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Living with Pluto / Part 1

Interview with Liz Greene, by Nicholas Campion


Liz Greene is one of the most influential astrologers of the postwar period. Building on the work of predecessors such as Alan Leo and Dane Rudhyar, she drew lessons from 20th-century psychology, particularly from the writings of C. G. Jung, to create a psychological astrology that is rooted in the understanding of psychology as consisting of dynamic processes rather than personality descriptions. Beginning with Saturn in 1976 and Relating in 1977, she has produced a remarkable series of books which have deepened and elaborated her original insight that astrology is as much about what we can become as who we are. She holds a doctorate in Psychology as well as the Diploma of the Faculty of Astrology Studies (she is a Patron of the Faculty) and is a qualified Jungian analyst. She is Director of the Centre for Psychological Astrology, which she formed in 1983 with the late Howard Sasportas. For the Centre's training and seminar series, see www.cpalondon.com


I met Liz in London on August 14, 2001 to conduct this interview. In view of the disaster of September 11, her enunciation of the Saturn-Pluto zeitgeist has taken on a profoundly prophetic air.


The original article appeared in the American astrological magazine "The Mountain Astrologer" (Dec/Jan 2002). The edition is still available on their website www.mountainastrologer.com


Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4


Nick Campion: To start with, Liz, I'd like to talk a little about Pluto, the planet of the moment, especially in view of the current Saturn-Pluto opposition. I've been reading what you wrote about Saturn and Pluto in your book Saturn; you stated that, when these planets combine, "there often seems to be a carefully and deliberately organised movement towards some sort of self-destructive experience."[1] You added that the person may be aware of this obsessive movement but may not be able to control it. I have that Saturn-Pluto opposition squared my Sun at the moment, so I was thinking: "How can I be conscious about it?" In fact, how does one become conscious of something? Have you experienced that opposition this year, in terms of your clients? Has it been noticeable?

Liz Greene: Oh yes, very noticeable. There aren't many people who are not getting it in one form or another, because it doesn't just involve planets in the mutable signs. It is also hitting things by semi-square and sesquiquadrate. That pulls in all the cardinal signs as well. So, yes, a lot of clients are beginning to put on their armadillo suits.


Nick Campion: Do you mean that they're getting into a self-protective posture?

Liz Greene: That's one reaction to it. I think it is a very common reaction - and probably a natural reaction. Saturn is much more individually graspable, whereas Pluto feels so overwhelming that the initial response is to pull into Saturn and try to defend oneself against Pluto. It is not "wrong" to do that. It is an inevitable, natural thing to do. But it is not necessarily the best thing to do. The aspect will work itself through anyway, but that certainly seems to be what people are doing.


Nick Campion: In view of the respective planetary positions, do you think that there is a particular Gemini-Sagittarius character to this Saturn-Pluto opposition?

Liz Greene: I think so, because it seems to be raising issues that have to do with morality, as well as with knowledge versus intuitive realisations of some kind. It is creating a lot of intellectual polarisation. There are ideas being battled out, although the form that the Saturn-Pluto opposition takes can be very concrete in lots of people's lives. With all the conflicts that seem to be arising on both personal and collective levels, it is ideologies, concepts, belief systems, and bodies of knowledge that are at stake, even behind whatever wars are being fought.


Nick Campion: Is there one particular example at the moment of an ideological clash that you'd point to?

Liz Greene: Well, how about Northern Ireland? That's been going on for a very long time, and I don't think that it's unique to Saturn-Pluto, but it may enter a new phase now.


Nick Campion: The Sun in the chart for the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (December 7, 1922) is at 14° Sagittarius.[2]

Liz Greene: The Sun and the Descendant are within five degrees of each other. The chart for southern Ireland[3] and the chart for the U.K., including Northern Ireland, are one day apart. They are both getting Saturn-Pluto.


Nick Campion: Yes, often with a complete inability on either side to identify with the other's point of view. Or even acknowledge there is a point of view. What archetype do you think Pluto corresponds to? Is it slightly artificial to say, "This planet is this archetype and that planet is that archetype," as if they existed in little boxes?

Liz Greene: Yes, it's artificial.


Nick Campion: You spoke about Pluto at one point as Lucifer, the dark angel who brings the night, and you spoke about Pluto somewhere else as feminine and then also as the archetype of immortality and the endless cycle of death and rebirth.[4]

Liz Greene: I don't think you can say, "Here's this planet, here's this archetype, they match," because that's trying to squash two different symbolic systems together. They will never fit properly. It is probably better to see planetary symbols as having family relations with a whole range of images, all of which combine in different ways. One of the Plutonian archetypes is certainly Lucifer. One of them is the Fates. One is Goethe's Mephistopheles, and another is Kali. There is a whole range of mythic images that can help us to get some sense of the Pluto principle. It is almost impossible to articulate it, except in poetic metaphors. There is an intelligent life in substance itself, which seems to be associated with the life force in living things. It is nature itself, or the life force in nature, that will survive. And in order to survive, of necessity, it must go through permutations, changes, death processes that break down forms when they have reached their sell-by date and then generate new forms. We experience Pluto as something destructive, so we then look at Mephistopheles. Or we experience it as nourishing, so we look at the Great Mother. Or we experience it as fate, so we get the image of the Moirae, the Greek Fates. Because of the various ways we experience it, we need several different images.


Nick Campion: Pluto was discovered in 1930, and astrologers often talk about the connection between fascism and the eruption into consciousness of the Plutonian archetype. It's such a strong correlation that it's difficult to ignore. But do you think that, since that point, the Pluto archetype has been stronger?

Liz Greene: I don't think it has gotten stronger. What has happened is that we are more aware of it, as something operating both in society and in nature, than we were before. But I don't think it is stronger. And although it is difficult to ignore the rise of fascism and the discovery of nuclear power, I think we need to be careful, because dictators, genocide, massive collective invasions, upheavals, and deaths have occurred for as long as we have. The difference is that there is now an awareness of the Pluto archetype as something which we have named. We have become aware that it is something operating in the world, and this awareness may give us more room to use or abuse it in a conscious way. That doesn't necessarily make it stronger. It just means that we start taking it on board, rather than enacting it in a blind and oblivious way.


Nick Campion: In terms of the enactment of things, I was reading The Horoscope in Manifestation.[5] At one point, you say to one of the people in the seminar: "You are in the play," and this person replies: "What, I'm in the play?" and you say: "Yes, you are, enacting Jupiter." So, how do you expect people to enact Pluto? How would you begin to approach somebody who came to you with an incredibly strong Plutonian problem?

Liz Greene: I would first want to hear, and talk about, what they are feeling and experiencing with that problem. The outer planets can feel so overwhelming that it is easy for the person to lose their boundaries completely. That's what people go through under or during the course of Pluto transits. Anything that can help the person to get perspective on what they are experiencing helps immediately. Whether the feeling of being overpowered is internal or external, it is very important for someone to be able to say, "I am feeling desperate. I feel as if everything around me is dying." It's important to try to find a ground where there is an individual rather than just an overwhelming tide. So I would always start with how the person is feeling, before I start talking about what the planet might mean. What sometimes happens is that people disconnect from what they are feeling because they get very scared. I have noticed that, for some people, when they come under Pluto strongly, the sense of being overwhelmed is so scary - especially if there is a fragile ego - that they disconnect from it. And then they start behaving like Pluto. They are taken over by whatever is bubbling up.


Nick Campion: So, behaving like Pluto would mean what? Obsessive?

Liz Greene: Obsessive.


Nick Campion: Confrontational?

Liz Greene: Not necessarily confrontational. Pluto can be very circumspect although still locked in an attitude of "This is life or death, and I have to win or I will be destroyed." That is what makes people behave very badly sometimes. They get into power battles and they start manipulating, or they set themselves up in some way whereby they are victimised by something very powerful. Pluto isn't necessarily confrontational. It is locked into a pattern of nature itself and is a force which will either grind over everything or become the victim of everything.


Nick Campion: Putting oneself in a victim position in relation to authority sounds like the classic Sun-Pluto combination.

Liz Greene: It is certainly one of the classic manifestations. Do you mean natally, or in transit?


Nick Campion: Natally. But would you draw a distinction between natal and transiting aspects in that way?

Liz Greene: Yes, I would, because if it is natal, it is an ongoing process. If it is a transit without a natal aspect, it's an experience that a person will go through, but it may not be one that they need to build their lives on. But if it is there natally, then it is necessary to get some idea of what dimension of life is essential to take on board and live with. You have got to make some kind of relationship with it.


Nick Campion: If somebody has the Sun-Pluto natally, they may well incorporate it into their state of being, so when a transit of Pluto occurs, they might feel it to be far less profound, perhaps, than someone who has the same transit but without the natal position.

Liz Greene: Well, maybe not "far less profound," but maybe far more familiar. The individual might say, "Yes, I know this one, it is just that the volume has been cranked up a bit." Whereas if there is no natal aspect, it's more like: "What is this?" It helps a lot if you have Pluto links with your Ascendant, Sun, Moon, Mercury, or have the planet angular when you come under a Pluto transit, because there is already a sense of the Plutonian dimension of life. It requires humans to accept something at work in life greater than themselves. You can't manage Pluto without that acceptance. If it is already there, then navigating the kinds of things that arise under the transit is easier if you know the name of the animal. It can be freak-out time if you don't know the name of it.


Nick Campion: So, obviously something perfectly useful that people gain from going to astrologers is that they learn the name of the animal they're dealing with. The astrologer will give them a label, and they can then objectify the label or somehow give it a presence, a personality, which they can relate to.

Liz Greene: Yes, it is the same process by which techniques like active imagination or dream work operate. If you can give whatever you are experiencing a container through a symbol, like an astrological symbol, or a painting or a drawing or a piece of music, you have created distance between it and yourself. You may not objectify it in the sense that you now know what it is, but it gives you a sense that you can make a relationship with it rather than being swallowed up by it - and then you can bring consciousness to bear on it.


Nick Campion: What distinction would you draw between Moon-Pluto links and Sun-Pluto? Is Moon-Pluto going to have more to do with the family?

Liz Greene: I think so. Moon-Pluto operates much more through the physical and psychological inheritance. One experiences the Plutonian dimension of life viscerally, either in the body or through the feelings or through relationship. It operates at a gut level, whereas Sun-Pluto tends to translate more into something that affects, or is part of, one's journey, one's destiny, one's purpose and direction.


Nick Campion: In The Horoscope in Manifestation, you said to a member of the audience with Pluto square Moon, "You are carrying complexes related to the family inheritance, the wounded world, the suffering of others, and the sense of obligations which such suffering invokes."[6] That sounds more past-related, as opposed to Sun-Pluto, which is more future-related.

Liz Greene: Yes. Moon-Pluto carries a big wardrobe with it. Family objects are in the attic and basement.


Nick Campion: Skeletons in cupboards?

Liz Greene: It's skeletons in cupboards. The child born with Moon-Pluto knows that life is very dangerous. Nothing is permanent, everything could be destroyed. There is no real sense of being able to relax and have a nice safe time, because there is an inbuilt understanding or inbuilt instinctive awareness of the cyclical nature of life and the mortality of everything - the inevitability of change. It is that sense of constant danger that could be turned into an extraordinary attribute. It also brings with it a very understandable tendency to depression, because you can't just go and have a party. You can, but at some point when the clock strikes midnight, you realise that all these people are one day going to get old, and they will get sick, and they are going to die, and what is the point? What are we here for? It brings up all these deep questions and anxieties.


Nick Campion: One point which you developed very strongly in your early writings is the idea that a planetary combination which might have a possible negative consequence also contains the means by which you can do something about it. So, if Moon-Pluto brings a natural tendency to depression, what would be a natural way for somebody to turn that into an upward path, or bring it back to the light, or however you want to put it - and get the smile back on their face?

Liz Greene: I think it may involve not trying so terribly hard to get the smile back. Part of the problem is that we perceive states of depression and mourning as pathological conditions that should be cured. Half of America is medicated in order to avoid depression. Depression or melancholy has a long tradition of being the only state in which you can contact the soul. If you go around with a perpetual smile, that level of life cannot make itself known in a helpful or creative way. The cyclical tendency to depression with Moon-Pluto means, first of all, understanding depression differently - perhaps calling it melancholy instead - to go down into the depths in order to return to the light. All the deeper questions come up. Because everything dies in Pluto's world, there is a constant grieving for what passes. It is like losing a human being that you are close to, and unless you go through the mourning process, something gets very blocked up and sick. It can actually be helpful to work with depression as something useful and creative, rather than trying to place the smile back on. I think the smile begins to form with a sense of irony. It is a different kind of smile. Also, it can lead to the kind of humour that deals with an appreciation of the absurd.


Nick Campion: I remember once, a long time ago, there was an article in the Astrological Association newsletter, Transit, in which Eve Jackson looked at the horoscopes of the Monty Python team and the prevalence of Pluto.[7] One thinks of images like the sad clown with the tears running down his face.

Liz Greene: Pluto has its own form of smile. It is a bad mistake to think that smiles should always be Steinway smiles, with "have a nice day" pasted onto them. Getting something regenerating and rewarding out of Pluto really means treating the god with respect and not trying to turn him into a bundle of laughs.


Nick Campion: One image that occurred to me while you were talking is the sight one encounters in Mediterranean countries, of dark Catholic churches with old ladies in black, lighting candles, probably for lost members of their family. That's their form of working with Pluto and loss.

Liz Greene: Yes. It may be appropriate for those cultures. It may not necessarily work in Britain. Also, some cultures are much less frightened of venting grief and the rage that goes with grief, because we quite appropriately should be enraged when things die. Again, if you look at Faust, Goethe had the Sun square a rising Pluto in Scorpio. At one point Mephistopheles says, "What does it matter if this woman dies?" and Faust comes out with an outraged declaration that the death of a single young woman like this is a terrible tragedy. We should experience that reaction in the face of Pluto. It is appropriate because then we clean out the rage and grief. In some cultures, they do this more easily.


* * *

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4


© 2001 Nicholas Campion - all rights reserved


Nick Campion is Past President of the Astrological Association of Great Britain. He has been a student of astrology since the early 1970s and has taught the subject since 1980 - for London's Camden Institute, the Faculty of Astrological Studies, and most recently, for Kepler College. He is also currently a graduate student in the Study of Religions Department at Bath Spa University College, England. Nick is the winner of the 1992 Marc Edmund Jones Award, the 1994 Prix Georges Antares, and the 1999 Spica Award for Professional Excellence. His books include Mundane Astrology and The Book of World Horoscopes. Information about these books is available on his Web site: www.nickcampion.com


[1] Liz Greene, Saturn: A New Look at an Old Devil, Wellingborough, U.K.: Aquarian Press, 1976, p. 142.

[2] Nicholas Campion, Book of World Horoscopes, Bristol, U.K.: Cinnabar Books, 1997, Chart #358, p. 395.

[3] Ibid., Chart #92, p. 147.

[4] Greene, Saturn, pp. 140, 189; The Outer Planets and Their Cycles, Reno, NV: CRCS, 1983, p. 140.

[5] Liz Greene, The Horoscope in Manifestation, London: CPA Press, 1997.

[6] Ibid., p. 103.

[7] Eve Jackson, "Monty Python, Pluto and the Fool," Transit, No. 43, November 1983, pp. 13-17.


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