This material was first published in German in 1981 under the title ‘Intelligenz im Horoskop’, and provides a good astrological-psychological background to the previous blog post ‘Why did I do that?’.
Saturn accretes matter, it limits, crystallizes and contracts, unlike the Sun, which is expansive, vitalizing, outgoing, even explosive at times. Since Saturn symbolizes all solidifying energies, it will gather information, and then soon concentrate and consolidate it; it is our memory.
Memory is a very important function of our mental make-up. Without it we’d always forget anything once learned, and we couldn’t draw on it when it’s needed. Any new learning almost invariably builds up on previously laid foundations, which are stored in our memory bank awaiting recall. People with a strong Saturn tend to live in the past, they are conservative and staid in their habits, and often strike us as being rather too solid. They hanker after the good old days, and tend to mistrust anything new, because they can’t fit it into their old pattern-structure.
Mercury too is one of the classical intelligence planets. Unfortunately he is much overrated nowadays, and shouldn’t really be valued more than Saturn. He merely stands for a different type of intelligence.
Mercury is the principle of information. He rejoices in verbalizing, and deftly deals with abstract concepts. People with a strong Mercury love to collect information, the more the better, and to be able to pass it on.
Usually strongly mercurial people prefer just to deliver the information, not to work with it themselves, rather like a postman. And they don’t actually ask themselves whether this information is important or unimportant, valuable or worthless. They just like to share an item of news, or a fact, or an idea, without having to bother unduly about its intrinsic worth. But if they do work with their information then they may tend to embellish it, ad infinitum.
But this embellishing is not really a creative process, merely variations on an old theme. We have to be clear in our mind about this distinction. Mercury himself does not engage in creative activities, he by choice specializes in transferring knowledge. It is his specific function to present knowledge in such a way that it is clear, unambiguous, and easy to grasp. That’s why he rejoices in linguistic acuity. Of course all people to some degree have the power to communicate. We can all pick up thoughts and then pass them on to others, such as jokes for instance which we’ve heard and then like to repeat to our friends. Humour often implies the skilful use of words.
Saturn and Mercury—memory and correlating
The definition of an academic type of intelligence is the ability to grasp, to memorize and to correlate knowledge which is deemed important by the establishment. A fount of knowledge, quickly and easily accessible, a facility to bring together related facts and to integrate them systematically to arrive at logical conclusions, these are the hallmark of an educated person, the pride of our educational system.
Many a doctoral thesis contains little or no original thought. It consists of book learning suitably rearranged, and of quotations which are dressed up and padded out—true synthesis of the scholar’s own and other people’s knowledge, but devoid of original contributions.
The added qualities symbolized by Jupiter are needed before we can talk about a healthy and well-balanced intelligence. Jupiter brings a touch of reality, and he controls our sensory apparatus. He is the sum total of our five organs of sensory perception, hearing, sight, taste, smell, and touch.
A well-placed Jupiter will enable us to make the most intelligent use of all sensory input. If we are keenly alert to any clues proffered by the outside world, then we are in a position to react to them quickly, and to turn them to our best advantage. Then we gain the reputation of being lucky. In the olden days Jupiter was always called the Greater Benefic, the planet which bestows luck. He doesn’t bother to put his insights into words, he straight away translates them, reflex-fashion, into direct actions and reactions. And he encourages us to widen the scope of our intelligence by adding the fruits of our own observations and conclusions to mere learned knowledge. Being told that a house is made of stone is quite a different matter from actually seeing and touching it. Then we can experience the nature of stone for ourselves. Theory is underpinned by personal experience, and our perception becomes more real and alive.
Personal observation using our senses can tell us what’s going on in the world around us, for instance whether an object is large or small. It is the function of our sensory organs to keep us informed about our surroundings, and to adapt our responses accordingly. Here it is important to stress the difference between assessment and evaluation. It is easy to assess the difference between gold and wood. But it would of course be foolish to then pronounce a value judgement, and to declare that gold is invariably better than wood because it lasts longer, is rarer, and therefore more expensive, and valuable. Clearly a more appropriate evaluation would establish that gold is the right and proper material for some purposes but quite unsuitable for others. Right assessment depends on the typically jupiterian ability to note the relative appropriateness and usefulness of an article or a situation: the right response for the right situation. Therefore we can employ our jovian qualities and use our five senses to explore for ourselves any objects or situations which confront us. This will fully engage our conscious mind and all our senses, and will liberate us from a dependency on other people’s judgement.
Unfortunately our educational system doesn’t as a rule encourage us to make up our own minds. Instead we are pressed to develop the more mercurial attributes. And the same goes for a great many home backgrounds, where our own opinions often aren’t very welcome. Children who want to draw their own conclusions based on their own observations and then voice them during a discussion by the grown-ups very often are reprimanded for this intrusion. This doesn’t actually teach them to foster independent thinking. And when this process continues over a considerable period of time, most children’s enthusiasm and will to use their own observations and their own judgement slowly becomes irrevocably thwarted and then atrophies altogether.
Saturn, Mercury and Jupiter combined
For a well-functioning intelligence we need:
- the ability to observe and comprehend, perceive, assess and evaluate;
- the ability to combine our memory bank with our own observations, to arrive at logical and appropriate conclusions, to communicate and to correlate, to strive towards synthesis;
- the ability to retain and to store for recall our knowledge and observations.
Our intelligence depends on a synthesis of these three basic functions. With these we can collect data, especially those which yield information about the physical attributes of our surroundings, and combine them in new and creative ways. With these we can become aware of subtle differences, shades of meaning, and arrive at new and valid conclusions.
Obviously there is always the danger that one of these three planets could try to assume a dominant role over the other two. Mercury’s tendency to collect and collate needs the guiding framework of a value system. Without this, Mercury acts like a small-time grocer who sells just about everything in his shop, from diamond rings to shoe laces, but who offers it all at unit price. This is of course senseless. Such people have to learn to make conscious use of the qualities of Saturn and Jupiter, to give meaning to their countless bits of information.
Another danger is that we allow ourselves to be ruled by our memory. Saturn, in charge of our memory store, has the tendency to judge everything new by old standards. When he is confronted by a novel situation he’ll invariably try to see whether it can possibly be made to fit in with an already established thinking‑pattern—like the proverbial tramline, thinking in predetermined grooves. And if he can’t find such a reassuring pigeonhole, he’ll start to feel insecure and makes mistakes—maybe only small mistakes for a start, but they can accumulate, and end up as big mistakes which produce unwelcome results. It is truly dangerous to judge the present solely by past conditioning.
These people will have to learn not always to rely on their saturnian preconceived notions, but to make instead a conscious effort to utilize the jovian qualities of open-mindedness. They must make up their minds to face the fact that some new situations really will require new responses, Saturn notwithstanding.
Needless to say, Jupiter carries his own set of dangers. Some people tend to live exclusively in the here and now, relying entirely on their immediate impressions and spontaneous reactions. Thus they won’t learn by experience, and they won’t make the effort to think around their problems. And they are buffeted by the vagaries of life, seeming driven by fate from one happening to another. They are unable to settle down to anything requiring any kind of discipline, being artless or shiftless, like the tramp who sleeps rough, like the proverbial traveller. There are quite a few others living within society who lack the steadying influence of roots and routine, preferring to be totally spontaneous and experiential. At this level it is no longer innocent, natural behaviour, but denotes an inadequately functioning Saturn and Mercury. This is because the energies of these two planets should enable those people to bring some sort of responsible order into their experiences, and to take charge of their own conduct.
To sum up, there are three facets to intelligence. In total we can refer to it as the intellect, which is possessed by all men and women to varying degrees. It is important that we are clear in our minds about the nature of these different constituents. Intelligence can only function properly and reliably when they co-operate effectively and harmoniously: memory, correlation, perception—Saturn, Mercury, Jupiter. Should one of these dominate, or one of them be repressed, then we can expect trouble.
Actually some animals, like chimpanzees and dolphins, show rudimentary traces of these three attributes. These functions are by no means exclusively human, unavailable to animals. They are basic abilities, which slowly emerged during evolution of life on this planet to assure our survival. They allow us to live our lives more successfully, more satisfactorily, more joyfully.
But there is more to it than we have so far considered. Human intelligence doesn’t consist merely of these three attributes. There is also the integrative function of the ego, which adds direction and purpose. With the three qualities above we would never manage to be truly creative. We wouldn’t produce a work of art, make scientific discoveries, establish mathematical theorems, or compose musical masterpieces, because Mercury’s and Jupiter’s potential would always be held in check by defensive Saturn. Saturn is one of the personal planets, and as such is concerned predominantly with the need for security.
In ‘Astrological Psychosynthesis’, Bruno goes on to consider intelligence related to Sun, Moon and Saturn as personality planets, and Venus, the remaining tool planet.