In the Sky: January 9, 2018 features a triple conjunction of Sun-Venus-Pluto. These three will be in intimate conversation from Jan. 6 to Jan. 13. Read on for a discussion of the Venus-Pluto archetype, which will be illuminated by the Sun over this next week.
When the planet of love and attraction, Venus, meets the planet of raw elemental power, Pluto, the notion of peace and harmony can deviate a bit from the norm. In a natal chart, Pluto’s intensity can drive Venus into places she otherwise wouldn’t consider, and expand her capacity for perceiving beauty far beyond what is considered to be “pretty” or “nice.” As a world transit, this brief influence can provide a few days of discomfort, tension or even a catharsis, as low-key or hidden conflict pierces through a veneer of stability or avoidance and seeks resolution.
We will now consider natal placements of Venus-Pluto, which can appear in many different and even contradictory forms. This archetypal complex can correlate to the nature (Pluto) mystic or nature lover (Venus) who venerates the generative powers of life buried beneath surface appearances. It can also indicate someone who explores taboo forms (Pluto) of intimacy (Venus), or on the other hand, someone who deeply fears all intimacy and terrified of its power to transform, shrinks from deep relationship. Or Venus-Pluto can signify the person who believes in the transformative power (Pluto) of love (Venus), among many, many other expressions.
Harmony versus discord
Venus-Pluto can bring an uncommon depth of insight into the nature of peace and harmony. Discord, strife and the intimate dance between death and life can be seen as part of the great mystery of existence, rather than in opposition to our existence. A relationship with instinct can be cultivated, a healthy appreciation of instinct as a powerful force that drives the vitality of life, and not just a dangerous element to be controlled and mitigated.
On the other hand, Pluto can also suppress what it touches, and make one fearful of the power within whatever Pluto aspects. See for example, Sigmund Freud (Venus conjunct Pluto) with his deeply influential book Civilization and Its Discontents, which posits the need for an eternal war—namely, civilization—against the depraved human instincts in order to force harmony upon human societies. According to this philosophy, love and reciprocity are to be found through repression and suppression, as Freud states, “It is impossible to overlook the extent to which civilization is built up upon a renunciation of instinct….” and “is a process in the service of Eros [Venus], whose purpose is to combine single human individuals, and after that families, then races, peoples and nations, into one great unity, the unity of mankind.”
Freud’s expression of Venus-Pluto here highlights issues of vulnerability and fears of being out of control, which are key themes for the Venus-Pluto archetypal complex, particularly regarding one’s social groups and intimate relationships. Jealousy and intense envy can feature prominently. However, one way to turn this tendency into a powerful ally is to make the contemplation of jealous feelings a part of the spiritual path. What is the desire to have something or not have something actually pointing towards? What real insecurity is beneath that desire? How can you meet the needs of that insecurity—if they can be met? Fixating on others’ perceived riches or foibles is a great distraction from one’s own deep insecurities! But turning towards those fears and facing them can be profoundly liberating and free up tremendous resources of life vitality, enjoyment and communion with the Sacred Other in all its forms.
Communion with and deep reverence for the Plutonic
Turning toward another inflection of the Venus-Pluto archetypal complex, one of its more interesting correlations is Venus-Pluto as the nature mystic.
The cosmologist Brian Swimme (Venus conjunct Pluto), with whom I studied for several years, is one who comes to mind. One of his book titles, The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, expresses his Venus-Pluto well (hidden = Pluto, heart = Venus). While studying with Swimme, I appreciated his deep, deep sentiment for the preciousness of other-than-human organisms and the greater-than-human dimensions of our planet, which he often expressed with an inspirational passion. I remember from one of his lectures a story of wrestling with feeling so deeply for an insect, feeling so sad while watching it thrash about, trapped in some water on the edge of a bathtub. Swimme had wanted to rescue it! (Whereas many if not most people would hardly have a feeling of care (Venus) at all for an insect (Pluto).) But Swimme also wondered if his attempt to help was futile, for the bug would die anyway. A kind of helplessness in love can also be present in the Plutonian Venus, and in his story Swimme offered a reflection on our intimacy with destruction, as a simple fact of life, along with the heartbreaking helplessness one can feel in contemplating the vastness of the cosmos and our tiny place in it. Our love (Venus) for life makes us so vulnerable (Pluto) to life’s immensities and mysteries (Pluto). An open heart must know how to break.
The prophetic farmer and insightful novelist Wendell Berry (Venus conjunct Pluto) is another example of a nature mystic who worships the Earth and its incredible life-giving power.
A quote from his 1969 book The Long-Legged House provides a good example: “The most exemplary nature is that of the topsoil. It is very Christ-like in its passivity and beneficence, and in the penetrating energy that issues out of its peaceableness. It increases by experience, by the passage of seasons over it, growth rising out of it and returning to it, not by ambition or aggressiveness. It is enriched by all things that die and enter into it. It keeps the past, not as history or as memory, but as richness, new possibility. Its fertility is always building up out of death into promise. Death is the bridge or the tunnel by which its past enters its future.”
In this passage, we hear Berry’s deep praise for and adoration (Venus) of the Earth (Pluto), and Pluto’s signature themes of rebirth, the union of the destructive and the creative, as life moves through its transformations. The topsoil as peaceable, as Christ-like in generative power speaks of a feminine (Venus) regard for the source of life. Passive is recognized as active in its own very powerful way.
Finally, this poem by Wendell Berry, The Peace (Venus) of Wild Things (Pluto) is a soothing reminder to all those who find their place in the world, and peace in their heart, within the quiet ease of the greater-than-human world, simply moving in accord with (Venus) its nature, its instinct (Pluto) in the great round of life.
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.