Getting to the Higher Ground with Mars and Pluto in April
by Steven Forrest
There is a divine, evolutionary purpose behind everything that happens in the astrological sky. For me, that is the foundational principle of our craft. Aiming ourselves toward the higher ground is what it is all about — and there is always higher ground, no matter how grim the astrological configuration might appear to be. I believe in that principle fervently. It is elemental to everything I teach, write and practice with my clients.
But I’ve got to say, my knees got weak when I looked at April’s planetary patterns. On April 17th, Mars makes a station, turning retrograde, at 8°54' Sagittarius. The next day, Pluto also stations, at 17°29' Capricorn. That’s two potentially scary planets, both getting very intense at the same time.
I will stick to the best truths I know here: this combination of energies represents an open evolutionary avenue for us all. There is higher purpose in it. Astrology is the mirror in the sky. Everything that arises in the sky reflects something arising inside of us, and it is all about our evolution. Sometimes certain conditions need to coalesce to create necessary opportunities. Sometimes those conditions are frightening ones. Whatever it may look like, everything reflects evolutionary necessity, and there is always a way to get it right.
Of course, there is always a way to get it wrong too. That is often a very popular choice (conscious or not). That’s what makes this Plutonian and Martial combo platter so edgy. Getting it wrong could take a merciless turn.
Here’s a little background on retrograde motion in case you are new to astrology. Say you pass a slower car on the highway. For a moment as you pull abreast of it, the optical illusion is that the other car is going backwards. It isn’t, of course. We know that. But it looks that way.
Similar effects happen in the solar system as Earth “passes” other planets. Our moving point-of-view generates the appearance of the planet stopping and turning backward for a while. That’s why planets go retrograde.
Retrogradation is a complex subject interpretively, but for our purposes here one point is central. The more slowly a planet is moving, the more powerful it becomes. That’s why Pluto transits are more momentous than Mercury transits—they simply have more time to interact with your mind, your attitude and your life. And a planet cannot get slower than flat-out stopped. Therefore, a Stationary planet is at maximum power.
To have Pluto and Mars both reach peak amperage within one day of each other is a rare and daunting prospect. Both of these planets make better friends than enemies, so to speak.
Mars is the god of war. And Pluto—Lord of the Underworld to the Romans—could be called “the god of hell.” So: war and hell, in cahoots, both in their full, raging, pedal-to-the-metal, bloody-minded cry. Stand back, in other words.
Soon, as promised, we will explore the higher meaning of this striking configuration. That higher meaning is there, and alive and powerful, I promise. But we do need to consider the dark side too. I’ve heard ignorant (not stupid!) people describe evolutionary astrology as “rose-colored glasses for bliss-ninnies.” Nothing could be further from the truth. In evolutionary astrology, every front has a back. Everything has a dark side as well as a light one. It is consciousness that makes the choices. We evolutionary astrologers do not pull punches about the Shadow.
With Mars and Pluto both Stationary at the same time, there is plenty of Shadow to talk about. Dark Pluto can be insane, literally. Insanity arises when we don’t deal with our issues and instead project them onto other people or the universe. We mistake our inner demons for outer ones, and start throwing punches. Dark Mars loves a fight too. It can be furious and destructive. Put two and two together, and with Mars and Pluto both making Stations, you’ve got berserk violence driven by madness, reaching a crescendo.
Will there be some horrendous terrorist event around mid-month? Will another theater or nursery school be riddled with gunfire? What about something worse? Your imagination can do as good a job of painting nightmares as my own, so I will leave it to you. I hate writing words such as these, but I have to honest.
That dark, mad energy—which is not lacking in the world lately—reaches some kind of boiling point in the middle of April 2016. Do we act it out or do we figure it out?
A wise spiritual teacher of mine back in my twenties, Marian Starnes, once told me, “The purpose of every true prophet is to be proven wrong.” When, using astrology, we see a looming danger, maybe we can describe it—and describe how to evade it. And evading it always boils down to the same thing: getting the energy right; understanding its true purpose. The disasters always arise when we misuse it.
So how can we aim this Martial and Plutonian crescendo toward the greater good? Let’s remember that, beyond the headlines, it has personal, private meaning for you too, clarified by the aspects these planets are making in your own birthchart. And of course the event has collective meaning. My sense is that if enough individuals get it right at the personal level, much of the venom goes out of the worldly manifestation. If nothing happens, it’s not just that we “got lucky” or that “astrology isn’t perfect.” It means that enough of us got it right to defuse the bomb.
Retrograde planets are about reflection. They are about re-thinking the past, as a planet goes back into degrees it has already covered. Pluto is about asking ourselves hard, uncomfortable questions—facing our own Shadow, withdrawing our projections. It is about seeing our history more clearly now than when we first experienced it. Mars is always about our passions and desires, not to mention our angers and our resentments—and when it is retrograde, we need to think deep thoughts about their nature and origin.
So, this month, we are collectively invited to reflect upon our rage, to purify it of madness, and perhaps to get on with our lives—especially once these two planets turn direct again. That’s June 29th for Mars and September 26th for Pluto.
I heard a Native American man speak once about forgiving the white man for what he had done. He made a simple, eloquent, goose-bumper of a point: the white man did not deserve his forgiveness. What the white man had done was unforgivable. But the Native man realized that holding onto to his righteous rage was slowly killing him. So, for his own sake, he realized he needed to forgive the white man. It had nothing to do with any virtue in the white man at all.
That pretty well summarizes the higher ground, with uber-honest Pluto interacting with bloody-minded Mars. Even at their best, these are edgy, fierce energies. The Dalai Lama, long ago, said “the world is drunk on anger.” Those words have never been truer than they are today. You feel it everywhere. God knows, you hear it in many political speeches lately.
In writing that last line, I was tempted to name the name of a presidential candidate (or two) in the current US election race. I decided not to. I decided to walk my talk. If I had named a name, what good would it have done?
Well, I would have felt good personally for a moment, giving “some son-of-a-bitch what he deserves” right here on my bully internet pulpit. But maybe out there among my readers is someone who plans to vote for him. I could have acted out my anger, “gotten some revenge,” — and made an enemy of a reader, thus adding in a minor way to sum total of bitter, futile rage in the world.
And the whole point of everything I write here is that the world’s quotient of bitter, futile rage is approaching critical mass. How can we avoid adding more to it?
A better use of my time is to reflect on the actual origins of my passion — in this case, a political passion. I grew up very working class. I grew up hearing about “those rich people.” I grew up excluded from the culture of prosperity. Nobody taught me the moves. Nobody opened any doors. Because of the success of my astrological work, my life has moved in different directions since then. I live in a style I could not have imagined as a child. But some of the old conditioning remains. My heart is not pure.
Am I “psychologizing away” my political attitudes? No, not at all. I know my values and how I am going to vote. Take care of the earth, give worthy young people a chance, blessed are the peacemakers. But I am trying to separate the genuine “meditations of my heart” from a lot of angry working-class crap I grew up with. That is me doing Pluto work on a Mars issue. That is, in other words, going back into the past to understand the origins of a passion in me that is so strong it could lead me to de-humanize people simply because I disagree with them.
How many of us can do that, especially around the middle of this month? Fatalism beckons here—hey, it doesn’t take many crazy people to detonate a bomb somewhere. What does it matter if a more conscious minority does some inner evolutionary work?
Well, yes: bombs might indeed go off regardless of your personal efforts. You can’t stop other people from being crazy. But I do believe that a few people making conscious steps toward the higher ground can have a disproportionate effect upon the collective reality. Moods in a society shift as if by whimsy or magic. Look what’s happening to homophobia. Look what happened to the idea that sex outside of wedlock was a sin. What happened to the idea that a woman’s place was in the home? Or that we should always obey our parents?
The strings that wiggle this world are not entirely visible. You are holding one of them in your hands. It is time to do some brave (Mars) psychological (Pluto) spelunking, looking for the true origins of some of that acid in your tummy. The holy grail towards which we are feeling our way in the dark is forgiveness.
- Steven Forrest
Click here to subscribe to our newsletter and you'll get an email each month when it's ready.
Book of Neptune Review
Big thanks to Arlan Wise for the sweet review of The Book of Neptune in the recent issue of OPA's Career Astrologer.
New Workshop December 2-4, 2016 - Astrological Timing: Transits
Date: December 2-4, 2016
Location: Borrego Springs, CA
$425 (if registered by Oct 31; $475 thereafter)
Last month Tony gave a webinar on Saturn-Neptune aspects in the birth chart. He describes the many ways these planets interact with each other. And then spends time with diverse chart examples including FDR, Oscar Wilde, John Coltrane, Marilyn Monroe and quite a few more. If you missed it, you can download it now at Astrology University.