Pluto - Lord of Transformation
Scorpio is a fixed water sign ruled by Pluto, the outermost known planet from the Sun. In August 1984 Pluto entered its own sign Scorpio, and left in November 1995. Pluto moves slowly, taking 248 years to journey around the zodiac, but Scorpio is the narrow part of its elliptical orbit, so it appears to move faster through this sign. In an individual horoscope, this means Pluto reached the square, or 90° angle to its own position, sooner than usual. The crisis typically associated with this phase was therefore occurring earlier. In our generations, people aged about 40 have already experienced their Pluto square, whereas it can occur as late as 63 years old! In addition, Pluto's orbital path loops inside that of its nearest neighbour Neptune. It was there from 1979 - 1999. Dane Rudhyar calls this a 'cosmic fecundation', a star-seeding or fertilising process, whereby energy from the far beyond comes in closer to our home, the Earth. As Pluto symbolically pierces the veil of Neptune, it also means disillusionment, the stripping away of glamour, deception and inflation - familiar hazards for those seeking greater consciousness.
This article explores some of the powerful Plutonian processes activated for all of us collectively while Pluto was transiting Scorpio. In particular, those individuals whose horoscopes show an emphasis in Scorpio, Taurus, Aquarius or Leo may resonate strongly with these themes, because at present there is a 'mutual reception' with Saturn in Scorpio and Pluto in Capricorn. Where Pluto moves, transformation follows: in Scorpio, Pluto signals the need to transform our attitudes to death, sexuality and shared resources if we are to survive and prosper as a species. This transformation is not merely about new ideas, potential or inspiration, but is a profound transubstantiation, an irrevocable change of energy/substance from one form into another. For this to happen, a deathlike experience is often necessary. Dane Rudhyar terms Pluto the planet of 'depth, void and re-centering'. Just as the caterpillar spins a cocoon and enters a dormant phase of intense invisible changes as it metamorphoses into a butterfly, so Pluto heralds the activation of this process in the individual and the collective.
We descend into raw darkness, stripped of our safe concepts, meaning, and familiar life structures and personal history, and are called upon to submit to the unknown. As our internal debris is dislodged, we are challenged to let go, to purge ourselves of dead weight, physically, emotionally and mentally. Our most cherished dreams, achievements, relationships, or ideas about ourselves might have to die. Sweeping external changes are often made after Pluto transits, but the inner phase of the process rarely passes without intense suffering. When we must "wait without hope", in the words of T.S. Eliot, few of us do so without first putting up a good fight, as Pluto also mobilises our deep survival instincts. Hence the life-and-death intensity associated with Scorpio.
In Greek mythology Pluto, or Hades, Lord of the Underworld, was said to be the only god whose word was irrevocable: in the end, death gets us all. Indeed, from the Plutonian perspective, life is a series of endings. Pluto in Scorpio challenges us to look death in the eye, let go and be transformed, in order to eventually "touch the underlying deathlessness of pure awareness"(l). The negative reputation of Pluto transits stems from the radical clearing of mind and heart that this entails. Western culture has sought heroically to overcome physical death with medical and other technology, and thus our cult of death is one of denial. But paradoxically, the media fill our mental/psychological space with images of death, so we become immunised, until the reality of profound personal loss occurs, finding us unprepared. Perhaps this hunger for reminders of death reflects a deep need. We all long for the shell of our isolation to be pierced, to let go and surrender to something greater than ourselves: to die and be reborn, connected to our immortal Beingness. Prior to the loss of innocence, which is the hallmark of the Plutonian experience, we may believe in a hereafter, work for a better next life or to earn a place in Heaven. These hopes are mostly based on second-hand ideas or dogma, until we have encountered the larger reality of which birth and death are but complementary faces. Viewed in the light of eternity, many petty concerns fall away, while the poignancy of our brief moment of incarnation can inspire us to give of our best.
Sexuality is another Plutonian area where a revolution is currently occurring, paralleled by the arrival of AIDS. Just as the HIV virus penetrates and breaks down the immune system, it also serves to remind us of the hubris and futility of the attempt to immunise ourselves against the presence of death in our lives. For every person who dies of AIDS, countless more will have had their attitudes to both death and also sexual relationships irrevocably transformed.
Pluto brings to light what was previously unknown, hidden or repressed. This century we have been breaking free from sexual taboos, with the message that sex can be about recreation, not merely reproduction. However, the HIV virus has set limits on both for many people, challenging us to question our sexual roles, behaviour, desires, values and relating needs. The dark face of the sexual encounter - power, cruelty and domination - has been revealed in the newly told stories of those who have suffered sexual abuse as children. Like nuclear power, sexual energy can be exchanged at many different levels, with destructive and/or creative results, as physical conception is not the only consequence of sexual union. In Pluto's domain, there is no such thing as casual sex because it is the winding threads of our karmic root system which attract us to souls with whom we have business to complete and lessons to learn. I believe the deeper Plutonian metaphor of sexual relating is the re-sacralisation of the body as the visible expression of the divine within human form.
The use and abuse of power and resources is another Plutonian theme, epitomised by the fact that small amounts of Plutonium from nuclear power stations can create devastating weapons. In our race to conquer death and exploit the bounty of nature, we have not only created the means to annihilate the Earth but have damaged the ecosystem in the process. According to James Lovelock, our ecosystem has an enormous capacity for rebalancing and survival, but that does not necessarily include humankind. We bum irreplaceable fossil fuels drawn from Pluto's underground domain, and recent nightmare scenarios evoked by the war in the Middle East starkly underlined the fragility of our oil-based economy. The movements of the outer planets, such as Pluto, symbolise far-reaching but inexorable processes of spiritual evolution that gradually filter through into individualised consciousness. This being so, what are the obvious symptoms of distress on planet Earth actually indicating? What is trying to happen and how can we as individuals co-operate with it? If we accept the reality of the interconnectedness of all life, then the transformation of our own consciousness alters the balance of energies throughout the whole.
"The messages we get from television, radio, newspapers ... are so crossed and confused that if you don't start thinking for yourselves, you'll be woven into the social fabric of a great dying beast . . .Remember children have nightmares to wake up"(2) ......... "Put another way: The Planet Is Not In Need of Healing Or Saving ... we are."(3)
Plutonian nightmares are playing themselves out everywhere on the world stage: cruelty, abuse of resources, tyranny, mass destruction of human life. We can, however, wake up from the collective nightmare of helplessness and despair. At an individual level, Pluto in Scorpio may mean a melt-down of old emotional patterns fixated by our suffering in this life and others – our karma. Looking deeply within, we find much in need of healing. We all carry internal toxic waste which can be recycled, transformed into useful insight and compassion; the nuclear reactors in our own hearts could use some disarming. Most of us tyrannise our deeper nature with self-judgement; we abuse our personal ecosystem, our body, dictating rather than listening to it.
No wonder we harden into alienation from ourselves and others: we have been raised on a philosophical diet of dualism which considers the Earth, the body, and therefore sex and relationships as inferior to our exalted ideas and aspirations. Perhaps during the transit of Pluto through Scorpio we can get a glimpse of what lies beyond this mental conditioning which in turn prompts our habitual responses.
Pluto is actually a binary star system, locked in a close cosmic dance with its moon Charon. From 1985 - 1991, Pluto and Charon moved into a rare alignment, repeatedly eclipsing each other every 6.4 days. This will not recur until the 22nd century. In Greek mythology, Charon was the ferryman who carried souls across the river Styx, the threshold between human life and the realm of immortality. These eclipses gave scientists a rare opportunity to observe previously hidden details of the two bodies. Likewise Pluto's transit through Scorpio may mean a rare opportunity for us to explore this threshold within us, to link our mortal life with the "deathlessness of pure awareness", to make peace with life and death. Perhaps the hidden secret of Pluto, Lord of the Underworld, is finally coming out: "If our only spiritual practice were to live as though we were already dead, relating to all we meet. to all we do, as though it were our final moment in the world, what time would there be for old games or falsehoods or posturing? Only love would be appropriate, only the truth." (4)
First published in 'Global Link Up' (edited by the late Shauna Crockett-Burroughs) Aug/Sept 91 Issue 48. Revised December 2013.