Planet Why

A retrospective of ideas about Pluto almost as far back as they go

By Eric Francis
Research by Angela Mahan

I AM ALWAYS IMPRESSED, sometimes dizzily so, by the fact that in the first four decades after its discovery, Pluto meant so little to the astrological community that even in the mid-1970s, Raphael's Astronomical Ephemeris of the Planets' Places, one of the premier astrological publications in the world, didn't bother to list it on its longitude tables. As late as 1976, Pluto is stuck back on page 39 on a two-inch table, near the end, given only slightly better treatment than Chiron is given today (being omitted entirely from many ephemerides). Clearly, this was not any kind of real planet, no. It's just a little hunk of random debris.

It wasn't until 1985, in a glorious time when we really needed to find out, that anyone brought out a book that got any attention (Jeff Green's Pluto: Evolutionary Journey of the Soul was in fact the second book on Pluto, with the first going unnoticed for decades, written by Fritz Brunhubner in the 1930s).

Had no astrologer noticed that the world, its history and all its values had slipped on a cosmic ice cube and flipped feet over ass twice an hour for years during the conjunction of Uranus and Pluto in 1965 and 1966? Or was that like, Mars acting up or something?

Had nobody studied the cycles of Uranus-Pluto and Saturn-Pluto and noticed the crumbling of empires, the revolutions, the world upheavals? Well, Astrology was just coming out of the dark, dark times; we have to cut those geezers and hippies some slack. People had heard of astrology, but you know, these were the Love Sign days, when people said things like, "my love sign is Libra" and followed up with "the outer planets don't affect us personally." Oh, that's right, I forgot. People still say that. Hey, my love sign is Taurus.

Then, when the World Trade Center hits the ground, everybody blinks their eyes and says: Oh Fuck.


Oh Fuck is right. As with sexuality, the other vast dominion of Pluto relegated to pornography, reproduction and the fine taste of a few connoisseurs, nary an astrologer seemed particularly interested in looking at this process of the soul's inevitable journey forward, not till Jeff Green's famous Sanskrit dream in which Yogananda laid it out for him. Astrology, through the 70s, was mostly about fate, prediction and personality, not much room for even a tiny little version of Pluto there. The "spiritual" side of astrology was something of a movement, a little sub-cult within the larger cult; people like Dane Rudhyar and Alice Bailey were usually behind this. But back at the time Pluto was discovered, a select few lunatics got it fast: Aleister Crowley, for instance, who people still think believed he was Satan. In The Book of Thoth, his AMAZING book on the Tarot, he called Pluto the Prime Mover, what in Aristotelian philosophy is understood to be the self-moving being that causes all motion.

But who takes him seriously, the guy who said, "I kill millions of children daily, and then I eat them"?

Well, okay, Pluto is deep. Pluto is dark. And he's named after a the god of hell, on the one hand, and has a freaking Disney dog named after him on the other. Besides which, he was the Oops Baby of the planetary family. Astronomers were busy searching the heavens for Planet X, which they surmised was causing irregularities in the orbit of Neptune. So a Mr. Lowell builds an observatory in Arizona and years later, they find this little chunk of something a few billion miles from Tahiti and realized there was no way it could warp the orbit of Neptune, which at nearly 50,000 kilometers across, is slightly heftier than Pluto, at less than 3,000. But lo and behold, Pluto was beheld. Oops.

Maybe people were not so hip to go digging in this territory because just two years after the discovery, Hitler became Reichs Chancellor of Deutchland Uber Alles. We all know this urge to resist, or rather, deny. We learn it's better if we look, feel, deal.


The Name

Today, a group of astrologers has the distinction of naming new chunks of space debris, and they know they're really special (their first naming success was Nessus, which is a hybrid of Chiron and Pluto). But this is really special: Pluto was named by a little girl, named Venetia Burney of Oxford, England. She was studying Greek and Roman mythology at the time, in elementary school, and was told of the new discovery's lack of a name by her grandfather. She made the connection intuitively.

As Astronomy for Kids tells the story, Venetia thought for a moment, and then told her grandfather, "I believe Pluto would be a good name for it." Pluto, she knew, was the Roman god of the Underworld. "Venetia reasoned that it would be a good name for the planet because it was dark and gloomy there, being so far away from the sun," they write. Kid, this is exactly how it's done, if you don't get too complicated.

So, for all the brilliant astrologers still trying to figure out what Pluto means, listen to the words coming from the mouths of babes, and watch that video of Tower Two crumbling down 49 more times, or read the rest of this article. We've put together a sampling of writing about Pluto as far back as we could find it, mostly looking on my bookshelf, but it's a pretty good bookshelf.

Saturn defines the boundaries of our subjective consciousness -- that of which we are consciously aware. Uranus represents the individualized unconscious, Neptune the collective unconscious, and Pluto the Soul itself.

--Jeff Green, Pluto: The Evolutionary Journey of the Soul, published in 1985

Brilliant... but what is he saying?

Okay, let's start with some really confusing factoids which have little to do with astrology, or so it would seem; I lay on you the most modern astronomical information we know. Pluto is now known to be the largest and first-discovered member of a region in space called the Kuiper Belt, a kind of dust bin for space artifacts left over from the creation of the solar system. He is the Ceres of deep space, the regent of his dominion. Ceres, comparable in size and in mythological significance (and their myths overlap greatly), was discovered in 1801 and this revelation was followed by the emergence of a whole class of minor planets. They are what we call asteroids. Most astrologers still ignore them. We are not holding our breaths around here waiting for the world to wake up.

Pluto and his puppies are much newer discoveries, and such older critters. Every now and again, one falls out of its orbit and comes whizzing by, which is known as a comet. According to astrologer/astronomer/small planet mavin Robert von Heeren, the current population of the Kuiper belt is more than 200 objects, up from 72 in 1998. Pluto takes just under 248 years to orbit the Sun, in an egg-shaped path. It's currently about three thousand million miles from the Sun, which is another way of saying three billion or 3,000,000,000 miles; that's a lot of hot dogs. It is the biggest but not the slowest of the Kuiper objects. "The largest known orbit depends on whether you count strange objects in the Kuiper Belt, like 1996 PW which has an orbit of approximately some thousand years. 1996 TL66 has 768-year period," Robert wrote, when we pried.

There is this supposed debate over Pluto getting downgraded to something besides a planet, due to this whole Kuiper Belt business. Forget it. Pluto has long since proven his efficacy. What we really need to do is upgrade the Kuiper Belt to something besides a cosmic beer tub. Anyone care for a 1992QB1 reading?

Here's a fun one: According to Robert, who also pries, the discovery chart of Pluto is February 18, 1930, at around 4 p.m. local Flagstaff, AZ time. He wrote to the observatory a few years ago and got them to go into the basement, dig out the photographic plate, sneeze, cough and read the time off of it. Robert has a very useful website with all kinds of precious trivia from the space debris department (formally known as the Dept. of Space Debris). It is called he Centaur Research Project.


And What is the Meaning of This?

From the beginning, astrologers felt that Pluto was merely dark and a bit on the negative side, but then they figured out a few things. (Neptune was also presumed to be a new horrible planet... and in the early days, Uranus was not elected Prom Queen, either.) What became clear over time was its transformative nature, what you might call its spiritual value. Astrologers slowly grasped the dual nature of the planet, that it was destructive, but after the destruction, there was not just creation, but a new kind of creation; okay, but in reality, that the same process worked on many levels. Say for example, the 9-11 event killed some, woke up many, knocked down buildings, caused us to pay attention, and so on.

The dual nature of one process shows up in mythology every 20 minutes. "The Phoenix bird, rising from the ashes of its dead self," as Isabel Hickey described Pluto. Jeff Green delivered unto us the idea that Pluto represents the soul, and the vibrational quality of that soul, which is a mixed bag because who likes to give up their ego, which you do when you meet your soul.

Important point here. He teaches that Pluto points to the prior evolutionary intent but that Pluto's polarity point (a hypothetical opposite located on the other side of the chart) actually points to the current lifetime's evolutionary desire and intent of the soul. More on the dualistic nature, just another way of looking at it. What Jeff is suggesting here is that Pluto activates both its own sign, and the corresponding one: it works the whole axis. All planets may work that way.

Barbara Hand Clow, known for her work with Chiron, past lives and space people, then brought in the concept that working through Plutonian material, the deeply denied stuff, and the fear, jealousy, and control that make us such unique individuals, helps us to integrate Chiron, where we get to experience the rapture of the soul. For Barbara, Chiron (discovered 1977) is a Pluto polarity point. I have not seen it mentioned that many of us have Chiron opposing Pluto in our charts; that was the mid-1960s and beyond. We quote her extensively below. But what she is getting at is this, in my reading of her ideas: Jeff Green called Pluto a fundamentally unconscious process. Chiron is a conscious and experiential process which takes us through much of the same inner material. Pluto is a lot easier to deal with when you know what Chiron is. Chiron works better when you have experience really handling the dark, strange inner stuff of Pluto: desire, control, hormones, pheromones and fear of death.

But these are the modern renderings: let's go back to the quaint early days.

Grant Lewi, one of the first-ever writers to take on Pluto in Astrology for the Millions, first published in 1935 (just five years after the discovery), predicted of Pluto in Sagittarius (its current sign placement): "If we have found wisdom with Pluto in Scorpio (1983-1995), we will be able to use it with Pluto in Sagittarius. We will develop new laws, new ideals, and new philosophies. Look for a blending of nations. Revolutionary fervor continues to be great. Dogmas are ripe for challenge, and the world is ripe for synthesis. Pluto in Sagittarius represents the opportunity to effect permanent changes in the fabric of culture. Beware, however, of wanderlust and a mind set of dabbling. Also guard against the extremes of ego which all too easily accompany a revolutionary's attitude. Your base of wisdom, developed while Pluto was in Scorpio, will serve you well. The dark side of change is warring faction, the 'angry young man' dynamic, dropping the philosopher's stone through the glass floors of perceived progress." [Page 298] Gee, Grant, how insightful of you, considering that WWII had not even happened when you wrote that.

Isabelle Hickey, after publishing her really fine book Astrology: A Cosmic Science in 1970 but, well, um, leaving out Pluto, published a pamphlet three years later, which was the first publication on Pluto in decades. It was later added to her book. In it she writes, "During the time since the discovery of Pluto the world has experienced wars, assassinations, a resurgence of violence, and gangland type organizations who parasitically live off the labor of the common man. There were those who quickly took note of the negative use of this energy and branded Pluto malefic, dark, and destructive. This is only partially true. Because it is dual there is also positive use of the same energy. If he so chooses man can use the line of least resistance and bring himself destruction and misery. When dealing with this most powerful radiation with wisdom and reason, the Minerva aspect of Pluto is in evidence, and the end result is a big step forward for mankind." [Page 291]

Isabelle was rooting for Pluto's moon to be named Minerva, another name for Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, protection and strategy. Pluto is really a binary planet: it's moon is just half its size, and 1/20th the distance of the Earth's moon is to it. But Pluto's moon, discovered in 1978, was ultimately named Charon, after the ferryman of the River Styx, the guy who takes you up the creek. But the dual nature of Pluto still holds true, however.

Michael Meyer, in A Handbook for the Humanistic Astrologer, describes what he calls the humanistic meaning of Pluto as "Second birth. The establishment of new forms. In a negative manifestation, the establishment of new forms without a positive evolutionary change, as a means of furthering an antiquated interest." He may have been the first person to use the words "evolutionary" and "Pluto" in the same paragraph of sentence fragments.

"In your chart Pluto shows the area in which you will endure hell to attain heaven," writes Debbie Kempton-Smith, in her 1982 masterpiece Secrets from a Star Gazer's Notebook. "You will strive against all odds and logic to achieve rare depth and understanding. It takes some will power, but you have it. If you want it badly enough. Pluto shows you where you will find your treasure, for it is the Ultimate Jackpot. You must aim very high and act with noble intentions and a will of steel. Make a mistake and Pluto will French fry you. It is not a planet that tolerates wishy-washy feelings...Apply the ideas of passion, strength, will power and the choice between degradation and purity to the house in your chart containing Pluto." [Page 288-9]

Pop quiz: Why does everyone write about Pluto between pages 288 and 298, like, in the back?

Okay, now the world was now ready for Jeff Green. Here is the more or less true legend. He started reading charts, came to Seattle, and put up his "Free Charts" sign, which was popular. He did a lot of readings on the radio. One night he had a dream in Sanskrit, in which Yogananda gave him some really intense info about Pluto. He started writing. He lit candles on his desk, illuminating the first page, and called his then-girlfriend, so she could come and see the first page; that is how it all began. It was an extremely challenging task to complete the book, but he did it. Yogananda stuck around. A lot happened. It's all history. It is fair to say that no book of the last half century has had as much impact as Jeff's. As for what he published in 1985, titled, Pluto: The Evolutionary Journey of the Soul:

"Pluto correlates to the Soul and evolution. What is a Soul? According to many spiritual, religious and metaphysical sources, including the Bahagavad-Gita and the Bible, the Soul is an immutable consciousness that has its own individuality or identity that remains intact from life to life. In each lifetime, of course, the Soul manifests a personality that has a subjective consciousness and unconsciousness." Saturn defines the boundaries of our subjective consciousness - that of which we are consciously aware. Uranus represents the individualized unconscious, Neptune the collective unconscious and Pluto the Soul itself." [Page 1, see the difference?]

He also wrote, "Pluto's house and sign placement describe two simultaneous phenomena. On the one hand, the natal position of Pluto describes the generational vibration that a person comes in with, as well as the specific individualized patterns in identity association implied from the evolutionary past: the desires, beliefs, thoughts, perceptions, values and orientation to reality itself. On the other hand, the natal position of Pluto points to the evolutionary desire, intent, or cause of this life as seen in Pluto's opposite house and sign." [Page 3]

We got a lot of information on Pluto in Barbara Hand Clow's book Chiron: Rainbow Bridge Between the Inner and Outer Planets, published in 1987, but she had a lot of help from Jeff on this particular subject (Barbara had a lot of help writing her book). She writes, in this excerpt, and if you're a Llewellyn editor, do us all a huge favor and please don't have a canary, 'cause we're quoting a chunk, all rights reserved by the publisher and author:

'Pluto rules evolution of consciousness, which always involves a trip into the Underworld to clear the subconscious mind. Jeff Green calls Pluto "the prime mover, the first cause, or bottom line to which all other planetary factors are linked." That is because Pluto is the bridge to the galactic. Chiron is the bridge between the inner planets ruling the personality dynamic and the outer planets ruling consciousness attunement, and Pluto is the corresponding link to the galactic. Transmutation by means of Chiron will always fail unless the emotions have been cleared and karma has been released.

'It would be helpful to read Pluto: The Evolutionary Journey of the Soul by Jeff Green because the level of consciousness raising potential with Chiron work is not possible without a corresponding level of work with Pluto. Visualize it: Chiron orbiting and linking the inner and outer planets, and Pluto orbiting and linking our solar system to the galaxy. Sometimes Chiron functions as Saturn, holding and encapsulating the energies and qualities of the inner planets; sometimes Chiron functions as Uranus, linking the electrical apparatus of the physical body to Neptune and the galactic. And similarly, Pluto sometimes functions like Saturn, holding the subconscious energies in check until a vision of ecstasy frees the energy into an eruption; or Pluto functions like the galactic, exploding consciousness into the primordial fireball of the hologram of all matter throughout all time, which implodes into an instant of creation which is the Creator.

'In 1978, Pluto's Moon, Charon, was sighted. It would be tempting to view Chiron as the bridge to Pluto work, but the sighting and naming of Charon right after Chiron's discovery is a potent warning not to do so. The Ferryman to the Underworld in Roman mythology is Charon, and Charon is therefore to remain as the Ferryman in Pluto clearing. But Chiron is the catalyst who sears the body with the piercing of the higher self, pointing out that a double process is going on with consciousness raising. To put it simply, we cannot survive the depth analysis of the journey to the Underworld without the synchronous experience of the vibration of the higher self. You can clear yourself and try to clear your emotions all you wants, but it will never work without the experience of the rapture of the soul. So Pluto work is a process of evolution, and Chiron is the choreographer until you are ready to be master of the show yourself.

'Jeff Green says, "If each person understands what his or her own evolutionary requirements are, and operates in such a way as to actualize those requirements, then the collective evolutionary necessities will be developed in a non-cataclysmic way." Pluto rules volcanoes, and we can have cataclysmic eruptions or slow release of inner Earth energy. Chiron is a primary ruler of ecology, and it has been since 1977 that we have seen that no living thing will survive unless we begin to operate as a wholistic collective. Pluto work makes it possible to identify the evolutionary needs and begin deliberate clearing work in order to trigger slow and progressive growth. And it is the higher self, the glimpse of the divine potential, which offers us the energy to do the work. Chiron rules holographic attunement, which means we attune with the collective as we progress. Actually, we cannot move without this identification of the collective working with the individual, and we only have access to that level with comprehension of Chiron's way of working, or divination.

'Chiron rules divination, and divination is the only way to alignment with the collective. So, as we begin work with Pluto, it is critical to see that the relationship of Chiron to Pluto has to do with moving the deepest inner forces in tune with the hologram. Pluto shows us that we cannot even begin to align with Chiron until we have first done the hard work of depth clearing, and we can't make it through the depth clearing without the vision of the higher self. So, as we enter depth clearing, at first we use our intuition as a guide; then once we have learned to trust our intuition, we will find a divination skill which will attune us to the collective, Then finally we will begin to identify the hologram of the individual soul within the larger hologram, and then we can let go of the little self. Aspects between Pluto and Chiron will yield many clues into how to clear the self in attunement with the vision of the higher self.'

Read that whole business a few times, and it will start to make sense. The book is worth the price a few times over, as is its predecessor, Chiron: Essence and Application by Zane Stein, which does not deal with Pluto, however.

In The Inner Sky, published in 1988, Stephen Forrest says of Pluto, among other things, that it functions as, "The realization of one's destiny. The recognition of the absurdity of all narrow pursuits. The development of the capacity to discern truth." [This is on page 134, not bad.]

He continues, "Pluto represents a special wisdom in each of us. A precious gift, it must be found and cultivated, cajoled out of hiding. We may find ourselves expressing insights we did not know we had. Maybe they are connected with death and dying. Maybe they relate to what goes on in a marriage. Perhaps they can inspire friends who feel lost and directionless. The nature of the wisdom depends on the position of Pluto in the birthchart. But whatever its form, when we speak from our Pluto consciousness, people listen as if it were the voice in the burning bush."

Howard Sasportas, in his 1989 book The Gods of Change, tells us, "Pluto's domain was the underworld and, in psychological terms, the underworld is synonymous with the unconscious. The ego is the centre of consciousness, the centre of what we are aware of or identified with in ourselves. However, beyond the ego level of awareness lies the unconscious - all those attributes and elements of our being which we have not yet contacted or integrated. The nature of life is to move towards wholeness, and Pluto serves this drive by breaking down the boundaries and attachments of the ego and forcing us to recognize those parts of ourselves that the ego has excluded from consciousness. We have discussed how Pluto acts to put us in touch with our universality and unboundedness -- something to which most of us are not consciously attuned. In a similar manner, and also in the name of wholeness, Pluto will force us to confront anything that is buried in us -- be it our untapped potential or our repressed demons and complexes." [Page 226.]

Steve has followed up with an excellent book called The Book of Pluto, which pretty much does the best job of all, so it gets an Amazon link.

"The Plutonian vision is a fierce one, and we must take it in slowly. Through that window, we see the brevity and fragility of our lives. We see clearly the seeming randomness of catastrophe in human experience, and lose forever the comforting notion that 'it can't happen to me'. We see our love of blindness and our passion for denial. We observe minutely the wall we build between ourselves and all the hurt places inside us -- and all the mad, destructive behaviors in which we indulge when those hurt places grab the existential steering wheel. We look, in other words, into the true heart of darkness and find it to be a strangely familiar part of ourselves."

Now, we're talkin' Pluto.++ 

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Space graphics above from the Rosette Nebula in Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Sulfur. Credit: T. A. Rector, B. Wolpa, M. Hanna. Pluto graphic spirited from Disney.