Pluto – Dark Forces at Work or Transformation?
Pluto – Dark Forces at Work or Transformation?
By: Beth Strong, MA, LPC
The point is not in how cruel it feels to us when the wake-up call happens, but how we can learn to listen more carefully to get the lesson without needing an apocalypse to recognize it! It’s when we think we’ve been victimized that our harsher reactions come to play.
Pluto is the archetype of cleansing, clearing the slate for transformation to occur. It represents death, which often looks much like a sacrifice of the innocent, completely out of the blue. But Pluto, not unlike our foreign and domestic terrorists, gives warnings. Our task is to become good listeners to the messages of Pluto, for always they invite us to see an important, albeit hidden, truth. Should we miss the call from Pluto to listen to the warnings, we will be confronted, always in a way we simply cannot ignore. That’s how Pluto works. In our private lives, it might look like the whining of a spouse who for years brings complaints about the marriage. Then one day, after too many complaints have been left unanswered, the marriage is gone, over. No more chance for recourse. In retrospect, we might look back and discover it was a good thing for the marriage to end, but when we are going through it, it feels nothing short of cruel.
The point is not in how cruel it feels to us when the wake-up call happens, but how we can learn to listen more carefully to get the lesson without needing an apocalypse to recognize it! It’s when we think we’ve been victimized that our harsher reactions come to play. Yes, it is an outrage that fundamentalist terrorists have unilaterally taken so many innocent lives. It is a time for righteous anger. And useless terrorist killing must be stopped. But useless terrorist killing did not happen in a vacuum. We have had warnings, many of them. Our government and our media may have missed the call, but once again, does responsibility end with them?
Pluto also represents our shadow material, both individually and collectively. It is the unseen, dark part of us that others can see, but we will eagerly deny its very existence. In a marriage it might be our continued neglect of our partner’s feelings. In our nation, it’s in how we treat other countries. Yes, we have been generous to many "underdeveloped" countries who have needed aid, perhaps even to a fault. We’ve responded gallantly to support other countries in their fight against invasion. (In the case of Saudi Arabia, we were even invited by the Saudi government to help them fight the invasion from Iran.) But we’ve also been responsible for supporting political coups in countries whose politics did not benefit us, gaining corporate financial gains at the expense of the indigenous people. We’ve lacked sensitivity and respect for cultures we didn’t take the time to understand. And we’ve arrogantly assumed our superiority based on might and technological development. At the very least, out of our ignorance, we have stepped on far too many toes.
I recognize this is not a popular view. A University of North Carolina professor was recently issued severe threats for sharing very similar thoughts. Shadow material is never popular, which only serves to make it more powerful. What is operating unconsciously in us, but obvious to outsiders, makes us vulnerable. The external enemy is always a reflection of the inner one. Their power is directly proportionate to our lack of awareness of our own shortcomings.
Having shadow material does not in any way excuse or condone acts of terrorism against other human beings. But it does, unequivocally, demand of us that we initiate the hard work of "owning our shadow." We could hide in blame, prejudice, or victimhood, but we have learned that this only intensifies the conflict. There are no quick, easy answers to the question, "What is my shadow material?" But there is great honor in asking and being willing to look. There is even more honor in being willing to earnestly assess what needs to be changed. Hopefully we can recognize, as individuals and as a nation, that acknowledging our dark side will ultimately strengthen, and maybe even redeem us. At the very least, it will make us more honest as human beings.
As a nation and as individuals, it is important to ask, how do we hold our power? Are we bully, victim, or responsible adult? Pluto asks of us, how can we become more empowered and make a difference, acting from what we truly believe in, and use that power to heal?
Pluto, finally, is about power. It’s not hard to recognize the underlying experience of powerlessness among terrorists, many of whom are frustrated at not finding jobs or ways to create change in their society. From feelings of impotence they seek to become not only powerful but aggressively so. Although Pluto is considered a masculine archetype, there is a feminine aspect that carries the healing power, as Pluto is ultimately about transformation. It is the feminine discriminating power of Pluto that has to choose what must be destroyed to create room for the healing, the rebirth.
As a nation and as individuals, it is important to ask, how do we hold our power? Are we bully, victim, or responsible adult? Pluto asks of us, how can we become more empowered and make a difference, acting from what we truly believe in, and use that power to heal? Is it in demanding more of our media, or being willing to follow the twists and turns of our foreign policy? Perhaps it’s about being more connected with the ones we’ve chosen, actively or passively, to be our leaders. Perhaps it’s in how we live our lives with our families, community, and those whom we have just met. It might even be in fighting this war directly, giving honor to the duty of destroying the evil that threatens to destroy civilization, "the only context in which we can uncover our common humanity and reveal our essential and common divinity."  Our challenge could be finding a creative answer that upholds the highest aspects of Pluto in ultimately transforming how we hold each other in our hearts. As reports of anthrax infections sprout like weeds across the country, it isn’t an easy challenge, but one we should keep in mind nonetheless.