The Astrology of Locked in Syndrome.

"Locked in Syndrome"

"Locked in Syndrome"

Since I am on the subject of films – and often the reason a film is made is because the story behind it is remarkable, and of course the story is remarkable because the person that inspired it is too and of course the person is remarkable because… you can see where this is going can’t you? – well, to cut to the chase then, I recently watched “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, a compelling vision rendered into film – quite beautifully – concerning the experience of Jean-Dominique Bauby, or ‘Jean-Do’, a successful Parisian magazine editor who suffered a massive stroke while driving his car and woke twenty days later to discover that he was completely paralysed and was in fact only capable of blinking his left eyelid. This extremely rare condition is called “Locked in Syndrome”, the film is nothing short of incredible, beautifully realised and quite emotive, more than worth the rental fee.

Even more interesting though is the astrology of locked in syndrome. Jean-Do’s astrology is not beginner’s grade however, so be warned, but it will be easy to demonstrate the key pressures and configurations:

00) Paris, France

Jean-Do, 23 Apr 1952, 05:25 (CET -1:00) Paris, France

The chart evinces a great deal of difficult to channel distress, it is a classic grand-cross with very few easy outlets (and even a trine to Pluto is definitely not an easy outlet). Two elements are key, the Chiron in Capricorn as the ‘most visible’ corner of his inner angst and the peregrine island of Sun/Jupiter across the cusp of Taurus in the 1st.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly tells the story of Jean-Do's life

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly tells the story of Jean-Do's life

Chiron in Capricorn is all about not being heard, and here is a man who came to the attention of the world (conj. MC) by dint of not being able to speak, write or communicate except through the astonishingly laborious process of blinking his eye at the required letter as the entire alphabet was read through one letter at a time to his nurse. No surprise then that Saturn (slow, methodical, painstaking) in the 6th (health) and in Libra (persons closely related) supplies the offside tension to this aspect pattern. On the other side, Mercury in the 12th opposing Saturn (sorrow through being unable to speak for ourselves) also squares Chiron, which underpins the pain of being unable to physically communicate because of our wound or tragedy. All this opposed to Uranus on the IC no doubt creates individuation through our most private self, and the film and the novel which inspired it, are nothing if not a quite profound study of the most personal, familial (Cancer on the 4th) being. All that psychic tension though had to get out, and it did so through Chiron on the MC, one who becomes known to the world through pain and suffering.

Just as relevant to the initial wound itself though is Sun Jupiter peregrine in the first (body), across the Aries/Taurus cusp, – thus the juncture of neck and brain and therefore the brain stem, Jupiter creates excess and the Sun quickens and vitalises, so here there is almost a surfeit of blood and energy flowing into the brain stem. Extremely interesting too is the fact that Mercury (communication) is on the zodiacal degree for the eyeball. No, it really is. Further health indicators are the Moon Neptune opposition (a paralysis of the blood), Neptune descending – a literal inability to relate to others except in unusual, strange or downright weird ways and the Saturn Uranus square, inhibitions of rhythm, all overexpressed by the trigger of the peregrine Sun/Jupiter on the brain-stem and the need to achieve public recognition through the wound and sense of isolation and being unable to be heard (Chiron in Cap. conjunct MC).

This is certainly one of the most extreme expressions of the grand-cross I have yet seen but it certainly is quite typical in quality if not in quantity, it can be – almost quite literally – a cross to bear, but I usually find that if all that tension cannot get out, it will find a way and very often through the most elevated point. in Jean-Do’s case it was to his detriment, but ultimately to his eternal exaltation that Chiron found itself so high in the sky when he was born; a few hours hence and he might be living today in relative obscurity, but the world would be the poorer for it too.

Denzel Washington: Gravitas personified

his stars outshine even Crowe...

Denzel: his stars outshine even Crowe...

One of my favourite pastimes as an astrologer is to take a look at the astrology of celebrities and notables that I like and try to discover whether or not my impression of them is at all justified. I used this method to determine which of Federer or Nadal I would support in the Wimbledon final (I wasn’t particularly bothered, but any game is improved with a sprinkling of zeal – and I went for Federer by the way) and I would quite happily use the same approach to determine the probable sincerity of a politician. As any good astrologer knows though, a study of any human being’s astrology makes them much more interesting to observe; I liken meeting a client post-interpretation to watching the film of a book you may have particularly enjoyed, and usually the big-screen version is rewarding. Studying the astrology of actors, performers and other public notables has led me to take in a great deal of culture that would not normally have intrigued me overmuch. I became distinctly enamoured of Annie Lennox’s music after looking at her astrology, so too with Edith Piaf and Nina Simone, my respect for Liz Greene actually increased post-study, so too with Germaine Greer (who is undoubtedly brilliant), not to mention Sylvia Plath, and then there are those empathic moments too, as with the astrology of Lady Jane Grey, which left me – quite frankly – anguished for several hours.

On a lighter note then, I intend today to make a brief foray into the astrology of Denzel Washington, whom for me can almost do no wrong and I fully expect him to improve as an actor considerably with age: and not just because he is a Capricorn either. He is, astrologically, the genuine article.

I will personalise this just a little by saying that I have always felt a natural liking for the sign Capricorn, I love the dry humour, the deadpan observational style, the sheer toughness and resilience of it and wherever it is found it creates a wonderful wry, self-deprecating and pleasantly implacable ambience in the character. When I was a young man, my sidekick Tich, an accomplished Jazz musician and troubadour, was almost 100% Capricorn and we travelled the length and breadth of the British Isles together with guitars, ephemerides and wacky haircuts and it was entirely down to his uncomplaining determination that we ended up belting out Dylan numbers to a crowd of enraptured fishermen on a beach at dusk in Lindisfarne, or getting through three festivals in a week as far apart as Stonehenge and Wales with no car.

00) Mount Vernon, NY

Denzel Washington, actor. 28 Dec 1954, 00:09 (+5:00) Mount Vernon, NY

Denzel has this same quietly implacable quality and how much?! His astrology is a textbook case and almost impossible to misinterpret in its single pointed foci. Note all the indicators of drive, brilliance, outstanding talent and in particular determination in the astrology, here are my delineations, in a vague order of precedence:

  1. Sun is near Cazimi with North Node, conjunct Mercury and all three elements together are Peregrine. This then is Capricorn unalloyed, the purest distillation of Capricorn in self-awareness, in a sense of destiny and in manner of speech. This would give phenomenal gravitas even if ptolemaically aspected, but here that sense of weight is off the charts.
  2. But look! Peregrine Moon in Aquarius as well! So whilst he may have a serious demeanour, he gets to be cool with it too. Moon in Aquarius is sometimes just too detached though, and where the Sun is in Air, it can make the native almost unengagable, but this dissociative note (peregrine Moon is always dissociative) is probably countered by the Capricorn impetus to mean something. The only fly in the ointment here is the concern that for all his presence and detachment, he might be unable to convey much humanity, but then…
  3. Mars trine Saturn not only gives enormous self-control, it gives incredible emotional power as well; especially with the Scorpio influence and a mutual reception between Moon and Uranus gives a near-genius for expressing the personal needs and inner life.
  4. The tee-square to Neptune provides the drive to be seen as “the actor” and creates a rather tense need to be perceived as sensitive; this, combined with Saturn would in my view, provide the undercurrent of slightly stressed sympathy that adds the essential dash of humanity to his controlled exterior. The tee square is especially intriguing, a close conjunction of Jupiter and Uranus for a start creates a likely ongoing increase in individuation, trine to Venus provides his film-star mannerisms, opposite Chiron in Capricorn – thus a feeling of not being taken seriously enough, in the 4th, probably stemming from childhood. Denzel was sent away to boarding school while his parents divorced, and Chiron in Capricorn creates a real need to be heard, one that is often thwarted, setting up a life that attempts to redeem itself through being given respect; of course that too is unbalanced with Jupiter/Uranus, so his deep sensitivity is difficult to reconcile with his outgoing, powerful individuality and all of that tension gets fed into his acting (Neptune), and this configuration really adds the drive so typical of the tee-square to the whole mix. Interesting to note that Denzel’s first movie was released within a month of Chiron’s discovery in 1977.
  5. The only dark note is suggested by Venus square Pluto which would have been applying genuine formative pressure by Solar Arc at age 3. It is in that light no surprise then that Moon is peregrine and that his parents divorced fairly early in his life. There is a rift here with the mother and that sense of emotional isolation that accompanies peregrination of the Moon is here underpinned. Saturn too applies to square Pluto by SA at age 9, and I would bet good money that this was when the divorce was decided, even though the disintegration of the relationship started some 6 years beforehand. Wherever Saturn is configured with Pluto the outcome is usually hard-work, and across the Leo – Scorpio quarter it is especially rigid, inflexible and uncompromising.

Put it all together and you begin to perceive the underlying quality of the entire persona; the key experiential statement then for me is one of great power, gravitas and expressive potency, fuelled by intensely controlled emotions, a need to be heard and taken seriously and a drive to let go of a difficult and uncomfortable sensitivity, itself the legacy of an unhappy and isolated childhood, but with an overall impetus to gradual self-exaltation. Denzel will only get better.

The Astrology of Photography.

Ansel Adams Photo

I find that astrology and photography have much in common. They are both concerned with an ongoing attempt to capture the intangible; both rely upon rules that must be learned, subsumed and then transcended in order to attain mastery; they are both concerned with the sublime and perhaps most pertinently of all, neither, whether approached as art or science can ever be considered finished. To clarify, no photographer ever took a photograph so perfect that they considered they could never take better, and the same siren call to improvement haunts every astrologer no matter his skill.

So what of the astrology of photography? The clues are in the immeasurable nature of the pursuit itself, because whilst photographers are required to master some fairly exacting rules of aperture, composition and interpersonal dynamics, the greatest photographs are in some sense boundless, inexact, dreamy or ethereal in an alluring and vaguely mystical manner that is at once immediately arresting and yet almost impossible to define. This then, is exactly why Neptune has always been supposed to be the domain of the photographer and the artist, poet, dancer and ancient mariner alike. Neptune, sea-god, ruler of dreamy Pisces is at the polarity point – the very opposite end of the spectrum to Virgo; but of course a spectrum of any type deals in a common currency and where Virgo is obsessed by rules and specifics, Pisces too is obsessed by rules, but by not needing them because they have been transcended. This then describes perfectly the requirement of the artist to master the technical disciplines of his craft (Virgo) before he can freely express his or her boundless art (Pisces). Or, as Adrian Belew more succinctly said it: even genius needs method.

Thus, Neptune is going to be powerfully important to the fortunes of the photographer, the 12th house and Pisces too must also be considered as the natural domains of photography for this reason.

Ansel Adams' Nativity

Looking at the chart of Ansel Adams, with both Sun and Mars in Pisces, we can immediately see some interesting correlations. Neptune (Gemini/7th) we see straight away is Quindecile to Chiron (Capricorn/1st). Here then is an obsession with using photography (Neptune) to communicate (Gemini) to others (conjunct descendant) his astonishing sensitivity (Chiron) to form and structure (Capricorn). Indeed this is the resounding note that is the hallmark of Adams’ photographic style, his near-deification of patterns in nature that he found in aspens and tree roots, rocks and canyons; he raised the natural structures of the world around him up to an art form, which he then communicated to others in photographs. Of course, astrology sounds its note at all different levels, and Chiron in Capricorn is tweaked out of a fear of not being taken seriously, of being ignored or thought too low in status. Perhaps this speaks to the consensus of opinion concerning the use of photography in those early days; maybe his obsession with proving that photography could be taken seriously as an artist’s media was a large part of his motivation. Wherever the Quindecile is found there is obsession. Furthermore, the ruler of his 12th is in the 2nd, suggesting an ability to earn money from photography and with the signs of Sagittarius and Gemini duplicated he would have been lent extra power from any 12th house activities in his life (at the expense of Leonine and Aquarian activities). There is a strong suggestion from the Moon – Jupiter opposition of marital difficulties that he may have been able to avoid facing up to because he could travel and take photographs, as suggested by the Sagittarius – Gemini axis. The final point of note talks to structure once again; with a peregrine Saturn in Capricorn, Adams’ power to express structure, in magnificent, awesome depth would have been, and is to this day perhaps, unparalleled. Here is another example of a planet unaspected in its domicile which creates a giant in the archetypal concerns of that planet’s power. To Alan Watts’ Uranus, we can add Ansel Adams’ Saturn.

A second study might be informative and I shall take a slightly different tack and look now at the chart of Louis Daguerre, who made his name, not so much as a photographer but rather as a person who changed the very nature of photography itself. Daguerre was one of the principal inventors of a new development process, known as the Daguerreotype which enabled much faster printing of photographic images. He gave his invention to the French government who in 1839, made a ‘free gift’ of it to the world.

Louis Daguerre Nativity

Daguerre was not primarily a photographer but actually carried on two main career paths as a theatre designer and a chemist (and with the Midheaven ruler Jupiter found in the twin sign Gemini, that is hardly a surprise.) If we look to his Neptune we see that it falls within a mere 4 minutes of the cusp of the 8th, the house of transformation and the natural ruler of the 8th is found peregrine (unaspected) in the 12th, the natural house of photography, in the sign of Aquarius. Is it any wonder then that Daguerre transformed (Pluto) the science of photography (12th house) and made a gift of it to humanity (Aquarius)? Look too at the conjunction of Mars with Uranus in the 6th which speaks clearly of a powerful passion (Mars) to revolutionise (Uranus) working practises (6th House), which the Daguerreotype did in spades for photography and then note the Quindeciles from this conjunction to the otherwise unaspected Pluto in the 12th!

The correlations then are quite astonishing when looked at in this way. Once again the brute power of unaspected planets makes itself felt in the nativity of two very different, but uniquely pioneering individuals in the field of photography.

Consultation, for photographers (and for anyone else) can be found here.