Aspects of Life
In this issue of The Mutable Dilemma, we come to the structure of Letter 10, with Saturn being the planetary representative. Much has been made in the astrological literature of the Saturn/Saturn contacts. Budding astrologers look forward to their first Saturn Return (transiting Saturn conjuncting its natal position, occurring about age 28 1/2 to 31) with mixtures of dread, anticipation and excitement. However, this pattern, although it can be quite significant, is not inevitably so. A number of people have quite uneventful lives during their Saturn Returns (a second occurs around 59-61) and wonder what all the fuss is about!
For some individuals, Saturn/Sun contacts, Saturn/Ascendant aspects or other configurations are associated with more action than the Saturn Return. There is no “automatic” key that signals something for everyone. If Saturn is strongly placed in your chart, such as one of the points of a T-square, it is more likely that aspects to Saturn could represent events, but even then they are not inevitable. Psychologically, Saturn points to a focus on facing facts and dealing with material reality. (“Facts” are ultimately physically observable and demonstrable from the Saturnian perspective.) Overt outer changes in the life are common when there is a cardinal emphasis in the chart.
Zip’s metaphor of a report card is still the best I know for Saturn. During periods when Saturn is prominent (or other forms of Letter 10, including rulers of the 10th house and planets in the 10th as well as Capricorn), we are facing the fruits of our past actions. The chickens come home to roost, as the old cliché has it. In reaping our Saturnian harvest, we get a good measure of how well (or not) we have been living with the basic laws of the universe.
Unfortunately, most astrologers still assume that Saturn periods will be full of limitation, restriction and cutting back in some form. This is a sad reflection of their view of reality. When we face such a narrowing of lifestyle in a Saturn period, it mirrors the fact that we have been overextended—trying to do more than was possible—or not attending to necessary responsibilities. It is true that the Saturn Return can be a time of retrenchment, of changing the structure of our life because the old ways don’t “fit” anymore. People do indeed change careers, change relationships, start families, end families and make other alterations in the basic structure of their lives. (Daniel Levinson, author of Seasons of a Man’s Life, which looked at the developmental patterns among men in a longitudinal study, concluded that NO life structure—no matter how effective—could last more than 7 to 10 years. Life is growth and change. Periodically we must alter that “way things are” in order to progress.
The irony of life is that people develop patterns to cope with reality, only to face the prospect of having to change those established patterns as other facets of reality emerge. Letter 10 is associated with the reality principle: facing facts, being practical, handling the material world in a successful manner. It is a key to life structures, including all bureaucracies, established systems, authorities and traditions. Yet that same reality principle demands periodic alterations in those structures.
Saturn periods put a focus on being pragmatic in the material world. Physical coping and basic survival can be issues. Career and earning a living are often significant. The question of what is really possible is an important focus. What can the individual realistically do? What can that person NOT do? What are the responsibilities that must be carried out?
If we have been doing all that we can within the realistic limits of the physical plane, Saturn Returns or other Saturn/Saturn contacts can be periods of much flowering and reaping the most fulfilling of consequences. As Karma, Saturn denotes feedback. When we have sown the best of seeds, we harvest the sweetest of fruit. Many people experience promotions, increased recognition, positive changes in the home, in relationships (especially business, one’s role in society) or in other areas which are rewarding.
Saturn can be thought of as signifying a time of both a report card (“How am I doing?”) and also a final exam (“Have I got this part of life under control?”). When we have built a good foundation, we experience positive results. (I find it especially ironic that so many astrologers think of Saturn first and foremost as difficult or limiting when the Roman Saturnalias were famous for their nonstop revelry, orgiastic feasting and general merrymaking!)
Letter 10 has some strong parallels with Letter 6, although the focus is much broader (more transpersonal) with Letter 10. Common questions would be: “Does this work? Is this functional? Is this practical?” Where Letter 6 is more concerned with smaller details and everyday concerns, Letter 10 is more concerned with the broader perspective: “Is this the right career for me? Is this a lifestyle that suits my current needs? Is this relationship a healthy one for me? Am I meeting my life purpose? Have I found my calling?” In a very real sense, Letter 10 is attempting to manifest the dreams and aspirations of Letter 9 in the material plane. Goals, values and ideals are translated into a way of life, a professional role in society, physical manifestations.
During Saturn periods, people will often work hard, be more disciplined and concentrate on material measurements of success. Particularly when individuals have been playing a lot, a Saturn theme calls for a return to Puritan virtues: duty, perseverance, thrift, applied effort and toil. For strong fire/air types, Saturn themes may appear overly limiting and not much fun. People who have been getting a “free ride” in certain areas discover that there is a price after all. Their responsibilities catch up to them and may appear to be even weightier than before. When the essential practicalities of life are ignored too long, the task of creating a viable structure for living can be even more formidable.
Conversely, strong earth and water types may get a lot of pleasure out of Saturn periods. If they have built solid, practical structures for their lifestyles, they may enjoy the safety and security of living within those established structures. If they have planned ahead and worked steadily and well, they are often reaping deserved rewards during Saturn periods and may experience them as times of relative ease.
Of course, the mud type (or any other) can also take life too seriously with Saturn aspects. Depression is a potential, especially if the attention is focused on blocks or limits in the life rather than what can be done. Some people will succumb to a workaholic stance during such periods. Structure can be overdone. When crystallization is excessive within a system, or in an inappropriate environment (e.g., kidney stones, gout), we suspect an excess of the principles Saturn indicates: rigidity rather than form, bureaucracy rather than organization, obsessive order rather than meaningful consistency.
Saturn is a key to tangible achievements. Success builds on success for those who logically and realistically assess what is necessary to attain their goals. Measurable results assure the individual the personal satisfaction of mastering another section of the path to accomplishment. By paying attention to and building on what works, the person continues a winning strategy. Those who focus on their failures or perceived roadblocks (from the world, authority figures, their own assumed inadequacy or lack of power) set themselves up for a spiral of frustration and not measuring up.
Being grounded in the material plane is one of the foci of a Saturn period. If you experience blocking or limitation, take a deep breath and step back a bit (mentally) from the situation. Then figure out what you can do that will give you measurable results and put you even the smallest step toward your ultimate goal. Next, dig in and do it! Savor your success and then move on to the next success!
An example would be the person who is diagnosed as a diabetic. She has options as to how she reacts to that medical assessment. She can curtail her activities, feel sorry for herself and feel blocked and limited by her heredity. She can ignore expert advice, refuse to change the structure or pattern of her life and do perhaps even more damage to her health. She can obtain other opinions, read up on diabetes, experiment with diet, exercise, insulin, mind control and whatever else appeals to discover what she can do successfully under the circumstances. She can set meaningful, measurable goals in terms of physical activities in which she participates, tasks she accomplishes, etc. The latter options are much more likely to create successes that build on one another.
The irony of Saturn is that first we recognize limitation. Then, we strive to work practically within our perceived limits. Often, we discover our pragmatic discipline has taken us beyond those perceived limits (as the rings of Saturn turn out to be thin layers of ice and snow rather than firm barriers). The process continues as we discover new perceived limits.
We are “reality testing” as Freud called it. And, while living on the material plane, reality testing is a major focus for humans. We can make it a trial and a burden, a playful game, a joyful discovery, or a source of never ending investigation. The choice is ours.
Although there is some natural conflict here, these two sides of life do also build strongly on one another. With Letter 10 alone, we can have extreme crystallization and be locked into a structure which is no longer healthy. With Letter 11 alone, we can have constant chaos, instability and fluctuation. Saturn denotes the necessary rules and regulations we need to cope with a physical existence. Learning would be very difficult in a world in constant flux. By having a certain amount of consistency within physical structures, we learn through experience and can depend on certain logical consequences being duplicated. When we don’t know the rules of the game, we learn through trial and error. When we know and play by the rules, we have power within the structure of those rules. Uranus symbolizes the creativity, innovation and the inventiveness to enable us to alter, adapt and renovate or transcend the structures in new and interesting ways. Uranus is intuitive and indicates the ability to make a leap of understanding—skipping many of the plodding steps Saturn would take. But if those Uranian leaps are not based on a firm foundation (Saturn) of understanding, we are likely to fall on our faces (or at least our egos) rather than flying through the air.
Harmony aspects imply we can blend the old and the new, the conventional and unconventional, traditional and progressive, conservative and radical. There are two basic options for such blending—which can be expressed in a multitude of individual ways.
We can choose to examine a given structure (from something as simple as a bookcase of bricks and boards to something as complex as our political/economic system) and pragmatically assess where improvements are needed. We can then creatively invent alternatives. Hopefully, we test the efficacy of our modifications, continuing to refine and improve. The end result carries the skeleton of the old, but much renovated by new ideas.
A second choice is to discard the old structure and build a new one. Here we go outside the current, traditional system with a new (perhaps revolutionary—at least innovative) model. However, this fresh approach must be grounded and manifested, so we are still building a new structure (pattern) even if based on a very different perspective.
Either path requires constant interplay between the two sides. Often we must make judgment calls—”That’s too old and no longer functional, discard it...That’s too radical and unworkable—forget it...” Depending on the individual, we may be more inclined to overdo the principles of Uranus or express too much Saturn. And, of course, we may swing from one extreme to the other. Excesses are not at all uncommon with harmony aspects. But the fact that these two do really need one another can assist the integration process.
Conflict aspects imply an inner ambivalence, a struggle within over these principles. The 60’s and 70’s protests provided some archetypal examples of this conflict. On the one hand, we had rebellious, unconventional, weird protesters who dressed “strangely”, wore their hair long and objected to a number of cultural traditions (war, racism, sexism, materialism) but also to issues such as “practical” versus “fulfilling” classes at universities, dress codes, sexual mores, etc. Some of them seemed to rebel against everything and automatically take the opposite extreme of whatever “the Establishment” seemed to espouse. On the other side, we had the individuals in power roles who felt a responsibility to protect “the system” and to enforce controls, who believed that law and order were supremely important to society. We had the stereotype of “Don’t trust anyone over 30” and the stereotype of the “hippie-Commie-pervert-freak-bum” (usually said in one breath).
Both sides exhibited extreme behavior at times; neither side was completely right or completely wrong. The confrontation, however, did change the face of America. I think most people would agree we have a more open society now than we did in the 1950s. Those of us with prominent Uranus may work for even more change and innovation, but at least society’s attitudes have changed. Separate lunch counters for blacks and whites are no longer acceptable (though still practiced by some). I see room for vastly more progress, but do acknowledge some changes have been made. (Is the Reagan reelection a harbinger of a move toward conservatism and a return to the “law and order at any cost” mentality as several of our outer planets move into Capricorn—Letter 10—in the 80s and 90s?)
One form of Saturn/Uranus (Letter 10/Letter 11) conflicts is the clash between executive (President) and legislature (Congress). When an “Imperial” President oversteps his bounds and tries to make his own will into law, he forgets he is just assigned the role of “executor”—to fulfill certain prescribed functions. It is not part of his role to seek additional power and functions.
When a legislature strives to run a country, they discover that a group of individuals, even with relative consensus, lacks the central authority to accomplish projects and enforce regulations quickly and easily. That was one of the problems of the Articles of Confederation. None of the feisty thirteen former colonies wanted to give up their independence by giving authority and control to a strong central government.
There are those who argue that a dictatorship is the most efficient form of government. It is true that democracy takes time (all that discussion!) and willingness to participate (i.e. think and vote). But, it also depends on your goals.
One of the jokes (?) about World War II is that “at least Hitler got the trains to run on time.” When you have a known, measurable goal, Saturn often works very well. Direct authority and power can be quite effective. But such systems usually stagnate rapidly, as the central authority resists any innovation as a threat to his/her power position.
In a democracy or a legislature—at least in theory—ideas percolate. Creativity abounds. Group processes aid brainstorming. Constant flux is a rule because total consensus does not occur. Alternatives and suggestions come up and are tried out. And new alternatives and suggestions follow in time. Ideally, the populace does not experience every little variation, but tries the alternatives which seem growthful to the majority. (Constant fluctuation and change with each person trying what s/he pleases would be pure Uranus and pure anarchy. NO group has yet been able to make such a system function effectively.) Part of the function of a legislature is to get rid of or modify old laws which are no longer helpful and to invent new ones when altered circumstances make that appropriate.
As individuals, we are constantly making choices between our inner executive and legislature. In a given situation, we decide, “I’ll follow the path that worked before,” or “Let me think about my alternatives here. I could do X, Y, Z...” We may switch from one to the other. “The old rules didn’t work, so now what can I do?” or “I don’t have time to debate alternatives. I’ll try the usual approach.” Etc. Health means keeping a reasonable balance of structure, order, known ability (Saturn) and change, innovation, fluctuation (Uranus) in our lives.
Just as Letters 10 and 11 need one another, so do Letters 10 and 12. Neptune without Saturn can be a space cadet and Saturn without Neptune can be a heartless martinet. With Letter 12, we dream, idealize, visualize and seek a more beautiful, harmonious, loving and ideal world. With Letter 10, we concretize, systematize, make manifest and face the facts of the physical world. When integrated, we commonly see the realistic mystic, the pragmatic, effective savior or helper/healer, the professional artist—anyone who is creating his/her dreams here on Earth and making them real. Saturn/Neptune individuals may bring beauty into form through sewing, painting, sculpture, films or any other artistic route. They may manifest their visions through medicine, emotional healing or other forms of assistance to the human race. They combine inspiration (Neptune) and perspiration (Saturn) for optimal results.
With harmony aspects, the implication is that our unconscious faith, our sense of connection to something Larger, our yearning for the Absolute is in harmony with our practical assessments of the physical world. Simply put, our dreams fit well into reality. Of course, we still must make the integration, avoiding either extreme. With conflict aspects, we have to work a little harder to achieve integration, finding the complementary needs of Saturn and Neptune rather than the conflicts.
People who overdo the Neptune side spend their lives searching for a Cosmic Santa Claus, waiting for ships to come in, dreaming of that lottery they are going to win, expecting some magical potion or person or job or situation or benefactor to come along and make life all beautiful. They may run away, with Neptune, when the world is less than perfect—into fantasy, daydreaming, TV, sleeping a lot, drugs, alcohol, etc.
People who overdo the Saturn side may live the classic lives of “quiet desperation”. They complete their sterile tasks and carry out their assigned responsibilities—with no sense of meaning. The grandeur, the beauty, the ecstasy of the Universe does not touch them. Their lives are narrow, restricted to physical reality—with no sense of anything Higher. Anxiety and depression may be their companions since materialism offers only the view of one insignificant being among 4 billion, a chance creation of a random process on a world that is just one small, insignificant speck in a vast universe.
Some people express just enough of their Neptune side to feel that there OUGHT to be something more (“Is that all there is?”) Life can seem harshest of all to them. Their yearning for something more may lead them to try a number of spiritual approaches or to seek gurus or put a relationship on a pedestal, or idealize their work, or try to see perfection in a limited part of life, but disillusionment inevitably follows whenever what/who they make into a “god” turns out to be finite. Some people short-circuit their developing faith and inspiration by demanding immediate, physically measurable results. They may pooh-pooh their own aspirations and fear to trust the reachings of their Higher Self. By focusing on flaws and shortcomings, they bring themselves back to the “real world” which offers the security of the known. But the disappointment and disillusionment of our finite, material existence is all the more keen, after experiencing the sense of brief Connection to All which Neptune symbolizes.
For such people, life is never good enough. There is always a flaw, something that keeps them from perfection. They halt the process of Merging with the Universe by their critical, analytical focus or by idealizing a limited part of life and are immediately brought down to Earth with a disappointing crash. (The moral of the story is: Don’t tie yourself to a rock while reaching for the stars.)
Neptune epitomizes the Cosmic Source—All That Is. When we reconnect, we feel refreshed, revitalized, inspired and ready for anything. Life seems more vital, more exciting. Colors seem more vibrant. The smallest of life’s wonders can set our hearts soaring.
There are those who seek such feelings all the time—and turn to escapist paths when unable to obtain such a response in other ways. Part of our role here is to deal with the physical world. Why else manifest in a body? Neptune reconnects us with Heaven. Saturn is our anchor to the Earth. Between the two, our challenge is to bring, as much as possible, those ecstatic, heavenly, awe-inspiring feelings from the Cosmos into our physical world, to share with others, to create anew, to discover new paths and variations of the experience of Life and Love.