I had a much harder time naming this post than I had writing it. I toyed with Pluto and the Path of Soul, but Soul is a confusing term, and many of us have very personal definitions of it as coloured by traditional and non-traditional religion and belief systems. Evolutionary astrology has adopted the notion of Pluto as representing the Soul, but I think the Soul is far too-wide ranging to be covered by Pluto alone. Spirit isn’t quite right, either–it’s hard to think of the bloody emotional turmoil Pluto unearths as linked to something as glistening as spirit. In spiritus = spirit within, inspiration; hardly Pluto’s territory.
But spirit is associated with fire, (as fire signs are associated with inspiration) and perhaps this is where we should begin with Pluto and its lower octave, Mars. More than any other of the octave pairings, Mars and Pluto are in cahoots with one another. Mars and Pluto speak the same language. They go after what they want. Mars is the ruler of the first fire sign, Aries, and on his own is a straightforward guy. I envision it, I want it, I see it, I go for it. (For those who think visions belong to Pisces, the envisioning, inspirational function belongs to all the fire signs. The imaging function of Pisces stems from its co-ruler, Jupiter, and its connection to Sag.) Mars is about the action of desire. Grab first, think later, is Mars at its most basic.
Things get complicated when we realize that Mars is also the ruler of Scorpio. This is Mars in his not-so-basic form. Anyone doubting that Mars is co-ruler of Scorpio needs only to follow him in secondary progression for a short time, where you will immediately see his connection to Scorpio houses and Scorpio planets. Since its discovery in 1930, Pluto has been associated with Scorpio and the link to Mars nearly forgotten (even though the legendary passion, sexuality, single-mindedness and determination/violence of Scorpio are more of a fit for Mars than they are for the little dark iceball of the universe). It is typical of Scorpio, however, that Pluto was in fact photographed fifteen years earlier, but somehow his discovery was hidden from view and he lurked the heavens undefined until 1930.
Alice Bailey made the first mention of Mars as the ‘agent’ of Pluto in her book on esoteric astrology. Jeff Green picked up on this and elaborated on it in his two books on Pluto. I encourage everyone to experiment and follow through with this idea–I guarantee it will open your eyes, and take a great deal out of the mystery of Pluto by transit and progression. There is no question that Pluto is a thug–and a dangerous one at that–but there is also no doubt in my mind that Mars is his henchman. Scratch the surface of an innocent, instinctual Mars, and you will find Pluto calling a lot of the shots.
Jeff Green has written a detailed chapter about understanding how evolved an individual Mars is by examining its phasal relationship to Pluto. (See the articles on phasal relationships and the soli-lunar relationship .) These aspects work much as the symbolism of the Sun and Moon phases do, with the ‘new’ Mars (i.e., just separated from Pluto) the unschooled and ego-oriented one and the later Mars (moving on to the balsamic phase) much more in alignment with the Soul’s intent. Again, I don’t think it’s that simple, but it’s one more tool in finding the level of conscious awareness in the chart.
Because, when it comes down to it, what we desire and how we go about fulfilling those desires is the ultimate trial of the evolution of consciousness, and intimately tied in with Scorpio, Mars and Pluto. With Mars, we fight for what we desire–with Pluto, we fight to the death. Pluto (with Mars) can cause us to be so agitated and inflamed that the fight itself, and the death desired, becomes more important than the object we desire. All of the outer planets remove something in the physical world so that we can align ourselves with the spirit. When Pluto is activated, the thing that is desired in the physical world is ripped away from us, and often leaves us kicking and screaming, and terrified forever of the dark. There is a cutting away where Pluto is concerned that is also very Martian. Not a cold cutting, like Uranus, but one which expresses desire at its extremes. I have a nine year old niece, a Pisces, who has Pluto on the South Node and Mars at 29 Aries in the 10th. Her favorite thing, as a toddler, was knives. The minute your back was turned she would fish around in the drawer for the biggest kitchen knife she could find and then ram it into the hardwood floor crying, “Fixshit, cull it.” (“Fix it, cut it.”) I’m not making this up. (Yes, she still has all her fingers.) That’s the cry of Pluto himself.
Pluto not only cuts away what the ego desires at the expense of the soul’s growth, he burns it away as well. There is a secret to this kind of burning away, the kind every Plutonian knows intimately–the need for trial (and purification) by fire. Again, we are back to Martian symbolism. I’ve never been happy with the Scorpion as the symbol for the sign. Yes, Scorpio can sting itself to death, something I’ve seen a number of Scorpios do, metaphorically speaking, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the process of the sign, the way the virgin sorts out the chaff from the grain and the scales balance and the bull takes possession of territory. The process of Scorpio is this very burning. In modern astrology we tell Scorps that they have a choice between acting like the Scorpion or flying above it all like the Eagle. A very unsatisfying choice for a Scorpio, who wants neither to destroy himself nor sail above and avoid the whole thing. There is evidence, too complicated to go into here, that once the symbol for the eighth sign was (depending on which culture we’re discussing) a mythic animal that dominated all the elements– fire, earth, water and air. It could swim, it could fly, it could fight on the earth, and it breathed fire. It was, in fact, a kind of dragon, which was capable of turning both evil and noble. Other cultures favoured the phoenix, which also dominated the elements and was reborn out of its own ashes. I’ll take either over the scorpion and the eagle.
As apt a symbol as the phoenix is, I’m partial to the dragon. The dragon has his dark side, and will eat you as soon as compromise with you. Where the Taurus polarity is about accepting and respecting things for what they are, the Scorpio side wants to tear things apart to reveal their mystery, as the dragon does by mastering each individual element. Wherever Scorpio planets fall, we must become masters, we must discover the secrets and the mysteries. If our intentions are for personal gain at the expense of the soul, this mastery will never happen. If our intentions are in alignment with the soul’s growth and needs, we will be rewarded beyond imagining. It’s positively alchemical, and illustrates the process of finding the gold inherent in the prima materia. This is the quest of both Pluto and Scorpio. This is the reason Scorpio tests everything, and won’t let it lie until he gets a result. It’s a life or death issue.
When Pluto is prominently placed in a chart, we must die to ourselves over and over again. Pluto types, particularly when Pluto is conjunct the Ascendant or the Sun, need to create new personas for themselves on a regular basis, because they have taken the last identity as far as it will go. They can be crisis-oriented, and create extreme situations for themselves which they then attempt to overcome. Sometimes, they don’t make it, like Kurt Cobain, who had Pluto on the Ascendant within a few minutes and Mars hovering near a Scorpio South Node. (On the day of his death, Mars was conjunct the Descendant and opposite the Pluto/Uranus conjunction on the natal Ascendant.)
What this all boils down to–the testing, the fight between the ego and the soul, the delving into the mysteries, the burning down to the essence and the rebirth from that essence, is the concept of Right Action. With Right Action, our intentions are aligned with our soul’s journey, and we no longer have to burn ourselves down to the core. Our actions originate in that core, and are effortless because there is no more striving for the right expression of our intentions. Once Pluto has taken us down to our essence, our Mars becomes impassioned with a new quest, to fulfill the soul’s intent. And this alignment between Pluto’s desire and Mars’s action becomes something indestructible and sacred, a core of energy that cannot be corrupted or destroyed. We learn to act with the world, because we understand that the world is our teacher. We no longer set ourselves outside of it, or against it. We are at one with it. This is the true power Pluto has been craving. What is power but the ability to influence outcome? When Mars is aligned with Pluto in right action, our battles with ourselves are at an end, and we become a force for the greater good.