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A Pluto Primer

by John Townley

There have been so many recent astrological takes on Pluto entering Capricorn that it is difficult to add much except context, which is the one thing that’s understandably been lacking. Of course, it’s hard to put something into context that hasn’t happened yet, but you can look at the past and see how it might cradle the future.

For instance, when Pluto entered Sagittarius, what were astrologers predicting? Since Sagittarius is associated with truth, law, and religion, most were predicting revolutions in how those areas fared and a new blossoming of justice and spirituality, as the old was washed away by the new. Well, that was also toward the end of many astrologers’ romance with malefics like Saturn and Pluto, always seeing the bright side of these juggernauts. Of course, nothing could have been further from what actually happened. In fact, religious fanaticism and lawlessness flourished and as for truth – well, even the media, whose responsibility is ferreting out truth, instead reveled in and contributed to institutional dissembling on a scale imagined only by Hitler, Goebbels, and Orwell. One of the few astrologers who mostly got it right ahead of time is here.

Now, as if we’ve learned our lesson, the predictions are no longer rosy but mostly dire, and with Capricorn associated with business, government, and social structure in general, the fantasies run to total economic ruin and war, a total deconstruction of the world as we know it. Is that what we have to look forward to? Or have our expectations yet again blinded us to the actual effects of what we’re looking at?

Definition of Death

One of the problems of understanding the passages of Pluto is its close association with death, because how we look at death tends to color our predictions. When we take a non-material, mystical view (as too many astrologers do, without having their feet on the ground first), we tend to dismiss death as a transitory illusion, a welcome passing from the old to a better new world. It’s sort of like, in human biological terms, thinking of it as a jumping from healthy middle-age to already having arrived in heaven or reincarnated as a merry, half-grown child. What actually happens in between those before-and-after life states is often suffering, infirmity, and certainly the final end of a lifetime of carefully constructing our precious selves. That’s the reality of death, when all you’ve built comes crashing down around you and there’s nothing left. The image of the Phoenix rising from the ashes is a hopeful picture, indeed, but not so reassuring if the ashes are you. The commonly-used word “transformation” for Pluto transits is a bit too lofty for the actuality on the ground.

But, there are different kinds of death – sudden, gradual, painful, willful, easy, and lots more. Plus, individuals and situations die in differening fashions from one another. As an individual, physically at least, first you’re alive, then you're dead – you’re there, and then you’re gone. But situations, trends, cities, countries, societies and other group entities usually die and are replaced at the same time, with considerable overlap. It’s more similar to the coming of winter, when bulbs are gestating, animals hibernating, so that when spring arrives the last year’s replacements are already there before the snow melts. When the new regeneration arises, it is happily rid of the structure it was born beneath and which fell down while it was percolating below, largely unnoticed, waiting to take center stage once the coast was clear.

So it is with Pluto, which is just finishing laying waste to Sagittarius. If you look around, the reaction to the religious hatred, lawlessness, and disregard for truth is already breeding a new generation of Kenndyesque hope and reform, and though barely begun it has certainly taken root. And, as we will be paying attention to the headlines of the structural wreckage being strewn about by Pluto in Capricorn, beneath it will be growing something strong and reliable, perhaps even taken for granted.

Recovery and Reconstruction

You can see that process happening more clearly when you look to where Pluto was two or three signs ago. When it was passing through Libra (the 1970s, just into the early '80s) the battles around feminism and balance in the environment were sparked off by the realization of the terrible, indeed terminal situations happening in those areas. Now equal rights are a relative assumption if not always a perfect reality, and all things green are accepted as the necessary and coming wave of the future. Pluto in Scorpio, which brought us amazing and often dangerous sexual excesses and AIDS along with it, is not yet that far in the past, but already that dread plague is potentially under control (in some cases, and could be in others) and open sex is so integrated into our lifestyle that we too-often learn it from our teens and not the other way around. In each case, the story is in the eventual recovery, initially under way during the transit itself. One could go back 245 years and find this sort of evidence of what the complete cycle of Pluto yields for each of the twelve signs, but that’s for a longer article, or maybe a book.

Lost At Sea, by Michael Ross, 2007

What we can most learn for the moment is that the crashing and smashing attendant to a Pluto transit is at the same time accompanied not just by a future life after death but by a continuing one right under our feet. In an attempt to see what comes next, we too often tend to look up and around us to what grabs our attention and we make our judgments based on the current context, the point of view forged by the very structures being disassembled. If you’re really looking to stabilize yourself and get through the often-chaotic events, you should be looking down at the ground to see what’s sprouting. In every instance, the solutions to your problems are not in the future, yet to come, but are already there and beginning to function around you, and you just haven’t noticed.

In our linear Western view of things, we tend to forget where we are in the storm of life – some of us are distracted by every wave and gust of wind, others relentlessly fix their gaze upon the distant shore, while still others look grudgingly behind at what is gone. So here’s an image that covers it all, the chorus of a  P.P. Bliss gospel hymn from 1875, when the sea voyage was a major life metaphor:

Pull for the shore, sailor, pull for the shore!
Heed not the rolling waves, but bend to the oar!
Safe in the lifeboat, sailor, cling to self no more!
Leave the poor old stranded wreck and pull for the shore!

The moral? The wreck is what you are leaving, the shore is where you are going, but the lifeboat is where you are, rising right beneath you, and it is your salvation. In times of Plutonian deconstruction, that is worth remembering. Rescue is not something to be achieved – it is already here...

[for more great paintings by Michael Ross, like the one above, click here...]

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