SATURN BLUES: making the most of our darkest moods

The picture I have chosen to describe the Saturn effect is one of the many wonderful cartoons by accomplished satirical artist Michael Leunig (Australia). I have re-constructed this one from a fuzzy image on the net. For more art work by Leuinig please visit his official site: http://www.leunig.com.au/. This sensitive artist is great at expressing the feeling of those oceanic blues we all occasionally experience, and that, for some, are an everyday occurrence.

I’m publishing here some Saturn material I wrote nearly ten years ago. I was drawn to reflect on depression on the strange ecliptic night of June 26 2010. The eclipsed Full Moon in late Sagittarius (on top of my natal Chiron and opposing my natal Mercury-Mars in Gemini and my natal Cancer Sun) was in conjunction to transiting Pluto in early Capricorn (also in opposition to my Cancer Sun) and in square to transiting Saturn in late Virgo (aligned to my own natal Saturn). This event had therefore a palpable darkening effect on my soul, despite the beauty of the clouds speckled Moon entering the Earth’s shadow.
Since then this article has been languishing among the many drafts I never managed to post in full. In good saturnine fashion (having been born with the Sun, Mercury, Mars and Chiron in T square to Saturn) I didn’t think the material good enough to bring out, feeling it needed further editing.
Seeking perfection we often become paralyzed and ineffectual, a very saturnine handicap. Accepting the unavoidable limitations and shortcomings of any enterprise can be instead liberating. So here it is.

How to make sense of depression

When there isn’t an obvious cause of depression, like a serious loss, illness, grave financial difficulties etc., we ask ourselves: from where those feelings of hopelessness are coming from? And do they have any positive or constructive side?

Your whole being revolts against the dark tide of nothingness that you know is coming to envelope everything, tainting all your experiences and relationships, but you feel powerless to alt it.

How to make sense of depression and look this condition in the eye without resorting to medications to numb the unbearable feelings?

Astrology can help because it employs an archetypal language, meaning a universal language of symbols that anyone can relate to, being devoid of judgement and non personal. Through the lens of Astrology depression is just another human condition that we all need to experience, at some time and at some level, as we all go through potentially depressive transits and progressions. The main thing is not to unduly prolong those influences and, most importantly, to understand the reasons behind them and unravel the positive role they can play in the evolution of consciousness.

There is much that is positive about anti-depressant and I am not denying here the usefulness of these drugs when the depressive condition is acute and debilitating. But we also need to remember that when a depressed person is on medication the actual condition is still going on, only muffled and eased by the numbing drugs. The underlying cause of depression cannot be addressed by medication alone, because the individual is never given a chance to understand his/her state by actually going through the stages of the depressive journey!

Which are the Blues’ astrological indicators?

If you have a ‘strong’ Saturn or Pluto or even Neptune in your Birth Chart (angular, aspecting either of the Luminaries and any of the ‘personal’ planets Mercury, Venus, Mars or being Ruler or co-ruler of the Ascendant or in aspect with it) you are due to a bout of the blues, during some astrologically stressful times.

They say Saturn is the king of the Blues. Yes, it is true, but like some Roman emperors who ruled in a Triumvirate (three-men show), Saturn is not the sole ruler of depression, because he shares his empire with two other kings, his own sons, Pluto and Neptune. I will attempt to describe their contribution to depression in a future post. For now we concentrate on Saturn.

The Alchemist of Renaissance Europe devised a whole process (Opus) by which they could live through the most difficult experiences and not only survive them but acquire power from them. Astrology and Alchemy use similar symbols to indicate different states of mind and stages of the Opus, each a step toward greater wholeness.
For instance, in both astrological and alchemical texts we find that the planet Saturn was recognized as the main culprit for the surge of melancholic and heavy moods.  In Alchemy Saturn used to preside over the stage of crystallization, when the individual is faced with all the physical and environmental limitations of an earthly life. Liz Greene, in her great astrological book ‘Dynamics of the Unconscious’, describes this stage as a sort of entombment. Some alchemical texts depicted it with the image of a King, the Ego, dead in a coffin.

Depression and workaholic behavior

The first observation I want to make is that depressing feelings aren’t necessarily conscious. They can indeed remain unconscious while tainting the general quality of our life.  Often, especially when Saturn is the main culprit, we tend to cover up our inner feelings of despondency, insecurity and unworthiness by working harder, stuffing our lives with extra duties and responsibilities. Ask any workaholic about the depth of loneliness one can experience through all that forced labor: being busy can help to forget, for a time, the dark whale of the night.

What I am suggesting here is that we begin exploring the darkness on the inside of the whale because there are unknown jewels to be found and, while seeking those, one may even found a way out of the gloom. First of all we got to begin to think positively about depression, realize how interesting it is and how much it can tell us about ourselves. Stop covering up the depressing thoughts with artificial or excessive busyness. Rather pose and feel them in all their awfulness.

Saturn and loss of meaning

The Saturnine aspect of depression has especially to do with the loss of meaning in life, in one’s activities and relationships. When the physical world and our personal experiences and limitations become the whole there is, soon or later depression will set in. It could take many different forms. For some will be an illness, making them more dramatically aware of their mortality. For others a loss of meaning in their jobs and chosen profession, or serious financial difficulties that seem to mock their continued efforts. Saturn can negatively affect all aspects of life, including, of course, relationships. We feel alone, cold, unloved, unable to express our feelings and affection for fear of rejection. Via Saturn we are forced to grow up from early romantic notions we may have had about love, family, friends.

When we experience a Saturn’s transit this way we are really shutting our eyes to the positive. We are simply interpreting something that is happening the wrong way.

As we grow up something within us wants to stay young. It is natural. After all we describe maturing and adapting to the different stages of our lives as going through the ‘growing pains’. We need to accept responsibilities for our lives, the joys as well as the pains. If something within us remains childish, and we keep on looking for guidance or solutions outside oneself, expecting to be always supported, soon or later we will discover we are the only ones who can support ourselves, and find solutions to our problems. At this stage we can experience disappointment and even deep sadness, like babies weaned from their mother’s milk. We are discovering a very simple reality of life: that once your growing up period is concluded you are alone to decide for your own destiny, to create the material and emotional security you need to survive. Unless you become an authority in your own right Saturn will always affect you negatively.

Dealing with Saturn’s emotional scarification

Facing Saturn problems (such as lack of hope, lack of initiative, fears, procrastination, low self-esteem) in a fair and square way, with supreme honesty, will be the most appropriate way to deal with a powerful Saturn transit or just an innate (natal) Saturn’s tendency toward depression. Taking stock, assessing your routines, work, responsibilities, finances, commitments in order to establish your degrees of success and/or failure, not just on your own terms but in the terms of the society you live in. How you score? What can be improved? These are the questions you need to ask yourself, without wallowing in self-pity or becoming paralyzed by dread. While guilt is one of the truly malignant side effects of a half digested Saturn, there is something positive even in guilt, if we manage to strip from it the emotional wallowing that often accompanies it. At the root of guilt there is a sense of not having done our best, and there is some truth in this in everyone experience if we could look at it with some objectivity. To be mindful and honest, to do our part and contribute in some way to family, community, society are basic Saturn’s demands, often ignored at our own peril.

I like to add here a few more words about Saturn and the self-perpetuating fear of failure.

Fear of failure is one of the most negative side of Saturn when prominent in the Birth Chart (character and early formative years) and in Transits and Progressions (life changing and character building opportunities). Anticipating failure reduce the ability to strive toward our goals. Why try if we already feel we are not going to make it? Or even: why strive to achieve anything when we will eventually lose it? Because nothing lasts, nothing is really important, life has no meaning. From one thought to another, slowly but surely Saturn, when experienced without sufficient awareness, can lead us to believe that there isn’t much sense in anything, or build such a barrier of fear that moving forward becomes impossible.

‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s’

The above is a sentence from Matthew’s Gospel that encapsulates very well the right attitude needed to deal with the demands of Saturn, the cosmic task master. Caesar, the generic name of all Roman emperors, is the power to be we all have to pay our taxes to in order to be acknowledged as worthy contributors to the collective good.

Like the double-faced Roman god Janus (as Saturn associated with the Sign Capricorn and with people in authority like the emperors) Saturn has two very distinct faces. One face is focused on the world, looking to the past as the repository of practical wisdom born of experience. This side of Saturn is necessary to assure some continuity, to establish rules of social behavior, to basically guide us to function in the world and succeed in achieving our goals, via careful planning, method and hard work. If we however concentrate only on this face of Saturn we will become prone to all the negative potentials described earlier. Saturn can then stifle our creativity, limit our true potentials and eventually bring dissatisfaction, paralyzing fears and cynicism. This obvious aspect of Saturn is very well exemplified by his relative position in the solar system’s hierarchy. Saturn in fact is the last of the visible planet, its famous rings restricting our vision of whatever is above and beyond our physical perception of reality, often limiting our expansion due to the demands of early societal and family conditioning.

The other face of Janus/Saturn instead looks outward, to the invisible realms of Chiron, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, symbols of higher consciousness and more refined, inclusive perceptions of ‘reality’.

It becomes clear from all of this that before we can leap into the unknown and higher states of consciousness we need to pass through the gates of Saturn and pay to him a fee, as right of passage to the higher realms. To pass the narrow gates of Saturn we have to demonstrate the maturity and sense of personal responsibility which are the necessary perquisites to gain metaphysical experiences, tapping into higher creativity, true original thinking, compassion, spirituality and eventually be ready to let go of all worldly entanglements.

It may seem a contradiction that we actually need to be grounded and responsible before being uplifted to better things, but such is the ambivalence of the human condition, of human beings uniquely divided between our animal and angelic natures.

Conclusion

There is no silver bullet to get rid of depression, even if ‘getting rid’ of it could be a wise thing to do. The ways of Saturn are often difficult and tortuous, the ‘Narrow Gate’ of Matthew’s Gospel (was he a Capricorn or strongly Saturnine person? I wonder). Only ‘working’ through stuff we can hope to reveal the friendly face of Saturn, once king of the Golden Age of abundance and contentment.