Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Insanity of Anders Breivik

The alleged insanity of Anders Behring Breivik is under review. Breivik is the man who murdered 77 people in Norway last summer – 8 with a bomb, 69 on a shooting spree. He did it for ideological reasons, fearing a Muslim invasion of Norway.

At the time I thought he reminded me of someone, and after a few days it became clear who it was: Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks. That might seem an appalling thing to say about Assange, but I’m not trying to say he is a murderer. What Breivik and Assange have in common is the ability to do for ideological reasons things that most of us would not do, and at a scale that shocks.

In Assange’s case, he released 250,000 US diplomatic cables, with little thought for the damage that might do to fragile international relations, and the lives that might be endangered. Newspaper editors were shocked by how cold he could be on these issues.

Breivik is a right-wing ideologue, Assange is from the left wing – anti-authority, and convinced that if present governments can no longer function because their secrets are out, something better will replace them. This is delusional, though Assange expresses it coherently and intellectually. Breivik has also written a manifesto and, it goes without saying, he is delusional.

Astrologically, they have in common Sun in square to Uranus. This is a classic signature for someone who puts ideals before human feeling. Uranus is the ideals, and the square is the unbalanced, hard – but also dynamic - way in which they can be expressed.

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Breivik’s chart is considerably more extreme in this respect than Assange’s: he has a Sun-Mars-Mercury conjunction in Uranus-ruled Aquarius, and Moon in detached Virgo. Without knowing the person, you would say there is likely to be an issue around detachment and aggressively (Mars) putting ideals before human feeling.

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Assange is actually very watery, with Sun in Cancer trine Moon in Scorpio. Scorpio, however, can have its own kind of coldness, born of a hatred of self and others. As a child (Moon), Assange’s mother and partner were involved in a secretive cult, and there is an obvious connection here with his later desire to expose the secrets of authorities.

The trine from the Sun to the Moon can, paradoxically, be quite an unfavourable aspect. Such people often expect life to go their way, and lash out when it doesn't: there can be a lack of empathy.
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Is Breivik, however, insane? There is political pressure in Norway for Breivik not to be labelled insane, because he could be released after a relatively short number years. And people understandably need what they call justice. I’m old-fashioned, and I call it revenge. You see relatives of a murder victim unable to rest until the culprit has been found and put away for a long time. I repeat, it is understandable and I would feel the same. But I can’t see how it is different from revenge. What does it actually solve?

If someone is insane, then they are deemed not to be responsible for their actions. And, crucially, it puts them in a safe category where we no longer need to attempt to understand them. They’re just nuts, and what’s more, there is something wrong with their brain chemistry, which proves it. We actually understand very little about brain chemistry, and we certainly don’t understand the biochemical effects of the drugs we give to nutters. Psychiatry, however, has a special place within science that doesn’t need the usual standards of proof and theory.

I don’t think that the category ‘insane’ helps us understand someone. In Breivik’s case, and in Assange’s to a lesser extent, you can see from the astrology, and from their actions, that the problem is ideology combined with a detachment from human feeling; and that the feeling is unconsciously fuelling the ideology, or even you could say the rebellion, another way of describing a hard aspect to Uranus.

Uranus has its positive side: it can be associated with a strong desire to help humanity. Both Assange and Breivik were known as kids for helping children at school who were being bullied. So it would seem there is an idealism, but twisted.

Whether or not Breivik is deemed insane, I don’t think it will have much to do with his actual mental state. The massacre he carried out was so horrifying that in a way it is easier just to call him insane: a wild animal was on the loose, an irrational force, Grendel, and some people were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the darkness in him is a darkness in everyone: we could all kill. Scandinavia particularly, so controlled and conservative and respectable and successful, has had a swathe of literature and film in recent years dealing with serial killers. With Breivik, there is something for the Norwegians – the Vikings – to understand about themselves.

People want him to be insane so they can distance themselves from his behaviour. And they want him to be sane so they can put him in a cage for a long, long time.

There may be another factor that eventually comes into the equation, which is that when an event occurs that traumatises a nation, a simple explanation is not good enough. Princess Diana did not die because of the incompetence of her driver, JFK was not killed by a lone gunman, and 9/11 was not caused by a bunch of Islamists catching the US authorities napping. Labyrinthine conspiracy theories proliferate. Of course, the simple explanation may sometimes indeed be a cover-up, but that’s not the point. It is as if the meaning is knocked out of existence if a traumatising event occurs for too simple or random a reason, and people want something bigger, equal to the scale of the event, to blame, to hate. Princess Diana carried a huge collective projection as a caring, nurturing goddess. People couldn’t believe it when she died. What sort of cold, meaningless universe do we live in if someone like that could die so randomly and so young?

In the case of Breivik, if you look on the net there are plenty of conspiracy theories out there blaming e.g. the Israelis or the Freemasons, and some wondering if he is a closet Muslim.
But of course there are also people who genuinely want to understand why Breivik did what he did. I don’t think he is ‘insane’. I think he did what he did for reasons that can be understood. And as they say, “to understand all is to forgive all.” Conspiracy theorists are often fixated into blame, as are people (most of us) who are satisfied simply by finding a culprit and locking them up. It’s far harder to look at the people and societies surrounding the perpetrator and to understand the complex of conditions, because we are part of those conditions – it connects us to the pain of the events, gives us a responsibility. It’s much easier just to call Breivik insane.

But maybe also it is to do with stages in grieving. To start with, Breivik’s crimes were too difficult to deal with, so society in the form of the psychiatrists labelled him insane. 6 months after the deed, there is a bit of distance, and the country is starting to feel ready to take a peep at what happened, so there is a move to have their monster returned to sanity.

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Norway has a Sun-Pluto conjunction in Gemini. Gemini is the polarity between light and dark, and the need to balance both – if you like, to confront the shadow. This is part of the Gemini path. The presence of Pluto confirms this, suggesting that if it does not, dark events will occur to force the issue. The lack of aspects to Sun-Pluto, and it's interceptedness, also suggests a kind of autonomous shadow.

At the time of the shootings (July 22nd 2011) transiting Mars at 22 Gemini was conjunct natal Pluto, and by Progression there was a Moon-Pluto conjunction in Gemini in the 8th (Pluto’s) House, also conjunct tr Mars. So the astrology adds up quite remarkably to give a picture of a society that probably thinks it has it all sorted (light side of Gemini) to a bit of an extreme degree, calling forth an equally extreme response from the Underworld. The wider meaning for Norway of the shootings probably lies in this sort of area.


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