Sign: Taurus (One’s worth, values, and resources. Physical sensations.)
Decanate: Virgo (Earthy and materialistic bounties. Fruits of labor. Value of skills. Ethics.)
Duad: Scorpio (Creative destruction. Objectifying and acquisition. Break down of ownership, values and boundaries.)
Degree: 15 (Contrast. Intensified personal relations. Possible change of alliance. Evaluation of others. Internal conflicts. Self as one’s worst enemy. Instability.)
Numerology: 6 (Harmony and discord. Evaluation and judgement.)
Working symbol: A farmer contemplating killing his golden-egg-laying goose to extract its remaining eggs.
The degree where Mercury stationed before turning retrograde dominates the agenda of the retrograde period. For the current retrograde, Mercury stays within the 15th degree of Taurus for 6 days before changing degree.
The 15-16 degree of Taurus is closely related to the value of commoditized labor and skills, and whether we are selling ourselves short or overestimating our contribution in the workplace. Conversely, our superior, peers, or customers may also be thinking about how to maximize their benefit from us, and whether to retain our service after the metaphorical extraction. It is also possible that we’re at the position of evaluating someone else’s worthiness and value. In any case, the underlying tone is one of self-centeredness and stubbornness, as well a lack of generosity and good will.
This degree also has to do with how we value our labor and hard-earned skills. Do we package the fruits of our labor and sell them to the highest bidder? Or do we continue to refine and break things in the hope of discovering the magic formula? Are we preserving or destroying our health and well-being as we cope with endless demands and an impersonal workplace?
The 15th degree of a sign is where it the two opposing signs –in this case, Taurus and Scorpio, oscillates in a fragmented and conflicting manner. This behavior is not always apparent and sometimes can disguise as ambivalence and lead to an abrupt turning point of a relationship.
Taurus 15 also happens to be the 45th degree in the 360 degree cycle, carrying the quality of eight-ness, which refers to the duality of strength and weakness, and can point to the excessive use of force that cause injury and damage.
In summary, it may be wise to pay attention to the themes related to this retrograde period and remind ourselves that during this period our perception and reasoning can be flawed. And if possible, withhold any irreversible decisions until after May 15, 2023, when Mercury resumes its forward motion.
The final part of this series outlines the best practices for our personal power and puts forth the argument that the integration of Pluto energy is not only a worthy pursuit, but a necessary step for our collective evolution.
Pluto is the gatekeeper between the consensus reality and its transmutations. When we step over the threshold of materialism and experience continuous magic and synchronicity, the shift of perspective is no less monumental than our first baby steps. Needless to say, this new framework ushers in a fundamentally different worldview and a new way of living.
PERSONAL POWER VS. DESTRUCTION
A person knowing the power of the word, becomes very careful of his conversation. … Through his spoken word, man is continually making laws for himself.
Florence Scoval Shinn
A PRIMER OF MAGIC AND MANIFESTATION
In manifestation, the individual mentally simulates a specific state (such as love, abundance, or health) to attract a desired outcome. In contrast, magicians exert mental power (through prayers or spells) to alter their physical reality while invoking the supernatural. Magic sanctioned by organized religions are labeled as miracles.
Present-day practitioners often commingle magic and manifestation. Successful application of either skill requires strong mental discipline and new rules of conduct.
The criteria of successful manifestation are: focus, clarity, unified intentions, and childlike faith. Willy-nilly wishes and muddled intentions lead to unintended consequences, which range from comical to ironic to unfortunate.
While people with less intensity and focus can haphazardly utter harmful words and remain unscathed, we can’t afford to be thoughtless and negligent. Our words can heal and harm. Keeping that in mind, pure intents and painstaking consideration become an ongoing responsibility and the price of our personal power.
There’s no room for hypocrisy in the spiritual world. Our thoughts interact with our reality and create counterforce whenever they are deployed. Therefore, we receive what we ask for ourselves and others. Magic doesn’t pick winner and losers; it responds to our intentions literally and maintains an eternal, simple consistency. If we want peace, we can’t wage wars, no matter how justified our causes. Consuming and sponsoring violent entertainment also nullifies our intentions. Based on the same logic,if we demand justice and equality, we can’t expect preferential treatments of any kind –because we’ll end up with neither. This is a tough pill to swallow. The reason why consistent success in magic and manifestation is rare is because of our internal conflicts.
Since magic both projects and counteracts, we should always aim for the highest principles and seek mutual benefit in our practice, whether it’s for ourselves, our loved ones, or our worst enemies. This principle provides a sound rationale for unconditional love, because that is the only way we will survive each other. Incidentally, pray that our enemies will take their own medicine and learn their lessons is an effective way to stop them in their tracks – provided that we’re willing to do the same.
When we blurt out words like “I wish,” “I swear,” “never,” “always,” and declarations such as “whatever it takes,” “I’ll do anything”, most of us can’t fathom what it will take to fulfill our desires, and the how it will impact our future. This is why our requests should be as general and open-ended as possible to prevent the inevitable blindsides. It is not possible to fill in every detail in our planning and visualization.Pray for abundance and happiness instead of specific material possessions, social status, or love from a special person. Contrary to mainstream teachings, specificityleaves more room for surprises, and tends to materialize in literal and unexpected ways.
In order to sustain the energy needed for our task, it is detrimental to discuss our projects before their fruition. This is one of the reasons Pluto and its power are associated with secrecy.
Although secular success can and does occur, channeling this power for Ego agendas is like funneling the Amazon River through a paper straw. It is destructive, let alone a reprehensible waste. When we use Ego to control this tremendous energy, we get in the way of the powerful flow and waste opportunities for great achievements.
THE ETHICS OF PRAYER
It is often said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions; the same can be said of presumptuous prayers. Essentially, short of following the exact prayer requests, the best we can do is praying in an empowering and open-ended way, wishing our loved ones to be provided with all they need and be protected on their journeys. Anything beyond that can impose limitations, as honorable as our intentions may be. We don’t know what is best for another person, and we should accept this fact with compassion and humility.
Here are some guidelines for powerful prayers:
Wish no harm. When we wish harm on others, we inflict harm upon ourselves.
Whatever we wish for others, we must be willing and ready to receive the same for ourselves. This is not moral rhetoric; it is an immediate, practical concern. The willingness to share the same outcome (and accept the same standard) multiplies the power of our prayers. It also forces us to articulate word-by-word and contemplate our real intents.
We should not assume that we know what is in another’s best interest, even in simple matters such as health, healing, or happiness. Some wounds are the evidence of injustice; some pains are the remembrance of lost loves. Some people don’t heal because their illness is central to their identity and serves an important function for their current situation. What we regard as happiness can be the other person’s hell.
To circumvent unintentional harm, a request for the benefit of all parties is necessary for all our invocations.
When in doubt, ask directly what prayer is needed. If it aligns with our value, we can honor the request and provide our support. If not, we can pray that they continue to have all they need for their chosen path. When we act on assumption and pass judgement in our prayers, we may end up doing more harm than good.
WHY MAGIC FAILS
Magic works when we have faith that it works. Failure and experimentation is part of the learning process. What we perceive as failures are indications that more mindful practice and self-discovery is needed. Here are some of the possible reasons why we don’t achieve the intended results:
Broken promises: When we set a goal or make a promise to ourselves or others, it creates an energy debt that demands repayment. When a promise remains unfulfilled or forgotten, and another is set to contradict it, these two forces work against each other and create obstacles.
Unclear intentions: This is the most common reason why magic and manifestation don’t work. For example, the desire for wealth, success and love is rarely the bottom line. In most cases, it is other underlying needs such as self-love that needs addressing. If we don’t get to the bottom of our desires, the intention is unfocused and weak.
Hidden contradictions: If we want to be loved but don’t believe we are lovable, we can expect to put in extra effort to build up self-love and worthiness. If we were taught that money is evil, sex is taboo, and hard work trumps efficiency, the ingrained dogma will impede our progress. It takes continuous self-reflection and observation to uncover the attitudes, prejudices and scripts that run in our family and culture. What was associated with pain and pleasure? What caused tension, conflicts, and taboo? What was good? What was evil? Awareness of these deep-rooted beliefs and conscious effort to rebuild our belief system can help release these unhelpful beliefs.
Selfishness and separateness: Unlike the scenes in fantasy novels and movies, magic does not project in one single direction. All magic backfires in the long run. To account for this counteractive force, it is necessary to turn all our prayers and spells into blessing that benefit all parties. If we can’t accept and leverage this principle, our power will continue to be limited.
Faulty construct, mis-wording or critical omissions: If our prayer or visualization is self-contradictory, mis-worded, or missing key ideas, it will not work as intended. A common conflict is wanting freedom on the one hand, and more obligation on the other, such as more committed personal relationships, more debt for purchases, greater responsibilities at work, etc.
Undesired and unintended consequences: Often, when we let out our pleas in the midst of an emotional outburst, we are too worked up to craft a well-rounded and thoughtful prayer. (In terms of emotions, desperation is particularly harmful.) As a result, inadequate considerations lead to unpredictable and undesired outcomes. For example, the answer to our plea for financial gain may materialize as inheritance (death of a loved one), insurance payout (personal injury/property damage/lawsuit), or any other situation where the price we payexceeds the benefits.
Interference and obstacles: An environment of abuse, violence, and gaslighting (where our sense of reality is manipulated to instill doubt about our sanity or mental capacity) is not conducive to the steady application of magic. Needless to say, we need to remove ourselves from abusive situations – whether they’re familial, professional, religious, or spiritual.
Impatience: Magic takes time – from seconds to years – to materialize, it does not always unfold according to our schedule. While we consider the delay as a failure, it is more likely that we have placed too many constrains in our request, or there is hidden resistance from within or without.
Energydrain and distractions: Self-doubt is a non-starter for magic and manifestation; doubts from detractors are just as counterproductive. This is why mystics and occultists observe silence and secrecy – not because they’re up to no good. Doubts leak the vital energy in the vessel; distractions obfuscatethe focus needed for any serious work.When our conviction, focus and energy are compromised, our magic is ineffective.
A WORD OF CAUTION
Not everyone who attains this power is spiritually advanced and benevolent. Some have arrived at this stage due to extraordinary talent, or a boost from supernatural powers. They are fast-tracked with their egos intact and may very well choose to exercise their power for selfish gain, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. Still, some of them simply backpedaled from their hard-earned progress and become corrupt and abusive.
Power is seductive –to those possessing it and those desiring it– and spiritual abuse is real. To recognize and combat such betrayals of trust – whether in educational, spiritual, family, or therapeutic settings – we should always be discerning and trust our inner guidance. In short, no one should attempt to disempower another, and no amount of rationalization or authority can replace our inner truth. Disengage at the first sign of:
Involuntary isolation (cut-off from one’s support network)
Exclusivity (as in claiming to be the only way)
Gaslighting and energy vampirism (creating emotional distress in others and feeding off their fear, anger, confusion, and hopelessness).
There is no room for imposed control and deprivation on our path to freedom and power. A better way will present itself once we let go of what doesn’t align with our truth.
EPILOGUE: THE TRANSFORMER VS. THE TRANSFORMED
When we choose to embrace and integrate Pluto, we become the agents of change instead of being wiped out by our disowned shadows. Looking beyond personal and tribal survival, our primary task now is the ongoing discovery of our capabilities and the ways to serve the causes that align with our Self.
At this point, Pluto is no longer a fearsome force but a loyal and unwavering ally. His energy is the secret ingredient of our magic and the cornerstone of our new reality. The pure, intense, and sustaining power propels us to new heights.
With deliberate thoughts and emotions, we project and shape our reality. In this dimension, space and time are fluid and collapsible. We exist in the eternal now, merging into synchronicity and direct knowledge. Our existence, purpose and power are self-evident.
The ebb and flow of human drama takes on a cinematic quality as we observe the universal themes rippling rhythmically throughout epochs, dynasties, and generations. Our present space and time is but one plot line among the countless stories in the infinite theater.
Our destiny is updated with each new insight; our capacity expands with the refinement of our minds. Our words are spells. We grow silent and contemplative because our world has become inexplicable.
Helplessness and victimhood melt away. We gain a new appreciation for our life experience and accept responsibilities for all our actions. We are at peace with everyone’s path and free will, and see duality and dichotomy as polarization by warring groups.
We have arrived at the threshold between ego-bondage and world-building power, ready to break out of the materialistic prison and burst into limitless creation.
We are here because the survival of humanity calls for an upgrade of our collective reality: from one of exclusive privileges and mutual destruction to one of parallel and diverse coexistence. Human progress by exploitation and domination is running into a dead end. As long as our civilization is stuck on the scarcity mindset and continues to fight over the control and distribution of limited resources, we will eventually self-destruct.
Just beyond the fear-based strife, innumerable individual realities have been built by those who traded Ego agendas for a constant state of synchronicity and reality creation. When most us make this shift, human civilization can transition from competitive consumption to multifarious creation. Our future is magic. Loving, embracing, and mastering our Pluto is one sure path to magical realities and power for boundless creation.
The third part of this series continues to map out the paradoxical path to personal power and the threshold of creative reality. In the post-elimination stage, Pluto emerges as a tireless champion of our non-Ego pursues, carrying us through generation cycles and human drama without fail.
The unio mentalis, then, in psychological as well as alchemical language, means knowledge of oneself.
In contradistinction to the modern prejudice that self-knowledge is nothing but a knowledge of the ego, the alchemists regarded the self as a substance incommensurable [not parallel] with the ego, hidden in the body, and identical with the image of God.
Carl Gustav Jung
Truth Vs. Victimhood
After sober introspection and steadfast perseverance, we rise up to meet Pluto’s imposing energy. From now on, we are no longer passive subjects of Pluto’s purging, but active participants in this process.
One of the few straightforward applications of Pluto’s energy is the chipping away at our Ego, fallacies, conditioning, and internal conflicts. Disengage from activities and relations that stray from our values, eliminate everything untrue, unproductive, and dysfunctional. We are the sculptor and the statue. The more we lose, the more powerful we become. Refine, re-define, repeat until lightness and clarity emerge.
The removing of the ‘tangles’ is a process of liberation from our complexes and illusions and from the way in which we identify with the roles we play in life, with the masks within us and with our idols, etc. It is a ‘release’ according to the etymology of the word, a liberation and awakening of hidden potential.
This is an exhilarating and stressful time. Shame and guilt from all directions will attack with a vengeance. While shame is purely social coercion, guilt can indicate a strong conscience. However, without identifying and repairing the damage, this unresolved remorse is nothing but moral posturing. It will take time and determination to process these deep-seated feelings. Proceed with kindness and compassion, yet remain steadfast and resolute.
We are not called upon to step out onto the square and shout out the truth, to say out loud what we think—this is scary, we are not ready. But let us at least refuse to say what we do notthink!
Pluto delivers the ultimate test for personal truth and responsibility. Its extremes separate the wheat from the chaff, no half-measures allowed. If we’re not in charge of our agenda and in peace with our conscience, guilt and shame will continue to drag us down, eventually leading to numbness, self-destruction, and abuse. If we compromise, we inevitably become victims of our cowardice or others’.
It has often been said that power corrupts. But it is perhaps equally important to realize that weakness, too, corrupts. Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many. Hatred, malice, rudeness, intolerance, and suspicion are the faults of weakness.
Competitive victimhood and revenge are self-defeating yet common misuses of Pluto energy. From personal relationships to geopolitics, the one-upmanship of pain and suffering supposedly bestows moral high ground, perpetuate control mechanisms, and aggravate power struggles. It is quite plain that any decent person or group will not wish their agony upon their worst enemies, let alone exact revenge in the name of justice. Nevertheless, this tactic has worked extremely well in the current political and social climate. We can spot these victim-turned-perpetrators at a glance and distance ourselves from their self-righteousness.
[V]ictimism is an ideology of the ego. But perhaps ideology is too strong a term; victimism can be seen as a generalized cultural impulse to deny personal responsibility and to obsess on the grievances of the insatiable self.
Charles J. Sykes
Devotion vs. Chaos
If we keep chipping away at the untruths, sooner or later we will carve out a vast inner space. Coined the “existential vacuum”, Viktor Frankl warned of the danger of losing our bearings:
No instinct tells him what he has to do, and no tradition tells him what he ought to do; sometimes he does not even know what he wishes to do. Instead, he either wishes to do what other people do (conformism) or he does what other people wish him to do (totalitarianism).
Despite Frankl and the existentialists’ warnings, this void is not inherently grim and dangerous. Although many have succumbed to depression and nihilism in this space, it is the desperation for attachments –to a concept, thing, person, group, ideology, philosophy, or deity – that brought on the unbearable pain. If our life purpose and self-worth are cultivated from the prize of ego trips and others’ assurances, this emptiness is the end of the road indeed.
One must find the source within one’s own Self, one must possess it. Everything else was seeking — a detour, an error.
In contrast, Eastern philosophy regards the first-hand experience of Emptiness as a milestone of spiritual growth and maturity. In the Emptiness, dichotomy dissolves and mental anguish ends. In true Pluto fashion, we push one step further and make this open space the foundation of power and the home stage of our creative reality.
Emptiness is the ground of everything. Thanks to emptiness, everything is possible. … Emptiness is quite an optimistic concept.
Thich Nhat Hanh
All we have to do here is to focus and observe the coming and going on our mental stage. Let go of judgment and assumption; abandon the search for certainty and directions. Life will keep coming at us. By staying true to our Self in everything we do, a new identity will emerge. Instead of titles and roles, it will reflect our natal Pluto placement and represent our deepest truth, which we must uphold and defend.
Our accustomed reality will rip, crack and peel; a new reality will reveal itself –first in flashes, then in streams. In this powerful state, synchronicity and magic abound. It may seem to the outsiders that we’re losing our grip to the reality, we’re not. We’re transitioning to the next level, and there are many more. Dismiss doubts from people inexperienced with alternative realities; ground ourselves through the nature and our body so we can plug into the materialistic reality at will.
True faith is by nature intuitive; it perceives the reality of what is not evident, not manifested, and accepts it. …Faith leading to a sense of certainty requires primarily faith in oneself, that is in the real Self, in what we are essentially.
Finding and maintaining faith in this state of flux is another paradox we face. Without faith we’re cut off from the higher power; without connecting to a higher power, we have no ground of faith. Faith is a conscious choice, and it takes intention and dedication to build one anew. By all means –meditation, prayer, divination, synchronicity, art, or nature –investigate and establish a constant connection with the Infinite, the Universe, The Supreme Consciousness, God –as we understand it, because no more advance can be made until we develop a personal religion and see ourselves as droplets of the infinity with unfettered, direct access –without intermediaries.
My reason will still not understand why I pray, but I shall still pray, and my life, my whole life, independently of anything that may happen to me, is every moment of it no longer meaningless as it was before, but has an unquestionable meaning of goodness with which I have the power to invest it.
On the other end of the spectrum, Pluto’s destruction proceeds in due course. Advanced neurosis, violence, domination, and exploitation are predictable devolution of those choosing fear and anger over growth. Since Pluto tends to go all the way, it makes a compelling argument for harnessing Pluto’s unrelenting energy and continuing our striving upward.
Self-Mastery vs. Corruption
I have had to experience so much stupidity, so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow, just in order to become a child again and begin anew. I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths, to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.
Pluto’s force works both ways; it strengthens and destroys with the same intensity. When applied constructively to love, dedication, and courage, extraordinary miracles happen. Applied destructively, Pluto exacerbates debasement and its subsequent purgation.
To path to master our Pluto is the path to self-mastery. First, we rein in all haphazard mental processes and communications. Investigate and clarify our intentions, eliminate internal conflicts and self-sabotage. Train our attention to achieve laser-sharp focus as well as all-encompassing perspective. Discover the power of silence and deploy our time, energy, attention, and personal data with awareness and purpose.
Next, we detach from drama. Our emotional reactions –for the most part –are shaped in the past and constantly lagging behind the present. Instead of going with our reflexes, let the emotions wash over and only respond in manners that aligns and fortifies our missions. From the highest love to the strongest condemnation, deliberated release and withholding of emotion is Pluto’s domain. With self-awareness and discipline, we can be free from emotional manipulation and use our emotions to effect our environment at will.
The will is not merely assertive, aggressive, and controlling. There is the accepting will, yielding will, the dedicated will. You might say that there is a feminine polarity to the will – the willing surrender, the joyful acceptance of the other functions of the personality.
Self-mastery is often associated with a strong will. The secret of a strong will is that it has little to do with strength, stamina, or control. Rather, it is about a conviction and dedication so complete that it leaves no room for doubts and limitation. We achieve Self-mastery when our personal objectives are incorporated by the transpersonal, and the Self –the center of our consciousness that straddles the material and spiritual planes –are under the directive of the higher consciousness.
If we are diligent, we will live in unshakable faith and trust that everything happening to us is a beneficial learning experience. Knowing that we are nothing but one indestructible facet of the Infinity, we have nothing left to fear. Our preoccupations will naturally rise above the self-preservation; personal wants will yield to universal concerns. New talents will likely surface and change the course of our lives.
The greatest achievement is selflessness. The greatest worth is self-mastery. The greatest quality is seeking to serve others. The greatest precept is continual awareness. The greatest medicine is the emptiness of everything. The greatest action is not conforming with the world’s ways. The greatest magic is transmuting the passions. The greatest generosity is non-attachment. The greatest goodness is a peaceful mind. The greatest patience is humility. The greatest effort is not concerned with results. The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go. The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances.
Atiśa as quoted by Walter Taminang
Rising from shattered Ego and illusions, our unified Self is the key to Pluto’s inexhaustible power. Moving forward, our endeavors will be propelled by the same unstoppable force that shapes the arc of history and civilization. This is the beginning of magic and miracles.
Part 2 and 3 of this series aim to survey and organize Pluto’s expressions and plot a precise course of personal power through integrating and harnessing this formidable energy.
The path to bypass Pluto’s destruction is made of counterintuitive steps, which makes the process all the more enigmatic and this information consequential. Regarding people who cling to their Egos and those opting for projecting their inner darkness, the diagram below also outlines their trajectories. Fortunately, they don’t all reach the extreme, as the middle-range options turn out to be effective coping mechanisms. This working model should not be taken as the author’s final word on this subject.
The main obstacles of personal evolution via Pluto arises from several deep-rooted misconceptions:
We have internalized the doctrine that our success –as defined by the society –determines our worth and meanings. Most people believe that beyond social recognition there is only grim and endless wasteland, this is far from the truth.
We were taught that darkness is inherently evil and should be cast out. In fact, our inner darkness is a reservoir of power; only those intending to disempower us would instruct us to distant ourselves from this inexhaustible resource. When we disown our darkness and project it onto others, we’re distracted from looking inward and arriving at self-knowledge.
Most of us assume that powerful people are on TV making announcements and living glamorous lives. The opposite is true: great powers work behind the scene and stay out of the spotlight.
With that in mind, let’s survey the dramatic landscape of Pluto’s expressions (click image to enlarge):
Active Vs. Passive Participation
Pluto’s energy is dark, intense, and all-consuming. Those demanding “positive vibes only” will likely get overwhelmed and pass on the opportunities to confront their darkness and access Pluto’s power.
We ignore Pluto at our own peril. Besides dreading Pluto transits, there is another way: actively participating in this supercharged period, working with this energy, and integrate its highest expressions.
Pluto’s placement in our natal charts indicates the nucleus of our Self and our deepest truth. Once we get in touch with Pluto’s primary areas of concern (as indicated by its natal and transit houses), and how it functions (in relation to other points in the natal chart), we can begin the process of harnessing this unstoppable force to propel our personal evolution.
(If you’re in the midst of difficult Pluto transits, please refer to this article for coping strategies. If you’re concerned about harming yourself or others, please immediately seek help via your local or national crisis hotline.)
Detached Vs. Merged Ego
The option to detach from one’s ego is as attractive as a dimly lit alley next to a red-carpet reception. It appears unappealing and lackluster in contrast to the bright lights and glitter. Nonetheless, this is the entrance to our Pluto work – the passageway to bypass most of humanity’s follies brought on by the insatiable Ego.
Instead of cultivating our Egos and dedicating our lives to their missions, we recognize the Ego for what it is: a brittle and ephemeral product of social conditioning. This prosthetic personality, however intricate and elegant, is nothing but socially-sanctioned role-playing that interferes with our evolution toward the infinite Self and personal power. The less we identify with this costume, the sooner we can get down to the business of metamorphosis.
Opportunity Vs. Threat
Crises are harbingers of evolution.
Pluto is a gift for personal evolution, but few of us would recognize this during our early encounters. Most of us immediately felt threatened and under attack. We believed that our existence hinged upon returning to the established order, unaware that this Sisyphean labor was out of sync with our personal growth.
Suppressing Pluto’s transformative power is a losing proposition. Any astrologer who studies Pluto’s cycle knows this: The more we resist the change, the more violent and unpredictable the transit, and the longer the trail of wreckage. Still, growth and change can be too frightening and too humiliating for some, simply because it is inconceivable for them to admit that the existing condition has become unacceptable.
How we perceive these crises has a direct impact on their outcomes. As history will attest, the ends and means to assert control during the cyclical rise and fall have resulted in untold calamities on all levels and magnitudes. At this juncture, we have two options: evolve or prolong the status quo. Since the status quo has never held up in history, it is really no contest.
Letting Go Vs. Control
Ego feeds on other’s attention and recognition. It strives to glorify itself and is terrified of losing control. Winning and success give our Egos incredible highs, and it goes without saying that many people are trapped in endless ego trips. Even the fight against Ego strengthens its grip on our consciousness.
If compliments are not forthcoming, negative attention is better than no attention at all. To satisfy Ego’s desires, time and energy are directed toward manipulation and control. This is where most people first encountered the personified Pluto –from within or without. Power struggles during Pluto transits are so prevalent that it becomes the standard interpretation of these periods.
During a power struggle, our reaction inadvertently works as the counter-force that solidifies the opposition. Not only do we acknowledge our opponent’s standpoint, the more we fight back, the more we reinforce their positions. The longer we engage, the more we become just like them. When we recognize the situation and disengage from this contest, we dismantle their platform and become free to direct our attention and efforts elsewhere.
From personal relationships to politics, the more we can untangle from power struggles, the better chance we have at defeating the abuse of power and be free.
Knowing others is intelligence; knowing oneself is wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering oneself is power.
Pluto Internalized Vs. Expelled
I saw that the entity I had taken to be “me” was really a fabrication. My true nature, I realized, was much more real, both uglier and more beautiful than I could have imagined.
Thich Nhat Hanh
After the initial encounter, we get to choose whether to integrate or reject Pluto’s qualities.
Few of us –even among the most stouthearted and dedicated –would expect that in order to integrate Pluto’s energy, we need to scrap the long-held ideas about who and what we are. For some, re-examining these ideas and exploring the uncharted territory within –not knowing what they might find –is unthinkable. Instead of deep introspection, they cast off the undesirable qualities onto chosen scapegoats, who are then prosecuted and sacrificed to release the inner tension of their perpetrators.
Those able to contain this energy face yet another common pitfall. It is all too common for high achievers to conflate their Ego with the Self, and use the internalized Pluto for self-destruction. In their erroneous beliefs, accolades and success are the sole indicators of self-worth; failure to meet arbitrary expectations equals a worthless existence. Deceived and betrayed by their Egos, they self-exile in the lifeless terrain of despair, guilt, and shame. Unbeknownst to them, life begins when they stop impressing people who are preoccupied with their own agenda.
The insatiable goals to acquire more, succeed conspicuously, and be as attractive as possible lead us to objectify one another, and even ourselves. When people see themselves as little more than their attractive bodies, jobs, or bank accounts, it brings great suffering… in search of a positive internal answer to the question Am I successful yet? We become cardboard cutouts of real people.
The boundary between Egocide and self-destruction is tenuous. We will most certainly drift erratically before coming to this conclusion: The only responsible way to handle this energy is to recognize our own fallacies and take on the cleansing storm with a brave face. Even then, the poor-me drama and passive aggression can still be used to serve the Ego. Until we rein in the histrionics, our Egos will continue to dominate and the Pluto work remains unattended.
Shaking off others’ expectations is terrifying and freeing. False starts as well as enormous guilt and anxiety are to be expected. Notwithstanding, we are not our own person until we make conscious choices and take full responsibility for how we carry ourselves –in the ways we intend to, instead of the way we are expected to.
Humility Vs. fear
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
Since Pluto transits can be excruciating at times, it’s only natural that we want to shield ourselves from harm. If we can’t ease the pain, some of us would feel hopeless, some grow anxious, while others try to alleviate their pain and powerlessness by projecting their anger and hatred onto others. The displaced loathing and obsession with control negate self-reflection altogether.
Instead of riding the emotional roller coaster (another common Pluto theme), this stage calls for perseverance and humility. It goes against our instincts, yet everyone who owed their personal growth to agonizing Pluto transits shares this view: This is the time to take a deep dive under the barrage of emotions, experience with full awareness, and observe subtle fundamental changes within ourselves.This beautiful stillness is a preview of what life could be when we love, tame and master our Pluto.
No matter how painful the experience, mindful engagement sets us apart from the would-be victims and perpetrators. Honesty, acceptance, and unconditional love for ourselves will sustain us during this grueling process. Without self-honesty and commitment to personal growth, compromise and corruption set in. It should become apparent, at this stage, that Pluto’s notoriety is the byproduct of our feeble attempts to thwart this unrelenting force of nature.
Have you hugged, kissed, or thanked your Pluto today?
The Hated Pluto
Pluto is undoubtedly the most-hated body in astrology; it is also the most mysterious and controversial. The mystery of Pluto lies in its formidable power to simultaneously polarize and unite the opposites, and in a crushing forward motion, fundamentally reconstructs these elements into a new reality. People regard Pluto as ruthless and destructive, but they’re missing half the story. Pluto is alchemy. It purifies, condenses, and by demanding the utmost from everything it touches, brings upon metamorphosis. Pluto is also the outermost and slowest planet whose generational-defining cycle is observable during a human life time.
The Must-Love Pluto
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.
So why should anyone love Pluto?
Because this incredible force is within all of us, and the misunderstanding –or worse –outsourcing of its function is a serious disservice and disempowerment to ourselves.
Pluto is not nice or pleasant, quite the contrary. Its ill repute –dark, intense, controlling, and destructive –routinely leads to the shunning of its manifestation and embodiment. Out of fear and misunderstanding, people deny and reject their personal Pluto in droves, as if ignoring their inner darkness will protect their virtue.
It’s well known in astrology that any unintegrated or neglected planet is a problematic planet. Denying the expressions of a celestial energy within ourselves is not unlike locking ourselves out of parts of our homes. Cobwebs gather in the dark corners, and the stale energy becomes dysfunctional. The “stuck” energy then releases in unexpected ways, wreaking havoc in our lives.
We either deal with Pluto on our terms, or on someone else’s. An alienated personal Pluto, like an unsecured weapon, is particularly troublesome. When we disown this power and refuse responsibility, we allow the power-to-be to coerce us into living in their construct and abide by their rules –be it psychological, social or spiritual. When we go along with the crowd to fit in, to “make it,” we hand over our personal power and our values waver. Drifting farther and farther from our essence and principles, we consent to powerlessness and become victims of circumstances. The awareness and integration of Pluto energy is the first step of psychic self-defense and essential psychological survival skill.
Darkness And Night Visions
Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.
C. G. Jung
Darkness is not inherently evil. In this secluded sanctuary our attention turns inward, our minds connect with the deep and the intangible. Our inner vision comes to life and we are cognizant of the undercurrents. This is where the spiritual struggles are fought and won.
Our Pluto work can only take place in darkness and isolation. Might as well –since there is no glamour in scrubbing off layers and layers of the old self until we’re red and raw. It’s painful, messy, and mostly likely, embarrassing to our egos.
In the process of reduction, unify, and transform, something precious –things we thought had defined who we are and our purpose in life –will be taken from us. The loss Pluto inflicted is often mistaken as threats to our survival. It triggers a tsunami of fear, despair, and trauma, as we put on the fight of our lives. In the best-case scenario, we accept our loss with stoic resignation. Most of the time, though, it brings on such pain that it feels as if our hearts are ripped out and put through the grinder.
When we thought we’ve had enough, Pluto will surely demand more. Finally, we are driven over the edge, diving head-first into the abyss in complete nakedness and vulnerability. During the slow-motion free fall, the magic happens: we rediscover the central truths of our lives. Who we are, why we are, how we’re supposed to live, all become crystal clear in its luminescence. This rediscovering of Self is Pluto’s ultimate gift.
Ego The Clown
In reality the ego is like the clown in the circus, who is always putting in his oar to make the audience think that whatever happens is his doing.
Ego is a collection of behavioral patterns we developed to better fit in the society. This departure from personal truths allows smooth social interactions, which promises improved access to wealth, power, and stability. The compromise comes with a price, however: as we increasingly grow tired of the constant tension between what we know to be true and how we’re expected to think and behave, we’re tempted to abandon our truths and let the social facade take over.
As soon as we conflate our ego with the Self, we’re subject to Pluto transits that turn this shaky composite into crumbles and force us to confront and re-consolidate the core of our existence. Only by separating our ego and true Self can we bypass human’s common downfalls and recurring trauma.
Once the Ego is dropped, we’re one step closer to mastering our Pluto and become an active co-creator of our lives. While we are in this world, we’re no longer beholden to this world. Our social facade is treated as a party costume and nothing more. We become a fractal of the Infinite, powerful and limitless.
The Beleaguered Hero
The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation.
Human history is filled with cases of ego-driven, off-the-rail Pluto incarnates committing humanity’s worst atrocities and were met with equally gruesome ends. In timeless mythologies, heroes who enjoyed a grand mission send-off invariably encountered hardship and calamities that obliterated their confidence and prospect of victory. As they made the last ditch effort to face their fate in utter desperation and delirium, the fabled treasure presents itself in rarefied aura and transformed the seekers with its magic powers.
The untold story of Pluto is hidden in the legends of heroes. There’s no middle ground when seeking Pluto’s treasures, because the idea of losing and detaching from one’s ego in the process is too extreme for most people. On the other hand, since Pluto transits are always grueling, we might as well make them count. The more fearful and judgmental we are of its energy, the more we’ll be caught unprepared and traumatized. If we can maintain compassion for ourselves –or even keep some dark sense of humor when our layers are peeling off, we’re surely winners.
…anyone who attempts to do both, to adjust to his group and at the same time pursue his individual goal, becomes neurotic.
C. G. Jung
One thing is certain: when we love our Pluto, we are learning to harness this unstoppable energy to propel our path on and upward. It’s a straight and simple path once we get the clinging and the moderation (another word for control) out of the way. Attempting to ease this learning curve only delays and complicates it. The fear of “losing face” guarantees a drawn-out process rife with power struggles. More of that in part 2. (To be continued)
“…the dollar may be our currency, but it’s your problem…”
–Treasury Secretary John Connolly (Nitchter 2015)
Nixon’s announcement upended the international monetary system (Burns 2010), and caused mayhem in the currency markets. Countries that chose to hold their reserves in U.S. dollars suffered heavy losses and faced widespread economic turmoil. By mid-1973 the U.S. dollar had fallen by 25 percent on average, relative to the major Western currencies (Hammes and Wills 2005).“Shock waves from Washington’s decision to break the link with gold have rippled down the decades. The creation of the euro, the hollowing out of US manufacturing, the arrival of cryptocurrencies and the ability of central banks to print seemingly unlimited quantities of money can all be traced back to August 1971” (Elliott 2021).
I’m really very concerned about the way that things are shaping up politically in every one of these countries. Italy has a recession […] Germany has a recession […] we’re going to Moscow, but Japan is a mess. Western Europe is in a mess. We’ve given up our friends to our enemies.
—National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, November 16, 1971 (Nichter 2015)
In December 1971, after months of negotiations, the Group of Ten (G-10) industrialized democracies agreed to a new set of fixed exchange rates in the Smithsonian Agreement. U. S. dollar was devalued by 8.5% against gold to $38 per ounce. Europeans revalued their currencies by a similar amount and Japan agreed to revalue Yen by 16.9%.
Dubbed “the most significant monetary agreement in the history of the world,” by president Nixon, the agreement was doomed from the start. On February 12, 1973, U. S. dollar devalued by another 10% to $42 per ounce of gold. Speculation against the dollar pushed other major currencies to float against the dollar and rang the death knell for the fixed rate exchange regime. Gold rose to $90 an ounce in mid-1972 and reached $195 by the end of 1974.
Inflation, stagflation, and Price control
Having talked until recently about the evils of wage and price controls, I knew I had opened myself to the charge that I had either betrayed my own principles or concealed my real intentions. Philosophically, however, I was still against wage-price controls, even though I was convinced that the objective reality of the economic situation forced me to impose them. …
What did America reap from its brief fling with economic controls? The August 15, 1971, decision to impose them was politically necessary and immensely popular in the short run. But in the long run I believe that it was wrong. The piper must always be paid, and there was an unquestionably high price for tampering with the orthodox economic mechanisms.
–President Richard Nixon, RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon
By all accounts, “Nixon’s economic package was a short-term success. Throughout 1972, the United States enjoyed the largest real growth (5.7 percent) and the lowest rise in consumer prices (3.3 percent) since the Johnson administration. Unemployment declined to 5.1 percent, and the American balance of payments deficit shrunk drastically from $29.8 billion in 1971 to $10.4 billion in 1972” (Nitchter 2015).
The 90-day wage and price control sought to “shield” the American people from the monetary shock and solve the inflation-employment dilemma. Such policy was supposed to allow the administration to maintain a loose fiscal policy without fanning inflation. However, inflation soon reignited after the election. In 1973 another round wage and price freeze failed to curb the inflation and was followed by stagflation.
When mandatory wage and price controls came to a complete end in 1974, the aftermath was far from pleasant. Energy shortages and high food costs contributed to an increase in inflation and to recession, and the pressure that built up after the period of controls lead into the destructive double-digit inflation that plagued the early months of the Ford administration. Three years after controls had complete [sic] ended, both unemployment and inflation hovered around 7 percent, and there was even nostalgia for the “good old days” in 1971 when we had only 4 percent inflation and 6 percent unemployment.
–President Nixon, RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon
Unemployment hit 9% in May of 1975. Inflation reached double-digit in 1974 and 1979. The U.S. dollar price for a barrel of oil rose from $3.35 in January 1970 to $32.50 by the end of the 1970s. The U.S. consumer price index rose by 106 percent during the 1970s. The high interest-rate that followed brought on the recession in the early 1980s.
“The U.S. and other western countries struggled to cope with the inflationary shock. Corporate profitability suffered, encouraging firms to move their production plants to parts of the world where labour costs were cheaper. By the time the US started to take draconian steps to curb inflation at the end of the 1970s, Deng Xiaoping was launching the reforms that would turn China from an economic backwater into an industrial superpower. Fifty years after the collapse of the Bretton Woods system, China has emerged as a bigger threat to the US than the Soviet Union ever was”. (Elliott 2021)
The current official price for gold stock on Fed balance sheet is at $42.22 per ounce (as of October, 2022, source https://www.federalreserve.gov/data/intlsumm/current.htm). By the end of the 1970s, gold had risen 1200% to more than $455. The open market price in 2022 is between $2091 and $1621 (as of November 25, 2022).
THE CANTILLON EFFECT
Income inequality has significantly increased since the late 1960s, coinciding with the onset of the great inflation and welfare expansion. Since the Nixon presidency, richest Americans has experienced the fastest income growth while the real household income stagnated.
One often-downplayed consequence of monetary expansion is recognized by Irish economist Charles Cantillon (1680-1734). Cantillon observed that when money supply expands, those closest to the source of new money benefits the most, because they can purchase assets before the inflation occur. Those farthermost from the source of new money suffer the most, because they will bear the burden of inflation before their wages catch up with the price increase.
In other words, when massive amount of new money is created, not only does it lead to inflation but also chooses winners and losers. In our modern economy, the money expansion by central banks favors government,large corporations (that lobby the congress), and investors of these corporations. The accumulated effect leads to Plutocracy (government by the wealthy, of the wealthy, and for the wealthy) and Plutonomy (concentration of wealth), and threatens democracy. This effect is demonstrated by the stagnant real median household income over the past decades while asset price soared with the cost of living. When politicians advocate the “multiplier effect” of loose monetary policy “for the poor,” they conveniently leave out the fact that such policy exacerbates income inequality and worsens economic conditions for savers, people on fixed incomes, and wage earners, whose income increase persistently fall behind the inflation.
Consider the following recent headlines that demonstrate the Cantillon Effect in action, and how it bestows power and spreads corruption through central bankers, government insiders, and investment firms:
IS THIS TIME DIFFERENT?
There are two leading causes of inflation we’re seeing today. The first cause of inflation is a once-in-a-century pandemic. Not only did it shut down our global economy, it threw the supply chain and demand completely out of whack… And this year we have a second cause — a second cause: Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine. You saw — we saw in March that 60 percent of inflation that month was due to price increases at the pump for gasoline. Putin’s war has raised food prices as well, because Ukraine and Russia are two of the world’s major breadbaskets of — for wheat and corn — …
Normally — normally, we’d have already begun to export them into the market. … But it’s difficult because, again, of Putin and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
– President Joe Biden, May 10, 2022
At the time of writing, the third and final conjunction of U.S. Pluto return is fast approaching. The difference between a Pluto trine in the 1970s and current Pluto return is that this time around, the transiting Pluto is both working for and against the U.S. The outward destruction and inner transformation –both constructive and destructive –work as one. The corruption (Pluto) in value (2nd house) is more intensified; so is the downfall and resurrection.
Pluto energy is both intensifying and transformative. Collectively, this energy rarely acts under freewill. What we’re presently witnessing (as of December 2022) is a strong and self-destructive force that will not quit until both fundamental change and significant collateral damage occur.
U.S.’s second house Pluto historically triggers money, currency and trade issue during important transits, this time is no different. Economists and market observers have come to the realization that the inflation/stagflation is resurfacing. This time, the Fed, caught between high inflation and high interest rate, is out of arsenals. “If the Fed runs down the SOMA (System Open Market Account. Fed’s asset portfolio containing the assets acquired and to be sold during open market operations) portfolio too much, they will break something in the market. If they don’t, we are stuck with inflation.” (Chavez-Dreyfuss 2022). Currently, the National debt to GDP ratio is at the highest since World War II. The debt servicing cost is at a steady up trend, and the treasury market liquidity is at crisis-level low.
Reminiscent of the great inflation of the 1970s, we are facing social and geopolitical tensions, overreaching government, volatile financial markets, and high inflation. In addition, we have unsustainable level of government and private debt, and a formidable geopolitical opponent to whom we continue to transfer funding, data, and advanced technology. In Nixon’s words: “the most formidable enemy that has ever existed in the history of the world” –China.
We won’t know to what extent and how this Pluto Return will manifest until the dust settles. If history is any guide, the inflation will not be transitory and the recession will not be shallow. Whatever temporary fix for structural problems will have long-lasting impact and unintended consequences.
It would be prudent to review major legislation and executive orders during the crucial Pluto return period (between March 2021 to December 2023). The policies that aim to solve long-term problems with political compromises –or worse, outright corruption –will not work as intended, and will likely carry perniciousconsequences. It’s not too late to recognize the folly of our experts and officials, and the destruction the political class can inflict on our lives. The least we can do is to insulate ourselves as much as possible in the wake of their short-sighted and disastrous policies.
Conservatives are always at a disadvantage when speaking about economics because their belief that some pain may be necessary now to save the patient later is conventionally interpreted by liberal politicians and commentators as “heartlessness” or “callous indifference to human suffering.”
It is unfortunate that the politics of economics has come to dictate action more than the economics of economics. Not surprisingly, when prudence clashes with political reality, the latter sometimes triumphs.
—President Richard Nixon, RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon
Bordo, Michael D. 2018. “The Imbalances of the Bretton Woods System 1965 to 1973: U.S. Inflation, The Elephant in the Room.” NBER. National Bureau of Economic Research. December 2018. http://www.nber.org/papers/w25409.
Few days in modern economic history are remembered as a day of infamy like August 15, 1971, when President Richard Nixon suspended U.S. dollar’s convertibility to gold. The “Nixon Shock” permanently and fundamentally transformed U.S.’s economy and governance, its impact reshaped international trade and geopolitics.
Taking place during the Pluto trine (when transiting Pluto formed a 120° angle to the U.S. Pluto), this series of events played out along the path of political expediency and betrayal of principles, which were followed by pernicious effects. The result was the corruption of core values (Pluto in 2nd house): currency devaluation, economic recession, a tectonic shift of socioeconomic landscape, and the government’s increased control over personal freedom and prosperity – all signatures of U.S. Pluto transits.
The trine between two planets indicates both energies working in sync and in harmony. The influences materialize swiftly. Due to the lack of conflict, the natives can be careless and unaware. In the case of U.S. Pluto, the trine with transiting Pluto means the powerful, corruptive forces –both within and without—are working as one, unobstructed. What we observed was the compromise of core beliefs, broken promises, deceptions, and secrecy.
Policies made during U.S. Pluto transits often corresponded with the destruction of status quo and the expansion of federal government. The quick-and-dirty solution frequently leads to unintended consequences that work the opposite of the original intention, since Pluto’s pattern is also to ensnare and complicate. The impact of these policies does not fully materialize until years, even decades later. This episode is a cautionary tale of a politicized economy and its aftermath.
Transit Pluto trine U.S. Pluto (120-degree angle)
November 4, 1969 – February 26, 1970
September 2, 1970 – October 27, 1970
March 12, 1971 – August 26, 1971
Exact dates: September 29, 1970; April 20, 1971; July 24, 1971
Compromise of principle for political expediency
Financial crisis, inflation, and currency devaluation
Plutonomy (Wealth redistribution, disparity, and concentration)
Plutocracy (Expansion of government control. Government by the wealthy, of the wealthy, and for the wealthy.)
Trade wars and currency wars
THE BRETTON WOODS SYSTEM
In July 1944, near the end of World War II, delegates from 44 nations gathered at the Bretton Woods Conference to rebuild the international monetary system. United States dominated the post-war economy and its dollar emerged as the world’s reserve currency. The U.S. government agreed to back every dollar overseas with its gold reserve at $35 per ounce, and all other countries pegged their currencies to the dollar.
The Bretton Woods system became functional in 1958. Since U.S. owned over half of the world’s gold reserve, the system was stable for a time. Foreign countries continued to acquire dollars and spend on American industrial exports, and their U.S. dollars were saved in interest-bearing accounts rather than converted to gold (Lowenstein 2011).
THE LONDON GOLD POOL
In order to provide dollars for international trade, U.S. ran a persistent balance of payment deficit (expenditure exceeding income) and redeemed overseas dollars in gold upon request. In 1961, the amount of outstanding dollar claims began to exceed the U.S. government’s gold reserve. The London Gold Pool was established to shoulder the burden of gold outflow with member nations and defend the $35 gold price.
The stabilization mechanism was not to last. The Federal Reserve shifted to an inflationary policy in 1965, violating the rules of the Bretton Woods System (Bordo, Monnet, and Naef 2017). In the same year, French president Charles De Gaulle led the charge to repatriate gold and subsequently withdrew from the London Gold Pool. Other countries followed suit and the gold run accelerated.
Unfazed, the U.S. government carried on its “benign neglect” policy, running ever-larger balance of payments deficits and increased spending on Great Society program and the Vietnam war. The Johnson administration (1963-1969)doubled the national deficit and flooded the world with dollars.
As the U.S. dollar became further overvalued and oversupplied, foreign central banks and traders accelerated their dollar-to-gold conversion. In 1966, foreign central banks and governments held over 14 billion U.S. dollars. The United States had $13.2 billion in its gold reserve, only $3.2 billion of which was available to cover foreign dollar holdings.
On March 14, 1968, the United States requested the London gold markets to halt trading amidst overwhelming demand; the two-week closure spelled the official collapse of the London Gold Pool. On March 18, the congress voted to eliminate the gold reserve requirement for Federal Reserve Notes –namely, the U. S. Dollar. The measure exacerbated the devaluation and damaged the U.S.’s credibility. (Bordo 2018)
A two-tiered gold system emerged in effort to shore up the U. S. dollar and contain gold’s surging price. Foreign central-banks pledged to stop trading gold on the open market and reaffirmed the $35 price among central banks. Gold price in the open market was left to float freely. Incidentally, American citizens had been barred from owning monetary gold since 1933. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the gold confiscation was constitutional during U.S. Pluto and transiting Pluto opposition (forming a 180-degree angle) in 1935.
THE DOLLAR CRISIS OF 1971
What’s our immediate problem? We are meeting here today because we are in trouble overseas. The British came in today to ask us to cover $3 billion, all their dollar reserves. Anyone can topple us – anytime they want – we have left ourselves completely exposed.
—John Connally, Secretary of the Treasury (1971-1972), August 1971
The fiscal and monetary tightening in 1968 brought some relief to the gold outflow; it also caused the recession in 1970. Despite inflation nearing a two-decade high, Nixon was more worried about persistent high unemployment rates, fearing it would threaten his re-election victory. He relentlessly harassed and pressured Burns –through whisper campaigns, blackmailing and mixed messages –to accelerate money supply “vigorously and aggressively”. Starting in early 1971, Burns forwent his cautious stance and repeatedly slashed the Fed discount rate. Inflation and the run on the dollar resumed. In June 1971, gold in the open market rose above $40 per ounce.
In early August of 1971, United States lost $850 million in gold reserves in just one week. The French had called in over $1 billion in reserves in the a few weeks prior (after an $191 million purchase); the Germans and the Dutch were looking to call in some $200 – 250 million more. (Ohlmacher 2009)
The last draw came on August 12, when the British ambassador appeared before the United States Treasury and asked that $3 billion be converted into gold. That amounted to one quarter of the remaining U. S. gold reserves.
With the run on the dollar at an all-time high and Nixon administration unwilling to tighten, the Bretton Woods framework reached a breaking point. Nixon had wanted to hold off a decision until after the 1972 election, but was advised that doing so would risk hemorrhaging billions more from the gold reserves. To put an immediate stop to market speculation, Nixon’s advisors impressed upon him that the announcement must be made before the markets’ open on the next Monday, which meant broadcasting during the Sunday prime time.
SECRET CAMP DAVID MEETING
On the afternoon of Friday, August 13, 1971, President Nixon holed up with fifteen advisers and staff members at Camp David to confront the economic crisis. The course of action was set: all that was needed was a united front within the administration. Nixon was preoccupied with the short-term economic outcomes and how it would impact of his re-election in 1972 (Ohlmacher 2009); more time was spent discussing the timing and the presentation of the speech than how the economic program would work (Yergin and Stanislaw 1997). Despite of the policy’s enormous impact on international relations and global trade, no foreign policy advisors were invited. Federal Reserve chair Arthur Burns vehemently opposed the closing of the gold window, but he was marginalized and overruled.
Secretary of Treasury John Connally played to the president’s insecurity and advocated dramatic display of leadership. Having infamously said “foreigners are out to screw us … our job is to screw them first,” Connally convinced the president to bypass the Congress and plan in secret ahead of the European finance ministers’ meeting, which would release a joint statement on the United States’ role in the international financial crisis (Ohlmacher 2009).
We can stop convertibility very easily – by just saying so…The next thing is that you probably ought to float this exchange rate with the other currencies of the world. …We have a floating currency… We can take these steps without revaluing gold.
—John Connally, Secretary of the Treasury, August 1971 (Ohlmacher 2009)
Connally assured Nixon that he did not have to be the president who devalued the dollar, and advised him to conflate the closing of the gold window with a domestic policy package: “Whatever we do in the international field – it seems to me – ought to be coupled with action on the domestic front so that they tend to shield each other”. “Posture it as being competitive,” such action would have “no political downsides. At all. And a great deal of upsides”. (Ohlmacher 2009)
THE NIXON SHOCK (& LIES)
On the evening of August 15, 1971 president Nixon delivered a live, prime-time speech to outline his sweeping economic reform. In a broad stroke, Nixon proposed a 10 percent tax credit for business investment, repeal of the 7-percent excise on automobiles, and speeding up income tax exemption. He also ordered a cut in Federal spending and foreign aid, pay freeze, and downsizing government personnel.
By executive order, Nixon imposed a 90-day wage and price control to counteract inflation expectations. As his dramatic announcement seemingly drew to a close, Nixon segued into blaming international currency traders for unemployment and inflation, arguing for a strong dollar, trade competitiveness, decoupling from gold, and monetary stability in the same breath:
The third indispensable element in building the new prosperity is closely related to creating new jobs and halting inflation. We must protect the position of the American dollar as a pillar of monetary stability around the world.
In the past 7 years, there has been an average of one international monetary crisis every year. Now who gains from these crises? Not the workingman; not the investor; not the real producers of wealth. The gainers are the international money speculators. Because they thrive on crises, they help to create them.
In recent weeks, the speculators have been waging an all-out war on the American dollar. The strength of a nation’s currency is based on the strength of that nation’s economy, and the American economy is by far the strongest in the world. Accordingly, I have directed the Secretary of the Treasury to take the action necessary to defend the dollar against the speculators. I have directed Secretary Connally to suspend temporarily the convertibility of the dollar into gold or other reserve assets, except in amounts and conditions determined to be in the interest of monetary stability and in the best interest of the United States.
Now, what is this action which is very technical? What does it mean for you? Let me lay to rest the bugaboo of what is called devaluation.If you want to buy a foreign car or take a trip abroad, market conditions may cause your dollar to buy slightly less. But if you are among the overwhelming majority of Americans who buy American-made products in America, your dollar will be worth just as much tomorrow as it is today….
I am determined that the American dollar must never again be a hostage in the hands of international speculators.
I am taking one further step to protect the dollar, to improve our balance of payments, and to increase jobs for Americans. As a temporary measure, I am today imposing an additional tax of 10 percent on goods imported into the United States. …
As a result of these actions, the product of American labor will be more competitive, and the unfair edge that some of our foreign competition has will be removed. This is a major reason why our trade balance has eroded over the past 15 years.
–President Richard Nixon, August 15, 1971
With this announcement, U.S. unilaterally suspend the dollar’s convertibility into gold, effectively dissolved its international obligations and ended the Bretton Wood system. Nixon blamed “international speculators” for U.S. losing competitiveness and imposed a 10% tariff on all imported goods until a new international monetary agreement was made.
President Nixon has moved with startling decisiveness to stabilize the dollar and spur economic growth. … (He) has now provided the leadership which is even more essential than any specific proposal for turning the economy around and starting it back on the road to full employment, price stability and competitiveness in an open world market.
–The New York Times, August 16, 1971
The new policy was well-received by the media as well as Wall Street, with the S&P 500 booking the largest one-day gain of the year.
… between now and the election in November , there must be one paramount consideration. And that paramount consideration is not the responsibility of the U.S. in the world, it isn’t outgoing policy, it isn’t the fact that in foreign [policy] we’ve done this, that, or the other thing, the main thing is that we have to create the impression that the president of the United States, finally, at long last, after 25 years with blood, sweat and tears, is […] looking after its interests.
–President Richard Nixon, September 11, 1972
Back in 1968, Nixon campaigned on the promise to roll back President Johnson’s liberal agenda and expansionist policies. He presented himself as a free-market proponent in pursuit of gradual money contraction, inflation reduction, full employment, and balanced budgets. (Bordo 2018)
Believing that high unemployment rates had costed him his first presidential bid in 1960, Nixon’s mandate for the incoming Fed Chairman Arthur Burns was “no recessions”. (Bordo 2018) After the mild recession in 1970, Nixon declared “now I am a Keynesian,” abandoning his free-market stance and fiscal discipline. A loose monetary policy not only supported the domestic welfare programs and the Vietnam war, but also supported economic expansion resulting in an upward revision of economic indicators through the election season.
Instead of correcting the monetary and fiscal policies, President Nixon successfully convinced the American people that the rest of the world was the problem: The surplus countries were blamed for devaluing their currencies and hurting the dollar’s competitiveness; currency speculators were blamed for the pressure to devalue the dollar. There was an unwillingness to recognize that the key source of the problem: U.S. inflation. (Bordo 2018)
By re-framing policy failure as a triumph and fresh start, Nixon succeeded in playing the role of a strong and decisive leader. He won the re-election in a landslide in 1972.
This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists’ tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the “hidden” confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty in understanding the statists’ antagonism toward the gold standard.
Readers who follow astrologers on social media or blogs would have learned about the forceful, unpredictable, and rare Mars-Uranus-North Nodes conjunction by now. Personally, since the Uranus-North Node conjunction formed a sextile to my Cancer Mars, I have been having kitchen (Cancer) incidents involving burns (Mars) by bursts of scalding steam. These were not results of carelessness since I have used the very same water boiler in an identical manner every day for the past years without similar issues.
Most astrologers would warn readers and clients with hard aspects (0, 90, or 180 degrees) to the current conjunction to be extra cautious during this formidable transit. In my first-hand experience, a transit involving the lunar nodes will be activated as long as transiting points share the same degree, even if they are minor or “soft” aspects. Case in point:
Yesterday afternoon, I answered the doorbell and found a food delivery order at our doorstep. I waved (and yelled) at the driver as he sped away and called the customer’s phone number on the receipt –the number was disconnected. We waited for an hour for someone to claim the food. Long story short, the free dinner (and the leftover) was quite wonderful.
The triple conjunction was in the fourth house of food, sextile my Mars in Cancer (also food). In addition, the Moon (food)-Mercury (neighborhood delivery) conjunction was at the 8th house cusp (other people’s money) in Leo (gifts and favors). It was an uncommon positive outcome from a usually stressful inconjunct (150-degree) transit and an 8th house-cusp placement.
Less than 24 hours later, we were in a car accident. A speeding moving truck cut a corner on our narrow community driveway and most likely totaled our vehicle while we attempted to back up (adjuster appointment pending). Mars-Uranus-North Node conjunction was in the 9th House (other’s vehicle/driving), sextile my Mars (ruler of my 7th house –house partnership and counter-party, also related to driving and vehicles).
Mercury and Saturn opposition formed a loose-orb fixed grand cross with the nodal axis, indicating clouded judgment, delayed maneuver, or mental fatigue. Mercury was located in the truck driver’s 6th house, the house of labor (jobs) and service. Saturn in the truck driver’s 12th house points to probable sleep deprivation. The truck driver did not have the license with him but immediately apologized and exchanged all the insurance information. The moon appears void of course but had mutual reception with Mars.
Part 3 is a survey of the crucial points of the U.S. Pluto cycle. These dates are determined by aspects formed between the transiting Pluto and the U.S. Pluto. Only major aspects – 60, 90, 120, and 180 degree – are included. As mentioned in part 2, for the sake of precision, I use an 1-degree orb, i.e. only events that took place when the transiting and natal Pluto are within 1-degree of forming an exact aspect are included. –Author
Dubbed “America’s first great depression,” the financial crisis in 1819 was a result of contraction of demand and money supply at the end of Anglo-French war in 1815.
The Panic was precipitated by the need for the Bank of the United States to save itself by reversing its credit expansion and contracting its loan sharply. This sudden contraction, precipitated in the summer and fall of 1818, forced the state banks to contract their loans as well. It brought an unpleasant day of reckoning to those over-inflated banks, which were now called upon to meet their unfulfillable promise to redeem their banknotes in specie. The result was a run of bank failures, and a severe contraction of banknotes throughout the country.
Murray N. Rothbard, “The Frankfort Resolutions And The Panic Of 1819.”
U.S. prospered during the European conflict as the neutral exporter to the warring countries. Owing to the disruption in European agriculture production, American agriculture imports were in high demand. U.S. domestic inflation further elevated the price of produce such cotton, tobacco, and wheat. Farmers and investors, anticipating sustained price increase, rushed to expand their land holding, creating the “land boom.”
The land rush was also promoted by the U.S. government, who incurred massive national debt during the Louisiana Purchase and The War of 1812. In anticipation of a revenue boost, millions of acres of western land were released to the public with generous purchasing terms. Buyers with insufficient funds were allowed to purchase with credit.
After the termination of First Bank of the United States in 1811, U.S. government, citizens and enterprises had relied on unregulated and under-capitalized “wildcat” state banks for funding. The suspension of specie (gold and silver coins) conversion in 1814 allowed these banks to freely issue banknotes with minimal reserve, subsequently greatly expanded the money supply. Between 1811 and 1815, the number of state banks in the U.S. rose from 88 to 208 while the national money supply doubled (Rothbard, 2007).
Money, or what passed for money, was the only cheap thing to be had…. The State banks were issuing their bills by the sheet, like a patent steam printing press its issues; and no other showing was asked of the applicant for the loan than an authentication of his great distress for money. …They generously loaned all the directors could not use themselves, and were not choice whether Bardolph was the endorser for Falstaff, or Falstaff borrowed on his own proper credit, or the funds advanced him by Shallow.
Joseph G. Baldwin. The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi.
The money supply exploded, wildly variable discount rates among banks began to cause chaos in the financial system. Premiums for redeeming specie were common place. Some banks even resorted to intimidation and lawsuits when customers attempted to convert their banknotes for specie. (Rothbard, 2002). The Second Bank of the United States was chartered in 1816 to establish uniformed convertibility among banknotes and restore trust in banks.
The largest corporation in its time, the national bank was owned by the federal government as well as foreign and domestic shareholders. The bank was entrusted with conducting all fiscal transactions for the U.S. Government, and paradoxically, according to secretary of the treasury William Crawford (1816-1825): “The first duty of the Board is to the stockholders; the second is to the nation.” (Browning, 2019).
With this conflict of interests in mind, perhaps it was not astonishing that the bank not only caved in to the financial and political interests of its shareholders, drastically amplifying the money supply and inflation, it was also derelict in reinforcement of the specie conversion, “outright fraud abounded” (Rothbard, 2002).
On the eve of the crisis, the explosion of money and credit spilled into infrastructure construction and international trade. Inflation was rampant. An outflow of specie drained the bank reserves across the country. Vicious dumping of cheap British imports devastated the once-burgeoning domestic manufacturing, an urban depression was underway. Since Britain’s conditional ban on imported grain in 1815, Europe has recovered from previous crop failure and resumed post-war agriculture production, which lead to reduced demand and production of American agriculture imports. The sudden collapse in price was precipitated by Britain’s switch to cheap Indian cotton in 1818. Farmers’ and investors’ profit plummeted, defaulted on their loans, setting off bank failures.
It was not until mid-1818, when U.S. must repay foreign debtor in gold or silver, did the national bank abruptly restricted loans and demanded immediate specie redemption from state banks. These high-flying banks, unable to meet the requirement, in turn recalled loans and demand immediate payment from their stressed borrowers. Mass default and bankruptcy ensued, triggering a banking crisis and the Panic of 1819. The money supply contracted 50% between the spring of 1818 and summer of 1819. The price of staples fell by 51% between November 1818 and June 1819 (Rothbard, 1963). Farmers and investors saw the price of their land dropped as much as 75%. In once thriving urban manufacturing centers, employment and income plummeted. Unemployment reached 50% in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia (Browning, 2019). Poverty was widespread and middle class crowded the debtors’ prison.
All the flourishing cities of the West are mortgaged to this money power. They may be devoured by it at any moment. They are in the jaws of the monster! A lump of butter in the mouth of a dog! One gulp, one swallow, and all is gone.
Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton (1821-1851)
The banking crisis lasted from 1818 to 1819. The depression was lifted in 1821, but its impact persisted into mid-1820s. The national bank, through increasing reserve requirement, quickly brought the financial crisis under control — at the cost of exacerbating and prolonging the depression. Distressed assets from borrowers were seized by the national bank and sold cheaply to those with means. State governments were powerless to restrain the federal bank.
In 1820, congress reduced the size and price of public land and banned the purchase of public land on credit installments. Subsequent relief programs for earlier buyers (1821) included interest forgiveness, price reduction, extended loan terms and return options. These relief measures set the precedent for controversial government interventions during future crisis.
This crisis was regarded as the start of modern boom-bust economic cycle. The corruption of banks and government were on full display throughout the first nationwide crisis. It became apparent that banks served their shareholders at the expense of their customers, and the wealthy and well-connected was able to ride out, even profited from the financial devastation. Predictably, the distressed asset price paved way for future consolidation. It also deepened the riff between states and federal government, the industrialized North and export-dependent South, the conservative East and expansionist West. The nationwide hatred toward the banks would last for decades and the bitterness toward the federal government would feed Southern sectionalism and sow the seed of civil war. The heated debate between sound money vs. debasement persisted to this day.
Browning, Andrew H. The Panic of 1819 the First Great Depression. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2019.
Evidently, a narrative that negates all traces of a matter as massive as slavery must inevitably distort the rest of the story as well. From the meaning of freedom to the understanding of human nature, to the perception of God’s Providence, all elements of Americans’ understanding of their great national experiment were warped and reshaped to conform to the demands of a version of the tale in which the enslavement and dehumanization of millions of their fellow creatures could be deemed compatible with the values of the republic.
Robert Pierce Forbes. The Missouri Compromise and Its Aftermath.
Reason, justice, equity never had weight enough on the face of the earth to govern the councils of men; it is interest alone which does it, and it is interest alone which can be trusted.
Thomas Jefferson, “12 July, 1776” in Jefferson Autobiography
Coincided with the Panic of 1819, unprecedented threats of disunion and civil war erupted over the future of slavery.
The anti-slavery language was left out in the Declaration of Independence for the sake of unanimity. At Constitutional Convention of 1778, the delegates again faced the same quandary: a union with slavery vs. no slavery, no union.
Great as the evil is, a dismemberment of the Union would be worse. If those states should disunite from the other states for not indulging them in the temporary continuance of this (slave) traffic, they might solicit and obtain aid from foreign powers.
James Madison, Debate in Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 15, 1788
The political evil was inherent in the constitution itself, which brought States slaveholding and non-slaveholding into indissoluble bonds, providing no radical means for assimilating their condition. The anti-slavery spirit of 1776 had died out, or rather had exhausted its power of persuading States to emancipate…
James Schouler, History of the United States, Volume IV
Northern delegates conceded again, acquiescent in the belief that slavery will eventually become economically unsustainable and die out. With no foreseeable increase in demand of slave labor, the delegates prohibit the restriction of –thus continuing – Atlantic slave trade for the next twenty years, and left the thorny issue to individual states in the Tenth Amendment (1791): “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
After the “Act Prohibiting the Importation of Slaves” took effect in 1808, the nation settled on the future decline of slavery, yet domestic slave trade remained. The entire U.S. population continued to participate in trading and consuming goods produced by domestic and oversea slave labor. The invention of cotton gin in 1793 had revolutionized cotton processing, vastly increased the productivity and profit of cotton production, which almost entirely the product of slave labor. The “cotton boom” after the War of 1812 sent the production and worldwide demand for American cotton soaring. U.S. cotton export grew from $5,700,000 to $20,000,000 between 1800 and 1820, and the value of slaves was said to have increased three-fold in the same period. (Woodburn, 1894) Slavery became profitable and vital to the national economy once more.
The Tallmadge Amendment
In 1812, Louisiana territory –the first from the Louisiana Purchase – entered the union as a slave state. Missouri territory was expected to follow suit in 1818. In the course of debate, New York Representative James Tallmadge Jr. and Charles Baumgardner submitted two amendments to Missouri’s admission to the union:
“… that the further introduction of slavery or involuntary servitude be prohibited, except for the punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been fully convicted; and that all children born within the said State, after the admission thereof into the Union, shall be free at the age of twenty-five years.”
The Tallmadge Amendment was the first serious challenge to the southern status quo, an uneasy balance of power based on the joint evasion of morality of human bondage and servitude. The debate largely focused on the interpretation of the constitution. The discourse on morals was considered offensive by the southerners as it violates the state sovereignty and the long-standing understanding between the two sides of the slavery issue.
The debate on Tallmadge’s amendment was inconceivably intense and hostile, and involved open threats of disunion and civil war:
“If a dissolution of the Union must take place, let it be so! If civil war, which gentlemen so much threaten, must come, I can only say, let it come!”
Representative James Tallmadge Jr. of New York
The measure passed the house but failed in the Senate. Missouri’s statehood was in limbo at the close the 15th session of Congress. Over the recess, bitter resentment, and indignation raged across the country in town hall meetings, pamphlets, petitions, and newspaper essays. Northern antislavery force demanded that Missouri abandons slavery and the prohibition extended to all future territories. Missourians and their southern supporters decried the unwarranted delay and unfair restriction.
…we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.
Letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Holmes (April 22, 1820)
Southerners did not trust the North’s humanitarian anti-slavery argument. Rather, they viewed Northern restrictionists’ effort as a plot to revive the Federalist party and return to an era of a strong national government. The call for Revolutionary ideal of liberty and equality was perceived as encroachment on state sovereignty and dreaded incitement to slave riots.
The crux of the pro-slavery argument was the Southern slave holders’ prosperity and political dominance. Virginian planter class, and by extension, Southern slaveholders, have served almost consecutively in the White House and held high offices since the founding of the nation. The nation’s capital, border on Virginia and Maryland, was the center of domestic slave trade. Virginia held almost 1/3 of the nation’s slave population and was eager to push the surplus to the new territories.
Southern Founding Fathers, James Madison and Charles Pinckney stressed that the Constitutional Convention had not authorized any extraordinary congressional control over slavery. Thomas Jefferson, likewise, recoiled against all the northern constitutional innovations spawned by the Missouri crisis. Jefferson adopted the argument that “diffusion” of the institution in the West would not increase the total number of slaves and “would make them individually happier and facilitate their eventual emancipation.”
Don E. Fehrenbacher. The Slaveholding Republic.
Since the industrialization of cotton production and the upsurge of cotton export, slavery not only became enormously profitable but made its westward expansion. Up against the enormous economic incentive, Southern antislavery sentiment wavered, and the Revolutionary philosophy became irrelevant and inconvenient history.
Most southern representatives in the Congress continued to denounce slavery, but their words had become increasingly hollow. Apathy and resignation gradually set in. It was accepted that nothing –nonthreatening to the slaveholding class, at least –could be done. Many simply set the date of eventual abolition to the infinite future.
Charles Pinckney – founding father, signer of the Constitution, three-term South Carolina governor, ambassador, and two-term congressman –defended slavery. Citing historical precedents in ancient civilization and indigenous slavery in Africa, he asserted that slavery was human nature, and implied that the institution was common good of slaves and slaveholders:
A free black can only be happy where he has some share of education and has been bred to a trade or some kind of business. The great body of slaves are happier in their present situation than they could be in any other, and the man or men who would attempt to give them freedom, would be their greatest enemies.
Charles Pinckney’s Speech to Congress, 1820.
The South also extended their legal argument against the Tallmadge amendment on the sovereignty and equality of the of the state (Woodburn, 1894). Quoting the second half Article, 4 Section 3, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution: “…nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State”, along with the Tenth Amendment, they argued that the Constitution, by intentional omitting the slavery issue, has relinquished its claim to restriction. Slavery is an issue to be decided by individual states. Tallmadge amendment was unconstitutional because it placed the constraint on the admission of Missouri alone. Besides, since slaves were treated as property, banning slavery would amount to illegal seizure of personal property, prohibited by the Fifth Amendment.
Morals and Principles
I was aware of the delicacy of the subject and that I had learned from Southern gentlemen the difficulties and the dangers of having free blacks intermingling with slaves;… While we deprecate and mourn over the evil of slavery, humanity and good morals require us to wish its abolition, under circumstances consistent with the safety of the white population. Willingly, therefore, will I submit to an evil which we cannot safely remedy… But, sir, all these reasons cease when we cross the banks of the Mississippi, a newly acquired territory, never contemplated in the formation of our Government, not included within the compromise or mutual pledge in the adoption of our Constitution, a new territory acquired by our common fund, and ought justly to be subject to our common legislation.
Tallmadge’s Speech to Congress, 1819
The North did not see any attempt to end the slavery on the South’s part. Instead, they saw a revival and the intention to extend and expand. For the Northern restrictionists, the future of slavery was at stake –not only in Missouri, but in all new states and territories. They sought to implement the Northern Ordinance to the regions west of Mississippi River and Florida, and put an end to the expansion of slavery for good.
They argued on humanitarian ground and maintained that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution provided the ground for abolition. While some claimed that Article I Section 8 would suffice to restrict all slave trades, the most eloquent proponent of Tallmadge Amendment, New York Senator Rufus King, cites first part of Article, 4 Section 3, Clause 2: “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States” and contend that the Congress was granted the power to dictate the condition of admission of each state. Slavery was an evil disgrace forced upon the colonies. This wickedness was only tolerated for the sake of the Union and should be restricted at the earliest expediency.
Almost all debates surrounding Missouri Crisis could be boiled down to the balance of powder, however. Despite dominating the House, North’s demographic lead did not translate into their political sway. Equal number of Senators from each state gave the less populated South an unfair advantage. Maintaining the power balance depends on equal number of free and slave states.
The North had been pained by the three-fifth clause, which adds 60% of the slave population to the slave states’ free population for calculating taxation and assigning House representative seats. Originally meant as a compromise to discourage the growth of slavery, the three-fifth clause gave southern states more congressional representatives and more electoral votes for president than their white population entitled.
At the time of Missouri’s request of statehood, the nation contained 11 free states and 11 slave states at the time. Missouri’s entry as a slave state would have tipped balance of power in South’s favor; with the Tallmadge Amendment approved the antislavery stance would gain strength going forward. Aggravated by the dominance of “Slave Power,” North feared that if Missouri’s slave state status would solidify South’s dominance. Worse still, it could lead to more slave states and perpetuate their reign in national politics.
Missouri renewed its request after the Congress reconvened; Maine also applied to join the union. The Senate amended the Maine admission with the unconditional acceptance of a slaveholding Missouri but the coercion was called out by Northern House representatives. Seeking incentivize the bill passage, Senator Jesse Thomas of Illinois added a proviso that allows slavery in Missouri, but “forever prohibits” slavery in all remaining areas of the Louisiana Purchase north of the 36° 30′ parallel, an area mostly uninhabited at the time. The bill passed the Senate and again rejected by the House.
In respond to the Senate’s strong-arming, the House passed its own bill admitting Missouri with the antislavery Tallmadge Amendment. The bill was rejected by the Senate and the Congress came to a deadlock.
A sullen gloom hung over the nation. All felt that the rejection of Missouri, was equivalent to a dissolution of the Union: because those states which already had, what Missouri was rejected for refusing to relinquish, would go with Missouri.
Abraham Lincoln, Eulogy of Henry Clay
The Senate called for a committee of conference thenext day. Kentucky Senator Henry Clay, then Speaker of the House, also known as “The Great Compromiser,” spearheaded the compromise effort. A slave owner himself, Clay had argued for “the inviolability of this species of property” granted by the Constitution and advocated “diffusion” and “colonization” as the ultimate and humane solution to slavery. He, along with Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and then-President James Monroe claimed that it was only humane to disperse South’s surplus slave population westward, and expatriate them when free labor is plenty and slave-holding becomes unaffordable in time. This would defuse the tension among the dense and restless southern slave population and lessen the threat and stress of the slaveholders –while profiting through the domestic slave trade.
Clay’s optimism about the compromise was soon threatened by the building momentum of the antislavery force. Fearing an impending all-out restriction on slavery, Clay rushed to forge a compromising majority by instilling the fear of disunion and accusing the Federalists of instigating and exploiting the Missouri issue to divide the nation.
We have been told by the Speaker that the people of Missouri are ready to shoulder their muskets, to march en masse, and force their way into this hall, Sir, if this be indeed so, it is time to barricade the doors. If it be an enemy that is advancing, let us bar our gates, and prepare for our defence;…
… But not only will Missouri revolt from our authority: the slave-holding states will join with her, and, if this restriction passes, the Union will be dissolved. Such, sir, is the language which I have heard, with infinite regret, upon this floor, not from two or three members merely, but from all those who have spoken against this amendment…
…respecting the motives of the friends of this restriction; and an appeal has been made to vulgar prejudices, by calling it a Federal measure; …it is well known that it originated with Republicans; that it is supported by the Republicans throughout the free states; and that the Federalists of the south are its warm opponents: The question then is not between Federalists and Republicans, but between slave-holders and those who hold no slaves. It is a knowledge of this fact, which has induced the free states, usually so much divided among themselves, to advance on this occasion with so much ardor and unanimity to the attainment of their object.
Speech of Mr. Plumer, of New-Hampshire, on the Missouri question, delivered in the House of Representatives of the United States, February 21, 1820
Clay successfully convinced some Southern pro-slavery House representatives to accept the Thomas proviso and wrangled several Northern representatives to absent or support Missouri as a slave state. By dividing the Compromise into three bills, Henry Clay prevented the North and Southern opponents to join force to defeat the Senate bill.
On the same day, March 2, 1820, the joint committee, carefully chosen by Clay, returned with an endorsement of the original Senate compromise bill, now in three separate parts. Missouri was admitted as a slave state by a margin of three votes, Maine entered as a free state the day before its application expires, and slavery was prohibited north of 36° 30´ parallel, the so-called “Compromise Line. The Missouri Compromise was thus achieved. Clay sneaked the bill to the Senate while blocking the House’s reconsideration. President Monroe signed the bill on March 6, 1820.
He did not confine himself to speeches addressed to the House, but he went from man to man, expostulating, beseeching, persuading, in his most winning way… What helped in him gaining over the number of votes necessary to form a majority was the growing fear that this quarrel would break up the ruling party, and lead to the forming of new divisions.
Carl Schurz, Life of Henry Clay
President Monroe’s Role
President James Monroe was instrumental in fostering the compromise. “Monroe’s endorsement of the Missouri Compromise was a last-ditch effort to defeat a budding antislavery movement that stood a few congressional votes shy of enacting the most meaningful national restrictions on slavery in a generation.” (Hammand, 2019)
A Virginia slaveholder himself, he regarded the nation’s interests aligned with the prosperity of the South, and concerned himself with maintaining the privilege and security of Virginia’s planter class. Monroe deemed Virginia’s former anti-slavery stance as idealistic and naïve, as the planter class previously had not faced the menacing danger of an ever-increasing and rebellious slave population. Anti-slavery sentiment had become a luxury the Planter Class could no longer afford. He helped promote the idea that the Northerners are ignorant of the South’s peculiar condition and that the expansion of slavery was not only necessary but humane. He and other Republicans, along with Thomas Jefferson, worked to detract and re-frame the antislavery argument by claiming the Federalists and their alleged sympathizers of plotting the Missouri crisis to consolidate the antislavery front, spoil his reelection, and dictate the future of the union.
The Second Missouri Compromise
Missouri adopted a constitution for the new state on July 19, 1820. Bitter and defiant about the delay and insults, Missouri delegates inserted a provision that not only prohibited free blacks from migrating to the state, but also forbade the legislative emancipation of slaves without the slave owners’ consent. This clause was considered in direct violation of the Article IV, Section 2, of the US Constitution: “The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.”
The Missouri crisis was revived. Northern representative who unwillingly compromised were disgusted by the clause and withdrew their support. The antislavery faction, seeing their hope renewed, seized the last chance to keep a slave-holding Missouri out of the union while the representatives from Missouri waited for their admission at the Congress door.
The debate centered around the citizenship of free blacks and by extension, their rights under the Constitution. A compromise Proviso by Tennessee Senator John Eaton passed the Senate: “That nothing herein contained shall be so construed as to give the assent of Congress to any provision in the Constitution of Missouri, if any such there be, which contravenes the clause in the Constitution of the United States that ‘the citizen of each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.’”
The House rejected this and several subsequent proposals for Missouri’s admission, leaving the Congress in deadlock and Missouri without a legal status. On February 2, 1821, a joint committee was formed, focusing solely on forming an amendment to guard “against the violation of the privileges and immunities of citizens of other states in Missouri.” The House rejected the bill by a vote of 88 to 82.
South Carolina senator and Constitution’s framer Charles Pinckney proclaimed that the oppositions’ rejection was trivial, and accused them of breaching of faith and deception:
The article of the Constitution on which now so much stress is laid—‘the citizens in each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities in every State.’—having been made by me, it is supposed that I must know, or perfectly recollect, what I meant by it. In answer, I say that, at the time I drew that article, I perfectly knew that there did not then exist such a thing as a black or color citizen of the United States, and knowing that all the Southern and Western States had for many years passed laws to the same effect, which laws are well known to Congress, being at this moment in their library and within the walls of the Capitol, and which were never before objected to by them or their courts, they (the people of Missouri) were no doubt warranted in supposing they had the same right…
On February 21, 1821, Kentucky Senator William Brown demanded the Missouri enabling act repealed, claiming that “The plighted path of Congress for the admission of Missouri has been violated… the course of the majority can be justified by no principle of reason or sound policy, but must rest for its support on pious fraud”. On the next day, Clay assembled a congressional committee with his chosen candidates. The elected committee members agreed that Missouri to be admitted with the original condition and the controversial clause (fourth clause of the twenty-sixth section of the third article of the constitution) “shall never be construed to authorize the passage of any laws, and that no law should ever be passed, by which any citizen, of either of the states in Union, shall be excluded from the enjoyment of any of the privileges and immunities to which such citizen is entitled under the constitution of the United States; that the legislature of said State, by a solemn public act, shall declare the assent of said State to the said fundamental condition.” The Senate passed the measure by a four-vote margin.
By applying circular logic, the provision suggested that the Missouri’s constitution was in fact unconstitutional, and deftly circumvented the question of whether free blacks were U.S. citizens and equally protected by the constitution. This purposely obstruse provision is known as the Second Missouri Compromise.
President Monroe proceeded to proclaim Missouri’s contingent statehood on March 2, 1821. Missouri subsequently denied the Congress’s right to demand such a statement and openly declared “A Solemn Public Act” a farce:
…this general assembly are of opinion that the congress of the United States have no constitutional power to annex any condition to the admission of this state into the federal Union, and that this general assembly have no power to change the operation of the constitution of this state…
the Solemn Pubic Act passed the Missouri by overwhelming margin, possibly owing to the fact that the incorrect clause was cited in the congressional resolution. The clause the Congress objected to, “free negroes and mulattoes were to be prevented from coming to and settling in the State” was actually the first clause –not the fourth – of the controversial passage. Therefore “the assent given to it by the Legislature of Missouri was without binding force, moral or legal, upon any human being whatsoever.” (Carr, 1900)
President Monroe received a copy of the Act and on August 30, 1821, declared that the condition had been complied and the Missouri’s admission to the Union was complete. The Solemn Public Act was overturned on March 14, 1835, when free Blacks must meet onerous conditions to obtain a “freedom license” to legally remain in Missouri.
National Suicide and the Prelude to Civil War
I have favored this Missouri compromise, believing it to be all that could be effected under the present Constitution, and from extreme unwillingness to put the Union at hazard. But perhaps it would have been wiser as well as a bolder course, to have persisted in a restriction upon Missouri, till it should have terminated in a convention of the States to revise and amend the Constitution. This would have produced a new Union of thirteen or fourteen States unpolluted with slavery, with a great and glorious object to effect, namely, that of rallying to their standard the other States by the universal emancipation of their slaves. If the Union must be dissolved, slavery is precisely thequestion upon which it ought to break. For the present, however, this contest is laid asleep.
The Memoirs of John Quincy Adams
The compromise had another sinister feature. The anti-slavery sentiment in the North, invoked by the Missouri controversy, was no doubt strong and sincere. The South threatened the dissolution of the Union; and, frightened by that threat a sufficient number of Northern men were found willing to acquiesce, substantially in the demands of the South. Thus the slave power learned the weak spot in the anti-slavery armor. It was likely to avail itself of that knowledge, to carry further point by similar threats, and to familiarize itself more and more with the idea that the dissolution of the Union would really be a royal remedy for all its complaints.
Carl Schurz, Life of Henry Clay
To this day, the Missouri Compromise is still seen as a brilliant effort to preserve the balance of power in the U.S. congress, as if the moral dimension of the compromise was beyond the scope of discussion. From http://www.senate.gov:
(the Missouri Compromise) maintained a delicate balance between free and slave states…. Ironically, it was the astute maneuvering of Speaker Henry Clay that helped bring about this new era of Senate debate, creating a legislative forum in which Senator Henry Clay would soon forge other Union-saving compromises.
The confounding inconsistency of the founding fathers and congressional leaders during the Missouri crisis baffled historians. E.g., Thomas Jefferson’s characterization of emancipation as “an abstract principle” and asserted that the abolitionist zeal was destructive, suicidal, and treasonous:
I regret that I am now to die in the belief that the useless sacrifice of themselves, by the generation of ’76. to acquire self government and happiness to their country, is to be thrown away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons, and that my only consolation is to be that I live not to weep over it. if they would but dispassionately weigh the blessings they will throw away against an abstract principle more likely to be effected by union than by scission, they would pause before they would perpetrate this act of suicide on themselves and of treason against the hopes of the world.
Jefferson, Letter to John Holmes, 1820
Some historians have concluded that our founders were self-deluding hypocrites and liars, while others rationalized their comments and actions. In any case, it appeared that the revolutionary spirit had all but dissipated within one generation and the pursuit of equal rights and liberty was only intended for the white men all along. “Americans subscribed in a new understanding that ‘the Declaration of Independence did not in fact proclaim universal human rights, but rather applied to whites alone.’” (Fehrenbacher, 2002)
An uneasy silence dawned in the aftermath of the Missouri Compromise, for discussion on such dedicate subject had been deemed inherently dangerous for the Planter class. The frightened slaveholders were convinced that these prolonged and intense debates incited slave riots, the Demark Vesey uprising of 1822 was a case in point.
Another certain casualty was the “Era of Good Feelings.” The post-war nationalistic sentiment and aligned national interests under one-party rule with was no longer. The crisis precipitously fractured the Democratic Republican Party along the sectional line and caused irreparable damage without warning. “Disunion” and “civil war” were repeated nonchalantly during congressional sessions and presidential meetings. The animosity sown would ultimately lead to the devastating Civil War.
Despite some anti-slavery representatives mourned the intolerable defeat, both sides proclaimed victory Initially. The heated debates forged a unified Southern identity, geographically separated, and forever identified with slavery. Over time, the Compromise Line evolved into both the unbreachable boundary and confinement of slavery expansion. When the Southern interest was cornered a few decades later, their repeal of the Compromise Line led to a full-blown Civil War.
Then Secretary of State John Quincy Adams prophesied the beginning of Southern decline in his personal diary:
(Missouri Compromise was) terrible to the whole Union, but portentously terrible to the South – threatening in its progress the emancipation of all their slaves, threatening in its immediate effect that Southern domination which has swayed the Union for the last twenty years, and threatening that political ascendancy of Virginia, upon which Clay and Crawford had fastened their principal hope of personal aggrandizement.
The two-year congressional battle had exhausted the antislavery movement, re-legitimized slavery, reversed the emancipation momentum, adding insult and injury to free black people nationwide.
In late 1821, Attorney General William Wirt, in response to Secretary of the Treasure William H. Crawford’s inquiry whether free blacks are citizens of the United States, replies: “No person is included in the description of citizen of the United States who has not the full rights of a citizen in the United States.” This statement effective excludes all free black persons living in any states that does not grant full rights to them, which was at least 95% of the free black population of the country at the time (Fehrenbacher, 2002). In the same year, New Jersey Supreme Court rules that all Black men were prima facie slaves. The citizenship and rights of free black people hang in balance and suffered further degradation in the coming decades.
The forced political deal satisfied neither the anti-slavery advocates nor the pro-slavery force. South opposed the bill because it cordoned off too much of the West; North objected to it because it opened the gate for slavery expansion. The uneasy truce was sustained until 1850 by alternating the admission of slave and free states.
U.S. political leadership had hoped the Missouri Compromise would settle the slavery debate once and for all, yet the peace was not to last. The Missouri Compromise was repealed in 1854 and ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court three years later in a move that lead the nation closer to the Civil War.
THE ASTROLOGY PERSPECTIVE
Astrologers consider sextile (60-degree) is one of the “easy” or “soft” transits that offers a window of opportunity to prepare for the challenging square transit. In retrospective, the Missouri Compromise was a missed opportunity to right the ship before the union head into the abyss.
By default, the U.S. Sagittarius ascendant will always seek and rationalize easy-and-quick fixes. It is effortless to imagine the Congressional representatives being persuaded to “look at the big picture” and vote for union-saving measures, while overlooking the grander scheme –our founding principles. A judicious study of the U.S. history reveals that time and again, the decision to defuse crises with temporary solutions –from the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the earliest major point of the U.S.’s Pluto cycle, to all the economic and political crises we face today –were the cause of future destruction. The answer to our past and present oppressive burden would have been, and still is to break away from the consensus of compromisers. It is apparent that our political class do not solve problems; they delay and evade, while simultaneously create disabling, contradictory complexities that entrench us into such a gridlock that we either compromise once more or beg for draconian interventions.
A Capricorn Pluto is desperately fearful of chaos and disgrace, and would pay any price to maintain its status and respectability. Its antiscion places its secret shadow deep in the shapeless zone of the twelfth house, subjects itself to self-delusion and secretive, underhanded ploys. We as individuals, therefore, are tasked with the mission of acute awareness, to work ourselves out of this collective illusion and paralysis while our nation transforms for better or worse.
During the Pluto return, we could expect that our national founding principles challenged again by commercial interest and matters of national survival. If history is our guide, more compromises could be expected to delay our day of reckoning and the extract a still greater price when the differences of our most fundamental values and principles become irreconcilable.
Schouler, James. 1889. History of the United States of America Under the Constitution: 1831-1847.
Wilentz, Sean. 2004. “Jeffersonian Democracy and the Origins of Political Antislavery in the United States: The Missouri Crisis Revisited.” The Journal of the Historical Society, no. 3 (September): 375–401.
Wilentz, Sean. 2016. The Politicians & the Egalitarians: The Hidden History of American Politics, New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
Woodburn, James Albert. 1894. The Historical Significance of the Missouri Compromise.
The effects of Mercury retrograde are unmistakable.
If our society is a machine, then the Mercury Retrograde period is when ghosts and gremlins are unleashed. It is the open season for mindless blunders, delays, glitches, cancellations and reschedules.
Mercury retrograde exposes the lapses in our judgement. Our assumptions and automatic response become unreliable, and we are prone to skip and stray from our normal decision-making process. Our brains seem to slip out from under us. We can’t remember the words at the tip of our tongues. We blurt out what we don’t mean to say. We give and receive incorrect, incomplete or irrelevant answers (especially when contacting the tech support). Even handling a phone number can be dicey.
This period calls for a healthy dose of skepticism of everyone – ourselves included. Most consequential of all are contracts signed and agreements made under this influence. Every word needs to be scrutinized with a magnifier, (even then…) It is likely the information presented is not truthful and complete. Our judgement could be temporarily impaired, and we will need to retract and reconsider afterward. The arrangements may not come to fruition.
When in doubt, withhold or delay major decisions as much as possible. If a decision must be made, be prepared for some revision or reversal in the future – the probabilities are significantly higher. The shining object of your desire – be it the dream car, house, job, vacation, or romance – could lose its luster after Tricky Mercury resumes his forward motion.
For the pessimists, give some slack for pleasant surprises, for Mercury retrograde’s plot twists go both ways. A negative outlook could unexpectedly turn around. Salvaged junks may reveal themselves to be priceless treasures. Delays allow extra preparation, and cancellations open up space to regroup and realign. One major advantage of this special phase is that if we make an agreement under external pressure or coercion, we can expect to rescind or rearrange it down the road.
4th Degree of Gemini: Boundaries and Obstacles of Self-Expression, Information, and Mental Power
The Mercury degree at the beginning of a retrograde carries predominate influence encompassing the entire period. During this Mercury retrograde, we will be presented with the lessons of the 4th degree of Gemini and retracing our steps back to the 26th degree of Taurus. My working degree symbol for the 4th degree of Gemini is:
A reporter is disciplined and passed over for promotion because herefuses to dumb down and sensationalize his reporting.
The 4th degree of Gemini is about working with limited information and the confine of our minds. It asks us to build a robust framework to withstand, organize and disseminate massive inflow of data. It also implies the struggle to think and express freely, as well as the hardship resulting from such actions. The Sabin symbol for this degree is “a radical magazine”. In this case, truth is revolutionary.
Under this strong influence, we are supported to restate our truth. If we ever were too intimidated to say it out loud for fear of rejection and prosecution, here is our second chance to put our feet down and set the record straight.
This is the time to stare at the enormous complexity we are living in and recognize the limit of our knowledge and mental capacity. We don’t know. Moreover, we don’t know what we don’t know. We don’t know what questions to ask, and what we don’t know to ask. The experts and authorities have not provided satisfactory answers, but they want us to go along. We cannot consent to what’s happening and what is prescribed for us. How do we give informed consent when vital information is withheld from us, anyway? We should not and we will not. It is time to say “stop this madness” before the momentum carries us cross the Rubicon. It’s okay to change our minds. To pause, reverse, or put a hard stop to define and defend ourselves – especially during Mercury retrograde.
As Mercury retrogresses, we will be asked to return to the childlike inquisitiveness (3rd degree of Gemini) and look at our word with fresh eyes. The picture may not be pretty, but we can no longer turn a blind eye and just move along the predesignated path. It is the time for heart-to-heart conversations and ask real questions, however stupid they would seem (2nd degree of Gemini).
Dane Rudhyar symbolized the beginning degree of the Gemini as “a glass-bottomed boat reveals under-sea wonders.” We will sure be swimming in the infinite sea of information, disinformation, and malinformation. If we stay afloat, a quietness will dawn, and we’ll see that information, ideas, and thoughts shape our world; their malignancy our poison, their censorship our prison. Only when we take command of our full mental capacity and secure unrestricted access to information are we truly free to interface and shape our world.