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Mapping the Psyche

An Introduction to Psychological Astrology, by Clare Martin


The anatomy of Pluto, encased in ice.

The time has come to have a look at Pluto. We are certainly having a rather heavy evening tonight! The existence of Pluto was established mathematically in 1915 by the astronomer Percival Lowell, working in Arizona, although it was actually first sighted in 1930 after Lowell's death. It is inclined to the orbital plane of the other planets by up to 17º and has a pronounced elliptical orbit, which means that it travels much faster through some signs than through others. With an average period of twenty years in a sign, it actually takes approximately thirty-one years to transit through the sign of Taurus, when it is at its greatest distance from the Sun, and approximately twelve years to transit through the sign of Scorpio, when it is at its closest to the Sun and inside the orbit of Neptune.

Audience: I knew there was something weird about Pluto. It's also very small, isn't it? There is a model of the relative sizes of all the planets at the London Planetarium. I remember seeing Pluto and thinking that it was really really small. You get the Earth and Venus and Mars, which are all broadly the same size, although the Moon is smaller, and then you get to the huge planets Jupiter and Saturn, and then you walk on past Saturn to Uranus and Neptune until you get to this very tiny planet Pluto.

Clare: Yes, it's very small and very dark. Apparently it is one tenth of the expected brightness for its size, so it is considered to be very dense, swallowing light.

Audience: It sounds like a black hole.

Clare: Yes, this is an excellent image for Pluto, a symbol of condensed and concentrated power. In Greek mythology, Hades or Pluto was immensely powerful and wealthy, the god of buried treasure and of the underworld, where the souls of the dead reside. I am sure you are familiar with the myth of Persephone, who was forcibly abducted by Pluto and snatched away into the underworld. Symbolically, Pluto describes a forced initiation which appears to come out of nowhere but changes our lives forever. It is where we are taken over by forces we never believed we were going to get involved with.

It is interesting that there is an ongoing debate about whether Pluto is in fact a planet at all, or whether it should be classified as belonging to the Kuiper belt. From a psychological perspective, if Pluto does not belong in the solar system then it doesn't belong within the human psyche, and we don't have to take responsibility for it as an aspect of ourselves. Perhaps it is not surprising, therefore, that the astronomers are trying to get it removed. An interesting development is that Pluto is in fact a binary system with a moon which is approximately the same size. This moon is called Charon, the ferryman in Greek myth, who rowed people over the river Styx into the land of the dead in exchange for a piece of silver. This seems to me to be a rather important discovery from a symbolic point of view. Now that we have discovered Charon, we have a link to Pluto - a vessel in which to travel to Hades. We can get there, but we will have to pay the price.

Pluto, in an alchemical engraving from Escalier des sages by Barent Coenders van Helpen (1689), holds the key to the alchemical operation of putrefactio, which opens the door to the underworld and makes possible the transformation of the primal substance. Neptune reclines on the ground beside him.



The synchronicity

In common with the other outer planets, Pluto has come to be associated with the particular types of mass movements which were occurring around the time of its discovery. This was the era which saw the rise of a group of extraordinarily powerful, brutal, charismatic dictators who carried enormous collective power. In 1930, for example, Stalin declared all the farms collectives and instigated the purges against Trotsky's supporters. Purging is a very powerful Pluto word, meaning to raise something to the ground, to annihilate something with the purpose of purifying it. Mao Tse Tung's communist revolution began with his Long March in 1934, during which 100,000 people perished, and at the same time, the fascist leaders, Mussolini and Hitler, came to power in Europe. In one year, between 1928 and 1929, for example, the Nazi vote rose from 800,000 to 6,409,000. Between them, these leaders, who could also be described as megalomaniacs, were the cause of literally millions of deaths, often of their own people.

Audience: So you are saying that when these outer planets are first identified, then it is time for them to come into mass consciousness?

Clare: Exactly. What we can certainly say is that before this time nothing like this had ever occurred on this kind of scale or intensity.

Audience: It seems as if the energy of these new planets is much more intense around their discovery, and then it dies away. Maybe all the stored up unconscious energy has to burst out when a new planet is discovered.

Clare: Yes, this certainly seems to be the case. There are other movements which belong to this period which reflect similar themes of brutal power, great wealth, control and crisis. For example, Prohibition throughout the USA during the 1920s is often associated with the Mafia. The recent film, Road to Perdition, is an excellent portrayal of the dark power of the Mafia during those times. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 wiped out $26 billion, causing a global economic crisis. And yet, out of the rubble, in 1930, the Empire State Building was built in an astonishingly short period of time. The splitting of the atom released enormous power, and coincided with the foundation of modern depth psychology, pioneered by Freud. Freud's psychic archaeology involved delving into the unconscious to discover repressed and buried material. The task he set himself was the excavation of the buried contents of the unconscious and the release of the suppressed life force, which enabled his patients to experience psychic healing and a profound experience of rebirth. These themes were also reflected in the arts. The romanticism of the mid-19th century gave way to surrealism and to new images of a harsh, dismembered, fragmented and deconstructed world, given expression in the work of Picasso and others. Jazz replaced the romantic music of 19th century composers such as Debussy.

Pluto rules anything that is underground: potholes, power stations, secret societies, political underground movements, volcanoes, earthquakes, depth psychology, liquidators, detectives, anything to do with waste, recycling, sewage works, bodily elimination and sexuality. In short, Pluto rules all things which are dark, buried and taboo, the things that no-one wants to think about or talk about. Collectively, Pluto concerns the organic laws of decay, death and regeneration of all living things in the interests of collective survival.

Pluto in the birth chart

As an invisible force, Pluto has to be experienced before we can truly understand and appreciate its power. We cannot grasp its meaning from a distance or with our intellect, because it is so primal and primitive. Pluto is a deep reservoir of concentrated power in our birth chart, which can remain dormant for a long time, like a volcano. In its dormant phase, it tends to be a dumb note in the birth chart and it is perfectly possible to live for long periods as if it didn't exist. If we mention issues of power and control to people in their dormant Pluto phase, they are unlikely to know what we are talking about. In its active phase, however, Pluto will start to rumble and the intensity will start to build deep in the unconscious until the tension of the suppressed energy becomes unbearable. The power of the feelings which are eventually unleashed can take us completely by surprise. Pluto undermines our sense of ourselves as civilised and reasonable human beings and plunges us into what can feel like an alien and terrifying underworld of savage emotions such as rage, jealousy, obsession, vengeance, power battles, control issues, survival anxiety and murderousness.

When Pluto is activated it is obsessive and compulsive, and pulls everything towards it, like a black hole. At root, Pluto describes the life force itself, the urge to bring to the surface and eliminate anything which is no longer serves life because it has become poisonous, decayed or rotten. Pluto purges and regenerates. It we can surrender to this process, and we often have no choice in the matter, then we can experience Pluto's healing and cleansing power for ourselves. Naturally, we never choose this, since Pluto's function is to take us to hell and back. Pluto is the principle of intensity, catharsis, power and control, purging, regeneration and collective survival. It describes how and where we feel compelled to fight for our personal survival, where we are obsessive and how we sabotage ourselves and others in an effort to maintain control.

As long as we ignore Pluto by trying to control it or by denying its existence in our chart, we will deny the primitive, savage, dark and destructive aspects of our nature, with the result that we will project these qualities onto others or onto the outside world. Once Pluto is activated, however, it describes how and where the individual can be the vessel through which that which is poisonous and destructive in the collective can be purged, healed and cleansed. If we consciously accept the challenge of Pluto in our charts, we can cooperate with the process of psychic purging which is a necessary prerequisite to any genuine self healing.

Audience: So we are still struggling with accepting responsibility for it?

Clare: Yes. As long as we are identified with an image of ourselves as perfectly civilised, righteous and upstanding people, then we need others to carry the darkness or evil for us. This will enable us to keep to our moral high ground and be outraged by the terrible deeds and behaviour of others, and we will continue looking for and seeing and even creating the darkness 'out there' until we can each carry the burden of our own potential for savage, brutal behaviour.

Aspects to Pluto

Both Sally and David have Pluto-Sun aspects, which indicate personal (Sun) intensity (Pluto) and survival issues. Sometimes the individual's real identity (Sun) is hidden from them (Pluto), to the extent that they develop a 'false self' or false identity, which protects them from exposure (Pluto), but also keeps them hidden (Pluto) from themselves (Sun). From the ego's perspective, the individual is likely to feel vulnerable and open to attack, even to the point of paranoia (Pluto). They will find it impossible to trust, and will seek to maintain control over others at all times. Ultimately, a Pluto-Sun person is capable of delving into their own dark depths (Pluto) in order to uncover their own authentic identity (Sun), take their own power (Sun Pluto) and to devote it to the service of others.

Pluto-Moon describes an intensely (Pluto) emotional and instinctive nature (Moon). If the ego is involved, Sally is likely to be possessive, devouring and emotionally invasive, to the extent that anyone who lands on her spider's web will be trapped, bound by emotional (Moon) blackmail (Pluto) and unable to escape. She is equally capable of destroying or healing (Pluto) herself and others on a powerful psychic level (Moon). With this aspect devoted to the service of others, rather than to her own needs, she will not be afraid to put her life on the line in the interests of healing and nurturing others and setting them free.

Pluto-Venus indicates that Sally will have an intense (Pluto) desire nature (Venus), and an attraction (Venus) to hidden, taboo relationships (Pluto). As long as this aspect is functioning in an ego-centric manner, Sally may use her undoubted powers of attraction (Venus) to control, ensnare, seduce, manipulate and destroy others. Positively, this aspect describes Sally's capacity to go through hell and back (Pluto) for what she values (Venus), without fears for her own safety, to fight for others who are, for example, sexually (Venus) exploited (Pluto), to devote herself to healing (Pluto) people with sexually transmitted (Venus) diseases (Pluto), or to force taboo sexual practices (Pluto) to the surface so that they can be eliminated (Pluto).

The Pluto-Mercury contact in David's chart describes the power (Pluto) of language (Mercury), the compulsion (Pluto) to give voice (Mercury) to what is taboo or secret in order to defuse its hidden power (Pluto). If the interests of the ego are involved, this aspect can describe interrogation, the use of verbal (Mercury) intimidation and manipulation (Pluto) of others for one's own benefit. One way of doing this is by being totally silent (Mercury-Pluto), which can be a way of manipulating people into speaking first and therefore exposing themselves.

An individual with a Pluto-Mars contact never seems to feel alive unless they are fighting (Mars) for their personal survival (Pluto) or have put their lives on the line in some way. They tend to take themselves to the edge (Mars), which is where they feel truly alive (Pluto). This is an excellent combination for a racing driver or for a member of the SAS, anyone who challenges themselves (Mars) to survive (Pluto). Tremendously driven and determined, these people come alive (Mars) in a crisis (Pluto). If the interests of the ego are involved, this aspect describes the use of brutal force (Mars) and control (Pluto) over others for personal benefit. The most positive expression of this aspect is the power and determination and courage to put one's life on the line for the benefit of others and for the healing of the collective.

nach oben

The Book"Mapping the Psyche"

First published 2005 by the CPA Press, BCM Box 1815, London WC1N 3XX, United Kingdom, www.cpalondon.com.
Copyright ©2005 by Clare Martin.
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