Having reflected on the meaning of Pluto through Sagittarius, (1) its recent re-classification, and the constellational mythology of its current alignment with the Galactic Centre, we look to Pluto’s transit through Capricorn.
From 2008 until 2023, Pluto will travel through the zodiac sign of Capricorn, an earth sign, ruled by Saturn, Lord of Manifestation. The twelve signs of the Zodiac are like stages in the hero’s journey, where we encounter experiences, lessons, tests and trials, paralleling the Earth’s annual journey around the Sun.
The different qualities of the signs are like prismatic colourations of the One Light which the Sun symbolises, and the structure of the zodiac is created by the relationship of the Sun and the Earth, our Home.
The Sun enters Capricorn at the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, just before Christmas.
Although this is the darkest time of year, light begins to increase.
In the sign of Capricorn, we learn not to fear experiences of darkness and contraction, in the reassurance that the beginnings of increase are found there too.
William Holman Hunt: 'Light of the World'
The Way of the Mountain Goat
In Capricorn, we learn to move steadily towards a goal, to accept difficulties and to persist against the odds. Here are the challenges of the material plane, where we encounter character-building experiences in the form of the delays, blocks, and obstacles which can occur in the process of manifesting our intentions. Like the mountain-goat, who can live with little sustenance at high altitude, we learn to stay focused, and meet with integrity our duties and responsibilities in the world as we climb. We are stringent, disciplined and dedicated, returning from fantasy and the realm of possibility into actuality and the present. We learn to work with Time, rather than against it. Indeed, Saturn sometimes called ‘Father Time’.
Through experience of how astrology works, we understand that there are many other kinds of time. Our familiar ‘clock time’ which synchronises activities all over the world, is not the only one. Each planet has its own cycle, and relates in turn to every other planet in an exquisite tapestry of meaning, which can also be ‘tracked’ in Time. The Capricornian skill of manifesting things and making them real is intimately connected with the sense of timing.
The spiritual path also winds ‘down’ the mountain (2) and brings contact with the world, society and its ways, the body, the realm of time, form and substance, and the inevitability of mortality. This profound recognition underpins the activity of Capricorn. The mountain goat depicts with poignant accuracy the solo-ness of personal effort required for attaining excellence in our chosen field. We humans need to create and achieve, and can do so more wisely with this awareness supporting our endeavours.
The Way of the Sea-Goat
The earlier Capricorn symbol, that of the sea-goat, reveals this underlying vulnerability which itself can be a major stimulus to achievement. Here, we feel it safer to be in control than to be controlled! Making positive use of this protective impulse, without succumbing to isolation and defensiveness, is a high art in Capricorn. Here, then, the ‘soul-work’ includes this vulnerability, even as the world presents its harshness. We retain connection with Source, our ‘fish tail’ still immersed in the waters of our origins. We crawl tentatively on to dry land, not in the manner of a returning hero, but rather as a vulnerable creature, albeit one with a potent sense of direction. We sense ourselves as a link in the chain of evolution.
In Capricorn, there is a recognition that all material belongings and endeavours, indeed our very bodies, are ‘on loan’. Whatever we own, or have accumulated in the form of money, property, belongings, achievements, status and power ….. will not go with us when we die. We recognise that ultimately we depend on the earth for our material existence, and that all forms have a beginning, middle and end in their allotted life span.
We are invited in Capricorn to take another ‘Giant Step’ in growing up spiritually. Naiveté is lost, but innocence is gained as this vulnerability is exposed, along with the maturity to ‘hold’ it without projecting it. In this way we avoid some of the pitfalls of the negative hierarchical ways, to which Capricorn can be prone. We look for the unity in the apparent separateness of phenomena, and surrender into acceptance of the uniqueness of our own destiny within this multiplicity.
Pluto in Capricorn
Vulnerable like the sea-goat, we perceive that we are not separate from the ocean of creation, and see just how precarious is our ecological situation. With Pluto in Sagittarius, we saw the world accelerate into a mania of wastefulness, greed, expansionism and denial. Questioning who is really pulling the strings that control the puppets familiar on the world stage will yield some very uncomfortable insights for more and more people.
The notion of ‘Conspiracy Theory’ needs to include recognising the major conspiracy that we are all part of … to give power without challenge to those who take it, to our own detriment and that of the planet as a whole. There are many ways in which ‘reality’ is manipulated by those who stand to benefit from creating fear, despair, disaster and deprivation. This is one meaning of the word ‘Terrorism’ – a belief in the power of fear.
Who will define your reality?
With Pluto in Capricorn, we must honour our own inner experience, lest someone else define it for us, namely The State, The Corporation, The Bank, The Health System, The Educational System, not to mention the Radio, Television, Internet and so on. In this world of ideological conflict, political ‘correctness’ and the proliferation of subtle tyrannies in the form of standardisation, labelling and numbering, we can stand firm in our sense of inner authority, thus empowered to discern, choose and act accordingly.
The pressure to conform with ‘The Great They’ will increase. However, Pluto in Capricorn will help us to question everything, believe nothing, and also, most importantly, to stay clear of the trap of cynicism … like Hades with his helmet of invisibility, we can move unseen amidst the world of consensus lies, making a difference in ways big and small, depending on our unique individual calling in this regard. Essence is more important than form .....
Pluto moves in Direct motion from September to April, when it turns Retrograde, until the following September, and so on.
The sense of transformative momentum is strongest from September through to April. Then we enter a period of consolidation:
we work to release our inner resistances, ‘digest’ our experiences
and to purify ourselves of what is not appropriate for the next phase, when we will move forward again.
The famous ‘Diet of Worms’ which declared Martin Luther as a renegade outcast and fugitive from the law, and his trial which followed, occurred at the beginning of a transit of Pluto through Capricorn. He stood alone, one individual man, in protest at the corruption rife in the Catholic Church which offered ‘Salvation Plans’ in the form of ‘Indulgences’, so the wealthy could buy their way out of sin. In his words ‘Here I stand. So help me God. I can do no other’.(3) The primary division within the Christian Church was sealed by Martin Luther’s revolution, and Protestantism was born. History was changed. (4)
Interestingly, this happened around the last time that Saturn and Pluto were conjunct in the sign of Capricorn. They will be conjunct again in 2024, and were last conjunct in Capricorn in 1518. Also, too, Pluto was in Capricorn when Nostradamus wrote much of his work. At that time, ideas we now take for granted were part of the intellectual ‘underground’, and were literally dangerous, as heresy was punishable by the Inquisition. A famous example is the ‘heresy’ of Copernicus. He was the first astronomer to begin disseminating the idea that the Sun was in fact the centre of the Solar System, with all the planets revolving around it. When Galileo’s telescope discovered features on the surface of the Moon, this too was considered heresy, as it contradicted the Church’s notion of the ‘Incorruptibility of the Heavens’. (5)
Which beliefs circulating NOW in the current ‘intellectual underground’ are considered heresy in various ways? The Internet, and facilities like YouTube, are providing an astonishing facility for the dissemination of ‘heresy’. The ‘authorities’ allow a deluge of pornography, violence, trivia, and ill-educated prejudice, but this masks the fact that the seeds of a true revolution in thought are also being watered through these facilities.
Remember …. the One True Religion of today is Fundamentalist Materialism, whether disguised as Consumerism, or the ‘Religious Right’ (of whatever faith), or Scientism. By this token, ‘The Revolution’ consists of daring to be vulnerable enough to say what is true in my own experience and to honour that in others. Perhaps this is the way of the sea-goat, where the waters of feeling serve to prevent the rock-like energy of Capricorn from becoming too fossilized. Wherever we clamp around something, this happens, but the waters of Soul ever rise to wear away the hardness.
There is a greed in Sagittarius, which we can certainly see at work in the world, and which is like the shadow counterpart of the generosity of spirit so strong in this sign. We may be shocked to discover it also within ourselves! It is the greed of appropriation, where a sense of entitlement, or an imperialist mentality breeds a sense that others somehow ‘owe us’ …. and therefore we are free to take whatever we want. This mechanism is not limited to the period of time when Pluto travels through Sagittarius, but has increasingly broken surface in the form of the recent sub-prime mortgage disaster, escalating debts for individuals and whole nations, and other forms of financial hardship. (6)
The Capricornian correlate of this is envy, where we become distracted from our own inner abundance by focusing on what others have. Envy can be dispersed by having the courage to fully feel the empty space created by our sense of lack, and to allow this to be filled from within. Our deepest essence is always there, even in difficult time, and even when we don’t feel in touch with it.
The sign of Sagittarius is associated with the dissemination of ideas and wisdom. Changes brought by the ‘cyber-revolution’ and by digital technology offering an ever-proliferating variety of means whereby people can communicate. However, without careful connectedness to our own inner lives, we may have nothing to say but platitudes, expressing collective notions and parroting what we hear in the media. The quality of Capricorn is sober, thoughtful, and more introspective than Sagittarius. It is ruled by Saturn, Lord of Limits, whose rings symbolise the ‘sphere of intention’ we must create as a template for what we bring into manifestation, or we will always be working ‘by default’. This concentration of energy, this crystallisation, supports the creative process, whether or not is occurs through conscious intention. A little silence goes a long way to nurture the deepening
The twelve signs of the zodiac are said to ‘rule’ different parts of the body. Capricorn, in this model, rules the knees. It is also associated with the skeleton and the skin, the inner structure and outer physical edges of the human body. So Capricorn supports processes of inner consolidation, and realistic assessment of our limits. We inhabit the present, comfortable or uncomfortable, and allow the slowing down of pace to help us move along our lines of intention.
The knees are associated with humility. In many religions, the body position of prayer will include the knees being bent. We kneel before the image of God, we kneel in prayer, we fold our legs in meditation even if we sit on a chair. We speak about the knees ‘knocking in fear’, and this sense of awe also belongs to the communion with the sacred. The knees are also a crucial element in walking, implying a journey, an intention of going from somewhere to somewhere. In Tai Chi and Chi Gung, when one stands in a contemplative process, the knees are always unlocked. Not bent or folded, but softened, gentle and unlocked. This allows the energy to circulate through the body, from the Earth beneath our feet to the Heavens above, and is therefore both deeply grounding and also uplifting.
Simply speaking, there are two kinds of fear:
- Fear as a positive message, a hint from our survival instincts, perhaps in connection with our intuition, that tells us to pay attention, back off, take care.
- Fear can also be generated by the mind itself, drawing on a storehouse of personal memory or ‘imported’ notions i.e. what we were one ‘told’ by our parents, or teachers, or the media, or other influences which impart beliefs and expectations to us. In this case, if we examine closely what is going on in our mind, we will discover that the fear is being caused by our inner reaction to an imagined future, or an ‘undigested’ past event. This is the ‘Omigod, it’s going to happen again’ scenario.
Perhaps the transformative thrust of Pluto in Capricorn offers an opportunity to change the nature of our relationship with fear, and cultivate more discernment as to its source, which very often lies in the fear of death. Whatever our beliefs in the afterlife, and however convinced we are that there is nothing to fear, we all ‘inhabit’ a body designed to want to stay alive. At that level, the ‘animal soul’ within will always fear death.
Peace in the face of our own mortality is cultivated more by the graceful acceptance of feelings of fear than the suppression of them. Indeed, suppressed fear and the suppressed vulnerability that it may be concealing, creates a dense armouring around heart, mind and soul. Pluto being the Lord of Transformation offers the possibility that we can plumb these depths far enough to allow these very deep-seated patterns to be undone. On the inner levels, perhaps this, after all, is what the transit is all about.
Finally, a prayer
In the Vedic astrology of India, the name for Saturn, ruler of Capricorn is ‘Shani’.
Here is a poem based on an ancient Sanskrit prayer to Shani. (6)
Servant of the Light,
a dark Son of the Sun.
Son of Rudra,
Lord of Tears
I turn my face at the same time
towards death and immortality
I am named
‘He who moves slowly’,
devoted to attachment
I am also Shani, the root of Peace.
1. See the articles immediately below on this website.
2. See 'Comfortable with Uncertainty' by Pema Chodron, available as a book or audiobook. This metaphor introduces the entire teaching.
3. This well-known quote from Martin Luther’s trail is perhaps apocryphal
(see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther#_note-HillerbrandDiet) However, the words do express the steadfastness which is a positive Pluto in Capricorn quality.
4. Note that Luther’s writing has its dark side too, in the form of a vicious anti-Semitism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther#Luther_and_antisemitism
5. See the film of Aaron Russo ‘From Freedom to Fascism’. Also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Russo
6. See ‘Saturn, Chiron and the Centaurs’. Buy the book here.