Making Mundane Predictions

Neptune and Pluto in Social, Economic and Cultural Trends

          published in NCGR Summer 2008 Journal
written May, 2008

Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book The Black Swan, The Impact of the Highly Improbable represents the latest buzz in financial and intellectual circles.  Taleb postulates that "A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principle characteristics:  It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it seem less random, more predictable than it was.   The astonishing success of Google was a black swan, so was 9/11."1

While we as astrologers may never be able to predict everything (in order to predict something, you have to be able to think of it), the transits of the outer planets, particularly Neptune and Pluto, show us how social, political, and economic trends are likely to change over the years.   Neptune has a 168 year orbit, spending 14 years in each sign.  Pluto has a 248 year orbit, spending between 12 and 32 years in each sign.  Together these planets form the Zeitgeist.   

Neptune is the planet of idealism, universal love, creativity, and spirituality on the positive side.  It has to do with beauty, psychic ability, and dreams.  Drugs, illusion, escapism, and victimization reflect Neptune's not-so-positive side.  On the level of spirituality, Neptune has to do with direct communion with God, as distinguished from Jupiter, which has more to do with a belief system, or ideas about God.  Some might see Neptune's spirituality as an attempt to circumvent Saturn's laws on the earth plane—better to meditate and focus on the beauty of life than to face the practical realities of paying the mortgage and putting bread on the table. 

To me, Neptune rules heaven, and Neptune's ideals are the way the world would be if everything was perfect.  Neptune rules vision, and without a vision for what's possible, no new inventions would ever occur.  When President John F. Kennedy had a vision of putting a man on the Moon, many thought it impossible.  What was once thought to be impossible happens every day.   Yet, books like the Secret overly simplify what it takes to translate a vision into reality.  While we need to see possibilities to move forward, seeing situations as overly rosy creates blind spots; and unseen obstacles cannot be overcome. 

The sign that Neptune transits portrays the ideals during the time of Neptune's transit.  These ideals shift every 14 years.  In contrast, Pluto brings out the dark side of the sign it transits. 

Pluto is the planet that represents death, rebirth, and transformation.  It rules unconscious energies, inner drive and compulsion, and the power of will and focused attention.  Its positive expression is concentrated effort, understanding through knowledge and seeking wisdom.  Its negative expression has to do with death and annihilation, the destructive use of power.  Pluto's urges are unconscious.  Under its power we know what we want, yet may not have the faintest clue as why we want it.  Unconscious urges drive us forward.  During Pluto's transits we come to examine those urges.

Pluto reminds us of the natural cycles of nature.  Crops are planted (born), grow, decay, and die and are then born again.  Much in life is impermanent, and we must be able to accept the inevitability of change.  This impermanence is as true for prevailing social trends and the fate of nations as it is for the fate of individuals. 

As Pluto transits each sign, the dark side of that sign comes to the surface.  It also reflects where power, and the likely misuse of power, lies.  Societal problems that arise are not necessarily new ones; but those which it is now time to transform.          

So we have a significant contrast in cultural trends.  The sign Neptune transits represents what is idealized for 14 years.  The sign Pluto transits represents the dark side, conditions that existed beneath the surface that were not faced or talked about.  Based on the transits of these two planets, we can project major changes in cultural trends.

Right now Pluto is transiting between Sagittarius and Capricorn.  Neptune is in Aquarius. 

I wrote the following in my book A Beginner's Guide to Astrological Interpretation, (written in 1992):  "With Pluto transiting Sagittarius from 1995 until 2009, religion, philosophy, higher education, and even long-distance travel take their turn being regenerated.  Since Pluto brings out the dark side of a sign before regenerating it, scandals involving financial misappropriations and sexual misconduct in religious organizations and colleges will be even more prevalent than they are today. Increased terrorist activity on airlines is another likely manifestation before the world changes its current religious and philosophical tenets. "2 

Not being psychic, how was it possible to make such an assessment long before Pluto entered Sagittarius?  The answer lies in combining the meaning of Pluto with the areas ruled by Sagittarius.  Pluto rules sex as well as the dark side of a sign and Sagittarius rules religion. 

Past Pluto transits in Sagittarius coincide with events that have not been favorable for the Catholic Church.  During its transit there from 1502-1516, Martin Luther was ordained and Copernicus challenged Church authority by proclaiming that the earth and planets revolve around the sun.  Christianity has its roots in the 26-42 AD transit, during which time Christ was crucified.  The current Pluto transit coincided with the Catholic Church being unmasked as a haven for pedophiles and having to pay out millions of dollars to victims of sexual abuse by priests. 

In much the same way, events such as September 11 can be seen as part of Pluto in Sagittarius.  Pluto rules death and intensity; Sagittarius rules religion, airplanes, and long-distance travel.  Hence, the idea of religious extremists causing death and destruction on airplane can be extrapolated.

Interestingly enough, as of this writing with Pluto in Capricorn and about to return into Sagittarius, the tie-ins with higher education are showing up.  The Boston Globe reported on May 8, 2008, that legislators in Commonwealth of Massachusetts have "asked state officials to study a plan that would impose a 2.5% annual assessment on colleges with endowments over $1 billion"3 Nine Massachusetts institutions have endowments over this amount.  The proposal, which is believed to be the first of its kind across the country, drew support at a debate on the State House budget. 

Contrast Pluto's transit of Sagittarius with that of Neptune's from 1971 to 1985.  Pluto's transit from 1998 to 2009 has been fraught with religious extremism and terrorism.  Religion and travel became linked with death. 

In contrast, the sign Neptune transits represents what is idealized.  Neptune's transit through Sagittarius was a timeframe of spiritual searching.  Belief systems were idealized.  Some flocked to EST and Esalen to find the answers.  Others flocked to Christian television evangelists.  The ideal of the day was a four-day work week and more leisure time.  Travel and adventure were extolled.  And drugs were seen as engendering communion with God.

Looking back even further, Neptune transited Scorpio from 1957 to 1970.  Scorpio rules, among other things, sex.  The Sixties were the time of the sexual and social revolution.  The younger generation rebelled against conservatism.  Instead of respecting one's elders, the mantra was:  "Don't trust anyone over 30."  The Peace Movement was founded as a protest against the war in Vietnam.  "Free love" and drugs were in.  Hippies congregated at places like the Woodstock Festival in New York and Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco.  Timothy Leary espoused LSD, and sharing included sex and drugs. 

Contrast this with the years 1984 to 1996 when Pluto was in Scorpio.  This was the era of the proliferation of the AIDS virus.  Instead of sex and drugs being the ideal and fun, sex and drugs were dangers that could kill.  The dark side of sex also manifested as issues of child abuse and spousal abuse made headlines. 

Pluto's transits seem to kill the virtues that Neptune idealized.  Yet the dark side of these issues led to societal transformation concerning them.  Domestic violence came to be seen as a crime and was no longer ignored or sanctioned by the law.  Women's shelters were created, and rape victims began to be treated as victims rather than as loose women who enticed men into misbehaving. 

Movies very much symbolize changes in cultural mores.  Jodie Foster's 1998 Academy Award winning performance in The Accused epitomized the change in attitude during Pluto in Scorpio.  Foster played a real life rape victim.  Sarah Tobias was gang raped in a Massachusetts bar while onlookers cheered her rapists.  The female district attorney prosecuting the case allowed the rapists to plead guilty to reckless endangerment, with a sentence that allowed for parole in less than one year.  Tobias was outraged by the light punishment, and furious that she did not get to tell her story in court.  She prevailed upon the district attorney to prosecute the men who cheered the rape.  Ultimately these men were charged with, and found guilty of, of criminal solicitation. 

While the dark side of Pluto in Scorpio brought issues not typically talked about to the surface, it provided a turning point in attitudes toward women, children, and domestic violence. 

Neptune was in Capricorn from 1984 to 1998.  During this timeframe big business, conservatism, and money were idealized.  The 1987 movie Wall Street with Michael Douglas (for which he won an Oscar) and Charlie Sheen epitomized the time.  Greed was good.  This is in stark contrast with the previous 14 years with Neptune in Sagittarius, during which a four-day work week and leisure time were the ideals. 

The timeframe of Neptune in Capricorn overlapped the term of Ronald Reagan's presidency from 1981 to 1989.  Reagan's policies tilted politics to the right.  Workers' rights diminished and CEOs gained more power until Pluto's recent entrance into Capricorn.  The Elliot Wave International Newsletter has reported "In 1970 a CEO's pay was approximately 30 times that of an average worker.  By 2007 that multiple had increased to about 100 times that of the average worker, without including compensation for benefits and stock options.  In 2006 the highest one percent of income earners in the U.S. accounted for nearly 25% of total income."4

Now enter Pluto into Capricorn.  As was seen in the past, what Neptune has idealized, Pluto is likely to destroy. Capricorn is associated with authority, professionalism, business (particularly big business), government, leadership, conservatism, and status. 

Looking back at the past helps us to look ahead to see what's likely to happen during the current transit.  The American Revolution, which began in 1775, occurred during Pluto's last trek through Capricorn from 1762 to 1777.  Prior to the Revolution, Britain's rule of the colonies became more and more repressive. 

The Stamp Act of 1765, which required all official documents, newspapers, almanacs, and pamphlets to have stamps, was the first direct tax levied by Parliament on the colonies.  In response a secret group called the Sons of Liberty was formed.  In Boston the group burned records of the vice-admiralty court and looted the home of a chief justice.  A Declaration of Rights and Grievances was drawn up stating that taxes passed without representation violated the Rights of Enlightenment.  British merchandise was boycotted. 

Not wanting to send an army to enforce the law, the British Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, but passed the Declaratory Act of March 1766, declaring the Parliament had the power to make laws for the colonies.  This was followed by the Townshend Act of 1767, which taxed goods such as paper, glass, and tea.  The colonists boycotted British goods. 

Next came the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770, during which British soldiers fired at a crowd throwing rocks and snowballs.  Britain passed the Intolerable Acts of 1774 restricting town meetings in Massachusetts; ordering all British soldiers who were to be tried to be arraigned in Britain; closing the port of Boston until Britain was compensated for the tea; and allowing British troops to be housed in unoccupied buildings.  The First Continental Congress was called in response and militias were formed.5 

So a clear theme here is government overstepping its power and overtaxing its people.  The idea that people had a right to object at all was revolutionary in the late 1700s.  Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence proclaiming equal rights for all men was radical at the time.  What was considered freedom in the then forming United States was considered treason by Britain. 

Adam Smith's An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of Wealth of Nations was published in 1776.  This was considered the first modern work in economics and the first comprehensive defense of free markets.  The main thrust of Smith's ideas was that the pursuit of self-interest would benefit society as it would encourage advancement based upon the will to better oneself.  Free trade was extolled as that free competition stopped monopolies from setting unfair high prices. 

Smith attacked special interest groups, which included international bankers, corporate conglomerations, and trade unions.  He warned against governments that borrow "without check."  "If governments can borrow without check, then they are more likely to wage war without check, and the costs of war spending will burden future generations, since the war debts are almost never repaid by the generations that incurred them."6

So looking at this history, what can we expect now?  So far, we've seen business executives being grilled by Congress about excessive executive pay, the Bear Stearns meltdown and its subsequent government bailout, and job layoffs on Wall Street.

By combining the meanings of Pluto and Capricorn, we derive what we can expect now.  Pluto brings out power and control issues.  Heretofore hidden problems arise to the surface.  Capricorn represents big business, CEOs, the status quo, the power structure, and governments.  We can expect breakdowns in government, big business, and the banking system.  Worldwide economic difficulties and conflict over natural resources are likely. 

If the past is any indication of the future, we can expect increased government controls and authoritarian rule, followed by uprisings against repressive governments throughout the world.  As multinational corporations now have as much or more power than many governments, local workers in emerging markets are likely to strike against these corporate leaders.  Newly formed companies in emerging markets will provide increased competition to the establishment. 

Deregulation of business began in the Reagan era with Neptune in Capricorn and has continued since then.  President Reagan's handling of the air-traffic controllers' strike was the beginning of breaking the backs of unions.  Since then, laws favoring Wall Street over Main Street have been passed by both Democratic and Republican administrations. 

During President Clinton's administration banks were allowed to become brokerage houses.  This change shifted the burden of risky investments from financial institutions to taxpayers since it's unlikely that the federal government will allow banks to fail.  

During President Bush's administration, the uptick rule (Rule 10a-1 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934) was abolished.  This rule stated "short selling is only permitted following a trade where the traded price was higher than the previously traded price (uptick)."7  This change allows for "bear raids" whereby large short sellers can push down a stock's value by selling it short and buying it back at a lower price, making themselves rich at the expense of the company and the public at large.  The preceding laws were enacted after the Depression of the 1930s to protect the public. 

With Pluto in Capricorn, we can expect problems with government and financial institutions.  So far, we've seen the beginning of the meltdown of subprime mortgages.  Subprime is a type of loan offered at a rate above prime to individuals who do not qualify for prime rate loans. Borrowers typically have low credit ratings that suggest that they have a reasonable chance of defaulting on the debt repayment.

This problem extends far beyond housing foreclosures.  It goes right into the heart of the economic system as these mortgages were transmogrified and sold as Triple A bonds to unsuspecting buyers.  Barrons reported that of the 6,431 subprime residential mortgage backed securities issued in 2006, more than half suffered downgrades within one year.  That was 40 times the historical norm based on the record for 1998 through 2006.  "All of this has landed credit-rating agencies (Moody and Standard & Poor) in the crosshairs of Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission and several states attorneys general, just five years after the industry was taken to the woodshed for its failure to suss out the impending collapse of companies like Enron and Worldcom.8  

The collapse of Enron and Worldcom came before Pluto entered Capricorn.  With Pluto's entrance here, we can expect more financial and government scandals.  This time government will enact regulations that rein in financial institutions.  Borrowing and lending practices will be made to be more transparent (after more problems arise). 

The economy is likely to be on a downhill slope for many years, with the worst case scenario being a 1930s type depression.  Taxpayers will once again revolt against paying higher taxes.  Corporate welfare will be challenged.  The duties and responsibilities of the Federal Reserve Bank will be changed.  And very likely, emerging markets and developing countries will take back their power and their resources from the developed countries. 

          1. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, 2007 The Black Swan.  Random House

2.  Joyce Levine, 1992, A Beginner's Guide to Astrological Interpretation.  Vizualizations

3       Boston Globe, May 8, 2009

4       Elliot Wave International Newsletter, "Wealth Disparity:  The Coming Political Storm" April 25, 2008

5       American Revolution, Wikipedia

6       The Wealth of Nations, Wikipedia. 

7       Uptick Rule, Wikipedia

8       Jonathan R. Laing, Failing Grade, Barron's Online, December 24, 2007

 Joyce Levine is a full-time professional consulting astrologer with 30 years experience.  She serves as a catalyst for her clients to overcome astro/psychological obstacles so that they can achieve their full potential.  Joyce is available for consulting work with individuals, couples, families, and businesses.  Joyce is the Clerk of NCGR, the Clerk of NCGR Professional Astrologers' Association, President of NCGR's Boston Chapter, and Level IV Certified in Consulting.  She has been a certified professional member of the AFA since 1979.  

Joyce is the author of Breakthrough Astrology, Transform Yourself and Your World, A Beginner's Guide to Astrological InterpretationTransformational CDs:  Self-Help Series:  Meditation, Creative Visualization, Releasing Anger, and Contacting Your Guardian Angel; and Integrating Astrological Cycles Series:  Pluto, Neptune, Uranus, and Saturn, and Jupiter.  Along with Grace Morris and Georgia Stathis, Joyce is the author of the Apollon Report, a report that explores social, economic, and planetary trends for coming years.

Want to find out how all of this effects you?  You can set up an appointment with Joyce by calling
617-354-7075 or email

Or Order Joyce's lecture on
Mundane Cycles–How We Can Predict What’s Likely to Happen in the World

Transits of outer planets, particularly Neptune and Pluto, reflect long-term social and economic trends. World events unfold as these planets change signs, interact with one another, and form aspects to the charts of countries and their leaders. This talk looks backward in history to see the correlations and then looks forward to project what’s likely to happen next.

Of particular note is the Pluto in Capricorn cycle from 2008-2024. This transit affects the underpinnings of the world economy. See how the Federal Reserve, World Bank, and World Trade Association are affected.

To order