Just an idea. How much of a real handle have we had on astrological Pluto?

Planets always have something of a gap between their “spiritual ideal” and what people more commonly associate with their influence. Nevertheless, if Uranus is “enlightenment”, we can probably see that, even through all the violence of revolution and the drama of rebellion. If Neptune is mystical “illumination”, we can appreciate that even through the lesser accumulation of drug hazes and glamorous delusion. When we get to Pluto though, and we come to “transformation”, a representative of the Life principle at its purest, the association with gangsters and fascism seems a lot more opaque. Old style Pluto definitely has his fans, but it’s very easy with Pluto to be left with the shed skin, rather than the vanished snake.

Pluto is not obvious. He has an association with invisibility and the underworld. It would be premature to think that we can directly see him at all. We might feel the otherworld, but it is this world that we see move. We might see Pluto’s effects, but is it actually the effects of Pluto, or the effects of his denial? Pluto isn’t slippery; he is not in our grasp at all. Grasping Pluto is the last thing anyone can do. He is an absolute repudiation of attachment.

Pluto is also associated with wealth – maybe because of the location of mineral wealth underground, and the dependence of agriculture upon the earth in which seeds must germinate, but also possibly because he was “rich in dead souls” as ruler of the underworld. His Roman equivalent is Dis Pater, “Rich Father”. Interestingly, whereas most of our planets till Pluto were named after Roman deities, Pluto himself is a Greek God. Another name was Hades, but Pluton is also Greek.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica relates the following:

“Hades was depicted as stern and pitiless, unmoved by prayer or sacrifice (like death itself). Forbidding and aloof, he never quite emerges as a distinct personality from the shadowy darkness of his realm, not even in the myth of his abduction of Persephone”

Indeed I think it is Persephone’s abduction for which he is probably best known as a protagonist. Abduction is a good word to describe the common effect of Pluto’s influence. It isn’t necessarily what you don’t need, but it is always what you have no personal power over. Pluto runs from compelling to all out compulsion in our experience. People who think they can ride that tiger are always hanging on to old snake skin, not the serpent itself. Everything disappears, everything ends with Pluto, except what lies at the core of it all. No one hangs on, everyone lets go at the end. But what happens invisibly, that is like rivers of life blood, or fresh water, or light.

So here we have all the confusions, and attachments, the bargains and deals. To avoid, and to obtain. How do we get that thing we need more than anything, but which we cannot control or negotiate with? I guess that’s where we get the gangsters and the fascism, because Pluto is absolute need in his denial, and absolute life in himself. How could that not utterly distort the unfree? In tarot terms he’s The Fool and The Devil, polar opposites by one scheme, the very Life Force and it’s block.

We never actually see Pluto in himself. Thus the shadowy poetry surrounding him. Thus the still obscure picture we have of him astrologically, because glamour is what fills the space of the absent. Just 49 years or so after his discovery he disappeared within the orbit of Neptune anyway, only to emerge 20 years later, just in time to see the new millennium in. Shortly to be “demoted” to being a “minor planet”, though it wasn’t a demotion at all, it was a clarification. He was actually the first of the Kuiper Belt objects, though we didn’t even know it. I suspect that if we want to find the location of Pluto’s “riches”, it may be in the Kuiper Belt astrologically.

Of course what we have seen is Pluto’s denial. That’s what we struggle with, what we hang onto, and what we fetishize. We turn “him” into the heroin, the snuff pornography, and the Pol Pot of astrology. Or maybe a face of the “Great Mother” if you are a  psychological astrologer of a certain generation. But Pluto is so pure that it can’t even be represented. We can try and make him psychological, but Pluto isn’t that either. Making Pluto psychological is really just an attempt to make psychology immortal.

If we do have a problem with what we feel compelled to see in Pluto’s place, I think it may come from the misunderstanding of Pluto’s place in the solar system. We thought he was the third of the transpersonal bodies (“outer planets”) of the planetary solar system, when he was actually the first of the Kuiper Belt. Pluto is free in ways which we are profoundly unused to. Neptune looks out to the infinite, as befits the oceanic deity and the last of the planets. Pluto is out there, part of that great beyond, a beyond which we cannot even imagine, but which we will eventually experience.

As Sogyal Rinpoche once said: “don’t worry, I promise you that you will all die successfully”.

We have a problem with things that are really, truly free. We tend to want something, someone, to be there to deny it and then sell it back to us. We want a dealer to deal with, whether it’s a gangster, the police, a politician, our parents, or a weekend workshop on enlightenment.

I believe we can all live successfully, as well as die successfully, because there is no real death.

That’s an invisible, absolute fact.

The Fool, from the Smith-Waite tarot deck, artwork by Pamela Colman Smith

The Fool, from the Smith-Waite tarot deck, artwork by Pamela Colman Smith


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