Publisher's Note: This article appeared in TMA's Dec. 2015/Jan. 2016 issue as a part of an Astrologers' Forum on 2016–2020. The forum also included articles by Jessica Murray, Rick Levine, Maurice Fernandez, and Kathy Allan. To purchase the entire issue, go to http://www.mountainastrologer.com/order.html
Uranus in Aries is now past its First Quarter square to Pluto in Capricorn. The perpendicular arc between these two significant outer bodies of the solar system was historic in having seven exact passes over nearly three years (the first pass was on June 24, 2012, with the final and seventh pass occurring on March 16, 2015). Such a rare event — a square with seven passes — had not occurred between these two orbiting bodies for more than 500 years, the last time being the seven-pass First Quarter square when Uranus and Pluto were in Aquarius and Scorpio, respectively, from April 1496 through January 1500. This was a period that closely coincided with the entry of the vanguard of European conquerors into the Western Hemisphere, followed by the subsequent European colonization that resulted in the largest and longest genocide of native populations in recorded history. These events paved the way for the "modern industrial civilization" we live in today, with all its benefits and ills. Since the similar Uranus–Pluto transit of the 2010s is now technically waning, what does the astrological skyscape of outer-planet cycles look like for the remaining years of the decade?
Well, just because the transit is now separating does not mean it's "finished." Not by a long shot. As a potent factor in the astrological archetype field that is symbolically relevant to humanity, the implications of the current Uranus–Pluto alignment still have a long way to go.
What I'm referring to as the "symbolic archetype field" is comprised at any given time of active transits among the ten cycles that occur between the outermost five major bodies of the solar system — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Mundane or Geopolitical Astrology is typically thought of as the astrology of nations, so I use a different term to categorize the study of the ten outer-planet cycles. I call it "Civilizational Astrology" for the light it sheds on the evolution of collective humanity.
These ten astrological cycles are quite different from the 35 cycles of the inner planets, including the Sun and our Moon, whose faster orbits, quicker and more frequent passages through zodiacal signs, and shorter transits form the basis of most day-to-day forecasting astrology (which is something I neither study nor write about). Inner-planet alignments are measured in hours or days, rather than the weeks, months, or years of outer-planet transits. That's part of what draws me to study outer-planet cycles. They're slow and stately, stretching out over decades and even centuries, highlighting the evolving energies that emerge somehow into the collective consciousness and group behavior of human beings that shape societies and cultures. The fact that we don't know the "true" source or mechanism of these energies, however, doesn't invalidate the usefulness of the astrological system in illuminating them.
It seems patently obvious that the planets, either alone or in tandem, do not actually "cause" the archetypal energies. Human beings, however, are still quite enthralled by simplistic cause-and-effect explanations, in part because our verbal and written languages encourage that manner of expression and thought. As a result, many astrologers speak and write as if Uranus and Pluto, for instance, literally cause their perceived effects of radical change and revolutionary upheaval in group consciousness and behavior. However difficult it may be to prevent that error, acknowledging that planets and other bodies used in astrology are not causal factors is important to bear in mind. The planets act as messengers for something much more mysterious.
All we can assert with certainty is that astrologers find correspondences between human experience — both inwardly as psychological experiences and outwardly as visible behaviors and objective events — and the symbolic archetypes that astrology has assigned to each planet, particularly as those planets operate in pairs. These correspondences are sometimes strikingly obvious, while at other times subtle or veiled.
Some people are most impressed by the boldest correspondences as a validation of astrology. For instance, the nine-month "Reign of Terror" within the French Revolution, during which as many as 50,000 French citizens were deemed "counterrevolutionary" by Robespierre's Committee of Public Safety, then arrested and guillotined, began in September 1793 and ended in July 1794, with the arrest and beheading of Robespierre himself. This chaotic and violent period of class warfare synchronized almost precisely with the opposition of Uranus and Pluto on the Leo–Aquarius axis, which was exact for 15 months, from January 1793 through March 1794. Two centuries later, the Uranus–Pluto conjunction in Virgo opposite Saturn in Pisces, during 1965–66, synchronized just as closely with the beginnings of Mao's Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution in China and the rise of the Red Guards, millions of young Chinese zealots who became Mao's enforcers.
In both cases, the symbolic implications of the Uranus–Pluto transits corresponded to the actual events with uncanny accuracy in both timing and content. Oppositions and conjunctions fuse together the two astrological symbols, so that the Uranian impulse toward sudden and revolutionary change is combined with the Plutonian tendency toward radical, ruthless, and extreme use of power. Even further, while both events were social disruptions based on the intention of purging "counterrevolutionaries," the demographics were different, as predicted by the astrology.
Targets during the French revolution were royalists, the wealthy, and their supporters, which is reflected by the Uranus–Pluto transit taking shape on the Leo–Aquarius axis. By contrast, the Cultural Revolution in China played out more as an age-specific conflict between "proper" youth, who became the foot soldiers of the purge, and "bourgeois" older generations, which were targeted for public censure and humiliation. This befits the Virgo–Pisces axis of the Uranus–Pluto opposite Saturn alignment. This generational conflict emerged globally, around the world, as countercultural youth movements. "Never trust anyone over 30."
Such clear historical examples are one reason that the Uranus–Pluto cycle is given (and deserves) such weight and importance in the pantheon of astrological cycles. Another is that, as astrological symbols, Uranus and Pluto don't give a damn about social niceties. Pluto normally conducts its manipulative and sometimes nefarious activities under a veil of secrecy, but when fused with (or challenged by) Uranus, Pluto steps out of the shadows and does its transformative work in the open.
While astrologers may employ metaphors to explain how these correspondences work — synchronicity, "as above, so below," etc. — we don't truly comprehend the underlying mechanisms. We know only that the alignments of heavenly bodies in their shared cycles and patterns do indeed seem to correlate reasonably and sometimes amazingly well with individuals' experience in their personal lives, and also with the shifting attitudes and beliefs embraced by collective humanity as civilization moves through time. Reality shows us this much, but remains secretive about the hows and whys that underlie manifestation.
In the study of collective humanity through outer-planet cycles, we can easily track and accurately identify when the astronomical bodies that make up these cycles arrive at significant angular relationships. But we've learned that the correspondences of real-life developments and events associated with these activations of the ten outer-planet cycles usually tend not to occur at the precise moment of the angular alignments. Instead, the correspondences cluster around the period of angular precision, sometimes before, but more typically after. So, astrologers try to figure out how far off the angular relationship can be, yet still remain an effective predictor of possible changes in human society. We assign "allowable orbs" — adding a certain number of degrees on each side of the exact angle — to extend the time frame of presumed correspondence.
In other words, if we insist on an astrological system that is too precise, it fails to correspond to reality. We need to build in a certain amount of leeway to make the system more flexible. For instance, a "square" in astrology represents perpendicularity, or a 90° angular relationship between two bodies or points of symbolic significance. How far off can the angle be and still qualify as an effective square? 89°? 93°? 82°? We apply different allowable orbs, depending on what we're looking at in our search for correspondences.
With the personal transits in our individual lives that occur when moving bodies form significant geometric/angular relationships to fixed symbolic points in our natal charts, the orb allowed is generally very tight, usually 1°. (Some astrologers extend that to 2° or 3°, but 1° is standard.)
In mundane cycles that apply to collective humanity and are thus relevant for all of us, the angular relationships we track occur between two moving bodies in the heavens, rather than one moving body revolving around a fixed point. The major transits within those collective cycles seem to require much greater allowable orbs. This is especially true of the ten outer-planet cycles. When assessing the active or effective period of transits in those cycles, an orb of 10° is typically allowed (and some astrologers use an even larger orb of 15° for certain angles).
If we apply 10° orbs to the Uranus–Pluto First Quarter square, then the "effective" period of the transit increases dramatically. The not-quite three years from first exact pass to last (June 2012 through March 2015) is extended to almost 13 years (May 2007 through March 2020), an addition of five years on either side of the precise alignment. The study of history that other astrologers and I have undertaken, where we note relevant correspondences between real events and/or developments in civilization and the symbolic implications of a given outer-planet transit, confirms the necessity and wisdom of using wider orbs. (Note: In this commentary, I've used 10° orbs for major transits and quarterly phases, and 5° orbs for minor transits and secondary phases.)
In the case of the transiting Uranus–Pluto square, the period of the initial five years (2007–12) represented the time of "setting up the game board." In the classic Parker Brothers game, Monopoly, this would mean choosing the players' pieces, doling out the money, and shuffling the Chance and Community Chest cards. All of that is "set-up" and precedes the first roll of the dice.
The period of precise mathematical alignment (mid 2012 to early 2015) then represents the "cooking" phase, where the symbolism "heats up" to critical mass.
Taken together, these two periods (2007–15) comprise getting the Uranus–Pluto show on the road, so to speak. Over those eight years, we have seen many different events and developments in civilization that correlate well with the emerging Uranus–Pluto symbolism. Below is a partial list that offers some characteristic examples:
These and all the other related events of the past eight years should be considered precursors — the equivalent of setting up the Uranus–Pluto game board for more dramatic, important, and far-reaching developments that are likely to occur in the second half of the decade, from 2016 to 2020. What's happened so far is only the falling of the initial dominoes in the chain. We can expect much more over the coming 4–5 years, which will then, in turn, set the stage for, and define the terms of, the serious work humans will face in the 2020s and beyond, if we are to continue evolving as a species.
So, in the current 138-year Uranus–Pluto cycle that began in 1965, their perpendicular transit in the 2010s that kicked off the First Quarter phase (which will continue until August 2030, when the Gibbous phase begins) remains Number One on my list of meaningful outer-planet events for the years ahead. The Uranus–Pluto alignment is far and away the most important astrological factor for the entire decade of the 2010s — head and shoulders above all the other outer-planet-cycle activations.
Below are some of the outer-planet alignments that will occur from mid 2015 through 2017 (and, in one case, beyond). None of these is profoundly significant on its own, but each will add its particular symbolic implications to the archetype mix in the zeitgeist, altering the shape of the core Uranus–Pluto symbolism of revolutions, breakdowns, and upheavals.
Effective period: June 2015 – July 2016
Three exact passes: Aug. 3, 2015; March 23, 2016; May 26, 2016
(entering the Last Quarter phase)
Jupiter and Saturn have a 20-year cycle, so the quarterly phases change roughly every five years. In general, this planetary tandem charts the unfolding of economics in society, especially through the boom–bust swings of expansion and contraction in commerce. The current Jupiter–Saturn cycle began late in the sign of Taurus, as the new century began in 2000, implying the necessity of a grounded and pragmatic approach to business. Nothing could have been further from the way finance and commerce were conducted at that point, so the symbolism of the cycle (representing reality) has been in conflict with our approach ever since. The result has been severe economic contraction, but without a corresponding change in our fantasy-based, anything-goes approach.
The Last Quarter phase offers us the possibility of realizing the error of our ways and gradually trying out different approaches to make amends. Or we can continue to ignore reality and see where that takes us. We'll have roughly five years until the next Jupiter–Saturn cycle begins in 2020. If we exercise moderate common sense in the interim, the 2020s can lead us out of the wilderness. If we continue the same business practices and monetary policies we've pursued so far in this century, the 2020s will represent a very rude awakening. Odds don't seem good that we are ready to change.
Effective period: Aug.–Nov. 2015
One exact pass: Sept. 17, 2015
(entering the Full phase)
Effective period: Nov. 2014 – Dec. 2016
Three exact passes: Nov. 26, 2015; June 18, 2016; Sept. 10, 2016
(entering the Last Quarter phase)
These two cycles address the divide between faith and optimism on the one hand, and skepticism and pessimism on the other. Because of the difference in length between Jupiter and Saturn cycles, their transits with Neptune are timed so that the Saturnian period of pessimism is much longer — more than two years. Jovian optimism for a more ideal future shines through for only a single season in the middle of the longer Saturn period. Inspiration is an element of both cycles, but the question is whether the visions can be grounded in practical reality or, instead, remain only illusions of goodness without actually improving anything. In general, 2015–16 could be characterized as a time of unfounded hopes and ultimate disappointments in many collective arenas.
These two paired alignments juxtapose into a three-planet right-triangle configuration called a t-square for about a year, from August 2015 through July 2016. I'll discuss that in the "Overview" section at the end of this article.
Effective period: Oct. 2016 – Sept. 2017
Three exact passes: Nov. 24, 2016; March 30, 2017; Aug, 4, 2017
(entering the Last Quarter phase)
The phase change into the Last Quarter of the Jupiter–Pluto cycle, starting in the autumn of 2016 and continuing for a year through the summer of 2017, is likely to correspond to an increased recognition of the need for change in addressing various collective problems and concerns. The existing status quo starts to give way to the understanding that something must be done, and quickly. Those in power will begin to get on board with the idea of reform. The challenge here lies in making the changes meaningful by revising the rules, rather than merely reshuffling the pieces on the game board. If the public should become vulnerable to seduction by a political demagogue, this would be the most likely time, although voices of ethical concern may be heard above the din. Discerning true and mature leadership from huckstering pied pipers becomes a serious issue.
Effective period: Nov. 2016 – Nov. 2017
Three exact passes: Dec. 26, 2016; March 3, 2017; Sept, 28, 2017
(entering the Full phase)
The halfway point in the Jupiter–Uranus cycle implies a culmination in the attitude that we can (and should) change life for the better. Of all the various outer-planet cycles active during the upcoming years, this one is the most optimistic, in that fear of change is replaced by enthusiasm for trying new policies. Especially within institutions, this could represent a tipping point away from stubborn resistance toward greater willingness to move forward. The downside of the transit is a corresponding increase in reactionary radicalism, i.e., philosophical or religious extremists with dogmatic views of the world and how it should be. This long transit is likely to correspond to a powerful increase in social activism in 2017 at all levels: individual, grassroots, institutional, and among the leadership class. In the struggle (square) between Uranus and Pluto, Jupiter's sense of entitlement and permission will give Uranus the edge, at least for the year 2017. Around the world, that may mean more rebellion and challenges to authority.
Effective period: June 2016 – April 2021
Five exact passes: Aug. 11, 2017; Oct. 7, 2017; June 16, 2018; Dec. 15, 2018; May 2, 2019
(entering the Crescent phase)
This is the "magical technology" cycle. The question is: Can the roughly 200-year drunken party of the Industrial Age, with its constant theme of technological innovation, continue via further discovery and synthesis of new, "cleaner," and more sustainable technologies? Or will the end of cheap, easily accessible fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) and the cumulative environmental damage they have produced signal the demise of civilization as we have come to know it? The current Uranus–Neptune cycle began at the end of the 1980s, and the New phase of that cycle has seen the development and implementation (at a dizzying pace) of the Internet, smartphones, and flat-screen displays for everything from televisions and computers to automobiles and sports stadiums.
This astonishing transformation has occurred with remarkable speed, compared to what life was like for most human beings as recently as the early 19th century, a mere two centuries ago, which was largely the same as life had been throughout the entire span of recorded history. The primary agent responsible for the transformation was our discovery of cheap and plentiful fossil fuels. Basically, the bonanza of oil allowed us to become who and what we are today.
As long as human beings have been around, we have dreamed of escape from the backbreaking labors of life. Like all fantasies, however, the reality may not live up to the dream. Oscar Wilde stated the problem plainly: "There are only two tragedies in life: One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it." For the past two centuries, we have been getting what we wanted, and though it has been both wonderful and terrible, we aren't likely to give it up willingly.
Uranus and Neptune have a cycle whose average length is 172 years. The previous cycle that began from 1816–27 corresponded to the Industrial Revolution. The current cycle that began from 1988–99 is about the Technological Revolution. We are just now finishing up the first of the eight 45° phases of that cycle, the New phase. In 2016, we will begin to enter the second phase, called Crescent.
The New phase of every astrological cycle is a time of birthing something new and is characterized by passion, compulsivity, and the urgent drive to manifest whatever the cycle is about in any form possible. The Crescent phase is the inevitable reaction, where everything we have ignored in our headlong rush to create something new rises up to slow us down and make us think about the wisdom of maintaining such exhilarating but unconscious momentum. Consequences and repercussions make their first appearance as critical factors to consider.
With the entry into the Crescent phase, the Uranus–Neptune cycle indicates that, where technology is concerned, we will confront doubts and inner demons. The 2020s will likely be a difficult time for the techno-dreamers. Can the ironies and paradoxes of technology's double-edged swords be sufficiently vanquished to keep alive the whole panoply of human techno-fantasies that have recently enjoyed free and unfettered reign?
For instance, can the power unleashed by technology be used wisely by a species still groping through its emotional and spiritual adolescence? Or will that power destroy us? Can technology save us from our own worst impulses? Should we even want it to? Or will the 21st century witness a "course correction" in the evolution of civilization through the failure of technology due to economic collapse, followed by the terrible die-off of a large percentage of the human population, with the survivors picking up the pieces by returning to pre-industrial/pre-technological lifestyles?
A particularly worrisome example of technological concern is the proliferation of weaponry, particularly the stocks of existing nuclear warheads in the world. While we have managed to avoid disaster for the past 70 years by keeping that terrible genie in the bottle, will our luck hold out over the rest of the century? And beyond nuclear weapons, what about other incidents, such as the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami? The Crescent phase of the Uranus–Neptune cycle could mark a time when we are sorely tested about the wisdom of what we've already created.
I don't expect the bulk of correspondences from this transit to manifest strongly over the next 2–3 years. My best guess is that the issues that will arise during the Crescent phase are probably not particularly relevant to the 2010s and are likely to emerge more fully in the 2020s. We are, however, moving toward addressing a thousand important questions that have, until now, been mostly hypothetical. In the decades to come, those questions will become quite real.
The three most important astrological alignments now and over the coming 2–3 years, listed in order of priority and potency, are:
Mid 2007 to early 2020
Uranus and Pluto, and the square between them, provide the core astrological archetypes for the 2010s; every other alignment functions as a modifier to this basic conflict and challenge.
with Jupiter in Leo/Virgo, Saturn in Scorpio/Sagittarius, and Neptune in Pisces; the three individual transits are:
during August–October 2015, then again in March–July 2016. Although Jupiter has only a single exact pass opposite Neptune in September 2015, I regard the entire period of mid 2015 through mid 2016 as the effective period for the t-square.
The arena of politics in the presidential race provides a perfect example of the t-square in operation. The gaggle of Republican candidates are full of high ideals (Jupiter–Neptune) and angry resentments (Saturn–Neptune). Contrast that with the Democrats, where Bernie Sanders is the positive idealist (Jupiter–Neptune), while front-runner Hillary Clinton is plagued by scandals that threaten to erupt (Saturn–Neptune) around her e-mails and anything else Republicans can find to smear her. The field of candidates is likely to be winnowed down by further scandals over the next nine months (Saturn–Neptune). Jupiter will have moved on by the time of the election in November 2016, leaving Saturn and Neptune to imply that confusing global or domestic events may cast shadows of fear or doubt over either the process of the election or its outcome.
Late 2016 through late 2017
This transit implies the possibility of a breakthrough in the Uranus–Pluto conflict between status quo business-as-usual (Pluto) and the many alarming developments that suggest a need to change how human beings conduct their affairs in society and in the world (Uranus). Jupiter opposite Uranus indicates a readiness to challenge the unjust use of power, whether in making war, doing business, or structuring society. Whether this upwelling of rebellion in seeking justice produces anything good remains to be seen, but 2017 should be an interesting year.
In general, the portrait painted by the matrix of active outer-planet transits and phase changes over the next 2–3 years appears to me to indicate a steady increase in public concern about the future. More grassroots movements toward various dimensions of social justice may gain traction, with increased support among the populace, but institutions will continue to resist reforms, at least for a while, probably through 2016. Thus, the breakdown of trust in institutional authority, already far advanced, will likely deepen over the coming year. Relying on authoritative leadership, especially the charismatic variety, is probably a dicey proposition at best. Self-reliance and local organizing are likely to be more effective solutions.
Despite the longstanding resistance to change by hidebound institutions whose interest in feathering their own nests competes with and often outweighs their charters to serve the public welfare, the time is coming when authorities, executives, and bureaucratic managers who formulate policy will come around to the view that forceful change and dramatic action are necessary — at first grudgingly, but later with an enthusiasm that will probably border on self-righteous fervor. The gridlock that seemed pervasive over the initial half of this decade is likely to be transformed within 2–3 years into an increasingly urgent application of power, for better or worse.
Economic recovery is not around the corner, nor anywhere in sight. These are times of economic contraction, and the astrology of this decade and beyond reinforces that perception.
Don't look for any dismantling of the NSA apparatus here in America or elsewhere, for the technological means of eliminating privacy are already in place and growing rapidly in government and commerce. Whatever the technocrats can do, they will. They have the means as well as the money, and they are not concerned with moral niceties. The best hope in that arena is for continued whistleblowing to bring such activities out of the secretive shadows and into the light of day. At the very heart of the Uranus–Pluto symbolism is the necessity for public activism in demanding that society be run for the good of the many rather than the benefit of the few. This is a daunting challenge, but the time is coming when we will see whether it is possible.
With the difficult Jupiter–Saturn square setting a secondary tone to the more basic Uranus–Pluto archetype, the likelihood is that the policies undertaken toward reform will probably not be visionary or forward-looking. Instead, protocols will be put in place based on expediency and the intention to address existing issues in the easiest ways. In this case, however, "easy" is unlikely to equal "wise."
I'm fond of pointing out that astrology itself is neutral, since every astrological symbol or configuration is two-sided and contains possible correspondences in real life that we'd like and others we wouldn't. Any good/bad judgments made about a certain time frame or situation must be informed by factors beyond pure astrology. We have to bring our highest knowledge and clearest consciousness to the task in order to avoid unintentionally projecting our own hopes or fears onto the symbols. As a result, your assessment of what lies ahead may differ from mine. This is, however, my best take on the astrology of what's coming from my current perspectives on the world.
(Editor's Note: This is a shorter version of an article that originally appeared in September 2015 on the author's website: http://www.billherbst.com)
Juan Ponce de Léon: By CORVERA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Beheading of Robespierre: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Planets: Public Domain CC0, by skeeze via pixabay.com
Greek uprising 2011: Kotsolis at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Inspiration: Public Domain CC0, by Unsplash via pixabay.com
Pinwheel: Public Domain CC0, by McLac2000 via pixabay.com
Head/wheels: Public Domain CC0, by bykst via pixabay.com
Protest: Public Domain CC0, by Niekverlaan via pixabay.com
First published in: The Mountain Astrologer, Dec2015/Jan2016
Bill Herbst has been a full-time astrologer in private practice since 1973. After 42 years, Bill's main work continues to be personal client sessions, mostly by telephone, with emphasis on the challenges of the 2010s and beyond, in conversations custom-tailored to each client's life. Go to his website (http://www.billherbst.com) to read his current essays or request a session.
© 2015 Bill Herbst - published by The Mountain Astrologer
22-May-2018, 15:59 UT/GMT
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