For most people who know something about astrology Saturn has often been given a bad rap. Traditional astrologers refer to Saturn as a malefic meaning it has a detrimental quality to it. In fact, it is not uncommon for Saturn to be referred to in some kind of pejorative way. Is it really that negative? Why is it seen in such a negative light? These were questions I eventually would have to ask myself since I just happen to be one of those lucky people who was born with Saturn on the Ascendant, although initially I did not feel all that lucky. In fact, at times it was just difficult. I eventually learned that having any planet on an angle makes it much stronger so Saturn was a force I was going to have to learn about whether I wanted to or not.
The Ascendant is often expressed as how people see you and while people would often see me as being Saturnian (responsible or disciplined), when I was younger they also saw someone who was very shy and quite fearful. Saturn is often associated with fear and for much of my life fear has been one of my closest friends. I can even remember around age 10 asking myself how am I ever going to survive in the world. I was just full of fear. In looking back I can see now how my early experiences of living in an abusive household caused me to project my fear onto others and the world at large. Of course, I did not know anything about astrology as a young boy growing up in Kansas. it wasn’t until I was 25 that I first encountered astrology.
One of the things that really helped to develop a different relationship with Saturn was how I perceived it. When I first started learning astrology most of what I read about Saturn was quite negative. Plus, I had some very difficult Saturn transits early in my life and was quite afraid of when the next one would come. My experiences plus what I had read seemed to correspond so I could not imagine how Saturn could be anything but negative. Many astrological books and astrologers often paint a picture that the planets are black and white. There are little to no shades of grey and yet our reality is filled with shades of grey. When I started taking classes at the Sher Institute of Astrology and Metaphysics, I was introduced to a concept called “Levels of Abstraction” that was developed by Alfred Korzybski who had written a book on general semantics, the use of language. The concept was interesting. It suggested that any archetypal symbol had different levels of abstraction and could be expressed at lower or higher levels. As I began to apply this principle to Saturn, I began to realize I had been looking at Saturn in a very limiting way. Most of us are familiar with the lower levels of abstraction of Saturn such as fear, immaturity, rigidity, inflexibility, stubborn, authoritarian, restrictions, etc. However, as I began to consider the higher levels of abstraction such as mastery, being focused or developing a kind of sensitivity to life, I began to see there was so much more to Saturn. It was only negative because I had not seen what was possible. I felt more empowered and no longer fated to the lower expressions of Saturn. In my astrological practice I also find that the more people can see their chart from these various “levels of abstraction” the more empowered they feel to work with what they have been given.
As I began to better understand “levels of abstraction”, I could see I had not been working with Saturn very well. I would play the victim card by not taking responsibility for my choices. I had not developed an ability to slow down and clearly think things through. Until I was able to look at my underlying fears, I was unable to understand Saturn and see how my fears were driving my poor choices. Now I understand why Saturn gets such a bad rap. It not due to Saturn being a malefic or bad planet. I realized it was simply due to one’s inability to accept responsibility for one’s choices, a willingness to look at one’s fears and the challenge of accepting one’s limitations, all of which create needless drama in one’s life. If we cannot work with these aspects of the Saturn archetype in our lives it should not be a surprise to anyone when our lives become more chaotic and disordered. I have learned the hard way that choices made out of fear or blame almost always engender negative consequences. Life is constantly giving us feedback. When we can simply see the feedback as feedback without taking it personally growing up became easier and Saturn becomes our friend.
As my fears reduced, I became more flexible, less rigid and open to new ways of being. I no longer needed the past to define me. I was finally able to take full responsibility for the choices I had made and accept any consequences that arose from those choices without blaming others. My relationship with Saturn began to change and subsequent Saturn transits no longer were something I feared because whatever was happening, I knew that I would find clarity. I no longer saw Saturn as a limiting force in my life. I used to be very bothered by my limitations. What I had failed to understand was that to say “yes” to one thing meant I was saying “no” to something else. Limitations were just a natural part of life itself. Surprisingly I found great freedom in knowing my limitations because I no longer expected things to be different than they were. Naturally there was less disorder in my life. The more I began to know myself and understand Saturn’s nature, the more I felt at ease internally. Now as I look at life through Saturn’s eyes it is no longer out of fear but out of a willingness to see life and others simply for who they are. Who needs drama when you can see things clearly for what they are? This to me is the gift of Saturn.
Excellent article, James. I am also an astrologer, with 40 years in the craft. My very 1st astrology teacher, was at 80, very avante garde, for her generation, in the craft. Her relationship to Saturn was evolved, I came to learn later, as I advanced on the path. She called Saturn the Great Teacher of the Zodiac. Because Saturn was the ruler of Capricorn, she believed and taught that Saturn was not a lot of Fun. I recall her saying if… Saturn was assigned to Aries or Sagittarius it would be much more pleasant, but this was not to be. The ancients that left us astrology as a tool for growth, she said, knew what they were doing. Saturn can be a hard taskmaster, but the lessons learned are so valuable for growth that they seemingly must be those that hit most of us on the head like a wise Zen master whacking his disciple with a board! I think your approach to the Lord of Karma is an inspiring one. Looking forward to another article.