Pan and Saturn, Caprice and Limitation, Explosions and Slow-burns Co-Exist! (A wish for this half-Capricorn month) As we move into the month of Cancer, it’s important not to forget the balancing partner of the zodiac sign of Cancer: Capricorn. Below are some Capricornian reflections.
“…if Saturn is naturally cold, then Pan could be said to be the complementary genius that elevates our connection to nature through the heat of both intellectual and erotic activity. But that Saturn’s black bile represents the larger planetary governing force of this excited drive means that we’re always dancing on the edge between ecstasy and despair.”
In my quest to study our most deeply ingrained cultural ideas, I’m reading a formidable book entitled, Saturn and Melancholy: Studies in the History of Natural Philosophy, Religion and Art by Raymond Klibansky, Erwin Panofsky and Fritz Saxl. In it, the writers describe how Aristotle furthered the evolution of ideas about black bile (the bodily fluid responsible for creating all of the symptoms of melancholy in both the body and mind). Curiously, Aristotle’s theory centers around principles of temperature–hot and cold. The “melancholy” within this framework of temperature, far from being only depressed or heavy, also includes feelings on the spectrum of intense passion, meaning that ecstasy and pleasure were equally a part of the “melancholic” (someone in whom black bile predominates) as despair and despondency. When the black bile is “heated”, it gives way to passion, eroticism and brilliance, or sometimes erotic impulses sublimated toward flights of intellect. When black bile is “cooled”, generally speaking, it gives way to despondency. Particular problems occur when one extreme follows another extreme–a heating process followed by abrupt cooling–illustrated by the examples of suicides committed after drinking copious amounts of wine (the alcohol heats the black bile, but when the intoxicant wears off, there’s all-too-sudden cooling).
The god Saturn, for me, is the most gross image of the “cooled” black bile. He’s heavy, like lead, and vicious. Sometimes I feel like old Saturn visits me when all I hear are car sounds, the drone of a helicopter and a little voice in my head saying that I’m missing out on something. The god Pan, for me, is the most gross image of the “heated” black bile. He’s chasing nymphs, tied down to nothing, unstoppable in his virile vitality; shameless in creative force. Pan is capricious, from the word “capra” a horny and somewhat nasty goat.
Now that we know how malleable the idea of “melancholy” is as it’s existed through the ages, we have a new way to understand a connection or possible co-existence between Saturn and Pan, between the despair of limitation and the rush of caprice, and it’s not altogether impossible to suggest that this co-existence could benefit us during times of Capricorn energy. Since Saturn rules Capricorn, yet the root of Capricorn is the goat, which brings us to Pan, I’ve always wondered, how can the two possible be harmonious?
While at first glance, Saturn and Pan may seem irreconcilable in their energetic differences with Saturn in his heaviness and limitation and Pan in his lusty capriciousness, Pan could be said to be the lustful, hot aspect of Saturn. Saturn’s historically astrological fixture in Capricorn illustrates the potent mixture of Saturn’s dominant natural state of coldness and dryness with the “caprice” of Pan’s excitation and lust. In this way, if Saturn is naturally cold, then Pan could be said to be the complementary genius that elevates our connection to nature through the heat of both intellectual and erotic activity. But That Saturn’s black bile represents the larger planetary governing force of this excited drive means that we’re always dancing on the edge between ecstasy and despair. Some may seek a way out through a fixed middle point shutting out the extremes, but the only true ways out seem to be numbness or suicide, both of which provide the illusion that we’ve escaped Saturn’s fluctuations when really both obviously demonstrate that he’s wrestled us to the underworld. The only life-positive choice, then, seems to be to relish the sometimes rhythmic and sometimes random steps toward the excited caprice and the reverie, with keen awareness that while we may be cast into the void in the next moment, if we can experience an erotic connection to that energy of “cast off of caprice back into the black bile”, then it’s possible to convert our despair into appreciative reflection.
Can human beings bear being tossed between extremes of Pan’s heating and Saturn’s cooling? Is there a physical, psychic or philosophical yet-to-be-evolved state in which we truly, as German expressionist playwright Heiner Muller said, need “no transitions” but can be completely fluid with the energies and rhythms of life?