Chris Dorner Birth Chart and Synchronicity
A Unitary Model of Motivation
By Glenn Perry
Human motivation is typically discussed in terms of extrinsic or intrinsic causes. In this article, however, we will examine motivation in a wider context of synchronicity and circular causality. From a synchronistic perspective, external events may actually be extensions of internal motivating factors which, in turn, are linked to cosmic powers (archetypes) that are inherently intelligent and intentional. To illustrate how events can have transcendent meaning, we will examine the birth chart of Chris Dorner, the deceased Los Angeles Police Officer who went on a murderous rampage earlier this year. Dorner’s case exemplifies the tragic consequences of failure to discern an event’s evolutionary purpose.
Motivation and the Universal Psyche
Psychologists initially depicted human beings as passive agents of forces beyond their control. These passive-mechanistic theories regarded motivation as extrinsic to the individual, meaning rooted in material conditions (physiology and environment) outside of individual consciousness. Intrinsic motivation, which was proposed later, was based entirely on psychological factors—innate needs, goals, and purposes—that require no biological or sociological basis. Intrinsic motivation is perfectly in accord with the meaning of zodiacal signs.1 A sign-need can be inferred from behavior that is characteristic of that sign. Accordingly, each sign symbolizes a fundamental human need, or motive, which impels its ruling planet to act in its service.
Jung’s concept of synchronicity is an implicit theory of motivation that transcends the linear and deterministic thinking of passive-mechanistic models, as well as the concepts of purely psychological theories. As such, it can serve as the basis for a more complex, unifying motivational model rooted in astrology. Jung repeatedly observed that events in the outer world seemed to coincide meaning¬fully with inner psychic states. They were not necessarily causally related, but symbolically so; inner and outer events were isomorphic in that they had the same or similar quality. Jung concluded that the workings of archetypes could be discerned not only in subjective phenomena such as dreams and myths, but in objective phenomena as well. He was intrigued with the possibility that psyche merged with outer reality to form a unitary reality transcending the antithesis of subject and object.
The specifics of synchronistic events, he thought, could actually be the exterior coverings of archetypal energy projecting forth from consciousness onto the material plane. Archetypes, Jung concluded, were psychoid; that is, they shape matter as well as mind. When an archetype appeared externally in the form of an event, that event was synchronistic precisely because it represented a meaningful arrangement of inner psychic and outer facts. In this sense, events can be considered symbolic derivatives of consciousness.
Jung defined synchronicity as the simultaneous occurrence of a certain psychic state with one or more external events that appear as meaningful parallels to the momentary subjective state.2 The problem with this definition, however, is that it is confined more-or-less to single instances of synchronicity. What the theory actually implies is that any habitual psychic state or attitude will be reflected by an ongoing pattern of external events that meaningfully parallel the habitual subjective state. This, of course, is the core doctrine of astrology: every psychological factor—need, emotion, belief, attitude, and behavior—is symbolized by some part of the chart, which also symbolizes an event, person, place, or thing. The implication is that internal and external conditions are synchronistically related on a constant basis. Character is destiny. This idea is fundamental to the astrological world-view.
Jung’s notion of synchronicity is relevant to our theory of astrological motivation, for it reconciles the apparent contradiction between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. No one doubts that human beings are responsive to external stimuli. Likewise, there are certain fundamental human needs that impel behavior from within and that operate relatively independent of environmental conditions. But synchronicity suggests that both internal and external causes are mirrors of one another. More to the point, it implies that extrinsic motivation is really intrinsic motivation disguised as an event. This is because psyche is non-local in the sense that it includes its environmental relations; events are derivatives of consciousness and are purposeful to the extent that they motivate the individual to make whatever behavioral adjustments are necessary to assure need satisfaction.
All of this underscores that astrological archetypes are evident not only in the structure of the psyche, but also in our ongoing experiences with the material world. Physiological processes, political events, societal institutions, community affairs, and experiences of everyday life are thought to be manifestations of archetypal patterns in nature. It follows that the particular relation of the individual to these archetypal manifestations is a reflection of that individual’s consciousness—i.e., the degree to which he has integrated the relevant archetype(s). Again, this was the basis of Jung’s theory of synchronicity: psyche cannot be separated from the events to which it adheres.
The Case of Christopher Dorner
Sometime during the evening of February 3rd, 2013, former Los Angeles Police officer, Chris Dorner, assassinated 28-year old Monica Quan and her finance, Keith Lawrence. Monica was the daughter of Los Angeles police captain Randal Quan. Both were on Dorner’s 40-person hit list. All targeted individuals were in some way connected to Dorner’s failed court case against the LAPD. Vowing to wage “unconventional and asymmetric warfare” until the LAPD publically admitted he was fired in retaliation for reporting excessive force, Dorner killed two more officers before barricading himself in a remote cabin near Big Bear Mountain. Surrounded on all sides and refusing to surrender, he suicided with a pistol shot to the head.
What is most unusual about Dorner’s case is that according to all reports he was a perpetually cheerful, responsible, and intelligent individual with no history of mental illness prior to being fired. Hardworking and morally upstanding, Dorner came from an admired family, played football at Southern Utah University, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science, and served honorably in the U.S. Navy as a Lieutenant and reservist from 2002-2013, receiving numerous awards and decorations.
On the day following Quan’s murder, Dorner published a 20-page manifesto on Facebook, “To: America. Subject: Last resort,” which outlines the series of events that culminated in his decision to go nuclear.3 It is simultaneously a confession, declaration of war, and goodbye, “I will not be alive to see my name cleared,” writes Dorner, “That’s what this is about, my name.” In his manifesto, we learn about Dorner directly, including his actual motives for the shootings. There is no sensational court trial with shifty lawyers distorting the truth and prostituting themselves in deliverance of a defendant’s twisted, self-exonerating version of events. Instead we have a raw, brutally honest life story, the tragedy and pathology of his psyche laid bare.
The key event(s) that precipitated Dorner’s killing spree extended from 2007 through 2011. He joined the LAPD in 2005 and was completing his training when, on July 28 2007, he and his training officer, Teresa Evans, were called to subdue a mentally ill man who was causing a disturbance. According to a report filed by Dorner, Evans used excessive force in arresting the suspect, twice kicking him in the face while he was handcuffed and lying on the ground. The mentally ill man, Richard Gettler, received medical treatment for minor injuries to his face and later told his father that Evans had, in fact, kicked him. Gettler repeated this claim in a videotaped disposition. Despite Dorner’s report, the victim’s corroborating testimony, the father’s testimony, and Evan’s own history of previous infractions of a similar nature, no action was taken against her. Instead, after a brief investigation, Dorner’s employment was terminated on September 4, 2008 by the LAPD for allegedly making false statements against Evans.
Dorner appealed his termination in one court after another between 2009 and 2011. Each higher court, however, sided with the LAPD and upheld the lower court’s rulings, stating that Dorner was not credible in his allegations against Evans. This enraged Dorner as he screamed in disbelief at the end of the hearing, “But I told the truth! How could this (ruling) happen?!” It is worth noting that Dorner’s dismissal cost him not only his job, but also his security clearances and thus his Navy career as well. In his manifesto, an outraged Dorner asserted that his wrongful dismissal was his prime motivation for the shootings.
I have taken some time to outline these events in order to establish what motivated Dorner to act as he did. Recall that the larger question is how synchronicity and motivation are related. Before detailing the synchronistic nature of the events that precipitated Dorner’s decision to kill, it will be helpful to see how the pattern, both psychological and situational, is symbolized in Dorner’s birth chart.
Chris Dorner Birth Chart
Space prohibits a full analysis of all factors that may be contributory to Dorner’s story, so I will limit myself to a single configuration, which is, I suspect, the heart of the matter. Also, keep in mind that we do not yet have a birth time for Dorner, so no mention will be made of house positions.
Chris Dorner: June 4, 1979. New York, NY (Noon chart; time unknown)
The configuration in question is Dorner’s Sun conjunct Mercury in Gemini with both planets opposing Neptune in Sagittarius. While this configuration can manifest in a multiplicity of ways, I will direct my comments to the known circumstances of Dorner’s life and the choices he has actually made.
The Sun, of course, symbolizes the will and identity. As the ruler of Leo, its motivating needs are for self-esteem and creative self-expression. If all goes well, the will is employed in decisions—self-expression—that result in experiences of approbation, approval, and validation. To the extent these needs are met, the individual develops a solid sense of self and enduring self-esteem.
Mercury, as the ruler of Gemini and Virgo, is motivated by needs for learning and communication (Gemini), as well as competency and service (Virgo). Given that Mercury is in its own sign, this underscores the importance of communication in Dorner’s chart, as evidenced by his 20-page manifesto in which he details all the relevant facts leading up to his tragic final act.
Opposing all of this is Neptune, which has its own set of motivations. As ruler of Pisces, Neptune is obligated to fulfill needs for transcendence of ego, surrender to a higher power, and sacrifice for the greater good. To the extent individuals realize these spiritual ideals, they develop compassion for human suffering and a willingness to forgive both self and others for the inevitable flaws and failings of being human. Like all transpersonal planets, however, Neptune’s imperatives are a challenge to personal needs and wants. Especially difficult are hard aspects to Mercury and the Sun. This is underscored by the fact that these two planets rule signs that are either square (Gemini), opposed (Virgo), or quincunx (Leo) to Pisces.
Neptune’s penchant for fantasy, idealism and imagination can conflict with Mercury’s focus on empirical data. Accordingly, the way one wants things to be can distort one’s view of how things actually are. This gives rise to Mercury-Neptune’s reputation for telling less than the whole truth. In addition, Neptune requires seeing beyond mere facts or whether a job has been properly done; rather, its focus is on cultivating forbearance and forgiveness for situations that may be irreparable. Although Mercury is our problem solving function, Neptune reminds us that problems should not be confused with predicaments. A predicament can be defined as a difficult, unpleasant, or embarrassing situation from which there is no clear or easy way out, and often no way out at all.
When in hard aspect to the Sun, Neptune will eventually oblige the native to sacrifice egoic needs for triumph, being right, and winning accolades. To foster Piscean attributes of soul, this god of the oceanic depths is renown for experiences that defeat the personal will, dissolve attachments to a glorified self-image, and force one to endure loss, humiliation, and degradation. If the individual is able and willing to work through such experiences, the spiritual yield is considerable: resiliency, compassion, humility, capacity for forgiveness, and willingness to turn over to a higher power that which is beyond personal control. As befits watery Pisces, one is more able to flow with life’s ups and downs, victories and defeats, gains and losses, without loss of equanimity.
Conversely, if one is unwilling to accede to Neptune’s demands, defenses are erected and strategies employed that may forestall but can never prevent the collapse the ego so desperately wishes to avoid. Solar defenses entail an appropriation of Neptunian functions, but for the sake of the ego. Rather than accept personal limitations, the individual feels unlimited in his ability to control events and people; the self becomes inflated, grandiose, and mythically heroic in a deluded, self-aggrandizing way. All of Neptune’s primary concerns remain operative—e.g., the wish to relieve suffering, administer to victims, and identify with the whole of universal life—but without a concomitant reduction in personal self-importance. Instead, there is a rigid, compensatory exaggeration of self as a defense against the terror of ego annihilation.
This exemplifies a cardinal rule in any hard aspect: mutual influence and reciprocal resistance. In resisting Neptune, the Sun hypertrophies into a bloated, hyperbolic caricature of self-confidence (hubris, arrogance); yet, is still influenced by Neptune, as evidenced by the self’s intent to do something extraordinary that benefits the collective. The incongruity between self-aggrandizement and self-abnegation does not appear to be consciously recognized. To the extent that a functional blend between the two planets is lacking, Sun and Neptune are set off against one another, with a back and forth movement from one extreme to the other. Just as the Sun puffs up in reaction to Neptune, so Neptune warps into total victim status in reaction to the Sun. The individual alternately assumes these different identities without awareness of the inherent contradiction.
In Dorner’s manifesto, for example, he details ad nauseam how he was victimized by the LAPD. They lied, they’re racist, they ruined his life. “Evans…you destroyed my life and name because of your actions,” he writes. “I’ve lost a relationship with my mother and sister because of the LAPD. I’ve lost a relationship with close friends because of the LAPD. In essence, I’ve lost everything because the LAPD took my name and knew I was INNOCENT!!!” He goes on like this for 20 pages, repeating over and over how he was betrayed, slandered, and libeled. In Dorner’s mind, the significance of his victimization is so monumental that he implores journalists to investigate his entire life history to establish his good character.
It is not clear why relationships with friends and family were allegedly lost due to the LAPD. I suppose even a mother may grow tired of a son’s interminable self-pity and vindictive rage. One suspects that Dorner doth protest too much, for his passionate self-defense suggests he may be harboring a guilty conscience. However, rather than accept even a smidgen of responsibility for his difficulties with the LAPD, Dorner can only play the victim.
That he was not always innocent is evident in the following. While on patrol, Dorner overheard two fellow officers use the word ‘nigger’ in reference to the black community. Dorner admits he leapt over a passenger seat grabbed the neck of the offending officer and squeezed. “Don’t fucking say that,” he warned. A violent scuffle broke out and he subsequently initiated a formal complaint against them. Later, during the review of his case involving Evans, the department charged that he bullied his fellow officers as evidenced by the aforementioned incident. “How fucking dare you attempt to label me with such a nasty vile word,” he writes. He then lists all the places he’s lived and all the schools he’s attended so that journalists can investigate his good character and chronicle for the entire world to see that he’s not a bully. “I didn’t need the US Navy to instill Honor, Courage, and Commitment in me,” growls Dorner, “It’s in my DNA.”
It is important to understand that even while Dorner raged against his ‘wrongful dismissal’ by the LAPD, he could never actually grieve the loss or fully, consciously accept the experience. This illustrates the extent to which his solar identity and will are polarized to Neptune. He is momentarily seized by Neptune as victim, only to rebound back to his Sun and polarize to Neptune with a near hysterical vengeance. Unwilling to accept that there are certain types of experiences that a mere act of will cannot alter, e.g., being ‘right’ and ‘good’ does not exempt one from loss or tragedy, he rails against God like a crazed Job with violent intentions. In his manifesto he recalls how, as a child, he was disciplined for fighting when fellow students called him ‘nigger’ and other racial names. When he was told by the principal that good Christians turn the other cheek, Dorner stiffened in cold rage. “I’m not a fucking Christian…That day I made a life decision that I will not tolerate derogatory terms spoken to me.” His mother told him that sometimes bad things happen to good people. “I refuse to accept that,” writes Dorner.
These statements are significant, for again they illustrate his ongoing struggle against Neptune’s prime directive for spiritual surrender. If Neptune were integrated, he would be able to grieve, turn it over to God, and ultimately forgive his perpetrators after doing whatever he could legally to rectify the situation. Likewise on a solar level, he would soften and accept some responsibility for his predicament. It is noteworthy that only after his training officer, Teresa Evans, filed a report critical of his performance that Dorner then filed his report charging her with ‘excessive force’. One can easily imagine how the LAPD might conclude that Dorner’s report was both retaliatory and an attempt to discredit her appraisal of him. This, in fact, was their argument in the court case that Dorner brought against them.
Rather than see both sides of the situation, however, Dorner’s Sun blew up like a supernova and morphed into an avenging angel. In an attempt to push away Neptunian feelings of helplessness, guilt, and grief, the solar ego compensates by reacting in the opposite direction. Still influenced by Neptune, yet holding to an image of himself as faultless, Dorner transformed into a moral crusader with transcendent powers to avenge the weak, clear his name and singlehandedly change the LAPD’s culture of corruption. “You have awoken a sleeping giant,” he writes. “The culture of LAPD versus the community and honest/good officers needs to and will change. I am here to correct and calibrate your morale compasses to true north.”
Throughout his manifesto, he brags about his superior intelligence and marksmanship, his indifference to death, and his mastery of weaponry and warfare. He tells the LAPD exactly how he intends to kill them and why they cannot stop him. “You cannot prevail against an enemy combatant who has no fear of death,” he says. “You will now live the life of the prey.” Here we see how Neptunian fantasy infects the solar identity in a virulent form; suddenly this former cop-in-training is a comic book superhero posturing as an invincible agent of cosmic justice. “You are a high value target,” Dorner individually warns Caucasian, Black, Lesbian, Hispanic, and Asian officers, all of whom are accused of victimizing the innocent in one way or another. For those who were directly involved in his court case, he promises to stalk and kill their children. “I never had the opportunity to have a family of my own, I’m terminating yours. Quan, Anderson, Evans…look your wives/husbands and surviving children directly in the face and tell them the truth as to why your children are dead.”
One can glean from these statements the extent to which his Sun is polarized to Neptune while still being heavily influenced by it. He cannot accept being a victim; instead, he will fight heroically and sacrificially for all victims. Railing against people who resist gun laws, he tells Wayne LaPierre, President of the NRA, “you’re a vile and inhumane piece of shit….May all of your immediate and distant family die horrific deaths in front of you.” Apparently, Dorner wants to prevent crazed killers like Adam Lanza (of the Newtown massacre) from obtaining firearms; yet, he himself is a cold-blooded murderer and best reason for anyone who wishes to own a gun. Dorner does not see the contradiction. Whereas Neptune requires surrender to a higher power, he becomes the higher power and demands that all surrender to him. In a twisted, narcissistic perversion of authentic spirituality, he elects himself to be an agent of divine retribution. The mayhem will only stop, Dorner says, “when the department states the truth about my innocence, PUBLICLY!!!”
Synchronicity and Extrinsic Motivation
Earlier I stated that extrinsic motivation takes the form of an event that mirrors an internal attitude while also providing a catalyst for psycho-spiritual growth. Our question is how exactly this occurred in the case of Chris Dorner. The relevant events occurred during the period 2007-2011. Dorner reported Evans for using excessive force in August 2007 and ten months later was relieved of his duties for ‘making up’ that Evans had kicked the suspect. From 10/08 through 02/09, he attended a department hearing for decision of continued employment, which he lost. A series of three appeals followed, culminating in the California Court of Appeal affirming the lower court’s rulings on October 3, 2011. According to a report in the NY times, Dorner’s allegation that he was unjustly fired resonated among some LAPD employees “who have criticized the department’s disciplinary system, calling it capricious and retaliatory toward those who try to expose misconduct.”4
While it is worthwhile to consider the relevant transits and progressions that were occurring during this time, let us delay that analysis momentarily. I am more interested here in discerning the potential purpose of the aforementioned events—to wit, the specifics of his termination by the LAPD and the period surrounding it. Assuming that Dorner, in fact, was a victim of wrongful dismissal, what might be the significance of such an event from an archetypal perspective?
In an attempt to answer this question, let us first review our general theory behind synchronicity and extrinsic motivation. Individuals express archetypal forces through their thoughts, fantasies, and behaviors. It may be that such expressions reverberate within the collective consciousness—the divine ground—and influence Its response. In other words, the individual psyche acts back on the objective psyche from which it derives and with which it is indissolubly associated. Thus a feedback cycle is established: (1) the individual experiences an internal state that motivates an action; (2) the action has an effect upon the collective consciousness; and (3) that effect reverberates back upon the individual in the form of an event of similar quality, which informs his next response, and so the cycle continues. A feedback cycle has no clear beginning or end. An event can motivate from without just as a need can motivate from within. Motives, rooted in archetypes, have internal and external correlates.
An important element of synchronicity is what it implies about the purpose of an event. Rather than simply ask how something occurred (what caused it), Jung asked: what did it happen for? Every archetype, thought Jung, had its own energy and intention. Although there were no laws governing the specific form in which an archetype might appear, there were definite tendencies dependent upon the situation at hand.
Jung noted that synchronicities were most apparent when the individual was undergoing some sort of crisis, or change. Astrologically, we know that such changes are precipitated by specific transits and progressions that manifest within and without. The formation of psychic patterns within the uncon¬scious seems to be accompanied by physical patterns in the outer world. Synchroni¬cities reached their peak, thought Jung, when the individual was in a heightened state of awareness, such as occurred during periods of transformation: births, deaths, moves, marriage, divorce, intense creative work, or a change in career. Internal restructuring seems to produce and require external resonances; that is, synchronicities are outer circumstances that afford a vehicle and catalyst for interior transformations. In short, they motivate the individual to change in specific ways.
Traits, Transits, and Synchronicities
We can hypothesize that this is exactly what was occurring during the critical time of 06/08 to 01/09 when Dorner was relieved of duty and then fought to be reinstated. It was precisely during this six-month period that transiting Saturn conjuncted itself (Saturn return) and then squared his Sun/Mercury-Neptune opposition. A number of statements in his manifesto highlight the significance of this period. He twice mentions the date of 1/2/09 when his department hearing for continued employment went against him: “Since 6/26/08 when I was relieved of duty and 1/2/09 when I was terminated I have been afflicted with severe depression….I do not fear death as I died long ago on 1/2/09.”
Saturn’s linkage with frustration and depression has long been established, as the word ‘saturnine’ (gloomy and morose) clearly indicates. More importantly, Saturn’s square to his natal Sun/Mercury-Neptune opposition suggests this is a period in which Dorner will be obliged to do serious inner work on the aspect in question. One can imagine the ordeal of putting together his case, finding corroborative witnesses, and fighting through the fog of confusion, deceit, and denial in the LAPD’s case against him (transiting Saturn square Mercury-Neptune). In addition, he was fighting to restore his honor and clear his name against false charges that could permanently scar his reputation (Saturn square Sun-Neptune). Of course, none of this is related to the inner work that the transit requires, a point we will return shortly.
Our hypothesis is that these outer events not only reflected Dorner’s psyche; they provided an appropriate vehicle for the inner work that was required. Accepting that Dorner’s version is true, he was the apparent victim of a deception. First, Evans lied about kicking the suspect; then the department accused Dorner of making false statements in retaliation for Evan’s poor evaluation of his performance in the field. In other words, they claimed he was lying to protect his career. In turn, Dorner accused the LAPD of lying to protect their image as a law abiding public institution.
Regardless of who was lying to whom, the entire incident is certainly reflective of natal Sun/Mercury opposing Neptune. First, if Dorner is correct, the LAPD denied and distorted the facts of the matter, which reflects Mercury opposed Neptune. Moreover, they did it to save face, which is consistent with Sun opposed Neptune. One can well imagine the LAPD’s humiliation if it came out that one of their own kicked a mentally ill man in the face after he was handcuffed and lying on the ground. This is the second significant aspect of the ‘event’, namely the accusation of excessive force against a helpless victim. And finally, it was not merely that the LAPD failed to prosecute Evans, they turned on Dorner and terminated his employment.
I have already stated that these outer events reflect some aspect of Dorner’s psyche. Evidence for this is that the LAPD’s behavior is consistent with the meaning of a major configuration in Dorner’s chart. If we accept that Sun/Mercury opposed Neptune not only symbolizes a fate, i.e., an ongoing pattern of outer events, but also and more importantly a pattern of inner events—specifically, a mental and egoic pattern made up of attitudes, traits, and habits that constitute Dorner’s character—then the implication is clear: the outer situation reflects an inner one.
It is not difficult to see that Dorner’s behavior is consistent with that of the LAPD. Given that Dorner’s accusation against Evans occurred the day following her negative appraisal of him, it is certainly feasible that his report was, in part, motivated by revenge. Her criticisms were not only an affront to his ego; they put his career in jeopardy. Accordingly, he reacted in kind. That he is prone to vengeful behavior is well established by the murders he later committed in retaliation for his alleged ‘wrongful dismissal’. And since he might not have been entirely honest about his reasons for reporting Evans, this throws into some doubt the facts of the report itself. If the kick did occur, how intentional was it? Could it have been inadvertent, a relatively minor infraction that did not rise to the level of police brutality? All of this is to say that Dorner’s report may have skewed the facts in the service of his own self-interest.
Secondly, there is the issue of excessive force. This was the gist of Dorner’s charge against Evans, who, allegedly, overreacted when Gettler resisted arrest. But Dorner, too, has a history of excessive force. He reacted violently when children called him names, and he attacked a fellow officer for saying the word ‘nigger’ in reference to other blacks. Jumping over a car seat and grabbing the officer by the throat could certainly be construed as bully tactics, regardless of how justified Dorner was in being offended. This, of course, pales in comparison to his murderous rampage in retaliation for being fired. It is no small irony that Dorner resorted to excessive force to avenge his firing for reporting excessive force.
Thirdly, the LAPD’s retaliation against Dorner for reporting Evans’ misconduct is mirrored by Dorner’s own subsequent behavior. A scapegoat is someone who is forced to suffer and take the blame for other’s wrongdoing. When the LAPD targeted Dorner as a ‘bad cop’ who betrayed his own, they were transferring blame from Evans (and themselves) to him. Their reason for doing so was ostensibly to protect their image and ‘save face’. Such thin-skinned, morally bankrupt behavior was an attempt to prevent their humiliation, at Dorner’s expense. Likewise, however, when Dorner constructed his 40-person hit list, his intent was to inflict suffering upon innocent victims, including children, in retaliation for what a few officers had done. Moreover, his actions were a defense against the humiliation of being fired. As Dorner put it, “This was a necessary evil that had to be executed in order for me to obtain my NAME back.” In his mind, it was justifiable to destroy the lives of innocents merely to defend his honor. Note this is exactly what the LAPD did to him. What he demonized in them, he was guilty of himself at a whole other level of magnitude.
A surface reading of the events might lead one to conclude that Dorner’s behavior was merely a reaction to LAPD actions that caused him great pain. This is the popular rendition of the story circulating on the Internet: he was the victim of a grave injustice, and heroically fought to restore his honor and change the system! However, there are reasons to believe that Dorner’s actions were not merely the effect of causes that preceded and originated independently of his own consciousness; rather, it may be the other way around: the events of 06/08 to 01/09 were reflections not causes of Dorner’s psyche. First, his behavior was entirely consistent with his birth chart, which depicts his character structure a priori. Second, there is empirical evidence that deception, defensiveness, and vindictiveness were characteristic of Dorner before his employment was terminated. And third, he had free will. Regardless of whether he was a victim of wrongful dismissal, Dorner had options other than murder. That he chose revenge was an expression of his character, not merely of the events that befell him.
Dorner’s Missed Opportunity
It is not enough merely to point out correlations between Dorner’s character and the events he experienced. At best, this is blaming the victim. And I do not wish to trivialize the anguish a human being can feel when his reputation has been denigrated, his dreams shattered, and his character unjustly maligned. Yet, the true significance of these events is that they provided Dorner an opportunity to evolve beyond the level that was being mirrored to him by agents within the LAPD.
As Jung would do, we must ask: What did the event happen for? Where was it leading to? A teleological perspective holds that important life events occur for the sake of development toward a more optimal state of being—in effect, to fulfill one’s destiny. Difficulties are purposive in that they provide both a catalyst and a vehicle for growth toward a higher, more integrated version of oneself. Dorner already admitted that his wrongful dismissal was his primary motivation for the shootings. But surely this decision did not come easily. His final court appeal ended on October 3, 2011. More than a year passed before the shootings began on February 3, 2013. During this time, I suspect he struggled over what to do. His manifesto reveals he had many conversations with friends and family about the matter.
In systems theory, Dorner was at a ‘bifurcation point’ in the evolution of a system. A horoscope (psyche) is a system; that is, an assemblage of parts with relations between them. Bifurcation points occur in response to crises that the system cannot resolve at its current level of organization. Accordingly, the system is at a cross roads, and must choose between alternative courses of action. Growth occurs when the system is able to resolve the crisis by achieving a higher level integration of its parts, which, in turn, yields new, emergent properties—skills and abilities that did not previously exist. But growth is not a given, for living systems are dynamic, autonomous entities that have the freedom to choose.
In Dorner’s case, we must assume there was no fait accompli, no irresistible compulsion that forced him to murder. During the period in question, he was at a crossroads that presented a choice: the low road or the high road. To feel better about events that were clearly beyond his control, he could not continue to function at his current level of consciousness. In effect, his predicament—the deception and vindictiveness of his nemesis—not only mirrored traits within his own character, it provided him the opportunity to transcend the pattern by allowing himself to suffer fully the emotional consequences of such behavior. Regrettably, that is often the only way that certain kinds of learning can occur.
In our current feel-good culture that avoids pain at all costs (take a pill and call a lawyer), it may seem odd indeed to describe Dorner’s suffering as an opportunity for transcendence. Yet, that is Neptune’s higher expression, and Dorner was unmistakably in a Neptunian situation. Not only was transiting Saturn activating his Sun/Mercury opposition to Neptune, but the crushing loss of his naval and police career, as well as the manner in which it occurred (treachery, deceit), bear the unmistakable stamp of Neptune.
Recall that an astrological archetype is a motivating principle whether it occurs as an inner state or outer event. Dorner’s experience as a whole could have motivated him to rebalance his Sun/Mercury with Neptune. In part, this would mean strengthening the weakest link. His self-esteem was clearly linked to his identity as a strong, powerful man (military/law enforcement); thus, it was the opposite pole—humility, compassion, and surrender to a higher power—that was the greater challenge. The humiliating loss of his career must surely have plunged him into despair. It is precisely at such times that human beings fall to their knees and pray—for strength to bear the loss, for wisdom to understand it, and often for forgiveness. These are the times that test our faith and compel us to turn inward and draw upon our spiritual resources.
Like all planetary functions, Neptune signifies a capacity. We tend to think of this in purely positive terms, such as our capacity for idealism, imagination, charity, and so forth. But these capacities grow out of a deeper, less celebrated aptitude—an ability to submit, let go, and place our trust in the unknown source of our own consciousness, that invisible presence variously referred to as God, Tao, Brahman, the Absolute, and a thousand other names. When all has been lost and vaunted will has failed to turn the tide, we turn to Spirit as a source of solace and strength. Again, however, this is a capacity, which is stronger or weaker depending upon our relationship to Neptune. Dorner’s ordeal could be construed as an opportunity to strengthen his neptunian capacities. That, precisely, was its higher purpose.
There is an abundance of evidence that Dorner went kicking and screaming into that good neptunian night. In his manifesto, he admits “I’m not a fucking Christian,” and “though not a religious man, I always stuck to my own personal code of ethics…” Clearly, having a code of ethics was not enough. The solution to his predicament did not require a Jupiterian response (law, ethics, morality), for that was tried and failed. What was needed was a capacity for letting go and letting God, for ego dissolution, and for grieving his loss with unadulterated compassion for his own suffering.
That he was unwilling to do this is suggested by a treasured quote given to him by a friend. Dorner says he never forgot the quote: “’I never saw a wild thing feel sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever feeling sorry for itself.’ ~ D.H. Lawrence.” Perhaps he took this to mean that he should not feel sorry (have compassion) for himself; that instead he should bury his pain and stay strong. Research indicates, however, that repressing one’s pain merely causes it to persist at an unconscious level. Unable to be properly metabolized, it festers, spreads, and ultimately infects the entire psyche such that all one’s feelings and thoughts are poisoned by it. Such undigested pain may be the true genesis of the murderous hatred that eventually drives one to kill. How interesting that Dorner himself dropped dead in the frozen, wintry mountains of California, a wild thing killed by a self-administered bullet to the head. One suspects he did so in order to not ‘feel sorry’ for himself.
There is another factor worth considering. Recall that Dorner’s Sun and Mercury are in Gemini. The fact that Gemini is archetypally square Pisces and opposed Sagittarius signifies that it has difficulty with both these signs. Pisces is all about letting go, whereas Sagittarius is about abstract reasoning and the ability to arrive at a sound conclusion. If properly integrated with Gemini, these signs confer a capacity to examine the facts (Gemini), accept what cannot be changed (Pisces), and settle upon the proper philosophic attitude (Sagittarius). For example, the person might say to himself: “Sometimes bad things happen to good people. I will endeavor to forgive my adversaries and trust that everything happens for a reason, even if for the moment I cannot understand it.”
If not properly integrated, Gemini has a tendency to obsess over the facts, going round and round in circles without ever getting anywhere. In the vernacular, this is ‘being stuck’. A hint of this was evident in Dorner’s courtroom cry when the verdict went against him, “But I told the truth! How could this happen?!” Without an ability to let go and accept on faith that his experience is serving a purpose that may only be understood much later, Dorner is apt to keep repeating this Gemini mantra, “How could this happen…how could this happen…how could this happen…” like a broken record stuck on an unanswerable question that ultimately drives everyone away, and himself crazy.
This is not to say that Dorner was a victim of his birth chart. It simply underscores his failure to develop the requisite attitude and understanding that could have saved him. Astrologically, such an attitude is perfectly symbolized by Neptune in Sagittarius, the opposite and complementary pole to his Mercury/Sun in Gemini. When painful events occur that are beyond one’s control, the only thing that is within control is one’s attitude toward the events in question. Ideally, this means humble acceptance of God’s will coupled with a willingness to learn from the experience. But Dorner tried to elevate himself above his fate and do the impossible—force the LAPD to recant their charges—and failing that, to kill and kill again. Such vengeful hubris was bound to end in disaster—which literally means ‘against the stars’.
An unrealistic, exaggerated, or rigidly held sense of entitlement is a symptom of narcissistic personality disorder. We do not know much about Dorner’s background; however, no mention in existing documents is made of his father. If Dorner never knew his father or suffered an early loss of paternal love, which is not uncommon with Sun opposition Neptune, this might have contributed to his exaggerated sense of entitlement. As Fenichel writes, such individuals “because of early frustrations…arrogate to themselves the right to demand lifelong reimbursement from fate.”6 In other words, if a boy’s capacity to endure loss has been damaged by a traumatic experience at a young age, he may defend against the pain of future losses by demanding special treatment and exemptions.
Neptune in Sagittarius is the true antidote to Geminian obsessiveness and narcissistic revenge. For it confers faith in a just universe that surpasses human understanding, coupled with trust that, in the full expanse of time, all things work together for good. “Beloved, do not avenge yourself; leave that to God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay,’ sayeth the Lord.” This passage from Romans: 12:19, attributed to the apostle Paul, encourages those who have been wronged to place their trust in a moral order that transcends human law. For to do otherwise runs a great hazard of injuring both oneself and others by acting improperly under the influence of passion. To avenge oneself is to take justice out of the hands of God.
Summary and Conclusion
It is a cliché to say, “He shot himself in the foot,” meaning a person was needlessly self-destructive. In Dorner’s case, of course, the situation was more serious: he shot himself in the head, and not merely allegorically. His final suicide was a literal enactment of what needed to occur symbolically—an ego death. If Neptune opposes the Sun, that is what is required. To suffer willingly, to take it on the chin, to be humbled and even humiliated is precisely what the aspect demands before it can bestow its gifts. The alternative, which is what Dorner chose, is to appropriate Neptune in the service of the Sun and thereby become inflated and grandiose, a self without boundaries hell bent on a personal vendetta that places ego above the lives of innocent victims. Rather than ego death, there is only death.
I have tried to show that Neptunian situations provide the motivation to develop Neptunian capacities, not for the sake of the ego, but for ego transcendence. The synchronistic events that Dorner experienced can be seen as a logical consequence of his own character flaws. As such, they occurred precisely to motivate the development of attributes—resilience, compassion, humility— that would rebalance his out-of-balance (narcissistic) state. In other words, they occurred teleologically for the purpose of spiritual development.
At such times, the self is at a bifurcation point; one choice leads to evolution, the other to regression. To take pride, paradoxically, in one’s ability to humbly accept loss and defeat, reflects an integration of Sun and Neptune. For it reveals a functional balance between self-esteem (Sun) and self-abnegation (Neptune). Without such balance, the self is forever in danger of falling prey to the Scylla of inflation or the Charybdis of deflation; the intoxicating allure of narcissistic grandiosity, or catastrophic collapse into wretched anonymity; to be everything, or nothing.
Had Dorner made the wiser choice, there is no telling what he might have accomplished. Perhaps he would have discovered a new calling and dedicated his life to a noble cause. At a higher level of integration, this is what Sun-Neptune means: devotion to a transcendent ideal that serves the greater good. We see this in innumerable individuals that have hard aspects between Sun and Neptune, all of whom suffered great loss at one time or another, which they endured and in so doing became an inspiration to others—Jung’s descent into psychosis, Gandhi’s imprisonment for his resistance to British rule, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s affliction with polio, to name just a few.
It is certainly paradoxical that in accepting the limits of will-power, one is empowered; for the personal will is then aligned with the Universal Will and becomes the instrument of a higher power. Again, if not exceedingly careful, this can lead to inflation. The key lies in cultivation of the proper Neptunian attitude: non-resistance, non-attachment, accepting that all things pass, flowing with transitions, and trusting in the benevolent hand of the unknown. “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same, then you will be a man, my son.” This line from a Rudyard Kipling poem captures exactly the equanimity and flexibility of an integrated Sun-Neptune aspect.
Tragically we will never know what Dorner might have become had he been willing to forgive his enemies. That is perhaps the quintessential Sun-Neptune act: a choice (Sun) to let go of a grievance (Neptune). While the capacity for forgiveness is bolstered by empathy and compassion for human failings, it also requires the forbearance to withstand the shrill protestations of wounded pride. As Alexander Pope correctly observed some three hundred years ago, “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” Pope’s aphorism hints that the very act of forgiveness presupposes a strength that derives from a higher power. Perhaps this is why Gandhi, who also had Sun opposition Neptune, said that the weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
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1 Ibid, see especially “Intrinsic Motivation and Astrological Signs” at: http://www.aaperry.com/index.asp?pgid=97
2 Jung, C.G., (1955). Synchronicity: An acausal connecting principle. In C. Jung & W. Pauli, The interpretation of nature and psyche (pp. 1-146). New York: Pantheon. 3 See: https://sites.google.com/site/christopherjdorner/home. All subsequent quotes of Donner are from his manifesto. 4 “Dorner’s LAPD firing case hinged on credibility”. Los Angeles Times. 2013-02-10. Retrieved 2013-02-17