On the Road with the Beat Generation

We were all hippies in the 60s or at least so we claim despite the famous quote ” If you can remember the Sixties, you weren’t there “. Capricorn Research can remember but can’t honestly claim to being there. Capricorns are notoriously late developers and this one didn’t catch on until 1971. But if everyone is claiming to be part of a movement they can hardly be described as revolutionaries, just purely going with the Uranus / Pluto conjunction at the time. The real rebels were the ones that stood out in the generation before.

The two most rebellious signs in the Zodiac have to be the last two, Aquarius and Pisces. They have different revolutionary modes, however. Aquarius is the sign of original, independent thought and its rebellion is intellectual and political and can be very disruptive. Pisces is more emotional, based on a difference in spirit and feeling, its methods are less clear and obvious being more vague and evasive but the results can be just as undermining. The revolution of Aquarius is based on an idea, that of Pisces is based on the understanding that there are no barriers in life but the ones we artificially create. Aquarius wants active change whereas Pisces wants us to go with our true nature which is formless.

Uranus and Neptune are the planetary rulers of Aquarius and Pisces respectively and their planetary principles fit neatly with the modes of their signs.

William Burroughs  was an American writer, bisexual and heroin addict. His book “Naked Lunch,” which he described as a personal catharsis made him an underground celebrity.

William Burroughs

Burroughs has a stellium of 5 planets in Aquarius and it is one of the strongest groupings that we are ever likely to see in one sign. The Ascendant is included as well and astronomical factors make Aquarius a sign of short ascension so the chances of anyone having it rising are much less than many of the others.

The Aquarian group is strengthened by having its ruler, Uranus in the sign and Mercury, a planet that is exalted here because its nature fits so well is closely conjunct the Ascendant.

Mercury rising creates a natural writer, a fact that is confirmed by the Moon’s position in Gemini.

William was heir to the Burroughs Adding Machine Company fortune and received much financial support from his family. This would be evidenced by the Moon’s position at the 4th house cusp of home and family but it is conjunct Saturn so its likely that Burroughs would have experienced his inheritance as an emotional pressure rather than an advantage.

This chart has lots of conjunctions but other than that only one interplanetary aspect, the opposition between Jupiter and Neptune. Neptune rules drugs and Jupiter always expands anything that it comes into contact with, so William Burroughs drug intake was phenomenal.

As ever Pluto’s transits reveal the most significant points in his life’s story. Pluto’s opposition to his Aquarian group throughout the 4os and 50s covers it but in many ways the story started when it made a conjunction with his Neptune in 1936. This was when Burroughs graduated from Harvard, dropped out and traveled to Europe to sample the Austrian and Hungarian Weimar-era homosexuality as he picked up boys in steam baths in Vienna, and moved in a circle of exiles, homosexuals, and runaways.

The drug taking had already been there but his intake was naturally increased when he intentionally became a heroin addict in the early ’40s while Pluto was opposite the extravagant and indulgent Jupiter.

The year 1943 was an important one for Burroughs as he met Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, they became close friends. This joining together with other friends of like mind for rebellious reasons fits perfectly with Pluto’s conjunction to Uranus at the time. A strong emphasis on personal freedom was always evident in his life and his writing and the three of them lived in squalor consuming copious amounts of drugs.

He also met Joan Vollmer at this time who became addicted to Benzedrine, which led to a temporary psychosis resulting in her admission to a hospital. Burroughs released Vollmer from the psychiatric care and in 1947, with Pluto opposite Venus, Vollmer became Burroughs common law wife and gave birth to his son.

The real turning point in William Burroughs life came between 1948 and 51 when Pluto was opposite his Sun. He was arrested by police in Louisiana  but fled to Mexico to escape detention.

In 1951, Burroughs shot and killed Vollmer in a drunken game of “William Tell”.  Burroughs returned to the US but was convicted in Mexico in absentia and given a two-year sentence which was suspended.

Burroughs later said that shooting Vollmer was a pivotal event in his life, and one which provoked his writing:

” I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would never have become a writer but for Joan’s death, and to a realisation of the extent to which this event has motivated and formulated my writing. I live with the constant threat of possession, and a constant need to escape from possession, from control. So the death of Joan brought me in contact with the invader, the Ugly Spirit, and manoeuvered me into a life long struggle, in which I have had no choice except to write my way out. ”

A perfect description of a Pluto / Sun transit in a life that was already extremely bizarre.

In 1954 with Pluto opposite Mercury, Burroughs left for Tangiers in Morocco a city where drugs were freely available. Compared to Tangier,  wrote Robert Ruark, “Sodom was a church picnic and Gomorrah a convention of Girl Scouts.”  In Morocco, the subservient female role seemed to appeal to Burroughs’ innate distrust and fear of women.

He spent the next four years there while Pluto was opposite his Ascendant working on the fiction that would later become Naked Lunch. The book was his first venture into a non-linear writing style where Burroughs often sliced up phrases and words to create new sentences.  Its publication in 1959 provoked much controversy and caused a court case under the U.S. sodomy laws.

William Burroughs life proved to be a major inspiration for the cult book ” On the Road ” by Jack Kerouac. Whilst they were close friends and shared many experiences, particularly drug related they were very different characters. Burroughs was a classic bohemian Aquarius interested in exploring every alternative avenue available to him. Kerouac did the same but his inner motivations were essentially Piscean.

Jack Kerouac is recognized for his spontaneous method of writing, covering topics such as Catholic spirituality, jazz, promiscuity, Buddhism, drugs, poverty, and travel, all classic Piscean topics. He became a pioneer of the hippie movement, but never embraced political radicalism like an Aquarian would.

Jack Kerouac

Kerouac had the Sun , Venus and Uranus in Pisces. The Sun and Uranus are opposite his Moon and Ascendant in Virgo. This opposition is basically the key to his chart. Kerouac’s Buddhist connection comes from the Piscean side, the Catholic one from the Virgo.

The Buddhist concepts of the non existence of the self as a separate entity, of the interconnectedness of all life and the impermanence and perpetual change with the continual reincarnation of all souls until they realise that they do not exist are purely Piscean. Pisces is the last sign of the Zodiac and as such it’s role is to absorb all of the collective experience of the other 11 signs and to dissolve and disperse it into the collective ether, so that life can begin again in a new cycle starting in Aries.

The sign Virgo shares some of this abnegation and sacrifice of the self but it is more in terms of performing good works and service to others rather than losing all sense of the self into non existence. The Moon in Virgo is an extremely strong Catholic symbol in that it obviously refers to the Virgin Mary, a cornerstone of the faith.

According to Kerouac’s authorized biographer, Douglas Brinkley, On the Road has been misinterpreted as a tale of companions out looking for kicks, but the most important thing to comprehend is that Kerouac was an American Catholic author and virtually every page of his diary bore a sketch of a crucifix, a prayer, or an appeal to Christ to be forgiven.

Kerouac said that On the Road ” was really a story about two Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God. And we found him. I found him in the sky, in Market Street San Francisco (those 2 visions), and Dean (Neal) had God sweating out of his forehead all the way. THERE IS NO OTHER WAY OUT FOR THE HOLY MAN: HE MUST SWEAT FOR GOD. And once he has found Him, the Godhood of God is forever Established and really must not be spoken about.”

This is a perfect expression of the Sun / Uranus in Pisces opposite the Moon / Ascendant in Virgo.

If ever there was an astrological symbol for the classic American journey from coast to coast in a voyage of self discovery and freedom it has to be Mars in Sagittarius. Jack Kerouac’s Sun / Moon opposition focuses by T Square onto an apex Mars in Sagittarius – hence ‘ On the Road ‘.  So we have those ” two Catholic buddies ( Moon and Ascendant in Virgo ) roaming the country ( Mars in Sagittarius ) in search of God ( Sun in Pisces ). ”

One reason why ” On the Road ” caught the American imagination so strongly and has become one of its classics is because Kerouac’s Mars is conjunct the US Ascendant ( the Ascendant is always the most important point in a chart for a country ).

The book was largely autobiographical and describes Kerouac’s road-trip adventures across the United States and Mexico with Neal Cassady in the late-40s.

As Kerouac’s Sun, Moon and Ascendant are all aspected together around the middle of Virgo and Pisces, Pluto would only make aspects to them at the end of his life so we need to look for other transits to check the important dates earlier on.

On The Road was written spontaneously and quickly in a matter of weeks and completed in April 1951 as appropriately Jupiter, the planet of exploration and travel, going for the big experience and excessive indulgence was conjunct Kerouac’s Sun.

Publishers initially rejected On the Road because they were uncomfortable with the graphic descriptions of drug use and homosexual behaviour and fearful of obscenity charges being made. When it was published in 1957 many of the more sexually explicit passages were removed.

Pluto didn’t make an appearance on the scene until 1964, but because his Sun, Moon and Ascendant were all in aspect together, Pluto transited them all within 5 years and the impact was final and total.

Jack Kerouac suffered the loss of his older sister to a heart attack in 1964 and his mother suffered a paralyzing stroke in 1966. In 1968, Neal Cassady also died and in October 1969 so did Kerouac. The killer really was alcohol, because he had thrown up large amounts of blood he underwent several transfusions and surgery in an attempt to tie off all the burst blood vessels, but his damaged liver prevented his blood from clotting.

The two Catholic buddies both died whilst Pluto was opposite Kerouac’s Sun.

Neal Cassady was his close friend the model for Kerouac’s character “Dean Moriarty”

Neal Cassady

To some extent Cassady was a combination of the characters of William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. He had 4 planets in Aquarius but also the Sun and Venus in opposition to Neptune, which gave him a Piscean flavour.

He also had the Moon and Mars conjunction in Sagittarius in square to Uranus that made him such an appropriate model for Dean Moriarty.

With the Sun, Venus, Mercury and Jupiter in Aquarius in the 3rd house of communication, Cassady was a writer with an unusual staccato style.

Pluto was opposite Cassady’s Mercury when a friend introduced him to Kerouac and his own watershed was Pluto’s opposition to his Sun in 1951 when On the Road was written, immortalising him as a major figure in American fiction. It was also underneath this transit that Jack Kerouac moved into Cassady’s attic in 1952 with the two friends and Neal’s wife Caroline becoming a ménage a trois.

Most of Cassady’s life was an homage to his Moon / Mars in Sagittarius square to his Uranus in Pisces in the 4th house.  He was essentially a rootless wanderer, turning up in the ’60s as one of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters and the driver of the famed psychedelic bus.

Even his final bow reflected this pattern as Pluto was creating a T Square opposite Uranus and square to the Moon and Mars in 1968 when he died aged 42 of pneumonia from exposure, his body found beside the railroad tracks. The Moon in Sagittarius rules openness and the outdoors so this hints at exposure and Mars in that sign could easily signify a railway.

Neal Cassady had a sexual relationship with another of the leading figures of the Beat Generation, poet Allen Ginsberg.

Allen Ginsburg

The same themes keep cropping up in all these charts. Ginsberg was a writer as the Sun conjunct Mercury in Gemini in the 3rd house emphasises three times. He also had a very strong Piscean personality with the Moon in the sign together with a conjunction between Mars, Uranus and his Ascendant.

Ginsberg is best known for his epic poem “Howl”, in which he denounced what he saw as the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States.

Ginsberg like Kerouac had the Sun, Moon and Ascendant in close aspect to each other so would not receive any Pluto aspects until the 60s. Howl was published in 1957 when Saturn created a T Square opposite his Sun and square his Moon and Ascendant.

The response of the authorities to the publication of Howl was a suitably Saturnine one of objection as it attracted widespread publicity when it became the subject of an obscenity trial, as it depicted homosexual sex acts at a time when sodomy laws made them a crime in every U.S. state.

“Howl”, is well known for its opening line: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked….” It was considered scandalous at the time of its publication, because of the rawness of its language.  The poem was banned for obscenity which was later lifted. 

Like that other Piscean Kerouac, Ginsberg had a strong commitment to the spiritual life as he saw it. He was a practicing Buddhist who studied Eastern religious disciplines extensively.

In 1948  Ginsberg had an auditory hallucination while reading the poetry of William Blake where he claimed to have heard the voice of God. The experience lasted several days. Ginsberg believed that he had witnessed the interconnectedness of the universe. He explained that this hallucination was not inspired by drug use, but said he sought to recapture that feeling later with various drugs. He said he ” felt a sudden awakening into a totally deeper real universe.”

During 1962–3, Ginsberg travelled extensively across India. This was undoubtedly a watershed time for him as Pluto was square his Sun and opposite his Moon and he was exposed to eastern religious philosophy. During the 60s he studied under Buddhist Lama Trogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

Ginsberg had a powerful impact on the counterculture of the 60s and took part in decades of non-violent political protest against everything from the Vietnam War to the War on Drugs.

Many of Capricorn Research’s generation like to remember the flower power, peace and love era of the 60s with fondness but without these four Aquarius / Pisces characters as pioneers in the decade before to show the way our memories might not have been the same.

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