Author: Glenn Perry

Home / Articles posted by Glenn Perry

The Zodiac as a Developmental Stage Model

The Zodiac as
A Developmental Stage Model

To every thing there is a season, and a time 
to every purpose under heaven.

~ Ecclesiastes 3

By Glenn Perry


Developmental Stage ModelEvidence suggests that the zodiac not only symbolizes the structure and dynamics of the psyche, but also the evolutionary unfoldment of consciousness. The structure of the zodiac exactly parallels the stages of the human life cycle. Each sign can be understood as a developmental stage of specific quality and duration. The dominant traits and concerns of each sign are age-appropriate for the stage corresponding to that sign.

Infants (Aries) are necessarily selfish, egocentric, and concerned about survival. Toddlers (Taurus) are preoccupied with attachment needs and are easily forgiven for wanting things to stay the same. Seven year olds (Gemini) are naturally fickle, shallow, and curious. Latency age children (Cancer) turn inwards and become more vulnerable to rejection. Adolescents (Leo) are unavoidably narcissistic, willful, and defensive. Novice adults (Virgo) worry about job skills and employability.

Marriage and partnership are dominant concerns of thirty-year olds (Libra), while mid-life adults (Scorpio) obsess about death and power. Afterwards, they become increasingly interested in justice and moral imperatives (Sagittarius). Sixty year olds (Capricorn) are expected to be conservative, traditional, and to uphold the status quo. The seventies (Aquarius) mark a period of radical change as individuals detach from old identifications. A gradual dissolution and readiness to return to source marks the final stage of life, from 77 and beyond (Pisces).

Aries as the Sensorimotor Stage of Development

Aries as the
Sensorimotor Stage of Development

“I have name. I am but two days old.” 
What shall I call thee? 
“I happy am. Joy is my name.”

 ~ William Blake

By Glenn Perry


aries3In a previous article, I introduced the idea of the zodiac as a natural developmental stage model. Each sign-stage is one year longer in real time than the prior sign-stage. Starting from birth, Aries lasts two years (0-2), Taurus three years (2-5), Gemini four years (5-9), and so on. This way of conceptualizing signs is unrelated to planetary sign positions. In other words, it is not about Sun signs or Moon signs, but signs as pure archetypal entities.

Over the last few decades, I’ve been correlating sign-stages with research that’s been done in developmental psychology. One of the pioneers in this area was Jean Piaget (1896-1980) who spent a lifetime observing how children gradually come to acquire, construct, and apply knowledge. Piaget’s model of cognitive development covers birth through adolescence, which he divides into four stages and several substages. First is the sensorimotor stage, so named because infants predominantly learn through moving (motor skills) and experiencing the world through their five senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste). The duration of Piaget’s sensorimotor stage correlates exactly with the Aries stage in our AstroPsychology model; that is, birth through age two.

This is noteworthy as Aries signifies needs for survival, autonomy, freedom, movement, and novelty. Aries is the part of us that hungers for raw experience. It is typically described as lively, aggressive, always on the move, action oriented, and adventurous, just like a newborn. In its verb form, Aries-Mars signifies to go, do, move, assert, and begin. Notoriously impatient and egocentric, Aries’ experience of time and space can be summarized as “me, here, now”. The instinctive, impulsive, and spontaneous behavior for which Aries is renowned is consistent with the contracted time-space framework that characterizes the infant’s perceptual world.

Aries Stage InfantIn fact, there is virtually no Aries trait that is not likewise reflected in infant behavior. According to Piaget, infants construct an understanding of their environment by coordinating sense experiences with physical, motoric actions. Knowledge is acquired by interacting physically with objects through seeing, hearing, touching/grasping, smelling, and mouthing. Infants develop knowledge about the relationship between their bodies and external world by experiencing the sensations associated with motor actions, such as tasting a bar of soap or pushing a ball across the room. Awareness is relatively limited to sensory perceptions and motor activities; that is, what the child can do, or not do. They discover that some objects, for instance, are not food, and other objects do not roll. This type of knowledge is purely experiential.

Aries Sensorimotor StageJust as Aries seeks adventure, so infants evidence an instinctive pursuit of novelty. Things that move, like mobiles, are a primary source of interest. This seems to mirror the infant’s preoccupation with developing its own sense of agency; that is, the sense that he or she can initiate events and make things happen, such as shaking a rattle and hearing the sound. The infant needs to know that it, too, can move, make sounds, go and do things. It can grab and smash and throw on impulse. What fun!

Like Aries, an infant’s behavior is largely reflexive, impulsive, and instinctive. There is little evidence of premeditated thought; thus, babies are not yet able to manipulate symbols or words, or create internal representations. Time is simply a blur of new perceptions and experiences in the eternal present; time cannot be stopped and held in one’s mind. Accordingly, infants lack object permanence, which is the capacity to recognize that objects have an existence separate from one’s perception of them. Infants cannot re-member what just occurred, or reconstruct events. This is often described as “out of sight, out of mind.”

The capacity to retain an experience in awareness―to have it, as it were―is not fully developed until the Taurus stage, which is why few people have memories of experiences that occurred before age 2. By the end of the Aries stage, an infant will have developed a capacity for object permanence. Their mastery of time and space is finally sufficient for them to know that the rattle that you held in front of them only seconds ago still exists, even though now it’s hidden behind your back. They can recall its existence and re-envision the movement of the rattle from foreground to background.

During the Aries stage of 0-2, the child gradually learns that he is separate from his surroundings and that aspects of his environment continue to exist even though they may be outside the reach of his senses. By the end of the sensorimotor period, objects are both separate from the self and permanent. Again, object permanence is the realization that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be seen, heard, or touched. Acquiring a sense of object permanence is one of the infant’s most important accomplishments, and heralds his or her emergence into the Taurus-toddler stage of 2-5.

* * * * *


Does the Zodiac Have a 13th Sign?

Does the Zodiac Have a 13th Sign?

By Glenn Perry


13th SignControversy over the zodiac rears its ugly head with as much regularity as the seasons themselves. If there is one thing we can predict with unerring accuracy, it’s that astrologers will be chided in the media in response to some inane claim by an astronomer that Cancers are really Geminis due to precession of the equinoxes, or there are 13 rather than 12 signs to the zodiac. And even though astrologers refute these falsifications every time, the next year the same charges are leveled again, as if astrologers are a perennially stupid lot. Actually the stupidity is on the other side. Either that, or it is simply willful ignorance.

Most recently there was a NASA story about a mysterious 13th zodiacal constellation, Ophiuchus, which like Mordred in Arthurian legend keeps weaseling his way back into court to cause trouble. He does not, as the saying goes, belong at the round table. According to NASA, Ophiuchus has either been ignored or forgotten by astrologers. The unwanted intruder is said to occupy an 18 degree sector between the constellations Scorpio and Sagittarius.

But Ophiuchus’ existence is irrelevant. The controversy stems from a misunderstanding arising from conflation of the sidereal zodiac, which is based on the stars, with the tropical zodiac based on the seasons. For the past 2000 years, the vast majority of astrologers in the world consciously and deliberately use the tropical zodiac. And it is entirely unrelated to constellations. Zodiacal signs and zodiacal constellations are completely different things despite their sharing the same names―Aries, Taurus, and so on. If astronomers do not already know this, they should. They have been told often enough. 

Whereas constellations are arbitrary groupings of stars that have no actual boundaries, zodiac signs are precise geometric angles derived from the equinoctial and solstice points that divide the year into four quarters (seasons). Astrologers further divide each season into three segments of 30 degrees each. Three segments multiplied by four seasons gives us 12 zodiacal signs, which are consistent with 12 lunar cycles in the solar year. 

Seasons once corresponded to the predawn appearance of specific constellations―Aries (vernal equinox), Cancer (summer solstice), Libra (autumnal equinox), and Capricorn (winter solstice). But that was over 3000 years ago when astrology first began and ancient astrologers wrongly assumed that the constellations caused the seasons. At that time, the equinoctial and solstice points were exactly in the middle of their respective constellations. However, due to precession of the equinoxes (more on that later), seasons and their old constellational corollaries no longer exactly correspond.

To grasp the significance of this, we have to understand that seasons are not caused by the appearance of certain constellations prior to the rising of the Sun, as the ancients supposed. The four seasons are actually determined by the earth being tilted on its axis at an angle of 23 degrees relative to the plane of the ecliptic (the Sun’s equator). This means that earth’s equator is not on the same plane as the Sun’s equator; rather, it is tilted slightly above and below it, like two interpenetrating hula hoops. If we imagine both equators extending out into space, they intersect twice a year at the spring and autumnal equinoxes, which give us 0 degrees Aries and 0 degrees Libra respectively (See Figure 1). The term equinox means “equal night” (Latin: aequus, “equal” + nox, “night”), signifying that time of year when days and nights are of equal length. 

Tropical Zodiac
Figure 1: Earth’s Orbit Marking out the Signs and Seasons

In this side view perspective, the colored band with the 12 earth positions is the ecliptic (zodiac), or the Sun’s equator extended into space. Note how the earth’s (celestial) equator intersects the ecliptic at 0° Aries and 0° Libra due to its axial tilt. It is the earth’s position in the opposite sign that places the Sun in its proper seasonal sign. Thus when earth enters Libra (at the top of the image), it is actually the time of the vernal equinox since the Sun will be entering Aries. This entire process is self-contained with no reference to stars beyond our own Sun.

As the earth traverses its orbit about the Sun, we have a new season every 3 months. When earth’s northern hemisphere is tilted at its maximum angle toward the Sun, we have the summer solstice, or 0 degrees Cancer. Conversely, when earth’s northern hemisphere is tilted at its maximum angle away from the Sun, we have the winter solstice, or 0 degrees Capricorn.

In effect, a zodiacal sign is determined solely by the earth’s annual orbit about the Sun. It is the Sun’s position as seen from the vantage point of earth that determines the Sun’s sign-location. On March 21st (first day of spring), we don’t say the earth is in Aries; we say the Sun is in Aries. This means the earth is actually in Libra at the time of the vernal equinox because the earth is always in the sign opposite the Sun-sign.

A zodiacal sign measures the angle of the earth’s orbital position relative to the vernal equinox. When the earth is opposite the vernal point, its angle is 180 degrees and the Sun is in the sign Aries. When earth moves another 30 degrees past its opposition to the vernal equinox, the Sun is in the sign of Taurus. If earth is conjunct the vernal equinox (0 degrees), the Sun is in Libra. While a constellation will always be behind the Sun at each of these times, the constellation is not the sign. The sign is simply the angle of the earth’s orbital position relative to the vernal equinox; nothing more.

Zodiac Signs and Seasons

Figure 2: Earth’s Axial tilt Marking out the Signs and Seasons

Overview Perspective: Note the pin at the top of the earth, which signifies the earth’s axial tilt, is at an angle of 23 degrees relative to the Sun’s equator (the ecliptic). As the earth orbits about the Sun in a counterclockwise direction, the amount and duration of sunlight hitting the earth’s surface varies at different times of the year, which is what gives us our seasons. Sunlight is illustrated in the light (yellow) shaded part of the earth, with the darker (green) shaded part signifying darkness. It is the earth’s position in the opposite sign that places the Sun in its proper seasonal sign; thus, when earth enters Capricorn, it is actually the summer solstice, since the Sun will be entering Cancer. Once more, the entire process is self-contained with no reference to stars beyond our own Sun.

Again, constellations have nothing to do with the tropical zodiac. These made-up star groups were initially used by ancient tribesmen for determining the timing of seasonal processes. Appropriate rituals, sacrifices, and activities could then be undertaken in synchrony with nature. For example, the appearance of the constellation Aries just before Sunrise in late winter heralded the return of spring.

Each time of year had its own quality. Zodiacal signs are metaphors of seasonal processes occurring in nature. Aries is spring-like as nature is heating up and new life is sprouting, bold and fresh. Scorpio is transformational as leaves are turning colors, falling to the ground, and nature is dying. Capricorn is winter-like, signifying when nature is maximally contracted, days are short, and austerity is required. In effect, the starry heavens comprised the ancient calendar and were a means for organizing time into discernible segments and qualities. The constellations also became a convenient backdrop for determining planetary positions in the night sky. Constellations varied considerably in size, however, from less than 20 degrees to more than 40. 

Because the original constellations were artificial divisions of the night sky into radically unequal sectors, measurement of planetary positions was problematic. By 500 BCE, which was the beginning of true, horoscopic astrology, the Babylonians augmented their computational and predictive accuracy by constructing a formal, twelve-sign zodiac of 30 degrees each, again anchoring the vernal equinox in the constellation of Aries.  

For computational and predictive purposes, once a schematic calendar was divided into twelve 30-day months of twelve 30-degree signs anchored in the vernal equinox, the zodiacal constellations became somewhat superfluous. Nevertheless, Babylonian astrologers continued to locate each cardinal point (equinoxes and solstices) roughly in the center of their corresponding constellations, thereby linking signs with their constellational corollaries so that stars retained their function as calendrical markers. This is the key point: the zodiac was a mathematical construction meant to coincide with the seasons. As such, it served a calendric purpose. Seasonal predictability was the whole impetus behind calendar keeping, and calendar-keeping is the foundation upon which astrology rests.

Over time, however, it became clear there was another problem. The star in the constellation Aries that marked the first day of spring appeared to be drifting forwards away from the vernal equinox at a rate of 1 degree every 72 years. What was actually happening was that the vernal point was slowly drifting backwards toward the constellation of Pisces. By 134 BCE, the Greek astronomer Hipparchus labeled this phenomenon the “precession of the equinoxes”. While no one had the foggiest idea why it occurred (we now know it’s due to earth’s wobble on its axis), it was becoming increasingly apparent that the constellations were unreliable markers of the equinoctial and solsticial points. 

If a zodiac marking the seasons was to remain accurate, it had to be divorced from the constellations. Hence was born the tropical zodiac based on the actual date of the vernal equinox―that is, when days and nights are of equal length―rather than on a star in the constellation Aries that no long aligned with the proper date. In the 2nd century CE, following the lead of Hipparchus and others who adopted the vernal point as 0 degrees tropical Aries, the illustrious Greek astronomer Ptolemy formally established the tropical zodiac as independent of the constellations. However, the fact that the signs retained the names of the constellations to which they once corresponded continues to cause confusion to this day. 

Here’s the upshot: it’s irrelevant that due to the earth’s wobble the vernal equinox is slowly drifting backwards (precessing) through the constellations, and thus each sign and its constellational namesake are no longer in synch. And it makes no difference if NASA wants to include a 13th constellation in the zodiac. For the actual zodiac is independent of the constellations. When astrology first began, our forbearers did not know this. But we do now. Regrettably, zodiacal constellations have become conflated in the public mind with zodiacal signs of the same names. But despite having the same names, signs and constellations are not the same thing.

13th sign

An easy way to understand the problem is to imagine a clock with an hour hand that moves slowly around the circle of the clock. When the hour hand is straight up, it’s 12 pm. When it moves 30 degrees clockwise, it is 1 pm, and so on. With each 30 degree movement, there is a new number behind the hour hand. Imagine these numbers are painted on a wheel that slowly rotates away (precesses) from their original positions. Now when the hour hand is straight up, the number 11 is behind it, and when it moves 30 degrees clockwise, you see the number 12. The numbers have moved, but what determines the time is the angle the hour hand makes to the top of the clock. Even if there were no numbers (or if extra numbers were added) you would still know the time simply by looking at the angle of the hour hand to the top of the clock. If it was 90 degrees before returning to the top, you would know it is 9 pm regardless of the number that resides at that spot. While the numbers behind the hour hand are a convenience, they are largely irrelevant.

Our clock is analogous to the zodiac. The hour hand is the earth’s orbital movement about the Sun (with the Sun at the center of the clock). At the top of the clock is the vernal equinox, or 0 degrees Aries. Every 30 degree movement is a new sign. The numbers on the clock are the constellations. Just as numbers slipping away from their original positions does not change the time, so a new constellation behind the Sun at the vernal equinox does not change the sign Aries. When constellations slowly drift out of synch with their corresponding signs (due to precession), it does not matter. For it is the angle the earth makes to the vernal equinox that determines a sign, just as it is the angle an hour hand makes to the top of a clock that determines the hour. The angle is what counts, not the number or constellation behind it.

* * * * *


A Tale of Two Hermes: Trump & Hillary’s Mercury

A Tale of Two Hermes
Mercury in the Charts of Trump and Hillary

By Glenn Perry

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…



The opening lines of Dicken’s immortal A Tale of Two Cities remind me of the “messaging and spin” received from the two candidates for the upcoming presidential election. As we all know, Hermes was the messenger God of Greek mythology, later renamed Mercury by the Romans. Adaptive and cunning, Hermes moved swiftly between the world of man and the world of gods, acting as a messenger and link between mortals and Olympians. If we substitute “Washington politics” for “the world of gods”, then Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s Mercury may well be serving the same function―delivering messages from on high to mortals (voters) below.

But what a difference in the messengers! The contrast between the two Mercurys could not be starker, the one being as loose as a leaf in the wind, the other buttoned up tighter than Fort Knox. In the remainder of this essay, we will explore the Mercury function in Trump and Clinton’s birth charts. Each Mercury plays the role of messenger, explaining to the American populace the values and intentions of the candidate it represents.

Mercury’s sign position answers two fundamental questions: how and what. It tell us how the message will be delivered, and it discloses something of what the message will be. The house position of Mercury reveals where the message originates and the circumstances toward which it is predominantly directed, and its aspects suggest the influences to which Mercury will be subjected via its relations with other planetary functions.

Donald Trump
 Trump5Trump’s Mercury resides in Cancer in the 11th squaring Neptune in Libra in the 2nd. To understand the Donald’s Mercury, we have to take into account other chart factors, especially planets Mercury disposes. With his Sun and Uranus in Gemini, there is an enormous amount of mental energy channeled to Mercury. Picture a gas powered pressure washer funneling information down a tube with tremendous intensity to Mercury. But Mercury’s nozzle is in Cancer, which restricts and spreads the outflow, rendering it more like a high pressured spray than a sharp, incisive stream.

Trump2, Donald (2)

Donald Trump: Jun 14, 1946, 10:54 am, Jamaica, New York

Trump’s Mercury in Cancer speaks in a way that is more impressionistic than factual. An impressionistic style is based on subjective reactions presented unsystematically, and may entail memories, moods, and images that spontaneously come to mind. This is certainly characteristic of Cancer, which perceives emotionally through sympathetic rapport rather than intellectually through words that correspond to concrete data.

Imagine yourself observing a carnival from its center. There are sounds and smells, screams and laughter, a rush of movement with dazzling lights and people of all ages mingling together in a festive, joyous swirl. So many senses are involved, so many impressions formed simultaneously, that the final mix is more of a gut sense than an empirical analysis. If asked to describe the carnival, you might say: “Wow, it was an amazing experience. This is a great, great carnival, with rides and lots of other things, too. Really, incredible. Maybe the best carnival ever. And I mean that, folks. Believe me.” That’s Cancer. If it feels good, it is good.

If Mercury were in Gemini, all those impressions would be sorted out and classified into a clear description. The view is more objective, preferably from the periphery of the carnival. The carnival now becomes an assortment of several different types of rides, some favored more than others, with a strong smell of cotton candy in the air, and one girl in particular who is throwing up after being on the roller coaster, which looks rather old. “This is a medium sized carnival that originated in Chicago,” you might observe, “with 7 different rides featuring an excellent carousel, 22 booths including a Balloon and Darts game, five proprietors that offer junk food, and the people seem moderately happy. As a carnival, it’s fairly average.” Factual, specific, clear; that’s Gemini.

As mentioned, Trump’s Sun-Uranus in Gemini gets funneled to Mercury in Cancer. Cancer is the mouthpiece that filters his words and gives them an emotional tone. When Trump speaks, it’s more suggestive of information than clearly articulated facts and data. There’s a wink and nod, a shrugging of shoulders, a sudden gesticulation with hands and a torrent of folksy words conveying feelings and impressions. For most people, there’s enough information to follow, but you get a feel for the man’s attitude more than a clear understanding of a plan he’s going to implement.

That’s ultimately what Trump is communicating―an attitude, a state of mind that says, “I can return this country to the glory of yesteryear.” Trump loves to speak in superlatives. “We’re going to build a great, great wall…I’ll be the best job’s president God ever created…the people of Arizona are fantastic people…our politicians are completely incompetent…Hillary is the worst Secretary of State this country ever had.” Superlatives are an evaluative response―great, best, fantastic, completely, worst―that communicate whether something (or someone) feels good or bad. Again, these are not facts, they are feelings.

It is worth noting that Trump also has Saturn conjunct Venus in Cancer. His over the top Mars in Leo Ascendant bombast, and his garrulous gaffe-a-minute Gemini-Sagittarius opposition get most of the attention. So it’s easy to miss the importance of Cancer. Yet, with three planets in Cancer in the 11th this is the main theme of the Trump revolution. The 11th house is where we join with others of like mind for a common cause. The pro-Trump movement is decidedly Cancerian. It’s about wanting to reverse America’s decline, tighten our borders, and restore our national identity as one big family―a family that transcends the racial divisiveness that accentuates differences rather than reconciling them.

With Mercury Cancer in the 11th, his thinking is tied in to the collective, sensing their feelings, needs, and wants. In his acceptance speech for the republican nomination, Trump trumpeted, “I am your voice!” He declares that he’s a messenger of the people, a spokesperson for a movement to “take our country back and make American great again.” Note the Cancerian emphasis on precedents, foundations, roots. We’re going back to what works so we can be great again. Cancer is populist, patriotic fervor and longing for a past where people felt connected in a country with clear borders and strong family ties. That’s what Trump is talking about.

Mercury Cancer in the 11th answers the question of what he thinks and where it originates. He talks about the homeland (Cancer) because he intuits that taking American back is the people’s cause (11th). Whereas Cancer honors the past, the 11th house concerns the future and what we are evolving toward. “We need to put America first and get back to the future,” says Mercury Cancer in the 11th.

The final piece of the puzzle is Mercury’s closing square to Neptune. Whereas Cancer is an impressionistic, subtle, suggestive, indirect, and emotionally evocative style of speech, its square to Neptune gives it a wobbly, fuzzy quality, as if he is just making things up as he goes along, playing fast and loose with the facts. This is due to the nature of Neptune, which symbolizes the collective unconscious. Neptune is the repository of dreams, fantasies, and ideals that have no boundary precisely because they reside in an intangible, transcendent sphere accessible only by the imagination. When Trump makes a policy statement, he is not making a promise, but conveying an aspiration. The danger with Mercury-Neptune is that facts and imaginings get mixed up together, resulting in a tendency toward wishful thinking―or, if one is not careful, outright denial of what is factually true.

Trump SpeakingA closing square is a Capricorn angle that requires the planets work together for the sake of a joint goal, but the challenge is always control. Given that Neptune’s nature is to surrender, let go, and give in, control is especially difficult. Neptune is the antithesis of control; it is a dissolving of boundaries, a melting into a liquid state of flow. If Mercury is unable to control Neptune’s input, Trump’s thinking is apt to be flooded with images, intuitions, and extraneous information that has no obvious relationship to the topic at hand. Imagine trying to sort mail into proper trays in an anti-gravity chamber; everything is floating about and nothing stays put. Trump’s speech is sometimes like that. He has a tendency to go off on tangents with loosely associated thoughts pulling him in different directions.

A funny example of Trump’s tangential thinking is his comments on the Iran nuclear deal during a campaign rally in South Carolina on July 21, 2015.

Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart—you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you’re a conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a number—that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune—you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged—but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me—it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right—who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners—now it used to be three, now it’s four—but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years—but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.

A simple translation would be: “I believe the Iran Deal is bad for the United States,” but the structure of his thought falls apart because he cannot control the inflow of memories and associations that overwhelm his syntax. The result is a muddled word salad, a stream of consciousness, unedited, digressive, fragmented, like a dream that unfolds chaotically; yet, the meaning embedded within the tangle of words, innuendos and reminiscences somehow seeps through. While this is clearly an extreme example of Trump’s speaking style, it illustrates the challenge of Mercury square Neptune.

It is also worth considering that when he is speaking at a political rally it is off the cuff and not necessarily the way he thinks through problems that require clear analysis and practical solutions. In a business environment, his thinking might still be largely intuitive (Neptune), but he obviously gets the job done. His success in construction and real estate is clear testimony to that. Perhaps when speaking extemporaneously in front of large crowds he is more anxious than we realize. I suspect Trump prefers dialogue with another person because the other serves as an anchor. If you observe Trump being interviewed, he’s focused and coherent, even charming. But left to his own devices, he goes off the rails pretty quickly.

Trump_towerTo whatever extent Trump’s Mercury-Neptune square can be utilized effectively, it is likely to have positive effects in the 2nd house. This is where we accumulate and secure holdings, as in wealth creation. Neptune here suggests his sense of possibility vis-à-vis prosperity is as infinite as his imagination allows. “I like thinking big,” Trump says, “If you’re going to be thinking anything, you might as well think big.”[1] Neptune symbolizes the infinite and eternal, the One, the Absolute; it’s hard to think bigger than that. Trump reminds me of the Kevin Costner character in the 1989 film Field of Dreams. Costner hears a voice in his head, “If you build it, they will come.” Trump did build it, 17 Trump Towers spread all over the world, and they did come: more than $74 million in real estate licensing deals and $823.3 million worth of real estate in joint ventures.[2]

To some degree at least, that speaks for itself.

Neptune’s location also symbolizes where a person is likely to feel a sense of compassion and a desire to relieve suffering. When Trump talks about the poor, about people who lost their jobs because their companies relocated outside the U.S. to employ cheap labor, about the lack of jobs in inner cities for economically impoverished black Americans, this is Mercury square Neptune in the 2nd talking. However much one might disagree with his tone or strategy, Trump says he wants to save jobs, renegotiate better trade deals, get the economy moving again, lift people out of poverty, and elevate prosperity for everyone. In the most positive sense, this reflects the aspect at hand.

There is little reason to doubt his sincerity. Given Trump’s extraordinary wealth and extensive business holdings, it is certainly not in his economic self-interest to spend the next four to eight years helping other people become wealthy. Yet, questions remain as to whether he has the competence and experience to do what he says.


Hillary Clinton
Clinton, Hillary5
In every conceivable way except, perhaps, her tendency toward prevarication, Hillary Clinton’s Mercury is different than Donald Trumps. Whereas Trump puts his foot in his mouth on an almost daily basis, Hillary is so tightlipped it’s questionable she can get a straw in there. Infamous for not liking questions she cannot prepare for in advance, Clinton has avoided doing any press conferences for nine months, unprecedented during a presidential campaign.[3]

Hillary Clinton Birthchart

Hillary Clinton: Oct 26, 1947, 8:02 am, Chicago, IL

Hillary’s reticence is not surprising in light of her Mercury in Scorpio conjunct the Ascendant, just outside the 1st house. While its closeness to the Ascendant might suggest spontaneity in her willingness to speak her mind, its tenancy of Scorpio and exact square to Saturn (within 5’ of arc) indicates otherwise. This is a Mercury with all the spontaneity and transparency of a bomb shelter. Keenly aware of the human propensity for evil, Scorpio is notorious for its vigilance, guardedness, and general suspicion. Hillary has her Sun, Venus, and Ascendant in Scorpio as well. That’s a lot of backup for any inclination Mercury might have to anticipate that others will be less than trustworthy.

Mercury in Scorpio tends to think in ways that are penetrating. It probes beneath the surface for information that is hidden. Concealed Information is concealed because it is associated with power and vulnerability. For example, if a foreign national wanted an illicit favor from Hillary as Secretary of State, she might subtly suggest he make a financial contribution to her private Foundation via a Canadian front group set up to shield the donors’ identity, as was reported in the New York Times.[4] The ultimate goal of Scorpio is to facilitate transformation by integrating disparate elements into a functional whole. In the helping professions this constitutes healing, but in the political-financial world it entails making connections and putting together deals that are mutually empowering. Often, however, there is substantial risk involved. Given the stakes, secrecy is warranted.

What we do to survive is one of the meanings associated with 1st house factors. With Mercury in Scorpio on the Ascendant, Hillary may instinctively feel that knowledge is power and must be zealously guarded for the sake of her own survival. The square to Saturn seems to underscore a need for information control. If integrated, Mercury square Saturn would correlate to a serious, disciplined approach to learning, combining knowledge with authority so that over time the person rises to a position of distinction in a particular field of knowledge.

Saturn’s placement in the 9th suggests mastery of the legal justice system. As a graduate of Yale Law School, this is precisely what Hillary achieved. And given that Scorpio pertains to the world of corporate finance, she was appointed the first female chair of the Legal Services Corporation in 1978, and has subsequently served on multiple corporate boards, the most recent being the Clinton Foundation―a philanthropic organization dedicated to various causes throughout the world.

If there is a message to the populace in all this, it’s that Hillary signifies the status quo, and that she will use her power and connections to assure that the downtrodden, persecuted, and disempowered are protected by the legal justice system. Of course, this means appointing liberal Judges to the Supreme Court that further assure Obama’s plan to “fundamentally transform America” will continue unabated. The show must go on.

But there’s a dark side to Hillary’s Mercury that suggests the country will be subject to endless intrigues and allegations of corruption if she is elected, for such has followed Hillary for virtually her entire professional career. This seems to reflect, at least in part, an ongoing struggle between Mercury and its exact square to Saturn.

If I were to offer a generic interpretation of an unintegrated Mercury square Saturn, I would say the native is apt to feel that her knowledge is insufficient to achieve professional goals. She might overcompensate for perceived deficiencies, while struggling to keep at bay expected criticism from superiors. Mercury’s sign position of Scorpio adds a furtive, sneaky dimension to the mix. Imagine a 5th grader with a cheat sheet as she enters the classroom for an important test. She is anxious to succeed, but worried she’ll fail. She eyes the teacher warily, anticipating she could be under suspicion.

Saturn corresponds to delays, obstructions, and barriers. In hard aspect to Mercury this can indicate not only frustration in obtaining required knowledge, but also stonewalling, as in delaying tactics and other attempts to stall or refuse to release information. The opening square is a Cancer aspect requiring containment; that is, holding in awareness contradictory planetary impulses so that their expression is sensitively attuned to the situation. Given that Hillary’s Mercury Scorpio makes an opening square to Saturn, there is no better expression of the configuration than Hillary’s private server in the basement of her own home―a black box containing top secret information over which she endeavors to maintain complete control.

Hillary’s private server in her basement is an apt metaphor not only for her style of communication―guarded, cautious, opaque―but on a deeper level for the scheming and machinations to which she is allegedly prone. A campaign is a specifically 9th house activity that involves a selling of the candidate herself; that is, her ideas, beliefs, and sense of right and wrong. Republican strategist Karl Rove writes,

Hillary Clinton’s campaign is in many respects a machine. It relentlessly raises money, methodically runs the ground game and ceaselessly moves her from venue to venue, each event indistinguishable from the next…when it comes to messaging, the campaign and its principal operate with crafty prevarication.[5]

This is an excellent description of Mercury Scorpio on the Ascendant square Saturn Leo in the 9th. Rove employs two metaphors, like a machine (Saturn-like machinations), and runs the ground game, a football reference conveying a grinding, relentless, no frills attack, which is consistent with Mercury on the Ascendant (assert, compete) square Saturn (grinding, relentless). And when Rove says her messaging operates with “crafty prevarication,” we know he’s seeing Scorpio.

Any astrologer familiar with Mrs. Clinton can see her Mercury Scorpio square Saturn―the cagey, controlled style, the practiced delivery, the memorized speech, the disciplined stay-on-message professional politician. Hillary is often criticized as “inauthentic” because there’s such a glaring absence of spontaneity (precisely the opposite of Trump). When Clinton answers questions during interviews, her speech is measured and cautious, as if engaged in a chess match with a formidable opponent.

Clinton CackleShe will smile and deploy colloquial speech patterns every few sentences to make it seem that she’s just regular folk who drops a “g” like the rest of us. “Well let me say this, Chuck, I’m just doin’ my best to get the word out.” But if asked a question that is too pointed, she is apt to throw her head back in a sudden spastic eruption of bone-chilling cackle, as if the question is just too ridiculous to be taken seriously. Of course, the subtext of her laughter is that she knows the question is incriminating and could expose something she does not want the questioner (or the people) to know. Her laughter is a reaction formation, compensating for the anger she harbors toward her interrogator. Pure Scorpio.

The joke going around D.C. is that Hillary personifies the old Washington adage: “I prefer to tell the truth, it’s easier to memorize.” Her 11 hour testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi was textbook: evasive, mendacious, grinding, but highly effective in reciting the information she wished to convey. With Mercury conjunct Venus in Scorpio, she’s taken her natural diplomatic skills and turned mendacity into an art form. No one does it better. A recent CNN poll found that 68% of respondents said Clinton is not honest or trustworthy.[6] Yet, she’s ahead of Trump in all the polls. This alone is testament to her mastery (Saturn) of messaging (Mercury).  

The 9th house pertains to travel and foreign affairs in general. Saturn in the 9th would certainly be consistent with Hillary’s position as a former Secretary of State. She engaged in constant communications (Mercury) with foreign governments, heads of state, diplomats, dignitaries, and ambassadors, often around Scorpio matters pertaining to crises like Benghazi, as well as complex financial entanglements that governments have with one another.

Another meaning of the 9th is philanthropy. A charitable organization like the Clinton Foundation depends on funds raised from donors, which implicates Scorpio (finance) again, as well as Mercury’s dispositor, Pluto, which along with Mars is conjunct Saturn. With all three 9th house planets squaring Mercury in Scorpio, the entire configuration looks like an aggressive fund raising machine that entails a plethora of politically sensitive communications with foreign donors. It also looks like an array of powerful adversaries bearing down on what she knows with the intent to expose her secrets and lies, or so they charge. In this latter regard, her Mercury looks like a castle under siege.

For example, there is growing controversy over Hillary’s ties to the Clinton Foundation during her tenure within the Obama administration from 2009-2013.  Evidence suggests that foreign and domestic corporations “sought to influence her decisions as secretary of state by making donations to the Clinton Foundation.”[7] Recent email disclosures make clear that Clinton’s aides granted certain individuals special access to Hillary because they were Clinton Foundation donors.[8]

Suspicions intensified in March of 2015 when it was discovered that while Secretary of State Clinton used a private email server for official communications rather than federal servers that are secure. Asked why she would take the highly unusual step of having her own private server, since it contained top secret information that could be hacked by malicious actors, Clinton said it was “for convenience” and that she never received nor sent information that was classified. It was subsequently determined by the FBI that 113 of her emails contained information that was classified at the time it was sent to her, 65 of which were deemed “Secret” and 22 classified as “Top Secret.”

Server, what server?
Server, what server?

More ominously, Clinton deleted over 30,000 emails from her private server after being informed that her records had been subpoenaed by Congress. Under penalty of perjury on August 8, 2015, Clinton swore before a U.S. District Court that the deleted emails merely pertained to family and friends, and that she had turned over all work-related emails to the State Department. Yet, last week the FBI recovered nearly 15,000 additional emails from her private server, “thousands” of which, according to FBI director James Comey, were work related and include evidence of coordination between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department.

It now appears that her true reason for having a private server was to conceal such coordination. Suspicions are swirling about that Hillary was selling her influence as Secretary of State. Further, “It seems like the Clinton Foundation operates as a slush fund for the Clintons,” said Bill Allison, a senior fellow at the Sunlight Foundation, a government watchdog group.[9]

With regard to the thousands of emails that were not recoverable, Clinton’s “lawyers cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery,” said FBI Director Comey. Apparently, Hillary’s team utilized a highly expensive technology called “BleachBit” that, according to the BleachBit website, “allows users to shred files to hide their contents and prevent data recovery.” This goes far beyond merely deleting emails. Yet, Comey later said at a press conference, “We found no evidence that any of the additional work-related e-mails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them.” Of course, if Clinton was intent to conceal them, it follows she would leave no evidence by which she could be indicted. Lack of evidence that a crime was committed is not evidence that a crime was not committed.

In a subsequent interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace in late July 2016, Wallace confronted Hillary with a video of her saying:

I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified materials. I am confident that I never sent nor received any information that was classified at the time. I had not sent classified material nor received anything marked classified.

Wallace pointed out that FBI Director Comey testified before Congress that none of those things she told the American public were true, even if there was not sufficient evidence to charge that she intentionally committed a crime.

Recently released transcripts of her FBI interview, during which she was accompanied by four of her lawyers, reveal that she used the standard non-self-incriminating “I don’t recall” 40 times in response to even the most simple questions, such as “did you receive training for how to identify classified information?” Every lawyer knows that “I don’t recall” is code for signaling to the interviewer that no information will be forthcoming on that topic. Moreover, when asked to produce the 8 blackberries and 5 iPads on which she conducted government business, Clinton’s lawyers admitted they were either lost or had been destroyed with a hammer. 

On September 6 (today), based on new details revealed by the FBI this past Friday, there has been a request for an investigation into whether Mrs. Clinton is guilty of obstruction of justice and destruction of evidence pertinent to a congressional investigation.[10] New information is being released on an almost daily basis and no one knows where it will lead. This has got to feel like a nightmare without end for Hillary.

It has been said that the truth fears no questions. Hillary’s FBI stonewalling and avoidance of the media (nine months since her last press conference) may not be attributable merely to Mercury in Scorpio. If Saturn signifies obstructions, its placement in the 9th and exact square to Mercury perfectly reflects the “obstruction of justice” of which Hillary is being accused. And “destroyed evidence” is an eerily fitting meaning of Mercury in Scorpio.

A fascinating thing about birthcharts is that the same configuration that describes a psychological conflict also signifies an external predicament. In this regard, it would appear that Hillary’s Mercury not only anticipates that her survival depends on her capacity to conceal what she knows, it likewise describes the actual situation in which she finds herself: the subject of State Department investigations and FBI probes into her private server wherein all her communications are stored that pertain to her tenure as Secretary of State. Saturn-Pluto-Mars is an array of powerful others from the 9th house legal justice system intent on uncovering what she knows. Her Mercury in Scorpio is, in fact, under siege.

Hillary’s backers are hoping she can survive until November 8. But if she does, it is questionable whether it will be to the country’s benefit. If there is a voice in Hillary’s head, it’s not likely one of divine inspiration (as in Field of Dreams), but merely the faint and distant echo of a guilty conscience. 

* * * * *



[2] The Trump Organization at:

[3] Cillizza, Chris. “It’s been 263 days since Hillary Clinton last held a press conference. That’s a dangerous precedent,” in The Washington Post, August 24, 2016

[4] McIntire, M., and Becker, J. “Canadian Partnership Shielded Identities of Donors to Clinton Foundation,” in the New York Times, April 29, 2015, at:

[5] Rove, Karl. “Shut Down the Clinton Foundation Already,” in the Wall Street Journal, Aug. 24, at:

[6] “Hillary Clinton again tries to explain her comments about FBI email probe,” Aug. 5, 2016, in Los Angeles Times.

[7] Hayes, Stephen. “Aiding and Abedin: The Clinton family favor factory,” in The Weekly Standard, September 5, 2016, p. 11.

[8] Ibid, p. 12

[9] Vincent, Isabel. “Charity watchdog: Clinton Foundation a ‘slush fund’, April 26, 2015, in:

[10] Tau, Byron. “Jason Chaffetz Requests New Investigation into Clinton Email Deletion,” in The Wall Street Journal, September 6, 2016 at:

Saturn Square Neptune: The Danger of False Narratives, Part I

Saturn square Neptune
And the Danger of False Narratives

Part I: Hillary & Benghazi

By Glenn Perry

Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder
respectable, and to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind.
~ George Orwell

t is generally accepted that politics is shrouded in lies. This may be a more or less permanent condition, much like cloudy weather in Seattle. Yet, it seems that when Saturn and Neptune align in hard aspect those clouds crystallize into hailstones of deceit that precipitate upon the populace with a din so deafening it can drown out the voice of reason. With Saturn square Neptune exact three times this year, a transparent film of lies has settled across the globe like a toxic pesticide.

Saturn Square Neptune

Figure 1: The Booromean Rings

Examples are legion but I will focus on three, which, because they are expressions of the same archetypal dynamic, intersect like Borromean rings: 1) the Hillary Clinton scandals involving Benghazi and her private email server; 2) the Black Lives Matter movement, and 3) ISIS propaganda that exhorts its followers to commit murder-suicide.

Given the complexity of the subject matter, I have decided to tackle these issues in four parts. Part I here explores the general meaning of Saturn square Neptune in light of Hillary Clinton’s recent travails. In our next installment, Part II, the political divide between liberal and conservative ideologies will be examined with a particular focus on Saturn-Neptune dynamics as symbolizing the birth, nature, and evolution of progressivism. Unless we understand progressivism, the remaining topics cannot be fully comprehended. Part III tackles the vexing conditions that have led to the Black Lives Matter movement, and Part IV examines the conflation of government and spirituality that is so disturbingly exemplified in radical Islam.

In what follows, I occasionally refer to the planets in terms of behavioral propensities that characterize individuals and institutions, but it should be clear that I am referring to archetypal components of the psyche, not whole people.

The Closing Square of Saturn to Neptune

The synodic cycle of Saturn-Neptune occurs over a period of approximately 36 years, starting with the conjunction, the most recent of which was in 1989, and ending with the next conjunction in 2026. As Saturn pulls away from Neptune by virtue of its faster orbital speed, it formed the first (or opening) square in 1998; the opposition occurred in 2006; and we’re currently in the closing square of 2016. In effect, it’s one long continuous 36-year cycle punctuated by four periods of acute activation that last for about one year each. And during that year, the relevant aspect will be exact three times―thus, the current square was exact on November 26, 2015; again on June 18 this year; and will once again be exact on September 10th. 

Because the Saturn-Neptune cycle is a cycle, it is important to understand the phase in progress. Not all phases are alike, first because they occupy different signs, and second because each angle has its own meaning. A closing square, which is the angle presently occurring, constitutes the start of the final 90 degree phase of the cycle. As such, it is a Capricorn angle, for an aspect derives its meaning from the nature of the sign that constitutes that angle in the zodiac.

As a Capricorn angle, the closing square implies that Saturn and Neptune must find a way to successfully combine their respective energies and build something of enduring value. Capricorn is associated with restraint, control, and the pursuit of realistic, practical ends; thus, the relationship between Saturn and Neptune will be characterized by exactly this dynamic throughout the period in question. And since Saturn is the ruler of Capricorn, this compounds and highlights the significance of Capricorn-Saturn during this particular phase of the Saturn-Neptune cycle.

Some Thoughts on Saturn
The archetype of Capricorn-Saturn is predominantly concerned with issues of success-failure. In fact, all Capricorn-Saturn behavior can be traced to a fear of failure. To compensate for this fear, there is a focused, disciplined, goal-oriented striving that endeavors to achieve the desired end―success―which is exemplified in authority figures that serve a regulatory or executive function, such as fathers, taskmasters, bosses, CEOs, and presidents. Institutionally, the Capricorn-Saturn archetype is inherent in government of all types at all levels, the proper function of which is to establish rules, enforce limits, and maintain civic order. Internally, Saturn correlates to our capacity for self-governance and self-restraint.

Implicit in Saturn is the notion of hierarchical order as reflected in nature’s tendency to organize its parts into increasingly complex wholes―atoms into molecules, molecules into cells, and cells combine to form multicellular organisms of ever increasing complexity, culminating in human beings who further self-organize into families, communities, towns, states and nations. Planets combine to make up solar systems, solar systems to make up galaxies, and galaxies are but parts of galactic clusters. “Infinity yawns at both the top and bottom of the stratified hierarchies of existence,” writes Arthur Koestler.[1]

While Saturn’s ultimate goal is success―that is, aspiring to the top of the hierarchy― success is a relative term, and when applied to collective human evolution we must assume that varying degrees of success-failure will characterize the current square. In effect, we can expect Saturn to test the viability and sustainability of any organization with a strong Neptunian component. Since our focus here is on the world of global politics, the following should be considered in that light.

Neptune: The Pursuit of Oneness
As ruler of Pisces, Neptune’s prime directive is attainment of a transcendent, spiritual ideal of unitive consciousness in which all divisions are reconciled into a blissful harmony. If human experience falls short of this ideal, which it almost invariably does, it causes distress and existential guilt. Human suffering due to loss, illness, poverty, old age, or victimization evokes a Neptunian response in us all, which we experience as compassion and the wish to relieve suffering. Neptune correlates to charity, aid, volunteerism, selfless service, and other altruistic activities dedicated to the ideal of an indiscriminate, all-inclusive, universal love.

Neptune’s flip side is the actual experience of suffering, which can be a gateway to the development of compassion, humility, and dependence upon a higher power. Spiritual traditions like Buddhism honor suffering as “the mud out of which the lotus flower blooms.” Christianity employs its own metaphors―purification through trial by fire, the passion of Christ, and so on. Virtually all spiritual traditions teach the necessity of suffering and its accompanying requirement: renunciation of attachment, as implied in the aphorism “Let go and let God”.

Because the spiritual impulse underlying Neptune is inherently sacrificial and submissive, it can easily be misdirected or carried to excess if driven by excessive, irrational guilt. The result can be escapism and self-undoing. Let go and let God becomes give up and self-destruct. Renunciation of attachment becomes abdication of responsibility. Surrender to a higher power is perverted into a life of dissolution, moral degeneracy, and abject dependency, often fueled by substance addiction. Not only can individuals do this, so can entire cultures, as we shall see.

While spiritual practice and charitable service is the healthy expression of Neptune, this can be misallocated via victim-savior dynamics that entail the enabling of bad behavior. Neptunian overfunctioning, or “co-dependency”, is again fueled by excessive and irrational guilt as evidenced when “saviors” feel compelled to rescue “victims” from the natural consequences of their own self-defeating actions. In this context, a victim is someone who is victimized by their own choices―to abuse drugs and alcohol, to drop out of school, to avoid work and responsibility, to be sexually promiscuous, to lie, steal, cheat, or otherwise engage in criminal behavior.

Typically the victim will manipulate the savior with intimations of blame, as if the cause and solution to the victim’s suffering lie outside themselves. Yet, by not allowing individuals to endure legitimate suffering, the savior merely enables and often exacerbates the victim’s problems. This can lead to savior burnout, depletion of resources, resentment, and more guilt. The French call such an arrangement a folie a deux (folly of two), a kind of mental illness shared by two entities caught in a vicious cycle that escalates over time.

One additional point regarding Neptune is germane: its penchant for obfuscation and fraud. Because Neptune symbolizes our desire for a transcendent ideal of infinite love and beauty, it is disinclined to recognize anything that deviates from this ideal. And since such ideals―for oneness, unity, heaven, paradise, utopia―necessarily emerge from the imagination (they have no obvious corollary in reality), Neptune signifies our capacity for fantasy. If reality deviates too markedly from the ideal, one can simply substitute fantasy for reality by superimposing the ideal over the real. Denial and deception entail the switch of an actual reality for a preferred one; hence, the Pisces-Neptune tendency for delusion, lies, and deceit.

The flip side is the Pisces-Neptune vulnerability to deception. Pisces-Neptune is the part of us that strives to reconcile duality into a unified whole; thus, it has difficulty making rational decisions that require Virgonian discernment and discrimination. A tendency toward feel-good fuzzy thinking, vacillation and acquiescence results. People often will believe what they want to believe and thus can be easily misled. As Hitler famously said, “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”

While the Pisces-Neptune capacity for surrender, letting go, and trust in a higher power signifies spiritual strength in its own domain, it correlates to weakness when misdirected. For it is precisely its malleability that makes Neptune so easily influenced by stronger wills that frequently are not divine in their intentions. The upshot is that Pisces-Neptune is often the dupe, especially in relation to figures that embody those archetypes with which it is entangled―like Saturnian authority.

More on the Closing Square
I have taken time to articulate the individual psychologies of Saturn and Neptune, for it is their combination that ultimately concerns us here. As the reader might surmise, government, under the sway of certain political ideologies, has progressively assumed the role of savior to an increasingly victimized society. During Saturn-Neptune squares, these role dynamics are tested and stressed to the breaking point.

A cornerstone of AstroPsychology is that planets signify fundamental human drives and capacities. Viewed individually, each planet operates as an autonomous agent pursuing fulfillment of specific needs. Saturn, for example, signifies our capacity for success, which entails the pursuit of Capricorn needs for order and control. When combined in aspect, however, any two planets comprise a multi-agent system in pursuit of a joint goal that exists at a higher order of abstraction than the individual goals of the respective planets.

Multi-agent systems propagate as ideas or “cognitive structures” that entail plans for how best to collaborate in fulfilling the respective needs the planets rule. In effect, a planetary pairing symbolizes a narrative that provides an explanation for the way things are and a strategy for how to proceed in order to achieve the joint goal. Such narratives are inherent in planetary combinations independent of the angles they form during particular phases of their synodic cycle.

Ideas that emerge from multi-agent systems not only have histories, as reflected in their synodic cycles, they also have consequences. Any number of different strategies can accompany a multi-agent system, some more functional than others. Core strategies are like entities that evolve over time and take different forms depending upon the signs they occupy and the particular phase (angle) they are currently forming.

With regard to Saturn-Neptune, the closing square signifies that Saturn and Neptune have reached a critical mass or tipping point in their mutual struggle to achieve a joint goal. Consequences of the unfolding 36-year cycle between Saturn and Neptune will manifest as certain types of phenomena, notably in government, as government is a Saturnian entity that can be observed, measured, and evaluated. Government’s entanglement with Neptunian ideals will be especially apparent. During the closing square, events will occur that explicate the degree of integration in the collective psyche that Saturn and Neptune have achieved to date. In other words, the current story that undergirds their relationship is being tested. Is it wholly true, partly true? Is it functional? Is it the best we can do?

The ultimate ideal, of course, is for maximum differentiation and coordination of Saturn-Neptune so that their respective needs and functions are cooperating in perfect equilibrium. This might be reflected, for example, in some sort of global order inspired by a grounded, spiritual sensibility, a virtual heaven on earth, however remote and improbable that goal might seem. Preferably, Neptune infuses the natural hierarchical structure of society―individual, family, town, state, federal―from the bottom up, from the grass roots, from spiritual values inculcated in strong families and expressed through local churches, fraternal orders, service clubs, and voluntary non-profit organizations. Conversely, dangers lie in government policies that weaken the body-politic with misguided attempts to impose a utopian dreamworld from the top down.  

Just as with individual human beings, the goal of a fully integrated Saturn-Neptune dynamic is a work in progress. Each planet is inseparably tied to the other as figure to ground. When Saturn is emphasized, Neptune is ground; when Neptune is emphasized, Saturn is ground. Each must perform its functions in its own realm, but always in relation to the other’s predominant values. Government has to perform its proper function of maintaining civic order, yet simultaneously accommodate the reality of human suffering brought about, for instance, by floods and other natural disasters. Neptune must pursue its spiritual ideal of transcendent unity, while recognizing that a government’s capacity to allocate time and resources to such ends is limited.

A fundamental principle of all squares is mutual influence and reciprocal resistance. While not being able to escape the others influence, each planet’s respective values are operating at cross-purposes. If optimally managed, inherent tensions can be welded into a composite that is stronger than either one separately. One example might be government regulations that mitigate against the outbreak of disease. Or a charitable organization which, by benefiting from tax-exempt status, is empowered to distribute resources to the needy.

More likely, however, one planet will defend itself by overfunctioning at the other’s expense. Again, this is due to the inherent difficulty of integrating forces that are operating at cross purposes. Dysfunctional strategies result from the overfunctioning planet consciously denigrating the values of the repudiated planet, while unconsciously and unavoidably being saturated with that planet’s values. The result is a compromise formation―an odd, uncoordinated mix of the two planets that to varying degrees impairs the functionality of both.

For example, a government might denigrate traditional religious values, undermine Christianity, and favor Darwinian evolutionary theory over Intelligent Design; while, at the same time, assuming the responsibilities of a charitable, quasi-spiritual organization dedicated to the relief of suffering on virtually every front―open borders, sanctuary cities, amnesty to illegal immigrants, universal health care, redistribution of wealth via progressive taxation, and expansion of entitlement programs such as social security, welfare, unemployment, disability, food stamps, and government guaranteed student loans―all of which saps the economy, exhausts tax revenues, drives up the national debt, and neglects the country’s infrastructure to the point of collapse. Note on the one hand that Saturn depreciates the authentic spirituality of Neptune, and on the other becomes so overextended from the misappropriation of Neptunian functions that it teeters on the brink of self-destruction.

The Hillary Clinton Scandals
Hillary and Benghazi 1It is not my intention here to make a case for the guilt or innocence of Hillary Clinton in relation to her recent troubles. Rather, I am interested in what they mean in the larger context of Saturn square Neptune. In other words, the controversies surrounding Hillary are not only an expression of her natal chart, but a symbol of an unfolding Saturn-Neptune mindset in which we all move and have our being. Let us begin with the facts about Benghazi.

On the evening of September 11, 2012, the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi Libya was decimated in a premeditated military-style attack by approximately 150 terrorists armed with automatic weapons and heavy artillery. The entire incident lasted about 13 hours in two separate attacks. Four Americans were killed, including ambassador Chris Stevens and information manager Sean Smith. CIA agents Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed in the second attack, and ten others were wounded. Surviving Special Forces members subsequently reported that they were ordered to stand down (not defend the compound) three times. They finally defied orders and went anyway.

In the aftermath, Hillary Clinton, in her role as Secretary of State, took responsibility for security lapses that left the U.S. post unprotected in the midst of Islamic terrorists that had sprouted in the blood soaked, toxic soil of former president Muammar Gaddafi’s death. The decision to deploy as few troops as possible to Libya was part of the Obama foreign doctrine of leaving a small footprint and not intimidating foreign governments with U.S. military might.[2] Rather than admit the lethal consequences of their mistake, however, for the next two weeks Hillary and Obama repeatedly suggested the attack was due to a spontaneous protest triggered by an amateurish 13 minute anti-Islamic “trailer” produced by a U.S. Muslim and uploaded on YouTube.

When this narrative was challenged by reporters, Hillary and Obama sidestepped by referring to “an ongoing investigation.” Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, repeated the official line in five sequential television appearances: Benghazi was a protest that evolved into a spontaneous, unpremeditated attack provoked by a “hateful video” satirizing the prophet Muhammad.

There was, in fact, such a video, and it had provoked demonstrations in the Muslim world. But there was never any evidence that it inspired the Benghazi attack. Republicans suspected the video was a red herring to deflect attention from the real issue. For the prior two years, the American people had been told that al-Qaeda had been defeated. “Osama bin-Laden is dead and Al Qaeda is on the run” was Obama’s stump speech for his 2012 reelection campaign. Only months from the election, the attack on Benghazi contradicted the narrative and was thus a political liability.

During the weeks following the attack it was apparent that a carefully scripted official story was being systematically fed to the American public: That hateful video killed our boys. No other possibility was mentioned despite Libya’s new president, Mohamed Yusuf al-Magariaf, publically proclaiming on September 16: “The way these perpetrators acted and moved, and their choosing the specific date for this so-called demonstration, this leaves us with no doubt that this was preplanned, predetermined.”[3]

Obama’s Rose Garden statement on September 12 did include, “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation.” However, there’s an important difference between attributing acts of terror to a spontaneous uprising and admitting that Benghazi was a premeditated, well-orchestrated attack by al-Qaeda. That admission would not come until more than two weeks later in response to incontrovertible evidence that refuted the original narrative.

Meanwhile, both Hillary and Obama kept repeating that the attacks were due to an offensive video directed at the prophet Muhammad. As late as September 25, two weeks after the attacks, Obama said on another U.S. talk show, “The View”:

That is what we saw play out in the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity.[4]

Subsequent congressional investigations revealed that the CIA almost immediately received intelligence reports that there was no “protest” at Benghazi on September 11. In fact, the CIA’s initial September 12 executive update stated that “this was an intentional assault and not the escalation of a peaceful protest.”[5] This language was subsequently dropped for reasons that in retrospect are clear. An email from top Obama aide Ben Rhodes lays bare the White House strategy. “Goals: To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”[6]

That the preferred narrative was fabricated from the beginning is evident in Hillary Clinton’s initial press statement on 10:08 pm, September 11th, within an hour of the attack and while it was still ongoing.

Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation.[7]

What is extraordinary about this statement is not merely that it’s a smokescreen, but the nature of the narrative itself. It subtly intimates that the cause of extremist violence is religious intolerance, and by implication any intolerance. Whether Hillary truly believes this is open to question, but that is the narrative they chose to propagate: violence is wrong, but intolerance is more wrong because it is the reason for violence.

Server, what server?

An unexpected outcome of the congressional investigation was the discovery that Clinton was using a private server for official government correspondence. While 32,000 of her private emails were reportedly deleted after being requested, many were recovered.[8] Of special significance are two, one sent the day of the attack and the other the day after. Within the hour following her September 11 press statement, Hillary wrote her daughter, Chelsea: “Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an al Qaeda-like group….Very hard day and I fear more of the same.”[9] And in an email the following day, September 12, she recounts her conversation with the Egyptian foreign minister:

We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack—not a protest. . . . Based on the information we saw today we believe the group that claimed responsibility for this was affiliated with al-Qaeda.[10]

Two days later, September 14, Hillary attended the transfer of remains ceremony with the family members of those killed at Benghazi. In her official remarks at the ceremony, she stated: “We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful internet video that we had nothing to do with.” Kate Quigley, sister of deceased Navy SEAL Glenn Doherty, said that Hillary again brought up the story about the phony Libyan protest in their private conversation. “When I think back now to that day and what she knew…it shows me a lot about her character that she would choose in that moment to basically perpetuate what she knew was untrue.”[11]

Patricia Smith, mother of slain information officer Sean Smith, had this to say in her congressional testimony at the Benghazi hearings:

Obama and Hillary and Panetta and Biden and Susan [Rice] all came up to me at the casket ceremony. Every one of them came up to me, gave me a big hug, and I asked them, ‘what happened, please tell me.’ And every one of them said it was the video. And we all know that it wasn’t the video. Even at that time, they knew it wasn’t the video. So they all lied to me.[12]

Likewise Charles Woods, father of Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, reported that when he gave Hillary a hug and shook her hand after the ceremony, she said, “We are going to have the filmmaker arrested who was responsible for the death of your son.”[13] It doesn’t get any clearer than that. Not al-Qaeda, not Obama’s foreign policy of leading-from-behind, not Hillary’s failure to provide adequate security to the compound, but anti-Islamic sentiment killed the four Americans.

Hillary & BenghaziWhen confronted with these allegations, Clinton pushed back, saying that any contradictions in her statements about Benghazi were due to “the fog of war,” fragmentary and disjointed information that was “changing by the hour.”[14] However, given the consistency and certainty of the Obama administration’s statements about the video, and given concerns about Obama’s re-election and Hillary’s looming run for the presidency, it is difficult not to conclude that Hillary was complicit in fabricating the politically expedient but ultimately false narrative. Such is the crux of the just released report of the House Select Committee on Benghazi:

Obama Administration officials, including the Secretary of State [Hillary Clinton], learned almost in real time that the attack in Benghazi was a terrorist attack. Rather than tell the American people the truth, the administration told one story privately and a different story publicly.[15]

It is also worth noting that despite eight congressional investigations costing 20 million tax payer dollars, it has never been determined who was responsible for the order that U.S. forces stand down. Upon being informed of the attack on the afternoon of September 11 by then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Obama “immediately ordered the military to deploy all available assets.”[16] Allegedly, he never modified or rescinded the order; yet, there were three stand-down orders according to CIA operatives who eventually disobeyed their superiors and rushed to rescue Ambassador Stevens in the burning compound. Moreover, no military assets were deployed to help the few men who fought 150 terrorists. The last two Americans were killed almost 8 hours after the attacks began. When Obama was solicited by the House Select Committee on Benghazi to address these unanswered questions, he refused to comply.[17]

The Astrology of Benghazi
I have taken some time to detail the events surrounding Benghazi because they illustrate in microcosm a larger narrative symbolized by Saturn square Neptune. As expected, the current phase of the Saturn-Neptune cycle is crystallizing in events that reveal the relative integration of these two archetypal forces. While the events and subsequent cover-up of Benghazi occurred in 2012, the fact that it has been headline news since the fall of 2015 illustrates how planetary dynamics “pop” into acute manifestation during angles like the closing square.

An additional factor to consider is the sign positions of the two planets―Saturn in Sagittarius, and Neptune in Pisces. Since Neptune rules Pisces, its sign position does not add any new information other than it doubles-down on the basic psychology of Neptune, making it pure and strong. Saturn in Sagittarius, however, adds something new to the mix. After a brief tenancy prior to retrograding back into Scorpio, Saturn settled into Sagittarius to stay in September of 2015, where it will remain until December 2017.

Sagittarius symbolizes the principle of expansion, as exemplified in the search for truth and meaning. It rules the domain of higher learning, justice, law, ethics, morality, religion, philosophy, ideology, travel, and foreign affairs. Saturn’s two year sojourn through Sagittarius correlates to a serious, pragmatic focus on the aforementioned fields, especially with regard to perceived shortcomings and failures.

Saturn tends to contract, restrict, and reduce for the sake of economizing, cutting away unessential elements and getting to what is solid and real. In Sagittarius, examples are legion, from halting the spread of a toxic ideology like radical Islam to restricting the flow of illegal immigration. With regard to our central topic, however, it is epitomized in the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which released its final report on July 8, 2016. A highlight of the investigation was Hillary Clinton’s testimony in October 2015, right after Saturn ingressed into Sagittarius and during which there was a serious attempt to get to the bottom of what really happened and why. Hillary’s honesty in the entire matter was the overriding, central question.

It is the square between Saturn and Neptune, however, that tells the larger story. Recall that when two planets are square, one can overcompensate as a defense against the other while simultaneously being influenced by the repressed planet at an unconscious level. For example, Saturn in Sagittarius could signify an authority figure taking the moral high ground while projecting responsibility for the tragic outcomes of her own wrongdoing onto a convenient scapegoat. At a conscious level, she (Saturn) presents herself as wise and truthful (Sagittarius); yet, unconsciously is plagued by guilt (Neptune) that must be exported into the environment.

A more integrated version would entail an honest and humble admission of mistakes with a willingness to suffer the consequences, even if it means a momentary loss of status. However, until and unless Saturn’s square to Neptune is integrated, we can expect authority figures to employ false narratives as a defense against loss, suffering, and guilt.

In the Benghazi incident, all of this is immediately evident. Saturn is represented by Hillary and the Obama administration. Their foreign policy of leading from behind―anti-imperialist ethics, minimizing America’s influence abroad, and pulling back troops―is consistent with Saturn in Sagittarius square Neptune. According to the House Select Committee on Benghazi, a major reason for the attack was Hillary’s failure to provide requested troops for fear of offending Muslims.

As a result of this lead-from-behind foreign policy…[and] although the State Department considered Libya a grave risk to American diplomats in 2011 and 2012, our people remained in a largely unprotected, unofficial facility that one diplomatic security agent the committee interviewed characterized as ‘a suicide mission.’ [18]

This is especially interesting in light of Saturn’s square to Neptune. Recall that Neptune’s prime directive is transcendence such that all divisions that separate races, religions, and cultures are reconciled into a common unity. Applied to politics, this is a formula for world peace―the ultimate Neptunian ideal. Yet, a mature spirituality recognizes that the journey to world peace necessarily and inescapably involves suffering and the gradual dissolution of attachments that maintain separateness. Realistically, such a goal may require innumerable just wars and be thousands of years in the making from where we are now.[19] Global unity is not something that can be forced; you cannot push the river and accelerate the pace of human evolution to comply with your political ambitions.

This is what I alluded to earlier when I said that planets in square operate at cross purposes. The Obama administration (Saturn) aspired to world peace (Neptune). Ending wars in the Middle East was a primary objective; yet, Obama did not want to endure the necessary suffering over the long term that such an ideal would exact. So, by forcing the issue and pulling out troops prematurely from Iraq, not holding the “red line” with Syria, and generally weakening our position in the Middle East, it created a power vacuum that al Qaeda and ISIS rushed in to fill.

The tragedy of Benghazi is symptomatic of a larger problem―a misguided attempt to force a premature unity―that has characterized the Obama administration from the beginning and, by implication, liberal foreign policy in general.[20] Peace politics and the anti-war movement has always been linked to the Democratic Party. Yet, innumerable critics and U.S. Military leaders have pointed out that Obama’s legacy will be “endless war” precisely because he was afraid to actually fight one.[21] As former Defense Secretary Robert Gates put it, “President Obama simply wanted the ‘bad’ war in Iraq to be ended.”[22]

What I wish to suggest here is how Saturn’s resistance to Neptunian hardship (unintegrated square) is what brought hardship about. I am not proposing that loss and suffering of the sort that occurred in Benghazi is inevitable and thus we should do nothing. Rather, it is the failure to allow for at least some loss and suffering―that is, to be adequately prepared for it―that renders a system more vulnerable to the thing avoided. Hillary’s failure to protect the Embassy in Benghazi by providing adequate troops made working there a virtual “suicide mission” according to one of her own agents. And this says nothing about the mysterious stand down orders and failure to deploy U.S. military assets during the 13 hour siege.

Neptune’s signature strategy of denial and avoidance was further evident in the cover-up that followed. Rather than admit that the Benghazi tragedy was due to “a broader failure of policy,” as Ben Rhodes put it, Hillary and Obama doubled down and scapegoated the filmmaker who uploaded the anti-Islamist video. In so doing, they constructed an illusion (Neptune) that their authority (Saturn) was unimpeachable and their ideology (Sagittarius) unassailable, while projecting moral failure onto the makers of “a crude and disgusting video”. Their attempt to avoid a humiliating loss of political power echoed their larger strategy of wanting to achieve a premature global unity while avoiding the risks and hardships of war.

Jung’s dictum that “neurosis is born from a failure to endure legitimate suffering” applies equally well to the political arena. In Part II, we will examine the Saturn-Neptune origins of what may well be a political neurosis that has afflicted western culture for more than a century.

To be continued…


[1] Koestler, A. (1978).  Janus: A summing up.  New York: Vintage Books, p. 67

[2] “Select Committee on Benghazi Releases Proposed Report,” from The Select Committee on Benghazi, U.S. House of Representatives, July 8, 2016.

[3] Kessler, Glenn. “From video to terrorist attack: a definitive timeline of administration statements on the Libya attack,” in The Washington Post, September 27, 2012.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Kessler, Glenn. “Is Hillary Clinton a ‘liar’ on Benghazi?” in The Washington Post, October 30, 2015.

[6] Hemingway, Mollie. “5 Big Takeaways From The House Benghazi Report,” in the Federalist, June 28, 2016.

[7] Kessler, Glenn. “From video to terrorist attack: a definitive timeline of administration statements on the Libya attack,” in The Washington Post, September 27, 2012.

[8] Halper, Daniel. “FBI: Clinton was ‘extremely careless’ with email, but no charges,” New York Post, July 5, 2016.

 [9] Kessler, Glenn. “Is Hillary Clinton a ‘liar’ on Benghazi?” in The Washington Post, October 30, 2015.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] “Reviews of the Benghazi Attacks and Unanswered Questions,” First Session, September 19, 2013.

[13] Kessler, Glenn. “Is Hillary Clinton a ‘liar’ on Benghazi?” in The Washington Post, October 30, 2015.

[14] Kamisar, Ben. “Clinton denies lying to Benghazi victim’s families,” in The Hill, March 09, 2016 at:

[15] “Select Committee on Benghazi Releases Proposed Report,” from The Select Committee on Benghazi, U.S. House of Representatives, July 8, 2016.

[16] Bade, Rachel. “White House refuses Benghazi questions for Obama,” in Politico, 06/26/16, at:

[17] Bade, Rachel. Ibid

[18] Select Committee on Benghazi Releases Proposed Report,” from The Select Committee on Benghazi, U.S. House of Representatives, July 8, 2016.

[19] Walzer, Michael. (2015). Just and unjust wars: A moral argument with historical illustrations. New York: Basic Books

[20] Obama, Barack, “Breaking the War Mentality,” Sundial, March 10, 1983,

[21] Woodward, Bob. 2010. Obama’s Wars. New York: Simon and Schuster

[22] Gates, Robert. (2015). Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War. New York: Vintage Books

A Template 1

Ruminations On
Sun-Sign Cancer

By Glenn Perry

Evidence suggests that the zodiac not only symbolizes the structure and dynamics of the psyche, but also the evolutionary unfoldment of consciousness. The structure of the zodiac exactly parallels the stages of the human life cycle. Each sign can be understood as a developmental stage of specific quality and duration.

The dominant traits and concerns of each sign are age-appropriate for the stage corresponding to that sign. Infants (Aries) are necessarily selfish, egocentric, and concerned about survival. Toddlers (Taurus) are preoccupied with attachment needs and are easily forgiven for wanting things to stay the same. Seven year olds (Gemini) are naturally fickle, shallow, and curious. Latency age children (Cancer) turn inwards and become more vulnerable to rejection. Adolescents (Leo) are unavoidably narcissistic, willful, and defensive. Novice adults (Virgo) worry about job skills and employability.

Marriage and partnership are dominant concerns of thirty-year olds (Libra), while mid-life adults (Scorpio) obsess about death and power. Afterwards, they become increasingly interested in justice and moral imperatives (Sagittarius). Sixty year olds (Capricorn) are expected to be conservative, traditional, and to uphold the status quo. The seventies (Aquarius) mark a period of radical change as individuals detach from old identifications. And a gradual dissolution and readiness to return to source marks the final stage of life, from 77 and beyond (Pisces).

Ruminations on Sun in Cancer

What It’s Like for a Guy
Ruminations On Sun-Sign Cancer

By Glenn Perry

A while ago I was asked by astrologer Leah Imsiragic to answer a few questions about my personal experience of Sun in Cancer. Other astrologers were asked about their Sun signs, and our responses were eventually published…I can’t remember where, which is embarrassing for a Sun-Cancer as we’re supposed to have good memories. However, since the summer solstice was just last week (start of Cancer), I thought it timely to republish my reflections on this sign. I have taken the liberty to flesh out some ideas that were merely hinted at in my original responses to Leah.

Sun in CancerLeah: Why is the Sun’s sign position in the natal horoscope important and what can that tell us?

Glenn: I always say that the Sun performs the same role in the psyche that it does in the solar system. It is the central hub around which everything else revolves; it’s the heart of the matter, the core of the personality, the seat of consciousness. Psychologically, it signifies creative self-expression, intentionality, and will―our capacity to choose and by our choices create an identity.

Underlying our choices and creative self-expression is a wish that others will validate those choices; that they will enjoy and approve of what we express and who we are becoming. Validation and approval support the development of self-esteem, which is one the Sun’s prime objectives.

The sign and house position of the Sun show how (sign) and where (house) the person will attempt to establish his or her own identity. It reveals how and where the person will experience a sense of purpose, play, creativity, enjoyment, and pride―and, we might also say, a sense of honor.

Honor is a somewhat archaic term and a quality we see too little of these days. In brief, honor (or lack thereof) is the summary product of one’s choices. Its attainment implies a concerted effort to act correctly―that is, in ways that demonstrate one’s courage, kindness, trustworthiness, responsibility, and benevolence. Honor implies integrity and purity of motive. And having it assures the respect and esteem that is afforded persons that consistently display nobility of character. Since it feels good to act right, honor is also commensurate with self-esteem.

Liam Neeson as Sun in Cancer

I love the scene in the film, Rob Roy (1995), when the hero, Robert Roy MacGregor (Liam Neeson), is asked by his son, “Father, what is honor?” MacGregor reflects for a moment and then responds:

All men with honor are kings, but not all kings have honor. Honor is what no man can give you and none can take away. Honor is a man’s gift to himself.

His son replies: “How do you know you have it?” “Never worry on the getting of it,” says MacGregor. “It grows in you and speaks to you. All you need do is listen.”

This is the gift of the Sun, rightly earned. It implies a solar tropism toward honor, such that our inner Sun (king) is always guiding, coaxing, and encouraging the self to make choices that accord with one’s better angels. As Polonius said in Hamlet,

“This above all: to thine own self be true.
And it must follow, as the night the day.
Thou canst not then be false to any man.” 

Surely this is what Macgregor means when he exhorts his son to listen to the voice of honor as it slowly grows within. To thine own self be true. For to do otherwise is to ultimately become dishonorable, which is accompanied by a painful loss of self-esteem.

The Sun sign, of course, is very different from the Sun itself, even though astrologers tend to conflate them. I don’t like to talk about signs as personalities, such as he is a Cancer or she is a Capricorn, because it gives the false impression that signs can be reduced to personality types. It implies that Sun-signs are signs, when, in fact, a sign is expressed differently contingent upon the planet that occupies it. 

Essentially, a sign is a motive or drive that seeks fulfillment according to its own nature. Every sign wants something; that is, it symbolizes a need that is universal. And the nature of that need generates behavior appropriate to its ends. If Cancer signifies the need for belonging (to a family, community, and nation), then Cancerian behavior is naturally caring, protective, supportive, devoted, loyal, patriotic, and so on. This underscores that a sign’s behavior is best understood in the context of the need that behavior serves. 

The meaning of a Sun-sign is more complex than merely a sign, for it entails a two-variable compound―Sun and sign. Of necessity Sun-signs must be conceptualized in terms of solar functions of self-expression, will, and identity. First, people express themselves in a manner consistent with the nature of their Sun-sign. Second, they make choices – exercise their will – in a way that reflects the psychology of that sign. And third, they tend to identify with that sign’s motivating principle and implicit values. All of this is very abstract, I realize, but it serves to establish the foundation of the matter.

Ultimately, the sign position of the Sun constitutes a path of honor for that individual. It is that principle of life one must fully develop and embody, in its highest sense, in order to actualize his or her potential to become honorable. I am not saying that the Sun-sign is the sole means to honor, but that it is a critical passage of a larger journey that encompasses the self and life as a whole. 

Sun-sign CancerLeah: What is the essence of Cancer?

Glenn: This is a good question. Again, it should be noted that it is a different question than “how does the Sun function in Cancer?” I’ll try to address both. The essence of Cancer is the need for closeness, belonging, understanding, nurturing, and unconditional love. This need (or conglomeration of needs) underlies and motivates all Cancerian behavior. It follows that any behavioral trait of Cancer can be understood in the context of the need(s) that behavior serves. Cancerian introspection, caring, and sensitivity to rejection are all in the service of fulfilling Cancer’s primary need for closeness.

It’s worth mentioning that Cancer is semi-sextile Leo, which is the sign the Sun rules. Leo comes immediately after Cancer in the zodiac. It is the Sun’s natural home, the place where it feels most comfortable and can most easily be itself. Signs that are semi-sextile have a compensatory relationship, as if the succeeding sign is pushing away the sign that precedes it by saying, “I am so over you; I define myself by being everything you’re not!” So, when the Sun is placed in Cancer, it’s like going backwards, precisely because Cancer is behind Leo. The urge to differentiate and carve out a personal identity by making choices that express one’s authentic self is inhibited by invisible loyalties to the past. This is the equivalent of having a 13 year old boy balk at the prospect of adolescence. He would prefer to remain close with his family and not have to deal with adolescent angst involving the formation of a personal identity distinct from his family.

Summer solstice with Sun in CancerThis regressive quality of Cancer is interesting in light of the summer solstice, which is the beginning of Cancer. The Sun appears to stop its northern climb, hovers for three days, and then begins to move backwards, lower and lower in the sky until six months later it arrives at the winter solstice and reverses course again. This can be seen as a metaphor of Cancer’s natural reticence, hesitation, and backward quality (Cancer rules the past, ancestry, history). In effect, Cancer restrains the Sun’s natural expression of upward and outward by muting its exuberance. It softens and gentles it, turns it inward, and inclines intentions in the direction of caring for, and protection of, that which has already been established―precedents, traditions, foundations.

Rather than differentiate oneself from others by a strong, clear expression of personal will, the solar function is stifled in Cancer because expression of personal preference may have the unintended consequence of creating distance between oneself and others. By itself, the Sun might spontaneously declare, “I am a Catholic, a Republican, a Yankee fan, and I love country music!” But if in Cancer, the Sun might worry that many people could be alienated by those choices because they cannot identify with them. There are bound to be people who are Protestants, Democrats, Mets fans, and hate country music. This is worrisome to Cancer.

All of this implies that Sun-Cancer cannot readily and naturally be authentic―that is, true to itself, out of fear it might be setting itself up for rejection. “If I don’t belong to the Protestant family, the Mets family…those people won’t like me.” It equally worries that others who make different choices could feel rejected by Sun-Cancer’s non-endorsement of those choices.

Leah: What is the best and strongest quality of the sign of Cancer?

That would be emotional intelligence. Cancer’s ability to tune in, sense, and accept what’s happening on a feeling level gives it an instinctive ability to understand people and situations emotionally. It then adjusts its behavior accordingly.

chameleon embodies Sun in CancerThis is why Cancer is often described as having chameleon-like qualities that enable it to blend in with its environment. Again, the need for closeness and belonging are primary drivers that underlie all Cancerian behavior. We could even say this is what motivates a mother’s love for her child. The maternal instinct to retain closeness entails an innate capacity to understand what the child is feeling and needing at any given moment, to feel in sympathy with the child so that a loving connection can be maintained.

With the Sun in Cancer, there’s an ability to express caring, understanding, sympathy, protection, and so on. It is precisely these attributes with which the person is identified, even heroically invested. Such sentiments extend to all life, especially life-forms in need of protection. For me cruelty to animals is almost unbearable, even when merely imagined. I remember in 1984 I had just gotten out of the movie, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, in which Tarzan’s surrogate ape-father is shot and killed by humans at the end of the film. Feeling naturally protective of animals, I was extremely upset. As I was pulling out of the parking lot, another car entered and tried to force me to back up. I jumped out of my car and was ready to fight. I was so furious with humans I was ready to kill one for what they did to poor Tarzan’s father.

On another occasion when I was 12 years old, some boys I was playing with shot and killed a rabbit with a pellet gun behind a neighbor’s house. I was horrified! How could they be so uncaring, so insensitive! Under threat of violence I forced them to dig a hole, bury the murdered rabbit, and express suitable condolences and regret. I’m sure at that point they harbored secret doubts as to whether I really was a guy.

Leah: What is the weakness of the sign of Cancer?

As with any sign, its strength is also its weakness when carried too far. Simply place the word ‘over’ in front of any Cancerian attribute and one can glimpse the problem―oversensitive, overprotective, or overemotional. Cancer’s sensitivity to rejection and its worry of hurting others can incline it to timidity, shyness, and reticence, especially when the Sun is in this sign.

As the ruler of Leo, the Sun corresponds to play, recreation, and socializing with friends. But with Sun in Cancer, it’s hard for me to initiate social contact and express a desire to play―even something as simple as calling a friend―as I assume it would be an imposition and display a lack of sensitivity. Maybe they’re having dinner, or engaged in a task, or parenting their child. I tend to start every call with an apology, “I’m so sorry to bother you…” I know it is irrational, but it’s instinctive. Conversely, if Sun-Leo calls a friend, they assume it is a compliment to that person, which it actually is.

If my Moon rather than Sun were in Cancer it would obviously work better since Cancer’s strengths would then be utilized in the service of lunar functions that require exactly those traits. There are occasions when listening, understanding, and expressing sympathetic rapport are entirely appropriate. During such times, the Moon is activated. And if it’s in Cancer, then one’s lunar capacity to respond sensitively is strong and natural.

However, since the Sun constitutes its own functions (will, play, self-expression), it requires traits that are distinctly different from Cancer. When a solar situation predominates, such as being at a party, the Sun’s functionality is inhibited by virtue of being in the sign ruled by the Moon. Sun-Cancer is the classic wallflower―shy, hanging back, on the sidelines rather than out front. Imagine at a party it’s your turn to play charades. But you would rather blend in with the furniture or serve the guests some chips than perform in front of strangers!

It should be understood that Cancer’s weakness is not so much an inherent property as a consequence of its lack of integration with other parts of the self. People can express any sign badly – either too much or too little – but that’s not the fault of the sign. When a planet is in a sign that forms a hard aspect to the sign it rules, such as when the Sun is in Cancer, then that planet’s functionality is compromised; it’s more difficult for the planet to be itself. Recall Leo is semi-sextile Cancer. Since the Sun rules Leo, Sun-Cancer is like a Shakespearian actor having to perform the role of Juliet when he would much prefer to play Romeo.

Leah: What have you learned from your Sun-sign?

That I would prefer to have my Sun in Leo. All kidding aside, I’ve learned the importance of knowing how to deal with feelings. Paradoxically, there is tremendous power in the capacity to be emotionally vulnerable and transparent. The willingness to open up and share that side of myself has had unexpected benefits that I could not have foreseen as a child growing up in a family where feelings were shunned. I am fiercely loyal to my feelings now, and regard them as my staunchest ally.

People can disagree with your thinking, but not with your feelings. If I say, “Islam is more a political ideology than a religion,” people can legitimately disagree with me. But if I say, “Islam scares me,” that’s not a statement with which one can disagree. It’s simply how I feel. There’s no right or wrong about it, even if it might serve as a basis for further conversation. When one’s thoughts, values, and decisions are supported by feelings, there is more gravitas to the person, more substance and depth of personality. Feelings are your ground, the rudder of your ship, the roots of your being. Feelings are what enable us to connect with one another.

Forest Whitaker is a Sun in Cancer personality
Forest Whitaker as Big Harold

I remember seeing the Oliver Stone film, Platoon, back in 1986. It was about American soldiers fighting the Vietnam War. After one of the battles, some soldiers were arguing vociferously about right and wrong, about whether America should even be in the war. Tempers were flaring when Big Harold, played by the consummate actor Forest Whitaker, simply said: “I don’t know, brothers, but I’m hurting real bad inside.” In that instant the whole energy shifted, quieted, and calmed. Big Harold had given voice to what everyone was experiencing, and suddenly they were all connected. A simple expression of feeling can do that.

While Cancer (and the Moon) is associated with feelings, this should not imply that the Cancer-Moon archetype is feelings. Sometimes you’ll hear astrologers say, “The Moon is feelings.” But this is misleading. To be sure, Cancer-Moon has its own feelings (tenderness, protectiveness, maternal love), but every sign-planet system is characterized by certain kinds of feelings that when triggered activate the planet to take appropriate action. If a person feels their life is in danger when a stranger rushes towards them with a club, those are Aries feelings―alarm, agitation, aggression―which stimulates the flight or fight response of Mars.

The Cancer-Moon archetype symbolizes one’s capacity to feel the entire panoply of emotions that being human entails, to be receptive to such emotions, and to convey their message to the appropriate planetary function. It does a person little good to have emotions if s/he cannot consciously feel them, understand their meaning, and channel them into an appropriate response. The stronger the Cancer-Moon archetype in a chart, such as having Sun (or any planet) in Cancer, the more likely the native is capable of dealing with feelings. It’s as if their conduit to feelings is wider and deeper than people who are not so blessed. 

Leah: What is the Sign(s) you deal the best with and what is the most difficult sign for you and why?

That’s a difficult question, since I think that all signs are equally difficult and equally easy, depending upon the person expressing them. I personally am very attracted to Scorpionic qualities, for that’s the sign on my 7th house cusp and it is also naturally trine Cancer. So there’s a simpatico there. I like the depth, intensity and vulnerability of that sign. And of course everyone loves a Leo, mostly because it’s so adept at loving you―applauding, cheering, and appreciating you for exactly who you are right now. Leo is, after all, a social sign. Its very nature is designed to be liked. 

I also enjoy Aries in small doses – it’s so vibrant! – but it can be annoying in its egocentricity, which is a quality that Cancer finds difficult to understand. While Pisces is naturally trine Cancer, I have precisely the opposite problem with that sign when it’s expressed in a dysfunctional, exaggerated way―bleeding heart do-gooders that enable bad behavior rather than allowing people to learn from their mistakes. I suspect my aversion to weepy, no-boundary Piscean feebleness reflects my Sun’s square to Neptune, making the archetype of Pisces-Neptune a bit of a shadow for me.

Leah: What have you learned from other signs?

That would take a book, which it just so happens I’ve written! Check out Chapter 4 in An Introduction to AstroPsychology for my take on zodiacal signs. You see, even a Sun-sign Cancer can indulge in shameless self-promotion! 

Leah: What can other signs learn from the sign of Cancer?

That the rest of you are insensitive brutes! (Pisces being the exception, of course, which is low praise to be sure). Okay, I’ll be serious. If there’s something to be learned from Cancer by other signs, it’s the value of understanding, accepting, and honoring personal feelings; and how doing so will invariably strengthen the functionality of every part of the Self.

And now I feel like stopping, so I will!  🙂 

* * * * *

Emotional States, Planetary Responses and the Case of Charles Manson

Emotional States, Planetary Responses
And the Case of Charles Manson

By Glenn Perry


Emotional ResponseIn a previous column, The Significance of Planetary Emotions, we examined how each sign of the zodiac not only symbolizes a set of interrelated needs, but also a range of emotional states. These states are carriers of affective signals, or motives, which move us to perform particular actions to satisfy needs. The ruling planet receives the affective signal and is informed as to the requisite action. Depending upon the planet’s level of functionality, the individual may undershoot, overshoot, or hit the mark just right.

For example, if a Uranian situation arises that requires resilience in the face of unexpected events, a person’s response might range from shock and dissociation to cool, dispassionate objectivity. The latter would be more adaptive, allowing the individual to see the big picture, adjust to the situation, and alter his or her behavior as needed. In real life, of course, such archetypal dynamics do not arise independently, but always involve other needs and feelings. If Mars is involved, the situation may also invoke anger, impatience, and aggression―or, fierce courage in the face of an existential threat.

Imagine, for instance, an Army Ranger (special ops) who parachutes behind enemy lines in Nigeria to rescue schoolgirls abducted by Islamic terrorists, soon to be assigned to ISIS fighters as sexual slaves. Encountering unexpected resistance, he adapts to the situation on the ground in a way that maximizes his ability to survive, kill the enemy and complete his mission. This would be a functional version of a Mars-Uranus aspect. Such a one is, in a phrase, “cool under fire”.

Calibration and Target States
In general systems theory, the relationship of emotion to motivation can be described in terms of calibration and target states.1 A target state is what one wishes to attain on an emotional level; that is, a desired feeling. Whereas a motive is an impulse to do something, a target state is the end state desired. Target states, in other words, are what we actually feel when the motivating need is fulfilled. In the situation above, dual target states are signified by Uranus and Mars respectively: objective perspective (Uranus) combined with joyful aliveness (Mars). Our Army Ranger is committed to staying alive but in tandem with a detached overview that allows for maximal adaptability in pursuit of altruistic ends.

In the table below, I list some target states along with their precipitating archetypal motives.2

Sign-Planet Motive Target State
Aries/Mars  Survival, Freedom  Joyful Aliveness
Taurus/Venus  Safety, Security, Constancy Security & Comfort
Gemini/Mercury  Knowledge, Communication Mental Stimulation
Cancer/Moon  Closeness, Caring, Belonging Caring & Belonging
Leo/Sun  Validation, Self-Esteem Pride & Confidence
Virgo/Mercury Service, Competence, Efficiency Useful & Competent
Libra/Venus Intimacy, Relatedness, Beauty   Intimacy & Harmony
Scorpio/Pluto  Transformation, Integration, Power Powerful & Centered 
Sagittarius/Jupiter  Meaning, Truth, Faith Optimistic, Expansive
Capricorn/Saturn  Structure, Perfection, Success Order & Mastery
Aquarius/Uranus  Overview, Liberation, Progress Objective, Detached
Pisces/Neptune Transcendence, Unity, Forgiveness  Blissful Unity 

Figure 1: Sign/Planet Motives and Target States

Calibration refers to the allowable degree of deviance from a target state before one is motivated to act. Every individual has a range of permissible feeling for a given motivational system. For Capricorn-Saturn, we tolerate a certain amount of failure or lack of success, beyond which we are motivated to achieve. For Venus, we will endure a measure of distance before needing to restore relatedness and intimacy with our significant other.

Again, the term for this fixed range is the calibration, or “setting” of the motivational system. This setting operates like an emotional thermostat. Just as a thermostat automatically responds to temperature changes by activating heating or cooling mechanisms, so human beings automatically respond to changes in affective states by activating corrective behaviors. This underscores that certain states are naturally and innately preferred over others.

With the Capricorn-Saturn system, if a person feels he is falling too far behind in his goals, he will tend to try harder; if he feels he is way ahead of schedule, he may, for the moment, relax and focus on some other need until he again feels an urgency to achieve. Each sign-planet in astrology has a desired (target) state. Capricorn-Saturn would be a state of order, control, and success. The degree of realization of the preferred state is continually monitored by a reference signal – an affect – that specifies the amount of deviance from the target state.

When a disturbance arises in the environment that has a destabilizing effect on the desired state, this effect is registered as a varying reference signal. The degree of variance from the target state represents a measure of error. The indication of error is then used to trigger a behavior that opposes the error. Thus, changes in action (output) are opposed to effects of disturbance (input) in exact measure as to the degree of error from the target state.

To put this in astrological terms, imagine an individual with a strong Capricorn-Saturn component to his personality. In addition to several planets in Capricorn, his natal Saturn conjuncts the M.C. and opposes Venus in the 4th. Saturn’s target state is a feeling of mastery and success. Of late, however, he has been underfunctioning on the job because he has been distracted by his marriage. His wife has been demanding that he spend more time with her and the children. Eventually his boss tells him that he is being demoted due to inferior productivity. This is the disturbance; his affective response includes feelings of anxiety, guilt, and failure. As a reference signal, such affects vary markedly from Saturn’s target state of success.

To the extent that he can tolerate feelings of failure and use them for motivation, he is likely to compensate by working harder, staying focused, putting in extra time, and so on, even though this might exacerbate stress on his Libra-Venus system. With Saturn as the more pressing need, his renewed dedication to work is calculated to counteract feelings of guilt and failure that have been evoked by his demotion. His goal is to re-establish a feeling of success in his career. Once this is accomplished, he can refocus on his marriage.

A primary goal of any organism is to restore balance (homeostasis) by counteracting disturbance and re-attaining its target states. An emotional variable that has slipped out of prescribed bounds is the system’s equivalent of motivation in the sense that it leads the individual to search for a means to bring it back into line. In the case above, the most intensely felt variable was Saturn with Venus hovering in the background and competing with Saturn as a dominant concern.

The point here is that an organism does not simply respond to an environmental stimulus in a direct, linear fashion; rather it controls its responses―turning certain functions on or off―by virtue of intrinsic reference signals: emotions. Human beings have internal needs, goals, and purposes independent of environmental circumstances. A person controls inputs in accord with the effect these inputs are likely to have on desired states. If the disturbing effect is allowed into consciousness―that is, if it is not suppressed, then the compensatory response is calculated to achieve the desired state. However, if the stimulus conflicts with a more pressing need, the individual may employ defenses to sustain the operation of whatever function (action) has top priority.

Imagine that our Saturn-Venus man is confronted by his wife who bitterly complains about his demanding schedule. Given that his job is on the line (he received a demotion), he is likely to use a Saturnian defense of devaluation (putting his wife down) in order to sustain his commitment to rehabilitate his career. He might say, “You’re being totally unreasonable! If I lose my job we can’t keep the house or afford to put the kids through private school!” The determining factor, again, is not the stimulus itself―his wife’s complaint―but the husband’s assessment of the effect her Venusian demands will have on his preferred state of career success (Saturn).

Feedback and TOTE Units
As living systems, human beings utilize feedback to regulate their functioning. A feedback loop is a process in which information about one’s current state is continually compared with a desired state as a way of keeping on track. It begins with some internal standard of comparison—a desired state of optimal satisfaction. In an attempt to achieve and maintain the standard, people compare where they are to where they want to be. If there is congruence, they terminate that set of behaviors; if there is incongruence, they continue to strive.

Open Systems Model

Figure 2: A Feedback Loop

Miller conceptualized this as a TOTE unit,3 which stands for the sequence of Testing one’s state against the standard, Operating if there is a discrepancy, again Testing, and finally Exiting when there is a match between the standard and one’s state of being. If we were to analyze a Taurus-Venus motivational system, Taurus is the need for financial security (safety, comfort, pleasure), and Venus is the capacity for fulfilling it and attaining the target state. As a TOTE unit, it might operate the following way:

  1. Testing: A person experiences a need for financial security and is motivated to satisfy it. He has a standard, or preferred state – prosperity – and tests his current state against the standard. Taking stock of his net worth, he realizes his savings are dangerously low.
  1. Operation: He sets a specific goal that he hopes will satisfy the motive. For example, he decides to embark on a savings plan of putting away $500 per/month, and implements the plan in hopes of satisfying the need for greater security.
  1. Testing: At completion of the behavior―that is, after each month of successfully meeting his goal, he checks (tests) to see if his savings plan has led to the desired state of prosperity. Perhaps he is still spending too much.
  1. Exiting: If his need for greater security is satisfied from attaining the goal, that motive will cease to be dominant and a new motive becomes foremost. After several years of saving for example, he may decide he wants to enjoy life more and plans for regular vacations with his wife (vacation = Leo-Sun motivational system). If, however, his savings did not lead to satisfaction, then he will have to “operate” again by coming up with a new plan.

In the above example, we can see how the Taurus-Venus state of prosperity becomes the standard for the operation of a TOTE feedback loop. Once the person feels the need and envisions its potential satisfaction (providing he believes it’s attainable), he engages in a behavior – saving money – aimed at achieving fulfillment. Upon reaching satisfaction, his state of being will match the standard and the sequence will end (or recede into the background). Every sign-planet motivational system operates in a similar way.

Strength & Functionality
The relative strength of a motive can be inferred from how a planet is constellated in the chart as a whole. If a particular sign is heavily tenanted by multiple planets, then the planet that rules that sign will be continually stimulated and constitute a recurrent state. If a planet is angular, heavily aspected, or in its own sign or house, then the affects related to that planet will likewise be strongly experienced and constitute a dominant motive. It follows that any combination of the above will reinforce the dominance of the affect/drive.

It should be noted that the strength of a planetary function is not the same thing as its degree of coordination with other parts of the self. One cannot tell merely by looking at the chart whether a predominant planet is integrated and functional; only that it will be a dominant affect. If sufficiently stressed by hard aspects or difficult sign or house placement, it might overfunction and be an ongoing challenge.

When a planet overfunctions, it tends to overshoot the mark. That is, it tries too hard to fulfill its motivating need. This is generally due to two interrelated factors. Pursuit of the need is associated with 1) anticipation of unwanted consequences related to a rival sign-planet system to which it is wedded (such as occurs with hard aspects); and 2) a fear that its own need may never be fulfilled. Subsequent efforts are thereby characterized by rigidity and excess. The native cannot stop doing the behavior in order to ward off the unwanted consequences of doing it (rigidity); and while doing it, overdoes it (takes it to an extreme). In effect, the planet overfunctions as a way of defending itself against other planetary functions with which it is inseparably related yet inextricably conflicted.

Charles Manson
To give one obvious example, Charles Manson has the Sun and three additional planets in Scorpio, with Pluto opposing his Moon and squaring Uranus (see Figure 3). Manson was born to an unmarried, alcoholic, sociopathic 16-year-old floozy who once sold Charles for a pitcher of beer. Though he was retrieved by an uncle, his mother eventually abandoned him altogether (after doing a 3 year stint for armed robbery). At age 13, he aped his mother’s crimes by committing a spree of armed robberies and was subsequently incarcerated at the Indiana Boys School (a reformatory “home”), where he would later claim he was brutalized sexually, emotionally, and physically.4 Needless to say, his lunar experience of mother and home(s) was horrific.

Manson, Charles

Figure 3: Charles Manson: Nov 12, 1934, 4:40pm, Cincinnati, Ohio

Recall that if a sign is heavily tenanted by multiple planets, then the planet that rules that sign will be continually stimulated and constitute a recurrent state. With four planets in Scorpio, the need for power and transformation is clearly a dominant motive, and Pluto will thus be continually stimulated. Moreover, Pluto is both angular and heavily aspected, further accentuating its status as a recurrent state and central theme in Manson’s life.

As Pluto is inextricably related to the Moon by virtue of being in the sign ruled by the Moon (Cancer), the house ruled by the Moon (4th), and opposing the Moon itself, activation of Pluto would simultaneously activate lunar needs for closeness, home, and family. It follows that the “unwanted consequences” that Manson anticipated from fulfilling his Scorpio-Plutonic needs were related to the Moon. Unconsciously he would believe that stimulation of lunar dependency needs via Pluto could only lead to more of what he had already experienced as a child: shame, rejection, and violation―in a word, trauma.

Manson’s experience of Plutonic wounding in relation to the 4th house/lunar theme of family was deep, pervasive, and intense. Whatever hope he might once have had for a healthy, functional family was surely destroyed by the time he reached adolescence. Without going into all the details, suffice to say that his need to feel empowered and capable of transforming a bad family experience into a good one was contaminated by the conviction that in pursuit of such a goal his trust would be violated and his dependency needs scorned. In effect, any need for maternal love and belonging (Moon) rendered him vulnerable to annihilation (Pluto) since his power was inadequate to prevent additional trauma. If nothing else, his entire childhood was proof of that.

As mentioned, when pursuit of one need is in conflict with another, the former can act as a defense against the latter. In so doing, it overfunctions―in this case, by being hyper-Plutonic, which is perhaps redundant since the very nature of Pluto tends to be extreme, but never more so than when operating as a defense against a painful, unhealed wound (Moon). So long as Pluto resists the function that needs healing, healing can never occur. This means Pluto can never cease operations because it is constantly stimulating the thing that it fears, which then rebounds upon Pluto, requiring further defensive maneuvers in a vicious, self-escalating cycle. This is like holding a hungry, squirming python by the throat knowing that eventually your grip will tire. You don’t dare release it; yet, the longer you hold it at bay, the less strength you have and the more dangerous it becomes. 

Functioning properly, Scorpio-Pluto transforms through a process of integrating the feared planet. It penetrates, exposes, and eliminates toxic elements while regenerating what has been wounded. This is what healing means; it restores integrity. If, however, Scorpio-Pluto is overfunctioning as a defense against an internal injury, then it becomes a source of dysfunction itself―twisted, deviant, and seeking power over the wounded part. Rather than eliminating what is toxic, it is itself toxic and strives to either subjugate or eliminate the planetary function (and its external representatives) that it has arrayed itself against. This is precisely what makes it vulnerable to possession by the feared element―a kind of unconscious embodiment of the repudiated planetary function―which is then acted out with a vengeance.

Charles Manson
Charles Manson

A common Scorpio-Pluto defense under such circumstances is projective identification: renounce the role of victim by doing to the other what has been done to you. Rather than gaining power by facing and working through fears, power is wrought by instilling fear in others; hence, the victim becomes the perpetrator. This is not the power of integrity, but of intimidation. Manson’s propensity for Plutonic power was immense, but it was not well integrated with the sign (Cancer) and house (4th) it tenanted, nor with the planets (Moon, Uranus, and Saturn) that it aspected.

Regardless of its defensive posture, Pluto is still influenced by the needs and feelings of the planets it repudiates. Dependency needs (Moon) creep in, even though dreaded; the Uranian penchant for revolutionary change is still operative, though intensified and darkened by Plutonic malice. And while Saturnian authority was reviled, Manson set himself up as a petty tyrant presiding over his own cult. Such contradictions make plain that while the psyche can repress unwanted needs, it cannot eliminate them entirely. Like monsters in classic horror films, eventually they break through into consciousness, wreaking havoc. Taken all together, Manson’s Pluto configuration is a psychological complex. 

The central issue, of course, was the Moon, which in Jungian terms was the nuclear heart of the complex. Like a beeping red light on your dashboard signaling engine malfunction, the Moon was continually sending out messages of distress. Manson needed to deal with his need for family but in a manner that protected himself from further harm. His final solution: the “Manson Family”, a paranoid cult comprised predominantly of woman who, hypnotized and controlled by Charlie’s Plutonic powers, were utterly subservient. To prevent what he unconsciously anticipated (rejection, violation), Manson could never let down his guard; thus, all woman were his sexual slaves, obedient to their master. In so doing, any possibility of rejection was minimized.

Moreover, his need for transformation was so extreme that he manipulated cult followers to commit murder for the sake of igniting a fantasized apocalyptic revolution (Helter Skelter) arising from racial tensions between blacks and whites. Manson’s plans for Helter Skelter clearly reveal the imprint of Uranus as the focal point of the T-Square with Moon and Pluto. Yet, as always, the lunar issue predominated, for the revolution he anticipated would be fueled by blacks feeling hated, rejected, and oppressed by whites―in a word, that they did not belong.

One suspects Manson unconsciously identified with the disempowerment and persecution of blacks at the hands of a powerful white majority―a central issue of the 1960’s with the black power movement, the murders of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, and the drama of Black Muslim, Muhammad Ali, defying the U.S. government. Manson’s fantasized race war in the American homeland reflected a wound involving his own internalized image and memories of home, now projected outwards. Like 18th century blacks abducted from their native lands, he was a stranger in a strange land. He had never belonged to anyone or anywhere. And for that, someone had to die.

It is chilling that Manson’s most famous victim was the beautiful blond actress Sharon Tate, murdered in her own home while eight months pregnant. Stabbed 16 times, Tate allegedly cried, “Mother…mother…” as she was being killed.5 An echo of the horror and pain Charlie must have felt the innumerable times his mother violated his trust? She behaved shamefully, acted criminally, turned tricks (prostitution), failed to protect him, forced him to live in sleazy motels, loved the bottle more, rejected and finally abandoned him. It must have killed his soul. Do to the other what has been done to you. In the end, even the womb was not safe from Charlie’s wrath. All of this is consistent with the preponderance of Scorpio planets and the T-square that Pluto forms to Moon and Uranus. But it is far, far from functional.

Dominant planets like Manson’s Pluto are apt to symbolize a chronic “mood,” for a mood is simply a relatively stable pattern of feeling, a kind of global affective response pattern that is more diffuse and enduring than an affect. It is not merely a response to a specific event, but rather a persistent attitude that saturates a person’s every perception, thought, and behavior. If the planet is Jupiter, the person may be perpetually optimistic, if Saturn, chronically depressed, and if Pluto, deeply paranoid. These affects would repeatedly activate the corresponding planetary function to satisfy the need that the emotion conveys. But if that planet is so defended that it cannot properly integrate with other functions, then it becomes a perpetual sore point, an endless longing, a need that can never be fulfilled.

Summary & Preview
To summarize, people become aware of basic needs through the processing of information from the environment to which they have a visceral response. They experience these responses as emotional states that motivate them to act in state-specified ways; that is, to choose behavioral goals that will result in the desired state of need satisfaction. They tend to persist until the goals are achieved and the needs are fulfilled. If their behavioral strategies prove effective, then goal attainment will result in need satisfaction and termination of the behavioral sequence. Otherwise, individuals are compelled to reevaluate their strategy and decide on a new goal or a new approach.

Astrologically, this process can be understood by relating sign-planet motivational systems to specific affects that are experienced on a range of intensity. Each sign-planet system has a target state, or preferred feeling, that is experienced as a varying reference signal. Deviation from the target state evokes a disturbing affect, which, in turn, stimulates a corrective planetary action that is calculated to achieve the desired feeling. Planets, therefore, symbolize flowing goal-oriented movements that constitute a series of operations conducing toward an end. Such processes involve continuous change until the goal state is reached.

In real life, of course, more than one motivational system can be triggered at the same time, such as when planets are in aspect. Activation of one need simultaneously activates the other. If there is a conflict between the two needs, as is frequently the case, one planet may overfunction as a defense against the other, as we saw in the case of Charles Manson.

In subsequent columns, we will explore how hard aspects can symbolize contradictory states and cognitive dissonance, and why deep attunement to one’s internal world is essential if intrapsychic conflicts are to be resolved.

* * * * *

For information about upcoming AAP courses, click here


1 Perry, G. (2012). Depth analysis of the natal chart. Haddam Neck, CT: APA Press

2 Perry, G. (2012). An introduction to AstroPsychology. Haddam Neck, CT: APA Press

3 Miller, G.A., Galanter, E., & Pribram, K.A. (1960). Plans and the structure of behavior. NY: Holt.

Emmons, Nuel. (1988). Manson in his own words. New York: Grove Press

5 Watson, C., Chapter 14,, “Will You Die For Me?” p. 71. Retrieved June 11, 2016. Manson himself did not murder Tate, but rather directed his followers to “kill them all.”




Pin It on Pinterest