As the outermost known planet, Pluto symbolizes the end of the process Uranus began: that of breaking down the reality structure of normal consciousness. If Uranus breaches the normal reality structure and Neptune exposes us to the ultimately real, then Pluto symbolizes the radical transformation of consciousness and being that must result. Pluto is the archetype of death and resurrection: it breaks down the old and outworn entities into their component parts, and then reassembles them into new being.
It does this at every level of life. As with Uranus and Neptune, PLuto may be experienced by people of any level of consciousness, but, also like these other planets, Pluto is hard to handle if one is bound up in the universe of Saturn. Pluto operates with extreme power, and, being a force beyond the ego, when it manifests it usually causes one to feel out of control. While Uranus interrupts normal reality and Neptune confuses ordinary reality by exposing one to to other realities, Pluto can symbolize a complete breakdown in ordinary reality. Such a breakdown forces one not only to deal with an alternate reality, but even to build a new day to day reality out of it.
The literature of astrology tends to dwell on the seamy side of Pluto, and its association with unchecked power, decay, corruption, and death. Yet Pluto stands for something much higher. It is the purifying fire that an entity must go through in order to pass from one level of being to another. Ultimately, Pluto purifies and makes more nearly perfect; but to do this it must first completely destroy anything gross or imperfect that holds an entity back. When we confront Plutonian energies, we often see aspects of ourselves with which we cannot deal, because we have buried them in the process of creating our reality systems. So when a crisis comes in which nothing that is true can remain hidden, we have to confront our personal garbage and finally do something about it. Only then can we move on. What appears to us as the negative energy of the symbol Pluto is nothing more than a mirror image of our own negativity staring back at us.
from Horoscope Symbols by Robert Hand