Charles Dickens pulled off a literary first when he gave a detailed account of the aftereffects of spontaneous human combustion in his epic novel Bleak House. The recounting went like this: While sitting and dozing in his cluttered room, Mr. Krook — a grizzled, alcohol-steeped rag merchant — abruptly burst into flames, leaving just a rancid smell and a gruesome pile of skeletal ash in his wake.
Dickens, a writer of keen detail and authenticity was always taken at his word by the public. And so one of the most horrifying images from the 19th Century claimed a spot in the collective imagination.
Even today, tales of spontaneous combustion continue to flare up (sorry) in the tabloids. And if those are not genuine, still, the impression of a human being inadvertently bursting into flames is a striking symbol — both mythic and alchemic.
I recalled Dickens and Mr. Krook while contemplating an illustration to mark Saturn’s entry into Capricorn on December 19. The image is fitting while Saturn closes in behind Pluto’s smoldering trail; a path that appeared like a flash fire after the tiny dynamo entered Capricorn in 2008.
The two planets will conjoin in January of 2020. Take this as an alert from the solar system’s public warning system.
Actually, why wait until 2020 when the world is poised to shift — radically — in just a few days? WINTER IS COMING. And we’re all invited to what is the equivalent of a wedding between Shiva and Father Time. Or One Wedding and a Funeral.
Through A Lens Darkly
The solstice horoscope for 2017 is dreary — sobering. Just as the Sun seems to halt (sol = Sun — sistere = to make stand), the solar stillness is permeated with Saturn’s zero-degree presence in Capricorn, having just entered the sign the evening before.
The life-giving radiance of the Sun merged with Saturn’s leaden pall imparts a somber hue to the start of the New Year. Saturn’s ‘moment in the Sun’ is a preparatory exercise for a shoring up of resolve as we move towards 2020.
Ponder this: As the planet astrologers associate with the reality principle blends with Pluto — the solar system’s black hole generator — what kind of altered consciousness might this tease out from the depths?
True. The promise is both unnerving and exciting — sort of like the surge of energy one experiences right before purging whatever has been hoarded throughout a lifetime. And that’s always a good thing, after the fact. Yes?
We haven’t experienced Saturn making a conjunction with one of the outer planets — Uranus, Neptune and Pluto — in close to thirty years. The last time was in 1988 when Saturn touched off Uranus in Sagittarius and the Soviet Union collapsed. An event that seemed to materialize out of nowhere (a very Uranian theme).
But where Uranus accelerates and shatters, Pluto slowly dematerializes until a flash point is struck — sending everything over an event horizon.
Something to consider: Will Saturn’s upcoming meeting with Pluto burnoff the hallucinogenic fugue that’s defined the global culture since 2008? The solstice chart hints at the start of this process.
On the somatic level, Earthlings experience Saturn like this: “Here! Stop. Look at this event in slow motion. Study this until you’ve aged a bit.” In other words, time suspended allows us to look deeply, to become absorbed within the field that is the Capricorn matrix — that is to say — our collective experience of reality — the goatfish being the most pragmatic sign in the Zodiac.
Because modern Western culture lives primarily from what Gurdjieff called the ‘head center’ — a limited, intellectualized perspective that distances us from the world of feeling — both emotional and physical — the pressure to face facts, to engage in a heartfelt way with the world can seem brutal.
Saturn, with persistence (and constant wake-up calls), ultimately, paves the way for the crown of wisdom. This is doubly so while transiting Capricorn, a sign the planet melds easily with. But the ‘arriving’ of the wisdom can feel one step removed. Delay: One of Saturn’s most grinding tests.
But who wants to see that deeply and clearly? Wouldn’t it be easier to keep reading online op-eds or watching televised talking heads that ‘explain everything’ to us?
When you put the demand to awaken against the fuzzy stupor we’ve lived through since 2008, the perspectival switch is startling. Suddenly the peripheral is emphatically in front of us — and in a high-def way: Depleted bank accounts or life savings that have evaporated, health insurance uncertainties, ‘entitlements’ from the government on the chopping block, trickle-down economics that defy gravity and float back into the wealthiest’s wallets.
Both Capricorn and Saturn tangle us into the corporeal realm of finances — the reality of frugality and austerity; two words that seem anti-American. A bore.
Pluto’s entry into Capricorn in 2008 heralded the systemic collapse of the global financial markets. Too, the ingress marked the moment when the cliched disparity between the ‘haves and have not’ became a criminal act and fact. Following this: A bizarre cognitive dissonance, where the media continued to tout economic improvements while more and more people were setting up tents beneath freeway underpasses. Silicon Valley, one of the wealthiest spots on the planet now sees one in four people situated on the lip of food deprivation.
Who wants to try and untangle the confusing contradictions while efforting to safeguard one’s personal piece of the pie? There’s only so much energy to spend in a day.
So it’s understandable that we’ve all been gazing down and into the screen of our mobile phones, trying to find another New York Times article to explain it all, to suss out one more tidbit of information that will make everything fit. But forget it. Solutions will not come from more information, more data, more social networking, more texting, more sharing. More nonsense.
One uneasy orchestration from Saturn and Pluto’s minor chords? We fall back on our own instincts and gumption. As more people unplug from media drone we can expect even louder obfuscation. Info merchants have become just as addicted to commanding eyeballs as we’ve become in following every blip and belch that stokes their coffers. That’s one co-dependent relationship ready to hit its tipping point. Timber!
Pluto’s twenty-year transit through Capricorn (of which we have seven more years) can be viewed in the same way that waste is generated from within nuclear power plants. What to do with the toxic byproduct? Meaning: as Capricornian matrices collapse (patriarchial worldviews and government-sanctioned safety nets designed to protect the less fortunate) in tandem with Pluto’s glacial transit, deflection from the failing system generates what I call ‘propagandistic denial’. All collapsing countries do this.
Collective hallucinations are toxic, the phenomenon foments events like fake news, nationalism, Cold Wars, Donald Trump, and perversely, on the other end of the spectrum: Stock market highs that shatter historical records and technological monopolies that mutate into new religions. Remember that eerie tone poem-movie from the 1980s, Koyaanisqatsi (a Hopi term for ‘life out of balance’)? Well, that.
Planets shifting signs are similar to one organ in your body becoming more sensitized and active than another. Although all of our organs work in harmony, they constantly adjust and monitor the way consciousness maintains health and cohesiveness. Capricorn and Saturn are associated with the skeleton and the skin, the brick and mortar — the structure and boundary of our being. How we are structured, both physically and psychologically, is responding to the overhaul. The building inspector has arrived to check the floorboards, the drywall, the siding — the very ground that our house is built upon. Note: Pluto is associated with termites. Hmmmm.
Viewed psychologically, Capricorn and Saturn are defensive by nature. Defense mechanisms maintain the equilibrium between you and the world. The defenses also keep you crammed into your limited and familiar sense of self, an identity that’s probably moved beyond its sell-by-date. The belief — perhaps false? — is that you must have protections in place against the seeming chaos beyond the boundaries of your life. But is this true? As Hermann Hesse noted: “Chaos demands to be recognized and experienced before letting itself be converted to a new order.”
As I’ve told clients throughout the year, it’s best to acclimate to the idea that every aspect of life that they associate with sanity and security will experience an overhaul in the New Year.
That leaden feeling you’re experiencing now? That’s akin to the alchemist’s retort, where all the cooking, smoking, icing and burning takes place. It’s difficult to endure, but when Saturn and a transpersonal planet, like Pluto, become resonant, we don’t experience a sense of choice or volition. As Earthlings, we participate equally in the Gaian Mind, nature’s process of evo- and devo-lution. We’re part and parcel the farm. Try to land on the ascending arc if you can.
Sacrifice as Strategy
A solstice ceremony? A gesture?
Burn (Pluto) stuff (Saturn) up tonight. Give items away to the needy. Outline how you are going to end spent relationships — or gift yourself with a dramatic break on Christmas day. Leave your family if they are harmful to your psychological wellbeing. Take an aim to minimize how much time you steep within infoglut.
Contemplate what happens to bone and ash when they are recycled into the Earth’s circle of life — the Great Chain of Being. Nothing is ever gone. Nothing ever disappears. This is matter’s winning secret.
Isn’t it ironic, that within all the lofty speculation, pontification, and dogma that spirituality offers us — supposed insights about ‘soul’, ‘spirit’, ‘reincarnation’ and ‘life after death’ — that only the body goes on forever? Everything you and I are composed of was present at the Big Bang (whatever that was), was present pre-Big Bang (wherever that was) and will be present, as reconstituted matter, after we are buried or burnt.
Exciting to ponder isn’t it? Start the New Year with that revelation.
And then light a candle. Winter is here.