“When forced to summarize the general theory of relativity in one sentence: Time and space and gravitation have no separate existence from matter.” – Albert Einstein
Sometimes when asked how I like my coffee, I reply “Black like my soul.” Of course, the responses I receive vary with the person in question and just how sensitive they might be to things like gallows humor, religious symbolism, or mystical connotations, but I suppose my somewhat sardonic remark might merit a bit of an explanation.
In the world of occultism, the color black is generally associated with lead, the planet Saturn, and all things “Saturnine”: death, taxes, poisonous herbs like nightshade or henbane, and the inevitable march (or retreat*) of time. Saturn’s astrological title as the “Greater Malefic” might also be blamed for adding even more mass to an already burdensome disposition. Additionally, black is associated with the Qabalistic Sephirah Binah, sphere of the Great Sea or Great Mother, whose imposing roster includes personae as dangerous as Demeter, Ereshkigal, Tiamat, and Kali.
Looking beyond the gloom of Erebos, though, we find rich, powerful, and fertile areas of exploration. To begin with, the ordering of time allows us to order our lives. To quote Einstein, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” Imagine a world without any time. A world where everything happened simultaneously, or is happening simultaneously, since the concept of a past tense would be both untenable and irrelevant. Imagine what a right mess that would be. You can thank the “dark side” that it isn’t, so to speak.
There was a trend among the Hermetic mystics of the Renaissance to give dread Saturn a bit of a public relations once-over. They realized Time’s necessity, how important it was to have something in place to keep what we now like to call the Space-Time Continuum relatively stable, and just how awe-inspiring such a force had to be. Moving beyond the robe and scythe, our defeated despot of the Titan Wars eventually became associated with “Divine Melancholy”, a term denoting quiet poise, intense study, and deep meditation upon Nature and the mysteries of the Universe.
Visualization time. Gaze deep into the primal ocean, down where only the most frightfully adapted monsters dwell. Using sensing apparati that you or I can only imagine, they grope blindly in a cold inky desert for their next meal, mate, or mutilation. Rise slowly past the near-uncountable schools of sardine, salmon and tuna, the snapping jaws of seals and sharks that fill the waters with blood. The rays and great whales, the millions of mollusks, cephalopods, crustaceans and anemone carpeting the reefs, the mass-spawning that occurs in moonlit shallows. This is Saturn-Binah territory we’re speaking of, from whose fertile womb the first creatures ever to inhabit land crawled.
Now imagine a clear night sky. Meditate upon its illimitable darkness. That grim, barren vastness that yet holds trillions of worlds of ice and fire, all of them twirling and dancing to the chaotic cadence of the cosmic void. Saturn-Binah represents the black gulf between the pin-pricks of light, as well as their centers of gravity. The heaviest point of any matter is its center of gravity, yet that is also the point upon which it spins and moves. The Earth’s rotation which we experience as days, nights, and seasons (Saturn was known as a deity of agriculture and the harvest), not to mention the revolutions of moons, solar systems, and galaxies are all achieved through a series of gravitational axis points. In our own Milky Way, scientists are currently training their telescopes upon what they believe to be a super massive black hole at the galaxy’s center, acting as both supreme pivot and cosmic devourer. Saturn-Binah thus signifies both the blackness within which our universe floats, and the myriad balance points upon which its colorful dancers of quasars, gas giants, red dwarfs, asteroids, and nebulae twirl.
Tomb. Womb. Mystery.
Time. Space. Gravity.
Saturn. Binah. Black.
How would I like my coffee?
Black like my soul, thank you.
And if you could, please give it a little spin for me.
*The Latin phrase “tempus fugit” is commonly translated as “time flies”. However, the word “fugit” does not denote flight but fleeing. A far more accurate translation would be “time flees” or “time runs away”, as if no matter how swiftly one pursues, time will ever remain a few inches just out of reach.