Are you familiar, dear reader, with the notorious transit that astrologers associate with the rock-and-rolling sixties? I refer to the conjunction of Uranus and Pluto in Virgo opposed to Saturn in Pisces, that peaked in 1965-66. For mad zeitgeist shifts, you can’t beat the combination of those three planets.
Astrological Symbolism for Dummies
To get its point across unmistakably, the Cosmic Encoder made it especially easy for us: the planetary formula translated exactly into the phrase that arose to describe the times. Pluto + Uranus ≠ Saturn: forces of extreme (Pluto) defiance (Uranus) countered (opposition) the dominant culture (Saturn). Voilà: the counter-culture was born.
Now, four and a half decades later, the next big milestone in the Uranus-Pluto cycle is nearing exactitude (1). I know I am not the only 60-something musing about the similarities and differences between now and the sixties.
Like any other war, the culture war that was the 1960s had two sides. You were either with us or agin’ us.
It was a simple matter to signal whether you were on the Uranus-Pluto team (“freaks”, we called ourselves) or the Saturn (“straight”) team. If you thought of yourself as part of the counterculture, you probably went bra-less. If you were male, you grew your hair long. The code was straightforward.
When hitchhiking, you signaled your tribe with a uniform of patched jeans, and could pretty much count on being picked up by another “long-hair.” (2) Conversely, if the truck approaching you on the highway was driven by someone with a crewcut, there was probably an American flag on the bumper, too; and you got out of the way fast so as not to get run down.
I don’t recall balking at being labeled in such a simplistic way. Obsessed (Pluto) with the concept of liberation (Uranus), I think our focus was on the marvelous new discovery that an alternative could exist to the suffocating conventionality we had assumed, as children, would be our future lot.
The Uranus-Pluto conjunction had a long tail. By late 1972 the two outer planets had moved into Libra, with their midpoint conjunct the US Saturn. The cultural polarizing they represented had by that time been thoroughly politicized, with candidates Richard Nixon and George McGovern personifying the pro-war (Saturn) and the anti-war (Uranus-Pluto) contingents.
The polarities of 1972 were so clear-cut as to seem almost a caricature.
The Country and the Cross
In the years since then, there has been a consolidation of power in the USA, as the donor-lobbyist-representative axis in Washington became entrenched. It is now the singular engine behind the American political system. The goals of a tiny empowered class have made both ruling parties far more similar than different.
This is the reality being pushed to the surface as the Cardinal Cross hammers away at the chart of the USA. This series of stressful Cardinal transits can be seen in terms of six phases:
- In 2008, the riff began with Pluto opposing the US Sun cluster in Cancer;
- it reached another level in 2010 when Uranus moved into Aries while Saturn was in early Libra (the “Cardinal Climax”);
- it ramped up again in 2011 at the US Saturn Return;
- it will become even more acute this year as Uranus and Pluto’s exact square clicks into the natal Sun-Saturn square of the USA; and
- it will finalize when Pluto conjoins the US natal Pluto.
With transits of Uranus (revolution) and Pluto (complete breakdown and renewal) we expect the essence of a situation to be exposed. With the conjunction of the 1960s, consciousness-raising forces like civil rights and the war in Viet Nam forced the American collective to look at itself with a new level of self-honesty.
This new era’s iteration of the Uranus-Pluto cycle will compel a collective self-examination of a similar depth. This time we can expect the exposure to be about the disproportionate power wielded by those who control the material resources (Pluto in the second house).
This long-range astrological schema will help us maintain perspective as we move through the upcoming election season. There is a lot of media quarreling about, for example, where the various candidates stand on “social conservative” issues such as abortion and homosexuality, but these are just noisemaker issues compared to what’s really going on. The gradual coalescence of plutocratic interests in the USA have erased all but superficial distinctions between the Dems and the GOP.
The mass media knows how much its consumers enjoy a good fight, so we can be sure it will continue to stage electoral matches featuring two fiercely opposed teams. Indeed, conventional wisdom has it that the two parties are more polarized than ever before. But in fact their trajectory is the same. Congressional Democrats have moved to the right, and their Republican counterparts have moved even further to the right.
In this strange phase of America’s history, the struggle has become fundamentally post-ideological. The GOP has never pretended to be anything other than the party of resistance to change; but now neither do the Democrats, who no longer attempt to introduce new ideas. Long gone are the genuine social visions that used to come out of this party, like FDR’s New Deal or Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.
Neither is the Tea Party really an ideological construct. These folks are merely the latest version of the Pissed-Off White Guy, a contingent that shows up in every phase of American history. Mostly rural, mostly Southern and Western, and mostly male, this crowd is the holder of strong cultural opinions but not much power. That is, they don’t see themselves as having much power.
Rather than shoring up the actual power—in numbers—that they do have, they focus obsessively on the classes even more disempowered than themselves, by whom they feel victimized. The Tea Partiers’ preference would be for the system to become just democratic enough to allow them to cross over from being a have-not to being a have… but no more.
Occupy Wall Street
It is Occupy Wall Street (3) that comes closest to naming the key players in the new American game. At first, the protesters fit neatly into the two-battling-teams formula that the media is so fond of: a fight between scruffy dissenters vs. the forces of law-&-order was just right for the evening news. But now that there’s no more high-profile camping and marching, no more clubbing and pepper-spraying, the TV networks have sent their reporters home.
For the corporate media to confer any meaning upon OWS outside the bounds of that standard dualistic trope would be getting too close to the truth. Any discussion, for example, of the Adbusters Magazine anti-consumerism campaign that gave the movement birth, or of the economic statistics that underlie OWS’s basic premise, would be far too dangerous call attention to. So the media is now trying to banish the movement to conceptual Siberia by not mentioning it at all.
But the perspective of OWS comes closer than any other viewpoint to describing the true state of the culture wars in the USA and the rest of the world. The Occupiers have identified the battle as being between the 1% and the other 99%, echoing the current 90-degree relationship between Pluto (plutocracy) and Uranus (democracy).
Then, Now and Upcoming
When I think back to what life was like in the late 60s and 70s, I realize that, though most of us young hot-heads didn’t know what we were doing, we knew something important was taking place. We could sense that powerful forces were disrupting the status quo. The narrow, flag-waving, Communist-fearing reality structure that we had grown up was being torn asunder.
Those old political and cultural ideologies are all but gone. Certainly the diehard voices that would resurrect them are still among us, shrill, well-financed and well-showcased by the media, but their efforts are doomed to failure. Newer and more universal values are on the ascendency, emerging painstakingly like seedlings through of the crust of the soil—visions rising up to match the urgent realities of a post-millennial world.
Alongside them are new generations being born: a whole new crop of creative Americans wired to thrive under Pluto in Capricorn, Aquarius and beyond.
(1) Between June 24 of this year and late March 2015, Uranus and Pluto will reach an exact 90-degree angle seven times. See the lecture series at MotherSky.com.
(2) Even women wore their hair long, and both sexes wore jeans; the unisex look being one of the identifying counter-culture innovations. Part of what we were breaking away from was a dress code that had separated the genders by an abyss of difference.
(3) I discuss the chart of the Occupy Movement in the April/May issue of The Mountain Astrologer.