The Fifties

The Fifties are an unfortunate decade, located between the Forties, which is known for World War II, and the Sixties, which is known for the Sixties.  The Fifties is almost the decade that time forgot.  Even people who were adult then are called the forgotten generation, too young to serve in World War II, they served in the Korean War, which is also pretty much forgotten, not nearly as notorious as was the Vietnam War, that, naturally, occurred in the Sixties.

But of course the decade of the Nineteen Fifties is just as important as any other time, and perhaps more so since it set the ground for what was to come after, and that includes now.  A book  has been written about this decade, called The Fifties, but David Halberstam, who also wrote a definite book about the Vietnam War.

The decade was dominated by one aspect, the closing square between Uranus and Neptune; the conjunction of the two, and thus the culmination of the cycle that started in 1820, was in the 1990s.

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Uranus Square Neptune

There are several meanings that can be attached  to this square, and most of them involve the word “drugs” because Neptune is part of the aspect, but not always “drugs” as commonly thought of.

The Fifties was the decade for the introduction of the first, very popular tranquilizer drug called Miltown, whose scientific name was meprobamate.  This was an anti-anxiety drug that became very popular with bored housewives (eg. Betty Friedan The Feminine Mystique) and business  executives.  This started the psychoactive drug craze — treat mental problems with drugs not counseling — that led to Valium and Prozac in later years.  This decade also saw the publication of the first DSM – –Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — that prescribed all sorts of drugs for what ailed you in the psychological realm.  It was a bible for psychiatrists. Ever since that point — the Fifties — drugs have been prescribed more and more for more and more conditions, many of which did not exist when the first DSM came out.  Some psychiatrists have worried that the use of these drugs make the underlying conditions worse,  see for example, the book Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker.

Another activity that also became addictive was one that first became important to the world under the Uranus-Neptune opposition of the first decade of the Twentieth Century, and that was driving.  The Interstate Highway system was built, spanning the United States.  This  allowed people to drive coast to coast much more easily than in the days of Route 66.  It now became a tradition in many families for the males to go inspect the new model cars when they were introduced every year like clockwork, with major changes happening every three years.  American car manufacturers, especially General Motors, became huge industries, and the head of GM was even in the Eisenhower administration.   American families would  get a new car often — it was a point of pride — and automobiles played a part in many American movies.  A teenager — a concept that became important in the Fifties — was expected to learn to drive early and get his (more often that her) own car, it was a sign of adulthood.

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Electronic Drug

But the most important drug of this decades, what I call an electronic  drug, was television. Halberstam, in the book mention above, discusses the important place television held in American life in the Fifties.  While television had existed before the decade began, through the decade it became more and more popular.  In 1950 relatively few people owned television sets, and crowds were often found around store windows that displayed sets whenever an important show was on, while by the end of the decade many, many people owned television sets, so that it made sense to have the first televised debate between Presidential candidate John Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960.  The powerful effect of television was shown by the fact that listeners to the debate on radio thought that Nixon had won, where viewers of the debate on television were convinced that the handsome Kennedy had won over the recovering-from-illness Nixon.

There was another reference to drugs during this decade in a more conventional sense.

In the early Fifties the Beat poet and novelist  William Burroughs went to South America to explore the psychedelic substance known as yage or ayahuasca.  The active component of this substance is DMT — dimethyltryptamine — which later became popular in the Sixties –the band known as the Grateful Dead is rumoured  to have come up with their name while on a DMT trip — and is found in the common road side plant known as reed canary grass.  Burroughs wrote a series of letters to the then unknown poet Allen Ginsberg  describing his experience.  The book was finally published in another ten years.  But this was one one the first accounts of a Western writer exploring mind-altering substances in a third world country.

Later that decade the ethnomycologists and vice president of the investment bank J. P. Morgan  R. Gordon Wasson explored “magic mushroons” in Mexico.  He was married to a Russian woman, and the Russians have always been interested in mushrooms, hence his interest.  He discovered a dying cult in Mexico that use psilocybin mushrooms to  alter their state of consciousness.  These mushrooms would also become popular in the next decade, after he rescued them from obscurity.  He  published an article in Life magazine in May of 1957 called “Seeking the Magic Mushroom” that brought the mushroom to world attention, and a few years  later a popular TV show — television now being available for the masses — called One Step Beyond devoted  an episode to the mushrooms.

Then in 1959 a graduate student in creative writing at Stanford University in the Bay Area of California took part in government experiments with psychedelic drugs such as LSD.  The student, who later became a well-known writer, was Ken Kesey, and his  experiments with drugs later led to many developments of the Sixties counter culture and the famous Acid Tests and a group called the Merry Pranksters, who drove a acid-fueled bus across  the United States, as recounted  most famously in Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

But the experiments that Kesey was taking part were sponsored by the  CIA – Central Intelligence Agency — as part of their program called MKULTRA.  MKULTRA was run mostly in the Fifties, and was  finally revealed in the aftermath of the Watergate  crisis in the United States.  It was a  program designed to look at various ways of controlling the human mind, with implications for interrogation.  Various drugs were explored, the most interesting of which was LSD.  Among other things done with this drug, in one experiment prostitutes were instructed to give their customers a liquid dosed with LSD while CIA agents watched their reaction.  Army members were given LSD without their knowledge.  In one case a Canadian jumped from a high building under the influence of MKULTRA-supplied LSD.  The experiments at  Stanford that Kesey took part in were part of this program.

But the CIA was formed by the National Security Act of 1947  (which also renamed the accurately-named  War Department as the Department of Defense)  as  a combination of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services)  and the German intelligence organization during World War  II as headed by Reinhard Gehlen, who was charged with spying on the Soviet Union during the emerging Cold War.  So one can see a trail between the Nazis and the Merry Pranksters.

These two charts above show the first and last exact square of Uranus and Neptune during this decade.  But there was one other important transit during this decade that shows why the effects noted were so strong in the United States.  For that country, this decade also saw the transiting Pluto opposite the Moon. This transit only happens once every 250 years, and so this transit had never happened  before in the history of the country.  There was a conjunction in the early days of the  United States, the decade of the 1790s, and that had to do with the formation of the first political parties, among other things, and  will be discussed at a later date.  Since the Moon represents the people of the country, as opposed to the government, it was in  this transit that the people of the country that were most affected.  Again, the Halberstam book  mentioned above details this connection.  During this decade citizens went from being those who would  catch Your Show of Shows at the house of someone who had a television set to citizens who stayed home Monday nights to watch I Love Lucy.  The next chart shows one instance of this opposition, but since  Pluto is a slow moving planet, this transit and its effects lasted for many  years.

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Pluto Opposite US Moon

This graphical ephemeris show the ten year period of the Fifties and  gives an overview of the astrological influences  discussed.  We can see the square approaches exact (black arrow)  and leaves exact (red arrow) over a period of years.  For a square I would give an orb  of three degrees before and after exactitude.  To  give  you a sense of this, each gray or white band in the graphical ephemeris represents 7.5  degrees.  The only natal planet illustrated is the US Moon, so you can see where the conjunction with Pluto takes place (green arrow).  With the orb I give for an opposition of six degrees, you can see that this  opposition lasts for much of the decade.

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The Fifties

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World War Two

World War Two is one of the major events of the Twentieth Century.  The official date for the start of this war is September 1, 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland.  But many events occurred before that date that could be considered part of World War II.  Some of these events are discussed below.

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Germany Invades Poland

In the chart for the start of World War Two, when Germany invaded Poland,  we see the typical Saturn square Pluto.  Saturn is opposite the North Node of the Moon, and thus conjunct the South Node, suggesting that this conflict will involve the whole world. Uranus is closely trine Neptune, and this is the aspect that will color the whole period of the war, as we will see below.  It is shown most clearly in the graphical ephemeris discussed at the end.

The war involved  countries on both sides of the world, namely Germany and Japan.  Germany had only been its own country a little more than 60 years, and Japan had  begun to adopt Western methods  about the same time.  Germany had already been involved in the First World War (as had been Japan), and Japan had been involved in a war with Russia at the beginning of the Twentieth Century.   Both wanted to expand their power.

Germany had been a democracy since the end of World War One, but at the beginning of 1933 a soldier from World War I became Chancellor of Germany, and after that things began to change.  In the chart of his assumption of power we see Uranus square Pluto.  This can indicate revolutionary activity, as was the case in  the Depression-era US, but Hitler’s rise to power was also  revolutionary in its own way.

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Hitler Assumes Power

The Japanese were also on the move long before the Second World War officially started.  They had learned from the Chinese that you do not want to be ruled by Western powers, and so they weren’t, but they had desires on  that mainland continent.  In  1931 they invaded the Chinese province of Manchuria and took control.  Here is  the chart for that invasion.  Neptune is semisquare Pluto, the same aspect as we saw in the Depression and indeed this invasion was taking place at the same time as the Great Depression and much of the world was focussed on other things.  At the same time Saturn was square Uranus — this often indicates a conflict between the forces of conservatism and more radical ideas, but of course that can play out on many levels.

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Japan Invades Manchuria

The Japanese did not treat the Chinese well, and one of the most notorious incidents was called the Rape of Nanking.  In this incident, which started on December 13, 1937  and extended into the next year, the Nazis were the good guys.  At one time during this incident the German embassy in Nanking served as a refuge to the Chinese that were being persecuted by the Japanese.  A good study of this is The Rape of Nanking by Iris Murdock.  In the chart for the start of this event the first thing we notice is that Saturn is at the Aries point, and it will get closer over the next few weeks.  Planets at the Aries point have world wide implications.  The rest of the world was fairly Saturnian at this time  and in China things were about to become even more so. Pluto is opposite Jupiter, and both aspect that Saturn on the Aries point.  Jupiter-Pluto can be seen as a whole lot of Pluto, and  in this case Pluto indicated dark forces that suddenly came into play.  Pluto had been discovered a few years ago, and is said to rule, among other things, the dark conditions around the world in the Thirties.

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Rape of Nanking

In Europe, Hitler was not the only fascist — defined originally in an Italian encyclopedia as corporatism — to take power.  In Italy there was  Benito Mussolini, and in Spain the was Francisco Franco, who managed to rule Spain until his death in 975, although he had relinquished some power in the years up to his death.  But Franco was involved in a lead up to the Second Word War called the Spanish Civil War, which lasted from 1936 to 1939.  The Spanish Civil War is seen as a “test-run” for the official war to come, and many “premature antifascists” from Western countries went to Spain to fight against the fascists  whom  the rest of the world either ignored or thought would defeat the Communists.  At one time Harry Truman, who would eventually become President of the United States, declared that if the Fascist were wining we should support the Communists, and if the Communists were winning we should support the Fascists.  Such an attitude did  not endear him to Stalin.  A recent book about the Spanish Civil War and  the well-known people who were there, such as Ernest Hemingway, is Hell and  Good Company by Richard Rhodes.  A group of people from America under the name “Abraham Lincoln Brigade” fought in the war, since they realized that a victory for Franco (backed by Hitler and Mussolini) would bode badly for the future of the world, and they were correct.

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Spanish Civil War Starts

In the chart for the start of this civil war, we see that again Pluto raises its ugly head, with Sun conjunct Pluto on that day.  Pluto is also widely trine Saturn, another  example of the problems with Saturn/Pluto,  and Mars is approaching a conjunction with Pluto which would only get tighter.  The well-known painting by  the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, Guernica,  depicts the horror seen during this war. In this massacre, the German air force bombed  a town in the Basque  region of Spain, killing and terrifying many defenseless civilians.

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Spanish Civil War Ends

The chart for the end of the Spanish Civil War looks completely different.  The only aspect lasting more that a few hours is the Jupiter opposite Neptune.  For these  two planets Ebertin says “apparent happiness”.  There was a happiness because the war had ended, but as we know with hindsight, the big War was about to start, rendering any happiness as only temporary.

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The Ten Years of World War Two

In this graphical ephemeris overview of the years of the Second World War, we see the prominent aspect is the Uranus-Neptune trine.  Since  this a  third harmonic graphical ephemeris, this aspect looks like a conjunction, with the lines moving in and out of orb.  It slowly came into orb in the middle of the decade of the Thirties, and was first exact in the summer of 1939.  It continued to be exact through 1944 and then started to widen in 1945, just as  the war was drawing to a close.

This graphical ephemeris represents the ten year period from about October 1935 to the end of September 1945.  Some important events are marked on the graph:  the black arrow just to the left of the center line is the official start of the war with Hitler’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939.  You  can see that the  trine first became exact just before that time, which is hidden by the white arrow.  The Rape of Nanking is indicated by the green arrow.  The Spanish Civil War extends from the blue arrow to the white arrow.  The German forces invaded  Rhineland at the yellow arrow and invaded the Sudetenland at the  azure arrow.  The Pearl Harbor attack, which was followed closely by the American decision to enter the war, is shown by the brown arrow.  The Battle of Midway, which was a decisive moment in the Pacific War, is indicated  by the dark blue arrow.  The D-Day Battle, June 6, 1944, is shown by the dark green arrow, and was discussed previously.  Finally, the surrender of Germany is indicated by the red arrow to the far right of the graph.  The bombing of Japan at Hiroshima  will be discussed at a later point.

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Victory In Europe

In the chart for Victory in Europe — VE – Day, when Germany surrendered, we see Sun trine Jupiter.  Great luck, as can be seen  by photo of the crowds in America reacting to the news.  In the same chart, but as transits to the US  chart, Saturn is conjunct the US Sun and  sesquiquadrate the US  Moon.  What should have been a happy event seems to be tinged with a Saturninan sadness, and in fact President Roosevelt, who had been in that position for over ten years, had died less  than a month previously.

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VE Day in the USA