The Astrology of Breaking Down

Today’s article is a story. Not a made-up story, it’s a real-life story, a part of my own story, and it demonstrates, I believe, just how astonishingly powerful astrology is when you are open to its most fundamental principles, when you are fluent (and that’s a potent word in this context) in its language, and how it is a diagnostic and therapeutic tool second to none if you are experiencing life problems.

There is a phenomenon in astrology which I call the cascade effect. I shall quote myself, because I want you to understand the cascade effect, if you don’t appreciate it truly, then you will struggle to harness the power of your nativity: instead, it will remain abstract, disconnected from your reality. So:

Any physical symptom is simply an expression of the astrology at the level of last resort. That psychic impetus that you have not manifested at some level higher-up in the totality of your awareness has – left with no viable alternative – found its way out into the body, and that is the cause of your symptom.”

Meditation or prayer is a powerful tool for healing when combined with astrological self-awareness

So, if you are sick, then there is a problem in your nativity that has been triggered. Of course, for the sake of clarity, this does not mean that if you have caught a cold there is a problem in your nativity; but if you are unusually sick, relative to the statistical norm for people of your age and background, and even, in fact, relative to your own experience. What this means is that if you become ill, and your symptoms are severe, chronic or unusually distressing, then the reason for that problem will be found in your nativity.

That problem will have manifested at different levels too, although, if it has reached the ‘low-point’ of the physical body, then the chances are that you haven’t noticed it manifesting in any of the higher levels, but have no doubt, it will have been there! I have a theory that these problems want to be noticed, simply because the natural impetus of the human soul is toward improvement and purification. Let me use an analogy.

You go and buy a TV, and because you’re short of cash, you buy it on credit. The next day you lose your job, and because you are always a bit short of cash you didn’t get any unemployment insurance, so you miss the first payment on your new TV. A month goes by and you receive a reminder in the post. You ignore it, thinking you’ll soon be back in work and you’ll sort it out then. Another reminder arrives and you ignore that, and the next, and you’re beginning to get a little panicky about it now. The phone rings and you’re screening the calls and it’s the credit company, so you start avoiding the telephone (we’ve all been there right?) A couple of weeks later, you get a really threatening letter telling you you’re going to be taken to court if you don’t get in touch and sort this out.

Now, you can carry on with this story, right up to the point where the bailiffs are kicking in the door and clearing out all your worldly goods, you get evicted and end up living in a homeless shelter; but since I already said this would be a true-story and not make-believe, I’ll leave all that to you.

The point is that your astrology works in exactly this way, except it doesn’t use uneasy feelings, reminder letters, phone calls and bailiffs; rather it uses synchronicity, feelings of discomfort, interpersonal conflict and physical sickness as a direct correlation.

What this means is that the Universe (which from a philosophical perspective is really your nativity) starts making things happen in external reality as a way of trying to tell you that you need to take note of this problem and start dealing with it. We call this synchronicity for easy reference. Astrology is a universal language; Mercury is concerned with an array of factors, from communication at the interpersonal level to nerves and lungs (and so on) at the physical level. Similarly, Mars rules assertion and competition at the interpersonal level and the muscles, the head (and so on) in the physical body. Therefore, if you suffer from neuralgia or frequent toothaches then the chances are that there is some difficult connection between Mercury and Mars in your nativity. This might not be immediately obvious, but here is a list of some possible interconnections:

  1. Mercury in aspect (especially hard aspect) to Mars.
  2. Mercury in Aries or Mars in Gemini.
  3. Mercury in the 1st or Mars in the 3rd.
  4. Having a stressor aspecting the midpoint of Mercury and Mars (e.g. Sa=Me/Ma).
  5. Having both planets in weak positions, thus Mercury in Sagittarius and Mars in Libra, (or even Mercury in the 9th and Mars in the 7th).
  6. Having another planet act as an intermediary: for example having Jupiter in Aries (thus ruled by Mars) in tricky aspect to Mercury. Or vice-versa, having Saturn in Gemini in tricky aspect to Mars.

Now the crucial point here is that this problem will be trying to get itself noticed throughout your life, but like the reminder letters from the credit company, you’ve been ignoring them. What happens next is that you get a (cosmic) phone call, and maybe you start experiencing heightened conflicts in your interpersonal relationships; you’re always arguing with some people (and just what is their problem anyway!) but still you take no notice, you stop answering the phone and eventually, the bailiffs start kicking the door down. AKA: you get sick.

There are  a number of other stages of course: you might get divorced, your car might break down repeatedly (that’s a Mercury problem too), but whatever, ultimately, if you don’t take notice at one of these other levels, eventually you leave the Universe no other option than to give you a really big and obvious hint and make you sick.

Of course, you can go on with this (as with the original story) and ignore the bailiffs too, but now you’re playing a high-stakes game. Your quality of life might be affected or you might be hospitalised: you could even die; and lots of people do, believe it or not, rather than fix the original problem which is sitting there (often plain as day) in their nativity.

So you see, by following the TV bought on credit example, you can begin to understand how your astrology actually works. It would be nice of course if we were able to work out what was wrong even before we got the first reminder letter, and actually, with practise you can. You can cultivate a habit of taking notice of synchronicity, those coincidences that seem too uncanny to truly be mere coincidences and try to interpret what the underlying message is all about, but of course you need to be aware of the universal and symbolic language of astrology before you can understand the message. If you don’t speak the language, you won’t be able to understand the message (you can of course use a good interpreter).

The human body is an energy matrix that is mapped by your astrology

Now, one more note before we move on; the reminders, like the problem that is attempting to get noticed are not random. They are always triggered by transits, directions, and especially – in my experience – Secondary Progressions. What this means is that you can usually find the cause of the sickness if you take a look at the Secondary Progressed nativity at the time the problem was first noticed. It is not always there (but that would be unusual, especially if the problem is serious), but if it is not, then it will certainly be obvious in the transit chart, the progressed Solar Return chart or somewhere else. You will find it if you know how to look for it.

Now, I could provide theoretical examples, but it would be more powerful, and easier, to give a real-life story to illustrate this issue. This article will probably be especially interesting to anyone with difficult aspects between Mercury and Saturn.

In my own nativity, Mercury is peregrine (not classically peregrine, but Ptolemaically unaspected). That means it receives no major aspects. There are only three minor aspects, a quintile (72°) to Jupiter, a semisquare (45°) to Pluto and a quincunx (150°) to Saturn. I have never had the slightest problem accessing the Pluto semisquare, Mercury is in Scorpio and in mutual reception with Pluto in Virgo, and I understand the quintile to Jupiter (I have a fortunate knack for learning: if I want to understand something I will), but I’ve never been especially aware of the aspect to Saturn.

There are two factors to consider here: the aspect, and the quality of the blend. A quincunx is an aspect which fundamentally connotes dissatisfaction: when you try to combine these two energies, you’re never entirely satisfied with the result; it therefore creates a push for perfectionism. Mercury – Saturn on the other hand has plenty of meanings, but fundamentally, it suggests that when you are involved in a communication or exchange of ideas (thus anything from a chit-chat to a formal learning process) there is a feeling of inadequacy, blockage, slowness or frustration. I’d never been consciously aware of any such problem in my life, any dissatisfaction with my communication or ability to learn and as a result I’d never taken too much notice of the aspect before but then, two months ago I began to develop a problem with my shoulder.

As an astrologer, I determined that I really ought to be taking notice of this, because obviously, I’d been ignoring a problem all the way down the line, so I needed to find clues. I thought about it for a few days and went to see the doctor. The shoulder had become so bad by this point that I was practically paralysed, I could hardly move and my every waking moment involved severe pain. The doctor told me that I had a nerve trapped between two vertebrae in my spine and prescribed me powerful painkillers and a muscle relaxant which helped but did not ‘fix’ the problem. I was therefore tasked with translating the problem into the universal language of astrology in order that I find a solution. So, I had: a nerve (Mercury) that was trapped, compressed between two bones (Saturn), which resulted in muscular pain (Mars) for which the doctor (Hygeia) prescribed drugs (Neptune).

So, the trapped nerve immediately made me take notice of Mercury quincunx Saturn. But other events started to make themselves felt.

During the recent Mercury retrograde my car overheated (Mars) and all the water exploded out from a burst pipe in the engine (Neptune and specifically: Mars-Neptune, the explosion of liquids). The next day the temperature dropped and there was heavy snowfall so the water in the engine froze (Saturn), I hadn’t had a chance to put antifreeze in. This resulted in repeated problems with the car; it kept breaking down (Mercury-Saturn). I’ve actually become quite good friends with my mechanic as a result, because he’s had to fix the car (Hygeia) so many times!

So, all the clues are here: we have a Mercury Saturn problem, with elements of Mars, Jupiter, Neptune and Hygeia thrown in for good measure. Now here is my nativity:

As you will see, all of the aforementioned planets are involved in a complicated matrix of hard aspects in my nativity. I was born with this problem. Evidently, I’d managed to ignore the reminder letters, and the phone calls, and now the bailiffs were knocking on my door.

So, what’s the story here? I included the Sun in this picture because it’s relevant.

When I was three months old my father left and I never saw him again (Sun opp. Saturn Rx). My mother remarried when I was 4 and I had never been especially interested in my biological father but through a long course of synchronicities I had finally got to the point where I’d decided to contact him, which I did: just before Christmas. So, for the first time in my life since the age of 3 months, I communicated (Mercury) with my father (Saturn). Shall we call that another coincidence?

So what then is the fundamental problem? As I said before, Mercury – Saturn aspects are all about feeling intellectually inadequate. That would probably seem quite laughable to anyone who knows me well, and indeed, if anyone had told me a year ago that I had a lack of confidence in my intellect I’d probably have found it quite laughable myself, but the more I examined the issue, the more it made sense.

The chakras are the primary energy centres of the human body

My stepfather, whom I love dearly, has always told me how incredibly bright I am, as has my mother. In my stepfather’s case that was all very well, but he is a Cambridge University professor and one of the most supremely intelligent, wise and self-possessed human beings alive on this earth today (which really is no exaggeration). That’s a real legacy to live up to. Upon serious reflection then, I now realise that this first became a problem for me at the age of 14 (when I had my first Saturn opposition, thus triggering the Sun opposition to radix Saturn and the quincunx to Mercury). I fell behind at school after being the highest achieving pupil in my year: and this at one of the best schools in the country. I essentially flunked my exams. Still, my parents persuaded me to go back and take A’ levels, but I lasted almost until the point of taking the exams and I dropped out again. Even still, I went back to school many years later and took A’ levels, this time at 29! The Saturn return: and I got into University as a mature student. I started taking History with Archaeology (how Saturnian is that?) but then decided that it wasn’t for me and switched courses: supremely late, to Computing with Psychology. I got two years through my course and became so discontented that I basically flunked out again.

I am quite sure you are seeing a pattern here.

Sun-Saturn connotes somebody who is not so much motivated by a desire for success as they are paralysed by a fear of failure. They can do quite well in life, but crucially, their efforts are fuelled primarily by not wanting to fail.

Now, the Mercury – Saturn connection provokes a test as does any Saturn connection, there is a looming qualm, an innate inadequacy which the native struggles to overcome, usually through persistent hard work. When connected with Mercury, that test relates to intelligence, one’s ability to learn and communicate knowledge, and it relates very precisely to academic matters, so Saturn here says: are you academically able? The aspect is quincunx, so there is a seeking after perfection, things have to be just right or the aspect nags, like grit in your shoe, demanding that you get it right. But then Sun-Saturn is paralysed by a fear of failure and the primary role-model for success in a man’s life are these exact male archetypes, Sun and Saturn, the living embodiment of which is found in the father or father figure.

So, when your primary father figure is one of the most well-qualified human beings on the planet (and he really is: you could count on one hand the number of people alive today with his credentials in his field, he has taught at Harvard, UCLA and held a professorship at Cambridge) then really, to say that’s a tough act to follow, is an astounding understatement. My younger brother summed it up rather astutely when I saw him a couple of weeks ago when he asked: “what actually is the point in trying to distinguish yourself academically in our family?”


It has dawned on me since that the reason I had always dropped out of education before I really got finished was because then I didn’t have to fail (Sun-Saturn) which meant that I wouldn’t therefore have to feel stupid (Mercury-Saturn). What else was there? Any child only wants to individuate and exceed their parents’ expectation, so what was I going to do, become a double professor?

And that’s when I realised that I had an intellectual inferiority complex. It’s not remotely my stepfather’s fault of course, he is as humble, gentle and kind as the day is long, he would never crow about his achievements – indeed, the only reason I even know that he is a professor, or where he taught is because I’ve read his biography in the numerous books he has had published. It hit me with a kind of kaleidoscopic rush. I can now sense the inner tension that builds as soon as I feel pressured to learn something, and it resonates dissonantly, at the same time, with an inner pressure to achieve that learning goal; to prove myself.

And do you know what happened as soon as I realised this?

The pain began to subside. Well, I have a lot of work to do and it will probably take many weeks to fix myself for good, but I feel as though I am on the mend.

Understanding this, let us revisit the story of my car:

During the recent Mercury retrograde my car went through numerous cycles of overheating and freezing (Mars – Saturn: Saturn is in Aries thus ruled by Mars), Mercury was retrograde (breakdowns) and in Capricorn (thus ruled by Saturn). The Sun – Saturn opposition points to a congenital weakness, my mechanic tells me that I bought the car with this problem (on Ebay), and of course, the mechanic himself is represented by Hygeia which is the apex point of a tee square from the Sun – Saturn opposition.

It was when I looked at my Secondary Progressed chart that I decided to just buy a new car, I had already thrown away a small fortune on trying to get the old one fixed.

There are a number of remarkable features here. Before I explain though let me tell you a little about progressed Mercury. I was born with Mercury at 7 Scorpio, unaspected. Mercury continued to progress direct through Scorpio until 1984 – the year I first took my high school exams – when it turned retrograde. It moved back through Scorpio until it had returned to its birth position, when I decided to go back to school and get the exams I needed to go to University. When Mercury was in perfect quincunx to SP Saturn I actually made the decision that I would give up work and go back to school (although it took a while to realise that plan fully). When I experienced my Saturn Return I started University. Mercury continued to retrograde until it reached 1 Scorpio, in 2004. When Mercury came within a degree of the natal quincunx to Saturn (for the 3rd time now) I started to experience pain in my shoulder and the car started to break down.

Quite apart from the rather remarkable fact that SP Mercury has been in Scorpio my entire adult life: and will be until I am well into my 60s, what you will see is that just now, there is a Mars – Hygeia conjunction at the exact midpoint (all midpoints express the two aspecting points) of the Mercury – Saturn quincunx. Hygeia is indeed in exact squile (half-way between the sextile and the square) aspect (75°) to both Mercury and Saturn (don’t laugh, it’s an important and neglected aspect, especially for progressions – as is the squine: 105°). So, the mechanic, the doctor, my health are receiving the tension of needing to fix my intellectual insecurity complex. Mars (overheating, muscles) is manifesting in both the car and my own physical body.

Esoterically I have been reading an interesting book about chakra healing. I meditate most days so I am fairly comfortable with the idea of moving energy around my body, and it’s no coincidence that I’ve always experienced a sluggishness around the meridians in my right shoulder that run up into my neck. I’ve also suffered with a long-standing gallbladder problem (Pluto is on the degree for the gallbladder) and the gallbladder meridian runs up over the right shoulder blade, up the right-side of the neck and on upward through the throat chakra.

Mercury-Saturn of course certainly highlights the throat chakra as an area of potential concern and difficulty (Mercury: communication / Saturn: block). I have had to learn to moderate my communication over the last couple of years, the fallout from my divorce have made that necessary, and in the last few days I am beginning to find the requisite peacefulness of heart to speak my truth without recrimination. The heart chakra, precedes the throat chakra as energy travels up the spine, so the neck problem can only be cured with love and understanding.

What I have learned is this:

I do not need to prove myself to anyone. I am what I am and I live my life with integrity. I try to help people, for no other reason than that it brings peace to my heart to feel their pain easing. Those people who cannot hear me, I forgive, but until they too are able to set aside recrimination and blame I must remove them from my life, in order that I properly protect my sensitive emotional body and the wellbeing of my loved ones. I am learning to say only words which reflect my needs, but without bitterness or anger, balanced with the needs of those around me.

Over the coming days and weeks I will be writing to all those people that I have blamed so that I can express my regret and forgiveness.

That is the path to healing.

Why is a square?


It seems like a perfectly obvious question, but it’s one that most astrologers seldom think to ask, not least, I suspect, because there are certain unquestioned assumptions in astrology as much as in any other field of study: and thus a square is simply a square because it’s a square!

This logic has always troubled me, most especially because it is based upon no logic whatever. Rather it is a received wisdom whose underlying tenets appear too fundamental to challenge. Such is dogma, and dogma is rarely useful.

We ought to always understand the raison d’être of these first principles, even if only to prove their veracity. I have explored a few understandings about the mechanics of aspects, mostly they are based upon divisions of the circle and fundamentals of numerology (although that to me seems a little chicken and egg: which came first, numerology or the division of the ecliptic?) There seems little doubt in my thinking when I have pondered the reality of aspects however: it is mostly derived from the nature of the signs themselves, modified by proximity to an equal division of the sphere.

Why should this be? A Sun and Moon blend does not need to be in Ptolemaic opposition for it to manifest the tendency to awkwardness – most especially in interaction with others – that is the hallmark of a full moon birth so long as the signs are opposite. Mars in Aries will not sit comfortably in the broad apprehension of life while Venus is in Capricorn, even if the two are not squared. The orb creates immediacy, not reality. Both Venus and Mars must be expressed somehow, and they are not compatible in these signs, so whilst they cannot (as tradition would have it) “see each other” by aspect, they certainly will not be mutually supporting as they would if both were in fire and out of orb of the trine.

To a large extent, it is entirely academic to even think in this specific way, but it ought to be obvious that regardless of aspect a planet in flighty, cursory Gemini will not mix comfortably with a planet in detail-focused, thorough Virgo; the two signs have little in common (and therein lies the challenge of the square).

So, the intrinsic nature of the signs is the keystone of aspect analysis regardless of orb or anything else. Orbs in themselves are of course important, and the closer two powers are configured, the more unquestioned and innate an aspect is likely to appear, most especially in subjective terms. That is to say that a square of less than 2 degrees of arc is very often a blind spot for the native, whereas a wider square will likely be a condition of which they have more awareness. Tight aspects are innate and unquestioned, loose ones are less integrated and impinge more upon consciousness as a result.

All of which really begs the question (and it’s a good one): what about out of sign aspects? At this juncture, it might be useful to consider an example:

00) Florence, Italy

Maurizio Gucci, fashion designer. 26 Sept 1948 01:10 (EET -2:00) Florence, Italy

Maurizio Gucci, one time head of the world famous Italian fashion house evinced an out of sign square between Sun in Libra and Moon in Gemini, with a separation of just 3°06′. Classically, a Sun – Moon square represents inner discontent due to the instincts being incompatible with the ideal self, but in an out-of-sign square such as this, the intrinsic nature of Gemini and Libra is inherently complementary, so the tension of the square would not in any way have been so evident as with Cancer and Libra (emotional and nonchalant) or Gemini and Virgo (easy-going and particular), instead with this combination we have a nonchalant and easy-going admixture: and yet the two are squared.

Bill Tierney, in the excellent Dynamics of Aspect Analysis (which I no longer own, although did until very recently) discusses this exact phenomenon, (unfortunately I cannot quote directly) and his conclusion suggests that aspects out of sign are fundamentally altered in quality and not nearly so compulsive. Thus, they appear to assume something of the quality of a wider-arc aspect.

Gucci however, did evince one of the more classic tensions of a Sun – Moon square: namely marital tension, and that writ very large. Shortly after selling his stake in the family empire for $170 million, he was gunned down by a contract killer hired by his wife. Other insights support this potential: Venus conjunct Pluto (fanatic love) in the 2nd house of wealth, peregrine Neptune in Libra and the 4th suggests powerfully confused home conditions whereas the Mars – Pluto square across those most uncompromising and remorseless of potentials: Scorpio to Leo is never going to be easy to reconcile.

Gucci’s wife was notoriously narcissitic, she once said “I’d rather cry in a Rolls Royce than laugh on a bicycle,” and it was after her husband determined to divorce her that she hatched her evil plot.

For Maurizio though, the ruler of the 8th is Uranus (thus sudden, unexpected) and conjunct Moon (the wife), which tells something of the end of things, but even more pertinent is the midpoint picture of Ur=Ma/Pl. The Mars – Pluto square across the fixed Leo – Scorpio potential is already powerfully forceful and difficult, and with Uranus at the midpoint at less than a minute of arc the interpretation becomes especially intriguing: cruelty, violence, brutality – sudden disasters or calamities of great consequence. In medical astrology, the midpoint of the tightest square: especially one involving Pluto is nearly always profoundly telling.

Of course, it works both ways, a trine that is out of sign is not nearly so innate and accessible as one that is in its element, so more effort is required to facilitate the easy exchange of energy normally associated with the aspect as might be expected with two planets in mutually incompatible signs.

For the astrologer, it makes interpretation somewhat difficult, because there is a contradictory influence at work in out of sign aspects. The out of sign opposition has something of the quincunx to consider, thus a tendency to dissatisfaction that perhaps alters the quality of the traditional opposition. The square might be eased, the trine weakened, of the major aspects, only the conjunction might be considered assisted by the tendency to the semi-sextile, although it without doubt lessens the intimacy and innateness of the usual blend.

Superhuman Force: the Mars – Pluto Contact

The Mars Pluto contact is characterised by Ebertin as ‘Superhuman Force’. It is an entirely apt description, since one of the key understandings of Hadean energy is that, like the atomic power it rules, it creates an incredible reservoir of hidden power. Nuclear fusion is carried on in the deepest recesses of the power station, volcanic process occurs in the deepest subterranean realms and when either finds its way out, devastation and destruction inevitably results; this is a force that ought not see the light of day.

Harnessed properly and handled with respect and caution though nuclear energy can provide enormous benefits. Similarly, a volcanic eruption can induce a sense of wonder and local inhabitants can be moved to a position of safety beforehand, providing the seismologists have done their work. The key observation though is that Plutonic force needs very careful handling and should be handled respectfully, and nowhere is this more in evidence than where it provides the motive power for Martian energy, which is already hot enough all on its own.

Today then, I wish to explore an intriguing insight, that while it is ostensibly concerned with Mars and Pluto in the astrology, gives perhaps an even starker insight into the fundamental quality of aspects than the contact between these potentially volatile planetary powers alone. Any Mars – Pluto contact contains an intimation of superhuman force, regardless of its quality and the square need be no more difficult than the trine in the long term. Squares and oppositions require transformation due to their abrupt and limiting influence on the life; trines and sextiles by contrast are able to bump along much more comfortably and this is why a trine can so easily devolve into something a little decadent, or even sleazy in some cases. Let us consider some examples.


All of these individuals evince a Mars-Pluto contact in their astrology albeit of a differing arc; in every case Pluto is in the sign of Virgo. Consider the nature of the different aspects first. The square creates an inner drive or tension which manifests out of consciousness as an abrupt, tense and somewhat edgy impetus. The opposition is a tendency to disown our dissonant characteristics and transfer them onto others and often manifests as interpersonal discord or relationship dysfunction. The trine by contrast creates ease and subjective enjoyment and the native can leverage the frictionless exchange of energies between the planets. The conjunction is the most innate and intrinsic form of contact, it becomes a more fundamental and integral facet of personality than any other type of contact.

Thus, Jack Black first of all who with Mars in wild, free-roaming Sagittarius evinces the square to Pluto in Virgo. Here the superhuman force is felt as a great inner tension that makes the energy rather abrupt, tense and potentially explosive. Mars forms the apex of a tee-square from Moon in Pisces opposing Pluto. Moon square Mars is classically disputatious and abrupt, and can manifest as a rather headstrong tendency to rashness. Add to this the force of Mars – Pluto and the abruptness of the square aspect and immediately it is possible to see how Jack is metamorphosed from a usually reserved and potentially timid Virgo into a raging rock monster. And, the fact is, you can see Mars square Pluto in his eyes.

Rob Lowe by contrast will not evince the same forceful tendency simply because the opposition does not internalise like the square: in direct contrast in fact, it externalises instead. Lowe’s manner is almost opposite to that of Jack Black’s, none of the edgy, abrupt energy is in evidence, in fact, he seems to be, by contrast, almost soporifically meek and non-confrontational. This is because the tension and force of Mars Pluto is transferred onto others, so Lowe may consider others to be brutal, forceful and cruel without claiming any of those difficult qualities for himself, however, he will probably fool nobody except himself, because none of us can ever fully outsource our oppositions and those who know him well might consider him to be ruthlessly ambitious, which is certainly one of the most common difficult manifestations of this placement. Another classic interpretation of Mars/Pluto is concerned with sexual drive and vigour, and the opposition could well farm out those darker biological drives inappropriately. In 1988, Lowe was involved in a sex scandal over a videotape of him having sex with two females, one of whom was sixteen, in Atlanta while attending the 1988 Democratic National Convention. Lowe has asserted that he did not know that the second girl was underage, and it was confirmed that the two had met at a bar, which the girl entered by lying about her age. Another part of the same tape was leaked at the time, showing Lowe, a young American model named Jennifer, and Justin Morris having a ménage à trois in a hotel room in Paris. This part of the original tape was sold as one of the first commercially available celebrity sex tapes, damaging his public image.He later entered a rehabilitation clinic for alcohol and sex addiction. Lowe is currently involved in several ongoing legal disputes with three former nannies claiming sexual harassment. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the various situations, there is no denying the potential for use of force (Pluto) in sexual matters (Mars) being used inappropriately against others (opposition). It is equally possible however, that he is (as he claims) the victim of inappropriate sexual accusations himself, for the purpose of obtaining financial rewards. Mars – Pluto can seek advancement without much concern for the moralities.

Ben Stiller enjoys the Mars Pluto trine, which at its best bestows great self-confidence and tireless ambition, the ability to work without rest in order to achieve one’s objectives. With Mars in the 7th and exalted in Capricorn he no doubt displays an easy ability to relate with a measure of intensity within close personal relationships and he has certainly enjoyed a generally uncomplicated married life to date with Christine Taylor, with whom he co-starred in the movie Dodgeball.

For Kevin Spacey, the conjunction plays out in a much more integrated manner as a key component of personality. Mars is of course a personal planet, so it will be expressed at the very core of being whereas Pluto, impersonal and distant, simply cannot be unless it is in some sense blended into some more intrinsic facet of the person. The conjunction performs this exact function in a manner that is entirely more complete and unquestioned than any of the other aspect possibilities. Mars in Virgo gives a curiously asexual quality to the persona, a tendency which is only given a strangely compulsive quality by the proximity of Pluto, here is someone that is methodical and pays attention to detail and has an ability to work on the small-stuff all day long without tiring or losing focus.


Consider briefly these equivalent case studies in female astrology, where Mars changes its focus subtly. Davina McCall evinces the edgy and ambitious quality of the contact and certainly there is an abrupt and decidedly tense facet to her nature that is immediately evident. For Cindy Crawford the opposition is found across the MC/IC with Mars on the Midheaven and conjunct Saturn, both in dreamy Pisces. The neatening and intense polarity of Pluto in Virgo however, is unmistakable. Shannen Doherty who enjoys the trine has a reputation for being ruthlessly ambitious and has experienced considerable turbulence in her personal relationships, while Teri Hatcher embodies the quality of Mars-Pluto in Virgo forming a stellium with Uranus all of which tightly squares her Sun in Sagittarius in the 9th giving enormous drive to realise her ambitions.

Any aspect, crucially, between Mars and Pluto therefore gives enormous energy, drive and ambition, the nature of the aspect will only in truth modify the manner in which it manifests.

Trines vs. Squares, Case Studies

The fact that today I don’t get a single hard transit, Venus conjunct Uranus woke me at 8:04 this morning and she crosses my Ascendant around lunchtime (and I am looking good today, if I say so myself), has got me in the way of thinking about the quality of aspect experience in the nativity. The key observation is that a chart that evinces a lack of easy aspects will be fundamentally different in quality and tone to one that contains an abundance of ease regardless of any other factor in the entire astrology. It transcends, if you like, the more specific considerations of element, triplicity, sign and house and ought to be noted where found as “important!” I wrote broadly on this principle in a previous article which can be found here.

I have conducted a small study of my files and I can now provide some specific examples which will hopefully illustrate the principle and clarify the key quality of the insight. The first observation of significance is that charts of noteworthy individuals with a complete absence of easy aspects outnumber those lacking hard aspects almost completely, in fact I could find only 4 charts in more than 2000 that contained no squares or oppositions. This ought not be the greatest surprise in theory, since the very vast majority of charts contain a fairly broad mix of hard and easy contacts, speaking only statistically that ought to be the case, but by contrast, the number of charts containing no, or nearly no easy aspects is quite disproportionately long. Immediately an insight is gleaned about drive and ambition; these are created out of the square aspect more or less exclusively, although conjunctions to Mars or Pluto often evince something of the nature of a natural square.

Technical note: In this study I tend to only consider the trine, square and opposition alone. A sextile requires effort to activate and is not innate in the same manner as the division by 2, 3 and 4, thus I would consider a chart lacking trines and with just one or two sextiles to be exclusively difficult.

Easy Charts.

First then, the 4 cases I could find of charts that contained only easy aspects, by which I mean a total absence of squares and oppositions. Pauline Collins (a British sitcom actress), Rollie Fingers (a baseball star), Daniel Wesson (co-founder of the Smith and Wesson firearms manufacturer) and F. Scott Fitzgerald, are the only examples of even moderate note that I could find. Fitzgerald is easily the most noteworthy among these four so we will look briefly at his astrology here.

22) St. Paul Minn. USA

F. Scott Fitzgerald, writer. 24 Sept 1896 15:30 (+6:12:22) St. Paul Minn. USA

A chart with this much ease of course ought to be more of a handicap than an outright boon, but you should note almost right away that Sun and Pluto are both peregrinated, whilst Saturn and Uranus form a peregrine island in Scorpio and the 9th house. This is almost certainly the source of his drive to suceed, and his greatest work, The Great Gatsby is really a novel about the experiential dissonance of the protagonist who exalts the charming social conventions (Sun in Libra) of New York society in the 1920′s but experiences a real discomfort with the rampant materialism that underpins it (8th house). The rest of Fitzgerald’s life runs much more in the vaguely dissolute groove promised by a lack of tension in the nativity. He went to Princeton, failed to complete his studies, was considered a “mediocre student” and rather flaccidly went about his affairs, making easy associations with the likes of Ernest Hemingway along the way. His love life was stuttering and somewhat lacking in urgency, and he even managed to arouse a rather generalised resentment from his contemporaries, including Hemingway who referred to Fitzgerald latterly as an “archetypal, ruined American writer”. The experience of this broad sweep of aspects then is one of a rather unfocused, random and altogether too unfussy approach to the whole arena of life and there is always a sense that progress is made as much, if not more, through luck and blind chance than through any concerted effort or desire. That then, is the unexpurgated trine experience, and without peregrination, I do not doubt for one moment that even the great F. Scott Fitzgerald would have been simply incapable of rising above abject mediocrity in any facet of his life. The fuel is simply absent.

Hard charts.

Here, conversely there is a wealth of material to choose from and if I were prepared to include charts evincing even a single easy aspect the list would grow exponentially. The Gemini Sun and implacably peregrinated Mercury in Taurus blend of Clint Eastwood and the dreamily poised peregrinated Mercury in Scorpio of Grace Kelly are examples of this latter type. Here then is the list of those charts from my records containing not a single trine:

Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull)
Alexander Graham Bell
Cliff Burton (Metallica)
Henri Cartier Bresson
Barbara Cartland
Walt Disney
Jodie Foster
Rodney King
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Charles Manson
William Morris
Guy Pearce
Will Smith
Bruce Springsteen

Several of these cases are extremely interesting in their own right and I have explored various facets of their respective astrologies in previous articles: Cliff Burton, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Guy Pearce (whose chart is a facsimile of my own, he is a few hours older than I and born just 30 miles from me too) and of course, Will Smith, who is the archetypal peregrinated Moon in Scorpio role-model, in this astrologer’s view.

For the purpose of this article I would like to consider two further extremely interesting cases; those of Jodie Foster and Bruce Springsteen, both of whom share a common quality of A-list celebrity status, a far cry from the rather meagre fame of those in the easy grouping.

00) Los Angeles CA USA

Jodie Foster, actress: 19 Nov 1962 08:14 PST (+08:00) Los Angeles CA USA

You will note that the only sextile is almost entirely generational with Neptune and Pluto neither angular, not overly pronounced in the context of the overall nativity. Pluto is pronounced however through its lordship over Sun in Scorpio, the focal point of a rather unconvincing tee-square from Mo/Ur opp. Ju. Moon conjunct Uranus in Virgo creates a real possibility of emotional dissatisfaction, a feeling of being different but the opposition to Jupiter in the 3rd creates real stress in her relationships whenever she tries to express it. The result of that is vocal tension, a sense of crackling restraint in the self-expression when it is squeezed into ultra-controlling Sun in Scorpio. Just listen to her talk and you will immediately feel that quality, it is unmistakable. You can palpably sense the fizzing, electrical quality of Uranus being strained out through the Sun. Of perhaps even more import for the arc of her life and career is peregrinated Saturn in Aquarius, where he is undoubtedly very comfortable; here Saturn is idealistic with regard to material matters, she therefore has real power to realise assets in her life, a quality she shares exactly with Michael Caine. The overall ambience of the nativity therefore is perfectly in keeping with a lack of ease; even if life is objectively seen to be quite comfortable and successful, the lack of trines individual cannot rest on his or her laurels and must continue to strive for a resolution to that inner sense of tension.

00) Freehold NJ USA

Bruce Springsteen, musician 23 Sep 1949 22:50 (+04:00) Freehold NJ USA

Bruce Springsteen is another unique case, since his chart evinces not only a lack of trines but a remarkable lack of oppositions too. There are other charts that show no opposition, those of Paul McCartney, Orson Welles and Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper for example, however, Springsteen’s chart is one of the very few that contains only squares. A lack of oppositions is in general an indicator of an uncomfortable tendency to not seek external validation. This is the same end result as a grand trine in truth, however the grand trine creates no friction, it is an entirely comfortable self-absorption; the lack of opposition by contrast merely generates isolation. The native, unable to moderate behaviour through the mirror of interaction simply annoys others until they drift away, frustrated and no doubt desirous of easier company. This, I would think in Springsteen’s case will just add to the angsty quality of the trineless nativity and drive him onward in his quest for self-acceptance and equanimity. Sun on the Aries Point of Libra creates an opportunity for fame too, but the real drive in his life is found in the Venus Mars square, a dissatisfaction with love and, with Venus in Scorpio, an inability to differentiate between sex and the more rarefied sentiments. Uranus rising in Cancer, ruling the vocation and squaring Sun creates a tension and need to express independent views on the homeland and this is a real feature of his songwriting of course. Jupiter is especially poorly placed, detrimented, squared to the Lord of the Geniture and in Pluto’s house, but it does create a real drive too to realise power in the life, and material concerns are part of that impetus with Capricorn configured. Tense, tense, tense: poor Bruce, he might never get to sing it out of him.