Pluto in Aquarius ~ Peril and Promise
Imagine yourself standing on a hillside overlooking a plot of farmland in 1777. Let’s say the farmland is in England and worked by peasants of the serf class. When other people look out from the hillside they see fields, being worked by people who were never given a choice to do anything different, and the timeless art of farming and agriculture continuing along just as it has done for thousands of years.
But when you look out you see something different…. you see into the future. You know that mechanical looms are coming that will make the production of fabric and textiles so much faster and more efficient. A chemist named Lavoisier writes his treatise on chemistry and suddenly, chemicals and their many applications become a stunning new vista of research and discovery. They will propel many of the young industries forward, from treating textiles to make them softer, more pliant, and more durable to supporting a wide number of medical advances.
You hear tell of a book published last year that is causing quite a stir, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations by a Scotsman named Adam Smith. Among the radical ideas in this treatise are the notions that laborious tasks should be divided and divided again into smaller, manageable tasks, that when steps can be taken to save time and money they should be, and the concept of the invisible hand…an inducement for merchants and the wealthy class to hold onto their money and build up protection/military might in their home shores.
Lost in the conversation is Smith’s devotion to Christianity and the morals set forth by that religion, his views on economics become decoupled from this other great work, On the Theory of Moral Sentiments. You may pause to wonder what would have happened if these two sensibilities had stayed together. Colonial expansion has already begun, radiating out from the shores of England and Europe, and these new notions of capital seem to, if anything, make an even more frenzied pace of empire building more inevitable.
While huge strides are being made in agricultural and commercial industries, the revolutionary spirit is catching spark both in America and in Europe. The year before those crazy Americans wrote their Declaration of Independence – stunningly brief document influenced by thinkers like Rosseau, Hobbes, and Locke, and intend to build their republic upon it. In Europe, the embers of the revolutionary spirit are catching flame most especially in France,
In France, the lower classes have had enough and are moving to overthrow La Regime Ancienne – the Ancient Regime. This revolution is not the overthrowing of a foreign power like the American Revolution, but rather a civil war where the underclass decides they have had enough. A vacuum of power will be created during the revolution that will take another twenty years to fill, in the meantime, the Reign of Terror will commence with nobles of all kinds being put to death in public spectacles. Thomas Payne encourages the revolutionary spirit while Edmund Burke warns of its potential pitfalls.
In some ways life will never be the same. The textile industry is poised to be changed most of all, the literal clothes on our back, transforming radically and creating seismic downstream shifts as they do so. Entire ways of life are about to be eradicated as certain kinds of labor are replaced by machines and the dawning of the Industrial Revolution begins. Relocations of large groups of people occur as families who previously made their livings in farming and animal husbandry, move to cities and take on jobs in nascent factories that are just beginning to get underway. Generalization: the ability of a single person to perform many different tasks, is about to be replaced by specialization in which a single person will develop narrow and deep knowledge about a specific task.
You note, as you look over the fields, that in the West, that our notion of power over the past 2000 years has focused on kingship in one form or another – on a single man (or much less often, woman) being the point from which all power over country and people radiates out from. It seems that this is now changing…the Machine is replacing the Monarch, the balance of power is shifting, it is centralizing itself not around a specific person but rather a specific process…and indeed you suspect that metaphors of newly forming governments will make heavy use of mechanistic imagery – gears, weights, balances, pulleys, and parts.
At the same time, a German philosopher named Immanuel Kant will soon burst onto the scene with what will later be termed the first “theory of mind.” Also, a devout Christian like Smith, Kant pits himself against the Scottish atheist David Hume, and attempts to reconcile the success of science and progress that daily overturned sacred cows (like removing the Earth from the center of the universe and replacing it with the Sun) with his own spiritual devotion.
His Critique of Pure Reason aimed to do exactly that, by centering the individual and the individual’s mind – it was in many ways the first modern attempt to articulate a sense of interiority. Whether he intended to or not, Kant paved the way for a bevy of philosophers and psychiatrists and psychologists after him. The sense of tribe and family that had already been chipped away by earlier thinkers like Rosseau and Montaigne was now finally and definitively replaced by the primacy of the individual man or woman, their thoughts, feelings, and interior lives.
Nature was no longer a source of wonder…it was a machine and could be made sense of and ruled by other machines. The sense of wonder did not disappear though, it simply moved inward and became everyone’s own inner life and aspirations.
A brilliant composer named Mozart is all the rage at this moment and a boy named Beethoven is seven years old at the time of this imagining. The former will be buried a pauper, never truly finding a way to make a sustainable living from his art, and the latter will experience the first true rock and roll career complete with bombastic burial 50 years from now. It is in Beethoven’s music that you will hear the early stirrings of a movement that later will be called Romanticism…the aspirational and older sister to Existentialism…a movement that seeks to vindicate Nature and at the very least ignore if not outright destroy the mechanistic processes that seem to be overtaking every corner of life.
You may have a sense that the stage is being set for major actions to come…ancient regimes can be toppled, but as that chemist Lavoisier teaches, “nature abhors a vacuum” and so it is with vacuums of power as well.
It seems that so many people cannot be displaced without unrest, that as large groups begin to measure their work by money made or lost, exploitative practices will surge, and that as people become more urbanized, educated, longer living, and wealthier, slavery – still rampant in the Americas, will be less and less tolerated …it may even be the wedge issue that leads to a civil war.
Meanwhile, the following year will see the first ratification of a treaty between a Native American tribe and the newly formed US Congress. This will follow several other treaties and promises…many of which will be broken, as a state sanctioned land grab of huge proportions occurs in the name of progress.
As a result of these changes, divisions will be deepened to the point of war-making, people will live longer, be healthier for more of their lives, wealth will be redistributed and centralized, class mobility becomes an aspiration and reality for some, political power is mechanized through bureaucracy leading to more stability and consistency, colonial expansion is energized as is the exploitation that goes along with it, the individual replaces the group in terms of importance, nature moves from being a marvel to being a nuisance that needs to be controlled, and all sacrifices in name of progress and technology are deemed worthwhile.
The vision described above covers the last 20-year period that the planet Pluto tread through the aerial realm of Aquarius. And guess what? That astrological event is about to happen again.
In 2023 the planet Pluto makes its initial move into the fixed Air sign of Aquarius. I say initial, because over the next year and a half, Pluto will move between the signs of Aquarius and Capricorn during its annual retrograde periods…. creating a bit of an in-between time from an Astrological perspective.
That said, Pluto’s initial ingress into Aquarius kicks off a 20-year period of Plutonic action that will feel very different in some key ways from the last 20-year period of Pluto in Capricorn. Soulful seekers of all kinds need to be aware and responsive to the changes that this planetary shift will usher in.
Before we can get into what to expect when Pluto shifts into Aquarius, we need to understand a bit about the planet Pluto itself
Pluto is the smallest planet in our solar system – and from the viewpoint of astrology, Pluto is always considered a planet. It rules the sign of Scorpio and is affiliated with the 8th house. Pluto’s name is given to it by the Roman God of the Underworld, and the energy of Pluto is seen as intense, powerful, and destructive. For a detailed look at working with the planet Pluto as a Holy Helper, please see this article.
The other half of the equation in thinking about Pluto’s ingress into Aquarius is of course, the zodiac sign Aquarius. Aquarius is the 11th sign in the zodiac and rules the 11th house, it is a Fixed sign, and its element is Air. The polarity (opposite sign) of Aquarius is Leo. Aquarius is often represented by a man or woman pouring water from a vessel and is sometimes referred to as the “water bearer”. Aquarius may also be represented by an angelic being. For more on Aquarius, see this article.
Gradual and Immediate Destruction:
When thinking about how Pluto works, I find it useful to reflect on the Tower card in the Tarot. Pluto is both the initial lightning strike that blasts the tower, but it is also the slower work of forces like gravity and inertia that bring the tower down brick by brick. While Pluto-sensitive or Aquarius-sensitive people may feel the shift in signs more intensely, it is a mistake to assume that the moment Pluto changes signs all hell will break loose. That of course is always a possibility, but Pluto does its work over a long period of time…so the opportunity for both immediate and gradual destruction is ever-present with Pluto.
And what exactly is being destroyed? In the above exercise, the fundamental shift is one of power: from a man, a monarch, a kingship model, to one of a machine. The mechanisms through which power was consolidated were radically transformed…from a single individual to an abstract idea of capital and empire. This is because Pluto, at the end of the day, is about Power. What it means, where it goes, how its collected, stored, and wielded.
Plutonian transits typically undo our current understandings of power and re-make them into something different. During a Pluto transit it is normal and should be expected to see the most powerful groups at the beginning of the transit either lose their power or reshape themselves in an effort to hold onto their power. The “flavor” of the transit is given depth and scope by the sign within which the transit occurs…in this case, Aquarius.
At first glance, it is tempting to say that Pluto’s transit in Aquarius is about restoring power back to the people. Aquarius after all is strongly associated with social justice, communities, and the revolutionary spirit. And as we saw above, two major political revolutions did occur during the last time Pluto made its way through this sign.
Furthermore, life for many people was improved during this transit. In the developing world, many people started to live longer – in no small part due to huge medical advances, become better educated, and have more money. But there were also losses. Traditional ways of life were lost, communities were dissolved, and family ties became weaker. Perhaps most problematic, the collective relationship to the natural world changed in profound ways. And of course, this only considers what was happening on the ground in Europe at the time. In other parts of the world, like the US, the state-sanctioned genocide of indigenous people was occurring while Africans were being kidnapped, tortured, raped, and enslaved within the chattel slavery system – which technology worsened with the development of the cotton gin.
So, it seems that while there may be some impressive developments for collectives of people here and there, we should understand that they do not come without a price and that are not unilaterally positive.
Another possibility is that Pluto’s transit through Aquarius is all about transferring power to the Machine in a new way. Indeed, right as Pluto prepares to shift into Aquarius, we see the Dawn of AI available on a massive and mainstream scale. Artificial Intelligence and its many applications – from academic to medical – is being accepted and woven into the fabric of mainstream culture at an incredible pace. The other side of the tech coin is AR – Augmented Reality, that is, virtual realities. These are less popular now than AI but some of the largest tech firms have and continue to make sizable investments in AR and most likely AR and AI will combine forces over the next 20 years in fascinating and problematic ways. This is a likely source for the technological revolutions that we expect to see during a Pluto/Aquarius transit. The displacement of people from work that was seen in 1777 is already being hinted at with the advent of new AI technologies and it is possible that another great professional displacement is on the horizon.
That said, tech firms and machine thinking are currently some of the largest stake holders when it comes to power…if we follow the logic of Pluto transits through Aquarius, we should expect to see that power diminish over the next 20 years or change in some fundamental way, not simply grow, unchecked. This may occur through tighter regulations, a skeptical populace, or other, unforeseen developments that encourage pushback.
What to Ask + Do
Who will the new stake holders be when it comes to power? How will individuals, communities, and families navigate the new technological waters we find ourselves in, what must be destroyed in order to make room for future promise and possibility?
These are the questions that this transit leaves us with and there are no easy answers. The right approach to the next twenty years, in my mind, is one of curiosity and wonder. Those who can watch what is occurring, face it clearly, and learn from it, will experience more promise and less peril during this tumultuous time and will be among the first to discover the needed medicines.
PS: Interested in magic that can support and protect you during this powerful moment? Then join me in the Fixed Stars Society.