On the Walk of Saturn

On the Walk of Saturn

Astrologically, Saturn is usually presented, at first, as representing obstacle, difficulty, and frustration. “You can’t always get what you want.” Not only that, but in its extreme, you can’t even get anything you want. My first formal lesson in the astrology of Saturn left me feeling, “That represents life on this earth.” And for me, that was the case at the time. Much later, Murshid Sam looked at my chart and said, “You’ve been thwarted a lot.” (Sun and moon conjunct Saturn square Pluto).

The first introduction to the walk of Saturn is similar. The movement is stunted, or stifled, if you will, and progress seems to come only with great difficulty, like a person with serious muscular disability, yet frustrated with his or her ability to move. Gravity seems stronger.

By way of articulating the other side of it, Saturn exalted, I mention my favorite Japanese scroll that we sometimes hang in our Tea Room. It has a single character, KAN, which means barrier, obstacle, gate. But it also means threshold, and implies passage.

Between the outer and inner Tea gardens there is a gate that is purely symbolic, and can be seen as a “Gateless Gate,” which is the title of the Mumonkan, a collection of 48 Zen koans, compiled from the teachings of early Chan masters in China. Here again, passage is implied by a symbolic barrier.

So, rightly understood, the gate or barrier becomes, with inner work, a threshold and a passage. Saturn, too, is a barrier, testing not only one’s resolve and acceptance, but skill and courage in meeting the challenge of the moment. As such it is also a gate, opening to a passage.

Gurdjieff held that Nature is not conducive to awakening, that is to say, awakening is not natural. It requires human effort, which in turn requires aspiration, and also discontent with being a pawn of nature, subject to all the frustrations that Saturn represents in its ordinary manifestations.

And Saturn exalted? The challenges remain, gravity remains, obstacles are inevitable — but one has mastered them, walking skillfully, upright with deliberation, albeit slowly. One has not overcome them, as one might overcome an enemy in battle, or a rival in competition. One has learned to work constructively with them. And one is stronger for it.

One is not “free” in the superficial sense of the word, but free in a deeper sense. Saturn has no room for sentimentality, or love without strength and skill. It demands that one cannot fly until one has fully mastered gravity. And it knows that birth and death are simply two aspects of life on this earth, forgetting neither.

Most of us cannot manifest exalted Saturn in our daily lives, any more than we can manifest the masters, saints, and prophets. We walk AS IF we had that mastery, and in all the spiritual walks gain a deeper understanding of our aspiration.

—Siddiq Hans von Briesen; March 9, 2015