Clare: Let's turn our attention now to the 'two' series
of aspects. When the circle is divided into two, the result is the opposition
between planets that are 180° apart.
We have already studied the whole principle of duality and polarisation in quite a bit of depth, and so we know that this is going to be an aspect of maximum tension, with the planets at each end of the opposition appearing to be mutually exclusive and yet at the same time complementing and balancing each other. As we have seen, the usual tendency with an opposition is to polarise and project, identifying with one side of the opposition and dis-identifying with the other side, which means that we are always meeting it in the form of outer events or other people. This aspect is particularly unstable and frustrating, and can lead to feelings of paralysis, of being caught between two poles. The attraction of opposites is the counter-tendency to this polarisation, and its resolution depends upon finding some kind of conscious relationship between the two poles.
William Blake, 'The Ancient of Days' (1824)
Audience: So if you have an opposition, then your task is to recognise and then accept and integrate what you project outside?
Clare: Yes, although this is one of the hardest things to do. But our entire charts are constructed as a series of oppositions, opposite houses and opposite signs, so life itself seems to be an expression of this great drama of opposites. Having planets in opposition simply makes the drama more personal and immediate. However uncomfortable this may feel, nevertheless, planets in opposition ensure that neither side becomes too extreme. It is the nature of all the aspects created by the division of the circle into two, four or eight that the planets struggle and confront each other, which means that something can happen and the relationship between the two planets can become more conscious. And it is out of that tension that awareness is born. After all, there is no possibility of a conscious reconciliation if we don't have the struggle in the first place. Let's look at some oppositions, to get a feel for the way they work.
Mercury opposite Pluto
Sue: I have Pluto in Leo in the 9th house opposite Sun and Mercury in Aquarius in the 3rd house. I am obsessed with astrology - I have loads of books and am reading about it all the time, but I keep that part of my life very secret and never talk about it to anyone. Could that be because of Pluto?
Clare: This opposition is across fixed signs, and therefore
particularly resistant to integration. The Sun and Mercury in the 3rd house
indicate that learning is very important to you, and that you love being
a student. You have a clear, rational and objective mind, and I would imagine
that thinking astrologically comes very naturally to you, since Aquarius
is very comfortable with the conceptual clarity of models and maps. It
could even feel as if your fellow students are your true intellectual brothers
The addition of Pluto to the picture adds intensity and describes penetrating thought and your sense of the immense power of words and of ideas. But it is clear from what you say that you feel there is something unacceptable or dark or dangerous about your interest in astrology. And that could be for religious reasons, since Pluto is in the 9th house.
Chart data omitted for reasons of confidentiality
On the one hand, you are naturally attracted to unusual or unconventional ideas, and to the larger patterns that include us all. But on the other hand, Pluto in the 9th house no doubt appears to threaten your identity in some way, and to sabotage your studies. How would we interpret Pluto in Leo in the 9th house?
Audience: Breaking down the philosophy?
Audience: Total absence of belief?
Clare: Yes, a Sun-Mercury-Pluto combination describes someone who thinks very deeply, who is inclined to test their ideas to destruction, and who is not going to take anything at face value. We know that whenever you get into this 3rd house intellectual structure, you are also likely, in some sense, to feel you are being plunged into very deep waters which could even feel threatening and dangerous, because Pluto is always about survival. And it is to do with religion and philosophy, isn't it?
Sue: Well, I am a non-believer, but I do come from an Irish Catholic background.
Clare: This is a perfect description of Pluto in Leo in the 9th house. It sounds as if you have already tested your religious inheritance to destruction and rejected it, on an intellectual level at least. But Catholicism is a very powerful force, and no doubt there is a huge dilemma between pursuing your natural interest in learning, your belief in freedom of thought, and your fear of going to the devil - literally.
Sue: Yes, I think it was only a few years ago that the Pope forbade Catholics to consult astrologers.
Clare: You are very understandably caught in a conflict between your intellect and your instincts, and this opposition can easily feel like a kind of paralysis.
Audience: So Sue doesn't believe intellectually in God, but she does believe instinctively?
Clare: That certainly seems to be the case. Intellectually, there is no difficulty. Sue loves studying astrology. But if this is to become a powerful transformative aspect of her life and of her understanding, then she is going to have to find some kind of relationship between her love of astrology as a pure and clean, intellectual Aquarian discipline, and the issues which are haunting her about astrology being evil and dangerous. So the way she is dealing with this at the moment is to keep her astrology and her astrological studies secret, which is easier than 'coming out' because it means that her Sun-Mercury in Aquarius can just get on with studying, and Pluto can go underground. But, of course, it will always be there on some level. I imagine these are the kinds of things that you are going on for you.
Sue: Normally I am absolutely fine with this, but sometimes I have really bad nightmares about dreadful punishments and being burned at the stake and other things happening, and I don't seem to be able to shake them off.
Clare: That is exactly what one would expect. Having been consciously banished, Pluto is now communicating with you through your unconscious, while you are asleep. And, since this is a 9th house placement, whether or not you consciously believe in God, your God is becoming angry and destructive and you feel you will be punished for your ideas. The difficulty with this particular opposition is that Aquarius is so rational, civilised, detached and idealistic. The more extreme this becomes, then the more threatening, primitive and irrational the dark becomes. Your task, with a Sun-Mercury-Pluto combination, appears to be to recognise the real power of ideas by exploring whether true understanding of any subject might include both the light and dark, rational and instinctive aspects. We can find out more about this by looking at Saturn and the Moon, which rule your 3rd and 9th houses.
Sue: That's interesting, because I have Saturn in Virgo in the 10th house and my mother is a strict Catholic, very dutiful and into service.
Clare: With Saturn in the 10th house and ruling your
3rd house, mother is also, in some sense, the law.
Audience: Does that mean that Sue is going to have to reject her mother as well?
Clare: No. It means that she is going to have to become her own authority in these matters. Saturn is also the personal ruler of Aquarius, so it rules Sue's Sun and Mercury. This is about taking her own authority and giving herself permission to think what she thinks and to believe what she believes. And the transpersonal ruler of Aquarius, which is just as important, is Uranus in Gemini - the free thinker. We can begin to see where this particular struggle is going. It won't be easy, but Sue has Scorpio rising as well, so she is bound to live her life intensely, experiencing repeated periods of personal metamorphosis as she goes through the fires and regenerates herself. The other interesting feature of your chart is that your 9th house is ruled by the Moon in Pisces in the 4th house, so essentially we could say that you have an extremely devotional nature and that eventually you may be able to make peace with your God.
Sue: That is all really helpful, thank you. But it is also very hard.
Clare: Yes, particularly because this is a fixed opposition, so in addition to the compulsion to change, there is going to be a resistance to change. This theme is always present anyway in the sign of Aquarius with its two rulers - Uranus seeks change and Saturn resists change. If we have a cardinal opposition, we will feel challenged to actively resolve the tension. And a mutable opposition isn't going to be quite so tense or fraught, because both planets will be inherently more inclined to adapt and adjust and to be more flexible. But a fixed opposition will go on resisting until some kind of change is forced. And it can be a very stressful and tense experience.
Sue: I did in fact have a kind of mental breakdown when Pluto went over my Ascendant. That was a few years after my brother died in a car crash, and I completely lost my faith. It was a really difficult time in my life.
Clare: Learning astrology may well help you understand and come to terms with this very painful period in your life. You can see for yourself that the 3rd house describes your brother and your very close relationship to him, and how his death affected your faith. I think we can find great comfort from astrology, since it helps us make sense of the events that occur in our lives. After all, as Jung said, only suffering without meaning is unbearable.
Sun opposite Pluto
Tricia: I have something similar, with Sun in Aquarius in the 2nd house opposite Moon-Pluto in Leo in the 8th. Could we look at that?
Clare: Yes, and once again we will be working with the
themes of light and dark, the intellect and the instincts. The Sun is how
and where we seek to shine, to be recognised. However, with Pluto opposite
the Sun, we can feel that our true identity is buried or sabotaged or somehow
unacceptable. As a result we can build a kind of 'false self' which poses
as our identity but which never feels completely authentic. With the Sun
in the 2nd house of self-worth, no doubt your journey will be to learn
to value yourself, just as you are, which will involve some kind of conscious
integration between your Sun, Moon and Pluto.
Sun in Aquarius is clear, rational, detached, idealistic and very civilised. The Moon with Pluto is deeply instinctive, primitive and archaic, and in the 8th house it is not only deeply buried, but also likely to be projected onto mother and onto women generally. Again, this opposition is across fixed signs, and the Sun-Moon opposition points to a fundamental split between the masculine and the feminine principles, with the masculine being light and clear and the feminine being very intense, dark and mysterious. You may well have experienced this in your own life as deeply entrenched power struggles between your mother and father.
Chart data omitted for reasons of confidentiality
Tricia: That's right, and I also experience this as a power struggle with women. I always get the feeling that women think I am too powerful and that they fear me, so they want to break me or subdue me, or something like that.
Clare: Yes, that is exactly the feeling you are likely to have. A useful image for Moon-Pluto in the 8th house is the witch, which can, of course, be both positive, in the form of the wise woman, or negative, in which case you may feel that women want to sabotage you or wipe you out altogether.
Clare: And that can lead to a powerful conviction that you are not allowed to be who you really are. And so, like Hades himself, you have to wear a cloak of invisibility and keep your true identity hidden.
Tricia: If I try and be sweet and nice, with my Venus in Pisces, then they think I am a wimp and walk all over me. But if I try to be strong, then they think I am a powerful, dominating bitch. Either way, I can't win. I don't seem to be able to find that balance. Although I am quite well balanced in myself, I always find that other people try to control me. I feel really strong within, and men always say they like strong women. Perhaps that is my own experience of the Moon-Pluto coming out.
Clare: Although power struggles are something you experience in relationships, we could say that this is something as yet unresolved within you, which is constellated in relationships. That is exactly how oppositions function. Outside the arena of relationships you can no doubt function quite comfortably as an Aquarian, and keep all your ideals intact. But it is close emotional relationships which plunge you into that Plutonic realm of power and survival and issues about who is controlling whom.
Tricia: Is there anything I can do about it?
Clare: Yes, recognise it, which ultimately means some kind of conscious relationship between your intellect and your instinctual nature, and learning to express your solar purpose and personal authority as an expression of your intense and passionate nature, rather than trying to be who you think you ought to be according to the values of others - which will never really work.
Tricia: I think I used to be much more intense and passionate, but nobody seems to be able to handle that. When I was younger, I was always being told not to be so intense.
Audience: I have been thinking about this during the week. If you have Pluto in aspect to your Sun or Moon or Venus or whatever, then when one is triggered, Pluto will be triggered at the same time. This can be quite a burden to carry.
Clare: Yes, it can, particularly if the Sun or Moon or Venus otherwise wants to be very light, detached and rational.
Audience: And there is nothing really that one can do about it, apart from trying to understand and accept it and work with it?
Clare: There is a tremendous depth to Pluto, and Plutonic people - by which I mean people with Scorpio rising, or Sun in Scorpio, or strong 8th house placements, or several Pluto aspects - are going to go deeper on an emotional level, and seem to have to spend periods of their lives in the underworld. But the underworld is a place of immense wealth, and the purpose of being there is to connect to the life force itself and to the wisdom which comes from that.
Tricia: It helped me to understand Pluto better when I started thinking of it more as a goddess than as a god. There is a whole other model of feminine power that is very ancient, but is judged and condemned in the world, or just not understood properly. You have to go right back into history, where the high priestess was honoured. I think that learning how to be powerful in a feminine way is an issue of our times, instead of trying to be like GI Jane and taking on male values. My favourite saying is that there is nothing so powerful as true gentleness, and there is nothing so gentle as true power.
Clare: Although I understand what you mean, it seems to me that this is your Aquarius Sun speaking, because it sounds so rational and detached, and because slogans are usually Aquarian things. There is an immensely destructive aspect to Pluto that has to do with the force of nature itself. For example, earthquakes, tidal waves and hurricanes are anything but gentle. They are absolutely ruthless and destructive. And there is nothing gentle about the dark and destructive side of human nature. The question is whether we can bear to look our own darkness in the face and accept that it belongs to us.
Tricia: Well, I know that when Pluto is active in my chart, it is always horrible and shocking. But at these times I also feel intensely alive and energised, in a way. When it is not active in my life, I tend to feel rather frozen and dead.
Clare: That is a good example of the black and white
quality of Pluto. We cannot negotiate with Pluto; it is totally uncompromising.
It will either be in its ice phase, completely cut off from our consciousness,
or in its fire phase, in which we find ourselves burning - and there is
very little in between.
Audience: In one of our lessons, you mentioned the word 'scapegoat' in relation to Pluto aspects. How does that work?
Clare: Scapegoating occurs whenever a group, family,
tribe or society refuses, either consciously or unconsciously, to take
responsibility for its own primitive darkness - in other words, for its
own Pluto. In these cases, the darkness will be projected onto an individual
or another group, tribe or race. They are blamed and scapegoated for the
qualities that the group is not prepared to own. In families, there is
often a kind of unconscious contract, in which one member of the family,
usually the most sensitive one, lives out the family taboos because they
can't bear the weight of the dishonesty or the poison of the unconscious
collusion. This person will not only bring the taboos to the surface, but
will also be blamed for doing so. This is where the idea of the 'black
sheep of the family' comes from, which is another aspect of the scapegoat.
Take, for example, the case of a white European family, outwardly civilised,
well adjusted and morally upstanding. Suppose this family is secretly harbouring
racial prejudices. With what seems like uncanny predictability, the adolescent
daughter who takes on the role of the family scapegoat may find herself
in a relationship with a young man from a different culture and with a
different skin colour. Imagine, then, the scene when she introduces him
to her family. Pluto has been evoked, and all hell will be let loose.
This same mechanism occurs with all kinds of collectives, and with countries as well. Other groups or nations or races will be scapegoated in an effort to maintain the moral high ground. Someone or something else has to carry the evil and the darkness that are not being recognised within. Jung wrote a great deal about this phenomenon in terms of racism, apartheid and religious hatred, and he believed that, until we are each prepared to accept our own individual burden of darkness, we will continue to see it only 'out there' in others, and not in ourselves.
Sun opposite Neptune
Laura: Can I ask something about Neptune? My Sun is in the 1st house in Pisces, opposite Neptune in the 7th in Virgo.
Chart data omitted for reasons of confidentiality
Clare: Well, let's start by looking at the Sun-Neptune principle. What does that say about our identity and about our experience of the masculine principle, which will include our experience of our father?
Audience: There is something nebulous and hard to grasp about this combination. Does that mean that Laura finds it difficult to reach her father, and difficult to find her own identity too? I have read somewhere that this could describe an alcoholic father.
Clare: Neptune is the dream. It describes ever-changing images and impressions and feelings. Neptune is our access to realms and landscapes that exist in the imagination. Questions of a clear or fixed identity are not really relevant to a Sun-Neptune person, because their identity is fluid, likely to change shape all the time, reflecting the environment they find themselves in. In so far as the Sun-Neptune aspect is associated with father, then we would expect that he was not around very much, certainly not available on a psychological or emotional level. It seems that he was lost to you in some way. This can lead to an idealisation of father and of the masculine, as well as a longing for him, since Neptune is where we are always thirsty. And, of course, this aspect may well describe more concrete manifestations, so your father may be a priest, or in the navy sailing the seven seas, or he could even be an alcoholic, as someone suggested.
Laura: My father was around, but he wasn't around. He was usually too busy.
Clare: And presumably you idealised him or adored him from afar?
Laura: When I was younger, I suppose. I didn't know him very well.
Clare: We are also talking about your own identity,
of course, and with Neptune in the 7th house, it is unlikely that you received
any kind of clear mirroring in your childhood. So on some level, you may
even be a mystery to yourself. This means that you can easily find yourself
becoming whatever other people want you to be, because you have no personal
investment in being a particular shape, so any one identity may well be
just as good as any other identity.
This is an immensely creative and artistic combination, ideal for photography, dance, acting, film-making or painting, for example, since you have a heightened sensitivity to beauty, form and shape. Because this opposition is across the 1st/7th houses, your sensitivity to others is also particularly strong, and you have a remarkable ability to devote yourself to the needs of others. The question is whether this devotion drains you or energises you, and this could go either way, depending on the strength of your personal ego container. With a strong enough ego you can choose whether and when to make yourself available to others. You can define your own boundaries, so that you are not left exhausted by others.
Audience: But isn't the opposition the struggle between the self and the other?
Clare: Yes, because we know that the theme of the 1st/7th house axis is to do with self-definition in relationship, and about discovering where the boundaries are between who I am and who the other is - defining what is me and what is the other. So it is particularly easy for Laura to seek to define herself through relationships, and in addition to that, with a Pisces Ascendant, the boundary between herself and her environment is likely to be diffuse. This adds to the general theme of the Sun in Pisces and Neptune in the 7th house. It is all so transpersonal and collective that we need to make it more personal by bringing in Jupiter, which is the personal ruler of the chart and of the Sun, and also Mercury, which is the ruler of the Descendant. This should help us get a better handle on the way this opposition works.
Audience: Why is Jupiter the ruler of the chart?
Clare: Because Pisces, the sign on the Ascendant, has two rulers. The personal ruler is Jupiter, and no doubt you can see how important Jupiter is, because it is also the ruler of the MC, which is in Sagittarius, so Jupiter rules both angles. With Jupiter in Aries in the 2nd house, the picture changes quite dramatically, because this indicates a particularly strong sense of self-worth and an ability to fight for one's own values and beliefs. In this chart there is a particularly strong relationship between the 1st and 7th houses, because there is a mutual reception between Neptune and Mercury. A mutual reception between two planets occurs when they are in each other's signs or houses. In this case, Neptune, the ruler of the 1st house, is in the 7th house, and Mercury, the ruler of the 7th house, is in the 1st house. Can you recognise these patterns in your own life, Laura?
Laura: Actually, I can't take too much - it's almost the opposite.
Clare: I wonder if the people you tend to attract are Neptunians - people with no boundaries, who are both unavailable but at the same time completely merged with you. You can feel drowned by their demands, and need to define the boundaries yourself.
Laura: That's true, but the strange thing is that they are not needy to start with, only when you get to know them.
Clare: Funny how that happens. And as you get to know them in all their Neptunian ways, you increasingly find yourself taking the opposite, Virgoan, attitude and becoming very boundary-conscious and self-contained.
Laura: That's exactly right.