Toward an Astrological
Theory of Personality
By Glenn Perry
When I attended graduate school in the 1980’s, one of my favorite courses was Personality Theory. With my Moon Sagittarius in the 8th, I was naturally drawn to broad, overarching theories that pertained to family therapy and childhood wounds. However, my dream then, as now, was to develop astrology into a radical, new theory of personality.
Our main text for the course was Hall and Lindsay’s classic tome, Theories of Personality. According to the authors, any adequate theory of personality must accomplish the following minimal objectives:
- It must be comprehensive, or integrative, in that it deals with the total, functioning person.
- It must account for what motivates the human being.
- It must contain a set of empirical definitions concerning the various parts of the personality, thus permitting observation.
- It must consist of a network of assumptions about behavior that are systematically related in accordance with certain rules.
- It must be useful in that it is capable of generating predictions about behavior that are testable and verifiable, thus expanding knowledge.
It was immediately apparent that astrology met all these requirements. Astrology is comprehensive in that it is concerned with all the parts and processes that make up the human psyche. The signs of the zodiac symbolize the basic drives that motivate human conduct, and their planetary rulers constitute parts of psychic structure that are empirically defined, thus permitting observation. Rules of chart interpretation—chart synthesis—represent a network of assumptions about behavior that are systematically related. Finally, astrology is useful in that it is capable of generating predictions that are verifiable, thus promoting research and expanding knowledge.
The credibility of astrology as a personality theory hinges on whether there is sufficient evidence to confirm predictions of behavior symbolized by planetary configurations. If predictions regarding the expression of astro-variables consistently match up with empirical data, then the theory is confirmed. A simple example should suffice to illustrate this.
Saturn on the Ascendant
If a person has Saturn on the Ascendant, our theory would predict that the function symbolized by Saturn would be a salient, leading feature of personality. Saturn would describe that person’s instinctive manner of asserting and surviving in the world. This prediction is based on related assumptions that…
- The Ascendant is a conspicuous, observable element of personality that pertains to assertion, survival, and self-interest.
- Planets conjunct the Ascendant will be prominent in behaviors relevant to these concerns, e.g., action oriented activities (competition, fighting, war), and new experiences (fresh starts, novelty, adventure).
- The behavioral style of Ascendant planets will be implicit in the subject’s instinctive way of interfacing with the world (first impressions, persona).
Saturn can be defined as the function of organization and achievement. It is associated with disciplined, responsible behavior geared toward satisfying Capricornian needs for structure and success. Since Saturn has an empirical definition, this permits us to test the validity of our assumptions. A behavioral prediction that involves Saturn on the Ascendant might be the following:
The subject is instinctively and noticeably Saturnian—organized, disciplined, controlled, serious, and ambitious. A strong need for structure, order, and achievement is readily apparent. There might be a melancholy streak and a tendency to view life realistically rather than idealistically. Issues of survival and freedom are approached with determination and a sense of heavy responsibility. New beginnings are undertaken methodically with an eye for long term success. Whatever this person begins will tend to have substance and longevity. A new organization may be founded.
To test this formulation, the behavior and experience of people with Saturn on the Ascendant would need to be assessed. A researcher might also determine whether and how Saturn’s expression is colored by its sign position.
If a researcher can demonstrate that test subjects do, in fact, appear to be instinctively disciplined, realistic, serious, cautious, and responsible; and that they behave this way specifically in relation to 1st house concerns; and that Saturnian behavior is qualified by its sign position, then our hypothesis is confirmed. Further nuances can be discerned by examining additional parts of the horoscope that relate to Saturn—its aspects, dispositor, and the like. Validation of our hypothesis lends support to astrology as a theory of personality.
Five Case Examples
One of the advantages of contemporary astrology is that there is a wealth of available data for researching hypotheses. A quick search of my chart records reveals that Jimmy Carter, Margaret Thatcher, Sean Connery, Eugene O’Neill, and Joseph Stalin all have Saturn on the Ascendant. By definition, these individuals are likely to be ambitious, organized, and disciplined or they would never have attained the heights of accomplishment for which they are renowned. However, the devil is in the details. Astrology predicts that the style and substance of their achievements will be related to Saturn’s position by sign and house—in this case, the 1st house. While it is not necessary to discuss all the relevant accomplishments of each individual, there should be at least one defining event or theme in each person’s life that encapsulates the configuration.
Jimmy Carter, who has Saturn in Scorpio, was the 39th president of the United States. His presidency was largely defined by a failure to effectively manage the Iran Hostage crisis of 1979-80. Here we see how the Saturnian verb to manage is operating in the Scorpionic domain of crisis and in a first house context of war/survival. With the lives of 52 US diplomats at stake, Carter not only failed to negotiate their release over a period of 444 days, but presided over a botched rescue attempt that resulted in the crash of two aircraft and the deaths of eight American military men.
The entire incident could be interpreted as a metaphor of Carter’s cutbacks in defense spending and the resultant weakening of the military during his administration. Saturn, which is associated with contraction (downsizing), was expressed in relation to 1st house matters of assertion/war.
This, however, does not tell the whole story of Carter’s relation to the military. His horoscope reveals that the planet of aggression—Mars—is opposing Neptune in the 10th, suggesting that Carter’s instinct for survival is compromised by Neptunian ideals of compassion, forgiveness, and surrender. Moreover, these Neptunian proclivities are specifically operating in the context of career and authority (10th house), thus weakening his ability as commander in chief.
In effect, Mars opposition Neptune is a contributory factor to why Carter's 1st house Saturn leaned toward cautuion (Saturn) with regard to war/aggression (1st house). While this particular expression is consistent with Saturn's placement in the 1st, it is not its only option. As we shall see with Margaret Thatcher, Saturn in the 1st can take a rather aggressive turn if supported by other factors.
With Saturn in Scorpio in the 1st, it is noteworthy that Carter’s administration was marked by continuous crises, most notably in the area of economics. We know that the sign of Scorpio is associated with themes of crisis and upheaval. It also rules economics. Carter had to bear responsibility for double-digit inflation, record high interest rates, soaring unemployment, and creeping economic growth (stagflation). Other crises included 1) an energy (1st house) crisis caused by reduced oil supplies and rising gas prices; 2) a crisis of confidence in government caused by the Vietnam War and Watergate; and 3) the Iran Hostage Crisis.
Carter’s Saturn in Scorpio in the 1st, along with his Mars-Neptune opposition on the 4th/10th house axis, seems entirely consistent with a general weakening of the United States both economically and militarily during his administration. There was a pervasive sense of resentment, malaise, and disillusionment toward government. As always, the chart of a nation’s leader both presages and reflects the tenor of the times.
On the other hand, the same configurations (Mars-Neptune) that compromised Carter’s abilities as a military leader served him as a peace negotiator and human rights advocate. He stated in his inaugural address that his main goal as president was completely banishing nuclear weaponry from the face of the Earth. Accordingly, he worked laboriously (Saturn) on reducing the number of weapons of mass destruction (Scorpio) jointly held by the United States and Russia. Following the Yom Kippur (Israel-Egypt) war, Carter was able to broker a peace agreement between the two arch enemies at the 1978 Camp David Accords, perhaps his most important accomplishment as President.
Saturn in the 1st longevity is certainly evident in Carter’s career. In 1982, following his presidency, he and wife founded The Carter Center, a nongovernmental organization that works to advance human rights, conduct peace negotiations, promote democracy, and eradicate disease throughout the world. After 45 years of public service, and having the distinction of being the second-oldest living former U.S. President (three months younger than George H. W. Bush), Carter continues to be an indefatigable, leading voice in international politics. In 2002, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Like Jimmy Carter, Margaret Thatcher also had Saturn in Scorpio on the Ascendant. However, her Saturn is trine Pluto and sextile Jupiter, making a much more formidable and less conflicted package than Carter’s Saturn in Scorpio with Mars opposing Neptune. Leader of Britain’s Conservative Party and Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, she is the only woman to hold either post. Re-elected for an unprecedented third term in 1987, Thatcher’s tenure as prime minister was the longest continuous period in office since Lord Salisbury in the early 19th century. Again, longevity of success is consistent with Saturn conjunct the Ascendant.
Like Carter, Thatcher entered office with a mandate to reverse the UK’s economic crisis (Scorpio) and implement a new (1st house) monetary strategy. Her political philosophy and economic policies, ultimately known as ‘Thatcherism’, were classically Scorpionic—eliminate government waste, reduce government intervention, support free markets, and stimulate investment. In effect, Thatcherism entailed working within Scorpio’s domain of economics in the service of 1st house concerns—freedom (free markets) and individual initiative (entrepreneurialism).
Indomitable and strong willed, she took a hard line against trade unions (they had a strangle hold on business), survived an assassination attempt, and defiantly opposed the Soviet Union, all of which paralleled developments in the United States under the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Her tough talking rhetoric against communist aggression in Afghanistan earned her the nickname “Iron Lady” by the soviet press.
Sean Connery has Saturn in Capricorn and is renowned for his professionalism as an actor. The former Scottish bodybuilder and footballer began his film career at age 24 and still going—a 54 year career of extraordinary longevity. A genuine movie star, Connery has received several Lifetime Achievement Awards, won an Oscar in 1987, and was awarded Knighthood of the British Empire in 2000 by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to Film Drama.
He first found fame in 1962 as the suave, sophisticated British agent, James Bond, with his cool demeanor, lack of sentimentality, and license to kill. Connery, of course, was the first Bond and primary agent of the British Secret Service (1st house, Saturn war organization). He was always at his best when playing tough, no-nonsense characters, again a hallmark of Saturn—the hard core realist of the planetary pantheon.
Saturn in its own sign of Capricorn conveys a heightened sense of gravitas. Accordingly, Connery generally plays dignified figures of great authority, e.g., he was king in four different films—Daniel in The Man Who Would Be King, King Agamemnon in Time Bandits, King Richard the Lionhearted in Robin Hood, and King Arthur in First Knight. Each king, it might be added, was also a warrior and adventurer—classic first house roles.
The Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Eugene O’Neill, had Saturn in Leo—the sign of the theatrical arts—close to the Ascendant but in the 12th house of imagination. Again, longevity is a prominent theme. O’Neill’s first play was written in 1913 and although O’Neill died in 1953, several of his plays were published and performed posthumously. Long Day’s Journey into Night, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize, wasn’t performed until 1957. And his last play, More Stately Mansions, wasn’t performed until 1967. All in all, O’Neill wrote over 50 plays spanning a career of 40 years.
Significantly, he was the first to introduce into American drama the techniques of realism—natural settings, ordinary speech, raw emotion, inner turmoil, and the view that life is shaped and controlled by the environment. Realism, of course, is a primary theme of Saturn.
O’Neill’s plays usually involved grim, distressed characters that struggled to maintain their hopes and aspirations, but ultimately slid into disillusionment and despair (Saturn in 12th). Nearly all his plays involved some degree of personal pessimism. O’Neill himself suffered from periodic depression, and one of his autobiographical plays, The Iceman Cometh, dramatizes his view that life is grim and that people exaggerate their own self-importance merely to survive. Needless to say, all of this evidences Saturn in Leo close to the Ascendant.
Joseph Stalin had Saturn in Pisces on the Ascendant squaring a Sun/Venus in Sagittarius conjunction in the 10th. Stalin was communist party leader of the Soviet Union from 1922 until his death in 1953—another reign of unusual longevity. ‘Stalin’, which means “Man of Steel,” was actually his adopted name, an interesting analogue to Thatcher’s moniker, “Iron Lady”.
Ruthless and ambitious, Stalin seized control of the Soviet Union after the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924 by destroying the reputation of his rival, Leon Trotsky, via surreptitious (Piscean) means. First, Stalin concocted highly publicized lies about Trotsky; next, he expelled him from the country, and finally had him assassinated.
Trotsky was but one of literally millions of “enemies” that Stalin pursued with the relentless determination characteristic of Saturn on the Ascendant. Of course, Saturn's expression was qualified by its primary aspects to other planets. Not only was it squaring his Sun, which can be an oppressive combination if the Sun manages to identify with and direct Saturn's ruthlessness, but it was also sextiling Pluto.
All who opposed his Piscean dream of an ideal society were eliminated via systematic purges that spanned two decades. The very term ‘Stalinism’ is synonymous with totalitarianism, which includes extensive use of propaganda to establish a personality cult around the tyrannical regime of an absolute dictator. Stalin fought real and imagined opponents mainly through the secret police (KGB), who suppressed resistance by means of espionage, mass deportations, forced labor, political assassinations, and subversion of foreign governments.
Saturn in Pisces could be translated to mean, “I achieve success through furtive, deceptive means, including espionage, subversion, and causing my enemies to disappear.” The very term, “political prisoner,” conveys Saturn in Pisces.
As a type of control, we might call it control by victimization, mass repression, and denial. In addition, the Piscean province of image, glamour, and idealization was applied to political ends, most specifically in the cult of personality that surrounded Stalin. Utilizing photography, film, sound recording, and other Piscean techniques of commercial advertising, Stalin carefully constructed and asserted a public image that symbolized a supernatural, transcendent ideal. Like a god of infinite reach and power, pictures of a loving and fatherly Stalin were everywhere. Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin’s eventual successor, denounced Stalin’s tactics in his famous “Secret Speech” to the 1956 20th Party Congress.
Comrades, the cult of the individual acquired such monstrous size chiefly because Stalin himself, using all conceivable methods, supported the glorification of his own person. . . .One of the most characteristic examples of Stalin's self-glorification and of his lack of even elementary modesty is the edition of his Short Biography, which was published in 1948. This book is an expression of the most dissolute flattery, an example of making a man into a godhead, of transforming him into an infallible sage, "the greatest leader," "sublime strategist of all times and nations." Finally no other words could be found with which to lift Stalin up to the heavens. We need not give here examples of the loathsome adulation filling this book. All we need to add is that they all were approved and edited by Stalin personally and some of them were added in his own handwriting to the draft text of the book.
Communism itself is a Piscean political ideology, the origins and evolution of which can be traced to the three Saturn-Neptune conjunctions of the 20th century. Pisces, of course, is the impulse to sacrifice self-interest for the greater good; thus, Piscean behaviors are invariably in the service of unity and wholeness—in this case, the communist ideal of a classless society presided over by a single party.
Saturn in Pisces 1st house themes are especially evident in Stalin’s massive project of collectivization—government organization of land and labor into large-scale collective farms for the purpose of increasing food output for collective survival. By the early 1930s, over 90% of agricultural land was "collectivized" as farmers sacrificed private ownership and entered collective farms with their land, livestock, and other assets. Unfortunately, the immediate effect was to drastically reduce grain output and almost halve livestock, thus producing major famines in 1932 and 1933 (Piscean tragedy).
The fact that Stalin’s 10th house Sun-Venus conjunction forms a closing square to his Saturn in Pisces on the Ascendant merely reinforces the intensity of his Saturnian nature. Not only does the Sun and Venus square Saturn, but they are in Saturn’s house (10th), and the closing square is itself a Capricorn/Saturn angle; thus, the theme is thrice repeated. Hyper-Saturn in the 1st is evident in Stalin’s overweening ambition, the totalitarian control he sought to achieve (one man rule), and the Piscean style of his approach—secret police, mass oppression, and propaganda (lies) to establish a cult of personality. Pisces is also implicit in the long term objective of his political machinations, i.e., the construction of an ideal society in which the individual is required to sacrifice for the collective good.
Summary of Case Studies
While the five cases cited do not constitute a formal research project, they provide examples of how such a research project might be conducted. In each example cited—Carter, Thatcher, Connery, O’Neill, and Stalin—there is substantial evidence of personality attributes symbolized by Saturn in the 1st house. Not only was each person inordinately ambitious and successful, but each was noteworthy for something new—Carter for founding The Carter Center, Thatcher for being the first female prime minister in Britain’s history, Connery for being the first James Bond, O’Neill for being the first playwright to introduce techniques of realism into American drama, and Stalin for being a founding member of the Communist party and for being its first, full-fledged dictator.
Moreover, what each person began was marked by extraordinary longevity—another hallmark of Saturn conjunct the Ascendant. Carter’s career has spanned 45 years of public service and he is still an active player in international politics. Thatcher was re-elected as prime minister for an unprecedented third term and her tenure was one of the longest continuous periods in office in British history. Connery’s career has been ongoing for over 50 years and he has the distinction of being perhaps the oldest living male sex symbol. Eugene O’Neill’s success as a playwright spanned 40 years with several of his plays performed for the first time after his death. Finally, Stalin was communist party leader of the Soviet Union from 1922 until his death in 1953—the longest period in office of any Soviet head of state.
Additional 1st house themes involved aggression and survival. Carter tackled threats to the survival of human life on multiple fronts—an economy in turmoil, the arms race, an energy crisis, conflict with Iran, global epidemics, and so on. Likewise, Thatcher dealt with communist aggression in Afghanistan, the Falklands War, an economy in crisis, and an assassination attempt on her own life. Themes of adventure, war, aggression, violence, and survival are prevalent in virtually all of Connery’s films. O’Neill’s plays portray people hanging on through grim and despairing circumstances by pursuing compensatory goals of heightened self-importance (Saturn in Leo). And Stalin’s entire life was one long, continuous fight for political survival—a goal he achieved via the relentless, systematic extermination of his enemies.
Saturn’s qualities were most precisely expressed in the style and domain of its sign position. Carter and Thatcher’s careers centered about managing economic crises and myriad other threats (Scorpio); Connery’s filmography is populated with characters of cool authority and gravitas (Capricorn); O’Neill’s grim and realistic plays were by definition theatrical and dealt with compensatory egotism (Leo); finally, Stalin ruthlessly sought to build an ideal communal society through surreptitious means, self-idealization, and requirement for individual sacrifice (Pisces).
Toward an Astro-Theory of Personality
These examples show how astrology represents a theory complete with motivational drives (signs), psychological functions with empirical definitions (planets), systematically related assumptions (rules of synthesis), and a capacity for generating predictions that are empirically verifiable. Predictions not only deal with observable behavior, but also with discernable life themes.
Recall that Hall and Lindsey asserted that a personality theory must be comprehensive in that it deals with the total, functioning person. Accordingly, an astrological theory of personality must look at charts as whole systems. It is a central tenet of astrology that the complexity of a life cannot be reduced to any single planetary configuration; i.e., the whole always takes precedence over the parts. Even so, these five examples of Saturn on the Ascendant give some indication of astrology’s capacity to identify salient personality attributes and life themes on the basis of a single planet’s sign and house position.
When we consider that every planet, sign, and house is implicated in the personality, we can begin to glimpse how multidimensional and integrative a theory astrology is. So far as I can discern, no behavioral phenomenon of demonstrated significance falls outside the theoretical framework of astrology.
Astrology is also the only system in which there are external referents—signs and planets—for pieces of psychic structure. These external referents are visible, predictable, and capable of complexity (interrelationship) beyond any theory of human behavior devised by psychologists. While astrology is simple in its derivation of planetary archetypes, it is complex in its ability to derive individual process from these archetypes. Each piece of psychic structure has concrete meaning yet is infinitely variable in combination, e.g., Saturn in Scorpio is different than Saturn in Leo.
Because astrology has many shades of meaning, it is easily compatible with other personality theories, almost all of which can be subsumed into astrological language. For example, Freud's tripartite division of the mind into id, ego, and superego is roughly paralleled in astrology by the relations between Mars (id), the Sun (ego), and Saturn (superego). Yet, the many parts of astrology—12 signs, 12 houses, 12 aspects, and 10 planets—make it a vastly subtler and more sophisticated model for depicting the structure and dynamics of the psyche.
Another way that astrology differs from conventional personality theories is that is has no founder. Astrology was not invented, created, or developed by any individual, as is the case with other personality theories. Invariably, a personality theory bears the stamp of its creator; that is, a theory is a self-portrait of its founder. We see this clearly, for example, in Freud's chart, which perfectly symbolizes the Oedipus complex that Freud universalized for every human being.
This same principle holds true for the founders of other personality theories. Each theory, with the exception of astrology, starts off as a projection of one person's individual viewpoint and subsequently attracts adherents who resonate with that viewpoint. In every instance, the peculiarities of the theory can be traced back to the conflicts, issues, and cognitive styles that are reflected in the horoscope of the founder.
Astrology, on the other hand, provides a more objective framework since it does not originate with any one individual and has existed in every culture in one form or another since the dawn of civilization. In this sense, astrology is a meta-theory of personality that is capable of subsuming and coordinating conventional theories under its overarching umbrella.
Hall, C., and Lindzey, G. (1978). Theories of personality. John Wiley & Sons: New York.
 See “Cult of Personality”, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personality_cult#cite_note-1
 For a fuller discussion of this, see Perry, G. (1997),”The Hermeneutic Method: Neptune conjunct Saturn in ’89,” in Stealing fire from the gods. AAP Press. Communism began with the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 when Neptune conjuncted Saturn in Leo, reached a new beginning in 1953 with the death of Stalin as Neptune conjuncted Saturn in Libra, and nearly collapsed completely in 1989 when Saturn and Neptune were conjunct in Capricorn. This last conjunction heralded the dissolution of the Soviet Union and launched the “velvet revolution” in Eastern Europe when communist east bloc countries converted to democracy.
Communism provides endless fodder for the old adage, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
 Stalin’s birth time is disputed. AstroDatabank ranks it as DD (conflicting/unverified), but it is consistent with the overall tenor of his life.
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