The Jupiter-Saturn Cycle: First-Quarter Quagmire


History comes in chunks. Or, that is, we arrange it into chunks to help us make meaning of it.

After all, that's what we, as intelligent beings, do. We sort through endless streams of undifferentiated crap (experiences, developments, events…), in order to draw meaning from the madness. The exercise instills in us faith and warm feelings. Without it, time stretches outward to infinity in a strict single-file line, no moment viewed as alike to any other moment… nothing to repeat, nor to improve upon… no lessons worth remembering so they can be applied again later. Pointless.

Astrology, thankfully, corrals this otherwise-meaningless one-way lump of time into units of significance—cycles which we may follow all around the track, the next lap succeeding from where the last left off. Each covers the same ground, but differently… like individual athletes run faster or slower, with greater outward force or stronger inner faith, veering closer in or further out when rounding the bends… yet still essentially blazing a familiar course.

Astrology's cyclical thinking doesn't ignore the fact that every moment is stunningly unique. With so many planetary hands on the celestial clocks (and more being discovered all the time), ticking at different rates and traveling through different zodiac signs at key points in their cycles, the astrological climate is never the same twice.

Still, tracing astrological cycles does provide a reliable method for understanding our history in convenient digestible chunks. When we compare one moment with previous historical others falling during the same phase of a planetary cycle, we gain some idea of what to expect. There are thematic similarities. History, as they say, repeats itself—not exactly, but symbolically.

And the Jupiter-Saturn cycle traditionally holds a privileged role in helping astrologers gain a symbolic taste of particular chunks of history.

Until the discovery of Uranus in 1781, Jupiter and Saturn were the two furthest-out planets known by humans. Classical astrologers took their periodic conjunctions, which occur approximately every twenty years, as an important indicator of a new phase in political, cultural and economic history. Jupiter is an expansive force, while Saturn contracts and condenses—when together, they blend vision and form, establishing an overall tone for the zeitgeist (or 'spirit of the times') of the succeeding two decades.

Whenever Jupiter and Saturn conjoin, their cycle begins again, launching us on a reinvigorating trajectory of societal adventure. As a group, we rally behind common concerns (even while political opinions vary and factions diverge). Culture coalesces. Humanity proceeds. In The Astrological History of the World, Marjorie Orr describes the outcome of Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions as 'the birth of a new messiah for the culture, or an upsurge of optimism.' And astrologer Bill Streett correlates the conjunction with 'a pendulum shift of the political orientation of nations.'

The last Jupiter-Saturn conjunction was in May 2000, during the hotly-contested US presidential election… and there's no question a 'pendulum shift' occurred in American politics, as the Clinton years gave way to George W. Bush. (In the same election, former First Lady Hillary Clinton rose to power as a US Senator, helping to foment a polarizing political scene that persists today.) A similar shift occurred at previous conjunctions in 1961 and 1980-81, inaugurating the presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, two mythic leaders who undeniably struck distinctive chords that loomed large in America's collective imagination.

Also in 2000: Russia saw its own monumental transition, as Vladimir Putin ascended to power and recentralized the Kremlin's authority after Boris Yeltsin's reign over the chaotic adjustment to post-Soviet life. In Mexico, Vicente Fox became the first candidate of an opposition party to win the presidency since 1910. A major ruling party switch was also adopted by voters in Taiwan, reasserting its independence and further stressing tensions with mainland China. Slobodan Milosevic fled office in Yugoslavia, ending years of genocide and ethnic instability. And a profoundly historic summit of high-ranking al-Qaeda officials hatched plans for the Oct 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, the terrorist predecessor to the Sep 11 01 attacks in the US. At that same time, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein faced off against the UN, rejecting its proposals for new weapons inspections… and we all know what happened next.

Oh yeah… also around that same time, the US and European economies really started to suck.

I'm giving all this historical background to put the current astro-situation into a little context. As of last week (Dec 16 05), Jupiter and Saturn have moved into a waxing square, one-fourth of the way through the cycle that began in '00. This Jupiter-Saturn square will be in effect through Oct 06, and is equivalent to the 'first quarter Moon' of its societally influential cycle. In other words, we're halfway to the 'full Moon', which occurs when Jupiter and Saturn oppose in 2010-11. (Believe me, that will be a time to remember!)

As such, the political and cultural tone set back in 2000 is reaching a crisis point, now and over the next several months.

The 2000 Jupiter-Saturn conjunction fell at 22 Taurus, an essentially conservative and materially oriented sign… casting issues of money, connection to nature, and cultural traditionalism to the forefront of our current epoch's dialogue. (From this perspective, the phrase 'staying the course' has never been such a lightning rod for public-opinion discord.)

Heightening of tensions in the corresponding cultural debates have coincided with Mars's recent marathon transit through Taurus, including its stationing retrograde at 23 Taurus—within one degree of the '00 conjunction point. And the current Jupiter-Saturn square is only a portion of the larger ongoing grand cross. Throughout 2006, Jupiter also squares Neptune… at the same time Saturn oppose Neptune. Thus, Jupiter and Saturn's square is already inextricably linked to the yes-it-will-be-strongly-influential Saturn-Neptune opposition of '06-'07.

This article has already stretched past a comfortable size, alas, without providing concrete examples of which crises in which cultural debates are now taking shape. Here's where all of us, as a comprehensive social body, come in… to read the various headlines we're bombarded with daily, through the lens of where we are versus where we were in 2000. As informed and aware citizens, this is our job over the next several months.

Think about it, back then, there'd been no 9/11. Saddam was still in power. Who ever heard of al-Qaeda, and who ever thought our president would defy his authority to wiretap our phones? Evolution still held sway in biology classes, and legalized gay marriage was but a fantasy.

Since then, fundamentalist doctrine from all sides—yes, probably even yours, whatever form it takes—has pushed inward, squeezing its adherents unpleasantly toward each other, and is currently crashing in the middle. Tense, sure… but healthy indeed. This is the dialectic in action. We've got to work it out.

First, though, let's look at this chunk—the years 2000 through 2005-2006—and discuss what it means.