I stopped my song and almost heart,
For any eye is an evil eye
That looks in onto a mood apart.
- Robert Frost, A Mood Apart (1947)
INITIATES and students of healing have been warned for ages not to concern themselves too much with the ways of the dark side. You learn very little, it can be a real distraction and it's easy to get dragged into the mud. It's also not necessary, for most practical purposes.
So when we want to know about the chart of a mass killer, it's a good idea to pause and ask ourselves why.
As astrology students, we naturally want to know about what kind of planetary configuration would be behind somebody who could kill 32 people, then himself. But that is to presume he is in some way special. Who knows, he might be, but murder-suicide happens pretty often, and given the availability of guns in the United States and elsewhere, given how frustrated and hopeless so many people are, and given the way that casual violence is sanctioned, the real wonder is that crimes of this nature don't happen more often.
Well, they do: remember, had this happened during an American military operation in Iraq, Cho Seung-Hui would have been given a medal and a promotion and we may have never known his name. What happened at Virginia Tech is meaningful because it happened out of its "normal" context, warfare. We need remind ourselves, however, that it occurred in a place where military personnel are trained and where special operations agents are recruited regularly; VT is part of the nation's military infrastructure, both overt and covert.
Reading accounts of Cho Seung-Hui's
life, he seems like a pretty average outcast kid, though it's clear to me that he suffered from mental illness as a child. A lot of people do; a lot of kids do. We can read in Wikipedia
that dealing with mental illness in Korea is taboo, but that is true in many places even in educated Western society. Even when the subject is not taboo, many people are clueless about how to handle their kids' psychological problems, or their own. If an adult has issues they won't look at, what then is their incentive to get help for their child? In actual fact, most depression and most mental illness are undiagnosed, unacknowledged and go untreated. This is another way of saying that our own shadow material goes unacknowledged and unaddressed and is passed from generation to generation.
Probably, the reason we want to understand Cho's chart is because we see something of ourselves in him, or we are wrestling with doing so. Our tropism in his direction is not so much to understand evil but to process the shadow material that he is acting out for us. Most people don't admit the alienation that Cho was finally able to open up about in the course of his murder-suicide last week. It took him a while, and apparently, he blew out 23 years of rage in two hours.
Most of us neither speak up nor go on a rampage; instead, we live in some degree of quiet desperation. If you've been feeling alienated your whole life and finally, by some good graces, get to the point where you think some people think you're acceptable, most people would assume it's a good idea to keep quiet, lest you lose the friends you have. Let's not forget how many people stick with a group they don't really like because social acceptance is such a vital aspect of survival, both psychological and economic. The fear of being an outcast is quite literally primal.
Cho's chart, because he has exploded into our consciousness so powerfully, should reveal something about our society and about a person's relationship to the world. We need to look into his chart with the intention of learning something about ourselves. On those grounds only do I feel it's legitimate to explore his astrology. As we do, let's take it easy on the guy, and on ourselves; let's not try to fix him or "figure him out" on the level of his ego motives, and let's remember: his is not a mood apart; Cho is one of us. The darkness we see in him, and the lost potential, is our own.
For grounding, let's begin with some technical notes on his nativity. The data comes from Cho's Wikipedia page. I am using a sunrise chart, because we don't have his birth time. In a sunrise chart, the degree of the Sun is the presumed degree of the ascendant (the chart is cast for the moment of sunrise the day he is born). This is one of two easy methods of handling missing birth time. I don't consider Cho a "famous person" so much as a notorious one, so I'm not using a midday chart. We don't know where he was born except that it was in South Korea, so I am using the capital, Seoul. I have set the wheel to equal houses (thus the degree of the Sun becomes the house cusp in each respective sign), though in practice I will use whole sign houses, treating (for example) all of Capricorn as the 1st house, all of Aquarius as the 2nd, and so on.
This method gives us traditional grounding and does not require a chart rectification; most of what we need to know about Cho we can learn from this basic chart, also called a solar chart.
The Cancer Full Moon
The first observation we can make is that he is born at the Full Moon. At the Full Moon, the two luminaries, the Sun and Moon, are opposing one another. We all know what the night of the Full Moon feels like: alertness, high tension, sometimes high anxiety, and people on edge. Living with the Full Moon is like being under this aspect all the time. One's personality exists in the shape of an opposition polarity.
Astrology has a lot to say about polarities. It is in many respects a study in opposites that describe in many different ways how we relate to ourselves as well as to our environments, how we integrate opposites and how we balance our lives. The Cancer Full Moon may be the most challenging of the lot because the polarity puts the Moon in one of its most emotionally sensitive and receptive placements, Cancer, and places the Sun in one of its most rational and assertive, Capricorn. This is a picture of the distance between adults and children, a gap I feel that Cho never closed, even as he had adult responsibilities piled onto his psyche.
In everyone there is a little debate about "who am I?" with respect to their solar versus lunar placement. We are both. The aspect the two bodies make reveals something about how easy or difficult it is to integrate them, and we need to remember that with Cho, running in the background of his chart there is a deep struggle with feeling and extreme sensitivity, something we have read about him again and again.
The chart does not so much explain this as it does reveal a picture of how it looks: the Moon, the child self, his needs, are more or less alone and apart in Cancer, far from the other planets; and the Sun, the ego and sense of glory, is much closer to the adult world indicated by Capricorn, but still feeling isolated: late in its sign, away from Mercury, and most significantly, exactly trine Chiron.
Retrograde Chiron in Taurus
Chiron in a natal chart represents a focus of awareness. All planets do, but Chiron is critical; that is, it's often surrounded by a long crisis, one that calls for ongoing decisions and responses. The crisis can be brought about by an injury, which tends to focus attention. When it works well, that attention concentrates effort, growth and strength. Al H. Morrison called Chiron the "inconvenient benefic." I would like to qualify this a little. You will benefit from Chiron to the extent that you make the process conscious. In other words, Chiron is here to provide an opportunity for awareness, from which we benefit and slowly wake up to our basic humanity. If one does not do this, the typical response is to spiral downward as the Chiron transits come and go.
Chiron is in Cho's 5th house, one house that often describes childhood situations and issues. As an adult, it tells us how we express certain curiosities and passions. The 5th covers creativity, sex in its creative and experimental form, how we manage our creativity and whether we feel we have any, and the risks we take in life. Both Chiron and the 5th crave experience, and together the effect is exponential. But for many reasons, we know that for Cho, that experience was not forthcoming.
Here we begin to get some specific information about Cho. Chiron is in Taurus, retrograde. If we combine the slow and reticent quality of Taurus, the sense of injury with Chiron, the obsessive quality of Chiron, and the buried, silent quality of the retrograde, we can see someone carrying a lot of pain; pain that owing to the involvement of Taurus is carried in the body. This is experienced psychically, but because Chiron in Taurus is the mind-body nexus and in the 5th house, it expresses itself as sexual in nature. Taurus is something you can feel, possess, experience or when it hurts too much, attempt to dispossess. This struggle seems to have been ongoing a long time.
Sun Trine Chiron
We have a description of a wedged-in and frustrated condition (Chiron retrograde) that meets the Sun in Capricorn by an exact trine. A trine is flow of energy from one point to the other. The energy would appear to be flowing from the Sun (where it is more free) toward retrograde Chiron (where it is more blocked), and instead of being expressed by the Sun, it is basically running in reverse and welling up like a battery in Taurus and the 5th house. Because Chiron is retrograde, the energy has (at first) no place to go. Had this aspect been a square, there would have likely been a series of events that provoked Cho to deal with his situation in stages, rather than having it all come gushing out at once.
We can compare that Capricorn Sun to Korea, Cho's fatherland. It might be helpful at this point to say that Korea is one of the most parochial cultures on Earth. It is surely one of the strictest, in terms of the comportment expected of people, including segregation of the sexes and a perfectionism of the body that must transcend all human natural qualities and flaws. Let's put it this way. We all occasionally get into those discussions about whether people are actually animals; and the people taking the animal side say, well, we all pee and poo and fart and sniffle and get horny. From a Korean cultural standpoint, it is clear: people are people, and animals are animals.
People are something else as well. We have to deal with this thing within ourselves that some know as honor and some don't know at all. I thought of the Korean people I have known, and how they must always excel. This week, I saw on television a particular firearms expert marveling at how many people Cho managed to kill in so short a time, with weapons not made for that at all. The first thing that flashed through my mind was, well, he was Korean. He had to be the best. But I was uncomfortable with this opinion. So I called Alexander Chee
, my friend who is the Visiting Writer (a kind of professor) at Amherst College, and asked him what he thought.
He did some research and replied, "What you're trying to describe here is Han. I did a quick search and found the below explanation of Han in an article called 'Shamanistic Influences in Korean Pentecostal Christianity
', and it sort of jumped out at me." Alex reminded me that Korea has been repeatedly conquered; that it is a culture whose dignity and identity lies shattered in pieces. Han is related to this concept. He quoted the article:
"[Han] has been deemed as 'untranslatable' by some Koreans but called by others an indispensable key in being able to understand the Korean soul (Cox 1995).
"But more exactly, what is 'han'? One scholar calls it a 'feeling of unresolved resentment against injustices suffered, a sense of helplessness because of the overwhelming odds against one, a feeling of acute pain in one's guts and bowels, making the whole body writhe and squirm, and an obstinate urge to take revenge and to right the wrong -- all these combined' (Nam-dong:55-72 quoted in Yoo:221).
"Han is very deep-rooted in Korean culture and the country's entire way of life has been profoundly shaped by the doctrine/concept (Yoo 1988)."
In this article, the author quotes another writer, Suh Nam-dong:
Koreans have suffered numerous invasions by powerful surrounding nations so that the very existence of the Korean nation has come to be understood as Han. Koreans have continually suffered the tyranny of the rulers so that they think of their existence as Baeksong individually or collectively, those under the control of a sovereign. (This term is nowadays used to mean common people). Also, under Confucianism's strict imposition of laws and customs discriminating against women, the existence of women was Han itself. At a certain point in Korean history, about half of the population were registered as hereditary slaves and were treated as property rather than as people of the nation. They thought of their lives as Han. These four points may be called the fourfold Han of the Korean people. Indeed, as the poet Ko Bun exclaims, "We Koreans were born from the womb of Han and brought up in the womb of Han." (Suh Nam-dong: 55-72 quoted in Yoo 1988:222)
Now, I was talking about the sexual focus of Chiron in Taurus, retrograde in the 5th house, with the energy of that Sun flowing through it at full strength and essentially charging up like a battery -- one full of unexpressed desire, rage and pain. If you run that Capricorn Sun into that Chiron retrograde in Taurus 5th, you can get one of two things: a heck of a lot of frustration, such as desperate sexual frustration and tortured creative energy; or you can get a person who is highly sexually focused, then perhaps a master healer of some kind, and also likely to be a rare artistic talent. With Chiron, even in this second instance, there is going to be a long time of walking the knife-edge between the two realities, transposing from pain to pleasure and healing, and making choices about how we want our lives to affect others. It is the ongoing choice of whether to express our creative power creatively or destructively. It is said that psychosis emerges when a person is in their 20s, but what I have not heard discussed is how we manage to avoid it when we do -- and what the alternative is.
Chiron in Taurus is an exalted position, but here, for many reasons, including childhood injuries, the extreme judgment of his culture, and others that I will get into shortly, it has been directly turned against him. I think Cho summed up this part of his own psyche when he looked at that young woman's face, the one in his dorm that he liked, and said he saw what he described as promiscuity in her eyes. He certainly could not see it in himself, and he had to see it somewhere.
Mars, Pluto and Saturn in Scorpio
We have heard again and again that as a child, he was silent, perhaps mute or autistic. But just what was he not saying? With this Chiron placement, we cannot rule out a childhood sexual trauma that turned him against himself.
We can presume he was not saying quite a lot, even if we don't know exactly what. He has three key planets in Scorpio, and they are potent to the point of obsessive: a Mars-Pluto conjunction, and Saturn, which is going to try to hold all those secrets forever. This grouping is a hologram of the whole chart. You could cut out the house and basically see the whole picture. On the one hand, we have the intensity, the volatility, and the passion of Mars-Pluto in Scorpio. Mars or Pluto would be enough; put them together and it's less like Mars plus
Pluto and more like Mars times
Saturn is containing all that vitality. What we must remember is that in our society and in many others, the only generally permissible expression of Mars or Pluto energy is through violence. Through our "abstinence only" programs and 25 years of being told to say no, we have not entirely eliminated the other channels (people are still being conceived and born), but we have messed them up pretty badly. Saturn is the presence of a kind of superego or parental conscience constantly telling Cho to be good; to be appropriate; to not experience that Mars-Pluto as feeling, as lust, as desire, as passion, or as emotional need. When this clash happens, of course the energy comes out in some twisted ways: stalking, photographing his female classmates under the desk; his imaginary girlfriend Jelly.
Scorpio is a fixed enough sign without Saturn's help, and if these natives learn anything about flexibility, they are on their way to genuine happiness and peace of mind. Scorpio's charisma and power are regulated enough by the fixity of this sign, and I feel that most people with strong Scorpio placements (such as Pluto), fearing their own potency, may overcompensate. In Cho's chart, the conjunction's "Mars times Pluto" energy is sitting in a sealed pipe, represented by that Saturn (Mars is trapped between Pluto and Saturn, and by progression, will be there his whole life).
As most people know, the contents of a pipe bomb are pretty harmless on their own. It is the pipe -- the sealed container -- that makes a pipe bomb what it is. In terms of the energy source, we are talking about Scorpio, and Mars and Pluto: hormonal energy, a primal human or animal force; in short, another image of unexpressed sex and creative drive. I am certain that Cho never had sex; that he never raped anyone because he lacked the confidence; and that he was terrified of his own sexual desire and the underlying "imperfect" nature that it revealed, a nature that was inherently out of control and which was constantly exploding his attempts to hold himself down.
A Hundred Billion Questions
We have at least two prior images so far in this chart of a lot of energy being either contained or distorted. One is the solar fire of his chart being basically funneled at full strength into his retrograde Chiron in Taurus. The other is the combination of Scorpio Mars and Pluto blocked by Scorpio Saturn (with all three Scorpio placements, notably, taking squares from transiting Saturn, Chiron and Nessus at different times during the past two years, particularly during his mental health crisis of 2005).
We see a third version of this image in the relationship between his many Sagittarius planets, and his Mercury in Capricorn. Consider this. One of Cho's most telling quotations, I think, is: "You had a hundred billion chances and ways to avoid today. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off."
Just what was he getting at? We can only speculate. Most of the focus has been placed on the blaming quality of this statement. We know he blamed everyone else for what happened, which is called projection. He admits to being a killer, but never fully owns his own impulse to kill, never really owns full responsibility for it.
To me what is more interesting is this particular number he selected: one hundred billion. It is a big number, at once grandiose, and on an astronomical scale. I think this statement is more telling in the context of his astrology. One of the most noticeable features of this chart is the impressive lineup across Sagittarius, on the top left of the chart. This includes Uranus at 12+ degrees; the South Node at 15+ degrees; Venus at 20+ degrees; Jupiter at 29+ degrees and Neptune at 29+ degrees.
There are nine additional asteroids in that space, using our list at The Planets Now
, one of which speaks volumes: Hidalgo. I will cover that in a separate article, linked at the very bottom of the current one.
Sagittarius is the sign of all things large, very large and extremely large. (Pisces is the sign of all things even larger.) Sagg rules world culture and long-distance travel, and questions pertaining to God and religion. Its esoteric ruler is the Earth, our whole planet, the only place where we know life and human culture. Its traditional ruler is Jupiter, the biggest planet, the one that wobbles the Sun as it orbits. And we have some other pretty big planets placed there, including an exact conjunction of Jupiter and Neptune in the last degree, which is currently taking a transit from Pluto. That is worth a comment. Pluto conjunct Jupiter (whether natally or by transit) has a messianic quality, on the low end of the frequency. On the high end, it can connect a person with all faiths and all systems of belief; with the golden thread that weaves together all religions.
Pluto conjunct Neptune, a transit that everyone his age is going through, can feel a little like this: you want to go to India to have a spiritual experience of finding yourself; instead, you go to India and get hepatitis. At best, Pluto conjunct Neptune will test a person's ideals to the max. It is at this point when most people give up their ideals, and begin to act like they never had them. It is also the point where many truly talented artists come into their creative strength, though they often seem to pay a price for this.
The Galactic Core and the Great Attractor
In recent years, science has made two major discoveries that have helped astrologers understand Sagittarius. First, the Galactic Core
was discovered in early 1932, when it was heard interfering with telephone transmissions. The core is the cluster of our galaxy of a few hundred billion stars. Symbolically, it speaks about the depths of truth and offers only fleeting insights into its nature, apropos of the guru that it is. But it also contains a supermassive black hole, several radio sources and a great deal of other mystery. In essence, we can experience Sagittarius as containing the heart of God. This is at 26+ degrees, very close to Cho's natal Jupiter-Neptune conjunction. All three points deal with mystical issues, be they of our cosmic origins, religion, spirituality, or psychic matters. Cho experienced his inner nature as very, very large; as in some way transcendent of ordinary experience, consciousness and the normal rules of space and time.
More recently, the Great Attractor
was discovered at 14+ degrees Sagittarius. Many astrologers confuse the two points; they are quite different. If the core of our galaxy is in late Sagittarius, imagine a point on the other side of the galaxy, far away in the depths of space. This point, which is invisible but blasts radiation on every known frequency except ordinary light, is pulling about one million galaxies toward it, including ours, and our entire local group. You could say it's the heart of darkness.
Cho has his South Node aligned with the Great Attractor, which means he is carrying the Great Attractor on his back. It's as if he is stuck on the whole idea, and the feeling of it is that he is somehow very important, but at the same time, unfortunately slighted and disempowered. This contrast must have been unbearable.
Regarding the Great Attractor, Philip Sedgwick
, a deep space astrologer, told Planet Waves, "Nobody knows what it is, or why everything is drawing to it. This thing is prodigious. It's the largest thing that I know of, that [astronomers] know of. They can't really see anything out there. So what is it? We don't know. The point itself retreats from us, but everything is following it, in hot pursuit. It is the ultimate Sagittarian statement of leave me alone, don't crowd my space, coming into the most extreme."
We have a picture here: combine the Great Attractor and the core of our galaxy with a Jupiter-Neptune conjunction in Sagittarius, and you get the feeling of a lot of mystical experience. You get a person who experiences life on a cosmic scale; who feels God inside him; who thinks in numbers like a hundred billion and takes them personally -- as injuries. He is saying he was hurt a hundred billion times, which is true if you consider how he took over his persecutors and attacked himself psychically all the time.
Now, notice that little Capricorn Mercury right there, right next to Jupiter-Neptune, and taking the pressure of all those big cosmic points in the prior sign, straining like an overloaded valve that, indeed, overloaded.
Imagine how it feels to take this whole collection of cosmic points in Sagittarius, particularly two in the very challenging last degree, just immediately adjacent to his structured, regimented and somewhat conventional mental perspective of Mercury in Capricorn. He was a living contradiction of cosmic and mundane, all carried around in his mind.
According to his roommates, the guy studied all night
before he went on a killing spree and killed himself the next morning. It may well have been that this whole arrangement in Sagittarius, being in the 12th house of his Sun, existed entirely in the background and only occasionally percolated through to sentient consciousness.
And when it did so, it didn't come across as the teachings of the Buddha, or the whispered voice of the Holy Spirit. More likely it came over as that Pluto-Mars: carnal lust on a cosmic scale, dark and anguished, frustrated and distorted by social programming, moralism and a deep sense of injury. In other words, volcanic sexual agony, experienced as judgment and isolation, and then blown through the rationality of Mercury in Capricorn, now turned toxic, dark and violent. Basically, we have an image of his mind blowing.
This is precisely the combination of factors that Wilhelm Reich
suggested made the Germans of the 1930s into good Nazis, though on a much subtler level of intensity (until it added up to Auschwitz
). Reich proposed that the Nazis harvested the mystical longing of millions of people that is naturally present in most people, but is pumped up by unexpressed sexual pressure. Indeed, sexual purity was high on the Nazi psychological and social agenda, and it fed the frustration that led to death on a much grander scale than we saw last week. That frustration was fuelled by the need to be important
, the need to answer the cosmic calling. To a greater or lesser extent we all take part in this process; that is, we do until we make conscious choices to reverse it and take back our creativity and our sexual destiny, small though they may seem.
Cho Seung-Hui: Thema Humanum
Several weeks ago on these pages, we covered an ancient document called the Thema Mundi
, which was for the Hellenistic astrologers the "chart of the world." I would like to propose here that the chart of Cho Seung-Hui is the Thema Humanum, the chart of humanity.
Cho himself may be a kind of broken mirror that we are gazing into, but his chart makes sense. This is not always the case with notorious people, whose charts sometimes seem incomprehensible or to be lacking an apparent syntax. Remember that any one individual is merely a single expression of the potential in their chart; any chart can be expressed an infinite number of ways.
The chart relates something about the condition that many people find themselves in: our attempts to relate divine (or cosmic) nature to human nature, and integrating what we experience as sexual impulses with what we experience as cosmic ones (the Scorpio stellium and the Sagittarius stellium); the relationship of the inner child psyche to the adult psyche (Cancer Moon, Capricorn Sun); the struggle to integrate oneself socially (represented to me by the lack of major Aquarius placements); the sexual pain so many people are in, and our often futile efforts to get beyond it, as well as our related struggle to express ourselves creatively (5th house retrograde Chiron in Taurus).
Then there is the rational mind struggling to process it all, and potentially seeking to suppress the whole drama (Mercury in Capricorn). His one Aquarius placement (in this version of the chart) is Pallas Athene, which says that to some degree he can play the game. But that does not mean he can really participate in the world. His Capricorn Mercury is struggling, like all our minds are, to function as a reducing valve for so much reality that is flooding through our inner and outer senses -- and to process so much that seems to make no sense at all.
All of these qualities we share with most other people, to a greater or lesser extent. Whether we emphasize some parts of the story rather than others, may depend on how much we are willing to admit (who feels all that Scorpio bubbling up inside themselves?); whether we are attuned to subtle energy (who can feel all that Sagittarius?) and finally, whether we are willing to own the hurt and extremely sensitive child we carry within us (the Cancer Moon and the 5th house Chiron).
We could have an interesting discussion about all of these placements, but I would like to focus on one natal placement and an associated transit. The natal placement is Jupiter conjunct Neptune in the last degree of Sagittarius. The associated transit, of course, is that Pluto is about to make a series of exact conjunctions to that degree. Cho never experienced the exact conjunction while he was alive; Pluto stationed retrograde one degree before his Jupiter-Neptune conjunction a few weeks ago.
Now, I think that most astrologers would look at that conjunction in Sagittarius and think: unlimited spiritual potential. The knowledge and perhaps wisdom, his psychic openness and spiritual resonance, we would think, are all enormous and available. Yet in the last degree of a sign, there is a crisis of some kind, mainly of integrating that information "before it's too late," that is, before those planets change signs and the game is over. But there they stand, and now the time has come for Pluto to make its conjunction. Pluto is seen by most modern astrologers as the evolutionary impulse. It is equally about hormonal impulse, as well as about unprocessed shadow material that we are gradually making conscious.
And this potent and frightening three-handed creature, Pluto, is about to encounter the extremely light, ineffable, volatile meeting of Jupiter and Neptune in Sagittarius in the chart of humanity. Right there in the end, right in the last degree of Sagittarius. This is our story right now, the big question: will we wake up? Will we embrace our cosmic origins and choose the way of love and compassion? Will we allow ourselves to integrate the material of Pluto, sexual and otherwise, consciously into our greatest potential?
Or will we shoot the whole day down?
Extra Article: Rebel Against Hypocrisy? By Eric Francis
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