Monday, September 27, 2010

Tony Soprano: Ethics vs Psychoanalysis

Anatidaephobia - The Fear That You are Being Watched by a Duck

This piece of useless info doing the rounds of Facebook made me think of Tony Soprano: “What are you looking at?” And, of course, he has ducks in his swimming pool which he has a sentimental/ symbolic attachment to. I’ve watched all 7 series of The Sopranos over the last few months, and Tony seems a classic Scorpio, in its most primitive form.

Tony gets panic attacks, and sees an analyst about them. He has to keep quiet about this or the other mobsters would see it as a sign of weakness. His relationship with his female analyst is fascinating. She ends up needing him as much as Tony needs her. At one point she is raped, and she has a dream in which a black dog saves her.
In the next analysis session, Scorpio Tony spots something is up and asks her what the problem is, and you see her moral struggle. She only has to say to Tony, and he will find the rapist and despatch him, for he is the protecting black dog. She wants to tell him, she wants his protection, but in the end she doesn’t tell him.

Tony’s analyst has an analyst herself, and he always keeps bringing the subject back to Tony. She accuses her analyst of having a tabloid interest in Tony, and she is right, but he won’t admit it.
He is a stereotype of the New York Jewish intellectual analyst, heady and disembodied. Both analysts occupy a ‘civilised’, rational world – Libra? – and Tony is the perfect shadow figure for them, that both fascinates and repels.

Tony acquires some self-understanding through the analysis (which goes on for years) but he becomes no less brutal, no less of a murderer. He can’t, for legal reasons, tell his analyst much of what he does. At one point he refers to a ‘manpower’ problem involving a member of his gang who he is related to. Tony’s analyst helps him see the feelings of guilt and sentimental attachment which are clouding his ability to think clearly and do what is necessary. The next thing you see is Tony heading off and despatching the guy, who has become a liability. This series of events seems quite plausible to me, and forcefully makes the point that successful psycho-analysis doesn’t necessarily make you more moral.

This theme arises earlier in the series when Tony’s wife Carmela goes to see an analyst because she is having problems with his serial infidelities (Tony has a strong desire nature which he never restrains – Scorpio again). This analyst is again Jewish, but of a very different cut. He speaks like an Old Testament prophet, taking a clear moral stance and denouncing the self-centred nature of modern analysis.
No, he will not accept money from her, because it is blood money. Carmela should leave her husband because he treats her very badly and will continue to do so. What Tony needs, the analyst continues, is to repent of his sins. He needs to be put in prison in solitary confinement with just the Bible to read, and after 7 years he might just see what he has done and repent.

This scene only lasted a few minutes, but I felt relief flooding through me as I heard it. The basis for personal transformation, according to this more old-fashioned viewpoint, is ethics, is considering the effects your actions have on others. Without that, you are just refining your own self-centredness. This point comes up again at the end when Tony’s analyst reads a study that describes psychopaths like Tony, and how the effect of psychoanalysis on such people is often to give them more tools with which to manipulate people and get their own way. (This study is for real: I have read it elsewhere.) At this point she finally gives up on Tony, and you are left with the realisation that for all his charm and his feelings for his wife and kids, and his attempts at understanding himself, Tony remains an unreformed monster.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Left Brain Astrology, the Gauquelins and Richard Dawkins

During the 1950s Michel Gauquelin and his wife Françoise Schneider-Gauquelin published various statistical studies of astrology. Perhaps their most well-known result is the Mars Effect, whereby a statistically significant number of professional sportspeople were found to have Mars on one of the Angles of their birthcharts.

Below is the chart of their results for Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn on the Angles for a list of professions. + means a positive result, - means a significant lack. The ones in brackets were less conclusive.

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Of course, to achieve statistical significance you only need a swing of a few percent over a large number. So most sportspeople, for example, will NOT have Mars on an Angle. On average, however, more will have Mars on an Angle than would be expected if the process were random.

Still, it is very nice to see a cross-over, a meeting between the intuitive, symbolic truth of astrology, and the truth to be found through rational, empirical study. They are very different types of truth, and for me the significance of this study is not that it ‘proves’ astrology, but that intuition and reason, ‘left and right brains’ can speak to each other. Of course, we know this on a personal level, where each informs and hones the other. But culturally, there is a huge divide, a pathology, due to the stunning success of the scientific method over the last few centuries. It is quite a simple pathology, really, which you find wherever there is hubris.

In a way, what is needed culturally is not another breakthrough into the nature of dark matter, or the creation of a unified field theory. What is needed is for science to be baffled for a long period on the big questions, to the extent that it starts to doubt that its own method can provide all the answers.

A figure who seems to embody this hubris is Richard Dawkins, the Oxford Professor who has for some time been conducting a one-man atheist inquisition. With Sun in Aries trine to Pluto, he has on the one hand the intellectual brilliance and achievement that you can find in Aries; but also the naïve inflation that an Aries is prone to, and the righteousness and desire to dominate of this martial sign. Like hubristic Achilles and his victim Hector, Dawkins and many other rationalists will not be content until they have dragged the through the streets the naked corpses of all types of knowledge that are not ‘scientific’.

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It is surprising to find that Dawkins has Moon and Venus in Pisces, with one or both opposite Neptune, and an unaspected Mercury in Pisces.You could hardly find a more right-brained, mystical, intuitive set of signs and planets. But you find this sometimes with Pisces-Neptune people: it is as though they are so afraid of their own creative, imaginative nature, and the loss of control that comes with it, that they become the opposite extreme in a misguided attempt to keep it all at bay. And you see it with Dawkins: the man is on a mission, like any good fundamentalist, to destroy that which he does not agree with. I have a theory that Dawkins will undergo enantiodroma as he gets older, a process described by Jung in which people embodying a psychological extreme eventually swing to the opposite pole.
It’s astrologically fascinating to see the way Dawkins is living in opposition to his own chart and therefore in opposition to himself. He is currently undergoing a square from Pluto to his Sun, and under these sort of transits, people sometimes get worse before they get better – sometimes the getting worse is a sign that things are about to change. His Aries Sun remains quite childish in the way that he wants to convert everyone to what is ‘right’. We may see a less strident Richard Dawkins a year or two down the line, followed by a tabloid exposure of his secret visits to a doomsday cult!

Back to Gauquelin and the professions.
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Sportspeople: Mars on its own suggests the simple physicality and competitiveness of this profession. It is not about, for example, the adrenaline high, which would need Venus or Jupiter.

Scientists: Mars shows the drive and investigative quality needed, and Saturn the discipline as well as the institutions and adherence to convention surrounding it. The significant lack of Jupiter along with the presence of Saturn suggests that scientists are on the whole a plodding, unimaginative bunch. Doctors have exactly the same planet emphases as scientists, which shows how far they have strayed from their ruling archetype of the healer, where we might expect Moon, Venus or Jupiter.

Scientists contrast with politicians, who would seem to be ruled by the Moon and Jupiter: the ability to connect emotionally with people (Moon) and the ability to tell tall stories! (Jupiter). Saturn, the training in one’s craft, is not present here, because as we know, it is not necessary for success in politics: successful politicians can come seemingly out of nowhere.

Writers and painters, with their positive lack of Mars and Saturn, would seem to be gentle, unconventional souls.

Military people and CEOs have exactly the same emphasis, which is very interesting. Mars and Jupiter are pronounced here, suggesting an expanded (Jupiter) propensity to fight/compete (Mars).

Journalists tell stories (Jupiter), and the positive lack of Saturn suggests that on average a good story is more important than the mundane reality behind it.

Playwrights and those they write for, the actors, both have strong Jupiters. What we have here is story telling and, if the play is any good, large characters, both of which are Jupiter. The positive lack of Saturn in actors seems odd, because learning their lines and getting a feel for the character are fundamental. But I suppose that at the end of the day it is the Jupiter that the public sees, not the Saturn.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Neptune in Pisces

Below is Adrian Duncan’s latest article, a predictive piece on Neptune in Pisces:

It’s been a long time. Neptune was discovered on September 23, 1846 and as it takes 165 years to go around the Sun, it is only recently that it has returned to its discovery position, which was 26 degrees Aquarius. One year after its discovery Neptune entered the sign it was later to have rulership over… Pisces. We have just experienced a Neptune birthday, and on April 4, 2011 this enormous planet will enter Pisces once again.

This is going to be quite an event. The discovery of Neptune coincided with worldwide social upheaval, which was mostly peaceful. In 1848 the Communist Manifesto was published, which was a response to the inhuman conditions in expanding cities where new factories were sprouting as a result of steam power and industrialization. This was the period when Charles Dickens wrote his novels of social realism, and social democratic demonstrations shook the capitals of Europe. This was also a time when painters like Renoir, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Cezanne and Monet made their impressionist paintings, expanding the world of fantasy and imagination. On the scientific front Darwin’s theory of evolution completely undermined Christian tradition. The first photographs were taken, ultimately leading to the coming world of the movies. Anesthetics were used for the first time in hospitals. Opium became a socially acceptable drug. The accepted reality of the day was undermined and new spiritual, emotional and political realities took form.

Here in 2010 we can now document the movement of Neptune through each of the twelve signs, and await a new spiral of Neptunian evolution. The function of Neptune is to expand our experience of so-called reality by introducing new dimensions of consciousness (more…)

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Why is Saturn Exalted in Libra?

Saturn is currently in Libra, and will remain there for another 2 years. Saturn is exalted in Libra, which means it has the potential to function at its best, due to its synergy with the sign. Why is Saturn exalted in Libra? If you Google this question, you’ll find a few answers out there.

The answer that came to me last night is that Saturn is a planet of manifestation, of drawing down ideas from the imagination and giving them concrete form. If this is done under the sign of Libra, then all sides of the matter are considered before action is taken (this is also a quality that comes naturally to Saturn.) So things get done properly. You can also see why Saturn should be in its fall in the opposite sign of Aries, which will rush Saturn into action without proper consideration.

Being the planet that sets boundaries, Saturn can be self-centred – me and ‘my’ achievement. In Libra Saturn is forced to consider others, to realise that any achievement needs to take place within the wider context of personal relationships. So you get a healthy functioning of Saturn. In Aries, a very self-centred Saturn can arise, that may well achieve more in the obvious, superficial sense, but in so doing creates a desert in its personal relationships.

This idea of the context being personal relationships is well illustrated in one of Tony Hillerman’s Navajo detective novels, in which people are described not by what they’ve done with their lives, but by who they are related to. You get this in other tribal cultures as well, and I heard about it with a sense of relief! It seems a much more natural and human way of going about things. Describing people by what they do contains a big potential for judgment, whereas it’s harder to admire or blame someone for who they are related to. Just this simple difference suggests a very different way of looking at the world, and it makes you realise why Indians can have such a hard time adapting to our ways.

I also have a hard time adapting to our ways! My response to this sort of pressure has always been to back off, rather than find myself a ‘proper’ 9 to 5 lifestyle in which I can hold my head up high.

It’s the western negative Saturn that I’ve banged on about a number of times in my blog. Of course, there is a place for Saturn, he is essential. A person needs the wherewithal to take care of themselves and their dependents, just like wild animals do.
It’s a natural quality. But why the pressure to do more than this, why the exaltation of those who waste their lives creating far more material wealth for themselves than they need? Why the subtle or not so subtle denigration of those who have a sense of what is sufficient and other interests they wish to follow?

So this context of personal relationships that Saturn in Libra points to is an important one for our culture. More widely, Venus-ruled Libra is about our values, what is important to us, so Saturn in this sign points to a re-consideration of what really matters behind all the pressures to conform and to achieve.

This theme is very prominent in the US Sibly Chart. The Sun in Cancer is square to Saturn in 10th House Libra, a powerful place for Saturn to be by both Sign and House. The Sun in the sign of family, and in Libra’s House, develops the theme of Saturn in Libra.

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Cancer and Libra are square signs, suggesting more generally that family and personal relationships can be at odds with one another, that for example too close an identification with family can make it hard to have friends. Or the other way round: Airy Libra can have many friends, but this can be at the cost of the instinctual closeness to others, the sense of belonging, that Cancer can provide.

In the case of the US, Saturn in Libra in the 10th describes the country’s need for a prominent place in the world, and its ability to get there. But the square to the Cancer Sun in the 7th suggests that while the country’s relationships are fundamental to its sense of itself, it also finds it hard to relate to others except through its own tribal values and needs. The Sun rules the 9th House of beliefs, and Saturn rules the second house of wealth and the economy. So we can also see how America’s relations with other countries are closely tied in with the economy (2nd House) and its own ideologies (9th).

The US seems to find it unusually difficult to take other countries as they come. They are judged on how close their political system is to their own, and more importantly on how willing they are to do business with America. America will always pressurise other countries to adopt its own political system, which for them is a belief, an ideology, a religion. But they are ultimately cynical, for it is even more important that these countries do business with them, and they don’t care what type of government they have to install in order to do this. This is the real basis of American foreign policy. (See John Pilger’s The War on Democracy for a documented account of this.)

Barack Obama let some of this slip out recently when he gave a speech to coincide with the ending of the combat mission in Iraq. He talked about his hopes for Iraq, and that it would become a normal country with whom America could be a business partner. There you have it. A country is not normal unless it is willing to do business with America. It is not evil of America to be like this, just unconscious, in the way that individuals are usually unconscious of their own egotism.

All countries have their national blind spots, and all countries to some extent share America’s. But the urge to be number one (Saturn in the 10th), the tendency to judge others by its own tribal values (Sun in Cancer square to Saturn), the need to do business with them (Saturn ruling the 2nd) and to impose its own ideologies (Sun rules the 9th; Sag Rising) are particularly intense because they are prominent in the US chart.

The US is undergoing a Saturn return this year – and by the same token, a square transit from Saturn to the Sun. So all this is up for re-consideration: Saturn in Airy Libra may bring an ability to reflect, particularly on how it relates to other countries. The US has a President who can reflect (Obama has airy Moon and ASC.) Also the US Progressed Saturn turned retrograde for the first time some years ago and is starting to pick up speed. So its relative place in the world (Saturn, 10th House) is in long-term decline, and ‘failure’ is always a good time for reflection.

In my last blog I quoted an idea of Jim Sher’s called Pure Progress. The idea is that there is a short period each year when Saturn covers a part of the zodiac that it will not later re-trace when it goes retrograde, for it will not go back that far, nor did Saturn retrograde over it previously. We are in one of those periods now (5th Sept to 23rd Oct). Jim Sher’s experience is that this represents a time when we can achieve new things very easily, for Saturn is not in a place that has needed, or will need, re-visiting through its retrograde motion, and all the preparatory work has been done in the previous retrograde cycle.

My own experience of this period has been is that in the few months prior, when Saturn was re-visiting direct for the 3rd and final time in late Virgo/early Libra, events unfolded quickly and smoothly as I found a new house and made arrangements to move, but it was also the direct outcome of planning and effort that had gone before. Though it went smoothly, it was still hard work.
As Saturn moved into ‘Pure Progress’ in early Sept, the unpacking slowed down, and I’ve moved into a period of deliberately not manifesting anything new, of landing in the new area I’m now living in. But that is also Saturn, who because of his boundaries is associated with solitude and contemplation. And this is starting to happen naturally and easily.

So it is as though the Saturn Direct motion, while it was re-visiting in the late spring/summer, produced good results of efforts that had gone before, but it was hard work; then as it moved into ‘Pure Progress’, events moved into a new area and are happening easily.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Eris, Ceres and Pluto: the Chilean Miners and Boarding Schools

Eris, the dwarf planet way out beyond Pluto (and bigger than him) was named and classified about 4 years ago now. She is the mischievous, catalytic sister of Mars, and her first act was to have Pluto demoted to the status of dwarf planet. What a thing to do to the Lord of the Underworld! Pluto has had his revenge, however, for since the initial flurry of interest on the part of astrologers, she has been largely forgotten. Eris has been abducted!

Being way out beyond Pluto, Eris’ movement is very slow: about one degree every few years. She isn’t a personal planet, though as with the other outer planets, the house position is personal (the sign isn’t personal because everyone born at that time has Eris in the same place.) She is currently at 22 Aries, and during August was opposed by Mars. This happens every 2 years, and would seem to me to the sort of time, more than most, when we see the catalytic events she is associated with. The last opposition was in Sept 08, when the financial system began to crack up.

We can’t always have events of that magnitude going on, but how about the Chilean miners, who have been stuck underground since the beginning of August? It has become a huge event in Chile, and major news around the world. Eris, if you like, catalyses an initiation into another realm or another phase. In this case, it is Pluto’s realm: they have been entombed, abducted even (which Pluto is fond of) and will remain so for some months. These men are in an underground (Pluto) prison (Capricorn.) In late October Ceres (whose daughter was abducted by Pluto) will join Pluto and the North Node in early Capricorn. So this story is not going to go away: it is going to gather momentum and significance. The Pluto-Node conjunction will not be exact until late November, around the time that the men are expected to be freed. Or not: it could go either way, astrologically.

Ceres is on the approach to a conjunction with Pluto, and just today the papers announced the publication of the full story of Natascha Kampusch, who was abducted as a young girl in Austria and kept underground for many years by her captor until she finally escaped.

The classic mythological abduction story is of Pluto and Persephone, daughter of Ceres/Demeter. Pluto brought her to his lair, and raped/married her. Ceres, a nature goddess, was distraught, not knowing where her daughter was, and the land turned to winter. Eventually she found her, but the deal was that Persephone would only return for 6 months of the year. She would spend the other 6 months with Pluto. Thus arose the seasons of summer and winter respectively, expressive of Ceres’ joy at Persephone’s return, and sorrow at her loss.

In the process Persephone grows up, and so does Ceres as a mother. The idyllic world of childhood is over for both of them, forced on them by the reality principle of Pluto. And this reflects 2 ways we can see Ceres in the chart: the nature of the nurture we received as children and then later, as Ceres grows up, our capacity to nurture others.

A friend pointed out recently that you could see the English boarding school system (of which I am a product) as an abduction by Pluto. As in the myth, you get to spend part of the time at home, and part of it in Pluto’s realm, the boarding school.

Pluto’s function in the myth is transformative, evolutionary, to take you from one stage of life to the next. Persephone was ready for this shift, whether or not she knew it, being at the end of girlhood. And the function of boarding schools is the same: to move you to the adult world, in this case a very particular one based around the achievement of wealth and status. So that twists the myth. What twists it further is that the abduction takes place often around the age of 8, years before the children are ready to leave the world of family. (I have an unaspected Ceres, and Moon conjunct Saturn!)

If there is going to be an abduction, I think it needs to be around the age of 14-15, when the first Saturn opposition takes place. Saturn introduces us to learning about the demands of the world: about discipline, responsibility, money, about becoming good at what you do, and about being measured against others. The first Saturn opposition takes place around the time that the first progressed Moon opposition takes place, which is a neat coincidence, or not: the beginning of the end of childhood (prog Moon cycle) coinciding with the beginning of demands from the adult world (Saturn cycle.)

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