Opposites Maketh Mann.

Post by Wanda Smit

The Nobel Prize winning Thomas Mann, who wrote many novellas, novels and essays, is considered the most influential and representative German author of his time. Although he supported the Weimar Republic as a young man, he later wrote against Nazism and Hitler. Consequently, Mann spent the rest of his life in Switzerland and the USA. He is most famous internationally for Death in Venice, which was turned into a magnificent art film with Dirk Bogarde playing the lead.

Born on 6 June, 1875 in Lűbeck, Germany, at 10:15 am.

The chart looks like an abstract drawing of a profile, with Saturn in the 6th house as the nose, and the seven planets at the top forming a cap. Could it be a thinking cap? There is a Detective aspect figure which symbolises Mann’s keen sense of observation. He had a fine nose for sniffing out many issues – philosophical, theological, musical (his mother was a pianist), human, political and comical.

The eye is the centre, always seeing both sides of an issue. Pluto on the MC is the badge, the honour bestowed on him when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929 – the time of the age point/Pluto conjunction. He had indeed transformed the world of literature achieving an authority in German literature, second only to Goethe.

Mann was largely self-educated. He hated school and failed twice. With Scorpio in his 3rd house of learning, he wanted a higher education than that offered to the collective. Understandably so, as he has 7 planets in the Individual sphere. He never attended university other than under the pretence of becoming a journalist without enrolling formally.

Part of the Detective figure is a small Talent Triangle with the Sun at the apex in Gemini. Mann’s mental powers would develop throughout his life. But he wasn’t only a leading thinker. He was also highly emotional with a surplus of water in his temperament. As a child he loved music. Perhaps all the water in him underlay this great love? With his strongest ego planet – the Sun – as well as Mercury in the 11th house, Mann could view music intellectually. His knowledge of musical composition literally bedazzles the reader in his novel Dr Faustus, written towards the end of his life.

The Opposition on the Possession Axis

Mann was born into a wealthy family – his father was a patrician merchant and senator in Lübeck on the Baltic Sea. But although Mann’s Jupiter in a Libran 2nd house could have had him sit back in the lap of gracious luxury, his North Node in the 8th house pointed him in the direction of paying his dues to society – in his currency: in his writing and thinking and great contribution to world literature. After all, his wealthy Jupiter also longed for a transformed, refined status as suggested by the quincunx. (In the House chart, Mars yearned for it too.) Not that the environment expected Mann to pursue higher values than earthly riches as implied by the missing opposition in the House chart.

House Chart

The opposition in the Radix lies at the base of an Achievement Triangle with the Moon at the apex where some release from the tension is found. The Moon is in the area of like-minded people and nothing was closer to Mann’s heart than a Jewish intellectual. (His wife was Jewish too.) He was no orthodox Aryan – he called himself a ‘philo-Semite’ – and as such his school friends, publishers and preferred intellectual companions were from the Jewish heritage. He had such great regard for Jewish intellectualism that he staked his life on it when he spoke out against Hitler’s Nazism – only to have his German citizenship withdrawn and his books banned.

The Opposition on the Relationship Axis

With his Mars close to the cusp of the 5th house opposed by his Mercury in the 11th, he was acutely aware of the pull in two directions. In his novella Tonio Kröger, Mann describes this opposition at the core of Tonio (Mann’s alter ego) brilliantly: “…he fell into adventures of the flesh, descended into the depths of lust and searing sin, and suffered unspeakably thereby.” (…)Then he would be seized with disgust and hatred of the senses; pant after purity and seemly peace, while still he breathed the air of art,..”

The constant pull between Mars and Mercury continues: “…he was flung to and fro forever between two crass extremes: between icy intellect and scorching sense. The positive aspect of this opposition is also described: “But as his health suffered from these excesses, so his artistry was sharpened, it grew fastidious, precious, raffiné, morbidly sensitive in questions of tact and taste, rasped by the banal.” The Mercury in him preferred to associate with people on the same wavelength, as did his Sun.

On a less literary level, Mann did not like being tied down like the married Mars in him later was. Fortunately, the environment allowed more mutability. Where the Radix is quadrangular, the House chart is triangular and linear, giving Mann the impetus to welcome change and do what needed to be done in his life.

The Spirit versus The Senses

It is fascinating how often the theme of the spirit versus the senses occurs in his writing. Could this also be due to his duel heritage from a Nordic father and a Portuguese-Brazilian/Creole mother, a heritage he often stressed?

In 1894 at the Saturn square, Mann’s nose was itching to do some philosophical work. He went to Rome and Palestrina from 1895 – 1898 with his brother, Heinrich, also a great writer and essayist. In this Southern European environment, he read more profusely than ever, notably authors from Northern Europe, from Scandinavia and Russia. As if the senses were never enough for him. He needed mind, too.

In 1897, while he was still in Italy, his first book was published, Little Mr Friedemann. These youthful narratives deal with a single theme that recurs in many of his later works: the dualism of life and spirit, as well as the antithesis of the bourgeois and the artist. Another accurate description of the oppositions on the Relationship Axis.

He was writing the hefty novel Buddenbrooks which coincided with the C1, the major shift in Mann’s life in 1897 for it was the beginning of a great writer – for the collective, the Germans, at this point in his life.In 1898 his age point met up with Mars which resides towards the end of the area of family and tradition. Buddenbrooks is based on his family. Initially it was going to be written by both him and his brother, but then he did it alone. It appeared in 1901 when Mann was a mere 26 years old. It also coincided with his age point activating his North Node: writing seemed the right way for him to go. Written in the tradition of the Scandinavian genealogical novel, this book once again addresses the opposites in Mann: the second generation of this fictitious Hanseatic family is physically and mentally decadent (5th house) whilst the third generation has greater intellectual gifts and artistic sensibility (11th house). The novel was so well received that he made a name for himself in German literature.

The novella Tonio Kröger, his most lyrical artist’s story, was published in 1903 after his age point had been opposed by the Moon, ignited by Jupiter and blessed by the Pluto trine. Once again, we find the 5th house/11th house opposition as the theme. A gifted writer, Tonio Kröger, is isolated from his environment. His love for Hans Hansen and Ingeborg Holm, who represent the senses – the blond and the beautiful – remains unrequited. As if the Moon in Tonio, his emotional nature, was opposed like that in Mann’s consciousness.

In February 1905, Mann married Katia Pringsheim, the Jewish daughter of a mathematician. Her family was part of the German Jewish elite. The longing his Mars has for a Venus of higher learning – as in the House chart – now seemed fulfilled. The first fruit of his marriage was a fairytale novel, the light comedy Royal Highness published in 1909. Whilst writing it, blessings came from his Sun (trine in 1907) and energy from his Venus (same year). This work is unexpectedly optimistic, as if a balance had finally been struck: he now believed that decadence (5th house) could be overcome, and that a synthesis of life (5th house) and art (11th house) was possible.

Death in Venice was written in 1911 after a visit to the Lido when his age point was sextiling Neptune, archetype of Divine Love, as well as Mars, symbol of the male libido. In this complex novella, the hero is at the 11th house pole of the Relationship Opposition. He is a man who aspires to ethical achievement and who has thus sacrificed everything for it, suppressing his emotions in the process. Ignoring all warnings to go to cholera-infected Venice, he is undone ultimately not by the disease only, but by his homoerotic obsession for beautiful, 14-year-old Tadzio. He dies sitting in a deck chair on the beach, looking out to the sea, longing for the boy. Although Mann doesn’t say it, living at one extreme of the opposites rather than coming from the centre, could have tragic consequences.

In 1924, when his age point was in the 9th house The Magic Mountain was published. In this novel, there is an attempt to overcome the dualism mentioned thus far. Life and spirit now seem reconciled in the bigger picture of being human, of life and death. The hero, Hans Castorp, dreams that “for the sake of goodness and love, man shall let death have no sovereignty over his thoughts.” He then leaves the sheltered alpine sanatorium with its eccentric patients and descends to the valley of collective triviality and military service, only to die on a battlefield in Flanders.

The Political Opposition

Thomas Mann

There is a similar opposition in Man’s political writings. Until World War I, he was culturally German and thought Germany’s authoritarian constitution was superior to the democratic Institutions of France and England. During the war years, he did “war service with the weapon of thought”, writing – in 1918 when his Mars (5th house) was fired up – Reflections of an Unpolitical Man in which he defended the German Reich. But when this book appeared, Mann was already turning into a believer in democracy (11th house). He became a champion of the Weimar Republic for the next ten years.

His novels now assumed a more political stance. In 1930 his Mario and the Magician painted a terrifying picture of the rise of fascism in Italy. He also wrote a courageous criticism of the Nazis, An Appeal to Reason, in which he warns the public of the dangers of Hitler.

In 1933, during the low point in the 10th house, Mann delivered a lecture in Műnich on the 50th anniversary of the death of Richard Wagner. The next day he left Germany to present the lecture in other European countries. He never went back, preferring to become a voluntary exile from Nazi Germany. He would not see his country for 16 years. It was the time of the C2 and he would henceforth not be an authority in Germany, but in the world. He settled in Switzerland. Then, when his age point conjoined Mercury (1936), he wrote an open letter in the Zürich newspaper in which he attacked the Nazi regime at a high cost: his German citizenship and his honorary doctorate (University of Bonn).

At the North Node square in 1937, Mann was actively engaged in his political work. He founded a literary magazine devoted to the ideals of the ‘Third Humanism’ (as opposed to the Third Reich) published in Zürich until 1940. He helped refugees from Europe through the Emergency Rescue Committee, was a consultant in Germanic literature for the Library of Congress and lectured in many American cities. He also appealed to the German people through the BBC. Whatever time was left, he devoted to his literary work.

When his age point encountered his 11th-house Moon in 1938, he – a lover of life philosophies – followed the path with heart to the United States where he lectured in the Humanities at Princeton University. A few years later, he and his family settled in Los Angeles where there was a colony of like-minded German and Austrian exiles.

With his age point on the cusp of the 12th house in 1941, Mann completed his gigantic Joseph cycle which he had started in 1926 when his talent for writing was facilitated by the sextile to an otherwise constantly opposed Mercury. He saw this work as ‘the typical, the eternally human, eternally recurring, timeless—in short, the mythical.’ Could there be a more apt description of his 11th –house thinking over the years?

The Final Opposition

While his age point was moving through the 12th house, his inner world, he wrote his most complex book, Doktor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn as Told by a Friend. Is it the darkness of the 12th house that made this book so pessimistic and sombre? Mann felt the Germans had made a pact with the devil.

After the darkness came the light-hearted self-assertion of his age point in the 1st house. Back in Switzerland where he would spend his remaining years, Mann completed his last major work: a picaresque novel, Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man, in which he paints a comical picture of the artist as mountebank – a thought that had always caught his imagination. Felix Krull is among his most vivid, enjoyable books – the complete opposite to Dr Faustus. As if Mann had the last laugh.

At his 80th birthday in 1955 – when his Mars, the artist in him, was highly activated – he was honoured around the world as Germany’s greatest man of letters since Goethe. Two months later came the final opposition to his life: he died in Kűssnacht, Switzerland.