Friday, December 16, 2011

Aries and its problem with ageing

I admire the sign Aries. They are not unlike Capricorns in their desire to be at the top. Except with Capricorn it is a long game requiring years of training, whereas with Aries they have a brilliance and competitive spirit that can get them to the top very early in life.

Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, so they are newly born, they are fresh, naïve even, convinced that theirs is the best way. And they are relentless. The sign is ruled by Mars, and in debate they are always attacking. It is very hard for them to take on the other’s point of view: that is a quality of Libra, the opposite sign. It is rarely worth crossing swords with an Aries, even when they are clearly wrong, for they will fight and keep it up and keep it up until you feel worn down. Gentler souls can feel bruised and out of harmony with their Aries friend, but for him or her conflict is the stuff of life.

Aries qualities and attitudes are youthful, and it is often difficult for them to mellow as they grow older. Because the sign is the first of the zodiac, self-awareness does not come easily, even as they age. So they keep fighting, keep needing the challenge, and in a way this is refreshing and admirable. But you also want them to be able to stand back and have an ironic take on this continual need for challenge.

Otherwise life is likely to hit them with something. I know one Aries who has spent 30 years living in tough physical conditions, enjoying the battle and the romance of it. But it has taken a breakdown in his health that could have killed him to get him to move on. They are very tough, and will die for their cause, but that toughness can become obstinacy.
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It’s not just Sun in Aries. Moon in Aries can be the same. Bill Gates is a Scorpio with Moon conjunct Midheaven in Aries, opposite Mars. There was the early brilliance and desire to beat off the competition. What is interesting about Gates is that he has changed. He no longer runs Microsoft, and is instead putting his wealth into conquering malaria worldwide. It’s still a very Aries thing to be doing, but he is not fighting people in the form of other corporations anymore: his business had for many years a bad reputation for squeezing out and destroying the opposition.

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Steve Jobs had Moon and Mars in Aries, and he remained clearly Aries through to the end. Illness seemed to intensify rather than mellow him. And he seems to me of an example of an Aries who wouldn’t change, being hit by something that might just break the mould. But as I say, Aries will die for their cause, and in a way Steve Jobs did that. And it is now his company that has the bad reputation, in this case for controlling and overcharging its customers, and for having an unhappy, pressurised workforce.

You could say that Christopher Hitchens, who has just died of cancer aged 62, is another Aries who didn't mellow. He had Sun conjunct Mars, Venus and Mercury in Aries. Hitchens was a well-known literary critic and political commentator who couldn’t be fitted into any neat category. As he got older, so did he develop a crusade against religion. He certainly had a point, and he was entertaining, but reason was his god. Richard Dawkins, another crusading atheist, admired him. Hitchens was a champion of the New Atheism movement, which advocates the view that the evident truths of science have now reached the point where "religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises."

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To my mind, this is Aries at its worst. It would be understandable, if naïve, in a young Aries, but in a man in his 60s? It is Libra, the opposite sign, which has ‘the live and let live’ quality that Aries needs. Religion in a way is awful, but it is just another manifestation of mass unconsciousness, of collective dynamics, in a way that membership of political parties can be, or the blind worship of science and reason. It’s just part of the human condition. Aries perhaps more than any other sign is likely to be fighting its own shadow, and I’ve often thought that the New Atheism has, in its zeal and fundamentalism, the characteristics of a religion.

Religion does trap people, but it’s often where they are at, they need that kind of security, they would fall apart without it, so you need to let them have it. And, in its favour, it does advocate a view of reality that is non-rational (as well as often irrational, unreasonable.) It is saying that not everything can be reduced to reason, reason is just a tool, and there is a place, a need, for some kind of faith as a foundation, even though the object of that faith is often crude and intolerant of other faiths.

I have Moon conjunct Saturn in Sagittarius, so the idea of what to have faith in has always been important to me. Particularly because in our age, everything tends to get reduced to reason. But the quest for faith gets confused with the need for certainty (which science is just as capable of providing). And so you always have to look beyond the images and the doctrines and to your own experience, and to a sense that comes and goes that there is some kind of unifying beauty in the universe – or something like that – which can never be pinned down.

Hitchens had a yod in his chart, which is 2 planets that are sextile, and both inconjunct a 3rd planet at the apex of the triangle. I’m not sure I know what yods mean, but they are supposed to indicate some kind of fated element in your life that can never be resolved, but has to be accommodated.

A good example is in the composite chart of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, which had Mercury at the apex, and Neptune and Pluto at the base: these 2 men were forced to communicate (Mercury) by the forces in their collective (Neptune and Pluto), but it was always a very difficult accommodation. Neptune and Pluto were, perhaps, the 2 wings of the party they represented, with Brown being Neptune and Blair Pluto. Or maybe the other way round.

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In Hitchens’ case, Jupiter in Aquarius was at the apex (faith in humanity), with Saturn (tradition) and Uranus (science) at the base. This suggests an ongoing attempt to reconcile religion and science. But Jupiter was square to his Aries Sun, suggesting that his crusading temperament may have got the better of that other dialogue.

In my piece Blair vs Hitchens, Religion vs Science, I gave a recent quote from Hitchens that to my mind is not consistent with the tone of his attacks on religion and to some extent sets the lie to them:

“… the sense that there is something beyond the material, or if not beyond it, not entirely consistent materially with it, is, I think, a very important matter. What you could call the numinous or the transcendent, or at its best, I suppose, the ecstatic. I wouldn't trust anyone in this hall who didn't know what I was talking about. We know what we mean by it, when we think about certain kinds of music perhaps, certainly the relationship or the coincidence but sometimes very powerful between music and love. Landscape, certain kinds of artistic and creative work that appears not to have been done entirely by hand. Without this, we really would merely be primates.

I think it's very important to appreciate the finesse of that, and I think religion has done a very good job of enshrining it in music and architecture, not so much in painting in my opinion, and I think it's actually very important that we learn to distinguish the numinous in this way. I wrote a book about the Parthenon, I will mention it briefly. I couldn't live without the Parthenon, I don't believe every civilised person could, if it ... much worse than the first temple had occurred, it seems to me. And we would have lost an enormous amount besides by way of our knowledge of symmetry, grace and harmony."

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