Navigating By The Outer Planets In The Chart

IN PARTICULAR THE URANUS PLUTO SQUARE  by Darby Costello This article was first published in the NCGR Geocosmic Journal, Spring-Summer, 2012 PlutoINTRODUCTION My fascination with the outer planets as mirrors of collective change began when Pluto went into Scorpio in November of 1983. This ingress coincided with a seemingly sudden and rather startling crisis between the US and Russia involving cruise missiles and potential world war. I had just come from South Africa to live in London and within weeks many of my friends wrote, urging me to come back quickly – it was not safe in Europe! Over the next few years, as the AIDS crisis became public and grew in proportion, I became increasingly aware of the dark mirror of Pluto in Scorpio working collectively. Up to this point Uranus, Neptune and Pluto had simply seemed like triggers in the natal chart describing a dimension beyond the personal. I had read Dane Rudhyar and his thoughts about their connection with world events, but somehow had still not registered them as connected to events that were happening around me. By 1988, I was working at the Centre for Psychological Astrology with Liz Greene and Howard Sasportas and our conversations tended to include these planets in their larger context, mostly because they were part of Liz’s thinking. Her book The Outer Planets & Their Cycles: The Astrology of the Collective had been published in 1983 (a transcript of a seminar given in 1980), and her acute insights into how they reflected our socio/political world and its changes, our collective perceptions and developments, seeped into my thinking. During the Saturn/Uranus/Neptune conjunction in Capricorn in 1989, Jim Lewis came to London and spoke about the previous three conjunctions of these planets (in 1307, 625, and 56 B.C.E). As an amateur historian, I was fascinated by the parallels he drew between these periods, describing how each correlated with huge changes in our current collective development. This was the final catalyst – I was hooked and began my own research. Conversations with others apart from Liz and Howard, and less frequently but significantly with Rick Tarnas and Rob Hand during the next few years, deepened my fascination with the patterns of cycles. By the time Pluto went into Sagittarius in 1994, this outer-planet tracking was part of my life as an astrologer. By then, many astrologers were becoming increasingly articulate about Uranus, Neptune and Pluto and their relationship with the intellectual, spiritual, social, political and material developments in our collective humanity. The Arabs had used the Jupiter/Saturn cycle in a similar way centuries ago, but now we were a global world community and new dimensions of perceptions were continuously opening up through our ever-advancing technologies. We became aware, through Uranus, how ideas and technologies change the world. We became sensitive, through Neptune, that our yearnings were not just personal, and how they could be manipulated, as well as how powerful collective beliefs can be. And we became aware, through Pluto, of our capacity for destruction on a scale previously unimaginable – and our capacity for regeneration too. PRESENT TIMES: Those of us with a consultation practice at the heart of our astrological lives and who use the outer planets as collective mirrors, navigate our lives within the changes that we see and experience in the increasingly larger communities we inhabit. As we watch these planets inch their way through our charts, we are not only observers of the changing patterns, but also participants in the events and changes they describe. We are deeply involved. Living in London, my clients come from most walks of life and cultures. They bring news of the world more directly than our sensation-hungry media, which leaps from disaster to disaster, keeping our anxiety levels up and running. As a consulting astrologer, it is part of my work to help those I serve navigate the waves of energy represented by outer planet transits. It is not my work to predict events – but to navigate by the stars. In 2008 Pluto went into Capricorn and in early 2011 Uranus went into Aries. For more than a year now, this ongoing square of Uranus in Aries and Pluto in Capricorn has gripped our attention. We first became aware of its energy through the t-square with Saturn in Libra in the summer of 2011. 1 Between June of this year and March of 2015, we shall have experienced seven exact squares of these two planets: 2
  Pluto in Capricorn Uranus in Aries
24 June 2012
9 September 2012
20 May 2013 11º 11º
1 November 2013
21 April 2014 13º 13º
15 December 2014 12º 12º
16-17 March 2015 15º 15º
Since early 2009, I have noticed that the sign and position of transiting Saturn is as essential in understanding how to work with Pluto in Capricorn, as is the house position of that weighty placement. And since the spring of 2011, it has become clear that our ability to handle our own Mars energy is crucial to dealing with Uranus in Aries and its aspects. But before exploring these facets of the Uranus/Pluto square, I would like to consider what seems to me the background against which these ongoing squares will take place: the sextile between Pluto in Capricorn and Neptune in Pisces. PLUTO IN CAPRICORN During times of Pluto in Capricorn, we might expect the destruction and reformation of the way we interact with and react to the structures of the world that hold us together. We may consider Capricorn to represent everything that is ‘the world’. By this, we mean the structures of the systems that anchor us in place: the inherited, formalized systems that contain us. It seems that whenever a group of people are joined together for a period of time, nature seems to dictate that they become an entity in themselves, with boundary markers and hierarchies of some kind, whether implicit or explicit. When Pluto goes into Capricorn, all such containing systems, with their customs, laws and hierarchies, are threatened with death. They respond by collapsing completely and/or reforming, reshaping themselves in relation to other systems they interact with. Every collapse or transformation of a system has an effect on those around it. A year or so before Pluto left Sagittarius and entered Capricorn in 2008, I began investigating earlier ingresses, dating as far back as the 8th century B.C.E. when an extraordinary man named Numa had became the first human king of Rome (the previous king, Romulus, was partly divine). Numa brought peace to the warring factions in the area during his reign of 43 years (Pluto was in Capricorn 694 – 675 B.C.E; Numa died in 673), and instituted ‘customs’ that became the basis of the underlying principles of our Western civilization. Every 248 years or so after that, Pluto in Capricorn signaled periods of reformation of governing hierarchies – some more dramatic than others. 3 Pluto in Sagittarius reflected periods of intense and often apparent destructive expansion (to those who were being expanded into), both physically and intellectually. Subsequently, the Capricorn time ushered in a reshaping of the governing systems, providing new containers for that which had opened up. Outworn systems and traditions were gravely challenged, ultimately being eliminated or reformed. We are witnessing a version of that recurring cycle today. But this time, it is global. The Sagittarius expansions have been mainly technologically fueled and we are now all webbed up across the globe. The large systems that ‘contain’ us – for example, the corporations and banks – have spread across the earth. While Pluto was in Sagittarius, the so-called multinationals – with their pervasive belief in secular power and the visible material world – expanded beyond measure. Since 2008, banks and financial systems have been crashing. And of course, this brings into our awareness the dark work of Pluto’s domain as the governments that contain (or are contained by) the powerful financial systems fight for their lives. PLUTO IN CAPRICORN with NEPTUNE IN PISCES
Pluto in Capricorn Neptune in Pisces
B.C.E. B.C.E.
939–918 937-923
449–429 444-43
42–61 47–61
532–551 538–552
1024–1041 1029–1043
1516–1532 1520–1534
2008–2024 2011–2026
PREVIOUS TIMES: During the last 3000 years, Pluto was in Capricorn twelve times. During six of those times, Neptune was in Pisces during much of the transit. As we know, we are in one of those times now. Pluto went into Capricorn in 2008, but from this year, 2012, it will be accompanied by Neptune in Pisces for the next decade and more. Thinking about this duo, we might expect to see that while the systems that contain us are disintegrating, new dreams and visions emerge through the cracks. As the social structures that contain us transform or die, that which we are losing becomes something for which we long. In our lost moments, we feel the need for something that will redeem our losses; something misplaced, neglected, might seep into our collective and individual souls, creating dreams, new visions. While looking at the previous periods where this sextile occurred in Capricorn and Pisces, I began noticing that they weren’t only about a Neptunian longing for what had been lost. Something else – something very subtle and hardly noticeable at the time – came into being during the Neptune in Pisces times; something that only later would be understood to have had enormous impact and consequence. For example:
  • During the sextile in the 5th century B.C.E., there was a period of intense creativity in the Western world through the pre-Socratic philosophers who opened up a new dimension in our perceptions of the universe. Empedocles conceived of the universe as fashioned out of Fire, Earth, Air and Water, blended and separated in various measures by Love (philia) and Strife (neikos). The gods were part of, but not central to this vision. 
  • During the first century C.E. sextile, large cracks in the Roman Empire coincided with the new vision that eventually evolved into Christianity. During the Council of Jerusalem in around 50 C.E. Paul of Tarsus insisted on bringing non-Jews into the burgeoning movement set off by Jesus Christ and his death. 4
  • During the 16th century sextile, Copernicus’ heliocentric theory began to seep into the collective mind, undermining the commonly held Earth-centered cosmos. The Reformation slipped into every corner of the Christian world, while the absolute hierarchical power of the Church became undermined by Henry VIII’s increasing secular power.
PRESENT TIMES: Since the 2008 ingress of Pluto into Capricorn, we find ourselves in the midst of the destruction and reformation of the way we interact with, and react to, the systems and structures of the worlds we inhabit. This time the overriding systems that enclose us seem to be the big corporations and banks, and the governments that contain or are contained by them. We continuously witness these systems undergoing threats and power struggles, fighting to survive. And through our involvement with the activities of these systems, we are all implicated in the degradation of our social communities and the natural world, as well as the potential ruin of the eco-systems that sustain our very lives. As these structures and systems are pressured into changing their form, as the very world seems on the point of collapse, Neptune in Pisces washes through us with new visions, images and dreams that are already seeping through the cracks in the old structures. We have had three years of watching Pluto in Capricorn direct us to systems everywhere being pulled down into the underworld, where they will either transform or die. We have had a touch of Neptune at the threshold of Pisces. Now, as it makes its way through this sign of its own modern rulership, we can notice new visions emerging, though we may not know how they will inform the future. Even our general belief in science as the arbitrator of what is ultimately true and false in our world is up for re-vision. If we keep our awareness open, we may intuit traces of nascent possibilities. This is the backdrop on which the Uranus/Pluto square plays out. URANUS in ARIES – ATTENTION on MARS  Rebellion in the Blood When Uranus went into Aries in early 2011, revolutions, rebellions and uprisings flared up around the world. It struck me then that if people were coming together inflamed with a ‘new’ courage, and taking to the streets for it, it must be that it was the Mars energy in each of those human beings that had suddenly been ignited. 5 Compared to some of the other planets, Mars seems quite a simple energy. He is our warrior – the one who is there to defend and protect our kingdom. Either he does this crudely without conscience, or he does it with some sort of code of conduct and awareness of consequences. Mars describes our survival instinct, and it acts either crudely or within a value system, depending on which part of ourselves is in charge. With Uranus in Aries, and squared to Pluto, the Mars energy is activated in every one of us. If our Mars energy is weak–expressing itself in depressive passivity, or outrage and anger at every obstacle we encounter–then we are prone to being swept up in collective rebellions without any consciousness of the consequences to others or ourselves. Passivity, outrage and anger may be appropriate some of the time, but navigating these states with deliberate attention is obviously more effective and satisfying in the long run. While Uranus is in Aries, we can easily be swept away by collective forces as it is harder to stay conscious of our individual martial reactions (according to Mars’ sign and position). Let me give some background to this way of thinking. To the early Greeks, the god Ares was hardly anything but a bloodthirsty killing machine with a love of slaughter and an air of menace in his lighter moments. He was necessary, but hated. Interestingly, it was the Greeks who introduced another potential to his nature: the word aretê was used to denote the essence of something, its essential virtue, its excellence. More than that, it was its ‘fitness’ – so that thearetê of a horse was to run fast; the aretê of a bird to sing; the aretê of a man to use his reason. aretê was translated into virtue by the Romans with vir as the word for ‘man’. But man was not any old male person – it was a term of dignity. A man was one who used his reason and therefore had virtue. It is the sense of being the best of what one can be. The word ‘aristocrat’ was connected to aretê by the ancient Greeks, though we no longer necessarily think of virtue when we think of people who have long ancestries! But we still do recognize the early meaning: we feel a pull to be our best when in the presence of certain people who have an air about them, an air of excellence in their character. 6 Carl Jung spoke of Ares as the ‘principle of individuation’, and by Ares, he meant Mars: “Astrologically Mars characterises the instinctual and affective nature of man. The subjugation and transformation of this nature seems to be the theme of the alchemical opus.” 7 The alchemical work, the development of consciousness we might say, is partly about subduing and transforming the raw survival instinct into something that is fine and true. As our inner warrior, Mars’ role is to defend and protect our kingdom. He can do this crudely, without consciousness, or he can do this with reason and good judgment. In ancient Greece and Rome, the discussion of whether one was born witharetê, or whether it was something that could be cultivated, was a discussion that went on for centuries. Homer thought it was inborn (in the Iliad, Ajax didn’t have it, Hector did. Achilles seemed to lose it for a time, but got it back in the end). Some hundred years later, Hesiod thought it could be cultivated. After that, Socrates thought it was inborn. A bit later Aristotle thought of it as something to be cultivated – it was the middle point, the golden mean, between two opposite instincts, such as ‘ambition’ (a good thing) being the midway between sloth and greed, or ‘modesty’ being the midpoint between self-abasement and arrogance, or ‘courage’ being between cowardice and rashness. I don’t know if Aristotle thought it was something that could be attained by anyone – probably not. In the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas drew on Aristotle to begin with. For him arête was certainly something that could be cultivated – at least in principle. He attached this notion of being excellent, or cultivating one’s moral potential, to the reach for God. He said the golden mean could only be achieved with maturity; it was a quality of right action of the rational soul, and the direct ancestor of the concept of virtue. And this is an ancestor of what we call “free will.” 8 Today we tend to believe that nearly everyone has the ability to act with free will. In traditional societies, there were (still are) initiation schools for boys that foster courage and right action. Without good warriors, a tribe was in trouble. Losing their hunger for excellence in defending and protecting their own, they were taken over by invading hoards. Many people believe we are in danger of that today, though manifesting differently from the way it did in ancient cultures or in contemporary traditional cultures. During Uranus’ passage through Aries, we must stay awake to our raw, impulsive reactions whenever we feel threatened. Forfeiting the power to navigate this dynamic energy means losing touch with our individuality and free will.


Each person is a kingdom unto themselves, with hierarchies of priorities and values, private and public spaces, imaginal, practical, intellectual and emotional dimensions. And yet we all live in wider kingdoms–communities with their hierarchies and priorities, and all the interconnected dimensions. Let us now look at how we might proceed with bringing the collective mirror into the personal realm – how to weave together the microcosm and macrocosm. PLUTO in CAPRICORN – ATTENDING to SATURN When Pluto goes through a house, we expect the things that are contained by that house to be destroyed in their old version, broken down, rendered into dust; and then we look for something to be born out of that dust, out of the nutrients left in that dust. With Pluto moving through Capricorn, we look to the house where Capricorn has influence – the house where it is transiting – and watch for the demise of ways we interact with the world through the matters intrinsically related to that house. Capricorn informs us where we are influenced by the hierarchies and order of our society. As Saturn is ruler of Capricorn, its natal sign and placement reveals what qualities will be required, and where we will be sensitive to the humiliations as well as rewards of our endeavors. It tells us the kind of work we must do on ourselves to keep our world in order. Too much attention to our Saturn enslaves us to its demands, while too little attention subjects us to being humiliated in its place and sign. That, in turn, affects our feeling of security in the world. We look to transiting Saturn to see where our attention is being directed, usually through discomfort, but not always. By ‘listening’ to what transiting Saturn is demanding, we stay attuned to what is now required of us to keep in shape, so to speak. We cannot do much about the remote and collective energy of Pluto in Capricorn, but we can pay more attention to and navigate with its ruler Saturn. When Pluto entered Capricorn, Saturn was in Virgo. My clients were constantly speaking about their need to simplify, to ‘clear out the clutter’. So I began to look at habits that needed to be cleared out or turned into rituals, noticing the clutter in the psyche. I thought that if we looked at our habits that could not be turned into ritual, then they were unhealthy habits. This Saturn transit seemed to be indicating a way to begin acclimatizing to the new and demanding Pluto in Capricorn world. When Saturn went into Libra, attention naturally turned to how people negotiated relationships with others, and their relationship with their own stated values. This became the work that would keep us attuned to the changing shape of our collective structures. Attention to Plato’s notion of ‘the good, the true and the beautiful’ has been my way of saying it. At its most basic, it is about reworking relationships that are not in right proportion. At its best, this is the time for the work of love. Doing this work brings our Venusian nature into the foreground – and our capacity to draw beauty gets refined. Saturn in Libra is a time to learn to dance in our relationships. Each requires a different way of engagement. The work of this placement demands that we recognize where relationships work and where they don’t; to re-negotiate those that don’t and to cherish those that do. With Pluto in Capricorn, we are called to develop a certain grace in this, both for ourselves and for the communities we inhabit. This is a way to keep ourselves well for the demands of our newly re-organizing, harsher world. Then when Saturn moves into Scorpio at the end of the year, the work will go deeper, into the realms of our personal commitments and core values. The point is to keep paying attention to Saturn, paying homage to its demands as it moves through the chart. PLUTO IN CAPRICORN and URANUS IN ARIES Pulling it together, we look to the house where the collective is reshaping our lives – the house where Pluto is transiting. We look to where transiting Saturn is for the work that is demanded of us (and we try to do it willingly). We see where our instinct for rebellion and for freedom from old patterns lights up – the house, or houses, transited by Uranus. And we keep a careful eye on Mars each time we are faced with obstacles to our freedom or to opening up something new. When doing a chart I watch for the wild energy that comes in sporadically to challenge the Capricorn Pluto connection to the world. I am continually made aware of how easy it is to be a fundamentalist in our attachment to our own version of how the world should be working. Each time this judgment gets too strong, the Uranian rebellion is activated. I see it in the world, and I see it in myself. We are still at the beginning of reshaping our globally interwoven world, each community with its particular traditions and needs, and every attempt at creating security will have its disruption until we finally find structures that hold us together and apart, in vaguely working alliances. We are each cells within organs within the body of humanity, in the world within the cosmos. We each have our piece of the work and the disruption of it. And the Uranus Pluto square shows us where that is. Recently I had two clients with natal Moon at 2 degrees of Aries. They were both born in the early 1980s, and both had other planets in early cardinal signs as well. In their cases, I began with Uranus, giving words to how they might be feeling, and in which area of their lives. Later I spoke about Pluto in Capricorn and the connection to the breaking and forming of structures. Both were passionately engaged in movements that were aiming to bring new awareness to the conventional world. Both were overwhelmed with exhaustion, unable to rest. I was able to describe their current circumstances, pressure and work through looking at these planets, but I offered little advice. My admiration was great for both of these young people and my advice simple: remember to breathe and remember to dance. They both knew what I meant and said they were doing different versions of just that. CONCLUSION Most of the people who come to me are engaged with the reformation of their personal worlds within their various communities, and that is true for my friends as well as for myself. Powerful changes in our relationship lives, disappointment and disillusionment, awakening insights and emerging visions and dreams are all part of this. As I said earlier, I do not see it as my work to predict events, either personal or collective. My work is to assist people to navigate by the stars: to look at their charts – progressions and transits – to see how ‘the weather’ is looking. Together we explore possible ways through which they might work with the energies, as challenging and disruptive as they may be. These years, with these aspects, seem to demand a heightened attention to our own needs and desires, but within and considering our communities, which are within larger communities, all struggling to survive. We are in the midst of reshaping our worlds, and as things fall apart, so new dimensions are emerging into our consciousness by which we might be guided. We must be willing to question our assumptions about reality. The Uranus/Pluto square is part of this. Each time we think we may have ‘got it’, something comes along to jar us, awaken us, and disrupt our desire to sink into safety or security. After the last exact square in March of 2015, we might find we have new ways of understanding, and thus experiencing reality – that the ground of our being has shifted and we are working from a more secure base within the larger, still transforming world. Let us be on the side of deep change and disruptive awakenings. Those of us who are willing to engage with the world as it is, within and without, are probably in a better position to endure the difficulties and continue to find and create beauty and joy from within it. No matter what we think we know, it is ever a mystery. And even if we astrologers are often good at helping others navigate the tides of change, we are still mostly doing it in the dark. And yet, the stars appear only in the dark, and for those who look, there is much beauty to be found in the dark as it constantly alternates with the light.

Endnotes 1. With this t-square, we were all taken back to the early 1930s with its transit of Pluto in Cancer opposite Saturn in Capricorn and both square Uranus in Aries. The news media has since joined us in that memory with so many references to that harsh period. 2. This phenomenon pulls our attention back to the mid-60s, and the conjunction of those two planets in Virgo during that powerful time of awakening. The current square reflects the strengths and weaknesses of the system and ideas that were brought forth during that period. 3. See Rick Tarnas’ books The Passion of the Western Mind and Cosmos and Psyche. A short-hand of the cycle is provided on my (click on ‘Other’). 4. We don’t have Christ’s birth data but it does seem he was born with Neptune in Scorpio and Pluto in Virgo. His followers then spread his message during Pluto in Sagittarius and Neptune in Capricorn. And then with Pluto in Capricorn and Neptune in Pisces his words took a shape that seeped in and slowly took over a lot of the world. 5. The year 1848 is a particularly good example of the Uranus in Aries transit (famously conjunct Pluto in Aries), with its sudden and rolling revolutions, and it is the only time in thousands of years when Neptune was simultaneously in Pisces. Most of the1848 revolutions were considered ‘failures.’ However, those revolutions and the significant characters of that time – in particular, Karl Marx with the publication of his Communist Manifesto that year – did light a spark. This spark then fired an idea that grew into our collective imagination and pushed our modern notion of human beings as both communal organisms and individuals to the next stage of development. 6. I have heard many times that this is true of the Dalai Lama. With most people, pretensions and postures fall away in his presence. 7. C.G. Jung, Collected Works, Vol. 13, Alchemical Studies, Routledge, 1976. p 140-142. 8. There is a branch of philosophy called Aretology, which is a field of study concerning ethics and the moral good – you could say the study of virtue. Current evidence holds that the actual notion of ‘free will’ did not emerge until the first century C.E. with the Stoic Epictetus, who, co-incidentally, was born in 55 C.E. – when Pluto was in Capricorn and Neptune in Pisces. 9. Saturn is often associated with the father, because traditionally, Father was the one that brought the world into our awareness. He went out into the world and then came home with the traces of it on his shoulders. Today that is not the case – in many homes it is the mother who goes out into the world, and brings security to the home through her abilities to engage with it ‘out there’. So let us remove gender from Capricorn for the moment, and say it is where we are touched by the hierarchies and order of our society. And where we need to earn respect from the hierarchies we are brought up to recognize.

©Darby Costello, 2012