A Time of Retrogrades: Pluto, Saturn and Jupiter

From April to September there will be internal, interior challenges to us from the retrograde planets Saturn and Pluto. In this note, we look to the effects of outer planets, their retrograde motion and the effects these elicit within. During retrograde, we are presented with responsibilities for where we are in our life. We look to the transformative nature of Pluto, based on dharma, the proper order of the Universe.


Known by their Effects

Most of those who practice Vedic astrology disregard the outer planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Literature of Vedic Astrology only uses the traditional nine grahas: Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn and lunar nodes Rahu and Ketu. However, Neo-Vedic or contemporary Vedic astrologers attend to the outer planets when they change signs, when they change nakshatra, or turn retrograde. There is no rulership, dignity or debilitation assigned to the outer planets. They are known by their effects.

Uranus was discovered through the telescope on March 13, 1781 by William Herschel, while Neptune’s path was calculated – using Newtonian method by John Couch Adams and Urbain le Verrier in 1846. A similar process led to the “discovery” of Pluto. The existence of a significant gravitational body-mass in the area was cosmologically predicted long before Pluto was actually “discovered”. It was predicted because Pluto’s effects can be seen on other objects/fields in his region.

When we have effects in the life of a person, and the standard horoscope does not offer any explanation; nor varshpala, mandi, gulika, like this, there are unexplained effects. It is then we look to the outer planets Uranus, Neptune, Pluto. At one time it used to be said that Uranus was a “higher octave” of Mercury, Neptune of Venus, and Pluto of Mars. It is thought now, given the advance of humanity into the Golden Age (4th and 5th dimensions) that these descriptions lack finesse and that archetypes ought be considered instead. The great Swiss psychiatrist, Dr. C.G. Jung once wrote “that which we do not face in the unconscious, we will live as fate”.

We understand that certain effects can be assigned to Uranus, Neptune and Pluto – standard attributions – Uranus as creative and potentially chaotic, Neptune as inspirational but potentially delusional, and Pluto as darkly transformative ring true. Vedic Astrology assigns deities to planets, and according to the ancient palm leaf called Vasistha Nadi, the names of the grahas or planets (yet to be discovered) would be Prajapati (Uranus), Varuna (Neptune), and Yama (Pluto).



Retrograde motion

There are many views on the effect of retrograde planets. One such view is that these planets “do good” and pass more light to the native causing karma to ripen and situations to be confronted. What we do with such situations is due to our choices; our choices are guided by our values. We take certain choices before birth and these choices – known as vasanas – are are elements of the mind that drive behaviour and responses to situations. Retrograde planets present us with lessons to be learned.

A retrograde planet will require the tasks (lessons to be learned, responsibility to be accepted) usually three times. The universe will continue to present lessons to us in fortuitous times for spiritual advance. So a retrograde planet will require the task to be done three times. Or it could be that there are three repetitions necessary with every retrograde planet. Because practice makes perfect – the final result is good. A stronger effect is produced. One will be obliged to repeat the behaviours of the planet several times during the retrograde period – particularly when the retrograde planet presents transformation from within. We need to take full responsibility for where we are in our lives and for our actions, our behaviours.

These are the steps to inner transformation, which the outer planets may demand of us on occasion. Seeing what karmas we have set in motion in life and where they are likely to lead us. It implies assuming ‘karmic responsibility’ for who we are, accepting that we are the result of our own actions, which means giving up any blaming of others for our condition in life. We must first face the fact of our karmas in life and acknowledge that we have created them, including the type of circumstances, vocation and community setting that we find ourselves dwelling in. We can observe the karmas that we have set forth in our bodies and minds by how we live and what our daily routine has become.

So we come to these recognitions about our retrograde planets: results are gained through effort. Repetition of tasks is required, and when the effects materialise, the results are strong. The positive or negative (benefic or malefic ) status of the planet or planets determines whether the results are benefic or bode us ill. When a planet goes retrograde we need to ask ourselves a question: What do I have to take responsibility for?  What do I have to take responsibility for in my life, in my thoughts, actions, feelings, beliefs, attitudes? The placement of the retrograde planet in the natal horoscope or birth chart will give indications of the needful.



A Time of Retrograde Planets

Saturn will be retrograde April 17 until September 6 in Sagittarius. As the natural ninth house, Sagittarius is known for morality, justice system, religion, diplomats and foreign affairs. The fire element prevails in this sign, and it is weak (apoklima) for those under 50 years of age. So we expect Saturn will slow events down, and give time (Saturn is manda, the slow one) to examine social justice and our beliefs and the fit between of these two.

Pluto will be retrograde April 22 – September 30 in Sagittarius, pretty much the same time Saturn is retrograde. Pluto will bring forth psychic friction and cognitive dissonance (the mismatch of thought and beliefs) internally and present this to us so that we may begin to bring forth changes within, which are expressed in public actions. It we fail to act with unity of thoughts, words and actions, then we are not acting with integrity but being a sham. It could easily be that Pluto will present us with unsavoury aspects of our character and it is up to us to take the external actions for personal transformation. Personal feedback may hurt us, and cause shame and doubt. Action for personal transformation based on feedback is what makes us truly human: we face our challenges, walk on coals of fire, and emerge as noble, upstanding and upright in our thoughts, words and actions.

A word to the wise. During this time of Saturn and Pluto retrograde – and being faced with responsibility for our karmas – they will be hosted by Jupiter as landlord during this transit of Sagittarius. Jupiter is neutral to Saturn and neutral to the outer planets. Jupiter itself is retrograde until mid-June. As Jupiter is a multiplier, it is likely to multiply tensions and battles for us when any of our very strongly held beliefs or sense of justice is challenged or threatened.

The planets seize us and fill us with light; they are luminaries which reflect the light coming through our Sun and redirect the energy streams from the Sun to our mind, body and spirit. Each planet combines and recombines light (or intensifies light with our vasanas) and then directs that light and magnetism of the Sun to ourselves. Grahas are seizers; graha means to grasp, to seize. They can raise us up, they can pull us down. Whether we rise or fall depends on how well we utilise the light and energy coming from the planets to ourselves. They may draw attention by their effects within us. Whether we rise or fall is largely up to ourselves: What do I have to take responsibility for in my life, in my thoughts, actions, feelings, beliefs, attitudes?


Pluto in full colour as imaged by New Horizons – an interplanetary space probe


Planetary Deity

Earlier, we made reference to planets as deity. We had shared that the names of the grahas or planets (yet to be discovered) would be Prajapati (Uranus), Varuna (Neptune), and Yama (Pluto). These names in fact are names of Vedic gods of India. Prajapati is another name of the Creator, Varuna is the god of Water and Yama – also known as Dharmaraja, is both God of Death and God of Dharma, the following of right order, right conduct.

Dharmaraja means “Lord” or “King” of dharma. When we look to dharma we find the intrinsic essence, inherent purpose or property of a thing; the essential order of things; the laws of nature that sustain the operation of the universe; rightness; righteous conduct; virtue; justice; faith. Dharma is ‘the vesture of the cosmos’; it has both a general and a personal application: the harmony of the world must be maintained, and an individual’s dharma must be fulfilled by adherence to the duties and obligations relating to each person’s inherent nature, profession, status and stage of life as laid down by the ancient lawgivers.

So we understand that Yama – or Dharmaraja as the divinity inherent in planet Pluto, looks within to elicit this right order, this harmony that must be maintained both within and without. The external façade must not be a pastiche of what passes scrutiny. There has to be integrity, the triple purity of thoughts, words and actions. Hence, Pluto as darkly transformative, reaching down to the unconsciousness, presents us with upheavals, challenges and storms – all in the name of dharma, proper harmony and following one’s purposes within, without. It is taught that the primary task of the human is sathyam anavesham, excavation of the truth. That which is excavated must be brought to the light of day and the healing transformation must take place for true humanness. As shared earlier, retrograde planets present the tasks, the lessons to be learned again and again until the result is strong, invincible: deep inner transformation has taken place.

Yama – Dharmaraja is the Hindu God of Death. The popular belief is that he arrives with a noose on a black buffalo to take away the soul of the dead. His vehicle or vahana is black buffalo. As per popular belief, Yama is the judge of the dead and decides whether a person should go to heaven or hell. What is often forgotten is that Yama is one of the greatest teachers in the Vedas. In the Katha Upanishad, he shares the secret teachings of death and afterlife to young Nachiketa; the conversation between Yama and Satyavati after he takes away her husband is important part of Hindu teachings. Above all, Yama seeks to bring about inner transformation through following of Dharma. Dharmam moolam jagat, dharma is the proper order of the Universe.


Dharmajraja is depicted riding a black buffalo


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