The planet of power is not finished messing with Uncle Sam.
Although the Uranus-Pluto square had its last exactitude in March, it is still peaking on the US chart. From June through late December of this year, the most definitive corner of the transit, Pluto, will be T-squaring the USA’s Sun-Saturn square—exact to the degree.
Since entering Capricorn (stability, durability) in 2008, Pluto has presided over the decay of rocks of Gibraltar all over the world. Banks, governments, infrastructures and whole economies—institutions that form the bones and bedrock of what we think of as civilization—have been teetering, careening, and toppling like Humpty Dumpty from his wall.
If you tried, could you dream up a more hideous vision of distorted human impulse than Boko Haram and the Islamic State? Like figures in a Hieronymus Bosch painting, they seem to have arisen out of the most nightmarish corner of the collective imagination. During the cardinal square’s peak years (2012-15), the IS has taken over (Pluto) parts of Syria, Iraq, and Libya seemingly overnight (Uranus), inspiring offshoots in the Middle East and Western Europe. Boko Haram, heir partners in crimes against humanity, have spread at this writing from Nigeria to Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
Megalomaniacal, obsessively destructive and seeming to thrive on power struggles, the jihadists call to mind a crude, unalloyed version of Pluto. And with their signature shock tactics and twisted sense of outrageousness, they personify a degraded stereotype of Uranus, the defiant adolescent. It is not surprising to hear that, here and there, troubled teenagers from all over are running away to join their ranks.
Years ago, astrologers decoding the transits to come expected that law and order (Capricorn) would be running for its life (Pluto) under this world-altering transit, and so it appears, in more and more places. During the weeks leading up to the square’s final exact hit, in mid-March, Jupiter (increase, expansion) exaggerated global conflicts, while Mars in Aries (ignition) threw gasoline on their fire. The latest political establishment to go belly-up, as I write, is Yemen, while Jordan and Egypt have escalated their war against the militants. As for the failed ceasefire in Ukraine, astrologers could have told the diplomats that a cessation of hostilities would’ve been a little much to hope for under transits like these.
What to do, as individuals born into a violent age? Astrology answers this question with the specifics of the birth chart. In distressing times as in peaceful times, we respond optimally by living through the center of our charts. When this existential commitment is made, we ground ourselves in our spiritual practice so that we can keep our hearts open. Then we attend with alertness to the other levels of living.
On the societal level, we get out of denial and stay out. We confer meaning on our time and place, which includes the group to which we belong. If we are Americans, we try to understand how this collective entity, the USA, fits into what’s going on.
Crown of the chart
For more than a year, America’s Saturn will be the object of Uranus/Pluto’s makeover. Crowning the chart in the 10th house of reputation, that national Saturn in Libra represents America’s potential as a global guardian of justice. At its most heroic, Saturn in Libra is like King Solomon: dedicated to the rule of law, cool-headed and fair. Poised at the top of the chart, as it is here, Saturn shows us how the country wants to be seen.
Consider the solemn, high-minded diplomacy wielded by Woodrow Wilson, arriving in a Europe still smoldering from the wreckage of WWI, and introducing a new approach to international cooperation (Libra). This may have been the US Saturn’s finest hour. It inaugurated America’s leadership role (Libra is a cardinal sign) in making official (Saturn) the principles of liberal modernity. Uncle Sam publicly declared itself not only strong, but just.
This was the ideal. On the practical level, Wilson was derided, at the time and since, for being naïve and hypocritical, as the USA has been. As the supposed last word in justice and equality, Uncle Sam has set itself up for a lot of squirming under the spotlight, as the discrepancy between its words and deeds has widened over the decades.
The country was still trying to hold onto its Solomonic reputation during the 1950s and 60s, when the CIA was going nuts with counter-revolutionary shenanigans, toppling regimes worldwide if it found them inhospitable to “American interests.” But a tension was building in the group psyche, from the variance between the national self-image and what was really going on.
Then the lid blew off, with the conjunction of Uranus and Pluto in the mid-60s. Viet Nam, civil rights, student activism—all of that constituted the outer planets’ attempt to correct the estrangement between our national ideals and our national behavior. That tumultuous period was the beginning of the cycle we’re in now. The Uranus-Pluto conjunction in 1965-66 was analogous to a New Moon, of which the current Uranus-Pluto square is the First Quarter.
A new crop of self-delusions, both personal and collective, have been revealing themselves left and right, including the one many Americans harbor about their country’s expertise in matters of equality. An awareness of grotesque financial disparity has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, along with gender disparity (increasingly because of the paucity of women in the tech world, an industry that gets plenty of attention).
And racial inequality has hit the headlines again, with the murder of Trayvon Martin, the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, the deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York, et al.—all blows to the nation’s proud Libran legacy. These have occurred under Uranus’ and Pluto’s T-square/ grand cross to that Solomonic Saturn (2012-15).
At the same time that America’s internal governmental dynamics have grown more and more dysfunctional (Uranus in the 4th [domestic politics] opposed [extreme polarization] to Saturn [Congress vis-à-vis the president]), Washington’s international reputation is very different from what it was in Woodrow Wilson’s day; or Kennedy’s, Eisenhower’s or Reagan’s.
The USA’s own self-perception is having a hard time following suit. But transit trackers know that outer-planet transits to a natal chart are ruthless rebukes to any part of the native’s self-image that no longer applies. Old assumptions about American authority in the world—Saturn—are being painfully adjusted to fit the world of the 20-teens.
Saturn vs. Pluto
We should not expect the forces involved to cede ground gracefully. Pluto oppositions function by pushing a decaying entity to ever further extremes. When the transit meets resistance, it just intensifies its pressure, until something finally breaks down or breaks through. Pluto takes its time, knowing it’s always more powerful that whatever it’s opposing.
This is why Pluto-Saturn combinations often involve what seems to be a self-destructive stubbornness. In the absence of consciousness, the Saturn pole, instead of letting up when it senses it’s being destroyed, keeps struggling and hunkers down even further. It tries to control the uncontrollable.
Thus the abject failures of the Pentagon’s past several military adventures are failing to humble the politicians now braying for war against Iran. The disastrous consequences of our arming the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, and funding a series of puppets in Iraq, is being dismissed, forgotten or wished away by the American politicians calling passionately for grand military gestures.
Saturn represents limitations; Pluto is the power to transform. The wise inference to draw from this transit is that the USA is simply limited, in the amount of power it has to do what it thinks it wants to do. Our saber-rattlers may earnestly believe that Washington should (Saturn) be able to call the shots in the Middle East, in Africa and elsewhere, but in the terms of the old model—20th-century power politics—it does not have the power (Pluto).
Americans of conscience would do well to withdraw energy from those false leaders who identify with an outdated version of our collective 10th house Saturn. The Big Boss of the World model is doomed. Only a new use of America’s Saturn in Libra can work in the new scheme of things. This would entail a refreshed moral leadership, one grounded in the Solomonic model of equitability, one willing to put its actions where its mouth is, working for peace.
In the meantime, Pluto will patiently make use of its trademark weapon: the organic process of decay. This will triumph sooner or later, leading to whatever brand new thing needs to arise.