Right Use of Power

The US Pluto Return

Originally published in The Mountain Astrologer,  2014.

None of us will live long enough to experience a personal Pluto Return. It takes this planet around 250 years to cycle through the zodiac. But Americans will experience a Pluto Return collectively, in 2022, when this tiny clump of power reaches the degree of Capricorn that it occupied on July 4th,1776.1

When a planet returns to its natal position, the native hunkers down with the archetype in question. There’s a reexamination of what that symbol means. For the USA the return of Pluto is a call for the country to reconsider its use of military, political, economic and cultural power. It’s about breaking down the whole notion of power and refurbishing it, so that it fits the world as it is now.

Power

Since Pluto was last at 27 Capricorn, two and a half centuries ago, the USA has become a global hyperpower. This word, almost comic-book-like in its hyperbole, was coined in the 1990s expressly to describe Uncle Sam; but the Return signals a tipping point in terms of retaining the title. The idea of losing it is so threatening to the collective mind that the possibility is rarely lucidly discussed, just as speaking of the king’s death was once a hanging offense in England.2

But the idea of a substantive shift in international status has been festering beneath America’s mass consciousness since just after the new millennium began, when Pluto crossed the US ascendant. As we will see below, the process that was begun then will be confronted, echoed or resolved at the Pluto Return.

Evolutionary Change

In any study of the outer planets, we get the most out of it if we dispense with our good/bad evaluations, and focus instead on the planet’s pure archetypal function. This is especially true with Pluto, whose manifestations include profoundly destabilizing events: the kind that are hard for us to observe dispassionately.3

Our point of departure here is the idea that Pluto’s placement tracks the mysterious process of evolution, by which an entity surrenders its current identity and is made over from scratch. Power is released in the process. Think of a heat-emitting compost pile; think of an atomic bomb: matter releases power when it breaks down into its constituent parts. With Pluto a breakdown of some kind is inevitable, and must be complete enough to give rise to a new version of itself.

As in the myth of Persephone, who transformed into a queen after her abduction by Pluto/ Hades, this transformation requires a stint in the Underworld.

Death/ Rebirth

In popular astrology Pluto’s meaning is sometimes abbreviated to “the planet of death,” but it would be more accurate to call it the planet of death/rebirth. It’s not about two discrete events; mortality is a continuous loop whereby one state morphs into another. But the modern mind, which seems to lack a fundamental understanding of this most organic of cycles, is spooked by the notion of death. Pluto’s placement in the natal chart tends to reflect this fear.

Astrologers know that wherever in their clients’ charts Pluto is placed, the native is sensitive to the potential for destruction. Unless the person makes a conscious commitment to the rebirth that must follow, the issues in question may be fraught with fatal peril — a fear of being destroyed that may or may not be linked to actual danger —

and compulsive behavior patterns. There may be irrational attachments, which derive from the fear of letting go of something in decay. We often see the craving to control something as if one’s very life depended on it.

In the chart of a group entity like the USA many of the same principles apply. There are fixed attachments in the collective psyche, giving rise to the kind of mass behaviors that might be termed self-destructive. We expect a breakdown of those systems that have grown dysfunctional, so a new contract can be made. Like all radical detoxification programs, the Pluto Return begins with the identification of unhealthy material. As those in recovery know all too well, this is often the hardest part.

2nd House of Resources

The USA was born with Pluto in the 2nd house, which tells us that this breakdown/ makeover is fated to take place where issues of wealth, territory and collective values are concerned. Included here are those features of the Earth plane that support physical survival and express the notion of worth. The second is the house where we identify aspects of the material world as extensions of ourselves, as when a baby learns to recognize its bottle as “Mine!”

The residence here of an obsessive planet like Pluto helps us understand the USA’s manic consumerism: that peculiar intensity with which Americans covet, acquire and hold their territory. There is a risk of being possessed by one’s possessions. Consider the giddy passion with which a contestant on a game show like “The Price is Right” imagines owning what’s behind Door Number Three. Or the cult of territory — legally rationalized in “stand your ground” laws — that reached homicidal proportions in the case of neighborhood vigilante George Zimmerman.

Pluto pushes a given trajectory as far as it can go, as the country’s first immigrants did in their “manifest destiny” to push its western border all the way to the sea. The virgin forests traversed by these settlers are gone now, but the presumption of manifest destiny is not. Where natural resources are concerned, the American consumer seems to believe the cornucopia will never empty out and the wells will never run dry.

The USA uses more energy to power its workings than any other in the world,4 and is now waking up to the fact that we’re taking ourselves as far as we can go in the global resources department. With the Pluto Return approaching, America is being compelled to take a long hard look at itself as a consumer of Nature’s bounty.

Oil and Water

Fossil fuels, a power source derived from underground, fits the symbolism of Pluto especially closely; and oil has been at the top of Uncle Sam’s list of 2nd-house shopping list since the advent of the industrial revolution. But the world has changed, and oil looks to be nudged out of first place soon by potable water. Right now, the scarcity of clean water is an ever-present reality for billions of impoverished people all over the globe. Barring radical changes in agriculture, manufacturing and public policy, the steady creep of this scarcity into more affluent populations worldwide will continue apace.

Expressing this issue to a tee is the opposition at the Pluto Return of transiting Neptune to its natal position in the US chart. We see here a double-whammy emphasis on the planetary archetype of water, at its most Neptunian in the sign Pisces. At the Return’s second exactitude, in July of 2022, Neptune forms a trine and sextile to Sun/ Mercury (in the water sign Cancer, near their natal positions) and Pluto respectively [chart 1], as the Sun opposes Pluto in the sky. Even more emphatic of the water theme is the chart of the third exactitude, in December. Here Neptune and the Moon, the two watery planets, are conjunct in Pisces — reinforcing the universal nature (Neptune) of water as a daily necessity (Moon) — together with Jupiter in Aries, suggestive of an urgent wake-up call with international implications.

These charts represent the Cosmos pulling out its big guns: simultaneous transits of the two most far-reaching planets in the pantheon, Neptune and Pluto. Together they are capable of supplying a jarring shift of perspective. It’s as if nothing less would do, given the enormous gap between reality and awareness around this issue in the USA, where access to clean water is taken for granted by the vast majority of the population. At the moment, the idea of perceiving this ubiquitous, everyday substance as a rare and treasured commodity remains for most Americans a trope of dystopian science fiction.

Alert

The preparation for such a perceptual shift is evident everywhere. For humanity as a whole, not just Americans, the mass survival chakra is on red alert, symbolized by the epochal square between Uranus and Pluto (2012-15).5 Over the past couple of decades, there’s been a consciousness spike worldwide about resource depletion, global warming, species extinction and the implications of the world population having surpassed seven billion, to name just a few of the extraordinary scenarios that make this time on Earth unique. The environmental movement has relocated from the fringes of cultural discussion into the mainstream, and the grave realities it has long predicted have become shapers of the modern worldview.

The USA is uniquely positioned to understand this crossroads. Of all the houses, the 2nd is the one most explicitly tuned into this aspect of being human: that of identifying ourselves as physical animals in a physical world. And in this house the American chart features, of all planets, the planet of mortality. Little wonder that the national psyche all bound up with the questions, Do we have enough? Where do we stand, vis-à-vis the essential commodities of life as we know it?

The key here is that phrase, as we know it. If the USA resolves its crises of resources, it will not be by continuing to do what it has been doing. Pluto is demanding a questioning of behaviors long considered normal. The conscious way to respond to its Return would be for the country to completely overhaul its attitudes towards material sustenance and its financial conventions. This overhaul would lead to plugging back into the collective awareness that humanity is part of an interconnected planetary whole. This understanding is innate, not only from spiritual knowing but also by virtue of our instinctive animal natures. These two parts of the human psyche know quite well that Mother Earth provides for us, when we work with her and not against her.

Alternatively there is the less conscious way to respond to the Pluto Return, which would not be a response at all but a reaction, born of separation consciousness. In this worst-case scenario we forget that we’re all in this together. Instead we hoard our little cans of beans, put them in underground shelters, and buy guns to protect them.

On a collective level we can see the shadow of 2nd house reactivity in what author Michael Klare has called The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources (MacMillan, 2012). We see Pluto’s shadow manifesting itself in the stealth purchasing by petroleum industry profiteers of half-continent-sized underground aquifers in the American plains, in canny expectation of today’s oil wars segueing into tomorrow’s water wars.6 

Capricorn, Money and Politics

The sign Pluto is in, natally and currently (2008-2023), gives us a further layer of information about the cosmic lessons afoot for the USA. Capricorn is an authoritative initiative-taker, and its placement here points to America’s potential to reinvent itself as a world leader. Right now, the nation finds itself at the tail end of a 250-year cycle’s version of leadership, deep in the dregs of its old approach. The possibility exists, however, for the USA to throw its enormous capacities into becoming a responsible steward (Capricorn is governed by Saturn, the planet of responsibility) of Earth’s resources.

Capricorn is a worldly sign, drawing strength from shared traditions and social expectations. It is associated with the status quo, and with the infrastructures that serve as the skeletal structure of a group, notably its governmental, economic and professional systems. These tend to follow a hierarchical formula, e.g. patriarchy, social class, the top-down business model. We can see Capricorn behind that cherished national vision referred to as “the American dream,” with its connotation of a ladder of ambition that is ascended to reach material success. Because we’re so used to it, we think of this vertical imagery, and the systems that follow its logic, as universal and inevitable; but the logic of the Pluto cycle suggests otherwise. Consider the challenge posed to this picture by Occupy Wall Street, whose demonstrators refused to anoint conventional leaders, developing instead a deliberately “horizontal” decision-making process.

Since the start of Pluto’s current tenure in 2008, Capricorn attitudes and institutions have been cracking under the strain worldwide. The global financial crisis is the epitomical example of this breakdown, and it is not surprising that Uncle Sam, with natal Pluto in the house of money, was to play the pivotal role. Pluto in Capricorn suggests the deep systemic roots and inscrutability of the financial industry, whose power is all out of proportion to how little ordinary Americans know about it, not to mention how few of them reap its rewards.

Capricorn also governs political systems. Certainly since Pluto’s ingress into this sign five years ago there have been innumerable Washington careers that have crashed and burned, from Abramoff on the right to Anthony Weiner on the left. But far more remarkable is what the cumulative scandals have revealed about the system as a whole. The transit has dragged from out of the smoke-filled back rooms of Washington the country’s dirty little secret: that the donor/ lobbyist/ representative axis has become the fundamental engine of political power. Confronting this reality has been uneven and gradual; but, for a nation with the self-image of the world’s greatest democracy, nothing less than a cultural trauma.

The fusion of power and money is expressed by the word plutocracy, a scenario astrologers would not be surprised to see in any group with Pluto in Capricorn in the 2nd house. But it is only since the Capricorn transit began that the term has begun creeping into America’s public conversation to describe itself. The Supreme Court ruling that equated corporations and human persons (Citizens United, 2010), the failure of regulatory agencies as exposed by the BP oil rig disaster (2010), the dismantling of labor unions (e.g. in Wisconsin, 2011) and the Occupy Wall Street movement (2011), were among the milestones during this period that brought home to ordinary Americans the baldly undemocratic nature of the country they live in.

Mercury Opposition

America’s Mercury (information systems) is in the 8th house opposed to natal Pluto in Capricorn (corporate control), indicating the likelihood of a national media that wields enormous overt and covert power. The shadow of this placement manifests as an information-dispensing network that operates like an entrenched cartel, where no more than a handful of moneyed interests (2nd and 8th houses) have their hand in almost all the information Americans consume. (In 1983, fifty corporations controlled a majority of American media. Now that number is six.7) Moreover, as the world spins towards 2022, technology is rendering communications systems obsolete so fast and so radically that even the moguls are running to catch up. We can expect the role of the media in the nation’s economic and cultural life to supply plenty of drama in the years ahead.

Pluto-Mercury combinations are the signature of propaganda, which we see in the use of psychology to manipulate the wording of news stories. Consider, for example, the linguistic slight of hand by means of which young men targeted for assassination

in the “War on Terror” are facilely referred to as “terrorists” or “militants” (sometimes modified by the equally vague “suspected”) with no proof or explanation offered to back up the label. 8

Doubly indicated in this opposition (by Pluto and by the 8th house) are those American institutions that represent hidden power, such as the NSA, the Federal Reserve and other secretive agencies that most of us know very little about. The Pluto transit suggests a profound re-orienting towards these bodies, along with the collective values that engendered them. With natal Mercury in the house of spying, the potential has always existed in the USA for clandestine agencies to engage in the kind of cover-ups, secrecy and domestic surveillance that has recently become front-page news, starting with the Wikileaks revelations in 2010.9 This 8th house theme exploded again at the third exactitude of the Pluto-Uranus square in May 2013, when it came out that Washington had snooped into billions of civilian phone records. With Jupiter (foreign relations) returning to its natal position in the US chart, over the spring and summer of 2013 the public heard that the NSA had secretly monitored its presumed allies (7th house), including the United Nations’ internal conferencing systems and the EU’s office buildings in Washington. Then came the Edward Snowden bombshell, about the existence on a previously unimagined scale of a full-fledged spying program that data-mines US citizens unsuspected of any crime.10

The 8th house is also associated with money. Whereas the 2nd is the house of shopping, the 8th is the house of debt: the opposition between them in the US chart links their meanings emphatically. Apart from its military notoriety, the USA is probably best known internationally as an importer (of, for example, foreign-made toys and toothbrushes, foreign-drilled oil and foreign-born tech geniuses) and an exporter (of missiles and guns, Hollywood movies and fast food). The fact that American consumer tastes have wormed their way into the value systems of the rest of the world is another reflection of the extreme power of that 2nd house Pluto. So is the gargantuan national debt (8th house), now reaching catastrophic proportions. 

Banks

The original iteration of this opposition saw the newborn USA in a frenzy of refinancing, as the unified colonies strove to pull themselves back from the financial brink. As Pluto makes its way back to that same placement, bankruptcy is again in the air.  It is not only astrologers who expect extreme shifts in this country’s economic status in the years surrounding the Pluto Return. Economic commentator Peter Schiff, for example, argues that a more severe crisis than the one in 2008 is likely, because of the artificial fixes with which the feds reacted to the first one; e.g. printing money, bailing out banks, propping up the housing market, ratcheting the debt up trillions of dollars.11

All entities with Pluto in the 2nd house are likely to harbor a mortal dread of financial ruin. This fear is hard-wired into the American mass mind. But to freak out about a potential scenario, as if we were hapless victims of an arbitrary planetary placement, is never a healthy way to use astrological information. Better to step back and consider where in our reality the old, dying way expresses itself, and do what we can to withdraw our energy from it; all the while keeping an eye out for those incoming trends that seem to align with the radical changes necessary.

The shifts in consumer trends that have arisen with the internet are intriguing in this regard. With the Pluto-Uranus square we have seen a boom in crowdsourcing (e.g. Kickstarter), a literally democratic (Uranus) departure from traditional notions of building wealth (Pluto). Equally remarkably, there is evidence that sharing is coming back. Some Silicon Valley thinkers are talking about moving from an economy based on ownership to one based on relationships. New start-up companies like Lyft and Sidecar, which connect people who need a ride with those who have a car to lend, hint at a return to a more primal, more essential version of 2nd house resourcefulness.

But government dysfunction (Capricorn/Pluto) is posing daunting obstacles to economic reform. This became egregiously clear with the federal shutdown of September 2013, which took place as the transiting Sun began to trigger the Uranus-Pluto square. Opinion polls at the time indicated that, despite being polarized on many social issues, Americans across the board were appalled at the behavior of their elected officials. The power games being played in Washington surrounding the debt ceiling were widely seen as being “closer to a suicide pact than a governing arrangement.”12 This theme of self-destruction was spelled out in the chart of the Autumn Equinox, which occurred just after Pluto had stationed under a Full Moon.

Were cooler heads to prevail, America could easily look to its own recent history to find sound, remedial policy for its financial quagmire. Were the country as a whole to connect the dots between the federal deregulation of the banking industry and the 2008 meltdown, it would hasten to implement deep-structure regulatory reforms. As it is, five years after the financial industry trashed the world economy, its grip on Washington is tighter than ever. The feints at reform that have been half-heartedly made cannot satisfy Pluto. Genuine reform, by contrast, could be launched with as obvious a move as re-instituting the Glass-Steagall Act, which the USA passed after the 1929 stock market crash and eliminated in the 1990s. (Iceland, the first and worst casualty of the 2008 crisis, has recently instituted similar regulations and seems to be regaining their financial balance. 13 )

The essential lesson here is that a system cannot be remade using the values and priorities of the old system. As many observers of the American economy have pointed out over the decades, if the country spent even a fraction of its military budget for peaceful purposes instead, the country would be solvent.14 In the post-9/11 world, the same point is starting to be made about the country’s vast security network. Especially since the revelations about the NSA in 2013, the public is getting wind of the staggering amounts of taxpayer money that are poured into the NSA, FBI, CIA and Homeland Security. Although we almost never hear any criticism of these spending priorities in the mass media, it is telling that they have been duly noted by America’s least friendly critics. Most remarkably, Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri has advised his jihadists to try to keep Uncle Sam spending everything it has on security, thereby to further along its own destruction.15

To qualify as Plutonian, any changes to the American economy would have to go far deeper than most of those now under discussion by media analysts. Bold new policy will have to be developed, for example, to factor in the mass entry into dotage and infirmity of 79 Baby Boomers (according to the AARP we geezers are turning 65 at a rate of about 8,000 a day).16 This in turn will force a realistic examination of that bête noir of American politics: health care.

Pluto’s irrational power is already evident in the disproportionate emotional drama attending this issue, which is linked by astrologers to the fact that the US has four planets in Cancer: the sign of care and protection, not to mention geriatrics. Transiting Pluto had begun to oppose these planets when the healthcare brouhaha started to rear its head about five years ago, giving the debate a life-or-death fervor resonant less of a bureaucratic problem than of a full-scale civil war. But the next several years will necessitate an injection of sober bottom-line analysis (Capricorn) into the issue. From a free-market business professor, for example, we hear that if Americans had the same system as Canada or Germany the savings would total 1.079 trillion per year.17

If America is to regenerate its economy at the level demanded by the Pluto Return it would need to open itself up to ideas so new (and ancient, like the idea of sharing) that they completely upset the apple cart. By Natural Law, these are springing up all around us. Among the new thinkers are economists David Graeber and Charles Eisenstein, who galvanized the demonstrators at Occupy Wall Street; tech whiz Jaron Lanier who has turned his attention to the theory of micropayments; and writer Gar Alperovitz, whose Straight Talk about the Next American Revolution proposes using community banks to transform the plutocratic nature of the system to one of democratized wealth.

Other Shoe Dropping

The exact Pluto Return in 2022 can be considered the final phase of an arduous breakdown of collective identity that began just after the start of the new century/ millennium. To get an overview of this period we might divide it into four phases, of which 9/11 and the Pluto Return are the bookends.

Phase 1 Saturn and Pluto oppose each other across the Ascendant/ Descedant line of the US chart, accompanied by the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Phase 2 The Uranus-Pluto square becomes palpable when Pluto entered Capricorn in 2008, accompanied by the Wall Street meltdown.

Phase 3 The Grand Cross in cardinal signs becomes exact in the US chart, 2014 thru 2015.

Phase 4 The US Pluto Return is exact three times in 2022:  Feb 20 at 11:52 pm EST, July 11 at 3:25 am and Dec 286:34 pm.

9/11 is a number that started out as a mere date and quickly morphed into a national mythos: a container for the country’s most jealously held stories about itself (ascendant). A fatal (Pluto) blow was dealt to the country’s reality structure (Saturn). Significantly, since September 2001, many of the highly publicized violent episodes in the USA have been accompanied by public skepticism and accusations of official whitewash. It is as if the group psyche feels it cannot know what’s real any more.18

Phase 1 introduced into the American consciousness a new construction of war. This milestone was marked by the entry of Pluto (destruction) into the country’s 1st house (identity) across from transiting Saturn (defensive postures) in the 7th (foreign engagements). “National security” took hold as a rationale for full-throttle militarism, with Uncle Sam initiating and escalating continuous conflicts in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. These have been propelled for the most part by a Jupiterian narrative: one that references the age-old struggle between Christianity and Islam.1

But with transiting Pluto opposing the US chart’s 7th house planets for several years now, governmental policies to ensure domestic safety (“Homeland Security” being almost a cosmic pun on Cancer, America’s Sun sign) are no longer universally accepted by the public. Collective assumptions about what constitutes patriotism –a deeply held but rarely defined part of the national self-image — are wearing thin.20 Trust in the White House’s war policies are breaking down. The populace has grown more conscious of a sub-narrative at work here that is not Jupiterian but Plutonian: that of the acquisition of world power through the control of coveted resources. As the Pluto Return approaches, the official story is being overtaken by the unofficial one.

During Phase 2 issues of global reputation (natal Saturn in the US 10th house) crowded into the public discussion, peaking at the USA’s Saturn Return in 2011. Worries about the national debt to China forced their way into the forefront of national consciousness, as did the increasing dysfunction in Congress. During this time the realities exposed by an ongoing recession — including the outsourcing of labor, the weakening of unions and cuts in social programs — began to solidify in the collective mind.21 America’s traditional sense of itself as a wealthy superpower with a thriving middle-class was clearly morphing into something else — though it was not clear what that “something else” was, nor is it now. The Uranus-Pluto square is characterized by dramatic questions, not quick-fix answers.

Phase 3 peaks in April 2014 when a cardinal Grand Cross forms between the square in the sky and the Sun-Saturn square in the US chart (chart 2). This storied configuration intensifies the issues surrounding the country’s global reputation from the Saturn Return three years before. But the stakes are higher now, with Uranus and Pluto in sharp aspect and the Pluto Return looming.

The purpose of the Uranus-Pluto square, for an individual, is to inspire life-altering changes, whether the ego-based self is ready for them or not. In a collective it inspires historic social convulsions, whether the group mind is ready for them or not. Uranus, which is associated with sudden upheavals, and Pluto, which exposes corruption wherever it takes its aim, are angling in upon the US chart with the most explosive geometrical pattern in astrology: four squares (90-degree angles) and two oppositions (180-degree angles). Even if just one of these planets were involved, this configuration would suggest a historic sea change in cultural attitudes and institutions. With both outer planets involved, the situation can be described, on an energy level, as a complex crisis point between unstoppable forces, all slamming into each other at the same time. Moreover, the part of this chart where they are tightening the screws is its single most vulnerable corner: the natal Sun-Saturn square, which we might call America’s Father Complex.

Natal Sun-Saturn squares, in general, point to a fundamental insecurity that dogs the native’s efforts to forge an independent identity. The mythic theme here is that of the estranged child, cut off from the father s/he needs yet resents. We see this theme in America’s love-hate relationship with authority: an insistence upon personal freedom that coexists with a deep suspicion of nonconformity. We see it in the ambivalence in the public mind about rule-breakers Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. Whether these fellows are hailed as whistleblowers or condemned as traitors depends on what side of the Saturn-Sun conflict one is identifying with at the time.

Sun-Saturn squares are tests of maturity. They teach the native, often through conflict, the difference between reacting and taking responsibility.22 In this regard it’s helpful to remember that the USA is a very young country, as countries go, with something of the whippersnapper about it. The Cardinal Cross could nudge it to make a leap towards adulthood, in the hope of resolving that estrangement between son[/Sun] and father. Were such a resolution to take place we would see the energies of the chart cohere (Saturn) in service to the Sun in Cancer:  the sign that provides shelter, nourishment and protection to those in need.

For several years now, the country has risked losing sight of its Cancerian mandate. This is apparent everywhere in American society, from the housing crisis to the national debate over health care and helping the poor, the evicted and the unemployed. The Pluto piece of the current configuration tells us that the USA’s approach to providing succor must be laid bare and broken apart, in order to be recovered.  The Uranus piece is disrupting the complacency and certitude around the issue; exploding people’s assumptions about, for example, safety nets (Saturn) like social security (Cancer).

At its highest expression, Saturn leads to a commitment to sustaining and conserving life, by maintaining those structures that have proven their use value. The meaning connoted by the label “conservative” in American culture, by contrast, has more to do with the marking of political territory than with the principle of conservation. Indeed, we might interpret the gulf between original meaning and vernacular meaning as a sign of how out of touch America has become with this driving principle.

In the sign of Libra, America’s Saturn crowns the chart, suggesting the potential for dignified international leadership. Were this country to take up the Grand Cross challenge and integrate its Saturn, we would see a refinement of the self-anointed world judge and bully (shadow Libra in the 10th), which is how Washington has been perceived by those populations around the world whose governments don’t conform to “American interests.”

Diplomacy (Libra) would be raised to an art form if this potential were realized. Caretaking (Cancer) would be expressed through domestic, foreign and environmental policies that embodied genuinely conservative impulses. The country would invest its resources in programs that have been shown to work effectively for minimal cost. Many experiments that have already been tried, to implement sustainable agriculture, for example, and to reduce consumers’ carbon footprint, have matched these Saturnine criteria very well.

What does not match the criteria of a well-functioning Saturn is being motivated by short-term gain, such as we see, for example, in the desecration by oil companies of the oxygen-rich rain forest, upon which life on Earth depends. In stark contrast, the conscious use of America’s Sun-Saturn would inspire a commitment to the wellbeing of generations not yet born.

Phase 4 and Beyond

Many of the conscientious efforts attempted by clean energy advocates, for example, have been kept from becoming official policy so far by the greed and inequities inherent in a plutocratic system. But to the extent that the lessons of the Pluto Return are integrated, corporate profit and political advantage would no longer be the driving forces behind social policies.  The country would be motivated by a more life-affirming set of values.

Those of us who identify as Americans have a choice to make here. If we want to maximize the cosmic lessons of the years surrounding 2022 – not to mention, to keep our sanity – we need to recognize that we are not merely witnesses to this period but contributors to it. We are part of what is trying to happen. On a soul level we decided to be here, right now, at this charged moment in the country’s history; a period that has the potential to heal wounds two-and-a-half centuries in the making. From an astrological perspective, our participation at this time and place might start to feel like an honor. Instead of reacting with fear and worry to the societal breakdowns we see around us, our goal might be to help the process along; that is, to facilitate the elimination of that which is in decay, and give it a decent burial. To do this responsibly, we must learn to recognize obsolete systems and ideas for what they are.  We must stay awake during the nation’s death/ rebirth throes, like a good midwife who wouldn’t dream of falling asleep on the job.

There are as many ways to show up for the Pluto Return as there are different birth charts. We might begin to sharpen our awareness, privately or in a group, of certain empty materialistic conventions that we have outgrown. One way to tell whether a behavior is obsolete is to ask ourselves whether it feels draining to continue it. In our work life, we might identify the exhausted old business models that belong to an age that is dying, and welcome in the new approaches that we’d like to see blossom into being. We might decide to withdraw our resources from products and companies that are inherently destructive rather than creative, and invest instead in those that make us feel proud of our participation.

In the process of these attentions to the group of which we are members, the Pluto Return will do its magic upon us as individuals. It will inspire us to come up with our own version of resourcefulness, our own ideas about right livelihood, and our own understanding of what power really means.

References and Notes

1 I use the Sibly chart, which posits the birth of this collective as July 4th 1776 at 5:10:40 pm LMT in Philadelphia, Pa.

2 The consensual assumption here is that a demotion in world power (as currently defined) would be an unacceptable catastrophe. If the idea is mentioned in the media, it tends to be in the context of an inflammatory accusation; as when a pundit or politician attacks his opponent’s policies as being so wrong-headed that they would provoke this dire result.

3 Such as weather disasters, like Hurricane Katrina’s flooding of New Orleans which coincided with a Pluto station (September 2, 2005); and stock market crashes, like the two most memorable Wall Street meltdowns — one of which coincided with Pluto’s discovery (1929) and the other with its ingress into Capricorn (2008).

4 The runner-up here is Uncle Sam’s rival China, now the world’s worst polluter, although, paradoxically, the largest investor in green energy. By the time of the US Pluto Return, the Uranus-Pluto square will have triggered all five of the cardinal planets in China’s chart (AstroDatabank, People’s Republic of China: October 1, 1949 3:15:00 PM 8E, Beijing).

5 My book At the Crossroads (Jessica Murray Mothersky Press, 2012) discusses this transit in detail.

6 See, for example, www.businessweek.com/stories/2008-06-11/there-will-be-water (accessed September 14, 2013).

7  Bill Moyers interview with Bernie Sanders, http://billmoyers.com/segment/bernie-sanders-on-why-big-media-shouldnt-get-bigger/.

8 As the Pluto Return approaches, Americans are asking themselves whether these executions are sowing the kind of karma that is likely to serve America’s interests. Drones are “now the face of America” in several countries. After the killing of an anti Al-Qaeda cleric in April 2013, Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni activist and writer, told the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington that it seemed to make no difference to the Pentagon whether his countrymen were enemies of the US or not. Speaking of the transformation of young Muslim men from ordinary teenagers into agents of vengeance and death, he said, “What violent militants had previously failed to achieve, one drone strike achieved in an instant.”

9  The Wikileaks scandal first made headlines at the full Moon in July 2010, a Grand Cross featuring the Uranus-Pluto square with Pluto opposed to the US Venus-Jupiter conjunction

10  See ”US National Security Agency ‘is Surveillance Leviathan”: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23669003. See also Matt Savinar’s astrological analysis, “Watching the Watchers,” in The Mountain Astrologer, Oct/Nov 2013, p. 22.

11  Schiff foresees a downward spiral apparent as early as 2013, involving a weakened dollar, unemployment, inflation, a spike in interest rates (which will cost the government more to finance the debt we already have), and the failure of banks and programs like social security. See, for example, Agustino Fontevecchia’s column “Peter Schiff: Market-Crushing Treasury Collapse to Happen around 2013” in Forbes Magazine online: http://www.forbes.com/sites/afontevecchia/2012/03/27/peter-schiff-market-crushing-treasury-collapse-to-hit-around-2013/.

12 Adam Gopnick, “Canmerica the Beautiful,” The New Yorker, http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2013/10/canmerica-the-beautiful.html#entry-more.

13 See http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/08/05/1117143/-Iceland-finally-getting-to-splitting-banks-US-is-not

14 It is estimated that right now the Department of Defense accounts for 70% of all federal money. See http://www.warresisters.org/militaryspending.

15  In an audio message released on September 13, 2013, al-Zawahri stated, “We should bleed America economically by motivating it to continue its security as America’s weak point is its economy, which already has begun stumbling because of the military and security expenditure.”

16  http://www.aarp.org/personal-growth/transitions/boomers_65/.

17 See Diane Francis, The Merger of the CenturyHarperCollins, 2013.

18 Notable examples include the flurry of online discussion about the Colorado movie theatre shooting (July 2012), after it was found that James Holmes’s father had been about to testify about the Libor international banking scandal; Congress’ repeated calls for investigations into the Benghazi attack in September 2012; and charges that the Boston Marathon bombings were a false flag event.

19 Jupiter, the governor of ideology, is conjunct the US Sun and ruler of the ascendant. Uncle Sam’s wars always have a strong persona (ascendant) of rectitude, e.g. politicians can now be heard saying things like, “We must send bombers to Syria because “it’s the right thing to do”.

20 For example, Americans have been forced to ask themselves whether the revelations of Manning, Snowden et al were the opposite of patriotism, as their government claims, or the epitome of patriotism, as claimed by those who want to see their government held accountable.

21 According to the official story, announced in 2009, the recession has ended. But at this writing (9/2013) 11.5 million Americans are unemployed, 4 million of them having given up looking for work altogether.

22 A trenchant example of the trouble America has with this concept is the vernacular convention of using the word responsibility (the ability to respond) to mean blame; as with a litigant who declares, “I’m not responsible for crashing my car; it’s your restaurant‘s fault, for serving me too much alcohol.”

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