Just like the word ‘Orwellian’ is part of our vocabulary, so is ‘Kafkaesque’, but where Orwell names the threat to humanity – Big Brother or the Thought Police – Kafka’s is faceless. ‘Kafkaesque’ could mean (but not only mean): weird, mysterious, tortuously bureaucratic, nightmarish, horrible, apprehensive or anxious.
Franz Kafka was a Jewish Bohemian living in Prague, who wrote novels and short stories in German. He is widely regarded as one of the major figures of 20th-century literature, influencing writers, critics, artists and philosophers, particularly the Existentialists. His work mixes elements of realism and the fantastic. The main character in most of his writing is an isolated man, faced by insoluble predicaments and incomprehensible social-bureaucratic powers. In both The Trail and The Castle, this man is called K, which reflects Kafka’s chart perfectly.
K steps out into the world.
The chart looks like an animated K with a foot in the 4th house where Kafka’s North Node shows him the way for his soul’s journey. All ten planetary energies are on the I-side of the chart, with 9 of them in the Being quadrant, which was a major challenge for Kafka who unfortunately never experienced their essences as he died at the age of 40. In the Sixties, his Age point would have encountered Uranus for a second time. This was the period his writing was most known, especially by the Existentialists.
In the chart his core is entirely exposed on the YOU-side, making him hesitant to be part of the world, other than in his work as a lawyer. The online Britannica sums up Kafka’s predicament perfectly: “The source of Kafka’s despair lies in a sense of ultimate isolation from true communion with all human beings—the friends he cherished, the women he loved, the job he detested, the society he lived in—and with God, or, as he put it, with true indestructible Being.”
The fable at the end of The Trial, told to K by a priest in a cathedral, is the story of a man who has to go through a door with a doorkeeper. He sits for days, months, years, waiting for the door to open. Just before his death, he finds out that the door had been open all the time. Could this reluctance to step into the world be due to Kafka’s exposed core? Or was his search a religious one, as interpreted by some critics?
Fortunately, when his Age Point conjoined his North Node in the 4th house, he met Max Brod at Prague University. Brod became his ‘family; in the sense of being the only one who truly understood Kafka. Although Kafka wanted all his writings destroyed and his already published books not to be republished, Brod went against the wishes of his friend and published all his writings. Had he not done so, thus helping Kafka on the journey indicated by his North Node, we would never have had books such as The Trial, The Castle and The Metamorphosis, Kafka’s best known works.
With the North Node in the 4th house, one would have thought the right way for Kafka to go would be into home and family. Although he was engaged to Felice Bauer twice, and lived with several other women, he would never ‘settle down’.
But the North Node is also at the lowest position in the collective unconscious, in Scorpio ruled by Pluto, the lord of the Underworld. No wonder Kafka’s writing sounds as if Freud, whom Kafka read, had given a literary description of the subconscious!
Scorpio in the 4th house is intercepted, so that expressing its harrowing, yet transformative nature in the world, was a major challenge. Fortunately the North Node is trined by the Sun and Jupiter, thus enabling Kafka to share his life philosophy, however bizarre, with like-minded people, who could grasp some of his thinking.
Had he lived long enough, he would have experienced the great value he had for like-minded people – the essence of Mercury, the Sun, Jupiter and the Moon – when surrealists and psychologists appreciated his work and his thinking. He had a major influence on Jorge Luis Borges, a brilliant Argentine thinker who fancied the fantastical and became the predecessor of Magic Realism. He also influenced Samuel Becket’s theatre of the Absurd – much of Kafka’s writing could be interpreted as absurd.
K’s sense of self-worth.
Kafka had a lifelong dread of his father who was a successful businessman, authoritarian and materialistic in nature, and thus expected his son to ‘make’ it in the world with a proper job, not writing, certainly not about his ‘dreamlike inner world.’
But Kafka, like Orwell, has Uranus in the 2nd house and wanted not a bourgeois sense of personal values, but a new kind of self-worth. He needed to be free of the materialistic life his father excelled in. (Yet he lived with his parents for most of his life, returning to his Self after work, in his writing.)
Unlike Orwell’s chart, there is no opposition between Uranus and another planet in the 8th house of paying one’s dues, but Kafka had obtained a doctorate in law – an aspect of the 8th house – and would rather use his legal knowledge creatively, as suggested by Pisces in the 8th house. The titles of most of his writing have legal, 8th-house connotations: In the Penal Settlement, The Trial and The Judgment.
He would spend his life working conscientiously during the day and secretly at night when he could return to his Self – all those planets on the I-side – and write creatively about the unease of bureaucracy, rules and regulations. There is not sufficient blue in his chart and consequently he relaxed very little indeed. In the House chart, there is no blue at all, only exasperating red and green aspects.
Although Kafka has an overabundance of mutable drive, the world demanded he be fixed with an overwhelming score of 44! (Sounds like his father.) He has no fire in his temperament, and none was required of him. But with too much water in him, his uneasy emotions would probably have flooded him, had he not written them out of himself. Fortunately his Sun is as strong as his Moon (10), which enabled him to use his mental powers to put the emotional deluge into words.
His Sun conjunct Jupiter is a good reflection of Kafka’s brilliant mind that liked to wonder – and wander. The Kafka Statue in Prague portrays these two planets perfectly.
On the shoulders of a very large man (initially his father, later his strong mental ego), sits a smaller, elegantly dressed man who, being so much higher up, can now see the bigger picture of life.
K starts writing.
It is noteworthy that the year he started writing – 1904 when his Neptune and Mars were opposed – was also the time he contracted tuberculosis which would result in an early death. (Huxley and Orwell also died of throat and larynx cancer, as if their throats, the channel of voicing their truths, had been afflicted.)
K opposed on all fronts.
No sooner had Kafka stepped out into the world of the Instinct quadrant – the 4th and 5th houses – than his consciousness was opposed by the nine planets in the Being quadrant: Neptune and Mars at age 21, Pluto and Saturn at 22, Venus and Mercury at 24, the Moon and 25, the Sun and Jupiter at 28 and 29 respectively. Then came World War 1I about which Kafka wrote in his Diaries in 1918: “I have immensely absorbed the negative aspect of my time.”
When his Age Point was traversing the 5th house of creative self-expression, rather than getting involved in relationships, he avoided commitment and according to Brod, feared sexual failure. His creative expression would be on a deeper level than his sexuality.
Brod writes that Kafka was a charming, intelligent and humorous man who found his routine office job exhausting. Even more exhausting was the double life into which it forced him (for his nights were frequently consumed in writing). It often seemed to be excruciating torture. Also his deeper personal relationships were ‘neurotically disturbed’ according to the online Britannica. Inhibition painfully disturbed his relations with Felice Bauer, to whom he was twice engaged before their final rupture in 1917 – during the low point of the 6th house. Was the relationship with her interfering with his work: his writing?
Kafka has five planets in Gemini in the 10th and 11th houses: Saturn conjunct Pluto would make it vital for him to communicate strict discipline and get to the bottom of his guilt to such a degree that he became a literary authority in that area; Mercury conjunct Venus conjunct the Moon would have him translate his legal knowledge, his aesthetic sense – no matter how bizarre – and his strong emotions into a life philosophy called The Kafkaesque.
Where Saturn conjunct Pluto is unaspected in the Radix, it is part of the semi-sextile that links 6 of Kafka’s energies in the House chart. Otherwise all the strict discipline (Saturn) and the demands of the law (Pluto) might have run amok in his life.
Also in the House chart is a yearning to relate his Scorpionic transformations of the traditions and conventions of the 4th house to like-minded thinkers who can see the beauty in his weird world. Venus is hand in hand with Mercury on the 11th house cusp. And beauty is, according to leading archetypal psychologist James Hillman, the Thought of the Heart – Soul.
It seems that Kafka did indeed go on the right journey for his soul.