Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pluto in Leo, Pluto in Capricorn and Death

There’s a test coming out this year, costing about £400, that will tell you how long you are likely to live. It is based on the length of your telomeres, lengths of repetitive DNA at the ends of your chromosomes that help keep them intact. Every time the cell divides during the course of your life, the telomere shortens. Eventually it is no more, and then the chromosome itself starts shortening at every cell division and soon becomes ineffective and the cell dies.

So there is a general association between the lengths of your telomeres and how quickly you will start to age. It seems to hold as a general rule, though there are for example some species of seabird where the rule doesn’t hold.

The generation who are now entering retirement, for whom ageing is the big issue, are the Pluto in Leo generation. Pluto is associated with both the power to live and with death, and Leo is associated with youth. So this generation is likely to live longer than previous generations (Leo and youth) and also have a harder time accepting the process of ageing (Leo and youth again!) But also, some are likely to remain young in spirit as they age.

This is happening under Pluto in Capricorn, a sign that is associated with old age. So there is rich symbolism here. Puer aeternus meets senex, eternal youth meets old fogey. Opposites are needed to create an interesting synthesis, and this is what we have. The best of this Pluto in Leo generation will keep the power to live as they age, they will see their lives as having a future.

I think that the notion of death as extinction, as the opposite of life, tends to create pessimism about old age, which can seem like a long process of delaying the inevitable, even of denying it. The Pluto in Leo generation, functioning through Pluto in Capricorn can, and probably are, changing this. CG Jung analysed many old people, and he said that the unconscious did not behave as though it was going to be extinguished, it behaved as though it were going to continue. So life itself (the unconscious) does not see death as the end of life, and who are we to argue with that? Do we know better? We do not know, we cannot know, what death holds in store for us. But I don’t think deep down we feel it to be an extinction. It is a matter of which we trust: our feelings, or scientific materialism.

So Pluto in Leo will be the first older generation to have a fairly good idea, barring accidents, of how long they are going to live. I think Science is doing us a service here, because it will be giving us information we didn’t previously have. It will have huge consequences for the nature of old age, it will be uncomfortable for many, I find myself slightly balking at it, but I don’t think it serves anyone to ignore information that is there waiting to be had. It would be like a family secret, an elephant in the room.

What Science is capable of doing with that information, on the other hand, is not the same thing. It is one thing to discover information, it is another to take action with it. There are enzymes called telomerases that can rebuild telomeres, and you find a lot of these enzymes in cells that need to do a lot of dividing, such as stem cells (remember them?) and certain white blood cells. Here it is: scientists have injected telomerases into lab mice, and they have in many ways shown dramatic rejuvenation. The effects of ageing were not just prevented, they were reversed.

"What we were expecting was a slowing or stabilisation of the ageing process," Professor Ronald DePinho told the BBC. "Instead we witnessed a dramatic reversal in the signs and symptoms of ageing. These animals had their brains increase in size, they improved their cognition, their coat-hair was restored to a healthy sheen and their fertility was also restored."

There is a Holy Grail here. How long before the process is refined and a billionaire sets up a lab on his private island and injects himself with the stuff? It will be the fulfilment of an ancient fantasy. The first Emperor of a unified China, Qin Shi Huang, sent expeditions to find the elixir of life so that he could live forever. The emissaries never returned, knowing they would be executed when their mission failed. The Emperor ironically died as a result of Mercury poisoning, ingested to prolong his life.

This issue hasn’t entered mainstream discussion yet, but it will. Firstly under Pluto in Capricorn: power (Pluto) over old age (Capricorn). But then under Pluto in Aquarius: Science (Aquarius) appearing to defeat Death (Pluto.) Again, it will be the Pluto in Leo generation who will initially have most to gain from the possibility of rejuvenation. And it is a puer aeternus vs senex issue: that aspect of Leo, more than any other sign, that wishes to remain a child, versus the realities of life.

But which of us wouldn’t be tempted by the possibility of physical rejuvenation? For many of us as we age it is, or could easily become, a deep longing, and you can’t just say no to that. You could have a whole nation wanting it. Paradoxically, if you prolonged life indefinitely, people could not be allowed to have children. By extending life in one fundamental way, you curtail it in another.

This possibility and its implications feel almost too big to talk about, especially in just a few short paragraphs. But there is astrology around it worth pointing out, and the issue itself needs flagging up as one that seems to be on its way.

I think like nuclear power and GM, these things cannot be stopped. The issue is how we deal with them, what attitude to take. If you just say you're anti, that's all very well, but it doesn't change anything; it doesn't add the complexity and ambivalence that the wider culture needs, where the debate is often quite black and white due to the influence of politicians and the media.

Leo understands that life is eternal, that it is a deep, ever renewing source to be tapped into. That is the Leo path: to become that source, but each in their own unique way. Death, therefore is not to be feared, because it is not the end of life. But that is the self-aware, the integrated Leo. The archetype of eternal life will always be at work in a Leo, however aware they are. In its more primitive form, the archetype is literalised and an egotistic desire for eternal life is attached to material existence. The debate about rejuvenation, which has yet to start, could hardly be starting under a more appropriate outer planet configuration – the Pluto in Leo generation encountering Pluto in Capricorn.

Meanwhile, research in separate studies in the UK and the US has revealed that the length of your telomeres, and therefore the speed at which you will age, depends on how educated you are. And that education needs to have taken place when young. The 'better' educated you are, the more slowly you will age.

As one of the Professors put it: "Education is a marker of social class that people acquire early in life, and our research suggests that it is long-term exposure to the conditions of lower status that promotes accelerated cellular ageing."

The studies corroborate well-established links between health and socio-economic status. But even if you acquire high status and education as you get older, it's the early conditioning that matters. Which suggests to me it's not just about lifestyle, it's also about how you think about yourself. Humans are pack animals, and we are deeply conditioned to think in terms of status, of pecking order. (Hence celebrity worship, which is nothing new.)
Our education system does not produce rounded people, but it does produce people who feel they are high status, and it seems to me that that feeling somehow translates into physical well-being. It's not fair and it's primitive, but it's there. It also seems to me a clear example of the mind-body connection that goes as far as influencing our DNA, but the researchers didn't go into that. With Pluto in Capricorn, we can expect plently more research into ageing (Capricorn) as well as its connection to social status, another Capricornian consideration.

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Anonymous said...

Wow - this is so me !!!!!

Anonymous said...

I think the connection between health and socioeconomic status is less about 'how you think of yourself' and more about your childhood diet, lifestyle and environment.

You can't compare an middle class upbringing in spacious comfortable home in a leafy suburb eating healthy home cooked meals to an impoverished working class upbringing on a crime ridden council estate fed on iceland's frozen finest even if the scions of both backgrounds eventually end up in the same job or socioeconomic bracket in adulthood.

On top of that the mother's diet, lifestyle and environment during pregnancy are other obvious factors in the health of individuals.

Twilight said...

I like the astrological connections you make, DR. The good professor's words, though, strike me as more of the elitist claptrap we are growing used to.

Being well-educated doesn't count for much if one has an addictive personality, or traits that lead one to espose oneself to danger via extreme sport or warrior activities.

I expect well-heeled parents and decent education will go only so far in bringing about longevity, even while endowing a body with the best quality telomeres money can buy.

Natal chart rules!

Still, interesting times coming up - for those who live that long.

Dharmaruci said...

Anon and Twilight - what the science seems to be saying is that the crucial factor is NOT background but education, which to a certain extent cuts across class barriers. That's part of what I think is interesting about it. The professor ties it up with status, but status as a product of education rather than just family background.

I also think these are fairly rough results, it's early days. There's all sorts of other comparisons to be made.

Laura said...

Just thinking about the possibilities and complications is mind boggling. I find the education for longevity both obvious untrue. The more educated you are the better you life will be, financially with all that entails, maybe allowing longevity. On the other hand, the people who live to be over 100 years and are interviewed now and again by the media, are not all Doctors and professors...
BTW Your new profile picture is so much better than the old one, speaking of longevity...