George Orwell, pseudonym for Eric Blair, was an English novelist, essayist, and critic famous for his novels, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, which was turned into a disturbing film in 1984. It is a profound anti-utopian novel that examines the dangers of totalitarian rule.
When I read Nineteen Eighty-Four for the first time in the Seventies, it filled me with a sense of dread. When I recently reread it and then looked at D J Taylor’s biography, Orwell. The Life, I experienced a similar dissonance. What was it that created this emotional reaction in me? Can a look at his chart throw some light on my experience of reading Orwell? And secondly, can the dates of the Age Point conjunctions and oppositions in Orwell’s life add substance to the C rating of his birth time?
The Opposition at his Core
Eric Blair was born in Bengal, into the class of sahibs, an Indian term for persons of rank, particularly the British imperialists. His father, a minor British official in the Indian civil service and his mother were of the “landless gentry,” as Orwell later called lower-middle-class people. Their pretensions to social status were certainly not based on their income. Orwell was thus brought up in an atmosphere of impoverished snobbery and poverty would become one of the major themes of his novels.
Back in England, he was sent in 1911 to a preparatory boarding school on the Sussex coast, where two things stood out for the other boys: his poverty and his intellectual brilliance. At age 10 he experienced the low point of the 2nd house, of personal values and self-worth. It is noteworthy that in Taylor’s biography mention is often made of Orwell’s sense of failure. ‘Failure, failure, failure…failure behind me, failure ahead of me…’ Orwell wrote in his posthumously published autobiographical essay on his early schooldays, Such, Such Were the Joys (1953).
Could this lack of self-worth be due in part to his Age Point crossing the 2nd house where Orwell’s awakening sense of self-worth experienced the opposition of no fewer than six planets: Mercury at age 7, Pluto at age 9, Uranus at age 10 and the Sun, Neptune and the Moon – all at age 12?
In his essay Why I Write, written when he was 43 after the publication of Animal Farm – which was such a success that he finally had more money than he ever expected – he told his readers he would write another work of fiction: “It is bound to be a failure…” He never felt successful and unfortunately died just after Nineteen Eighty-Four was published. He would thus never experience – and believe in – success in his lifetime.
When his consciousness encountered Uranus in the 2nd house at age 10, it also experienced Pluto at the opposite pole, in the 8th house of transforming one’s sense of possessions and paying one’s dues. Both Uranus and Pluto are on low-points suggesting that Orwell was constantly at the mercy of a deep, depressing sense of the value of an individual opposed by the values of the powers-that-be – a theme running through most of his novels.
Also in the 8th house is Mercury, the energy in thinking, gathering facts and writing, at one angle of the Large Talent Triangle and the Sun at one angle of the Dominant Learning Triangle. Orwell’s brilliance – he has a staggering surplus of 50 air in his temperament – won him a scholarships to one of England’s leading schools, Eton, where he stayed from 1917 to 1921, the time of his Age Point progressing through the 3rd house of learning. His first writings were published in college periodicals.
Saturn, is Orwell’s strongest ego planet and positioned at the bottom angle of the Large Talent Triangle. When his Age Point was face to face with this planetary energy in 1921 and on the cusp of the 4th house of home and family, he decided not to accept a scholarship to a university, but to follow family tradition: a year later he went to Burma and joined the Indian Imperial Police. Serving in a number of country stations, he at first appeared to be a dedicated imperial servant, but when he realised how strongly British rule was against the will of the Burmese, he felt guilty of his role as a colonial police officer.
A few months before his consciousness was dragged down by the low point in the 4th house (1925), he went to the second largest prison in Burma. He was horrified at the living conditions of prisoners. In Burma, he soon acquired a reputation as an outsider who spent much of his time alone, reading or pursuing non-pukka activities. But then, his Mars is in the inner world of the 12th house. It is conjunct the North Node and points Orwell in the direction of his inner Self. Descriptions of him as ‘morose’ and ‘withdrawn’ or ‘emotionally isolated’ aptly describe the man in him.
The Dominant Learning Triangle
This structure moves retrograde in Orwell’s consciousness so that the learning – personality issues according to the Hubers (Aspect Pattern Astrology) is an ongoing, lifelong process.
Saturn – Orwell’s conservatism – longs for a bigger, more caring picture which is also his heart’s desire as suggested by the Moon in a Cancerian 9th house. This yearning is also linked to Neptune – his creativity and higher form of love (perhaps for all mankind, despite its flaws) and his Sun, his intellect. These three planets ignite the more private man in him, his Mars conjunct the North Node in a Libran 12th house, a more balanced inner world.
Later (1934) Orwell was to recount his experiences and his reactions to imperial rule in his novel Burmese Days , which established the pattern of his subsequent fiction in its portrayal of a sensitive individual who is at odds with an oppressive or dishonest social environment. The main character of Burmese Days is a minor administrator who seeks to escape the dreary and narrow-minded chauvinism of his fellow British colonialists in Burma. Orwell subsequently resigned from the imperial police and returned to England.
Release of the Tension
Based on the Uranus/Pluto opposition, is an Achievement Triangle, as well as an Ambivalence Triangle. The inner tension in Orwell could thus relax either with Venus, in his more feminine side or with the woman in his life, or be released in adventurous Jupiter.
While his AP was traversing the 5th house of self-expression, Orwell was seeing what the life of the lower classes was like. When his Age Point activated Mercury in 1928, he went to Paris, not to join the artist and writers of the Café Society, but the poverty-stricken people whose stories he would gather and later write about. He worked as a dishwasher in French hotels and restaurants. When his Age Point conjoined adventurous Jupiter in 1930, he was experiencing first-hand what extreme poverty in the slums of Paris was like.
Then, in 1933 – after his Age Point had triggered the Moon, Neptune and the Sun, all around the 9th house cusp – he felt, thought and wrote about poverty. Changing his appearance, he wore ragged clothes and lived in cheap lodging houses among labourers and beggars in the East of London. He then joined these people of the slums in their annual work in the Kentish hop-fields. This became the material for Down and Out in Paris and London. The book’s publication in the same year earned him some initial literary recognition.
Eric Blair changed from a pillar of the British imperial establishment – Saturn in the 4th house – into George Orwell, a literary and political rebel – his Jupiter in a 5th house of creative (Pisces) self-expression. He began calling himself a socialist, but not a communist, so common in those days.
When his Age Point was moving through the 6th house, Orwell was doing his work: writing several novels. A Clergyman’s Daughter (1935) is set in the environment of agricultural labourers, and Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936) is about a literary minded bookseller’s assistant who despises the empty commercialism and materialism of middle-class life.
The Major Shift: A Change of Voice
Just when Orwell’s first socialist book, The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), based on the destitute miners of Northern England, was in print, he went to Spain to report on the Civil War, and then stayed to join the Republican militia. It was the time of the C1 in his life, followed by the low-point of the 6th house.
On a physical level, he suffered a serious throat injury which affected his voice permanently. His formerly strong voice now had a “strange, compelling quietness.” On a higher level, his ‘voice’ would henceforth combine “mordant reporting with a tone of generous anger”. That same year, after fighting in Barcelona against communists, he was forced to flee in fear of his life. He would henceforth dread the communists, first expressed in the vivid account of his Spanish experiences, Homage to Catalonia(1938), which many consider one of his best books.
When World War II broke out, Orwell was rejected for military service. He then headed up the Indian service of the BBC which he left in 1943 to become literary editor of the Tribune, a left-wing socialist paper. He now became a prolific journalist.
When his Age Point entered Gemini in the 8th house in 1944, Orwell finished Animal Farm, a witty political fable based on events in the Russian Revolution and its betrayal by Stalin. The barnyard animals overthrow their oppressive human masters and set up their own egalitarian society. But soon the pigs, the intelligent and power-loving leaders, turn the revolution to their advantage and form a worse dictatorship than that of their former human masters. Animal Farm was published in 1945. It made Orwell not only famous, but also prosperous. With his Age Point moving through the 8th house, he would continue to pay his dues – and receive them.
The Large Talent Triangle: Nineteen Eighty-Four
In 1946, his consciousness encountered Mercury in Gemini at the second angle of The Large Talent Triangle, while the trines to Saturn and Mars – at the other two angles – paved the way for his thinking and writing. After years of brooding on both Nazism and Stalinism – the restriction of Saturn in the 4th house – Orwell was now writing Nineteen Eighty-Four.
It is uncanny how the three planets of his Large Talent Triangle are reflected in this novel. Set in an imaginary future of a totalitarian police state of Big Brother (Saturn in the 4th house), the Thought Police (Mercury in the 8th house) control every action and thought of Winston Smith, a minor party functionary, who secretly rebels (Mars in the 12th house) against the brainwashing. Winston keeps a diary where his inner world is revealed to the reader. Smith has a love affair with a like-minded woman, but soon both are arrested by the Thought Police who destroy his independent thinking until he can love only the figure he previously most hated: Big Brother. Orwell’s warning of the potential dangers of totalitarianism made a lasting impression, not only on his contemporaries, but also on readers for decades. Concepts he coined such “Big Brother is watching you,” “newspeak,” “doublethink” became bywords for modern political abuses.
He wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four on the Hebridean island of Jura, which he had bought from the proceeds of Animal Farm. It is noteworthy that this was during 1948 when his Age Point conjoined Pluto in the 8th house. Orwell had certainly fulfilled his obligation to the higher powers. And when his Age Point opposed Uranus in the 2nd house a year later, Orwell’s self-worth and financial security was the complete opposite of his first ‘nobody with nothing’ experience as a child. He wrote the last pages between bouts of hospitalisation for tuberculosis, of which he died in a London hospital in January 1950.
I can now understand the dread I experienced when reading Orwell. We both have a Large Talent Triangle in the water houses. But where he has Saturn in the 4th house, I have Uranus and consequently need to be free of all traditional restrictions: family, religion and politics.
Where Orwell has Mercury in the 8th house, I have the Moon, my strongest ego planet. Most of Orwell’s thinking and writing deal with the dread of having to pay one’s dues to a totalitarian regime. There is nothing that convulses my heart more than the heartlessness of bureaucratic systems. Lastly, my Sun is on a low point in the 12th house, so I often go into my inner depths.
With his Mars/North Node in the same house, Orwell’s personal thoughts which one finds in the secret diary of Winston Smith, are what I can identify with most. Had he lived to experience his Mars/North Node in Libra at age 67, would he have written novels that would have given me a sense of emotional depth such as Huxley or Thomas Mann (also on this blog). How I would have loved to see that in his writing!
But he didn’t live long enough. Had his consciousness conjoined Mars in his late sixties – he died at age 46 – might his writing have ended on a high note like that of his contemporary (and teacher for a short while) Aldous Huxley, whose dread-filled universe in Brave New World turned into a heaven on earth as depicted in his last utopian novel, The Island?