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The Evolution of an Archetype
Who reigns? There was the Heaven and Earth at first, And Light and Love; then Saturn, from whose throne Time fell, an envious shadow: such the state Of the earth's primal spirits beneath his sway ...
A book on Saturn's transit must necessarily be prefaced by a brief exploration of its origins and evolution and the shifting imagery which time has created. Therefore we shall look at Saturn from his original position as a Titan and archetype of the castrating, child-eating Kronos, through his reign over the numinous Golden Age, into his agrarian Roman persona, his subsequent astrological position as the Great Malefic of Ptolemy and Fermicus Maternus, his renaissance at the hands of the Neoplatonist philosophers and, finally, as the planet, with our own twentieth-century view of what was once the boundary of the solar system. This brief inquiry into Saturn's manifestations is simply a prelude to examination of the astrological Saturn and its function in the horoscope, and how we view that old malefic as it transits the birthchart.
To suggest that archetypes change is to belie their nature. An archetype is a primal and immutable image (the Greek archetupos means first or original imprint or stamp, as in the minting of a new coin). The concept of archetypes is ancient - Pythagoras' harmonic spheres are archetypes of frequencies that can be replicated in seemingly infinite ways but retain their original tone or chord. Plato's ideal forms, which existed in a perfect plane, were the basis upon which all matter was designed; somewhere in the ether a 'shape' existed which antedated any material or even conceptual form. For example, beauty cannot be defined, may be depicted only imperfectly and exists only as a resonance; a beautiful sculpture can be sensed and visually appreciated, but what exactly is it that makes it beautiful? Not comparison with one that is not beautiful for one senses beauty before one sees it.
There are archetypes that establish prototypical psychological actions and reactions as well, much like the ideal forms of Plato were the basis upon which all matter was modelled. Also like the ideal forms, the psychological archetypes exist in a dimension inaccessible to consciousness. Retained deep in the unconscious, in the psyche, and emerging in dreams or through external projection they are never pure but are distortions of, or variations on, the theme of the archetype itself. The theory of psychological archetypes as postulated and amplified by Carl Jung states that there are particular images harboured in the psyche that are consistent in all human beings and manifest across all cultural boundaries. In order for one to believe that one's unconscious holds images that are common to all cultures, one must first believe that such a psychic repository for these collective symbols does in fact exist. Since I am not going to submit a thesis on the validity of archetypes, and though I will use the term loosely, it is in the context of Jung's idea that there is a remarkable transmission of imagery from deep within the unconscious mind into the conscious mind. This imagery and symbolic representation knows no bounds and appears spontaneously in all myths, art and religious iconography as each culture interprets the archetype in its own way. The consistency of the archetypal image is extraordinary and clearly visible even in its cultural dress.
Although by strict definition of the term an archetype does not change, it does seem to endure transmutation through cultural interpretation. That Saturn has seized the minds of artists and philosophers since the origins of Western literacy (and clearly the archetype of Saturn predates literacy) is proof of the power of an image. Though the archetype may exist in its pure form in the collective psyche it is still an image that must be differentiated and transmitted through culture. It is that transmission that interests me.
To suggest that an archetype evolves might seem somewhat heretical, yet it is in line with the theory of cultural transmission that archetypal expression does evolve. This evolution can be seen in the incorporation of images into the collective unconscious which are in turn externalized in the form of cultural laws, mores and religions. These images are further differentiated and personalized in the individual's psyche and subsequently emerge as personality traits, specific beliefs and ethics that are apparently unique to that individual. The emergence of an archetypal image in a social or philosophical context is marked always by changes in its form, but never in its original statement. Saturn is still Kronos by another name. The arcane obsession with Saturn, the struggle to come to terms with his powerful image, has never ceased. Of all the Greek gods that populate the horoscope, this is the one most frequently grappled with, not only by astrologers. Kronos/Saturn has never changed fundamentally, but our personal experience of him is tailored to our unconscious need first of all to obey a cosmic law and secondly to challenge that law.
In the course of life, we encounter all the manifestations of the archetypes that underlie the Saturnian experience. Some of them are particularly primordial, some more civilized, others distinctly current in their message. The level on which Saturn operates at different times for an individual will be entirely dependent on that person. The consistency of Saturnian archetypes as they present themselves in the conscious mind or as they appear in the environment lies in the timing of the transit and the quality of that time; that is, certain predictable moods or feelings will prevail and will embody the same essential message even though the lessons of Saturn are wholly unique to the individual experiencing the transit and often appear to be completely different. Greater understanding of Saturn (and most importantly, oneself) in all possible manifestations, assists us in gaining insight into what it is that is currently at issue in our lives, particularly feelings of self-worth, responsibility, accountability, self-empowerment, authoritativeness and independence. When transiting Saturn makes a contact in the natal chart we learn about certain complexes in our psyches from the images and circumstances that arise during the time of the contact.
Jung thought that complexes were an essential part of the psyche. Complexes are not bad or neurotic by definition, but are clusters of images or ideas with a similar tone that gather together to form what appears to be an autonomous trait. At the base of the complex is an archetype and the emergence of the complex is a result of the human contact or experience of the person who is expressing the archetype. In the case of Saturn, one of the most powerful archetypal images is father-authority, an inherent expectation in all human beings. If the real father basically conforms to the expectations of the child (who holds the archetype in his or her mind) then the resulting 'father complex' will be fundamentally healthy. Should the real father differ vastly from the archetypal image in the child's psyche, then the father complex will be distorted and problems will be created around issues of authority and power. This follows through for the various other Saturnian archetypes: Father Time; the Grim Reaper: Death; the Wise Old Man: the Senex; the Castrator; the Devourer; the Good King; the Judge of Heroes and the Taskmaster. Every expression of a Saturnian archetype has its dark and corrosive side as well as its developmental and useful intent.
Traditional astrology has identified Saturn and its astrological characteristics adequately, but perhaps without much importance placed on its archetypal origins and their evolution in the collective Western psyche. In the words of Franz Cumont, astrology is 'an English translation of a Latin translation of a Greek translation of a Babylonian nomenclature'. Not only have the subsequent literary translations altered our perceptions of astrology, but the various permutations that its imagery has undergone through time have altered our perspectives, while simultaneously we have altered astrology by our changing perspectives.
Given that much may have been lost in the translation, perhaps we can venture some of our own conclusions about the qualities of Saturn based on his mythological, social and philosophical roles. Considering that the astrological symbols are archetypes in themselves, and that our sources for naming these archetypes are millennia old, perhaps we should look at Saturn as he appeared first in his mythological form. Our current view of Saturn is an amalgam of the various characteristics with which he has been identified and which make up his psychology. The ancient gods in myth are essentially the well-spring, the source, of astrology and the stories that we have of Saturn/Kronos are revealing indeed!
Astrology interprets Saturn as the boundary and definition of existence, whether that is the body, the consciousness or the social realm. As we shall see, as a god and, more precisely, as a Titan, he was the instrument for the separation of Gaia and Ouranos, Earth and Heaven, body and mind-soul. In those acts he became the creator of finiteness; in those acts he participated actively in the separation of the imaginal realm from the tangible form, creating a horizon within which worldly concerns are enacted.
Astronomically, Saturn is the visual boundary of the solar system. Beyond Saturn lie the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, which represent various forms of the transpersonal experience. The outer planets account for experiences that take place in 'heaven' or in non-linear sacred time, whereas the planets from Saturn inward to the Sun deal with the earthly plane, or profane time - that which can be accounted for in the physical world. We are going to examine Saturn in all of his manifestations. My primary concern is to illuminate Saturn as the planet that binds us to incarnation and stands as the guardian at the gateway between the world of form and the imaginal realm, and keeps up a constant reminder that the embodiment of the perfect form is essential to manifesting a constructive Saturn in our lives. Liz Greene calls him 'The Dweller on the Threshold', and indeed he is – mythologically, psychologically, astrologically, philosophically and astronomically.
Before the sighting of the outer planets, astrology defined the world of form stringently in accord with what appeared to be immutable laws. All action was symbolically reflected in the natures of the planets from the Sun outward to Saturn. Synchronous with the sighting of Uranus the world began to experience astounding transformations in all walks of life: the boundaries and horizons of experience began to widen, both within the collective ethos and for individuals. The once finite horizon was extended. Saturn became not the boundary of the solar system itself, but the boundary of the visual experience. This new astronomical status began to alter radically the perception of Saturn and its limits, but it remains still the interface between that which is obvious and that which is cryptic. It is by the boundaries in life that we define our movement beyond them. Without such boundaries there would be no 'beyond', nor would we achieve success within our limitations. These thoughts are all modern interpretations of Saturn – we have really only just begun to look at it in that way in astrology today. Saturn has changed its persona, or have we changed it? Both, perhaps, are correct.
Let's start at the beginning and weave our way through the course of Saturn's transit through time.
Kronos the Titan
Kronos was the first to defy the ultimate boundary – his father – and break the chain of command that had existed from the beginning of time, when Gaia was born out of Chaos and created her consort, Ouranos. Kronos was the youngest of the twelve Titans, the anthropomorphic offspring of Ge (Gaia/Earth) and Ouranos (Uranus/Sky). The Titans were primarily deifications of the various aspects of nature, but a few took significant form as characters, and their descendants assumed prominent roles in Greek myth.
The earliest known literary source of the mythological origins of the Greek gods is Hesiod, an eighth-century Boeotian farmer, who was visited by the Muses who sang to him of 'things that are, that will be and that were, with voices joined in harmony'. In his Theogony he traces the genealogy of the Greek pantheon and all the major and minor inhabitants of the complex religious world of the ancient Greeks. In this work we find the original crimes of Kronos, and possibly the source of the archetypal guilt that is buried deep in our collective psyche and projected on to the astrological Saturn.
After the birth of the Titans came the Cyclopes and the Hekaton-chires, monsters with a hundred arms and fifty heads. Hating these offspring, Ouranos hid them in the deepest dark realm of Gaia, refusing them birth. And, as Hesiod writes:
But she, Vast Earth, being strained and stretched inside her, groaned. And then she thought of a clever, evil plan. Quickly she made grey adamant, and formed A mighty sickle, and addressed her sons ...
Gaia proposed a plan to all of the sons, of whom only 'crooked scheming Kronos' was fearless enough (and ambitious enough) to agree to it. This is what happened: Gaia gave Kronos the sickle, an attribute for which he is known to this day, and when unsuspecting Ouranos, 'longing for love, lay round the Earth', Kronos reached up and castrated him. The blood fell upon the earth and the semen into the sea, and from the blood were born the Erinyes (the Furies) and the Giants, and from the seed of the severed genitals sprang Aphrodite, the celestial goddess of love.
A timeless Golden Age followed this coup d'état and literary tradition seats Kronos/Saturn on the throne at this marvellous time when,
... like the gods [men] lived with happy hearts Untouched by work or sorrow. Vile old age Never appeared, but always lively-limbed, Far from all ills, they feasted happily. Death came to them as sleep, and all good things Were theirs; ungrudgingly, the fertile land Gave up her fruits unasked.
Then, this Golden race of mortal men was hidden in the earth and replaced by the Silver race, to be followed by the Bronze, then the race of Heroes and, finally, the Iron Age of which Hesiod dolefully declared himself a member. (This is particularly interesting because it was, indeed, the tail-end of the age of Aries/Mars, ruler of iron.) Though we cannot be certain of what really happened, it is clear that Saturn eventually lost his position and was replaced by Zeus, who became the patriarchal god of the Greeks.
To continue with the Theogony we find that Kronos took his sister Rhea by force, to be his wife. She bore him five children: Hestia (Vesta), Demeter (Ceres), Hera (Juno), Hades (Pluto) and Poseidon (Neptune). But,
As each child issued from the holy womb And lay upon its mother's knee, each one Was seized by mighty Kronos, and gulped down. He had in mind that no proud son of Heaven Should hold the royal rank among the gods Except himself. For he had learned from Earth And starry Heaven, that his destiny Was to be overcome, great though he was, By one of his own sons ...
You can well imagine the state of mind that Rhea was in! In a swoon of desperation, pregnant again with the sixth child, she begged
... the Earth And starry Heaven, her parents, to devise A plan to hide the birth of her dear son And bring the Fury down on Kronos, for His treatment of his father and his sons Whom mighty, crooked Kronos swallowed down.
Agreeing to help, they sent her off to Crete where she bore her last child into the Dictean cave, the womb of Gaia herself, where he was nurtured and raised. Afterwards, back to Kronos she ran, delivering to him a stone wrapped in swaddling-clothes which he forthwith gulped down. Over time, his hidden son grew to manhood and Kronos basked in the peace of ignorance. Unbeknown to him, destiny unfolded.
The irony of this primal struggle is that it was Gaia herself who turned on Kronos in favour of her daughter Rhea, perhaps recalling her own pain when Ouranos stifled the birth of her horrible babies. She convinced him to allow this last son to emerge. Kronos vomited the stone, after which Zeus returned to liberate his siblings from their father's body-tomb. (A later variant has Zeus coming to Kronos disguised as a cupbearer, with an emetic for Kronos with which to disgorge his entombed siblings.) His uncles, the monsters and the Cyclopes, also freed from the pit of their chthonic womb-tomb, sided with Zeus and bestowed upon him the attributes of thunder and the lightning bolt.
At this point in the tale the timing becomes vague. Ultimately, Zeus engages the Giants and the Cyclopes in a ten-year war against Kronos and the Titans, which is the traditional length of great wars in epic. The result of the war, waged from Mt Othrys (Kronos) to Mt Olympos (Zeus), was the eventual banishment of the Titans, to 'misty Tartaros, as far beneath/The earth, as earth is far beneath the heavens'.
The region of Tartaros was generally assumed to represent the hot, fiery and unsettled regions under the earth, inhabited by dragons and daemonic figures. It is also the region in Hades in which the inhabitant finds a punishment awaiting him that is specifically tailored to his crime. Any pain or emotional trauma that is buried, pushed into the subconscious through sublimation, repression or suppression, exists as a potentially violent experience if it irrupts into the consciousness without warning. The astrological Saturn acts as a barrier between the conscious and unconscious experience and is frequently the instigator of suppression and repression. Conversely, the transit of Saturn can unleash forgotten, repressed or suppressed experiences, bringing them to the surface for reckoning. As in Tartaros, the suffering of the person who experiences such upwellings will find them to be unique to his or her personal background and the ordeal unlike anyone else's. With the same transit that brings forth the monsters comes the solution to the problem and it, too, is specific to what each individual seems to need to face at that time of life. As we shall see, the duality of Saturn often poses the problem and the solution in the same shape.
Excerpted from Saturn in Transit by ERIN SULLIVAN. Copyright © 2000 Erin Sullivan. Excerpted by permission of Samuel Weiser, Inc..
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1. THE EVOLUTION OF AN ARCHETYPE
2. THE NATURAL CYCLES OF SATURN
3. THE HEROIC ROUND
4. THE PERSONAL HEROIC JOURNEY
5. THE TRANSIT OF SATURN TO THE PLANETS
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