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.

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