The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 336, titled:
Pluto in Astrology: Meaning and Significations
With Chris Brennan and astrologer Richard Tarnas
Episode originally released on January 20, 2022
Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: email@example.com
Transcribed by Mary Sharon
Transcription released January 28, 2022
Copyright © 2022 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hey, my name is Chris Brennan and you’re listening to the Astrology Podcast. This is Episode 336, where I talk with astrologer Richard Tarnas about the significations and the meaning of the planet Pluto in astrology. Richard is the author of one of my favorite books on astrology titled Cosmos and Psyche which was published in 2006. This ended up being a pretty wide-ranging discussion where we covered a lot of different things related to Pluto and occasionally went on some digressions about other interesting topics in astrology. Early on at the beginning of the episode, we did have a bit of a digression about the recent Saturn-Pluto conjunction that occurred at the beginning of 2020 and how that coincided with the onset of the pandemic. I wanted to talk with him about this a little bit at the top of the episode because he was one of the few astrologers who had done the historical research in order to demonstrate how Saturn Pluto alignments had coincided with some pretty major turning points in world history in the past, including pandemics and other major events. So I thought it was worth it to go on this digression at the beginning of the episode to check in with him to see how he felt about some of his work in retrospect on that topic and how things had actually played out over the past couple of years. The last time he was on the podcast was in Episode 84 in 2016 in order to mark the 10 year anniversary of Cosmos and Psyche. So, that did give us some insight into Pluto going through that digression and then eventually we get straight into our topic and start talking in more detail about the broader significations of the planet Pluto, including not just the super negative ones related to pandemics but also some of the more positive ones in order to balance things out. I did want to let people know that if they want to jump straight to that point, I did create timestamps for this episode which are available both in the video version in the description below this video on YouTube or in the audio version you can find the timestamps on the description page on the podcast website at theastrologypodcast.com. I’ll also put links to my previous interview with Richard harness and other relevant website links in the description below this episode. All right, with that introduction out of the way, let’s get started with the interview.
Hi, my name is Chris Brennan and you’re listening to the Astrology Podcast. In this episode, I’m going to be talking with Richard Tarnas about the meaning of Pluto in astrology and what it signifies, and how astrologers developed an understanding of this planet or dwarf planet historically. Today is Tuesday, December 28th 2021 starting at 1:59 pm in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 333rd episode of the show. So hey Richard, welcome back to the podcast. Thanks for joining me today.
RICHARD TARNAS: It’s my pleasure, Chris. Good to see you again.
CB: So this is your second appearance on the show. You previously appeared in Episode 84 in 2016 to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of your book, Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View, and I can’t believe it’s been almost five/six years since that time at this point.
RT: Yeah, time is really flying these days at least at least for some of us. I know also depending on the lockdown experience, it can be both moving almost at a glacial pace and also moving so fast as if the day starts and ends in about a quarter the time when it needs.
CB: Yeah, especially last year going through the Saturn-Pluto conjunction and then the Saturn-Uranus square sort of alternating between those two. It seemed like at different points. So you recently took part in a new documentary series that’s coming out in January called Changing of The Gods, which is a 10-part series directed by Kenny Ausubel.
CB: Ausubel. Yeah, whenever I read his name I always want to ask if he’s related to the seventh century Assyrian king Ashurbanipal but it’s probably not related in any way. So, this is coming out. This has been a long time coming. I think they’ve been working on it since 2013 or 2014 or so, right?
RT: That’s right. Yeah. Certainly a full seven years in production. It started just at the kind of central period of the Uranus-Pluto square and was focusing on the Uranus-Pluto cycle that I had basically focused one part of Cosmos and Psyche on that cycle historically, the big world transit cycles; the conjunctions, the oppositions, and the squares in particular. And Ausubel who is the Co-founder of Bioneers, they wanted to do a film that basically focused particularly on this big Uranus-Pluto square that was more beginning when they first conceived the film. And then it became such a big project moving from a feature film to a 10-part documentary series that it went the entire period of the Uranus-Pluto square in making it. But the advantage of doing it that way is that you really got a big overview of that alignment and the cultural correlations that took place, the archetypal phenomenon that is so evocative of the Uranus-Pluto energies and have been played out so dramatically over the last decade or so.
CB: Yeah, I watched the first half of the series already and I felt felt especially that episodes four and five were really compelling, where they were tying it on the one hand, the women’s rights movements and some of the developments that happened in the 1960s and how those tied in with previous cycles and then how we saw continuation of some of those themes in the past decade at the Uranus Pluto square. But then also the Civil Rights Movement, which was also a key defining moment in the 1960s with the conjunction, and then how that was tied into broader cycles as well.
RT: Exactly. Right. Going back earlier to the beginnings of the abolitionist movement and going right up through the most recent square with Black Lives Matter, for example, just huge. There always seems to be a kind of intensified constellating of the archetypal energies around both Uranus and Pluto, those kind of complexes of meanings and impulses that we’ve experienced in human life. And they seem to track very precisely, as you look through the centuries, every time Uranus and Pluto for example come into conjunction or opposition or square, there’s a bit more in a decade where you see whether it’s the women’s suffrage, women’s feminism, women’s liberation, those movements just really get activated in new ways that build on what’s happened before but clearly come into cultural focus and intensified activism and so forth, and awareness. And then the same thing with the civil rights movement. I should say civil rights movements because there’s many forms. Same thing with gay liberation, and also as a socio-political revolutionary phenomenon more generally. Also, technological revolutions, scientific revolutions, etc, seems to have something. Obviously, the planet Uranus astrologically has so much to do with change and revolution and the impulse to rebel and to overthrow the present status quo on behalf of greater freedom, greater advance of knowledge, technological and scientific breakthroughs and so forth, artistic innovations… And then the Plutonic energy which I know is what our focus is going to be today. The Plutonic seems to intensify whatever other archetype it’s coming into contact with. And it often does this on a kind of mass level, almost to overwhelming proportions. When that happens and you combine it with the Uranian Promethean impulse towards change and rebellion and originality and innovation and freedom, there is a massive intensification both in frequency and in kind of mass phenomena that reflect Promethean Uranian qualities. The other way it works, of course, is that whatever Uranus touches, it activates in a kind of sudden unexpected way with unpredictable consequences. And it tends to be rather creative in its implications or consequences, and there can be a kind of genius level to it or an originality to how it expresses itself. When that’s combined with, say Venus, it would more come through, you know, the arts or through romantic or social awakenings of some kind or changes, disruptions, or artistic creativity is stimulated. But when Uranus is sitting Pluto, it liberates the Plutonic archetype in so many ways. That’s one of the things I think we’ll probably focus on today.
CB: Yeah, for sure. And watching that series gave me some new insights into Pluto and the meaning of Pluto in the way they were taking your work from Cosmos and Psyche and just focusing on certain pieces of it in an easy-to-digest and more presentable form of what was otherwise a really dense book that you spent a long time working on. Speaking of that, despite all of the terrible things that have happened over the past two years since the pandemic, has it been interesting for you to see how the Saturn-Pluto conjunction ended up working out, and how literally how much some of your previous research tied into and made sense of what happened over the past couple of years? I mean, a lot of people– a lot of astrologers at least– looked to your work when the pandemic happened in order to help contextualise what was happening and felt like the pandemic to some extent was a little bit of a fulfilment of some of the things you had have written back in 2006 in terms of how you had articulated some of those energies. What was your feeling about that over the past couple of years?
RT: On the one hand, the flow of life is always unpredictable in a concrete way. You don’t know how the specifics are going to unfold. So much depends on human agency and the unpredictable interactions of multiple factors. But astrologers have this remarkable gift from the cosmos that allows us to get a glimpse into what are the Archetypal energies that are going to be activated at a given time because it’s been so consistent with/and so visible once you know how to read the cosmic symbolism and have a decent sense of symbol and archetype and so forth. It’s what Stan Grof calls a Rosetta Stone, it really kind of gives us a remarkable translation device like a telescope to see into the deeper energies and meanings that are activated at a given point. So I certainly wasn’t being clairvoyant in thinking that when the Saturn-Pluto conjunction comes there would be major phenomena of a certain character, I was just being kind of empirical. If you look every time Saturn and Pluto come into hard aspect like the conjunctions and the opposition’s as well as the squares, you see very decisive turning points in history where there tend to be quite challenging. And if we just looked at the conjunctions and oppositions of our lifetime– my lifetime now, seven decades– it’s quite striking how- Or let’s just look at the 20th century. The Saturn-Pluto cycle, its first conjunction of the 20th century is 1914 and basically, particularly from 14 to 16, very tight conjunction. And that’s World War One. And then the Great Depression comes in under the the next opposition. And then World War Two begins right as Saturn and Pluto come into the square in 1939. Then the Cold War begins under the conjunction of 46-48 where you’ve got the world kind of held in this great conflict that has nuclear intensity. And then most recently, I mean, 911 is what happened of course under the most recent Saturn-Pluto opposition.
CB: Did you mention the AIDS epidemic of 81 conjunction?
RT: That’s right, AIDS epidemic under the preceding one. And of course in Cosmos and Psyche, I go back to earlier centuries and talk about the correlations with the Black Death or the enormous plague that swept through Europe and much of the world under the Saturn-Pluto cycle of the mid 14th century. So because Saturn has to do with that which contracts and limits, Pluto intensifies that so it’s often a kind of contraction moment in history. And there can be, you know, the Saturn-Pluto combination is often one of confinement. I mean, there’s many good things that are also characteristic of Saturn-Pluto; the discipline, the capacity for courage under great pressure, of facing evil or facing extremely dangerous circumstances, tremendous powers of organization and ordering and extremely hard labour being focused on a particular purpose that is sustained day after day with great intensity… All those are classic Saturn-Pluto virtues and people often are able to kind of restructure their life in a certain way because they’re accessing these deeper capacities for Plutonic transformation but with a Saturnian discipline and foundation that will endure. And often the things that happen under the Saturn-Pluto alignments tend to endure in their consequences. It’s also a period, Saturn and Pluto, of much greater awareness of environmental issues, ecology, you know, with more of an apocalyptic potential in the atmosphere. Somebody like Greta Thunberg who is born under the preceding Saturn-Pluto opposition right during the 2001 to 2004 period, then she comes into prominence as a great spokeswoman on behalf of the awareness of the tremendous gravity of our global ecological situation. Because Saturn relates to gravity and Pluto intensifies whatever it touches, Saturn-Pluto periods tend to have a quality of great gravity. Gravitas like, “This is morally serious, we really have to focus. This is life and death. Issues are at stake, etc,” but also gravity even in the literal Newtonian sense. Saturn relates to the Saturn Pluto heaviness of like a great iron safe or a Titanic ship that weighs countless tonnes of steel and concrete, those are very Saturn-Pluto. The whole 911 Twin Towers started under Saturn-Pluto in the mid 60s and fell under the next opposition in 2001.
One last thing about the Saturn-Pluto, you’ve got that tendency towards confinement and suddenly with the Saturn-Pluto, everyone’s confined to their homes and we’re separated from each other, and there’s a tremendous sense of isolation. And those who aren’t able to seclude and separate have to be out on the front lines as healthcare workers or as people who are carrying the needed infrastructure of the deliveries. All the things that have to happen just to keep people fed and warm and so forth during this crisis. All these people were being exposed to COVID of the way the social inequalities are hierarchically established in our society, and on they’re facing the Saturn-Pluto more at that level of facing death, facing mortality, risking themselves with very hard labor. While others are experiencing it through solitude and loneliness and feeling cut off; grandparents and grandchildren not able to hug each other and couples separated and so forth. We are also all very familiar with the hyper intensification of the Saturn archetype these last two to three years. Two years in particular.
CB: I have this really distinct memory during the early part of the pandemic, because so many such a generation of astrologers have come in over the past 10 years and everyone has read your book at this point, and the emphasis on the Saturn-Pluto cycle was very clear because you wrote your book partially in the aftermath of 911 so you actually spent quite a bit of time talking about the Saturn Pluto opposition that happened that was very close at the time. So, did you see that meme of where somebody had changed the title of your book at some point during the pandemic? I think an astrologer named Ursula posted this in like March of 2020 or something like that. I don’t know if you ever-
RT: Yeah. My daughter, Becca Tarnas who’s an astrologer, she sent it over to me. [laughs] She said, “You know your book’s a success when it’s been turned into a meme.” [laughs]
CB: Yeah, when you’ve been memed. So for the audio listeners, instead of the title, it says, “I Fucking Warned You. I Fucking Told You, Bro. Intimations of a New World View, Richard Tarnas.”
RT: And because the cover which I had designed had basically a god and a goddess both pointing at the surface of the Earth and there was a sense of the gods both being at odds with each other and also letting the Earthlings know that they’d really screwed up and that actually the warnings had been out there as in Cosmos and Psyche. [laughs] Yeah, that was a very clever meme.
CB: Yeah. Despite the hardships, and obviously, nobody revels in that. It seemed like, you know, to the extent that you had covered that so much and archetypal way that you described those alignments worked out pretty well when the next major one came about. It seemed like a successful prediction or should have been somewhat fulfilling in terms of to whatever extent you might have been striving to anticipate what certain upcoming cycles might bring.
RT: Well, I think I experienced that more when I was younger because, you know, at this point I’ve been studying astrology and kind of had a handle on the larger both the archetypal meanings but the big cycles starting pretty clearly by the late 70s. So, the Saturn-Pluto conjunction of the early 80s was the first one where I was seeing things that I kind of would have anticipated archetypically and astrologically seeing come to bear with, again, I spend a bit of time in Cosmos and Psyche discussing that particular conjunction. You brought up the AIDS epidemic as being one kind of mass encounter with mortality. Those who are older will remember that that was the period when the Cold War had reached such an intensity of where the nuclear that was called the Sword of Damocles was hovering over humanity with such dangerous precariousness. And Ronald Reagan was calling the Soviet Union the evil empire, and this was before Gorbachev. And so the last premiers and the Kremlin leaders were in there. There were so many nuclear missiles placed in Europe to obliterate most of the world within seconds and any little mistake could have triggered it, that this catalyzed such an awareness of our nuclear danger that mass demonstrations– the biggest there had ever been seen– happened all around the world at that time particularly under the Jupiter-Uranus conjunction there. But it was the Saturn-Pluto gravity of the danger that was really pushing that awareness. You know, the apocalyptic intensity comes in more from the Pluto. In fact, there were conferences on “what is the meaning of Apocalypse?” Depth psychologists like James Hillman were speaking at conferences where they were examining the symbol of the Apocalypse, there was an extremely popular television film called The Day After that just was all about what would happen the day after a nuclear holocaust, you know, and it was very vivid bringing home to many people what was at stake. The Fate of the Earth was a big book at that point by Jonathan Schell who interestingly, first made his- Where he’s bringing the attention to this nuclear danger with vivid prose, and he is the person who, let’s see… Jonathan Schell wrote that. Then John Hersey under the preceding Saturn-Pluto conjunction wrote the book on Hiroshima that had such an impact. Anyway, I didn’t take too much pleasure in seeing the cycle fulfilled particularly when some of the things that were happening were just so- Some things are avoidable. The pandemic didn’t have to be this bad. You know, China could have acted in a different way. The United States, Trump’s government could have acted in a different way. There were all sorts of ways that didn’t have to get to this level. Or under the last Saturn-Pluto opposition, the war against terror was started and the invasion of Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq against tremendous opposition, popular opposition here in the US and around the world to that invasion. And all during this Saturn-Pluto conjunction, a lot of the consequences of those decisions have come home to roost; in the Middle East and Iraq and Afghanistan because this was such a duplication of what had happened under the Vietnam Saturn-Pluto opposition in the mid 60s, which also was an unnecessary war. So it’s hard to take pleasure in how planetary alignments are manifested in perfect conformity to their meanings, but it’s in conformity to a certain range of those meanings up in their shadow side that didn’t have to be constellated if there had been a more conscious relationship to those archetypes. And this is something I hope we go into today, is how we can take– in this case we’re talking about the Saturn-Pluto energies, but we could also talk about it in terms of Pluto just generally, or just the degree to which we enter into the deeper realms of the plutonic archetype and become conscious of them inside ourselves and in the world, and come into a more reflective and skillful way of enacting them. Because they’re going to come through, the gods express themselves. But to an extraordinary extent, human beings have the capacity to inflect the direction or the quality to a higher or lower or a more, you know, problematic or more life-enhancing range of the spectrum of archetypal possibilities that each planet and planetary complex represents. And the Plutonic is in some ways the one that requires the most consciousness to come into relationship to because when we don’t, we’re driven by it like puppets. It’s such raw, instinctual energy. It’s coming from the depths of nature. It’s coming from what Freud called the ID or the Darwinian struggle for life or nature’s will to power. All of which are both healthy and have problematic potentials when they are acted out unconsciously. And part of our human challenge is to bring a kind of psychological reflectiveness, a thoughtfulness, being able to kind of come into a collaborative relationship with these powerful archetypes rather than just being possessed by them or trying to suppress them. Either one of which is a bad bet, you know, in terms of how that archetype will manifest.
CB: Yeah, maybe due to that tendency for Pluto to go to extremes. Maybe that’s part of the reason why the need for conscious reflection of and being careful is most important in some ways when dealing with that planet. All right, so let’s let’s segue into our main topic. I couldn’t help but take the opportunity to just check in and ask you how that had been going over the past few years.
Let’s start talking about Pluto. This is the final quote unquote “planet” in my series on the planets that I’ve been doing this year where I went through each of the planets and did a deep dive into their significations and meaning. We’ve covered Uranus already and covered Neptune. Pluto was discovered on February 18th 1930 by the astronomer Clyde Tombaugh working at the Lowell Observatory, who was an astronomer who had previously initiated the search for Pluto a decade or two earlier. And so it was the third large new body found in our solar system after Uranus and Neptune. One of the issues that all of the discoveries of the new planets has raised for me is how do astrologers establish the meaning of newly discovered planets? Pluto is one that I struggled with the most because I get the sense that the mythology of Pluto, after it was named by astronomers, became the primary access point that astrologers started using to develop its significations and meanings and astrology because it was named after the the Roman god of the underworld. But with some of the earlier planets like Uranus, there are these stories about, for example, John Varley and Uranus. They have almost a more empirical tone in terms of how the astrologers of the time perhaps were actually first putting them in charts or looking at them in transits and trying to find out their meaning. I wasn’t sure then if there’s been a shift when it comes to Pluto, and how much of the meanings of Pluto are empirically derived versus derived from the mythology or the archetype. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you today because I know you blend both of those approaches, but your work definitely takes that archetypal, oh sorry, the historical approach or the empirical approach into account so that it’s not all just sort of abstract but you have concrete reasons for developing certain meanings of Pluto.
RT: Yes. Well, this is a very rich and complex topic. I’m glad you’re wanting to address it. I’ve tried to emphasise how we- Well, the the mythic names that are given to the planets or the asteroids or other celestial bodies are, I think, should be considered as potential clues to take into account. We also need to look empirically and of course, one of the things that has been most reliable with certainly the outer three planets discovered in the modern period; Uranus 1781, first one by telescope as well. And then Neptune 1846, and then Pluto in 1930 as you just mentioned. One of the things about those three is that, as Dane Roger pointed out quite eloquently, he pointed out the synchronistic phenomena that happened around the time of the discoveries of those particular planets. So, you know, Uranus is discovered 1781 which is right at the very heart of the periods of great revolutionary phenomenon; the American Revolution, the French Revolution both happened within a decade of the discovery. But also it’s the height of the emancipatory enlightenment period. It’s also when the birth of romanticism happens. It’s when kings are being toppled and forces of democratic emancipation are really being being activated. The first rebellion by enslaved people happens. It seems as if for about 15 years or so on each side of that year of discovery, that’s the kind of orb within which phenomena happen that give us a clue to the nature of that planet’s meaning astrologically. Because of course in the modern period, the outer planets and all the other planets and all the other solar system bodies are being named by astronomers who necessarily don’t have an archetypal astrological orientation and instead, they are more- Let’s just take Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Uranus was named Ouranos the sky god. One, because it was the father of Kronos Saturn who was the father of Jupiter, Zeus, and who was the father of Mercury, Venus, and Mars or Hermes Aphrodite and Eris, going in that sequence, it’s a patrilineal sequence. It’s a patriarchal mythology that the Greek or Greco Romannes provide us with those figures. Astronomers don’t have as the uppermost motive in their mind for choice of the planet’s name, they don’t have an archetypal meaning and astrological meaning in mind. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, these were all known to the ancients, they’re visible to all of us with our naked eye. And it’s pretty early in the records of where there is, you know, astronomy and astrology going back into those earlier millennia are so undifferentiated. They’re one science. The great passion to understand the movements of the stars and the planets, the Sun and the Moon, had a lot to do with the fact that they were seen as gods and goddesses, as great powers whether it was they were the gods and goddesses or whether that was the celestial realm, the abode of the gods and as Plato’s eponym is the last dialogue that many Platonic scholars Platanus scholars attribute to Plato written after the laws, that dialogue, Plato calls each of those planets Kronos, Zeus, Aphrodite… This is the planet that is sacred to Zeus, this is the planet that is sacred to Kronos. So, right up through that period, they are always all seen as being somehow related to or expressive of the gods and goddesses. This is not part of the rationalist astronomical mentality in the late 18th century when Uranus is discovered or Neptune. Instead, they just are seeing while Uranus is the next planet out from Saturn, it’s twice as far from Saturn, twice as far from the Earth as Saturn is, it tremendously expands our sense of the Solar system, let’s call it Ouranos who is the father of Saturn or Kronos. And Ouranos is the god of the starry sky, which really fits the fact that it was so deep into the starry sky where it was developed. But as astrologers, we’re focusing on Uranus and then Neptune and then Pluto. They were also just looking empirically. And it’s pretty clear that a lot of the- Let me just say in general terms. I think the astronomers who named Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, they had some kind of intuitive, you know, there’s a synchronistic- You don’t have to believe in astrology to maybe come up with a name that has a relationship to the actual archetype that may prove out astrologically. And I think it’s pretty clear that Uranus as an astrological planet, has a lot to do with the heavens, with the sky, you know, with space travel, with air travel, with the interest in astronomy and astrology and the cosmic view, and so forth. So there’s something to be said for Uranus’s relationship to the sky, Neptune certainly to the water. Every astrologer has a sense of fluidity and dissolving energies of Neptune and its connection to rivers and oceans and the stream of consciousness, and the oceanic feeling of the mystical and so forth, or metaphors that are connected to the Neptune astrological archetype tend to be quite appropriately, you know, oceanic or watery. So it makes sense that they were onto something even though they weren’t thinking astrologically. And Pluto, when it was named, a couple of different factors came in. A number of names were being considered. You may know the story, the quite young daughter of one of the people in England who was on the committee to name the planet strongly suggested Pluto. And P L, the first two letters of Pluto, also fit Percival Lowell, who was the man who first set in motion the discovery of Pluto. So there was a kind of honouring of the astronomer that way. You can see it in the astronomical cliff there that has been used so often for Pluto. In addition, even the Disney cartoon figure of Pluto seems to have played a role in the girl’s thoughts about it, but I think she had more in mind than just that.
CB: Yeah, what I was reading is that she did have some background in Greek mythology or interest in mythology and that was part of what motivated her?
RT: That’s right. Basically, you know, like Zeus and Poseidon and Hades were each given a different realm, you know? So Poseidon Neptune was given the realm of the oceans and of the sea, and Pluto was given the realm of the underworld, Zeus, of the overworld; Mount Olympus, the sky, et cetera. And so there was that as well.
CB: Yeah, I think Pluto in mythology had the ability to become invisible or to cloak himself and I think part of her rationale she said was that because Pluto is so distant and you could barely see it and it was very difficult to even get a glimpse of with telescopes, that was part of the reason why she thought that Pluto would be a good name for it.
RT: Yes. So on the one hand I want to honor the way in which even a non-astrologically aware astronomer or astronomical committee could come up with a name. They went through several names for Uranus before they came up with Ouranos. Herschel, who discovered it, named it Georgium Sidus, Georgia star after the patron King George. His friends didn’t like that idea. [crosstalk]
CB: I still think we missed out on not having it called George, because like where the planet George would be by your horoscope or transits would be much more entertaining in some level.
RT: I think we discussed this in our other interview, but so many of the qualities that we recognize as being distinctly Uranian have to do with, you know, rebelliousness and unpredictability and change and originality and genius and creative innovation and the trickster and so forth. All of these are not particularly characteristic of Ouranos, the myth of Ouranos, but are very characteristic of the myth of Prometheus.
CB: Right. So part of it is that you, on the one hand, recognize and acknowledge that there’s some– as most astrologers now this has become their main line of thought– that there’s some synchronistic connection between the name that is given to a new celestial body and its astrological meaning just through some sort of coincidence, just through that that in some ways the correct name will be picked and that will have some meaning. But then on the one hand, before you wrote Cosmos and Psyche in 1998, some newer astrologers may not know that you wrote a separate book called Prometheus the Awakener, where you kind of argued that the mythology of Prometheus actually matched many of the significations that astrologers give to Uranus empirically, the planet Uranus more empirically, than the myth of Ouranos does on its own?
RT: Right. This was a point that Stephen Arroyo made very briefly just a single sentence in Astrology, Karma & Transformation back in 78. I think one or two other astrologers in earlier decades also, just briefly co mentioned that there’s a Promethean quality there. I think there was a Frenchman– I think it was Barbault. But it’s been hard to nail down a particular text where this was done. I think what it allowed me to do was to start differentiating, like not every single thing about a myth is going to tell us about that astrological archetype, there’s going to be lots of details in a myth of a particular figure like Zeus that is not particularly Jupiterian. For example, Zeus can act in a very Saturnian way, when he’s being punitive or he’s being the principle of order where he’s restrictive, etc. But Zeus was also a rebel at one point overthrowing his father Kronos. And who did he get the help of? Prometheus. To overthrow Kronos in that battle. And of course, Zeus can be very Plutonic. He’s constantly engaging in sexual conquests and so forth. So, Jupiter- and this is true of each of the planets or each of the mythic figures associated with the planets– is that there are details that are more relevant to an unfolding of a particular inflection, a particular mythic and cultural manifestation that goes beyond what the pure archetype is. One of the reasons it’s pretty obvious that this would be the case is, there’s nothing about, I mean, the Greeks were an incredible culture. The Romans were an incredible culture in many ways. Both of them had huge shadow qualities as well. But what the Greeks and Romans tuned into in their mythologies doesn’t necessarily become the way of understanding all of human experience and all other cultures who have nothing to do with Greek and Roman mythology, yet they share the same planets out there. And presumably, the astrological meanings of the planets are not radically different for that culture just because they have a different mythology. In addition, certainly in the Greco Roman tradition, they’re very patriarchal mythologies. And the names of the planets are so overwhelmingly male and yet I think every good astrologer recognises that every single planet including Venus and Mars, has both feminine and masculine expressions, ways of expressing themselves. Same thing with the Sun and Moon. It’s only in a patriarchally constructed mode of understanding that one reduces Saturn or Mars or Venus or the Moon just to a masculine or feminine expression. And I think there’s so many signs right now in our society that we’re kind of breaking out of that confining binary of male/female being radically separate from each other and also the patriarchal hierarchy. And instead, I think if we can recognise the archetypes as being these kind of primordial transcending principles, they’re forces, they’re gods, they’re gods’ goddesses, they’re psychological impulses, they’re complexes, they’re platonic archetypes, they’re Jungian archetypes, they’re [plumeric] figures in myths, but they go across all the different cultures. And each of these kind of pure transcendent, archetypal principles that we can glimpse through our studies of the Sun, the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, etc, each of those can be expressed differently in different mythologies. Like Pele, the volcano goddess in Hawaii is pretty clearly a Plutonic being, a Plutonic manifestation. In order to understand Neptune, you pretty much have to– while you can get some understanding of it through Greek mythology, you really have to go to India to get a lot of its meanings. You know, in terms of Maya, in terms of Leela, in terms of Vishnu’s dream, in terms of the oceanic mystical unity of all things that is so emphasized in the Hindu and Buddhist context. And there’s trickster figures, that Uranian trickster that’s kind of a creative principle is in so many different cultures. Same thing with the god or goddess of love, of beauty, etc, of war. These are transcultural archetypes, they’re both masculine and feminine, they can be understood as cosmic principles in a more platonic Pythagorean way, but also as interior psychological drives and realities in a more Jungian and even psychoanalytic or Hillmanian way, archetypal psychology.
So I think it’s helpful for us to not just take the name of a planet that’s been given and automatically assume that that exhausts the meaning of that planet, but instead we have to draw from an interaction between the name of the planet that it’s synchronistically been given, the qualities and features of that mythic being as it’s played out in myth, and then look at the period that it’s been discovered in and get a feeling for what is the cultural zeitgeist that is dominant at that period, which we can talk about now with Pluto. And then finally, look very very carefully at well, “What do we see when people are born with Pluto on their Sun, or Pluto on their Moon, or Pluto on their Venus? How does that shape their particular Sun or Moon or Venus or Mercury or whatever it is’ expression? What’s particularly distinctive about the expression of love?” Let’s say, with Pluto-Venus which we have right now in the sky, the Pluto Venus conjunction as we’re speaking here. Mercury’s there too and the Moon square Pluto as well so we’ve got a nice full activation of the Plutonic archetype there. All right up at the Midheaven.
CB: Yeah, here’s the chart for right about when we started with late Taurus rising and that triple conjunction of Mercury, Venus and Pluto in Capricorn. Today is actually the day Jupiter’s ingressing into Pisces as well. But yeah, that was a pretty good chart we picked.
RT: Yeah, and just after Saturn has just moved out of the conjunction to Pluto, it’s been closer like 5/10 now and just past the 15 degree. Or of the conjunction to Pluto. Even Mars and Pluto are in a tight semi-square for those who pay attention as I do to the so-called minor aspects. As Rob Han likes to say, “When is a minor aspect not a minor aspect? When it’s really tight.” [laughs] And then it’s quite major indeed. So, should we talk a little bit about the discovery of Pluto’s zeitgeist and what’s going on at that period?
CB: Yeah. Briefly, I wanted to mention the mythology thing as a new interpretive principle complicates things. The meaning of Pluto is also complicated by the debates about astrologers immediately wanted to start figuring out what sign to assign it to because by then there’d started to be some agreement of assigning Uranus to Aquarius as a new ruler of Aquarius instead of Saturn, or as a co-ruler in some instances of Aquarius, and then Neptune to the zodiacal sign of Pisces as a co-ruler in addition to Jupiter. So there started to be debates about assigning it to a sign of the zodiac and different rationales for that, and eventually those who assigned it to Scorpio ended up winning out or becoming the majority. And the tendency to conflate or interchange the meaning of the planets’ signs and houses that increased and became more normalized in 20th century astrology also resulted in drawing some significations from Scorpio in the eighth house and assigning those to Pluto. That’s an additional complicating factor. But one of the things I’ve done in this series is to try to give it some historical context about how the current meaning of the planet has developed is I’ve looked at some historical sources, and one of the ones that really seems to have influenced the Western and especially the English tradition is Reinhold Ebertin and his 1940 book, A Combination of Stellar Influences. Was that a direct or indirect source for you in some ways?
RT: It was definitely one of them. You mean in terms of how I came to understand Pluto in charts and transits and world transits and so forth? Is that what you’re referring to?
CB: Yeah. I mean, it seems like Ebertin wrote in 1940 and then his text influenced Rob Hand who wrote Planets in Transit in 1976. And some of Hand’s treatment of Pluto ended up seeming kind of seminal in terms of influencing the generation of astrologers that came in in the 60s and 70s. So I thought about maybe reading excerpts from those two really quickly, and then going to your book.
RT: Sure. I would say, I think Dane Rudhyar was extremely influential as well in that early period. Ebertin was quite remarkable, you know, the German astrologer. I think he had a good intuition of certain dimensions of Pluto, for sure, and particularly reflecting the period that he lived in. I mean, living through Nazi Germany, World War Two, etc. He lived through World War One too, as well, but in his mature years, World War Two. And then Charles Harvey in the astrology world, helped bring Ebertin into, you know, he translated part of Combinations of Stellar Influence that we use. And Rob Hand certainly was an admirer of Ebertin. But Dane Rudhyar, I think he had quite an intuitive grasp of many things, and one of them was of Pluto and recognising this quality of death and rebirth, destruction and regeneration, and seeing it at a very collective level. He wasn’t in tune with it in terms of reading birth charts, individual charts. I’d love to see more– if there’s any Rudhyar scholars out there– I would be very interested in knowing if there’s literature or personal things he left behind that give us an indication for where he started getting his first intimations of the meaning of Pluto, but I suspect a lot had to do with his grasp of the periods immediately surrounding Pluto’s discovery in 1930, which I can talk about in a couple minutes, but let’s go along with what you had set out there.
CB: Sure. So here’s the excerpt from just the Pluto delineation from Ebertin in 1940s. So he’s writing in 1940’s Germany, so that sets a pretty distinct historical context. He says, “The principle of Pluto is force majeure or providence, invisible forces or powers. Psychological correspondences, positive ones are the will or the wish to exercise power, the manifestation of unconscious powers, ruthless frankness or candidness, the urge to influence the masses, propagandist aspirations and objectives, understanding the masses. The negative psychological correspondences are ruthless use of force or coercion, inclination to incite, a fanatical zeal to state one’s own doctrinal principles, to agitate, convulsions and spasms. Biological correspondence he gives is the collective unconscious and regeneration, sociological correspondences, persons who can be said to exercise a magical influence over the masses such as propagandist actors, public speakers, and politicians.” So it’s like we can recognize some of the later common themes of Pluto in there. And there’s also some in there that are different or ones that I don’t think you hear repeated as much in contemporary sources.
RT: Yeah, but he’s got the will to power there, he’s got the force majeure, which has to do with– like when a hurricane comes through, an earthquake, that’s force majeure. It’s large impersonal forces. He’s also got the sense of the urge to have power, including through influence, through changing people’s minds towards leading them in a particular direction through the exercise of power, propaganda, etc. And he’s got a sense of the mass quality too. I think of the collective, the mass quality, that’s why during the periods when Pluto’s activated by one of the outer planets like Uranus, things tend to happen on a more mass level, you have mobs acting, we have large demonstrations and riots and so forth. So he’s got a number of those things quite… Ebertin generally has a tendency towards… He lived through a very dark period of history, and he has a tendency to at times to single out the more problematic sides of the archetypes. And this is where I think some of the great depth psychological work that’s been done over the last half century, particularly by somebody like Stan Grof, where there is a willingness to enter into that plutonic domain and become basically through going through kind of whether it’s shamanic rituals, sacred medicine ceremony, LSD therapy, holotropic breathwork, anything, Kundalini yoga, these where there’s a capacity to become a vessel of these very powerful energies and come into a more conscious relationship to them and also release them so they’re not driving us from the depths without any agency on our part, without any kind of moral consciousness informing our expression of it. I think depth psychology has gone a long ways towards becoming friends with Pluto, so to speak. And that’s why it’s so important to do our inner work as astrologers, because if we don’t, we tend to either just be afraid of like, “Pluto, oh no, too bad you got a Pluto transit or you’ve got this Saturn transit.” If you haven’t come to terms with that archetype in yourself and in your own life, there’s a tendency to pass on a negative view to your client and a fearful one, etc. And that can be wounding unnecessarily. So I think it’s important for us to do our own inner work in relationship to Pluto perhaps in particular.
CB: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, I want to circle back around to the emergence of psychology and depth psychology as well as a possible thing that happened and became more prominent, especially after Pluto’s discovery. But let’s jump forward historically a few decades to 1976 to Robert Hand’s seminal book, Planets in Transit, where he went through and provided delineations for all major planetary transits, which was kind of a major and novel thing at the time. And since this book came out, what 40, almost 50 years ago, it’s become one of those books that I think every astrologer reads at some point and is on every astrologer’s short list. So as a result of that, I think his formulation of Pluto was really important or the way he formulated it. So he says, “The significance of transiting Pluto, the nature of Pluto is similar to that of the Hindu god Shiva, the creator and destroyer. Pluto usually begins by breaking down a structure, then it creates a new one in its place. This entire cycle of death, destruction, and renovation is accompanied by tremendous powers for Pluto is not a mild or even very subtle planetary influence. You can always see its effects very clearly ranging from machines breaking down and needing repair to full scale destruction or death. Decay at one level or another followed by new life from the old is the typical Plutonian process. Characteristically, Plutonian people are those who seek to change, transform and take control of everything around them. Often a Pluto transit will signify the arrival of a person who transforms your life either for good or for evil or it can symbolize an event or circumstance that has the same effect. Pluto also rules those energies inside of you that lead inexorably to change. It rules the death and regeneration of the self as old aspects of your life pass away and are replaced by new ones that could not otherwise have come into being. Pluto does not signify death in the literal sense, instead it refers to a metaphorical death, something that ceases to be.” And it actually goes on. Sorry, this is kind of long, but worth reading the full passage. So he goes on and he says, “The energies of the planet that Pluto is transiting become a source of change and transformation in your life. You may get involved in serious power struggles with other people and changes in the areas of your life associated with that planet. As Pluto transits your houses, it signifies the areas of your life that are due for radical transformation in the area ruled by the transiting house structures in your life that have built up to the point that it is no longer possible to patch up whatever is wrong. It is time for a full scale reconstruction proceeded if necessary by destruction of the old change-resistant patterns. It’s extremely important that you recognize the inevitability of Plutonian change, which is built into the very structure of things and cannot be prevented. And you should not try to prevent it because it is a necessary stage in your evolution. All that you will do is force the energies to build up until they’re explosive, then the inevitable changes will come about disastrously. Not only should you go along with the Plutonian energy of destruction by letting go of whatever must depart, you should also assist in the rebuilding process that follows for this is the equally inevitable consequence of the Plutonian breakdown.” And then finally says, “For reasons that are not entirely understood, Pluto also has to do with secretive and subversive elements of society, revolutionary groups, organized crime, and the like. A Pluto transit may bring such elements into your life, although it’s often quite dangerous to allow this during a Pluto transit.” So that’s kind of his introduction to this whole transit section, and then he goes through and delineates specific transits of Pluto to different planets and different combinations. But there, I think we can see sort of the full establishment pretty close of most of the modern take of Pluto for the most part, right?
RT: Yeah, quite a bit there. I mean he mentioned Shiva, for example, the destroyer and creator, he could also have brought in Kali, again, there’s a masculine and feminine. Kali is the great goddess of death and rebirth and is another very potent mythic or goddess figure that expresses Pluto. I should just say by way of historical accuracy, when Rob came out in 1976 with Planets in Transit with those kind of detailed delineations, he did have before him Frances Sakoian and Louis Acker had written full delineations of all the planets and their both natal aspects and transits in a couple of books. Actually, they used to be in booklets, individual, the planets transits of the Sun, transits of Neptune, transits of Pluto, etc, each one had its own little booklet. And then later those were combined into a single volume called Predictive Astrology. And then of course they had the Astrologer’s Handbook. And Rob knew Frances Sakoian, they were both in New England, but she was older and was a teacher there in that area. And then he’s got Ebertin behind him. He’s also got… There’s a lot of Dane Rudhyar’s characterization in what he’s setting out there. Also, Charles Carter, Marc Edmund Jones, the early Marc Edmund Jones from the 1930s and ’40s, they wrote a bit about it. But Rudhyar, I think, was the one who most was tuning into its depths. And so he’s recognizing how in the same way that the 18th century and the discovery of Uranus brought this great period of revolution and breakthroughs and liberation and the technological advances and so forth, industrial revolution, the 19th century and the discovery of Neptune coincided with many romanticism, transcendentalism, the incoming of the Asian mystical traditions into the west, also the birth of chemistry particularly in the industrial, like pharmaceuticals and anesthetics coming into being at that point. But overall, the great focus in the mid 19th century on compassion, the society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, the Geneva war conventions, the red cross, the nursing profession, many forms of the child labor laws, Charles Dickens bringing in such a more empathic, socially compassionate view through his novels, those are all deep Neptunian phenomena that were coming in at that point. And when Pluto comes in 1930, I mean, if you look at the… That’s the midpoint of the 30-year period of the 30 years war, basically, that encompass World War I and World War II. So if you look at 15 years before to 15 years after, you’ve basically got both world wars, you’ve got the coming of the atomic bomb, you’ve got… I think I wrote up in Cosmos and Psyche a little…
CB: Yeah, here’s the passage if you want to go ahead and do the honors of reading it.
RT: Oh yeah, sure. So this is right during that period that we’re talking about. Pluto’s discovered, you’ve got the splitting of the atom, the unleashing of nuclear power, the Titanic, technological empowerment of modern industrial civilization and military force, the rise of fascism and other mass movements. Remember I talked about that kind of mob energy or mass movements, thinking about the Nuremberg rallies that the Nazis held, just massive. That’s so plutonic. Yes, there’s other things going on there too, Mars, Saturn, etc. But the plutonic was so visible. The widespread cultural influence of evolutionary theory and psychoanalysis with their focus on the biological instincts at depth quality, what’s below the surface of the veneer of civilization. What’s below is the Plutonic, which is also the underworld, which getting back to Rob Hand’s point, he says it’s not quite understood why this has to do with the criminal underworld and things like that, but Pluto’s the underworld. So it’s the criminal underworld, it’s the sexual underworld, the urban underworld, the psychological underworld, and the mythic underworld. But getting back to my description from Cosmos and Psyche, increased sexual and erotic expression in social mores in the arts. So the plutonic is all the instincts. It’s aggression, it’s survival instincts, it’s reproductive instincts, sexual energies, destructive energies, intensified activity and public awareness of the criminal underworld. Think about the thirties with all the criminal, the gangster movies that became very prominent at that point, tangible intensification of instinctually-driven mass violence and catastrophic historical developments evident in the world wars, the Holocaust, the threat of nuclear annihilation, and ecological devastation. And here if you take the broad view as Rudhyar did, that it’s a 20th century phenomenon surrounding the discovery of Pluto, here also can be mentioned the intensified politicization and power struggles characteristic of 20th-century life, the development of powerful forms of depth psychological transformation and catharsis, and the scientific recognition of the entire cosmos as a vast evolutionary phenomenon from the primordial fireball to the still evolving present. So in many ways, even our view of the cosmos it’s right then in just a couple years before Pluto’s discovered that astronomers particularly through the work of Harlow Shapley and Hubble, and they’re recognizing that the cosmos is expanding and is huge as many galaxies and is evolving. It’s a whole different view that comes in compared to the more static Newtonian universe that scientific revolution had established, much more plutonic. So I think I may have also… So those are the correlations with that I think Rudhyar’s picking up on, and then they get played out. But Rob Hand and Sakoian and Acker and Ebertin, they’re starting to differentiate Pluto with the Sun, Pluto with Moon, Pluto with the different planets, Pluto with different signs and houses, and those are very important advances in our understanding of Pluto.
CB: Right. So that brings us eventually, and we’ll circle back to some of the things that occurred around the time of the discovery, but I just wanted to provide some context before we go into discussing those in detail. Your next passage, which is when you summarized basically the significations of Pluto very broadly about what the archetype of Pluto is, do you feel like reading this passage?
RT: So Pluto is associated with the principle of elemental power, depth, and intensity with that which compels, empowers, and intensifies whatever it touches sometimes to overwhelming and catastrophic extremes. It’s associated with the primordial instincts, libidinal and aggressive, destructive and regenerative, volcanic and cathartic, eliminative, transformative, ever evolving with the biological processes of birth, sex, and death, the cycle of death and rebirth. Let me just take a bracket here. We think of Saturn as related to death and the endings of things, while Pluto is death and rebirth. It’s got the whole cycle in it. And in fact, it goes birth, sex, and death and rebirth, it’s the whole big [unintelligible] cycle of life and death. Getting back to the description here from Cosmos and Psyche, it’s associated with upheaval, breakdown, decay and fertilization, violent purgatorial discharge of pent up energies, purifying fire. This is what Stan Grof calls pyrocatharsis, that part of a very powerful experiential therapy where you go through pyrocatharsis, where there’s a great release kind of fiery burst from the depths that releases the repressed energies from one in a way that is not destructive but actually puts you in touch with the life force and is healing. Situations of life and death extremes, power struggles, all that is titanic, potent and massive, Pluto represents the underworld and underground in all senses, elemental, geological like an earthquake, instinctual, political, social, sexual, urban, criminal, mythological, demonic, it is the dark mysterious taboo and often terrifying reality that lurks beneath the surface of things, beneath the ego, societal conventions, and the veneer of civilization. Beneath the surface of the earth that is periodically unleashed with destructive and transformative force. Pluto impels, burns, consumes, transfigures, resurrects. In mythic and religious terms, it is associated with all myths of dissent and transformation and with all deities of destruction and regeneration, death and rebirth. Dionysus, Hades, and Persephone, Pan, Medusa, Lilith, Inanna, Isis and Osiris, the volcano goddess, Pele, [unintelligible], the serpent power, Kundalini, Shiva, Kali, Shakti. So these, I think, it was quite helpful when Rob Hand made the connection to Shiva with Pluto, and in doing so, it helps us recognize that these goes to many different cultural mythologies and also feminine, not just masculine that we should include. And in certain ways, certain elements of the Pluto archetype have a particularly feminine quality, that is the goddess. If you have birth, you have a goddess present. You have a mother energy is what makes birth possible. And that also involves the kind of elemental energies of the birth process as any mother who has given birth could say. It’s just, these are titanic energies that take over the body to bring forth the infant from the womb into the world. Let me just tell you one thing about Rob. I invited Rob to come to Esalen Institute back in the seventies right after Planets in Transit came out, cuz I was director of programs there. And both Stan Grof and I when we saw Rob’s book come out, up until that point, we’d been using more Ebertin and Sakoian and Acker’s work. And so Rob along with Liz Greene and Stephen Arroyo about the same time were coming out with their works, but Rob’s systematic work was quite something. And he had Neptune… The whole time he wrote that book, he told me he was in a kind of almost like hypnotic state of almost like channeling. He could hardly remember in retrospect consciously writing it. Neptune was transiting his Sun, Venus, Mercury conjunction. So Neptune was conjoined Sun, Venus, and Mercury, which in his case opposes both his Uranus and Saturn. He’s got a Uranus-Saturn conjunction born 1942, opposite Sun and Mercury and Venus. Yeah, you see it there with the…
CB: Yeah, here’s his chart. So he has Sun at 13 Sagittarius, Mercury at 15, and Venus at 17 Sagittarius, and in the mid to late seventies, Neptune was transiting right through all of those points in Sagittarius.
RT: Yeah. So he was basically in this kind of… When he came to Esalen, had him come in a number of times, it was great to have him. And he’d sit there in the living room in a kind of Buddha pose. He’d put his legs into a lotus position cuz we all were on cushions in those days. There were no chairs in the meeting rooms at Esalen. And it was in the big house living room, and he would almost in a kind of trance state be talking about what each of the planets meant, what each of the houses, each of the signs, etc. But I remember he was particularly… Because Stan Grof and I were doing all this work with the death, rebirth process, LSD therapy, and powerful forms of experiential therapy there at Esalen, he called us the Jupiter-Pluto club because both Stan and I had that. But he quite memorably described the process kind of ego, death and transformation in terms of moving in his discussion of when he would describe each of the planets starting from the Sun and Moon moving out through Mercury’s role and Venus’ role, Mars’ role in the psychological development of the individual, which is what he was particularly focused on. And then when he got to Saturn’s reality principle, it’s also the ego structure that we kind of define our identity according to, and he said, “But then when you get to the transpersonal planets, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, that challenges the ego structure and the reality structure of your life.” And the way he put it was Uranus breaks that, it comes in and kind of disrupts it, breaks it like breaking the ice, so to speak. And then Neptune dissolves it, and then Pluto comes in for the kill. That’s how he memorably put it describing people who’ve gone through powerful death rebirth experiences. Stan Grof has a great description of it in one of his books, where there’s this just when the plutonic energy fully comes in and first you’re working through all the pyrocatharsis and the fiery energies, the titanic destructive powers coming through and the sexual, the orgiastic, the aggressive, then demonic energies can come through, scatological, etc. It’s a real journey through the underworld. But then there’s this, he said the last stages involve a kind of annihilation. And he said many people experience… He said, “First Kali comes in and requires total surrender to the feminine principle in all her power and terrifying quality.” And then with that surrender, he then said, “And then Shiva comes in and just completely does the final destruction, destroying the ego what’s left.” And he said, “Then at that moment, there’s this kind of opening up to the incredible grandeur of the cosmic pantheon of gods and goddesses as far as you can see and kind of the golden light of spiritual healing that just can kind of pour in at that moment and go on and on from there.” When I had an experience along that line, that was actually when astrology deeply came in through that kind of golden white light, like coming in through the top of my head and many other insights, biographical, psychological and so forth. But the recognition of how suddenly how the planetary archetypes, how they worked, how they were expressing themselves in our lives, the power of transits, the significance of the birth chart and one’s own birth and as well as facing death, all those things were kind of coming in at that time. So this deep inner journeying that so many people are engaging now is so helpful in breaking out of the constricted worldview in which you think that you live in a kind of random materialistic universe with astrology as the gold standard of superstition as I like to call it. And instead, suddenly realizing that you live in an unsold cosmos of incredible depth and moral and aesthetic majesty, and that we’re participating in a great mystery that’s unfolding through us. And Pluto plays a big role in that. So that’s why Pluto can go from being solely seen as this terrifying will to power or some something that’s just purely destructive and to really grasp it’s transformational and redemptive quality. But it is a dangerous principle. It’s almost like the principle of danger. So this is where guidance, mentors, teachers, wise elders, therapists, healers, shamans are so important to help navigate that guide, navigate in a guiding way that deep descent into the underworld. So people like Jung, for example, has a lot of wisdom on this. Stan Grof has a lot of wisdom on it. Tolkein had Gandalf playing that role for Frodo and engaging a life that he, Frodo, wished that he hadn’t been born to deal with such a fraught time as he was born into. And my daughter, Becca, who’s a Tolkein scholar kind of particularly called to my attention that beautiful passage where when Frodo says, “I wish I wasn’t born at such a time.” And Gandalf says, I’m paraphrasing, Gandalf says, “None of us wish to be born at such a time, but it’s what we do with when we find ourselves in such a time, then it’s how we respond to it, it’s what we do to in this circumstance that is where it’s all at. That’s where we become a soul, that’s where we become an identity. This is where you kind of have to be true to the hero in your own soul, even at the very moment that you’re going into the depths and feeling your identity being devastated. That’s part of the heroism of that transformational journey.” So anyway, we have guides, we have elders that are very important for dealing with these extremely powerful energies which probably are as activated now on a global level as ever, because we both have the rise of authoritarianism and violent populism, massive power struggles in the world in quite destructive ways, very similar to the period when Pluto was discovered in the thirties.
CB: Yeah, let’s actually dwell on that point because that’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently with the United States experiencing its first exact Pluto return this year with three exact hits. But certainly, it’s been pretty close to that for several years now as Pluto’s been moving through the later stages of Capricorn. But one of the things that really always sticks out to me when we think of that principle the astrologers have been using for a while now, that when a new planetary body is discovered, that some of the events happening in the world at that time that are defining world events will give you some insight into the nature of that planet. And discovering Pluto in 1930 and just what was happening in the world in the 1930s, one of the things that always jumps out is the rise of fascism, not just in Europe, which had been building up for a little while up to that point, the sort of explosion of it in Europe, but also how that kind of got exported to different parts of the world where fascism started being imitated in different countries. And maybe if you could, I don’t know, explain that point or what that means to people a little bit, because I think this is often mentioned as a note in passing like an obvious thing, but it’s really only to historians or people that study the period that that becomes really a striking point.
RT: And the striking point–
CB: Just in the sense of how do you define fascism and what was unique about the emergence of fascism in the 1930s in its relationship to Pluto or what can that tell us about Pluto?
RT: Right. Yeah, that activation of mass will to power, people identifying with a collective suppressing their individuality and even the so-called leader, fuhrer, the strong man, the dictator, whether it was Musolini or Hitler or Stalin, the psycho historian Lloyd deMause and Stan Grof often used the phrase that the strong man, dictator, tyrant, who’s leading fascist movement, they’re not really- Underneath they’re a small person in certain ways with kind of a titanic compensatory persona. And he said really what makes them so powerful is the fact that they’re channels of the collective [ed], and the term that both Lloyd deMause and Stan Grof use is that they’re garbage collectors of the collective psyche, of the shadow that is erupting. I mean, America, the United States has just went through a four-year period really kind of more like five years where it’s almost as if the soul of America like Persephone got swallowed by Hades, by the underworld, and we suddenly found ourselves in a kind of a world in which a kind of violent, massive, titanic and often criminal will to power was at work. And the people representing it or forwarding it, they almost represented the shadow version of the UnAmerican or the shadow version of what it would be to be male or shadow version of wealth or the shadow version of whiteness and so forth. And the United States birth chart at that point was being transited 2016 you got Pluto was opposite the Sun, and then now Pluto’s returning now and has been, I mean, the Pluto return like a Saturn return is a big, long transit. It doesn’t just activate the year that it’s exact, this is the end of an enormous 248-year cycle. And even as it gets to within 10, 15 degrees before exact, it’s cooking much as a Saturn return does in a personal chart. Saturn return doesn’t just happen when you’re 29 and a half, from 28 to 30, you can pretty much depend from your 28th birthday to your 31st birthday, those three years are going to be pretty characteristic of a Saturn return. And the Pluto return has been approached here. You can see how tight it is right now, just one degree from exact. And prior to that, back five years ago, Pluto was opposite Sun. And you often get the Pluto opposite Sun energy when you are a very powerful solar individual with plutonic qualities will kind of massively influence the, in this case, the United States, whose birth chart we’re looking at that, where Pluto’s transiting it. And of course that’s when Trump came down the escalator and started his ascent to power. And now we’re deep in the Pluto return, which suggests… I mean, this isn’t just a Trumpian phenomenon, it’s an American phenomenon. Just think about the degree to which the United States has during these last few years really been entering into the underworld of its own shadow-like facing… This is how racist we’ve been and not owning it, not recognizing it. This is how we’ve treated Native Americans since the beginning, the great expansion of the west, the manifest destiny and so forth. Look at it from the other side of the people that were here. How does that look? How emancipatory is the American experiment for African Americans, blacks who fought in the world war and then come back to lynchings and disenfranchisement and not being able to make a living and not being allowed to live in many neighborhoods and so forth. It’s just the shadow side, Pluto is having to be faced at many different levels. Facing the shadow is an extremely important part of a spiritual growth and of a psychological transformation, and we’re having to do it right now. But part of a Pluto return of any powerful Pluto transit is a kind of going through a destruction, going through a loss, a transformation, a kind of purgation of the [unintelligible], of the refuse, the suppressed shadowy parts of ourselves that we don’t want to look at. It has to be brought to the surface and then released, but it has to come to consciousness before it can be released. That’s why this time as painful as it is is so important for the potential of a rebirth the United States, which has a noble side. Somebody like Martin Luther King deeply, deeply believed in an American ideal that hadn’t been fulfilled that he’s drawing on Lincoln before him and on Frederick Douglass and so forth and Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. These are potentials within the American brave experiment that can only be realized through going through this plutonic crucible of death and rebirth, this plutonic underworld of transformation. And that’s how rebirth can take place. You have to go through the deep night sea journey, you have to risk everything, you have to experience yourself burning to ashes before you can be revivified through the mysterious grace of the life process. This is why the Greeks recognize, I think, quite accurately that Pluto, Hades, were also united with Dionysus, that Dionysus, Pluto, and Hades were three names for the same god. Heraclides said this, the great Greek philosopher, but also Euripides, the playwright. And this points out how life and death, dying and rebirth are curiously interlinked, because Dionysus is so much the god of life, even as he is the one who goes through dismemberment. And Pluto, Hades, the god of the underworld and the being of the underworld itself, they are also deeply tied to the giving of life, even as they are what swallow us in death. And these are in turn conveyed so powerfully in the Indian renderings of the plutonic principle in Kali, in Shiva, in the Kundalini serpent energy, and in the Shakti energy. So I think we have resources, the question is whether, and we have wisdom traditions and we have ritual means that are available to us to go through these, wilderness, vision quests and so forth. So many people are carrying keys to our transformation, but we need to have the collective, wake up to these enough, and it’s quite possible that the Pluto return that the US is going through and the very powerful Pluto transits that we’ve been going through, generally world transits, Uranus square Pluto, the Saturn conjunct Pluto, now we’re just starting to move into the trine of Uranus to Pluto for later into the twenties, quite promising. There’s a real possibility, I think, with this great intensification of plutonic energy, that we will be obliged as a civilization, as a species, to undergo the dying in order to realize ourselves. Goethe said, “Until you know this deep secret, die and become, you’ll be a stranger on this dark earth.” And in some ways modern civilization has been a stranger on this dark earth. It has been separated from, alienated from nature as if that was something to conquer and control, exploit, understand in order to use its resources. And in doing so, it’s like it’s suppressed the plutonic nature which was not invited to the birthday party as it were, and it becomes the being who comes back with a vengeance which we’re experiencing with global climate change and many other expressions of it, the return of the repressed. And the only way we will wake up to the full beauty and power of the earth community that we belong to and its richness and realizing that our species and our civilization are a part of something much bigger that we’re participating in, the only way we’ll wake up out of our strangerhood to the dark earth is through dying and then becoming then actualizing our deeper roots in the earth and in the cosmos and not a random mechanistic, materialistic, meaningless cosmos, but an unsouled one of great intelligence and great spiritual mystery. So that’s kind of how I see the mystery of Pluto, whether it’s in birth charts or in personal transits or in world transits or what we’re talking about as well, the Pluto return for the United States which plays such a crucial role in world history. At this point, the American experiment is still looked to as an important one by people around the world, even as we have gone through such failures morally and so forth. I think this is the essence of what I think Pluto is asking us to be aware of to be able to live a more skillful, compassionate, participatory life in the life of the earth and the cosmos.
CB: Right. So perhaps one of the main core significations of Pluto that seems to come with Pluto transits is the dredging up of the darker parts of one’s history and then the subsequent struggle to confront and recognize them and deal with them in some way. And that can happen either collectively in the instance that you’re talking about or personally in some instances. And that’s one of the interesting things about the emergence of depth psychology in the 20th century, that might be very much relevant to Pluto as well.
RT: Yeah. I think whenever you have a depth dimension, deep is a Pluto word. And Jupiter, Uranus, they’re high, they move towards the heights, even Neptune with its emphasis towards the celestial, the heavenly, has that impulse towards the above, up and out each of those in their own way. But Pluto is into depth, and depth psychology was born in the late 19th century. I think Nietzsche was probably in many ways the key figure. He’s born with Pluto opposite the Sun. If one wants to get a sense for Pluto in eloquent, philosophical expression, read Friedrich Nietzsche Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and one really can get the sense of it. He even signed his last letters Dionysus, and some of his key phrases were… Yeah, see that Sun opposite Pluto, could hardly be more vivid.
CB: For the audio listeners, his Sun is at 22, 7 Libra, and his Pluto is at 22, 57 Aries. It’s a very close opposition.
RT: Yeah. I have a whole section on Nietzsche later in Cosmos and Psyche, where I kind of go over a number of his major alignments in including that Sun-Pluto. And so much of his key ideas like to the discerning person, all instincts are holy, that’s one. Or he has another one, “What is the secret of living a fruitful life lived dangerously? Build your homes on the side of Vesuvius. Send your ships out unto uncharted seas. Live at war with yourselves and with your equals, no, with your equals and with yourselves. That is the secret of living a fruit life.” You can just hear as Pluto, even the Pluto opposite Sun at war with yourself too, he was into transcending the self in order to come into the greater power, redemptive power. He has another passage, “Behold, I am that which must overcome itself again and again,” he was saying, “Nature told me this deep secret. Behold, I am that which must overcome itself again and again.” Or he has another beautiful passage where he says, “One must have chaos inside oneself in order to give birth to a star.” Well, the star is the Sun, that’s our star, the Sun. And the Sun is the symbol of our own central principle of self-hood. And it’s the hero archetype, the solar hero, who can get caught in an immature form of just being the John Wayne hero or something like that. But there’s a deep hero that goes through the descent, that becomes a servant of the whole in a great sacrifice. That’s true heroism. And so when he says one must have chaos inside oneself, that’s Pluto, inside oneself, the Sun, in order to give birth to a star that’s the solar, then you become… Another one of his phrases, become what thou art, become what thou art. So there’s many ways in which he was carrying that Pluto-Sun, that plutonic energy. And then he serves as a kind of guide or precursor of the whole depth psychology project that is carried forward by Freud, by Jung, by Melanie Klein, by Marie-Louise von Franz, by so many important depth psychologists, James Hillman. I think Stan Grof’s work becomes an especially potent synthesis of the Freudian, the Jungian, the spiritual, the instinctual, and it partly is because he was working with the power of LSD and the sacred vision plants, psilocybin, mushrooms, peyote, mescaline and so forth. So depth psychology, Jung once said, “We have not yet recognized the extent to which the discovery of the unconscious is a critical spiritual discovery which we must integrate in order to preserve our civilization.” I would say in order to transform us and preserve our civilization, which I’m sure he meant too. The discovery of the unconscious, yeah, there’s Jung, look at that Moon-Pluto conjunction near the base of his chart.
CB: Yeah, that’s really close right there next to the IC at 29 Taurus and Pluto is at 23 Taurus and the Moon is at 15, and then both are squaring Saturn which is at 24 Aquarius.
RT: That’s right. And the Moon is tight square Uranus as well. So he has such a powerful anima, Jung does. The Moon is so potent all three outer planets are in some relationship, one degree square to Uranus, the tight conjunction to Pluto about eight degrees, and then the Moon is right in between Neptune and Pluto in the sky when he’s born. So his whole childhood is carrying those intensified Neptunian energies of visions, dreams, etc, from the underworld and then his understanding of the anima and why our civilization and particularly men need to kind of come into re-engagement with what he called the feminine, but it’s the lunar principle, which has both masculine and feminine qualities. But his anima had all three of the transpersonal planets aspecting his Moon. And so he has a great sentence in one of his letters where he said, “The apprentice piece of psychological development is the encounter with the shadow. The masterpiece is the encounter with the anima.” Now he’s talking about male psychology at that point, but because our civilization has been so patriarchal in many ways, you can apply this to the collective psychology and the great gift that depth psychology provides for the collective, for our civilization, if it’s willing to do this deep work. And that is if first we have to face the shadow, the things that we don’t want to see, the whole shadow side of Western civilization, of modern civilization, of all the things we’ve been talking about, the ecological devastation, the effect on other species, the patriarchal, Eurocentric, it’s all the ways in which tremendous suffering has been caused by what is also a dynamic and noble civilization and species. We contain both. And if we can first face the shadow, as he called it, the apprentice piece, and integrate that, he said, then we can enter into the bigger task, which is to come into relationship to the anima, which is the whole of life, which is the soul of life, which is the anima mundi, the soul of the world, anima mundi the soul of the world. This is what’s been repressed. This is James Hillman’s great point in his powerful paper called Anima Mundi: The Return of the Soul to the World. It’s in a book called The Thought of the Heart and the Soul of the World. And the suppression of idea that the whole world isn’t souled, not just human beings, that suppression has allowed a kind of destructive alienation on the part of the modern mind, whereby it tried to basically objectify the entire universe and all the earth and all the other species and even other human beings, very, very, morally horrific side of our civilization. Because of that view of an objectified universe in which we are the only subjects, and particularly a certain type of subject namely the Western modern civilization, we have to lose, in a sense have that identity overcome, destroyed in order to wake up to the fact that we live in a living universe that is imbued with profound, spiritual mystery, intelligence, and soul. And we’re going through a kind of plutonic transformational crucible right now that’s giving us both the opportunity but also the necessity of doing that transformation cuz everything’s at stake now in a way that wasn’t as visible in the 1970s when Rob Hand was writing about Pluto as Shiva in Planets in Transit. It wasn’t as visible in the sixties. It’s very visible now and it’s probably going to get more visible. And I think, fortunately, there are more and more people in the world who are waking up to the nature of our situation and are tuning into the great gifts that depth psychology, indigenous wisdom traditions, sacred medicine journeys, social and ecological justice movements and so forth, what all these provide for us in terms of a potential radical transformation. There’s more and more people on board for this great kind of heroic quest of our time, but it could hardly be a more dramatic period than we are in.
CB: Right. I was just looking at the charts and I pulled up… You were talking about Jung’s chart and his Moon-Pluto conjunction in mid-Taurus, and it made me want to pull up Freud’s chart, who interestingly has a Sun… It’s a little wide but a Sun-Pluto conjunction in mid-Taurus and also Venus-Pluto conjunction.
RT: Yeah, Venus-Pluto with his focus on the… See, the Venus-Pluto right at his Descendant, and his whole focus is on the pleasure principle, Venus-Pluto, and on the importance of sexual energy as he became a kind of… He had made it into a mono explanation. The advantage of Jung’s work and Grof’s work is that they expanded our understanding of the plutonic. So it is the sexual but it’s more than the sexual. It’s the elemental, the instinctual, it’s regenerative, there’s a sacred dimension to it. But yeah, look at that. He’s got a Pluto-dominated chart in many ways. He’s basically born with the Sun in between Uranus and Pluto, and Jung’s born with the Sun tight square to Neptune and the Moon in between Neptune and Pluto.
CB: It’s interesting seeing their Sun, Moon synastry. And it’s funny, Jung of course would’ve remarked on that. And I can’t help but thinking of his synchronicity experiment, where he was comparing Sun, Moon, people in relationships as a synastry. [crosstalk] That must have been in the back of his mind somewhere.
RT: I wouldn’t be surprised because even though he didn’t work with Pluto at all for example, but he definitely was working with Sun and Moon and the planets out through Saturn and in later years with Uranus as well. But in many ways, Freud looked at Jung as being his sun. And the crown prince of psychoanalysis is how Freud described Jung with his Sun. So Freud’s got Sun conjunct Jung’s Moon and Freud has a Sun-Uranus conjunction. Let’s see. Freud’s got the Sun-Uranus conjunction and it’s conjoining Jung’s Moon which is square Uranus. So they each have a Jung’s Promethean principle of the solar, Freud focused on the heroic conquistador while Jung having his Moon right there on the Sun Uranus of Freud’s in the outer chart, and Jung’s Moon is tight square to Uranus so he’s got that… His followers tended to be women and he was focused on the importance of the liberation of the anima and the integration of the anima and the feminine side of life in order to become whole and not suppressing it the way patriarchy does. And Jung was also more focused on the Mother Goddess and Sophia and the Virgin Mary, and the Great Mother archetypes, Magna Mater, etc, while Freud was focused much more on solar deities, Oedipus, and dealing with Yahweh and God the Father and his Moses and monotheism, etc. He was more interested on liberating the egoic hero from the clutches the power of the Plutonic while Jung was more on integrating the lunar side of life as the way to get in contact with our soul again for redemptive transformational purposes. And what’s interesting is it’s right when transiting Saturn transited across Jung’s and Freud’s Sun-Moon conjunction, it’s during that transit that they went through their big break.
CB: That they had a falling out. Coz with that synastry, they have a Plutonic synastry there. One of the things with Pluto is its tendency to go to extremes. So earlier you’re talking about Freud treating Jung like the golden child that would take psychology forward or what have you, but one of the typical things of Plutonic synastry is sometimes it can be extremely positive, but when it goes negative, it can go the opposite extreme and be extremely negative and have a very painful falling out.
RT: Yeah, yeah. Exactly.
CB: So it was 1910-1911 when they had their falling out?
RT: Yes. It went through a series of stages. Even 1909 it was starting to occur, but 10-11 was very quite decisive. I write about it in Prometheus the Awakener, that little monograph I wrote back in the late 70s. Yeah, in fact, then there’s a whole… If you look in the years after that with the Jung’s transits, just unbelievable transits he went through as he went through the whole period, the descent into his unconscious that brought forth The Red Book and really his entire life’s work is that basically Neptune as you can see and Uranus were basically moving right across his- Yeah, you can see Neptune right on his Sun there in 1916. But prior to that, if you go back to 1914 you can see Uranus. Go back to 1913 actually when it started. Uranus is opposing his Sun. And then as the years go by, Uranus squares Moon. And so that period from 1913 to 1917 or 18 is a period when he just went through such a, as he put it, all the images that flooded into his visions and his dreams at that time and even destabilized his sense of centered sanity and identity, it was so powerful that that became the prima materia, the prime matter of his whole life’s work.
CB: All right. We’re going to jump through because there’s a bunch of points we wanted to get through in the rest of this so we’ll do this a little bit more rapidly. Something an astrologer friend of mine said that always stuck with me that I thought was a good interpretive principle for Pluto and I think is consistent with one of the things that you’re saying the astrologer Alan White who passed away about a decade ago. He was involved in Product Hindsight. But something he always said was that Pluto makes small things big and big things small. And I think this is connected with this thing of signification of magnifying things or taking things too extreme or pushing them beyond their normal limits. That is sometimes associated with Pluto. What do you think about that?
RT: Very true. Yeah, it magnifies things. It intensifies them. It gives titanic energy to it. For example, sometimes back after the first three outer planets were discovered, there was a typical comparison that Uranus was the upper octave of Mercury and Neptune was the higher octave of Venus, like universal divine love compared with human love or Mercury is the mind and Uranus is the cosmic mind, just Mercury’s everyday mathematics and Uranus is Einsteinian relativity theory or something like that. And then with Pluto, it would be Pluto is the higher octave of Mars, or one might say deeper active. But in this case, if Mars is like a fistfight, Pluto’s like an earthquake. It’s just like it’s a world war. It’s much bigger or even just a war that’s Plutonic. So, it greatly intent intensifies whatever phenomenon that it is coming into relationship to.
Now, what’s interesting is Alan White’s two sides to that because you can see how that would make a small thing big, the mouse into the elephant with, but are the technological empowerment that can happen in the titanic empowerment super muscled. But the making the larger smaller, I was thinking about that and I have a feeling what he’s getting at is the ego death part of it, the death. Anything that’s inflated is ultimately going to get destroyed. And so, it serves as a compensatory principle. It makes larger and it can make smaller depending on where you are in the journey.
CB: Yeah, one of the tangible examples of the first part that he always used was the atom bomb and the development of the atom bomb where you’re taking something extremely small an atom and then breaking it open and then causing this huge explosion. There had been explosions up to that point, which might have been like Mars principle of dynamite or TNT or something like that, but this was magnified far beyond anything anybody had previously imagined and taken to the utmost extreme.
RT: And did he say anything about what he meant the other way around about making the large small?
CB: I’m trying to remember about one of his things, I think was technology and just how technology kept miniaturizing things like huge computer the size of a house in one decade suddenly becomes fitting in your mobile phone the following decade or what have you. Yeah, I think that was part of it. In terms of that, I thought it was interesting apparently in doing research for this episode, the element Plutonium was actually named after the planet Pluto in 1941 following a convention where Uranian and Neptunian were also previously named after planets when they were discovered previously. But interestingly, in terms of the significations of Pluto, even though Plutonium was discovered in 1941 and named, the wartime secrecy prevented them from announcing it, or publishing about the discovery until 1948 several years later.
RT: Yeah, I don’t know what they had in mind with the connection between those three elements and three planets.
CB: Yeah, but just, I don’t know, in practical terms, I think both of the bombs that ended up being dropped in World War II ended up having Plutonium cores so there’s some interesting things there. And just going back to other significations and other core things, we mentioned the intensification of anything that it touches and being taken to the utmost extreme, so sometimes that when combined with other planets is where it really where that comes out. So for example, combined with Venus and taking elements of having to do with like relationships to their utmost extreme, which on the one hand, could be a positive manifestation of going to the utmost extreme for love or what have you and then on the other hand, it could be a negative side of that of going too far or being too obsessed or not letting go of somebody even when it becomes inappropriate or what have you.
RT: Yeah, yeah, that’s a very good point. One of the ways in my courses at CIIS, California Institute of Integral Studies where I’ve taught for this last better part of three decades, I’ve taught a lot of courses that called Archetypes, Art and Culture, where I will use works of art, music, film, poetry, etc. to demonstrate the nature of a particular archetype or archetypal combination between let’s say two planets by having the students we all listen to a particular song or we see a film. So for example, with the Venus-Pluto that we’re just talking about, I would typically among other things, I would play something like Janis Joplin who’s born with Venus opposite Pluto, Venus and Sun and Mercury in her case all opposite Pluto but that Venus opposite Pluto and her signature song take another little piece of my heart even though it’s causing me agony when you put me in your arms I just say take another little piece of my heart.
CB: Yeah, so her Venus is at 14 Aquarius and Mercury at 9 Aquarius opposite Pluto at 6 Leo?
RT: Right, right. And of course, Mercury being there brings in the communication of it with and even the screaming of it. Mercury-Pluto it can intensify the voice as well as the mind and the communication. And think of both say John Lennon with his scream, he could scream even when in the early Beatles like with the Twist and Shout or something like that and he would have to do that song last because it would just make his voice so ragged at the end of the night of singing. And when he did the song Mother in his first solo album, he had a Moon-Mercury-Pluto T-square. You see the Moon opposite Pluto quite tight and then the Mercury is at 8 Scorpio in a T-square with Pluto and the Moon. So he’s got all the emotional tendency of talking about whether it’s betrayal or the relationship to the mother or he’s losing his mother, you had me but I never had you. And then he goes into the primal screaming and that’s the Mercury coming in to express the intensity of the emotion. And Janis Joplin did that with her singing. Before Janis Joplin’s singing in like Piece of My Heart or her version of Ball and Chain, she was bringing such visceral intensity into her voice that it could sound just like an animal screaming in a trap or something like that in Ball and Chain and that’s the Mercury coming in. But the Venus opposite Pluto is the part of her where she, sometimes it can be as you put it like even after you’re being obsessed with the relationship like even though you aren’t good for me, I love you anyway and I don’t want to leave you or I don’t want you to leave me even though you’re betraying me, even though you’re causing me agony. Even though you’re out on the street doing what you’re not supposed to do, I still want to be… It’s passionate love but it can also be obsessive love with the Venus-Pluto.
I often use the arts if I was going to contrast her with the Venus-Neptune aspect then I would bring in someone like Joni Mitchell who has that much more almost ethereal voice, angelic, the more lyrical quality of her singing and melodies and so forth that are much more Venus-Neptune compared with Venus-Pluto. It’s helpful to make archetypal distinctions that way. And the beauty of using the arts, whether it’s film or comedy or sculpture or music is that you can feel the archetype because these archetypes aren’t just keywords that you read about in a book and then apply in a mentalistic way. Words are helpful for getting us to the meaning. They’re really crucial for getting us to the meaning. But the full feeling is much more readily conveyed by artistic experience because music taps in very deep into the human psyche even before complex language, music is part of the evolutionary inheritance or legacy of Homo sapiens.
CB: Right. Some of my other examples I was looking at for Venus-Pluto are Frida Kahlo who had a famously, both in terms of artistic style as well as in her personal life and relationships-
RT: A perfect example. I often use Frida Kahlo as well. You look at her art, it’s just so vivid. The colors are just coming right out with great intensity. But she’s also showing scenes of crucifixion, bloodiness, real personal agony at times. Just an amazing chart she has, doesn’t she? I love that chart.
CB: It’s a great chart example. And she has a very close conjunction of Venus at 24 Gemini and Pluto at 23 Gemini.
RT: Square to Saturn so it was… Yeah, she really was experiencing it. And then she had all that Sun, Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus energy too. Her relationship to the different men in her life like Diego Rivera and great artists and also on Trotsky. I often assign the film Frida that was quite well done, it conveys it very well, her Venus-Pluto in action.
CB: Yeah. And then another example is Alan Turing who had a Venus-Pluto conjunction and although playing a major role in the war effort and helping to break German codes through cryptographic, he was a codebreaker basically. Despite that, he ended up being persecuted after the war due to his sexual orientation and ended up either dying or committing suicide as a result of literally having to receive chemical castration for that.
RT: Yeah. The Plutonic is often what is hidden or needs to be hidden or is taboo in a particular society in that world’s conventions and Venus-Pluto often can indicate that hidden or secret or taboo form of love that cannot be revealed lest one be persecuted as he was. Also, although Saturn has a lot to do with shame, but Pluto can involve things because Pluto does have a relationship to the shadow side of our psyche that we don’t admit to ourselves or that we don’t want to admit to polite society or that we don’t want to or that isn’t allowed before the puritanical conventions of one’s particular community, that you can be shamed about you. And there’s often wounding around a Pluto aspect because of that element
CB: Yeah, that makes sense in the cultural relativity of taboos or what is taboo at any given time in a certain point in time in society or what have you but the need to have things that are hidden or suppressed or underground about either one’s own life or one’s psyche or in this case, relationships or what have you.
RT: That’s right.
CB: Let’s see one other example. Maurizio Gucci who was the grandson of the founder of the Gucci fashion empire had a Venus-Pluto conjunction and he inherited the Gucci fashion empire in the 1980s, but he ended up leaving his wife and his wife actually or his ex-wife ended up having him murdered afterwards as a result of that. And there’s actually a movie I think that just came out or is about to come out where it’s dramatized. I think Lady Gaga is playing his ex-wife who had him murdered.
RT: Yeah, I look forward to seeing it. You often see Venus-Pluto sometimes Venus-Jupiter-Pluto in the charts of people involved in high fashion and where there’s a lot of wealth, a lot of power, a lot of intensity focused on high fashion, on cosmetics, on expensive clothes, design shoes, etc. But those other qualities of the Venus-Pluto, the betrayal, the murdering by the betrayed, those can be themes as well. Yeah. I’ve seen Venus-Pluto in a number of other charts often mixed with Jupiter where there are people who are involved in the very high echelon level of fashion where there’s often a lot of manipulation, a lot of power struggle within families, within the company and often, obsessive erotic involvements and things like that.
CB: Yeah, power struggles and power plays seem to be major Pluto themes.
RT: Yeah. And there can be, although Jupiter particularly has to do with wealth and success and money, etc., but there’s an interesting relationship that the Greeks recognized. There are two different gods of Pluto, Pluton in Greek where the O was long O omega and then that was the Pluto the lord of the underworld. But there was a Plutus where the O is short O. That’s the omicron. Notice that we now have the omicron variant, that’s the short O in Greek while the long O is omega. Omega, right? Well, omicron is omicron. Like, a micro O is omicron and omega is the mega O and it’s a long O. And the long O Pluto Pluton was the one who was the lord of the underworld while Plutus was actually a separate deity originally involving the God of wealth, but wealth and riches were often seen as being underground where the minerals were and so forth or the fertility of the land. And eventually, there became a conflation of the two that also was present right in the Greco-Roman mythic lineage. So our word plutocracy ruled by the wealthy also has, it’s like the powerful, wealthy plutocracy. You combine them there.
CB: Yeah, I was going to put this off till later, but two of my favorite charts for time some of the richest men in the world are, for example, Bill Gates who has a Jupiter-Pluto conjunction in the 2nd house in Leo. Here’s Bill Gates’s chart and his extreme wealth, because there’s a normal wealth of let’s say generational wealth or what have you, but then sometimes there’s the wealth taken to the utmost extreme of being literally the richest person in the world at one point in time.
RT: Yeah, that’s right. You see Jupiter-Pluto a lot in very wealthy charts. So J.P Morgan J. Pierpont Morgan is another Jupiter-Pluto figure.
CB: I have one more. My other famous one is Warren Buffett has a Jupiter-Pluto conjunction in the 8th house.
RT: Yeah, yeah, that’s a perfect example as well. Now, all people who have Jupiter-Pluto are not necessarily going to be super wealthy figures as I can speak from direct experience. Stan Grof and I used to laugh at both of us having the Jupiter-Pluto conjunction in his case and in my case, the opposition.
CB: Do you mind me if I show you the chart?
RT: Oh no, not at all.
CB: Okay, here we go.
RT: And while we both have the Jupiter-Pluto pretty strong in our being, it comes through in totally different ways, which I won’t spell out particularly, but enormous wealth is not particularly our leading characteristic.
CB: Yeah, wealth of information or wealth of knowledge. I don’t know what your stance is on houses, but it’s interesting that it’s falling in the 2nd house 8th house axis in both Gates and Buffett whereas for you it’s falling in the 3rd house 9th house axis.
RT: 9th house, yeah. Jupiter up there in the 9th and Pluto in the 3rd for me. Yeah. When I write books, they tend to be big books like the whole history of Western thought, Cosmos and Psyche and there’s a tendency… Jupiter-Pluto has a drive to… Again, Pluto intensifies whatever it touches. Jupiter wants to get the big overview or it wants to take in all the cultures of the world or it wants to have a global perspective, or you see it with people who are involved in geopolitics. For example, Gorbachev for example, or Kissinger shadow version of it. So yeah, it can take many different forms. Also, Pluto has a passionate drive towards whatever it’s touching. We’re talking about Pluto-Venus in terms of that drive towards passionate love or expression of artistic beauty or whatever. With a Pluto-Jupiter, it can be not just a drive to wealth, but it also can be a drive towards excellence, for example, striving for excellence or striving for success. But there’s different ways of defining success. Abraham Lincoln, he underwent such deep depression even suicidal depression at certain points in his life and he had some really difficult things in his birth chart. He lost his mother when he was quite young, great sense of loss there.
So there’s Lincoln with that Saturn-Neptune conjunction square to the Mercury and Pluto. But look at that Jupiter-Pluto conjunction with Mercury, what powerful language he had, the Gettysburg Address. If you’re just to single out say two or three of the greatest speeches that have ever been given with great power to the moral power, that’s his Mercury-Pluto-Jupiter, you would think of the Gettysburg Address, you would think of the Second Inaugural Address, that kind of quality. During one of his periods of most suicidal space, he said, “I’m going to try to live a life in which I do something significant and that will make my life worthwhile and so I won’t leave it. I’ll stay if I can just do something significant.” And that’s what drove him into the realm of politics. Sometimes Jupiter-Pluto likes to succeed in politics and can be very political. Lincoln was very political. And you see it with people who have leadership qualities too. Jupiter has a leader quality, Zeus there at the top. But Pluto drives that because it empowers whatever it touches.
And so, the fact that George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, perhaps the three presidents that just had the most influence in the first 150 years of our nation’s history, they all had Jupiter-Pluto conjunctions. You see it where there is real leadership potential as well. A lot of the actors, the lead actors that had Jupiter-Pluto, Richard Burton or Paul Newman or those- Yeah, see that Jupiter-Pluto. With FDR, in his case, he’s got the Sun squaring Saturn and Neptune and Jupiter so quite tightly Sun and Venus very tight square Saturn that was the distant relationship with Eleanor and at the same time having to hide his love and/or separate himself from who he was in love with. But with that Sun square Saturn-Neptune, he had to go through the great debilitating illness of polio and dealing with fear and anxiety and so that’s why he could say the only thing we have to fear is fear itself in his inaugural address that became such a model for his long administration. That’s the fact that he stared it in the face, that Saturn-Neptune potential for a nonspecific fear or anxiety that was overcoming the entire Zeitgeist of the 1930s during the Great Depression.
But with that Jupiter in there, the Sun square the Jupiter-Neptune great faith in the possibility of a better world, more empathic, compassionate, taking care of the poor and the working class, but then there’s that Jupiter-Pluto which it’s 11° away but those of you who know my work know that it’s quite clear to me that we need to expand our orbs if we are going to understand how the planetary archetypes interact with each other because they’re not like on-again off-again light switches. They’re aspects that just turn on when they’re 1° away or even 3°or 4° away. They’re archetypal waveforms as it’s coming into a big conjunction or a big opposition. If you look at the full Moon when the Sun is opposite the Moon, the Moon looks full for right up to about 15° on each side basically for two nights that you’re in a full Moon part of the cycle and the same thing with the new Moon when it’s invisible.
Empirically, I didn’t start off with the larger wave or with these larger orbs, but it was empirically just looking, you look at that Uranus-Pluto conjunction of the ‘60s for example, Rob Hand and I have talked about it, and it’s just so clear empirically that you have to expand it all the way from about 1960 to about 1972. That particular Uranus-Pluto energy that’s so familiar to us was in evidence in the civil rights movement, in the women’s movement, in the ecology movement, in the youth movement, in the revolutions around the world, African Independence Movements and so forth. And even the late ‘60s after its exact and going into the early ‘70s, those of us who lived through the ‘60s and ‘70s recognize that when we talk about the ‘60s, we’re also talking a bit about the early ‘70s. That energy had flushed into the system so potently that archetypal energy that it just doesn’t stop when the aspect is moved past 5°. It’s really cooking at that point. So anyway, that’s also true with natal charts.
CB: It’s one of the reasons I like Archetypal Explorer for the way that they visualize some of these things as more of a graph as a wave form like this illustration of the Saturn-Pluto conjunction that went exact and peaked in early 2020, but still stayed in effect and came back a little bit in orb when they retrograded back into a range but it’s like a range of influence that lasts for, as you said, in the conjunction up to 15° or 10° in the other hard aspects.
RT: Yeah, exactly. That’s Kyle Leimetter’s work. He was a student of mine in the Philosophy Cosmology and Consciousness Program at CIIS and I would sometimes draw those waveforms in that way so that people even for their personal transits so that they could see the way it is intensifying and then there’s a bell curve there. The first person who started implying that in an app was called the Archetypal Calendar. Anyway, he was the first one. He was focused on personal transits. The Cosmic View was his original thing and then he started using it. I gave him the basic program and he worked out the program that started using it and then Kyle for Archetypal Explorer has employed it in a more comprehensive way.
CB: Yeah. Well, it’s been nice over the past year in order to visualize some of these outer planet transits and understanding the wider range in which they’re in effect and also going back and looking at some historical examples like the pandemic in the earlier part of the 20th century around 1918 and 1919 and how the Jupiter Pluto conjunction which went exact in 1918, but retrograded back and got very close in 1919 that second that ended up coinciding with what they call the deadly second wave of the pandemic when the most deaths took place after there was a mutation. And then similarly, there were some interesting things in 2020 when we comparing some of the different COVID graphs to some of the Jupiter-Pluto alignments that took place during the course of 2020 and when the number of COVID cases would skyrocket or when hospitalizations would go up, and other things like that. It’s been interesting coming up with some of these new tools in order to visualize some of these things.
RT: Exactly. In that case, of course, the Jupiter-Pluto was in a triple conjunction with Saturn so it was quite complexified by that, so you’re getting Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto all in that triple conjunction. Early in the pandemic, I did a talk called What’s Happening in the Stars Right Now because that was the question a lot of people were asking. It was for CIIS public programs. It was just called What’s Happening in the Stars Right Now. And I use those graphs to show how and unpack more the complex interaction between the Jupiter, the Saturn, and the Pluto. In fact, there was a period there where Mars was in there too right when the pandemic was just really launching there in February and March of 2020.
CB: Yeah, that pile-up of a lot of planets in Capricorn and then a little bit in Aquarius. That was really the lineup. And that was the one that André Barbault… Because you were given a lot of credit last year for the work you did in Cosmos and Psyche which very clearly in archetypal terms broadly pointed to that as being an important alignment for a number of those different reasons. But then Barbault had actually done a study on pandemics and had identified that time range as a potential for a major pandemic specifically because he narrowly focused on that question of when have pandemics occurred historically in the past and what alignments might indicate that in the future.
RT: Yes. He particularly was looking at when you get a clustering of several planets within a very narrow range of degrees being a factor. That wasn’t the only thing he paid attention to. He was really one of the really key figures in the development of mundane astrology. And he was an influence on Charles Harvey in England who became the leading mundane astrologer in the UK, and published with Nick Campion, and maybe possibly one other person coauthored a book on mundane astrology. It’s been enough years that I’m not remembering the third author, which I should. But Charles was the leading figure in that. André Barbault, he goes back to the ‘40s and ‘50s, and there’s very interesting letters exchanged between Carl Gustav Jung and Barbault about how astrology how Jung was finding astrology’s value.
CB: Right. Yeah. We talked a little bit about this last year. I did an episode that people can go back to if they want to study more about that in both your statements as well as Barbault’s statements in episode 254, titled Misconceptions About Mundane Astrology in the Media where it’s like there was this article by The New York Times in May of will Coronavirus kill astrology and whether the pandemic was completely missed by the astrologers. And our whole discussion was actually about how Barbault and you had done a pretty good job through looking at historical cycles at identifying this upcoming one as a difficult one. So going back to-
RT: The Times is so valuable for a lot of things, but I don’t go to it for astrological accuracy, sympathetic knowledge of the astrological discipline. It’s not its cup of tea.
CB: Well, I meant to ask you about that as a digression because it’s been actually coming up recently, and I’m a little bit nervous about seeing some of the younger generation of astrologers has just come into the field in the past few years or the past decade. It’s been a period of astrology flourishing again in a way that I don’t think we’ve seen since the 1960s or ‘70s. But there’s been weirdly also a drop off it seems in the skeptical movement over the past decade. And I remember in even the 2000s, the skeptic movements were much stronger and had better leadership and was much more antagonistic against things like astrology, but it seems like that’s fallen by the wayside a little bit over the past decade. But I was curious about you always make that statement about how astrology is regarded as the gold standard of pseudoscience and-
RT: Or superstition generally. Yes, it’s what you want to compare. If you want to say something is really not worth our intellectual serious engagement, you would compare it to astrology if you’re well educated.
CB: So my question is what I wrote down is, how do you deal with practicing a subject that is viewed with such disdain by most of academia as well as scientists? How does one deal with the place that astrology holds relative to science presently? How do you deal with skeptics in particular? And is it possible to change somebody’s mind who is skeptical? And what does it actually really take to do that in tangible terms? Can it be done with an intellectual argument or demonstration? Or does it only happen by having some personal experience of astrology that is impressive?
RT: Well, you packed a lot into that.
CB: Yeah, sorry. This is like a full episode in itself.
RT: Yeah, it would be. Well, just a couple headlines. First of all, I’ve argued and I believe this is the case that it’s actually somewhat valuable for those of us who are in touch with the extraordinary value of astrology what a gift it is. It gives insight whether you’re looking at the arts, whether you’re looking at history, whether you’re looking at this at psychology, whether you’re looking at virtually any field, astrology provides insights that nothing else– even philosophy, the nature of the importance of the nature of archetypes for making sense of all sorts of philosophical mysteries like nominalism versus realism and so forth. So, astrology is such a gift, it’s such a privilege, such a spiritual honor that those of us who have been initiated into it have been bestowed. It would be very easy to get inflated with that knowledge. The person who knows astrology well has an insight vision, a vision into the interior dynamics of the Anima Mundi, that the non-astrologer, the average person, even the brilliant scientist or man or woman of letters does not have available to them. And that can lend itself to a hubris, an inflated sense of superiority of spiritual elite, and having the social reality that astrology has been so widely despised, not just relegated to second class status, but really scorned or actively opposed and in quite intensely shaming ways. In some ways that acts as a humbling compensation for the potential inflation that can come with this special privilege that astrologers have. I think that’s helpful to keep in mind. It keeps us humble, which is something we generally can use.
And then the second thing, I think you’re right that there has been… I don’t think there’s been a dwindling among the skeptics of a certain generation. The Richard Dawkins of the world are still around, but they’re getting older. But there’s new ones that are quite ready to take their place. But I think there has been, particularly with the millennials, the generation born under the big long Uranus-Neptune conjunction between the late ’80 and the ‘90s. They don’t have the same what I would call epistemological armoring. There isn’t such a rigid boundary between what’s truth and what’s imagination. There’s more of a sense that this is… There’s a more mysterious relationship between the imagination and reality and that we are always seeing through our imagination, but there’s a requirement for a rigorous imagination. You have to have rigor and imagination, not just an undisciplined one. But even the most skeptical scientist or philosophical reductive skeptic is seeing things through his or her imagination as just a reductive imagination. It’s a filter. It’s only letting certain things through.
And so, I think this is where there is tremendous value in going through experiences that will dissolve that armored epistemological barrier and open oneself up to the possibility that for example, consciousness pervades the universe and is not just a function of Homo sapiens or of the higher mammals as they’re called, but rather is say that we are embedded in a conscious intelligent universe and that our conscious intelligence is the cosmos conscious intelligence universe in human form, that we are cosmic expressions of the whole. It’s just that it looks like astrology suggests that the universe has left quite valuable clues to that part of itself that is Homo sapiens to be able to read symbolically the movements of the planets so as to live a better more aware life.
I think you’re getting at the importance of having some balance between skeptical rigor and just a kind of undisciplined credulity where you just think anything, anything goes. That’s why I am always encouraging serious astrological students and researchers to… There’s ethics of being a good astrologer like don’t make generalizations on the basis of one or two seemingly big correlations that you’ve noticed and then just say, that’s what Pluto in the 5th house means or that’s what a Chiron midpoint signifies because I’ve seen this in my chart. One should be able to give a dozen compelling examples that other people can assess from the public record, famous individuals, important historical events, significant cultural milestones and then you look at where the planets were. And you don’t just ascribe something to your new favorite astrological factor without first taking into account the factors that have been most supported by empirical evidence that many people have come to a consensus about.
For example, there’s pretty much a universal consensus today among practicing astrologers who use the outer three planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, as well as the classical planets all through Saturn, there’s pretty much universal consensus about their meanings. And you can see these meanings played out whether you are looking at natal charts or you’re looking at personal transits or personal progressions or whether you’re looking at synastry and relationships between individual chart or if you’re looking at world transits, the whole mundane astrology and the collective cycles. If we’re going to be identifying the meaning of a new planetary body or celestial body or if we’re going to be making a claim about what this factor means in that chart, we need to be able to back it up with compelling and substantial evidence. This is where the mainstream modern educational system in higher education particularly as you go through college and graduate school and so forth, it’s built-up certain standards of critical thinking and of bringing in evidence and cogent argument that will support a position.
And so, when one is writing a Ph.D. dissertation, you have to meet those standards in order to pass and enter into the community of fellow PhDs. Those are valuable virtues and disciplines to cultivate as a scholar and astrologers have often been rather a little looser in doing so. I mean, a lot of understandable reasons in earlier centuries and earlier generations. But if we’re going to make that bridge to the mainstream educated world of deep thinking morally and intellectually sophisticated members of our society, we have to use critical thinking and solid empirical evidence and cogent argumentation in order to communicate the principles and the convictions that we are implementing in our practice. So that’s basically the way in which we can incorporate the skeptical or the rigorous or the let’s look at what’s the simplest, most compelling explanation for this phenomenon without getting into some arcane possible explanation. Well, we have to incorporate that thinking in balance with a disciplined imagination and a capacity for symbolic insight and knowledge of the esoteric traditions that are in the astrological world, which you’ve done so much to help vivify for many people. So I think it’s that balance that we need.
CB: As somebody whose life’s work seems to have been very much directed towards making the single best case for astrology to non-astrologers in Cosmos and Psyche, to what extent though is it each astrologer’s job to attempt to do that and make the case for astrology or prove it to those who might be skeptical versus sometimes there’s been a tendency, it seems like over the past few decades, to instead pull back and become more insular and say, if people don’t believe astrology is legitimate, that’s fine, that’s up to them but to the extent that even no matter how rigorous Cosmos and Psyche was that it doesn’t meet up to, let’s say, the scientific definition of demonstrating something statistically and therefore fall short of what many scientists might consider to be scientific. Will we ever be able to truly prove astrology in a way that meets that? And do we need to continue trying to? Should we still be striving for that? Or is it something that should just stay more insular?
RT: Yeah, very good question. First of all, I don’t think everybody has the dharma or the life calling to take on that particular role. Some people-
CB: Was that the goal? Was that ultimately the goal though? I think it was, but-
RT: Everybody would be trying to prove astrology.
CB: No, I was curious for you personally, was that the goal with Cosmos and Psyche all along, the primary one?
RT: Well, it was basically to give some hint of the power of the astrological perspective and the empirical data. Cosmos and Psyche has barely scratched the surface of my research and of the data I’ve gotten. But I just thought, “Okay, I’m just going to do these four cycles and do it in a way that will help and give a philosophical and historical context so that people could enter into the astrological perspective.” And a lot of people who did not know astrology and had only read my earlier book, The Passion of the Western Mind, which was not an astrological book but which is a history of Western thought. And it was being used in a lot of universities, it still is as a history of Western philosophy or Western thought, that kind of thing. But then they read Cosmos and Psyche, and a good number of people who didn’t know astrology or had any reason to think astrology was worth paying any attention to got opened up to it by reading that in that sequence. And in some sense, I wrote Passion of the Western Mind as an entree to an astrological world view. I used The Passion of the Western Mind as a way of giving people an understanding of the evolution of our cosmology and of archetypes from Plato to Jung and so forth that would help people make, the Copernican Revolution and so forth, that would help people be prepared for when Cosmos and Psyche came out, which was originally going to be one big book and it turned into two rather large books.
So yeah, that was to a certain extent the intention, but I think it’s very valuable for whether it’s a field or a person to go into an insular mode for a while to protect something that’s growing that’s not ready to be invaded by skeptics. And I think that’s what astrology did for some years. There was a time there in the 70s when some of the because of the Gauquelin research coming out the 50s and 60s, and by the 70s certain astrologers including John Addy in particular in England, and Charles Harvey were getting the sense that the statistical support for astrology was going to make a big difference. And some scientists who had no appreciation of astrology at all, like Hans Eysenck were very compelled by the statistics and felt that we had to pay attention to it even if it went against our basic beliefs, which it did for [03:00:53]. But scientists are human beings and sceptics are human beings, and human beings have a genius for walling out certain data that they would find challenging to their most cherished belief system. Often, that belief system is deeply intertwined with their own sense of identity and what their careers what their whole way of defining themselves. So to let in this data as being determinative would be so threatening to so many things that it’s easier to just say, “Oh, this is faulty evidence or it’s faulty data.” The problem with the statistical research is that much of the research wasn’t sophisticated enough to either recognize the patterns, although they did recognize the patterns with the huge Gauquelin research data basis. They recognized some patterns. But it wasn’t something that every astrologer would just say, “Okay, what’s Gauquelin saying about this? Now I can use this in my next reading.” The readings were coming from the esoteric tradition and from the astrologers’ own practice, it wasn’t coming from the statistical correlations which were too approximate, too rough-edged. It was too brute a tool, an instrument to get us to something as nuanced as the astrological correlations.
CB: -was reductive?
RT: Yeah, quite reductive. Now, let me just say that there seems to have been in the last few years, quite an increase in interest in a more sophisticated approach to astrological research. I should mention, when Cosmos and Psyche came out, the Institute of Noetic Sciences, its lead scientist, Dean Radin called me up and asked if I would do an interview with him. And he and he said, “Well, I’m convinced,” and when I talked to him about it, I didn’t think that statistics were a nuanced, sophisticated enough, subtle enough tool to be able to, you know- You have to be able to take in multiple variables at once. You also have to have a sense of archetypal multivalence, that is any given planetary principle can manifest in physical ways, psychological ways, relational ways, but it also can manifest in destructive or creative ways, in trivial forms but also in very profound or noble forms. You can’t tell just by looking at the birth chart whether somebody is going to become Hitler or Chaplin, you know, to give one famous example. So Dean Radin said, you know, there are forms of statistical analysis using what technically are called fuzzy categories that could encompass something like archetypal multivalence. He was already thinking in 2006 that we could increase the sophistication of the statistical analysis. But my friend [Will Kippen] who is a physicist and he deeply studied with Stan Grof and with me as well, and has written about astrology at times and given presentations to science conferences about it, he is in touch with a number of statistical researchers that are doing quite remarkable work right now. He’s writing a paper that will summarise a lot of this that will come out soon, I hope I can remember to send you a copy when he’s got one ready. Because even though I myself find quantitative forms of analysis to be too insufficient for registering the extraordinary correlations that the symbolically attuned kind of poetic in a disciplined way, but that kind of poetic archetypal imagination that is also able to be astronomically mathematically rigorous, etc. Where you’re not just fitting in anything into the categories, but you have a good sense for what is a true discernment. You really have to use discernment and you have to use self-critical rigor, I talked about this towards the end of Cosmos and Psyche. So, I think statistics may make may come in but will probably never equal the human mind and the full human faculties that in the same way, statistics are never going to register why Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto is the amazing work it is, it takes the whole human being with all his or her faculties including the emotions and the imagination and the somatic experience in order to take in the meaning of Beethoven’s music. Beethoven’s music is visible archetypically in the birth chart, you can see his birth chart and go, “Wow, that’s so much fits his music.” But statistically, you’re not any more than you’re going to be able to register quantitatively the physical manifestation of the music and what the mathematical form of it is not going to duplicate what the human being can experience with their whole soul and body when they’re listening to the music. But that’s how the archetypes speak, it’s to the whole soul and body and spirit and mind, and not just to this quantitative form of analysis which is very valuable in certain respects but very limited and others.
CB: Yeah, this was something I’ve been thinking about lately about how much anyone can ever be convinced of astrology being something legitimate or worth looking into through an intellectual argument versus how much somebody who’s truly skeptical about it would have to have an experience of it in seeing their own transits line up and experiencing an event, and just how notable that correlation can be in living through it in order to truly have any sort of, quote-unquote “belief” in astrology or belief that it’s somehow legitimate. But that’s a whole whole thing. So, bring it.
RT: I might just quickly say on that point that I think you do have to go through some transformation of your epistemology– that is how you know things and what you regard as being true, a valid way of knowing– you have to go through a transformation at the epistemological level, and that means not just- Most people open up to astrology or/and to other more expanded forms of knowing through going through some kind of a transformation that’s existential. Just as people go to an astrologer or a therapist when they’re in crisis then they feel, “Okay, the current tools that I have to live my life are not adequate. I’m going to try to expand the range of my tools in order to get some insight to live a better life or look more skillfully and holy.” That often requires some kind of a crisis, which our world is going through right now and is therefore probably more likely to open up to a wider range of perspectives, unfortunately, also a wider range of fake news and disinformation too and weird beliefs. But the opening of what we and others have called the epistemologies of the heart that involve the empathic imagination, the the somatic, the symbolic, and not just a narrow version of rationalist empiricism that views quantitative measurement as the only measurement of what is real, I think most sophisticated intellectuals today have gotten past that. Yes, there’s a good number of people who are still stuck in the reductionist camp. But most sophisticated intellectuals, I mean, read something like Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity. It’s just written 30 years ago and he’s got such an embrace of the modern intellectual and philosophical scene, and so recognizes the need to transcend such a narrow reductionist perspective as being determinative of our worldview. It’s a severely limited worldview and to live within it is to live in a kind of prison, a kind of iron cage. Also, there’s destructive consequences that come from living in such an objectifying worldview and we’re seeing the results in our social and ecological crisis of our time.
CB: Yeah, part of the epistemological issue you just mentioned, but maybe part of it is the issue of the scientific world view that the human senses are fundamentally flawed and untrustworthy in terms of their ability to accurately perceive the world around them. Whereas for astrologers and in looking at astrology, they’re actually crucial or paramount in terms of accurately being able to understand the correlations and the symbolic importance of what’s happening in human life on a individual basis.
RT: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And the principle that the senses can’t be trusted, that our direct subjective human experience can’t be trusted, that we need to transcend that with a mathematization of our experience that can be registered on a machine, you know, it comes out of John Locke, Galileo, Descartes, Bacon were all kind of moving in that direction. The distinction between what’s called primary qualities and secondary qualities was a big thing at that point. Only primary qualities like mass, weight, things that could be measured, those were real. But everything else that people experience are just subjective realities that can’t be seen as scientific. I think what’s happened is that there was for quite a while a kind of colonization by the reductive natural sciences, a colonization of the human sciences and of the humanities in higher education. And there’s a turn that’s going on that’s recognizing that the natural sciences, and particularly reductive natural sciences, are not a sufficient methodological universe to encompass what the humanities, philosophy, religion, psychology, literature… They can’t be subjected to what was very useful in developing a mechanistic science. There is a movement right now within higher education to recognize the need to elevate the importance of the humanities, of a liberal education that includes the sciences with the humanities, that includes philosophy, literature, the arts and depth psychology not just looking at psychology in terms of behaviorism, genetics and pharmacology. So, yeah. Well, I’m imagining we’ve probably carried our audience long past their- Hopefully, they’re listening to this in segments rather than all in one sitting.
CB: Yeah, I think it will be broken up into chapters. Just to bring things back full circle. Your book was published in 2006. Interestingly, after the discovery of the dwarf planet Eris in 2005, Pluto was actually demoted by the International Astronomical Union in 2006 from planet status down to a new category that they created of dwarf planet. This created some arguments or questions among astrologers of whether that had any significance symbolically or had any relevance for astrologers, or if astrologers should just keep on doing what they had always done up to that point with Pluto. Do you have any feelings or thoughts about that?
RT: Well, the first thing to point out is that the decision to demote Pluto was made by a group of astronomers. There’s a lot of planetary scientists who were in general quite opposed to this decision and were very vocal about it and still quite feel that it was not the right decision. Even in the astronomical, the IEU that made the decision, the particular committee that came to the decision, the head of that committee was Owen Gingerich. He was my professor of astronomy back at Harvard in the late 1960s. He’s the world’s expert on Copernicus and Kepler, a great, great man. He was the head of that committee and he disagreed with the decision. He issued a dissent on the decision. And a lot of people feel that the addition of this what had never been used before as a criterion for deciding if something were a dwarf planet is whether the planet can clear the neighbourhood of other bodies that it has sufficient gravitational power and mass to do that, and as many planetary scientists said, “Well, if you put the Earth out in the Kuiper belt where Pluto is, it wouldn’t clear the neighborhood either. So one has to recognize that this decision is probably temporary– I just read an article within the last couple of weeks in a science journal about how this is seen as being a provisional temporary and very possibly erroneous categorization that will be rethought. But the main thing to recognize, and this is so characteristic of our postmodern era, is to recognize that these are human categories; planet, dwarf planet. These are names that we come up with. I mean, planets used to include the Sun and Moon because with the Greeks, the word planet meant that it wandered. Planetes meant it was a wanderer. Which means that if you looked out, all the stars each night stayed in the same relationship to each other as they moved across the sky. But the planets like Mars and Mercury and Venus, but also the Sun and the Moon, they gradually moved across the ecliptic. They had different zodiacal signs behind them at different times of the year and over the years, and so they were seen as wanderers, and therefore planets. Now, planets mean something different than it did before. So these are categories, and it certainly didn’t make a difference in terms of anything that I or my fellow researchers in the astrological community that I’m familiar with in the archetypal research collective that’s kind of emerged out of CIS. Pluto is an extremely powerful planetary influence and in fact it is the very archetype of power and it didn’t get diminished by its categorization as a dwarf planet. It probably carries very little as to what human beings call it as a dwarf planet It is smaller than the other planets. But interestingly Eris, which was the new body that helped trigger the recategorization, they originally thought Eris was larger than Pluto as well as more massive, but it turns out that Pluto is slightly larger than Eris. Eris has slightly more mass than Pluto, Pluto has slightly more volume and size than Eris. Because Eris and these other bodies that are further out have such huge cycles and acentric cycles, you can’t get the same data. So far we haven’t been able to get the same quality of data relative to the inner planets, relative to world transits, that we have for all the planets out through Pluto. But I think the fact that we are discovering all these other celestial bodies and these other circumstellar discs like the Kuiper belt and the scattered discs and the Oort cloud, we’re basically recognizing that our solar system is a permeable body or system. We’re recognising that it’s got a kind of permeable boundary with the rest of the galaxy, we’re opening up to the larger galaxy just as we’ve recognized that our galaxy is one of many many galaxies that it’s in larger clusters and superclusters. Part of our postmodern moment is recognising how we subjectively categorize things and there’s nothing absolute about a term like planet or dwarf planet, etc, or male and female, that the masculine/feminine binary is not the only way of understanding the richness of human gender and sexuality, etc. We’re recognising that certain assumptions that seemed to be absolute certitudes and built into the nature of the cosmic reality are, in fact, human constructs and are permeable and are culturally inflected, etc. We’re also recognizing that just as we are not skin encapsulated Cartesian egos, but we are in a permeable porous relationship with all of life around us and in us, and in relationship to each other, and in relationship to the earth community animals, the air, the water, the microbes, and so forth, and the stars and planets. So, also, is our solar system in a kind of permeable relationship to the larger galactic hall and so forth. I see these new discoveries and changes in naming and so forth as all being part of a kind of postmodern crucible of underworld descent where the old identities and the old structures and certainties are being dissolved so that we can enter into a richer engagement with the whole of life, and not constrained by our assumptions and the egoic bubble that has cut us off from a greater immersion in the flow of life.
CB: Yeah. In terms of the downgrading, it’s been interesting in terms of the idea of making big things small and small things big that when Pluto was first discovered, they estimated that it must be about the size of Earth. But then throughout the 20th century, it was continually downgraded in size and they realized it was smaller and smaller and smaller. Then eventually we did have the actual demotion of Pluto in 2006 by astronomers, and Mike Brown the astronomer who discovered Eris wrote a book later, ironically titled, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming. But then eventually, the New Horizons space probe was also launched in 2006, that very same year, and that ended up doing a flyby of Pluto in 2015, and catching some of the first actual close-up photographs of it and scientific readings of Pluto that ended up over the course of the past several years, giving us much more information about Pluto than we had before. Interestingly, it turned out that Pluto is much more interesting to scientists than thought previously, because now they’re starting to think that it has a rock core as well as a large deal of water underneath the surface, which could then end up making it one of the more interesting planets in the solar system because it could be some of the elements that could support life on Mars, some sort of biological life or something like that. So there may yet still be, you know, a re-examining of Pluto or maybe its importance might be magnified again at some point in the future with some of these recent discoveries after it was actually witnessed close by for the first time.
RT: Yeah. It’s very interesting you bring up that correlation between 2005 and 2006 because the planetary scientists who were doing that mission were outraged when Pluto got demoted by that group of astronomers and there was quite a conflict between Mike Brown and the head of the mission for the Horizon. I have a nephew who is a planetary scientist who works at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories and he told me, “You know, among the actual scientists who are doing this research, they paid no attention to whether Pluto is called a planet or dwarf planet.” He said Mike Brown is kind of like an aggressive trickster who likes to push buttons and he likes to upset that applecart. But he said, “Among the people who are actually doing the research, they’re just doing the research and they kind of stay outside of the conflict between the ones in the scientific community who really opposed the change and the ones who were in favor of the change. I just don’t actually give it a lot of focus myself. I refer to Pluto as a planet, which whether you call it a dwarf planet or not, I mean, a dwarf human being is a human being with just as much nobility and potential for high achievement and value a big human being. That’s not a particular feature that I think determines significance. I don’t pay that much attention to it so that’s the shorthand response to that. It looks like it’ll probably go through some changes in the future, there could be many more planets fully called planets, or they may be fewer depending on, you know, what a particular community of scientific interpreters decide at a given moment. That’s always in flux.
CB: Yeah. Some of those distinctions that astronomers make are not always necessarily relevant for astrologers, but it’s just interesting symbolically some of the things that are happening on Earth and some of the things that are happening in terms of our investigation of this planet as humanity, as well as just, you know, now Mike Brown is searching for and they think there is another large planetary body somewhere out there that may or may not be discovered in the not too distant future, and then we’ll see what sort of things happen in humanity that coincide with that discovery if it happens.
RT: Yeah, which I’m very interested in. I think Mike Brown’s team is doing great work. The discovery of Sedna, for example, it’s quite important. We don’t know exactly what all this is opening up to but clearly our understanding, I mean, what’s happened in the last 100 years from the time Hubble and Shapley and Clyde Tombaugh and so forth were doing their research. From that, the recognition of the many galaxies, the expanding universe, expanding Cosmos, cosmic background radiation, then recognizing exoplanets and trans-Neptunian bodies, the Kuiper belt, the likelihood of the Oort cloud, and so forth… We have such a different understanding of the universe than we did before. Maybe what I’d like to end on right now getting back to Pluto and the discovery of the outer three planets which Dane Rudhyar beautifully described that they were the ambassadors of the galaxy. And for 18th century, 19th century, and 20th century, those three bodies were the ones that basically pushed us past the Saturnian boundaries of our reality principle and opened us to a much bigger universe, a deeper one, and they were the transpersonal planets as they’ve been called and so forth. The discovery of those three planets astronomically through the telescope, the fact that as those are being discovered and as the inner world was opening up through the interior self explorations of whether it was the romantics and then the depth psychologist and William James and Jung and Anthony Wolfe and Groff and so forth, by the time you get to Groff and you get to recognize that these powerful archetypal complexes that are associated with the death-rebirth experience and the reliving of our own birth, that these perinatal stages are all so closely connected to the four outer planets of Pluto, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus. That the understanding of the inner meaning of these planets and the discovery of the outer meaning of the planet or the discovery of the outer existence of the planets, and that this is happening right at the time that our civilization and our species and our planet is going through a death-rebirth crucible of transformation, seems to me of great significance. It’s as if the Cosmos is giving us, you know, like the breadcrumbs to make our way out of the dark forest to home. It’s like it’s giving us the clues of insight that we require to help mediate and navigate this tremendous transformational moment that we are in as a culture and as an Earth community. I think it’s a great gift and it shows the Cosmos in some senses cares about the Earth and is paying attention to it, and every time an astrologer sees correlations between the movements of the planets and a person’s life or their birth chart in their and their biography and so forth, every time they look at where the planets are now and see something happening at the same time and see the correlation, that’s a sign of the Earth being bathed by the cosmos with meaning. Like, we are a moving centre of cosmic meaning and therefore have significance in the larger scheme of things even though we’re just this tiny, meaning-seeking planet.
So to me, astrology provides for those who have the great grace to open up to it or to be opened up to it by life, by circumstances, by opening of their heart and mind, and some initiatory experience. Anybody who has that gift, that grace, is in a position to be able to feel that we are embedded in a larger cosmos of love and of deep meaning, and astrology is a kind of gift from the goddess of the cosmos as beauty and love. That’s basically how I look at it. Cosmos seeks a discerning partner who will love and glory in the beauty that it’s displaying in this way.
CB: That’s a brilliant point to end on, and just your point of humanity being such an important turning point and shortly after the discovery of Pluto having the development of the atomic bomb and for the first time, the ability to wipe itself out and completely destroy itself, but not yet. And also being on the verge of such an important turning point where it’s also reaching outside of the Earth and outside of its own solar system and the potential for other really great more positive things, but it clearly being an important turning point. That’s a great point to end on.
RT: Yes. Yeah. And Chris, you’re a great interviewer. I really appreciate the care that you take in preparing for an interview and then organizing it and bringing high quality both to the technical and to the substantive parts of the interview. I know you’re giving great gifts yourself to the astrological community month after month, and it’s been a pleasure to have this very long afternoon conversation with you.
CB: Thank you, I appreciate that. And I have to apologize– forgive me for my own Sun-Pluto and Scorpio tendency to take things to the utmost extreme, and having what was supposed to be a very short two-hour conversation and blowing it up into a four-hour one. But thank you for bearing with me and thanks for joining me for this today. Let’s mention one more time really briefly Changing of The Gods, because that’s really something that we’ll go into much more detail about some of your work on Uranus and Pluto when it comes out in January. Right?
RT: Right. Actually, it’s February. I think the full launch date is February 22nd. Like, 2/22/22.
RT: Yeah, there’s a-
CB: There’s a whole trailer on their website, which is changingofthegods.com.
RT: Yeah, and we can thank Kenny Ausubel for conceiving the film. The film was very much made in kind of collaboration between him and Max DeArmon and Theo Badashi, and also Louie Schwartzberg. It was quite a collaborative effort and one thing to keep in mind is that it’s based on Cosmos and Psyche that was finished and published before this Uranus-Pluto square began. So everything that’s in the film is basically kind of examining, “Well, given the patterns and the meanings that Richard Tarnas set out in Cosmos and Psyche, let’s look at see when Uranus and Pluto next came into alignment– which is after the book after he published it– how does it bear out in terms of the patterns? You know, in terms of civil rights, in terms of the women’s movement, in terms of ecology, in terms of scientific and technological breakthroughs and so forth. They’ve done a really good job over the last seven years and I appreciate they would come to me for, you know, I’m interviewed a lot and fortunately, two of my students; Max DeArmon and Theo that I mentioned, played a major role in the making of the film and they were very dedicated to keeping the astrology accurate as well. Stan Grof plays a role. Well, you’ll see there’s a lot of major thinkers and visionaries and activists of our time play a role in those 10 episodes. So I think there’s going to be like a pre-launch period in February where each day one episode will be shown for free, anybody can watch it. And then I think February 22nd is when it gets launched for everybody to be able to see the whole thing.
CB: Great, awesome. Well, people can check that out at changingofthegods.com. I’ll be interviewing the director, Kenny, very soon for an upcoming episode of the astrology podcast. I think it just does a great job of giving much more insight into the meaning of Pluto by studying some of those historical cycles. So people should check it out. And yeah, I guess that’s it. So thanks a lot for joining me for this today, I really appreciate it.
RT: Thank you Chris, and thank you all of you who will listen to us. I hope we conversed about things that you might find valuable.
CB: Definitely. All right. Thanks, everyone, for watching or listening to this episode of theastrologypodcast.com and we’ll see you again next time.
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