Trying to trace the development of consciousness or cultural trends through astrology is complicated by the fact that what has affected the West in terms of outlook and lifestyle has not been mirrored in other societies. China, Middle East, Africa and Asia have in large part stayed closer to their historical attitudes. They may be changing now because of the incursion of Western media and the internet, but the old family and religious ties still have a strong grip.
What is below is more thinking-in-process than anything too conclusive.
Narcissism has been widely spoken off as the prevailing trend in the US and West in the 20th Century (Erich Fromm, Christopher Lasch). People have become greedy and vain. Narcissistic traits include self-love and self-indulgence, over-reaction to criticism, prejudice, bigotry, vanity based on an inflated and unrealistic sense of self. Narcissism is the opposite of humanism; narrow self-love blocks out a broader awareness of the interdependency of all mankind. Lasch saw the echo of such qualities in “the fascination with fame and celebrity, the fear of competition, the inability to suspend disbelief, the shallowness and transitory quality of personal relations, the horror of death.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/07/books/review/Siegel-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Donald Trump, in one sense, is the ‘logical’ conclusion to this trend. Though to a greater or lesser degree all leaders are and always have been wildly narcissistic. As indeed are snowflake children and University students so precious they insist on ‘safe spaces’ and ‘trigger warnings’. They should try taking a course in Jacobean drama.
Individualism took hold in the west partly because of the breakdown of the extended family; and a shift away from religious belief, though that’s probably less true of the US than Europe. Freud and the rise of the psychoanalytic culture, which certainly has a firm grip on the US, is also a factor. Not that Freud would have approved of selfies or the Kardashians, but he focussed attention on the individual and pulled apart family dynamics.
In Eastern cultures there is much less focus on the individual. Identity tends to reside in the family or in religious beliefs. There is much wrong with the old patriarchal, enmeshed family set ups, and proscriptive and dictatorial religious beliefs dependent on a guru (alive or dead). But there’s clearly a downside to making personal identity the be all and end all.
Increased wealth and leisure are also a reason in the west for the proliferation of psychological conditions and unease. If you’re facing starvation, you don’t have time or energy to be neurotic. In the old days, the wide extended family with wise elders and the certainty of religious beliefs provided a cushion. Nowadays in the west, people struggle to find meaning and security in anything bar money, and entertainment to fill the empty hours, often living vicariously through the lives of celebrities.
The recent rise of racist and populist ideas is, in one sense, an urge to re-establish identity. It is unpalatable for all manner of reasons, but it also answers a human need for belonging, to be surrounded by those like-us, given that we’ve lost the old connections (a family substitute).
The liberal tendency to be all-inclusive and support minorities, sexual and ethnic, all demanding rights (though not always offering duties), is also contributing to a backlash. In a different sense the EU tried to do the same, tying together all manner of differing national identities in an idealistic hope of creating a new cohesion. The great brotherhood and sisterhood of mankind is a great theory but it runs counter to the human need for roots.
Where does the astrology come in? These are just stray thoughts. The mid 19th Century triple conjunction in late Aries/Taurus of Saturn Uranus Pluto threw up Marx (religion is the opiate of the masses), a very young Freud, and Nietzsche (God is dead) kicked off one massive change. Neptune Pluto in Gemini late 19th Century spawned the yellow press, as well as the telephone, and sound and picture recording which revolutionized the leisure industries. Pluto lingering in Cancer for an unconscionable time from 1914 to 1938 certainly destroyed the old family culture in Europe. The triple conjunction in the late 1980s/early 1990s of Saturn Neptune Uranus in Capricorn arguably led to widescale migration in the (very long) aftermath and produced the internet.
Pluto in Capricorn (2008 to 2024) has historically been associated with strong leaders, especially in Russia and the Middle East. Also a flourishing of civilized culture and the arts, which seems to have got lost this time round. We’ve lived recently through Uranus square Pluto, giving rise to rebellions various, a kicking against authority and underdogs demanding recognition. We’re now out of that and heading for Saturn Pluto in Capricorn by 2018/19 which will swing the other way, repressive financially as well as for beliefs away from the mainstream.
Then by 2024 Pluto moves into Aquarius, with Neptune shifting into Aries by 2025 and Uranus into Gemini by 2026, which will see a considerable shift.
History and progress, in my view, goes in pendulum swings rather than a straight line or getting stuck in one rut. So what we’re heading into is a reaction against where we have been and isn’t where we’ll be on the far side.