Robben Island was slowly approaching, as the ferryboat was mooring in a small harbor. The sun shining brightly, as expected in Africa. The heart moved, already aware of the pilgrimage in progress. In (almost) total silence, we entered the precinct where political prisoners were disembarked for the first time in 1962.
Before entering the boat, we had seen videos of Mandela and other eminent South African men talking about freedom, the lack of it, the meaning of being human. About peace, war, violence, injustice, discrimination, suffering, resilience and the human spirit.
Inspiring the strong and nourishing ocean breeze, I thought that the sea was the perfect uterus to contain Mandela in his 28-year Saturnine cycle in that island/prison. He was of the astrological sign of Cancer – patriot, family oriented, father of the Nation – and the unconscious in the water signs is even more activated by the God of the oceans, Neptune-Poseidon. With the magnificent Table Mountain as the continental frame, the aridity of the island to which he was deported was softened.
While we will never forget the brutality of apartheid, we don't want Robben Rsland to be a monument to our difficulties and suffering. We want it to be a triumph of the human spirit, against the forces of evil. We want it to celebrate the triumph of wisdom and the greatness of spirit, over small minds. The triumph of courage and determination, over human fragilities.
(Ahmed Kathrada, 1993)
At a moment when war has returned to Europe – the ‘civilized’ continent – it is important to remember that nothing is ever guaranteed. Times ask us collectively to get up, raise our voices and hearts, on high, and do what the best of us (our totality) demands.
Robben Island had been a ‘human garbage can’: lepers, paupers, the mentally ill had been dumped there like waste for centuries. I knew well that going on this pilgrimage meant looking at our inner outsiders, our underdeveloped selves, our dark, rejected, hidden, abhorred characters. For us and for one another. I knew that it implied another level of integration of this layer of human shadow… only with compassion, humble presence, wise openness, and profound patience, can we welcome these hordes of prisoners that we keep in the scorching dungeons of the solitary (severe prison cell) that we transport. Apartheid is gone, but I saw anger in the eyes of some young black men in the townships of Cape Town's suburbs.
There is no Apartheid anymore, but there is war in Ukraine. If we do not free our inner prisoners, if we do not exorcize ourselves from the love of power, we will never be able to balance the Scales of Justice, which is an honest, lucid, serious dialogue between one and the other. And we will always be at the mercy of those whose love for power is paramount. At the mercy of those who want to leave a megalomaniac legacy, activated by tense astrological configurations – a lot of tension in the sky (and the mirrors on earth that they are) during all of March 2022. Mars of war conjunct Atomic Pluto, in Capricorn of power; Saturn of control conjunct Mercury of communication and movements in the People's sing of Aquarius… the new moon of Pisces together with Jupiter of extremisms. Over the centuries, have we learned something, or very little? May all prayers and the power of love help us, women and men of good will.
We were silent while listening to the former political prisoner who was hosting us during the visit to the Robben Island prison-museum, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. World Heritage is the designation for places on Earth that are of outstanding universal value and, as such, protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.
Mandela had once cared for, with great satisfaction, the bushes in the courtyard of the prison, that are now just a tiny green space. He and his fellow prisoners used the balls they sometimes played with to secretly exchange information with each other. To lift their spirits. And they also studied. And they taught – in secret, of course.
Each one teach one.
(African American proverb)
Let the university atmosphere prevail here on Robben Island.
The right to study has transformed us more than anything else. A prisoner who studies is actually already out of jail. It is the power of mind over matter.
I taught math and physics… I must have been the first teacher who helped solve equations while I was in the shower.
Studying, teaching, expanding consciousness will always be expressions of human greatness and talent. Learning to respect each other, developing empathy, knowing ourselves enough to trust our wisdom, and being wise enough to follow the soul's guidance; which is not always meek, rather, often asks us to pay tremendous prices. But if we don't pay the price of sovereignty, of the truth of essence, what will happen to our freedom? What will become of the human condition? What will become of each and one of us?
Our tour guide/host, the former political prisoner, said it had been a huge waste, a man of Nelson Mandela's caliber, to have been in prison for nearly 3 decades… “What he wouldn't do if he were free” he said. I thought to myself: perhaps it was because he was on his 28-year retreat – as I said earlier, an important cycle of Saturnine structuring – wisdom, maturity, awareness, solidity – that he was able to fully become the “captain of his soul,” as he liked to say.
Time is also a divine archetype, and when it is used with wise surrender and courageous truth like Mandela's, we can reap strength from fragility, hope from darkness, and the true power: that of love. And we can do great things: Mandela changed the world. Let's change, one by one, his world.
For peace, for truth, for freedom!