The Power of Gentians

Dark, shadowy, little understood; the Hadeans, even under the most intense scrutiny, give away almost nothing of their true nature. Pluto, the best known of the Triumvirate of the Underworld, is so fundamentally dimensioned that despite countless studies and analyses, we cannot ever be sure if we have truly burrowed to his dark essence. Like the moles of his domain, we strain the blind senses to glean some of his hidden truth and esoteric meaning, but we are still never truly confident that we have understood. His magisterial shadows are too pitch. His seismic growl, too profound. This is the nature of Hades. Mysterious, fundamental, terrifying. But also rewarding.


Rewarding because Pluto is the death of form and attachment. Unrealised Pluto is characterised by insatiability. No amount is ever enough. Hence Plutocrats never cease in their quest to amass greater and more superfluous wealth. Serial philanderers never sate their appetite for sexual conquest. For unrealised Pluto, a little control will not suffice. All of these dark appetites are insatiable, thus those in Pluto’s thrall are slaves to their appetites. They destroy their inner harmony, and that of those around them, through their compulsive quest for satisfaction, and yet they cannot be satisfied. The Plutocrat’s wealth does not soothe his restless discontent. He grasps and plots and lives in misery. The compulsively promiscuous do not bask in the warm afterglow of intimacy. They are already craning their necks to spy the next target of their cold attachment. The control-freak, having got her way, does not relax into quietude. She raises the pitch and having secured one concession demands another. None of these unhappy individuals, for all their successes and victories are ever in a state of appreciative reward. Feeding their appetite is never gratifying. It is at best a momentary relief, akin to walking around for an hour in shoes that are a size too small with the sole, illogical motivation of taking them off in order that they might experience the cessation of continual, cramping discomfort. And after a moment of blessed relief, they go back on.

Pluto transformed however, kills attachment. And therein is the true reward. The ability to ‘let go and let God’ is Pluto’s greatest and most hard-won gift. This is the Hadean reward.

Attachment, in all its forms, to the material, to outcomes, to our very lives is the Hadean arena, and to contend with attachment is to do battle with the dread Lord Hades himself.

D.H. Lawrence knew Hades:

Not every man has gentians in his house
in Soft September, at slow, Sad Michaelmas.

Bavarian gentians, big and dark, only dark
darkening the daytime torchlike with the smoking blueness of Pluto’s gloom,
ribbed and torch-like, with their blaze of darkness spread blue
down flattening into points, flattened under the sweep of white day
torch-flower of the blue-smoking darkness, Pluto’s dark-blue daze,
black lamps from the halls of Dis, burning dark blue,
giving off darkness, blue darkness, as Demeter’s pale lamps give off light,
lead me then, lead me the way.

Reach me a gentian, give me a torch
let me guide myself with the blue, forked torch of a flower
down the darker and darker stairs, where blue is darkened on blueness,
even where Persephone goes, just now, from the frosted September
to the sightless realm where darkness is awake upon the dark
and Persephone herself is but a voice
or a darkness invisible enfolded in the deeper dark
of the arms Plutonic, and pierced with the passion of dense gloom,
among the splendour of torches of darkness, shedding
darkness on the lost bride and her groom.

Perhaps it is only in the realm of poetry that we can truly grapple with the Hadean element with prescience, for it is here that the indescribable can be apportioned, fleshed out, dissected. Lawrence wrote a later version of this poem which contained a decidedly steamier final stanza:

Reach me a gentian, give me a torch!
let me guide myself with the blue, forked torch of a flower
down the darker and darker stairs, where blue is darkened on blueness
down the way Persephone goes, just now, in first-frosted September
to the sightless realm where darkness is married to dark
and Persephone herself is but a voice, as a bride
a gloom invisible enfolded in the deeper dark
of the arms of Pluto as he ravishes her once again
and pierces her once more with his passion of the utter dark
among the splendour of black-blue torches, shedding
fathomless darkness on the nuptials.

This is possibly the finest modern work of poetry on the fundamental quality of Hades that we know. The insights are not stark, nor are they cerebral. Instead, they are sensual, osmotic. What is also interesting is that Lawrence originally titled this work “Glory of Darkness”, and he wrote it knowing that he would, one day soon, die of the tuberculosis which had plagued him for much of his life [1].

The poet William Bryant understood the underlying spiritual message of gentians:

Thou waitest late and com’st alone,
When woods are bare and birds are flown,
And frost and shortening days portend,
The aged year is near his end…

…I would that thus when I shall see
The hour of death draw near to me…

So we see that there are motifs that reflect in their very being the fundamental truth of a thing. The power of Hades is too subtle, too profound, too deep to be captured in the mind. Consciousness has no intellectualising paradigm for the shadow. But the simplest device can encapsulate this strange essence, a gentian for example[2], and effortlessly portray a meaning that words and thoughts flounder around and fail.

So understanding this, we can begin to raise up a mechanism, a scrying device which will allow us to glimpse through a shadowy, enriching lens, the deepest workings of our human soul. And seeing the tumblers and levers laid bare, we are gifted the method of shamans and witches, and can at last begin to transmute the spirit within.

That is the power of gentians.

He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough – Lao Tzu.

[1] The Last Poems of D.H.Lawrence: Shaping a Late Style. Dr. Bethan Jones, Ashgate 2010 p.37

[2] The gentian violet was named for Gentius, King of Illyria, who used the flower in a tonic to battle depression.


Planets Unaspected, Feral, Peregrine.


(An excerpt from my forthcoming book.)

The term peregrine is much misunderstood in astrological practice. Nicholas DeVore in his Encyclopaedia of Astrology defines it as being “Foreign, alien. Said of a planet posited in a sign where it possesses no essential dignity: where it is neither dignified nor debilitated. … However, no planet is reckoned peregrine if it be in mutual reception with another.” Essentially, this traditional understanding of the term derives from its literal Latin root, pelegrinus, meaning an outcast, wanderer or outsider. Clearly the term implies a being who is not at home, with all the resultant discomfort such a condition confers. Astrologically then, here is a planet that is not in any sign of dignity or debility, nor is it in its own triplicity, term or face, nor is it in mutual reception by ruler, exaltation, triplicity, term or face. It has no natural connection, good or bad, with the position which it occupies.

If you imagine this placement as a person, then clearly, he is going to struggle to get anything done. If you were suddenly transported into an environment where you knew nobody, you were considered out of place, strange or undesirable, you were unable to speak the same language as others, you had no home, no shelter, and no means of making yourself secure then you would find yourself in a fairly threatened state. Indeed, you would be catapulted into a very real struggle for survival.

This is exactly what happens when a planet is found to be traditionally peregrine. It is considered a very unfortunate situation, because there is no support, the planet is homeless and vulnerable and it cannot therefore project itself because it has no secure base from which to operate.

Noel Tyl extended this concept to include the incidence of unaspected planets, those which have previously been termed ‘feral’. He has received some criticism for this from various astrological students who cite the potential for confusion: they claim that he is using a previously earmarked term for a new concept, which of course is confusing. Fundamentally however, this view fails to comprehend that Tyl is not referring to a new concept at all, because an unaspected planet is unable to project itself since it has no secure base from which to operate, in exactly the same way as a planet without essential dignity. It too is pelegrinus. Indeed, I would argue that a feral planet is in the majority of cases much more peregrine than a planet without essential dignity. Our understanding then must not be limited to a specific rendering of ferity or essential dignity or debility, but we simply have to gauge: how peregrine is this archetype?

When we understand the depth of peregrination, for whatever reason, then we begin to understand how desperate – if you like – is the situation for that archetype. If we again liken the peregrinated planetary energy to a person placed in an alien environment then we can quickly grasp some of the very urgent and compelling contingencies of that situation. The person with no home, no security, no means of making themselves understood will be forced to muster enormous focus and energy simply to stay alive. Starvation or hostility are real threats that must be countered, the person that is outcast has to work astoundingly hard just to operate at the level that everyone else simply takes for granted; it is that or perish.

Granted, some do perish. Severely peregrinated nativities are very often tragedies in the making.

Before we move along further let us consider the technical arrangement of peregrination by aspect. In my work I generally use an orb of 6 degrees for the conjunction, opposition, square and trine and an orb of 3 degrees for the sextile to determine whether a particular planet is peregrine. I consider no other aspects at this stage.

This does not mean that we discount wider Ptolemaic aspects, nor do we ignore the influence of minor aspects. We are simply making a determination at this juncture about the ease of expression of a given planet: a planet that does not have access to an ‘obvious’ aspectual outlet will struggle to express its quality, therefore the native will overcompensate or alternately carry on with life seemingly oblivious of that facet of their nature. So a chart with peregrine Moon might, for example, evince a quincunx between Sun and Moon which ought to be quite urgent, but it is not an aspect which expresses itself powerfully, even if it is quite intense; the major aspects alone have this effect; so whilst we can say that there is an innate dissatisfaction with the results of expressing his needs, this in itself is not a ‘big enough channel’ for the lunar quality. It does not have the required bandwidth. Only the major aspects within this fairly tight orb structure have the requisite bandwidth for proper archetypal expression.

If we use the example of peregrine Moon, one of the key qualities of the lunar archetype is a sense of emotional attachment to the myriad rhythms of life: a severely peregrinated Moon in its detriment or fall, very often creates a life that is characterised by disconnection, a separateness that in a difficult sign, such as Scorpio can become deeply uncomfortable. Contrast this with peregrine Moon in the opposite sign of Taurus: there is a disconnection with life, but it is entirely comfortable, safe and protective, the native has no desire to connect; indeed, it is in making the connection that insecurity is felt, life is better inside the bubble.

So, herein lays the nub of the peregrination issue. When the energy cannot be easily expressed due to some severe friction, due to a lack of bandwidth then the themes of that placement are writ large on the life arc, either through being over-experienced or utterly absent. In the former case, the quality of that experience becomes paramount; if the placement is inherently uncomfortable then inevitably it will colour the entire life-situation with discomfort.

It is with this in mind that I would consider ferine planets to be in serious difficulty, which will be subjectively experienced most especially according to the conditioning of the sign in which they are found. In a sympathetic sign the sense of experiential discomfort for an unaspected placement would be far less than a planet in its detriment or fall, however, the drive or impetus to inclusion of that archetype would be intense in the extreme. A person with a feral Moon in Taurus would be compelled to express and integrate lunar themes just as powerfully as the person with Moon in Scorpio, but they would feel a great variance of discomfort in the condition accordingly.

This is where the concept of polarity becomes powerfully important, because it is time and again proved unhelpful to view opposite signs as separate, or even as opposed! Consider instead that they are a single entity, concerned with identical issues and themes, but approaching a shared objective from different ends of a spectrum. Both Taurus and Scorpio are concerned with security and safety, but while Taurus seeks material comfort (more is more, I will be safe in the physical world), Scorpio operates from an emotional perspective (less is more; the best things in life are free). Since the lunar principle is primarily one of comfort, security, safety and sustenance, there is no question that it is easier to realise those objectives through the physical and material route of Taurus than the protectively emotional route of Scorpio. The Moon in Taurus eats for comfort, the Moon in Scorpio finds comfort in not needing to eat; that’s a tough route to security by comparison.

Thus an unaspected planet looms large in the unconscious, becomes a kind of psychic collapse with an enormous event horizon, sucking everything around into itself in an attempt to be fulfilled. It can completely devour the entire life-direction in this manner, subjugating all other drives to its own fulfilment. For this reason, an unaspected planet experiences a major adjustment in terms of dignity and debility evaluation. If a planet is in a sympathetic sign, so the discomfort of it is not so keenly felt, you will of course have to moderate your analysis accordingly, but it will not prevent that energy from being equally as dominant in seeking its own fulfilment as a placement in an unsympathetic sign, but in the latter case the subjective sense of that archetypal energy might feel considerably more difficult and therefore that person will no doubt be experienced by others as more difficult.

This is the nub then of peregrination. It does not matter which condition qualifies any given archetype as peregrine, rather, the key understanding is that the archetype is out of place, struggling, in dire difficulty and the native’s experience of it will reflect that selfsame difficulty.

Therefore, and if you follow this philosophy, you will be able to grasp the emergent reality which it hints at: within the greatest weakness and difficulty lies our greatest potential strength and peregrination – in whatever guise – prompts the soul to create an imperative, as though it were laid out thus from the instant of birth: a great, wondrous arc leading tentatively to emancipation, if only we have the necessary quality to strike out for its marvellous conclusion.

Look at those cases where peregrination was not at all in evidence; by essential dignity alone, Muhammad Ali’s ‘weakest’ planet is Mars, and yet, here is the greatest fighter the modern world has seen. The same condition is found in the nativity of Mark Spitz.  Julie Andrews’ weakest planet? Venus! And Albrecht Durer, whilst primarily an artist, influenced art theory, mathematics and Renaissance thought profoundly and Jupiter was his weakest placement. The list goes on.

But then, when peregrination is brought to its logical extreme, and we seek examples to underpin our suspicion, the circle becomes complete:

  • Sylvia Plath who dedicated her short life to expressing her inner emotional life through poetry has unaspected Moon.
  • John F. Kennedy, perhaps the archetypal leader of the free world, had unaspected Sun!
  • Agatha Christie, the best selling writer of all time, has unaspected Mercury.
  • Brigitte Bardot: unaspected Venus.
  • Sylvester Stallone, the action hero: unaspected Mars.
  • Germaine Greer, feminist philosopher and writer: Jupiter!
  • Ted Kennedy, the most respected senator of modern times in the USA, had peregrine Saturn.
  • Alan Watts, a thinker, writer and speaker of profound insight and unmistakable genius, had peregrine Uranus (as does Gary Kasparov and Barack Obama).
  • For the ruler of film and fantasy, Neptune, how about Walt Disney?
  • Peregrine Pluto is a difficult energy, and it is easy to spot the common theme in the list of those whose nativities evinced the unaspected placement: Buddy Holly, John F. Kennedy, his wife Jackie, Marilyn Monroe and Natasha Richardson.

What we see then is that where a planet is weak or lacking in dignity it creates a struggle which is felt experientially by the native, and this condition is enormously exacerbated through a lack of aspects. For the most part we will never comprehend the destinies of millions, who struggle through lives marred by the imperatives of such conditioning, but occasionally, prominence is thrust upon individuals and the themes of peregrination are writ large upon the world stage for all to see.

The Astrology of Oblivion

Last week, we explored some of the broad themes of Neptune. What a delight Neptune is, with his glorious, undermining illusions.

A few months ago, somebody asked me to look at the case of an aging relative who was becoming ‘confused and forgetful’. We talked about it for a while, science, in the form of a kindly, but ultimately noncommittal doctor had no answer to the problem, nor any advice it seemed, except to “monitor the situation”. The fear was, naturally enough, Alzheimer’s.

It is tempting to assume that Alzheimer’s falls within the purview of Neptune. After all, the key energetic qualities have much common-ground. There is confusion, a gradual drifting away, an encroaching sense of loss and eventually, oblivion. It is not for nothing that it is called “the long goodbye”. I researched the matter, and – in an attempt to better grasp the genesis of the disease and its implications – I looked at the history and origins of the disease, then at several case studies and in that process I discovered something new and remarkable.

As is often the case with disease, we are looking at the ‘last resort’ of astrology. I have written extensively on this subject before, as for example with the “Cascade Effect”, and it is worth revisiting the central premise:

Any physical symptom is simply an expression of the astrology at the level of last resort. That psychic impetus that you have not manifested at some level higher-up in the totality of your awareness has – left with no viable alternative – found its way out into the body, and that is the cause of your symptom. Now, you might argue that you did not decide to drink the lead-poisoned water and that it was all the wicked power-company’s fault, but really, you did decide to drink it, because it was an esoteric response to a profound unconscious requirement that you apprehend some vanishingly precise and unique expression of human experience and the only way you could manage it was to move into an area where the water was poisoned by an unscrupulous corporate entity.

This posits a fundamental truth of the cascade from psychic pressure, which is itself predicated upon your karma and your innate level of consciousness, the totality of which I would call ‘spiritual energy’, through the emotional body and then into the physical body. If you cannot respond at the spiritual level to your karma then it will begin to have emotional effects. If you cannot purge the ‘dark matter’ then it begins to bring a pressure to bear upon the physical body. Louise Hay writes extensively on the subject without the benefit of astrology, but even so, her observations, with few exceptions, were remarkably cogent. If you have no love in your life then your heart will suffer. If you are fearful then you will have a digestive problem. Problems with the liver and pancreas relate to an inability to feel joy. As can be seen, all of these difficulties are preceded by an emotional trauma, acute or chronic in nature, usually between one and three years before the problem begins to manifest into the body. In that interim, the spiritual problem has begun to poison the emotional system.

Of course, as Wayne Dyer espoused: there is a spiritual solution to every problem, and this is true, but it takes an unusual soul to manage the great leap of faith and love to expedite it. Inevitably, even the most enlightened beings struggle to some extent with anger and woundedness, and these emotional symptoms of a non-spiritual response to conflict and difficulty, if not themselves ‘solved’ with a change of heart (and how apt is that phrase in this context!) will manifest into the mind or body as disease.

So when somebody approaches me with a concern about Alzheimer’s, we look first of all at the background to the problem itself, if we can, and try to build a framework within which we might put the problems in context. We hold in our minds the probability that Neptune is at work, but we can make no assumptions. Herein lies a meandering conundrum about the process of astrology too, which bears examination.

Here is what happens when your 6th house is ruled by Mercury opposition Neptune.

When we consider any disease, or even any broad situation in life, we see that there is a result. The result however, is not the cause. The result might therefore be Neptune in one sense or another, but the cause is not Neptune. Neptune may be part of the cause, but there is no one cause in the nativity. Causes are manifold. In fact, the more causes there are, the greater the likelihood of a particular placement manifesting the result. Sometimes this is a straightforward identification process, the apex of a Yod or tee-square, the debilitating and pernicious black energy of a Mars-Saturn-Pluto stellium, or a series of contacts that are within the same vibrational framework: consider Ronald Reagan’s Mercury opposition Neptune – ruled by Saturn in the 4th – Orcus in a Neptune ruled 3rd house, Pluto peregrine. At birth, Reagan’s Venus was his strongest planet, closely outpacing Mars and Moon, and this set the tone for his life mission, to bring order and harmony to the world (according to his own vision (Mars rises in Capricorn) and traditional, homespun values (Moon is in Taurus)) but crucially, when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in August 1994, Neptune had assumed supremacy by his progression onto the IC. He therefore needed to express the quality of Neptune, could not manage it spiritually, nor emotionally, and so the force of Neptune made its way into his mind. The point though is not so much that he was compelled to vibrate at a Neptunian frequency, because that is itself only a result of some other set of prevailing conditions. Thus, if the wind blows from the East, your boat will drift to the West.

Reagan’s first job as a pro-rescuer – and a good one, he saved 77 lives. Neptune only got stronger from here on in…

In Reagan’s case, there is a fascinating stormy petrel in the form of White House correspondent Lesley Stahl who recounts her final meeting with the president, in 1986: “Reagan didn’t seem to know who I was. … Oh, my, he’s gonzo, I thought. I have to go out on the lawn tonight and tell my countrymen that the president of the United States is a doddering space cadet.” But then, at the end, he regained his alertness. As she described it, “I had come that close to reporting that Reagan was senile.”

This meeting took place precisely as Orcus fell conjunct Reagan’s Ascendant by progression.

There is one other important factor to consider in the case of Ronald Reagan’s Alzheimer’s affliction, one final cause, but we must digress further to make it accessible.

When we look at the history of the disease, we find that it was named for Aloysius Alzheimer, a German psychiatrist whose life obsession became a single 51 year old patient, August Deter, who exhibited all of the, now classic, symptoms of the disease: withdrawal and confusion being most prevalent. After the patient’s death, Alzheimer studied the chemical structures of Deter’s brain and discovered that when studied under a microscope, the patient’s neuron structures were deformed, having a ‘tangled appearance’. These tangles cause the proteins to become insoluble, and thus normal brain function is impaired, albeit in a way that science does not understand. The result is Alzheimer’s disease. Doctor Alzheimer presented his research on November 3rd 1906 (at the 37th meeting of the Southwest German psychiatrists in Tübingen, the first order of the day’s discussions, after breakfast), wherein he first described the characteristic neurofibrillary tangle. Alzheimer’s disease was ‘born’.

The birth chart is interesting because Mercury rises and is precisely parallel Arachne on the Ascendant at 22 Scorpio. Mercury trines Orcus. The neurofibrillary ‘tangle’ looks, under the microscope, like a cobweb, and Orcus makes a prison from the mind as a result.

As I researched Arachne further I came to see that this little-known point loomed large where dementia was found. It was a ‘marker’.

Now, when we return to our study of Ronald Reagan’s nativity, we see that Arachne was trine Orcus at birth and had progressed precisely to his Midheaven on the day he was shot by John Hinckley in Washington DC on 30th March 1981. Remarkably, when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1994, Orcus has covered one third of his nativity, and replicated the birth trine to Arachne, albeit now from Leo, rather than Aries.

A seriously bad choice of mug-ee…

Further research bears out. Charles Bronson, another Alzheimer’s sufferer (and Orcan personification) experiences a Grand Trine of (Sun/Mercury) = (Pluto/Arachne) = Uranus, and these form the basis of Kite when Orcus is included: via his opposition to Mercury!

Iris Murdoch too, with Orcus on the Midheaven opposing Arachne on the IC died 9 days after the all-powerful middle-pass of Orcus = Ascendant; her Alzheimer’s was diagnosed as Orcus transited in opposition to her Moon and Mercury. At the middle pass, quite naturally.

By 1965, Neptune was really making himself felt…

Numerous case studies affirm that Arachne and Orcus are the major markers of Alzheimer’s disease in the nativity. But it bears repeating that it makes no sense to rush off and look up one’s own susceptibility. These are merely the routes to a result that your soul needs to manifest. If Neptune becomes your strongest power then you are simply letting go of control in your life, and you can resist that need to let go if you like. As Louise Hay writes of dementia: what is it that you need to forget?

For Ronald Reagan, it is my view that he could not face the ultimate powerlessness of his own mortality on the fateful Washington morning in 1981, exactly as Reagan’s Arachne progressed onto his Midheaven! The sheer randomness of that dreadful threat must have shaken him to his core. Hinckley, his would-be assassin was declared insane and quite rightly, after all, he decided to kill the President in order that he might impress Jodie Foster.

Jodie Foster incidentally has a one-degree opposition between Orcus and Arachne.

And Hinckley? Orcus conjunct Node, Mars and Mercury, square Moon, sesquisqaure Saturn, parallel Jupiter, Uranus and Arachne, semisquare Arachne.

We are all connected, even when sometimes; we really don’t wish to be.

The Dream Dealer

It’s a time of reflection, do you feel that?

Saturn in Scorpio is really starting to work his magic. Except it doesn’t really feel like magic. Or if it is magic then it’s some old-school thaumaturgy, or one of those terrifyingly savage shamanic rituals that unfortunate sailors would get caught up in, far from home, in the South Seas in the 1700s. It isn’t fun at all.

When the Moon hit Saturn in Scorpio, the energetic landscape changed. What I really became aware of was the way in which Jupiter in Gemini was suddenly, through an act of contrast, laid bare, and he looked kind of ridiculous. Suddenly that boundless frivolity started to seem dumb. It was, in true Saturn style, a reality check. The fact is that Jupiter is appalling in Gemini. Arguably not as appalling as in Virgo, but appalling nonetheless. Jupiter, who likes depth and substance has nowhere to go except to spread himself further on the surface, because Gemini gives no natural depth. Saturn in Scorpio gets seriously deep and suddenly Jupiter looks like a second hand car salesman arguing life perspectives with Alan Watts. In many ways I am far more comfortable with Saturn in Scorpio – as ridiculous as that sounds – than I am with Jupiter in Gemini.

In part that’s a generational problem. Having pondered the conundrum for some time I believe that Neptune is partly to blame (blame? Neptune?) for this. Allow me to explain.

Neptune always gets cast as the good guy; if I may quote myself (from “Orcus” p. 202):

“I believe that Neptune is given a fabulously good press by contemporary astrology, and one that is scarcely deserved. Certainly, Neptune’s reputation is enormously positive compared to his brother Pluto’s, and yet I am endlessly sceptical about how deserving of his many generous epithets Neptune truly is. Like the ocean, Neptune seems beautiful, yearning and restive, a vastness of potential and a personification of a gentle eternity, but it seems that way from the perspective of the safe shore. Anyone who has been beyond sight of land in a black and angry sea understands that Neptune’s power is just as dread as his brother’s; equally as alien and inhumane. Pluto’s realm is buried, however; unknown to the living, whereas Neptune’s treacherous tides and currents are glamorised by his glittering waves and gentle breezes. Neptune’s dreams, poetries and symphonies are spin-doctors par excellence.”

Neptune’s wonderful trick is that he flatters to deceive by presenting us with an image of the ideal that we cannot possibly hope to realise. Then, unattained, the dream becomes a goad to our discontent.

And, when you get to grips with it, Neptune describes your dream. With Neptune in Scorpio, the basic premise is a kind of unencumbered Spartanism. You dream of a life of purity, of minimalism, of spiritual depth. If that Neptune is in the 6th house then you will have a dream about starting your day by donning your robe, walking into the clean air as the day breaks, up to the dojo under the mountain and beginning your meditation. If the 7th house, then instead, you awake in your remote cabin to find sunlight streaming through the trees. Your beautiful, funny, successful wife has made a pot of rich Columbian coffee and you join her on the porch to listen to the birdsong. In the 8th, you wake up in the presidential suite of the Waldorf Astoria. The Swedish women’s volleyball team are staying on the same floor…

Okay, I’m joking, mostly.

But you get the idea. Neptune has a dream. It is highly personal and always alluring because it is purpose-made for you. With a Scorpio placement, the quality of that dream is always going to be characterised by depth and richness. It is not a case of bigger and better; rather it is a case of finding something pure and valuable, like a rich seam of gold deep in the black earth. Imagine that for a moment, it shines in the darkness and promises so much.

The placement of Pluto and aspects to Neptune are going to have a profound influence on the themes of your dream. If you have Scorpio Neptune in the 7th and Pluto in the 10th, then after you have drunk coffee with your wife, you climb into your Porsche and drive into the city to make big-money deals.  If Neptune trines Mars then of course, all the girls flirt with you, you’re so charming after all, but they all know that you’re happily married and can’t wait to get home to see your wife.

With Sagittarius, the dream changes, fundamentally. Now Jupiter is running the show, so it’s not a seam of gold buried deep in the earth any more, rather it’s a bright, hot-air balloon drifting gently in the balmy summer sky. You’re up there in the clouds looking down on the glittering panoply under your feet.

With that Neptune in the 6th house, you want a daily routine that’s filled with fun and laughter and good times. Yes, you can feel that can’t you? You get up and the kids are laughing, the sun is shining, your handsome, jovial husband is cooking breakfast and telling goofy jokes. You sit down to eat and your best friend calls and you arrange to go out for lunch after your yoga class. You see? That is the “more is more and it will all be great fun” style of Neptune in Sagittarius’ dream.

Inevitably though, the dream can become something of a curse. Actually, it invariably does, and when we experience hard transits to that Neptune, we begin to feel just how painfully short of that dream our reality actually is. The Neptune squares are the time in our life when we get the best opportunity to feel how far from that dream we are, and to make necessary adjustments, which invariably require coming to terms with the fact that we are going to have to let go of some things that don’t serve that dream. But that isn’t the only time we can improve the situation.

We are gifted another opportunity when Saturn moves into Neptune’s sign. It rarely feels like an opportunity, because the nature of these two energies are fundamentally dissonant, but for those born with Neptune in Scorpio, now is the time to make the hard and often onerous changes in your life which will help you to make the dream a reality. This is because the planet of reality is bearing down on the planet of fantasy, and when they finally meet, they are going to find a middle ground. It might be that Saturn gives way and you work hard to realise the dream, or it might be that Neptune gives ground and you start to get real about what is possible, and adjust the dream accordingly. Whichever way it goes, and usually there is a combination of both, after this transit, your ideal life, and your actual life will be closer than ever before. The process will not have been easy, or enjoyable, but you’ll be glad of it when it’s done.

With Neptune in Sagittarius, the situation is unique and considerably more compelling. Neptune in Sagittarius’ dreams and aspirations are in many ways bigger than Scorpio’s, and easier to deflate for that reason. But the great cosmic mechanism has ensured that Neptune in Sagittarius gets a double dose of adjustment as Saturn moves into Sagittarius between December 2014, and December 2017. People born in about 1971 are already being given a taste of this problem because – born between 1971 and 1972 they have Neptune in Sagittarius and Saturn in the early degrees of Gemini. They’ve lived with the dissonance of Saturn opposing Neptune their entire lives and as Neptune squares the opposition around now, the reality check can be especially sobering. Neptune is so very idealistic in Sagittarius after all, and the opposition to Saturn really polarises the fantasy with the reality. The dream is extremely positive and the dawning truth at the time of the Neptune squares can feel like a wet blanket the size of the old Soviet Union when it descends.

For those born somewhat after, they will experience Saturn moving into Sagittarius at the same time as their Neptune squares. It’s a double ‘turning of the screw’ on the dream of the perfect life, and for that reason it will feel very tough.

But in both these cases, all is not lost. The adjustment is painful and dissonant, but it also offers a powerful opportunity to make a shift of consciousness, which is always Neptune’s exalting pressure, into a truly spiritual mode of life. Once made, that shift is a panacea for the harshness of Saturnine reality, because it recontextualises material reality, success, status and toil into immaterial terms. Status is no longer being seen as a success, but rather in knowing that one is a good person. The small chores of life are no longer drudgeries, rather they are become meditations. What we call “work” is now “the Work”. Fundamentally, this shift is found in the realisation that the life of contentment and ease that we yearned for is not ‘out there’ but it is inside us, bound up in the distortion of perspective that we are somehow hard done-by, a victim of somebody else, or of God, or that, in fact, because we are good, we deserved better. Saturn teaches our Neptune that nobody gets what they deserve, they get only what they need to let go of the illusion that they deserved better.

How big is your Pluto?

This is an interesting diagram which delineates the ‘strength’ of Pluto through the signs. With Pluto, stronger does not mean better, it means, well, stronger. To have sympathy with an energy does not always mean to have more of it, indeed, Pluto is subtle, deep and most of all hidden, so to have Pluto in positive, outgoing and extrovert signs, like Leo, Libra and Sagittarius is uncomfortable for Pluto, who enjoys Scorpio for precisely the reason that he can remain subtle, deep and hidden.

But there is a way in which stronger does mean better, provided you can utilise the lessons of Orcus and find true spiritual integrity. In this way you will not be ‘broken’ by Pluto. So if you have Pluto strong then you are facing a major test in this incarnation, and one which you will learn at a much greater personal cost (but also a cost to those in your life) than the majority whose Pluto’s are less ‘out there’.

If you have Pluto close to an angle, then he becomes even stronger, and he is also strong in the 5th, 7th and 9th houses. So if you have Pluto rising in Libra or Sagittarius, and to a slightly lesser extent Leo, then know that you have quite a trip ahead of you and you need, for the sake of your eternal soul, to get down to some serious spiritual work if you want to avoid the burden of a lot of karmic payback as well as realise the not inconsiderable benefit of having transformed a great deal of Hadean force. That will make you quite formidable, but in a loving and meaningful way.

Plus, what choice do you have? Any other road leads only to unhappiness.

The Player of Games

What you can see here is a diagram of my devising which places the planets in the context of human consciousness. They are calibrated in this way using a specific methodology which has been checked against a number of spiritual perspectives and which (ultimately) feels correct, intuitively at least. I do not wish to make too much noise about where this diagram came from, but I can explain it quite easily. This is especially useful because I have had a few people ask me recently about the Chirotic Awakening, and of course Orcus and Pluto are important topics for any initiate of the astrological mystery school.

We can see here that the path from Pluto – base compulsion – to the Sun – true solar consciousness, is interspersed by various levels or stages of self-awareness. Perhaps we should say, rather than levels, that what we are looking at here are the gradations of self-awareness, from none, to a completion, wherein the completion contains no compulsion at all. Mercury and Uranus are the only planets which are ‘difficult’ to place and I am uncertain as to why this should be so at this time.

In any case, it is possible to deduce that the progress of the soul is dependent upon a series of enlightenments, each progressively more conscious and progressively less compulsive than its predecessor. It’s interesting too that we talk about the transformation of Pluto, because this is in fact only the first transformation, and it therefore becomes the benchmark or mould for all transformation, which is why we learn the principle associated with the Crucible of Hades before we learn anything else. Once we understand this, in principle, we can apply the Plutonic energy to higher and higher paradigms of human consciousness. So while we begin with a Plutonic transformation, the seed transformation of base compulsion, we are only beginning the spiritual journey at this time and we have much work to do. The Plutonic transformation requires that we master our compulsions and immediately we have done that we are in the field for learning the Orcan paradigm. Let us call that integrity. For most people, integrity is just a word that is interchangeable with a phrase: let us call that phrase “the appearance of integrity”. I will not say too much on that because I have written a book on it and I don’t want to spoil the “plot”. Once we have mastered Orcus, we are into the various archetypes of human life and on we go.

So, the first important question must be: why do most people not understand what integrity means? I estimate 85% of all people alive today do not understand what integrity is, although they assume they do. This is because they have no soul. That is not to say that their soul is missing, everyone has a soul, but the majority have no access to it. It is too oppressed by ego. They effectively do not understand that they exist and instead believe that are acting under their own volition in all things. But they cannot see the puppetmaster, the ego, pulling the strings in the shadows. Once you are able to accept the simple truth that you cannot control anything in the entire Universe other than yourself, you have begun to transform Pluto. Then, when you have actually stopped trying to control anyone or anything else, you have done it.

Is that not incredibly simple? It is the easiest thing in the world to do, but nobody is very keen to do it. We can make it even simpler than that. If you’re serious about waking up, if you’re serious about wanting to be happy, if you are totally, starkly and unconditionally committed to becoming a truly spiritual being then you only have to do one thing, and it’s so incredibly easy that you can start today and have mastered it by tomorrow. Here it is:

Stop playing games.

Well, it sounds easy doesn’t it? The only obstacle to this objective is that most people believe that they are not playing games; they believe that the game is life, not that the game is what is preventing them from living their life. They think that without the game, they would not have anything, that it would all be taken away and they would be destitute, homeless, unloved. They worry. You probably believe that everyone worries, about everything, all the time, but it isn’t so. Only people that play games worry, because the game is a worrying game. When you stop playing, the worry fades and very soon, you have no worries. It is really tough for people to get it, because they are always concerning themselves with the game, and especially with the other players. This is because the ego is the gameplayer, and you are therefore competing with other gameplayers to win. But the great trick is, that since there is no game – it’s just a goad that the ego uses, your anxiety about losing something to keep you hooked on playing – there is nothing to win, or to lose.

Once you realise that the game is meaningless, you can stop playing, you can develop material integrity (the precept of taking nothing that is not freely given) and that in itself is liberating, then you can work through Saturn, that materialism is only another part of the game, and on you go.

So why is Chiron there, on the threshold of self-realisation? This is the Chirotic Awakening and as you can see, it is a fairly advanced stage of human consciousness. Individually speaking, the clue will be in your Chiron placement, so if you have Chiron in Aries and the 1st house then you will know that the one thing you cannot easily do is interact. When you do, you are prone to feeling irrelevant, talked over, talked down. People with this placement (I watch them) do one of two things: they either fade awkwardly into silence and allow themselves to be sidelined in an exchange, or they push too hard, force their statements out and create tension. Either way, they end up feeling awkward and self-conscious. At the point of the Chirotic Awakening, they quickly come to understand that all along, they had no need to be heard. That nobody has anything to say. Most of all, people with this Chiron, upon awakening, realise the truth of the maxim that while speech might be silver, silence is certainly golden.

Does it detract anything from you if nobody listens to you? Of course not, although it will be very damaging to your ego. Then you are into the game again. It is for this reason that Chiron is the point of true self-realisation, because our most vulnerable nature is the final and most compelling trigger to the avoidance of nothingness. Nobody wants to be nobody, right? That is true enough, at least until you reach the threshold of self-realisation, because then you realise that everybody is nobody, and nobody is all we ever can be. In truth, nobody is all we ever were, and having got past that, we become free to be exactly who we are!

Then you stop worrying and move increasingly into present time. Now you’re happy and life simply unfolds, without your having to do anything, not even having to express a view, a reservation, because you know that you cannot change anything anyway.

There is no game, so why play?

The Amateur Pluto-Hunter

Make no mistake, Pluto is strong stuff. Hard to handle, and while there is much to understand about Pluto and his mechanisms and expositions it is important to remember that the planets do not control us, they cannot ‘make us’ do anything at all, it is only our determination to be the master of our astrology that frees us to be persons of integrity and self-awareness. Pluto is seen as the planet of compulsion for the most part because his energetic frequency is so very base; like Hades, it is well below the surface, in the unconscious murk, and so we have to be very attendant to our behaviour, which is the external symptom of our internal state. Because Pluto is very subtle however, we frequently hide his influence even from ourselves, through rationalisation. In my life, I study Plutonic compulsion on a daily basis and it’s fascinating. I think that perhaps 90% of people I interact with in my life are more or less totally unaware of Pluto’s influence in their lives and in the dramas that they create. Pluto always creates drama, and this is one of the key manifestations of his effects.

So, if there is drama in your life, a big hoo-har about this or that and a great deal of excitement, particularly where there is condemnation, mocking or contest, then chances are, Pluto is pulling the strings somewhere in the situation.

Another important insight lies in the fact that Pluto is an octave of Mars (I hesitate to say ‘higher’ perhaps we should say a more subtle octave), so while he may not manifest in direct, overt expressions of anger, he has the same agenda; he is pushing to get things working how he wants. Passive and covert aggression are therefore invariably signs that Pluto is in the mix. The classic Plutonian power struggle therefore becomes quite easy to spot when you understand all of these factors. Typically, the symptoms of Pluto in the driving seat are very clear once you’re familiar with them:

  • A grimy, uncomfortable, edgy feeling in the air. If you zone in on it, you’ll realise that it is hitting you in the solar plexus chakra. You may have digestive ‘issues’ as a result. One common (and suitably Plutonic) feature of being unconsciously ‘violated’ by a Plutonian therefore manifests through a need to rush to the loo after the drama is over. You’ll note that you only need to think about certain people to cause an upset feeling in your solar plexus. Those people are Plutonic and toxic and they invade your subtle body with casual disregard. Plutonians are entitled.
  • Plutonic people dehumanise. This can be as simple as calling the opponent a loser, a thief, a liar, through to something more extreme, like vermin, parasites, scum etc. This is all Plutonic language, and is designed to make the opponent appear less than human. A dehumanised person is much easier to target, isolate and annihilate than an equal. Plutonians thrive on dehumanising tactics, so if they can make you appear to be beneath respect they will. They will intimate that you’re dangerous, mentally ill or deranged, evil, abusive or dishonest. In this way, others will automatically begin to treat you contemptuously which serves the controller’s agenda.
  • Inappropriate relationships. Healthy relationships should be based on love, trust and mutual respect. If you are involved in, or witness to, a relationship that does not have those features, then chances are, it’s a Plutonic relationship. Relationships without these features usually form out of mutual self-interest, and serve agendas rather than love. Once you see that the relationship isn’t based on love, it’s quite straightforward to deduce which agenda is being served.
  • Covert evaluation. You will  note that when you come into contact with a negative Plutonian, while they might be all smiles, you come away from the exchange feeling somehow judged, evaluated or doubtful about yourself in some way. You might feel angry or resentful without really being able to say why. This is achieved through the Plutonian’s subtle, hard to spot evaluations. For example, if you’re a parent and you value yourself as a competent Mum or Dad, the Plutonian will accost you and wax lyrical about somebody else who is (self-evidently) half the parent you are, while not mentioning your dedication to your children. If you get riled, you’ll just look churlish and self-centred! Neat huh? Welcome to the ‘whatever you do, you lose’ world-rules of Pluto.
  • The smear campaign. When the power struggle has escalated, the Plutonian always resorts to a smear campaign. This is like a big flashing beacon for Pluto issues. The Plutonian won’t say anything to your face, but they’ll be undermining you for all they’re worth behind your back, with anyone who’ll listen (and most people love a bit of gossip, right?). Usually they’ll take something with a grain of truth and omit or distort facts to make you look guilty. So, for example, if you had an argument with your partner and they were upset and hurt, they’ll tell people that you’re ’emotionally abusive’ in your relationship – after all, they know that your partner was upset on that occasion, so they’re not really lying. Or, if somebody else tells them something about you that isn’t true, even if they know it isn’t true, they’ll repeat it,  because they didn’t originate the rumour and they’re not therefore responsible for it. It allows them to tell lies about you, without being responsible for formulating the lie.
  • Resource control. Plutonians take control of the resources, it’s a kind of scorched earth policy in relationships. This means that all the things that sustain you; material, emotional, whatever, are procured by the Plutonian in order to leave you isolated and vulnerable. If the Plutonian can destroy your support network, then you’re a very easy target, and this is the major reason why they form inappropriate relationships. The Plutonians in your life will suddenly become bosom-buddies with somebody that they have nothing in common with, and never cared a fig for before the power struggle started just to deny you the relationship and to leave you without support. They may keep your possessions too, using the smallest expedience to rationalise their theft into something more ambiguous. This latter is especially relevant in relationship breakdown, where items are ‘jointly’ owned: if there’s a remotely ‘grey’ area about ownership, you’ve lost it!

If you challenge the Plutonian though, they’ll always have a great excuse for their manipulative and underhanded actions. Usually they’re only trying to either ‘stand up for what’s right’, to ‘protect some poor soul who is the victim of you,’ (especially ‘the children’, Plutonians are always doing things to protect the children: by associating their cause with the innocent and vulnerable, their motives become unquestionable: ‘why are you questioning me, do you want the children to be miserable/abused/oppressed etc?) or they’re simply being ‘normal and responsible’ (thus implying that by disagreeing with them you’re being abnormal and irresponsible).

So, using this checklist, it’s easy to spot the Plutonian at work. Of course, they don’t start this way, usually they’ll saunter casually into your life, and all might be well, until you press the right (wrong) button. I see this frequently with Plutonians who are usually very easy-going while you’re behaving in the way that they want. Then you do something that isn’t on their list of tolerated behaviours and suddenly you’re in the power struggle. Once the button’s pressed though, there’s no switching it off again. The compulsive Plutonian will just go on, poisoning everybody and everything in your life until you’re thoroughly sick: often quite literally.

What’s the solution to these Plutonic types? Simple. Run away.

That’s right. Don’t engage, don’t try and get your point of view across, don’t negotiate, don’t reason, don’t capitulate. If you give an inch to the Plutonian, he or she will only deduce that you’re controllable and press their covert agenda all the harder. They are like Plutonium, quite literally; if you are in their proximity for any time at all, they will make you sick and eventually they will kill you. It is, unfortunately, that serious.

Now finally, what if you are evincing these behaviours? I would be surprised if you knew that you were, because subjectivity is a giant obstacle to surmount, but it’s possible (usually after the struggle is done) to understand retrospectively that you have behaved in this sort of way, and been, if you like, the unwitting puppet of your own Pluto. The key is to learn from the experience and to keep a very tight leash on your future conduct. Indeed, try to follow the anti-Pluto checklist:

  • If your stomach feels uncomfortable in a situation, try to step back and get some perspective. Ask yourself: “what’s really going on here?”
  • Don’t dehumanise, sneer at, mock or denigrate other human beings. It is okay to complain about bad treatment, therefore it’s okay to call out bad behaviour, but it’s not okay to draw conclusions about a person’s character or motives on the basis of it. Therefore you can say that you’re hurt because you feel that somebody deceived you, but it’s not okay to accuse them of being a habitual liar or a fraudster, most especially not to a third party.
  • Don’t maintain inappropriate relationships. If somebody you’re associated with makes you feel uncomfortable, drop them. At least minimise your association until you can work out the obstacles to enjoying an authentic and loving connection instead.
  • Be very careful what you say to people and examine your motives for saying it. If it’s not kind and uplifting to that person, then it’s probably best to keep your mouth shut. This is especially true in the matter of offering unsolicited advice. By all means express your view if somebody asks for it, and it’s fine to state your position with somebody who is trying to blame, accuse or manipulate you, but you should try to avoid giving even well-meaning advice to others if they haven’t expressly asked you for it.
  • Don’t gossip. I have a Buddhist friend who follows a rule of never talking about anyone unless they are physically present during the conversation. It makes it almost impossible for him to get involved in a smear campaign, even if he was compulsively motivated to do so.
  • If something isn’t 100% unequivocally yours, don’t take it. Even if you think it should be yours, make your case for it, don’t just assume you have the right. If you follow this simple rule (that is, the Buddhist precept to take nothing that is not freely given), then you cannot go wrong.

Following these rules is not just a moral choice, it is important for the sake of your mental, emotional and physical health that you do so. Remember the tenets of medical astrology: all disease begins in the mind with your thoughts. Your thoughts upset your emotions, and your upset emotions make your body sick, especially in the areas ruled by the corresponding elements. Thus Plutonic people are especially prone to cancers, problems with the elimination system and the reproductive organs. They can also cause these symptoms in others who they target with their control agendas, so this makes it doubly important that you avoid the Plutonians in your life. It’s remarkable the number of clients I’ve had who have suffered from chronic digestive complaints (like for example IBS), who have experienced a complete cure when they finally managed to get rid of the compulsive control-freaks in their lives.

Last, it’s important to remember that in order to live spiritually, you have to live and let live and be respectful of other people’s life choices, even if you don’t agree with them. I find that it helps immensely to follow the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated yourself, Pluto doesn’t have much room to manoeuvre once you adopt this simple maxim.