Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Ramble on Saturn and Existential Psychotherapy

I keep trying to write something about Saturn in Scorpio, but it ain’t happening. Maybe because he’s starting to conjoin my North Node (busily sorting and purging what will and won’t take my life forward.) But I seem able to come up with stuff about Saturn himself. 

Yesterday:

It's one of my current themes in readings, keeping Saturn in his place, particularly not letting him try to boss Neptune around.

Who, being nebulous and hard to define, is vulnerable to Saturn's attempts to put him in a box.

Saturn think she knows how things ought to be

she?

and he needs to be told to fuck off, yes really just to fuck on out

Mr 9 to 5 doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to our vocations and he needs to be told to fuck off and do what we tell him

Saturn feels secure when he's told what to do

If you don't tell him what to do, he'll tell you, and it probably won't be pretty

He needs to know where he stands
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Anyway, I picked up a book this morning, Love’s Executioner by Irvin Yalom. Earlier this year I read his Momma and the Meaning of Life, stories from the psychotherapy world. It was great, but I’m not sure I can still go there, after doing a counselling course. It kind of put me off that model. I have the suspicion a lot of them are pygmies putting the ‘correct’ forms into action.

Yalom is an existential psychotherapist, and for a while that had quite an appeal for me. Identifying certain basic givens of existence like death and the need for meaning, and using those to help people navigate their lives. Yes! But gradually I’ve been put off by the way he has allowed those givens to be infected by scientific rationalism.

These are the 4 givens he uses:


(1)            The inevitability of death for each one of us and for those we love
(2)            The freedom to make our lives as we will
(3)            Our ultimate aloneness
(4)            The absence of any obvious meaning or sense to life



Death He encourages his patients (as he calls them) to accept as a fact that death involves the complete extinction of consciousness. I really object to this, not so much because I tend to think that death is not an extinction, but because in reality we don't know what happens after death. His certainty that death is an extinction is not tenable, because we do not know, cannot know what happens. It's mysterious and unknowable, and that sense is important to our humanity, it prevents hubris (like Yalom thinking he knows what happens after death) and is also, I dunno, one of those things, that sense of unknowability, I suppose profoundly wicked is the phrase I'm looking for.

And I think it takes a particular type of narrow-mindedness - the scientific type - to dismiss the extensive documented accounts of unusual experiences - out of body, clairvoyant and so on - that suggest that consciousness and the physical body are not the same thing.

The freedom to make our lives as we will. This seems to me a partial truth. Tell this one to someone living in poverty. And what about the claims of character, the type of personality we are that, pursued far enough, leads to the transpersonal, where it is certainly not about making our lives as we will: it is about becoming more sensitive to who we have to be, what we have to do. We are, of course, free not to do it, but that's our loss. This is the realm of the outer planets. Only a superficial, rational, Enlightenment consciousness living in a wealthy society could consider 'The freedom to make our lives as we will' to be a given of existence.

Our ultimate aloneness. Don’t agree. We are all connected in deeper ways than we realise. When my partner’s father was dying in Scotland, he woke me up one morning down in Devon, fully present in a way that he hadn’t been for some years. We’re ultimately responsible for ourselves, yes. But we’re also ultimately connected to others, and there are probably connections out there that are very old, very strong that just aren’t activated right now. And then there's our imaginary friends. For me, there's Pluto likes to come and hang out. And they're onside. I think we're surrounded, I don't think we're alone, I don't think life's divided up like that.

The absence of any obvious meaning or sense to life. Yalom views a sense of meaning as something constructed, something external that we add on. This, of course, is a logical corollary to a rational, scientific materialist viewpoint. It’s hideous: the idea that we live in a meaningless universe. Meaning is something felt as much as it is rationally describable. “When I live like this, then life feels meaningful.” End of story. We need to trust that sense, not see it as something artificial we have imposed on a bleak universe. A sense of meaning is life speaking to us, telling us we are on the right track, that we are plugged into a larger whole.




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7 comments:

Magic Dragon said...

Great post, couldn't agree with you. I have had the same thoughts but haven't been able to put them into words so clearly. Thank you.
Science (at least as it is understood by most), tries to be "obejctive" and therefore loses the deeper meanings because they can not be found in the sterilysed "objective" frame of mind. To sense or be able to know the deeper connections we need to be involved, to recognise we are part of a whole at a subjective level. When this is done the sense of connection, of reality, of life's meaning are easierly perceived and known.
Cheers!

Clymela said...

Oh my!!! Thank you for this-really. I am especially grateful that you stand up here for life and mystery. Yes, death is utterly mysterious and the thought that I have today is that we don't know how we get here and we don't know where we go. Whoot!Whoot!
I am a long admirer of your thinking and astrology. thank you for this welcome to Saturn in Scorpio.

Darren said...

Hard to convey how much I love your blog posts!

Maya said...

So right. As always.

gawd_almighty said...

Yes, 'meaning' is a subjective term, and the purported lack of it in life refers only to our expectations and worldly ambitions, which we know are prone to the random ebb and flow of fortune. But if you sit in a beautiful rural spot for an hour or so, switch off the white noise in your head and just experience the sunlight, the wind, the trees and the birds - if you can do that and still say that life has no meaning then you have an awful lot of internal work to do.

Anonymous said...

Yes, goosebumps. You just put into words the things that are nagging my mind lately, especially the ones about Death and that it is completely unknowable, and "The freedom to make our lives as we will". I stumbled upon that one a few times the last week, and my mental response was (also): yeah, like a sick little child in Africa dying from starvation really wanted his life to be that wat, duhhh. So I am really happy you put it in words and on the net. It had to be said, and by the way, by writing and thinking this, you have just made me less "ultimate alone" ;-) Thank you.

Minnie said...

Great post! Thought-provoking, as ever - and very encouraging. Thank you.