Recently, a 26 year-old American disabilities counsellor and daughter of a Methodist minister described her religious preference as ‘Methodist Taoist native America Quaker Russian Orthodox Buddhist Jew”.

Instead of ‘buying’ a pre-packaged (organised) religion, as a savvy shopper she goes for mix and match.  Yet there’s a difference between fashion and spiritiuality isn’t there?  Or least ought there not to be?

Q:   What does this woman really want?

A:    To hear her own voice.

Q:    What prevents her from doing so?

A:    “The Saturated Self”.

According to social psychologist Kenneth Gergen, the post-modern ‘self’ is overwhelmed by a sensory assault from an a ever-increasing diverse range of authorities, opinions, and realities.   Cast adrift is a endless sea of possibilities, the centre of the traditional ‘self’ (more or less stable) is lost.  According to Gergen, the post-modern self has become nothing more than a chameleon accommodating society at large.

In his book “Riding the Ox Home”, Willard Johnson re-examined this relationship of the ‘self’ to ‘society’ using the ancient Taoist parable about the ox tamer on the path to enlightenment.  The story begins with the ox tamer discovering his ox is missing.

The ox symbolizes the undivided reality (the Buddha-nature) that underlies all existence.  The ox-tamer symbolizes the part of the ‘self’ which initially identifies with the ‘individuated ego’, seeing everything as an opportunity for (or as a deprivation of) self-gratification.  People are for his exploitation.   The world is a source for his pleasure.

To achieve true happiness, you must overcome this infantile ‘self‘ and find your ox – the psychologically deeper self from which the ox-tamer is at first separated.  In this regard, the ox represents the ox-tamer’s true ‘self’, his daemon and inner voice.

Without his ox, the ox-tamer can only behave like a shopaholic  choosing with his eyes but never with his heart.

Enter Saturn.

Saturn signifies our striving for accomplishment, material success, and social status – for authority and control.   All necessary things for the individuated ego to succeed in the world.

But Saturn also signifies our ability to evaluate ourselves critically and to see ourselves for who and what we really are.  Saturn also provides the discipline to free ourselves from the existential sense of loss which underlies our constant need for self-gratification.[1]

Once freed from the chains of his ‘individuated ego’ the triumphant ox-tamer arrives home on the back of his ox, relaxed and playing a flute.   He knows that while he can’t help being influenced by society’s sensory assault, he is the master of his own thoughts.   He’s learned how to keep his immature “self” in check.[2]

At last he can hear his own voice which will guide him on his way toward true spirituality.

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[1] According with most spiritual traditions, we will always feel this existential loss until we transcend our ‘self’ and find union with God – or as Rudolph Otto so politically correctly puts it – ‘the wholly other’.

[2] To strengthen your Saturn, focus first and foremost on its inherent (by sign and house) strenghs.  Saturn is your backbone.  Learn how to make it strong.  Remember that part of making something strong is to first acknowlege its weaknesses.  Saturn does that only too well.  So to identify your strenghs first focus on where you feel a failure.  With a bit of digging about, you should be able to see that this apparent paradox is really just flip sides of the same coin.

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