Neptune Sextile Pluto

by Bob Markransky

The planets Neptune and Pluto entered orb of a sextile (* = 60 degrees apart) aspect in the mid-1940's; and they will remain there until the 2030's. Normally aspects between Neptune and Pluto are within orb for only a dozen or so years at a time. However, Pluto is presently at a fast place in its orbit so that it is moving at about the same speed as Neptune, at the same time that the two planets are roughly 60 degrees apart, so they are both in the sextile pattern for about a century. Thus, there will come a moment in time when there is no one on earth who doesn't have Neptune and Pluto sextile in their natal horoscope. What does this mean?

In the first place, where aspects between the faster, inner planets symbolize relationships and roles to be played in everyday life; the aspects of the slower, outer planets - of which Neptune and Pluto are the slowest - symbolize people's adaptation to the social order of their times. Aspects of slow planets refer to the assumptions, activities, and beliefs which identify people with their generation, and which change but slowly over the course of a lifetime.

Neptune is the planet of intuition and instinct, the receptor for all the impressions that hover just at the fringes of rational consciousness. It is the planet of belief, since anything which Neptune intuits has the appearance of truth (you believe what your intuition tells you).

Pluto is the planet of analysis and discrimination, the sense of what is fit, just, and meet - in a word, the morality. If Neptune deludes because it makes its beliefs seems true, Pluto obsesses because it makes its judgments seem right.

Aspects and Generations

Aspects between Neptune and Pluto produce generations for whom belief must be the instrument of morality. They are rather more idealistic and even revolutionary in pursuing their particular visions of utopia than are generations lacking Neptune-Pluto aspects, who basically just conform to the social codes instituted by the preceding Neptune-Pluto aspect generation. These generations are not necessarily more moral or spiritual than generations lacking Neptune-Pluto contacts, but they are more self-consciously moral and spiritual. They need to believe that the human race is progressing towards a goal, and that there is something which each individual must do in order to help it along. They demand that the social contract reflect and uphold universal principles. They feel a need to justify their actions before the throne of history. They need to believe that they were chosen, willy-nilly, to bring light to mankind.

The "hard" aspects between Neptune and Pluto (the conjunction, square, and opposition) tend to produce generations which are stern, disciplined, and controlled. People born under these aspects are constrained by their society to repress their own personal desires for the sake of the common weal. On the other hand, the "soft" aspects between Neptune and Pluto (the sextile and trine) produce generations of individualists, for whom the only purpose society serves is to facilitate the happiness of its individual members.

The generation born with Neptune square Pluto (1809-1825) needed to believe in the better instincts of the great mass of humanity. The statesmen of this generation brought about the sweeping destruction of old social orders and class distinctions and the reorganization of society along vaster and more inclusive lines. Bismarck in Germany and Cavour in Italy welded clusters of small states into unified nations. Lincoln freed the slaves in America, and Alexander II emancipated the serfs in Russia.

The current of these times was toward unification, broadening the social contract to bring more and more people into the governing process. In the vanguard were the suffragists Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucy Stone; and on the more violent and revolutionary side, Marx, Engels and Bakunin. There was an intellectual tendency to view humanity en masse and to exalt the poor and downtrodden. Of the few notable painters of this generation, Courbet and Millet stand out with their realistic paintings of workers and peasants.

The literature of this generation also exhibited great compassion for the suffering of the common man in a world indifferent to him. The writing of Dickens, Melville, Dostoevsky, Poe, and the Brontes tended to be dramatic, with an undercurrent of violence and an obsession with questions of morality and immorality. The sense of the time was that the cosmos, if not actually hostile, was at least disinterested in the fate of humanity. The theories of Darwin, Mendel, and Pasteur posited mechanistic models of nature which implied that the human condition was the product of largely impersonal forces.

The square aspect is forever trying to make sense out of the senseless and to rationalize the irrational. Dr. Marc Edmund Jones' keyword for the square is CONSTRUCTION. With Neptune square Pluto, objective, analytical mind was ever at war with intuition, so this generation - the generation of Queen Victoria - never really could trust its own personal instincts. Its morality had to be certified by the experience of humanity as a whole. Its only hope was that the entire human race would accept the responsibility for guiding its collective destiny.

The generation born with Neptune conjunct Pluto (1886-1898) needed to believe in the inspiration of the outstanding personality. Statesmanship in this generation often approached Caesar-worship. Its highly charismatic leaders governed by sheer force of personality, coupled with direct and absolute methods: Hitler, Mao, Franco, de Gaulle, Peron, and Tito are examples. When each leader passed on, his work was largely dismantled by his successors.

The cult of personality even pervaded the sciences. The theories of Immanuel Velikovsky, Norbert Weiner, Wilhelm Reich, and T.D. Lysenko created storms of controversy with rabid partisans and opponents. Rather than building onto existing bodies of knowledge, the thinkers of this generation were lone visionaries off on their own personal tangents and out of the scientific mainstream.

The conjunction is the most subjective of aspects, and the Neptune conjunct Pluto generation took more stock in feelings than in reason or logic. The writers of this generation produced a highly subjective and stylized body of literature. Brecht, Faulkner, O'Neill and Wilder had intensely introspective and personalized slants on life, and their writing and characters tended to be artless and amoral.

Artless and amoral is also a good description of the art and morals of the Dadaist and Surrealist painters. The art of Duchamps, Arp, de Chirico, Ernst, Chagall, Miro was highly personal and idiosyncratic, a revolt against conventional aesthetic sensibilities and a glorification of unbridled imagination.

The Neptune-Pluto conjunction tended to bring out the delusional side of Neptune and the obsessive side of Pluto because there was no separation of analytical mind from intuition, so anything imaginable was justifiable, and conscience could not be brought in as an outside check upon morality. Dr. Jones' keyword for the conjunction aspect is ACTIVITY: this generation was too often eager to destroy all that had gone before in the name of a fanatical search for ideological purity. It was a generation of extremists with a narrow and intense focus, and it centered its hopes in certain personalities of severe morals and vivid imagination. It needed to believe in the inspiration of its prophets.

The Generation of Neptune sextile Pluto

The previous generation born with Neptune sextile Pluto (l837-1851) needed to believe in the individual, and in a cosmos both sympathetic and infinitely pliable. It believed that it was the function of the state to serve the individual rather than vice versa, and as a result its statesmen were neither great innovators nor inspired leaders. Clemenceau, Cleveland, Hindenburg, McKinley were noted for their sterile conservatism and their defense of profit and privilege.

This generation was less interested in ultimate ends and meanings than in ways of getting things done. It loved to tinker, and it produced the great experimenters Bell, Edison and Burbank. Its scientists were not so much theoreticians as experimentalists: Michelson, Cantor, Pavlov, Krafft-Ebing made great contributions to the methodologies of their respective disciplines but they are most notable for the questions which their new techniques stirred up, but left unanswered.

Even the literature of this generation was marked by technical refinement and scientific precision. Zola, Henry James, Strindberg, Maupassant wrote about human behavior from the standpoint of objective psychology, reporting even life's sordid and seamy side with clinical detachment.

In art Neptune sextile Pluto represents technique rather than content, such as the transient light effects of the Impressionists Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin; or in an earlier Neptune sextile Pluto generation, the balance and geometrical perfection of High Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian. Impressionism is considered the beginning of modernism in art because these painters were the first to regard the act of painting as a technical process more important than an accurate depiction of subject matter.

Neptune sextile Pluto was usually more interested in form than in substance. It believed that form was substance, that technique was an end in itself. It loved to objectively analyze intuitive impressions, to give its instinctive feelings a whirl. The sextile is the most pragmatic and opportunistic of the aspects, and with Neptune sextile Pluto, anything realizable was justifiable: whatever seemed to work was considered good. This generation regarded the world as a laboratory in which to tinker, and it identified human progress with efficiency and technical advancement.

For the most part, it was. The previous Neptune sextile Pluto generation came of age in the 1860s through 1880s, a time of unprecedented economic and social expansion. In Europe, imperialism was the vogue, and vast colonial empires were carved out of Africa and Asia. In America, the West was won. Everywhere western technological civilization gained undisputed hegemony over native peoples and cultures. Not only did this civilization spread out, it also began to assume a more and more complex character.

The Industrial Revolution was in full swing in the advanced nations, especially in America. In the words of historians Nevins and Commager in A Pocket History of the US. (Washington Square Press, 1969), "No other generation in American history witnessed changes as swift or as revolutionary as those which transformed the rural republic of Lincoln and Lee into the urban industrial empire of McKinley and Roosevelt." The telegraph and rail networks put every part of the country into communication with every other part, facilitating the rapid movement of information, raw materials manufactured goods and food stuffs.

Great opportunities opened up, and great fortunes were made. Morality was a matter of individual conscience, and often great wealth was taken to be the outward sign of great spiritual worth. This was the era of the robber barons Rockefeller, Morgan, Frick, Hill and of the trusts and monopolies. Big Business was born and it quickly seized the reins of power in America. Labor unions under leaders such as Gompers and Powderly arose as a counterbalance to the power of business combinations. For the first time, national and international factors were more important to the average person than local conditions.

Burgeoning industry tore at the earth and its resources with the same abandon with which it exploited labor. Pollution began to be recognized as a widespread problem, and wilderness disappeared at a fantastic rate before the onslaught of loggers, homesteaders, miners and railroaders. American civilization in the late 19th Century exhibited a limitless optimism predicated upon a system of limitless expansion.

Pragmatism Rules

All generations born with Neptune Sextile Pluto are particularly pragmatic and utilitarian; their watchword is practicality - "if it works, do it!" (and don't worry about traditional wisdom). Neptune Sextile Pluto, like all sextiles, is poised to seize opportunities as they arise. Dr. Jones' keyword for the sextile aspect is PRODUCTION. Sextiles are technocratic rather than philosophical, pragmatic rather than theoretical. In contrast to the other aspects between Neptune and Pluto, the sextile generations produce few exceptional statesmen or social leaders because the emphasis here is on individual interpretations rather than reliance on societal fiat. These generations are not particularly interested in doing what they're told unless they can see how their own needs are directly served thereby, and they tend to be suspicious of leaders and authority. Thus in religion they tend towards individualism, such as the "priesthood of all believers" of Luther and Zwingli in an earlier Neptune sextile Pluto generation, which R.H. Tawney (in Religion and the Rise of Capitalism) characterized as "the triumph of the commercial spirit over the traditional social ethics of Christendom. If the reformer did not explicitly teach a conscienceless individualism, individualism was, at least, the natural corollary of their teaching."

If the sextile resembles Neptune conjunct Pluto in its "end justifies the means" amorality, it also inclines to the Neptune trine Pluto faith in common sense standards of justice and fair play. The two faces of Neptune sextile Pluto are exemplified in an earlier generation by Niccolo Machiavelli (amoral practicality) on the one hand, and Sir Thomas Moore (Utopian Humanism) on the other. In Neptune sextile Pluto generations each individual is expected to come up with his or her own answers, rather than to rely on experts or interpreters to intercede for them; to find purpose and meaning for themselves within the bounds of natural courtesy and respect for other individuals.

The manner in which each individual Neptune sextile Pluto native adapts him or herself to their generation's ideal of taking personal responsibility for making one's own choices is shown by the value of the Neptune sextile Pluto aspect in their birth horoscope. The value is simply the orb of inexactitude: if Neptune and Pluto are within one degree of exact sextile, then the value is one; if greater than one and less than or equal to two degrees from exactitude, the value is two, and so on. This technique was devised by Dr. Marc Edmund Jones in his Lecture - Lesson on Pythagorean Astrology, Sabian Publishing, 1929, from which the keywords for the aspects were also taken.

DR. JONES' KEYWORDS FOR THE VALUES (Aspect Orbs)

1= EMPHASIS (Doing)
2 = CHANGE (Thinking)
3 = GROWTH (Relating)
4 = HABIT (Limitation)
5 = EXPRESSION (Skill)
6 = EXPANSION (Self-enlargement)

1. EMPHASIS (Doing). All aspects within one degree of exactitude reveal their meaning in its purest, knee-jerk-responsive form - "as near impersonal as it is possible for them to be and yet be individual experiences." Thus natives with Neptune sextile Pluto within one degree of exactness are the most compulsively pragmatic and individualistic - not in the sense of being rebellious or flaunting their independence of spirit, but rather they are self-contained lone wolves. They are idealists off on their own tangents, hence they are not especially successful in mundane affairs unless the rest of the chart is dynamic. They have considerable self-discipline, are self motivated and self-starting, and are conscientious and dedicated. On the negative side they lack perspective: they are too focused on the path beneath their feet and easily become mired in their thinking. Their individualism manifests as a naive doggedness and scrupulosity which inspires others with its unassuming honesty and integrity. Examples: Dan Aykroyd, Mikhail Baryishnikov, John Belushi, Alice Cooper, Farrah Fawcett, Bill Gates, Michael Jackson, Magic Johnson, Jay Leno, Madonna, Maria Shriver, Stevie Wonder.

2. CHANGE (Thinking). All aspects between one and two degrees of exactness indicate flexibility, the ability to adapt oneself to changing conditions - "universals are only to be perceived in terms of constant flux." This means that natives with Neptune sextile Pluto greater than one but less than two degrees from exactitude are the most experimentally pragmatic and individualistic: eager to learn new things and to examine situations and other people's ideas and motivations from different points of view. Like the one's, the two's are hardworking and competent (all Neptune sextile Pluto natives are - Dr. Jones' keyword for the sextile is PRODUCTION), but the reach here is more towards understanding than psychological independence. They are thoughtful, introspective, and arrive at solutions to problems by thinking them through rather than bulldozing ahead. On the negative side, lacking the single-mindedness of the one's, they can come across as being indecisive, bland, and wishy-washy: too lacking in firmness to be masterful (unless the rest of the chart cooperates). Their individualism manifests as a naive intellectual curiosity which inspires others with its unpretentious open-mindedness. Examples: David Bowie, Albert Gore, Kevin Costner, Whitney Houston, Tonya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan, Elton John, Dan Quayle, Steven Spielberg, Howard Stern, Robin Williams, Oprah Winfrey.

3. GROWTH (Relating). All aspects between two and three degrees of exactitude symbolize friendliness - "the expanding element of simple co-operation in being. It is the basis of pure social relationship, the emanation of self to the point of fellowship with other selves." Accordingly, natives with Neptune sextile Pluto between two and three degrees of exactitude are the most socially pragmatic and individualistic: outgoing, gregarious, eager to please; yet still original - fun-loving and mischievous, with a true sense of irony. They are cheerfully optimistic, and enjoy other people instead of analyzing them (two's) or ignoring them (one's). They live and let live, and try to turn aside from conflict and unpleasantness. On the negative side they are inclined to sidestep or slough off problems, to let things slide until they build to a crisis (rather than tackling them directly or thinking them through). Their individualism manifests in a detached, light, unconcerned manner which inspires others with its graciousness and buoyant hopefulness. Examples: Princess Anne, Prince Charles, Princess Diana, Prince, Tom Cruise, Mia Farrow, Arsenio Hall, Diane Keaton, Liza Minelli, Bill Murray, John Travolta, Jann Wenner.

4. HABIT (Limitation). All aspects between three and four degrees of exactitude symbolize a tenacity and sagacity, which must "observe and classify and understand." Natives with Neptune sextile Pluto between three and four degrees of exactness are the most eccentrically pragmatic and individualistic - highly self-attuned and self-assured, with great depth and delicacy of feeling. They march to the beat of a distant drum and have a spirit of errant adventure. They are calm and knowing, with good intuition and the ability to stop to listen to what their hearts are telling them. Where the two's reach out for intellectual comprehension, the outreach of the four's is less cerebral, more a passionate (and compassionate) lust for life. For the four's understanding is not so much a matter of formulating ideals as it is living one's ideals to the fullest, of drinking life to the dregs. On the negative side they are stubborn, self-willed, convinced of their invincibility and rectitude, and inclined to go to the extremes of human experience (and endurance). Their individualism manifests in their ability to stand up for themselves with utter disregard for the social consequence, and they inspire others with their nobility of spirit and their can-do Quixotism. Examples: Cher Bono, Eric Clapton, Hillary Clinton, John Denver, Goldie Hawn, Steve Martin, Bette Midler, Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Alice Walker.

5. EXPRESSION (Skill). All aspects between four and five degrees of exactitude are ingenious and straightforward - "the clue to a man's heart lies in his artlessness - simplicity, smooth functioning in little things." Natives with Neptune sextile Pluto between four and five degrees of exactness are the most candidly pragmatic and individualistic: they are not particularly humble or self-effacing, but rather waste little energy in affectation or posturing - they are plain vanilla with no frills, and just get down to the real business at hand. The striving here is towards reasonableness, fairness, and clear communication with others. They possess a good-natured bonhomie, which on the negative side inclines them towards talking rather than doing; they can be noncommittal or hedging when what is needed is fairness and taking a stand. Their individualism manifests in their unvarnished outspokenness - saying what they think without fear. They inspire others with their optimism, frankness, and impartiality. Examples: Danny DiVito, Michael Eisner, George Harrison, Janis Joplin, Stephen King, George Lucas, Jim Morrison, Eddie Murphy, Donald Trump, O.J. Simpson, Sylvester Stallone, George W. Bush.

6. EXPANSION (Self-enlargement). All aspects between five and six degrees of exactitude show a no-nonsense practicality: "bending of outer factors to inner convenience; smoothness in the accomplishment of things." Natives with Neptune sextile Pluto between five and six degrees of exactness are the most dispassionately pragmatic and individualistic: they are cool, down-to-earth, purposeful and realistic - ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work. They are deft at processing, whether this be people or problems, and they are willing to take on more than their fair share of responsibility, which on the negative side can lead them to deliberately multiply their burdens and then feel put upon; or to push into areas where their counsel is neither needed nor appreciated. Their individualism is manifested in their ability to meet and even exceed their own (rather than society's) expectations; and they inspire others with their thoroughness and selfless dedication. Examples: Connie Chung, Bill Clinton, Michael Douglas, Jose Feliciano, Aretha Franklin, Stephen Hawking, Jimi Hendrix, Calvin Klein, Martin Scoroese, Barbara Streisand, Marlo Thomas.

For everyone born in this Neptune sextile Pluto generation there comes a point in time when transiting Pluto arrives at the point that Neptune occupied in the natal horoscope (for those born in the twentieth century, this occurs at some time during one's twenties); and because of Pluto's retrograde (back-and-forth) motion the effect lasts for almost a year. The specific events triggered by transiting Pluto conjunct Neptune can occur anytime during that period; but the general tendency is for them to occur at the beginning or at the end (rather than in the middle). A lot of what might be expected to happen depends on what else is going on at the same time in other transit and progressions. Generally speaking, however, transiting Pluto conjunct Neptune presents a major challenge: important new responsibilities or commitments. At first you may doubt your ability to handle them; there's a question of whether you're really up to it. Since it's transiting Pluto, it tends to extremes: thus transiting Pluto conjunct Neptune is either extremely joyous and fulfilling (the usual case, since the planets are natally sextile); or else it's an extreme bummer (if concurrent transit and progressions are unfavorable); but it's rarely in-between. Thus Pluto means extreme something: you have to push something to the limits. What is required is acting (and reacting) according to your gut-level intuition (Neptune) to go with how you feel rather than what society has told you (the natal Neptune sextile Pluto influence). This is a year of maturation, of putting aside your rose-tinted illusions (Neptune) and coming to grips with life directly (Pluto).


Copyright 2007 Bob Markransky, all rights reserved.

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