But let’s move out of the ‘psychological’ in the sense of a purely inner experience. I don’t think Pluto and the Underworld can be fully understood in those terms, for Pluto is a god and the Underworld is a place, and the natural way to understand them therefore is as ‘outer’ rather than ‘inner’. And as I said at the start, let us not separate those 2 categories too rigidly. It is an artificial distinction that is necessary for everyday life.
Under a major Pluto transit (or Neptune for that matter) it can be as though our soul has gone elsewhere. We can say it has withdrawn deep within, or we can say it has gone somewhere else. We are probably the only society that has ever existed that has a predominant belief that material reality is the only reality, with all the rigidity around space and time that comes with that. For such a mind-set, our personality is confined to and identical with the physical limits of the body. I suspect that not many of my readers believe that. Well, you can’t believe that if you are an astrologer, our art is based on the synchronicities between inner and outer. Reality is subtle and without set boundaries. When I write about him, Pluto often turns up as a presence behind my shoulder. That experience is just as real as the desk I am sitting at.
So under a Pluto transit our soul is called to another place, to the Underworld, that is somewhat like the Greek one. It is ‘over there’ in some subtle reality, in the Otherworld, if you like. A world in which a few of us almost seem to dwell full-time, or at least be aware of all the time as an ongoing part of who we are, as in a way more real than the very solid material world around us.
And there are powers in that place, there are gods which as astrologers we identify as the Greek/Roman gods. And we are ‘called’ there, or even forced there kicking and screaming, under a major Pluto transit. We ‘have’ to go there, and if we have sense we do so willingly, albeit with teeth gritted and fingers crossed. And a coin in our mouth!
It is our Fate. A narrow notion of an all-powerful ‘free-will’ is absurd beside this psychic reality. And Fate seems to have a much better idea of where our life needs to go than does our Free will, particularly at times of major change.
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And that change is not necessarily rooted in the need for personal, psychological change. It may be just one of those things that life throws at us because that is what life does. Everyone dies, everyone goes to Hades, and that is associated with the 5 rivers of pain. Even if we are psychologically well-balanced and living according to what our vocation demands, what the gods want of us, painful events can still occur under Pluto transits. Close relatives die, we lose our health and so on. Those outer events may have inner correspondences, or they may not: it is part of the astrologer’s art – or the readers of omens – to be able to tell.
|The Three Fates|
I think this idea of the gods – of Pluto and his Underworld – as a kind of Fate that informs our lives, connects us to a qualitatively different way of living, that free will alone cannot provide. Fate not just as material laws like physical death, but as any event that has a synchronous quality. And since Fate, in the sense of the mysterious purposes of the gods, is much bigger than our personal free will, it makes sense to view our lives more as being directed by the gods than by ourselves. Or by the Unconscious, or just by Life itself.
The astrological chart is a map of the claims, sometimes harmonious and sometimes conflicting, that the gods make on us individually: the chart reveals how unique we are, at the same time as revealing our Fate. Wisdom is the awareness of those claims, and the ability to respond to them, and in a way the ability not to question them, to know that the wider purposes involved are beyond one individual’s understanding.
As a kind of sop to rationalism, astrologers can be eager to deny that the planets cause events; rather, we sometimes say, they are a synchronous reflection of events in our lives and in the world. But I think this does not do justice to Fate. Neptune caused the storms that obstructed Odysseus on his journey home. This seems clear from the Odyssey.
|Odysseus clings to a raft in an ocean storm.|
The planets/gods are more powerful forces in our lives than is our individual will, so it is more true to say the planets cause events than it is to say that we do! Of course we need not to be rigid about this, but at least let us not allow our philosophy of astrology to be determined by modern notions of rationality - a term which originally meant proportionate, as in ‘ratio’, rather than dryly logical and ‘scientific’.
So I think this kind of Fate vs Free Will perspective is needed to have a productive relationship with Pluto and the Underworld. The Underworld is life itself, it is a kind of ever-present nourishment that we can feel if we are connected to it: it provides the power to live our life as it is right now, and it provides the power to change it when the time comes. And that power has its own purposes, that also involves the creative spark of Uranus and the continuous re-imagining of life and the universe that is Neptune.