In 1887, John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton, wrote in a letter to an Anglican bishop: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…” This statement has become an axiom—what do you think of it? Whether you agree or disagree, it was a subject the man was more than qualified to speak on, as he was born with the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus and Uranus in Capricorn, all in square to Pluto in Aries.
Today marks the exact conjunction of Jupiter and Pluto at 22° Capricorn. It is their third and final conjunction of the year. It has been an all-year-long stay for the Greater Benefic, and not an entirely pleasant one, Capricorn being the sign of his fall, and with Father Saturn breathing down his neck the whole time. Frustratingly, he has been mired in the home stretch since March, and now he is finally making his way out. The fresh air of Aquarius lies ahead and within reach, but there are two very big hurdles for the Big Guy to get through first. Pluto is Hurdle #1.
Jupiter and Pluto meet up approximately every 12 years, which means that approximately every 12 years Jupiter’s shadow is revealed, Pluto’s destructive tendencies are amplified, and we confront the dark side of expansiveness, worldliness, omnipotence and appetite (think of all the ways Zeus abused his power). The late degrees of Capricorn, where these conjunctions have been taking place, also correspond to the Eagle constellation. It’s a beautiful synchronicity: Zeus’s own avatar, bird of prey, emblem of power, and the national symbol of the United States. This year is showing us the seedy underbelly of capitalism, patriarchy, systems of government and institutions; the cruel legacy of colonialism, imperialism and white supremacy; and an exposé on greed, egotism and conspicuous consumption.
So many times during this pivotal year for America, I have thought about the late Hunter S. Thompson, and wished for the balm of his scathing political diatribes, and the comfort of his merciless mockery and condemnation of the corrupt, grotesque and perverted. It turns out, Thompson had Jupiter at 21° Capricorn, opposite a Sun-Pluto conjunction in Cancer. His chart is having its Jupiter return as we speak! (I believe charts live forever) His synastry with the US Sibly chart is also worth a look: his Sun-Pluto falling on top of the US’s Mercury; his Mercury falling on top of the US’s north node—both in the 8th house in Leo. His Mars falls in the US’s Scorpio 12th house, showing us, with both barbed humor and brutal honesty, the things that we cannot see about ourselves. Love him or hate him, like the aforementioned gentleman, he was more than qualified to speak and write about American culture.
President Nixon was a particular nemesis of his. Consider this gem from Pageant Magazine in 1968:
“For years I’ve regarded [Nixon’s] existence as a monument to all the rancid genes and broken chromosomes that corrupt the possibilities of the American Dream; he was a foul caricature of himself, a man with no soul, no inner convictions, with the integrity of a hyena and the style of a poison toad. The Nixon I remembered was absolutely humorless; I couldn’t imagine him laughing at anything except maybe a paraplegic who wanted to vote Democratic but couldn’t quite reach the lever on the voting machine.”
Now tell me, who does that remind you of? Jupiter and Pluto conjoined in Virgo that year. Or how about this one from the New York Times in 1974:
“[He was] a mixture of arrogance and stupidity that caused him to blow the boilers almost immediately after taking command. By bringing in hundreds of thugs, fixers and fascists to run the government, he was able to crank almost every problem he touched into a mind-bending crisis.”
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Jupiter was in Capricorn from 1972-73, squaring Pluto in Libra, and this one from Rolling Stone in ’73 hits that nail right on the head:
“[Nixon] represents that dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character that almost every country in the world has learned to fear and despise. Our Barbie-doll president, with his Barbie-doll wife and his boxful of Barbie-doll children is also America’s answer to the monstrous Mr. Hyde. He speaks for the werewolf in us; the bully; the predatory shyster who turns into something unspeakable, full of claws and bleeding string-warts on nights when the moon comes too close.”
Doesn’t get much more Plutonian than that, my friends! What would Thompson have had to say about the Trump presidency, America’s recent flirtation with fascism, its enduring devotion to racism and sexism, and conversely, its inspiring, unwavering belief in itself, and its miraculous ability to snatch democracy from the jaws of defeat? I can’t help but wonder.
The other day, I happened to catch an interview on NPR with a psychologist describing what he called the “power paradox.” He and his colleagues had found that, contrary to the Machiavellian way of thinking, power and influence are not taken but given; that kindness, empathy, altruism and emotional intelligence—not coercion, capital and control—give rise to power. The problem is, once power is attained, it begins to override those very empathic qualities, as the greater our sense of importance, the less interested or invested in others we become. It seems that Lord Acton was right: power does tend to corrupt. And since power dynamics shape all of our relationships, no one is exempt from this tendency. But there is hope: the studies showed that power in and of itself is not a bad thing. It’s all in how we wield it. On both a personal and a collective level, if we can maintain our sense of generosity, collaboration, and goodwill toward our fellow man, even while sitting at the top—in astrological terms, some of the best qualities of Jupiter—then we can avoid the forces of corruption. And that, as it turns out, is how you make an individual, or a nation, great.