A Temple For Pluto

"If my devils are to leave me, I am afraid
My angels will take flight as well."
-- Rainer Maria Rilke [i]

In a monastery in medieval Europe, an upstart monk was misbehaving. "How do we know that all the words we are copying over and over again in these texts are accurate?" he asked. "If a monk made a mistake 200 years ago, we'd still be copying that same mistake, no?" The abbot reluctantly agreed with the smart aleck and promised all the monks that, on the morrow, he would compare their work with the original texts that were kept deep in the vaults below the monastery. The next day, as the abbot descended into the forbidden, stony depths, all the monks gathered excitedly at the top of the stairs. After what seemed like an eternity, they heard a woeful cry of agony from below. The abbot emerged, clutching his head with both hands, and exclaimed: "The word is celibrate!"

For about a thousand years, before the Reformation, the Catholic Church controlled the Western world, alongside various noblemen who came and went. The above joke illustrates the twisting that occurred deliberately along the path of human evolution: Control, power, sex, and hidden secrets – themes resonating with Pluto – came under the dominion of the church. The church understood that it maintained control over its members by regulating – amongst other things – their sex lives. Furthermore, the timeless ideas of the cycle of life and reincarnation were replaced with the concepts of Purgatory and Hell ­– and Heaven for those who behaved appropriately as defined by church doctrine. By controlling ideas about death, another Pluto archetype, total power belonged to those in the religious elite. Although only priests, monks, and nuns were asked to make the sacrifice of celibacy, the implied message was that celibacy brought them in closer contact with God. If they overcame their worldly urges by sacrificing sex and other pleasures, this suggested that what the lay people practiced was implicitly inferior.

To the archetypal expressions of Pluto belong the energies of sex, death, and transformation. In my practice as an astrologer, I find that we are still as uncomfortable with these archetypes in Western culture today as we have been for 14 or so centuries.

If you ask anyone who is familiar with astrology about Pluto, you will experience Pluto power. From most, you will undoubtedly get the familiar frown or raised eyebrows. In the folklore about Pluto, war stories and horror stories about loss and death abound. Pluto has snaked its way into the collective archetypal consciousness to symbolize that force over which we have the least control. Pluto energy is most inevitable, fated, and deeply transformational.

Could it be that our difficulties with Pluto have a cultural origin? Have we collectively banished Pluto underground? Are we now so far distanced from Pluto that we have no clue as what to do with this energy when it appears in our lives, as it undoubtedly does? As a result, could it be that this Plutonian energy erupts into our collective experience as the Trench-Coat Mafia in Columbine? Or that Pluto stays hidden in a global network of Internet pornography? Or that Pluto manifests collectively in a huge prison population of locked-up people who most of us wish would remain invisible?


A Temple for Pluto

Each planet is an actor in the celestial play unfolding within us, and every planet wants to be heard. Planets that are not allowed to speak – those repressed by the culture, individual upbringing, or trauma – will act up. For instance, suppose you have a prominent Pluto in your chart[ii]. With this, you may experience strong urges to express yourself in a passionately sexual way. You may also be quite comfortable with the idea of death and rebirth, and you may have secret desires to become very powerful. These are some of the natural ways for Pluto to express, to speak through you. It is also quite likely that your surrounding world does not share your intrigue with Pluto. I believe this is because we have collectively pushed this Plutonian energy underground.

Every planet expresses itself somewhere on a scale between two extremes. For instance, Mars, at one end of his scale, is a gun-wielding maniac mowing people down in a flaming, adrenaline-driven frenzy. At the other end of the same Mars scale, we find a black belt martial artist. Here, Mars energy has been harnessed to beauty, and the martial artist walks away from a fight. Most of us express Mars energy somewhere between these two extremes.

Similarly, on Pluto's scale we have seen plenty of manifestations arising as a result of repression. I have mentioned a few here. Although I'm not suggesting that we "perk up" Pluto, I am interested in moving toward a greater understanding of what has been lost by Pluto's interment. By salvaging what has been buried, we may find Pluto's riches again. Pluto is, after all, also the god of wealth, abundance, and precious metals hidden in the Earth. Pluto, the deity, was referred to as the "rich one," because he owned all the wealth in the ground.

In ancient times, temples were erected to house and honor gods and their energy. This was a way to bring the particular energy into everyday life. Worshipping in such a temple meant taking on some of this energy or honoring and leaving behind what was undesirable. This is what I call "holding" an energy. It means having the strength and depth to resonate consciously with a given planetary potency. In Pluto's case, translated for the 21st century, this would include facing our own views – deeply, not casually – about sex, death, and transformation. How capable are we to remain in Pluto's temple and resonate with those ideas and the feelings they stir up?

If we wish to evoke the most constructive and integrated aspects of Pluto, how can we create a metaphoric structure that can hold and resonate with Pluto – a state of mind where we can reverberate with the riches of this archetype? By imagining such a place, we begin to invite some of the Plutonian energy back into our awareness. When we hold an idea in our conscious mind, we become part of it; then it no longer rules us, and we can move out of our victim status.

The question I would pose is this: What would an imaginal "temple" for Pluto look like?

Like architects, we can take a piece of paper and start to list the criteria that, together, begin to shape a temple for Pluto. The ancients believed in building temples to their gods. Temples were places to focus the particular energy of a deity. The god lived within the temple – or at least came to visit. By honoring a god with a temple, mortals were able to step into the presence of the immortal archetype. I am borrowing this idea to reconnect to Pluto's energy. After all, it is my experience that you do the gods, or the gods do you.

The planets, from an astrological point of view, reflect energies within us. As such, they are intrinsically neither good nor bad but akin to heat, another form of energy. Heat either keeps you warm or burns you, depending on how you use it. The deciding factor is free will. If our goal is to build an inner temple for Pluto, so that we can honor and hold this energy, we must first study the energy pattern within the archetype itself.



The planet Pluto moves extremely slowly. Consequently, the experiences we have of Pluto in transit build very gradually and last a long time.

The general complaints that I hear from my clients, during Pluto transits, are: "I don't have time for this stuff," "Pluto is interfering with my life," or (mostly) "I am losing control." Collectively, we cannot handle Pluto, because we cannot handle vibrating at that slow rate. In fact, the etymological root of the word slowness is also the basis of words such as tardiness, apathetic, procrastination, and backwardness. Contrast that to the etymological root of the word speed, which includes prosperity, success, and hope. As the world becomes increasingly fast, where does this leave slow Pluto? Pluto is not part of the culture; he is in exile. We are uncomfortable with Pluto. We don't have the patience that Pluto demands.

The faster we move the more out of step we will be with Pluto's energy. If you are doing the jitterbug, it is hard to dance with a partner who is undulating to the Tango. In our daily lives, we synchronize our rhythm with Pluto when we slow down and relax – during sleep in the dream world or during meditation and relaxation.

The first thing we learn about our temple for Pluto is that it must be large enough to hold long and slow movement. Perhaps cavernous is a better word. We note this on our list of building criteria for our temple.


Yin Energy

Pluto, by nature, expresses yin and yang energy, balanced equally. However, we usually emphasize the yang side and speak about the outwardly destructive force of Pluto: the fiery eruptions, the devastating inner earthquake that shakes our whole sense of who we are, the mean and manipulative boss who breathes down our neck. Indeed, these are some of the ways that Pluto's yang side is experienced.

But Pluto is just as much yin energy. (As food for thought, this idea certainly puts a different spin on Persephone's abduction.) We must realize the importance of the new life potential that becomes visible only after the destruction through Plutonian yang energy. After the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, the surrounding land was covered with ashes and devastation for miles. Yet, those ashes later became the extremely fertile bed for countless new plants.

Simply, the yin/yang symbol is half white and half black – symbolizing light and dark, day and night, male and female. Similarly, we cannot fully experience Pluto if we ignore either the yin or the yang.

The Apollonian, solar, yang principle is only too well expressed in our culture: the familiar spiritual seeker of the Divine, striving toward the light in a heroic quest. Many New Age disciples are so completely focused upon the light and stepping into God's presence that they forget that, in the beginning of Genesis, right after God created Heaven and Earth, "darkness was upon the face of the deep." Only after this process, can there be light.

Staying with the idea that we must have yin to balance the light, let's now get a sense of what yin is: Think moist, dark, musky, earthy, fertile, receptive, creating, healing, and undulating (yes, I like that word). Think of the roots of a tree, balancing the crown and the fruits borne forth there, fruits that bulge as they swell with the juices from below.

I do not negate the light. I understand photosynthesis and the need for the solar principle to charge up the crown of the tree and sweeten the fruit. I am merely suggesting that our culture is obsessed with the tree and its fruits and has difficulty dealing with the roots of things – with any feminine, dark, mysterious energy.

A tree with too much yang will fall over: That is what can happen when there are no roots. With too much yin, we have a swelling of roots that can lift asphalt and penetrate concrete. Let's strive for balance.

In the search for light, Western culture has found comfort in the idea of enlightenment. We believe that, with proper technique, kundalini energy will open up your crown chakra like the effects of a double espresso: enlightenment for sale. What we tend to forget is that kundalini energy comes up from your ... well, you know where it starts. The root chakra must be opened first. It is unwise to examine any of the other chakras until we have examined the root chakra, including its facet of darkness.

The root chakra is a very Plutonian place. Various schools of thought place it in different physical locations in the lower body. Of course, the root chakra is at the root, but is this at the base of the spine? Nearer to the sex organs? The sex organs themselves? This ongoing discussion (it is "somewhere down there at the bottom") is worth some reflection! Does anyone argue over where the heart chakra is located? Pluto in astrology usually rules the sex organs, as well as the large intestine and the anus: The root chakra is located in the perineum, defined by the dictionary as "the region between the scrotum and the anus in males and between the posterior vulva junction and the anus in females." Getting squirmy and uncomfortable? Good! It is not possible for us to deal with any of the other chakras until we have faced all that is Plutonian. To quote the musician George Clinton: "Free your ass and your mind will follow!"

This "ass" energy is uncomfortable to members of a Puritanical culture. We are, strictly speaking, a nation of prudes. We could not show Elvis's hips on The Ed Sullivan Show (and it is still culturally unacceptable to show a naked breast on prime-time network television in the U.S.). Too much Pluto. Each generation, wanting to rebel against Pluto repression, must again and again confront the status quo with what resides below the belt. This is how to open up our consciousness. Because of the younger generation’s need for shock value, the content must also become increasingly explicit. The controversy around the rapper Eminem at the 2001 Grammy Awards ceremony is a good example: Eminem's lyrics are about Pluto. Although we tolerate pornography and unspeakable violence – in video games, movies, TV, and on the Internet – when we find an individual target, we attack. I am not condoning or even commenting on Eminem's specific lyrics; I am observing his effect upon our culture and the rampant hypocrisy. It strikes me that Eminem is often described as an "underground phenomenon" (hello, Pluto!) who became highly successful – rose to the surface, so to speak. Just as I was an affront to those around me when I wore long hair, growing up in my native Switzerland, so the pop songs my nine-year-old daughter sings in the back of my van shock me, as they must. It is Pluto's job to confront us with what is uncomfortable, so that we can imagine change. Happily, my daughter is unconscious of much of what she sings.

I recently counseled a former rock star. We were talking about connecting with the audience from the stage, an experience that she described as very sexual and erotic. Her chart showed what I would loosely describe as an invisible Pluto[iii]. I asked her from where in her body she related to the audience. She answered, "Oh, intensely through the heart." I said, "Anywhere else?" She replied, "Oh, yes, from the mind." Because we had discussed Pluto, I asked: "Can you imagine connecting with the audience through your root chakra?" She exclaimed "Wow!" and we started the real work. Of course, this kind of connection with the audience is what Jim Morrison did naturally.

When I try to conjure up an image of the idea most threatening to our culture, a very Plutonian image arises: that of a naked voodoo priestess writhing in ecstasy while the blood of the headless chicken in her hands flows down her sweaty, chocolate skin. This image does not play well on Main Street. Yet, here we have passion, ritual, death, blood, and an undulating feminine body all in one. Pluto is at home here – totally and uncompromisingly. And need I tell you that we all have Pluto in our charts? We all express the archetypal voodoo priestess somewhere. Many Americans found a way to experience ecstatic ritual at Grateful Dead concerts. For many others, Norman Bates or Freddie Krueger is the titillating archetype we are morbidly attracted to because it scares us. We hold our hands over our eyes, but we can't resist peeking, as we must include all the actors in our internal play. Our internal pantheon includes Kali, Lilith and Sekhmet, goddesses with a fierce, frightening, and sometimes ruthless aspect. Each planet must speak through us in its own voice.

Pluto energy appears not only as horror, destruction, and titillation. The yin aspect is also nurturing and receptive. Expressed this way, Pluto is also a bowl – a creative, dark place. The gardener who frets about destructive underground roots also delights in truffles and mushrooms, treasures from the deep, moist earth. Pluto is also a womb – a life-giving, nourishing, replenishing vessel of new life. Soft folds protect and nourish young life in complete darkness. This image becomes our next criterion for our temple for Pluto: It must be dark. Let us note this on our list.


Transformation through Ecstasy

Pluto also expresses itself in sex, a different kind of sex from that described archetypally by Leo. For Leo, sex is about fun, procreation, and offspring – creating something new; it is essentially about the act of creation. It is like lighting a match – a short, passionate, heartfelt, flaming moment. These are moments only, like the much-celebrated initial weeks of a new sexual relationship.

Plutonian sex is different. It is slow. Plutonian sex requires refinement, lots of time to develop, like Tantra, which is a form of conscious loving. It is painfully transforming at times. The rock star Rod Stewart sings about this:

"And sometimes when we touch
The honesty's too much
And I have to close my eyes and hide
I want to hold you till I die
Till we both break down and cry
I want to hold you till the fear in me subsides."[iv]

This kind of sex is about sleeping with the gods, but it is not always fun. You engage in Plutonian sex at the risk of death, floating in a narrow space of ecstasy between here and yonder. The presence of the unspeakable is experienced as a mysterium tremendum et fascinans – a dreaded and yet alluring mystery, that is both a feeling of awe and a shuddering [v]. This experience can be extremely frightening, particularly if one partner is not ready for such a level of intensity. This kind of sex transcends the physical; to experience it, you must let yourself fall right out of the Leo playpen.

The Main Street attitude again has a hard time accepting this – reconciling sex and death – but this type of reconciliation is not at all far-fetched. The French refer to an orgasm as la petite mort, or "the little death." And if you have ever been there, you know why. Tapping into ancient sexual techniques, such as Tantra and all its derivatives, is another modern-day effort to "go there." There are accounts from England of men observed to have an erection at the moment of being hanged. A biological phenomenon? Ecstasy? I guess no man ever lived to tell, but an interesting observation from our viewpoint.

The sensational 1976 Japanese film In the Realm of the Senses is about a woman whose obsessive sexual relationship with her husband crosses the line from passion into the realm of life and death. She strangles him at the climax of their lovemaking. Director Nagisa Oshima brilliantly explores the fine Plutonian line between sex and death. More recently, the master of Plutonian topics, the Marquis de Sade, was popularized in the film Quills. Pluto becomes the planet at the threshold between creation and destruction – the keeper of the gate. In ancient times, when priests entered the holy of holies, they often went in naked, without protection.

This image of disrobing as we enter Pluto's temple, entering naked and vulnerable, becomes the next design criterion for our temple. We note this on our list.


The Circle of Life

The next clue to our Plutonian structure can be illustrated by a story I recently heard from a client. I was telling her about Pluto, transformation, death, rebirth, and that the butterfly symbolizes all this. She then told me a little anecdote, triggered by the butterfly image: A truck had crashed into her house, and as part of this disruption, she found a butterfly cocoon that had been hidden inside the wall. She assumed the occupant of the cocoon was dead but, just in case it was not, she left it in the basement. Later, she discovered that it had hatched, and she made a point of mentioning that a beautiful swallowtail butterfly emerged from the cocoon. Although a swallowtail is a type of butterfly, the symbolism in the word is noteworthy to me – the striking image of the serpent swallowing its tail, a metaphor for reincarnation, [added comma] and the cyclical nature of life. My client saw only death in the wake of a traumatic experience, but after a long while in the basement, the butterfly emerged and the cycle began anew.

Similarly, when Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wandered through old concentration camp housing in Maidanek, Poland, she found butterfly images scratched all over the walls by those on their way to their executions[vi]. Again, the butterfly appeared as an image at the threshold of life and death.

I am a fan of the first Lion King movie that the Disney studios released in 1994. There is a lot of Pluto in the movie, and I like the concept of Disney peddling Pluto to minors – not as a silly dog but as a subconscious phenomenon. Consider the first and last scenes in the movie. These are essentially identical, except for a generational shift that occurs during the unfolding of the plot. The story comes full circle, mirroring the circle of life. Everything ends back where it began, and everything begins where it ended. This is a profound insight, even if it is found in an animated cartoon. True to Shakespearean tradition, we also have the good king and the bad king, the murder of the good king by the bad, the exile of the rightful heir to the throne, and his return through the power of love. Then, after the savanna burns – out of the ashes, the phoenix – the new world is born. We must have fire, destruction, starvation, and death before we can regerminate. In the title song of The Lion King, Elton John sings:

"Till we find our place
On The Path unwinding
In the Circle, the Circle of Life"[vii]

Or, in the words of T. S. Eliot:

"And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."[viii]

Pluto becomes the butterfly who looks back at the cocoon and says: "That was me? Ah, that was I!"

So we observe that the next design criteria for our Pluto structure must be a sense of openness. We must be able to circle in-and-out of our imagined temple freely and with few restrictions. Our experience in the temple must also bring us to the edge of death so that when we exit we feel reborn. We take note.



Some have said that Pisces is vaporized water; Cancer, liquid water; and Scorpio (and thus Pluto), frozen water. Even scientists call Pluto the icy planet. Physics teaches us that the difference between water and ice is basically slower molecules in the ice. Again, we see the theme of slowness. As I described earlier, fire is a symbolic representation of the yang side of Pluto. Ice, I would postulate, is an expression of the yin. Life can be preserved in ice for eons.

Let us now add another image to our repertoire. Have you ever felt the burning sensation of dry ice? Have you ever cleaned up the mess after a frozen water pipe has burst? Ever found a cracked flowerpot on your porch after water seeped into the ceramic pores and the pot exploded as the water froze? Behold the power of ice. It behooves us to remember that icy glaciers initially carved our landscapes. This is moving at Pluto's pace. This energy comes on slowly and sometimes inconspicuously. Yet, Pluto penetrates everything, moves and expands through us – like an earthquake or a volcanic eruption – and shakes us slowly and repeatedly after a buildup of energy.

After a Plutonian experience, we may go into "cold shock." When we are unconscious, we are out cold, and when we physically die, we really chill out, so to speak. After we throw up, we shiver. A drug addict goes cold turkey in the jail cell. We also murder in cold blood. Obviously, Pluto is comfortable in the realm of cold.

Most of us are uncomfortable being cold. But then, Pluto is not about being comfortable. If you can't stand the cold, get into the kitchen!

We add to our design notes: The temple must be cold – freezing cold.



The eighth principle (Pluto, Scorpio, and the 8th house) is associated with the metaphysical world. It is invisible, secretive, often unconscious power. The more noise we make in the outside conscious world and the less we therefore listen to our inner sounds, the more this unconscious and invisible Pluto energy can really be the source of our actions. In other words, Pluto is profoundly psychological. To delve into this aspect of Pluto, we must therefore quiet down the noise and have absolute silence.

Pluto likes to appear in dreams as nightmares, in meditation as powerful images – and in life-altering psychological insights that take extensive quiet time to absorb into the very fabric of our cells. Pluto is bubbly ferment deep in the belly. You cannot hear the gurgling sound unless you are silent. You must undulate silently.

Being secretive also means being silent. The Scorpio archetype is not chatty. In this silence, there is wisdom. There is the possibility to hear beyond our physical voice to our inner voice. There is the potential for great perception and reception.

So, we add this design criterion: The temple must be absolutely silent.


The Pond

Let's examine our list. We now have several ingredients and design criteria for the creation of a temple for Pluto. But, in case you were thinking of literal columns, a base, and a pediment on top, you should, in true Plutonian fashion, destroy that idea! Instead, think of a metaphoric place deep in the Earth. That is, after all, where Pluto is housed. As architects of a temple for Pluto, we must create a cavernous retreat – dark, freezing cold, and silent. By design, we enter here naked, at the edge of death. A design idea and an image emerge for our metaphoric temple for Pluto:

Walk into a forest at 3:00 a.m. The night is pitch black, except for a Crescent Moon that gives off just enough light for you to find your way through the trees along the path. You come to a pond, a small black mirror on the forest floor. It is completely surrounded by trees, and their roots are growing into the water. The heavenly silver sliver of the Moon is reflected in the black surface. Not a ripple can be seen. You break the surface tension to test the water, and it is ice cold. You strip off all your clothes. Naked, you swim out into the middle of the pond and dive straight down, swimming deeper and deeper. Just as you wonder whether you might drown, you find yourself breathing the icy water. You continue to swim. There seems to be no bottom to this pond. Somewhere down below, you come to a steady float. Here you do what is done best in ponds: You ponder. As you float in this watery place, people, ghosts, memories, and old lovers, dead or alive, float by. Undulation is easy here. Welcome to Pluto’s world.

Later, as you re-surface, re-dress, and re-flect, you feel empowered, re-seeded, and reborn in a way that only Pluto can initiate. You have been with Pluto. You have been inside a temple for Pluto.


Practical Application

Pluto brings forth into the visible world a deeply psychological and transformational experience. As we change, our old way of being dies.

Philosopher Sir Francis Bacon said that the only way we learn is by experience. Pluto's house position indicates where in our life we must experience the death of old ways. The sign position reflects how we must do this, and the aspects to Pluto indicate with whom. For example, Pluto in the 4th house in Leo squaring the Moon may indicate that we will be confronted with our views about home and roots (4th house) in a dramatic way (Leo) and that this will happen in relationship to our own ideas of nurturing and our archetypal views of "Mother" (square to the Moon). Pluto will confront us psychologically with an obsessive belief in the need to repeatedly continue doing something destructive until it kills us or until we change. Pluto demands transformation. As my colleague, Donna Spencer, likes to say: "Do yourself in or work yourself out." In the example above, you can fight with your victimizing mother till death do you part or learn from Pluto and change.

As astrologers who are knowledgeable about Pluto and aware of free will, we carry a weighty responsibility when deciphering Pluto to our clients. First, we must come clean in our own lives. Never again should we say: "My Pluto is killing me!" The appropriate phrase might be: "The way I am expressing Pluto is how I am killing myself!" This may sound ludicrous at first, but it starts a dialogue about responsibility versus victimhood. How I myself relate to Pluto is the way I explain Pluto to others. We must be what we preach: This is congruency. Practical application of the temple for Pluto means allowing Pluto to speak through us, although this may be painful. (Only when we have met our own voodoo priestess are we entitled to meet her in others.) Gladly, we let Jupiter speak through us at the casino table, but how often do we invite Pluto into our lives? Our inner celestial stage has ten actors and each is part of the play. To describe the script of this play, I offer practitioners some ideas from my practice:

(1) Find the voodoo priestess in the chart, and determine her relative significance to the rest of the chart. This means finding how many times the eighth principle is prominent in the chart (seen as a strong Pluto, Scorpio, or 8th house). Include all relevant aspects and reciprocities (by house and sign). This gives you an idea of the sort of power you are dealing with. Some people have more to learn about Pluto than others.

(2) While encouraging interaction with Pluto, keep in mind that Pluto is invisible to most of us and especially to the culture at large. Expressing exuberance about Pluto may unleash more onto the world than the client (or the world) is ready to handle. So what should you do in a world where your voodoo priestess is unwelcome? Caroline Casey uses a poignant phrase to answer this question: become "stealth agents for change." We must play the part within the system – yet not be of it. That is true power (another favorite word for Pluto). If a spy does not wear the clothes, speak the language, and know the customs of the country she is infiltrating, she can never succeed in her mission. Once within the system she is penetrating, in true Plutonian fashion, she can strike.

(3) Expand the repertoire of Plutonian ideas. Go from killer weeds to truffles. I have noticed an excited sense of relief in clients who receive "permission" to enjoy the Plutonian taboo areas that are titillating to so many.

(4) Look for mythological subplots in the chart. A Venus-Pluto relationship, for instance, brings forth the archetypal blend of Beauty and Death. Here, point your clients toward the art world and painters like Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, or movies dealing with these themes. Thanks to my friend and colleague, Ray Grasse, I have collected a list of such films to recommend: Raise the Red Lantern, The King of Masks, Exotica, Pleasantville, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, to name but a few. Venus-Pluto thinking requires that you view the world around you in a refined way. Superficial beauty is not enough; Pluto demands that the depth of beauty be fathomed. This may include sacrificing for love, delving into the most unconscious layers in relationships, and finding the beauty in suffering.

(5) Psychological work is filled with images. Therapeutic work begins by adding to the culturally (and surely archetypally) prevalent images surrounding death, sex, and transformation. Invite your clients to visit the imaginal temple for Pluto – not as a preemptive measure ("Hey, Pluto, can we be friends?") but to experience it more fully. Like the ancients, we must enter this sacred place willingly and unclothed.

(6) I like to use the icy pond metaphor as a useful therapeutic avenue for those who need to connect to their Pluto in an experiential way. Other techniques – actively chosen in our lives – include painting, sculpting, taking note of dreams, or acting out the goblins that appear in nightmares or in meditation. Healing techniques include the practice of Tantric yoga, cleaning out superfluous stuff around the house, and psychological purging in the therapy room.

(7) I never encourage my clients to wallow in the past. One of my teachers once said, in so many words: "If you have a pile of manure, don't stir it up; it will only smell!" Instead, we can reflect upon, visit, observe, play with, and add to the images that haunt us. This is how we gain perspective. Likewise, we do not need to stay in the pond. We go there for perspective. Our lives cycle in and out of the pond. Nobody lives in a temple. We visit it and reenter the world nourished, unfettered, and connected.

(8) Remember that, in the end, Pluto also concerns healing. Sometimes, emotional surgery, vomiting, bloody wounds, or even relinquishing a firstborn are sacrifices on the threshold of healing. For those of your clients in the darkest throes of pain, remind them of the value of purging from the body what is already dead. A dead fetus must be expelled if you are ever to create new life.

Finally, let us respect those who have a genuine fear of Pluto realities. This culture does not encourage Pluto energy in any way. If we barge in with too much Pluto, we can cause great damage. Most people prefer a warm swimming pool in the sunshine to a cold pond in the pale moonlight. Also, remember the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: "People see only what they are prepared to see." So, a little dose of Pluto can go a long way. And that little dose applied, true to form, to change our views on Pluto, may be the beginning to building a temple for Pluto.

© 2001 Laurence Hillman – all rights reserved

This article was published in The Mountain Astrologer in the Dec 2001/Jan 2002 issue.



[i] Rilke, on withdrawing from psychotherapy after learning the goals to which it aspired. Letter 74, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke, 1910-1926. W.W. Norton & Company, 1969

[ii] A prominent Pluto means having the eighth principle (eighth house, Scorpio, or Pluto) strongly represented in a chart. This can include many planets in the eighth house and/or in Scorpio and/or Pluto on an angle, in an aspect within one degree to another planet, and/or in the eighth house and/or Scorpio.

[iii] An invisible Pluto is where Pluto has no aspects, particularly if Pluto is also in the eighth house.

[iv] Sometimes When We Touch, lyrics by Barry Mann and Dan Hill.

[v] The German theologian Rudolf Otto describes this term in his 1917 book, The Idea of the Holy. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1958

[vi] Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, The Wheel of Life: A Memoir of Living and Dying. Simon & Schuster, 1997

[vii] The Circle of Life, lyrics by Tim Rice.