The Return of Plutus
Two days ago, on 2/22/22, I took this 1928 Buffalo nickel coin back to the place of its minting, 94 years ago: the old US Mint in San Francisco. This is the building they built to accommodate the Gold Rush; on the day on which I buried this old coin there, the grand old Mint happened to be undergoing renovations. Pe
Crumbling, tarnished and rusted, this "Granite Lady" represents the old, linear model of the US economy which prevailed for centuries: finding "virgin" forests and mountains, eager capitalists transformed paradise into landfills at record pace, putting the US economy at the forefront of the world. Here, in San Francisco, where the "Go west"-heeding young man found no more frontier to exploit, where finally Americans began digging in record numbers under the ground to build this Mint and mint metals into coins, where innovative minds have capitalized the internet and laid plans to colonize Mars, the reality that Manifest Destiny was always, all along, Manifest Density is just now starting to sink in. I can sense a crisis approaching: the crisis of initiation.
I can name it, too: this is the Plutonian return of the USA. This week, Pluto completes the great circle around our sun which began at the moment of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776. Pluto, as the ruler of both wealth and death, symbolizes the exploitation which characterized the US economy for its first 248 years. Wanton destruction of old growth ecosystems; the terrible meat grinder of slavery; forced migration and genocide of native tribes -- the description seems to fit. Yet something miraculous happens at the moment of Pluto's return -- it is captured by a little-known patch of ancient mythology.
Pluto (I use the Romanized names for simplicity and clarity, though I note here that the version of the myth I'm relating is actually Greek in origin), fathered a child by Persephone, the innocent daughter of Demeter and archetype of agricultural abundance. Only, he didn't do it the nice way: Homer, applying the polite euphemisms of his period, wrote that Pluto "ravished" the young goddess, which Classical scholars today recognize as code for rape. Certainly we know what the consequence of their encounter was: Persephone became pregnant with Pluto's child.
This seems like a painfully perfect allegory for what our American ancestors did to this beautiful land, and to the animals and people who lived on it. Seeing its abundance, they raped. Both the Persephone myth and US history tell what happened next: the birth of Pluto's son, Plutus -- the Greek god of wealth.
This may seem like anything but a happy ending -- and quite so. Yet miraculously, we are told, at the Mysteries of Eleusis it was revealed that this superlatively dysfunctional family -- the product of some of the most violent and horrific circumstances imaginable -- transformed into the picture of domestic bliss. To grasp something of the nature of this miracle, consider another Greek myth in the Mystery tradition about a miraculous childbirth: say, the Virgin Mary giving birth to the child Jesus. The idea of violent rape -- especially of a goddess -- was as offensive to the ancient Greeks as it is to us, and in fact this paradox is required; without the prior impossibility, there can be no miracle.
The difference at Eleusis was that pilgrims came there to discover their true nature as soul. The Greeks often used rape as an allegory for the soul's journey (and, for a time, entrapment) in matter; it evokes old esoteric commentaries about the Soul of the World descending into the matter of existence, finding it cold and cut off from the light of Spirit, and wishing to return. Yet he could not -- so he liked it not. Thus the myth of the rape of Persephone also allegorically stands for the core wound of separation which occurred when our souls became embodied, and I have come to believe that this core wound is what really underlies the wanton, rapid mayhem which is called the US "economy". This is why, today, I rejoice.
Because the Plutonian return of the USA means that we are finally ready to graduate from Pluto to Plutus -- from the economics of rapine death to the sacred, spiritual celebration of each moment of embodiment as, itself, a treasure. This is the esoteric meaning of the birth of Plutus, the soul epiphany which resolves the impossible paradox: after we know ourselves fully as souls, we no longer experience embodiment as a "rape" because we are no longer separated from our core, soul identity. Then it becomes irrelevant how much money is in our bank account, because every breath that we have the privilege to take in our bodies is a gift, a pearl beyond price. This is the true meaning of treasures in Heaven.
So, for 2/22/22, I took this Buffalo nickel on a simple ritual: circling the Old Mint twice, I evoked the transformation of the US economy as I buried it in the ground. Thus I demonstrated sympathetically the transformation that I invoked for the entire economy: that we start imagining what it would be like if we start putting everything back where we found it.
Long live Plutus!