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Marsilio Ficino, the great Renaissance philosopher and

magus wrote in his Three Books on Life that Saturn


protects the student of Metaphysics. For the modern
individual raised essentially in the culture of the
Enlightenment, such a statement makes little sense as
neither Astrology nor the Gods are alive today. That
does not mean that mankinds ability to perceive the
livingness of Gods have anything to do with their essential
reality. The truth rather is that the Divine Beings are not in
conscious participation with Humanity in this cycle of
evolution. The word conscious is all-important because
that is the fundamental distinction between us and the
ancients. They had a living intercourse with the Gods and
we have an unconscious and consequently distorted
relationship with them. The very fact that our present god,
Science is struggling to find answers to the essential
questions of existence, in fact has declared that meaning
is not the domain of Science, shows the spiritual poverty
of our times. The more unfortunate event is that because
Science is incapable of providing Meaning, by exalting
Science, we have also exalted its shortcomings, justified
them and so, surreptitiously surrendered the search for
meaning entirely. There have been ages where meaning
occupied the highest goal of its inhabitants. Invariably
they searched for the invisible truths behind the visible
realm for meaning resides not in the seen but what is
represented by it. To be sure, we are an actively mental
race but mind by itself is no indicator of greatness. It is
what the mind is occupied with that signals the dignity of
men. Science being concerned with the Hows of matter
instead of the Whys, it is but expected that the major pre-
occupation of Man is in deconstructing matter and trying
to find answers to its functioning. Matter is the realm of
separateness in its essence and when Man prioritizes
separation rather than unity, it is only fair that we are a
race of selfish acquisition and gratification whether that is
symbolized by incessant wars or deteriorating family life.
It is my attempt here to try to understand the Truth behind
Marsilio Ficinos statement and its relevance to our lives.

The great sufi mystic and philosopher, Ibn Arabi


commented on the pursuit of mechanistic causality
prevalent even in 13th century Europe that its a feature of
the pre-occupations of an era. His comment is worth
quoting in full.The need for causality depends on the
general preoccupations of an era; it is true that it is
always logical in the essence, because that which
gives causal linkage its convincing character resides
equally in the unity of the thought and in the nature of
the things; but at the same time, the need for causality
substantially depends on the mental level which is
mechanistic or imaginative, reasoning or intuitive. As
the mental horizon cannot englobe at a given time,
except a certain order of realities, the causal argument
of an era mentally different, it appears insufficient or
even defective, because one can see the limits of its
development only in the sense of an ulterior
investigation; one forgets only too easily that all
causal linkage within manifestation is essentially
symbolic, and that the most vast and the most
adequate conception of causality is precisely the one
which is conscious of this symbolism and which
considers all things within the relationship of the
Unity of Existence (wahdat-al-wujud).These are
words that need to be meditated upon and made a living
presence within our hearts and minds. Today, the
predominant tone of all worldly activity is based upon a
mechanistic conception of the universe which fosters an
attitude to manipulation for selfish benefit in general. This
happens since the only proper use of knowing the HOW
of a thing is to make it serve you. I am not denying the
occasional goodness of this knowledge but the
topographical changes to the character this tendency
brings in, cannot be denied. It is in this sense that Ibn-
Arabis words are a radical blow to the pre-dominant
mood of our times. Man is essentially defined by how
broad his mental horizon is. This is why we respect
Thinkers, (or used to ) and philosophers since they try to
understand the root causes of things. The very word
universal has an inspiring tone to it. Universal happens
to also be a specific term in Philosophy, indicating the
principles which apply to all phenomena. It is the search
for universal that defines Philosophy and Ibn Arabis
sayings essentially is an exhortation to not get restricted
to the details of life but widen oneself to receive the larger
meanings reflected within causality as we know it. At
its heart, causality is about limitation of thought. It restricts
man to the separative domain and also provides no real
answer. An intuitive civilization will not search for causality
as its focus will be on the place of individual events in the
larger domain of meaning. The ancients were not very
interested in the outward reasons for things as they were
looking at what the event meant in the context of entire
lives. Outer events were just things to be tolerated and
moved on. There was no fuss made on the individual
details of life. A narrow Causality can tell us how a thing
happened it its immediate sense but Man being what he
is, he tries to assign an immediate meaning to events and
in the process, forgets to look deeper. This indicates a
search for meaning which is inherent in Man but causality
restricts him in the search for hows and thus, the deep
labour of excavating Meaning from the symbols of
material existence is never done. The truth that manifest
life is a realm of symbols should firstly be accepted. Every
act of a human being is in response to needs or wants
which in themselves are mostly non-material. Desires can
be felt but not seen. They only MANIFEST as a outward
action. Such is true of every thing in life. Meaning takes its
first steps at this basic level and manifests ever more
upwards until it knocks at the very doors of Divinity. The
way this journey is made upwards is the stuff of all
scriptures and myths. Ficino through his sentence is
trying to explain something of this journey.

Ibn Arabis understanding of the spacio-temporal nature


of the search for causality tells us that in essence, there is
no causality as everything comes from the One who is in
Himself not situated at a causal level. This truth is
expounded in many ways in all religions which posit an
Absolute, Brahman or One. To be sure, there is an
apparent causality in physical, emotional and mental
realms but apparent is all what it is since there are realms
beyond them from which forces and impulses of a cosmic
nature descend into our three worlds where they Manifest
as causal events. But we dont think of causality in such
wider terms so much. Because if we did, we would
immediately conclude that our search for Causes has to
take on a vast and essentially infinite canvas where Truth
resides. This perspective of an infinite canvas is
contained in the great Vedantic statement, Brahman
Satyam, Jagat Mithyam. Mithya is untruth meaning, the
manifest world is the world of falsity and the Absolute is
the seat of Truth. Truth and Falsity here correspond in a
sense of Cause and Effect because all search for reasons
and Causes is a search for Truth. Adi Sankara is asking
us to not search for reasons here, but beyond. Now when
a man first starts seeking answers to his own life in a
wider canvas, if he comes to the enterprise with a true
seeking and objectivity, there will be many events which
will not make any sense initially. Such is but normal. One
important first lesson which needs to be remembered
from the symbolism idea of manifestation that the form of
an OUTER event is only important as to the essential
meaning of the event FOR THE INDIVIDUAL experiencing
it. Thus the focus on the outer form has to be lessened so
that the individual can hone in on the inner meaning. This
effects a tremendous shift in perspective from the outward
to the inward life. And this shift is essentially the truth of
Astrology which is a science of the inner meaning of outer
events. Astrology is widely mis-understood today
because the scientific basis of the discipline is not
understood anymore. This is much more a reflection of the
causal pre-occupation of our times than it is about
astrology itself. The truth of astrology is that though the
Planets are causing the events in our lives, this causality
is not something happening independent of us like in a
master-slave relationship. To understand the truth of this,
some understanding of the nature of human birth and
death is required. A great mystic once said, Birth is not so
simple a matter as Death. Birth in the manifest level of
creation involves the beginning of certain effects whose
causes have already been set up. Hindus and Buddhists
call these causes, Karma. For any particular incarnation,
Prarabdha Karma is the set of effects which will play out
in that life. The understanding of why only those sets of
causes, is beyond the scope of this essay as it will take
us into esoteric matters of deep import and which will be
discussed at a later time. The essential understanding is
that for any set of forces or causes, themselves immaterial
to unravel themselves in the material plane, there must be
a system which will co-ordinate these forces and channel
them in space-time. Planets form the systemic forces for
such unravelling. Thus if they are causing events in our
lives, its because we ourselves have created the causes
in previous lives by our actions and such causes are not
in themselves physical. Truly, no cause in physical as
explained earlier since every individual action or effect is
the result of inner, immaterial emotional or mental causes.
Thus astrology at the very basic level, explains the
causes which will play out in an individual life. One last
thing about the physics of such cause-effect domains. It
can well be asked if there is any way seat in the human
body where these causes are lodged. The answer is
yes, there is. That seat is the etheric body or the
Pranamaya Kosha where miniature planets are found.
These are of-course matters of yogic and esoteric
processes. This correspondence between the human and
the stars is expressed in famous esoteric statements like,
The Microcosm is the Macrocosm or As above, so
below. In our etheric body, there are miniature planets
and suns present as Chakras and Nadis. That is why the
forces of the planets are able to work on us and cause the
unfolding of karma. All Yoga is essentially a reworking of
these inner bodies, especially the Pranamaya Kosha so
that the causes lodged there can be transformed and
shredded to be replaced by more Divine forces. Thus is
Karma burnt and lives divinized. This also brings into
focus one of the perennial mis-conceptions of our times
about the presence of free-will in human life. This is an
essentially Yogic question and the very possibility of Yoga
should answer the question. Human Beings are
essentially Free in only one sense. They are FREE to
pursue their Divinity. They are Free to become what they
essentially are. Everything else in life is just a reaping of
past causes, whether they be good or bad. The reasons
for these are, that the situations in life one is born into, are
not accidental. They are the results to past karma and
from then on, we are already in the midst of many
complex forces or family, societies and nations, none of
which are in our control. Modern man is wont to think that
doing what one feels or thinks is asserting Freedom but
he quietly forgets that what one feels or thinks is to a large
extent determined already by his emotional and mental
body which he comes equipped with at birth due to the
same karmic causes set up in the past lives. What we call
Character is a simple way of describing these karmic
patterns. This is the true understanding of the idea of
Imprisonment in Life and Liberation from existence.
Freedom in the manifest plane is a lie because most of
what our personalities are right now is already decided
beforehand by our past actions. Some one is born blind,
some one dumb and someone jealous and conceited.
Their feelings and mental patterns are fixed and if not
corrected, they will pull him or her in a specific direction in
life. Whether that pulling lands him is a good or bad
place, the truth does not change that he has been only
flowing in a stream which his current incarnated
personality did not choose simply because the
personality itself is the stream. True freedom is only
possible when Man can abstract away from his set
mental, emotional and physical patterns of behavior else
all he will be doing is reaping karma. We cannot prevent
the unfolding of karmic causes we ourselves have set up
but we can lift ourselves out of the domain of Karma itself.
This lifting is the truth of Yoga and meditation and also
Metaphysics.
The study of metaphysics is something which has
occupied only the best minds of any civilization. This has
always been so because it requires a certain amount of
detachment from the individualized personality to
speculate on truths which have no relation to the
individual life. Its the search for Truth for truths sake.
Although, absolute Truth is not to be found by thinking
only, it has a huge role to play in clearing out the blocks to
its Realization. Here we come to Saturn and Ficinos
comment. It is well known in Astrology that Saturn is the
planet of Karma. In Hinduism, it is called Shani and when
Shani is heavy on you, a lot of unpleasant events are
about to happen, or so is the popular understanding. But
if we take the symbolism of outer life seriously, we should
look at the underlying causes of such unpleasant events.
Saturn is the disciplinarian is an esoteric sense. He
teaches you lessons which otherwise we would never
learn. It is a Truth that for many people, times of pain and
misery are the only periods when they are serious and
intense. At other times, they are just whiling away their life
in chasing idle objects of pleasure. These times force a
man to face himself and facing himself is only a dramatic
way to indicate his coming to terms with his own inner
truths to the extent he can surmise. The extent is
important because not every man is ready to know
himself at his most deep. There are levels to which he
may go at to this extent, Saturn forces him to reach. But
there are an infinity of levels to which Man may go if he so
chooses. The Upanishads, Vedas, Platonic dialogues all
proclaim the essential divinity of Man. If he so chooses,
he may reach the Gods and even surpass them. Why, He
may join with the Absolute Himself. Metaphysics, by
freeing the Man from his narrow personality interests,
takes the mind away from the field of individual highs and
lows to the realms of the infinite. Esoterically, he becomes
polarized in the formless domains of reality away from the
realm of Form where he has been previously stationed.
Anyone who tries tackling the Parmenides of Plato or
Hegels Science of Logic will immediately understand the
monumental obstacles that confront him when he tries to
penetrate into the symbols of the words which appear in
these texts. There is nothing in embodied life which has
previously prepared him for these texts. Ordinarily, we are
so used to a sensual reality of forms that we tend to think
in pictures and in referents to outer reality. But there is no
form we can use in thinking of Being or Nothingness.
These are not realities encased in Form. When Plato
mentions Beauty he is not talking of something beautiful
as seen in the realm of outer life. That is only an
enrobed outer cloak which Beauty has taken. But
essentially, Beauty is a realm of Truth where what we call
beauty resides. Plato, being an initiate of a high order had
reached such levels of reality where Beauty could be
perceived independent of its Form. Thus Metaphysics, by
taking us into these realms, widens our small and
conceited personalities and takes us into more purer and
divine realms. We know that a Man is what he Thinks. In
everyday language, we frequently say, he is There but
not There. Basically someones mind is not involved in his
immediate surroundings. Its a simpler way of explaining a
much greater esoteric truth that man essentially builds his
home in his Mind. His body is just a location in space-time
and though, it constrains him in some ways, it cannot bind
him. When we are delving into Metaphysical texts, we are
contacting the Mind who wrote these texts and in esoteric
terms, our pranic energies, through our mental exertion,
are being transformed into purer forms. Thus, over time,
the forces of the planets get transformed in us. The
relevance of Saturn is that He wants to teach us the great
lessons which will lead us into our Divinized selves.
Metaphysics is one Great Way to reach that realm. Thus
Saturn is happy when we seek the Truth this way and
become a helper instead of a disciplinarian acting against
our will.