The Problem with Mars

In a life without trines, everything is hard work. Is that how it should be? I wanted to read my book but that feels like slacking. “Self-improvement is work too!” I hear myself cry, but it won’t change my inner perspective. I find myself looking forward to waiting rooms because at least then I won’t have to wrangle with literary escapism guilt. I used to meditate in waiting rooms, and quite successfully. Once I meditated in the bank and I was jolted back into my surroundings by an old man who began shouting at the cashier about overdraft charges. It was awful; you’re just so open when you’ve been in that quiet zone and any negativity is instantaneously poisoning. I have Moon conjunct Neptune too, so it must be worse for me than for most. Negativity always makes me sick.

No trines – and one sextile, Neptune-Pluto! skews one’s perspective. I believe that nobody will help me, so I never ask for help, so nobody helps me; irrefutable logic, self-defeating, the law of manifestation. I have no expectation other than to manage, no matter the odds, and I have always been that way. I help others, every day I try to help others and I don’t expect anything in return. Well, of course, people pay me for my expertise, but a great many are in dire difficulty and have no resources. Because of astrology, I could work every hour of the rest of my life if I were able to do it for no reward; many, many people ask for help and I can only help a small fraction of them. Alice is not made in the way that I am. She will receive help from others. She has trines, I mused that this might explain it, but actually, I think it’s a gender thing.

Mars is the culprit here I’m sure. A woman experiences Mars for sure, but she doesn’t have to identify with it. It’s always intriguing to get back to those archetypical basics: Mars – Jupiter, interminable argumentativeness! Mars – Saturn, fear of violence, frigidity. Mars – Pluto – survival anxiety! I have Mars – Pluto, and that’s where it manifests. If I don’t rely on anyone else then I’ll survive more easily, they won’t let me down. So, I never ask for help. All this came from school. Five years of boarding school at a time before bullying was reframed as, well… bullying and was just good old institutionalised British character-building. It was hell. I was a brilliant student, but I quickly learned that it was safer to feign mediocrity. That way I had fewer bruises. I have Mars in the 3rd square Pluto in the 11th. School and the group. Survive at all costs. Keep your head down. Don’t rely on anyone else, because nobody is going to help you. At school, even my best friends were my bullies. I ended up becoming addicted to nicotine because it meant that the people who hit me would accept me instead. I continued to smoke until I was in my 30s. I hated relying on it when life got stressful. When the going gets tough, the tough start smoking.

Now I have an open relationship with my Mars – Pluto square. I see him and I’ve walked this peculiar axis, from aggression to passivity. When I was young, at school I had regular fights. I never stood down because I was terrified that I would be annihilated. I never lost a fight because I never gave up, but that doesn’t mean I always came out best. Often I was more battered than my opponent, but I wouldn’t quit. Usually after one of those fights, the person that had started it became my friend (Pluto in the 11th right?) and in the last couple of years at school my best friend Gideon was somebody who I’d beaten in a fight. It had gone hard for me though. My eye was so badly bruised that I had a lump under the skin there for years afterwards. Years. My Saturn is in Aries, on the degree for the eye. Ruled by Mars in the 3rd. Square Pluto in the 11th.

One day, the world will wake up and realise that astrology is the only unifying theory of any value. It explains everything. Astrology only falls down through the inelegancy of those that explain it, but it’s not their fault. It’s the lazy theoreticians who demand that you justify your ‘belief’. I don’t believe in astrology, I understand it. That’s very different. I wonder at that too. So many people I know are concerned to ‘prove’ astrology. I say turn it on its head. Have the naysayers disprove it. Not one of them, brittly empowered Dawkins-disciples that they are could manage it. Isaac Newton, lauded for being the finest scientific mind the world has ever seen was convinced  – through his own study – of astrology’s validity. Of course, in that, world’s finest mind or not, he must have been feeble minded. There is no astrology! Well in that case (I had this conversation a while back) there is no psychology. But (the naysayer protested) of course there is psychology! Everyone has behaviour! Confusing cause and effect is easy for those who are ignorant. I mean ignorant in the fundamental sense that they deny the validity of a theory that they do not understand. People do not deny psychology because they make a connection beyween the cause (psychology) and the effect (behaviour). And they’ve heard other people, scientific types talk about it, so there’s no need to be any kind of layman psychologist here. They do not claim to understand the psychology, but they accept it. Of course, psychology is rife with interdisiplinary division: nature or nurture, behaviourism or psychoanalysis, Freud or Jung. The list goes on, rather like religion, they can’t all be right! But regardless, something causes behaviour. Psychology or astrology? Well, not astrology, they say, despite not possessing a single cogent thought on the subject. Empty heads powering empty opinions. I pay them no attention. Ironically their astrology circumscribes both their scepticism and their empty opinion-mongering. I used to be quite opinionated myself too, once, don’t get me wrong. Then I began to work out just how hermetically the seal was formed between the empty jar of opinion and the crowning lid of nativity. And I have Mars in Sagittarius, so I can espouse. I’m good at espousing, but I draw the line at pontificating, having neglectfully sacrificed too many hours to hearing out pontificators.

And of course, Mars is the chief culprit in the business of impressing your views upon others, and most especially when you’re not actually qualified to have an opinion. Venus is the moderator. Mars is only genuinely interested in being on top.

I think this about the ancient world too. The rather naked aspect of Roman ambition seems somehow rude, pastorally rude, from a contemporary perspective. Not petty and yet unsophisticated. There was no Pluto then, not in the psyche at least. Mars was king in the Roman world. Great Romans never asked for help, they coerced it! Mars is still doing that to this day, and it troubles me no end.

I have a Mars problem.

So do you.

The Magic Kingdom of Teddy, Chiron and the Fixed Star Facies

In “Iron John: A Book About Men“, Robert Bly relates an anecdote wherein a friend announced to Carl Jung that he had just won a promotion; Jung responded by saying “that’s terrible, but I’m sure if we all stick together then we’ll get through it,” and conversely, when the same friend announced that they had just lost their job, the eminent Swiss opened a bottle of wine to celebrate the wonderful news. Doesn’t that make you smile? Of course, funny or not, he was really onto something.

One of the concepts that mundane-physicians struggle most desperately with is the reality that everything is as it ought to be; nothing is wrong. How could anything be wrong? We are all exactly where we should be, experiencing exactly what we need to experience and in no discipline is this better demonstrated than in that of astrology.

Allow me to explain.

Astrology relates a map of experience. It is not a map accompanied by directions or imperatives, but, if you like, it is a map of the possible and it does not evaluate rightness or wrongness; rather it simply relates isness. It describes the terrain, the lanes and thoroughfares, the sinkholes and the stiles of your own metaphysical kingdom. You can travel wherever you choose, although you might not be aware of the choosing; rather it is like wandering aimlessly and finding yourself in some place unsought. The only possibility of incorrectness is in deciding that you would rather be somewhere different. The wanderer naturally declines inclines, the down-slope is unawares preferred to the toilsome slope, so to some extent, this principle explains how people become lost.

Regardless though, if astrology describes your inner terrain, there is no question that some are born in a Beirut and others in an Arcadia. It is possible that the bounds of nurture in your nativity are narrow and easily lost; akin to being born into an oasis before striking out into the trackless waste, or that you are born, like Mowgli, into an alien family that preserves you despite your differences, and your challenges are to come later. All things are possible, but, and crucially, we are not all created equal.

Stephen Arroyo wrote about this and it has stayed with me. You cannot judge all people and all efforts with an unwavering benchmark; there cannot be a finishing line in this sense because we are not all born into equal opportunity. It is madness to laud the winner if he was 80 yards closer to the tape than his next competitor at the start. This is astrology, this is why I do not complain, because my own terrain was unforgiving and it cannot be improved through the power of complaint.

So what of that?

I have just passed a dreadful anniversary. On September 17th last it was two years to the day since I last saw my son Joe, and my daughter Ella. They were 15 and 12 years old at the time, although now they are 17 and 14. At the time I was bewildered by their reluctance to communicate with me, my confusion muddled my responses to their rejection. I applied to the courts to try to forward my claim to be allowed to see my children, who of course I loved and missed enormously. I should not have to explain that, but inevitably, it is the kind of rejection which – as I have just said – muddles your responses.

I wrote to them, I texted them, I emailed them and I got no word of reply. Determining that their mother might be intercepting my messages I eventually wrote to them at their schools and almost immediately I received a letter from their mother’s solicitor warning me that if I continued to write to them at school she would take out an injunction forbidding me from contacting them by any means. I was still waiting for a court date so my solicitor recommended that I not rock the boat before the hearing. The wheels of British justice, at least for the unwealthy do move slowly and it was several weeks before we actually got to sit down with the CAFCASS officer. I stated my bewilderment that the children would not communicate with me and my wife explained, amid tears and considerable apparent distress that since our split I had not bothered to contact the children and so they had determined that I did not care about them and as a result they had arrived at a point where they did not love me any more.

They never wanted to see me again.

I was shocked: not so much by her apparent distress – a graduate of the prestigious Italia Conti school of acting and a Sun-Pluto to boot, she was operating well within her range at this stage – but rather by the CAFCASS officer’s apparent acceptance of her word, even though I had documentary evidence of the threats to which I had previously acquiesced. The verdict of the court? That I should be “allowed” to email my children no more than twice a week. Seven and a half months of legal process had given me the right to do what I already had the right to do, but had been coerced into not doing by my wife (and her Mars-Saturn-Pluto mother). I wrote, but of course I did not write twice a week. In my very first email I chatted to my son about how I was moving house. My wife responded by saying that she would be expecting more maintenance from me since I could afford to move home, I did not hear from my son ever again.

About 6 months later I found a post written by my son on his Internet page wherein he mocked his ‘bastard father’ for not even being able to comply with the court’s order that I write to him twice a week. The court of course had made no such order, but through a subtle twist of presentation it had been turned into a test that, since I did not know that this was how it had been portrayed, I had unwittingly failed. My son had concluded that therefore he was correct in his determination that I did not love him.

It has been insufferably painful, as any right thinking person would imagine. I went – overnight – from being a loving and loved father of two children to never seeing them again. Truly akin to a bereavement.

Of course, I have anger, and I struggle with that. I feel that I have been duped, manipulated and deliberately misled by my wife and her mother. They engaged in a process designed to alienate me from my children and they were successful in achieving that aim. But I cannot easily blame them because I understand the motive and I think they were both hurt when I left my wife. Without wishing to look as though I am justifying my actions, I would say that the damaged moral compass that can only point one in these spiteful directions is to blame, but inevitably, the possession of this dark capability was always at the heart of the breakdown of my marriage. I was habitually troubled by my wife’s family’s casual callousness and by her incipient controlling nature; I truly lasted as long as I could, and 20 years is not the endurance-span of an easy-quitter.

Naturally, I was embarrassed and confused, I could not understand how this could happen to me. Alice, my partner of today who is as gentle as my previous experience was not, has witnessed this undoing process first hand, and if not for her support and validation I think I would have ashamedly swept the whole sorry affair under the carpet simply because I was at a loss to adequately explain it. Then I found a book by Dr Richard Warshak and it was a revelation:

Your ex-spouse is badmouthing you to your children, perhaps even trying to turn them against you. If you handle the situation ineffectively, you could lose your children’s respect-or worse, lose contact with them. The conventional advice is to do nothing, but Dr. Richard Warshak is convinced that this approach is useless and only leaves parents feeling helpless. The damage to children can be considerable-particularly when warring parents enlist children as allies in the battle. “Divorce Poison” is the first book that offers specific advice to protect children from the results of their parents’ animosity. It details how to distinguish different types of criticism, how and why parents manipulate their children, how to detect these maneuvers, and how these practices damage children. Most important, it offers parents powerful strategies to preserve and rebuild loving relationships with their children.”

I discovered the book too late, because my wife’s work was done and I have had to accept that. Of course it was distressing to read about how the process worked and I could point to a carbon-copy process in the situation I had endured with my own children; it was all there.

I was disheartened though when Alice’s ex-husband began to accuse me of having abused my children. Of course, he did not mention the ‘abuse’ word, but he implied that there must be some sinister reason why my children would not communicate with me and he stated baldly that his children were not safe living in the same house as me. We next had to be interviewed at home by Social Services because of his concerns and he tells his children, my wonderful stepsons that I am a “bad man”, that I do “the work of the devil” and many other groundless and ridiculous “concerns” all carefully presented in the guise of the best interests of his children. The cycle of alienation continues. Accusations of implied abuse are one of the key manifestations of an alienation agenda. He wrote to Alice’s solicitor too accusing her of alienation: another clanger actually, because in the majority of cases, the first parent to make an accusation of alienation is the one perpetrating it. For my part I have been careful to only ever make positive and supportive statements to Alice’s boys about their father, because, unlike him, I understand the damage you do to a child’s psyche when you attack the role models that inform fundamental components of future identity. His attacks damage his own children far more than they do me.

But once again, while I cannot condone such behaviour, I do not blame him because in all of these stories of alienation there is a common component: me.

Somewhere in my astrology there is evidently a great deal of grief and pain around the issue of children.

I cannot begin to describe therefore the joy I felt when my son Teddy Dusters was born on August 30th this year. I love Alice’s children of course, but there are complex boundaries and restraints in these situations, these children are not mine and so I tread a fine line because I do not want to overstep an invisible mark and have to therefore field more accusations. I have had to defend myself against so many outrageous charges that it unfortunately makes me painfully aware of how an innocent remark might be (cynically) misinterpreted. Some accusations (like the “fact” that I am a violent heroin addict) are patently ludicrous, but others – like my deliberate abandonment of my children are more insidious. I pay the same amount in child maintenance to my children that I have not seen or even heard from for two years as Alice’s ex-husband does for his children that he sees every second week, but somehow, I am irresponsible, abusive and sinister. Of course, anyone that knows me literally laughs – often explosively, such is the dissonance – when I relay these ‘concerns’ but they become a great deal more threatening when presented to court officers and social workers who have no personal experience of the kind of person that I truly am. So with respect to my own feelings, there is a certain care that I need to exercise in my relationships with these boys who are not mine. Once again, though, it’s harder on them than it is on me, because they do not want such guardedness in their relationship with me. And what hopeful child would?

So, at last, and through all the anguished preamble, I find myself able to enjoy a relationship with my new son, without any requirement for restraint. With the beautiful Teddy there are no agendas, no distortions, no pound of flesh to be delivered, no Shylock greedily licking his lips in anticipation of my torment. It is like walking unencumbered. Here at last, I thought, there would need to be no pain.

Something is not right with Teddy. Alice noticed it a while ago, his eyes wander back and forth, back and forth ceaselessly. He wakes in the morning and his eyes begin their wandering and he becomes agitated, and only a word will calm him. He cries and can only be consoled with physical contact. He does not make eye contact, does not follow movements; his eyes simply move, back and forth, back and forth.

I have a terrible fear that Teddy is blind.

We took him to the doctor and explained. She examined him and nodded gravely. She chose her words carefully, with that guarded seriousness that does not want to proffer or quash hope, “I think we’d better get somebody to have a look at him” she said. We now have to wait for an appointment with a child opthalmologist and we don’t know how long it will take.

Whenever I see my marvellous, amazing, gentle son my heart is squeezed and wrenched with the most powerful, deep and rich concoction of feeling that I cannot even hope to convey. He smiles, but only when he hears the voice of his Mummy or his Daddy and now, faced with this possibility I cannot look at him without this profound rush of heat that engulfs my chest and rushes out to every limb; it is the fiercest, most protective, anguished love. I cannot – if our worst fears are realised – afford to feel sorry for him because I do not want him to have that identity for himself, but I also cannot separate this wish to shield and sustain and support from the rolling, wrenching anguish of having lost my children in the past. There is nothing but pain in this, even if the pain and love are an inseparable potion that infuses me with tremendous protective power; it wrings my heart to its very core and leaves me desperate, hopeful, afraid, crushed and grateful. How can I possibly feel all of those things? I am glad too, glad because whatever he is, it is simply what he is; it is the terrain of his own inner kingdom and how can it be wrong? I simply don’t have the luxury to be able to feel that as a wrongness.

Nothing is wrong with Teddy, he is perfect.

He will always be perfect, whether or not he can see, and naturally, we will maintain the faith that he will be fine and perfectly sighted.

Teddy has the best astrology of anyone that I have ever seen. A fabulously dignified Saturn in Libra sits exactly on the Ascendant and I understand precisely the implication; it is a dignified isolation. The senses so frequently fail with Saturn rising, especially where there is considerable exaltation. I have seen this a few times in the past, and it is a tough message to convey to somebody who is concerned by their dimming apprehension of their environment (which is the very exact sensation of Saturn on the Ascendant of course). In my own nativity I have often pondered Hygeia, the focus of a tee-square (from Sun-Saturn: inherited limitations) conjunct the fixed star Facies, which is the nebula in the face of the Archer; therefore in the constellation Sagittarius but falling at around 8 Capricorn for the purpose of alignment. All nebulae are traditionally linked to the eyes and blindness, primarily because a test of good eyesight in the Roman army was to be able to see that a star was not one but a cluster, and Hygeia in the 3rd focusing both Sun and Saturn does tell a very specific story. My father (Sun-Saturn) gradually lost his eyesight (Facies) too, so that the last few years of his everyday life (3rd house) were made difficult due to his health (Hygeia), to say the least. He did not complain in the slightest, recognising I think that his terrain was difficult and that it could not be improved by the power of complaint, and he responded only by drinking with greater determination and revelling that much more in gentle conversation; quite unsurprisingly.

Remarkable (and yet quite unsurprising) how the same terrain features keep making themselves felt is it not? It is not so much deja-vu as a sense that I have crossed this bridge before, but when I was younger I had no idea where it would lead me. Now at least I have a dim recollection of this vista that will unfold when I reach the other side. It will very likely look like Chiron in Pisces in the 5th opposed by a Virgo Uranus in the 11th. Most of my pain through children has manifested as a result of other people’s ability to rationalise their dispassionate criticisms of me, whether they are true or not – and with Pisces involved, truth is easily distorted through the perfectionist lens of Neptune. My Chiron is conjunct Atropos too, so in a very real sense, things fall apart. That is my kingdom.

Teddy has a grand trine of Sun – Moon (how glorious is that?!) and North Node conjunct the fixed star Facies! And of course, I timed his birth with astonishing precision; he was born in our kitchen, with Juno, our little feisty terrier looking on bewildered and North Node for Teddy is in a 5 minute conjunction with Imum Coeli; it is rather astonishing. His Ascendant is conjunct Vesta and he was born a single pace from the kitchen hearth, where the wood stove burned brightly. I hope and pray that he will see, but what I take comfort from is the message that he will not be especially vulnerable if he cannot, because his parents, and the people of his wider community will always protect him.

And that will be true regardless of how well he can see, because it is mapped in his own magical, marvellous inner kingdom.

And for me?

It is not wrong.