2020 promises to be a year of big changes astrologically, culminating with a Jupiter/Saturn Conjunction, also known as a Great Conjunction, in Aquarius at the Winter Solstice. This will mark the end of a two-century era in which the Great Conjunctions fell in Earth Signs and the beginning of a new two-century era in which they will occur in Air Signs.
As if this were not enough, before Jupiter and Saturn can come together, they will both have had to cross the path of Pluto. Saturn closed in on Pluto on January 12, 2020, and Jupiter will meet with Pluto three times, on April 4, June 30, and November 12.
While all astrologers agree that the Jupiter/Saturn Conjunction has great significance, what about the meaning of the conjunctions of both of these planets with Pluto?
Answers to this question will vary widely by who you talk to. A Modern Psychological Astrologer or an Evolutionary Astrologer will attach deep meaning to these transits, while a strict Traditional Astrologer might say that they have no meaning at all.
In order to examine this subject, it might be helpful to take a closer look at Pluto, its history, and the significance that has been given to it by astrologers.
The History of Pluto
Before we delve into the astrological and metaphysical meanings of Pluto, let us step back and look at what we know about the discovery of this planet, its demotion, and its current place in modern astronomy.
Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh when he was 23 years old. He worked at the Lowell Observatory, and his job was to search for Planet X. A century had not yet gone by since the discovery of Neptune in the mid-1840s.
Apparently, in the late 19th century, some astronomers believed that the orbits of Uranus and Neptune were not what they were supposed to be and speculated that there was another planet causing the anomaly. This undiscovered planet was called Planet X.
Percival Lowell was a wealthy Bostonian and scholar who was interested in a variety of subjects, including mathematics and astronomy. He founded the Lowell Observatory, and searching for Planet X was one of his pet projects.
Percival Lowell did not live to see his dream become a reality, but one of the glyphs that is commonly used for Pluto has a combined P and L, which in addition to being the first letters for the name of the planet, were also the initials of his name.
Beginning in the early 1990s, barely 60 years into its discovery, Pluto’s status as a planet was beginning to be called into question. Part of the reason for this is that astronomers were finding out just how small Pluto really is. It is about two-thirds of the size of the Earth’s Moon.
Another difficulty is that Pluto’s orbit is quite messy. Like the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Pluto’s orbit is filled with other space objects and is now known to be a part of a region that has been named the Kuiper Belt.
Pluto’s final fall from grace happened when another body larger than it was found to be further out into the Kuiper Belt. This body eventually became known as Eris, after the Greek goddess of strife and discord.
In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) officially determined the definition of a planet to be a celestial body that 1) is in orbit around the Sun; 2) has enough mass to be round; 3) has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.
Celestial bodies that have only met the first two criteria are now known as dwarf planets, and there are now 5 bodies that belong in this classification, among them, Pluto, Eris, and Ceres.
Pluto’s demotion was highly controversial. In his book, The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium and one of the key players in Pluto’s reclassification, tells the story of the popular outcry. Apparently, Dr. Tyson received quite a bit of mail complaining about the demotion, which included letters from elementary school children. One letter even included a picture of Pluto crying.
It turns out that the elementary school children discussed above may have been right to be concerned about Pluto’s feelings. Unbeknownst to anyone, Pluto apparently has a heart.
In 2006, the space probe, New Horizons, was launched to explore the outer Solar System. This probe arrived at Pluto in 2015 and mapped this celestial body along with its largest moon, Charon. Charon is so large in comparison with Pluto that Charon does not actually orbit Pluto. Instead, these bodies orbit a point between them.
New Horizons sent back a great deal of data about Pluto. Some of the most interesting discoveries were that the most prominent feature of Pluto’s landscape is a large heart-shaped region and that there may be water beneath its surface.
Pluto in Astrology
Pluto’s role in astrology has also taken many twists and turns. At the present time, Pluto is just as controversial in the astrological community as it is in the scientific one. For the most part, Indian astrology does not incorporate Pluto or any of the modern planets, but for such a small celestial body, it has become a very big bone of contention among Western astrologers.
Below are some of the views of Pluto based on three of the main branches of Western Astrology.
Strict Traditional or Classical Astrologers ignore Pluto altogether. They also ignore Uranus, Neptune, and all of the asteroids. They primarily use the Seven Traditional Planets and see no need to make room for any of the planets discovered in modern times. This is, in part, because of the doctrine of visibility, which is that only the bodies that are visible have meaning to our lives.
Yet, there are many astrologers, some of them quite well-known, that use mostly traditional methodology and still incorporate Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto in their readings.
In general, though, these astrologers do not assign the planets the rulerships of any signs, and instead, stick to the traditional rulership scheme.
Modern Psychological Astrology
The most common branch of astrology that is practiced in the West can be loosely described as Modern Psychological. Actually, this is far from a unified or organized school of thought, but there are some common themes.
The reason it is often termed psychological astrology is that its primary purpose is to describe people’s personality traits and internal psychological dynamics. Often, practitioners do not try to predict events that will happen in people’s lives but instead focus on a person’s Free Will.
Planets and celestial bodies are often incorporated into the system shortly after they are discovered. Innovation is welcome and even encouraged by practitioners.
In Modern Psychological Astrology, Pluto governs deep internal psychological forces. The associations for Pluto are often quite dark, although, it is also termed the planet of “transformation.” Pluto is assigned the rulership of Scorpio, sometimes alongside Mars, the traditional ruler, and sometimes in place of Mars. Areas assigned to Pluto are the areas of the psyche are ugly, violent, and that most people try to keep buried.
On a global level, it has been noted that Pluto was discovered as we were discovering atomic power, and the element named for it, plutonium, was used in the first atomic bomb detonated in war.
Pluto’s demotion has not changed its usage by most Modern Psychological Astrologers, although some have included other dwarf planets, such as Ceres and Eris, into their readings.
Evolutionary Astrology takes Pluto even further, teaching that it is central to a person’s soul. Indeed, it points to the soul’s karma and its intentions in this present life. One of the major schools of Evolutionary Astrology is known as The Pluto School.
This branch of astrology also combines a sign, its ruler, and the house whose number corresponds to that sign, and gives them all a synonymous meaning. In this system, Scorpio, Pluto, and the 8th House all mean approximately the same thing.
Interestingly enough, this system places a heavy emphasis on Free Will. The chart is just a reflection of your past up until the point that you were born, and you can decide what to do with it in this life.
Even so, in many cases, Evolutionary Astrology often takes a close look at the traumas and unpleasant experiences that one has encountered in this and previous lives.
Further Discussion and Research
Last spring, on the Astrology Podcast, hosted by Chris Brennan, there was an interesting episode titled How Did Pluto and the Outer Planets Get Their Meanings. The panelists were Chris Brennan, Kenneth Miller, Sam Reynolds, and Lisa Schaim.
This was a very good discussion, and I highly recommend it.
One of the more interesting parts of this video was a discussion by Kenneth Miller about a study he conducted regarding the views of astrologers concerning Pluto since its discovery.
According to his research, for the first few decades, most astrologers were unsure of whether Pluto did have meaning and if so, what that meaning was. Sometimes it seemed to impact people and sometimes it did not.
In most cases, astrologers from the early decades of Pluto’s discovery seemed to think that Pluto was only relevant in a birth chart if it impacted other planets or chart points in the chart.
In modern times, however, Kenneth Miller observed that astrologers who use Pluto are convinced that it does have meaning, are confident of that meaning, and see evidence of its influence whether or not it is connected with the more personal planets.
In the episode, he pondered what that might mean, assuming that both the astrologers of the past and present astrologers were faithfully reporting their professional observations. Could it be that Pluto actually is more influential now than it was in the past?
Also discussed in this video was the practice of ascribing meaning to Pluto and other celestial bodies based on the name given to them by astronomers as well as by what was going on in the world during their discovery. The basis for this practice is the doctrine of synchronicity. One of the observations made, however, that there did not seem to be any discussion of the significance of Pluto’s demotion according to synchronicity.
Pluto and Free Will
One of the central controversies in astrology concerns the roles of Fate and Free Will in our lives. This is not just an abstract philosophical discussion. For astrologers, it has profound practical implications. Our position on this issue governs how much we think that a person’s astrological chart can tell us and what we believe that we are able to predict by the movements of the planets.
Ultimately, every astrologer must come to terms with this question for themselves, but the different branches of Western Astrology tend to have different beliefs the interplay between Fate and Free Will.
Modern practitioners of Traditional/Classical Astrology tend to fall heavily on the side of Fate. There are a few who go so far as to think that our entire lives can be predicted with mathematical precision from our charts. This is an extreme view and is not held by many practicing astrologers, however.
Astrologers in the Hellenistic Age seemed to have a more nuanced view and in general, believed that some things were fated and some were subject to Free Will. I have found that most modern Traditional and Classical Astrologers would agree with this. Yet, I think that almost all would say that Fate plays at least some role in what happens to us and that we can predict our present and our future to a certain extent from our birth charts.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are Evolutionary Astrologers who do not believe in Fate, but ascribe everything to Free Will. As discussed before, in this branch, our birth chart only reflects the choices that we have made in past lives. Our present and future paths are up to us.
Most Modern Psychological Astrologers fall somewhere in between these two extremes.
For my own thoughts on the subject, I refer the reader to the article below:
One of the things that I have noticed is that it seems that there is a correlation between how much astrologers believe Pluto and the Outer Planets impact us and how great of a role Free Will plays in our lives.
I do not think that this is a coincidence.
Thoughts and Reflections
When I first read, The Feminist Universe, by Miss Alice Trent, I learned about the modern poisons of atomization, deracination, and deformation. Atomization separates us from each other, deracination separates us from our Source, and deformation twists and inverts that which is good and beautiful, making it an ugly parody.
If you are interested, you can purchase a copy of The Feminine Universehere.
When I was reading about these poisons, I was struck with how similar they were to the accepted meanings of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
Based on these reflections, and in monitoring my own chart as the charts of my clients and others I know, I have developed my own practice as to how I use Pluto and the Outers.
I do believe that they can have an impact on people, but that this impact is almost entirely the result of Free Will.
I believe that the Traditional Planets, which we can see with the naked eye, cannot be avoided. We do have some Free Will with respect to how we interact with the principles they represent, but we are fated to deal with them as Axial Beings in the material world. For example, a mortal cannot avoid Saturn. We will all face the ravages of time and will eventually die.
We can, however, avoid delving into the depths of Pluto. In order to see it, we must go to substantial lengths and effort to do so. I think that is a metaphor for the Pluto principle as well.
On the other hand, no one is an island, and if our society has embraced Pluto, we will be impacted by it at some level whether we want to be or not. I find it interesting that there has been an outcry against the demotion of Pluto, and that many astrologers have ignored it completely.
If synchronicity was involved in its discovery, surely its demotion was meaningful as well. I think that, perhaps, we have been given the choice to reject the principles that have been associated with it. Maybe, over time, our society will be able to make that choice.
Perhaps, we can use this year of changes to stop employing Pluto as a symbol for the principle which encourages us to dig up parts of our psyche better left buried or to take apart the building blocks of matter giving the power to destroy ourselves. Instead, we can let it alone to be a teeny world at the edge of our Solar System. We can enjoy its dance with its partner, Charon, let it have its heart, and speculate about what might be in the oceans beneath its surface.
The study of astrology is primarily a study of cycles of time from the Great Year, marked by the Precession of the Equinoxes, over a period of approximately 25,600 years to the daily cycle of 24 hours, and many cycles in between. There is another cycle that we are much less aware of in the West, but which is still taught in Eastern traditions.
This is the cycle of the unfolding of the Ages. This cycle is not necessarily marked by physical astrological signposts, but it is the cycle of our experience as Axial Beings.
Inherent in Filianist thealogy is the understanding that we are not our bodies. We are not completely our souls either, but it is helpful to use the term soul as the individual Axial Being that undergoes the process of rebirth. This concept is not as simple as it may seem, but the complexity of this gets into matters well beyond the scope of this article, and truly, it is a bit beyond what we can understand fully from a non-Enlightened state of being.
I have just introduced a term, Axial Being, and I believe that this term needs definition. An Axial Being is one that has Free Will. We must understand that Axial Beings are not necessarily the highest or most intelligent beings in manifestation. Animals are non-Axial Beings, but so are angels. Axial Beings are the souls that have the power to choose between good and evil and that can be something different than they were born to be. A cat will always fundamentally be a cat and will act as it natural and normal for a cat. There are a few very rare exceptions to this, but in general, this is true. By the same token, an angel will always be an angel and will act the nature of an angel. Axial Beings are the only beings that are capable of acting against their nature.
A fundamental belief of Deanism/Filianism is that we have been around since before the dawn of time. The Filianic Creed begins: “I believe that I was created from before the dawn of time by the one eternal Dea.” This does not mean we believe that we have inhabited physical bodies the entire time. Indeed, the Filianic Creation Mythos speaks to an unmeasured period, after Creation and before time, where we lived in relative Union with Dea. It is implicitly understood that at this time, we did not inhabit physical bodies, as we understand the concept today.
It is for this reason that the Creation/Evolution debate that so divides Modern Western culture is ridiculously literalistic from the perspective of Essentialist and Filianist teachings. Where our actual bodies come from is really immaterial. It may be interesting to ponder and study, but this study says nothing about us as Axial Beings. At some point, Axial Beings began to inhabit the physical, human form. How and when this happened is beyond the scope of what we can learn through physical science.
From tradition, we do have some teaching to inform us on this subject. This teaching is that of the unfolding of the Cycles of Time. There have likely been many full Cycles of Time since the beginning of time, but one Cycle of Time is the most that we are really capable of understanding from a state of non-Enlightenment. The Cycle of Time is analogous to the yearly seasons we experience and is a cycle of consolidation into matter.
The first Age in the Cycle is the Age of Gold, or the Satya Yuga. In this age, our souls barely inhabit physical form, if they do at all. In the Age of Gold, we are mostly, if not completely, spirit. With each subsequent Age, the Age of Silver, the Treta Yuga, the Age of Bronze, the Dvapara Yuga, and the Age of Iron, the Kali Yuga, we become increasingly consolidated into matter. It is only in the Age of Iron that our souls are fully consolidated into matter, and the consolidation becomes heavier and stronger as the Age of Iron progresses.
These Ages are not uniform in their length in terms of time. Each of the Ages is far shorter than the subsequent Age. The Age of Iron that we are currently in began around 5,000 or 6,000 years ago. Interestingly enough, the Judeo-Christian written tradition gives the time of Creation and of Adam and Eve as around the beginning of the current Age of Iron. While it is an overly simplistic interpretation to say that Creation began at this time, in a sense, there is some truth to it. We really can not truly understand the lives of our ancentresses prior to the beginning of the Age of Iron with information we can obtain from our senses, either directly or through reason. The reason for this is that we do not know the extent to which Axial Beings actually inhabited the physical human form in even the Age of Bronze, let alone in the Age of Silver or the Age of Gold.
Tradition tells us that we are currently in the final stages of the Age of Iron, and we will be next headed into a new Age of Gold. For good reason, no legitimate tradition will tell us the exact time when this will happen, but will only give us clues and a general description of how long each Age lasts.
This understanding plays a huge role in our analysis of disciplines such as traditional medicine and classical astrology. The Age of Iron is the age that we are the most consolidated into matter, and the consolidation increases as the Age progresses. This is the reason that what we think of as magic “worked” early in the Age of Iron, and does not really “work” very well today. As the Age of Iron progresses, we need more and more technology to accomplish what was accomplished through non-physical means at the beginning of the Age. This is why it is not correct to say that our forebears were superstitious when they used non-physical means for healing, such as appeals to aspects of Dea known as “gods and goddesses.” At the beginning of the Age of Iron, that likely still “worked.” These things do not “work” in the same way in the very late Age of Iron that we are currently in, but instead, we need more and more physical methods of healing, such as surgery and medicine.
In my series, Astrology as a Traditional Science, I discussed that the seeds of the modern rationalist movement in the West started at around the time that Aristotle diverged from his teacher, Plato, on the subject of Perfect Form. On one level, this divergence was somewhat false teaching, but on another level, there is some truth to what Aristotle and his contemporaries taught. On a practical level, in applied sciences such as medicine and astrology, we must engage in observation in addition to study of traditional, metaphysical principles. As our souls became more and more consolidated into matter, they became further away from their Perfect Form, and as that happened, pure metaphysical principles did not “work” in on a physical level in the same way as they did in earlier Ages, or even as they did at the beginning of the Iron Age.
So, for practical purposes, it might be useful to rely upon the information we derive from our senses in the late Iron Age, but we must still remember that Perfect Form exists, and we must also remember that in this late Age of Iron, we are as far away from Perfect Form as we can get in this current Cycle of Time.
While I have discussed the Cycle of Time as a movement of decline and a movement away from our Perfect Form, please understand that this Cycle is as natural as the cycle of the seasons of the year. The Age of Iron will always follow the Age of Bronze, just as Winter will always follow Fall. This decline will happen no matter what we as Axial Beings do or do not do.
There is another set of Ages that I believe that Axial Beings and societies do have a choice concerning, and that is the gunas, but that is a subject for another article.