Friday, September 29, 2017

Pluto’s travels, medieval echoes & a potential renaissance

Mundane astrology studies the longer outer planetary cycles—Neptune-Pluto, Uranus-Neptune and Uranus-Pluto—for their influence on the broad, culture- and civilization-level dynamics at play in any given era. 

In fact, it is the interactions between these so-called “collective” cycles with the shorter, “social cycles”—the ones formed by combining Jupiter and Saturn with the three “Big Guys” named above—that account for how distinctive time periods unfold—say, the “Roaring Twenties” or the “Arts & Crafts” movement in furniture and architecture, as well as longer eras like the Renaissance, that unfolded over the stretch of two consecutive Uranus-Neptune cycles beginning in Scorpio (11/1307 and 12/1478). 

Jupiter and Saturn inspire and manifest those macro-cycle energies in the physical, intellectual, sociopolitical and cultural realms of our daily lives.  
Let’s consider those 1307 and 1478 cycles for a moment—astrologically, they’re not as remote from today as we might think. Both cycles launched in Scorpio, but the first of these Uranus-Neptune cycles also began conjunct Scorpio Saturn, with Pluto and Mars co-disposing all three from the harsh electric realm of Aquarius (see Chart #1 below). 

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the 14th century is forever known for the Black Death (roughly 1347-1350) that wiped out one-third of Europe’s population. Importantly for our discussion here, that sweeping pandemic manifested in the early years of a new Saturn-Neptune cycle in Aquarius, as well. 

Chart #1: Uranus-Neptune Cycle 1307, November 15, 1307, 8:10 a.m. LMT, Rome, Italy. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node. 

Ironically, Europe rose in the wake of that medieval plague devastation to rebuild its infrastructures and institutions, and with the powerful patronage of the Roman church, the wealthy classes and some courageous intellectuals, to launch the creative, scientific and technologically innovative Humanist revolution we know as the Renaissance.

Regarding that 1307 cycle and its potent  Uranus-Neptune-Saturn conjunction in the 12th house of institutions and "undoing" (cast for Rome, Italy): in keeping with Pluto’s heavy influence in disposing the conjunction, that same Church—basically the law of the land in Catholic nations—was becoming more and more corrupt. This was compounded by the fact that the rise of Humanism was considered a threat to religion’s power over people. Humanists tended to be more passionate about enjoying this life than about denying their senses and appetites in favor of the next life. 

In fact, humanity was finally seen to have worth on its own terms, and although some early humanists and scientists of that period suffered greatly for their work, people were finally deemed capable of intellectually exploring the world and even the Universe. Copernicus introduced his revolutionary heliocentric model of our solar system in 1543, during the final quarter of a Saturn-Pluto cycle. 

By his actions, Copernicus was challenging the authority of the Church to define the Cosmos and humanity’s place in it, and the Church pushed back hard, but the new role science was about to assume in human affairs was seeded, and there was no going back.

Interestingly, that final Saturn-Pluto quarter launched with Pluto in Aquarius again, as it was in the 1307 cycle, and the Saturn-Pluto cycle in force at the time of Copernicus’s drive to reimagine the solar system had begun in January 1518, in Capricorn. Both of these make that era we now call the Renaissance relevant today for a couple reasons: 1) Pluto is due to enter Aquarius in March, 2023; and 2) Saturn and Pluto are due to begin their latest Capricorn cycle in January, 2020!

In fact, many in the technology and scientific fields are pointing to earth-shaking, life-changing technological (Aquarius) developments with far-reaching economic ramifications (Capricorn) in the near future. We’re told to expect a “robotics/AI invasion,” autonomous vehicles (Dubai just previewed autonomous flying vehicles they intend to release in the near-future!), human beings landing on Mars within 10-20 years, gene therapies to prevent all ills, and so on. 

The fate of human employment in the midst of all this is the 500-lb. unanswered question in the room. 

I’ve probably even heard a few analysts interjecting a “Renaissance” reference, in fact. So, even though we are living in very different times in some regards, we’ve been here before, at the brink of a major evolutionary transition.

The parallels don’t end there, however; anytime developments threaten the hold that the most powerful have over societies and economies, there’s bound to be a backlash. Predictably, the 15th and 16th century loosening of the Church’s narrative over people’s lives (Dante’s 14th century Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso were very fresh in people’s minds and certainly employed by clerics) triggered the “morality police” of those times. 

Today’s backlash is in response to the Obama presidency, for its challenging of deeply-seated racial biases, and its immoral (in their eyes) legitimizing of same-sex marriage. Of course, powerful figures who could care less about all this are exploiting this well of moral indignation for their own purposes, so the distinction between ethical behavior and self-serving rationalizations is blurry. 

I was intrigued by a recent discussion in which a white man openly admitted that it would be so much easier to give up white privilege and work for racial justice if it didn’t mean enjoying fewer privileges! That, in a nutshell, might just be the problem!

It’s no coincidence that right-wing activists have focused on their “religious freedom” rights as a justification for ignoring the civil rights of same-sex couples. The Humanist/Religious poles around which societies always seem to be woven haven’t really changed over the centuries. In fact, the Supreme Court is going to be weighing that perennial clash in regards to the rights of same-sex couples soon, in a case known as Masterpiece Cake Shop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.   

In the 1400-1500s, the Roman Church was the law across Europe (there was no separation between Church and State), so challenging Church authority often led to being hung, tortured, burnt or all three. Even so, as Machiavelli noted, “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and it certainly did.

The Church became increasingly corrupt and vulnerable during those times until the situation began giving way around 1517 to an ideologically conservative revolution jumpstarted by Martin Luther, known as the Protestant Reformation. Pluto was in Capricorn, trine Uranus in Taurus. In the process (and this was probably not directly influenced by Luther himself), the Roman Church, and particularly its head the Pope, was viciously demonized.

More parallels to consider. Pluto entered Capricorn as our recent economic recession was at its height in late 2008, and Uranus will be entering compatible, earthy Taurus in May, 2018. If there’s another “revolution” on the scale of the 1500s Reformation coming, this could be a time period to watch. Hold this thought, please: we’ll discuss why Pluto’s time in the final decanate of Capricorn will be super-significant in a bit.  

So, just as Europe was during the early Renaissance years, we’re faced today with institutional decay that requires a fresh start. Our democracy is under serious assault these days and definitely needs some deep reconstructive surgery. The difference today is that Trump is no crusader or reformer—he’s playing Pluto’s role of destroyer, and when he finally exits the White House, we’ll likely have decades of regeneration work to do. 

NYTimes columnist David Brooks captures this idea brilliantly in a recent article entitled “The Abbie Hoffman of the Right: Donald Trump.” I highly recommend reading the entire article, however the following excerpt summarizes why he compares Trump with the controversial anti-Vietnam war activist Hoffman, a man Brooks calls a master of provocation and “political theater.”

Brooks notes that Hoffman was instrumental in destroying the post-WWII establishment culture—that “tolerated segregation and sexism, led the nation into war in Vietnam and became stultifying”—and replaced it with a culture that Brooks calls “meritocratic.” 

“…They were well educated. They cut their moral teeth on the civil rights and feminist movements. They embraced economic, social and moral individualism.”
Brooks goes on to list the failures of this meritocratic establishment, including the building of a seriously unequal economy, a march to wars in the Middle East at the expense of working class young people, and 

“…cultural snobbery. Its media, film and music industries make members of the working class feel invisible and disrespected.”
This perceived snobbery is a big open wound that Trump has exploited for all its worth. Brooks feels that Trump was elected to tear this establishment down and says, 

“He (Trump) has a nose for every wound in the body politic and day after day he sticks a red-hot poker in one wound or another and rips it open.”
Sounds to me a lot like Trump and Co. are tapping into Pluto, which is working in concert with the fiery grand trine formed between transiting Saturn (Sagittarius), Uranus (Aries) and Trump’s Mars/ASC (Leo). Throw in transiting Chiron, squaring Saturn from Pisces, and the picture is complete! Where does Trump find these wounds to rip open?

“Donald Trump came into a segmenting culture and he is further tearing apart every fissure…He continually goes after racial matters in part because he’s a bigot but also in part because multiculturalism is the theology of the educated class and it’s the leverage point he can most effectively use to isolate the educated class from everyone else.”
This makes perfect sense: we rarely hear Trump talk about education—it’s certainly not a priority he would admit to, and indeed his proposed budget “wish list” would radically cut funds to higher education. So, what’s the likely outcome of Trump’s ongoing assault, according to Brooks?

“Because of him, a new culture will have to be built, new values promulgated and a new social fabric will have to be woven…That’s the work of the next 20 years.”
Let’s hope that this necessary rebuilding will include affordable provisions for quality education for everyone from pre-K through college—could it be that the higher and higher cost of education has fueled the resentment against the educated “establishment?”  

No one would dispute that government needs to be purged of serious corrupting influences periodically (that’s the genius of the Saturn-Pluto cycle, which can both produce and purge corruption!), but as always, there are at least two conflicting ideological visions for that project, so wiping the slate clean and starting over never fails to produce winners and losers. 

As alluded to earlier, from today’s vantage point we might look back at the ideological polarization of the Renaissance/Reformation era and recognize some familiar fault lines: Humanism can be seen as the 15th-16th century equivalent of today’s left-wing ideology, and the Reformation (especially in its more extreme manifestations, like Calvinism) can be likened to today’s right-wing ideology.

The trouble is, no society thrives on all of one and none of the other—if history’s proven anything, it’s that extremism is damaging in both directions, especially to social institutions. This may be the puzzle for our times: I’m not sure we even know what an equitable, balanced society would look like anymore.

Unfortunately, once a system and a set of institutions is destroyed, with little thought for how to replace them, it takes generations—at least one Saturn-Pluto cycle, if not more—to restore sanity, order and economic strength, and a lot of dreams go unfulfilled during those difficult periods. Think of those whose lives were consumed by slavery and Jim Crow, by the 1930s Depression, by World Wars I and II, the Holocaust, and a more recent host of wars, conflicts and environmental crises.

It’s always the average, working class citizen that suffers the most in these situations, hands down. Today it’s our Puerto Rican citizens, and the host of refugees that we won’t be accepting under Trump’s inhospitable regime.  

The horrors inflicted on ordinary people are always caused in one way or another by the failure of human institutions, and if left to fester and corrupt, these failures can eventually warrant the total upheaval of systems and institutions. This is the function of the outer planetary cycles, working in concert, with Pluto playing the necessary role of destroyer in the end. Even so, destruction is only half of Pluto’s job: the other half is regeneration

So, if Trump is playing the role of Pluto in regards to our democracy, what’s on the other side of the rubble he’s intent on producing, and how do we get from here to there? Is resistance futile, or absolutely vital? We wouldn’t tell a person diagnosed with cancer to simply succumb to the disease without a fight, would we? Yet, sometimes resistance only adds to the suffering—another puzzle to ponder.   

Even so, if we think Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico have their problems with hurricane devastation, imagine what our entire American society will experience if Trump’s administration continues to devastate our institutions and rewrite the Constitution to his (and Russia’s) liking. 

Never mind that he’s dangling the threat of nuclear war out there against North Korea! 

Never mind that Russia continues to try dividing Americans against each other on social media

Yes, we may be in for a major systems overhaul, of the type caused by our 1860s Civil War—if Russia gets its way, we’ll be in the streets shooting at each other yet!

A serious Pluto passage just got more significant

I indicated earlier that we would discuss the key role Pluto is playing in all this, especially true once it enters the last decanate of Capricorn. We’ve discussed how significant this degree area is in reference to the U.S. Sibly chart’s impending Pluto return several times on this site (the return is first exact in February, 2022), but a recent article by Michael Lutin[1] reminded me of another critical part of this late Capricorn passage: Pluto will be conjoining its own South Node at 21° Capricorn! 

This basically means that the plane of Pluto’s orbit around the Sun is intersecting the plane of the ecliptic (the path of the Earth around the Sun), and that Pluto itself is approaching the descending or southern intersection point of those two planes. Here’s how Lutin characterizes the significance of this convergence:

“A complete re-organisation and re-examination of government on the world, global, corporate and personal level in your own job is being stirred. A revolutionary spirit is occurring as well as the effort to suppress it…This position and motion oddly happens to coincide with the abnormal shift in political and military alliances.” 
Lutin stops short of claiming that these developments will “cause” social upheaval (very controversial topic, he says), but he does say that “Profit, control and personal survival in many cases come before humanity and it’s happening right now.” This is particularly true since Pluto’s south node is also conjunct the 1993 Uranus-Neptune cycle point of 19°+Capricorn—globalization and its discontents are in Pluto’s sites, plain and simple.

Perhaps most disturbingly, but quite understandably, Lutin says,

“There are no political certainties at this time…Pluto in Capricorn will eventually prove to have been about the search for just and proper leadership; or, a frightening grab for money and absolute authoritarian control over others.”
Even a brief look at the news of the day proves that yes, Pluto’s scary potential is a reality for many on this planet, right now: thousands of lives have been upended in natural disasters in the past month; thousands more are in peril in conflict zones like Yemen, the Ukraine, Syria, Malaysia (in their treatment of the Rohingya) and elsewhere. Indonesia and Vanuatu are being massively evacuated due to volcanic activity. The list goes on. Authoritarianism is trending, and Nature is not amused these days, and whether we “believe” in climate change or not isn’t even relevant. It’s our problem to solve.
We don’t know what a modern day equivalent to the 14th century’s Black Death could look like (and hopefully we’ll never have to think about it), but we might want to consider that human ingenuity, compassion and dedication are the intangibles stopping a world-wide crisis these days. Just when we think we’re teetering on that brink, however, Lutin reminds us that Pluto at its south node can be an uplifting passage, opening a “portal” for humanity to adopt planetary consciousness, and a “necessary transformation in human behavior.” 

The ball is in our cosmic court, so to speak. 

I think it’s safe to say that a divisive, inward-focused “MAGA” agenda will feed the lowest, scariest potentials of Pluto’s final degrees in Capricorn: there’s simply too much to lose if we don’t wrap our minds and hearts around today’s global-humanity and earth-centered imperatives. IMHO, focusing outward on what Lutin describes as “dedication to the happiness of all beings” promises to be far more rewarding. 

Perhaps even a new Renaissance. 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. 

[1] Michael Lutin, “When Pluto goes south…does the whole world have to follow?” Astrological Journal, Vol. 59, No. 5,  September/October 2017, London, UK, pp. 20-23.