There is more than one kind of climate. We are so used to thinking of climate in terms of temperature gradients, precipitation patterns and ecological impact that we forget those other climates in which we and the world are intimately embedded - the cultural climate, the political climate, the economic climate.
Whether climatologists stray into these areas I cannot say. But to the astrologer all global phenomena are inseparable. Even physicists admit nowadays that everything in the observable universe is interconnected. The astrologer is as acutely aware as anyone in science of the importance of cycles, and works specifically with astronomical cycles in the search for understanding. The difference between the astronomer and the astrologer is that the former does not share the latter’s awareness of meaning as an essential property of the cosmos, ubiquitous in microcosm and macrocosm. It is this disagreement which brings physics to a juddering halt and leaves its starriest professors scratching their heads. Meaning, consciousness, the reality of a Creator, will have to be factored into 21st century science if its trailblazers are ever to answer their hardest questions.
Astrologers have known for thousands of years that twelve fundamental energies, archetypes or ideas underlie all the complexities of our life-experience. The same twelve energies pattern the intricate cycles of human civilisation. At their grandest, they define the 2160-year ages of the Great Year (25,920 solar years); more immediately they identify historical epochs with their rise and fall of collective fortune. And of course within each individual life they set its patterns of challenge and opportunity. The cycle of the Great Year is well known, as there has been so much talk of the Age of Aquarius. This will begin when the Spring Equinox, which moves gradually backward against the constellations, is aligned with the boundary between the constellations of Pisces (out of which it is moving) and Aquarius. About two thousand years ago this Vernal Point made its previous transition, between Aries and Pisces. We have been living in the last epochs of the Piscean Age, part of a culture indelibly marked by the often glorious fruits of the collective imagination, and social obedience to religious institutions, with their priests and their monarchs, on a grand scale. Because civilisation has been going through this long, irrational phase, there has also been much superstition, indiscipline, escapism and antisocial behaviour. As Aquarius approaches we already see the glimmerings of a more thoughtful humanity as interest groups coalesce to share and promulgate ideas that will hopefully take the world’s peoples forward on their evolutionary journey.
At the end of each Great Month, or Age, there is a period of approximately 180 years which is characterised by the very constellation that will follow, so allowing the energies of both to overlap before the final change. We are most surely now in that preparatory phase; Aquarian ideas and ideals are taking over the developed and even the developing world at an exponential rate as revolutionary technology spreads, high-speed communications go global, democracy and egalitarianism fight back against the tyrannies of the old order, and information is as vital to people and societies as food and drink. Spirituality will cease to be characterised by a passive acceptance of revelation, but instead by an intelligent understanding of undying consciousness and its intimate relationship to the Universal Mind ... to the divine.
Before Pisces there was Aries, over two thousand years of territorial incursion and warfare when gods were still imagined in human form, propitiated by blood sacrifice and recruited to selfish causes. Taurus, which preceded Aries, saw a period in human history when the cultivation of land for crops and herds around mankind’s growing towns and cities had become ever more sophisticated, and the Bull - creature of Taurus - was the ritual focus of many sports and major religious cults, certainly around the Mediterranean basin. Only in the Age of Pisces did we learn to replace all those images of bestial or angry gods with one of a loving God working through the Holy Spirit, and with subtle concepts of divinity as taught in ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’ and in the tenets of Buddhism. At this transition point Jesus of Nazareth began his sacrificial life, bearing the symbolism of both the passing age and the one he heralded - the Lamb (the Ram), and the Fish. The approaching Aquarian Age, with or without prophets, should at last reveal God to us as a wonderful friend to whom we can talk and listen without the need for sanctioned intermediaries.
Becoming all too familiar to the astrologer is the far shorter cycle of Pluto transits through the zodiac signs on its 248-year journey. Yes, I know Pluto was recently demoted in status by the all-knowing community of astronomers who now regard this small icy world with its even smaller companion Charon as merely a dwarf planet on an equal footing with his promoted mother-in-law Ceres. The latter was previously just the largest asteroid, and discovered on January 1st 1801 - the very same day that the modern United Kingdom came into being. But Pluto is now known to astrologers as one of the most testing stimuli in the heavens. Since 2008 it has been moving through early Capricorn after thirteen years in Sagittarius - remember when the age of extravagance turned into the age of austerity? Pluto was changing our climate. It maps, mirrors, maybe even encourages the Zeitgeist. This Saturnine period of relearning self-restraint, thrift, hard work, responsibility, commonsense, patience, quietness and realistic goals will last until 2023/24 when the planet’s entry into Aquarius will see another revolution as human society capitalises on everything that technology, communications and equality have brought to the 21st century. After nearly two decades of grim competition for shrinking resources and dogged endurance, the new era will feel like a huge breath of fresh air.
Meanwhile Pluto, lord of the underworld and great riches, has already done his best to bring the upper world to its Capricorn knees since hitting the all-important point of the winter solstice. The conjunction of the solstice Sun with this planet of bitter extremes has brought many of us extreme weather, season after season; but whether this is a warning of further long-term climate change remains to be seen. In 2013 Pluto’s focus is now shifting to countries, organisations and people born at or close to New Year. There are so, so many! Including of course the United Kingdom, the EEC and the Euro, also the Falkland Islands, Cuba, Syria, Lebanon, New York City and the modern calendar itself. Opposite this point is the summer solstice, close to the ‘birth’ Sun of the USA on 4th July. Queen Elizabeth II has the winter solstice Sun degree in a key part of her birth chart; Pluto is also hitting the Grand Cross at the crucifixion of Jesus. Trouble brewing everywhere. Pluto eventually transforms all it touches; hidden truths come to light, disaster tests us for strength or weakness, power, glory and wealth are poured at our feet and just as swiftly spirited away. Lives are never the same again. Often we have to face the trials of sickness and death ... and learn the truth that death is only a transition into our real life of pure consciousness. In the UK we have had our moment of glory with the brilliantly planned 2012 Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee; now we rejoin our economic and cultural partners in a seemingly endless deluge of fiscal crises, of church, celebrity and political scandals, fresh anxieties over the Falklands and the Middle East - and of course real and economically devastating floods. The Queen’s consort has had a health scare; Elizabeth herself has been in hospital. Until late 2014 we can continue to expect ‘interesting times’.
What a contrast to the previous period when Pluto was in Sagittarius! But even then we were being tested, as in each of the above cases there is at least one vital point in this sign. At that time, by contrast, we were being tested on our collective response to promised affluence and the dismantling of barriers to trade, travel and educational opportunity. In the UK Blair’s Labour government swept to power on a wave of unbounded Sagittarian optimism. However, as usual in human society, amid the real achievements in human rights legislation, anti-discrimination laws, the opening of our doors to economic migrants, and huge advances in genetics, space science, and information technology, there have been the inevitable legacies of selfishness - the greedy depletion of essential resources, and massive pollution of a sensitive environment thoughtlessly trampled by agribusiness and tourism. Everyone had to ‘have fun’.
Now in sober Capricorn we are in a climate to put some of it right. Echoing Pluto’s transit in the 1770s, will this be the second Industrial Revolution? And will we be so bent on competitive success and the hard-won control of a licentious culture that we risk the will to love?
Plus ça change ...