I recently read a couple books on Karl Marx and found that his chart very vividly reflected his life. In my own personal opinion Marx was a great economist who is too often overlooked and helped to inspire many important positive changes in labor conditions and the regulation of business. Drawing on Hegelian dialectics, while critiquing its spiritual aspects, his “dialectical materialism” helped to expose inherent contradictions in competitive enterprise that could lead to its necessary dissolution or transcendence, such as competition itself fostering economies of scale and mechanisms of cohersion that result in anti-competitive monopolies.
While the importance of his analyses is often overlooked, being buried under propagandistic hype and his being scape-goated for the abuse of his ideas by those in power (with a focus on Stalin without a similar critique of the mass genocide in the U.S. and other such atrocities committed to help pave the way for liberal enterprise), he also seemed to be a bit unsure of his own theoretical and pragmatic stances, very frequently reversing positions, often pardoxically, but then perhaps in a way that may be expected of someone whose philosophy was so strongly based in dialectics. He was adamant about philosophy being used to transform the world rather than just to think about, but in that there is something propagandistic, as if the need to transform to what one feels is just or right is a priori and then the philosophy can work to justify that. For all his urgings for transformation, he was known to advocate revolution and then do an about-face and oppose revolutionary action, and was an ardent critic of revolutionaries and “Marxists” in his own day. He exhibited a rebellious zeal against capitalist powers but was from a wealthy bourgeois background, recklessly spent his ample allowance given to him from his friend Engels (from Engel’s family industry) even speculating in stocks for a time with his wife retaining her baroness title and them both keeping on a housekeeper, and while advocating ardently for the working class he refused to stoop down to labor work himself and seems to have been a somewhat irresponsible, with 4 of his 7 children dying in childhood in part from very poor living conditions despite his receiving more than a typical clerk’s salary in regular money from Engels, and with him possibly fathering a child with his housekeeper, and constantly avoiding paying his bills/rent. All in all, I found him to be a good-humored somewhat selfish, impulsive, and irresponsible person, though one with a strong sense of social justice and a keen mind for abstract economic analysis. His most mature work, taken up late in life, is the three volume Capital, which is also known to be terse and somewhat prone to ambiguity.
I’d like to take a look at his chart, with an eye toward teaching the basics of chart interpretation in the ancient, original (as in first horoscopic astrology), manner of Hellenistic astrology, which differs greatly from that of modern astrology.
A Little Background in Chart Reading
The horoscope, or astrological chart, is named for the horoskopos, the point where the Sun rises on the horizon (i.e. intersection of local horizon and ecliptic plane), which is the most important point of the chart as it localizes the arrangement of the heavens to a specific time and place (with a change of about 1 degree of the 360 degrees of ecliptic space about every 4 minutes of regular clock time, i.e. 360 degrees in 24 hours). This rising point is sometimes conceptualized as like the helm of a ship. I often conceptualize it as being the point where sky, which is distant, evocative, abstract ratio-oriented (rational), seemingly infinite, and full of lights, being akin to the soul or mind-stuff of our reality, is seen to reveal itself, to stream out or peer out from the Earth, which is close, finite, solid, and manifest, being akin to the body of our reality. While in modern astrology the Sun particularly, and to a lesser extent the Moon and other planets, are seen to be representative of the self, it is this point that represents the self in ancient astrology, and with much clearer analogical reasoning. Likewise, in ancient astrology the Sun represents power, vibrancy, rule, egoism, and stuff of that sort, rather than “the ego” of an individual, allowing for the possibility that someone is more or less solar in temprement and life situation, and for the Sun to take on greater or lesser significance in relation to the individual depending on its relationship with those things that signify the self in the chart. This allows for a much greater ability to capture life’s complexities in the chart and move further away from the over-generalization and stereotyping so commonplace in the popular astrology of today.
The chart as a whole is oriented to the horoskopos or Ascendant, representative of the self, with the rest of the circle signifying its circumstances. The Ascendant lies in a specific degree of a specific sign of the tropical zodiac, and each sign is the “house” of a planet in the sense that some planet is in a sense evoked in connection with matters of the house and has some responsibility for them. In addition, the signs are divided into “room-like” divisions called bounds which are also under the dominion of specific planets, and there are additional rulerships related to specific signs and houses, and the planets themselves have certain affinities for specific matters directly, called their natural rulerships. Finally, there are certain derivative points which are used to gather further indications of various matters. In this way, there is in any natal chart a number of planets and other factors that are relevant to any specific matter, and each has its own relations to other topics and tendencies toward pleasant/unpleasant and prominent/backgrounded effects. Reading a natal chart helps to clarify the most prominent indications and gives you a very rich and complex jumble of possibilities, while timing techniques help to focus things by showing which planets are more active at a given time in relation to different things and to modify their indications in important ways.
To learn more about the basics of Hellenistic astrology, check out my (unfinished) series on basics and consider taking the Hellenistic astrology course offered by Chris Brennan which is affordable and is a great springboard into direct readings of translated texts from the first thousand years of horoscopic astrology (roughly the first millennium CE). The rest of this post will illustrate some chart reading with Marx’s chart.
The Natal Chart of Karl Marx
The Ascendant is the point most symbolic of the individual in the chart and it shifts by an entire zodiacal degree about every 4 minutes of regular clock time, so horoscopic astrology is missing the most important symbolic ingredient when the birth time is unknown or inaccurate. Thankfully, the birth time of Karl Marx is from his official birth record, so we have good reason to believe that it is very accurate (given a Rodden Rating of AA for accuracy on AstroDatabank). He was born at night with 23 Aquarius rising. Aquarius is the day house of Saturn, and is a fixed air sign, fixed signs being known for tenacity/focus/steadfastness, and air signs associated with the humanities and movement, and having Mercury, planet of movement, rationality, and commerce, as its primary triplicity ruler by night. The Ascendant is in the bound of Mars, planet of aggression and inflammation. The twelfth-part of the Ascendant (not shown) is at 6 Scorpio, the night house of Mars, a fixed water sign, with water signs being ruled by Mars at night (principle triplicity ruler), and in the bound of Mars, while in the 10th house of the chart, which is that of heights, achievement, authority, and rule.
The rulers of the Ascendant and 1st House inform us of the particular importance of Saturn, Mercury, and Mars in relation to studying Marx, but rulers of the 1st House are not the only factors of relevance to the self in ancient astrology. Planets in the 1st, and those aspecting or “regarding” the 1st, particularly in more influential ways are very relevant, as is Mercury because of its special significations of rationality, and prominent planets for being influential, including the Sun and Moon which are naturally prominent. There are also certain lots (derived points) which many astrologers (e.g. Vettius Valens) considered very important for particular matters of personality and character, but here I will try to stick just to the seven planets. One important distinction often made is that the 1st house has more relevance to the body/temperament, as does the Moon, while the ruler of the 1st house has more relevance to the mind/direction, as does Mercury (and the Sun).
With an air sign rising, Saturn and Mercury will be important by default, but they are made even more important here by the fact that Saturn rules the house itself and Mercury is the primary triplicity ruler while also in his own house and bound (Mercury is in Gemini in its Mercury bound, in an air sign by night, so there is a sense of great reinforcement to Mercury which makes it more prominent). There are no planets in the 1st house, and while the Sun, Moon, Venus, and Mercury all regard the 1st house, they do so from an inferior position so I don’t consider their influence to be particularly pronounced. The Sun and Moon, while prominent, are in the house of family and origins (the 4th), being particularly relevant in relation to the parents, and are in the bound of Mercury further signifying Mercury’s importance in the life. Mercury is also in phasis (crossing under the beams of the Sun within 7 days of birth, another mark of planetary prominence). Mars provides noteworthy indications for the self but these are more covert. Therefore, an astrological analysis of Karl Marx’s life and character should focus upon Saturn and Mercury in the chart, rather than on his Sun and Moon in Taurus as might be done in a modern analysis. This makes good sense as Saturn is the planet of doubt, loss, fear, constriction, critique, poverty, and imprisonment, while Mercury is the planet of commerce, movement, theory, writing, and all forms of rational analysis. Also, as was noted in my series on the charts of atheists, an identification with air, Saturn, and Mercury is rather characteristic of a rational worldview tending towards physicalism and materialism with a particular doubtful disdain for spiritual and mystical elements (Marx was irreligious and critical by sympathetic to religion, seeing it as serving a function for the oppressed but also as deluded). We see many of the typical marks of an atheist chart, with Jupiter even being in the 12th house, in fall, stationing retrograde, and opposed by the malefic Mars (with Mars in “domination” over the 9th).
Saturn, besides being a key point of identification for Marx, is also one of the “loudest” planets in the chart, as it is the planet most advancing, being about 20 degrees from rising. In this sense, Saturn has a sort of general prominence and persistence in the life, shedding something like a dark cloud over it with Saturn’s natural significations of doubt, negativity, death, loss, poverty, and stern cold authoritativeness. Saturn is a complex planet in the chart. Most noteworthy, Saturn is in the 2nd house of the chart which is that of money matters, directing Marx persistently into this sphere of life. The 2nd house is directly impacted by its occupant Saturn, some indications of which can be poverty, loss of capital, obstructed capital, money worries, and criticism or challenges to wealth and possessions. Here it is Marx who identifies in some ways with being the Saturn in the house of money, and coincidentally feeling a need to consistently challenge and critique those with the means of production was one of the most persistent and certain things he identified with in his life, even before his philosophical thought and analysis was well-developed. The 2nd house itself is buried deep in paradox, akin to his own monetary paradoxes in his life, being from a wealthy background, choosing to live in poverty, while at the same time constantly begging for money from his friend, receiving money in generous amounts, and eschewing his responsibilities with money.
The 2nd house is Pisces, a water sign, which can connect it with emotional and familial ties, while a mutable sign which tends to signify fluctuations between two poles and possibly multiple sources of income (for much of Marx’s life he was receiving income from writing articles and from Engels, the bulk from Engels). That both Saturn and Mercury are in mutable, or double-bodied, signs, would also signify a certain back-and-forth quality to his manner of thinking which would make him prone to reversals/flip-flops, and would likely be related to the great appeal that dialectical theories held for him. The 2nd house, while mainly and most directly impacted by Saturn, is then ruled by Jupiter (and Saturn is in the bound of Jupiter), with Jupiter overcoming and actually connected with Saturn (aspecting within 3 degrees), while Jupiter is in a bad place (that of the “bad spirit” pertaining to negative social and mental afflictions, such as poverty and imprisonment) and is itself ruled by Saturn, creating a bit of a bounce back between Saturn and Jupiter, the planet of constriction, poverty, and doubt (Saturn), with that of expansion, wealth, and belief (Jupiter), with Saturn holding this upper-hand in this strong association and being the planet Marx identifies with more strongly. In any case, Jupiter’s role there does add some indication of aid and luck connected with money matters (and Jupiter rules the 11th of friends, in addition to the 2nd of money, connecting the two), but overall there is the sense of such wealth going sour. Saturn is additionally out of sect, which tends to increase Saturn’s tendency toward malice, such that we are to expect Saturn to have much more vitriol in the darkness of its many significations, including those in relation to money, such that the doubt is deeper, the negative associations more intense, the difficult events connected with Saturn more painful (though again, Saturn is very mixed, so we see a difference depending on the timing of activations, with Jupiter’s activations providing more beneficent connections with Saturn abating the general difficulty signified). Finally, the twelfth-part of Saturn (not pictured), is in the 8th house of death, together with the twelfth-part of the Moon, a significator of physicality and mothering, emphasizing Saturn’s association with actual deaths, which no doubt had a big impact on Marx.
Mercury in Marx’s chart is in the 5th house which is that associated with pleasures, performance, and children. I have personally found that a strong association of Mercury with the 5th connects with someone and the person in the chart shows someone who is involved with writing/oration/analysis as a pleasurable pursuit or “art”/”sport”. Mercury in the sign, bound, and triplicity of Mercury, in an air sign, with Marx having an identification with Mercury, also shows an identification cleverness, intellectuality, and a bit of the trickster or even con man (enjoyment in deceiving people by mental means), as Mercury’s quick and elusive nature is very much ramped up, such that you would expect a Mercury that will do anything to avoid being to narrowly defined or pinpointed (though Mercury in Gemini was not considered good for the intellect in ancient astrology, as it is a wandering mind and prone to unpredictability and anger – while he was a middling student, unpredictable, provocative, frequently in trouble, flip-flopping, and prone to misinterpretation, there were also some additional significations in the chart for depth of thought). The identification with Mercury shows an overall preoccupation with the world of thought, ideas, and communications. In addition to the connections with wordy or commerce-oriented art, the 5th house is showing something of the close connection with his children too, and that such is likely to be playful and to inspire intellectualism in them. Mercury is a duplicitous planet, and is here in a duplicitous sign, which can signify many children, and may also pertain to the possible fathering of a child with his housekeeper (two women). Although the relationship indications in his chart show steadfast focus on one partner, with Venus, the 7th, the Moon, and all their rulers in fixed signs. While Mercury is rather neutral (here, in sect and in a good place so tending to associate with more pleasant occurrences in the life), the 5th house is also dominated by the out of sect Saturn, which is one of the important connections between children and death that is in the chart.
Mars is very important too, and when identified with shows a certain domineering competitiveness and desire to get rowdy and stir up trouble. Marx was an avid drinker and smoker from his teenage years and was very frequently in trouble with the law, to a notorious degree. Additionally, the twelfth-part of his Mars is in the 2nd house, possibly showing a desire to irk those with money and to damage others’ property, all things he was known to do. Mars is in sect in the chart, so some of its inflammatory tendencies are tempered and can be channeled productively, but its location in the 6th house of illness and maintenance (and labor?), ruled by the Moon (who pertains to physicality among other things) can indicate bothersome difficulties with accidents and disease, particularly of an inflammatory nature. Its position in the 6th and his identification with it may also have had something to do with his identification with workers, as the 6th is traditionally a house of servants, and workers are the servants of the industrial infrastructure. Its location in the bound of Jupiter and dominating the 9th house connect it in an incendiary way with spiritual belief, one of many indications of his ardent atheism.
I hope you enjoyed this brief look at the natal chart of Karl Marx and I hope it leads you into further fruitful explorations of ancient astrology. – ant