What started me on my exploration of the Mercury Cycle was the similarity of its 116 day cycle to the upper limit, in years, of a human life – few super-centenarians live beyond 116. So apart from the Moon, Mercury's is the only progressed cycle that we might experience in full. I did some work on it towards the end of last year, starting with a rough sketch of my own cycle and was amazed to find that it mapped out my own turning points exactly. Incidentally, I was born at a Superior Conjunction and it was just a few months after my progressed Inferior Conjunction, and I passed from a lunar consciousness to a solar one, that I felt an urge to explore the cycle.
I'm a Gemini and I have most of my planets in air signs, so in case it was a fluke I started looking at other people's progressed cycles. Though I wouldn't claim it's 100% it does often seem to reflect the changes on people's life paths. And there are distinct paths depending on where in the cycle you're born.
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Perhaps the cycle most suited to a human life – and the one which reflects the kind of world we live in – is someone who's born around the Greatest Western Elongation. This is a young, fresh, enthusiastic Mercury energy; someone who's eager to make their mark in the world. The graphic shows the progressed cycle of CG Jung, born very close to Western Elongation. He had his first major turning point (Superior Conjunction) at the age of 27, but because of the eccentricity of Mercury's orbit it can occur at any age between 20 and 50. However, the subsequent markers (Greatest Eastern Elongation, Station Retrograde and Inferior Conjunction) remain broadly the same for everyone born around the Western Elongation. The interesting thing is that people born around this elongation appear to be at ease in the world – they're always moving forward, forging successful careers and so on – until they get to their mid-60s at Eastern Elongation, when they might (or might not, the way things are going) retire; at the next point, when Mercury turns retrograde, they'll be in their mid-70s or later and their mind will be turning to the Big Transition and return to Source.
Those born at the Superior Conjunction have a basic nature that's lunar, making them cautious and reflective, more inclined to hold themselves back. Whereas the vast majority of a Western Elongation's path is direct motion, the Superior Conjunction type encounters a change in direction in mid-life shortly after the Eastern Elongation, the latter having loosened them up and expanded their life experiences. The retrograde phase is an opportunity to revisit, re-evaluate and – because they reach this phase in mid-life rather than at the end – re-orient themselves; maybe start a new career or even a completely new life. In Freud's case – see the graphic below – his path led to him releasing late nineteenth century Europeans' repression (note all the re- words, which are deliberate). There's a major shift in consciousness at the Inferior Conjunction, which could occur anywhere between middle age and sixty-ish. What was lunar becomes solar … perhaps not the best time of life to come out fighting, but it could explain late developers or people who 'see the light' and zealously pursue a cause in their later years. Compare that to the transition from solar to lunar in the Western Elongation's case – starting out punchy and then maturing into a more reflective consciousness. Superior Conjunction types will emerge from their retrograde phase in their seventies and reach the Western Elongation in their eighties.
Someone born around the Greatest Eastern Elongation has a much rockier path, as they embark on the retrograde period early on in life. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones – see above – and George W Bush are two people who fought their demons (drugs and drink) and won. Once they'd navigated the perils of the retrograde period, they got themselves on an even keel. Bush even went on to become President of the USA … and we all know how that turned out …
As for those born at Inferior Conjunction, they seem to have the most perilous journey. Of the four examples I've come across, only one – Ariel Sharon – lived past his thirties. Of the others, Amy Winehouse (born the day before an Inferior Conjunction) died aged 27 of alcohol poisoning, Jeff Buckley (born on the day of the conjunction) drowned aged 30 and Yuri Gagarin – the first man in space and born two days after conjunction – died on (of all things) a routine training flight, aged 34. We're going to look at his short life in relation to his progressed Mercury cycle.
Firstly, there's a bit of a question mark about his date of birth – it's also given as 9th March but it's said that Yuri's father didn't like the idea of his son being born on a 'woman's day' (I take that to be a reference to International Women's Day) so he put down the 9th. In any event, he was born around midnight of 8th/9th March. I didn't expect to find anything about him for age 11 (when he reached Station Direct) but I discovered he returned to his childhood home then, after being displaced during the War. The period around his Greatest Western Elongation is well documented, though. The elongation itself occurred in 1958, when Yuri was 24, but with orbs it stretches from 1953 to 1963. He was drafted into the Soviet army in 1955, but he obviously had star quality because he was recommended for pilot training early on, and he graduated from flying school on 7 November 1957, just a couple of months before the elongation was exact. And it gets better, because after graduation he was assigned to an airbase in the Murmansk region, in the Arctic Circle – so remote and inhospitable. So when his progressed Mercury was at its farthest point from the Sun, Yuri was flying from an airbase at the outermost north-western edge of the Soviet Empire.
By 1960 he was one of twenty candidates for the Soviet space programme and again he stood out from the crowd, quickly becoming the obvious choice for almost all his colleagues and trainers. On 12 April 1961 he became the first man in space. From this point on, though, things didn't go so smoothly. The Soviets wouldn't let him into space again because he was too valuable as an ambassador. He travelled the world, but his behaviour deteriorated. He drank too much and put on weight. On 20 December 1963 – right at the end of the Elongation period – he was made deputy training director at Star City (yes, really) cosmonaut training base. Less than five years later, he died on a routine training flight in poor weather. It's thought another plane flew too close – or maybe their wings touched – and Yuri's plane spun out of control and crashed. This happened on 27 March 1968, not long after his 34th birthday.
I've included the asteroid Icarus and the Lot of Spirit (S) in his chart because Icarus is the boy who flew too close to the Sun and the Lot of Spirit is the daimon who controls your destiny. They're opposite each other in his chart. I read these as it being Yuri's destiny to be the first man in space, but also for him to die while flying.
Now we come to two intertwined lives. Long lives, but thankfully we're only going to look at a pivotal period of around ten years. Maps of their Mercury cycles are shown above and Freud's natal chart is further down. 1902 was a turning point in both Freud's and Jung's lives. In Jung's case, aged 27, he was moving into a lunar consciousness … one that's evident in his later work. But at this point he was working as a psychiatrist at Burghölzli Mental Hospital in Zürich. In Memories, Dreams, Reflections (an interesting title in itself), he begins Chapter Five by telling us that in 1903 he resumed reading Freud's Interpretation of Dreams, a book he'd given up on three years earlier (aged 25) because he 'lacked the experience to appreciate Freud's theories.' This time, though, he could see how it linked up with his own ideas (pp 169-70). Freud, on the other hand, was moving out of his lunar consciousness in 1902, aged 46, and into a more active solar one. And we find him in the autumn of 1902 setting up weekly sessions in his apartment where a small group of followers could get together to discuss issues relating to psychology. This was the beginning of the worldwide psychoanalytical movement.
Jung sent Freud a copy of his Studies in Word Associations in 1906 and the two men met early in 1907. Freud was keen to expand his circle of followers, and Jung had a good reputation. They talked for thirteen hours almost non-stop at that first meeting. Freud came to look upon Jung as his heir apparent, but Jung had doubts from the start (MDR, p 172). Nevertheless, over the next five years they worked closely, attended conferences together and so on. But, from Jung's perspective at least, there were increasing tensions and questions of trust and authority. One of the ways I describe a Superior Conjunction type – as Freud was – is 'I am the Authority.' Jung describes an incident in 1909 when, trying to interpret one of Freud's dreams, he asked Freud for some additional personal information to assist him. Freud exclaimed 'But I cannot risk my authority!' With that remark, Freud lost his authority altogether in Jung's eyes, and for Jung it foreshadowed the end of their relationship (MDR, p 182).
Even so, Jung became President for Life of the newly-formed International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA) in 1910 – an appointment that would turn out to be anything but for life. In1912, Jung published Symbols of Transformation, a book that he knew would hasten the end of his association with Freud. Letters the pair exchanged show Freud's refusal to consider Jung's ideas. They met for the final time at a psychoanalytical conference in 1913 (coinciding with Freud's Station Direct), and Jung resigned as President of the IPA in April 1914.
Also in 1912, anticipating the final breakdown between Freud and Jung, Ernest Jones organised a committee of loyalists charged with safeguarding the theoretical coherence and institutional legacy of the psychoanalytic movement. Each member pledged not to make any public departure from the fundamental tenets of psychoanalytic theory before discussing their views with the others. Following this move, Jung knew his future lay elsewhere … he had to plough his own furrow – which in fact, is his basic nature as a Western Elongation type. But it also shows the rigid, dogmatic nature of a Superior Conjunction type. There's a god-like quality to this conjunction, demanding loyalty and obedience from his followers.
I cast a progressed chart for Jung's resignation from the IPA in April 1914 and was astonished to find that his progressed Sun was eleven degrees away from his progressed Mercury. That's exactly the same as the distance between Freud's natal Sun and Mercury. It's as if Jung has stepped into his former mentor's shoes and is saying 'I am the Authority now.'
I'll end with a word about Dane Rudhyar, who – like Jung – was born close to Greatest Western Elongation but who reached his progressed Superior Conjunction at a later stage, because of the vagaries of Mercury. (You can see, however, that he reaches the later landmarks at roughly the same ages). Rudhyar writes about his progressed Mercury reaching SC in An Astrological Study of Psychological Complexes and Emotional Problems. Rudhyar had been a composer in the first part of his life, but around the time of his Superior Conjunction, aged 43, he had to drop his focus on music. Then a few months after the progressed conjunction he started work in a completely new direction, as an artist. He says some very interesting things about this but perhaps the most significant one is that for him, the change from music to painting had a profound meaning; there was a sense of inner discovery, as if a new part of his brain and a new facet of personality had begun to operate. But … he points out that the mental foundation of a person's Mercury always remains, even though it may be seen through filters at later stages of the journey. To illustrate this, he comments that a number of critics noted that his paintings had an inherent musical quality (pp 102-3).
So that gives you an idea of how to work with Mercury's progressed cycle. I hope you'll feel tempted to explore it yourself, as what I've written here has barely scratched the surface.
Yuri Gagarin 8 Mar 1934, 23:42:04 (rectified) Klushino, Soviet Union (d 27 Mar 1968)
C G Jung 26 Jul 1875, 19:29 Kesswil, Switzerland (d 6 Jun 1961)
Sigmund Freud 6 May 1856, 18:30 Pribor, Czech Republic (d 23 Sep 1939)
Dane Rudhyar 23 Mar 1895, 01:00 Paris, France (d 13 Sep 1985)
C G Jung (1977) Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Collins (especially Chapter 5 – Sigmund Freud)
Dane Rudhyar (1966) An Astrological Study of Psychological Complexes and Emotional Problems, Wassenaar: Servire
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuri_Gagarin accessed 27/02/15
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Jung accessed 19/05/15
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigmund_Freud accessed 19/05/15