November 03rd, 2008

The Saturn Uranus Deadlock: A Grounded Illumination

“Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from the things she found in gift shops.”
–Kurt Vonnegut

There is a way of breathing
that’s a shame and suffocation.
And there’s another way of expiring,
a love-breath that lets you open infinitely.
— Rumi

Think fondly of today. You might recall this as the last date where the world as you knew it was like the world that you always knew. “That chef made my eggs just the way I like them.” Happy day!

Tomorrow opens a crack in time. Wild card days. The optometrist advising for the removal of the cataracts. The bank is now closed (again) on Saturdays (and maybe Fridays too). Oh, and dad died suddenly, while getting out of the shower, and you never got to say goodbye.

Tomorrow heralds the exact opposition between Saturn and Uranus, the start of a long two-year match between titans. Father Sky trounces Father Time. But this is also a mirroring dance, a commingling of their seed and shadows. They’re the oddest of lovers, the harshest of enemies (what father and son are not?) Yes, people — it’s the birth of a new world order.

Or put another way, as the gadfly historian Gore Vidal recently commented: “This country is finished. But, with a new republic like this, if you missed being here at the beginning, the next best thing is to be here at the end.”

So, consider your life at this moment. Your soul feels distinctly divided into dueling factions. Do you notice a grip in the gut? The fist down there, the one you’ve been carrying about on your rounds for the last couple of months. That’s the rub! The big sky fight. Saturn dutifully pressing your feet into the earth (just one more day of working hard and praying everything is “OK”!) while Uranus takes off the top and attempts to fill your head with vivid images of your unlived life, narratives that well-up while you sleep but then, often, mist-out during the grind of Saturn’s day-to-day tasks of acquiring.

Uranus, as Promethean awakener, reminds the individual that reality is teeming with the dynamism of change; a flow that can’t be tethered to the movement of consensual time — for that would be too slow a representation. But, killjoy Saturn declares that we come to the lip of change like the Ghost of Christmas Past, dragging a ball and chain. Breathing barely. This does not make for an easy jumping.

This stalemate and ambivalent torsion is the blur of the moment, the atmosphere we’re all breathing right now. But as Rumi puts it, there is “another way of expiring.” Exhaling consciously. Letting go, consciously. And yes, a little bit of dying, too. So, what are we willing to sacrifice or, worse, have wrestled away from us to connect with our unlived life? The poet Mary Oliver asks this too:

“Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”

Saturn gives us time, to keep it all together by — to do our scrapbooking and build our portfolios. That’s good. And bones so that we aren’t just flesh sacks glopping about. Need bones, good. Discipline too, and melancholy so we don’t get too preposterous about this life. Balance makes sense. But Saturn also keeps disruption at bay. And that’s problematic. In mythology Saturn was always blocking or hindering — forever eating his progeny lest any of them disturb his hegemony at the edge of the known world — the solar system’s demarcation, before the discovery of the trans-Saturn planets: Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.

Each of us, in our own way, support Saturn — for we too fear change and eat our future-vision offspring. We move lockstep, adhering to the orthodoxy of titillation — Saturn’s shadow side. The impulse of Uranian free-thinking, the cost of it at least, doesn’t have a place within the orthodoxy of titillation because it disrupts our methodologies — ways that we’ve devised to have our pleasure needs met despite feeling trapped, hedged in by the status quo. And when our pleasure needs are met we’re “happy” people. Dulled, but happy.

But there are worlds beyond the ego’s careful, cautious accretion. There are progeny that live beyond Saturn’s boundary. Uranus, Neptune and Pluto symbolize the transcendent elements within the psyche. Each with their own unique gift of undoing: Uranus shatters, goading accelerated growth, electric visions — libertine and paradoxical impulses. Neptune dissolves and errodes the ego’s boundaries — through mystical yearnings or debilitating betrayals, inflating the urge to partake of the divine. And Pluto eviscerates, does the chemistry of death and takes us to the blackest of the black spaces.

No wonder Saturn kept trying to eat his young. You can feel these dichotomies within your soul, too. The staunch Saturnian instinct for preservation pitted against your desire for radical conversion, spiritual union and finally, as Freud called it, the death wish: a relentless longing for peace and cessation. Society confronts these impulses for undoing as well. The transcendent urge plays out in politics, religion and art. Saturn always balks. But the form builder always compromises, succumbs to the formless. And usually there is hell to pay.

Think recent history. Saturn’s 2001 opposition to Pluto — “the little castrater that could” — concluded with September 11 and the hell-maw of Ground Zero. Against Neptune, during the Saturn opposition in 2005 — we lost a city and a culture during hurricane Katrina. Now, with an African American president likely to take the reigns, we have two factions of the country worked into a fervid, rabid clarion call for change. Or not change. What will the fallout bring?

Of course all oppositions are alchemical dances within reality. Planets in opposition mirror each other. Ostensibly they are at odds, but secretly they siphon qualities and powers back and forth between them. It’s a kind of magic, veiled as tragedy. Countries go to war and many of the soldiers fall in love with enemy soldiers or meet their future wives in the invaded homelands. They marry, have children and something hybrid and wonderful is born of the destruction. And life goes on.

For us, on the eve of a new election, we need to consider that when Saturn brings his weight and force to oppose Uranus’ wild-card eccentricities we’ll end up with a kind of mutated government. What might this look like? Charles Carter described it as such: “…democratic in spirit and autocratic in method.” I’ll leave it to each of you to spin this axiom whichever way you like. (At least he didn’t say anything about fascism.)

Regardless the portents, the post-election world will shock us. You don’t get Uranus and Saturn together without some kind of earthquake. If you think you understand a narrative as it is unfolding, you’ve read the augers and pundits and nuzzled your ass deep into a comfy chair feeling like you’ve got your finger on the pulse — that is the moment Uranus does that thing he does with the trap door lever.

There is a quality about Uranus, his shadow side, that runs amok over the individual in an attempt to make life better for the mass. It’s a paradox — which of course is the nature of Uranus — and this is where some element of Saturn is necessary to counter the accelerated ascension of “change for change’s sake”. In introducing a new regime or a new order, Uranus may be as tyrannical and controlling as whatever he is trying to overthrow. Consider the days following the French revolution, a very Uranian moment in history. How is a balance found? Perhaps there isn’t. As Nietzsche said: “Insanity in individuals is something rare — but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.” Oh well…

But hard times for the group might mean opportunities for the individual. This is how Saturn and Uranus work on a personal level.

So, forget Obama for a spell and consider your own life. The good news? Life post a bout of Uranian upheaval is sobering, in a bright and pristine kind of way — there are horizons revealing and beckoning. There’s a quality of freshness and freedom combined, despite the rubble one might be standing in. Walls have come down. Wow! other people are out there! Contacts are forged. This is the real beauty of a Saturn Uranus gridlock. Breakdown shifts to breakthrough. We step beyond the ego’s boundaries and see “other.” Perhaps in an entirely new way. Many good things can come from this insight. Like sharing a sandwich. Telling a story. Finding one’s heart.

Here’s another way to think of the the quality of freshness related to the fallout from a Saturn Uranus clash: You go on a hike and arrive at the hightest point you can climb. You pause, survey. And there is a stillness — a silence that is almost unnerving. Are you alone. Or all one? And the air, opening out to infinity, as Rumi describes it, promises much.

The Norwegian writer Rolf Jacobsen wrote a poem called The Silence Afterwards, and this can give us clues, pointers, nudges — a way to support our newly discovered unlived lives.

Try to be done now
with deliberately provocative actions and sales statistics,
brunches and gas ovens,
be done with fashion shows and horoscopes,
military parades, architectural contests, and the rows of triple traffic lights.
Come through all that and be through
with getting ready for parties and eight possibilities
of winning on the numbers,
cost of living indexes and stock market analyses,
because it is too late,
it is way too late,
get through with and come home
to the silence afterwards
that meets you like warm blood hitting your forehead
and like thunder on the way
and the sound of great clocks striking
that make the eardrums quiver,
because words don’t exist any longer,
there are no more words,
from now on all talk will take place
with the voices stones and trees have.

The silence that lives in the grass
on the underside of every blade
and in the blue spaces between the stones.
The silence
that follows shots and birdsong.
The silence
that pulls a blanket over the dead body
and waits in the stairs until everyone is gone.
The silence
that lies like a small bird between your hands,
the only friend you have.

Painting: Prometheus Brings Fire To Mankind by Heinrich Fueger, 1817.

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Filed Under: Astrology and Poetry