In 1297 the Magna Carta and its companion, the Forest Charter, were passed into English statutory law. The passage of these charters, which for the first time granted rights to people who were not royalty, has long been considered the foundation of today's liberal democracies.
During the 1530s - 1550s the Church of England was established to separate England from the papal authority of Rome, turning England Protestant. This was the heart of the Protestant Reformation, established by Martin Luther's rebellion against Catholic tradition based on the declaration that each individual receives God's grace through faith alone.
In September of 1787 the United States constitution was signed, the first Western government to organize around democratic principles guided by the declaration that all people are free by birthright. This was followed in 1789 by France's Declaration of the Rights of Man, establishing a basis for freedom for all citizens. Its companion, the Declaration of the Rights of Woman, was published in 1791. This was the heart of the Enlightenment, when kings and popes were stripped of their traditional autocratic powers, and superstition became superseded by science.
All of these historical periods refer to eras of revolutionary change that resulted in greater freedoms for common people. In each case, power traditionally concentrated at the top was theretofore distributed more evenly throughout the populace.
And each period occurred during a transit of Pluto through Aquarius.
A terse translation of Pluto (power) in Aquarius (humanity) is "power to the people". But what power, and to which people? Clearly, none of the events mentioned above resulted in anything close to an ideal society. Gross inequities across race, class, gender, and religion continue to this day. Yet we can clearly see that there is a progression of general social mobility across the centuries. We are all inheritors of the rights established from the Magna Carta to the U.S. Constitution, both of which were great and unlikely innovations of their time and have influenced the shape of political institutions around the world.
Pluto in Aquarius is an apt symbol for these events because it symbolizes the dissemination of power throughout a populace. Every time Pluto transits through Aquarius we see an increase in the enlightenment of sociopolitical policy grounded in values of individual liberty built upon what came before.
Pluto enters Aquarius again this year, on March 23rd, 2023, the first time since 1798. It will reverse course and regress into Capricorn in June, then will enter Aquarius again in January 2024 and transit there until 2044.
Aquarius symbolizes distribution of energy. Biologically it is correlated to the circulatory system, while politically it represents democratic values, where political power is distributed throughout the governed populace. Aquarius is also linked with rebellions against established order, especially when that order is too concentrated, too imperial. When sparked by a powerful catalyst it calls to mind great crowds animated by a collective urge, all shouting together "Vive la Révolution!" Whether the revolution succeeds or not will depend largely on attendance to the oft-dismissed ruling planet of Aquarius: Saturn.
Saturn represents structure, order, and foundation. At best, a revolution will peter out and die if it is not well organized. Far worse, if it does not incorporate what has been learned from the old order, it will turn into just another tyrannical dictatorship. The great English poet William Blake described this dynamic beautifully in his mythology of Orc and Urizen. Orc, the embodiment of youthful and rebellious fire, was constantly at war with Urizen, the entrenched, old, cold, and blind lawgiver. Blake's most insightful point was that both Orc and Urizen need each other, and indeed create each other in a constant regenerative cycle. Orc, the passionate rebel, defeats Urizen, only to then become Urizen, who, through his tyranny, creates another Orc.
To break this cycle, we must integrate the fire of youth and rebellion with the dispassionate wisdom of experience and eldership. This is precisely the opportunity granted to us by Pluto in Aquarius. Harnessed correctly, the raw energy of Pluto can be applied to the laws and governance of Aquarius, as well as to its revolutionary spirit, technological innovation, and attendance to necessary social reforms.
Aquarius is commonly, and correctly, linked with individuality, independence, and personal freedom. But culturally we suffer from a rather primitive conception of these terms. We are given the idea that the ideal of freedom means the ability to do whatever we want, and that the greater the number of choices before us the more free we are. The rugged individualist of American cowboy mythology typifies this unreflected view of personal liberation. It is one of the ways that the passion of Orc rots into the stilted tyranny of Urizen.
The modern philosopher Alan Watts put it best: "Individuality and uniqueness do not arise from independence, they arise from being related." This is a particularly Aquarian statement in that it recognizes that true individuality can only exist in the context of what astrologer Alan Oken referred to as "right human relationship." When we isolate ourselves and think ourselves free by our mere right to choose, we end up stuck in infantile emotional values. In such a state we remain disconnected from the needs of humanity, which include our own, and we feel rejected, alienated, and un-awakened. When we are too independent we are in fact less free, because we are not encouraged to the work of unshackling the chains of our personal and cultural conditioning.
But when we engage with the human drama around us, embracing the difficult, uncertain, choice-inhibiting world of human struggle, our false images of who we are begin to fall away. True to Saturn's influence, in community we are tested and frustrated, challenged by human needs and failures and the recognition that we too are needful and fallible. These challenges force us to deepen into our own humanity, learning that by embracing our communities we are nurtured in return by a singularly precious human need — inclusion.
As Carl Jung wrote: "One cannot individuate without being with other human beings...one only can individuate with or against something or somebody. Being an individual is always a link in a chain."
As we enter this new period of Pluto through Aquarius we will encounter events that will show us how linked we truly are. With hope we might even see new social movements, political champions, and reformed laws that will support the integration of our collective humanity. Indeed, when Pluto re-enters Aquarius in 2024, it is accompanied by a trine with Uranus in Gemini, a strongly auspicious astrological signature that suggests an Aquarian-style uplifting of humanity through political reform and technological advances driven by individuals who are awakening in recognition of our inherent connectedness.