Urania's Well: Astrology for Changing Times
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Sometimes the Feelings Cut Too Deep: The Chart of Robin Williams
Like many astrologers, I took a look at Robin Williams’ chart last night, because I found myself wondering what sort of a man he was underneath the tremendous talent, what pressures he was currently under, and also to consider — again — the personal and cultural realities that can drive people to take their own lives. (If you want to follow along, the chart is here.)
The first thing that jumps out from his chart is the preponderance of planets at the top of the chart, a southern hemisphere emphasis (yes, when you are looking at a chart, the southern hemisphere of the chart is on top. Just put yourself in the center of the chart, as if you were going to cast a circle. Face East, toward the Ascendant. Now face South. Yep, there you are.) A large number of planets in this area of the chart generally indicates someone whose life is inextricably entwined with the collective, often to the point where their personal will is subsumed in the needs and desires of others. This is, of course, often the case with celebrities, especially those who, like Williams, tend to be deeply emotional and empathetic. And that’s the second thing that jumps out at us about this chart.
The element of Water indicates emotional realities in a horoscope, and the Water signs are Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces. Robin Williams had his Sun in Cancer, Moon in Pisces, and Scorpio rising. He also had Mars (a ruler of his Ascendant) and Uranus closely conjunct in Cancer, in a difficult square aspect with watery Neptune, ruler of his Moon, and sitting in the twelfth house, which is a Water house that rules spiritual longing and awareness, as well as spiritual and emotional disillusionment. This tremendous emphasis on the watery signs and planets suggests a man of great emotional depth, who desperately needed to be in a place of almost constant emotional connection with others, but was often bewildered about how to make that happen without getting hurt or rejected, hurting someone else, or losing himself in the process. One solution to this problem came easily to him, represented by his Midheaven sign of Leo, the entertainer, with both Pluto (the other Ascendant ruler) and Mercury (the mind) together in his tenth house of career, also in Leo.
He projected himself out into the world, connected with others under the bright stage lights of his Leo Midheaven, using the zany energy of that Mars-Uranus conjunction, which squares expansive Jupiter in Mars’ own sign of Aries and also the people-pleasing Neptune in Libra, to capture people’s attention. (Do you see the T-square, astrology students?) So there is some Fire in this Water-based chart — two fiery planets (Mars and Jupiter) closely involved with each other, and his Midheaven plus three planets (Mercury, Pluto, Jupiter) in fire signs. Water + Fire = a career engine that was steam-driven, guided by a tremendous ability to peer deeply into the soul of humanity. (Astrology students — note also the North Node in the fifth house of entertainment, the Moon — in the fifth with Koch houses, in the creative, soulful fourth rushing into the fifth with Placidus — dispositing MC ruler Sun, as well as the Mars-Uranus conjunction.)
Now let’s take a look at Williams’ life-long struggle with mental illness, particularly depression, and alcoholism. And let’s keep clearly in mind as we do this that in a different cultural milieu these same chart indicators could have flowered into a life where his spiritual longings were as strongly supported as his dramatic and comedic abilities. In another time, he might have been a Spiritwalker, who could guide and heal others. If we learn anything from this death, let it be that we must each do what we can to heal this toxic culture of ours, where people who are sensitive to spiritual and emotional realities — pretty much all of us — are bombarded with negativity and denied the healing that comes from being part of a nurturing, loving culture.
We look first, of course, in this moody, emotional chart of a Cancer Sun, at the Moon, its aspects and the condition of its Piscean rulers, Neptune and Jupiter. We also look carefully at the “mindset” third house and its ruler, and at Mercury, planet of our mental processes. Mercury, conjunct Pluto and ruling Pluto’s natural house, the eighth, suggests a mind that could never stay on the surface, but always had to look for a deeper reason, the underlying meaning. Saturn — a planet that rules physical manifestation, space and time, as well as depression and constriction — is in critical, precise, practical Virgo and rules the mindset third. It is also quindecile Jupiter, suggesting an ongoing, lifelong crisis of faith that pitted practical realities against intuited spiritual truths. (Look also at that Moon-ruled ninth house, astrologers, at Neptune’s spiritually-destabilizing presence in the twelfth, in opposition to co-Moon-ruler Jupiter, which forms the base of the T-square, their joint rulership of the North Node, and Jupiter’s co-rulership of the second house, suggesting issues of self-worth and a strongly spiritual set of personal values.)
Williams needed spiritual validation and spiritual community. His stated religious affiliation was Episcopalian, which he once described as “Catholic Lite — same rituals, half the guilt”. And guilt — both personal and existential — probably weighed heavily on him, but the spiritual forces in his chart were so restrained by our spiritually anemic and repressive society that he would have had little help in working through the soul-level questions that drove that guilt.
In many ways, Williams carried a burden of the collective — that’s us — and by doing so lightened our load. But we must all take some responsibility for the failures of our culture, not just in compassionate treatment of mental illness, but for the way mental illness is embedded and inevitable in this culture that both glorifies and fears death. As we thoughtlessly poison, rip out, consume, bomb and destroy the life of this planet, anyone who is not alarmed and at least somewhat anguished is simply not paying attention. My guess is that Williams paid close attention — and was anguished by his inability to heal the pain — not only his own, but the pain of others as well, which he could not easily shut out.
If you assume that our souls plan — at least to some degree — the lessons and challenges we take on in any given lifetime, then Robin Williams knew well, coming in, that this one was going to be challenging — but also deeply rewarding. That he apparently chose to make his exit from a mindspace and at a time of deep emotional pain is sad, but in no way negates the progress he made in his own personal and spiritual development, a development which was deeply involved with affecting the hearts, minds and souls of others.
I’m not going to go into much detail about the transits, progressions and directions that were active at the time of his death — they are clear to any astrologer, and I’d be happy to discuss them in the comments. If you are an astrology student, you will find insight by comparing his chart with the chart of the New and Full Moons this month. (My posts on these lunations are here and here.) What I would like to point out is the presence of transiting Jupiter on Williams’ Midheaven. I find that Jupiter is frequently — in fact, almost inevitably — strongly configured with or aspected in the birth chart in some way at the time of death. Jupiter is the planet of expansion, and it behooves us to remember that death is an expansion, a beginning as well as an ending, the next step in the adventure of our soul’s growth and change.
What we might all learn from this man’s life and his death is the need for deep cultural change — change that begins in the heart of every human, and is supported when we open our hearts, even just a little more, to each other. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch some Robin Williams movies, laugh, cry, and let my heart open a bit more to the world. What is remembered, lives.
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