The Dream Dealer

It’s a time of reflection, do you feel that?

Saturn in Scorpio is really starting to work his magic. Except it doesn’t really feel like magic. Or if it is magic then it’s some old-school thaumaturgy, or one of those terrifyingly savage shamanic rituals that unfortunate sailors would get caught up in, far from home, in the South Seas in the 1700s. It isn’t fun at all.

When the Moon hit Saturn in Scorpio, the energetic landscape changed. What I really became aware of was the way in which Jupiter in Gemini was suddenly, through an act of contrast, laid bare, and he looked kind of ridiculous. Suddenly that boundless frivolity started to seem dumb. It was, in true Saturn style, a reality check. The fact is that Jupiter is appalling in Gemini. Arguably not as appalling as in Virgo, but appalling nonetheless. Jupiter, who likes depth and substance has nowhere to go except to spread himself further on the surface, because Gemini gives no natural depth. Saturn in Scorpio gets seriously deep and suddenly Jupiter looks like a second hand car salesman arguing life perspectives with Alan Watts. In many ways I am far more comfortable with Saturn in Scorpio – as ridiculous as that sounds – than I am with Jupiter in Gemini.

In part that’s a generational problem. Having pondered the conundrum for some time I believe that Neptune is partly to blame (blame? Neptune?) for this. Allow me to explain.

Neptune always gets cast as the good guy; if I may quote myself (from “Orcus” p. 202):

“I believe that Neptune is given a fabulously good press by contemporary astrology, and one that is scarcely deserved. Certainly, Neptune’s reputation is enormously positive compared to his brother Pluto’s, and yet I am endlessly sceptical about how deserving of his many generous epithets Neptune truly is. Like the ocean, Neptune seems beautiful, yearning and restive, a vastness of potential and a personification of a gentle eternity, but it seems that way from the perspective of the safe shore. Anyone who has been beyond sight of land in a black and angry sea understands that Neptune’s power is just as dread as his brother’s; equally as alien and inhumane. Pluto’s realm is buried, however; unknown to the living, whereas Neptune’s treacherous tides and currents are glamorised by his glittering waves and gentle breezes. Neptune’s dreams, poetries and symphonies are spin-doctors par excellence.”

Neptune’s wonderful trick is that he flatters to deceive by presenting us with an image of the ideal that we cannot possibly hope to realise. Then, unattained, the dream becomes a goad to our discontent.

And, when you get to grips with it, Neptune describes your dream. With Neptune in Scorpio, the basic premise is a kind of unencumbered Spartanism. You dream of a life of purity, of minimalism, of spiritual depth. If that Neptune is in the 6th house then you will have a dream about starting your day by donning your robe, walking into the clean air as the day breaks, up to the dojo under the mountain and beginning your meditation. If the 7th house, then instead, you awake in your remote cabin to find sunlight streaming through the trees. Your beautiful, funny, successful wife has made a pot of rich Columbian coffee and you join her on the porch to listen to the birdsong. In the 8th, you wake up in the presidential suite of the Waldorf Astoria. The Swedish women’s volleyball team are staying on the same floor…

Okay, I’m joking, mostly.

But you get the idea. Neptune has a dream. It is highly personal and always alluring because it is purpose-made for you. With a Scorpio placement, the quality of that dream is always going to be characterised by depth and richness. It is not a case of bigger and better; rather it is a case of finding something pure and valuable, like a rich seam of gold deep in the black earth. Imagine that for a moment, it shines in the darkness and promises so much.

The placement of Pluto and aspects to Neptune are going to have a profound influence on the themes of your dream. If you have Scorpio Neptune in the 7th and Pluto in the 10th, then after you have drunk coffee with your wife, you climb into your Porsche and drive into the city to make big-money deals.  If Neptune trines Mars then of course, all the girls flirt with you, you’re so charming after all, but they all know that you’re happily married and can’t wait to get home to see your wife.

With Sagittarius, the dream changes, fundamentally. Now Jupiter is running the show, so it’s not a seam of gold buried deep in the earth any more, rather it’s a bright, hot-air balloon drifting gently in the balmy summer sky. You’re up there in the clouds looking down on the glittering panoply under your feet.

With that Neptune in the 6th house, you want a daily routine that’s filled with fun and laughter and good times. Yes, you can feel that can’t you? You get up and the kids are laughing, the sun is shining, your handsome, jovial husband is cooking breakfast and telling goofy jokes. You sit down to eat and your best friend calls and you arrange to go out for lunch after your yoga class. You see? That is the “more is more and it will all be great fun” style of Neptune in Sagittarius’ dream.

Inevitably though, the dream can become something of a curse. Actually, it invariably does, and when we experience hard transits to that Neptune, we begin to feel just how painfully short of that dream our reality actually is. The Neptune squares are the time in our life when we get the best opportunity to feel how far from that dream we are, and to make necessary adjustments, which invariably require coming to terms with the fact that we are going to have to let go of some things that don’t serve that dream. But that isn’t the only time we can improve the situation.

We are gifted another opportunity when Saturn moves into Neptune’s sign. It rarely feels like an opportunity, because the nature of these two energies are fundamentally dissonant, but for those born with Neptune in Scorpio, now is the time to make the hard and often onerous changes in your life which will help you to make the dream a reality. This is because the planet of reality is bearing down on the planet of fantasy, and when they finally meet, they are going to find a middle ground. It might be that Saturn gives way and you work hard to realise the dream, or it might be that Neptune gives ground and you start to get real about what is possible, and adjust the dream accordingly. Whichever way it goes, and usually there is a combination of both, after this transit, your ideal life, and your actual life will be closer than ever before. The process will not have been easy, or enjoyable, but you’ll be glad of it when it’s done.

With Neptune in Sagittarius, the situation is unique and considerably more compelling. Neptune in Sagittarius’ dreams and aspirations are in many ways bigger than Scorpio’s, and easier to deflate for that reason. But the great cosmic mechanism has ensured that Neptune in Sagittarius gets a double dose of adjustment as Saturn moves into Sagittarius between December 2014, and December 2017. People born in about 1971 are already being given a taste of this problem because – born between 1971 and 1972 they have Neptune in Sagittarius and Saturn in the early degrees of Gemini. They’ve lived with the dissonance of Saturn opposing Neptune their entire lives and as Neptune squares the opposition around now, the reality check can be especially sobering. Neptune is so very idealistic in Sagittarius after all, and the opposition to Saturn really polarises the fantasy with the reality. The dream is extremely positive and the dawning truth at the time of the Neptune squares can feel like a wet blanket the size of the old Soviet Union when it descends.

For those born somewhat after, they will experience Saturn moving into Sagittarius at the same time as their Neptune squares. It’s a double ‘turning of the screw’ on the dream of the perfect life, and for that reason it will feel very tough.

But in both these cases, all is not lost. The adjustment is painful and dissonant, but it also offers a powerful opportunity to make a shift of consciousness, which is always Neptune’s exalting pressure, into a truly spiritual mode of life. Once made, that shift is a panacea for the harshness of Saturnine reality, because it recontextualises material reality, success, status and toil into immaterial terms. Status is no longer being seen as a success, but rather in knowing that one is a good person. The small chores of life are no longer drudgeries, rather they are become meditations. What we call “work” is now “the Work”. Fundamentally, this shift is found in the realisation that the life of contentment and ease that we yearned for is not ‘out there’ but it is inside us, bound up in the distortion of perspective that we are somehow hard done-by, a victim of somebody else, or of God, or that, in fact, because we are good, we deserved better. Saturn teaches our Neptune that nobody gets what they deserve, they get only what they need to let go of the illusion that they deserved better.

Alan Watts and the Philosophy of Cazimi and the Quindecile

The following is a continuation of the previous article, below. For a full appreciation of the themes and configurations in Watt’s astrology, please refer to the article preceding this.

To the casual listener, Alan Watts might well come across as extremely thoughtful, intelligent and insightful, but there is no question that his style was anything but taciturn; his subject matter, which consisted of various facets of esoteric, philosophic and indeed transcendental thought, also underlined his interest in fundamentals and unquestionably his style of discourse was to present an idea and then gradually and systematically to follow the trains of logic which ran out from that starting point to see where they would lead. So then, we have a picture of a communicator, taciturn and methodical in style, one that builds up a picture upon a base supposition and then ultimately reaches a pinnacle insight, usually of a philosophic or spiritual nature; unquestioned in all of this process, is an appreciation of the man’s genius; indeed, I could often feel his frustration at having to hammer home some nuance of his argument to an audience that would clearly be losing the thread of it.

The taciturnity of expression is found in the conjunction of Sun with Mercury in Capricorn. The sign of Capricorn, denoted by the mountain-goat, is profoundly objective focused, it does not have an affinity with frivolity or frolicking, because, like the goat, it sees its world as a hard and often harsh environment where it must be single-minded and determined in order to survive; the food in those lofty realms is scarce, the path is uncertain and treacherous and the drop, no doubt fatal to the distracted. One step after another, the goat makes it way up the mountain, sure-footed, intensely focused on its ascent, driven, but not urgently, driven in a calm, assured way, but driven all the same.

Apply these principles to the Solar principle, Watts’ sense of who he must be are informed by this same driven certainty, and blended with Mercury, he must communicate that sense of self, at all costs. Here also is a measure of his genius because the conjunction with Mercury is so close as to be termed Cazimi, an Arabic word meaning “the heart of the Sun” and it is reckoned by the old-world astrologers to be extremely fortunate, because the principle that is wedded to Sol thus is imbued with the power of eternal life. Mercury Cazimi then gives a power of communication and intellect beyond the pale, beyond the envelope of human norms and this is clear in Watts’ easy discourse on profound matters; actually the most profound matters imaginable, and I shall turn to his subject matter soon enough. Some consider Cazimi to become combust if the conjunction falls outside of 17 minutes of one degree; Watts’ Mercury conjuncts the Sun within 21 minutes; but clearly his genius is absolutely beyond question. This astonishingly close conjunction explains his brilliance, but here, in the sign of Capricorn, it also explains his taciturn manner; his downbeat style, his dolorous, almost flat and unerringly focused approach to the subject in hand. Capricorn describes exactly how he takes a proposition and gradually and undistractedly leads the listener on an ever-ascending journey toward a revelation, a pinnacle, peak, or you might say mountain-top of insight. Then, the first house placement denotes a great energy, it explains his goat-like demeanour and appearance, it resonates with that Mars in the 1st house too, also in its exaltation in Capricorn, where his great energy can build gradually, methodically, to a crescendo of self-expression.

All of which explains how Watts would express his thought processes, but not particularly why, and of course, for an astrologer, the why of a personality is the causal spark, the raison d’etre of incarnation. So then, why did Alan Watts feel such a powerful need to express himself in this way?

The first reason is the Cazimi conjunction of Sun and Mercury that we already understand. Every conjunction between the Sun and the energy of communication, Mercury has to some extent this effect; the self-image is fundamentally a communicating one; the “I” of the ego is an “I” that talks, writes or moves in such a way as to convey meaning. Normally, the wider conjunction gives an element of blindness and often creates a person that talks about themselves a great deal and struggles to talk about much else, but with Cazimi, the communicating awareness is refined and dignified, rather than scorched and obliterated. But this does not explain all of it; after all, Sol and Mercurius can never be more than 28° apart on the plane of the ecliptic, so it is a common association and not many were so driven to explain themselves in this way.

The Quindecile aspect is one that is not much understood in modern astrology, although it has been revived by Noel Tyl, an astrologer of no mean reputation from whom I have learned a great many useful and insightful techniques. For a full discussion of the aspect then read this article. Suffice to say that for the purposes of this discussion at least, the Quindecile (or 165° aspect) has an element of obsessive-compulsive behaviour attached; from the Aries Point, the aspect falls in 15° Virgo and 15° Libra which describes obsession (striving for mental balance and harmony) followed by compulsion (taking a practical step toward the attainment of perfection). This describes the nature of the aspect well, since it is a mental dissatisfaction that provokes a practical fix. The fix rarely actually fixes anything of course, it merely alleviates the imbalance for a time and then it is back to the start, of thinking that something is not quite right and that we had better do something about it.

In Watts’ case we find two separate Qunideciles to that Cazimi conjunction of Sun and Mercury. Looked at in this way we can posit the understanding that his need to express these carefully expounded mental constructs in the form of lectures was the Virgoan solution; it was the fix that he was striving for. The mental imbalance then comes from two separate sources; Saturn conjunct Pluto in the 7th and Neptune on the cusp of the 8th.

Let us consider each of these in turn. Saturn conjunct Pluto is a real soul-destroying aspect; it is back-breaking in effect, because it adds Hadean depth (and you don’t get much deeper than the underworld) to Saturn’s propensity for hard work. Put these together then and you get astonishingly profound limitations, hard work, difficulty, burden and constriction, and in Watts’ case, with Pluto on the Aries Point, and in the 7th, marriage was for him, hard labour. Of course, wherever Pluto is found we have to transform ourselves somehow, but it is the place where we are least able to change, so it is an irresistible force and an immovable object, you know that something has to give, but usually it is ugly and painful even so. Watts went through 3 marriages, and whilst not much is known about the conditions of any of them, there is a between-the-lines intimation that they were far from easy.

Thus, it is entirely reasonable to suggest that the pain and discomfort he experienced in his intimate relationships left him feeling out of balance, and the practical ‘fix’ for that imbalance was to express his ideas in this way.It is almost as though his philosophising about the benign nature of the Universe would assuage the brutality of his marriage experience.

This ties in somewhat with the second Quindecile configured to the Sun Mercury conjunction, from Neptune in the 8th. It is reasonably well-known that Watts had a drinking problem; although he never openly admitted such. When he died aged 58 (at around the time of his second Saturn return – thus Saturn would be transiting the natal Saturn-Pluto conjunction in the 7th) the cause of death was recorded as ‘heart failure’ although it is commonly acknowledged that incipient alcoholism was a contributing factor. This is simply one level at which Neptune might manifest in the 8th, as a contributing factor in the (confusing) conditions surrounding death, also as a motivating obsessive impetus to the compulsion of expressing his spirituality and finally there is the question of talking about death as well, in a spiritual context. Watts frequently spoke about the value of meditating on death, his themes were often uncomfortably Plutonic, his spirituality was all about 8th house ideals of letting go, of non-materialism, of Buddhist ideas about attachment; fundamentally his spiritual DNA was 8th house and he felt compelled to talk it out.

These are not the only Quindeciles in Watts’ chart, he has another from the Dragon’s Head to the Moon which perhaps conveys something about his fated compulsion to bring his ideas before humanity at large, and in this last consideration, he was only partially successful. The taciturn genius pinpointed by his Cazimi Mercury was, like the air the determined goat breathes at the summit of his lonely mountain, always going to be somewhat rarefied and remote for general consumption; his brilliance was of the type of the stars, distant and ethereal rather than the tactile and fawned over diamond of earthly desire, but arguably, it was more precious even so, and will hopefully appreciate with time and contemplation.

Alan Watts, peregrination and the Uranus principle

Alan Watts Nativity

Today I wanted to look at some of the astrological themes of spirituality and religious thought in a specific case; and since I don’t really have any work today I am going to take a glance at the chart of a man, who for me, embodied some of the highest principles in human understanding of cosmic law; the late, truly great Alan Watts. In fact I am going to use his chart to explore some of the key considerations of my work as an astrologer and hopefully demonstrate some of the effects of spiritual and religious configurations in the astrology. Today I am going to talk about peregrination.

It has been said of Alan Watts that he picked up where Joseph Campbell left off, and though I hold Campbell in high regard, there is no question that as a philosopher and commentator upon the human condition, Watts combined the sublime with the practical in a way that nobody before or since has managed. Quite beyond that, I see in him a facsimile for my own grandfather who was born at the same time, also had Sun in Capricorn, had a manner of speech uncannily similar to Watts’ and held many of the same beliefs and interests; this is why (as a purely personal observation) I can be deeply affected just by listening to the sound of Alan Watts’ voice; although having said that I don’t believe that my cognitive bias in this case particularly affects my respect for his profound and sublime genius.

I use that specific word advisedly, because Watts’ chart contains a highly unusual peregrine Uranus. Peregrination comes from the Latin pelegrinus which means something like alien, foreigner and stranger, all placed together, actually, it has a connotation of outcast, separateness and holding oneself apart too, but you get the idea. A peregrine planet is one that is not connected to any other by major aspect (that is technically by Ptolemaic aspect: conjunct, opposite, square, trine or sextile), or at least it has the same effect as peregrination by dignity, which harks back to the original Ptolemaic practise of scoring planets according to their placement by sign and decanate. I have a growing respect for the concept, because I do observe that planets that are peregrine by either dignity or aspect operate in a very similar manner, they are difficult to express and therefore they become an obsessive focal point in the personality. This makes the energy fitful, erratic and very binary. My wife’s grandfather then has a peregrine Mars, in the sign of its traditional rulership Scorpio, and he is renowned (and somewhat beyond the level of familias I assure you) for his astonishing forceful energy and motivation. Now this is a slightly contradictory case of peregrination because his Mars is dignified by placement but made peregrine by lack of Ptolemaic aspect. What this suggests is that it is an unintegrated but very powerful or natural energy. Thus he will either over-express his Martian qualities – like assertion, drive and determination – or he will not express them at all. This is very much in keeping with his essential character; which veers from a rather hopeless form of malaise and listlessness to astonishing periods of upward progress and no-nonsense up and at ‘em bouts of activity that belies his 90 years. So what of my own son then whose unaspected Mars in Cancer is thus doubly peregrine, both by (lack of) aspect and by (lack of) dignity? I should say that he seems to have very little urgency at all, which is not to say that he cannot get things done, but he only has one gear even if he seems happy enough to go at his own pace in all things.

So then, we hopefully understand something about the theory of peregrination which is mildly uncommon by dignity but decidedly quite rare by aspect. To see peregrination both by dignity and aspect is extremely rare and thus far I have only found it in two cases: that of my son and I; and I shall write more on these themes another day.

But in Watts’ case, his Uranus is in the sign of its rulership, thus it is raised up by dignity but made peregrine by lack of aspect. I think this has a rather profound influence since any planet that is peregrine is subjectively felt to be unintegrated and thus the tendency is always to try to heal the rift within and express those qualities inclusively. This, in effect makes Watts’ over-express his Uranus quality, and because it is so naturally domiciled within the sign of Aquarius, he therefore conveys those qualities majestically.

Uranus rules all those qualities of individuation, the need to be unique, to be different, to be raised up above mundane and conventional concerns and thus it has a say in all matters of genius, of originality, of sublime insight. It rules television, radio and the Internet, it rules cutting edge technology and invention in all its forms; in the body it rules the circulation and the lower legs.

No surprise then that Watts, with a peregrine but astonsishingly powerful Uranus in Aquarius in the 2nd house made his money from communicating on televison, radio and audio tape (the cutting edge technology of his day) all concepts of his incredibly insightful mind; actually he made money from communicating his genius, and what better exposition of Uranus in Aquarius in the 2nd and peregrine by aspect could you ask for than that?

Tomorrow I will take a look at some other interesting facets of this fascinating case.