Pluto tee-square: move to defcon 3!

Later on today, I will be posting an extensive article, primarily about Mercury and Saturn, but before that happens, I have been extremely intrigued by the sheer number of astrological pointers that are cropping up in the news just now that specifically reference the Saturn-Uranus-Pluto tee-square across the cardinal points.

  • Bill Clinton is undergoing heart surgery (and has radix Saturn and Pluto in Leo, with Hygeia on the Aries Point) / (Transiting: Saturn-Uranus, inhibitions of rhythm, heart-block). This is a genuinely dangerous time for the Pluto in Leo generation who have Saturn conjoined, they definitely need to be transcending their control needs just now.
  • Two premiership footballers (soccer players) have suffered broken bones this week (Ashley Cole, Ryan Giggs), and I fully expect there to be more in the coming weeks. (Saturn – bones/ Uranus – sudden breaks).
  • Alexander McQueen, the celebrated fashion designer apparently committed suicide yesterday, he was a typical Uranian in the sense that he was avant-garde, shocking and relentlessly unconventional in his approach; these were, if you like, his USP’s. Yesterday Uranus was within a degree (applying) of conjunction with radix Sun and within a degree (separating) of opposing radix Pluto, thus effectively giving Ur=Su/Pl. At the same time Saturn was transiting his natal Jupiter/Uranus conunction and opposing Chiron (Ur opp. Ch being his closest aspect!) Sudden feelings of loss and isolation therefore, precipitating a crisis. His mother died a few days ago as Saturn transited quincunx his natal Moon (loss of the mother).

For all of these reasons (and many more that I am witnessing in the people around me) it is becoming increasingly evident that the process is gearing up right now. I intend to write another article exploring the mundane effects of the tee-square to Pluto in the next few days, but (and here is the point), this is a period of immense pressure: have a care people! Try and maintain some perspective because it’s going to get worse before it gets better!

Remember, the more rigidly we cling to structures of control, the harder the Gods laugh. Hubris is a very pertinent word at this time, keep it at the forefront of your vocabulary.

Orcus, Vulcanus, Saturn-Pluto and Edwina Currie

The brilliant, amazing, awesome Edwina

Back in the late 80s I lived a rather feral existence as a busking, itinerant astrologer (of sorts), and I hung with the hippies, bad companies, clattered haphazardly about the long, dusty summers and tried not to get too embroiled in life. They were the good old, bad old days. Unsurprisingly, in those days, I didn’t have much sympathy for the British Conservative Party in spite of its very illustrious origins, it being the oldest political party in the world, and boasting several luminaries in its historical membership, including its founder Robert Peel (who invented the police), and Winston Churchill, a man of many admirable qualities, but whom I like best for the fact that he would have an afternoon nap every day, in his pyjamas. Truth be told, I still don’t have much sympathy for the Tory way, but times have changed.

The low point for the Conservatives though has to be that collection of scoundrels, hypocrites, criminals, oppressors and narcissists that formulated the bulk of the party’s front bench under Margaret Thatcher, arch Sun-Pluto destroyer of the working class and nemesis of all things meaningful and spiritual. I say this in a considered tone, because in contemplation of the  Sun-Pluto archetype, the understanding remains that while you might be vociferously opposed to nuclear weapons you can still appreciate, with a measure of reverence and awe, their sheer destructive power; their apocalyptic, majestic, naked, irresistible force.

Unfortunately, Mrs Thatch became a poster child for some fairly unpleasant metamorphoses; like the reinvention of avarice. Suddenly, by having a non-materialistic viewpoint you became – almost overnight – a loser. The disciples of Thatcherism weren’t greedy, selfish, exploitative and base of course; they were pragmatic, right-thinking, clear-sighted winners.

Of course it was a manifesto tailored to perfection for an extremely narrow astrological phenomenon and it changed this country irrevocably. Ironically, but not remotely coincidentally, the star pupil of the Tao of Me was among the front ranks, sans brown shirt perhaps, but pronouncing the doctrines with all the fervour of a newly installed town-crier. Edwina Currie, born within weeks of the Saturn – Pluto conjunction in Leo is the most remarkable astrological specimen; rare only in the extremity of her conditioning, but for that reason, remarkable nonetheless.

Edwina Currie, politician, broadcaster, author, superwoman: 13 Oct 1946, 23:30, Liverpool England

I don’t want to wax too long and lyrical about this nativity, but here are a few intriguing pointers:

  • Saturn conjunct Pluto rises in Leo, just look at that picture at the top, isn’t she just too scarily perfect? Pluto supercharges Saturn’s drive for status (Saturn rules Capricorn, it’s ambitious, it wants to be respected, it demands respect, God help you.) Leo needs to be royal, nothing common-or-garden here thank you very much: Saturn-Pluto rising has to be the most respected in all the land, everybody is inferior.
  • If you are still unconvinced, read her self-penned bio. She has rubbed shoulders with the Beatles, US Presidents and a plethora of Nobel Laureates; it raises name-dropping to something approaching an art-form. And look how she’s the most successful person that ever lived! Remarkable, but that, of course is the point.
  • The closest aspect in the nativity and ruler of the Midheaven – therefore the big career driver – is Mars square Pluto. Here’s a woman that’s no respecter of men’s personal space, she gets in close, engages in inappropriate intimacy with them and therein lies the source of her power and impetus to control. With this aspect ruling the Midheaven though, there’s no question who Ms. Currie works for: Number One! I told you she was top of the Thatcherite class.
  • And that Saturn – Pluto conjunction is squared by a stellium of Mercury, Mars and Jupiter, all in the 4th house: here’s some unfinished business in the early family home all right, women weren’t valued, that’s her recollection no doubt, Mercury and Jupiter rule intercepted signs, that energy is lost in the 5th and 11th, giving and receiving love and attention was for the menfolk only, mother wasn’t valued (Moon opposed by Venus, 5th to 11th) and the Saturn – Pluto conjunction manifests the 5th (love me!) and the 6th (all day, every day!)
  • Intriguingly, the closest aspect of all is a quincunx between Astraea (on the cusp of the 5th) and Hygeia (conjunct Hades) in Aries and the 10th. Here’s an intimation of a slow decline in health, a health issue that one doesn’t ever properly recover from, it leads to a deterioration, it has its basis in the past, a genetic condition perhaps.
  • Hopi conjunct Black Moon Lilith: there’s judgment and prejudice at being the other woman (in Norma Major’s life).
  • Saturn-Pluto is also conjunct Urania, and this is extremely important in the context of the Uranus-Vulcanus conjunction in Gemini. She really does have a brilliant mind, a genius for structure. It’s interesting generationally though because the conjunction of Uranus (individuation) with Vulcanus (invisible force or drive) in Gemini, suggests a real impetus toward being considered to be delightfully, intriguingly brilliant, cerebral, mentally switched on, versatile and adaptable. It is, in context with the Saturn – Pluto and Urania the hallmark of the cerebral competitor, one who is special (Uranus) for being a super-achiever (Saturn-Pluto) in many fields (Gemini).
  • And finally, to Orcus. I have a big article on Orcus coming up (when I have five minutes) but suffice to say, Orcus creates serious consequences for those who break solemn oaths. Bill Clinton (whom Edwina met at University) also has Uranus conjunct Orcus (sudden retribution for breaking promises), it’s an aspect that hunts you down, but unexpectedly, the fall from grace can be swift and spectacular (especially with Vulcanus configured). This is exactly what happened to Edwina when she uttered her ill-fated remark about salmonella and eggs, it ended her career as a politician (and the same effect was evidenced with Bill Clinton of course). They were both hounded out of office.

So much more to say, so little time. I have nothing personally against Mrs Currie, of course, but her astrology is fascinating. It must be tough being her, exhausting, and I wish her every success, which of course is the lynchpin of her existence. As ever though, with Saturn – Pluto in Leo, and the group born in 1946 have it worst: having a terminator ego might be great in terms of worldly success, but the ordinary mortals who have to share their lives are usually left broken by it.

The Lion and the Cobra and the Leo-Scorpio Square

Lion and Cobra

There are often profound insights to be found in scripture. This has nothing to do with religious belief either, it merely states a clear fact, because it states in the bible that you really don’t want to be stepping on the Lion and the Cobra if you can possibly avoid it. (Actually it says that you can tread on the Lion and the Cobra, providing you trust in the Lord thus: “No evil will befall you, Nor will any plague come near your tent. For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, That you do not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and cobra, The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.” From Psalm 91). Clearly though the wisdom contained therein suggests that unless you have the Lord’s protection, then the last things you should step upon in all creation are the Lion or the Cobra. They’ll mess you up. The aphorism derived from this is astrologically apt, the Cobra will leave you alone providing you don’t provoke it, and a happy well-fed lion will happily ignore you too, providing you show it proper respect and this is no more or no less than we understand about the nature of Leo and Scorpio.

In my experience Leo speaks to two key principles; leadership and creativity and all Leos and Leo placements will have at their essence one of these Manuscript Headerconcerns (and often both). The reason that Leo speaks to leadership concerns is because of its innate expectation of respect, because like any lion, Leo wants to be admired. Thus Saturn in Leo creates a test of leadership, the pull of the Leonine fire is toward exaltation, like the fixed flame of his genesis, it is a wondrous sight to behold (think “the eternal flame!”) but with Saturn the desire for that divine state is turned into a life-challenge; people will not admire the Leo configured with Saturn even though the native will demand it, this creates (often) arrogance and pomposity – which is merely a state of demanding respect which has not been earned. That is Saturn in Leo. Similarly, Leo is the creative principle; ruled by the Sun, creator of all life, which is exactly why Jupiter in Leo so loves children and Saturn in Leo struggles to love them. Moon in Leo is instinctively commanding, when put under pressure the Moon in Leo native will try to take charge. All of these insights are underpinned though by the fixed nature of the sign. Yes fire is warm, fire draws people to itself, but the fixity of Leo proclaims itself as a fire that cannot be put out, thus it cannot be extinguished, managed, controlled or argued with, Leo is an ‘always on’ type of energy that like the Lion will not stand down.

And then there is the cobra. Here is an entirely different animal. Cold-blooded, deadly, hard to properly see and generally feared, but not feared out of respect for its magnificence like the lion, feared because it will leave you for dead as soon as look at you. The cobra is not mighty in that divine and kingly way that the lion conjures, but just as deadly, just as implacable. Now if you think about the cobra (or the Scorpion: another facsimile for the Scorpio energy) you will understand right away that they are small, almost insignificant, but they can kill an animal many times their own size and what this really underlines is the key power of the sign of Scorpio: survival.

There are sub-plots with Scorpio of course, but they all boil down to the essential foundation of the sign’s nature, which is the survival instinct. The major sub-plot is the idea of penetration; that is a sexual imperative (via the penetration involved in coitus) as well as a mortal one (since penetration of the flesh by sword, sting or venomous fang will destroy the life), but essentially, this penetration is always at its core a survival issue; sexual penetration ensures genetic survival while combative penetration ensures physical survival; thus the essence of Scorpio is always survival. I have written about this in the past in context of Moon in Scorpio, but consider Mars in Scorpio; here is a placement that is ideal for the warrior type. It is not the chivalric, noble warrior code of Mars in Leo for whom honour and glory on the field of battle are possibly held in higher regard even than survival, but it is instead the kill-or-be-killed mentality of the pit-fighter, it is the secret, stealthy mentality of the assassin, it is the merciless and ruthless killer who, without hesitation strikes down his foe and doesn’t look back. There is no consideration of honour, but neither is there any attempt to bathe in the glory of an act of violence, it is merely expeditious; it is a doing what must be done, without a great fuss, in order that life can go on.

This understanding gives a powerful insight into the Leo-Scorpio square. Both signs are in their way implacable, both are fixed, both will not give way and a head-to-head between the lion and the cobra is going to make an uncomfortable contest. The lion cannot give way because he would be dishonoured to do so and his dream of respect and leadership would lie in tatters if he were seen to ignobly baulk at the offer of battle. By the same token, the cobra will not turn his back on the fight because his survival instinct is too strong, turning his back would leave it open to attack and so a stand-off ensues.

There is therefore an inability to compromise in any square between the signs of Leo and Scorpio, both want to go their own way and neither is prepared to back down. The result of any square is tension and ultimately inertia, but with these signs the tension is multiplied and magnified both; neither sign too understands the other, inextinguishable flame and stagnant water have little enough common quality, it is an irresistible force and an immovable object combination that simply creates a peculiar form of paralysis. Actually, as we are beginning to understand it is actually very much a stand-off; neither can feel it is able to win the fight, but neither – for entirely different reasons – feels comfortable with the idea of backing down.

Let us consider a few informative examples.

How about Ted Bundy, the American serial killer, estimated to have murdered between 29 and 100 young women between 1974 and 1978?

Ted Bundy Nativity

Here the square aspect connects a conjunction of Saturn with Pluto in Leo on the 12th with Jupiter in Scorpio riding the Imum Coeli; this is significant especially. Saturn combined with Pluto is known for its brutality; it was known bt Ebertin as “hard labour” and indeed wherever it is found it makes life very, very difficult; it is for this reason that esoteric astrologers consider it to be a deeply karmic aspect, and whether or not you choose to believe that, the reality is, it makes something of a prison sentence of the life. With the ruler of the 8th – Neptune – itself being the ruler of the 12th, then it is little surprise that Bundy’s life ended in prison at the hands of the legal system (Neptune in Libra!). This aside though, consider the ruler of Leo, the Sun and place that brutality in context; the Sun is in the fourth, so the brutality implied by the Saturn Pluto conjunction is enacted through increasingly sadistic sexual tendencies (Jupiter in Scorpio negated) in private (the 4th). The majority of his attacks were carried out in his car or in the homes of his victims, (3rd/4th houses). Jupiter configured with Saturn creates an enormous oscillation; it is a stop-start, hot-cold aspect that generates debilitating tension; Jupiter and Pluto bring leadership and dominance issues to the fore; especially across these signs; here there is tremendous potential for abuse. Consider the near-peregrine island of Mercury and Venus in Scorpio; here is somebody who thinks about sexual or power issues, who possibly confuses love and sex and who is sexually dissatisfied (implied by the Venus quincunx deviant Uranian thinking in Gemini). The mix is difficult and dangerous.

The key however is Jupiter in almost partile square to Pluto; which itself combined with Saturn in the suppressed 12th gives near-fanatic sexual dominance issues that conjunct the IC, are carried on in secret. Anyone born in the years 1946 and 1947 with this particular square (and more generally the Sa/Pl conjunction) will probably display some measure of fanaticism in their outlook; I have seen it time and again in this subset of the Pluto in Leo generation and it nearly always combines power and money issues in some way (and how else explain how that generation ushered in the most debilitating era of pointless and soulless capitalism since the days of European feudalism?) Here is a further example:

Arnold Schwarzenegger Nativity

Consider this identical aspect in the chart of the well-known actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Here the fanatic impulse is found in the Sa/Pl conjunct in Leo too, but now in the earthy 2nd, there is therefore a financial connotation, and Arnold is truly wealthy, but the house (and the sign of Leo too) is now dominated by the Sun, partile to the cusp in its domicile; creating an enormous ego and huge personal and physical power. The square to Jupiter in Scorpio creates a leadership issue too, but the Ascendant is trine Jupiter giving an easy outlet for the tension into the body itself. Arnold’s physique becomes a channel for all that power, leadership and dominance; he can quite literally manifest the tension into his muscles. In the 5th as well, Jupiter introduces an element of joy into proceedings, Arnold enjoys flexing his biceps and showing off his great power. But let us not forget too that Arnold has a peregrine Venus, he really wants to be beautiful and admired for his physical perfection (Venus rising) and in the sign of Cancer and with Moon quindecile to Mars in the 12th, he probably feels compelled to do that because his mother didn’t nurture him very well.

But despite all of this, there is a combination of Leo and Scorpio that is respectful to both. It is the Spartan. Here is a warrior that retains honour and respect, but fights for survival. The key to transforming the Leo-Pluto square then is to fight, not like Richard, Coerr de Lion, but to stand your ground, like Leonidas at Thermopylae. That is the archetypal compromise for these two difficult energies. It is not so much a winner and loser scenario, but instead it speaks of finding the very narrow common-ground, the perfect balance between the two, where their energies can be combined in the person of the Scorpion-King (who bears more than a passing resemblance to Conan the Barbarian, the role which first catapulted Arnold Schwarzenegger to the A list. Another example of just how succinctly life imitates art!)

Alan Watts and the Philosophy of Cazimi and the Quindecile

The following is a continuation of the previous article, below. For a full appreciation of the themes and configurations in Watt’s astrology, please refer to the article preceding this.

To the casual listener, Alan Watts might well come across as extremely thoughtful, intelligent and insightful, but there is no question that his style was anything but taciturn; his subject matter, which consisted of various facets of esoteric, philosophic and indeed transcendental thought, also underlined his interest in fundamentals and unquestionably his style of discourse was to present an idea and then gradually and systematically to follow the trains of logic which ran out from that starting point to see where they would lead. So then, we have a picture of a communicator, taciturn and methodical in style, one that builds up a picture upon a base supposition and then ultimately reaches a pinnacle insight, usually of a philosophic or spiritual nature; unquestioned in all of this process, is an appreciation of the man’s genius; indeed, I could often feel his frustration at having to hammer home some nuance of his argument to an audience that would clearly be losing the thread of it.

The taciturnity of expression is found in the conjunction of Sun with Mercury in Capricorn. The sign of Capricorn, denoted by the mountain-goat, is profoundly objective focused, it does not have an affinity with frivolity or frolicking, because, like the goat, it sees its world as a hard and often harsh environment where it must be single-minded and determined in order to survive; the food in those lofty realms is scarce, the path is uncertain and treacherous and the drop, no doubt fatal to the distracted. One step after another, the goat makes it way up the mountain, sure-footed, intensely focused on its ascent, driven, but not urgently, driven in a calm, assured way, but driven all the same.

Apply these principles to the Solar principle, Watts’ sense of who he must be are informed by this same driven certainty, and blended with Mercury, he must communicate that sense of self, at all costs. Here also is a measure of his genius because the conjunction with Mercury is so close as to be termed Cazimi, an Arabic word meaning “the heart of the Sun” and it is reckoned by the old-world astrologers to be extremely fortunate, because the principle that is wedded to Sol thus is imbued with the power of eternal life. Mercury Cazimi then gives a power of communication and intellect beyond the pale, beyond the envelope of human norms and this is clear in Watts’ easy discourse on profound matters; actually the most profound matters imaginable, and I shall turn to his subject matter soon enough. Some consider Cazimi to become combust if the conjunction falls outside of 17 minutes of one degree; Watts’ Mercury conjuncts the Sun within 21 minutes; but clearly his genius is absolutely beyond question. This astonishingly close conjunction explains his brilliance, but here, in the sign of Capricorn, it also explains his taciturn manner; his downbeat style, his dolorous, almost flat and unerringly focused approach to the subject in hand. Capricorn describes exactly how he takes a proposition and gradually and undistractedly leads the listener on an ever-ascending journey toward a revelation, a pinnacle, peak, or you might say mountain-top of insight. Then, the first house placement denotes a great energy, it explains his goat-like demeanour and appearance, it resonates with that Mars in the 1st house too, also in its exaltation in Capricorn, where his great energy can build gradually, methodically, to a crescendo of self-expression.

All of which explains how Watts would express his thought processes, but not particularly why, and of course, for an astrologer, the why of a personality is the causal spark, the raison d’etre of incarnation. So then, why did Alan Watts feel such a powerful need to express himself in this way?

The first reason is the Cazimi conjunction of Sun and Mercury that we already understand. Every conjunction between the Sun and the energy of communication, Mercury has to some extent this effect; the self-image is fundamentally a communicating one; the “I” of the ego is an “I” that talks, writes or moves in such a way as to convey meaning. Normally, the wider conjunction gives an element of blindness and often creates a person that talks about themselves a great deal and struggles to talk about much else, but with Cazimi, the communicating awareness is refined and dignified, rather than scorched and obliterated. But this does not explain all of it; after all, Sol and Mercurius can never be more than 28° apart on the plane of the ecliptic, so it is a common association and not many were so driven to explain themselves in this way.

The Quindecile aspect is one that is not much understood in modern astrology, although it has been revived by Noel Tyl, an astrologer of no mean reputation from whom I have learned a great many useful and insightful techniques. For a full discussion of the aspect then read this article. Suffice to say that for the purposes of this discussion at least, the Quindecile (or 165° aspect) has an element of obsessive-compulsive behaviour attached; from the Aries Point, the aspect falls in 15° Virgo and 15° Libra which describes obsession (striving for mental balance and harmony) followed by compulsion (taking a practical step toward the attainment of perfection). This describes the nature of the aspect well, since it is a mental dissatisfaction that provokes a practical fix. The fix rarely actually fixes anything of course, it merely alleviates the imbalance for a time and then it is back to the start, of thinking that something is not quite right and that we had better do something about it.

In Watts’ case we find two separate Qunideciles to that Cazimi conjunction of Sun and Mercury. Looked at in this way we can posit the understanding that his need to express these carefully expounded mental constructs in the form of lectures was the Virgoan solution; it was the fix that he was striving for. The mental imbalance then comes from two separate sources; Saturn conjunct Pluto in the 7th and Neptune on the cusp of the 8th.

Let us consider each of these in turn. Saturn conjunct Pluto is a real soul-destroying aspect; it is back-breaking in effect, because it adds Hadean depth (and you don’t get much deeper than the underworld) to Saturn’s propensity for hard work. Put these together then and you get astonishingly profound limitations, hard work, difficulty, burden and constriction, and in Watts’ case, with Pluto on the Aries Point, and in the 7th, marriage was for him, hard labour. Of course, wherever Pluto is found we have to transform ourselves somehow, but it is the place where we are least able to change, so it is an irresistible force and an immovable object, you know that something has to give, but usually it is ugly and painful even so. Watts went through 3 marriages, and whilst not much is known about the conditions of any of them, there is a between-the-lines intimation that they were far from easy.

Thus, it is entirely reasonable to suggest that the pain and discomfort he experienced in his intimate relationships left him feeling out of balance, and the practical ‘fix’ for that imbalance was to express his ideas in this way.It is almost as though his philosophising about the benign nature of the Universe would assuage the brutality of his marriage experience.

This ties in somewhat with the second Quindecile configured to the Sun Mercury conjunction, from Neptune in the 8th. It is reasonably well-known that Watts had a drinking problem; although he never openly admitted such. When he died aged 58 (at around the time of his second Saturn return – thus Saturn would be transiting the natal Saturn-Pluto conjunction in the 7th) the cause of death was recorded as ‘heart failure’ although it is commonly acknowledged that incipient alcoholism was a contributing factor. This is simply one level at which Neptune might manifest in the 8th, as a contributing factor in the (confusing) conditions surrounding death, also as a motivating obsessive impetus to the compulsion of expressing his spirituality and finally there is the question of talking about death as well, in a spiritual context. Watts frequently spoke about the value of meditating on death, his themes were often uncomfortably Plutonic, his spirituality was all about 8th house ideals of letting go, of non-materialism, of Buddhist ideas about attachment; fundamentally his spiritual DNA was 8th house and he felt compelled to talk it out.

These are not the only Quindeciles in Watts’ chart, he has another from the Dragon’s Head to the Moon which perhaps conveys something about his fated compulsion to bring his ideas before humanity at large, and in this last consideration, he was only partially successful. The taciturn genius pinpointed by his Cazimi Mercury was, like the air the determined goat breathes at the summit of his lonely mountain, always going to be somewhat rarefied and remote for general consumption; his brilliance was of the type of the stars, distant and ethereal rather than the tactile and fawned over diamond of earthly desire, but arguably, it was more precious even so, and will hopefully appreciate with time and contemplation.