A Temple for Pluto
By Laurence Hillman, 2001
If my devils are to leave me, I am afraid
My angels will take flight as well.
– Rainer Maria Rilke
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.
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. 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.[…]
See Part 2