Wednesday 20 May 2015

The Mercury Cycle - natal charts

What I intend showing here is how being born at certain points in Mercury's cycle produces a particular way of thinking and coming up with ideas. I've chosen eight people whose ideas have changed the way we view the world. Three of them were born at the Greatest Western Elongation (GWE), when – despite the name – Mercury is a morning star … or would be, if you could see it (Mercury is very difficult to spot because it's never far away from the Sun). Three of them were born at the Greatest Eastern Elongation (GEE – again, contrary to expectations, this is an evening star Mercury) and two were born close to Superior Conjunction, which is when Mercury's conjunct the Sun and direct.

A brief word about orbs. I follow the advice given by Bob Makransky in Thought Forms (p 71), which is an orb of five days either side of the elongations and the superior conjunction, and an orb of two days either side of the stations and inferior conjunction. Taking the two conjunctions as yardsticks, these are equivalent to about 5o of zodiacal longitude.

And of course, it'd be unrealistic to concentrate solely on the position of Mercury when looking at someone's chart but I'm doing it here to demonstrate how it works in terms of its cycle.

So let's have a look at the GWEs first, because they're always in a hurry. This is a rash, impatient, solar Mercury – and indeed the first example was in such a hurry he was born prematurely (his mother said he was so small he could fit in a quart mug) ... Sir Isaac Newton, English physicist and mathematician who's widely recognised as one of the most influential scientists of all time and who was a key figure in the scientific revolution. Recognition came early, as he became the second Professor of Lucasian Mathematics at Cambridge, aged 26. His Principia (his major work) was published in 1687, about half-way through his long life – he reached the age of 84 – and throughout that life he received many honours, including becoming President of the Royal Society and Master of the Royal Mint.

(Click to enlarge)
(GWE was on 31 Dec 1642 NS, four days before Newton's birth)

Next comes Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, psychotherapist and founder of analytical psychology – an interesting description in view of the fact that elongations are on the rational end of the spectrum. Jung was keen to demonstrate his scientific credentials, but there's definitely another side to his work. His ideas have been influential far beyond the realm of psychiatry, touching on philosophy, anthropology and religious studies to name but a few. Moreover, Jung created some of our best known psychological terms, including archetype, introvert, extravert, the complex and the collective unconscious. Jung was the eager young man who was keen to learn from the older Sigmund Freud, but in the end he couldn't accept Freud's dogmatic insistence on loyalty to the sexual theory (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p 173). The publication of Jung's Symbols of Transformation in 1912 – when he was 37 – was the beginning of the end of a relationship that was already showing signs of strain.

(GWE was on 27 Jul 1875, the day after Jung's birth)

The final example of a GWE is 'genes and memes' man Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist, writer and atheist. Dawkins came to prominence with the publication of The Selfish Gene in 1976, when he was 35. Dawkins has written widely on scientific matters, held many academic positions and been showered with academic awards, most notably the Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford in 1995, a position endowed by Charles Simonyi on the express understanding that Dawkins should be its first holder. In 2008 he resigned from his professorship and stated that he intended to write a book for children in which he would warn them against believing in 'anti-scientific fairy tales.' Dawkins is an out and out rationalist and a passionate advocate of evolutionary theory who's been called 'Darwin's Rottweiler.' We'll be looking at Charles Darwin shortly.

(GWE was on 25 Mar 1941, the day before Dawkins' birth)
So there are three people who burst on the scene, created quite a lot of noise with their new ideas and weren't afraid of upsetting the apple-cart. Success and recognition either came to them when they were still quite young and/or at the very least while they were still alive. All have stressed the rationality of their approach, even though – for some – Jung and Newton have some rather worrying, airy-fairy and/or esoteric skeletons rattling in their cupboards.

But what about people born at the Greatest Eastern Elongation? This is a much more mature, serious energy – lunar rather than solar in nature. How do the lives of 'movers and shakers' at this end of the spectrum reflect this energy?

First on the stage is Nicolaus Copernicus, the man who dared to say that the Earth moved round the Sun … but delayed putting his ideas into print until he was on his deathbed – either for fear of the scorn they'd receive or of the response of the Roman Catholic Church. Remembered today primarily as an astronomer, he did an awful lot more besides and spoke several languages too, but without his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium many of the other people mentioned here might never have got their ideas off the ground. In fact, as early 1514 (when he was 41) he had circulated privately a manuscript outlining his ideas about the heliocentric theory. In the years following he continued gathering data and by 1532 he had effectively completed De revolutionibus, but resisted publishing it because of the reception it might receive. By the end of 1542 Copernicus' health had declined and he died on 24 May 1543, aged 70. Legend has it that he was presented with the final printed pages of the book on his deathbed so he could die in peace, having said farewell to his life's work.

(GEE was on 14 Feb 1473, five days before Copernicus' birth)

Copernicus was not the only 'ideas man' to delay publication for several decades. Charles Darwin was a naturalist and geologist whose name is inseparable from the theory of evolution. His five year voyage on HMS Beagle (1831-6) established him as an eminent geologist, and publication of his journal of the voyage brought him fame as a popular author. Puzzled by the geographical distribution of wildlife and fossils he'd collected on the voyage, he began a detailed investigation which led him to conceive of his theory of evolution by 1838. However, like Copernicus, he resisted publishing at that stage, feeling that he needed to do much more research. Indeed, he was writing up his theory twenty years later when he received an essay from Alfred Russel Wallace expressing the same idea, and it was this that led to the joint publication of both their theories in 1859. He subsequently published several other related works and became internationally famous. In recognition of his achievements, he was given the honour of a burial in Westminster Abbey.

(GEE was on 17 Feb 1809, five days after Darwin's birth)

Finally, we come to Karl Marx – a man whose ideas sparked a revolution and built an empire that lasted for more than seventy years, but who died a stateless person with no more than eleven mourners at his funeral. Marx was a German philosopher, journalist and revolutionary socialist, amongst other things. He published numerous books and articles during his lifetime, and The Communist Manifesto, published in 1848 when he was 30 and Europe was in turmoil, is particularly relevant. Marx's theories highlight another aspect of the lunar part of the Mercury cycle – the concern for society as a whole rather than the individual. This comes through in the idea that bears his name – Marxism: that human societies progress through class struggle and the conflict between the class that owns the means of production and the dispossessed labourers that provide the labour for that production. Though he wrote extensively throughout his life, only one volume of his magnum opus – Das Kapital – was published in his lifetime, in 1867 when he was 49. The two remaining volumes were published posthumously in 1885 and 1894 by Friedrich Engels.

(GEE was on 30 Apr 1818, five days before Marx's birth)

Here we see a much more serious, reticent, painstaking, steady-as-you-go approach to how these GEEs researched and presented their ideas. Publication was often delayed, and recognition of their efforts often didn't come till after their death.

So now we come to two people who were born near enough to superior conjunction to draw depth of vision from the Sun, but far enough away not to be completely crushed by it. I invoke here the spirit of Marc Edmund Jones, who worked on the principle that a Mercury that was more than 14o from the Sun was untrammelled, and had greater freedom to express itself (pp 47-8). These two examples have Mercuries around 10o-11o from the Sun, so are making a bid for freedom but haven't quite thrown off the shackles. Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein need no formal introduction. Suffice to say that Freud bravely smashed through the 'delicacies' of the late nineteenth century and plumbed the depths of the human subconscious, bringing both treasures and murky stuff to the surface. Now, people born near superior conjunction do tend to take themselves rather seriously and can at times act as if they have a hotline to God. They don't like their ideas being questioned or challenged, and that's exactly what happened when a certain young Swiss psychiatrist entered Freud's inner circle. This will be explored in detail when we look at Freud and Jung's progressed Mercury cycles.

(SC was on 26 Apr 1856, ten days before Freud's birth)

Whereas Freud stared into the depths, Einstein's vision stretched out into the universe. In fact, he discovered that the universe was expanding … and at first, he couldn't accept it. Brian Swimme writes about it in The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos (pp 70-4), explaining that until the night of 22 November 1914 everyone had taken the universe to be a vast but fixed place that housed all the stars, planets and so on. But the General Theory of Relativity which Einstein penned that night changed everything. Einstein couldn't accept the enormity of what his equations were suggesting, apparently (I suggest he might have found it easier if he'd been born at one of Mercury's elongations … conjunctions tend to produce inflexible minds). Initially he doctored his equations, adding the cosmological constant to – quite literally – keep the lid on the universe. An enthusiastic young cosmologist wrote to him excitedly, explaining he'd discovered that by taking this out of the equation, Einstein's theory pointed to the fact that the universe was expanding … but even this wasn't enough to move Einstein to drop the constant. It was only when Edwin Hubble invited Einstein to look through his Mount Palomar telescope in the 1920s to see what Hubble had seen – that all the distant galaxies were expanding away from us – that Einstein was finally persuaded that his first instincts were correct.

(SC was on 4 Mar 1879, ten days before Einstein's birth)

I'll end with a few words about people born around the inferior conjunction, when Mercury is retrograde. From what I've seen so far, there's a marked difference between those born at this point in the cycle and those born near the other three points. I haven't found anyone whose ideas have changed the world in the way that Copernicus, Newton and Einstein's have. Instead I've found quite a few people whose star has burned bright for a brief period and then gone out. Admittedly many of them are associated with pop and rock culture, so fell foul of drink or drugs. But the interesting thing is that, for a few days either side of Mercury's retrograde cycle, Mercury itself burns brightest in the sky as it returns from the elongation and moves closest to Earth, and likewise when it emerges again after the conjunction. I'm still working on this part of Mercury's cycle and will write about it later.

Birth data

Isaac Newton 4 Jan 1643 NS, 02:05 Colsterworth, England (d. 31 Mar 1727 NS)

C G Jung 26 Jul 1875, 19:29 Kesswil, Switzerland (d 6 Jun 1961)

Richard Dawkins 26 Mar 1941, time unknown, Nairobi, Kenya

Copernicus 19 Feb 1473, 17:13 Torun, Poland (d 24 May 1543)

Charles Darwin 12 Feb 1809, 03:00 Shrewsbury, England (d 19 Apr 1882)

Karl Marx 5 May 1818, 02:00 Trier, Germany (d 14 March 1883)

Sigmund Freud 6 May 1856, 18:30 Pribor, Czech Republic (d 23 Sep 1939)

Albert Einstein 14 Mar 1879, 11:30 Ulm, Germany (d 18 Apr 1955)


Bob Makransky (2014) Thought Forms, Dear Brutus Press (in addition to an excellent chapter on the Mercury cycle, it contains an invaluable Mercury ephemeris)

Brian Swimme (1996) The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, New York: Orbis Books

C G Jung (1977) Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Collins (especially Chapter 5 – Sigmund Freud)

Marc Edmund Jones (1977) How to Learn Astrology, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul (pp 47-51 deal with Mercury)


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