Pluto and the Age of Hope
In the August edition, I shared my thoughts about how Pluto in square aspect to Uranus has reflected events of devastating impact on history. I also highlighted how Pluto can reflect welcome events, leading to regeneration through peaceful means. Indeed we are blessed now with a very stable, gentle sextile between Pluto and Neptune. Times are rough now for many, but they could have been harder without the sextile. Yes indeed, Pluto is associated with the most monumental events we experience personally and in the world! How can this be, that Pluto, unseen by the unaided eye for being so remote and small, has such significance?
Pluto represents processes of transformation, both degenerative and regenerative, at the most fundamental level. Because Pluto does symbolize changes of such fundamental nature, it is, of all the heavenly bodies, the most associated with physics, the science of the laws of nature at their most fundamental level. It is, not in spite of, but because of being unseen that Pluto stands so well for these fundamental, natural laws at work. Who can see atoms? But when their mass got turned into energy, in accord with the law of energy-mass equivalence, the power of the unseen atoms ended WW2!
Astrologers also have associated Pluto with the occult. That word gives rise to many weird images in our minds, but what exactly does it mean? Its original meaning is that which is hidden from sight. Objects getting moved, such as levitated, by forces hidden from the sight of normal people has been a feat traditionally attributed to witches. Through these types of associations, the occult has come to be associated with witchcraft. However, recent discoveries in science also are being used to develop technologies that use unseen forces. So, although witchcraft and science are not necessarily the same, they have come to overlap in important respects, in that they both deal with the occult.
One common way of things getting hidden from sight is what is referred to as losing sight of the forest for the trees. In order to gain insight into the occult nature of Pluto, let's not lose sight of the centuries for the years and the decades. Pluto takes about 248 years (two-and-one-half centuries!) to come full circle around the zodiac. Let's look at the past two revolutions of Pluto, from about 1457 to 1957, plus about three score before and after.
About two thirds of these six centuries are noted for having been times of witch-burnings! I do not hope to imply that there is an exclusive link between astrology and witchcraft. Quite the contrary is true! Many witches do consider astrology as part of their religion, but so do many Hindus and Buddhists, and traditionally so did Jews. Rabbi Joel C. Dobin, in his 1999 book Kabbalistic Astrology, gives abundant evidence that all Books of the Bible are extensively permeated with astrology. My hope here is to start offering evidence that the position of Pluto in the signs is associated with attitudes toward the occult.
Between 1400 to 1800, it is estimated that forty to fifty thousand people in Europe and colonial North America were killed due to convictions of witchcraft. This means that, if we spread this toll evenly over the 400 years, there would have been one victim perhaps as often as every third day, routinely having endured torture during interrogation and execution! Although assaults on alleged witches had occurred earlier, it was especially after 1500 that major persecutions started. A common witch-bating manual well worthy of mention was the publication, in 1487, of Malleus Maleficarum, by two Dominicans with impressive credentials, Heinrich Kramer and Jakob Sprenger. It was remarkably well-timed, just three years after the papal Bull of 1484, endorsing active hunting and strict punishment of witches. Was all this fuelled by a genuine opposition to witchcraft itself?
Quite the contrary! The scholastic scene of the latter fifteenth century was characterized by something called humanism. It was based on the much more extensive availability of ancient Greek texts. Besides the works of ancient thinkers, especially Plato and Aristotle, scholars could familiarize themselves with astrological traditions, as well as Kabbalah and magical beliefs and practices in general, and they did extensively. What better way to cover up their own experimentation with witchcraft behind closed doors than to persecute alleged witches? Besides, if there were any real witches practicing outside of the academic circle, persecution served as a means for academics to gain a monopoly on the newly revealed, occult sources of potential power.
Those two decades around 1450 coincide with a time when Pluto was in Leo. This is the sign in which Pluto is exalted. What does it mean for a planet to be exalted? A planet is exalted when it is in the sign where the nature of the planet resonates with the nature of the sign. There is a harmony between the two, so that the environment of that sign facilitates the full actualization of that planet's potential power. How does such an exaltation at the heavenly level get reflected in events at the terrestrial level?
Pluto, both above and below, symbolizes the powers behind the most fundamental transformations. At the terrestrial level, Pluto in Leo signals an era when people oriented toward exploring these occult forces find themselves at the right time and place to do so. It corresponds to the heydays for making advances in magic and the foundations of science. Witchcraft is that happy marriage between magic and these fundamental natural laws. In Europe in the mid-fifteenth century, flying broomsticks, perhaps, was quite the thing to do! But, as we learned hopefully in elementary physics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The reaction was the witch-craze, most widespread in western Europe, that started in the latter fifteenth century. It lasted for about 250 years, about as long as it took Pluto to make its cycle around the zodiac and back into Leo! How appropriate, astrologically speaking, that as above Pluto rose again into exaltation, below the fuel keeping the burnings going was getting exhausted.
This in itself was a victory for true science and magic, as the forces determined to destroy free inquiry into the hidden, profound aspects of reality were more or less defeated in western Europe. But again, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Just as the times around 1700 marked this victory for free thought, the decades of greatest persecutions were about to commence in eastern Europe, which did not slow down until the latter eighteenth century. Was the close of that century, then, the time of the ultimate victory of free thought? Ultimate, lasting victories are hard indeed to come by!
In the United Kingdom, for instance, not until 1951 was the law repealed, which still made witchcraft liable to a one year sentence. But in one of the countries where witchcraft, in times not really that remotely past, was punished by inhumane executions, what a victory this was for free thought! It facilitated the efforts of spiritual pioneers such as Gerald Gardner, who in the mid-twentieth century did so much to establish witchcraft as an official religion, which in turn allowed for the wider range of choices at the heart of free thought. All these spiritual and social advances coincided with another era of Pluto in Leo (1939 - 1957)! All this adds up to strong support for the ideas of the significance of signs, planets, and their exaltations.
I must add, unfortunately, that late twentieth century history also further supports the idea of the reactionary aftermath of progressive action. Not long after these liberating actions had started, the intellectuals of sanctioned knowledge reacted in a way reminiscent of the Bull of 1484. Four-hundred-and-ninety-one years later (so closely approximating twice the 248 years in one Pluto cycle!), in 1975, a document with the signatures of 186 scientists of repute was published in the periodical The Humanist. It condemned astrology as pure ignorance and a danger to rational thought. As I said, astrology is not affiliated exclusively with any one religion; however, it is related to witchcraft in this important sense: both are ways of thinking which offer alternative choices in how to cope with reality. In offering such extra choices, astrology is a stimulant to free thought, rather than a danger to it. How odd it seems, that the people regarded as most knowledgeable in the age in which they live apparently often are the worst opponents of free thought and progressive action. Yet, it does make sense after all. Are not the people most respected in their lifetimes the ones most comfortable with the status quo? The true progress of humanity as a whole involves changes that they personally might not welcome!
Should we turn away from the world in despair? No! Neither above nor below do things merely move about in circles. With each successive exaltation of Pluto, and each successive victory of free thought, lasting opposition on the part of the reactionaries gets harder and harder to sustain. One of the most profound lessons of astrology, I think, is that the dialectical process behind the world is idealistic after all, as Georg Hegel had proposed, and that, in spite of it all, we do move closer and closer to a sincere valuing of truth and beauty.