Pluto and your personal evolution
You’ve heard of the so-called “midlife crisis” — that change-filled and transformative period of life that occurs at any time from the mid-30s through to the early 50s. Have you wondered what may be contributing astrologically to your desire to change jobs, have a seachange or even take a younger lover?
The planets in the solar system are associated with qualities and characteristics — many of them derived from mythological stories — that define each planet’s archetypal role in the heavens and in our lives. There are four planetary cycles that play out through your 30s, 40s and 50s: the cycles of the outer planets Pluto, Neptune and Uranus, along with Chiron, herald key evolutionary steps on your life journey. These planets move slowly (both Pluto and Chiron have very elliptical orbits), so each planetary midlife phase can last for 18 months to two years; the exact age at which these occur differs from generation to generation.
The midlife transit of Pluto square Pluto occurs first, around the age of 35; this is presently relevant for those born between 1967-1969. The second and third midlife transits — the transits of Neptune square Neptune (occurring now for those born between 1963-1965) and Uranus opposition Uranus (occurring now for those born between 1963-1964) — are currently affecting people in their early 40s. The final phase, the Chiron return, occurs just as you cross the threshold into your 50s and is occurring now for those born between 1954-1955.
Mid-30s — Pluto square Pluto
At around the age of 35, Pluto makes a square aspect to his position in your natal (birth) chart. Pluto represents the personal journey associated with using and working with your power. Throughout this 18-month phase, issues centre on reclaiming your power. Typical life experiences during the Pluto square Pluto period include challenging issues of control, exercised through sexual or financial manipulation in interpersonal relationships. On the positive side, Pluto square Pluto can bring about a long-awaited meeting with your soul mate or a child that will have a transformative effect on your life, or a step into a powerful and responsible professional role that may take you into contact with the public.
Pluto is about deep and highly personal evolution. Whenever Pluto’s energy rises to prominence in your life, there is a sense of death and rebirth. Mythological images to keep in mind during a Pluto phase include the Phoenix rising from the ashes or the periodic shedding of the serpent’s skin. An Australian analogy for the Plutonic experience is the raging bushfires in summer that raze all in their path; within 12 months, the fresh green shoots of new growth are bursting through the blackened carnage. Strong Plutonic periods can feel like this at times.
Pluto is also known to manifest the need to step into your shadow side and deal with the parts of yourself you prefer to keep hidden, even from yourself. This period of internalisation often accompanies the “death” phase — a necessary step on the way to rebirth. The ultimate image here is the emergence of the butterfly from the chrysalis after it has changed from the caterpillar.
A key theme to keep in mind with Pluto is transformation. No matter how challenging events may be through this period — and even if externally things seem amazing (which can often be the case) — internally there is change and growth required at a soul level. This growth will allow you to evolve so you can take the opportunities that may present themselves now. The Pluto midlife phase offers a chance to work through and release issues that have been grumbling along beneath the surface without conscious awareness.
Pluto is linked to force of will and represents the ultimate expression of your magic. During the Pluto phase in your mid-30s, an alchemical process occurs within, allowing you to transform fears and inhibitions in order to facilitate a more full expression of your personal essence in the world.
Pluto’s connection with death can bring about a death of sorts. A relationship or career that has long since served its purpose may be ripped from you, or you may consciously choose to end something that is no longer serving you. There is a sense of cathartic endings and beginnings during the Pluto midlife phase. As with any transit, you can work consciously with what you have become aware of, or you can try to ignore what you need until life presents events that force you to make the necessary changes. Other key themes of Pluto include a sense of rawness and a need to rejuvenate and replenish your emotional and physical reserves.
Another area of life with which Pluto is associated is sex. Often during the Pluto midlife phase, you are able to deal with any unresolved issues that are blocking your experience of sexual intimacy. Changes in sexual habits are likely as you deepen your intimate relationship with yourself on the road to a deeper ability to intimately connect with a partner.
Early 40s — Neptune square Neptune
Neptune is a soulful and ethereal planet. Under his touch, life takes on a whimsical and at times insubstantial flavour. Neptune’s key theme is dissolution and surrender. Mythologically, Neptune is associated with Poseidon, god of the sea, and during times when planet Neptune rises to prominence, life seems to move to an unknown tidal rhythm that can’t be forced or rushed. Sometimes, when you are under the influence of Neptune, all you can do is let go and let it flow: surrender to what is and stop trying to create something from nothing.
Life as you know it may seem to be slipping away no matter how hard you try to hold onto it. Loss of ego or self-confidence can occur, and depression, moodiness or the desire to escape from everyday responsibilities can manifest. Time spent alone in reflection is a way of using Neptune’s influence positively.
Today, Neptune’s midlife phase commonly manifests as a seachange whereby people pack up their busy life in the bustling city and move to the coast or the countryside in search of a slower and more experiential existence. When Neptune’s call for a more sensitive and fluid life is not heard, he can pull you down into a spiral that may see you drinking and chasing romantic love (the “honeymoon” phase) as short-term fillers for the aching hole inside you. What Neptune is really asking is that you step out of the hectic life you lead and reconnect with what it is that fills the ache within you; then, make it a daily or weekly ritual to spend time doing those soul-honouring activities.
Neptune is linked with revising your life dream. It’s time to take stock of the visions of life you had as a 20 or 30 year old and notice what you’ve been able to achieve and what you haven’t. Revising the life dream for the journey forward involves letting go of dreams you may not be able to fulfil. Even if you’ve fulfilled all your youthful dreams, there may still be a sense of yearning for more meaning. It’s time to dream up a life for the future that is meaningful for where you are now.
During Neptune’s midlife transit you need to find time to reconnect with the spiritual or soulful side of life. Neptune’s journey through your life involves an eternal search for meaning. Your spiritual life needs attention now, as your soul is calling out for a little more space and acknowledgement in your everyday life. Events may challenge your faith, and part of the Neptune midlife phase may involve initiating a greater faith that serves you more fully as a reflection of your life experiences.
Throughout Neptune’s midlife phase it may be difficult to do a lot. Neptune’s essence is more about being than achieving. Finding the time to slow life down to enjoy just being — to really stop and smell the roses — is a way through this phase. Neptune is associated with creative undertakings such as art, singing and writing. Finding more time to create and commune with your muses will allow you to tap into the connection with the divine. Neptune asks logic to take a back seat while impulses, intuitions and hunches are allowed to air themselves in your life. Since life is not about achieving now, taking a step sideways to trek the Himalayas or spend six months writing that novel you’ve always thought was in you is a great way to honour the inspiration Neptune offers.
Early 40s — Uranus opposition Uranus
This phase of the midlife period is the most important, according to astrologer Gregory Clare. Uranus’s orbit around the Sun takes 84 years to complete. This length of time is so close to the average human life span that Uranus transits are often considered once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Carl Jung (1875-1961) likened the cycle of Uranus to the process of individuation: that is, the process of becoming and knowing yourself as an individual and unique being. The midway point in Uranus’s cycle occurs in your early 40s; therefore, it takes on greater meaning as a key marker on your evolutionary journey as an individual.
Uranus’s key concept is freedom, so liberation and the breaking of long-held chains are necessary during Uranus’s midlife phase. If you’ve suppressed your self and your life for a job, a relationship or a belief system, during Uranus’s midlife transit it becomes apparent you can no longer hold your self down. Honest expression of your true, unique and perhaps quirky self is the purpose of Uranus’s midlife phase. It’s time to embrace your true self and forget about what others think or how they may perceive you. Astrologers consider this a conscious awakening of the previously unconscious parts of the psyche or persona. A sense of personal philosophy needs to be developed and embraced now.
Uranus is linked physically to the movement of hormones and neurotransmitters throughout the body. These control mood and sexual desire, among other things. It is said there is a biochemical change in the body’s make-up during the Uranus midlife transit that lends stimulus to a greater need for unique self-expression. For some, this can manifest as the desire to have an affair or to drastically change life patterns. As with Neptune’s transit, there is a deeper need in the inner soul space to express itself. Honour your needs for time, space and freedom as they arise, and such drastic measures as total life changes may not be so necessary.
Throughout Uranus’s midlife phase, there is a growing desire within to overthrow tradition and find a way that is personalised and perfect for you through whatever events life has brought you. The American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82) once advised, “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail,” which sums up the essence of the Uranus transit in your early 40s. Uranus is about finding your own life path; to do that you must first know the essence of your self.
During the Uranus phase, your stable life may crack open, lightning bolts may strike through your world and emotional volcanoes can erupt, causing irrevocable but necessary change. Pressure that has built up explodes in a demand for freedom. These changes serve to help you know your self better.
Working with Uranus requires taking notice of where you are feeling restless, hemmed in or frustrated by life and moving towards changing these circumstances. Autonomy is a key theme throughout the Uranus midlife phase, and your relationships and career will need to give you more time and space to be who you are in your own way. It’s time to live life on your own terms.
Early 50s — Chiron return
Chiron is a planetoid (a planet-like asteroid) discovered in 1977. In Greek mythology Chiron was a centaur (half man/half horse) who was wise in many of the healing arts; however, he was plagued all his life by a wound he suffered in battle. In your own life, Chiron’s story represents an essential wound or pain you live with.
As you enter your 50s and Chiron returns to its placement in your birth chart, old fears about emotional or physical weakness are given the chance to be worked through and released. Whatever the essential wound you carry, it represents a key offering you can make to humankind; your own journey with your specific pain or hurt makes you a good teacher of what it means to live with such a wound.
There is an inherent theme of sacrifice in the Chiron return, occurring, as it does, when you cross the threshold into your 50s and the reality of your mortality becomes perceptible. There may be the loss of a parent, a particular lifestyle or a partner. Events in life during this time can vary; however, there seems to be a profound sense of healing that runs through all of them. Common themes of the Chiron return include wounds about mental inferiority, standing out from the crowd and physical challenges. Some of these disabilities may not change, but through the passage of the Chiron return, your approach to them can.
Chiron in Capricorn
If you were born between November 1951 and January 1955, Chiron is in the sign of Capricorn in your birth chart. The essential wound of Chiron in Capricorn relates to your ability to take on responsibility and authority.
With Chiron in Capricorn there is often a story around the father being overtly strict or absent — either physically or emotionally. People with this placement can spend much of their life trying to emulate their father, often unconsciously.
Capricorn looks to the mountains of life’s challenges and seeks to find a way to surmount them. With Chiron in Capricorn, you may find yourself constantly trying to live up to the expectations of others and not taking enough time to consider your own motivations and desires. This placement can bring a sense of failure, regardless of how successful you actually are. There may be a sense of never feeling as though you have achieved enough.
Sometimes this placement manifests as the placing of too much emphasis on material and financial success without looking to your inner world. You may have unrealistic expectations of how far you need to go. The pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” can be felt strongly.
The gifts of Chiron in Capricorn include respect for your inner vulnerability, a natural sense of authority and dignity, and the ability to foster the growth of others. Through the period of the Chiron return, you have the opportunity to release some of the unrealistic expectations you place on yourself and set a course for life up a mountain that will result in a meaningful achievement for you. Unresolved issues around your relationship with your father may also undergo a cathartic healing or release during the Chiron return.
Chiron in Aquarius
If you were born between February 1955 and January 1961, Chiron is in the sign of Aquarius in your birth chart. The essential wound of Chiron in Aquarius relates to the feeling of separateness that often arises with the realisation that your belief system and mental processes are different from others. Groups, specific social policies and parties may prove tempting but all too absorbing. The need to construct your own unique belief model is imperative. Wounds can be felt around the failure of life to live up to the utopian ideals you may have imagined.
If you have Chiron in Aquarius, you have a natural affinity for working within a collective or group environment but at the same time are reluctant to let yourself go fully into this shared experience. Rebelliousness and anarchy are common when Chiron is in Aquarius. You may at times feel as though your ideas are ignored or not acknowledged. The sense of not belonging that is common for people of the Chiron-in-Aquarius generation partly stems from the fact that many of their ideas and concepts are valid and useful, but other generations can’t comprehend what these visionaries can see.
The gifts of Chiron in Aquarius include the ability to bridge the old and the new, to progressively bring about social change and to be a vehicle for controversial ideas.
The midlife transits can be more fully and personally understood in light of the unique role each outer planet plays in your personal natal horoscope (complimentary birth charts can be obtained from www.astro.com). For some, Uranus is a more prominent planet and the Uranus midlife phase will have the most effect. For others, Pluto is prominent in their birth chart; therefore, the Pluto midlife phase will be of greatest influence. To fully understand your personal journey through the midlife phases, a consultation with an astrologer is recommended.
A planetary cycle refers to the relationship between the point in the zodiac a planet occupied at your birth and the points on its continued orbit around the Sun. Each planet makes mathematical angles to its initial placement in your birth chart throughout your life:
- Square: The forming of a 90-degree angle from where a planet is now in the heavens in relation to where it was when you were born.
- Opposition: The forming of a 180-degree angle from where a planet is now in the heavens in relation to where it was when you were born.
- Return: The return of a planet to the same part of the zodiac it occupied at your birth: its full cycle around the heavens, if you like.
Clare, Gregory. www.users.bigpond.com/gregoryclare
Forrest, Steven. The Changing Sky: A Practical Guide to Predictive Astrology. 2nd ed. ACS Publications, 1999.
Reinhart, Melanie. Chiron and the Healing Journey: An Astrological and Psychological Perspective. Revised ed. Penguin, 1999.
Sasportas, Howard. The Gods of Change: Pain, Crisis and the Transits of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Penguin, 1990.
Kelly Surtees is a professional astrologer with a private practice in Sydney. She offers personal chart consultations in person and by phone. W: www.kellysurtees.com, M: 0414 414 564.