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The Neptune Pluto


There is renewed interest of late in the behavior of the outer planets among astrologers. André Barbault has done important and exhaustive work during the last eighty years on the Saturn-Neptune and Uranus-Neptune cycles.  Fifty years ago Charles Harvey discovered the triple conjunction of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto of the 6th century B.C. Thirty years ago I noted a relationship between Neptune and Pluto that has not been much examined because of the need to look at the data that illustrate it.

To their great credit Ken Irving, editor at American Astrology Magazine and Horoscope Guide, Ken Gillman, editor of Considerations, and Tem Tarriktar, editor of The Mountain Astrologer were all willing to publish my work on the Neptune – Pluto relationship but without the more than sixty pages of essential data. I have supplied it here for the first time.  Tem eventually published my Neptune-Pluto article and a small amount of data in TMA in 1992. I expanded and presented my work again at a conference in 2003, but due to the limitations of a conference presentation, I could only put up diagrams, some of the data and explain the particulars of the Neptune-Pluto behavior. Some people were duly impressed but others were hard pressed to wrap their heads around it. One can talk about the matter but the nuts and bolts of it are in the data. 

The Meaning of Neptune and Pluto in Combination

Because so many millions, indeed billions, of people alive today have Neptune sextile Pluto, some people speak of it as a generational aspect that means nothing terribly specific. Yet I submit it is entirely specific.  

Neptune relates to mysticism and the deep underlying ethos of an era.  It speaks to what is both unconscious and taken for granted as unspoken and agreed upon magic. Neptune relates very much to religion and the occult. 

The revolutionary and evolutionary but distinctly disruptive quality of Pluto is alternately hidden (though active) and by turns explodes into manifestation as a jarring, undeniable force.  When it suddenly appears, the Pluto quality seizes one’s attention and redirects it into a new corollary of what the thing was but always had the potential to be, like the metamorphosis of a child becoming an adult attended by the sudden awakening of talents, tendencies and inclinations that had been heretofore unknown and unsuspected.

Neptune and Pluto in aspect together often symbolizes a fight for religious supremacy like when Catholicism was locked in a struggle with the Protestant faiths during the Reformation and especially during the last ten years of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) when Neptune and Pluto were in an exact opposition. Much the same situation obtains today during the Neptune-Pluto sextile of our present day whose exact contacts span the period 1950-2032. The sextile doesn’t alter the intrinsic natures of bodies in combination. Presently in Islam the Sunnis and the Shia are at each other’s throats in deadly earnest in greater numbers and with more weapons than ever.

People of a certain age may remember the famous Time Magazine cover of April 8, 1966, without a photo but only the words in large red letters, “Is God dead?” as if in reply to Friedrich Nietzsche who posed the question in the 19th century.  That is the main point: Neptune configured with Pluto usually represents the tendency to at least question and often to reject standard religious formalism. 

Yet paradoxically, even as dogma, credo, doctrine and the rituals of institutionalized religion lose power under the auspices of Neptune-Pluto, genuine spirituality increases with it.  That produces the irony that the spiritualists are more truly religious—though they don’t attend church—than the religionist church-goers who subscribe to a tradition.   Excepting fundamentalists who will always be a slice of the population, very many people during a Neptune-Pluto era feel that religion is either irrelevant or in need of reform.   Fundamentally then, Neptune-Pluto consistently entails the embrace of a personal, self-realized, conscious connection to the deeper reaches of life at the expense of organized religion.  

On another level, it is obvious upon examination that Pluto-Neptune periods not only symbolize a retreat from the grip of formal religion but an acceleration in secular, especially scientific, advance.

How I Began to Figure This Out

In 1988 I was investigating the outer planet combinations in play when James Watt, a brilliant Scottish mechanical engineer, made the critical improvement (the condensor) to Newcomen’s steam engine that instantly doubled its efficiency and quickly ushered in the industrial age.  There was a grand trine between Uranus, Neptune and Pluto that was closest in 1771.  The addition of Uranus to Neptune and Pluto combinations magnifies the result and almost always for the better.  Watt did his most important work to improve the steam engine between 1765 and 1775.  Newcomen developed his revolutionary but inefficient steam engine in 1712.  I noticed that Neptune was also trine Pluto in 1712 and then further that it was involved in a trine relationship with Pluto that lasted for most of the remainder of the 18th century.  Specifically, The Neptune-Pluto trine came to within two degrees of exact in 1700 and made its first exact to the minute trine in 1704.  Neptune and Pluto made two exact to the minute trines that year and every year thereafter until 1743, when they came to within a third of a degree at their closest approach and slowly fell farther away from the exact trine until 1761 when they began to close the trine again having reached a remove of slightly more than three degrees at closest approach during the interim years.  They made two exact to the minute contacts again in 1774 and thereafter each consecutive year through 1785 when the trine began to fall away from exact again until by 1789 the trine fell beyond the two degree orb at closest approach and the aspect soon dissolved.

I was intrigued because Pluto was at its perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) in 1741 (and again in 1989) in the middle of the eight decade long continuous relationship with Neptune.  I was anxious to know if the long-term relationships appeared at other Pluto perihelion periods.   Since the libration of Pluto’s perihelion is enormously long: four million years (See, A.A. Jackson and R.M. Killen, “Planet X and the Stability of Resonances in the Neptune-Pluto System,” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (1988) 235: 594), it is reasonable in the short term to just subtract Pluto’s orbital period (247.68 years) from its perihelion in August 1741, to get the previous one in A.D. 1494.  The behavior of Neptune and Pluto during the second half of the 15th century and first half of the 16th century turned out to be the same as the 18th century, although the aspect during Pluto’s 15th century perihelion, like now, was the sextile.  Neptune came to within two degrees of the exact to the minute sextile with Pluto in 1456 and made two exact to the minute sextiles annually from 1460 through 1483.  In 1484 Neptune and Pluto came to within less than a third of a degree from exact at closest approach and thereafter began to fall away from the sextile.  By 1532 they returned to within two degrees of the exact sextile and began to make two annual exact to the minute sextiles again in 1536 through 1539.  There was only one exact sextile in 1540 and by 1544 the sextile at closest approach had exceeded two degrees as the aspect soon dissolved.

Quite impressed, I looked at Pluto’s perihelia from still earlier centuries and found the long term aspects held up, although toward the end of the first millennium B.C. there is a transition of the long term aspects from the semi-square and sesquiquadrate to the sextile and trine.  That may be due to the libration of Pluto’s orbit with a period of 19,000 years.  (See, C.J. Cohen, E.C. Hubbard and Claus Oesterwinter, “Elements of the Outer Planets for One Million Years,” Astronomical Papers Prepared for the Use of the American Ephemeris andNautical Almanac, vol. XXII, part 1 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1973), 31-33.).  The change of the long term aspects to different aspects (i.e., from semi-square to sextile) may also be due to the osculating elements of Pluto’s orbit that are currently based on Pluto’s orbit for the year A.D. 2000.  Osculating elements describe the positions of a body in an orbit unperturbed by any other object.  Pluto is so small, only twice the size of Ceres, the largest asteroid, and therefore significantly smaller than our own Moon, that its interaction with Neptune and other bodies may alter some of its predicted positions over long spans of time like the path of a pinball is altered by everything around it.

The Neptune-Pluto trine of the 18th century closely brackets what is known as the “Enlightenment,” a period of rapid secular advance.  The Neptune-Pluto sextile  that overlaps the 15th and 16th centuries closely brackets the European “Renaissance” which is also noteworthy for rapid secular advance.   Furthermore, stress that relates to attacks on the legitimacy of formal religion is simultaneous with Neptune-Pluto periods.  The Reformation of the 16th century was a tremendously disruptive period throughout Christendom that lasted almost a century and a half.  Islam is also under considerable stress now to modernize and become less doctrinaire.   Christendom, as it slowly turns toward its roots and away from institutionalization appears also to be responding to the spirit of the “law” rather than the letter of it.

The Rationale Behind the Phenomenon

It is well known that Pluto at and near its perihelion is inside the orbit of Neptune which for a few decades makes Neptune the farthest from the Sun of the major bodies in the solar system not counting Eris and Sedna, whose natures at the moment are far from settled.  Moreover they are very far out.  Eris, which is almost as big as Pluto, has an orbital period of 558 years and huge orbital inclination of more than 44 degrees to the plane of the ecliptic.  Those things don’t render it a dumb note but they may be important matters to consider.  Sedna is immensely farther away with an orbital period of more than 11,000 years.  Pluto’s influence was not well understood until at least thirty years after it was discovered in 1930.  One should not be too quick to speak of these two newly discovered bodies, Eris and Sedna, as though their influences were well sorted out.

What I observed looking at the eighty year periods of Neptune-Pluto aspects that repeat at the time of Pluto’s perihelia is that the long-term repeating aspects occur only during the time when Pluto is at or near its perihelion.  That happens because Pluto’s orbital velocity at and near perihelion is not radically different than Neptune’s mean velocity.  That is why the aspects repeat.  The planets pace each other.  It is only possible because Pluto’s orbit has high orbital eccentricity and Neptune’s has low eccentricity.  A planet has to speed up as it gets closer to the Sun in order not to be pulled into it.  So, while Neptune and Pluto are in a 3:2 relationship (Neptune orbits the Sun three times for every two Pluto orbits), Pluto speeds up at its perihelia which approximates Neptune’s orbital velocity for eighty years.

Neptune and Pluto with Uranus in the Next Decade

Uranus-Neptune-Pluto combinations are fairly rare especially in a major Ptolemaic aspect.  Such a combination is relatively near to us in time.  It is shown in the accompanying data.  During the last phase of the current long-term Neptune-Pluto sextile that began right after World War II, transiting Uranus will join that combination.  Specifically, Uranus in 2025 through 2028 will be trine Pluto and simultaneously sextile Neptune.   James Watt’s steam engine, that radically changed the world, is a good example of the kinds of things that develop when the three outer planets come together.  The high civilization that ramped up in the 6th century B.C. which ushered in the Golden Age of Greece during the lifetime of Pythagoras, is perhaps the best exemplar of the three outer planets in combination.  Taken together the three outer planets in combination, without the addition of Saturn, produces extraordinary and far reaching advances that produce general benefit. 

Since Pluto will be in sidereal Capricorn in the 2020’s I expect practical elements to be emphasized that relate to the fundamentals of life like time, in other words, time travel; age regression or the end of aging by supplying the proteins that people stop making as they age; and new, concerted effort to control the basic parameters of life on Earth: the climate. I think it is also very likely that cheap solar power will soon completely displace coal and oil to generate electricity. That is almost assured because there are only about fifty years of oil left at current levels of consumption.  Magnetic, pneumatic and tidal systems of propulsion and power generation, because they are clean, powerful and cheap, will find fast acceptance due to burgeoning need.  Of all these things the least exotic that may prove to be the greatest boon to resolution of problems that presently defy resolution will be the development of cheap, high capacity solar batteries. Progress is fast, dramatic and surprising when all three outer planets are engaged simultaneously.  The gloom and doom contingent needs to look at the three outer planets in combination to get a different take on the future.  The future will likely be brighter than it is presently projected to be, and this, out of necessity, because the stakes are being raised so fast, even now.  It will become obvious to the man and woman in the street that doing nothing will ensure our demise.  That guarantees a new political resolve will emerge that will finally address the important issues of the day and take them out of the hands of corrupt, atavistic politicians. Business men and lawyers make poor politicians because they primarily look for advantage to exploit in a zero sum game.  It’s too late for that now. When something important needs to be done that’s a life and death matter, scientists, engineers and enlightened people need to take the wheel.

3,500 Years of Neptune and Pluto in Combination

Regarding the data, from left to right, the first column is the type of aspect rendered in astrological symbols. The second column shows the date beginning with 1099 B.C. on page 1.  Decreasing dates are dates B.C.; increasing dates are dates A.D. The third column gives the date of exact contacts or is blank if there was no exact contact. The fourth column tells the reader if a contact was exact or not. The fifth column shows approximately how close during the year in question that the combination came to exact. The sixth column shows approximately the farthest remove from exact of the combination during the year in question. The seventh column gives the sidereal longitude of Neptune during a year with an exact Neptune-Pluto aspect. The eighth column gives the sidereal longitude of Pluto during a year with an exact Neptune-Pluto aspect.

Sidereal longitudes are used throughout because misleading conclusions could be drawn about planet positions using tropical longitude.  For example, all eight of the Neptune- Pluto conjunctions from A.D. 2385 through 1073 B.C. are in sidereal Taurus, whereas the conjunction began to fall in tropical Gemini beginning in A.D. 1398.  The tropical positions leave the inescapable impression that the Neptune-Pluto conjunctions are falling in a different part of the zodiac, much faster than is actually the case.  All six of the Neptune-Pluto conjunctions of the second, third and fourth millennia B.C. are also in sidereal Taurus, but due to the issue of Pluto’s osculating elements, it is at present too hard to say with absolute assurance that modern software has it right as far back as many thousands of years.  That’s why I stopped where I did and have limited the range of this exercise from 1099 B.C to A.D. 2412.

Excerpted from The Neptune Pluto Cycle, to be published in 2024 by Kenneth Bowser. © Kenneth Bowser. All rights reserved.

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