Astro Journal

The Uranus Neptune Cycle and the Revolution of Culture and Religion

Last time we explored the Neptune Pluto cycle and how civilisations are transformed. In this post we’ll delve into the Uranus Neptune cycle which lasts about 172 years. The current cycle began in 1993 and we’re now approaching the sextile which runs from 2025 – 2027. It enters a wide orb from 2022 and then slowly moves closer until 2025, fading out by about 2029. There are several exact alignments along the way. Here are the basic dates for your diary:

  • August 2025
  • July 2026
  • January and June 2027

Strap in for another long one…! ☕️

The Uranus Neptune cycle represents the disruption and transformation of the visions and ideals that underpin culture. The conjunctions move through the zodiac in roughly 16-degree steps, so each sign gets about 2 conjunctions each. This creates a pattern of change through every archetype of the collective consciousness as the cycles unfold.

Uranus represents the archetype of revolution and freedom and is associated with unexpected breakdowns and breakthroughs and innovative ideas. Neptune represents the archetype of transcendence and idealism and is associated with collective dreams, imagination, spirituality, and inspiration.

Uranus awakens the collective imagination of Neptune, filling it with new ideas and possibilities which then have to be grounded into something physical and practical. Neptune spiritualises Uranus and dissolves long-standing ideas and structures that are ready for change. This allows new ideas to come through that transform society over time.

According to Richard Tarnas in Cosmos and Psyche, Uranus Neptune cycles coincide with:

  • Cultural renaissances and shifts in the cultural artistic imagination
  • Widespread spiritual awakenings and the birth of new religious movements
  • Rebirths of idealism and utopian social visions and movements
  • New philosophical perspectives and metaphysics
  • New cosmologies and breakthroughs in scientific understanding
  • Collective changes in the psychological understanding of the psyche

It all sounds very exciting but these periods can also create widespread spiritual, philosophical and political confusion and disorientation. This is because it undermines our assumptions about reality and dissolves established structures of belief. We also become more susceptible to mass entrancements and crazy ideas that sweep through the collective.

Neptune can trigger the idealisation of technology and the intellect, making us believe in our own genius – that we’ve found the solution to all our problems and can finally achieve liberation from nature and drudgery. But at the next turn of the cycle, we discover it was just a dream. Uranus upends our plans and frees us from our illusions.

To get a feel for how this cycle works, let’s explore some of the history. The dates below refer to the closest alignments of the planets but you can add an orb of influence of a few years either side of these dates.

Buddha, Lao Tzu and Confucius hang out

We start with the Axial Age conjunction that we’ve mentioned before, when all three outer planets were in Taurus. The Uranus Neptune conjunction in 576 – 575 BCE happened just after the Neptune Pluto alignment in 578 BCE and Uranus Pluto in 577 – 576 BCE. This was a key moment that planted the seeds of many cultures and civilisations to come.

This period laid the foundation for the philosophy and beliefs of the West in the teachings of Pythagoras and the pre-Socratics, as well as the prophesies of Jeremiah and the early Hebrew Bible. Over in India and China, the teachings of the Buddha, Lao Tzu and Confucius were also transforming those cultures.

By the time of the next conjunction in 404 BCE in Gemini, Socrates was teaching in Athens and annoying the guys in charge. After his death in 399 BCE, his star pupil, Plato, began to write down his dialogues, giving birth to Platonism which would go on to influence the development of Christianity much later on.

Christianity was born during the cycle that started in 62 – 61 BCE in Cancer when the Roman Republic was experimenting with its First Triumvirate of power sharing. It was during the opposition in 23 – 26 CE that Jesus was teaching and spreading his radical ideas, along with other gnostic teachers and sects.

The small cult of Christianity grew slowly through the following cycle but didn’t take root until the cycle after that which started in 281 – 282 in Leo. This cycle saw the rise of Constantine the Great who became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire in 324 during the square of 321 – 324. He was the first emperor to convert to Christianity and created the foundation of Christian Europe, overseeing the first Council of Nicaea in 325.

By the time of the waning square in 407 – 409, the Roman Empire was in trouble and Rome was destroyed by the Visigoths in 410. This was when St Augustine wrote The City of God in defence of Christianity and established the cornerstone of Western thought and Christian theology.

Another great religion was founded at the conjunction in 623 – 624 in Virgo. This was when Mohammad was dictating the Quran, starting in 610, and recording the revelations of Islam. In 622 he travelled to Medina where the rights and responsibilities of believers were established for the whole community.

La Primavera by Botticelli, 1482

Fast forward to the 15th century and the sextile of the Neptune Pluto cycle which coincided with the Uranus Neptune conjunction in 1478 – 79 in Scorpio. This cycle included the Renaissance and the Reformation which began to erode the power of the Catholic Church. Many artists were producing their greatest works during this time, such as Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli. There was also a huge revival of esoteric knowledge and ancient wisdom and the early roots of the rise of individuality and humanism.

The Italian scholar, Catholic priest and astrologer Marsilio Ficino was doing his bit to spread hermetic ideas and revive Neoplatonism. In 1474 he wrote his epic treatise on the immortality of the soul, Theologia Platonica, and translated the complete works of Plato into Latin, which was published in 1484. Writing in 1492, he proclaimed:

“This century, like a golden age, has restored to light the liberal arts, which were almost extinct: grammar, poetry, rhetoric, painting, sculpture, architecture, music … this century appears to have perfected astrology.”

The next cycle started with the conjunction in 1650 in Sagittarius, coinciding with the Neptune Pluto opposition. This was a revolutionary time, especially in Britain and France where both nations were struggling with new ideas about the monarchy and who should be in charge.

Britain was tearing itself apart in the English Civil War in a fight between the Royalist Cavaliers and the Puritan Roundheads. Charles I was beheaded in 1649, bringing an end to the monarchy (for a bit) and the start of rule by the aristocracy instead. Meanwhile in France, Louis XIV finally overcame the civil wars of the Fronde to be coronated as the Sun King in 1654.

This cycle also saw the rise of the scientific revolution and the spread of new philosophical ideas in the Age of Enlightenment. As the cycle unfolded, these ideas would take root and prepare the ground for changes in future cycles. There was a huge outpouring of rationalist and humanist ideas, and the rise of the Romantic movement which criticised industrialisation and the slave trade.

The arts, music and architecture were in the complex and ornate Baroque style, including a craze for formal gardens, such as those at the Palace of Versailles. Composers included JS Bach, Vivaldi and Handel. But at the peak of the cycle, around the opposition in 1735, music began to evolve into the Classical form with the works of Haydn and Mozart. Beethoven’s work straddles this cycle and the next as his later works moved into the Romantic style of the 19th century.

As this cycle passed its peak, revolution returned around the waning square in 1781, along with the Neptune Pluto trine, which saw the American War of Independence and later the French Revolution. The Industrial revolution was gearing up and the Luddites were smashing up looms in factories in 1811-16, as the next conjunction grew closer.

William Blake trolls Newton

The most recent complete Uranus Neptune cycle started in 1821 in the 19th century and the Victorian era with its imperialist colonialist mindset. There’s a big shift at the opposition when we entered the 20th century and all the old empires started to go into meltdown. The pace of change accelerated as the cycle unfolded, driven by developments in technology.

Around the conjunction in 1821 the industrial revolution entered the Machine Age and new ideas of capitalism, rationality, and individualism all took off. As the railways and factories spread, Romanticism continued to push back against the rise of the machines.

Music and the arts developed into the Romantic style, becoming more emotional and impressionistic. Examples include the paintings of Constable, Goya, and Turner, the poetry of Shelly, Byron and Wordsworth, and the music of Schubert, Schumann, and Beethoven. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony was first performed in 1824.

Other key works include: Frankenstein by Mary Shelly (the first sci-fi novel), and Confessions of an Opium Eater by Thomas De Quincey. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, also had his first vision in 1820, and another in 1823, and published the Book of Mormon in 1830.

The sextile in 1853 – 56 coincided with the first World Fair: the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in London in 1851 – a showcase for industry, technology and science. Meanwhile, economics was undergoing a revolution after The Communist Manifesto was published in 1848. Both Marx and Engels were born during the 1821 conjunction, so this cycle marks the birth of Communism – a new religion that claims not to be a religion.

Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, launching another new ‘religion’: evolution and Darwinism. Auguste Comte founded sociology when he defined the positivist laws of social evolution. Positivismrelies only on what can be verified scientifically or worked out logically, laying the groundwork for the development of reductionist materialism.

The square in 1868 – 70 happened just after the American Civil War ended and coincided with the Uranus Pluto sextile. Britain was consolidating its empire and the Steam Age was picking up, erm, steam. Communications were speeding up with the telegraph, and early forerunners of film were beginning to spread, such as the zoetrope.

Music and art were still firmly in the Romantic camp. Key works include: Das Kapital by Marx, The Birth of Tragedy by Nietzsche, and Erewhon by Samuel Butler, about utopian society and machine consciousness. This period also saw early experiments in science fiction with the work of Jules Verne in Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

By the Water by Renoir c.1880

The trine in 1880 – 83 saw the continued growth of the British Empire and the spread of imperialism as Queen Victoria became the empress of India in 1876. This period marked the height of Victorian culture and saw many breakthroughs in technology and the use of electricity. Francis Galton came up with the concept of eugenics in 1883, and Nietzsche published Thus Spoke Zarathustra the same year, in which he announced the death of God and the birth of nihilism.

As the peak of the cycle drew near, the quincunx (1892-95) brought cinema a step closer with developments in celluloid and peephole viewers. But the Lumiere brothers were the first to project short films onto a screen, starting in 1895.

The opposition in 1907 – 9 marked the turn of the century and a time of revolution around the world. It overlapped by orb with the Uranus Pluto opposition, exact in 1901-2, which is why so much changed during this period. There was an enormous explosion of new ideas and breakthroughs in science and technology with the spread of cars, planes, telephones and movies.

The scientific breakthroughs were revolutionary. Einstein wrote four papers in 1905, including his special theory of relativity and equation E=MC², which turned physics upside down and transformed our view of reality and the cosmos. Max Planck founded quantum theory, and Marie Curie discovered radium and the process of radioactivity.

Freud qualified as a doctor under the trine in 1881, but by this time he was busy inventing psychoanalysis, and published On Dreams in 1901, and Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality in 1905. Jung was one of Freud’s proteges in the early 1900s, but in 1912 he published Psychology of the Unconscious, which took a different view and triggered a split with Freud. Not long after this he had a breakdown and started work on his Black Books which became the foundation for his later work on archetypes and the collective unconscious.

The arts were transforming into Modernism and Expressionism, an early example is The Scream by Edvard Munch from 1893, and Monet’s Water Lilies sequence starting in 1899. But the official birth of modern art came in 1907 with Picasso’s cubist painting The Ladies of Avignon. Modernism also seeped into classical music with the works of Schonberg and Stravinsky, whose The Rite of Spring caused a ruckus in 1913.

The First World War did its damage and the old Victorian worldview crumbled. Music and the arts responded with new forms and styles exploring the uncertainty and madness. As the opposition faded into the quincunx (1923-27), Surrealism developed out of Dadaism in 1924, and the Jazz Age was starting to swing. The talkies arrived at the cinema and writers were experimenting with new styles, such as James Joyce’s Ulysses and TS Eliot’s The Waste Landin 1922, and The Trial by Franz Kafka in 1925 (a man for our time 😕).

The Persistence of Memory by Dali, 1931

But the craziness wasn’t over and the trine in 1939 – 43 coincided with the Second World War, along with a Saturn Pluto square. This marked the rise of postmodernism and the concept of the absurd, as described by Camus in The Myth of Sisyphus in 1942. A good example is The Third Policemen by Flann O’Brien, which was written in 1939 but not published until 1967 during the sextile.

The square in 1954 – 56 happened at the same time as the Neptune Pluto sextile during the start of the Cold War. Life was getting more complicated, art was getting more abstract, and new technology brought TV and rock ‘n’ roll. Drugs were doing the rounds and Eastern mysticism was spreading to the West, opening minds and perspectives.

Jung was producing his most advanced ideas in works such as Aion, Mysterium Coniunctionis, and Answer to Job. Aldous Huxley published his experiences with drugs in The Doors of Perception in 1954, and Colin Wilson published The Outsider in 1956 about existentialism.

Modernism continued to develop into Minimalism and postmodernism really took off, along with absurdist literature, magic realism and the Beat Generation. Key works include Howl by Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, as well as Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot. Jazz evolved into Cool, with Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, but rock music was taking over and Elvis had entered the building.

The sextile in 1966 – 67 coincided with the Uranus Pluto conjunction marking a major revolutionary turning point and a radical transformation of culture. There was a rise in civil rights and protest movements and many people were waking up. But just as many were dropping out and experimenting with LSD.

Key works include: The Medium is the Message by Marshall McLuhan, The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick.

Obviously, there were similar transformations happening in other parts of the world too and a lot more can be said about the whole thing. You can explore on the Historical Ephemeris site here. Or visit the Historical Astrology site for more on the Uranus Neptune cycle here. I also recommend Cosmos and Psyche by Richard Tarnas.

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living by Hirst, 1991

Finally, we come to the current cycle which runs from 1993 – 2165. We’re still close to the start of this cycle so who knows where we’ll end up. Things probably won’t develop in the ways we’re imagining now. Here are the dates for the first half of the cycle:

  • Conjunction in 1993 at 18-19 Capricorn
  • Sextile in 2025 – 2027
  • Square in 2039 – 2041
  • Trine in 2051 – 2053
  • Opposition in 2078 – 2081

This cycle marks the arrival of the Electronic Age or the Information Age. It got started just as the 20th century was coming to an end and everything was getting a lot more complicated. The world was freaking out about the Millennium bug, which did nothing, and the internet still had its training wheels on.

The conjunction in 1993 faded in from the late 1980s and coincided with the Saturn Neptune conjunction in Capricorn in 1989. This period saw the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the end of apartheid in South Africa. The European Union was formed in 1993, and the economies of China and India were starting to grow.

Old political structures crumbled and the people were swept along on a wave of optimism that said the future would be different. The 21st century was coming and everything would get better. Globalism was spreading corporate culture and neoliberalism around the world, and multiculturalism was the new buzzword.

But the real move was towards homogenisation and mass media. This globalised culture was to be delivered via the rising tide of digital technology, mobile phones and the internet. Initially accessed via a modem using the old telephone network, the internet connected friends around the world and allowed them to share information in chat rooms and virtual worlds.

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990 and began to beam images from space that transformed our view of the cosmos. Breakthroughs in DNA and genetics eventually led to the creation of the first cloned animal, Dolly the sheep, in 1997 at the Jupiter Uranus conjunction. And celluloid dinosaurs roamed Jurassic Park thanks to groundbreaking use of CGI in 1993. 🦖

Postmodernism was spreading rapidly and deconstructing multiple areas, including philosophy, linguistics, economics, and the arts. Belief in universal ideas such as objective reality, morality and truth, was imploding and leaving behind confusion and a cultural void.

But for others, this period represented a spiritual renaissance and a huge burst of interest in esoteric religions, astrology, paganism, and goddess worship. The New Age finally went mainstream, having started with Theosophy during the square in 1875, and got mixed up with the growth in psychedelics and UFO culture – The X-Files started in 1993.

Drugs were also influencing music with the rise of raves fuelled by MDMA, or ecstasy, and this spilled over into other forms of culture too. Irvin Welsh’s Trainspotting (about heroin) was published in 1993 and the film followed in 1996.

For more on this period, read this excellent archived article on Astro-Noetics.

I want to believe…

The coming sextile will be formed between Uranus in Gemini and Neptune in Aries. Pluto will also sextile Neptune, and trine Uranus emphasising deep evolutionary changes. Saturn will provide some grounding and a reality check when he conjuncts Neptune in 2026, and will also sextile Uranus and Pluto. More on those alignments at the above links.

This cycle started with a conjunction in Capricorn which has created a tendency to idealise capitalism and corporations, aka The System. The internet has grown and conquered the world, and science has morphed into the new religion of scientism. Technology that could be liberating has been turned into another way to control and plunder – the same old story.

This sextile represents an opportunity to reassess how we use technology and develop a more conscious approach. The semi-square in 2017 – 19 revealed the environmental costs of the 4th Industrial Revolution, as well as the level of our dependency on technology.

We’ve been chasing the carrot of technology without really thinking it through – it’s exciting and shiny! – and don’t appear to be heeding the warnings. What is technology doing to the culture? What is it doing to creativity? What is it doing to our humanity?

Science and technology aren’t problems in themselves. They’ve made many people’s lives much easier and it’s important not to project our own fears and shadow onto what they represent. If we have a problem with technology, we need to look inwards to understand why.

Technology and the materialist science that underpins it, reflects our cultural view of reality. It reveals our disconnection from the cosmos and our lack of real human values grounded in our bodily experience of being alive. As Frank Black says in an episode of Millennium:

“I cannot feel anything through those wires.”

Will we continue to allow ourselves to be ruled by technology (and the people who control it)? Or will we change? If we go the way technology appears to be pushing us, we’ll erase ourselves and replace humanity with machines – a Borg-like hive mind governed by groupthink and mindless collectivity.

What’s needed is a transformation of consciousness and that can’t be imposed from the outside. It has to come from within. Only then can we create a globally connected community of individuals that embraces diversity and difference – and life.

In an old article on astro.com, Bill Herbst calls Uranus Neptune the ‘magical technology’ cycle but says:

“the 2020s will likely be a difficult time for the techno dreamers.”

This is because we’ve entered the crescent phase of the cycle which represents a time to confront doubts and difficulties, and perhaps come back to reality with a bump. Perhaps environmental pressures will force us to change our approach. Or technological failures, or economic collapse, or… who knows…

The real test will come at the square in 2039 when any problems that haven’t been resolved could erupt into a crisis – we might expect rumblings as it fades in through the 2030s.

The good news is that the next conjunction will happen in 2165 in Aquarius so perhaps this will be the start of the Age of Aquarius… Something to look forward to! 😀

Next time we’ll explore the alignment of Uranus and Pluto

More 2020s Transits

Images: Sages; Botticelli; Blake; Renoir; Shark

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