November 7, 1982, 3:53:43 p.m. ST, Washington, D.C.. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node. 

Interchart T-Square: Sibly Pluto (Capricorn) opposes Sibly Mercury (Cancer); this axis squares Cycle Saturn-Pluto (Libra). Think back to the 1980s—Ronald Reagan was president, corporations were celebrating his willingness to roll-back regulations and side with them against labor unions, “upward mobility” was all the rage, and the “Yuppies” were coming into their own. In 1982, specifically, Michael Jackson’s Thriller album—some might say the “soundtrack” of the Pluto in Libra/Gen X generation—topped the charts, and technological breakthroughs were the order of the day. The personal computer was Time magazine’s “Person of the Year!” 

Apple Computers was feasting on its portion of the financial pie, but the domestic markets were just a start for its life-altering technology.

So, early glimmers of globalization were on the horizon, although the Big Three auto companies still had some clout when it came to protecting American markets from Japanese imports. Unfortunately, the American auto industry was resting on its laurels while Japanese and Koreans car makers were moving full steam ahead, reinventing the affordable sedan.

The auto industry was only one example—this cardinal t-square tapped into the ambitions of the U.S. financial sector (Sibly Pluto) and applied transformative stress on the entire business world. 

International institutions (Saturn) like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) took a more aggressive stance towards micro-managing national economies in return for bail-out and infrastructure loans, and Milton Friedman’s conservative “Chicago School” of economics was gradually transforming the policies at work in the U.S. Federal Reserve and in Washington, D.C. 

With this t-square, the economic policies underpinning a strong American middle class were undercut by movement towards a more polarized, “haves and have nots” economy.  This shift is reflected in a wealth-conscious Scorpio Venusconjunct Jupiter—disposing the Libra Cycle point. The nation was about to see a serious shift in economic policies that would be based on lowering taxes on the wealthy and opening capital markets, all in the name of growth.  

In other words, our national economy was being prepared for the really radical transformations of the Clinton era that would usher in global trade agreements, and a simultaneous rush to offshore, downsize and right-size American corporations. All this forced our politics into greater polarized camps. Even though compromise should be possible under a Libra cycle, both Saturn and Pluto would soon enter aggressive, fixed Scorpio, and compromise became a dirty word. 

Cycle Neptune (Sagittarius) sextiled this late Libra Saturn-Pluto (not unusual—Neptune and Pluto have been transiting roughly sextile since the 1950s), highlighting Neptune’s role as Pluto’s cohort, eroding and undermining the institutions and social structures that Saturn-Pluto may target for destruction/renewal. 

It’s important here that Cycle Neptune (over the Sibly 1st) opposed Sibly Mars (Gemini) in 1982 (Cycle Saturn-Pluto also trined that same point), setting us up for a long period of vaguely-defined, but somehow self-serving wars. We might say that war has become a national addiction (Mars-Neptune) that the powers-that-be simply don’t want to discuss. The connections to Sibly Pluto reflect the vested interests that big business has in this discussion. 

Interestingly, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) was in the news yesterday for forcing Congress to face this discussion.  Claiming that none of the seven wars we’re involved in now have anything to do with 9/11, Paul occupied the Senate floor, blocking any further activities, saying he wouldn’t leave until the Senate votes on a measure to repeal the 2001-2002 Congressional authorizations for our current wars. 

Paul says he doesn’t expect to win, but he (I think rightly) wants Congress to take more conscious control of our military actions, and not simply leave an open-ended authorization. We might say that he’s staging an “intervention.”

The t-square discussed above suggests somewhat restrained capitalism, yet there’s an ambitious, even aggressive feel to it. Cycle Neptune’s involvement—falling semi-sextile Sibly Pluto and square Sibly Neptune (Virgo)—probably contributed to the loosening of those restraints. Reagan did proclaim that government (i.e., government regulations, labor protections, etc.) was the “problem,” not the “solution.” 

This anti-regulatory stance has followed us ever since, creating real havoc during the 2007-8 Wall Street meltdown, and now guiding Trump’s roll-back of every Obama-era regulation he can find. Here’s where Neptune’s talent for delusion is operating full throttle: Climate change?...a Chinese plot! Tell that to people whose lives were upended in Texas and Florida these past weeks!

Then, there’s terrorism…while it’s existed as a hostile tactic forever, it seems to have been almost institutionalized during this 1982 cycle. We’ve seen an escalation both here and abroad in terrorist-style tactics, in response to geopolitical dynamics, the rise of globalization, etc. There’s a reason Osama bin Laden targeted the World Trade Center in 2001, at the mid-point of this Libra cycle—the towers were the financial hub for Wall Street and all the symbolic baggage it carries abroad. 

It’s worth noting that the first terrorist bombing of the WTC was on February 26, 1993 (chart not shown), very close on the heels of the new Capricorn Uranus-Neptune cycle, disposed by a staunch Aquarius Saturn and its mutual reception with this bombastic, finance-minded Uranus

Importantly, Saturn was also applying to its first square of the 1982 cycle with Scorpio Pluto. Economics and the severely polarized “haves and have nots” world that globalization has spawned is never very far from the picture when terrorist attacks have happened during this cycle. 

On a lighter note, the 1982 Best Picture Academy Award went to Chariots of Fire, while the other blockbuster movie that year was Spielberg’s E.T.: the Extraterrestrial—what better images for idealistic Neptune in fiery Sagittarius?!

Then and now…

Let’s move on to consider what the new 2020 Saturn-Pluto cycle looks like next to our Sibly chart. We have a lot to navigate between now and then if we want to preserve our democratic institutions, our checks and balances, and so on. In fact, these institutions may be seriously up for grabs—this new cycle is launching a mere 7° from Pluto’s transiting return to its Sibly position (first exact in February 2022)—so we might want to consider what life in these United States could be like without them. 

Not that a Capricorn Pluto is necessarily a sign of autocracy—as a feature of the Sibly chart, it marks our Declaration of Independence from Britain’s then-autocratic government! However, we have to remember that King George III gradually tightened the screws on American colonists over the duration of Pluto’s 1760s Capricorn transit, finally reaching the point of no return in 1776. Clearly,  autocracy and resisting autocracy co-existed then, just as they co-exist now. 

Happily, that 1776 chart featured some key aspects that facilitated the balance of powers between our newly-minted three branches of government. This balance has been under serious attack of late, of course. Will the new cycle help restore the balance, or will it bring us closer to a radical transformation towards greatly concentrated power?  That depends heavily on the use we all make of the cosmic energies at our disposal, but let’s consider some highlights from the new cycle biwheel below to see what those energies will be.

Biwheel #2: (inner wheel) U.S. Sibly chart, July 4, 1776, 5:10 p.m. LMT, Philadelphia, PA; (outer wheel) Saturn-Pluto cycle 2020, January 12, 2020, 11:44:48 a.m. ST,Washington, D.C.. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node. 

Cycle 5-point Capricorn gathering conjoins Sibly Pluto (Capricorn) and opposes Sibly Mercury (Cancer). This intense, Saturn-charged gathering includes the Sun, Ceres, Saturn, Pluto and Mercury and does suggest a concentration of power in the Sibly corporate sector (2nd house). As we know, corporations are not democracies. David Korten’s visionary 1995 book entitled When Corporations Rule the World has been updated for its 20th anniversary recently, and clearly, it’s more relevant than ever. 

Does this gathering around Sibly Pluto have to be a negative, however? Saturn implies restraints and regulations (I can just feel the GOP shudder in its collective boots), and it’s feeling its oats in its home sign here. Perhaps in Capricorn we’ll see a renewed appreciation for the importance of balancing restraints and freedom in our global capitalist economy. 

The presence of Ceres and Mercury here suggests that grass-roots needs and realities may be considered more closely when economic policies are hammered out. As climate change intensifies (are we doing anything to stop it?), economic policies may have to become more focused on survival issues such as growing enough food (Ceres) and roads, not to mention safe communications media (Mercury). 

If Trump manages to get his “Wall,” this could be the period when it goes up; it will no doubt impact agriculture and unhindered movement (Ceres and Mercury opposite Sibly Mercury). The wall could also prompt Mexico to stop sending its agricultural goods across the border to us—as well as the agricultural workers we need for our fields. Whose loss would that be, in the end? 

On another note, it may or may not help that this Capricorn gathering will happen trine Sibly Neptune (Virgo), at a point when transiting Neptune (Pisces) is closing in on its “half-return” (aka “opposition”) to that same point (first exact in May, 2021). We can expect that how we define the so-called “American Dream” will be up for revision, and who gets access to that dream will be another story. 

There’s a lot of speculation today about the economy being reinvented around a new super-automated, AI-focused age that will put a lot of people out of work, but cause a real boom-time in the business world. Although conservative ideologues would like us to believe they are, corporate “dreams” are not always in synch with grass-roots “dreams”—how these two will be reconciled (if they are) is a story to watch closely. 

It’s hopeful that Cycle Venus conjoins Sibly Moon (both Aquarius) here, but I’m mindful that this nice conjunction is also semi-sextile Sibly Pluto and trine Sibly Mars (Gemini). It will be interesting to see if war (it's more of a corporate industry than ever these days) ends up employing a lot of those left behind by automation. Will the current tension with North Korea boost bottom lines between now and then?

Cycle Neptune (Pisces) quincunxes Sibly Saturn (Libra) and trines Sibly Sun (Cancer); Cycle Saturn-Pluto (Capricorn) widely square Sibly Saturn.  This is not too different from what we’re currently experiencing, so it appears that the confusion over the distribution of power in D.C. will continue for years (i.e., with Trump acting as though Congress is his legislative errand boy). This confusion (perhaps purposeful) could partially stem from an encroaching "top-down" militarization of national power, combined with an increasingly “corporate” military.  

Trump has put retired and active-duty generals in positions that military personnel have not been allowed to occupy before him, and while these men are probably bringing a little order to a chaotic administration, it’s not a trend to follow if we value a civilian-led democracy. In extreme cases, military-rule leads to “Banana-Republic”-style governments. Too much power is concentrated in too few hands, and mindlessly following orders crowds out the People's priorities. 

Cycle Neptune is tightening its square to Sibly Mars, which could debilitate our military on the one hand, and create military “quagmires” with the other. This latter possibility is supported by the Capricorn gathering’s quincunx to Sibly Mars and its simultaneous square to Sibly Saturn. Hopefully, we will find better uses for these energies.

Final thoughts

Neither democracy nor autocracy simply happen to a society like ours overnight—they both unfold over a series of developments that stretch over decades, through multiple outer-planetary cycles. With that said, we have to be realistic about the challenges ahead. The 1982 Saturn-Pluto cycle is quickly waning, and the transition between that cycle and the new one feels like a  precarious tipping point within our longer evolution. 

Considering its timing during this sensitive transition period, it’s my astrologically-grounded opinion that the Trump administration is a wake-up call that we need to heed. 

Astrology concerning the U.S. is unusual in that we haven’t changed national charts every time a new administration comes into power. France is now on its 5th Republic, and its national charts change with its republics. Likewise with other nations—as new regimes take over, the charts often change to reflect that new reality. You can imagine the arguments that ensue over which charts to use for what!

I think our founding fathers wanted to create a more stable system for our government, however, and for 241 years, their balanced distribution of power centers has worked fairly well, so there's been no need to view a new administration as a whole new nation, with a new chart. That's until our stable system was undermined and didn't function as it should have been this past election—a story we haven’t heard the last of

So, this transition between Saturn-Pluto periods feels to me like a time for either recouping our founders’ original democratic intent, as embodied in the Sibly chart—or for abandoning that original plan and engineering a new national reality, chart and all! 

This story is far from told, but as the new Saturn-Jupiter cycle (beginning in December 2020) launches in Aquarius, ushering in that new age of automation we’re expecting, and as Pluto returns to Sibly Pluto in early 2022, we’ll definitely fill in some blanks. 

Needless to say, a lot will happen between now and then – stay tuned!

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.

She is also available to read individual charts—contact her at:

© Raye Robertson 2017. All rights reserved.