Pluto has just turned direct this week after being retrograde since April. With Saturn set to meet with Pluto in January, we are thus heading toward a massive Plutonian series of events...
Here's what to watch for:
* Since Pluto moved into Capricorn, along with its squares to Uranus, this will be the most anticipated transit of the decade, and of Pluto's entire journey through Capricorn, for that matter. But in order to understand the relevance of this event, we need to understand Pluto's role in the cosmic drama at a deeper level.
* Think of Zeus/Jupiter as the law and order that governs the cosmos while we are awake. From the legal system to governments and schools to calendars and federal holidays...anything and everything that creates a peaceful, harmonious "whole," one ruled by law, order, justice, truth, etc., at least ideally, falls under the domain of Zeus/Jupiter.
* Remember now that Hades/Pluto is Zeus/Jupiter's brother. Hades rules the underworld, which is not only the place of souls, of death and rebirth but also of dreams and the unconscious. It is a place that is like the upside-down, co-present version of our "waking consciousness." Its rules are the inverted rules of our world, it's order, its riches, and its truth, are the "walking on the ceiling" version of this world, like an M.C. Escher drawing.
* But actually, Hades and Zeus are two sides of the same coin. If you view existence from the point of view of life, you get Zeus, complete with all the user-friendly maintenance instructions of religion, education, government, community, law, etc. Whereas, if you view life from the point of view of death, then you get Hades, along with the perception of change, impermanence, decay, death, hunger, lust, power, corruption, and the unavoidable reality of the eternal and immortal soul, which lies beyond the veil of bodily life.
* Whenever Pluto makes an appearance in the daytime realm, it naturally interferes with, or presents a different logic, from that which we are used to. This is because behind, within, or underneath the operating programs that give us the appearance of eternal order in this world, the fires of Hades are always there, gradually burning away until...even stars, solar systems, and Universes are swallowed and forgotten.
* While it may sound scary, the truth is that ancient astrologers saw this circle of order and chaos as natural, and itself endless, an endless circle of these endless cycles. Plato similarly once wrote, "Time is the moving image of eternity."
* So, when Pluto comes knocking on the door what do we experience? We experience the destruction of the material rules, systems, order, and meaning that we have taken to be immortal or eternal when they can only ever be temporary. Pluto's justice, Pluto's logic, Pluto's order, is that of the end of the rules, systems, paradigms, and meanings of this transient world. Pluto is like the expiration date that comes on anything and everything in the material world, try as we may avoid it.
* Take for example the gradual uprise of public/mass shootings in places like temples, churches, and synagogues, or schools and Universities, or even public places where people go to rejoice, celebrate, or to be entertained. Pluto's appearance has made many people in the western world feel "unsafe," but rather than blaming anyone or anything, even if there are many people to blame in the upper world of Zeus for letting disorder and chaos creep in, Pluto invites us to stare into the void a little more faithfully before looking for solutions. Pluto invites us to be quickened in the heart, awakened in the limbs, alerted to the tips of our hairs, and reddened in the blood. Pluto reminds us that there is absolutely no escaping the burning bush of existence itself: terrible, ferocious, beautiful, mysterious, endless, and unavoidably real as it is. Pluto's appearance, Pluto's real gift, is to say, "take this horrible beauty in for a minute."
* When I was a young boy, growing up in the church, I often heard the phrase "The fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom," but the second part, a verse from the book of Proverbs, was often left out, where it says "and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."
* Taken together, this verse from the book of Proverbs tells us why Pluto is actually the friend of the soul. Pluto is our friend because this world is fallen, falling apart constantly, but we are not. Pluto is our friend because this world is a dance between order and chaos, but we are not. We, as souls, are the medium in and through which these cycles and circles of dueling opposites are rotating, just as surely as planets.
* When I was in graduate school I was living in a small country cottage, and in the mornings and evenings, at dawn and dusk, the deer would come out and graze not far from my back porch. I will never forget how I learned to approach them. I had to take care not to direct my consciousness AT them, nor to make sudden, fast, unconscious or hasty movements with my body. And if I did, if I alarmed them and their ears shot up, then I would have to become settled wherever I was, for a while, before they would continue eating peacefully. They could tell whether I was going to move again or not, they could read my intentions, and so I had to learn how to not desire to move for periods of time before moving again, naturally. Then, little by little, naturally, I might find a real seat to watch them by, to really see them, to really feel them, and to feel the spirit of the moment, which was breathtakingly intimate.
* The soul is also like a deer. It hides. It is increasingly sensitive when approached. It notices everything. It is awake and alert. And yes, if you don't know the soul, any soul what to speak of our own, then it will easily run. The soul rests and unfolds peacefully wherever there is a long stream of uninterrupted presence. Its delicate, fragile, even fearful and trembling features become beautiful, intricate, and heavenly in the light of calm, streaming, uninterrupted peace. The soul in this way is like a deer.
* So, in the beginning, when we approach the soul, when our limbs are heavy and we are drenched in sleep and lust and the heaviness of our illusions, we make too much noise and we scare it away. It knows better than we do what our intentions are and will gladly hide for fear of the noisy hunter.
* In the beginning, to approach the soul, we need to have sacred anxiety, a sacred fear, as the Proverbs tell us. We have to approach the soul scared to scare it away. We approach the soul afraid that we may not be worthy of being its audience. We approach the soul desperate to serve someone worthy of our innermost admiration.
* Then, once we have caught a glimpse, once we understand the liturgy of the soul, the sacred fear needed to carefully approach it, then our fear softens into understanding. We begin to understand why all fear, all hell, all worry, all fragility, all destruction and death, all chaos and vulnerability, stand as both the hell hound guards of the soul, as well as the Mercurial guides taking us into its richest and innermost chambers.
* This is why Hades literally means "riches."
* It is our material assuredness, arrogance, goodness, proud intentions, knowledge, and riches, that keep us from the terrible beauty and ultimate reality of the soul, and of the soul of our souls. And so it is no wonder that Hades exists, keeper of real riches, destroyer of pride. Hades is the nightmare that brings us back from proud sleep, the omen that threatens to destroy, the price we can't bear to think of because it brings us back to that simple, fragile place...in the mingling of dawn and dusk, where we are beheld for the fragile, eternal beings that we are.
* Whenever Pluto grants us a glimpse of the soul, of our real riches beyond the rational order of this world, we are given the gift of a new life. But what is that new life? If it is nothing more than the relief we experience after surviving a scare, then we have learned nothing. And many people do just this. Having experienced a brush with Pluto, like a thrill ride only, we use the adrenaline and scream out to Zeus, "By Jove! I feel reborn after that crazy experience. Now, what will I do with all this energy?"
* And so our sad cycle continues...from one social media altar call and confessional to the next, from one personal death and rebirth story to the next, we try to make each death into our personal victory and validation...
* But as James Hillman once wrote of our Zeus heavy culture, "Can't we steal some defeat from the jaws of this victory?"
* How can you tell that Pluto is working on someone? Their work in the world becomes deeper while the ego becomes quieter. Because if the ego has taken the lesson from Pluto, then it knows that heavy feet and loud noises scare the deer away.
* It is, therefore, an irony, a sacred irony, that Pluto first comes as a heavy, dark and ominous force in our dreams, like a hunter, but leaves us doe-eyed, alert, trembling beautifully and wise.
* The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One brings understanding. That's what the Proverbs say.
* And how can you tell that someone is developing a relationship with Pluto? Their love for Pluto is hesitant, cautious, careful, and mindful. They do not invite Pluto nor do they fear Pluto, but they trust Pluto.
* Finally, let us imagine that just as much as we desire to see the soul, no matter the cost, the soul of our soul also longs to see us. The soul of all souls is in fact what is always calling us, each one of us, from fearful sleep back into the gardens of heaven. Because it turns out that the soul is not alone but is joined by a great, heavenly assembly, where nobody and nothing is left out, where the riches are untold, and nothing but more and more love is at stake. Here in our most vulnerable, our most original position, we find that we are always approached, with just as much love, by what we approach.
Prayer: Lord of true riches, show us how to walk toward you soulfully. Give us the trembling desire to draw closer to you.
The Moon is in Cancer today, just finishing its intense first quarter phase and now moving into the waxing gibbous.
A meditation on the Pluto/Uranus square and the subject of "individuation."
We often think about individuation in purely solar terms. Who am I and what am I becoming? What is my mission? My journey? My quest? My purpose? My intention? All of these phrases have an upward aspiring quality...a hand reaching or prayer petitioning the gods, specifically the "One" most mirrored by the "One" asking: the self. Even though we might want to ban some of these cliches from the temple, like Jesus driving out the money changers with a whip, they aren't mistaken or misplaced mythic images. We don't solve the cliche problems by banishing these spirited players. What's needed to counter their monopoly in our consciousness is the reminding words and mythos of the soul...
Hades/Pluto is good for this. A god who was often imaged like his brother Zeus, as an eagle, and yet whose dominion was the opposite underworld to Zeus' overworld. Not a literal "below," given to Pluto, but an invisible "below" or imaginal "within," a secretive depth and an unfathomable timeless perspective flowing through time. The immemorial memorial of each event in time, always an end in itself because of the limitless soulfulness given to each event by Pluto's perspective. The word "Hades" in fact means "riches." So from the perspective of death, from the perspective of the eternal soul, each event is an "end" unto itself. Pluto is a planet of endings...where endings means the capacity to see the UNending in each thing...where each moment is already eternal by its nature in death.
This view should feel difficult to understand because it is an upside down kind of view. It is a "going down to go up" kind of philosophy, we might say. For example, take the idea of enlightenment. Take the idea of individuation. Take the idea of the evolution of human consciousness, or even evolutionary biology. What happens when we see these ideas in terms of the "riches" of Pluto's perspective? They each become the living dead. They each become unending caverns of fathomless eternity. They are ALREADY this way, before we've put them into action or realized their intended goals in any literal or "real" or "metaphysical" or "spiritual" or "earthly" sense. So while we are on our "journey" through lower levels of consciousness toward higher realms (soaring with Pluto's brother Zeus), the journey has already also been outside of time, incapable of accomplishing anything literal, invaluably rich, lit by the flames of an eternally animating and polymorphous perspective, but also empty, void, dead, cold and killer clear as ice.
No offerings were given to Hades in the Greek imagination. His face was rarely shown. He was not to be persuaded. He was not to be convinced. He had nothing to give by petition because his perspective afforded EVERYTHING its already limitless wealth.
So when we talk about individuation, what are we talking about? In one sense, nothing. It's an idea, a myth, an imaginal realm that is one of an unending amount of imaginal realms, all of which are eternally wealthy, eternally rich. But on the other hand, we are talking about the 'depth and death of literalized riches' toward which our particular idea of ourselves, our particular gold coin of ego, is motivated to enact for the sake of the growth of its own soulfulness.
In evolutionary astrology, Pluto is rightly imagined (in my opinion) as the deepest motivation, "end," or telos of the soul. When we live in the direction of our Pluto placement we find the perspective of the soul, which is the upside down, already wealthy kingdom. When we find the territory of Pluto in our lives, we find that point of view where each marginalized event in and of itself is understood as beyond time while within it.
The place we might consider diverging with evolutionary or karmic astrology's core philosophy (again, just my opinion) comes when considering the greater metaphysical "goals," which in and of themselves are ironically not taken from the viewpoint of Pluto, or not well enough distinguished from Pluto's brotherhood with Zeus. When we view the "journey of the soul," as a literal journey through progressive reincarnating states of consciousness toward fusion with a godhead or some kind of enlightenment, then we read the soul, we read the wealth of hades, like its a zeus colored coin purse funding our road trip to the Taj Mahal. We don't step back to consider that every "journey" to enlightenment is secretly and invisibly the road back down to death, where again the already limitless wealth of eternity swallows us. Pluto's position in our birth chart, or in the sky, isn't therefore about the evolution of the soul in any literal sense but rather about its "already eternal" nature, seizing us invisibly, potentially violating our egos (seizing back our stolen coins but replacing them with a treasure chest).
Because from Pluto's perspective, whatever journey we take, however fixated on our intentions, on higher realms, love, utopia, or enlightenment, or if it's simply about mastering video games in the basement and writing dungeons and dragons fantasy novels, or if its about religious holy war, or liberal media protesting or conservative bible backlashing and rifle waving...all of it is already unendingly rich, eventually dead, already dead, and more alive than we tend to recognize. More alive than we tend to recognize because invisibility is essential to Pluto's nature.
How does this apply to our current Uranus/Pluto square and this current eclipse cycle?
Well...individuation (Uranus) is happening in some super "conscious" looking ways. The journey, the development, the progress, the feelings of fate and karma...all of these purposeful Zeus like qualities are very strong right now...we're breaking ground, the past is coming to get us, we're finding new courage and the wisdom to face it all in a different way. Course corrections are coming left and right for many of us..and it's all very liberating and exciting even if its scary. And yet..at the same time, with Pluto in the mix, we are being asked to consider the upside down point of view.
We are moving forward in a way that might be shattering to our notions of progress, our ideas of who we are or what's right or what we deserve or desire. We are being disillusioned, like Pluto has grabbed a little miniature doll version of each of us and shook us upside down until the coins we stole from him are shaken out of our pockets and we can see clearly again the mountains of gold below each and every last moment of our lives.
If we don't go through the experience of our dreams and goals being annihilated from time to time..if our plans don't fail, our vision of the cosmos doesn't get shattered, our psyche's exploded by confusing insights in the opposite direction of whatever we hold most dear, and the rug pulled out from underneath us, then we will forget the realest riches...the invisible lord of soul that has no need for singular meaning or ultimate purpose because there are too many meanings and ultimate purposes to count...so much wealth its turns to a pile of shit if you try to count it! smile emoticon
Prayer for the day (an imaginary conversation with Pluto):
Hero: "So what's the point of anything then?"
Pluto: "Look around you! The idea of a 'point' has it's own cave down here, filled with gold just down that corridor to the right. Everything here has its own limitless storehouse of wealth and value."
Hero: "But that makes me feel like life isn't worth living. If everything is equal."
Pluto: "That's greed speaking. Equality can be a very greedy idea."
Hero: "But it's not just greed...in my world some things are noble and true and others are not. Surely your perspective isn't the only one? Wouldn't that be a different kind of greed?"
Pluto: "That's wise. But it's also true that you never would have asked that question without coming here."
Hero: "So you're not trying to monopolize. That's relieving."
Pluto: "The idea of monopoly is somewhat trivial to my world."
Hero: "I don't know what to do with all of this..."
Pluto: "That's why all heroes come here for perspective as well as the conquering..."
Hero: "Yes, I've fought dragons down here before. I've had great victories and accomplishments down here in the past."
Pluto: "Yes but you should realize that these kinds of achievements are unlimited, as are the failures. All share in my wealth."
Hero: "It still feels like a pointless perspective."
Pluto: "That's because it's hard to imagine ourselves without a hero."
Hero: "Is this my death?"
Pluto: "Not literally."
Hero: "Will I be reborn after this?"
Pluto: "The concept of rebirth in your world right now is too much jingling coins in the coat pockets of hidden agendas and lusty architects."
Hero: "Well if it isn't rebirth, then what is it?"
Pluto: "If we keep talking like this you won't want to leave. So now it's time for you to go."
image courtesy of creative commons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/paullew/
The Moon is void of course in Gemini this morning but will soon enter Cancer and then immediately apply to make the first quarter Moon. Our halfway point between eclipses.
Let's meditate for a moment today on the themes of birth and death, and the passage of the soul from one phase to another.
As the Moon enters Cancer to make her first quarter today, we are entering a crossroads moment in our current eclipse cycle. We are somewhere exactly between the past and the future. Something is being born, but its health will depend on the lightness of the soul, the lightness of the heart, being weighed now against the feather on the Libran scales of the north node. A powerful new beginning at the new moon has led us to a moment of truth and now we face a test. We aren't ever tested because there is some grand school master in the sky who wants to punish or judge us in some absolute or eternal sense. Judgment is part of the process of how the evolution of the soul unfolds...these moments of testing are part of how the shape of our destiny molds itself.
In the Egyptian pantheon the dog god, Anubis, led souls into the halls of judgment after death, where the soul (depicted by the heart) would be weighed against a feather. The smooth transition of the soul depended upon its being light as a feather.
But this isn't just a story about literal death. Since there is no such thing as literal death, the myth serves as a reminder that lightness of the heart is crucial for all important transitional phases.
Maybe there is no such thing as a perfectly level balance between the heart and the feather. Feathers are aerodynamic, after all, and they are hardly in their natural habitat resting on any kind of plate. And the heart too...the heart loves uneven ground, and its habitat is wild, unpredictable, uneven, and not meant to be entirely "level" or "even keeled."
Still the lightness of the feather, the winged quality of the heart...these are images calling to us right now. Calling to us to trust deeply that the transitions happening are purposeful even when they are painful or unknown...liberating even when they sometimes seem imprisoning or limiting. The heart is the imagination, and its freedom soars unbounded. The lightness of the heart in this transitional moment is therefore not about moving through this change unscathed or perfect....the heart wouldn't be the heart if that were the case. Instead it's about learning to open our imagination, the wings that bloom from the valley'd ventricles of the open heart.
The destiny of our soul is to learn how to live. This means we have to learn how to die good deaths. Deaths never being literal, and life having no opposite, just as the imagination has no opposite, the importance of dying lightly is unqualified. Any death can be winged...just as the custodians of death circle on high...not predatorial but janitorial...sweeping us along the imaginal path of liberated liberation.
This moment is precious. And even if we fail, even if it's scary, even if we do it wrong or incur the strangest features of fate, the vision of the winged heart is calling for our full faith and confidence.
Saying "yes," can be a deceptive way of putting it. The dog god, Anubis, is a keeper of oaths and loyalty. He's a watch dog as much as a lap dog. The first oath we always take is to keep our hearts as light as a feather, no matter what we commit to contractually, even when we are in the heaviest and most serious places. This is a strange paradox, but it's important. As the underworld itself is the place of planets like Mars and Pluto, and just like Hades had a watch dog, Cerberus, the lightness of the heart is not merely an affair of innocence or blind goodness. The lightness of the heart is also the animal instinct...the fast ruffling of feathers and the sudden flash of wings in the trees. We aren't meant to soar away or above troubles by an Icarus lightness of the heart, but rather to see the winged mountains as integral to the valley...part of the same landscape, inescapably bound together by love, friendship, territory, and strife alike. Our work is to remain loyal to all aspects of the work, because the work is the soul's work, the soul's "good death," and its judgments are always among us, shaping the path of fate and remaining true to us despite any failings of our own loyalty. The dog-god is loyal to us and teaches us loyalty by both her friendly kisses and snarling watchfulness. Both by his affinity for the moon dark night and the gnawing of death's bones, but also his snoring nightmares and pack minded stubbornness.
When we look back on this moment, in ten years, will we say to ourselves, "that was an epic, beautiful, confusing, dark, deep, and amazing time?" Or will we say, "I wish I would have opened up to that moment..." Either way, in ten more years, there will still be a loyal dog sitting next to us...or asleep at our feet, or listening without any of the understanding we call understanding...content unto death...a winged sun dog lying in the shadows of the valley.
Prayer: help us to pass through this critical moment by the lightness of our hearts...may we stay loyal to all elements of the work.
Creative commons image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/liberato/
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Adam Elenbaas is a professional astrologer and the founder of the Nightlight Astrology School. Adam holds an MA and MFA in English and Creative Writing and is one of the founding writers at RealitySandwich. To learn more about Adam, click here.