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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Suffering – CREDO XXXVII

It seems that all incarnate human beings suffer at one time or another. It’s almost as if this is the price we pay for incarnation or even one of the purposes of being born into this dimension. My mother wisely boiled it down to three basic reasons: money (survival), health, or love problems. She pointed out that one at a time was instructive, two were painful, and all three unbearable! Think about the amount of suffering there is in the world at this very moment! Poverty, disease, and war are collective scourges that well could put some of our personal problems, past or present, in perspective.

The obvious practical solutions for me with money are the only wise words that have come down to me from my great-great-grandfather Chase: “Always pay your small debts and the big ones will take care of themselves.” In other words, do not go into debt! He spoke before credit cards. Try to distinguish between wants and needs.

Health is not always an option. But it pays not to get into the situation of medications that require a daisy-chain of antidotes for side-effects and consider the impact of the psyche upon the soma, when appropriate.

By love problems, all forms of relationships are implied, not just sex, marriage, parenting but problems that can arise in matters of authority, work, government, as well.

All this is pretty obvious. So what am I driving at? The answer is the archetypal process of Saturn, who dwells in every psyche (and chart) and represents our Shadow. In alchemy Saturn rules lead and contraction or limitation. In the body it rules the skeleton, skin, hair, nails, etc. (And when we die, the Dutch call that our stoffelijk overschot, i.e., leftovers!) We think of this personification as the grim, white-bearded, cruel judge who is intent on denying us happiness. Needless to say, he falls in Aries because there his process delays beginnings, but he is exalted in Libra, the scales of justice. (Remember this is a personification of a process; please don’t take this literally!) So psychologically, it is as if we repress all we know we are not good at, make a homunculus shaped in whatever we don’t like about ourselves physically, and lock him up in the cellar of our personal unconscious. Then whenever we want to do something, he pops up and tells us why we can’t! So we go on projecting our own failings on others ad infinitum. It took me over thirty years to realize why the alchemists were trying to make lead into gold! Hah! So the next time I succumbed to the why I couldn’t, I bearded my Saturn and said: I know why I can’t but maybe you could tell me how I could!! At which, this cold, nasty personification stood up and said: “I’ve waited almost fifty years for you to realize this; now come on, let’s work on this together.” So the alchemy consists in realizing, at the personal level, that the purpose of suffering is to transform it to wisdom. And guess what? The positive personification of Saturn is The Wise Old Man!

This means perhaps that incarnation is something we elect to undergo for the purpose of becoming wiser. This is truly worth considering, because book-learning, alas, alone won’t accomplish this, and the only people who can heal others are those who have learned the hard way. This explains Chiron, “the Wounded Healer.” Add to this that Saturn rules Capricorn, the tenth sign, and it takes nine months for a baby to be born, so many pagan gods were said to be born at the winter solstice in December, including Jesus Christ, whose incarnation was deliberately set by the Church to replace the pagan Roman celebration of the Saturnalia! Add to this the fact that the Moon circumnavigates every chart every month in approx 27+ days, and the transiting Saturn does the same in approx. 28 yrs. This means that between the two of them the lessons are there to be learned, every day, week, month, and year as the aspects between them progress. This is the meaning of karma, cause and effect. If one considers the Moon, the matrix of consciousness, it reflects the function of the ego, which Jung says, circumambulates the Self. As the physical Moon always presents the same face to the Earth, half of it is exposed to all the other planets and the stars beyond, and half of it reflects the Sun in ever-changing amounts. Psychologically and symbolically, everything in the manifest world including our mind is in motion. As Heraclitus wrote, Panta rhae, everything flows – including time. Kronos, Saturn’s Greek name is the origin of “chronology.” So, logically, we can assume that one way of knowing you are identified with your ego is when you suffer. To learn “how to suffer and not to suffer”* means to be able to watch yourself suffering and ask, “Who is watching?” The opposite is also true; the ego can be happy, and when we remember to share our happiness with our Divine Guest (Jung’s ‘Self’) it becomes joy, which always has a spiritual dimension.

Pain cannot be avoided, but the Buddhists give even that a purpose. As one is suffering physical pain, one can offer that up to relieve someone else’s. By sincerely practicing this, some have even been cured. This is also suggested in Christianity by Jesus on the cross.

If you look back to your own past, you realize that suffering ceases when the lesson is learned. I thought at first that that was all that was required. Not so! The new consciousness has to be applied in real life! Rats!


*From Jesus in the Gnostic Gospel of John in “The Round Dance.”

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