Are We All Mad?

What Do Highly Creative People, Spiritual Seekers, Addicts and Mad Men Have In Common?

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn, looking for an angry fix, angel headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of the night.” ~Allen Ginsberg, “Howl”

A handful of creative geniuses in the 1950’s defined a generation, ushered in the counter-culture of the hippies and became the progenitors of the new age movement of eastern spirituality and Yoga, as well as the modern day hipsters. They were celebrated for their non-conformity, rebellion, rejection of materialism, eastern mysticism and spontaneous creativity. A darker side also revealed much personal loss, tragedy, acute depression, drug/alcohol addiction and an inability to find their place in the “real” world. Kerouac, the father of the Beat Generation authors described the term Beat, “as a kind of weariness with all the forms, all the conventions of the world”.

Recent scientific findings confirm the similarity between the brains of highly creative people and those who suffer from depression, addictions and even schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. One major study reported that the brains of healthy, highly creative people are similar to those of schizophrenics, as they both share low D2 dopamine receptors in their thalamus. In her book, Touched With Fire, psychologist Kay Redfield, clinical psychologist at John Hopkins University, explores the relationship between creativity and manic depressive illness and asks the age-old question of whether psychological suffering and artistic/creative personalities go hand in hand.

The connection between the schism in the minds of spiritual seekers, creative geniuses, depression and mental disorders has been long understood in Vedic Astrology, as these are predicted through the same influences in the horoscope -  specifically, Scorpio and the Eighth House and eighth house/lordPisces and the twelfth house/lord, and the placement of the Moon in these house and signs, as well as the influence of Rahu, Ketu and Saturn on the moon. 

These influences withdraw us from the day to day rat race of life and create a longing for a more alternative, cosmic or spiritual perspective of our environment . However, without access to authentic spiritual teachings, which give us the discipline and technology to slowly discard the body consciousness of the first house and replace it with more cosmic awareness of the eighth and twelfth house, these houses and their rulers can also become the most haunting and vulnerable points in the horoscope.  In other words, there is a very fine line between spiritual surrender and denial/escape, spiritual bliss and drug/alcohol addition, spiritual non-conformity and madness and finally spiritual retreat and depression.

Scorpio and the Eighth House

Scorpio and the Eighth House foretell “death and resurrection”, as they have the potential to produce crises, uncertainty, and betrayal. Their influences can bring loss of control, leaving us powerless, vulnerable and exposed.  The "death" associated with this house/sign and lord  is usually the beginning of the demise of the outer personality (first house) giving us the potential to rise from the ashes transformed, or fall into a  more painful path through escape, denial, drugs, sex and depression.

Pisces and the Twelfth House

Pisces and the Twelfth House deepen and complete the experience of transformation that started in the eighth house. The karma unfolds with the final tearing down of the body conscious, or our outer personality/ego that was built in the first house. Here edges of reality become blurred but the individual personality struggles against this experience because even the most evolved of souls finds it challenging to gracefully handle the disintegration of the self. If we are truly able to surrender to the "selflessness" these houses and signs can awaken a genuine desire to serve the universal, rather than personal good, and give prophetic creativity and genius - everything we associate with a True Yogi.

The Moon
Finally, in Vedic Astrology, while the Sun is the universal Soul, the Moon is Jeeva, or the individualized consciousness on earth. The Moon represents our mental body that connects us to the physical plane of existence. A "wounded" moon in the horoscope gets too vested in subjective reality, sentiments and feelings. With little access or skills to navigate the objective reality it finds it hard to find peace, contentment and connection in the material plane. This can also blur the boundaries of the mind from reality giving creative genius, intuition and even psychic powers. However, unsupported this can also lead to patterns of sorrow, depression and alienation.

Beat Generation Authors

As you will see, the Vedic Horoscopes of the Beat Generation authors, whose verified birth data was accessible to me through Astrodatabank, were overwhelmingly dominated by Scorpio and the and eighth housePisces and the twelfth house, and their pressures on the Moon, as well as the influence of Rahu, Ketu and Saturn on their moon.

Allan Ginsberg –  “Follow your inner moonlight, don’t hide the madness.” 
Born June 3, 1926, 2:00 am Newark, NJ. Pisces Ascendant with Mars Jupiter and Moon in the Twelfth House and Saturn in the Eighth house.

Ginsberg was one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation authors. He wrote the epic Beat poem “Howl”, about the undiscovered underground community of artists, junkies, street people, and outcasts, who were damaged or destroyed by their inability to fit into American society of the 1950s. He was also a practicing Buddhist, highly influenced by Venerable Chogyam Trungpa, founder of Naropa Institute. He later claimed that at the core of “Howl” and his own depression and addictions were his unresolved emotions about his mother who suffered from mental illness and paranoid delusions. 

Neal Cassady – “We are actually fourth dimensional beings in a third dimensional body inhabiting a second dimensional world!”   Born February 8, 1926, 2:05 am Salt Lake City, UT. 
Scorpio Ascendant with Moon and Saturn in Scorpio. 

Although he authored only one book, he was the inspiration behind the Beats, especially Kerouac and Ginsberg who were in awe of Cassady’s energy, which they described as "a loquacious fool with a madness for living, immoderate enthusiasm for sex, automobiles, and drugs". His mysterious death in Mexico, at the age of 49, is attributed to drug and alcohol abuse.

Jack Kerouac – “I'd ask myself in my sleeping bag at night, "trying to deny reality with all this Buddha stuff, ya jerk? ...And I realized that all this Buddhism was a STRAIN at telling the untellable emptiness yet that nothing was truer, a perfect paradox”   
Born, March 12, 1922, 17:00 pm Lowell, MA
Leo Ascendant with Venus and Ketu in the eighth house in Pisces and Mars in Scorpio. 

Author of the classic  On the Road, Kerouac is considered to be the father of the Beats and a literary genius. However, he disliked all labels and became infamous for his antagonism towards any fame, recognition and name. He died at the age of 47 of internal bleeding due to long-standing alcohol abuse.

William Burroughs – “I live with the constant threat of possession, and a constant need to escape from possession, from control. I have no choice except to write my way out”. 
Born February 5 1914, 7:40 am St Louis MO.
Aquarius Ascendant  with Sun, Venus and Jupiter in the Twelfth House and Saturn and Moon in Taurus.

A novelist, poet and performer, he is considered to be one of the most politically and socially influential and innovative writers of the twentieth century. Among his most famous works is the notorious book, Naked Lunch. He was also infamous for his severe drug and alcohol addiction and his accidental shooting  of his wife while playing a drunken game of William Tell, which he said was  the pivotal event, that provoked his writing.

Gary Snyder – "I try to hold both history and wilderness in mind, that my poems may approach the true measure of things and stand against the unbalance and ignorance of our times".
Born May 8, 1930 18:12 pm San Francisco, CA.  Libra Ascendant with Venus, Jupiter and Mercury in the eighth house in Taurus, Moon in Virgo in the twelfth, Mars in Pisces.

Snyder was a winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and his work showed deep immersion in Buddhism and Zen. Probably the more emotionally stable of the Beat authors, due to the influence of earth signs (Taurus and Virgo) to his Twelfth and Eighth house.  He went on to become a renowned and extreme environmentalist activist, who lived out his life in the wilderness.

Each one of us has an eighth and twelfth house, Pisces and Scorpio in our horoscope, as well as some level of a wounded moon - only the degrees and intensity of the impact of these forces differ in individual charts. As such,  life is designed to bring forth unpalatable events that leads us to question the validity of our day to day physical reality . The only free will we have is to transmute the mental, physical and psychological suffering produced by these forces, so instead of escaping life when it feels meaningless and unbearable it becomes rich with meaning and purpose. Without the influence of these forces humankind would not glance towards the heavens for answers, nor feel the need for creative endeavors . All the systems of Vedic knowledge are designed to help us navigate these indigestible karmas.

The Beat Generation authors horoscopes show that they had the potential for spiritual transformations,  but unfortunately they only had access to disjointed and watered down Eastern teachings and no discipline to put into practice what they had learnt from the spiritual masters. Before embarking on deeper eastern mystical spiritual practices Yoga philosophy teaches us that we must first do the foundational work.  My Vedic teacher Dr. David Frawley,  emphasizes that "you can’t climb Mt. Everest if you haven’t climbed your local hill.”

Yoga asks that we begin by purifying the body and bringing the doshas into balance with Ayurveda, cultivating sattva (purity in mind and body), embracing our karma and performing our responsibilities (dharma) with reverence and detachment. Furthermore, practicing Yama and Niyamas, which are the ten ethical principles, sometimes equated to Yoga’s “Ten Commandments. bring our mind and senses under our own control through discipline, and objectivity. Then we can move to the higher and deeper mystical aspects of Asana, meditation, Pranayama and Kundalini awakening, otherwise these practices can become another means of escape and denial of the real world.  

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