Cultural Evolution – the Pluto/Neptune 500-Year Cycle

A Teaching Article

by Marilyn Muir, LPMAFA

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So much of our time as astrologers is spent on personal application of astrology as natal and predictive charting. We have a variety of tools to choose from, such as progressions, directions, transits, planetary returns, eclipses and lunations. We can easily lose sight of those larger, longer cycles which describe and influence the actual evolution of human society and culture and even broader in scope to include the development and experience of our world and all of its species. Astrologically, those cycles are defined in time and meaning by the conjunctions between the outer planets.

The seven astrological bodies, the Sun, Moon and five inner planets were the basis for astrology for millennia, even though some of the ancients were aware of the presence of other bodies. The Sun is the star around which the planets in our solar (Sun) system commonly orbit. The Moon is the satellite of the Earth that we inhabit. These two were thought to be the cosmic mom and dad and the five inner planets – Mercury through Saturn – were thought of as their progeny, or children. These seven bodies are termed “the planets” for ease of reference.

The outer three bodies in our current list are Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, taught in modern science classes as primary planets of our solar system until the last few years. Ancient artifacts illustrated the presence of additional occupants of our solar system. The bodies were depicted as round and distinct. There has been much controversy about whether the Sun or the Earth was in the center, but eventually, science proved the Sun was in the center and that is astronomically true. Recently Pluto has been demoted to dwarf planet status with the recent discovery of other bodies in the vast outer regions of space beyond Pluto. This demotion is controversial to say the least. I continue to use Pluto in my work and teachings based on my 35+ years of useful experience.

The orbits of the three outer bodies are so large that they take many years to complete. Even though they are literally racing through their orbits, from our perception they are barely moving, so we refer to them as the slow-moving planets. Only occasionally do any two of those outer planets to appear to join together in the same relative area of space (conjunction). For the two outermost planets in our list, Neptune and Pluto, this occurs only once in about 500 years.  During that time, Pluto will have completed its orbit twice – about 247 years for each orbit. Neptune, which is closer to the Sun, will have completed its orbit three times – about 165 years for each orbit. The figures are approximate because they describe the traditional elliptical orbit of Neptune that must coincide with the really eccentric elliptical orbit of Pluto to produce a union (conjunction).

These are the two evolutionary planets that affect our world and its inhabitants dramatically through migration patterns and cultural impact. They may further influence our planet through weather such as global warming or cooling, famine/plenty (harvests), disease or plagues, religion or philosophy events, or other large physical or cultural influences. There is much research to be done or completed in these areas so I will refer to the most easily observed for this short article.

Mythical Pluto ruled the underworld, so the nature of Pluto is to uncover what is beneath the surface. Pluto exposes the next arena of transformation and resolve in the human evolution. The nature of Neptune is to inspire, to stir the imagination, to yearn, to dream. Combining these two energies, that which needs to be exposed, revealed or uncovered is subjected to the vision of a better way, a better solution, a better life. There is nothing easy about any of this.

As humans, we keep things in our psychological basement because we do not want anyone else to see our personal can of worms. Often we do not even want to see them ourselves. I, like many people, could live my life quite nicely without admitting to my own inadequacies. I certainly do not want to know our collective inadequacies because then I must acknowledge my own part in such inadequacies. Avoidance of knowledge is common. Once these hidden agendas are revealed in all their dark glory, Neptune can inspire us find a new way, a new treatment, a new solution and we are collectively moved forward in our evolution. Conversely, Neptune can try to cover up, lie, and create plausible deniability to maintain the veil between what was and what we must do to move forward. Pluto digs it up. Neptune is the veil we must pierce to handle it, learn from it, and grow beyond it. Did I mention that any of this was easy or comfortable?

What does that have to do with migration patterns? When we are dissatisfied with our lot in life, particularly our living conditions (including the ability of a geographic area to support population growth), or we can no longer sustain ourselves and our loved ones in the manner to which we would like to become accustomed, we will move (migrate). The general trend is westward – and new areas which have not shown full development, or which can support a migratory influx are scouted, opened and occupied. We will continue to develop that area until the next migratory wave hits and then we repeat the move pattern. Now that the migratory pattern stands on the western shores of the Americas, west means across the Pacific Ocean – back toward what we term the east, which already has development (a billion people in China alone and a billion people in India beyond that). Where do we go now? Have you noticed in recent years that we are looking off-world to the Moon, Mars and beyond? Desire for expansion and movement can be described as migration.

(For future discussion: China did cling to the earlier Taurus influence and development and did stagnate and it is just now coming into Gemini expansion and expression. Pay attention: a sleeping giant is awakening to what much of the rest of the world already knows and the Chinese people do learn quickly.)

The uniting of Neptune and Pluto at the conjunction phase is the beginning of each cycle – the planting of the seed. The first half of the cycle will have to do with the initiation, exploration, development, and expansion of the overall purpose. The last half of the cycle will have to do with fruition, dissemination, distribution and conclusion of the cycle itself as well as preparation for the new cycle to come.

  • Previous Neptune/Pluto conjunction cycles occurred in 83-82 BCE and 411-12 and 905 AD, all located in Taurus. 
  • The following cycles were 1398-9 and 1891-2 AD however the sign had switched to Gemini.
  • The next cycle will not occur until circa 2380 AD and will also occur in Gemini. 

Think about these periods as both migratory and initiating cultural impact, as well as the sign influence.

At the turn of the millennium between BCE and AD, the Roman Empire held sway over Europe and controlled much of the known and developed world. Similar processes were occurring in other cultures. The armies ranged far and wide, opening new areas and forcing occupants to look for new places and ways to live. Taurus is very physical, practical and down-to-earth. It is the tender of the fields and the builder of cities and countries. Life was difficult and survival was primary.

The Neptune/Pluto unions of 411-12 and 905 AD were also both in Taurus. Our history is full of battles for land and territory, for riches. The lives of most of the people were desperate for physical survival and life was not easy. Efforts had to be practical and down to earth. Migration was often for, or driven by, military purposes. Much of what was called the Dark Ages occurred during this time.

The Neptune/Pluto union of 1398-9 switched to Gemini and a different influence opened. This was near the time of the Renaissance and the printing press where communication and social interaction took center stage. This heralded the flowering of the intellect and society. This was the era of the world ocean navigations that opened up the Americas and worldwide travel. From the turn of the century at the 1400 AD mark, the time period is under and will continue to be under a Gemini influence. The world stage was set in 1398 and reinforced in 1891 and will be again reinforced in 2380, again under a Gemini influence. Think of the human and industrial revolutions that have transpired since we moved into the Gemini influence, the printing press, the steam engine, the automobile, the car, the plane, rockets, computers, internet and all the communications that have mobilized us, and the amazing intellectual skills that have developed. Reading itself moved from the ruling class into the general population.

The mind, education, social skills, and communication mark the current evolutionary pattern of this world and will continue to do so. We have circumnavigated this globe. The northern hemisphere has been developing at a rapid pace and the southern hemisphere is working hard to develop as well. There is much to discover about our water world in years to come. And there is much to discover about our inner-verse as well, such as medical research, DNA and the genome. As evidenced by the efforts of recent space research and experimentation, we are already reaching into outer space to support our migratory nature. Our burgeoning world population is putting great pressure on our existing resources. We will either need to exercise more stringent birth control or find new spaces to occupy and resources to support such population increases. Off world does hold exciting possibilities for the human race.

First published in AFA Today’s Astrologer June 1, 2011, V73 #6, republished with slight editing.           

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