Before the revolution
Thoughts on Plutoquarius
There are many answers to the question: what time is it? One of them is this: before the revolution. The last time Pluto moved through Aquarius (1777-1798), the world saw the French and American revolutions, the importance of which needs no elaboration. During the transit before that (1532-1553), the Protestant Reformation was underway, sundering Christianity and remodelling the political and spiritual map of Europe. There’s no reason to suspect the coming two decades of “Plutoquarius” will be any less transformative.
In typical understandings of the outer planets, revolution in the “take to the streets” sense is given to Uranus, rather than Pluto. But the fact is that Pluto’s presence in the sign of Aquarius has coincided with the most significant revolutions in Western history of the past 1,000 years. See above.
Pluto’s role is to demolish and build anew, whether its object of focus is a belief system, an individual, a relationship, or an institution. But can we get a deeper insight into Pluto’s process? Into how it deconstructs and rebuilds in order to foment fundamental change? I think we can: by considering its movement through the Egyptian bounds.
This is a subject I’ve looked at before, in my Substack piece from March on Pluto’s transit through the Egyptian bounds of Capricorn. In that piece I showed how the past 14 years of world history can be seen through the lens of the dwarf planet’s traverse through the Egyptian bounds of the sign of the Sea Goat. Everything from the subprime mortgage crisis, to the Trump presidency, to the Arab Spring, to Covid-19, to the war in Ukraine, bears the signature of the bound Pluto occupied at the time it came forth.
So if we want to know how the coming Aquarian revolution will unfold, we can look at Pluto’s previous journey through the five bounds of Aquarius for clues. I’m working on an article right now that will do just that. It will appear in this newsletter, or possibly another astrological publication, before too long. In the meantime, I have some thoughts about our current moment, poised as we are on the brink of Plutoquarius.
Poised on the brink
At the time of writing, Pluto has just stationed direct at 26° of Capricorn in the Egyptian bound of Mars, which comprises the last four degrees of that sign.
Due to its great distance from the Earth, Pluto’s progress through the signs is almost painfully slow, and progresses in “three steps forward, two steps back” fashion, due to its annual retrogrades. Here are the periods Pluto will spend in the bound of Mars:
27 February 2021 - 29 June 2021
3 January 2022 - 23 March 2023
11 June 2023 - 21 January 2024
2 September 2024 - 19 November 2024
The first of these periods coincided almost precisely with Russia beginning its military buildup on the border with Ukraine. The second gave us the invasion: Pluto in the bound of Mars, bringing transformation by means of war.
Today, with Pluto about to make its move into Aquarius, the world order seems poised to break. The West and Russia are at war, even if they’re not firing missiles at each other. Much of the world seems to be waiting for the outcome of the Ukraine conflict to become clearer before choosing a side. Inflation is rampant, stretching states and the people who live in them to their financial limits. Indeed, the whole financial system seems to be teetering on the brink once again. In so many parts of the world, everything seems to be going wrong, all at once.
Revolutionaries yearn for situations of this kind. As Mao Zedong said: “Everything in heaven is in utter chaos. The situation is excellent.”
The Enlightenment of Plutoquarius
But there are intriguing echoes with the past here. If we turn back to the Enlightenment period, we can note that the American Revolutionary War broke out on the 19th of April 1775, with Pluto once again in the Mars bound of Capricorn. In other words, then, as now, a transformational armed conflict broke out just before Pluto moved into Aquarius.
That war would end with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on the 3rd of September, 1783, when Pluto was well into Aquarius (the Venus bound, if you wondered). In the years that followed, the institutions that comprise the United States federal government were established. The success of the American Revolution was to inspire the 1789 French Revolution in turn.
Importantly, there are parallels between pre-revolutionary France and our current era that are well worth noting. There’s a popular image of the French Revolution as being about oppressed peasants fighting back against a greedy and oppressive nobility and monarchy. There’s no doubt that was part of it, but most historians agree another key cause of the revolution was the rise of the bourgeoisie, the city-dwelling class of merchants, manufacturers and professionals who had grown wealthy by the time it came. Karl Marx himself called 1789 a “bourgeois revolution”.
The key to the problem was the contradiction between the formal legal structure of the French state and economic realities. As global trade networks grew and European societies became more commercialised, the bourgeoisie had prospered. Many of its members had become wealthier than members of the aristocracy. Yet according to the legal structure of France’s Ancien Régime, they remained commoners, members of the “Third Estate”. Like France’s peasants, they were subject to taxation and barred from high office—unlike the nobility, who numbered just 147,000 of France’s population of 16 million, were immune from taxes and consumed 20 per cent of France’s national income. Needless to say, this was a source of agitation among the bourgeoisie, who would soon ally with the peasantry to overthrow the old order.
Our modern bourgeoisie
And so to the coming two decades of Plutoquarius. If ordinary people living at the mercy of inflation, corporate exploitation and incompetent government are the peasantry, who are the bourgeoisie? What class of people has risen to great influence and prosperity, yet finds itself at odds with formal power structures in our societies? I would suggest there is a class of person that fits this description: information technologists.
The technology produced in Silicon Valley is without doubt the biggest driver of change in our modern societies. And it has made its captains of industry fabulously wealthy. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are currently the two richest men in the world, according to Bloomberg.
Yet in the United States, the tech industry remains subordinate to the state. For example, the biggest tech companies in the country—Facebook, Twitter et al—have been forced reluctantly to comply with state/media demands for censorship on their platforms. Indeed, the traditional media regularly vilifies tech barons like Musk and Bezos. Rightly so, some will say. But the point isn’t whether or not the critiques are justified. It’s that the traditional media’s job is to reflect the interests of the current order, which tech competes with. (Bezos’s ownership of the Washington Post is an attempt to manage this issue.)
The fight over Elon Musk’s possible takeover of Twitter is emblematic. Media figures on Twitter mostly seem to abhor the prospect of Musk taking over the “bird app”. Yet we don’t read much in the way of critique of the banks and investment firms that currently own Twitter in the New York Times these days.
Again the point here is not: “tech good, banks bad”. It’s just to note the obvious tension between the financial power and influence tech already has, versus where state power still primarily lies. Such tensions tend to resolve themselves sooner or later. They did in the French Revolution—and resolving them is Pluto’s specialty.
The Reformation of Plutoquarius
If we follow Pluto backwards around the zodiac once more, we reach its previous transit through Aquarius, which took place between 1532 and 1553. This, too, was a dramatically transformational period. In the Americas, the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro overthrew the Inca empire. At the very same time, the Protestant Reformation was well underway in Europe, a new form of Christianity spreading across the continent, fracturing its political map and dethroning the Catholic Church as sole theological authority.
But the inciting incident of the Reformation had taken place long before. On the 31st of October 1517, Martin Luther supposedly nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg. The subject of much of Luther’s critique, as its title, Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences, makes clear, was the Catholic Church’s selling of indulgences. The church was taking money from Christians in exchange for supposedly reducing the amount of time they had to spend in purgatory after death. Luther and other reformers like him saw this as corrupt.
At the time Luther published his critique, Pluto was at 2°10’ of Capricorn, within the bound of Mercury. Robert Schmidt, a pioneer in the revival of Hellenistic astrology, concluded that Mercury’s primary functions were to contest and destabilise. There is no doubt the Ninety-five Theses did both of those things. Mercury is also the traditional signifier of trade and markets. And it was the corrupt industry that had grown up around indulgences that Luther’s critique centred around.
The coming Plutoquarian revolution
Let’s once again compare these events to our own era. Pluto entered the Mercury bound of Capricorn on the 26th of January 2008 and left for the final time on the 23rd of December 2011. This was the period of the subprime mortgage crisis, the greatest financial calamity to hit the Western world in decades. Its upshot was that reckless banks that had made bad bets but were too big to fail had to be bailed out at public expense.
The injustice of this did not go unnoticed. Soon afterwards a response appeared on the streets: Occupy Wall Street. And on the 3rd of January 2009, Bitcoin was born when Satoshi Nakamoto mined its genesis block. It contained the following text: “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks”, believed by many to indicate that Bitcoin, too, was an act of dissent against the financial system. Soon after that, the Arab Spring ignited. Pluto, acting through Mercurial means: contesting, destabilising for the sake of transformation.
All this suggests that the themes of our coming Plutoquarian revolution are already written into the public record, if we care to look. We don’t need to wait for a “black swan”, although we can never rule those out. We need to think hard about the imbalances, contradictions and injustices Pluto’s transit through Capricorn has already revealed.
In a sense, the technological part of our coming revolution has already happened. We are already creatures of the web. AI has already progressed to a frightening and exhilarating level of advancement: see the banner image of this article. But the social changes the tech has wrought are yet to remake our societies on a formal level. We still live in nation states, but give ourselves to the network. What comes next? Perhaps the Network State.
I love history. And what I *love* doing in consultations is using powerful traditional techniques to dig into *your* history: unearthing hidden threads of meaning running through your life; helping you into moments of revelation; and giving you clarity about where things are going. My books are currently open, and I’d love to go on this journey with you.