Why Baby Boomers Think They Still Rule
Note: this is part of a series on the astrology of generations called Collective Souls: The Astrology of Generations and elaborates on ideas presented in previous articles. If you’re not well-versed in the astrological approach to generations, it might be helpful to review the previous articles for background.
Over the course of the next few articles, we are going to explore each of the six generations that constitute the current makeup of our society. It seems appropriate to start with our eldest tribe, the Pluto in Leo generation (born 1937–1956). As a group now aged 64–83, they are comprised mostly of Baby Boomers.
But before we dive in, we need to make an obligatory disclaimer and acknowledge that when discussing something as large and diverse as a generation (comprising millions of people) we are necessarily making some very broad and sweeping generalizations. Of course, there will be outliers, contrarians and myriad data points to present a counter argument to the observed trends, patterns and themes that emerge as a generational identity. In this way, the astrological model is no different from conventional models.
But take one of the primary characteristics of the Leo archetype we’ll be exploring in this article: leadership. We can expect this generation as a whole to display leadership qualities, or at least be somehow obsessed with the idea of leadership—what makes a good leader, whether to lead or to follow, whether we need leaders at all. There are many aspects to the theme of leadership, and far from exemplifying some monolithic whole, the generation will explore all the many facets of the archetype. The astrological model simply shows us which archetypal dynamics are at play and gives us a consistent system within which to analyze and understand these archetypal unfoldings as part of a greater whole.
By identifying the dividing lines where each generation in turn takes up the mantle of their archetypal mission, and observing how these collective efforts evolve and progress over the life cycle of each generation, and how they interact with the generations that came both before and after them, we can seek to identify a broader unifying purpose to what they are compelled to reveal and discover about themselves and their world. And by offering such insights, it might serve to help us build a healthier and more fully integrated society. To this end the astrological model can serve its highest purpose, helping us to navigate—with a more conscious awareness—the evolution of our social and cultural identity. That’s valuable, and worthy of our efforts to comprehend, perhaps now more than ever.
Collective Soul Purpose
So what are the characteristics of the Pluto in Leo generation?
Remember that Pluto in any sign represents our collective soul purpose: a mostly unconscious process that leads us—as a generation—to compulsively and habitually approach certain aspects of life in a similar way, as described by the sign Pluto was transiting when we were all born. This gives us our generational signature—a constellation of qualities that we possess and share with our peers that seem distinct from those who came before and after us. It represents the karmic issues we are trying to work out together over the course of our lives (and perhaps many lifetimes). It provokes in each of us as individuals the need to grow, change and evolve. And our individual efforts, harnessed as a collective force, in turn effects some necessary changes in society and imparts some valuable contribution to the continued evolution of our culture.
So what is the “constellation of qualities” that characterize the Pluto in the Leo generation? This is a collective of souls who incarnated in this lifetime to learn lessons of creative self-actualization. They are a fiery generation that feels they have a special destiny to fulfill as natural born leaders. Their symbol is the Lion—the king of the jungle—and Pluto in Leo tends to display a rather regal air. They’re also born performers, eager to land the leading role in a world that is indeed their stage.
At their best they are generous, magnanimous, warm-hearted and enthusiastic. Their creative output can be prodigious and impressive. But when acting out the shadow side of the Leo archetype, they can be arrogant, prideful, selfish and narcissistic, with a propensity to devolve into a generation of apex predators— placing themselves at the top of the pyramid, high on their throne, refusing to relinquish the reins of power, even though they are past their prime.
They can be annoyingly arrogant in declaring theirs the “best” generation that produced the best music, the best art, the best movies, the best everything. As a generation raised on Father Knows Best, it’s like they are collectively taunting: “Who’s your daddy now?” They’re also quick to dismiss the creative output of any other generation as sub par. They jumped at the opportunity to shit all over their successors, that “slacker” Generation X that dared try and follow them. And they held similarly dismissive views of the “overly-coddled” Millennials who came after.
Not surprisingly, the personality traits of the Pluto in Leo generation aptly describes the cohort we conventionally label as Baby Boomers. Rightly so, because so-called Baby Boomers make up the bulk of the Pluto in Leo generation. These are the archetypal characteristics that this generation has exemplified. But the consensus of demographers has been to bracket Baby Boomers between 1946–1964. This presents us with a considerable offset when we consider Pluto’s transit through Leo, which occurred between 1937-1956. The astrological model and the conventional model are off by nearly a decade on each side. So which one is right?
As I proposed in the previous article:
“…redrawing the dividing lines based on the cosmic clock (ie: astrology) is a much more intuitive and clear-cut tool than relying on what could be described as arbitrarily-defined generational gerrymandering. And I don’t say that to “dis” conventional demographers and their models. It’s just that there are bound to be disagreements among competing factions, and the efforts of individuals will be forever prone to personal and political biases. It seems much more intuitive to use Nature as our guide, which is essentially what the astrological approach does. It does that by definition: astro (of or relating to celestial objects) and logical (characterized by sound reasoning). “
But I want to give credit where credit is due here, because essentially the conventional demographers have got it right. They are observing and correlating the very real and distinct character shifts of successive generations. There’s a good reason why the conventional descriptions of Baby Boomers maps perfectly to the Pluto in Leo archetype. They are describing the same thing. It’s just that the conventional approach is compelled to retrofit its model to the abstract and arbitrary framework of a 20-year generational cycle, while the solar system is showing us that something much more subtle and cyclically precise is taking place here. If we are willing to let go of the compulsion to squeeze nature into 20-year boxes, we can begin to observe and correlate a much more insightful and holistic generational cycle being played out over the course of human history, and thus, develop a more useful roadmap to our near-term future. Trust me, it’s well worth exploring.
A New Line in the Sand
In support of this astrological model and its time frame, there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence from people who have been pegged as “last-wave” Boomers who say they identify much more as GenXers. If we move the start of GenX back to 1956—aligning with Pluto’s transition from Leo to Virgo—we might discern the more accurate line of demarcation between these two distinctly different generations.[As we’ll explore in depth in the next article on Pluto in Virgo (born 1956–1972), the shift from Leo to Virgo is considered a “transitional phase” and represents one of the most dramatic shifts between successive signs in the entire zodiac, producing perhaps the greatest generational divide in the entire cycle.]
As further reinforcement of the Pluto in Leo timeline, let’s consider this generation’s most recognized artistic contribution: Rock n’ Roll. What is now called “Classic Rock” (as distinguished from the “oldies” of their predecessors and the “punk” or “alternative” that came after) is a singular creation of the Pluto in Leo generation. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, The Doors, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin—nearly everyone from the “Woodstock Generation”—was all born with Pluto in Leo. And they evolved the genre in typical Leo fashion—elevating music to a theatrical performance art, dominating the airwaves and touring the world in private jets while selling out arenas and stadiums.
But if we refer to the conventional model, it seeks to cleave this generation unnaturally, with the older artists as members of the Silent Generation (1925–1945) while the younger artists are considered Baby Boomers. While these classic rockers may have been inspired by Elvis, stole riffs from Chuck Berry or emulated the moves of Little Richard, those artists were from the previous generation. They were the Pluto in Cancer generation—a much more down-home and rootsy bunch. But from The Beatles onward, something new had emerged, and it perfectly correlated with the Pluto in Leo generation.
There’s also a clear line of demarcation of artists that followed these classic rockers. The next generation—Pluto in Virgo—produced artists like Siouxsie Sioux and Sid Vicious, Prince and Madonna, Grandmaster Flash and Kurtis Blow, Bono and Perry Farrell. These were the progenitors of new and different aesthetics: the self-effacing vitriol of punk, the stripped-down deconstructionism of hip-hop and the electro-tinged danceability of pop. By the late 70s and early 80s, the emergence of genres like punk and hip hop signaled a sea change in the culture, reflected precisely in the generational shift to Pluto in Virgo, with its artists infusing a characteristic sense of introspection, critical analysis and self-deprecation into their work. Music became less about the grand performance. It was now more about keeping it real, keeping it street.
The Pluto in Leo generation had come of age in the 1960s. But when the rebelliousness of their youth dissipated, their collective entry into young adulthood in the 1970s reflected a change in mood: less radical, more relational. They felt the need to mellow out, settle down and figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. By the mid-70s, nearly half of this generation—who professed to never trust anyone over 30—had themselves reach that ripe old age. The Pluto in Leo generation was transitioning into another phase of their collective lives.
This brings us to a key insight of generational theories: observing when a cohort transitions from one phase of life to another. Classically, a human life has been divided into four phases: childhood, young adulthood, midlife and old age, with each phase lasting roughly 20 years. Our ancestors observed a profound parallel between the four phases of human life and the four seasons of the solar year. Childhood is likened to spring, the time of new birth and the blossoming of potential. Young adulthood is akin to summer, a season of maximum growth potential, high energy and activity. Midlife is compared to fall, the time of maturation, when the fully-formed crop is harvested at its peak of power. Old age is associated with winter, a time to retire from the labors of life, reflect on what’s come before and acknowledge the perennial cycle of decay, death and rebirth.
The astrological model offers us an additional perspective on the notion of phase transitions in life by charting the aspects Pluto makes to our birth charts over the course of our lifetimes. Every time Pluto moves 30º from its position at our birth, it is said to “aspect” itself. Each of the aspects has its own characteristic quality—some are dynamic and powerful while others are gentle and easy-going. Over the course of a long human life, we may experience up to six such aspects: the semi-sextile (30º), the sextile (60º), the square (90º), the trine (120º), the inconjunct (150º) and the opposition (180º). If all this seems like a lot, don’t worry—we’ll explore each of these aspects in turn as we continue our examination of the Pluto in Leo generation.
For some generations and at some junctures in life, these progressive aspects will coincide with the seasonal phases. At other times, they will indicate the early onset of a particular life phase, or reveal an additional phase at work within the traditional framework—an “inter-phase” if you will.
So as we chart the Pluto in Leo generation, we observe that the first born of this group incarnated in 1937. That year, Pluto had just moved into 0º Leo—thus the start of a new generation. These souls were born into a world obsessed with charismatic leadership (Pluto in Leo), as Germany, Italy and Spain empowered fascist leaders, and the West was enamored with their own firebrands like Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. They were born into an era of war and strife, as nations competed on the world stage to determine whose creative vision (Leo) would create the new world order (Pluto). This Pluto in Leo tone would thus “imprint” these souls with the character of the times into which they were born. From the perspective of reincarnation, on a soul level they “chose” this time to be born, because the conditions were optimal to work out their Pluto in Leo issues, in order to stimulate their growth and evolution. It represents their collective soul purpose. Let’s keep this notion in mind as we endeavor to track the lives of these souls through their various life phases as we observe the progressive aspects of Pluto to their birth charts.
New World Order
During the Pluto in Leo era, the United States fought and won the ideological and physical battles for supremacy on the world stage, and thus a new American century was born. The Pluto in Leo generation came of age in an era when their nation had ascended to the world throne, having rocketed into the role of a superpower almost overnight. America was the new king, and life was good. They were taught to respect this new authority, not question it. They were taught that “Father Knows Best.” They were promised a shiny new future of unlimited prosperity and endless expansion. In the vernacular of Leave It To Beaver, “Life was swell.”
In 1956, this leading-edge cohort celebrated their nineteenth birthdays. They were moving out of childhood and into young adulthood. By then, Pluto had progressed 30º through the zodiac—from the 0º Leo point of their birth to 0º Virgo—thus forming an aspect to itself known as the semi-sextile (30º). This semi-sextile aspect possesses the quality of a “building potential” whose energy isn’t easily accessible, but requires “conscious effort” to be realized. As it represents a relationship between two adjacent signs, which are fundamentally different in every way (by modality, element and polarity), the semi-sextile can act as a mild irritant, urging us to scratch an itch that we can’t quite reach.
So for these first-wave Pluto in Leos entering young adulthood, this would be a time when they would become mentally attuned to the fact that something was shifting within themselves and their environment which was challenging their existing worldview. With Pluto moving from Leo, the yang-focused, fire-oriented sign of their birth, to the yin-focused, earth-centered sign of Virgo, this shift would tend to promote within them new insights into their environment and a more critical, earthy mindset. Not surprisingly, over the course of this next phase of their lives, many among them would become the leaders of a new environmental movement. As Pluto moved through Virgo over the next 16 years, their younger generational comrades would also experience this semi-sextile aspect, awakening them all to this sense of “something in the air.”
As a collective, they gained an awareness that life wasn’t as “swell” as their made-for-tv childhood had portrayed. In fact, something was very wrong with America. Their consciousness was awakened to the fact that the industrial war machine that had built their great society was in reality a monster eating its own tail in a vicious cycle of self-destruction. So with the characteristic vigor and vitality befitting a generation that was entering the “summer season” of their lives, they set out to lead a cultural revolution.
And they did. They changed the culture. They mobilized all the creativity and self-expression that is fundamental to their Pluto in Leo archetype, which they all came into this world to collectively express. They got radical. They got environmental. They got psychedelic. They got groovy. They got together. They protested. They sat in. They rioted. They resisted. They demanded to be heard. They railed hard against the machine, and by the end of the 1960s they had already begun to put their indelible mark on the culture. In 1970, they celebrated the first Earth Day. By 1972, they had forced Nixon to resign. The war in Vietnam was unraveling. The youth had seemingly won the day.
Peaceful, Easy Feelings
But for those first-wave leaders of this generation, the revolution took its toll. After a decade-long struggle against The Man, many of them were left exhausted, fatigued by constant protesting or burned out on the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll lifestyle. They felt a need to pull back, to decompress. They were “tuning in” to another life phase transition.
In 1972, their generational planet, Pluto, was moving out of the critical and crisis-oriented sign of Virgo and entering into the balance, harmony and relationship-oriented sign of Libra. Pluto had now progressed 60º from its position at their birth, the sextile aspect. Luckily for them, the sextile is a much easier aspect to assimilate than the previous semi-sextile. It possesses the qualities of easy communication and harmony. They were now entering a new, harmonious phase of life, with their generational planet under the influence of the most harmonious of the zodiac signs—Libra. Not surprisingly, this group started to shift their attention away from the problems of the world and turn inward, focusing on their relationships—to themselves and to others—seeking to foster a deeper sense of balance and harmony. Sound like the 70’s?
The mood had changed yet again. Their music got softer. The drugs got mellower. They began “getting in tune with the straight and narrow.” They refocused their Pluto in Leo creative self-actualization and began applying it to the art of relationship. They experimented with co-ops and communes, tantra and couple’s retreats, wife swaps and swinger parties. Gay communities emerged from their closets and began to assert their rights to openly relate in their own ways. Many of the culture’s social long-held mores and sexual taboos—which had dominated the nation’s puritanical past—were now being challenged.
Rock went glam, with musicians like David Bowie leading an exploration into more androgynous forms of artistic expression. Men put on makeup while women donned pant suits. Disco emerged as the soundtrack to a new lifestyle that was more open, inclusive and gender fluid. Black, white, gay, straight—all dancing together in sweaty nightclubs, gyrating in rhythm to a steady, unifying beat. Everyone was under the erotic spell of Venus, Libra’s patron saint. The cultural revolution had morphed into a sexual revolution.
The 1970s also witnessed the renewal of the women’s movement and the push for equal rights—another quintessential Pluto in Libra notion. Equality, justice, fairness and balance: these would be the keywords of the era. And the Pluto in Leo generation would be at the leading edge of this cultural metamorphosis. They were born at the right time—a location in history that suited them quite well as a generation of cultural leaders who felt a collective special destiny to play such a role.
Female cohorts like Jane Fonda became powerful voices in the anti-war movement. The male-dominated hierarchies of corporate America were being challenged. American women—no longer relegated to the role of stay-at-home moms—emerged from the kitchen and into the office space, not just as secretaries, but as factory workers, reporters, managers, owners, operators and executives. As a result of increased pressure put on politicians throughout the decade by the National Organization of Women (NOW), the Equal Rights Amendment was finally ratified by Congress in 1978.
By the early 1980’s, America felt like an entirely different country than the one that had entered the 1970’s. A soft, pink revolution had unfolded over the course of the decade under the subtly feminizing influences of Pluto in Libra. But as Pluto ended its 11-year journey through Libra in 1983 and entered the sign of Scorpio, another distinctly different phase would begin to unfold.
Sex, Lies and Videotape
When America voted Ronald Reagan into office in 1980, the writing was on the wall that the mood of the country was yet again changing.1 The confluence of twin crises—the economy-crippling OPEC Oil Crisis and the public relations disaster that was the Iran Hostage Crisis—had hampered Jimmy Carter’s democratic presidency (himself a Libra), making him look weak and leaving him vulnerable to a political challenge from conservative-minded Republicans. Many older Americans (cohorts of the more conservative Pluto in Cancer generation who had endured the Great Depression and WWII) were concerned that the ultra-liberal turn America had taken during the 1970’s had perhaps gone too far, and a course-correction was needed to steer the ship of state back towards familiar waters.
Midway through Reagan’s first term, the first wave of the Pluto in Leo generation began experiencing their next phase shift—this time encountering the square aspect. Unlike the ease and harmony of the previous sextile, the square is a challenging aspect that signals a “crisis of action.” A tension is created that demands a release of energy. And for the Pluto in Leo generation, they were destined to experience this dynamic aspect during Pluto’s transit of the most powerful and explosive sign of the entire zodiac: Scorpio.
When Pluto entered Scorpio in 1983, the oldest of this generation, then age 46, had entered into midlife—the phase of our lives when the more liberal ideals of our youth tend to give way to a more conservative outlook. For the first time we get a glimpse of our own mortality, and are gripped with a sense of urgency: the time to do our life’s great work is running out. The desire to build our lasting legacy becomes palpable. This is the phase of life when we reach the apex of our social power and efficacy. We become the managers and start calling the shots.
In true Pluto in Leo fashion, the Baby Boomers pivoted to embrace this new phase with incredible zeal. They shook off their collective love hangover of the 1970’s, traded in their bell bottoms for power suits, and began exploiting their newly acquired social and economic powers in typically creative and self-actualizing ways. Seemingly overnight, they shifted from the “We” Generation to the “Me” Generation, from “justice for all” … to “greed is good.”
Midlife is the stage of life that psychologist Carl Jung has associated with the process of individuation—the point where we begin to transcend our group attachments and narcissistic self-absorptions and develop into well-functioning and integrated individuals. This process of individuation actually gets to the very heart of the Pluto in Leo generation’s collective soul purpose. But remember that we said this is a “mostly unconscious process.” And unfortunately, during their square aspect, this proved to be somewhat of a blind spot for many Pluto in Leo types. Rather than outgrow their natural tendency towards narcissistic self-absorption, many of them reflexibly doubled down on selfishness, urged on by the “power-grab” energies of the Pluto in Scorpio 1980’s.
The time when Pluto transits through Scorpio (the sign it rules) is the fastest in its 248-year cycle. It represents the point when it is closest to the Sun. And because of its widely elliptical orbit, Pluto actually moves inside the path of Neptune during this period, a unique phenomenon within our solar system. From a symbolic perspective, it stands to reason that this should be a time of Pluto’s maximum effect. We should expect its archetypal qualities to be on full display: unconscious, compulsive urges, the libidinal desires of the Id, deep psychoanalysis, sex and violence, power struggles, ecological disasters, covert and underground criminal activities—these are the functions of Pluto, amplified to a maximum intensity and reinforced by the same qualities of Scorpio.
The era witnessed a ratcheting up of the rhetoric between the world’s two nuclear-armed superpowers (Pluto rules nuclear power), displaying a political brinkmanship that raised the specter of a civilization-ending World War III. It was the time of the Iran Contra Affair—a secret government program trading drugs and guns to the Middle East to fund covert wars in Latin America. It saw the rise of narco-trafficking and the explosion of ready-available, high-quality cocaine—fueling a drug-induced egomania that only amplified the already narcissistic tendencies of the times.
While Wall Street traders snorted fat lines in the bathrooms of high end restaurants downtown, an even more insidious and addictive form of the drug was being cooked up and pushed out onto street corners in less affluent neighborhoods: crack. And the profitability of its manufacture and trade fueled the meteoric rise of criminal gang activity and a rapid escalation in violence—a vicious cycle that quickly spiraled out of control and reached epidemic proportions.
The response from the White House was an oversimplified message from First Lady Nancy Reagan to “Just Say No.” Meanwhile, president Ronald Reagan doubled down on the “War on Drugs” and in 1984 signed legislation that created “mandatory minimum sentences” for drug offenses, a move that would swell the nation’s prison population, disproportionately affect people of color and give rise to a new and highly profitable private prison industry. It was all a rather hypocritical stance from an administration that was secretly dealing drugs and guns in covert CIA operations. But such was the tenor of the times.
The era also witnessed another epidemic that was emblematic of Pluto in Scorpio’s theme of sex and death: AIDS, a deadly auto-immune disease that spread like wildfire through the gay community, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives in a matter of a few short years. Suddenly, sex became equated with death. A sense of fear and paranoia gripped the nation, as wild rumors spread about the source and transmission of the deadly disease which was of unknown origin. It would subsequently be identified as HIV, a novel retrovirus thought to originate in nonhuman primates.
At the height of the AIDS pandemic, the virus would claim the lives of cultural icons like Rock Hudson, Freddy Mercury and Arthur Ashe. The promiscuity and sexual permissiveness that had epitomized the Pluto in Libra era now came with deadly consequences during Pluto in Scorpio. Everything was “Risky Business.” The tone had shifted, the mood turned dark, and America could no longer avoid facing its own collective shadow.
By the end of the Pluto in Scorpio era, the decade-long power struggle had widened the gap between the haves and have nots. Fueled by generous tax cuts and supply-side economics, the rich got richer as corporations acquired, merged and consolidated their power. By the early 1990’s, the Pluto in Leo generation, consisting of mostly Baby Boomers in the prime of midlife, had moved up to fill most of the managerial ranks in this newly empowered corporate America. And they were about to achieve the loftiest of generational ambitions: one of their own occupying the Oval Office.
Admittedly, the Pluto in Leo generation already had one of their own in the White House. When George H. W. Bush won the presidency in 1988, his Vice President Dan Quayle became the first Pluto in Leo candidate to appear on a winning ticket. But Quayle was more of a generational embarrassment than a source of civic pride. It wasn’t until the subsequent election cycle in 1992 that this generation would start to flex their impressive political muscle.
The 1992 Clinton/Gore ticket was 100% Pluto in Leo. The surprising campaign that swept the little-known Governor of Arkansas into the Oval Office was a sign that a new generation had taken over the reins of power. With their characteristic vigor and enthusiasm, they would aim to reshape society in their own image.
World Wide Domination
With one of their own in the White House and firmly in the driver’s seat of corporate America, the Pluto in Leo generation had risen to the occasion of midlife and was poised to launch into their next phase shift. In 1995, Pluto ended its 11-year transit of Scorpio and entered Sagittarius—sign of high-minded optimism, global expansion and worldly endeavors.
The Pluto in Leo generation was now entering their trine aspect, the most beneficial of all aspects. The innate talents and abilities of the generation are most easily activated under this generous signature. Once again, this cohort found themselves sympathetically aligned with their place in history. They had survived the dark days and challenges of the square and used its dynamic energy to muscle into the social power structure. As they began to collectively embark on their trine phase, a new sense of exuberance was sweeping across the land, with renewed notions of unlimited growth and prosperity. This current “fiery” period recalled the last “fiery” period—the Pluto in Leo era in which they were born—indicating an elemental resonance with their birth signature that gives the trine aspect its harmonious tone.
Spurred by trade deals like NAFTA, the world was about to become more intimately enmeshed in a truly global economy, one that would be mediated by an emergent new technology that would prove to be a game-changer: the internet. CEO’s like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (both born in 1955 as last-wave Pluto in Leos) would ascend to guru status, as their humble 1980’s “start-ups” would grow into “tech giants” during the expansion of the Pluto in Sagittarius era. The exuberance built to a fever pitch, creating a tech bubble that seemed to indicate that the promised land of unlimited prosperity fueled by exponentially growing technology had finally arrived. The future was now.
But all bubbles eventually burst, and the tech bubble was no exception. Like all archetypal complexes, Pluto in Sagittarius has its shadow side: overindulgent, overly-optimistic and excessive behaviors that lead to inevitable consequences. The stock market took a nosedive. Fast fortunes were just as quickly lost. And as America braced for a new millennium, the false promise of unlimited technology now loomed as a dangerous liability, with fears that a “Y2K” programming glitch could bring down our entirely computer-wired economy. Had we trapped ourselves in a world wide web of our own making?
As it turns out, we crossed the threshold of the millennium relatively unscathed. Yet another global threat was waiting around the corner, poised to strike at the heart of our nation: terrorism. The terrorist attacks on 9/11 were carried out by Jihadists preaching a virulent brand of religious fundamentalism—another classic characteristic of the shadow side of Pluto in Sagittarius.
Now, another Pluto in Leo president was in charge—though many might argue that his Pluto in Cancer Vice President Dick Cheney and a cabal of cohorts from the administration of the elder Bush were secretly pulling young “W’s” strings like some presidential sock puppet. Either way, this Bush Administration represented a swing back towards Republican values2, as the Pluto in Leo generation—now well into midlife, with many nearing retirement age—retreated to the much more conservative positions of maintaining their assets and preserving the value of their 401K’s. And nothing bolsters a sagging economy like a good old-fashioned war.
A new youth generation was now protesting in the streets, decrying: “Not In Our Name.” But their pleas fell on deaf ears. Congress—led by a majority of Pluto in Leo Senators—gave the go-ahead for an unlimited “War on Terrorism” and the creation of a new surveillance state that would fundamentally change our society. For the security-minded and self-interested Pluto in Leo set now running the country, the most patriotic thing we could all do was “go shopping.” Really?
Yup, the Pluto in Leo generation—those peace-loving radical hippies of the 60’s—had now officially become The Man.
Enduring Legacy, or House of Cards?
From the events of 9/11 through the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the inauguration of the new millennium started to feel like a mash-up of Orwell and Huxley, possessing a hybrid of dystopian characteristics of both 1984 and Brave New World. Behind the scenes of the mass-mediated war theater, a massive surveillance state was being erected in secret. Within a few short years, and with the tacit compliance of big tech—cell phone companies, ISPs, search engines—the “Patriot Act” had enabled a new American police state with the unprecedented power to effectively spy on its own citizens.
Whether or not this legislation was a justifiable response to the emerging threat of global terrorism, the leaders of our nation—a Pluto in Leo president backed by a majority Pluto in Leo Congress—opted for a “With Us or Against Us” approach to the rest of the world. It represented our own brand of state-sponsored religious fundamentalism, a new patriotism that insisted upon blind faith in its authority. “Trust us,” they said. “We’ll keep you safe, just keep shopping.” American-led neoliberal capitalism had become the new global religion, and the almighty dollar the most sacred of deities.
Despite lying about WMDs, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, waterboarding and warrantless wire-tapping, our leaders held firm to the claim that the ends justified the means. Besides, this endless War on Terror was having a wonderful side effect: it was helping our sagging economy rebound from that unfortunate dotcom bubble, and spurring the stock market to new record heights. Perhaps it’s easier to swallow the evils of the state when you’re getting an 18% return on your investment portfolio.
Coincidentally, the Federal Reserve made “cheap money” readily available with historically low interest rates, so banks were increasingly able to deliver on a fundamental promise of the American Dream: homeownership. Subprime mortgages were being offered to Americans with questionable credit and insufficient means, creating a housing bubble that saw real estate values skyrocket. The unbridled optimism and excesses of the Pluto in Sagittarius era had roared back with a vengeance. The lessons of the dotcom bubble were willfully ignored. Besides, real estate was different from tech. Property values will continue to rise forever, right?
In exact synchrony with Pluto moving from bubble-building Sagittarius to reality-checking Capricorn in 2008, the “Great Recession” began, threatening to take down the entire global economy with it. The Pluto in Leo generation would be entering this new era of limits, losses and restrictions coincident with embarking on their next phase of life, as represented by the inconjunct aspect—one characterized by challenges, irreconcilable differences, and the need for adjustments. With the eldest of their group now 71 years-old, as a generation they had entered the winter of their life cycle. Their time had come to pass the torch of leadership to the next generation.
And seemingly on cue, in 2008, for the first time in 16 years, a new generation was taking over the White House. Barack Obama would not only become the first black president, but the first member of the Pluto in Virgo generation to hold the office. He was being handed the keys to the kingdom; but his predecessors had kind of trashed the place. He had his work cut out for him.
In the next article, we will turn our focus to the Pluto in Virgo generation to which Barack Obama belongs, and with whom he shares a very different collective soul purpose than the Pluto in Leo generation we’ve been focusing on here. We will uncover a profound generational shift in tone and focus: from the creative self-expression and leadership impulses of Leo, to the service-oriented, duty-bound and hyper-critical mindset of Virgo. We will examine the true dividing line between the Baby Boomers and GenX, and understand why this tends to create one of the widest generation gaps in the entire 248-year cycle.
But before we move on, let’s summarize what we’ve learned so far about this power-packed Pluto in Leo generation. Having been born into an era when Pluto (representing the collective soul urge for evolutionary change) was moving through the sign of Leo (characterized by the qualities of creative self-expression, leadership and a sense of special destiny), this is a group of collective souls that has incarnated together to learn the specific lessons that this unique combination of archetypes offers them, and to share the benefit of learning those lessons with the society at large.
Therefore, they have demonstrated (through their unconscious security needs) a collective desire to explore issues surrounding creativity, self-expression, will to power, authority and leadership. And motivated by their collective mandate to grow, develop and evolve, they have also been necessarily forced to examine the shadow side of their archetype—the tendencies towards pride, arrogance, vanity and narcissism. In witnessing the unfolding life cycle of this generation that we identify as mainly Baby Boomers, we have observed a rather astonishing display of the characteristics of both the positive and negative aspects of this archetypal combination of Pluto in Leo.
Their radical self-expression in youth, their self-absorption in young adulthood, their bold power grab in midlife, their self-aggrandizing transition to elderhood—at every stage in their life cycle, this generation has enacted the quintessential Pluto in Leo script. Which is an apt metaphor for a generation of natural born performance artists. From the concert stage to the political stage, they have played their role in a supremely Leonine fashion.
The script for their final season is still being written. The storyline of the early episodes seem to portray a main character who has yet to completely accept his or her final destiny. As a generation in the winter of their lives, the Pluto in Leo’s are being called to really learn their life lessons and share their collective insights with the next-in-line Pluto in Virgos, who have lived their entire lives in the long shadows of their all-to-proud predecessors, and who have historically struggled to fill the Pluto in Leo generation’s big shoes.
The Pluto in Leo generation has left quite a footprint on the culture—for good and for ill—and as they transition into elderhood, it is critical that they work to confront their own collective shadow, swallow their pride and own up to their past failures, and resist the selfish instinct to simply “pass the buck.” Succeeding generations are looking to them to muster the collective courage and channel their amazing sense of self-awareness into a matured sense of social awareness, working for the sake of the greater good, focusing their unparalleled creative capacities into helping not just themselves, but everyone else to succeed. History will ultimately judge them on the quality of their grand finale.
Ok, Boomer, it’s your move.
1The mood change that occurred in 1980 can be directly attributed to another astrological phenomenon: the 20 year Jupiter-Saturn cycle which the ancients referred to as the great conjunction. It tends to track a pendulum-like swing in the culture back and forth between libral and conservative values. While it is necessary to keep the focus of this current series on the Pluto cycles as it relates to generations, it should be noted that astrology gives us the ability to track the interaction of various sub-cycles that offer us even deeper levels of appreciation and insight. I hope to examine the fascinating subject of the Jupiter-Saturn ” great cycle” in future articles.
2Intersting to note that 2000 was the next Jupiter-Saturn conjunction, as another 20-year cycle had completed, and again the return to a conservative tone is witnessed. So where the conjunctions (1960, 1980, 2000, 2020?) represent a swing towards conservatism, the oppositions (1970, 1990, 2010, 2030?) represent the move towards a more libral tone. Also of interest regarding the 2000 conjunction, is the fact that many of the architects of this younger Bush administration were also influential in the 1980 Reagan administration.