by Damian Osborne

 

I suppose things have changed forever.

On a violet evening just before Christmas, I stood, studying the Western sky. A grey wall of the approaching cold front nearly hid the Great Saturn/Jupiter Conjunction; an amazing herald for a new Epoch.

Whether through grace, luck or undiluted instinct, in the year 2020, I came to recognise the World-Wide Deception.

Now I have come to accept, that the inner-narratives of many may never be dislodged. And there is no reason at all for me to believe that I can take down walls by running into them.

In a world perpetually trying to tame us, an artist, in particular, is hyper-allergic and sensitive to being leashed. They are (artists), usually, forewarned and guided by that innate instinct and sensitivity. A prophet is stoned in his own village and called a madman.

Artists, prophets, madmen; nobody listens to them anyway.

I feel as if I am watching the world through a screen.

Censorship extends beyond the online space. It has infiltrated our personal relationships. Certain topics simply end in emotionally-charged arguments.

And usually, that emotion is fear. Fear of death. In fact, so much fear of death, that we’ve forgotten the most important gift of all: to breathe the free air and to LIVE!

The masked face is the symbol of the Nigredo. Breathing through the curtain of the grave.

So I’m tired of the dark clouds, the media, the lifeless populace, the division. What happened to the ‘spark of fire’ in people? I thought I knew certain people. I suppose not.

This is a new Aeon. It is the time for cutting old ties; for burning away the shadows and the dross; choosing to sever oneself from slavery with a sabre of light. How real are these bonds? How imaginary?

It is the new Age of Enlightenment. The battle for personal sovereignty.

I think mostly the light-shining is needed within. Yes, we need more light to dispel the world’s darkness. More life! More feeling! Throw more logs on the bonfire to keep the lying, the conniving wolves at bay.

But I am unsure whether I subscribe to the notion of privatio boni; that evil is merely the absence of good. The Great Scam has shown us that there is real evil in the world and that we need more than just ‘positivity’. We need to be able to recognize evil too. And to not be afraid.

 

Nigredo, eclipse and Saturn Jupiter conjuction, oil on board, Damian Osborne, 2021
Nigredo, eclipse and Saturn/Jupiter conjuction, oil on board, Damian Osborne, 2021.

 

Mysterious conjunction

Although a conjunction between our two largest planets, Jupiter and Saturn, occurs every 19.8 years, this is the closest conjunction since 1623 (less than 0,1 degrees apart). This is an extremely rare event.

Three Jupiter/Saturn conjunctions occurred during the years 1536-1535 BC. This heralded the birth of Moses, who was the most important prophet in Judaism and led the people out of enslavement.

All three conjunctions took place within Taurus, the Bull. Moses broke the Golden Calf and brought in the Age of Aries. The preceding Age of Taurus, was the age of the Earth, the age of agriculture.

Again, around the time of Jesus’ birth (more specifically 7 BC), another triple Jupiter/Saturn union occurred within the constellation of Pisces and brought in the new Age of Pisces, (symbolised by two fish swimming in opposite directions, yoked together just like the conjunction itself). Christianity is often represented by the fish.

Jesus was sacrificed as the ‘Lamb’ before the Romans, who worshipped the warring God Ares/Mars, symbolized by the Ram. And thus, Jesus heralded the end of the Age of Aries. The Age of Aries was the beginning of the age of empires, warfare and expansion.

Jesus brought in the Christian Age which changed absolutely everything about culture and ‘liberated’ us from enslavement to sin as the story goes. The Age of Pisces was the age of the great religions. According to the astrological chart of that period, the planet Mars was in opposition to the conjunction.

It is also said that the Prophet Muhammad was born shortly after the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Scorpio.

And now, are we in the time of the Anti-Christ? A time when the worship of artificial intelligence becomes the New Religion of Materialism; where humans start believing that we are really gods, and that if we are able to mess with genetic modifications, with immortality, then why shouldn’t we? A time when Google’s DeepMind could become God?

In an increasingly materialistic world, how are we going to save ourselves from ourselves, (do you really think Science will save us?) when we are so spiritually and ethically bereft?

 

The Nigredo

In this age of spiritual coldness, lack of feeling and lack of humanness, Nigredo is a return to the inner womb of the self; to the fertile darkness within the earth.

Nigredo is the silent sanctuary where the monk receives the riches of the soul through disciplined silence and deep inward reflection. The seed germinates in blackness. Nigredo is represented by the raven. The first stage is calcination, burning to black.

Nigredo is the sudden realisation that we are truly mortal. And that we are going to die, whether we wear a mask, get the shot, or transplant our minds into software. We become aware of ourselves beyond our mortal form. Therein lies our greatest treasure. Technology and anti-wrinkle creams won’t save us.

Saturn (♄) is the planet of Time; moody, dark, melancholic; the Old Testament God of Wrath, the Ancient God of the Jews (His sabbath is on Saturn’s Day/Saturday); Kronos, eater of his own children. Saturn, the reaper with his scythe and hourglass, represents chaos, death and putrification. The endless cycle.

Saturn, the Titan (Roman), Sater (Hebrew for ‘hidden’), Kronos (Greek) and Typhon, (Greek and Latin), Tsaphon or Tsaphun (also Hebrew word for ‘hidden’, and ‘Lord of the North’, ), Hyksos Seth, (Ancient Egyptians) Baal Zephon, (translated as ‘hidden’), the two-horned deity, called Kronos which comes from the Hebrew ‘Keren’, meaning ‘horned’, Cernunnos of the Celts, El, identified as the god of the Israelites.

According to Eusebius:

Kronos, whom the Egyptians call Thouth, excelled in wisdom among the Phoenicians …Kronos then, whom the Phoenicians call ISRAEL, who was king of the country and subsequently after his decease was deified as the star Saturn had an only begotten son ..called Jehud…he arrayed his son …in royal apparel and sacrificed him”. CORY, I.P. “The Ancient Fragments”, London, 1828.

Sacrificed his only begotten son? Why is that so familiar?

This is the beginning of the Nigredo process, whereby the initiate is pulverised, disintegrated, burnt to blackness. Nigredo is ‘Melancholia’; the saturnine mood is sober, sardonic, grave or sullen. This is the lead of the Alchemists. The beginning of the spiritual process.

 

Albrecht Dürer, Melancholia, copperplate engraving (1514)
Albrecht Dürer, Melancholia, copperplate engraving (1514) includes an order 4 square with magic sum 34. This drawing shows many references to alchemy, higher thought and Saturn.

 

The symbol for Saturn is a cross (♄) and a scythe or sickle.

Saturn is associated with depth, gravitas and depression. Depression, as Jungian author, James Hillman, writes, is the curative for the widespread manic activism that dominates our culture. The saturnine space is the dark, fertile earth of deep transformation.

The judgment, paranoia, and mania, spreading like a psychic virus; the mass psychosis that has befallen the world during this pandemic, stems from a culture unwilling to look inward.

Spittle flies, families are divided, and people point fingers. It is fascinating how we are telling others how they should live so that we can feel safe. (Even though I’ve been vaxed, if you don’t get it, how can I be safe? If your car’s brakes are bad, how then can I stop my own car?)

We are living in a world where the doctor is more unhealthy than the patient. And everyone is addicted to therapy. It is this trust in the ‘experts’, in the ‘science’ (which means whatever financial, pharmaceutical or political agenda is driving it, wants it to mean — we left real science behind long ago), the belief that things need to be fixed; the belief in constant ‘growth’ and positivity.

We left reality behind a long time ago too.

The world that has lost its soul. We have lost our instincts. And we have become lifeless, domesticated zombies.

As Jung says regarding those who are out of touch with nature;

That cabbages thrive in dung, was something I had always taken for granted…People who know nothing about nature are of course neurotic, for they are not adapted to reality.”

In alchemical texts, the Nigredo is said to last for 40 days and 40 nights. This is the length of time Jesus spent in the desert, where he was visited three times by Satan (Saturn?). The ego must be destroyed. This is the end of hubris, and letting go of being in control. It is the emptiness of the desert, the void, the abandonment. It is the dying on the cross. ‘Why Lord, hast Thou forsaken me?’

 

The Risen King

But then, enter Jupiter (♃). As the ashes cool and take on a grey colour, a New King is born. Reborn, rising phoenix-like from the ashes into the purer form of spirit, Jupiter is the New Joy, the son of Saturn, the new exuberance.

Jupiter is the first sliver of silver in the night sky after the Nigredo.

Jupiter is represented by tin (Jove’s metal), the next metal after lead. The Ruler, the Great Teacher, the largest planet, he is associated with expansion, prosperity, sovereignty, higher learning, philosophy, healing and miracles.

The King of Heaven and the ruler of the gods; he is the god of the sky, the weather, the benefactor, the protector. Jupiter’s great gravitational mass is said to protect our planet from threatening comets and asteroids.

Jupiter, Jove, Jehovah or Zeus, Jovis Pater or Father Jove, is represented by the lightning bolt, thunder and the sky. He is also symbolised by the dove and the eagle. Birds are said to be his auguries.

The symbol for Jupiter is the sceptre or a hieroglyph of the eagle; a crescent receptacle rising out of the cross of matter, like a phoenix. It is the glyph of Saturn inverted and overcome.

Jovial and optimistic Jove is the antidote to Saturn’s sullenness and morbidness.

Although, at this stage, the alchemist must also guard against inflation, self-righteousness and shallowness.

The initiate may become imbalanced through self-aggrandisement, and trying to ‘save’ others instead of looking to themselves because they lack the depth necessary to deal with spiritual power.

Study the real person behind so many so-called spiritual leaders in the world, and not their public personas. (I really cannot take the leaders of any of these mega-churches seriously. And Jehovah’s Witnesses are basically another Christian cult.)

After the chaos of the Nigredo, the next stage is the Albedo or ablution; the stage of whiteness where sin is washed away. One is purified through the ashes. Now the soul has risen out of matter and is reborn.

The dove represents this stage, just as the dove was present at Jesus’ baptism. Jupiter presides over the second stage of the alchemist’s journey. Light is shone upon the Prima Materia (the first matter). This is the stage of dissolution.

The very definition of alchemy is the blending of two opposites to make a new whole. Positive and negative magnetic poles, light and dark, crucifixion and resurrection, ego and unconscious.

This is the ‘Mysterium Coniunctionis‘: the union of metaphysical, psychological or cosmic opposites which come together in the mystery of the Coniunctio.

 

Biblia Pauperum, British Library manuscript Kings 5 Folio 20 Resurrection
Biblia Pauperum, British Library manuscript Kings 5 Folio 20 Resurrection. The King rising from the grave. 

 

Perhaps this conjunction is a symbol of the new kingdom.

The conjunction was also known as ‘the Christmas Star’ or the ‘Star of Bethlehem’. Is this the star of the coming Messiah? The Second Coming? Or the shadow of the Messiah — the Anti-Christ?

Perhaps it is a sign of the beginning of the end; where countries continue lockdowns, personal rights are discarded, and one cannot buy or sell without a mandatory QR code. Does this herald the prophesied ‘Mark of the Beast’ and a time of slavery?

When I consider the light and dark aspects of God, I think of the ancient Roman god Janus, who had two faces. One looking to the future, and one to the past; the god of the threshold.

 

The beginning of the work

As Christianity ebbs after its 2000 year cycle, we are entering a time of technocracy, where Western religion and culture is vehemently demolished or ‘cancelled’ by the establishment.

The coming Age of Aquarius is the age of dissolution of the old systems and the old ties. Will it be an age of a mindless automation populace or trans-human drones? Or the age of new meaning; the age of the handmade life for the free-thinking?

We are collectively living in the time of the Nigredo. Society, and the world as we once knew it is being broken down. As artists, our work has just begun.

When you see your matter going black, rejoice, you are at the beginning of the work.” — the Rosarium Philosophorum.

It is easy to become inflated and to believe you can simplify or ‘crack’ the symbology in alchemy, or the Jungian ideas regurgitated so prolifically over the internet.

A person who lives through the abstract and has no real connection to emotion or affect, is creatively barren. If these ideas do not touch you at a foundational, unconscious level, through affect, they have no meaning, and are merely archaic or charming ‘ideas’.

The real difference comes in when you have true access to the emotions behind the ideas, through real-life experience, and through your own personal journey.

The only way to stay sane is to reconnect with Nature, maintain faith through the darkness of the Nigredo, and continue the creative work.

Creativity, more than anything, is the vehicle for spirituality.

 

See the process of my Nigredo painting.

 

 

Nigredo, self-portrait painting, oil on board, Damian Osborne, 2021, final stages of a portrait painting
Nigredo, self-portrait painting, oil on board, Damian Osborne, 2021.

 










4 thoughts on “Thinking Through the Nigredo – The Union of Darkness and Light”

  1. Damian,
    I enjoyed your letter to the artist……..some of the material I am not familiar with…..and some I am…..so, happily read through this ……I watched this year the amazing closeness of Jupiter and Saturn…..where I live in the Sonoran desert in Arizona, it is considered a ‘dark sky’ community…so, no lights are allowed to shine upward…all must shine down….leaving the sky to itself to shine. And, The Star of Bethlehem…..years and years ago I took an astromony class from a Professor Karlis Kaufmanis……and he addresses the happening of that time…..he had a speech on the Star of Bethlehem , I think it can be found on YouTube……I am sure he is long dead…as he was an old man when I took the course. But, after that , have always been interested in the sky and it’s own culture, as I like to call it.
    So, I appreciate your ‘letters to the artist’……good reading ,,,,interesting and thought provoking.

    I hope this finds you well …..carry on doing what you do best….create.
    Regards,
    Joyce Boydstun

    1. Hi Joyce, it’s nice to hear from you. Thanks for your lovely comments. Yeah, we just spent the weekend out in the Swartland, (about 2 hours drive from Cape Town). Beautiful, wide-open spaces and mountains. We have been watching Venus and Jupiter closely. The stars are magnificent in the farmlands and vineyards. It’s great that you took an astronomy class. I’ve been dabbling for a while now and I think I’m addicted. 

      All the best, 

      Damian

  2. Wow! I have studied the stars for years – one of the good things about Betty’s Bay, is that one can still see more than in most places. It is, however a continuous fight to educated the “indringers” not to create light pollution. I’m afraid, my interest is purely scientific but find your info fascinating. My brain is a bit lazy these days & I no longer attach too much importance to the effect of the planets. Not saying, they don’t have an effect on as, as we are energy, but I prefer not to attach too much importance to that aspect…for my own sanity 🙂 for what it is!
    Damian, have you guys been to the Cedarberg, where there is a private planetarium? This is where my interest started. Very powerful telescopes.
    I believe we came from ether & our energy returns there. Weirdly, I always feel safe looking into that blackness…I know there is more to it than we can see!!
    Thx for you amazing insights. XX

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