Planetary Cycles by Andre Barbault
In 2020, the late French astrologer Andre Barbault received quite a bit of posthumous attention once the Covid-19 pandemic set in and an article surfaced he had published several years earlier noting that the years 2020-21 would be particularly difficult for the planet. Barbault made the same prediction in his book published in 2014 on mundane astrology called Planetary Cycles. Not only would there be the triple conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto, but Uranus and Neptune would be in the 45-degree, semi-square aspect, suggesting “a certain imbalance in society.” He could not predict exactly what would occur but suggested “the risk is generalized chaos” and said the Saturn Pluto conjunction was reminiscent of the time in the early 1980s when the AIDS epidemic was “unwisely discounted medically.” He also suggested that the threat of terrorism could take on “global proportions.”
While we think of an aspect between two planets as an isolated event with a beginning, middle and end, Barbault reminds us that any two planets are always in aspect, moving from a tense aspect to a harmonious aspect and so on until the planets conjoin and the cycle begins once again. At the semi-square, there will be “growth issues,” and at the sextile, things will start to take form. The tension of the square brings conflicts about the direction to proceed, and the trine resolves this tension. After the high point of the opposition, a decline sets in, following the same path in reverse of alternating tension and harmony until a kind of “malaise” sets in at the final semi-square, and the old decays to make fertile ground for the new. Thus, every cycle tells a story.
Barbault makes brilliant use of European political history to demonstrate the outer planet cycles. He saw the Jupiter Saturn cycle as the dying of the old order to be replaced by a new breed. As we are looking at a new Jupiter Saturn cycle starting in December 2020, we can speculate if this will lead to a change in administration in the United States as the conjunctions in 1960, 1980 and 2000 heralded.
A Jupiter-Uranus conjunction begins a cycle which can lead to new discoveries or progress, as was the case during the Apollo 11 moon flight, or excessive revolutionary energy, such as during the French Revolution. In January 2021, we will be in the waning square of this cycle which began in 2010 in Aries, which saw the booming of social media and “selfies.” We can imagine a shift in the way we use social media and how it is regulated then. And the “humanitarian” Jupiter Neptune cycle is in the process of completing its waning sextile before beginning anew in Pisces in the spring of 2022, which many are hoping will indicate a return to travel and large mass gatherings. The Jupiter Pluto conjunction has been with us throughout 2020, a cycle which can bring “maximum dissonance.” Jupiter’s excess was shown as the coronavirus spread virulently across the planet, bringing about massive shutdowns and fear, Pluto’s realm. The tensions of this pairing should find more open channels of communication once Jupiter enters Pisces in 2022 and forms a waxing sextile with Pluto in Capricorn.
A Saturn-Uranus cycle can begin with “extremist aspirations” and “ventures that go to the limits.” The conjunction in 1942, for example, coincided with Hitler achieving his peak of power in Europe and the US entering WWII to emerge in a few years as a world power. The conjunction of 1988 signaled not just the establishment of the US as the remaining super power, but the beginnings of globalization. In 2021, we will be in the waning square of this cycle, as the economic and political effects of the pandemic will lead to a realignment of the US role in the world and a questioning of the good of globalization for our planet.
The Saturn-Neptune cycle, Barbault writes, shows us the contrast between those who live with power and prosperity and those who are in poverty and misfortune. Rebellions of the common people seeking freedom and prosperity often play out at Saturn-Neptune conjunctions, with the last conjunction in 1989 signaling the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise of citizens against the repression of the Soviet Union. In 2020-1, we are in the waning semi-square of this cycle as the division between the haves and have-nots is expanding and disillusionment with those in power is high. The next cycle of Saturn and Neptune begins at 1 degree of Aries in 2025, so we can imagine a breaking out of new demands for economic justice and political freedom.
Saturn with Pluto, while often signaling a darker era, “a double star that evokes the death wish of Thanatos,” can also see a time when great wealth is brought from the earth to advance civilization, such as at the beginning of the industrial revolution around 1850. But Saturn and Pluto cycles remind us that “nature herself is brimming with means to mistreat her guests,” which we learned following the conjunctions in the early 1980s with the emergence of AIDS and in 2020 with the breakout of the Covid-19 pandemic. By 2026, Saturn in Aries will be forming the waxing sextile with Pluto in Aquarius, leading to the hope that the environmental conditions enabling novel coronaviruses to creep into our lives will be understood and healed.
Uranus last met Neptune in 1993, being “electricity and magnetism” combined. While global trade had been expanding, we became one world as the Internet and the means of implementing it covered the planet. We are now in the waxing semi-square of this cycle, “growth issues,” with a raw need emerging from the collective for this resource as it is essential to our social and economic well-being while personal interactions and travel are restricted. New inventions and better ways of using the Internet should take form at the waxing sextile of these planets in 2026-27.
The Uranus-Pluto conjunction, combining “a thunderbolt of lightening with the lava from a volcano,” defined the rebellion and transformations of our worldwide culture in 1960s. The waxing square of this cycle from 2008-2011 saw great tension between those who sought new beginnings, such as during the Arab Spring and in the US as our first black president was elected on the promise of “hope and change,” and those who demanded that the status quo be reinforced and maintained. Uranus in Gemini in trine to Pluto in Aquarius in 2020-26 will bring the waxing trine aspect of this cycle and the expectation that these forces will work together to bring about lasting progress.
Neptune and Pluto form the longest cycle, averaging 494 years. Most of us living today were born into the waxing sextile of a cycle which began at the conjunction in 1891-2 in Gemini. The planets furthest from the Sun, these two “queens of inner darkness,” Barbault writes, work in the realm of the subconscious and so create an effect on the culture which is “nebulous.” In 1981, the progress of the past 50 years took on a shadowy aspect, as people saw machines dominating their lives and even becoming vast “killing machines” once the world went to war. In Gemini, though, humans would become airborne and cultures would lose their remoteness from each other. The sextile between these planets began to form in 1942 as the modern person learned to adapt to this “nebulous” world of potential annihilation and unexplained forces found in the cosmos. This sextile can also lead to a haziness, however, a complacency about the gradually growing negative effects of industrialization and overpopulation on the earth’s environment. Confronting this crisis by necessity seems indicated once Neptune pulls away from its sextile with Pluto in the late 2030s and heads towards the waxing square.
Planetary Cycles is not an extensive book in length but an immense book in content, revealing the gift astrology grants us to understand the larger forces of history. It also is a hopeful book, because this long view teaches us that we live our lives in cycles of expansion and contraction, of progress and retreat, of light and dark. Each side of the duality defines and reinforces the other, making life magical, dramatic, and whole.