Read an excerpt from Pluto

Posted by – February 24, 2015
Categories: Excerpt Metaphysics & Unexplained Phenomena Science & Cosmology

The following excerpt is from Richard Grossinger’s introduction to Pluto: New Horizons for a Lost Horizon: Astronomy, Astrology, and Mythology, which goes on sale March 24. The anthology includes the work of writers such as Dana Wilde, Richard Hoagland, Jonathan Lethem, Rob Brezsny, and Robert Phoenix.



My original query letter for this anthology began as follows:

Dear Colleague,

Launched in 2006, NASA’s New Horizons Pluto probe is scheduled to arrive at the planet and its moons in July 2015. This is the last of the original planets in our solar system to be visited and photographed by NASA satellite. For the record the binary system Pluto/Charon has three other tiny moonlets: Nix, Hydra, and one presently (2012) unnamed but tentatively Cerberus. The barycenter of their orbits does not lie within any single body, so “Pluto” is more properly a swarm. [For the record, the fourth moon is actually Kerberos, and a subsequent fifth was named Styx.]

At North Atlantic Books we are working on an anthology of statements looking ahead this event. Our questions are:

What do you think the probe will find?
What would you like it to find?
What might it find that would change some key paradigm or meaning?

These can be answered on any level that you would like. You can answer one or more of the questions or raise different questions and answer them. You can answer with prose, poetry, or art. You can write on the astrology, mythology, history, or science of Pluto. The final anthology will be a pastiche of different responses and viewpoints that will form an interesting mosaic for viewing both New Horizons and the civilization that sent it. The length can be anything from a sentence to ten-plus pages.

We very much respect the scientific viewpoint and will make sure that it is represented with integrity and respect. At the same time we are looking for esoteric, science-fiction, aesthetic, and psychospiritual approaches to the topic.

I received many thoughtful responses ranging from the literal and earnestly scientific (for instance, one-time astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman’s “measurements of a thin residual atmosphere” and a College of the Atlantic student’s “some never-before-seen quasi-organic self-replicator”), to magical realism and speculative kōans (Jonathan Lethem’s “dead pets” and Philip Wohlstetter’s “time that Proust lost”), to archetypal induction (Robert Sardello’s “interior of matter” and “luminous darkness” and Nathan Schwartz-Salant’s “mystery of manifestation”), to science fiction and sci-fi satire (Charley Murphy’s “hyper-intelligent squid” and “58 genders”), plus medleys of these (Ross Hamilton’s “swarming corkscrew/fractal alchemy” and “giant, nearly undetectable transparent quartz sphere owning a small frigid core of rotating parts mimicking Vatican City”).

I didn’t encourage pets in my call for submissions, but a surprising number of aspirants took that tack—Pluto is a popular tag for recruiting non-humans into civilized society, an ideal blend of consonants and vowels both goofy and frisky, a bit gamy, and bearing a fierce or somber enough legacy to hold its own in the wild. If I had not closed the barn door, a menagerie of dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, and snakes would have run riot through this anthology. My favorite animal submission opened in true Pluto spirit:

In the spring of 1982 our blond cat “Larch,” who not only glowed at night, but also lacking claws, balls, and any farm sense, had lasted less than a month at our new raw land homestead (but, oh was he blissed-out for that brief month, his first away from city streets). We were pretty sure it had been an owl that took him, but it could just as easily have been a red-tailed hawk or golden eagle. Thinking we needed a companion for our black lab, Moon-shadow, and a mouser for our rustic tent camp, we quickly found a replacement in the form of a tiny all-black male kitten whom we named “Pluto.”

I almost included James Moore’s skillfully rendered cats for how they imparted Pluto’s dark luminosity as well as its motif of abduction by powerful, paradigm-shifting shapes—in Larch’s case a mongrel winged thing from on high. But feline Pluto’s otherwise worthy and charming exploits matched this anthology only by synchronicity, or in the spirit that everything is congruent to everything else under, or grazed by, Pluto.

In its realized form, New Horizons for a Lost Horizon visits themes and motifs common to Pluto (god, planet, and/or sign), some of them more than others. Though I had considered grouping submissions by subtopics, that would have undermined the reciprocity and synergy of the categories. Discursion about Pluto tends to fuse astronomy, astrology, and mythology, even when its author is not trying to, or trying not to—maybe it’s the generic Plutonian weirdness and surrealism.

Central overlapping threads include: (1) the astrophysics, exogeology, and exometeorology of a trans-Neptunian object/dwarf planet; (2) the physics, astrology, and hyper-physics of a complex multi-“planet” swarm in mean-motion resonance; (3) Kuiper Belt landscapes and astronomy; (4) the Pluto/Persephone myth of abduction and commutation as well as a range of psychological parables and complexes underlying and emergent from it; (5) the baseline astrology of Pluto, including its conjunctions on Earth with shadows and traumas, death and resurrection, caves and buried treasures, invisible wealth, and enantiodromia (a principle of equilibrium articulated by Carl Jung whereby a psychological process or cultural event automatically generates its opposite in order to restore cosmic balance); (6) the ritual of assigning the name “Pluto” to the ninth planet; (7) the 2006 redaction of Pluto’s status to dwarf planet; (8) realms of hyperdimensionality and hyperobjectivity suggested or prompted by Pluto; (9) surrealism and magical realism around lost objects, exotic creatures, paradoxical emanations, and haunting nostalgias, likewise connoted or triggered by the ninth planet; (10) a “terraformed” stepping stone and gateway linking the Solar System to the outer universe; and (11) a floating orbital chip of ET visitation and planetary engineering, splattered or set in place half a billion years (or even longer) ago.


Pluto camouflages the universe from us, but that allows us to be who we are and live our charts without knowing the outcome in advance. Pluto reveals the universe to us at the moment of transfiguration and Soul awakening. That is why the most poignant and delicious emotions we feel are triggered by Pluto’s passage: it governs our demise and resurrection, the resolution of our tragedy and karma.

Even Pluto the cat underwent a distinctive Plutonian metamorphosis:

It was a crisp and cold March morning when she had called our neighbor Ron to bring his .22 rifle and help put Pluto down. They stood in the driveway, with the girls inside perhaps unaware of what was going to happen, and shot the blind old wretched cat.

The story goes that in a brilliant flash the air became crystal clear, pristine, still, and almost brittle. It was like the limpid clarity behind this world of appearances was revealed. In that moment they both felt an unexpected sense of awe and simplicity and calm. They stood there in that transformed space and hugged each other and cried. In an instant Pluto was gone, and in the release, something remarkable had been revealed….

It has been many years since these incidences of Pluto’s life occurred, yet as I recall them now they bring back strong emotions. Especially remembering the time I almost drowned him, sitting in the car together as we pondered his fate and our connection, it makes my heart open in deep ways, and I find the tears just pouring from my eyes.

Pluto was more than a cat or companion for those years. He was a glimpse of all of Life. A glimpse of the farther reaches, the extremes of what we all can experience, that are both immediate and tangible, yet also beyond the visible. In the end it seems he was named perfectly.

Named perfectly—the long and the short of it: the “awful shadow of some unseen power…/ like memory of music fled….”

Planet, dwarf planet, criminal, trickster, alien, outlier, banished god, invisible god, deviant lodge member, jihadist, Reiki master, Pluto turns the Solar System into what it is.

Tags: Astrology Rob Brezsny Richard Grossinger Dana Wilde Astronomy
About the Author

Marina is the Marketing & Digital Programs Coordinator at North Atlantic Books. After living in New Orleans and Amsterdam, and exploring a couple of continents, she returned to the San Francisco Bay Area to work at NAB. She's passionate about astrology, nonfiction books, and sustainable living, as well as all things metaphysical.