Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The Geography of the Underworld: Part 3 of 4

You can find the first 2 parts of this blog here and here.

River Styx, Kentucky
Finally, there are the rivers of Hades – Styx, Acheron, Lethe, Phlegethon and Cocytus – associated with hatred, pain, oblivion, fire and wailing respectively. The rivers appear in both this world and the Underworld.

“Their names were meant to reflect the emotions associated with death” (Wiki). Presumably that means the emotions associated with dying rather than being dead, for otherwise there wouldn’t be the Elysian Fields. Psychologically, they partly seem to describe the painful emotions associated with a Pluto transit that is being resisted – and that is often an unconscious thing. It even happens to us good guys who think we are up for change (ha ha! Pluto soon shows us where we are not.)

And the rivers are also unacknowledged pain that gets dredged up by Pluto. Rivers of pain: that is the metaphor that the Greek Underworld presents us with. Rivers that flow through us, and we need to go with them downstream to the ocean, to the bigger identity that Pluto is pushing for. Pluto is never just helping us sort our psychological difficulties in a narrow sense. There is always a bigger agenda, a new perspective on ourselves and on existence that is the real meaning of the transit. The Underworld is the place from which we move on to the next stage of life, and our psychological difficulties are a gateway to that. They are like fissures under the earth, represented by Pluto’s brother Chiron, through which the molten lava of the outer planets, of life, can break through. Their father Saturn is the guy who has the responsibility for giving shape to the results of all this seismic activity. In this way Saturn and Chiron are each in their own way bridges to the outer planets, as their places in the solar system, on the borders between the inner and outer planets, suggest.

Rodin: The Three Shades
Hatred, pain, oblivion, fire and wailing. A graphic quintet of suffering through which we pass into the Underworld. Oblivion is the forgetting of our previous earthly existence that occurs when we drink from the river Lethe, a requirement for the shades who have entered the Underworld. “Shades”: that is, in a sense, what we can become under a life changing transit, at least for a while. We may go through the motions of day-to-day existence, but our energy has been taken elsewhere for transformation. That is what I often suggest people try to tune into at these difficult times when ‘normal’ life no longer seems to work. It is as though the energy has all gone into a crucible deep within us, and if you can tune into that, you’ll see that life is there just as strongly as it was before, but in a different form, a natural form that we are not used to, but which constitutes winter in the myth of Persephone. Like the bulb of a tulip or daffodil, or the chrysalis of a butterfly.

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And the Oblivion, the Forgetting, is part of this. You may notice, as a Pluto transit begins, that some activity that was very important to you starts to lose its appeal. The energy and interest that were there have leached away, almost without you noticing. This can be very painful if, for example, your sense of who you are, or your livelihood, or your marriage, are involved. But the ‘old you’ has gone, you have forgotten him/her. And this is necessary in order for the new eventually to be born.

Gustave Dore: Matelda immerses Dante in Lethe
This is always an interesting period – when we are a Shade – because we often can’t define ourselves in the usual way. The standard props that make us ‘normal’ – career, marriage, earnings, reputation – may fall away, and in a way we are dead to the world. So how do we define ourselves in this period, how do we value ourselves when we have nothing to show? Pluto humbles us, and we have to look within for a source of value. He is the destroyer of Saturn the worldly taskmaster, who says you are only what you earn, your social standing, that which can be measured. Painful as it is, we can emerge from the Underworld with a looser and more open sense of who we are, with less of a need to define ourselves, and more open therefore to the outer planets, to the gods.

The Pluto transit can also reveal a forgetting. For whatever reason – self-doubt, perceived expectations of others, lack of courage, unbalanced sense of values – Pluto’s riches, our gifts and talents, can be put to one side, dismissed as nugatory. This can go on right through life. And it seems to apply particularly to talents that are very particular and personal to us, for which there are no recognised certificates to re-assure us that we are indeed competent. You and you alone have to be the judge of that, you have to find a confidence that is independent of others. And I get this issue regularly in readings, for it is often a stopping point for people, they can go no further unless they go through the fires of self-doubt, which may last for years: that sort of fire almost seems to be part of the initiation into one’s own gifts. And into one’s individuality, another of Pluto’s gifts: that which makes us distinct from the collective, which pursued far enough makes us distinguished, like the beings in the Elysian Fields.

Gold Mine
So in this sense the function of the transit is to get us to remember that which we have forgotten. Not usually entirely forgotten: sometimes it is like a niggle that we have put to one side, maybe for years or decades, that can seem like a small part of us. But then that niggle turns out to be something much bigger than we ever thought under a Pluto transit. All we saw was Chiron, the fissure, and not the molten Plutonian lava underneath. And this ignoring can be a like a deep pain that we are sometimes aware of, Tartarus, repressed aspects of ourselves; and the river out of Tartarus is Phlegethon, the river of fire that we may need to go through in claiming our gifts.

There can be a make-or-break quality to this encounter with Tartarus. In the words of saying No 70 of the Gospel of St Thomas: "If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you." 


Robert said...

Hi DR - This is spot on. I have Pluto rising and agree with what you've observed. To note, Pluto also rules seeds and the ability to self-replicate. That's why those seeds sprout under Pluto transits. And they'll choke your garden or help nourish you, depending on what you allow to sprout or not.

Anonymous said...

To me, this is your (indeed spot on) story about Pluto, but then in music. Not a coincidence it is called Orpheus ;-) Hope you like it as much as I do.