Part of what Pluto represents is
the principle of transformation.
But Plutonic transformation is not a matter of addition, we don't
acquire something new as we come into the "riches" of Pluto. Or as
it is said in the Zen tradition, "the family treasures don't come in
through the front door."
And the reason the family treasures
don't come in through the
front door is that they were there all along. Plutonic transformation
doesn't add riches to our ego, The Invisible One takes away. "He
with Many Names" (who is also called "The Good Counselor") takes
away all we've been grasping to, all we've thought we couldn't bear
to live without. In this way Pluto ushers in a process of loss--but
what is lost, what is taken away, may later be seen to have been
the egoic attachments that covered over our underlying "treasures"
which have always been there at an essential level, a level of depth
that we might not yet have penetrated, and so the "treasures" may
remain invisible to us.
Pluto the god, as well as Pluto
as astrological or archetypal
principle may really be our friend and deepener, our "good
counselor," but he can be a scary friend and counselor as long as
there's something, even "life itself" to which we are clinging.
As god of the Underworld Pluto
presides over our death. But
this death and the loss (of "life") associated with him is not, or not
only a literal death. It is a death and loss of our attachments. A
Westerner will tend to hear this last sentence in terms of what is
being lost, our possessions. But an Easterner may be clearer that
what is being taken away is not, or not only our possessions, but the
sticky, velcro-like fabric of our psychological and emotional clinging
In both senses, Pluto is like a
trap door through which the
apparent solidity of our life--and our attachments to it--falls away
or begins to leave us. Astrological lore associates Pluto transits, for
example, with bone or tooth loss--among many other things. And
what seems more apparently solid or "real" than bones or teeth,
these bedrocks of our physical reality? But Pluto represents also a
loss and death of our illusions, the "appearances" that only seem real
due to our clinging, and the resultant loss of a "depth perspective."
Part of what is lost is also our
capacity, or the illusion of our
capacity to control. Death itself, which ultimately we are powerless
to prevent, is the ultimate overwhelm, the ultimate insult to the
ego's naive grandiosity. But Pluto is not interested in helping the ego
stay comfortable with its illusions, our personhood, our persona.
That's part of what he takes away. Pluto is not intersted in being
personal (Pluto doesn't court Persephone, he just grabs her). He has
no interest in maintaining diplomatic relations with the personality
(or with the rest of Olympus) --Pluto's an outer, a "trans -personal"
planet, and a god who spends most of his life alone, apart from all
the other gods.
The deaths Pluto oversees, and
the losses he ushers in are a death to
the persona, the personality, a death to the person we have thus far
taken ourselves to be. But our deaths, our losses, our transformations
may only be frightening and overwhelming to the extent that there has
been something that we have been clinging to, some other non-Plutonic
perspective, some idea of permanence, some belief that there is
something outside ourselves to be gained or clung to.
In this regard, Pluto is the agent
of impermance, a god who might
clarify for us all the things that fall short of an ultimate refuge. And
rather than fear the emergence, the embrace of Pluto in our lives, we
might better welcome him and the dissolution he brings. We might
better learn to take his counsel.
When Don Juan tells Carlos Castenada
to always keep death as a
counselor over his left shoulder, that seems to be maintaining a
Plutonic perspective on things. As does Rumi's advice to welcome
each thing that appears in the soul "even if its a crowd of sorrows
that sweeps your house empty of its furniture--it may be clearing you
out for some new delight."
Pluto is that clearing out.
And He can help us to better see the
underlying reality, the riches and treasures that have been here all
The poignant linked aromas of sorrow
and delight mentioned by
Rumi are a part of life, and of Plutonic vision. They speak to
impermance: the beauty of sunset that is also the dying of the day.
At this threshold the invisible god presides. And we can't stop Him,
we can't hold on to what has appeared... and now appears to be
leaving us...any more than we can stop the sunset, the dying of our
Pluto "rapes" the naivete
of our clinging to life's extraordinary
flowers. Takes us to a deeper place where, after we have been
initiated, and have given up our kicking and screaming, we find
that we can actually be at home, perhaps even a monarch of sorts
in our own right.
It is important to recall that
in the Persephone myth there has been
a Plutonic collusion with a deeper Mother (Gaia), occuring along
with the loss of Persephone's more personal mother (Demeter).
Its as if our deeper, most intrinsic
"mother" wants us to be raped,
wants the loss of our naiveté, and all it would lead us to cling to.
This "depth mother" wants us to experience the surrender to, the
embrace of, and the penetration by, what Pluto represents. She
wants us taken, taken deeper, that we might come to reside and see
things ourselves from a depth perspective, which would represent
not only a loss but a kind of coronation.
In this way a Plutonic initiation
is a threshold phenomenon,
happening in the gap where what is "personal" and belonging to the
person ends, and what is "trans/personal" and belonging to Depth
(or the ground of being itself) begins, takes over, having its way with
us, as part of a deepening of our perspective. This initiation involves
the loss of all we have clung to--even our personhood, the belief that
who we fundamentally are is a person, an entity separate from all
others, an entity that has been born and one day will die.
But that "person," that
self-referential awareness that we have
taken ourselves to be can be taken away, and still there is something
more fundamental in our awareness, something more primordial
remaining. So the losses brought by Pluto are a kind of stripping
away that helps reveal underlying fundamentals previously invisible.
This initiation into the deeper
substratum of Reality cannot
ultimately be willed. Willing is what a person does. And as Rilke
says, "for a god it is easy." That which begins to take over, at the
threshold where the "person" is taken away and transformation
begins to actually happen, is beyond our personal will and control.
What takes over and has its way with us does so effortlessly. While
our attempts to control or effort even on behalf of our own
transformation get us nowhere, or only so far. We cannot will our
own transformation, our own enlightenment. At best we can
attentively let go, surrender to the Invisible, merging with a
spaciously aware but non-conceptual and primordial being, the
depth of which underlies all phenomena.
And a Plutonic initiation is about
letting go. Letting go of all that
is connected to being an ego, all the attempts to will, control,
grasp...all that is involved in maintaining a connection to who we
have been, to maintaining a connection to who or what we thought
we needed, to who or what we thought we are. All of that is taken
from us, along with the naive belief that we can control what
happens to us, our life, our death, our own transformation. Plutonic
initiation is a letting go of all that has seemed so solid when viewed
from our more naive perspective, a naive perspective that has not
seen through "appearances," and thus, has not accessed Pluto's
When, even briefly, we let go of
clinging to the surface, clinging to
appearances and the apparent solidity of our world, we may begin to
discover that there is an underlying "realm," one both empty of
appearances and disappearances, a realm that in a sense is invisible
(though all which appears flowers forth from it)--and it is without
beginning or end.
There is something quite "rich"
and mysterious about this, this
underlying realm that begins to emerge at the threshold where time
disappears, and willing is no more.
In a sense we are all Persephone.
We have reached for an
amazing flower. We thought we were going to gain something,
something novel, perhaps connected to our narcissism that sees
everything as other, either above or beneath us. But that flower that
we would grasp, as if to augment the self, was just an appearance,
an illusion. And what happens next, what opens from there, is a
chasm, a gap, a space between worlds. And from that gap or space,
the Lord of Death (the Lord of Depth) arises--and takes us, takes us
over. Some other momentum begins to happen to us, one that we
didn't will, and it begins to penetrate us--call it a rape if you will--
taking us into an experience that has a quality of union, a quality of
entering an ultimate depth which is as well the ultimate depth
entering us. Something is taking us home, but to a home that seems
alien at first, its home, which only later we recognize as our own,
the place from which we too are regal.
In this light, this "underworldly"
light, we might see our Plutonic
initiation as an entrance and a glimpsing of a deeper reality, one that
has been there in an underlying way all along, though till now we
have been too naive, too distracted by visible appearances, and the
assumptions based upon them, too naive to have noticed this
underlying realm, this underlying perspective as our eventual and
inevitable destiny, too distracted to have noticed what is left when
everything else has been stripped away.
Elsewhere in this book I have written
about "the two mothers,"
but here "the two mothers" motif shows up in a different way. Here,
on the one hand there has been a personal mother--Demeter--who
mothers by way of what she gives to us, the nurturing grain of our
daily bread. But there is another mother--Gaia--whose giving and
support, whose original generosity and generativity may only
become visible as everything else is taken away.
If Demeter is the mother of substance,
form, literal grain, and literal nourishment, then Gaia may be "the
gap mother," the mother of underlying (and from before the
beginning) space that reveals herself only as the apparent solidity of
the world of form is lost, seen through, taken away, relinquished.
If the Demeter form of "mother"
gifts us with the literal forms of
apparent nourishing, both breast and grain, then the other mother,
Ma Gaia, may gift us with the emptyness underlying all apparent
form. And Ma Gaia was here first.
When we gaze at the world with
the eyes of Demeter, everything
seems apparent and "real." There is the prospect of real and
stabbing separation. We feel protective, and want to nurture the
crop, the kitten, the Kore. At the same time, things look quite solid as
if they might last, at the very least in the sense of an eternal cycle, as
in the case of the seasons, and the cyclic changes that happen with seasons.
But seasons happen in time.
While Gaia is the mother who has
been here all along, even before
there were appearances, even before there were seasons. And as we
see in the myth of Persephone, Gaia is in cahoots with Pluto, the
Invisible One. And so, to gaze at the world with the eyes of Gaia is
to see what arises in the gap when visible form has been
relinquished, when time itself is no more. It is this "gap mother"
from whom all forms and appearances arise. In a sense, everything
is a permutation, a devolving from Gaia. Everything but an
appearance arising from the Source Mother.
It would seem that just as narcissism
(and the belief in a
personhood separate from everything else) has a visual component
(the self image) suggested in the myth of Narcissus, Plutonic vision
that can help free us from our narcissism, also has a visual
component, but its a style of visioning that "sees through"
the image, and thus maintains the perspective of underlying space.
Underworld vision, vision from
the gap that lies beneath the
surfaces of visible form, is to see beneath appearances, it is to
continually "de-struct" the apparent solidity of the visual world. It is
to continually relinquish your last moment, your last method, your
last identity, in fact, your sense of time. It is to let go of whatever
continuity you were holding onto. There is no past, no future in it, no
abiding, not even a clinging to the present--for ultimately, even
"the present" is just a concept, and so can be "de-structed."
Underworld vision has and needs nothing to hold onto. This
"under" is the ultimate ground, there is nowhere farther to fall.
To be taken here, to fall into
this "gap," is to enter a completely
timeless perspective. This is where we come to when carried by a
momentum that isn't personal, a momentum that enters us when
everything else has been taken away or relinquished, "the ten
thousand things" receding back to their prior unity. To see with
Underworld vision is to see with our original eyes, "the eyes that
time forgot." We could say that this way of seeing is not only the
perspective, the "seeing through" of Pluto, but as well, the
perspective of Gaia, the Source Mother. (For remember Gaia and
Pluto shared the same vision of what they were about to effect upon
Here we are not adding some kind
of visual overlay, or apparatus
that helps us to see better, like infra red goggles. We are not adding
something. Plutonic vision is "subtractive" by nature, and cannot be
willed or constructed. In fact it is a way of seeing that only arises
when willing itself has been subtracted. This seeing seems to happen
when letting go attends looking, when what is let go of is even your
last moment of seeing. And if what is continually being chopped
away is the solidity of an apparent world, then what is revealed and
restored is an intrinsic, original, timeless and spacious awareness--
that like Gaia--was here from before the beginning, because
"beginnings" happen in time.
Plutonic vision (what the Tibetans
call Dzogchen ) is
deconstructive, "de-structive" of appearances, seeing them for what
they really are, an emanation of the Source Mother--or we might
say, God in drag. This mode of seeing in itself is not separate from
the Source and so sees everything as a display, an expression of the
Source, including ourselves. From the perspective of the Source
Mother--which in our context is to say, from the perspective of
Gaia, which is also to say from the perspective of Pluto--Divinity or
Source is really all there is. Everything is just God in drag.
And as the transformational agent
of the Original Mother, Gaia,
it is Pluto's job to strip away all the veils of apparent personhood
that cover the view of this underlying Reality. In the Tibetan
tradition this underlying Reality is also called "the ground." And it is
thus fitting that in a Plutonic initiation--such as what happened to
Persephone--"the ground" is what opens up as the initiation begins.
The ground opens, and from beneath it, the invisible god emerges,
and takes her to its depths.
The emergence of Plutonic vision--and
of our mind's underlying
essence--does not mean we are doomed in a nihilistic world where
nothing is worth doing because all is eventually lost. Loss is an
especially heart-stabbing, vivid, and poignant part of life--but loss in
itself may not be the deepest point (that reality is trying to convey to
us). Instead, loss may be a kind of a wake-up call that alerts us to
Ploutos, to "the riches" that underlie all that could be lost--or for
that matter, gained.
Whether this view, this awakening,
this vision (this "rape," this
stripping away of the persona, this "de-structing" of apparent
solidity) happens through the body's literal passing, or through an
"ego death," in either case it is Pluto's "depth-vison" that sees
through everything, restoring through subtraction, and revealing the
underlying emptyness of everything--even death's sting.