A ‘goodbye to the old’ is underway when we see Pluto in Aquarius (March to June 2023, then from January 2024. Part one of this feature, can be found here, by the way). True to its nature, it will transform how we live, not necessarily in a subtle way. Ideally, as you will read on most internet blogs, this transit will be about the power of the collective, interconnectedness, networking, sharing and co-operatives, where everyone (potentially) has a say and benefits equally. These are the supposed themes for the coming years. However, the reality may be rather different, as we will see later on.
Aquarian triumphs always sound lovely and liberating — at first. But the water-bearer, as embodied by the overeager Aquarius Laura Dern on Enlightened, will pursue righteousness and revolution at all costs, unaware of the collateral damage. The French Revolution toppled a bloated monarchy, but its values of rigid nationalism now fail to integrate religious and ethnic differences. The Former Soviet Union is ruled by Aquarius, and in the rise and fall of communism we see how a vision for perfect equality can become an iron menace.
– David Odyssey1
The last time Pluto was in Aquarius social reform was in the air; the following quote is from Frank J. Klingberg’s essay, the Evolution of the Humanitarian Spirit in Eighteenth-Century England:
All the humanitarian currents and forces of the [eighteenth] century may be thought of as the struggle for the organization of a civilized social life, with the economist, the churchman, the reformer, the poet, the satirist, and the legislator each working in many related “causes” for the change of social conditions… The fact that the mood of England was changing, decade by decade, is seen in the voice of these important societies … The first of the revolutionary leaders [of this time] was Granville Sharp. His interests included activity against dueling, the press gang, prison abuse, Parliamentary corruption, war, drink, flogging, and unemployment.’2
Klingberg’s text above beautifully captures the spirit of the previous transit of Pluto through Aquarius (1777 to 1797) – the zeal for reform and the sincere attempts to improve the lot of ordinary people. There can be no better example, however, of this drastic Plutonian sweep through society (like a scythe through a wheat crop) than the concurrent Revolution occurring in France from 1789-1799. As Wikipedia puts it: ‘Many of its ideas are considered fundamental principles of liberal democracy, while phrases like liberté, égalité, fraternité reappeared in other revolts …. and inspired campaigns for the abolition of slavery and universal suffrage.’3
Liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality and fraternity) can be seen as a direct result of the discovery of revolutionary-minded Uranus, even though the equality and fraternity parts are not – in themselves – Uranian principles (Uranus’ function is to inspire Man and Woman, infuse them with Divine Spirit and to tear down the old oppressive order – ‘brotherhood’ doesn’t quite enter the picture. Instead, what we saw in revolutionary France in the late eighteenth century was Pluto in Aquarius’s urge towards a fairer, more equal society.)
And if any one individual personified the zeitgeist it had to be Maximilien Robespierre (1758 –1794) the French lawyer who was ‘one of the best-known, influential and controversial figures of the French Revolution. He campaigned for universal manhood suffrage and the abolition of both clerical celibacy and [like William Wilberforce in the UK] the Atlantic slave trade [becoming] an outspoken advocate for male citizens without a political voice … To some, Robespierre was the Revolution’s principal ideologist and embodied the country’s first democratic experience.’4
This is one of the more noble effects of Pluto in Aquarius, but there is another side to it …
THE DARK SIDE
We know that, as humans, individually or collectively, we can misuse planetary energies. One way of misusing Pluto is to try and hang on to the old ways to retain one’s power base. This is what certain long standing institutions will be doing with Pluto in Aquarius, especially governments and businesses (who often have vested interests in things remaining as they are). As the astrologer Paula Lustemberg put it: ‘Pluto in Aquarius describes the removal of what stands in the way of moving towards a future with greater social equality. How this is done depends very much on the collective reality of the moment.’5 If Pluto in Capricorn exposed corruption in business and politics with authoritarian, self-serving leaders (yet simultaneously empowering them), Pluto in Aquarius will focus less on the individual leaders than it does groups. Instead of the powers of the megalomaniacs it will be about the institutions and corporations themselves – and the power they wield may not all be positive.
As any astrologer knows, Pluto can bring a ‘heavy’ and authoritative hand to a situation, one of its principal themes is power, after all. In Aquarius, we see the blind quest and zeal to ‘improve’ things for the supposed ‘good of all’, the ‘good of the community’. If Aquarius is about human rights, for example, we may even see situations where citizens are prosecuted for violating them in only mild ways. For example, some aspects of so called political correctness – originally only about consideration towards minorities – could turn into actual legal proscriptions, and what we say to each other with mild insults could not only be against the law but may entail jail time for ‘offenders’. This sounds like one of those wild ‘it couldn’t happen here’ scenarios – but history shows that humankind is often complacent about things like this. (For much of the 1930’s, no one thought there could be another world War.)
And so Pluto in Aquarius may be about power and manipulation disguised as ‘trying to do the right thing’. I quote Paula Lustemberg once more: ‘Pluto also speaks of control and manipulation, especially when experienced from the lowest vibrations. And in Aquarius, we can talk about control and manipulation through the mind, through ideas … Be that as it may, in the past this transit has brought great progress in society. We see a new era coming where “knowledge” will be the star …’6
And yet, ‘knowledge’ already is the star, as witnessed in the pre-eminence of Science, and its supposed authority – something we often turn to as a reference point for the ‘bigger issues’.
This is mainly because Religion (in the West) has lost most of its power to influence modern societies. The prevailing Paradigm, is determined now by science, not organised religion. And yet science is often treated, as if it were a religion. Certainly, it often constitutes a dogma which tries to lay down exactly what we should believe about the Universe. In Liz Greene’s assessment of the coming Age of Aquarius (whose seeds we now see germinating) she says that with its ‘group consciousness’ this sign will ‘wipe out the individual if it is allowed to run rampant’. That is, when the group mind, the consensus, is strong enough, individual differences of opinion are ignored, stamped out even. When there is enough peer pressure, one’s feels forced to agree and join in with what the group wants. This is how Aquarius gets its own way – and Science (through sheer numbers) has the upper hand.
Therefore, there’s a big danger that the dogma of Science – because it is has power through the Collective and the support of the Majority – will become even more like a tool with which to shut people up, especially those with ‘irrational’ spiritual beliefs or those who would take up arms against it, that is, other scientists who argue against the (often unfounded) dogmas. We already see some of this with the phenomenon of Intelligent Design, whose advocates have pointed out the failings of modern neo-Darwinism (gene theory plus evolution tells us all we need to know about Life). Scientists who argue for Intelligent Design are not only insulted by the orthodox scientific community (usually ridiculed as silly, Christian creationists) but livelihoods can be lost (in the US) if they dare even to mention ID to their students.
So, because Science is a collective power, dissenting voices in the minority will be even more difficult to hear. Individual dissenters are to be shunned. Then again, does Science always move in the direction of what’s good for everyone? Take Artificial Intelligence, that supposed miracle of modern science where machines can do the work humans used to do (whose advocates seem to forget certain obvious facts like: a) these machines put people out of work; and b) machines have a tendency to go wrong.) The Rise of AI is based on the erroneous idea that Human Consciousness is somehow synonymous with the intelligence of a computer program. In the coming era, there may be yet more extreme ideas for how AI robots can be put to use, and since Pluto is involved they will likely border on the vaguely sinister, too!
This Power of the Collective will also see some controversial manifestations in politics, in institutions like the EU, or the UN, when Pluto moves through Aquarius. Ideally, Pluto in Aquarius will shift the emphasis to shared power, shared capitalism and power structures that are more inclusive. (At the very least it should mean individual demagogues can no longer get away with things – that their powers are checked by other forces.) But it is also going to create many more tensions when sovereign countries (the ‘individual’) want to exert certain powers against the wishes of whatever collective or union they belong to.
BUSINESS, THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE FUTURE
As we saw in part one of this article, humanitarians like William Wilberforce (who campaigned in the eighteenth century against slavery) were ultimately driven by Christianity. That ‘do-good’ zeal will still be there with the next Pluto-Aquarius transit, but we will look towards ‘science’ to usher in and deliver the new changes. The obvious difference between now and Wilberforce’s time is one of new technology. We live (some of) our lives online, connected to part of a huge network, whose basic idea is about lateral power – each ‘node’ having some individual autonomy. The point is that it’s decentralised – there is essentially no top-down hierarchy.
Networks are obviously another Aquarian theme (look at the massive rise of popular social media sites, for example, when fashion-conscious Neptune went through Aquarius). The Internet is is also changing the way entrepreneurs and ordinary people do business, in short, it has levelled the playing field, bringing people together (customers and sellers) instantly, without any so called middlemen or ‘mark up’ costs. In Jeremy Rifkin’s The Third Industrial Revolution the author has much to say about a future based more on the (Aquarian) principle of collaboration and sharing, in particular where Green issues are concerned:
‘The emerging Third Industrial Revolution … is organized around distributed renewable energies that are found everywhere and are, for the most part, free—sun, wind, hydro, geothermal heat, biomass, and ocean waves and tides. These dispersed energies will be collected at millions of local sites and then bundled and shared with others over intelligent power networks to achieve optimum energy levels and maintain a high-performing, sustainable economy. The distributed nature of renewable energies necessitates collaborative rather than hierarchical command and control mechanisms … This new lateral energy regime establishes the organizational model for the countless economic activities that multiply from it. A more distributed and collaborative industrial revolution, in turn, invariably leads to a more distributed sharing of the wealth generated.’7
He goes on to state that, in a network, ‘self-interest is subsumed by shared interest. Proprietary information is eclipsed by a new emphasis on openness and collective trust. The new focus on transparency over secrecy is based on the premise that adding value to the network doesn’t depreciate one’s own stock but, rather, appreciates everyone’s holdings as equal nodes in a common endeavor.’8 There are a number of Aquarian themes here that Rifkin (who I presume is not an astrologer) has picked up on – the theme of collective trust, collaboration and shared interest – which all adds up to ‘together is better’. And Rifkin seems certain that the new spirit of ‘shared energy’ resources will become a new economic model for the future. Let’s hope so.
Pluto is, of course, a transpersonal planet, concerned ultimately with the fate of generations rather than individuals. (Even with a natal Pluto on an angle, say, that person – we are told – is meant to be a mere vessel for the planet’s universal energy.) If Pluto in Aquarius can teach us anything it is that we’re all entirely dependent on Mother Nature (who, when she wears her Plutonian face can, nevertheless, seem quite cruel). In the old paradigm Nature was something to be conquered; in the new one, we must build a relationship with it. For example, the Covid virus (whose appearance in the West coincided with the Saturn-Pluto conjunction of January 2020) clearly exposed how we are destroying the planet. Satellite photos made soon after its first stages (when we were mostly in full lockdown) showed a decline in harmful greenhouse gases, and wildlife started to reappear where it had been absent. (There were even fish in Venice’s waterways.) In short, when we weren’t polluting it, the Earth began to heal. (The Covid virus even showed our innate capacity for coming together, for unselfish action.)
It should go without saying that new environmental initiatives will be near the top of any good government’s ‘to do’ list with Pluto in Aquarius – for this is ultimately about humanity itself. As Jeremy Rifkin suggests, Western governments and technology firms will work together better in the future – and better here means ‘greener’. Pluto in Aquarius (along with spiritually inclined Neptune in Pisces) will make it abundantly clear that we need to step back a little and think over our relationship with the planet. Again, we are all connected and inter-dependent; not only will Pluto in Aquarius demonstrate this, dramatically if necessary, we’ll have to adopt the slogan as a modus operandi during the so-called Third ‘Industrial Revolution’.
Back in 1793, not long after the first industrial revolution, Robespierre even urged the formation of a sans-culotte army to enforce revolutionary laws. As Wikipedia explains: ‘The sans-culottes were the common people of the lower classes in late 18th-century France’, and they became the radical, militant end of the French Revolution, angry at their poor quality of life. Again, this is Pluto in Aquarius to a T – a very real ‘power of the people’. And if you haven’t spotted it yet, they look like a forerunner of the Gilets-Jaunes, the yellow-vest protestors in modern France who began calling for economic justice and institutional political reforms. The protests in France began on 17 November 2018, incidentally, ten days after transiting Uranus had conjoined natal Saturn on France’s 1792 chart (suggesting massive tensions ready to explode), and the same month that the progressed moon (the people) squared progressed Pluto (power).
With Pluto in Aquarius, I believe we’re going to see many more of these kinds of protests from ordinary people, even new movements (witness Extinction Rebellion) and that they’re going to have some real political power to influence the so-called Establishment. This we’ll likely see, as well, in the power of workers’ unions across the Western world. The last Pluto transit brought about the first unions and the Labor movement in the US, in keeping with the egalitarian spirit of Aquarius. Strikes, therefore, may become much more of a serious issue than of late as we move into 2024. So, in closing, to use an old slogan from another old radical: Power to the People!
2. The Evolution of the Humanitarian Spirit in Eighteenth-Century England, Frank J. Klingberg,
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1942.
7. The Third Industrial Revolution, Jeremy Rifkin, Griffin, 2013.