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Man of Action 08/12/2018

Posted by zoidion in Event, Hellenistic, History, Photography.
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Old Moon / New Venus (before dawn) – 3 December 2018

Do you ever go to a library, a brick-and-mortar public library? Such a visit can seem unnecessary in this online digital era. They are actually marvelous places, rare in human history: products of a society possessing wealth, social stability and a spirit of improvement.

In America, they are a relatively recent phenomenon, funded by taxes. It wasn’t so very long ago that many small towns first had the resources to construct buildings for that purpose, thanks to the largesse of industrialist Andrew Carnegie and others. Prior to that, they were typically privately funded and accessible to subscribers, and called athenaea (singular: athenaeum, from the Greek word Athenaion, denoting the temple of Athena).

I have been to such a place, some years ago in Nantucket Town, open to the public but once limited to those with the ability to pay. I still remember the classical architectural beauty, inside and out, the light streaming in through the high windows, the book I found on a random shelf about an explorer of whom I had never heard before, and the wondrous hour I spent in that particular rabbit hole.

The people who operate libraries are people who love books and learning, who value the spirit of inquiry and freedom of thought. These qualities are evident in the displays that librarians set up.

It was at such a display that I recently noticed, set upright, a large, thick, illustrated edition of John Forster’s The Life of Charles Dickens. The library had received it only a couple of weeks before, and it seems I am the first person to check it out. What a discovery!

I am no great expert on Dickens: very far from it. But I had very recently witnessed a stage performance of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. And, at the library, I was immediately intrigued by the opportunity to have a glimpse—and greater astrological comprehension—of arguably the greatest writer of the nineteenth century through the eyes of not merely a contemporary, but his close friend.

A portion of Dickens’ astrological signature—Sol (Sun) and Mercury in Aquarius—comes through in the very first paragraph of the foreword by Jane Smiley:

Charles Dickens was an odd man, and he wrote a multitude of odd books. He was not at all like Jane Austen, say, or George Eliot, or Anthony Trollope, who all employ a narrative tone of level-headed objectivity even when (or especially when) they are exploring events and mental states that can be quite mad. Dickens’ narrative tone is more often passionate and incantatory, almost never sensible and relaxed, and for this, he has been consistently fascinating since he first began to publish his works in the 1830s.

(The “passionate and incantatory” character of his writing might be ascribed to the conjunction of Moon (Luna) and Mars in fiery Aries in his birth chart.)

As an American who is interested in the arc of civilization and empire, I am curious about his descriptions of travel in the United States and Canada by canal, riverboats and lakeboats in 1842, before railroad-building took off on a large scale. But it is one of his experiences on railroads that most forcefully seizes my attention. That too is covered in Forster’s book, in some detail.

It so happened that in the spring of 1865 Dickens was returning to England from a working vacation in France, Our Mutual Friend nearly complete. According to an excerpt about the incident from Peter Ackroyd’s Dickens, reproduced in the new edition of Forster’s book, Dickens was on board the train involved in the notorious Staplehurst Railway Disaster, which occurred at 3:11 p.m. on 9 June. It resulted from a combination of error and inattention on the part of railway workers. (Ten died and forty were injured in the event.)

Charles Dickens

Note from the event chart—the outer ring—that Mars and Saturn were emphasized: Mars near the upper meridian (indicated by the small circle with vertical line) and Saturn on the ascendant (eastern horizon, indicated by the small circle with horizontal line).

All of the seven first-class carriages plummeted downwards [toward the river Beult] — except for one car. That car was the one occupied by Dickens . . . [and others and] was now hanging over the bridge at an angle. With a makeshift arrangement of planks Dickens managed to extricate [his traveling companions] from the suspended carriage, and as he was doing this he saw the other first-class carriages lying at the bottom of the river bed. . . . He returned to the teetering carriage, and took out a traveling flask of brandy as well as his top hat. He filled his hat with water, clambered down the bank, and then began his work among the injured and the dead.

He attended at least two passengers in their final moments, similarly assisted others who were injured, helped to free another from the twisted wreckage. Only when there was nothing more for him to do, did he return one last time to the suspended carriage: to retrieve his manuscript, still in the pocket of his overcoat.

The great literary figure had stepped out of his accustomed realm of ideas and words into one of service in very basic ways.

The astrology reflects the situation: At age fifty-three, Dickens was living a profection year related to the sixth house or place of the birth chart. (The system of profection counts one house per year, starting from the first house at birth. At age forty-eight, a fifth cycle through the twelve places had begun.)

There, in the sixth place, was natal Sol (representing his core self, vitality and will) in exact conjunction with Chiron, plus Mercury, lord (or “ruler”) of both his first (life, body, expression of self) and tenth (public notice, social status) houses. Sol-Chiron in Aquarius in the sixth symbolizes his lifelong concern with addressing the ills of society, Mercury the task of communicating it.

Thus, in the accidental moment, it was appropriate that Dickens was called into service on another, physical, remedial level. As a result, he was recognized on sight and his actions publicized in the news media of the day.

One can take the profection system a step further, counting a place from the annual profection place for each month, starting with the birthday. In this way, the ninth place of the natal chart is emphasized for the month beginning on the fifteenth of May, emphasizing international travel during which he was blessed with good fortune through dire circumstances: Venus, in her sign (zoidion) of Taurus in conjunction with Pluto transiting the natal ninth (along with Mercury) at the time of the accident.

Dickens had for some time been working under increasing strain, and the horrendous incident marked him for the remainder of his life: He was troubled by nervous apprehensions and a weakening heart. (Sol in the natal sixth place, particularly in Aquarius, indicates a less-than-robust constitution.) Yet he soldiered on through further literary efforts and many public readings: England, Scotland, Ireland, Paris, and again to America. It was a most wearisome journey.

Death caught up to him on the fifth anniversary of the Staplehurst disaster, at age fifty-eight, and he was buried at Westminster Abbey. Through both word and deed, Charles Dickens had acquitted himself with singular honor.

In accordance with an elevated natal Jupiter in exact trine with Sol, he remains ranked among the greatest practitioners of his profession.

(Peter Doughty)


1. Mary Louise - 13/12/2018

I love Charles Dickens! Thank you for giving us this timely Christmas insight into Dickens. I didn’t know anything of his life, personality or his astrological signature. How fascinating. Now I want to read more on him! You did it again! I’d submit this to AFA too!

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