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Saturn and the Shadow of Time

By Eric Francis

Most of us in Western civilization are living with the feeling that time is running out, or at least out of control. Weeks, months, years, and even decades, seem to be growing shorter.

Photo by Eric Francis.

We can measure time but we cannot measure our perception of time. We can speculate, though. Everyone has figured out that each passing year represents a smaller fraction of our total lifetime; for a three-year-old, one year is a third of his or her time on Earth so far, and it seems like Christmas will never arrive. For a 65-year-old, a year is just over 1.5 percent of the total time spent on Earth — hardly anything at all. The seasons whip by.

Strangely, we attempt to measure and live by time without knowing how much time is left. Any living thing can die at any time; looking at a clock or calendar is like reading your gas gauge without an objective reference to the meaning of Full or Empty. We live like there’s a limit — a Saturn factor, of being trapped in time — but we don’t know the value of the limit. I think this puts us under a lot of pressure: in particular to move quickly, which as we know does not always “save time.”

But do these factors account for the acceleration phenomenon? They may, partially; yet there are many older people for whom time is interminable. I would surmise that, in such a state of mind, they are sufficiently isolated from the flow of society to have little perception of how fast events are coming, or to feel the need to adhere to much of a schedule. That does slow things down a bit, and it offers a clue: Those who engage in time are the ones experiencing the onslaught.

Most of us live as if we’re going through a vortex. The perception of time is subjective, but as non-ordinary consciousness opens up, intersubjective events are becoming more commonplace: that is, perceptions that are not based on absolute truth, but which many people share intuitively.

The perception of time is a mental phenomenon, and we are all hooked into it to some degree; we share a common mental field of time, which makes the shared experience stronger. That mental field may include the perception or experience of the acceleration of time. But what, exactly, is creating that?


There are many factors at work, and I have long suspected that our relationship to technology is closely associated with our perception of time.

Humans have tried to measure time for millennia, and looked to natural sources for their information — primarily the Sun and the Moon. But it was only in 1880, at the peak of the Industrial Revolution, that Greenwich Mean Time became the official reference of time used throughout England (which then expanded to Europe and the Americas). It had previously been used only to synchronize railroad schedules and by mariners to calculate longitude. Prior to this, calculation of time was a local affair.

In other words, even if you traveled a relatively short distance, you would have to reset your watch. There were no uniform time zones. Observing time passing along the face of a clock or watch, which happened centuries earlier, was a critical factor in our perception of time, which we began to internalize immediately. Eventually, this form of time entirely supplanted the use of the Sun, the seasons, and lunar cycles in our consciousness of time passing; as did calendars, which are a much older invention than clocks. An artificial model was overlaid on a natural experience.

We became synchronized into that phenomenon because we had to show up for school and work at a certain time, which was a new thing in human history. Prior to industrialization, people worked on their own time. However, I would propose that the adoption of mean time and the synchronization of all the clocks and watches in the world was a big step toward focusing the shared mental field of time perception.

Greenwich Mean Time gave way to Coordinated Universal Time, which is measured by atomic clocks. With the proliferation of the transistor, and as a result, the advent of computers and the Internet, synthetic time has become ubiquitous. Nearly every device now has a clock, and many of them are automatically synchronized.


We no longer have to look at our watches; globally synchronized time is announced constantly, and nearly everything we do on a computer is time stamped. The time is broadcast constantly, and I would propose that our minds may not be opaque to these broadcasts. In other words, our minds may be picking up the broadcast of the time just like our cell phones do. This is like standing in a total eclipse of natural time, into which is injected a constant flow of artificial time; the shadow of time.

Meanwhile, the speed of every device is increasing. My first computer had a clock speed of 16 million cycles per second (16 megahertz); the computer I am typing on now runs at 2.6 thousand million cycles per second (2.6 gigahertz). Early NASA engineers would have done anything to have the processing power and storage capacity of an iPhone, which leaves the best of their computers in the shade.

Computers used to not connect to the global network at all; then they did so occasionally; now they are connected all the time — and we carry them in our pockets. Gradually, they are morphing fully into our mental field. It’s like we’re living in the midst of a marketing campaign for artificial time, which is further isolating us from the natural cycles within us and around us. It’s also compressing our experiences; we seem to have more experience packed into time, but it seems to mean ever less.

A letter used to take three days to arrive and an hour or more to write, and an overseas letter would arrive in one week or longer. Sending or receiving a letter would be a special occasion, and we would have time to think about it. Now global communication is instantaneous, and this is compressing our experience of one another. For those connected to technology, the number of people we communicate with in a single day is increasing exponentially.

If we want to know where time is going, it would seem that we are measuring it out of existence — denaturing it with technology. The sense of time running out is related to imposing an orderly artificial structure over a natural organic structure, like building a city over a field. The space is divided and divided until the space seems to disappear and suddenly few people can afford it. From Einstein’s work with Special Relativity, we know that space and time are one phenomenon.

There is an astrological metaphor. Saturn, traditionally the ruler of time, was the outermost planet until the discovery of Uranus in 1781, just before the industrial revolution. Astrologers of the day might have predicted that there would be radical changes in our perception of time — but how could they know? Over the next century, there were additional discoveries of planets and asteroids. By 1846, five asteroids and two extra planets (Uranus and Neptune) were known.

By 1880, the year Greenwich Mean Time was imposed, there were two extra planets and 216 asteroids. A century later, in 1977, Chiron was discovered shortly after the atomic clock was imposed, and there were about 2,060 minor planets. Then something strange happened: As the technological revolution became ubiquitous, the number of bodies known to be orbiting our Sun shot up to nearly a quarter of a million, creating a chaos pattern. And as this happened, the measurement of time became more pervasive, as every device had a clock. So the more chaotic the patterns in the sky became, and the more cycles we had available to observe, the more order was imposed on time by science.

With the assistance of technology, we are being encouraged to think in ever shorter spans of time, shorter character counts, and less time devoted to more people, all of which are compressing our experience of time. The simplistic artificial order is more brutally imposed on the natural order the more complex it becomes.

If there is some corresponding increase in the speed that our limbic systems are able to process emotions or build trust, most people have not heard about it. I believe that there is such a method, but that it exists outside of time, in a dimension of thought that is not fully acknowledged to exist, but which many people sense. Just like we have built the mental field of time, we are gradually organizing a field of perception and experience that exists outside of time. The existence of this has long been known to shamans and visionaries, but now it’s becoming the only place of refuge from the onslaught of artificial time, or the sense that time is running out.

“A calendar is a mental instrument for holding the programmed patterns of thought and behavior of a given culture, people, or civilization,” Jose Arguelles writes in Time and the Technosphere. “A people can rise no higher than the program their culture imposes on them as second nature. A program of time determines the nature of consciousness.”

I believe that the study of astrology provides at least a partial way out of the maze; that is, it can help us return to natural time, more closely synchronized with nature.

For one thing, the cycles of astrology are natural. They exist objectively, unlike a minute or a second. Yet there are three other factors that suggest how astrology might point us out of the maze.

First, there are many kinds of cycles to connect with. For short measures we can use the ascendant or the Moon. For medium measures we can use the cycles of Mars, Jupiter, or Saturn. For long-range measures we can use Pluto or Eris, and if necessary, the precession of the equinoxes. These cycles are elliptical rather than linear. In other words, instead of being organized like walking on a tightrope, they are organized in overlapping spirals.

The second factor is that the planets provide a symbolic frame of reference. They have names, energies and stories. We learn things about them as time passes, giving them inherent meaning within time. This provides contact with the energetic tone to events. There is nothing “fourish” about four o’clock; but there is something Full Moonish about every Full Moon. Part of the problem with our time-bound frame of reference is that it lacks human meaning.

Last, marking the passage of time with astrology allows for the observation of synchronicity. Our linear time measurement patterns attempt to do this, when we keep seeing the same patterns on our digital clocks; but it’s difficult to say what they mean. At the least, it would seem that a higher order of time is trying to find its way into our own, which we observe through the patterns in the numbers.

The planets have been here longer than we have. We are directly connected to these rhythms and cycles. Either human DNA originated within our solar system, or it evolved here over many millions of years. While it was evolving, it was subject to the constant influences of the planets and their conditioning forces. Each generation has experienced the movements of all the planets, and in our genetic memory we hold the influences of events that occurred more than one generation ago. Indeed, the genetic memory of many cycles is contained within each of us, along with the knowledge that the planets never align the same way twice.

Using astrology, we can expand this to a much wider palette of experience, and notice patterns. Many cycles overlap; there is plenty to observe. Yet the leap beyond time may come in the process of observation of the subtleties, in the shift from being a passive victim of time to being a conscious navigator of a much wider dimension of experience.

One Response to “Saturn and the Shadow of Time”

  1. evangelysta says:

    I appreciate your reflection on Saturn and time. My natal Saturn is at my Mid Heaven in Gemini and opposite Neptune and Mars–making my chart look a little clocklike.

    I am very sensitive to two phenomena you point to: the collapse of time and the awareness of a “field of perception outside of time.” It seems that these two have developed simultanesously in me alongside the development of the internet. 10 years ago, I was starting to get restless and exploring meditation and spirituality (when I had been a die-hard atheist with a streak of aesthete). I am now meditating regularly, watching the seasons and the stars, and frozen with anxiety when I contemplate the commodification of life-energy, the intensification of capitalism, and thoroughly technologized human life.

    I browse planet waves when I need to feel the humanness within the internet. Because of this lifeline, I feel like there is something on the other side of the confusion and time’s burnout for me–some hospitable future, perhaps?

    Your summary of the value of astrology to connect us to the earth’s cycles and to break the hold of time’s exhaustion makes sense. It touches on what I want from the charts and names and movements–to feel like there is energy that I can dance with and move with–instead of having to start every day as if from my own engines.

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