Pluto and the ‘alchemy of desire’
11 March 2008 1 Comment
I recently stumbled upon this article by Elizabeth Spring called ‘What’s Pluto Got to Do With It? The Alchemy of Desire’. I like it for its clarity and personal nature, and yet that it does not over-simplify the experience of a Pluto transit which tends to impact individuals in complex ways. And even if one is unfamiliar with astrology, Spring’s observations are insightful in themselves.
Here are some excerpts:
Pluto’s favorite stomping grounds are relationships. Not the easy ones. The ones that matter—the ones that stir your ambition or hormones or survival urges. Plutonian love relationships are life transforming and we enter into them willingly because we are drawn by the chemistry or the possibilities of the encounter. And though we may be thinking of ‘good sex’ here, it’s also about deep friendship, relationships with your brother or sister, and even the relationship you have with your boss that hints of possibilities not included in the employee manual.
Now this could describe your feelings or theirs—it could be coming at you or it could be rising up within you. Let’s say you’ve been in this pleasing, rather juicy relationship with someone, and then one of you gets a transit of Pluto. Here’s one translation of that—one of you does something ‘slightly uncharacteristic’ and the other feels wildly betrayed. And Pluto is so non-discriminating—the betrayer could be either of you, but the effect is the same: chaotic emotions and feelings of anger and betrayal. How could he/she say that? Do that? And now he/she’s hanging out with someone else and—dare we call what’s happening jealousy?
Here’s where even a little understanding of alchemy can help a bit. You either get in the stew with them—out of love or obsession—or you get out of the crucible and save yourself from getting cooked. What needs to be understood first is who’s got the most ‘shit’—right? No. Pluto has come along because something was old or stuck or rigid and needed to die and be reborn. Pluto doesn’t care who is right or wrong—it is simply ruthless in its demand for change and reform—and it doesn’t care if you are the innocent party or not.
And because Plutonian feelings are so unpleasant we all love to point the finger of blame somewhere. Maybe even at your favorite astrologer for not thoroughly warning you. But projecting all the blame may ease your conscience, and may be true, but it doesn’t make the pain go away. Something is dying; and eventually a new birth will take place. The labor is never easy.
I forget this sometimes, having experienced a Pluto transit over my Ascendant in the past twelve years. I forget that Pluto is not just about self-transformation, it is a transformation that entails a near disembowelling of the psyche, and yet that symbolic death is necessary for the phoenix to rise from the ashes.
The ancient art of alchemy sought to transform base metals into gold. Yet for the gold to take form, all traces of the original substance must be lost. It is a transformation of the very molecular structure of the substance itself. We are so accustomed to thinking of death as the end of life that we need to re-orientate our mental perspectives in order to think of death as a necessary element of life — we need winter for spring to come, like we need plants and animals (and humans) to die to replenish the soil for new life to grow. Yet, when we experience loss of any sort, we often don’t think of the new life to come.
It is necessary (and possible), as Elizabeth Spring reminds us, to ‘get the good feelings back and reclaim your Soul‘, and the way to do so is to learn to give up what must be given up:
If you want to have a relationship with Mr. or Ms. Unattainable or have whatever Pluto has taken from you, then you’ve got to play at the level of Pluto. Suffer the lack of it. Feel and see what it is you desire. Name it. Pray and sing and swear about it. Then wait, and give up your suffering and let die whatever is holding you back from ‘getting it.’ You will probably have to make some major changes—like letting one relationship die so that you can have room in your life for a new better one—or you may have to tell your friend that what she/he did was unconscionable and that you’ve had enough.
But don’t stop at the death part—keep going and take that 12 step program or weight loss plan or go back to school, or do whatever you need to do to bring the essence of what you desire into your life. Move into the labor, knowing you are birthing. It’s not all about the literal object of your desire. It’s also about how it all makes you feel. And there are many ways of getting at that. Use your desire—your Venus energy—to make the connections to other people and a new way of life that brings about the alchemical transformation. Create a transforming new crucible by eliminating what is not essential to your highest purpose. Release the old pattern or person in whatever way you feel called to—and slowly begin to get out of that stew.
It won’t feel good at first to let go of what you’ve been obsessing about. … You’ve got to hold the tension of the opposites, the pain of the situation and wait. You need to hang on the cross of your suffering and wait—simply holding the awareness that you can see no solution right now. But as you hang there feeling the impossibility of it all … you’ll start being able to sift through the muck and distill flickers of golden insights there. Use them to fuel your new actions and new life. Then you’ll be well on your way to understanding what the philosopher- alchemists knew—that what does not destroy you makes you stronger—and that nothing has the power to destroy your essence without your consent. But the Secret is in the waiting….
For ‘doing’ people like me, ‘waiting’ is a tough option, but having lived through a decade-long Pluto transit, I also know it to be true. The trick is to remember to wait while having to wait (if that makes sense)! One of the best means of doing so, as far as I know, is to surrender to the wisdom of shikantaza, or the art of ‘just sitting’.