December 28th, 2008

New Moon Watch: That Saturnian Feeling

“Depression opens the door to beauty of some kind.” –James Hillman

There’s one word to summarize the heaven’s predominate theme right now: Saturnine. The dictionary defines Saturnine as “sardonic or sullen.” We’re undoubtably feeling, and perhaps trying to avoid, this demand for sobriety right now. How could we not?

We’ve made it past a momentous election, and probably felt a tinge of postpartum depression after Obama‘s victory in November. And now the December holidays are winding to a close. So our last bit of respite, that tradition of putting things on ‘hold’ towards the close of a year, is about to fold up shop. And where are we positioned? Yesterday’s new moon in Saturn-ruled Capricorn was joined by Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Pluto also in the sign of the Sea-Goat. Venus and Neptune are in Aquarius (which Saturn co-rules) and this planetary pairing echoes the same Saturnian theme. There’s no where to turn or run. Simply put: Heaviness abounds.

The Greeks associated Saturn with gravitas, the quality of substance or depth of personality. Gravitas is a sort of plumb line for the soul and it’s time we employ it. This means creating a way for and welcoming the effects of depression. The Jungian James Hillman has written extensively about depression serving as a curative for the widespread manic activism that dominates our culture. In The Planets Within, Thomas Moore explains: “Feeling low and heavy we are forced to move inward, turning to fantasy rather than the literal action of the ego. And that turn inward is necessary for the soul, for it creates psychic space, a container for deeper reflection where soul increases and the surface of events becomes less important.”

We need this inward turning as a remedial form for establishing balance. In order to make something from nothing — another function of the Saturnian expression — we must first encounter the quiet of the dark, to become inspired and enlivened by that which is beyond the ego’s control — and this can only come from fresh visions, enlivening inculcations from the imaginal realm. Saturn depresses but also establishes. So the second half of the equation is finding a way to give shape to the images, the insights we encounter in Saturn’s gloom-world.

If the Saturnian impulse to create and give substance isn’t utilized — by first welcoming the type of depression that facilitates the process — that same force will turn against us and become tyrannical. Saturn gone wrong places us under the dominion of what Freud defined as our superego. The superego is a function of the psyche comprised of the internalized voices of our parents. Critical admonishments that attempt to control by belittling and bringing attention to our shortcomings. The harsh world of our inner critic. Once the superego is activated it’s very hard to accomplish anything in life. We’re infantilized, cut off from the power of our adulthood. We tend to freeze and venture nothing, leaving us stalled and floundering in the depressive state.

Complicating the necessity for Saturnian sobriety is the ongoing opposition from Saturn to Uranus. The plodding vs. the volatile. Any opposition presents us with the challenge to blend two disparate functions of the psyche into one operating unit. So how do we align Saturn with Uranus, what sort of amalgam is possible between these two antagonistic symbols? The classic dilemma when these two planets meet shows up as someone who is filled with brilliant ideas but is insecure and fearful about putting those plans into action. There’s incredible potential but nothing anchoring the genius to earth.

To work successfully with Saturn and Uranus is to find the right blend between traditional values and structures and modern development and forms. Consider the keywords and see what you can do with them as creating a mixture goes: Saturn: Old, preserving, law, tradition, rules. Uranus: New, reforming, modern, abnormal, surprising. So we get something like: Breaking through and reviving old structures. Going beyond the normal scope. Or the reverse: restriction of freedom. The limits of freedom.

You can feel each of these contradictory expressions in the biosphere right now, jangling about your nervous system. It’s a little crazy-making. The key is to give yourself enough latitude to remain flexibile, open and pliable to whatever shift might occur. Anything goes. Everything can turn on a dime. It’s okay to feel on edge, depressed, excited, agitated, energized and then crestfallen. It’s the cosmic rhythm right now. As Hillman notes, depression can open the door to creating the beautiful. Don’t resist the zig-zagging flow of it all. It’s an excellent lesson in following the seemingly discursive flow of the Tao.

On the world stage the Saturn Uranus opposition conjures a dour Sword of Damocles mood. So we feel the jittery response of Saturn (our bedrock of the familiar, our sense of order and accountability within the state) being challenged by Uranus, the solar system’s wild card planet (reformers, terrorists, liberators, visionaries, eccentrics). The economy is sinking, the Middle East roiling, foreclosures are increasing, bankruptcies, bailouts and stocks are bouncing high and low, unemployment is burgeoning and no one has a clue as to how any of this is going to work itself out. All of this typifies the tense dance between these two planets right now. We ride it out by finding inventive ways to make do with what is left standing and then, too, sustain the courage to acknowledge that cultural catharsis is never comfortable or without sacrifice. And face it like a resourceful adult (another attribute of Saturn.)

The Sabian symbol for the new moon at seven degrees of Capricorn reads: A veiled prophet speaks, seized by the power of a god. Dane Rudhyar interpreted this as: “The ability to act as a mouthpiece for the revelation of a transcendent will and truth determining future action.” This tells us that the atmosphere is charged right now with signs, omens and harbingers — and answers back to my initial point that it is crucial that we not resist the sobering process of depression. The journey downward and inward will put us in direct alignment with the very images, insights and solutions that we need to find sustenance and take solace from.

These aren’t easy times. Life under a Saturn spell never is, but then as the alchemists of old taught us, it’s through our encounter with the lead, that dampened and depressed sense of Saturnian gloom that the gold of new vision and new truth arises. And that’s worth making the journey for.

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