Uranus, Neptune and Pluto – The Three Magi at Humanity’s Crossing of the Threshold

© Terry Boardman

The three years 1998, 1999, 2000 are all intimately related to the number 666, which the Apocalypse of St John in the New Testament describes as the number of the Beast, or Antichrist – a Being who will pretend to be the Christ, but who will in fact seek to enslave humanity.

                    1997 ÷ 3 = 665.67

                    1998 ÷ 3 = 666

                    1999 ÷ 3 = 666.33

                    2000 ÷ 3 = 666.67

                     2001 ÷ 3 = 667.  

The middle year of the three, 1999, itself contains the number 666 upside down. The Apocalypse describes the end of the world as we know it, but that crisis is prefigured throughout history by a series of lesser events.

If one reflects on the nature of the two years 1998 and 1999, one can see that economic issues were uppermost among the events of 1998. The Asian economic crisis, which had started the year before in Thailand, reached a peak in the autumn of 1999 when even the likes of Henry Kissinger and financier George Soros were warning of the imminent collapse of the world’s economic system. In the event, magician Alan Greenspan, head of the US Federal Reserve, waved his magic wand, brought down interest rates and by the end of the year, the crisis was said to be over – but not before Russia’s economy was brought to its knees. 1999 on the other hand did not see economic issues as the main problem; Asian economies for example began a slow and painful recovery. The main source of anxiety in 1999 was politics, ethnic issues, and war. Kurdistan, Kosovo, East Timor, Northern Ireland, Chechnya, China’s 50th anniversary and taking back of Macau…the list goes on. The gesture of the year was clearly politics.

Can we then expect that the gesture of the year 2000 will be of a spiritual/cultural or religious nature? If this turns out to be the case, then the three years 1998-2000 will have specifically reflected the three elements of the social organism – economics, politics, and  culture/religion, which in turn are related to the three parts of the human organism – the will, the feelings and the thinking life respectively. This will show that these three years are of some special significance.

Now if we consider the three centuries, the 19th, the 20th and the 21st, we can perhaps find a similar gesture. The 19th century was dominated by the Industrial Revolution, and society was transformed by the economic changes which that revolution brought about. Politics was not so significant; there was in fact in the more developed countries more or less a consensus on economic matters amongst the main political parties. Darwinism was perhaps the most significant change in the realm of thought, but that too was based on the understanding of physical nature. Economics is itself the transformation of physical nature and putting it at the service of human beings. In the 20th century, however, it was not so much economics as politics which determined the course of history. The struggle against imperialism and  colonialism (themselves the outgrowths of 19th century economic thinking), the mighty clash between democracy and totalitarianism (communism and fascism) which lasted from 1917 till 1989, the heyday of party politics, campaigning, voting, elections, the seemingly endless and horribly bitter inter-ethnic conflicts as former empires were broken up into competing homogeneous nation states. American political scientist Francis Fukuyama’s book “The End of History” (1992) signalled that this era of politics had come to an end, and although the world scoffed at his book’s title, his intuition about politics was essentially correct; we are told that  “we are all liberal democrats” now.

Will the 20th century then be one of predominantly spiritual and cultural concerns? It is very likely. For the kind of ethical questions and riddles with which 20th century development has saddled us  now demand the kind of answers that can only come from facing the question “what is a human being?” Is the human being to be a cyborg, a human animal with a body including many animal parts, a drug addict, an entertainment addict, a mere consumer? How can the values of Muslims and Christian Fundamentalists, Orthodox Jews and others who all profess to live by the Word of God revealed in a book coexist in a global community with the values of non-Muslims, many of whom do not recognise any kind of spiritual values? What are we to do with nuclear energy? What kind of social arrangements does a state that uses nuclear energy require? Are entertainment stars to be our new saints, physicists to be our new sages? Is the trinity of sex, drugs and electric/electronic music to be our only religion and means of some kind of transcendance? These are all profound questions of identity. To answer them we need to have crossed a major threshold.

The Threshold
But according to spiritual science, this threshold has already been crossed; we just need to realise it. It was crossed 100 years ago in 1899-1900. At that time the Dark Age of Kali Yuga, which had lasted 5000 years, came to an end and the doors of natural clairvoyant perception began very slowly to open again. Before Kali Yuga human beings had been naturally clairvoyant; the existence of a spiritual world was obvious to them. There was no need for “religion” as such to remind us of Gods. But for human freedom to develop, an age of spiritual ignorance was necessary: this was Kali Yuga during which natural clairvoyance faded for most people. Knowledge of the spiritual world was kept alive only through the esoteric Mystery Centres for initiates and their pupils in various cultures and the exoteric religions for the masses of the people.

Some 120 years before the end of Kali Yuga major preparations for the crossing of the threshold of the physical and spiritual worlds were made in the shape of the Industrial Revolution which made possible travel and forms of energy impossible in the Dark Age. The first stage was the harnessing of steam power circa 1750 in Britain Then in 1781 came the discovery of Uranus, the first planet beyond Saturn, and simultaneously, the discovery of electricity. Uranus was almost immediately associated with the new energy due to its bizarre astronomical features and its position beyond the threshold of Saturn, beyond the traditional seven celestial bodies (the 3 outer planets Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the 3 inner planets Moon, Venus, Mercury, and the Sun) which had always been associated with the being of Man and the human soul. Uranus is associated with illumination, of both the true and the false kind. Indeed all the trans-Saturnian planets are ‘amoral’ and have two faces, a higher and a lower octave. It is no accident that five years before Uranus, the planet of illumination and illusion was discovered, a revolutionary secret society calling itself the Illuminati was formed in Bavaria, dedicated to the  radical  overthrow of all established order and the creation of a kind of communistic Utopia on Earth – a very Uranian gesture! This was a kind of foreshadowing of the unconcsious crossing of the threshold by the whole of humanity that was to take place in 1899-1900. The founding of the United States, the first “world state” built on ideology, the mighty upheaval of the French Revolution, the powerful and dramatic music of Beethoven, the rise to power and the equally rapid fall of the Uranian genius of Napoleon as well as the inexorable and often brutal uprooting process of industrialisation followed in quick succession.

65 years later in 1846 the second phase of preparations unfolded as the planet Neptune was discovered. As its name implies, this planet is associated with the sea, with dreams, with all that is not brilliant and dramatic illumination that bursts in upon one like a lightning flash, but rather with all that is hazy, cloudy, with inspirations that sound to one through fog and mist. The Opium Wars had started a few years before; the next phase of industrialisation now got underway with the development of the chemical industry, with telegraphy, Morse code, hydroelectricity and electromagnetism. The music of Beethoven and Schubert gave way before Wagner’s magical evocations of the mists of Teutonic myth. Industrial culture and the philosophical materialism which underpinned it now gripped the western world. Darwinism became the new gospel, but spiritualism -the attempt to communicate with the dead in sceances also became fashionable  1848 until it was discredited towards the end of the century. Powerful feelings of ecstasy and subsumation of the self in the service of a cause were now seen in art and politics (socialism, communism, imperialism, racism). People were prepared to be literally carried away by these new and exalted feelings. This phase lasted until 1899-1900 after which newer and even more bizarre and challenging energies manifested in the form of Einstein’s relativity theory, the music of Schoenberg, the architecture of skyscrapers, the ever greater power of machines, the grand illusions of cinema and above all, perhaps, the romance of powered flight.

During the First World War, the British composer Gustav Holst wrote a piece called the Planets Suite in which he brilliantly captured the spirit of the Saturnine threshold crossing and of the amoral energies of what he called Uranus the Illusionist and of Neptune the Mystic that lay beyond the threshold. After Uranus had completed one orbit around the Sun (84 years) in 1930, just 12 years after the end of the First World War, and in the midst of the Depression that threatened to destroy the economies and the stability of the capitalist world, came the discovery by Clyde Tombaugh in the USA of the planet Pluto. In the same year the atom was split by the British scientist Rutherford. The First World War had been a major watershed; the 19th century culture had been brutally swept aside by the new titanic forces of the 20th century. The war represented a cataclysm both physical and mental so vast that it is difficult for us today to conceive of the change; the world was simply transformed. Social, mental and political structures which had existed for centuries simply collapsed. Pluto was soon associated with annihilation but also with regeneration, a truly transformative force, again two-sided, amoral. Three years later came Adolf Hitler accompanied by Stalin and Mussolini. The danger of Hitler led directly to the Manhattan project and the explosion of the three atom bombs in 1945, which were compared to the power of the Sun. Hitler’s  swastika was an ancient Sun symbol, and the land where two of the first atom bombs were dropped was Japan, Land of the Rising Sun which at the time had  the Sun disc as its national emblem. The Axis allies Germany, Italy, and Japan were all countries in which the spiritual sun should have prevailed in the national culture enabling those countries to make a mighty and positive contribution to their respective regions and to humanity at large. Instead, the perversion of the spirituality of the Sun in each case led to a crisis of identity in each country. In 1945 it seemed as if the three countries might actually cease to exist entirely and be blotted out of the family of nations. This is the plutonic gesture  – to be or not to be – it challenges the very existence and identity of the self.

The Three Challengers: Uranus, Neptune, Pluto
Uranus, Neptune and Pluto then, correspond to the higher and lower octaves of the three human soul forces which all human beings currently possess: thinking, feeling, and willing (or being) respectively. The  three higher spiritual forces which exist in us as seeds for the future can only be developed by spiritual work upon oneself: They are called in Anthroposophy Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition,  They could also be called Illumination, Inspiration, and Union. The three planets themselves represent archetypal seed forces of the  three higher spiritual forces in the human entelechy and thus were not connected with  Man’s actual earthly development, the process of human incarnation, which is why they were not known to humanity (although certain earlier cultures such as the Greeks and Egyptians had intimations of them. They were represented in their mythologies but did not feature strongly). The three planets represent cosmic forces which were involved with the formation of our solar system but not with its elaboration. They can thus be said to represent cosmic light, cosmic sound and cosmic life. But remnants of these cosmic formative forces still exist within the centre of the Earth as condensed or trapped light (electricity), condensed or trapped sound (magnetism) and condensed or trapped life (atomic power). These subearthly forces can work up and affect the human negatively leading to what could be called a jagged electrification of thinking, a fanatical hate-filled magnetisation of feeling and a destructive atomisation of the will: all three negative characteristics were present in Adolf Hitler who was inspired by the Antichrist. In 1924 Rudolf Steiner said that before the reappearance of Christ in the etheric realm, mankind would have to face the Beast rising from the abyss in the year 1933. In that year Hitler came to power. It has been the seven traditional celestial bodies which have been connected to Man’s soul development But now, as humanity crosses the threshold of the spiritual world, we are called upon to develop the higher forces of Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition, and the three planets come to us as heralds, challengers for this endeavour.

Christ and the Three Magi
The emergence into history of these three trans-Saturnian planets then, new to mankind’s experience, have signified the crossing of the threshold for humanity. Now,  we have approached the crossing into the third millennium and with it the 21st century of “christened” humanity. Christ, like Buddha, came for all humanity, not only for a particular ethnic section of it. Since the events of Palestine 2000 years ago the Christ has been in the world working from heart to heart, from conscience to conscience. He lived for 33.33 years and since His Resurrection when His blood flowed into the earth and its atmosphere, that periodicity has been a formative force in human affairs. 3 x 33.33 years is a century, and this is why, since the events of Palestine 2000 years ago each century has corresponded to a year in the life of a new humanity – a humanity that is living amidst the divine-earthly bloodstream of its creator. This is why humanity can be said to have been “christened” which is not the same as saying “Christian” in the ecclesiastical sense.

Spiritual science reveals that a human life proceeds in seven year periods in which the  members of the human organism are sequentially developed: physical body (0-7), life or etheric body (7-14), feeling or astral body (14-21), ego (21-42). In the 21st century then the new “christened” humanity  comes of age: its ego is born and that ego is none other than the Christ, our source of light and life. He has himself accompanied us through all the stages of cosmic evolution down to  incarnation onto this earthly plane. Now together with Him, we begin our long process of excarnation and return to the Godhead. 2000 years ago He revealed Himself to us on the physical plane in one time and place. In the 20th century, from 1933 onwards according to Rudolf Steiner, He would reveal Himself again to us, this time on the etheric plane – the angelic plane of existence where, since the opening of the doors of natural clairvoyant perception in 1899-1900, increasing numbers of peopole have begun to be able to see or feel His Presence. This is the real significance of the 21st century: it is the birth of Mankind’s ego. Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, like the three kings or magi in Matthew’s account of the Nativity who brought gold (the light of wisdom) frankincense (the feeling of devotion) and myrrh (the care of the physical body), have come to witness this remarkable event in the life of humanity. But we should remember that the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus was accompanied by King Herod’s slaughter of the children in his bid to prevent himself being replaced by the Christ. There is a dark side to Matthew’s account unlike that of Luke in which the three Magi do not appear.

Heavenly signs on the threshold
The sequence of astronomical events building up to May 2000  began in February 1979, 21 years before the 21st century opened. On 26 Feb 1979 Pluto, normally the outermost planet, penetrated within the orbit of Neptune and until March 1999 approached closer to the Sun than Neptune. On the same day there was a total eclipse of the Sun in Aquarius. During the eclipse the Moon’s shadow passed over Mt St Helens in northwestern USA. The volcano began to shake with earthquakes  on 20th March the following year and erupted massively on 18 May 1980 Ascension Sunday. Thus did the heavens and the earth begin their dramatic  inter-reaction in the last 21 years of the 20th century. The 1980s were distinguished by the reappearance of Halley’s Comet.  Comets bring different impulses and Halley’s comet, according to Rudolf Steiner, has always been a bearer of a certain impulse towards materialism. Indeed the 1980s are widely regarded as a decade of materialism. In 1989 – that remarkable year of change, which can justifiably be said to have brought the 20th century to an end – Pluto, moving through Libra, came closest to the Sun in its 248 year orbit. On Ascension Day 4th May 1989 Pluto stood closest to the Earth and opposite the Sun which was in Aries, the Ram, or Lamb (traditionally associated with Christ). At that time China was approaching crisis in Tiananmen Square, the communist bloc in Europe was on the edge of disintegration, which came later in the year, and Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran died in June.

The year before 1988 saw three conjunctions of Saturn and Uranus (the planets on this and yonder side of the threshold) in Scorpio. In 1989 there were three conjunctions between Saturn and Neptune in Sagittarius (the Archer, traditionally associated with the human being). Then in 1993 Uranus and Neptune also conjoined three times in Sagittarius. From 1990 to 1991 (when the global recession set in and Japan’s economy began its long down turn) Jupiter passed through Gemini forming oppositions to the threshold planets Saturn, Uranus, and  Neptune which were in in Sagittarius. Gemini and Sagittarius are signs of duality and chief cosmic representatives of the double face of evil. Besides the global recession, those years 1990-91 saw the  Gulf Crisis and War, the reunification of Germany under the lure of the powerful deutschmark, the Treaty of Maastricht creating the  European Union, the end of the USSR and Gorbachev’s replacement by Yeltsin.

With Uranus joining Neptune in Sagittarius in 1993, Pluto (the “darkest” planet) entered Scorpio (the “darkest” constellation). In the spring of 1994 came the horrendous genocide in Rwanda where over a million people were brutally killed. Jupiter crossed Pluto in Scorpio at the end of 1994 and looped above the star Antares, the heart of Scorpio in Autumn 1995. Neptune entered Capricorn (sign of government and politics) in 1996, and Jupiter crossed Neptune and Uranus in Capricorn in January and February 1997.

On 26 February 1998 (the year of 666), 19 years on from the very day which began this whole sequence of cosmic events, there was another total eclipse of the Sun in Aquarius as Pluto approached conjunction with Antares – the “darkest” possible astrological combination.  In early December 1998 the Sun and Mercury joined Pluto near Antares – a cosmic gesture of healing. In January 1999  Pluto crossed Antares and in February passed back out beyond the orbit of Neptune after its 20 year period within it and resumed its place as the outermost planet. Throughout 1999, however, Pluto remained in conjunction with Antares. On 11th August 1999 there was a phenomenal total eclipse of the Sun on the cusp of Cancer and Leo. The path of the eclipse went from Newfoundland on the American continent, across the Atlantic, over Europe, through the Middle East, and finished in the Bay of Bengal on the Indian subcontinent. In other words, it passed in reverse along the whole route of cultural development in the Post-Atlantean epoch in that the last Atlantean period having been the Mongoloid, the first post-Atlantean epoch was the Indian, the second the Persian, the third the Egypto-Chaldean, the fourth the Greco-Roman, and the fifth current epoch is the Anglo-Germanic. This has been a huge cultural wave moving through time (from about 8000 BC) and space from East to West. Traditionally of course, the total eclipse has been universally regarded as a sign of evil and a time of great danger when evil forces can strike into human culture.

Then a week later, on 17th-18th August, with the effects of the eclipse still reverberating, there was the cosmic phenomenon of the Grand Cross in which the Sun and Moon, Mars, Saturn and Uranus in Aquarius were all  either square to or in opposition to each other, creating massive tension. The Sun and Moon conjunction opposed Uranus, while Mars  opposed Saturn.  A total of 8 out of 10 planets were in fixed signs when considered tropically (the astrological system used by most astrologers but which is actually some 25 degrees out of true position; astronomical data given in this article so far have been sidereal, that is, in the true position in the sky. It would take too long to explain here why astrologers use the tropical system. Suffice it to say that both systems have their justification. The last time such a Grand Cross occurred – though it was a weaker one -  was in 1910, the year of the previous visit of Halley’s Comet; four years later came the First World War and the real beginning of the 20th century. The four fixed signs of the Grand Cross of 1999 were Taurus (Bull), Leo (Lion), Scorpio (Scorpion/Eagle), and Aquarius (Man) – these are the 4 signs of the Evangelists (Luke, Mark, John, and Matthew respectively) and also the 4 members of the Egyptian Sphinx who had the head of a man, the front body of a lion, the rear body of a bull and the wings of an eagle. The Sphinx presented riddles to all who met him and destroyed those who could not answer his riddles. This Grand Fixed Cross is known traditionally as the Cross of Crucifixion. It presents a tremendous challenge to all fixed and outdated forms – physical, social, emotional, and mental. In the months which followed the Grand Cross the Earth was beset with a remarkable series of natural disasters – earthquakes, floods, and storms which closed the century and continued right up to its end. The effects of the eclipse and the Grand Cross will surely reverberate on for some time yet

Finally, some 270 days (the period of a human gestation) after the eclipse,  in the first week of May 2000 and continuing on through  Easter (23rd April) and Ascension (1st June),  all the traditional planets except Mars conjoin together in Aries, the sign of Christ, and on 28th May there is a conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter (traditionally regarded as the planets of past and future respectively) just before Ascension. This is a remarkable constellation, a mighty cosmic conference of the planets traditionally associated with the human soul. Mars (planet of aggression but also of courage) then leads this whole group from Aries into Taurus (traditionally the sign of the Holy Spirit) and one by one they will pass in opposition to Pluto which is conjoined with Antares the heart of the Scorpion on the other side of the Zodiac.

This awe-inspiring cosmic drama that has taken place over the last 21 years is surely a fitting prelude for the New Age of Mankind’s Egohood that is now dawning – certainly the most significant era in human history when we stand at the most fateful crossroads. Rudolf Steiner tells us that the good spiritual hierarchies, powerless when Christ entered the underworld after His death on the Cross 2000 years ago, held their breath until He re-emerged. Perhaps they are holding their breath again today. Unable to interfere with Man’s freedom, they wait to see if Man will use his freedom for the benefit of the Earth and the human race. Since 1900 we have been crossing over the threshold of the spiritual world unconsciously, for the most part, sleepwalking. The heavens themselves are now proclaiming that it is time we began to cross the threshold in full awareness. If we do not, the forces of opposition will take full advantage of our sleepiness. “Repent (change your thinking)!” proclaimed John the Baptist, “for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. Prepare the way of the Lord (the way of the Ego of humanity). I have baptised with water but He shall baptise with the Holy Spirit and with fire!” That fire is the fire of the human ego devoted to the spirit. Today John’s message is just as true not only for the people of Palestine but for the whole human race.

(1) In much of what follows I am indebted to the astronomical observations of the Star Fire Group (William Bento, Brian Gray, Leita McDowell, Robert Schiapacasse) of California in the British magazine Shoreline, November 198

© Terry Boardman     Dec 1999 – Jan 2000

This page was created 30.1.2001 Last Updated 16.7.2012