Generation X: An Insider’s Perspective on the Outer Planets: past, present and future.
By: Gary P. Caton
Being born in April of 1968, and therefore conceived during “the Summer of Love”, in my youth I often wondered if I would ever come to live in times as exciting as those during which I gestated (The Uranus-Pluto conjunctions). In fact, during my college years I did indeed witness a similar surge in the development of human affairs with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of Communist Europe at the Uranus-Neptune conjunctions. It was at this time that I became an astrologer. I have come to find that this was an important developmental time for others of my generation and that the two time periods have much more in common than the outer-planet conjunctions.
While I understood this similarity to be natural in terms of the closing Uranus-Neptune sextile moving to conjunction, I knew there was a deeper truth at work, but for a long time I did not get it. Finally, after looking at dozens of charts of Gen. X’er’s the profound simplicity of the situation dawned on me. It’s the elements, stupid! The period of August 1962 to September 1968 saw a complete dominance by modality amongst all three outer-planets. All three resided in what are called negative/feminine signs. This dominance is rare enough to have happened only 7 times in the last 100 years. A dominance by modality lasting more than three years has only happened 4 times. Two of them (earth/water) were –you guessed it – clustered around the Uranus-Pluto and Uranus-Neptune conjunctions. The first of the two fire/air periods was during WWII, from 1943-1948. This underscores a huge difference between the baby boomers and the next generations. They are as different as fire and water, earth and sky.
We have often heard people speak of a widening generation gap. When viewed elementally a stark shift in psychological orientation becomes obvious. The Pluto in Cancer generation is defined by the WW1 period: 1915-20 with 2/3 outer planets in positive/masculine signs (2 brief periods of 4). The Pluto in Leo generation is defined by the WWII period: 1943-48 with 3/3 outer planets in positive/masculine signs (1 brief period of 5). There is an obvious sympathy between these periods which is echoed by the fact that WWII was an extension of forces set in motion by the Treaty of Versailles. These periods are in stark contrast to the Pluto in Virgo generation, defined by the Viet Nam conflict period: 1962-68 with 3/3 outer planets in negative/feminine signs (2 brief periods of 5) and The Pluto in Scorpio generation[i] defined by the Operation Desert Storm period: 1989-95 with 3/3 outer planets in negative/feminine signs (3 brief periods of 5).
This psychological contrast is further highlighted when considering that the 60’s Uranus/Pluto conjunctions in Virgo were the first in Earth Signs after 600 years in the fire signs. Further, the period 1650-1821 (the Scientific Revolution) saw all the outer planet conjunctions in the positive/masculine signs of fire/air. Seen in this light, the psychological differences between the modern generations represent a vast schism and a burden on the earth/water generations to balance a dangerously wide pendulum swing. It has become obvious to everyone (who has not donned the Orwellian blinders of greed, religious zeal, or nationalism) that the world is in dire straights due to the blazing fires of indiscriminate consumption. If you think I might be overstating the consequences of this “battle of the elements,” consider the following psychological research that shows the insidious effects of a masculine, fire/air, mechanistic biased worldview.
It wasn’t until the mid-1970’s that Sandra Bem[ii] revolutionized psychology with a new personality theory. Instead of masculinity and femininity traits being seen in the traditional light as dichotomous endpoints of a single continuum, Bem proposed they be seen independently and that individuals may possess varying degrees of each trait regardless of biological sex. The proposed identification of the individual with both masculine and feminine traits resulted in a classification system that became known as gender identity. Gender identity exists independently of physical gender or biological sex and consists of the ratio of the individuals’ self-reported identification with characteristics traditionally valued more in men (masculine) or more in women (feminine) as measured by the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI). Thus, healthy men and women can (and should) possess the same characteristics.
The classification of an individual in terms of gender identity essentially involves combining and reducing two independent dimensions of personality (maleness and femaleness) to a one-dimensional continuum. At one end is the sex-typed individual who identifies with the traditional qualities valued more in his/her own physical gender (a masculine male or a feminine female). At the other end is the cross-typed individual who identifies more with qualities traditionally valued more in the opposite gender (a feminine male or a masculine female). In between lies the androgynous zone: persons who identify relatively equally with both same and opposite gender qualities.
One would tend to think that psychologically androgynous persons would enjoy the best of both worlds and a consequent advantage, but this appears to be heavily dependent upon one’s biological sex and the resulting societal expectations. For instance, Ward[iii] suggested content bias in the measure of psychological well-being, defined as minimal worries and freedom from self-doubt. Self-acceptance, being defined as sense of self-worth and capacity for independent thought and action, was also seen as biased toward masculine attributes. These concerns seem to be supported by findings of a strong people = male bias, with subjects of both genders and all gender identities attributing male gender to gender-unspecified individuals.[iv] Anastasia & Miller[v] studied sex differences in gender role among university professors. Differences in percentages of androgynous male and female professors were noticeable (10% and 15% respectively) and differences in sex-typing and cross-typing were significant. More than 36% of males were sex-typed compared to little more than 18% of females. Conversely, less than 17% of males were cross-typed versus more than 27% of females. Thus, social acculturative forces are evidenced by male individuals apparently showing more of a preference to remain sex-typed, and the apparent need for females to cross-type in order to gain societal position. Similarly, Rubinstein[vi] found that cross-typed women tend to rebel against the status quo, while among men no political or religious differences were found between gender identity.
Evidence for the intuitive understanding of these forces is seen in the increasing use of androgynous names among parents of daughters.[vii] Also, Smith[viii] found that significantly more females identified themselves as androgynous and were more egalitarian in their gender attitudes than males. As Smith put it, “females are taking the lead in redefining gender traits and attitudes.” In a study of gender roles and group decision making, Kirchmeyer[ix] found that androgyny levels of group members who were women or non-European in descent were more important to decision quality than were those of males of European descent. Apparently, the self-actualization needs of individuals result in gravitation toward the gender favored by the culture in which they interact. Much as plants bend toward the light, Humans will adapt to the prevailing attitudes that shape their environment.
It is my opinion that the very terminology used to define my generation is the result of this strong expectation to conform to the entrenched ideals of a male-dominated society. With a strong unconscious sympathy for the feminine and yin forces, we did not exhibit the aggressive, egotistical drives of the “successful” male attitude, so we were dubbed “Generation X.” But we matured in our own time. We now have our own rock stars (The Seattle Sound) and martyrs (Princess Diana and JFK Jr.) who have defined themselves very differently from their predecessors. Since it has been shown (both scientifically and culturally) that women are taking the lead in re-defining gender roles, I would like to take a look at what might be a “new breed” of men. Can Generation X males re-define and balance our ideas of maleness? As artists, the leaders of the “
Grunge Rock & the “Seattle Sound” –the voice of a generation.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s the
Perhaps the most notorious and influential is Kurt Cobain of Nirvana. Nirvana’s early success paved the way for the others to follow. Cobain’s chart[xii] is also the most egregious example of elemental bias with every last planet in earth/water. Here we have the perfect example of the “new breed” of men. Not only is the chart entirely dominated by one modality, but the Uranus/Pluto conjunction is a focal point. The Mercury/Venus/Saturn stellium’s opposition reminds me of the line “locked inside a heart shaped box.” The quote that is most in touch with the “outsider” feelings of societal bias is “I’m not like them, but I can pretend.” This sums up the experience of having personal planets tied into the 60’s Uranus,
Unfortunately, the constant “pretending” required by individuals thus marginalized by societal expectations often takes a heavy toll. This was echoed in Cobain’s suicide note[xiv] as he expressed not only a deep reluctance to continue a disingenuous existence but also that “since the age of 7 I’ve become hateful to all humans in general only because it seems so easy for people to get along and have empathy …because I love and feel too deeply I guess.” Perhaps Cobain’s “mood disorder” was simply the reflection of an imbalance in post-industrial societal attitudes. This lack of earth/water “connectedness” is probably the very same thing that led John Lennon and George Harrison to pursue mystical Eastern teachings. In fact, research on psychological androgyny has shown that it is both more prevalent[xv] and more successful[xvi] in Eastern “collectivistic” societies than Western “individualistic” societies. It is truly a shame that Kurt was not led in this direction.
The lesson that Cobain leaves us is to avoid the trap of purposeless negativity. Yes, we need to look a disturbing reality in the face, but we cannot forget that “all humans in general” includes other cultures and indeed other times. There are worldviews that honor the feminine, just ask the 126,000 new practitioners of Wicca[xvii] since the Grunge explosion. Seek the alternative! We already know how to build houses that need no heating or cooling, no well or septic, and no tie-in to the electric grid.[xviii] We also know how to run diesel engines on vegetable oil.[xix] If everyone would simply practice these two alternatives alone, our dependence on oil would be virtually eliminated. But alas, the power structure of greed and societal bias to these non-exploitative “weird, hippie ideas” make that highly unlikely. As a famous scientist once said, “It is not by the conversion of his enemies that a genius’ ideas are accepted, but by their gradual dying off and a new generation growing up with the obvious truth.” The best we can do is to lead by example, and hope that the next generation will see the truth. The good news is that the Pluto in Scorpio generation seems to be very compatible with generation X, with both the earth/water dominance and the Scorpionic intensity to reverse over 100 years of indiscriminate consumption.
Leading by example is the forte of Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam. Putting their money where their mouth is, in the mid-90’s they took on the music industry virtually single-handedly. In an effort to keep ticket prices affordable, they boycotted Ticketmaster and their exhorbitant service fees. While severely diminishing the bands commercial success, other bands such as String Cheese Incident eventually followed their lead and established their own ticketing companies. Pearl Jam was also the first to offer affordable, high-quality cd’s of every concert, a move fast catching on with other bands. In 2003 they broke ties with their record company, a risky endeavor that some say “if successful, could be the death knell of the music industry as we know it.”[xx] More important is the bands service as a catalyst for independent thought, from their support for a third political party to support for important literary works. The bands 1998 release “Yield” was inspired by Daniel Quinn’s novel Ishmael.[xxi] This breakthrough anthropology classic should be required reading for every college student. Quinn demonstrates the dire consequences of a worldview at odds with natural law. I am not necessarily a big fan of pop psychology, but as Dr. Phil says “you either get it, or you don’t get it.” If you have not read Ishmael, you probably don’t get it. An interesting “coincidence” is that Quinn was born during a previous period of earth/water elemental dominance.[xxii]
Notoriously secretive (typical Capricorn!), I was not able to obtain a birth time for Eddie Vedder. However, I am reasonably certain of his birth date[xxiii] and a chart gives a Moon position within six degrees of orb, conspicuously in Virgo with the Uranus/Pluto conjunction and Mars. Mercury is part of a t-square to Uranus/Pluto by the Nodes. All six superior (mars outward) planets are in earth/water. If one includes Chiron, a pattern called “the mystic rectangle” emerges with Jupiter,
A Virgoan detail lost in many delineations of the Uranus/Pluto conjunction is the nature of the aspect itself. The conjunction is an Aries aspect.[xxv] Aries is commonly associated with the Myth of Jason as well, for the obvious reasons of the Fleece coming from a golden ram and being deposited in a grove sacred to Mars. Innate to the struggle of Jason is the overthrowing of the “Terrible Father”[xxvi] and restoring himself as rightful heir. This is a parable for casting out the old ruling system, a principle driving force for all Grunge rockers in their rejection of the superficial commercialism of the 80’s “hair bands” (who incidentally came to power during a period of fire/air dominance from 1982-84).
This is only half the picture, however. The conjunction occurred in the sign of Virgo. The primary myth associated with Virgo is that of Persephone, the virgin goddess who was abducted by Pluto[xxvii] and whose Mother’s weeping caused the Earth to whither. The primary struggle for Virgo is the restoration of natural order. This entails a necessary compromise with the “forces of darkness.” Grunge Rocker’s have struggled to come to terms with the dark, shadow sides of their personalities. Vedder’s “mamason trilogy,” universally interpreted as the story of a boy turned serial killer, comes to mind. Similarly, in “Jeremy” Vedder dealt with the subject of school shooting years before Columbine.[xxviii] This descent into the Underworld is necessary, but must be overcome. The purpose of this journey is not blind nihilism, but to achieve a Jungian balance in the personality - “to deliberately bind his light conscious side to the dark one of the unconscious…to find his place in the great stream of life.”[xxix] Thus the Hero restores the natural order, the natural balance of Yin/Yang, first in himself before seeking to overthrow the “Terrible Father” and restore natural order to the kingdom/world.
The tendency for Generation X’ers to undertake this personal spiritual rebirth at a young age has made many of them “late bloomers.” However, the coin given to Charon has accrued spiritual interest that may help precipitate a more successful navigation of the “mid-life crisis.” Our predecessor’s coined this term and experience the period as a “second adolescence” because of what I see as a relative failure[xxx] to integrate the lessons of mid-life. Because of relative planetary speeds, the Pluto in Cancer & Leo generations experienced mid-life as a set of discrete, independent transits: The Uranus opposition, the Neptune square, then the Pluto square. The Uranus transit coming first meant experiencing mid-life changes primarily from without. The “typical” experience went something like this: the individual bought a sports car and had an affair (Uranus), found they were still disillusioned (
[i] Pluto reached perihelion in 1989 and the relative speed in this part of its orbit gives the children of Uranus/Pluto conjunct in Virgo (late 60’s) a predominantly Pluto in Scorpio placement.
[ii] Bem, S. L. (1974). The measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal of
Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42 (2), 155-162.
[iii] Ward, C. (2000). Models and measurements of psychological androgyny: a cross-cultural extension of theory and research. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 41 (11), 529.
[iv] Merritt, R. D., & Kok, C.J. (1995). Attribition of gender to gender-unspecified individual: an evaluation of the people = male hypothesis. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 33 (3), 145 –158.
[vi] Rubinstein, G. (1995). Right-wing authoritarianism, political affiliation, religiosity, and their relation to psychological androgyny. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 33 (7) 569-587.
[vii] Lieberson, S., Baumann, S., & Dumais, S. (2000). The instability of androgynous names: the symbolic maintenance of gender boundaries. The American Journal of Sociology, 105 (5), 1249.
[viii] Smith, M.J. (1998). The relationship between gender traits, sex-role egalitarian attitudes, attachment styles, and life satisfaction (Doctoral dissertation, Wright Institute, 1998). UMI Dissertation Services,
[ix] Kirchmeyer, C. (1996) Gender roles and decision-making in demographically diverse groups: a case for reviving androgyny. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 34 (9), 649-664.
[xi] For those who are interested in further investigating the Astrology of the “Seattle Sound” I’ll include the following:
Chris Cornell, DOB:
Lane Staley, DOB:
Neil Young, DOB:
[xiii] Nancy C. Andreason’s famous
[xiv] You can hear it read by Courtney Love on the CD “Pay to Play”
[xv] Sugihara, Y., & Katsurada, E. (1999). Masculinity and femininity in Japanese culture: a pilot study. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 40 (7), 635.
[xvi] Shimonaka, Y., Kawaai, C., Nakazato, K., & Sato, S. (1997). Androgyny and successful adaptation across the life span among Japanese adults. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 158 (4), 389-401.
[xvii] Figure from Mother Jones “Faith in the System” September/October 2004.
[xxii] Although I have not been able to obtain specific birth data, knowing that Quinn was born in 1935 puts at least 3 –if not 5 or more-planets in earth/water signs.
[xxiv] For a complete account of Chiron’s story see Richard Nolle’s Chiron: The Key to Your Quest 1994 AFA.
[xxv] See for instance Glenn Perry’s Introduction to AstroPsychology or Zipporah Dobbyns and Maritha Pottenger’s work on “The Astrological Alphabet.”
[xxvi] See Liz Greene’s The Astrology of Fate (1984, Weiser ) for an in depth look at the innate archetypal struggle of Aries.
[xxvii] See Liz Greene’s The Astrology of Fate (1984, Weiser ) for an in depth look at the innate archetypal struggle of Virgo.
[xxix] Dane Rudhyar, Astrology and the Modern Psyche.1976 CRCS, pg 31.
[xxx] The life of Jack Kerouac is a prime example of what I deem a “failure” of the mid life transits. See “The Spiritual Side of Saturn” The Mountain Astrologer Issue # 117 Oct/Nov 2004.
[xxxi] Dane Rudhyar, The Pulse of Life, 1963 Llewellyn.
Page last modified on 13-Dec-2007
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