WEEK 10: My Capacity for Change

The Transformer Archetype

Astrological Pluto

While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.
— Leonardo da Vinci

Being Culturally Literate

Frederic Leighton,  Return of Persephone , 1891

Frederic Leighton, Return of Persephone, 1891

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
— Zen Aphorism

Apply What You Learned

The Cycle of Life

How do you renew yourself? In this final week our focus is on the archetype of the Transformer. We always mention this archetype together with rebirth. They belong together like the dying cocoon and the newborn butterfly. They are two points on the cycle of life. What has ended in your life? What has died? And what was born from those ashes? The archetypal Transformer is about the rising phoenix who cannot exist without destruction and ashes.

As the ultimate experience, the transformation in death also takes us to unforeseen depths. We will explore where the deepest power in you comes from, where you connect to the molten core at the center of the earth. You will learn about death in ways that you have likely not thought of before. The transformative power of this archetype is immense. What is waiting to die in your life? What are you afraid of losing? Why?

We immerse ourselves in endings, burial rituals, and ways to say good-bye. It is with the memories of the departed—be that people, pets, or projects—that we create the fertile compost from which something new will spring as the seasons change.

We won't ignore the shadow of the Transformer archetype. Here we find fear of change, obsession with youth and face lifts and on the other end, where we have too much of this archetype we find obsession, compulsions, obliteration and manipulation.

Key Words

Regeneration, Darkness, Depth, Power, Mystery, Psychology, Detectives, Research, Healing, Caves, Rot, Blackness, Rebirth, Underworld, Transformation, Roots, Death, Obsession, Hidden Gold, Deconstruction, Decay, Clandestine, Total Change, Collapse, Meat Grinder, Tantric Sex, Secrets, Surgeons, Compost, Lust, Phoenix, Rot, Fertilizer, Shit.


When you read the words above, and before you dive deeper into this week, what is your immediate reaction? Use your journal for this:

  • When you imagine a person with many of the qualities described in the key words, does that person seem to you to be a friend, and enemy, or a stranger?

Death, Hades, Pluto and Thanatos

Death as an archetype is about transformation and change. As we are learning about it here, Death is about changing from one state to another. For instance, graduating from high school is the death of childhood, of innocence and entry into the adult world. When a relationship ends, intimate or otherwise, there is a strong sense of death. When you are handed a pink slip because your job has been eliminated, well there is a sense of death at that moment as well. What these situations all share is the uncertainty of what is next, fear of the unknown, clinging to the past, and a common discomfort with change. Sadness, insecurity, and introspection often follow such events. Sometimes death is also literal and the death archetype is then present too. This is, however, in no way what we think of first when we explore the archetype of the Transformer. So if, for instance, you keep dreaming of death this does not mean an actual death is imminent. Rather, an archetypal thinker would ask what needs to change—or is already changing—in the dreamer's life.

In astrology the archetype of the Transformer is symbolized by the planet Pluto, Lord of the Underworld (in case you are wondering if Pluto is still a planet, see my article about that here). Pluto was the Roman version of the Greek god Hades, also the ruler of the underworld. Death itself in Greek mythology was called Thanatos. In this course, when we learn about Death, we are talking about a part of us that lives deep within, that goes down in to the depth of things, into our own and the collective underworld of things, to the roots of matters. This part of us is often deeply buried, so to speak, and usually contains the most powerful gifts we have.

In my 40 years of practicing astrology and working intimately with people I have come to understand that when we explore this archetype we are working with the most powerful energy we ever come up against. While there is tremendous gold to be unearthed by meeting our inner Transformer, the path there is—just like the myth says—one of no return. Once we ponder the depths of this archetype we are forever changed. In Greek mythology, whoever entered Hades never returned. Similarly, when we get to know this ultimate part of our deepest selves, we never return to who we were before we descended into this place of knowing. We do, however, re-emerge from our meetings with our inner Transformer and, like Persephone (remember her from the Lover week? And from the introductory video this week?) we are forever changed by our encounters in the deep.

Meeting the Transformer means that any outdated notions that we hold about who we are will get torn apart. These will then be replaced with a reality that we often don't want to see at first. Meeting the Transformer archetype can feel like being forced through a meat grinder. Every single part of you is affected and the transformation is absolute. 

Transformation literally means going beyond your form.
— Wayne Dyer

The Transformer and Sex

Here is a passage from Planets in Play discussing how Death and sex are related. Remember to substitute the word Pluto with the archetype of the Transformer. In the week about the Lover archetype, we learned about Eros and the importance of eroticizing the world around us, which we saw goes far beyond making it sexual. 

"Pluto has the capacity to eroticize the underworld and even death. We are strangely attracted to horror, we can’t resist turning our heads at a highway accident. Like little kids who cover their eyes with fingers spread wide, we are attracted to what is frightening.

Such attraction means that Eros is present. In fact, death, love, passion, and sex are not at all distinctly separate subjects. The French, for instance, call the orgasm the little death, implying perhaps that it is at this moment that we have transcended our body. When we strip down and expose ourselves to a lover, when we are naked in more than just the literal sense, we have already entered Pluto’s realm.

Taking the union with our partner a step farther, when we strip away all form, we end up with transcendence, which is exactly what your Pluto wants. Deep down, most of us are attracted to a loss of pretense, to letting go of form and formality and thereby to opening up the possibility to unite with something larger than ourselves. We must die a little death to do this, for if I am preoccupied with the fruits of my labor, I cannot be in this dark and beautiful place.

While love and death have been connected for as long as there has been poetry and long before Romeo and Juliet, the notion of this deep kind of sex is rather foreign in the West. Our tradition teaches us that sex is for procreation. Of course, since the sexual revolution, Western notions of sex have been extraordinarily expanded. Today, this includes a myriad of techniques and notions about sex that are based on Eastern ideas.

The ancient tradition of Tantra is an example of this. The core ideas of Tantra are not a focus on sex. Rather, sex becomes a path to an experience of the divine. One excellent way to get to know your Pluto is to practice Tantra. This, too, takes courage, as all Plutonian forays do. Clients with prominent Pluto energy in their chart have reported to me that the intensity of their personality, and particularly of their sexual energy, has scared their lovers. Most of us shudder in the presence of Pluto in the way that we are awestruck by the presence of something much larger than us.

I want to draw a distinction here between Pluto and Neptunian transcendence that we discussed in Chapter 11 [the week on the Dreamer]. Neptune wants to dissolve into something larger by blurring the line between a conscious state of mind and a dream state.
There is a mystical, sweet, and seductive quality to Neptunian transcendence. There is also a grand illusion that often accompanies Neptune. After a Neptunian experience, you may not want to wake up because it is lovely there, much like an LSD trip. The awakening is rude, and the world can never match the beauty of where you were.

Pluto, on the other hand, is far more brutal and clear-cut. During a Pluto transformation, things break open, explode, burn away, crash, and die, and you are more likely to feel an icy cold sense of reality. Things are crass and appear as the essence of what they are. You are not coddled or in an illusion but rather you feel stark naked and chilled to the bone. You have a sense that you are really at death’s edge and that if you can survive this, the experience has made you much richer as a human being.

In Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical version of The Phantom of the Opera, the song “The Music of the Night” excellently describes the intoxication and seduction that draw us toward Pluto. Here are a few lines: “Close your eyes and surrender to your darkest dreams . . . In this darkness which you know you cannot fight” (Lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe).

One place where our love attraction to the nether regions has flourished is in the field of depth psychology. This, of course, is also Pluto’s realm. We go to a quiet place and dig up what blocks us, what we have repressed, and what we don’t see. Most people speak fondly of their therapist, who becomes their own phantom, taking them down into the nether regions of themselves. Once there, hidden memories and buried fears erupt spontaneously or in nightmares and night terrors.

If we use our dreams in therapy, then we get an even greater access to our deepest insides, for the imagery that comes forward in this fashion has not been filtered by any other character on our stage. The Sun has no control over our dreams, Mercury cannot rationalize or edit the material. Venus cannot decorate them to make the images pretty. Listening to our dreams is arguably the easiest way to get Pluto to speak to us.

People who have gone through therapy are usually not as easily overcome by change and horror. There is a newly found capacity that had to be learned. Pluto will not only guide you through your changes and losses but will actually welcome them." (pp 293-296)

Read this article by Michael Kearl titled: The Connection of Sex and Death


Life is a sexually transmitted disease and the mortality rate is one hundred percent.
— R.D. Laing

Too Much Transformer: Manipulation

Too Little Transformer: Fear of Death


Use your journal to explore these questions:

  • Have you ever been totally overpowering in a situation? This is about more than pulling rank on someone. This is about absolute annihilation of any differing opinions. How did that feel?
  • What is the most stealth and/or vindictive thing you ever did? How did that feel? Would you do it again?
  • What is your most obsessive trait? How does it get in the way of your life? Or does it? How is it helpful?
  • Do you have a secret that is weighing on you but you swore (yourself or someone else) that you would never tell?
  • Have you ever been called mean by others? Did you believe them?


Also use your journal to reflect on these questions:

  • Have you ever felt completely overpowered in a situation? Where someone else had all the power and you felt powerless? What happened?
  • Are you afraid of death? What do you think happens when we die?
  • Have you had horrible experiences when things ended in your life?
  • Does the idea of going to therapy make you yawn?
  • Would you rather let sleeping dogs lie than stir things up?
  • Can you never figure out how the detective mystery will end? How does that make you feel?
  • Are you afraid of change? Why? How does it make you feel?


What is it about these movies that make them belong here? See if you can watch one or several of these this week!

Alien, Alive, Angels & Insects, Apocalypse Now, Beauty & The Beast (Cocteau version). Beloved, Blue Velvet, Bound, Deliverance, Donnie Brasco, Exotica, Fatal Attraction, Fight Club, Flatliners, Grizzley Man, Incendiary, Jacob's Ladder, Journey to the Center of The Earth, Lone Star, My Fair Lady, Platoon, Pleasantville, Raise the Red Lantern, Resurrection, Shoah, Sunshine Cleaning, Testament, The Dark Crystal, The Mephisto Waltz, The Seventh Seal, The Shawshank Redemption, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Edge, The Godfather (All Parts), The Last Seduction, The Lion King, The Passion of Joan of Arc, The Phantom of The Opera, The Sixth Sense, What Dreams May Come.

Max von Sydow playing chess with Death in Bergman's Seventh Seal (1957)

Max von Sydow playing chess with Death in Bergman's Seventh Seal (1957)


In the first week of this course when we studied the King archetype we discussed royal, or solar, power. The Transformer archetype also has tremendous amounts of power. Everything about this archetype is extreme. There is no subtlety involved when this archetype takes center stage. You might then either be faced with very powerful people who try to manipulate you or you may feel very empowered and see yourself as a transformer and change agent.

This archetype also has tremendous energy. Just like nuclear energy it can be put to use for beneficial purposes or extremely destructive ones. When experienced in the masses we can see this as the ascendance of plutocratic leaders, propagandist manipulation and totalitarian control.

Real power also comes from this archetype in the embodiment of the Dark Feminine, the ultimate power that takes life and gives life. We see her in the Black Madonna and in the goddesses Kali and Sekhmet. Her power is absolute, unyielding and overwhelming.

Here is a section on the Dark Feminine from Planets in Play:

"Through the lenses of astrology, we recognize that every person on the planet has the dark feminine within them. We also know that what is not acknowledged or lived out in some way will express itself autocratically on our stage. We will have to pick up broken shards after the eruption of that energy.

You may go on for years or even decades before Pluto ever stirs or becomes active in your life. However, because you have been able—and enabled by the collective—to avoid this life-and-death energy for so long, you then may also have seemingly no tools to understand this part of you.

In my previous writing, I have suggested that one way to imagine your Pluto is as a voodoo priestess, who, in an ecstatic dance, writhing, her eyes wide, bites off the head of a sacrificial chicken, whose blood is now dripping down her naked, dark skin to feverish drum-beating rhythms.* Pluto is not for the squeamish. The questions for you to answer are now these: Where in your life do you express the voodoo priestess in you? How do you face your own mortality? What are your dark obsessions? If you lost everything tomorrow, your loved ones and your possessions, what would be left? If you had six months to live, what would you do? How do you give life to your passions? Where can you experience ecstatic sex? Your voodoo priestess has an answer to all these questions, but if you have no place for her, then she will find a way into your life that is often radical and frightening." (p. 290)


John William Waterhouse -  Magic Circle , 1886

John William Waterhouse - Magic Circle, 1886

The secret is that only that which can destroy itself is truly alive.
— C. G. Jung


Reflect on this or better yet, have a discussion with someone on the subject of the Dark Feminine. Pay attention to how these terms are used individually and together in our culture. What do yuo notice?


See if you can eat something from this list this week! Remember, this is an immersion course... Here goes: Blue Cheese, Mushrooms, Truffles, Caviar, Chateau Yquem (a most precious sweet wine made of rotten grapes), black beans, all root vegetables, pumpernickel bread, chocolate covered pumpkin seeds, anything blackened.


Let the next peace of music play while you read the lyrics below and follow the singer. This is one of the most powerful songs for the Transformer Archetype I have ever heard. It is called "Let Me Fall" and is from Cirque Du Soleil—Quidam.

Let Me Fall

Let me fall
Let me climb
There’s a moment when fear
And dream must collide
Someone I am
Is waiting for courage
The one I want
The one I will become
Will catch me
So let me fall
If I must fall
I won’t heed your warnings
I won’t hear them
All I ask
All I need
Let me open whichever
door I might open
Let me fall
If I fall
Though the phoenix may
Or may not arise
I will dance so freely
Holding on to no one
You can hold me only
If you too will fall
Away from all these
Useless fears and chains
Someone I am
Is waiting for my courage
The one I want
The one I will become
Will catch me
So let me fall
If I must fall
I won’t heed your warnings
I won’t hear
Let me fall
If I fall
There’s no reason
To miss this one chance
This perfect moment
Just let me fall


Buried Treasures

"Pluto is the part of you that thrives in the dark and fears not death. He prospers on your darkest secrets and deepest fears. With shiny, black leather boots, he walks the fine line between life and death at all times. In the Greek myths, Hades abducted Persephone into the underworld. When her mother and other gods complained, he allowed her to resurface but only after he seduced her with the sweet fruit of the pomegranate, which bound her to him, in a spell, for eternity. Thus, she visits him yearly and then wanders into his vast underworld kingdom for a while, only to return once again after a mysterious period spent in the dark with Pluto.

Each one of us carries this myth in us and along with it a personal version of the Pluto archetype. He takes us down into our own underworld, where whatever we have forgotten or repressed, or what simply has been dormant, is alive and well. Pluto demands that we face the unspeakable. When we emerge from this place, we will forever be transformed.

Bruce was a man in his sixties when he came to see me several years ago. He had been a successful executive on the West Coast, his children were grown and doing well, and then his beloved wife fell ill with cancer. He said to me, “I had been very naïve about life.” He was a self-described golden-boy in whose life everything went his way. In his own words, he never had to “survive anything.” He sweetly navigated his wife through the juggernaut of the medical establishment and nurtured her ever so gently, never leaving her bedside. He held her in his arms the night she died. “I felt a cold shudder in the room as she took her last breath,” he told me.

After his loss, Bruce went into a deep depression. “I could not get off the couch, and all I could think of was joining her.” After nearly two years he woke up one morning and found himself uttering simply, “That’s it.” It was over, just like that. He quickly sold the house they had shared for decades. The business had already been mostly handed over to managers. He set out on a deep spiritual quest, seeking out teachers in all corners of the world. The most profound thing he said to me was “It took me a long time to realize this, but my wife dying was the greatest gift she ever gave me.” This at first seems absurd, but the statement makes sense if you understand Pluto.

There is a notable difference between those who have met their Pluto and those who have not—yet. Eventually, we must all meet this part of us. For some, this happens when they go to therapy and learn to look inward while peeling away layers of protection; for some, it means facing an illness; for some, the death of a person or pet or dream; and for some, with the loss of their ideals. There is always a sacrifice with Pluto. It is not that Pluto wants our health or wants our loved ones or wants our business. Pluto wants us to be stripped from that which we thought made us who we are. Pluto knows that what is left when you take all the props away is who we really are, the essence of us that transcends all matter. How many times in your life have you said,“I feel as though I am dying.” Those were times when Pluto had center stage in your play. Because we all have Pluto in us and because Pluto is typically contrary to all that we work and wish for, and not what we usually want, we fear this part of us. There is a collective fear about change and about death in our culture. Perhaps the life-affirming drive in us, in fact the essence of being alive, is of being not changed and not dead. However, in the same way that we can know “day” only by the fact that we know “night,” our Pluto is arguably the most important planet of them all because he paradoxically gives us the drive to live.

As the lord of the underworld, Pluto is charged with those matters that are most deeply locked away inside of you. Imagine your life as a tree. Pluto is concerned with your roots, with that which exists in his under-world. Most of us are interested in cultivating the fruit that we hope will grow on our limbs. We want succulent and sweet plums to sink our teeth into and to suck on. Nobody wants to pay much attention to the roots of their tree. A gardener, however, will tell you that a healthy tree should have a root system equal to the crown. In other words, if a giant came by your tree, pulled it out of the ground by the trunk, and then flipped it upside down, it should ideally look the same.

Because we do not give the attention needed to our roots and to that which is below ground in our lives (after all, who likes to suck on a root?), many trees get top-heavy. Only when the fruit-rich tree falls over, the meager roots are exposed. Such was the case for Bruce when his wife died. He felt that he had no tools to deal with his loss. Only the depression brought him down far enough to see the weakness of his roots. His “couch time” refocused his point of view, and he is now spending his time exploring and growing his roots.

Of course, the opposite is true too. Trees that seem meager and dead above the soil can be very alive in the underworld. In an ideal world, we would spend as much time in the ground as we spend above it.

Fran recently came to see me. Her chart suggested that she needed to learn how to cultivate her inner depth and also to settle down. She had been flitting through life successfully but with a sense of restlessness. Her chart showed that her North Node of the Moon (the place that she is called to explore) was in her home, in her own four walls, and not out in the world. Pluto was exactly next to her North Node, also at the bottom of her chart, in her fourth house. “I don’t like the idea of settling down,” Fran said. “It has such a downer tone.” Of course it does. We live in a world where we get up in the morning, we go to work and climb up the ladder of success, and thereby come up in society. Whatever you do, do not drag me down with you! Once I shifted my language slightly and used different terms to describe Pluto for her, Fran felt more comfortable.

All of us miss something by not going down into Pluto’s underworld, for he also rules hidden treasures. We know that gold, diamonds, and other gems but also mighty resources such as oil, gas, coal, and uranium all come from deep within the earth.

Similarly, when we mine our innermost fears and secrets, then we often find strength and energy to heal ourselves and to regenerate what we stripped off to get there in the first place. This, again, is symbolized by the Phoenix rising. People with a strong Pluto in their chart have a remarkable capacity for regeneration in their body and also for psychological healing. They know that good fertilizer is nature’s gold and is made up of dead matter. It is also in therapy that we often find that our greatest pain becomes the fertilizer of our greatest creations." From Planets in Play (pp 286 - 288).

Transformation and Resurrection

It is from the ashes that the phoenix arises. The magic fire bird is not hatched from an egg. Rather, total destruction is necessary for this creature of transformation to exist at all. Most of us, when we have died in life—and something that we might have thought would go on forever is no more—have in due time experienced the journey through this darkness as a foreshadowing of something new that arose. This cycle is as natural as nature herself.

A wildfire, sparked by lightning, destroys everything in its path only to cleanse the earth of brush and undergrowth so that new shoots can get sunlight where it was dark before. 


Use your journal for this and take plenty of time to reflect on this by yourself and in a quite state of mind.

  • Think back to the darkest moment in your life, the worst thing that ever happened to you. Write a story about it as though you are telling it to a close friend overseas and the only communication is by letter.
  • Looking back now, can you see the buried gold in the horror?
  • If not, can you find meaning in what happened?
  • Can you bless the experience and honor it?
  • Can you describe the phoenix that arose?
The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.
— Mark Twain

Secret Passions

The Transformer archetype also speaks the language of your innermost secrets, especially if they are passionate, sexual, perverse, obsessive and addictive. What you  lust for, what you desire when the lights have been out for several hours, what moves you and undulates you in the deepest core, that is spoken by the Transformer.

Francesco Hayes,  The Kiss , 1859

Francesco Hayes, The Kiss, 1859


Write down—perhaps on a sheet of paper that you later burn, just to keep the privacy—your deepest and most passionate fantasies. Speak the unspeakable, take a look at them and have no shame. Who has the right to judge what emerges from that depth of soul? Enjoy this process and exercise!

If my devils are to leave me, I am afraid my angels will take flight as well.
— Rainer Maria Rilke

Getting In Touch With The Transformer Archetype

Here are some exercises you can do to familiarize yourself with this powerful energy within you. Remember that anything can be made a ritual. I have defined a ritual elsewhere as "repeated behavior with meaning." Try these on for size!

  • Soak for hours in a tub in the dark, all the while imagining the Transformer Archetype.
  • Spend time in a flotation tank. Swim naked at night in a cold pond.
  • Burn an item of great value to you. Then fertilize a budding tree with the ashes.
  • Clean out your basement and donate everything to those in need.
  • Give away a precious object anonymously.
  • Cleanse and detoxify your body. Get a series of colonics. Fast (under the supervision of a health professional).
  • Practice Tantric sex.
  • Do some extended research. Be a detective. Be an archaeologist in your backyard. Use a metal detector to find hidden treasures.
  • Learn the tango and the lambada. Let your hips undulate. Do an African dance and stomp your feet into the ground.
  • Go antique hunting. Discover secret treasures that others cannot see.
  • Start a mulch pile in your garden and recycle.
  • Peel an onion layer by layer and let yourself cry. This symbolizes peeling back your own skin to discover the vulnerabilities below. Your Transformer Archetype is very adept at this.
  • Go to a wake, where the deceased is still in the home and celebrated.
  • Participate in El Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), a Mexican celebration.
  • Go to therapy and involve your dreams in the process. This allows you to get to the deepest parts of yourself.
  • Look to advertising and identify as many images of this archetype as you can. See the sample below.


You can let these play automatically, or you can click through them at your own pace by using the left and right arrows.

Think of the key-words for the Transformer when you look at these. Why is each of them here?



Congratulations! You have completed the course "Archetypal Immersion" at the Hillman School!

If you wish to send me feedback of any kind—the good, the bad, and the ugly—please email me. If you liked the course and wish to write a blurb of some sort that I can use to tell others about the experience of taking this course in the future, I am much obliged.

I ask you to PLEASE fill out the evaluation I will send you soon. It will only take little time to fill out and helps me tremendously in improving this and other courses in the future.

I am keeping the course material of the last ten weeks where it is until further notice. You can go back and study whatever you want whenever you have time. Slack will stay open to you as long as other students are still taking this course.

It has been a true privilege to be your guide and teacher through the ten archetypes we studied. I am glad you took this course. Re-ensouling the world is crucial, especially at this time. Archetypal thinking is one way to do that.

Stay in touch!