Evolving our Experience of Power: The Saturn Pluto Conjunction 2019 / 2020
Monday, December 30, 2019 2:15 PM
by Patricia Bechdolt, ThD.
The astrological alignments in the sky at any given moment are a shared experience. Regardless of our own zodiac sign or natal astrological chart, the planets in our solar system continually form configurations with each other that are reflected in the ambient energies of the world around us. Without realizing it, we’re talking about astrology in our public conversations, we witness it within shared human events, and we express it through our individual responses.
For thousands of years, this synchronistic relationship between astrology and our own experience has been understood through the principle, “As above, so below,” a phrase that has been interpreted in various ways across cultures and time. In my view, astrology does not cause or create anything, instead it is a language that mirrors and describes everything. We can therefore look to astrology for perspective, understanding, and perhaps meaning, as well as for insight into how we might respond to the pressing issues in our world. From time to time, specific astrological alignments signify important cultural, societal, and personal passages, and the present conjunction of Saturn and Pluto is certainly among them.
Conjunctions occur when two or more planets come together in the same part of the sky, and may be thought of as the joining of forces or energies. Saturn and Pluto conjunctions occur only every 33-38 years, but in this case there are astrological factors that are even rarer, and which are thought to intensify this alignment. It has been building in earnest in recent months, it will culminate in mid-January 2020 (joining the Sun, Mercury, and the dwarf planet Ceres), and we will sense its energy throughout the coming year.
It reflects elements of a much larger paradigmatic change, so we’ll first look at Saturn and Pluto in terms of evolving our experience of power, then in a subsequent newsletter, we’ll consider their conjunction as part of a broader human evolutionary transition.
Both subjects will be framed with one question in mind: What are we asking of ourselves now?
Such an approach puts the energies of Saturn and Pluto into our hands, so that it’s less about wondering what will happen, and more about what we can do. Rather than asking astrology to be predictive, we can work with it by being proactive.
We can think of this as a global experience that is relevant for each of us in different ways, and to varying degrees, depending upon the nature of our own personal astrology.
Power and Authority
Pluto and Saturn are the planetary symbols of power and authority, respectively. In an external sense, they symbolize, among other things, governmental and political power, corporate power, and economic and socio-economic power. Since the earliest nuances of this alignment began in December 2017, (when Saturn joined Pluto in Capricorn, the zodiac sign also associated with authority), there has been increasing attention on the use, misuse, and abuse of governmental, corporate, and financial power, as well as on discussions of tyranny, authoritarianism, and institutionalized power and disempowerment in many forms.
Astrology is for everyone, so this is not a political statement. It’s an astro-historical one, rooted in Saturn Pluto cycles that we can trace back to September 11, 2001, the Vietnam War, the post World War II Marshall Plan, the start of World War I, and so on, back to the early establishment of Roman Empire over a millennia ago, and beyond. Throughout time, astrology has echoed the stories of our shared past, just as it reflects the history that is being written in this moment.
When we wonder how we might contribute to the future we hope will be created from our time, we can look here and now to the most vivid Saturn Pluto themes that speak to us, consider where find ourselves within them (or them within us), and then make conscious, constructive personal choices (Saturn), rather than unconscious, potentially destructive ones (Pluto).
While “As above, so below” speaks of our human connection with the cosmos, we also dwell with the Earthly principles “As within, so without” and “As without, so within.” They remind us that our experience of external power is inextricably linked with our internal one. When we evolve our inner relationship with power and authority, we change our personal experience of them in the outer world. And as more of us transform personally, we change the energy of the collective, and we ultimately shift the paradigm of power and authority as we have known it.
It’s not about taking our power back.
- It’s first about understanding our perceptions about power, including where and how power is positioned in our circumstances and relationships, and when and how it got there.
- It’s about identifying and being responsible for how we operate with power.
- Where we have power issues, it’s about redefining our power dynamics.
- And it’s about committing to how we want to live the “As within, so without” principle so that we go forward in a right relationship with power.
- Even if we feel like the least powerful person in a given situation, we’re using power.
Power as Energy
Power is simply a form of energy that is available to all of us equally. Describing power in this way lends a neutral perspective from which we can identify how we’re currently experiencing and expressing power in our lives. The following offer various ways of looking at power and authority; consider where one or more may be relevant:
GIVING POWER AWAY
- What do you give power or authority to? e.g. Beliefs, thoughts, habits, fears, time, the past, the future, prioritizing others over self, prioritizing self over others, external approval, external respect, concerns about judgment, a need to feel powerful, or any other ways we give power to something external and ultimately experience it as personally disempowering.
PERCEIVING POWER AND/OR AUTHORITY AS EXTERNAL
- In general, do you think of power or authority as being outside of you, or inside of you?
- Are there specific relationships or situations in which you feel that people or circumstances hold power or authority over you?
THE USE / MISUSE OF POWER - Developing a right relationship to responsibility
- This may include “doing” for others, being “helpful,’’ or otherwise taking on responsibility (Saturn) for things that aren’t ours to do. It may give us a form of relative power in certain relationships, but when we look more closely, it doesn’t feel empowering for anyone.
Saturn symbolizes a right relationship to responsibility that begins with defining what is ours, and what is not. When we know a particular responsibility does not belong to us, then by definition it belongs to someone else. Once we’ve discerned this, the responsible thing to do is to step back, so others can step in. As long as we’re occupying that space, they’ll be unlikely to do so. (If for no other reason, there is no room for them.) Saturn is the archetypal Great Teacher, so we may need to guide a little, but this is different from consistently sending the signal “I’ll do it.” If we’re consciously or unconsciously using power in this way, it’s typically disempowering for all concerned. When we clear the way for others instead, we allow them to develop their own sense of personal responsibility, and model a right relationship to responsibility as well.
- Alternatively, if we’re not taking responsibility or we lack accountability in some area (Saturn), we’re blocking the empowerment that begins just on the other side of the commitment we need to make to ourselves or others. Saturn maturation is sometimes a factor.
ABUSE OF POWER - The Outer or Inner Tyrant
(Tyranny may be defined as “Using power in a cruel, unreasonable, or oppressive way.”)
- If you have been subject to external tyrants in the past who are no longer present, consider whether you have stepped into their place with self-disempowering attitudes, behaviors, and choices.
- The inner tyranny of shame and self-criticism consume large amounts of power and energy and give nothing of value in return. This concentration of power crushes self-empowerment, just as outer tyrants do.
- For some of us, external tyranny may be very literal, in which case, change may necessitate experienced assistance in order to be free of its power.
LACK OF POWER - An internal power void
Power and authority are sensitive to their own absence. When we disconnect from our own power, we may passively invoke the principle “nature abhors a vacuum.” Externals will likely fill in the space, and our life then tends to take the form of other people’s initiative, priorities, plans, or rules (all Saturn themes). Our experience becomes defined more from the outside in, than from the inside out. Saturn describes both options, and symbolizes the evolutionary process of defining and being accountable to our inner self and life.
DIS-USE OF POWER - Abdicating power or authority
When we know what we are asking of ourselves and then resist that knowing (actively or passively), we may inadvertently invite or attract those who are willing or even happy to take power or authority in our life. In essence, we are misusing / abusing the power we have to create our lives through lack of use.
INTERNAL DISEMPOWERMENT AS A FORM OF POWER
We may feel we are the least powerful person in a situation, but it is also possible to use that position as a form of power to bend or manipulate others, or to ensure that we don’t have to trust our own power.
WITHHOLDING POWER FROM OTHERS
By holding back a kind word, a compliment, encouragement, appreciation, etc.
CONSCIOUSLY USING POWER TO DISEMPOWER OTHERS
When we overtly or covertly use power in order to feel personally powerful at the expense of others, or if we are a tyrannical force in the lives of others, it can only be disempowering for all concerned, including us.
A remedy for our Saturn Pluto conditions
Whatever our issues with power, personal empowerment is the evolutionary way forward.
We recognize empowerment easily, whether we’re seeing it in others, or feeling it within ourselves. It is powerful soul energy that has nothing to do with position or status. When we witness it in someone else, the deepest part of us responds, not with self-criticism, doubt, shame, or envy, but with self-recognition. We feel expanded in its presence, not contracted. This is the nature of empowerment - it is creative, not competitive. It belongs to all of us, equally. It knows no scarcity. And it already exists within us. When we help others toward their empowerment, we contribute to an energetic environment that further empowers whatever it touches, including us.
If we have experienced empowerment even once, then in body, mind, and soul, we know what it can look like and feel like. If we feel empowered in some areas of our life, but not others, then we have a solid reference point for beginning to cultivate empowerment elsewhere.
If we’ve never felt empowered, we can start right where we are and use our current experience of disempowerment as a basis for finding our way. By identifying by name the feeling(s) we experience and associate with disempowerment, we can then begin to name their opposites. When we pinpoint the feelings we associate with empowerment, we’re on our way to living them. We can then ask life to bring mentors, models, books, websites, or whatever we need to begin to practice and develop these aspects of ourselves.
Of the multiple possible expressions represented by the Saturn Pluto conjunction, empowerment is a life changer. Developing, or further expanding our sense personal empowerment first involves working out our current relationship with power.
SHIFTING OUR PERCEPTION OF POWER FROM EXTERNAL TO INTERNAL
When power feels external, consider the questions:
- Where exactly do you perceive the power as being in this relationship or situation? Look beyond first-layer responses such as “they control the power,” or “the power is in their hands.” For example, the power we perceive as being in the hands of other people may be linked with their approval, judgment, respect, resources/money, etc.
- How did the power get there in the first place?
- What would be required of you in order to withdraw the perception of power being external, and instead draw upon it from within yourself? (e.g. Giving up a self-perception or a self-limitation, choosing a different attitude, committing to a change in behavior, thinking from a new mindset, speaking from a more authentic voice.)
THE NEXT OCTAVE OF POWER - PERSONAL EMPOWERMENT
When we are conscious of the power dynamics in our lives, we begin to clear the way for a life of greater personal empowerment. If any of the above power issues felt relevant, then consider them in light of the following:
- What would empowerment look like and feel like in this situation/relationship instead?
- If you have experienced empowerment in your life before, what is different about this situation/relationship from ones in which you have felt empowered? (This helps to identify power issues.)
- How might you connect with the energy of empowerment you have known elsewhere, and transfer it into this situation?
- What would be required of you in order to create this new experience of empowerment? (e.g. What would you need to decide, say, do, not do, etc.)
EMPOWERMENT THROUGH SATURNIAN AND PLUTONIAN PROCESSES:
Pluto symbolizes transformation, meaning a change in form. Saturn symbolizes those forms, the things that structure a life such as patterns, habits, plans, goals, commitments, vows, and rules (including our own). For some of us, the Saturn Pluto conjunction may signal a time of redefining our Saturnian forms through Plutonian means.
Pluto is the mythological god of death and rebirth, so its call to transformation may require something to end in order for something else to emerge. Plutonian archetypes offer several metaphors:
- Pluto is the Phoenix who gives itself to the fire, is reduced to ash, and then arises anew, fully formed.
- Pluto is alchemical, recalling the legendary power to transmute lead into gold. Plutonian alchemy asks us to release our attachment to what is no longer valuable, or is even toxic, so that which is elegant, beautiful, healthier, and of much greater value can take its place.
- If we attempt to have our Pluto both ways, holding on to what is ready to pass from our lives, while holding out hope for something new, we enter the limbo between death and rebirth, and risk living a half-life.
SURRENDER AND TRUST
Transformation often involves the Plutonian themes of surrender and trust. Saturn signifies commitments, vows, endings, and responsibilities. Perhaps we need to:
- Surrender to what our soul knows we must do. Then trust ourselves to do it.
- Surrender to what our soul knows we must no longer do. Then trust ourselves to leave it behind.
- Surrender old responsibilities masquerading as “responsible.” Then trust that being responsible to ourselves will never be in conflict with our true responsibilities to others.
- Surrender the relative power we hold (and our identification with it). Then trust that empowerment can and will take its place.
Saturn and Capricorn (linked in the sky through December 2020) are also the astrological symbols of integrity and authenticity, states of being in which our inner and outer lives are one and the same. The conjunction of Saturn with Pluto offers an energetic environment in which we can look deeply into ourselves to better understand any motivations for maintaining a separation between who we are inside and how we live externally. It is also provides the energy we need to close that gap, and to go forward more at one with ourselves.
THE POWER OF CHOICE
We could look at the historical events above, wars, terrorism, and empire building, and think of the current Saturn Pluto conjunction as just one more passage in a long succession that highlights the human struggle for power. Yet another period in which humanity is acting out on, or acting from, its Saturn/Pluto issues.
But this moment is not the same.
Saturn is associated with sustainability, a word that has only more recently entered the collective conversation and consciousness in significant way, and it applies here directly.
We are hitting Saturnian limits in the way we’ve used Plutonian power.
Our use of power ranks high on the list of sustainability issues facing humanity, because power is woven through the other issues on that list: e.g. climate, our relationship to the Earth, our relationship to material resources (water, land, fossil fuels, money, etc.), and our relationships to and with each other.
We’re at a change point in which we’re personally and collectively asking ourselves to surrender current forms of power, and trust that new and better ones can emerge. If, instead, we maintain our power issues as they are, we’re in essence applying the potent energies of Saturn and Pluto to embed those old dynamics more deeply into the structure of our lives.
Empowerment offers a sustainable way forward because it knows no scarcity; the empowerment of one contributes to the empowerment of all, and the empowerment of one can never be at the expense of another.
We can answer inner questions like “What is my part in this?” and “What can I do?” by making personally empowered choices, and in doing so, humanity itself evolves a little more, even if we don’t see the effects immediately. That’s where Plutonian trust in the Saturnian laws of life, such as “as within, so without” come into play.
We’re dismantling the old paradigm by withdrawing our participation in it, and at the same time, we’re contributing to the creation of a new one. As more and more of us do this, we begin to tip the balance of power toward the next octave of human experience.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing about how personal empowerment is part of this larger transition.
In the meantime, my very best to you in the new year.
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The content of this newsletter may be republished only with author credit and a link to my web page: © 2019 Patricia Bechdolt, IntegrativeAstrology.com
Saturn Image Credit: NASA/ JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Pluto Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
NASA photos are in the public domain