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A Brief Look Forward

We are about to enter what the Chinese might have described as "interesting times" - potentially, a new age of rebellion and revolution. Pluto will enter Capricorn in early 2008, immediately after the beginning of the Presidential Primary season. It will remain in Capricorn through 2024, at which point it will enter Aquarius.

The last two cycles of Pluto through Capricorn brought, arguably, the two most important - and successful - revolts against unhealthy institutional hegemony in the West's long history: 1) the Protestant Reformation; 2) the American Revolution. Martin Luther nailed his objections to Pope Leo X's Catholic Church to the door of that Wittenberg Church in 1517, two years after Pluto's passage into Capricorn. His objections were initially spurred by the first of the two Medici Popes' dramatic expansion of the selling of indulgences (the proceeds of which were intended to finance the construction of St. Peter's, to defray the costs of the Pope and his brother's extravagant Vatican lifestyle, and to allow Alfred of Brandenburg to recoup the money paid to the Vatican for his recent purchase of a Bishopric). Luther's revolt of individual conscience - ultimately, if not in his own mind at the time, of the right of every man to read the Bible, and more or less come to his own conclusion about what those words meant to him (a requirement that Mohammed makes of every Muslim with regard to The Koran nine hundred years earlier) - marked a decisive turning point in the battle for liberty and individual rights. Luther lit a spark that would later be taken up by others, sometimes for reasons decidedly less noble, a spark that would eventually lead to the English Revolution of 1643, to the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and to Philadelphia.

Similarly, when Pluto reached Capricorn in 1762, the British were celebrating their triumph in the Seven Years War (a war, like Bush's current war on terror, fought on a global scale) - but also looking for ways to pay off the crushing debts that their wars for Empire had incurred. Inasmuch as the British had protected the Colonials during the North American component of this war, known in these parts as "The French and Indian War", the British quite reasonably, at least from their point-of-view, expected that the Colonials bore some responsibility for the paying off these debts. This led to a tax on paper, which was known as the Stamp Act. However reasonable English expectations that these Colonials, who viewed themselves as proud Englishmen, should be grateful to pay their fair share, those expectations failed to take into account one salient fact - that the Colonials had never paid any taxes whatsoever on internal commerce to the British. Moreover, from the colonialists' point-of-view, the Colonies had been more or less settled without material help from the Crown. They prospered under the policy of salutary neglect, most famously implemented under the Walpole Administration of the early 18th century. Moreover, as historians point out, while the common man in England had little expectation of a say in the affairs of government, local rule was very much an established tradition in America by the 1760s. Hence, when King George and Parliament attempted to impose their authority on the colonies, they were attempting something that struck these proud "Englishmen" as unprecedented, and utterly unacceptable. As so was born the battle cry, "taxation without representation is tyranny".

In both of these instances, financial insolvency coupled to an archaic and unhealthy notion of absolute hegemony in an area of human activity led to crisis, and ultimately rebellion. The selling of indulgences was not new, but the dramatic expansion of the sale of these indulgences during the later days of Pluto in Sagittarius, by a corrupt Pope who yielded virtually unlimited power over the religious life of Catholic Europe, pushed Luther into first disputation, and eventually, rebellion.

In one of the more remarkable parallels between our present cycle and the previous cycle, both an inexperienced George III and George W. Bush were convinced by more experienced men (Lord Bute and Dick Cheney) serving as their actual/de-facto tutors that the power of the British Crown/American Presidency had been seriously eroded by an unwarranted encroachment by legislatures – in the instance of George III, by Parliament since the Glorious Revolution(1), and in the instance of the American Presidency, by the United States Congress in the post-Watergate era. While the Colonists initially singled out Parliament as the institution seeking to deprive them of their liberty, and continued to harbor feelings of loyalty and warmth for the King well into the early 1770s, often directing their appeals for redress directly to him, it was likely George III, seeking to reassert the influence of the Crown, who provided the impetus for the numerous attempts at imposing ultimate British authority over the colonies(2). Given that GW Bush will be leaving office in January 2009, this parallel cannot be taken too far. Yet, it is quite likely that Bush's decisions have inescapably shaped the geopolitical and economic landscape that future Presidents will need to deftly navigate during the next two phases of the Pluto cycle – especially if Bush is permitted by Congress to attack Iran between now and the end of his term.

It's important to understand one thing when considering the likely shape of the next forty years (which also encompasses Pluto's passage through Aquarius). Neither the Catholic Church nor the British Empire disappeared. Each endured and adapted. Life went on. The world didn't end. And there were similar rebellions taking place across the globe, perhaps on a more intimate scale. For instance, the German Peasant's revolt, the largest peasant uprising in European history before the French Revolution, began in 1524 - spurred in no small part by Luther's rhetoric. Luther chose to reject that movement. One epoch-setting revolution per lifetime was evidently enough for him - and over 100,000 German peasants went to their deaths opposing the existing feudal order. Similarly, there were small-scaled economic revolts, like Ethan Allen's in upstate New York, and those of the so-called “Regulators” in Pennsylvania and the Carolinas, during the lead up to the American Revolution. These rebellions typically pitted small farmers against large landowners.

Given the historical models set by the last two cycles, my guess is that the next forty years will be tumultuous. My thought is that the US will find itself forced to deal with its own crushing national debt; and it will find more and more nations unwilling to simply submit to a notion of absolute American hegemony - be that dominance financial or military. I'm also expecting the United States to find itself in an economic crisis fairly soon. The signs are everywhere. I'm anticipating a real estate and stock market implosion, which coupled to corporate America's tendency to put it's own interests ahead of that of the American worker, will lead to further outsourcing/job cuts that will only accelerate the problem. Ultimately, I'm expecting that Americans will wake up to the reality that there can be little true prosperity if the consumer cannot participate, or can only do so while incurring un-payable debts – and that oligarchy was always a dirty word in America for a reason.

With regard to the political front, given my historical model of people becoming quite rebellious once Pluto moves in Capricorn, seemingly in response to relatively insignificant changes that strike the leading figures of the time as having gone too far, I fear that a repeal of Roe v. Wade could lead to the kind of sectional infighting that Americans have not known since the era of the Civil Rights movement, and before that, slavery. Given the potentially explosive rhetoric that surrounds abortion, and the likely cosmic weather offered by Pluto in Capricorn, including the upcoming Uranus-Pluto aspects to any July 4th US Sun, I believe it possible that a Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade might even lead to the emergence of a new secession movement, especially in the Blue States where abortion will remain legal. You cannot have a nation where a medical procedure is considered murder in one state and legal in another. Furthermore, if Roe is overturned, we must expect the inflammatory rhetoric surrounding abortion to eventually impact pregnant Red State women's ability to travel to pro-choice States in their attempt to get an abortion. But it is also possible that even if Roe is overturned, the better angels of our nature will emerge, as they did in South Dakota in 2006, when the people of that state wisely rejected a total ban on abortion, and an attempt to force the issue unto a reconstituted Supreme Court's docket. If my studies are correct, while the conditions created by Pluto's passage through Capricorn might encourage strictures, it is liberty that ultimately triumphs. Choice is the essence of liberty. If Americans wish to reduce the number of abortions during Pluto's passage through Capricorn, then the radical expansion of science-based adult sex education efforts, and the implementation of a policy of contraception on demand, are likely far preferable remedies to any attempt at prohibition and criminalization.

Given George W. Bush's attempts to radically expand the power of the Executive Branch, through, for instance, his widespread use of signing statements, I believe it entirely possible that Pluto in Capricorn will eventually bring a bipartisan movement to more strictly enumerate the limits of Presidental power – either through legislation or Constitutional amendment.

On the international front, if my historical models are correct, I'd expect the Mullahs' of Iran, the despots of Sunni Islam, and Communist Party in China to all have also taken more than a few black eyes by the end of this period – assuming that they're still even around to tell the tale. Obviously, given the political instability in Pakistan, and the spread of radical Islamic movements, we must expect that someone will play the "nuclear card" during this period - and that a nuclear detonation is possible. Beyond that, in the post-Iraq occupation era, I have a sense that the US could be asked to back away from the Middle East. It is possible that a dramatic restructuring in the region is necessary - and America likely can have no part in that. I have no clue what this restructuring might look like, especially given the chaos that President Bush set in motion through his botched occupation of Iraq. Nor do I have any idea what impact that restructuring will have on the State of Israel. But my definite sense, given the previous historical models, is that it is high time that the western powers gave the people of this region the same opportunity to sort through their difficulties as we had in previous centuries. However, this is not to suggest that the world would welcome or desire a complete US withdrawal from the international scene – or that such a withdrawal would even be in America's interests. But given the current Administration's policies, and the extraordinary animosity that they have generated among friends and foes alike, the next President would be wise to plan for a graceful retrenchment. Amidst the emerging climate of Pluto in Capricorn, it is far better to have to be specifically asked to remain engaged than to demand that one be free to dictate the outcome in states that bear no connection to your legitimate interests.

By the time that this next phase in this cycle has concluded, and Pluto sails into Aquarius, I fully expect that some notion of "the rights of man" will be resurgent - and that a new Enlightenment will become possible, especially given the excesses of Pluto in Sagittarius. My only question is: will men and women of spirit be welcome in that Enlightenment - or will the new institutional tyrants be materialists hell bent, as was Robespierre, on making Goddess Reason the one and only Deity?

Longer term, the move to global markets can only be addressed via a new trading system that protects workers' rights, intellectual property and environmental standards, everywhere across the globe. It is my thought that this kind of trading will become possible around 2025, at the dawn of the next Saturn-Neptune cycle (which will take place immediately after Pluto's ingress into Aquarius). The adoption of traditional protectionist trade policies, or attempts to strong arm nations into altering the value of their currency, or sharing their natural resources, are all the wrong choices during Pluto's journey through Capricorn. Negotiation, grounded in a realistic acceptance of other nation's legitimate interests, will prove far preferable to making moralistic or imperialistic demands.

My bias is that Pluto's passage through a sign initiates a process of deconstruction involving the ideologies/mythologies/human institutions represented by that zodiacal archetype. My guess is that Pluto in Capricorn will demand that human beings deconstruct the outdated thought forms typically associated with the sign. Among these I would include the efficacy of authoritarian control, a belief in scarcity as an inescapable fact of human existence, and the emotional and intellectual relevancy of unhealthy and uncritical notions of “fear” (just as Pluto in Sag has seen the deconstruction, to all who were paying attention, of naive and uncritical notions of "faith"). I would distinguish, for instance, between conceptions of healthy and irrational fear. To fear that one's life could be at risk when crossing an active six lane highway on foot is prudent; to fear that losing some of what you acquired, but did not need, signifies the end of everything you were, is foolish. We must be careful, especially after Pluto's entry into Aquarius, to not also discard the positive, historically informed lessons of human experience, which can rightly be thought of the fruits of Saturn. In my humble opinion, Saturn and the need for defensible structures are givens in the human equation. It is no accident that an entity, not only born amidst Pluto in Capricorn, but with Saturn square its Sun, gave the world not only the first written Constitution in history, including a Bill of Rights, but also the idea of separation of powers, of checks and balances, and ultimately, of a separation of church and state – notions without which humanity would likely have progressed little in the roughly two hundred and fifty years since Pluto's last passage through Capricorn.

Finally, seen against the vast canvas of the emerging twenty-first century, my sense is that the human species has reached a moment in its development where cooperation and collaboration offers the only viable road forward. The era of nation states will not end, but the era where nations think only of themselves, and of their interests - in isolation to all others - must end. It strikes me that human evolution demands that blind selfishness surrender to what Alexis de Tocqueville described (when writing about the American spirit, as he experienced it during his travels in America in 1831) as "self-interest well understood". In our era of nuclear proliferation, environmental crisis, international terrorism, and global markets, we may have finally reached the moment when it has come to pass that what you do to your neighbor you ultimately do to yourself.

Matthew Carnicelli © 2007. All rights reserved.

Originally published December 3, 2007; revised December 23, 2007.

1-2 As delineated by Professor Peter Mancall, in lecture eight and elsewhere of his comprehensive study of the American Revolution for The Teaching Company, Origins and Ideologies of the American Revolution.

For more on Pluto's passage through Sagittarius and Capricorn, see:

Size Matters: Understanding the Size-Related Dynamics of Emerging American Crisis
America at a Crossroads
The Beginning of the End or the End of the Beginning?
Winning the War for Hearts and Minds
A Bubble in Time