Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A Little Something Came Up Part II

This continues my post of Tuesday, March 25th 2008.

So what is the "art" that Cindy (in her Saturday, March 23rd post) was talking about when she wrote: "Character is what rises to the top when put under extreme pressure."

What is that pressure -- where do you find it -- how do you apply it to a character you've created? How do you couch your message in the language of Art?

As in most artforms it isn't what is there in a story that carries the message -- but what is not there. The white space. The silences speak volumes.

What was Cindy Holby talking about? Where do you go to learn to create a character and imagine a kind of pressure that other people would recognize as plausible?

She's describing a PLUTO TRANSIT. Happening at the same time as a Saturn transit, a Pluto transit can precipitate the sort of "test to destruction" events -- often and usually coupled to a Saturn transit -- that make for great story.

Even readers who would not touch astrology, or couldn't understand it if they did, recognize the major life transits because they've seen it among people they know. That's why you can learn to do this by reading biographies.

As I said last Tuesday, you can learn just about as much from studying psychology, sociology, statistics, anthropology, archeology, history and pre-history as you can from Astrology.

If you leave out a grounding in Astrology, though, you might be tempted to put a 30 year old through the crisis only 60 year olds must face. That won't seem plausible, no matter how well you write it.

Art is the SELECTIVE depiction of "reality" (the "reality" the Seer in you sees) -- what you select and what you leave out forms a pattern which carries your thematic message, but that only works if the pattern is familiar to the readers.

But let's assume you've done all that learning and have a very well constructed idea of who your characters are and where their karmic weakness is -- and at what age in life they will confront the key developmental tensions of a specific Pluto and Saturn transit set.

You know what kind of events Pluto precipitates, and what typically happens at, say, a Saturn return transit.

You know where your character is strong - and where weak - and you know what the blow is that will roust him/her out of a safe, complacent life and into a harrowing circumstance where (as Cindy says) Character will rise.

As Cindy pointed out, the reader loves to believe that they, too, would be able to react "heroically" in a life or death situation.

Why do we like to believe that? Why do we doubt ourselves and seek vicarious validation of our own heroism through fiction?

The secret to the answer to those questions lies within the usual experiences of a Pluto transit.
Where Saturn throws shit at you, strips you of your dignity, friends, spouse, parents or relatives, and resources, or gives you enough rope to hang yourself by delivering fame and glory, Pluto hands you a shovel, an ally, a confidant (who may betray you later [the Royal Butler writes a book]), a stiff upper lip, or the ability to concentrate like never before or after that moment in your life.

Now this pattern materializes only where the aspects of Saturn and Pluto within the natal chart form certain patterns.

A badly placed natal Pluto, for example, produces the sort of life pattern one sees on Soap Operas -- what I call the "pillar to post" existence that's so exaggerated nobody really believes it. Melodrama. That's a badly placed Pluto.

A well placed Pluto on the other hand brings certain kinds of strength to the character. And when well placed at birth, it will come in behind every Saturn blow to deliver the means to deal with the bruises.

Of course, none of that is inevitable. It all depends on how the Soul living this Life manages and deploys the available resources to which chosen goals.

For example: When an otherwise undistinguished daughter is left to tend to a failing parent, from SOMEWHERE inside that daughter comes the incredible physical strength, the patience, the fortitude, and the obsessive attention to every financial detail of the Medicare billings -- the tenacity to fight for every benefit due. Friends and other family simply can't comprehend how this skinny willow branch of a daughter is doing all this. And in fact, many will believe that SHE isn't doing all this, and therefore that it's not being done at all.

For Example: You're diagnosed with Cancer or some other life-threatening disease. Read the astrolger Noel Tyl's books and you'll discover the connection between Pluto and life-threatening diseases. With a good Pluto natal position, the challenge of the disease will coincide with a hugely exaggerated ability to do research on it, to understand all the information on the web, to search and search and search "obsessively" until you find the right doctor, to force (Pluto is coercion) the insurance companies to allow the treatment you've chosen, to survive the side-effects, to obssess your way through rehab and emerge a new person.

For Example: Take the film, THE BOURNE IDENTITY. (see my post on Spoilers) I just saw a rerun of THE BOURNE IDENTITY so it's fresh in my mind. You don't know WHAT caused Bourne to lose his memory until the end, but when you find out what happened, you can see the Pluto transit influence throughout the film.

Bourne is a "secret" agent (Pluto is secrets, covert ops). He's an assassin. Pluto is violence. Pluto is explosive violence -- traumatic violence that comes out of "nowhere." Bourne is an assassin's assassin. Bourne is so good at it, he may as well be an Alien, so you can class this movie as Alien Romance and not miss a beat. (It's so much the exact same movie as STARMAN, which I adore.)

Bourne was sent to assassinate an international figure, and sets up the hit on a yacht. He's a 30 million dollar killing weapon. And apparently really good at it. Then he confronts a Saturn moment (Saturn is a separating force, a hard blow from concrete reality). He is standing there aiming his gun at a sleeping man whose child is lying on his belly. Bourne CAN'T (restraint is Saturn; conscience is Saturn) pull the trigger.

Setting Saturn against Pluto inside Bourne rends his MIND.

The betrayal of all he is becomes so traumatic he later can't remember that moment or even his identity. He turns and runs. He's shot in the back, falls overboard, and the film OPENS with him being fished out of the sea (Neptune, of course, dissolves and erases -- also Neptune is Idealism) one stormy night with bullets (bullets = Mars) in his back (backbone = Saturn). (the Swiss Bank Account number hidden in his Thigh=Jupiter=wealth-growth-inclusion-Law)
Neptune and Saturn rob him of his very Identity. Pluto gives it back.

Pluto is "obsession" -- the ability to concentrate -- the ability to focus on a huge job one piece at a time, and keep inching ahead a step at a time.

Filling out your parent's tax return, digging up all their legal papers, auditing every medical bill for errors, informing all their friends, and so on. It is a huge job and the only place for the strength to come from is obsession - Pluto. That's the deepest well of strength, in the world, in your Self. Pluto is pure POWER. Sometimes more of that Power explodes through your Natal Chart than you can handle, and the backlash spreads through all other aspects of your Self.

Focused, collimated, directed, Pluto's power can augment every grace and ability you have. It is your death - or your survival.

Most of us face this Pluto type challenge once in a lifetime. Some natal charts throw that challenge at the person again and again and AGAIN -- soap opera style melodrama.

But everyone recognizes these dramatic events as plausible. Drama is what story is all about. Anyone who wants to write a story needs to master the concepts that produce DRAMA. (Scorpio, Pluto - yes indeed - but also Leo and the Sun, the Will to Sovereignty).

So how did Bourne get his identity back? Obsession -- and he shared that obsession with a woman who stayed with him, got shot at, ran for her life, through Plutonian experience after experience (including Plutonian style sex).

He forced her to leave him -- turned and confronted those trying to kill him, and was reminded of that one key scene he had blocked from memory that told him who he is and why he didn't want to be himself -- refusing to murder a father holding a child.

Once he got his identity back, he didn't want it any more. He really didn't want it. He fled. And he went to find the woman who helped him. (hey, we all know there's a sequel -- and we can only hope our own lives have sequels.)

Cindy says that until we are actually put to the test, we don't know how we will react. That's not entirely true if you've made it through your 30th year, through your first Saturn return at 28-29 and survived the aftershocks.

Somewhere in that time, you will hit a period where terrible, awful, destructive and reconstructive things happen. And after you've coped with it all, you will look back and doubt your ability to do it again. You simply don't know how you did it. The answer is often a fortuitous Pluto aspect natally scheduled to couple with the Saturn transit. It's all in the timing of your moment of birth.

From Astrology, you can learn whether that ability to obsess on what must be obsessed on (instead of irrelevant trivia) will come again, coincidentally with the next set of major challenges.
Since we've seen this in ourselves and others around us in real life, we can believe it in fiction. We have seen people NOT rise to the occasion when something comes up to derail their lives. We have seen others perform miracles.

In our fiction we want to see a believable character -- one composed of a set of traits that go together into a recognizable pattern -- be challenged and not only rise to the occasion but come out of it transformed into a better person.

Coming out of it a better person is rare in real life. So we crave it in our fiction to grasp hold of the vision so that next time our own life is challenged we, too, can emerge transformed into someone we like better than our old self. And that, really, is what a "hero" is -- someone who saves others and is thereby saved. If you have the "saved others" without the "thereby saved" part, you have a martyr (also a good source of drama).

So, coming out of it a better person is what makes THE BOURNE IDENTITY a classic among classics. Bourne chooses a new self and reaches across an unfathomable abyss for love. (OK, it has a sequel - yeah - but that's because it's COMMERCIAL FICTION or maybe because Bourne has a difficult Pluto in his natal chart.)

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Great stuff, Jacqueline. I just ran down the same thing in very different words last week when I reviewed ASK AGAIN LATER by Jill A. Davis. It's Women's Fiction. There's a zillion different ways to tell the same story.

  2. Kimber an:

    Oh, yes, and finding "your" story is half the trick to founding a writing career.

    Of course, through time, your story will change because you've told some of it.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  3. Anonymous1:36 PM EDT

    My name is Anna, I just read Ms. Lichtenberg's comments on The Bourne Identity,and how one's Natal Pluto position relates to one's ability to "survive" life's blows...Your description of the way Pluto and Saturn work, together, brought back a very recent "crisis" in my own life. Here it is: I accepted a teaching position at the St. Francis Indian School, on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, in South Dakota. I left my Chicago residence and headed out to SD, with only my clothes, a few of my books. My daughter drove me there. I knew I had a Pluto Transit of my Fourth House "comming UP"...I went anyway...I needed a job, had been unemployed for six months...no offers in Chicago... We got as far as La Cross, Wisconsin, just over the Mississippi bridge, and the alternator "went"... the car stalled...I had a deadline to meet in St. Francis, SD, so we had the alternator fixed. We made it just in time for me to start my new job teaching , the next day.
    The Gifted and Talented coordinator, let's call her Jean, did not mention the fact that the program "requirements" had been altered and all the students had to be retested into the program... Instead of teaching,I ended up testing students for the various categories in the program...It was not what I had "signed up for " , but I cooperated. No choice, I had signed a contract, and I'm a stickler for contracts, my word...on the line. For the next two months I tested students I hardly met, and who wondered "who the hell I was, anyway"...I got sick...threw up, thought it was the cafeteria food. Went home. Was sick some more...To make a long story short, I had to be taken to The Indian Health Services, in Rosebud, in an ambulance, half unconscious, in the middle of the night, a week or so later. In the ambulance, a very nice man asked me if I had "any Indian bloodin me?" I found the strength to joke: "Is Jewish blood OK?" The man laughed and said " Yes, but...the Rosebud Hospital is for Native Americans only..." I woke up with a ten inch cut across my lower abdomen and a tube attached to my arm, in Winner Regional Hospital, South Dakota...Pluto had just entered my Fourth House, by transit...I have Pluto in the First House, in Leo, conjunct the Ascendant...
    The doctor and nurses were very good to me, but when the time came to go home ... well, no one was available...although some had promise to take me home, among those my supervisor, Jean. Again, Pluto helped, I found someone to take me back to St. Francis, after eight hours of "looking". The recovery process was almost two months, and I had the "lovely" news to get used to: Anna has Crohn's Disease. An incurable, immune system defficiency (malfunction?) due to stress. I spoke to my supervisor about gradual return to work. The brain was "willing", the body...well, that was a very different story. I had never been so week, so lost and unable to care for myself in my entire life...I thought it couldn't get any worse, but it did... I found out that the school's insurance did not cover short term disability, so the only way to pay my rent and utilities would be to ask my new colleagues to "donate" sick leave to me... I really didn't know any of my co-workers, I'd only been there two months when I had collapsed... But some teachers did donate, and I did have just enough, somehow. If I paid for gas, my Lakota co-workers would take me to the doctor's appointments, in Winner, an hour from St. Francis, or to do grocery shopping, in Valentine, another hour from home. Time slowed down to a crawl. Two months are a very long time in an unknown place, with unknown people, in a hard situation...but I somehow "came out of it" and went back to work. Of course, teaching on the Reservation, as a 'White Woman", was not exactly stress-free, on the contrary. I thanked God and everyone who "pitched in" besides God, that this Pluto Transit had passed and they helped me through it. I did my job, lived through the first year of Reservation teaching, and ...ENTERED MY SATURN RETURN year...Yes, that's the way it happened, I got fired "right on time", at the exact start of the Saturn Return (a Second House Saturn, Karmic memories, "debts to pay", one's values, and material possessions...). On my 57th birthday, I found out that "my contract to teach has not been renewed". Had to pack my bags and go home, a month later...school ends in May.
    What I learned? I learned that I'll do anything to be independent, not a burden to my children, or the landlady, and that people are AFTER ALL, MUCH NICER THAN THEY KNOW THEMSELVES TO BE, and nicer than I thought. I certainly hoped that was true, since I always believed people ARE BASICALLY GOOD, one only has to get that GOODNESS out o' people, in TIME... I also learned that other people can be quite oblivious to suffering, particularly "once removed" (not someone they "know") suffering...Perhaps the kids who watched me crawl back to school, I could hardly walk for quite some time, perhaps they had a different view of me now... I could not imagine just what that might be, since the Lakota are a very withdrawn , not talkative folk...
    Pluto has "haunted" me all my life and this was just the latest "adventures in consciousness" He offered for me to reflect on... I'm now "roundig up" this very trying DUET of Saturn and Pluto, singing me into my next life , yes it feels like this is not a continuation, but a next, different life I'm entering. Dear Jaqueline, I'm so greatful for your Sci-Fi column in the Monthly Aspectarian, I've been reading it for ten years. Your sharp insights into both Tarot and Astrology have helped me tremendously! I had a real great Tarot teacher, Lucy Saxman, who had encouraged me to write (Mercury conjunct Midheaven and Sun in Aries in the Ninth), but the only thing I have written so far have been a million letters to my friends in Romania (where I'm from) Israel,(where I liveda and went to college) Boulder, co. (where I also lived and went to more college). The other thing I wrote, out of necessity, was a bio for my children, so they stop asking if I'm a Hungarian Jew or a Romanian gipsy woman...The bio reveals a lot of events I'm not proud of, so the nausea of, shall we say past cognitions is now in full swing... I had to stop writing and go back to your book "Never Cross a Palm With Silver", to re-examine the set of values, mine as well as the culture I grew up in... That's where I am "at" now, sort of stuck. I also read the 10 of Pentacles essy you published, "cake's in the oven" which helped identify the point (?) in my life which I am at. Perhaps the bio could be a sci/fi story, but I really don't know how to distance myself from the character...myself, enough to garb it in other-than-me...Any suggestions?

    Thank you for being a guide and a teacher to me, even as you did not know it, for over ten years...Anna at annsareth@yahoo.com

  4. Hi, Anna,

    What a powerful story. I do hope the planetary aspects become more favorable soon!

    Best wishes,
    Rowena Cherry

  5. Anna:

    I've answered you directly, but I do hope we'll be seeing your login here more often.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg